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ADONAI On April - 16 - 2011

An apology for the devil: it must be remembered that we have heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.
~Samuel Butler

 

On this page we will be discussing one of the most complex and enigmatic figures in all of Western theology  , the DevilSatan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Son of Perdition, The Morning Star, and many other names too numerous to list here. Best known as GOD’s adversary and tormentor of humankind, the Devil has a biography more rich and complex than any deity to come before or since. A moral story of hubris and fiery  jealousy that has been written and rewritten a thousand times. But just who or what is the Devil? We will get into his “beginnings” and chart his progression from angel and servant of GOD, to cast out rebel and ruler of Hell. But first, as with all things, we begin at the beginning.

 

The book of Genesis. Supposedly Lucifer’s first appearance and scene of his first and possibly greatest victory over man. I think we’re all pretty familiar with the story.  Adam and Eve are chilling in the Garden of Eden, when Eve is approached by a serpent at the Tree of Knowledge. GOD had forbidden this one thing from Adam and Eve, the Fruit of Knowledge. The serpent tells Eve that eating the fruit will give them wisdom and make them like GOD. Eve takes the fruit and shares it with Adam.  Their fate is sealed. GOD’s anger causes him to banish humanity from the Garden forever. Adam and Eve are tossed out into the wilderness beyond. GOD gives them the freedom they coveted.

"Are you sure, Eve? I could have sworn He said He would kill us if we ate it."

Two things are accomplished here. Man, through his own arrogance, loses Paradise  but inherits the world. Also, Eve’s weakness “curses women to pain in childbirth”, and in later, realer times, blame for the burden of sin. But there is  a small problem here.  This is a Christian interpretation of  a very Jewish story. The Old Testament is full of stories bent to fit the canon of the New Testament. This is just the first. The Hebrew religion that would become Judaism had no devil. He did not exist when this story was written. Ancient Jews did not need another layer. Serpents were figureheads of many of the competing religions in Canaan and abroad. That is why the serpent tempted Eve and that is why GOD declared them the most contemptible of his creatures. Satan would not be added to this story until around the 12th or 13th century, as Catholics looked to add him to everything and increase their indoctrination of fear.

Hulk Smash Satan

The first time a figure that could be the prototype for the Devil appears, is in the book of Job, written several decades after Genesis. In the story of Job, GOD tests Job’s faith by allowing various calamities to befall him and then to see if he still holds fast to GOD. It is said that Satan asks GOD to test Job’s faith. Not really true either. Satan is the word we pulled from the old Hebrew. This isn’t a formal name however. It means “adversary” or “the adversary”. He is mankind’s adversary.   In Job he is portrayed as an angel or some member of the holy court who seems to walk about the Earth, observing humans and looking for faults to bring before GOD.  GOD tells satan that Job is a bright example of his children. Eternally and completely faithful. Satan asks GOD to allow him to test Job. To visit hardship upon him and see if he remains true or curses GOD’s name. GOD, being the terrible parent he is, allows satan to utterly ruin Job’s life.  Destroying his property and killing his family. Job remains loyal to GOD. GOD restores his wealth tenfold, gives him another happy family, and “the adversary” moves on looking for his next case.
Satan is not mentioned much more in the Old Testament.  Again, Jews had no devil and no Hell. They had Sheol, but that was hardly a heaven or  a hell. More of a temporary purgatory.
Yep. The Jews invented Middle Earth. Take that Tolkein.
It really wasn’t until the Romans rolled into Judea around the 8th century B.C. that Jews began looking for an evil to pin their woes on. The idea of a devil posed major problems for the Jewish religion.  They were not fans of dualism and dividing up GOD. Satan breaks the rules of their faith. There is one GOD and through him do all things flow. Good AND bad. To suddenly bring a separate, malevolent force into the picture would very much undermine the omnipotent authority of GOD. If the Romans were there to punish the Jewish people, they were sent by GOD, not some other force. However, during the next few generations, the Devil became a principle figure for many Jewish people. A shadowy figure there to lure you away from the glory of GOD.  By the 1st century B.C., Judea was a fully incorporated Roman province. Many Jews opposed the Hellenization of Judea  that had been occurring since the 3rd century. They claimed that those Jews who adopted the Roman lifestyle were  actually servants of the Devil and were to be shunned and cut away from Jewish society. Jewish citizens led several revolts in the name of driving Satan out of there midst. Hellenization began to lose steam at the end of the 1st century but a brand new religion was poised to take hold and elevate the Devil to new heights. It all begins with the death of one random prophet that launched the birth of the largest religion in history, Christianity.

'Bout time I got my props.

