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Part I, Question VII

Whether Witches can Sway the Minds of Men to Love or Hatred.

It is asked whether devils, through the medium of witches, can change or incite the minds of men to inordinate love or hatred; and it is argued that, following the previous conclusions, they cannot do so. For there are three things in man: will, understanding, and body. The first is ruled by God (for, The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord); the second is enlightened by an Angel; and the body is governed by the motions of the stars. And as the devils cannot effect changes in the body, even less have they power to incite love or hatred in the soul. The consequence is clear; that though they have more power over things corporeal than over things spiritual, they cannot change even the body, as has been often proved. For they cannot induce any substantial or accidental form, except is as it were their artificer. In this connexion is quoted what has been said before; that whoever believes that any creature can be changed for the better or worse or transformed into another kind or likeness, except by the Creator of all things, is worse than a pagan and a heretic.

Besides, everything that acts with design knows its own effect. If, therefore, the devil could change the minds of men to hatred or love, he would also be able to see the inner thoughts of the heart; but this is contrary to what is said in the Book of Ecclesiastic Dogma: The devil cannot see our inner thoughts. And again in the same place: Not all our evil thoughts are from the devil, but sometimes they arise from our own choice.

Besides, love and hatred are a matter of the will, which is rooted in the soul; therefore they cannot by any cunning be caused by the devil. The conclusion holds that He alone (as S. Augustine says) is able to enter into the soul, Who created it.

Besides, it is not valid to argue that because he can influence the inner emotions, therefore he can govern the will. For the emotions are stronger than physical strength; and the devil can effect nothing in a physical way, such as the formation of flesh and blood; therefore he can effect nothing through the emotions.

But against this. The devil is said to tempt men not only visibly but also invisibly; but this would not be true unless he were able to exert some influence over the inner mind. Besides, S. John Damascene says: All evil and all filthiness is devised by the devil. And Dionysius, de Divin. Nom. IV: The multitude of devils is the cause of all evil, etc.

Answer. First, one sort of cause is to be distinguished from another: secondly, we shall show how the devil can affect the inner powers of the mind, that is the emotions; and thirdly, we shall draw the fit conclusion. And as to the first, it is to be considered that the cause of anything can be understood in two ways; either as direct, or as indirect. For when something cause a disposition to some effect, it is said to be an occasional and indirect cause of that effect. In this way it may be said that he who chops wood is the cause of the actual fire. And similarly we may say that the devil is the cause of all our sins; for he incited the first man to sin, from whose sin it has been handed down to the whole human race to have an inclination towards sin. And in this way are to be understood the words of S. John Damascene and Dionysius.

But a direct cause is one that directly causes an effect; and in this sense the devil is not the cause of all sin. For all sins are not committed at the instigation of the devil, but some are of our own choosing. For Origen says: Even if the devil were not, men would still lust after food and venery and such things. And from these inordinate lusts much may result, unless such appetites be reasonably restrained. But to restrain such ungoverned desire is the part of man’s free-will, over which even the devil has no power.

And because this distinction is not sufficient to explain how the devil at times produces a frantic infatuation of love, it is further to be noted that though he cannot cause that inordinate love by directly compelling a man’s will, yet he can do so by means of persuasion. And this again in two ways, either visibly or invisibly. Visibly, when he appears to witches in the form of a man, and speaks to them materially, persuading them to sin. So he tempted our first parents in Paradise in the form of a serpent; and so he tempted Christ in the wilderness, appearing to Him in visible form.

But it is not to be thought that this is the only way he influences a man; for in that case no sin would proceed from the devil’s instruction, except such as were suggested by him in visible form. Therefore it must be said that even invisibly he instigates man to sin. And this he does in two ways, either by persuasion or by disposition. By persuasion, he presents something to the understanding as being a good thing. And this he can do in three ways; for he presents it either to the intellect, or to the inner perceptions, or to the outer. And as for the intellect; the human intellect can be helped by a good Angel to understand a thing by means of enlightenment, as Dionysius says; and to understand a thing, according to Aristotle, is to suffer something: therefore the devil can impress some form upon the intellect, by which the act of understanding is called forth.

