The Satanic Scholar’s YouTube Debut (Part 3 of 3)

Satanic Scholar Christopher J.C. discusses his site ( and explores its aim of preserving the Miltonic-Romantic legacy of Lucifer.

Part Three of this three-part documentary draws attention to the influence of the Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic tradition on our cultural milieu, which perhaps signifies a nascent movement of neo-Romantic Satanism. Discussed are the Miltonic-Romantic Satan’s reemergence in the Vertigo comic Lucifer—the most Romantic portrayal of the fallen angel since Lord Byron’s Cain—and its adaptation to the small screen on the Fox network, as well as subtler modern-day echoes of this distant tradition, namely New Atheism’s sympathy for the Miltonic Devil in the face of the parties of God.

Romantic Satanism and its Satanic School restored luster to Lucifer’s much tarnished name and image, and The Satanic Scholar—carrying the torch of the Romantic Satanists and perpetuating the memory of the majestic Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer—claims the proud honor of preserving this grand tradition, endeavoring to give its distinguished Devil his due.

(Excerpts from the Romantic Satanists read by Gavin Baddeley, English journalist and author of Lucifer Rising.)

The Satanic Scholar’s YouTube Debut (Part 2 of 3)

Satanic Scholar Christopher J.C. discusses his site ( and explores its aim of preserving the Miltonic-Romantic legacy of Lucifer.

Part Two of this three-part documentary covers the centrality of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and its unparalleled portrayal of Satan to the tradition of Romantic Satanism. By the turn of the nineteenth century, Milton’s Satan was seen as the true hero of Paradise Lost, his rebellion against Almighty God deemed virtuous and just. While this radical vision of a Promethean Lucifer is often considered either a misguided assessment or a mischievous misinterpretation on the part of the Romantic Satanists, Milton’s sympathetic Satan—curiously given pride of place in Paradise Lost—truly lends himself to the Romantic reading of the poem.

Perhaps the most significant example of the Satan-as-hero reading’s validity is the Romantic iconography inspired by Paradise Lost, which brought the Miltonic Lucifer to life as a humanized and heroicized figure. The dazzling depictions of Milton’s Devil as a handsome Classical hero by artists such as Stothard, Barry, Westall, Corbould, Lawrence, Fuseli, Blake, Martin, and Doré accurately rendered the sublime Satan described by Milton. The Satanic Scholar takes the position that the Romantic reading of Milton’s Satan as the noble hero of Paradise Lost is no less valid than these visual triumphs.

(Excerpts from the Romantic Satanists read by Gavin Baddeley, English journalist and author of Lucifer Rising.)

The Satanic Scholar’s YouTube Debut (Part 1 of 3)

Satanic Scholar Christopher J.C. discusses his site ( and explores its aim of preserving the Miltonic-Romantic legacy of Lucifer.

Part One of this three-part documentary covers the origins of Romantic Satanism, the turn-of-the-nineteenth-century phenomenon within which Milton’s Satan—the Hell-doomed yet Heaven-defiant archangel of the epic poem Paradise Lost—was celebrated as a Promethean icon of revolutionary virtue. Discussed are the Satanic reflections of the Romantic Era’s most radical intellectuals, poets, and prose writers, namely Godwin, Blake, Hazlitt, and of course Byron and Shelley, who presided over Romanticism’s “Satanic School.” Mirroring the Miltonic mutiny of the angels, these Romantic Satanists channeled the spirit of Milton’s apostate angel and adopted his mythic/poetic celestial revolt for earthly use as a sociopolitical countermyth.

Although seldom given the attention it deserves and far too often overlooked by even occult Satanists, the Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic tradition—spearheaded by English Romanticism’s literary and artistic élite—was the most radical reevaluation of the arch-rebel, and thereby the most intriguing challenge to the status quo in Western history.

(Excerpts from the Romantic Satanists read by Gavin Baddeley, English journalist and author of Lucifer Rising.)

The Guy from The Hangover as Lucifer

Lucifer was to be the lead role in the film adaptation of Paradise Lost, the Morningstar the true star of the picture. With the stakes as high as possible, the actor destined to become this distinguished Devil would need “Atlantean shoulders” to bear the responsibility of such a titanic role. Daniel Craig and Heath Ledger were originally eyed for the part by producer Vincent Newman, according to the March 4, 2007 New York Times article on the Paradise Lost project, but it wasn’t until the film was under the direction of Alex Proyas that Heaven’s preeminent angel was given a face. That face belonged to Hollywood’s rising star Bradley Cooper.

Known mostly for his roles in comedy dramas, Cooper made for an unlikely Lucifer, even if he possessed a convincingly diabolical image: a tall, athletic physique crowned with an oblong visage, punctuated by a mischievous smirk and star-bright eyes. (The devilishly handsome actor would be chosen as People magazine’s “sexiest man alive” in the fall of 2011.) Cooper became famous for his performance as Phil Wenneck, the selfish, slick, smooth-talking rake of the 2009 comedy hit The Hangover. As peculiar as “the guy from The Hangover” playing Lucifer may have seemed to people, the actor’s passion for Paradise Lost undeniably infused tremendous energy into the project.

It was announced on May 4 of 2011 that Cooper would likely be stepping into the role of Lucifer, and when the actor appeared on Charlie Rose three weeks later to promote the anticipated sequel to The Hangover, he leapt at the opportunity to advertise Paradise Lost. Speaking about Milton’s epic with great enthusiasm, Cooper expressed that he “loved” the poem, which he studied at Georgetown University under Jason Rosenblatt, a former president of the Milton Society of America. “I just loved the idea of Lucifer being a very charismatic guy who you agree with,” Cooper told Charlie Rose, reasoning that Milton’s Satan “makes a very sound argument in that poem.” Cooper found that the spirit of the sympathetic Satan was carried over into the screenplay adaptation, which presented him with the story of a father and two sons: the father explains to his sons that he “love[s] the family dog” more than them, and in fact wants to enlist his sons in the dog’s service; one son is blindly compliant, but the other son believes the father has gone insane, this indignant son challenging his sheepish brother on account of “the betrayal that he feels.”

What Cooper alluded to is surely the cosmic sibling rivalry between the archangels Michael and Lucifer, set in motion by Almighty God, the eternal Father who subordinates His angelic sons to a creature inferior in the Creation: Man. (A significant departure from Milton’s text, wherein Satan’s rebellion is set in motion by the Son of God’s exaltation to universal kingship and orchestrating the Fall of Man is merely an afterthought—a means of bittersweet revenge against the God who damned the rebel angels to Hell.) While this cosmic conflict might seem larger-than-life, Cooper found the story rather down-to-earth and relatable: “I just liked the simplicity of it. I…felt a hook into that.”

