1. In the first place, nobody denies that certain harms and damages which
actually and visibly afflict men, animals, the fruits of the earth, and which
often come about by the influence of stars, may yet often be brought about
by demons, when God permits them do to act. For as S. Augustine says in the
4th book Of the City of God: Demons may make use of both fire and
air if God allow them so to do. And a commentator remarks: God punishes by
the power of evil angels.
2. From this obviously follows the answer to any objection concerning Job, and to any objections which may be raised to our account of the beginnings of magic in the world.
3. With regard to the fact that rotten sage which is thrown into running water is said to produce some evil effect without the help of the devil, although it may not be wholly disconnected with the influence of certain stars, we would point out that we do not intend to discuss the good or evil influence of the stars, but only witchcraft, and therefore this is beside the point.
4. With regard to the fourth argument, it is certainly true that the devil only employs witches to bring about their bale and destruction. But when it is deduced that they are not to be punished, because they only act as instruments which are moved not by their own volition but at the will and pleasure of the principal and agent, there is a ready answer: For they are human instruments and free agents, and although they have made a compact and a contract with the devil, nevertheless they do enjoy absolute liberty: for, as has been learnt from their own revelations - and I speak of women who have been convicted and burned at the stake and who were compelled to wreak vengeance and evil and damage if they wished to escape punishments and blows inflicted by the devil - yet these women co-operate with the devil although they are bound to him by that profession by which at first they freely and willingly gave themselves over to his power.
With regard to these other arguments, in which it is proved that certain old
women have an occult knowledge which enables them to bring about extraordinary
and indeed evil effects without the aid of the devil. It must be understood
that from one particular to conclude a universal argument is contrary to all
sound reason. And when, as it seems, throughout the whole of the Scriptures
no such instance can be found, save where it speaks of the charms and spells
old women practise, therefore we must not hence conclude that this is always
the case. Moreover, the authorities on these passages leave the matter open
to question, that is to say, whether such charms have any efficacy without
the co-operation of the devil. These charms or fascinations seem capable of
division into three kinds. First, the senses are deluded, and this may truly
be done by magic, that is to say, by the power of the devil, if God permit
it. And the senses may be enlightened by the power of good angels. Secondly,
fascination may bring about a certain glamour and a leading astray, as when
the apostle says: Who hath bewitched you?
Galatians iii, I. In the third place, there may be a certain
fascination cast by the eyes over another
person, and this may be harmful and bad.
And it is of this fascination that Avicenna and Al-Gazali have spoken; S. Thomas to thus mentions this fascination, Part I, question 117. For he says the mind of a man may be changed by the influence of another mind. And that influence which is exerted over another often proceeds from the eyes, for in the eyes a certain subtle influence may be concentrated. For the eyes direct their glance upon a certain object without taking notice of other things, and although the vision be perfectly clear, yet at the sight of some impurity, such, for example, a woman during her monthly periods, the eyes will as it were contract a certain impurity. This is what Aristotle says in his work On Sleep and Waking, and thus if anybody's spirit be inflamed with malice or rage, as is often the case with old women, then their disturbed spirit looks through their eyes, for their countenances are most evil and harmful, and often terrify young children of tender years, who are extremely impressionable. And it may be that this is often natural, permitted by God; on the other hand, it may be that these evil looks are often inspired by the malice of the devil, with whom old witches have made some secret contract.
The next question arises with regard to the influence of the heavenly bodies, and here we find three very common errors, but these will be answered as we proceed to the explain other matters.
With regard to operations of witchcraft, we find that some of these may be
due to mental influence over others, and in some cases such mental influence
might be a good one, but it is the motive which makes it evil.
