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Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas, [1947], at


We must next consider matters pertaining to the will and intellect of the damned. Under this head there are nine points of inquiry:

(1) Whether every act of will in the damned is evil?

(2) Whether they ever repent of the evil they have done?

(3) Whether they would rather not be than be?

(4) Whether they would wish others to be damned?

(5) Whether the wicked hate God?

(6) Whether they can demerit?

(7) Whether they can make use of the knowledge acquired in this life?

(8) Whether they ever think of God?

(9) Whether they see the glory of the blessed?

Whether every act of will in the damned is evil?

Objection 1: It would seem that not every act of will in the damned is evil. For according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv), "the demons desire the good and the best, namely to be, to live, to understand." Since, then, men who are damned are not worse off than the demons, it would seem that they also can have a good will.

Objection 2: Further, as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv), "evil is altogether involuntary." Therefore if the damned will anything, they will it as something good or apparently good. Now a will that is directly ordered to good is itself good. Therefore the damned can have a good will.

Objection 3: Further, some will be damned who, while in this world, acquired certain habits of virtue, for instance heathens who had civic virtues. Now a will elicits praiseworthy acts by reason of virtuous habits. Therefore there may be praiseworthy acts of the will in some of the damned.

On the contrary, An obstinate will can never be inclined except to evil. Now men who are damned will be obstinate even as the demons [*Cf. FP, Q[64], A[2]]. Further, as the will of the damned is in relation to evil, so is the will of the blessed in regard to good. But the blessed never have an evil will. Neither therefore have the damned any good will.

I answer that, A twofold will may be considered in the damned, namely the deliberate will and the natural will. Their natural will is theirs not of themselves but of the Author of nature, Who gave nature this inclination which we call the natural will. Wherefore since nature remains in them, it follows that the natural will in them can be good. But their deliberate will is theirs of themselves, inasmuch as it is in their power to be inclined by their affections to this or that. This will is in them always evil: and this because they are completely turned away from the last end of a right will, nor can a will be good except it be directed to that same end. Hence even though they will some good, they do not will it well so that one be able to call their will good on that account.

Reply to Objection 1: The words of Dionysius must be understood of the natural will, which is nature's inclination to some particular good. And yet this natural inclination is corrupted by their wickedness, in so far as this good which they desire naturally is desired by them under certain evil circumstances [*Cf. FP, Q[64], A[2], ad 5].

Reply to Objection 2: Evil, as evil, does not move the will, but in so far as it is thought to be good. Yet it comes of their wickedness that they esteem that which is evil as though it were good. Hence their will is evil.

Reply to Objection 3: The habits of civic virtue do not remain in the separated soul, because those virtues perfect us only in the civic life which will not remain after this life. Even though they remained, they would never come into action, being enchained, as it were, by the obstinacy of the mind.

Whether the damned repent of the evil they have done?

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned never repent of the evil they have done. For Bernard says on the Canticle [*Cf. De Consideratione v, 12; De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio ix] that "the damned ever consent to the evil they have done." Therefore they never repent of the sins they have committed.

Objection 2: Further, to wish one had not sinned is a good will. But the damned will never have a good will. Therefore the damned will never wish they had not sinned: and thus the same conclusion follows as above.

Objection 3: Further, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii), "death is to man what their fall was to the angels." But the angel's will is irrevocable after his fall, so that he cannot withdraw from the choice whereby he previously sinned [*Cf. FP, Q[64], A[2]]. Therefore the damned also cannot repent of the sins committed by them.

Objection 4: Further, the wickedness of the damned in hell will be greater than that of sinners in the world. Now in this world some sinners repent not of the sins they have committed, either through blindness of mind, as heretics, or through obstinacy, as those "who are glad when they have done evil, and rejoice in most wicked things" (Prov. 2:14). Therefore, etc.

On the contrary, It is said of the damned (Wis. 5:3): "Repenting within themselves [Vulg.: 'Saying within themselves, repenting']."

Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4) that "the wicked are full of repentance; for afterwards they are sorry for that in which previously they took pleasure." Therefore the damned, being most wicked, repent all the more.

