7 Satan III --Demon Possession
Today's sermon is about how Satan invades and corrupts us--with special attention paid to a description of the mechanism of demonic possession. Above all, it must be remembered that Satan and his minions are FALLEN ANGELS, and therefore possess super-human powers of intellect and persuasion. However, they are not CORPOREAL, so their only power over us is the power that we, ourselves, give them, to invade our minds, thereby allowing them to gain control of our bodies--this either in highly dramatic ways, or very subtle ways. More on this below.
To begin with, an introductory paragraph on the subject of demon possession is in order:
As we will see in greater detail in a moment, there are a great many levels or degrees of demon possession; they range from the physically violent, hysterical teeth-gnashing such as may be seen in the movie The Exorcist, to very subtle, almost imperceptible levels of demonic influence. Every level of demonic possession is equally damning, because they all point the sinner away from the Light of Truth. The point here, is that, regardless of degree, Satan and Satan's minions are always at our elbow seeking to confuse us, to confound us, and to lead us astray, whether that confusion expresses itself in elaborate displays of magical fireworks, or the faintest footfalls of condescension on the backstairs of judgment.
Once again let me remind you of the C.S. Lewis quote from The Screwtape Letters that I have read several times before:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight.”
The fact that Satan is equally pleased by:
1.) the materialist, who denies the existence of supernatural entities, and
2.) the magician, the meddler in supernatural affairs,
is significant, because it underlines the idea that demonic influence, the subtle, muttering which is constantly, incessantly being whispered in our spiritual ears, has nothing to do with how things really are; the demons don't care what we think, nor what we think of them, as long as it is wrong; their words contain NO INFORMATION, not even negative information--it is just noise. The demons have nothing to tell us or to teach us--all they want is a little piece of our mind (one way or the other), a tiny perch, a foothold on the edge of our attention, into the fabric of which they can weave an embroidery of lies; lies through which they can project false hallucinations before our eyes.
Hence, the battle between good and evil is the battle between the perception of the real (that which is eternal) and the unreal (that which is temporal). The materialist's stubborn refusal to admit to the existence of Satan, freely grants, to the father of liars, the power to insinuate his way into the sinner's mind, and draw a curtain of mist between fact and fiction. Thus, unsuspecting, and with blind eye, the sinner allows Satan to plant perverted ideas in his mind; infernal thought forms appear on the proscenium of the sinner's inner vision, unobstructed by objective perspective, and uncompromised by any conscious intimation that all his thoughts may not be his own. In the case of the magician, the Devil can, with smoke and mirrors, create a light show that imitates reality in every detail except for the fact that, when the show is over, what appeared to have been an edifice of solid three-dimensional truth turns out to be a flimsy 2-dimensional placard taken off a movie set, solid on one side and vacant on the back. In both cases, the devil creates, with a magic brush, canvases of illusion whose only purpose is to enthrall us and to distract our attention away from the light of divine truth.
So, first of all, in our discussion of how demon possession works, we have to describe the means by which demonic influence is established in the sinner. It must be understood, at the outset, that there is a doorway between the world of spirit and the world of materiality, a doorway which may be manipulated with greater or lesser success depending on the spiritual sensitivity of the subject. I have spoken many times of the multi-dimensional nature of Man, of Consciousness; I have explained that there are many levels of consciousness on a graded continuum from the lowest carnal levels up to the highest infinitudes of God Consciousness. Since the demonic consciousness is of angelic origin, it is more native to higher vibratory levels of being. Thus, in order to corrupt our souls, which are as fine and as high vibratory material as theirs, the devils must gain access to our consciousness on the physical level--to our brains--there must be a bending down, a reaching through the door from the higher to the lower, such that the language of spiritual corruption can register in words referential of the material plane.
The demons, although of a lower nature, are still essentially smarter (is cunning a better word?) and more powerful than Man, coming, as they do, from a higher plane. They use the magician's flippant attitude of Let's-Play-Ouija-board! to come plowing through the door with parlor tricks and miraculous fireworks, and they use the materialist's self-blinding denial to creep up on him in the dark. Either way, they prey upon us at our point of weakest defense, but they have to come in through that little slip of a door.
