• Michael Martin

In early modern England, a playgoer and diarist recorded an extraordinary special effect during a performance of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus:

Certaine Players at Exeter, acting upon the stage the tragical storie of Dr. Faustus the Conjurer; as a certaine number of Devels kept everie one his circle there, and as Faustus was busie in his magicall invocations, on a sudden they were all dasht, every one harkning other in the eare, for they were all perswaded, there was one devell too many amongst them; and so after a little pause desired the people to pardon them, they could go no further with this matter; the people also understanding the thing as it was, every man hastened to be first out of dores.” [1]

Reportedly, this was not the solitary instance of the appearance of unaccounted-for players at performances of the play. But was it an actual supernatural occurrence, or only some over-the-top PR devised by some Elizabethan theatrical impresario? Nobody knows for sure, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. Always remember: there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. If you call them, they will come.

The early modern period, though it was also the time of the first stirrings of Bacon, Descartes, and the Scientific Revolution, was still a period of widespread belief in the supernatural, a belief which even found its way into what we might now call scholarly research. In my book Literature and the Encounter with God in Post-Reformation, I explore this phenomenon in relation to John Dee and his alleged conversation with angels in a chapter entitled “John Dee: Religious Experience and the Technology of Idolatry.” My argument there is that the various occult technologies employed by Dee and his assistant Edward Kelly actually worked toward deluding him (or assisting the spirits with which he was conversing toward deluding him) and resulted in a kind of Maronian lapse into idolatry. It is a tragic and cautionary tale that should make anyone think twice (or more) about using any kind of paraphernalia for attempting converse with supernatural beings. It never ends well. Not a good idea. Don’t do it. But these types of experiences hardly ended with the arrival of the Enlightenment.

On the first day of Easter 1898, for example, the Russian philosopher and mystic Vladimir Solovyov encountered a demon while on ship. It appeared “in the form of a shaggy beast,” and he asked it, “But you know that Christ is risen?” “He may very well have risen,” the beast is said to have replied, “but I will make an end of you all the same” and attacked him. According to Sergey Solovyov, the philosopher’s nephew and biographer, Solovyov was later “found stretched on the floor senseless.” [2] But he lived.

I’ve seen or experienced such things at first hand a number of times over the years, the last time about a year ago. Here’s an entry from my notebook: “My daughter is being bothered by a spirit. It won’t let her sleep. Every time it visits, always late at night, she awakens me in tears and asks me to bless her room. I pray Psalm 68 and sprinkle the room with holy water, and then the entire house, the younger children sleeping in their beds, and I anoint her with chrism. One night the spirit returns and is very reluctant to leave. After removing it from my daughter’s room, it disturbs my sleeping wife who awakens and tells me “Michael, you need to get rid of it,” in a very forthright manner as if telling me to wash the dishes. I anoint her, cleanse the room with holy water., and she goes back to sleep. When I go back to bed I pray the rosary. I finish praying, and start to fall asleep when it attacks me, pushing me down on the mattress by the shoulders. I struggle to breathe, to awaken and rise; but finally yell, “Go!” and I can get up. I anoint myself. It leaves for a time.”

I’ve told other people about what happened, and I have been (and haven’t been, at the same time) surprised to find that such is not as uncommon as one might believe. Perhaps we are not as modern as we have let ourselves believe.

Of course, none of us should really be surprised: the Gospels are full of stories about Christ casting out demons. Unfortunately, many contemporary Christians try to interpret the demons Christ encounters as manifestations of psychiatric disorders, or quirks. Or something. Maybe anxiety.

Maybe.

I say all this, not to wax sensational but only to say that our own cultural moment for the last few years seems to me increasingly to give evidence of a kind of widespread demonolatry, but for the most part masked by a sort of postmodern secular ennui. Or, as Shakespeare says in The Tempest: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!” I mean, just look around.

As we see in scripture, notably in the temptations of Eve in Genesis and Jesus in the gospel accounts, the demonic is the origin of false advertising. The subject is promised all kinds of goods—power, wealth, longevity, prosperity—but the delivered product never lives up to the hype. Just the opposite. These promises continue in our own day, though the chosen medium is not via supernatural “magic” in the manner in which it may have been understood from ancient to early modern times, but through medical and technological interventions aided and abetted by governmental policy and popular acclaim. The recently much-touted transhumanism is but one example of this with its accompanying slogan of “You’ll own nothing and be happy” and other Utopian currencies of false coinage. Demons may offer freedom or liberation, but what they deliver is slavery. Every. Single. Time.

