De veritate EN 75



There can be no doubt that one angel knows another, because every angel is an actually intelligible substance, since he is entirely free from matter. Now, an angelic intellect does not receive from sensible things. Consequently, it understands these immaterial intelligible forms by directing itself immediately to them. If we consider what various writers have said, however, there seem to have been different opinions about the mode of angelic knowledge.

According to the Commentator, in substances separated from matter the form in the intellect does not differ from the form outside of it. Now, in the case of men the form of a house existing in the mind of an architect is other than the form of the house existing outside his mind; however, this is because the exterior form is in matter, while the form of the artistic conception is without matter. But, since angels are substances and immaterial forms, as Dionysius says, it seems to follow that the form by which one angel is known by another is the same as the essence by which the former substantially exists. This mode of knowledge, however, does not seem to be possible in all cases. For the form by which an intellect understands is more noble than that intellect, since it is its perfection. With this in mind, the Philosopher proves that God does not know anything outside Himself, since its form would perfect His intellect and consequently be more noble than God Himself. Therefore, if higher angels were to know lower angels by means of the essences of the latter, it would follow that these essences were more perfect and more noble than the intellects of the higher angels. This, however, is impossible.

One might say, perhaps, that such a way would present no difficulties as far as the knowledge of higher angels by the lower is concerned, that is, a lower angel could know a higher by means of the latter’s essence; and this seems to be in agreement will Dionysius, who taught that angels seem to be divided into "intelligible and intellectual substances," the higher called intelligible, the lower, intellectual. For he also taught that the higher angels are "like food" to the lower, and this statement can be understood as meaning that the essences of the higher angels are forms by which the lower angels understand.

This opinion, too, might be supported by those philosophers who say that the higher intelligences create the lower; for thus they could assert that a higher angel is in some way intimately linked will the lower, being, as it were, the cause that keeps the lower in existence. We, however, can ascribe such action only to God, who is substantially present in the minds of men and of angels. Moreover, the form by which an intellect understands should be within an intellect that is in act. Consequently, we cannot say that any spiritual substance, except God, is seen by another by means of his essence.

That other philosophers did not think one angel could be seen by another by means of his essence is clear to anyone reading their works. For example, the Commentator says that that which the mover of Saturn understands about the mover of the first sphere is different from that which the mover of Jupiter understands about him. Now, this could be true only if that by which each of them understands [is different]. And this would not be possible if each of them knew the mover of the higher sphere by means of the latter’s essence. More over, we read in The Causes that "a lower intelligence knows what is above it according to the manner of its own substance," not according to the manner of the higher substance; and Avicenna says that "the presence of the intelligences within us" means merely the effects they have caused within us, not that they are in the intellect through their own essence.

Now, the words of the Commentator, cited above, are to be taken in the following way. When a substance separated from matter knows itself, it is not necessary that the form in its intellect be other than the form by which it substantially subsists, since the form by which such thing substantially subsists is actually intelligible because of its complete freedom from matter.

The words of Dionysius are likewise not to be taken in the sense assigned to them above. Rather, he calls the same angels intelligible and intellectual, or he calls the higher angels intelligible and the food of the lower because the lower angels understand by means of the light given by the higher.

From what others have written, however, it seems that one angel sees another by means of his essence, that is, by means of his own essence. This is what Augustine seems to have intended when he wrote: "As the mind collects notions of physical things through the physical senses, so also does it collect notions of spiritual things through it self." This seems to be true of an angelic mind, for, by knowing itself, it knows other angels. In support of this, one could cite The Causes where it is said: "An intelligence understands what is above and below itself by means of the mode of its own substance."

This explanation does not seem to be sufficient, however; for, since all knowledge takes place through assimilation, by knowing his own essence one angel would know only as much about another angel as his essence resembled the latter’s. Now, one angel resembles another only according to their common nature. Hence, it would follow that the knowledge one angel would have about another would not be complete; and it would be very incomplete according to the opinion of those who hold that there are many angels in one species. This view, however, might be supported to some extent by those who hold that each angel is specifically different; for, by knowing his own essence, each angel would know perfectly what an intellectual nature is, and, having known this perfectly, he would know all the grades an intellectual nature could have. Now, the different species of angels

are distinguished only according to grades of perfection found in intellectual natures; consequently, by seeing his own essence, one angel could conceive of the individual grades of perfection found in intellectual natures, and, by means of these conceptions, have complete knowledge of all other angels.

In this way, we could save the opinion of those who say that one angel knows another by means of a form he has acquired—if, indeed, the afore-mentioned conceptions could be called acquired forms. It would be as though whiteness understood itself, and, by knowing perfectly the nature of colour, knew all species of colour distinctly, ac cording to their grades—even all individual colors, too, supposing that there were only one member to a species.

But this explanation does not seem sufficient either, because, even though there is only one angel in every species, nevertheless, in any particular angel there will be a difference between what belongs to him according to the intelligible constitution of his specific nature and what belongs to him as an individual, for example, his own particular operations. According to this theory, these special operations could in no way be known by another angel. Moreover, the words of Augustine do not mean that a mind can know other things through itself as through a medium, but merely as through a knowing power, as material things are known through the senses.

We must consequently take another explanation and say that one angel knows other angels by means of their likenesses existing within his intellect. These, however, are not abstracted or imprinted by the other angels, or acquired in any way, but are imprinted by God who creates them. Angels know material things also by means of these likenesses. This will become clearer in the following answers.

Answers to Difficulties (First Series):

1. Angels know their order one to another considered in itself, but they do not comprehend it as it stands under God’s providence; for this would mean that they could comprehend providence itself.

2. The relation of cause and effect is a source of intelligibility only inasmuch as the effect bears some resemblance to its cause and vice versa. Consequently, if we admit the existence of an angel’s likeness within another angel without admitting that one angel is the cause or effect of another, we will still have a sufficient basis for knowledge, since knowledge takes place through assimilation.

3. That statement of Boethius should be understood as referring to particular material things that fail under the senses. An angel, however, is not a particular of this type. Consequently, the argument proves nothing.

Answers to Difficulties (Second and Third Series):

We concede those arguments that prove one angel does not know another by means of either his own essence or that of the other angel. still, one could make some kind of a reply to them.

Answers to Difficulties (Fourth Series):

We must reply, however, to those arguments that prove one angel does not know another by means of a likeness.

1. It is possible to have a likeness even of light. This can be weaker than light, like colour, which in a certain sense is a similitude of light, or one more perfect than light, like the light in a substance that illumines. Moreover, since angels are called lights inasmuch as they are forms which are actually intelligible, it is not inconsistent to say that the likenesses they have of other angels exist in a more sublime manner in the higher angels and in a less sublime manner in the lower.

2. W one says that every creature, taken in itself, is a shadow or false or nothing, this is not because its essence is dark or false, but because whatever act of existence, light, or truth it has it has from another being. Consequently, only considered apart from what it has from another is it nothing, darkness, and falsity.

3. The soul is united will the eternal representations inasmuch as there are certain imprints of these on our mind, such as the principles we know naturally and by which we judge all things. In angels these imprints are the likenesses by which they know things.

Answers to Difficulties (Fifth Series):

An angel knows another angel, not by means of a likeness that has been abstracted or imprinted upon his mind, but by means of one that is innate and leads him to the knowledge of the other angel—indeed, to a knowledge not only of the other’s essence but also of all his accidental qualities. By means of this likeness, therefore, he knows when the other angel is present or absent.

[No answers are given for the next three difficulties.]

Answers to Contrary Difficulties (First Series):

We concede the arguments proving that one angel knows another.

Answers to Contrary Difficulties (Second Series):

We must reply, however, to the arguments proving that one angel is known by another by means of the essence of the angel known.

1'. That knowledge Augustine speaks about should be understood as referring not to essences but to operations by which a higher spirit enlightens a lower.

2'. From what we have said previously, it is clear that the knower and the known are related not as active and passive but as two things from which arises one principle of knowing. Consequently, for knowledge it is not enough that contact take place between the knower and the known. It is necessary, rather, that the intelligible be united to the knower like a form, either by means of its own essence or by means of a likeness.

