“City of God,” Part Two – “The Pagan Gods and Future Happiness,” Book Nine – “Pagan Deities, Demons, and Christian Angels.”
[Note: My copy of “City of God” is not a complete one. The publishers and translators, in order to keep the size of the book down and keep the content more focused, edited out certain chapters where Augustine would go on one of his legendary excursus. They offered a brief summary of the chapters that were taken out. For completion’s sake I will go ahead and just quote the the summaries in their whole in italics and note when I am doing so.]
Chapter 1: Restatement that some philosophers view demons as mediators between man and the gods. Also, a reminder that Augustine considers this impossible.
“Persuaded, moreover, that no god mingles with man, they believe that demons have been designated as mediators between men and deities, presenting the petitions of mortals and returning with gifts from the gods.”
“In the preceding Book, I raised the question whether demons could possibly mediate, as neighbors and favorites, between the good gods and good men… The answer was: utterly and demonstrably impossible.”
Chapter 2: Augustine will now turn to the question he left hanging in the previous book, whether demons are good or evil. The consequences of this debate are huge. Demons prevent man from reaching the one true God.
Chapter 3: Apuleius said that demons can do both good and evil to humanity. It depends upon who they decide to show their good favor to.
Chapter 4: Discussion on the movements of the soul, or, emotions like fear. Comments on how philosophers go about evaluating the value of life.
Chapter 5: Augustine argues that emotions, in their right place, are good. While certain philosophers, like the Stoics, count them as vices.
Chapter 6: While the Romans believed demons to be mediators between gods and man, Augustine argues that since they are fallen, they are but slaves to their own passions and lusts, desiring only to harm others.
Chapters 7-8: [Editor’s Summary] Apuleius claimed that demon’s bodies are eternal and that in this they resemble the gods, though the demons are inferior in their souls. This is why he considered the demons to be mediators between the gods and men.
Chapter 9: Augustine attempts to ascertain, on an ontological level, why the demons are considered lower than the gods yet higher than man. He also claims the Romans are backwards in their understanding of the body being of more importance than the soul.
Chapters 10-21: [Editor’s Summary] This treatise on demonology, as taught by some Neoplatonists, shows that these so-called demons could be neither happy nor unhappy. The question, whether a wise man can be happy in this life, is then briefly raised. It appears that happiness is unattainable in this life. Demons are not better beings than men, for popular usage takes demon to mean an evil being. Hence demons cannot be mediators between men and the divine.
Chapter 22: What makes the Christian angels so good is not their works, but that they are so wholly devoted to and in love with the person and nature of God.
Chapter 23: Augustine says he is okay with a loose use of the word “god” to describe angels, so long as their place and function still remains accurate.The conclusion of this book is that demons are evil, and angels are good in that they serve the one true God.
“Hence the conclusion: The friends of demons can offer us no cogent reason why we ought to honor them as protectors rather than avoid them as deceivers.”
Next time: “Christian Worship Contrasted With Platonic Theology.”