“His questioners now were not ruffians in black uniforms but Party intellectuals, little rotund men with quick movements and flashing spectacles, who worked on him in relays over periods which lasted—he thought, he could not be sure—ten or twelve hours at a stretch.”
-George Orwell, 1984
Perhaps you are not yet convinced of the existence of demons since last we corresponded. You have not spent the necessary years immured in a library tower, while the insect world creeps beneath you, sating yourself only on the ethereal pleasures of the theological science. A life dedicated to this world has dulled and calloused your perceptive powers to everything but the carnal senses. While God sees a good in the plowman as well as the priest, the plowman, in virtue of having cultivated only his lower elements, understandably deflects habitually to the material, the empirical, the brute facts. He needs a bit of palpable earth in his hand to work with. Today’s modern is much the same, except that, instead of the plowman’s honorable deference to the doctor of theology by religious instinct, today’s modern chaffs at anything which would check his vulgarity. The plowman, though simple, acquires beauty and grace as he bows his head in quizzical reverence at the moral and metaphysical lessons of his shepherd’s Latinate demonstrations.
Today’s modern, too in love with his own depraved liberty, spits in the face of authority and doubts even that his neighbors have furniture until he steps in their house! Perhaps you are such as these and have scoffed even at the records of the black rolling tongues of the possessed that have been described so thoroughly by that magnificently intellectual class of religious men, the Jesuits, who, as we learned in the previous post, so desire you to be smitten with an earnest and pure faith, that they would not interfere with the progress of your soul to Truth by providing it with too easy an assent through video footage (besides, videos of demonic possessions require a special codex package that is password protected on the Vatican website).
Perhaps you are like George Orwell’s protagonist in 1984:
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre.”
We can see that George Orwell has provided for us an excellent parable of the lost soul. As such, it is a warning for those whose presence here on earth signals that the bell has not yet tolled on their salvation. There is hope yet! Still another corner for the soul to turn before it falls irrevocably into the black and sulfurous pit that awaits murderers and masturbaters! (Unless you were predestined to hell, in which case, you’re burning forever no matter what you did. Paperwork’s already been filed.) Orwell’s parable of the unbeliever shows us exactly how reason fails the heretic and the infidel.
Of course, the matter of substances and properties and the covert operation of magical forces do not go against the evidence of your eyes and ears, since they are invisible! All that which is purely a matter of metaphysics deals precisely with that which is not seen and relies on nothing but the Truth which has “got to be defended” as Orwell puts it. This is guaranteed by eternal reason in which the human mind participates. Truisms are true. Well said! Why, there is no greater Truism than Truth which is His infallible word. Since He is Truth everything is true insofar as it affirms Him. The only way for the unbeliever’s argument to be even more idiotic, if leveled against religion, would be if he said demons and miracles violate the eyes and ears. Why all reports of possession and exorcism and miracles are nothing but a matter of the evidence of eyes and ears! They are the secondary effects of invisible causes! Nothing about the truth of demons and bodies launching into the sky from the grave to heaven violates anything that can be seen or heard. It is nothing but material! The fact that one isn’t lucky enough to have witnessed a miracle or bodily ascent into heaven or demonic possession is no argument against those things happening. It’s only an argument in favor of you not being worthy enough to see them.
Why even in modernity He has been known to jazz things up for those that He likes. I have heard a story from a man who witnessed a miracle in a church pew. He told me that it was right in the middle of the Sunday morning service when a member of the congregation bounded up from his seat to shout, “KRAFT MACARONI AND CHEESE!” to the heights of the sanctuary’s popcorn ceiling and the depths of its beige carpeting. The man who relayed this story to me said that he later found out that this seemingly inexplicable outburst was actually the fulfillment of a prayer. The declaimer of foodstuffs had been moved by the Lord during service when another member of the congregation told the Lord that he would not commit suicide if someone burst out right that minute the name of one of America’s favorite microwaveable dishes. Indeed, the event must have been a miracle for 10,000 other persons killed themselves that very same moment without His interference.
It is not surprising that His ways may be confusing to us for He is infinite and we finite. As a man of love and reason tells us regarding the “future bodies, that they shall be such as shall certainly be pained by fire”:
“eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human perceptions, because in the weakness of our mortal condition there is wanting that highest and purest wisdom by which it can be perceived how great a wickedness was committed.” Of course, “if scourging be a reasonable penalty for kissing another man’s wife, is not the fault of an instant visited with long hours of atonement, and the momentary delight visited with lasting pain?”
–St. Augustine, The City of God
Likewise, a man told me at a dinner party, after I inquired as to why God chose to heal his broken toe while allowing genocide to occur elsewhere, that I was wanting in that highest and purest wisdom whereby to understand the ways of the almighty. God was Good, he told me, therefore, what God did was Good and it was I who, due to my finitude, could not comprehend why He chose to miraculously intervene in a banality while being absent for an atrocity.
