For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens.
- Eph. 6: 12
As if the problems created by our false self conditioning were not already enough!
Still, we must honestly examine our situation, and I think that if we do so, we will find that the resistance to goodness and love that we experience in our human nature is amplified and made even more intractable by other greater-than-human powers. Scripture and Tradition are quite clear on this point, identifying these powers to be the world and the devil. Let's briefly examine each of these.
The Problem of "The World"
The love of the Father cannot be in anyone who loves the world, because nothing the world has to offer -- the sensual body, the lustful eye, pride in possessions -- could ever come from the Father but only from the world; and the world, with all it craves for, is coming to an end.
- 1 Jn. 2: 15-16
When Scripture speaks of "the world" as an influence unto evil, it does not mean to refer to the creation, which Genesis affirms to be good . . . indeed, very good! (Gn. 1: 31). Rather, "the world," here, refers to those aspects of human culture which both reflect and entice the conditioning of the false self and its attachments to "the sensual body . . . the lustful eye . . . pride in possessions." And how much of human culture is permeated with those values! You don't have to go far to see it, either: just drive around and read the billboards, or watch a little TV and there it is: the allurements of the world, enticing you to act out of false self conditioning, usually to enrich others or some company and their false self cravings as well.
This is no trivial matter!
When counseling recovering addicts, we tell them they need to change playgrounds and playmates, and if they don't, they can expect to revert back to their old addictive behavior in short order. E.g., there's no way an alcoholic can expect to maintain sobriety while continuing to hang out with drinking buddies in bars. This will just amplify the addictive cravings and eventually lead to another bout of drinking. So, too, with anyone truly wishing to make a break with the insidious and sin-serving attachments and addictions that feed and maintain our false self conditioning. We must somehow make a break with the world -- with those aspects of our lives (friends, hobbies, habits, etc.) that expose us to the influences of the world, as understood, here. What would this mean?
Minimally, it means spending more time in Christian community, where we find new friends and new playgrounds. Christian community is our haven from the world, and our new resource for healthy relationships and life-giving activities. That's the ideal, at least, and for the most part, it seems to be more realized than not, though never perfectly, of course (and that includes those early New Testament communities). A great danger, of course, is that Christian community also becomes infested with worldly values and thus become little more than just another aspect of it -- only more dangerous to the soul, as it corrupts the soul in the name of God.
As Christians, then, we are called to be in the world, but not of it. Furthermore, we can expect that our not being of the world will place us in something of an adversarial relationship with the world, and the world with us.
If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.
- Jn 15: 18-19
That's just the way it goes, and so we shouldn't be surprised if we find this kind of dynamic showing up in our relationships -- maybe even in our families and Churches.
The Problem of "The Devil"
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
- Luke 10: 17-20
In speaking of the devil (aka Satan, Beelzebub, evil spirit, etc.), we encounter a mystery -- a truth too large to completely wrap our minds around. It's not that difficult to understand how the false self system works, and how this conditioning becomes externalized in our culture. But to speak of a greater-than-human spirit is another matter -- one that impinges upon our understanding of God and creation as good. Yet there it is, all throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation -- the affirmation of a realm of spirit in rebellion against God, working to deceive and ensnare the human race, thus preventing us from coming to receive the glory for which we were created.
What do you think about evil spirits?
I take this matter seriously and see no reason to doubt what revelation asserts. If Jesus took evil spirit seriously, then we should be slow to doubt its presence by "psychologizing" the matter as some symbolic reference to the world and the unconscious dimension of the false self. Surely that's where many of our demons do originate, but perhaps not all. I believe I have encountered these malevolent higher powers, and they have a different feel about them -- disgusting, vile creatures beyond goodness and hope. I see evidence of their presence in some of the affairs of this world, and believe them to amplify our own false inclinations through telepathically communicating their thoughts and intents into our own consciousness. I also believe that some people are possessed by demons -- that these spirits have attached themselves somehow to others' energy fields, from which they live vicariously to the detriment of their "host."
