“For my part, I have ever believed, and do now know, that there are witches.”
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1642)
“You have sold yourself to do evil.”
1 Kings 21: 20
In a recent post, Kristor confessed his belief in daimonic reality, as indeed every logical human must. Belief in spirits is not an archaic superstition, but is rather a valid inference from the fact that the natural world is not self-explanatory. As Sir Thomas Browne explained in the middle of the seventeenth century, the “learned heads” that say it is self-explanatory “forget their metaphysics.”
It is, moreover, evident from the contradictory impulses that disturb this lower world of man and nature that the spiritual ground of this lower world is inharmonious, is indeed riven by discord and rocked by some sort of spiritual war. If we liken our lower world to the passenger cabin of a jetliner, the violent banking and diving of the aircraft suggests there is a fighting in the cockpit.
Those who deny daimonic reality are, as Browne tells us, “atheists.” Those who deny there is war in this daimonic reality are deists, and as such are embarrassed to explain why life in this lower world lurches, as it does, between horror and sublimity. Those who affirm both spirits and this spiritual war must, however, show the courage of their convictions by addling the logical affirmation of witches—for what is a witch but a human who has joined in this spiritual war on the side of the Devil.
It is not superstitious to believe that there is a spiritual reality, that the spirits are at war, and that men and women are caught up in this war as either dupes or partisans. There are, however, a great many superstitions that clutter our minds and cripple our thinking about these grave matters. Superstition is not entertainment of a false belief. Superstition is fixation on a symbol while forgetting the reality that it symbolizes. This is why superstition and idolatry are identical in the Bible, and why our understanding of spiritual matters, which we necessarily apprehend symbolically, is so prone to being cluttered and crippled by superstition.
“Religious symbols point beyond the particular objects whose material they use to ultimate reality.”*
The essence of superstition is to make a fetish of the pointer while forgetting the ultimate (spiritual) reality to which it points. A religious symbol is a revelation of spiritual reality, but when this symbol degrades into a superstition and a fetish, it hides that reality. This degradation of religious symbols into superstitions is, needless to say, a important tactic of the Devil in the larger spiritual war.
This is especially evident in the swiftness with which the Devil degrades symbols that reveal his side of spiritual reality. There was a time when the spiritual reality of the Devil was, for instance, revealed in the image of a red and horned figure brandishing a pitchfork; but that image has now degraded to a superstition behind which the Devil is hidden. There was a time when the spiritual reality of Hell was revealed in the image of a lake of fire; but that image has now degraded to a superstition behind which Hell is hidden. Symbols grow old and become unbelievable. Superstition makes it seem that the thing symbolized has grown old and becomes unbelievable too.
This is perhaps nowhere so evident as in our silly superstition about witches. Our silly superstition is not our belief that witches exist, which is as certain as that four is a multiple of two. Our silly superstition is that a witch wears a pointy hat, stirs a bubbling cauldron, keeps a black cat, and flies through the air on a broomstick. Our silly superstition is that a witch is a woman who combines “eye of newt and toe of frog” in order to make the neighbors milk cow go dry; or that a witch must be old, and ugly, and inclined to cackle over her craft. These symbols may have been a revelation in 1600, but they are today a blackout curtain behind which the reality of witches and witchcraft is hidden.
What I have said of witches and witchcraft may also be said of the act known as selling one’s soul to the Devil. To deny that this act is possible is, as we have seen, to sink into the metaphysical imbecility of atheism. But the ease and frequency of the transaction has been hidden by the degradation of symbols into superstitions. The Devil to whom souls are sold is assisted in his bargaining by the Mephistophelean image of a legal covenant, written under the eye of a smoky guest, by the light of a guttering candle, on a curled and yellow parchment, with a signature of fresh-cut blood.
The truth of the matter is that every one of us has at one time or another leased our soul to the Devil, for this is what we do whenever we sin. To sin is to join the spiritual war on the side of the Devil and against the Logos that is Christ. Repentance is a resolve not to renew that lease. Backsliding is a failure in that resolve. We may suppose there was a time when the Mephistophelean image of “selling” served as a vital religious symbol that revealed the spiritual reality of these transactions, but the Mephistophelean image is now, quite obviously, a dead superstition that hides the reality by making it appear altogether unreal.
Since I never sighed a covenant in blood, I may believe I have not “sold my soul to the Devil.” And since I have never flown on a broomstick, I may believe I cannot be a witch. These are the comforting and diabolical delusions of superstitions that fixate on symbols while forgetting the reality that is symbolized. And as I said earlier, superstition is a tactic employed by the side of the spiritual war that has an interest in your forgetting.
* * * * *
Christ is the personification of Logos, by which is meant the word, or mind, or logic of God. This is the logic that prevailed in the Garden in the days before the Fall, when Adam was at peace with nature, his spouse, and his Lord. Antichrist is therefore the personification of Anti-logos, by which is meant the word that contradicts God’s word, the mind that dissents from God’s mind, the logic that defies God’s logic. Thus, Lucifer was the original Antichrist and the revolt of his Rebel Angles was the first outbreak of Anti-logos.
The spiritual war is, therefore, the war between Christ and Antichrist, Logos and Anti-logos, Heaven and Hell. This war was brought to earth when Lucifer spoke his Anti-logos to Eve, incited her war against Logos, and thereby recruited his first witch.
“The Devil can assume a bodily shape, and speak to man out of it: as he did to Eve . . . to make men capable of entering into contract with him, for Satan is willing thus to ensure mortals of being enemies to heaven . . .”
This is why Sir Walter Scott tells us that witches and sorcerers were traditionally defined as “rebels to God” and “authors of sedition.”*** This is why another Scottish author, George Gilfillan, described the famous Witch of Endor as a “borderer between earth and hell.”† She was a borderer whose principal occupation was smuggling all things hellish into earth.
A witch is, therefore, a partisan in the spiritual war, an ally of the Rebel Angles, and a disciple of Lucifer’s Anti-logos. This may have once involved brewing potions made from “eye of newt and toe of frog,” or signing a fatal contract in blood, or even (as some say) kissing the Devil on his arse; but fixating on these symbols now hides more than it reveals. The essence of a witch is to join with the Rebels in the spiritual war between Logos and Anti-logos, Heaven and Hell.
There is, I believe, one old religious symbol that has not lost all of its revelatory power in this regard. This is the symbol of the witches’ sabbath as a dance in which the witches move while the Devil plays the tune. That tune is, of course, a symbol of the music of Anti-logos that moves the bodies of those who have joined the Rebellion–and I daresay we all know what it sounds like.
“Where was also present the Devil, who had on a black coat, a blue bonnet, a blue band, who played on a pipe, and they all danced. At which meeting they were contriving and consulting with the foresaid Black Man, whom they called their Lord . . .”††
*) John Y. Fenyon, “Being-Itself and Religious Symbolism,” Journal of Religion (1965)
**) Frances Grant Cullen, Sadducimus Debellatus (1698)
***) Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology (1830).
†) George Gilfillan, Bards of the Bible (1851)
††) A Relation of the Diabolical Practices of Above Twenty Wizards and Witches (1697)