What is the Source of the Increase of Works of Witchcraft? Whence comes it that the Practice of Witchcraft hath so notably increased?
Is it in any way a Catholic opinion to hold that the origin and growth of witchcraft proceed from the influence of the celestial bodies; or from the abundant wickedness of men, and not from the abominations of Incubi and Succubi? And it seems that it springs from man’s own wickedness. For S. Augustine says, in Book LXXXIII, that the cause of a man’s depravity lies in his own will, whether he sins at his own or at another’s suggestion. But a witch is depraved through sin, therefore the cause of it is not the devil but human will. In the same place he speaks of free-will, that everyone is the cause of his own wickedness. And he reasons thus: that the sin of man proceeds from free-will, but the devil cannot destroy free-will, for this would militate against liberty: therefore the devil cannot be the cause of that or any other sin. Again, in the book of Ecclesiastic Dogma it is said: Not all our evil thoughts are stirred up by the devil, but sometimes they arise from the operation of our own judgement.
Again, if the stars were not the cause of human actions both good and bad, Astrologers would not so frequently foretell the truth about the result of wars and other human acts: therefore they are in some way a cause.
Again, the stars influence the devils themselves in the causing of certain spells; and therefore they can all the more influence men. Three proofs are adduced for this assumption. For certain men who are called Lunatics are molested by devils more at one time than at another; and the devils would not so behave, but would rather molest them at all times, unless they themselves were deeply affected by certain phases of the Moon. It is proved again from the fact the Necromancers observe certain constellations for the invoking of devils, which they would not do unless they knew that those devils were subject to the stars.
And this is also adduced as a proof; that according to S. Augustine (de Ciuitate Dei, 10), the devils employ certain lower bodies, such as herbs, stones, animals, and certain sounds and voices, and figures. But since the heavenly bodies are of more potency than the lower bodies, therefore the stars are a far greater influence than these things. And witches are the more in subjection in that their deeds proceed from the influence of those bodies, and not from the help of evil spirits. And the argument is supported from I Kings xvi, where Saul was vexed by a devil, but was calmed when David struck his harp before him, and the evil departed.
But against this. It is impossible to produce an effect without its cause; and the deeds of witches are such that they cannot be done without the help of devils, as is shown by the description of witches in S. Isidore, Ethics VIII. WItches are so called from the enormity of their magic spells; for they disturb the elements and confound the minds of men, and without any venomous draught, but merely by virtue of incantations, destroy souls, etc. But this sort of effects cannot be caused by the influence of the stars through the agency of a man.
Besides, Aristotle says in his Ethics that it is difficult to know what is the beginning of the operation of thought, and shows that it must be something extrinsic. For everything that begins from a beginning has some cause. Now a man begins to do that which he wills; and he begins to will because of some pre-suggestion; and if this is some precedent suggestion, it must either proceed from the infinite, or there is some extrinsic beginning which first brings a suggestion to a man. Unless indeed it be argued that this is a matter of chance, from which it would follow that all human actions are fortuitous, which is absurd. Therefore the beginning of good in the good is said to be God, Who is not the cause of sin. But for the wicked, when a man begins to be influenced towards and wills to commit sin, there must also be some extrinsic cause of this. And this can be no other than the devil; especially in the case of witches, as is shown above, for the stars cannot influence such acts. Therefore the truth is plain.
Moreover, that which has power over the motive has also power over the result which is caused by the motive. Now the motive of the will is something perceived through the sense or the intellect, both of which are subject to the power of the devil. For S. Augustine says in Book 83: This evil, which is of the devil, creeps in by all the sensual approaches; he places himself in figures, he adapts himself to colours, he attaches himself to sounds, he lurks in angry and wrongful conversation, he abides in smells, he impregnates with flavours and fills with certain exhalations all the channels of the understanding. Therefore it is seen that it is in the devil’s power to influence the will, which is directly the cause of sin.
Besides, everything which has a choice of two ways needs some determining factor before it proceeds to the action. And the free-will of man has the choice between good and ill; therefore when he embarks upon sin, it needs that he is determined by something towards ill. And this seems chiefly to be done by the devil, especially in the actions of witches, whose will is made up for evil. Therefore it seems that the evil will of the devil is the cause of evil will in man, especially in witches. And the argument may be substantiated thus; that just as a good Angel cleaves to good, so does a bad Angel to evil; but the former leads a man into goodness, therefore the latter leads him into evil. For it is, says Dionysius, the unalterable and fixed law of divinity, that the lowest has it cause in the highest.