At the dawn of the Christian religion in early 1st century A.D., Satan was moving from a sometimes trickster and occasional adversary to mankind, to the driving force behind all evil in the world and a figure every bit the equal of GOD. His “rival”. The Christian religion takes a great interest in Satan and flesh out his back story and begin to form him into the figure we all  know today. Borrowing from the Book of Daniel and other Hebrew works invoking the “War in Heaven”, Satan is turned into a rebel angel.  There are several different versions of exactly what happened but they all seem to follow a similar outline. Lucifer becomes infuriated at GOD’s proclamation that the angels bow before man. There is a theory that Lucifer had learned “free will” from his time observing humans and this was passed onto his angel army. Explaining how he,  an angel, was able to defy GOD. There is also a theory that Lucifer greatly disagreed with GOD’s plan for the eternal salvation of mankind.  He refused to share Heaven with these inferior creatures. No matter the cause, Lucifer eventually declared war on Heaven. Together with a third of the angels in Heaven, Lucifer fought  a long and costly war against the Armies of Heaven,led by the archangel Michael. Michael eventually defeats Lucifer in single combat and , by order of GOD,casts him and his angels from Heaven into the bowels of the Earth.

It was a long, LONG fall

 

 

Now Lucifer was Satan, the adversary. The eternal tormentor of mankind. And when mankind’s savior shows up, Satan just has to get himself involved. Early Christians were just as fearful of the Devil as they were loving of GOD.  Like the Jewish religious leaders before them, they tended to see Satan at work in the ideas of their opponents and enemies. Jesus easily resisted the temptation of Satan in the desert.  But mankind is not as elevated as Jesus. They are easily led astray by the works of the Devil. The Catholic religion becomes the prominent religion in the West around the 4th century A.D.  after Roman emperor Constantine legalizes the Christian religion in Rome. Constantine is considered the first “Christian” ruler of Rome even though it did not become the official state religion til after his reign. Christians were quickly becoming the majority in many Roman provinces and state leaders found Satan to be a handy tool in controlling the masses and vilifying their opponents. The Catholic Church became THE power in the land. Not just a religious leader but a state leader as well. Using fear of the Devil to drive up membership. After the fall of Rome, the Catholic Church basically built Europe. Catholicism took hold in England, France, and Spain, and quickly spread throughout the West. The Church raised it’s own army, set laws, and controlled it’s subjects with an iron fist though it’s figurehead, the Pope.

 

The Church formed it’s own army, forged various alliances with ruling classes in Europe and western Asia, and the Pope basically controlled half the world from his seat in southern Rome(later to be called Vatican City). During the Middle Ages, fear of the Devil reached all time highs, fueled by the Church, which had released several edicts concerning witchcraft, demonic possession, and various laws and codes for dealing with “heretics”. Many poor Europeans began to fix their anger for their lot in life on the Devil. A revelation that the ruling class was more than happy to support. Borrowing from bits of Greek and Roman folklore, the Devil became a half human half goat demon who prowls the dark looking to to poison men and have nasty freaky sex with the wenches(look, I only call you wenches because I don’t know your names individually).  Like their Jewish forerunners, Christians pinned the Devil on their enemies. One of the most horrific instances of Christians turning on their own was an incident known as the Cathar Heresy.

 

 

Calm down Spanish Inquisition. We'll get to you.

 

Catharism was a sect of Christianity that sprung up during the 11th century in France and quickly spread to other parts of Europe. The Cathars  were a gnostic sect who believed in two separate GODs. A figure who could be considered YAHWEH,  and a figure who could be considered Satan, but whom they called Rex Mundi(king of the world). The problem that they Church had with Cathars is that they preached that the world was evil and that the Church was  a part of that world. The Church took them as  a serious threat to their complete control of Europe. Already embroiled in the First Crusade , the Church had no room to suffer ideological challenges. In the 13th century the Church declared the Cathars to be heretics and began a decades long “war” with the sect that resulted in the death of thousands of Cathar followers. Every step of the way, the Church drove the Devil into their follower’s heads.  They told their congregation that the Cathar’s were secretly devil worshipers and plotted to overthrow the Church. Eluding to passages in the Book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation, the Church cast the Cathars as “false prophets” sent by Satan to tempt good Christians to turn away from GOD. Persecution of the Cathar’s increased mightily culminating in their sacking and complete annihilation by the beginning of the 14th century.

Things were extremely rough during the Middle  Ages. The poor and destitute clung to the Church to explain their terrible condition. Their explanation? The Devil. The Devil and his servants. By the 15th century the bitterness left over from the Crusades was channeled toward “cleansing” the Church of heretics. Inquisitions had been ran for quite some time under papal law but a combination of renewed antisemitism and increasing hostility toward Muslims would combine in the lands we now call Spain, and become a standard for many regarding cruelty, abuse of power, and the very real danger of religious zealotry. The Spanish Inquisition.  …O.K. fellas, you can come in now.

"Smart move, lad. No one wants to see the lady get hurt."

