The demon of pride conducts the soul to its worst fall. It urges it: not to admit God’s help, and to believe that the soul is responsible for its own achievements, and to disdain the brethren as fools because they do not all see this about it. This demon is followed by: anger and sadness and the final evil, utter insanity and madness, and visions of mobs of demons in the air. (Evagrius Pontificus, 345-399, The Eight (Bad)Thoughts, found at Early Church Texts, public page, www.earlychurchtexts.com)
I didn’t come into this world self-delivered, and I didn’t grow without help. My life is connected to other lives – family, friends, mentors, and other practitioners of my craft. I build on the knowledge and work of others, adding mine to it along with every other person on the planet. While I write the reflections on this blog, I did not create the language. While my reflections aren’t anyone else’s, the help and encouragement of others was and is necessary. If I think otherwise, I kid myself.
The delusion pride plunges my spirit into is much worse than trying to claim full credit for my achievements. Pride puts me in a universe whose center is me, a creation all about me and all for me. My soul doesn’t need God’s help and I can do just fine all by myself. Dependency is for weaker souls, and it is only their blindness that allows others to question my self-efficacy and my self-sufficiency. Others may need God, but not me – a lie I want to believe. Pride pushes me to remake God in my image – the final idolatry.
Living such a false reality is exhausting, though. Other people break into my reality with their own, and the Spirit hovers over me in spite of my bad behavior; God and my neighbors call me back from the brink, returning me to myself and to this God-given and God-sustained creation. My soul settles down and I can breathe again – no longer center of the universe, and no longer alone. It is more than enough: it is grace.
What about the mobs of demons that Evagrius writes about? Are they real? Oh, yes. I believe it’s the face of everyone else and the presence of the Spirit, distorted by the utter insanity and madness that is the reality lived in pride. The self-created false world is hell.