As psyched as Cooper was about the possibility of scoring the role of Milton’s Satan in a mega-budget Hollywood adaptation of Paradise Lost, the actor was not quite met with equal excitement by Legendary Pictures. While his role in The Hangover (also produced by Legendary) launched him into the limelight, Cooper became crystallized as Phil—or simply “the guy from The Hangover”—and Paradise Lost director Alex Proyas had great difficulty imagining the actor stepping into the titanic role of Lucifer, the great adversary of Almighty God. Cooper painted Proyas’s reaction rather perfectly to Charlie Rose: “The guy from The Hangover is not Lucifer. I just can’t see it.” Cooper was no stranger to this response, relating on another occasion that he’d previously pitched the idea of him playing Lucifer to Thomas Tull, chairman and chief executive of Legendary Pictures, Cooper paradoxically begging to play the Prince of Pride. He was not prepared to back away from the challenge of convincing Proyas he was right for the role of the ultimate rebel.

As underestimated as he was, Cooper at no point expressed frustration with the lack of confidence people had in the prospect of the guy from The Hangover as Lucifer. Instead, Cooper voiced his thankfulness for being a part of The Hangover ensemble, which afforded him the success and recognition needed to score bigger and better roles, the most significant of which was Eddie Morra in 2011’s surprisingly successful Limitless. Cooper explained to Charlie Rose that his performance in the modern-day Faustian bargain tale of sorts convinced Proyas that he could carry a movie, yet the question remained: “But can he carry Lucifer?”

What made Proyas a believer in the guy from The Hangover as Lucifer, according to Cooper, was an extremely informal test performance in the actor’s kitchen, filmed on a flip camera by a friend. The performance was apparently transformative for Cooper, his booming, echoing voice (in “mid-Atlantic accent”) immersing him in the fantastical scene. “It just happened,” Cooper related to Charlie Rose. “I just found it.” Cooper would go on to add that “that experience in my kitchen will give me the confidence to go anywhere with that character.” The impressiveness of the performance was not lost on Alex Proyas. When Cooper and his friend e-mailed the homemade film clip to the director, they received a promising e-mail back from Proyas, who quoted that famous Satanic line from Rosemary’s Baby: “Satan lives!”

Bradley Cooper as Lucifer sculpt by Raul Dominguez

And so it was: the guy from The Hangover was Lucifer. When Proyas and Cooper appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con in July of 2011 to promote Paradise Lost, then in preproduction, the director was straightforward about his confidence in Cooper as “the most extraordinary character that we’ve never seen on film before”: “…[M]eeting Bradley and seeing what he was capable of blew me away. It’s been a very unexpected turn, I think, for the character, but I think it was meant to happen.” Cooper, speaking of the project with characteristic enthusiasm, in turn expressed his trust in Proyas’s vision of the film:

It is early days, but it’s been living with me for a long time…I relate a lot to this character and this story. To me, it’s a very small movie, actually; it’s a very small story about an intimate nuclear family—about two brothers and their father and what happens when one son feels utterly betrayed. So, to me, I think that there are a lot of…personal ways into this character, which is what makes it so exciting to do it with this kind of scope and with a director that has the kind of vision that Alex does. See Dark City or any of his movies, you know that this is the right guy for the job.

When asked by the Comic-Con presenter what the Paradise Lost project offered that struck a chord with him, Cooper once again humbly emphasized his deep desire to play this iconic character in this classic story, which he has had such a strong affinity for since his undergraduate days: “It was more of Alex’s choice, me begging for it. I studied Paradise Lost in college…and I always just loved the poem and the depiction of Lucifer as a very sympathetic character in my estimation…” Cooper clearly possessed the proper mindset to step into the role of Lucifer, and Proyas would go on to assert his belief that the persistent actor possessed the complexities and the acting chops to pull off the performance of Milton’s multifaceted fallen archangel: “…Bradley is the most charming guy you’ll ever meet, with this extraordinary charisma. Lucifer was the brightest and smartest of the archangels, and even as he descended into evil and evolved into Satan, he’s not just some black-and-white villain. Bradley brings extraordinary depth to that journey.”

Cooper, along with Proyas, was surely profoundly disappointed when his opportunity to star as Lucifer was lost with Legendary Pictures’ cancelation of Paradise Lost in early 2012. Non-believers in the guy from The Hangover as Lucifer, on the other hand, were relieved, especially when Cooper reminisced about the project in an interview for GQ in December of 2013. While he was apparently “moved to something close to joy, recall[ing] his first encounter with Paradise Lost,” Cooper proved to be far less deep than Proyas painted him:

Milton, bro? Milton. Fuckin’—that was the end of it. Motherfucker’s 57 or whatever, blind, dictating it to his fucking daughter-nurse—Paradise Lost? I mean, I just couldn’t…That poem fucking killed me. Satan? That character was un-fucking-believable. I could taste him in my mouth, dude, reading that. I really, really, for some reason, connected with that poem.

As embarrassingly superficial as this rant might have been, to be fair to Cooper it was a rare moment in an otherwise promising journey to fleshing out the fallen angel of Milton’s magnum opus. In most of his discussions about Paradise Lost and his relentless determination to star in the film adaptation of the epic poem, Cooper undeniably proved to be surprisingly insightful and poised to play Milton’s apostate angel, Lucifer.

Some would never be convinced by the guy from The Hangover as Lucifer—perhaps at least until they saw his performance. After all, while there have certainly been notorious examples of miscast leads, there have also been underestimated actors who blew people away with iconic performances which doubters never anticipated. For instance, when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the 1989 film, comic book fans exploded into a furor, but Keaton’s brooding performance as the mysterious Dark Knight quite simply awed audiences, many fans still considering Keaton’s the definitive Batman performance. Similarly, when Tom Cruise was cast as the vampire Lestat in the 1994 film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, author/screenwriter Anne Rice expressed her lack of confidence in the Hollywood heartthrob’s performance, describing the casting as “so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work…” Yet when she saw Cruise in the role, Rice was ultimately compelled to assert that “Tom was Lestat for me.” I was hopeful that filmgoers would be just as overawed by Bradley Cooper’s performance as Lucifer.

Bradley Cooper as Lucifer sculpt by Raul Dominguez

I became a believer in the guy from The Hangover as Lucifer not only because of Cooper’s heartfelt love for Paradise Lost, but also because of the actor’s unabashed passion for Milton’s Satan. Cooper explained in an interview with Metro in December of 2011 that he “fell in love with that character because I couldn’t believe how appetising he is in that poem. Satan is the hero. It’s a story we can all relate to.…It’s about the father [God] betraying the [Satan] character.” Whatever the other filmmakers had in mind for the presentation of Paradise Lost, Cooper was clearly going for a Romantic portrayal of Milton’s Satan, which was tremendously reassuring.

