Where We Are Headed,
“For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass.
For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” (James 1: 23-24)
How the Devil does He work:
Over the course of 2000 years of Christian history much has been written about the subtle means used by Satan to tempt individual souls into both serious sin and loss of faith. We also have many accounts of mystics who have dealt personally with Satan’s direct assaults.
We must also realize, however, that alongside these myriad attacks upon individual souls, there exists a universal campaign against humanity as a whole, a systematic attack which will culminate in the coming of Antichrist at the end of time. The Antichrist can only come and be accepted by the vast majority of men when the soil of iniquity has been carefully prepared to welcome him. Probably the most succinct description of Antichrist and the nature of his activities is to be found in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians (St. Paul does not use the term Antichrist, but instead refers to “the man of sin” or “that wicked one”):
“Whose (Antichrist’s) coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders.
And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Therefore, God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying….
Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (2Thess 2:9-14).
This “operation of error” which causes men to reject the “traditions” and truths which they have received from God, and “to believe lying”, is also called by St. Paul “the mystery of iniquity” which “already worketh” (2Thess 2:7).” This operation of error becomes so intense towards the end of time that Our Lord says that it will have the effect “to deceive (if possible) even the elect (Mt 24:24)”. Our Lord, in fact, poses the question, “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth (Luke 18:8)?”
One of the things which St. Thomas teaches about the demons is that, unlike man, their natural knowledge was not diminished by their fall. Any angel, good or bad, knows the substantial essence of created things, not through abstraction from sense experience, but directly through a knowledge imparted to them by God. Every angel, good or bad, therefore knows human nature. He knows the nature of human intelligence and will, and what constitutes its spiritual health. He also knows what constitutes its weakness, sickness, and the path to its spiritual death.
Satan, like man, does not possess innate knowledge in relation to Divine Mysteries. St. Thomas teaches, for instance, that Satan did not fully understand the nature of the Incarnation during Jesus’ life on this earth. Nor, consequently, did he immediately understand the nature of Christ’s Mystical Body, with all its divinely established prerogatives. It is possible, therefore, that Satan for several centuries did not fully understand the indefectible nature of the Church. For some time, for instance, he may have worked vehemently under the delusion that he could destroy the Church through Christological heresies. Anyone who has studied the fascinating history of the fourth century knows the incredible number of variations possible in such an effort. We should, however, be under no delusion about the fact that Satan now fully knows what he is up against concerning the true nature of the Church.
It is my belief, therefore, that the primary effort of Satan now (and possibly from the beginning) is not focused primarily on the attempt to win men over with particular heresies. Nor does it aim primarily at seducing men and women into particular mortal sins. By these means, Satan has certainly seduced and captured untold numbers of souls, and he continues to do so. But all this is not enough. Satan wants mankind. He hates this lower being whom God created – this nature which God elevated to union with Himself through the Hypostatic Union. He therefore does not just want individual human souls. Rather, he wants to triumph over human nature itself. He desires, in other words, to so change the intellectual and moral state of all mankind that it becomes impossible for any person to believe in, or even to desire, God. And despite the fact that in the past many men and women have attained Heaven, he believes that he has it within his grasp to bring the whole human experiment crashing down into final and universal failure.
The key to his stratagem lies in his understanding and manipulation of a fundamental weakness produced in man by the Fall.
St. Thomas writes: “The first man had knowledge of all things by divinely infused species.” He further explains:
“Hence, as the first man was produced in his perfect state, as regards his body, for the work of generation, so also was his soul established in a perfect state to instruct and govern others.
Now no one can instruct others unless he has knowledge, and so the first man was established by God in such a manner as to have knowledge of all those things for which man has a natural aptitude….Moreover, in order to direct his own life and that of others, man needs to know not only those things which can be naturally known, but also things surpassing natural knowledge; because the life of man is directed to a supernatural end: just as it is necessary for us to know the truths of faith in order to direct our own lives. Wherefore the first man was endowed with such a knowledge of these supernatural truths as was necessary for the direction of human life in that state.” (Pt. I, Q.94, a.3).
In other words, the first man was created with infused knowledge of all those things, both natural and supernatural, of which he had need. I don’t think that the average well-informed Catholic understands the consequences of this fact. Nor does he understand, as a consequence, the absolutely radical difference between the state of man’s intellect before the Fall, and that which exists now. We might put it this way: nobody, except God, had to teach Adam anything. His knowledge and understanding of things, both natural and supernatural, was not dependent on the character of his parents, his society, culture, teachers, or environment. Even though he was created with an intellect oriented to receive all knowledge through the senses, he was at the same time, through a special grace of God, in innate possession of all necessary truth.
