About the Devil in the Series Lucifer

A few days ago, I received a curious protest petition against the upcoming series Lucifer, which will premiere in January on FOX and is based on a character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.  The e-mail highlights how the series would show the devil as a nice guy, solving crimes and being kind and compassionate to all sorts of people.  The e-mail stated how important it was to urge FOX not to air the show, for it’s portrayal of the devil would confuse the ill-informed and corrupt the youth.

Lucifer actor

But, this description of the devil brought an important fact to my mind: the devil never shows himself as the hate-filled and filth-loving monster that he is.  If he does take that aspect, it is only toward people who assiduously resist his temptations and refuse to be taken in by the devil’s facade.  Fulton Sheen appropriately notes that the devil pretends to be a friend of human freedom before a sin, while God, who actively tries to stop us from doing evil, appears as if He were against human freedom.

St. Faustina writes in her diary, published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul (one of the greatest modern spiritual works one can own), that she was given a vision of two roads: one had people weeping as they climbed a steep, narrow path covered with jagged rocks; the other contained people laughing and singing as they danced along a broad road strewn with flowers.  The people on the latter looked beautiful and happy as they went from one worldly delight to the next.  Yet, that road suddenly grew steep and the thousands of people began falling off a precipice into hell with terror and pain.  Conversely, those weeping on the narrow climb found a garden of delight waiting for them on top of their path, and their faces beamed with joy.

Giacomo_Frey_-_Hercules_at_the_crossroads

This classic dichotomy of virtue and vice has its locus classicus in the myth of Hercules.  Virtue and Vice personified visit Hercules.  Vice begins by telling Hercules about all the pleasures which will be ripe for the taking if he follows her path.  Then, with Vice sneering at her all the while, Virtue talks about all the hardships and pain which Hercules will undergo in following hers.  When Vice laughs at the apparent nonsense of following Virtue, Virtue turns on her by describing the miserable end which befalls those who follow Vice and the honor attained by the virtuous.  And so, Hercules gladly took up the hard way of virtue for the honor he should receive through its pursuit.

St. Faustina herself stands as a Christian who rejected the easy way of the world for a hard life of monastic discipline and combating the forces of darkness.

St. Faustina stands as a Christian who rejected the easy way of the world for a hard life of monastic discipline and combating the forces of darkness.

So, let FOX air this show which displays the false face of the devil.  And, let believers remind others of the malevolence lurking behind this false facade.  I remarked above that the devil pretends to be the friend of human freedom before a sin.  After sinning and a life of vacuous pleasure, when a person realizes how far they have wandered from goodness and meaning, as soon as the painful realization of a wasted life hits, the devil reveals a different face towards the crushed and miserable sinner: “Well, so what?  You had your fun, now pay the price.  What are you to me?  If you feel so miserable and that life is so pointless, kill yourself!”  How many, plunged in despair like Judas Iscariot, run for a tree and hang themselves on it?

One is reminded of the words of the priests to Judas' repentance: "What is it to us? Look to it yourself."

One is reminded of the words of the priests in response to Judas’ repentance: “What is it to us? Look to it yourself.”

Yet, Our Lord is different.  He shows Himself as restrictive before someone sins.  After a sin, Christ manifests Himself as Mercy and Love.  If the damned had turned to the One who was hung upon a tree for the life of the world instead of hanging themselves upon a tree for their worldly guilt, they should have been saved by the Tree of Life.  The devil says, “Die!  Nothing matters.”  But, God rebukes the devil: “This soul matters to Me.  For him, I shed My blood upon the cross.  If he simply turns to Me and forsakes his evil ways, he shall find joy, love, and meaning.  I will not turn away anyone who comes to Me.  Venite Mihi omnes–All men, come to Me!”

St. Peter before Christ

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12 comments on “About the Devil in the Series Lucifer

  1. Luminas says:

    This is an immensely awesome post, and a very apt description of how temptation actually works versus how we think it is supposed to work. For years in the Middle Ages, the Devil was depicted inexplicably as some huge psychotic red creature, when if we were being honest about both him and ourselves…We’d see a beautiful, serene-looking person (For guilt is not a thing he is plagued with) with Hell itself in his shadow. All the terrible incidents in history there ever were, all the pain, all the fear, layered atop itself like a fractal nightmare….But only if you’re paying attention.

