From the May, 1979 issue of High Times comes Glenn O’Brien’s sweeping survey of Satan himself.
The Devil as he is known today comes out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Not that he’s a Jew or a Christian, or even their “opposites.” But that’s where he was first spotted. He was developed and marketed by Judeo-Christians in much the same way that they first handled today’s God. Before Judeo-Christianity covered the globe, the divinity market was rife with smalltime operators, gods who specialized, doing a great job in a modest sphere.
Though they were gods, they weren’t strictly “good” or “bad.” They were generally a mixture of both. That made them interesting. When they were good, they were very, very good. But when they were bad, head for the caves. At any rate, heaven was not exclusive turf, not virgin either. There was still room for expansion and profit. It was still possible for a new operator to move in and carve out a piece of the action.
Polytheism was everywhere. But that doesn’t mean that there was no idea of One God. Almost everywhere the gods were, there was the idea of One God, an ultimate deity. But this God was regarded as so abstract, unknowable and even irrelevant to our petty learning problems as to require some divine intermediaries who themselves had to answer to some higher logic.
Anyway, as time went by and planets got more crowded and civs bumped into and often destroyed one another, heaven tended to get mixed up a lot. Gods got into deadly competition. There was war in heaven.
Chaos. It was the perfect opportunity for someone to move in and organize things. Basically, what Judeo-Christianity did was organize heaven as a conglomerate. One by one the old deities’ individual territories were taken over by the One God Syndicate. Sometimes the old gods were allowed to stay on and run their old territory, but they were demoted to sainthood and honored only in the measure of their devotion to the Boss. As long as they were good.
If they were bad, of course, they would become devils. For as soon as there was only one God there had to be a Devil to blame all the mistakes on.
But the odd thing is that the Devil really doesn’t have much of a history. He seems almost a conglomerate invention.
The Jews are not really into the Devil, unless he’s personified.
And by checking our biblical sources we find that the Devil isn’t really the horror we think of until sometime after Christ.
The greatness of the true form of the Jewish religion was that its One God delivered man from the confusion of the gods. This form of religion probably occurs naturally when men have forgotten that, as Blake put it, “all deities reside within the human breast.”
Old-Time Jewish Prophets, at their best, and later Jesus & Company, humanized the heavens. But at worst their organizations reinstilled a reign of terror. Often with the help of the opposition. When God took over the gods, room was made for some old-timers in the new organization. But the others were put in the pits. Their old ways didn’t fit. Some were worked in. Norse gods got Santa Claus jobs celebrating Jesus’ birthday. But others were pegged as devils and had to hide for their lives.
It wasn’t always that way. You’re hard pressed to find a real Devil in the Old Testament. Usually the villains are men, and sometimes God himself seems less than nice.
The only Old Testament passage dealing with Satan as a personality occurs in the highly theatrical Book of Job. The Sons of God go to see the Lord, and who shows up but Satan. The Lord is surprised to see Satan and says, “Whence comest thou?” or, “Where did you come from?” Satan says, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” or, “I’ve been around.” So they’ve never seen each other before, right?
The first thing God says is: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth Evil?” A great opening line, no? God is tempting Satan, showing off, but not only that, he’s doing it with someone who is on his side as bait, someone who loves him. A pretty mean trick for a pal!
Satan picks up on this and says, “Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hath blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Or: “You set the guy up and now he’s doing great. He hasn’t got a problem in the world. But a couple of setbacks and he’ll want out.”
God is miffed and winds up ranting that Job is in his power and Satan had better keep hands off. If this was a sincere statement, God must have been pretty naive— sounds more like a little reverse psychology.
So anyway. Job is sitting around one day, partying and feasting and drinking wine, when all of a sudden it’s Hellzapoppin. First the Sabeans fall on the oxen and asses, rip them off, and slay the servants. Then the Fire of God falls from heaven, barbecuing the sheep and shepherds. Then the Chaldeans fall upon the camels and, yea, carry them away, knifing the camel drivers. And then Job’s sons and daughters are partying at the home of the eldest when—zap—it gets hit with a twister and Job is deprogenated.
Now all this time we don’t know who’s doing this shit. Then Satan shows up at God’s place again.
“Where you been?”
“Did you check out Job? There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil. He’s still in my corner, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
Check it out: It wasn’t Satan who hit Job. It was his pal God! Just because Satan dared him. But Satan remains cool.
“Skin for skin, yeah. But a man’ll give up anything for his life. Mess up his face and he’ll curse yours.”
God has got to get in a hip last word. He says, “Okay, do anything you want with him. Just don’t kill him.”
Satan gives Job a real case of boils. That’s all. But Job’s wife has just about had it and says, “Whatdya think of God now?” Job calls her a dimbulb and snaps, “Whatdya expect? Something for nothing?”
Job’s friends soon catch wind of what’s gone down. They drop in and hang out for seven days and nights trying to cheer him up. “Hey Job, don’t make it bad.” “Hey, Job, did you hear the one about the wandering herdsman…”
Nothing works. Job gets more and more pissed. And on the seventh day he starts to curse, and he curses all and everything, but he’s careful not to mention Mr. G directly. It is a great curse, yet Job’s friends don’t buy it.
Eliphaz the Temanite really socks it to him, saying, “Everything’s been rosy, and you were great. You helped everybody with their troubles and always talked things up, pushed courage. Now look at you, you wretch. Your personal shit hits the fan and you go pussy. You don’t hit the shit for nothing, Jack. You must have done something to deserve all this. I was going through the same thing. I was out of it one night, I had a real paranoia attack, and this thing came at me, made my hair stand up. I heard this voice sayin’ ‘Who do you think you are? God? Bigger than the big guy? He don’t need anybody. He even fires angels. But these human slime, they are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish forever without regarding it.’”
But Job has had enough advice and begs God to off him. He tells off his friends for chapters on end and gets hotter and hotter on death’s case. Finally he says that he ain’t worried ’cause he knows he’ll see God in the flesh. Still he doesn’t stop kvetching, and loudly regrets that he got involved in all this in the first place.
Finally God gets sick of all the talk and shows up in a whirlwind. He tells Job to put his pants on because he’s going to ask him a few questions. God doesn’t really expect any answers—He’s asking the all-time great rhetorical questions, like: “Where were you when I made the sea, stars, earth, etc?’’ In other words, He makes Job feel pretty small, by taking credit for absolutely everything and listing hundreds of his immense accomplishments.
Then He says, “So what have you got to say?’’ Job says the right thing, which is nothing. Again the Lord tells Job to put on his pants, He’s going to ask him some more questions, which turn out to be more unanswerable kickers; and then God winds up the whole spiel by comparing himself with the elephant and the whale in terms of vulnerability. This really gets to Job, who finally admits that God is everything and he is nothing.
God agrees but by this point is a bit pissed at Job’s pals. He orders them to deliver seven head of beef and seven head of sheep for a divine din-din, which they do.
After that, Job gets twice as rich as he was before and lives happily to the age of 140.
Satan, however, seems to have completely lost interest in the case after having given Job boils.
This is really Satan’s only character appearance in the Old Testament. His name is tossed around, but mainly as a tempter, a deceiver, the opposition.
(The Serpent who gets Eve to bite the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis is identified as the subtlest of the beasts of the field, invented by, that’s right, God. The Serpent is not identified with Satan until the Apocalypse, written hundreds of years after Christ.)
In the New Testament, Satan is seen as more of an independent. He is “the prince of demons’’ (Matthew), “the wicked being” (John), “the tempter” (Matthew) and “the prince or ruler of the world” (John).
But even in the New Testament, Satan makes only one appearance, that being his temptation of Christ (Matthew, Luke). But his character here is developed very little. Satan, especially in Luke, is the voice or spirit of temptation.
In Matthew, Satan is described as having angels in his power. But the identity of Satan’s followers remains shrouded. Sometimes it would seem that they were the rulers of the world, or even greater beings; sometimes they are the illnesses that afflict the most insignificant persons. Jesus heals the sick by casting out evil spirits with his word. But the real evil in the Bible, the real opposition to Jesus, is made up of men.
