The Suffering Gods

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“You are the god who understands. You know rejection, loss, and grief.” – Aaron Shust

 One of the most important aspects of Christ’s identity within Catholicism is the combination of his being both divine and mortal—of being capable of redeeming humanity through his divinity alone, but choosing to suffer and die as a man.

 When discussing Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows or Christ’s crucifixion, it is often in the context of them bearing the weight of our guilt and sins, of suffering for a brief moment in time so that we might be spared of that same pain.

 But not so with Lucifer. As the Mourningstar, his grief is perpetual. It is not one fixed event, not a means to an end. Unless you hold to the idea that Lucifer fell as a direct result of gifting humanity with knowledge, his suffering serves no greater purpose. There is no hope for redemption or salvation in return for his grief. He does not grieve to spare humanity of their suffering. He grieves because of loss, some might say as punishment for his actions.

 But perhaps this suffering is not entirely without purpose. There’s a certain kind of knowledge that can be gained through grief, and a certain kind of beauty as well. At the loss of a loved one, we mourn over a life well lived, however short it might have been. We cry because of the impact that person had on our lives. Had they never shared that connection with us, there’d be no reason for us to feel pain in their absence. And so I’m led to believe that Lucifer’s grief over his lost home and kin is born out of love.

 However, there’s another sort of suffering that is relevant to both Christ and Lucifer. In his final hour, Christ was said to have broken down and asked his father, “Why have you forsaken me?”. Some say this was a sign of his humanity. Another interpretation is that it was at this point in which he felt the weight of the world’s sins, and was compelled to cry out a phrase which hangs heavy on the tongues of those he sought to save, burdened with suffering as a result of their sins. I find this particular interpretation rather interesting, considering a discussion I had concerning the etymology of the name Iblis within Islam:

“Iblees (Satan) name comes from the root بلس (balasa) which means to give up hope or to despair, because he despaired in the mercy of God. Thinking that you’ve slipped up or intentionally sinned so much that Allah can’t and won’t forgive you isn’t real talk, it’s satanic.”

While Christ intentionally bore the burden of humanity’s sins and despair during his crucifixion, it could be said that Lucifer unintentionally bears the burden of the world’s sins and despair now. How often do we accuse the devil of being the source of all evil in the world, of leading us to sin? How often do we shrug off the responsibility of our own actions onto his shoulders? If the weight of humanity’s sins in that one moment caused Christ to cry out in despair, is it really any surprise that Lucifer would lose hope in there being any mercy granted to him from his god, after lifetimes of being burdened with that same weight?

We find ourselves feeling equally grateful and guilty at Christ’s suffering for our sake, because it was humanity that he died for, and humanity that scorned and condemned him for his sacrifice. But Lucifer? Perhaps the majority believes he deserves such suffering. Perhaps ‘love and pray for thy enemy’ does not apply to him. But the way I see it, while Christ suffers and grieves for us, Lucifer suffers and grieves alongside us.

I think it is therefore fitting that Lucifer be referred to as the ‘god of this world’. Job 1:7 seems to back up the idea that he was not cast down to ‘hell’, but rather to earth. It is fitting that an entity exiled for his flawed nature should spend his days amongst equally flawed beings. It is fitting that a ‘god of this world’ should know and understand human sentiments, and be able to relate to those he offered the gift of knowledge to, and subsequently introduced grief and suffering to.

Of Worship and Submission, or Lack Thereof

I’ve mentioned this before several times, and it remains an integral part of my faith: I do not worship Lucifer, and I am not allowed to bow down before him or any other entity or god. This was pretty much the first and only term that has been explicitly non-negotiable within my Work.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I came to understand why this restriction was so crucial, why I was pretty much forbidden from doing so. Obviously, if I’m working towards Apotheosis, submitting wholly and entirely to another being may be detrimental—but that’s still no reason to forbid it. I was even more confused as to why I was barred from bowing and kneeling at the precise moment I became aware of the sacredness of such an action, when I first felt compelled to do so out of love.

For years I just accepted it for what it was—maybe this was another quirk of his, similar to his dislike of being thanked. It seemed odd that for one accused of being so prideful, he mocked and refused any show of submission in his honor.

But now that I’ve been delving more into Islamic theology, and in particular Sufi interpretations of the fall of Iblis, I think I’ve figured out why this restriction was of such importance.

Iblis’s crime at first glance seems to be much the same as Christian interpretation—he allowed pride to get the better of him.

“It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate.
(Allah) said: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.” (Quran, sura 7 (Al-A’raf) ayat 11-12).

However in the Tawasin of al-Hallaj we are led to see things differently:

“If I prostrated before another than You or if I did not prostrate it would be necessary me to return to my origin, since You created me of fire, and fire returns to fire, according to an equilibrium and choice which are Yours”

“He put me far from others because of my jealousy for Him alone…He showed my lack of worth because I praised His Glory…He left me because of my union, He unified me because he cut me off. He cut me off because He had prevented my desire.

By His Truth I was not in error in respect to His decree, I did not refuse destiny.

If He punishes me with His fire for all of eternity I would not prostrate myself before anyone, and I would not abase myself before any person or body because I do not recognize any opposite with Him! My Declaration is that of the Sincere and I am one of those sincere in love.”

Iblis would not bow to Adam, believing him to be unworthy of the same exaltation and worship meant to be bestowed only upon God, his creator and the being he was made to serve. This resistance caused him to be parted from his God, earning him the title Shaytan, derived from ‘Shatana’ which roughly means ‘to be far from’. However, while he may have been disobeying the command to prostrate himself before mankind, it is said that he did so in order to obey a greater command—that all praise and worship belongs to God alone. His rebellion was thus a rebellion born out of adoration and obedience to God’s law.

 Similarly, the concept extends to the commands given regarding other gods:

“For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

 

“God forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away” (An-Nisa Verse No:116).

 And although I didn’t understand it at the time, I was similarly expected to keep this commandment with Lucifer: If it is thus my choice to turn from Christianity and not to worship YHWH, then I am not to worship or bow to any other entity or god—Lucifer included. If I strive to be a reflection of his ideals, then it only makes sense that I abide by the very commandment that he fell to uphold and protect.