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Table of contents :
List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter 1 Demons in the Desert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Chapter 2 Demons in the Cloisters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Chapter 3 Demons in the Schoolroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Chapter 4 Demons in the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Juanita Feros Ruys
Demons in the Middle Ages
PAST IMPERFECT Past Imperfect presents concise critical overviews of the latest research by the world’s leading scholars. Subjects cross the full range of fields in the period ca. 400—1500 CE which, in a European context, is known as the Middle Ages. Anyone interested in this period will be enthralled and enlightened by these overviews, written in provocative but accessible language. These affordable paperbacks prove that the era still retains a powerful resonance and impact throughout the world today.
Director and Editor-in-Chief
Simon Forde, Western Michigan University
Acquisitions Editors Erin Dailey, Leeds Ruth Kennedy, Adelaide
Ruth Kennedy, Adelaide
Demons in the Middle Ages Juanita Feros Ruys
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.
© 2017, Arc Humanities Press, Kalamazoo and Bradford Cover Image: Demon from pedestal of the Fuente del Ángel Caído (Fountain of the Fallen Angel) in the Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid. Sculptor: Francisco Jareño y Alarcón (ca. 1885). © the author. Permission to use brief excerpts from this work in scholarly and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is an exception or limitation covered by Article 5 of the European Union’s Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) or would be determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the Publisher’s permission.
ISBN (print): 9781942401261 eISBN (PDF): 9781942401278 eISBN (EPUB): 9781942401360 arc-humanitiespress.org
List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Chapter 1 Demons in the Desert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Chapter 2 Demons in the Cloisters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Chapter 3 Demons in the Schoolroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Chapter 4 Demons in the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
List of Illustrations
Figure 1. Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain (1308–1311) . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Figure 2. Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Torment of St. Anthony (ca. 1487–1488) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Figure 3. John Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare (1781) . . . . 45 Figure 4. Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Inc. 1286, Lancelot en prose, fol. 8v . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Figure 5. British Library, Royal 6.E.VI, James le Palmer, Omne Bonum, fol. 396v, (ca. 1360–ca. 1375) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
I would like to thank Clare Monagle of Macquarie University for suggesting that I offer a proposal to this series, and Simon Forde and Ruth Kennedy for their positive response to that proposal, and their ongoing encouragement and support during the writing and production processes. I would also like to thank the anonymous reader of the draft manuscript for insightful comments and suggestions, which I have been happy to incorporate in the finished text. The research presented here was conducted under the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (project number CE110001011). This book was written in the beautiful seaside town of Crescent Head on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales (Australia).
Who is the Devil? What are demons? Where did they come from, why do they exist, and why do they seem to bear so much malice towards humans? Many cultures posit the existence of fundamental principles of good and evil, and develop narratives about the way these principles have interacted with humans and continue to do so. This book is the story of the medieval Christian approach to these questions. This approach was woven out of disparate traditions retold and reinterpreted through contexts ranging from the late antique Near East to early modern Europe. In fact, it took several centuries and a vast corpus of often polemic writings to establish the following apparently simple narrative. There was an omnipotent God who was wholly good. This God created ranks of beings who were purely spirit, without bodies—these were angels. Since they were without bodies, angels were sexless. They were also intellective beings who were made privy to the deep truths of creation through direct revelation from God. They were created wholly good, since God the Creator could only create what was wholly good, but they were also endowed with free will, which entailed an ability to choose their actions. At some point one of the angels, perhaps even the finest angel, decided that he was so extraordinary he had no
2 Introduction need to worship and obey God. Instead he would set up his own throne above that of God. He rebelled against God and drew one-third of all the angels to him. These rebellious angels were routed by the archangel Michael and flung down from Heaven, either to the pit of Hell or to a lower atmosphere. Here they lost their perfectly fine spiritual natures and took on a kind of body—not fleshly bodies like those that humans would have, but grosser bodies than they had previously. These were “aery” or “cloudy” (caliginosus) bodies. The angel who had led the rebellion now became the Devil or Satan, meaning “the Adversary,” and his ranks of disgraced angelic followers became demons. God had in the meantime created humans to be his special companions. Seeing this, and deprived forever of his celestial home, the Devil burned with envy. He entered the Garden of Eden and tempted Adam and Eve into rebellion against God, causing them to be ejected from Paradise and become subject to death. Humans wandering the earth now became prey to the ongoing temptations of demons, who constantly sought to turn them from God and secure them for eternal torture in Hell. In the meantime, the angels who had remained loyal to God in Heaven were confirmed in grace; some of them took on a protective ministry towards fallen humanity. This comprises the Christian story of creation as it is most commonly known. As historians, however, it is useful to turn over this neatly woven tapestry and examine its reverse, tracing its crossed threads, knots, and loose ends to uncover how this orthodox account came to be created. It turns out to be the product of the astonishing cultural flux that constituted the Roman Empire in the Near East in the first centuries of the Common Era. It draws variously, and not always consistently, upon elements from Jewish theologies both mainstream and esoteric, early and
competing developments of Christian belief, and GraecoRoman philosophy and theology as refracted through the lens of Alexandrian Hellenism. The idea of a principle of evil who works in opposition to a principle of good (who is also often the creator of the universe) is an ancient one, in evidence across the Near East.1 Yet there is surprisingly little mention of the Devil, or an evil principle as such, in the Hebrew Scriptures that would become part of the Christian Bible.2 The tempting serpent of Genesis is only described as “the most cunning of all the animals of the earth” (Gen. 3:1) and not as a supernatural being of any sort. It was the early Christian theologians who would identify this serpent with the Devil. The tempter who is sent by God to test Job’s piety is described as a “son of God” (that is, an angel), and also a “satan”—this is not a proper name, but a title indicating one who is an adversary (Job 1:6).3 Even the famous quotation from Isaiah that supposedly gives us the name of “Lucifer” for the Devil—“how have you fallen from Heaven, Lucifer [= light-bearer or morning star], you who rose in the morning” (Is 14:12)—was intended in its own context to signify Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.4 It was only later reinterpreted by early Church Fathers to describe the Devil, in light of the words attributed to Jesus: “I saw Satan falling like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18). Meanwhile, in the Gospels, the primary role of the Devil is again as tempter, this time of Jesus (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13; see Figure 1). It is not until the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, written towards the end of the first century CE, that we find a canonical Christian text that adduces the Devil as an enemy in the mould of earlier mythological figures of evil. Here the Devil emerges at last in the form he would assume in the Middle Ages—powerful, malevolent, the head of an army of terrifying and monstrous beasts, the
Figure 1. Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255−ca. 1319), The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain (1308−1311) ©The Frick Collection.
principle of evil in a battle to death and beyond with the principle of good. Here we read that as the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, a star fell from Heaven and was given the keys of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:2). This vignette allowed medieval theologians to identify Lucifer, the brightest star in the prophecy of Isaiah, with the Devil who will incarcerate the damned in the Abyss until the Day of Judgment. When a great red dragon appears in Heaven and sweeps a third of all the stars to earth with his tail (Rev. 12:4), this would signify for medieval theologians the third of all the angels who fell in Satan’s wake.5
The Book of Revelation then narrates that Michael and his angels fought the dragon in Heaven (Rev. 12:7) and cast him and his angels down to earth before the dragon, “that old serpent which is the Devil and Satan,” was bound in chains in Hell for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1). Medieval writers, from tenth-century poets writing in Old English to Dante writing his Inferno in Italian in the fourteenth century, would accordingly picture the Devil as chained in Hell until the Day of Judgment. This story narrating the downfall of the dragon and his captivity in the Abyss was by no means unique to the Book of Revelation: in the first century CE, apocalyptic literature was a widespread and popular genre, as both the Jewish and nascent Christian religions suffered persecution and violent suppression by the Roman Empire. The Revelation of John was simply one apocalyptic text out of many in circulation at that time that later came to be accepted as divine revelation and included in the Christian Scriptures. This creation of the Devil, or Satan, as a worthy and almost equal counterpart to God would, however, have serious ramifications throughout the medieval Christian period, spawning strongly entrenched dualist heresies (that is, beliefs that a principle of good that is associated with the spiritual remained in eternal conflict with a principle of evil identified with the material) that the Church would struggle to eradicate. In Late Antiquity this would manifest itself as Manicheism, while the idea of the Devil as the powerful principle who created the earth and all temporal things would recur with a vengeance in the high Middle Ages in the form of the Cathar heresy. This gives us a broad outline of the Devil’s path into Chris tian orthodoxy. Demons undergo a much more complex entry into the Middle Ages. They appear to derive from the Watcher Angels of ancient Jewish, and more broadly Mesopotamian, tradition. According to this tradition, angels of
6 Introduction a particular type descended to Earth, were attracted to human women, mated with them, and produced a race of hybrid beings. These were the giants, or alternatively the great warrior heroes of old, known as the Nephilim. God could not permit this hybrid race to exist within his perfectly ordered and hierarchized cosmos in which beings of spirit and beings of flesh were designed to be strictly segregated, and so he sent a flood (associated in the Bible with Noah) to wipe out this race. But because the Nephilim were part angel, when their human bodies were destroyed in the flood, their spirits continued to roam the earth looking for new bodies to inhabit, in the meantime willing ill against humans.6 This tradition is largely non-biblical, although we find traces of it there. It is most fully conveyed in the Books of Enoch, particularly a section of the first book known as the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36). This book was of uncertain status in the first two centuries of the Common Era. It was increasingly under suppression in mainstream Jewish thought but was embraced by more ascetic Jewish sects, and the rediscovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed that it was influential within the Qumran community.7 Similarly, it was accepted as canonical in early Christianity, as we know from the use made of it by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr in the second century CE8 and the theologian Tertullian in the third century CE. Indeed, it forms the basis of Tertullian’s treatise On the Veiling of Virgins (De virginibus velandis), in which Tertullian castigates women for having faces so dangerous they caused even the angels to stumble. The Book of Enoch was eventually excised from the canon in the third century, however, and thereafter largely erased from Christian memory.9 Yet vestiges of the Watchers story do appear in canonical biblical texts. Most significantly, Gen. 6:1–4 tells the story briefly and it is suggested there, though not made
explicit, that the existence of the unclean Nephilim is the reason for Noah’s flood, the story of which immediately follows. The Watcher Angels and their lust for human women is also hinted at in a number of New Testament epistles, most notably Paul’s command that women should veil their heads “on account of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10).10 More particularly, it would seem that the demons who possess both animal and human bodies in the New Testament from which they have to be exorcised (including by Jesus) are a cultural memory of the malign spirits of the Nephilim who desire reembodiment after their physical destruction in the flood. Interestingly, the ability of these possessing demons to prophesy the divinity of Christ in his presence (Mark 1:34; Luke 4:41) also reveals their former status as angels, since they would have inhabited Heaven with the Logos prior to his incarnation and their fall, and so would have knowledge of his identity from that time. In addition to these complex intersections of Jewish and Christian traditions, we must also take into account the influence of the Graeco-Roman mythology and philosophy that was a fundamental part of the Roman Empire. The idea of battles in Heaven that resulted in the defeated party being flung down appears in a number of pagan mythological traditions. One well-known example is the rebellion of the Olympian gods, led by Zeus, against the older Titans, headed by his father Kronos, in which the Titans were defeated and incarcerated in Tartarus, the lowest realm of Hades. It has been suggested that this Greek myth was well known to Jewish writers of Scriptures and that vestiges of it appear in the New Testament epistles that describe the incarceration of the fallen angels in Hell until the Day of Judgment.11 Nor should we underestimate the role of Greek philosophy in the Christian construction of the demon. Indeed, the term “demon” itself comes from the Greek daimon
8 Introduction (via the Latin daemon), which signified a spirit who mediated between humans and gods. Christian thinkers were greatly influenced by Plato’s thought regarding daimones, especially as this was transmitted in the treatise On the god of Socrates (De deo Socratis) written by Apuleius in the second century CE.12 This treatise proved so influential that the Christian theologian Augustine would eventually have to include a refutation of Apuleius’s claims regarding daimones in his massive Christian treatise The City of God (discussed in chapter 1). Drawing on Plato’s Symposium, Apuleius argued that because the natures of gods and humans were so utterly distinct, there could be no contact between them, necessitating the intervention of spirit messengers. These messengers had bodies of intermediate substance that were neither ethereal like the gods’ nor terrestrial like humans’, but were instead “cloudy”—the term that would also be attributed to the bodies of Christian demons. In common with the gods, daimones were immortal, but like humans they were subject to passions (that is, emotions) such as anger and pity. Apuleius situated the daimones in the air “between the highest ether and the earth below”, and after they came to be associated with Christian demons, this would be recognized as (one of) the regions where demons resided. The disjunction between the Christian teachings in the Book of Revelation of the Devil and the demons being chained in Hell until the Day of Judgment, and at the same time freely occupying the upper airs in the manner of Hellenistic daimones, remained often unacknowledged in Christian theology. In pagan thought the daimones fulfilled a number of functions, not all of which would find a place in their Christianized manifestation. The idea of the special guardian or advisory daimon, such as Socrates claimed to have, would find its Christian form in the personal guardian angel of the patristic era and Middle Ages.13 Similarly, the role of
daimones in providing revelations of future events and performing magic would find expression in the belief in the magical powers of demons in the later Middle Ages. Christian theology utterly repudiated, however, the Platonic idea that the souls of the dead could become either good or bad daimones, depending on the kind of life the person had led. Christian theology always recognized human souls, whether embodied or separated, as spiritual substances distinct from angels and demons. Moreover, while pagan daimones could be either well-intentioned (eudaimones) or ill-intentioned (cacodaimones), Christian doctrine asserted the fundamental and incontrovertible evil of demons. The Greek concept of the daimon was filtered through Jewish thought by Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenized Jewish scholar who wrote in the first decades after Christ. Philo synthesized Jewish theology and history with various Graeco-Roman schools of philosophy, and his writings heavily influenced early Christian thinkers such as Origen and Eusebius. In his treatise On the Giants, Philo equated pagan daimones with Jewish angels and situated them in one of the heavens above the earth where they functioned as intermediaries between humans and God. Origen completed the Christian naturalization of the daimon by describing the Devil as the chief daimon in charge of all the others.14 Having entered the Christian imaginary in the first centuries of the Common Era in these ways, the Devil and his demons did not, however, remain static in terms of their representation over the next thousand years from Late Antiquity to the early modern period. On the contrary, as we will see in the coming chapters, conceptions of the Devil and demons changed markedly in this time. Understandings of what demons were and how they could behave varied widely according to the cultural context in which they
10 Introduction were believed to interact with humans, and we will examine in subsequent chapters the worlds of desert eremitism, the cloisters of Western monasticism, the universities of the high Middle Ages, and the secular world of medieval magic. In the high Middle Ages, developing intellectual traditions, including the reintroduction of Aristotelian philosophy, along with the growing significance of Jewish and Islamic scientific thought in the West, also profoundly impacted the way the Christian demonic was theorized. This might seem surprising if we think of the Christian Middle Ages as a time of monolithic orthodoxy in which ideas—particularly of something so fundamental as the nature of evil—were immovably fixed. We need to remember, however, that it took several centuries for Christian communities just to reach agreement as to what constituted the canonical texts of their Scriptures. Looking closer, we find that Christian orthodoxy in the medieval period was under constant threat and hence continual negotiation and construction, with doctrines often developed and rendered explicit only in reaction to new lines of thought sweeping communities. Key pressure points in relation to orthodoxy at this time were the Trinity, including the nature and role of Christ and the Holy Spirit; after these the most significant actor in the anxiety over orthodoxy and heresy was the Devil.
Notes Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). 2 Archie T. Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1–4 in Early Jewish Literature, rev. ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), pp. 1–3. 3 Forsyth, “The Satan of the Old Testament,” in The Old Enemy, chap. 5, pp. 107–23. 4 Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), pp. 130–32; T. J. Wray and Geoffrey Mobley, The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 108–12. 5 An alternative tradition that remained current throughout the Middle Ages was that one-tenth of the angels fell and that elect humans would replace the lost tenth order of angels. 6 The Fall of the Angels, ed. Christoph Auffarth and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (Leiden: Brill, 2004); Annette Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Angela Kim Harkins, Kelley Coblentz Bautch, and John C. Endres (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014); and Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits. 7 Wright, “Reception of the Watcher Tradition in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in The Origin of Evil Spirits, chap. 6, pp. 169–93. 8 Randall D. Chesnutt, “The Descent of the Watchers and its Aftermath According to Justin Martyr,” in The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions, pp. 167–80. 9 Reed, “Demonology and the Construction of Christian Identity: Approaches to Illicit Angelic Instruction among Proto-Orthodox Christians,” in Fallen Angels, chap. 5, pp. 160–89, and “The Interpenetration of Jewish and Christian Traditions: The Exegesis of Genesis and the Marginalization of Enochic Literature,” in Fallen Angels, chap. 6, pp. 190–232; and Dyan Elliott, “Tertullian, the Angelic Life, and the Bride of Christ,” in Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe: New Perspectives, ed. Lisa M. Bitel and Felice Lifshitz, pp. 16–33 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). 10 Scott M. Lewis, “‘Because of the Angels’: Paul and the Enochic Traditions,” in The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions, pp. 81–90. 11 Jan N. Bremmer, “Remember the Titans!,” in The Fall of the Angels, pp. 35–61 at 58–59. 1
12 Introduction 12 An English translation by Christopher P. Jones will be published alongside the Latin text in the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press) in June 2017. 13 Ellen Muehlberger, “Angels as Equipment for Living: The Companion Angel Tradition in Evagrian Christianity,” in Angels in Late Ancient Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), chap. 3, pp. 89–118. 14 Wright, “Philo of Alexandria: Interpreting Genesis 6.1–4,” in The Origin of Evil Spirits, chap. 7, pp. 194–222.
