Once again, I have locomoted through the lengthy library of Latin language literature to translate a book for all of you!
On Magic (De Magia) by Father Francisco de Vitoria, a Dominican friar, was written in 1540.
Or rather, it was delivered as a university-wide lecture in Salamanca, Spain, and everybody who attended took notes. Years later, the notes were collated and turned into a book. It’s probably a fairly accurate picture of what he said, because he was known for teaching in “austere” Latin that was easy to write down or remember.
He was best known as a law professor, even though he was a theologian, and several of his previous lectures had changed the course of history. On the Indians (De Indiis) and On the Law of War (De jure belli) were probably the most influential, talking about the rights of native peoples and international law.
This was more a mix of theology and trying to keep the students out of trouble. Legend had it that Salamanca awarded a doctorate in magic, to the single survivor of a program run by the Devil. This probably led to lots of students attempting stupid occult things. It’s never been translated into English, and I think it’s interesting to read.
However, this lecture was also part of a theological controversy that had been going on for centuries. Without denying that weird supernatural things could happen (since the Bible said so), Christians had to choose whether they viewed witchcraft and magic as more likely to be drug delusions and auto-suggestion, or more likely to crawl with curses and spells that really worked. Vitoria goes over the theology of magic very calmly, acknowledges clearly that deals with the devil stink, and also points out that nobody he knows has ever seen anything magic happen.
De Vitoria’s mom came from a converso Jewish family, and he was an innovative theologian and legal theorist. So he was familiar with having the Inquisition and his Spanish political opponents sniffing around. I think this may have given him some empathy during his entire career for people needing fair treatment; but it was probably also his character and the way he was raised, since his family was well thought of.
There was supposed to be a second part to this lecture in the following year, but it wasn’t delivered until 1543. That lecture was to be on the ethics of magic, if any, and probably about the ethics of having laws against magic as well as the rights of the accused. Unfortunately, all the student notes for this lecture seem to have been lost, although there’s a reasonable chance some copy might still be out there.
So if you’re interested in a Biblical and philosophical back and forth argument on why the occult is a bad idea but natural wonders are just fine, you might enjoy reading On Magic (De Magia) by Francisco de Vitoria.
UPDATE: Brickmuppet reminds me of what I forgot to say – that you can also buy other books by me! The other translations are On the Valiant Woman, a commentary on Proverbs 31 by the Venerable Bede, and Part I of Commentary on the Apocalypse by St. Beatus of Liebana, for all your “please explain the imagery and Scripture references of the Book of Revelation” needs. (I really will be getting the other four volumes out. The editing takes more time than the translation.)
There are a lot of interesting books that were written in Latin, and which have never been made available in English. So if you get interested in one, you may as well translate it.