3’. Even though the essence of one angel has more in common will the intellect of another angel than will the likeness of a material thing, because they both participate in one nature, nevertheless, they do not have more in common in regard to that relationship which must exist between a perfection and what is to be perfected. Similarly, a soul has more in common will another soul than it has will a body; yet one soul is not the form of another soul, though it is the form of a body.

4’. This statement of Augustine can be explained in two ways. It can mean that Augustine is talking about that intellectual vision by which a created spirit sees himself or God or other things which are within him through their essences. For it is evident that, even though a stone is known by the soul, it is not present in the soul by its essence.

Or this statement can be taken as referring to the thing known, not to the form by which it is known. Now, exterior accidents, which are the object of sense and of imagination, are merely likenesses of a thing, not the thing itself. The object of the intellect, however, is "the quiddity of a thing," that is, its essence, as is said in The Soul. Consequently, the likeness of the thing in the intellect is a direct likeness of the thing’s essence, but the likeness which is in a sense or in the imagination is merely that of its accidents.


Parallel readings: De veritate, 10, 4; Summa Theol., 1, g, 1; 84, 2; 87, 1; I-II, 50, 6; 5l, 1, ad 2; II Sentences 3,, 1; Contra Gentiles II, 98.


It seems that he knows them by knowing his own essence, for

1. A thing can be known sufficiently by knowing what it is modeled upon. Now, in the opinion of Clement, a philosopher mentioned in The Divine Names, lower beings are modeled upon higher. Consequently, the essences of material things are modeled upon angels. An- gels, therefore, know material things by means of their own essences.

2. Material things are known better in the divine essence than they are in their own natures, because there they shine forth more brightly. Now, the essence of an angel is closer to the divine essence than material things are. Consequently, material things can be known better in the essences of angels than in their own nature; and since we human beings know material things in their own nature, still truer is it that angels know them all simply by looking at their own essences.

3. The light of the angelic intellect is more perfect than the light of the active intellect of our soul. Now, we know all material things in the light of this intellect because it is the act of all intelligibles. Consequently, it is even truer to say that, by knowing their own light, angels know all material things.

4. Since an angel knows material things, he must know them either by their species or by knowing his own essence. However, he does not know them through species not through particular species, be cause an angel is completely free from matter; and not through universal species, because then he would not have perfect knowledge of things in their individuality. Consequently, he knows material things by means of his own essence.

5. If physical light could know itself, it would know all colors, be cause it is the act of all colors. Therefore, since an angel is a spiritual light, by knowing himself he can know all material things.

6. An angel’s intellect lies halfway between the divine and the human intellect. Now, the divine intellect knows all things by means of the divine essence, and a human intellect knows all by means of species. Consequently, the intellect of an angel will know at least some things by knowing his essence.

7. Dionysius says: "Scripture asserts that angels have knowledge of things that are on earth, by seeing them, not through sense, but through the power and nature of their godlike minds." Hence, it seems that they know material things by knowing their own power arid nature.

8. If a physical mirror could know arid if the species of material things were not reflected in it, it would know them by means of its own essence. But species of material things are not reflected in the intellect of angels, as is evident from the writings of Dionysius. And since an angel, as Dionysius also says, is a kind of mirror, if he knows material things, he must know them by means of his own essence.

9. The knowing power of angels is more perfect than the natural power of material things. Now, many of the powers of material things can attain their objects by their own means, without anything being added to them. It is much more true, therefore, to say that the intellect of an angel knows material things by means of his essence and without any species.

10. An angel’s ability to know is much greater than fire’s ability to burn. But lire can burn combustible material without that material entering into the tire. So, likewise, an angel knows through itself will out the presence of a cognoscible species within it.

To the Contrary:

1'. It is stated in The Causes that "every intelligence is filled will forms." Moreover, it is said in the same work that "forms exist in an intelligence in an intelligible manner." Consequently, an intelligence knows things by means of these forms and not by means of its essence.

2’. The essence of an angel has more in common will another angel than will a material thing. But an angel cannot know other angels by knowing his own essence. Therefore, he cannot know material things by knowing his own essence.

