Home/Rod Dreher/Porn Is Demonic, Says Top Occultist

Porn Is Demonic, Says Top Occultist

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I have been following the recent series of articles from social and religious conservatives arguing for the US Government to take concrete steps to fight the pornography epidemic. Here are good pieces from C.C. Pecknold (“Governments can and must taken on the billion-dollar pornography industry”), Sohrab Ahmari (“Porn isn’t free speech — on the web, or anywhere”), and Matthew Schmitz, whose Washington Post essay, “The Case For Banning Pornography,” starts like this:

It is time to ban pornography.

Nothing can shock us except this suggestion. We find it perfectly acceptable that smut, no matter how bestial or misogynistic, should be widely available. We even think it a moral imperative, a dictate of freedom. It does not trouble us that children can view acts of rape, real or simulated, with a click of a mouse, but if someone proposes that we prevent them from doing so, dirty old Uncle Sam begins to shudder. Respected citizens stand up to object. Gallant young civil libertarians come riding into town, ready to defend the imperiled modesty of Lady Liberty.

“Ban” strikes us as a nasty word, conjuring up memories of McCarthyism, the Spanish Inquisition and the third-grade teacher who washed your mouth out with soap. We tell ourselves that bans are never really effective, that it is too hard to distinguish between what should be banned and what shouldn’t. Above all, we know that bans are blunt instruments, and believe that we are too sophisticated to employ such crude tools.

But are bans really so terrifying and impossible?

We are not averse to banning something when we think it is really wrong. We are happy to “ban” murder, rape and even certain types of speech (try yelling “Fire!” in a theater). We do not hesitate over the fact that there will be marginal cases, or that the banned activity will not magically be brought to an end. Our tolerant reaction to pornography stems less from a principled commitment to free speech than from a belief that porn isn’t so bad after all. Shouldn’t we be “sex-positive”? Who doesn’t need a little release?

This casual attitude would be impossible if we cared as much about misogyny as we say we do. Gail Dines, a feminist scholar who has succeeded Andrea Dworkin as the leading voice against pornography, has found that “the most popular acts depicted in internet porn include vaginal, oral and anal penetration by three or more men at the same time; double anal; double vaginal; a female gagging from having a penis thrust into her throat; and ejaculation in a woman’s face, eyes and mouth.” This is not sex-positivity; it is hatred of women. According to one survey, boys are inducted into this ritualized hatred at an average age of 11.

Read the whole thing. It’s important.

You might be thinking: no wonder those three guys are so against porn — they’re all three conservative Catholics. Well, have I got something for you: a reader send this jaw-dropping exchange from the Ecosophia blog, which is written by the occultist and authority on esoterism John Michael Greer. I’ve cited Greer from time to time in this space, when he was writing the Archdruid Report blog. We are very, very different people in terms of our religious commitments — he’s a polytheistic pagan, I’m an Orthodox Christian — but he writes some of the most interesting stuff on the Internet. This piece is definitely that. In it, Greer tells a reader that pornography is demonic — not symbolically demonic, but actually a tool of evil spirits — and offers him pagan spiritual advice for conquering it.

Once a week, Greer takes questions from his readers. On Monday, a reader wrote to say that he was struggling with a demon of pornography. The anonymous reader follows up on a post he wrote the previous week, in which he said:

I’ve been doing some journaling on my porn use. My subconscious seems determined that it is a major source of my issues, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. When I asked why I use it, the first thing which came into my head was “Because I tell you to.” This sort of thing has never come up during journaling, and it felt rather alien to me.

Greer told him that yes, this sounds like a malign spirit.

Well, this week, the man was back, and said to Greer, of the malign spirit:

It seems to be hammering home on a few points, all of which seem intended to do one of a few things: break me down so I can’t resist it; keep me sexually aroused so I feel the need for porn; make the rest of my life horrible so I have no real reason to fight it; or keep me from making it harder for myself to access porn.

1) My life is currently a mess. You mentioned last week something about demonic obsession, and how victims aren’t entirely sane. I’ve been questioning my sanity for a while now (this is part of why I picked up journaling), so it may fit me. Does this sound like the case for me?