    “But, this description of the devil brought an important fact to my mind: the devil never shows himself as the hate-filled and filth-loving monster that he is. If he does take that aspect, it is only toward people who assiduously resist his temptations and refuse to be taken in by the devil’s facade.”

    Not necessarily. At least, if like so many pundits seem to say the Devil really DOES have any influence over the media. In a lot of media, particularly in anime where for reasons I’m not really clear on people seem to know more about demons, demonic or Satanic characters are often shown for what they really are…..and are glorified in that wickedness at the same time, reflecting pretty well the Devil’s own opinion of himself. It’s almost as if instead of hiding the fact that St. Faustina’s worldy path leads to Hell, the Devil simply gives the sinner a bird’s eye view of the entire path…

    …..and lets the sinner decide for themselves whether they’d rather have instant gratification or eternal-but-not-instant gratification. You would be surprised (And actually, psychological studies back this up) at how utterly easy it is to know it all, and make the wrong choice. To trade immortality in God’s memory for immortality in the memory of your fellow human beings, without thought of the Ragnarok of this world.

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    • Thanks for your comment! I think that all the souls in hell, demons or men, must experience intense guilt. God created all beings with a specific purpose, and rational beings find their delight in the attainment of this specific purpose, i.e. their identity. The Book of the Apocalypse claims that God shall give a new name to whoever conquers sin through grace (Rev 2:17). This new name must be their true identity. A large portion of one’s life is spent seeking one’s identity, and not finding it tends to cause great anxiety.

      Let’s apply this to the devil. Tradition tells us that his name was Lucifer, “Bringer of Light,” however, through trying to take the place of God, he cast out of heaven and now wonders the earth to draw people away from God. Is not being the Prince of Darkness the very opposite thing of what he was created for? In choosing the very opposite, he appears to have a taken an identity, but that identity is not what God created. And, whatever lies outside of God’s creative power and will is evil, which is defined as the absence of good or nothingness. An identity cannot be based on nothingness! So, the devil must have more anxiety than anyone in the universe because he of all creatures is farthest from the will of God. The devil can simulate calm, but that facade bursts when he’s resisted steadfastly.

      An example I read recently of the titular character of George MacDonald’s Lilith illustrates this perfectly. Lilith claims to have an identity she forged of herself–that she did not need to adhere to God’s will. Yet, when she is forced to see her wicked deeds in the light of God, she rages and ravages and at last tearfully acknowledges the emptiness of her existence and wishes to die. Nick Calibey of A Rather Silly Blog describes how Hell in the Greek Orthodox view, curiously, is for an impenitent person to see God. However, the same vision in a repentant one produces intense delight. (It’s a really good article: http://arathersillyblog.com/2013/07/19/the-ring-of-fire/)

      People can choose hell with open eyes; however, I don’t think that people really believe that it will befall them when they sin. People lie to themselves when they sin: “For [the sinner] hath said in his heart: God hath forgotten, he hath turned away his face not to see to the end” (Psalm 9b: 11). When people sin, they chose more an apparent good than an immediate evil. When David slept with Bathesheba, Bathesheba was the object of his desire, not the shame of his deed and the other consequences which followed from his adultery. Only someone in absolute despair might choose hell; but, even in that case, that person suffers from a great deal of ignorance: 1) ignorance of the actual suffering in hell; and 2) ignorance of the means of escape or that he has indeed the strength of will to escape from sin.

      But, yes, there are not only hard moral choices but also hard moral actions–times when the right choice is obvious, but one lacks the will. And so, we keep trying again and again for holiness: Our Lord fell and rose three times on the road to Calvary so that we might always have the strength to rise from our falls.

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  2. Luminas says:

    “An identity cannot be based on nothingness! So, the devil must have more anxiety than anyone in the universe because he of all creatures is farthest from the will of God. The devil can simulate calm, but that facade bursts when he’s resisted steadfastly.”

