Satan is a Cookie

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Satan (aka Lucifer/the Devil) is a fascinating literary character whose evolution sheds light into the shift of values that took place with the rise of Christianity. Original ‘Satanic’ characters are surprisingly the heroes and champions of earlier cultures! Prometheus, for example, stole fire from the gods and was chained and tortured forever (by the gods – who didn’t want to share with humans). Similar traditions are told in Native American mythology (coyote steals the fire) and in Hercules’ 11th Labor (stealing the golden apples of Hesperides). Most cultures celebrate a ‘technology bringer’ – technological wisdom being symbolized by fire – who brought wisdom to mankind; often against the will of the gods, who represent the harsh and unmanageable forces of nature.

The character of Satan in the Old Testament is an inversion of these classical heroes. Satan gives wisdom, in the form of the apple, to humanity against God’s will; the Jews were a nomadic race, suspicious (and jealous?) of the more powerful, more developed nations around them, and felt that their own technological simplicity was preferred by God. The story of the tower of Babel also reflects this anti-civilization proselytizing.

Although the literary figure of Satan also takes a great deal from Zoroastrianism (Ahriman, the leader of darkness, also rebelled against God and was cast into Hell, from which he escaped and came to earth to torment mankind) as the lone voice of dissent in an otherwise monopolistic universe, we find in Satan many humanistic qualities that we admire, and we are not alone. The so-called ‘Satanic School’ of literature (Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley), and indirectly modern culture in its entirety, celebrates the ‘satanic’ ideals of freedom, revolution from tyranny, the right to lawlessness and chaos (see pirates of the Caribbean III), and the value in seeking out our own independent truth through direct experience.

Satan is my hero

I especially love the tragic and pitiful Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost; who can help feeling sorry for him as he gets ruthlessly victimized by God’s angelic forces? I suppose I should point out, that I in no way believe in an actually, physical “Satan”. Yes I’ve heard the quote “Satan’s greatest trick is convincing the world he didn’t exist”. Frankly that’s rubbish. Apart from Christians, nobody believes in Satan; there are no ‘Satanists’ who worship Satan as a living God. Real day Satanists use Satan as a symbol and example; as a representative of a certain lifestyle (which, incidentally could be compared in many ways to the Epicurean lifestyle, which is also largely atheistic and values pleasure, rational inquiry, the perfection of oneself through contemplation, moderation and self-control).

While Christianity and its Western brethren aim at developing ourselves through strict moral obedience, Satanism is more aligned with the Zen tradition: “If you sit, sit, if you stand, stand….whatever you do, don’t wobble,” and Yoda’s mysticism in Star Wars, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Actions in themselves are of no consequence. What matters is the deliberate focus of will and the internal balance of the soul.

In this regard, we find Satanism aligned with St. Paul’s theology, and the theology of the early church in general before it was reformed under the Roman empire. St. Paul believed that, once a certain level of wisdom was obtained, rules were unnecessary. Nothing was evil or sinful in itself; sin was a result of shaking the smooth surface of the soul, which, when still, could reflect the light of God. When we ripple the surface with internal discord, we can no longer see clearly and have no shining example to live up to.

One of the essential flaws of Western theology is the separation of Good and Evil from each other. During the expansion of the universe from the original unity, the universe was flooded with pairs of polar opposites like night and day, love and strife, good and evil. These pairs balance, support and define each other. They are all part of creation, and they are all perfect, as the universe is perfect (this polarization was given mystical status and revered by Pythagoreans and Orphics, as it is today by modern Taoists). Demonizing Evil while glorifying Good creates a theological imbalance, especially when, while each person may strive to fulfill the commands of their own moral righteousness, none of us can fully escape the desires of our physical bodies, our passions and our egos.

The truth is that Evil, as personified by Satan, is not an external force seeking to trick us off our path. If this were so, Satan and God would be partners in a cruel obstacle course, which rewards the sad few who can shut themselves off to the pleasures of life in pursuit of an intangible future prize. Excusing God from Satan’s nefarious triumphs is a theological impossibility.

Satan is more like a cookie.

There is nothing inherently wrong with cookies – most people will agree that they are relatively harmless when consumed in moderation. However, at some point, our rational minds might get bossy and step in, trying to limit how many cookies we eat. We tell ourselves, “Just one!” or “No more until after dinner,” but at the same time, the child in us can’t stop thinking about that cookie. We focus on it, obsess about it, until in a moment of weakness or absent-mindedness, we eat it. Afterwards, we think, just who is in control here? How can I make a decision about what I want to do and not follow it? Am I so weak that I have no control over my own actions? We create an enormous battle between the two sides of ourselves, and may even feel guilty and devise a self-punishment such as extra chores or exercise. All this over a cookie!

Like the cookie, Satan is not seeking to disrupt. He represents all the small, selfish pleasures in life that are the natural desire for humans, and as such, gives energy and joy to our existence. However, when we allow ourselves to be divided, and wallow in indecision or self-doubt, we are focusing on negativity instead of giving our minds and hearts to God, for Him to fill with peace. There is no food that is harmful to our spiritual well-being, as long as a person can eat what they like with self-awareness and self control. Evil as a concept only comes into play when we do what we don’t want to do, or don’t do what we think we should do. The solution is to realize that all men try and fail, be easy with ourselves and be prepared for setbacks. Personal growth is a constant journey.

