THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 1, November, 1963
(Pages 18-22; Size: 14K)
THE DUAL SERPENTINE FORCE(1)
"THERE is but one light, and there is but one darkness," says a Siamese proverb. Daemon est Deus inversus, the Devil is the shadow of God, states the universal kabalistic axiom. Could light exist but for the primeval darkness? And did not the brilliant, sunny universe first stretch its infant arms from the swaddling bands of dark and dreary chaos? Three and a half centuries before Christ, Plato expressed his opinion of evil by saying that "there is in matter a blind, refractory force, which resists the will of the Great Artificer." This blind force, under Christian influx, was made to see and become responsible; it was transformed into Satan.
"The Aryans had no devil," says Max Muller. "Pluto, though of a sombre character, was a very respectable personage; and Loki (the Scandinavian), though a mischievous person, was not a fiend. The German Goddess, Hell, too, like Proserpine, had once seen better days. Thus, when the Germans were indoctrinated with the idea of a real devil, the Semitic Seth, Satan or Diabolus, they treated him in the most good-humored way." The same may be said of hell. Hades was quite a different place from our region of eternal damnation, and might be termed rather an intermediate state of purification. Neither does the Scandinavian Hel or Hela, imply either a state or a place of punishment; for when Frigga, the grief-stricken mother of Bal-dur, the white god, who died and found himself in the dark abodes of the shadows (Hades) sent Hermod, a son of Thor, in quest of her beloved child, the messenger found him in the inexorable region -- alas! but still comfortably seated on a rock, and reading a book. The Norse kingdom of the dead is moreover situated in the higher latitudes of the Polar regions; it is a cold and cheerless abode, and neither the gelid halls of Hela, nor the occupation of Baldur present the least similitude to the blazing hell of eternal fire and the miserable "damned" sinners with which the Church so generously peoples it.
No more is it the Egyptian Amenthes, the region of judgment and purification; nor the Onderah -- the abyss of darkness of the Hindus; for even the fallen angels hurled into it by Siva, are allowed by Parabrahma to consider it as an intermediate state, in which an opportunity is afforded them to prepare for higher degrees of purification and redemption from their wretched condition. The Gehenna of the New Testament was a locality outside the walls of Jerusalem; and mentioning it, Jesus used but an ordinary metaphor. Whence then came the dreary dogma of hell, the Archimedian lever of Christian theology, with which they have succeeded to hold in subjection the numberless millions of Christians for nineteen centuries? Assuredly not from the Jewish Scriptures, and we appeal for corroboration to any well-informed Hebrew scholar. The only designation of something approaching hell in the Bible is Gehenna or Hinnom, a valley near Jerusalem, where was situated Tophet, a place where a fire was perpetually kept for sanitary purposes.
The first inquiry is whether the term Devil, as here used, actually represents the malignant Deity of the Christians, or an antagonistic, blind force -- the dark side of nature. By the latter we are not to understand the manifestation of any evil principle that is malum in se, but only the shadow of the Light, so to say. The theories of the kabalists treat of it as a force which is antagonistic, but at the same time essential to the vitality, evolving, and vigor of the good principle. Plants would perish in their first stage of existence, if they were kept exposed to the constant sunlight; the night alternating with the day is essential to their healthy growth and development. Goodness, likewise, would speedily cease to be such, were it not alternated with its opposite. In human nature, evil denotes the antagonism of matter to the spiritual, and each is accordingly purified thereby. In the cosmos, the equilibrium must be preserved; the operation of the two contraries produces harmony, like the centripetal and centrifugal forces, and are necessary to each other. If one is arrested, the action of the other will immediately become destructive.
Plutarch remarks that by Typhon was understood anything violent, unruly, and disorderly. The overflowing of the Nile was called by the Egyptians Typhon. Plutarch, who was a rigid, orthodox Greek, and never known to much compliment the Egyptians, testifies in his Isis and Osiris to the fact that far from worshipping the Devil (of which Christians accused them), they despised more than they dreaded Typhon. In his symbol of the opposing, obstinate power of nature, they believed him to be a poor, struggling, half-dead divinity. Thus, even at that remote age, we see the ancients too enlightened to believe in a personal devil.
The identity of Satan with Typhon can scarcely be doubted upon reading the account in Job of his appearance with the sons of God, before the Lord. He accuses Job of a readiness to curse the Lord to his face upon sufficient provocation. So Typhon, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, figures as the accuser. The resemblance extends even to the names, for one of Typhon's appellations was Seth, or Seph; as Satan, in Hebrew, means an adversary. In Arabic the word is Shatana, to be adverse, to persecute.
