The Devil, you say – Non-Fiction

Feature Writer: Andrew M. Greeley
Feature Article: The Devil, You Say.
Uploaded: The New York Times 04.02.1973

The Devil, you say.

In one of his periodic admonitions, Pope Paul VI recently warned the world of the reality of Satan and the evils of Satanism. Though his statement (see box, p. 26) spoke of Satan as a spiritual entity rather than a flesh‐and‐blood creature stalking the earth, progressive Roman Catholics were acutely embarrassed. An American Catholic Scripture scholar remarked, “No up‐to‐date theologian believes that Satan is a person.” Enlightened secular humanists wrote off the papal warning as one more lamentable Pauline faux pas. Asserting the personal reality of Satan was just what one might expect from the man who attempted (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to prevent Catholics from using the birth control pill. Satan, indeed!
And yet Anton Szandor La Vey does a landoffice business as the high priest of the Church of Satan in San Francisco, where he preaches such satanic commandments as “Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek,” and “Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates,” and “Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.” Ruth Nanda Anshen, an editor of a number of lofty humanistic publications, has produced a new book called “The Reality of the Devil” from the impeccable secular publishing house of Harper & Row. She concludes her book with a warning from which Paul VI could not dissent: “God’s ways and the Devil’s way part. There certainly is greatness on each side … We may with certainty rely on God or on the Devil. The choice is ours.”
“Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” are best sellers. Dennis Wheatley’s novels of Satanism are airport paperback‐rack favorites. In a cemetery in Florida heads have been stolen from six graves, perhaps to be used in a witches’ ceremony. Two men charged with murder recently in Montana and California are reported to have admitted they dismembered their victims as part of a satanic ritual. In Livingston County, Mich., a 17‐year‐old girl is tortured and slain, and those charged with the killing claim to be “Satan’s satanic servants.” In New Jersey, newspapers report, Patrick Michael Newell was killed so that he could return to earth as leader of “40 leagues of demons.” Charles Manson periodically claims to be Satan. According to Time, one of the “Council of Nine” in La Vey’s Church of Satan, a fourth‐degree satanic “priest,” is also a U.S. Army officer and the author of a “widely used R.O.T.C. textbook.” In various suburban basements around the country young marrieds peel off their clothes (thus becoming “sky clad”) and jump within a nine‐foot circle to celebrate a witches’ sabbat. Witches of Britain still claim credit for resisting Hitler’s invasion. (They cast a spell across the English Channel.) The British Isles are periodically disturbed by night‐time invasions of graveyards in which graves are desecrated, crosses broken and coffins opened. Susy Smith, the author of “Today’s Witches,” argues that there are 60,000 witches in the United States, but other “witch specialists” argue there are 200,000. As the mother in “The Exorcist” observes, she’s not sure that God exists, but she is sure that Satan does.
If Satan, then, is still in business, it behooves us to be prepared to greet him with proper respect when we encounter him. According to those who have had dealings with him, he is not a being you would have difficulty recognizing the second time around. The Buddhist devil Mara has “hands and feet … wrapped in the coils of 100,000 serpents, and in its hands … swords, bows, arrows, pikes, axes, mallets, rockets, pestles, sticks, spears, clubs, discuses, and other instruments of war… Its faces glitter in terrible splendor, its dog‐teeth are enormous and fearful to behold…. Its tongues were as rough as mats of hair, its eyes red and glittering like those of black serpents full of venom.”
Pazuzu, the lean, southwest‐wind devil of Assyria, has great wings, a huge hook on his head and an ugly, evil grin on his face. The Gorgons, Greek evil spirits, look much the same, although they are usually modestly dressed in Greek tunics, unlike the naked Pazuzu. Tiamat, the Babylonian goddess of chaos, is a horned and clawed fowl, while Set, her Egyptian counterpart (Typhon to the Greeks) is either a snake or a crocodile.
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The angel of darkness has a long history; in general, he’s had an easier time than the angel of light.
