Thursday, January 23, 2014

[Odd Musings] On Lucifer

Some of you might have read my short Satan's Plea. It's an attempt to look into how the Devil (full disclosure: I'm an atheist) would counter the stories in the Bible. I try to apply things known about human history (obviously skewed towards my own experiences in life) to this important narrative. But this odd musing is about the many ways that idea of Satan (or the devil) has developed.

As a child (in Tanzania) I remember that many (bad) objects in the natural world were considered agents of the devil (shatani). Even in the more secular world, it seems that there are still evil objects/people out there, though sometimes we try to be more nuanced or provide non-supernatural explanations for them. This apparent need to see/sense evil makes it easy to understand how our ancestors on the plains of Africa must have felt when they came up against a more powerful animal, or a place where the signs of an ambush made one's spine tickle, or the fear of heights, or a crazed man, or a foreign man who might be dangerous, or something out there in the dark. All of these experiences must have combined to create a feeling that was associated with fear. From there I can see creating something with the mind to symbolize that fear, or devil, or evil spirits.

What I want to focus on right now is the enemy within. The specific story about Lucifer being cast out of heaven. Here we see something a little different than the above stories of an outside enemy. Here we have an enemy within your own tribe. I can imagine a few ways this meme would have arisen in our ancestors but the most interesting one is the challenger to the power, the chief of the tribe. And within the warning of the Biblical tale [1] I see a tale to conform (or at least not to shake the powers that be). In that sense, when one looks at the story like this, we can see that perhaps Lucifer was the precursor to us all (as in a reason for our development as humans and a reason for our advancement).

How? He was the first to challenge whatever status quo existed and what was constrictive to our growth as humans. I see him as the the reason we started from a small tribe in Africa and spread to the whole of the world. One tribe grew too big, infighting occurred and the rebel was cast out to survive in the world. Slowly, bit by bit they forged to new areas and created new tribes, the same fight and casting out repeating, albeit with new actors, whenever things got too tight or stuffy (and each time it was never enough to just allow people to move along, that might have undermined the very narrative of the village on holy ground, therefore the powers that be had to cast those who were being thrown out in a bad light).

Now, I'm sure there are more factors at play here (some even contradictory). Some malevolent chief who merely wanted a scapegoat and the normal sacrifices weren't cutting it. Then he would point out some man on the fringes of the village and the cycle would move from there. Another matter is to look at the time of agriculture. Perhaps here that story of the castoff wasn't looked upon with disdain, but perhaps as the explorer. Here we can see as the society has more people, the rebellious forces that wouldn't have been so bad in a smaller setting could be devastating in a new town. Therefore it was necessary to highlight this story even more and thus cement the hierarchy that existed by calling this meme to rebel or ask for more from the leader as the root of all evil.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: So there have been some comments (on reddit) about my musing. As with most of my other musings, I don't see them as definitive, but rather a journey of discussion or learning:
So the following are weaknesses that need to be addressed (or perhaps others could answer them).
What are the other narratives with a rebel being cast out (not necessarily from Heaven, but rather from any group of humans—or tribe if you will)? Are there any that predate the Christian story? More need to be found for this hypothesis to have any weight.

And what of the non-religious lens I'm looking at this through. Will it provide the best answers? I see a religious scene and I think of only natural phenomena that could bring it about. Is this correct? In other words I see the fallen angel and I think that it was a story incorporated to either combat or explain something happening in real life. Does this take into proper account the mindset of people writing down these stories? I'm not entirely sure. My hypothesis looks at most religious narratives as taking advantage of and tweaking existing narratives (written or oral, though with the latter it's hard to build a case on it). Sound decisions? A man building his house on sand?


[1] All of this is thanks to Paradise Lost.

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