Whether children can be generated by Incubi and Succubi.
At first it may truly seem that it is not in accordance with the Catholic Faith to maintain that children can be begotten by devils, that is to say, by Incubi and Succubi: for God Himself, before sin came into the world, instituted human procreation, since He created woman from the rib of man to be a helpmeet unto man: And to them He said: Increase, and multiply, Genesis ii, 24. Likewise after sin had come into the world, it was said to Noe: Increase, and multiply, Genesis ix, 1. In the time of the new law also, Christ confirmed this union: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? S. Matthew xix, 4. Therefore, men cannot be begotten in any other way than this.
But it may be argued that devils take their part in this generation not as the essential cause, but as a secondary and artificial cause, since they busy themselves by interfering with the process of normal copulation and conception, by obtaining human semen, and themselves transferring it.
Objection. The devil can perform this act in every state of life, that is to say, in the matrimonial state, or not in the matrimonial state. Now he cannot perform it in the first state, because then the act of the devil would be more powerful than the act of God, Who instituted and confirmed this holy estate, since it is a state of continence and wedlock. Nor can he effect this in any other estate: since we never read in Scripture that children can be begotten in one state and not in another.
Moreover, to beget a child is the act of a living body, but devils cannot bestow life upon the bodies which they assume; because life formally only proceeds from the soul, and the act of generation is the act of the physical organs which have bodily life. Therefore bodies which are assumed in this way cannot either beget or bear.
Yet it may be said that these devils assume a body not in order that they may bestow life upon it, but that they may by the means of this body preserve human semen, and pass the semen on to another body.
Objection. As in the action of angels, whether they be good or bad, there is nothing superfluous and useless, nor is there anything superfluous and useless in nature. But the devil by his natural power, which is far greater than any human bodily power, can perform any spiritual action, and perform it again and again although man may not be able to discern it. Therefore he is able to perform this action, although man may not be able to discern when the devil is concerned therewith. For all bodily and material things are on a lower scale than pure and spiritual intelligences. But the angels, whether they be good or whether they be evil, are pure and spiritual intelligences. Therefore they can control what is below them. Therefore the devil can collect and make use as he will of human semen which belongs to the body.
However, to collect human semen from one person and to transfer it to another implies certain local actions. But devils cannot locally move bodies from place to place. And this is the argument they put forward. The soul is purely a spiritual essence, so is the devil: but the soul cannot move a body from place to place except it be that body in which it lives and to which it gives life: whence if any member of the body perishes it becomes dead and immovable. Therefore devils cannot move a body from place to place, except it be a body to which they give life. It has been shown, however, and is acknowledged that devils do not bestow life on anybody, therefore they cannot move human semen locally, that is, from place to place, from body to body.
Moreover, every action is performed by contact, and especially the act of generation. But it does not seem possible that there can be any contact between the demon and human bodies, since he has not actual point of contact with them. Therefore he cannot inject semen into a human body, and therefore since this needs a certain bodily action, it would seem that the devil cannot accomplish it.
Besides, devils have no power to move those bodies which in a natural order are more closely related to them, for example the heavenly bodies, therefore they have no power to move those bodies which are more distant and distinct from them. The major is proved, since the power that moves and the movement are one and the same thing according to Aristotle in his Physics. It follows, therefore, that devils who move heavenly bodies must be in heaven, which is wholly untrue, both in our opinion, and in the opinion of the Platonists.
Moreover, S. Augustine, On the Trinity, III, says that devils do indeed collect human semen, by means of which they are able to produce bodily effects; but this cannot be done without some local movement, therefore demons can transfer semen which they have collected and inject it into the bodies of others. But, as Walafrid Strabo says in his commentary upon Exodus vii, II: And Pharao called the wise men and the magicians: Devils go about the earth collecting every sort of seed, and can by working upon them broadcast various species. See also the gloss on those words (Pharao called). And again in Genesis vi the gloss makes two comments on the words: And the sons of God saw the daughters of men. First, that by the sons of God are meant the sons of Seth, and by the daughters of men, the daughters of Cain. Second, that Giants were created not by some incredibly act of men, but by certain devils, which are shameless towards women. For the Bible says, Giants were upon the earth. Moreover, even after the Flood the bodies not only of men, but also of women, were pre-eminently and incredibly beautiful.
