Mythological Spotlight #8 Part 2 – Lucifer

Constantino Corti’s depiction of Lucifer

Description

The light bringer, the representation of the morning star. In popular imagination he is typically seen as synonymous with Satan, due to his identification with the myth of the fall from Heaven. Over the years the character of Lucifer has acquired traits associated with adversarial figures because of the role of the light bringer’s concordance with other traditions and stories, and the way they interpreted the bringing of light and the ascension of the morning star. Depending on who you ask, he is either a benevolent figure, a trickster, an evil king of demons or somewhat more ambivalent; an angel, a demon or a man.

 

History

The name Lucifer means “light-bringer” or “morning star”, and seems to be a personification or deification of the morning star.

The earliest appearance of a morning star deity is generally found in the ancient Canaanite deity Attar (also known as Athtar or Ashtar). Attar is mainly known for a Canaanite myth wherein he attempts to take over the throne Baal (aka Hadad), the deity of storms and fertility, with the support of Asherah while he is killed by his rival Mot, the deity of death, but proves to be unworthy of the throne. He is identified with the planet Venus, much like the goddesses Ishtar and Aphrodite. In fact, it is believed by some scholars that Attar may have been a male equivalent of the goddess Athtart or Astarte, or even started out as a male form of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. The Arabians also worshiped Attar not just as a male deity of the planet Venus, but as a weather deity responsible for rain and thunderstorms, as well as a fertility deity whose fertility is dispensed through rain thus symbolizing the power of the sky as a generative force. The Arabians may also have been recognized him as a war deity. These characteristics mark him as a similar deity to Baal, and it is even suggested that Attar may have been overtaken in Ugarit and Canaan as the warrior deity of fertility and bringer of rain.

Attar may also have been associated with another deity: Chemosh; known to the Hebrew Bible as the Abomination of Moab. Chemosh may have been an important rival of the Jewish deity Yahweh (later YHWH), and at one point the two deities were pretty similar to each other. Both Yahweh and Chemosh were war deities and the deities of a specific tribe or nation (Chemosh for the Moabites, Yahweh for the Israelites), but Yahweh eventually became angrier. Chemosh was also worshiped alongside Ashtar as a syncretic deity called Ashtar-Chemosh. It is important to note that Chemosh might have been identified with the morning star through his syncretism with Attar/Ashtar, but there is little that suggests Chemosh himself is intrinsically linked with the morning star.

The morning star appears in the Bible, specifically the Book of Isaiah, where refers to someone who has supposedly fallen from the grace of God.

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” – Isaiah 14:12

The term “morning star”, or Helel ben Shahar, is often substituted for the name Lucifer, and the Isaiah verse is used to link Satan with Lucifer in Biblical tradition. The problem: who is the morning star in this instance? Morning star, and by extension Lucifer, is used as an epithet in the Bible, rather than a name proper, similar to how Satan is used as a title in Judaism. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus identifies himself as the morning star.

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” – Revelation 22:16

Is Jesus, then, Lucifer? And if Lucifer is supposed to be the same as Satan, what does that make Jesus then? What does it make Satan? Not to mention, the title of Lucifer has apparently even been applied to John the Baptist. So what about him? Instead, the morning star of Isaiah is typically identified as a human, more specifically a king of Babylon who is struck down. The king in question is usually named Nebuchadnezzar II. He is known as the king who ordered the construction of the famous Ishtar Gate as well as the purported Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the walls of Babylon which were famous for the fact that they were so broad that you could race chariots on them. He is also known for leading the expansion of the Babylonian empire through the conquest of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Arameans and Israelites and the defeat of the Assyrians and the Egyptians. He made Babylon one of the largest and most powerful cities of the ancient world, and . He is however portrayed negatively in the Bible, perhaps because he was also responsible for Jews being held captive in and later exiled from Babylon, as well as the destruction of the original Temple of Solomon in 587 BC. Of course, that is one speculation. It is said that the title Lucifer could’ve been applied to any other king. Chapter 14 of the Book of Isaiah is intended to be a prophecy regarding a king who was then mighty but will seen face defeat and fall from glory. Indeed, the king is accused of holding in his heart ambitions of ascent to godhood.

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” – Isaiah 14:13-14

The epithet of the morning star, with its brilliance, is supposed to signify how great the king was or believed himself to be, in order to stress the magnitude of his fall. Lucifer, here, was the title of a human; a human who stood against the Israelites in his quest to expand Babylon and thus he was seen as standing against YHWH himself.

Speaking of Helel ben Shahar, there was an Ugaritic deity named Shahar associated with the dawn. He has a twin brother named Shalim, who is considered a deity of the dusk. Both of them are sons of the sky father El. They are called upon in an Ugaritic hymn to protect the fields and their harvest. Some sources speak of a deity named Helel, who it is claimed tried to usurp the throne of El/Elyon but was defeated by , and they claim that this myth is the precursor to the prophecy of the king of Babylon in Isaiah. However, not much is known about this pre-Isaiah myth.

It is often said that the earliest instance of the name Lucifer being There is another Biblical story that is used to link another Lucifer figure with the idea of a fallen angel. The Book of Ezekiel recounts another prophecy against an ancient king, this time against a king of Tyre, an ancient Phoenician city which was sieged by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II between 586 and 573 BC. Ithobaal III is said to have ruled Tyre between 590 and 573 BC. The prophecy states that, like the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre viewed himself as a living deity, who had grown proud because of the wealth that he had purportedly amassed through his skill in trading and his wisdom, and that the “Sovereign Lord” will send barbarians against the king in order to kill him. There then follows a lamentation from the “Sovereign Lord” in which the king is compared to an unnamed cherub, who was the “seal of perfection” in the garden of Eden, adorned with all manner of precious stones, but was driven from the mount of God for having being filled with pride, desecrating sanctuaries and trading dishonestly, thereby having sinned against YHWH. Again, there is no implicit attachment to Satan found within the prophecy itself, and the prophecy refers to a human character, with the comparison. There is also no direct reference to the morning star, just that the theme is similar to that of the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah.

The idea of Lucifer as a demonic fallen angel crystallizes in the Middle Ages, replete with infernal artwork depicting him as a horned, animalistic devil. This is no doubt due to the identification of Lucifer with the Satan whom Jesus beheld falling from heaven according to the Gospel of Luke, and of course the pantheon of pre-Christian deities who were used to create the visage of Satan. By this time, there is also the influence of Dante’s Inferno to consider, which had a powerful effect on the Christian, not to mention collective, cultural imagination. In it, Satan is trapped waist-deep in a lake of ice in resentment for the crime of having betrayed God. By this point, Lucifer had already been linked to Satan by the Church and Christian tradition, with the pride and his self-deification of earthly kings identified with the morning star being used to explain the fall of Satan. The seven deadly sins were already codified into Catholic tradition by Pope Gregory I well before the Middle Ages, and in the 15th century these sins were related to specific demons. In the case of Lucifer, it is probably not an accident that the sin related to him is pride.

The closest thing to an actual deity named Lucifer is the Greek deity named Eosphoros (aka Phosphorus, Heosphorus). Eosphoros was the Greek deity of the morning star, which was the planet Venus as it appeared during the day. His name meant “dawn-bringer”. His counterpart, Hesperus, represented the evening star. Both Eosphoros and Hesperus are associated with the planet Venus, and they seem to represent different phases of the morning star. They are also depicted as bearers of light or torches. The two deities are generally accepted as synonymous with or complimentary towards each other, because the morning and evening star are both references to Venus, or rather Venus in certain phases.

This theme may not necessarily have been new to the Greeks. Paul Collins suggests that, in Mesopotamia, Attar and Ishtar may well have represented male and female aspects of the planet Venus, with Attar representing the morning star and Ishtar representing the evening star, and one aspect representing war and the other representing love and sex.

Phosphoros is also a title given to Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and the moon. In Rome, this has resulted in the name Diana Lucifer, depicting the goddess Diana as the bringer of light.

