The basic building block of magical ritual in many different traditions is a form of exorcism–the banishing ritual, usually utilized to create a sealed and protected magical circle for the purpose of practicing further forms of ritual. From Wiccans to Thelemites, practitioners of the Golden Dawn tradition to grimoire magicians, occultists of all sorts practice banishing rituals on a daily basis. Neophytes of the Golden Dawn are given what is perhaps the most well-known of contemporary banishing rituals, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.
Of course, banishing rituals have much in common with the exorcisms practiced in many exoteric religious traditions–perhaps made most famous by that classic Catholic horror movie, The Exorcist. Beyond the rather rare Rite of Exorcism, however, exorcism is in fact a regularly practiced aspect of Christian liturgy–specifically, in the sacrament of baptism, when the catechumen is anointed with oil and asked to explicitly reject Satan and all his works.
Which leads us to the title of this post (depending on your religious preference for banishing or exorcism): #BanishTrump, #ExorciseTrump!
It is clear that President Trump is a disaster for civil liberties at home and abroad, for international peace and security, and for anyone who believes that building a more just and peaceable world–free from economic exploitation, racism, sexism, ecological devastation, and militarism–is a mandate of our religious traditions. Speaking as a practicing Christian esotericist, I cannot countenance Trump’s fascistic policies, his dictatorial understanding of the presidency, or his flagrant disinterest in social justice and political liberty. I will not insert any links into this paragraph to prove what I’m saying. If you’ve read the news within the last two weeks, you already know exactly what I mean.
Now, St. Paul says that “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). You might then say–well, what does exorcism have to do with Donald Trump? Are you seriously suggesting that Donald Trump is a “cosmic power of this present darkness”? Are you saying Trump is a demon?
No, I’m not saying Donald Trump is a demon. I’m saying he’s possessed by a demon–a demon named Donald Trump.
Trump the Person vs. Trump the Principality
Radical theologian William Stringfellow–civil rights lawyer, activist, and lay Episcopalian–was perhaps the foremost demonologist of the modern era; an interpreter of the Biblical “powers and principalities” in terms of contemporary American culture. He had this to say about images as principalities (in this present darkness, it’s worth quoting in full):
One kind of principality is designated by the word image. An obvious example of this sort is the image that comes to be associated with some celebrity and bears the same name as the celebrity. Thus, there was for a time the movie star named Marilyn Monroe. The person is now dead, but the image ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is by no means dead. Not only have certain memories either personal or public survived the death of this person, but the name survives; the name, in fact, attaches to a reality which was given new life when the person of that name died. The image called ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is not dead because there were two lives that claimed and used that name: one a principality, the other a person; only the latter died, the former is, if anything, livelier than ever. …
An image is a very common variety of angelic power, though often of much less dignity and influence in the world than other kinds of principalities. In fact, every person is accompanied in his life by an image; he is often controlled or destroyed by his image, and invariably it survives him … Once in a while the public image of a person becomes much more than just an idol, becomes a principality of such magnitude that the image is comparable to an institutional or ideological principality. Adolf Hitler, for instance, whoever was the person by that name, became and is to this day such a principality. And in terms of the relationship between Hitler the person and Hitler the principality, it may well be that long before his actual suicide the person named Hitler had been wholly obliterated by the principality named Hitler; that the person had indeed been possessed by a demon of that name; and that the devastation and massacre wrought in the name of Hitler was not the work of just some dark genius of the man, nor even of the man’s insanity or gross criminality, but of the awesome demonic power that possessed him. …
The principality requires not only recognition and adulation as an idol from movie fans or voters or the public but also demands that the person of the same name give up his life as a person to the service and homage of the image. And when that surrender is made, the person in fact dies, though not yet physically. For at that point he is literally possessed by his own image. The demand, then, made in the conflict between the principality and the personality is one in which the whole life of the person is surrendered to the principality and is given over to the worship of the image. (Stringfellow, Free in Obedience)
Thus, there was for a time the reality TV star named Donald Trump. Donald Trump, whoever was the person by that name, became a principality. And in terms of the relationship between Trump the person and Trump the principality, it may well be that the person named Trump has been wholly obliterated by the principality named Trump . . .
One doesn’t have to look far for evidence of this metaphysical reality when it comes to our 45th President. Trump has long since stopped functioning as a normal human being, and given himself over entirely to ego, image, and the licensing of his identity for products and buildings.
Trump himself will happily admit that he is a brand, and that he rode his branding right to the White House. It’s why he’s obsessed with his inauguration crowd numbers, with his TV ratings, with his products. Trump made a deal with the Devil long ago, giving up his life “as a person to the service and homage of the image,” as Stringfellow explains. As his hair suggests, he’s walking corpse, a shambling being “literally possessed by his own image.” His whole life is entirely about the worship of that image–and now our executive branch is entirely about that, too.
As Trump is an image principality that has reached grandiose proportions, resembling an institutional or ideological principality in addition to an image, Stringfellow’s warnings about America as a principality are also apt here:
Americans are now constantly, incessantly, and somewhat vehemently assailed with the word that the ultimate moral significance of their individual lives is embodied in and depends upon the mere survival of the American nation and its “way of life”…[Consequently] the survival of the nation as such becomes the idol, the chief object of loyalty, service, and idolatry. (Stringfellow, Free in Obedience)
And Stringfellow is clear throughout his works that the ultimate end of all the fallen principalities and powers, of all images, institutions, and ideologies, is nothing other than death:
Death is greater than any of the principalities and powers, and none of them prevail against it. The whole of creation exists under the reign of death. Men die. Images, though they survive us for a time, also die. Institutions and ideologies, though they have immense survival capabilities, eventually die. Nations die. The reality which survives them all is death itself. Death, it seems, is the decisive, ultimate and dominant truth in history. No man is safe from his own death who looks for his salvation in idolatry of some principality, whatever it may be. (Stringfellow, Free in Obedience)
If this is the case, Donald Trump is leading us headlong to our deaths–as individuals, as a nation, and as a planet tottering on the edge of untrammeled ecological devastation. In metaphysical terms, what we need is an exorcism–a banishing ritual to rid our nation of the principality Donald Trump, and maybe to save the person Trump in the process. After all, as a Christian I am called to pray for my enemies, even President Trump the Demoniac.
Stringfellow, as a Christian theologian, sees Jesus Christ–the power of the resurrection–as the answer to the fallen principalities, as the victory that defeats death here and now:
Christ’s power over death is effective, not just at the terminal point of a man’s life, but throughout his life, during this life in this world, right now. This power is effective in the times and places in the daily lives of individuals when they are so gravely and relentlessly assailed by the claims of principalities for an idolatry which, in spite of all its disguises, really surrenders to death as the reigning presence in the world. His resurrection means the possibility of living in this life, in the very midst of death’s works, safe and free from death. (Stringfellow, Free in Obedience)
Because of the cosmic power of Christ’s resurrection, Stringfellow suggests, we can live in the world knowing that death does not have the last word–as St. Paul says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
A Stella Matutina Ritual to #BanishTrump
In the interest of aiding my readers who might want to help in the effort to #BanishTrump, I will now provide the example of Father Charles Fitzgerald, an Anglo-Catholic priest, member of the Community of the Resurrection, and adept of the Amoun Temple of the Stella Matutina, the most prominent of the three offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn after the schism of 1903.
As recounted by Tony Fuller in his excellent Ph.D. dissertation on the connections between Anglo-Catholic clergy and the Golden Dawn, Father Fitzgerald published an essay on spiritual healing, astral visitation, and ritual in the Anglo-Catholic publication The Fellowship of Silence in 1915. In his essay, Father Fitzgerald provides “detailed instructions for group work and particularly for enabling the group to heal others, sometimes at a considerable distance. He notes that ‘healing by suggestion at a distance’ can be described as ‘the influence of one created spirit on another, and when it tends to lead him to the great Healer it is healthy and lawful’. Fitzgerald gives several examples of such healing, which he connects with conversion” (Fuller, 307). Most importantly for our purposes, Fitzgerald provides an example of a modified Stella Matutina banishing ritual to accomplish such a task:
As an individual practice Father Fitzgerald recommends to the reader, amongst several other methods, placing a crucifix on ‘the East wall, the region of light’. Before kneeling the practitioner should ‘stand facing the crucifix, stretch out the arms in the form of a cross, inwardly resolving to put on Christ, to take His yoke and bear His burden … Make the sign of the Cross and realize that the warfare is not with flesh and blood but with the invisible powers of evil’. In a passage omitted from the reprints of the book Father Fitzgerald then goes on to state:
“It is well to make a fence to keep back these powers of evil. Therefore make the sign of the Cross in the east and say ‘Jesus’, carry the hand around and face south and repeat the sign and the name. Do this again in the west and north and complete the circle with the hand. Before this sign and Name the invisible powers of evil are bound to retreat.”
By using this exercise, avers Father Fitzgerald, followed by reciting a Penitential Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, a person can ‘ask for a right judgement in any given manner’ and will obtain ‘the power of concentration and of banishing thought, and increase of will power,’ along with ‘an increase of power in helping others without expenditure of your own vital force’. (305-307)
A banishing ritual to spiritually heal at a distance, to engage in warfare with “the invisible powers of evil,” and to convert sinners through astral contact–sounds like a perfect ritual operation for Christian esotericists to use to #ExorciseTrump. Indeed, as the story of the Conversion of St. Paul suggests, “conversion” is another name for a radical change of heart–getting knocked on your ass by a light from the divine and commanded to stop oppressing the poor and the innocent.
So if you are Christian, #ExorciseTrump. Try using Father Fitzgerald’s ritual, once a day if possible. And be sure to let Trump know you’re working on him on the astral plane–a good Tweet is sure to reach our social media-happy President. If you’re Wiccan, pagan, or another flavor of occultist, #BanishTrump! Adapt the ritual to your own tradition and practice.
But act today. Yes, it’s very possible that Trump is so possessed by his own image that there isn’t anything left of the human being underneath. As responsible religious folk, though, we still have to try and save him–and our world–from Trump the demon.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my new personal blog, The Light Invisible, for more pieces on Christian esotericism.