2) I think my main priority for now is to get rid of this thing. One of the only ways I know of is to practice a daily banishing ritual and get good at it. Are there other steps I can take to get rid of it? I assume using porn less will weaken the link, but am I correct, and are there other ways to rid myself of it?

3) If this sort of spirit is common, might it explain the existence of a traditional prohibition on pornography in several spiritual traditions?

4) You mentioned last week it likely feeds on me during orgasm. Would you mind elaborating what you meant by that?

5) I’ve been looking at the no-fap [anti-masturbation]/porn-free communities online and find that a lot of people describe porn as a demonic force which takes over their lives. Nearly everyone clarifies it’s a metaphor, and one of the things which this spirit is trying to do is question my sanity whenever I pay close enough attention to notice it. Thus, do you think part of the reason materialism is so popular among so many dysfunctional people might be malevolent spirits pushing it, to keep them from thinking that a malevolent spirit even exists, let alone might be affecting them?

Greer answered, in part:

1) That’s hard to say. Our society right now is clinically insane — I mean that in the most literal sense — and so it’s very difficult to tell what counts as the kind of personal craziness that might be the product of obsession, and what is the collective craziness that pervades our culture.

2) Yes, using less porn will starve it, but of course it’ll double down at first, trying to get fed. If you go to the Magic Monday FAQ cited in the post, you’ll find instructions for a hoodoo protective bath, and for an amulet using salt and a bent nail. Both of those would be useful in your situation.

3) Yes, indeed it would.

4) Orgasm takes place on the etheric as well as the material plane, and just as you ejaculate on the physical plane, you extrude a certain amount of etheric substance — the substance of the life force — on the etheric plane. If you’re having sex with another person, that’s not a problem, because the other person’s body absorbs your etheric substance, just as you absorb the substance the other person extrudes; one of the reasons lovers so often feel nourished and healed by lovemaking is that each of them has taken in some of the other’s life force, which can then flow through the subtle body and fill in where there’s a shortage. In masturbation, there isn’t anyone else to absorb the etheric substance, and so a noxious spirit can dine on it — thus the feeling of weakness and depression so many people experience after masturbation.

5) Ding! Yes, exactly. Do you read science fiction and/or fantasy? If so, have you ever read C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy? He makes the point there that it’s a central strategy of malevolent spirits to keep people from believing in their existence.

The reader and Greer continue their exchange. Do I even need to encourage you to read the whole thing? I repeat: John Michael Greer is not a Catholic priest or an Evangelical pastor, but a practicing pagan cleric. You don’t have to believe in “etheric substance” or share all his religious beliefs, but as an Orthodox Christian, I have no trouble at all believing that evil discarnate entities feed spiritually on people who are in sexual bondage. Later in their exchange, Greer says it is likely that the chaos and darkness afoot in the world now has a lot to do with the Internet making hardcore porn easily accessible almost anywhere in the world. He also speculates about whether the collapse of fertility is connected to porn-connected events in the spiritual world.

Wild. Just wild. About demons, Greer advises his reader not to underestimate what he’s dealing with:

They are smarter than we are. That’s something to keep in mind: human beings are far from the most intelligent entities around.

St. Paul writes, in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I believe it. So does the Archdruid. And I believe that for various reasons, human sexuality is the main theater of that spiritual war today. But you could have guessed that.

UPDATE:
I put the wrong link in to the initial Greer exchange. It’s fixed now. Sorry. Just in case, here it is again.

UPDATE.2: Matt in VA, taking on the porn version of the Boomer chestnut, “Well, Elvis was controversial when he first came on the scene.”:

Is this is the whole “my parents had a Playboy on the coffee table back in 1962, so really nothing has changed?” Because 15 year olds watching Anal Excavators (complete with footage of the blown-out pro-lapse) for four hours a night is a very different thing.

My point is not that older people, or previous generations, didn’t have desires or temptations/wouldn’t have reacted the same way to ubiquitous porn if they had been members of a younger generation. My point is that internet porn is fundamentally different from anything that has come before. It is essentially infinite and it has tremendous effects on people’s sexuality. And it is normalized in our society. Sacrificing large portions of entire generations, throwing them to the wolves to fend for themselves. You cannot, or at least should not, dump toxic waste into the water supply that we all depend on; by the same token, you should not dump the societal equivalent of toxic waste into the common culture and expect that people will just remove themselves from the culture on their own initiative and inner strength and with their own resources. Internet porn is absolutely demonic, the realities of it are indefensible.

