Thomas Hardy= “It is love, not reason, which is stronger than death.”
Dotted through-out past email conversations with many friends are questions they have raised in regard to ‘Lucifer’, ‘Satan’, ‘Mephistophles’, as 3 kinds, or faces, of evil.
What this differentiation means existentially is that qualitatively different ‘themes’ of evil assail us, in our life. Each evil targets something necessary to human existence in its ex-stasis ‘outside’ itself toward reality, and distorts this dynamic factor. Hence, Lucifer= soul; Satan= heart; Mephistophles= mind.
Thus we have no choice in the matter= we are forced to struggle with the existential question of how to meet evil.
How do we face what faces us?
The view of evil in Martin Buber is a third way beyond either Oriental monism, or Western dualism. This approach says that we must both, on one level, stand up to and draw a line in the sand against evil, yet on another level, ‘suffer and redeem’ evil. This is the Jewish and Christian message concerning evil. The third way beyond monism — where evil tends to disappear or be relativized — or dualism — where evil tends to be reified and almost become eternal — has to do with the Jewish-Christian revelation that the world of matter, space and time, history, will in the fullness of time be redeemed. If Oriental monism and Western dualism are both in error about evil, this is because neither understands the true meaning of Redemption.
The Orientalising tendency puts mysticism in the place of Redemption, and the Western tendency confuses Redemption with something moralistic that speaks part of its language but in spirit betrays it.
Redemption is not merging ‘back’ into God, nor is Redemption God helping the good guys ‘beat up’ the bad guys, which is God’s authority and morality suppressing, or eliminating, the devil’s rebellion and immorality.
1= Lucifer and Satan
Both the prophet Ezekiel, 28, 1-19, and the prophet Isaiah, 14, 12-20, and Christ echoing and interpreting them in Luke, 10, 18, see the primal evil spirit called ‘Lucifer’ [‘light bringer’ in Hebrew] fall from heaven, like a shooting star, to become prince of this world. As “shooting star”, evil is originally ‘Lucifer’, but as “prince of this world”, evil becomes ‘Satan’ [‘adversary’ in Hebrew].
Lucifer is named only once in the Bible, in Isaiah where Yahweh addresses him thus= “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning.. For thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the spirits of God.. I will be like the Most High.” In Hebrew, Lucifer’s name is the noun ‘heylel’, which is derived from the verb ‘hawlal’, which means ‘to shine, to glory, to boast.’ Ezekiel clarifies the motive for this spiritual self-elevation rooted in a crazy and foolish presumption; thus Lucifer is the evil spiritual power behind the worldly prince Tyrus, who proclaims “I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas” [he is enthroned in the unconscious psyche], but it is also made clear that Lucifer began as a very high and exalted spirit [a 4-fold Cherubim “anointed” by God as a protector] who was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty”; this originally marvellous spirit had “been in Eden, the Garden of God” and “upon God’s holy mountain”, and had “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” in heaven. But God says to him= “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by virtue of your brightness”, “your heart is lifted up because of your riches” [of talent, giftedness, imagination, as well as money and worldly goods]. Lucifer is always associated with material riches, no less than spiritual sheen= “Such is your skill in trading, your wealth has continued to increase, and with this your heart has grown more arrogant; your busy trading has filled you with violence and sin.” This originally bright and dazzling spirit was “perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created until iniquity was found in thee”; thus God vows to Lucifer/Tyrus= ”I will cast thee to the ground..” Lucifer will be humbled, finally, for he is a false spiritual power demanding to be worshipped as ‘god-like.’
In the Luciferian guise, evil is ‘spiritual’, or other-worldly= false dawn, and false enlightenment; deception, seduction, flattery; charisma and vanity as spiritual states of pseudo flowering in which we think we have become godlike, without having been first purified and sanctified. False divinisation, which creates not the compassionate suffering of the greater for the lesser, but a self-satisfied sense of superiority, in which one treats with contempt inferior beings; in Buddhism, this is the evil at the root of all human compulsion to ‘compare’ human being against human being, to decide who is better and who is worse.
