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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 13

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 13.—How the Demons Can Mediate Between Gods and Men If They Have Nothing in Common with Both, Being Neither Blessed Like the Gods, Nor Miserable Like Men.

If, now, we endeavor to find between these opposites the mean occupied by the demons, there can be no question as to their local position; for, between the highest and lowest place, there is a place which is rightly considered and called the middle place.  The other two qualities remain, and to them we must give greater care, that we may see whether they are altogether foreign to the demons, or how they are so bestowed upon them without infringing upon their mediate position.  We may dismiss the idea that they are foreign to them.  For we cannot say that the demons, being rational animals, are neither blessed nor wretched, as we say of the beasts and plants, which are void of feeling and reason, or as we say of the middle place, that it is neither the highest nor the lowest.  The demons, being rational, must be either miserable or blessed.  And, in like manner, we cannot say that they are neither mortal nor immortal; for all living things either live eternally or end life in death.  Our author, besides, stated that the demons are eternal.  What remains for us to suppose, then, but that these mediate beings are assimilated to the gods in one of the two remaining qualities, and to men in the other?  For if they received both from above, or both from beneath, they should no longer be mediate, but either rise to the gods above, or sink to men beneath.  Therefore, as it has been demonstrated that they must possess these two qualities, they will hold their middle place if they receive one from each party.  Consequently, as they cannot receive their eternity from beneath, because it is not there to receive, they must get it from above; and accordingly they have no choice but to complete their mediate position by accepting misery from men.

According to the Platonists, then, the gods, who occupy the highest place, enjoy eternal blessedness, or blessed eternity; men, who occupy the lowest, a mortal misery, or a miserable mortality; and the demons, who occupy the mean, a miserable eternity, or an eternal misery.  As to those five things which Apu p. 173 leius included in his definition of demons, he did not show, as he promised, that the demons are mediate.  For three of them, that their nature is animal, their mind rational, their soul subject to passions, he said that they have in common with men; one thing, their eternity, in common with the gods; and one proper to themselves, their aerial body.  How, then, are they intermediate, when they have three things in common with the lowest, and only one in common with the highest?  Who does not see that the intermediate position is abandoned in proportion as they tend to, and are depressed towards, the lowest extreme?  But perhaps we are to accept them as intermediate because of their one property of an aerial body, as the two extremes have each their proper body, the gods an ethereal, men a terrestrial body, and because two of the qualities they possess in common with man they possess also in common with the gods, namely, their animal nature and rational mind.  For Apuleius himself, in speaking of gods and men, said, “You have two animal natures.”  And Platonists are wont to ascribe a rational mind to the gods.  Two qualities remain, their liability to passion, and their eternity,—the first of which they have in common with men, the second with the gods; so that they are neither wafted to the highest nor depressed to the lowest extreme, but perfectly poised in their intermediate position.  But then, this is the very circumstance which constitutes the eternal misery, or miserable eternity, of the demons.  For he who says that their soul is subject to passions would also have said that they are miserable, had he not blushed for their worshippers.  Moreover, as the world is governed, not by fortuitous haphazard, but, as the Platonists themselves avow, by the providence of the supreme God, the misery of the demons would not be eternal unless their wickedness were great.

If, then, the blessed are rightly styled eudemons, the demons intermediate between gods and men are not eudemons.  What, then, is the local position of those good demons, who, above men but beneath the gods, afford assistance to the former, minister to the latter?  For if they are good and eternal, they are doubtless blessed.  But eternal blessedness destroys their intermediate character, giving them a close resemblance to the gods, and widely separating them from men.  And therefore the Platonists will in vain strive to show how the good demons, if they are both immortal and blessed, can justly be said to hold a middle place between the gods, who are immortal and blessed, and men, who are mortal and miserable.  For if they have both immortality and blessedness in common with the gods, and neither of these in common with men, who are both miserable and mortal, are they not rather remote from men and united with the gods, than intermediate between them.  They would be intermediate if they held one of their qualities in common with the one party, and the other with the other, as man is a kind of mean between angels and beasts,—the beast being an irrational and mortal animal, the angel a rational and immortal one, while man, inferior to the angel and superior to the beast, and having in common with the one mortality, and with the other reason, is a rational and mortal animal.  So, when we seek for an intermediate between the blessed immortals and miserable mortals, we should find a being which is either mortal and blessed, or immortal and miserable.

Next: Chapter 14

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