The Christian Devil tends to be much more human in form; indeed, in some ancient Byzantine paintings, he is presented as a strong, attractive young man—in deference to the Christian tradition that he is a fallen angel. Some Christian artists have portrayed him as a pig, based on a description of St. Anthony, who had frequent tête‐à‐têtes with his satanic majesty in the desert. However, other artists, such as Goya, Darer, Bosch, Giotto, favor the billy‐goat Devil. Occasionally, as in the case of Goya’s famous painting of a sabbat, the Devil is pure billy goat—though of a very sexy and selfsatisfied variety. But for other painters he is both goat and human in form, having at all times the horns, the legs and the beard of a goat, frequently the torso of a human being and usually the wings of an angel. It was ancient practice that when one religion supplanted another, the god of the old became the devil of the new, and this may explain the Christian’s goatish Satan. Apparently one of the divine figures of the Celtic and Teutonic northland to be replaced—however incompletely—by the Christian God was a horned deity. From a deity with horns to a devil billy goat was a small step for the Christian imagination.
It may, incidentally, be an exercise in male chauvinism to refer to the Devil as “he.” The Gorgons were female, as was their colleague Kali, the black many‐armed goddess with a belt of human skulls so popular in folk Hinduism. Occasionally the billy‐goat Christian Devil is portrayed with breasts. Some of the contemporary versions of Satanism worship a hermaphroditic Satan. Many of the primitive nature religions also imagine that the principle of disorder and chaos in the world is feminine. The female vulva scratched on cave walls in the late Ice Age may well symbolize a feared evil spirit.
If all of these forms of the Devil would be easily recognized should we meet him (or her, or both) crossing Times Square at rush hour, the Satan who visited Ivan Karamazov was less easily recognizable—and hence considerably more frightening.
“He was a gentleman, or rather a peculiarly Russian sort of gentleman … going a little grey, with long thick hair and a pointed beard…. He looked like one of those landed proprietors who flourished during the days of serfdom; he had lived in good society, but bit by bit, impoverished by his youthful dissipations and the recent abolition of serfdom, he had become a sort of high‐class sponger, admitted into the society of his former acquaintances because of his pliable disposition, as a man one need not be ashamed to know, whom one can invite to meet anybody, only fairly far down the table….”
Such a vision of Satan is perfectly in keeping with my fantasy of the Devil comfortably occupying a position as tenured faculty member at a divinity school in the San Francisco Bay area—probably specializing in the theology of revolution. (My alternative fantasy is that he is a gunman for the Irish Republican Army.) In fact, however, everyone knows that the Devil, like God, is French. To tell the truth they are both French Jesuits.
One need not spend much time over the protocol of what the Devil ought to be called. Satan in Hebrew means “the accuser” or “the adversary.” And when the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, the word diabolos (hence, our Devil”) was used for Satan. Lucifer or “light bearer” is a name the early Christians frequently used for the Devil. It became popular in the era between the two Testaments and probably represents influence on the Hebrew religion of Iranian dualism. The Iranians’ “Prince of Darkness” was called Ahra Manyu or Ahriman. Among the California Indians he is called Coyote. The Algonquin Indians called him Gluskap. In northern Siberia he is the Great Crow. Other Siberian tribes called him Ngaa. The Teutons’ name for him is Loki, and Loki’s daughter Hel is the queen of the world’s dead (thus our “hell”). The Celts and the Slays haven’t agreed on very much in human history, but they both called the Devil Dis.
However, according to all reports, the Devil is not particularly concerned about his proper name. Like the Other One, Satan takes deeds more seriously than words. Well, then, once we have identified and greeted Satan, what might we do with him?
We might organize a sabbat, particularly if it happens to be near Walpurgisnacht (April 30) or All Hallow’s Eve. Or if the local coven master doesn’t want to get dressed up in all his finery, we could be content with an esbat. In the latter, one merely devotes one’s time and energies to performing certain feats of magic that the local satanic community requires. The former is much more spectacular, with magic circles drawn, visiting demons conjured up, magical journeys accomplished and perhaps even a visit from Satan himself to have his bottom affectionately greeted by the members of the coven—as a prelude to intercourse with all the women present (all reports indicate that Satan is a pretty rough lover), followed by a general sexual free‐for‐all. The whole event is made even more ecstatic by magic potions (available from your local pusher) and frenzied dancing (rock music groups staffed by witches are available for your sabbat). In the old days, sabbats were a bit dangerous because the local officials of the Inquisition might descend upon you, but the Inquisition closed up shop some time ago, and most urban police forces have better things to do than ride herd on the Devil.