In the Satanic guise, evil is ‘material’, or this-worldly= darkness and fear where no spiritual light can reach; a lack of nous [direct and penetrative spiritual seeing, and intelligence], thus stupidity and blindness about spiritual matters; bribery, intimidation, condemnation; avarice and hatred as materialistic states of seeming ego expansion in which we think we can become all powerful in the world by possessing the biggest slice of the pie, and eliminating the opposition. Satan both tempts us into materialistic sins, and also, as William Blake says in his visionary poetry, moralistically condemns us for those failings afterward. In the Book of Job [chapters 1 and 2], Satan is the ‘witness for the prosecution’, seeking to prove to God that humanity is unable to fulfil the trust God places in us.
Thus Satan is both the tempter who plays on our weakness, producing a ‘giving in’ to it, but also the judge who places a crushing, severe judgement on that weakness once it is succumbed to. The more we judge sin, the more we sneak off and entertain it in secret. Hiding from the light, clinging to the dark, is Satanic; it implies no forgiveness of weakness and failure and transgression, no compassion for human vulnerability and temptability. To admit sin, to expose it to light, implies believing we are still loveable, by God and by others and by oneself. But Satan makes us feel totally worthless. Thus in despair we give in, then despair more, then give in more to console ourselves= an endless cycle of indulgence, guilt and self-loathing, and then more indulgence. Satan is also, therefore, the spirit of compulsion, of rape and murder. Force, not love, is Satan’s way. We are Satanic even when, gripped by a lack of patience and a lack of endurance, we ‘force the issue’ before it is ready.
William Blake lays bare and denounces the pitiless judgemental spirit of Satan= “In Hell all is Self Righteousness; there is no such thing there as Forgiveness of Sin; he who does forgive Sin is Crucified as an Abettor of Criminals, and he who performs Works of Mercy in Any shape whatever is punished, and if possible destroyed, not through envy, or hatred, or malice, but through Self Righteousness that thinks it does service to God, which ‘god’ is Satan.”
Lucifer is the worst of the Orient; Satan is the worst of the West; though every culture knows of both evils. In Lakota, Lucifer is akin to ‘Iktomi’, who once was the spirit of wisdom, and beauty, but fell, becoming a deceiver who stirs up rivalry, while Satan is akin to ‘Iya’, the cyclone of destruction that rages through the earth, laying waste to everything in its path.
Wilmer Mesteth once told me that according to Lakota teaching, the chief evil in human beings is ‘prematurity.’ Either rising above the world, or forcing the world to conform and measure up, are both prematurity. The one abandons the world in the name of ‘spirituality’ [Luciferian pseudo ripening], the other crushes the world in the name of ‘religion’ [Satanic pseudo uprightness].
Opposed to prematurity is ‘hard wakan’, on which the Lakota of old staked and built their life. A hard holiness, a hard struggle, a hard walk, slow, painful, but transformative in its result.
2= William Blake On Satan the Accuser Who Is The ‘god’ Of This World
William Blake speaks of ‘Satan the Accuser’ at various points in his work. “A Vision of the Last Judgement” is a description of a painting now lost, which was found in Blake’s notebooks after his death, and assembled from fragments by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Blake says that Christ came to deliver humanity, “the accused”, and not to deliver Satan, “the accuser.” The ‘Last Judgement’ will be the defeat and end of Satanic Accusation. Blake develops a powerful, and chilling, vision of Satan as not only the worldly tyrant who uses politics and economics to suppress human freedom, but also as the false god behind most if not all organized religion; the churches and the priests and ministers are servants of the Satanic Accuser and his religion of Judgementalism= which defies the warning of Christ ‘to judge not, lest you be judged.’ But Blake is really saying something radical= the ‘god’ many people worship, the god of authority, harshness, severity, punitiveness, moralism, is in reality Satan the Evil One.
In the poem “To The Accuser Who Is God Of This World”, Blake pulls no punches in addressing Satan directly=
“Though thou art worshipped by the names divine, of Jesus and Yahweh, thou art still the Son of Morn in weary night’s decline, the lost traveler’s dream under the hill.”
The ‘Son of Morn’ is an allusion to Lucifer, expelled from heaven, appearing in the sky as a false dawn, and plummeting to earth to become Satan, the secular and religious prince of ‘worldliness’, which Blake calls “the empire of Nothing.”
