From Scripture to Superbook: A History of Lucifer and the War in Heaven

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book I (1866): "Him the Almighty Power / Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky." (I.44-45)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book I (1866): “Him the Almighty Power / Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky.” (I.44-45)

The War in Heaven has proven to be one of the most fascinating tales in the history of Christendom. The story of Lucifer’s celestial revolt has been told many times over, not least by Milton in Book VI of Paradise Lost (1667), a remarkably unique interpretation involving a three-day conflict that sees Heaven war-torn by cannon fire and mountain-hurling, which requires the Son of God—God the Father’s “Second Omnipotence” (VI.684)—to enter the conflict and rout the rebel angels out of Heaven. As surprising as it may be, the familiar story of the heavenly rebellion of the preeminent angelic prince Lucifer is not strictly biblical; indeed, little of what is now common knowledge about the Devil has a solid biblical basis. The Miltonic Satan we all know and the Romantics loved was the product of a lengthy evolution of the Devil’s biography within theology and literature.

Thumbing through the Bible in the hope of finding Milton’s tightly woven narrative of a cosmic conflict between God and Satan will inevitably turn out a time-wasting disappointment. The Devil is an extremely minor biblical figure, his appearances rare, dialogue even rarer. Satan is Hebrew for “adversary,” and in the Hebrew Bible—otherwise known as the Old Testament—the term was not originally a name but denoted a function or a stance,1 assumed by a mere mortal (1 Samuel 29:42) or even an immortal angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:223). The Hebrew Bible’s most fleshed out depiction of adversity personified—Satan as a supernatural person—is found in the first two chapters of the Book of Job, wherein Satan appears in Heaven, but not as an insurrectionist; Satan appears instead among the angels of the Lord, carrying out the role of divinely appointed tester, vetting the faith of God’s human servants,4 as in Zechariah (3:1–25). The Satan of the Old Testament, inasmuch as he exists at all, is an extremely hazy figure, and remarkably miniscule in comparison to Jehovah, who, for good or for ill, indisputably rules the world: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).6

In the New Testament, though its diabology at times hearkens back to the Old Testament use of Satan in its semantic sense of “adversary” (see Mark 8:33; John 6:70–71)—Satan arguably even representative of collective Jewry,7 not least for Jesus effectively Satanizing the nonbelieving Jews (John 8:42–45)—the Devil of Christian Scripture is certainly a much more developed character. The New Testament Satan is presented as a formidable foe, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:2). Although direct references to the Devil are sparse even in the New Testament, Satan is clearly portrayed as a cosmic bogeyman to be feared by all and at every step: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” (1 Peter 5:8); “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book I (1866): "So numberless were those bad Angels seen / Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell." (I.344-45)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book I (1866): “So numberless were those bad Angels seen / Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell.” (I.344-45)

Satan’s heightened cosmic status in the New Testament was inherited from the apocryphal writings of the Intertestamental Period—the gap between the composition of the Old Testament and New Testament events—when the concept of a genuine Adversary against God began to blossom. The apocryphal books Enoch and Jubilees depict an angelic rebellion—or transgression, at least—incited by earthly desire, these fantastical texts about so-called “Watcher” angels copulating with mortal women and producing a hybrid race of “Nephilim” taking their inspiration from the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis. These non-canonical stories lent themselves to the burgeoning biography of the Christian Satan,8 and the influence of the Intertestamental Period legends is evident throughout the New Testament: “…God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment…” (2 Peter 2:4); “…the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of that great day” (Jude 1:6). When Judgment Day is envisioned in the Gospel of Matthew, it is foreseen that the Son of God “shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left,” and once the Son has parted the righteous sheep and the ungodly goats, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:33–41).9 Unlike the imprisoned Watchers of Enoch and Jubilees, however, demons abound in the New Testament world, and demonic possession is so widespread in the Scriptures10 that Jesus not only performs exorcisms himself (Mark 5:1–20; Luke 8:27–39), but empowers his disciples to deal with the world’s demonic infestation, in fact ordering them to exorcize demons as part of their public ministry (Matthew 10:1, 8).

Satan “is decidedly not peripheral to the New Testament message,” explains Jeffrey Burton Russell, author of a five-volume investigation of the Devil in history and literature. “The saving mission of Christ can be understood only in terms of its opposition to the power of the Devil: that is the whole point of the New Testament.”11 Indeed, Christian Scripture is unequivocal on this point: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). It was in the most elaborate Scriptural depiction of the opposition between Christ and the Devil that the New Testament Satan was fully fleshed out. By the fourth chapter of the first New Testament Gospel,12 the Devil is introduced into the narrative of Jesus, Satan carrying out three temptations of the Son of God in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). The story serves to both make the Son look good and instruct believers in how to properly face temptation, as the Son easily dismisses Satan’s temptations by appealing to Scripture, his refrain: “it is written…” However, this story—repeated in two other Gospels (Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13) and retold by Milton in Paradise Regained (1671)—is also demonstrative of the heightened cosmic status of Satan. Unlike the Book of Job, wherein Satan is the Adversary of Man while still a servant of the will of God, the Gospels depict a Satan at odds with God’s will, which the Devil attempts to subvert on Earth. The Christian Satan is, as Milton puts it in Paradise Lost, “the Adversary of God and Man” (II.629).

Ary Scheffer, Temptation of Christ (1854)
Ary Scheffer, Temptation of Christ (1854)

What’s more, if in the Old Testament Satan is portrayed as somewhat presumptuous in the overzealous manner in which he carries out his God-given role of testing mortal faith—“And the LORD said unto Satan…thou movedst me against [Job], to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3); “The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan…is not this [Joshua] a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1–2)—in the New Testament Satan is granted true hauteur in his independent attempt at tempting God Himself, incarnate as the Son of God. Also, in the Gospels Christ is tempted by a Devil wielding staggeringly greater power than that of the Hebrew Bible’s Satan: whereas Satan in the Old Testament merely prowls the Earth (Job 1:7; 2:2), in the New Testament Satan is shown in full possession of the planet, for when he shows the Son “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matthew 4:8), Satan points out that these glorious kingdoms are at his disposal: “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:6–7; cf. Matthew 4:8–9).

The Devil’s dominance over the world is undisputed in the New Testament. “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), states Jesus, who himself concedes that it is Satan who is “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Satan is elsewhere referred to as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) in Christian Scripture, which places all worldliness under the Devil’s aegis: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15–16). While the New Testament Satan is provided with such worldly preeminence, however, he is still a rather mysterious figure—still but a skeletal outline of the Devil that would be developed by Christian tradition, initially over the course of the first centuries of the Church. Satan’s official biography was the product of the early Church Fathers—namely the second-/third-century patristic writers Origen and Tertullian—who were truly responsible for formulating Satan’s story,13 a process consisting of a great deal of reading between the lines.

The New Testament’s most significant contribution to this Christian biography of Satan—certainly as far as Milton’s Paradise Lost is concerned—was to be found in the Book of Revelation, a cryptic text14 which liberally employs imagery befitting a bizarre fever dream. Revelation, which was very nearly left out of the official New Testament canon,15 envisions Satan inciting a War in Heaven:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7–9)

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): "Hell at last / Yawning received them whole." (VI.874-75)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): “Hell at last / Yawning received them whole.” (VI.874-75)

Some patristic commentators, and later Luther, interpreted Revelation 12 as an allegory of the early Church, and Michael—a Hebrew name meaning “he who is like God”—as Christ,16 but the prevailing interpretation was that of a literal outbreak of angelic warfare in Heaven, a cataclysmic event predating the Fall in the Garden of Eden. This epic celestial conflict was even thought to have been glimpsed by Jesus, who remarked to his disciples, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18).17

John of Patmos, the author of Revelation, himself anticipated patristic reinterpretations of biblical texts in equating “the great dragon” he writes of with “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world…” (Revelation 12:9).18 Previously, the double-talking villain of the Garden of Eden was understood to be a mere serpent, but Christian tradition recast the slimy tempter as a serpentine Satan—or a serpent demonically possessed by Satan, as in Paradise Lost (IX.182–91). The reconceived Eden serpent was the Devil in disguise, who deceives Adam and Eve into forfeiting dominion over the world through their original sin against the Deity. In addition to Satan, the Son of God was also spotted in Eden, the cosmic feud between the two supposedly foretold in the curse God places upon the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).19

Confident that the Christian Satan, whose official biography was being gradually pieced together, was to be found hidden in the Hebrew Bible, the Church Fathers curiously identified sightings of Satan’s heavenly insurrection in two Old Testament accounts of the fall of earthly tyrants brought low by their hubris: Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.20 “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” thunders the biblical prophet Isaiah,

How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12–15)

Isaiah’s diatribe is directed against the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, and in its context is clearly referring to “the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 14:4), whose fall will serve as a cautionary tale against overreaching ambition: “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:16–17). The extravagant imagery employed by Isaiah to overstress the overriding pride and commensurate downfall of this tyrant led the Fathers of the Christian Church to conclude that the king himself, rather than the vivid language used to describe his spectacular fall from the seat of power, was figurative—a means to describe the Devil’s fall from grace, and Ezekiel 28:12–19 would be absorbed into the Devil’s biography for the same reasons. For the Church Fathers, Isaiah’s diatribe revealed that Satan became Satan because he in his unbounded pride aspired above his station, Lucifer the angelic rebel having established himself as simia Dei,21 arrogating divine attributes in his ambition to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14), just as he would later tempt Eve and Adam to “be as gods” (Genesis 3:5), thereby mirroring his own sin and suffering like exile from Paradise.

