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Self, Sex, and State: The Three-Poisoned Gods of Our World

Anthony Esolen: “Self, Sex, and State” are no trinity, to be sure, but a triad. Find one, and the other two will not be far away.


  1. I have written before of the three-poisoned god of our world: Self, Sex, and State. These poisons dance about in a nice perichoresis of mutual corroboration. It is hard to tell which of the three is father or son or spirit proceeding from them both. If you look to sheer gigantic size, you might think that the first begetter was the State. If you look at the rotten hole of evil where a good heart should be, you might think it was the Self. If you look at actual begetting and a wrong approach to created order, you might think it was Sex.

Let us be as wise as serpents here, consider each possibility. Suppose the principle devil is State. Imagine it in the person of Milton’s Beelzebub, in the council of Pandemonium. He is about to recommend not open war, as Moloch advises, or hiding, as Belial advises, but a sly side-move against the new created world and man there placed:

                         With grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A Pillar of State; deep on his Front engraven
Deliberation sat and public care;
And Princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin.

You desire to increase your power, to grow the State at the expense of those you rule. How to do that? Satan’s plan, put in the mouth of Beelzebub, is to sever the new creatures from God, the source of their freedom and their strength. That must inevitably sever them from virtue both natural and supernatural.

To accomplish it, Satan appeals to Eve’s sense of Self, but in strange isolation, as if she were a kind of island-goddess to whom every creature must bow in homage. “Sovereign mistress,” he flatters her, begging her pardon for daring to address her, while suggesting that her beauty cannot be rightly prized by any of the creatures among which she lives, not even her loving husband Adam, bearer of the image of God:

                                           One man except,
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen
A Goddess among Gods, adored and served
By Angels numberless, thy daily Train.

Divide and conquer: so does Satan extend his realm, by every petty peacock of a king and queen self-ruled, and therefore self-enslaved.

Such enslavement in man is made manifest most clearly, the book of Genesis suggests, in sex: in what should have bound man and woman to one another, and each generation to those that came before and to those that will follow. “Be fruitful and multiply,” says God when he blesses the first human couple, but the fall turns what should have been pure blessing into a source of trouble, division, treachery, and violence.

The wisest king who ever lived did not withstand the temptation, for Solomon, Milton says, “beguiled by fair Idolatresses, fell / To idols foul.” A thousand wives had he, but his sons would fall out with one another and divide his kingdom. His kingdom – not Satan’s.

But we might begin with the idol Sex. We remove it from its natural order, and we make our children and our neighbors bear the cost of the ensuing chaos. Love is not Love, despite what the smug and silly sign on your neighbor’s yard says. “Spirits when they please,” says Milton, describing the fertility gods of the Phoenicians, “can either Sex assume, or both,” to “execute their airy purposes,/ And works of love or enmity fulfill.”

“Such love is hate,” says the poet Spenser. Sexual sin does its worst to keep children from growing up with a mother and father who have plighted their troth for life. Since man is by nature a social creature, when he sins against what binds him in wedlock and what binds the generations, he sins against society.

He calls it liberty when it is mere thoughtlessness and worship of Self. It cramps or tends to destroy altogether the liberty of his neighbors, because what strong and self-sustaining families no longer do, State must attempt. Every antisocial sin must give State leave to intrude where it does not belong, to provide a semblance of that order while families and the parishes, schools, and towns they build used to provide. He who sells wheelchairs is pleased to find cripples.

In the end, says C. S. Lewis, there are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” In the dead hollow of every sin, there is a false Self, a wraith, a phantasm, an idol. “I am that I am,” says God, revealing to Moses his name beyond all circumscribing names. (Ex. 3:16)

But I am a creature: I am circumscribed. I derive my being from God, and at every moment my existence is sustained only by his will. When I set myself against God, I slip back toward non-being, toward the hollow that is well suggested by the Germanic word Hell. 

But as I fall, I assert my false independence with all the greater desperation. I must be my own, exist on my own. The magnetic poles that draw me are two. If I am soft and tender, I turn to Sex as the boldest expression of Self: sex, as I will, when and how and with whom I will.

These days, swallowed up in idiotism, I may even fashion my own “identity,” turning sex in upon itself in self-abuse of any of a thousand kinds. If I am hard and ruthless, I turn to State and its accoutrements. I worship power, wealth, and prestige of my own, or I bow to State as the extension of or the realization of sheer will. State will save us, State must be our cure. It hardly matters then in what form State appears.

No trinity, to be sure, but it is a triad. Find one, and the other two will not be far away.

COLUMN BY

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. Among his books are Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and most recently The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire.

EDITORS NOTE: This Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. © 2020 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org. The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

“The Devil and Karl Marx”: A Review

Robert Orlando: In his new book, Paul Kengor plunges a stake into the heart of the devil and Karl Marx. But as we know, such vampires are not so easily killed.