Let's get this straight, too: when I speak of a door, I do not mean some swinging board, some membrane, or material curtain; I speak of the door metaphorically as a consciousness state: it is a region of our psychic construction that is subject to our mental control by virtue of our ability to look inside our selves, with spiritual eyes, and see aspects of our inner self. Thus, this door between the worlds may be said to be of a thickness relative to the sensitivity of the subject; if the door between the mundane plane and the spiritual plane is thinner, this means that the subject is more sensitive, more attentive to subtle vibrations, and energies may pass between the two planes more freely, for good or ill.
Spiritual sensitivity is achieved by concentrated efforts of will which reveal to the subject his/her inner life. Steiner makes reference to the "moral imagination". This may be an unfortunate term for many, because the word "imaginary" carries with it the connotation of "unreal"; to achieve spiritual consciousness this connotation must be dispensed with. Spiritual realities are just as real as, in fact more real than, physical realities--they are just harder to perceive--at least at first. Consequently, if we are less spiritually attuned, the harder it will be to perceive spiritual realities, the more spiritually attuned we are, the more spiritually attentive we are, the more easily will we be able to open that door between worlds. This is good. However, this spiritual sensitivity brings with it the heightened vulnerability to Satanic influence; to be sure, the more spiritually enlightened we are, the more we may be in touch with heavenly influence, but this also means that we make a better target for Satanic influence as well.
All of us here have heard the insidious whisper of Satan trying to cancel out the joy of some positive thing that has happened to us; we know that while the angels sing hosannas over every positive accomplishment in the world, the chorus is accompanied by the ravings of hell, seeking to compromise the chords with dissonance and cacophony. Every time we are on the verge of making a positive breakthrough, spiritually, the devil is at our elbow rasping nagging words of denigration and despair, warning us not to go through with it, planting irrational fears in our fainting hearts. And the bigger the foothold in our mental makeup Satan is allowed to claim, the more influence he will have. We may not even suspect it, but he is always there, darting to and fro before whatever defenses we have, like a slavering wolf closing in on a wounded faun.
Remember that the brain is just a muscle, it is not the origin or even the main seat of consciousness; but it is the receptor of spiritual energy that we interpret as "thought". The more our brains are open to spiritual thought, the more they may be open to Satanic suggestions. Without the armor of God, without the armor of Jesus protecting us, we can easily become so overwhelmed by Satan that he can actually take control of our body. (More on the armor of God next week.)
This, I believe, is the essential definition of demonic possession: a person whose armor is so weakened that Satan (or another of his minions) can actually invade the sinner's brain to the point that it, (the demon), usurps physical control of the sinner's body. Not many of us are so obviously dominated by demons that we perform any of the horrible behaviors portrayed in the Exorcist movies, and the like; that's why demon possession is not more recognized, and more recognizable by the public at large, and by the scientific community in particular.
But there is a more subtle, insidious, (and damning), type of demonic possession of which most of us are not even aware: this where we have given Satan a foothold in our consciousness, and have allowed him more and more to substitute for our own true thoughts, thought forms generated by him--in other words, a brain, possessed by demonic influence, will consciously mistake for its own thoughts, ideas and conclusions which have actually been therein implanted by Satan.