Or you might ponder the possibility of making a deal with Lucifer. The late and lamented Dr. Georg Faust (whose first name history changed to John for some inexplicable reason) is only the most famous of the people who have traded their immortal souls to Satan for wealth, power, knowledge and pleasure. Kings, emperors and popes (most notably Sylvester II) have also been suspected of such deals; and most of the hundreds of thousands of witches executed during the witch craze of the 16th and 17th centuries confessed (under torture, of course) that they had made similar compacts with Lucifer. Dealing with Satan is a risky business, since there is substantial historical evidence that he delivers less than he promises and his broker in such matters, Mephistopheles, is something less than an honorable operative. Nonetheless, at least some of the biographers of Dr. Faust would persuade us that there exist various legal authorities who are willing to annul a contract with the Devil if one is ready to show penitence for having made such a deal. The formulas for making the contract and then getting out of it at the last minute can be found in any appropriate manual of Satanism.
There is a risk if you enter into business arrangements with the Devil that he may take possession of your soul while you are still alive. According to various reports, he frequently even takes possession of souls that‐have not entered into contracts with him. Under such circumstances, one always has recourse to exorcism, a practice prevalent in many pagan religions (particularly among African tribes). Exorcism has been developed to a fine art among Christians. It has been described in gripping detail in William Blatty’s novel, “The Exorcist.” The Roman Church has always been reluctant to launch an exorcism and displays considerably more skepticism than many current cultists of the occult about possession. Nonetheless, the formula for exorcism, should anyone want to avail himself of it without official church auspices (and I hear this is risky), goes as follows: “I command you, ever‐evil spirit, in the name of God the Father Almighty and in the name of Jesus Christ His only Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit that, harming no one, you depart from this creature of God and return to the place appointed you, there to remain forever.” I’m sorry that it’s not more elaborate, but the Roman Church has a disconcerting way of being simple at times when you most expect it to be baroque.
Incidentally, there is considerable debate among Roman Catholic exorcists about whether they really do encounter the Devil in such contests. Msgr. Luigi Novarase, the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome, is quite convinced that he has done battle with the Devil. On the other hand, Joseph de Tonquedec, who was an exorcist in Paris for a halfcentury, was convinced that he never came across a genuine case of possession. He observed, “Exorcism is an impressive ceremony, capable of acting effectively on a sick man’s subconscious experience. The abjurations addressed to the demon, the sprinklings with the holy water, the stole passed around the patient’s neck, the repeated signs of the cross, etc., can easily call up a diabolical mythomania in word and deed in a psyche already weak. Call the Devil and you’ll see him, or rather not him, but a portrait made up of a sick man’s idea of him.” One Catholic author commented that the difference between Novarase and de Tonquedec may merely show that there are more devils in Rome than in Paris. But then de Tonquedec was a French Jesuit, and would very properly be wary.
Sigmund Freud says much the same thing as de Tonquedec in a little known essay, “The Neurosis of Demoniacal Possession in the Seventeenth Century,” published in 1923. The Devil, according to Freud, is a father substitute for those who “never have any luck … [or are] too poorly gifted, too ineffective to make a living and belong to that well‐known type, the eternal suckling … who are unable to tear themselves away from the joyous haven of the mother’s breast, who hold fast all through their lives to their claim to be nourished by someone else.” Several Catholic writers, reexamining the 1959 St. Louis case on which Blatty’s novel was based, are profoundly skeptical about supernatural intervention in that incident.
If you don’t like exorcism, you might try a Black Mass, a ritual popular long before the Marquis de Sade recorded one variety of it in “Justine.” Since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, an enterprising tourist with a sufficient number of francs could easily find a Black Mass in Paris. The basic elements seem to be a chalice, bread, black candles, black cloth on the table and a naked woman, preferably a virgin; but should one prove hard to locate in our permissive times, it probably wouldn’t matter. Mass is offered with the woman’s body (between the breasts) used as an altar. One may either recite the prayers of the Roman Catholic Mass backwards (as far as I know still in Latin, though there may be an English language version by now) or recite formularies parodying the Catholic words of consecration. It is also thought to be extremely helpful if you could have some consecrated Hosts stolen from a Catholic church (a practice made more difficult with the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from many Catholic altars). Ritual murders, particularly of children and babies have apparently been practiced in Black Masses in the past. One moderately well ‐ documented example occurred when Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Montespan, held a Black Mass in order to get the Devil to help her hold on to the Sun King, who had begun to lose interest in her charms. (The attempt failed.) No one is likely to match the efforts of the famous marshal of France Gilles de Rais, who is alleged to have murdered between two hundred and eight hundred children in such rituals (and probably gave rise to the Bluebeard legend). Presumably, in this enlightened age, however, we can dispense with such sacrifices, though there is evidence that not all satanists are persuaded of this liturgical reform.
