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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16.—What Apuleius the Platonist Thought Concerning the Manners and Actions of Demons.

The same Apuleius, when speaking concerning the manners of demons, said that they are agitated with the same perturbations of mind as men; that they are provoked by injuries, propitiated by services and by gifts, rejoice in honors, are delighted with a variety of sacred rites, and are annoyed if any of them be neglected.  Among other things, he also says that on them depend the divinations of augurs, soothsayers, and prophets, and the revelations of dreams, and that from them also are the miracles of the magicians.  But, when giving a brief definition of them, he says, “Demons are of an animal nature, passive in soul, rational in mind, aerial in body, eternal in time.”  “Of which five things, the three first are common to them and us, the fourth peculiar to themselves, and the fifth common to therewith the gods.” 313   But I see that they have in common with the gods two of the first things, which they have in common with us.  For he says that the gods also are animals; and when he is assigning to every order of beings its own element, he places us among the other terrestrial animals which live and feel upon the earth.  Wherefore, if the demons are animals as to genus, this is common to them, not only with men, but also with the gods and with beasts; if they are rational as to their mind, this is common to them with the gods and with men; if they are eternal in time, this is common to them with the gods only; if they are passive as to their soul, this is common to them with men only; if they are aerial in body, in this they are alone.  Therefore it is no great thing for them to be of an animal nature, for so also are the beasts; in being rational as to mind, they are not above ourselves, for so are we also; and as to their being eternal as to time, what is the advantage of that if they are not blessed? for better is temporal happiness than eternal misery.  Again, as to their being passive in soul, how are they in this respect above us, since we also are so, but would not have been so had we not been miserable?  Also, as to their being aerial in body, how much value is to be set on that, since a soul of any kind whatsoever is to be set above every body? and therefore religious worship, which ought to be rendered from the soul, is by no means due to that thing which is inferior to the soul.  Moreover, if he had, among those things which he says belong to demons, enumerated virtue, wisdom, happiness, and affirmed that they have those things in common with the gods, and, like them, eternally, he would assuredly have attributed to them something greatly to be desired, and much to be prized.  And even in that case it would not have been our duty to worship them like God on account of these things, but rather to worship Him from whom we know they had received them.  But how much less are they really worthy of divine honor,—those aerial animals who are only rational that they may be capable of misery, passive that they may be actually miserable, and eternal that it may be impossible for them to end their misery!



De Deo Socratis.

Next: Chapter 17

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