From the Archives: A Short History of the Devil (1979)

in Culture

By Glenn O’Brien

The Devil as he is known today comes out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Not that he’s a Jew or a Christian, or even their “opposites.” But that’s where he was first spotted. He was developed and marketed by Judeo-Christians in much the same way that they first handled today’s God. Before Judeo-Christianity covered the globe, the divinity market was rife with small time operators, gods who specialized, doing a great job in a modest sphere.

Though they were gods, they weren’t strictly “good” or “bad.” They were generally a mixture of both. That made them interesting. When they were good, they were very, very good. But when they were bad, head for the caves. At any rate, heaven was not exclusive turf, not virgin either. There was still room for expansion and profit. It was still possible for a new operator to move in and carve out a piece of the action. Polytheism was everywhere. But that doesn’t mean that there was no idea of One God. Almost everywhere the gods were, there was the idea of One God, an ultimate deity. But this God was regarded as so abstract, unknowable and even irrelevant to our petty learning problems as to require some divine in intermediaries who themselves had to answer to some higher logic.

Anyway, as time went by and planet got more crowded and civs bumped into and often destroyed one another, heaven tended to get mixed up a lot. Gods got into deadly competition. There was war in heaven.

Chaos. It was the perfect opportunity for someone to move in and organize things. Basically, what Judeo-Christianity did was organize heaven as a conglomerate. One by one the old deities’ individual territories were taken over by the One God …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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