3’. That which is the principle of unity cannot be the principle of distinction. Now, the essence of an angel is the principle of his unity, for it is by means of his essence that an angel is one. Therefore, his essence cannot be the principle of knowledge about things distinct from him.

4’. Nothing except God is that which it has. But an angel has intellectual power. Therefore, he is not intellectual power. Much less is he that by which he understands. Consequently, he does not under stand things by means of his essence.



All knowing takes place by means of assimilation, and likeness existing between two things is caused by their agreement in a form. Now, since unity in an effect shows unity in a cause, and, since, in consequence, no matter what genus any form may belong to, one must get back to the one first principle of that form, two things can resemble each other for two reasons only: either one is the cause of the other or both have been caused by one cause that has imprinted the same form upon both. Using this principle, we say that angels know material things in a manner different from that in which philosophers say that angels know them.

For we do not say that angels cause material things. God is the creator of all things, visible and invisible. Consequently, a likeness of the things of nature cannot be within an angel unless it comes from Him who is the cause of material things. Now, whatever one does not have from himself but from another is over and above his own essence. For this reason, Avicenna proves that the act of being of anything except the First Being is something other than its essence, because all things have their act of existence from another. Consequently, the likenesses of material things existing within an angel must be other than his essence and must be imprinted there by God. Now, the intelligible representations of material things existing in the divine mind are life and light: they are life inasmuch as they come forth to constitute things in their act of existence, as the form of an artistic conception comes forth to constitute a product of art; they are light inasmuch as they cause impressions, resembling themselves, on the minds of angels.

Philosophers, however, have asserted that angels are the creators of material things. But logically, according to this position, angels should know material things, not by means of their own essences, but by means of forms added to them. For the likeness of an effect is in its cause only in the manner in which the power to produce that effect is there. Now, as is said in The Causes, "An intelligence gives existence to inferior things only by means of God’s power existing within it"; and for that reason the author calls this operation divine. Consequently, this power does not belong to the intelligence as flowing from the principles of its essence, but is something over and above its essence. Therefore, even if material things were caused by an angel, their likenesses would be over and above his essence.

It is clear, therefore, no matter what position is taken, that an angel does not know material things by means of his own essence but only by means of their forms existing within him.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. According to its formal nature, an archetype implies a relation of causality to the things modeled upon it; for an archetype is a thing that something else is made to imitate. Consequently, in the passage cited, Dionysius finds fault will Clement’s opinion, and holds that the archetypes of things should be called intelligible representations of things, existing in God. However, if an archetype is taken in a broader sense as meaning a thing that is represented in some way by another thing, then angels essences can also be called the archetypes of material things. But the divine essence is the archetype of each and every thing in its individuality, because it contains the exemplary ideas of all things. Similarly, an angelic essence is a likeness of a material thing in its individuality because of the form which the angel possesses of it; though this form is not the same as his essence, as is true of the idea in God.

2. The divine essence is infinite. Hence, far from being included in any genus, it contains, as Dionysius, Aristotle, and Averroes say, the perfections of all genera. Consequently, it can be a likeness of all things in their individuality, and through it all things can be known perfectly. The essence of an angel, however, is confined within a particular genus. Consequently, it cannot be, in itself, a likeness of all material things. Hence, to know a thing will all its individual characteristics, an angel must be given a likeness of it, which is over and above his essence.

3. All things are not known by means of the agent intellect as though by a likeness sufficient for us to know all things. For the agent intellect is not the act of all intelligible forms in the sense that it is this or that form, but only in so far as these forms are intelligible. For all things are said to be known by means of the agent intellect as through an active principle of knowing.

4. An angel knows things neither through particular species nor through universal species that are universal forms abstracted from the senses. Instead, he knows them through universal species which represent both universals and particulars. This will become clearer from our discussion later on.

5. Were physical light to know itself, it would not for that reason know all colors determinately. It would know them only in so far as they are visible. Otherwise, even the eye would see all colors by seeing light; and this is clearly false.

6. Since the angelic intellect lies halfway between the divine and the human intellect, it knows things other than itself by means of forms added to its essence; and, in this respect, it falls short of the divine intellect. However, it knows itself by means of its own essence, and, in this respect, it surpasses the human intellect.

