Lucifer will always be a headache for the Christians and their Devil.
— Edward George Barlow/Krause
I’m only beginning to understand this subject, so please feel free to educate me. Angels are still confusing for me, and this one is all the more so. He may seem like an odd thing to write about in the season of Easter, but please bear with me and see that it makes perfect sense. No doubt some will urge me to repent and realize that Satan is only using me for his own nefarious ends etc. etc.
Simply because it was placed directly after the recent reboot of The X-Files, I fell into watching the new TV series Lucifer, and was immediately hooked in. It turned out to be far deeper than its snark-laced previews suggested, age-old philosophy and mythology wrapped in a police procedural comedy-drama (which is a little bit of a strange concept in itself). Here’s what I’m talking about:
The idea is that Lucifer has had it with ruling Hell after eons in that role, which he never wanted in the first place; he complains that his Father, with whom he has an exceedingly fraught relationship, forced him to become a torturer. He’s vacationing in Los Angeles, running a nightclub, Lux, where he plays the piano and sings. (Wait a minute— isn’t the devil supposed to play the fiddle? But of course the piano thing grabbed me right away.) He meets an LAPD detective, Chloe, who is the only person able to resist his charms and temptations, which makes her irresistible to him. Since punishing wrongdoers has been his job all this time, he’s vitally interested in helping her catch her prey, but more and more we see that what he wants is not merely punishment but justice. (He never makes anyone do evil— he simply teases out their deepest desires and they take it from there.)
Throughout his existence Lucifer has been completely self-centered, and during the last few years in LA he’s been living superficially as a hedonistic playboy, but he’s reached a point where he longs to become something more, and he has very little idea of what that might be or how it can be achieved. The ultimate bad boy character is trying, haltingly, to be good. He’s even seeing a psychologist in an attempt to figure it all out.
But here’s what pulled me in above all: In one episode, something crucially important is stolen from Lucifer, and he will stop at nothing to get it back. It turns out that the stolen item is the storage container holding and hiding his wings, which he had cut off, leaving huge scars, when he took up residence on Earth. You have a mental image of the devil’s wings, right? Well, these aren’t them. They’re gloriously feathery, gigantically widespread, brilliantly white angel wings. Because Lucifer, of course, was the brightest of the angels— and at some level he still is.
Not having read the comic books on which the series is based, I didn’t see this coming. (I also didn’t know that the graphic-version Lucifer is blond, quite unlike the one on TV, and intended to resemble David Bowie.)
I don’t know how the wings were handled there, but in this case, when Lucifer regains them, he burns them to nothing, so that they can never be used to pull him back either to Hell or to Heaven. He throws in his lot entirely with humanity. He doesn’t know that his demon companion, Mazikeen, has saved one brilliant feather.
What did the wondrous white wings have to do with me? I thought and thought about why this image had affected me so intensely. At last it struck me. In early 2009, after a dire experience in which I was badly harmed by an energetic onslaught from a patient, I cast about for a more effective way to protect myself, and I asked for help from every source I could access. The form that the protection took was dramatic and surprising: I found myself, in my mind’s eye and in the sensations around my body, turning into a beautiful golden angel with exactly that kind of amazing white wings spreading from my shoulders. That sounds like almost Lucifer-level hubris, doesn’t it? And maybe crazier than most of what you’ve read here in the past. But it’s what happened, spontaneously, and some of my patients even perceived the angel image themselves. I felt far less vulnerable in “angel mode,” and I was able to keep working as a healer, which had been very much in doubt.
There is also a strong theme of ascension, transformation, and renewal in the Lucifer story, and that is the connection with this time of year. I have been struggling with a nasty respiratory illness for over two months, with improvement but no end in sight, and I have felt at times that I was brought low and had even lost touch with my most fundamental abilities. At one point, while doing energy work with a patient and feeling challenged, I tried to access “angel mode,” and found that all I could manage was to sputter out a pair of tiny, pathetic cherub wings! While meditating and doing my best to put myself in a state of healing, though, I’ve had some ecstatic inner experiences of expansion and upward flight, transcending my compromised body. I know that possibility is always there.
In reaction to all this, and before any research about the Lucifer archetype and the web of stories around him, a poem bubbled up, my first substantial poem in far too long:
Lucifer in Exile
I am unreal here, at least they say
but I am solid and that pleases me.
You may ask why I tore away
the feathered signs of my true nature
to live four-limbed in this world:
It is easier to lie upon the ground without them,
easier for arms to encircle me,
better to know I cannot be pulled back.
It was never my own realm below;
I was imprisoned there as much as any.
It was decreed for me without recourse.
No one was willing to own darkness forever
but there must be balance always,
so I, the brightest, became infinitely dark.
In all that time
no one spoke with me.
In all that time
no one asked who I was
or will be or would be,
no one brought anything out of me,
heard my thoughts or saw my beauty,
allowed anything other than their expectations.
