July 04, 2016

Sympathy for the Devil

Over at Sentinel on the Council, the author wrote a really engaging essay on the Devil of the Tarot, and delved into gnostic Christianity as well as trickster mythologies to broaden the discussion. It's worth reading if only to see a side you may not have heard before, and credit to the author, it's very nicely written. Me being who I am, though, I would add the following to the author's essay: hierarchy.

A key principle in the Church of Satan is hierarchy. The immutable truth is that some people are stronger, more influential, more capable, and better connected than others. For those reasons, they climb the hierarchy and rise above those who lack the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to do the same. Does this mean that the people at the bottom of the hierarchy are useless? Absolutely not: one king does not a kingdom make. Absent the lower echelons of minor nobility, merchants, tradesmen, vassals, and others who fill in the body of the kingdom, who is the king? Since the definition of a king requires subjects to rule, arguably a king isn't a king without all those over whom he rules and gives succor. 

Following this analogy, Satanists are encouraged to keep a healthy but honest ego and accept their place in the hierarchy. Certainly, this place can change over time, but if a member isn't honestly qualified for advancement, no amount of chutzpah will make it so. Life at the top isn't necessarily better, and depending on the individual's preferences, he or she may prefer life in the middle or on the bottom because it relieves him or her of duty and responsibility which would otherwise occupy their time. Take a look back at the picture of the Devil, and what do you see? The Devil himself perched firmly on his obsidian throne, opening his right hand in sign of his power to give, and lowering his left hand in sign of his power to punish. 

Tarot card the devil satan satanicBut this Devil threatens neither the man nor the woman, who both stand serenely in his presence. They wear chains around their necks, but the chains are loose and can be easily removed at any time, which means that the man and woman have voluntarily chosen not only to take their place in the Devil's kingdom, but also to remain there because they benefit from his gifts.

Some people interpret the man as holding his right hand out toward the woman but is unable to unite with her because the Devil restrains him, but shift your perspective a little bit and that inviting right hand is in fact beckoning toward the viewer - you yourself looking into the card are invited to become a citizen of the Infernal Empire.

Both the man and woman have sprouted horns upon their heads and grown fabulous tails of fruit and fire, so it can be inferred not only that they enjoy the Devil's blessings, but - following the pattern of the loose chains which represent their voluntary acceptance of their respective places in the hierarchy of the Devil's kingdom - they are free to return these gifts at any time should their role in his kingdom become intolerable.

Would they return the Devil's gifted compassion if he became intolerable? Or, following the analogy of a hierarchy which elevates the capable and lowers the incompetent, would this Devil be thrown from his altar and either the man or woman rise up to take his place? Power and authority are plastic, and he, she, or it who is strong enough to claim it, takes it. Have some sympathy for the Devil - if you're strong enough to take or accept your place in his kingdom, you'll find that he's not such a bad guy, after all.

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