The Fall radically changed all this. St. Thomas teaches, of course, that since the Fall all natural knowledge is obtained, by a process of abstraction, through sense knowledge. And all knowledge about supernatural realities is also obtained from outside of us, either through abstraction from sense experience and reasoning about this data (philosophy), or through reception of divinely revealed truth from God Himself, but usually transported through the medium and teaching of others. In other words, man, since the Fall, possesses no infused knowledge. He is totally dependent for such knowledge from without. He is in the most profound sense, but without in any way denying his free will, “other-directed.”
God certainly created man to live in community. Despite the fact that man originally was created perfect (relatively speaking) in knowledge and will, this was not a perfection of solitude. Man’s fulfillment lay in his gift of himself to others, and foremost to God. But a profoundly new dependence upon community came into being after the Fall. Man’s very understanding of what is true and what is false now came to depend upon the whole structure and ambience (culture) of his own particular human community in a way that was not at all true in the state of original justice.. Man is still equipped with a certain “law written in the human heart” (Rom 2:15). But this law no longer possess the range or impelling certainty which was characteristic of man’s infused knowledge before the Fall. And as St. Paul points out (Rom1), these truths written in the human heart are easily obscured by the strong tendency towards moral perversion and sin which is the fruit of the Fall.
Satan therefore possesses a vehicle of corruption which has virtually universal possibilities. If he can sufficiently corrupt the cultures of the whole world (and especially the culture of the family), then he can create a universal intellectual and moral “atmosphere” which virtually eliminates all possibility of man attaining to the truth and knowledge of God.
One of the things that we often fail to understand is that the faith of both individuals and countries can endure for some time – even centuries, in the case of countries or civilizations – while it is being corrupted from within. We might say that there is a healthy faith, and there is an unhealthy faith. A healthy faith requires many things if it is to remain alive, both in the realm of the intellect and the will. It requires specific forms of philosophy, literature, music, art, and science. If a person is living and breathing a culture which is saturated in forms of these things which are poison to this life, then this faith (at least in the vast majority) is bound to collapse and die. As I have said, it may take centuries, but the decay is there for those who will see it.
In similar fashion, a healthy faith requires support in all areas of the active life; in government and politics, recreation, entertainment, and especially economics. Aberrations from the divine plan in these areas establish a state of profound contradiction in the souls of those who yet cling intellectually to the faith. These “social” errors poison the heart. And eventually they poison the mind, and the faith of a whole people dies.
Satan understands, therefore, the necessity of being a master psychologist. Even more, he is a master of social engineering. He understands that the key to corrupting all men lies in the most basic weaknesses and proclivities which came into existence through the act of Original Sin. There are two of these basic weaknesses. Scripture refers to the first as “the beginning of all sin; and to the second as “the root of all evil.” We will discuss each of these in turn.
The Beginning of All Sin:
After simply quoting scripture to the effect that “Pride is the beginning of all sin” (Ecclus 10:15), St. Thomas writes:
“Now man was so appointed in the state of innocence, that there was no rebellion of the flesh against the spirit. Wherefore it was not possible for the first inordinateness in the human appetite to result from his coveting a sensible good, to which the concupiscence of the flesh tends against the order of reason. It remains therefore that the first inordinateness of the human appetite resulted from his coveting inordinately some spiritual good. Now, he would not have coveted it inordinately, by desiring it according to his measure as established by the Divine rule. Hence it follows that man’s first sin consisted in his coveting some spiritual good above his measure: and this pertains to pride. Therefore it is evident that man’s first sin was pride.” (ST, Pt. II-II, Q. 163, a.1).
Now, the original temptation offered by Satan to Eve was that by disobeying God and eating of the tree “you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil (Gen 3:5).” Hence St. Thomas further writes:
“The desire for knowledge resulted in our first parents from their inordinate desire for excellence. Hence the serpent began by saying You shall be as Gods, and added: Knowing good and evil.” (Ibid.).
“But the first man sinned chiefly by coveting God’s likeness, as regards knowledge of good and evil, according to the serpent’s instigation, namely that by his own natural power he might decide what was good, and what was evil for him to do; or again that he should of himself foreknow what good and what evil would befall him. Secondarily he sinned by coveting God’s likeness as regards his own power of operation, namely that by his own natural power he might act so as to obtain happiness.” (Ibid. a.2).
