Martin LeFevre: The Devil is Man-made
The Devil is Man-made
“The greatest triumph of the devil in the modern age is convincing people he doesn’t exist.” I don’t remember the author of that memorable quote, but it encapsulates my problem with New Agers, sophisticated secularists, and run-of-the-mill rationalists.
All of us in the West are well acquainted with the Christian view of evil and the devil. God created the angels before man, and they were all good. But the highest archangel, Lucifer, led a rebellion against God. He chafed under heavenly rule, because his ego and pride prohibited him from serving anyone or anything but himself. Lucifer was cast out, along with his followers, and after God made ‘Man,’ the entire entourage began their fight for the souls of men, women, and children on earth.
The Scientific Revolution, and the prematurely named Age of Enlightenment, supplanted this simplistic supernatural story. Prior to World War I, it seemed to many that scientific and technological progress was assured, and that the old shibboleths would be swept away by the victory of reason over the irrational impulses of humans and the childish beliefs of religions.
That faith was shattered by the bloodbath in the trenches of Verdun, although it took Auschwitz and Hiroshima to bring the faith in reason, science, and progress into serious doubt. Even so, believers in the creed of human rationality held on until stateless and state terror combined in the new millennium to produce a perpetual “global war on terror,” and with it, a much more sophisticated and sneaky rise of a fourth and presumably final Reich.
Few would deny the existence of evil anymore, as many did until the New Age turned out to be the same old sh-- and then some. The popular notion in the ‘90’s (even after Rwanda) was that evil could be explained using conventional psychological models. You still hear it sometimes, how evil is an amorphous phenomenon in human consciousness, an impersonal force that has blind momentum. By subtracting intentionality however, the concept of evil loses all meaning.
The denial these days has to do with not the existence of evil, but its nature, purposes, and agents. Those who react to Christian ideology on the subject, and give a superficial psychological explanation for evil, or deny the existence of its intentionality, are spiritually, intellectually, and politically surrendering the field to those who serve the very thing they decry from their gilded or bully pulpits.
So let’s tackle the issue head on. Does the devil exist, and if so, what the hell is it? To take even the first step in this inquiry, it’s necessary to confront one’s primal fear of darkness. Because if evil, which in essence is collective darkness imbued with intentionality, is supernatural, then the Christian view is as good as any. But if, as I maintain, evil is not supernatural, but a byproduct of human consciousness, then a deeper philosophical and psychological explanation is possible. More importantly, if humans subconsciously produce evil over the milllennia, there is no reason to fear it, as long as we are honestly admitting and facing our own fears and flaws.
Human consciousness is not an individualistic thing. Every person in every culture is ‘embedded’ (to use a Pentagon term for compliant and complicit journalists) in all that came before, however new and rewritten their superficial script. People who think of themselves as entities unto themselves, and live through images and ideas fashioned in their own minds, are the most frictionless conduits for collective darkness.
Are there masterminds of darkness? Yes, but they are human things operating through willfully blind humans. So-called demons are weak, pathetic, miserable hairballs in consciousness, fearful only because of our own unseen and unexamined fears. They prey on people’s weaknesses and flaws. But the incredible thing is, if one genuinely admits and learns from one’s own mistakes and failings, one turns the tables on evil, and grows stronger in the ending and understanding of darkness.
The key qualities are humility and doubt. The devil, by whatever name, has neither. It is as certain of its rightness and righteousness as the marionette Bush and all his millionaire preachers preaching to the dead. There is no “battle between good and evil.” Only evil does battle. Good does not battle evil, thought it does stand against it. The good continually learn from evil, and thereby, prevail.
There is another ending for our children to the story we were taught in the Judeo-Christian tradition. After God made all the angels, and then humans, the lowliest angel turned, aghast, to God and said, “Why did you make that?” “One day,” God responded, “that will be my greatest creation.”
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.