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Aquinas, enchantment, and the wonders of nature.

RECENTLY, THERE HAS BEEN much discussion about how currents of postmodernism and some contemporary trends in religion are "reenchanting" the world, endowing it with (or recovering already within it) a mystery, a wonder, and even a sense of the divine absent in the impersonal and mechanistic rationalism characteristic of modernity. (1) From time to time in this conversation, the name of Thomas Aquinas is mentioned. For instance, Alison Milbank discerns behind both G. K. Chesterton's and J. R. R. Tolkien's resistance to the cultural disenchantment of their day the essentially Thomistic themes of the otherness and diversity of created being; (2) Alister McGrath draws on Aquinas's doctrine of creation to restore a view of the natural world that inherently points beyond itself to God; (3) and Graham Ward detects in postmodern culture a new opportunity for a Christian analogical worldview, one he constructs by relying in part on Aquinas's Eucharistic theology. (4)

Yet there is something ironic about these and similar appeals to Aquinas. (5) Although his theology is seen as a viable resource for projects of reenchantment (to the extent that such cultural change can be deliberately orchestrated), (6) what is consistently overlooked is that Aquinas himself, living in thirteenth-century Christian Europe, very much belonged to an "enchanted" age. I use the word enchanted here not in any attenuated or metaphorical sense, but as referring to, as Charles Taylor defines it, "the world of spirits, demons, and moral forces which our ancestors lived in." (7) In other words, Aquinas hailed from an era that took quite seriously a wide range of spiritual beings, otherworldly occurrences, and magical powers. (8) Should we not ask, then, whether or not any of these sorts of cultural beliefs and presuppositions ever found their way into his writings? And if so, might his opinions on such matters in any way help articulate or encourage today's movements toward reenchantment?

In this article, I have two immediate goals. The first is to show that Aquinas does indeed speculate about what I will call enchanted phenomena, specifically miracles, the worldly activities of angels and demons, magic, fortune-telling, curses, and ghosts, all of which, as we will see, he takes to be realities of his present day. (9) In fact, his ideas about such phenomena are abundant in his works, and so, to limit the scope of this investigation, I will confine myself to the Summa theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles, which treat these issues in considerable detail. (10)

Second, I will demonstrate how Aquinas's views on enchanted phenomena, taken collectively, shape his teachings on the created world or nature (natura), particularly in regard to the general plan or order God establishes within it. Aquinas holds that inherent in nature is a certain degree of unpredictability, spontaneity, incomprehensibility, and awe. It is an outlook that stems directly from his larger enchanted worldview. If theologians and other scholars are looking for ways in which Aquinas can contribute to contemporary discourse on reenchantment, then his doctrine of nature, I will propose, is one place to start.

Beyond these main points, however, there is also a broader claim I wish to make--or at least start to make. Modern Thomists have tended to brush past or completely ignore most of Aquinas's reflections on enchanted phenomena. To my knowledge, there has been no comprehensive study that examines how Aquinas's enchanted worldview informs his theology. (11) Perhaps this lacuna reflects a fear of compromising the rationalistic image of Aquinas that first emerged within neo-Scholasticism in the wake of the Enlightenment and that still holds sway among some interpreters. (12) I want to suggest, however, that to overlook Aquinas's teachings on enchanted phenomena risks misunderstanding other aspects of his thought. Toward making this case, I will conclude this article by indicating two areas of his theology where exploring the impact of his enchanted worldview would very likely yield fruitful results. My intention here is not to alienate us from Aquinas's doctrines or to imply that they must first be "demythologized," as Rudolf Bultmann so famously declared of the New Testament, for them to be meaningful now. (13) I want only to suggest that if we are going to interpret Aquinas's work properly and transplant it responsibly from his medieval context to our own, we can only do so by confronting even those dimensions of it that may strike us as strange or make us uncomfortable. (14)

I. Aquinas's Enchanted Worldview

Let us now turn to a brief survey of Aquinas's treatment of enchanted phenomena, beginning with miracles and then continuing with angels, demons, and various magical powers.


According to Aquinas, a miracle, properly speaking, is an event happening "outside the order normally established in things" (15) or "outside the order of all created nature." (16) It is a definition that assumes nature to have its own normal or regular order (17) and in this regard reflects Aquinas's Aristotelian commitments. (18) In characterizing miracles as exceptions to the natural order, Aquinas not only stresses their unusualness, but also the way in which they exceed nature's inherent capacities. Some examples he gives here are two bodies being in the same place at the same time, the sun moving backwards in the sky, and the blind being able to see. (19) It follows, then, that only God can work miracles, for only God is unbounded by nature's constraints. (20) That said, Aquinas acknowledges that God need not work miracles directly but can empower saints or angels to do so on the divine behalf, (21) such as when angels communicate revelations to humans through apparitions or dreams. (22)