And it may be argued that the devil can do this by his natural power, which is not, as had been shown, diminished. It is to be said, however, that he cannot do this by means of enlightenment, but by persuasion. For the intellect of man is of that condition that, the more it is enlightened, the more it knows the truth, and the more it can defend itself from deception. And because the devil intends his deception to be permanent, therefore no persuasion that he uses can be called enlightenment: although it may be called revelation, in that when he invisibly uses persuasion, by means of some impression he plants something on the inner or outer sense. And by this the reasoning intellect is persuaded to perform some action.

But as to how he is enabled to create an impression on the inner sense, it is to be noted that the bodily nature is naturally born to be moved locally by the spiritual; which is clear from the case of our own bodies, which are moved by souls; and the same is the case with the stars. But it is not by nature adapted to be directly subject to influences, by which we mean outside influences, not those with which it is informed. Wherefore the concurrence of some bodily agent is necessary, as is proved in the 7th book of the Metaphysics. Corporeal matter naturally obeys a good or bad angel as to the local motion; and it is due to this that devils can through motion collect semen, and employ it for the production of wonderful results. This was how it happened that Pharao’s magicians produced serpents and actual animals, when corresponding active and passive agents were brought together. Therefore there is nothing to prevent the devils from effecting anything that appertains to the local motion of corporeal matter, unless God prevent it.

And now let us examine how the devil can through local motion excite the fancy and inner sensory perceptions of a man by apparitions and impulsive actions. It is to be noted that Aristotle (De Somno et Uigilia) assigns the cause of apparitions in dreams through local motion to the fact that, when an animal sleeps the blood flows to the inmost seat of the senses, from which descend motions or impressions which remain from past impressions preserved in the mind or inner perception; and these are Fancy or Imagination, which are the same thing according to S. Thomas, as will be shown.

For fancy or imagination is as it were the treasury of ideas received through the senses. And through this it happens that devils stir up the inner perceptions, that is the power of conserving images, that they appear to be a new impression at that moment received from exterior things.

It is true that all do not agree to this; but if anyone wishes to occupy himself with this question, he must consider the number and the office of the inner perceptions. According to Avicenna, in his book On the Mind, these are five: namely, Common Sense, Fancy, Imagination, Thought, and Memory. But S. Thomas, in the First Part of Question 79, says that they are only four, since Fancy and Imagination are the same thing. For fear of prolixity I omit much more that has variously been said on this subject.

Only this must be said; that fancy is the treasury of ideas, but memory appears to be something different. For fancy is the treasury or repository of ideas received through the senses; but memory is the treasury of instincts, which are not received through the senses. For when a man sees a wolf, he runs away, not because of its ugly colour or appearance, which are ideas received through the outer senses and conserved in his fancy; but he runs away because the wolf is his natural enemy. And this he knows through some instinct or fear, which is apart from thought, which recognized the wolf as hostile, but a dog as friendly. But the repository of those instincts is memory. And reception and retention are two different things in animal nature; for those who are of a humid disposition receive readily, but retain badly; and the contrary is the case of those with a dry humour.

To return to the question. The apparitions that come in dreams to sleepers proceed from the ideas retained in the repository of their mind, through a natural local motion caused by the flow of blood to the first and inmost seat of their faculties of perception; and we speak of an instrinsic local motion in the head and the cells of the brain.

And this can also happen through a similar local motion created by devils. Also such things happen not only to the sleeping, but even to those who are awake. For in these also the devils can stir up and excite the inner perceptions and humours, so that ideas retained in the repositories of their minds are drawn out and made apparent to the faculties of fancy and imagination, so that such men imagine these things to be true. And this is called interior temptation.