Primarily tasked with handling the conversion of Jews and Muslims to Christianity, the inquisitions also monitored Christians who may still hold to some forms of Hebrew law. It was a time when the Church was trying to completely eradicate Jewish influence on the religion.  So, they called up Lucifer again to get him in the game. More than at any other point before or since, Jews were painted as almost demonic figures. They began to be portrayed as having horns and fingers resembling claws. Satan begins to work his way onto the story of Jesus’ trial and the release of the murderer Barabbas. It was Satan moving among the crowd of assembled Jews and whispering in their ears, tempting them to betray Christ, and through him GOD. A nod to Lucifer’s early work as a trickster spirit and deceiver. It was actually far easier to stir up resentment for Muslims and Islam. As I said earlier, the Crusades were still fresh wounds for many and it was easy to see the Devil in this “crazy religion”. Though there were a few sects of Christianity who accepted Mohammad as a true prophet of GOD(but not equal to Jesus), the Church painted him as a sort of “anti-Christ” figure. Again, as with the Cathars earlier, the Church put a connection in their followers heads between Islam and Satan. It was a movement that would not last long but it did more than enough damage between East and West relations to still resonate today in many parts of the Middle East. Before we go any further,let’s take a moment to talk about H – E – double hockey sticks.

So, at this point, Satan is a malevolent force in the world and pretty much THE explanation for why your enemies are the way they are.   It was during this period that the Church began building the Devil’s home, Hell. The Church found that faith and love for GOD was enough to keep a lot of people going to church, but not enough to make any real money. They needed something everyone could get behind(fear). And the Bible gives them the framework for just that place. In the New Testament there are references to a “lake of fire” and in Revelation it is the place Satan is cast down into after his defeat. Jesus mentioned a place of darkness that sinners would be cast into to be tormented. Early Christians really didn’t have a concept of a Hell. The Jewish religious orthodoxy before them was split on whether there was an after life or not. Early Christians were believers in an afterlife but were split as to whether it was eternal or not. According to scripture, after the defeat of Satan, GOD will rule a paradise on Earth for 1,000 years with the saved. But then, it’s over. No eternity. You die. For good. It’s the end of time.  Without eternity, there isn’t a ton of incentive either way. Not only did the Church need a permanent Heaven, but a place to cast sinners to be tormented forever. The model of Hell that would carry on for centuries to come was formed, not by a clergymen, but by Italian poet Dante Alighieri in his poem, the Divine Comedy. By the time of the Inquisitions, the Church had a fully fleshed out home for the Devil and a figurative pit to cast heretics into and scare their flock with.

Back to the story. We pick up a few years after the start of the Spanish Inquisition. In Germany, another man of the cloth is preparing his own war against Satan and his minions. Heinrich Kramer was a German clergyman and Inquisitor. He was also bat-shit insane. Kramer had a fierce hatred of witches. A condition that could probably be traced back to this less than successful interactions with various women throughout his life. Most notably being spurned by “the love of his life”. In the late 15th century, Kramer began a fervent witch hunt across Germany. he quickly drew the ire of local clergy with his less than subtle methods of interrogation and torture. In many instances he would attempt to force confessions from random women for crimes that had no shred of proof. The local Church chapter convened and asked him to leave. Never one to relent, Kramer petitioned the Pope for a papal order to conduct his witch hunts as he saw fit. In 1484 Kramer was made Grand Inquisitor and given full authority to conduct his hunt anywhere in Germany he saw fit. That same year Kramer penned his master work, the Malleus maleficarum. Roughly translated,  “Hammer of the Wicked”. It was a guidebook for Inquisitors all across Europe on how to best conduct their witch hunt. Witches were not taken very seriously by most people and Kramer was determined to turn them into a high priority. More than a guide it was a rebuke of skeptics and people who felt witchcraft was a superstition.  It worked very, very well.

Witchcraft became the new fire that fueled the zealots. Images of women dancing with and being seduced by Satan became the new norm for many Church chapters across the globe. After a bit of a lull during the Crusades, Lucifer was back in full force. Gaining momentum from the Inquisitions, Satan was now a  tangible force in the world.  He no longer appeared in dreams or  sent demons to possess his victims. Now he was walking the Earth, seducing women and turning them to witchcraft. Depicted in his earlier forms as a half human half beast hybrid, he is said to engage in “corporeal acts” with various women and then giving them powers to torment humanity. The women enter into a pact with the Devil, trading their souls for the power of witchcraft.

 

Honestly? I just think the clergy was into beastiality back then.

 

Bad harvest? Witches.  Flood? Witches. Kid gets sick and dies? Witches. Woman adds 2 numbers together? BURN HER! It got out of hand REAL quick. With the invention of the printing press(thanks Johannes) the Malleus Maleficarium was able to spread quickly through Europe.  In places where the Devil had been a mere bedtime story to scare children, he became a very real very frightening presence. Plague, famine, and intractable conflict were constant threats and the Devil’s witches became the catch all to explain them. The Devil was having a resurgence in popularity and becoming a far more sinister character than he had ever been before. No more tricks. He was now beyond mere mischief and tempting and had become a dark malevolent force of pure evil. He sought the destruction of mankind.  Many Europeans in medieval times were convinced  that the world was soon coming to an end. It was easy to believe that Satan was building his army and preparing his final assault on mankind. Using “weak” women to do his dirty work and turn us all against each other. Well, that last part worked like a charm. Men overwhelmingly turned on women. For centuries to come thousand upon thousands of women were burned alive, drowned, and beheaded for charges of witchcraft. In many villages the fear grew so great that most every women alive was brutally killed. If you believe in Satan, you have to believe this was one of his proudest moments. With only the slightest provocation, humanity had turned it’s back on every principle it had spent millenia trying to build. Europe was one giant pyre with countless bodies of innocent women stoking the flames. This went on for almost an entire century. The final “great witch hunt” occurred in the New World in the late 17th century. The Salem Witch Trials, were another farce that spiraled quickly out of control culminating in the deaths of several innocent young women. The community would be shattered for some time to come.

