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By Ellen Muehlberger

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As compelling as his message may have been, any other heavenly being had the potential to disrupt it; if an angel could come and give the Galatians a new teaching, Paul’s gospel was, in his absence, unstable in the extreme. Aside from Paul’s obvious fears about the endurance of his message, also latent within the rhetoric of the letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians is the suggestion that it is difficult to grasp the identity of angels with any certainty, given how closely they may appear to demons, or humans for that matter.

This moral bankruptcy is a result of the composition of their being, which, rather than driving them to help humans, allows them to act out their ill will toward humans. “The minds of demons,” he says, are subject to the passions of lust, fear, anger, and every other such thing. What part of them, then, is free and in possession of the wisdom by means of which they may please the gods and encourage men to approach more closely to good morals? 38 Demons are different from other divine beings, then, by the passivity that constitutes their subjectivity: not able to squelch the various impulses they have against humans, demons do evil without being able to stop themselves.

Satre’s caveat about the potential unreality of objects conjured by the imagination should draw our attention to a feature that appears when the imagination is employed in religious contexts, namely, that we can distinguish the specifically 39 Critique of Pure Reason section 24, B151, translation in Cornelius Castoriadis, “Radical Imagination and the Social Instituting Imaginary,” in Gillian Robinson and John Rundell, eds. Rethinking Imagination: Culture and Creativity (New York: Routledge, 1994), 136-54, at 139.

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