If the Paradise Lost film is ever revived, I know I will be hoping for Cooper’s return to the role of Lucifer. If, however, the Devil assumes a new form, I can only hope that the actor who replaces Cooper shares his enthusiasm for the Miltonic Lucifer and the endeavor of bringing that most iconic character to the silver screen.

A Devil of a Decade: The Rise and Fall of the Paradise Lost Film (Part 2 of 2)

After the years of silence which followed preproduction of the Scott Derrickson-directed Paradise Lost film, it was announced on September 16 of 2010 that Alex Proyas—the visionary director behind such films as The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), and I, Robot (2004)—had been given the directorial reins of the Paradise Lost project, described as “the story of the epic war in heaven between archangels Michael and Lucifer, and…crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D.” The prospect of a 3D Paradise Lost film seemed far too gimmicky to me, but the goal was obviously to follow in the footsteps of the groundbreaking Avatar (2009), immersing IMAX audiences in the fantastical world the filmmakers create—which, in the case of Paradise Lost, would take moviegoers on a promising cosmic tour through Heaven, Hell, and Eden.

“Chaos Portal” – concept art for Paradise Lost by Marek Okon

Under Proyas, Paradise Lost began picking up steam in ways the project never had with Derrickson at the helm, especially when news broke on May 4 of 2011 that rising star Bradley Cooper would be playing the Miltonic Lucifer himself, Cooper wasting no time to enthusiastically advertise the project on media outlets like Charlie Rose when promoting The Hangover: Part II. In July of 2011, Proyas and Cooper appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con to promote Paradise Lost, then in preproduction, the director expressing his aspiration to live up to Milton’s epic poem:

Basically, this film is based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, a seventeenth-century epic poem. We’re pretty much going to live up to that. We’re going to make this incredible, epic film about the war of the angels, Lucifer’s fall from grace, his battle with the archangel Michael. So it’s a pretty big canvas, and I hope we can live up to that.

Cooper and Proyas
Paradise Lost star Bradley Cooper and director Alex Proyas

Proyas demonstrated that he was the first person attached to the Paradise Lost project to truly understand the gravity of the endeavor of adapting Milton’s vast vision to the screen:

We try to stay as faithful as we can. In fact, we have one particular Milton scholar [Eric C. Brown] who’s been working with us, to keep us in check, to make sure we’re doing the right thing. But I think we achieved a great narrative within the scope of Paradise Lost. It’s been a bit of re-editing the flow of the story, but I think it’s working very well now.…When you go into something as deep and as beloved as Milton’s Paradise Lost, you try to be as respectful of the source material as possible. We were actually surprised by how respectful we had been. We were very pleased by the reception that the script got. So that was a real great surprise.

Paradise Lost storyboard - Anthony Michael Jackson
Paradise Lost storyboard by Anthony Michael Jackson

As overjoyed as Proyas was about the onscreen supernatural spectacle he would be able to play with, the director expressed that he was far more enthused about the opportunity to bring one of English literature’s greatest characters to life on the silver screen: “The story and the characters are really the thing for me…That’s what gets me excited, and I think particularly with Lucifer we have a really wonderful opportunity to create the most extraordinary character that we’ve never seen on film before.”

Despite the heartfelt excitement expressed by both Proyas and Cooper, as well as the considerable progress the audacious project had made, the Paradise Lost film was once again simply not meant to be. Discussing the technological innovations required to properly adapt Paradise Lost to the medium of cinema, Proyas ominously stated, “This film couldn’t have been made a few years ago, and in fact we’re not even sure we can make it now.” The Comic-Con crowd laughed along with Proyas, who reassured the audience, “We’re hoping we can,” but the would-be Paradise Lost director’s words rang true. While the project continued to advance, with casting news popping up throughout the summer and fall of 2011—Benjamin Walker as the archangel Michael, Djimon Hounsou as Abdiel (here “the Angel of Death”), Casey Affleck as Gabriel, Camilla Belle as Eve, Callan McAuliffe as Uriel, Dominic Purcell as Jerahmeel/Moloch, Diego Boneta as Adam, Sam Reid as Raphael, and Rufus Sewell as Samael—principal photography for the film was repeatedly delayed at the tail end of 2011. There was talk about attempts to reduce the cost of the production so that it would not exceed $120-million, but Legendary Pictures finally pulled the plug on Paradise Lost in early 2012, and the project has remained in limbo ever since, bits and pieces of concept art and storyboards emerging every so often to show viewers what the film might have looked like.

“Pandemonium” – concept art for Paradise Lost by Paul Gerrard

I imagine my former Miltonist Professor from about a decade ago was relieved. “Miltonists have not traditionally been interested in popularizing, in the way Shakespeareans have,” explained Milton in Popular Culture co-editor Gregory Colón Semenza to Michael Joseph Gross in his March 4, 2007 New York Times article on the Paradise Lost film. Semenza added, “there’s the sense that Milton is the last figure that can be protected from the tentacles of pop culture, so there is some resistance to this movie…” To a certain extent, I understand this, particularly as someone who is concerned with preserving the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer’s legacy. Having Milton’s sympathetic Satan dominate the silver screen as the star of a blockbuster film is an incredibly thrilling notion, but of course there is the risk that the filmmakers will fail to do the Devil proud, which is reason enough for me to be somewhat apprehensive. (After all, consider what happened when Vertigo Comics writer Mike Carey’s Lucifer was brought to the small screen.)

There were certainly reasonable concerns that “the tentacles of pop culture” threatened the endeavor of a Paradise Lost film. (Watching the tragic Fall of Man with 3D glasses on just doesn’t seem appropriate to me…) What’s more, that this mega-budget attempt at bringing Milton’s multifaceted masterpiece to the big screen was being headed by several filmmakers who were either novices or whose films were hit-or-miss was cause for concern as well. Failure to properly bring Milton’s Lucifer to life would transform the prime example of the fallen archangel’s current cultural ascension—what I identify as a nascent neo-Romantic Satanism—from a blessing into a curse. And as far as the Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic tradition is concerned, a misguided film adaptation of Paradise Lost would be a lasting blemish, as, once released, a remake of Paradise Lost emerging any time soon thereafter would be highly unlikely, and even then there is no guarantee a subsequent attempt would get it right either.

Concept art for Paradise Lost by Brian Matyas
Concept art for Paradise Lost by Brian Matyas

It’s been nearly a half-decade since Legendary Pictures shut down Paradise Lost, but I imagine the project will reemerge at some point within the next half-decade. (Producer Vincent Newman apparently made an attempt to start things up again in 2014, “determined to finish it ‘sooner than later.’ ”1) Despite the apparent danger of making a movie out of Milton’s Paradise Lost, I still believe this film is something that needs to happen at some point, as the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer must at long last stake his flag on cinematic soil, which has up to this point been predominantly saturated with Satans either medievally monstrous or lightheartedly comical. I can only hope that the Milton scholar employed as a script consultant on the film was as impressed by the project’s faithfulness to the spirit of Milton’s poem as Proyas claimed he was.



