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A Brief Essay on Literary Satanism

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Subject: A Brief Essay on Literary Satanism

   by Don Webb
     "I knew him .. His great heart was big with all the virtues
     born of pride; frankness, courage, constancy in trial,
     indomitable hope. Long, long ago ere time was, in the boreal
     sky where gleam the seven magnetic stars, he dwelt in a place
     of diamond and gold . . . ."
      Anatole France from The Revolt of the Angels
   Satan has always had a great literary following. From Twain to
   Nabokov, Bierce to Milton he casts a titanic shadow as the
   archetype the rebel against cosmic injustice. Satan came into his
   own with the coming of the Renaissance. Thomas Nashe, the
   inventor of the English novel, was the first to pay sympathy to
   the devil in his Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the divell
   (1592), but the English speaking world came to really know the
   devil in Milton's Paradise Lost (1667). Milton, although a devout
   Christian was unable to keep Satan's struggle against infinite
   odds form being other than an heroic one. His picture of Satan
   who will not submit to God in the face of the tortures of Hell
   still stirs modern Satanists who understand god as a
   personification of the massed wills of others. Blake once said of
   Milton that he "was of the Devil's party without knowing it,"
   because he wrote of freedom when he wrote of the devil and of
   limitations when he wrote of god."
    Goethe's Faust (1808) provides us with the model of the modern
   hero doomed to freedom and the quest for knowledge and power.
   Faust sells his soul for knowledge and gold. If you ask the
   typical college student his or her motivations for attending
   college, you will find that Faust has many friends seeking
   knowledge and a good paying job. Faust's devil Mephistopheles (No
   Lover of Light) is the personification of the negativity that is
   required as part of the dynamic nature of self-becoming.
   Mephistopheles describes himself as "I am the portion of that
   power that always wants evil, and always causes good. I am the
   spirit which always negates."
   In contrast to the heroic and classical devils above, we have
   Satan of Charles Baudelaire who took Poe's American darkness and
   transformed it as an idealized form of angst. Baudelaire's
   Flowers of Evil (1857) later opened the doors of darkness for
   such artists as Clark Ashton Smith, Kurt Seligman and Diamanda
   Galas. Much of today's "Goth" culture owes a great debt to
   Baudelaire's Satan.
   One of the best modern masters was Anatole France, whose The
   Revolt of the Angeles 1914 is full of metaphysical mockery on the
   one hand and a portrayal of Satan as seeker of mysteries on the
   other. The image of Satan and his devils as seeking after the
   mysteries and and becoming the advisers of mankind is a crucial
   one for the Satanist of the late twentieth century. The use of
   Satan as way to lampoon organized religion is a major Satanic
   activity among LHPers today.
    Obviously the rich tradtion of literary Satanism can scarcely be
   touched in so short an essay. For further reading see The Devil's
   Mischief By Ed Marquand 1996, The Devil in Legend and Literature
   by Maximilian Rudwin (latest reprint 1989 Open Court), Literature
   and Evil by Georges Bataille 1957, and The Devil's Race-Track:
   Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings 1966. The greatest quick
   introduction to Satanism remains Huck Finn's "Alright then, I'll
   go to hell" speech when he decides to protect Jim from the law.
   Look it up, it's good (?) for you.

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