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Where have all the Angels Gone?1

  • Stephen R. L. Clark (a1)


Anyone who wishes to talk about angels has to respond to the mocking question, how many of them can dance on the point of a pin. The answer is: ‘just as many as they please’. Angels being immaterial intellects do not occupy space to the exclusion of any other such intellectual substance, and their being ‘on’ the point of a pin can only mean that they attend to it. The question, however, is not one that concerned our mediaeval predecessors, although it seems as difficult to persuade anyone of this as it is to clear Canute of the charge of insane conceit.



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2 I owe this and other references to Ross, George Macdonald, ‘Angels’ in Philosophy 60 (1985), 495511. He missed the references from Glanvill and Cudworth.

3 Summa theologiae 1, q. 52, art. 3.

4 Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), cited by Wiley, B., The Seventeenth-Century Background (Chatto & Windus: London, 1934), p. 181.

5 The passage is in The True Intellectual System, but I have mislaid the reference.

6 Leibniz, G. W., New Essays on Human Understanding, eds. Bennett, J., Remnant, P. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1981), pp. 220f, 313.

7 Nothing material, that is, can be in more than one place at a time without also occupying the intervening places; nor occupy successive positions discontinuously; nor permit any other thing to occupy the same space at the same time. I am not at all sure that these are either necessary or actual rules, but they may certainly seem to be.

8 Despite occasional and sympathetic comment it does not seem, by the way, that they were talking about infinities: could countably or uncountably many angels co-exist?

9 Browne, Thomas, Religio Medici 1.33: The Major Works, ed. Patrides, C. A. (Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1977), p. 102;see Milton, J., Paradise Lost, 5487ff.

10 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan ed. Macpherson, C. B. (Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1968), pp. 108, 113: Part 1, chapters 4 and 5.

11 Ibid. p. 664: Part 4, ch. 45: ‘I find that there are Spirits Corporeall (though subtle and invisible) but not that any mans body was possessed, or inhabited by them; And that the Bodies of the Saints shall be such, namely, Spirituall Bodies, as St. Paul calls them’.

12 New Essays, op. cit. 490 (4.17.16): ‘However, although we are much inferior to so many intelligent beings, we have the privilege of not being visibly over-mastered on this planet, on which we hold unchallenged supremacy’.

13 Chesterton, G. K., The Everlasting Man (Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1925), p. 227.

14 Philokalia, tr. Palmer, G. E. H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (Faber: London, 1979), vol. 1, p. 40.

15 Berkeley, G. ‘Philosophical Commentaries’: Complete Works, eds. Luce, A. A. & Jessop, T. E. (Thomas Nelson & Co: Edinburgh, 19481957), vol. 1, p. 47.

16 Chesterton, G. K., A Handful of Authors (Sheed & Ward: New York, 1953), p. 187: cited in The Quotable Chesterton, eds. Marlin, G. J., Rabatin, R. P. & Swan, J. L. (Image Books: New York, 1987), p. 291.

17 Raine, K., The Inner Journey of the Poet, ed. Keeble, B. (Allen & Unwin: London, 1982), p. 162.

18 Philokalia, op. cit. p. 43.

19 Otto, W. F., The Homeric Gods, tr. Hadas, M. (Thames & Hudson: London, 1954), p. 59.

20 Raine, , op. cit. p. 6.

21 Areopagiticus, Ps.-Dionysius, The Mystical Theology and the Celestial Hierarchies (Shrine of Wisdom: Fintry, 1965), p. 23.

22 Philokalia, op. cit. p. 47.

23 Philokalia, op. cit. p. 64.

24 May, R., ‘Psychotherapy and the demonic’ in Campbell, J., ed., Myths, Dreams and Religion (Dutton & Co.: New York, 1970), pp. 196210, 196.

25 See my Civil Peace and Sacred Order (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989).

26 Blake, W., Complete Writings, ed. Keynes, G. (Oxford University Press: London, 1966), p. 516.

27 De Somniis 1.141: Collected Works (Loeb Classical Library, vol. v), tr. Colson, F. H., Whitaker, G. H. et al. (Heinemann: London, 1929).

