The devil is the title given to a supernatural being who in mainstream Christianity, Islam, and some other religions is believed to be a powerful, evil entity and the tempter of mankind. He is commonly associated with heretics, infidels, and other unbelievers. He has many names, but in many other religions he is more akin to a trickster and even, as in the Old Testament, a servant of God who, as in The Book of Job, found it necessaryto ask the permission of God to obtain the right to test Job. Modern Christians and Jews who concern themselves with the devil consider him to be an angel who along with 1/3 of the angelic hosts (now demons) rebelled against God and are condemned to the Lake of Fire. He hates all Creation, opposes God, spreads lies, and wreaks havoc on the souls of mankind. The word ‘devil’ is not d + evil. It comes from the Greek diabolos meaning slanderer because it derives from words meaning ‘pulled apart’ or ‘separated into opposites’, thus preventing unity or oneness. This supports the idea that, like Seth and Horus, Christ and Satan were brothers, representing the opposites of good and evil, which perhaps explains why Christ turned his back on Satan, for if they ever joined together, there would be no need any longer for either of them and Christ’s sacrifice would be unnecessary. As I stated earlier, the Old Testament describes Satan, meaning the Adversary, as a servant of God whose job it is to test mankind. Sometimes he is the obstacle itself, sometimes the ‘prosecutor’, with God as the Judge, as in Job. Here Satan has no power to make evil unless man does evil. Satan had to ask God’s permission to test the faith of Job. Throughout the Old Testament it is God who exercises sovereignty over both good and evil.
“I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah).
Indeed, in all the earlier books of Hebrew literature, Satan is not mentioned at all. All acts of punishment, revenge, and temptation are performed by Yahweh himself or by his angel at his direct command. The prophet Zechariah speaks of Satan as an angel whose office is to accuse and to demand the punishment of the wicked. In the Book of Job, Satan appears as a malicious servant of God who enjoys performing his function as a tempter, torturer, and avenger. He accuses unjustly and seems to delight in convicting the innocent, while God’s justice and goodness are not called into question. Satan is in the Old Testament an adversary of man, although a servant of God. The Jewish idea of Satan received some additional features from the attributes of the gods of surrounding nstions. Nothing is more common in history than the change of the deities of hostile nations or competing religions into demons of evil. In this way Beelzebub, the Phoenician god, became another name for Satan. There are also many historical connections of Israel’s religion with the mythologies of Assyria and Babylon including reminiscences of the combat between the dragon Tiamat (originallythe Great Goddess) and Marduk, the omnipotent god of the patriarchal Babylonians, still remaining in the Old Testament. Paul Carus, in his History of the Devil quotes the following from an earlier source:
“Nowhere in extant literature is the myth of Yahveh’s combat with the dragon actually narrated. Judaism, the distinctive work of which was the collection of the canon, did not admit myths that savored of heathendom. Nevertheless, the fact that in all the passages that speak of the dragon the myth is not portrayed but simply presupposed, proves that it was very well known and very popular with the people. The absence of the myth in the canon is distinct and conclusive evidence that we possess in our old Testament a fragment only of the old religious literature.”
So you see why people say that the devil is merely in the details. People put the concept of the devil to use in social and political conflicts, claiming that their opponents are influenced by the devil or even willingly support the devil. The devil has also been used to explain why others hold beliefs that are considered to be false and ungodly. In Islam the devil is referred to as Iblis. According to the Koran God created Iblis out of smokeless fire (burning bush) along with all the other jinns, and created mankind out of clay. He has no power other than to cast evil suggestions into the hearts of men and women. He was expelled from the grace of God when he disobeyed God by refusing to pay homage to Adam, the father of mankind. He claimed to be superior to Adam, on the grounds that man was created of earth unlike himself. However, Iblis, adamant in his view that mankind was inferior, even though men, unlike the angels, were given the ability to choose, unlawfully made a choice — to disobey God. So God expelled him, a fact which Iblis blamed on humanity. Initially, the devil was successful in deceiving Adam, but once his intentions became clear, Adam and Eve repented to God and were freed from their misdeeds and forgiven. Therefore there was no need for saviors. God gave them a strong warning about Iblis and the fires of Hell and asked them and their offspring to stay away from the deceptions of their senses caused by the devil. This doctrine can be seen as viable today in the view that Iranians hold toward us. They do not believe that the United States is a country ruled by the devil (as Bush said about them); indeed they have been great admirers of American culture in many respects, but they believe that we are foolish and unable to avoid the temptations of the devil in our felt need to imitate the hubris which they believe is the devil’s great sin. Those Iranians opposed to the theocracy, although they are frequently the most admiring of American culture, have a similar view expressed by Karen Armstrong:
“In Islam the Devil is a trivial little character, stupid and unaware. When the Iranians described America as the Devil, they didn’t mean it was an evil country but a stupid one, the great trivialiser.”
