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The Interpretation of History by Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich is generally considered one of the century's outstanding and influential thinkers. After teaching theology and philosophy at various German universities, he came to the United States in 1933. For many years he was Professor of Philosophical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, then University Professor at Harvard University. His books include Systematic Theology; The Courage to Be; Dynamics of Faith; Love, Power and Justice; Morality and Beyond; and Theology of Culture. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

I: The Demonic

A. The picture of the demonic

The art of primitive peoples and Asiatics, embodied in statues of their Gods and fetishes, in their crafts, and dance masks, has been brought closer to us in the last decade, not only as ethnological material but also as artistic and religious reality. We have noticed that these objects matter to us, since in them are expressed depths of reality which had, to be sure, escaped our consciousness, but in subconscious strata had never ceased to determine our existence. The history of art and religion, together with the new psychology of the subconscious have opened the way to these realities, whose description, interpretation, and evaluation, of course, are still in their beginnings, but must, when continued, decisively influence our culture.

It is a peculiar tension that these things contain, in consequence of which they were so long inaccessible to our Occidental consciousness. They bear forms, human, animal, and plant, which we understand as such, recognizing their conformity to artistic laws. But with these organic forms are combined other elements which shatter our every conception of organic form. We cannot interpret this as want of artistic power, as a primitive lack of development, as a limitation of an aptitude for artistic form, and thereby characterize this whole tremendous human production as without cultural value. We must rather watch these elements, which break through organic form, lead to a peculiar, in itself necessary and expressive, artistic form, in the face of which to speak of lack of form would betray only unfamiliarity and failure of comprehensim. Those destructive elements themselves, which disrupt the organic form, are elements of the organic; but they appear in such a manner that they violate radically the organic coherence presented in nature. They break forth in a way which mocks all natural proportion; they appear with a strength, a widespread frequency, in transformations which, to be sure, still permit one to recognize the organic foundation but at the same time make of it something completely new. The organs of the will for power, such as hands, feet, teeth, eyes, and the organs of procreation, such as breasts, thighs, sex organs, are given a strength of expression which can mount to wild cruelty and orgiastic ecstasy. It is the vital forces which support the living form; but when they become overpowerful and withdraw from the arrangement within the embracing organic form, they are destructive principles. That it is possible to grasp these creative primeval powers as they break through organic form and to subordinate them to the unity of artistic creation is perhaps the most astonishing thing which these sculptures and masks reveal to us. For it demonstrates one thing irrefutably: There is something positively contrary to form that is capable of fitting into an artistic form. There exists not only a lack of form but also a contradiction of form; there exists not only something less positive but also something contra-positive. Only by denying, on principle, the esthetic qualities of a negro sculpture or a Shiva picture, could one escape this conclusion, i.e., by making classical esthetics absolute. Whoever cannot assent to this conclusion, must admit that human art reveals to us the actuality of that which is positively contrary to form, the demonic.

What human art reveals for the present, directly and impressively, the history of religion confirms with inexhaustible material. In the vital-orgiastic nature cults, as well as in the religions of social-ethical and mental formation even in the field of the religions of grace, innumerable events and ideas can be found which correspond to that artistic formation. Holy demonries are present alike in the orgiastic phallic cults with their ritualistic destruction of the creative potency, and in ritual prostitution with unconditional surrender of the generative faculties in the service of the divinity—attitudes which, with their demonic elements, are to be found in the highest forms of ascetic-erotic mysticism. Holy demonries in a highly purified form exist in the intoxicated laceration-myths and orgies, which reecho in the sacral sacrifice of the divinity; they exist in the blood sacrifice to the god of earth who devours life in order to create life—the original model of the man-destroying demonry of economics. Holy demonries are present in the cult of the war gods, who consume strength in order to give strength—the original model of the demonry of war. An outstanding symbol of holy demonry is Moloch, who for the sake of saving Polis devours their first-born—the original of all political demonry. The symbol most impressive for our time, comprehending the final depth of holy demonry, is the "Grand Inquisitor," as Dostoievsky visualized and placed him opposite Christ: the religion which makes itself absolute and therefore must destroy the saint in whose name it is established—the demonic will to power of the sacred institution.

These realities everywhere contain the same tension as the creations of pre-classic human art: the embracing form, which unites in itself a formative and a form-destroying element, and therewith affirms something contra-positive. Here, too, one could escape this conclusion only by denying the cultural character of the whole non-humanistic history of mankind, its state and legal construction, its mentality and cults.

The tension between form-creation and form-destruction upon which rests the demonic, comprises the boundary between the latter and the Satanic, in which destruction is symbolized without creation—is only symbolized—because the Satanic has no actual existence, unlike the demonic. In order to have existence, it would have to be able to take on form, i.e., to contain an element of creation. The Satanic is the negative, destructive principle, inimical to meaning, which is effective in the demonic, in connection with the positive, creative meaningful principle. The symbol of Satan isolates the destructive from the creative element and makes an independent principle. Therefore, the Satanic cannot be carried into reality even where there is the will to do so; e.g., the attempt to Satanize the Church Mass in the Black Mass is partly an unproductive imitation, partly a relapse into the orgiastic demonries of religious history. It is true that the demonic approximates the Satanic and becomes merely empty and negative. This similarity can reach a point where the impression of the absoluteness of the Satanic arises. A penetrating analysis, however, will always be able to ascertain the positive demonic residue. Even where Satan is characterized as the tempter, the demonic element is obvious. For a temptation which is not rooted in the creative powers of the created beings—has no point of contact, is not a temptation, because it contains no dialectics, no "yes" and "no." Mythologically speaking Satan is the foremost of the demons; ontologically speaking he is the negative principle contained in the demonic.

The dialectics of the demonic explain the vacillating verbal usage of the word "demonic." If the word has not yet become an empty slogan, its basic meaning must always be retained: the unity of form-creating and form-destroying strength. That is true of the demon who determines the great destiny which disrupts all forms of existence; it is true of the demon who drives the personality beyond the limits of its allotted form to creations and destructions it cannot grasp as its own. Where the destructive quality is lacking, one can speak of outstanding power, of genius, of creative force, not of demonry. And vice versa, where destruction is evidenced without creative form, it is fitting to speak of deficiencies, flaws, decline or the like, but not of demonry. In culture influenced by Humanism the tendency exists to place the demonic in closer connection with form and to trace back the great destiny as well as the great creation directly to the demon without reference to its negative character. But in the long run this results in an emptying of the concept. On the other hand, in deeply religious times the demonic is brought so close to the Satanic that the creative potency disappears and the concept therewith becomes unreal. The depth of the demonic is the dialectical quality in it.

