Chapter 10 – The Origin and History of the Dogma of Satan (The Devil-Myth)
We leave the historical and esoteric theology for a specialized critique of a specific Christian dogma, and so this chapter stands as a very intricate yet focused theological critique focusing on a dualistic saviour/logos-adversary/tempter perspective, something that she was wont to undertake in later writings such as the well-known “Have Animals Souls?” and this chapter is recast considerably expanded in the Secret Doctrine. Despite the fact the existence of the Devil has faded into disbelief, people are still confronted with the problem of evil as much as ever and subconscious fears have taken on all types of devilish forms in popular culture, so this chapter remains quite relevant.
Such ambitious theological studies have gone out of fashion in more recent times (except among the fundamentalist population), but Jeffrey Burton Russell’s ambitious The Devil Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (1977) has a similar dualistic perspective and the social perspective of Elaine Pagel’s The Origin of Satan (1995) can also be found echoed in Blavatsky as well as the concept that Satan is derived mainly from Jewish Gnosticism.
1- Eternal Damnation / Christian Missionaries (473)
“The Baptist preachers met yesterday in the Mariners’ Chapel, in Oliver Street. Several foreign missionaries were present. The Rev. John W. Sarles, of Brooklyn, read an essay, in which he maintained the proposition that all adult heathen, dying without the knowledge of the Gospel, are damned eternally. Otherwise, the reverend essayist argued, the Gospel is a curse instead of a blessing, the men who crucified Christ served him right, and the whole structure of revealed religion tumbles to the ground. 474
2-Dogma of the existence of Satan (476)
It is a late day for us to expect the Christian clergy to undo and amend their work. They have too much at stake. If the Christian Church should abandon or even modify the dogma of an anthropomorphic devil, it would be like pulling the bottom card from under a castle of cards. The structure would fall. The clergymen to whom we have alluded perceived that upon the relinquishing of Satan as a personal devil, the dogma of Jesus Christ as the second deity in their trinity must go over in the same catastrophe. Incredible, or even horrifying, as it may seem, the Roman Church bases its doctrine of the godhood of Christ entirely upon the satanism of the fallen archangel. We have the testimony of Father Ventura, who proclaims the vital importance of this dogma to the Catholics. 479
3- Biblical Passages (480)
This dogma of the Devil and redemption seems to be based upon two passages in the New Testament: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil.”** “And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the Dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” Let us, then, explore the ancient Theogonies, in order to ascertain what was meant by these remarkable expressions.
The first inquiry is whether the term Devil, as here used, actually represents the malignant Deity of the Christians, or an antagonistic, blind force — the dark side of nature. By the latter we are not to understand the manifestation of any evil principle that is malum in se, but only the shadow of the Light, so to say. The theories of the kabalists treat of it as a force which is antagonistic, but at the same time essential to the vitality, evolving, and vigor of the good principle. Plants would perish in their first stage of existence, if they were kept exposed to a constant sunlight; the night alternating with the day is essential to their healthy growth and development. Goodness, likewise, would speedily cease to be such, were it not alternated by its opposite. In human nature, evil denotes the antagonism of matter to the spiritual, and each is accordingly purified thereby. In the cosmos, the equilibrium must be preserved; the operation of the two contraries produce harmony, like the centripetal and centrifugal forces, and are necessary to each other. If one is arrested, the action of the other will immediately become destructive. 480
4- Serpent-Dragon Pagan Sources (482)
Three and a half centuries before Christ, Plato expressed his opinion of evil by saying that “there is in matter a blind, refractory force, which resists the will of the Great Artificer.” This blind force, under Christian influx, was made to see and become responsible; it was transformed into Satan! 483
His identity with Typhon can scarcely be doubted upon reading the account in Job of his appearance with the sons of God, before the Lord. He accuses Job of a readiness to curse the Lord to his face upon sufficient provocation. So Typhon, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, figures as the accuser. The resemblance extends even to the names, for one of Typhon’s appellations was Seth, or Seph; as Satan, in Hebrew, means an adversary. In Arabic the word is Shatana — to be adverse, to persecute, and Manetho says he had treacherously murdered Osiris and allied himself with the Shemites (the Israelites). This may possibly have originated the fable told by Plutarch, that, from the fight between Horus and Typhon, Typhon, overcome with fright at the mischief he had caused, “fled seven days on an ass, and escaping, begat the boys Ierosolumos and Ioudaios (Jerusalem and Judea).” 483
