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Who Is Satan?
Mary: Dear Ram, after our conversation on the phone the other night, when you said that things were going so well, I thought that maybe having everything run smoothly is a bad sign. After all, Satan is the god of this world.
Ram: I think you must mean that when things are going well one shouldn’t get a swelled head, one should acknowledge the source, meaning that one should appreciate that it is by God’s grace alone that we enjoy.
But if this is not what you meant, indulge me as I think this through, if you will. When things are going well, it is Satan and when they aren’t, is it the Lord? My view is that ours is a non-dual reality. There may be two principles apparently operating, but they do not have the same order of reality. The all-encompassing principle is God. God is a benign principle, perhaps we can call it love, the sense that everything here shares the same identity. What is love but the absence of conflict brought about by an identification with the beloved? You love a person when you can identify and understand him or her and you don’t when you see them as separate from you.
What you call Satan I would call a misunderstanding that comes from the non-appreciation of God as everything that is. When you don’t see that everything is God, you imagine that you are separate from God, and when you imagine that you are separate from God you see yourself as separate from everything and everyone else. You can’t be separate from the world, because the world is also God. The creation is part and parcel of the Creator. It is not that God requisitioned non-God material from a separate universe, because there is no other kingdom but God’s kingdom. What we see in front of us, including ourselves, is God through and through. If God is the cause of this universe and all-pervading as the Bible claims, then how can the effect, the world, be separate from the cause? The effect will have to be the cause in a different form. Can you separate a pot from the clay that makes it up? If there is a Satan, that Satan would have to exist in God’s world, he could not have a kingdom to rival God’s. It is simply impossible. So how far is Satan from God? He is just someone who is, for whatever reason, unaware of his hidden identity with God, poor chap.
It is quite understandable that human beings can posit the existence of a being called Satan if they do not have access to the vision of God from God’s point of view. Just as the eternal, formless, nameless spirit is personified as God or a god, ignorance of the nature of God can easily be personified as an evil being, a Satan. Personification is okay – up to a point. But I see a problem with it: one is continually forced to think of oneself as limited, inadequate and incomplete. If what happens to me is up to God or the Devil, where do I come into the picture? I’m just a product, a helpless victim, at the mercy of a benign God on one hand or an evil Satan on the other. I think this dualistic view accounts for the fact that human beings never really attain maturity – even when their bodies are mature they consider themselves children of God. The whole society, secular and sacred, is a sibling society. At what point are we allowed to grow up spiritually and accept our oneness with God? Religion always wants us to be small, sinful and inadequate.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Satan was as at one time called Lucifer, which means the “light bearer.” He was a fallen angel. We too are fallen angels in the sense that our understanding of God and ourselves is imperfect. We feel separate from the world around us, we feel alienated from ourselves and from God. This feeling of separation is very deep, unconscious would be the psychological term, I suppose. Though it is unconscious it makes itself felt every day – in our desires and fears. These plague us no end and we work tirelessly to be rid of them – yet they persist. And after a while it is quite logical to believe that the deck is stacked against us, that somebody is out to get us. Enter Satan, stage left.
My view is that when things are going well it is a good sign and when they aren’t it is also a good sign. There are no bad signs unless we have a “bad” lurking somewhere in our minds. Reality doesn’t interpret itself. It just is. It does not validate us. Whatever happens in reality is not a statement about us, about God, the Devil or anything else. It is up to each person to interpret reality (or not) according to his or her understanding of the nature of reality – or not.
If you see that everything here is God, you see the lesson in the bad. You are grateful for it. It intensifies your faith. If you see that everything in the world is the Devil, how uncomfortable you will be here! How you will long for heaven or some sort of release. I have never understood how people can believe in something that they cannot experience. Nobody has ever returned from heaven or hell to report its existence. God, on the other hand, is obvious. He is self-evident. One doesn’t need a scripture or a church to tell us about it. Does anyone require a mirror to know that he or she has eyes?
This, my dear Mary, is the flood of thoughts that flowed from your simple statement. I welcome comments, arguments, etc. By the way, before I forget, thank you so much for enlightening me with the meaning of the word “anustova.” It might come in handy sometime. And I also need to thank you for your support of my scofflawing. It is so refreshing to encounter someone who understands its true significance. I’ve been committed for a long time, particularly in the days of my misspent youth. One incident comes to mind: sawing down a huge billboard in the dead night with a bunch of buddies, striking a deadly blow to the advertising industry. I fear, however, that geezerhood has taken its toll and I’m not nearly as vigorous in my pursuit of stupid rules to break. I’m also happy to hear that you have perfected the art of procrastination. You weren’t that bad at it when I knew you before, so you must be a real master – oops, should I have said mistress – of the art. And as far as your heart-wrenching travails go, I sympathize and empathize. But according to your logic – if easy times are Satan, bad times are the Lord – every cloud has a silver lining, eh?