What’s the matter with matter?

In his short insightful book Angels and Demons, theologian and professor Peter Kreeft indulges in an interesting speculation about the relationship between angels and the physical universe. Since God’s plan from the beginning was to create mankind, the universe, the angels, and all the interconnected relationships those beings imply, Kreeft wonders if angels were not created to have a certain affection for certain aspects of the material creation. In God’s cosmic order, would not some angels be particularly drawn to rocks, some to trees, some to water, some to black holes, others to quarks or quantum particles? Perhaps the patron angels of light chuckle at our befuddlement over the behavior of light as both wave and particle, seeing more deeply into that mystery than we ever can. Perhaps they run races (and always win) with the patron angels of sound waves. God is love, and all he created is ordered to that love–having created the physical universe, would he not have created his angels to lovingly care for the other things he has made?

This is of course supremely true of humans, made in God’s likeness, whom the angels adore above all. And, in a sublime mystery of the incarnation, all creation is now called to worship the God-Man Jesus Christ, who took matter up into his eternal God-Head and rules in the form of the imago dei, mankind. This deep unity between mankind and God is analogous to a deep unity between the visible and invisible, matter and spirit, the economy of matter and the economy of angels.

There were, of course, angels who rejected God’s order of love, led astray by the Arch-Deceiver, Lucifer, the Accuser, Satan. Many theologians in the history of Christendom have reasoned that Satan and his minions did not just wake up on the wrong side of a sun-beam one day, but were disgusted by God’s plan to make matter, to make humans, and to become one of them, and for these reasons rebelled against heaven. Humans develop knowledge through sense-perception and rational consideration. Angels do not experience the mediation of sense-perception, and so know things instantly–as spirits, it is in their essence to know actively. So, from the moment of their creation, angels would have known in totality what God had designed them to know about–for most of them, especially Lucifer, the most glorious of the Archangels, this means knowing about his plan for material creation, mankind, and Christ. Most notably, St. Anselm, a medieval English theologian, in his Prosologion, thinks that Lucifer and the rebel angels were disgusted by this plan of God’s, and so developed an antipathy to God’s order of love, which includes an antipathy to God’s order of visible creation, namely, matter.

This is exciting for many reasons, not least of all because it gives theological warrant to what some call ghost sightings, and what classical authors call the genius locii – the spirits of a particular place or object that “haunt” that thing, for good or for ill. Is it possible that, when humans order themselves to God and his economy of love, blessing his material creation, they invite in angelic presences who preside over the materiality of that space and time, those things and objects? And is it likewise possible that when humans disorder themselves against God’s order of love, attempting to create a disorder of antipathy, cursing God’s material creation by their immorality, licentiousness, selfishness, or spite, they invite in demonic presences who haunt that material space and time, things and objects, or, God forbid, their own bodies?

Scientific fields today are rapidly discovering so many gray areas and gaps in our understanding of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and even the human body. Should we not give greater room to the mystery behind creation, acknowledging the presences of love that God has ordained to sustain and govern his universe? And should we not likewise prepare ourselves for battle with the forces of darkness that have armed themselves against the loving goodness of his universe, attempting to drown us in obsessive materiality on the one hand, or to make us spite it and attempt to escape its limitations and demands on the other?

And, perhaps more to the point: should we pay more attention to ghost stories, fairy tales, and mythologies as positive signs of objective presences in our universe?

 

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