Referring to an invocation of Typhon-Seth, Professor Reuvens says that the Egyptians worshipped Typhon under the form of an ass; and according to him Seth “appears gradually among the Semites as the background of their religious consciousness.”* The name of the ass in Coptic, AO, is a phonetic of IAO, and hence the animal became a pun-symbol. Thus Satan is a later creation, sprung from the overheated fancy of the Fathers of the Church. By some reverse of fortune, to which the gods are subjected in common with mortals, Typhon-Seth tumbled down from the eminence of the deified son of Adam Kadmon, to the degrading position of a subaltern spirit, a mythical demon — ass. Religious schisms are as little free from the frail pettiness and spiteful feelings of humanity as the partisan quarrels of laymen. We find a strong instance of the above in the case of the Zoroastrian reform, when Magianism separated from the old faith of the Brahmans. The bright Devas of the Veda became, under the religious reform of Zoroaster, daevas, or evil spirits, of the Avesta. Even Indra, the luminous god, was thrust far back into the dark shadow** in order to show off, in a brighter light, Ahura-mazda, the Wise and Supreme Deity. 484
The several tribes and nations had their tutelar gods, and vilified those of inimical peoples. The transformation of Typhon, Satan and Beelzebub are of this character. Indeed, Tertullian speaks of Mithra, the god of the Mysteries, as a devil. 488
But “no Devil, no Christ.” This is the basic dogma of the Church. We must hunt the two together. There is a mysterious connection between the two, more close than perhaps is suspected, amounting to identity. If we collect together the mythical sons of God, all of whom were regarded as “first-begotten,” they will be found dovetailing together and blending in this dual character. Adam Kadmon bifurcates from the spiritual conceptive wisdom into the creative one, which evolves matter. The Adam made from dust is both son of God and Satan; and the latter is also a son of God,* according to Job. 492
5- Job (493)
The Book of Job is a complete representation of ancient initiation, and the trials which generally precede this grandest of all ceremonies. 495″Then Job answered the Lord.” He understood His ways, and his eyes were opened for the first time. The Supreme Wisdom descended upon him; and if the reader remain puzzled before this final PETROMA of initiation, at least Job, or the man “afflicted” in his blindness, then realized the impossibility of catching “Leviathan by putting a hook into his nose.” The Leviathan is OCCULT SCIENCE, on which one can lay his hand, but “do no more,“** whose power and “comely proportion” God wishes not to conceal. 499
It is the luminous Self — the Atman of the Hindus, our immortal spirit, who alone can redeem our soul; and will, if we follow him instead of being dragged down by our body. Therefore, in the Chaldean texts, the above reads, “My deliverer, my restorer,” i.e., the Spirit who will restore the decayed body of man, and transform it into a clothing of ether. And it is this Nous, Augoeides, Ferwer, Aggra, Spirit of himself, that the triumphant Job shall see without his flesh — i.e., when he has escaped from his bodily prison, and that the translators call “God.” 496
6- Demons / Church History (500)
It will be perceived from these extended illustrations that the Satan of the Old Testament, the Diabolos or Devil of the Gospels and Apostolic Epistles, were but the antagonistic principle in matter, necessarily incident to it, and not wicked in the moral sense of the term. The Jews, coming from the Persian country, brought with them the doctrine of two principles. They could not bring the Avesta, for it was not written. But they — we mean the Asidians and Pharsi — invested Ormazd with the secret name of , and Ahriman with the name of the gods of the land, Satan of the Hittites, and Diabolos, or rather Diobolos, of the Greeks. The early Church, at least the Pauline part of it, the Gnostics and their successors, further refined upon their ideas; and the Catholic Church adopted and adapted them, meanwhile putting their promulgators to the sword. 500
But it may be argued, perhaps, that Hindu theology, both Brahmanical and Buddhistic, is as strongly impregnated with belief in objective devils as Christianity itself. There is a slight difference. This very subtlety of the Hindu mind is a sufficient warrant that the well-educated people, the learned portion, at least, of the Brahman and Buddhist divines, consider the Devil in another light. With them the Devil is a metaphysical abstraction, an allegory of necessary evil; while with Christians the myth has become a historical entity, the fundamental stone on which Christianity, with its dogma of redemption, is built. He is as necessary — as Des Mousseaux has shown — to the Church as the beast of the seventeenth chapter of the Apocalypse was to his rider. 502
7- Avatars (503)
Avatars or incarnations were common to the old religions. India had them reduced to a system. The Persians expected Sosiosh, and the Jewish writers looked for a deliverer. Tacitus and Suetonius relate that the East was full of expectation of the Great Personage about the time of Octavius. “Thus doctrines obvious to Christians were the highest arcana of Paganism.”* The Maneros of Plutarch was a child of Palestine;* his mediator Mithras, the Saviour Osiris is the Messiah. 503
Pimander, the Logos, issues from the Infinite Darkness, and covers the earth with clouds which, serpentine-like, spread all over the earth (See Champollion’s Egypte). The Logos is the oldest image of God, and he is the active Logos, says Philo.**** The Father is the Latent Thought.
