Malleus Maleficarum Part 1
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
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.
Next: Question VIII
Whether Witches can Hebetate the Powers of Generation or Obstruct the Venereal Act.