    Exactly, actually. Only if you are looking for it will you know it is there, but the anxiety and lack of self-esteem is not something he seems to be able to hide. Guilt is more of a complicated issue, though….because technically he refuses to consciously acknowledge it. Have you ever heard of something called narcissistic personality disorder? This is where someone with an incredibly low sense of self-esteem and high anxiety basically prevents themselves from experiencing either of those things by developing a front that appears to have a grandiose entitlement complex and ridiculous confidence. Despite this…This kind of person reacts to criticism, real or imagined, very very badly (Because of the true lack of self-confidence internally) and goes through often abusive means to control what other people say about them.

    As to why exactly I’m thinking about most of this…C.S. Lewis acknowledged two possible fallacies you can develop with demons: Either you don’t believe they exist or you develop an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. I have always been the latter. Regrettably. I blame the demon. But it makes for interesting philosophical rambling.

    “People can choose hell with open eyes; however, I don’t think that people really believe that it will befall them when they sin. People lie to themselves when they sin”

    ….I find myself disagreeing here, and I think it is because I’ve experienced a phenomenon where sometimes you sin knowing full well how bad it’s going to be a couple hours later. It’s kind of like getting drunk knowing that you have to go to work tomorrow and you’re going to get a horrific thundering hangover, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Or a drug addict after a fix despite being completely, horrifyingly aware of what the drug is doing to them.

    But they are unable to stop themselves from falling into the abyss, even when it stares right back into them, because the path is so sweet and the company along it so clever.

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    • A narcissistic disorder describes the devil’s case exactly. I remember C. S. Lewis describing those two fallacies quite well. Curiously, he himself often seems preoccupied with the Enemy, especially in his science fiction works. But we must know something about our enemies in order to defeat them, so it pays off to know about the devil.

      We do often sin though knowing that it will be bad for us shortly down the road. I blame a lack of imagination–Alexandre Dumas once wrote that most people don’t have enough imagination for reality. Imagination is where reason and emotion meet and people often get that emotional or spirited impetus to resist vice. Without that, many sins are difficult to resist simply because we can’t imagine how evil something is or how good the virtue we decline from is.

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  3. a991807 says:

    Great post. The irony is that even people who, at least subconsciously, know this choose to depict God as a bad guy anyway.

    For example, in the video game Shin Megami Tensei IV, the player can choose to side with demons or angels. The demons make their case by luring the player in with promises of “freedom” and “wisdom and knowledge”, essentially stroking the player’s ego, and denounce God and the Angels in fits of self-righteousness as hypocrites and denounce those who follow them as puppets. However, if one chooses to side with the demons, the game reaches a reasonable conclusion (that I won’t spoil, but take my word for it that things don’t really end well for anybody).

    Meanwhile, while the game never gives the angels much time to argue their side, they tend to protect mankind, counsel against the abuse of knowledge and wisdom, and denounce the (pretty obvious) greed and cruelty of those who follow demons. The angelic ending is also reasonable (again I won’t spoil it but I think it’s the game’s best ending). However the game creators, despite understanding the consequences of the demonic philosophy, still go out of their way to depict the angels (at least personality-wise) as cold, distant, and even mechanical at times. The angels (with one exception) are shown as somewhat merciless to certain humans (again it’s a story thing that I’d rather not spoil, but it kind of makes sense in context) when, in reality, they would probably be willing to offer forgiveness.

    Many people understand that sin will lead to disaster but still spit in God’s eye for being “judgmental” just because He honors their choices and lets them live in the pigsty they’ve created. They want God to baby them and bail them out whenever they get themselves into trouble while they continue to ignore Him and do whatever they want. They don’t want a Father, they want a Butler, and unless God chooses to let them live consequence-free He’s cast as the bad guy who wants to enslave everyone to boost his own ego. This is ironic because those people are projecting THEIR OWN PRIDE onto God. THEY want everyone to do what they want and to stroke their ego for no other reason than their own pride and because they’re so full of themselves they think God behaves in the same way. They can’t imagine anyone with different motivations.

    I can only see this problem getting worse as the family continues to disintegrate in the industrial countries and the fact that a show where THE DEVIL is the protagonist (not to mention all sorts of other shows that try and cast him as a sympathetic character*cough* Supernatural *cough*) is now acceptable to the general public (network runners wouldn’t green-light it if it didn’t have an audience) only reinforces that. (And don’t get me started on that Preacher filth being adapted for a television series!)

