What Are the Differences Between Angels and Humans?

I wasn’t sure where to put this, as there doesn’t seem to be a thread specifically for theology, so I just put it here.

My question is: other than angels being pure spirit, whereas we are both spirit and body, what are the differences in angels’ natures from human nature?

I think I remember St. Thomas saying that angels are “pure intellect”, which makes them closer to God, who he says is also pure intellect, though I don’t think this is a set in stone idea. In the Bible, when angels are embodied and interact with people, they seem to act very much like us, except for their direct knowledge of God’s plans, which He somewhat reveals to them. Also, since they were separated into angels and demons, those who did not sin are not eternally in Heaven, and so, reflecting the presence of God, they’re different from us in that way as well, hence why many in the Bible expressed fear and awe in the presence of angels. But, that is more due to them being in Heaven, rather than an aspect of their own nature, I would think.

These are just my own speculations. I greatly welcome everyone else’s ideas. Thank you and God bless. :slight_smile:

It is my understanding that each angel is a separate species of angel from all other creatures, while humans are all members of the same species of creature. The reason I have heard for this is related to bodily form: animal species are distinguished based on their bodily forms. Each different bodily form equals a different species. But angels don’t have bodily forms, so they have to be distinguished by their spirits. Therefore each different spirit equals a different species. But each created spirit is unique, therefore each created spirit, at least among those which never have bodies, is a different species from all others.

Neat, huh?

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1A.HTM

A very simple breakdown that I learned while in Theology courses was as follows:

There are three basic forms:

  1. Body
    Plants and rocks and such are part of God’s creation, and they are simply body. (Obviously not body in the sense of our body, but they are a form.)

  2. Spirit
    Angels and the other unseen creation that fills the space between Heaven and Earth are pure spirit and spirit only.

  3. Spirit and Body
    Humans are the only creature made in the image of God, and that distinction comes with having Spirit and Body. God willed us to have intellect AND to have fullness of sensation.

Of course, this is a simple and underdeveloped way of looking at it, but it does show the most rudimentary distinctions.

We are different from angels and angels are different from us. I inwardly cringe a little bit whenever someone says that someone who has passed is now an angel in Heaven… because we will never be angels. Just like we won’t die and become an elephant. Or a plant. We are human, and continue to be human even after death.

Simple: Angels have no bodies.

ICXC NIKA

Angels make only one choice: for or against God. After that, their actions flow from that one choice. We humans have much free will. The angel’s choice determines their future (God’s heavenly messenger/agent or Satan’s companions).

Also, angels don’t receive Sacraments like we do.
We may not be perfect, but we are indeed blessed. :wink:

What you say is interesting but that is not taught by the Church.

Is it also true that angels have knowledge about everything that exists? I have heard they have complete understanding/ knowledge of EVERYTHING, in our world and theirs, including the planets, stars, universe, etc

This should answer most questions.

therealpresence.org/archives/Angelology/Angelology_027.htm

However, it was taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, from whom we get most of our knowledge about Angels. This is why he was named the Angelic Doctor.

As to the OP question, among what has already been said, we can consider what it means for them to be pure spirit. Without physical limitations, Angels move through time and space differently than we do, for example. They are not bound by the E=MC^2 principle as a speed limitation. They are said to move at the “speed of thought,” which basically translates into “they move from one place to another instantly.”

Furthermore, since emotional states are chemically based, it can almost certainly be said that Angels don’t experience emotions. This doesn’t mean they don’t love, or cannot empathize or sympathize. It just means these acts are purely intellectual in nature, and are not driven by bodily passions.

I have often thought about this and have some considerations that might help. It is to my understanding that the Holy Angels do not suffer. Since they do not sin any suffering that sin would apply does not register to them. Humans because they sin have this suffering to deal with. Another aspect is how we come to attain knowledge. With Angels there was no need of any history for them since God infused all their knowledge in one instance. Therefore an Angel (I am referring here to the Holy Angels) can relate to God and with other Angels without any problem. Humans however do not retain knowledge in the same way as do Angels as we need a history to help identify ourselves. Therefore experiences are necessary for us to come to this better understanding. We in fact need stories so as to help understand what that knowledge means. As Mark Twain once said when he was commenting on someone who said we are made of atoms, he responded quickly by saying “we are made of stories.” Stories help us to come to understand ourselves and the Lord Jesus often used that route to help explain the Gospel to us.

Society won’t lock you up if you claim to see or talk to people on the regular.

Oh, and while you may move to Los Angeles, you will never be an angel, even in death. Tough cookies.

ICXC NIKA

The posters here have already made some good points concerning the angels. I’m just going to add a few thoughts. The angels are between us and God and they are by nature a superior creature than humans as they are pure spirits which by nature they are more like God who is a pure spirit. This does not mean that the angels are absolutely superior to every human being. Christ, who is both God and man , is superior to the angels and our Blessed Lady is also superior to every angel. The very nature of the angels as pure spirits though is a superior nature than the nature of human beings who are composed of spirit or soul and body.