B. The depth of the demonic

The demonic contains destruction of form, which does not come from without, does not depend on deficiency or powerlessness, but originates from the basis of the form itself, the vital as well as the intellectual. To understand this connection is to grasp what is meant by the concept demonic, in its truth and inevitability, that is, in its metaphysical essence. The way to this understanding passes through an analysis of the basic relationship to existence underlying all our connections with existence, theoretical and practical. When we look through the strata of the relation which joins every thing with every other, that is, through its interrelationship with the world, then a depth in the thing may be disclosed to us, which we can designate as the pure existentiality of things, their being supported by the basis of existence, their sharing in the abundance of existence. This foundation and this suggestion by things of "another thing," which is still no other thing, but a depth in the things, is not rational, i.e., demonstrable from the interrelation of things with the world; and the "other," to which the things point, is nothing discoverable by a rational process, but a quality of things which reveals—or conceals—a view into its depths. We say of this depth, that it is the basis of being of things, whereby "being" is taken absolutely, transcendently as the expression of the secret into which thinking cannot penetrate, because, as something existing, it itself is based thereon. In order to say this, however, we must also say something else: that the depth of things, their basis of existence, is at the same time their abyss; or in other words, that the depth of things is inexhaustible. If it were not inexhaustible, and if it could be exhausted in the form of things, then there would be a direct, rational designable way from the depth of things to their form; then the world could be comprehended as the necessary and unequivocal unfolding of the basis of existence; then the supporting basis would pour out entirely into the cosmos of forms; then the depth would cease to be depth, ceasing to be transcendental, absolute. Every one of our relations in existence, however, suggests that it is directed to something which, despite its finiteness, shares the inexhaustibility of existence. Only through this is it guarded from plunging into the abyss of exhaustibility and emptiness, from succumbing to lack of being and meaning. The inexhaustibility denoted here, however, is not to be interpreted as passive inexhaustibility, as a resting ocean, which any subject, form, or world fails to exhaust, but it is to be understood as an active inexhaustibility, as a productive inner infinity of existence, i.e., as the "consuming fire," that becomes a real abyss for every form. Thus the inexhaustibility of being is simultaneously the expression for the fullness, the power of being and meaning of everything and the expression for the inner insecurity, limitation and the fate of everything to succumb to the abyss.

Form of being and inexhaustibility of being belong together. Their unity in the depth of essential nature is the divine, their separation in existence, the relatively independent eruption of the "abyss" in things, is the demonic. An absolutely independent eruption of the "abyss," a mere devouring of every form, would be the Satanic, which for that very reason cannot take form or come to existence. In the demonic, on the other hand, the divine, the unity of bottom and abyss, of form and consumption of form, is still contained; therefore the demonic can come to existence only in the tension of both elements. The tension is really in everything which is produced by the creative power. The impulse for formation inherent in everything and filling it and the horror of decay of form is founded on the form-quality of existence. To come into being means to come to form. To lose form means to lose existence. At the same time, however, there dwells in everything the inner inexhaustibility of being, the will to realize in itself as an individual the active infinity of being, the impulse toward breaking through its own, limited form, the longing to realize the abyss in itself. The living form with the fullness and limits of its existence results from the conjoined effect of both tendencies. From the isolation and formless eruption of the abyss results demonic distortion. Demonry is the form-destroying eruption of the creative basis of things.

C. The existence of the demonic

The demonic is fulfilled in the spirit, not in "spirits," i.e., beings which are defined only through being demons. Even "spirits"—if this concept has an objective meaning— are first living forms, that is, "natures," in which demonic phenomena, ecstasies and frenzies, can appear or not appear. The affirmation of the demonic has nothing to do with a mythological or metaphysical affirmation of a world of spirits. But it is true that only in personalities does the demonic receive power, for here the form not only grows by nature, is not only imprinted on existence, but confronts existence by demanding something and appealing to the freedom and self-mastery of living persons. Therefore here the destruction of form becomes an intellectual contradiction, the actual uprising of the abyss against the form. And yet here only is completed the movement inherent in everything existent and observable in all nature: namely, the vital original forces, which rush out beyond all form into the boundless and yet can enter reality only through form, the inner restlessness of everything living, the inability to have power over oneself and grasp one’s own being as one’s own and come to rest therein. Therefore mystical and artistic symbolism likes to descend into the sub-human sphere for a presentation of the demonic; for there the vital powers with their creative-destructive force are expressed unhindered by the human spiritual form. And yet, for example, the forms of the animal-like demons are given a connection with the human form through which they are raised above the mere animal. Thus there exists here again a peculiar kind of dialectics: the demonic comes to fulfillment in the mind, but the forces which rule destructively in the demonic, are directly visible in the sub-mental. The strongest picture of the demonic is a union of elements of the animal sphere and elements of the mental sphere but in a distorted form, for it contains this dual dialectics of creative and destructive, of mental and sub-mental.

The demonic comes to fulfillment in personality, and personality is the most prominent object of demonic destruction, for personality is the bearer of form in its totality and unconditioned character. Therefore, the contradiction of it, the cleavage of personality, is the highest and, most destructive contradiction. Therewith the inner tension of the demonic is disclosed in a new stratum: the personality, the being which has power over itself, is grasped by another power and is thereby divided. This second power is not the law of nature. Demonry is not a relapse to a pre-mental stage of existence. Mind remains mind. In comparison with nature it remains the being which has power over itself. Something else, at the same time, takes possession of it. The other, thing contains the vital forces; at the same time, however, it is spiritual and—spirit-distorting. It is the "possessed" state, through which demonry is realized in personality. The possessed state, however, is cleavage of the personality. The freedom of the personal, its power over itself is founded in its unity, in the synthetic character of consciousness. The possessed state is the attack on the unity and freedom, on the center of the personality. Cleavage of consciousness has always been held a sign of the possessed state. Hence the myth of the demon dwelling in the spirit, who bears other witness than the spirit itself and does other things than the personal center would permit. The statement that this is a case of illness, of physical origin does not change the metaphysical evaluation of the fact. Furthermore, not every spiritual disease can be interpreted as a possessed state. Simple physical decay is exactly the opposite of demonic might. The demonic is visible only when the cleavage of the ego has an ecstatic character, so that with all its destructiveness, it is still creative. Thus, e.g., do the possessed in evangelical history recognize Christ as Christ. There is a. state which is the correlative of the possessed state and at the same time the conquest of it: namely, the state of grace; which the free, rational, synthetic consciousness does not achieve.