The name Lucifer also appears as in a positive context within, of all religions, Christianity. In the Middle Ages, there existed heretical sect of Christianity known as Luciferianism – not to be confused with the modern spiritual movement known as Luciferianism. The medieval Luciferians believed that Lucifer was the actual creator of the world and mankind who was once in heaven before being unjustly expelled by the Christian God, who is seen as the true evil deity, along with his host of angels. They believed that one day Lucifer would eventually overthrow the Christian God. Because they believed the Christian god to be evil, they did all they could to displease him so that they may be worthy of joining with Lucifer in the afterlife. It was basically an inversion of the Christian doctrine concerning good and evil. The sect was, naturally, persecuted by the Catholic Church, with many adherents burning for their beliefs. There is also an older sect of Christians who were known as Luciferians in the 4th century, but they did not worship a being named Lucifer in any capacity. They were rather named after a Roman Christian bishop who happened to be named Lucifer Calaritanus (aka Lucifer of Cagliari), who staunchly defended Catholic orthodoxy and opposed the doctrine of Arianism – a sect that rejected the notion of the Holy Trinity and held that Jesus was created by and indistinct from God. The sect was dedicated to his views on early church doctrine and to the deposing of Arian clerics and excommunication of Arian bishops. Some Gnositcs, consider Lucifer to be a messenger of the true and unknowable God, or an opponent of the Demiurge, even going so far as to identify him with the serpent of Eden. This is, of course, an alternative interpretation of the Genesis account, which tells of the serpent as just a talking serpent. Some Gnostics also believe that Lucifer is identical to the Greek Prometheus.

Lucifer is very often compared to Prometheus, based on the premise that Prometheus stole fire from the gods (or more specifically Zeus) so that he could give it to mankind, thus imparting knowledge. This is unsurprising, given the nature of the Lucifer myth. Lucifer is seen as having gone against the heavens themselves, defying either God or the gods either because he disagreed with their position on how to run the cosmos or simply because he prized the throne of heaven for himself. Either way he was cast down. Prometheus, whether he liked it or not, betrayed the gods so that he might bring the fire of Olympus to mankind, and for this he was chained to a rock until eventually being rescued by Hercules. It’s easy to see how one might draw similarities between the two. Beyond that, however, there is no obvious connection between the two (for one thing, Prometheus has nothing to do with the morning star). Some of this connection stems from the premise that Lucifer and the serpent of Genesis are the same being. According to the Genesis account, however, the serpent has nothing to do with Lucifer, or Satan for that matter. It’s just a clever talking serpent. I suppose the main connection drawn between the two is in the role they play, being dispensers of a kind of forbidden knowledge after all (the knowledge of fire vs the knowledge of good and evil). That said, I think a stronger case can be made between Prometheus and the Grigori – the angels in the Book of Enoch who became attracted to human women, were cast out of heaven and decided to gave the forbidden knowledge of the angels to Man.

Over the years Lucifer has had many roles in newer spiritual or occult traditions before the 21st century. The Anthroposophists considered Lucifer to be the embodiment of the side of Man that is imaginative, creative, artistic, spiritual and idealistic, as opposed to Ahriman who represented the rational, materialistic side of Man. Helena Blavatsky considered Lucifer to be “the spirit of Intellectual Enlightenment and Freedom of Thought” who guides the intellectual progress of humanity and sparked the initial awakening of the soul of Man within the bodies created by Jehovah. The Process Church of the Final Judgement views Lucifer to be one of the four “Great Gods of the Universe” alongside Satan, Jehovah and Jesus. They consider Lucifer to be a deity of light, love and sex responsible for the creation of women. Eliphas Levi considered Lucifer to be the name of a force that he claims was identified by the Hebrews as Samael and Satan by “other easterns” (an identification which, as we’ve established, the historical evidence does not support), and he believes that the “Lucifer of the Kabbalah” is not an evil being but rather “the angel who enlightens, who regenerates by fire”. He has also stated that Lucifer is an angel who shunned heaven so that he may illuminate the “unworked fields of light”, but would not recognize him as an angel of light unless he submitted to “the eternal order”. In his description of the pentagram, he also seems to hint Lucifer as a force of light, in contrast to a force of dusk and darkness, and yet seemingly two sides of the same coin. Albert Pike of the Freemasons has given praise to a figure named Lucifer, which may have led him and his organization to be accused of worshiping Lucifer or rather of worshiping Satan, but it is unlikely that this figure actually is Satan in any way. His views on God and Lucifer were the subject of an infamous hoax by Leo Taxil intended to smear to the Freemasons. Gregor A. Gregorius considered him to be a brother of Christ, while his organization Fraternitas Saturni was of the view that Lucifer is a higher “octave” of the principle of Saturn (with Satan being the lower, implying that the two are two different phases of the same concept), associated with the Logos. Manly P. Hall is said to have praised Lucifer as “the individual intellect and will which rebels against the domination of Nature”. Aleister Crowley at one point identified Aiwass, the spirit Crowley claimed to have heard, with Lucifer, whom he considered to be a solar and phallic force. The Gnostic interpretation of Lucifer found new genesis through the ideas of Ben Kadosh (real name: Carl William Hansen), who views Lucifer as the rebel who gives Man secrets that were forbidden by the Christian church. He also equates him with the Greek deity Pan, and the alchemical element of gold.

In the modern era, Lucifer as an icon found his own spiritual movement, drawing from aspects of the philosophy of Satanism. Luciferianism is a movement with multiple manifestations and more than one organization representing a form of Luciferian philosophy. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Assembly of Light Bearers, formerly known as the Greater Church of Lucifer, based primarily on the ideas of contemporary Left Hand Path occultists Michael W. Ford and Jeremy Crow. Lucifer, for this brand of Luciferianism, is an adversarial figure associated with pride, intelligence and self-liberation, and a desire to climb ever higher on the path of personal evolution towards a maximization of personal potential (a kind of “apotheosis” if you will), and an opponent of blind faith and restrictive religious dogma. His historical attachment to the planet Venus is very much accounted for, but he takes on some adversarial characteristics associated with beings like Satan, Samael, Ahriman or Azazel. He is mostly treated as an archetype, whose qualities are to be applied to any individual who desires to follow the Luciferian path, but some adherents take a more theistic approach. Another organization is the Neo-Luciferian Church, founded by Michael Bertiaux and Bjarne Salling Pedersen. This organization takes a more Gnostic approach to Luciferianism, apparently influenced by Western esoteric tradtion, Gnosticism, Voodoo and the works of Ben Kadosh. They view Lucifer as basically the light-bringer in the original sense, alien to Christianity and having nothing to do with Satan. In fact, there seem to be many Luciferian groups out there today, with their own take on Lucifer and Luciferian philosophy.

 

Conclusion

To summarize again: Lucifer begins in Mesopotamia or Canaan as a deity of war, fertility and the planet Venus named Attar, who sought the throne of Heaven. The morning star was symbolized as other deities as well, one of whom may well have rebelled against El. In Greece he was a non-violent deity who simply brought the light of the morning star, an archetype that gradually metastasized into the concept of bringing the light of knowledge and enlightenment. He also came to be associated with powerful men who may have been seen as godlike, and who in their apparent actions towards the Israelites came to be seen as enemies of YHWH. He became attached to the ideal of Man seeking divinity, which may have linked him to a rather humanistic mythological ideal of the knowledge of the gods being spread to humans by beings who, in doing so, betray the gods. This was Satanic, adversarial, to the Christians who stressed that faith in God was key to salvation, and the idea that Man can grasp the divine on his own was the height of hubris, of sinful pride. This is perhaps how Lucifer transformed from merely the morning star, to the Satanic rebel against God. Like Satan, then, Lucifer is a concept that has evolved throughout the ages, probably for considerably longer than Satan considering that the deification of the morning star originates in Mesopotamian polytheism while the concept of Satan (not more broadly the principle of cosmic evil) evolved from Judaism. Lucifer became the epitome of the ideal of Man seeking the throne of heaven that he may sit upon it, through his own exertion, and through like the morning star or perhaps the Promethean archetype he spreads the light of the morning star, or of fire, to shine on Man. To me, thinking about it on my own, it seems fairly obvious how Lucifer came to be as he is. That the morning star is also the evening star, by virtue of the both of them being Venus, can be very easily interpreted as Lucifer, as a Venus-based archetype, containing both light of day and the darkness of light; or, the archetypal quantities of light and darkness. Perhaps this is what Michael W. Ford is hitting on.

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Mythological Spotlight #8 Part 1 – Satan

For Part 3 of my planned series, I offer you a special Mythological Spotlight dedicated to comparing the archetypes of Satan and Lucifer, both of whom are important mythological figures within the current of Satanism, as well as its sister philosophy known as Luciferianism. The main impetus for these two posts is simple: although Satan and Lucifer are treated in the popular imagination as similar entities, if not the expressly synonymous, the two characters are known to have two separate historical origins within two distinct contexts. I hope that in these posts, I will adequately demonstrate how this is the case.

I had originally intended to wrote a single Mythological Spotlight comparing Satan and Lucifer, essentially making for two Mythological Spotlights in one. However, as I was writing it I decided that the single post would be excessively long, so I decided to split this into two part. The first part of this Mythological Spotlight, of course, concentrates on the character of Satan. The second part is in progress should be released soon enough.