A dramatic description, of this type of unconscious demon possession, that we all must endure, appears at the beginning of C.S. Lewis's Perelandra. The selection is quite long, and I have cut it up quite a bit, but, even so, you will admire how deliciously accurate is Lewis's account of how the demons invade our minds. The scene is this: a friend is traveling to a meeting with Ransom (the hero of the book)--this is a meeting that the powers of darkness very much wish to prevent; as the friend approaches the appointed spot, his mind is attacked by a legion of demons, and he begins to have wild ungovernable thoughts:
"As I plodded along the empty, unfenced road which runs across the middle of Worchestshire Common I tried to dispel my growing sense of malaise by analysing it. What, after all, was I afraid of? The moment I had put this question I regretted it. I was shocked to find that I had mentally used the word "afraid." Up till then I had tried to pretend that I was feeling only distaste, or embarrassment, or even boredom. But the mere word afraid had let the cat out of the bag. I realized now that my emotion was neither more, nor less, nor other, than Fear. And I realized that I was afraid of two things-afraid that sooner or later I myself might meet an eldil, and afraid that I might get "drawn in." I suppose every one knows this fear of getting "drawn in" - the moment at which a man realizes that what had seemed mere speculations are on the point of landing him in the Communist Party or the Christian Church - the sense that a door has just slammed and left him on the inside. The thing was such sheer bad luck. . . .
"This is a long, dreary road," I thought to myself. "Thank goodness I haven't anything to carry." And then, with a start of realization, I remembered that I ought to be carrying a pack, containing my things for the night. I swore to myself. I must have left the thing in the train. Will you believe me when I say that my immediate impulse was to turn back to the station and "do something about it"? . . .
A nasty idea occurred to me. Why should not Ransom be a dupe? If something from outer space were trying to invade our planet, what better smoke-screen could it put up than this very story of Ransom's? . . . And then once more, just as when I had discovered that I had no pack, the impulse to go no farther returned to me. "Go back, go back," it whispered to me, "send him a wire, tell him you were ill, say you'll come some other time--anything." The strength of the feeling astonished me. I stood still for a few moments telling myself not to be a fool, and when I finally resumed my walk I was wondering whether this might be the beginning of a nervous breakdown. No sooner had this idea occurred to me than it also became a new reason for not visiting Ransom. . .
He was in league with them! How did I know he was even a dupe? He might be something worse … and I came to a standstill.
The reader, not knowing Ransom, will not understand how contrary to all reason this idea was. The rational part of my mind, even at that moment, knew perfectly well that even if the whole universe were crazy and hostile, Ransom was sane and wholesome and honest. And this part of my mind in the end sent me forward-with a reluctance and a difficulty I can hardly put into words. What enabled me to go on was the knowledge (deep down inside me) that I was getting nearer at every stride to the one friend: but I felt that I was getting nearer to the one enemy-the traitor, the sorcerer, the man in league with "them" … walking into the trap with my eyes open, like a fool. . .
I have naturally no wish to enlarge on this phase of my story. The state of mind I was in was one which I look back on with humiliation. I would have passed it over if I did not think that some account of it wasnecessary for a full understanding of what follows- and, perhaps, of some other things as well. At all events I can't really describe how I reached the front door of the cottage. Somehow or other, despite the loathing and dismay that pulled me back in a sort of invisible wall of resistance that met me in the face, fighting for each step, and almost shrieking as a harmless spray of the hedge touched my face, I managed to get through the gate and up the little path. And there I was, drumming on the door and wringing the handle and shouting to him to let me in as if my life depended on it."
This type of thought perversion will be familiar to anyone who has ever accomplished anything in life. The Devil hates every positive accomplishment of Man whether it be winning a war against a Hitler, or spelling correctly a difficult word. Many times I have seen the Devil lurking in the back row of my concerts seeking to compromise my students' musical accomplishments with negative thought forms. The brouhaha of infernal protest raves through the caverns of Hell every time a young kid does well on Fur Elise. Indeed, it is precisely at moments of supreme accomplishment that we must most be on our guard against Satan because, it is these positive accomplishments that he most seeks to ruin for us.
Another favorite description of how evil thoughts can be implanted in our minds appears in a song text of my own, The Good Samaritan:
"I wondered who that could be
lying beside the road,
wounded and bleeding by the road.
I could not, I could not see his face
as I knelt beside him.
And then I wondered,
"How long has he been here?
Is he really hurt, or is he just pretending
so he can catch me off my guard and rob and kill me?"
It was dark. I was scared. It was lonely.
I picked up his body and carried him to an inn;
and in the morning, with the first rays of the sun,
I saw the face of my best friend."