The possessed state and the state of grace correspond; the states of being demoniacally and divinely overcome, inspired, broken through, are correlatives. In both phenomena it is the creative original forces which, bursting the form, break into the consciousness. In both instances the spirit is raised out of its autonomous isolation; in both instances subjugated to a new power, which is not a natural power but grows out of the deeper stratum of the abyss which also underlies nature. The paradox of the possessed state is as strong as the paradox of the state of grace; the one is as little to be explained as the other by causal thinking by categories of rational observation of nature. The difference is only that in the state of grace the same forces are united with the highest form which contradict the highest form in the possessed state. Therefore grace has a fulfilling and form-creating effect on the bearer of the form, while demonry has the consequence of destroying the personality through robbing it of being and emptying it of meaning. Divine ecstasy brings about an elevation of the being, of creative and formative power; the demonic ecstasy brings about weakening of being, disintegration and decay. Demonic inspiration does indeed reveal more than rational sobriety; it reveals the divine, but as a reality which it fears, which it cannot love, with which it cannot unite. This relationship of divine and demonic ecstasy is the explanation of why in religious history the state of grace could so often change into a possessed state and why the moralistic attitude in religion denies both alike.

The demonic appears as a breaking into the center of personality, as an attack on the synthetic unity of the spirit, as a superindividual and yet not natural power. Its dwelling is in the subconscious level of the human soul. The peculiar disunity between the natural-character and the strange-character of frenzy results from the observation that in the possessed state elements of the subconscious arise which, to be sure, constantly give the personality its vital impulse, its immediate fullness of life, but which in a normal state are prevented from entering into consciousness. What we name these elements depends on the symbols by which the subconscious is interpreted. The symbols can be poetic, metaphysical, psychological, but always remain symbols, that is, indications rather than concepts. Whether one speaks of the "will to power" or of the "chaos" or of the "ego-instinct" or of the "libido"—in each instance feelings or events of the formed consciousness are used as symbols of unformed psychic depth. Only thus can be explained the universal and therefore improper use of the will to power in Nietzsche, the sexual in Freud. The choice of symbols, of course, is not accidental, but shows the direction in which the character of the soul is sought. If, without the purpose of fixation, we designate impulse for power and impulse for Eros as the two polar and yet related forces of the subconscious, we best arrive at a comprehension of the demonries pointed out above, represented in art and ritual, and we do justice best also to the various aspects of the possessed state. The poetical, metaphysical and psychoanalytic explorations of soul have equally shown how the vital forces of the subconscious support even the finest and most abstract mental acts and instill them with the "blood" that makes the spirit creative, but that can also limit and destroy the spiritual form. This dialectical opposition of the vital and the mental is to be seen in every conscious act. It rules the whole process of personal life. The subconscious rises to demonic power when it subjugates the consciousness, but in such a way that consciousness is driven above itself first to creative-destructive, finally only to destructive, eruptions. If, therefore, it is also justifiable to designate the demonic as the eruption of the subconscious and its vital forces, this definition is still not sufficient. The peculiar "abysmal," ecstatic, overpowering, creative quality, the power of bursting the limits of personality must be added to the description. This quality, however, is not necessarily added to the subconscious. It is something new, which cannot be exhausted by the alternative, conscious-subconscious. Psychologically, the demonic belongs just as much to the subconscious, from which it originates, as to the conscious, into which it pours. Just as in the demonic picture, here is shown that the duality of the categories does not suffice to grasp the object. The demonic, as well as the divine, forces us to form a third category, for which, to be sure, we seek the approach from the other two, but which cannot be resolved into them.

The dual relation of the demonic to the conscious and the subconscious, to the mental and the sub-mental, to the human and the animal, to form and chaos, will perhaps become most distinctly visible if from the personality we turn to society, from the psychical to the social demonry. Here, too, the psychology of the subconscious helps us to come closer to the things, insofar as it has sociological application. The same vital original forces that we have summed up as the impulse of Eros and the impulse of power, also control the social demonry. But again—and here still more emphatically—it must be said: Not only the elevation of the will to power and the forces of Eros is demonry, but their ecstatic, spirit-supported, spirit-forcing and spirit-destroying outbreak. It is the character of abyss, the overpowerful, the possessed state, which also characterizes social demonry. Therefore sacral demonry is the root and original type of all social demonry, for in the sacral, in the holy sphere, the abyss, the absolutely powerful, the transcendent which breaks into reality is at stake. But the sacral sphere is not the only dwelling of the demonic, for the "abyss" also gives power to the acts of mind and fields of meaning, in which not the abyss is immediately at stake but the norms and forms of culture which grow out of it. And therefore in the devotion of the mind to these fields of culture the abyss can also show itself as creative-destructive, mental-sub-mental, without being the intention of an expressly religious act.

Social demonry, like all demonries, becomes effective in a spiritual, meaningful form. The simple lack of form, the weakness of a social structure is naturally not demonic. Demonry is the reign of a superindividual, sacred form which supports life, which at the same time contains the force of destruction in such a way that the destructive power is essentially connected with its creative power. Such are the holy demonries of the sphere of power and Eros, which are suggested above; such the profane demonries of the same sphere, of which we shall come to speak below. Not in chaos, but in the highest, most strongly symbolic form of a time is the social demonry to be sought. Only there does it win its power. The object of demonic destruction is the personality standing in social connection and the social structure itself, which is built up by the former. Thus we have here not a question of the cleavage of the personality by the powers of its own psychical depth, but of the breaking, of personality by the superindividual social structure. There is, on the part of society, a need of destroying the individual will, going as far as the destruction of its physical foundation, which must be affirmed as a sacrifice of the natural arbitrary will for the sake of moral demands. In this very sacrifice of direct existence the personality reveals its freedom, the character of being personality. Insofar as the claim to this sacrifice is made by the community, it is not demonic. The breaking of the personality becomes demonic at the moment when Will to Power and Eros abuse the social form and its just claim to sacrifice for their destructive aim. There it can come not only to an annihilation of the physical foundation of the personality, but also to a breaking of the personal quality itself. The demonry of the state, church, and economics is visible when the holiness of these social forms, their right to sacrifices, is misused destructively—wherewith as a result the self-destruction, namely the shaking of the belief in their holiness, is connected. Here, too, the dual face of the demonic shows itself in its terrifying dialectics as it does in the sculptures of primitive religions.

D. Demonry and sin

The demonic is the perversion of the creative, and as such belongs to the phenomena that are contrary to essential nature, or sin. In the creative act in itself the demonic is bottom and depth, but it does not break out as demonic; it supports, but it does not appear; it is bound to the form. It may break through the given form for the sake of a higher one, but it does not break for the sake of breaking. The reality of the demonic is bound to the reality of that which is essence-defying, a sin. It is not, however, justifiable to confuse fuse the two concepts. Sin does not always appear in demonic form. There are certain phenomena, namely those described, in which it rises to demonry. Normally it remains within the limits of uncreative weakness. That does not change its character as sin. It is contrariness to essential nature and therefore is plainly to be denied as contrary to meaning, the separation from absolute being; and it is this, no matter whether it appears as weakness or as ecstatic strength. This difference is not decisive. It does not concern the concept of contrariness to true nature. Rather it concerns its appearance in the life process of the individual and the whole community, and here it is of fundamental importance, for the demonic is that form of contradiction of essence in which the contradiction is united with the essential and creative powers of life.

