Is the person really possessed or is it mental illness? It there a medical and chemical disturbance, or is it a personality disorder or is the problem psychological? Is the person disturbed emotionally or are there deep relational problems? Is there abuse, addiction or psychiatric illness? It could be all these things or a mixture of them. All these things could be woven together like an intractable knot, and added to the disturbance could be demonic influences, sinful addictions or even full blown demonic possession.
Then the problems is compounded because the demon, if there really is a demon there, will hide and deceive. He will whine and be the coward one moment and be defiant and blasphemous the next. He’ll use every ruse and diabolical subterfuge–hiding behind all manner of illnesses and madness.
The intricacy of unraveling the problem is time consuming and constantly frustrating because woven in and through all of it is the absurdity of evil. Evil causes suffering for which there is no rational answer. Because the devil is the father of lies there is not truth. None. Nowhere. Therefore the suffering he causes is irrational and absurd. This is why the suffering hurts so much–because there is no answer. The Lord of Lies is the Lord of Flies he is the master of chaos for chaos masters him. He is locked in a swamp of darkness and burning sinking sands.
C.S.Lewis captures this relentless absurdity in his space fiction Perelandra in which the hero, Ransom embarks on a life and death struggle with a demon infested human named Weston. At one point Weston keeps Ransom awake simply by taunting him by calling his name over and over again like a child-bully. Weston never sleeps, but prowls about torturing small animals for pleasure. He argues with Ransom endlessly–using reason when he wants to, and then simply laughing or uttering absurdities when Ransom wins the argument.
This puerile, absurd and horrifying aspect of evil is what makes so much of the current state of argument in our own society seem so pointless. How often has one entered into debate with an atheist or agnostic only to realize that they are seemingly incapable of reasoning. They seem intelligent on the one hand, but then spout the most outrageous and ridiculous statements that do not even pretend to be rational or informed. This absurdity is the spirit of the demon. It is evil personified for evil is absurd, and evil is full of rage.
This afternoon, pondering on these matters I had a picture in my mind of Satan, restless Satan, pacing up and down, pacing up and down, his mind always feverishly at work, thinking what he might have said, thinking what he might have done to avoid Christ’s triumph, thinking what he will do, scheming and planning and working his mind over and over again, never at rest, never at rest. Chasing his pointed tail in endless, pointless and absurd debate within his proud mind.
Then I thought of the times I have done the same–when my pride has been wounded, when I’ve lost an argument, when I’ve been hurt in some way. My mind goes over and over what I should have said and how I should have behaved and what I might have done. It is the devil in me too in a way–always restless and always raging in pride.
This is the final absurdity of evil–that it is fueled with rage. It bathes in rage. Rage seethes like volcanic lava through the evil. You can always recognize the devil at work when you see rage, for rage, like evil itself is irrational. It is pure emotion that is the opposite and the enemy of love. It is foul where love is lovely. It is irrational where love is reasonable. It is beastly where love is beautiful. It is a lie where love is the truth of heaven.
This is the frightful absurdity of evil. This absurdity and rage is the demonic poison of hatred and pride, and the only antidote, I have come to accept–the only antidote for which I plead– is the Divine Mercy.