Importantly, these interventions—not all at once, but over time and, ultimately, totalizing—distance the subject from nature. We end up imprisoned in a technological-pharmaceutical-bureaucratic Otherworld This was the long-game of urbanization—and the kinds of transhumanist phenomena I’m speaking about are nothing other than afflictions attendant to urbanization. You don’t see it happening with people in the countryside. As Jacques Ellul writes, “The city person is separated from the natural environment and, as a consequence, the sacred significations [of connection to the natural world and its rhythms] no longer have any point of contact with experience.” [3]

I don’t have a precise taxonomy for these various spiritual beings afflicting individuals and the world, but they both seem different in kind and identical in aims. I think this works initially at the individual level, exploiting the traumas and anxieties of good people who have given in to despair and hopelessness, who think something must be wrong with them and that the magic of pharmacology or technology or politics can deliver them. This is a very subtle and sneaky form of idolatry—it happens without one knowing it. But, as happened in many of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and as we are witnessing today, this free-floating anxiety can metastasize into the body politic (the demonic parody of the Mystical Body) and infect entire societies with various forms of possession.

This is why Ellul described our post-Christian era in terms of “the new demons.” Even though our societies in the West are post-Christian, they still retain the assumptions of Christianity, though their allegiances have been unconsciously transferred to other gods. “Post-Christian society,” he writes, “has been deeply affected by Christianity, and bears the latter’s mark: the mark of original sin, of the desire for salvation, hope, and a kingdom of God, of the conviction that a Savior is needed, of the society those who are aware of radical guilt yet know they cannot pardon themselves.” [4] I can’t even read these words without images of the past decade’s ongoing secular fundamentalism—the canceling, the shaming, the iconoclasm, the calls for repentance (but never for those calling for it)—rising before me. But, as Ellul would say, these are demonic parodies of Christianity.




Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine. There are also a few spots open in the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening as Christian Path course being offered at the end of April. See more here.

1. E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 3 (Oxford, 1923), 3:423-24.

2. Sergey M. Solovyov, Vladimir Solovyov: His Life and Creative Evolution, trans. Aleksey Gibson (Eastern Christian Publications, 2000), 464.

3. Jacques Ellul, The New Demons, trans. C. Edward Hopkin (Seabury Press, 1975), 62.

4. Ibid., 24.

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  • Michael Martin

Warning: I may go scorched earth here.

The longer I live, the more important the wisdom of Goethe is to me. If Dostoevsky believed that beauty would save the world, Goethe has shown to me that poetry—or seeing the world as a poet sees it—is the method by which one saves it. Goethe was not only a poet and philosopher, he was also a scientist; and his phenomenological method may be his most important contribution to posterity. One saying of his has lived with me throughout my adult life: “He who possesses science and art also has religion; but he who possesses neither of those two, let him have religion!” Everything I’ve done in Sophiology is informed by this statement, which is why the subtitle of The Submerged Reality is “Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics.”


I write this because recently a Catholic blogger decided to trash-talk me when someone on social media quoted a blogpost I wrote a few years ago on Catholicism not being a religion but a field. The blogger had nothing to say about the blogpost or the quotation, only that I am “anti-vax” and “anti-science.” I’ll own the anti-vax part. My wife and I were vax-hesitant with our children, though the older few did get some of the “childhood [sic] vaccines,” but when our middle child was injured by a vaccine as an infant, we abandoned the society of the vaccine-positive. Any parent would do the same. Without getting too exhaustive, concerning the recent mRNA iterations, rushed to market (note the metaphor) without the usual years of testing, I can name quite a few people in my immediate circle who have had bad reactions to the shots: 1) my nephew, who went temporarily deaf from the first dose; 2) his wife, who has had C-19 three times despite being triple-dosed; 3) one of my dearest friends, who has had HIV-like symptoms since her second jab last summer; 4) the 20-year-old daughter of another friend who went into anaphylactic shock one week after receiving each dose and had to be hospitalized both times, and who now has widespread allergies when she had none before. I could go on. Some people, sadly, accept this as collateral damage. “Sucks to be people that happened to, but it’s keeping most of us safe.” How Utilitarian. Others argue that there’s no proof and that correlation does not equal causation. Well, you can’t find proof if no one is looking for it, for one thing. As for correlation and causation, a personal story:

Once about ten years ago, I was at an academic conference. I picked up an everything bagel and a coffee at the refreshment table and took my seat. Halfway through the first presenter, I broke out in hives—hives so bad that I had to rush to a drug store to get an antihistamine. I had never broken out in hives before. A few months later, it happened again after I’d eaten humus. Then I figured it out: I had somehow developed an allergy to sesame seeds. I didn’t go to a doctor to confirm this; it was easy to figure out by deduction. But it still bums me out because I love sesame butter so much.