 

With the Renaissance effectively changing the world as far as science and religion are concerned, and the later Industrial Revolution elevating the poor and helping to  create a flourishing middle class, the Devil begins to take a backseat in modern times. Even the Church begins to distance itself from the Devil. The terrors of the Inquisitions and witch trials still fresh on their minds. The Devil retreats back to his home in Hell becoming, once again, a distant force  and sometime tempter. In the 1960’s, Anton Lavey created the first official Church of Satan. A bit of a misnomer as the followers do not believe in a literal Satan. They merely adhere to the beliefs they connect to spirit of the Devil. Such as vengeance and carnal pleasure. In modern times, the Devil is  a marginal figure. Merely another fictional character to be lampooned in advertising or depicted in movies. While most Christians do believe in the Devil, they do not believe he has a physical influence on the world, such as possession. They also don’t buy that the Devil wastes his time working his way into music and movies. He’s just there in Hell, waiting for the fuck-ups. Many modern Christians are now of the belief that Hell is no longer permanent. That all can be saved eventually, if they pay their debt. Even Lucifer himself. Is that the Devil’s future?  To steward Hell until ti is no longer needed, and then maybe be forgiven himself?

 

This. Is. BORING!

 

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed this brief bio of the Prince of Darkness. A complicated character who you can demonize but also sympathize with on some level. A misguided soul who let his own petty jealousies get the better of him. But also a bitter old monster who wants only death and destruction.  This is really only a small taste of the rich tapestry that makes up Satan’s back story. He has been portrayed in many different ways. Sometimes sympathetic, most times malevolent and, other times, down right evil. He is, without  a doubt, the most human character in all of Western mythology. All of our faults exaggerated to a supernatural degree. Imperfect,impatient,  prone to over react, envious to  a terrible degree. But always that single minded hatred of mankind.  The creatures who stole his GOD’s love.

 

 

Written by ADONAI

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

50 Responses so far.

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  1. Khirad says:

    Adonai, you did something crucial, you pointed out the difference between Hell and the Underworlds like we see in Sheol (itself nearly identical to the Mesopotamian conception), as well as common to Indo-European mythologies. Perhaps the closest thing was Tartarus. That can be argued.

    Next, you differentiated between trickster gods, such as Loki or Coyote and many others, even the generally rotten sort of gods, and that of a personification of Evil within a dualistic system.

    Crucial distinctions all.

    Furthermore, you went through the history of Shaytan, God’s right hand angel and Chief Prosecutor and the fuzzy details of the Fall.

    I have my own belief on the origin of the Christian (and Muslim) Devil. A theory which may not be iron clad provable, but which is beyond coincidental.

    If the scales sink on the bad side, the bridge contracts to the width of a blade-edge, and a horrid hag, meeting the soul as it tries to cross, seizes it in her arms and plunges with it down to hell, ‘the dwelling place of the Worst Purpose’ (Y 32.13) where the wicked endure a ‘long age of misery, of darkness, ill food, and crying of woe’ (Y 31.20). The concept of hell, a place of torment presided over by Angra Mainyu, seems to be Zoroaster’s own, shaped by his deep sense of the need for justice. Those few souls ‘whose false (things) and what are just balance’ (Y 33.1) go to the ‘Place of the Mixed Ones’, Misvan Gatu, where, as in the old underworld kingdom of the dead, they lead a grey existence, lacking both joy and sorrow.

    -- Mary Boyce, the late authority on Zoroastrianism, from “Zoroastrians: Their Beliefs and Practices”.

    Yes, Zoroastrianism also had a Purgatory. Where was that part in the Bible, hmm?

    Now the two primal Spirits, who reveal themselves in vision as Twins, are the Better and the Bad, in thought and word and action. And between these two the wise ones chose aright, the foolish not so.

    And when these twain Spirits came together in the beginning, they created Life and Not-Life, and that at the last Worst Existence shall be to the followers of the Lie, but the Best Existence to him that follows Right.

    Of these twain Spirits he that followed the Lie chose doing the worst things; the holiest Spirit chose Right, he that clothes him with the massy heavens as a garment. So likewise they that are fain to please Ahura Mazda by dutiful actions.

    -- 30.3-5, Ahunavaiti Gatha, Avesta

    Those two, of course, are Ahura Mazda (or Ohrmazd in Middle Persian) and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman in MP).

