There’s been a lot of attention online to the idea of “Mass Formation Psychosis” being used to control mass populations during this pandemic. I’m actually quite surprised at the backlash many have received for pointing it out because it is common knowledge by now that marketing strategies are engineered toward controlling human behaviors. We know that our online data is being tracked and sold for profits for a reason. We think it’s funny when we stock up on milk and bread and then gas up our cars at the first warning of a snow storm. We are habitual creatures and companies exploit it all the time. So why is it so hard to believe that strategies are being employed to manage human behaviors through fear for political gains? The fact is, that “Mass Formation Psychosis” isn’t a new concept and Its workings are actually quite diabolical. The devil is hard at work and we need to be working harder to protect ourselves and our families. As Catholics, we know that a personal relationship with Jesus, receiving the sacraments and keeping God's commandments are the best things we can do to keep our souls holy and pleasing to God. We also must have knowledge of the workings of the evil one so that we can protect ourselves and the ones we love.
There's a famous quote from an old movie ‘The Usual Suspects'. "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn't exist". Why would the devil want humans to disbelieve in his existence? In the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape explains why to his nephew, anovice demon. He says:
"Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The 'Life Force', the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If we can produce our perfect work--the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls 'Forces' while denying the existence of 'spirits'--then the end of the war will be in sight." (page 31)
Better thinkers than me certainly knew that the evil one wants us to disbelieve in him because He wants us to live in doubt and seek comfort over virtue. Then he can succeed in twisting our science, tempting us with sex, emotionalizing us and even use psychoanalysis to keep us closed to belief in God. He wants to keep us from living out our relationship with God. Is it a coincidence they want us to disbelieve that mass formation psychosis is being used against us?
The Devil's First Attack: Relationships
The first goal of M.F.P. is to attack our social connections and relationships with whatever means possible. The goal is isolation because we are weaker when we feel alone physically and spiritually. We've certainly seen this played out in our society recently with the forceful closings of churches, schools, businesses and the new social distancing order of things.
One of the first lessons my children learn about God from school is that He created us to show his love and goodness and to make us happy with Him in Heaven. They learn that we are created to be in communion with each other and with God by a God whose very nature is communion. In Genesis we see how God created Adam and then decided creation was still incomplete. He put Adam into a deep sleep and formed a woman from his rib. It wasn't until God created Eve and united her with Adam that God saw that creation was good. The lesson here is that we are made for relationships with each other and with God. This is why the Devil seeks to destroy our social connections. This is why it is a strategy of M.F.P to break down social bonds. When human beings are without relationships with God and each other, we are lost, isolated and therefore easily manipulated. We should never be persuaded by anyone to be separated from family or to give up family traditions. The price is too costly.
The Devil's Second Attack: Our Meaning & Purpose
The second goal of M.F.P. is to destroy whatever gives us meaning and purpose in life. There are many things that give humans meaning and purpose in life, but the most obvious of these things is human work. Human work is foundational to our existence and therefore a primary target for the evil one and those who use his tactics. In the creation story, after God creates Adam, He gave him a job to do. His job was to name the animals. I mentioned in a previous post that in the Hebrew tradition a name signifies the essence and nature of a person. This context helps us to understand the importance of Adam's work. We can't possibly know something if we don't spend time with it, love it, and nurture it. Adam's work wasn't just about naming creation, he was given the privilege of caring for it.
We learn from the creation story that work is more than just a way to make a living.
It is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. Furthermore, we learn from scripture that to deprive someone of their work is to deprive them of their dignity. Deuteronomy says To withhold wages from your works is to deprive them of their livelihood (24:24-15). Sirach 34:26-27 teaches that to deprive an employee from their work and wages is to commit murder. Isaiah 58:3-7 says that oppression of your workers is false worship. "Woe to him who treats his workers unjustly (Her 22:13). Humans find meaning and purpose in work and human dignity is directly entangled with work because it is foundational to our creation and our relationship with God.
This is why the devil and those who use his tactics seek to destroy our abilities to work. It strips us of our dignity, our meaning in life and our purpose. So many have had their work and their wages held hostage or stripped away in the last couple of years. Only something evil could hold hostage human work towards its own end because the evil one knows that without a sense of meaning and purpose in life, we are lost.
The Devil's Third Attack: Free Flowing Anxiety
The third way M.F.P seeks to attack us is through free flowing anxiety. Sounds awful right?