Demons in the Desert
The devotion and practice of early Christianity was centred in small communities of converts living in Rome and on the outposts of the Roman Empire in Greece and the Near East. These were the sorts of communities to which the Apostle Paul wrote the letters of advice and exhortation that are now part of the Christian Scriptures. Another form of early Christianity, however, focused more intensively on the individual believer, leading the devotee to embrace a solitary ascetic life involving the renunciation of the body through fasting, self-control, and celibacy. This form of Christianity tended to be practised in the deserts of North Africa, which was still part of the Roman Empire for the first few centuries of the Common Era. Here believers would spend their days alone in prayer, meditation, and contemplation, struggling against the difficulty of pursuing such a life and the temptations it brought. It was in this context that the figure of the heroic Christian warrior and the ideal of Christian spiritual combat against the Devil developed. This ascetic desert ethos proved a fertile field for Christian writings that would remain highly influential for centuries to come, long after Christianity had transferred its frontier from the deserts of North Africa to the monastic houses of Western Europe. The figure of the warrior or “athlete” Christian was taken
14 Chapter 1 most immediately from the writings of Paul (such as at 1 Cor. 9:24–25; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:5 and 4:7), but had its origins in the tradition of the “combat myth,” common to a number of ancient cultures, in which forces of good and evil were eternally locked in a battle for supremacy.15 We should not be surprised to find demons associated with the desert as they had long been identified with harsh, remote places inhospitable to human habitation. We see this in the Gospel stories of the temptation of Jesus when he goes into the desert, fasts for forty days and nights, and is tempted three times by the Devil (Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1). The Devil tempts Jesus to reveal his divine nature by contravening the laws of the natural world. In doing so, the Devil reveals his origins as a former angel and his knowledge of Christian truth by quoting the Scriptures at Jesus. Jesus in turn refutes the Devil’s exhortations by quoting other Scriptures against him until the Devil departs defeated. This encounter would provide an important exemplar for the desert monks in terms of their own demonic temptations. The stories of the desert monks would also emphasize the desert as the Devil’s own terrain. More than one tale contains demons who complain loudly about all the praying monks who have intruded on their territory, while Satan himself protests that his last refuge—the desert—has now been taken from him. The word “monk” was drawn from the Greek monos, meaning “one,” and the life of the desert monk was a hard one. He not only had to battle his harsh surrounds, but also the unwillingness of his own mind, the desires of his body, and demons—in some ways, these were overlapping concepts. The idea of demonic temptation within this context was formalized by the first great writer of the ascetic tradition, Evagrius of Pontus, who lived in the second half of the fourth century (ca. 345–399). In his Praktikos (chaps. 6–14), Evagrius conflated sins or vices with demons
Demons in the Desert 15
when he enumerated his eight logismoi ([bad] thoughts), which served as the forerunner of the infamous Seven Deadly Sins. For Evagrius, these bad thoughts comprised gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory or boastfulness, and pride. Each of these sins could at the same time also be understood as a demonic force, since Evagrius speaks of “the demon of lust” and the “demon of pride” that would beset monks.16 All these eight sins could be conflated with demons, but acedia particularly so. The concept of acedia does not have an exact modern counterpart, but for desert monks it encompassed spiritual weariness, disgust at the solitary life and the tedium of the desert, and a desperate desire to return to the world, or at least to hold a conversation with another human being. Today we might think of it as spiritual burnout, or even, in a post-psychoanalytic world, as a form of depression. In desert eremitism, it was identified with the “noonday devil” of Psalm 91:6, which was appropriate since acedia most often beset monks in the heat of the day when the desert was shimmering around them and they felt tired, listless, unable to focus on manual labour or meditation, and, given that they were not permitted to eat in the course of the long daylight hours, desperately hungry. In time the eight logismoi became the Seven Deadly Sins, and in the course of the Middle Ages and through the process of translation, acedia came to be known as “sloth” (sleepiness, laziness), perhaps because of the way it induced listlessness in the monks.17 But in the early Christian era and Middle Ages it was more properly understood as a particularly virulent form of sadness that if untreated was likely to lead to despair and thence to suicide. In the medieval world, suicide was an unforgivable sin: the person who committed suicide was believed to be damned to Hell for eternity, and in many jurisdictions across medi-
16 Chapter 1 eval Europe, was posthumously punished. Their body (if already buried) might be dug up and tried for their crime, they were denied Christian burial, and their surviving family might be divested of their material goods or even have their house razed to the ground.18 Today we might think of lust or pride as more dangerous sins than spiritual boredom, but for monks, acedia was a major concern and was viewed as one of the Devil’s primary means of attack. In Evagrius’s handbook of scriptural verses for use in combat against demons, the Antirrhetikos, he reveals the manifold ways that demons had of tempting and terrifying monks into a state of dangerous sadness. They would particularly appear at night, the time of the day that monks often ended up dreading the most. Demons might manifest as flashes of lightning, lamps that flew through the air, flame and smoke, or serpents that condensed out of thin air or slithered out of the walls of the cell. They were commonly described as “Ethiopians,” in an association of (racial) blackness and the demonic that would endure throughout the Middle Ages.19 In addition to their hideous manifestations, demons would also terrify the monks through noises, including hissing at them in the dark and having audible conversations between themselves about the monk. Sometimes they would appear brandishing swords, and they could mark the monk so that he looked like he had been branded with fire.20 Demons had multiple strategies for dragging the monk into confusion and despair: they might disparage his conduct of the monastic life, recall to memory his previous sins, or threaten to reveal his darkest secrets to his fellow monks. They could make him feel like he was on the verge of madness. Yet Evagrius also has good news for the besieged monk: the air is equally full of invisible angels who battle on his behalf. Moreover, Evagrius reminds the monk that Satan cannot approach the human body
Demons in the Desert 17
without God’s permission, and that demonic temptations always multiply and intensify the more closely a monk is following the right path, so that demonic attack can be read as confirmation of a strong profession. Finally, the monk has the power of singing Psalms—Evagrius declares that doing so actually alters the body’s physiology so that it repels a demon’s touch.21 John Cassian (b. ca. 360) followed Evagrius as the key author on desert monasticism. From his Institutes, which set out what an aspiring monk needed to know to pursue the solitary lifestyle, we get the sense of demons as highly acute and perceptive beings who watch each individual monk closely, finely attuned to his strengths and weaknesses. If a demon sees a monk hesitate over or fail to combat a particular sin on one occasion, it will tempt him with that sin again subsequently. Only concerted combat in the face of temptation will deter the demon: flight will only encourage further attacks. As far as acedia goes, Cassian advises that a monk who is hard at work will only be attacked by a single demon, whereas those who are listless and idle will find multiple demons descending upon them, so undertaking any form of monastic endeavour at those moments when the will wavers is likely to render the monk safer from demonic attack.22 The ancient world had developed a theory, particularly articulated in Stoic philosophy, of “first thoughts” (also known as propassions), which are instinctive bodily reactions that can give rise to emotions, but only if the will consents to them. The early Fathers applied these concepts to the monastic profession, substituting sins for emotions and arguing that the monk’s first thoughts towards sin (his propassions) were a vulnerability that could be exploited by demons.23 If a monk could be persuaded to reveal his “first thoughts” to an elder who was experienced in the discernment of spirits, these potential sins could be
18 Chapter 1 thwarted and the monk given a means of combating them. However, if shame or pride compelled the monk to hide his first thoughts, they could fester, offering demons a fertile field for sowing the seeds of sin.24 Cassian’s other major guide to the monastic life was the Conferences, written in the form of twenty-four conversations between himself and venerable desert elders on aspects of the eremitic life. Here Cassian delves more deeply into the behavioural norms of demons. In his Seventh Conference with Abba Serenus, Cassian articulates what would become key tenets of Christian demonology. The most important of these were, first, that while evil spirits could influence or incite the human mind, they could never compel a particular action, since humans always retained free will to reject any first movement of sin. Second—and this was highly significant—demons could never actually enter or join with the human soul, since their bodies, although very fine, were not so fine as the spiritual soul, and since this kind of union was a prerogative that incorporeal God reserved for himself alone in the form of the Holy Spirit. A corollary of this was that only God could see and know the innermost recesses of the human soul. While it might appear that demons were privy to a person’s inmost thoughts, this was in fact due to their highly perceptive natures that were capable of reading subtle external signs such as words, gestures, and inclinations that betrayed internal states. Third, it always had to be understood that demons could only tempt humans with divine permission and within the bounds set by God. To this end, they could never actually drive a person mad, or to suicide, since these acts were beyond their remit as tempters doing God’s will.25 These would form fundamental truths for centuries, but Abba Serenus also reveals some specifics of demonic behaviour. He suggests that each demon is in charge of
Demons in the Desert 19
one particular vice—for example, lust, gluttony, or blasphemy—and that it has a preferred place and time of temptation. If that particular demon fails in its temptation, it will depart, leaving the field open to the next demon and its vice (Cassian, Seventh Conference, pp. 258–60). He also suggests, in an idea that will become a tenet of medieval Christianity, that each human is assigned both a personal tempting demon and protecting angel (Cassian, Eighth Conference, p. 302).26 He declares that demons vary in aggression, power, and persistence, so that weaker demons are allocated to the younger and more inexperienced monks, while hardened desert warriors are beset by the most virulent demons (Cassian, Seventh Conference, p. 260). This idea of the varying grades of demons will be taken to greater extreme in the medieval period and eventually formalized into demonic hierarchies by the Scholastics. Intriguingly, Serenus argues that demons invest as much emotional capital in each spiritual contest as humans do—otherwise it could not truly be called a battle—and that they are grieved when they fail to achieve their goal (Cassian, Seventh Conference, pp. 260–61). Serenus suggests that demons must remain invisible to human eyes because if we could see their vast numbers thronging the air between heaven and earth and their terrifying countenances, we would be overcome with terror and surrender to despair (Cassian, Eighth Conference, p. 298). Yet as we will discover, visible demons have always made for more compelling storytelling. Indeed, Serenus himself relates the vision of a monk who saw Satan, described as “much taller and more frightening to look upon” than the other demons, convening a council in which he praised or rebuked various demons for their success or failure in tempting monks (Cassian, Eighth Conference, pp. 301–02). While we might ask how the monk was able to witness this, given the claimed invisibility of
20 Chapter 1 demons, perhaps it was due to the fact that the monk was in a time and place specially amenable to demonic presence, travelling as he was through the desert after midnight, or the fact that he was in a highly spiritual state, having just been singing psalms, and therefore open to a liminal world in which he could see spiritual creatures.27 On the whole, however, it is evident that the guides to desert eremitism written by Evagrius and Cassian evoke demons who are not embodied, visible creatures. The demons that attack desert monks appear to operate more by internally prompting them towards particular undesirable mental and emotional states than by external confrontation. This situation is entirely reversed, however, in the Lives of the desert saints where demons are resolutely corporeal, visual, talkative, even odiferous, appearing in particular bodily forms designed to induce temptation or instil fear. The most famous example of this type of literature is Athanasius’s Life of St. Antony, which is full of demons (see Figure 2).28 Antony is first tempted by the Devil when he is a young man just beginning to live an ascetic life. The Devil appears to him in the form of a beautiful woman, aiming to incite him to lust, an artifice Antony resolutely rejects with prayers and fasting (§5). Thus overcome, the Devil takes the form of a young black boy and speaks to Antony in an “audible” voice—the story makes this clear to emphasize that these are not merely thought processes in Antony’s mind—and tells him that he is the “spirit of lust,” and that Antony has bested him (§6). The demonic torments Antony now suffers are manifestly physical, as a horde of demons visit him by night and beat him so mercilessly that he is covered in violent marks visible to all. Next, since Antony still refuses to give up his faith, the demons visit him as wild and vicious animals (§§8–9). In the end Antony becomes so inured to demonic assault that while others tremble at the warlike
Demons in the Desert 21
Figure 2. Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Torment of St. Anthony (ca. 1487–1488). © Wikimedia Commons.
noise of demons in combat with him, Antony is surprised at their mentioning it since he no longer pays any attention to those kinds of distractions. Indeed, he argues that if demons were truly powerful, they would not need to attack in such multitudes or adopt such frightening forms.
22 Chapter 1 Subsequently Antony becomes renowned for his ability to cast demons out of others, in one case identifying a demon onboard a ship purely by its stench (§63). Antony assumes an orthodox line in describing the actions of demons to his followers, noting that they are originally fallen angels, created good but become evil (§22). He also addresses the Greek concept of the “daimon,” which as we will see further below continued to circulate with some authority in the Hellenistic world of Late Antiquity, arguing that the Greeks were deceived both in viewing demons as a form of prophesying intelligence and in worshipping them as gods (§22). He admonishes his followers never to trust the words of a demon or believe the frightening forms they assume, because they are all liars and deceivers (§24). Certainly demons are capable of speaking the truth—as they did when they recognized Jesus as the Son of God in the process of exorcism—but should never be believed because whatever truth they tell is only bait for the lies they subsequently intend to sow. In particular, Antony associates demons with the sin of despair or acedia, noting that demons can even appear to exhort a monk to live a rigorous holy life, but then encourage him to pray without sleeping and fast so excessively that he falls into illness and thence despair (§25). The Lives of the saints collected in Late Antiquity abound in demons and it is not just male saints who have to battle them. Pelagia is an actress, which in her time was largely identical with being a prostitute, when she is converted to Christianity by Bishop Nonnus and sets aside her gold, jewels, and fine clothes.29 The Devil is beside himself at this turn of events and is heard shouting outside the city gates in outrage, berating Nonnus for taking his brightest jewel and angrily likening Pelagia to Judas in the way she has betrayed him. Two nights later the Devil visits Pelagia to wheedle her affections and behaves like
Demons in the Desert 23
a jilted lover, pointing out the manifold gifts he has given her, begging to know how he has displeased her and how he might make amends. Pelagia simply breathes upon him and makes the sign of the Cross, thus dismissing him forever. She then steals away in the night to become a spiritual desert warrior. It seems that a common feature of these desert Lives included rendering the Devil as a figure of fun once he has been vanquished.30 In this story the Devil appears as wounded paramour, while in others he is seen stomping away in a rage, loudly berating the saint for his or her spiritual prowess, or arguing legalistically that he has been maltreated, particularly since the desert is his rightful demesne. These were the sorts of stories that circulated throughout the communities of early Christianity, setting benchmarks of behaviour for aspiring monks. It became a requisite mark of sanctity to have engaged in warfare with the Devil or his demons and to have triumphed.31 Given the deeply ascetic lives that these spiritual warriors led and their extreme renunciation of the body, it should come as no surprise to find that many of the greatest heroes of the desert were tormented by their repressed sexuality.32 We have seen the exemplary case of Antony, who was accosted by the Devil in the image of a beautiful woman. Jerome, who was a theologian, the first translator of the Greek and Hebrew Bible into Latin, and later a saint, records in one of his letters that while out in the desert alone he would find himself surrounded by images of nubile dancing girls who would make his blood boil.33 Even Benedict, the author of the most influential monastic Rule in the Christian West and later a saint, was reputedly thrown into a frenzy of sexual desire by a demon that flew about his head in the form of a small black bird and fired him with lust for a woman he knew. In order to vanquish this temptation, Benedict threw himself into briar bushes
24 Chapter 1 and nettles and rolled around, scourging his flesh mercilessly until the lust passed.34 We might note that in these early Christian tales of demonic sexual temptation, the demons do not offer themselves as sexual partners and do not attempt to molest their victims sexually. In line with what we have seen of Evagrius’s and Cassian’s understandings of demons as inciting sin in monks through internal suggestion rather than external compulsion, the sexually arousing phantasms in tales aim to disturb the monk’s internal state by inciting lustful thoughts. These result either in a general state of unfulfilled desire that leaves the monk unable to concentrate on his profession, or are directed by the monk in his mind (and sometimes in action) towards an actual woman he has known or seen in the past (underlining why desert monastics had to avoid so much as setting eyes on a woman—even their own mother). They are never directed back towards the phantasm itself. As Abba Serenus notes in Cassian’s Eighth Conference: “By no means should it be believed that spiritual natures can have carnal relations with women” (p. 304). This will change markedly by the high Middle Ages, when miracle tales will take as commonplace the idea that women and men, aroused to lust by a demonic phantasm, would then copulate with that phantasm itself. This meant that medieval theologians would subsequently need to grapple with the thorny question of whether demons could expel semen and so impregnate human women. As outlined in the Introduction, the concept of the Devil proved a source of beliefs that would challenge the orthodoxy being constructed in early Christianity. Two of these positions would prove highly intractable, remaining problematic well into the medieval era. The first of these was the idea that because evil was simply a privation or an absence rather than a thing in its own right, it could not ultimately overcome good. Bearing in mind, then, God’s
Demons in the Desert 25
illimitable mercy and Paul’s declaration that God would be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), some early Christian theologians thought that the end of the world must result in a reconciliation of all things with the goodness of God. This would necessarily include the restoration of the Devil and the other fallen angels, who would have retained their free will in this regard, to God and Heaven. (Later theologians would deny that free will could remain in demons due to the irrevocability of their fall and the obduracy of their active evil.) This heretical doctrine was known as apokatastasis, the Greek word for “restoration.” Although it predated the third-century theologian Origen, it came to be particularly associated with him, leading him to be anathematized at early ecumenical councils such as the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553 and subsequently reviled by medieval theologians.35 Given that the heresy of apokatastasis was countered by an insistence on an unbridgeable gap between the saved and the damned, it is interesting that the other major heresy of the era actually argued for the division of the cosmos into irreconcilable realms of good and evil. Manicheism, dismissed as a heresy by orthodox Christianity, was a dualistic religion which declared that the cosmos was divided into two: a divine principle of goodness and light countered by an evil principle of darkness and matter. Human souls belong to the principle of light but are trapped inside bodies of chaotic matter from which they must be freed.36 Manicheism aimed to deal with the problem of evil in the world by conceptualizing it as the function of an evil principle—a solution that Christianity absolutely refused. For Christianity, God had to be the creator of all, and all he created had to be good. Christianity could not and would not countenance a creative evil principle to whom the corporeal world was held in bondage. To do so would cede far too much power to the Devil, mak-
26 Chapter 1 ing him the lord of the earthly realm. As a result, Manicheism became one of the greatest bugbears of the early Christian world, and historically, theologians were right to consider it a pernicious heresy. Never fully rooted out, iterations of the Manichean belief would continue into the Middle Ages, evolving into the Cathar heresy. This would become the subject of state-wide persecutions and executions in the early thirteenth century, particularly through the Albigensian Crusade. The fourth-century theologian Augustine, bishop of Hippo, had been in his youth an adherent of Manicheism, but later thoroughly renounced the belief and wrote key tracts refuting it. An influential and prolific writer, he was also responsible for establishing much orthodox Christian thought about the Devil and demons. In his massive theological treatise, The City of God (De civitate Dei), Augustine spends several chapters of Books 8 and 9 dissecting the Greek pagan thought, particularly as derived from Apuleius, regarding the nature of daimones. He repudiates the ideas that were clearly still commonly circulating in his era, namely that the daimones are messengers who mediate between humans and gods, and that there are both good and bad ones.37 Augustine argues that insofar as daimones are said to have passions (that is, emotions) in the same way as humans, they are no more fit to converse with the impassible gods than humans themselves are, so their claimed function as messengers between the two is illogical. Indeed, Augustine argues that on this rationale, humans are superior to daimones, since humans have mortal bodies while daimones are eternal, which means that the human experience of troublesome passions will eventually come to an end, whereas daimones must suffer them forever. Nor is there such a thing as a “good demon” Augustine declares. There are good angels and bad angels, but a “demon” is, by definition, evil. In fact, he points out that
Demons in the Desert 27
the term daimon comes from the Greek word for “knowledge,” and he reminds his readers of Paul’s words that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Demons might be creatures who are filled with esoteric knowledge that is kept from humans—as evidenced by their recognition of Jesus as the Son of God—but they are devoid of the love that is a far more important quality and in which the angels abound. Augustine also addresses some of the significant con undrums associated with biblical accounts of angels and demons. For instance, why does the account in Genesis of the first six days of creation not mention the angels? Augustine argues that angels had to have been created within this six-day period, because nothing existed prior to this time and we are told that on the seventh day God rested with creation complete. Augustine suggests that the creation of the angels can be understood as implied in the words “God created heaven” since the angels are denizens of this holy city, or in the words “God created light” because angels are beings of light (11.317–18, 326). In Book 11 of his commentary On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine works through the story of the temptation in the Garden of Eden, separating Christian truth from fanciful stories.38 He argues that Satan fell from Heaven through the sin of pride almost instantaneously upon his creation. This would become a point of dispute in the later Scholastic era but for Augustine issues of angelic blessedness and foreknowledge absolutely denied that the Devil could have spent time in Heaven in the company of other blessed angels before he succumbed to pride. The Devil also fell through the exercise of his own free will and was in no way created evil. This is a fundamental point because it goes to God’s unassailable goodness and the goodness of all his creation—something Augustine held dear once he had come to view Manicheism as a heresy.
28 Chapter 1 Augustine then asserts that Satan had already fallen from Heaven before he decided to tempt Adam and Eve. His first sin was pride, because while still in Heaven he desired to be like God; only after his fall did he feel envy of God’s new creation, the human race. The tempting serpent used by Satan, Augustine avers, was not itself Satan. A snake is, after all, just a snake. The Devil played the serpent like a musician would play an organ and the serpent itself would have had no idea that it was talking to Eve or any sense of the words it was saying. A snake is not a rational ensouled creature and cannot be temporarily turned into one. The sleight-of-hand of a speaking serpent was achieved with God’s permission, however, since the Devil could not have so used the serpent by his own power. When Augustine is uncertain of the solution to a demonic quandary he is willing to say so. In canvassing the options as to how the Devil could have failed to foresee the damnation that would ensue upon his rebellion, Augustine remains unconvinced by the competing claims that the Devil somehow lacked the divinely gifted foresight and blessedness of the other angels, or that he was in fact only an archangel of a lesser order of angels inhabiting the world, to whom divine revelation was not granted. Augustine is prepared to maintain his ambivalence on this question, suggesting that his readers can try to understand his answers, just believe them, or find better ones for themselves (11.449). He thus makes it clear that divining the minutiae of demonic nature and history is not a necessary part of a faith-filled life. This willingness to accept a state of incomplete knowledge about things demonic will be in stark contrast to the work of the Scholastics discussed in chapter 3 below who believed that science, reason, and logical argument could provide the answers to any questions, however esoteric. Christian texts dealing with demons in Late Antiquity pursue three essential goals. Guides to the monastic life
Demons in the Desert 29
aim to strengthen monks in a profession that was not only physically demanding but took an enormous mental and emotional toll on them as well. Demons functioned as disturbances to the inner life of the monk, causing him to doubt his profession and prompting him to leave the desert and return to his former life. Saints’ Lives were exemplary tales that monastic and lay people alike could apply to their own Christian life. The variety of ways in which saints were tempted by demons and vanquished them offered guides from which ordinary people could draw inspiration. This was particularly true of the way that saints negated sexual temptation through ascetic practice and, sometimes, bodily mortification. Late Antiquity was also the era in which the first great theologians of the Christian Church, such as Augustine, began to write their accounts of creation, sin, and the fall of humanity, in which they needed to account for the nature and role of the demonic. Repudiating the Greek concept of the prophesying daimon, early theologians insisted on the Devil as a fallen angel who had been created good, fell through his own evil will, and could never be rehabilitated. As we will see in following chapters, much that would become fundamental to medieval understandings of demons was established in these texts and in this period.