    Not only that but in the later Middle Persian texts we see an elaborate demonology later to be found in Medieval texts of Christendom.

    I shouldn’t forget to mention the part about the Temptation of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) by Angra Mainyu.

    Read it here: Vendidad 19.4-6

    So, as the student of religion would ask, are these similarities independent, or the result of cultural diffusion?

    While there are indeed universal concepts, I lean towards diffusion, both direct and indirect here. The books you referenced, Daniel and Ezekial? Both written during/after the Babylonian Exile.

    Onto the Cathars.

    This heresy [Catharism] threatened Christian orthodoxy like no other--from within. It wasn’t a matter of nit-picking disagreements about whether Christ had one nature or more, or whether the Holy Spirit was subordinate or equal to the Father and the Son. Instead, by combining the faith of Jesus Christ the Saviour with a strangely altered version of Zarathustra’s two equal powers, one good, the other evil, it stood the entire teaching of Jesus’s Church on its head.

    The Church accepted that there was a Devil, and that he was a dangerous force. But Satan was no equal to God. He was merely a fallen angel, whose might could be resisted with the help of God’s grace. The Great Heresy reversed this order of power to create what must sure have been the most pessimistic philosophy in history. Its basic tenet was this: that the whole of human existence, birth, life and death, the kingly state, the Church, yea the great globe itself and the sky above it, were the creation of the Devil.

    -- Paul Kriwaczek, “In Search of Zarathustra”

    Of course, what this short excerpt doesn’t explain (and the rest of the book makes clear), is that what the Cathars and other Gnostic sects had picked up and incorporated was not Zoroastrianism directly (which is MUCH more positive), but a heresy of Zoroastrianism itself, Manichaeism.

    For more on diffusion of Zoroastrian ideas, I also recommend Richard C. Foltz’ “Religions of the Silk Road” and “Spirituality in the Land of the Noble”.

    In Zoroastrianism there will also be a final battle (guess who wins?!), and then the world is recreated, the damned souls will have molten metal poured down their throats, be purified of their sins, and join everyone else in paradise on earth.

    And Dante? I have no clue how he got his hands on this, and I’m not suggesting a link on this one particular point (how does one establish diffusion here?), but I’ve read Dante’s Inferno and I’ve read this, and Dante’s is most different in its political overtones. Otherwise, in this day in age, whoever wrote this could have sued him for plagiarism had they been contemporaries.

    The Book of Arda Viraf
    http://www.avesta.org/pahlavi/viraf.html

    All these “coincidences” I might add, is why among those who are most zealous about the later date of Zoroaster, they tend do be of the ‘defensive Christian’ persuasion. There was one really annoying one on Wikipedia, too. We were all like, ‘this is scholarly consensus, we’ve cited our arguments exhaustively’, and they were all like, ‘yeah, well I’m getting my buds from the Christianity projects to come here and back me up.’

    —--

    Okay, so Time is pretty lame, but this speaks to the evolving back away from the doctrine hell -- even among some Evangelicals now.

    Jon Meacham: Is Hell Dead?
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2065080,00.html

    And gosh, I’m puckered out now. I also wanted to touch on a Sufi sympathetic conception of the Devil (it’s super interesting, I think), Yazidis, and well, I’ve also read every book Anton LaVey wrote. I’m a bit of an authority on LaVeyan Satanism (and though brief, you did well).

    What is Satanism according to LaVey:


    History Channel on Church of Satan:


    As to the Witch Hunts, might I plug my article from October, Which Witch? That will save me the time on commenting on that.

    • ADONAI says:

      Khirad, Thank you! I hoped that I had hit on the more important things, even if I did leave some stuff out, and to have another fan of theology give me the thumbs up is very cool.

      And thank you for that link to the Viraf article. I had not heard of this. I had always wondered where Dante got his ideas. As brilliant with words and imagination as he was, he had to have had some help from someone or something.

      As usual I always look forward to your comments and thank yo for another stellar one that has added more to the piece.

  2. KillgoreTrout says:

    Deconstructing Harry--The Hell Scene;


  3. KillgoreTrout says:

    Pacino’s speech in Devil’s Advocate;


  4. Haruko Haruhara says:

    I think it’s interesting how Western culture is fascinated with the Devil. Interesting how he is portrayed in the movies.

    I think the most creepy depictions of the Devil are Viggo Mortensen in “The Prophecy,” Robert DeNiro in “Angel Heart” and Peter Stormore in “Constantine.” And Constantine really, really scared me. This Constantine scene is in Hindi.




    • ADONAI says:

      HH, I would have to say that my favorite’s are Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate and also DeNiro in Angel Heart.

      It’s good examples of the Devil’s dual nature but single purpose. he can be very jovial and tempting as portrayed by Pacino and also very brooding and sinister as done by DeNiro. But, as always, a single purpose, to corrupt man.

  5. foxisms says:

    Adonai: Once again your articles and research are beyond interesting. A very thorough historical break down and summation.
    I was hoping maybe you would wrap it up with your own interpretations on the subject but…Perhaps in another article?
    I have Manly P. Hall’s “The Secret Teachings Of All Ages” as a night stand read and reference. So I particularly appreciate your articles on the origins and practice of our established belief system(s).
    Thank you.

