After the predictable sarcasm about “Death of God theologian is Dead” Donohue recounted Altizer’s professed personal experience of Satan:
After Altizer received his Ph.D. in the history of religions from the University of Chicago in 1955, he wanted to become an Episcopal priest. But they didn’t want him: he flunked the psychiatric exam. He later explained why. Here is what he said in his 2006 memoir, Living the Death of God.
“Shortly before this examination, I was in a turbulent condition. While crossing the Midway I would experience violent tremors in the ground, and I was visited by a deep depression, one that occurred again and again throughout my life, but now with particular intensity. During this period I had perhaps the deepest experience of my life, and one that I believe profoundly affected my vocation as a theologian, and even my theological work itself. This occurred late at night, while I was in my room. I suddenly awoke and became truly possessed, and experienced an epiphany of Satan which I have never been able fully to deny, an experience in which I could actually feel Satan consuming me, absorbing me into his very being, as though this was the deepest possible initiation and bonding, and the deepest and yet most horrible union.”
It’s a sober reminder that heresy is a mortal sin. If with full knowledge and consent we dissent and rebel against the revealed teachings of Sacred Scripture and the church we may be opening the door to Satan and orienting our souls towards hell.
We have the naive belief that only the sins which are ugly are real sins. We think only the sins of which we are ashamed and which are socially unsuitable are sins. We have the idea that it is only the sins of the flesh that are REAL sins.
This is a disastrous lie.
Furthermore it is indicates a spiritual immaturity that is astounding in its naivety. What, shall the only sins be those things of which we are ashamed, or those things we have done that we fear we may be found out? Are the only sins the sins that are dirty and disgusting?
Dante rightly put the sins of the flesh in the upper regions of hell and kept the sins of the intellect for the depths.
Perhaps the very worst sins are the sins of the intellect for we hold our ideas as idols. We love them more than we love God, and indeed the first temptation was to grasp at the knowledge of good and evil and therefore to “become like God.”
Furthermore, it is the intellectual sins that are most likely to be linked with pride. “I know best and I know better than anyone else!” So I have known Protestants and extreme Catholic liberals and extreme Catholic conservatives who put themselves and their intellectual ideas before Sacred Scripture and the authority of the church.
Be assured. Intellectual pride and rebellion can very well be a mortal sin.
Will you be demon possessed as Altizer claimed to have been? It is possible, but do not imagine that you will end up shrieking in beastly voices, doing obscene things, vomiting green bile or flying through the air.
Instead you may very well be granted a chair in theology at a prestigious university, and write thoughtful books “The Darkness of God.”