For Aquinas, miracles provide rational justification for the act of faith. As he expresses it: "The one who believes has sufficient cause to believe, for the believer is impelled by the authority of divine teaching confirmed by miracles." (23) Aquinas explains that miracles not only belong to the biblical past, but also continue in the present: "God does not cease ... even in our times, to work miracles through the saints for the confirmation of the faith." (24)

One explicit example of how Aquinas understands miracles to justify belief concerns the doctrine of Christ's real presence. (25) Aquinas reports that occasionally there will miraculously appear in the Eucharist flesh, blood, or the image of a boy. Aquinas offers two explanations for how such manifestations occur. Sometimes, God affects the minds of individuals directly, as when some see the vision whereas others do not. At other times, however, God physically transforms the sacrament itself, and the result is that many different people can witness the miracle for an extended period of time. In whichever way the visions take place, however, Aquinas stresses that their purpose is always the same: to verify that Christ's body and blood are truly in the Eucharist. (26)


Miracles, however, are not the only enchanted phenomena Aquinas treats. He also dedicates considerable space to discussing the activities of angels and demons. (27) As he defines them, angels and demons are purely incorporeal and intellectual beings. (28) He often refers to them in more Aristotelian terms as separate substances (substantiae separatae), (29) spiritual substances (substantiae spirituales), or intellectual substances (substantiae intellectuales). (30) Angels have attained their perfection in the beatific vision of God, (31) and some play direct or indirect roles in governing the corporeal world. (32) Demons, on the other hand, are guilty of sin against God and as a consequence suffer eternal punishment. (33) Chief among the demons is the devil (Diabolo). (34) Aquinas holds that the universe is heavily populated by angels and demons, their numbers far surpassing that of the species of material things. (35)

According to Aquinas, both angels and demons are involved in the affairs of humankind. One example of this is the role they play in human sin. Although demons are incorporeal, many dwell in the physical atmosphere, and from there they tempt humans to do evil. (36) They accomplish this in part by "stirring up passion" inside human consciousness. (37) God, however, does not leave humans defenseless against such assaults. God appoints angels to guard (custodire) humans by protecting them from demonic instigations and urging them to do good. (38) Every human, Aquinas holds, has a guardian angel from birth, (39) and whereas everyone has at least one, some require more. (40)


Yet, beyond vying for souls, there are other ways in which angels and demons interact with the human world. Aquinas claims that they also work miracles of their own. Here we must clarify his terminology. As I explained above, for Aquinas a miracle in the strict sense exceeds nature's capacities and can be worked only by God. Aquinas gives, however, a secondary meaning to the word. He observes that sometimes angels and demons perform acts that, although unusual, do not fall outside the bounds of nature, but only what humans know of nature. (41) To the extent that such acts cause wonder (admiratio), they are also considered miracles, (42) and Aquinas is quite comfortable employing this language for this class of phenomena. For the sake of clarity, however, I will follow the practice of Lorraine Daston by referring to this looser category of miracles with the term "preternatural." (43)

Although both angels and demons can cause preternatural events, Aquinas focuses especially on demonic wonders, which usually involve some type of deception. For instance, demons sometimes falsely present themselves to humans as either angels (44) or the souls of those who have died. (45) (Regarding the latter, demonic trickery must be distinguished from genuine apparitions of the dead, that is, the appearance of ghosts, which God, angels, and demons all have the power to bring about. (46)) Demons can also pretend to be God, imitating divine miracles (47) and deceiving humans into worshipping them. (48) Furthermore, although they lack the power to raise the dead or transform humans into animals (both of which acts exceed the capacity of nature), demons can seem to perform such marvels, either by generating an illusion in the air or affecting the mind of the onlooker. (49) Demons can also take possession of humans, which causes them to lose contact with their senses. (50) Finally, demons may at times appear in the form of men or women in order to engage in sexual relations. "If, however, sometimes children are born from intercourse with demons," Aquinas cautions, "this does not happen from semen that comes from them, or from the bodies they assume, but rather from the semen of some man taken for this end." Thus, it would be wrong, Aquinas concludes, to consider a child born from such a union as actually spawned by a demon. (51)


Yet, of all the various enchanted phenomena Aquinas considers, he dedicates most of his attention--mostly due to the technical nature of the subject matter--to the ways in which demons can empower humans to work preternatural wonders of their own. I refer here to magic or what Aquinas calls the magical arts (artes magicae) (52) or notorious art (ars notoria). (53)

As Aquinas explains, by entering into a private contract (privatus contractus) with a demon, the magician potentially acquires a wide range of preternatural abilities. (54) These include the power to discover information that was previously unknown or difficult to attain (such as the location of hidden treasure); to conjure apparitions that communicate; to move physical objects remotely; to turn people invisible; and to cause statues to become animate and speak. (55)

Furthermore, as Aquinas discusses at length, magicians can tell the future. (56) Such knowledge can be learned through the manifestation of demons or the dead; the demonic possession of the body; dreams; certain physical signs, such as may appear in wood or stone or other objects; the observation of stars or animals (especially birds); palm reading; and the casting of lots. (57) In addition to all this, demons can assist humans in creating harmful curses, in particular the enchantment spell (fascinatio) or the so-called evil eye (oculus fascinans), to which children are especially vulnerable. (58)


Thus far, we have observed represented in Aquinas's writings a wide range of enchanted phenomena. But how often does he imagine such events actually taking place?

