Summary Against Modern Thought: Divine Knowledge & Divinations Of Demons

Summary Against Modern Thought: Divine Knowledge & Divinations Of Demons

Previous post.

The demons start at paragraph 14. But please don’t skip the first bits, which are necessary to understand the latter.


1 Since man can only know the things that he does not see himself by taking them from another who does see them, and since faith is among the things we do not see, the knowledge of the objects of faith must be handed on by one who sees them himself.

Now, this one is God, Who perfectly comprehends Himself, and naturally sees His essence. Indeed, we get faith from God. So, the things that we hold by faith must come to us from God. But, since the things that come from God are enacted in a definite order, as we showed above, a certain order had to be observed in the manifestation of the objects of faith. That is to say, some persons had to receive them directly from God, then others from them, and so on in an orderly way down to the lowest persons.

Notes This obviously works in all things. Because of natural inequality.

2 ] Now, wherever there is an order among things, it is necessary that, the nearer one thing is to the first principle, the stronger it must be. This is apparent in the order of divine manifestation. For invisible things whose vision is beatifying, and to which faith applies, are first revealed by God to the blessed angels through open vision, as is clear from our previous statements.

3 In turn, by the intermediary ministry of the angels they are manifested to certain men; not, of course, through open vision, but through a kind of certitude resulting from divine revelation.

Notes You would only scoff at this if you believed all confirmatory evidence must be visual, which is silly. Strength of conviction of unseen, and unseeable, beliefs is everywhere. I trot out math examples, especially axioms which are always accepted “on faith”, all the time for just this reason. Or first principles, which our good saint uses next.

4 This revelation, then, is accomplished by means of a certain interior and intelligible light, elevating the mind to the perception of things that the understanding cannot reach by its natural light. For, just as the understanding by its natural light is made certain concerning things that it knows by that light (for instance, concerning first principles), so also does it acquire certitude concerning things which it apprehends by supernatural light.

Now, this latter certitude is needed so that the things that are grasped by divine revelation may be offered to others, for we cannot present things to others with assurance if we have not certain knowledge of them. Now, accompanying this light that we have mentioned, which illumines the mind from within, there are at times in divine revelation other external or internal aids to knowledge; for instance, a spoken message, or something heard by the external senses which is produced by divine power, or something perceived internally through imagination due to God’s action, or also some things produced by God that are seen by bodily vision, or that are internally pictured in the imagination.

From these presentations, by the light internally impressed on the mind, man receives a knowledge of divine things. Consequently, without the interior light, these aids do not suffice for a knowledge of divine things, but the interior light does suffice without them.

5 However, this revelation of the invisible things of God belongs to wisdom, which is properly the knowledge of divine things. Thus, it is said in Wisdom (7:27-28) that the wisdom of God “conveys herself through nations into holy souls… for God loves no one but him who dwells with wisdom.” And again in Sirach (15:5) it is said: “the Lord has filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.”

6 But, since “the invisible things of God … are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” not only divine things are revealed to men by divine grace, but also some created things, and this seems to pertain to knowledge. Hence, it is said in Wisdom (7:17): “For He has given me the true knowledge of the things that are: to know the disposition of the whole world, and the virtues of the elements.” And in 2 Chronicles (1:12) the Lord said to Solomon: “Knowledge and wisdom are granted to you.”

Notes Even atheist scientists believe this when they believe there is an underlying order (gravity attracts today and will tomorrow, too, in ordinary circumstances), they only always stop short of wondering how this underlying order must have arisen.

7 But the things that man knows he cannot properly convey to the knowledge of another man, except by speech. So, since those who receive a revelation from God, according to the divinely established order, should instruct others, it was necessary for them also to be given the grace of speech, in keeping with what the benefit of those who were to be instructed demanded.

Hence, it is said in Isaiah (50:4): “The Lord hath given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to uphold by word him that is weary.” And the Lord says to the disciples, in Luke (21:15): “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay.” And also for this reason, when it was necessary for the truth of the faith to be preached by a few men to different peoples, some were divinely instructed to “speak with divers tongues,” as is said in Acts (2:4): “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Spirit gave them to speak.”

Notes We use the traditional Catholic understanding that “tongues” means human comprehensible languages, like somebody who’s never heard it suddenly speaking Spanish.

8 But because oral teaching that is offered requires confirmation so that it may be accepted, unless it be evident in itself, and because things that are of faith are not evident to human reason, it was necessary for some means to be provided whereby the words of the preachers of the faith might be confirmed.

