They say that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. Apparently, the trick didn’t work so well, because according to an official survey, about 70% of Americans believe in him. They also say that the Devil comes in many forms, and in this episode, I’ll make an attempt to uncover all of its many faces.
To understand the concept of the Devil, we have to go back to its origins: to monotheistic religions, especially Christianity, and look at it from their perspective. Why would an all-powerful and benevolent God create such a being, and why doesn’t he just make Satan disappear with the snap of his finger? Well, Christianity has a good reason not to let this happen.
Especially in its early days, this religion took extreme measures to win as many converts as possible. Just like a cult, they created a false us-versus-them mentality, and forced you to pick a side. You were either with or against the Church, there was nothing in-between. Certainly, if you are a faithful believer, you are on the good side, and you can be rest assured that you have a ticket to Heaven.
They imagine a world where the good and the evil are fighting for your soul, but it also depends on you, who will win in the end. This kind of extreme dualism also appears in the concept of the afterlife: Heaven is purely good, while Hell is purely bad. With this religious version of the carrots and sticks strategy, they want to motivate you to convert to Christianity, because supposedly that’s the only way to avoid the worst, and win eternal redemption.
But the idea of Satan was not only useful to get more followers, it also proved indispensable when the Church wanted to attack its enemies. If you practiced any other form of Christianity than the official one, you were labeled as a heretic, influenced by Satan. If you worshiped a pagan god, you were a Satan worshiper.
If you suddenly got rich, or you had wealth the Church wanted to acquire, you made a pact with the Devil. If you were against the Church in any way whatsoever, you were under the influence of the Devil, and you had to be exorcised, or tortured or killed, or all at once.
It’s ironic that the word Satan means accuser. To get rid of this accuser, priests could accuse anybody on any ground with cooperating with the Devil. What’s more, you remained guilty until proven innocent, but how could you possibly prove this was not true? Besides, suspects were usually tortured until they confessed to their imaginary sins. It’s estimated that the inquisition has hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.
Like I mentioned before, the concept of the Devil is necessary to upkeep the basic dualism of religion. If you are good, meaning you believe in God, you will have a good life. If you are bad, in other words not part of the Church, the Devil will punish you with a bad life: both on Earth and in Hell.
But of course, this is so only from the perspective of Christianity, and the real world doesn’t work like that. There are atheists who lead a seemingly good life, and there are also many devout believers who seem to suffer a lot. So how do you explain this inconsistency: that some good people have bad lives, and some bad people have good lives?
At this point, we have to turn to the origin of the Devil, as he was originally written about. You’ll be surprised to know that the Bible hardly mentions Satan at all. Some say that he was the snake of Eden, but others argue with that. The number 666 could originally refer to Nero, the Roman Emperor.
One of the places where Satan is unambiguously named is in the story of Job. He was a believer who led a good life. At one point though, Satan accuses him that he’s only pious because God has blessed him abundantly. God then allows Satan to test Job’s faith, and whether he can be made to curse the name of God somehow.
So Satan punishes this man with all kinds of catastrophes and diseases, yet Job remains faithful until the end. God finally comes to his rescue, and returns Job’s health, providing him with twice as much property as before, new children, and an extremely long life. This story is very significant to understand the place of the Devil in Christianity.
Basically, the concept of the Devil is necessary to fill a logical gap. If, on the one hand, your life is full of suffering, it simply means that the Devil is testing you, and if you remain faithful to God, he will reward you in the end. If, on the other hand, you don’t believe in God, yet your life is full of pleasures, you must be cooperating with the Devil, and you’ll be severely punished. This way, the Christian faith can be logically defended from all corners.
Let’s break away now from religious explanations, which are obviously self-serving, and look at the question from the perspective of the individual: why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there injustice, why is there evil, why are there catastrophes, and why are there tragedies? There must be the hand of the Devil in all of these, right? Well, not so quick!
The whole idea of good and bad is a basic fallacy of the dualistic mind. Good and bad are only subjective interpretations of certain events, circumstances and behaviors which are either supporting or hindering the individual in his quest for survival and reproduction. They are not objective realities, only relative meanings. To explain this idea more, I created a separate video titled “There’s no such thing as good or bad”.
So all the bad things that happen to you are not the works of the Devil, but the works of your own ego. Your limited perspective prevents you from seeing things clearly, as they truly are. As the ego wants to defend itself, it fabricates enemies and demonizes natural occurrences. Only when you shed the ego can you realize that this is totally unnecessary.
The ego is the answer to the first question, but what about the second one? How do you explain that good people do evil things? Again, being good is relative, but there’s also something more in the background. The truth is that nobody is purely good or purely evil, but everybody tries to put the best picture out there.
You want to be seen as good, as lovable, as benevolent, and you keep this facade up so strongly that after a while you even believe it yourself. That’s basically the ego: all the things you accept in yourself and are proud to show to others. However, this is only possible, if you deny your negative and unwanted aspects, and repress them into your subconscious. In psychology, these suppressed traits are referred to as the shadow.
But these suppressed traits eventually find an expression. When a seemingly decent person commits a horrible crime out of the blue, people are shocked. He couldn’t have done it, it must have been the Devil. But what they call the Devil is just the shadow in disguise. Just like the mythological Lucifer who was dismissed to Hell, the shadow rebels, because you can’t act against your own nature without serious consequences.
This can happen so dramatically, that it almost feels as if an outside force took over your consciousness, and you’re just an innocent victim. It certainly is more comfortable to explain the situation this way, to blame Satan for your faults, to demonize your natural urges, while keeping up your positive self-image. The Devil is a goat, who helps you escape responsibility. In other words, he’s your escape goat, the ultimate scapegoat.
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