An anecdote about the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke tells of his being invited by his friend the psychologist Karl Jung to undertake psychotherapy. Rilke declines the offer, saying “I’m afraid if my demons go, my angels will go with them.”
In legend and literature are a host of characters who have bartered with the devil and traded their souls for creative powers.
William Blake, especially in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” portrays the angelic and the demonic as equally powerful and necessary. A Christian reading Blake may wish he could ask the poet, “Hey, which side are you on?”
Blake might explain that he roamed like a foreign correspondent through the spirit world, in the midst of a heavenly battleground, surrounded by firefights and war cries, reporting on what he saw and heard. He may have simply felt called to write what he witnessed and leave judgment to his readers.
Suppose a spirit gives us strange words, wild combinations of words, lines rich with meanings we have never consciously meant, and suppose they make us feel wicked, cruel or severely deranged, in a fearful way.
Just because inspiration strikes doesn’t mean we’re obliged to accept it. Perhaps Hitler was inspired to massacre people, Eric Rudolph to bomb abortion clinics.
Artists are called to partner with the spirit, not to be any spirit’s pawns.