Lucifer, as invoked in Isaiah 14:12, is Latin for “light-bearer,” and the original Hebrew reads Helel ben Shahar, “Day Star, son of the Dawn.” It is a reference to Venus, the Morning Star, which is the “light-bringer,” appearing to herald the light of the rising Sun. “Day Star” transitioned into “Lucifer” in Latin translations of the Bible, such as St. Jerome’s fourth-century Latin Vulgate Bible. The continued use of Lucifer as a proper name contributed a significant element to the traditional biography of Satan: before falling from Heaven and becoming Satan, “the Adversary,” the Devil possessed the name Lucifer, which signified the great celestial status he once possessed and forever lost.22

Cornelis Galle the Elder, after Lodovico Cardi, Lucifer (1595)
Cornelis Galle the Elder, after Lodovico Cardi, Lucifer (1595)

Proud Lucifer’s fall from Heaven would serve as a timeless tale demonstrating the biblical aphorism “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Recreations of Lucifer’s heavenly rebellion on the medieval stage imagined an egomaniacally evil angel, who in a moment of impulsive pride seats himself on the vacant Throne of God and commands the angelic host to adore him, before long instantaneously and ignominiously transported to Hell by the Almighty Himself.23 Fallen from Heaven, the Devil of the Middle Ages was depicted as a hideous creature, and the greatest of these deformed Devils was Dante’s Lucifer, who in the Inferno of the Divine Comedy (1308–21) lies in the ninth and lowest circle of Hell as a gigantic, hairy, three-faced monstrosity frozen below the waist in unbreakable ice (XXXIV.28–67). Dante’s use of the name “Lucifer” is an ironic mockery of the perfidious angelic prince, who “was once as handsome as he now / is ugly,” imprisoned in the icy depths of the treacherous circle of Hell because he “raised his brows / against his Maker” (XXXIV.34–36).

Medievalism’s visual vilifications of Satan carried over into Renaissance art,24 but there were a number of Renaissance literary works which conceded a certain degree of proto-Miltonic majesty in their treatments of Lucifer’s heavenly revolt. Indeed, Stella Purce Revard, in her study of The War in Heaven: Paradise Lost and the Tradition of Satan’s Rebellion, posits that Milton’s epic hero Satan is an installment in a long line of Renaissance Lucifers.25 There are certainly similarities between the Renaissance Devils and Milton’s epic hero Satan, the “great Commander” (I.358) of the “Satanic Host” (VI.392), not least that in these Renaissance works “pride and ambition, long identified as Lucifer’s sins, acquire specific political ramifications.”26 What’s more, these Renaissance depictions of the Devil would invest the character with a complexity which, as Revard observes, is decidedly different from “a motiveless malignancy (which patristic tradition gives us) or a strutting egotist (which the medieval mysteries pose).”27 Indeed, many of these Renaissance rebel angels vocalize the virtue, valor, nobility, and glory of their war with God.28 It was Milton, however, who most infused Satan’s rebellion with evocative political overtones, which was due in no small part to the antimonarchical and regicide-defending Milton’s own extensive experience in the political realm.

In Paradise Lost, Satan lambasts God as a “Tyrant” (X.466), and the archangel’s “ambitious aim / Against the Throne and Monarchy of God” (I.41–42) is saturated with republican sentiment. His rebellion set in motion by God the Father’s exaltation of His Son to cosmic kingship (V.600–15, 657–71), Milton’s Satan asserts himself as the “Antagonist of Heav’n’s Almighty King” (X.387), and it is with great “disdain” that Milton’s archangelic arch-rebel decides “With all his Legions to dislodge, and leave / Unworshipt, unobey’d the Throne supreme, / Contemptuous…” (V.566, 569–71). Protesting that the newly crowned Son “hath to himself ingross’t / All Power, and us eclipst under the name / Of King anointed” (V.775–77), Satan scorns “Knee-tribute” as “prostration vile” (V.782) before the angels beneath his banner, asking,

Who can in reason then or right assume

Monarchy over such as live by right

His equals, if in power and splendor less,

In freedom equal? (V.794–97)

Milton’s Satan incites rebellion among his angels by urging them “to cast off this Yoke” of the Messiah, ordained by God “to be our Lord, / And look[s] for adoration…” (V.786, 799–800).

Paradise Lost follows in the tradition of its Renaissance precursors insofar as it awards the rebel angel with not only a sense of a just cause but great majesty and epic heroism in his pursuit of it as well: when “The banded Powers of Satan” (VI.85) appear on the heavenly battlefield, intent “To win the Mount of God, and on his Throne / To set the envier of his State, the proud / Aspirer” (VI.88–90), Satan appears in boundless majesty:

High in the midst exalted as a God

Th’ Apostate in his Sun-bright Chariot sat

Idol of Majesty Divine, enclos’d

With Flaming Cherubim, and golden Shields;

Then lighted from his gorgeous Throne.…

Satan with vast and haughty strides advanc’d,

Came tow’ring, arm’d in Adamant and Gold… (VI.99–110)

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions (1796-97)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions (1796-97)

Yet Milton goes much farther than his Renaissance forebears by making his fallen archangel incomparably magnificent in Hell, where the reader first encounters him at the start of Paradise Lost. Satan the heavenly rebel angel is described as “Sun-bright” (VI.100), and yet Satan the hellish fallen angel—the so-called “Prince of Darkness” (X.383)—is still likened to the Sun, though as obscured by a misty horizon or eclipsed by the Moon (I.592–99). In short, Milton’s Satan remains in possession of a considerable degree of his “Original brightness” (I.592), as does the fallen rebel host, likened by Milton to a lightning-scorched but nonetheless stately forest (I.612–15). The ruined rebel angels, despite their diminished glory, bear “Godlike shapes and forms / Excelling human, Princely Dignities” (I.358–59), and no one is as princely and godlike as Satan himself, who “above the rest / In shape and gesture proudly eminent / Stood like a Tow’r” (I.589–91), his preeminence signified by his surprising resplendence: “Dark’n’d so, yet shone / Above them all th’ Arch-Angel…” (I.599–600). The prior Renaissance treatments of Satan’s revolt all upheld the medieval tradition of marring the fallen angel’s marvelous face and form,29 and were therefore far more unforgiving when visualizing Satan’s infernal fall than Milton, whose fallen angel cuts a truly dazzling figure.

Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)

The Satan of Paradise Lost bears “Brows / Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride” (I.602–3) and a “mighty Stature” (I.222), and he is much reminiscent of classical heroes as he firmly grips his ponderous shield and mast-like spear (I.284–96). These heroic features are not merely superficial, moreover, for Milton’s Satan is at his most impressive not during the War in Heaven but when in Hell, where even in the midst of damnation he decries “the Tyranny of Heav’n” (I.124) and is found “Hurling defiance toward the Vault of Heav’n” (I.669). In the “Infernal Pit” (I.657), Milton’s Satan boasts of his “unconquerable Will” and “courage never to submit of yield” (I.106, 108), and he indeed exhibits such Promethean pride and endurance in the face of incredible loss and suffering—not unlike Milton himself throughout the Restoration, the oppressive period during which the then blind pariah of a poet composed Paradise Lost. Milton’s curiously sympathetic portrait of the fallen archangel was genuinely unprecedented, and it was quite a godsend that, as Jeffrey Burton Russell notes, Milton’s was “a scenario so coherent and compelling that it became the standard account for all succeeding generations.”30 Paradise Lost was designed as a Christian epic poem meant to “justify the ways of God to men” (I.26), but as Percy Bysshe Shelley aptly put it in his unpublished Essay on the Devil and Devils (ca. 1819–20), “the Devil…owes everything to Milton.”31

An interpretation of Milton’s War in Heaven was nearly brought to the silver screen about a half-decade back. The plug was pulled on the Paradise Lost film at the eleventh hour, however, and so until that project escapes from development hell—or until the recently proposed TV series comes to fruition—the most complete depiction of the War in Heaven belongs to Superbook, amusingly enough. Superbook is an animated series of religious stories made palatable for Christian kids, who are taken on a tour through biblical times with the two young protagonists and their zany robot friend as they make their way through episodes from “the Book.” Superbook’s original 1980s incarnation was an attempt by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) to reach out to a Japanese audience, and the show, produced in Japan by Tatsunoko Productions under the name Anime Oyako Gekijō (Animated Parent and Child Theatre), was an immense success. The CBN launched a new Superbook series in 2011—when Legendary Pictures’ Paradise Lost film seemed like it was actually going to happen—and the show’s first episode, “In The Beginning,” focused on the fall of Lucifer and his subsequent temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. The impressionable youth watching Superbook are meant to learn the importance of obedience by beholding the rebel Lucifer’s cataclysmic loss, the result of his having “thought he could be like God.” This is not dissimilar to the message conveyed by Milton, who speaks to the reader through Raphael when the archangel, in his education of Adam and Eve, concludes the story of the War in Heaven with the following words of warning:

…let it profit thee to have heard

By terrible Example the reward

Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,

Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress. (VI.909–12)

Yet of course Milton’s Adam, also like the reader, is rather thrilled when he first learns that “some are fall’n, to disobedience fall’n, / And so from Heav’n to deepest Hell” (V.541–42), the first man absolutely fascinated by the story of the War in Heaven (V.544–60). Also, the angel Abdiel—the sole seditionist among the rebel angels (V.803ff.)—is shocked and horrified when he sees the still-heavenly radiant Satan appear on the battlefield: “O Heav’n! that such resemblance of the Highest / Should yet remain, where faith and realty / Remain not…” (VI.114–16). The Lucifer of Superbook is not Miltonic per se, and Superbook’s retelling of this timeless tale by no stretch of the imagination matches up to Milton’s, but it is not difficult to imagine the show’s visualization of the warring rebel angel inciting reactions similar to those of Milton’s Adam and Abdiel in its young viewership.

Superbook’s Satan is both “motiveless malignancy” and “strutting egotist,” to borrow Revard’s terms. While his dialogue is unsurprisingly nothing special—best described as biblical verse filtered through a Disney villain (“I am God’s greatest work, and I shall ascend above all of Creation!”)—this Lucifer is nevertheless rather impressive in terms of appearance: a bright-eyed, blond-haired, full-armored figure with two sets of massive, luminous angel wings. The image of Lucifer rousing his rebel army, who cheer him on and wave their arms as he directs his steely gaze toward the Kingdom of Heaven in the distance, his long locks of hair swept by the wind, is rather stirring. What’s more, like Milton’s Satan, “who that day / Prodigious power had shown, and met in Arms / No equal” (VI.246–48), the aspiring angel of Superbook holds his own in combat, eliminating a number of angelic combatants in a sulfurous whirlwind attack. Unlike Paradise Lost, wherein the Son of God is required to overcome the resilient rebel army on the third day, Superbook is more traditional inasmuch as it has Lucifer defeated by Michael after a rather short-lived celestial conflict. (Milton does have the archangel Michael best Satan in battle on the first day of the war, but ultimately only omnipotence can overcome the rebel angel and his host).

