Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scholasticism and witchcraft theory 4

Duns Scotus had quite a lot to say about angels and demons, but let me focus on one particular issue: how do angels and demons possess material bodies?

According to Scotus, there are two things a demon or angel must do in order to possess a material body. First, it must become the mover of a body: it must take control of the body in such a way that it moves it about. Second, it must occupy the same region of space occupied by the body it controls.

Scotus claims that an angel or a demon must do both of these in order to possess a material body. An angel or demon cannot do just one of them. To see why this is so, consider cases where an angel or demon does only one of them.

Suppose, for instance, that a demon is traveling through the room at this very moment, and along the way, it happens to pass through my body. At the moment that it passes through my body, it would occupy the very same region of space that I do, but that doesn’t mean it possesses my body. In order to posses my body, the demon cannot just occupy the same region of space. It must also take control of my body as a puppeteer.

At the same time, though, simply taking control of my body as a puppeteer is not sufficient for demon possession either. Suppose that a conniving demon is sitting over there in the corner, all the way across the room, and suppose next that it exercises its powers and makes my arm suddenly move upwards. Scotus would say that doesn’t count as demon possession either. My arm would certainly be under the influence of the demon in the corner, but I would not be possessed.

So in order to possess a material body, angels and demons must do both of the things I’ve mentioned: they must take control of the body as the mover or puppeteer, and they must occupy the same reason of space. As Scotus sees it, those conditions are each necessary and jointly sufficient for angel/demon possession of a material body.

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