The Devil Within
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, played an enormous part in the (re)birth of our understanding of the Human Mind today. Although it is said he would have protested greatly to the claim that his work is anything more than purely scientific, many people believe he was in touch with something deeper and claim that he was an initiate of hidden mysteries.
There are many things that are now, or will likely soon become, taken as a matter of course that have been well known for centuries among the mystics and sages of many religions. One component of Jung’s philosophy is the belief in archetypes; symbols of daily life that are so ingrained in our consciousnesses that they have almost (or perhaps indeed have) taken on lives of their own within our own psyche. Everyone, no matter who they are, has, deep within them, a mother, a father, a hero, a villain, among many others. Jung believed it to be very important to work with these archetypes, to understand our relationships with them and, if necessary, heal those relationships.
Hopefully, doing so would bring us peace in our conscious world and in the relationships with the people around us.
One of these archetypes Jung called the Shadow. The Shadow is everything we believe we are not. When we are born, we are whole, to a certain extent. We are capable of any behavior. But as we grow, our upbringing causes us to divvy up characteristics, divide up things that are good and things that are bad, things that we think that we are and things we believe we are not. We were rewarded when we shared toys with other children and were punished when we didn’t. Maybe we felt good when we got an “A” on a test but felt bad when we got last place in a foot race. We began to believe things like ‘I am a giving person’, ‘I am not greedy’, ‘I am intelligent’, and ‘I am not athletic’. When we decided a certain characteristic did not belong to us, we gave it to our Shadow. As adults, we are still capable of lying, stealing, being mean, but ‘No!’ we insist, ‘That is not us.’ When we do something wrong, we – hopefully – apologize and make amends, but do we really own it? Or do we divert the blame and say we were tired or make some other excuse?
Though we may try to deny it, our Shadow is attached to us wherever we go. We can fight and fight and fight all we want to disown the Shadow, but unless we learn from the strange case of Dr. Jekyll, we will inevitably create our own Mr. Hyde. Peter Pan was smart in asking Wendy to sew his Shadow back on. The Shadow will always periodically reveal itself. It might manifest as a physical ailment like migraines or ulcers or something worse. It might manifest as a strong emotional reaction to something someone else does. Whether we are in denial about it or not, the Shadow will make its presence known in painful ways until we face it. We are born whole. As we grow, we learn what we are and what we are not. As adults, we must rearrange these disparate parts, integrate them, and become whole again. As the alchemists say, we must dissolve and then coagulate. We learn that we must ‘visit the interior earth, and by rectifying what [we] find there, [we] will discover the philosopher’s stone’.
The Shadow is not completely ‘evil’, though. A man could be a good father, but if a little sensitive maternity is needed, what does he do? Often those who are athletic claim they are stupid. Disowned positive traits are attributed to the Golden Shadow. On the Path of Individuation, one must dig through a lot of dross to find the gold. Men must learn to be nurturing. Athletes must realize they are capable of being intelligent. Poets must learn they can be warriors too.
A major tenet of Hermeticism is that man is a mirror of the Divine, the stars indicate the inner workings of man, your personal life is a reflection of the outer world; ‘As above, so below, as within, so without’. The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana in Tarot are twenty-two aspects of God, ergo twenty-two aspects of ourselves. Within each of us is the adventure seeking Fool, the paternal Emperor, the maternal Empress, and yes, within each of us is The Devil.
Yes! I said it! Hear me out. Don’t hang me by my toes as a blasphemer just yet. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord, thy God, the Lord is One!” The Creator created all, He is the Lord of the Light and of the Darkness. In Genesis, after each day of Creation, God said ‘it is good!’ Even after creating the serpent that would later lead to our apparent downfall! The great magician, Eliphas Levi, said “The Devil is God, as he is misunderstood by the wicked.”
The Devil in Tarot
In most Tarot decks, the Devil card has a picture of a ghastly chimera with two humans in chains. It is perched precariously on a half cube, adorned with an inverted pentagram, carrying a dim torch. In all appearances, this card is rather dismal and depressing. How can such horror be a face of God? To find out, we must look deeper.
The pentagram is a symbol of many things that come in sets of five; the five senses, the five Alchemical Elements, the five wounds of Christ. In many traditions, it is one of the holiest symbols, that is, if it is depicted correctly. The five Alchemical Elements are Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit. Inverted, with one point pointing down, it symbolizes the dominion of the four more physical Elements over Spirit. When there is one point pointing up, it symbolizes the dominion of Spirit over the other Elements.
The cube is a symbol of Creation. The Devil sits on half a cube. It holds one hand open and (in the Builders of the Adytum deck) has a symbol of Saturn on its palm. In contrast, the Hierophant has two fingers pointing up and the other three curled in. The Devil seems to say ‘There is nothing hidden, what you see is all there is’. The half cube tells us the material world is all of creation, that the spiritual world does not exist. The man and woman are chained to the material world.
Each card of the Major Arcana is associated with either a planet or a zodiacal sign. Key XV The Devil is associated with Capricorn. The season of Capricorn begins with the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. It is dark and cold and dreary. But it also marks when the days start to get longer. Even though there is good evidence Jesus was born in October, we celebrate the birth of the Redeemer during the time of Capricorn.
The Devil card from the Ryder Waite Smith Tarot Deck.
