QUESTION 53: OF THE LOCAL MOVEMENT OF THE ANGELS
We must next consider the local movement of the angels; under which
heading there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether an angel can be moved locally.
(2) Whether in passing from place to place he passes through intervening
(3) Whether the angel's movement is in time or instantaneous?
Article 1: Whether an angel can be moved locally?
Objection 1: It seems that an angel cannot be moved locally. For, as the
Philosopher proves (Phys. vi, text 32,86) "nothing which is devoid of
parts is moved"; because, while it is in the term "wherefrom," it is not
moved; nor while it is in the term "whereto," for it is then already
moved; consequently it remains that everything which is moved, while it
is being moved, is partly in the term "wherefrom" and partly in the term
"whereto." But an angel is without parts. Therefore an angel cannot be
Objection 2: Further, movement is "the act of an imperfect being," as the
Philosopher says (Phys. iii, text 14). But a beatified angel is not
imperfect. Consequently a beatified angel is not moved locally.
Objection 3: Further, movement is simply because of want. But the holy angels
have no want. Therefore the holy angels are not moved locally.
On the contrary, It is the same thing for a beatified angel to be moved
as for a beatified soul to be moved. But it must necessarily be said that
a blessed soul is moved locally, because it is an article of faith that
Christ's soul descended into Hell. Therefore a beatified angel is moved
I answer that, A beatified angel can be moved locally. As, however, to
be in a place belongs equivocally to a body and to an angel, so likewise
does local movement. For a body is in a place in so far as it is
contained under the place, and is commensurate with the place. Hence it
is necessary for local movement of a body to be commensurate with the
place, and according to its exigency. Hence it is that the continuity of
movement is according to the continuity of magnitude; and according to
priority and posteriority of local movement, as the Philosopher says
(Phys. iv, text 99). But an angel is not in a place as commensurate and
contained, but rather as containing it. Hence it is not necessary for the
local movement of an angel to be commensurate with the place, nor for it
to be according to the exigency of the place, so as to have continuity
therefrom; but it is a non-continuous movement. For since the angel is in
a place only by virtual contact, as was said above (Question , Article ), it
follows necessarily that the movement of an angel in a place is nothing
else than the various contacts of various places successively, and not at
once; because an angel cannot be in several places at one time, as was
said above (Question , Article ). Nor is it necessary for these contacts to be
continuous. Nevertheless a certain kind of continuity can be found in
such contacts. Because, as was said above (Question , Article ), there is
nothing to hinder us from assigning a divisible place to an angel
according to virtual contact; just as a divisible place is assigned to a
body by contact of magnitude. Hence as a body successively, and not all
at once, quits the place in which it was before, and thence arises
continuity in its local movement; so likewise an angel can successively
quit the divisible place in which he was before, and so his movement will
be continuous. And he can all at once quit the whole place, and in the
same instant apply himself to the whole of another place, and thus his
movement will not be continuous.
Reply to Objection 1: This argument fails of its purpose for a twofold reason.
First of all, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with what is
indivisible according to quantity, to which responds a place necessarily
indivisible. And this cannot be said of an angel.
Secondly, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with movement which is
continuous. For if the movement were not continuous, it might be said
that a thing is moved where it is in the term "wherefrom," and while it
is in the term "whereto": because the very succession of "wheres,"
regarding the same thing, would be called movement: hence, in whichever
of those "wheres" the thing might be, it could be said to be moved. But
the continuity of movement prevents this; because nothing which is
continuous is in its term, as is clear, because the line is not in the
point. Therefore it is necessary for the thing moved to be not totally in
either of the terms while it is being moved; but partly in the one, and
partly in the other. Therefore, according as the angel's movement is not
continuous, Aristotle's demonstration does not hold good. But according
as the angel's movement is held to be continuous, it can be so granted,
that, while an angel is in movement, he is partly in the term
"wherefrom," and partly in the term "whereto" (yet so that such
partiality be not referred to the angel's substance, but to the place);
because at the outset of his continuous movement the angel is in the
whole divisible place from which he begins to be moved; but while he is
actually in movement, he is in part of the first place which he quits,
and in part of the second place which he occupies. This very fact that he
can occupy the parts of two places appertains to the angel from this,
that he can occupy a divisible place by applying his power; as a body
does by application of magnitude. Hence it follows regarding a body which
is movable according to place, that it is divisible according to
magnitude; but regarding an angel, that his power can be applied to
something which is divisible.
Reply to Objection 2: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of
an imperfect agent. But the movement which is by application of energy is
the act of one in act: because energy implies actuality.
Reply to Objection 3: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of
an imperfect but the movement of what is in act is not for any need of
its own, but for another's need. In this way, because of our need, the
angel is moved locally, according to Heb. 1:14: "They are all [*Vulg.:
'Are they not all . . . ?'] ministering spirits, sent to minister for
them who receive the inheritance of salvation."
Article 2: Whether an angel passes through intermediate space?
