The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley
This is considered to be a non-fiction novel or faction.
-01- Joseph Hall, satirist and future bishop, in 1605, Flanders. ‘Along our way how many churches saw we demolished, nothing left but rude heaps to tell the passenger, there hath been both devotion and hostility…’
-02- In spite of the swaddling of their wills, some of the Jesuits’ best pupils left school to become free thinkers or even, like Jean Labadie, Protestants.
-03- To post-Faustian eyes [Urbain Grandier’s] portrait suggests a fleshier, not unamiable and only slightly less intelligent Mephistopheles in clerical fancy dress.
-04- It is difficult to find any medieval or Renaissance writer who does not take it for granted that, from highest prelate to humblest friar, the majority of clergymen are thoroughly disreputable.
-05- Ecclesiastical corruption begot the Reformation, and in its turn the Reformation produced the Counter Reformation. After the Council of Trent scandalous Popes became less and less common, until finally, by the middle of the seventeenth century, the breed died out completely. Even some of the bishops, whose only qualification for preferment was the fact that they were the younger sons of noblemen, now made a certain effort to behave themselves.
-06- pp8-9 In his autobiographical account—at the papal court.
-07- At school, under the good Fathers, there are no strenuous games, and the boys’ superfluous energy can find no vent except in incessant masturbation and the practice, on half-holidays, of homosexuality.
-08- In any given set of circumstances our actual behaviour is represented by the diagonal of a parallelogram of forces having appetite or interest as its base and, as its upright, our ethical or religious ideals. In Bouchard’s case and, we may suppose, in the case of the other boys whom he names as his companions in pleasure, the devotional upright was so short that the angle between the long base and the diagonal of manifest behaviour was of only a very few degrees.
-09- The girl was all virtue while she was awake, but could not, it was obvious, be responsible for what happened while she was asleep. And according to her private system of casuistry,it made no difference whether she was really asleep or merely pretending.
-10- p12 this seems all the more probable…might be going on.
-11- Against celibacy Grandier makes use of two main arguments. The first may be summed up in the following syllogism. ‘A promise to perform the impossible is not binding. For the young male, continence is impossible. Therefore no vow involving such continence is binding.’ And if this does not suffice, here is a second argument based on the universally accepted maxim that we are not bound by promises extorted under duress. ‘The priest does not embrace celibacy for the love of celibacy, but solely that he may be admitted to holy orders.’ His vow ‘does not proceed from his will, but is imposed upon him by the Church, which compels him, willy-nilly, to accept this hard condition, without which he may not practice the sacerdotal profession.’
-12- To be mistrusted by the stupid because he was so clever, to be envied by the inept because he made good, to be loathed by the dull for his wit, by the boors for his breeding and by the unattractive for his success with women—what a tribute to his universal superiority!
-13- There are many people for whom hate and rage pay a higher dividend of immediate satisfaction than love. Congenitally aggressive, they soon become adrenalin addicts, deliberately indulging their ugliest passions for the sake of the ‘kick’ they derive from their psychically stimulated endocrines. Knowing that one self-assertion always ends by evoking other and hostile self-assertions, they sedulously cultivate their truculence. And, sure enough, very soon they find themselves in the thick of a fight. But a fight is what they most enjoy; for it is while they are fighting that their blood chemistry makes them feel most intensely themselves. ‘Feeling good,’ they naturally assume that they are good. Adrenalin addiction is rationalized as Righteous Indignation and finally, like the prophet Jonah, they are convinced, unshakably, that they do well to be angry.
-14- A long religious training had not abolished or even mitigated his self-love; it had served only to provide the ego with a theological alibi. The untutored egotist merely wants what he wants. Give him a religious education, and it becomes obvious to him, it becomes axiomatic, that what he wants is what God wants, that his cause is the cause of whatever he may happen to regard as the True Church and that any compromise is a metaphysical Munich, an appeasement of Radical Evil.
-15- Instead of trying to come to terms with his enemies, the parson set to work to exacerbate their hostility by every means in his power. And his power, in this respect, amounted almost to genius.
-16- pp 18-19 …the Good Fairy had brought…the most dazzling of all gifts, and the most dangerous—eloquence. Spoken by a good actor…words can exercise an almost magical power over their hearers. Because of the essential irrationality of this power, even the best-intentioned of public speakers probably do more harm than good. – > p19 for their opponents.
-17- p19 Nature abhors a vacuum, even in the mind. Today the aching void of boredom is filled and perpetually renewed by movies and radio, television and the comic strips. More fortunate than we → the parson’s eloquence.
-18- pp19-20 Grandier’s prime reason for disliking… → theologian for theologian.
-19- A Church divided by intestine hatreds cannot systematically practice love and cannot, without manifest hypocrisy, preach it.
-20- pp20-21 Partisan loyalty is socially → and party passions.
-21- To think about events realistically, in terms of multiple causations, is hard and emotionally unrewarding. How much easier, how much more agreeable to trace each effect to a single and, if possible, a personal cause! To the illusion of understanding will be joined, in this case, the pleasure of hero worship, if the circumstances are favourable, and the equal, or even greater pleasure, if they should be unfavourable, of persecuting scapegoat.
-22- p24. He had suffered no hurt that he could feel, only an imperceptible coarsening and hardening, only a progressive darkening of the inner light, a gradual narrowing of the soul’s window on the side of eternity.
-23- p25. His passion for the Muses was genuine but hopeless. He loved them, but they, it is evident, did not love him.
-24- p26 [?] with all the gravity—wounds
-25- p28. Every young girl is potentially the most knowing of widows and, thanks to Original Sin, every potential impurity is already, even in the most innocent, more than half actualized. [PN: This is why Christians are afraid of Satanists—they feel they’re close to being us than who they want to be.]
[Marsillac, Nemours, Chevalier de Gramont, Gustavus Adolphus, Wallenstein]
-26- p28. Sex can either be used either for self-affirmation or for self-transcendence… [PN: the same reasons people read novels.]
-27- p29. To abuse such trust would be the blackest of crimes. And yet its very blackness was a reason for committing it.
-28- pp29-30. It is a temptation, very often, to an evil without point or profit, to a gratuitous and, so to say, disinterested outrage against common sense and common decency.
-29- p30. Every now and then sensible and fundamentally decent people will embark, all of a sudden, on courses of which they themselves are the first to disapprove. In these cases the evil-doer acts as though he were possessed by some entity different from and hostile to his ordinary self. In fact, he is the victim of a neutral mechanism, which (as not uncommonly happens with machines) has got out of hand and, from being the servant of its possessor, has become his master.
-30- p30. ‘The strongest oaths are straw to the fire in the blood.’
-31- p31. They sat in the same room but not in the same universe.
-32- p33. And the more completely she abandoned herself to it, the intenser it became until at last she found it impossible to keep to herself.
-33- p34. But falling in love, as she now perceived, was not the same thing as loving. It was as an imagination that one fell in love, and what one fell in love with was an abstraction.
-34- p38. For minds trained in the law, legal truth is the same as truth without qualification.
-35- p39. Shakespeare about apothecary, Romeo from Romeo and Juliet: a tortoise hung,/ An alligator stuff’d, and other skins/Of ill-shap’d fishes, and about the shelves/ A beggarly account of empty boxes,/ Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds.
Dispensary by Garth: Here mummies lay, most reverently stale, And there the tortoise hung her coat of mail; Not far from some large shark’s devouring head/The flying fish their finny pinions spread./ Aloft in rows large poppy heads were strung/ And, near, a scaly alligator hung;/ In this place drugs in musty heaps decay’d/In that dried bladders and drawn teeth were laid.
-36- p40 M. Adam’s pharmacy in the Rue des Marchands was of the middle rank, neither beggarly nor grandiose, but solidly provincial. Too modest for mummies or a rhinoceros horn, it could yet boast of several West Indian turtles, the foetus of a whale and an eight-foot crocodile. And the sock was plentiful and varied. On the shelves were all the herbs of the Galenists’ repertory, all the new-fangled chemicals of the followers of Valentine and Paracelus. Rhubarb and aloes were there in plenty; but so was calomel or, as M. Adam preferred to call it, Draco mitigatus, the mitigated Dragon. There was colocynth, if you liked a vegetable liver pill; but there was also Tartar emetic and metallic antimony, if you were ready to venture on a more modern treatment. And if you had had the misfortune to be lucky in love with the wrong kind of nymph or swain, you could take your choice between Arbor vitae and Hydrargyrum cum Creta, between Sarsaparilla and in inunction of Blue Ointment. With all these, as well as with dried vipers, horses’ hoofs and human bones, M. Adam could supply his customers out of stock. The more costly specifies—powdered sapphires, for example, or pearls—had to be specially ordered and paid for in advance.
-37- female complaint = dried mugwort
-38- p42. Religion was all very well; but it should never be allowed to invade the sanctities of private life.
-39- p42. They left her alone. It was precisely what Madeleine wanted them to do.
-40- p43 Nobody likes to think of himself as immoral and heretical; but at the same time nobody likes to renounce a course of action dictated by powerful impulses, especially when these impulses are recognized as being in their nature good, as tending toward a higher and more abundant life. Hence all the curious literature of rationalization and justification—rationalization of impulse or intuition in terms of whatever philosophy happens, at the given time and place, to be fashionable, justification of unorthodox actions by reference to the current moral code, reinterpreted to fit the particular occasion.