30 Chapter 1
Notes Forsyth, The Old Enemy. Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, trans. John Eudes Bamberger (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1972), pp. 16–20; or Evagrius of Pontus, The Greek Ascetic Corpus, trans. Robert E. Sinkewicz (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 97–100. 17 Siegfried Wenzel, The Sin of Sloth: Acedia in Medieval Thought and Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972). 18 Alexander Murray, Suicide in the Middle Ages. Vol. 1: The Violent Against Themselves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); and Suicide in the Middle Ages. Vol. 2: The Curse on Self-Murder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 19 David Brakke, “Ethiopian Demons: The Monastic Self and the Diabolical Other,” in Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), chap. 7, pp. 157–81 . 20 Evagrius of Pontus, Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons, trans. David Brakke (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), pp. 99–117. 21 Evagrius of Pontus, Talking Back, pp. 99, 101, 104, 106, 111. 22 John Cassian, “Tenth Book: The Spirit of Acedia,” in The Institutes, trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York: Newman Press, 2000), pp. 217–34, esp. 220, 233. 23 Richard Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 353–84; and Simo Knuuttila, “Emotions and the Ancient Pursuit of Christian Perfection,” in Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), chap. 2, pp. 111–76. 24 Cassian, Institutes, pp. 82–83. 25 John Cassian, “Seventh Conference: On the Changeableness of the Soul and on Evil Spirits,” in The Conferences, trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York: Newman Press, 1997), pp. 241–72. 26 This ancient idea was articulated by Origen, and had a more ancient history still: see Russell, Satan, pp. 135–37. 27 The early apologetic father Tatian had suggested that demons were only visible to those on a higher spiritual plane: Russell, Satan, p. 73. 28 English translation available online at http://ixoyc.net/data/ Fathers/175.pdf and http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm. 15 16
Demons in the Desert 31 29 “The Life of St. Pelagia the Harlot,” in The Desert Fathers, trans. Helen Waddell (New York: Vintage, 1998; first pub. 1936), pp. 185–96. 30 Russell notes that this tendency continues in Christian treatments of the Devil into the early modern period: Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), pp. 63, 161. 31 Brakke, Demons and the Making of the Monk. 32 Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988). 33 Jerome, Select Letters, ed. and trans. F. A. Wright, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933), Letter XXII, Jerome to Eustochium, pp. 66–68. 34 Benedict’s Life is related in Book 2 of the Dialogues of Gregory the Great: http://www.osb.org/gen/greg/tocalt.html and http://www. documentacatholicaomnia.eu/01p/0540-0604,_SS_Gregorius_I_ Magnus,_The_Life_Of_S_Benedict,_EN.pdf. 35 Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Leiden: Brill, 2013); Russell, Satan, pp. 144–47. 36 Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 390–408; Russell, Satan, pp. 163–66. English translations of texts associated with Manicheism can be found at http://gnosis.org/library/manis.htm. 37 Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010). 38 Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, in On Genesis, trans. Edmund Hill (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2002), pp. 153–506.
Demons in the Cloisters
Once Christian monasticism had successfully transplanted itself from the deserts of North Africa to the more temperate climate of Western Europe in the early medieval period, it needed to reposition itself in the great cosmological warfare of Christianity, and miracle tales became a key instrument for doing this. We might think of these tales involving the Devil, demons, demoniacs, and visions of or visits to Hell as indicating that medieval Christians were gullible and credulous, but these tales were as impor tant to European monasticism as they had been to North African desert eremitism. Perhaps even more so, since monasteries were no longer situated in remote desert locations where the conditions of spiritual combat were evident, but were now often centrally positioned in or near European towns and on busy waterways and travel routes. Complete isolation was no longer possible for the medieval monk in terms of urban geography but could be reestablished on the spiritual plane so that the monk could continue to be seen as a warrior on the frontline of a battle with demonic forces, a vital advance-guard in the protection of Christian Europe. Monastic miracle tales told in the cloisters reinforced to the monks the importance of the role they were playing in society.
34 Chapter 2 We can get a sense of how the demonic formed a key battle-line in medieval monasticism from one of the most powerful monks of twelfth-century Europe, Peter the Venerable. Peter was abbot of Cluny, a highly influential Benedictine monastery in France. At this time, abbots and abbesses could be figures of great political power in Europe, consulted by local landholders (counts, dukes, earls), kings and queens, and even the pope himself. Peter’s actions as abbot and his writings convey a clear sense of the boundaries that Western monasticism needed to reify and fortify. Peter was the author of one of the most potent anti-Semitic tracts of twelfth-century monasticism, Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews. He was also one of the first Christian leaders to engage with the increasingly powerful and geographically diverse Islamic faith, commissioning the first Latin translation of the Quran and then opposing its doctrines in his treatise Against the Saracens.39 Focusing then on doctrinal issues within the Christian faith itself, Peter wrote a tract against the Petrobrusian heresy associated with the figure of Peter of Bruys, who was put to death in 1131. But within twelfth-century Christian monasticism, power plays were underway, and the “new kid on the block,” the Cistercian order, was making headway against the entrenched Benedictine order. Benedict of Nursia had effectively founded Western monasticism in the first half of the sixth century when he constructed a rule for the daily conduct of monastic life. For the several centuries thereafter, the “black monks” who followed the Benedictine Rule constituted the mainstream of monastic observance in the West. However, by the late eleventh century, new approaches to monasticism were being developed and one of the most popular and influential was the Cistercian order, whose devotees wore white. Cistercians saw themselves as returning to a much purer form of the Benedic-
Demons in the Cloisters 35
tine Rule, alleging that existing Benedictine monasteries, such as Cluny, had grown lax in their monastic observance. Consequently, there were frequent polemic exchanges in the twelfth century between the Benedictines and Cistercians as each tried to claim moral superiority. This provides the context for the great twelfth-century collections of miracle stories arising out of both the Cluniac and Cistercian traditions. Because of the idea in desert eremitism, as seen in the last chapter, that the Devil always attacks most fiercely where Christian truth and purity are strongest, the miracle collections of the Cluniacs and Cistercians aimed to demonstrate that their order was the subject of demonic attacks that were more frequent, more ardent, and more terrifying than those besieging the other, thus indicating their superior spiritual purity and effectiveness. For Peter the Venerable, the demonic was yet another frontier—together with the Jewish, Islamic, and heretical— along which he had to array his forces and enter battle as a spiritual warrior of orthodox Christian faith. Peter opens his collection of tales by pointing out that miracles were not only performed in the distant past but still occur in these “modern” times (twelfth-century Latin writers particularly described themselves as “modern”). As well as demonstrating the ongoing relevance of monastic observance, this allows him to locate Cluniac monasteries at the centre of tales of demonic temptation and resistance. Indeed, Peter makes this point explicitly, declaring that “the ancient enemy” has always been jealous of the discipline and study of divine works at Cluny and reveals his envy of the monastery and its monks through many signs. Peter adds that if he were to record every instance of demonic attack upon his abbey, he would amass a volume so enormous it would weary readers.40 The tales that Peter relates cover all the key manifestations of demonic temptation circulating in the twelfth
36 Chapter 2 century. A popular one is the appearance of demons or the Devil in the form of a terrifying beast. In one account, a young monk who is assiduous in his prayers is beset in the night by a terrifying vision of a great hairy bear with long curved claws, its horrible mouth open wide. On another occasion, a devoted young monk is assailed by demons in the form of a great crowd of pigs who bare their long teeth in terrifying grimaces. At that moment, the principal demon, a man of unusual height, enters the monk’s cell, demanding to know why the pigs have not yet seized him. They complain that he is resisting all their temptations, whereupon the head demon declares that he will achieve what the others have failed to do, and draws forth a long sharp blade with hooked claws and threatens to rip open the young monk with it. The monk is almost out of his wits with fear but manages to repeat the lines from the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Suddenly the mother of God is “visibly” present and, wielding a rod in her left hand, berates the Devil for his audacity, declaring that the young man is not his. Immediately the crowd of demons vanishes like smoke. Also common in these demonic tales are instances where an evildoer is lifted into the air by demons and dropped from a great height. One of Peter’s tales tells the story of a despoiler of churches who is forced to mount a demonic horse and ride off into the sky, never to be seen again. Some time later, another despoiler of churches, attempting to reopen a gate in the stone wall that was blocked up by the citizens of the city after the first evildoer was whisked away, is lifted into the air and dropped onto the wall, breaking his arm. These stories indicate not only that the air was a frighteningly unknown place for medieval people, but that in their demonology, the upper air was the abode of the fallen angels and so an inherently dangerous place.
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There was really no limit to the forms in which demons could manifest themselves to monks in Peter’s collection of tales. They could be ugly and fearful, such as the two foul misshapen peasants who appear in one story. Given that these men are described as having long hooked noses, this could suggest that Peter was playing upon medieval Christian anti-Semitism which often identified demons with Jewish people. Yet because the Devil was a wily and cunning tempter, it was not beyond his ability to inhabit the forms of credible and trustworthy figures as well. One young monk, struggling with his conversion and missing his home in Italy, finds himself comforted by an abbot and two monks who kindly suggest that he leave his current monastery and return home. Because the advice they are giving runs so counter to normal monastic counsel, however, it is evident that they are really demons seeking to lure the young man from his holy calling. Also common is an association of demons with refuse and excrement. In two stories in Peter’s collection, once their temptation has been thwarted, demons make their escape from the monastery by diving headfirst into the latrine. Peter notes how appropriate it is that unclean spirits should be expelled from the holy house in a manner that illustrates their uncleanness. Something we might notice in Peter’s collection of tales is his repeated insistence on how the actions of demons are “visible.” Peter later explains this: the Devil seeks to wage a spiritual battle through the suggestions of vices. But when he is repulsed from within, he wages war outwardly as fiercely as he can, as if on an open field of battle. This allows Peter to combine in his miracle tales both the desert eremitic idea of temptation as wholly internal and the lurid drama of saints’ Lives with their external and highly visible forms of temptation. Peter further specifies that although the Devil is always pres-
38 Chapter 2 ent before all invisibly, sometimes, when blinded by his own fury, he can appear visibly. One result of this materiality is a focus on the physical evidence of temptation: in one instance, a demon that has been repulsed by the sign of the cross leaves behind a vile stench as evidence of its presence. Peter also gives us some insight into the twelfth-century understandings of the nature and limits of demonic temptation. He reasserts that temptation is a function of God—the Devil does not realize that God, in allowing him to tempt the pious, is actually using him to build up his flock in strength and perseverance. Moreover, all are ultimately protected from demonic assault, since “merciful God does not permit us to be tempted beyond what we can bear” (1 Cor. 10:13). There are a number of Cistercian miracle collections dating from the late eleventh century. An interesting one is that compiled by Herbert of Clairvaux because he combines earlier folklore regarding evil spirits with the Christian belief system.41 Interestingly, he refers a number of times to demons as “cacodaemones,” using the pagan Greek term for an evil spirit. This terminology, which we saw in Apuleius’s De deo Socratis discussed in the Introduction, raises some questions, since in Christian theology, all demons are evil, whereas the Greeks differentiated between good (eudaimones) and evil (cacodaimones) spirits. Herbert also refers to demons as “larvae” or “larvales,” which is another pagan Greek term for a spirit as mentioned by Apuleius. In this case, “larvae” were negative spiritual forces, thought of as wandering troublemakers. Intriguingly, Herbert picks up this idea of the wandering spirit when he refers a number of times to a demon as a “gyrovagus” (one who wanders in circles). This was actually a derogatory term developed in ascetic Christianity to describe monks who fled their life of discipline and wandered about the desert. In applying the term to demons,
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Herbert sends an unsettling message to his monastic readers: a monk without discipline is as bad as a demon. Herbert also situates his demons firmly in the biblical tradition. In one terrifying tale, a person is beset by a “twisting Leviathan” that appears before him in the form of a dragon and then dives upon his face as though about to devour it. The Leviathan was a coiled sea monster referred to a number of times in the Old Testament that was adopted in Christian mythology as a term for the Devil, while the dragon, as we have seen, was a Christian image of the Devil drawn from the Book of Revelation. In another of Herbert’s stories, a person tormented by a demon crosses himself and asks the demon who he is (finding out a demon’s name is the first step in exorcism). The demon chillingly replies: “I am he who tempted and beat Job.” This not only places the demon within the Christian tradition, it also emphasizes the enduring nature of evil and the long experience that demons have in tempting humans. As they do in Peter’s collection, demons also appear in animal form throughout Herbert’s stories—serpents are an obvious example. Yet what might also surprise us is the frequency with which Herbert describes demons appearing in the form of an ape. In a post-Darwinian world, we are used to thinking of apes as our nearest relatives and evolutionary forebears. However, to the medieval European mind—which had very limited first-hand experience of apes—they were terrifying creatures usually depicted as hostile to humans and often identified with demons.42 In one instance, Herbert describes a demon in the form of an ape leering into its victim’s face with a scornful eye and flaring nostrils, mocking him. The overwhelming sense of demons that emerges from Herbert’s collection is of their amazing multitude. Wherever they go, they travel in groups described as “crowds,” “hordes,” “flocks,” and “troops.” The air is thick
40 Chapter 2 with them. Herbert recounts a holy man who sees “infinite multitudes of demons” travelling through the air gathered together like tornados, filling the skies from the land to the heavens. Another pious man sees “with his bodily eyes” groups of demons wandering about here and there in closely pressed troops whose numbers appear almost infinite. Such descriptions emphasized for Herbert’s readers the contingency of the monastic profession and how vital its role was in protecting society from such a close and ever-present threat. Intriguingly, the pious man who “sees” the demons is able to provide a physical description of them, though he can only see them in detail when they hover in the air, particularly on bright sunny days—then the sight causes the hair to stand up on his arms. When they are in motion, however, he sees them only as whirling winds. We can see how greatly the description recounted by Herbert relies on traditional readings of demons and evil creatures. The pious man relates that they are misshapen like monstrous humans, having the stature of giants (which harks back to the Nephilim, the children of the Watcher Angels), the colour of Ethiopians (as mentioned in the last chapter, black skin was a persistent marker of evil in medieval Europe), the wiliness of snakes (a reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden), and the ferocity of lions (a reference to the New Testament description of the Devil as a roaring lion, 1 Pet. 5:8). They also have large heads, distended bellies, short humpbacked bodies, protracted necks, and long arms and legs.43 On another occasion Herbert declares that human senses cannot fully accommodate the extent of demons’ monstrosity and deformity. This is not to say that demons cannot appear in ordinary human form in order to deceive. As in Peter’s miracle collection, Herbert’s stories include a warning about a monk who was led out of the monastery by a demon pos-
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ing as a monk who was known to him. On another occasion, a monk lying awake at night sees a demon in the form of a beautiful woman wandering through the dormitory, tracing her fingers lasciviously over the sleeping forms of monks, intuiting their internal state and sensing “through external signs”—presumably erections—which ones will be open to temptation. He describes this demon as a “phantastica meretrix” (a phantasm prostitute) and a “pervicax bellua” (determined wild animal). At one point, perhaps in a foretaste of Dante’s trip to Hell with the Roman poet Virgil as his guide, Herbert recounts the vision of a trip to Hell and Heaven on which a pious man is led by Saint Augustine. They travel via innumerable places of punishment to the entrance of Hell itself. With trembling limbs and his heart racing from fear, the man peers into the black depths of the terrifying abyss. It is filled with the terrifying shouts and moans of the tormented being devoured alive in a fire, a death most horrifying—except that they cannot actually die. From here Augustine leads the pious man to the regions of unending joy, revealing to him the blessed mansions where souls live divorced from their bodies. (Given the Christian theology of the resurrection of the body, this cannot be ultimate Heaven, but rather a place for good souls to reside until the Final Judgment when they will receive back their bodies.) As they leave, Augustine advises the man to choose from the evidence of his eyes which end he would prefer. We also get the sense that miracle tales of demonic attack could function as psychological outlets for monks struggling with their conversion. It is of course historically questionable to speak of “psychology” so many cen turies before the term itself was invented, but with cautious application it can offer us an insight into the complex mental worlds and struggles experienced by some medieval people that perhaps resulted in demonic visions.
42 Chapter 2 One figure who prompts us to consider the relationship in the Middle Ages between ill-health and demonic vision is the eleventh-century monk Otloh of St Emmeram. It was unusual prior to the twelfth century for the literate to write much, if anything, about their own life and experiences. The idea that one’s own life could be a model and source of teaching for others was contrary both to the idea of truth as divinely revealed in the holy writings, and to the modesty and humility that were fundamental to the monastic calling. Christians were certainly encouraged to draw inspiration from the lives and action of holy people, especially saints, but there was no reason for them to tell their own stories. Otloh turns these assumptions on their head in his collection of miracle tales, compiled in the late eleventh century. The authors of other collections tended to insist on the authenticity of the tales they were relating by recounting who they heard them from, but Otloh is unusual in including in his collection visions of demonic temptation that he experienced himself.44 It is evident from Otloh’s tales that he was frequently unwell. On one occasion, reading the Roman author Lucan (reading pagan authors seems typically to have instilled in medieval monks a sense of guilt and anxiety), he is blasted by three tremendous gusts of wind that leave him utterly bereft of strength, stripped of all his senses. A week later, still attempting to read the same text, he is accosted in bed one night by a man with a threatening countenance and a terrifying appearance who beats him with an inhuman savagery and ferocity. The beatings continue repeatedly thereafter, soaking his shirt and his bed with blood, until Otloh begins to wonder if he is sinking into madness. Even more terrifying, when he asks the young man who sleeps in the bed next to him if he hears these nightly attacks, the boy replies that he has heard nothing. However, when Otloh takes off his shirt and asks
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the boy if he can see any welts, the boy informs him that they completely cover his back. Several years later, at a time when he is in a state of constant disagreement with his abbot, Otloh again falls into a torpor. Several days into this particular illness he sees the dormitory fill with smoke and realizes that this is the work of malign spirits; soon he hears them arguing over how best they can attack him. He tries to sing Psalms to save himself, but the demons come and press his lips together with their fingers. Now utterly exhausted, he is suddenly transported to an open field where he is surrounded by a crowd of demons who mock him with loud raucous laughter. Realizing his peril, he is filled with great sadness, which angers the demons even more. They confront him crying out: “Don’t you want to laugh and joke with us? Well, if you want sadness, we’ll give you sadness!” They then carry him with them and Otloh notes that they move with such astonishing speed that they cover a vast distance in almost no time. The mechanics of angelic motion would be more thoroughly discussed by the Scholastics in following centuries, but it was understood that angels and demons were not bound by the limitations of ordinary human movement. The demons then place Otloh on a precipitous peak whose base is so far below he cannot see it. They circle around him, mockingly asking him where God and his faith are. They declare that there is no God and that no power can stand against them. Threatening to knock him off the mountain and into the abyss, they demand that he do their will. Yet Otloh remembers that God is everywhere and at once a man appears before him admonishing him to pay no heed to the demons since they are utterly false, and to know that God sees all Otloh’s trials and sufferings. After this man disappears, the demons beat Otloh even more fiercely, laughing about the fact that his helper could not
44 Chapter 2 stay in their presence because they were too powerful. It is in this state of near exhaustion that Otloh suddenly hears a bell ringing and awakens from the vision to find himself back in his bed, with a bell summoning the monks to the divine office. Guibert of Nogent was a monk writing in France in the early twelfth century who also penned a text that functions as an early form of autobiography. His account of his early life and monastic conversion included the great historical events of his day, along with a range of demonic occurrences. In one instance, Guibert tells how the Devil tormented his pious mother after she had learned that her husband had been taken captive in a foreign battle. Lying unable to sleep in her bed at night, overcome with fear and anxiety, she felt the Devil come and sit upon her chest. Crushed under the Devil’s great weight almost to the point of suffocation, she was paralysed and unable to speak. She called for divine help in her mind and a good spirit appeared at the end of her bed. The Devil rose up and hurled itself at the good spirit and both crashed to the floor. This caused the room to shake so violently that the servants were awakened and rushed in to help. They found Guibert’s mother frighteningly pale and near death.45 Such instances of demonic sleep paralysis would become more common in the early modern period when they were seen as evidence of witchcraft, with the creature on the chest of the victim being understood as the witch herself, a demon she had sent, or her familiar animal. The phenomenon was at that time popularly described as being “witchridden” or “hag-ridden”;46 the sensation is most famously represented by Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting of a “night mare,” which depicts a demon hunched on the chest of a woman who has swooned and been transported into an otherworldly realm between life and death (see Figure 3). Instances of sleep paralysis accompanied by inexplicable
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Figure 3. John Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare (1781). © Wikimedia Commons.
feelings of dread and a sense of a creature sitting on the chest are still commonly reported today. Others of Guibert’s demon stories are problematic, however, because they push the boundaries of earlier beliefs about the role and function of demons in a Christian society. Some stories seem to be framed by theological assumptions that would appear to be at odds with contemporary orthodoxy, while others offer little in the way of spiritual guidance but appear rather as titillating or humorous tales. Of particular concern is a story that Guibert relates about a man who undertakes a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in order to expiate the nonmarital relationship in which he has been living for some time (Guibert, pp. 202–04). Not able to give up the memory of the relationship entirely, he takes his concubine’s
46 Chapter 2 sash with him on his journey. The Devil disguises himself as St. James and meets the traveller on the way, accusing him of false thoughts and calling him out for his possession of the sash. In punishment for his sin, the Devil tells him, he must cut off his penis and slit his throat. The man does so and his friends, unaware of his sin, offer Masses on his behalf to God (although how they can have missed that he has mutilated himself and committed suicide— both serious sins—is not explained). God then takes pity on the man and restores him to life, whereupon he confesses his sin and resolves to lead a good life from that point forward. Despite this unlikely happy ending, there is much about this story that is difficult. We have seen that demons and the Devil can disguise themselves as monks and even abbots, but the Devil here appears in the form of a saint. Even more concerning, it was an unshakable tenet of patristic demonology that a demon would never be granted the power by God to tempt a person into self-harm, and certainly never into the unforgivable sin of suicide. The almost unremarkable way that the Devil exercises these truly frightening powers in this story reveals that the function of demonic tale-telling in the high Middle Ages was evolving. Demonic tales were departing from the role they played in the patristic world, where they codified sin and regulated behaviour, and were becoming forms of popular entertainment tinged with Christian moral overtones. Thus while some of Guibert’s demonic tales are terrifying, others are simply funny. We can imagine that a demon might appear as a ravening bear to induce fear, or as a pig to symbolize the filth of sin, but what are we to make of demons that appear as badgers (pp. 206–07)? Or of the story of the man who was accosted by a demon while in the latrine and was so terrified that he jumped up and ran out, hitting his head on the doorframe (p. 114)?
