Chapter 5

The Terror of Madness

Just as the noble aspirations of the French Revolution proceeded with a crescendo of increasing public disorder as its more moderate leaders died, culminating in the reign of the fanatic Robespierre and his supporters with "The Terror", in which numerous heads rolled beneath the guillotine, so injustice, once initiated by the power of arms, rushes both its perpetrators and its victims down a steep slope of violence where both find their end in destruction. Hatred, once fomented, seeks its resolution in such fury that finally no one is left to tell the tale except the Antichrist, the chosen vehicle of the devil, who gloats over the carnage that impassioned men have occasioned - and all in the name of justice. Power in the hands of those possessed of fanatical zeal soon grips them in a bond of satanic strength as more and more of the tradition of the past is shattered and its treasures fed to the flames. The fanatic's obsessional desire to destroy - an innate part of human behaviour designed to cast away soiled and worn-out material which would otherwise accumulate and block the way of the Holy Spirit who makes all things new - now attains gargantuan proportions. In his hatred nothing will suffice except the complete annihilation of the abominated one. In turn, the object of abuse may be forced to cringe in terror at the onslaught, but in due course he will retaliate, and then more destruction will follow.

The sequence is seen often enough in our private lives. If we are cheated, swindled or belittled in any way, we will never be able to let the grievance rest until an innate sense of justice has been satisfied. It is right that this should be so: the fourth Beatitude commends those who seek the triumph of what is right, promising them satisfaction. In uncivilized groups the individual may take matters forthwith into his own hands, but the end result will be destructive to personal relationships and harmful to the communal peace. Where civilization flourishes, the benign, impartial arm of the law can deal with various manifest breaches of justice according to the criminal code; for this we should always be thankful. A free judiciary is a blessing contingent upon a democratic society in which the law is not muzzled by any powerful private or political interest. When a nation has acquired sufficient communal responsibility to be in charge of its own institutions, it has attained a landmark of human dignity, and the power of God is in the ascendant, irrespective of the religious denomination and credal confession of the people. Where God is dismissed as illusory, man soon steps into his place, and then power falls insidiously into the hands of a ruling clique. In other words, the democratic principle works most perfectly when God is given precedence over the human will, for then each of us may learn humility in the day-to-day running of his life in the face of the mystery of creation.

However, the ruling group can enlist God for its support. It can even elevate the Deity to a place of supreme eminence in its sectarian councils, in which case a repressive theocracy will emerge. The history of world religion, both past and present, contains too many examples of this tendency for our comfort. In such a travesty of truth, the god whose aid is invoked is in essence a puppet of the ruling class, which may well include a professional priesthood. But the true God, in whom we live, move and have our existence, is quietly eased out of sight, since his nature is love, light and a purpose far beyond mere self-assertiveness. The will of the true God is the growth of his creatures into that fullness of personality seen in the world's saints. The will of a repressive theocracy is the exaltation of a religious hierarchy at the expense of the remainder of the community, who are exploited by those at the summit of power, but all in the name of God. The result of this abuse of God's name has been the total rejection of religion by many intelligent, sensitive people. Ironically, one of the historical proofs of Christ's authenticity has been the persistence of his witness, despite the crimes committed in his name by those who have counted themselves among his followers. His Church has certainly kept that name alive, but often obscured it and even discredited its integrity when it has claimed his authority from the vantage point of power. It then becomes a focus of injustice against which the populace revolts. The Holy Spirit is the power that ignites the rebellion, but soon his beneficial, life-giving directive is liable to be encroached on by less scrupulous forces of darkness intent upon revenge and destruction.

It follows that both personal and national grievances, if not satisfied, rankle in the hearts of those who suffer, as the unconscious depths become the repository of dark, demonic material from its collective store, which can set in motion enormous havoc. It is far better that these tendencies should be confronted at once and their impact withstood. Their eruption into full consciousness is attended by a sharp outburst of anger, which must in no way be suppressed. The proper manner with which to deal with anger is to acknowledge it without moral judgement, either a feeling of guilt or of self-righteousness. Then one can detach oneself from it and look at it with a degree of objectivity. The help of a skilled counsellor is of the greatest value, since he acts as a sympathetic observer who can both share the emotional discharge and help direct it into more fruitful channels. What can be ameliorated in the field of personal relationships and communal action is open to the reconciliation effected by reason and goodwill working through dialogue or political procedures, as the case may be. It is when these civilized means of communication break down or are impossible to effect that the power of hatred shows itself, and the person or group can easily descend into barbarity. Or they may ascend to a new height of compassion and service.