7. This statement of Dionysius should not be understood as meaning that an angel’s power and nature are the medium by which he knows other things, but that his man of knowing follows the characteristics of his nature and power and not the characteristics of the natures of the things he knows. This is clear from the fact that he knows material things in an immaterial manner, and sense-objects without the aid of any senses.

8. Even if a physical mirror knew itself, it would by no means know other things simply by knowing its own essence. It would know things only by knowing forms reflected in itself. Moreover, it would make no difference whether these forms were received from things or were innate in the mirror.

9. The knowing power of an angel is ordered to a more sublime act than is the natural power of a material thing. Consequently, even though it may need more help, it remains a more perfect and more noble power.

10. A knower is not related to the known as what burns is related to the combustible. In this second case, one is active and the other passive; but a knower and the known are related as one principle of knowing inasmuch as the act of knowing in some way comes into being from the known and the knower. This is clear from what was said previously. Hence, the argument proves nothing.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., 1, 2; II Sentences 3,, Contra Gentiles II, 96.


It seems that they are not innate, for

1. Speculative knowledge differs from practical inasmuch as practical knowledge is directed to things, while speculative is derived from things. Now, as Damascene says, angels do not make material things; consequently, they do not have practical but only speculative knowledge. Their knowledge, therefore, is taken from things, and not from innate species.

2. In the Epistle to the Ephesians (3:10) we read: "That the manifold wisdom of God may be known to the principalities and power in heavenly places through the church." Jerome understood this to mean that the angels learned the mystery of the Incarnation from the Apostles. Now, knowledge had through innate species is not received from others. Consequently, angels knowledge is not had through innate species.

3. Angels innate species are equally related to the present and future. Their knowledge, however, is not equally related to the present and future, because they know the present but are ignorant of the future. Consequently, their knowledge is not had through innate species.

4. Angels have distinct knowledge of material things. Now, distinct knowledge of things can be had only through that which is a principle of distinction, because the principle of being and that of knowing are the same. But the principle of distinction in material things is their form. Consequently, the knowledge angels have of material things must be through forms received from things.

5. Things that are innate or naturally inborn remain always the same. Angels knowledge, however, does not remain always the same, for they know things now which they did not know previously; and, for this reason, Dionysius says that some angels have to be freed of their ignorance. Hence, their knowledge is not had by means of innate forms.

6. The forms that exist within angels are universal. But, as is said in The Soul: "A universal is either nothing or posterior [to something]. "Consequently, those forms are either nothing or posterior to things, since they are received from them.

7. A thing is known only in so far as it is in the knower. Consequently, if an angel knows material things, these very things must be in his intellect by means of forms which they have imprinted there.

8. The intelligible light in angels is more powerful than that in a human soul. But we can abstract species from phantasms by means of the light of the active intellect. Therefore, an angel can to an even greater degree abstract forms from sense-objects.

9. A superior power can do what an inferior can. Now, our soul, which is inferior to angels, can confirm itself to things by producing forms within itself that are neither innate nor received from things. For example, our imagination can form a phantasm of a golden mountain, which it has never seen. For a much better reason, therefore, an angel can confirm himself to things present to him and know them in this manner. Thus, there will be no need for him to know material things by means of innate species; he can know them by means of species which he will make within himself.

To the Contrary:

1'. According to Dionysius, angels do not gather their knowledge by means of sense, or from things subject to division. Therefore, they do not know by means of forms received from things.

2’. The superiority of angels over all physical things is greater than that of higher bodies over lower. But, because of their nobility, higher bodies do not receive any influence from the lower. Consequently, much less will angelic intellects receive forms from physical things in order to understand them.



Taking as already proved that angels know material things not by means of their own essence but by means of forms, we can now consider three opinions about these forms.

Some say that the forms by which angels know material things are received from them. This, however, is impossible; for an intellect that receives forms from things is related to them in two ways, as some thing active and as something passivetaking active and passive in their broad meaning. Now, forms of material things are only potentially, not actually, intelligible when they are in the senses or in the imagination, because they are not entirely stripped of matter. Consequently, an intellectual action is required in order that they become actually intelligible. For this reason, we must necessarily affirm the existence of an active intellect within ourselves.

