C. S. Lewis said that there are two errors we can make about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and feel an unhealthy interest for them. They themselves are equally pleased with both since both serve their end: the complete misery of man. Exorcist tales may rouse dread for this fiendish foe of man, but a glance at how he works in our own lives can help us wake to the reality of his existence and avoid the pitfalls he sets before us.
One tool the devil loves to apply is the separation of thinking and doing. In our modern, relativist society, this is often referred to as the abyss between my “private” and “social” life. I may have my own moral principles and beliefs, but I can’t “impose” them on society. The devil of course does his best to assure us that society is a liberal, radical, dog-eat-dog monster that must be treated with respect and tolerance rather than an abstract generalization of real individuals with aspirations and desires that at their deepest roots are not that different from my own: the desire for happiness, success and love.
If, in fact, we look at things rationally, those enthusiasts for the radical majority-suppressing, psycho-sociologist, new neo-liberal liberationist slave-drivers don’t escape imposing their view on everyone else by saying “No one can impose anything on anybody.” To agree with them would be to impose their negative assumption on society. Why not “impose” something positive? It wouldn’t really be that imposing if we’re not forcing anyone, would it? No one’s going to die if I speak about “God” or “religion” or “moral living” as essential elements for the true realization of man.
“But these are just logical games. Stop thinking!” Where’d that voice come from? Oh yes, we’re talking about the devil aren’t we? “As I was saying, thinking and doing are two different worlds! We don’t act on reasoning; we act on instinct, impulse and whim.” Yes, the devil stopped trying to use reason against us when he discovered these far more effective means.
“If it makes you happy it’s not that bad.” Yes, well if following whim and instinct really makes you happy, why—in Satan’s fiery furnace—does it leave you empty, dissatisfied, and downright sad. Sure the merry-go-round’s merry for a bit—till it turns into a hurricane. The whirling is fun at first, but after a while you start to feel sick. Isn’t there something more than just living it up, often at the expense of others, until you die and are no more? Isn’t there something more?
“No, stop thinking! Real life consists in the movie that just came out, the next party thrown, and overflowing bank accounts. To ask yourself where you’re going in life is for weak-minded nitwits shut up in the library. Oh yes, my friend, you really need an inarticulate sense for actuality to escape the aberration of mere logic.” And so on and so forth.
Why so eager to assure our destruction? The devil is a sore loser and doesn’t want to admit that he’s already lost. Instead he keeps trying to use and abuse us to kick back at the Conqueror.
He’s pretty good at his task, but what would happen if we started to think about what we do? What would happen if we put aside prejudice and social fear, if we started thinking more about helping others and less about satisfying passing whims? What would happen if we acted on solid principles instead of letting ourselves be driven by circumstances, feelings, and passions? What would happen if one day we woke up to the reality of the devil and decided to shun the snares of his passing materialist world and opted for the Kingdom of Heaven?
Brother Matthew Whalen is studying for the priesthood in Rome.