Of Paladins

I’m starting this article very late at night, so it will be neither long nor beautiful. But the idea has come, so I will simply write it down.

Reni's Michael

In tabletop games, video games, fantasy literature, and certain genres of anime, magical warfare can figure prominently. The portrayal of the magician or warrior-priest and his brand of warfare is never true to life, however, for that would be boring. Instead, fireballs fly from hands, luminous sigils rotate in the air deflecting magic missiles, explosions and laser beams pepper the sky, & cetera.

A real magician conducts his ritual, even if it is to attack someone, in a quiet place set aside for that purpose, not out in the street or on a physical battlefield. Why does he do this? Ultimately it is to mock the true religion, whose public rites are celebrated in churches and oratories specially consecrated for that purpose and no other. Or, considering the nature of spiritual warfare, it is obviously a kind of spiritual operation. This means that the chief instruments, or weapons and armor, will be the spiritual powers of the soul, namely the will and intellect. The war in heaven before the fall of Adam was like this: an unimaginably brutal struggle, but without carnage, because it was a direct confrontation of angelic wills, without the need for material media such as weapons to destroy bodily organs. Therefore there is no need for the combatants to see each other, to trade barbs or blows, to shoot lightning from their fingertips, or fly through the air. All that is needed is the will and the means to focus it. This means, at bare minimum, an area that is quiet and free of distractions, and such is the philosopher’s chariot. But insofar as the wise combatant will invoke the assistance of his allies, he will also prosecute his war from a place that is holy to them.

Likewise, a paladin in real life is not a slayer of dragons, at least not primarily. His main foe is incomprehensibly more fearful than any beast. The lowest demon is vastly more intelligent and more powerful than any material creature. The depth of the ugliness and hatred within the evil spirit is alone enough to rob men of their will to resist, that is, their hope. The trope of the paladin diminishes the actual burden borne by the soldier of Christ, because it is too terrible for fiction. Therefore the demon is made into a mere dragon, mercifully visible and mortal, however evil.

The destruction of the whole universe at the hands of some extracosmic Lovecraftian horror is insignificant next to the loss experienced by a soul that commits one mortal sin. Yes, we real life paladins have it far worse than our fantasy analogs. Swords and shields are useless against our enemies. Thankfully, however, we have even more powerful allies: our guardian angels, their captain Saint Michael, and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Rosary. This is the Catholic layman’s main weapon against the forces of evil. I am not using a figure of speech when I call it a powerful weapon. That is literally what it is.

In spiritual combat, true doctrine serves as armor. If that doctrine can be compromised in the intellect, then the darkness and confusion that result leave the will susceptible to desire a false good. If only we can be made to lay down our armor by disregarding the truth, then to be struck by the Enemy’s weapon — the Enemy’s will — is to turn against our divine King and so against ourselves. The peculiar way of spiritual combat is that victory is attained through freedom rather than force. That of our Enemy would come through our free alliance with him. Our own victory would consist in our free alliance with God. The will is the weapon: the battle is for love.

The Rosary is not a string of beads, it is not a mere collection of words, it is a prayer. It is actualized in the lifting of the intellect and will to our Savior. The Christian knight contemplates the truths of the faith, the mysteries of the life of Christ, and wills to be a part of them. He calls upon God the Father and Our Lady for assistance. For fifteen minutes a day he actively draws his attention, his body, his words, his thoughts, his desires, in a word, everything that he is, away from the world, and offers it all to God in union with his crucified Lord. It is not a frivolous thing and very difficult to do well. Luckily, we have Our Lady to provide for our tremendous failings. Satan is terrified of her and lies in wait for her heel to crush his head.

True philosophy is a science, and as such, its object is ultimately contemplative: to unite the created intellect to its Creator. However, we may justly say without exaggeration that the false philosophy of today is a form of magical war. It is part of a concerted attack on the part of the legions of hell to pry souls away from the love of God. Modern philosophy proposes sundry false objects in His place. It instructs men to value operation above all things, to exalt the self-willed man who wields godlike powers over the world and perfects it in his own image. Mankind has literally fallen under the spell of modern philosophy, having become a race of magicians in everything except perhaps the name. But the spellbound man does not know that he is under a spell. Therefore, with the whole world enchanted, enchantment appears to be disenchantment, and the magician does not know that he is a magician. Only when the spell is broken can one clearly see the awful madness that has taken the rest of mankind. The sense of loss, of isolation, of unfathomable pain, is too great for words. You cannot imagine it until you experience it for yourself.

And yes, all this is very real — far more real than the ennui that masks it. We fight a real hidden war for the future of mankind under the banner of a cause long presumed lost. We want you to join our ranks.

Arboretus