We need a new way of understanding the meaning of “the demonic” — the application of a kind of Nietzsche transvaluation of values to the value “demonic” — that doesn’t invoke the ever recurring misunderstandings and errors of the past. Even the meaning of this, as in so many other things, has been trivialised and has been rendered banal to the point of incoherence and unintelligibility. Having voided the word “demonic” of any intelligible or sensible value (except perhaps as “the irrational”), modernity — and not just the intelligentsia — was largely left speechless and fumbling for words in the face of the horrors of the Nazi period. And it still remains largely oblivious to the fact that “the gates of hell” were opened wide during the period 1914 – 1945, as the literary critic George Steiner once tried to describe it in his essay “The Hollow Miracle“.
The demonic, as such, is running rampant again in our midst because we don’t recognise it for what it is.
In the last post on “The Occult”, everything that Seth describes there, in the quote I inserted at the end of the post, as being consequential to our present deficit of consciousness (“culture of narcissism”) belongs to the demonic. We can be more precise, even. The usually jovial “energy personality essence”, as Seth describes himself, became very serious indeed when he spoke of the great sin — the violation of the integrity of another being’s consciousness. We may take that as Seth’s definition of the demonic, and the contemporary model for that is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.
In an era of “hidden persuaders”, of “perception managers” and “spin doctors”, of the reactionary and the hyper-partisan, of mystification and the exercise of secretive power, this description of the demonic is most appropriate and revealing. This pragmatic definition of the demonic, as violation of the integrity of being, has the virtue of being consistent with the root significance of the word “diabolic”. Diabolic, as mentioned in other places, is the contrary to the word “symbolic“. The “dia-” signifies division; “bolon” means “to throw” (whence our word “ball” or “bolero”). Together, dia– and bolon mean to throw obstacles in the way of, or to wound. But the fuller significance of that can only be interpreted in relation to its contrary meaning in the word “symbolic”, which means “to bring together” — to integrate or to heal.
And there, too, you have the fundamental theme — the “golden thread” — of all of William Blake’s art and poetry. His demonic Zoa “Urizen“, one of the aspects of the fallen fourfold human, is equally Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”.
When the demonic or diabolic is thus properly interpreted, then the wrath of Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees and their duplicities becomes fully intelligible.
…13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.… (Matthew 23:13-15)
Sadly, we still live with these same “scribes and Pharisees” — those who know the letter but not the spirit and therefore perpetuate and enforce the condition of disintegration. Today, however, they often call themselves “Christians”. Today, our own “scribes and Pharisees” are called “perception managers”, and they throw obstacles in the way by confounding reason and obstructing the clarity of our perception. This is the Age of Reason turning round and beginning to devour itself, just as Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor represents a Christianity that turns round and devours itself.
Dualism in thinking thus belongs to the demonic, because it is the signature of the divided self — of living in a condition of self-contradiction. Once you penetrate to the understanding of the diabolic and symbolic modes of reason and perception, then you will understand why the serpent’s tongue is represented as forked, while the tongue of Jesus is represented as a two-edged sword. As Omar Khayyam put it: “only a hair separates the false from the true”, and although the forked-tongue and the two-edged sword merely appear the same, they are contrary in meaning as diabolical and symbolical are contrary in meaning, or as self-contradiction and paradox are contrary in meaning, or the literal and the spiritual.
“Symbolic thinking” is part of the new metanoia or integral consciousness (some are calling this “pattern recognition”), or consciousness of wholes. This is the exciting thing we should recognise in embryo in quantum mechanics, epigenetics, ecology, in “the holographic universe”, in Blake, even in Picasso. It is the emergence of an integrating or symbolic thinking, which is a peace-making mode of thinking, that seeks to heal the fury of a wounded and divided existence. This symbolic mode of apprehension — of perceiving wholes — is what Jean Gebser calls “aperspectival consciousness” (although it too can be perverted).
In our time, in fact, it has become a matter of survival. The consequences of not gaining insight into the demonic and failing to effect a counter-dynamic to the demonic, will be catastrophic, since the entire thrust of the demonic is towards nihilism (which is the theme of Yeats’ poem The Second Coming).