and the Devil
shall appear. So goes the saying, and the saying is true
I originally picked up The Origin of Satan because I wanted to know the lucifer story, where he came from, how he was regarded in different cultures. This, however, is not what Elaine Pagels was writing about. Instead, her point was about how the Devil came to be so important, how the monotheistic proto-christianity quickly elevated (and mushed together) the Adversery of Job, the fallen angel Lucifer, and the snake of Eden into the ultimate figure of Fear and Worship that is The Devil -- the embodiment of ultimate evil, and nearly another God himself.
So I put the book down and didn't give it a second thought, at least until I was taking a course on the Formation of Christian Identity and it was a choice for a book to read and report on -- to save reading time for the class as a whole.
The entire course was about how the core of christianity, the elements that won out over the thousands of other sects struggling for recognition, did it largely by distancing themselves from the proximate other, that is, those other religious belief systems that were closest to them; by naming exactly what they were not, they could show themselves exactly what they were.
And thus Pagel's book was exactly in line with the course. People invoked the name of Satan to show those that were close to them, but were not quite them, and thus the smallest of sins became the most evil. First, it was the Jews, then the Arions and the Gnostics and so on, each belief that differed from the core cut out with the knife of Heresy, the knife that was Satan.
The thing is, if you read your Gospels you find Jesus preaching a message of love and acceptance.
Life has given me my own interpretation of love: accepting something as part of your own being, as part of your own definition of self. Whether it is your wife or your boyfriend, your house, your car, your country and religion, or even your own body, when you feel something else's pain as your own, when something else's well being is felt as your own well-being, it is, on some level, a form of love.
The golden rule, the message of Jesus' gospels and the core principle of a thousand other religions, tells us to accept others as part of ourselves, to make their pain our pain and to try to understand them. Not to try to change them, distance them from ourselves, and to impose our own being on them and obliterate what made them unique.
This, however, was exactly what Satan evolved to become. To distance people from each other, to put a curtain between individuals that could become a unity. He did it in the garden of eden as the serpent, making a rift between mankind and the world around him, he did it in the story of Job, trying to distance Job from God himself.
By invoking the name of Satan ever against another person, by thinking another person to be evil, and for her evil to set her apart from ourselves, we invite Satan into our hearts. Even when a person commits evil acts, even when they show that they themselves have no compassion and set them apart from the environment, our attempts to distance them from ourselves only further the influence of the adeversery in the world, and serve only to drive us apart.
Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear.