We Must Constantly Update Our Demonology

“I feel sure that this prioritizing of Western nations for the chop is a deliberate demonic strategy – happening by intent . . . . And the Western nations (their leaders and especially managerial/ intellectual classes) are not merely willing, but indeed actively keen, thus to fall in line with the demonic agenda” 

Bruce Charlton, “Destruction of Western Nations,” Bruce Charlton’s Notions (May 9. 2023)

“We wrestle not so much with man, as with devils . . . . The enemies we fight with are more than flesh and blood, more envious, malicious, furious, dangerous, numerous, more subtle, powerful, in every way fearful.”

Isaac Ambrose, The Christian Warrior (c. 1630).*

“Culture, which smooth the whole world licks,
Also unto the Devil sticks.” 

Goethe, Faust (1828-1829)

Commenter Naturboi recently demurred at the demonic theories of Orthosphere friend Bruce Charlton, describing these theories as “Manichean” and “unhinged.”  I am myself wary of the pejorative descriptor Manichean, since this word is so often used to throw sand into our eyes.  I am not saying that Naturboi is throwing sand in our eyes, but I do not think we should discard the Manichean baby with the Manichean bathwater.

“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” (Ephesians 6:12).

Devils are “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and the old Puritan Isaac Ambrose was right to warn that we should not underestimate this enemy.  Devils are not the Keystone Cops of spiritual warfare and we must never forget devils are playing for keeps.

In their efforts to bring all souls to their Father down below, devils constantly update their tactics.  Unlike some of they oppose, devils are not sentimental, nostalgic, or antiquarian, and they do not therefore charge machine-gun nests on horseback.  Nor are devils gentlemen who announce their allegiance with a recognizable uniform and true flag.  Devils are children of the Father of Lies, and the Father of Lies is a master of disguise.

This is what Goethe meant when he has Mephistopheles say,

“Culture, which smooth the whole world licks,
Also unto the Devil sticks.”

Culture here means polish and culture his quite capable of polishing evil.  The first and archetypal example of polished evil is, no doubt,

 “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired . . . . She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” Genesis 3:6

Devils polish more than apples and other forbidden fruits, and indeed polish most tirelessly themselves.  After every back alley fight, they lick themselves smooth, like cats.

Mephistopheles spoke this line in the kitchen of a rather stupid witch who had failed to recognize the debonaire courtier as a high noble in the court of her Lord and Master.  As the rather stupid witch attempts to extenuate her gaucherie:

“Oh pardon, Sir, the rough salute!
Yet I perceive no cloven foot;
And both your ravens, where are they now?”

The two ravens were companions of Odin, the Norse god of war and the dead.  What the stupid witch does not understand is that devils are shape-shifters who can present a very shapely foot when it is advantageous to do so, and who can join to their person any familiars they choose.  The stupid witch is like a stupid general who does not recognize an invasion unless it involves armored columns and loud explosions.  As Mephistopheles explains, the demonology of the stupid witch is obsolete.

“This time I’ll let thee ’scape the debt;
For since we two together met,
‘Tis verily full many a day now.
Culture, which smooth the whole world licks,
Also unto the Devil sticks.”

The sooty fiends of medieval nightmares have evolved, like a virus, to bypass the outdated immune systems of people who are living in the past.  Whether scoffed as a figure of fun, or feared with an outdated horror, the horned demon with pitchfork, goatee and red leotards is now, like the word Manichean, a means to throw sand in our eyes.  As Mephistopheles explains,

“The days of that old Northern phantom now are over:
Where canst thou horns and tails and claws discover?

This is why we most constantly update our demonology.

Isaac Ambrose, War with Devils; Ministration of, and Communion with Angels (Glasgow: J. Galbraith and Co., 1769), p. 12.

25 thoughts on “We Must Constantly Update Our Demonology

  1. Looking out upon the carcass of American Christianity, one gets the impression that the devil has disguised himself most effectively as an angel of light behind the many pulpits of American churches. If only pastors feared God more than the American culture!

    But unfortunately they massage their sermons to be non-threatening to Sodom and the road that led to Sodom, for fear that Sodom will look on them with irritation.

  2. What’s funny is people who toss Manichean around as a perjorative tend to be Augustinians and therefore follow a man who was a literal Manichean for a decade before becoming a Catholic and who lapsed back into his old Manicheanism in his old age and that’s where their fatalistic theology comes from.

    • I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not Augustine or Thomas or anyone else. Still, are you claiming that Saint Augustine is somehow…less Christian than Saint Thomas? Because that’s really weird.

      You seem to be implying that someone who experienced Manicheanism first hand and then rejected it and wrote about its flaws …didn’t know what he was talking about?

