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On The Devil, Evil, and Lucifer

by Lindsay, for SOL, December 2002

My niece Jenny asked me recently if I believed in 'the devil'...

and I found that I could not answer succinctly as I hadn't thought it through. What I had in my mind was an interesting mixture of upbringing, old movies, various bits of teachings, the odd nightmare and some basic instinct. Having spent some time sorting through my thoughts, the Internet and some favourite books, I am probably clearer on this subject than I have ever been. I am indebted to Dolores Ashcorft-Nowicki and Ernest Butler who saved me a lot of hard work, and I hope that neither of them objects to my building on their studies and thoughts.

In some way, the devil is the easiest one to start on and to my mind he seems to have been on the end of a successful and vigorous marketing campaign set on his denigration. He seems to have first shown up in cave painting, done by our ancestors living in present day France where a humanoid figure is seen wearing a cape and a pair of deer antlers. This painting was done around 20,000 years ago, so he has had lots of time to get into our race psyche. I, (like many others) suspect that all that the poor guy was doing was acting out a successful hunt so that deer may be an option on the family menu in the forthcoming days. Some think that he was using magic to bring about his desired result, and I suspect that this is where he began to fall into disrepute when compared to today's thinking. In his day, those who were believed to bring success to the hunt was held in high esteem and thought to be endower with wisdom - hence the coming of the wise man and woman.

From here he became the Horned Lord who turns up time and time again in various pagan religions and philosophies in one form or another and was popular as the all male part of God before Christian times. No wimpy sacrifice willing to die, this God was full of male creative energy, symbolising his potency by his upstanding horns (or less subtle upstanding parts as we see in Cairn Abbas in Dorset). It is easy to see where the idea of a Hero comes from. This God is a fighter who always wins, a virile and potent mixture of the Mel Gibson/Bruce Willis/Good Guy Hero who ultimately saves the world. (You see most stories have been done before, all that alters is the names and the level on which they are perceived.) Could he have been the God of the Old Testament taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? I certainly hope so! Frankly, I would not be too upset to find his shoes under my bed (as it were).

Then enter Christianity and everything changes - not because there was anything wrong with this God - he just wasn't the Christian brand. I read somewhere (probably Ernest or Dolores) that 'the gods of one generation become the demons of the next' and this was certainly the case for the Horned Lord. He got the book thrown at him and became The Villain, rather than The Hero. He became associated with everything bad in the world and becomes a 'scapegoat'. From here, it is very easy for him to become just any old goat, and as the years pass, the goat does indeed become associated with him. What a sad end after such a promising beginning! He even developed cloven hooves and tail to prove that he really is part Beast, and of course, he already had the horns. Add to that the possibility that he may have used magic and was somehow associated with enjoyable sex, and man's seventeenth centaury response is to evolve into a 'civilised' world that believes that wearing any colour other than black is 'A Sin' and that anything of beauty is potentially tainted with evil.

Never underestimate the power of clever marketing, because once it gets going, it seems to generate it's own momentum. Legends spring up all over the now converted world which continue to give him bad press while clearing the way for the New Religion, the one filled with 'Thou-Shalt-Not's'. Is it any wonder that every now and again, the pressure broke and groups of people were discovered partying secretly under the moon in what was considered to be an abandoned fashion? I would certainly take a bet about where I'd have been most likely to show up on a Saturday night… I guess a lot of people would choose an option that saved them from dying of boredom, even if it meant that they died in less pleasant ways. And it is such fun to give 'the finger' to the establishment.

It is then so easy to see how this turns into Devil Worship when it was actually originally a worship of what had been denied by social convention. In fairness, sooner or later, some weirdo has to take it to the next step, and it really does become worship of all that is rotten, although whether this is within the individual or outside is a matter for debate. It also brings up the idea that maybe there is an imminent as well as transcendent centre for all that is bad or rotten. Which brings me onto the subject of 'Evil' as a concept.