Now, they could not be confirmed by any rational principles in the way of demonstration, since the objects of faith surpass reason. So, it was necessary for the oral teaching of the preachers to be confirmed by certain signs, whereby it might be plainly shown that this oral teaching came from God; so, the preachers did such things as healing the sick, and the performance of other difficult deeds, which only God could do. Hence, the Lord, sending forth His disciples to preach, said in Matthew (10:8): “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.” And it is said at the end of Mark (16:20): “But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.”

9 But there was still another way of confirmation, in so far as the preachers of truth were found to speak true things about hidden events which could be made evident later, so that credit was given them as speakers of truths about matters which men were not able to experience. Hence, the a gift of prophecy was necessary, whereby they might know and reveal to others, through God’s revelation, future events and things generally concealed from men.

Thus, in this way, when they were discovered to tell about true events, belief would be accorded them in regard to matters of faith. Hence, the Apostle says, in 1 Corinthians (14:24-25): “If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an unlearned person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is judged by all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will adore God, affirming that God is among you indeed.”

10 However, an adequate testimony to the faith is not supplied by this gift of prophecy unless it were concerned with things that can be known by God alone, just as miracles are of such nature that God alone can work them. Now, these things are especially, in the affairs of this world, the secrets of our hearts, which God alone can know, as we showed above, and contingent future events which also come only under divine cognition, for He sees them in themselves because they are present to Him by reason of His eternity, as we showed above.

11 Of course, some contingent future events can also be foreknown by men; not, indeed, according as they are future, but inasmuch as they pre-exist in their causes. When these latter are known, either in themselves or through some of their evident effects, which are called signs, a foreknowledge of some future effects may be acquired by man. Thus, a physician foreknows future death or good health from the condition of natural strength, which he knows from the pulse, the urine, and signs of this kind.

Now, this kind of knowledge of future matters is partly certain, but partly uncertain. In fact, there are some pre-existing causes from which future events follow of necessity; for instance, if there be a pre-existing composition of contraries in an animal, death results necessarily. But, from some pre-existing causes future effects do not follow necessarily, but usually.

For instance, in most cases a perfect human being results from the insemination of a mother by a man’s semen; sometimes, however, monsters are generated, because of some obstruction which overcomes the operation of the natural capacity. So, there is certain foreknowledge of the first kind of effects, but of those mentioned in the second case there is no infallibly certain foreknowledge.

However, the foreknowledge that is acquired concerning future events from divine revelation, according to prophetic grace, is altogether certain, just as divine foreknowledge is also certain. Indeed, God does not merely foreknow future events as they are in their causes, but infallibly, as they are in themselves, as we showed earlier. And so, prophetic knowledge of future things is given man in the same way, with perfect certitude. Nor is this certitude opposed to the contingency of future events, any more than the certitude of divine knowledge is, as we showed above.

12 However, some future events are at times revealed to prophets, not as they are in themselves, but as they are in their causes. In that case, if the causes are obstructed from achieving their effects, nothing prevents the prophetic forecast from being modified. Thus, Isaiah foretold to the ailing Hezekiah: “take order with Your house, for You shall die, and not live” (Is. 38:1), but be was restored to health; and Jonah the Prophet foretold that “after forty days, Nineveh shall be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4), Yet it was not overturned. Hence, Isaiah made his prophecy of the coming death of Hezekiah according to the order of his bodily condition and of the lower causes in relation to this result, and Jonah prophesied the disruption of Nineveh according to the demands of its merits; however, in both cases, it turned out differently, in accord with the working of a free and health-giving God.

13 And so, prophetic prediction of future events is an adequate argument for the faith, since, though men do know some things in advance about future matters, their knowledge of future contingencies is not accompanied by certitude, as is the foreknowledge of prophecy. For, though prophetic revelation is sometimes accomplished on the basis of the order of causes to a given effect, yet at the same time, or later, a revelation may be made to the same prophet concerning the outcome of the future event, as to how it is to be modified. For example, the healing of Hezekiah was revealed to Isaiah (Isa. 38:5), and the saving of the Ninevites to Jonah (Jonah 4:5ff.).

14 But malign spirits strive to corrupt the truth of the faith, just as they make bad use of the working of wonders, in order to lead to error and weaken the proof of the true faith, even though they do not perform miracles in the proper sense, but things that appear wonderful to men, as we showed above—so also they abuse prophetic prediction, not, of course, prophesying, but foretelling certain things according to the order of causes hidden to man, so that they seem to know in advance future events in themselves.

Now, though contingent effects come from natural causes, these spirits, as a result of the subtlety of their understanding, can know more than men as to when and bow the effects of natural causes may be obstructed. So, in foretelling future things, they appear to be more astonishing and more truthful than men, no matter how learned the latter may be. Of course, among natural causes, the highest and farthest removed from our knowledge are the powers of the celestial bodies. That these are known to the spirits under discussion, in accord with what is proper to their nature, is evident from earlier explanations.

