Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists, by Logan Albright
Moon Books, 1789048427, 176 pages, December 2021
Conform or Be Cat Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists by Logan Albright was the dose of reality that I didn’t even realize I needed. In a time with conspiracy-theories abound and a ravenous cancel-culture, this book takes a unique approach of examining the phenomena of attributing individualism, nonconformity, and differences from spiritual to physical as rooted in demonic evil. Albright’s critical-thinking approach to the subject, along with his candidness takes the reader on a journey from biblical times through modernity to highlight how nonconformists have borne the brunt of society’s misinterpretation of them as devils and demons to uncover a pattern in play.
Some might be surprised to hear it’s not only in religion that this demonization occurs. Albright’s has a wide lens when analyzing this phenomena. Initial chapters include Biblical origins, but they progress to demonization showing up in bright children who excel, saints and martyrs, witches and wizards, medicine and science, notions of individualism, art, movies, and eventually modern Satanic panic of recent times. While this might seem like a smorgasbord of information, in reality, it simply shows how prevalent this recurring pattern is within human culture.
And Albright’s approach is so well-researched that despite the many directions the book goes on, the central theme is easy to follow. There’s a ton of anecdotes from throughout history that keep the reader interested and engaged. I would say that Albright leaves no stone unturned in this quest to shine light on the demonization of nonconformists. He packs a ton of historical information to weave together a very clear picture of how time and time again those who choose to walk their own path, stand by their beliefs, or advocate for something outside the traditional norms often pay a steep price.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is how Albright explains how different notions of the devil, from the imagery of horns, hooves, wings to the concept of selling one’s soul, have been perpetuated by myth, folklore, stories, and songs. As Albright points out, a very small portion of people actually worship demons or the devil. Even Satanists do not have a theology centered upon demonic worship. Nevertheless, this imagery has persisted into modern day. Reading Albright’s research helps to break the grip of this collective archetype to start exploring what the energy is that’s actually being repressed through it.
Albright even draws parallel between the Inquisition and motives of Institutional Psychology, demonstrating many of the fear-based tactics are the same thing, just different covers. While we like to believe we’ve progressed as a society, many of the same patterns repeat. From assertions that the planets don’t revolve around to the Earth to choosing to play Dungeons and Dragons, being outside social bounds doesn’t mean the intention is evil – and it’s time we start to realize this and stop inflicting literal pain and torture on those who buck the norms.
While some revel with the accusations hurled at them, far too many people have paid a high cost for their nonconformity. Since reading this book, I’ve continually reflected on all the potential snuffed out and valuable ideas lost to the tides of time due to unwarranted fear. This book feels like a tribute to them, nodding at their accomplishments, even though the praise is much too late. Nevertheless, we can continue to learn from the scientists, saints, philosophers, writers, occultists, but most of all, free-thinking individuals that pioneered their own paths.
I think we often expect books to answer something for us or provide guidance. What was unique about Conform or Be Cast Out is that Albright doesn’t really do this for the reader. Rather, he lays it all out through his examination of history, mythology, folklore, occultism, philosophy, and even the arts and simply shows examples of this demonization, sometimes discussing where they arose from or what perpetuated, but otherwise just sharing his thoughts on the subject. There is no solution proposed; if anything Albright highlights how this is still occurring now in our culture, despite advancements that make it so we no longer have to be rooted in conformity in order to survive.
I gained a lot from reading the book, even if it’s hard to put my finger on. I can best describe it as a sense of liberation. Reading through all the different examples of how this happens when people break formation, whether it be for scientific advancement or spiritual callings, made me more comfortable doing my own thing, even at the cost of judgement. And as a rather avant-garde individualist, judgement and being labeled “bad” is something I’ve come up against rather often. I think that the past few years that I’ve been trying too hard to conform to escape this demonization, but to what avail, honestly? That is at the heart of what I’ve been questioning since reading this book.
And thanks to Albright, I have so much to research further! The browser tabs I currently have open are The Manufacture of Madness by Thomas Szasz, A History of White Magic by Gareth Knight, Envy by Helmut Schoeck, and Escape from Childhood by John Holt. All of these titles and more are part of the wide-ranging sources Albright draws upon in his exploration of this topic, truly demonstrating the depth and breadth of his accumulated wisdom and level of study in regard to this phenomena of demonization.
Conform or Be Cast Out is a book that I feel is going to stick with me for a while because it woke up something within me that needed attention. Albright’s keen insight brought the topic to life through time right into my present reality. And what’s most important about the way he’s done this is that it lacks fear and judgement. The facts, plain and simple, speak for themselves, and suddenly, the reader realizes just how ridiculous these notions of demonization truly are given the life story of the individualist.
Alanna Kali is an astrologer, numerologist, and pioneer spirit that loves to explore life through the lens of depth psychology. She has a passion for studying the humanities and social trends. Her academic work is centered upon reuniting body, mind, and spirit through eco-psychology. She loves reading, spending time in nature, and travel.