The connection between Blake’s ‘Satan’ and Dostoyevsky’s ‘Grand Inquisitor’ is clear. Every worldly authority, whether secular or religious, tends toward the Satanic in so far as its real motive is what E.G. Howe used to call “power over the other.” It was this Satanic Ruler, both secular and religious, who crucified Christ.
The battle for the Redemption of the world is thus, in William Blake, the battle between Satan and Christ.
In the old Celtic Shamanic vision of evil, Satan is regarded as an invader who holds the inherent goodness of the world captive; the goodness native to everything and everyone is still there, despite human frailties and sins, but it is ‘set in concrete’ by a layer of evil= a false skin of opacity, which prevents the goodness being freed and coming to full realisation. Satan’s morality murders the ‘fruitfulness and flowering’ that God seeks from the creation and in the world.
Blake also reveals how it is Satan gets a grip on us through self-doubt= having first created this illness in us, Satan then uses ‘Authority’ as the cure for it. In short, he creates a sickness and then offers to remedy it provided we do exactly as he commands! It is a neat, but closed, circle.
The circle goes like this. Satan is the evil spirit who makes human beings feel so radically despairing about their flaws, failings, and sin, that they cease to trust anything in their own spiritual experience, but are crippled, paralyzed, undermined, and therefore become easily cowed by Authority= it is Satan who makes the ‘sense of sin’ in humans so darkly negating, shriveling, shameful and guilt ridden, that they put no faith in their innate capacities and independent discernment, but become obedient to the Authority that tells them they are indeed ‘wrong with God’, but at the same time also tells them how they can ‘get right.’
Blake sees any order/organization/structure that is coldly and fixedly set as machine-like; and the ‘machine’ as mechanicalness and as machinations is Satanic. A major consequence of this Satanic System is that desire as such, passion as such, life in its pith, juice, and thrust, come to be regarded as inherently evil. In the kingdom of Satan, it is energy which is evil, and only the ‘moralic acid’ that constrains energy is good. Hell is energy, and heaven is restraint of energy– which is why hell is active and alive while heaven is passive and dead. In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, Blake inverts this Satanic heaven and hell, showing that its angels are really devils, while its devils are really angels. Milton is infected by the Satanic upside-downness, and so Blake says that Milton only wrote at liberty and with inspiration when depicting hell and devils, but wrote in the boring and inhibited good boy/good girl vein when writing of heaven and angels. One commentator on Blake says that Satan has engendered the ‘human heresy’, which instills in us a sense we have no right to live, and should be suspicious of our very thirst and hunger for ‘life more abundant’, or what St Peter describes as the state in which the human ‘spirit is alive in God’s life.’
Satan is therefore the spirit who limits the human, always compelling the human through fear and guilt. We fear and are guilty about our imperfection and so we try for perfection, in Satan’s grip, but it is a stilted perfection. We try to be good, but our desire and passion are always stirring beneath, and they might lead us into sin! This fills us with the moral terror of transgressing, and so we arrange our face, our public mask, of behavioural correctness, but we are none the less always found out when the beasts of soul desire and heart passion erupt, breaking out of the cage. Freud’s ‘super ego versus id’ is a portrayal in more psychological terms of the Satanic structure in which the whole of the world is imprisoned. Freud also uncovered something that Blake announces= for Freud is saying both the id and the super ego are flip sides of the same coin, both are intrinsically selfish and intrinsically aggressive. Or put another way= the Rebel and the Tyrant are secretly the same, which is why every Rebel becomes a Tyrant.
Thus in a poem addressed to Satan as a ‘Spectre’ [from “Milton”], the Satanic purpose — reflected in his priests and in his churches – is exposed; this is to “impress on men the fear of death”, and by this to teach “constriction” of the human, which drives it into “abject selfishness.” The true spirit of divinity is that “each shall mutually Annihilate himself for others’ good”. The Last Judgement is “deliverance from Satan’s Accusation.” Therefore Blake encourages us “to go on in fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn [Satan’s] Laws and terrors”, and shaking down his temples as if they were as flimsy as a spider’s web. We should not be cowed by “Self Righteousness in all its Hypocritical turpitude.” Self Righteousness is the false righteousness, the false rectitude, of the person infected by Satanic Accusation= such ‘rightness’ is heartless, cruel, non-compassionate and non-merciful.
