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A surprising support of our theology can beound in the parable of the unclean spirits in Matthew chapter 12. In this Gospel, an unclean spirit who inhabits a house is cast out, and the house is swept; later, the spirit returns with seven others that are even worse than the original, and the house is subsequently also worse than when it started.
And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation. (Mt 12:43–45)
As far as some Biblical commentary, St. Thomas’s Catena Aurea on Matthew contains interesting quotes from certain Fathers on the text, which we can summarize here. Effectively, Sts. Chrysostom and Jerome see the house and man as the Jews, to whom the demons return when the Gentiles convert. Remigius sees similarly that the first spirit can find nowhere to rest in the Gentiles, since they converted. Blessed Rabanus sees the casting out of the devil as Baptism. St. Augustine sees the parable as of a man who believes at first, but has not the strength to persevere and so lapses, leaving the new state of worse affairs to involve not merely the iniquities but also hypocrisy. Effectively, these are all fine in and of themselves, but, for our purposes, I suggest the most broad layer possible: all human history and the ages of the fall, or of sin, therein, which is to say, also, our beast kings of the discourse.
Let us work it out. In short, the parable can be seen as an image of the fall within human history, with the unclean spirits as the fallen nature itself manifested throughout the divine plan, from beginning to end, inclusive, in the phases of sin or darkness that we have studied thus far.
The beast "was": this passage can image the first spirit. More specifically, as we saw with the Apocalypse discourse, in the beginning, before the Flood, the fall ruled the house of the world. No substantial redemptive action had, as of yet, been wrought by God. Hence, the fall was the prevailing force in human history at that time. The beast was.
The beast "is not": but with the Flood, the world was cleansed of all wickedness, the spirit of the fall was cast out the first time in history, and the house was swept clean. The fall ceased to be the prevailing force of human history because God was beginning to renew man, to recreate him in his image and likeness. Hence, although greater subsequent phases of sin would still arise after the Flood (namely, the other seven spirits), they are secondary manifestations of the fall (with the exception of the very last one, see below) because they are still in the process of being renewed at the progressive phases. Only at the end, when a supreme culpability and wickedness comes—one that, within human history, practically cannot be cured (namely, the great apostasy and Antichrist)—will the fall be back to stay and, therefore, the prevailing force of human history once again, as just before the Flood. This represents the final state of the house after the inhabiting of all seven spirits as they return with the original. Put another way, the revisitation of the same first spirit along with the seven can image this representation of the fall that was first manifested in the beginning, except this time, full culpability of man is attained.
Seven additional spirits: as just mentioned, after the Flood, the fall would then go on to re-exert itself in seven additional punctuated manifestations in human history. Too, we have seen, by all estimates, that we are in the seventh overall, leaving only the eighth to come at the very end, the great apostasy and Antichrist.
- The Fall and Noah's Day
- Intermediate Pre-Exile Jewish Apostasy
- Pagan Rome
- The Minor Apostasy [our current age]
- The Great Apostasy [yet future, to follow Our Lady's Age of Peace]
The Unclean Spirits Get Worse, the Ages of Sin More Culpable
As we see Jesus saying that the seven additional spirits “are even worse than the first” each successive "spirit of the fall", or king of the beast, in our ages discourse earlier is worse than all others before it! Why? Because of the culpability of the ones that embrace the darkness, so as to make humanity falling farther and farther down to the ultimate sin at the end, the great apostasy.
Let us look deeper: In Noah's day, no substantial divine revelation or chastisement had ever taken place, saving the minor revelation of the Flood. Hence, though the world is wicked in Noah's day, the historical culpability of the human race is minimal. They do not even have the Old Law, the signs of the Exodus, much less the New Law of Christ.
Too, without going through the full set of ages, let us look at two more sets of examples: firstly, let us probe the comparison between the Jewish apostasy of Maccabees with the one prior to the Babylonian exile. Clearly, when some Jews fell away and apostatized during Maccabees, they were more culpable than when the Jews who were wicked just before the exile in Babylon. That is, in Maccabees, the Jews had far more intimate history in their hindsight than the Jews before the exile did. The Jews in Maccabees had a renewed love of God after the exile that was stronger than when they had been so dreadfully wicked before that same exile. Moreover, the prophets were vindicated by the exile and restoration. Therefore, with such greater profundity and heart-felt love behind them, the Jews who apostatized in the times of Maccabees were worse, or more culpable, than the ones before the exile.
The second and final example just reexamines what we have seen in the discourse on the blasphemy against the Persons of the Trinity. There, to re-encapsulate, the world of pagan Rome is least culpable, since they are just beginning to understand the Church. The Church has not converted the world yet, the age of the Father. They must be given time.
When we graduate to the age of the Son, humanity is now more culpable for their rejection of the Gospel, for it has made its first great imprint in the mystery of human history. The world, at least much of it (effectively European civilization and its derivatives), has known the way—the truths of Christ—to some substantial degree, and the moral law to follow. But the way in this first age of labor, as we saw it—where the Church has had needs to work and slave to teach and purify against spiritual adversaries of all kinds—has been just that: a mess. So much division, hatred, bloodshed, scandal. For this reason, the world finds it hard to have faith. It rather places its faith in the powers of this world. Because of this, whereas its culpability is greater than pagan Rome, its culpability is not supreme.
When we graduate to the final age, however—the great apostasy—we once again see the supreme culpability of man: mocking the apocalyptic learning lesson that showed [will have shown] how humanity will perish without God even if he has unfathomable materialistic power, and, if that were not enough, God grants the world a period of grace: all Christians are one and a world of love, the will of the Father finally realized on earth as it is in heaven. Hence, the world of the great apostasy cannot tell God that they didn’t know the consequences of their sins and errors. They will have learned them an age ago, in incomprehensible horror, every last jot and tittle. Nor can they tell God, like today, that they have never seen the full fruits of the Gospel. God will have given them that in the age of peace. Hence, in this final age of the Holy Spirit, the world is fully culpable, which is to say, the last of the seven spirits is the worst of them all, and who is mystically also present with the first, who, as it were, comes back with them, which can image the re-visitation of the fall. That is, the world at the end is immeasurably worse than when it started, and seven spirits span the gap, as it were, seven great ages of sin.
“And the beast which was, and is not: the same also is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction.” (Rv 17:11)
Thus, this parable does great justice to the theology of the beast.