-41- p44. For a clever man, nothing is easier than to find arguments that will convince him that he is doing right when he is doing what he wants to do. [PN: Lichtenberg quote]
-42- p44. But she was in love—for the first time and with a passion more violent for having taken possession of a nature so inward, so long and so consistently held in check.
-43- p51. But literature is not the same as life. Art is governed by one set of rules, conduct by another.
-44- p64. While Urbain Grandier was thus engaged in riding the wheel of fortune from triumph to defeat and back again to precarious triumph.
-45- p65.’The world’ is man’s experience as it appears to, and is molded by, his ego.
-46- p65. It is time apprehended as one damned thing after another.
-47- p67. Men desire to intensify their consciousness of being what they have come to regard as “themselves,” but they also desire—and desire, very often, with irresistible violence—the consciousness of being someone else.
-48- p69. If we experience an urge to self-transcendence, it is because, in some obscure way and in spite of our conscious ignorance, we know who we really are. [PN: striving for more]
-49- pp69-70. Those who conform to the rules, who worship the mediators, who perform the rites, who believe in the dogmas and adore a God ‘out there,’ beyond the finite, may expect, with the aid of divine grace, to achieve salvation. Whether or not they achieve the enlightenment, which accompanies the realization of the primordial Fact, depends on something other than the faithful practice of religion, insofar as it helps the individual to forget himself and his ready0made opinions about the universe, religion will prepare the way for realization. Insofar as it arouses and justifies such passions as fear, scrupulosity, righteous indignation, institutional patriotism and crusading hate, insofar as it harps on the saving virtues of certain theological notions, certain hallowed arrangements of words, religion is an obstacle in the way of realization.
-50- p71-72. The complement of works, imaginings and emotions is faith—not faith in the sense of belief in a set of theological and historical affirmations, nor in the sense of a passionate conviction of being saved by someone else’s merits, but faith as confidence in the order of things, faith as a theory about human and divine nature, as a working hypothesis resolutely acted upon in the expectation that what began as an assumption will come to be transformed, sooner or later, into an actual experience, by participation, of a reality which, for the insulated self, is unknowable.
Unknowableness, we may remark, is normally an attribute not only of the divine Ground of our being, but also of much else that lies, so to speak, between this Ground and our everyday consciousness. To those, for example, who undergo tests for ESP, or prevision, there is no perceptible distinction between success and failure. The process of guessing feels exactly the same, whether the result be a score attributable to mere chance, or markedly above or below that figure. This is consistently true of test situations in the laboratory. But it is not always true of situations of a more significant kind. From the many well-authenticated cases on record it is clear that ESP and previous sometimes take place spontaneously, and that the persons in whom they occur are aware of the vent and strongly convinced of the truth of the information which is being conveyed. In the spiritual field we find analogous records of spontaneous theophanies. By a grace of sudden intuition, the normally unknowable makes itself known,and the knowledge is self-validating beyond the possibility of doubt.
-51- p72. Where union with spirit is sought to the exclusion of the other unions, we find the thought-patterns of occultism, the behaviour patterns of psychics and sensitives.
-52- p73. Obscurely, we know who we really are. Hence our grief at having to seem to be what we are not, and hence the passionate desire to overstep the limits of this imprisoning ego.
-53- p73. We are forever trying to mitigate the effects of the collective Fall into insulated selfhood by another, strictly private fall into animality and mental derangement, or by some more or less creditable self-dispersion into are or science, into politics, a hobby or a job. [PN: Doing rather than being]
-54- pp74-5. The intention of the Jesuit casuists and moral philosophers was, by leniency, to keep even the worldliest and most sinful men and women within the bounds of the Church and thereby to strengthen the organization as a whole and their own Order in particular. To some extent they achieved this intended end. But at the same time they achieved a considerable schism within the fold and, implicitly, a reductio ad absurdum of one of orthodox Christianity’s cardinal doctrines—the doctrine of infinite punishment for finite offenses.
-55- p75. Father Alvarez was consumed – exercises.
-56- p85. ‘If you wish to see It before your eyes,’ writes the Third Patriarch of Zen, ‘have no fixed notions either for or against It.’ But fixing notions is the professional occupation of theologians…
-57- p87. If hell is paved with good intentions, it is because most people, being self-blinded to the inner light, are actually incapable of having a purely good intention.
-58- pp89-90. …between the divine Ground and the conscious self, lies the subliminal mind, almost impersonal at its melting fringe, but crystallizing, as the phenomenal self is approached, into the personal subconscious with its accumulations of septic rubbish, its swarms rates and black beetles and its occasional scorpions and vipers.
-59- …for the last thirty years at least, all the great truths have been commonplaces [EV]
-60- …a laughter in lieu of despair or indignation at the world’s perverse absurdity.
-61- Directed against others, never against herself, the first [type of laughter] was a symptom of the unreconciled hunchback’s desire to be revenged on destiny by putting other people in their place—and their place, in spite of all appearances, was below her. Motivated by the same craving for compensatory dominance, the second was a more impersonal jeering and joking at all that, by current standards, was most solemn, lofty and grand.
-62- p99 Mme Bovary came to a bad end because she imagined herself to be the kind of person she in fact was not. Perceiving that Flaubert’s herione embodied a very widespread human tendency, Jules de Gaultier coined from her name the word ‘bovarism’ and wrote a book on the subject, which is well worth the reading. Bovarism is by no means invariably disastrous. On the contrary, the process of imagining that we are what we are what we are not, and of acting upon this imagination, is one of the most effective mechanisms of education. The title was most enduring of all books of Christian devotion—The Imitation of Christ—bears eloquent witness to this fact. It is by thinking and acting in any given situation, not as we would normally think and act, but rather as we imagine that we should do, if we were like some other and better person, that we finally cease to be like our old selves and come, instead, to resemble our ideal model.
-63-p102 We all imagine ourselves to be simultaneously clear-sighted and impenetrable; but, except when blinded by some infatuation, other people can see through us just as easily as we can see through them. The discovery of this fact is apt to be exceedingly disconcerting.
-64- …for the grille [in a convent] was not the adjunct of modesty; it was in lieu of modesty. Restraint had been taken out of the mind and embodied in an iron lattice. Behind bars one could be shameless.
-65- Hers was the unobjective and therefore limitless and insane desire of the moth for the star, of the schoolgirl for the crooner…
-66- p111 one of those negative Christians, to whom the Devil is incomparably more real and more interesting than God. [M. Barre, Cure of Saint-Jacques in the neighbouring town of Chinon] saw the print ofcloven hoofs in everything; he recognized Satan’s work in all the odd, all the disastrous, all the too pleasurable events of human life. Enjoying nothing so much as a good tussle with Belial or Beelzebub, he was forever fabricating and exorcising demoniacs.
-68- 113 From insulated selfhood there are many ways of escape into a larval condition of subhumanity.
-69- 116 The demons insinuated themselves into my mind and inclinations, in such sort that, through the evil dispositions they found in me, they made of me one and the same substance with themselves…Ordinarily the demons acted in conformity with the feelings I had in my soul; this they did so subtly that I myself did not believe that I had any demons within me.
-70- 123: Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. [So great the evil religion has aroused.] But looking back and up, from our vantage point on the descending road of modern history, we now see that all the evils of religion can flourish without any belief in the supernatural, that convinced materialists are ready to worship their own jerry-built creations as though they were the Absolute, and that self-styled humanists will persecute their adversaries with all the zeal of Inquisitors exterminating the devotees of a person and transcendent Satan. Such behaviour-patterns antedate and outlive the beliefs which, at any given moment, seem to motivate them. Few people now believe in the Devil; but very many enjoy behaving as their ancestors behaved when the Fiend was a reality as unquestionable as his Opposite Number. In order to justify their behaviour, they turn their theories into dogmas, their by-laws into First Principles, their political bosses into Gods and all those who disagree with them into incarnate devils. This idolatrous transformation of the relative into the Absolute and the all too human into the Divine, makes it possible for them to indulge their ugliest passions with a clear conscience and in the certainty that they are working for the Highest Good. And when the current beliefs come, in their turn, to look silly, a new set will be invented, so that the immemorial madness may continue to wear its customary mask of legality, idealism and true religion.
-71- … By paying so much attention to the devil and by treating witchcraft as the most heinous of crimes, the theologians and the inquisitors actually spread the beliefs and fostered the practices which they were trying so hard to repress. By the beginning of the eighteenth century witchcraft had ceased to be a serious social problem. It dies out, among other reasons, because almost nobody now bothered to repress it. For the less it was persecuted, the less it was propagandized. … The springs of action and the rationalizations have undergone a certain change; but the hatreds motivated and the ferocities justified are all too familiar. …medieval village life, for which the sentimentalists, whose dislike of the present blinds them to the no less enormous horrors of the past.
