Thanks to everyone who helped out with reading suggestions for this module. I’m currently somewhere between weeks 3 and 4 and so far it’s been really fun to teach. To recap, this course was designed as a medieval philosophy and theology module, in a department with a mixture of philosophy, theology and religious studies students. We didn’t have any existing modules that focused on the medieval period, so this is basically an attempt to cover some of the key bases of medieval philosophical theology but in a way that’s engaging for students who aren’t necessarily already invested in understanding what scholasticism is. I’ve tried to cover some of the key moments in medieval intellectual history: the arrival of Jewish and Islamic thought, the rise of scholasticism and then the emergence of nominalism and the beginnings of Enlightenment humanism and Renaissance science. I’m expecting to teach this course once every couple of years for the rest of my time at Winchester so it’s not too late to tell me about the brilliant book that I absolutely must read. Likewise, please feel free to borrow as much of this as you’d like, or drop me a line if you’d like to see any of my course materials.
Assessment Type: Summative Essay
Word Length: 3,000
Drawing on key texts and thinkers we have read over the course of this module, answer one of the following questions:
- Pick two figures from the course and compare their understandings of one of the following topics:
a) the nature of angels (that is, what kind of beings angels are)
b) the relationship between angelology and anthropology
c) the work that angels do
d) the fall of the angels
- How did the emergence of nominalism change medieval thinkers’ understanding of angels?
- Why, at the end of the medieval period, does the devil come to be particularly associated with women?
- What role does gender play in medieval angelology?
- Does the medieval belief in demons help Christian Europe to become a persecuting society?
NB: YOUR COMPLETED ESSAY SHOULD BE SUBMITTED ONLINE VIA THE MODULE PAGE. Instructions on how to submit via the Module Page are available on your programme’s Canvas homepage and in your Programme Handbook.
Marking criteria can also be found, listed by level, in the Programme Handbook.
Week 1. Wheels Full of Eyes: The Bible
Week 2. Angelic Bureaucracy: Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Week 3. On the Fall of the Devil: Anselm of Canterbury
Week 4. The Movement of the Spheres: Moses Maimonides
Week 5. The Wisdom of Divinity: Ibn ‘Arabi
Week 6. The Angelic Life: Angels in Thomas Aquinas
Week 7. Enrichment Week: angels and demons in Winchester and Salisbury
Week 8. The Sociopathy of the Redeemed: Demons in Thomas Aquinas
Week 9. Angel of the Apocalypse: Peter John Olivi
Week 10. Separated Substances: Duns Scotus
Week 11. Angelic Ignorance: William of Ockham
Week 12. Possession and Penis-theft: The Malleus Maleficarum
Week 1. Wheels Full of Eyes: The Bible
This week we will introduce the module, and spend some time exploring what we already know about angels and demons, and take a brief look at angelology and demonology in the Bible and early Christianity.
David Keck, ‘Part 1: Scripture, the Foundation of Angelology’ in Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, 1998), 11-70. This section discusses the role of key biblical passages in medieval angelological thinking.
Week 2. The Bureaucracy of Heaven: Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
This week we will look at Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the first person to try to create an angelological system out of biblical and early Christian materials, and a key figure in the emergence of Christian Platonism, the idea of hierarchy, and the association between angels and bureaucrats which was central to the development of medieval angelology.
Pseudo-Dionysius, selected pages from ‘The Celestial Hierarchy’ in ed. Colm Luibheid, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, ch 1-6, 145-161.
Andrew Louth, Denys the Areopagite (Continuum, 1989), 37-42.
Giorgio Agamben, selection from ‘Angels’, translated by Lorenzo Chiesa in Angelaki 16.3 (2011), 117-118.
Giorgio Agamben, ‘Angelology and Bureaucracy’ in The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Governance, translated by Lorenzo Chiesa (Stanford University Press, 2011), 144-166. This chapter expands and develops the argument that Agamben briefly summarises in the required reading above.
Denys Turner, Eros and Allegory: Medieval Exegesis of the Song of Songs (Cistercian Publications: 1995), 47-53 (and 53-70 if you’re feeling keen). This chapter discusses the role of desire in the created hierarchy which Dionysius discusses: desire is what is received and transmitted up and down the hierarchy of being by both angels and human beings.
Grace Jantzen, ‘Dionysius and the hierarchy of mysticism’ in Power, Gender and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 95-109. This extract discusses the role of gender in Dionysius’ understanding of hierarchy.