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Guibert seems to have little justification for telling these tales beyond their entertainment value. Perhaps defensively, Guibert notes that some demons are fairly harmless pranksters while others are more seriously focused on causing pain and suffering (pp. 116, 207). However, he offers no theological or scriptural basis for this distinction, and we might see here an incomplete blending of elements drawn from pagan folklore, like imps, with more orthodox Christian depictions of demons as malevolent fallen angels. Other appearances that Guibert attributes to demons give us an insight into the social mores and prejudices of his time. For instance, Guibert tells of a pious priest who became a novice in a monastery and was accosted one night by a crowd of demons who appeared as Scotsmen, complete with sporrans about their hips, and demanded money from him (pp. 113–14). One interesting development in Guibert’s collection of tales is his assertion that demons love women and even attempt to sleep with them. This marks a change from the world of desert eremitism where men were the ones suffering demonic temptation, where the tempting spirit often appeared in the form of a beautiful woman, and where the intention of the tempting demon was simply to induce feelings of lust in the monk, not actually to copulate with him. While Guibert coyly tells us that he will say no more about such things due to a sense of shame (p. 207), the thirteenth-century Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach is not so reticent. Caesarius collected over 750 wondrous tales in his Dialogue on Miracles (Dialogus miraculorum), and a significant proportion of these involve the actions of demons or the words of demoniacs. Indeed, Book 5 is devoted to demons and contains 56 individual stories, but demonic tales can be found throughout the work, especially Book 3 on confession and Book 4 on temptation. The dialogue form of the text, constructed as
48 Chapter 2 questions from a novice and replies from a more senior monk, offers Caesarius an opportunity to rehearse lurid and terrifying demonic tales that are meant to be edifying, though at times they seem simply salacious.47 Caesarius states that there are four ways in which demons attack humans: by offering them false promises, by undermining their faith, by imposing bodily afflictions, and by slaying them through sin (Dialogue 5.15). The idea of false promises we see in stories of demonic seduction, such as when a woman believes that a handsome knight has come to rescue her from an unhappy marriage. The undermining of faith we can see as the demonic infliction of acedia, which causes a monk or nun to lose hope in salvation and fall into despair. The idea of demon-induced bodily afflictions harks back to the New Testament world where demon possession could be manifested in physical complaints such as leprosy, deafness, blindness, or paralysis. But the fourth form of demonic attack that Caesarius mentions, slaying through sin, remains problematic. Caesarius states the incontestable position that no demonic action can be undertaken without God’s express permission (5.52), but his stories can cause us to wonder how true this is. For instance, when a demon tempts a monk by appearing to him in the form of an angel and seemingly uses prophecy to coerce the monk into a theft for which he is eventually hanged (5.16), we might wonder if earlier limitations on the powers of demons are being exceeded. Is it fair if a human is tempted by a form that appears to be angelic? Is it right that a demon can tempt a person to the point where he loses his life? Similar problems exist with the demonic instigation of acedia. Although, as mentioned above, the European experience of monasticism was far removed from the heat and isolation of the desert, the despair caused by acedia remained a serious issue for medieval monastics.
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Caesarius argues that the Devil, hating monastic virtue, can inflame the heart of the pious with doubt, leading to sickness, melancholy, and eventually despair of salvation. From here, suicide becomes likely. Caesarius rehearses four stories of acedia (4.39–42). In the first, a young nun who is doubting her profession is granted an out-of-body experience in which she sees pure souls as they truly exist, as globes with eyes. Returning to her body, she is restored in her faith. Other stories do not end so well, however. One nun of long standing, drawn into melancholy and thence to disbelief and despair, throws herself into the Moselle River in a suicide attempt. She is saved from drowning and Caesarius suggests that her long years of pious service will stand her in good stead when she has to answer for her actions at the Final Judgment. Yet in the next two stories, a lay brother and a nun do drown themselves while in the throes of despair. Caesarius offers no doctrinal comment on how these pious people can have been tormented by the Devil to a point where they would commit the unforgivable sin of suicide and so be lost from the Christian community forever. Caesarius does rehearse some traditional understandings of demons. For instance, he repeats the idea we saw articulated by the desert fathers that each individual is assigned a personal demon to tempt them and an angel to protect them (5.1). Yet some of his stories also appear to be based in word magic rather than Church doctrine, including several tales of people who become possessed by the Devil when someone says to them “Go to the Devil” or “the Devil take you” (5.11, 12, 26). Like Guibert’s, Caesarius’s demons tend to be found loitering around latrines. Similarly, Caesarius follows Guibert in suggesting (without any authoritative texts to support this claim) that there exist both more and less harmful demons, the more harmful being those who were the more virulent in their envy
50 Chapter 2 of God in Heaven, and the less harmful being those who simply followed the others in their rebellion (5.35). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Caesarius’s demonology is his consideration of demoniacs. These are people whose bodies have been possessed by a demon or sometimes several demons at the one time—a key example of the latter being the New Testament story of the man possessed by the demons who called themselves “Legion” because there were so many of them (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30). The idea of the demoniac is a medieval inheritance from Jewish and early Christian beliefs in demon possession and the cultural practice of exorcism. The fact that Jesus himself performed a number of exorcisms in the Gospels and actively sent forth his disciples with a mission to cast out demons (Luke 10:17–18) gave the idea a theological pedigree acceptable to orthodox medieval Christianity.48 Nevertheless, demon possession raised critical questions for medieval Christian theologians. Where in the person did the demons reside when they possessed them? Could they enter the soul? Did the person still retain any free will if their words and actions were being manipulated by demons? If a person died while possessed, could they enter Heaven or were they necessarily consigned to Hell? Caesarius provides answers to these thorny questions. He insists that evil spirits can only enter the body and not the soul of a person—the soul can be entered by incorporeal God alone, in the form of the Holy Spirit. Demons can be said to “enter” the heart of a person only insofar as they draw the soul towards evil desires through temptation (5.15). This means that the possessed are not in danger of dying outside a state of grace since their soul always remains free of demonic occupation and retains the ability to will what is good. As Caesarius notes, a demoniac can still make confession, pray, and take communion (5.25, 26).49 Indeed, Caesarius reports that a demon, upon
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being forced to leave the body of a woman whom he had possessed from the time she was five years old, declared that she would henceforth be spared all the pains of Purgatory due to her years of possession (5.26). As to where in the body the demons might make their home, Caesarius suggests any bodily cavities might do—the bowels for instance—manifesting again the medieval association of demons with excrement (5.15). This requirement for bodily space also reinforces the idea of demons as somehow substantial despite their fundamentally spiritual nature. A twelfth-century ritual of exorcism gives us an insight into beliefs about how demons were physically incorporated inside the body of the possessed. In conjuring the demon or demons (some rituals explicitly allow for the number of possessing demons to be unknown) to leave the body, one ritual gives a comprehensive array of bodily parts, functions, and faculties from which the demon must depart, never to return. This legalistic anatomization of the body, with parts referred to in subsections or in multiple synonyms, gives a sense of demons as crafty defence attorneys, looking for loopholes and ready to maintain their occupation of any body part from which they are not explicitly expelled. Thus demons are conjured to exit not only the tongue (“de lingua”) but also from underneath the tongue (“de sublingua”). They are expelled from the throat multiple times over, in the synonymous Latin terms “de guttore,” “de gulis,” “de intergula,” and “de faucibus”. They must exit not only the feet, but also the soles of the feet, ankles, heels, toes, toe-joints, and toenails. The ritual similarly covers what we might think of as renewable or expellable parts of the body, as it commands demons to leave the afflicted person’s blood, humours, sweat, urine, and semen, and they are particularly instructed to leave the stomach and intestines in the form of liquid waste (“liquefactus”). They are even expelled from bodily facul-
52 Chapter 2 ties we might not think of as physical locations, such as the nerves, voice, five senses, and thoughts.50 Demoniacs offer Caesarius great didactic potential because they allow demons to speak directly to interrogators about matters that would otherwise be far beyond human knowledge. In a number of tales they function as lie detectors, since they perceive and loudly announce the sins of anyone brought into their presence unless that person has fully confessed those sins and performed penance for them. This allows Caesarius to insist on the power of confession to eradicate sin. Demoniacs also allow Caesarius to give his readers a veracious sense of demonic community by presenting them with the slang they use. We learn from demoniacs, for instance, that demons call the Virgin Mary “that woman” because they fear to say her name (5.44), and that they disparagingly refer to confession as “whispering” (5.29). In one tale, a demon “chattering away through the mouth” of the man he has possessed, as Caesarius describes it, is asked about the fall of the angels from Heaven and whether he would change anything about his actions. The demon haughtily declares that he is so filled with malice that he would far rather drag a single soul with him to Hell than return to Heaven (5.9). This story allows Caesarius to remind his readers of the obdurate sinfulness of demons. Yet his next story undercuts this significantly. In it, two demons inhabiting two different demoniacs start having an argument while their female hosts are in church (5.10). Reverting to the moment of their fall, one asks the other why they ever chose to follow Lucifer. The first replies with typical demonic obstinacy that what’s done is done and there’s no point regretting it now. The other, however, offers a rare (and completely unorthodox) moment of demonic repentance. He declares that if a column of burning iron set about with the sharpest steel
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blades were to be lifted from earth to heaven, and if he had a body that could suffer pain, he would spend his time from the present until the Day of Judgment, now inching upwards, now sliding back down, until he could return to his former home of glory. There is seemingly no end to the forms in which demons and the Devil can appear in Caesarius’s tales. Within only a few stories we can find demons featuring as dragons, a thick-necked peasant (which gives us an insight into Caesarius’s social milieu), mangy cats, toads, scurrying dormice, grunting herds of pigs, enormous dogs (who often lead reprobate monks by great chains around their necks), and even a large disembodied eye, such as J. R. R. Tolkien used for the evil figure of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Caesarius tells us repeatedly that demons exist in large swarms and are “as black as Ethiopians,” continuing the medieval association of blackness with evil. The corporeality of demons remains undefined in Caesarius’s tales. He repeats the Christian orthodoxy that they possess only misty, shadowy bodies as insubstantial as a cloud (5.5, 28), and yet for his tales to have full effect, demons clearly have to be highly visible as well. Indeed, Caesarius has the monk in the Dialogue declare to the novice that “there can be no doubt of their existence, since they can be seen, heard and touched by men” (5.4). We are also obliged to posit some kind of fairly substantial demonic body when we read the numerous tales Caesarius relates of sexual couplings between humans and demons. In one, a demon is said to have lain with a woman for six years in the form of a handsome knight, copulating with her “invisibly” while her husband lay asleep in the same bed (3.7). In another tale, a young woman is removed from her hometown by her father to whom she has confessed the ongoing relationship she has been having with a demon. When the demon turns up for
54 Chapter 2 his nightly encounter with girl and finds her gone, he is enraged and demands from the father to know where his “wife” is (3.8). The novice then asks the monk whether, if they can assume human bodies, demons can actually impregnate human women (3.11). The monk replies that demons collect all wasted human seed (that is, the product of masturbation) and fashion it into bodies in which they copulate with humans. Any child born of these unions is therefore fully human and entitled to be raised from the dead at the Day of Judgment (3.12). The story remains a salient warning, however, against the dangers of masturbation since it both leads the perpetrator into sin and provides material for demonic incursions. One of the key functions of the Devil in the Middle Ages, to monastic minds, was to tempt converts to turn back from the cloisters to the world. We have already seen Otloh’s account of some demonic visions he suffered, but in another text he wrote, The Book of the Temptation of a Certain Monk, he describes the struggles he undertook against the Devil in order to effect his conversion to the monastic life.51 At first the Devil tries to drive Otloh to despair by pointing out how sinful he is and how unworthy of the monastic profession. Next, the Devil tries extending Otloh his compassion, commiserating that God should be so blind to his suffering and offer him no support even though he can see how ardently he desires to become a monk. Then the Devil turns to tricks. Some mornings he wakes Otloh in the pitch darkness and sends him scurrying to the church for prayers hours ahead of time; other mornings he binds Otloh in bed with a sense of lethargy and fatigue. On occasions Otloh finds his bodily senses blurring and fading while he clearly hears voices whispering in his ear, dissuading him from his monastic profession. In the end, however, through the power of prayer and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, God removes the burden
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of doubt from Otloh’s soul and he is able to proceed along the monastic pathway. We also possess an autobiographical account written in late twelfth-century Germany that claims to relate the conversion of a young Jewish man called Judah to the Christian faith under the baptismal name of Hermann.52 Argument has long raged over whether this represents a genuine conversion narrative written by a Jewish person or whether it was a pious Christian fabrication designed to illustrate the power of God to effect the transformation of even the hardest hearts (Jewish people being represented, as we have seen above, as obdurate sinners). It would certainly not be the first or only Christian forgery of the Middle Ages—as contradictory as it might seem to us today, to some medieval Christians a forgery was not necessarily immoral or hypocritical if its ultimate purpose was the greatness and glory of God.53 Whether the account of Hermann-Judah is genuine or not, it gives us an insight into the way that medieval Christians thought the Devil would act to oppose a person’s conversion. At each point in the narrative when obstacles are placed in the way of Hermann-Judah’s conversion, he perceives these as the actions and snares of the Devil. For instance, when he attempts to follow Christian rites, but the words of the Jewish Law keep recurring to him, admonishing him not to have anything to do with the ways of Gentiles, Hermann-Judah sees this as the cunning seduction of the Devil, who not only uses holy words, but even his own conscience against him (chap. 11). Just as Hermann-Judah is making solid progress in Christian understanding, his Jewish community insists that he enter upon an arranged marriage. He subsequently finds himself entirely engrossed in the pleasures of the flesh, falling away from his new interest in Christian teachings (chap. 10). However, Hermann-Judah sees the
56 Chapter 2 greatest fraud perpetrated by the Devil as occurring at his eventual Christian baptism (chap. 19). Not understanding that he needs to be fully immersed three times in the holy water while facing three different points on the compass, Hermann-Judah attempts to flee the freezing water after each immersion, which would have rendered the rite ineffective. He even begins to suspect that the Christians are mocking him by making him go into the icy water time and again, and wonders if he should just leave, a thought he later sees as clear evidence of the Devil’s desire to suborn his conversion. In the end, however, the Devil fails in his opposition and Hermann-Judah becomes a Christian, entering the monastic profession. We can see from the tales related above how the demonic continued to define the parameters of the monastic life in the European Middle Ages. Stories of demonic temptation could give those who had taken their vows an enhanced sense of purpose by outlining their role in the cosmic struggle between good and evil being waged largely within the cloisters. Stories could encourage adherence to monastic protocols, or provide an explanation to help those struggling with their conversion overcome the obstacles in their path, or even terrify the wavering into compliance through visions of Hell. Demonic tales could also engender a sense of community amongst monks as a shared form of moral entertainment. Yet we have also seen how these tales present an inconsistent agglomeration of ideas about the demonic. What can appear to be glaring contradictions about demonic nature and powers can be found within and between collections of miracle tales, and more disconcertingly, between tales and accepted Catholic doctrine. This does not seem to have disturbed the monastic collectors and consumers of these tales, either because each tale was taken on its own merits, or because the over-
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riding moral message was considered more important than the plot-mechanics of how the story arrived at it. Inconsistency could be accommodated when the goal was monastic edification and entertainment, but with the rise of the universities in the thirteenth century, all this would change. Newly university-educated philosopher–theologians would place a premium on rigorous thought, epistemological exactitude, and taxonomies of knowledge. They would codify knowledge about demons in a way that could not have been anticipated before.
58 Chapter 2
Notes Peter the Venerable, Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews, trans. Irven M. Resnick (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2013); Peter the Venerable, Writings against the Saracens, trans. Irven M. Resnick (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2016). 40 Latin text available as Petri Cluniacensis abbatis de miraculis libri duo, ed. Dionysia Bouthillier, Corpus Christianorum, continuatio mediaeualis 83 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1988); there is currently no English translation. 41 Latin text available as Herberti Turrium Sardiniae Archiepiscopi, De miraculis libri tres, PL 185.1273A–1384B; there is currently no English translation. 42 Although the Devil was known in early modern times as “God’s ape,” this was not in relation to him appearing as a beast in simian form, but to his propensity to “ape” (imitate) God in attempting to establish his own creation with its own forms of worship and ritual: see Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 81–82. 43 On the monastic ability to see demons, see Tom Licence, “The Gift of Seeing Demons in Early Cistercian Spirituality,” Cistercian Studies Quarterly 39 (2004): 49–65. 44 The following visions are recounted in Latin in Otloh von St. Emmeram, Liber visionum, ed. Paul Gerhard Schmidt, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1989). I have prepared an English translation that is to appear in my monograph on Otloh, forthcoming with Brepols. 45 Guibert of Nogent, A Monk’s Confession: The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent, trans. Paul J. Archambault (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), pp. 40–41. 46 Janine Rivière, “Demons of Desire or Symptoms of Disease? Medical Theories and Popular Experiences of the 'Nightmare' in Pre modern England,” in Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions: The Early Modern Atlantic World, ed. Ann Marie Plane and Leslie Tuttle, pp. 49–71 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). 47 Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, trans. H. von E. Scott and C. C. Swinton Bland, 2 vols. (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1929). 48 Eric Sorensen, “Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament,” in Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament and Early 39
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Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), chap. 5, pp. 118–67; and Amanda Witmer, Jesus, the Galilean Exorcist: His Exorcisms in Social and Political Context (London: Bloomsbury, 2012). 49 By contrast, early modern demoniacs often manifested an inability to make confession or take communion: see Sarah Ferber, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 26, 29, 128, 131–32; and Brian P. Levack, The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 15. This may have been related to the need for demoniacs in the early modern period to perform their possession more extravagantly in order to convince a public increasingly sceptical of false or pretended cases of possession (Ferber, p. 17) or to allow Catholic exorcists to prove the divine validity of the Host in the face of Protestant denial of its power (Ferber, pp. 30–31). 50 Text sourced from Florence Chave-Mahir, L’exorcisme des possédés dans l’Église d’Occident (Xe–XIVe siècle) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), Appendix 4, pp. 362–64, edited from Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 7701, fols 74–79. 51 Latin text from Otloh von St. Emmeram, Liber de temptatione cuiusdam monachi: Untersuchung, kritische Edition und Übersetszung, ed. and German trans. Sabine Gäbe (Bern: Peter Lang, 1999). I have prepared an English translation of this text, which is to appear in my monograph on Otloh, forthcoming with Brepols. 52 There are two English translations of this text: Karl F. Morrison, Conversion and Text: The Cases of Augustine of Hippo, HermanJudah, and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992), pp. 76–113; and Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Conversion of Herman the Jew: Autobiography, History, and Fiction in the Twelfth Century, trans. Alex J. Novikoff (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010; 1st ed. 2003), pp. 202–39. 53 See, for instance, Alfred Hiatt, The Making of Medieval Forgeries: False Documents in Fifteenth-Century England (London: British Library, 2004).
