In reading Odo Casel's "The Mystery of Christian Worship" I found this:

... For him the realm of irrational spirits does not exist: The beyond, the eternity. There is only matter, to be manipulated.

I am assuming here, that by these spirits he is referring to angels.

Peter Kreeft states in his book "Socratic Logic":

... Compared to angels(pure spirits), we are like slowly crawling insects: we must gather all our data from our five senses, and we must usually proceed slowly, step by step, deducing or inducing one thing from another. In these two ways our rational knowledge is indirect: it depends on prior sense experience and it depends on prior knowledge. Angels, in contrast, have something like direct mental telepathy with the mind of God, or at least with the essences of things as God knows them, immediately and intuitively.

And going to the source "par-excellence" in these things - Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae I, Q. 51:

Objection 2. Further, Gregory (Hom. x in Ev.) calls an angel a rational animal. But every animal is composed of body and soul. Therefore angels have bodies naturally united to them.
Reply to Objection 2. Gregory calls the angel a rational animal metaphorically, on account of the likeness to the rational nature.

I did not find anything specific in Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite's "Celestial Hierarchy" about it.

  • You can see Angles: from the teaching of Thomas Aquinas: "Completely spiritual substances are called angels." Thus, no body at all. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 26 '20 at 7:12
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    "God gives the angels their knowledge of things when he brings them into existence. This knowledge is creatural knowledge, and hence is not comprehensive, as is the knowledge of God alone. An angel's ideas or intelligible species are directly imparted by the Creator; hence an angel has no need to learn. " Thus, it seems that their knowledge is of an immediate, intuitive sort, not based on learning and reasoning. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 26 '20 at 7:14
  • About Odo Casel's statement (Odo Casel who ?) about "irrational spirits", it is not clear why he have to refer to angels. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 26 '20 at 7:15
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    Without a specification telling us according to whom, ie. which source you want an answer to be based on, I'm afraid this question is a bad fit here. It is either speculative/opinionated (since we cannot know for sure) or overly broad (since a good answer would have to consider even stance on the question there is). – Philip Klöcking Feb 27 '20 at 22:47

I don't know if any non-Catholic philosophers have addressed the specific question of whether angels use reason or are rational, but Aquinas did in question 59 of his Summa Theologiae, distinguishing "reason" which "knows by a process of discursion from one thing to another" (rational arguments, for example) from "intellect" which "knows by simple intuition". He said that angels are "purely intellectual", perceiving truth in a direct and intuitive way, and therefore do not need to reason as we do:

But intellect and reason differ as to their manner of knowing; because the intellect knows by simple intuition, while reason knows by a process of discursion from one thing to another. Nevertheless by such discursion reason comes to know what intellect learns without it, namely, the universal. Consequently the object presented to the appetitive faculty on the part of reason and on the part of intellect is the same. Therefore in the angels, who are purely intellectual, there is no appetite higher than the will.

In question 180 of Summa Theologiae he wrote more about how angels perceive truths "not discursively, but by simple intuition":

Now according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. vii) between man and angel there is this difference, that an angel perceives the truth by simple apprehension, whereas man arrives at the perception of a simple truth by a process from several premises.


Man is like the angels in intellect generically, but the intellective power is much higher in the angel than in man. Consequently these movements must be ascribed to souls and angels in different ways, according as they are differently related to uniformity. For the angelic intellect has uniform knowledge in two respects. First, because it does not acquire intelligible truth from the variety of composite objects; secondly, because it understands the truth of intelligible objects not discursively, but by simple intuition. On the other hand, the intellect of the soul acquires intelligible truth from sensible objects, and understands it by a certain discoursing of the reason.

And in question 49 he writes that angels have "no need for reason":

The certitude of reason comes from the intellect. Yet the need of reason is from a defect in the intellect, since those things in which the intellective power is in full vigor, have no need for reason, for they comprehend the truth by their simple insight, as do God and the angels.


The Torah uses the terms 'malak elohim' messenger of god, 'malak YHWH' messenger of the Lord, 'bene elohim' sons of God, and 'haqqodesim' the holy ones, to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angels. The word angel is from the Greek for messenger.

Angels in the bible belong squarely in the prophetic tradition, in direct experience of revelation, communication with divinity through an intermediary being. The first person to refer to angels by specific names, is in The Book Of Daniel in what are clearly visions. In a modern, scientific sense, that would make them irrational.

“The angels are spirits. When they are simply spirits, they are not angels, but when they are sent, they become angels; for ‘angel’ is the name of a function not a nature. If you inquire about the nature of such beings, you find that they are spirits, if you ask what their office is, the answer is that they are angels. In respect of what they are, such creatures are spirits; in respect of what they do, they are angels. Make a comparison of human affairs. The name of someone’s nature is ‘human being,’ the name of his job is ‘soldier’” - Augustine, Exposition 1 of psalm 103,verse 4.

and, on when in Creation angels were made

For when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” if we are justified in understanding in this light the creation of the angels, then certainly they were created partakers of the eternal light which is the unchangeable Wisdom of God, by which all things were made, and whom we call the only-begotten Son of God; so that they, being illumined by the Light that created them, might themselves become light and be called “Day,” in participation of that unchangeable Light and Day which is the Word of God, by whom both themselves and all else were made." Augustine, City of God Book 11, Chapter 9

This approach seems to reconcile the many contrasting ways angels are pictured, from

"Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." — Hebrews 13:2


"In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel." - Ezekiel 4-15

They seem to represent direct insight into the divine plan, or communication of it. In that sense, they represent contact with the deepest rationality.

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