Date: August 2009
Creator: Patterson, Patrick
Description: According to Walter Stephens, witch-theorists in the fifteenth century developed the witchcraft belief of demon copulation in order to prove the existence of demons and therefore the existence of God. In England, during the mid-seventeenth century, Cartesian and materialist philosophies spread. These new philosophies stated there was nothing in the world but corporeal substances, and these substances had to conform to natural law. This, the philosophers argued, meant witchcraft was impossible. Certain other philosophers believed a denial of any incorporeal substance would lead to atheism, and so used witchcraft as proof of incorporeal spirits to refute what they felt was a growing atheism in the world. By examining this debate we can better understand the decline of witchcraft. This debate between corporeal and incorporeal was part of the larger debate over the existence of witchcraft. It occurred at a time in England when the persecution of witches was declining. Using witchcraft as proof of incorporeal substances was one of the last uses of witchcraft before it disappeared as a valid belief. Therefore, a better understanding of this debate adds to a better understanding of witchcraft during its decline.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries