The voice of the devil
Today I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the chapter “The voice of the devil” in William Blake’s 1793 book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
Even though it is not overtly Satanic, having been written long before the modern Satanic movement began, it reflects many philosophical and symbolic messages and elements that resonate deeply with me and my own interpretation of Satanism.
“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:
- That Man has two real existing principles, viz. a Body and a Soul.
- That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body; and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
- That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
- Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
- Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
- Energy is Eternal Delight.
Those who restrain Desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or Reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling. And being restrained, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of Desire.
The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, and the Governor or Reason is call’d Messiah. And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the Heavenly Host, is call’d the Devil or Satan, and his children are call’d Sin and Death.
But in the Book of Job, Milton’s Messiah is called Satan. For this history has been adopted by both parties.
It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, and formed a Heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.”
Obviously there is plenty about the style and imagery of this writing that could appeal to Satanists, but I want to highlight a deeper message that resonates with me: the importance that “chaos” and “evil” have in the greater cosmic structure, or the greater operation of the system of the universe as a whole.
Under classic Apollonian “respectable” religious traditions, good is associated with: order, rules, and imposed authoritarian “goodness”. In this same tradition, chaos and wild disorder are evil: they can serve no useful function, and must be suppressed or restrained. The central themes of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is that there is good to be found in chaos. Without the scary, frightening energy of pure passions, rebelliousness and uncertainty, the system of the universe would not be complete and would not be able to function.
This is not a message of lawlessness or anarchy, but rather one of balance. A car without brakes will crash, but a car without a gas pedal goes nowhere. The gas pedal provides fuel to an engine that creates energy by combustion–the fires of hell! Scary stuff, but also the only way to make any progress.
It’s especially important in these times, when we see many elements in society spinning toward destructive chaos. This election season, more people than I’ve ever seen feel a sense that our political and social systems are so broken that we must burn it all down and start from scratch. These instincts are harmful if left unchecked, and they are absolutely not the most rational way forward.
But I don’t think we should completely dismiss these passionate revolutionary instincts, either. We shouldn’t demean them. I am not a radical, in the “political activist” sense, but I do see the importance of the radicals’ voice in cultural dialogue. The ones who protest and riot and undermine authority in abrasive and unsettling ways: these are part of the scary combustion engine that helps movement in our society. They need to be checked and harnessed to be productive, but I don’t think they should be stamped out. They are part of the greater system of society: the marriage of heaven and hell.