But an opposite opinion holds that the devil cannot so easily and readily
do harm by himself to mankind, as he can harm them through the instrumentality
of witches, although they are his servants. In the first place we may
consider the act of generation. But for every act which has an effect upon
another some kind of contact must be established, and because the devil, who
is a spirit, can have no such actual contact with a human body, since there
is nothing common of this kind between them, therefore he uses some human
instruments, and upon these he bestows the power of hurting by bodily touch.
And many hold this to be proven by the text, and the gloss upon the text, in
3rd chapter of S. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians:
O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the
truth? And the gloss upon this passage refers to those who have singularly
fiery and baleful eyes, who by a mere look can harm others, especially
young children. And Avicenna also bears this out,
Naturalism, Book 3, c. the last, when he says; Very often the
soul may have as much influence upon the body of another to the same extent
as it has upon its own body, for such is the influence of the eyes of anyone
who by his glance attracts and fascinates another. And the same
opinion is maintained by Al-Gazali in the 5th book and 10th c. of his
Physics. Avicenna also suggests, although he does not put this opinion
forward as irrefutable, that the power of the imagination can actually change
or seem to change extraneous bodies, in cases where the power of the
imagination is too unrestrained; and hence we father that the power of the
imagination is not to be considered as distinct from a man's other sensible
powers, since it is common to them all, but to some extent it includes all
those other powers. And this is true, because such a power of the imagination
can change adjacent bodies, as, for example, when a man is able to walk along
some narrow beam which is stretched down the middle of a street. But yet if
this beam were suspended over deep water he would not dare to walk along it,
because his imagination would most strongly impress upon his mind the idea
of falling, and therefore his body and the power of his limbs would not obey
his imagination, and they would not obey the contrary thereto, that is to
say, walking directly and without hesitation. This change may be compared to
the influence exercised by the eyes of a person who has such influence, and
so a mental change is brought about although there is not any actual and
Moreover, if it be argued that such a change is cause by a living body owing to the influence of the mind upon some other living body, this answer may be given. In the presence of a murderer blood flows from the wounds in the corpse of the person he has slain. Therefore without any mental powers bodies can produce wonderful effects, and so a living man if he pass by near the corpse of a murdered man, although he may not be aware of the dead body, is often seized with fear.
Again, there are some things in nature which have certain hidden powers, the reason for which man does not know; such, for example, is the lodestone, which attracts steel and many other such things, which S. Augustine mentions in the 20th book Of the City of God.
And so women in order to bring about changes in the bodies of others
sometimes make use of certain things, which exceed our knowledge, but this
is without any aid from the devil. And because these remedies are mysterious
we must not therefore ascribe them to the power of the devil as we should
ascribe evil spells wrought by witches.
Moreover, witches use certain images and other strange periapts, which they are wont to place under the lintels of the doors of houses, or in those meadows where flocks are herding, or even where men congregate, and thus they cast spells over their victims, who have oft-times been known to die. But because such extraordinary effects can proceed from these images it would appear that the influence of these images is in proportion to the influence of the stars over human bodies, for as natural bodies are influenced by heavenly bodies, so may artificial bodies likewise be thus influenced. But natural bodies may find the benefit of certain secret but good influences. Therefore artificial bodies may receive such influence. Hence it is plain that those who perform works of healing may well perform them by means of such good influences, and this has no connexion at all with any evil power.
Moreover, it would seem that most extraordinary and miraculous events come
to pass by the working of the power of nature. For wonderful and terrible
and amazing things happen owing to natural forces. And this S. Gregory points
out in his Second Dialogue. The Saints
perform miracles, sometimes by a prayer, sometimes by their power alone.
There are examples of each; S. Peter by praying raised
to life Tabitha, who was dead. By rebuking Ananias and Sapphira, who
were telling a lie, he slew the without any prayer. Therefore a man by his
mental influence can change a material body into another, or he can change
such a body from health to sickness and conversely.
Moreover, the human body is nobler than any other body, but because of the passions of the mind the human body changes and becomes hot or cold, as is the case with angry men or men who are afraid: and so even greater change takes place with regard to the effects of sickness and death, which by their power can greatly change a material body.
But certain objections must be allowed. The influence of the mind cannot make an impression upon any form except by the intervention of some agent, as we have said above. And these are the words of S. Augustine in the book which we have already quoted: It is incredible that the angels who fell from Heaven should be obedient to any material things, for the obey God only. And much less can a man of his natural power bring about extraordinary and evil effects. The answer must be made, there are even to-day many who err greatly on this point, making excuses for witches and laying the whole blame upon the craft of the devil, or ascribing the changes that they work to some natural alteration. These errors may be easily made clear. First, by the description of witches which S. Isidore gives in his Etymologiae, c. 9: Witches are so called on account of the blackness of their guilt, that is to say, their deeds are more evil than those of any other malefactors. He continues: They stir up and confound the elements by the aid of the devil, and arouse terrible hailstorms and tempests. Moreover, he says they distract the minds of men, driving them to madness, insane hatred, and inordinate lusts. Again, he continues, by the terrible influence of their spells alone, as it were by a draught of poison, they can destroy life.
And the words of S. Augustine in his book on The City of God are very much to the point, for he tells us who magicians and witches really are. Magicians, who are commonly called witches, are thus termed on account of the magnitude of their evil deeds. These are they who by the permission of God disturb the elements, who drive to distraction the minds of men, such as have lost their trust in God, and by the terrible power of their evil spells, without any actual draught or poison, kill human beings. As Lucan says: A mind which has not been corrupted by any noxious drink perishes forspoken by some evil charm. For having summoned devils to their aid they actually dare to heap harms upon mankind, and even to destroy their enemies by their evil spells. And it is certain that in operations of this kind the witch works in close conjunction with the devil. Secondly, punishments are of four kinds: beneficial, hurtful, wrought by witchcraft, and natural. Beneficial punishments are meted out by the ministry of good Angels, just as hurtful punishments proceed from evil spirits. Moses smote Egypt with ten plagues by the ministry of good Angels, and the magicians were only able to perform three of these miracles by the aid of the devil. And the pestilence which fell upon the people for three days because of the sin of David who numbered the people, and the 72,000 men who were slain in one night in the army of Sennacherib, were miracles wrought by the Angels of God, that is, by good Angels who feared God and knew that they were carrying out His commands.
Destructive harm, however, is wrought by the medium of bad angels, at whose hands the children of Israel in the desert were often afflicted. And those harms which are simply evil and nothing more are brought about by the devil, who works through the medium of sorcerers and witches. There are also natural harms which in some manner depend upon the conjunction of heavenly bodies, such as dearth, drought, tempests, and similar effects of nature.
It is obvious that there is a vast difference between all these causes, circumstances, and happenings. For Job was afflicted by the devil with a harmful disease, but this is nothing to the purpose. And if anybody who is too clever and over-curious asks how it was that Job was afflicted with this disease by the devil without the aid of some sorcerer or witch, let him know that he is merely beating the air and not informing himself as to the real truth. For in the time of Job there were no sorcerers and witches, and such abominations were not yet practised. But the providence of God wished that by the example of Job the power of the devil even over good men might be manifested, so that we might learn to be on our guard against Satan, and, moreover, by the example of this holy patriarch the glory of God shines abroad, since nothing happens save what is permitted by God.