      I wouldn’t know about any of that. Would you please explain your reasoning to me? Why are you making the choice to follow Saint Thomas or Saint Augustine instead of the Son of God whom they both follow? Why do you think someone with first hand experience of living a heresy doesn’t know what it is?

  3. I don’t know why demons exist but approaching my sixth decade of existence I am sure they do.

    Following up on Sean’s comment, I’m equally sure that Christian ecclesiology is well off the rails. I had a very pleasant visit with family members today, but they follow a Christian sect whose liturgics are across a Grand Canyon from what this corner of the internet would consider theologically consistent and substantive. Our moral codes are equivalent but their notions of worship and reverence are just way off from mine. I was able to cobble together a mutually agreeable blessing but their iconoclasm (from my perspective, and mine from theirs) puts us at very different places. They look at my (now lapsed) Orthodoxy and are as perplexed and suspicious as I am of their sect’s theology and praxis.

    The side of the demons, by contrast, seems like a very big and accommodating tent.

    • The side of the demons is at least creative and evolving. Christianity has almost everywhere hardened into an unimaginative bureaucracy that plagiarizes the culture when it is not complaining about the culture. As the quote from Goethe illustrates, devils do not develop weird superstitions about their costumes. The Christianity of many people is little more than weird superstitions about costumes. I have high-church tastes in liturgy, but I also see how the formal becomes formulaic. I follow Spengler in thinking that all cultures end by hardening into unimaginative, formulaic bureaucracies. I’d like to think the Church is different, but am waiting on the evidence.

      • In my opinion this is the reason the charismatic and pentecostal movements were started. In some ways it has worked, but these movements themselves have begun to devolve into their own formulas also.

      • I see the problem now. You’re not a Christian.

        God, the Creator of the Universe, is the source of all creation. It is not possible for evil to be “creative”. I don’t know what you mean by “evolving”, and neither do you.

        All Christians regardless of sect agree on this basic dogma. Your statement that the side of the demons is “creative” is heresy.

      • Your position is dogmatic, mine is empirical. In any case, you’re getting tangled up in two senses of the word creative. You’re talking about ontological creativity, such as was shown in the creation of the universe. I’m talking about inventiveness, such as was shown by the serpent in the garden.

      • Joseph – I think Orthodox (and Catholic, and Protestant) ecclesiology is completely wrecked which to my mind is a very big issue because I don’t see how religion exists without the formation of a group-consciousness. Second, Christianity in general seems to offer nothing but the burden of individual religious practice in exchange for an unknowable afterlife and a perennially postponed second coming. We are simultaneously told that the birds of the air are fed without condition, but we must dutifully fast in the middle of unprecedented human prosperity and pay taxes to secular authorities (whom we are told are Divinely appointed, a laughable and obscene proposition) in order to sustain the enemies of God.

        Simultaneously, the alternatives of areligiousness or atheism are demonstrably more awful.

        Please understand, I am not traducing anyone’s religious traditions or praxis. Religious praxis leads to good outcomes all around. But all religions seem to be walking into gnosticism at this point.

        This is a discussion more suited to the exchange of private emails.

      • I don’t want a liturgy that bears any outward resemblance to a rock concert, but liturgy is dead when to bears no inward resemblance to a rock concert. As you say, there must be formation of “group consciousness,” and a key part of that is ecstatic and mind-melding experience. That’s not the whole story, but a religion devoid of the orgiastic is dead. I don’t mean that we must all become holy rollers and Pentecostals, since the high ritual can be orgiastic, but a church service is dead when it arouses less emotion than a football game. Imagine a congregation emerging from church with the joyful enthusiasm of fans emerging from a stadium after a great game. That would be real religion. Imagine, in a few hundred years, trad-footballers dutifully trudging to the stadium to watch a dull game for which they cheer when the scoreboard tells them to do so, but who through the wooden ritual tell themselves that “this is the faith of our fathers.”

      • “I think Orthodox (and Catholic, and Protestant) ecclesiology is completely wrecked . . .”

        This isn’t surprising. The gospel and the apostolic tradition show us where we’re going and how to get there. Their counsels — including how to keep from deviating from that path — are focused on the goal and address our chief personal and communal spiritual obstacles . . . the wages of death and that sort of thing. They are not an in-depth exploration of heresy and schism; we only get some general warnings of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Again, that’s to be expected. There are innumerable ways to miss the mark. So, you focus on the mark rather than on the countless non-mark possibilities. Like the opening line of _Anna Karenina_ — “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” — there are many slides to Gomorrah, and it is not for the source documents to provide an anthology of errors. That comes later . . . with scholarship! And with scholarship come endless controversy and pedantic quibbling.