Satan smiting Job with boils, as illustrated by William Blake

 

Description

To Christians, he is The Devil, The Beast, That Old Snake, 666 and other names, the being that leads people away from God’s will and into sin and will soon do final battle with God. To Jews, he is just another angel of God, just that his main function is to test the faith of Mankind. To Muslims, he is Iblis, the one who refused to bow to Adam and revolted against Allah in order to become the master of the djinn. To Satanists, he is the embodiment of Man’s true nature, and the representation of Man as he ought to be. To others, just a bogeyman made up of all manner of pre-Christian deities designed solely to revile pre-Christian religions. Satan is a character with a complex and storied history, and one that continues to evolve.

 

History

Satan seems to have originated as a title in Hebrew lore, meaning “adversary”, “opposer” or “accuser”. It could have referred to anyone, often including a human, who served as an obstacle to the individual believer. Sometimes it can refer to an invisible or illusory obstacle placed by YHWH. The most familiar context of the name is that of a specific angel, or a specific kind of angel, found within the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh; one who tests the faith of Man, argues his sins to YHWH and creates difficulties for humans under YHWH’s command. This is the angel typically identified as Ha-Satan, or “the Satan”, the angel cited as the original Satan. This Satan is the angel who features in the Biblical story of Job, who thought that Job was only humbly serving YHWH because he gave him a blessed life, and that if he took it all away he would stop praising his name. YHWH accepted the challenge, and so he ordered the Satan to take his misfortune away from him and ruin his life. As an angel of YHWH, the Satan requires the permission of YHWH before he can act, and cannot act independently according to Jewish lore.

Since Satan is a title, “the Satan” or Ha-Satan is not necessarily a proper name, but rather a title referring to the role played by the angel in question, the identity of the Satan of the book of Job has been the subject of some debate. The name Satan is typically used to identify the Satan of Job, perhaps to relate to the Christian concept of Satan. However, traditional and apocryphal Jewish sources consider the identity of the Satan of Job to be Samael, also known as the angel of death. Little appears to be known about Samael, and opinion of Samael can vary wildly within Jewish tradition. Samael is either the prince of evil itself, a being unaligned with the heavenly host or even outside of it, which is the view held in some later or more apocryphal texts, or as simply an angel who, though pernicious and often malevolent, is still a servant of YHWH and is simply playing his role in YHWH’s order of things, which aligns with the view of the concept of Satan held within mainstream Judaism.

In the Ascension of Moses, an apocryphal Jewish text, Samael is identified directly as the angel who tests Job, apparently to weaken his faith so that he may collect his soul:

There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes, at the sight of which the beholder fell prostrate in awe. “This one,” said Metatron, addressing Moses, “is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.” “Whither goes he now?” asked Moses, and Metatron replied, “To fetch the soul of Job the pious.” Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, “O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel.”

The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament by Montague Rhodes James identifies Samael as The Devil, the opposite of the archangel Michael, and is described as a being .

And Moses said unto Jesus the son of Nauë, ‘Let us go up into the mountain.’ And when they were gone up, Moses saw the land of promise and said to Jesus, ‘Go down unto the people and tell them “Moses is dead.”‘ And Jesus went down unto the people, but Moses came to the end of his life. And Samael tried to bring down his body (tabernacle) unto the people, that they might make him a god. But Michael, the Chief Captain, by the command of God came to take him and bury him, and Samael resisted him, and they contended. So the Chief Captain was wroth and rebuked him, saying, ‘The Lord rebuke thee, devil.’ And so the adversary was vanquished and took to flight, but the Archangel Michael buried the body of Moses where he was bidden by Christ our God (and no man saw the burial of Moses)

It is noted, however, that as Michael’s opposite Samael is also seen as the compliment to Michael in some way. Samael is the prosecutor and the adversary of Mankind and Israel, while Michael is its defender. As not only the Satan par excellence but also the prince of “satans”, the prince of the powers of evil, Samael is very much a figure synonymous with Satan similar to how we may understand him today. But nonetheless, this Satan is still viewed as a servant of YHWH, just a servant who fulfills a negative function – that of bringing misfortune, tempting people to sin and arguing the sins of Man or Israel to his master, which brings him into conflict with Michael.

At a later period in Jewish history, specifically during the Babylonian Exile, the role of the Satan begins to change because of the influence of Persian teachings, namely those of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism stressed the dualistic monotheistic view more akin to modern Christianity and Islam – that of a single Supreme God who is the embodiment of goodness, light, truth and justice, juxtaposed against his opposite; the embodiment of evil, darkness, falsehood and wickedness, a concept encapsulated as The Lie. During the time of the Babylonian Exile, the Jews came into contact with Persian beliefs, and after that period Judaism became more in line with Persian teachings. And so the concept of Satan became more and more aligned with the idea of an evil opposite to God (YHWH). Samael became attached to this idea in Talmudic and apocryphal sources to the point that Samael is viewed as the architect of evil, sin and the fall of Man, as well as having mated with Eve and even either planting or playing the role of the serpent in the Garden of Eden thus being responsible for their fall from Paradise.

At this point it’s worth noting that the link between any Satan and the serpent of the Garden of Eden is questionable at best. The connection between the serpent of Genesis and Satan seems to stem from a verse from the Book of Revelation which reads:

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth,” – Revelation 12:9

However, Genesis makes no reference to Satan in relation to the serpent in the myth of the Garden of Eden. The myth originates in Jewish tradition, which does not recognize a singular literal or personal Satan. Not to mention, the serpent of Genesis used to have limbs, but had his limbs removed by YHWH through a curse as punishment for tempting Adam and Eve, and is consigned to live as a snake, whereas the Beast of Revelation doesn’t appear to resemble a proper snake in both appearance and behavior. In all likelihood, the serpent of Genesis was just a serpent, unaffiliated with YHWH or any Satan, who perhaps happened to be particularly clever. Returning to Revelation, the dragon is previously described as “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads“. You may recognize this sort of creature as the mount of the Whore of Babylon, whose appearance indicates a symbolic reference to Ancient Rome, the adversary (or perhaps, the “Satan”?) of the early Christian movement, or more specifically John – the man who wrote Revelation. It is an expression of an empire or civilization believed to be rife with sin, wickedness and blasphemy and which persecuted the believers of God/YHWH. It may also be an expression a more ancient mythological motif of conflict between a warrior figure and a dragon or serpent, such as the Old Testament battle between YHWH and Leviathan.

There is another angel in Jewish lore who is associated with the concept of Satan and is identified with the Satan of the Book of Job: Mastema. Mastema is an angel who is believed to carry out punishments on the orders of YHWH, as well as a commander of evil spirits who harass humans. He is often retconned in the pseudepigraphical Book of Jubilees as an evil force who either motivates YHWH to do strange evil things or as a someone who does some of those things instead of YHWH. For instance, he is considered to be the one who persuaded YHWH to challenge Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and the one who persuaded the followers of Moses to commit idolatry. There is also a strange instance in the Bible where YHWH tries to kill Moses, but the story gets rewritten so that Mastema becomes responsible for the attempted murder. He is also written to be the one who aids the sorcerers of the Pharaoh to oppose Moses, and is seen as the angel responsible for the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt as part of the Ten Plagues sent by YHWH. Like Samael, Mastema was not necessarily an enemy of YHWH, rather a servant of his whose role is to tempt the souls of men, obstruct and hinder them, and argue their sins. YHWH even allows him to keep a portion of demons under his service before the great flood. Indeed, in much the same way as Samael may have become synonymous with the Christian Satan, it is this sinister function that has led him to be treated not as an angel in service of YHWH but rather a devil who opposes him, to that point that Mastema is often treated as synonymous with Belial.

Returning to Zoroastrianism, Ahriman is an important influence on the character of the Christian Satan. He was, from the outset, evil incarnate. Also known as Angra Mainyu, Ahriman is the embodiment of evil and “the Lie” and opposite of Ahura Mazda (though the Gathas position him as the opponent of another being, Spenta Mainyu; an aspect of Ahura Mazda) and is believed to be the creator of all manner of nasty creatures that seek to bring harm to humans. Much like the Christian Satan, Ahriman is the deceiver according to Zoroastrian tradition, and he is the chief and/or creator of a group of demonic beings who are referred to as daevas (which was originally the Hindu term “deva”, referring to a class of deities that resided in the heavens). The entire universe is presented as being divided between Ahriman and Ahura Mazda, with both sides fighting for the souls of Man at large.

