Some books take you to strange places. Not all of them are fiction. I began Nightmares with the Bible as a way of understanding the many, disparate ideas of demons I encounter in popular culture. (I can’t tell you too much about my conclusions, otherwise you wouldn’t be tempted to buy the book!) One of those nagging questions is: what does “based on a true story” mean? I’ve known of Walter Wink’s powers trilogy for many years. Because of my research I’ve now settled down to read Unmasking the Powers (number two, for those keeping count). This book will take you into strange places. Wink was very much a Christian in his outlook and orientation. At the same time, he raises questions I’ve had other Christians put to me—were the “gods” of other nations, as in the Bible, real? That word real is slippery, and Wink tries to hold onto it.
Unmasking the Powers is a kind of systematic exploration of the various “spirits” found in the universe we inhabit. One of these is the Devil, and although Wink doesn’t see him as necessarily a “being,” neither does he find the Bible making him entirely evil. Indeed, one of the great conundrums of monotheistic belief is theodicy; how is it possible to justify the goodness of a single, all-powerful deity in a world with so much suffering? Wink approaches this question from an angle we might not anticipate. He then deals with demons. Since this is my subject in Nightmares, I found his discussion apt. And yet again, strange. Powers emanate from the institutions we create (you might have correctly guessed this was the book I wrote about on Tuesday). Wink is willing to challenge materialism and take such powers seriously.
Finding a new perspective when we’ve been reared in a materialistic one, can be difficult. For those of us raised religious, there was an inherent schizophrenia involved. Our teachers told us of a mechanistic universe, but had Bibles on their desks. (Yes, this was public school, but let’s not kid ourselves.) While physics taught us everything could be quantified, church taught us that spirit couldn’t. At least not by any empirical means. Wink will unblinkingly take you there. He offers both scientific and spiritual points of view on these entities, although he tries to refrain from calling them such. Still, he records many people who have seen angels. And although quantum entanglement wasn’t really known when he wrote this book, if it had been, Wink would’ve been nodding his head.