More significantly, whereas in Paradise Lost the fallen archangel’s “form had yet not lost / All her Original brightness, nor appear’d / Less than Arch-Angel ruin’d” (I.591–93), Superbook instead follows tradition by having Satan transform into a monstrous figure as he falls from Heaven—with the horns, talons, and tail Milton had graciously discarded. (Superbook does however permit the fallen angel to assume his former angelic form—a literal interpretation of the biblical warning that the ever deceitful Devil is capable of “transform[ing] into an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14], which was also Milton’s inspiration for having Satan transform into a “stripling Cherub” [III.636] in order to deceive the archangel Uriel in their encounter on the Sun [III.654ff.].) In any event, as laughably cheesy as Superbook may be, its rather surprising depiction of Lucifer in the War in Heaven is noteworthy, not least for being more impressive than how Milton’s Satan was imagined in the concept art for the Paradise Lost film—especially Satan’s fallen form, which apparently would have been even more monstrous than that of the Satan of Superbook.

That the War in Heaven has been one of the most fixating stories in the history of Christianity and the cartoonish Superbook offers up its only real full-fledged depiction in modern media highlights just how needed an adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is. While Satan has been beloved by cinema since its inception, motion pictures have hitherto offered but mere glimpses of celestial conflict,32 more often than not resorting to the much cheaper option of the Devil-as-tempter. (D.W. Griffith’s The Sorrows of Satan [1926] included both the martial rebel angel and the sleek tempter in human form, but the former, which was featured in the film’s prologue, was ultimately left on the cutting room floor.) The War in Heaven is the most cinematic story in Lucifer’s biography, and it is definitely time for the modern day’s most audacious visual medium to give the Devil his due: the regal rebel angel’s defining moment of heroic heavenly revolt.



1. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1977] 1987), pp. 189–90; Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1981] 1987), pp. 25, 27; Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [1987] 1989), p. 113; Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 2–3.
2. See T. J. Wray and Gregory Mobley, The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 53; Kelly, p. 17.
3. See Forsyth, The Old Enemy, p. 113; Wray and Mobley, pp. 57–58; Kelly, pp. 14–17.
4. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 198–204; Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 110–11, 114; Wray and Mobley, pp. 58–64; Kelly, pp. 21–23, 27, 168–69, 175.
5. See Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 115–18; Wray and Mobley, pp. 64–66; Kelly, pp. 23–25.
6. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 174–83; Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 107–09; Peter Stanford, The Devil: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996), pp. 36–40.
7. See Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan (New York: Vintage Books, [1995] 1996), p. 101. In John’s Gospel, Pagels points out, the Jews perform the temptations of Jesus ascribed to Satan in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Mark’s Gospel vaguely mentions Jesus being “tempted of Satan” (Mark 1:13) in the wilderness, but Matthew and Luke expand upon Mark’s account and portray the Satanic temptations of the Son of God, the most significant of which is Satan’s offer of power over all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8–9; Luke 4:5–6). In John’s Gospel, however, Jesus refuses this “offer” of worldly power not from Satan but from Jews impressed by his miraculous power: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (John 6:15). Similarly, just as the first of Satan’s triad of temptations of Jesus is to turn stones into bread to verify that he truly “be the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3), in John’s Gospel it is the Jews who question Jesus along these lines: “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:30–31). Jesus’ response is essentially the same he delivers to Satan in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:32–33).

8. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 191–94; Stella Purce Revard, The War in Heaven: Paradise Lost and the Tradition of Satan’s Rebellion (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 29–32; Wray and Mobley, pp. 99–105; Kelly, pp. 32–41.
9. In Matthew 25:41—as in other biblical passages, such as “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left” (Ecclesiastes 10:2), and “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3)—the Bible openly expresses a right-handed bias. Abnormal left-handedness has throughout human history been viewed as suspect—or sinister, Latin for “left.” In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Sin is born full-grown from the sinister side of Satan’s head (II.752–58), and Eve is formed from a rib taken from Adam’s sinister side (VIII.460–71). Milton’s Adam comments on this after the Fall, complaining that his wayward wife is “but a Rib / Crooked by nature, bent, as now appears, / More to the part sinister from me drawn” (X.884–86).
10. Ailments such as deafness, dumbness, and blindness are said to be caused by “unclean spirits” in the New Testament (Mark 6:7; Luke 11:14, 13:10–13), whereas in the Old Testament Jehovah had claimed responsibility for these afflictions (Exodus 4:11).
11. Russell, The Devil, p. 249.
12. Mark’s was actually the first Gospel written, though Matthew’s Gospel has been placed first.
13. Origen’s belief in the ultimate salvation of Satan was, however, not to take hold in the tradition. See Russell, Satan, pp. 144–48; The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1988] 1992), p. 81.
14. Revelation is fairly straightforward about its allegorical nature: “…I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man.…And he had in his right hand seven stars.…The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (1:12–13, 16, 20).
15. See Jonathan Kirsch, A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book of the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, [2006] 2007), pp. 112–16.
16. See Revard, pp. 109–10.
17. Luke 10:18, when read in context, appears to refer to a future fall of the Devil. In Luke’s Gospel, the seventy disciples of Jesus return to joyously report, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,” and in his response, Jesus appears to express assurance that the miraculous efficacy he has bestowed upon them portends the inevitable overthrow of Satan’s reign over the earth, which will be a lightning-speed plummet from power: “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:17–19). See Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 294–95; Kelly, pp. 97–100.
18. John may have been referring to “Leviathan,” the Old Testament’s “piercing…crooked serpent…the dragon that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1), also described as “a king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:34). The connection between the dragon of Revelation 12 and the serpent of Geneses 3 was nonetheless solidified by second-century Christian theologian Justin Martyr. See Russell, The Prince of Darkness, pp. 62–63; Kelly, pp. 151–52.
19. Despite being referenced after the death of Jesus—“the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans16:20)—the Genesis 3 passage known within Christian theology as the “protevangelium” anticipates the virgin birth of Jesus by Mary (the “woman’s seed”) and the Passion, which will paradoxically be Satan’s undoing (“it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”). See Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 271–72.
20. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 195–97; Satan, pp. 130–33; The Prince of Darkness, pp. 78–80; Revard, pp. 32–35, 47–49; Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 134–39, 370–71; The Satanic Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 44–45, 51–54, 80–81; Luther Link, The Devil: A Mask without a Face (London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 1995), pp. 22–27; Wray and Mobley, pp. 108–12; Kelly, pp. 191–99.
21. See Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), Ch. XII, “Diabolus Simia Dei,” pp. 120–29.
22. See Russell, The Devil, pp. 195–97; The Prince of Darkness, pp. 43–44; Forsyth, The Old Enemy, pp. 134–36; The Satanic Epic, pp. 51–54, 80–81; Link, pp. 22–23; Wray and Mobley, pp. 108–10.
23. See Revard, pp. 201–03; Russell, Lucifer, pp. 250–52.
24. For exceptions, see Roland Mushat Frye, “Milton’s Paradise Lost and the Visual Arts,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 120, No. 4, Symposium on John Milton (Aug. 13, 1976), pp. 233–44.
25. Revard, p. 198: “Satan, proud but magnificent, unyieldingly resolute in battle, emerges in the Renaissance poems wearing the full splendor of epic trappings. To these poems we owe in large measure the hero Satan as he is developed in Paradise Lost. Renaissance poets drew on two traditions to depict Satan or Lucifer: the hexaemeral and the epic. Hexaemera described Lucifer as a prince, glorious and unsurpassed, whose ambition caused him to strive above his sphere; epics described their heroes as superhuman in battle and accorded them, whatever their arrogance or mistakes in judgment, ‘grace’ to offend, even as they are called to account for their offenses. The Lucifer of the Renaissance thus combines Isaiah’s Lucifer with Homer’s Agamemnon, Virgil’s Turnus, and Tasso’s Rinaldo. Milton’s Satan, in turn, follows the Renaissance Lucifer and is both the prince depicted in hexaemera and the classical battle hero.”
26. Ibid., pp. 200–01.
27. Ibid., p. 210.
28. See Watson Kirkconnell, The Celestial Cycle: The Theme of Paradise Lost in World Literature with Translations of the Major Analogues (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952), pp. 61–62 (Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate, 1581); 237–38 (Giambattista Andreini’s L’Adamo, 1613); 276 (Phineas Fletcher’s The Locusts, or Apollyonists, 1627); 351 (Joseph Beaumont’s Psyche, or Love’s Majesty, 1648); 360 (Jacobus Masenius’ Sarcotis, 1654); 372, 401, 403, 405 (Joost van den Vondel’s Lucifer, 1654); 422 (Abraham Cowley’s Davideis, 1656); 431 (Samuel Pordage’s Mundorum Explicato, 1661).
29. See ibid., pp. 59–61 (Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate, 1581); 221 (Giambattista Marini’s La Strage degli Innocenti, 1610); 236 (Giambattista Andreini’s L’Adamo, 1613); 350–51 (Joseph Beaumont’s Psyche, or Love’s Majesty, 1648); 414–15 (Joost van den Vondel’s Lucifer, 1654).
30. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1986] 1990), p. 95.
31. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Essay on the Devil and Devils, in Shelley’s Prose: or the Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark, pref. Harold Bloom (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1988), p. 268.
32. For a comprehensive catalogue of heavenly conflict in cinema, see Eric C. Brown, Milton on Film (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2015), Ch. 5, “Winged Warriors and the War in Heaven,” pp. 245–81.


Christopher Hitchens: Anti-Theism and the Devil’s Party

The late Christopher Hitchens (1949 – 2011), author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) and editor of The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer (2007), was not only an atheist—and arguably the most formidable of “the Four Horsemen” of New Atheism—but a self-styled “anti-theist.”1 On occasion, this sentiment led Hitchens to voice open sympathy for the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer, who was listed as one of Hitchens’ favorite heroes of fiction in the author’s memoir.2 In a lecture given on February 23, 2004 at Sewanee: The University of the South, entitled “The Moral Necessity of Atheism”—after Romantic Satanist Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Necessity of Atheism (1811), the pamphlet which saw Shelley ousted from Oxford—Hitchens likened his anti-theist position to the Romantic tradition of being “of the Devil’s party.”