When I next asked how it was that a Good God made me so that I could perceive his goodness as evil, he responded that it was not God but my fallen mind that distorted my judgment. I then replied that, granting my mind is fallen because people who metaphorically existed metaphorically 6,000 years ago in a metaphoric garden ate a metaphoric apple of knowledge, I was uncertain as to how he could know God was Good. Since human reason was not to be trusted thanks to knowledge, then ought I not to trust anything he said in his finitude? Might it be the case that he mistook evil for good and that his God was actually a Demon? Now, if this moment happened in a parochial school in the Irish Bronx in 1960, it would have brought a smack upon my face followed by “It’s a mystery!” If it happened in an industrial school in Ireland in 1960 it would have brought 100 stitches to my leg.
Luckily, this was a suburban, academic dinner party in 20– so instead it only brought about a look of scorn.
After his brain finished mulling over a response this quip came out: “then I believe we are of different faiths!” so as to fill me with shame according to a moral rubric to which I did not subscribe. A more charismatic member of the party saw the kerfluffle, interrupted with an offer of hors d’oeuvres, and directed the conversation to more agreeable topics, which included the obscene normalization of the phrase “god damn it” in Western culture and whether it were possible that the Lord’s mercy placed those who committed the sin of suicide by jumping off the Twin Towers instead of dying of natural causes by slowing burning to death over the course of fifteen minutes in purgatory rather than hell, given the circumstances.
Another gentleman informed me that when he was in need of $1500 dollars, a check mysteriously appeared in his mailbox to the same amount from God. He did not, however, share the good Lord’s routing number and account number.
To be sure, there has been a decline in the magnitude and gravitas of miracles since antiquity but we know from reliable sources that they still occur in modernity, even if the man who brought us total world flood and the plagues of Egypt has now resorted to brand placement and prosperity gospel.
I do have to say, the decline has been fairly rapid, since even back in 1960’s and 70’s the miracles had a good old Gothic spirit to them. As I heard from my relatives, mass was an event in which the corner of the eye waited for a quick flash of a marble arm at a side altar. Each statue promised at any moment a stirring of stone and many an old lady reported murmurs from St. Anthony’s concrete repose as he told her where to locate her lost ball of baking string.
It is in the academy where the existence and typology of demons and magic, both dark and light, can be secured by reason through demonstration–demonstrations which you, dear reader, are incapable of refuting so long as you don’t understand them. When you have no idea what your betters are going on about, it is safe to assume that, since they conduct themselves with confidence and prestigious degrees, you ought to keep your mouth shut. Though you may not understand what is being said when your intellectual betters are arguing, you can discern who has offered the best demonstrations by observing the face and body, as the foreigner does who does not possess the native language, knowing that, whatever it was that was proclaimed, it must have been sound and irrefutable for it was boomed forth from the belly with brash boldness and followed by a hearty guffaw at challengers.
Since you are stupefied and he is not, the reasonable thing to do is sit down and listen to him explain angelology, demonology, why miracles cannot be disproven unless you have seen them not happen, and how it is irrefutable that infallibility is necessarily infallible. And we can be even more assured that such arguments must be true since they appear to be nonsense to those of lesser intellectual aptitude. Therefore, the most rational thing to do is to assume the correctness of the man of metaphysics until you are smart enough to best him on his own terms. And how do you expect to do that when you don’t even understand what the words he uses mean?
Our cognitive talents being little, we can, therefore, expect the life of the academy to be long and ourselves forever humbled.
The person most worthy of mockery as irrational is the one who laughs at magic, saying it is improbable or that it defies the laws of science! Why, it is the very definition of miracles to be improbable and defy the laws of science! In fact, all that you know about the world, including what you know about science, has already been processed by a human brain. When a miracle is observed it is also processed by the same perceptual system and, therefore, subjected to the same process of assent by an individual subject. As David Hume, that lover of empirical science showed us, the assurance one has in the reality of causality comes only from seeing two events in succession. And as Immanuel Kant, that lover of the limits of reason showed us, the only reason you have to understand events as causal comes from your subjectivity. You don’t see causality. It’s not a thing. It’s something you insert into the world as a schema so that you can understand it. You assume causality. The only reason you believe that billiard ball B will move after being struck by billiard ball A is the fact that you saw A move and then B move. You’re bullshitting me if you say you saw the causing of the movement because causing is not a thing that can be seen. You only saw movement.
Sure, you may see the billiard balls knock each other 1,000,000,000,000 times, but this does not change the fact that all you have witnessed is a perceptual phenomenon which might very well be different the 1,000,000,000,001 time you see it. So, really, science relies on a tenuous connection of events derived from the same criteria supplying the belief in miracles, namely, the human perceptual apparatus. And since the belief in miracles relies on accepting the inexplicable and the belief in the causality of billiard balls involves postulating explicability which is an illusion, it is more rational to believe in miracles than billiard balls.
Even if you cannot do it yourself, you can acknowledge the reality of reason like an illiterate acknowledges the written word and do well to follow your intellectual superiors at the ivy leage and believe more firmly in dark magic than the rock striking you on the head.
How does dark magic operate in a church setting? What is the gift of womanhood? Which is more evil, using a condom or letting a million people die of AIDS? Does atonement theology mean that human Jesus redeemed aliens? What would it mean for the aliens if it didn’t? Will aliens end up with limbo babies, people from antiquity, and literally everyone who is not the fifteen converts of an Oxford seminar room? Read on in our next post and have all these metaphysical and moral questions answered as I recount what precious subtleties took place in the ivory tower.