        What is the Church? That’s not so hard, right? But any positive identification carries a bunch of exclusions — and those grey, fringe areas. What precedence there is — in dealing with Montanists, Arians, and other splintering movements — seems inconsistent. Basil did this; Damasus did that; Cyprian wrote yet another thing. Even in antiquity, the early fathers did not seem to operate from fixed, clear principles in dealing with schismatics and heretics. They appear to have dealt with schism pastorally, or politically, or both.

        However, the Lord’s parable of the fig tree is relevant. We just need to give the tree long enough to show its fruit. I imagine that these sorts of disputes were more relevant — and murkier — to 19th century Anglican dons than they are to us today. Confessional apostasy resolves itself.

        N.B.: That such hasn’t happen with the monophysites — after sixteen centuries — seems quite relevant. The thicket of history has hidden much of our tree’s structure. We can see limbs jutting out in many directions, but we cannot always see how they connect to the main trunk. A branch severed from the tree will die (no rooting hormones allowed here). Living branches — healthy, fruitful ones — are obviously connected. Sometimes, we have to prune away the vines and overgrowth to see how. How to do this without inadvertently damaging the tree itself is a delicate task — one in which the 20th century ecumenists failed.

    • My daughter recently persuaded me to watch the first Hunger Games movie with her. I don’t know if you have seen it, but the freakish master race of that movie looked a lot like the freakish master race of our own time. I suppose one acclimates to obscenities like the linked video, but they nauseate me. There was a time when I had more stomach for that sort of thing, but I’m glad I’ve gotten over that.

  4. JMSmith, you are a liar. You have grossly and willfully misrepresented my comment. What I said was, and I quote,

    “ He is now suggesting that demonic powers are especially targeting Western post-Christian nations because of their presumed special chosen capacity for holiness, rather than, as all Christians know, that God removes His protection from nations which deliberately and knowingly reject His laws.”

    This is essentially the opposite of the lie you told about what you claim I wrote. It’s your blog, so I won’t demand that you apologize and retract your obviously false representation of my comment, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself and, well, lying is a mortal sin.

    For readers who are ignorant of what “Manichean” means, to claim that demonic powers can especially target someone or something for damnation ABSENT THE CONSENT OF GOD _is_ Manichean. It sets demonic powers as the equal of God. This is heresy.

    It is true that demonic powers can test the good and the holy, just as Christ was tested by the devil. But the good and the holy cannot be TEMPTED by such demonic testing, because to be so tempted IS A CONSEQUENCE OF SIN. The fact that sin cannot coexist with holiness is a tautology.

    I am a longtime reader of this blog and I am rather shocked that JMSmith has been allowed to post something so egregiously wrong and unorthodox.

    If I’m wrong, feel free to have someone with a M Div cite the source. But I’m not wrong. You simply deliberately lied about what I said, as is obvious by the fact that you didn’t quote me directly.

  5. And by the way, this was a rather uncharitable response to my act of charity. I never said anything negative about Dr Charleton. Instead I posted to ask if any friends could check in on him, as he had turned off comments on his blog citing problems with moderating (not due to me, I barely ever comment there) and was at the same time going in this direction of appearing to equate demons and the Creator as equals. He has since turned comments back on, so I hope this means someone is helping him with moderating comments.

    The proper response to a stranger on the on internet saying, “hey, is your friend okay,” is to check up on your friend, or, if you don’t need to check up on your friend because you know he’s fine, to say, “thanks but everything is fine,” or, to simply ignore the stranger on the internet suggesting your friend might need help. The proper response is not to uncharitably misrepresent and attack said stranger. I mean, you got nothing to prove to me. Clearly Dr Charleton’s friends know his state of mind better than I do. But when your response is to attack me for asking if any of his friends have checked up on him, this is evidence that you yourself have a very serious problem.

    My comment was not a theological debate. It was a prompt to make sure everything was okay with a man I think we all respect intellectually, citing the reason why I, a stranger reading a blog post, had become concerned. Turning it into a theological debate in which you lie about what I said is really sick.

      • Mr. Beale’s blog is one that I read frequently (just like Dr. Charlton’s and the Orthosphere). Vox Day is insightful and informative, but sometimes, I think to myself that the writer is a bit too impatient with people — too harsh, too dismissive . . . he comes across as, well, a jerk. Then, I happen to read Twitter threads, Substack comments, or, lo and behold, commentary on the Orthosphere — and I repent of my hasty judgment of Mr. Beale. The man knows. He knows.

      • That’s exactly my impression of Beale. I think the abuse he suffered from organized science fiction writers did some damage, but also that he seems to have put much of that behind him.

      • Totally agree on the Vox Day stuff. That guy has helped me hone my thinking more than most Christian leaders.

        Quite amusing that harshness has two such opposite sides.


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