Paul Kengor is a teacher and writer who has always had an eye for the spiritual dimension in history, politics, and economics. (He was the perfect partner for me in our book and documentary film, The Divine Plan: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Dramatic End of the Cold War.)

Prof. Kengor’s new book, The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration, is a hammer and sickle dismantling of the diabolical character of Karl Marx (1818-1883). As Michael Knowles writes in the book’s foreword, “Kengor knows, like few others writing today, that terms such as collectivism and individualism only take the debate so far. . . .Ultimately the fight comes down to spiritual warfare: good versus evil.”

Indeed, Kengor’s book is all about the clash of the modern, devilish forces of socialism and communism – the key Marxist systems – against the eternally divine force of faith.

The book opens with a portrait of Marx’s formative early years, an approach similar to Paul Johnson’s in Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky (1988). Johnson was accused of being moralistic for judging Marx’s ideas through the lens of his character. Of Marx’s writings, Johnson says their “actual content can be related to four aspects of his character: his taste for violence, his appetite for power, his inability to handle money and, above all, his tendency to exploit those around him.”

Professor Kengor goes even further, depicting Marx as possibly under the Devil’s spell. The young Marx wrote some very dark poems filled with the sort of anti-religious sentiments that would inspire his Communist Manifesto. “It is in part, a tragic portrait of a man,” Kengor writes, “but still more broadly so, an ideology, a chilling retrospective on an unclean spirit that should have never been let out of its pit.”

Here’s an example from Marx’s poem, “The Pale Maiden” (1837):

Thus Heaven I’ve forfeited,
I know it full well.
My soul, once true to God,
Is chosen for Hell.

Kengor (like Johnson) makes the case that Marx, a self-absorbed intellectual, never lived out his own convictions when it came either to money or the redistribution thereof, evidenced by his dismissive attitude towards providing for those under his care. For instance, Marx exhausted the resources and goodwill of his parents, and instead of becoming remorseful or apologetic, he defiantly disowned them once they were no longer of value to him.

When it came to money, everything Marx touched turned to straw. His combustible life was filled with tragedy, debts, and, with the exception of the death of his wife Jenny, an apparent lack of regret in the face of his greatest losses. Family suicides, sexual exploits (including the possible abuse of a family maid) enflamed his life with bloody anger and fueled his revolutionary spirit. In this troubled background are the origins of his communist worldview – a complete rebellion against anything traditional or sacred. Thus the title of Kengor’s book.

Although I agree with the inescapable connection Kengor makes between Marx’s life and his philosophy, I might not place so much emphasis on the man’s early life. Many historical figures were wayward in youth, even some of our saints. Paul the Apostle aided and abetted murder as he tried to violently eradicate the Early Church. We don’t define Augustine by the reckless years prior to his conversion. In fact, these men are saints precisely because they changed.

In Marx’s case, of course, he never changed. He drank the nectar of the devil (my words), and it poisoned him – just as communism poisoned so much of the world.

The middle sections of the book track the rise and fall of the Left’s great messiah and his closest apostle, Friedrich Engels. It continues with a history of Marx’s disciples, from Vladimir Lenin in Russia to Saul Alinsky in the United States.

Kengor also explains how these and other henchmen have assaulted the Catholic faith. Although vigorously opposed by Catholic leadership, Marxism would nonetheless gain a foothold in parts of the Church. Kengor highlights Pope John Paul II’s success in his confrontation with Marxism and communism. Having lived much of his life in a communist regime, St. John Paul knew well Marxist ideas, which enabled him to deal effectively with the liberation theologians in South America.

I think of Kengor as plunging a stake into the heart of the devil and Karl Marx. But as we know, vampires are not so easily killed. Marxism in the 20th century used class warfare, and that was mostly a failure. In the 21st century, Marxists are employing identity politics, lately with some success. But the aim is the same: to sow cultural destruction. If this doesn’t make you angry, you’re not breathing.

Bizarrely romantic revolutions – from Mao’s China to Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone – Marx’s ill-conceived utopias aren’t just destructive, they’re murderous. The death toll of communism worldwide exceeds 100-million! Kengor calls it “nothing short of diabolical – truly a satanic scourge, a killing machine.”

Without question, America has had its share of betrayals and unrealized ideals, but what other country has made such progress with the rule of law, individual freedom, and shared prosperity?

Marx believed religion was a drug (the opium of the people) used by the wealthy to maintain disproportionate power. In retrospect, of course, communism peddles its own drug: an idealized global world, in which inequality disappears in the obliteration of all human distinctions. Kengor sees the seeds of our current flirtation with Marxism in the promotion of sexual freedom, “that plagues us to this today.”