UPDATE.3: John Michael Greer has responded. His full response is here. I’ll quote a big part of it. First, though, he says that I’ve meaningfully “garbled” what he meant. I’m happy to allow him to correct me — any distortion on my part was unintentional. Greer writes:

1. Is pornography demonic?  Strictly speaking, that’s like asking how much virtue weighs; there’s a category error involved. Pornography consists of images and texts — that is, material things — that are made by a great many people for a great many reasons, mostly but not entirely centering on a desire to make money. Do malign spirits encourage some people to make these things, and others to consume them? The latter, to judge from the comments I’ve fielded, seems to be true in some cases, and I’m not prepared to deny that both may be true in many cases. That doesn’t justify insisting that every image of a person not wearing clothes is demonic.

I *mostly* I agree with this. I certainly don’t believe that all nudity, or depictions of nudity, are pornographic. But those images dedicated to exploiting sexuality for immoral reasons — and of course I am certain that what a pagan like Greer and a Christian like me see as sexually immoral are rather different — then yes, I believe it’s demonic. Put another way, not all visual depictions of nudity are pornographic, but all pornographic is seriously sinful, and therefore of and related to the demonic.

Greer:

2. Is masturbation bad? Like alcohol, or any other source of pleasure, it’s harmless to those who can be moderate about it and problematic to those who can’t, and issues of addiction can get involved. Yes, malign spirits can involve themselves in that latter point. The terror of sexual pleasure that Christianity borrowed from late Greek philosophy has probably caused more human suffering than any other single bad idea in history — but the opposite of one bad idea, you know, is typically another bad idea, and obsessive sexual addiction is no more healthy than obsessive sexual repression.

Disagree. On the moral dimension of masturbation, I, of course, agree with the orthodox Christian teaching, which teaches that any sexual activity that occurs outside of a valid heterosexual marriage is disordered, and therefore sinful to some degree. I strongly disagree with his statement about “the terror of sexual pleasure” and Christianity. Christians who are actually “terrified” of sexual pleasure — they do exist, alas — do great damage, both emotionally and spiritually, to people. Sex is not evil! But contra Greer, I believe that the idolatry of sexual pleasure — in this era and in the pre-Christian past, has been far more destructive to humanity.

More Greer:

3. Are the malign spirits I’m talking about demons?  Not in the Christian sense. A great deal of Christianity remains stuck in a quasi-dualist worldview in which every spiritual entity is either an angel or a demon — that is, either a servant or an opponent of the Christian god. That impressively narrow view isn’t the worldview of classic occultism (and it’s not well supported by the data from human spiritual experience worldwide, either). To occultists, the cosmos is full of a vast profusion of spiritual beings, most of which are serenely uninterested in human beings and their concerns. In the cosmos, there are certain beings who, under some circumstances, prey on human beings. Are they all servants of One Big Bad Guy? No. As Eliphas Levi pointed out a long time ago, unity is a divine characteristic, and the most notable common factor of the patterns of behavior we call “evil” is that they conflict with one another. So instead of a Satanic “Lowerarchy,” in C.S. Lewis’ phrase, that end of the realm of spirits is a vast penumbra of vague, quarreling, dissentient beings pursuing their conflicting goals at each others’ expense — and occasionally at ours.

Yes, I know Christians disagree with that. They’re entitled to their opinion, even if it’s wrong.

Fair enough. I think he’s wrong, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

4. What about the Pagans who insist I don’t speak for all Pagans? I never claimed to do so. Most of the people these days who call themselves Pagansy — a term I don’t use for myself, btw — are Neopagans; they belong to a new religious movement that’s been active in the Western world since the 1940s (though, in the usual way, it’s backdated itself to the dawn of time). I don’t belong to that movement. The Druid faith that’s my spiritual home got started in the early 18th century; the late Isaac Bonewits, who did more than anyone else to publicize the label “Neopagan,” spent much of his career saying nasty things about my kind of nature worship, denouncing it as “Mesopagan.” The occultism that frames my philosophical and practical take on the issues we’re discussing, in turn, began to emerge in the 19th century, drawing on material from the Renaissance and, through that, the late Classical era. Those are the traditions I draw on. I don’t claim to speak for those, either, and neither can anyone else — we don’t do Popes, you know.