Therefore, since all lower bodies are controlled through the powers and motions of the higher bodies, these spirits are far more able than any astronomer to foretell future winds and storms, changing conditions of the atmosphere, and other such things which occur in the changing of lower bodies as a result of the motion of the higher bodies. Also, though celestial bodies can make no impression directly on the intellectual part of the soul, as we showed above, a good many men follow the impulse of their bodily passions and tendencies, on which we have shown that the celestial bodies do have an influence.

In fact, it is only possible for wise men, of whom the number is small, to resist this kind of passion by using their reason. So, the result is that many predictions can be made concerning man’s acts, although even these spirits fail at times in their predictions because of freedom of choice.

15 However, they do not make their predictions of what they foreknow by enlightening the mind, as is done in the case of divine revelation. Indeed, it is not their intention that the human mind be perfected in order to know the truth, but, rather, that it be turned away from the truth.

Now, they sometimes predict, indeed, by impressing the imagination, either during sleep, as when they show the signs of certain future events through dreams, or while one is awake, as is apparent in the case of people in a trance or frenzy who foretell future events. At other times, too, they do it through external signs, for instance, by the movement and chirping of birds, and by means of the appearances of the inner parts of animals, and by the drawing of certain kinds of mathematical figures, and in other like ways which seem to work by some kind of lot. At still other times, they do it by visual apparitions and by predicting future events in speech that can be heard.

Notes I struggle with the temptation to add a joke here. I barely overcome it.

16 Although the last of these ways is obviously the work of evil spirits, some people have made efforts to explain the other ways in terms of natural causes. They say, in fact, that when a celestial body moves toward definite effects in these things here below, some signs of the result of the influence of the same body appear, because different things receive the celestial influence in different ways. On this basis, then, they say that the change that is produced in a thing by the celestial body can be taken as a sign of the change in another thing.

Hence, they say that movements that are apart from rational deliberation, such as visions in people who are dreaming and in those who are out of their mind, and the flight and crying of birds, and the drawing of figures, when a person does not deliberate on how many points he should draw, are all the results of the influence of a celestial body. So, they say that things like these can be the signs of future effects that are caused by the motion of the heavens.

17 However, since this has little reason, it is better to think that the predictions that are made from signs of this kind take their origin from some intellectual substance, by whose power the aforesaid motions occurring without deliberation are controlled, in accord with what befits the observation of future events. And while these movements are sometimes controlled by the divine will, through the ministry of good spirits, since many things are revealed by God through dreams—as to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:25), and to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:28), and “lots that are cast into the lap, that are also at times disposed of by the Lord,” as Solomon says (Prov. 16:33).

Yet most of the time they happen as a result of the working of evil spirits, as the holy Doctors say, and as even the Gentiles themselves agree. For Maximus Valerius says that the practice of auguries and dreams, and that sort of thing, belongs to the religion in which idols were worshiped. And so, in the Old Law, along with idolatry, all these practices were prohibited. Indeed, it is said in Deuteronomy (18:9-11): “beware lest you have a mind to imitate the abominations of those nations,” that is, those that serve idols; “neither let there be found among you anyone who expiates his son or daughter, making them to pass through the fire; or who consults soothsayers, or observes dreams and omens; neither let there be any wizard nor charmer, nor anyone who consults pythonic spirits, or fortune tellers, or who seeks the truth from the dead.”

Notes Of course, many modern day psychics and so on are utter frauds, using all sorts of trickery to make it appear they have access to higher intelligences (I make a study of mental magic, i.e. mentalism). But this is therefore not an excuse to make use of these frauds.

18 Moreover, prophecy attests to the preaching of the faith in another way, namely, in so far as some tenets of the faith are preached which took place in time, such as the birth of Christ, His passion and resurrection, and events of that kind. And lest these be thought fictions made by the preachers, or to have come about by chance, they are shown to have been preached long beforehand by the Prophets. Consequently, the Apostle says in Romans (1:1): “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He had promised before, by His prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning His Son, Who was made to Him of the seed of David, according to the flesh.”

19 Following the degree of those who receive revelation directly from God, another degree of grace is necessary. In fact, since men receive revelation from God not only for their own time, but also for the instruction of all men that are to come, it was necessary that the things revealed to them not only be recounted orally to their contemporaries, but also that they be written down for the instruction of men to come. Consequently, there had to be some who would interpret this kind of writings. Now, this should be a divine grace, just as revelation was accomplished by the grace of God. Hence, it is said in Genesis (40:8): “Does not interpretation belong to God?”