Marika Rose, ‘Ontology and Desire in Dionysius the Areopagite’ in A Theology of Failure: Žižek Against Christian Innocence (Fordham University Press, 2019), 15-28. This chapter from my book looks at the way that Dionysius’ bringing-together of Christianity and Platonism sets up a series of difficulties in thinking about freedom, materiality, hierarchy and universalism which influence a lot of subsequent theological discussions about these themes (and are important for understanding both angelology and demonology).
Week 3. On the Fall of the Devil: Anselm
This week we will look at Anselm of Canterbury, a key figure in the development of medieval theological ideas about the devil, sin and free will. We’ll look at how Anselm understands the fall of the devil, and the way in which his ideas build on and develop Augustine’s understanding of the fall of Satan, which you might remember reading in Joining the Conversation, and what Anselm’s demonology contributes to medieval understandings of the nature of free will.
Anselm of Canterbury, ‘On the Fall of the Devil’ in The Major Works, 192-232
Adam Kotsko, extracts from chapter 4, ‘The Fall of the Devil’ in The Prince of This World, 109-118
Serge-Thomas Bonino, ‘How Angels Became Demons’ in Angels and Demons: A Catholic Introduction, translated by Michael J Miller (The Catholic University of America Press, 2016), 192-216. This chapter discusses Christian approaches to understanding why the Devil fell.
Anselm of Canterbury, commendation, preface, books 1-2 in ‘Why God Became Man’ in The Major Works, 260-356. This text sets out Anselm’s understanding of how Jesus’ death and resurrection dealt with human sin.
Adam Kotsko, ‘Anselm’ in The Politics of Redemption (T&T Clark, 2010), 123-149. This chapter looks at how Anselm’s understanding of redemption transformed Christian understandings of salvation and the role of the devil.
Gillian R Evans, ‘The introduction of sin and evil’ in Anselm (Continuum, 1989), 67-71. This chapter looks at Anselm’s understanding of sin, evil, and the fall of the angels.
Katherine A Rogers, Anselm on Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2008). This book offers an in-depth exploration of Anselm’s understanding of angelic, demonic and human freedom.
John Marenbon, ‘Abelard on Angels’ in Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance, edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz (Ashgate, 2008), 63-71. This chapter looks at Abelard’s understanding of angels, which is helpful for understanding how he thinks about demons as fallen angels.
Week 4. The Movement of the Spheres: Moses Maimonides’ astrological angelology
This week we’ll look at Moses Maimonides, a Spanish Jewish philosopher who played a key role in re-introducing medieval Europeans to important aspects of Aristotelianism. We’ll think a little bit about how Maimonides’ work (not very popular with a lot of his contemporaries, including many medieval Jews) fits into the broader field of Jewish angelology and look at Maimonides’ understanding of how to reconcile the biblical belief in angels with the atheistic philosophy of Aristotle, which gives some early indications of the role that angels will play in the subsequent development of scientific understandings of cosmology.
Agamben, extracts from ‘Angels’, translated by Lorenzo Chiesa in Angelaki 16.3 (2011),118-120.
Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed Volume 2, translated by Shlomo Pines (University of Chicago Press, 1963), chs 3-7, p254-27.
Extracts from Tzivi Langerman, ‘Maimonides and the Sciences’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, edited by Daniel H Frank and Oliver Leaman (Cambridge University Press, 2003) ‘Astronomy’, 157-167
Howard Kreisel, ‘Moses Maimonides’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, edited by Daniel H Frank and Oliver Leaman (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 195-223. This chapter gives a general introduction to Maimonides’ thought and influence, placing his understanding of angels in the context of his work as a whole.
Alexander Broadie, ‘Maimonides and Aquinas’ in History of Jewish Philosophy (Routledge, 1997), 224-234. This chapter compares Maimonides’ understanding of some key philosophical and theological ideas, and discusses the ways in which Aquinas’ work responds to and draws on Maimonides’ thought.
Oliver Leaman, ‘Maimonides, imagination and the objectivity of prophecy’ in Religion (1988), 69-80. This article looks at Maimonides’ understanding of the role of angels in imagination and prophecy.
David Burrell, Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (University of Notre Dame Press, 1987). This book compares the thinking of Ibn Sina, Maimonides and Aquinas, and particularly the role of mysticism in their thought.