I could not sing there,
to console myself or anyone,
since music is born of heaven.
(How I sang in those old days,
raptures in the eternal light,
shining in the center of it….
Now I sound the narrowest sliver
of that celestial spectrum.)
Around me these heavy encasements
thudding on the pavement
I know what lives in them,
see it, call to it, am drawn,
knowing light like no one else.
None of them know the secret—
that each is like me.
Oh, Controller of all,
without choice there is no good or evil.
Refuse me my choice, I refuse yours.
The Other took my place in heaven.
I will redeem here, in rock,
each bone, each eye.
I bear the light still.
Neil Gaiman, we’re told, based his comic-book Lucifer on Milton’s depiction in Paradise Lost. I’m afraid I’ve never read Milton, but I had absorbed Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil, in which Memnoch/Satan relentlessly opposes what he sees as God’s cruel treatment of humanity, setting himself up as our champion. Both authors use the character of the devil to explore the Problem of Evil: how can a good, just, and loving God permit His creations to suffer so? Both of them attempt to prove that God really does have a Plan and that it all makes sense, though I am not sure that either manages to be entirely convincing.
Lucifer is the perfect vehicle for exploring the Problem of Free Will, as well. Lucifer, the primordial Prodigal Son, rebels against his Father, but didn’t God see that coming and plan for it all along?
“The theme of the Lucifer series revolves around the free-will problem. Carey’s Lucifer is a figure representing will and individual willpower, who challenges the ‘tyranny of predestination.’ While in Heaven’s eyes this is blasphemy, Lucifer points out that the rebellion (and indeed all sin) and damnation as consequence were pre-planned by his Creator, God. Lucifer rejects God’s rule and moral philosophy as tyrannical and unjust. The violent, aggressive, totalitarian, vengeful, and dictatorial aspects of Heaven’s rule are represented mostly by the Angel Amenadiel, who has a particular hatred of Lucifer and leads attacks of various kinds against him. The attacks include verbal criticism, marshaling the host of Heaven, as well as challenging him to individual combat— almost all of it without the slightest care for the countless innocent, unwilling and unwitting victims he is more than willing to sacrifice for his own pride. For his part, Lucifer disdains Amenadiel, treating the latter’s emotional outbursts with contempt, and repeatedly defeats Amenadiel’s assaults with well-orchestrated, hidden plans. Ironically, however, it is often difficult to discern when Lucifer acts as a slave to predestination and when he effectively acts according to his own free will.”
I never believed in the devil, and I never gave a thought to his original form as Lucifer. But maybe I should have thought further. As I said, I’m still confused about what angels “really are,” but Michael is a reality to me. Raphael and Gabriel are less so, but still familiar. Perhaps Lucifer has some sort of objective reality of his own? I doubt it, but it seems worth asking. In any case, these powerful, ancient archetypes are quite real on a psychological level and must be taken into account that way at least.
Since I was thinking of Lucifer as an archetype, I went to see what Carl Jung might have said about him. There’s quite a bit, and since it’s long, I’ve appended what I found to the end of this post. It had never occurred to me, from casual references, that the image of Lucifer would have anything in common with that of Christ, but the connection does present itself after a little thought. Jung wrote: “Hence very early, in Clement of Rome, we meet with the conception of Christ as the right hand and the devil as the left hand of God, not to speak of the Judaeo-Christian view which recognized two sons of God, Satan the elder and Christ the younger.” I haven’t yet made sense of the relationship between them, but it seems like there is something important to be found in it, and that the balance is necessary.
Lucifer’s crime is supposed to have been that he tried to set himself as equal to God— yet a large part of the message of Christ is that we are all children of God and partake of His nature, which adds up to something very similar, though it is free of the fatal pride and rebelliousness. Jut as I was starting on this post, one arrived from Michael Cocks, with quotes from Albuquerque’s Franciscan philosopher Fr. Richard Rohr. This made a nice synchronicity– a favorite phenomenon of Rev. Cocks:
“I find that many Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (e.g., 1 John 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4), which all mystics rejoice in or they would not be mystics. Even ministers often fight me on this, quoting Augustine’s “original sin,” Calvin’s “total depravity,” or dear Luther’s “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” I am sure they all meant well, but they also dug a pit so deep that many could never climb out or allow themselves to be lifted out. What a shame, literally! Such a negative starting point will not be very effective in creating loving or responsive people.”
“God teaches the soul most profoundly through darkness—and not just light! We only need enough light to be able to trust the darkness. Trials and darkness teach us how to trust in a very practical way that a good God is guiding us. I don’t need to be perfectly certain before I take the next step. Now I can trust that even my mistakes will be used in my favor, if I allow them to be. This is a wonderful way to grow in human love too, by the way. Darkness, mistakes, and trials are the supreme teachers. Success really teaches you nothing; it just feels good.”
