THE DEVIL—WHO IS HE?
[Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 14, October, 1888, pp. 170-71]
Mr. Thomas May (under the above title) tells your readers in the September number of LUCIFER that, with the accumulation of centuries, a very Gordian knot of theological confusion, contradictions and contrarieties, has been made, which has caused an unedifying intermingling of the attributes of “the Supreme,” and that he, Mr. Thomas May, can cut this knot in a moment, by simply telling your readers that the Devil and Jesus, or the Devil and God, are one and the same Supreme being or person, only seen under different aspects at different periods of time. (1)
And with this simple statement that two contradictory ideas have only one and the same supreme being or person for their origin, Mr. May seems to imagine that he has at once removed all the theological confusion, contradictions and contrarieties, which for centuries have accumulated and perplexed mankind respecting Jesus and the Devil, God and Satan, good and evil.
But when it is conceded to Mr. May that there is but one Supreme being or person: it yet remains to be determined, revealed, or understood what “the Supreme” is and whether “the Supreme” is good, or evil.
Mr. May in his letter would seem to imply that “the Supreme” is both evil and good, in like manner as a period of 24 hours, which we call a day, is partly light and partly dark. (2)
But then this dark period of the day, which we call night, is not evil, but, on the contrary, it is a period of beneficial rest for recruiting and renewing the strength of our bodies in sleep.
And it is possible that Mr. May might also say that what is commonly called evil is also not evil, but is only a course of educational training which is highly beneficial for our spiritual growth and strength.
But when good and evil are thus intermingled as being one and the same, the danger immediately arises of creating theological confusion, contradictions and contrarieties. And I do not learn from Mr. May’s letter that he has avoided this religious difficulty (3), but that he has himself created it, by speaking of good and evil as being one and the same.
For although Isaiah tells us that God alone is the Supreme Creator both of good and evil, yet it is only in a corrective sense, as a Father would correct his Child, that Isaiah intends to speak of God as creating evil; because the whole burden of Isaiah’s writing is to reproach those who called the good evil, the evil good, and the doing of evil doing good.
And it is because this intermingling of God and the Devil, and of good and evil, as being one and the same, made it such a complicated question, that therefore the Scriptures were written in order to make manifest what is good and what is evil. (4) And in the Scriptures it is recorded that so great had become the power of those who made the Word of God of no effect by their evil traditions that they conspired to betray “the Son of Man,” who would reconcile the ways of God as being good and not evil, to be crucified as a devil.
And it is the true lesson which is to be learnt (when freedom in the Church can be obtained to teach it) from the Crucifixion of “the Son of Man,” which can alone remove the religious difficulty which disturbs both the Christian and the Jewish World: because it is not true, as Mr. May asserts, that good and evil, or Jesus and the Devil, are one and the same. (5)
REV. T. G. HEADLEY.
Manor House, Petersham, S.W.
(1) This idea is not original with Mr. May. Lactantius, one of the Fathers of the Church, expressed it in no equivocal language, for he states that the “Word” (or Logos) is the first-born brother of Satan” (Vide Divinarum
Institutionum Libri Septem, Book II, ch. ix); * for Satan is “a Son of God” (Vide Job, ii, i).
(2) The “Supreme,” if IT is infinite and omnipresent cannot be anything but that. IT must be “good and evil,” “light and darkness,” etc., for if it is omnipresent it has to be present in a vessel of dishonour as well as in one of honour, in an atom of dirt as in the atom of the purest essence. The whole trouble is that theology and the (even militant) clergy are not consistent in their claims they would force people to believe in an infinite and absolute deity, and dwarf this deity at the same time by making of it a personal being with attributes, a double claim mutually destructive, and as absurd philosophically, as it is grotesque and soul-killing.
(3) The fact then that showing good and evil intermingled in the deity creates “religious difficulty,” i.e., “theological confusion,” is the fault of and rests with the clergy and theology, and not at all with Mr. May. Let them drop their idea of a personal god with human attributes, and the difficulty will disappear.
(4) The Scriptures were written to conceal the underlying allegories of cosmogonical and anthropological mysteries, and not at all “to make manifest what is good and what is evil.” If our respected and reverend Correspondent accepts Eden and the apple au sérieux, then why should he not accept “Crucifixion,” as taught by his church, also? “To be crucified as a devil” is a queer phrase. We have heard of several “Sons of God” crucified, but never yet of one single devil. On the other hand, if Christians accepted, as seriously as they do the “apple and the rib,” the simple and impressive words of their Christ on the Mount, who says: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake,”—then they would abstain from reviling and persecuting and saying all manner of evil against the poor Devil; who, if he is to be regarded as a personality,
* [Only implied, not definitely stated.—Compiler.]
is sure to “blessed,” as no one from the beginning of Christianity has ever been more reviled and falsely persecuted than was that scapegoat for the sins of man! Finally:
(5) If one takes “good and Evil, or Jesus and the Devil,” for personalities, then as no personality from the beginning of the world was free from evil, Mr. May's proposition must prove correct and the Reverend Mr. Headley be shown in a vicious circle of his own making. Demon est Deus inversus is said of a manifested, differentiated deity, or of the Universe of Matter. That which is Absolute cannot even be homogeneous, it is Ain—nothing, or No-thing; and if men of finite intellects will insist upon speculating upon the infinite, and therefore to them unreachable and incomprehensible, otherwise than as a necessary philosophical postulate, then they must expect to be worsted by that same philosophy.