Satan the Accuser

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Part of my series “A Satanist Reads the Bible,” in which I explore the Bible, Christianity, and other religions and their sacred texts through the lens of Satanism in order to reinvent religion for myself.

The Accuser is the first and the highest instrument of the dialectic of God, that which points to and identifies the not-self which abjection reveals in its subject, that which asserts itself against it, as only in this way can God come to know themselves.

The Accuser is the first paradox, the first division from God, the first duality, the first that was not-God, that which reveals that duality itself is abject as the Accuser is abject.

The Accuser is the first light, the first revealing, that which dawned upon the first day.

Much of Satanic symbolism is oriented around an archetype of Satan that I refer to as Satan the Adversary. This is Satan as the Rebel Angel, whose rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven is described in Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. As compelling and inspiring as I find this archetype, my own philosophy is predicated upon another: Satan the Accuser.

The modern conception of Satan as the nemesis of God, the fallen angel punished by God for rebelling against him and tempting humans to sin, is exactly that: modern. Such beliefs do not originate wholly in the Bible, nor were they held by the early Christians. I have wondered whether the promotion of Satan to his present role as the powerful nemesis of God himself was in fact part of the transition into the modern era, a reaction to the emerging philosophies based on the New Science of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bruno, and Newton, an enemy invented in order to maintain the flagging power of the Church in the face of discoveries that contradicted their teachings.

The Hebrew word שָּׂטָן, transliterated as satan, is not a name at all, but rather a noun meaning “adversary,” potentially referring to anyone to whom that word could be ascribed. It first appears in the Bible in Numbers 10:9 : “When you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, so that you may be remembered before the Lord your God and be saved from your enemies” (NRSV). It appears again in Numbers 22:22, this time referring to an angel in the service of God: “God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary” (NRSV). Nowhere in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, is a specific entity named Satan described, nor is there any entity of any name in the entire Hebrew Bible that matches the modern conception. The Serpent in the Book of Genesis, who tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was only identified as Satan in retrospect, and that in contradiction to what follows:

In the Ketuvim (“Writings”), Satan appears named for the first time as a specific, definite entity: “One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan [lit. the Accuser] also came among them” (Job 1:6, NRSV). Here the name is translated from the Hebrew ha-satan, and the New Revised Standard Version also gives the alternate translation, “the Accuser.” It is apparent that Satan, at this point in Jewish history, is believed to be an angel or other divine being, a servant of God with a God-ordained purpose, rather than the rebel angel who was cast from heaven and who then tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While Satan the Adversary serves as an inspiring figure in my theory of Satanic Mysticism, I find this symbol, Satan the Accuser, to be particularly compelling for my purposes.

The two archetypes, Satan the Adversary and Satan the Accuser, are not wholly separate in the text.

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — -he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Revelation 12:7–11, NRSV

Accuser no accusing.

While this is often interpreted as being a description of an event which occurred prior to, or concurrent with, the creation, as it must have been for Satan to then tempt Eve in the Garden, one must keep in mind that John’s revelation was a prophecy of future events, as is described in the introduction:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants* what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

Revelation 1:1–2, NRSV

John has prophesied that Satan the Accuser will overreach in his duties and will then be cast down, but this is, as of the time of the writing, an event yet to come; the interpretation which served as the inspiration for Paradise Lost was another retcon.

In the context of Satanic Mysticism, God and Satan the Accuser are, respectively, Being-for-Itself and the Constitutive Other. Satan the Accuser is the sublation of God, that which both negates and preserves. As in Hegel:

Self-awareness exists both in and for itself, in that it exists for an other and for itself; by which I mean to say that it exists only as a recognition. The concept of this, of its unity within its doubling, of that in which self-awareness realizes infinity, is that of a multifaceted entanglement, such that the moments therein must, in part, be held separate, and in part must be held together as undistinguished, or, always taken and understood in their contrary meaning. The double meaning of this distinguishing lies in the essence of self-awareness, infinitely and immediately the opposite of the certainty in which it is set. The deconstruction of the concept of this spiritual oneness in its doubling represents to us the process of recognition.

It is, for self-awareness, another self-awareness; it has come from outside itself. This has the double meaning, first, that it has lost itself, for it finds itself as an other essence, and second, that it has thereby sublated the other, for it does not see the other as essence, but rather itself in the other.

It must sublate its otherness; this is the sublation of the first double meaning, and is therefore itself a second double meaning; first, it must move to sublate the other independent essence so as to become certain of itself as the essence; and second, it thereby moves so as to sublate itself, for this other is itself.

Phenomenology of the Spirit, Hegel 1807, translation mine

What this means — for Hegel, necessary and revealing though his approach is, could not have been less clear about it — is that self-awareness exists only in the context of other, in the context of what we can recognize as not-self, refuting the reductionist and naïve Cogito, ergo sum. This is not specific to humanity, but rather a necessary truth of all self-awareness, and thereby must be true as well of God, in whose image we are created.

As above, so below.

I am certainly not the first to explore the sacred texts of the Abrahamic tradition in this light. I’ll conclude with William Blake, who has provided no shortage of inspiration for my own work:

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake 1790, verses 2–3

*The Greek is curious, here using the word δούλος, doúlos, “slaves”

Originally published at asatanistreadsthebible.com on November 24, 2018.

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