As for calling me anti-science—well, that’s complete bullshit.


First of all, I am a biodynamic farmer, and farming, if anything, is a kind of science. I work with Natura. Every. Single. Day. Secondly, my third son is a Ph.D. scientist (which explodes the myth that “homeschooled kids can’t do science,” btw), and while that doesn’t make me a professional scientist any more than being the father of girls makes me a woman, it does show that mine is a household open to inquiry and wonder (I’m sure his becoming a scientist, as he admits, has a lot to do with growing up catching snakes and turtles and frogs and taking care of farm animals).

In fact, science is one of my primary interests. My first book, Literature and the Encounter with God in Post-Reformation England, features out of its six individuals under consideration, no fewer than four scientists—John Dee, Sir Kenelm Digby, and Thomas and Henry Vaughan. Of course their versions of early modern science have much in common with alchemy, but especially Dee and Digby were among the leading scientists of their day. In The Submerged Reality I write about the science of the 17th century natural philosopher Robert Fludd as well as about Goethe and Rudolf Steiner. In Transfiguration I have a chapter entitled “A Delicate Empiricism: Goethe, Sophiology, and the Possibilities of a Catholic Science.” There is also a section on science in my sophiological casebook, The Heavenly Country. So don’t hand me this “anti-science” nonsense.


Really, my interlocutor’s accusations are absurd, not only because of my track record, but also because science as it is today is anything but a univocal belief system. I have been appalled—as everyone should be—at how esteemed mainstream scientists and physicians have been canceled and deplatformed for opposing the “official line” coming from various governmental and nongovernmental agencies over the past two years. I also find the performative altruism of BigPharma risible. Call me crazy, but I just can’t take seriously that the guys and dolls who brought us the opioid crisis have suddenly become the benefactors of humanity. This is certainly connected to my absolute disdain for vulture capitalism—even more egregious when married to socialism (which is the portrait drawn in Huxley’s Brave New World)—and that is the crowning feature of our new world order.


To be honest, while I love science, what we see in the corporate-governmental-pharmaceutical superstructure is a demonic parody of the altruism of which science is capable. But this is nothing new. Look at all (or nearly all) of the major problems we face—environmental degradation foremost among them—and without devoting too much speculation to it, you will find that they were all created by “science” (which is not science, really, but capitalism or fascism with a syringe). And don’t even get me started on transhumanism. This is not hard to figure out.


What I have been arguing throughout my writing on science is that the science we now have—materialistic and often exploitative—is not what science could (or should) be, and that it has become this way by being cut off from the realm of the spirit, the realm of Sophia. I am not the first to say this. The Vaughans and Fludd said so in the 17th century; Goethe said it in the 18th and 19th; David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake, and Brian Josephson (among others) have said so in our own day.


So don’t hand me this “anti-science” bullshit. It’s just a little bit of nothing.


You saw this coming.

Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine. There are also a few spots open in the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening as Christian Path course being offered at the end of April. See more here.

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  • Michael Martin

In his magisterial, if somewhat long-in-the-tooth study The Waning of the Middle Ages, Jan Huizinga diagnoses the end of that mysterious and wondrous time in decidedly psychological terms. “At the close of the Middle Ages,” writes Huizinga, “a somber melancholy weighs on people’s minds.” [1] As I have written on this blog and in my recent book, Sophia in Exile, I detect a similar melancholy strain in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, originally published by early English publisher Caxton in 1485 during the twilight of those same Middle Ages. The same sensibility resounds in this famous engraving by Dürer:



I raise these points not out of scholarly or antiquarian interests, but because I see the same cultural development all around me. We, too, are living during a cultural decline and deflation characterized by melancholy; and I would argue that the “pandemic” (read “plague” if you want) is not so much a cause but a symptom of this degeneration.

Like the medieval period, our times are a blend of superstition and ignorance combined with blind faith and an increasingly feudal societal structure. I see superstitious belief in “the science,” which has taken over the authority once held by the Church, replete with the punishment of heretics. I see ignorance widespread, but particularly in college students, who don’t seem to know much about anything for the most part. They’re completely ignorant about history—even the Holocaust—religion, philosophy, politics. I could go on. I noticed this decades ago when I started teaching, but it is far worse (and even more depressing to behold) now. As I said to a class yesterday, “If you don’t ask the Life Questions now, when will you? How can you learn to Live in Truth if you’ve never thought seriously about what Truth is?” People really don’t go to college looking for answers to these questions anymore; their aims, though no fault of their own making, are more utilitarian. As a result, the last generation or so is more susceptible to the influence of propaganda, and ours is certainly the Golden Age of Propaganda, aided and augmented by the pernicious prevalence of social media and surveillance technologies. Perhaps students can’t grapple with the Life Question because they’ve been trained by these technologies to avoid them in order to avoid social and technological ostracization and recrimination. But what should one expect when even a Supreme Court nominee can’t answer simple question about biology?