If rituals and compacts are relatively heavy activities, it is worth noting that the Devil hasn’t always been taken that seriously. The gargoyles on the medieval cathedrals are evidence that one aspect of the medieval personality was inclined to laugh at the Devil because of its belief that the powers of evil had been beaten (a belief that from the perspective of the 20th century looks inexcusably naive). The medieval style of humor may not appeal to us now, but it does provide another way of dealing with the Devil. For example, St. Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury and later Archbishop of Canterbury, was one day busily engaged in making a Devil appeared to him. Quite nonchalantly, the saint took his pliers out of the fire and seized the nose of Satan, who ran off with a howl and never dared to molest that worthy again.
Modern Devils
Finally, if Black Masses, dealing with the Devil, or tweaking his nose aren’t your thing, then you could form a church of Satan and set up camp as the head of one of the increasing number of satanic sects in the United States. One expects that shortly these various satanic groups will begin to hold annual conventions, and not too long after that will demand one of their members be admitted to the podium in front of the Capitol building on Inauguration Day. Who knows? Maybe they have a right to be there.
Those engaged in contemporary satanist cults frequently distinguish between white witches (those who use their power only to do good), black witches (those who use their power to harm others but are not full‐fledged diabolists) and satanists (those who worship the Devil). Even satanists make a distinction between those who believe the Devil is a person and those who simply claim to be unlocking positive natural forces, somehow or other related to ESP and telekinesis. Thus, a man like Anton Szandor La Vey, for all his mystical ritual (complete with sword, pentagram and fire), denies the personal reality of Satan. Indeed, many of those who are engaged in witchcraft or Satanism today will argue either that it is an ancient Celtic nature religion (and some of the advocates of this position call themselves Druids or even Archdruids) or that their craft is really scientific secular skill — perhaps even one with revolutionary, psychological or social implications. (Whether in fact contemporary witchcraft and Satanist beliefs and rituals are a continuation of British Celtic nature religions is a matter of some debate. A British scholar named Margaret Murray argued some time ago that the “Old Religion” had indeed been kept alive by a peasant underground. While there isn’t much doubt that ancient superstitions survived in most European countries—and not merely in the peasant regions either—most of the doctrines and ceremonies of contemporary Satanism are a hodgepodge of Oriental and Western superstitions, owing a good deal more to Aleister Crowley, a half‐mad magician and showman who tried to live up to his reputation as the Wickedest Man in the World, than to any underground survival of Druidism.)
Most of contemporary native American Satanism is bunkum and hokum — as I suspect most of the earlier satanist cults were, too. In time of confusion and uncertainty the unhappy, the credulous, the vaguely neurotic and those who are always seeking for some form of inside knowledge (St. Paul would have called them Gnostics) can find in Satanism a response to their emotional (and frequently to their sexual) needs. Counterculture Satanism is—like most other counterculture phenomena —partly a put‐on, partly neurotic, partly an escape and partly dead serious. To the extent that it becomes dead serious, Satanism can be dangerous, as the Manson case and other ritual murders should make clear. At a minimum, it is psychologically risky to mess around with that which is professedly evil. Witches all around the world are not above using poisons to accomplish their goals, and the badly disturbed could easily be pushed into psychosis by satanist experimentation.
Finally, there are more powers under heaven than philosophy and sociology dream of (though anthropology knows them well). Whether these forces are natural or supernatural is scarcely the point. They are dangerous, and the sane, healthy person stays away from them. But is it all hokum and bunkum? Is the whole tradition of evil spirits nothing more than benighted superstition created by our ancestors, who in terms of a scientific world view were little more than howling savages?