The New Testament was written and rewritten during the several hundred years of religious revolution. Satan, as he appears in the New Testament, particularly in his most glamorous moments in the last written book of the Christian canon, Revelations, probably owes much less to the Jews or the original followers of Jesus than to the influence of Mani, the Babylonian prophet of Manichaeism, who lived about two hundred years after Christ.
Mani incorporated many of the principles of Judaism and Christianity into the Zoroastrian dualism of Persia, founding a religion that resembled Christianity, but with an extremist extension of the concept of Good and Evil. Mani and his followers did not believe in a spiritual and a physical distinction between good and evil. All existence was seen as a struggle between Light, or good, and Darkness, or evil. The soul was good. The body was bad.
Before Mani the ancient religion of the Persians worshiped dual gods of light and darkness, Ormuzd and Ahriman, and each ruled every extension of their principle. But the real religious practice concerned the intermediary between these absolute and necessary dual gods—Mithras, the god of Intelligence. He ain’t been seen in a while.
With the growing evil, or confusion, in the days when Christianity was competing head to head with Rome’s state paganism and with Manichaeism, it seems that a stronger bogeyman was required. So the New Testament Satan’s part was beefed up to compete with Mani’s Ahrimanic Satan and the other divine heavies who were doing a fair job of explaining the idiocy that was pandemic.
Somehow, Christianity beefed up with a more powerful and horrifying devil was more appealing to Europeans. Zoroastrianism is a roots Aryan religion, so who knows. If you’re gonna have to explain fire worship, a prince of darkness comes in handy. Anyway, the Christianity that won over the entire white race, and then a lot of others at sword point, was a militant organization at war with the Devil.
So, okay. Maybe it’s true. Maybe God is all stars and the Devil is all black holes. (More on this later.) But the whole point is, this kind of thinking often leads to inhuman extremes in deities both good and bad.
Which is why D.H. Lawrence thought Revelations was the lousiest book in the Bible.
In Revelations, the Devil, Satan, is identified with the old Serpent who first tempted Eve; and history is portrayed as a war in heaven between the angel Michael, and his forces of good, and Satan, and his forces of evil. Satan’s m.o. is deception. And his powers of deception make him a mighty force on earth; and he builds up this organization called Babylon, which takes over almost the whole earth. (More on that later, too.)
But then this angel comes and announces the fall of Babylon, and “the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more.”
Satan starts a war against God, gets a thousand years in the Pit, is let out for a bit, and then gets sent up permanently to Lake Brimstone. Wherever that is. Probably Akron.
Historically, most incidents of devil worship have been cases of mistaken identity resulting from Christianity’s assumption that any unfamiliar god must be demonic. Witchcraft originally had little to do with Satan—it was a revival of the original nature religion of Europe. But Pan and friends were taken for Satan, and witches were burned.
The same assumptions also led to the persecution of many Christian heretics—most notably the Knights Templar, the Crusader guardians of Jerusalem who were suppressed and burned after they were accused of worshiping a horned god called Baphomet. This accusation may have been true, but in fact the Templars were guilty of nothing stronger than dualism and making money.
In modern times the Catholic church has leveled the same devil-worship charges against the Masons. Masonry is distantly related to paganism and sun worship, but in its modern form those influences are barely recognizable, and pretty silly.
Most true devil worshipers have come from the ranks of the Catholic church, and it is the inverted ritual of the Catholic church that constitutes the satanic ceremonial. The black mass itself requires a host consecrated in a Catholic Mass, which wafer Catholics believe to be the body and blood of Christ; and the best black masses are those conducted by defrocked priests. (Defrocked popes, of course, are the ultimate.)
Without the absolutism of the Roman Catholic church, Satanism would have always been a drab affair. And it must be so today, what with the black mass in English accompanied by folk music. Afterward they probably play Bingo. But at the height of the Inquisition, you can bet that the black mass must have been a kick.