Objection 1: It would seem that an angel does not pass through intermediate
space. For everything that passes through a middle space first travels
along a place of its own dimensions, before passing through a greater.
But the place responding to an angel, who is indivisible, is confined to
a point. Therefore if the angel passes through middle space, he must
reckon infinite points in his movement: which is not possible.
Objection 2: Further, an angel is of simpler substance than the soul. But our
soul by taking thought can pass from one extreme to another without going
through the middle: for I can think of France and afterwards of Syria,
without ever thinking of Italy, which stands between them. Therefore much
more can an angel pass from one extreme to another without going through
On the contrary, If the angel be moved from one place to another, then,
when he is in the term "whither," he is no longer in motion, but is
changed. But a process of changing precedes every actual change:
consequently he was being moved while existing in some place. But he was
not moved so long as he was in the term "whence." Therefore, he was moved
while he was in mid-space: and so it was necessary for him to pass
through intervening space.
I answer that, As was observed above in the preceding article, the local
motion of an angel can be continuous, and non-continuous. If it be
continuous, the angel cannot pass from one extreme to another without
passing through the mid-space; because, as is said by the Philosopher
(Phys. v, text 22; vi, text 77), "The middle is that into which a thing
which is continually moved comes, before arriving at the last into which
it is moved"; because the order of first and last in continuous movement,
is according to the order of the first and last in magnitude, as he says
(Phys. iv, text 99).
But if an angel's movement be not continuous, it is possible for him to
pass from one extreme to another without going through the middle: which
is evident thus. Between the two extreme limits there are infinite
intermediate places; whether the places be taken as divisible or as
indivisible. This is clearly evident with regard to places which are
indivisible; because between every two points that are infinite
intermediate points, since no two points follow one another without a
middle, as is proved in Phys. vi, text. 1. And the same must of necessity
be said of divisible places: and this is shown from the continuous
movement of a body. For a body is not moved from place to place except in
time. But in the whole time which measures the movement of a body, there
are not two "nows" in which the body moved is not in one place and in
another; for if it were in one and the same place in two "nows," it would
follow that it would be at rest there; since to be at rest is nothing
else than to be in the same place now and previously. Therefore since
there are infinite "nows" between the first and the last "now" of the
time which measures the movement, there must be infinite places between
the first from which the movement begins, and the last where the movement
ceases. This again is made evident from sensible experience. Let there be
a body of a palm's length, and let there be a plane measuring two palms,
along which it travels; it is evident that the first place from which the
movement starts is that of the one palm; and the place wherein the
movement ends is that of the other palm. Now it is clear that when it
begins to move, it gradually quits the first palm and enters the second.
According, then, as the magnitude of the palm is divided, even so are the
intermediate places multiplied; because every distinct point in the
magnitude of the first palm is the beginning of a place, and a distinct
point in the magnitude of the other palm is the limit of the same.
Accordingly, since magnitude is infinitely divisible and the points in
every magnitude are likewise infinite in potentiality, it follows that
between every two places there are infinite intermediate places.
Now a movable body only exhausts the infinity of the intermediate places
by the continuity of its movement; because, as the intermediate places
are infinite in potentiality, so likewise must there be reckoned some
infinitudes in movement which is continuous. Consequently, if the
movement be not continuous, then all the parts of the movement will be
actually numbered. If, therefore, any movable body be moved, but not by
continuous movement, it follows, either that it does not pass through all
the intermediate places, or else that it actually numbers infinite
places: which is not possible. Accordingly, then, as the angel's movement
is not continuous, he does not pass through all intermediate places.
Now, the actual passing from one extreme to the other, without going
through the mid-space, is quite in keeping with an angel's nature; but
not with that of a body, because a body is measured by and contained
under a place; hence it is bound to follow the laws of place in its
movement. But an angel's substance is not subject to place as contained
thereby, but is above it as containing it: hence it is under his control
to apply himself to a place just as he wills, either through or without
the intervening place.
Reply to Objection 1: The place of an angel is not taken as equal to him
according to magnitude, but according to contact of power: and so the
angel's place can be divisible, and is not always a mere point. Yet even
the intermediate divisible places are infinite, as was said above: but
they are consumed by the continuity of the movement, as is evident from
Reply to Objection 2: While an angel is moved locally, his essence is applied to various places: but the soul's essence is not applied to the things thought of, but rather the things thought of are in it. So there is no comparison.
Reply to Objection 3: In continuous movement the actual change is not a part of
the movement, but its conclusion; hence movement must precede change.
Accordingly such movement is through the mid-space. But in movement which
is not continuous, the change is a part, as a unit is a part of number:
hence the succession of the various places, even without the mid-space,
constitutes such movement.
Article 3: Whether the movement of an angel is instantaneous?
Objection 1: It would seem that an angel's movement is instantaneous. For the
greater the power of the mover, and the less the moved resist the mover,
the more rapid is the movement. But the power of an angel moving himself
exceeds beyond all proportion the power which moves a body. Now the
proportion of velocities is reckoned according to the lessening of the
time. But between one length of time and any other length of time there
is proportion. If therefore a body is moved in time, an angel is moved in
Objection 2: Further, the angel's movement is simpler than any bodily change.
