Sympathy For The Devil

Here's an excerpt from Time magazine (December 27, 1993, page 60):

Can creatures who can appear soft and cherubic be capable of evil? Those who say they travel with angels are loath to admit it. "Reports of evil angels are legion," acknowledges Eileen Freeman, publisher of the newsletter AngelWatch, but she says, "I refuse to give them any free publicity." Only last week in Binghamton, New York, court, a man pleading "not responsible" claimed that an angel had told him to molest the five-year-old boy he was babysitting. No less an authority than St. Paul warned the faithful, in his second letter to the Corinthians, that Satan could be "transformed into an angel of light." [I looked it up; It's II Corinthians 11:14] For Satan was once an angel--- indeed, one of the most exalted as well as the most complex and the most human.

The celestial being who would become Satan had many names in heaven. Most of the Western tradition identifies him as Lucifer, the Morning Star, the most brilliant of all the denizens of the empyrean. He is Sammael, according to the rabbinical literature of the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., highest of those who flit around the throne of God, created above the seraphim and distinguished from the others by the fact that he possessed twice the maximum allotment of wings: 12. To Muslims, he is Iblis, a word perhaps derived from the Greek diabolos, the proudest of all God's creatures. And it was pride that would lead to Satan's rebellion and eventual expulsion from heaven. But even in the depths of hell, he retained an awe-inspiring dignity. In the words of Milton's Paradise Lost, "With grave aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed a pillar of state... princely counsel in his face yet shone, majestic through in ruin."

It is that irrepressible pride that has given the chief of the fallen angels such power to tempt humankind. If humankind was created just a little lower than the angels, what are we to make of an angel who has failed? Is he then not just like us- yet immortally so? For poets like Milton, Satan was the archetypal antihero, the rebel waging eternal guerrilla warfare against his Creator. "To reign is worth ambition though in hell: Better to reign in hell than serve in heav'n." Indeed, to som, Satan even provides lessons in piety. The Sufis, the mystics of Islam, imagined that the pride of Iblis may have been blind ideological purity, a supremely flawed political correctness. According to one account, when he was asked to bow before Adam, God's newest and best-beloved creation, Iblis refused. "There is only one God," he declared, "and I will make obeisance only to Him." More of a monotheist than God himself, Iblis was banished from Heaven.

Christian legends are different. Lucifer vaingloriously sought to overturn the regime in heaven and waged war against God's loyalists. Defeated by the Archangel Michael, the angel who would be God was cast into his inferno, to brood in darkness, "hatching vain empires." With him went about a third of the heavenly host, a horde of fallen angels.

As late as the sixth century A.D., in a mosaic in Ravenna depicting the Last Judgement, the devil was still portrayed as a haloed, winged being, standing at the left hand of Christ. Satan is dressed in blue, not red, robes. (Red was the color of the upper ether, closest to God, from which Satan was expelled; blue, the color of the closest heaven humankind could see.) By the Middle Ages, however, Satan had become a beast. His horns and hooves came from his commingling with beliefs banished by a victorious Christianity. The devil's appurtenances derive from the great Greek god Pan- half-man, half-goat- and from association with the cult of the forest deity Cernunnos of northern Europe. Relegated to the shadows, the pagan gods were absorbed by the master of darkness, the demigod on the margins.

There is no possibility of redemption for Satan and his minions. Unlike Adam and Eve, the fallen angels were not tempted to sin but chose it out of untrammeled free will. They have no excuse for disobedience. And as the ages roll, heaven grows further away. "Which way I fly is hell; I myself am hell," Satan moans in Paradise Lost. Even in majestic ruin, Satan is certain only of the dark path he is doomed to pursue with seraphic fortitude. "Farewell remorse," says the angel who can no longer look homeward to heaven. "All good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my good." --- by Howard G. Chua-Eoan. Reported by Sam Allis/Boston.

Here's some poll data _Time_ took for this report:

Do you believe in the existence of angels?

     Yes...                                    69%
     No...                                     25%

  Do you believe you have your own guardian angel?

     Yes...                                    46%
     No...                                     21%

  Which best describes what you believe angels to be?

     Higher spiritual beings created by
     God with special powers to act as his
     agents on earth...                        55%

     The spirits of people who have died...    15%

     An important religious idea but merely
     symbolic...                               18%

     Figments of the imagination...             7%

     Have you personally felt an angelic presence in your life?

     Yes...                                    32%
     No...                                     35%

  Do you believe in the existance of fallen angels, or devils?

     Yes...                                    49%
     No...                                     45%

(From a telephone call of 500 adult Americans taken from Time/CNN on Dec. 2 [1993] by Yankelovich Partners Inc. Sampling error is ~4.5%. "Not sures" ommited.)
Here's some general knowledge from Edith Hamilton's Mythology. If you want the actual stuff, I can get it to you. (page 40, "Part One: The Gods, The Creation, and the Earliest Heroes" section one, "The Gods")

Pan was the chief. He was Hermes' son; a noisy, merry god, the Homeric Hymn in his honor calls him; but he was part animal too, with a goat's horns, and goat's hoofs instead of feet. He was the goatherd's god, and the shepherds' god, and also the gay companion of the woodland nymphs when they danced. All wild places were his home, thickets and forests and mountains, but best of all he loved Arcady, where he was born. He was a wonderful musician. Upon his pipes of reed he played melodies as sweet as the nightingale's song. He was always in love with one nymph or another, but always rejected because of his uglyness.

Sounds heard in a wilderness at night by the trembling traveler were supposed to be made by him, so that it is easy to see how the expression "panic" fear arose.

Also, I scoured the OT over and couldn't find anything on Satan's (Lucifer's) descent from heaven. As far as I know, it's just Christian myth.. er.. heresay. (after all, it's all myth)

Chris Ferree