It is difficult to tell. Aquinas provides us only with scattered clues. He remarks that demons masquerade as the souls of the departed "frequently" (frequenter). (59) Miracles, on the other hand, happen "sometimes" (quandoque) (60)--and this includes the miraculous images appearing in the Eucharist. (61) Yet, Aquinas also asserts that miracles occur often enough to guarantee the faith "sufficiently" (sufficienter). (67) As for the influence of separate substances on the human will, Aquinas avers that, although not every human sin is the consequence of demonic temptation, there is no good act a human can do without the assistance of angels. (63)

Perhaps, then, it is safest to say that for Aquinas, whereas miracles and preternatural phenomena take place rarely enough to cause wonder to those who witness them, (64) they also happen commonly enough to warrant from him careful, systematic explanation. It is worth noting here that, although he constantly distinguishes between true and false conceptions of the enchanted phenomena he analyzes, he never raises doubts concerning their essential veracity--in his estimation, the world truly does contain angels, demons, miracles, and magic.


Modern readers, especially those with theological interests, often prefer simply to skip past those passages from Aquinas that treat enchanted phenomena. As I claimed at the outset, however, to do so risks misinterpreting some of his other doctrines. To show what I mean, I take as an example his view of nature.

Earlier, we noted Aquinas's assumption that nature tends to operate according to a regular order or pattern. He qualifies this regularity, however, in two ways. First, the natural order has a certain suppleness or flexibility to it. When God interrupts nature's normal course, Aquinas explains, this should not be understood as a rescindment of or contradiction of it. (65) Nature is not a closed system that miracles disrupt. (66) Here, we are a long way off from David Hume's famous definition of "miracle" as "a violation of the laws of nature." (67) For Aquinas, rather, nature's order is not so rigidly fixed as to exclude all deviations. (68)

Second, there are also within the natural order occurrences that, although not interruptions to that order, can nevertheless strike humans as such, primarily because of their unusualness. These phenomena, as I mentioned above, are miracles in the secondary sense, what I called the preternatural. Aquinas stresses that, whereas preternatural events may cause wonder, they are not exceptions to the natural order, as miracles properly speaking are. (69) He compares preternatural marvels to the works of talented craftsmen--both, while perfectly natural, can seem amazing to those who do not understand them. (70) Aquinas states furthermore:
   Simply speaking, miracles refer ... to those things that happen
   outside the order of all created nature. Not every power of created
   nature, however, is known to us. Therefore, when something happens
   outside the order of nature insofar as it is known to us, through a
   natural power unknown to us, it is a miracle with respect to us.
   Thus, when demons act by their own natural power, they are not
   properly called miracles, but they are miracles with respect to us.
   And in this way, magicians perform miracles through the demons.

In describing the preternatural in this manner, Aquinas indicates an element of mystery and awe that is part and parcel of the human experience of creation. When we further consider that the minds of angels and demons are fundamentally inaccessible to humans, (72) we must conclude that for Aquinas nature will always have dimensions inherently incomprehensible and unpredictable from the human perspective.

III. One Contemporary Misreading of Aquinas

It is this irreducible aspect of cosmic mystery and wonder, I would suggest, that is easily overlooked by contemporary interpreters of Aquinas. To illustrate this point, let me turn to a recent reading of Aquinas's view of nature by Keith Ward. (73) In using Aquinas to defend the possibility of miracles against Hume's classic critique, Ward unfortunately overestimates the degree to which the natural world for Aquinas can be known by humans at all.

Ward discerns in Aquinas's notion of miracles two main elements. The first is that a miracle is "an extraordinary event, one that is not a part of the normal or regular operation of things;" and the second is that its cause is "beyond the power of either a corporeal or a natural, created being." (74) Aquinas thus assumes, Ward reasons, that nature tends to operate according to regular patterns and that, because of this regularity, it is largely predictable and has rational intelligibility. (75)

These principles of nature, Ward continues, are nearly identical to Hume's. According to Ward, Hume, too, holds that the universe follows regular, predictable, intelligible patterns. In Hume's own terms, nature is governed by scientific laws. (76) Indeed, Ward remarks of Aquinas's assumptions about nature: "There is no reason that such regular tendencies to act should not be formulated and conceived as 'laws of nature,' general principles of the exercise of the natural powers of objects as they have been created by God." (77) The only difference between Aquinas and Hume, then, is that, whereas the former allows for exceptions to the lawful orderliness of nature, the latter does not. (78)

Unfortunately, aside from Ward's larger intentions here, such an account of Aquinas's conception of nature is mistaken. As we have seen, although Aquinas takes the natural order to proceed along a normal course, preternatural realities make it to some extent innately incomprehensible to humans. It is precisely this incomprehensibility that Ward misses. In this regard, his use of the phrase "laws of nature" is telling. This metaphorical way of conceptualizing the natural order, which first gained prominence in the seventeenth century and remains fundamental to the modern natural sciences, (79) implies that nature is entirely predictable and completely transparent to discovery. (80) Yet, Aquinas does not share this essentially Enlightenment view of the cosmos. According to Ward, scientists are best suited to determine when a miracle has taken place, for they understand the laws of nature well enough to know when these laws have been violated. (81) Aquinas, however, could never ascribe to the scientist this kind of authority. For him, although scientific investigation can indeed yield positive results, it will always be limited by nature's irreducible mysteriousness.