Within mainstream Christian tradition, the names Samael and Mastema seem to have lost relevance, and the chief opponent of YHWH comes to be identified simply as Satan. If anything, the Christian Satan seems to be identified with Beelzebub, who in Jewish lore was the lord of the flies who represented a rival deity to YHWH. The Book of Revelation also identifies him with the beast with seven heads, who we have discussed earlier in this post. However The Ascension of Isaiah, a mostly Christian apocryphal text, identifies Samael (or Sammael) as Satan, though the same text also identifies Satan with Belial (Beliar), the angel of lawlessness, who is also considered the ruler of this world. The being is recounted as having possessed King Manasseh in order to bring about Isaiah’s martyrdom. The Christian role of Satan no longer resembles the Jewish conception of The Satan as a prosecutor and accuser on behalf of YHWH, but the opponent of YHWH and the ruler of Hell, whose temptations lead the souls of humans to Hell and their doom and damnation, who will according the Bible eventually be judged by the resurrected Jesus and imprisoned in the very Hell he is supposed to rule over. In fact, the role of the ruler of the underworld, and his iconic appearance from the medieval period going forward, has noticeably more in common with pre-Christian pagan beliefs about the deities of the underworld – such as Hades, Nergal or Yama – than the original Jewish tradition. He certainly took on many characteristics associated with the pre-Christian pantheon: horns associated with Ba’al, the trident associated with Poseidon, goat features including hooves associated with Pan (not to mention his famously lustful attributes) and his dominion of the underworld a trait of Hades (which funny enough became an alternate name for Hell). He is also identified with the Beast of Revelation, or the Great Red Dragon chasing after the Woman Clothed in Sun. That he is identified with a draconic beast the way he is in revelation suggests, to me at least, that Satan has transformed from merely an angel in God’s service to an apocalyptic force of chaos set against God, and that this is his ultimate role in things.

In Christianity, Satan and Lucifer are typically seen as synonymous, typically based on certain Biblical verses. But, as will be explored much further in Part 2, there is nothing in these verses that actually connects Satan with Lucifer. The Book of Isaiah is typically used to show how Satan was once the morning star before he fell, when in fact the morning star seems to be referring to a king of Babylon. The Book of Ezekiel is similarly cited to show how Satan was the greatest of the angels before his fall, when in fact it is a king of Tyre being compared to an unnamed angel. Indeed, the explanations for how he turned from simply the Adversary of Job to the Beast seem strange to me.

In Gnostic Christian tradition, Samael appears as a name of the Demiurge – the malevolent or incompetent deity who creates the material universe as a prison for the souls that presently inhabit the body of Man. Since the Demiugre is treated as basically Satan, being the opposite of the true and perfect God described by the Gnostics, this is essentially stating that Samael and Satan are identical. In a similar tradition, adherents of the Bogomil sect believe that Satan created matter while God created the soul of Man. The Bogomils identify Satan as Satanael, an angel who also appears in the apocryphal Second Book of Enoch as the name of the leader of the Grigori (or the Watchers), a group of angels who fell from heaven after becoming infatuated and attracted to human women and sought to teach humans various forms of knowledge that were previously kept by the angels (in the first Book of Enoch, the leader of the Grigori is named Samyaza; the two are sometimes seen as synonymous).

The apocryphal lore surrounding the Grigori, and the identification of their leader as Satanael (whose name you may note means “Adversary of God”), may have influenced the Judeo-Christian character Satan as we know him, by positioning him as a rebellious angel who fell to the Earth and spread forbidden knowledge. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this is partly how the serpent became seen as related to Satan – after all, the serpent performed a similar function by tempting Adam and Eve towards the forbidden knowledge of good and evil. And perhaps this is how Satan came to be seen as the Beast? The Enochian Satanael was later rewritten by an occultist named Faustus Scorpius, founder of a group known as the Order of the Left Hand Path, to show Satanael as the one or first angel in heaven to realize the concept of self-consciounsess and hence rebelled against the Demiurge and his heavenly host. He was defeated by Michael and his angels, but still set out to spread self-consciousness and freedom to Man.

In Islam, Satan is known as Iblis. Iblis was a djinn – a being made of fire, as opposed to the angels who were made out of light – who was banished from the heavenly realm for refusing Allah’s command to bow to the first human he created. Like the Christian Satan, Iblis is seen as leading souls away from Allah through temptation and actively opposes Allah’s will . Although it is generally agreed that Iblis is a Djinn, some Islamic scholars think that Iblis was originally an angel, much like Samael.

Perhaps the most famous interpretation of Satan is the one found in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. In this work, Satan was once an angel in Heaven who served God, but rebelled along with a third of the heavenly host, only to be defeated and be cast down into Hell, where he decides to establish his own kingdom, uttering the famous phrase “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. I can assume that this draws from the attempted connection by Christians between Satan and the Lucifer figures of the Bible, but it is through this depiction that the traditional conception of Satan emerges, rather than the actual scripture of Christianity or Judaism. Here we see a more romantic interpretation of Satan, and arguably a heroic Satan – the first instance wherein we see Satan as the rebellious figure, standing up to God, and arguing the case for his unjust character. Indeed, I suspect this is the source of the Satanic Temple interpretation of Satan as the eternal rebel standing up to tyrannical authority. The irony being, of course, that before John Milton Satan doesn’t seem to be shown as much of an enemy of God until the Book of Revelation, the verses typically shown before hand to refer to Satan’s fall having nothing to do with Satan. And before all of that, it was a Satan that was working with tyrannical authority, that of YHWH.

Because of the prevalence of Milton’s Satan in the popular imagination, Satan has been compared to a Greek mythological figure known as Prometheus. In fact, the author of the drama Prometheus Unbound wrote a preface explaining his personal judgement that Satan is the only character resembling Prometheus. Prometheus is a being related to the Titans (that is, he is a son of one of them), the personification of foresight and knowledge. He was the creator of mankind who stole the fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, for which he was chained to a rock by Zeus. The fire of Olympus came to be a symbol of Man’s enlightenment, reason and knowledge, which was withheld by Zeus. Before stealing the fire of Olympus, Prometheus was considered an ally of the Olympian gods, thus the act of stealing it for mankind’s benefit was an act of betrayal of the gods. In a way, there are some characteristics he thus shares with Satan. Other than, however, there is no direct connection. Many connect the two through the serpent myth, asserting that Prometheus was like Satan who brought the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve. But, as has been established, the serpent of Eden is not actually Satan.

Another influential interpretation is the story of Mephistopheles, the demon who appeared to Faust in his eponymous legend. In the legend, Faust summons Mephistopheles, who offers him his service for a period of time, at the end of which Mephistopheles claims his soul for eternity, leading it to Hell. This tale echoes into the modern world as the archetypal “deal with the devil”. Mephistopheles is explicitly a representation of the Devil, of Satan perhaps, and it seems to play on a characteristic that Jewish apocrpyha associated with Samael – that of taking away the souls of humans.

The archetype Satan found within Satanism is based on both the Miltonian conception of Satan, the Judeo-Christian notion of Satan as The Adversary and the opponent of the values associated with YHWH and the background laid by several magickal traditions in their description of Satan. Eliphas Levi describes Satan as “the goat of the Sabbath”, associated with profanation and darkness. Stanislas de Guatia views Satan as “the foul goat threatening Heaven”. The same inverted pentagram we know today from the Church of Satan actually comes from the works of Maurice Bessy. Indeed, whenever an inverted pentagram appears in historical magickal works, it is typically meant as a symbol of the inversion all that is good, which would be symbolized by the upward-pointing pentagram. Satan is also aligned with materialism in many spiritualist traditions, and indeed his symbol is taken as meaning matter prevailing over spirit. Curiously, Stanislas de Guatia’s Satan pentagram features the name Samael. It would seem to denote Samael as the negative opponent of Adam. Anton LaVey took the Satan of Judaism, Christianity and Western magickal tradition and made him a positive figure, the advocate of Man as he ought to be as defined by the philosophy of Satanism.

Finally, Satan is frequently compared with the Egyptian deity Set. Both Satan and Set are considered to be evil beings, but it is claimed that they are connected by the name Set-hen, a title purportedly attached to Set. I have been unable to find a lot of evidence for the “Set-hen” theory, with few resources available outside of Satanic circles and even then not much is elaborated. The claim seems to amount to the idea that “Set-hen” sounds like the modern Satan, therefore it’s a match. However, there are many characteristics that Set shares with the modern Satan. Much like the Jewish conception of Satan, Set was not always seen as an evil being. He was originally a deity of storms, the desert, and war. Similar to Apep, he was seen as a personification of chaos and destruction, but unlike Apep, Set was seen as very much a part of the natural order of things, his chaotic influence a necessary component of balance and harmony in the cosmos. Later on he came to be associated with foreigners. He was also considered a troublesome deity, perhaps most infamous for murdering his brother Osiris after he was seduced by the goddess Nephthys, who was supposed to be his wife, which led him to conflict with the sky deity Horus. However he was also the protector of the sun deity Ra, and at one point also considered to be one of the principle deities of the cosmos, alongside Amun, Ra and Ptah. After the Hyksos invaded Egypt and brought with them their religion, Set rose to prominence through his identification with the Semitic deity Ba’al (with whom he shares many characteristics). After they were driven out, Set’s association with the Hyksos and foreigners in general led him to be seen as an evil being who invited the conquest of Egypt by foreigners. Eventually he become almost synonymous with Apep, and lost his role as a protective deity. In Greece, Set was equated to Typhon – a monster personifying chaos and volcanic forces who lead the Titans against Zeus when they kill Dionysus.

