Empathy for the demons…

see Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Epiphany 4 (year B) January 29, 2012
“authority and authenticity”

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Mathias Grunewald, 1515, detail

I’ve always felt sorry for the demons in these stories. In Sunday’s Gospel, this demon realizes his danger. “Have you come to destroy us?” The demon recognizes Jesus. “I know who you are, Holy One of God.” Both these traits endear me to the demon. After all, no one else seems to recognize so clearly the danger inherent in letting Jesus, the Light, into their lives. And nobody else recognizes him as the Holy One of God.

But I couldn’t let myself fully understand why I felt sorry for the demons until I found this passage in The Divine Names by Pseudo-Dionysius.

And as for the demons, the Good is their source and the fact of their existence is itself good.  They are evil insofar as they have fallen away from the virtues proper to them.  They have changed in the domain of what was permanent in them.  A weakness has appeared in the angelic perfection suitable to them.   They too desire the Good, at least to the extent that they have a wish for existence, for life, and for understanding, and their desire for what has no being is proportionate to their lack of desire for the Good. Indeed this latter is not so much a desire as sin against real desire.

I appreciate the demons because their dilemma is so like mine. All my life I’ve been trying to desire the Good even beyond the “wish for existence, for life, and for understanding.” But I, too, have fallen from the virtues proper to me.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve spent the last few months with an altered routine to make room for meditation, yoga, rest, healing massage, and alternative medicine treatments. I suppose I’m trying to change my brain, my priorities, my ways of thinking, my very “domain.”

“A cage went in search of a bird,” wrote Franz Kafka in his diaries. It’s time for the cage to move on.


One Response to “Empathy for the demons…”

  1. Tony Burkart, Maine Says:

    Suzanne, What I appreciate about what you share:….You have that feminine courage to put yourself out there, remain so human yet infused with the deepest longings of the human heart. How could some part of our universal being and yearnings not help but respond!

    So, once again, Namaste and thank you!


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