1. The nature of the Devil. What are the characteristic features of the Devil? In what respect is the Devil strong – and weak? When are we especially vulnerable to the temptations of the Devil? (If you want to know more about the answers to these questions, please read the post here.)
2. How is our separation from the Evil related to our Earthly desires? (If you want to know more about this, read the post here.)
3. Why is it a dead-end street if we only fight against our own bad habits? How is our separation from the Evil related to our unification with Totality? (If you want to know more about the answers to these questions, read the post here.)
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1. The nature of the Devil
In our times the Devil is quite often identified with the superstitions of the "dark Middle Ages". Due to this only a few people think it over when and how the temptation of the Evil may occur in our lives. The "modern man" lives under the spell of his own free will and he thinks that even if he commits something wrong he does it 'well' and prudentially. On the contrary, the reality is that all of our days are full of imprudent series of falls, where the frequent cause of the faulty, wrong and improper deed is that we have never been thinking over the nature of the Devil thoroughly.
As an introduction let me summarize the characteristics of the diabolic spirit from the excellent book of Giovanni Battista Scaramelli, "Directorium Asceticum”: 1.) insincerity; 2.) inspiring useless, indecent and illusive thoughts and acts; 3.) darkness, false light; 4.) conceitedness; 5.) indiscretion stimulating extremes; 6.) illusive and proud thoughts. As a continuation let me list the characteristics of the diabolic spirit’s effects on our will: 1.) distraction, disorientation and melancholy; 2.) proud or false humility; 3.) distrust or false security; 4.) excessive toughness of mind; 5.) wrong intentions; 6.) impatience in hard times; 7.) lust; 8.) mendacity, pretense and hypocrisy; 9.) affection conflicting the freedom of spirit; 10.) distraction from following Christ; 11.) false love and false fervor. If the Reader would like to learn more about the background of these entries and about the characteristics of the Divine Spirit, let me suggest that you should read the above excellent book. I may sum up the diabolic spirit’s above characteristics as the distraction, desolation and suggestibility of the soul not knowing the safety, purity and joy of Totality. As another key character the Devil tries to confuse the order of Creation. Pope Francis draws our attention to a related character: "Where the Satan divides, God always unifies the community". Hatred divides, while the power of eternal and universal love unifies us.
"But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence,
being drawn away and allured.
Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.
But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death."
The Devil has a double nature: it is malicious and persistent, but at the same time it is coward and sneaky, too. It is life-threatening (more specifically: salvation-threatening...) to underestimate the Devil's power, because the Devil is tricky and it can worm itself into all of our thoughts, intentions and feelings. Moreover, where it enters once, it starts growing there. But the good news (the gospel) is that because of the crucifixion of Christ, the Devil can be very efficiently expelled by the name of Christ – saying it from the bottom of our heart. The Devil runs away especially soon if we can stop it at the beginning of its temptations with Christ’s name.
When getting acquainted with devil’s nature, the following teaching of Jesus is fundamental: "And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man in made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26) A highly similar situation is described by Saint Teresa of Avila when she warns that our spirit, starting its journey towards the community with Jesus, becomes much more vulnerable by the Devil than it was when it had not yet stepped on the Path towards Totality.
It is very exciting to me that this behavior of our spirit is very similar to the behavior of any (better known) complex system, where e.g. a healthy cell leaves its original attractor, which can be compared to an (energy)hole, but it has not reached its other attractor yet, which can be compared to the neighboring (energy)hole, and being on the saddle dividing the two holes (scientifically saying: at the bifurcation point) it can go not only towards one or the other hole but it can get to several places sideways where it has never gone to if it had not start its journey from the first hole towards the second one. Due to these possible sideways these saddles are often very dangerous. In case of cells they can lead the cells towards the so-called exotic attractors which are very often causing cancerous states. These exotic, cancerous attractors are very similar to the special dangers of the Devil threatening our spirit when it have started its journey to Totality.
Saint Ignatius gave two very important pieces of advice on the Devil's temptations: "In those who go on from good to better, the good Angel touches such soul sweetly, lightly and gently, like a drop of water which enters into a sponge; and the evil touches it sharply and with noise and disquiet, as when the drop of water falls on the stone. And the above-said spirits touch in a contrary way those who go on from bad to worse." (Spiritual Exercises, 335) [For me this observation is especially interesting because the two fundamental states of complex systems, plastic and rigid, answer oppositely to the plastic and rigid impacts. A plastic system adapts to a plastic impact easily, while as a result of a rigid impact a plastic system gets transformed – as "the knife through butter". On the contrary, a rigid system can fence off a rigid impact – like when "a ball hits a ball" – but it becomes defenseless to a plastic impact – e.g. melting.] As the second advice of St. Ignatius, the soul experiencing any kind of Mercy should "distinguish the time itself of such actual consolation from the following, in which the soul remains warm and favored with the favor and remnants of the consolation" (Spiritual Exercises, 336), because – as Saint Ignatius wrote – in this "post spiritual elevation status" we quite often mistake our own stupidity (naturally Saint Ignatius did not use this word...) or the Devil’s tweaks for the Father’s message.
2. How is our separation from the Evil related to our Earthly desires?
It follows from the above quite fragmentary description of the Devil’s nature (and the human nature’s inclinations of the human being committing the original sin) that our ultimate separation from the temptations of the Evil can only happen together with our separation from our own original nature. It is the fundamental nature of the "old-Adam" living inside us, i.e. the human nature 'gaining knowledge', that it habitually opens the door for the Devil’s temptations. This is somehow natural because man committing the original sin became 'empowered with knowledge', and started his 'independent life'. Therefore he was separated from Totality at the very same time, which made him, with his pitifully limited 'knowledge' compared to Totality, immensely unknowing, defenseless and naked against the attacks of the Evil. However, we are obviously unable to deny our earthly nature completely during our life on Earth. Thus that much (and only that much!) can be kept with good feelings from our Earthly desires, which is needed to keep our body able to serve the wisdom of Providence. However, we need to reach a rather advanced spiritual depth to feel that edge, where the "necessary maintenance of our body" goes to an excess.
3. Why is it a dead-end street if we only fight against our own bad habits?
"Be not overcome by evil,
but overcome evil by good."
According to the above description, our separation from Evil seems to be a continuous self-denial, a self-judging fight against ourselves. But a continuous fight against our own bad sides, when becoming and act of its own, is a dead-end. It is only Totality, i.e. God’s invulnerable purity, which can not be approaches by the Evil. It is very important what Apostle James writes in 1:13: „For God can not be tempted by evil”. Our ultimate separation from the Evil can only be realized by attaining the three virtues of Christ, the Mercies of humility, purity and poorness and by our consequent, final union with the Mercy of Totality (i.e. with Christ and the Father). Amen.