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Primary Document Analysis

1578 words - 7 pages

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican professor that began teaching at the University of Paris in the year 1256, in theology. His works in the field of theology were greatly influenced by Aristotle as well as Plato. His main goal in the section of his writing, Summa Contra Gentiles, was to explain how magic was portrayed in the “natural world”. He was trying to show non-Christians, especially Muslims, how Catholic beliefs could be rationalized. All the documents of St. Aquinas’s that were paired together in the section of the book by the editors were detailed works that were seen as controversial back when they were first published. One of the works in this section, titled Commentary on the ...view middle of the document...

Due to this explanation, it can be understood that the magic is not evil in its nature. Nevertheless, he believed most magicians to be bad, or evil men.
Based off of Aquinas work, Summa Contra Gentiles, one would assume that he did believe in magic, although he did not come outright and say it. Nevertheless, he informed his readers that magicians performed their magic not just through God and heavenly ways, but also through celestial ways. They may not have performed their magic with just God’s powers help, yet they would not have been able to perform with only celestial ways either, they came together hand in hand. However, he explained that magic that came from the “heavenly bodies” was natural magic. Therefore, anything that could not be considered natural could not have come from heaven or God. He also went into greater detail explaining that an inanimate object could not possibly move by itself through the powers of God or heavenly forces.
Aquinas did not speak about witches, however, his brief mention of pacts having been a necessity to speak to a demon later brought up the issue of magicians, and even later the issue of witches signing pacts. Throughout this work of his, he spoke only of magicians and their way of performing magic. In order to perform their magic, he explained that they were to speak certain words to receive the outcomes they desired. The words did not hold the power, the magician himself did. To build upon this, very powerful magicians were able to produce what they desired simply through thought. If someone was able to make what they wanted to happen with words or thoughts, they were not men, and must have belonged to another “species”. One was not simply born with the powers of magic, they must also have held the knowledge to be able to use their magic, and this knowledge could only be formed through learning.
In his work, St. Thomas Aquinas warned of the dangers of magicians. If someone was not morally good, it was a sign that they were mentally unstable. Those that practiced magic fit into this category, and often got themselves involved with murder, theft, and adultery, thereby putting those around them in danger. Those that took part in these ways were known as malefics; that is, evil, or harmful beings. Men who were trustworthy and moral were proper and good, yet those that took part in magic were often mean, and evil men. Good men were to take part in the goods of reason, that is science as well as being moral. Evil men, however took part in goods of least worth, that would include such behaviors as lying and stealing. Aquinas even warned of the killing of innocent babies and children by the evil people who practiced magic. Good men were truthful to others; magicians however, tended to lie to these good men and deceive them. In order to get what they wanted from these good men, magicians tended to lie to them about making horrible things happen that were quite impossible, such as making the heavens crumble,...

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