Although I have singled out Ward here, his error is an easy one to make. (82) Because many contemporary readers tend to glide past Aquinas's accounts of enchanted phenomena, it is no surprise if they inadvertently fail to recognize the mystery and wonder inherent in his worldview.

IV. Aquinas and Reenchantment

At the start of this article, I suggested that Aquinas's doctrine of nature may serve as yet another resource for furthering current discussions on the reenchantment of culture. Maybe it is already apparent how this might be so. Along with Ward, a number of theologians and philosophers have recently urged their peers to take seriously the possibility of miracles, (83) although perhaps few in the academy would also endorse belief in angels, demons, and magic. (84) Be that as it may, one need not accept the reality of enchanted phenomena as Aquinas understood them in order to see how his view of the mystery and wonder of nature can be applied now. (85) For Aquinas, as I have tried to show, nature will always be in some measure inaccessible to human knowledge, and there is no reason why such an outlook cannot in principle be revived for today, even if our rationale for adopting it would not exactly be Aquinas's own (instead of pointing to magic, we might, for example, emphasize the fallibility inherent in scientific investigation as just one possible strategy). Indeed, a robust sense of nature's ultimate incomprehensibility could function as a healthy counterweight to the modernistic attitude that drains the natural world of its awe and mysteriousness and presumes it as something to be subdued and mastered. (86) By adopting the spirit of Aquinas's perspective, we can take steps toward reviving an awareness that creation will always have depths beyond us, no matter what our scientific and technological advances.

V. Conclusion

In addition to what they can teach us about nature, however, there is another lesson to be learned from Aquinas's various treatments of enchanted phenomena. Despite the extent to which modern Thomists have ignored it, Aquinas's enchanted worldview has almost certainly shaped not just his view of the natural world, but a number of his other doctrines, too, particularly in his theology. In closing, then, let me point to two other areas of his thought where this influence would be worth exploring, although it probably would not be too difficult to discover more.

The first concerns Aquinas's teachings on the rational justification of faith. As we observed above, Aquinas holds that God works miracles (either directly or through angels and saints) in order to give revelation credibility. Ever since Hume's critique of miracles, this kind of apologetical strategy has often been judged as philosophically naive. Even if one, following Ward, were to defend at least the possibility of miracles, it is a very different matter as to whether or not miracles rationally justify belief. Here, Hume's denial that the testimony of miracles provides adequate foundations for religion still seems to have teeth. (87) Indeed, Antony Flew has argued that Aquinas's argument from miracles fails precisely on Humean grounds. (88)

Yet, the notions of enchanted phenomena represented in Aquinas's writings make it clear that in his own medieval context his appeal to miracles implicitly survives Hume's objections. Hume's critique of testimony rests heavily on what he takes to be the "uniform experience" of humankind. (89) As Craig S. Keener has recently shown, however, what Hume understands as uniformity directly reflects his own personal experiences within the secularized intellectual social circles of eighteenth-century Western Europe. (90) Living five centuries earlier, Aquinas obviously conceived the general range of human experience quite differently, as his speculations on enchanted phenomena indicate.

But this observation immediately raises the question: when Aquinas turns to miracles as the rational justification for the act of faith, precisely what kind of argument does he make? Aside from his insistence that miracles do not entail apodictic proof, he leaves the rational status of his apologetic unclear. (91) A better appreciation of his enchanted worldview, I suspect, might go a long way to illuminate this issue. As we have seen, when it comes to the frequency of miracles and other enchanted phenomena, Aquinas is frustratingly vague, at least in the Summa theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles. Yet, it would be worthwhile to investigate further the extent to which Aquinas considers miracles and preternatural occurrences to be broadly shared cultural experiences (even if they do not happen to everyone every day). If Aquinas assumes, as one writer has recently put it, that miracles are "part of the warp and weft of medieval society," (92) then his reference to them functions less as an argument and more as an uncontroversial appeal to common sense.