This personification, denominated Satan, is to be contemplated from three different planes: the Old Testament, the Christian Fathers, and the ancient Gentile attitude. He is supposed to have been represented by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden; nevertheless, the epithet of Satan is nowhere in the Hebrew sacred writings applied to that or any other variety of ophidian. The Brazen Serpent of Moses was worshipped by the Israelites as a god; being the symbol of Esmun-asklepius the Phoenician Iao. Indeed, the character of Satan himself is introduced in the book of Chronicles in the act of instigating King David to number the Israelitish people, an act elsewhere declared specifically to have been moved by Jehovah himself. The inference is unavoidable that the two, Satan and Jehovah, were regarded as identical. (1 Chron., xxi. 1; 2 Sam., xxiv. 1.) The dogma of the Devil and redemption seems to be based upon two passages in the New Testament: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil." "And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the Dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." (1 John, iii. 8.)
The temptation, or probation, of Jesus is the most dramatic occasion in which Satan appears. As if to prove the designation of Apollo, Æsculapius and Bacchus, Diabolos, or son of Zeus, he is also styled Diabolos, or accuser. The scene of the probation was the wilderness. In the desert about the Jordan and Dead Sea were the abodes of the "sons of the prophets," and the Essenes. These ascetics used to subject their neophytes to probations, analogous to the tortures of the Mithraic rites; and the temptation of Jesus was evidently a scene of this character. Hence, in the Gospel according to Luke, it is stated that "the Diabolos, having completed the probation, left him for a specific time, and Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee." But the ... Devil, in this instance, is evidently no malignant principle, but one exercising discipline. In this sense the terms Devil and Satan are repeatedly employed. Thus, when Paul was liable to undue elation by reason of the abundance of revelations or epoptic disclosures, there was given to him "a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan," to check him. (2 Cor. 2;7.)
The story of Satan in the Book of Job is of a similar character. He is introduced among the "Sons of God," presenting themselves before the Lord, as in a Mystic initiation. Micaiah the prophet described a similar scene, where he "saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of Heaven standing by Him," with whom He took counsel, which resulted in putting "a lying spirit into the mouth of the prophet of Ahab." The Lord counsels with Satan, and gives him carte blanche to test the fidelity of Job. He is stripped of his wealth and family, and smitten with a loathsome disease. In his extremity, his wife doubts his integrity and exhorts him to worship God, as he is about to die. His friends all beset him with accusations, and finally the Lord, the chief hierophant himself, taxes him with the uttering of words in which there is no wisdom, and with contending with the Almighty. To this rebuke Job yielded, making this appeal: "I will demand of thee, and thou shalt declare unto me: wherefore do I abhor myself and mourn in dust and ashes?" Immediately he was vindicated....
In all these scenes there is manifested no such malignant diabolism as is supposed to characterize "the adversary of souls." The allegory of Job, if correctly understood, will give the key to this whole matter of the Devil, his nature and office; and will substantiate our declarations. Let no pious individual take exception to this designation of allegory. Myth was the favorite and universal method of teaching in archaic times.
According to des Mousseaux, "the Devil is the chief pillar of Faith. He is one of the grand personages whose life is closely allied to that of the church; and without his speech which issued out so triumphantly from the mouth of the Serpent, his medium, the fall of man could not have taken place. Thus, if it was not for him, the Saviour, the Crucified, the Redeemer, would be but the most ridiculous of supernumeraries, and the Cross an insult to good sense!" This writer, be it remembered, is only the faithful echo of the church, which anathematizes equally the one who denies God and him who doubts the objective existence of Satan.
The modern Devil is their principal heritage from the Roman Cybele, "Babylon, the Great Mother of the idolatrous and abominable religions of the earth."
We ought, perhaps, to make a brief notice of the European Devil. He is the genius who deals in sorcery, witchcraft, and other mischief. The Fathers taking the idea from the Jewish Pharisees, made devils of the Pagan gods, Mithras, Serapis, and others. The Roman Catholic Church followed by denouncing the former worship as commerce with the powers of Darkness. The malefecii and witches of the middle ages were thus but the votaries of the proscribed worship. The votaries of the ancient worship were persecuted and put to death on charges of witchcraft. The Albigenses, descendants of the Gnostics, and the Waldenses, precursors of the Protestants, were hunted and massacred under like accusations. Martin Luther himself was accused of companionship with Satan in proper person. The whole Protestant world still lies under the same imputation. There is no distinction in the judgments of the Church between dissent, heresy, and witchcraft. And except where civil authority protects, they are alike capital offenses. Religious liberty the Church regards as intolerance.
This necessary Evil, dignified by the epithet of "Father of Lies," was, according to the clergy, the founder of all the world-religions of ancient time, and of the heresies, or rather heterodoxies, of later periods, as well as the Deus ex Machina of modern Spiritualism. In the exceptions which we take to this notion, we protest that we do not attack true religion or sincere piety. Perhaps in doing this we resemble Don Quixote, because these things are only windmills. Nevertheless, let it be remembered that they have been the occasion and pretext for the slaughtering of more than fifty millions of human beings since the words were proclaimed: "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES."
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