1. See Eric C. Brown, Milton on Film (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2015), p. 332.

Lucifer for President? On the Return of Reactionary Satanizing

Among the many peculiar things about 2016’s heated election season in the U.S., perhaps the most interesting aspect of the ensuing chaos is the reoccurring invocation of Lucifer by the political Right, which is a distant echo of the nineteenth-century phenomenon of Romantic Satanism. Romantic icons Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley were demonized as heads of a “Satanic School” by first-generation Romantic radical turned reactionary Robert Southey, whose co-option by the political establishment had been consecrated in his laureateship. In his elegy for King George III, A Vision of Judgement (1821), Southey demonized the wayward second-generation Romantics Byron and Shelley for following Milton’s fallen archangel in having “rebelled against the holiest ordinances of human society,” Southey identifying an intense diabolism in their works, “characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety…”1 Southey’s Satanic School diatribe against Byron and Shelley was in part a call for the English government to censor the irreverent writings of these Satanized poets and their circle, which the Poet Laureate believed threatened the social order. “Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations,” thundered Southey, “labour to make others as miserable as themselves, by infecting them with a moral virus that eats into the soul!”2 Nearly two centuries later, on the other side of the Atlantic, the political landscape is witnessing a return to this reactionary Satanizing—this time at the presidential level.

The Christian tradition has a long history of demonizing undesirables, which began as early as the New Testament with the demonization of the Jews, Jesus himself casting the Pharisees—who not only disbelieve the messianic Jesus but seek to kill him—as sons of Satan: “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God.…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:42–44). Christian Scripture is unequivocal with regards to the Satanic status of the Jews: those who “say they are Jews, and are not”—i.e., those Jews who fail to accept Jesus as the Son of God and their savior—are said to belong to “the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9). Indicting the Jews as “Christ-killers,” who had invited their own doom when boasting of the condemned Christ, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25), helped foster anti-Semitism throughout the history of Christendom,3 and in fact it wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) that the charge of the cosmic crime of deicide was officially dropped. The Jews were originally demonized because Christians (erstwhile Jews) believed they’d gone astray from “the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14) while believing themselves still part of the flock (they “say they are Jews, and are not”). This remained the inspiration for demonization in the Christian Church, fellow Christians with unorthodox views accused of heresy (Greek for “choice”) and persecuted accordingly.

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, in an April 28, 2016 interview hosted by Stanford University, followed the Christian tradition of marginalizing one of his own by way of demonization, describing then struggling Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh.” Boehner’s demonizing dismissal of Cruz was not based upon theological or ideological differences, but a vehement dislike of the man: “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” Things only got more colorful when the media sought actual Satanists to weigh in on the matter, co-founder of The Satanic Temple Lucien Greaves immediately responding:

Boehner’s comment is illustrative of how well past time it is to adjust our mythologies to reflect our realities. Cruz’s failures of reason, compassion, decency, and humanity are products of his Christian pandering, if not an actual Christian faith. It grows tedious when pedophile priests and loathsome politicians are conveniently dismissed as Satanic, even as they spew biblical verse and prostrate themselves before the cross, recruiting the Christian faithful. Satanists will have nothing to do with any of them.

The Satanic Temple is known for its political—and politically progressive—slant on Satanism, but the Church of Satan, which is normally devoid of official political positions, was also asked to respond to Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh.” On April 30, 2016, incidentally the 50th anniversary of the Church of Satan’s founding, the organization’s High Priest, Peter H. Gilmore, took exception to the comparison of Cruz to Lucifer:

Having a conservative Christian likened to Lucifer — one who opposes equal rights for same sex couples and promotes the ability to deny services to any with different values — we Satanists see as besmirching the positive, heroic aspects of that character as portrayed by Milton in his epic Paradise Lost.

Boehner’s blanket dismissal of Cruz as Lucifer incarnate was, again, more of a personal insult than an ideological condemnation. Conservatives have reserved full-fledged demonization for their political counterparts on the Left. In his speech at the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016, former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson—a retired neurosurgeon who apparently considers Darwin’s theory of evolution a deception of Satan—explicitly aligned Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with Lucifer:

One of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes, her mentors, was Saul Alinsky. Her senior thesis was about Saul Alinsky. This was someone that she greatly admired and that affected all of her philosophies subsequently.…He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now think about that. This is a nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our Creator. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “one Nation under God.” This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says “In God We Trust.” So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.

Carson here misrepresents the Declaration of Independence (the reference he cites is to the non-interventionist designer God of Deism, hence “Creator” and “Nature’s God” as opposed to “Jehovah” or “Jesus”) and is likely ignorant of the phrases “one Nation under God” and “In God We Trust” having been placed in the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency, respectively, in the 1950s. These are subsidiary issues, however; what screams out from Carson’s speech is the garish reference to Lucifer. Naturally, there can be no more focused demonization of Hillary Clinton than aligning her with none other than Lucifer himself, but Carson was merely bringing to new heights a topic/tactic familiar in right-wing circles.

Saul D. Alinsky, though now an extremely marginal historical figure, has been viewed as the archetypal community organizer. His Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, published a year before his death in 1972, was designed as a guide to challenging and ultimately overcoming the sociopolitical establishment, the crux of which is infiltrating the system in order to change it from within. “The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power,” Alinsky explains, whereas “Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”4 Contrary to what Carson and his ilk claim, the book is not dedicated to Lucifer but “To Irene,” Alinsky’s wife. Flipping the page, you then find the Lucifer reference, which follows two quotations—one from Rabbi Hillel and the other from Thomas Paine—and Alinsky describes Lucifer as “the very first radical…who rebelled against the establishment,” and he is clearly invoking Lucifer the idealized arch-rebel imagined by the Miltonic-Romantic tradition:

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins—or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.5

Ben Carson is surely ascribing more significance to this cheeky quotation than is appropriate. British-Indian author Salman Rushdie—who, as the target of an Islamic witch hunt ever since the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses in 1988, knows what it feels like to be truly demonized—quite rightly derided Carson for his inability to “recognize irony or humor.” Clearly, as far as Carson is concerned, the mere “over-the-shoulder acknowledgment” of Lucifer is enough to summarily dismiss Alinsky—and, by extension, Hillary Clinton—but other conservatives have gone further, demonizing Alinsky/Clinton by way of aligning his/her political stratagems with the Devil’s. In a June 5, 2014 interview with The Blaze, neocon and Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza gave the following analysis of Alinsky and his political disciples:

…Alinsky was obviously not a Christian; in fact, he was an atheist. So why would an atheist dedicate a book to Lucifer? I think to discover the answer, you have to pay careful attention to what Lucifer represents in the Western tradition. So I did a close reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and you begin to see how Lucifer operates. First of all, Lucifer is a master of organizing resentment, and so is Alinsky. Lucifer is also a master at making G-d [sic] the bad guy. So even though Lucifer rebels against G-d, even though G-d justly expels Lucifer from Heaven, Lucifer goes, “G-d, you’re a tyrant. I don’t have to follow you. I want my own kingdom.” So Lucifer practices, you may say, demonization against G-d. And finally, Lucifer is a liar. He is a master of dishonesty and deceit. Now, Alinsky adopted these Luciferian techniques.…And I think here, we begin to see the Obama and even the Hillary playbook.…: Seeming very respectable, being very self-disciplined, and ultimately pretending to be a friend of the middle class, whose values you are trying to undermine.

