The Theosophical Forum – April 1936

THE SATAN MYTH — H. T. Edge

Exploding the Satan myth was an important part of the work undertaken by H. P. Blavatsky in bringing to the world the message of Theosophy. This curious perversion of the truth has done much harm during the ages from which we are emerging; its rectification will be coincident with a new gospel of hope and help to humanity.

H. P. Blavatsky threw down the gauntlet to theology by boldly naming her new magazine Lucifer. This name, as its etymology shows, means 'Light-bringer,' and is applied to the morning star which heralds the light of day. Its equivalent in Greek is Phosphoros, which means exactly the same. It is strange indeed that an angel with such a name, indicating such attributes, should have been transformed into an angel of darkness, a synonym for Satan the evil counterpart of God, foe alike to God and man.

The better to understand how this has come about we must refer to the sacred allegory found in the early chapters of Genesis, whose meaning has been similarly perverted. If it be asked what reason we can give for preferring the Theosophical teaching to the usual theological interpretation, we can give two answers. One is that to understand any given scripture it is necessary to compare it with other scriptures; for by adopting this method we sift out from each whatever is accidental and arrive at what is essential and common to all. The other is that the true explanation is found to conform to the facts of human experience, whereas the false interpretation conflicts with those facts.

During Christian times there has always been an antagonism between religious sanctions and the spirit of free inquiry; the authority of churches and of representative religious leaders has been unfriendly and often hostile to individual initiative in the search for truth. Often there has been war to the knife, at other times mutual indifference; and at the best, attempted adjustments between elements assumed (by those very attempts) to be naturally diverse. But the natural intelligence of man has felt that the truth must be one and single, not divided into two opposite species; and that an all-wise and all-loving God cannot rightly be conceived as an obscurantist. Then there is the well-known problem why such a God could create man, allow him to fall or be led by Satan into corruption, and then provide for his rescue by a very doubtful means and one that (in strict theological interpretation) comprehends but a minute fraction of the human race, after all. It is things like these that have driven so many worthy souls out of religion altogether, all unaware that there was any genuine truth to replace the spurious article which they have rejected; and this is what is meant by saying that the theological interpretation conflicts with human experience instead of explaining it.

This divorce between two vital aspects of truth has also had a disastrous effect on science, causing it to propound a view of man's origin and nature based on purely physical influences.

But the duality of man's nature is the commonest fact of experience, constituting as it does the entire motive of the drama of human life. It is surely the function of any body of doctrine, whether it pose as religious or scientific, to explain this fact of man's duality. If we compare the stories of man's creation as found in the various scriptures and mythologies, we shall find everywhere a dual creation of man recorded. He is first created as an innocent being, without knowledge of good and evil, without free choice, living in a state of harmless and unprogressive bliss; and afterwards he is enlightened by the gift of divine fire, which turns him into a responsible being, made in the image of his divine creators, and destined thenceforth to learn wisdom by experience of pain and pleasure, wrong and right.

Such is the true interpretation of the allegory in Genesis. It is the 'Serpent' who is man's real Savior. It is this Serpent who teaches man the knowledge of good and evil and makes him like unto the Gods. The Serpent is actually the Lord God himself in another form, perfecting his own original work and making of the earlier mindless' man a complete being, a fitting image of his divine author. The Greeks tell the same thing in the story of Prometheus, who takes compassion on helpless mankind and brings down fire from heaven in a tube; whereby man is enlightened. There is the same apparent hostility between Zeus and Prometheus as there is between the Lord God and the Serpent. It is evident that the man of Eden, and the man whom Prometheus enlightened, were little better than automatons; and that such a being could only become a real man by having a choice given him. Only thus could he exercise free, that attribute of divinity. Accordingly the exercise of free will choice can be construed into an act of rebellion, for so it is in a sense. Satan himself is said to have rebelled against God and fallen from heaven; but he did so in compassion for man, performing an act of self-sacrifice for the salvation of man; just as Prometheus sacrificed himself and was ejected from Olympus to be fastened to a rock. Satan is the head of a host of angels, who with him rebelled against God and fell from heaven. They were the true enlighteners of man.

