Ask Lovecraft: The Devil

In which every single one of us has a devil inside.

//Taboola Area

About AskLovecraft

In which celebrated and dead author HP Lovecraft offers his advice on such diverse topics as love, finance, cooking, and personal hygiene.

20 comments

  1. You rather hit the nail on the head there with regards to my own lack of interest in the classical tales of demons and their overlord, simplistic and shallow in their meaning, an excuse for moralising and condemnation of rival beliefs by attempting to tie them to this supposed adversary.

    Indeed, much like the Divine Comedy you made passing mention of, the Devil himself is little more than biblical fan-fiction, an attempt to create a single figure of blame not present in the “canon” texts, one that bears an eerie similarity to nature deities of old European pagan beliefs…

    • SchrodingersCat

      I haven’t read all of The Divine Comedy, but I HAVE read Paradise Lost.
      It was really sad.
      Satan isn’t a villain in it; rather, He’s a charismatic leader, who is sick of living under the eternal thumb of a divine dictator whose justification for keeping all of the angels in a perpetual state of servitude toward him, is simply “might makes right”.
      “I am the mightiest being in the universe; therefore, anything that I say, is right”.
      And while Satan and his followers in heaven are waging a bloody battle against their brothers; both sides suffering many grievous wounds, only to have those wounds spontaneously heal, so they can be wounded all over again, God hides on his mountain, hidden by clouds.
      He only steps in to do anything when he becomes seriously afraid of Satan and his followers succeeding in overthrowing him.
      Even after being tossed into Hell, Satan continues to put his followers’ before himself; insisting that he go alone on his quest to find a way out of Hell, out of concern for their safety.
      Meanwhile, up in heaven, God demands that his “good” angels celebrate the damnation of their brothers, with music and feasting.
      Then God thinks to himself, “Well, I fucked that one up royally. I guess that I’ll just have to make a new race. One without the power to be a threat to me. Or the intelligence to think anything other than what I tell them to think”.
      And while he’s thinking this, he has a vision of the Adam and Even, eating the forbidden fruit.
      His response? “Wretch! Ingrate! I shall cast my entire wrath against them as punishment!”.
      Keep in mind, this is BEFORE he has even STARTED creating Adam and Eve.
      But then Jesus (who is also God) steps in and says “Father, cast not your anger on them. but rather on me. I will take their punishment instead” (because God is incapable of forgiveness without a blood sacrifice). And then God is like “Oh my son. My precious son. You who in all the universe, are TRULY in my own image…I shall reward you for this, by placing you above all others; and making all grovel at your feet, just as they grovel at mine”. And on and on, through about 2 paragraphs of God basically just engaging in narcissistic mental masturbation.

      This is not a the behavior of a “good” deity.
      Or of a sane one.

    • Idea of Devil is in biblical canon. Just it’s position is fare more interesting then cheap medieval black & white way as many uneducated Christian see him. This is complicated debate so I say just for now that in bible “Satan” describe more as broad role of accuser or enemy then individual being. What is here important is that they are still described as servants of the God, who aren’t exactly ageist him. But because angels have free will they have right to dislike humans. In most cases they simply use stupidity and wakens of humans to play with them. That is obviously only small part of this topic, but I don’t have time for that..

  2. All this is why my personal favorite depiction of the devil is Viggo Mortensen in “The Prophecy” also known as “God’s Army” in some countries.

    • Yes, that one was cool role. Anyway one of my favorite is fact that it is totally possible to argument possibility that Lucifer is Christ. I’m not joking here! In short: Lucifer is Greek name of planet Venus, but was missuses in adaptation of Arabic legend of Iblis (someone mistake as devil “son of the star” aka “son of Venus” what was astrological reference to one of king what was enemy of Israel). Anyway legend of Iblis what is still pretty similar to its medieval version is itself adaptation of cabala legend of Raziel.

      But here its popular interpretation largely fall apart from it’s original version. In short: Raziel was angel of wisdom (also common reference to devil) who when humanity fall decided to give humans his book with all God wisdom, point is that he do that without assent of God. Envious angels stole book and throw it in the lake, and when Raziel try reclaim it he was called to heaven. In popular version he was punished for pride, but in detailed one quite opposite (he try help humans after all). In fact God ordered to do exactly this same, and only instruct him to not act hastily. In fact Raziel was send on earth as representative of God. What interesting Enoch was owner of book of Raziel, and when he was called back he become “kong of angels” Metatron. Other interesting fact.. both Metatron and Raziel (and Iblis/Lucifer) are described as first angel. Anyway according to cabala three Sephirotes are under direct control of God. Interesting part is that one of them is direct domain of Raziel (Chokmah = Wisdom), other direct domain of Matatron (Ketar = Crown where is direct connection to God) and also according to other sources Raziel was keeper over so called “four sacred beast” (what control matter), not to mention that Metatron has twin brother whose domain is “kingdom” that is material world. Anyway it that don’t convince anyone to that possibility it is worth to mention that bible mention “morning star”(Venus/Lucifer) twice.. first I explained before, and second one is in the Apocalypse where it is direct reference to Christ. Boom!