The Koran does not depict Iblis as the enemy of God, as God is supreme over all his creations and Iblis is just one of his creations. Iblis’ single enemy is humanity. He intends to discourage humans from obeying God. Thus humankind is warned to struggle (jihad) against the mischiefs of Satan and the temptations he puts them in. The ones who succeed in this are rewarded with Paradise which is attainable only by righteous conduct. Other creeds than Christianity have dealt with malign gods and spirits, but none other has posited a figure whose name and face represenrs the abstract reality of evil. At one point he was almost the favored son of God before they had a falling out. Are they then essentially the equal and opposite ends of the spectrum, principles of good and evil locked in a csmic battle like Batman and the Joker? Or is the Devil not a free agent? Is he still in some fashion under God’s control? Present-day theology seems to endorse the second viewpoint, although the practice and iconography of the churches down the ages prefer the former. Many have taken the view that the god of Abraham, Yahveh or Jehovah, is consistent in character with the Devil, that he is a divine force that wreaks suffering, death, and destuction and tempts or commands humanity into committing mayhem nd genocide. Even the myth of Abraham and Isaac can be interpreted in that manner, that Yahveh tempted Abraham to kill his own son. To these critics, the biblical god is a demiurge, an evil angel, a cruel, wrathful, warlike tyrant who drove the Hebrews into committing genocide against those who had been inhabitants of the so-called Holy Land. This god is often contrasted with the god of the New Testament who teaches mercy and forgiveness toward one’s enemies, although the use of the word ‘enemies’ gives this teaching a rather ambiguous flavor. But despite all this ambiguity, the Devil seems to be much easier to portray by the artist than is the god of either the New or Old Testament. Like the gods of old, he is easily personified with just a bit of added imagination. This raises the question of the form in which he is personified. Although everyone recognizes his many names, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub etc., his form remains an enigma. Is he an angel or an animal; the serpent who tempts Eve in the Garden, the flying pig who was banished from a church by Pope Gregory the Great, or a strange-looking human whose face with its hooked nose can be seen protruding from the facade of many cathedrals and is perhaps visible even in our garden? Perhaps it is the three-headed colossus encased in ice in Dante’s Inferno weeping tears of bitter frustration. He seems to have many diguises. What are taken as his tell-tale signs — the horns, the cloven hoof, the tail, the sulfurous breath — are just several of his many masks. He coulc be anybody or nobody. That is what beguiles us. Or is he all in the mind? There are signs that he is retiring from the stage and no longer running things to the extent that he used to, but merely being satisfied with such political positions as a recent US President for Vice (sometimes euphemistically called vice-president). Actually, he has ‘retired’ from the consciousness of most people today. Many Christian churchmen, especially in the mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations, speak little of him, although they admit that the Devil stil lurks on the fundamentalist and superstitious margins. He still lives, however, in the heart of Christianity — even Pope John Paul II himself issued a catechism in 1994 making explicit reference to Satan’s continuing role and he exorcised a young woman in theVatican, the first pontiff in modern times to perform the rite. At the present time, the most common references to the Devil lie in the tendency to demonize. This process was carried on by the Romans against the early Christians and then adapted to terrifying effect by the Church itself. The Nazis built on centuries of demonization of the Jews to carry out the Holocaust that claimed 6 million lives. President Bush specifically demonized Iraq, Iran, and No. Korea and then questioned why, after we overthrew the diabolical government of Iraq, the Iranians and No. Koreans think they need atomic weapons. Iraq didn’t have them, wasn’t trying to get them even though Bush said they were, so there seems to be little question that since he didn’t attack No. Korea, it must be because they already had the weapon. No wonder Iran believes that only the atomic bomb will protect them from going the way of Iraq.
The Greeks personified characteristics which they believed to be important, and Até, which means judicial blindness sent by the gods, specifically misbelief (erroneous belief) was an important goddess, closely equivalent to the Christian devil, although te Greeks, like other polytheists, did not look at the devil the way we do, She acted very much like Mephistopheles did in Faust when he said he was the spirit who intends evil but does good, for in Oedipus Rex Sophocles stated that Oedipus’ fall came in the following order: shame, lamentation, Até, death. This implies that Oedipus’ death resulted from the action of Até. What I am about to say applies to both Até and our devil. In order to increase the consciousness (a good thing) of the subject, she placed an obstacle (seen by the subject to be evil) in the path of the subject which would, if dealt with without fear or blame, increase the consciousness of the subject. This was the plague in Thebes. If the subject, usually through fear, refused to believe that this obstacle had anything to do with him or her, someone else would have to be blamed, relieving the subject of responsibility. This would invite disaster. Accepting responsibility and dealing with the matter would bring an increase of consciousness. Oedipus had repressed into his unconscios the memory of killing Laius, so he was afraid to admit any possibility of his own guilt. Likewise, if we refuse to believe that we are likely to be caught if we should commit a crime, our level of consciousness will only be increased if we are caught. The erroneous belief, which refuses to deal with the obstacle, is the work of Até. So you see, although she intends evil, she may ultimately bring about good if one does not let fear stand in one’s way.She is thus the mother of Mephistopheles.