Moreover, even when these forms have been made intelligible, we cannot understand things through them unless they are truly united to our intellect in such a way that the knower and the known be come one. Consequently, our intellect must receive the forms of these things; and so, in a way, it is passive in their regard in so far as all reception is a kind of passivity.

Now, just as a form is related to matter as act is to potency, so also is something active similarly related to something passive, because a thing acts in so far as it is in act, and is passive in so far as it is in potency. Moreover, since a definite act has a definite relation to a definite potency, a definite passivity corresponds to a definite agent and vice versa—just as matter and form are mutually related. Consequently, what is active and what is passive must belong to the same class, for potency and act divide every class of being that there is. For example, "the white" is not passive will respect to "the sweet" (except in directly) but only will respect to "the black."

Now, material things and intelligibles belong to entirely different genera; for, as the Philosopher says, those things that do not have matter do not belong to the same genus as those that do. Consequently, it is not possible for a material thing to be passive immediately in relation to the intellect or to act upon the intellect. The Creator of our nature has therefore provided us will powers of sensation, in which forms exist in a mode between intelligibility and materiality. They have this in common will intelligible forms, that they are forms will out matter, and this in common will material forms, that they are not yet stripped of material conditions. Hence, there can be activity and passivity between material things and the sense faculties in their own proper way, and, similarly, between the sense faculties and the intellect.

Therefore, if the intellect of an angel were to receive forms from material things, it would have to have sense powers and, consequently, a body naturally united to it. This opinion seems to make angels animals (an actual opinion of certain Platonists and to have them receive forms from material things. Moreover, it contradicts the authority of the saints and right reason itself.

Consequently, others say that angels do not know by means of forms received from things or by means of innate forms, but angels are able to confirm their essence to anything present to them. These persons hold that knowledge of a thing follows from a conformity of this kind. Their opinion, however, seems to be of little value, because one thing can be confirmed to another only if the form of the latter becomes present within it. Now, it cannot be said that the essence of an angel by its own activity becomes the form of a material thing, because its essence retains a single formal character. Hence, the form by which an angel confirms himself to a thing is something added to his essence and was previously in him potentially, because an angel could not have confirmed himself to a thing unless he was previously in potency to such a conformity. Indeed, nothing is reduced from potency to act except by that which is in act. Consequently, in an angel, we should assume that forms must pre-exist by which he can reduce himself from being potentially confirmable to being actually confirmed, as our imagination forms a new species, say, of a mountain of gold, from species it had previously, namely, of mountain and of gold, and as our intellect forms the definition of a species from the forms it has of genus and of differentia. Hence, we must return to the position holding that forms pre-exist in angels; and these are either innate or received from things.

As a result, it seems that we must say what the third opinion says an opinion more widespread and closer to the truth namely, that an- gels know material things by means of innate forms. Therefore, just as from the eternal archetypes existing in the mind of God come the material forms by which things subsist, so also do the forms of all things come from God to the minds of angels in order that they may know things. Hence, an angelic intellect excels our intellect as a thing possessing a form excels matter that is formless. Our intellect may be compared to a tablet on which nothing has been written, but that of an angel, to a painted tablet or to a mirror in which the intelligible characters of things shine forth.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. That difference between speculative and practical knowledge is not essential but accidental; that is, it arises only in so far as these knowledges are human. Man knows things which he has not made only by means of forms received from things. The case is otherwise will angels, however, because they have the forms of things given them from the moment of their creation.

2. The mystery of the Incarnation was known by angels before it was known by men. Indeed, as Dionysius says, men learned of it from angels, who knew this mystery of the Incarnation, hidden from the world for ages; and, as Augustine explains, God revealed this mystery to the princes and powerful ones of this world through the church of the angels, which is in heavenly places. What is said there about the Church should therefore be taken as referring to the church of angels, as Augustine explains—even though Jerome seems to say the contrary.

However, Jerome’s words are not to be understood in the sense that angels acquire knowledge from men. He meant that while the Apostles were announcing the things that had taken place and had been previously predicted by the prophets, the angels understood them more fully, just as they know the present more fully than the future—a point that will be clarified later.