Week 5. The Wisdom of Divinity: Man and the angels in Ibn ‘Arabi
This week we’ll look at the relationship between human beings and angels in the work of the Muslim philosopher and mystic Ibn ‘Arabi. We’ll look briefly at how Ibn ‘Arabi’s work relates to Islamic angelology more broadly, and think about the complicated way that his understanding of the relationship between human beings and angels complicates the straightforward hierarchy of being that we find in thinkers like Pseudo-Dionysius.
Agamben, ‘Angels’, as above, 121-122
Ibn ‘Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, translated by R W J Austin (Paulist Press, 1980), 47-59
Gisela Webb, ‘Hierarchy, Angels and the Human Condition in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arab?’ in The Muslim World 81.3-4 (1991), 245-253.
Henry Corbin, extracts from History of Islamic Philosophy, 291-296. These extracts look at the work of Ibn ‘Arabi and give an introduction to Sufism.
Husain Kassim, ‘Nothing can be Known or Done without the Involvement of Angels: Angels and Angelology in Islam and Islamic Literature’ in Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook 2007 (2007), 645-660. This article talks about the role of angels in Islamic thought, including Islamic philosophy and mysticism, and discusses the role of Neoplatonism in shaping Islamic angelology.
Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi (Routledge, 2008). This book explores Ibn ‘Arabi’s understanding of the imagination and the role that angels play in this aspect of Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought.
Week 6. The Angelic Life: Angels in Aquinas
This week we will look at Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of angels, focusing especially on his idea that angels are purely spiritual and intellectual beings. We’ll look at the implications of this claim for Aquinas’ understanding of the relationship between humans and angels in the great chain of being. And we’ll look at his attempt to resolve the question of how, if angels don’t have bodies, they are able to move about from one place to another.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Volume 9: Angels (Cambridge University Press, New Blackfriars edition) 1a.50, 51.2, 53.2-3.
Marika Rose, extracts from ‘The body and ethics in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologia’, in New Blackfriars 94.1053 (2013), 540-551: ‘Angels’, 534-544 and ‘Active and contemplative’, 547-551.
James Steven Byrne, extract from ‘Angels and the Physics of Place’ in Joad Raymond (ed), Conversations with Angels: Essays Towards a History of Spiritual Communication 1100-1700 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011): ‘Angels and place before the condemnation of 1277’, 53-54.
Marika Rose, ‘The body and ethics in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae’ in New Blackfriars 94.1053 (2013), 540-551. This is the first article I ever published and I find it a bit embarrassing to re-read now! It looks at the role of angels in Aquinas’ understanding of what makes human beings distinct, and suggests that there’s a basic ambiguity in Aquinas’ thought about whether embodiment is good (because it’s what makes human beings distinct from angels) or bad (because the angels are more like God than human beings are and they don’t have bodies), and looks at the way this tension plays out in different areas of Aquinas’ thinking.
James Steven Byrne, ‘Angels and the Physics of Place’ in Joad Raymond (ed), Conversations with Angels: Essays Towards a History of Spiritual Communication 1100-1700 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), 49-66. This full chapter puts the required reading extract into context, discussing the broader discussions of angelic location that were taking place in the 14th century.
Marcia Colish, ‘Early Scholastic Angelology’ in Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 62 (1995), 80-109. This article maps out key ideas and debates about angelology between 1130 and 1230 (i.e. in the run up to Aquinas).
John F Wippel, ‘Metaphysical Composition of Angels in Bonaventure, Aquinas and Godfrey of Fontaines’ in Tobias Hoffman (ed), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill, 2012), 45-78. Talks about three roughly contemporary medieval figures and their understanding of what kind of stuff angels are made out of.
Richard Cross, ‘Angelic Time and Motion: Bonaventure to Duns Scotus’ in Tobias Hoffman (ed), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill, 2012), 149-186. Talks about shifting understandings of angels’ relationship to space and place, including discussion of Aquinas.
Harm Goris, ‘The Angelic Doctor and Angelic Speech: The Development of Thomas Aquinas’ Thought on How Angels Communicate’ in Medieval Philosophy and Theology 11 (2003), 870105.
Week 7. Enrichment Week
This week students will be encouraged to book one to one meetings with me to talk about their final assessments and to take a real or virtual trip to the guardian angel’s chapel in Winchester Cathedral and/or the Medieval Doom Painting in St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury.
David Keck, ‘Birth, Maturation and the Regular Religious Practices of Adults’ in Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, 1998), 161-188. Talks about the role of angels in ordinary medieval people’s religious practice, including a discussion of the role of guardian angels in medieval European Christianity.