    • ADONAI says:

      fox, I tend to shy away from including a lot of opinion in pieces like this but I have no problem throwing it out in the comments section.

      When you think about the Devil, you have to ask yourself one question: “How?”

      Specifically, how can an omnipotent, omniscient GOD have a rival? How can any other figure have any affect on the world unless it is allowed by GOD? That would put a wet towel on the whole “omnipotent” thing or, at the very least, make GOD seem fallible o inadequate. Another no-no. There could be no Hell unless GOD allows it. There can be no punishment for souls unless GOD allows it.

      But people in ancient times faced a problem when discussing GOD. How could this loving father be so cruel and capricious? I believe they elevated Satan’s role in the world so they wouldn’t have to question their faith in a GOD that hands out random punishment to people who never seem to deserve it, while truly evil men live long happy lives.

      But that led to any number of philosophical arguments that have lasted well into modern times.

      As a Deist, I could possibly believe in a Devil, but like many modern Christians, I feel he has no physical affect on the world. Just like GOD. A supernatural, or possibly extra-dimensional, figure that exists beyond anything we understand.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        I don’t believe in supreme beings, but for the sake of this discussion I will pretend that they exist.
        God needs the Devil. Without evil, how could there be good? And the Devil does God’s dirty work. Why would people need religion if there was no hell. No punishment for their evil deeds?

        • ADONAI says:

          KT, Does GOD really need the devil? Maybe. You are more right than you know about GOD needing someone to do his “dirty work”.

          In Samuel, Book 2, GOD has an angel visit destruction on Jerusalem, then orders him to stop when he feels they have had enough. And as far as good and evil, they didn’t apply to GOD. At least not in the early days. He was above such simple human notions. Who are we to try and understand anything he does? It would be like a bacteria suddenly becoming aware of the larger world. It would be beyond it’s grasp entirely and every notion it had ever lived by would be meaningless.

          And religion existed for many many centuries without a heaven or a hell. They are both relatively new concepts. Not til the Middle Ages did true debates about a permanent Heaven and Hell begin. And it was never really fully excepted til sometime after the Renaissance. Even the Ancient Greeks didn’t view “the Fields of Elysium as a place of permanent existence. Just as early Christians didn’t picture a permanent after life.

          Today we may see the lack of Heaven and Hell as a detriment to religion but, back then, they did not really need it.

          • jkkFL says:

            ADONAI, KT, after my little trip to the River Styx, I decided to see if Native Americans had a ‘devil’.
            I have great admiration for Native Americans,and their respect for Mother Earth..
            I found this story about ‘Devil’s Rock’, and the ‘devil’..
            http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/A-Legend-Of-Devils-Tower-Sioux.html

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            Don’t forget the Stygian ferryman, guiding people across the river Styxs.

            • jkkFL says:

              Good one KT- that completely escaped me.
              So I did a bit of digging and renewed old
              acquaintences!

              “There are five rivers that separate Hades from the world of the living, they are:
              Acheron -- the river of woe;
              Cocytus -- the river of lamentation;
              Phlegethon -- the river of fire;
              Lethe -- the river of forgetfulness;
              Styx -- the river of hate.
              It is thought that Charon, the old ferry man who ferries the dead onto the underworld, crosses the river Styx where the dragon tailed dog Cerberus guards, allowing all souls to enter but none to leave. This is a misconception, Charon crosses the river Acheron where also Cerebus stands his eternal guard. Also while on this subject, Charon only takes the souls across that are buried properly with a coin (called an obol) that was placed in their mouths upon burial.”

              Encyclopedia Mythica™

      • foxisms says:

        Adonai: Thanks.
        From what I’ve managed to glean in my readings, many of the shapes and attributes “the devil” has been identified with are often synonymous with the embodiment of those preceding god(s) who came before whatever god(s) they were replaced with.
        Over time, this creates a rather all encompassing mosaic of many originally well intended behaviors and practices that lend to the portrayal of all that is now commonly interpreted as the living “evil” (d-evil) which the generations of people around the world share it’s thrones reserved for supreme beings with.
        Exactly in the manner you have mentioned…to rationalize the duplicitous nature of whatever god they may currently adhere and pay homage to. Until the next god materializes and the methods of worship become just a larger jig saw piece is added to the “devil” mosaic.
        Nice reading and talking with you.
        Much to think about for the rest of the day and more.

        • ADONAI says:

          fox, Thanks! And you hit on another very good point. Before the Torah and the other books of the Hebrew bible were written, Jews were very much a polytheistic people. Just like the Greeks and Egyptians they came in constant contact with.

          When the “cult of El”, the one true GOD, won sway in the Jewish community, many of them just accepted that one GOD controlled all consequence in the world. But, of course,later generations started having a problem with worshiping an asshole.