Demons in the Schoolroom
An epistemological revolution swept Western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The face of learning in the West was radically transformed by a new type of educational institution, a proliferation of authoritative texts, innovative methodologies for gathering knowledge, and new genres for classifying information. Leading the charge was an emerging generation of thinkers known as the Schoolmen or the Scholastics.54 Up until the twelfth century, formal education (which was available only for boys throughout the medieval period) had been carried out in schools associated with the major European cathedrals, and school masters were learned and pious men familiar with standard curriculum texts such as the Bible and the Church Fathers. All this changed when the educational institutions known as universities began to be established, divorcing centres of learning from places of Christian worship. It was a time of informational foment in the West: Spain, a country with sizable Jewish populations and which functioned as a site of cross-cultural contact between the European West and Islamic North Africa, developed a Latin translation movement that would rewrite the Western curriculum. Suddenly Western Europe had access for the first time to Latin translations of Jewish and Arabic texts of philosophy, med-
62 Chapter 3 icine, and astronomy, and to a vast range of Ancient Greek writings that had been lost to the West for centuries. This included major works of Aristotle on rhetoric, politics, ethics, and the natural sciences. The same process of literary and scholarly transmission also took place in the East as trade and military routes opened up by the Crusades brought new texts and knowledge into Europe. These texts challenged Western epistemologies, or ways of knowing. Previously Western education had been reliant on traditions of Church-approved texts and doctrines established at ecumenical councils, but now it was confronted by innovative ways of obtaining knowledge including sense perception, observation, personal experience, and scientific experiment. This influx meshed fortuitously with an intellectual approach already underway in the West. For some time in the twelfth century there had been a growing dissatisfaction amongst scholars with the manifold contradictions (some of which we have seen in previous chapters) that could be found within and between the approved authors and teachings of the Church. Scholars had begun to synthesize these and iron out discrepancies between them. This work was most famously initiated by Peter Abelard in his massive collection of contrastive patristic teachings, the Sic et non (Yes and No), in the Prologue to which he argued that doubt leads to questioning, and questioning leads to the truth.55 This work was soon overshadowed, however, by one that would become the standard university textbook for the next several centuries: the Sentences of Peter Lombard.56 The Sentences comprised four books dealing with the Trinity, creation, the incarnation of Christ, and the sacraments, and no university education could be complete without an understanding of it. By the thirteenth century, scholars completing a Bachelor in Theology were required to lecture and produce a commentary upon it.57 Book 2 on creation
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contains a number of distinctiones (formal topics) offering teachings on angels, demons, and their nature and history that would be authoritative for centuries to come. What Abelard had done in his Sic et non was to harness dialectics, a disputative mode of thinking in which propositions are set against one other and arguments are made for and against each in order to determine which is correct. Dialectical thinking and the academic disputes it engendered would become the key teaching tool in the new universities of the thirteenth century; this in turn gave rise to new scholarly genres. The most important of these was the quaestio or academic question, and this was the form in which most of the discussions about the Devil and demons would now be framed. The structure of the quaestio required that a proposition be posed and the reasons why it might seem or not seem to be true enumerated according to major biblical and patristic authorities. The author would then raise a serious objection to this line of arguments (the “sed contra” or “But on the other hand”) before stating his own authoritative position (the “corpus” or body). After this he would refute in order all the initial arguments adduced in support of the proposition.58 Associated with the quaestio were two other genres. The summa was a collection of quaestiones that aimed for a complete and logically ordered coverage of a topic or field of knowledge (such as theology, law, medicine). In the thirteenth century the most important of these was the Summa theologiae compiled by the Dominican Thomas Aquinas over a number of decades.59 Its quaestiones on angelic and demonic beings give us a powerful insight into the sorts of questions that were being asked by medieval thinkers about these spiritual creatures along with the evidence that was being sifted to provide answers that were both consonant with Christian teaching while also in accord with newly adopted scientific principles. Another
64 Chapter 3 major genre of the era, although it did have earlier antecedents, was the encyclopaedia that aimed at the collection of all knowledges. The Speculum maius (Great Mirror) compiled by the Dominican Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth century transmits a number of tales about demons along with theological positions about their natures. Despite their avowed interest in the natural world and its mechanics, the Scholastics were still fundamentally Christian philosophers and theologians; indeed, most were monks or friars, and some held important ecclesiastical positions as bishops or archbishops. But unlike earlier Christian scholars, instead of seeking strictly to demarcate and limit Christian knowledge to biblical and patristic texts and to champion these texts against “pagan” and “infidel” learning, they were now interested in determining if and how traditional Christian teachings could be synthesized with new learning derived from Jewish, Arabic, and Greek sources. At times this would create doctrinal crises, such as in 1270 and 1277 when Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris, banned a number of propositions from being taught at the University of Paris because they appeared too beholden to Aristotelian thinking and not cognizant enough of Christian orthodoxy. It is interesting that a number of these concerned the nature and place of angels, showing that these spiritual beings, and the philosophical implications they could be taken to illustrate, in some ways lay at the intellectual heart of the educational project.60 The Scholastics had two major reasons for what might appear an unusual interest, for scientifically minded men, in angels and demons. The first was simply that these beings were part of God’s creation, and the Scholastics aimed at a comprehensive understanding of how the universe functioned to God’s greater glory, from the movements of the celestial planets to the movements of vital spirits through the human body and everything in between. The Scho-
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lastics were deeply invested in ideas of order, hierarchy, and the interaction between levels of creation, and angels and demons occupied planes that seemed essential to the completed structure of creation. Because angels occupied the upper air (or empyrean heaven) while demons were in the lower air (or aery heaven), they provided a graded structure to creation, interposing themselves between God in Heaven who was incorporeal, impassible, and immortal, and humans on earth who were corporeal, passion-ridden, and mortal. It seemed to the Scholastics that the universe would be neither logical nor complete if angels and demons did not occupy their allotted levels in this scheme. The second major reason that academic men liked thinking about angels and demons was because these creatures offered themselves so amenably to thought experiments. Observation of the natural world and physical experimentation were two of the new epistemologies that allowed the Scholastics to make sense of the world around them, but when these approaches were not possible, such as in dealing with the big questions of creation, they could have recourse to thought experiments—that is, imagining a scenario and debating its likely outcomes.61 Perhaps the most famous thought experiment in the medieval period was that proposed by the Arabic thinker known to the West as Avicenna (actually Husain ibn Abdullah ibn Ali ibn Sina) called “the flying man.”62 In this scenario, a man is imagined before the creation of time (so that he has no experience on which to call) floating free in space with all his limbs detached from his body and his eyes unable to see (so that he has no sense perception). Questions are then posed: would such a sense-deprived body know that it was sense-deprived? Would a sense-deprived body even have a sense of its own existence? This thought experiment goes to the question of the soul’s knowledge of its own existence, and in a way, can be seen as a forerunner
66 Chapter 3 of Descartes’s Enlightenment dictum “I think therefore I am” (“Cogito ergo sum”). Because angels and demons were disembodied intelligences, they made the perfect material for thought experiments, since the limitations of carnality could be dispensed with. For instance, William of Conches questioned whether an angel enclosed in a vacuum would still have the power of movement within that vacuum. This might seem like a nonsensical proposition—until we substitute the word “atom” for “angel” and ask if atoms are capable of propelled or self-directed movement in a vacuum. When we do so, we can see how medieval thinkers were attempting to understand the physical parameters of their world with the intellective concepts they had to hand. One of the greatest problems in medieval angelology was the place of angels—where were they and how did they move from one place to another? To give an example of how finely these propositions were argued, Aquinas devoted an analysis to the question of whether, when an angel moves from one point to another, it necessarily passes through any intermediate points. He concluded that it might if moving continuously but not if moving discontinuously (Summa theologiae [hereafter ST] 1.53.2). Aquinas also set in motion a fierce debate when he argued that every individual angel constituted a species unto itself (ST 1.50.4; De spiritualibus creaturis a.8). Consensus declared Aquinas wrong on this point. Yet Aquinas’s analysis of angelic locomotion can be seen as his attempt to theorize the movement of invisible and irreducible particles through space (think again of quantum theory), while his discussion of angelic species endeavours not only to refine the taxonomy of all the creatures in the universe, but to interrogate the application of taxonomic principles themselves. In this regard, his questions can appear valid, even proto-scientific, considerations. It was, nevertheless,
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questions like these that would subsequently lead early modern philosophers to declare scathingly that medieval Scholastics were only interested in deducing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (which never actually was a Scholastic concern). A good example of how the Scholastics applied their rigorous thinking to the accepted doctrines of the Church is evident in the case of guardian angels. We have seen in previous chapters how it was simply stated that each individual Christian had a guardian angel to watch over them, along with a demon to tempt them. But the Scholastics had questions: given the number of people in the world, and the fact that the number of people is always growing while the number of angels is unchanging from the moment of their creation, does the doctrine mean that every person has a unique angel, or would one angel have to look after multiple people? Doing some basic biblical mathematics, Peter Lombard worked out that the number of the elect is equal to the number of good angels (since blessed humans will make up the depleted ranks of the angels after the Day of Judgment), and the number of good angels is greater than the number of evil angels (since only one-third—or alternatively one-tenth—of angels fell), and the number of bad people is greater than the number of the elect (since not all will be saved)—all of which led him to the conclusion that any one angel, whether good or evil, would have to be assigned more than one person to look after / tempt, whether that meant they would have more than one person at any given moment, or a number of people sequentially as these died and were born (Sentences 2.11.1). Perhaps the greatest theological problem facing medieval Christian theologians was the ontological existence of evil within a belief framework which asserted that God was purely good, as was everything he created. How then could the Devil have rebelled against him? Anselm, archbishop
68 Chapter 3 of Canterbury from 1093, wrote a treatise entitled De casu diaboli (On the Fall of the Devil) in which he attempted to explain this.63 Anselm based his arguments on the concept of the will. Every angel (just as subsequently every human) had been created with a free will to choose either to follow God’s precepts or to go against them. But it did not seem to Anselm rigorous enough simply to state that Lucifer had exercised his free will and chosen to act badly, because that still implied there was some form of inherent wrongness in the way Lucifer had been created that had prompted him to choose to exercise his will badly. In other words, this explanation did not sufficiently quarantine God from the suspicion of having been the author of evil in some way. Anselm therefore argued that in the state he was created, the Devil could only have willed either justice or happiness, but clearly he could not have sinned in willing justice. The answer, then, was that the Devil sinned by willing something that would have made him happy, which is good in itself, but which he should not have willed at that point. In willing what God did not yet wish him to will, he willed beyond the limits of his created state as though he were subject to no one, and hence willed to be like God. Yet for Anselm, the problem is still not wholly solved, for where did this immoderate willing come from? If a creature can only will what God has given it to will, how can it sin? This is an ontological problem because if the Devil has an evil will, either he created this of and for himself, or there is existential evil in the world. Both ideas run contrary to Christian orthodoxy. The answer is that a creature should will to be happy but should will it justly: there is no happiness without justice. The will for happiness is good because it is a work of God and can only be evil insofar as it is unjust. Thus, for example, it is right for Jesus to will to be like God because that is his capacity as the Son of God, just as it is right for
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irrational beasts to will base pleasures such as food and sex, because this is suitable to their status as carnal creatures lacking in reason. However, it would be wrong for a human (or an angel) to will either of these things. When the Devil willed something that was not just, his will and its intention were not absolutely bad, but bad in a sense, and that badness did not come from the will of God. The power to will and the act of willing are good and come from God, but God also permits us to use good things unjustly. A creature needs to be able to will what is within bounds while not losing the capacity to will beyond those bounds—that is the nature of free will. Aquinas addressed this question of the Devil’s first sin in his extended treatise De malo (On Evil) written in the mid- to late thirteenth century.64 He distinguished between a will that is evil because what it wills is evil (Aquinas gives the examples of theft and fornication) and a will that is evil because although it wills what is good (Aquinas thinks here of prayer), it does so in a way that is contrary to what God has ordained (as when a person prays incessantly to the point where they become physically and mentally unwell). Aquinas then confirms that the Devil’s sin lay not in desiring something evil (equality with God), but in desiring something good (the happiness of understanding God fully) and desiring it improperly, because he willed to have it before God had ordained that he should, and so he attempted to gain this good by the power of his own nature rather than waiting for God’s grace. This solution had the benefit of asserting that there was no evil inherent in the Devil as God had created him; it thus provided a refutation to the Manichean and Cathar heresies that were founded upon the existential nature of evil. It was all very well to have cleared up the troubling question of how the Devil first came to sin, but this did not begin to explain why one-third of all the angels in Heaven
70 Chapter 3 chose to follow him in his rebellion. More troubling, the Scholastics found that when they investigated this question, cascades of others followed. At the heart of the problem lay the concept of the angelic hierarchies, which divided the angels into nine orders based on their duties, but also their closeness to God. This idea, drawn from both the Old and New Testaments (especially Paul’s letters Eph. 1:21 and Col. 1:16), was most influentially expressed in a text called The Celestial Hierarchy that was thought to have been authored by Dionysius the Areopagite, who is mentioned in the Book of Acts as a personal convert of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:34). Today we know that this biblical Dionysius was not the author of this text, which was in fact written in Greek in the fifth or sixth century CE, and for this reason we now call the otherwise unknown author of this text “Pseudo-Dionysius.” Medieval scholars, however, genuinely believed The Celestial Hierarchy to be the work of an apostolic convert, and so accorded it enormous authority.65 According to this text, the highest levels of angels—the Seraphim and Cherubim—were devoted solely to the love and worship of God, while the lowest levels—archangels and angels—ministered to humans and acted as messengers between them and God, as for example Gabriel, who announced to Mary the conception of Christ (Luke 1:26). The problem was that Seraphim were associated with the flames of divine love and devoted their time circling God and singing “Holy holy holy” to him. It was therefore inconceivable that Lucifer should have come from this order of angels, because these were the purest and most loving of essences. Yet if Lucifer did not come from this order, he must have come from a lower order—but how then would he have developed the overweening pride to wish to become like God? As one scholar, John of Paris, observed, a pauper does not seek instant elevation to the position of king, but simply an amelioration of his current state.66 To
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covet divine equality, Lucifer must have been of the first order. Indeed, why would the other angels have followed him if he were not the greatest of them all, since those in more elevated positions are not in the practice of following the commands of those lower to them? This was such an intractable problem that it could only be solved by doing away with the hierarchies entirely—at least temporarily. Thus Peter Lombard argued that the angels were only distributed into their nine orders after the fall of Lucifer and his cohort, so that the doctrine that “some fell from every order” meant that those who fell would have been allotted across all the nine orders if they had not previously fallen (Sentences 18.104.22.168). Indeed, Lombard insisted that had Seraphim as such existed at the time of the fall, none of that order would ever have rebelled. The motivation of the other rebellious angels to follow Lucifer was less clear. They could not have desired equality with God in the same way as Lucifer, but must instead have desired something in Lucifer himself. For Vincent of Beauvais, what they sought was Lucifer’s leadership. The Franciscan theologian Peter of John Olivi gave a more nuanced answer. He investigated the nature of hierarchy and leadership in terms of love, noting that it was natural for those in lower orders to give service selflessly to those above them even to the point of death, while those higher in a hierarchy would treat their followers like a mother hen sheltering her chicks beneath her wings. This mutual love had a deleterious effect: Lucifer saw himself reflected in the love of his subordinates like a man who sees himself reflected in many mirrors at once, which inflated his sense of self beyond reasonable bounds. At the same time, Lucifer’s followers adhered more closely to him than they did to God, since Lucifer was present and visible amongst them, while God was more distant and less able to be perceived experientially. In the end, the powerful, mutually
72 Chapter 3 productive feeling that developed between Lucifer and his subordinate angels acted like the bond between the head and its body, necessitating that the angels would cling to Lucifer no matter the cost.67 Olivi thus answered the conundrum of the fall of the angels, but only by positing a deep, experiential love between Lucifer and the rebellious angels that was contingent on the natural functions of hierarchy—which is perhaps a less than comforting answer, since a medieval person would have expected to find love and order leading naturally to justice and right action, not to rebellion and apostasy. Another issue raised by the rebellion of the angels was how they communicated with one another. Given that they were disembodied intelligences and therefore without the physical means of speech and hearing, how could they transmit thoughts? Aquinas did not think this was a difficult problem. Speaking is, after all, no more than making manifest a concept in one’s mind to someone else, and as intellective substances, angels were well placed to do precisely that. To communicate, then, an angel simply had to use its will to direct a mental concept towards another angel (ST 1.107). Physical location and distance between the sender and receiver were not considerations, and neither was privacy, since an angel only had to will its mental conception towards another angel for it to be received. And as the direction of the thought was entirely volitional, it could not be accidentally intercepted, “overheard,” or mistakenly sent to the wrong angel. To William of Auvergne, this had an additional implication for demons. Because angels and demons did not have bodies or voices, they clearly did not need names either, since no other substance of their kind would ever need to call to them to get their attention or communicate with them—that would all be done intellectively with a directed thought-concept. This was a revolutionary corollary for
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William to advance, since exorcistic practice from ancient times had required the exorcist as a first step to find out the demon’s name in order to compel it to exit its victim— think, for example, of Jesus’s exorcism of the demons who called themselves “Legion” (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30). Moreover, medieval magic, as we will see in the next chapter, frequently claimed efficacy through the naming and summoning of specific demons. William, however, points out that demons are liars. They might give themselves a name if pushed to do so, but humans would have no means of knowing if this were an accurate name or simply a lie, or whether different demons might choose to answer to that particular name at different times. Moreover, what we might think of as a personal name for a particular demon might actually represent an office that demons hold, and so might apply to multiple demons at any given time.68 It was understood that when the rebellious angels were thrown down from Heaven they lost the fine ethereal bodies they had possessed as angels and came to inhabit aery or cloudy bodies. These were still spiritual bodies as befitted angels of a sort, but were necessarily grosser than the pure spirit bodies they had once had and which the good angels retained. This had important implications for their punishment: for some thinkers, demons required a measure of substance in their form so that they could suffer physical pain for their actions. It was suggested that their aery bodies remained finer than all the elements except the one to which they would eventually be subject—fire. Yet the Scholastics disagreed about exactly how this punishment would be effected. While some believed that the demons would be physically pained by corporeal fire in Hell, others thought the flames would be metaphysical rather than actual. They used the analogy of a dream, pointing out that although the things that beset us in our dreams have no physical reality, we respond to them in
74 Chapter 3 our dream with physical, mental, and emotional reactions that are as powerful as if they were real. This would be the same for demons in Hell: they would suffer spiritually the flames they would feel, but these flames, not being real, would never consume them.69 The Scholastics also wanted to resolve the apparent contradiction between the two doctrinal positions regarding the residence of the Devil and demons following their fall. Peter Lombard looked to a synthesis of the traditions, suggesting that some demons are in Hell on a daily basis, leading reprobate souls there, keeping them prisoner, and tormenting them. It is nevertheless possible, he thought, that demons could take turns at this task, cycling between Hell and the lower airs (Sentences 2.7.5). Thomas Aquinas took a more metaphysical approach to the question. Yes, indeed, some demons were now in Hell in order to torment the damned. However, the completeness of creation—the idea that all things that exist in the world have a purpose ordained by God and that nothing is superfluous—also suggests that demons have a role to play in the world, otherwise what would their fall have accomplished? This role can be understood as tempting humans in order to refine them and they can only do this if they are in the cloudy airs. However, even when they are in these airs, they carry the flames of Hell with them insofar as their will is saddened by the foreknowledge of the eternal punishment that awaits them following the Day of Judgment. Hence they are at the same moment in the cloudy airs and suffering the flames of Hell (ST 1.64.4). We have seen in the previous chapter that monastic miracle tales were highly dependent upon the visible form of demons for their immediacy of effect and frisson of terror. The Scholastics were more concerned to determine whether these bodies in which demons seemed to appear were in any sense real. William of Auvergne took this idea
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to task. A real body, he pointed out, is animated by a sensitive soul, exercises certain basic functions of life, and is capable of suffering; but this is not the case with demonic bodies. No attack upon them appears to harm them in any way—if they are resisted forcefully enough, they simply disappear. Further, a real body is capable of dying, in which case its remnants remain on the earth and putrefy in the normal way. Demonic bodies aren’t. They seem to appear and disappear at will, and on their departure leave behind no residue other than, perhaps, an unbearable stench. More significantly, William denied that demons have or would have been granted any power to animate matter instantaneously, which he sees as the prerogative of God alone, exercised at the Creation. It is ludicrous to imagine, he argues, that God would have gifted this divine power to demons for the purposes of leading his creation astray (De universo 2–2.c.34). However, Bartholomeus Anglicus (Bartholomew the Englishman) argued that the demonic power to generate physical bodies need not have operated instantaneously. He took the patristic idea expressed by Augustine (which appears to draw from Platonic Ideas) that due to the fineness of their intellect and the revelation of the divine workings of the universe received at their creation, demons know the seminal nature of things hidden from humans. They can use this knowledge to combine elements fortuitously and so produce a variety of forms. Nature does this, but in successive stages over time (as in the growth of a plant from seed). Demons, however, can do this through an acceleration of the natural process in a way that might appear instantaneous, but which does not actually involve new creation in the manner of God.70 The fact that this power is only temporarily gifted to demons by God is illustrated by the Old Testament story of the ten plagues of Egypt. Moses and Aaron created a plague of
76 Chapter 3 frogs, but Pharaoh’s own magi proved capable of reproducing the effect (Ex. 8:7), presumably through demonic agency. However, when Moses and Aaron then created a plague of gnats, the magi were not able to do likewise, declaring to Pharaoh: “This is the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19). For the Scholastics, this was proof that demons cannot do what they are not permitted to do, particularly since the creation of a gnat might seem like a simpler task than the creation of a frog (Sentences 2.7.10). The question of operable and functioning bodies naturally raised the issue of demonic sexual temptation and the nature of the bodies involved in that process. Despite popular and monastic miracle tales to the contrary (see Figure 4), the Scholastics were quite certain that demons felt no lust in their sexual temptation of humans. As incorporeal, genderless, impassible spiritual creatures, angels and demons were simply not capable of sexual desire. Indeed, given the Scholastic position mentioned above, that creation is complete and nothing in it is superfluous, angelic and demonic lust becomes infeasible. Sexual desire only exists for the procreation of species, and angels and demons do not reproduce because their number was fixed at their creation. Hence they cannot have sexual desire. Aquinas argued that angelic spiritual natures could only be drawn to spiritual sins—pride being the key one of these—and not to sins that require a body, such as lust. What demons desire in their sexual temptation of humans is to turn them towards sin: in this they are not motivated by lust but by their envy of humans, which is a spiritual sin (ST 1.63.2). In any case, William of Auvergne refuted the idea that if demons could feel sexual desire, it would be for humans. He pointed out that demons, despite their fall, still have angelic bodies that are much more beautiful and refined than the gross fleshly bodies of humans. If a demon could desire a body sexually, then it would more likely be that of another demon.