This brings me to the second area of Aquinas's thought I want to mention: his doctrine of the sin of unbelief. According to Aquinas, a positive rejection of the Christian faith is sinful. (93) This teaching has made some contemporary Thomists uncomfortable, particularly in regard to Aquinas's judgment concerning the sinfulness of the Jews. (94) Without defending Aquinas's position here, we may at least appreciate the cultural context for it. Again, Aquinas is unspecific as to how often miracles occur, but let us recall his remarks that God provides them "sufficiently" to guarantee the faith. Does this mean that miracles are abundant enough to dispel all reasonable doubts as to the truth of Christianity? If so, then, from Aquinas's perspective, lack of faith would necessarily be due to nothing other than sheer malice or stubbornness--especially when we consider that for him faith is driven primarily by the will and not the intellect. (95) If, for instance, everyone knows someone who has personally witnessed the miraculous transformation of the Eucharist, then, in the face of this plain and widespread evidence, how could anyone not believe in Christ? (96) This problem of sin and unbelief is yet another matter, I suggest, that further research into Aquinas's enchanted worldview could help clarify.


(1.) See, for example, James K. A. Smith, "'The Spirit of the Prophets Are Subject to the Prophets': Global Pentecostalism and the Re-enchantment of Critique," South Atlantic Quarterly 109:4 (Fall 2010) 677-93; Patrick Sherry, "Disenchantment, Reenchantment, and Enchantment," Modern Theology 25:3 (July 2009) 369-86; Alison Milbank, Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy f the Real (NewYork: T & T Clark, 2009); James K. A. Smith, ed., After Modernity?: Secularity, Globalization, and the Re-enchantment of the World (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008); Craig A. Baron, "Christian Theology and the Re-enchantment of the World," Cross Currents 56:4 (Winter 2007) 112-23; Gordon Graham, The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); David Brown, God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004); Christopher Partridge, The Re-enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture, 2 vols. (London: T & T Clark, 2004); Partridge, "The Disenchantment and Re-enchantment of the West: The Religio-cultural Context of Contemporary Western Christianity," The Evangelical Quarterly 74:3 (2002) 235-56; Raymond L. M. Lee and Susan Ackerman, The Challenge of Religion and Modernity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002); Alister McGrath, The Re-enchantment of Nature: Science, Religion and the Human Sense of Wonder (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002); David Ray Griffin, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Graham Ward, Cities of God (London: Routledge, 2000); Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodern Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1993) 33-36; and ibid., Intimations of Postmodernity (London: Routledge, 1992) x-xi.

(2.) Milbank, Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians, 8-9, 17-18.

(3.) McGrath, The Re-enchantment of Nature, xi, 10-11, 16, 187-88.

(4.) Ward, Cities of God, esp. ix, 75, 117, 152, 157-59, 206-8, 214, 222-24.

(5.) Another example here is John Milbank's insistence on the intimate presence of the supernatural in all created realities, which he believes recaptures a sense of mystery in the world. It is a view he finds in de Lubac, who himself finds it in Thomas (see John Milbank, The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005] esp. 5-6, 24-29; and Milbank, "The Double Glory, or Paradox versus Dialectics: On Not Quite Agreeing with Slavoj Zizek," in Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank, The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? [Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009] 111-233, esp. 169; on Milbank's efforts to recover a sense of mystery in creation, see Joshua Delpech-Ramey, "Supernatural Capital: A Note on the Zizek-Milbank Debate," Political Theology 11:1 [January 2010] 121-25, esp. 124).

(6.) On the very important question of whether or not one can go about purposefully reenchanting the world, see Sherry, "Disenchantment, Re-enchantment, and Enchantment," 376-77.

(7.) Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007) 25; see also 25-26, 29-41.

(8.) On Thomas's enchanted cultural background, see also Michael E. Goodich, Miracles and Wonders: The Development of the Concept of Miracle, 1150-1350 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007); Michael D. Bailey, Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present (NewYork: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007); and Benedicta Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record and Event 1000-1215 (London: Scolar Press, 1982).

(9.) Throughout my argument, I will speak of Aquinas's "beliefs" (or "views," "opinions," "assumptions," etc.) regarding enchanted phenomena. I use such locutions, however, with caution, limiting myself as much as possible to what Aquinas explicitly claims. As Steven Justice compellingly emphasizes, the analysis of medieval beliefs can be much more complicated than many scholars assume, if only because pre-moderns are not as naive or incapable of skepticism as they are sometimes presumed to be (see Steven Justice, "Did the Middle Ages Believe in Their Miracles?" Representations 103: 1 [Summer 2008] 1-29).

(10.) For the Latin texts of the Summa theologiae (ST) and Summa contra Gentiles (SCG), I rely upon the following website: St. Thomas Aquinas, Corpus Thomisticum: S. Thomae de Aquino Opera Omnia (Fundacion Tomas de Aquino, 2009), http://www, accessed May 1, 2012). All translations are my own.

(11.) This is not to say, of course, that good historical work has not been done on Aquinas's treatment of enchanted phenomena. In addition to other works cited throughout this article, see Thomas Linsenmann, Die Magie bei Thomas von Aquin (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000). By claiming that "Thomists" pay little attention to Aquinas's enchanted worldview, I mean to refer, then, only to those who profess interest in Aquinas's theology.

