The Archetypal Atheist
Why doesn’t Satan throw in the towel? He’s a seraph, so he must know better than any other sort of creature ever could that God is doomed to crush him, and that he himself is doomed to fail. Why does he then keep roaming the world seeking the ruin of souls? Why doesn’t he save himself the trouble?
When Lucifer turns from God, he ipso facto turns from Reality, and from Truth. From that moment he is incapable of apprehending the fullness of Truth. This means that he cannot apprehend God as properly God. He cannot see God for who he really is. He can see God, to be sure, and can remember his own prelapsarian life. But he can interpret his memories of perfect virtue and his present experiences of God only under the aspect of his turn from Truth; which is to say, only under the aspect of a purblind, partial, distorted image of Reality. It is a flat image, that has lost the dimension of ultimacy – of God’s eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, ubiquity, and so forth. It no longer exists for him; it is to him a meaningless notion, a nullity. Satan sees that God is powerful, but does not understand what it means that God is omnipotent.
He therefore cannot believe that God – God properly so called, the God of whom the Philosophers, Israel, the Church and her prophets, apostles, saints and mystics all speak – actually exists. Satan simply, honestly does not see that he has a King. He sees God, but does not register the fact of the righteousness of God’s reign. He sees God as a tyrant, no greater in principle than he is, whom he could usurp, and would.
He is an atheist.
So is he a nominalist, and a nihilist. For, having turned from Reality, he has turned to nothingness. All that remains to him then is himself, looking out upon nothing. And he takes this solitude as basic to being. So is he an unwitting solipsist. And so sophistical a solipsist is he, that no contravening item can penetrate to his awareness.
He is, in short, deluded – and cannot understand that this is so.
You can’t turn to a Light that you can’t see (except by accident). So Satan can’t turn back to God. He sees nothing there to turn back to. He and his minions literally can’t see God, or the Good. They see only perversions of the Good, and of God; and it is to these perversions that they adhere, and abhere. They seek the Less than Optimal, mistaking it for the Optimal; they are idolaters. Presumably they are honest errants, honest idolaters. They cannot turn from their moral course, because they cannot see that there is any other sort of course open to them. As with the Truth and the Light, the Way for them is nonexistent.
Satan cannot turn back.
In this he is unlike men. Men inherit a turn from Reality as Original Sin, to be sure; this is the Body of Death. That Body obscures Reality, so that men see it only as through a glass, and darkly. Even to apprehend its existence, they need experience or education or training. This they seek by their nature, which was first made (like those of all creatures) for and toward God. But men are far less scient than angels, and have a much harder time attaining certainty about anything. It behooves them if they want to live then to be ever doubtful, to fret and worry always whether they have got things wrong after all. Men are so constituted in their biological essences as never to be able to choose irrevocably while they yet live. All their dogmas are held provisionally, and are subject to change depending on further developments. Men can therefore amend their policies, and do. They can at every moment of their lives turn from one path to another, diametrically opposite path.
This turn is presumably available to Lucifer too, ontologically; it is prevented to him only epistemologically. His phenomenal life is devoid of enchantment; for him, there is no musical aspect to being, nor for that matter any ultimately rational aspect to it, no Rational Ultimate. Reality is for him essentially unintelligible; for in turning from Reality and Truth, you turn from all that is intelligible toward what is not; toward chaos and non-being. Turning from the Good himself, and from Reality per se, you turn effectually away from moral realism, and become a radical moral skeptic. You turn finally also from causal power, ergo from actuality: for the efficacious use of power depends upon its apt application to Reality as it is in itself. So, Satan is dwindling toward the zero of action, toward his tomb of icy immobility.
Satan does not throw in the towel, then, because his certainty in the competence of his science blinds him both to its incompetence and to the fact of his error. Being blind to the Real Good he is alive exclusively to a False Good, and seeks it. He seeks for all creatures – i.e., for his own environment of actual entities, his own world of which he is the ruler – a radical freedom from what he sees as the unjust strictures of fantastic religious cults whose object is strictly illusory, and whose acts and works are therefore insane and evil.
It goes like this, then:
- The comprehension of seraphic science leads to overconfidence – to Pride. Thanks to his comprehension, the seraph has no true reason to feel any doubt in his own powers of apprehension or knowledge or understanding.
- But even comprehensive science cannot see what is not – it cannot see or a fortioriconcretely or vividly understand evil or disorder ex ante – cannot see what it is like to be wicked, as compared to what it is like to be virtuous. Ex ante, an evil option will seem to it morally indifferent, and will seem to pose no danger.
- The innocent seraphic conscience is therefore ignorant of evil. Only ex post can any creaturely agent fully understand the character of what it has done.
- But even having Fallen, the seraph never does fully understand what he has done as evil. He never can. He is stuck in his ignorance. Talk about a clever silly!
- Having Fallen, the seraph is not disabused of his Pride, for he is ignorant thereof. The Prideful seraph has no idea that he is ignorant of anything; his Pride seems therefore to him, honestly, quite apt, as also do all his acts. He has no notion that he is Proud. He does not know that he does not know what he does not know.
- The Truth, then, the Good, the Beautiful, the Real, and the Potent are to the Fallen seraph utterly invisible. He sees only their perversions, and mistakes them for the genuine articles.
- Even after his Fall, then, the seraph does not apprehend it as such. It seems to him rather only a natural and unremarkable development of his life as it first came to him.
- I.e., the Fallen seraph does not understand evil as evil. It looks OK to him. He does not mind his suffering, because he knows no better. His life is normal to him. To what other might he compare it?
So only the seraphim who have not Fallen, and who can observe the squalid lives of their adversaries, can understand evil concretely. Because it is a depravation of good, evil can be understood only from the perspective of that good.
Comment: Excellent explanation how and why a being far more intelligent than a mere human could even think it has a chance against Someone who is Omnipotent.
As the reader has the chance to repent, I repeat: Hell is eternal, Hell is eternal, Hell is eternal…