The significance of the demonic for temptation has already been suggested. It is necessary to understand temptation from the standpoint of the demonic, for thus only can be indicated the positive force that constantly urges us beyond the state of innocence, a force which can become temptation only because it is at the same time the creative power. This connection is seen in the myth of the fall of the angels as well as in the Biblical myth of the serpent. In both instances sin approaches man from a level that lies outside his freedom, although it appeals to his freedom. And both times it is the creative ambition to be like God that leads to the fall, not simply being overcome by sensual nature.

The natural and social existence of sin cannot be understood, either, without the concept of the demonic. The fact of common sin points beyond the freedom of the individual into the pre-conscious strata of nature and into the super-personal existence of the community. What was meant by the doctrine of original sin cannot really be understood without the concept of the demonic. The factor of necessity which clings to sin, the paradox that responsibility and inevitability combine in the essence-defying act, corresponds thoroughly to the dialectics of the demonic, for the latter is characterized by its simultaneous reaching down into the depth of the pre-personal, natural state and out into the super-personal, social state, and yet finds its realization in the center of the personal being. The view of the demonic overcomes the moralist concept of sin. It is no accident that the Enlightenment in the battle against the superstitious understanding of the demonic (a well-founded protest), lost not only the concept of the demonic but also the religious concept of sin.

According to theological tradition the root of sin is distrust of God. In this definition, the religious character of sin is most sharply expressed. This definition also gives us the deepest insight into the nature of the demonic: For distrust of God is demonization of God in human consciousness. Man does not dare surrender to the unconditioned, because he sees the unconditioned as that which judges him, destroys, breaks him. All religious history is filled with this demonization of the divine. It appears most terribly where, with the elimination of all sacramental mediation, man is placed directly before God and experiences his absolute claim and his rejecting wrath; or where, with the disintegration of all life contents, the unconditioned appears as the abyss of nothingness. Here the divine receives a purely demonic character and the battle for grace and for meaning becomes a battle for conquering the demonic gods by the one who is in truth God. Men, in experiencing this terrible view of God as a demon, cannot retain any natural relationship to God. The divinity of God becomes the absolute paradox, which can never be expected and proved. Outside of grace, God is a law, a judgment which drives one to despair. He becomes God—in contrast to the demon—through grace. That is the deepest relation of sin and demonry.

Thus it is shown that a doctrine of sin without the comprehension of the demonic must be robbed of its content. Moreover the present spiritual problem forces one to awaken the understanding of sin from the view of the demonic, for this view becomes more and more universal and stirring and prevails even where the traditional concept of sin remains incomprehensible.


A. Myth and history

The myth traces the great catastrophes of cosmic events back to the battles of the gods and demons. The most significant consideration of the world as history, the Persian, contains the dualism of the divine and demonic power. And this is the principle of its interpretation of history and cosmos, embracing beginning and end. Mythical thinking realizes that ulimate importance can be claimed only by that event in which the absolute is supposed to appear in time. This principle is valid, however, for all historical writing, even the unmythical; or rather: All historical writing which is to be taken seriously must have in it this mythical element by means of which it is raised above a mere description of successive stages of finiteness. This is true also of the rational, the Utopian, of progressive and conservative interpretations of history. They all have within them the myth of original epochs and final epochs or primitive innocency and the fall, but they weaken the mythical element by taking from the absolute the quality of the "beyond" and by being directed exclusively to realization in this world. The myth is rationally superficialized. Historical things lose their transcendence, their symbolic power. Utopianism overlooks the fact of the demonic as an element of all historical creation. It expects an immanent period of history without the demonic powers. It knows nothing of the interrelation of mankind and nature and all being, subject to ambiguity and contrariness to itself. But progress (revolutionary Utopianism that has become tame, so to speak), devaluates every moment of history in favor of the ideal that lies in infinity instead of in eternity. It does not know the creative depth of every moment, its direct contact with the eternal and the character of decision by which the moment is placed between divinity and demonry, being enabled by its decision to take the path of destruction just as well as the path of progress. The conservative interpretation of history, finally, attempts to evade the attack which is directed and must be directed against every historical situation from the point of view of the eternal, because no form, no matter how traditionally holy, can escape demonization. These critical remarks show that an interpretation of history is demanded which is based on the mythical consciousness, the insight into the dialectics of the divine and the demonic. It must not speak in the mythological symbols of the past, but in symbols which, in all their rationality, contain the indication of the transcendence of history.

Only when viewed as history of salvation has history an absolute meaning. This character, of course, lies in its depth; it cannot become a principle of presentation. It cannot be brought to the surface of historical reports. Then it becomes one principle among others and loses its power of giving meaning to history. It must remain background and depth. The real observation of history has to do with the phenomena which are perceptible but in which the depth can manifest itself: the battle of the divine against the demonic, the powerful coming of "salvation."

Every historical event can become a symbol for this view—fates of nations and individual figures, the battle of political groups and mass movements. The meaning of historical growth takes on a conscious symbolic form, however, in the cultural forms of a time, a group, an individual: first and fundamentally in the religious symbols, then, secondarily, but of decisive significance for certain times, in artistic, philosophical, and social symbols.

We shall speak of individual symbols of this kind and developments of symbols. They shall be interpreted as the expression of a definite creative situation, a factor in the conflict of the divine and the demonic. The certainty that this conflict is decided in eternity does not relieve us of the duty of working toward a concrete solution in finite time, in which the eternal decision appears. Every one is bound to those solutions at every moment, and knowingly or not, works along in one direction or the other. No individual consciousness of salvation can relieve one of the responsibility for history and its concrete decisions.

B. The battle against the demonic in the history of religion

The demonic is the negative and positive presupposition of the history of religion. From the demonic depth arise all the higher, individual, historically wrought forms of religion; in the battle with the demonic they gain their peculiar form; in the demonic element, which never disappears as the basis, they exert their compulsory power over consciousness.