As Hitchens demonstrates in the above, once the character of Almighty God is deemed not only nonexistent but malevolent, praise for Milton’s Satan—who in Paradise Lost (1667) famous asserts in the midst of damnation that it is “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” (I.263)—tends not to tarry far behind. Having dismissed Heaven as “a celestial North Korea”—“a hideous realm of permanent, total, inescapable unfreedom” as a “system of surveillance, control, supervision, and the compulsory exacting of our thanks”—Hitchens states that he would simply have to strike the same pose of unyielding defiance of the Miltonic Satan if there truly were a God who, as the great religions propose, ruled as dictator of the cosmos. “I would, in that case, take the Miltonian line,” Hitchens explains. “I would be of the Devil’s party: I wouldn’t worship it; I wouldn’t agree to be bound by it; I wouldn’t become one those serfs.”

Hitchens echoes not only Shelley’s Necessity of Atheism but his Declaration of Rights (1812) as well. In the dramatic finish to A Declaration of Rights, Shelley had channeled the spirit of Milton’s Satan summoning his fallen legions—his “Atheist crew” (VI.370) of rebel angels—and later swelling with pride before their reassembled ranks (I.315–23, 522–89), Shelley concluding this clarion call for Man to rise from lowliness and degeneracy to assert his proper worth and attain loftiness and dignity with “Awake!—arise!—or be forever fallen,”3 which is the last line of the fiery speech with which the Satan of Paradise Lost rouses his fallen compatriots from the burning lake of Hell (I.330). Likewise, by deeming theism “the origin of totalitarianism…within our own minds” and determining that “the struggle to throw off this servility is the precondition for any struggle for liberty, whether intellectual or personal or moral,” Hitchens too effectively assumes the position of Milton’s Satan, who scorns “Knee-tribute” to God the Father and the Son as “prostration vile” (V.782) and incites rebellion among the angels by urging them “to cast off this Yoke” of the Messiah, ordained by God “to be our Lord, / And look[s] for adoration…” (V.786, 799–800).

Hitchens, an intellectual titan of godlessness, demonstrated like Shelley before him that, as Maximilian Rudwin observed in his seminal study of The Devil in Legend and Literature, “anti-theism leads to Satanism.”4



1. In his Introduction to The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007), p. xxii, Christopher Hitchens provided his most thorough explanation of his “anti-theist” stance: “I myself have tried to formulate a position I call ‘anti-theist.’ There are, after all, atheists who say that they wish the fable were true but are unable to suspend the requisite disbelief, or have relinquished belief only with regret. To this I reply: who wishes that there was a permanent, unalterable celestial despotism that subjected us to continual surveillance and could convict us of thought-crime, and who regarded us as its private property even after we died? How happy we ought to be, at the reflection that there exists not a shred of respectable evidence to support such a horrible hypothesis. And how grateful we should be to those of our predecessors who repudiated this utter negation of human freedom.”
2. See Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir (New York: Twelve, 2010), p. 331.
3. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Declaration of Rights, in Shelley’s Prose: or the Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark, pref. Harold Bloom (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1988), p. 72.
4. Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), p. 306.

Romanticism: More Satanic than Satanism: Part 3 of 3

“…Milton’s Satan assumes in the Romantic era a prominence seen never before or since, nearly rivaling Prometheus as the most characteristic mythic figure of the age. A more active and ambiguous mythic agent than the bound, suffering forethinker and benefactor of humanity, the reimagined figure of Milton’s Satan embodied for the age the apotheosis of human desire and power.”1
                                                                      — Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism (2003)


Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Satan as the Fallen Angel (ca. 1797)

Satan was not so prominent before Romantic Satanism, to be sure, but modern-day, self-declared Satanists would surely take issue with the idea that Satan has not been so prominent since. Yet an honest comparison of Romantic Satanism on the one hand and modern organized Satanism on the other makes it difficult indeed to disagree with Schock’s assertion. The bestial Satan of LaVeyan Satanism and its offshoots pales in comparison to the titanic Lucifer of Romantic Satanism. While both are symbols or icons of fundamentally human drives, the former is all-too-human—concerned as LaVeyan Satanism is with “man as just another animal”2—whereas the latter is emblematic of the more lofty human drive for transcendence, which differentiates us from our fellow beasts of the field (or so at least the Romantics believed3). In any event, the fallen angel was raised to an unprecedented height by Milton and the Romantic Satanists the poet inspired, and as organizational Satanists have chosen not to embrace but rather distance themselves from this marvelous tradition, the real Satanic trailblazing has been carried out by those contemporary creative individuals who have summoned the sympathetic and sublime Satan of Miltonic-Romantic Satanism in their works, thereby ushering in a movement of neo-Romantic Satanism today.


The Romantics: Satanists in All But Name?

What’s in a name? To downplay the monumental significance of the Romantic Satanism phenomenon simply because those involved did not self-identify as “Satanists” is to be overly focused on semantics. If the Romantic Satanists did not term themselves “Satanists,” neither did they term themselves “Romantics,” as that label was applied retrospectively. This of course does not diminish the historical significance of those under the “Romanticism” umbrella: a wide array of creative individuals caught up in a similar current and preoccupied by similar issues, such as revolution, liberty, the sublime, the cult of genius, and so on. Likewise, the Romantic Satanists having been termed “Romantic Satanists” in retrospect does not diminish the fact that they were caught up in a similar current of overall positive reappraisal and implementation of the Miltonic Satan—caught up in “Satan’s cult of himself,”4 as it were.

H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)
H. Meyer, after G. H. Harlow, Portrait of George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1816)

Certainly worth noting is that while the “Romantic” label was applied to the Romantics retrospectively, the “Satanic” label was bandied about during the heyday of Romantic Satanism. Mario Praz may have rechristened Lord Byron “the Satanic Lord”5 in 1933, but the poet’s contemporaries themselves considered “Byronic” interchangeable with “Satanic.” In 1820, the English clergyman Reginald Heber identified in Byron “a strange predilection for the worser half of manicheism,” accusing the wayward peer of having “devoted himself and his genius to the adornment and extension of evil.”6 This, “being interpreted,” reflected Byron himself, “means that I worship the devil…”7 In the following year, the Poet Laureate Robert Southey condemned Byron as the orchestrator of a “Satanic School…characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety…”8 This condemnation was “the official birth certificate of the Satanic School of Poetry,” as Ruben van Luijk aptly puts it in his scholarly tome Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism, “the original source for the designation ‘Romantic Satanism’ or ‘Literary Satanism,’ still used by scholars of literature today.”9 Simply because Byron ostensibly dismissed the Satanic branding10 and mocked the self-satisfied Southey by turning the accusation back around11 does not alter the fact that Byron indeed spearheaded the Satanic strand of Romanticism. Byron’s bad eminence was manifestly exhibited in his decision to “give…MrSouthey – & others of the crew something that shall occupy their dreams!”12 by penning Cain (1821), wherein a Miltonic Lucifer emerges as a noble, even Promethean opponent of “the Omnipotent tyrant” (I.i.138), urging Adam’s firstborn son to defy the “tyrannous threats to force you into faith / ’Gainst all external sense and inward feeling…” (II.ii.461–62).

Alexander Nasmyth, Portrait of Robert Burns (1787)
Alexander Nasmyth, Portrait of Robert Burns (1787)

There is arguably a better example than “the Satanic Lord” of someone on the border of Satanism proper in the person of Robert Burns, Scottish Poet Laureate and a proto-Romantic figure. “Robert Burns makes several brief references to Satan in letters written in 1787 and 1788,” notes John Leonard in his two-volume Faithful Labourers, which masterfully traces the reception history of Milton’s Satan, from the seventeenth century to contemporary criticism. While Burns’ “tone is hard to pin down,” Leonard observes, “it is clear that he feels sympathy for the Devil.”13 Most significantly, Burns employs Milton’s Satan as a vehicle for self-assertion, holding up the figure of the fallen angel as an exemplar of dauntless defiance in the face of personal adversity: “I know what I may expect from the world, by and by; illiberal abuse and perhaps contemptuous neglect: but I am resolved to study the sentiments of a very respectable Personage, Milton’s Satan—‘Hail horrors! Hail, infernal world!’ ”14 Romanticism scholar Fiona Stafford notes that Burns, not insignificantly, expressed this Satanic sentiment as he alternately dismissed the powerful and their reservations about him: “I set as little by kings, lords, clergy, critics, &c as all these respectable Gentry do by my Bardship.”15 Thus, as Stafford states, Burns’ “admiration of Milton had a political as well as personal significance,” for

To celebrate Satan in the same breath as dismissing those at the top of the contemporary social hierarchy was to reveal the same kind of response to Paradise Lost as that of Blake, Godwin, Byron or Shelley. For Burns as for his radical heirs, Milton’s Satan was the champion of the oppressed and the eloquent opponent of tyranny.16

“Give me a spirit like my favourite hero, Milton’s Satan,” Burns would declare, and he was inclined to keep that dark hero close by so as to continually rekindle the Satanic spirit within himself: “I have bought a pocket Milton which I carry perpetually about with me, in order to study the sentiments—the dauntless magnanimity; the intrepid, unyielding independence; the desperate daring, and noble defiance of hardship, in that great Personage, Satan.”17

Thomas Stothard, Satan Rising from the Burning Lake
Thomas Stothard, Satan Rising from the Burning Lake

Burns was compelled to calm certain brows he had raised due to the diabolical defiance on his own, but when he qualified his admiration for the Satan of Paradise Lost, Burns’ passion for the Satanic sublime burst through: “My favourite feature in Milton’s Satan is, his manly fortitude in supporting what cannot be remedied—in short, the wild broken fragments of a noble, exalted mind in ruins.—I meant no more by saying he was a favourite hero of mine.”18 To mean no more is to mean quite a lot. If enthusiastically embracing Satan as a mythic/poetic figure to cultivate that character’s very own heroically defiant spirit within oneself does not constitute genuine Satanism, I don’t know what does. In his professed admiration for Milton’s Satan and his inclination to emulate that “very respectable Personage,” Burns very much anticipated Romantic Satanism, which deserves the recognition of “real Satanists.”