  6. jkkFL says:

    ADONAI, very interesting.
    The problem I have with it is that it debunks one of my favorite scapegoats!
    So, I read your argument- but if it’s ok, I’m just going to keep him handy for my personal purposes.

  7. AdLib says:

    Very well done, Adonai, an excellent read.

    There are built-in psychological processes in human beings that made this primal duality inevitable.

    There is fear of that which can’t be explained and the need to assuage that fear by creating an explanation.

    Also, the world of physical existence is one of duality. So, it follows that societies are more inclined to accept or create dualities as the way the unknowable can be known.

    The problem with such assumptions is, that which doesn’t reside in the physical plane would not be subject to its limitations.

    God, however people believe in or don’t believe in God, is transcendent of physical existence. So the application of duality to God, in the form of his opposite, Satan, naturally conflicts with the aspects most apply to God.

    The basics would be, people believe God to be omnipotent, all powerful and all knowing. Yet, very convoluted justifications are needed to allow Satan to exist and have power.

    In the story of Job as you describe, God has to be portrayed as emotionally insecure and not necessarily omnipotent to feel that he has to prove to Satan that Job’s faith can’t be broken. Isn’t God omnipotent and would know that Job would be faithful in any case? Wouldn’t Satan know God is omnipotent, so putting Job through the torture he goes through would be wholly unnecessary? Unless Satan believes God is omnipotent but might be a liar. Even though God is all good?

    The inconsistencies are numerous in most if not all aspects of the representations of Satan.

    Let’s look at one central aspect of Satan, his home, Hell. 2,000 years ago, before the science of geology, one could construct a concept of Hell as being a domain that physically existed in an unknowable, mysterious place that could never be explored, deep down in the Earth.

    Today however, despite our understanding of science and the geological makeup of the Earth, to be a Fundamentalist means to still believe that Satan is “chillin'” somewhere below the crust of the Earth in his fiery crib.

    Heaven has typically been presented as a spiritual place, not a physical place that could be reached by a space ship for example (except for Mormons). However, Hell has typically been represented as a physical place that technically could be reached by powerful enough drilling equipment (which couldn’t be conceived of a thousand years ago).

    So, if Hell was indeed a physical place that existed inside the Earth then Hell could and would be physically destroyed along with the Earth (which 1,000 years ago couldn’t have been conceived of). What happens then to the proposition of Hell as a place of eternal damnation?

    I think it’s valuable to explode the concepts of “The Devil”, “The Antichrist” and “End Times” because they allow others the excuse to justify true evil as necessary to combat imaginary evil.

    • foxisms says:

      Adlib: not to steal any of Adonai’s thunder but some knowledgeable people hold the possibility that the concept of hell and the burning pits is a carry over from n area called “Gehenna” which is mentioned in the King James bible (The man-edited and truncated “word of god”) it appears but 13 times in the course of 11 different verses.
      It was a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the “Valley of the Son of Hinnom” or “Place of the wicked”
      where Israelites (retreating from their religion) and followers of various Ba’als and Caananite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire.
      A less romantic and more realistic view of this area is that it was an area located outside of the south wall of ancient Jerusalem and known as “the burning place” and was a rubbish heap that was used for disposables and a place to cremate the dead.
      This story goes on…but I hope I may have given you something to think about as far as the possible origins of “hell”.
      IMO? The passing down of religious history is in many ways little more than a game of whisper down the lane.
      Sorry if I stepped on your toes, Adonai. I didn’t intend to.

    • ADONAI says:

      AdLib, the story of Job has always been confusing for me too. It seems like GOD always knew that Job would remain faithful, but why does he feel the need to prove this to a random member of the holy court? HIS holy court no less! It’s a story that made sense to readers of the time, but modern readers seem to find it a tad bit cruel. It portrays GOD as being evil.

      But that was actually a competing theory with some medieval Christian sects. GOD is the devil. They are not two separate beings. If you look at how GOD behaves in the Old Testament, a seemingly vengeful spirit who passes out capricious judgment and punishment to people.

      And you hit on a very real thing with the “locations of Hell”. There are many places in the world that were, at some point, considered a mouth to Hell. A cave in Greece that ancient Greeks thought led to Hades. A giant “trash dump” behind ancient Rome that constantly burned was a very real image of Hell for many Christians. More than a few early Christians feared entering the deep places of the Earth.

      But when Christians thought of the “end of the world” they never envisioned the physical destruction of the world. Only every living thing on it. But now a days most Christians tend to view Heaven and Hell as almost separate dimensions. And why not? With everything we have learned about the insane nature of the universe, why shouldn’t there be beings from another dimension watching the whole thing? :)

      • foxisms says:

        If I”m reading you right, Adonai…it’s much the sentiment that was expressed in a very nice piece of music by Steve Winwood/Traffic which chorused with “Guiding your vision to heaven and heaven is in your mind.”.

        [Great! Now I have to post it on WMT.]

