I have been struggling to put into words something about the Daemonic, but did not know at all consciously what lay in the heart, hidden from sight. It tortured me for some time. In my usual custom, I circled round it, trying to get closer to ‘the heart of the matter’ with each circuit, but I was not getting there, it seemed.. It felt urgent, but why I do not know.
With all the other stresses and difficulties in life currently, ‘I could do without this.’ I felt like the Israeli nurse we once met who told us her daily prayer was, ‘God, don’t notice me today.’ She was praying Jewishly to the Daemonic God, but it is the Daemonic God who does notice, and gets involved, all too often in ways that humanly seem pointless, strange, hurtful. This God noticed Hosea one day, and asked him to marry a prostitute. Because Hosea loved this ‘sacred whore’ passionately, putting up with her old ways nearly broke him. It tore his heart into pieces. Yet he never condemned her, nor rejected her. This endurance was to show the prophet how Yahweh felt about the Jews whoring after strange gods.
Thus did the penny drop.
I wanted to write about the paradox of the Daemonic, and at last the way in seized me, and gave my moribund state a good shaking, like dogs do with a bone.
There is no true love apart from pain. Yet, the converse is more subtle, and also true. There is no pain of the deepest kind without love.
Consequently, all the severe and terrible wounding that God inflicts on the Jews, and by extension from their fate, also inflicts upon us, is a pain connected with love. This is the mystery of the Daemonic; there is a connection between deep pain and deep love. Actually, the first side of this equation is rather paltry– no love without pain. The equation’s second side is far more significant– no deepest pain without the deepest love. Where pain becomes deep, there is found the deep love. Only where pain is at the deepest is love at the deepest..
This means that when we have ‘descended’ into the depth of the heart, where we are driven and brought down by the real pain of existence, only two options remain operative: one is that we are destroyed, killed off, annihilated, in some final sense from which there is no return; the other is that, at last, we find love, the deep love, the love fashioned in a furnace, the love so deep, nothing undercuts it but on the contrary, it undercuts everything.
This deep love undercuts everything, it is the only reality that goes deeper than everything, and as such, is ‘the last man standing.’ It even undercuts, and out profounds, the most subtle, potent, spiritual evil that sneaks up on us in the hard place where we are bound ‘hand and foot’, and offers us a ‘get out free’ card. In a sense, the evil that is spiritual, and wants to lodge itself in the depth, operates through providing us a way out of the hammer blows of Daemonic fate which immerses us in existence’s profound pain; this is the appeal of the evil voice that may come to the heart in a seductive whisper, like Lucifer the Flatterer, or ranting and raving in a hoarse diatribe, like Satan the Accuser. This voice of the evil spirit will, in one way or another, ‘lift’ us out of ‘the deep place’, the place where ‘deep cries to deep’, the place where the human deep, out of its torment, calls out to the deep of God, asking God to be in the place of dereliction where the human venture has come to a terrible end, asking God to be with us when the day of trouble comes. In this place and on this day, heaven is no use; the crying pleads with God to depart heaven to come to us in hell; it asks, let go the impregnable heights in order to join us in the vulnerable depths; give up the ‘non passible’ and unchanging to dwell where we are at risk to the ‘passible’ and the changing. And God does this. God is with us where we are abandoned of everyone and everything.
Where the deepest pain is, there the deepest love is, because God is involved in that deepest pain. This is the paradox of the Daemonic.
It is not that we fall far down into the heart, and cry out to God. It is that God, and the existential precariousness of existence, combine to make ‘the black inexplicable pain’, as Lorca calls it, the prod we need to enter the heart. Both when we are morally blasted by God, but also more especially when existence does not add up, and God provides no comforting rationale but only ups the ante of the absurdity, are we brought down into the heart. The Sufi poets say there are times when God needs to kick us like a football, if we are to face our alienation from our heart, but we leave town to escape that ‘wake up call.’ The text in the Old Testament we cannot stomach because it is too harsh on us, the shifting of the earth’s plates necessary for life on this planet which nevertheless kills thousands of people every time it occurs, the historical situation in the world that places us between a rock and a hard place– all these are ‘God.’ The point is, the Daemonic God seeks us, and drags us into the depths, before we turn in our distress to God.
What we don’t realise is how far from the heart we are, and what it takes to return us to the heart. Moral blasts force us to consider motive, and see the difference between good and evil, love and indifference, in the heart; it tells us that our action has consequences, and that freedom implies assuming responsibility. Indeed, in Hebrew, even the word for ‘to know’ does not mean a sort of neutral acquaintance with facts of no relevance to us, but implies a concern for what has come to our attention. Suffering, however, takes us deeper than the necessary division into good and evil, especially the unchosen suffering, the suffering that is fated to befall us, and which we cannot escape– this takes us deeper than good and evil, and brings us to the ultimate heart ground, the ground poised over an Abyss.