-72- 130: Kramer and Sprenger write with indignation of those—and at the end of the fifteenth century they were already numerous—who doubted the reality of witchcraft. They point out that all the theologians and canonists are at one in condemning the error of ‘those who say that there is no witchcraft in the world, but only in the imagination of men who, through their ignorance of hidden causes, which no man yet understands, ascribe certain natural effects to witchcraft, as though they were effected not by hidden causes, but by devils working either by themselves or in conjunction with witches…’
-73- 131: Montaigne concludes with one of those golden sentences which deserve to be inscribed over the altar of every church, above the bench of every magistrate, on the walls of every lecture hall, every senate and parliament, every government office and council chamber. ‘After all,’ (write the words in neon, write in letters as tall as a man!) ‘after all, it is rating one’s conjectures at a very high price to roast a man alive on the strength of them.’
-74- 134 The history of spiritualism makes it very clear that fraud, especially pious fraud, is perfectly compatible with faith.
-75- 135 The thing was obviously a hoax; and yet, in a Pickwickian sense, and sometimes even in a non-Pickwickian sense, it was all perfectly true.
-76- 136-7 The central ceremony of Ritual Witchcraft was the so-called ‘Sabbath’–a word of unknown origin, having no relation to its Hebrew homonym. Sabbaths were celebrated four times a year—on Candlemass Day, February 2nd, on Rood Mass Day, May 1st, on Lammas Day, August 1st, and on the even of All Hallows, October 31st. These were great festivals, often attended by hundreds of devotees, who cam from considerable distances. Between Sabbaths there were weekly Esbats for small practices. At all high Sabbaths the devil himself was invariably present, in the person of some man who had inherited, or otherwise acquired, the honour of being the incarnation of the two-faced god of the Dianic cult. The worshipers paid homage to the god by kissing his reverse face—a mask worn, beneath an animal’s tail, on the devil’s backside. There was then, for some at least of the female devotees, a ritual copulation with the god, who was equipped for this purpose with an artificial phallus of horn or metal. This ceremony was followed by a picnic (for the Sabbaths were celebrated out of doors, near sacred trees or stones), by dancing and finally by a promiscuous sexual orgy that had, no doubt, originally been a magical operation for increasing the fertility of the animals on which primitive hunters and herdsmen depend for their livelihood. The prevailing atmosphere at the Sabbaths was one of good fellowship and mindless, animal joy. When captured and brought to trial, many of those who had taken part in the Sabbath resolutely refused, even under torture, even at the stake, to abjure the religion which had brought them so much happiness.
-77- 152: The aim was to prove, out of the mouth of Satan himself, that the parson was a magician and had bewitched the nuns. But Satan is, by definition, the Father of Lies, and his evidence is therefore worthless. To this argument Laubardemont, his exorcists and the Bishop of Poitiers replied by affirming that, when duly constrained by a priest of the Roman Church, devils are bound to tell the truth. In other words, anything to which a hysterical nun was ready, at the instigation of her exorcist, to affirm on oath, was for all practical purposes a divine revelation. For inquisitors, this doctrine was a real convenience. But it had one grave defect: it was manifestly unorthodox. In the year 1610 a committee or learned theologians had discussed authoritative decision. ‘We, the undersigned Doctors of the Faculty of Paris, touching certain questions which have been proposed to us, are of the opinion that one must never admit the accusation of demons, still less must one exploit exorcisms for the purpose of discovering a man’s faults or for determining if he is a magician; and we are further of the opinion that, even if the said exorcisms should have been applied in the presence of the Holy Sacrament, with the devil forced to swear an oath (which is a ceremony of which we do not at all approve), one must not for all that give any credit to his words, the devil being always a liar and the Father of Lies.
-78- 157-8: At any given time and place certain thoughts are completely unthinkable. But this radical unthinkableness of certain thoughts is not paralleled by any radical unfeelableness of certain emotions, of any radical undoableness of the actions inspired by such emotions. Anything can at times be felt and acted upon, albeit sometimes with great difficulty and in the teeth of general disapproval. But though individuals can always feel and do whatever their temperament and constitution permit them to feel and do, they cannot think about their experiences except within the frame of reference which, at that particular time and place, has come to seem self-evident. Interpretation is in terms of the prevailing thought-pattern, and this thought-pattern conditions to some extent the expression of urges and emotions, but can never completely inhibit them.
-79- 158: In 1592 sexual behaviour was evidently very similar to what it is today. The change has been only in the thoughts about that behaviour. In early modern times the thoughts of a Havelock Ellis or a Krafft-Ebing would have been unthinkable. But the emotions and actions described by these modern sexologists were just as feelable and doable in an intellectual context of hell-fire as they are in the secularist of our own time.
-80- 166: ‘Galen,’ says Robert Burton, ‘imputeth all to the cold that is black, and thinks that, the spirits being darkened and the substance of the brain cloudy and dark, all the objects thereof appear terrible, and the mind itself, by these dark, obscure, gross fumes, ascending from black humours, is in continual darkness, fear and sorrow.’
-81- 166: To this opinion of Galen almost all the Greeks and Arabians subscribe, the Latins new and old; as children are affrighted in the dark, so are melancholy men at all times, as having the inward cause with them, and still carrying it about.
-82- 168: For details of the strictly medical treatment of melancholy, whether due to natural of supernatural causes, the reader is referred to Burton’s absurd and charming book.
-83- 169: (To appreciate the full historical import of this diagnosis, we must bear in mind that, at the time of the possession, what may be called the Battle of Antimony had been raging for three generations and was still going strong. By the heretical anti-Galenists the metal and its compounds were regarded as miracle drugs, specific for practically everything. Under the pressure from the orthodox right wing of the mdeical profession, the Parlement of Paris had issued an edict prohibiting their use in France. But the law had proved to be unenforceable. Half a century after its passage, Grandier’s good friend and Loudun’s most famous medical son, Theophraste Renaudot, was zealously proclaiming the virtue of antimony. He younger contemporary, Gui Patin, the author of the famous Letters, was no less violent on the other side. In the light of modern research we can see that Patin was more nearly in the right than Renaudot and the other anti-Galenists. Certain compounds of antimony are specific in the treatment of the tropical disease known as kala-azar. In most other conditions, the use of the metal or its compounds is hardly worth the risks involved. Medically speaking, there was no justification for such indiscriminate use as was made of the drug during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. From the economic point of view, however, the justification was ample. M. Adam and his fellow apothecaries sold Perpetual Pills of metallic antimony. Thease were swallowed, irritated the mucus membrane as they passed through the intestine, thus acting as a purgative, and could be recovered from the chamber pot, washed and used again, indefinitely. After the first capital outlay, there was no further need for spending money on cathartics. Dr Patin might fulminate and the Parlement forbid; but for the costive French bourgeois, the appeal of antimony was irresistible. Perpetual Pills were treated as heirlooms and after passing through one generation were passed on to the next.)
-84- 170: Define ‘projectors’. But to this belief in magic and the power of Satan is conjoined a no less powerful belief in the quasi-rational and pseudoscientific schemes of those fraudulent inventors and company promoters whom our fathers called ‘projector.’
-85- 171: In the circumstances, the truly surprising thing was not the fact of an occasional possession, but the fact that most people could go through, life without becoming demoniacs.
-86- pp172-3: Professor Oesterreich, in his richly documented study of the subject has pointed out that, while belief in diabolic possession sharply declined during the nineteenth century, belief in possession by departed spirits became, during the same period, much more common. Thus, neurotics who, at an earlier epoch, would have attributed their malady to devils, were inclined, after the rise of the Fox Sisters, to lay the blame on the discarnate souls of evil men or women. With the recent advances in technology, the notion of possession has taken a new form. Neurotie patients often complain that they are being influenced, against their will, by some kind of radio messages transmitted by their enemies. The Malicious Animal Magnetism which haunted poor Mrs Eddy’s imagination for do many years has now been transformed into Malicious Electronics.
-87- p174-5: In theory and by theological definition Christianity is not Manichaeism. For Christians, evil is not a substance, not a real and elementary principle. It is merely a privation of good, a diminution of being in creatures who derive their essential being from God. Satan is not Ahriman under another name, is not an eternal principle of Darkness over against the divine principle of Light. Satan is merely the most considerable among a vast number of individual angels who, at a given moment of time, chose to separate themselves from God. It is only by courtesy that we call him the Evil One. There are many evil ones, of whom Satan is the Chief Executive. Devils are persons, and each one has his character, his temperament, his humours, crotchets and idiosyncrasies. There are power-loving devils, lustful devils, covetous devils, proud and conceited devils. Moreover, some devils are much more important than others; for they retain, even in hell, the positions they occupied in the heavenly hierarchy, before their fall. Those who in heaven were merely angels or archangels are lower-class or small account. Those who were once Dominions or Principalities or Powers, now constitute the haute bourgeoisie of hell. The quondam Cherubim and Seraphim are an aristocracy, whose power is very great and whose physical presence (according to the information supplied to Father Surin by Asmodeus) can make itself felt within a circle thirty leagues in diameter. At least one seventeenth-century, but also, and more frequenctly, by nonmalignant spiritual entities—the fauns, nymphs and satyrs of the ancients, the hobgoblins of the European peasantry, the poltergeists of modern psychical researchers. [see L. Sinistrari, Demoniality (Paris, 1879).] According to Sinistrari, most incubi and succubi were merely natural phenomena, no worse and no better than buttercups, say, or grasshoppers. As Loudun, unfortunately, this kindly theory was never broached. The insanely libidinous imaginings of the nuns were all attributed to Satan and his messengers.