Paradise Lost’s Lucifer, the charismatic character Milton brought to life as a celestial insurrectionist who scorns “Knee-tribute” to the King of Heaven as “prostration vile” (V.782) and, despite damnation, pledges himself to forever defying “the Throne and Monarchy of God” (I.42), was extremely appealing to the radicals of Romanticism living in the wake of the American and French Revolutions.6 The Miltonic-Romantic Satan continued to be channeled throughout the nineteenth century by antiestablishment figures, such as the anarchists Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin.7 Alinsky’s Lucifer reference surely owes much to this tradition, but more than anything else it appears to be a simple satirical aside. D’Souza takes the “over-the-shoulder acknowledgment” of Lucifer and runs riot with it, and what emerges from his intricate demonization of Alinsky, Obama, and Clinton is something that seems straight out of the reactionary assaults on the Romantic Satanists back in the nineteenth century, “close reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost” and all.

While demonizing or Satanizing political rivals appears to be growing increasingly commonplace on the American Right (the Left is inclined to a more modern-day form of demonization by way of employing accusations amounting to secular Satans: fascist, racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc.), it is doubtful that anyone within the political landscape will follow the Byronic-Shelleyan precedent in response.

Byron and Shelley had initially been demonized in part because of their combination of licentious lifestyles and radical politics, both spiced up by cultivation of provocative and mischievous diabolical personas. These rebellious poets escalated the matter by responding to their public demonization by styling themselves as Satanic—in the tradition of the heroic Satan out of Milton—to sardonically mock and forcefully challenge the forces of reaction. For example, Byron, who was the central target of Southey’s Satanic School tirade, when preparing his drama Cain (1821)—the poet’s retelling of the biblical story of the first murder, in which Lucifer emerges as a noble opponent of a tyrant God and a Promethean patron of Man—vowed to “give…Mr. Southey – & others of the crew something that shall occupy their dreams!”8 Any such response today is highly unlikely, especially at the level of the presidency. Indeed, in the case of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—the first black and potentially the first female presidents, respectively—there are already enough obstacles in their political paths without attempts to disarm reactionary demonization by embracing it. If anything, just as Byron responded to Southey’s Satanic School charge with a countercharge (“If there exists anywhere, excepting in his imagination, such a school, is he not sufficiently armed against it by his own intense vanity?”9), Clinton and her campaign may perhaps turn Ben Carson’s Luciferian demonization back around and liken the egomaniacal Donald Trump to Lucifer, the one who aspired to the Throne of God.

As far as I’m concerned, though it may be interesting and amusing to hear the Devil’s name bandied about in my country’s current election season, comparison of either presidential candidate to Lucifer is quite simply downright insulting—to Lucifer.



1. Quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.

2. Ibid.

3. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, Lucifer: the Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1984] 1986), pp. 192–93; Peter Stanford, The Devil: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996), pp. 122–27.

4. Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Vintage Books, [1971] 1972), p. 3.

5. Ibid., p. ix.

6. See Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), pp. 263–65, 286–87; Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: the Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1986] 1990), pp. 168–69.

7. See Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 116–20.

8. Quoted in Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 101.

9. Lord Byron, Preface to The Vision of Judgment (1822), in Lord Byron: the Major Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., [1986] 2008), p. 939.

A Devil of a Decade: The Rise and Fall of the Paradise Lost Film (Part 1 of 2)

John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is widely revered as one of the greatest masterpieces of English poetry, Milton’s Satan one of the greatest characters in all of literature and mythology. Yet no one in the century-plus history of cinema has been able to bring Milton’s sublime vision to the silver screen. While there have been many visual and verbal allusions to Paradise Lost and its critical reception in a myriad of movies,1 Milton’s epic poem itself has never made it to theaters. Over the past decade or so, however, filmmakers have come as close as ever to translating Paradise Lost to the big screen, but the endeavor ultimately failed, and the rise and fall of the production made for a devil of a decade.

I first heard about the Paradise Lost film back in a March 4, 2007 New York Times article by one Michael Joseph Gross, “It’s God vs. Satan. But What About the Nudity?” I was an undergraduate student, taking a “Bible and Later Literature” class, which was the first time Milton’s Paradise Lost was assigned reading in my college career. My Miltonist Professor—who was both impressed by my knowledge of the Bible and the Miltonic-Romantic tradition and horrified by my fervent insistence on the tyrannical nature of the Judeo-Christian-Miltonic God and my promotion of the Romantic reading of Milton’s Satan as hero—had rather low expectations about the prospect of a Paradise Lost film, but I was overall optimistic. After all, what could be a more glaring example of the fallen archangel’s current cultural ascension than Milton’s sympathetic Satan as the star of a blockbuster film?

Gross’s article revealed that a spec script for Paradise Lost had been pitched to big-time Hollywood executives back in 2004 by two novices by the names of Philip de Blasi and Byron Willinger, the writers explaining that the reception they received was less than enthusiastic, to say the least. Yet their own enthusiasm for the ambitious aim was less than stellar, Willinger remarking matter-of-factly, “We figured someone’s going to make a movie of it someday, and it might as well be us…” It’s certainly not what you’d expect someone taking on the monumental responsibility of at long last bringing Milton’s magnum opus to the screen to say.

