First, a spoiler alert for The Ninth Gate (1999)—do not continue reading past this sentence if you do not want to know the film’s ending. In watching it, I did not understand why the devil revealed would issue in blinding white light. Is not evil the absence of light—of being? A Satanist provided me with the answer. “You are looking at it as a Christian would,” he said. “Dark to you is light to a Satanist.” This requires some explanation.
Most of us know the story. The angel Lucifer fell from heaven out of jealousy of all the attention God was giving human beings. Moreover, Lucifer refused to submit as a slave to God. This freedom is Lucifer’s goodness, according to a Satanist. There is thus a good aspect to evil, in this view. Hence, the end of the film shows bright light because the perspective is that of a disciple or worshipper of Lucifer/Satan (Lucifer is known as Satan once the angel has fallen, and is thus in hell).
It is the slavishness of Christians that evinces weakness, according to the Satanists. As a son of the devil asks his father in the film, The Devil’s Advocate, “’Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’, is that it?” The Satanist views himself as stronger, or more powerful, than the Christian because Satan, who is the reigning deity in hell, does not demand servitude out of free will. A Satanist claims to freely love the devil not only for this reason, but also because of what the deity stands for—namely, hate. How, it may be asked, can one love hatred? The hatred is directed only at those humans and angels who worship God. Indeed, a Satanist looks forward to tormenting the weak (i.e., Christians) in hell. They deserve to suffer, according to a Satanist, because they willingly became weak in surrendering their free-will to servitude. The Satanists hate Jesus Christ because he was teaching men to willingly become weak in servitude. This is why Satan had God’s Son killed. Is not the Resurrection vindication in the self-emptying of God in love for sinners? To the Satanist, the Resurrection of Christ is not the last word; indeed, there is to be an anti-Christ born in hell who will triumph over the weak, skinny Jew. Having free-will rather than being in servitude to the devil, the anti-Christ will be stronger, or more powerful, than even the resurrected Christ.
In the meantime, Satanists conduct their rituals, which have included human sacrifice but more commonly involve kidnapped dogs and cats. The worshipper wants (by free will) to be one with the devil, living for Him and doing His will. Is not this slavery? Is not such a worshipper akin to a Christian doing God’s will even if the respective wills’ content differs? The Satanist claims to freely want to become the devil embodied out of love for Lucifer/Satan. But doesn’t the Christian claim to freely want to do God’s will out of love for God? Such love makes sense where the deity itself is love, but how can one love at all if one worships and values hatred?
“God is not all love,” the Satanist replies. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. However, the Jew or Christian might retort that God as judge is ultimately functioning out of love for His people. Not being among His people, the Satanists do not view God’s wrath as sourced in love. One could also argue that even if God were not all love, a person could not love without God being present because God is love (even if God is something more than love). Essentially, how can hatred love at all? The Satanist would reply that he does not just hate. He loves the devil and even those who worship that deity.
It seems to me that God, which is defined as love, must be present in love, even if it is directed to God’s adversary. In a sense, God wins even in the worship of the adversary. This makes sense if God is the source of being. How could one exist and not have something of God? As a son of the devil says in, Devil’s Advocate, “In the Bible you lose. We’re destined to lose dad.” The devil replies, “Well consider the source son.” God is the source not only of the Bible, but also of Creation—everything that exists, even the Satanist. So when a Satanist loves, it could be asked, how could he not? Moreover, how could something that exists completely sever itself from the source of existence and thus all that exists? I suppose another way of making this point is to say that even people who love to hate are not pure hate—pure evil. This is not to downplay the severity of human evil that is possible in one who worships it by personifying or deifying it and then embodying the deity.
Once while bored on the internet, I made the mistake of watching the decapitation of an innocent man by a terrorist group. The men cutting through the screaming victim’s neck were praising God. The praising itself was unnerving. Psychologically, the utter lack of empathy belied any claim to service to God and suggested a dark psychological pathology making use of politics and a religion as subterfuges. That any human being could do that to another is beyond my grasp, but this may simply mean that my values (and innate empathy) mean that I could never be a Satanist. It is the Satanists’ lack of empathy and desire to kill (as sacrifice to a deity) that bothers me more than anything they say about the skinny Jew they love to hate.
Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Somehow, many Christians, and indeed the Church as well, have gotten too hung up on the names—sometimes even just repeating a favorite name over and over in what is actually rather obsessive (and thus empty form). I suspect this is a saccarine or hypotrophic effect of having refused to engage in dialogue with others, such as Satanists, who disagree fundamentally with one’s religious view. It is perhaps like Democrats or Republicans getting too carried away with their slogans because they have never heard the arguments of the other party (from which the slogans could be refined, or strengthened, in opposition to an antithetical value-set and belief-system).
It is the instantiation of evil in concrete terms, rather than the theological words themselves, that get my attention regarding the Satanists. Listening to a Satanist use trop lines to insult Jesus pales as compared to watching a decapitation video. It is the dark “fruit” of the love for Lucifer/Satan that ultimately defines the type of tree that is hanging the innocent victim. So too among Christians, disciples can be known by their fruit rather than what they claim to believe or how many times they praise Jesus.
I suspect that apart from the different conception of strength or power which really does set them in disagreement with what Jesus taught and exampled, Satanists have more hatred for hypocrites than for what Karl Rahner calls the anonymous Christians, like the good Samaritan, who freely and spontaneously feels and acts with compassion even when it is least convenient—as in having love for the hypocrites (who are as evil as the Satanists?) and one’s persecutors, even if they love antipodal spiritual values. It is the benevolentia universalis, rather than preaching or argument, that illuminates a light existing in even the Satanist—even if he takes it as darkness, or weakness. Perhaps if the Satanist discovered such a light existing within (even if perceived as darkness), his ire would really be kindled in a sort of self-hate, for he would suppose the light to be weakness on his part.
Yet even a Satanist, in virtue of being human, cannot completely sever himself from love if it is the very essence of the source of existence. What scares me is when his love directed to his deity motivates him to take on the divine attributes, or content/values, of his deity. Therein lies the evil. A fear of evil can be as simple as fearing being taken against one’s will and sacrificed without any way of talking the devoted out of it, for it would be to the Satanists an act of love in living for Lucifer/Satan, and that of hatred too—weakness, according to the devil, deserves to suffer, die, and be tormented. Perhaps the question is not so much on the nature of love, but, rather, on strength and weakness—for there can be different kinds of power, depending on what is valued.