Unlike the earlier age, our own is not suffused by a religious culture. So we don’t get the consolation Heaven, only the threat of a technocratic Hell. “You’ll own nothing and be happy” is the promise of the new manorial barons to their ignorant and obedient serfs. We should expect nothing less: we’ve been chemically and technologically lobotomized.

All this is to say that we are now living in a New Dark Age. There is simply no other way to describe it.

Nikolai Berdyaev saw all of this over a hundred years ago. In his book The End of Our Time, first published in Russian in 1919, Berdyaev, taking the mantle of prophet, looks into the future: “The time is coming fast when everyone will have to ask himself whether ‘progress’ was progress or whether it was a most vicious ‘reaction,’ a movement away from the meaning of the universe and the authentic foundations of life.” [2] He wrote this under the threats of Communism and Socialism, “the end and crown of all contemporary history,” a phrase he used as the opposite of a compliment. [3]

Berdyaev, however, also prophesied the coming of what he called “The New Middle Ages.” He did not propose a retrograde movement to the past, but traced the trajectorial habits of history to predict what would happen next: an era of universality, that was also a feature of the earlier Middle Ages: “The idea of universality so characteristic of the middle ages has ceased to have any influence in ours. It is only when human personality is rooted in the universal, in the cosmos, that it finds an ontological ground to give it its chief substance.” [4] But his vision also has economic and social implications:

By this path we should be obliged to revive rural economy and return to trades, organizing ourselves into economic association and trade corporations. The town will have to link up with the country again, and competition be replaced by co-operation. The principle of private property will be kept as an eternal foundation, but will be limited and spiritualized in application: no more of those scandalous huge private fortunes with which we are so familiar. There will be no pretence at equality, but neither will there be avoidable hunger and poverty. We shall have to have a much more simple and elementary material culture and a spiritual culture that is more complex.” [5]

The future, that is, is a religious one. It is also a Distributist one (if only the alleged Distributitists would stop reading The Hobbit for five minutes and actually do something.) But Berdyaev also has something to say about woman in this future (and he doesn’t need to be a biologist to do so):

It seems to me that women will be very much to the fore in the new middle ages; an exclusively masculine culture was undermined by the war [WWI], and in these later most trying years the influence of women has been considerable and their achievements recognized as great. Woman is bound more closely than man to the soul of the world and its primary elemental forces, and it is through her that he reaches communion with them. Masculine culture is too rationalizing, out of touch with the mysteries of universal life: this is corrected through woman. Women are filling a notably important role in the present religious revival; as in the gospel, they are predestined to be the myrrh-bearers. Day is the time of the exclusive predominance of masculine culture; at night the feminine element receives her rights…. It is the eternal feminine that has so great a future in coming history, not the emancipated woman or epicene creature” [6]

All he describes here, of course, is the essence of Sophiology.

In this regard, I can’t help but think of Nimue’s enchantment of Merlin in Le Morte Darthur. Merlin enthralled by Nimue, and who “allwayes he lay aboute to have hir maydynhode” is tricked by Nimue into divulging his magical power, by which she entraps him in a stone. I think we can interpret this as a prediction of the aged and decrepit masculine magic of the technological and of war being arrested (not killed) by the feminine. Remember: even the grievously wounded Arthur repairs to the Isle of Avalon to be healed of his hurts by a community of women, and is one day promised to return as the Rex Quandam, Rexque Futurus, the Once and Future King.

So, I think we are indeed living in a Dark Age, but I also think we live upon the cusp of a New Middle Ages. But nothing is guaranteed. I think the present Archons also see this movement—and are doing their utmost to hold on to their power through the same tools that destroyed Arthur’s realm: war, magic (or technology to you and me), and a profound misunderstanding of the feminine.

I predict most of our institutions, now faltering, will soon fail, despite the machinations of the Archons. The medical-corporate-industrial complex will implode. The educational system will do likewise. Lastly, it will happen to governments. With them our understanding of economics will undergo a vast realignment.

So what will come in their place? Time to start planning.



Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine. There are also a few spots open in the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening as Christian Path course being offered at the end of April. See more here.

1, J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages (Edward Arnold, 1924), 22.

2. Nicholas Berdyaev, The End of Our Time, trans. Donald Attwater (Sheed & Ward, 1935), 76.

3. Ibid., 78-79.

4. Ibid., 85.

5. Ibid., 95.

6. Ibid., 117-18.

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