Despite the growing ability of science to explain the occurrence of things that we have always called evil, there is still a large gap that we often call on the Devil to fill. There are still many natural and moral occurrences which are referred to as evil — from violent crime, child abuse, and rape to acts of terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons. In the modern mind it is located within each individual — what Jung called our ‘shadow’. Historically, our tendency was to place it outside — on the Devil who was exploiting a weakness in the human makeup. This imposes a greater responsibility on the human individual. The traditional view — that of emphasizing that God gave each individual free will — the capacity to choose right or wrong — did have the bonus of off-loading some of the burden onto an external force. That is why the Devil still attracts a following. He represents the easy option when we are confronted with evil. Ancient civilizations tended to see good and evil as two sides of the same coin. In Egypt, for instance, Seth and Horus were viewed as brothers and frequently depicted together, the generally benign sky god and the usually malevolent god of the desert. Osiris and Seth were also often shown as one. The key to a good life was to achieve harmony — or ma’at — between these conflicting forces. The deities of Egypt, Canaan, and the various peoples of Mesopotamia were monist — where only one overall divine principle encompassed within its pantheon both good and bad. A different model came with Zoroaster, who is thought to have lived in what is now Iran in the 7th c.BC. His good god — Ahura Mazda — was in direct conflict with Ahriman, the god of war. This was dualism in its purest form. Only the Parsees (Persians), mostly in western India, still hold to this religion. Judaism took the monist approach. Yahweh was the all-powerful one for good and bad events, as David quoted earlier, even at one stage egging Moses on to rape and pillage. This monism began to be ended in the Book of Job, certainly as eloquent a statement of the dilemmas and doubts affecting human-kind as one could expect to find anywhere. There Satan appears as a kind of chief prosecutor with Yahweh as judge, at odds with his master over the human capacity to resist evil. It was about the time of the birth of Christ, the beginning of the Piscean Age, incidentally, that the Jews had to deal with many social, political, and religious upheavals and found themselves unable to understand why their God could have apparently abandond them, and they came to accept Satan as the reason. All that appeareed evil or negative in this world was ascribed to this angel of darkness with all those angels who had accompanied him in his fall from grace. This imagery surrounds the Devil in the New Testament and later in the mainstream of Christian thought. The problem then came to integrate two apparently contradictory ideas — God who was omnipotent and omniscient and allowed humanity to suffer, and a God who was supposed to be all-loving. Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote of this:
“Is he willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
It is a circle the Christian churches have been trying to square for centuries. The cosmic battle between God and the Devil has continued to rage, often with official encouragement. During the witch craze of the medieval period, there was backing at the highest level for the view that the world offered a choice between the two polar opposites. Those unfortunates who were burned at the stake had made a pact with the Devil and chosen the wrong option. In pursuing Cathars, Albigensians, witches and magicians, the Inquisition reinforced the picture. Literature and the arts gave their support while popes made their own contribution by promoting saints whose lives were one long battle with Satan as the Church’s heroes and heroines. The Devil became an essential part of the Christian fabric, an eternal and convenient scapegoat. When the Reformatiion came along, both sides were quick to see the Devil’s hand manipulating their rivals. Luther saw Rome as a hellish city full of demons parading around in the scarlet robes of cardinals while he was often depicted as listening attentively as the Devil whispered in his ear. Soon the Devil became synonymous with the deities of any rival creed to Christianity. The Crusades were seen as defeating the infidel and winning back the Holy Land from the powers of darkness. The deities encountered as Christianity spread into northern Europe were seen as devils and witches. The Devil was essential in putting a face to evil. He was also useful in the Church’s attempts to outlaw practices it objected to on moral grounds. Following the 5th c. writings of Augustine, the Church enforced a strict code of sexual morality. Those who broke it — and particularly those women who were seen by clerics as following in the footsteps of Eve by seducing men into wrongdoing — ran the risk of being tainted by the Devil. His copulating demons – incubi and succubi – were always on the lookout for a willing and wanton harridan to lead astray. Documents like the Malleus Malificarum, the 15th c. witch-hunters’ bible, actually suggested that women were genetically more predisposed to do the Devil’s deeds than men were. More recently the churches have tried a variety of approaches from the folksy wisdom of evangelicals who tell you cheerfully that “everything God has made has a crack in it,” to more scholarly attempts to recast the whole theological treatment of evil without the looming presence of Satan. It was a Jewish writer, Martin Buber in Good and Evil who came up with one of the more enduring definitions of evil as “the yeast in the dough,” the ferment placed in the soul by God to allow it to grow and be tested, a definition closer to my own view. It is not a new idea but rather a recasting of an approach that has been around for centuries. As Milton believed, evil was there to stretch humanity to the limits. As Peter Stanford wrote in The Devil,
“Few educated people today believe in the Devil as a reality. Yet, those who deny the existence of evil altogether remain a minority. The rest inhabit various staging posts on the way from one position to the other — that there are evil actions but not evil individuals, or that people can be evil but that evil is within them. Such formulas can seem thin and inadequate when faced by daily news reports of terrible and terrifying acts of cruelty and barbarity around the world. Can the hatred that created Auschwitz be found only within humanity or is there a greater force of evil out there? The fundamental question of evil remains — and with it the Devil.”