“Angel Lucifer” – concept art for Paradise Lost (under the direction of Scott Derrickson)

Nevertheless, in 2006 the de Blasi/ Willinger script for Paradise Lost was purchased by independent film producer Vincent Newman, who, according to the article, had been fascinated with the story of the War in Heaven since he stumbled upon the biblical Book of Revelation amidst the boredom of Sunday school. Newman was captivated by Revelation’s story of the celestial battle between Michael and “the great dragon…, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9), and Milton had given this war to start all wars its most magnificent poetic treatment. With a Paradise Lost film project now in his hands, Newman successfully enlisted the co-financing help of Legendary Pictures, whose chairman and chief executive, Thomas Tull, wryly remarked that his initial response to the project was, “that’s going to make a lot of older folks relive bad college experiences.” Tull came to realize, however, that “if you get past the Milton of it all, and think about the greatest war that’s ever been fought, the story itself is pretty compelling…”

Getting past the Milton of it all is a very suspect sentiment, but Newman was on the same page as Tull, requesting alterations to the original screenplay, which was apparently a bit too faithful to Milton’s text for his taste. Newman believed a Paradise Lost film should have “less Adam and Eve and more about what’s happening with the archangels,” not only because the revolt of the angels and their fall from Heaven, along with their vengeful rise from damnation in Hell, is more exciting material (and would make for a promising SFX-heavy $100-million action epic), but because “In Eden there’s the nudity problem,…which would be a big problem for a big studio movie.” Despite the many challenges and potential pitfalls, Newman was enthusiastic: “This could be like The Lord of the Rings, or bigger…” Gross was right to point out in his article that it would seem Newman’s “passion is more for the idea of the poem than for the poem itself,” even if “he speaks of the project with unflagging enthusiasm…”

“Rebel Lucifer” – concept art for Paradise Lost (under the direction of Scott Derrickson)

Newman plainly explained that Paradise Lost would be “a war movie at the end of the day,” while also emphasizing that his aim was for the angelic war film to be “made with total adherence and respect to any of the three religions’ involvement in the story of God, the Devil and the archangels…” Reshaping Paradise Lost so as to make it more of a universal story for a broader audience would inevitably involve alterations to Milton’s unequivocally and unapologetically Christian story. Yet while Newman maintained that the film was not “a Christian endeavor or Christian movie,” Stuart Hazeldine, who in 2006 penned the second draft of the Paradise Lost screenplay (which would undergo additional revisions by Lawrence Kasdan and Ryan Condal), was hopeful that his treatment would prove to be pleasing to Christian crowds: “I’m adapting Milton, and then Milton’s kind of adapting Genesis, and I wanted to make sure that for the faith audience, I guess, that they will see it more as The Passion of the Christ than The Last Temptation of Christ…” This is to say, essentially, that the Paradise Lost film should not simply be an epic fantasy action movie, but also a religious film insofar as it invests the faithful in the theological sentiments beneath the spectacle—which could prove disastrous for the film’s presentation of Milton’s Satan.

Scott Derrickson

Gross acutely observed in his “It’s God vs. Satan” article that Paradise Lost may have more than a nudity problem; the film may have a Satanic problem: “The depiction of Satan may be a polarizing one among scholars. Some, in line with Romantic poets like William Blake, will want the dark prince to be the hero; others won’t be happy unless Satan is a self-deceiving hypocrite, and the story an education in virtue and obedience.” That I would prefer the former depiction (which would be my Passion of the Christ) hardly needs to be noted, but I would be open to a film version of Paradise Lost which, like the poem itself, was fundamentally ambiguous in its presentation, allowing for radically different interpretations. Yet with the anxiety over appeasing rather than potentially offending “the faith audience,” there was room for doubt that this would be the Paradise Lost the filmmakers would bring to the big screen. What’s more, Scott Derrickson, the man highlighted as the likely director for the film, was a fervent Christian. Hazeldine explained that the endeavor of a Paradise Lost film would ultimately prove “a challenge for people like Scott and I, who have a faith, but we just love movies…We often find that we are wondering, are we too worldly for the church and too churchy for the world?”

To be fair to Derrickson, his 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose did present the kind of ambiguity a Paradise Lost film could benefit from. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is at its core a courtroom drama, centering on the death of the titular young lady, which occurred during a prolonged exorcism conducted by the priest on trial in the film. The audience is repeatedly shown two versions of the same flashback events—one from a religious or supernatural perspective and another from a scientific perspective—leaving much open to interpretation. This sort of openness did appear to be at the heart of Derrickson’s vision of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, as he voiced in an MTVNews interview back in July 2008:

What’s interesting to me is that you cannot help but feel that his initial feelings of being disgruntled are merited, and I feel a lot of empathy for the Lucifer character in the beginning of the story…I would want the audience to be sympathetic with him at the beginning, and what happens — what he’s up against and what he’s wrestling and struggling with — you certainly feel that.

Derrickson added that Paradise Lost “would not be an easy movie to make, but it would be groundbreaking…It’s really worthy of the attempt.” Indeed, but the attempt would not ultimately rest with Derrickson.



1. See Eric C. Brown, Milton on Film (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2015).

In Memory of My First Satanic Hero: George Carlin

Long before I was exposed to Romantic Satanism, the radical tradition spearheaded by English Romanticism’s “Satanic Lord,”1 George Gordon Lord Byron, I was heavily influenced by another irreverent George: comedy legend George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008).

I am proud to proclaim George Carlin my lifelong hero. Having had the privilege of seeing him perform onstage twice, having been lucky enough to meet the man before he died (yes, died, not passed away or expired), and having had the honor to teach a class on Carlin’s comedy as a guest lecturer for a “Comic Vision” course are some of the finest memories of my life. Eight years ago today, news of Carlin’s death was broken to me by my mother, who knew it would strike me like the death of a close family member or mentor. Not a day has gone by without Carlin being abundantly present in my thoughts, however, and I have every intention of sharing his genuine genius with my own family in the hope that my children will not only be brought unparalleled laughter but will also learn fundamental lessons in freethinking in the process. That, of course, was the case with this Carlin aficionado.

George Carlin loomed large over my youth, and it is fair to say that he was the most significant influence on me during my formative years. Everyone in my childhood home was a Carlin fan, and his peerless comedic wit brought ceaseless laughter to our household. I grew up cherishing Carlin as someone who was funny as Hell, surely, but I admired Carlin much more for the invaluable lessons I learned from his unique social commentary. Ever comedy’s matchless wordsmith, Carlin made me hyperaware of the power of language, and from the razor-sharp wit he vocalized in his own poetic (and often perverse) rhetoric I learned the value of untrammeled free speech, the importance of questioning all things, and the need to drag all sacred cows to the satirical slaughterhouse.

I saw Carlin’s HBO stand-up special You Are All Diseased (1999) when I was twelve years old, and his all-out assault on not only organized religion but on God Himself—the “invisible man living in the sky”—struck a chord with me. “Between you and me,” he boldly stated from the stage, “in any decently run universe, this Guy would have been out on His all-powerful ass a long time ago.” Carlin’s memorable blasphemous skit (“There Is No God”) undeniably put this fellow Catholic on a path to militant atheism/anti-theism, but I daresay it also put me on a path to Miltonic-Romantic Satanism as well. After all, wasn’t Lucifer the one who aspired to put God out on His all-powerful ass?