It is a fearful thing to witness a person consumed with hatred, either because of the misfortune that life itself has visited on him or because of some outside injustice that seems to have hit him so arbitrarily. His entire mental life is dominated by this one theme, so that the pleasures of the present hour pass unnoticed behind the film of venom that infiltrates every thought and action. The present moment, our point of immediate contact with reality, is blurred by the emotional turbidity of the psychic atmosphere, as the person is enveloped in a fog of malice that works to separate his soul from the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. It also has the disastrous effect of alienating an increasing number of his friends, who are suspected of treachery if they fail to shun the one who is alleged to be the source of the trouble. If the matter is not dealt with expeditiously, the scarcely contained, explosive emotional power of hatred wreaks havoc on all those around the person, so that he progressively cuts himself off from fellowship with his peers and ultimately from life itself. In his blind rage he tramples on all that lives, oblivious of the damage he is causing, and caring even less about the pain he is inflicting on everyone around him. Such a person lives in a private world whose form is a battlefield, and all who are not for him in his imaginary war of reparation are counted among his enemies. At any moment the most innocent bystander may be the target for a terrible outburst of abuse. The one who is possessed with hatred is beyond reason, and prayer itself may make no impact on him. One suspects that Hitler fell into this category in respect of his blind, irrational hatred of the Jews. The attitude, one suspects, had some basis in a past unfortunate encounter, but the reaction was out of all proportion and aimed at the total destruction of the entire group. How easy it is for the powers of darkness to use such a person for their own nefarious ends of chaos and extinction! All hatred is of the devil, no matter how justified it may appear, because its end is total destruction of both the hater and the person who is hated.

We remember in this respect Jesus' injunction: "Anyone who nurses anger against his brother must be brought to judgement. If he abuses his brother he must answer for it to the court; if he sneers at him he will have to answer for it in the fires of hell. If, when you are bringing your gift to the altar, you suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift where it is before the altar. First go and make peace with your brother, and only then come back and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:22-24). St Paul adds further, "If you are angry, do not let anger lead you into sin; do not let sunset find you still nursing it; leave no loop-hole for the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Anger nursed in the heart sours rapidly to hatred; for this reason it must be brought to the surface and acknowledged as soon as possible. Then a reconciliation can reasonably be sought, after which peace may be restored. If a reconciliation is impossible due to the impenitence of the other party, at least the basic issues will have been brought to the light of reason and one knows how to deal with the erring person in the future. What is brought into the open may not always attain healing, but at least it ceases to ferment in the unconscious and erupt periodically in words or actions of violence. We have to face the truth of the world's imperfection and our own part in it, that we too have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God within us. Jesus said on one famous occasion, "That one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone", and the self-righteous throng of accusers of the adulterous woman quietly dispersed, until the woman and Christ were left alone together. He forgave her, but told her firmly not to sin again (John 7:53-8:11). It is of interest that the eldest accusers made their departure first: they had had more time for sinning than the younger members of the throng. These are usually the most dogmatic in the things of the Spirit because they are still so inexperienced as to believe that truth can be contained within rational categories, whether scientific or scriptural, to the exclusion of any deeper, emotional considerations. The greater truth of the Spirit is revealed to them as the experience of life chastens their self-esteem and brings them closer to the core of their identity.

This, of course, is where teachings of high spiritual charge have to be assimilated gradually; we can begin to make them our own only as we have climbed out of our own pit of darkness. When we hearken back to Somerset Maugham's fourth imaginary, but ever pertinent, temptation of Jesus by the devil, we can see that the danger of a religion of sacrifice is that its disciples can easily take the mantle of martyrdom from their Master without wearing it on their own shoulders. They suffer in their imagination the crucifixion of their Lord, the odium of which they then visit on all those who challenge their private beliefs. And so Christ is merely crucified again in the form of his people, who seek without ceasing the full impress of the truth. If the disciple dares to wear the Master's mantle, as Elisha did that of Elijah, he is changed spiritually, and then the imagination is firmly harnessed to the work at hand. He sees himself as a participant in the everlasting crucifixion of the God of truth, and then works in awe and humility for the coming of the Kingdom. No one is outside the bounds of that Kingdom, and the work of the disciple is to bring all around him to its awesome gates. According to his example they will either enter or remain outside: the final choice is theirs alone, but the manifest love of God in the faces of his servants can encourage the outsider to trust in a God of courtesy who does not override his creatures' will, but rather confirms and strengthens it.