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Figure 4. Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Inc. 1286, Lancelot en prose, fol. 8v, “Comment Merlin fut engendre du diable. Et comment il fut amoureux de la dame du lac.” (How Merlin was conceived of the Devil. And how he was the lover of the Lady of the Lake). © Bibliothèque Mazarine.
William also took into consideration the physiology of sex and the known ranges of human sexual desire. He argued that since the culmination of sex (and here he is clearly viewing sex, as most medieval thinkers did, purely from the male perspective) is ejaculation, and demons have no seed to ejaculate, then from the point of view of desire their possible interest in sex is necessarily limited. Certainly William knows the theory that demons acquire seed
78 Chapter 3 from male masturbation and use it to impregnate women, but this kind of clinical artificial insemination, he thinks, hardly speaks of overwhelming sexual desire. Moreover, William knows that while human intercourse is not limited to heterosexual sex, demonic intercourse appears to be. There seem to be only two types of demonic sexual forms: the incubus (the term is formed from “in” and “cubare,” meaning “to sleep or lie on top of”) who appears in male form to copulate with female humans, and the succubus (from “sub” and “cubare” meaning “to sleep or lie underneath”) who appears in female form to tempt male humans. Despite human same-sex sex practices, William argues that we never hear of demons attempting such behaviour. This means, he argues, that demons are not moved by immoderate sexual passion, since they only target their sexual opposite, whereas the kind of sexual desire that is popularly attributed to demons would be indiscriminate. It also points up the shameful filth of homosexual sex, he believes, that even evil and depraved demons won’t practice it (De universo 2–3.c.25). This discussion of whether or not demons experienced sexual desire then raised the question of emotions: did demons have “feelings” the way humans do?71 There was no question that God was impassible. It was a tenet of orthodoxy that God did not have anything that resembled human feelings because the nature of feelings is passive: a person feels something because they are acted upon by a stimulus and because they are moved (the word “emotion” comes from the Latin “emovere” meaning “to move”). God could not feel emotions because God could not be moved by a stimulus—in fact, God was the prime mover of the universe in the Aristotelian sense, meaning that all movement originated from him. Any biblical verses that seemed to indicate God feeling something needed to be understood metaphorically, as expressed in language
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that would make sense to humans but that did not actually portray the nature of God. By the same token, it was believed that once the good angels had been confirmed in grace following the fall of the evil angels, they also became impassible. Therefore references to angels experiencing joy, sorrow, or anger had to be understood figuratively. Demons were of course still angels and maintained their essential angelic nature, but their fallen forms, and particularly their “aery” or “cloudy” bodies, raised questions of their passibility. If demons could be thought to suffer in their body for the sake of punishment, then it should also be possible for them to be moved by feelings. Aquinas disagreed. To him the “passions of the soul” (which we might broadly think of as the emotions, since Aquinas saw them as encompassing love, hate, desire, fear, sadness, hope, despair, and anger) were fundamentally somatic manifestations. No emotion could exist as such unless it had a bodily component to it—for example, the rush of blood around the heart in the experience of anger, or the paleness of the face in fear. Because they did not have bodies, demons could not feel “passions of the soul.” This did not mean, however, that they were without any kind of response to stimuli, but Aquinas placed their response in their will. If their will was thwarted, they experienced a kind of anger, and similarly if their will was fulfilled, they felt a kind of joy. These were not true emotions, however, simply acts of the will (ST 1.64.3). While this was the doctrinal position, individual authors would frequently veer from it when they applied their imagination to the question of demonic communities. We have seen how Olivi posited the powerful communal love between the angels, like that of a father for his children or a mother hen for her chicks, as productive of the rebellion that led to their fall. Olivi also painted a potent picture of the emotional tides at play in the demonic community after the fall. He insisted that they delighted in the hon-
80 Chapter 3 ours humans accorded them when they worshipped them as idols or gods, and he proved their delight in temptation by the strenuous effort with which they pursued it. On the other hand, he pointed out that demonic joy is not unadulterated—it is clouded by the dregs of wrath, envy, and demons’ insatiable desire for ever more power and success over humans. Overshadowing all this is the demons’ awareness of the eternal punishment that awaits them at the Final Judgment. And so they are tossed about by their emotions, now gloating proudly at their successes, now pining in despair of their future. In fact, Olivi says, they stagger from one extreme to the other like drunks.72 William of Auvergne pictures the demonic community as a whirlwind of contrary emotions. Overweening pride sets one demon against another, whipping up wrath and hatred, “just like a kind of storm.” They are utterly lacking in feelings like patience, humility, peace, and love. On the other hand, because they need to act together in order to effect their temptations, the demons find themselves drawn together in mutual hatred of God, the good angels, and humanity. Although they know the punishment that awaits them, they feel no pity for their fellow demons. Indeed, William asks, if they can throw off the love and immeasurable goodness of the Creator, how could they have any thought for one another? Certainly the natural love with which all things were created has to remain in them, but as such a pruned and withered stump that it has no chance of flourishing (De universo 2–3.c.15). We saw in an earlier chapter that the idea of the universal restoration of all beings, including demons, to God at the end of time was condemned as heretical. Demons, it was believed, necessarily had a will that was obstinately set in evil with no possibility of repentance. Two earlier thinkers had given important reasons for this: the fourthcentury Christian father Nemesius had argued that as
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incorporeal beings, angels were free from the ebb and flow of emotional extremes to which humans were subject. This meant that their reason was always unimpeded by their passional state. Where humans might be given leeway, therefore, to change their mind about their decisions and to ask forgiveness for decisions made under the influence of emotions, angels had to be understood to have made a purely rational choice in the first instance and therefore to be bound by it. This teaching was particularly transmitted to the West by the Christian father John Damascene (676–749) who argued, in a formulation that would become standard in the Middle Ages, that just as death marked the end of all possibility of redemption for humans, so the fall of the angels was incontrovertible, following which no further changes of heart were possible for them. For the Fathers, the Bible offered a useful analogy for the obduracy of the demons: when the demons who named themselves “Legion” were expelled from the man they were possessing, they asked to enter the herd of swine instead. From this Gregory the Great argued that the demons’ will towards evil could be seen as unremitting, because even when prohibited from harming humans, they sought to harm brute animals instead. The Scholastics, however, were interested in examining the question further. Thomas Aquinas was clear that the irremediable nature of the demons’ fall was not due to the gravity of their sin (monstrous as this was), but was rather a function of angelic cognition. Angels, being finer creatures than humans, have a finer means of perception. Where a human needs to reason a proposition discursively from point A to its conclusion several points later, an angel simply apperceives the entire proposition and its conclusion simultaneously. The implications of this are that any choice an angel makes is necessarily final, since it must have understood the consequences of its choice at the instant that it made it. In
82 Chapter 3 other words, angels have free will at the moment of choice, but once having chosen, their choice becomes fixed and immovable. Thus the good angels who stood firm with God were confirmed in justice, while the evil angels who chose to sin necessarily remain in sin (ST 1.64.2, De malo 16.5). William of Auvergne then posed the question: if the demons all decided to rebel against the Devil, would God assist them? He determined that God would, based on the words of a prophet to the people of Israel: “The Lord is with you, since you are with him.” This provided an answer to those who would allege some kind of insufficiency in God by suggesting he was not great or magnanimous enough to extend his forgiveness to the fallen angels. However, William also managed to adhere to the orthodox line by then arguing that it was not possible for demons to wish to rebel against their prince because of the deep-rooted nature of their wickedness. This did not excuse them, however, since impossibility only excuses where it is contrary to the will. For demons, it was not only impossible for them to forsake evil, it was also their will to persist in evil. And so they could not be redeemed (De universo 2–3.c.15). We can see the effect of the new learning on the ageold question of whether demons can enter the human soul. Early patristic authors had argued that they could not do so, but rather drew the soul towards temptation by suggestion, while medieval monastic authors argued that demons could not be in the soul, although they conceded that they could perhaps reside within the body in its cavities. With access to more complex understandings of human physiology drawn from Arabic and Jewish medical texts, the Scholastics could posit a more sophisticated solution to the problem. Medical texts imported from the East in the course of the Middle Ages had added a level of complexity to the human body, interposing between the flesh and the soul the intermediary of the spirit. It had not
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been clear previously how there could have been communication between the fleshly mortal body and the incorporeal immortal soul, but the hydraulic model that proposed a flow of vital spirits around the body solved this problem perfectly.73 Moreover, as spiritual creatures themselves, demons could exist in and travel through the body with the flow of spirit. Insofar as the spirit offered a direct line of communication between the body and soul, then, demons had direct access to the soul—they still could not technically be inside it, but in this model, they didn’t have to be, since they could influence it sufficiently from the spirit. We have seen in these last two chapters two distinct approaches to demons in the Middle Ages. For those devoted to the monastic profession, demons were an opportunity for spiritual growth. Monks genuinely feared the temptations that would come in the night, but at the same time, they knew such temptation was for their spiritual betterment and that the task of overcoming demons lay at the heart of their profession. The reactions we see these monks expressing towards demons, sometimes in first-hand accounts, are deeply personal and highly emotional. From these stories we get a real sense of the frailty of the human person—its psyche, its body, and its convictions, all open to demonic assault. By contrast, the Schoolmen show us the triumph of human reason over the demonic. By understanding and categorizing the demonic, they could also contain it and make it intelligible, part of the form and function of God’s creation of the world. From the Schoolmen we get little sense of a personal reaction to the demonic—it simply offers problems for the human intellect to solve. In the final chapter, however, we will turn in a new direction, to people whose primary relationship with demons was neither to fear and vanquish them, nor to fit them into a theoretical model of the universe, but rather to put them to use. These were the necromancers.
84 Chapter 3
Notes On the Scholastics and the categories of exclusion necessarily constructed by their intellectual undertakings, see Clare Monagle, The Scholastic Project (Kalamazoo: ARC Humanities, 2017). 55 For a translation of the Prologue see W. J. Lewis, https:// sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/Abelard-SicetNon-Prologue.asp. 56 For an English translation see Peter Lombard, The Sentences, trans. Giulio Silano, 4 vols. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2007–2010). 57 See Monagle, Orthodoxy and Controversy in Twelfth-Century Religious Discourse: Peter Lombard’s Sentences and the Development of Theology (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013); and Spencer E. Young, Scholarly Community at the Early University of Paris: Theologians, Education and Society, 1215–1248 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 52–55. 58 On the new forms and genres of learning, see Jacques Verger, Men of Learning in Europe at the End of the Middle Ages, trans. Lisa Neal and Steven Rendall (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2000; 1st ed. 1997); R. N. Swanson, The Twelfth-Century Renaissance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999); Mary Franklin-Brown, Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012); Olga Weijers, In Search of the Truth: A History of Disputation Techniques from Antiquity to Early Modern Times (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013); and Tomas Zahora, Nature, Virtue, and the Boundaries of Encyclopaedic Knowledge: The Tropological Universe of Alexander Neckam (1157–1217) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014). 59 Latin text available at http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/ iopera.html, ed. Enrique Alarcón; English translation available at http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/summa-translation/TOC.htm, trans. Alfred J. Freddoso. 60 For a Latin text of the Condemnations with French translation and commentary see David Piché, La condamnation Parisienne de 1277 (Paris: Vrin, 1999); articles 75, 76, and 218 refer specifically to angels, though additional articles referring to separated substances can be applicable to angels as a subset of that class. 61 Thought Experiments in Methodological and Historical Contexts, ed. Katerina Ierodiakonou and Sophie Roux (Leiden: Brill, 2011). 62 For a detailed analysis of this thought experiment see Dag Nikolaus Hasse, Avicenna’s De Anima in the Latin West: The Formation of a Peripatetic Philosophy of the Soul, 1160–1300 (London: 54
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Warburg Institute, 2000), pp. 80–92; and Juhana Toivanen, “The Fate of the Flying Man: Medieval Reception of Avicenna’s Thought Experiment,” Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy 3 (2015): 64–98. 63 For an English translation, see Anselm of Canterbury, The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 193–232. 64 Thomas Aquinas, On Evil, trans. Richard Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), Q. 16. 65 The Celestial Hierarchy, in Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, trans. Colm Lubheid (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), pp. 143–91. 66 Latin text sourced from Jean de Paris (Quidort), Commentaire sur les Sentences: Reportation, ed. Jean-Pierre Muller, vol. 2 (Rome: Herder, 1964), D. VI, Q. 6, p. 91; there is no English translation of this text. 67 Latin text sourced from Fr. Petrus Iohannis Olivi, Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum, ed. Bernard Jansen, vol. 1 (Quaracchi: Ex typographia Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1922), pp. 717–20; there is no English translation of this text. 68 Latin text sourced from William of Auvergne, De universo, in Guilielmi Alverni Episcopi Parisiensis, Opera Omnia, vol. 1(Frankfurtam-Main: Minerva, 1963; facsimile ed. of 1674), pt. 2–3, chap. 26, pp. 1073–74; there is no English translation of this text. 69 See Alan E. Bernstein, “Esoteric Theology: William of Auvergne on the Fires of Hell and Purgatory,” Speculum 53 (1982): 509–31; and Michael D. Barbezat, “In a Corporeal Flame: The Materiality of Hellfire before the Resurrection in Six Latin Authors,” Viator 44 (2013): 1–20. 70 Latin text sourced from Bartholomeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum, vol. 1, bk. 2, ed. Bernd Roling (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), chap. 20, p. 132; there is no English translation of this text. 71 See Juanita Feros Ruys, “Sensitive Spirits: Changing Depictions of Demonic Emotions in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,” Digital Philology 1 (2012): 184–209; “Love in the Time of Demons: Thirteenth-Century Approaches to the Capacity for Love in Fallen Angels,” Mirabilia 15 (2012): 28–46; “Tears such as Angels Weep: The Evolution of Sadness in Demons,” in Understanding Emotions in Early Europe, ed. Michael Champion and Andrew Lynch, pp. 51–71 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015); and “Nine Angry Angels: Order, Emotion, and the Angelic and Demonic Hierarchies in the High Middle Ages,” in Ordering Emotions in Europe, 1100–1800, ed. Susan Broomhall, pp. 14–31 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
86 Chapter 3 Olivi, Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum, 1:748. See Nancy Caciola, Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 179–200. 72 73
Demons in the World
From ancient times people had sought to conjure magic to evade, ameliorate, or surpass the natural limits of their condition through the help of supernatural creatures. They might have offered rituals of propitiation to pagan gods, invoked the spirits of the dead, or supplicated the daimones, who, as we have seen earlier, were spiritual creatures of indifferent (neither good nor evil) complexion. Once Christianity had exerted its hegemonic influence over Europe, however, all these supernatural beings were reconceptualized as demons and the act of magic became the act of summoning and coercing evil angels. We can see this change reflected in the terminology used: the practice of magic had initially been known as “necromancy” because it involved conjuring with the dead (nekros meaning “dead” in Greek). For example, in the Bible Saul consults a woman popularly known as the Witch of Endor74 regarding the likely outcome of a forthcoming battle, and she raises up the spirit of the former ruler Samuel to give his prophecy (1 Sam. 28:3–20). In the course of the Middle Ages, however, the word “necromancia” underwent a subtle change through popular etymology to “nigromancia” meaning “black magic” (from the Latin niger, “black”), as conjuring came to have less to do with the dead and more to do with demons.