The Devil card from the Tarot de Marseille
People used to believe that thunder was the roar of an angry god. Lightning is bright, thunder is loud, and it can bring fire even when it is raining. Now through focused attention and analysis, i.e. science, we now know what lightning is and we have harnessed it to heat our food, light our houses, power hospitals, etc.
Much like the Devil, bats are quite disconcerting creatures. They live in dark, scary caves. They’re awake and fly at night. They have sharp teeth and transmit disease. But now we know that the probability of being attacked by a bat is incredibly low and their guano is quite valuable for farming, and if you’ve ever seen pictures of bats up close, they’re quite adorable.
The Devil makes us think we are chained to the material world. We are slaves to our passions, we cannot escape our history, we are our mistakes, we are the playthings of a vengeful god or cold fortune. But look closer at the chains around the necks of the man and woman. They could easily lift those loops from around their necks – implying that we have agency. Countless sages and prophets and mystics tell us of the Goodness of God and that He is our Father, that we are sentient living beings made of stardust from suns that exploded millions of years ago. No good father would abandon his children to live helplessly in a pit filled with things that only want their demise.
At surface level, the Devil is terrifying, but through science, through logic and reason and attention and analysis, through dissolution and coagulation, we find the great Archangel Uriel, whose name means ‘Light of God’. If you realize you are a member of a heavenly bloodline, the Devil begins to look ridiculous. A Child of God cannot truly be hurt. When you realize just how powerful you are, you realize how weak your opposition is (just look at the Devil’s silly chicken legs!). If we take the pentagram and flip it and claim God’s dominion over the material world, we realize our own power and the things that once seemed scary become funny. ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ as the saying goes. Laughter surprises the Devil, makes him lose balance and fall off his tiny throne. Nothing can hurt a child of God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We cannot have apparent Good without apparent Evil
Sacred clowns taunt the kachinas in a Hopi ceremony
The sacred clowns of the Pueblo Indians and the Heyoka of the Lakota people were satirical and absurdly contrarian in order to ease tensions within the tribe, to reinforce taboos, and to communicate traditions. Comedians make us see things from a different perspective, to discuss things one would never discuss in polite society, to poke at what makes us uncomfortable and force us to examine it. In the words of the great Bill Hicks, “Today, a young man on LSD realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration and that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and you are the imagination of yourself. Here’s Tom with the weather.” In the movie Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni’s character Guido kept up his humor all the way to the end, despite the horror going on all around him. Without the humor, who knows how the movie would’ve ended? Laughter makes life bearable. A good way to gauge the health of a society is to look at the health of the art community, and I consider comedy to be an important form of art.
When we look closer at Life, we see that we cannot have apparent Good without apparent Evil. We cannot build muscle without tearing our muscle tissue. We would not think to eat without the pain of hunger. We wouldn’t even have room for food if we didn’t defecate. Our species would die out fast if living with our parents and not searching for a mate did not eventually become uncomfortable. The exhaustion of carrying heavy things from one place to another led to the invention of the wheel. We could not walk forward if we didn’t have the opposition of the ground to act against our feet.
The modern-day magician Damien Echols was falsely accused of murdering three children at the age of 18, was put in a maximum-security prison on death row for 18 years and spent most of that time in solitary confinement. He was finally proven innocent and released and now looks back on that nightmare and says he is grateful and says he is a better man because of it. Richard Bandy went into the hospital for an extremely major operation which required all his organs to be taken out of his torso and the surgeon accidentally nicked an artery and didn’t realize until everything was put back in and he was closed up. He was dead for a few minutes but was revived, but not without major damage to his brain. When he woke up, he couldn’t remember anything. He couldn’t remember his wife, his kids, he couldn’t remember himself. He had to relearn everything about his life and consequently is a different person from who he was before the surgery. But he, too, looks back on that time and is thankful. How can these men be glad they went through those trials?
I don’t know how Damien and Richard found the strength to persevere and the perspective to be thankful for their troubles. I don’t yet know how to see God in war and in famine, how to be genuinely compassionate for serial killers and abusers. I am not much beyond the level of navel-gazing, armchair occultist myself. I have demons of my own that I fight every day, but the Devil is not defeated, and Uriel is not revealed unless the work is done. The intellect can only get you so far. Reading a paper can only grant insight at best, but it is a good start. We can start small with seeing the Light in traffic, seeing Good in a tough workout, seeing God in a hangnail, seeing opportunities for growth in smaller tests and trials, and we can work our way up. So do the work. Know thyself. Learn of your Divine heritage. See the ridiculousness of the Devil, laugh in his face, snatch that pentagram from off his head and turn it upright. Claim your mastery over the physical world. Give thanks to whatever gods may be. Claim mastery over your fate and be the captain of your unconquerable soul.
Brian Alexander Sears is a Master Mason from Prometheus Lodge #87 in Gilbert, AZ and is an original member of Sapientae Lodge #2 of Ordo Hermeticus Mysteriorum in Chandler, AZ. Brian is a trained hypnotist through the Academy of Professional Hypnosis Training and the National Guild of Hypnotists. With a history of being a part of AMORC, TMO, and BOTA, and being raised Roman Catholic, Brian considers himself a student of Paul Foster Case, Ann Davies, and Dion Fortune, among many others. His interests include ritual, tarot, and Hermeticism in general and hopes to help people to find balance and empowerment through debugging subconscious programming and strengthening our relationship with the Divine.