The terror of unrestrained hatred is seen at its worst excesses in times of warfare. Each side is convinced that its interests are endangered by the other and that its own cause alone is the right one. In the Thirty Years War that ravaged Germany and the adjacent countries during the first half of the seventeenth century, the conflict was between Catholic and Protestant interests, but the result was a famine the like of which this part of the world had never previously experienced. The cruelty of many of the participants belied their Christian allegiance, unless, of course, we take to heart the terrible doctrine of the end justifying the means that came from the pen of a prince of the Catholic Church about a century before the Reformation. In much more recent times many of us have been witnesses of some of the barbarity of the Second World War. Few unbiased observers would disagree that the burden of atrocity was on the Nazi side - apart from its practice of genocide, it had no compunction in bombing defenceless populations alongside with, if not sometimes in preference to, genuine military targets. Since these unfortunate people did not belong to the "master race", it seemed not unreasonable to liquidate them indiscriminately!

But the fury soon spread to their allied antagonists. British aircraft played a vital part early on in defending their country against German invasion, and soon the military arm extended to attacking German supply depots and installations as well as essential power services. But the attacks did not end there. Round-the-clock bombing of saturation intensity left little of many German cities standing. It is only too natural that the delight of sheer destruction reinforced the zeal of the Allied bombing squads as they rained havoc on the civilians as well as the service staff of the hated enemy. This hatred was only too well merited in view of the enormity of the Hitlerite evil. But if one were to be honest about a matter that one can feel rather than judge impartially, there must have been a grim, impersonal satisfaction in seeing whole districts of major cities go up in smoke, the same type of enjoyment the Germans experienced earlier on in their wanton destruction of Rotterdam and Coventry. A vicious circle of virulent, destructive fury had been initiated, in which the main victims were helpless civilians who had played comparatively little part in the enormities of the Nazi programme. They had admittedly enjoyed its benefits at an earlier period, but were now to experience some of its less pleasant personal consequences in the tragedy of the death of loved ones and the destruction of homes and traditional landmarks.

It is evident that once a reign of violence is established, as in a situation of war, it will inevitably escalate by virtue of its own momentum. The human agent who initiated the violence soon becomes the prisoner of demonic forces far outside any rational control. These forces harness the human desire for revenge as well as pure delight in destruction, for it is so much easier and more satisfying to cast down than to raise up. Of course, the satisfaction of destruction is of limited duration, whereas the person involved in creative work has a much longer period of fulfilment to anticipate, but in the thrust of the moment in hand, the ejection of long pent-up emotions of disgust and hatred is orgiastic in intensity. Indeed, it can stimulate, or even replace, the orgasm of sexual union quite effectively in naturally sadistic people - and there are few of us completely free of sadistic tendencies, often, to be sure, concealed beneath a veneer of liberal tolerance or religious propriety. Once the lid is allowed off the emotional furnace, the steam scalds anyone in the vicinity, and the forces of darkness outside make common issue with the pandemonium within the psyche. Hell is indeed let loose, and its end is total destruction, with a return to the primal chaos from which the universe emerged by the divine fiat.

In any situation of popular disgust and violent rejection there are fortunately a few saner minds who can identify themselves with the hapless victims in the enemy camp. One such in Britain at the time of the Second World War was the saintly Bishop of Chichester, George Bell. Early on in the war he helped many Jewish refugees, who were interned because of their German origin and therefore stamped as possible agents of the enemy. Later on he was to protest against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities, with its toll of civilian casualties. His intervention was not popular with the sources of power, and he was labelled as pro-German by his antagonists. Indeed, his courageous stand almost certainly cost him translation to a more distinguished see, but he remained a witness to a higher ideal of humanity. He was a great friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave up his life in trying to eliminate the demonic powers that held the German people in thrall, so that an honourable peace might yet be negotiated and the appalling carnage stopped. But at this stage a general madness was rampant: the Nazis would fight to the last drop of blood, while the Allied powers would be satisfied with nothing less than a total surrender of the fascist forces. It is, of course, easy with hindsight to shake one's head sadly at the pity of it all, but when one is in the thick of battle all sense of proportion is lost as the whole nation is enveloped in an enormous wave of inextinguishable fury that feeds hungrily on mass destruction and death. The hatred that the Nazis unleashed upon the Jews flowed back upon the German people with a terrible vengeance, which attained its peak at the wanton and completely ruthless destruction of the beautiful city of Dresden, crowded with refugees, at the end of the war.