Week 8. The Sociopathy of the Redeemed: Demons in Aquinas
This week we will look at Aquinas’ understanding of demons, focusing especially on his understanding of how some angels fell and became demons and how they are punished for this sin. We will look at the role that angels play in hell, and how this understanding of the role of demons relates to social and political changes which were taking place in Aquinas’ time.
Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Volume 9: Angels (Cambridge University Press, New Blackfriars edition) 1a.63-64
Adam Kotsko, extracts from ‘Life in Hell’ in The Prince of This World (Stanford University Press, 2017), 173-178.
R I Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Basil Blackwell, 1987), 57-61
Jeffrey Burton Russell, ‘Scholastics, Poets, and Dramatists’ in The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (Cornell University Press, 1988), 130-155. This chapter places changes in medieval understandings of the devil into the broader context of the 11-13th centuries, including the emergence of ‘the individual’ and of the scholastic approach to philosophy and theology.
Adam Kotsko, ‘Life in Hell’ in The Prince of This World (Stanford University Press, 2017), 169-193. This full chapter gives an overview of the development of Christian ideas about hell and the political implications of believing that part of the pleasure of heaven can be watching people suffer for all eternity.
Dylan Elliot, ‘On Angelic Disembodiment and the Incredible Purity of Demons’ in Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality and Demonology in the Middle Ages (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 127-156. This chapter positions Aquinas’ work in the context of broader medieval debates about whether or not angels and demons have bodies, and talks about the implications of Aquinas’ insistence that both angels and demons are purely intellectual beings for medieval understandings of sin and evil.
Joshua Trachtenbery, ‘The Devil Incarnal’ in The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism (Varda Books, 2001), 15-31. This chapter gives an overview of medieval Christian antisemitism, and the ways in which Christians understood Jewish people to have a special relationship to demons and the devil.
Week 9. Angel of the Apocalypse: Peter John Olivi
This week we will look at Peter John Olivi, whose revolutionary angelology cannot be separated on his controversial insistence on absolute poverty as the proper form of Christian life. We will look at the ways in which Olivi’s understanding of angels and the angelic life threatened to undermine some of the key philosophical underpinnings of the medieval order.
Peter Olivi, ‘Selections from the Apocalypse Commentary’ https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/olivi.asp
Extracts from Peter John Olivi, ‘The Mental Word’ in The Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts, Volume 3: Mind and Knowledge, edited by Rober Pasnau (Cambridge University Press, 2002), 136-137, 141-151
Extracts from Sylvain Piron, ‘Deplatonising the Celestial Hierarchy: Peter John Olivi’s interpretation of the Pseudo-Dionysius’ in Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance, edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz (Ashgate, 2008)
Sylvain Piron, ‘Deplatonising the Celestial Hierarchy: Peter John Olivi’s interpretation of the Pseudo-Dionysius’ in Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance, edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz (Ashgate, 2008). This chapter gives a detailed analysis of the ways in which Olivi’s work responds to and unsettles Dionysius’ hierarchical understanding of angelology and the church.
David Burr, Olivi’s Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Comentary (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). This book looks at Olivi’s interpretation of the biblical book of Revelations (or ‘Apocalypse’).
Sylvain Piron, ‘The Formation of Olivi’s Intellectual Project: “Petrus Ioannis Olivi and the Philosophers” Thirty Years Later’ in Oliviana 1.1 (2003). This article discusses the philosophical, influences on Olivi’s work, by way of a reassessment of David Burr’s important 1971 article about Olivi.
David Keck, ‘Franciscan Angelology and the Crisis of the Franciscan Order’ in Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, 1998), 129-154. This chapter discusses the Franciscan context of Olivi’s work and the controversies over the idea that Francis was (as Olivi believed) an ‘angel of the apocalypse’.
Week 10. Separate Substances: Duns Scotus
The late medieval period saw some official church condemnations of certain Aristotelian ideas, and theological understandings based on these ideas, which meant that certain beliefs about angels became excommunicable offences (I promise not to kick any of you out of this class for incorrect beliefs about angels). This meant that philosophers and theologians had to find some new ways to think about angels, amongst other things, which prompted the emergence of some new philosophical movements, and in particular the movement called ‘nominalism’. This week we’ll look at one important nominalist thinker, Duns Scotus, and how he understood the angelic nature.
