Angels and Demons

The subject of angels (fallen and otherwise) keeps creeping up, lately, and since I don’t know what to make of it, I’ve decided to blog about it.

Several weeks ago, I was able to attend a lecture by Elie Wiesel, author of Night.  I blogged about most of the lecture, but I left out a bit that occurred during the question and answer period because, frankly, it embarrassed me.  But now the subject keeps coming up, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Mr. Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, spoke of God often in his discussion.  In spite of his sufferings, he has never abandoned his belief in God.  He did say, though, that one thing has always haunted him about the Nazis.  Wiesel said he has long been a believer that education is the answer to the ills of society, but that the Nazi Officers were some of the most learned and cultured men in German society.  He can’t reconcile that level of learning with the level of evil of which they were capable.

Now, I’m Catholic.  I believe in angels (good and bad.)  I believe that the devil is a fallen angel, and that other angels have fallen.  I don’t talk about this much because it’s strange to talk about these kinds of things in everyday conversation, and it doesn’t dominate my life. But it’s a belief I hold, nonetheless.  So to me, it’s easy to see how cultured, learned men could become demonic fiends.  Human beings have a strong propensity to sin, and I would imagine that dark forces are happy to nurture that in any way that they can.

When it came time to ask questions it occurred to me that Mr. Wiesel never once mentioned “the devil” in his talk, so I asked him if he believed in such a being.  Several people in the audience actually laughed at me.  (Some of you may be laughing at me.) He looked like he didn’t know quite what to make of my question, at first, but he was kind enough not to laugh.  He did think for a bit and then answered that in his learning, “the devil” was always a literary figure, but not a real being.  He said that he was taught that the figure is used symbolically.   He gave me a very nice “namaste” bow at the end of the lecture, but he and the others in the audience probably thought I was a nut.

Now, last weekend I completed C S Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters for my book club.   If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s an epistolary novella conveying the correspondence of two devils, an expert and a novice, about how to ensnare souls.  It’s a short book, though very dense and very troubling.  Though it’s fiction, much of it caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up, especially this advice from one devil to another:  “The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you.  If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights…”  (p. 37)  This goes back to the poet Baudelaire’s assertion in The Generous Gambler that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!”   I would assert that the devil has been fairly successful in this venture.

I’ve been following author Anne Rice on Twitter and on Facebook, and her new book Angel Time is about to be released.  Rice is the author of the popular Vampire Lestat series–among others–but has had a recent return to her Catholic faith.  She wrote a book about that conversion (which was fabulous) titled Called Out of Darkness, and the popular Christ the Lord books.  If you scroll back through her Facebook questions and ponderings about the existence of devils and hell you’ll find some interesting dialogue on the subject.

So what does all this add up to?  I don’t know. But my writer-brain feels that tingling sensation that occurs when a great swirl of ideas moving formlessly through the head starts to connect, and wants to take form on the page.  I don’t know if it will lead anywhere, but I’d love your thoughts on angels, and devils, and God.  But before I go, I’ll leave you with these words of comfort and caution from the Introduction & Preface to The Screwtape Letters:

“There is no uncreated being except God.  God has no opposite.  No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God…” (p 6)

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” (p. 15)

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8 thoughts on “Angels and Demons

  1. Heather J. says:

    Great post Erika. This is a topic that I’ve thought about many times. Have you read Frank Peretti’s books THIS PRESENT DARKNESS and PIERCING THE DARKNESS? I highly recommend both for their treatment of spiritual warfare – very good, but very chilling at the same time.

  2. erikarobuck says:

    Ooh, thanks for the suggestions!

  3. Jessica says:

    Excellent post! That’s so cool that you met Elie, and I’m surprised he doesn’t believe the devil exists. I wonder how he believes regarding Evil, with a capital e.?

    I definitely believe all this stuff exists. People seem to think being smart or educated makes you a better person, morally, but it doesn’t. I read Screwtape Letters too. Fascinating book!

  4. Kelly says:

    You know where I stand my dear! The devil is fear and o, what paradox! As in, why are ye fearful, o ye of little faith….

    I do want to comment on the precision with which you expressed how we as writers calibrate life/creativity through our “process”:

    “But my writer-brain feels that tingling sensation that occurs when a great swirl of ideas moving formlessly through the head starts to connect, and wants to take form on the page.”

    Fabulous!

  5. V Swegle says:

    Hi, Erika.

    I’m glad you decided to share this part of the lecture, too. It’s the unexplored ideas that we take for granted as “normal.”

    I don’t think that it’s education that prevents the closing of people’s hearts. I suspect that it’s the arrogance of total self-reliance that turns people to justify otherwise unjustifiable acts. We have to share and listen to draw towards each other.

    So, your post is twice-blessed.

    Hugs.

  6. Lara says:

    I am a “cradle Catholic” as well Erika. And my mom and all of us (mostly the women!) have discussed spirituality and evil and angels and the devil on more than one ocassion. We’ve discussed predominantly is the idea that we are taught to view or visualize God as a person, really he is a force of life and of love. He can inspire people and does so through symbol and blatant communication—any way he can get through to the human heart. And so, conversely, there is no physical devil, but an Evil, which is only as strong as human beings allow it to be. He also tries to use a variety of ways to get to us and gain entry to our lives. I like what Jessica said, that being educated is not the same as being morally incorruptable! Hitler was a charismatic and mesmerizing man, from what I’ve read and heard. Some people, no matter how educated, are susceptible to that. And let’s not forget that many times, humans act as sheep, unfortunately!

    But I totally believe in all of that as well. 😉 I’m impressed that you asked him that question. I think I would’ve been too intimidated to ask him anything!! lol

  7. Erika Robuck says:

    Very interesting ideas, Lara. It’s a fascinating subject, and one we can’t get answers too in this lifetime.

    I’m not sure why I asked that question. It was one of the more uncomfortable moments of my life, but he made me feel better.

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