-88- p176-7: How is true possession to be distinguished from fraud or the symptoms of disease? The Church prescribes four tests—the language test, the test of preternatural physical strength, the test of levitation and the test of clairvoyance and prevision. If a person can on occasion understand, or better still, speak a language, of which, in his normal state, he is completely ignorant; if he can manifest the physical miracle of levitation or perform unaccountable feats of strength, and if he can correctly predict the future or describe events taking place at a distance—then that person may be presumed to be possessed by devils. (Alternatively, he may be presumed to be the recipient of extraordinary graces; for in many instances, and infernal miracles are, most unhappily, identical. The levitation of saintly ecstatic demoniacs only in virtue of the moral antecedents and consequences of the event.
-89- 177-8: For all the Christians of an earlier day, ‘speaking with tongues’ was an extraordinary grace, a gratuitous gift of the Holy Spirit. But it was also (such is the strangely equivocal nature of the universe) a sure symptom of possession by devils. In the great majority of cases, glossolalia is not clear and unmistakable speaking of some hitherto unknown tongue. It is a more or less articulate, more or less systematic gibberish, exhibiting certain resemblances to some form of traditional speech and consequently interpretable, by listeners of good will, as a rather obscure utterance in some language with which they happen to be familiar. In the cases where persons in a state of trance have shown an unequivocal knowledge of some language of which they were consciously ignorant, investigation has generally revealed the fact that they had spoken the language during childhood and subsequently forgotten it, or that they had heard it spoken and, without understanding the meaning of the words had unconsciously familiarized themselves with their sound. For the rest there is, in the words of F.W.H. Myers, ‘little evidence of the acquisition—telepathy apart—of any actual mass of fresh knowledge, such as a new language, or a stage of mathematical knowledge unreached before.’ In the light of what we know, through systematic psychical research, of trance mediumship and automatic writing, it seems questionable whether any alleged demoniac ever passed the test of language in a completely unambiguous and decided manner. What is certain is that the recorded cases of complete failure are very numerous, while the recorded successes are mostly partial and rather unconvincing. Some of the ecclesiastical investigators of possession applied the language test in very ingenious and effective ways. In 1598, for example, Marthe Brossier made a great name for herself by exhibiting the symptoms of possession. One of these symptoms—a thoroughly traditional and orthodox symptom—consisted in going into convulsions every time a prayer or an exorcism was read over her. (Devils hate God and the Church; consequently they tend to fly into a rage every time they hear the hallowed words of the Bible or the prayer book.) To test Marth’s paranormal knowledge of Latin, the Bishop of Orleans opened his Petronius and solemnly intoned the somewhat unedifying story of the Matron of Ephesus. The effect was magical. Before the first sonorous sentence had been completed, Marthe was rolling on the floor, cursing the Bishop for what he was making her suffer by his reading of the Sacred Word. It is worth remarking that, for from putting an end to Marthe’s career as a demoniac, this incident actually helped her to go forward to fresh triumphs. Fleeing from the Bishop, she put herself under the protection of the Capuchins, who proclaimed that she had been unjustly persecuted and make use of her to draw enormous crowds to their exorcisms.
-90- 179: In most cases the miracle was even less astounding. All the nuns who knew no Latin were possessed by devils who also knew no Latin. To account for this strange fact, one of the Franciscan exorcists explained in a sermon that there are uneducated devils as well as educated ones.
-91- 181-2: According to the Franciscan, these devils were uneducated; according to the Jesuits, they had never travelled. Such explanations of their inability to understand foreign languages seemed a little lame, and for the benefit of those who were unwilling to accept them, the nuns and their exorcists added a couple of new and, so they hoped, more cogent explanations. If the devils could not speak Greek or Hebrew, it was because the pact they had made with Grandier included a special clause to the effect that in no circumstances would they speak Greek or Hebrew. And if that was not enough, then there was the final, the clinching explanation, that it was not God’s will that these particular devils should speak with tongues. Deus non vult—or as Sister Jane was apt to say, in her pidgin Latin, Deus non volo. On the conscious level, the blunder was doubtless attributable to mere ignorance. But in an obscure way our ignorances are often voluntary. On the subliminal level, that Deus non volo, that ‘I, God, do not wish,’ may very well have expressed the sentiments of Jeanne’s profounder ego.
-92- 183-4: In the Malleus Maleficarum, it is asserted, on the best possible authority, that devils cannot possess the will and the understanding, but only the body and such mental faculties as are most closely allied to the body. In many cases devils do not even possess the whole of the demoniac’s body, but only a small part of it—a single organ, one or two muscle groups, or bones. Pillet de la Mesnardiere, one of Richelieu’s personal physicians, has left us a list of the names and local habitations of all the devils who took part in the possessions of Loudun. Leviathan, he tells us, occupied the centre of the Prioress’s forehead; Beherit was lodged in her stomach; Balaam under the second rib on the right side; Isacaaron under the last rib on the left. Eazaz and Caron lived respectively under the heart and in the centre of the forehead of Sister Louise of Jesus. Sister Agnes de la Motte-Barace and Asmodeus under the heart and Beherit in the orifice of the stomach. Sister Claire de Sazilly harboured seven devils in her body—Zabulon in the forehead, Nephthali in the right arm; Sans Fin alias Grandier of the Dominations, under the second rib on the right; Elymi, to one said of the stomach; the Enemy of the Virgin, in the neck; Verrine in the left temple and Concupiscence, of the Order of the Cherubim, in the left rib. Sister Seraphica had a bewitchment of the stomach, consisting of a drop of water guarded by Baruch or, in his absence, by Carreau. Sister Anne d’Escoubleau had a magic barberry leaf in her stomach under the care of Elymi, who simultaneously watched over the purple damson in the stomach of her sister. Among the lay demoniacs Elizabeth Blanchard had a devil under each armpit, with another called Coal of Impurity in her left buttock. Yet others were lodged under the navel, below the heart and under the left pap. Four demons occupied the body of Francoise Filatreau—Ginnillion in the forebrain; Jabel, a wanderer through every part of organism; Buffetison below the navel; and Dog’s Tail, of the Order of Archangels, int eh stomach.
From their many mansions within the victim’s body the devils saillied forth, one at a time, to work upon the humours, the spirits, the senses and the phantasy. In this way they could influence the mind, even though they were unable to possess it. The will is free, and only God can look into the understanding. From this it followed that a possessed person could not directly read another’s mind. If devils sometimes seemed to have ESP, it was because they were observant and clever, and could therefore infer a man’s secret thoughts from his overt behaviour.
-93- 185: From the mental criteria of possession we now pass to the physical. In regard to levitation, Sister Jane’s devils had indicated at an early stage of the proceedings that, in their pact with Grandier, there was an article which specifically barred all supernatural floatings. And anyhow those who longed to see such marvels were displaying too much curiosity, nimia curiositas, a thing which Deus very definitely non volo. And yet though she herself had never professed to be levitated, some of her supporters confidently asserted, with M. de Nion, that on several occasiona ‘the Mother Superior was carried off her feet and suspended in the air at a height of twenty-four inches.’ De Nion was an honest man, who probably believed what he said. Which only shows how extremely cautious one must always be in the matter of believing believers.
-94- 198: Most of us find it very hard to believe that we could ever have enjoyed the spectacle of a public execution. But before we start to congratulate ourselves on the finer feelings, let us remember, first, that we have never been permitted to see an execution and, second, that when executions were public, a hanging seemed as attractive as a Punch and Judy show, while a burning was the equivalent of a Bayreuth Festival or an Oberammergau Passion Play—a great event for which it was worth while to make a long and expensive pilgrimage. When public executions were abolished, it was not because the majority desired their abolition; it was because a small minority of exceptionally sensitive reformers possessed sufficient influence to have them banned. In one of its aspects, civilization may be defined as a systematic withholding from individuals of certain occasions for barbarous behaviour. In recent years we have discovered that when, after a period of withholding, those occasions are once more offered, men and women, seemingly no worse than we are, have shown themselves ready and even eager to take them.
-95- 209-10: For the totalitarians of our more enlightened century, there is no soul and no Creator; there is merely a lump of physiological raw material molded by conditioned reflexes and social pressures into what, by courtesy, is still called a human being. This product of the man-made environment is without intrinsic significance and possesses no rights to self-determination. It exists for Society and must conform to the Collective Will. In practice, of course, Society is nothing but the national State, and as a matter of brute fact, the Collective Will is merely the dictator’s will-to-power, sometimes mitigated, sometimes distorted to the verge of lunacy, by some pseudoscientific theory of what, in the gorgeous future, will be good for an actuarial abstraction labelled ‘Humanity.’ Individuals are define as the products and the instruments of Society. From this it follows that the political bosses, who claim to represent Society, are justified in committing any conceivable atrocity against such persons as they may choose to call Society’s enemies. Physical extermination by shooting (or, more profitably, by overwork in a slave labour camp) is not enough. It is a matter of observable fact that men and women are not the mere creatures of Society. But official theory proclaims that they are. Therefore it becomes necessary to depersonalized the ‘enemies of Society’ in order to transform the official lie into truth. For those who know the trick, the reduction of the human to the subhuman, of the free individual to the obedient automaton, is a relatively simple matter. The personality of man is far less monolithic than the theologians were compelled by their dogmas to assume. The soul is not the same as the Spirit, but is merely associated with it. In itself, and until it consciously chooses to make way for the Spirit, it is no more than a rather loosely tied bundle of not very stable psychological elements. This composite entity can quite easily be disintegrated by anyone ruthless enough to wish to try and skilful enough to do the job in the right way.