Aside from the peculiar, as yet unfathomed phenomena of the apparently undemonic, unritual and uncultural creator-divinities, one can say: The less formed a religion is, the less is the demonic distinguished in it from the anti-demonic, the divine. The sacral quality, which is adjudged to most things and events, even to the parts of many things, gives everything a simultaneously divine and demonic character. That which is formed and that which is contrary to form, that which is meaningful and that contrary to meaning are alike considered holy. In the great cultural religions, all-embracing systems of a theoretical and practical kind are achieved. The individual, accidental thing receives its holiness from this general, necessary thing and has no holiness outside it. The holy is embraced in divine figures which have symbolic force for this sphere, for this field of meaning. But the relation of these realms of meaning remains doubtful and distorted in this instance also. To each other they remain single, accidental, and therefore demons. Even the raising of one divinity over the others as a monarch does not essentially change this situation. For this monarch among the gods himself rests on a limited, finite foundation. He cannot lose it without becoming the abstract absolute and therewith removing the multiplicity altogether. Therefore it is natural that the other divinities—of strange nations or of his own monarchy—arise against him. The highest god of monarchial monotheism is not capable of overcoming the demonry of the cleavage of the absolute. He remains a demon, a finite thing that wants to exhaust the absolute, and breaks down with his nation through the destructive effects of his demonry. All the gods of the great national cultural religions contain a certain element of contradiction of meaning; indeed, because of their high civilization and meaningfulness the contradiction reaches its fullest expression only in those religions. Because their divinity has become mightier, their demonry has also become more terrible. For the strength of contradiction of meaning grows with the height of the meaningful thing in which it appears. Primitive cannibalism has not by far the demonic strength of the highly cultivated service of Moloch. As a result it also means no liberation from the demonic, if divine figures of defeated cultures are forced into the role of demonic hybrid creatures. Even in this deprivation of might they do not lose their demonic force completely and are prepared at all times to step again into the foreground at a crisis of the ruling divine figures. They have not lost their power, because the victorious gods are themselves full of the demonic.

Nevertheless this division can lead in the sphere of the holy to a radical dualism and with that to one of the most important phenomena in the history of religion, particularly from the point of view of demonry. In the radical dualism all the demonic elements are concentrated in the one and all divine elements in the other divinity, and both confront each other with equal power. It is no accident that the fundamental mythical-metaphysical interpretation of history, in its rhythm and its aim, originated from this ground of highest tension of the anti-demonic battle. But such an interpretation of meaning would not have been possible, indeed this religion would have had to divide the consciousness and therewith conclusively submit to the demon, if the God of light had not been in truth regarded as the final victor and therewith as the true god. The equivalence of the divine and the demonic is impossible. If it is affirmed, then the demonic is in truth dominant. That, however, is not intended in any real religion. The predominance of the divine is maintained, but this predominance is not absolute might. And therefore the dualism is not a victory over the demonic, and cannot be one, because its god of light still bears demonic traits. The light is not a symbol of the absolutely meaningful, of the perfect spiritual figure and unity, but it is the symbol of a natural sphere of being which confronts another natural sphere of being. In this, however, the god of light lacks the real clarity of God, namely that he has absolute control over himself and all being. The religious dualism is the form in which the problem of the history of religion (of heathenism) is most clearly put. The answer, however, is not given in it. Therefore the religions, in which as a principle the conquest of the demonic is striven after, lead beyond the national cultural religions as well as beyond religious dualism.

The oldest form in which consciousness tried to free itself fundamentally from the demonic, is ascetic mysticism. Particularly impressive from this point of view appears the figure of the Hindu penitent, before whom the god-demons tremble, because he drives the world to dissolution with which they are inseparably connected. The radical negation of all forms of being also removes the demonic basis of all being. Only absolute being, pure divinity, is disentangled from the demonic. It is clear that in such a conception, existence is perceived as essentially demonic. The Brahman world-births are just as demonic for the Buddhist, as the Maya-world for later Brahman speculation. That is shown very distinctly when these world-creative principles approach the penitent or monk with the tempting purpose of leading him back from the path of renunciation. If the temptation is refused, that is a shaking of the demonic kingdom, namely the existing world. In Occidental mysticism, the original type of which is Neoplatonism, the demonic elements are exceptionally weakened. That is caused by the preceding profane-antidemonic development of Greece. Here, unlike India, existence is not evaluated purely as decline. It is an overflow of the absolute, superbeing. Yet it has in it a demonic element, matter, the m h _d n , i.e., more than a nothing, that even in Greek philosophy always designated the place of resistance against creative forms and that in Plotinus expresses the changing of light into darkness, of the divine into the anti-devine. The necessity of asceticism, the striving to unite in ecstasy with the superbeing, root in this demonic-material element which clings to existence. Ascetic mysticism knows an overcoming of demonry; but only through overcoming existence. Within existence the demonic can be overcome only in the rare anticipation of perfection through ecstatical experiences. Except for that, it remains in power. The creative forms of being and mind are not considered the expression of divine nature, but as products of demonic delusion or of demiurgic powerlessness. Consequently, the absolute being has the quality of standing beyond the creative forms, and also beyond community and personality. Now, insofar as the destruction of these forms is a mark of the demonic, the absolute of ascetic mysticism itself has a semi-demonic character. When we consider mystical asceticism, this assertion is confirmed. The character of many kinds of this asceticism—destroying personality, community and all form—reminds one of the strongest types of demonry in the primitive and national religions.

In contrast to the mystical way, which eliminates all single forms, is the exclusive way, which excludes all forms in favor of one single one that is freed of demonic quality. Here the form of personality is affirmed as divine. Everything that confronts it with destructive quality is denied. The entire holy sphere, which stands outside the perfect ethical-social idea, is questioned and, insofar as it appears independently, it is combatted as demonic. The multiplicity is not surpassed by an embracing unity or some negative absolute but is combatted and subjugated by one definite power, but exclusively, not monarchically. The "jealous" god is the exclusive anti-demonic one, who bears the spiritual form, and therefore is the true god. For the divinity of God is maintained only where the absoluteness and unity of meaning stand untouched over against all demonic isolation and cleavage. In the development of Jewish prophecy all the essential anti-demonic battle positions are worked out. Jewish prophecy determines the antidemonic character of the Christian-Occidental history of religion up to the present time. In this line of development the dualistic element of ascetic mysticism is excluded. Historical personality is a creation of God and as such undemonic. The opposition to meaning, destruction of form, grows from the will of the creature, not from a demonic-creative principle. It has originated through freedom, not through transcendental creation. The demonic creatures of the past linger on as subordinate attendant figures without divine quality or their own character of holiness. And yet this line of development also tends to a peculiar return of genuinely demonic motives. The exclusive god is the god of a special nation with special cultural character. Now insofar as he makes an exclusive claim he must oppose himself as the god of one particular nation. If his particularity is maintained, as for example in Jewish nationalism, then the god loses the inner right to absoluteness and exclusiveness. If the particularity is rejected, then the presence, the directness, and concreteness of the divine are lost. He disappears in an unapproachable transcendence which severs the immediate relationship between God and man.

