In his first letter, St. John writes: “The whole world is in the power of the Evil One” (1 John 5:19). The presence of the Evil One strives little by little to have man and society distance themselves from God. The shrewdness of Satan in the world is that of leading men to deny his existence in the name of reason. Yet the power of Satan is not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful to the extent that he is a pure spirit, but always a creature, limited and subordinated to the will and dominion of God.
The power of Satan cannot annul the power of God; and Christ conquers the prince of this world. Christ made Himself participate in our human nature even to the Cross in order to reduce to impotence, through death, the one who has the power of death, the Devil: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
In our daily life we encounter and live in a culture that is no longer oriented to universal, infallible criteria, insofar as reference to God is denied by many sectors. God must be understood as an infallible spiritual being, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, who, according to our Christian faith, is incarnated in the person of Jesus, with whom men may have an interpersonal relationship. This explanation is necessary, since in Eastern philosophies God is understood as a primordial energy of which man is a part, which suggests a way for the discovery of such energies in himself.
Today’s Way of Thinking
We define culture and today’s way of thinking as satanic, as in the Hebrew word satan. The Hebrew noun śāṭān is a derivation of the root s ṭ n, which means being hostile, opposing and assailing, even if only morally, and also defaming and slandering.
Our current society can also be defined as diabolical (from the late Latin diabŏlus) a word that was adopted from the Greek for contradictor or opposer, in order to translate the Hebrew śāṭān.
Today’s way of thinking and acting characterizes a culture that is mendacious, divisive, and confused. A resulting systemic conflict that has replaced the building up of absolute values is obvious to everyone. Economic progress and the advancement of technologies have increased, notwithstanding uncertainty for the future and isolation caused by a growing individualism. This creates disorder, anxiety, and even panic, which result in a spasmodic search for answers and the means by which to attain well-being and fulfillment, but guided solely by one’s own thought.
Having refused the standards and values of traditional culture, many seek them elsewhere, particularly in Eastern cultures and philosophies.
The Dhammapada, one of the fundamental texts of the more ancient Buddhist tradition, opens with these verses:
The mind precedes all mental states,
they are all mind wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts,
suffering follows him,
like the wheel that follows the foot of an ox.
The mind precedes all mental states;
if with a pure mind a person speaks or acts,
happiness follows him
like his never-departing shadow.
Succeeding to live with a “pure mind” is the ultimate goal of the existentialist Buddhist ethic. It understands the mind to be like a mirror: egotistical and individualistic thoughts are stains and incrustations on it that cloud whatever image is reflected. A mind free from impurities is free from the burden of suffering. Meditation, discipline, and interior work correspond in metaphorical terms to the cleansing of the mirror.
In philosophical terms, it seeks recovery of the original condition of the soul, which precedes each intellectual judgment — an idea not foreign to current Western mystics, but decisively counter to the path taken up by Western philosophy. Christianity, in particular, accepts various particular references that exist outside the person and that can be discovered solely through an existential ethic that is part of a personal relationship with God. Such a relationship is defined by the guidelines that are God’s Commandments.
Christian altruism — the search for a connection to God and neighbor — stands opposed to Buddhist ego-centrism. The latter specifically excludes personal relationships. Indeed, the overall objective of Buddhism is the annulment of the distinction between the subject knower and the object known.
In the course of history, it has been established that the mind of man is capable of two types of knowledge: the first is rational, held in great esteem by the West; the second is intuitive, which, in general, is exactly the opposite of rational knowledge and in keeping with the attitude of the East. Rational knowledge belongs to the field of science and to the intellect, whose function is that of analyzing, comparing and contrasting, measuring and categorizing. It is a system of abstract concepts and symbols. In this way, it encounters the world as if that world were constituted by separate parts and constructs an intellectual map of reality in which things are reduced to their contours.
Eastern philosophy has a concept of the world in which the two fundamental themes are the unity and interdependency of all phenomena. It considers man an integral part of this system. What interests Eastern philosophy is the search for a direct experience of reality that transcends not only intellectual thought but also sensory perception.
Buddhists call knowledge derived from an experience of this type “absolute knowledge.” It is, they say, a direct experience of absolute essence, undifferentiated, undivided, and undetermined (unspecified). Absolute knowledge is, then, a nonintellectual experience of the totality of reality, an experience that begins from an unusual state of awareness that can be called meditative. It is the reality of the life of the Self that lives solely as it is; the bare experience of life (that is lived only now).
In this way, according to Buddhism, consciousness becomes unlimited, infinite. It is cosmic consciousness (universality is the intrinsic nature of the mind). The unconscious that is beyond the sphere of scientific research can only be felt: it is necessary to learn to master the unknown wisdom of the Self. At that moment, however, when consciousness turns inward and begins to know itself — at that moment in which it becomes the object of its own knowledge — illumination flourishes.
When these principles are considered by someone from Western culture, they are seen as self-exultation, ego-centrism, and the divinization of man as a created being.
In claiming that consciousness can become infinite, Eastern philosophy is false and misleading about the truth of being and about creation itself. That is, it becomes a way to interfere with relational reality by promoting contact with the “I” that is enclosed in introversion and ego-centrism. In this way it becomes satanic and diabolical, mendacious in regard to the relational anthropological reality of man; and it produces division through a specific individualism and ego-centrism.
St. Paul writes to Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:1–5)
What St. Paul pointed out precisely describes today’s world. We witness the phenomenon of individualism founded on a do-it-yourself formation of the human personality, which refuses any reference to the other, any standard other than one’s own will and one’s own feelings.
Teachers are sought who highlight and exalt personal qualities, to transform subjective criteria into absolute objective criteria and standards for life choices. Such teachers, for the sake of financial gain or because of their various philosophies, preach the realization of full humanity by anthropocentric terms or by divinization.
In this way, they infiltrate all the habits and behaviors popular in today’s world. By means of these ideas, even a simple act of making progress in one’s own work, in itself a legitimate aspiration, can become a sphere of choices and behaviors that annihilate the aspirations of others, without even respecting their existence.
Also, they try to extend the centrality of personal feelings beyond the limits of human nature. We witness today the progressive self-affirmation inherent in gender ideology, wherein gender is considered a matter of free choice. In fact, a new anthropology is being affirmed based on annulment of the sexes and an exaltation of the criteria of personal choice. Also, in the economic and social field we see a gradual transformation of the equilibrium and realities that until today have guided human progress. We see, in fact, how personal profit has become the preponderant criterion with respect to the common good.