In the seventeenth century this particular kind of ruthlessness was hardly thinkable, and the relevant skills were therefore never developed.
-96- 211: [The prisoner] was bound, stretched out on the floor, with his legs, from the knees to the feet, enclosed between four oaken boards, of which the outer pair were fixed, while the two inner ones were movable. By driving wedges into the space separating the two movable boards, it was possible to crush the victim’s legs against the fixed framework of the machine. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary torture was measured by the number of progressively thicker wedges hammered home. Because it was invariably (though not immediately) fatal, the question extraordinary was administered only to condemned criminals, who were to be executed without delay.
-97- 219: [Exorcism] Ecce crucem Domini, fugite partes adverse, vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David. Exorcisto te, creatura ligni, in nomine Dei patris omnipotentis, et in nomine Jesus Christi filii ejus Domini nostri, et in virtue Spiritus sancti…
Behold the cross of the Lord, let its enemies take flight; the lion of the tribe of Juda has conquered, the root of David. I exorcise thee, creature of wood, in the name of God the Father Almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Ghost…
-98- 222: The power to work miracles lies, not in the source of a relic, but in its reputation, however acquired. Cnstant throughout history, a certain percentage of human beings can be restored to health or happiness by practically anything that has been well advertized—from Lourdes to witchcraft, from the Ganges to patent medicines.
-99- 223: The Prioress was exorcised and, after the usual preliminaries, identified herself as Isacaaron, the only devil presently at home; dor all the other tenants of her body had gone back to hell for the wild party which had been organized for the reception of Grandier’s soul.
-100- 225: Tranquille was of tougher fibre that the others It was not until 1638 that he finally succumbed to the consequences of a too exclusive preoccupation with evil. By his hatred of Grandier he had helped to raise the devils; by his scandalous insistence on public exorcisms, he had done his best to keep them alive.
-101- 237: No man can concentrate his attention upon evil, or even upon the idea of evil, and remain unaffected. To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous. Every crusader is apt to go mad. He is haunted by the wickedness which he attributes to his enemies; it becomes some sort a part of him.
Possession is more often secular than supernatural. Men are possessed by their thoughts of a hated person, a hated class, race or nation. At the present time the destinies of the world are in the hands of self-made demoniacs—of men who are possessed by, and who manifest, the evil they have chosen to see in others.
-102- 247: It was a tedious march and, for Soeur Jeanne at least, perfection had one grave defect: it was as inconspicuous as those nagging little mortifications prescribed by Father Surin.
-103- 254: Her sacred names were like Sir Walter Scott’s novels—founded on fact, but considerably beholden to imagination and art.
-104- 258: The treasury ceased to pay the salary of the surviving exorcists, who were all recalled to their various houses. Left to themselves such devils as remained soon took their leave. After six years of incessant struggle, the Church Militant gave up the fight. Its enemies promptly disappeared. The long orgy was at an end. If there had been no exorcists, it would never have begun.
-105- 259-60: The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different. In the personages of other times and alien cultures we recognize our all too human selves and yet are aware, as we do so, that the frame of reference within which we do our living has changed, since their day, out of all recognition, that propositions which seemed axiomatic then are now untenable and that what we regard as the most self-evident postulates could not, at an earlier period, find entrance into even the most boldly speculative mind. But however great, however important for thought and technology, for social organization and behaviour, the differences between then and now are always peripheral. At the center remains a fundamental identity. Insofar as they are incarnated minds, subject to physical decay and death, capable of pain and pleasure, driven by craving and abhorrence and oscillating between the desire for self-assertion and the desire for self-transcendence, human beings are faced, at every time and place, with the same problems, as confronted by the same temptations and are permitted by the Order of Things to make the same choice between unregeneracy and enlightenment. The context changes, but the gist and the meaning are invariable.
-106- 261: …for what they wished to see in their tragic theater was not life as it is, but life corrected, life reduced to order, life as it might be if only men and women were something other than what in fact they are.
-107- 263: After death, according to the curious custom of the time, her body was dissected and buried piecemeal—here the head and there a limb or two, here the head and there a limb or two, here the heart and there the entrails. These last were so badly embalmed that, even after treatment, they went on fermenting. The gases of putrefaction accumulated and the porphyry urn containing the viscera became a kind of anatomic bomb, which suddenly exploded, in the middle of the funeral service, to the horror and dismay of all present.
-108- 263: It was precisely because great men tried to seem more than human that the rest of the world welcomed any reminder that, in part at least, they were still merely animal.
-109- 263: He suffered from tubercular osteitis of his right arm and a fissure of the fundament, and was thus forced to live in the fetid atmosphere of his own suppuration [PN: What does this mean? That he smelled bad due to an anal fissure?]
-110- 266: But it is always good to know what not to do, and the experiment, though negative in its results, had been well worth making.
-111- 266-7: True, an innocent man may be tortured and burned alive. But after all one can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs.
-112- 271-2: It was all done, of course, for the greater glory of God. But the subjective morality of intentions requires to be supplemented by the objective and utilitarian morality of results. One may mean well; but if one acts in an unrealistic and inappropriate manner, the consequences can only be disastrous.
-113- 277: Soeur Jeanne, it is evident, was still under the impression that the “inner life” is a life of constant self-analysis in public.
-114- 277: It was not from want of will that I have refrained from writing to you, for truly I wish you all good; but because it seemed to me that enough has been said to effect all that is needed, and that what is wanting (if anything be wanting) is not writing or speaking—whereof ordinarily there is more than enough—but silence and work.’ These words were addressed by St. John of the Cross to a group of nuns, who had complained that he did not answer the letters in which they had so minutely catalogued their mental states. But ‘speaking distracts; silence and work collect the thoughts and strengthen the spirit.’
-115- 278-9: Or did Soeur Jeanne at least succeed in dying, not as the heroine before the footlights, but as herself behind the scene? It was absurd, this backstage self of hers, it was pathetic; but if she would but acknowledge the fact, if she would only cease to impersonate the authoress of the Interior Castle, all might still be well. So long as she insisted on pretending to be someone else, there was no chance; but if she humbly confessed to being herself, then perhaps she might discover that, in reality, she had always been Someone Else.
-116- 280: We participate in a tragedy; at comedy we only look. The tragic author feels himself into his personage; and so, from the other side, does the reader or listener. But in pure comedy there is no identification between creator and literary creature, between spectator and spectacle.
-117- 282: Under the influence of an organised obsession with evil, the normally latent tendencies (tendencies to license and blasphemy, to which, by induction, a strict religious discipline always gives rise) came rushing to the surface.
-118- 286: There must be a mortification, not of nature, but of our fatal tendency to set up something of our own contriving in the place of nature. We have to get rid of our catalogue of likes and dislikes, of the verbal patterns to which we expect reality to conform, of the fancies into which we retire, when the facts do not come up to our expectation. This is the ‘holy indifference’ of St. Francois de Sales; this is de Caussade’s ‘abandonment,’ the conscious willing, moment by moment, of what actually happens; this is that “refusal to prefer’ which, in Zen phraseology, is the mark of the Perfect Way.
-119- 287: He is in ‘the void of death.’ But this void is more than a mere absence; it is nothingness with a vengeance.
-120- 291: One of the chief horrors of mental derangement, as of extreme physical disability, consists in the fact that “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.”
-121- 294-5: By those who get a kick out of this sort of thing (and they are very numerous) inhumanity is enjoyed for its own sake, but often, nonetheless, with a bad conscience. To allay their sense of guilt, the bullies and the sadists provide themselves with creditable excuses for their favourite sport. Thus, brutality toward children is rationalized as discipline, as obedience to the Word of God– ‘he that spareth the rod, hateth the son.’ Brutality toward criminals is a corollary of the Categorical Imperative. Brutality toward religious or political heretics is a blow for the True Faith. Brutality toward members of an alien race is justified by arguments drawn from what may once have passed for Science. Once universal, brutality toward the insane is not yet extinct—for the mad are horribly exasperating. But this brutality is no longer rationalized, as it was in the past, in theological terms. The people who tormented Surin and the other victims of hysteria or psychosis did so, first, because they enjoyed being brutal and, second, because they were convinced that they did well to be brutal. And they believed that they did well, because ex hypothesi, the mad had always brought their troubles upon themselves. For some manifest or obscure sin, they were being punished by God, who permitted devils to besiege or obsess them. Both as God’s enemies and as temporary incarnations of radical evil, they deserved to be maltreated. And maltreated they were—with a good conscience and a heart-warming sense that the divine will was being done on earth, as in heaven. The Bedlamite was beaten, starved, chained up in the filthiest of dungeons. If he was visited by a minister of religion, it was to be told that it was all his own fault and that God was angry with him. To the general public he was a mixture of a condemned criminal thrown in. On Sundays and holidays one took the children to see the insane, as one takes them now to the zoo or the circus. And there were no rules against teaching the animals. On the contrary, the animals being what they were, the enemies of God, tormenting them was not merely permissible; it was a duty. The sane person who is treated as a lunatic and subjected to every kind of insult and practical joke—this is a favourite theme of sixteenth and seventeenth century dramatists and storytellers. One thinks of Malvolio, one thinks of Lasca’s Dr. Manente, one thinks of the wretched victim in Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus. And the facts are even more unpleasant than the fictions.→ para
-122- 300: Unimpaired, Surin’s reason looked on helplessly, while his imagination, his emotions and his autonomic nervous system comported themselves like an alliance of criminal maniacs, bent on his destruction.