Against this stands Christ’s suffering to Redeem all the world process, from beginning to end. St Isaac of Syria said that the Cross of Christ is God’s ‘judgement on judgement.’ Through the Cross, Satanic right and wrong, blessing and damnation, ends, forever.
But from the Catholic Inquisition through the Protestant witch burning to the Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals of today, it is Satan the Accuser who is worshipped with the holy names of Father, and Christ.
3= Mephistophles As The False Spirit of Abstraction
Mother Maria Skobtsova was, along with two other monastics, killed by the Nazis for hiding Jews in her refuge in Paris. Other examples of monastics who understood the need to leave the monastery as a spiritual haven in order to fulfill Christ’s call to work and die for the redeeming of the world include, for example, St Philothei of Athens , a nun who was killed by the Turks because she was helping slave women to escape; or, St Kosmas the Aitolian [1700 AD], who left Athos to preach widely the urgent need for education and was also martyred for the stand he took.
Thus not all monasticism is understood and practiced as ‘other worldly.’ According to John Demakis [‘Raising Lazarus’, ed. Stephen Muse, 2004, p 17], the early Eastern Christian church in Byzantium supported many philanthropic institutions, including homes for the poor [ptochotropheia], homes for orphans [orphanotrophia], homes for the aged [gerokomeia], and hospitals [nosokomeia and xenones]. Indeed, “rival Christian factions often vied with each other in who would do more good works” [J. Demakis, p 17]. Moreover, as Patriarch of Constantinople [from 398 AD], St John Chrysostom thundered against slavery and on behalf of the equality of women, and threatened fire from heaven upon the luxury and vanity of the rich [R. Payne, p 217]. He followed the example of St Basil in combining the way of contemplation and the way of action= the former he likened to night, when the dew falling from heaven heals our hurts and calms our griefs, while the latter is likened to the fierce heat of the day which scorches and burns us [R. Payne, p 212].
But the link between quiet and tumult did not last..
Perhaps over time as the church increasingly sided with the rich and powerful, in effect backing the most worldly, so monasticism became increasingly other worldly. Whatever the cause, the ultimate danger of monasticism is to embrace the heresy of ‘Angelism’– the desire to be raised above human frailty, so as to become pure spirit without body. This is the road to total heartlessness. The heart as such is transcended, as the monastic becomes more ethereal, and confuses this etherealized state with ‘spirituality.’ It is nothing of the kind, rather it is the Faustian problem of knowledge as escape from existential wrestlings.
This is the evil of Mephistophles. The name in Greek means ‘foul air.’ Angelizing spirituality is in fact a too rarified air. The person becomes too attenuated, too thin, to really live. This ‘thinness’ is not the more abundant life brought by the Spirit.
Mephistophles abstracts the human into Angelizing spirituality, philosophy not embodied in reality, and science as a tool for controlling the world’s rigid outer shell, not delving the world’s fluid inner mystery. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Dostoyevsky, all warned against the increasing abstractionism of Western culture. All in the head, only a spectral life= the idea of life but not the reality of life, according to Dostoyevsky.
Nikos Kazantzakis= “Yet I also know that mere ideas within an idealist’s hot head are snug, pure, untainted, free of blood and dirt– but entirely barren, sterile, superfluous” [‘Letters to Galatia’].
Whether religious or secular, this abstractionism is anti-incarnational; it is transcendence of the world.
The worst manifestation of the ‘poisoned air’ that suffocates our humanity, depriving us of the true air in which we breathe in the Spirit, is in metaphysical philosophy, esotericism, hermeticism, occultism, ‘Sophia Perennis’, and similar traditions [such as Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Anthroposophy’]. A ‘spiritualized person’ is a Thinker of Higher Thoughts, a seeker of Higher Ideas, not disclosed plainly here below, but only hinted at in symbols, puzzles, conundrums. The seeker can read these for the secrets they contain. Thus he is a hierophant, an adept, an initiate, in Higher Knowledge beyond the ken of the mass of people operating at a lower level of reality.