(12.) For the influence of Enlightenment philosophy (especially Cartesianism) on neo-Scholasticism, see Francis Schussler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Tasks and Methods," in Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, eds. Francis Schussler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991) 3-87, at 30-34; see also Schussler and Galvin, Foundational Theology: Jesus and the Church (NewYork: Crossroad, 1984) 251-64.

(13.) See Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Mythology," in Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings, ed. and trans. Schubert M. Ogden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984 [originally 1941]).

(14.) Let me add here I in no way wish to imply that Aquinas's opinions regarding enchanted phenomena are somehow unnecessary or extrinsic to his Christianity; on this point, see John Milbank, "Without Heaven There Is Only Hell on Earth: 15 Verdicts on Zizek's Response," Political Theology (January 2010), 126-35 at 133-34.

(15.) 3 SCG 101.1: "Haec autem quae praeter ordinem communiter in rebus statutum quandoque divinitus fiunt, miracula dici solent." 2 SCG 92; ST 1 q.50 a.3; on the various discussions of angels, see ST 1 q. 108.

(16.) ST 1 q. 110 a.4: "Ex hoc ergo aliquid dicitur esse miraculum, quod fit praeter ordinem totius naturae creatae"; see also ST 1 q. 105 a.7; q. 110 a.4; and 2-2 q. 154 a. 2 ad 2. My treatment of miracles here is necessarily brief. For more complete discussions, see Peter Harrison, "Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion," The American Society of Church History 75:3 (September 2006) 493-510, at 497-99; John A. Hardon, SJ, "The Concept of Miracle from St. Augustine to Modern Apologetics," Theological Studies 15:2 (1954), 229-57 at 231-34; Gilles Berceville, "L'etonnante Alliance: Evangile et miracles selon saint Thomas d'Aquin," Revue Thomiste: Revue doctrinale de Theologie et Philosophie 103:1 (January-March 2003), 5-74; Goodich, Miracles and Wonders, 19-21; and Thomas Carey, "Aquinas (and Hume) on Miracles: Some Thoughts," Think 15 (Autumn 2007), 97-107.

(17.) 3 SCG 97: "Manifeste videri potest quod ea quae sunt per divinam providentiam dispensata, sequuntur aliquam rationem"; see also 3 SCG 99 and 100.

(18.) Harrison, "Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion," 497.

(19.) ST 1 q. 105 a.8; 3 SCG 101. In both these passages, Aquinas explains there are varying degrees of miracles based on the extent to which they exceed nature's capacities.

(20.) See 3 SCG 102. Aquinas stresses, however, that in a miracle God does not act against God's self (see ST 1 q. 105 a.6 and 3 SCG 98; see also ST 1 q. 25 a.3).

(21.) 3 SCG 103; ST 1 q. 110 a.4 ad 1.

(22.) ST 1 q. 113 a. 1 ad 3; ST 2-2 q.95 a.6.

(23.) ST 2-2 q.2 a.9 ad 3: "Ille qui credit habet sufficiens inductivum ad credendum, inducitur enim auctoritate divinae doctrinae miraculis confirmatae."; see also ST 2-2 q. 1 a.4 ad 2; ST 22 q. 2 a. 10 ad 2; ST 2-2 q.6 a. 1; ST 22 q. 178 a. 2; ST 3 q.43 a. 1; and 3 SCG 154; see furthermore Harrison, "Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion," 497-99; and Avery Dulles, SJ, The Assurance of Things Hoped for: A Theology of Christian Faith (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1994) 33-36.

(24.) 1 SCG 6.6: "Quamvis non cesset Deus etiam nostris temporibus, ad confirmationem fidei, per sanctos suos miracula operari."

(25.) See ST 3 q.75 a. 1.

(26.) ST 3 q.76 a.8.

(27.) In the Summa contra Gentiles, Book II, questions 91-101 are dedicated to angels and demons; in the Summa theologiae, Prima Pars, questions 50-64 and 106-114.

(28.) ST 1 q.50 a. 1.

(29.) See, e.g., 2 SCG 91; ST 1 q.50 a.3.

(30.) See, e.g., ST 1 q.50 a.4; 2 SCG 90; note that "spiritual substance" and "intellectual substance" can also refer to the human soul.

(31.) ST 1 q.62 a. 1.

(32.) See e.g., ST 1 q. 103 a.6; ST 1 q. 110 a. 1; and 3 SCG 78; on Aquinas's view of the role of creatures in divine government, see Michael A. Hoonhout, "Grounding Providence in the Theology of the Creator: The Exemplarity of Thomas Aquinas," HeythropJournal 43:1 (January 2002), 1-19, at 5.

(33.) ST 1 q.63 a. 1 ad 4; ST 1 q.64 aa. 1-4.

(34.) ST 1 q.63 a.8.

(35.) 2 SCG 92; ST 1 q.50 a.3.

(36.) ST 1 q.64 a.4; see also ST 1 q. 114 a. 1 ad 1, where Aquinas adds that demons not only tempt human beings, but can also be used by God to punish them. Aquinas also holds that temptations can come directly from the devil (ST 1 q. 114 a. 2).

