3. The fundamental assumption of the doctrine set forth in the preceding quotation is that the angels are beings purely spiritual, anterior, and superior, to the human race; privileged creatures destined from their formation to absolute and eternal happiness, and endowed by their very nature with the plentitude of virtue and of knowledge, without having done anything to acquire either the one or the other. They constitute the highest rank of the creation, the lowest rank being purely physical life; and between the two, is the human race, composed of souls, that is to say, of beings of a spiritual nature but inferior to the angels, united to physical bodies.
This theory is open to several very serious objections. What, in the first place, is the “purely physical life” referred to? Is it that of inanimate matter? But inanimate matter has no life of its own. Is it that of the plants and animals? But this would be to add a fourth order to the divisions of the creation already established, for it is indisputable that there is, in the intelligent animal, something that there is not in the plant, and equally indisputable that there is in the plant, something that there is not in stone. As for the human soul, it is in direct and immediate union with a body that is merely brute matter, for without a soul, the body has no more life than a clod of earth.
Such a division evidently lacks clearness and does not accord with the results of observation; it resembles the theory of the four elements that has been upset by the progress of physical science. But admitting, nevertheless, the three orders of beings assumed by the theory we are considering, viz., the spiritual, the human, and the physical, we have first to remark that there is no necessary union between these three orders, for they constitute three distinct and successive creations between each of which there is a solution of continuity; whereas everything in nature reveals the existence of an admirable law of unity, the elements of all entities being only transformations of one another, and everything being linked together into a continuous chain. The theory in question is true as regards the existence of the three orders of beings on which it is based, but it is incomplete; for it takes no note of the points of contact between them, as we are about to show.