But some bodily change is effected in an instant, such as illumination;
both because the subject is not illuminated successively, as it gets hot
successively; and because a ray does not reach sooner what is near than
what is remote. Much more therefore is the angel's movement instantaneous.
Objection 3: Further, if an angel be moved from place to place in time, it is
manifest that in the last instant of such time he is in the term
"whereto": but in the whole of the preceding time, he is either in the
place immediately preceding, which is taken as the term "wherefrom"; or
else he is partly in the one, and partly in the other, it follows that he
is divisible; which is impossible. Therefore during the whole of the
preceding time he is in the term "wherefrom." Therefore he rests there:
since to be at rest is to be in the same place now and previously, as was
said (Article ). Therefore it follows that he is not moved except in the last
instant of time.
On the contrary, In every change there is a before and after. Now the
before and after of movement is reckoned by time. Consequently every
movement, even of an angel, is in time, since there is a before and after
I answer that, Some have maintained that the local movement of an angel
is instantaneous. They said that when an angel is moved from place to
place, during the whole of the preceding time he is in the term
"wherefrom"; but in the last instant of such time he is in the term
"whereto." Nor is there any need for a medium between the terms, just as
there is no medium between time and the limit of time. But there is a
mid-time between two "nows" of time: hence they say that a last "now"
cannot be assigned in which it was in the term "wherefrom," just as in
illumination, and in the substantial generation of fire, there is no last
instant to be assigned in which the air was dark, or in which the matter
was under the privation of the form of fire: but a last time can be
assigned, so that in the last instant of such time there is light in the
air, or the form of fire in the matter. And so illumination and
substantial generation are called instantaneous movements.
But this does not hold good in the present case; and it is shown thus.
It is of the nature of rest that the subject in repose be not otherwise
disposed now than it was before: and therefore in every "now" of time
which measures rest, the subject reposing is in the same "where" in the
first, in the middle, and in the last "now." On the other hand, it is of
the very nature of movement for the subject moved to be otherwise now
than it was before: and therefore in every "now" of time which measures
movement, the movable subject is in various dispositions; hence in the
last "now" it must have a different form from what it had before. So it
is evident that to rest during the whole time in some (disposition), for
instance, in whiteness, is to be in it in every instant of such time.
Hence it is not possible for anything to rest in one term during the
whole of the preceding time, and afterwards in the last instant of that
time to be in the other term. But this is possible in movement: because
to be moved in any whole time, is not to be in the same disposition in
every instant of that time. Therefore all instantaneous changes of the
kind are terms of a continuous movement: just as generation is the term
of the alteration of matter, and illumination is the term of the local
movement of the illuminating body. Now the local movement of an angel is
not the term of any other continuous movement, but is of itself,
depending upon no other movement. Consequently it is impossible to say
that he is in any place during the whole time, and that in the last "now"
he is in another place: but some "now" must be assigned in which he was
last in the preceding place. But where there are many "nows" succeeding
one another, there is necessarily time; since time is nothing else than
the reckoning of before and after in movement. It remains, then, that the
movement of an angel is in time. It is in continuous time if his movement
be continuous, and in non-continuous time if his movement is
non-continuous for, as was said (Article ), his movement can be of either
kind, since the continuity of time comes of the continuity of movement,
as the Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text 99).
But that time, whether it be continuous or not, is not the same as the
time which measures the movement of the heavens, and whereby all
corporeal things are measured, which have their changeableness from the
movement of the heavens; because the angel's movement does not depend
upon the movement of the heavens.
Reply to Objection 1: If the time of the angel's movement be not continuous, but
a kind of succession of 'nows,' it will have no proportion to the time
which measures the movement of corporeal things, which is continuous;
since it is not of the same nature. If, however, it be continuous, it is
indeed proportionable, not, indeed, because of the proportion of the
mover and the movable, but on account of the proportion of the magnitudes
in which the movement exists. Besides, the swiftness of the angel's
movement is not measured by the quantity of his power, but according to
the determination of his will.
Reply to Objection 2: Illumination is the term of a movement; and is an
alteration, not a local movement, as though the light were understood to
be moved to what is near, before being moved to what is remote. But the
angel's movement is local, and, besides, it is not the term of movement;
hence there is no comparison.
Reply to Objection 3: This objection is based on continuous time. But the same
time of an angel's movement can be non-continuous. So an angel can be in
one place in one instant, and in another place in the next instant,
without any time intervening. If the time of the angel's movement be
continuous, he is changed through infinite places throughout the whole
time which precedes the last 'now'; as was already shown (Article ).
Nevertheless he is partly in one of the continuous places, and partly in
another, not because his substance is susceptible of parts, but because
his power is applied to a part of the first place and to a part of the
second, as was said above (Article ).