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As I understand it, these "ruling spirits" (or "principalities", as they are called in some translations), are powerful evil spiritual beings. (Paul also referred to them in Ephesians 6:12.) They are part of the hierarchy of spiritual beings in Judaism (and, thus, by transference, in Christianity). Paul is saying that even such malicious beings, with all their power, and all their intent to oppose God and His will, are not able to separate Christians from the love that God has shown to them in Christ, any more than any of the other dire earthly or physical conditions cataloged by Paul in Romans 8:35-36 can.
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