I answer that, A person may repent of sin in two ways: in one way directly, in another way indirectly. He repents of a sin directly who hates sin as such: and he repents indirectly who hates it on account of something connected with it, for instance punishment or something of that kind. Accordingly the wicked will not repent of their sins directly, because consent in the malice of sin will remain in them; but they will repent indirectly, inasmuch as they will suffer from the punishment inflicted on them for sin.

Reply to Objection 1: The damned will wickedness, but shun punishment: and thus indirectly they repent of wickedness committed.

Reply to Objection 2: To wish one had not sinned on account of the shamefulness of vice is a good will: but this will not be in the wicked.

Reply to Objection 3: It will be possible for the damned to repent of their sins without turning their will away from sin, because in their sins they will shun, not what they heretofore desired, but something else, namely the punishment.

Reply to Objection 4: However obstinate men may be in this world, they repent of the sins indirectly, if they be punished for them. Thus Augustine says (QQ[83], qu. 36): "We see the most savage beasts are deterred from the greatest pleasures by fear of pain."

Whether the damned by right and deliberate reason would wish not to be?

Objection 1: It would seem impossible for the damned, by right and deliberate reason, to wish not to be. For Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. iii, 7): "Consider how great a good it is to be; since both the happy and the unhappy will it; for to be and yet to be unhappy is a greater thing than not to be at all."

Objection 2: Further, Augustine argues thus (De Lib. Arb. iii, 8): "Preference supposes election." But "not to be" is not eligible; since it has not the appearance of good, for it is nothing. Therefore not to be cannot be more desirable to the damned than "to be."

Objection 3: Further, the greater evil is the more to be shunned. Now "not to be" is the greatest evil, since it removes good altogether, so as to leave nothing. Therefore "not to be" is more to be shunned than to be unhappy: and thus the same conclusion follows as above.

On the contrary, It is written (Apoc. 9:6): "In those days men . . . shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them."

Further, the unhappiness of the damned surpasses all unhappiness of this world. Now in order to escape the unhappiness of this world, it is desirable to some to die, wherefore it is written (Sir. 41:3, 4): "O death, thy sentence is welcome to the man that is in need and to him whose strength faileth; who is in a decrepit age, and that is in care about all things, and to the distrustful that loseth wisdom [Vulg.: 'patience']." Much more, therefore, is "not to be" desirable to the damned according to their deliberate reason.

I answer that, Not to be may be considered in two ways. First, in itself, and thus it can nowise be desirable, since it has no aspect of good, but is pure privation of good. Secondly, it may be considered as a relief from a painful life or from some unhappiness: and thus "not to be" takes on the aspect of good, since "to lack an evil is a kind of good" as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1). In this way it is better for the damned not to be than to be unhappy. Hence it is said (Mat. 26:24): "It were better for him, if that man had not been born," and (Jer. 20:14): "Cursed be the day wherein I was born," where a gloss of Jerome observes: "It is better not to be than to be evilly." In this sense the damned can prefer "not to be" according to their deliberate reason [*Cf. FP, Q[5], A[2], ad 3].

Reply to Objection 1: The saying of Augustine is to be understood in the sense that "not to be" is eligible, not in itself but accidentally, as putting an end to unhappiness. For when it is stated that "to be" and "to live" are desired by all naturally, we are not to take this as referable to an evil and corrupt life, and a life of unhappiness, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4), but absolutely.

Reply to Objection 2: Non-existence is eligible, not in itself, but only accidentally, as stated already.

Reply to Objection 3: Although "not to be" is very evil, in so far as it removes being, it is very good, in so far as it removes unhappiness, which is the greatest of evils, and thus it is preferred "not to be."

Whether in hell the damned would wish others were damned who are not damned?

Objection 1: It would seem that in hell the damned would not wish others were damned who are not damned. For it is said (Luke 16:27, 28) of the rich man that he prayed for his brethren, lest they should come "into the place of torments." Therefore in like manner the other damned would not wish, at least their friends in the flesh to be damned in hell.

Objection 2: Further, the damned are not deprived of their inordinate affections. Now some of the damned loved inordinately some who are not damned. Therefore they would not desire their evil, i.e. that they should be damned.

Objection 3: Further, the damned do not desire the increase of their punishment. Now if more were damned, their punishment would be greater, even as the joy of the blessed is increased by an increase in their number. Therefore the damned desire not the damnation of those who are saved.