Is there any source of Media left to consume that doesn't inundate us with anxiety about our health, homes or our self worth? Even Disney pokes fun at the evil use of media and screens to enslave people through fear and anxiety in the movie “Incredibles 2”. The villain uses televisions to inundate the public with fear ridden news about a new villain and uses a masked puppet, 'The screensaver', at her own disposal to terrorize humanity. Free flowing anxiety that we experience today from media is evil because because it is an attempt to deprive and distract us from the peace that is offered to us from God.
After his resurrection, Jesus greets his disciples with "Peace be with you" (Luke 24:36). Jesus repeats this three times in John's Gospel (20:19, 20, 26). A classical study of the Greek word for peace "eirene" in the Gospels shows us that it refers to a certain kind of peace. It is a peace that is a product of proper administration of justice and goods. It is a harmony that comes from the right order of things under the law and proper use of creation. This brings us a deeper understanding of Jesus' words after his resurrection. Jesus is the peace that he offers. Jesus is the peace "eirene" that was taken away when Adam and Eve gave into temptation. The evil one tries to disrupt and distract us from God's peace through anxiety and fear. The Devil wishes us to believe that we are without peace but we know that Jesus' peace has already been given and restored to us through his resurrection.
The Devil's Fourth Attack: Misdirected Aggression
At first we are isolated from our relationships with family and friends and broken from the felt shame of losing meaning and purpose in life. Then after the torture of experiencing free flowing anxiety and being overwhelmed while feeling out control, evil will subtly prompt us to resort to aggression and violence towards the innocent because this is how he makes us slaves. We have certainly seen such promptings as the media constantly tells us who is to blame for our problems. We’ve seen the results of misdirected aggression over the last few years with riots in cities across the United States and beyond. Let us recall God's warning to Cain in the book of Genesis before he acted in violence because it is a warning to us all. "Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted, but if not, sin lies in wait at your door. Its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it." God warns Cain and all of us that wicked conduct will make us more vulnerable to sin and slaves to the evil one.
A False Solution to Save Us.
Broken down after being isolated from God, family and friends. After being filled with anxiety, frustration, aggression and searching for meaning and purpose in life, the final strategy of M.F.P. is to provide a new solution or a strategy. This new solution is promised to resolve our anxiety, allow us to go back to work or ‘normal behavior’ and revitalize our social life again. It’s a new idol disguised as a solution. It is offered to us to make us feel connected, in control and give us meaning and purpose again. This new solution for the sake of normalcy is offered to us under the guise of solidarity and citizenship. It doesn't matter how illogical or unreasonable the new solution is because at this point humanity is so hungry for a new social bond that it can’t help but accept it. In search of the peace which has already been given to us, we humanity accepts a new idol or subversion of peace. The famous words of St. Augustine rings ever true at times like this. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”.
Your Faith Will Save You
Are you anxious everyday? Are you feeling disconnected from God, family and friends? Has your dignity, meaning or purpose in life been threatened or depraved in some way? Do you notice that you're being told who to hate or is to blame for your frustrations? Aren't we all bombarded by these things constantly? The truth is we have all been victims to these because this is exactly how the evil one sews chaos in our lives. The book of Job is a prime example of Satan employing these same old tactics. It is an even greater example of how your faith will save you. At the beginning of the story, God delights in the righteousness of Job and Satan is quick to argue that it’s only because he is surrounded by a family and good work. "Touch all he has and surely he will curse you to your face". (Job 1:11). As the story goes, Job loses his family, his livestock, his home and even experiences painful sores on his whole body. He describes suffering anguish that "out weighted the sea". Job suffers at the devil’s hand: isolation, extreme poverty, painful suffering and anxiety, and is prompted to blame God for his misfortunes. It’s only after Job cries out to God "I know you can do all things" that he begins to experience peace again. God then blessed him with a beautiful family, work and even a great amount of wealth.
We learn from reading the Gospels that Jesus is especially moved to heal and forgive those he encounters when they demonstrate a great deal of faith. As he declares to the woman, whom he pardoned “your faith has saved you” (Lk:7:50), he too declares to us. As Catholics we understand that faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man but, we can lose this priceless gift. How do we fight against the evil one who has waged spiritual war on us? We do as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy. “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made a shipwreck of their faith”. The Catholic Church teaches that “To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be "working through charity," abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.” Therefore we must nourish our faith through prayer, the sacraments, rigorous study and acts of charity. We must trust in Jesus with abounding hope and pray "Thy Will Be Done".