The Angelical and Demoniacal world
What we know about the angelical world is analogous to what a mole could make out of the human world by feeling the vibrations and noises of humans. The material world is varied and colourful, it can be rough, soft, bright, humid or sticky, cold as steel or hot as lava, full of smells and diverse shades of endless sensations. The material world, then, can seem so diverse, varied and subject to change and alteration. On the other hand, the angelical world seems so reduced, vaporous and drab. On the verge of the monotonous and boring. But the world of spirits is highly varied; sometimes the spirits can fight amongst themselves, some can be enchained, others have the mission of roaming the earth. Just take a look at the mysteries that are hidden in that verse of the book of Daniel (Dan. 7,10) where we are told that some angels are dedicated to serving God and others are dedicated to other functions. What does this service consist in? Why, if all the angels see God's face, we are lead to understand that some are in God's presence and some are not? All of this, stated in un verse.
Just to get a glimpse of the charm and greatness of the unknown but real world, let us consider that those distinct names of the angelical choirs indicate something similar to those great species of animals. Imagine for a moment the differences that exist in the material world between mammals, birds, fishes and insects. Well, the difference that exists inside of one same angelical choir is greater than that which exists between a delphin and a whale, between a squirrel and a deer, because the differences between angelic essences is much greater than the differences between material essences.
Nevertheless, in spite of having such poor ideas about the angelical world, what an interest is aroused by the theme of the demoniacal!
The famous poet Ovid once said
NITIMVR IN VETITVM SEMPER CUPIMVSQVE NEGATA
(We always make an effort for the prohibited and we ardently desire that which is denied us.)
Man tends to prefer to know that which is beautiful and good, but for some reason also feels an innate inclination to discover the deformed and sordid. This is not an bad inclination, since knowledge tends to spread throughout all fields and subjects. The more unknown and abnormal something is, the more there is the desire of its knowledge, because the intellectual understanding of it sparks the fugacious and spiritually pleasing sensation of surprise. The Gothic cathedrals try to elevate people to God by their beauty. But, an integral part of this beauty is that, in the midst of this immense architectonic whole, the representation of the devil has its little part. Whether it be a small capital of a column, or a gargoyle, or the lower part of a tympanum, there one finds hidden the images of a host of small demons. Why? Because the devil also has a participation of beauty. The devil is ugly; I am not refering to his body, since he has none, but to his personal deformed being. The devil has a being, and all being participates in the good and the beautiful. The devil conserves his angelical nature and, as such, this is splendid, and even in that which has been deformed in the devil by his sin, we can find a particular beauty which is inferior, but nevertheless a beauty.
I'll give an example: If we walk happily and unawares through a field of flowers and butterflies and suddenly come across a dog's cadaver, already converted into rotten, smelly carrion, we instantaneously draw back, hold our nose and think that it is simply nauseous. This object is not beautiful, but, nevertheless, if we were able to disregard the odor and introduce a television camera inside the putrid tissues and observe scientifically all the details of the activity of the worms, their conduct, their reproduction and, on a deeper level, the action of the microbes, their metabolism, their different types and classes and observe the species and subspecies of organisms and microogranisms working on this ever-changing mass for weeks, then we would be fascinated by this hidden world with its myriad of complex chemical and biological processes on what is a rotting cadaver. Certainly, a cadaver is not something beautiful, but we can find in it, not only something beautiful, but a whole fascinating world. Of all the objects that our intellect can know, the most deformed and sordid are the demoniacal. Everything else, the sight of Nazi concentration camps, the cruelties of war, the frightening tales of murders and torture, are nothing but the mature fruit of the demoniacal seed.