Answer. For the sake of brevity much concerning the power of the devil and his works in the matter of the effects of witchcraft is left out; for the pious reader either accepts it as proved, or he may, if he wish to inquire, find every point clearly elucidated in the second Book of Sentences, 5. For hw will see that the devils perform all their works consciously and voluntarily; for the nature that was given them has not been changed. See Dionysius in his fourth chapter on the subject; their nature remained intact and very splendid, although they cannot use it for any good purpose.
And as to their intelligence, he will find that they excel in three points of understanding, in their age-long experience, and in the revelation of the higher spirits. He will find also how, through the influence of the stars, they learn the dominating characteristics of men, and so discover that some are more disposed to work witchcraft that others, and that they molest these chiefly for the purpose of such works.
And as to their will, the reader will find that it cleaves unchangeably to evil, and that they continuously sin in pride, envy, and gross covetousness; and that God, for his own glory, permits them to work against His will. He will also understand how with these two qualities of intellect and will devils do marvels, so that there is no power in earth which can be compared to them: Job xli. There is no power on the earth which can be compared with him, who was created that he should fear no one. But here the gloss says, Although he fears no one he is yet subject to the merits of the Saints.
He will find also how the devil knows the thoughts of our hearts; how he can substantially and disastrously metamorphose bodies with the help of an agent; how he can move bodies locally, and alter the outward and inner feelings to every conceivable extent; and how he can change the intellect and will of a man, however indirectly.
For although all this is pertinent to our present inquiry, we wish only to draw some conclusion therefrom as to that nature of devils, and so proceed to the discussion of our question.
Now the Theologians have ascribed to them certain qualities, as that they are unclean spirits, yet not by very nature unclean. For according to Dionysius there is in them a natural madness, a rabid concupiscence, a wanton fancy, as is seen from their spiritual sins of pride, envy, and wrath. For this reason they are the enemies of the human race: rational in mind, but reasoning without words; subtle in wickedness, eager to hurt; ever fertile in fresh deceptions, they change the perceptions and befoul the emotions of men, they confound the watchful, and in dreams disturb the sleeping; they bring diseases, stir up tempests, disguise themselves as angels of light, bear Hell always about them; from witches they usurp to themselves the worship of God, and by this means magic spells are made; they seek to get a mastery over the good, and molest them to the most of their power; to the elect they are given as a temptation, and always they lie in wait for the destruction of men.
And although they have a thousand ways of doing harm, and have tried ever since their downfall to bring about schisms in the Church, to disable charity, to infect with the gall of envy the sweetness of the acts of the Saints, and in every way to subvert and perturb the human race; yet their power remains confined to the privy parts and the navel. See Job xli. For through the wantonness of the flesh they have much power over men; and in men the source of wantonness lies in the privy parts, since it is from them that the semen falls, just as in women it falls from the navel.
These things, then, being granted for a proper understanding of the question of Incubi and Succubi, it must be said that it is just as Catholic a view to hold that men may at times be begotten by means of Incubi and Succubi, as it is contrary to the words of the Saints and even to the tradition of Holy Scripture to maintain the opposite opinion. And this is proved as follows. S. Augustine in one place raises this question, not indeed as regards witches, but with reference to the very works of devils, and to the fables of the poets, and leave the matter in some doubt; though later on he is definite in the matter of Holy Scripture. For in his De Ciuitate Dei, Book 3, chapter 2, he says: We leave open the question whether it was possible for Venus to give birth to Aeneas through coition with Anchises. For a similar question arises in the Scriptures, where it is asked whether evil angels lay with the daughters of men, and thereby the earth was then filled with giants, that is to say, preternaturally big and strong men. But he settles the question in Book 5, chapter 23, in these words: It is a very general belief, the truth of which is vouched for by many from their own experience, or at least from heresay as having been experienced by men of undoubted trustworthiness, that Satyrs and Fauns (which are commonly called Incubi) have appeared to wanton women and have sought and obtained coition with them. And that certain devils (which the Gauls call Dusii) assiduously attempt and achieve this filthiness is vouched for by so many credible witness that it would seem impudent to deny it.