It is our belief that the world was created right the first time, and can be enjoyed heartily. We praise God for pleasure, for freedom, and for the ability to choose how many cookies we will eat, with the only punishment being the logical consequences of our own actions. There is no one out there counting up our sins and devising our reward or punishment; however, every action comes with a necessary natural consequence, and it is very important to be aware of the direction our actions are taking us. If we don’t like where our lives (or afterlives) are headed, it is up to us to change them.

  • Guest

    1. Since when did ‘Prometheus’ archetype literary characters become aligned with a satan-figure? This is a distinction i’ve never come across before, if it is recognized by the scholarly community, I’d love to learn about it.
    2. If you could provide some support or references for your second paragraph, that would be wonderful, because as far as I can tell, you’re making some pretty substantial claims there without factual or recognized backing.
    3. Zoroastrianism developed at the same time as Judaism, both of which made the distinctions between absolute evil and absolute good, with Satan representing evil and God as good. Satan is not made out to be “the lone voice of dissent in an otherwise monopolistic universe” in the Zoroastrian tradition.
    4. The so-called “Satanic School” if it is an intelligent grouping should, at the very least, not include Wordsworth, as he was a professing Christian, though heavily focused on natural revelation.
    5. If that’s what you took of Satan from reading Paradise Lost, i’d say you missed the point a bit, re-read the introduction, it is a Theodicy.
    6. Could you restate what you think of St. Paul’s theology in a different manner, perhaps with supporting links or references?
    7. As i’m getting rather exhausted re-reading this article, i’ll close with this: Thinking that Christianity is “a cruel obstacle course, which rewards the sad few who can shut
    themselves off to the pleasures of life in pursuit of an intangible
    future prize,” is a Straw-Man misrepresentation of Christian beliefs and theology. It belies a past wounding by a so-called Christian. I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt or wronged by someone that called themselves a Christian, I deeply, truly am, but you must remember that just because a person distorts a truth, the truth does not lose its absolute value. Remember what Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Be sure to understand Christianity before you attack it, this is how to truly pursue the truth of an idea.

    • Derek Murphy

      Thanks for reading the article and your intelligent comments. The article is a very informal introduction to the aims of my research. Here are some brief replies.

      1). This distinction has not been made, and is mostly unrecognized – it will be the focus of my future book and research articles. However the connections are very easy to see; The gods forbid mankind fire, or the fruit of life or something similar. One figure defies the gods, steals it for mankind, and is punished, usually by being chained underground.

      2). You cannot prove an inversion or transmission of ideas with a few references. It’s like proving that Jesus did or didn’t borrow from Egyptian or Stoic literature. Agreed, it will take a large book with hundreds of references to illuminate this claim.

      3). Point noted. My reading of Satan comes from the later figure in Christianity. In Zoroastrianism, Evil is real and the conflict is real – so Evil can be genuine. In later JudeoChristianity, Evil is illusion, God is allpowerful, Satan is a puppet.

      4). I’m going to keep Wordsworth. Most writers have been labelled “Christian” even while openly rebelling against the church and orthodox Christianity. Nature worship and humanism is Satanic in my reading.

      5). I “missed the point” of Paradise Lost? That’s a scary, totalitarian comment. Where I come from we are allowed to read books and think freely; should Paradise Lost be burnt if too many people start “missing the point?” Which introduction are you reading – the one by David Hawkes?

      6). I have tons of articles on Paul – you can search for them. If you read my book, Jesus Potter Harry Christ, there are several chapters on him (you can get it for free if you search around).

      7). Aha – there’s the rub. Closing an argument with “I’m so sorry you must have been hurt” is an apologetic trick to dismiss someone with opposing views as being hurt, angry, weak and close minded. Thanks for your pity. Yes, Christ was a good guy. No argument from me. And no, I don’t think a lot of Christians live up to the ideal. (But then again, if they don’t, what’s the point?) No, my statements against the system of Christianity is based on pure reason and numbers. No matter how you cut it, only a very tiny percent of humanity – even today – will be saved. And this salvation is NOT based on goodness or morality, but on the “acceptance” of God’s free love and gift of Jesus Christ; and this in turn is based almost entirely on where a person happens to be born and grown up. Hence, most Americans and Canadians are Christian, most Indians and Chinese are not. There is no God who can pull this off without being a cruel tyrant. Hence, if God exists, Christianity is false.

      I’d like to invert your last sentence: be sure to understand Christianity before you defend it. You’ve very successfully picked apart my little informal article by A) questioning every claim and asking for authoritative references (which you would then go check and debunk, hoping it’s based on bad scholarship) and finally B) trying to paint me as a sad angry person who isn’t filled with the love of Christ. Those are standard tricks, and they usually work in ridding the world of criticisms of Christianity. The fervor and passion which you’ve brought to this article is my most researchers and scholars are afraid to say anything too pointedly against Christianity; it’s just not worth the effort to have to defend yourself so much just for making some innovative claim. I do appreciate your comments and would like to continue this discussion, but not through blog posts. I’ve spent a lot of my time writing articles for this website, and even more time writing books, so if you’re looking for my ideas (the ones that are professionally researched and supported) I suggest you find them. If you’re really interested in the Prometheus/Satan connection, I’ll send you a free copy of the book to review when it comes out. Thanks, Derek

      • Jessidiah Springfield

        Oh- smack down. ;D
        Love your work, Derek. Thanks much for sharing.