And there are four principal arguments which are to be objected against those who deny that there are witches, or magical operations, which may be performed at the conjunction of certain planets and stars, and that by the malice of human beings harm may be wrought through fashioning images, though the use of spells, and by the writing of mysterious characters. All theologians and philosophers agree that the heavenly bodies are guided and directed by certain spiritual mediums. But those spirits are superior to our minds and souls, just as the heavenly bodies are superior to other bodies, and therefore they can influence both the mind and body of a man, so that he is persuaded and directed to perform some human act. But in order yet more fully to attempt a solution of these matters, we may consider certain difficulties from a discussion of which we shall yet more clearly arrive at the truth. First, spiritual substance cannot change bodies to some other natural form unless it be through the mediumship of some agent. Therefore, however strong a mental influence may be, it cannot effect any change in a man's mind or disposition. Moreover, several universities, especially that of Paris, have condemned the following article: - That an enchanter is able to cast a camel into a deep ditch merely by directing his gaze upon it. And so this article is condemned, that a corporeal body should obey some spiritual substance if this be understood simply, that is to say, if the obedience entails some actual change or transformation. For in regard to this it is God alone Who is absolutely obeyed. Bearing these points in mind we may soon see how that fascination, or influence of the eyes of which we have spoken, is possible. For it is not possible that a man through the natural powers of his mind should direct such power from his eyes that, without the agency of his own body or of some other medium, he should be able to do harm to the body of another man. Nor is it possible that a man through the natural powers of his mind should at his will bring about some change, and by directing this power through the mediumship of his eyes entirely transform the body of a man, upon whom he fixes his gaze, just as his will and pleasure may be.
And therefore in neither of these ways can one man influence another and fascinate another, for no man by the natural powers of his mind alone possesses such an extraordinary influence. Therefore, to wish to prove that evil effects can be produced by some natural power is to say that this natural power is the power of the devil, which is very far indeed from the truth.
Nevertheless, we may more clearly set forth how it is possible for a careful gaze to do harm. It may so happen that if a man or a woman gaze steadfastly at some child, the child, owing to its power of sight and power of imagination, may receive some very sensible and direct impression. And an impression of this kind is often accompanied by a bodily change, and since the eyes are one of the tenderest organs of the body, therefore they are very liable to such impressions. Therefore it may well happen that the eyes receive some bad impression and change for the worse, since very often the thoughts of the mind or the motions of the body are particularly impressed upon and shown by the eyes. And so it may happen that some angry and evil gaze, if it has been steadfastly fixed and directed upon a child, may so impress itself upon that child's memory and imagination that it may reflect itself in the gaze of the child, and actual results will follow, as, for example, he may lose his appetite and be unable to take food, he may sicken and fall ill. And sometimes we see that the sight of a man who is suffering from his eyes may cause the eyes of those who gaze upon him to dazzle and feel weak, although to a large extent this is nothing else but the effect of pure imagination. Several other examples of the same sort might be discussed here, but for the sake of conciseness we will not discuss them in any further detail.
All this is borne out of the commentators upon the Psalm, Qui timent te uidebunt me. There is a great power in the eyes, and this appears even in natural things. For if a wolf see a man first, the man is struck dumb. Moreover, if a basilisk see a man first its look is fatal; but if he see it first he may be able to kill it; and the reason why the basilisk is able to kill a man by its gaze is because when it sees him, owing to its anger a certain terrible poison is set in motion throughout its body, and this it can dart from its eyes, thus injecting the atmosphere with deadly venom. And thus the man breathes in the air which it has infected and is stupefied and dies. But when the beast is first seen by the man, in a case when the man wishes to kill the basilisk, he furnishes himself with mirrors, and the beast seeing itself in the mirrors darts out poison towards it reflection, but the poison recoils and the animal dies. It does not seem plain, however, why the man who thus kills the basilisk should not die too, and we can only conclude that this is on account of some reason not clearly understood.
So far we have set down our opinions absolutely without prejudice and refraining from any hasty or rash judgement, not deviating from the teachings and writings of the Saints. We conclude, therefore, that the Catholic truth is this, that to bring about these evils which form the subject of discussion, witches and the devil always work together, and that in so far as these matters are concerned one can do nothing without the aid and assistance of the other.
This chapter was transcribed by Wicasta Lovelace.
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