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    • Thank you! Shin Megami Tensei IV sounds like a very intriguing game. You describe people’s attitudes towards God, the angels, and demons with great accuracy. Though, the cases where people describe the holy angels as being cold and distant strike one as odd. (I remember John Gardner’s Grendel being one such book.) If we consider the human beings with the most compassion for sinners, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, we find that the more greatly they cleave to justice, the more compassion they hold towards sinners–with Mary, who never sinned, holding first place. The angels also never sinned and have more perfect knowledge of God than the holiest person on earth, so, one should expect the angels to also have tons of pity for sinners. I can only imagine that those who believe the angels to be cold compare them to certain persons who do everything right and have a high opinion of their probity.

      The problem with people blaming God and project their own pride onto God, Who is the Truth and therefore perfectly humble, will only get worse. Compare the response of the people during the Apocalypse to those of the Old Testament to God’s wrath. When confronted with God’s justice and the punishments for sin, the people of the Old Testament–even the cruel Assyrians in the Book of Jonah–often become troubled and repent. Yet, the ones during the Apocalypse are described as cursing God rather than repenting–no matter how they are punished. In doing so, they imitate the adamant impenitence of the devil, and it is no wonder that many people find the devil sympathetic! A very sad state, and we can only offer our prayers and penance even as we try to convince others of their errors.

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      • Another problem is that the only extended Biblical portrayal of an angel, in the Book of Tobit, is not read by most Protestants. In Tobit, we see Raphael as a great road companion and kindly kinsman, in his cover identity of Raguel, and as a definite well-wisher of humans when he reveals his true identity.

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      • That’s true. At one time, the books Protestants dubbed Apocryphal were still included in their Bibles. Then, the price of printing went up and that was changed.

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      • Luminas says:

        I think I’d be ridiculously interested in that Book of Tobit discussion about Raphael, especially since the “Traveling companion is secretly a magical, spiritual being” thing is literally older than feudalism. Is there any way to find that?

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      • It would be in any Catholic Bible within the Old Testament or within the Apocrypha section of a Protestant Bible which had that included. It’s a great story.

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  4. David A says:

    Presenting a positive view of the devil has been sadly common in recent years, but at least some people are reacting now.

    About Shin Megami Tensei, I was reading about these games in the wiki of the games and in tv tropes. I think a good description for these would be “misotheistic”.

    God seems to be depicted as a tyrant, while the devil is presented as someone that promises freedom and fights a supposedly “oppresive” Heaven hierarchy.

    They include elements from various religions, with many deities being featured as demons. Although, according to the wiki, every supernatural being is described as a “demon”.

    In one game, they present God as using the facade of the Gnostic Demiurge too.

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    • a991807 says:

      You’re correct that the tone of the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole is very misotheistic (thanks for the new word by the way, wasn’t aware it existed until now). However the creators seem to have become a little more fair in SMT IV. In previous games God and the Angels were depicted as straight up evil (for the record the only game I would recommend playing is IV and even then don’t play any DLC as some of them are thematically inconsistent with the main game). In SMT IV, as I’ve stated, the results of the side you pick are pretty reasonable and I didn’t feel that siding with the Angels was evil or that they weren’t justified in their behavior. Furthermore, God’s relationship with mankind is more complex than the simple tyranny shown in past games in the series and enough clues are left for the player to come to the conclusion that God is looking out for mankind’s ultimate well-being. However, to understand this one does have to put more thought into what one is doing and be more critical of some of the information the game feeds you (particularly when it comes from demons). Furthermore, much of the story has to be actively searched for or else the player ends up with incomplete information. For example, a certain event in the story is ascribed to “the Wrath of God” but, if one actually pays attention to what happened and digs for more answers, one sees that God had nothing to do with it and, in fact, the event is entirely the fault of mankind.

      As for the “demon” naming convention. I’m not sure what the word being translated is in the original japanese. However it is important to note that, in the games, only humans classify all supernatural entities as “demons”. The demons (which includes polytheistic “deities”) all clearly refer to the angels as angels and are very clear on the distinction. The angels are also very clear on the distinction between themselves and the demons and it is clear that the allegiances of the two groups are consistent with their identification. (The polytheistic deities claim they have divine status but pale in comparison with the power of God and are incapable of defeating the Angels in the series. Like other demons they generally are only in it for themselves or their particular fiefdoms.)

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