Answer. Such as contend that witchcraft has its origin in the influence of the stars stand convicted of three errors. In the first place, it is not possible that it originated from astromancers and casters of horoscopes and fortune-tellers. For if it is asked whether the vice of witchcraft in men is caused by the influence of the stars, then, in consideration of the variety of men’s characters, and for the upholding of the true faith, a distinction must be maintained; namely, that there are two ways in which it can be understood that men’s characters can be caused by the stars. Either completely and of necessity, or by disposition and contingency. And as for the first, it is not only false, but so heretical and contrary to the Christian religion, that the true faith cannot be maintained in such an error. For this reason, he who argues that everything of necessity proceeds from the stars takes away all merit and, in consequence, all blame: also he takes away Grace, and therefore Glory. For uprightness of character suffers prejudice by this error, since the blame of the sinner redounds upon the stars, licence to sin without culpability is conceded, and man is committed to the worship and adoration of the stars.
But as for the contention that men’s characters are conditionally varied by the disposition of the stars, it is so far true that is it not contrary to reason or faith. For it is obvious that the disposition of a body variously causes many variations in the humours and character of the soul; for generally the soul imitates the complexions of the body, as it said in the Six Principles. Wherefore the choleric are wrathful, the sanguine are kindly, the melancholy are envious, and the phlegmatic are slothful. But this is not absolute; for the soul is master of its body, especially when it is helped by Grace. And we see many choleric who are gently, and melancholy who are kindly. Therefore when the virtue of the stars influences the formation and quality of a man’s humours, it is agreed that they have some influence over the character, but very distantly: for the virtue of the lower nature has more effect on the quality of the humours than has the virtue of the stars.
Wherefore S. Augustine (de Ciuitate Dei, V), where he resolves a certain question of two brothers who fell ill and were cured simultaneously, approves the reasoning of Hippocrates rather than that of an Astronomer. For Hippocrates answered that it is owing to the similarity of their humours; and the Astronomer answered that it was owing the identity of their horoscopes. For the Physician’s answer was better, since he adduced the more powerful and immediate cause. Thus, therefore, it must be said that the influence of the stars is to some degree conducive to the wickedness of witches, if it be granted that there is any such influence over the bodies that predisposes them to this manner of abomination rather than to any other sort of works either vicious or virtuous: but this disposition must not be said to be necessary, immediate, and sufficient, but remote and contingent.
Neither is that objection valid which is based on the book of the Philosophers on the properties of the elements, where it says that kingdoms are emptied and lands depopulated at the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn; and it is argued from this that such things are to be understood as being outside the free-will of men, and that therefore the influence of the stars has power over free-will. For it is answered that in this saying the Philosopher does not mean to imply that men cannot resist the influence of that constellation towards dissensions, but that they will not. For Ptolemy in Almagest says: A wise man will be the master of the stars. For although, since Saturn has a melancholy and bad influence and Jupiter a very good influence, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn can dispose men to quarrels and discords; yet, through free-will, men can resist that inclination, and very easily with the help of God’s grace.
And again it is no valid objection to quote S. John Damascene where he says (Book II, chap. vi) that comets are often the sign of the death of kings. For it will be answered that even if we follow the opinion of S. John Damascene, which was, as is evident in the book referred to, contrary to the opinion of the Philosophic Way, yet this is no proof of the inevitability of human actions. For S. John considers that a comet is not a natural creation, nor is it one of the stars set in the firmament; wherefore neither its significance nor influence is natural. For he says that comets are not of the stars which were created in the beginning, but that they are made for a particular occasion, and then dissolved, by Divine command. This then is the opinion of S. John Damascene. But God by such a sign foretells the death of kings rather than of other men, both because from this may arise the confusion of a kingdom. And the Angels are more careful to watch over kings for the general good; and kings are born and die under the ministry of Angels.
And there is no difficulty in the opinion of the Philosophers, who say that a comet is a hot and dry conglomeration, generated in the higher part of space near the fire, and that a conjoined globe of that hot and dry vapour assumes the likeness of a star. But unincorporated parts of that vapour stretch in long extremities joined to that globe, and are a sort of adjunct to it. And according to this view, not of itself but by accident, it predicts death which proceeds from hot and dry infirmities. And since for the most part the rich are fed on things of a hot and dry nature, therefore at such times many of the rich die; among which the death of kings and princes is the most notable. And this view is not far from the view of S. John Damascene, when carefully considered, except as regards the operation and co-operation of the Angels, which not even the philosophers can ignore. For indeed when the vapours in their dryness and heat have nothing to do with the generation of a comet, even then, for reasons already set out, a comet may be formed by the operation of an Angel.
