Summary

Evil be my Good will be a popular non-fiction research work centering on Promethean courage as a means to restore the pre-Christian ethical system of heroism and the virtues of blasphemy – that is, standing up to God and refusing his authority – thereby justifying the Romantic reading of Satan as the real hero of Paradise Lost.

When the gods created all living beings, Epimetheus forgot to give mankind any skills or defenses to protect themselves. Prometheus broke into Athena’s home and stole the technological arts (and the fire needed to use them) from her husband Hephaestus. He gave them to mankind so that they could protect themselves and survive. For this rebellion against the gods, Zeus punished him to be chained and tortured until the end of time.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a tragic hero – the existence of humanity is again and again promoted/prospered by the gifts of rebels who aide them against the gods’ wishes. But when we get to the revised creation myth found in the Christian gospel, although the story is almost the same, the values are reversed: Rather than giving them the gift of technology, Satan tempts them with knowledge – something God desperately wants his creations to do without.

Using Miltons’ Paradise Lost as a starting point, Evil be my Good aims to examine this difference, by tracing the evolution of revolutionary heroes in myth and literary, and demonstrating firmly that, at least in light of modern libertine values of freedom and equality, Satan is the hero of the Christian epic.

Satanic Principles

There are two kinds of Satanism. The first kind is the one you’re familiar with from the scores of novels, Hollywood productions and popular culture of the past several decades: Satanism as the clandestine clans of secret societies who worship the devil, and perform grotesque ceremonies involving sex, blood and sacrificed babies in the hopes of gaining magical powers or preferred treatment in the event that Satan returns to earth victorious.

This Satanism has a long history; tales of men gaining powers through Satan are as old as the biblical Solomon (or even Adam). It seems to be ancient knowledge that if you want something done in this lifetime and God won’t help you, Satan is the one who will.

One of the aims of this book is to demonstrate that this kind of Satanism doesn’t exist. Satan is not the evil, enemy of God, plotting his return and rubbing his hands in the darkness below our feet. He is not anxiously waiting by the backdoor for us to make a casual slip in our moral conduct and leave the door open.

Instead, the big, scary, terrifying demon of Christian literature and popular culture has always been a scare tactic designed to frighten the faithful into the comforting arms of the church. Satan is the coal that fuels the furnace of Christian faith. Satan is the dark that makes the light possible.

The other kind of Satanism, the one that is real, as in there are and have been actual people who practice or believe in it, is the type that uses the literary figure of Satan as a metaphor for humanist, liberal and progressive values. The other kind of Satanism, the one that is real, as in there are and have been actual people who practice or believe in it, is the type that uses the literary figure of Satan as a metaphor for humanist, liberal and progressive values.

This kind of Satanism was unleashed, possibly by accident, when John Milton composed his epic poem Paradise Lost in 1667, attempting to “justify the ways of God to men” but failing just enough in that endeavor to slash a wide path of doubt, not only through the text, but by extension through Christian faith and doctrine in its entirety. Not only is the omniscient God of Milton a devious, manipulative, plotting figure who moves the other characters like chess pieces, for the personal glory of himself and his son, and to secure his continuing rule; but it is hard to feel anything but admiration, and then pity, as the majestic figure of Satan is reduced lower and lower.

The ideals embraced by Milton’s Satan were championed by a widespread movement of authors, poets, and scientists, many of whom deliberately used Satan as a symbol of revolution, transgression, dignity and self-worth, and autonomy from external powers. This figure of Satan is intimately tied with the Enlightenment, Rationalism, the Romantic and Modernists movements, the Industrial Revolution and the Technological Advances that define modern day life. It directly inspired the ideas of civil liberties, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, religious tolerance, sexual and racial equality, scientific exploration, the idea of government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It is responsible for the idea of human rights as we know them and the idea of “cruel and injustice punishment” as well as the right to pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s right, the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution are indebted to the liberal ideology of Milton’s Satan.

All of these things had to be fought for, against the reigning conservative authorities who often grounded their traditional values as Religious Truths. If you’re like me and you think that most of the above list denote signs of positive progress rather than the descent into heresy, pride and sin, then you’re probably a Satanist too. All of these things had to be fought for, against the reigning conservative authorities who often grounded their traditional values as Religious Truths. If you’re like me and you think that most of the above list denote signs of positive progress rather than the descent into heresy, pride and sin, then you’re probably a Satanist too.

It’s time to reclaim the Satanic – to draw the inevitable yet troubling conclusions of contemporary theory and literary criticism; that modern definitions of heroism and ethics cannot be reconciled with the traditional notion of egomaniacal pride being the worst sin, deserving of punishment. This project of course cannot escape the criticism that it is in some sense anti-religious, but it is not necessarily so: pointing out links and relationships which should be obvious and are easy to make should not be avoided simply because everyone would rather hold hands in the dark. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If Satan is a villain, then all modern heroes are villains; the only separation between them being the tyrant whom they defy and challenge.

 

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BOOK SUMMARY (updated 2016)

A history of fallen angels, pirates, revolutionaries and other daring insurgents who liberated humanity and founded the modern world.

Paradise Lost is a unique text in that responses to Milton’s epic have not evolved in line with trends in literary theory, and instead rehash the three hundred year old disagreement on whether Milton’s Satan is, in any sense, either by accident or deliberation, the hero of the story. This dialogue, like the biblical story of the Garden of Eden on which the epic is based, centers on the theme of temptation: in Paradise LostSatan’s deliberate and malicious destruction of Adam and Eve seems to guarantee his guilt, yet it is hard not to sympathize with the heroic passion of Satan’s daring odyssey. Many modern critics read this as exactly the genius of Paradise Lost, that it is a seductive text, and that Milton’s Satan must be resisted.

On the other hand, it’s easy to argue that this orthodox reading is medieval–a duty towards obedience to inherited wisdom and the strict containment of your own passionate tendencies; and that this reading is also completely at odds with the liberal, Faustian values of contemporary society. In this thesis, after exploring the orthodox response to Paradise Lost (and the reaction it generates), I’ll demonstrate how Milton’s writings are symptomatic of an ethical inversion in Western culture, which first caused Satan to be celebrated (as a symbol for revolutionary politics) and later condemned (as humanity confronted the depths of its unrestrained depravity). After tracing how responses to the character of Satan have evolved in literature and entertainment in line with political sympathies, my original contribution to knowledge will be a comparative reading ofParadise Lost through the lens of postmodern thought and existentialism as Satan’s over-proximity with the Real (the abyss of freedom creates anxiety which demands action).

Satan’s crisis of identity can be divided into three major shifts: the development of subjectivity through a crisis of alienation; his resistance to a totalizing power discourse that defines his being; and his ultimate failure to exempt himself from the systemic order that relied on his transgression. The aim of this book will be to show how universally modern thinkers agree on the concept of evil as a negation of what is, in favor of anything else but this–a negation that is paradoxically the source of all human liberty and creativity (which nevertheless leads to death); and also to demonstrate how the silencing of so-called satanic elements allows and perpetuates social injustice and the marginalization of minority voices.

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