Are we fundamentally and irrevocably flawed beings, or are we infinitely bright spirits who have temporarily forgotten our origin? Perhaps, in the striving to rise from darkness, Lucifer models a kind of redemption from below, the necessity for us to participate in the transformation of our “fallen” selves. This opens another theological can of worms, which I’d rather not try to gather up just now….
More from Jung and others:
‘Is evil (and the Devil, for that matter) an outside force that descends suddenly from the sky like a bolt of lightning to burn your house down, or does it come purely from within? The answer may seem clear-cut to a modern reader, quick to blame the idiot who offered his soul up in the first place, but the alternative bears some contemplation. Famine, poverty, disease, even natural death: can any individual truly claim control over their life circumstances? Inevitably, the Devil’s true nature circles back to the concept of free will.
‘In Islam, Shaytan was granted by Allah very limited power over the world of men, the ability to whisper evil ideas into their ears and hearts. To some, the Devil is a physical, exterior force, like a hurricane or a tornado. He might curse an individual with bad luck, or send a messenger to cause harm in the form of a black cat, or a witch. But the Islamic theology suggests that the Devil is merely provoking a force that is already in place within mankind himself.
‘Famed psychologist Carl Jung once noted:
‘How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright day-world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious? (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 187)
‘And remember the good advice of Martin Luther this October: “Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing… We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
I will Martin Luther, I will.’
‘I do not wish to multiply examples needlessly, but only to make it clear that the figure of Satan, too, has undergone a curious development, from the time of his first undistinguished appearance in the Old Testament texts to his heyday in Christianity.
‘He achieved notoriety as the personification of the adversary or principle of evil, though by no means for the first time, as we meet him centuries earlier in the ancient Egyptian Set and the Persian Ahriman. Persian influences have been conjectured as mainly responsible for the Christian devil.
‘But the real reason for the differentiation of this figure lies in the conception of God as the summum bonum, which stands in sharp contrast to the Old Testament view and which, for reasons of psychic balance, inevitably requires the existence of a “lowest evil”. No logical reasons are needed for this, only the natural and unconscious striving for balance and symmetry.
‘Hence very early, in Clement of Rome, we meet with the conception of Christ as the right hand and the devil as the left hand of God, not to speak of the Judaeo-Christian view which recognized two sons of God, Satan the elder and Christ the younger.
‘The figure of the devil then rose to such exalted metaphysical heights that he had to be forcibly depotentiated, under the threatening influence of Manichaeism. The depotentiation was effected this time by rationalistic reflection, by a regular tour de force of sophistry which defined evil as a privatio boni.
‘But that did nothing to stop the belief from arising in many parts of Europe during the eleventh century, mainly under the influence of the Catharists, that it was not God but the devil who had created the world.
‘In this way the archetype of the imperfect demiurge, who had enjoyed official recognition in Gnosticism, reappeared in altered guise. (The corresponding archetype is probably to be found in the cosmogonic jester of primitive peoples.)
‘With the extermination of the heretics that dragged on into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, an uneasy calm ensued, but the Reformation thrust the figure of Satan once more into the foreground. I would only mention Jakob Bohme, who sketched a picture of evil which leaves the privatio boni pale by comparison.
‘The same can be said of Milton. He inhabits the same mental climate. As for Bohme, although he was not a direct descendant of alchemical philosophy, whose importance is still grossly underrated today, he certainly took over a number of its leading ideas, among them the specific recognition of Satan, who was exalted to a cosmic figure of first rank in Milton, even emancipating himself from his subordinate role as the left hand of God (the role assigned to him by Clement).
‘Milton goes even further than Bohme and apostrophizes the devil as the true principium individuationis, a concept which had been anticipated by the alchemists some time before.
‘To mention only one example: (He rises from earth to heaven and descends again to earth, and receives into himself the power of above and below. Thus thou wilt have the glory of the whole world.) The quotation comes from the famous alchemical classic, the Tabula Smaragdina, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, whose authority remained unchallenged for more than thirteen centuries of alchemical thought.
His words refer not to Satan, but to the filius philosophorum, whose symbolism, as I believe I have shown, coincides with that of the psychological “self.”
‘The “filius” of the alchemists is one of the numerous manifestations of Mercurius, who is called “duplex” and “ambiguous” and is also known outside alchemy as “capable of anything”. His “dark” half has an obvious affinity with Lucifer. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Forward to Werblowsky’s “Lucifer and Prometheus,” Pages 312-314, Paragraph 470.’
The self-appointed arbiters of “Christian” morality started yelling about boycotting sponsors of Lucifer long before it premiered; they had little idea what it was really about and were objecting to the concept of Lucifer being portrayed as a misunderstood good guy.
Edward George Barlow/Krause, quoted at the top of this post, has a compendium of theosophical thought on this site, which I am neither recommending nor warning against.