This allegory of the Fallen Angels has been so misrepresented that it may seem to some as though we were being very profane in so speaking of it; but in fact it is one of the most holy and sublime teachings of ancient wisdom. The kind of evolution studied by science cannot produce anything higher than animals; the human self-conscious intelligence can never have been evolved from the animal mind; it is a gift apart. This gift of the divine intelligence is passed on from beings who have it to those who come after them. It is brought to men from above, not worked up from below. The scriptures say that in ages long gone by, man 'walked with the Gods' or had intercourse with divine beings; and it was thus that man received that marvelous intelligence which, all obscured as it is by his mortal clay, yet makes him so immeasurably above the animals. The earliest races of mankind were of the kind called 'mindless,' sinless, devoid of initiative; but later in the progress of evolution came the stage when man was enlightened by the passing on of the divine light or fire to him from beings who had acquired it before. All this concerns the teachings as regards the evolution of human races, too long to be entered into here, but to be found in Theosophical books. It is allegorized in the Bible and other sacred books and mythologies as has been indicated above. The temptation of flesh in the Garden of Eden is a gross misinterpretation of the allegory, and God has been represented as cursing for ever what was a purely natural act and function. Here is another false antithesis, by which natural functions have been connected with the idea of sin, man has been set at war with himself, and endless moral confusion has gone down through the ages.

But if this Biblical Satan is a name for man's enlightener, and not the arch-fiend and enemy of God and man, nevertheless there may be a real devil among us. But this devil is our own personified passions and evil thoughts. We all know this devil by experience, and how the alliance between fleshly passion and human self-consciousness can engender a sort of evil personality, which steps into our clothes and wears the mask of ourself. But here again it is not mere physical immorality, harmful though that may be, that is the worst foe of man; but selfishness, hate, anger, cruelty, heartlessness; for these wither and petrify the very soul. And it is not those who have been most noted for sanctimoniousness who have been most free from this kind of sin.

Man's true redeemer is that Divine Spirit which was breathed into him when from being an un-self-conscious creature he became like unto the Gods. Good, for man, is what expands; evil contracts. Good sets the common weal above so-called personal interest; evil seeks to promote self-interest regardless of the common weal. Good is constructive and makes for harmony; evil is destructive and makes for discord.

Equally fatuous are those who accept the Eden story in its literal sense, and those who scoff at it as foolish superstition. They both make the same mistake, are guilty of the same lack of proportion. The story is so evidently symbolic and allegorical; and the same symbols are universally found. What is that Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? That Tree of Life? That pleasure-garden? The Garden is the state of primitive innocence in which dwelt early man, when as yet the light from Heaven had not kindled the latent spark within him. The Tree, the Tau, and the Cross are universal symbols of the Wisdom-Religion, as is the fruit which hangs near the top of the Tree. Around the Tree we often find a Serpent coiled — the universal emblem of Wisdom ('Be ye wise as serpents'). This is the origin of the Christian Cross, which should symbolize the sacrifice of self for Self, the salvation of man by exchanging the mortal for the immortal, the true Resurrection from the dead. See how these most sacred symbols have been turned into a dogmatic system, in which man is made to believe himself doomed by the sin of Adam to eternal damnation, only to be saved by an act of homage to a crucified God; and how good and evil have been mixed up, that which is holy profaned, and man made to damn his own god-given faculties.

It is hoped the above will not be interpreted by anyone into an advocacy of anything like 'Satanism' or devil-worship, or any such evil cult as may be found lurking in dark corners today. The distinction between good and evil is clear enough. If Satanism means the deification of evil passions, and black magic and sorcery, then the name of the divine archangel has again been traduced. Such unhallowed cults are simply one of the natural results of denying to man his own natural power of self-directed evolution; by cutting him off from the true light, we drive him to seek refuge in false lights. The Bible is one of the world's sacred scriptures; when we know the keys we can interpret it aright; but it can be, and has been, interpreted entirely wrong, so that a fraud has been practised on humanity. The above is written with a view to trying to clear away some of the confusion. It is time that the crucified Christ were resurrected from the tomb wherein his so-called followers have cast him; and that man should recognise once again his true Redeemer in the Christ within all men.


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