Plinio Corręa de Oliveira
Gnosis: The Pole of the Devil’s
Read Part I
The Sound Reaction in Face of Misfortune
The sound reaction is, first, that this man can only hope to be freed to the degree that concrete circumstances allow such hope. If under the circumstances there is reason to hope, he will hope. If not, he will not nourish a hope greater than the circumstances permit. This attitude enables him to adapt to the new situation in which he finds himself:
“This has befallen me. Though I am innocent, I must live as a convict. It being extremely unlikely that I will get out of here, I must conform myself to this situation, and behave as a man. In jail, I will spend some time thinking what I should do to get out. If anything reasonable can be done, I will do it. If not, I will understand there is no way out of my situation and will make the most of it. I have been unjustly convicted, but I accept this reality and conform myself to it, I assume this role and am not going to lie on my cot fantasizing about some ideal but unlikely situation.”
In Panevėžys, the people asked if Bishop Matulionis would give them his cane that he had since prison, which he did. The cane was entrusted to the city museum. When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in 1940 and communist officials took over many artifacts were destroyed. It is not known whether the cane still exists.
Bl. Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis imprisoned in 1933 and martyred during the Soviet Communist Occupation.
Daydreaming Denotes Unconformity with Reality
Now imagine the opposite situation: “I hear the cell block doors opening, and the prison warden comes to me saying, ‘Ah, a thousand pardons! I am here on behalf of the Justice Ministry to bestow upon you the Medal of Great Merit. Your family is here, your honor has been recognized, and you are hereby released. You are going home to a table laid out with all kinds of sweets, your friends will be around you, and your story is coming out in the newspapers.’ And I modestly answering, ‘No, I only did my duty, etc.’”
Do you understand the misery of fantasies like this? Suppose I daydream all that, and then the bell rings and it is time for me to scrub the floors. No one has come in, no one has done me justice. The years go by, my daydreaming grows and becomes enriched with ever more dreamy details and, deep down, I do not resign myself to life in jail and spend my time fantasizing some foolishness, profoundly unhappy at having been convicted. It is my way of revolting and rejecting my situation.
Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, Archbishop-Prince of Esztergom and Primate-Regent of Hungary, Servant of God, 1892 – 1975. Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party. After the war, he opposed Communism and it’s persecution in Hungary. As a result, Cardinal Mindszenty was tortured and given a life sentence in a 1949 show trial that generated worldwide condemnation (pictured here). After eight years in prison, he was freed in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and granted political asylum by the United States embassy in Budapest, where Cardinal Mindszenty lived for the next fifteen years. He was finally allowed to leave the country in 1971. He died in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.
The Reaction of One Who Does Not Feel the Disgrace That Befell Him
So far I have shown two attitudes, one of sound realism, and one of daydreaming. There is a third position, taken by people with a kind of myopic and immediatist realism. The sound realism with high horizons is the one I initially described: “I am going to give a higher meaning to my life. I am going suffer as an innocent man suffers, but this life is going to be grand.” The second case shows an immediatism of desperation. And a person in the middle is neither one nor the other. He enters the prison like an animal and does not think about what is happening to him. He barely feels the disgrace which has befallen him.
These Three Mindsets Coexist in Modern Man
In general, these are the three attitudes modern man takes before life. In my opinion, most men do not assume any one of these attitudes entirely. The imbalanced take an attitude of unreality; those that take the attitude of wholesome acceptance are very rare. Most people have a wholesome acceptance part of the time, then a good stretch where they accept their situation without much thinking, and then a good dose of daydreaming and unreality. Let me say that much of the modern imbalance and craziness comes exactly from the fact that a kind of daydreaming zone exists in countless minds.
The Pitfall of Daydreaming and Fantasizing
I believe that there is nothing more important for the spiritual life than to eliminate any kind of fantasy from one’s mind. Have no illusions: As long as a person has fantasies in his mind, his spiritual life is not serious. All daydreaming must be eliminated as if it were the devil himself. We must look upon things both realistically and with an elevated view of the concrete circumstances in which we are. (…)
At any rate, we can say that misfortune is the first phase in the daydreaming process. In the second phase, fantasy is formed as a remedy for that misfortune. And in the third phase, the hardest, fantasy begins to be realized. This is the period of foolishness.
For example, someone fantasizes about business deals or imagines himself the president of a public limited corporation. In his fantasy, the first thing he does is not to setup this company but to play president by buying clothing and furniture and taking on the airs of a CEO. He then starts to found the company, picks a business that is more lucrative, and chooses partners to play the role of board of directors. Preoccupation with profit comes last. The upshot: since he is only playing a role and the others are there to fleece him, he sustains serious losses and goes bankrupt.
Another order of fantasies would come from someone who knows a funny person and resolves that he too is going to be funny because he finds it advantageous. In the first moment, he admires. In the second, he envies; in the third, he begins to daydream about it, and finally, he sets the fantasy in motion. As a result, a vacuum forms around him, and he is the one chasing after others. This is due to the fact that he tried to accomplish his fantasy.
For a man’s daydreaming to have certain vitality, it must have some possibility of coming true. One never dreams about entirely impossible things. They must at least be metaphorically possible.
Why does a man daydream? He does so through a movement that comes from deep inside, when he does not want to accept the situation in which he finds himself. In order to realize that happiness towards which he tends in every way possible, he prepares a kind of fantasy, a castle, an illusion within which he feels secure.
The Devil’s Impossible Dream
The devil’s disgrace is so profound that he can’t even have this. The devil is a most lucid angelic spirit and knows perfectly well that he cannot manage to delude himself in regard to his own conditions — that he himself created. But, after a fashion, he too is able to have his own fantasy. That happens when he perceives that he can manage, by means of his cunning and lies, to make many people believe in that which he would like the universe to be, and thus to see many people live for him in function of the whole idea which he created. This would in some way be the realization of that towards which he tends.
Communist youth in a demonstration in Berlin.
If the revolutionaries (the word Revolution is used here in the sense given it by Prof. Plinio Corręa de Oliveira in his book, Revolution and Counter-Revolution) were able to make all men in a certain country wear the same type of clothes so as to not establish a hierarchy, they would do so to achieve uniformity as much as possible. And Gnostic doctrine admits that this uniformity will be achieved in the next life by reducing everything to the primitive unity, the abyss, and so forth.
Note: Translated by Nobility.org