On the contrary, A gloss on Is. 14:9, "are risen up from their thrones," says: "The wicked are comforted by having many companions in their punishment."

Further, envy reigns supreme in the damned. Therefore they grieve for the happiness of the blessed, and desire their damnation.

I answer that Even as in the blessed in heaven there will be most perfect charity, so in the damned there will be the most perfect hate. Wherefore as the saints will rejoice in all goods, so will the damned grieve for all goods. Consequently the sight of the happiness of the saints will give them very great pain; hence it is written (Is. 26:11): "Let the envious people see and be confounded, and let fire devour Thy enemies." Therefore they will wish all the good were damned.

Reply to Objection 1: So great will be the envy of the damned that they will envy the glory even of their kindred, since they themselves are supremely unhappy, for this happens even in this life, when envy increases. Nevertheless they will envy their kindred less than others, and their punishment would be greater if all their kindred were damned, and others saved, than if some of their kindred were saved. For this reason the rich man prayed that his brethren might be warded from damnation: for he knew that some are guarded therefrom. Yet he would rather that his brethren were damned as well as all the rest.

Reply to Objection 2: Love that is not based on virtue is easily voided, especially in evil men as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4). Hence the damned will not preserve their friendship for those whom they loved inordinately. Yet the will of them will remain perverse, because they will continue to love the cause of their inordinate loving.

Reply to Objection 3: Although an increase in the number of the damned results in an increase of each one's punishment, so much the more will their hatred and envy increase that they will prefer to be more tormented with many rather than less tormented alone.

Whether the damned hate God?

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned do not hate God. For, according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv), "the beautiful and good that is the cause of all goodness and beauty is beloved of all." But this is God. Therefore God cannot be the object of anyone's hate.

Objection 2: Further, no one can hate goodness itself, as neither can one will badness itself since "evil is altogether involuntary," as Dionysius asserts (Div. Nom. iv). Now God is goodness itself. Therefore no one can hate Him.

On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 73:23): "The pride of them that hate Thee ascendeth continually."

I answer that, The appetite is moved by good or evil apprehended. Now God is apprehended in two ways, namely in Himself, as by the blessed, who see Him in His essence; and in His effects, as by us and by the damned. Since, then, He is goodness by His essence, He cannot in Himself be displeasing to any will; wherefore whoever sees Him in His essence cannot hate Him. On the other hand, some of His effects are displeasing to the will in so far as they are opposed to any one: and accordingly a person may hate God not in Himself, but by reason of His effects. Therefore the damned, perceiving God in His punishment, which is the effect of His justice, hate Him, even as they hate the punishment inflicted on them [*Cf. Q[90], A[3], ad 2; SS, Q[34], A[1]].

Reply to Objection 1: The saying of Dionysius refers to the natural appetite. and even this is rendered perverse in the damned, by that which is added thereto by their deliberate will, as stated above (A[1]) [*Cf. SS, Q[34], A[1], ad 1 where St. Thomas gives another answer].

Reply to Objection 2: This argument would prove if the damned saw God in Himself, as being in His essence.

Whether the damned demerit?

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned demerit. For the damned have an evil will, as stated in the last Distinction of Sentent. iv. But they demerited by the evil will that they had here. Therefore if they demerit not there, their damnation is to their advantage.

Objection 2: Further, the damned are on the same footing as the demons. Now the demons demerit after their fall, wherefore God inflicted a punishment on the serpent, who induced man to sin (Gen. 3:14, 15). Therefore the damned also demerit.

Objection 3: Further, an inordinate act that proceeds from a deliberate will is not excused from demerit, even though there be necessity of which one is oneself the cause: for the "drunken man deserves a double punishment" if he commit a crime through being drunk (Ethic. iii). Now the damned were themselves the cause of their own obstinacy, owing to which they are under a kind of necessity of sinning. Therefore since their act proceeds from their free will, they are not excused from demerit.

On the contrary, Punishment is contradistinguished from fault [*Cf. FP, Q[48], A[5]]. Now the perverse will of the damned proceeds from their obstinacy which is their punishment. Therefore the perverse will of the damned is not a fault whereby they may demerit.