In this way the star which portended the death of the learned S. Thomas was not one of the stars set in the firmament, but was formed by an Angel from some convenient material, and, having performed it office, was again dissolved.
From this we see that, whichever of those opinions we follow, the stars have no inherent influence over the free-will, or, consequently, over the malice and character of men.
It is to be noted also that Astronomers often foretell the truth, and that their judgements are for the most part effective on one province or one nation. And the reason is that they take their judgements from the stars, which, according to the more probable view, have a greater, though not an inevitable, influence over the actions of mankind in general, that is, over one nation or province, than over one individual person; and this because the greater part of one nation more closely obeys the natural disposition of the body than does one single man. But this is mentioned incidentally.
And the second of the three ways by which we vindicate the Catholic standpoint is by refuting the errors of those who cast Horoscopes and Mathematicians who worship the goddess of fortune. Of these S. Isidore (Ethics, VIII. 9) says that those who cast Horoscopes are so called from their examination of the stars at nativity, and are commonly called Mathematicians; and in the same Book, chapter 2, he says that Fortune has her name from fortuitousness. and is a sort of goddess who mocks human affairs in a haphazard and fortuitous manner. Wherefore she is called blind, since she runs here and there with no consideration for desert, and comes indifferently to good and bad. So much for Isidore. But to believe that there is such a goddess, or that the harm done to bodies and creatures which is ascribed to witchcraft does not actually proceed from witchcraft, but from that same goddess of Fortune, is sheer idolatry: and also to assert that witches themselves were born for that very purpose that they might perform such deeds in the world is similarly alien to the Faith, and indeed to the general teaching of the Philosophers. Anyone who pleases may refer to S. Thomas in the 3rd book of his Summa of the Faith against the Gentiles. question 87, etc., and he will find much to this effect.
Nevertheless one point must not be omitted, for the sake of those who perhaps have not great quantity of books. It is there noted that three things are to be considered in man, which are directed by three celestial causes, namely, the act of the will, the act of the intellect, and the act of the body. The first of these is governed directly and soley by God, the second by an Angel, and the third by a celestial body. For choice and will are directly governed by God for good works, as the Scripture says in Proverbs xxi: The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; he turneth it whithersoever he will. And it says “the heart of the king” to signify that, as the great cannot oppose His will, so are others even less able to do so. Also S. Paul says: God who causeth us to wish and to perform that which is good.
The human understanding is governed by God through the mediation of an Angel. And those bodily actions, either exterior or interior, which are natural to man, are regulated by God through the mediation of the Angels and the celestial bodies. For blessed Dionysius (de Diuin. nom., IV) says that the celestial bodies are the causes of that which happens in this world; though he makes no implication of fatality.
And since man is governed as to his body by the celestial bodies, as to his intellect by the Angels, and as to his will by God, it may happen that if he rejects God’s inspiration towards goodness, and the guidance of his bodily affections to those things toward which the influence of the stars inclines him, that so his will and understanding become entangled in malice and error.
However, it is not possible for anyone to be influenced by the stars to enter upon that sort of error in which the witches are ensnared, such as bloodshed, theft or robbery, or even the perpetration of the worst incontinences; and this is true of other natural phenomena.
Also, as William of Paris says in his De Universo, it is proved by experience that if a harlot tries to plant an olive it does not become fruitful, whereas if it is planted by a chaste woman it is fruitful. And a doctor in healing, a farmer in planting, or a soldier in fighting can do more with the help of the influence of the stars than another who possesses the same skill can do.
Our third way is taken from the refutation of the belief in Fate. And here it is to be noted that a belief in Fate is in one way quite Catholic, but in another way entirely heretical. For Fate may be understood after the manner of certain Gentiles and Mathematicians, who thought that the different characters of men were inevitably caused by the force of the position of the stars, so that a wizard was predestined to be such, even if he were of a good character, because the disposition of the stars under which he was conceived or born caused him to be such as he was. And that force they called by the name of Fate.
