A few days ago, I was having some manner of discussion with my roommate and bromantic counterpart Ian. Unfortunately, the nature of this conversation — the wider nature, at least — escapes me; ours are long and meandering discussions that frequently involve impromptu improvisational skits with multiple characters before wending their way through Scrubs and the Simpsons and The Shawshank Redemption and whatnot. Either way, the conversation turned, somehow, to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which Ian will never see.
Ian will never see it, because demonic possession terrifies him.
It’s a pretty damn good movie, though; I’ve always taken a bit of a shine to anything that deals with what I call the breadth of the world, be it the dark or the light of it; it’s the reason I enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet and Cairo as much as I did — there is an immense attraction to anything that posits that there are more things than we might have dreamt, entire orders to the world of which are largely if not wholly ignorant.
Anyway, somehow and for some reason, I brought up the part of the film wherein the priest performing the eponymous exorcism finally manages to tease out the names of the demons inhabiting the poor girl. It’s an absolutely riveting, terrifying scene, and if you happen to be my roommate, do not watch the video below.
Bone-chilling, I know. I mean, that’s a who’s who of prominent demons, culminating in Legion, Belial, and the bastard Lucifer himself. But those, ahem, luminaries aside, it was the first three upon which the conversation hinged. Clearly transported, the mademoiselle Emily Rose — or rather the spirits speaking through her tortured lips — say that they were the demons who dwelt within Cain, Nero, and Judas, respectively. I’m sure it’s something of a sick honor to be so oppressed, but in my memory, the names stuck out much wider than the identities; I remembered the demons proclaiming themselves to be, in fact, these particular monsters of history: I am Cain, Nero, Judas. Which led to the question — is it possible that the damned may become demons themselves?
Might some devils once have been men?
I can’t say. I have not been to hell and nor do I wish to go there, and neither have I spoken at length with the Bastard about his practices, but I must admit it struck me as wholly appropriate to be so. The popular notion of Hell as a place of punishment administered by fallen angels has always struck me as faintly ridiculous; while true, they might enjoy such work, it would mean that they were, after a fashion, proudly doing the work of their enemy, the Most High God. And I cannot see that happening.
No, far more likely to me is it that Hell is, in the words of Chesterton, locked from the inside, and the damned may well be proud to be there. Would it not be appropriate for them to view hell as less a place of punishment, but as the happy, if suffering, seat of rebellion? And the poor souls there condemned, who rebelled in life, may well continue to rebel in death. After all, the chief sin is pride, and if anything will keep a sinner in Hell, it’s Hell’s heart, a proud and haughty and disdainful heart, that rails against heaven even unto oblivion.