According to Cabalistic philosophy, there are two types of evil: negative and positive. Negative evil is anything that moves man away from his chances of union with God - the retrograde step. Positive evil is more interesting in that is the 'thrusting block' for 'good'. For example, if Judas Iscariot had not betrayed Christ, there would never have been the crucifixion and more significantly, the resurrection. If Odin had not been hung on a tree, he would never have settled down to work out the meaning of the runes. It would appear that often the biggest feats of 'good' are brought about by equally large feats of 'bad'. However, all of this assumes that you believe in evil as a cosmic force and frankly, I am not sure that I do. This is not to say that I do not class some happenings, event, acts as evil - I do -but I am not sure that this is any more than my classification. Just because the rest of the nation or even the world may agree with some of them, I don't believe it gives me / us the authority to say that is it any more than a joint opinion. Yet I can easily see how the concept of collective evil arrived in a world that was largely converting to monotheism: if you believe that there is a force for 'good' (i.e. God) it is easy to assume that there must be a force for 'bad' (i.e. the devil). Newton(all things have an equal and opposite reaction) was the first man to write about this, but I doubt that he was the first to think about it. Also, rules, laws and taboos get made in society in order to protect the majority of the populace and in an attempt to make things 'fair'. The laws / rules tend to be formed when there is a joint opinion that someone has acted in a way which is not in the interest of the majority. Breaking them may bring about a punishment that may be a deterrent (i.e. prison) or an act that ensured that that person could never repeat the act (i.e. capital punishment). While I can see that this is inevitable in a society where a lot of people have to live in close quarters to each other; whether us humans have more than an opinion when classifying 'good' from 'evil' is questionable. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist as the whole world has recently found out.

With regards to the early church doing a conversion job on a previously pagan population, the idea of a physical or literal enemy could be understood to have a certain appeal. People who shift the responsibility for their actions onto the devil by saying that they were 'tempted' by him heavily turn me off. They weren't. They were tempted by whatever-it-was and took an active decision to do it and then created a drama or an excuse afterwards to cover up their action. To my mind, their acts / thoughts are their responsibility, not that of a discarnate and allegedly malignant force. A bit like pain, I think that evil is whatever you think that it is and based on your own belief systems that may or may not be valid to anyone else.

It seems to me that thoughts and actions can carry some sort of charge. Have you ever noticed how you tend to realign your thoughts/actions when someone you respect or love says/does the contrary to what you have hitherto believed to be 'right'? There is definite movement to consensus of opinion: the more people who think that anything is OK, the easier it is to think that it is OK as well. While this brings about progress, it can also bring about terrible faux pas, such as the Holocaust.

The tarot was introduced into Europe in the early Middle Ages, at a time well known for its religious unrest and intolerance. The meaning of the devil in the tarot is worth considering here. The classic card shows a 'Balrog' type devil, holding a naked man and woman by chains round their necks. There is no force involved in the holding of them and the neck rings are actually big enough for the people to lift off themselves. They have become so used to their chains that they have lost the thought that they could change it if they decided to. Interestingly enough, this is exactly the meaning of this card, i.e. do not accept things as they are - question them all including the unquestionable. The sort of bondage referred to by this card is an intellectual and spiritual one, brought about by a lack of thought and questioning. Be prepared to take responsibility for your new thought/actions: those questioned, ridiculed and even penalised today, sometimes become the celebrated of tomorrow as many a Noble prizewinner will testify. And as a last word, it is completely understandable that this cry for original thought may well fly in the face of a philosophy based on the fear of retribution in the hereafter, should you not follow its rules. It is worth noting that man and not God set the rules here.