Those who created a mythology of the Devil were trying to cope with the mystery of evil, a mystery whose existence until very recently was denied by the modern world. There was the “problem of evil,” of course, which was used in sophomore philosophy classes to prove either that God didn’t exist or that His existence was at best a hypothesis. But having been used for that purpose, the problem of evil was cast aside and we continued to live in our benign, scientifically ordered universe in which human evolution and technological progress could be expected to eliminate gradually all but the barest residue of evil. Depending on whether our prophet was Freud or Marx, we explained human evil in terms either of childhood traumas or oppressive social structures. Psychoanalysis or political revolution —or perhaps even peaceful change caused by social democracy—could be expected to minimize the amount of evil in the world. Such a faith was born of the Enlightenment and came to maturity in the late 19th century. It began to die in Europe in 1914 and was defunct at the end of the holocaust of the Second World War. But the United States was unaffected by both wars and was for a time able to ignore the bloody religious, racial, linguistic and ethnic conflicts that have torn the world since 1945. It was only the riots, the assassinations of the sixties, and the con flicts and moral confusions of Vietnam that began to shake our faith in Enlightenment optimism, and even now that faith still flickers, as is evidenced by the attempts of the satanists to blend their doctrine with Enlightenment rationalism and evolutionary and scientific secularity.
Our primitive ancestors were under no such illusion. For them, the mystery of evil was part of their everyday life. The forces of chaos and disorder threatened to sweep in, destroy their crops or herds, devastate their tiny villages and rip apart the fragile social structure of their tribes. Man was locked in battle with disorder and evil. His village, his fields, his tribe represented a precarious exercise of order against chaos. Small wonder then that the Babylonian devil, Tiamat, was symbolic of the chaos that Marduk destroyed in his act of creation. The world emerged from a battle between good and evil, order and chaos. Humankind was on the side of the ordering forces, but the evil spirits looked in from the desert or down from the hills, ready always to strike back against humankind at the slightest sign of diminished vigilance. Primitive man was conscious that he was in conflict with powers much greater than himself: disease, storm, drought, marauding tribes, conflict within his own community and the ultimate evil power of death. He had no doubt about the reality of the powers with whom he was contending, and giving these powers personalities (frequently sketchy) and names was merely a way of emphasizing the fierce battle against disorder and chaos in which he was engaged. To define them in human terms served to put inhuman forces within a more understandable and more manageable context.
The serpent in the book of Genesis represented the principle of disorder, confusion, chaos and evil in the universe. Satan contends directly against that poor suffering servant of Yahweh, Job, and tempts David to take a census. For the rest of the Old Testament Satan is not called by a proper name and seems to act as an agent of Yahweh as one of the “angels of Yahweh” (malak Yahweh or bene haelohim), that is to say, he is a manifestation of Yahweh’s power not really distinct from God himself. There were de mons in the Hebrew religion, but they were generally Canaanite gods who worked out in the desert.
In the New Testament Jesus is tempted by Satan — now clearly a demon. He is cast out of people whom he has possessed; he is called “the strong one,” “the evil one,” “the prince of this world.” Jesus’ death is conceived of by some ‐ New Testament authors as a price to be paid to Satan for the liberation of humankind.
New Testament scholars debate whether frequent New Testament references to Satan are an indication that belief in a personal Devil is part of the essence of Christianity. The majority of scholars are inclined to suggest today that the New Testament writers were using the mythological and religious thought of their time to describe the titanic battle in the universe between good and evil and the Chris tian faith in the ultimate triumph of good. A number of Roman Catholic dogmatic theologians have rallied to Paul Vi’s support, while Scripture scholars have tended to remain silent. They are not at all convinced that the New Testament need be interpreted as requiring a belief in the personal reality of the Devil.
But arguing whether the Devil is a person or not may be quite beside the point, for the more appropriate issue might be whether evil is real. More specifically, have we solved the mystery of evil?
For an answer one only need pick up the newspaper or look at the TV tube: hurricanes, earthquakes, airplane crashes, railroad accidents, famines, epidemics, the destruction of the environment — physical evil is all around us. But worse is man’s evil to man: tribal and ethnic wars, racial and religious bigotry, epidemics of assassination, kidnapping, skyjacking and heroin addiction, large corporate bureaucracies crumpling the dignity of human persons in the blind pursuit of power and profit. But the magnitude of the evil is not proportionate to the malice of the people involved. Many killers are men of moderate good will who intend not evil but good. The war in Vietnam—on both sides—was launched for highminded purposes, and yet turned into a bloodbath from which neither side was able to extricate itself for years. Evil comes from mistakes, miscalculations, limitations, ignorance, far more frequently than it comes from malice. If there is a superintelligence guiding the powers of evil, one must say that his strategy has been brilliant; the situation in Europe in the early nineteenforties, while Russia and Germany were simultaneously governed by madmen, was a stroke of incomparable evil genius. If all the disasters that afflicted the United States in the nineteen‐sixties were the result of random chance, then we were extraordinarily unlucky. If one believes in personified evil, then one must say that the nineteen‐sixties were one of his finest hours.