88 Chapter 4 The early Church Fathers, as we have seen, were attempting to forge a new Christian orthodoxy out of competing traditions in Jewish belief and various pagan schools of philosophy, and had to redefine the practice of magic in a Christian context. This meant insisting that all magic was demonic in origin, that the practice of it was always morally wrong, and that the demons’ exercise of magic powers and their access to future and hidden knowledge was necessarily limited both by God and by their nature. Augustine in particular dealt with this problem in a number of his texts, including a treatise that he dedicated to the matter, On the Divination of Demons (De divinatione daemonum). Here he pointed out that demons’ knowledge can indeed appear to be superior to that of humans, since they have far finer acuity of perception, can move more swiftly than humans (thus perceiving worldwide events much faster than human communication would allow), and possess the knowledge they have accrued through long experience since the beginning of creation. However, demons can also be deceived by God and the angels in the knowledge they are permitted to perceive, or not given access to full knowledge, and by the same token, they can deliberately choose to deceive humans with the knowledge they pass on to them. It always had to be remembered that the Devil was, as the Bible said, a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44).75 But despite the orthodox position that Christians needed to trust in the Providence of God to arrange all things well and not seek to know their future through supernatural means, magic practices persisted into the Christian Middle Ages. From the evidence we have of the practice of conjuring in the world of ordinary people, we can see that their concerns were largely focused on survival. People might supplicate for the fertility of themselves, their herds, and their crops, or they might suspect
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maleficent magic had been used against them if they suffered difficulties in conception or their harvest was destroyed by a hailstorm. While these might seem unsophisticated ways of thinking about cause and effect, such ideas were in fact enshrined in the laws made by the most learned and literate men in the land. Secular legal structures across medieval Europe were fragmented and often specifically provincial in focus, but there also existed a set of laws that overarched secular ones and held force equally across the whole of Europe— this was canon law, or the law of the Christian Church. A regular form of canon law was codified out of a competing mass of canons in the mid-twelfth century by Gratian (in the impulse towards the synthesis of authorities discussed in the previous chapter) in a text popularly known as his Decretum (or more correctly, Concordance of Discordant Canons). Canon law recognized magic and the work of evil spirits. Cause 26 of the Second Part of the Decretum investigates the practice of magic and the role of demons in fortune-telling (“sortilegia”); Cause 33 (Q1 c4: “Si per sortiarias atque maleficas”) particularly considers the role of maleficent magic in the inability of a couple to consummate a marriage. This text recognized that such an affliction could only take place through the actions of the Devil, though with the permission of God. The afflicted couple were encouraged to make amends to God through a contrite heart and humble spirit, confessing their sins with tears, giving alms, praying and fasting, and even undergoing exorcism. If this failed to relieve the problem, the couple were permitted to separate. They were then allowed to seek alternative partners, but could never remarry each other, even if sexual proficiency should return.76 In some ways the idea of magic as linked to demons had entered the Christian imaginary in concert with demons themselves. As we saw in the Introduction, the apocryphal
90 Chapter 4 Jewish Book of the Watchers introduced the idea of the first angels who came to Earth to mate with the daughters of men—this was the story of Shemihazah. There is, however, another important angel in the Book of Watchers, Asa’el (later associated with the demon Azazel), who came to Earth to teach humans occult knowledge of metallurgy for the purposes of warfare and bodily adornment, cosmetics, and divination of the future.77 Moreover, Christian mythology in the Book of Genesis shows the Devil (via the agency of the serpent) tempting Eve with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, telling her that in the moment she eats of it, her eyes will be opened and she will be like a god, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). This correlation of forbidden knowledge with evil would remain strong throughout the Middle Ages, leading many churchmen to condemn the sin of curiositas (curiosity).78 Curiosity was often identified with the figure of Dinah from the Book of Genesis who left her home because she wanted to know the foreign women and was raped (Gen. 34:1–2)—a potent warning to those seeking unwonted knowledge. For a number of centuries this suspicion of esoteric knowledge would sit uneasily alongside the new focus on scientific epistemology developing in Europe following the influx of Jewish, Arabic, and Greek learning in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (see Figure 5). This peculiar mixture of forbidden knowledge and experimental practice would produce the emerging art of alchemy. This comprised proto-scientific techniques of basic chemistry (such as filtration and distillation) in conjunction with mystical incantation and magical ritual, often combined with developing ideas about astrology and astronomy as well, since certain procedures had to be conducted under particular phases of the moon or positions of constellations. This context also gave rise to the distinctive artefact of the book of learned magic that contained spells for con-
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Figure 5. British Library, Royal 6.E.VI, James le Palmer, Omne Bonum, fol. 396v. Detail of a historiated initial C (Constellacio) showing an astrologer studying the heavens using a manual with the assistance of a demon in a magic circle, ca. 1360–ca. 1375. © The British Library Board.
juring demons to do one’s bidding. This type of magic is termed “learned” because it originated from and circulated within a literate clerical elite. That is, the texts are written in Latin (a language largely limited in the Middle Ages to men with church or university training), and the procedures for conjuring demons require intense personal preparation in monastic practices of fasting and celibacy. The incantations themselves are a pastiche of quasi-liturgical material such as prayers and Psalms, and the rituals often need to be carried out at specific times according to the hours of divine service. Indeed, the very existence of such books of magic—the fact that they were preserved and copied out repeatedly over the centuries—suggests
92 Chapter 4 the spare time for writing and the facilities of a scriptorium associated with a monastic environment.79 Interestingly, many of the spells in these texts are described as an “experimentum”—a word that meant a practical undertaking, but that was beginning to take on the specialized meaning we now associate with the term “experiment” due to the new scientific practices of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.80 These books of learned magic are strongly focused on word magic, with the act of conjuring usually involving long and complicated lists of names: often the names of demons, although the names of angels, saints, the Virgin Mary, and even various names attributed to God can appear. Interestingly, one of the key names that recurs in these books is “Tetragrammaton,” although this is actually a way of abbreviating a name, rather than a name itself. The term “tetragrammaton” in fact refers to the four consonantal letters that make up one of the Jewish names for God, Yahweh (YHWH), which was considered by many Jewish people too holy to be spoken aloud.81 We might consider it odd that a necromancer would seek to invoke the help of God to summon up a demon to do his bidding, yet the books of learned magic are built on this kind of cognitive dissonance which is rarely acknow ledged, much less resolved. Indeed, a number of necromantic texts make it clear that their procedures can only be effective when carried out by Christians, since Jews and pagans are not “signed with the Cross,” and therefore demons will not obey them. This belief appears to be drawn from the story in Acts 19:13–16 where demons refused to acknowledge the power that two Jewish exorcists sought to wield over them, instead beating them and retorting: “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” In some cases, practitioners of necromancy could perhaps convince themselves that what they were doing
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with magic stones or magic images fell under the rubric of “natural magic,” or astrology / astronomy, or even natural philosophy, which was an emerging scientific discipline at this time.82 It is difficult to understand, however, how the conjuring of demons could ever have been seen as consonant with Christian faith. Certainly from the high Middle Ages onwards, necromancers and books of necromancy came under increasing papal scrutiny, and the burning of such books, and even of necromancers themselves in some instances, can be seen as laying a path that would eventually lead to the witch hunts of the early modern period.83 It is possible that one of the reasons people using books of ritual magic may have felt secure in their practice was that they were actively commanding and binding demons rather than supplicating and worshipping them— the latter clearly constituted idolatry and apostasy (turning away from the worship of God), both sins the Church had historically sought to punish by death. It was this subordination of the self to demons or the Devil in return for special powers that would make witchcraft such an unforgiveable sin in the centuries to come. The Book of Angels (Liber de angelis) is unambiguous about the role of demons in magic but also about the power of the necromancer over them. Each spell requires the invocation by name of a number of angels plus a head demon along with his subordinate demons, but the necromancer always begins by asserting his authority over these, declaring: “I conjure you …” (“Coniuro uos”). One spell is specifically for power over demons (“dominium super demones”), particularly Baal, who is described as the master of the demons (“magister eorum”). The spell is to ensure that a waxen image (that has undergone a complex series of ritual fumigations, daubings, inscriptions, aspergations, and immersions at specified times and places) will be compelled by demons to give a true answer to any question it is asked.84
94 Chapter 4 The Liber de angelis includes such a bewildering array of non-biblical names of angels and demons it is clear why preachers in the Middle Ages frequently warned their less learned charges never to utter spells or incantations that contained words they didn’t know the meaning of in case they inadvertently summoned a demon. When we look at the sorts of spells that learned practitioners were seeking to implement we can see where their desires lay. Whereas for the non-literate population key issues were health, fertility, and survival, for those practising necromancy, the priorities appear different. The books of learned magic show that a necromancer was likely to hire out his skills, using the demons’ knowledge of secret things to locate lost and stolen property and identify thieves. Other spells are clearly self-interested, aiming to secure the love of a particular woman, find treasure, develop power and authority, or gain civic honours. Intriguingly, however, love and money do not appear to be nearly as common objectives for necromancers as occult knowledge. Indeed, there is an entire genre of spells—the ars notoria or ars Salomonis (notary art or art of Solomon)—that aims at the improvement of the necromancer’s skills and knowledge in the rhetorical arts, including memory. These spells were more associated with the power of prayer than the powers of demons, however, and we might think of them as parallel to the sometimes questionable programs and techniques marketed at students today that promise unrealistically enhanced powers of speed-reading, memory, or concentration, all for a fee. Demons were particularly thought to be of use in know ledge of the future and of things hidden to the human mind, such as the fate of the dead. Necromancers could find themselves in demand from grieving family members wanting to know whether their loved one was safely ensconced in Heaven or suffering torments in Hell, and if
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the latter, what might be required to get them an accommodation upgrade. Whether the information necromancers received and passed on was dependable was another question, since, as we have seen, demons were understood to be liars. Indeed, Caesarius of Heisterbach tells the story of a pious woman who thought she was visited nightly by an angel of light who would answer the questions that had been put to her during the day by anxious relatives regarding the fate of their dead (Dialogue on Miracles 5.47). But, Caesarius informs us, the holy woman lacked the proper discernment to see that the angel was really a demon. (Caesarius’s judgment here is not surprising, since he describes the woman as a “recluse,” meaning she was not under the direct supervision of a male churchman. To Caesarius this makes it self-evident that she would have lacked discernment and so been susceptible to the wiles of the Devil.) Accordingly, Caesarius notes that she was often deceived by the demon, and on his advice gave her petitioners “false answers, thinking them true.” Stories like this reveal why the art of necromancy involved constraining or binding demons so that they were compelled to tell the truth, whether they wished to or not. Yet it was difficult for necromancers to convince authorities that they were constraining the demons in order to elicit information from them, rather than supplicating them for it. This was a problem of perception that even Jesus had suffered in his exorcistic ministry, when the Pharisees argued that his power over lesser demons must have been bought at the price of his allegiance to their master Beelzebul. It remained for Jesus to retort that Satan would hardly supply him with the power to vanquish him (Matt. 12:24–26). Cassian referred to this story when he noted that while one way for humans to gain power over demons was through the authority of their holiness, another was to supplicate them with “sacrifices and certain
96 Chapter 4 songs,” which would lead to demons “fawning over” such magicians and sorcerers like friends (Conferences 8.19). This idea of the loyalty shown by demons to the necromancer commanding their service continued into the Middle Ages, although it sat alongside contrary tales depicting the viciousness with which demons could turn on their necromancer should his attention waver for even a moment. Caesarius, as we might expect, happily relates both types of tale. Ritual magic for conjuring demons often involved inscribing magic circles in the dirt with a sword (often at a crossroads, which was considered a place of evil since executed criminals and suicides would be buried there) and remaining safely inside the circle while in the presence of demons. In one such a story, a knight desiring to see demons is placed in a magic circle by the necromancer and commanded in no way to leave the circle, and not to give or promise anything to the demons who might appear (5.2). The knight soon sees a gigantic black figure stalking towards him, taller than the treetops and too vile in appearance to look upon directly—the Devil himself. To prove his bona fides, the Devil recounts to the knight all his sins, including the time and place that he lost his virginity. Then, when the knight refuses to give him anything in exchange for this knowledge, the Devil attempts to drag him out of the circle, but the necromancer intervenes and the diabolic phantom vanishes. The curious clerk of the next story is less lucky. He is enticed out of the magic circle by a demon in the form of a beautiful young woman doing a lascivious dance and is immediately dragged to Hell (5.4). His fellow clerks threaten the necromancer who had conjured the magic circle with death unless he can return their friend, and the necromancer has to bargain with the Devil, pleading his years of faithful service. Caesarius tells us that the Devil was “moved with compassion” and agreed to hold a trial
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on the matter. At the trial a demon who is described, perhaps unusually, as fair and just is asked to give his considered opinion on the case; he declares that the Devil has been too importunate in this instance and must return the clerk. The clerk is restored, but so altered from his sojourn in Hell that he becomes a devout monk for the remainder of his life. The idea of the Devil as a highly legalistic character is one that pervades the Middle Ages: we have seen that early saints’ Lives often depicted the Devil as querulously arguing his rights in the face of divine action against him. In the later Middle Ages there developed an entire genre mingling canon law with theology, the Processus Sathanae, in which the Devil made his case for his rights over the fallen human race, being opposed in court by the advocate for the rights of humanity, the Virgin Mary.85 But Christian legend also contained stories of believers who did not so much command demons as enter into pacts with them, and this was a far more serious matter. The exemplar for such tales was St Theophilus the Penitent who lived in sixth-century Cilicia (on the coast of modernday Turkey, north of Cyprus) and was required by the Devil to abjure Jesus and the Virgin Mary in return for ecclesiastic preferment.86 Theophilus afterward repented of his contract and was saved by the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Later tales, however, increased the price demanded by the Devil for his assistance to the supplicant’s soul and negated the possibility of any repentance for such heinous apostasy. It was often believed that the supplicant wrote out an actual contract in blood—whether his own, another’s, or that of an animal that had been ritually sacrificed—which remained on his person throughout his life.87 Caesarius cites the case of two apparently simple and pious men who came to the city of Besançon and impressed the ordinary people with their ascetic lifestyle and ability to do miracles, then used this trust to
98 Chapter 4 preach heresies (5.18). The ecclesiastics in the city were much troubled by this, and the bishop, sure that the two men were actually in the service of the Devil, sent for a necromancer to discover their secret. The necromancer objected that he had put aside such dark arts, but the bishop insisted he use them one last time as penance for his earlier sins. The necromancer accordingly summoned up the Devil and pretended to swear fealty to him again, apologizing for ever having deserted him, and asked how the two men could manage their miraculous feats. The Devil confirmed that they were indeed his servants and that their contracts were sown under their skin beneath their armpits. The bishop then had the two men brought to him and searched, and scars were found under their arms. These were slit open and the contracts drawn out; the two men were subsequently burnt at the stake, the Devil unable to save them once their contracts had been taken from them. This is, of course, a very literal understanding of a demonic contract, which suggests that the two men were protected by the Devil only so long as they physically bore their indenture of service within their body—their intention to be servants of the Devil and to bind themselves to him does not seem to have carried the same force as a scrap of parchment. For the Scholastics, however, for whom the notions of will and intention were paramount, the opposite was true. Aquinas makes it clear that any person who desires something that exceeds the bounds of human ability and the laws of Nature, such as magic acts or knowledge of the future, is asking for something that only God can grant. Seeking it from one of God’s creatures, such as a demon, is therefore idolatry and apostasy, for as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “A man cannot serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). And because demons cannot be compelled by any earthly power, including through invoca-
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tions or acts of magic, if they choose to do the bidding of a person entreating them, then it must be understood that this is because a pact now exists between the person and the demon. Indeed, Aquinas specifically describes the act of entreating a demon as “entering into a pact” with it, and he makes it clear that it doesn’t matter whether this agreement is enacted in words or deeds, or even without any specific offering (Super Sententiis 2.D7.Q3.a2). The most infamous instance of a demonic pact— immortalized by literary greats from Christopher Marlowe to Johann Goethe to Thomas Mann—is that of Johann Faust (or Fausten, or Faustus). The story itself only appears in the post-medieval era, first recorded in a German text of 1587, but its depiction of necromancers, learned magic, and demons clearly draws heavily from the medieval tradition. The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus (1592), which was an English translation of the original German text and Marlowe’s source text, tells us that Faustus goes to the University of Wittenberg to study divinity but instead applies himself to necromancy and conjuration in secret.88 He summons a demon using practices we have seen associated with learned magic, including entering the woods at night, drawing a magic circle in the dirt at a crossroads, and conjuring a demon in the name of Beelzebub. When the demon Mephostophiles appears,89 Faustus commands him to serve him obediently and only tell him the truth. Mephostophiles, who had clearly been reading his Aquinas, informs Faustus that no person can demand knowledge or gifts from demons without entering into a pact with them, and when Faustus tries to decide if he can get what he wants from the demon without submitting his soul in return, the demon argues that Faustus has already entered into a pact by the very act of conjuring him. In the end, Faustus concludes a formal written agreement in
100 Chapter 4 which he consigns himself to the Devil, body and soul, and abjures the Christian faith, signing this covenant in his own blood. Disconcertingly, Mephostophiles later reveals that Faustus’s fate had already been sealed when he was a student, for the demons, able to perceive his pride, ambition, and curiosity, entered into him, rousing his thoughts and will towards an immoderate desire for secret knowledge. Mephostophiles gives Faustus a book of learned magic of the sort we have seen described earlier and teaches Faustus occult matters, from astronomy and astrology to presaging the future, all of which Faustus uses to make money. The question of repentance recurs throughout the text, with numerous characters insisting that Faustus is able to repent at any time and be forgiven, while Mephostophiles and other demons refute this claim, arguing that Faustus’s blood-signed covenant is unforgivable in the sight of God. Just to be certain, Mephostophiles makes Faustus sign a second written covenant, again in his own blood. On the night before Faustus’s agreed death-date (twentyfour years from the date of his first pact), students from the university attempt to persuade him to turn to God, but Faustus remains in despair of salvation. During that night the students hear terrifying noises and in the morning they find Faustus’s room spattered with blood, his body having been violently dashed against the walls, leaving his eyes lying in one corner of the room, his teeth in another, and his broken limbs hurled out the window onto the dungheap. As one of the perks of his demonic powers, Faustus had been able to conjure up the famous Helen of Troy as his concubine and had had a child with her, but upon his death both mother and child disappear into thin air, clearly illustrating that they were never more than demonic illusions. Despite stories such as these, the Scholastics were unconvinced about the ability of demons to enact physical miracles and to know the future in the way that those
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supplicating them desired. It was understood that demons could know certain things through the subtlety of their nature and perception, their long experience in the history of the world, and the divine revelation they had received from God at the moment of their creation, but the Scholastics wondered about the limitations that might be placed on these. Revelation was important: it seemed clear that the demons must retain the knowledge with which all angels had been endowed by divine revelation when they were created, but by the same token, it seemed evident that while the good angels who were confirmed in grace would continue to receive revelation from God, this would now be denied the demons. Other thinkers argued about whether demons were capable of growing in experiential knowledge, or whether their cognitive system had been fully formed at the moment of their creation so that they could only ever know what they could derive from the first principles that had been initially instilled in them. William of Auvergne was one scholar who believed that demons could continue to increase their knowledge through the epistemologies of enquiry and experience. Indeed, he felt it was necessary that this be so, otherwise demons would have a cognitive system that was inferior to that of humans, which would be contrary to the order of the universe (De universo 2–3.c.41). A major reason for recourse to demonic intervention was a desire to know the future, either in general, or in regard to some specific event. The Scholastics, however, were sceptical that demons could actually offer this. Aquinas makes it clear that knowledge of the future is necessarily a function of God alone, whose knowledge is beyond the temporal order so that nothing is past or future to him. All created beings, however, remain bound by the temporal order, though they can attempt to predict future things by applying a knowledge of causes and their known effects.