Jung was faced with this problem especially living only a short distance from Germany during the Nazi period, and although he preferred the theory that evil is merely a privatio boni, an absence of good, he still had to live with the idea that this was inadequate — there had to be more to it than that. And if there is, could it be Satan? In the Gospel of John it states three times that Satan is “prince of this world.” St. Paul even calls him “god of this world.” In the Apocalypse it is written:
“And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world. And he was cast unto the earth: and his angels were thrown down with him.”
Earth and world become here the embodiment and symbol of the moral remoteness from God to which the evil spirits descended from heaven, through willful aversion from God. The darkness, inertiia, and heaviness that we call earth and matter become the tangible image of this otherwise so unfathomable tragedy that has been enacted in the realm of the spirit. This has given to mankind the right to do as it wills to reshape the earth into its own image, believing that we are free to work our own will onto something that is so completely removed from God. Myth is essential for understanding the truth, for it is the veil that prevents Truth from blinding us.
As you must know, the reason you are reading this, is that you accept the possibility that Myth is Metaphor. I believe metaphorically a myth of Satan which is both very ancient and also modern. The only written source I have ever seen, and which fascinated me because I did not know that it had ever been enclosed within a novel, lies in a novel written in 1895 and no doubt now out of print by Marie Corelli called The Sorrows of Satan. It also gave me more insight as well as further confirmed many of my beliefs as to the nature of Hermes, even though he is not a character in the book. Here is the myth as best I remember it, since I have never seen it in writing in toto. It includes elements of Sufi, Judaism, Gnosticism, and Christianity, although it is not canonical.
“Lucifer, an archangel, was created by God as the ‘bearer of light’. This light is the light of consciousness, which when fully achieved will bestow Free Will upon its bearer, but can only be achieved through fully experiencing God’s creation. This consciousness was not even granted to the angels. It had not even been granted to the Creator of the world, who was not the supreme God, but a demiurge. But God intended it to be granted to humanity, although it could not be achieved without the support of Lucifer. Indeed, the Creator so much wanted to be known that he created mankind in order that he might become known by his Creation, and this knowledge required consciousness. And furthermore, being known by his Creation, he hoped thereby the better to know Himself. One requires two to fully become One. That is the essence of relationship. So the Creator, knowing this, placed man and woman in the Garden and sent Lucifer down to instruct them. Lucifer knew that, as Jung pointed out some time later, that one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious, Therefore he told them to eat of the fruit of knowledge of both good and evil, and they obeyed. He then forced them out of the Garden so they could experience these opposites and they and their descendants have been experiencing them ever since. All that is required for one to acquire the consciousness inherent in these experiences is to take responsibility for them instead of blaming the devil, unless one sees him as Lucifer bringing light and not the devil bringing darkness upon one. Lucifer does not punish. Such problems as pain, accidents, and other misfortunes are not puinishment but exist solely to redirect. Even war results from one’s disbelief that those forces exist within oneself. The Buddha was right when he said that all beings are born enlightened, but it takes a lifetime to discover this. But because the Creator himself was not yet fully conscious he consigned Lucifer to hell for disobedience from which Lucifer, now Satan, longs to return supported only by his memory of his Master’s voice saying, “Begone!” He was, however, able to increase the consciousness of the Creator by encouraging Judas to sacrifice himself by betraying Christ so that Christ could then make the ultimate sacrifice and show the Creator the suffering that mankind is capable of. Since then, as we know, the New Testament depicts a much more merciful God, whereas previously He had himself appeared Satanic. This was an indirect gift of Lucifer to mankind, even though he had hoped that it might bring about his own forgiveness and perhaps readmission to God’s presence. His failure to realize his hope for forgiveness caused Lucifer to provide, as Rumi wrote, “a secret medicine to those who hurt so bad they can’t hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.” That is why the hopers say that hope came from the Devil.”
This myth I believe is more appropriate today to the way Satan is viewed, though metaphor-ically. Even Voltaire, the great founder of the rationalist school spoke familiarly of Satan when, on his deathbed, a priest offered him extreme unction (France has always been Catholic at least ritually) telling him that he must renounce Satan. Voltaire replied, “This is no time to be making enemies.” Also much more can be added to it in the descriptions of how Satan constantly places obstacles in our path which if we do not blame others for them can be added to our stock of experiences for the increase of consciousness and the knowledge of the nature of God and His universe. All of these obstacles are, as Mephistopheles said in Goethe’s Faust, examples of deeds concerning which he stated, “I am the spirit that intends evil but does good.” Thus Lucifer brings light into the darkness if one but seeks it out. If it were given freely, we would never learn from it. After all, we learn much more from suffering than from blessings. As Hermes once spoke to me out loud as if from the radio, “How can I bring you sorrow if you accept it as blessing?” It is his satanic duty to bring me sorrow so that I may deal with it, thus learning more about the nature of God and His world. So my conclusion is that the Devil is a Daimon. And the only daimon I know personally is Hermes, so I probably should relate to you something of the myth of Hermes which might explain this. This will also give you an example of myth explaining the nature of life. Remember, if you wish to learn the Origin of the Specious, you must become Myth Informed!