A third way of overcoming the demonic is taken on the ground of the sacramental religion itself. One can designate it as the way of the mysteries. It is essential to his character that the god voluntarily turn the demonic destruction against himself and thereby overcome it. The myth of the suffering and dying, of the lowly and incarnated god is the expression of this way. The demonic contradicts itself; the divinity takes the demonic destruction upon itself. The divine appears as an individual, but in such a way that this individual subjects himself to the transcendent negation of every existence. The divine is present as a concrete reality united with man and the creature; but his character as unconditioned remains untouched. His very suffering and death safeguard his divine character insofar as they deny the claim of an individual as an individual to be unconditioned even in the instance that he is the incarnation of God Himself. The antidemonic force of these conceptions depends on how far the mediator-god has overcome the demonic in his character, on the other hand, on how far there has been success in avoiding a cleavage of the divine and therewith a relapse into the folk religions. A mediator-god, who is not the bearer of spiritual personality, but reveals arbitrary elements, is a demon; furthermore a mediator-god, who has divine quality independent of God and not through Him is a demon.

The three ways of overcoming the demonic in the history of religion do not reach the goal through themselves, through their own dialectics. They have an inner limitation which can only be overcome by an original act in history, by a self-manifestation of the unconditioned. Such a manifestation, however, can no longer be grasped by a dialectical interpretation of religious history. It is accessible only to an equally original act, a manifestation of God in the soul. But if it is comprehended thus, it is afterward possible and necessary to point out in what sense it is the attainment of the goal aimed at in religious history, that is, the conquest of the demonic.

The Christological work of the old Church was devoted to this proof. All its formulæ have the purpose of warding off demonic distortions on every hand. The Christological and trinitarian dogma is the powerful evidence of the victorious antidemonic battle of early Christianity. That is its meaning. Therefore it has basic significance for the Church and is more than the mere consequence of the theoretical wish to unite the Gospel and Greek philosophy.

Yet it is beyond any human effort, even the Christian, to escape from the demonic control of everything real. Therefore even the Church has again and again succumbed to demonry. This is true of the sacramental hierarchy of the Catholic Church with its reconstruction of numerous demonries once overcome in earliest Christianity. It is true, despite its fundamentally antidemonic tendency, of the Protestant orthodoxy with its demonry of the pure doctrine. It is true of the total development of Christianity and of the development of every individual in it. And yet the Christian confession contains the certainty that the demonic has been overcome, that there exists the possibility of approaching the God who is truly God. Everything further in this relation is a subject of Christian dogmatics, which in the future, much more than heretofore, must work with the consciousness of being engaged in the battle between the divine and the demonic and therefore of serving the one or the other with every decision which it makes.

C. Profanization and overcoming the demonic

Profanization stands opposite all inner-religious forms of overcoming the demonic. It, too, is a form of combatting the demonic. But it overcomes it by tearing itself free from the divine at the same time. That is naturally not the purpose of the proponents of this method. They combat the demonic for the sake of the purity of the divine; so Greek philosophy opposes the demonry of the Homeric gods, as the Enlightenment attacks the demonries of the Christian confessions. But this battle takes place with weapons other than the inner-religious ones. It takes place with the weapons of rational form. Originally neither the Greek nor modern philosophy felt a contrast between divinity and rational form.

Rather they sought to see and make visible divine clarity in the perfection, completion, and rationality of form. But in the emphasis on divine clarity, the divine depth was lost: that which is inexhaustible, self-manifesting, unconditioned, and transcendent. The divine became the principle of a finiteness resting in itself, statically completed or dynamically moved. Every agitation by demonic depths was warded off. Together with the demonries of the past which really should be combatted, the divine-creative depths of existence were also denied. The fear of demons was removed, Epicurus the perfect naturalist was acclaimed as saviour—which he was to a great extent as regards the heathen fear of demons. The belief in the devil and its gruesome consequences dissolved before the glow of the Enlightenment—and it was indeed enlightenment compared with that possessed state of a whole era. With the fear of demons; however, the fear of the divine also sank away. In Greece the gods were exiled into the sphere between the worlds, where they led a blissful life—according to the picture of the gardens of Epicurus—without the possibility of breaking into the inner and outer world. In the Occident, God becomes the central monad, the synthesis of world forms, the mediator of the objective and subjective spheres, the guarantor of the moral order of the world, a mere limiting concept. He is the consecrating word for the closed world system, for the completed immanence and its rational structure. Thinking is reduced to the two dimensions of form and matter, either in such a relationship that the matter is assumed as already formed, or in such a way that there exists the infinite task of impressing the form on the matter, or as a synthesis of both. The third dimension upward and downward, the divine-demonic, breaking through form, bestowing grace and destruction, is not seen. The negative element is finiteness, deficiency, laziness, but not active resistance, nothing contra-positive. In this manner it is possible to perceive the world and rule it. It offers no basic active resistance. It is capable of rationalization, even though in infinite labor. The mythical categories of creation, origin, miracle, of grace and frenzy, disappear or are sentimentally reinterpreted. The mythical fear of the strangeness in things, which makes it dangerous to touch them, the awe of the traditional holy social powers, which are removed from rational criticism and change, disappears. There is no more taboo, which hinders the will for knowledge and control from subjugating all being. The individual is considered free. The possibility of forming much or little matter, of pushing the limits of the rational far or not so far out, is not limited by anything. For an unfree will, a "servum arbitrium," for this demonic paradoxical thought, there is no room in the two-dimensional world.

And yet there is no possible complete rationalization. In Greece there remains the m h _d n , the matter, which is not only nothingness but is active, unconquerable resistance to form. The religious method of freeing the world of demonry had not penetrated as far as the idea of creation and therefore the profane freeing could not progress further than to this dualism of form and actively resisting matter. With Epicurus and the Stoics matter seemed to be freed of the demonic. But the Stoic concept of fate shows that here, too, the goal was not reached. Thus it came about that at the beginning of the Christian era, antiquity was almost completely overrun with the belief in demons and the Christian Apologists made Christ’s conquest of the demonic a main argument of their defense against heathenism. In the Occident the situation was quite different, since the Christian idea of creation and providence were in the background. The Renaissance therefore begins with an affirmation of the world, such as antiquity never knew, and in Protestantism the final remains of ascetic mysticism which Christianity had accepted are thrust off, and it is affirmed more and more clearly that things are created by God in perfect innocence.. But with this new affirmation of nature is combined a deep realization of the discord in nature itself. Not matter, not the creature as such, but the freedom of the creature creates the dissension. The doctrine of original sin, which Protestantism carries through to the most radical consequences, and which drives it to the boundary of Manichæn dualism, is the expression of the new, view of the Demonic. In certain mystical trains of thought, as with Jakob Böhme, it is expressed in formulations which endow the demonic will with a metaphysical necessity and question the rational freeing of reality from the demonic, indeed actually eliminate it. The heritage of these thoughts, metaphysical pessimism, is the conscious expression of a demonic view of the world in secular philosophy.

Both the tendency to radical overcoming of the demonic and the constant pessimistic reaction characterize the profane. Insofar as the profane is the realization of a pure rational form, it means the overcoming of the demonic; insofar as it must recognize the resistance to the realization of rational form, it falls back into the demonic. It is particularly significant that Kant, the purest representative of rational form, was forced to recognize a principle in the "radical evil," which falls completely outside the rational world view. This doctrine of his was the gateway for the penetration of the demonic pessimistic turn in German Idealism.