(37.) ST 1 q. 111 a. 2 ad 2: "Dicitur tamen Diabolus incensor cogitationum, inquantum incitat ad cogitandum, vel ad appetendum cogitata, per modum persuadentis, vel passionem concitantis."

(38.) ST 1 q. 113 a. 1; ST 1 q. 113 a.4, esp. ad 3; ST 1 q. 114 a. 1 ad 2.

(39.) ST 1 q. 113 a.5.

(40.) ST 1 q.113 a. 1 ad 1; ST 1 q.113 a. 4.

(41.) See ST 1 q. 110 a.4 ad 2; ST 1 q. 114 a.4; 3 SCG 103. For Aquinas, genuine (divine) miracles have causes hidden from everyone, whereas miracles in the looser sense are astonishing to people from the perspective of their own experiences (ST 1 q. 105 a.7).

(42.) ST 1 q. 105 a.7.

(43.) Lorraine Daston, "Marvelous Facts and Miraculous Evidence in Early Modern Europe," Critical Inquiry 18:1 (Autumn 1991), 93-124, at 97.

(44.) ST 2-2 q. 10 a. 2 ad 3.

(45.) ST 1 q. 117 a.4 ad 2.

(46.) ST 1 q.89 a.8 ad 2.

(47.) See ST 2-2 q. 178 a. 2.

(48.) ST 2-2 q.94 a.4.

(49.) ST 1 q. 114 a.4 ad 2; see also ST 1 q. 111 aa.3 and 4; ST 2-2 q.51 a.2. For a broader treatment of miraculous and preternatural visions according to Aquinas, see Simon McCarthy-Jones, "Seeing the Unseen, Hearing the Unsaid: Hallucinations, Psychology and St. Thomas Aquinas," Mental Health, Religion & Culture 14:4 (April 2011), 353-69.

(50.) ST 2-2 q. 175 a. 1.

(51.) ST 1 q.51 a. 3 ad 6: "Si tamen ex coitu Daemonum aliqui interdum nascuntur, hoc non est per semen ab eis decisum, aut a corporibus assumptis, sed per semen alicuius hominis ad hoc acceptum, utpote quod idem Daemon qui est succubus ad virum, fiat incubus ad mulierem; sicut et aliarum rerum semina assumunt ad aliquarum rerum generationem, ut Augustinus dicit, III de Trin.; ut sic ille qui nascitur non sit filius Daemonis, sed illius hominis cuius est semen acceptum."

(52.) 3 SCG 107.

(53.) ST 2-2 q.96 a. 1.

(54.) ST 1 q. 110 a.4 ad 2; see also ST 2-2 q.96 a. 1; ST 2-2 q.95 a.4; 3 SCG 104, 105, and 106; on demons as the cause of magic, see Bailey, Magic and Superstition in Europe, 98-99; on Aquinas's sources for his account of magic, see Josef Koch, "Introduction," in Giles of Rome, Errores Philosophorum: Critical Text with Notes and Introduction, ed. Josef Koch, trans. John O. Riedl (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1944) xxxviii.

(55.) 3 SCG 104.

(56.) 3 SCG 104; ST 2-2 q.96 a.3; ST 2-2 q.95 a.2; see also ST 2-2 q.92 a.2; ST 2-2 q.95 a. 1; ST 2-2 q.95 a.4, 5, and 7.

(57.) ST 2-2 q.95 a.3; ST 2-2 q.95 a.8; on dreams, see also ST 2-2 q.95 a.6; 3 SCG 104.

(58.) ST 1 q. 117 a.3 ad 2; cf. 3 SCG 103. For a broad investigation of the "evil eye" across various cultures, see Alan Dundes, ed., The Evil Eye: A Casebook (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992).

(59.) ST 1 q. 117 a.4 ad 2 (cited earlier).

(60.) 3 SCG 99.9.

(61.) ST 3 q. 76 a. 8 (cited earlier).

(62.) ST 2-2 q. 178 a. 1.

(63.) ST 1 q. 114 a.3 ad 3.

(64.) On this point, see Justice, "Did the Middle Ages Believe in Their Miracles?", 7.

(65.) 3 SCG 100. 1.

(66.) See Terence L. Nichols, "Miracles in Science and Theology," Zygon 37:3 (September 2002), 703-15, at 704.

(67.) David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (Stilwell, KS: Digireads. com Publishing, 2005 [originally 1748]), [section]90.

(68.) See 3 SCG 99.9, where Aquinas remarks that some humans are born with a sixth finger on each hand.

(69.) See Bailey, Magic and Superstition in Europe, 210.

(70.) 3 SCG 103.9; see also ST 1 q.114 a.4; 3 SCG 101. 1.

(71.) ST 1 q. 110 a.4 ad 2: "Miracula simpliciter loquendo, dicuntur, ut dictum est, cum aliqua fiunt praeter ordinem totius naturae creatae. Sed quia non omnis virtus naturae creatae est nota nobis, ideo cum aliquid fit praeter ordinem naturae creatae nobis notae, per virtutem creatam nobis ignotam, est miraculum quoad nos. Sic igitur cum Daemones aliquid faciunt sua virtute naturali, miracula dicuntur non simpliciter, sed quoad nos. Et hoc modo magi per Daemones miracula faciunt."

