Summa Theologiae by St Thomas Aquinas
FP: Treatise On The Conservation And Government Of Creatures
Q110 How Angels Act On Bodies
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Prologue   A1   A2   A3   A4  

A2 Whether corporeal matter obeys the mere will of an angel?

[a] Objection 1:
It would seem that corporeal matter obeys the mere will of an angel. For the power of an angel excels the power of the soul. But corporeal matter obeys a conception of the soul; for the body of man is changed by a conception of the soul as regards heat and cold, and sometimes even as regards health and sickness. Therefore much more is corporeal matter changed by a conception of an angel.

[b] Objection 2:
Further, whatever can be done by an inferior power, can be done by a superior power. Now the power of an angel is superior to corporeal power. But a body by its power is able to transform corporeal matter; as appears when fire begets fire. Therefore much more efficaciously can an angel by his power transform corporeal matter.

[c] Objection 3:
Further, all corporeal nature is under angelic administration, as appears above [896] (A [1]), and thus it appears that bodies are as instruments to the angels, for an instrument is essentially a mover moved. Now in effects there is something that is due to the power of their principal agents, and which cannot be due to the power of the instrument; and this it is that takes the principal place in the effect. For example, digestion is due to the force of natural heat, which is the instrument of the nutritive soul: but that living flesh is thus generated is due to the power of the soul. Again the cutting of the wood is from the saw; but that it assumes the length the form of a bed is from the design of the [joiner's] art. Therefore the substantial form which takes the principal place in the corporeal effects, is due to the angelic power. Therefore matter obeys the angels in receiving its form.

[d] On the contrary,
Augustine says "It is not to be thought, that this visible matter obeys these rebel angels; for it obeys God alone."

[e] I answer that,
The Platonists [* Phaedo. xlix: Tim. (Did.) vol. ii, p. 218] asserted that the forms which are in matter are caused by immaterial forms, because they said that the material forms are participations of immaterial forms. Avicenna followed them in this opinion to some extent, for he said that all forms which are in matter proceed from the concept of the "intellect"; and that corporeal agents only dispose [matter] for the forms. They seem to have been deceived on this point, through supposing a form to be something made "per se," so that it would be the effect of a formal principle. But, as the Philosopher proves (Metaph. vii, Did. vi, 8), what is made, properly speaking, is the "composite": for this properly speaking, is, as it were, what subsists. Whereas the form is called a being, not as that which is, but as that by which something is; and consequently neither is a form, properly speaking, made; for that is made which is; since to be is nothing but the way to existence.

[f] Now it is manifest that what is made is like to the maker, forasmuch as every agent makes its like. So whatever makes natural things, has a likeness to the composite; either because it is composite itself, as when fire begets fire, or because the whole "composite" as to both matter and form is within its power; and this belongs to God alone. Therefore every informing of matter is either immediately from God, or form some corporeal agent; but not immediately from an angel.

[g] Reply to Objection 1:
Our soul is united to the body as the form; and so it is not surprising for the body to be formally changed by the soul's concept; especially as the movement of the sensitive appetite, which is accompanied with a certain bodily change, is subject to the command of reason. An angel, however, has not the same connection with natural bodies; and hence the argument does not hold.

[h] Reply to Objection 2:
Whatever an inferior power can do, that a superior power can do, not in the same way, but in a more excellent way; for example, the intellect knows sensible things in a more excellent way than sense knows them. So an angel can change corporeal matter in a more excellent way than can corporeal agents, that is by moving the corporeal agents themselves, as being the superior cause.

[i] Reply to Objection 3:
There is nothing to prevent some natural effect taking place by angelic power, for which the power of corporeal agents would not suffice. This, however, is not to obey an angel's will (as neither does matter obey the mere will of a cook, when by regulating the fire according to the prescription of his art he produces a dish that the fire could not have produced by itself); since to reduce matter to the act of the substantial form does not exceed the power of a corporeal agent; for it is natural for like to make like.