Diabolism in the Arts
The Devil has always been a big star in literature. It has been duly noted that Milton’s Paradise Lost makes Paradise Regained look like shit; and the same goes for Dante. Even his Purgatory is better than Heaven. The fact is that evil is much better subject matter for literature than good. This is perhaps because good is totally predictable, whereas evil possesses infinite plot variations.
Or you could say that the best art exists in opposition to the status quo, and is therefore satanic in the eyes of orthodoxy. But extreme diabolism is a fairly recent invention, coming into preponderance with the Romantic movement. Byron and company staked out the turf, and the French perfected it over the years from Baudelaire to Nerval to Rimbaud to Lautremont to Huysmans to Cocteau to Artaud. It was made decorative and chic by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. DeSade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch were influential in their subject matter.
These Black Romantics raised a standard of literature that is still being furiously borne by the avant-garde, most recently in New York rock ’n’ roll, particularly by French Symbolist readers Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell. But let’s not skip the hundred years in between, because a lot happened.
The diabolist poets of Symbolism were probably not joiners. Rimbaud expressed interest in occult arts but probably had little experience in them, at least during his writing period. But the twentieth century would see an enormous interest in occult nightclubbing occupy the extreme Romantic contingent of the arts. The most prominent example is the case of the Golden Dawn society, a secret society in which numerous art notables raised hell. Most notable: W. B. Yeats, peerless Irish poet, and Aleister Crowley, self-proclaimed antichrist. The founder of the Golden Dawn, MacGregor Mathers, is also a VIP in literature, but mainly as the character Michael Robards in Yeats’s poetry.
As an aggregation of egos, the Golden Dawn society may be unparalleled, and it is surprising it held together as long as it did. Eventually the group was split between Mathers (and, for a while, Yeats) and Crowley, with each faction apparently taking a different magic path. Crowley, invoking the Antichrist, may be seen as the originator of modern satanism. Organizations descended from Crowley’s lodges Ordo Templi Orientis and Silver Star include Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan in Los Angeles and Kenneth Grant’s New Isis Lodge, center of modern British witchcraft in London. L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, was also a Crowley initiate, as was Kenneth Anger, author of Hollywood Babylon and director of numerous underground film classics.
Another author who may have been a Crowleyite at one time is Adolph Hitler—Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin, 1933)—whom Crowley suggests might have been a pupil gotten out of hand in his book Magick without Tears.
The big problem has always been: Will the real Satan please stand up.
It’s a problem of definition: Good and Evil. Some have called the question itself irrelevant. But it’s always posing itself anyway.
The easiest formula for Satan is God’s opposition. This of course, depends on knowing who God is. Only Gnostics can do that. They know. The rest are only believers.
For the Jews, and presumably for Christians, the idea of God was expressed: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”
It is this idea that gives strength to the Jewish conception of the devil. The devil is the wrong word, the he, the seducer, the tempter, and the deceiver.
Finding the right word is, of course, the work of the poet. And this sacred differentiating task is prophesy. And it’s a continuing task, as Good and Evil continually trade forms and appearances.
These ideas are found in the Gnostic sects that flourished in the first centuries of Christianity, but they have continued to persist, and were perhaps best set down in literature by the English poet William Blake, especially in his prophetic book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
Blake declares: “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.”
“From these Contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.”
Blake declares in the “voice of the devil” that bibles and sacred codes have led man into errors. He corrects these with the following three points.
“1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.”
“2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.”
“3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”
The Devil’s Political Status
At least one independent sovereign state recognizes the Devil—the Vatican. The Devil is also unofficially recognized by Haiti, Spain and numerous Latin American states. The Catholic church has officially linked the Devil with Communism, not only through the Pope’s infallible judgment on matters of faith and morals but by the direct intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at Fatima urged the Free World to pray the rosary for the conversion of Communism.
Protestant Christianity has not taken quite so hard a line, not in its more chic sects anyway, although full-tilt Baptists and the more militant sects are certainly in agreement with Papa on that point.
