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J. Wilson wrote:

Hi, guys —

My questions are for someone familiar with the "Summa" of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In his section on angels and demons, Summa Theologica 1, question 111, he replies to the question on how angels or demons can influence the human imagination by stating that they can move the "spirits and humors" of an individual and thus move the imagination since the movement of "spirits and humors" influencing the imagination happens naturally in a person.

He states that since angels or demons can manipulate matter, if it occurs in nature naturally, then they can manipulate the "humors and spirits" in an individual to change their imagination.

My questions are:

  • Is this official Catholic teaching?
  • And, what in the world is he talking about here?
  • Since I thought that the understanding of the biological makeup of man in regards to "spirits and humors" was rejected long ago by advances in the biological sciences, is what he is postulating here just a product of the known science of his time and thereby not be regarded as applicable in today's theology?

Thank You!


  { What St. Thomas saying in his "Summa" on the angels and demons and is this Church teaching? }

Eric replied:

Hi J.,

Not everything St. Thomas taught is to be considered Gospel. He's an important writer but not personally infallible. Yes, he was operating based on the science of his time in this opinion.

The body was believed, at the time, to be controlled by four humors. See the following Wikipedia article on this for more information.

Nevertheless, I think it would still be a part of Catholic teaching that angels and demons can, in general, influence our imaginations, however its accomplished.


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