Lucifer’s Fall, Revisited

So I’ve talked about the various interpretations of Lucifer’s fall before (here if you don’t remember), and I’ve sort of talked a bit of my opinion of each one. But yesterday I was asked which version I personally believe in, and I had to stop and think for a moment.

I don’t think that there is necessarily a ‘correct’ version. I think that all of these versions, in some way or another, are connected.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be an ‘either, or’ situation—why couldn’t Lucifer have fallen because of the accumulation of these significant details?

Now, admittedly, I don’t quite have everything sorted out just yet as to the specifics of how each interpretation fits into the others, but I have been speculating on how Lucifer’s intense devotion to YHWH and the accusation of him being too prideful may work together.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14).

This passage, while initially the product of a mistranslation, has been used to show how Lucifer thought himself above his station in the hierarchy of heaven, seeking to rise above his position as a servant of god, to God himself. I have heard some accusations that he sought to be better than God, but I think that stems from a misunderstanding of the line “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God”. We know from other points in scripture that angels are often interpreted as stars (“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth” Revelation 12:3-4), and so he sought to become more than the angels, but not necessarily more than God—he did, after all, still refer to him as the ‘Most High’. If you’ll think back to Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, once more we see this familiar enticement of becoming ‘like God’.

However, I don’t think this goal to become like God is specific to Lucifer. The term ‘Christ-like’ refers to the desire to become like Christ, to become like God, through a person’s actions and beliefs. There is that yearning to emulate him out of love, to become more like him and in turn be closer to God. Within the folk Catholicism I grew up with, women are compelled to take on the virtues of Mary, of giving the self as a Marian devotion. If we understand and in essence become the Mother of Christ, we are better able to understand and connect with her son and God.

The only difference I see is that I don’t believe the concept of becoming Christ-like or Mary-like within Christian context leads to direct unification with God—in doing so, one might seek to better understand God and bear fragments of his Grace in the service of others, but I don’t think they see themselves as losing their sense of ‘self’ so that God is all that remains.

From what I’ve studied thus far, this latter concept of becoming unified with God is more prevalent within Sufism.

“My God! You have lifted me so high that I feel I have lost all of me, and nothing has remained of me. Thus, I am You, for two we cannot possibly be One.”

-Abu Yazid al-Bistami

“Between Me and You, there is only Me; Take away the Me, so only You remain” –Mansur al Hallaj

Sufi mystic Mansur al-Hallaj was said to have been executed for heresy, and uttered controversial statements such as Ana al-haqq—I am Truth (God). However such a proclamation was made within the confines of the  ideals of divine unification and disintegration of the self, as he believed himself in his devotion to be removed of all except that which was of God. 

 So turning back to the Fall, when questioned as to whether or not he still remembered his God,Iblis replied:

 Oh Musa, pure mind does not have need of memory – by it I am remembered and He is remembered. His remembrance is my remembrance, and my remembrance is His remembrance. How, when remembering ourselves, can we two be other than one? My service is now purer, my time more pleasant, my remembrance more glorious, because I served Him in the absolute for my good fortune, and now I serve Him for Himself.’ (The Ta-Sin of Before Endless-Time and EquivocationVerse 15).

Is it really pride if in seeking to become like God he was willing to give up his sense of self? Pride could also be referring to the sense of pleasure gained from the achievements and accomplishments of others we are associated with—and there was none whom Lucifer was more highly associated with nor in awe of than his God. It is said, after all, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So for me, interpretations of the Fall as due to pride, seeking to become God, or devotion to God are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary.

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