The Three Apostasies in the Spiritual Death

The title of this post is of course a play on The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life by the late, great theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. It is a wonderful little work of ascetical and mystical theology, accessible to the layman without sacrificing rigor, and extremely edifying in its content. As the title suggests, it deals with the initial conversion from mortal sin to sanctifying grace, then the two “dark nights” that punctuate the Illuminative and Unitive Ways, which together make up the normal progression of the blessed soul on her way to eternal union with God.

I would like to suggest that for evil men, there are likewise three great turning points or nights in the interior being; but rather than conversions, these are apostasies or fallings-away. Whereas the three conversions draw the soul ever closer to God, these apostasies separate the soul from God and unite her to the devil.

The first apostasy, of course, consists in the commission of one mortal sin. Grace is forcefully expelled from the soul by the sinner, and he is now on something like the Purgative Way — except instead of purifying him from fleshly inclinations to sin, he is strengthening his receptivity to temptation and purging the influence of his conscience. Subsequent sins come with a diabolical reward for rejecting God’s grace: an addictive thrill which, however, never lasts and cannot bring happiness.

In time this reward is withdrawn, and it can be said in a perverse sense that the devil is testing his pupil. This is the first night and the beginning of the second apostasy. To mature in his evil, a man has to proceed from his rejection of God for the sake of his feelings to a purer rejection based on the assertion of his will. He is asked to continue to reject God’s infinite love even though it no longer brings him any pleasure to do so.

If he perseveres through this first night, he enters onto something like an inversion of the Illuminative Way. One could say that in some sense, whether he realizes it or not, he is already a satanic adept, because he is already being conformed to the Law of Thelema. If in his former pursuit of pleasure he sinned against the Father, in this destitute and obstinate state he sins in a special way against the Son Who came to call him back to the Father’s house lest he die of wretchedness and hunger. I would imagine that whereas on the Illuminative Way, God begins to communicate His deep mysteries to His beloved in momentary flashes of infused contemplation, so the devil in mockery sends a messenger to communicate the mystery of iniquity to the adept. He might say something like: You do not yet realize your importance. I have very great plans for you. Continue on this way, and I will teach you a little more.

At this point, if he hasn’t already done so, the adept may forge a pact with the devil, and he may at times manifest preternatural abilities.

This is followed by the onset of the second night. In this night the adept is stripped of his very humanity. Everything human left in his soul is gradually replaced by something demonic. His own will struggles to find expression as the devil dominates his personality more and more. It is impossible to comprehend how he lives; the sheer gratuitous malice with which he acts cannot be explained by any human motive; he willingly endures horrible sufferings for the sake of furthering the satanic agenda.

When the purgation of all humanity in his soul is complete, the result is the inversion of the Unitive Way: union with the devil in perfect possession. This truly is a sin against the Holy Ghost, the unforgivable sin, because the human will is so constantly and perfectly submerged that the possessed person is incapable of repentance. Only a stupendous miracle of grace can save him at this point; it could be said that although the husk continues to walk the earth, the soul is already in hell. There is not a single moment when she is not being tormented by the demons that inhabit her.

Remember that while the sins of the flesh are the most shameful, the spiritual sins have the greatest malice. A man who has intercourse with demons will generally be a profoundly spiritual person. He knows from experience the reality of spirits, and this reality dominates his entire life. His outward appearance might be upstanding; the adept has so dominated the flesh that he can present whatever comportment he wishes. He may practice many natural virtues and set an admirable example in secular life. Yet he is profoundly evil, and the mark of this will be his aversion to anything truly holy. He cannot make use of any holy thing unless he somehow perverts it or mocks it.

Perhaps you know someone who fits this description. Pray for him, for God’s sake. And avoid his company if you can.

Arboretus