20 Then there follows the last degree: of those, namely, who faithfully believe the things that are revealed to others, and interpreted by still others. But that this is a gift of God was shown earlier.

21 But, since some things are done by evil spirits similar to the things whereby the faith is confirmed, both in the working of wonders and in the revelation of future events, as we said above, lest men that have been deceived by such things believe in a lie, it is necessary that they be instructed by the help of divine grace concerning the discernment of this kind of spirits, in accord with what is said in 1 John (4:1): “do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits if they are of God.”

22 Now, the Apostle enumerates these effects of grace, that are directed to the instruction and confirmation of the faith, in 1 Corinthians (12:8-10), saying: “To one indeed, by the Spirit is given the word of wisdom; and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another, faith in the same Spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of speeches.”

Notes More inequality.

23 By this conclusion we set aside the error of certain Manicheans, who say that corporeal miracles are not performed by God. At the same time we exclude the error of those men, in so far as they assert that the Prophets did not speak by the Spirit of God. We also dispose of the error of Prisca and Montanus, who said that the Prophets, like epileptics, did not understand what they spoke about. For this does not agree with divine revelation, whose chief effect is the illumination of the mind.

24 Among the effects of grace that have been noted above there is a difference which must be observed. Though the name grace is suitable to all, since it is conferred gratis, without preceding merit, only the effect of love is further entitled to the name grace by virtue of the fact that it makes one in the good graces of God. For it is said in Proverbs (8:17): “I love them that love me.” Thus, faith and hope, and other things related to faith, can be present in sinners who are not in the good graces of God. But love alone is the special gift of the just, for “he who abides in charity abides in God, and God in him,” as is said in 1 John (4:16).

25 Moreover, there is still another difference to be considered in the preceding effects of grace. Some of them are necessary during the whole life of man, for without them he cannot be saved: for example, to believe, hope, love, and obey the commandments of God. So, in regard to these effects, there must be certain habitual perfections present in men, so that they may perform these acts when the occasion demands. But other effects are necessary, not for a whole life, but for definite times and places; for example, to work miracles, to foretell future events, and such actions.

So, for these actions habitual perfections are not given, but certain impressions are made by God, which cease to exist as soon as the act stops, and these impressions have to be repeated when the act is again to be repeated. Thus, the mind of the Prophet is illumined for each revelation by a new light, and in each case of the working of miracles there must be a new influence of divine power.


  1. Michael Dowd

    Key message for me: “24 Among the effects of grace that have been noted above there is a difference which must be observed. Though the name grace is suitable to all, since it is conferred gratis, without preceding merit, only the effect of love is further entitled to the name grace by virtue of the fact that it makes one in the good graces of God. For it is said in Proverbs (8:17): “I love them that love me.” Thus, faith and hope, and other things related to faith, can be present in sinners who are not in the good graces of God. But love alone is the special gift of the just, for “he who abides in charity abides in God, and God in him,” as is said in 1 John (4:16).”

  2. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    I don’t know if, by this: “Or first principles, which our good saint uses next” (in the note to p. 3), you mean the principles are possessed by faith. Obviously not, they are the most knowable for us, by nature, like the non contradiction principle, which you grasp at grasping any being whatsoever. So, being the best known, they are foundation for every human science, because any and every demonsteation goes from what is better known to what is less known or unknown, simpliciter. I have also to point out that a criterion is not known by our senses, as that which says that you only accept what is known by the senses…. But it goes far beyond that, there is no one who only accepts what he can prove scientificslly, and to define what “prove scientifically” means is something prescientific, metascientific and suprascientific. Also, the intelligibility of the world, soecies, relations, goods, beauty, etc., us not known by sense perception. I could go on, but I know you get the points and THE point

  3. C-Marie

    No baby is a “monster” no matter how ill-formed. So sad, his choice of words there.

    If ever one experiences an apparition, command it to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    The enemy does appeal to our adamic nature for us to follow the desires and wants of that which God does not allow. It is the same old temptation as in the Garden of Eden which is, be your own god. Easy to recognize the temptation, if willing to do so.

    Besides the gifts of tongues of other languages, there is the gift of prayer language in tongues which St. Paul says that he makes use of far more than anyone else does.

    There are the prophecies which are unchangeable and which do come to pass when it is God’s time for them to do so, as in the birth if Jesus Christ….

    Prophecies are sometimes not changeable and at other times especially concerning prophecies of judgment for a country, if the prayer requested by God is prayed, the judgment prophecy can be lessened, delayed, or removed all together. If there is little or no repentance, the judgment is forthcoming.

    The United States has had many opportunities to lessen judgments which prophecies foretold, but prayer and repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ has been sorely lacking for years, and now judgment has come.

    God bless, C-Marie

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