"The Holy War"
John Bunyan

Canadian Theosophist, January 15, 1946.

John Bunyan is known to all the world as author of The Pilgrim's Progress, but he ought to be better known as the author of The Holy War. It appeared in 1682, six years after the Progress, and a writer in The Encyclopedia Britannica says if the Progress had not been written it is the best allegory in existence. I read it as a boy and any boy in search of martial adventure, combined with quaint and diverting intrigues may be sure of something to interest him, while adults may discover here some of the profoundest truths that illuminate life in every moment. At the present time it is remarkable that its bearing on the present world conflict has not had more attention from our church authorities. Its secondary hero, Diabolus, though not as dignified as Milton's Lucifer, is sufficiently comparable to Adolph Hitler to make one wonder that the resemblance has not been exploited in the newspapers, for Diabolus is a very mean devil. Diabolus rebels against the rule of Prince Emmanuel, son of King Shaddai, who sent him to defend the town of Mansoul against the rebellious forces leagued under Diabolus. One might almost imagine that Adolph Hitler had taken The Holy War as a textbook when we read the plans by which Diabolus sought to subvert the citizens of Mansoul.

"Therefore let us assault them in all pretended fairness, covering of our intentions with all manner of lies, flatteries, delusive words; feigning of things that never will be, and promising of that to them, that they shall never find; this is the way to win Mansoul, and to make them of themselves to open their gates to us; yea, and to desire us too, to come in to them.

"And the reason why I think that this project will do, is, because the people of Mansoul now, are every one simple and innocent; all honest and true: Nor do they as yet know what it is to be assaulted with fraud, guile, and hypocrisy: They are strangers to lying and dissembling lips; wherefore, we cannot; if thus we be disguised, by them be at all discerned, our lies will go for true sayings, and our dissimulations for upright dealings. What we promise them, they will in that believe us, especially if in all our lies and feigned words, we pretend great love to them, and that our design is only their advantage and honor."

As Bunyan had been a soldier himself and served in the wars of the time, he is able to supply a colorful account of the fighting, the parleys, the assaults and the rebuffs of the campaign, besides giving graphic accounts of the engines and weapons of warfare used by the combatants. The five gates of the town were attacked by the enemy in the way he deemed most fitting, but nothing can surpass the dramatic effect upon the young reader or leave a more permanent impression on older minds than the beating of the huge drum at Eargate.

As a consummate liar and deceiver, Diabolus gives the citizens smooth words in approaching them. "And first," he tells them, "I will assure you it is not myself but you; not mine, but your advantage that I seek by what I now do, as will full well be made manifest, by that I have opened my mind to you. For, Gentlemen, I am (to tell you the truth) come to show you how you may obtain great and ample deliverance from a bondage that unaware to yourselves, you are captivated and enslaved under." Japan as well as Germany uses this trick.

The further negotiations and the preparation for battle occupy many pages and are of interest as showing the methods of waging war 250 years ago. The forces of Diabolus were finally defeated and the town surrendered, with Diabolus a prisoner.

When the brave Prince had finished his triumph over his foe, he turned Diabolus out in the midst of his contempt and shame, having given him charge no more to be a possessor of Mansoul. "Then went he from Emmanuel, and out of the midst of his camp to inhabit the parched places in a salt land, seeking rest but finding none."

Evil does not so easily let go hold of Mansoul. A period of reconstruction follows, good work is done, but good work is not enough. The trial of the prisoners, Diabolonians, follows and all these show that there has been no change of heart, but only of mind. Mr. False-peace may be taken as an example. Witnesses are brought against the prisoner at the trial. Mr. Hate-lies testifies: "My Lord, I have heard him say, that peace though in a way of unrighteousness is better than trouble with truth." The Clerk asks him, "Where did you hear him say this?" and Mr. Hate-lies answers: "I heard him say it in Folly-yard, at the house of one Mr. Simple, next door to the sign of the Self-deceiver. Yes, he has said this to my knowledge twenty times in that place."

The jury that tried the prisoners were Mr. Belief, Mr. True-heart, Mr. Hate-bad, Mr. Love-God, Mr. See-truth, Mr. Heavenly-mind, Mr. Moderate, Mr. Thankful, Mr. Humble, Mr. Good-work, and Mr. Zeal-for-God. They found the prisoners guilty and that they all deserved death. Between the sentence and the execution one of the prisoners, Mr. Incredulity escaped.

He sought Diabolus and once more they began to plot against Mansoul. We must not forget that Incredulity is a principle in ourselves and that Diabolus is our own lower nature. Our evil qualities are always ready for rebellion.

Meanwhile Emmanuel had set new officers over the town. "Willbewill, that rebel, who, one would have thought, should "never have turned from us, he is now in as great favor with Emmanuel as ever he was with thee. But besides all this, this Willbewill has received a special commission from his master to search for, to apprehend, and to put to death all, and all manner of Diabolonians that he shall find in Mansoul."

In spite of the gracious dealings of the Prince Emmanuel with the towns-folk, and the feast at which he entertained them, and "with some curious riddles of secrets drawn up by his Father's secretary, "for when they read in the scheme where the riddles were writ, and looked in the face of the Prince, things looked so like the one to the other, that Mansoul could not forbear to but say, this is the Lamb, this is the Sacrifice, this is the Rock, this is the Red Cow, this is the Door, and this is the Way;" all was of no avail to the weaklings and the wicked. The plotters once more gained entrance and were aided and abetted by many who "remained in several lurking places of the Corporation . . . old Diabolonians, that either came with the tyrant when he invaded and took the town, or that had there by reason of unlawful mixtures, their birth and breeding, and bringing up. And their holes, dens, and lurking places were in, under, or about the wall of the town." Eventually a second war was declared against Mansoul, and the parallel to our second world war is fully established by Bunyan. An army of "terrible Doubters" was sent against Mansoul by Diabolus. The cruelty and ruthlessness of these dark forces, even after their defeat, when they came to be known as Bloodmen, and the edict went forth for their utter destruction, must be left to Bunyan's own vivid narrative to impress the reader. When one recalls the horrors of the German occupation of Poland and Greece, of the Low Countries, of Russia, during the last two years, of Norway and France, the name of Bloodmen should stick to the Hitler hordes while history endures. Bunyan was a true prophet for he only wrote what he saw.

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