“I, Wisdom, came out of the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth as a cloud.“*** This idea being universal, we find an identical phraseology to express it, among Pagans, Jews, and early Christians. The Chaldeo-Persian Logos is the Only-Begotten of the Father in the Babylonian cosmogony of Eudemus. “Hymn now, ELI, child of Deus,” begins a Homeric hymn to the sun.***** Sol-Mithra is an “image of the Father,” as the kabalistic Seir-Anpin. 506
8- Sun and Dragon Myths / Hell (506)
That of all the various nations of antiquity, there never was one which believed in a personal devil more than liberal Christians in the nineteenth century, seems hardly credible, and yet such is the sorrowful fact. Neither the Egyptians, whom Porphyry terms “the most learned nation of the world,” ****** nor Greece, its faithful copyist, were ever guilty of such a crowning absurdity. We may add at once that none of them, not even the ancient Jews, believed in hell or an eternal damnation any more than in the Devil, although our Christian churches are so liberal in dealing it out to the heathen. Wherever the word “hell” occurs in the translations of the Hebrew sacred texts, it is unfortunate. The Hebrews were ignorant of such an idea; but yet the gospels contain frequent examples of the same misunderstanding. So, when Jesus is made to say (Matthew xvi. 18) “. . . and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” in the original text it stands “the gates of death.” Never is the word “hell” — as applied to the state of damnation, either temporary or eternal — used in any passage of the Old Testament, all hellists to the contrary, notwithstanding. “Tophet,” or “the Valley of Hinnom” (Isaiah lxvi. 24) bears no such interpretation. The Greek term “Gehenna” has also quite a different meaning, as it has been proved conclusively by more than one competent writer, that “Gehenna” is identical with the Homeric Tartarus. 506
Everything in the external worship of the Buddhists is allegorical and is never otherwise accepted or taught by the educated pungis (pundits). The accusation that they allow, and tacitly agree to leave the poor people steeped in the most degrading superstitions, is not without foundation; but that they enforce such superstitions, we most vehemently deny. And in this they appear to advantage beside our Christian clergy, who (at least those who have not allowed their fanaticism to interfere with their brains), without believing a word of it, yet preach the existence of the Devil, as the personal enemy of a personal God, and the evil genius of mankind. 508
The Logos triumphs once more over the great Dragon; Michael, the luminous archangel, chief of the AEons, conquers Satan.* 509
Like Apollo and other gods, Jesus is killed by his Logos;** he rises again, kills him in his turn, and becomes his master. Can it be that this old symbol has, like the rest of ancient philosophical conceptions, more than one allegorical and never-suspected meaning? The coincidences are too strange to be results of mere chance. 510
9- Descent into Hell / Gospel of Nicodemus (514)
In connection with several of the Pagan deities which are made after death, and before their resurrection to descend into Hell, it will be found useful to compare the pre-Christian with the post-Christian narratives. Orpheus made the journey,*** and Christ was the last of these subterranean travellers. In the Credo of the Apostles, which is divided in twelve sentences or articles, each particular article having been inserted by each particular apostle, according to St. Austin**** the sentence “He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead,” is assigned to Thomas; perhaps, as an atonement for his unbelief. Be it as it may, the sentence is declared a forgery, and there is no evidence “that this creed was either framed by the apostles, or indeed, that it existed as a creed in their time.”514
This god was Herakles, the “Only-Begotten One,” and the Saviour. And it is he who was chosen as a model by the ingenious Fathers. Hercules — called Alexicacos — for he brought round the wicked and converted them to virtue; Soter, or Saviour, also called Neulos Eumelos — the Good Shepherd; Astrochiton, the star-clothed, and the Lord of Fire. “He sought not to subject nations by force but by divine wisdom and persuasion,” says Lucian. “Herakles spread cultivation and a mild religion, and destroyed the doctrine of eternal punishment by dragging Kerberus (the Pagan Devil) from the nether world.” And, as we see, it was Herakles again who liberated Prometheus (the Adam of the pagans), by putting an end to the torture inflicted on him for his transgressions, by descending to the Hades, and going round the Tartarus. Like Christ he appeared as a substitute for the pangs of humanity, by offering himself in a self-sacrifice on a funereal-burning pile. “His voluntary immolation,” says Bart, “betokened the ethereal new birth of men. . . . Through the release of Prometheus, and the erection of altars, we behold in him the mediator between the old and new faiths. . . . He abolished human sacrifice wherever he found it practiced. He descended into the sombre realm of Pluto, as a shade . . . he ascended as a spirit to his father Zeus in Olympus.” 515
10- Israelites and Saturn (523)
El, the Sun-God of the Syrians, the Egyptians, and the Semites, is declared by Pleyte to be no other than Set or Seth, and El is the primeval Saturn — Israel.* Siva is an AEthiopian God, the same as the Chaldean Baal — Bel; thus he is also Saturn. Saturn, El, Seth and Kiyun, or the biblical Chiun of Amos, are all one and the same deity, and may be all regarded in their worst aspect as Typhon the Destroyer. When the religious Pantheon assumed a more definite expression, Typhon was separated from his androgyne — the good deity, and fell into degradation as a brutal unintellectual power.