I don't think the mainline Churches take this aspect of revelation seriously enough, the consequence being an implicit neglect in emphasizing the importance of living by God's power instead of our natural human wisdom. The supreme antidote to the power and deception of the devil is the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Come to think of it, I don't think we take the Holy Spirit seriously enough either.
But the good news!
Greater is He who is within you than the one who is in the world.
- 1 Jn. 4: 4
Give in to God, then; resist the devil and he will run away from you.
- James 4: 7
Our next 8 conferences will focus, then, on how we might more consciously "give in to God."
Reflection and Discussion
1. What questions and thoughts do you have from this conference?
2. How do you experience "the world" frustrating your efforts to grow spiritually?
3. What do you think about evil spirit? Do you have experience of this in your life?
I needed a little time to think about this subject for a while so now I am coming back to it. With the problems of the Devil, the world, and our own false self-working against spiritual formation in Christ, I wonder how any of us grow at all? Of course we grow by God's grace and maybe that is testimony to the awesome power of God! But in my walk at least, sorting out the influence of the world or the devil or my own false-self has never been easy. Sometimes I feel as though I'm so locked into these ways of being that to sort it out takes nothing short of a miracle (Grace again). One of my greatest struggles comes in the area of how I use my time. The influence of the world beckons to invest my time on its concerns. My own false-self has its demands on my time. The devil, no doubt, does too. And in the middle of all this God gets moved to the back burner and lowered to simmer. God being patient, just waits -- waits for my spiritual hunger to return. I've seen this cycle in my life roll over so many times.
I've noticed that the posts on our forum have steadily grown fewer and fewer with each new topic posted by Phil and I wonder. Do all of you have a struggle with consistant use of time for spiritual things as I do? Early on there were as many as a hundred hits on a topic when Phil posted it followed ,then, by several responses. Now topics pass, as this one did, and no one responds. I know there is nothing wrong with the quality of the presentations. So what is it? Are we caught up in other things? Are we having problems with long term follow through? Going too fast too slow? Maybe on vacations? Or maybe stuck struggling with the content of an earlier presentation? Just curious. Hoping to hear from you. And praying for more freedom from the influences mentioned above for us all.
Lots of good things to reflect on, Danny. I know I'm not always a wise user of my time, though I think I'm getting better. I think as far as posting or not posting, I lately have found that I like to just read through the various topics we've covered slowly and meditatively, picking whichever topic I feel drawn to at a given point in time. My reflecting on them seems to be more of an inward thing, rather than something I feel moved to share. There was a topic a few weeks ago that I wanted to share on, right before leaving on vacation, but my computer was acting up at the time, and by the time I got back home, I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to share. Maybe I'll take the time to sit down and look back over what we were discussing at the time, and see if it jogs my memory. Perhaps if I had my priorities in better order, I would have already done this. Thanks for your post.
I haven't been to the site since early June, but because we all receive the sequential topic of the series in our mailboxes at the same time it is posted to the site, I learned of Danny's and Phil's frustration at the lack of responses and even "views" to the site. I know how frustrating it must be to some of the participants, and especially Phil (he put a lot of thought and effort into this series). However, for my part or lack of it I have to answer "yes" to all of Danny's questions....Yes, there is nothing wrong with the qualilty of the presentations or responses; yes, I am caught up in other things, most notably an unplanned, incredibly busy summer (I've been to Massachusetts twice for 7 and 10 days respectively to help my son prepare his home for sale. It's a house that was built in 1866); yes, I have problems with long term follow through because I'm not able to think or write off the top of my head, especially when things move so quickly; yes, there is a vacation to prepare for and more weekends this summer have had to be devoted to earning continuing educations credits in order to maintain my professional license; and yes, I am stuck on the contents of earlier presentations, again because I'm not adept at thinking or writing off the top of my head.
However, I'm pleased to see that "(you) will continue nonetheless. Believe me nothing is being lost and a lot is being gained, at least on my end of the spectrum.
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