While all this destruction was proceeding apace in Europe, tragedy enveloped the Far East also. The Japanese waged a war of horrible cruelty against the Chinese, with an insatiable lust for domination and expansion. It was inevitable that they should align themselves with the fascist powers of the west, and finally, in an act of monstrous treachery, they attacked and grievously maimed the United States' fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, while ostensibly engaged in negotiating a peace settlement. In the conflict against the Allied forces that followed, the Japanese captors treated their prisoners-of war with a cruelty that knew nothing of the humane demands set by the Geneva Convention. In imperialistic Japanese eyes surrender was totally dishonourable, and so the unfortunate prisoners were regarded as lower than the vermin that stalked the empty streets. In due course the tide of fortune turned, and the once imperious Japanese, like their German allies, found themselves on the defensive and retreating fast. After the German capitulation in 1945 they continued the mad fight: it would have been an intolerable loss of face to surrender. The explosion of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended this display of vanity, but many thousands of helpless civilians died - and are still dying of the remote cancerous effects of ionizing radiation. That the bombing curtailed any further battle casualties is certain, but one can only weep at the mountains of dead non-combatants who, like the people in Jonah's Nineveh, could not tell their right hand from their left - speaking figuratively in terms of their ignorance of the imperialistic zeal that fired the war initially, to say nothing of the cruelty their armed forces had visited on other human beings helpless in their power as captives.

In this sad story too it is good to reflect on the witness of another Anglican bishop, Leonard Wilson of Singapore. He was humiliated and tortured by the Japanese when they captured that city. His face was so smashed that he was subsequently obliged to conceal the disfigurement under the cover of a beard, but his love and concern for his own flock over-flowed to his torturers also. He never lost heart or succumbed to rancour. It was to be his privilege to baptize the soldier who had actually disfigured his face, and, as Bishop of Birmingham, his witness to the truth of the crucified, risen Lord never flagged. Indeed, the light shines in the darkness, which has never been able to extinguish it, try as it may. It is in the hearts of noble people that the Spirit of God reigns. From them a perpetual inspiration of light flows out to all their sleeping fellows at the foothills of Gethsemane. In due course the supreme test will be demanded of them also. Then they too will have graduated to the full stature of a human being.

It was the Russian people, however, who bore the full brunt of the German onslaught. Earlier on, the Russian government had made a pact with the Germans which involved the partition of Poland, a sad country that has seldom enjoyed freedom from the pressure or occupation of its two powerful neighbours. But when it suited Hitler's plans, the Russians were treacherously attacked, and appalling havoc was wrought on their vast country. Its grim survival was due not only to the unspeakable bravery and dedication of its people, but also to the severity of the winters and the "scorched-earth" policy which deprived the invaders of any provisions from captured territory. But then the tide turned, and the Soviet government gained control over the whole of eastern Europe in its constricting communist system, strangling every attempt at liberalization and freedom. The sad suppression of liberty in Hungary in the fifties, and Czechoslovakia in the sixties, is a dark indication of the powerful security demanded by a rigid dictatorial system, when tormented by memories of the past invasion and confronted by the present prosperity of its democratic neighbours. But the only true security comes from love, not arms. With love our neighbours are a very part of our own; identity, not swallowed up, but free and contributing their own essence to the collective whole. This vision of heaven can, alas, never be attained by political or economic means, no matter how well-intentioned the systems may be. This is because their approach is essentially a cerebral one, but until the heart is changed from stone to flesh, the people will not respond in trust and self-giving service to the whole community of nations. The inner darkness controls the outer appearance, and the Antichrist is securely in control no matter how the system of government may style itself. He shows himself in the leaders of the enslaving nations, and projects himself into the minds of their adversaries.

It is clear that the forces of darkness thrive especially in situations of fear and confusion. They harness the traditional prejudices of the people so that the inner anger may erupt as destructive hatred. But even worse than hatred is cold indifference. Hatred does at least acknowledge the presence of the other person, even if that acknowledgement is passionately destructive. Indifference simply ignores the one it detests, and allows the natural process of attrition to do its lethal work. It is very doubtful whether the bulk of the German people had the faintest idea of what was happening in the concentration camps set up by the Nazi regime. Indeed, many probably did not even know of their existence. But the whole populace could witness the ostracism afforded their Jewish neighbours, the frequent attacks on their person by vicious thugs openly supported by the state, and the destruction of Jewish property, outrages which seemed to occasion no protest. Anyone actively succouring a Jewish victim would have incurred the displeasure of the civil authorities. But the inaction of the masses was clearly due to hostile indifference rather than to cringing servility. They were content to see this prosperous "alien" group reaping its wind of unpopularity. Yet in the end the "master race" reaped its own whirlwind of international opprobrium, as the country and people were systematically attacked and destroyed. All the Germans were losers, none with any cause for satisfaction, as the end of the Nazi regime drew near. Admittedly, the forces of fascist evil were defeated, but only at the expense of a partition of the country, with its eastern bloc heavily in bondage to Russian communism.

The old order is unceremoniously cast aside in the fury of discontent and hatred that accompanies war. But at least the place has been set for a new dispensation of power as the participants return once more to sanity and start to fashion a fresh life amid the rubble.

Chapter 6
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