102 Chapter 4 Just as humans have the ability to judge the likelihood of future events from their natural causes, so angels and demons, whose perception in these matters is finer and whose knowledge of causes is deeper, have an increased ability to do so. This means that they might be able to predict some things with convincing probability, but never with complete certainty (De malo 16.7). We have seen that in 1277 Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris, condemned some of the propositions being taught at the University of Paris that he believed to be contrary to revealed Christian truth. Intriguingly, he prefaced his list of condemned teachings with a letter itemizing entire texts that were to be avoided. This included any books that dealt with necromancy (“libros … nigromanticos”), contained spells (“experimenta sortilegiorum”), or advocated conjurations (“coniurationes”) that had the potential to harm to the soul, particularly those requiring the invocation of demons (“inuocationes demonum”).90 This gives us a sense of the official unease over the practice of learned magic appearing in the late thirteenth century, and this suspicion and disquiet would only continue to grow over the next several hundred years. The Scholastics had expended much ingenuity in solving what to them were largely academic questions regarding demonic action and nature, but these matters were not destined to remain at the level of intellectual enquiry. Over time, Aquinas’s finely structured arguments on these points were pressed into the service of social engineering by texts that aimed at eradicating the practice of magic and the influence of demons and the Devil upon the human world. One of the Dominican order’s most devoted students of Aquinas’s thought was Johannes Nider who lived in the early fifteenth century and made a particular study of the practices of witchcraft and heresy he saw around him in Germany at that time. By the end of the fif-
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teenth century, Nider’s thoughts on demons, and through him those of Aquinas, would take pride of place in what would become the premier witch-hunting manual of the late Middle Ages and early modern period—the Malleus maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches (1486).91 In order to have the impact that it did, the Malleus needed to revise key perceptions of the practice of magic while retaining the academic integrity of its authoritative sources. The practice of witch hunts could not have taken hold without the complete revision of the person who was seen to be conjuring up demons. The figure of the necromancer—male, learned, monastic—slipped from sight, and in his place arose the figure of the witch. She was a woman since, as the Malleus explained, women are more readily superstitious than men, their fluid-filled bodies are more impressionable to the revelations of disembodied spirits, and their tendency to gossip means that they rapidly spread word of their new demonic powers amongst their female companions who are eager to acquire the same skills. Women are also more carnal than men, more prone to emotional extremes, and more likely to act upon their own desires instead of being guided by piety (Malleus pt. 1, Q6). The necromancer who had commanded demons to his service thus became the female witch who bound herself to Satan’s service, usually through a sexual liaison with him. The individual learned practitioner of magic in search of occult knowledge now became a dangerous conspiracy of disaffected women who were out to destroy the moral fibre of society. In some ways the groundwork for this view of witchcraft as particularly a female-centred problem had been laid in the later Middle Ages when demonic possession and sexual temptation were increasingly envisioned as a female problem.92 Particularly in the English context, the demons who had once been pictured as the servants of the learned
104 Chapter 4 male necromancers now morphed into the demonic animal familiars of female witches. They reputedly appeared in the guise of domestic animals such as dogs or cats, or common but generally disliked creatures such as toads, rats, and ferrets. They were alleged to feed off the blood of their witch, or from her breasts, including from a third nipple that she grew just for them. In return they helped her work her magic, usually maleficent magic that involved revenge for perceived slights against her.93 Interestingly, given the legal consideration of sexual magic discussed earlier, we continue to find witches and their familiars accused of afflicting marriages with male impotence. The Malleus explores the question of exactly how demons can impede male sexuality and concludes that, just as demons are able to impede the motion of any limb by attenuating the body’s flow of spirit to it, so they can suppress the hardness of an erection to make it fail. The Malleus also makes it clear that although demons can only cause impotence in this way with God’s permission, God allows demonic interference in the act of sex more often than in relation to other bodily functions, because of the role of sex in original sin (pt. 2, chap. 6). Witches were also accorded the power of removing a man’s genitals— not, the Malleus assures us, in reality, but through demonic illusion so that a man afflicted by sorcery might feel his pubic region as nothing but “smooth” (pt. 2, chap. 7). The effect was so complete that even external examination by a third party would supply no evidence of the missing genitals until the afflicted patient either threatened or implored the witch who had cast the spell on him for the return of his parts. Witches (women along with some men), it was alleged, would gather together to participate in orgies, sacrifice and eat small children, engage in a parodic anti-Mass, and demonstrate their homage to the Devil by giving him the
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Kiss of Shame—a kiss on the anus. It should be noted that such outrageous claims have a long tradition in Christian history, having been made against heretical sects from Late Antiquity up to the Cathars and Knights Templar in the high Middle Ages. Indeed, similar accusations of orgies and cannibalism had been made against the Christian sect itself when it was an emerging religion within the Roman Empire.94 Nevertheless, in each age when such claims were levelled at an outsider group, they were readily accepted by the broad base of society. And so the era of witch trials was set in motion. From the fifteenth century until the last witch was executed in the eighteenth century, thousands of women, but also men, and even children as young as five, were burned, hanged, drowned, or otherwise executed as witches for summoning demons as their familiar spirits and binding themselves body and soul in service to the Devil. For a millennium and a half of European history, from the New Testament world of the Near East, through Late Antiquity in the deserts of North Africa, and another thousand years across continental Europe and Britain, demons were an integral part of the life of the Christian believer. Whether in desert eremitism, the monasteries of high medieval Europe, the thought of the university elite, or the experience of the ordinary people, demons were a necessary “other” against which the Christian way of life defined itself. Understood as fallen angels, demons were viewed as fundamentally and irretrievably evil and as obdurately fixed upon tempting humans away from God and the glory of eternal life. They might either inhabit the lower atmosphere or dwell in the abyss of Hell, depending on the school of thought, but their malevolence and persistence was unquestioned. Their leader was the Devil, originally the brightest of all the angels in Heaven, but now head of the demonic hordes, locked into mortal combat with God’s
106 Chapter 4 new creation, humanity. For monks, demons defined their profession and the need for it to exist; for intellectuals, demons formed an important part of a divinely ordered cosmos and raised a series of intriguing questions about corporeality, free will, and cognition to be explored; while for ordinary people, demons could be the source of secret power and knowledge, or the explanation for the failure of their crops and sexual potency. For fifteen hundred years, demons were an ever-present force in human life, at times attacking people from without, but on other occasions, possessing them dangerously and intimately from within.
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Notes In the Vulgate this woman is more technically termed a “pythoness,” which means a soothsayer, the title being taken from Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. 75 Latin text available at PL 40.581–92; a translation can be found in Saint Augustine, Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects, ed. J. Deferrari (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1955), The Divination of Demons, trans. Ruth Wentworth Brown, pp. 415–40. Augustine was later prepared to acknowledge in his Retractions (chap. 56) that he may have spoken too swiftly here about demons’ powers, since the matter was obscure and humans do not have full understanding of the demonic faculties. 76 For an English translation and explanation of this Cause see Witchcraft in Europe, 400–1700: A Documentary History, ed. Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters, pp. 72–77, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). For a study of medieval approaches to magically induced impotence across a range of disciplines, see Catherine Rider, Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Cause 33 was originally drawn from a ninth-century canonical ruling on the matter by Hincmar of Rheims, and also appears in Peter Lombard’s Sentences, 4.34.3. 77 Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 172–81; Reed, Fallen Angels, pp. 6, 27–37, and 97; and Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits, pp. 21, 105–08, 119–22. 78 Neil Kenny, The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 4. Curiosity was condemned by churchmen as historically and culturally distinct as Augustine (4th–5th century), the Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), and the chancellor of the University of Paris, Jean Gerson (14th–15th century). 79 Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Michael D. Bailey, Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003), pp. 29–38; Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008); Frank Klaassen, The Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013); and Sophie Page, Magic in the Cloister: Pious 74
108 Chapter 4 Motives, Illicit Interests, and Occult Approaches to the Medieval Universe (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013). 80 Juris G. Lidaka, “The Book of Angels, Rings, Characters and Images of the Planets: Attributed to Osbern Bokenham,” in Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic, ed. Claire Fanger, pp. 32–75, esp. 34 n. 12 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998); and Page, Magic in the Cloister, p. 32. 81 Claire Fanger, “Covenant and Divine Name: Revisiting the Liber iuratus and John of Morigny’s Liber florum,” in Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries, ed. Claire Fanger, pp. 192–216 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012). 82 Klaassen, “English Manuscripts of Magic, 1300–1500: A Preliminary Survey,” in Conjuring Spirits, pp. 3–31. 83 Edward Peters, “The Systematic Condemnation of Magic in the Thirteenth Century” and “The Magician, the Witch, and the Law,” in The Magician, the Witch, and the Law (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), chap. 4, pp. 85–109 and chap. 6, pp. 138–81; Norman Cohn, “Demon-Worshipping Magicians that Never Were,” in Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom, rev. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), chap. 7, pp. 118–43; Kieckhefer, “Prohibition, Condemnation, and Prosecution,” in Magic in the Middle Ages, chap. 8, pp. 176–201; Alain Boureau, “Satan the Heretic: The Judicial Institution of Demonology under John XXII,” in Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West, trans. Teresa Lavender Fagan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), chap. 1, pp. 8–42; and Bailey, “Superstition in Court and Cloister,” in Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies: The Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), chap. 2, pp. 71–112. 84 Text sourced from Lidaka, “The Book of Angels, Rings, Characters and Images of the Planets.” 85 Karl Shoemaker, “When the Devil Went to Law School: Canon Law and Theology in the Fourteenth Century,” in Crossing Boundaries at Medieval Universities, ed. Spencer E. Young, pp. 255–76 (Leiden: Brill, 2010); and “The Devil at Law in the Middle Ages,” Revue de l’histoire des religions 228 (2011): 567–86. 86 Russell, Lucifer, pp. 80–83. 87 Boureau, “The Pact: An Overview,” in Satan the Heretic, chap. 3, pp. 68-92. 88 Text sourced from Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, with
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The English Faust Book, ed. David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2005), pp. 67–151. 89 In subsequent iterations of this tale, the demon is known as Mephistopheles, but “Mephostophiles” is the spelling as it appears in this text. 90 Piché, La condamnation Parisienne de 1277, p. 76. 91 On Nider’s life, thought, and role in the developing witch hunts, see Bailey, Battling Demons. 92 See Dyan Elliott, “From Sexual Fantasy to Demonic Defloration: The Libidinous Female in the Later Middle Ages,” in Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), pp. 35–60; Caciola, Discerning Spirits; and Chave-Mahir, L’exorcisme, p. 253. 93 See Charlotte-Rose Millar, “The Witch’s Familiar in SixteenthCentury England,” Melbourne Historical Journal 38 (2010): 119–36; and “Familiars,” in Early Modern Emotions: An Introduction, ed. Susan Broomhall, pp. 340–43 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017). This contrasts with desert Christianity where the athletic masculinity of the monk was expressed in part through his resistance to temptation by demons in female form: see Brakke, “Manly Women, Female Demons, and Other Amazing Sights: Gender in Combat,” in Demons and the Making of the Monk, chap. 8, pp. 182–212. 94 See Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons, pp. 1–7.
General Keck, David. Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Detailed and comprehensive analysis of scriptural, patristic, and scholastic understandings of angels and angelic nature. References demons in passing, but important for understanding demons insofar as they are angelic in nature.
Kelly, Henry Ansgar. Satan: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Broadly focused on scriptural readings of the Devil; one chapter treats Aquinas and learned magic, another Satan in the contemporary world.
Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Focused on New Testament readings of the Devil, with two chapters surveying the thought of the early Church Fathers.
Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984. Wide-ranging analysis of the Devil in the Middle Ages from the early medieval Fathers (Gregory, Bede) to the rise of witchcraft. Includes chapters on the Byzantine and Islamic demonic, Scholastic demonology, and the Devil in folklore, art, and theatre.
112 Further Reading ——— . Satan: The Early Christian Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981. Scholarly study of the cultural construction of the Devil in contexts from earliest Christianity through the early Fathers (Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian) to Augustine.
Wray, T. J. and Geoffrey Mobley. The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Readable survey of the Devil in the Hebrew Scriptures, inter testamental period, and New Testament Scriptures.
Introduction The Fall of the Angels. Edited by Christoph Auffarth and Loren T. Stuckenbruck. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
Twelve scholarly essays (two in German) on ancient and medieval contexts dealing with the nature of evil including the Watcher Angels and the Dragon of Revelations.
Forsyth, Neil. The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. Comprehensive study of good vs evil mythologies in ancient contexts, Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, Gnosticism, and the early Church Fathers to Augustine.
Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Comprehensive account of the Jewish and early Christian reception of the Book of the Watchers.
Sorensen, Eric. Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament and Early Christianity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002. Comprehensive account of the cultural meaning and expression of possession and exorcistic ritual in the Greco-Roman world, ancient Near East, early Judaism, and early Christianity.
Further Reading 113
The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions. Edited by Angela Kim Harkins, Kelley Coblentz Bautch, and John C. Endres. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. Fourteen scholarly essays on the Watcher Angel tradition from Mesopotamia through the Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures to Qumran and early Christian contexts.
Witmer, Amanda. Jesus, the Galilean Exorcist: His Exorcisms in Social and Political Context. London: Bloomsbury, 2012. Scholarly study of the cultural contexts of Jesus’s exorcistic ministry.
Wright, Archie T. The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1–4 in Early Jewish Literature. Rev. ed. Minnea polis: Fortress Press, 2015. Comprehensive study of the cultural reception of the Book of the Watchers in Judaism, including Qumran and Philo of Alexandria.
Chapter 1: Demons in the Desert Augustine of Hippo. The City of God. Translated by Marcus Dods. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010.
The massive and enormously influential work of theology by the early Christian father. Augustine deals with good angels, fallen angels, and the nature of pagan gods and demons, especially in relation to fate and magic.
——— . On Genesis. Translated by Edmund Hill. Hyde Park: New City Press, 2002.
Three exegetical studies of the book of Genesis by the early Christian father; Augustine particularly considers the temptation of Adam and Eve and the actions of spiritual beings.
114 Further Reading Brakke, David. Athanasius and Asceticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. Scholarly study resituating the ascetic drive of the desert monks back into its cultural context. Appendix contains English translations of some of Athanasius’s writings.
——— . Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. Series of essays on the desert monk as holy warrior; considers aspects of early Christian diabolism, including its relation to colour (the figure of the “Ethiopian”) and gender.
Brown, Peter. The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Landmark study of early Christianity and its construction of the ideal of the asexual genderless body.
Cassian, John. The Conferences. Translated by Boniface Ramsey. New York: Newman Press, 1997.
Constructed as a series of dialogues between the early eremitic father Cassian and venerable elders, each conference treats a topic of importance to the monastic life including chastity, nocturnal illusions, and the eight principal vices.
——— . The Institutes. Translated by Boniface Ramsey. New York: Newman Press, 2000.
The early monastic guide to the eremitic life, including treatment of the eight major sins, particularly in relation to how they are deployed by demons to tempt the faithful.
The Desert Fathers. Translated by Helen Waddell. New York: Vintage, 1998.
English translations of early Christian eremitic texts, including stories of demonic temptation and resistance, such as the Life of Pelagia and the Life of St Mary the Harlot.
Further Reading 115
Evagrius of Pontus. Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons. Translated by David Brakke. College ville: Liturgical Press, 2009. Handbook written by one of the first desert fathers to assist monks in fighting off the temptations and assaults of demons by using the words of Scripture.
Muehlberger, Ellen. Angels in Late Ancient Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Study of angelic theory in the writings of the desert fathers, saints’ Lives, and early Christian theologians, and how angelology related to practices of piety.
Pseudo-Dionysius. The Celestial Hierarchy. In Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, translated by Colm Lubheid, pp. 143–91. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. Fifth-century account of the hierarchization of angels into nine orders that was enormously influential on medieval angelology and demonology.
Chapter 2: Demons in the Cloisters Caciola, Nancy. Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Pos session in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.
Thoughtful study of how both spirit and demon possession were read in relation to gender in the later Middle Ages. Surveys the rise of the treatise on discerning spirits.
Caesarius of Heisterbach. The Dialogue on Miracles. Translated by H. von E. Scott and C. C. Swinton Bland, 2 vols. London: George Routledge, 1929.
Caesarius’s thirteenth-century collection of hundreds of miracle tales includes many relating to demons and demoniacs (the demon-possessed). Caesarius’s demons reveal varied personalities, points of view, and sexual proclivities, and they speak in demon slang.
116 Further Reading Chave-Mahir, Florence. L’exorcisme des possédés dans l’Église d’Occident (Xe–XIVe siècle). Turnhout: Brepols, 2011. French study of images and rituals of exorcism in the Western church in the Middle Ages with sixteen colour plates; Appendix 4 provides Latin texts of four twelfth-century exorcism rituals.
Elliott, Dyan. Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demon ology in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Provocative collection of six essays dealing with intersections of gender and the demonic in the medieval period.
Ferber, Sarah. Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France. London: Routledge, 2004.
A series of detailed case studies of demon possession in early modern France analysing the intersections of gender and spectacle with religiosity.
Guibert of Nogent. A Monk’s Confession: The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent. Translated by Paul J. Archambault. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006. Guibert’s twelfth-century first-person life narrative is replete with tales of demonic assault including Guibert’s own experiences of demonic temptation.
Levack, Brian P. The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
Study of demon possession in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that argues for the scripted theatricality of demon possession.
Further Reading 117
Chapter 3: Demons in the Schoolroom Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry: Their Function and Significance. Edited by Isabel Iribarren and Martin Lenz. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. Scholarly collection of thirteen articles probing Scholastic writings on angels; includes a chapter by Alexander Murray on demons.
Aquinas, Thomas. On Evil. Translated by Richard Regan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The Scholastic master’s treatise deals with the nature and causes of evil, original sin, and the capital sins, and concludes with a quaestio on demonic nature and behaviour.
——— . Summa theologiae. Latin text edited by Enrique Alarcón http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/iopera.html. Trans lated by Alfred J. Freddoso, http://www3.nd.edu/~ afreddos/summa-translation/TOC.htm. Aquinas’s enormously influential series of quaestiones on God, Christ, and the created world deals with angels and demons in 1.50–64, which include questions on angelic movement, cognition, will, and embodiment; 1.106–14 treat angelic speech, hierarchies, and relationship with humans.
A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy. Edited by Tobias Hoffmann. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Scholarly collection of nine articles dealing with theological and scholastic approaches to angels from Augustine to Duns Scotus and Ockham.
Lombard, Peter. The Sentences. Book 2: On Creation. Trans lated by Giulio Silano. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medi aeval Studies, 2008. The enormously influential textbook of theology particularly deals with angels and demons in Book 2, where it considers the nature and creation of angels, the fall of the demons, the relation of angels and demons to sin, and their corporeality.
118 Further Reading de Mayo, Thomas B. The Demonology of William of Auvergne. Lewiston: Edwin Mellon Press, 2007.
Close study of the demonology of the thirteenth-century scholastic and bishop of Paris in relation to how he synthesized earlier belief systems with the new learning of Greek and Arabic philosophers, particularly Aristotle, in a way that would assist the medieval Church in demarcating heresy, and later persecuting witchcraft.
Chapter 4: Demons in the World Bailey, Michael D. Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. Study of the German Dominican Johannes Nider and how his pursuit of necromancy, natural magic, and heresy in the early fifteenth century laid the groundwork for the later witch hunts.
——— . Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies: The Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. A study of the concept of superstition as it was understood and regulated in the later Middle Ages, and how this intersected with the practice of necromancy and the impetus towards witch trials.
Boureau, Alain. Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West. Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Focused on the Scholastic creation of a scientific demono logy and its judicial construction as a heretical practice.
Further Reading 119
Clark, Stuart. Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Landmark detailed study (800+ pages) of the demonic in the early modern period (from the sixteenth century). Contains detailed analyses of contemporary print texts, many little known and discussed, in their political and cultural contexts.
Cohn, Norman. Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom. Rev. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Powerful polemical account of the cultural context of late medieval Europe, particularly in relation to the practice of othering (heretics, Knights Templar, necromancers), and how this laid the groundwork for the witch hunts of the early modern period.
Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic. Edited by Claire Fanger. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1998. Scholarly collection of nine articles, each of which offers a detailed study (and sometimes Latin text and/or English translation) of key medieval texts of learned magic.
The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum. Translated by Christopher S. McKay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Annotated English translation of the premier witch-hunting manual of the early modern period (first published 1486).
Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries. Edited by Claire Fanger. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.
Scholarly collection of nine articles that explore the role of angels as intercessors in texts of learned magic; some chapters contain editions of Latin texts and English translations.
120 Further Reading Kieckhefer, Richard. Magic in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Classic study of magic in Europe from its ancient and pagan roots through its transformation by the new learning of the twelfth century to the ecclesiastical moves against learned magic in the later medieval period that heralded the early modern witch hunts.
Klaassen, Frank. The Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 2013.
Scholarly study of manuscripts containing texts of learned magic in England in the later medieval period; argues for the division of texts into natural magic and necromancy, with an analysis of how angels and demons were invoked in necromantic practice.
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus, with The English Faust Book. Edited by David Wootton. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2005.
An edition of Marlowe’s highly influential and dramatic rendering of the Faust story, which told of a pact between a scholar and the Devil. Includes an edition of Marlowe’s earlier exemplar.
Millar, Charlotte-Rose. Witchcraft, the Devil, and Emotions in Early Modern England. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. Focuses on witchcraft as portrayed in early modern English pamphlets, firmly reinscribing the Devil and his familiars into the story of witchcraft persecutions.
Page, Sophie. Magic in the Cloister: Pious Motives, Illicit Inter ests, and Occult Approaches to the Medieval Universe. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 2013. Close study of a corpus of medieval texts of learned magic from an English Benedictine monastery that demonstrate the close association of magic theory and practice with contexts of religious devotion.
Further Reading 121
Peters, Edward. The Magician, The Witch, and the Law. Phila delphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978. Classic study of the growing understanding of necromancy as a crime in the Middle Ages and its relation to the later witch hunts.
Stephens, Walter. Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. A study of the sexualized claims about witchcraft and the insight they give into a culture grappling with beliefs about the nature of the demonic and its social impact. Includes an analysis of how the Malleus maleficarum was rhetorically constructed.
Witchcraft in Europe, 400–1700: A Documentary History. Edited by Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Resource book containing English translations of key texts, or excerpts from them, in the long history of European witchcraft from the early Church Fathers into the early modern period, including the New World.