The United States government has no official relations with the Devil, the architecture of the Pentagon notwithstanding. Its official position in fact is “In God We Trust,” although this is not mandatory. Reverend Moon officially links Communism with the Devil; the Korean CIA refuses to comment. The Nation of Islam also recognizes the Devil, and until recently he was officially white. Some UFOlogists suspect Satanic interstellar capability: Satan is a Klingon.
Several historians, whose work has created a cult but is considered apocryphal by most of the historical establishment, claim to have linked Nazism with Satanism. Since Nazism is conventionally linked with Wagner and Nietzsche’s superiority complex, this should not seem an unreasonable explanation of Germany’s excesses. It may well prove that the Nazi inner circle constituted a black lodge, an order that several sources claim invoked the Antichrist in a magic ceremony not unlike those practiced by the Crowley wing of the Golden Dawn.
Far out!? Sure, but why not? It explains everything. Hitler thought he had a hotline to the Beast, and that helped him immensely in his efforts to organize for world conquest. And no doubt when the connection broke down, Hitler thought the allies were jamming the astral airwaves. Hitler’s racism was not a simple hatred, although it contained simple hatred. It was a vision. The Nazis believed in Aryan racial superiority, and they planned to rebuild the Aryan culture by returning to its roots, including old-time religion.
The Aryan version of roots is a story of enormous migrations accompanied by plunder and rapine, a story of big guys kicking little guys’ asses, a story about a religion that worships fire and accepts evil as well as good—in short, a success story. Despite their glorious conquests of India, Persia and Europe, the Aryans’ culture was eventually mingled with swarthy Semites, etc. By reviving Aryanism in every possible way, the Nazis would connect with the power of the racial consciousness and take over. Blond-on-blond marriages were encouraged and arranged, the SS maintained an ultrasecret genealogy branch, yodeling was encouraged, solar events replaced the Christian calendar as holidays.
Generally, history has not regarded Satan as Hitler’s main squeeze, although public-opinion polls generally place him on top of the most hated top ten. But history changes all the time, so it seems worth considering. And if considering this makes you feel like you’re getting too far out, you can always pick up some of the literature linking UFOs with a secret Fourth Reich in the Hollow Earth and feel relatively normal again.
The Devil in the News
Because of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution, few publications deal directly with God or the Devil. Naturally, myriad special-interest publications deal with both, but the mainstream media generally avoid them, especially the Devil.
But the Devil is still big news in Enquirer-style tabloids where the unexplained is always news. Outside devil-conscious media, satanism generally makes news when it violates the law.
Charles Manson was the perfect mass-media satanist, a maniac with star quality, able to evoke almost limitless enmity. His negativity was strong enough to give the hippie scene an identity crisis, scandalize Hollywood and provide Nixon with the ultimate model for his anarchic opposition. He generated two best sellers, a great TV movie, an incredible assassination attempt and one of the rarest bootleg LPs around. Aside from Manson, few serious pretenders to the Throne of Darkness have appeared. Jim Jones is a small-timer.
Possession, of course, has been on a moderate upswing since The Exorcist and its sequels. But they are rarely big news. Still, Satan seems to be waiting in the wings. Revivalism is in the White House, and it may need something to renounce.
Satan in Paperback
England’s legendary Golden Dawn society not only shaped the occult thought of the twentieth century and influenced its history, it also provided the world with some of its greatest manifestations of pop diabolism. Initiate Sax Rohmer created the inscrutably insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. Bram Stoker created the archetypical vampire, Dracula. And Arthur Machen turned out occult thrillers.
The genre has since flourished. They’re still making Fu Manchu movies and new Draculas. Arthur Machen is one of Mick Jagger’s fave writers. But in the main, films have taken over the pop-satanism market. Today, the best satanic pulp ends up on film, although often it’s filmed and then novelized. But there are a few exceptions.
The incredibly prolific Waterbugger E. Howard Hunt has cranked out more than 50 potboilers, not a few of which involve some devilry. Under the pen name David St. John, Hunt created The Sorcerers, Diabolus and The Coven. The Coven is probably the most exciting, perhaps because the villain is the vain Senator Vane, an egomaniac liberal stud with enough charisma to put him in the Kennedy clan who also happens to be into nude devil worship, human sacrifices and voodoo.