Such reactions in the religious feelings of a nation were not unfrequent. The Jews had worshipped Baal or Moloch, the Sun-God Hercules,** in their early days — if they had any days at all earlier than the Persians or Maccabees — and then made their prophets denounce them. On the other hand, the characteristics of the Mosaic Jehovah exhibit more of the moral disposition of Siva than of a benevolent, “long-suffering” God. Besides, to be identified with Siva is no small compliment, for the latter is God of wisdom. Wilkinson depicts him as the most intellectual of the Hindu gods. He is three-eyed, and, like Jehovah, terrible in his resistless revenge and wrath. And, although the Destroyer, “yet he is the re-creator of all things in perfect wisdom.”*** He is the type of St. Augustine’s God who “prepares hell for pryers into his mysteries,” and insists on trying human reason as well as common sense by forcing mankind to view with equal reverence his good and evil acts. 524
11- Judaism and Christian Theology (525)
The question may be more than easily answered. The law of Moses, and the so-called monotheism of the Jews, can hardly be said to have been more than two or three centuries older than Christianity. The Pentateuch itself, we are able to show, was written and revised upon this “new departure,” at a period subsequent to the colonization of Judea under the authority of the kings of Persia. The Christian Fathers, in their eagerness to make their new system dovetail with Judaism, and so avoid Paganism, unconsciously shunned Scylla only to be caught in the whirlpool of Charybdis. Under the monotheistic stucco of Judaism was unearthed the same familiar mythology of Paganism. But we should not regard the Israelites with less favor for having had a Moloch and being like the natives. Nor should we compel the Jews to do penance for their fathers. They had their prophets and their law, and were satisfied with them. How faithfully and nobly they have stood by their ancestral faith under the most diabolical persecutions, the present remains of a once-glorious people bear witness. The Christian world has been in a state of convulsion from the first to the present century; it has been cleft into thousands of sects; but the Jews remain substantially united. Even their differences of opinion do not destroy their unity. 526
The boasted wide gap between Christianity and Judaism, that is claimed on the authority of Paul, exists but in the imagination of the pious. We are nought but the inheritors of the intolerant Israelites of ancient days; not the Hebrews of the time of Herod and the Roman dominion, who, with all their faults, kept strictly orthodox and monotheistic, but the Jews who, under the name of Jehovah-Nissi, worshipped Bacchus-Osiris, Dio-Nysos, the multiform Jove of Nyssa, the Sinai of Moses. The kabalistic demons — allegories of the profoundest meaning — were adopted as objective entities, and a Satanic hierarchy carefully drawn by the orthodox demonologists. 526
12- Bacchus (527)
True to the exclamation of David, paraphrased in King James’ Version as “all the gods of the nations are idols,” i.e., devils, Bacchus or the “first-born” or the Orphic theogony, the Monogenes, or “only-begotten” of Father Zeus and Kore, was transformed, with the rest of the ancient myths, into a devil. By such a degradation, the Fathers, whose pious zeal could only be surpassed by their ignorance, have unwittingly furnished evidence against themselves. They have, with their own hands, paved the way for many a future solution, and greatly helped modern students of the science of religions.
It was in the Bacchus-myth that lay concealed for long and dreary centuries both the future vindication of the reviled “gods of the nations,” and the last clew to the enigma of Jehovah. The strange duality of Divine and mortal characteristics, so conspicuous in the Sinaitic Deity, begins to yield its mystery before the untiring inquiry of the age. One of the latest contributions we find in a short but highly-important paper in the Evolution, a periodical of New York, the closing paragraph of which throws a flood of light on Bacchus, the Jove of Nysa, who was worshipped by the Israelites as Jehovah of Sinai.
“Such was the Jove of Nysa to his worshippers,” concludes the author. “He represented to them alike the world of nature and the world of thought. He was the ‘Sun of righteousness, with healing on his wings,’ and he not only brought joy to mortals, but opened to them hope beyond mortality of immortal life. Born of a human mother, he raised her from the world of death to the supernal air, to be revered and worshipped. At once lord of all worlds, he was in them all alike the Saviour. 528