  3. SchrodingersCat

    What many people in the Judeo-Christian tradition seem to overlook, is the fact that the modern visual depiction of the Devil (having horns, and the body of the goat from the waist down) is taken directly from the ancient myths of the Greek god, Pan (who was a god of fertility, music, and merriment).

    And as for “Hell” the early Jews had no concept of a place per se.
    What they DID have, was Sheol.
    Which was a garbage dump outside of town, where the bodies of the un-honored dead, were dumped.
    Over time, the word “Sheol” became translated as “Hell”.
    It’s also sometimes called “Hades” after the land of the dead (and the god of the dead) in Greek mythology.
    Never mind the fact that Hades was not simply a place of punishment; it was simply the land of ALL of the dead.
    And as for Satan being depicted as a snake in the garden of Eden, that is taken directly from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh(written circa 2,100 BCE).
    And the snake THERE, is actually female.

    • TragicGuineaPig

      Not quite. Sheol simply means pit, and it is often used synonymously with the grave, and sometimes death itself. The garbage pit you’re referring to was actually the valley of Hinnon, or as it later came to be known Gehenna. You might want to brush up on your Aramaic.

    • Snorgatch Pandalume

      Considering how childish and ridiculous the Judeo-Christian myths are (as well as clearly plagiarized from earlier sources), it’s rather incredible that there are grown adults who still take them seriously. Believing in Noah’s Ark is like believing in a flat Earth, and yet I know people who do, and they seem quite sane in all other respects. It baffles me. I can only attribute it to sheer cowardice. They were taught this as children, and now that they’re adults they lack the will or the courage to question it, no matter how silly it sounds.

      • TragicGuineaPig

        Or they could have very valid reasons for believing them, and see the blind dismissal of them as childish.

        • Snorgatch Pandalume

          Reasons such as?

        • Valid reasons and belief contradict each other. Belief is pretending to know without knowing, having a conviction without solid proof.
          And if every experience in your life tells you that there is no devil or santa clause it’s not blind dismissal but a perfectly reasonable assumption.

          • So called “valid reason” are broad term. In this context it obviously referee to valid reasons from theological point of view. That is those believes are well think, not random ignorance.

            Also “experience of your life” is weak argument, as science know many stuff what are counter-intuitive to experience. Skepticism in fact is commonly overused argument, as it don’t deny unknown but in fact demand proof also for not existence of debated topic, what people like ignore.

          • TragicGuineaPig

            That’s a false dichotomy. First, your definition of belief is wrong to start with; belief is simply trusting that something is true; whether there is rationale for that trust is not excluded by definition.

            If I know someone who is consistently honest with me, and that person tells me something that seems on the surface unlikely, then I have the evidence of their general truthfulness as a basis of believing that person. As is the case with the writings of the apostles; these were men who highly valued truth, even to the point of laying down their lives for what they believed to be true. If some random hobo off the street tells me he just saw Ronald Reagan flying a spaceship, I would most likely doubt him on the basis that I had no solid reason to trust the man or his claim.

            The reason I believe as I do is because I have yet to find a more adequate explanation for the events leading up to the crucifixion or the events immediately following it; most of them do so by essentially assuming either the dishonesty or insanity of the sagacious and honest men who recorded these events, or by way of some other lackluster rationale as to why what they had to tell us should be discounted or ignored. And when one considers that the root rationale for discounting their writings is a presupposition that what they wrote could not possibly have happened is circular reasoning: miracles cannot occur because miracles do not occur, and that because miracles cannot occur.

          • TragicGuineaPig

            Actually, I dispute your definition of belief. Belief it not pretending anything; it is trusting something to be true. And as such, there are plenty of things in this life that we trust precisely because of evidence.

            For example, if you trust a friend to repay you a loan, and you do so because, when you have lent him money in the past, he has always repaid you. That’s belief based on evidence, is it not? Or believing that taking a particular route from your home to work is faster than other routes because, in the past when you have taken that route, it proved to be faster. In either case, you could be wrong – your friend could stiff you that one time, or there could be a wreck blocking your way to work – but you generally trust these things based on prior evidence.

