Thomas Aquinas

On the Ranks of Angels and Demons

Introduction by Courtney Roby

Thomas says: "Cherubim know the divine secrets above all, while Seraphim excel in that which is greatest of all, namely in being united with God himself. In keeping with that which is common to this whole hierarchy, the order is called that of Thrones; just as in keeping with that which is common to all celestial spirits, the order is called that of Angels."

Original Latin

Gradations of the Angelic - and the Demonic

Thomas Aquinas tells us that angels are organized in a hierarchy of nine ranks. In order from the closest to God to the furthest from God, those ranks are divided in three categories as follows.

The highest three ranks are nearest to God:

  • Seraphim
  • Cherubim
  • Thrones

The next three ranks are named for their governing function:

  • Dominations
  • Virtues
  • Powers

The final three ranks are named for the work they do:

  • Principalities
  • Archangels
  • Angels

Thomas Aquinas says that demons are also organized in a hierarchy, but does not tell us the names or functions of their ranks.

If you take a look at some of the pictures of demons in the Links section, you might see demonic ranks. For example, Satan is the prince of demons. Probably the demons charged with bearing the king’s soul to hell were subordinate demons. What about the rest?