It will be noticed that in both this song text, and in the long C.S. Lewis excerpt, the evil thoughts are overcome merely by steadfast adherence to right action. We will have somewhat to say on this subject a little farther on. Suffice it to say, at this point, that: the Devil cannot withstand the opposition of righteous will power.
However, it must be admitted that Satan has a will of iron, too, and the patience of a sphinx. He will keep at us, and keep at us, and never give up trying to find a way through our inner defenses. He is ever probing and prodding until his every avenue of entry is blocked, or until he finds a way to imprint his negative message on our souls. How does he and his devils do it? How does he get his message of despair through to the tender innocent?
Remember the sermon from 2011 concerning angels in which Rudolf Steiner gave us a description of the mechanism whereby angels imprint information and ideas in the human consciousness:
The Work of the Angels In Man's Astral Body: A Lecture By Rudolf Steiner, Zurich, 9th October, 1918:
"It is then revealed that these Beings of the Hierarchy of the Angels — particularly through their concerted work, although in a certain sense each single Angel also has his task in connection with every individual human being — these Beings form pictures in man's astral body."[Sidebar: Notice how similar this is to the description of the infernal hierarchy described in The Screwtape Letters; the devils work together, and each has a single human "patient" whom he is assigned to corrupt, on whose astral body he is assigned the task of implanting false pictures.
Now, having once accepted the idea that we have a positive Angel, or Guardian angel, at our elbow, throughout our lives, it is therefore not so far-fetched to suppose that we also have a been assigned our own personal demon; thus, the comic book or cartoon image of the good little harp-playing angel hovering by our right ear, and the bad little horned devil hovering by our left ear, doing battle with each other for our attention, is not so far from the truth.
Back to Steiner:]
"Under the guidance of the Spirits of Form (Exusiai) the Angels form pictures. Unless we reach the level of Imaginative Cognition we do not know that pictures are all the time being formed in our astral body."[Sidebar: Imaginative cognition refers to the Steiner concept of the "moral imagination". Here, he says we must "reach the level of Imaginative Cognition." This means that, in order to perceive angelic impressions, we must develop levels of sensitivity in ourselves capable of registering the subtle activity of the moral imagination on the soul. Remember that we perceive, and approach an understanding of, higher vibratory information through the sensitivity of the so-called imagination or intuition; this is a sense for which we have no verbal definitions beyond the mystery of faith surrounding the "cloud of unknowing". Now, the word "imagination" means literally "the act of creating an image". So, through the mechanics of "moral imagination" we are able to create images of moral entities. These images may be ineptly, or at least inadequately, described as "pictures". Would there were a better word.
Indeed, the moral imagination is a mode of spiritual sensitivity that is very, very tricky to describe, because, in order to experience divine truth, we have to enter the cloud of unknowing; we have to turn off our verbal-structure-making apparatus. And this is very hard to do, because, as conscious beings of the mundane plane, it is our tendency to turn all our experiences into verbal summaries or descriptions. But with the moral imagination, or intuition, instead of turning our experiences into "word pictures", we have to turn these these experiences into what you might call "feeling pictures". This is difficult not only because the process, of transforming experiences into feeling-images, is delicate and unfamiliar, but because we then have to TRUST the feeling pictures--this is where faith comes in. We must be prepared to have faith in the evidence of things unseen because, at such highly refined vibratory rates, it is very easy to feel the wrong thing, or, even worse, to feel the right thing but lack the confidence to validate it as real.
Back to Steiner:]
"Under the guidance of the Spirits of Form (Exusiai) the Angels form pictures. Unless we reach the level of Imaginative Cognition we do not know that pictures are all the time being formed in our astral body. They arise and pass away, but without them there would be for mankind no evolution into the future in accordance with the intentions of the Spirits of Form. The Spirits of Form are obliged, to begin with, to unfold in pictures what they desire to achieve with us during Earth-evolution and beyond. And then, later on, the pictures become reality in a humanity transformed.