(72.) See ST 1 q.57 a.4, esp. ad 2. In this passage, Aquinas explains the limits of what angels can know of human thoughts, but the principles he uses make it clear that humans cannot know the inmost thoughts of angels and demons.

(73.) Keith Ward, "Believing in Miracles," Zygon 37:3 (September 2002), 741-50.

(74.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 741-42.

(75.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 742; on nature's regularity as ground for its intelligibility, see Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 743.

(76.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 742; see Hume, Enquiry, [section]90.

(77.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 742.

(78.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 743.

(79.) John Henry, "Metaphysics and the Origin of Modern Science: Descartes and the Importance of Laws of Nature," Early Science and Medicine 9:2 (2004), 73-114, at 73-74; see also Edgar Zilsel, "The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law," The Philosophical Review 51:3 (May 1942), 245-79.

(80.) According to Brad S. Gregory, modern scientific method relies on what he calls "metaphysical naturalism" and "critical-realist empiricism," that is, scientists assume that nature works according to regular causes and that science is capable of discovering these causes (Brad S. Gregory, "No Room for God? History, Science, Metaphysics, and the Study of Religion," History and Theory 47 [December 2008], 495-19 at 504-5).

(81.) Ward, "Believing in Miracles," 748-49.

(82.) For another reading of Aquinas that at least arguably assumes divine miracles to be the only exception to nature's fundamental intelligibility, see Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) 169-74; see also Davies, Aquinas (NewYork: Continuum, 2002), 85.

(83.) See Nichols, "Miracles in Science and Theology," 703-15; Ward, "Believing in Miracles" (both cited earlier); Alvin Plantinga, "What Is 'Intervention?'," Theology and Science 6:4 (2008), 369-401; and Atle Ottesen Sovik, "Why Christian Theology Should Accept That Miracles Occur," Science &Christian Belief 22:2 (October 2010), 151-65.

(84.) That said, note Graham Ward's observation of the new prominence of angels in contemporary culture and philosophy (see Ward, Cities of God, 206ff.); on the theological problems that belief in angels raises, see Karl Rahner, "On Angels," Theological Investigations, Vol. XIX: Faith and Ministry, trans. Edward Quinn (New York: Crossroad, 1983) 235-74.

(85.) Let me mention here my disagreement with Bailey, who suggests that, because Thomas seeks to explain magic through Aristotelian principles, he is already contributing to the disenchantment of the West (Bailey, Magic and Superstition in Europe, 210). As I have argued above, the willful activity of angels and demons makes nature for Aquinas irreducibly mysterious.

(86.) See McGrath, The Re-enchantment of Nature, 185-86; see also Alison Milbank, Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians, 168-69.

(87.) See Hume, Enquiry, esp. [section][section]98-99.

(88.) Antony Flew, God and Philosophy (New York: Hutchinson, 1966) 141-42, 145-46, 163. For a more recent critique of the argument from miracles generally, see Jordan Howard Sobel, Logic and Theism: Arguments for and against Beliefs in God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

(89.) See Hume, Enquiry, esp. [section]90.

(90.) See Craig S. Keener, "A Reassessment of Hume's Case against Miracles in Light of Testimony from the Majority of the World Today," Perspectives in Religious Studies 38:3 (2011), 289-310.

(91.) ST 2-2 q.6 a. 1; ST 2-2 q. 2 a.9 ad 3; on the scientific character of Aquinas's argument from miracles, see Dulles, The Assurance of Things Hoped For, 35. Adding even further to the question of the rational status of the argument from miracles is the fact that Aquinas, as noted earlier, believes that demons can mimic divine miracles (again, see, e.g., ST 2-2 q. 178 a. 2).

(92.) Carey, "Aquinas (and Hume) on Miracles," 103.

(93.) ST 2-2 q. 10 a. 1. For a helpful explanation of this issue, see Thomas M. Osborne, Jr., "Unbelief and Sin in Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic Tradition," Nova etVetera, English ed., 8:3 (2010), 613-26.

(94.) See ST 2-2 q. 10 a.6. For a recent (but unconvincing) defense of Aquinas's position on the Jews, see John F. X. Knasas, "Aquinas on Heretics and 'Jews'," Soter: Religijos mokslo zurnalas (Journal of Religious Science) 14:42 (2004), 165-74. Cf. John Y. B. Hood, Aquinas and the Jews (Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

(95.) See ST 2-2 q. 10 a. 2.

(96.) It is interesting in this regard to compare Aquinas's appeal to miracles as proof of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist to Hume's claim that this doctrine is based entirely on testimony and without any evidence to the senses (Hume, Enquiry, [section]86).
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Author:St. Hilaire, Robert
Publication:Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture
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Date:Jan 1, 2015
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