The pain that takes us far down into the heart separates us from all things, and brings us to a state of aloneness that is radical. Here there is only our heart, God, and the Evil One. But here is where we ‘search out God’ in the very midst of the difficulties, reversals, setbacks, down fallings, evils, that beset our heart. God loves to be searched out, but cannot be searched out in this existential way in the heights; it only happens in the depths, because it concerns the fundamental questions without any answer provided by reason, without any answer provided by any illumination, or enlightenment, which is less deep in the blackness of pain.
When the Bible speaks of the Spirit searching out the deep things of God, and the deep things of humanity, it is referring to the pain which leads to love, and thereby brings about ‘change of heart.’ The love which emerges from suffering is greater than good, and deeper than evil; it undercuts both. But the evil spirit seeks to derail this profound outcome, and trap us in ‘good versus evil’, by distorting what counts as good, as much as by tempting us into evil. It is mostly not understood, but for the heart caught in the throes of the tussle in the deeps it is crucial to know that ‘evil’ is ‘The Lie.’ It is not the absence of good, as many theologians in Judaism and Christianity asserted; and it is, in a less obvious but important sense, not the opposite, or converse, of good. As my mentor E.G. Howe, part Buddhist and part Druid, used to teach, ‘evil’ is The Lie, and as such is not part of the yin/yang polarities of the universe, but stands outside all of them [sun and moon, sky and earth, day and night, and so on]. It is more like a parasite, feeding off the good, and twisting it into distortions, in order to block love. Thus the most insidious, and pure, assault of evil is that which creeps upon the heart when in deep pain. For it is at this moment that the devil tempts us to make pain the ‘deal-breaker’ with God.
It is therefore crucial to the human heart to discern the difference between the voice of the Lie that seeks to become enshrined in the deeps, and the presence of the Daemonic God who is our only help in this place where no other help reaches.
But if so, then this is why Yeshua is the Messiah. All the moral kickings, and irrational sufferings, undergone by the ancient Jews at the hands of the Daemonic God point to a Messiah who does not use good to vanquish evil, but in marked contrast, passes through the deepest pain to reach, and unleash, the deepest love.
The power to love cannot be reached just by observing the difference between good and evil; that may be necessary, but it is not even remotely sufficient. The real deep power of love, its more radical extension, is only to be attained through suffering– through the suffering that is never voluntary, but is always unchosen, inflicted as a fate that comes unbidden but cannot be escaped, and wrestled with for acceptance or denial, and searched out so it can be accepted. What the Jews did not realise, and why they denied Yeshua as the Messiah, is that this suffering that is the hidden road to love binds God, not just binding humanity. The sacrifice the Daemonic God asks of humanity is made even more deeply in heart by this ‘dark’ God, for only the Daemonic God of dark, and pain, is the God of the Fire of Love that will redeem all the world from its beginning to its end.
The Daemonic God of the Old Testament becomes the Suffering God of the New Testament.
If you had ever understood the Daemonic, you would have known this was always where it was headed. We are asked to suffer for God; then, as the culmination of this, God suffers for us. God suffers what we cannot suffer, God endures what we cannot endure, in the depths, to pull us through.
In the end, the depth proves too deep for us. It is not enough the Daemonic God be ‘with’ us; the Daemonic God must step into the breach, and do something ‘for’ us that we cannot do by our own effort of passion in the heart. Where we are truly done, the Daemonic God steps in, and takes the hit we cannot bear, to sustain us through it, to get us through the deepest pain into the deepest love.
This is the Christ.
No one can name the place in the deep heart where humans baulk, and stumble, and utter like Roberto Duran on his stool, unable to get to his feet for the next round, ‘no mas.’ No more, enough, I am done, I cannot do it. Christ suffers this ultimate defeat of the human venture, he pays its price, and this is not ‘atonement’ as the West interpreted it, but it is the supreme love of the Daemonic God, taking on the burden he put upon us, so that with God’s suffering decisively added to our human suffering, we can after all get through.
Christ’s deed, out of love, is for his friends, threatened in a depth they cannot navigate. He does not ‘save’ them, for they still have to pass through to the far shore, in their own heart. But he goes with them, and by this, gets them through.
