The Devil: Combating Our Adversaries by Rendering Them Visible
According to the anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, the fifteenth Arcanum of the Tarot introduces us to the “intoxication of counter-inspiration” (p. 401). Throughout this year’s MythBlast series focusing on the Tarot, the authors have been researching and writing about the metaphors and symbols contained within the Major Arcana. What, then, is the devil card a metaphor or symbol of?
It may assist our contemplations to place ourselves at the intersection of two fields of discourse. One being the Jungian Shadow and the other the metaphysical Doppelgänger (negative human double).
The Shadow is generally thought to be an animated, personified, interior aspect of our psyche. It’s an aspect that is primitive, instinctive, and often reactionary. For most of the time, we’re only partly conscious of it, if indeed we recognize it as a reality at all. The anonymous author here brings our attention to its presence:
“Good does not combat evil in the sense of destructive action. It ‘combats’ it by the sole fact of its presence. Just as darkness gives way to the presence of light, so does evil give way before the presence of good.
Modern depth psychology has discovered and put into practice the therapeutic principle of bringing unconscious complexes to the light of consciousness. Because – so it affirms – the light of consciousness renders the obsessional complex not only visible but also impotent” (p. 421).
Once our awareness of its presence has been evoked, we can then employ the light of consciousness to transmute the destructive effects of darkness and evil. It’s helpful here to remember and appreciate that the Shadow can also contain parts of our psyche that the conscious self has not yet apprehended or heeded. It can also contain what Carl Jung termed the “Golden Shadow,” our submerged creative potential. And let’s not forget that the Shadow often contains collective and societal aspects too.
So then, in one sense, we can say that the Shadow is the antithesis to the goals of a higher and more refined personal or collective Identity. It’s the counter-inspiration. Given this, the Shadow (golden or otherwise) is the ‘other side’ of us – invisible – yet bonded to our psyche. Yet it’s our working with individual and collective Shadow material that enables the light to both find its focus and visibly manifest the invisible aspects within the psyche.
The Meditations on the Tarot author continues on this theme:
Light drives out darkness. This simple truth is the practical key to the problem of how to combat demons. A demon perceived, i.e. on whom the light of consciousness is thrown, is already a demon rendered impotent. This is why the desert fathers and other solitary saints had so much experience with demons. They cast their light on them. And they did so as representatives of human consciousness in general, for whoever withdraws from the world becomes representative of the world; he becomes a ‘son of man’. And being a ‘son of man’ the solitary saint attracted the demons haunting the subconscious of mankind, making them appear, i.e. bringing them to the light of consciousness and thus rendering them impotent (p. 421).
Once the light has strengthened and ripened as a discerning faculty within us, it then has the potential to neutralize destructive elements within the psyche. Yet as myth-loving people, which us MythBlast readers surely are, we know that we must simultaneously hold paradoxical teachings like casting a light on the adversary to make it impotent, and using the light to render visible the totality of who we really are. It behooves us to hold the contradiction of employing the light to drive the demons out, while yet knowing that it’s this very light, which brings visibility and awareness of our wholeness.
Now let’s turn our attention to the already-mentioned Doppelgänger, a somewhat different concept. Traditionally, this has been thought of (or experienced) as an actual metaphysical identity, not only as an aspect of the psyche. This entity also shows itself to be cold, calculating and in opposition to our personal and collective Zeitgeist.
In literature, the adversary naturally moves between the Shadow and Doppelgänger identities, once again inviting us readers to embrace the importance and power of contradictory thinking. The Doppelgänger is variously personified across different legends and narratives, and the following are some fictional accounts of the Doppelgänger. In Goethe’s Faust, there is the cleverness of Mephistopheles, with whom Faust makes a pact, which is really his own distorted reflection, or double. Then there is the criminal, if not evil, Mr. Hyde, in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As well as Klingsor (the Duke of Terra de Labur) in the Grail legend. Klingsor is an enemy of the Grail motive and impulse and fortifies himself in the Château Merveil, which is really an occult, oppressive energy field. Here, the sorcerer Klingsor draws nourishment from impurities within the human heart.
What’s interesting in all these narratives is that the Doppelgänger is mostly an adversary, and yet this adversary is a part of us too. And a necessary part at that. It’s the Doppelgänger that can propel us forward. It does this by making us confront and address those aspects of our psyche that require refinement and enhancement, and so in this respect, the Doppelgänger has a ‘redemptive’ role. In certain settings, that’s its precise mandate. So then, in a rather circuitous way, it can be an incredibly valuable helpmate on our path of soul development.
“Here it is not a question of the annihilation of the demon, but rather of changing its field of activity and the place – or, rather, mode – of its existence,” the anonymous author states (p. 422). With this ‘change of mode,’ we mature by changing our relationship to the external and internal conflicts and contradictions that we all face. We recognize that without the necessary visibility of both the Shadow and Doppelgänger presences, over time, a matter-blinded consciousness would develop within much of the human population … a consciousness that is blind to perceiving higher soul realities and has no working faculties for intuitive perceptions.
Wakefulness therefore comes from rendering visible the very things that put us to sleep. By shining light on both the Shadow and Doppelgänger, we can embrace their revelations and heed Joseph Campbell’s advice: “Well, one of the problems about being psychoanalyzed is, as Nietzsche said, ‘Be careful lest in casting out your devils that you cast out the best thing that’s in you’” (Asian Journals, p. 221). Working thoroughly and diligently with this Tarot card, I trust that the devil will bring out the best in you.
Subscribe to JCF’s email list to receive a weekly MythBlast newsletter along with occasional news and special offers from JCF.