Satan’s Greatest Hits
Satan is undoubtedly a bigger superstar than Jesus Christ in the world of rock ’n’ roll. One of the earliest outcries against the music with the big beat was that it was godless and satanic, the perfect vehicle for Satan to impress young minds with sex and loose behavior. Of course there were countermovements engaged to belie the satanic side of rock. For every Elvis there was a Pat Boone. And it worked for a while. But eventually Satan got into the act openly.
Take such early songs as “Devil or Angel,” by the Clovers (then Bobby Vee); “Devil in Disguise,” by Elvis; or “Devil with the Blue Dress On,” by Mitch Ryder. If the Devil were the top tempter, then rock would surely be his medium. But this could only have been accomplished because the time was right for the Devil to return to an almost benevolent Old Testament identity: the cool tempter of an uptight God (or Church or State). The Devil was again seen as “the opposition,” but this time the establishment looked so bad that the opposition had the inside track. The Devil would come to be regarded as sympathetic: a necessary evil.
The theological roots of this move can be seen in the classic Shangri Las song “Leader of the Pack”: “Is he bad?” “He’s good bad, but not evil.” Rock had sprung from black roots—and the blacks had never totally succumbed to monotheism. When Afrobros said, “That’s baaad!” that was good, because in a corrupt, inverted world, bad is the best. So rock ’n’ roll was in fact a bold attempt at achieving positive negativity.
To understand the earth-shattering impact of such a movement it is helpful to understand the Nietzschean Satan. Thus Spake Zarathustra is an attempt at restating Aryan theological precepts thousands of years old, precepts in total opposition to the Christian theory of passive goodness. Instead of seeing God after a life of passive devotion, the Nietzschean tries to become God, or at least superman. Religiously, it’s the welfare state versus upward mobility. Instead of glorifying God and condemning Satan, Nietzsche views them in the Persian traditions, as necessarily opposing forces. The conflict between them makes it all happen, and things can be worked out. And perhaps the best means for doing this is nothing other than dancing.
The way Nietzsche tells it, Zarathustra is walking through the woods one day when he comes to this green meadow where a bunch of girls are really boogieing. When they see him they stop, but Zarathustra tells them to keep on gettin’ it on. “I am God’s advocate with the Devil,” says Z. “He [the devil] however is the spirit of Gravity. How could I be enemy to divine dancing, you nimble creatures? Or to girls’ feet with fair ankles?”
See, Nietzsche sees God as the spirit of light and the Devil as the spirit of gravity. They are physical principles whose division allows creation. And dancing is the ultimate interaction of light and gravity, the way to attune the two principles. As Nietzsche says, “I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance.” The prophet is the boogie man.
The satanic side of rock really began to appear when things got heavy, when opposition to see the establishment created a counterculture. Since establishment culture had sprung from 2,000 years of Christianity, satanism provided a perfect tradition and cultural context for this seeming rebellion.
Rock ’n’ roll became a self-conscious movement with the British Invasion of ’64-’65, and almost immediately the rivalry of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones developed into a classic model of Aryan dualist symbolism. While pursuing roughly the same course, the Beatles used ‘‘sweetness and light” while the Stones used ‘‘blues and heaviness.” As the Beatles developed flower power, the Stones would always seem to answer with something similar, yet heavier, more doubtful, even cynical.
The Beatles’ hit Aquarian chant ‘‘All You Need Is Love” was followed by the Stones’ ‘‘We Love You,” which opened with the sound of a man in shackles and a cell door slamming, followed by a driving piano intro, waiting feedback and a sinister chorus of ‘‘We love you”s punctuated by Mick’s lines tike “We hope we do,” all working up to a chaotic pipes-of-Pan frenzy.
And when the Beatles made their definitive psychedelic statement with Sergeant Pepper, the Stones returned with a manifesto, Their Satanic Majesties Request. The Stones probably didn’t originate their satanic reputation; more likely they picked up on their press, knowing a good bad thing when they saw it. If those assholes think we’re great forces of evil, we must be great. So the idea stuck and provided an instant adversary angle.
