Oculi means “my eyes,” and what a perfect title for this week’s theme. Eyes discern things, but only by the light. Of the eyes Jesus says, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.” Light was the first created thing, and it founds knowledge of all other things. It’s related to the Word insofar as you can’t name what you can’t see.
Gnosticism, which is the devil’s theology, deplores all this. It deplores the created order, the creation of material things, the many separations that make created things possible, and the language arising from the naming of those things. It wants to dissolve everything back into a blurry nothingness, the state of the world prior to God’s work of separating. It loves the twilight and pending darkness, when the borders of beings blurs into that fuzziness and finally out of sight, and out of mind.
One of the Gnostic themes finding eerie similarity with the demonic is the claim to be eluding names. Gnosticism has words in an allegorical sense, or to name archetypal themes, but using language to give individual names anchored in real, physical beings only “gives a platform” (to use the new Leftists jargon for prohibiting free speech) to material existence, and therefore is a avoided.
Similarly, demons often elude being named, like the demon who answered, “We are legion, for we are many.” It’s a trope you see in movies as well, like Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate claiming, “I go by many names.” In exorcisms as well, the demonic realm deceives by confusing the human world as to the powers at play. Is it one demon, many, or a tag team? (Read Malachi Martin’s fascinating book on the topic, Hostage to the Devil.)
Because the demonic is not “other” as far as human psychology goes – we are born under this world’s prince, after all – we see parallels in the psychological and spiritual darkness we run often run into. It’s that indescribable sense about something not right, that darkness we don’t know how to deal with, that “thing in the air” permeating a gathering of people, the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.
Well, talk about it is exactly what must happen. Just as naming that psychological issue is critical to psychic recovery – “Oh, I had traumatic brain injury, so that’s why I often get depressed; you mean there’s help for that?” Well yeah, now that you know what you’re dealing with. Is this not true with just about every ailment? The word must invade the nameless darkness and carve out a beachhead, establishing command and control and moving on from there to expand its borders.
The same is true in exorcisms. This is why one of the principle tasks in an exorcism is to name the demon. Naming the demon sets the foundation for applying Christ’s name as an authority over it, for to Jesus has been given “the name that is above all names.”
Well, in this week’s Gospel, we get two names, Satan and Beelzebub. If two names better describe that amorphous darkness at root of all human woe, I don’t know what they would be. Beelzebub – “Lord of the flies” – covers everything related to death and dissolution. As Freddy Mercury sang in his song about suicide, just as he was going down his own path to depravity and ultimate death by AIDS, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for MEEEE.” (OK, take a moment to head bang…) For where are flies but where death and corruption occur; it’s there where Beelzebub reigns. Satan – “the Accuser” – covers everything related to sin, guilt, and self-loathing. And how much of our spiritual dissolution is related to such things?
So there’s the poor soul, his body attacked by the ravages of some disease, his spirit attacked by the ravages of sin and guilt, and he can’t quite put his finger on why he’s not feeling right. It’s Satan and Beelzebub!! And guess what? Jesus has authority over them because Jesus is the stronger man, and His name is the stronger name!
It’s the name of your baptism. It imports into your “house” everything the name of Jesus has done: dying for your sins (muting Satan’s power) and rising for your life (chasing the flies away and their lord Beelzebub).
His light brings to clarity the demons attacking your soul, so that you can see His authority and power of them. We are not blind to their ways; nor are we blind to their conqueror.