Romantic Satanism was responsible for restoring a great deal of the tarnished Lucifer’s luster, and it is undeniable that a vast majority of organizational Satanists have paid this grand and groundbreaking movement little more than lip service. However, while contemporary Satanic circles may have missed the Miltonic-Romantic mark with regards to Satan and the Promethean values which the celestial rebel signifies, the twenty-first century has witnessed a cultural resurgence of the spirit of Romantic Satanism. The Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer has reared his refulgent head in the artistic mediums of today, and this nascent neo-Romantic Satanism—a burgeoning phenomenon signifying the influence of Romantic Satanism on our milieu, from faint echoes to modern-day manifestations of its distinguished Devil in the arts and culture at large—appears to be returning Satanism to its Miltonic-Romantic roots. The fallen archangel’s lost grandness may be returned yet.

James Barry, Satan and His Legions Hurling Defiance toward the Vault of Heaven (ca. 1792-95)
James Barry, Satan and His Legions Hurling Defiance toward the Vault of Heaven (ca. 1792-95)

Much like Romantic Satanism, today’s cultural current of neo-Romantic Satanism is not organizational but organic or “in the air,” and the creative individuals who are its contributors, much like the Romantic Satanists themselves, most likely wouldn’t describe themselves as “Satanists”—let alone officially join some Satanic group—or even recognize that they are part of a broader movement giving the Devil a much needed makeover. What does it matter? If self-identifying as a Satanist were really all that key, then over the past five decades organized Satanism has existed “real Satanists” would have written remarkable Satanic literature or even lyrics which put the poetry of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Byron’s Cain to shame, and “real Satanists” would have created artwork much more magnificent than James Barry or Henry Fuseli. Needless to say, this has not been the case. Milton was as pious a man as one could imagine, yet the Puritan poet effectively created a Satanic epic with Paradise Lost; Lord Byron was dismissive of the Satanism brand imposed upon him by his reactionary contemporaries, yet he lived a scandalously Satanic lifestyle, peppered his poetry with grandly Satanic characters, and with Cain crafted Romantic Satanism’s literary apex; Barry was a Roman Catholic and Fuseli an ordained Zwinglian minister, yet these artists created some of the most sublime Satanic iconography in history. Belonging to the Devil’s party is far more important than knowing it,19 and so while today’s “neo-Romantic Satanists,” as noted above, may not self-identify as Satanists, they are proving to be far more significant than organizational Satanists in terms of continuing the Miltonic-Romantic tradition of the laudable Lucifer. Unsurprisingly, these writers and artists I categorize as “neo-Romantic Satanists” often profess to have drawn inspiration from Milton’s Paradise Lost and its Romantic admirers, as opposed to anything organized Satanism has produced over its half-century span. Judging by the fruits, Satanic organizations would do well to return Satanism to its Miltonic-Romantic roots.

Of course, the examples of neo-Romantic Satanism which The Satanic Scholar helps to highlight—Vertigo’s Lucifer comic, Legendary Pictures’ Paradise Lost film, New Atheism’s half-joking sympathy for Satan, and the increasingly frequent usage of Miltonic-Romantic-Satanic imagery and references in the arts, broadly speaking—are not the equivalent of the cultural treasures that are Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and the Romantic works inspired by that masterpiece of English literature. Then again, poets are no longer the “legislators of the World”—unacknowledged or otherwise—that they were in Shelley’s nineteenth-century vision,20 and the above examples are sure to prove far more effective in moving the collective conscious today. Romantic Satanism was undeniably the most significant historical reevaluation of Satan, and this neo-Romantic Satanism may have similar far-reaching effects, perhaps the likes of which have never been seen. We may be living in a time in which the fallen angel is not only restored to his former Romantic prominence but perhaps exalted to even greater glory than ever before. In any case, one thing is certain: if this day and age truly is the fallen Morningstar’s time to shine, it will have been realized not by “real Satanists” but those who, like Milton and arguably many of the Romantic Satanists, are “of the Devil’s party without knowing it”—a telling reminder just why Romanticism was far more Satanic than Satanism.



1. Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 3.
2. LaVeyan Satanism’s overemphasis on the animalistic nature of Man is enshrined in the seventh of “The Nine Satanic Statements,” which serve as the philosophical foundation for the Church of Satan: “Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!” Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible, intro. Peter H. Gilmore (New York: Avon Books, [1969] 2005), p. 25.
3. See Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 115.
4. Schock, p. 39.
5. Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, trans. Angus Davidson (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, [1933] 1963), p. 81.
6. Quoted in Schock, p. 101.
7. Quoted in ibid., p. 190n. 48.
8. Robert Southey, Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821), quoted in C. L. Cline, “Byron and Southey: A Suppressed Rejoinder,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 3 (Winter, 1954), p. 30.
9. Van Luijk, p. 73.
10. “…[W]hat is the ‘Satanic School?’ who are the Scholars?.…I have no school nor Scholars…” Lord Byron, quoted in Cline, p. 35.
11. “If there exists anywhere, excepting in his imagination, such a school, is he not sufficiently armed against it by his own intense vanity?” 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.
12. Quoted in Schock, p. 101.
13. John Leonard, Faithful Labourers: A Reception History of Paradise Lost, 1667–1970: Volume II: Interpretative Issues (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 409.
14. Quoted in ibid.
15. Quoted in Fiona Stafford, “Burns and Romantic Writing,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns, ed. Gerard Carruthers (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2009), p. 105.
16. Stafford, p. 105.
17. Quoted in Leonard, p. 410.
18. Quoted in ibid.
19. William Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93), famously theorized that “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it[.]” The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, rev. ed. (New York: Anchor Books, [1965] 1988), p. 35; pl. 6.
20. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (1821), in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York [2d rev. ed. 1977]: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002), p. 535.

Castlevania Summons (and Vanquishes) the Miltonic-Romantic Satan

The Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer makes an interesting appearance in Castlevania, the action-adventure videogame series that made its U.S. debut in 1987 (debuting a year earlier in Japan), spawning a plethora of sequels spanning several gaming platforms. Castlevania was essentially a great homage to the horror genre, paying tribute to Dracula in particular, the series’ vampire-hunting Belmont family incessantly hunting the immortal Count from game to game. Castlevania was rebooted with 2010’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which resulted in a 2014 sequel, and in these last two installments of the undying series, homage was paid to a character far greater than Dracula: the Devil himself, as descended from the Miltonic-Romantic tradition.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, set in an apocalyptic eleventh century, follows Gabriel Belmont of the “Brotherhood of Light,” an order of knights responsible for protecting the world from otherworldly enemies. The Lords of Shadow of the title have disrupted the natural order by casting a malevolent spell keeping the deceased in a perpetual limbo, preventing them from crossing over to the afterlife. Gabriel’s quest to defeat the Lords of Shadow is personal, as his wife was slain by a supernatural creature (or so he believes). An elder member of the Brotherhood by the name of Zobek (voiced by Patrick Stewart) informs Gabriel of “the God Mask,” which has the power to restore life to the dead. Longing to bring his wife back to life, Gabriel ventures to defeat the three Lords of Shadow and obtain the three pieces of the God Mask. When Gabriel’s journey reaches its climax in the Land of the Necromancers—a tempestuous, ethereal realm not dissimilar to the Hades of the second act of Lord Byron’s Cain (1821)—Zobek reveals that he is the nefarious Lord of the Necromancers, who deceived Gabriel to set him on a journey to eliminate the competition of the other two Lords of Shadow. Zobek explains that he had ventured to Hell in search of the power that would enable him to disrupt the natural order and set the events of the story in motion. Orchestrating this charade included compelling Gabriel to take the life of his own wife, which, when revealed to our hero, naturally plunges him into despair.

As Zobek, with the God Mask in his grasp, revels in his victory before the subdued Gabriel, he suddenly hears a diabolical laugh, followed by a sinister voice. “Hail, Mighty Zobek,” mocks the unseen speaker, who proceeds to explain to the frightened Zobek that it was he who granted the supernatural strength beyond Zobek’s own reach. It is revealed to the manipulative, self-serving Zobek that he, like Gabriel, was but the tool of another’s plan. “I planted the idea for this whole elaborate ruse into your tiny mind in order to serve my own higher purpose,” announces the voice. “I no longer need your assistance. The power is now mine!” With that, Zobek spontaneously combusts, crumbling to the ground. Casually walking through the flames and stepping over the corpse of Zobek, Satan enters the scene and takes possession of the God Mask.

Satan now in full sight, it is clear how indebted this interpretation of the fallen angel is to the Miltonic Devils depicted by Romantic artists. Like the portrayals of Milton’s Satan wrought by Barry, Lawrence, Fuseli, and Blake, this Satan is wingless (although he can summon “shadow wings” at will during the actual boss battle) and nude, with the superhuman form and the dignified bearing befitting a Greco-Roman god. This Satan has no horns, hoofs, or tail, but an athletic figure, his head crowned with long black hair (with little of the character of many a Romantic Lucifer’s locks, it must be said), which drapes down his back and chest. Satan’s demonic aspects are relatively subtle: translucent skin, menacing eyes (pitch-black sclerae punctuated by glowing pupils), and an ethereal darkness that swirls about his lower half. A convincing portrayal of Satan as “Arch-Angel ruin’d,” as he is “Majestic though in ruin” (PL, I.593; II.305), this Satan’s majesty and menace are complemented by his haughty voice, executed perfectly by Jason Isaacs, who in the 2000 film The Patriot had played the English Colonel William Tavington, who was, in the words of proud Englishman and Satanist Gavin Baddeley, “absurdly evil…”1 Castlevania’s less absurd Satan, gripping a massive staff much like Milton’s Satan grips his mastlike spear (I.292–96), lifts his malevolent gaze skyward and vaunts his “higher purpose”: “Father! I come for you… Before the end YOU will bow down to ME!”