Having mentioned above that I think it likely that thoughts and feelings carry a 'charge' or energy, I was not surprised to find that many philosophies and religions hint at something similar. Both the Buddhists and the Hindu religion refer to the realm of 'Maya', and this loosely translates into the 'Astral Plane' in our society. Also known as the Realm of Illusion or The Treasure house of Images, the Astral is largely a collection of little sparks of energy, bits of thoughts and unresolved feelings. All in all, rather like a waste paper basket: mostly rubbish but a few gems. Rather like little drops of Mercury, I think that it is possibly for these bits of energies to become organised into more tangible forces that are accessible to the more sensitive humans. To my mind, (and this is only my opinion) I think that this largely explains demons and visions. If you are charging the astral with loving feeling centred on the Virgin Mary, I think that it is possible for this energy to return to you in some form, (maybe even visible) when you are in a sensitive state. It may be powerful enough for other unconnected people to tune in to it as well.

Jung's first talked about philosophy a 'Group Mind'. My translation of this is an energy state formed by a similar group of people, the energy of which is more than the sum of those producing it - i.e. a football crowd. Outside of these circumstances, the individuals may have nothing in common, but together the energy force created is both powerful and seductive. I remember seeing 'Evita' some years ago and the audience being reduced to giggles by a member of the public jumping up and joining in the shouting for Eva Peron! - a simple case of joining the group minds of the actors, throwing themselves into their parts. I suspect that a group mind forms a powerful but temporary astral force whether the people forming it are together physically or emotionally. It may therefore follow that a murder, for example, is only committed when enough people have murderous thoughts and the weakest link snaps. I was also interested to read about a group of people who were keen mediators in a high crime area of London. By meditating on peaceful subjects it appeared that the crime rate in the area spontaneously lowered. And when they stopped, it rose again.

We all have personal experience of the Astral: it is largely where our dreams come from and unless you are very different to me, these are usually nonsense with the odd gem thrown in to keep me guessing. If I go to sleep in an anxious state, I am likely to attract less pleasant bits of energy and visa versa. I suspect that the astral is largely no more mysterious than the contents of my kitchen bin, but like my bin, capable of causing a variety of issues if left unattended! So the short answer with regards to demons is that I probably believe in them with the caveat they are likely to be man made, but maybe not intentionally so. Their temporary nature takes me further away from the idea of an organised 'devil', although it is unwise to underestimate their strength, as short lived as it may be.

People tend to take a step backwards if Lucifer is mentioned, because somehow, this seems to us to be the epitome of all that is really terrible, both on earth and in the heavens. Look up the meaning of 'Lucifer' and you will find that it mean 'The Light Bringer' so how can this be? The biblical reference to Lucifer is made as him being the King of Babylon (the Universal Enemy of The State), who had somehow got the idea that he would be deified once he was dead. He wasn't and he ended up in a right mess - proverbially as well as actually. I suspect that the story of the war in heaven and Lucifer's 'expulsion' simply got mixed up with the story of Adam and Eve. After all, there's nothing like a good fight between 'good' and 'evil' to grab everyone's attention.

Back to Lucifer - this is the story that I like the best. When God gave man free will, he knew that it was likely to cause confusion and so he asked his realms of angels for a volunteer to do a really rotten job. The most beautiful angel of all stepped forwards and out of the great love that he had for his creator he agreed to the job, which incidentally meant that he had to leave heaven temporarily. He went as a willing sacrifice, not being kicked out for bad behaviour (but we all know what marketing can do to any situation). The job was a real stinker: it was to show mankind everything that had the potential to keep him from God so that man could fully learn to use his free will in making his choices. And by choosing to turn away from what man saw as 'Evil', he could only be turning back to his creator. As this happened, God could see that a 'light' would dawn in the consciousness of man and for this reason, he gave this most beloved angel the name of 'The Light Bringer' - Lucifer.

The Dalai Lama was talking on the radio while I was driving home from work tonight and he said this, 'the main difference between the Buddha's and us humans is this: the Buddha's recognised their true nature and became enlightened. We did not and we became confused'.

Jenny, I guess that this is probably more that you expected, and certainly more than I had appreciated. I expect that it will be a very long time before you ask another simple question and then, only if you have time on your hands!

Love and blessings,


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