Later in the same book he settles the second contention, namely, that the passage in Genesis about the sons of God (that is Seth) and the daughters of men (that is Cain) does not speak only of Incubi, since the existence of such is not credible. In this connexion there is the gloss which we have touched upon before. He says that it is not outside belief that the Giants of whom the Scripture speaks were begotten not by men, but by Angels or certain devils who lust after women. To the same effect is the gloss in Esaias xiii, where the prophet foretells the desolation of Babylon, and the monsters that should inhabit it. He says: Owls shall dwell there, and Satyrs shall dance there. By Satyrs here devils are meant; as the gloss says, Satyrs are wild shaggy creatures of the woods, which are a certain kind of devils called Incubi. And again in Esaias xxxiv, where he prophesies the desolation of the land of the Idumeans because they persecuted the Jews, he says: And it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts also of the desert shall meet . . . The interlinear gloss interprets this as monsters and devils. And in the same place Blessed Gregory explains these to be woodland gods under another name, not those which the Greeks called Pans, and the Latins Incubi.
Similarly Blessed Isidore, in the last chapter of his 8th book, says: Satyrs are they who are called Pans in Greek and Incubi in Latin. And they are called Incubi from their practice of overlaying, that is debauching. For they often lust lecherously after women, and copulate with them; and the Gauls name them Dusii, because they are diligent in this beastliness. But the devil which the common people call an Incubus, the Romans called a fig Faun; to which Horace said, “O Faunus, love of fleeing nymphs, go gently over my lands and smiling fields.”
As to that of S. Paul in I. Corinthians xi, A woman ought to have a covering on her head, because of the angels, many Catholics believe that “because of the angels” refers to Incubi. Of the same opinion is the Venerable Bede in his History of the English; also William of Paris in his book De Uniuerso, the last part of the 6th treatise. Moreover, S. Thomas speaks of this (I. 25 and II. 8, and elsewhere; also on Esaias xii and xiv). Therefore he says that it is rash to deny such things. For that which appears true to many cannot be altogether false, according to Aristotle (at the end of the De somno et uigilia, and in the 2nd Ethics). I say nothing of the many authentic histories, both Catholic and heathen, which openly affirm the existence of Incubi.
But the reason the devils turn themselves into Incubi or Succubi is not for the cause of pleasure, since a spirit has not flesh and blood; but chiefly it is with this intention, that through the vice of luxury they may work a twofold harm against men, that is, in body and in soul, that so men may be more given to all vices. And there is no doubt that they know under which stars the semen is most vigorous, and that men so conceived will be always perverted by witchcraft.
When Almighty God had enumerated many vice of luxury rife among the unbelievers and heretics, from which He wished His people to be clean, He says in Leviticus xviii: Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it. The gloss explains the word “nations” as meaning devils who, on account of their multitude, are call the nations of the world, and rejoice in all sin, especially in fornication and idolatry, because by these are defiled the body and the soul, and the whole man, which is called “the land.” For every sin that a man commits is outside his body, but the man who commits fornication sins in his body. If anyone wishes to study further the histories concerning Incubi and Succubi, let him read (as has been said) Bede in his History of the English, and William, and finally Thomas of Brabant in his book About Bees.
To return to the matter in hand. And first for the natural act of propagation instituted by God, that is, between male and female; that as though by the permission of God the Sacrament of Matrimony can be made void by the work of the devil through witchcraft, as has been shown above. And the same is much more strongly true of any other venereal act between man and woman.
