The ‘Devils’, in Dostoyevsky’s most terrifying book, are not persons, but ideologies. The malevolent beings he describes—and they are quite a monumentally evil bunch — are not demons in some kind of absolute sense, rather they are demonically possessed individuals. What possesses them? Whatever utopian idealism is in the air, be it communism, liberalism, nihilism, materialism, postmodernism, to name a few—they are modern substitutes for deeper metaphysical structures. Dostoyevsky heart-wrenchingly shows us how ideology progressively undermines and destroys, first the individual, then the intimate friend or loved one, and then society in general.
It’s easy to verify this by looking at various ideological cults and their murderous history. Ideologies are held up by apparently well-meaning people, possessed by a mono-logical vision of the world, who try to replace religious beliefs with progressive or reactionary ones. These are uprooted souls, maintaining a project, which they themselves, in their heart of hearts, don’t believe in either, but which literally possess them. These ideologues are operating from some kind of fatal blindness, and they project all their rage out into the external world. Why? Because they are not able to look at the ‘devils within’, so to speak, or the wounds in their own heart. Such people exist on every level of the developmental spectrum, from the bible thumping fundamentalist, to the radical social warrior. They are those who have replaced ‘thinking’ with ‘reacting’. And they react to whatever ideology, or demonic possession, or virus meme, has over-taken them.
Actually, we don’t need ideology at all, if we are free people that is. We don’t need to belong to any cult of ideology whatsoever — left or right. Our membership in such structures indicates that we are weak and unable to think or speak for ourselves. It’s not, however, surprising that we fall into such groups, as they feed on our vulnerability, and the loneliness of having to face the existential dragons of existence by ourselves. But ideologies are refuge places for all our cowardly impulses. It is best to be immunized from them all together.
Where do these Frankenstein’s of ideology emerge from? They are birthed in the terror of various revolutions, and from a new society trying to establish itself from the ashes, but which is haunted by the ghosts of the same old structures—like Hamlet and the ghost of his father. Ideologues and their followers are nostagic for a rational order, but their remedy has become a poison instead of a cure — the ouroborus or serpent eating it’s own tale. Ideologies are born in in a void, when deep traditional bonds have been broken, and when there is a mass identity crisis, at times when civilisation eats itself.
People rush into the arms of ideology to find their phantom father; they flock around a Chairman Mao or a Charles Manson or whatever charismatic leader is proposed to replace their murdered savior. It is the loss of the benevolent father that leads people down this blind alley — the father who once represented order and stability. This is precisely the ‘death of God’ as Nietzsche described, which allows for the birth of ideological substitutes, which lead to what he called nihilism.
The way out of ideology and its attendant nihilism is a journey to awake consciousness — of sacred articulation as opposed to unconscious reaction. We fight these demons of ideology, first by seeing them in ourselves, then by weeding them out with the weapon of deeply felt and clear speach and thought.
Note: Much of this and recent writings are indebted to Jordan Peterson and this ideas of logos, the sacred, and the individual: https://jordanbpeterson.com