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The Devil has had a very poor press

Fellow Golden Dawner, Perigrin Wildoak has been feeling that he is writing a lot of articles which has resulted in him being stereotypes as a Christian apologist.   To help him out I felt there was a need to balance his good works in what is probably the closest  I have come to writing a MOTO blog.

In the 1980s there was a Not the Nine o Clock News sketch with the title “Is the Devil All Bad.”  It attempted to show how silly the “cool” British Anglican church had become by being too all embracing to different faiths and schisms.  If you are going to be all interdenominational why not accept Satanism as a rival religion?

Most muggles think that occultists are black magicians who have sold their soul to Lucifer anyway.  You spend most of your magical life trying to explain to muggles why most real occultists do not bother with Satanism.  Many associate summoning demons with black magic and do not touch it.  Others reject it because it is too closely associated with Christianity.  Like the Roman Catholic Church found out when the film “the Exorcist” was released, in the muggle race mind the acknowledgement of demons and Satan, confirmed the existence of God and Jesus. It re-established a dualistic view of the universe where its God was always going to be the winner.

Change your perspective on the Devil Today

This makes those who really do follow this as a Satanic path based around expensive furry books with lots of black red letters look a teen in permanent rebellion against his parents.  You get to meet gothic-dressed kids who tells you that they have proudly sold their soul to Satan, and yet you can’t help but wonder, given the status of their life, if they would have gotten a better deal on ebay.
While, the existence of the Devil was not really confirmed within Christianity until about the third or fourth century, the existence of “evil and good spirits” has been around since the beginning of recorded history.  Gods have dark underworld sides which are something that occultists are likely to end up exploring at some point in their occult careers.   You can hear some wiccan’s bang on about the using evil magic and having it rebound on people, and yet go all misty eyed about Hecate, Demeter and Persephone who all have “evil streaks” a mile wide.  Hermes has his dark side which many choose to write off as being a “trickster god” and nothing to do with his life as a messenger of the Underworld.
What has happened is that many have accepted the dualistic view of the world with Good and Evil and expected that everything they do is somehow good.

I am rather an nice chap really

Recently I did a working to evoke the Egyptian god Seth.  For those who came in late, at various times in Egyptian history Seth was the Satan of his day.   The god of deserts and storms, he murdered the Jesus of his day Osiris and fought Horus for control of Egypt.   Yet at different times, Seth was worshipped in Egypt and these were by people who were considered very good.
He was considered the god of the Night Sky through which the dead pharaoh became a god:

“Homage to thee, O divine Ladder! Homage to thee O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O divine Ladder! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Horus, whereby Osiris came forth into heaven.”
— Pyramid Texts,

He was also the only God who was strong enough to kill the serpent Apep and allow the Sun god Re to ascend in the heavens.  Without his particular brand of “evil” the world would not operate and the sun would not come up.  Apep was not so much “evil” but total chaos and destruction.
The murder of Osiris was another important role for Seth. It is important to realise that Osiris living all the time was a bad thing.  He represented growth and was associated with the Nile flood.  Set however was the force that killed off that growth to prevent it becoming unchecked.  The death of Osiris was a necessity in the life of the Egyptians.  The later wars between Seth and Horus for Egypt were a re-enactment of those ideas.  For this reason, Seth was largely castigated by those who liked their Gods literal and black and white.  Yet Osiris force unchecked would be just as evil as Seth.
I was surprised by the Seth force.  I was expecting something more chaotic and nasty.  What I got, was not “nice” but equally it was not horrible.  Seth was a force of necessity and power.  Sometimes you need someone like him to do the tricky stuff.
Yet for some reason I would feel a block about doing the same thing with Satan, or the devil. Intellectually I can find all the same arguments for accepting him as a much maligned and necessary form.  Practically it does not feel right.  I think the problem is the source.  Christianity did its level best to pile so much of its collective shadow onto the idea that it made it more  difficult to sort out the useful stuff from the outright dangerous.  I find it easier not to believe in the “devil” as a source of absolute evil than to try and redeem it in my own mind.
This is particularly annoying as I think  it is important for magicians at some point to open chthonic doors to find their powers.  At the moment I am finding the best way to do that is through the Greco-Roman-Hebrew magic of Alexandria.

Whare Ra Vault

Traditionally the Golden Dawn attempted it through the Lesser Key of King Solomon, or the Abramerlin system, both were Christian with a Hebrew gloss.  These resulted some hair-raising experiences for the Whare Ra temple, which appeared to have its vault contaminated by the experiments of some of its 6=5s which got out of control.
One of the last people to get her 5=6 in the Whare Ra vault said that after she emerged from it, she had a tremendous urge to tear the whole thing down.  The experience rattled her so much that she never went back.  Jack Taylor also warned his students that the vault was contaminated and BOTA’s Premonstrator Will Chesterman who nearly bought Whare Ra after its closure realised that it was beyond his ability to cleanse.

There are far worse evils sitting in the Underworld these days

All this was probably because they were dealing with beings which had become so twisted by human expectations of abstract evil which they allowed to take control of the situation.  The concept of working with something which, by its own rules, are unredeemable makes me want to tread with too much extreme care.
However what I have found is that I can have all the useful chthonic experiences, by ignoring the Christian glosses. Some of the same techniques in the Goetia and its ilk work perfectly well if you attempt to find a pre-Christian template.
In this we start to see these spirits broadly as elements; neither good, nor evil, but made into that shape by humanity.  I do not believe that anything is unredeemable and that everything must have a place in the order of things.  I just wonder if the Christian devil’s bad press has made him too bad mad and dangerous to know.

6 thoughts on “The Devil has had a very poor press

  1. Putting it semi-poetically, we coould say – without Set the Scythe, Osiris the Corn could not be made into life-giving bread. Without the death that Set brings, there is no “newer life”.

  2. “The Devil” is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes.[…] This serpent, Satan, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade “Know Thyself!” and taught Initiation. He is “the Devil” of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is Baphomet, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection. The number of His Atu is XV, which is Yod He, the Monogram of the Eternal, the Father one with the Mother, the Virgin Seed one with all-containing Space. He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is Ayin, the Eye; he is Light, and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.” – Crowley

  3. In the Hebrew world he was the Adversary – the one who tested humankind – who challenged them so as to make them stronger when they overcame the challenges, and succeeded in the tests. (Or if not, then they knew which parts of themselves they needed to work on!) In the book of Job Satan and God appear to work in tandem – God knows exactly what Satan is doing and allows it to happen so that Job can work through his own limitations and attachments to the mundane world.

  4. This is indeed a great post Nick, thanks for putting it out there. As the anon poster pointed out, in Judaism, he was the adversary that ground and polished humanity.
    You also make a very valuable point that the ‘Satan’ (or Stan)has become an unhealthy created thoughtform fed by generations of people’s imbalance, fear and fantasy. This in turn makes it an unhealthy power that serves no real purpose.
    As you say, the adversary has a balanced purpose, however destructive that might be and is vastly misunderstood.
    Josephine

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