But that opinion is not only false, but heretical and altogether detestable on account of the deprivation which it must entail, as was shown above in the refutation of the first error. For by it would be removed all reason for merit or blame, for grace and glory, and God would be made the author of our evil, and more such incongruities. Therefore such conception of Fate must be altogether rejected, since there is no such thing. And touching this belief S. Gregory says in his Homily on the Epiphany: Far be it from the hearts of the faithful to say that there is any Fate.
And although, on account of the same incongruity which is detected in both, this opinion may seem to be the same as that concerning the Astrologers, they are yet different inasmuch as they disagree concerning the force of the stars and the influx of the seven Planets.
But Fate may be considered to be a sort of second disposition, or an ordination of second causes for the production of foreseen Divine effects. And in this way Fate is truly something. For the providence of God accomplishes His effects through mediating cause, in such matters are subject to second causes; though this is not so in the case of some other matters, such as the creation of souls, glorification, and the acquisition of grace.
Also the Angels may co-operate in the infusion of Grace by enlightening and guiding the understanding and the capability of the will, and so a certain arrangement of results may be said to be one and the same of Providence or even Fate. For it is considered in this way; that there is in God a quality which may be called Providence, or it may be said that He has ordained intermediary causes for the realization of some of His purposes; and to this extent Fate is a rational fact. And in this way Boethius speaks of Fate (de Consolatione IV): Fate is an inherent disposition in things mobile, by which Providence binds things to that which It has ordained.
Nevertheless the learned Saints refused to use this name, on account of those who twisted its meaning to force of the position of the stars. Wherefore S. Augustine (de Ciuitate Dei, V) says: If anyone attributed human affairs to Fate, meaning by Fate the Will and Power of God, let him keep his opinion but amend his tongue.
It is clear, then, that what has been said provides a sufficient answer to the question whether all things, including works of witchcraft, are subject to Fate. For if Fate is said to be the ordainment of second cause of foreseen Divine results, that is, when God wills to effect His purposes through second causes; to that extent they are subject to Fate, that is, to second causes so ordained by God; and the influence of the stars is one of these second causes. But those things which come directly from God, such as the Creation of things, the Glorification of things substantial and spiritual, and other things of this sort, are not subject to such Fate. And Boethius, in the book we have quoted, supports this view when he says that those things which are near to the primal Deity are beyond the influence of the decrees of Fate. Therefore the works of witches, being outside the common cause and order of nature, are not subject to these second causes. That is to say, that as regards their origin they are not subject to willy-nilly Fate, but to other causes.
Witchcraft is not caused by the Powers that Move the Stars
It follows that, just as witchcraft cannot be caused in the manner that has been suggested, so also it is not caused by the separate Essences which are the Powers that move the stars; although this was believed to be the case by Avicenna and his school, for the following reasons. For they argued those are separate Essences of a higher power than our souls; and the soul itself can sometimes, by the force of imagination, or merely through fear, effect a change in its own body. For example, a man walking on a plank place at a great height easily falls, but in his fear he imagines that he will fall; but if the plank were placed on the ground he would not fall, for he would have no reason to fear falling. So by the mere apprehension of the soul the body grows hot in the case of the concupiscent and wrathful, and cold in the case of the fearful. It can also, by strongly imagining and fearing such things, be affected with illnesses, such as fever and leprosy. And as with its own body, so it can influence another body either for health or sickness; and to this is ascribed the cause of bewitchment, of which we have spoken above.
And since according to that view the deeds of witches have to be attributed to the Powers that move the stars, if not precisely to the stars themselves; therefore we must add to what we have already said on this subject, that this also is impossible. For the Powers that move the stars are good and intelligent Essences, not only by nature but also by will, as appears from their working for the good of the whole universe. But that creature by whose aid witchcraft is done, although it may be good in nature, cannot be good by will. Therefore it is impossible to hold the same judgement of both these Essences.
And that such an Essence cannot be good in respect of will is proved as follows. For it is no part of a well-disposed intelligence to extend patronage to those who act against virtue; and of such sort are the actions of witches. For it will be shown in the Second Part that they commit murders, fornications, and sacrifices of children and animals, and for their evil deeds are called witches. Therefore the Intelligence by whose aid such witchcraft is performed cannot be well-disposed towards virtue; although it may be good in its original nature, since all things are so, as is evident to anyone who thinks about it. Also it is no part of a good Intelligence to be the familiar spirit of criminals, and to extend patronage to them and not to the virtuous. For they are criminals who use witchcraft, and they are known by their works.