Freudian psychology may explain the personality of a Lee Harvey Oswald or a Sirhan Sirhan, but it cannot explain how the evil that came from their actions was so vast. Marxist or quasi‐Marxist sociology may explain how im perialist countries got involved in other parts of the world, but it cannot explain why an industrial ruling class was unable for so long to end a war that it knew was in its best interest to end. Faced with the mystery of human social evil, many liberal commentators are forced to create new diabolic myths and clothe them in such phrases as “The Establishment” or “the American people.” These are not really analytic categories but religious myths invented just as surely as was Tiamat or Satan to explain the immensity of evil that goes far beyond human reason or understanding.
Our ancestors, then, were not howling savages. They were aware of an awesome reality that we tried to persuade ourselves had gone away.
Is evil personified?
As Goethe’s Mephisto remarks, “I am that which cancels out…. Everything in existence is worthy only of destruction, so it would be better if nothing existed.” Such pervasive pessimism has vigorously asserted itself in recent thought, though few are yet willing to be quite so blunt as Mephisto. Much of the romanticism, not to say irrationalism, of the counterculture (and such folk prophets as Theodore Roszak) is ultimately rooted in a yet unarticulated belief that life and existence are insane.
The question is not Black Masses or sabbats or exorcisms or the witchcraft of Anton La Vey or the fuzzyminded Christian cleric dabbling in the occult. The question is rather whether Tiamat—Chaos—is the ultimate reality. The data are remarkably persuasive that it is.
And yet not conclusive. The forces of goodness, order, graciousness and love seem to be everywhere in retreat, on the verge of defeat, almost overwhelmed by the powers of darkness. It has always seemed that way. But humankind is incurably afflicted by the disease of hope. It may be a monstrous self‐deception, the ultimate cruelty of a vicious universe; or it may be, as Peter Berger has recently argued, a “rumor of angels,” a signal of the transcendent. Far more important than whether the Devil is a person is the question of whether hopefulness can be trusted. The mother in “The Exorcist” who doubted God but not the Devil echoes a nearly universal human insight. There is no reason to doubt the existence of evil in the world, but considerable uncertainty about the existence of or at least the durability of good.
So it is indeed appropriate for the principal bishop of Christianity to warn his followers and all others in the world of the existence of evil. But one wonders whether at this stage of the game there are many left who doubt it. Even in the great American universities the Enlightenment is in its death throes. It might be more appropriate for this principal bishop to remind his followers of the religious symbols that proclaim in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary that good does triumph over evil, love over hatred, life over death, comedy over tragedy. Perhaps he might reflect the vision of Dostoevski that evil is only a seedy hanger‐on, or of Dante that evil is becoming more and more a victim of entropy as it sinks ever more deeply into ice, or of St. Dunstan who tweaked the Devil in the nose with his fiery pincers and sent him off howling. Such visions of the conquest of evil or the banality of evil may be unduly naive, but Christianity in its best moments has been committed to them.
To do that, though, might have been risky. Humankind does not object to prophets of doom, for the evidence of doom is all around. We do not protest when religious leaders say there is evil in the world, for the proof of evil is all around. We do not grow angry when it is announced to us that the powers of darkness are making progress on all sides, for we have already noticed that the light is waning.
No, the kind of leaders we really object to are those who call us to begin over again, who tell us that the light can shine brighter and that the powers of evil can be repelled. Religious and political leaders who preach a message of hope are never very welcome, for they require of us more than cynicism, more than despair, more than resignation. They require effort, activity, fidelity, commitment. The angels of light always have a hard time of it compared to the angels of darkness. If they persist in preaching their good news to us, we get rid of them; we shoot them or we crucify them. And that’s the end of them.
Or is it?

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