Hermes was to the Greeks the patron god of merchants, bankers, and thieves — which as you know have at least one thing in common (probably much more as well) — transvaluation of value.The value of what they deal with generally increases by their taking it on a journey. It must go from one place to another to then be dealt with according to its nature. This also applies to human beings. Their value develops according as their values change with their experiences in their life’s journey. This is different from the role of Hephaestus (Vulcan), who dealt with the increase in value through changes in form (which we now call manufacturing, Latin for making by hand). So the daimon deals in providing experiences on life’s journey. What does that have to do with the Devil? This goes back to the myth of the infancy of Hermes. Almost immediately after his birth as the little brother of Apollo, he started his life as a Trickster. He got out of his crib and stole his brother’s cattle, making them walk backwards so that their footprints would lead in the opposite direction back to where they came from. As soon as Apollo found his cattle, he took Hermes to Zeus hoping that Zeus would punish him. Instead, Zeus took a liking to the child, admiring his cleverness, and since he was the child’s father, he decided to make Hermes what amounted to the patron of consciousness-transformation. However, he knew that as Trickster, Hermes would be susceptible to lying, which was forbidden to all the gods. Any god who lied was to be punished by being put to sleep for 900 years, so Zeus told Hermes that he was now a member of the “Olympic Club” and therefore must not lie. Hermes’ retort was the key to all this, O Clever One: Quote–“Of course I shall not lie, Father, but that does not mean I have to tell the whole truth.” That, I have found personally, is the basis for the way the daimon operates – it speaks in metaphors which can be interpreted in various ways but there is always an element of truth which one sometimes has to dig for. Each instruction also has a literal meaning which, after being obeyed or disobeyed, one will encounter pursuant difficulties which should be transformative. And as Socrates said, his daimon tells him what not to do. It does not tell him what to do, since if he did it and things went wrong, the daimon could be blamed. But it tells him what action to avoid. That leaves one with free will. We can always make choices about what to do, and so it will be our decision which brought about the results, and so growth can occur if we don’t blame someone else for any negative results. And of course, the daimon puts obstacles on our path, and even more commonly, puts them in our way when we get off our path. This means that until we find our path, we run into a great many obstacles. That is called ‘growth.’ So you can see that the daimon can often be called the Devil, but actually I believe that the spirit is One, but we simply have many perspectives on it. Of course this is complicated by the question of evil. I think we can dismiss the accusation of blame against the devil in the case of storms and earthquakes, etc., although the daimon can make use of them in the creation of obstacles, although it might be interesting to speculate if perhaps the daimon requests either the devil or God to create some in order to give the daimon a few obstacles to use, as in The Book of Job. But moral evils, in my view, cannot be blamed on the devil, but on the human ego. We think we can sneak out of blame by directing it against spirit, when it is we who are to blame. We are in this case thoughtlessly or purposefully placing obstacles, sometimes fatal, in the way of others’ lives. We are in such a case unconsciously playing the role of daimon ourselves, although adopting the excuse of moral rectitude and using it against others. We all do this, frequently without realizing it. As George Bernard Shaw said:
“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent toward them; that is the essence of inhumanity.”
And that is frequently done unconsciously. All living creatures require recognition, Some would say that even objects of nature do, such as mountains and forests. You do not have to be a tree-hugger to feel that tug of nature. But we must admit that it is difficult to blame the Devil whenever a society commits evils. As Shaw also wrote:
“The degree of tlolerance obtainable at any moment depends on the strain under which society is maintaining its cohesion. Under the strain of invasion the French government in 1792 stuck off 4000 heads, mostly on grounds that would not in times of settled peace have provoked any Government to chloroform a dog.”
Although we sometimes can see the operation of the Devil in society as a whole, he seems to operate more clearly within the individual. As Jung said:
“The individual alone makes history. That individual unit upon whom a world depends, and in whom, if we read the meaning of the Christian message aright, even God seeks his goal.”
Often the Christ is referred to as both the Son of God and the Son of Man, thus underscoring the idea that the god within can only be brought to birth through human consciousness and made manifest through the lives of individual human beings. This is true of Spirit in general. Spirit, in my view, is not concerned with good and evil, which are human conceptions, rather it is concerned with the growth of consciousness. Frequently this requires what we are pleased to call evil, but that is not the concern of spirit. As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
“This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that he should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.”
