In Sympathy for the Devil, Mick Jagger sings the refrain; “Pleased to meet you, Hope you guess my name.” There is nothing too mysterious about the thrust of the lyrics, as the Devil taunts us into guessing who he really is.
No doubt he is not our friend, but is certainly our Enemy. The Bible warns us of him. People are afraid of him. This Enemy has powers that are beyond formidable and he uses them always to our detriment. He is rightfully feared more than any hostile foreign country, any repressive government, any murderous gang, although he usually (perhaps always) is an integral part of their plans.
He has been called the Accuser, the Adversary, the Tempter, the Wicked One, the Power of Darkness, the Prince of the Air, Abaddon, Apollyon, Beelzebub and Lucifer. More often we know him as the Devil, or Satan.
Ha-satan is Hebrew for “the accuser” and in the Bible he appears as a member of God’s court, sort of like God’s prosecuting attorney. In the Book of Job he refuses to see any good in the man and insists that he will fail God. Many people over the years have heard Satan say the same things about themselves, that there is nothing good about them, that they are failures, that God does not love them. Although many think this is hypnotic fantasy, I know it to be true. I have heard his voice myself, almost daily.
The Accuser does not hide in the shadows, waiting for me to drop my guard. He does not place temptation before me, compelling me to commit acts that end in misery. He doesn’t need to, because he lives quite comfortably inside me. In fact, he is very much a part of me.
One of the names for Satan is the Deceiver, the lier, one who convinces people that God is not good or perhaps that God does not love them because they are useless failures, undeserving of His love. The Deceiver whispers into our ears that, not only God, but everyone is looking at us, judging us, and finding us wanting. He encourages us to do the same thing with others, to look for their flaws and shortcomings, point out where they do poorly compared to ourselves. During this time the Deceiver continues works on his great masterpiece, a charade that convinces us that we are someone completely different than who we truly are; a living facade we present to the world in order to protect ourselves from the inevitable ridicule and scorn we otherwise would attract. As Simon Tugwell puts it in his book, “The Beatitudes”:
Another word for deceiver is ‘impostor’ and Brennan Manning, in his book “Abba’s Child” , describes how our personal impostors prevent us from loving others, as well as God:
“The sad irony is that the impostor cannot experience intimacy in any relationship. His narcissism excludes others. Incapable of intimacy with self and out of touch with his feelings, intuitions, and insight, the impostor is insensitive to the moods, needs and dreams of others. Reciprocal sharing is impossible. The impostor has built life around achievements, success, busyness, and self-centered activities that bring gratification and praise from others. James Masterson, M.D., stated, “It is natural of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.”
Of course Manning’ impostor is not an outside force like the Devil, but what we become when we are trapped by the deceits of our own personalities. And the same way that we would defeat an entity like Satan is the same way we overcome the burdens that the impostor has placed upon us.
“Peace lies in the acceptance of truth. As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others – and this is the natural prerequisite to for our presence to God in prayer.”
Not understanding this, we continue the cycle of poverty, crime, pestilence and war as our wounded and unloved egos seek each other out to unite, roaring and ravenous, across the face of the earth. Most of the rest of us deceive ourselves into thinking that we are pretty much “OK”, though being careful to keep our guard up against a possible encounter with Satan. But as Walt Kelly said; “We have met the Enemy. And it is us”.