Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, February 07, 2011

From Antipope

A comment on Charlie Stross's Antipope...

Fred Matzner | February 6, 2011 22:33 |

You might be interested in the loose trilogy by James Blish, A Case of Conscience, Black Easter, and The Day after Judgment. These were spun from the premise that Catholic theology was literally true; in the first novel, a world is found in which catholic morality/ethics is practiced by a race that derived it from logic, not revelation, and therefore had to be an evil world designed by the Devil (in order, I think, to seduce man into believing he doesn't need religion); and the priest involved decided the entire world was a fake set up by the Devil - because the devil cannot create, only God can. (By the way, that is why the Catholic Church banned the movie Rosemary's Baby, not because Catholics couldn't handle a movie about the Devil, but because it posits that the Devil could have a child, obviously nonsense if you believe the devil cannot create).

The second and third books were about what would happen if God was dead. Poor Satan had to take over.

Prompts me to reply...

Actually, the Catholic church has a perfectly consistent explanation of the (fairly common, actually) Rosemary's Baby situation. I'll leave it to Hugh Trevor-Roper to explain;

Witches "as a pledge of their servitude ... were constantly having sexual intercourse with the Devil, who appeared (since even he abhors unnatural vice) to she-witches as an incubus, to he-witches as a succubus.

What Gibbon called “the chaste severity of the Fathers” was much exercised by this last subject, and no detail escaped their learned scrutiny. As a lover, they established, the Devil was of “freezing coldness” to the touch; his embrace gave no pleasure — on the contrary, only pain; and certain items were lacking in his equipment. But there was no frigidity in the technical sense: his attentions were of formidable, even oppressive solidity. That he could generate on witches was agreed by some doctors (how else, asked the Catholic theologians, could the birth of Luther be explained?); but some denied this, and others insisted that only certain worm-like creatures, known in Germany as Elben, could issue from such unions. Moreover, there was considerable doubt whether the Devil’s generative power was his own, as a Franciscan specialist maintained (“under correction from our Holy Mother Church”), or whether he, being neuter, operated with borrowed matter. A nice point of theology was here involved and much interested erudition was expended on it in cloistered solitudes. Some important theologians conjectured that the Devil equipped himself by squeezing the organs of the dead. This view was adopted (among others) by our King James. Other experts advanced other theories, more profound than decent. But on the whole, Holy Mother Church followed the magisterial ruling of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, who, after St. Augustine, must be regarded as the second founder of demonological science. According to him, the Devil could discharge as incubus only what he had previously absorbed as succubus. He therefore nimbly alternated between these postures . . ."

This explanation does, of course, imply that the worshippers in Rosemary's Baby are being sold somewhat of a pup, in that they're bringing up not the child of the devil but rather the offspring of some random wet dream, but I'd have to go back to the movie to see if there would be any cause of action for passing off.

I remember reading the first Blish about forty years ago; I suppose I should now look for the other two.

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