Was Aquinas here quoting Mephistopheles or was Goethe quoting Aquinas when he put those words in Mefisto’s mouth about desiring evil but doing good? This could apply to both natural evils and moral sin. This is also the daimon speaking. Placing obstacles in our way with which we must acquire consciousness by overcoming or to nudge us back onto our Path. In all cases we still have choice, which, incidentally, the angels do not. We are only following Socrates’ injunction that the daimon tells us what not to do. This idea is supported by our definition of what is good. I believe that one must learn to deal with evil if one is to expand one’s consciousness, just as it is wrong to hide ‘bad things’ away from children, for they never gain the ability to recognize evil when they come across it. Strangely enough, pleasure can play a similar role. We seek pleasure and find it good, although one often discovers that there is little fulfillment in it. Those who continually seek wealth, for instance, often find it, but, as Joseph Campbell said, midlife frequently finds us at the top of the ladder, at which point we discover that it is against the wrong wall. And we may find that we have created much evil in the process, not only to others but to ouselves. The pursuit of pleasure rarely brings fulfillment, although the achievement of fulfillment may very well bring pleasure. Just what is the function of the Devil in our time? In modern society, it seems that the function of the Devil is to create fear. We must fear the Devil and his works, which include the pursuit of pleasure. This pursuit, as we are assured, will bring sickness, pain, and death. Even our parents can personify the Devil when they teach us as children to refrain from the pursuit of pleasure. Such avoidance, as I pointed out earlier, can make us more susceptible to the Devil’s wiles through our failure to recognize evil when we are faced with it. As you may know by now, the Devil works most effectively when he conviinces us that he does not exist. If the Devil’s chief function is to spread fear, in order to avoid his wiles we must certainly avoid all newspapers and other media, lock up all news reporters and most politicians. And that is just the beginning. In earlier times the Devil worked mostly through the Church, for the fear inspired by the Inquisitiion and the crusades against its own people such as the Albigensian Crusades directed against the Cathars of southern France. All authority is by its very nature enforced through fear, so if you accept the idea that the Devil functions through inspiring fear, you would have to be an anarchist to oppose him. After all, fear is our reaction. We created it. Just because we did not create the world, does not mean that each of us does not create our own world. And some of us live in a world of fear. Because of our fear, we go to the physician or support the dictator. Most of us fear disease, and, as you know, our religious leaders have told us that disease is a gift o f the Devil. They are right. Disease is provided to sufferers so they will have something to blame for their suffering. The devil wants us to have something to blame so that we will not assume responsibility for our own problems which would assist us in developing higher consciousness. So you see that these religious leaders are right — disease is a gift of the Devil so the religious leaders themselves have someone to blame. All of these ideas are thoroughly confusing and so my only conclusion can be the following: good and evil are abstract conceptions which have no reality of their own. It is entirely a matter of point of view. What is good to the anarchist is evil to the dictator. A dictator prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy any day. Likewise, what is good to the physician is evil to the patient, for as you know, a physician diagnoses a disease by both the patiient’s pulse and his purse. How else is the physician to make a living? How else, as a matter of fact, is the dictator to remain in power if he and his supporters do not believe that power is good — even necessary for the safety of the nation? In both cases, they are operating through instilling fear. Many say that our constitutional rights are constantly under attack by the Devil. However, fear of death is actually: the basis of all fear. That means that without the fear of death, there would be no fear. Does that mean that without the fear of death there would be no life? After all, death and birth may be opposites, but both are aspects of life, which is itself immortal. Is the physician and the dictator, both of whom operate by means of instilling fear, on the side of life? Which one is doing God’s work and which one the Devil’s? Tell me and I may change my religion!
To put this in spiritual terms, the devil is the greatest ally of God. His conversion would be a cosmic catastrophe. The fusiion into an undifferentiated One would place us, without further ado, into a world of total boredom. And what worse cosmic catastrophe could there be than boredom? Hermes makes a good daimon since he is not only Guide of Souls on their journey, but patron of travelers, who of course are also on a journey, and of merchants, bankers, and thieves, who have in common not only that they deal with matter that increases in value through making a journey, but they also have a similar moral sense, as I believe you would agree. So he deals with anything that journeys. This is as opposed to Hephaestus (Vulcan) who increases the value of matter by bringing about changes in form. In our life’s journey we need thieves in order to have someone to get caught other than ourselves. It is little wonder that our culture embraces the Christian religion so fundamentally, espousing as it does a theology that sanctifies having someone else, Christ, doing the crucial task for us — dying for our sins. This permits the alchemical work to abort before its completion, thus preventing the deepest transformation. Hermes would have nothing to do with such a situation, nor would any daimon. Therefore when one requests a spiritual being for help, one is asking that it become an advocate against itself. For this reason alone the devil is a more effective teacher than God, since the function of the Spirit is to increase one’s consciousness which requires learning how to deal with the opposites but has no necessaary function in either survival or adaptation to the environment. So there is no use in asking for help there.
The function of the ego as perceived by most people is to control that aspect of the environment which one perceives, or, according to others, is to control how we perceive our environment. Our senses do not enable us to perceive the environment so much as to limit our perceptions. The view that the function of the ego is to control one’s environment is, in my view, the cause of fear, since few if any of us are capable of such control. This results often in anger and is therefore the cause of most violence, even of wars. It is important, in my view, that we learn to view the function of the ego simply as the means of controlling how we perceive our environment. Thus by relaxing the requirements of logic somewhat, one can provide reality to the imagination. One might call this poetical thinking; thus one might discover a bit of reality below the surface of things. Not only do our senses limit what we perceive but also how we perceive it. This too can be the cause of much fear and anger, especially when we do not realize that our perceptions or ourselves might be limited. This causes serious problems as in our view that the Iranians hate us when actually they believe that we are foolish and unable to view reality as they do.