Now the natural function of the Essences that move the stars is to influence any creature for good, although it often happens that it becomes corrupted by come accident. Therefore those Essences cannot be the original cause of witches.
Besides, it is the part of a good spirit to lead men to that which is good in human nature, and of good repute; therefore to entice men away from such, and to betray them into evil things, belongs to an evilly-disposed spirit. And by the wiles of such a spirit men make no headway in those things which are worthy, such as the sciences and virtues, but rather in that which is evil, such as the knowledge of theft and a thousand other crimes; therefore the origin is not in these separate Essences, but in some Power evilly disposed toward virtue.
Besides, that cannot be understood to be a well-disposed spirit in the commission of crimes. But this is what happens in the deeds of witches; for, as will be shown by their performances, they abjure the Faith, and slay innocent children. For the separate Essences which move the stars do not, on account of their goodness, provide help in these works if witchcraft.
In conclusion, then; this kind of works can no more arise from the Movers of the stars than from the stars themselves. And since they must originate from some Power allied to some creature, and that Power cannot be good in its will, although it may be naturally good, and that the devils themselves answer to this description, it follows that it is by their power that such things are done.
Unless, indeed, anyone should bring forward the trifling objection that witchcraft originates in human malice, and that it is effected by curses, and the placings of images in a certain place, the stars being favourable. For example, a certain witch placed her image and said to a woman, “I will make you blind and lame”; and it happened so. But it happened because the woman from her nativity was destined by the stars for such an affliction; and if such words and practices had been used against anyone else, they would not have been effective. And to this I shall answer in detail; first, that such witchcrafts cannot be caused by human malice; secondly, that they cannot be caused by magic words or images, whatever stars may be in concurrence.
Witchcraft does not operate from Human Malice alone.
And first to prove that witches’ works cannot arise from human malice, however great. For a man’s malice may be either habitual, inasmuch as by frequent practice he acquires a habit that inclines him to commit sin, not from ignorance but from weakness; in which case he is held to sin from wickedness. Or it may be actual malice, by which is meant the deliberate choice of evil, which is called the sin against the Holy Ghost. But in neither case can he, without the help of some higher Power, work such spells as the mutation of the elements, or the harming of the bodies both of men and beasts. And this is proved first as to the cause, and secondly as to the effect of witchcraft.
For a man cannot effect such works without malice, that is, a weakening of his nature, and still less when his nature has already been weakened; as is clear, since his active virtue is already diminished. But man, through all sorts of sin and wickedness, becomes weakened in his natural goodness. Both reason and authority prove this. For Dionysius (de Diuin. Nom. IV) says: Sin is the effect of natural habit; and he speaks of the sin of guilt. Wherefore no one who is conscious of sin commits it, unless he does so out of deliberate revolt.
I answer thus. The sin of guilt stands in the same relation to the good of nature as does the good of grace to the sin of nature. But by grace is diminished natural sin, which is as a tinder prone to guilt; therefore much more is natural good diminished by guilt. And it is not valid to put forward the objection that a bewitchment is sometimes caused by an old woman evilly looking at a child, by which the child is changed and bewitched. For, as has already been shown, this can only happen to children because of their tender complexion. But here we speak of the bodies of all sorts of men and beasts, and even the elements and hailstorms. If anyone wishes to inquire further, he may refer to S. Thomas in his questions concerning Evil: Whether sin can corrupt the whole natural good, etc.
And now as regards the effects of witchcraft. From the effects we arrive at a knowledge of the cause. Now these effects, as they concerns us, are outside the order of created nature as known to us, and are done through the power of some creature unknown to us, although they are not miracles, which are things done outside the order of the whole of created nature. As for miracles, they are wrought by His power Who is above the whole order of the entire natural creation, Which is the Blessed God; as it is said: Thou are He Who alone workest great marvels. So also the works of witches are said to be miraculous only inasmuch as they are done by some cause unknown to us, and outside the order of created nature as known to us. From which it follows that the corporeal virtue of a man cannot extend itself to the causation of such works; for it has always this quality, that the cause with the natural effect is, in the case of man, recognized naturally and without wonder.
