QUESTION V. CONTINUED . . . .
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Page 2 of 3
Question V Continued . . . .
This chapter was transcribed by Wicasta Lovelace.
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