The religious situation in the profane, consequently, is this: insofar as the demand that pure form be realized is contained in the divine, profanization is affirmation of the divine. Insofar as absolute transcendence over every form is contained in the divine, the profane means negation of the divine. That is the price which it pays for the overcoming of demonry. As a reaction to this, the demonic constantly enters into the profane, but now as a contrast to the divine, now as that which is destructive of form, actively negative. In the profane the divine is without the depth of the demonic and the demonic without the clarity of the divine. Still the situation is not yet exhausted with this alternative. In the profane there are also recurring combinations of the divine and demonic, realization of form and creative abyss. Through them the profane lives. Pure rationalism, just as pure negation, are the poles toward which the profane always strives. But these poles are never reached, because they contain no possibility of existence. Reality lives between the poles; between them proceeds the mythical battle of the divine and demonic, which fills the profane, too. Of course, it is not directly visible there, for the symptom of the profane is the rational not the mythical. But the battle is still there; and, as in religion, it is a battle between priests of the demonic and prophetical proclaimers of the divine.

An important example of the profane conquest of the demonic is the development of Greek sculpture. The archaic period of Greek art is still completely filled with the mythical-demonic content of the past, and yet the gods of the archaic period are no longer demons in the manner, for example, of Asiatic polytheism. They have the tendency toward the pure form of the human, even if this goal is not yet reached. They are still bound to the severely, hieratical gesture. In the short climax of classicism complete liberation and perfect formation are reached simultaneously. The demonic has disappeared; the divine has remained. The divine has received the character of clarity, of ideal form. The abysmal character, the horrible, consuming quality lingers only insofar as it is needed to protect the clarity from mere shallowness.

This, like all classicism, is a fine dividing line. The form already begins to take over control. Austerity disappears in favor of motion, divinity in favor of human ideality and finally reality. Not even a faint trace of the demonic quality of the archaic period remains. The forms become emptier or fill up with finite dynamics, purely of this world, e.g., of intellectual individuality. At the same time there appears in peculiar dialectics a new demonry. The vital original forces, of course, cannot be expelled, and the eye of realism cannot pass them by. Thus erotic symbolism, the gesture of brutal will to power, the representation of all forms of intoxication, returns in naturalistic dress: a demonry of the profane, which points to the sub-human, because it has lost the demonry in the superhuman.

Later epochs, finally, with their archaic tendencies and their slow loss of formative strength, are the expression of that return to holy-demonic subjection, which shows in all fields, and which found effective realization in the religions of late antiquity. Not demonic-grotesque figures of gods appear here, but a new metaphysical subjection of all earthly creatures and events to the ruling spiritual-transcendental principle: an archaism on a mystical-monotheistic basis.

Another example is the Greek-Occidental development of the drama. It is important above all, because it shows the limits within which there has been any conquest of the demonic in Greece in any sense. The Greek tragedy contains two elements: the continued rule of the demonic in the sphere of fate and the protest against this rule on the part of the heroic, spiritual personality. The personality is ruined through this conflict in the sphere of fate. It over comes the conflict in the sphere of personal freedom. This last division remains unbridged. The power which supports destiny and which forces one to guilt, is a different one from that on which the spiritual-personal formation of the individual and the community is based. Heroic autonomy rises against demonic heteronomy. Insofar as the tragic contains this conflict, tragedy is possible only on a demonic foundation. To this extent there is no Christian tragedy. The Shakesperean drama shows no objective guilt. Guilt arises in the center of the personality, in the sphere of decision. And yet it is not morality that takes the place of demonry. It is the peculiar interweaving of fate and responsibility, to which the Christian doctrine of original sin testifies and upon which the Occidental drama rests. The judgment passed on the guilty one is affirmed, insofar as he bears responsibility for the guilt. No heroic defiance of fate in the name of a higher order is expressed. For it is just the higher order which is injured and passes judgment. But the higher order does not exercise it against the moral misdeed but rather against the demonic powers breaking out in the individual, as at once his creative greatness and his ruin. Therefore, what there is of tragedy in Occidental drama is based on the demonic element in it, except that in contrast to the Greek, the demonic here has no power rooted in existence, but can come into reality only through the responsible will. Therefore there is a salvation, rather than merely the heroism of destruction.

In modern drama, with the victory of demonic realism, the tragic element of the drama has experienced considerable strengthening. Even the play of social criticism revealed superindividual connections, which often made the individual become guilty through an inevitable fate, but it still contained considerable social ethical moralism. On the other hand, the psychological drama of the present time, with its comprehension of subconscious powers, has often become very strongly demonic and therewith tragic. Particularly the conflict between the generations—a social analogy with the division of consciousness—has opened up the view to genuinely demonic connections. Yet no inclination to return to the Greek conception is apparent in it. The pure objectivity of the concept of guilt and fate is unreal for Christian culture. The passage through consciousness and responsibility conditions our concept of guilt— despite all domination of the subconscious.


The profane method of overcoming demonry—in contrast and in common with the prophetic-Protestant method—has caused the demonic to disappear almost completely from the general consciousness of the present. The two-dimensional manner of thought has become a matter of course. Where the demonic is spoken of, it is in the weakened sense of superior force or indeed in the sense of erotic piquancy. Least of all is a consciousness of the demonic to be found in the social sphere. Here, to be sure, one sees problems, needs, lacks, or even sinfulness or corruption, but one does not see the peculiar dialectics of the great forces supporting social reality. And yet only when this dialectics is understood, is a fundamentally correct attitude in social affairs possible. Otherwise we find either the will for improvement in the progressive attitude or will for preservation in the conservative. The first sees everywhere material which at some time or other will be formed in correspondence with the ideal; the second sees everywhere the unconquerable sinfulness which renders a decisive change impossible. The perception of the demonic dialectics leads one beyond this contrast, and to the recognition of something contra-positive which is to be overcome, neither through progress, nor through mere revolution, but through creation and grace. It leads at the same time to the comprehension of the particular demonry at every point in society so that it may be isolated and opposed. The battle against the demonries of a time becomes an unavoidable, religious-political duty. Political activity gains the deeper meaning of religious activity. Religious activity gains the concreteness of, a struggle against the "principalities and powers."

Of course, this cannot be interpreted as though one phenomenon could be designated simply as demonic and another simply as divine. The contrast of both principles is effective in every person and every phenomenon. An institution or community that should seek to withdraw from this judgment, would by this very act succumb to the pharisaic demonry. But it is necessary to interpret some structures on which society is built as symbols of demonic powers, and it is necessary, in making these symbols manifest to open the struggle against the demonry of a period. There is no other way at all, as everything that points to the unconditioned has a symbolic character and can never be grasped actually, empirically. In symbols and only in symbols shall we speak now of the demonries of the present.