But if it is asked why the devil is allowed to case spells upon the venereal act, rather than upon any other human act, it is answered that many reasons are assigned by the Doctors, which will be discussed later in the part concerning the divine permission. For the present that reason that has been mentioned before must suffice, namely, that the power of the devil lies in the privy parts of men. For of all struggles those are the harder where the fight is continuous and victory rare. And it is unsound to argue that in that case the work of the devil is stronger than the work of God, since the matrimonial act instituted by God can be made void: for the devil does not make it void by violence, since he has no power at all in the matter except as he is permitted by God. Therefore it would be better to argue from this that he is powerless.
Secondly, it is true that to procreate a man is the act of a living body. But when it is said that devils cannot give life, because that flows formally from the soul, it is true; but materially life springs from the semen, and an Incubus devil can, with God’s permission, accomplish this by coition. And the semen does not so much spring from him, as it is another man’s semen received by him for this purpose (see S. Thomas, I. 51, art. 3). For the devil is Succubus to a man, and becomes Incubus to a woman. In just the same way they absorb the seeds of other things for the generating of various thing, as S. Augustine says, de Trinitate 3.
Now it may be asked, of whom is a child born the son? It is clear that he is not the son of the devil, but of the man whose semen was received. But when it is urged that, just as in the works of Nature, so there is no superfluity in the works of angels, that is granted; but when it is inferred that the devil can receive and inject semen invisibly, this also is true; but he prefers to perform this visibly as a Succubus and an Incubus, that by such filthiness he may infect body and soul of all humanity, that is, of both woman and man, there being, as it were, actual bodily contact.
Moreover, devils can do invisibly more things which they are not permitted to do visibly, even if the so wished; but they are allowed to do them invisibly, either as a trial for the good, or as a punishment for the wicked. Finally, it may happen that another devil may take the place of the Succubus, receive the semen from him, and become and Incubus in the place of the other devil; and this for a threefold reason. Perhaps because one devil, allotted to a woman, should receive semen from another devil, allotted to a man, that in this way each of them should be commissioned by the prince of devils to work some witchcraft; since, to each one is allotted his own angel, even from among the evil ones; or because of the filthiness of the deed, which one devil would abhor to commit. For in many inquiries it is clearly shown that certain devils, out of some nobility in their natures, would shrink from a filthy action. Or it may be in order that the Incubus may, instead of a man’s semen, but interposing himself on to a woman, invisibly inject his own semen, that is, that which he has invisibly received. And it is not foreign to his nature or power to effect such an interposition; since even in bodily form he can interpose himself invisibly and without physical contact, as was shown in the case of young man who has betrothed to an idol.
Thirdly, it is said that the power of an angel belongs in an infinite degree to the higher things; that is to say, that his power cannot be comprehended by the lower orders, but is always superior to them, so that it is not limited to one effect only. For the highest powers have most unbounded influence over creation. But because he is said to be infinitely superior, that is not to say that he is indifferently powerful for any work that is propounded for him; for then he might just as well be said to be infinitely inferior, as superior.
But there must be some proportion between the agent and the patient, and there can be no proportion between a purely spiritual substance and a corporeal one. Therefore not even the devils have any power to cause an effect, except through some other active medium. And this is why they use the seeds of things to produce their effects; see S. Augustine, de Trinitate, 3. Wherefore this argument goes back to the preceding one, and is not strengthened by it, unless anyone wishes for S. Augustine’s explanation why the Intelligences are said to have infinite powers of the higher and not of the lower degree, given to them in the order of things corporeal and of the celestial bodies, which can influence many and infinite effects. But this is not because of the weakness of the inferior powers. And the conclusion is that devils, even without assuming bodies, can work transmutations in semen; although this is no argument against the present proposition, concerning Incubi and Succubi, whose actions they cannot perform except by assuming bodily shape, as has been considered above.