Today, the character of Satan is alive and well and still continues to be invoked as a bogeyman, particularly in conspiracy theories wherein he is somehow one of the main benefactors. For instance, he believed to be the deity worshiped by the Freemasons, the “Illuminati” and the New World Order. Some even believe him to be the true God of the Muslims and Jews, which of course is historically and religiously illiterate. A similar point can be made about the Islamic world, where the Great Satan is a term used by Islamist regimes and Islamic terrorists to refer to demonize the United States of America. However, in the modern world, his character is also still influenced by John Milton’s characterization of him, and today the Miltonian Satan is also used as a political tool by some of those who wish for the expulsion of religion from the public sphere. Satan is often conflated with an idol named Baphomet – originally the name of the idol the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping -, a symbol that in occult traditions generally refers to the unity and harmony of opposites in the universe and not strictly to the Devil; although Baphomet has proven influential in shaping the image of Satan. And of course, Satan is a celebrated icon in the subculture of heavy metal music, where many songs, albums or musical careers are dedicated to him to this day. Not that the vast majority of heavy metal fans and musicians are Satanists or Satan worshipers per se. For metalheads, it’s just that he happens to make for awesome music.

 

Conclusion

In summation, Satan, as a concept, begins in Judaism wherein it refers to an adversary in general or to a specific angel who carries out punishment in the name of YHWH, before gradually evolving into the archetype of evil, chaos and sedition against God, to being equated with the bringer of knowledge and freedom and thus being seen as the opponent of dictatorial rule, and today the concept of Satan is influenced by both religious and literary tradition. In a way, the concept of Satan remains something of a historical scapegoat, with many people citing the Devil as the inspiration for many a malicious act on the part of themselves or of their enemies. Indeed, even among Christians different sects have been seen as in league with Satan for their heresy against the Church. And as I said earlier, if you go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory land it’s not too long before you find a Satan or two used as a scapegoat for many complex problems in the world. But the concept of Satan has also taken on many other meanings. Indeed, as Adversary, he can perhaps be seen as a force of passion – that is, the passion that has the potential to either lead to evil things, or drive life as we know it towards greatness and progress. In the end, the idea Satan eventually becoming the opponent of the Absolute, rather than just an accuser of Man, makes some sense when you consider the development of Jewish and later Christian tradition. At one point the Jews considered evil to be a part of God’s machinations. But, at some point the Jews suffered what would have been a great indignity, if not outright injustice, towards their faith. It is difficult to conceive that God would destroy his own temple to punish the Jews in some way. It was perhaps naturally to think that it was the work of something that was set against God. Samael then would’ve made for a terrific scapegoat, given he was the angel whose role was often an unpleasant one. Satan was once a title, and then became something of a scapegoat in the Christian tradition, but perhaps it can be said that Satan eventually took on a life of his own.

The “crucifixion” of Prometheus

A while back I heard of an interesting claim regarding the Greek figure Prometheus: the claim that was “crucified” just as Jesus was according to the Bible.

The claim seems to stem from a passage supposedly attributed to Hesiod’s Theogony, which reads as follows:

With shackles and inescapable fetters Zeus riveted Prometheus on a pillar.

This appears to be one interpretation of the myth. According to another interpretation, courtesy of the University of Michigan.

He bound the changeful-planning Prometheus with unbreakable fetters, painful bonds, and drove them through the middle of a pillar. And he sent a long-winged eagle upon him.

Another interpretation, courtesy of Perseus Digital Library.

And ready-witted Prometheus he bound with inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft through his middle, and set on him a long-winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal liver;

In either case, I fail to see the equivalence of being bound or tied to a pillar or a rock and someone being literally crucified. You know, that thing where you’re nailed to a cross or stauros or whatever, whilst elevated from the ground, and left to die. Jesus dies whilst on the cross, while Prometheus is eventually rescued by Hercules instead, which would preclude any resurrection on Prometheus’ part. So I can’t help but the idea of Prometheus being crucified is essentially one that’s barking up the wrong tree. Not to mention, if Prometheus is being crucified here, then so is Andromeda. She was chained to a rock as a sacrificial offering in order to appease the gods, before she is rescued by Perseus. I was unaware that being chained to a rock was the same as crucifixion – whether it’s one of those t-shaped crosses were all familiar with or the stauros which may been the actual historical equivalent.

The idea of Prometheus being crucified seems to come from a book titled The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors, which was written in 1875 by Kelsey Graves. The book lists Prometheus as one of the “crucified saviors” alongside deities like Krishna, Mitra, Indra (if you can believe it), Attis and Quetzalcoatl, and posits that Jesus was essentially a clone of sixteen deities from various mythologies that were crucified or killed and then descended into the underworld only to resurrect. And if it sounds like something out of Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist films or Bill Maher’s Religulous, that’s only because it pre-dated both. In fact, the book and its author are often seen as an unreliable and debunked source on comparative religion and mythology.

So needless to say, Prometheus is not Jesus. If anything, I thought Prometheus was closer to Lucifer than Jesus.

Prometheus by Gustave Moreau

Prometheus by Gustave Moreau

The Divine Individual

This is the first of a series of posts I will write discussing the topic of the mythological figure of Jesus, because there’s a lot about the subject, and of the related subject of Christianity that I have on my mind. And to start, I’d like to write about an idea promoted by Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, because he sparked some interesting ideas in my head. I’m sure you remember Peterson best as the professor who stood at the center of a crowd of social justice warrior type protesters who were attacking a free speech rally at the University of Toronto where he was protesting Bill C-16, a Canadian law which would add the subjectively defined notions of gender identity and gender expression to a list of prohibited grounds of discrimination and criminalize “hate propaganda” based on gender identity – which, in practice, seems to amount to the ability to punish someone for refusing to call someone “ze”. But enough about that, let’s talk about his concept of the Divine Individual.

The Divine Individual is a concept that Jordan Peterson uses to illustrate as a principle that societies, in need of social cohesion, can use to unite under a banner and organize in order to overcome fragmentation whilst avoiding both nihilism and totalitarianism. Let’s go through an excerpt of his New Year’s Message on his YouTube channel where he outlines the premise. We’ll explore this bit by bit, exploring pertinent points made by Peterson.

One alternative to fragmentation is, of course, union under a banner. A collective ideal, cause or purpose. The problem with uniting under a banner, as the postmodernists who push identity politics rightly point out, is that to value something means simultaneously to devalue other things. Thus to value is an exclusionary process. But the alternative is valuelessness, which is equivalent to nihilism, and nihilism does not produce freedom from exclusion; it just makes everyone excluded. And that’s an intolerable state: directionless, uncertain, chaotic and angst-ridden. When such uncertainty reaches a critical level, the counter-response appears. First the unconscious, and then the collectively expressed demand for a leader possessed by totalitarian certainty, who promises, above all, to restore order. Thus a society without an underlying principle oscillates unmoored between nihilism and totalitarianism. Human beings have been wrestling with this problem since the beginning of civilization. When our capacity to form large groups, for all its advantages, also started to pose a new threat: that of the hyper-domination of the state or collective purpose. But without the state there’s just fragmentation into smaller groups.

I just want to raise this point because it sounds like this is how he understands the dichotomy of order and chaos. For Peterson, chaos is the state of society characterized by valuelessnees, uncertainty and nihilism, one that eventually gives way to order, but at an extreme level, which he identifies as totalitarian certainty. I find it interesting how this can be interpreted in the political/cultural context of current society: the modern left has embraced postmodernism and valuelessness, only to give rise to totalitarian certainty. An uneasy example of this is found in the social justice warriors, which openly embrace totalitarianism in order to prop up postmodern ideology. Of course that’s probably a more liberal perspective. A more conservative perspective might be that the SJWs, and leftists in general, embraced valuelessness and postmodernism, creating conditions that will allow totalitarianism to take hold: whether by the hand of big government, communism or radical Islam (and make no mistake: Islam and communism are, in practice, among the ultimate embodiments of what Peterson would call totalitarian certainty). The other reason I find this very fascinating is because the whole tension presented by Peterson it reminds me of quite a few discussions I had on the subject with other people, and it also reminds me of the theme of Law and Chaos in the Shin Megami Tensei series, as well as one of my favorite passages in the history of the written word: the opening passage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” – Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms

It illustrates Guanzhong’s cyclical worldview regarding empire, or more specifically the Chinese empire, which seems to be characterized by a history of fragmentation and civil war, followed by unity under the banner of a new emperor and dynasty, followed by fragmentation and civil war after the decline of the dynasty, and so repeats (presumably until the advent of the modern republic of China, but that’s as far as my knowledge of Chinese history goes I’m afraid). It also kind of evokes the kind of cyclical worldview found in Taoism, one of the main religions historically practiced in China and still practiced to this day. Speaking of Taoism, it seems to me like Peterson has a very yin and yang view of order and chaos, and the dangers of their extremes, much like I do. I suppose that’s why I like him, coupled with the way he elucidates this understanding. Anyways, enough of the massive tangent, let’s get back to the next important point.

