Probably one of the most difficult aspects of spiritual life for the modern man to comprehend is the concept that there is a force of evil…Satan. In Dr. Becker’s work we find a somewhat mechanistic etiology of human evil. Human evil has a great ally in Satan. It is his purpose to deceive, mislead, and generally confuse persons as to who God is and the reality of the Incarnation. If one wants to gain a fuller comprehension of the dynamics and structure of evil in the world I would strongly recommend they read Schlier’s Principalities and Powers. It is a short book that gives us a very solid exegetical study of what the New Testament says about principalities and powers. It should be a companion book to Denial of Death. It carries the Imprimatur stamp of the Catholic Church. (While I am not Catholic I have found that the Imprimatur stamp does indicate sound scholarship).
For most of us Satan is a arcane concept from a bygone era. Scripture says otherwise, however. It is his purpose to promote the fear of death. By this we are kept bondage to the temporal matters of material existence.
Quote from Heinrich Schlier’s Principalities and Powers:
“When men consider death as the last and supreme power, this is due to the devil, who thereby causes fear which leads to hatred. Satan’s nature operates by making the universe and all existence appear as a universe of death, an encounter in anxiety and woes. We are told in Hebrews 2:14-15 that he has “the empire of death”: that is how he holds men “all their lifetime subject to servitude” through the “fear of death”. P 34
“In conclusion we shall list as propositions the points which have been established.
1. The manifold principalities which unfold the one satanic power are encountered as a kind of personal and powerful being.
2. These principalities exercise their being by taking possession of the world as a whole, and of individual men, the elements, political and social institutions, historical conditions and circumstances, spiritual and religious trends. Above all, their possession is exercised mainly through the “atmosphere”, which is the immediate site of their power.
3. They take possession of the world and of men is such a way that they let these appear in their spirit. Withdrawing and concealing themselves, they reveal themselves through the world and existence, of which they have taken possession, and which they transcend in themselves.
4. They interpret the world and existence unto death, as temptation and falsehood. Death, sin and falsehood mark the inmost tendency of their nature, and therefore, its fruit. These are the effects of their inmost nature, in which they act against their origin: in self-aggrandizement and independent pride, in which they and their present nature struggle against their original creatureliness.
5. These principalities have been overcome by God in Jesus Christ on the cross and in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. Their power has thereby been broken, in so far as their proud autonomy has been drawn into the love of the obedient Son of God which embraces even them, and been undone in his death.
6. Their power has been broken on the cross and in the resurrection. Like everything else which happened there, this will be finally and completely revealed in the Second Coming of Christ Triumphant. Their defeat will be shown to be eternal rejection. Until then, mankind and the world must suffer the ever increasing attacks of the principalities which know they have been judged and, therefore, increase their anxious frenzy. Having no other future than eternal damnation, the principalities concentrate their attach on those who have an eternal future, namely the Church and her members.
7. The members of the Church, who have already been delivered from the principalities in Baptism in Jesus Christ, must resist them the more strongly.
Their aim must be to defeat the principalities in faith and loyalty, in works of justice and truth, in unceasing prayer, sober and vigilant, with the gift of discernment of spirits. They must endeavor through sacrifice to create in the Church a place free from their domination, as a sign of the new heavens and the new earth which are to come. P. 67
“It is the general spiritual climate which influences mankind, in which men they live , which they breathe, which dominates their thoughts, aspirations, and deeds. He exercises his “influence” over men by means of the spiritual atmosphere which he dominates and uses as the medium for his power. He gains power over men and penetrates them by means of this atmosphere, which is his realm, the realm of his power. If men expose themselves to this atmosphere they become its carriers. And thereby contribute to its extension.
But this atmosphere is not the only realm or means of his domination. As we have seen, he takes possession of all levels natural everyday life; he attacks it at every possible level, in soul and body of the individual or in what we call natural phenomena. Moreover, the atmosphere is not the only dimension in which he operates, and hence this spiritual domination is his only weapon. Quite apart from the physical harm of which the spiritual domination is capable, Satan can inflict bodily harm without using spiritual domination as his medium. But the atmosphere is the principal source of his domination. Any rate St. Paul regards it as the chief means by which the principalities exercise their domination. This domination usually begins in the general spirit of the world, or in the spirit of a particular period, attitude, nation or locality. This spirit, in which the “course of this world” rules, is not just floating about freely. Men inhale it and thus pass it onto their institutions and various conditions. In certain circumstances it becomes concentrated. Indeed, it is so intense and powerful that no individual can escape it. It serves as the norm and is taken for granted. To act, think or speak against this spirit is regarded as non-sensical or even as wrong and criminal.”