Through the Angels, the Spirits of Form are already now shaping these pictures in our astral body. The Angels form pictures in man's astral body and these pictures are accessible to thinking that has become clairvoyant. If we are able to scrutinise these pictures, it becomes evident that they are woven in accordance with quite definite impulses and principles. Forces for the future evolution of mankind are contained in them. If we watch the Angels carrying out this work of theirs — strange as it sounds, one has to express it in this way — it is clear that they have a very definite plan for the future configuration of social life on earth; their aim is to engender in the astral bodies of men such pictures as will bring about definite conditions in the social life of the future."
Nice, huh? But don't forget, SATAN IS AN ANGEL, TOO! Therefore, it is very reasonable to suggest that he imprints pictures on our consciousness just like the other angels!
In C.S. Lewis and the Devil by John A. Murray, Lewis makes the statement on the subject of the angelic nature of the demons:
"There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. . . . The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God. . . . Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael."
Thus, Satan may come to control our outer actions through an invasion and manipulation of our inner life. The soul and the will are not part of our physical mental equipment, but the inner monologues generated by words implanted in our brains may supply Satan just enough leverage to actually enslave the will. Oh! how horrible!
Satan is constantly attempting to implant tendencies, in our will, for wrong action. As long as we resist the wrong actions with opposing angelic pictures from Heavenly entities, all is well; but the wrong actions, motivated by wrong thoughts, are the devil's road into the heart. According to C.S. Lewis, it is not our thoughts that damn us but our deeds. C. S. Lewis would also insist that right actions, performed habitually, assist in the formation of "virtues". Virtues are part of the armor of God which we will discuss in detail next week. Right actions create what you might call "virtuous inertia", or karma; surely it is easy to see how this inertia toward the good could not help but defeat the Devil's efforts to divert us from our sure course. Contrariwise, if the Devil is able to slow down our spiritual progress with any sort of intellectual or moral bottleneck, it is easy to see how he could motivate wrong actions which would eventually allow his corrupting influence to penetrate the heart. This is basically the Catholic view, that Luther so opposed, by insisting that salvation was obtainable through grace alone. As we have seen before, there is much ground for disagreement, here.
For now, let us focus on the idea that Satan achieves control over our actions by poisoning our will; furthermore, it is through our everyday actions--our little sins of omission, of intemperance, of cruel gossip, of intolerance, of envy--that we are expressing demonic possession, every bit as much as having our heads spin around and make our beds jump up off the floor!
From The Catholic Encyclopedia:
"With the growing wickedness of the world and the spreading of paganism and false religions and magic rites, the rule of Satan was extended and strengthened till his power was broken by the victory of Christ, who for this reason said, on the eve of His Passion:
John 12:31:"Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out".
By the victory of the Cross Christ delivered men from the bondage of Satan and at the same time paid the debt due to Divine justice by shedding His blood in atonement for our sins.
In their endeavours to explain this great mystery, some old theologians, misled by the metaphor of a ransom for captives made in war, came to the strange conclusion that the price of Redemption was paid to Satan. But this error was effectively refuted by St. Anselm, who showed that Satan had no rights over his captives and that the great price wherewith we were bought was paid to God alone (cf. ATONEMENT).
The two cities whose struggle is described by St. Augustine are already indicated in the words of the Apostle,
1 John 3:8:"In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil".
Whether or not the foreknowledge of the Incarnation was the occasion of his own fall, his subsequent course has certainly shown him the relentless enemy of mankind and the determined opponent of the Divine economy of redemption. And since he lured our first parents to their fall he has ceased not to tempt their children in order to involve them in his own ruin.
There is no reason, indeed, for thinking that all sins and all temptations must needs come directly from the Devil or one of his ministers of evil. For it is certain that if, after the first fall of Adam, or at the time of the coming of Christ, Satan and his angels had been bound so fast that they might tempt no more, the world would still have been filled with evils. For men would have had enough of temptation in the weakness and waywardness of their hearts. But in that case the evil would clearly have been far less than it is now, for the activity of Satan does much more than merely add a further source of temptation to the weakness of the world and the flesh; it means a combination and an intelligent direction of all the elements of evil.
