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How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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  • How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    I can't remember where I picked this up from but it was interesting so I kept it.

    Q: Here's one you haven't tackled yet, but should have: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
    A: Many people, even some Christians, dismiss this question as colossal silliness, the supreme exercise in irrelevance. Yet, the question isn't extraneous for Christians interested in angels (which should be all of us).

    Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, medieval scholastics didn't deal with this matter, so we can't cite chapter and verse from them by way of response. Fortunately, philosopher Mortimer Adler addresses this famous question in his book The Angels and Us, in a section entitled "Angelic Occupation of Space and Movement Through It." The argument runs as follows:

    An angel, when not manifesting itself in bodily form as in the Bible, is spiritually present at the place occupied by a body on which it acts. It occupies a place intensively by its power, rather than extensively as a body does by its bulk. This is because angels as spirits don't have any bulk as do physical bodies.

    What does this say about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Adler writes:

    "The intensive occupation of a place by spiritual power is as exclusive as the extensive occupation of a place by physical bulk. Just as the physical presence of one body at a place excludes all others from occupying that place, so the spiritual presence of an angel at a place excludes all others from occupying that place. One angel intensively occupying the head of a pin excludes all others from being spiritually present there.

    "In short, if it ever entered the mind of a frivolous angel to dance on the head of a pin, its whimsical impulse would have to be exercised in a solitary fashion. It could not invite other angels to join it. It would have to dance there alone."
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