As Gabriel is miraculously restored to life by spirits at the behest of his wife’s ghost, Satan attempts to form an alliance with the man, drawing parallels between their doomed dispositions: “So… he has abandoned you, too? So be it. Join me. I will love you more than He!” Turning to face Gabriel, Satan reminds the devout knight that he, first of the damned, was once Heaven’s preeminent angel: “I was adored once above all others. I too didn’t deserve to be cast out… abandoned. Now you know what that feels like, don’t you…? Hate can bring us back, give us strength. Embrace it!” It is a moment very much reminiscent of Lord Byron’s Lucifer, who approaches Adam’s firstborn son Cain as something of a Promethean patron, professing, “I know the thoughts / Of dust, and feel for it, and with you” (I.i.100–01), styling himself and his human counterpart as reflections of one another: “Souls who dare look the Omnipotent tyrant in / His everlasting face, and tell him, that / His evil is not good!” (I.i.138–40). Yet, while the Byronic Cain can relate to the arch-rebel Lucifer—“Thou speak’st to me of things which long have swum / In visions through my thought” (I.i.167–68)—Castlevania’s Gabriel Belmont is not swayed in the slightest by the Tempter. “He loves you as he loves me,” Gabriel reassures the fallen angel, the knight reaffirming his faith in God: “We have only to ask for forgiveness deep within ourselves and be welcomed back.” Ever the arrogant angel, Satan gibes, “You monkeys don’t deserve redemption.”2 Satan’s scorn for mortal “monkeys” may betray the dishonesty of his proposed alliance, but then again we are once more reminded of Byron’s Lucifer, who expresses respect for Cain in his likeminded defiance of Jehovah, yet as a spirit—indeed, a “Master of spirits” (I.i.99)—holds humans in disdain as “dust” and “clay.”3

The Satan of Paradise Lost’s “Monarchal pride” (II.428) and ambition “to have equall’d the most High” (I.40) are overstressed in Castlevania’s portrayal of the Prince of Darkness: “It is MY divine right to rule by his side as an equal… Or perhaps more than that…”4 “You would rather rule in power and might than to offer forgiveness and love?” asks Gabriel, pitying the fallen angel for his waywardness: “This is why you are cast out, unholy one!” Satan’s pride is needled by Gabriel’s “blasphemy,” which underlines his sense of his own godhood, and so Satan promises to deliver Gabriel his death. After a Castlevania-style slugfest, Gabriel subdues the God-Masked Satan, and a pillar of divine light envelops the two. Despite his contemptuous defiance, Satan is unmasked and vanquished by the unseen hand of the Almighty, the tempestuous Land of the Dead calming with the Devil’s disappearance.

In the game’s epilogue, set in modern times, it is revealed that Zobek still lives and that Gabriel has been cursed to live on as the immortal Dracula. Zobek has come to inform Gabriel/Dracula that “Satan’s acolytes are readying for his imminent return.” Knowing full well that Gabriel yearns for the release of death, Zobek promises to free him of his vampiric immortality in exchange for his help in dealing with the Satanic crisis.

In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which largely (and jarringly) takes place in a modern urban setting, Gabriel/Dracula and Zobek work together to hunt down Satan’s acolytes. At the end of the unevenly paced game, the third acolyte—a demonic-looking Crowley type by the name of Guido Szandor (after Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan)—successfully summons Satan to the mortal plane in appropriate supernatural spectacle. The third acolyte falls to his knees before his Lord, who spreads his dark wings to reveal himself. It is immediately apparent that this Satan possesses none of the subtlety of his incarnation in the previous game. Satan is now a massive, hulking figure with a pallor more haunting than Dracula’s, his lower half covered in spiky silver armor, his forearms dripping with tar. Satan’s black hair is shorter and stringier, and his eyes are now pronounced by their glowing purple irises. The only interesting aspects of Satan’s significantly altered appearance are his tremendous black-feathered wings—albeit strangely protruding from his lower back—and his facial scars, which was a feature of Milton’s portrait of Satan (I.600–01) missing from all artistic renditions.

While Satan’s last acolyte stares up at his Lord in awe, Satan looks down with disgust, clearly irritated by the sight of Gabriel/Dracula, still alive and well after all this time. Satan slowly steps forward and lifts up the bowed head of his acolyte, as one would a loyal dog, but suddenly jags his fingers into the acolyte’s throat and peels off the man’s face, delivering his faithful servant a painful demise. Satan tosses the shocked face of the acolyte aside in disdain and remarks with a shrug, “I despise incompetence.” Satan once again proposes an alliance with Gabriel: “We could share this world…you…and I…” Dracula and his son, Alucard (“Dracula” reversed), remain silent, Satan chuckling, “But you desire to destroy me… I see that now.” Satan then shifts his motive from conquest of the world to its wanton destruction: “I’m very well aware of your power, Gabriel. However…I desire to destroy this world.” With that, the room begins to quake and split apart, and as the surroundings crumble, Satan vaunts, “If I cannot rule the world of men…then no one will!”

A massive, wormlike leviathan bursts through the floor, Satan surfing the beast into the sky. Dracula and Alucard mount the ascending leviathan and, of course, manage to slay the monster before it is able to carry out Satan’s command to destroy the world. As the debris falls, Satan transforms into tarry ethereal form and possesses the body of Alucard, as he believes Gabriel will not be able to harm the body of his son. After the game’s final boss battle, the two fall from the sky and crash into a city street like meteorites. “You won’t kill your son to destroy me,” mocks the incapacitated Satan/Alucard. Gabriel begs to differ, and as he proceeds to stake the body of Alucard in dramatic slow-motion, Satan dives out of the boy’s body and assumes his own form. Having anticipated this, Gabriel thrusts Satan against a gate and daggers him, at which point the impaled Satan goes limp and collapses. In an anticlimactic ending, Gabriel revives his son Alucard with blood from his own veins and exits before sunrise, leaving the demonic corpse of the fallen angel lying on the pavement.

Satan’s first Castlevania incarnation was subtle, the Prince of Darkness given an angelic beauty slightly sullied by his exile from Heaven, much akin to Romantic renditions of Milton’s Satan in the visual arts. Satan likewise possessed the Miltonic-Romantic arch-rebel’s aristocratic demeanor and titanic ambition, and his mixed sympathy and contempt for the Gabriel character recalled the ambiguity of the Byronic Lucifer. Satan’s second Castlevania incarnation is as different from his first as could possibly be. While he formerly sought to re-ascend into Heaven and bring the Almighty to his knees, here Satan’s ambition is far more measured, as he wishes only to rule the mortal world and settles for demolishing it. While he formerly reflected on his prestigious place in Heaven, brooded over his infernal ruin, vaunted his patricidal/deicidal endeavors, and exuded an air of monarchal divinity, here Satan is given few lines (a terrible waste of the vocal talent of Jason Isaacs), all of which completely lack the complexity of his dialogue in the first game. The entire Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 game builds up to an epic confrontation between Dracula and Satan, but they hardly exchange words and their battle is terribly brief, the payoff in terms of story and gameplay tremendously unfulfilling for the player. Alas, if Castlevania summoned the Miltonic-Romantic Satan in the first Lords of Shadow game, its sequel vanquished him with little care, having recast the regal apostate angel as a monstrous, muscle-bound brute roid-raging through the cosmos.



1. Gavin Baddeley, with Dani Filth, The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence & Darkness (Godalming, Surrey: FAB Press Ltd., [2009] 2010), p. 42.
2. This Satan’s dialogue, it must be said, appears to be somewhat indebted to the Lucifer of the 1995 film The Prophecy: Lucifer, as played with relish by Viggo Mortensen, asserts, “I was the first angel, loved once above all others,” and in the end amusingly pleads for the male lead’s alliance thus: “I love you! I love you more than Jesus!” Mortals are routinely referred to as “monkeys” by the disdainful angelic characters throughout the film.
3. Certain critics of Byron’s Cain have insisted that its portrayal of Lucifer is traditional, the rebel angel’s companionship with Cain a false face. See, for example, N. Stephen Bauer, “Byron’s Doubting Cain,” South Atlantic Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 2 (May, 1974), pp. 80–88, and Wolf Z. Hirst, “Byron’s Lapse into Orthodoxy: An Unorthodox Reading of Cain,” Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 29, (1980), pp. 151–72.
4. This is also reminiscent of St. Anselm’s unique assessment of Satan’s self-sought apotheosis in his essay On the Fall of the Devil (ca. 1080–1086). Anselm explains that Lucifer aspired to godhead not by attempting to overpower the Almighty—an impossible act that a supernatural being as intelligent as Heaven’s highest angel could not possibly have believed—but by merely being prideful, which is to say, by valuing his own self-will above the will of God. In exalting his own will above God’s will, Satan’s ambition, according to Anselm, was to be not only equal to but in fact greater than God: “Even if he didn’t will to be completely equal to God, but instead willed something less than equality with God that was contrary to God’s will: by that very fact he willed inordinately to be like God, since he willed something by his own will, which was not subjected to anyone else. For it is the prerogative of God alone to will anything by his own will in such a way that he does not follow any higher will.…Now he did not merely will to be equal to God by presuming to have a will of his own; he willed to be even greater than God, in that he placed his own will above God’s will by willing what God didn’t want him to will.” (Anselm, On the Fall of the Devil, in Basic Writings, ed. and trans. Thomas Williams [Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2007], p. 178.) See also John M. Steadman, “Satan and the Argument from Equality,” in Milton’s Epic Characters: Image and Idol (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, [1959] 1968), pp. 160–73.

The Ambivalence of Horror’s Homage to Milton: The Video for GosT’s “Arise”

Milton’s Paradise Lost has proven to be popular within the horror genre.1 The latest example of horror’s homage to Milton has come in the form of the video for the song “Arise” off the 2016 album Non Paradisi by GosT, the skull-masked, synthwave solo act. GosT’s label, Blood Music, is described as an organization “dedicated to anthropological and cultural preservation of extreme metal music,” yet “Arise” is very much reminiscent of a 1980s, John Carpenter-style, synthesized horror film soundtrack. Proudly donning its Miltonic influences on its sleeve, GosT’s Non Paradisi album is described as “a loose musical adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, concerning Lucifer’s fall from Heaven and ensuing ascent from the Lake of Fire.” The video for “Arise”—itself a reference to the call with which Milton’s Satan summons his fallen legions in Hell (“Awake, arise, or be for ever fall’n” [I.330])—charts this Satanic epic, with imagery commingling traditional illustrations of Paradise Lost and Halloween-style horror.

While the video for Delta Heavy’s “White Flag” had a smooth and cartoonish Super Nintendo look, the video for “Arise” has more of a gritty and violent Sega Genesis style, which works well for GosT’s 80s horror aesthetic. I’m not convinced that it works for the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer, however. “Arise” highlights the ambivalence of horror’s adoption of Paradise Lost, as the genre’s homage to Milton’s masterpiece can have a negative impact on the epic poem’s unique vision of the Satanic. With the exception of the video’s original opening—the silhouettes of rebel angels in their retreat and Lucifer’s ejection from Heaven—most of the imagery is lifted straight from the artwork of Gustave Doré and John Martin (in some cases depicting moments preceding and following those captured by the artwork). Yet the majestic artwork of Doré and Martin does not mesh well with the Halloween imagery the “Arise” video is suffused with: an overabundance of skulls, skeletons, inverted crosses, and monsters.