And it is no wonder that the devil can do this by his own natural power; since any man by himself, being awake and having the use of his reason, can voluntarily draw from his repositories the images he has retained in them; in such a way that he can summon to himself the images of whatsoever things he pleases. And this being granted, it is easy to understand the matter of excessive infatuation in love.

Now there are two ways in which devils can, as has been said, raise up this kind of images. Sometimes they work without enchaining the human reason, as has been said in the matter of temptation, and the example of voluntary imagination. But sometimes the use of reason is entirely chained up; and this may be exemplified by certain naturally defective persons, and by madmen and drunkards. Therefore it is no wonder that devils can, with God’s permission, chain up the reason; and such men are called delirious, because their senses have been snatched away by the devil. And this they do in two ways, either with or without the help of witches. For Aristotle, in the work we have quoted, says that anyone who lives in passion is moved by only a little thing, as a lover by the remotest likeness of his love, and similarly with one who feels hatred. Therefore devils, who have learned from men’s acts to which passions they are chiefly subject, incite them to this sort of inordinate love or hatred, impressing their purpose on men’s imagination the more strongly and effectively, as they can do so the more easily. And this is the more easy for a lover to summon up the image of his love from his memory, and retain it pleasurably in his thoughts.

But they work by witchcraft when they do these things through and at the instance of witches, by reason of a pact entered into with them. But it is not possible to treat of such matters in detail, on account of the great number of instances both among the clergy and among the laity. For how many adulterers have put away the most beautiful wives to lust after the vilest of women!

We know of an old woman who, according to the common account of the brothers in that monastery even up to this day, in this manner not only bewitched three successive Abbots, but even killed them, and in the same way drove the fourth out of his mind. For she herself publicly confessed it, and does not fear to say: I did so and I do so, and they are not able to keep from loving me because they have eaten so much of my dung – measuring off a certain length on her arm. I confess, moreover, that since we had no case to prosecute her or bring her to trial, she survives to this day.

It will be remembered that it was said that the devil invisibly lures a man to sin, not only by means of persuasion, as has been said, but also by the means of disposition. Although this is not very pertinent, yet be it said that by a similar admonition of the disposition and humours of men, he renders some more disposed to anger, or concupiscence, or other passions. For it is manifest that a man who has a body so disposed is more prone to concupiscence and anger and such passions; and when they are aroused, he is more apt to surrender to them. But because it is difficult to quote precedents, therefore an easier method must be found of declaring them for the admonition of the people. And in the Second Part of this book we treat of the remedies by which men so bewitched can be set free.

The Method of Preaching to the People about Infatuate Love.

Concerning what has been said above, a preacher asks this question: Is it a Catholic view to maintain that witches can infect the minds of men with an inordinate love of strange women, and so inflame their hearts that by no shame or punishment, by no words or actions can they be forced to desist from such love; and that similarly they can stir up such hatred between married couples that they are unable in any way to perform the procreant functions of marriage; so that, indeed, in the untimely silence of night, they cover great distances in search of mistresses and irregular lovers?

As to this matter, he may, if he wishes, find some arguments in the preceding question. Otherwise, it need only be said that there are difficulties in those questions on account of love and hate. For these passions invade the will, which is in its own act always free, and not to be coerced by and creature except God, Who can govern it. From which it is clear that neither the devil nor a witch working by his power can force a man’s will to love or to hate. Again, since the will, like the understanding, exists subjectively in the soul, and He alone can enter into the soul Who created it, therefore this question presents many difficulties in the matter of unravelling the truth of it.