To say anything else is a Lie. Satan twists the Cross into a moralistic scenario of good and evil, missing its depth entirely, when depth is its whole thrust; and Satan manages to turn the sacrificial deed of divine love in the human that will redeem everyone and everything into an exclusionary tale where there are still winners and losers, saved and damned, those let in and those left out. There is no ‘God of Wrath’ who remains permanently angry with humans, and seeks to punish many and reward a few. This is the Satanic Lie. Do not let it grip your heart. Its poison is loveless, and shallow. Thus it seeks to undo Christ’s deed of love in the depth.
Lucifer, of course, rises above the whole sordid mess, because he is not interested in love, or depth, but with Blake’s ‘no bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.’ Lucifer seeks the best, the most exalted, the charismatic, the glorious, the shine. But his gifts of creativity and intelligence are cold. So Lucifer spends his days ‘growing’, expanding, developing, increasing his riches, perfecting himself– polishing the diamond which is his wonderful selfhood, so talented, so lovely, so colourful, so textured, none are like him. Nietzsche, Jung, parts of Blake, the Gnostics, are all Luciferian. The self is a god, by right and by nature. It needs no external God, much less one who morally criticises, or who has mercy on vulnerability, fragility, malleability. Lucifer is strong, as well as gifted, and needs neither help, nor advice, from any source not his own rarest of ‘innate potentiality.’ All he requires is the freedom to spread forth his wings, and fly.
Satan= politics and religion. Lucifer= art and spirituality.
The Daemonic is a paradox, and unless this is accepted, it will remain a closed book.
Our problem with the Daemonic is not just that it gets mistaken for the Satanic. It is the ultimate koan, the ultimate two horns of the dilemma, and we do not accept such paradox; still less do we accept a paradox addressed centrally to the life, and action, indeed the very ground, of the human heart.
We are crucified on a paradox, torn in a dilemma, in our deeper heart, and this is the source of our aversion to the Daemonic. We flee the Daemonic. But if we want our heart back, which we have thrown away in the dust, then we must embrace the Daemonic: ‘not my will, but thy will be done.’
Submitting to God is not obedience to an External Authority, it is accepting the Daemonic, and having faith where it will lead. It leads us, eventually, to a new land of heart, a passion so on fire with God’s love that it would go to any lengths to heal, to contest, to redeem, the entire world.
The Daemonic God wounds the heart, to rekindle its passion as the co-sufferer, the co-bearer, of God’s passion for redeeming the world.
This is the final love. It is tough on us, but at the same time, the way it is changing us and the way it is changing the world is more worthwhile than any ethical rectitude, or any mystical oneness of light and bliss.
Given all this and much more, including the stupid waste of human possibilities and the obscene suffering of so many, including children, then isn’t Ivan right in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ to dismiss the whole of existence as a cruel joke? Yet, as we come through, and come to the faith of the heart that humanity will come through, so nothing will be more exulting for the heart. We will come to an exulting, a rejoicing, unknown to those who do not suffer in, and fight for, the depth where all is lost, and paradoxically, where all that is lost can be regained.
The love burnt into us, and reforging us, makes us a Christ, undefended, unrelenting, willing to die for the sake of the world.
This is why there is a continuity between the Daemonic God of the Jews and the Suffering God of the Christians, for those who have kept faith with the hidden, but profound, link between pain and love.
We are forced by the Daemonic God to go back to the burden we put down, and face our abandoning of it and inability to lift its weight; then, as the culmination of this, the Suffering God picks up this burden, so that we can carry it.
How could God hit us with the impossible, without himself becoming the one who takes the hit?
If we cannot pay the price God asks of us, to have a heart, then God pays it for us, that we can reclaim the heart, and by leaning on God’s sacrifice for us, relearn the heart’s sacrifice for the world.
The movement from the Daemonic God to the Suffering God, from the unknown father to the incarnate son, is a movement of love becoming ever more extreme, until it reaches the end of how far it can go, whilst still respecting human freedom, and personal responsibility for choice. God does not do everything, but leaves a space, a dangerous open-endedness, where we can use our freedom to surrender to love’s dramatic story, or try to rewrite it in some less exacting but less profound form.
God is going for broke. It is all, or none. It is the depth of love, and the pillar of truth, or nothing.
Sin is ugly because it is the betrayal of love. But the human heart-cry for love, even in the midst of failing, or rejecting, love is the beginning of our change. For this is the sacrifice that the Daemonic God requires, ‘a broken and contrite heart’, a heart softened by ‘holy sorrow’; this beginning of change of heart will lead us farther down the line to the final sacrifice of Christ, which becomes decisive for the turnaround in our depths.