The whole Church and each one of her children are beset by dangers, the fire of persecution, the enervation of ease, the dangers of wealth and of poverty, heresies and errors of opposite characters, rationalism and superstition, fanaticism and indifference. It would be bad enough if all these forces were acting apart and without any definite purpose, but the perils of the situation are incalculably increased when all may be organized and directed by vigilant and hostile intelligences."
Finally, we have arrived at the nitty-gritty of this sermon: stories of demon possession. Thus far we have explored, in a general way, Satan's invasion of the mind, and how it can influence us. But when we speak of demon possession we often think of dramatic stories which involve magical utterances of spiritual beings through physical bodies. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
We begin with some famous stories from the Bible.
1 Samuel 16:14-23:
"14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.
16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.”
20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.
22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him."
[Sidebar: It is no accident that one of the first appearances of demon possession in the Bible is also accompanied by an account of one of its cures: music. I have often extolled the healing power of music; indeed, it is not unreasonable to give music the credit for being one of the primary powers of defense against demonic possession--the power to transmit, from heavenly sources, healing Angel pictures of divine truth into the soul of the subject. The Angel pictures which we heard Steiner speak of a few moments ago are admirably reproduced in the forms of music, which are reflections, in sound and time, of the heavenly truths.
It is important to remember, in this regard, that the hypnotic power of music may be used as effectively for evil as for good; we recall the section from The Silver Chair in which the Green witch uses the thrumming of a lyre to dull her victims into submission. We have also suggested that TIME is a primary element in the creation of sin--the sequential ordering of events (the iconic fixation of which drags those events out of the realm of eternity and into the prison of material reality) is one of the ways our vision is distracted from the eternal down to the illusions of carnality. As the hypnotic thralldom of sequential repetition puts our minds to sleep, we are the more deluded by infernal implications and innuendos. However, music can be more than mindless repetitions of carnal impulses: it can be reflections of divine forms, expressed in patterns of evolving, accelerating heavenly shapes. These shapes reside in the collective unconscious and are bursting with implicative symbolism and explicative emanations of positive energy.
Thus, the rhythm of music can represent the physicality of time, and therefore the physicality of sin, OR it can use the physicality of rhythm to open the heart to receive divine intimations of immortality. Music, when its rhythms are used to evoke divine forms, can become a powerful weapon in the Christian's arsenal of defenses against Satanic influence. The purity and perfection of divine forms, when placed side by side with the twisted demonic forms, make a very positive and very obvious comparison. A person would have to be very blind, indeed, to confuse the two.
Back to Biblical accounts of demon possession:]
"1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.
2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.
3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.
4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.
7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”
13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.
15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.
17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
20 So the man went away and began to tell in Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed."
[Sidebar: It is interesting to speculate on the idea that the demon possessed will sometimes exhibit displays of superhuman strength. It would be easy to conclude that these displays of strength are Satanic or Angelic in nature, because they are miraculous, but I find is not to be true; remember that Satan may be many things, but he is not physical--that honor has been reserved for Man. I find that the miraculous feats of strength and of intellect, which are performed by demonically possessed subjects, are simply manifestations of inherent human potential.
Such strength resides in every human being, as a potential anyway. We all know stories of mothers lifting Volkswagens off their three-year-old children, and suchlike--so it is not so far-fetched to suggest that Satanic influence, angelic influence, can maximize and materialize latent human potentials. Thus, the miracles of Jesus do not affirm His divinity--that proof comes from elsewhere; many saints have performed miracles by tapping into resources which lie dormant in all human beings. Nevertheless, it is very spooky to think that that Satan can bring out some of the best in us, for the worst possible reasons. Oh, if we could only reach into ourselves and maximize our own potential for good without the satanic hypnotic effect how wonderful that would be!]