In the West, starting in the Middle East thousands of years ago, a new idea began to emerge – evolve is not too strong a word – in the collective imagination. You might, following [Richard] Dawkins, consider this a meme, although this is far too weak a word. This idea, whose development can be traced back through Egypt to Mesopotamia, before disappearing into unwritten history, is that of the divine individual.  The eons-old work of the imagination is a dramatic presentation of an emergent idea, which is the solution to how to organize social being without falling prey to nihilistic divisiveness or deceitful totalitarian certainty. The group must unite, but under the banner of the individual. The individual is the source of the new wisdom that updates the antiquated, nihilistic or totalitarian detritus and glory of the past.”

This is where we, finally, come to the main point – the concept of the Divine Individual. In a way it actually reminds me of characters who might fulfill the narrative of the “monomyth”, or the Hero’s Journey, courtesy of Joseph Campbell, which funny enough we had to talk about during the second year of my game design course. You know, that structure that has influenced the development of many films, such as the Star Wars films, and details the archetypal hero’s quest for glory, or for greater knowledge and wisdom. I see the Divine Individual as possibly a person (or, in mythical terms, a deity) who has undertaken that journey and accrued a powerful new wisdom which he brings back to the world at large, in that sense becoming the source of the new wisdom.

Also, there definitely are examples of characters that might fit the idea of the Divine Individual in various cultures in the regions Peterson mentions. In Mesopotamia we have the story of Gilgamesh, who travels to find the secret of immortality only to realize that humans cannot achieve immortality. There’s also Utnapishtim (aka Atra-Hasis or Ziusudra), the man who built a great boat and survived a flood before Noah did it and was blessed by the gods afterwards. I could also make the argument for the Babylonian deity Marduk possibly being an example – by challenging and slaying Tiamat, the draconic embodiment of the primordial chaos, Marduk overthrows the rule of an older group of primordial deities and creates the cosmos out of the spoils of battle, creates mankind out of the blood of one of her monster allies, Kingu, mankind is created. In Egypt I find this is more difficult to find, but I believe the best example is the sun god himself, Ra, who every day undergoes a journey to the underworld, and with the help of his guardians (or sometimes on his own in the form of a cat) he defeats the serpent Apep and the forces of evil, who would otherwise destroy the cosmos, and ensures that the light of the sun continues to shine on Egypt. Why stop there?

For better or worse, that idea reaches its apogee in Christianity. The divine individual is masculine because the feminine is not individual. The divine feminine is instead mother and child. However, it is a hallmark of Christian supposition that the redemption of both men and women comes from the masculine, and that’s because the masculine is the individual. The central realization, expressed dramatically and symbolically, is that the subordination of the group to the ideal of the divine individual is the answer to the paradox of nihilism and totalitarianism. The divine individual is the man that every man admires, and the man who all women want their men to be. The divine individual is the ideal from which deviations are punished by the group with contempt and disgrace, and fidelity to which is rewarded with attention and honor.

And here’s where we come to the part where Peterson ascribes the role of the divine individual to Jesus. I can’t help but disagree with a few things here, but we’ll start with the role of Jesus. I’ll grant that the conventionally understood form of Jesus can indeed fit the role of the divine individual – besides being the offspring of a deity (which I don’t think was mandatory for the role), he studied Jewish law and went on to spread, supposedly, a new form of Jewish teaching that spoke of the end times coming, God coming to overthrow the corruption of Rome and telling people to love they neighbor. He is, however, not much of a reformer. In fact, Jesus is quoted in the Bible as saying that he favors the old Jewish law.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” – Matthew 5:17-18

And this apparently even includes the stuff about loving thy neighbour. That famous New Testament verse was actually from the Book of Leviticus, the same text that condemns lying with another man as with a woman. I suspect Jesus was only considered a reformer in the sense that he came after the Pharisees because he viewed them as hypocrites, possibly because they advocated following the spirit rather than the letter of Jewish law and maybe because they put less control of the Jewish teachings in the hands of just the priests. He would have been a conservative who wanted to preserve the dogma of Jewish lore, rather than the reformist source of a new wisdom that would have updated the dogma. In fact, one of the things he criticized the Pharisees for was that they didn’t kill disobedient children, which was sanctioned by Jewish law in the Old Testament, the very same law that Jesus was sent to uphold. Jesus was also the kind of guy who talked about fearing God, condemned entire cities for not believing him, reserved eternal hellfire for those he damned and ordered people to chop off hands and feet to cleanse themselves of sin. Sounds like he’s a figure of totalitarianism to me, and that’s not all there is to it (I will address that in a separate post). The other embodiment of totalitarian certainty is, of course, his father, Jehovah/YHVH – the deity who demands blind faith and complete obedience according to the Bible or you will be destroyed or condemned to eternal damnation. So the main problem I have is that Jesus is quite easy to deconstruct based on what is actually written in the Bible.

Interestingly enough, however, since there is a figure of totalitarian certainty in the Christian religion, what represents the opposite – that of valuelessness and nihilism? I would argue that, for the Christians, that doesn’t mean Satan, as one might suspect, but rather Hell itself. In the popular Christian conception of Hell, Hell is either the lake of fire where in the soul is tormented by demons, or a place of darkness where the soul is completely and utterly separated from God, either way it is the source of horror, weeping and the gnashing of teeth. But typically, it is the place where the soul no longer knows the love or the presence of God, and instead knows torment and anguish. There are verse of the Bible which seem to imply both

Other than that, there are other points to make. It is generally true that the heroic figures of many mythologies are male, and many goddesses embody a maternal role. But I can think of one female mythological figure who doesn’t necessarily fit this role – the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. She journeys into the underworld, the land of the dead and of death, without fear, to try and fight Ereshkigal, the ruling goddess of the underworld, only to wind up imprisoned, striken with disease and killed by one of her minions, and then resurrected by a eunuch of the gods and returning to the surface to – all to revive her lover, Tammuz (deity of vegetation), after he died. And the idea of the man that every man wants to be and every woman wants their men to be I find is easily exemplified in, say, Greek mythology, where we can find such heroic figures – like Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, Odysseus, Jason or Theseus – men who in the modern world are still lionized in popular culture. Or hell, not even just mythology: did someone forget about Leonidas I, or Alexander the Great if his ruler cult is anything to go by? Those people became immortalized, in a manner of speaking, both in ancient religion (as is the case in Alexander the Great) and modern fiction (Leonidas I).

The divine individual is the builder, maintainer and expander of the state, he who boldly goes where no man has gone before, and someone who watches eternally over the widows and the children. His power of direct and honest communication is that which identifies, discusses and then resolves the continually emerging problems of human existence. 

I guess that’s one reason for him to think of Jesus as fitting the role, considering Jesus is sometimes depicted in a regal fashion, and is often referred to by Christians as their “king”. But I think this applies to Marduk as well. As the creator of the cosmos, king of the gods and patron deity of the city of Babylon, I think the role of the builder, maintainer and expander of the state suits a ruler figure such as Marduk. Or how about Ziusudra or Gilgamesh, who were both kings?  Or how about the rulers who were deified in classical Greece? Indeed I see this applying outside the Christian context pretty much categorically.

However, I’m willing to put forward because of its long-standing presence in human culture, and the clearly positive values attributed to it, I think the idea of the divine individual is worth pursuing. I think Peterson’s concept should be influential to me at least, as it seems like an effective way of expressing the idea that . In a way, pursuing the ideal of the individual is an idea I suspect some Left Hand Path systems, if not many, actively pursue. In fact, I see this in Luciferianism, and the way we Luciferians view the example of Lucifer – a mythological being that has evolved for so long in the collective imagination, from possibly being a Canaanite/Ugaritic deity associated with the morning star to being the figure of the Enlightenment. For us I think he’s more like the Enlightenment type figure, though more influenced by the John Milton characterization of Satan (which, if we’re being honest, sort of comes from the Christian characterization of both Satan and Lucifer). On this basis, I think the concept of the Divine Individual is worthy of appraisal and analysis.