We have seen, then, that the devil has his place in the catedral, as Hell has its place in the cosmos. "Cosmos" in Greek means order. Hell, with people and devils suffering for all eternity, is not just a piece which is out of place nor a defect in the universal harmony. The world would be better without condemned persons. But it would be better not for what exists (Hell), but because of what has not stopped existing (an immense quantity of good that the condemned people could have done had they not been condemned and for the great quantity of pain that they suffer). Hell does not mar creation, just as Leonardo da Vinci's personal notes, in which there appear deformed and grotesque faces, do not render his artistic work ugly. On the contrary, even in those notebooks with grotesque faces, the masterful hand of a genius is manifested in a way than if they had not been handed down to us, remaining unknown to us. In the same way, even in Hell we can find a beauty, very peculiar certainly, a beauty "sui generis", just as in the admiration which produces the contemplation of the complex processes which go on in a cadaver in the middle of a very beautiful meadow. Moreover, continuing with the simile of the meadow and applying it to the condemned, would nature be more beautiful without flies and worms and frogs? Would the animal world be more beautiful if everything were reduced to deer, eagles, swans and other beings of great beauty? Would the vegetable world be more beautiful if there were no longer any weeds, thorn bushes and poisonous mushrooms? The world would have been more beautiful without Hell, since each one and all of those rejected souls and fallen spirits would have been a marvellous element in the whole assembly of the Kingdom of Heaven, and each one would have left a positive mark on creation. But Hell adds more beauty to the universe; it shows us God from a distinct viewpoint: that of his tremendous Justice. None should underrate the impressive and formidable work in which God's terrible justice shines out: the devils. Hell is a part of God's creation in which God's hand is no less admirable than in anything else in the Cosmos. God did not create any angel as damned, but the angel that became worthy of condemnation, was not sent outside of Creation, but rather to a place which is part of creation. After the sin, the Creator sentenced the measure, the mode and the place of punishment, but inside His established order. In each devil there is a fire, the fire of the Creator's wrath. The devil is a creature of God, a creature rejected by God. If sinners, during their lifetime, could see but one lone devil -its story, its thoughts, its sufferings- they would not only be profoundly changed in their own lives, but at the same time they would marvel at the power, justice, order and wisdom of God's designs. In a certain way, Hell is also one of God's works of art, a work of art that He would not have wanted to create if He had not seen himself obliged to establish it. For example, Is not the triptych "Garden of Delights" by El Bosco a work of art, including the part dedicated to Hell? It's not that He (God) wanted to create that place, but His permission placed the degree, the depth and the manner in which His Justice had to be carried out.
The devil is admirable in everything that it has not lost and that it received from God. It continues to be an angelical nature, it is admirable for its intelligence, power and even beauty, though this has been deformed. And as a result Yahweh, in chapters 40 and 41 of the book of Job, takes delight in praising the power and ferocity of the most terrible of the infernal creatures: Satan. This praise is made designating Satan with the name Leviathan and Behemoth.
The patristic tradition has also applied to Satan the oracle of the prophet Ezechiel against the prince of Tyre (Ez. 28, 12 and following). There is no doubt that, in its time, the oracle was referring to the prince. Although the prophet himself uses the expression "you being a man" , nevertheless, other references such as "holy mountain of God" and "guardian cherub" indicate that the text goes beyond the person to whom it is directed primarily.
Satan is the Prince of this world. He even dares to say in his pride: "All that exists under the heavens is mine" (Job 41,3). "The mountains pay him tribute" (Job 40,20); in other words, he receives a tribute from the sin of the most important me who "stand out" like mountains. He is the chief of all the infernal hosts: " all the savage beasts who have their playground there ( ) pay him tribute" (Job 40,20); He is king over all the ferocious beasts (Job 41, 26). Very interesting is the verse which says that "He is the masterpiece of all God's work" (Job 40,19). The rabbinic and patristic tradition states that Satan was the spirit of highest rank before God's throne.
It will seem a contradiction but even the devil's evil actions give glory to God, because his evil actions are one more element in the history of creation. Just as a battle between perfectly formed lines of roman legions and well-trained Greek phalanxes is a glorious spectacle from an aesthetic point of view. Sure, it would be much better if the battle didn't take place, since all battles are horrible actions, but at the same time that it is horrible, it can be aesthetically fine-looking from some aspects. The devil's deeds are objectively evil and scornful; however, they form a part of the marvellous symphony of the history of creation.