"And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”"
[Sidebar: This distinction between the authority of Satan over his subjects and the authority of Jesus over his subjects is worthy of comment. To review the words of St. Thomas Aquinas:
"Satan is only head by outward government and not also, as Christ is, by inward, life-giving influence."
This point is not merely of dogmatic significance, but hints at a strategic tool by which the subterfuges of the Devil are made transparent to the faithful, to whit: no matter how convincing the arguments of the Devil seem to be, they NEVER touch the inner life of Man. The litmus test of spiritual validity is whether the words only touch the mind or whether they penetrate to the heart.]
Remember what I have said previously: that whenever a virtuous act is performed, Satan is at our elbow trying to compromise and denigrate our success. Avoiding his wheedling voice is almost unavoidable for even the greatest saints, witness Jesus in the desert and Luther in his study. However, the test is whether we listen when he whispers, or turn away.
Many more examples could be given of dramatic stories of demon possession, and, indeed, next week, we will look at two more long tales of demon possession and victory over demons in the lives of two of the great church Saints, St. Augustine and Martin Luther. For now, let us simply review some principles, and mention some other, less dramatic, examples of demon possession, that we may, by diligently paying attention, learn to recognize and avoid.
Satan is always prowling the perimeters of our consciousness, seeking the subtly hidden flaw, so he may use it to corrupt it the more. The role of perfectionism in this process cannot be overestimated, since a perfectionist attitude always seeks the hidden flaw, so that it may be corrected. Perfectionism, then, may clearly be considered an apt avenue of demonic invasion, because the flaw-seeking mind is easily seduced into admitting to flaws that are not really there. If Satan accused us of sins that were real, he would be doing us a service, by pointing out areas in our lives that should be mended and healed; but when Satan mentions our real sins, it is only to generate in us feelings of guilt which are not legitimate, and therefore not real.
Indeed, guilt is the one of the most insidious points of entry for Satan. Calling attention to invented sins is one of the well-worn corrupting strategies of Satan: he loves to accuse us of things of which we are not even guilty, so that, by generating feelings of guilt, we turn into ourselves away from the selfless adoration of the Divine Presence. Guilt is thought of by many as the humblest, most self-effacing of emotions, but I think it is really one more example of narcissistic self-interest run amuck.
Another source of temptation is the quest for mental stability (by that I mean the feeling that you have figured it out--the feeling that you have reached an and condition, mentally, which answers all your questions, and solves all your problems). I think one of the most dangerous mental attitudes a person can adopt is the feeling that "they have it figured out". Remember that Socrates' only claim to wisdom, was that he had no wisdom. We have also learned from Jesus that we must enter the kingdom of God as an innocent child.
These statements indicate that one of the primary ways in which we fight against Satan is by not allowing ourselves to come to any fixed or static ideas about what is real, but, rather, always adopt a fluid and evolving attitude toward reality. Satan will always try to give you the "right answer", because he knows that the right answer will end the discussion, and keep you from evolving. Satan wants to keep you from questioning, to keep you from moving forward, and changing, and growing.
Remember, as Dante approaches the face of God, he finds the face of God changing with every change in himself. It is not the ACHIEVEMENT of perfection, it is the APPROACH to perfection that Satan most wishes to stop. He knows that a moving target is much harder to hit. So, by getting us to stop in our tracks, and settle down to one theology, to one dogma, he will have stopped our spiritual evolution, and make it possible for him to grab us, and corrupt us, and begin the backward process of degradation, rather than evolution forward. This, I believe, is the reason so many devout Christians are burning in hell--because they simply placed too much emphasis on their own fixed attitudes, and denied themselves the fluid and dynamic experience of spirit, as it constantly draws us ever, ever closer to God.
Let us pray: Jesus we know that the demons are all around us seeking to corrupt us, seeking to misguide us, seeking to destroy our confidence in the positiveness of life. Please continue to remind us that life is good, that creation is good, and that we can, through the formation of virtues, make ourselves better and better and better and more worthy, to ultimately sit in your presence at the right hand of the Father. Amen.