Years after seeing Carlin’s misanthropic magnum opus You Are All Diseased, I encountered Satan the Heaven-defying anti-hero of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and embraced the radical tradition of Romantic Satanism the Miltonic arch-rebel inspired. During my studies of Romanticism’s “Satanic School,”2 I gained a new Satanic hero in George Gordon Lord Byron, whose life and poetry are remarkable monuments to irreverent wit and humor in their own right. Nevertheless, it was unquestionably George Carlin who was my first Satanic hero, who was the one to plant in my mind the Satanic seeds of doubt which would one day compel me to conclude that—as Carlin himself put it—“Satan is cool.”3


The Satanic Scholar



1. Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, trans. Angus Davidson (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, [1933] 1963), p. 81.

2. In the Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821), Robert Southey alluded to Romantic icons Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley as heads of a “Satanic School”: “Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations, who, forming a system of opinions to suit their own unhappy course of conduct, have rebelled against the holiest ordinances of human society, and hating that revealed religion which, with all their efforts and bravadoes, they are unable entirely to disbelieve, labour to make others as miserable as themselves, by infecting them with a moral virus that eats into the soul! The school which they have set up may properly be called the Satanic School, for though their productions breathe the spirit of Belial in their lascivious parts, and the spirit of Moloch in those loathsome images of atrocities and horrors which they delight to represent, they are more especially characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety, which still betrays the wretched feeling of hopelessness wherewith it is allied.” Quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.

3. George Carlin, Brain Droppings (New York: Hyperion, 1997), p. 186.

Lucifer Lives in Madrid: My Pilgrimage to Ricardo Bellver’s El Ángel Caído

Ricardo Bellver (1845 – 1924)
Ricardo Bellver (1845 – 1924)

Spanish sculptor Ricardo Bellver rendered the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer to perfection with El Ángel Caído (The Fallen Angel, 1877). The statue imagines Milton’s ruined archangel as a (winged) Classical heroic nude reeling back off of a chunk of rocky cliff his serpent-coiled lower half rests atop, Lucifer’s long, illustrious locks of hair windswept upside his youthfully fair face, which is racked with fierce pain but exudes defiant pride as he releases an earthshattering scream toward the Heaven he has been banished from. I have always felt that Bellver’s masterpiece is the very apex of the Satanic sublime, and having at long last seen El Ángel Caído in person has certainly reinforced my position.

A native of Madrid, Ricardo Bellver was a student of the Spanish capital’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, and in 1874 he earned a pension to complete his studies in Rome, where he sculpted El Ángel Caído in 1877. The statue was commissioned by the Duke of Fernán Núñez, and Bellver’s inspiration was Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost (1667), as described in the following two passages from the poem’s infernal introduction of the fallen archangel:

                                                      …his PrideRicardo Bellver, El Ángel Caído (The Fallen Angel, 1877)

Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his Host

Of Rebel Angels… (I.36–38)


…round he throws his baleful eyes

That witness’d huge affliction and dismay

Mixt with obdúrate pride and steadfast hate… (I.56–58)

Milton’s Satan is already damned to Hell in these lines taken as inspiration for El Ángel Caído, and Bellver accordingly brought to life not a falling but a fallen angel. Yet Bellver portrayed Milton’s Satan as Lucifer, which is to say, the fallen angel, though already Hell-doomed in the dramatic moment the statue captures, retains his preeminent angelic beauty, including his massive feathery wings—both of which were major hallmarks of Romantic renditions of Milton’s Satan in the visual arts.

A likely inspiration for El Ángel Caído was Laocoön and His Sons, displayed in the Vatican—not least because of the serpents coiled around the fallen angel’s limbs—but Lucifer’s dramatic position also bears a striking resemblance to Gustave Doré’s 1866 engraving of Milton’s despairing Satan atop Mt. Niphates. But Bellver’s Fallen Angel strikes the viewer as far more heroic than these two iconic images. The look of Lucifer’s thunder-stricken countenance unleashing that desperate cry heavenward is best described as “mixed defiance and despair,” to borrow a line from Lord Byron (The Giaour [1813], l.908), the exiled angelic prince’s form best described as “Majestic though in ruin,” to borrow one from Milton (Paradise Lost, II.305).

Romantic iconography inspired by Paradise Lost visualized Milton’s Satan very much in the spirit of Romantic radical William Hazlitt’s paean to the arch-rebel: “His ambition was the greatest, and his punishment was the greatest; but not so his despair, for his fortitude was as great as his sufferings.…[T]he fierceness of tormenting flames is qualified and made innoxious by the greater fierceness of his pride…”1 El Ángel Caído is quintessentially Romantic, yet uniquely so, for while Milton’s Satan was portrayed as singularly splendid amidst his loss by many Romantic artists, they tended to choose his most heroic moments—rising from the burning lake, summoning his legions, or facing off with Death himself—whereas Bellver chose Lucifer’s fall from Heaven/his realization of his ruin in Hell, but still capturing the dazzling splendor of Satan as Romantic hero.

El Ángel Caído crystallizes the Miltonic Lucifer’s defining moment of cataclysmic loss, but Bellver’s sublime statue evokes not mere fear but awe, compelling viewers to admire the glorious, godlike fallen angel for withstanding the omnipotent ire of “The Thunderer” (Paradise Lost, VI.491). Bellver’s is no horned half-beast Devil beneath the heel of a stoically triumphant St. Michael. Of course, the fallen angel is bound by hostile serpents, which stand in for Milton’s “Adamantine Chains” (I.48), as well as serve as a symbolic reminder that the Heaven-defying “Apostate Angel” (I.125) becomes “Th’ infernal Serpent” (I.34), who is “to [him]self enthrall’d” (VI.181). (“…Pride and worse Ambition threw me down,” Milton’s Satan cries, yet rejecting even the thought of atonement because repentance requires “submission; and that word / Disdain forbids me…” [IV.40, 81–82]). Nevertheless, Bellver’s Fallen Angel focuses attention on Lucifer in Romantic fashion, the defeated rebel angel’s catastrophe paradoxically portrayed in a flattering light, his heroic resolution shining forth despite his despair.

