« Prev Chapte CVII. That the Subsistent Intelligence,… Next »

CHAPTER CVIIThat the Subsistent Intelligence, whose aid is employed in Magic, is not Evil by Nature719719Understand, ‘but is evil by will’ (p. 268, note).

WHATEVER is in things must be either cause or caused: otherwise it would not be in relation with other things. The subsistent beings in question then are either causes only or they are also caused. If they are causes only, evil cannot be cause of anything except incidentally (Chap. XIV); and everything incidental must be reducible to that which is ordinary:720720Because the incidental hangs on to the ordinary, and presupposes it; whereas the ordinary is conceivable without the incidental. A man is ordinarily well, and incidentally sick. Sickness presupposes health a the standard to which it is referred. therefore there must be something in them prior to the evil that is there, something whereby they are causes. But that which is prior in everything is its nature and essence. Therefore these subsistent beings are not evil in their nature. The same conclusion follows if they are things caused. For no agent acts except with some intention of good: evil therefore cannot be the effect of any cause except incidentally. But what is caused incidentally only cannot be by nature, since every nature has a regular and definite mode of coming into being.

4. Nothing can exist unless it has existence from the first being, and the first being is the sovereign good (B. II, Chap. XV). But since every being, as such, acts to the production of its own likeness, all things that come of the first being must be good.

7. Since the will tends to good grasped by the understanding, and finds therein its natural and proper object and end, it is impossible for any subsistent intelligence to have by nature a bad will, unless the understanding in it naturally is mistaken in its judgement of what is good. But no understanding can be so mistaken: for false judgements in acts of the understanding are like monsters in the physical universe, which are not according to nature, but out of the way of nature: for the good of the understanding and its natural end is the knowledge of truth.

This is also confirmed by the authority of Holy Scripture: for it is said, Every creature is good (1 Tim. iv, 4): God saw all things that he had made, and they were very good (Gen. i, 31).

Hereby is excluded the error of the Manicheans, who suppose that these subsistent intelligences, commonly called demons or devils, are naturally evil.

Porphyry tells in his Letter to Anebo721721Eusebius, De paraparitione evangelii, B. V, Chapp. vii-x, quotes the Neo-Platonist Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo the Egyptian. St Augustine, De civitate Dei, B. X, Chap. xi, also quotes him; and from St Augustine St Thomas borrows his quotations. The passages of Eusebius and Augustine are worth reading, as contributing to the literature of Spiritualism. Eusebius calls Anebo an Egyptian prophet. Porphyry’s Letter to him exists only in fragments. that there is a certain kind of spirits who make it their business to listen to magicians, a kind naturally deceitful, assuming every form, personating gods [angels] and men and souls of the departed; and that this kind of being it is which makes all these appearances for better or for worse: for the rest, that this kind of spirit renders no assistance towards anything that is really good, but on the contrary is the author of evil counsel, and accuses and hampers and envies the earnest votaries of virtue, and is full of hastiness and pride, rejoices in the smell of burnt meats, and is captivated by flatteries.722722This remarkable quotation indicates the great danger of modern spiritualism, that the spirits who appear at séances may not be the departed souls of men as they profess to be, but lying devils, who know enough of the past history of our departed friends plausibly to personify them. The only thing to quarrel with in this account is his saying that such malice is in these spirits “naturally.”723723Porphyry wrote in Greek, where φύσει (‘naturally’) is often used in the sense of ‘thoroughly’ (cf. Eph. ii, 3). It is Shakespeare’s ‘in grain,’ as ‘a fault in grain’ (Comedy of Errors, II, 3). In a thoroughly wicked man wicked habits have grown into a sort of second nature.

« Prev Chapte CVII. That the Subsistent Intelligence,… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection