|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Selections on Philosophy|
Reflections on the narration regarding the demonically possessed Gadarenes
In the Greek language, the words “symbolon” (=symbol) and “diabolos (=devil) are derived from the same root, which is why they express opposing realities so much more vividly. The word “dia-volos” (=rend asunder) implies the one who divides, who separates, who eliminates every communication and brings the being down, to the point of ultimate desolation. On the other hand, the “sym-bol” (=bring together) is that which connects, creates a bridge, restores communication.
The narration of the demonically possessed Gadarene reveals the nature of Evil in a very clear manner.
Christ poses an apocalyptic question to the demon: “What is your name?”
To the Judean mentality, the name of a thing or of a being expresses its essence, and the ancient maxim “nomen est omen” sees expressed inside the name the person and his fortune. Jesus’ question therefore signified: “Who are you? What is your nature, your hidden being?”
To which the demon replied: "My name is Legion, for we are many".
This abrupt transfer from the singular to the plural – from the “my” to the “we are” reveals the activity of Evil within its fragile and not yet conscious unity; it is shattered into many individual fragments – and that is what Hell is. “Hades” (¢äçò) of the ancient Hellenes, as well as the Hebrews’ “Sheol” (שאול) both signify that same dark place, when loneliness brings Man to the extreme state of demonic isolation. We could in fact portray Hades as a prison made of mirrors: in it, one cannot see anything else except his own reflection, multiplied infinitely, without anyone else’s gaze able to look at it.
The adages by saint Makarios provide a breathtaking description of this loneliness. The “prisoners” are tied together, back-to-back, and only a long prayer by the living can grant them a moment of respite: “For the brief moment it takes an eye to blink, we are able to see one another’s visages….”
Reversely, the Apostle Paul describes Christ’s activity as opposed to this activity: “...for one is the bread (=Christ), and one body are we, the many” and within the Eucharist community, the “one” is realized, by all those who have been recapitulated in Christ, just like the communion of the Trinity, i.e., God = both one and simultaneously a trinity – a unit, within the multiple.
It is only natural, therefore, that the Eucharist is placed exactly at the heart of the Church and is revealed as the generator of the unity that was proclaimed, offered and experienced. It is a gold-bearing lode, which does not have the slightest rift, and which comprises the very being (esse) of the Church. The olden-time invocation of “Maran-Atha” (Come, o Lord) constituted the closing of a liturgical prayer and it referred to the Presence - the Eucharist arrival - of the resurrected Lord. God comes and offers Himself as sustenance, and we consume His essence, i.e.: love, His “incorruptible love”. The Eucharist community enacts an essential participation in the overall Christ.
This union – this “oneness with Christ” – that we experience in the Eucharist, determines the Eucharist character of spiritual life. The incessant communion with Christ and His body –the people- becomes an totally positive incrementing: “by no means are the head and the body disturbed”. Everything that partakes of God – in Whom the “YES” resides – is confessing an overall “yes” to life, to being; on the contrary, in Satan there is only the “no”, and it is this precise rejection that determines the place from which God is excluded, i.e., denial, nil, hell.
Of the numerous manifestations of Evil, we can discern three characteristic aspects: parasitism, fraud and parody. The Devious one clings like a parasite on the being that God created, thus forming a monstrous sarcoma, a demonic oedema. Being the fraud that he is, and by coveting all the divine attributes, he substitutes similarity with equality: “and ye shall be like gods” - i.e., equals to God. Finally, being an envious falsifier, he parodies the Creator and strives to build his own, God-less kingdom, which is a reverse imitation.
Philosophers had never succeeded in clarifying the problem of Evil; in fact, they made it even more complicated. On the contrary, however, Evil was not a problem for the Fathers of the Church. The issue was not about theorizing over Evil, but about actually conquering the Devil. The prayer of a saint would have been along the following lines: “Protect us from every futile theory on Evil and rid us of the Devil.” Similarly, the Bible does not mention any moral principles that pertain to Good and Evil; instead, it reveals God and it reports the opponent. It also impeaches the “man of iniquity” of End Times, the “son of perdition”…the one “who would prove himself to be God.”
The Devil – says Christ – is “even from the beginning” a murderer, within the very heart of his being. A spirit of denial, he is especially a murderer of his own reality, i.e., that he is Lucifer (=a vessel of divine light). Thus, he fulfils his metaphysical suicide and becomes a thorough denial of the “likeness of God”; in this way, he arrives simultaneously at homicide as well as deicide.
In essence "a liar and the father of lies", the Devious one undertakes by himself a terrible mission – the mission of intentionally distorting the truth. The initial perversion of his will made it possible for him to usurp vacant spaces, in order to manufacture an existence out of fake materials. Isaiah describes this undertaking very clearly: “We have given falsehood to our hopes, and by falsehood shall we be covered”.
For someone to indulge in falsehood in the face of heaven, means that he is opposed to God’s truth; that he is imposing his own version on the world. The Devil makes himself into a copy of God; in order to evict Him from His Creation; in order to make His Creation not feel His Divine Presence, and to thus realize a gigantic substitution whereby he can eventually declare boastfully “I am the only one, and no-one else!” – “I am god!”.
With His “YES”, with His command “let there come into being ….”, God creates all similarities, and He fills “everything with everything”.
With his “no”, with his “let it not come into being….”, the Devious one empties, vacates everything and turns it into “the place of dissimilarity”.
The Holy Bible does not philosophize. The Bible does not regard Evil as a mere lack of Goodness or perfection – an incompleteness – but rather as a case of freedom that failed, and became a malignant will. Adding something nonexistent to something existent will pervert it into a malign being. Nevertheless, this perversion, Evil, is not materialized and is not personified as Wickedness, except only under certain presuppositions; except only when one provides it ontologically with “food and shelter”; that is, by providing it with the potential to invoke the willing or unwilling (thanks to their free will) abettors, who have offered themselves to serve falsehood. Within this actual ministry of the ones “possessed” by Evil, the beings themselves shrink in size, so that the Liar can magnify and enlarge himself. His tragic status lies in the fact that the ‘food of the gods’ – (“man has eaten the bread of angels”) – is missing from the Devil, because that heavenly “bread” is in fact the fulfillment of the Father’s will. Saint Irenaeus teaches us that this will is the very hypostasis of all things. Thus, in God’s world, the phantom-Devious one – starved of all that is real – is destined to be nothing more than an “ontological parasite”. His abominable revelry – a product of his imposing himself on mankind – is the preparatory stage for mankind’s hell from this lifetime, inasmuch as he is expanding the void, wherever God is not present.
Translation by: A. N.
Article published in English on: 8-11-2007.
Last update: 30-08-2022.