  8. Mightywoof says:

    I have no comment to offer on your article Adonai -- I’m a non-believer and know less than nothing on matters of faith …… I do, however, enjoy your writing. Kudos

  9. Khirad says:

    Since we’re doing tunes here, Tony Levy (aka Anton LaVey) on his beloved calliope:


    Don’t worry though, I’ll be getting into this article later. 😈

  10. whatsthatsound says:

    And even with all the new technology, this still holds up as an animated masterpiece. Night on Bald Mountain, from Fantasia


    • KillgoreTrout says:

      wts, what a masterpiece! The film and the music.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        It is, it is. It’s just breath-taking. I don’t think anyone has come close to this, not even Hayao Miyazaki.

        This is Fine Art, not the formulaic pap like Pocohantes and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          Absolutely. I don’t think Walt would stand for the stuff Disney does now.
          I was in the high school orchestra, and we played Night on Bald Mountain. It was a lot of work.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            I’m pretty sure he’d look at the slick, profit driven product of today and think that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

            • ADONAI says:

              wts, You can’t really say he was racist because of his early cartoons since most of them played on racial stereotypes but,

              From Wikipedia:

              Disney was long rumored to be anti-Semitic during his lifetime, and such rumors have persisted after his death. Disney’s 2006 biographer Neal Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concluded that available evidence does not support such accusations. “That’s one of the questions everybody asks me,” Gabler said in a CBS interview. “My answer to that is, not in the conventional sense that we think of someone as being an anti-Semite. But he got the reputation because, in the 1940s, he got himself allied with a group called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which was an anti-Communist and anti-Semitic organization. And though Walt himself, in my estimation, was not anti-Semitic, nevertheless, he willingly allied himself with people who were anti-Semitic, and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life.”[92] Disney ultimately distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s.[93]

            • whatsthatsound says:

              AD, maybe a link or something? You see, it only took me a little bit of digging to at least find one person that can argue against your charge. I’m not saying I disbelieve you, I just think that we should all be wary when such strong charges against people are tossed about.

            • ADONAI says:

              wts, yeah he probably wasn’t anti-Semitic but he kept plenty of company that was.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Quote from this link:

              “First, Disney hired Jews, lots of Jews. Disney was not himself Jewish, of course, but the success of his business owed a great deal to a Jew. The bedrock of Disney was Walt’s merchandising partner, the Jewish Kay Kamen, the man who helped make Mickey Mouse into a cult and who once remarked that Disney had more Jews in it than the Book of Leviticus. This was not an accident, occurring against Walt’s wishes. When Harry Tytle joined the studio as a production manager and told Walt that he was half-Jewish, Disney replied: “It would be better if you were all Jewish.”

              http://mydisneymania.blogspot.com/2008/01/disney-was-not-antisemite.html

            • ADONAI says:

              I think Walt would also be incredibly angry about the amount of Jews working for his company.

    • ADONAI says:

      wts, Perfect. For me and many of my friends, that figure in Fantasia was what we pictured when we thought of the Devil and Hell as kids.
      I must have watched that a thousand times.

      But, in later times, this guy took over:

      [img][/img]

      To me, it was Tim Curry’s best role. Forget Dr. Frank -n-furter.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Wow! What movie is that?

        • ADONAI says:

          Legend. Such a great movie. Definitely in my top 5 favorites of all time. Ridley Scott directed, and I very much recommend the director’s cut. the music is different and a few other things but I think it makes it a better movie.

          And like HH, the first time I saw Darkness(the devil figure in the picture), I had a total freak out. I think I was 9 maybe 10 years old. Scared the shit out of me.

        • Haruko Haruhara says:

          “Legend”

          Really early Tom Cruise movie. It put me in therapy.


          • foxisms says:

            That image of the devil guy from Legend, HH, was closely reanimated in a very popular computer game called Diablo, by Blizzard Software.
            And if they would just get off their butts and stop focusing on W.O.W. they could come out with Diablo III already, which has been years in the development!
            At any rate, the resultant therapy is noted and agreed upon. Playing this game with the lights out into the night could land someone on that same couch.

      • Haruko Haruhara says:

        I spent the night in my parents’ bed after watching that movie.

        “Dreams are my speciality.”

    • Mightywoof says:

      Fantasia!! I love that movie -- I first learned to appreciate Bach’s Fugues from dear ol’ Walt!!

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Hey Mighty! This sequence, in particular, is amazing to me. The stuff Disney Studios (at its best) turned out when ol’ Walt was still alive was nothing short of amazing. So much better than the formulaic product of today.

        • Mightywoof says:

          I so agree with you -- the heyday!! At the time I first saw this I was a dancer -- so music has always been, for me, very visual and emotional -- Fantasia was right up my street.

          My apologies Adonai for hi-jacking your thread

          • whatsthatsound says:

            The apologies should come from me. I just hate to see a post dangle, so I had to think of something. The opera “Faust” has a fantastic depiction of the Devil, so that’s what got me started along this trajectory.
            Hopefully, I’ll have something intelligent to add at some point…
            :)

  11. whatsthatsound says:

    Fascinating, AD!
    Here’s Walpurgis Night, from the opera “Faust”



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