Paradise Lost has some elements of the monstrous, such as the native denizens of Hell—“worse / Than Fables yet have feign’d, or fear conceiv’d, / Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimeras dire” (II.626–28)—and Sin and Death (II.648 ff.), but such monstrousness does not quite extend to the fallen angels. Of course, Milton does in the end bring Satan and his coconspirators horrifyingly low: when he returns to Hell after triumphing in Eden, Satan is transformed into “A monstrous Serpent on his Belly prone” (X.514) at the conclusion of his exultant speech, Satan’s supporters suffering the same ignominy, “all transform’d / Alike, to Serpents all as accessories / To his bold Riot…” (X.519–21). Satan’s judgment seems reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno insofar as his punishment in Hell correlates to his crime on Earth, Satan “punisht in the shape he sinn’d, / According to his doom” (X.516–17), but in truth Milton’s judgment is far less harsh than Dantean torment because it is a temporary punishment. Milton writes of his writhing fallen angels, “thir lost shape, permitted, they resum’d,” explaining to the reader that this ignominious metamorphosis is merely an “annual humbling certain number’d days, / To dash thir pride, and joy for Man seduc’t” (X.574, 576–77).

The lost shape Paradise Lost’s fallen angels resume is rather dignified: Milton likens the Hell-doomed host to a lightning-scorched but nonetheless stately forest (I.612–15)—a far cry from the horribly deformed faces of the angels tossed into the fiery pit of Hell in the “Arise” video. No, Milton’s rebel angels, despite their diminished glory, bear “Godlike shapes and forms / Excelling human, Princely Dignities…” (I.358–59). None are as princely and godlike as Satan himself, who stands “above the rest / In shape and gesture proudly eminent / …like a Tow’r…” (I.589–91). As the heavenly Lucifer he was “Sun-bright” (VI.100), yet even as a ruined archangel in Hell he retains much of his “Original brightness” (I.592), Satan still likened to the Sun, but as obscured by a misty horizon or eclipsed by the moon (I.592–99)—“Dark’n’d so, yet shone / Above them all th’ Arch-Angel…” (I.599–600). The only trace of genuine deformity in Milton’s Satan is that “his face / Deep scars of Thunder had intrencht” (I.600–01), yet these battle scars only serve to make him seem more heroic, Satan’s thunder-scarred visage merely magnifying the impressiveness of his “Brows / Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride” (I.602–3). To its credit, the “Arise” video depicts Satan’s facial scars, which have been entirely ignored by all artists of Milton’s poem. Unfortunately, the scars do not stop at a cracked porcelain face; by the end of “Arise,” Satan’s face has decayed to an almost skeletal state, and the horns protruding from his head are no less unflattering—no less unMiltonic.

“Arise” delights in depicting such monstrous decay, and the triumph of the horror elements over the Miltonic-Romantic iconography is illustrated by the precedence the GosT character assumes in the video. Among the many Doré pieces the video employs is Doré’s towering Satan summoning Beëlzebub, but in this case Satan is recast as Beëlzebub, now looking up in awe at the towering figure of GosT, which makes for a jarring image. GosT’s eponymous frontman explained in an interview that the video’s variation on Paradise Lost was “casting GosT…as the right hand of Lucifer. In our version, GosT is instrumental in helping Lucifer rise from the lake of fire and triumphantly claim his new throne without the unjust hand of God controlling his every move.” Within the walls of “Pandemonium – the City of Satan,” however, it is GosT who is crowned the king of Hell and ascends the infernal throne, once again replacing Satan—this time, the Satan of Martin’s image. Satan’s seat is not only usurped but reduced in significance, Pandemonium reimagined as a gothic horror rock concert, GosT presiding over bestial demons. Meanwhile, Satan ascends to Eden (with raptured skeletons), and in the final shot of the demonic angel (“O how fall’n! how chang’d…” [PL, I.84]) overlooking Eden, it is quite clear that the Miltonic-Romantic Lucifer invoked at the start of the video has been consumed by the horror element.

With “Arise,” Paradise Lost is exploited as a means of exalting the GosT brand—the symbolic significance of which is the GosT character’s coronation—but at the expense of the imagery of Milton’s poem, particularly as brought to life by Doré and Martin (and many others). GosT’s “Arise” was a nice attempt at playing with traditional Miltonic iconography, but the video highlights the double-edged sword of horror’s homage to Milton’s Paradise Lost.



1. See, for example, Laura Lunger Knoppers and Gregory M. Colón Semenza, eds. Milton in Popular Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, [2006] 2007), “Part II: Milton in Horror Film,” pp. 83–124; Eric C. Brown, Milton on Film (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2015), Ch. 6, “ ‘All Hell Broke Loose’: The Horror Film,” pp. 283–324.

Super Nintendo Satan: Delta Heavy’s “White Flag” Video

Milton’s Paradise Lost as an SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) RPG (Role-Playing Game)—that is what the music video for English electronic duo Delta Heavy’s “White Flag” delivers. The Super Nintendo-style video for “White Flag”—a track off of Paradise Lost, Delta Heavy’s debut album of 2016—was directed by Najeeb Tarazi, who had previously worked as a technical director on Pixar blockbusters Toy Story 3 and Monsters University. Tarazi’s vision for the “White Flag” video was inverting the Miltonic treatment of the fall of Lucifer: “ ‘White Flag’ is about letting your guard down in love…I wanted to try turning the myth of Paradise Lost on its head and tell a story where Satan apologizes after his defeat and seeks a path of love. In reply to Satan’s apology, God brutally punishes Satan again.”

The video for “White Flag” starts with an unmistakably SNES-style title screen, and once the unseen “player” starts the pretend Super Nintendo game, we open to a cherubic (albeit bat-winged) Satan—with curly golden locks and a toga—lying prostrate on Hell’s lake of fire, just as we first see Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost. In this video(game), Satan soon awakens and takes flight across the lake of fire, which is littered with his fellow fallen angels. Magma erupts like rising pillars toward the sulfurous sky, wherefrom more angels haplessly descend like meteorites. Before long, Satan gracefully lands in front of the gates of Hell (a simple sign replacing Sin and Death in this version), and he is soon approached by his second-in-command, Beëlzebub, who is here imagined as a cartoonish, somewhat Lovecraftian “Lord of the Flies.” This buzzing Beëlzebub speaks to Satan in the simple dialogue familiar to SNES games: “SATAN! Only you can save us. Defeat GOD.” With that, Satan “Springs upward like a Pyramid of fire” (PL, II.1013) through the smoke-clouds of Hell and starts his journey through the cosmos (in this case, skipping over the difficult course through Chaos).

Satan darts past the Earth and, with fierce determination in his bright red eyes, heads toward a cosmic chasm, through which Satan enters into Heaven (the steps of which Satan stops at in Paradise Lost [III.498–543]). Satan confidently wings his way up to a cloud, and though he wields a spear, Satan passively takes the blows as he is stormed by a swiping flight of hostile cherubs. The video gives the impression that, as an RPG, the player is given options: “FIGHT,” “RUN,” “APOLOGIZE.” As Almighty God—uniquely portrayed as a cloudy matriarch—descends from up above, Satan chooses to apologize, but he is met with further hostility by the archangel Michael and the Son of God, with amusing messages to the “player”: “GOD summons MICHAEL!” and “JESUS casts LIGHTNING II!” Satan retaliates with only a bright pink cartoon heart that appears above his head. God and His/Her Son disappear, however, and the heart hovering over Satan’s head is replaced by a question mark. As the song’s beat drops, Satan is repeatedly shanked by a titanic hand thrusting down from above, the apologetic angel screaming out in unimaginable pain. Satan collapses onto his cloud, and is soon unceremoniously dumped out of Heaven by two cherubs.

Falling back through the chasm into the cosmos, the unconscious Satan tumbles through the stars like a piece of fruit falling through the branches of a tree. Back in Hell, Beëlzebub pokes through Hell’s clouds to see Satan streaking through the starry sky like a comet. A wide shot of the Earth then shows Satan’s descent through a shaft of light. Now in the Garden of Eden, we see Satan crash-land face-down—not unlike how he started on Hell’s lake of fire—and while the only option the “player” now seems to have is to “DIE,” two shadowy figures (surely Ben Hall and Simon James of Delta Heavy) from behind the bushes toss Satan an apple, the fallen angel transforming into a sort of “Super-Satan,” with red skin, bulging muscles, flaming hair, and horns. Turning his determined gaze heavenward, Satan re-ascends back through the shaft of light. Back in Heaven, Satan—hell-bent on gaining God’s forgiveness—clinches the Son in his arms, transforming back into (fallen) angel form, and the Son’s face appears just as pained as Satan’s when he felt the wrath of God moments earlier. This time, a cataract descends from God’s cloudy throne through the chasm and out into the cosmos. In the Garden of Eden, the rainfall makes the infamous apple drop down onto the Eden serpent’s head—symbolic, perhaps, of this revision excising that portion of the story, Satan having turned over a new leaf. As flowers begin to sprout up amidst the arid soil of Hell, courtesy of the heavenly rainfall, Satan lands back in front of Beëlzebub, no dialogue exchanged between the two. The video then ends with a shot of the Milky Way, with a cartoon heart at its center, as the “game” announces to the “player,” “GAME OVER.”