Further, after reaching the last term there is no further movement, or advancement in good or evil. Now the damned, especially after the judgment day, will have reached the last term of their damnation, since then there "will cease to be two cities," according to Augustine (Enchiridion cxi). Therefore after the judgment day the damned will not demerit by their perverse will, for if they did their damnation would be augmented.

I answer that, We must draw a distinction between the damned before the judgment day and after. For all are agreed that after the judgment day there will be neither merit nor demerit. The reason for this is because merit or demerit is directed to the attainment of some further good or evil: and after the day of judgment good and evil will have reached their ultimate consummation, so that there will be no further addition to good or evil. Consequently, good will in the blessed will not be a merit but a reward, and evil will in the damned will be not a demerit but a punishment only. For works of virtue belong especially to the state of happiness and their contraries to the state of unhappiness (Ethic. i, 9,10).

On the other hand, some say that, before the judgment day, both the good merit and the damned demerit. But this cannot apply to the essential reward or to the principal punishment, since in this respect both have reached the term. Possibly, however, this may apply to the accidental reward, or secondary punishment, which are subject to increase until the day of judgment. Especially may this apply to the demons, or to the good angels, by whose activities some are drawn to salvation, whereby the joy of the blessed angels is increased, and some to damnation, whereby the punishment of the demons is augmented [*Cf. FP, Q[62], A[9], ad 3; SS, Q[13], A[4], ad 2; where St. Thomas tacitly retracts the opinion expressed here as to merit or demerit.].

Reply to Objection 1: It is in the highest degree unprofitable to have reached the highest degree of evil, the result being that the damned are incapable of demerit. Hence it is clear that they gain no advantage from their sin.

Reply to Objection 2: Men who are damned are not occupied in drawing others to damnation, as the demons are, for which reason the latter demerit as regards their secondary punishment [*Cf. FP, Q[62], A[9], ad 3; SS, Q[13] , A[4], ad 2; where St. Thomas tacitly retracts the opinion expressed here as to merit or demerit].

Reply to Objection 3: The reason why they are not excused from demerit is not because they are under the necessity of sinning, but because they have reached the highest of evils.

However, the necessity of sinning whereof we are ourselves the cause, in so far as it is a necessity, excuses from sin, because every sin needs to be voluntary: but it does not excuse, in so far as it proceeds from a previous act of the will: and consequently the whole demerit of the subsequent sin would seem to belong to the previous sin.

Whether the damned can make use of the knowledge they had in this world? [*Cf. FP, Q[89]]

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned are unable to make use of the knowledge they had in this world. For there is very great pleasure in the consideration of knowledge. But we must not admit that they have any pleasure. Therefore they cannot make use of the knowledge they had heretofore, by applying their consideration thereto.

Objection 2: Further, the damned suffer greater pains than any pains of this world. Now in this world, when one is in very great pain, it is impossible to consider any intelligible conclusions, through being distracted by the pains that one suffers. Much less therefore can one do so in hell.

Objection 3: Further, the damned are subject to time. But "length of time is the cause of forgetfulness" (Phys. lib. iv, 13). Therefore the damned will forget what they knew here.

On the contrary, It is said to the rich man who was damned (Lk. 16:25): "Remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime," etc. Therefore they will consider about the things they knew here.

Further, the intelligible species remain in the separated soul, as stated above (Q[70], A[2], ad 3; FP, Q[89], AA[5],6). Therefore, if they could not use them, these would remain in them to no purpose.

I answer that, Even as in the saints on account of the perfection of their glory, there will be nothing but what is a matter of joy so there will be nothing in the damned but what is a matter and cause of sorrow; nor will anything that can pertain to sorrow be lacking, so that their unhappiness is consummate. Now the consideration of certain things known brings us joy, in some respect, either on the part of the things known, because we love them, or on the part of the knowledge, because it is fitting and perfect. There may also be a reason for sorrow both on the part of the things known, because they are of a grievous nature, and on the part of the knowledge, if we consider its imperfection; for instance a person may consider his defective knowledge about a certain thing, which he would desire to know perfectly. Accordingly, in the damned there will be actual consideration of the things they knew heretofore as matters of sorrow, but not as a cause of pleasure. For they will consider both the evil they have done, and for which they were damned, and the delightful goods they have lost, and on both counts they will suffer torments. Likewise they will be tormented with the thought that the knowledge they had of speculative matters was imperfect, and that they missed its highest degree of perfection which they might have acquired.