There are three points which need to be said concerning this “beginning of sin.” First, I think there is a tendency, especially for modern man, to sympathize with Eve’s (or Adam’s) quest for this knowledge. We do not fully realize what I pointed out above: the fact that Adam and Eve already possessed this knowledge as infused gifts. Their sin, therefore, was that they wished to possess this knowledge on their own, and by their own natural powers. Original sin was not due to an appetite for knowledge per se, but a desire to possess an excellence above their state as created beings. By understanding this fact, we are able to truly perceive the ingratitude and malice of their sin. Original sin was a rejection not only of God’s “authority” over man, but a rejection of God as the source of all that is good and true. Satan said to Eve:
“No, you shall not die the death.
For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.”
Satan thus tempted Eve into a suspicion concerning God as the source of unimpeachable truth and goodness. He led her to believe that this source could lie in her own being. Original Sin is, in other words, an act of man’s will (St. Thomas teaches that pride is an act of the intellectual appetency – the intellectual will and desire) for an excellency which was inordinate. It consisted in the desire to replace God as the source of truth and being.
Secondly, this original sin of pride produced in man a desire not only to replace God as the source of truths concerning faith and morals, but also those truths pertaining to created realities. Here again it produced in man a suspicion of the God-given reality of his own perception of created things. It is, therefore, a logical consequence of such disordered desire for excellence in knowledge that Adam and his descendants also succumbed to a lust to penetrate to the very depths of created reality – a desire which, as I have pointed out in my War Against Being, is proscribed by several passages in the Old Testament. St. Thomas almost certainly knew nothing of what the future would hold in terms of modern physics and chemistry, and their particular form of hubris. He did not necessarily foresee that man’s appetite for a reductive knowledge of all created being should lead to the very denial of substantial being itself, and thus to a denial of the whole intellectual foundation of our faith. But his cosmology, and the distinction between substantial and accidental being which is its basis, remains the great intellectual defense against such pride and ignorance. This is so because all substantial being is simply there as a product of God’s creation from nothing. And no amount of physical analysis can encompass, or understand this “wonderful”, “glorious”, “hidden” and “secret” work of God in any living or non-living substance.
Third, this pride is also the “beginning” of all concupiscence – of all the rest of the disorder in man’s appetitive life. Thus, Thomas writes:
“Gluttony also had a place in the sin of our first parents. For it is written (Gen 3:6): The woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold, and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. Yet the very goodness and beauty of the fruit was not their first motive for sinning, but the persuasive words of the serpent, who said (verse 5): Your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as Gods: and it was by coveting this that the woman fell into pride. Hence the sin of gluttony resulted from the sin of pride.” (Ibid.).
Pride, therefore, truly is “the beginning of all sin.” This, however, is not the end of the story. In order to be fruitful in this world, and in the souls of all men, pride needs a companion.
The Root of All Sin:
“The desire of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10:
Analyzing the distinction between the “beginning of all sin” on the one hand, and “the root of all sin” on the other, St. Thomas writes:
“We must therefore say that pride, even as denoting a special sin, is the beginning of every sin….On the other hand, in the order of execution, the first place belongs to that which by furnishing the opportunity of fulfilling all desires of sin, has the character of a root, and such are riches; so that, from this point of view, covetousness is said to be the root of all evils.”
(ST, Pt. I-II, Q.84, a.1)
And since “every sin includes an inordinate turning to a mutable good” (Ibid., Q.72, a.2), then it follows:
“Accordingly, we must say that covetousness, as denoting a special sin, is called the root of all sins, in likeness to the root of a tree, in furnishing sustenance to the whole tree. For we see that by riches man acquires the means of committing any sin whatever, and of sating his desire for any sin whatever, since money helps man to obtain all manner of temporal goods, according to Eccles 10:19: All things obey money: so that in this sense desire for riches is the root of all sins.” (Ibid., Q.84, a.1).
Satan desires that man be awash in money. St. Thomas teaches that money only has real meaning as an exchange for real goods. When it is treated as such it possesses no great threat to human society and culture. Satan also desires, therefore, that in every way possible that money become fruitful or fecund – that it may breed more of its own kind without any real relation to real goods. Such is usury, as is stock-market speculation and hundreds of other forms financial schemes devised for making money fruitful. Modern man, at least in the developed countries, is therefore awash in the “root of all sins.”
