CS Lewis is a genius and a prophet: That Hideous Strength continues its uncanny prediction of our present predicaments. Last time around, our adversaries nominated Fairy Hardcastle for the Presidency. This time, they propose Deputy Director Wither:
… Mark noticed that the door was not quite shut. He ventured to push it open a little further and saw [Deputy Director Wither] sitting inside with his back to the door. “Excuse me, Sir,” said Mark. “Might I speak to you for a few minutes?” There was no answer. “Excuse me, Sir,” said Mark in a louder voice, but the figure neither spoke nor moved. With some hesitation, Mark went into the room and walked around to the other side of the desk; but when he turned to look at Wither he caught his breath, for he thought he was looking into the face of a corpse. A moment later he recognised his mistake. In the stillness of the room he could hear the man breathing. He was not even asleep, for his eyes were open. He was not unconscious, for his eyes rested momentarily on Mark and then looked away. “I beg your pardon, Sir,” began Mark and then stopped. The Deputy Director was not listening. He was so far from listening that Mark felt an insane doubt whether he was there at all, whether the soul of the Deputy Director were not floating far away, spreading and dissipating itself like a gas through formless and lightless worlds, waste lands and lumber rooms of the universe. What looked out of those pale watery eyes was, in a sense, infinity – the shapeless and the interminable. … It was impossible to speak to a face like that. Yet it seemed impossible also to get out of the room, for the man had seen him. Mark was afraid; it was so unlike any experience he had ever had before.
When at last Mr. Wither spoke, his eyes were not fixed on Mark, but on some remote point beyond him, beyond the window, perhaps in the sky.
“I know who it is,” said Wither. “Your name is Studdock. What do you mean by coming here? You had better have stayed outside. Go away.”
… the mode of consciousness [the Deputy Director] experienced at most hours of day or night had long ceased to be exactly like what other men call waking. He had learned to withdraw most of his consciousness from the task of living, to conduct business, even, with only a quarter of his mind. Colours, tastes, smells and tactual sensations no doubt bombarded his physical senses in the normal manner: they did not now reach his ego. The manner and outward attitude to men which he had adopted half a century ago were now an organisation which functioned almost independently like a gramophone and to which he could hand over his whole routine of interviews and committees.
Hearing about That Hideous Strength is spooky. Reading the book is, yet again, dreadful. God send us Merlinus Ambrosianus, and for that matter Arthur. God send us the oyéresu.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6: 11-17
NB: that we wrestle at bottom against principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in the High Places – against demons – does not mean that we do not wrestle also with their corporeal slaves and instruments, such as Wither or Hardcastle. We do. Paul’s point is not that the flesh and blood do not matter, but rather that they are not the crux of the issue. Nevertheless is it ever the case that when push comes to shove for beings corporeal such as we, the adversary is generally known first to us bodily. If we cannot defeat his bodily incorporations, we have no chance whatever against the motivating spirits thereof; to fight one is to fight the other.
Act then outwardly, in the political realms, to be sure, as much as is in your poor power. But, do not omit to pray, and to fast. Therein lies your greatest power; for, when we struggle to live ourselves lives that are holy and good, we struggle with the very same demons who threaten our outward and social world. Defeat them in yourself even once, and you defeat and weaken them at the root of all their outward action, to the benefit of all people.
To defeat the Enemy in and with and by your heart is to have done all.
To war, then. Deus vult.