Lucifer

Lucifer

 


If you want to see all of the posts that Jordan Peterson discussed, click here. I highly recommend it, because his perspective is nonetheless a fascinating one.

Also, I think he kind of deserves a little appreciation. At least because, as you’ll see in the video, he seems deeply troubled, if not pained, by some of the maladies he sees in the modern world, and I think he’s really trying to set things right in his own way by speaking his mind.

Mythological Spotlight #7 – Kuk

Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors

Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors

Description

Kuk is an ancient Egyptian deity of darkness, obscurity and the unknown. He is part of a very ancient pair of primordial deities known as the Ogdoad, alongside his wife and female counterpart Kauket. Together, they are embodiments of a state of darkness that existed before the time of creation. Kuk is also known to go by the names Kek or Keku.

 

History

The Ogdoad were a group of primordial deities worshipped in the city of Khmun (Hermopolis) in Egypt during the Old Kingdom period. They consisted of eight deities: Amun, Nun, Kuk and Huh and their respective wives Amunet, Naunet, Kauket and Hauhet. Each of them represented elements of the state of primordial chaos that preceded the creation of the world according to Egyptian mythology. Amun and Amunet represented air, invisibility and hidden things, Nun and Nunet represented the primordial waters and the abysss, Kek and Kauket represented the darkness and obscurity and Huh and Hauhet represented eternity and the infinite space. The male deities were symbolized by the frog and were depicted as frog-headed deities, while the female deities were symbolized by the snake and were depicted as snake headed deities. Of course that is how they are usually depicted. Sometimes they were depicted as geese or baboons.

The creation myth goes as follows: the universe was originally a dark, watery and directionless chaos, inhabited by snakes and frogs. The qualities of this primordial chaos were represented by the deities of the Ogdoad, and these deities were the rulers of this chaos who renewed the primordial waters. It was believed that they created a primordial mound upon which an egg was laid, which then hatched into – depending on what version of the myth – either the sun deity Ra, the creator deity Atum or a scarab beetle representing the Sun. In either case, light was brought to the universe and the cosmos was forged, which brought about order. It is said that afterwards the deities died and passed into the underworld, or Duat, where they supported the flow of the Nile river and the rise of the sun.

In Hermopolis, the cult of the Ogdoad was eventually displaced in prominence by the cult of Djehuti (Thoth), the more popular deity of magic, wisdom, knowledge and the moon. Incidentally, there is a version of the creation myth which supposes that the egg laid upon the primordial mound was laid by an ibis, the sacred bird of Djehuti.

You would think that this would be where the story ends. But no. In the modern age, it seems that the deity Kuk has been elevated by Internet culture.

In November 2015, someone on 4chan posted about Kuk and his mythological background. Four months later, someone on Reddit submitted a macro identifying Kuk as Kek (which probably actually refers to the slang word “kek”, but also happens to another name of Kuk) and associating him with Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump and the concept of “memetic magic”. Over time the meme grew and grew within 4chan, and eventually an online parody religion known as the Cult of Kek emerged. The Cult identifies Kek as, according to their Facebook page, the one true god of chaos, darkness, obscurity and”dubs”, believed to grant the wishes of those who end their posts in a series of repeating numbers. Kek is also identified with Pepe the Frog, the latter often considered by the Cult to be a modern avatar of Kek. Members of the cult talk on 4chan about how meme magic supposedly affects the real world, particularly the current American presidential election cycle. Kek is also associated with the number 7, due to its sacred significance in many cultures.

Because Trump’s supporters have embraced the Pepe meme, and because much of 4chan, particularly /pol/ have embraced Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the mainstream media have decided to demonize the Pepe meme by attaching him to white nationalism and white supremacism, drawing ridicule from much of the Internet. It also generated a response in the form of an article about Pepe and the Cult of Kek, apparently explaining the full story of the origins of Pepe and the Cult of Kek. Before that, Hillary Clinton had a speech in Reno where went on an on about the alt-right, according to her vapid old mind anyway, and from there Trump supporters from Milo Yiannopoulos to more recently Palmer Luckey, the CEO of Oculus VR, were slapped with very liberal usage of the term alt-right regardless of the actual substance of their views. This invariably brought the alt-right and Pepe more attention, leading of course to Pepe’s demonization by the media. Now Pepe seems to have gained certain political prominence among those who oppose Clinton and/or support Trump.

 

Conclusion

The Cult of Kek is, without a doubt, one of my favorite developments in modern culture. People on 4chan have taken an ancient deity, a relatively obscure deity of primordial chaos and darkness that was supplanted in prominence by other deities no less, and through an invented mythology elevated him into a prominent modern cultural icon through Pepe the Frog. This icon is aligned against polite society and mainstream culture, due to its association with 4chan and Trump. Kek is thus an icon of a modern counter-culture, and thus rebellion. In doing so, I dare say they have inducted Kek as the newest member of the infernal pantheon, and for that I can’t help but smile in glee.

All hail the dark lord Kek! Praise Kek!

Haram Month #5 – Mythological Spotlight #6 – The Gharaniq Goddesses

The Gharaniq goddesses, interpreted by a Neopagan artist.

Introduction

There are three Arabian goddesses that are a matter of some controversy among Islamic scholars. These goddesses are Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as shown above, and were worshiped in pre-Islamic polytheistic tradition. Allat is a goddess of fertility, Al-Uzza is a goddess of power and Manat is a goddess of fate. They are the subject of what is known as the “satanic verses”, which is apparently an incident when the prophet Muhammad believed that these goddesses were the daughters of Allah, before recanting this belief and denouncing it as the whispers of Satan (or rather Iblis). The idea that Muhammad could have venerated any deity, let alone three goddesses, alongside Allah is no doubt considered to be blasphemous by Muslims (after all, Muslims believe there is no deity other than Allah and Muhammad is his messenger), and it is believed that if the verses are authentic then it means that Muhammad not endorsed polytheism at one point but was also briefly suggestible to the words of Iblis – the latter apparently offends Muslims because they believe that the prophets, including Muhammad, are infallible.

 

History

Before the time of the prophet Muhammad and his conquest of Mecca, the Arabs practiced polytheism, worshipping many deities instead of one. Three of these deities were Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat.

Allat was worshipped in Mecca, but was also worshiped as far afield as Palmyra in Syria and it’s also been claimed that she was worshiped in ancient Carthage as Allatu. Aside from being considered a mother goddess and a goddess of fertility and spring, she was also considered to be a goddess associated with the underworld and seen as equivalent to the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal. Apparently there is also reference to a goddess named Beltis, or Beltis-Allat, that is identified with Allat and Ereshkigal. Her name means “Great Goddess”, and this is seen as an indication the wife of Allah – given that her name is the feminine form of Allah – much like how the Semitic goddess Asherah, who was also known as Elat which is a feminine form of El – her consort. And yes, Allah himself was originally a deity in worshiped in Mecca as part of pre-Islamic polytheism, just like Jehovah or Yahweh was originally a deity from Canaanite polytheism. The Greeks identified Allat with their own goddess of love Aphrodite, as well as Athena the goddess of wisdom and strategy – there also exists depictions of a syncretic deity named Allat-Minerva who may have been worshiped in Syria. She was also associated with the planet Venus. In the year 630 AD, the idol of Allat and her shrine in Ta’if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb. Muhammad demanded that the idol be destroyed immediately, rather than leave the idol remain until the people of Ta’if embraced Islam on their own.

Al-Uzza was worshipped in Meeca as well as in Petra, in what is now Jordan, where she may have been adopted as a presiding goddess alongside Dushara – a deity of the daytime. She was the goddess of power, but she was also associated with the stars as well as love, vegetation and funerary relationships. She was also a goddess that was invoked for protection by the pre-Islamic tribe that controlled Mecca. She may even have been seen as a supreme goddess in Petra. She was identified with Aphrodite Ourania (in Rome, Venus Celestis), a form of Venus associated with the heavens – perhaps as Queen of the Heavens – and with the Egyptian goddess Isis. It is thought that depictions of a syncretic deity named Isis-Al-Uzza are carved on the treasury in Petra. Her idol at Nakhla was demolished and her temple raided on the orders of Muhammad by the general Khalid ibn Al-Walid. Khalid was destroyed trees associated with the goddess, demolished all her idols and killed the people who looked after the idols and the temple.

