The French Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, provided a fascinating overview of the patristic link between sin and multiplicity in his Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man. This was a point that was taken up in a presentation earlier this week pertaining to migrant identity.
While the focus of de Lubac’s writing on this issue was on the multiplicity of self-identification, it is an indication of the pervasiveness of sin when one stops to think of how multiplicity also affects the self’s relationships with others.
Take for instance, a chapter in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in which Screwtape counselled his nephew Wormwood on how to deal with a human’s relationship with his Mother. Screwtape suggested that one demonic technique is exploiting the divide between the actions of a person on the one hand and another’s perception of that person’s intentions or character on the other.
In chapter 3 Lewis – via Screwtape – writes of a demon’s necessity to generate such a multiplicity that the actions of a person with whom one relates to accumulate to create an “imaginary person” that becomes less and less like the real one. The victory comes then, when the former than governs the way one relates to the latter such that a person could, to use an example provided by Screwtape himself, “turn at a moment’s notice from an impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s soul to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm”.
This much more subtle form of multiplicity operating within human relations, so Lewis reminds us, are what the demons use to ensure that such relations remain anything but harmonious.