Profanization is always rationalization, i.e., comprehension of things through resolution into their elements and combination under the law. This attitude, which is in accord with the nature of things and suited to the relationship of subject and object, is demonically distorted through the will for control, which masters it and robs the things of their essential character and independent power. It is the attitude to reality meant by the concept of intellectualism, which is not to be thought of as too much of intellect and rationality, but as a violation of the whole of reality on the part of the rational subject. The description of this state of affairs and its destructive results has frequently been given and need not be repeated here. The demonic quality of intellectualism is that it contains the rational comprehension of things and essentially must contain the consequence of infinite progress, but that, on the other hand, with every step forward it destroys the living, independently powerful quality in the things and therewith the inner community between the knowing and the known. The supporting element is at the same time destructive. The inevitability of this fate becomes especially clear, when one observes the fate of the anti-intellectual movements and notices how, unconsciously, they constantly use the weapons of intellectualism and thus succumb to intellectualism. A theology which demands religious indifference and practical objectivity in the face of this, does not see the indissoluble relation between the real and the meaningful with the meaningless. Such a theology does not see that practical realism remains an abstract demand and that the reality of knowledge, like all reality, is engaged in the struggle of the divine and demonic.

The esthetic observation of reality claims to overcome intellectualism, and indeed not only in its peculiar field of art, but beyond this in metaphysics and sciences. This is not incorrect, for the unbroken rule of intellectualism is indeed shaken by esthetic interpretation. But the esthetic attitude itself succumbs to demonry. It becomes estheticism. A broad stream of this spirit flows through our culture. Here too the typical double face of the demonic appears: The ability of the esthete to identify himself with everything dissolves the fixed limitations in our relation to things, but on the other side takes away the independence and power of things. The maintenance of the esthetic-distance, which characterizes all estheticism, cuts off the true community between man and things and leads to a domineering attitude, implying inmost instances some erotic element. This violence is done to the object no less than in intellectualism. Finally, it must be said that the demonry of estheticism is only a counterpiece of the demonry of intellectualism and is subject to it. It might appear that this attitude is less universal and more easily countered; but that is not so. Our whole period and all classes in it stand before the abyss of meaninglessness, are engaged in a vain search for an absolute reality in which they can take root. For estheticism is by no means bound to a development or predominance of the esthetic function but is a quite general attitude. And it is a necessary attitude. It is not possible to create artificially situations in which the esthetic-distance is overcome, in which a concrete community with things is gained anew. The awkwardness of all such attempts and their final failure shows that the esthetic demonry was not overcome but merely covered. What places us constantly before the abyss of senselessness and voidness of meaning, at the same time constantly opens up to us the approach to everything existing. That is the dialectics of estheticism.

In the practical sphere two demonries likewise surpass all the others in significance and symbolic force and shape the face of our times. They are the demonries of autonomous economics: capitalism, and the demonry of the sovereign people: nationalism. The situation, however, is such that the second is in part a counter-movement against the first and never quite loses this character. Yet it not only assumes demonic character itself, but finally succumbs to the first— an analogous relationship to that of the theoretical sphere.

Autonomous economics, with the help of the means technical science has placed at its disposal, is the most successful form of production of goods which has ever existed. The mechanism of the free market is the most artful machine for the equalization of supply and demand, as well as for the constant increase of needs and satisfaction of needs, which can be conceived. There can be no doubt that the capitalist form of economics has to the highest degree the supporting, creative, and transforming character of the truly demonic, but it is just as true that this creative force is combined with a destructive one of horrible strength. The descriptions of this destruction among the masses and the individuals, spiritually, psychically, and bodily, are so numerous and of such irrefutable impressiveness that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. It is also impossible to drive the demonic factor of economics down to the plane of general sinfulness, with religious-moral categories such as Mammonism, in order to separate the technical quality of capitalism from it. The depth of the demonic is just this, that the meaningful and meaningless elements in it are inseparably combined. Thereupon rests its inevitability, its surpassing power, in the face of which all moralizing is doomed to impotence. The sinfulness to which the service of Mammon also belongs, is indeed the general presupposition of every demonry. But real demonry—if this word is to have any special content-occurs only in connection with a positive, sustaining, creative-destructive power.

This is true also of the last great demonry of the present, nationalism. To all pacifism of impotence, to all mysticism and to a rationalistic bourgeois or proletarian internationalism must be said first of all that: the national impulses of the bourgeois era were the only ones which had, and to a great extent still have, the strength to offer resistance to the technical economization of the whole of Occidental existence. They constantly break through pure rationality. They create a vital, immediate consciousness, which is still but slightly disintegrated by intellectualism and again and again stirs up estheticism. At the same time it preserves the consciousness from complete meaninglessness by filling it with concrete symbols. National things receive sacral untouchability and ritual dignity. But just there demonization begins. With the creative-supporting forces, destructive ones combine: the lie with which the self-righteousness of one nation distorts the true picture of its own and foreign reality; the violation, which makes other nations an object whose own essence and independent might is despised and downtrodden; the murder, which in the name of the god pledged to the nation is consecrated to holy war. Beyond this, it is the peculiarity of the national demonry of our time that it has subjected itself to capitalism. The nations entered the World War as capitalistic groups of power; and the chief bearers of the will for war were at the same time the bearers of the capitalistic domination in their own nation; not from any personal demonry, but themselves supported by the demonic figure of capitalism which they represent. Thus the social demonry of the present is revealed in its duality, in its immense supporting and destructive strength. Shattered for a moment, it is at present on the point of re-establishing itself, in order better to sustain and—better to destroy.

There is no way which could be invented to overcome the demonries, spiritual and social. The question of ways and means is the question of intellectualism, thus even as a question grown out of the demonic situation and strengthening the demon with each answer. Demonry breaks down only before divinity, the possessed state before the state of grace, the destructive before redeeming fate. It is probably possible and in accordance with the prophetic spirit to see in the events of a time signs of redeeming fate, and it is necessary and absolutely demanded to unveil the demon and to seek and use all the weapons of resistance; but there is no certainty of success, for there is no certainty that a finite reality, even if it be Christian culture, is indestructible. The demon inspires such a false certainty. There is only one certainty, that the demonic is overcome in eternity, that in eternity the demonic is depth of the divine and in unity with divine clarity. Only in view of the eternal may one speak of overcoming the demonic, not in the view of any time, a past or future. But that we can regard the eternal in this way, that we need not grant the demon the same right as the divine and therewith the higher, the only right, that we need not, in the face of the world, grant the ultimate victory to the negation, to the abyss, to meaninglessness—that and that alone is the salvation in finite time, which again and again becomes reality; that is the fundamental destruction of demonic dominance over the world.

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