In order to understand the consequence of all this, we must also understand what constitutes the opposite of original sin, which is at the same time what constitutes man’s spiritual health. What should have been Eve’s response to the temptation of Satan? Well, she should have cried out as Our Lord did, “Get behind me, Satan!” But we must also understand what must be behind such a cry if it is to be legitimate. If the pride of original sin is the desire to possess an excellence independent from God, then its opposite is the desire to posses all things from God. It is, in other words, the desire for God above all things and in all things. It is expressed in the greatest commandment of the Old Testament: “Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength (Deut 6:5).” This commandment is repeated by Jesus in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27), and then is placed in absolute dominion over all the things of this world in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The most fundamental psychological fact of the Christian life is, therefore, that man must chose between two masters, two ways of life, two loves. He cannot be a friend of this world and at the same time a friend of God. And in the face of the consequences of original sin upon his own nature, he is absolutely obligated to chose a way of simplicity and poverty to the things of this world which will enable him to desire God above and in all things.
It has therefore been the primary aim of Satan to create a universal culture which makes this simplicity impossible. First, man must become convinced that it is integral to his nature to purse unlimited scientific and technological advancement. This hubris in the pursuit of knowledge of God’s Creation then becomes the fertile soil for the growth of that intellectual and spiritual hubris called Rationalism – the belief that the human mind is the sole source of all truth and moral value. Second, money must be liberated from classical (both Old and New Testaments, Church Fathers, and Scholastic) teaching, and allowed to become fruitful through belief in unlimited economic growth and consumerism, firmly rooted in usury and money speculation. This twofold hubris is now almost universal in all those countries (especially Europe) which were the cradle and mainstay of Christian civilization. Virtually no institution, whether it be political, economic, educational, recreational, or even religious can function in this modern world without submerging itself in this twofold hubris. And because of this, man’s psychological and spiritual nature is rapidly changed so that he can no longer see or even desire God.
Nor can he any longer see himself:
“For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass.
For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)
This is the triumph of Satan over human nature. And this is what we largely now have with us. All our efforts therefore to understand the contemporary crisis in the Church and the world, and all our efforts to solve it, will be doomed to failure without first facing up to and defeating the dominance of reductive science, usury and money-speculation over all the institutions of contemporary society. We must realize that all the evils which we see as being part of our modern apostasy, from pornography and abortion to heresy, and liturgical abuses, are rooted in this fundamental transformation that has taken place within man (especially Western Man) over the past five hundred years. The rejection of the Traditional Latin Mass, the false ecumenism, the priest scandal, the crisis in catechesis, the rejection of dogma, and the effort to re-define the nature of both God and the Church are the visible cankers expressive of a much more profound decay within the very nature of contemporary man himself, a decay which has virtually obscured the fact that man is created in the image of God.
There is a great deal of Catholic prophecy that points towards a very severe chastisement by God in the near future. Such a chastisement would, of course, have the effect of destroying or severely upsetting a great deal of the infrastructure of this twofold hubris which has been the subject of our analysis. We may well conjecture that such a “shaking” would usher in that great Era of Peace, Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Conversion of Nations of which the prophecies of the Gospel, and those of Fatima and so many other private revelations speak. It would seem quite likely, in fact, that only such a severe punishment by God could effect that change in the interior of countless souls which would be necessary in order for them to be able to “see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I [God] should heal them (Mt 13: 15).”
There is one aspect of this ensuing “Triumph”, however, which I think has gone largely unnoticed. This Era of Peace and Triumph of the Gospel throughout the world is often mentioned very abruptly, followed immediately with some statement to the effect that “then the end will come.” Thus, in the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come.
“When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand.” (Mt 24:14-15).
The Chastisement and the subsequent Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be a time of fantastic graces poured out upon the world by God. There may well ensue the conversion of almost all the peoples of the earth: the conversion of Russia, of the Jews, the Moslems, and of all Pagan peoples. However, this extraordinary triumph of the Gospel will, I think, be followed by an equally astonishing rapid fall into world-wide apostasy. The reason for this, I further believe, is that the infrastructure of man’s twofold hubris of reductive science and love of money will have only been partially destroyed. It will rise out of the ashes of the chastisement with astonishing rapidity following the conversion of nations. And its rapid rise to dominance once again over all facets of individual and collective life will create such a cynicism towards life and bitterness towards God that it will quickly pave the way for the rise to power of Antichrist. This relatively short period of time will be, in a very profound sense, the passing of the Church from the Triumph of Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion.
If we, our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren wish to be a remnant capable of refusing this betrayal, we must begin now to turn ourselves and the Church fully and truly against the world:
“Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince
of this world be cast out (Mt 12:31).”
We have heard enough about aggiornamento. It is time for contra mundi! We need to be able to say in union with Our Lord:
“For the prince of this world cometh,
and in me he hath not any thing.” (Mt 14:30).
Authored by: James Larson – © 2008