            I know plenty of people – including myself – who believe the way they do based on evidence available to them, be it historical or experiential. Personally, I’ve had plenty of life experience that, if I took it in a certain way, would convince me that my faith is wrong. But I don’t look to my life experiences for why I believe; I look to history. And the reason I believe as I do is because a group of honest, reliable men witnessed some extraordinary events and wrote about what they saw. Had it been a single account from some random hobo, it might be something to discount. But multiple accounts from multiple men that corroborate each other, and all of them suffering and even dying because they actually believed what they wrote – that’s pretty convincing stuff if you ask me. I have yet to encounter another adequate explanation of the events leading up to the crucifixion or the events following it that took this into account; most of them try to discount either the honesty or the sanity of these sagacious and truthful men. What’s more, the root rationale of the insistence of dismissing these claims is a circular argument to begin with: their claims must be discounted because miracles cannot happen, and miracles cannot happen because miracles do not happen, and miracles do not happen because miracles cannot happen.

            My point is this: the discipline of history has convinced me that, contrary to the way the world should normally work, one particular man died and rose from the dead, and this event seems better documented that many historical events that we today take for granted.

          • TragicGuineaPig

            Sorry about the double reply. My computer crapped out on me, and I wasn’t sure the original reply took.

  4. Snorgatch Pandalume

    TGP, your position is based on an unverifiable assumption that the apostles valued truth and were “sagacious and honest men.” You never met them, you have no firsthand knowledge of them, so you cannot know this. That they were willing to lay down their lives for what they believed proves nothing except their devotion to their beliefs. The 9/11 hijackers were also willing to lay down their lives for their beliefs. The descriptions of them in the Gospels also prove nothing, since there is no way to independently verify them. In fact, we don’t even know who wrote the Gospels, when, where, or in what language. No original signed copies exist. What we have are copies of copies. Nothing in them can be verified to have actually happened. So you have no more reason to trust their contents than you do the claims of a random hobo off the street.
    The only reason to believe ANYTHING is because there is evidence of it. Sensible people demand evidence for everything else in their lives, so there is no reason to give the Bible a free pass simply because it is the Bible. I don’t believe in miracles because there is no evidence of them having happened. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. A man coming back to life after three days qualifies as an extraordinary claim. Unverified accounts of it by unknown authors do NOT qualify as extraordinary proof, or any proof at all, in fact. If you want to believe them based on your personal faith, fine, but is all it is or ever can be. Faith, as it says in the book of Hebrews, is the evidence of things NOT seen. Faith is what we believe in the ABSENCE of evidence, or when the evidence points the other way. Faith doesn’t require evidence, and seeking evidence to bolster your faith can only mean that your faith is weak.

  5. Snorgatch Pandalume

    Actually, Jesus himself lays it out pretty clearly. When he comes back from the dead, Doubting Thomas refuses (very sensibly) to believe until he sees for himself. Jesus obliges, and Thomas then says he believes, to which Jesus replies: “Blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet have believed.”
    That pretty much says it all.

  6. “Belief it not pretending anything;
    it is trusting something to be true.”
    I am not surprised that you fail to see the difference
    between knowing and believing, since religious people
    pretend (not in the sense of deceit of others, but of self)
    that both mean the same thing.
    If you want to find the difference, you have to compare how
    knowledge and belief treat doubt. Doubt is an essential part
    of belief, all believers have struggled with doubts of their own,
    but they make that doubt integral part of their system of belief.
    With stories like the one Snorgatch mentioned are examplary
    of how doubt is treated by the religous minds. As part of the
    struggle, meant to be overcome to return to believing.
    Doubt in science is a sign that a theory is not yet finished. And that’s
    it: progress is integral part of science. Old theories are discarded,
    and any revolutionary new idea, that explains a concept better is
    applauded and welcome (after a while, at least). Doubt, in this case,
    is also meant to be overcome, but the end result does not have to
    be the same as before.

    “For example, if you trust a friend to repay you a loan, and you do so because, when you have lent him money in the past, he has always repaid you. That’s belief based on evidence, is it not? Or believing that taking a particular route from your home to work is faster than other routes because, in the past when you have taken that route, it proved to be faster. In either case, you could be wrong – your friend could stiff you that one time, or there could be a wreck blocking your way to work – but you generally trust these things based on prior evidence”
    I can go that way, of course. But that is not the only way. You can also look at a map and calculate
    the best way. You can analyze the character of a person you just met and make accurate predictions (if you did it right, that is) about his actions. And that is something that religions can never provide: Accurate, helpful predictions.

    You talk a lot about history, but you can not tell me you studied that subject. I actually did, only for a while, but long enough to judge the reliability of a source. And the bible is a highly unreliable source if I ever saw one.
    But Snorgatch mentioned that already. Maybe one more thing: As a historian you always take the interest of
    the author into consideration. No scribe ever wrote kindly about an enemy of his employer, for example.
    And if you don’t think that the people who put together the New Testament had good reason to lie about what is
    basically the fundament of their power over people – you are quite naive.

  7. I’ve always thought of the Devil as more of a villain than a monster, archetypically speaking

Leave a Reply