3. Even though the angels do not know any future events, they know events when they take place. From this it does not follow, how ever, that they receive species from the things which they know. For knowing takes place through an assimilation of the knower to the known. Hence, a person will receive new knowledge of a thing in so far as he is assimilated to it in a new manner. This happens in two ways: either through his own motion or through the motion of an other will respect to a form which he already possesses.

Similarly, he begins to know something new in one way by newly receiving a form for the first time from an object which he now knows. This happens will us. Or the object known arrives for the first time at a form already in the knower; and this is how angels have new knowledge of present things that previously were future. For example, if a man did not yet exist, an angelic intellect would not yet be assimilated to him by means of the form of man which it has within itself; but, when he comes into existence, the angelic intellect begins to assimilate itself to him by means of this form, without any change being made within itself will respect to that object.

4. Just as it is not the form by which a thing exists but only a like ness of it that is in the intellect, so also distinct knowledge of things does not demand that the very principles of distinction themselves be in the knower but that their likenesses be there. Moreover, as far as distinct knowledge is concerned, it makes no difference where these likenesses come from.

5. Without acquiring new intelligible forms, an angelic intellect can have new understanding in two ways. First, as was mentioned before, it can have new understanding by something being newly assimilated to those forms [which it already has]. Second, it can be strengthened by some stronger light, enabling it to draw more knowledge from the same forms. Similarly, when the light of prophecy operates from forms already existing in the imagination, knowledge is received which could not be received by means of the natural light of the active intellect.

6. The Philosopher’s statement should be taken as referring to the universal as it exists in the understanding, by which we understand things in nature. This universal is received from things. But even the universal existing in our understanding is prior, not posterior, to artificial things, because we produce artificial things by means of universal forms of art already existing within us. In a similar way, God produces creatures by means of eternal archetypes; and, from these, forms flow down into the angels intellects. Hence, it follows that the forms in angels intellects are posterior, not to things, but only to the eternal archetypes

7. The known is in the knower in the same way, whether its form, existing in the knower, has been received from the thing known or not. Consequently, the argument does not touch the problem.

8. No proportion exists between the light of an angelic intellect and sensible things that is such as to allow the latter to be rendered intelligible by means of this light. This is clear from what has been said. Hence, the conclusion does not follow.

9. The soul does not produce forms within itself unless some forms already exist there. Consequently, as is clear from what has been said, the argument does not hold.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., I, 3; 89, I; II Sentences 3, 3, Contra Gentiles II, 98; Q. D. De anima,, ad 5; 18; De causis, lectura 10 (P. 2I:737a).


It seems not, for

1. The higher angels knowledge is more perfect than the lower angels’. Now, what is known by universal knowledge is less perfectly known than what is known by particular knowledge. Consequently, the higher angels do not know by means of forms that are more universal.

2. If the knowledge of the higher angels is more universal than that of the lower angels, this universality pertains either to their causal operations or to the object of their knowledge. It does not, however, pertain to their operations, for, as Damascene says, the higher angels do not make things; nor does it pertain to the object of their knowledge, for both higher and lower angels know the things of nature. Consequently, the higher angels knowledge is not more universal.

3. If the higher angels know all that the lower do but through more universal forms, these forms in the higher angels intellects must extend to more things. However, one and the same thing cannot rep resent the individual characteristics of many things. Therefore, the higher angels would not know things in their individual natures, and so their knowledge would be less perfect than that had by lower angels. This, however, is absurd.

4. As Dionysius says, the knowledge of angels is determined by the power and nature of the knower. Now, the nature of a higher angel is more in act than a lower angel’s nature is. Consequently, his knowledge is also more in act. But universal knowledge is in potency, and particular knowledge is in act. Therefore, higher angels know through forms that are less universal.

To the Contrary:

1'. According to Dionysius, higher angels, such as the Cherubim, have higher and more universal knowledge. Lower angels have only particular and inferior knowledge.

2’. In The Causes it is said that "the higher intelligences contain forms that are more universal."

3’. Higher angels possess greater simplicity than the lower do. Consequently, their forms are also more simple and, therefore, more universal, for what is more universal possesses greater simplicity.

De veritate EN 75