-123- 300-1: Surin’s was merely an extreme case of the universal human predicament. ‘In the beginning was the word.’ So far as human history is concerned, the statement is perfectly true. Language is the instrument of man’s progress out of animality, and language is the cause of man’s deviation from animal innocence and animal conformity to the nature of things into madness and diabolism. Words are at once indispesable and fatal. Treated as working hypothesis, propositions about the world are instruments, by means of which we are enabled progressively to understand the world. Treated as absolute truths, as dogmas to be swallowed, as idols to be worshipped, propositions about the world distort our vision of reality and lead us into all kinds of inappropriate behaviour.
-124- 301-2: Moralists harp on the duty of controlling the passions; and of course they are quite right to do so. Unhappily most of them have failed to harp on the no less essential duty of controlling words and the reasoning based upon them. Crimes of passion are committed only in hot blood, and blood is only occasionally hot. But words are with us all the time, and words (owing, no doubt, to the conditioning of early childhood) are charged with a suggestive power so prodigious as to justify, in some sort, the belief in spells and magic formulas. Far more dangerous than crimes of passion are the crimes of idealism—the crimes which are instigated, fostered and moralized by hallowed words. Such crimes are planned when the pulse is normal and committed in cold blood and with unwavering perseverence over a long course of years. In the past, the words which dictated the crimes of idealism were predominantly religious; now they are predominantly political. The dogmas are no longer metaphysical, but positivistic and ideological. The only things that remain unchanged are the idolatrous superstition of those who swallow the dogmas, and the systematic madness, the diabolic ferocity, with which they act upon their beliefs.
-125- 302: Concentration on idoltrously worshipped word-systems makes it impossible for individuals to improve their relations with the primordial Fact
-126- 308: Louis XIV was already well embarked on his disastrous career…
-127- 313-27: Without an understanding of man’s deep-seated urge to self-transcendence, of his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own particular period of history in general, of life as it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I propose to discuss some of the more common Grace-substitutes, into which and by means of which men and women have tried to escape from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves.
In France there is now one retailer of alcohol to every hundred inhabitants, more or less. In the United States there are probably at least a million desperate alcoholics, besides a much larger number of very heavy drinkers whose disease has not yet become mortal. Regarding the consumption of intoxicants in the pas we have no precise or statistical knowledge. In Western Europe, among the Celts and Teutons, and throughout medieval and early modern times, the individual intake of alcohol was probably even greater than it is today. On the many occasions when we drink tea, or coffee, or soda pop, our ancestors refreshed themselves with wine, beer, mead and, in later centuried, with gin, brand and usquebaugh. The regular drinking of water was a penance imposed on wrongdoers, or accepted by the religious, along with occasional vegetarianism, as a very severe mortification. Not to drink an intoxicant was an eccentricity sufficiently remarkable to call for comment and the using of a more or less disparaing nickname. Hence such patronymics as the Italian Bevilacqua, the French Boileau and the English Drinkwater.
Alcohol is but one of the many drugs employed by human beings as avenues of escape from the insulated self. Of the natural narcotics, stimulants and hallucinators there is, I believe, not a single one whose properties have not given us a host of brand new synthetics; but in regard to the natural poisons it has merely developed better methods of extracting, concentrating and recombining those already known. From poppy to curare, from Andean coca to Indian hemp and Siberian agaric, every plant or bush or fungus capable, when ingested, of stupefying or exciting or evoking visions, has long since been discovered and systematically employed. The fact is strangely significant; for it seems to prove that, always and everywhere, human beings have felt the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the misery of being their insulated selves and ot something else, something wider, something in Wordsworthian phrase, ‘far more deeply interfused.’ Exploring the world around him, primitive man evidently ‘tried all things and held fast to that which was good.’ For the purpose of self-preservation the good is every edible fruit and leaf, every wholesome seed, root and nut. But in another context—the context of self-dissatisfaction and the urge to self-transcendence—the good is everything in nature by means of which the quality of individual consciousness can be changed. Such drug-induced changes may be manifestly for the worse, may be at the price of present discomfort and future addiction, degeneration and premature death. All this is of no moment. What matters is the awareness, if only for an hour or two, if only for a few minutes, of being someone or, more often, something other than the insulated self. ‘I live, yet not I, but wine or opium or peyotl or hashish liveth in me.’ To go beyond the limits of the insulated ego is such a liberation that, even when self-transcendence is through mausea into frenzy, through cramps into halluciations and coma, the drug-induced experience has been regarded by primitives and even by the highly civilized as intrinsically divine. Ecstasy through intoxication is still an essential part of the religion of many African, South American and Polynesian peoples. It was once, as the surviving documents clearlyprove, a no less essential part of the religion of the Celts, the Teutons, the Greeks, the peoples of the Middle East and the Aryan conquerors of India. It is not merely that ‘beer does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.’ Beer is the god. Among the Celts, Sabazios was the divine name given to the felt alienation of being dead drunk on ale. Further to the south, Dionysos was, among other things, the supernatural objectification of the psychophysical effects of too much wine. In Vedic mythology, Indra was the god of that now unidentifiable drug called soma. Hero, slayer of dragons, he was the magnified projection upon heaven of the strange and glorious otherness experienced by the intoxicated. Made on with the drug, he becomes, as Soma-Indra, the source of immortality, the mediator between the human and the divine.
I modern times beer and the other toxic short cuts to self-transcendence are no longer officially worshipped as gods. Theory has undergone a change, but not practis; for in practice millions upon millions of civilised men and women continue to pay their devotions, not to the liberating and transfiguring Spirit, but to alcohol, to hashish to opium and it derivatives, to the barbiturates, and the other synthetic addictions to the age-old catalogue of poinsons capable of causing self-transcendence. In every case, of course, what seems a god is actually a devil, what seems a liberation is in fact an enslavement. The self-transcendence is invariably downward into the less than human, the lower than personal.
Like intoxication, elementary sexuality, indulged in for its own sake and divorced from love, was once a god, worshipped not only as the principle of fecundity, but as a manifestation of the radical Otherness immanent in every human being. In theory, elementary sexuality has long since ceased to be a god. But in practise it can still boast of a countless host of sectaries.
There is an elementary sexuality which is innocent, and there is an elementary sexuality which is morally and aesthetically squalid. D.H. Lawrence has written very beautifully of the first; Jean Genet, with horrifying power and in copious detail, of the second. The sexuality of Eden and the sexuality of the sewer—both of them have power to carry the individual beyond the limits of his or her insulated self. But the second and (one would sadly guess) the commoner variety takes those who indulge in it to a lower level of subhumanity, evokes the consciousness, and leaves the memory, of a complete alienation, than does the first. Hence, for all those who feel the urge to escape from their imprisoning identity, the perennial attraction of debauchery and of such strange equivalents of debauchery as have been described in the course of this narrative.
In most civilised communities public opinion condemns debauchery and drug addiction as being ethically wrong. And to moral disapproval is added fiscal discouragement and legal repression. Alcohol is heavily taxed, the sale of narcotics is everywhere prohibited and certain sexual practices are treated as crimes. But when we pass from drug0taking and elementary sexuality to the third main avenue of downward self-transcendence, we find, on the part of moralists and legislators, a very different and much more indulgent attitude. This seems all the more surprising since crowd-delirium, as we may call it, it more immediately dangerous to social order, more dramatically a menace to that thin crust of decency, reasonableness and mutual tolerance which constitutes a civilization, than either drink or debauchery. True, a generalized and long0continued habit of overindulgence in sexuality may result, as J.D. Unwin has argued [Sex and Culture, London, 1934] , in lowering the energy level of an entire society, thereby rendering it incapable of reaching or maintaining a high degree of civilization. Similarly drug addiction, if sufficiently widespread may lower the military, economic and political efficiency of the society in which it prevails. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries raw alcohol was the secret weapon of the European slave traders; heroin, in the twentieth, of the Japanese militarists. Dead drunk, the Negro was an easy prey. As for the Chinese drug addict, he could be relied upon to make no trouble for his conquerors. But these cases are exceptional. When left to itself, a society generally manages to come to terms with its favourite poison. The drug is a parasite on the body politic, but a parasite which its host (to speak metaphorically) has strength and sense enough to keep under control. And the same applies to sexuality. No society which based its sexual practices upon the theories of the Marquis de Sade could possibly survive; and in fact no society has ever come near to doing such a thing. Even the most easygoing of the Polynesian paradises have their rules and regulations, their categorical imperatives and commandments. Against excessive sexually, as against excessive drug-taking, societies seem to be able to protect themselves with some degree of success. Their defense against crowd-delirium and its often disastrous consequences is, in all too many cases, far less adequate. The professional moralists who inveigh against drunkenness are strangely silent about the equally disgusting vice of herd-intoxication—of downward self-transcendence into subhumanity by the process of getting together in a mob.
‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ In the midst of two or three hundred, the divine presence becomes more problematical. And when the numbers run into thousands, or tens of thousands, the likelihood of God being these, in the consciousness of each individual, declines almost to the vanishing poitn. For such is the nature of an excited crowd (and every crowd is automatically self-exciting) that, where two or three thousand are gathered together, there is an absence not merely of deity, but even of common humanity. The fact of being one of a multitude delivers a man from his consciousness of being an insulated self and carried him down into a less than personal realm, where there are no responsibilities, right or wrong, no need for thought or judgement or discrimination—only a strong vague sense of togetherness, only a shared excitement, a collective alienation. And the alienation is at once more prolonged and less exhausting than that induced by debauchery; the morning after less depressing than that which follows self-poisoning by alcohol or morphine. Moreover, the crowd-delirium, can be indulged in, not merely without a bad conscience, but actually, in many cases, with a positive glow of conscious virtue. For, so far from condemning the practice of downward self-transcendence through herd-intoxication, the leaders of church and state have actively encouraged the practice whenever it could be used for the furtherance of their own ends. Individually and in the co-ordinated and purposive groups which constitute a healthy society, men and women display a certain capacity for rational thought and free choice in the light of ethical principles. Herded into mobs, the same men and women behave as though they possessed neither reason nor free will. Crowd-intoxication reduces them to a condition of infrapersonal and antisocial irresponsibility. Drugged by the mysterious poison which every excited herd secretes, they fall into a state of heightened suggestibility, resembling that which follows an injection of sodium amytal or the induction, by whatever means, of a light hypnotic trance. While in this state they will believe any nonsense that may be bawled at them, will act upon any command or exhortation, however senseless, mad or criminal. To men and women under the influence of herd-poison, ‘whatever I say three times is true’–and whatever I say three hundred times is Revelation, is the directly inspired Word of God. That is why men in authority—the priests and the rulers or peoples—have never unequivocally proclaimed the immorality of this form of downward self-transcendence. True, crowd-delirium evoked by members of the opposition and in the name of heretical principles has everywhere been denounced by those in power. But crowd-delirium aroused by government agents, crowd-delirium in the name of orthodoxy, is an entirely different matter. In all cases where it can be made to serve the interests of the men controlling church and state, downward self-transcendence by means of herd-intoxication is treated as something legitimate, and even highly desirable. Pilgrimages and political rallies, corybantic revivals and patriotic parades—these things are ethically right so long as they are our pilgrimages, our rallies, our revivals and our parades. The fact that most of those who take part in these affairs are temporarilty dehumanized by herd-poison is of no account in comparision with the fact that their dehumanization may be used to consolidate the religious and political powers that be..
When crowd-delirium is exploited for the benefit of governments and orthodox churches, the exploiters are always very careful not to allow the intoxication to go too far. The ruling minorities make use of their subjects’ craving for downward self-transcendence in order, first, to amuse and distract them and, second, to get them into a subpersonal state of heightened suggestibility. Religious and political ceremonials are welcomed by the masses as opportunities for getting drunk on herd-poison, and by their rulers as opportunities for planting suggestions in minds which have momentarily ceased to be capable of reason or free will.
The final symptom of herd-intoxication is a maniacal violence. Instance of crowd-delirium culminating in a gratuitous destructiveness, in ferocious self-mutilation, in fratricidal savagery without purpose and against the elementary interests of all concerned, are to be met with on almost every page of the anthropologist’s textbooks and—a little less frequently, but still with dismal regularity—in the histories of even the most highly civilized peoples. Except when they wish to liquidate an unpopular minority the official representatives of state and church are chary of evoking a frenzy which they cannot be sure of controlling. No such scruples restrain the revolutionary leader, who hates the status quo and has only one wish—to create a chaos on which, when he comes to power, he may impose a new kind of order. When the revolutionary exploits men’s urge to downward self-transcendence, he exploits it to the frantic and daemoniac limit. To men and women sick of being their insulated selves and weary of the responsibilities which go with membership in a purposive human group, he offers exciting opportunities for ‘getting away from it all’ in parades and demonstrations and public meetings. The organs of the body politic are purposive groups. A crowd is the social equivalent of a cancer. The poison it secretes depersonalizes its constituent members to the point where they start to behave with savage violence, of which, in their normal state, they would be completely incapable. The revolutionary encourages his followers to manifest this last and worst symptoms of herd-intoxication and then proceeds to direct their frenzy against his enemies, the holders of political, economic and religious power.
In the course of the last forty years the techniques for exploiting man’s urge toward this most dangerous form of downward self-transcendence have reached a pitch of perfection unmatched in all of history. To begin with, there are more people to the square mile than ever before, and the means of transporting vast herds of them from considerable distances, and of concentrating them in a single building or arena, are much more efficient than in the past. Meanwhile, new and previously undreamed -of devices for exciting mobs have been invented. There is the radio, which has enormously extended the range of the demagogue’s raucous yelling. There is the loudspeaker, amplifying and indefinitely reduplicating the heady music of class-hatred and militant nationalism. There is a the camera (of which it was once naively said that ‘it cannot lie’) and its offspring, the movies and television; these three have made the objectification of tendentious phantasy absurdly easy. And finally there is that greatest of our social inventions, free, compulsory education. Everyone now knows how to read and everyone consequently is at the mercy of the propagandists, governmental or commercial, who own the pulp factories, the linotype machines and the rotary presses. Assemble a mod of men and women previously conditioned by a daily reading of newspapers; treat them to amplified band music, bright lights, and the oratory of a demagogue who (as demagogues always are) is simultaneously the exploiter and the victim of herd-intoxication, an in next to no time you can reduce them to a state of almost mindless subhumanity. Never before have so few been in a position to make fools, maniacs or criminals of so many.
In Communist Russia, in Fascist Italy, in Nazi Germany, the exploiters of humanity’s fatal taste for herd-poison have followed an identical course. When in revolutionary opposition, they encouraged the mobs under the influence to become destructively violent. Later, when they had come to power, it was only in relation to foreigners and selected scapegoats that they permitted herd-intoxication to run its full course. Having acquired a vested interest in the status quo, they now checked the descent into subhumanity at a point well this side of frenzy. For these neo-conservatives, mass intoxication was chiefly valuable, henceforward, as a means for heightened their subjects’ suggestibility and so rendering them more docile to the expressions of authoritarian will. Being in a crowd is the best known antidote to independent thought. Hence the dictator’s rooted objection to ‘mere psychology’ and a private life. ‘Intellectuals of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’
Drugs, elementary sexuality and herd-intoxication—these are the three most popular avenues of downward self-transcendence. There are many others, not so well trodden as these great descending highways, but leading no less surely to the same infra-personal goal. Consider, for example, the way of rhythmic movement. In primitive religions prolonged rhythmic movements is very commonly resorted to for the purpose of inducing a state of infra-personal and subhuman ecstasy. The same technique for achieving the same end has been used by many civilised peoples—by the Greeks, for example, by the Hindus, by many of the orders of Dervishes in the Islamic world, by such Christian sects as the Shakers and the Holy Rollers. In all these cases rhythmic movement, long-drawn and repetitive, is a form of ritual deliberately practised for the sake of the downward self-transcendence resulting from it. History also records many sporadic outbreaks of involuntary and uncontrollable jigging, swaying and head-wagging. These epidemics of what in one region is called Tarantism, in another St Vitus’s dance, have generally occurred in times of troubling following wars, pestilences and famines, and are most common where malaria is endemic. The unwitting purpose of the men and women who succumb to these collectivemanias is the same as that pursued by the sectaries who used the dance as a religious rite—namely, to escape from insulated selfhood into a state in which there are no responsibilities, no guilt-laden past or haunting future, but only the present, blissful consciousness of being someone else.
Intimately associated with the ecstasy-producing rite of rhythmic sound. Music is as vast as human nature and has something to say to men and women on every level of their being, from the self-regardingly sentimental to the abstractly intellectual, from the merely visceral to the spiritual. In one of its innumerable forms music is a powerfuldrug, partly stimulant and partly narcotic, but wholly alterative. No man, however highly civilised, can listen for very long to African drumming, or Indian chanting, or Welsh hymn-singing, and retain intact his critical and self-conscious personality. It would be interesting to take a group of the most eminent philosophers from the best universities, shut them in a hot room with Moroccan dervishes or Haitan voodooist, and measure, with a stop watch, the strength of their psychological resistance to the effects of rhythmic sound. Would the Logical Positives be able to hold out longer than the Thomists or the Vedantists? What a fascinating, what a fruitful field for experiment! Meanwhile, all we can safely predict is that, if exposed long enough to the tom-toms and the singing, every one of our philosophers would end by capering and howling with the savages/
The ways of rhythmic movement and of rhythmic sound are generally superimposed,so to speak, upon the way of herd-intoxication. But there are also private roads, roads which can be taken by the solitary traveller who has no taste for crowds, or no strong faith in the principles, institutions and persons in whose name crowds are assembled. One of these private roads is the way of the mantram, the way of what Christ called ‘vain repetition.’ In public worship ‘vain repetition’ is almost always associated with rhythmic sound. Litanies and the like are chanted, or at least intoned. It is as music that they produce their quasi-hypnotic effects. ‘Vain repetition,’ when practised privately, acts upon the mind, not because of its association with rhythmic sound (for it works even when the words are merely imagined), but in virtue of a concentration of attention and memory. The constant reiteration of the same word or phrase frequently brings on a state of light or even profound trance. Once induced, this trace can either be enjoyed for its own sake, as a delicious sense of infra-personal otherness, or else deliberately used for the purpose of improving personal conduct by autosuggestion and of preparing the way for the ultimate achievement of upward self-transcendence. Of the second possibility more will be said in a later paragraph. Here our concern is with ‘vain repetition’ as a descending road into an infra-personal alienation.