The Stones have been a great model of Blakean satanism, even writing anthems about it like “Sympathy for the Devil” (also a major motion picture by Jean-Luc Godard) and “Dancing with Mr. D.” etc. And Altamont had Rolling Stone magazine thinkin’ the model was maybe even true. But boys’ll be boys. Anyway, I don’t think Peter Tosh would cut a record with the Devil.
Plenty of satanic types have come along to make the Stones seem mild. Lou Reed is more Beelzebubian for sure, and Iggy probably more Luciferian; and Lawd knows P-Funk has the original uncut hoodoo message.
Then Johnny Rotten comes right out singing that Antichrist song just as Eldridge Cleaver’s being born again. Oh, well, remember Jesus said he came to divide, right?
Anyway, let’s give the Rastas the almost last word on the subject. Jah is a living man and He is God. Jah can’t dead, and neither can any man in Jah.
As for the Devil, here’s what Peter Tosh says: “Remember Satan… That guy no ded… De guy a trod eath still… Fulfilling his pledge to deceive the world.”
So if you’re looking for the genuine article, start with the words. That’s where the trouble starts.
Satan on Screen
Satan may be the number-one screen attraction of today. Ever since The Exorcist, demons have possessed almost everything, including a car and a Boeing 747. Not only has this made for some thrilling screen moments, it has also directly prompted a few possessions and indirectly induced a real possession fad.
One of the most interesting recent Satan flicks was not about possession but about the satanic legion itself. The Gargoyles, a made-for-TV movie, postulated a race of lizardlike flying demons that awaken from hibernation every thousand years to contest with man for control of the Earth. Their leader consistently reincarnates as Lucifer, and he would have won this time around had he not begun to lust after one of our women, which caused him to neglect the battle.
The greatest devil portrayals have been by Ray Walston in Damn Yankees, Peter Cook in Bedazzled, Vincent Price in The Story of Mankind, Alan Mowbray in The Devil with Hitler, Claude Rains in Angel on My Shoulder, Stanley Holloway in Meet Mr. Lucifer and Pierre Clementi in Bunuel’s The Milky Way. Best supporting role goes to Mr. Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan for his diabolical performance in Rosemary’s Baby.
Hell has been featured in many films, but perhaps the best was Dante’s Inferno, Rita Hayworth’s first film, which stars Spencer Tracy as the unscrupulous owner of an infernal theme park.
A Devil for Today’s Needs
Physics has given us the “black hole” as the new Satan superstar-of-the-universe twist needed for a Darth Vader evocation of the Nietzschean Satan, Lord G. But we all know that this Devil is more an opposing principle than evil. The physical concept of evil is not the black hole, but universal entropy. Which is exactly halfway between that ole-time God and that ole-time Debbil.
The entropic Devil is a strict bore. The worst thing he can do is put you to sleep. Then while you’re snoozing, perchance to dream, you wake up and the lights are out. The entropic Devil works through mistakes. You find him in places where nobody is paying attention.
His history is traced in the works of Ishmael Reed, particularly in Mumbo Jumbo and The Last Days of Louisiana Red. He is also closely associated with Sir Nose D’voidoffunk, in the teachings of P-Funk.
And he looks a lot more like Nixon than Mick Jagger.
The Devil takes tranquilizers, falls asleep at the wheel and works at a nuclear facility.
“It is obvious that a person living at the limit of pain requires a different form of religion from a person who lives securely.”—William James, Alpha 60
“The Devil is a ballhead. Clean shave. Jah Jah is a Natty Dread.”—Max Romeo
Satan in Advertising
Satan’s principal advertising clients are Red Devil Paint, Drake’s Devil Dogs, Underwood Deviled Ham et al., Gulden’s Diablo Mustard, etc.; although the evil principle is apparent in many commercials, often personified in demons, e.g. Mr. Tooth Decay, insects in Raid commercials, Mr. Whipple, engine defects in Bardol commercials, etc.