And that the works of witches can in some way be called miraculous, in so far as they exceed human knowledge, is clear from their very nature; for they are not done naturally. It is shown also by all the Doctors, especially S. Augustine in Book LXXXIII, where he says that by magic arts many miracles are wrought similar to those miracles which are done by the servants of God. And again in the same book he says that Magicians do miracles by private contract, good Christians by public justice, and bad Christians by the signs of public justice. And all this is explained as follows. For there is a Divine justice in the whole universe, just as there is a public law in the State. But the virtue of any creature has to do with the universe, as that of the private individual has to do with the State. Therefore inasmuch as good Christians work miracles by Divine justice, they are said to work them by public justice. But the Magician, since he works through a pact entered into with the devil, is said to work by private contract; for he works by means of the devil, who by his natural power can do things outside the order of created nature as known to us, through the virtue of a creature unknown to us, and it will be for us a miracle, although not actually so, since he cannot work outside of the whole of created nature, and through all the virtues of creatures unknown to us. For in this way only God is said to work miracles. As it said: Thou are God Who alone workest great marvels. But bad Christians work through the signs of public justice, as by invoking the Name of Christ, or by exhibiting certain sacraments. If anyone pleases, he can refer to S. Thomas in the first part of the questions, III, art. 4. He can also study the conclusions in the Second Part of this work, Chapter VI.
Neither does witchcraft proceed from words uttered over images by men under favourable constellations. For the intellect of a man is of such a nature that its knowledge springs from things, and phantasms must be rationally examined. It is not in his nature, simply by though or by the instrinsic operation of his intellect, to cause things to happen just be expressing them in words. For if there were men who had such power, they would not be of the same nature as we, and could only equivocally be called men.
But it is said that they effect these things by words when the stars of the nativity are favourable; from which it would follow that they would be able to act by the power of words only under certain conditions, and that they would be powerless without the help of the stars of their victim’s nativity. But this is clearly false from what has been said before concerning Astromancers, casters of Horoscopes and Fortune-tellers.
Besides, words express the conception of the mind; and the stars cannot influence the understanding, neither can the Powers that move them, unless they wish on their own account, and apart from the motion of the stars, to enlighten the understanding; and this would only happen in regard to good works, for not enlightenment but darkness is given to the understanding for the performance of evil works; and such is the function not of good, but of evil spirits. Therefore it is clear that if their words are in any way effective, it is not by virtue of any star, but by virtue of some Intelligence, which may be naturally good, but cannot be good in respect of will, since it always works for evil; and such is the devil, as has been shown above.
Again, it has been shown above that there are two kinds of images. Those of the Astrologers and Mages are ordained not for corruption, but for the obtaining of some private good. But the images of witches are quite different, since always they are secretly placed somewhere by the command of the devil for the hurt of the creature; and they who walk or sleep over them are harmed, as the witches themselves confess. Wherefore whatever they effect is done by means of devils, and is not due to the influence of the stars.
To the arguments. For the first, we must understand the words of S. Augustine, that the cause of man’s depravity lies in man’s will, meaning the cause which produces the effect; which is properly said to be the cause. It is not so, however, with the cause which permits the effect, or arranges or advises or suggests it, in which sense the devil is said to be the cause of sin and depravity; God only permitting it that good may come of evil. As S. Augustine says: The devil provides the inner suggestion, and persuades both inwardly and outwardly by more active stimulation. But he instructs those who are entirely in his power, as are witches, whom there is no need to tempt from within, but only from without, etc.
And through this we come to the second argument, that everyone is, by direct understanding, the cause of his own wickedness. And concerning this it is to be said that, though it would be contrary to the doctrine of free-will to believe that a man may be influenced by direct command, it is not to say that he is influenced by suggestion.
Thirdly, impulses to good or evil can be caused to be suggested by the influence of the stars, and the impulse is received as a natural inclination to human virtue or vice. But the works of witches are outside the common order of nature, and therefore they cannot be subject to those influences.
The fourth argument is equally clear. For though the stars are a cause of human acts, witchcraft is not properly a human act.
For the fifth argument, that the Powers that move the stars can influence souls. If that is understood directly, they do so influence them by enlightening them towards goodness, but not to witchcraft, as has been shown above. But if it is understood mediately, then through the medium of the stars they exert an indirect and suggestive influence.
Sixthly, there are two reasons why devils molest men at certain phases of the Moon. First, that they may bring disrepute on a creature of God, namely, the Moon, as S. Jerome and S. John Chrysostom say. Secondly, because they cannot, as has been said above, operate except through the medium of the natural powers. Therefore they study the aptitudes of bodies for receiving an impression; and because, as Aristotle says, the brain is the most humid of all the parts of the body, therefore it chiefly is subject to the operation of the Moon, which itself has power to incite humours. Moreover, the animal forces are perfected in the brain, and therefore the devils disturb a man’s fancy according to certain phases of the Moon, when the brain is ripe for such influences.