Scripture teaches that, after the Resurrection, Lucifer was left only with the power to accuse, with rhetoric his only weapon. This is why Satan and Marxists prey on the most vulnerable: those least sure of their own identity. Satan comes as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:1), but he and his disciples, Marxist groups such as Antifa and the founders of the Black Lives Matter organization, bring only darkness.

Paul Kengor shows us the light.

COLUMN BY

Robert Orlando

Robert Orlando is a filmmaker, author, and entrepreneur. He’s the founder Nexus Media, and his latest films include The Divine Plan, and Citizen Trump. He also has a new book, The Tragedy of Patton: A Soldier’s Date with Destiny, forthcoming in November. His work has been published in HuffPost, Patheos, Newsmax, and Daily Caller. As a scholar, he specializes in biography, religion, and military history.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. © 2020 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org. The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Transsexualism: Dancing with the Devil

“You fundamentally can’t change sex… Transsexualism was invented by psychiatrists,” said former “transsexual” Alan Finch in 2004. This is a truth; however, it has not stopped the advocates of an invented status from trying to change society,” writes Selwyn Duke in his column Missing the Point on the “Transgender” Bathroom Wars.

Duke warns:

This is about socially reengineering society — about changing hearts and minds — by legitimizing made-up sexual statuses.

Transsexualism is a belief system, a dangerous one to both the individual and to society. President Obama has made it his mission to further Transsexualism and put American women and little girls at risk, both culturally and physically.

Austin Ruse in a column titled College of Pediatricians Calls Transgender Ideology ‘Child Abuse’  writes:

The American College of Pediatricians warns educators and legislators that “a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex” is dangerous for children.

In a strongly worded statement issued today, the professional association of pediatricians says “a person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking.” It describes such thinking as problem that exists in the mind and not the body and “it should be treated as such.”

The college of pediatricians is joining a heated debate that increasingly pits concerned parents against school teachers, administrators, legislators, and transsexual advocates who are pushing the trans agenda in grade-schools, city governments, state governments, and the federal government.

Read more.

 reported, “A lesbian lawmaker [Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham] in Alabama suggested this week that the real safety threat for children is not men who identify as female using women’s restrooms, but faith leaders in churches and teachers in schools.”

This is Transsexualism writ large.

George Orwell wrote:

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Paul-Scalia-150x150

Fr. Paul Scalia is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Va. He serves as the Bishop’s Delegate for Clergy.

Fr. Paul Scalia writes on the demonic nature of the Transsexualism movement: not that transgender people are evil but that their ideology pleases the devil. In Fr. Scalia’s column “The Devil, You Say?” notes:

Three times in his speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Cardinal Sarah described gender ideology [Transsexualism] as “demonic.” More recently, Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Coakley used the same word addressing the issue. So did Bishop Paprocki of Springfield regarding gay marriage. A strong word, to be sure. But most people misunderstand why. Some take “demonic” for mere hyperbole. Something is not just bad, but really, really bad. Others see it as rash judgment of opponents – literally demonizing them. Still others take it as just an overstatement by religious fanatics, who are unhinged anyway.

But “demonic” is a sober and sobering assessment of the thought behind gender ideology. It’s not a judgment of people’s intentions. It doesn’t mean that those who endorse gender ideology are demonic or possessed. It means, rather, that the reasoning and results of that philosophy – no matter how innocently held – line up with the desires, tactics, and resentments of “Old Scratch” himself.

Satan and the damned in The Last Judgment by Giotto (di Bondone), 1306 [Cappella Scrovegni, Padua]

Gender ideology repeats the basic lie of the evil one: “You will be like gods.” (Gen 3:5)  Of course, this lie lurks behind every temptation. Every sin comes from that prideful desire to supplant God. But in the arena of human sexuality, it has greater gravity.Read more.

Duke concludes with the following warning:

Unfortunately, the once-closeted is now exalted while the ethereal is closeted. Today we hear that “faith is a private matter,” a profoundly silly statement, while private matters are made public. If one’s faith is a lie, he should dispense with it; if it is the Truth, which is universal, there then is nothing private about it. And as we confuse the public with the private, Christianity is expelled from the public sphere and now even the private one, with businessmen told they can’t live their own faith in their own business.

And that’s what happens when closets aren’t used for the right things.

Is it time to put Transsexualism back into Pandora’s box? It it time to tell the truth?

RELATED ARTICLES:

Restrooms at National Parks ‘Align’ With Gender Identity

The Left Endangers the Rest of Us When It Uses Terms Like ‘Haters’ and ‘Bigots’

ACLU Head Resigns After Trannies Whip It Out in Front of Her Daughters

Homosexuals and Transgenders Embracing Witchcraft

Strong Percentages of Americans Unlikely to Consider Voting for a Muslim, Transgender, or Agnostic/Atheist Presidential Candidate

Missing the Point on the “Transgender” Bathroom Wars