For the fourth argument, that devils cannot move bodies or semen locally, which is substantiated by the analogy of the soul. It must be said that it is one thing to speak of the spiritual substance of the actual angel or devil, and another thing to speak of the actual soul. For the reason why the soul cannot locally move a body unless it has given life to it, or else by contact of a living body with one that is not living, is this: that the soul occupies by far the lowest grade in the order of spiritual beings, and therefore it follows that there must be some proportionate relation between it and the body which it is able to move by contact. But it is not so with devils, whose power altogether exceeds corporeal power.
And fifthly, it must be said that the contact of a devil with a body, either in the way of semen or in any other way, is not a corporeal but a virtual contact, and takes place in accordance with the suitable proportion of the devil’s power. And such bodies are the celestial bodies, and even the whole earth or the elements of the world, the power of which we may call superior on the authority of S. Thomas in his questions concerning Sin (quest. 10, de Daemonibus). For this is either because of the essence of nature, or because of condemnation for sin. For there is a due order in things, in accordance both with their very nature and with their motion. And just as the higher heavenly bodies are moved by the higher spiritual substances, as are the good Angels, so are the lower bodies moved by the lower spiritual substances, as are the devils. And if this limitation of the devils’ power is due to the essence of nature, it is held by some that the devils are not of the order of those higher angels, but are part of this terrestrial order created by God; and this was the opinion of the Philosophers. And if it is due to condemnation for sin, as is held by the Theologians, then they were thrust from the regions of heaven into this lower atmosphere for a punishment, and therefore are not able to move either it or the earth.
This has been said on account of two easily dispelled arguments: – One, regarding the heavenly bodies, that the devils could also move these, if they were able to move bodies locally, since the stars are neared to them in nature, as also the last argument alleges. The answer is that this is not valid; for if the former opinion holds good, those bodies exceed the proportion of the devils’ power: and if the second is true, then again they cannot move them, because of their punishment for sin.
Also there is the argument that objects that the motion of the whole and of the part is the same thing, just as Aristotle in his 4th Physics instances the case of the whole earth and a clod of soil; and that therefore if the devils could move a part of the earth, they could also move the whole earth. But this is not valid, as is clear to anyone who examines the distinction. But to collect the semen of things and apply it to certain effects dos not exceed their natural power, with the permission of God, as is self-evident.
In conclusion, in spite of the contention of some that devils in bodily shape can in no way generate children, and that by the “sons of God” is meant the descendants of Cain; nevertheless the contrary is clearly affirmed by many. And that which seems true to many cannot be altogether false, according to Aristotle in his 6th Ethics and at the end of the de Somno et Uigilia. And now also in modern times we have the well-attested deeds and words of witches who truly and actually perform such things.
Therefore we make three propositions. First, that the foulest venereal acts are performed by such devils, not for the sake of delectation, but for the pollution of the souls and bodies of those to whom they act as Succubi and Incubi. Second, that through such action complete contraception and generation by women can take place, inasmuch as they can deposit human semen in the suitable place of a woman’s womb where there is already a corresponding substance. In the same way they can also collect the seeds of other things for the working of their effects. Third, that in the begetting of such children only the local motion is to be attributed to devils, and not the actual begetting, which arises not from the power of the devil or of the body which he assumes, but from the virtue of him whose semen it was; wherefore the child is the son not of the devil, but of some man.
And here there is a clear answer to those who would contend that there are two reasons why devils cannot generate children: – First, that generation is effected by the formative virtue which exists in semen released from a living body; and that because the body assumed by devils is not of such a sort, therefore, etc. The answer is clear, that the devil deposits naturally formative semen in its proper place, etc. Secondly, it may be argued that semen has no power of generation except as long as the heat of life is retained in it, and that this must be lost when it is carried great distances. The answer is that devils are able to store the semen safely, so that its vital heat is not lost; or even that it cannot evaporate so easily on account of the great speed at which they move by reason of the superiority of the move over the thing moved.