Consciousness is higher and matter is lower. So, raise consciousness out of matter, above matter, in order to climb the ladder up to the Higher Realm. Then pull the ladder up! The Higher Knowledge of the Higher Realm is for the few, the illuminati, the cognoscenti. Example= John Dee, conversing with angels..
To rise above matter means to rise above the body; you rise above food, sex, physical needs, to free the mind. You then float on air in mere abstract ‘essences’ freed from the constraints and influences of the material.
In effect, ‘god’ is the ultimate Abstract Mind. This deity without passion is a fiction of the human mind that abstracts itself out of life. It is impassible, eternal, never moving. Thus it is radically uninvolved in human affairs. It is detached, a Mental Entity above and outside everything and everyone. At most, it allows lower ‘reflections’ of its Serene Constance of Immutable Consciousness, but humanity would be serene and immutable only if climbing up the ladder of the ever more ‘insubstantial’ air until Abstract Mind is discovered in its fullness, and the seeker at last is privy to the Highest Knowledge.
Those ‘in the know’ about the Higher Realm are higher than those lower people imprisoned in the bodily.
This appeals to people very damaged below the neck, who feel threatened by emotions and drives, and cannot distinguish them from feeling and passion. Mind is superior not only to the body, but also to affect in its entirety. Such people cannot love, and excuse themselves from immersion in the active energetics of love by recourse to the claim that the mind’s cool and calm appropriation of ‘living mysteries’ is better, because it is higher..
Such over-mentalisation of the divine mystery, which leads to over-mentalisation of the human mystery, entered modern Judaism through Maimonides, under obvious Greek Hellenic influence.
Martin Buber= “There are those who wish to reach God by joining hands with him ‘above’ the world, whereas we wish to join hands with him ‘around’ the world” [pp 295-296, ‘To Deny Our Nothingness’, Maurice Friedman, 1978].
4= Martin Buber On Redeeming Evil
The view of evil in Martin Buber is a third way beyond either Oriental monism, or Western dualism. From his perspective, this is the truer vision of evil embedded in Jewish tradition, but often distorted, by Jews and Christians alike.
–Oriental monism plays down evil, and tends to see it as merely the product of Spiritual Blindness and Ignorance, which makes evil the by-product of a state of mind. When mind is illumined, evil disappears.
–Western dualism over plays evil, almost to the point of Zoroaster’s notion of there being two opposed, but equal, spiritual ultimates, one good, one evil, in endless war with one another in the cosmos as a whole. More commonly, Western dualism sees evil as arising from the motive, or intention, of the heart. In some guises, it is believed a person is either of one motive or the other motive= each motive gives rise to fundamentally different kinds of people, those of Rectitude vs those of Wickedness, and these two kinds of people invariably clash for which motive is to gain the supremacy. On this approach, whatever happens in the short run, in the long run the evil motive will be eternally punished by God with hell, while the good motive will conversely be eternally rewarded by God with heaven. The only difference between this kind of dualism and Zoroaster’s Persian variety is that here the good motive finally defeats the evil motive, because God backs the former kind of people against the latter kind of people. The latter might seem to win for a time, but in the end, God guarantees the former will win.
Oriental evil= a matter of vision, seeing, enlightenment or ignorance.
Western evil= a matter of motive, intent, ethical disposition for virtue or for vice.
Buber explicitly rejects both these positions. This rejection is part and parcel of his understanding of Redemption.
–Against Oriental monism, he says that evil is very real and very far reaching in consequences. Even if evil lasts only a time, its damage to the creation is more serious than the attempt by Oriental Monism to treat it as only ‘relatively’ real can admit. The Orient is too light weight about evil. Moreover, change of heart, not just bringing spiritual light to the mind, is needed for the human to stand up to the assault of evil.