But notwithstanding this, we must speak first of infatuation and hatred, and secondly about the bewitching of the generative power. And as to the first, although the devil cannot directly operate upon the understanding and will of man, yet, according to all the learned Theologians in the 2nd Book of Sentences, on the subject of the power of the devil, he can act upon the body, or upon the faculties belonging to or allied to the body, whether they be the inner or outer perceptions. This is authoritatively and reasonably proved in the preceding question, if one cares to look; but if not, there is the authority of Job ii: The Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand. That is, Job is in his power. But this was only in regard to the body, for He would not give his soul into his power. Wherefore He said: Only save thou his life; that is, keep it unharmed. And that power He gave him over his body, He gave also over all the faculties allied to the body, which are the four or five outer and inner perceptions, namely Common Sense, Fancy or Imagination, Thought, and Memory.

If no other instance can be given, let us take an example from pigs and sheep. For pigs know by instinct their way home. And by natural instinct sheep distinguish a wolf from a dog, knowing one to be the enemy and the other the friend of their nature.

Consequently, since all our reasoned knowledge comes from the senses (for Aristotle in the 2nd book On the Mind says that an intelligent man must take notice of phantasms), therefore the devil can affect the inner fancy, and darken the understanding. And this is not to act immediately upon the mind, but through the medium of phantasms. Because, also, nothing is loved until it is known.

As many examples as are needed could be taken from gold, which the miser loves because he knows its power, etc. Therefore when the understanding is darkened, the will also is darkened in its affectations. Moreover, the devil can effect this either with or without the help of a witch; and such things can even happen through mere want of foresight. But we shall give examples of each kind. For, as it is said in S. James i: Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Again, when Schechem saw Dinah going out to see the daughters of the land, he loved her, and seized her, and lay with her, and his soul clave unto her (Genesis xxxiv). And according to the gloss: When the infirm mind forsakes its own business, and takes heed, like Dinah, of that of other people, it is led astray by habit, and becomes one with the sinners.

Secondly, that this lust can arise apart from witchcraft, and simply through the temptation of the devil, is shown as follows. For we read in II. Samuel xiii that Ammon desperately loved his own sister Tamar, and yearned greatly for her, so that he grew ill for love for her. But no one would fall into so great and foul a crime unless he were totally corrupt, and grievously tempted by the devil. Wherefore the gloss says: This is a warning to us, and was permitted by God that we should always be on guard lest vice should get the mastery over us, and the prince of sin, who promises a false peace to those who are in danger, finding us ready should slay us unaware.

Mention is made of this sort of passion in the Book of the Holy Fathers, where it says that, however far they withdrew themselves from all carnal lusts, yet they were sometimes tempted by the love of women more than could possibly be believed. Wherefore in II. Corinthians xii the Apostle says: There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. On which the gloss says: It was given to me to be tempted by lust. But he who is tempted and does not yield is no sinner, but it is a matter for the exercise of virtue. And by temptation is understood that of the devil, not that of the flesh, which is always venial in a little sin. The preacher could find many examples if he pleased.

The third point, that infatuate love proceeds from the evil works of the devil, has been discussed above; and we speak of this temptation.

It may be asked how it is possible to tell whether such inordinate love proceeds not from the devil but only from a witch. And the answer is that there are many ways. First, if the man tempted has a beautiful and honest wife, or the converse in the case of a woman, etc. Secondly, if the judgement of the reason is so chained up that by no blows or words or deeds, or even by shame, can he be made to desist from that lust. And thirdly, in especial, when he cannot contain himself, but that he is at times unexpectedly, and in spite of the roughness of the journey, forced to be carried through great distances (as anyone can learn from the confessions of such men), both by day and by night. For as S. John Chrysostom says on Matthew xx concerning the ass upon which Christ rode: When the devil possesses the will of a man with sin, he carries him at his will where he pleases. Giving the example of a ship in the sea without a rudder, which the winds carry about at their pleasure; and of a man firmly sitting a horse; and a King having dominion over a tyrant. And fourthly, it is shown by the fact that they are sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly carried away, and at times transformed, so that nothing can prevent it. It is shown also by the hideousness of their very appearance.

And before we proceed to the further question of witches, touching the powers of generation, which follows, we must first resolve the arguments.

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