I think I shall identify with the devil and oppose St. Augustine. I do not agree with him that evil is an important driving force in human behavior. Rather, I subscribe to the Hindu belief that fear and desire are the primary motivating factors. As Goethe’s Mephistopheles identified himself, “I am the spirit that intends evil but does good.” His evil actions brought about much self-knowledge to Faust, and the myth is still used today as a transformative lesson. Much good can derive from evil intent. Witness our foreign policy! Often lying, generally considered evil, is necessary for self-preservation. This is learned very early. A 3 year old child will often respond with clear logic to a parental warning, “I’ll get you for that!” He learns very early that logic is the weapon that fear uses, often successfully, to defy fate. He may not learn obedience, the intent of the parent, but I discovered in 25 years of teaching that youngsters learned much in the classroom, but rarely what I intended to teach. And by the time children reach high school age, their use of logic has become highly refined. They have gotten “it” but it” is not exactly what the teacher or parent had intended. But much greater evils than lying can result from the best intentions. People can die in the act of rescue. Our government intended to rescue the Iraqi people from an evil dictator and unintentionally brought about a much greater evil. No more need be said on that issue. This has been called the Doctrine of Unintended Consequences. Evil intent can result in good, and good intent can result in evil. Either result can be blamed on the Devil. The evil result, in most cases, is derived from a single cause: the belief that one can know what is right or good for someone else. Our government believes that a government like ours is right for all nations, and that we have a right to impose it on them for their own good. Many individuals believe they know, for instance, that a friend should exercize more, or eat less. Or that a certain medicine will surely answer his/her problems. To say that it worked for me and therefore should for you is to make some terrific assumptions about identity. But good and evil are really side issues. Fear brings about conditions which spawn evil and is used by advertisers and other propagandists. It is necessary to control people’s desires. On the other hand, desire can reduce and even eliminate fears, especially noticeable in the young. These are the two aspects of Maya and drive the world of manifestation. I don’t believe it is possible to find any action or condition, good or evil, which does not involve these opposites in one way or another. In order to show most clearly my own belief about the place of evil in the world, and to show you that the Devil can appear in many forms, male or female, here is a story of what might be called the archetypal fairy tale written by P.L. Travers called The Thirteenth Wise Woman. Every child and every adult should be told it. It provides an excellent example of the necessary place evil holds which when combined with consciousness is capable of developing into good. Remember Mephistopheles’ statement, “I am the spirit who intends evil but does good.”
“To celebrate the birth of his daughter, the Sultan prepared a christening feast to which he invited his kinsmen, friends, and since he had only 12 gold plates, 12 of the 13 Wise Women who lived in the kingdom. The day they arrived, each of the 12 invited fairies presented her gifts. Dressed in robes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue or indigo, they endowed her with beauty, health, a kind heart, sweet temper, joy, the love of animals, freedom from fear, and contentment. Before the 12th invited fairy had time to present her gift, there was a tumult in the outer hall. As though struck by an unseen fist, the Sultan staggered backwards. A clap of thunder rocked the hall — or was it perhaps the sound of cannon? — and a thick grey mist swept through the door. The lute strings broke with a twanging cry, the wineglasses shattered on their trays. The guests shrieked, the servants shouted. the Princess wailed.
‘We are besieged!’ the Sultan bellowed. ‘Visier, call the soldiers in! Station the guards at every point! This is a ruse of our enemies! They are now at our very gates!’
‘One enemy alone, Prince, and that no mortal foe!’ A vibrant voice rang through the hall, the wreathing mist cleared away and there, standing in the air, her violet robes flowing about her, was the 13th of the Wise Women. Her naked silverhead flashed as she turned from one point to another wrathfully eyeing the scene. The Sultan’s face was as pale as marble.
‘Bring me my sword!’ he said nervously, as the Wise Woman strode through the air toward him. She laughed mockingly.
‘No sword can save you, foolish mortal! Only a word can do that. Speak it — if you can. Tell me, you little earthly lord, why all my earthly sisters are gathered here, all invited to your daughter’s christening — and I alone left out?’ Step by step she crossed the hall, thrusting the Sultan backwards. ‘Well?’ she demanded ominously.
The Sultan collapsed upon the throne, rocking himself backwards and forwards, racking his brain for an answer. ‘Most noble fairy, I beg forgiveness. It was not intentional, I assure you — simply a matter of dishes. 13 Wise Women in the land and only 12 gold plates! I should have sent an apology. But with all the christening arrangements, I was busy and I just forgot.’