The entire myriad of the angels is said to be regimented in "Choirs" because their actions are a formidable song of glory to God. The demoniacal hordes cannot impede that a powerful symphony to the glory of God surge from their own selves. It is said that the angels "sing" because they glorify God with their will. We can't exactly say that the devils "sing". We could say (and it is only a comparison) that their "music" is instrumental, because, against their own will, they participate in a harmony inside the whole of Creation. This is something which deeply offends the devils, to know that their own wicked actions form a part of that immense order that is the whole of the works created by God, to know that all their efforts throughout History to do the opposite of what God wants, really is an integral part of God's plans. Thus, Psalm 104, 26 says: "and Leviathan, whom you made to amuse you".
Many people have been a bit surprised that, in the parable about the crafty steward (Lk. 16, 1-8), Jesus says that his master (symbolizing God), praised the steward's astuteness. And that even when the act itself was objective and intrinsically evil (to steal by deceit). In the same way, someone could be scandalized by the praise that the Creator gives to Leviatan, but the scandal would be due to not understanding what is evil, what is the metaphysical nature of that which we call evil. In order to know what evil is, we have to understand what being is.
Evil is not really something, a being, but something which is related to being, to which it is opposed as a privation. Evil is real, but it is not "something", but rather "exists" in another subject: it is the absence, the privation or corruption of good; therefore, in order to "be", it must be rooted in a subject, it has its foundation in good and being; but it is not knowable in itself. (Ángel Luis González, Natural Theology, chap. III, 1)
Therefore a great evil can be united to a great good, and a great moral evil united to a grand angelical nature. The Devil is blameworthy in as much as his wickedness is concerned, but he can be praised for his power and intelligence which is rooted in his nature; he can even be praised for the power and intelligence that he has deployed in his evil actions. To admire something that he has received from God is to admire God.
I'll give a few examples: to admire a thief's highly intelligent plan to carry out a robbery, is not evil. One thing is the moral assessment of the robbery, and another is the intelligence manifested in the plan. In the same way, on thing is to admire the impression of force and order in the nazi parades in Hitler's Germany, and another very distinct thing is the evil of Nazism.
Finally though, all we have said does not take away a speck of the evil of the devils and the consideration we have of them. Anyone would be frightened if he were to fathom the tremendous abyss of hate that their iniquity can take them to. We can barely make a sketch of an idea about the depth of the devils wickedness by our knowledge of the temptations they wield. ¡How much evil must they have inside them to reach extremes such as inciting some men to torture defenceless children for hours before murdering them! ¡How much coldness must they have in order to tempt pious people for months with scruples, sinking them to the limit of despair!
They tempt men to hate, to fights which end up in mutilation; they collaborated (by temptation) to the surge of nazism with all of its consequences; they desire us death, despair, terror and suffering. And they desire it with absolutely coldness; there doesn't exist any extenuating circumstances, like being overcome by a moment of passion. Theirs is an evil in total coldness, with full premeditation. It is an evil without the slightest shadow of repentance.
If we had to choose something in the entire Cosmos that we could consider merited the qualification of hateful, I have no doubt that people -if they knew them- would choose the devils. But, even at that, not even the devils are hateful.
Only sin is hateful; the devils should only inspire pain and compassion. Pain for the sin they committed, and compassion in the sense of trying to imagine and to make an idea of the suffering they go through, and, having perceived that abyss of suffering, to venerate with awe God's just designs.
I'll finish with the prophet Ezechiel's oracle that the tradition of the holy Fathers has referred to Satan:
Tu eras el sello de la perfección, lleno de sabiduría y acabada belleza;
en el Edén, jardín espléndido, habitabas;
toda suerte de piedras preciosas eran tu vestido (...)
Tú eras un querubín consagrado como protector,
Yo te había establecido tal;
estabas en la montaña santa de Dios
y te paseabas en medio de piedras de fuego,
hasta que se descubrió en ti la iniquidad. (...)
Se engrió tu corazón por tu belleza,
echaste a perder tu sabiduría por tu esplendor. (...)
He hecho brotar un fuego de en medio de ti, que te ha devorado
Ez 28, 12 y siguientes