And there are two reasons why the devils are present as counsellors in certain constellations. First, that they may lead men into the error of thinking that there is some divinity in the stars. Secondly, because they think that under the influence of some constellations corporeal matter is more apt for the deeds that they counsel.
And as to what S. Augustine says in de Ciuitate Dei, XXXVI: Devils are attracted by various kinds of stones, herbs, trees, animals, songs, and instruments of music, not as animals are attracted by food, but as spirits by signs, as if these things were exhibited to them as a sign of Divine honour, for which they are themselves eager.
But it is often objected that devils can be hindered by herbs and music from molesting men; as it is alleged in the argument from Saul and the music of the harp. And hence an attempt is made to argue that some men can work witchcraft through certain herbs and occult causes, without the help of devils, buy only of the influence of the stars, which have more direct power over matter corporeal for corporeal effects than over the devils for effects of witchcraft.
Now, though this must be answered more widely, it is to be noted that herbs and music cannot by their own natural virtue entirely shut out the molestation which the devil can inflict upon men, with the permission of God and the Angels. Yet they can mitigate that molestation; and this can even be of so slight a nature that they can entirely remove it. But they would do this, not by acting against the devil himself, since he is a separate spirit against whom nothing corporeal can naturally act, but by acting against the actual molestation of the devil. For every cause that has limited power can produce a more intense effect on a suitable than upon an unsuitable material. See Aristotle De Anima. They who act do so upon a predisposed patient. Now the devil is an agent of limited power; therefore he can inflict a fiercer affliction on a man disposed to that affliction or to that which the devil means to inflict, than upon a man of a contrary disposition. For example, the devil can induce a fiercer passion of melancholy in a man disposed to that humour than in a man of the contrary disposition.
Moreover, it is certain that herbs and music can change the disposition of the body, and consequently if the emotions. This is evident in the case of herbs, since some incline a man to joy, some to sadness, and so with others. It is evident also in the case of music, as Aristotle shows (Politics, VIII), where he says that different harmonies can produce different passions in a man. Boethius also mentions this in his Music, and the author of the Birth of Knowledge, where he speaks of the usefulness of music, and says that it is of value in the cure or alleviation of various infirmities. And thus, other things being equal, it may help to weaken the affliction.
But I do not see how herbs or music can cause a man to be of such a disposition that he can in no way be molested by the devil. Even if such a thing were permissible, the devil, moving only in local vapour of the spirit, can grievously affect men supernaturally. But herbs and harmonies cannot of their own natural virtue cause in man a disposition by which the devil is prevented from creating the aforesaid commotion. Nevertheless it sometimes happens that the devil is permitted to inflict only so small a vexation on a man that, through some strong contrary disposition, it may be totally removed; and then some herbs or harmonies can so dispose a man’s body to the contrary that the vexation is totally removed. For example, the devil may at times vex a man with the affliction of sadness; but so weakly that herbs or harmonies which are capable of causing a swelling and uplifting of the spirits, which are contrary emotions to sadness, can totally remove that sadness.
Moreover, S. Augustine, in his Second Book On the Christian Doctrine, condemns amulets and certain other things of which he there writes much, attributing their virtue to magic art, since thy can have no natural virtue of their own. And this is clear from what he says. To this sort belong all amulets and charms which are condemned by the School of Physicians, which condemns very clearly their use, in that they have no efficacy of their own natural virtue.
And as for that concerning I Kings xvi: that Saul, who was vexed by a devil, was alleviated when David played his harp before him, and that the devil departed, etc. It must be known that it is quite true that by the playing of the harp, and the natural virtue of that harmony, the affliction of Saul was to some extent relieved, inasmuch as that music did somewhat calm hs sense through hearing; through which calming he was made less prone to that vexation. But the reason why the evil spirit departed when David played the harp was because of the might of the Cross, which is clearly enough shown by the gloss, where it says: David was learned in music, skillful in the different notes and harmonic modulations. He shows the essential unity by playing each day in various modes. David repressed the evil spirit by the harp, not because there was so much virtue in the harp, but it was made in the sign of a cross, being a cross of wood with the strings stretched across it. And even at that time the devils fled from this.