Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sustained by the command to go...

One of the most amazing images of love that I know is Persian–a mystical Persian representation of Satan as the most loyal lover of God. You will have heard the old legend of how, when God created the angels, he commanded them to pay worship to no one but himself; but then, creating man, he commanded them to bow in reverence to this most noble of his works, and Lucifer refused–because, we are told, of his pride. However, according to this Moslem reading of his case, it was rather because he loved and adored God so deeply and intensely that he could not bring himself to bow before anything else. And it was for that that he was flung into Hell, condemned to exist there forever, apart from his love.

Now it has been said that of all the pains of Hell, the worst is neither fire nor stench but the deprivation forever of the beatific sight of God. How infinitely painful, then, must the exile of this great lover be, who could not bring himself, even on God's own word, to bow before any other being!

The Persian poets have asked, “By what power is Satan sustained?” And the answer they have found is this: “By his memory of the sound of God’s voice when he said, ‘Be gone!’” What an image of that exquisite spiritual agony which is at once the rapture and the anguish of love!

- Joseph Campbell, from 'The Mythology of Love', 1967, reprinted in Myths to Love By.

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