Interesting to learn. Finally:

5. Should pornography be banned? Er, and how well did that work in the past? Slapping a legal ban on pornography would simply provide organized crime with a new and lucrative cash flow. That will probably be very welcome to them, since they’re losing the very substantial income they’ve gotten until recently via cannabis sales, but that’s all it will do. It’s not the job of governments to enforce moral virtue; it’s the job of organized religion to teach and persuade individuals to embrace moral virtue. When you see religious spokespeople calling on governments to ban something for moral reasons, what you’re seeing is a church admitting its own incompetence at one of its core jobs.

To be clear, I did not believe that Greer wants to ban pornography, and to the extent that I was unclear about that, I apologize. I would be surprised if a religious pagan signed on to a porn ban, in fact.

Again, if you want to read the entirety of Greer’s response, and what his readers are saying about this thread, go here. 

UPDATE.4: A reader writes:

Hi Rod, after reading your post on John Michael Greer & pornography I felt compelled to share my own story with you, I’m one of your regular readers/commenters but I’d really rather that my screen name (and ultimately real name) not be traced to this.
I’m probably someone who could be considered “addicted” to porn. I’m your age and came of age when it wasn’t so readily available, which might have made it more alluring. But it just wasn’t around as much until the mid-90s – coincidentally, right around the time I got married.
For most of my marriage my wife and I have not had much of a physical relationship. For our first 20 or so years my wife frankly wasn’t very interested in sex. We sometimes went months – or longer – without being together. I was resentful but didn’t want to leave – virtually no one in my family has ever gotten divorced and I didn’t want to be the first – and, after my first child was born, I was damned if I was going to abandon him.
So I turned to porn, saw it and used it as a release I wasn’t getting in my marriage. This went on for years – always furtive, of course, porn often involves a lot of sneaking and dishonesty. And at some point I realized porn had made me impotent.
That is, during the occasions my wife and I did try to spend some time together, I couldn’t do it. I knew, and know, exactly why. With porn I didn’t need to “perform.” And anyway, there’s no sensuality, it’s all business, it’s all about the release, not about the lead-up to it. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’d been trained.
About six or eight years ago my relationship with my wife changed considerably and we now have a very fulfilling, frequent sex life. I’m still impotent, though; no Viagra, no can do.
I still look at porn more than I want to. Actually I don’t “want” to look at it at all; I’m burned out on it, I’ve come to realize it just isn’t real – not just in the sense that these are mere performers, usually with no real relationship to one another at all. It’s that the lust it arouses in viewers is fake, too; lust for pixels not people. Inauthentic, dishonest… hell, maybe demonic, I don’t know.
And as you yourself have written, porn becomes more and more of a pox on society as a whole. I’ve had this discussion with my son, that porn isn’t real; but I wonder how many young men in particular take their cues on how to behave from porn, and how many girls accommodate them, thinking – well, this is how they do it in porn, so that must be what HE wants, and what I want as well.
And I also think porn is probably directly responsible for the whole “incel” thing, it’s easy to sit at home and masturbate and get resentful. Look at what that guy is getting from her – why him and not me? Why should I have to bust my ass to get what he’s getting?
I don’t know. All I know is that porn’s ubiquity is entirely a function of improved technology, especially the internet. We like to think technology will set us free. Increasingly, I see that technology enslaves. And I think porn definitely enslaves.
Free your desires but trap them in this world where anything goes and you can enjoy depravity beyond what you’ve ever imagined. Yet then, somehow, you have to go back and live in a stead, un-“liberated” society.
Porn then plays a role in this continued pushing at social boundaries writ large. For why should our desires be leashed, ever, in any context?
This is apple from the tree of knowledge if there ever was such a thing.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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