All at once, the trend turns from naturalistic humanism (whether progressive-optimistic or existential-pessimistic) to the supernatural and the occult. Huxley and Heidegger are out; hell and hex are in! What is to be done? The modern theologian has exercised all his powers to become maximally secular, and now the ungrateful society he serves wants the titillation of ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. The Devil, supposedly demythologized, has become de rigueur. Under such traumatic circumstances, it is of more than passing interest to observe a recent mainline theological rehabilitation of Old Nick.
I refer to The Devil, a book as succinct (142 pages) as its title, written by Richard Woods, a young Dominican Ph.D. candidate in psychology, who typifies today’s New Shape Catholicism. An instructor at Loyola University and author of a previous work entitled The Occult Revolution: A Christian Meditation, Woods has become the Chicago area’s resident pundit on the subject. Since the flurry over the film version of The Exorcist, he has appeared frequently on television talk shows (on one occasion with the undersigned) and has been interviewed by press and radio. He is the kind of “authority” who is listened to: as a Roman Catholic, he presumably stands for something; yet as an acquaintance of William Stringfellow and a supporter of the post-Vatican II liberalization of the Church, he is in tune with the best modernity has to offer.
An initial impression of Woods’s theology of the occult is provided in the dedication of his first book: “To … Bishop James A. Pike, late of the earth-plane, whose journey towards truth led him along unaccustomed paths, a modern wise man worthy of membership in the Brotherhood of ...1