We must now consider a strictly physiological method of escape from insulated selfhood. The way of corporal penance. The decrtuctive violence which is the final symptom of herd-intoxication is not invariably directed outward. The history of religion abounds in gruesome tales of gregarious self-whipping. Self-gashing, self-gelding, even self-killing. These acts are the consequences of crowd-delirium, and are performed in a state of frenzy. Very different is the corporal penance undertaken privately and in cold blood. Here the self-torment is initiated by an act of the personal will; but its result (in some cases at least) is a temporary transformation of the insulted personality into something else. In itself, this something else is the consciousness, so intense as to be exclusive, of physical pain and, in becoming merely awareness of his suffering body, is delivered from that sense of past guilt and present frustration, that obsessive anxiety about the future, which constitute so large a part of the neurotic ego. There has been an escape from selfhood, a downward passgae into a state of pure physiological excruciation. But the self-tormentor need not necessarily remain in this region of infra-personal consciousness. Like the man who makes use of ‘vain repetition’ to go beyond himself, he may be able to use his temporary alienation from selfhood as the bridge, so to speak, leading upward into the life of the spirit.
This raises a very important and difficult question. To what extent, and in what circumstance, is it possible for a man to make use of the descending road as a way to spiritual self-transcendence? As first sight it would seem obvious that the way down is not and can never be the way up. But in the realm of existence matters are not quite so simple as they are in our beautifully tidy world of words. In actual life a downward movement may sometimes be made the beginning of an ascent. When the shell of the go has been cracked and there begins to be a consciousness of the subliminal and physiological otherness underlying personality, it sometimes happens that we catch a glimpse, fleeting but apocalyptic, of that other Otherness, which is the Ground of all being. So long as we are confined within our insulated selfhood, we remain unaware of the various not-selves with which we are associated—the organic not-self, the subconscious not-self, the collective not-self of the psychic medium in which all our thinking and feeling have their existence, and the immanent and transcendent not-self of the Spirit. Any escape, even by a descending road, out of insulated selfhood makes possible at least a momentary awareness of the not-self on every level, including the highest. Williams James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, gives instance of ‘anaesthetic revelations,’ following the inhalation of laughing gas. Similar theophanies are sometimes experienced by alcoholics, and there are probably moments int eh course of intoxication by almost any drug, when awareness of a not-self superior to the disintegrating ego becomes briefly possible. But these occasional flashes of revelation are bought at an enormous price. For the drug-taker, the moment of spiritual awareness (if it comes at all) gives place very soon to subhuman stupour, frenzy or hallucination, followed by dismal hangovers and, in the long run, by a permanent and fatal impairment of bodily health and mental power. Very occasionally a single ‘anaesthetic revelation’ may act, like any other theophany, to incite its recipient to an effort of self-transformation and upward self-transcendence. This is a descending road and most of those who take it will come to a state of degradation, where periods of subhuman ecstasy alternate with periods of conscious selfhood so wretched that any escape, even if it be into the slow suicide of drug addiction, will seem preferable to being a person.
What is true os drugs is true, mutatis mutandis, of elementary sexuality. The road runs downhill; but on the way there may occasionally be theophanies. The Dark Gods, as Lawrence called them, may change their sign and become bright. In India there is a Tantric yoga, based upon an elaborate psychophysiological technique, whose purpose is to transform the downward self-transcendence of elementary sexuality into an upward self-transcendence. In the West the nearest equivalent to these Tantric practices was the sexual discipline devised by John Humphrey Noyes and practised by the members of theOneida Community. At Oneida elementary sexuality was not only successfully civilised; it was made compatible with, and subordinate to, a form of Protestant Christianity, sincerely preached and earnestly acted upon.
Herd-intoxication disintegrates the ego more thoroughly than does elementary sexuality. Its frenzies, its follies, its heightened suggestibility can be matched only in the intoxications induced by such drugs as alcohol, hashish and heroin. But even to the member of an excited mob there may come (at some relatively early stage of his downward self-transcendence) a genuine revelation of the Otherness that is above selfhood. This is one of the reasons why some good may sometimes come out of even the most corybantic of revival meetings. Some good as well as very great evil may also result from the fact that men and women in a crowd tend to become more than ordinarily suggestible. While in this state they are subjected to exhortations which have the force, when they come once again to their senses, of posthypnotic commands. Like the demagogue, the revivalist and the ritualist disintegrate the ego of their hearers by herding them together and dosing them with plenty of vain repetition and rhythmic sound. Then, unlike the demagogue, they give suggestion some of which may genuinely Christian. These, if they ‘take’, result in a reintegration of broken-down personalities on a somewhat higher level. There can also be reintegrations of personality under the influence of the posthypnotic commands issued by a rabble-rousing politician. But there commands are all incitements to hatred on the one hand and to blind obedience and compensatory illusion on the other. Initiated by a massive dose of herd-poison, confirmed and directed by the rhetoric of a maniac who is at the same time a Machiavellian exploiter of other men’s weakness, political ‘conversion’ result in the creation of a new personality worse than the old and much more dangerous because wholeheartedly devoted to a party whose first aim is the liquidation of its opponents.
I have distinguished between demagogues and religionists, on the ground that the latter may sometimes do some good, whereas the former can scarcely, in the very nature of things, do anything but harm. But it must not be imagined that the religious exploiters of herd-intoxication are wholly guiltless. On the contrary, they have been responsible in the past for the mischiefs almost as enormous as those brought upon their victims (along with the victims of those victims) by the revolutionary demagogues of our own time. In the course of the last six or seven generations, the power of religious organisations to do evil has, throughour the Western world, considerably declined. Primarily this is due to the astonishing progross of applied science and the consequent demand by the masses for compensatory illusions that have an air of being positivistic rather than metaphysical. The demagogues offer such pseudo-positivistic illusions and the churches do not. As the attractiveness of the churches declines, so also does their influence, so do their wealth, their political power and, along with these, their capacity for doing evil on a large scale. Circumstance have now delivered the churchman from certain of the temptations, to which, in earlier centuries, their predecessors almost invariably succumbed. They would be well advised voluntarily to deliver themselves from such temptations as still remain. Conspicuous among these is the temptation to acquire power by pandering to men’s insatiable craving for downward self-transcendence. Deliberately to induce herd-intoxication—even if it is done in the name of religion, even if it is all supposedly ‘for the good’ of the intoxicated—cannot be morally justified.
On the subject of horizontal self-transcendence very little need be said—not because the phenomenon is unimportant (far from it), but because it is too obvious to require analysis and of occurrence too frequently to be readily classifiable.
In order to escape from the horrors of insulated selfhood most men and women choose,most of the time, to go neither up nor down, but sideways. They identify themselves with some cause wider than their own immediate interests, but not degradingly lower and, if higher, higher only within the range of current social values. This horizontal, or nearly horizontal, self-transcendence may be into something as trivial as a hobby, or as precious as married love. It can be brought about through self-identification with any human activity, from running a business to research in nuclear physics, from composing music to collecting stamps, from campaigning for political office to educating children or studying the mating habits of birds. Horizontal self-transcendence is of the utmost importance. Without it, there would be no art, no science, no law, no philosophy, indeed no civilisation. And there would also be no war, no odium theologicum or ideologicum, no systematic intolerance, no persecution. These great goods and these enormous evils are the fruits of man’s capacity for total and continuous self-identification with an idea, a feeling, a cause. How can we have the good without the evil, a high civilisation without saturation bombing or the extermination of religious and political heretics? The answer is that we cannot have it so long as our self-transcendence remains merely horizontal. When we identify ourselves with an idea or a cause we are in fact worshipping something homemade, something partial and parochial, something that, however noble, is yet all too human. ‘Patriotism,’ as a great patriot concluded on the eve of her execution by her country’s enemies, ‘is not enough.’ Neither is socialism, nor communism, nor capitalism; neither is art, nor science, nor public order, nor any given religion or church. All these are indispensable, but none of them is enough. Civilisation demands from the individual devoted self-identification with the highest of human causes. But if this self-identification with what is human is not accompanied by a conscious and consistent effort to achieve upward self-transcendence into the universal life of the Spirit, the goods achieved will always be mingled with counterbalancing evils. ‘We make, ‘ wrote Pascal, ‘an idol of truth itself; for truth without charity is not God, but His image and idol, which we must neither love nor worship.’ And it is not merely wrong to worship an idol; it is also exceedingly inexpedient. The worship of truth apart from charity—self-identification with science unaccompanied by self-identification with the Ground of all being—results in the kind of situation which now confronts us. Every idol, however exalted, turns out, in the long run, to be a Moloch, hungry for human sacrifice.