Bellver’s depiction of the Miltonic Lucifer in all his damned, defiant magnificence won the artist First Medal in Spain’s National Exhibition of Fine Arts, held in Madrid in 1878. In the same year, El Ángel Caído was cast in bronze for the third Paris World’s Fair (where, incidentally, the head of Lady Liberty was also on display). Bellver’s Fallen Angel enjoyed a brief stay in Madrid’s Prado Museum, and in 1879 Benito Soriano Murillo, director of the Prado, decided to hand the statue over to the City of Madrid, believing El Ángel Caído should reside outdoors. In 1885, The Fallen Angel was finally stationed in Madrid’s majestic Retiro Park, resting atop a grand pedestal erected by the renowned architect Francisco Jareño, which includes at its base various demonic faces spouting water into the fountain below, each demon clutching assorted reptiles and fish in their talons. (The bestial demonic busts aren’t the only Satanic cliché El Ángel Caído was subject to; the statue apparently stands 666 meters above sea level as well.) The Prado tried to reclaim El Ángel Caído in 1998, but the statue remains exalted in Retiro Park for all to see. Fortunately, however, a replica Fallen Angel, which can be admired up close, resides within Madrid’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, Bellver’s alma mater.

For me—as The Satanic Scholar, hell-bent on preserving the Miltonic-Romantic legacy of Lucifer—venturing to see El Ángel Caído was like a pilgrimage, for Ricardo Bellver’s statue truly brought this proud tradition’s Lucifer to life. Walking through Madrid’s Retiro Park is a wonderfully daunting experience to begin with, but to see The Fallen Angel in person was simply sublime. The countless photos of El Ángel Caído I had seen over the years simply could not compare to the overwhelming feeling of standing in the Plaza del Ángel Caído, staring up at this artistic masterpiece.

As amazing as the pedestaled Fallen Angel in Retiro Park was, I am tempted to say that visiting the replica in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando had more of an impact on me. There, El Ángel Caído rests at the top of the entryway staircase, and walking up to the statue, which was illuminated by the almost heavenly brilliance of the room’s natural light, was genuinely awe-inspiring. I was able to truly appreciate the massiveness of Lucifer’s figure; if the fallen angel were to come to his feet, he would probably tower over me at about eight or nine feet tall. There was not much traffic in the open room, and amid the remarkable quiet, which made my footfalls echo as if I were in a capacious cathedral, I was able to spend much time admiring every detail of Bellver’s exquisite work. It honestly felt like coming face-to-face with Lucifer—as imagined by the Miltonic-Romantic tradition—and it proved to be a tremendously moving experience.

I highly recommend venturing to see both statues of El Ángel Caído in Madrid. While it was a deeply personal experience for me, I would be remiss if I did not share the images I managed to capture of Ricardo Bellver’s Fallen Angel—the visual culmination of the grand Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic tradition I am so very proud to preserve.

The Satanic Scholar




1. William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets (1818), “Lecture III: On Shakespeare and Milton,” in The Romantics on Milton: Formal Essays and Critical Asides, ed. Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970), p. 384.

Lucifer on Fox – What Could Have Been

Lucifer Morningstar and Mazikeen  ©Peter Gross
Lucifer Morningstar and Mazikeen ©Peter Gross

I believe Lucifer on Fox could have been a decent translation of the Vertigo comic, even if the creators of the show had to resort to the familiar police procedural model to appeal to a broader audience. Fox’s Lucifer show could have done the comic justice by having not more Lucifer Morningstar, but less, allowing another character (I suppose Chloe) to take the lead. Imagine, for instance, Lucifer confined to Lux, mostly seated at his grand piano, the Morningstar’s hardhearted bodyguard and personal assistant Mazikeen always at his side, either mute or terse, but an uncomfortable presence either way. Chloe could have initially crossed paths with Lucifer for whatever reason and thereafter frequented Lux on a weekly basis to gain insight from the Devil himself, who, because of his depth of knowledge concerning mortal misdeeds, could provide indirect clues with aloof indifference, yet somehow over and again proving to be incredibly helpful to the frustrated detective. If more Lucifer were required, the audience could spend more time with him and Mazikeen within Lux as the fallen angel broods over his existential angst and explores supernatural prospects of somehow escaping Creation—and thereby escaping the bonds of God’s will. The threat of an impending angelic invasion or various other supernatural dilemmas cropping up on account of his abandonment of Hell’s throne would keep the interest high and leave plenty of doors open for future seasons.

Lucifer Morningstar  ©Peter Gross
Lucifer Morningstar ©Peter Gross

If Fox’s Lucifer were this kind of show, the spirit of the comic book character—namely the princely fallen angel’s élite elegance and aristocratic arrogance—would have been preserved; the storytelling would have been far more intriguing; the one-liners from the misanthropic Lucifer Morningstar would have been far better. The Lucifer show tried to make the Devil debonair and smooth-tongued, but just as spending more and more time among humans made Lucifer increasingly human, it likewise made Lucifer’s sophistication suffer. This Devil was at his most irate in “The Would-Be Prince of Darkness” because of an imposter “diluting the Lucifer brand” on account of his lowbrow indulgence, but throughout the season Lucifer himself proved to be rather lowbrow, what with his frequent references to pop culture and his penchant for petty gossip. I for one would have preferred Lucifer, by virtue of his refinement, to have been icily detached from the human world around him. For instance, it would have been wonderful if Lucifer spoke in such an elegant and eloquent manner that most of the characters, i.e. humans, were unable to keep up with or even understand him (much like Christopher Waltz’s marvelous character Dr. Schultz in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained), which would have helped do justice to the Vertigo character while allowing for plenty of comic relief. Instead, what Fox delivered was an ersatz version of Vertigo’s Lucifer—a mildly mischievous, oversexed, adolescent man suffering from ADHD.

One early review of the Lucifer show considered its star “a bit like a teenage boy with his dad’s Amex,” which is essentially what the show’s writers were going for; indeed, Lucifer showrunner Joe Henderson early on took to referring to Lucifer as “the eternal teenager,” imagining the fallen angel as a rebellious kid booted from his home after quarreling with his father, now rebelling again in the form of a rakish lifestyle, replete with heavy drinking, fancy cars, and loose women. I understand that the Lucifer show had to be more down-to-earth than the Lucifer comic, but Fox brought Lucifer far too down-to-earth, and it proved to make the ultimate rebel more irritating than admirable. Mike Carey’s Lucifer comic had a great deal of levity to it, but the comedic aspects centering on Lucifer in the show made the Morningstar, to be frank, somewhat goofy. Indeed, even when the writers had starring lead Tom Ellis practically recite lines from the source material in “Favorite Son,” Ellis’ Lucifer came off more as a hurt and awkward child than as the titanic personality that bursts off the pages of the Lucifer comics.


The Lucifer show seemed to aspire to elicit sympathy for the Devil by making him essentially harmless and rather pitiful, whereas Mike Carey had the Satanic star of his Lucifer comic demand readers’ admiration—even if rendered begrudgingly—by simply being sublime and grand in his uncompromising independence. The latter, of course, is more in the spirit of the Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic tradition, which is why the Vertigo Lucifer comic is close to The Satanic Scholar’s heart in a way the Lucifer show on Fox could never be.