–Against Western dualism, Buber says that evil can be redeemed, and our task is precisely its redemption. Buber does not read his own ancestral Judaism in the Western dualist way many Christians do, especially fundamentalists/evangelicals. Redemption means releasing good from the ‘hindering’ effect of evil, and defeating evil’s attraction and lure by putting in its place the full blossoming of human nature, energy, being, doing. Buber therefore rejects Western dualism as giving too ‘absolute’ a reality to evil, not realising that though damaging, this very damage can be ‘made good.’ This is Redemption. Evil is not defeated in a dualistic war by good= rather, the truth of heart that evil distorts comes through, and undercuts evil’s very basis. Hence, in the end, evil disappears, and even serves a ‘good’ function by being the prod that pushes people to go deeper and farther than they otherwise would. Without evil, we would be like the Hobbits living in our little and cosy earthly garden; when evil invades, the Hobbits have to grow up, and learn to wrestle with existence’s dilemma in a more big hearted way. Though loss and suffering come, so also comes heart courage and generosity, heart patience and fortitude, and a seeing of the heart that goes under the surface of existence and grasps difficult existential truths.
In fact, both in Hinduism and Judaism, in more existentially oriented circles, we come across this claim that evil is the spur to human deepening and the prod to human greatness. It is a risk worth taking, though as with any radical risk, if it comes good in the end it must be a close run thing, for it could have gone the other way. God plays fair with evil, and gives evil its head, allowing it a real run for its money. The human must really wrestle in this high stakes drama, because though God is involved, God is not some childish rescuer who will do it all for us. We still must ‘fight the good fight’, and ‘do our part.’ Yet faith precisely is willingness to dive in with this divine risk, and see it through, trusting in its ultimate good in the end. This is because what we really have here is not ‘good vs evil’, but ‘love vs evil’, and by wrestling with and being tormented, tempted, and torn by evil, love ends up deeper than evil and greater than good. Nietzsche= “whatever we do for love is beyond good and evil.”
Buber, therefore, situates evil in a cosmic ‘drama’ that could end up real bad, but the person of faith trusts that it will come good in the end, whatever has to be borne and undergone along the way. But this faith is severely tested and even smashed, before it can come through.
It is in the context of Redemption, and Christ’s paradoxical way of love – not only fighting but also suffering evil – that the ‘problem’ of why we are free to become evil, and why evil is free to deceive and sift us, needs to be set.
Evil is serious, and a ‘deal breaker’ for many people in their refusal to go on trusting God. Yet we have in Christ’s Cross, Descent into Hell, and Resurrection, a pledge of victory if we will go through it all, and not give in and give up along the way. The Biblical ‘fear not’ doesn’t offer us the traditional Christian consolations of ‘hope’; rather, it encourages us to ‘go on’ when the going gets tough, indeed, even when the going seems undercut and blocked, and turned on its head, so as to make neither rational nor moral sense. There is no hope for us, if we opt out prematurely. Had Abraham refused the terrible instruction to give up his most treasured son, he would not have reached the later point in the unfolding encounter where the Spirit told him no such sacrifice was asked by God, and nor would it ever be asked by God. Abraham undergoes a divinely driven Daemonic Reversal, like that which will be necessary for and defining of the coming Messiah, but those glued to the ethical as avoidance of the existential dynamis, the journey and battle of faith, still try to ‘judge’ this odd story, making God wrong, or Abraham wrong, or the whole shambles wrong. That is to miss the point.
It is too easy to say of Abraham’s ordeal of existential faith that God never intended to ask for child sacrifice [a practice widespread in the pagan religions of the Near East before and after Abraham’s time]. What works out later on is not guaranteed before you make the ‘leap of passion’ into the unknown. The risk is real. The risk is real because existence is unfixed, and can ‘turn out’, and ‘go’, in different directions. We change the existential landscape by our action, even affecting God, as well as affecting the world, when our heart steps forth from hiding, and gives itself up to everything= to the good and bad of the shining path of Eros, and the loving and the evil of the hard road of the Daemonic.
The statement in the Gospels [Mathew, 12, 18-21] of Christ as Redeemer, echoing the prophecy in Isaiah about the Messiah to come, takes on ultimate meaning only in light of the 3 evils that will be overcome, by finding the more profound truth of love which they block, and conceal, if we will go through what they throw at us, to stop us in our tracks.
“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen; My beloved, on whom my favour rests; I will put my Spirit upon him; And he will proclaim righteousness among the nations. He will not strive, he will not shout, nor will his voice be heard in the streets. He will not snap off the broken reed, nor snuff out the smouldering wick, until he leads justice on to victory. In him the nations will place their hope.”