Manat, also known as Manawat, is considered to be the ancient of the three goddesses. She was worshiped by the Nabataeans in Petra and the Aws and Khazraj in Arabia. She was believed to be the wife of the storm deity Hubal, and it was believed that sacrifices were made to her. She was also identified with the Greek goddess Nemesis, but some claim she is connected with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar because of the fact that “Menitu” is a title of Ishtar. It may have been believed that Manat watched over the graves and control the destinies of her worshipers. It is believed that she may have been worshiped in Palmyra alongside Ba’al. Her temple was destroyed on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Sa’d ibn Zaid al-Ashhali. During the raid, there was a dark-skinned women with unkempt hair that was killed by Sa’d, and Muhammad believed that she was the goddess Manat.

In Islam these goddesses are considered to be “false gods”, as are any deities other than Allah. But in the so-called “Satanic verses”, Muhammad appears to refer to Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as exalted goddesses. The verses, according to the historian Muhammad ibn Jarir Al-Tabari, are as follows:

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá
and Manāt, the third, the other?
These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for.

The word “gharaniq” is usually taken to mean “high-flying cranes”, in case you were wondering. According to Al-Tabari’s account, Satan (or should that be Iblis in this case?) whispered these verses into Muhammad’s ears causing him to endorse veneration of and intercessory prayer to the three goddesses. It is described that afterwards the angel Gabriel tells Muhammad that what he had just recited was not from Allah. Realizing this, Muhammad was overcome with grief and fear of Allah, but finds that Allah sent a revelation upon Muhammad and was merciful. The verses that actually appear in the Quran which mention the goddesses are as follows:

Have you considered El-Lat and El-‘Uzza and Manat the third, the other?… They are naught but names yourselves have named, and your fathers; God has sent down no authority touching them… How many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession avails not anything, save after that God gives leave to whomsoever He wills, and is well-pleased. Those who do not believe in the world to come name the angels with the names of females.

The very idea that Muhammad could be misled by Satan and thus advocate the worship of pagan goddesses is considered blasphemous to many Muslims, considering that they believe Muhammad is the bringer of the word of God, and both are considered to be infallible incapable of error. It’s generally held that the teachings of the Quran are perfect, the final word of Allah (hence the reason orthodox Muslims have a problem with heterodoxy, as shown in their attitude towards the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam), and the idea that Muhammad can be suggestible to falsehood at any one point subverts this notion of perfection. Not to mention the mere idea that Muhammad would ever promote polytheism, when in Islam there is no God but Allah. It’s no wonder, then, that the “satanic verses” are the subject of discussion and debate among Islamic scholars, and often outright denounced as lies by Muslims.

This is why when Salman Rushdie released his novel, The Satanic Verses, in 1988, the novel was accused of being blasphemous, and why in 1989 the then-Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie and called for him to be executed. Because of this, there were quite a few attempts on his life. He survived, but a few of his translators were injured in various attacks and one of them, Hitoshi Igarashi, was killed. And Iran has not forgotten about the fatwa either. In recent years, the Iranian media has been offering generous monetary rewards, upwards of $600,000, for the assassination of Salman Rusdie. Incidentally, the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s novel helped re-ignite the debate among Islamic scholars about the specific verses.

 

Conclusion

These three goddesses exist as a reminder of the pre-Islamic polytheistic past, and evidently a rather embarrassing one for the Islamic faith. So much so, in fact, that the Islamic community has shat itself over a novel written about the verses that were allegedly whispered into Muhammad by Satan, to the point that they place a death fatwa on the author of the novel. But they are also, sadly, relics of an age that Muhammad tried to extirpate from Arabia in order to fulfill the conquest of Islam. And, following in Muhammad’s footsteps, ISIL wages much the same campaign wen they set out striving to erase all that is not Islamic from the world around them, as is shown by how they have destroyed many ancient sites of Middle Eastern cultural heritage over the last few years.

Drinking a veritable tankard of demonic knowledge!

I’ve been attending a series of lectures as part of a demonology conference called Demon Things at Swansea University during the last few days. This conference was specifically about Egyptian demonology, that is to say the study of demons and liminal beings found in ancient Egyptian myth and lore, and there were many speakers who showed up to present papers on various subjects pertaining to this theme (subjects such as the role of demons, liminal deities, donkey-headed deities, the nature of “evil”, the status of the deity Anubis, protective deities/demons at specific archaeological sites, and much more). Due to regular lectures happening at my university (the last before the university closes on Good Friday and we break up for the spring holidays), I unfortunately could not attend the last few lectures this morning, but the lectures I did attend had a lot of information. I’m not sure if I managed to absorb or contain it all, but I learned some interesting things about demons from the Egyptian view, and about demons in general, that will probably inspire a lot, and I think may have inspired plenty of things already.

Demons in ancient Egypt weren’t necessarily like the concept of “demon” that most are familiar with. For most people, demons are hostile and inherently malevolent beings. And demons often could be hostile beings in ancient Egypt, and some may have been malevolent, but in Egypt a lot of them actually served a protective role. In ancient texts demons were held to guard the afterlife against the souls who were not meant to pass through – if you did not have a certain password (for lack of a better word) that the soul would utter at certain points in the journey to the realm of the afterlife, then you would not be allowed to pass through, leading to the total annihilation of the soul. They were often considered liminal beings, due to the fact that they guarded the threshold in the netherworld through the afterlife. For the layfolk in Egypt, they were defenders and played a vital role in their culture. This basically means that they have a generally ambivalent role in Egyptian myth – they were a potential threat to the deceased (or rather, the unjustified dead), but they can be protectors of the living, and in general they already are charged with protecting the underworld from the negative forces. Their role may have been very morally relative – if you knew how to propitiate them in the trials leading to the realm of the afterlife, or if they were invoked as protection, then they could be seen as good, but if you were crossing the netherworld and were unprepared. Often, demons were under the control of deities such as a Ra, Sekhmet, Anubis, and others. Some deities may have been identified as demonic, or demons as deities, like Bes, Tawaret, Tutu, and a deity named Meneh – the last two are identified as master or lord of demons respectively.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons on their feet!

The logo of the Demon Things conference, depicting an example of one of the demons found in Egyptian depictions.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons from their feet!

I realized that the Egyptian notion of demons was largely as ambivalent aggressive/protective beings, and it reminded me this role was actually fairly common in many world cultures before the rise of monotheism. You have in Mesopotamia demons like Pazuzu, who was so powerful that every other demon feared him and so was invoked as protection from other demons. In Tibet, wrathful and/or demonic beings fight and repel negative or evil influence in order to protect the practitioner as well as remove obstacles of spiritual practice and enlightenment. It is similarly true in esoteric forms of Japanese Buddhism. In Bali, the demon queen Rangda is simultaneously seen as an evil and protective force. In Greece, images of chthonic beings like the Gorgons adorn temples in order to ward off evil.

The nature of “evil” was also discussed in one lecture, and within that lecture we got round to discussing the notion of the 42 “judges” that appear in the Book of the Dead, and how they guard the netherworld by feeding off of “evil”; or at least one of them does – a judge named Dwdw=f, who I think may or may not have been a manifestation of Apep.

I was also enticed by a symbol from the Egyptian texts called the Black Ram – an image of something referred to as the “Lord of Power”. It seemed to represent a liminal power, or a hostile power of the netherworld. The ram character may have been connected with a solar being, the liminal state, danger, darkness, hiddenness, injury, and death. There was mention in the same lecture of a Black Sun that appears in the Tomb of Irunefer that devours evil. The ram’s role may have been morally relative just like the other demonic figures, depending on your position in the Egyptian underworld. I have found in that Black Ram a new personal symbol, one that to me at least appears to combine the powers of the sun (and fertility) associated with the ram, with the powers of darkness and the netherworld – it seems to me like a black ram would make for a powerful demonic totem, as the ram symbol gains more personal prominence.

The Black Ram

The Egyptian interpretation of the demons is one that I would definitely mix in with the other interpretations of the demons, even with the modern idea of the demon. When I run this in my head, I envision passionate, mysterious, “dark” spirits, embodying the nether of the human being, and mostly ambivalent, whose aggressive/protective nature in the past makes them seem like rajasic (as in one of the three gunas) and I seem to like that. That a lot of them have animal aspects reminds me that they are animalistic beings – remembering what Anton LaVey commented about the deities that represented the animal in Man, and Michael W. Ford’s talk of demonic deific masks typically being bestial or animal. And who knows, over the centuries the demons may have gone through transitions . When they once served the deities in the heavens, in the modern age those deities are no longer in control, or the heavens have rejected the demons. And now they’re rebellious, chaotic spirits, making their own rules in the absence of divine masters. That may be just the fire of inspiration those lectures set off in me, one that I think makes me appreciate the demons ever more, and because of the way I think of demons I feel more excited about the kind of “animalistic” spiritual path that I prefer to follow – in conjunction with my prior reading of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible.

In my opinion, the lectures were a smash hit and you simply had to be there. But if you missed them, it’s possible that the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project may publish proceedings from the Demon Things conference in due course.