28 Tertullian, , On Idolatry 4.2.

29 Blake, W., op. cit. p. 571.

30 Lecercle, J. J., Philosophy through the Looking-Glass (Hutchinson: London, 1985), p. 5.

31 Plotinus does occasionally identify that Logos instead with Zeus, but Kronos, etymologized as Koros (satiety) and Nous (intellect), usually stands in between Ouranos (Heaven) and Zeus (etymologized as Life, Zen). See Clark, S. R. L., A Parliament of Souls (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1990), p. 112.

32 Burkhardt, T., An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, tr. Matheson, D. M. (Aquarian Press: Wellingborough, 1976), pp. 62f.

33 Enneads, 2.9.9.

34 Enneads, 6.4.

35 Philo, , Post. 92: Collected Works, vol. ii, p. 379; note that ‘Israel’ means ‘Hethat sees’.

36 Burkhardt, , op. cit. p. 74.

37 Holbrook, C. A., Jonathan Edwards: the Valley and Nature (Associated University Presses: London & Toronto, 1987), p. 110, after Jonathan Edwards.

38 Philo, , Somniis 1.148: Collected Works, v, 375.

39 De Confusione Linguarum, 146: Collected Works, iv, 89.

40 Wallas, G., The Art of Thought (Harcourt, Brace: New York, 1926), p. 113.

41 Jones, H., Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher (Thomas Nelson: Edinburgh, 1891), p. 40.

42 Evans-Wentz, W. Y., Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (Oxford University Press: London, 1958), p. 211.

43 Ernst, C., Multiple Echo, eds. Kerr, F. & Radcliffe, T. (Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 1979), p. 200: I owe this reference to my colleague, Michael McGhee.

44 Ibn Arabi: cited by Chittick, W. C., The Sufi Path of Knowledge (State University of New York Press: New York, 1989), p. 68.

45 De defectu oraculorum 426bc; see Teixidor, J., The Pagan God (Princetion University Press: Princeton, NJ. 1977). PP.13f.

46 Browne, , Religio Medici 1.31:op. cit. p. 99: which is, I suppose, the doctrine mocked by Francis Bacon, Novum Organon, s. 62.

47 Blake, W., Collected Works, ed. Keynes, G. (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1966), p.776; see Raine, op. cit. pp. 176ff.

48 Ennead, v.8.5, 20f.

49 Corbin, H., Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, tr. Mannheim, R. (Routledge & Kegan Paul: London, 1969), p. 22.

50 Borges, J. L., Labyrinths, eds. Yates, D. A. & Irby, J. E. (Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1970), p. 94.

51 Maximos, : Philokalia, tr. Palmer, G. E. H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (Faber: London, 1981), vol. 11, p. 298.

52 Chittick, , op. cit. p. 336.

53 Chittick, , after Ibn Arabi, op. cit. p. 337.

54 Philokalia, op. cit. p. 338.

55 Thoreau, W. D., Walden (J. M. Dent: London, 1910), p. 119. I have developed these points rather differently in A Parliament of Souls, op. cit.

56 Jerome in Ezekiel 1.7: Potts, T. C., Conscience in Mediaeval Philosophy (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1980), pp. 6f.

57 Vernant, J. P. & Vidal-Naquet, P., Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Greece, tr. Lloyd, J. (Harvester Press: Brighton, 1981), p. 13, after 22 B 119 DK.

58 Wallis, R. T., Neoplatonism (Duckworth: London, 1983), p. 212.

59 De Vogel, C. J., ‘The Soma-Sema formula’ in Blumenthal, H. J. & Markus, R. A., eds., Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought (Variorum: London, 1981), p. 2; after Republic 10. 612a.

60 Ennead, v.3.3, 32f, v.3.4, if.

61 Ennead, iii.4.6, iff.;see Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 10.15ff.

62 II.3.9, 31f.

63 Jung, C., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, tr. Winston, R. & Winston, A. C. (Fontana: London, 1967), p. 59.

1 This paper was first written for a meeting of the Sheffield Theological Society, to which, and to my colleague Paul Helm, I give thanks for creative criticism.


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