Reply to Objection 1: Although the consideration of knowledge is delightful in itself, it may accidentally be the cause of sorrow, as explained above.

Reply to Objection 2: In this world the soul is united to a corruptible body, wherefore the soul's consideration is hindered by the suffering of the body. On the other hand, in the future life the soul will not be so drawn by the body, but however much the body may suffer, the soul will have a most clear view of those things that can be a cause of anguish to it.

Reply to Objection 3: Time causes forgetfulness accidentally, in so far as the movement whereof it is the measure is the cause of change. But after the judgment day there will be no movement of the heavens; wherefore neither will it be possible for forgetfulness to result from any lapse of time however long. Before the judgment day, however, the separated soul is not changed from its disposition by the heavenly movement.

Whether the damned will ever think of God?

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned will sometimes think of God. For one cannot hate a thing actually, except one think about it. Now the damned will hate God, as stated in the text of Sentent. iv, in the last Distinction. Therefore they will think of God sometimes.

Objection 2: Further, the damned will have remorse of conscience. But the conscience suffers remorse for deeds done against God. Therefore they will sometimes think of God.

On the contrary, Man's most perfect thoughts are those which are about God: whereas the damned will be in a state of the greatest imperfection. Therefore they will not think of God.

I answer that, one may think of God in two ways. First, in Himself and according to that which is proper to Him, namely that He is the fount of all goodness: and thus it is altogether impossible to think of Him without delight, so that the damned will by no means think of Him in this way. Secondly, according to something accidental as it were to Him in His effects, such as His punishments, and so forth, and in this respect the thought of God can bring sorrow, so that in this way the damned will think of God.

Reply to Objection 1: The damned do not hate God except because He punishes and forbids what is agreeable to their evil will: and consequently they will think of Him only as punishing and forbidding. This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection, since conscience will not have remorse for sin except as forbidden by the Divine commandment.

Whether the damned see the glory of the blessed?

Objection 1: It would seem that the damned do not see the glory of the blessed. For they are more distant from the glory of the blessed than from the happenings of this world. But they do not see what happens in regard to us: hence Gregory commenting on Job 14:21, "Whether his children come to honor," etc. says (Moral. xii): "Even as those who still live know not in what place are the souls of the dead; so the dead who have lived in the body know not the things which regard the life of those who are in the flesh." Much less, therefore, can they see the glory of the blessed.

Objection 2: Further, that which is granted as a great favor to the saints in this life is never granted to the damned. Now it was granted as a great favor to Paul to see the life in which the saints live for ever with God (2 Cor. 12). Therefore the damned will not see the glory of the saints.

On the contrary, It is stated (Lk. 16:23) that the rich man in the midst of his torments "saw Abraham . . . and Lazarus in his bosom."

I answer that, The damned, before the judgment day, will see the blessed in glory, in such a way as to know, not what that glory is like, but only that they are in a state of glory that surpasses all thought. This will trouble them, both because they will, through envy, grieve for their happiness, and because they have forfeited that glory. Hence it is written (Wis. 5:2) concerning the wicked: "Seeing it" they "shall be troubled with terrible fear." After the judgment day, however, they will be altogether deprived of seeing the blessed: nor will this lessen their punishment, but will increase it; because they will bear in remembrance the glory of the blessed which they saw at or before the judgment: and this will torment them. Moreover they will be tormented by finding themselves deemed unworthy even to see the glory which the saints merit to have.

Reply to Objection 1: The happenings of this life would not, if seen, torment the damned in hell as the sight of the glory of the saints; wherefore the things which happen here are not shown to the damned in the same way as the saints' glory; although also of the things that happen here those are shown to them which are capable of causing them sorrow.

Reply to Objection 2: Paul looked upon that life wherein the saints live with God [*Cf. SS, Q[185], A[3], ad 2], by actual experience thereof and by hoping to have it more perfectly in the life to come. Not so the damned; wherefore the comparison fails.