You mention that you think you remember that Aquinas says that angels are “pure intellect”. The more correct wording here would be a “pure intelligence”. A being with an intellectual nature includes not just an intellect but also a will. A pure intelligence then is a spirit with intelligence or intellect and will. This is what the CCC#330 says: “As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will…” God also is a pure Spirit with intelligence and will. It is through the spiritual powers of intellect and will that we and the angels are made in the image and likeness of God. “By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an 'outstanding manifestation of the divine image” (CCC#1705).

In Aquinas’ theology of the angels, the angels have a much superior intellect and intelligence than humans do, in a word, they are much “smarter”. Their intelligence is more like to God’s than our’s is. We gather our knowledge of things through our bodily senses and we compose and divide and reason to come to conclusions. The angels do not have bodies with external senses so their knowledge of things comes about differently than humans. In fact, the angels are created by God with infused ideas and knowledge. Their knowledge of things is already in their intellects upon their creation, they have only to turn to it to understand. The angels also understand without reasoning from one thing to another or by composing and dividing like the human intellect. From universal principles and truths which they know naturally, they straightway at once behold all things whatsoever that can be known in them.

Some angels possess more knowledge than others according to which order of the nine choirs of angels a particular angel falls in. A higher order angel has superior knowledge than a lower order angel. The higher order angels are endowed by God with more universal principles of knowledge through which they possess a more universal knowledge. The higher order angels enlighten the lower order angels especially as to that what God wants done in the world. The angels have a share in God’s providential government of the material creation.

Thank you all very much for your answers, it is quite fascinating to me.

I have a couple questions regarding what you all have said:

  1. Richca, the last poster, said that “The angels have a share in God’s providential government of the material creation”. How does this function exactly? How much in the created world do they affect, and how much freedom to they have to manipulate the physical world?

  2. Why is there an “hierarchy of angels”? Why did God not just make all angels of the same authority, knowledge and power?

  3. In their nature, what changed for demons when they fell from grace? How did their angelic nature change? Are they still “pure spirit/intelligence”? And if so, can they feel sinful passions such as lust or hatred?

Thanks again and God bless. :slight_smile:

I’d like to offer some thoughts on this, if I may.

I would say that He did so because it is a reflection of His own nature. God is a trinity of co-equal persons, but there is nevertheless an hierarchy within that trinity. The Father’s will, for example, always holds primacy. The Father is also the source of the other two Persons, and in that sense He is also primary, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third.

All of creation is ordered hierarchically, according to each creature’s closeness in likeness to God. This is why humanity was given dominion of the Earth. We are higher in the created hierarchy of order than the Earth and all its creatures. And along with that dominion, we receive the command to care for it, to tend it and keep it.

And this gives us a two-fold insight into the nature of hierarchical order. First, the higher one is in the hierarchy, the greater authority is given/held. Second, the higher one is in the hierarchy, the greater duty one has to care for, and love those who are lower.

And this is the model we receive in the Church. The Pope’s most important title, for example, is Servant of Servants. And Our Lord, who is its head, is servant of all. He loves us beyond measure. Our response to that love is to order our minds and wills according to His, which is the essence of obedience.

And so, just as all other creation is order this way, so too are angels ordered this way. And the measure of that order is the degree to which the angel is created in likeness to God, just as all else.

  1. Will pass.

  2. It seems that hierarchy is the order of the created world.

Biological life has a hierarchy: subcellular life, cellular life, plant, animal, and finally, at the top, human life.

The human body has a hierarchy of functions: vegetative life, reflex and instinct, and finally the mind.

Even Christ’s sociological body, the Church, is a hierarchy.

  1. They remain “pure spirit.” The converse to pure spirit is embodiedness, and they did not acquire a body by falling.

ICXC NIKA.

The devils had fallen from their vocation because of one sin, pride. The main devil was called a murderer because he led one third of the angels into this sin of pride. When St. Maria Faustina asked the Lord Jesus why He punished the angels as soon as they sinned, He replied because of their great knowledge of who God is and who they are. From this we can deduct that God had given incredible knowledge to every angel. This knowledge surpasses all the Church saints put together. Within this knowledge was a warning not to sin for it will only bring irreversible damage to the nature of the angel who commits this one sin. The angels knew what would happened to them if they sinned once yet they had refuse to accept it. They probably thought it would not happen to them. This is what pride can do when you go on your own. God does not want to deal with angels sinning forever so He had given them a nature and enough knowledge to accept this one choice for their true vocation. Pope John Paul II had called the main devil the most perverted of all God’s creation for he threw all the sanctity away. The devil cannot lust as we do but he can hate. The devil cannot love but only knows of hate because of that one sin. This hate is directed to God and to the rest of His creation, man. This hatred if you think about it is first directed within himself. No one can hate outwardly if he has love within. The change in all the devils when they committed this one sin put them into a hell that could not be redeemed. Why they cannot be redeemed probably has to do with the type of nature God had given to them. An angel says Bishop Fulton Sheen cannot change his mind. This differs with human nature which has this possibility to change their minds as often as they live in this world meaning we have this potential to repent. God has given us a nature where this can happen.

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