published on March 1, 2018
Augustine and Aquinas on Demonic Possession
Theoria and Praxis
Augustine asserted that demons (and angels) have material bodies, while Aquinas denied demonic corporeality, upholding that demons are separated, incorporeal, intelligible substances. Augustine’s conception of demons as composite substances possessing an immaterial soul and an aerial body is insufficient, in Thomas’s view, to account for certain empirical phenomena observed in demoniacs. However, Thomas, while providing more detailed accounts of demonic possession according to his development of Aristotelian psychology, does not avail of this demonic incorporeal eminence when analysing demonic attacks: demonic agency is still confined to the material body. Aquinas’s account of demonic possession need not, on the face of it, require an immaterial cause. In his renouncement of the strong Christian tradition affirming demonic corporeality, Aquinas either conflates the need for a demonic agent with a requirement for a super corporeal one, or subordinates his demonology and angelology to a deeper, more fundamental Dionysian metaphysical principle of creative diffusion to which these adhere in a secondary way.