Duns Scotus, Ordinatio 2.2 (selections) http://www.logicmuseum.com/wiki/Authors/Duns_Scotus/Ordinatio
Tiziana Suarez-Nani, ‘Angels, Space and Place: The Location of Separate Substances According to John Duns Scotus’ in Lenz and Iribarren (eds), Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry, 89-113.
Theo Kobusch, ‘The Language of Angels: On the Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity of Pure Spirits’ in Lenz and Iribarren (eds), Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry, 131-142. Discusses scholastic understandings of key questions: do angels have language? Do angels have a sense of self? How do angels relate to one another?
Timothy B Noone, ‘Duns Scotus on Angelic Knowledge’ in Tobias Hoffman (ed), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill, 2012), 187-221. Does what it says on the tin!
Richard Cross, ‘Angelic Time and Motion: Bonaventure to Duns Scotus’ in Tobias Hoffman (ed), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill, 2012), 149-186. Talks about shifting understandings of angels’ relationship to space and place, including discussion of Scotus.
Giorgio Pini, ‘The Individuation of Angels from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus’ in Tobias Hoffman (ed), A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy (Brill, 2012), 79-116. Talks about different ways that medieval thinkers, including Scotus, dealt with a basic problem of angelology: if angels don’t have bodies, what makes them distinct from one another?
Week 11. Angelic Ignorance: William of Ockham on angelic knowledge
This week will look at William of Ockham (you might have heard of his famous razor!). Ockham is another important nominalist thinker, and we’ll look at his discussion of what kind of knowledge angels have, and explore how his discussion of angelic knowledge shows some of the key shifts taking place in Ockham’s period from the scholastic way of understanding the world that we found in Aquinas to the nominalism which emerged along with modernity.
William Ockham, Tractatus, Chapter 9. Epistemological Issues: Of Divine, Human and Angelic Knowledge https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=vOcRAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=julian+davies+compendium&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjnsef-spjrAhU7XhUIHb_pDSMQ6AEwAHoECAEQAg#v=onepage&q=julian%20davies%20compendium&f=false, 88-96
Martin Lenz, ‘Why Can’t Angels Think Properly? Ockham against Chatton and Aquinas’ in Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance, edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz (Ashgate, 2008), 155-167.
John Deely, ‘The Semiosis of Angels’ in The Thomist 68.2 (2004), 205-258. This article gives an overview of Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of angelic knowledge, which offers a helpful contrast to Ockham’s discussion.
Stephan Meier-Oeser, ‘Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation Angels: A Comparison’ Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance, edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz (Ashgate, 2008), 187-201.
James Stephen Byrne, ‘Angels and the Physics of Place in the early Fourteenth Century’ in Conversations with Angels: Essays Towards a History of Spiritual Communication 1100-1700, edited by Joad Raymond (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), 49-66. This chapter discusses Ockham’s understanding of angelic location.
Week 12. The Vanishing Phallus: the Malleus Maleficarum
Extracts from the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ in ed. Alan C. Kors and Edward Peters, Witchcraft in Europe 400-1700: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2001), 181-209.
Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (Autonomedia, 2004), 133-142, 193-204
Jeffrey Burton Russell, ‘Nominalists, Mystics and Witches’ in The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (Cornell University Press, 1988), 157-166. This chapter looks at the way that European ideas about the devil and demons changed between the 14th and 16th centuries and how they were influenced by the emergence of nominalism.
Dylan Elliot, ‘From Sexual Fantasy to Demonic Defloration: The Libidinous Female in the Later Middle Ages’ in Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality and Demonology in the Middle Ages (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 35-60. This chapter looks at the specific ways in which women’s sexuality became the focus of later medieval anxieties about demonic activity in the world.
Stuart Clark, ‘Women and Witchcraft’ in Thinking With Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, 1999). This chapter also explores the association of women with witchcraft, focusing on a slightly later period in which the Malleus continued to be an important European text.
One thought on “Angels and Demons syllabus”
Thank you for sharing this. Scholasticism is late for me (I rather stop at the sixth century lol) but I have a tangential interest in angelology. I”m looking forward to delving into some of the readings you list here. Great syllabus. (If you ever do anything earlier, you might find it worthwhile to look into David Brakke’s work. He has an excellent book on demons in early christianity and an essay that came out in 2001 in Journal of the history of sexuality titled “Ethiopian Demons: Male Sexuality, the Black Skinned Other, and the Monastic Self” which addresses, in part, why later Christian texts so often show the devil or demons as Ethiopian in early medieval texts.
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