Saturday, February 13, 2010

Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango

Let me dispense with both the explanation and the apology for my lack of posting. While occasionally interesting, most of it has been said before.

Instead let me just say that I will defeat that devil whom Beelzebub put aside for me. (because one cannot forget among the new flashy animes the mega-awesomeness that is Neon Genesis Evangelion, nor among the new songs of music and the like the super-awesomeness that is Bohemian Rhapsody

Ah the devil, my old nemesis, to be truthful, I've never quite understood what my exact understanding of the devil was, much less actually understood what he was. Sometimes I've looked at him more metaphorically, sometimes I've felt that the theological dimensions ought be left to the Church, because I was surely not going to spend the time to get a good grasp of them, still others I've felt him (I use him as a shorthand, as an ex-angel Lucifer would be non-gendered) real but not something that I needed to worry about.

A semi-turning point in my understanding of the devil came at last year's Malankara Catholic Association's North American Convention. During said convention there was a speech by a Catholic priest who had served as an exorcist for many years (he no longer was one full-time after being moved from India to the US, but he occasionally was still consulted). I try to take people as being earnest by default, unless I have reason to disbelieve them, and I take Catholic priests to be my spiritual guides, however I will say I do not necessarily agree with every priest on every aspect of the faith or of life (after all there is plenty of disagreements about many different matters within the Catholic Church, only a small section of even the official theological positions are held to be absolute dogmas (for example there are an immense number of Church writings about Mary, the Mother of God, but only a small subset are dogmas "De Fide Credenda" (of certain faith), most notably the "Marian doctrines of the Catholic Church").

The priest in his speech, talked about his work as an exorcist. His description of the exorcisms he had participated in seemed fully truthful, and he had the appearance of an honest man (though there's always the chance I could be deceived, but that's true of everyone and everything), so I'd say I believe he was telling the truth. However, the events he talked about were well beyond anything I have experienced in terms of the supernatural, and yet, I have not seen much of the world and much happens in it that is incredible, but I believe much of this incredible. I'd say I trust in his descriptions of demonic possessions, as they are rooted not only in his experience but correlate with the Bible and the Catholic faith which I hold dear. Yet demonic possession still seems like an extraordinary event, and not something that I've seen anywhere in my life. At that point in his speech I sort of looked at this is as sort of a description of something remote from me, though perhaps filled with lessons for myself and others (for example, the priest talked about how all these demonic possessions had roots in the sinful behavior of the possessed or people around him.)

But the priest went on to talk about how the Devil was a very real presence in our lives and a real danger to us. Now of that, I'm not sure what to make of it. His talk of the Devil's dangers didn't really seem to offer a great deal of advice besides a general recommendation to avoid sin. So while I've tried to take the messages of his speech to heart, I'm still not really sure what to do about the devil.

There have been times when I've been tempted to believe that my mental illness was caused by demonic possession or otherwise influenced by the Devil. But my experience of the disease and its treatment suggest otherwise. The priest's speech also warned that people should not jump to the demonic possession label, that it was only after a thorough examination of other possible emotional, psychological, physical or spiritual causes was exorcism turned to. A nice phrase of his was that the Church uses "the rigour of the skeptic, but not the non-belief". Overall, my mental illness, while frustrating in its stubbornness and perhaps not a classic example of a particular disease, does make sense as a mental illness. So I really can't say I've had any experience directly with the devil.

Indirectly? Well, what does indirect experiences with the devil mean exactly? Temptations? Perhaps, but humans naturally have plenty of temptation, so who's to say what's devil brought. So I'm not sure what to really take from that priest's speech, or what to make of the devil, or exactly how I feel really about the whole thing. But one of the great things about carrying the memory of what you've heard forward in your life is you don't need to make a final decision about it at any one point. Later on, when events or circumstances remind me of it, I'll perhaps mull over things and make a firmer decision about the speech.

Still, even without a final decision on it, it seems rather cowardly to regard the speech as truthful and containing advice, but to not actually act on any part of it. I guess one thing is I've tried to take "the rigour of the skeptic, but not the non-belief" position more toward the devil when it comes to my general understanding of how the universe works. In terms of my daily life, I guess the thing to keep in mind is that evil is not just a passive thing, whether devil borne or borne out of human nature or by others, its something that can actively work against you and those that you love. And thus you have to guard against it to some degree in your behavior. Now, I'm not saying that you should be paranoid about your actions, I've been there and that's lead me further away from God rather than toward Him, but as something to bear in mind rather than to fret about, it might be a good idea to reflect on things and try to correct yourself when it comes to motivations to do wrong. And when you feel a great desire to do something, think about what that desire is rooted in.

And yet I've often received a lot of advice that a person should not worry too much about life and let things happen, trusting God that things will work out. Some aspects of that advice I find very valuable to me, other implications, such as not trying to change things in your life, I find not suited to myself, but useful for others. Yet I think even in this framework of sort of going with the flow, you can carry an awareness of what the flow is and how it's like, and if it's generally carrying you in a direction that's good, then that's fine, but you need to have an awareness that this can change, and that sometimes the flow will go in the wrong direction, and then trusting in God means trusting in God's ways and if those contradict with the flow, it means trusting in God to aid you as you try to correct the flow of your life.

None of this philosophical rambling is directly related to the Devil, I suppose, but the point is if evil is an active force in the world, whether you take a relaxed attitude toward life or are always looking to change things, you must not just be wary of evil that you can fall into, but rather be an active force for good, in your life and in the world (though by being good in your life you inevitably become a force for good in the world, because the good path is God's will, and God's will is to save the world).

But what does that really mean? Well, mysterious are the ways of God, and sometimes the path He sets before us seems mysterious as well. And we can walk with Faith, Hope and Love, but that seems still sometimes like not enough of a direction. Sometimes the direction we must travel in life, the direction of God's will just seems impossible to grasp. But that's okay, God knows that we cannot grasp all of His will, it's okay to be confused, we try to do the best we can, and trust that God will make it all work out.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

And God Bless.


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