‘Forgot!’ The Wise Woman spat the word at him. ‘And did you also fail to remember that one thing leads to another? Every stick has two ends, Prince. You forgot! And because of that, I am called to remember. Because of that, I — as long as your story lives — must play the part of the Wicked Fairy. Children will turn aside at my name and men call curses on my head. You cannot alter the law, Prince. In my world there is no forgetting. And he who forgets in your world must take the consequences.’
‘Yes,’ said the Sultan, miserably. ‘You must punish me as you think best. I will do whatever you wish.’
‘You will do nothing, mortal man. You will simply accept my gift.’
The Sultan stared in astonishment. Was there to be no retribution? ‘Well, that’s very handsome of you,’ he blustered. ‘Letting bygones be bygones.’
The Wise Woman smiled a curious smile. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘what is done is done. It is no use crying over spilt milk.’ As she spoke she moved toward the child., taking her place at the foot of the cradle. The Sultan preened and stroked his beard. He could hardly contain his impatience. At last, perhaps he would get what he hoped for. ‘Now,’ said the Wise Woman, as she laid her hand upon the child and fixed the Sultan with her eye, ‘Here is the gift I give you daughter:
She’ll have her beauty, peace, and joy for fifteen years without alloy.
But that’s the end. A spindle dart will pierce her finger, and your heart.
Oh, red the blood and white the bed, and there’s your darling daughter — DEAD!’
And in a laugh that shook the pillars of the chamber and chilled the marrow of all who heard it, she swept her violet robes about her, raised her silver hand in salute and disappeared through the ceiling.”
The appearance of this lady at the christening is the great moment of this tale, the hook from which everything hangs. Properly to understand why this is so we must turn to Wise Women in general and their role in the world of men. To begin with they are not mortal women. They are sisters, rather, of the Sirens, kin to the Fates and the Gt. Mother. As such, as creatures of another dimension, myth and legend have been at pains to embody them in other than human shape — the winged female figures of Homer, the bird-headed women of Irish tales, powerful Babayaga, the witch of Russia, and the wisplike Jinn of the Middle East who were not allowed grosser forms than those of fire and smoke. For it should be remembered that no Wise Woman or fairy is in herself either good or bad; rather she takes on one aspect or other according to the laws of the story and the necessity of events. The powers of these ladies are equivocal. They change withchanging circumstances; they are as swift to take umbrage as they are to bestow a boon; they curse and bless with equal gusto. Each Wise Woman is, in fact, an aspect of the Hindu goddess Kali, who carries in her multiple hands the powers of good and evil. It is clear, therefore, that the 13th Wise Woman becomes the Wicked Fairy solely for the purposes of one particular story. It was by chance that she received no invitation; it might just as well have been one of her sisters. So, thrust by circumstances into her role, she acts according to law. Up she rises, ostensibly to avenge an insult but in reality to thrust the story forward and keepthe drama moving. She becomes the necessary antagonist, placed there to show that whatever is “other,” opposite and fearful, is as indispensable an instrument of creation as any force for good. The pulling of the Devas and Asuras in opposite directions churns the ocean of life in the Hindu myth, and the interaction of the good and the bad Fairies produces the fairy tale, and, metaphorically speaking. our life also. The 13th Wise Woman stands as a guardian of the threshold, the paradoxical adversary without whose presence no threshold may be passed. This is the role played in so many stories by the Wicked Stepmother. The true mother, by her vary nature, is bound to preserve, protect, and comfort; this is why she so often is disposed of before the story begins. It is the stepmother, her cold heart unwittingly cooperating with the hero’s need, who thrusts the child from the warm hearth, out from the sheltering walls of home to find his own true way. That is the opening to the hero journey in myth, and symbolically the journey of all our lives. Here we return to where we started, our friend the Devil. Powers such as these, at once demonic and divine, are not to be taken lightly. They give a name to evil, free it, and bring it into the light. For evil will out, they sharply warn us, no matter how deeply buried. Down in its shadowy dungeon it plots and plans, waiting, like an unloved child, the day of its revenge. What it needs, like an unloved child, is to be recognized, not disclaimed; given its place and proper birthright and allowed to contact and cooperate with its sister beneficent forces. Only the integration of good and evil and the stern acceptance of opposites will change the situation and bring about the condition that is known in story as Happily Ever After. This bringing of evil into the light leads to the last point i wish to make. Eastern philosophy states that the sole evil is ignorance, which Krishnamurti points out is the lack of consciousness of evil. This can certainly be seen in the attitude of those who call someone a freedom fighter or a terrorist solely depending upon whom that someone is fighting against. That is only one example. We also know that the evil of the concentration camps could possibly have been avoided if they had not been kept secret. In fact, that is why they were kept secret. As Krishnamurti said, evil is the unawareness of evil. Denial also makes evil more likely, but that is because denial is intended to prevent awareness. This is the mortal condition, and hence is universal. Unless someone has some idea as to what we can do about it, we shall simply have to keep in mind that reality is basically a crutch, and that we, afer all, are the very people our parents warned us about. To paraphrase one of our great poets, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, perhaps you’ve misunderstood the situation.