The “White Flag” video starts and ends like a Super Nintendo game, but while this 16-bit reimagining of Milton’s Paradise Lost shares a very similar opening to the poem, the ending is entirely different. While, of course, Tarazi nods to the tradition of Satan’s salvation and reconciliation with the Almighty—more popular with the French Romantics1—the conclusion to this video is a bit more ambiguous. In the end, Satan and Beëlzebub still appear fallen (Beëlzebub undeniably so). If this were a Super Nintendo game, this could be explained away by an inability to create any more sprites given the limited memory of the 16-bit system. This is not an SNES game, however; so what might the significance of the ending be? In Paradise Lost, when Satan sets foot on Earth and observes the glory of the Sun, which brings back the bitter memory of his former state, forever forfeited by his rebellion (IV.9–41), Satan contemplates the thought of repentance, ultimately rejecting the idea because he knows his pride would compel him to challenge the Almighty all over again (IV.79–102). God, Satan concludes, as “punisher” is “as far / From granting…as I from begging peace” (IV.103–04), and so “All hope [is] excluded…” (IV.105). The Christian tradition has always identified an element of pride in such despair, however, as people who believes themselves irredeemable essentially state that not even God Himself can save them, which is a curious assertion of superiority to the Almighty. Tarazi seems to turn this on its head, showing a Satan strong enough to force Almighty God to forgive him after a futile attempt at apologizing. After all, Tarazi’s explanation of his vision for the video makes no hint of God actually accepting Satan’s apology: “…Satan apologizes after his defeat and seeks a path of love. In reply to Satan’s apology, God brutally punishes Satan again.”

The God Tarazi describes is reminiscent of the Romantic view of God as omnipotent tyrant, and in turn Tarazi’s Satan, imagined as a fallen but forgiving angel, resembles Shelley’s Prometheus in Prometheus Unbound (1820). Whereas Byron’s vision of the Titan in his poem “Prometheus” (1816) was one of noble defiance of despair—much like the Lucifer of his Cain (1821), who “Prefer[s] an independency of torture / To the smooth agonies of adulation” (I.i.385–86)—Shelley envisioned a Prometheus who repents of his hatred for his oppressor, Jupiter. It is this Promethean power of universal love that leads to the tyrant’s overthrow and the ushering in of Shelley’s vision of a cosmic utopia.

While clearly not the arch-rebel of the Miltonic-Byronic tradition, the Satan of the video for Delta Heavy’s “White Flag” seems closer to Shelley’s scenario of the loving prisoner overcoming the coldhearted torturer than a reconciliation of God and the Devil. In short, Satan is triumphant, but he triumphs because he overcomes his hatred for the cruel God, thereby introducing love rather than chaos into the cosmos. Therefore, this cartoonish, Super Nintendo Satan, ironically enough, makes for an interesting fusion of the Romantic Satan and Prometheus.



1. See Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), Ch. XXII, “The Salvation of Satan in Modern Poetry,” pp. 280–308; Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: the Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1986] 1990), pp. 194–200; Ruben van Luijk, Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 74–76, 105–08.

“Rattle That Lock”: A Tribute to the Satan of Milton and Doré

“Rattle That Lock” is the title track of David Gilmour’s 2015 stand-alone album, and the video for the Miltonic-themed song, carried out by the company Trunk Animation, brings to life Gustave Doré’s spectacular engravings for Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Polly Samson, wife of Gilmour and lyricist behind “Rattle That Lock,” explained that the inspiration for the song was “the need not to fall into an apathetic or despairing state” in the face of the seemingly unshakeable status quo, which makes would-be protestors feel increasingly hopeless, Samson asserting, “even if you can’t change anything, personally you’ll feel better if you go and kind of shake your fist…rather than just sort of slump.” Samson found the most dramatic expression of this sentiment in Milton’s Paradise Lost—both in the heroic journey the Hell-doomed rebel angel Satan takes through Chaos to reach Eden—in defiance of the God who expelled him from Heaven—and in the exile of Adam and Eve, who take “thir solitary way” (XII.649) out of Eden’s eastern gate. The lyrics for the song unmistakably allude to Milton—with a Satanic Romantic slant on the Miltonic treatment of the Fall:

Whatever it takes to break

Gotta do it

From the burning lake or the eastern gate

You’ll get through it

Rattle that lock, lose those chains…

Gilmour applauded the brilliant video for “Rattle That Lock,” which he found “highlights a darkness in the song that couldn’t have been shown any other way.” Samson commended the creators of the video for capturing that darkness by invoking the spirit of Doré’s vision of Paradise Lost: “I think the animators have done a fine job: paying homage to Gustave Doré…” Appropriately dubbed “the last of the Romantics,” the nineteenth-century French engraver Doré was almost superhumanly prolific, creating scores of incredible wood engravings for the Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and of course Milton’s Paradise Lost. Doré’s fifty engravings for Paradise Lost were commissioned in 1866, and these genuinely marvelous pieces are the most popular illustrations of Milton’s masterpiece. If the layperson has seen Milton’s Satan, it has most likely been Doré’s interpretation of the ruined archangel, and it would be impossible for anyone who has laid eyes on Doré’s depiction of Paradise Lost and its Satan to miss their reappearance in the video for “Rattle That Lock.”

The very first moments of the “Rattle That Lock” video capture the spirit of Doré’s masterful work: serenity, interrupted by catastrophe, which appears somehow magnificent. Opening with celestial light shining through thick clouds in tune with the jingle repeated throughout the song—the jingle that precedes French railway station announcements, actually—robed shades ascend by way of a vast circular staircase, the peace suddenly broken by the lone figure of Lucifer, who plummets rapidly from the light up above. This Lucifer’s look is distinctly Doréan: beautiful and barefoot, but donning a Roman tunic and regal body armor. The shackled angel falls haplessly down through the middle of the spiraling heavenly staircase, his feathery wings molting as he falls. With perhaps a nod to the legend of the emerald crown of the fallen Lucifer residing somewhere in the world (the subject of Swedish metal band Therion’s “Emerald Crown,” incidentally), this Lucifer witnesses the emerald at the center of his armor released into the air. Before long, the armor itself is stripped off, and as the falling angel approaches the fiery lake below, we see true terror in his emerald-green eyes—the only color in the otherwise black-and-white video, made to resemble Doré’s engravings. His final feather plucked by the unforgiving winds, Lucifer is left with scabbed bat-wings, and, having failed to wriggle his wrists out of their shackles, he protects himself from the impending impact by encasing himself within his now leathery pennons, plunging into the lake below.

Even though this Lucifer falls from Heaven alone rather than with his legions of rebel angels, his fall captures the spirit of Milton’s dramatic description of Satan “Hurl’d headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Sky” (I.45) at the start of Paradise Lost. After the fall, the video becomes much more abstract, but a number of Miltonic moments are still discernible. The fallen angel emerges from his wings as if from a shell, having assumed the form of a cormorant. In Paradise Lost, Satan assumes various animal disguises during his covert mission in Eden, first observing Adam and Eve as a cormorant, seated atop the Tree of Life (IV.194 ff.). In the “Rattle That Lock” video, as the Satanic cormorant makes his way through the waters and reaches the surface, we bear witness to the dreary Underworld, which is much more Dantean than Miltonic. While Paradise Lost catalogues mortal misfortune in its account of the Paradise of Fools (III.440–97), Milton curiously makes no mention of the tormented damned, and in fact his fallen angels engage in Olympian Games, mining, music, philosophy, and exploration in Hell (II.528–628). Doré followed Milton’s lead in his engravings for Paradise Lost, illustrating the native denizens of Hell—“worse / Than Fables yet have feign’d, or fear conceiv’d, / Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimeras dire” (II.626–28)—and the Paradise of Fools, but not human torment in Hell. The animators for “Rattle That Lock” opted for Doré’s gruesome depictions of Dante’s Hell.

In the midst of his flight, the Satanic cormorant snatches prey from the air and enters into Pandaemonium—here imagined as the Colosseum—which, unlike Paradise Lost’s “high Capitol / Of Satan and his Peers” (I.756–57), is desolate. The cormorant lands atop Hell’s throne, which actually resembles the throne John Martin imagined for Milton’s Satan, and feeds his prey to the newly hatched serpents seated on the throne, which I assume represent the “Discord, Chance and Rumor” mentioned in the lyrics—a reference to three of the various forces at work in the realm of Chaos in Paradise Lost (II.965–67). The proud Satanic cormorant then takes flight once again, heading toward the gates of Hell, soaring past the vast wasteland of classical ruins beneath him, his falling feathers bringing bad influence, such as the Dantean wood of the suicides.

Atop the towering gates of Hell are Sin and Death, who differ from their Miltonic (and Doréan) incarnations. In Paradise Lost, Sin—who burst unbidden out of the celestial conspirator Satan’s haughty head (II.749–58), a la Athena from the head of Zeus—is described as a fair woman from above the waist and a monstrous serpent from the waist down, reflecting her father’s transformation from glorious Lucifer to darkened Satan. Sin became so deformed, she explains to her fallen father, because of their incestuous union. “Likest to thee in shape and count’nance bright, / Then shining heav’nly fair” (II.756–57), Sin tells Satan, the prideful angel saw in his daughter his own “perfect image” (II.764), and in turn “Becam’st enamor’d” (II.765), Satan’s sinful self-love made literal. The fruit of their incestuous intercourse is Death, Satan’s “Son and Grandchild both” (X.384), who rapes his mother, marring the lower half of her perfect form into a monstrosity (II.761–802), not least of which are the barking Hell-hounds, which retreat into Sin’s nether region only to gnaw at her bowels. (In the “Rattle That Lock” video, Sin holds the unruly dogs by leash.) In their explosive first encounter, Death boasts that he is Satan’s “King and Lord” (II.699), only prevented from killing his indignantly incensed (grand)father by his mother, Sin (II.704–26). Playing on the biblical passage observing that “when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15), Milton’s infernal parody of the Trinity with Satan, Sin and Death is meant to demonstrate—in horrid vividness—the self-destruction resulting from Satanic self-aggrandizement. While the “Rattle That Lock” video appears to connote a similar idea with the Satanic cormorant’s feeding of the three serpents, which are hostile to one another, there is none of the infernal family feuding here; indeed, Death—who resembles more the stereotypical grim reaper than Milton’s challenging description of a nebulous “shadow” donning on “what seem’d his head / The likeness of a Kingly Crown” (II.669, 672–73), which was a copout several Milton illustrators resorted to—in this case welcomes Satan, Death inviting him to enter through the Hell-gates.

The Satanic cormorant enters through the three layers of the gates of Hell—brass, iron, and adamant in Paradise Lost (II.643–48)—and enters into Chaos. The realm of Chaos proved another difficult Miltonic description, confounding artists who attempted to portray it. Doré’s engraving for Satan venturing through Chaos portrays the fallen angel straddling a mountainous cliff, but in the “Rattle That Lock” video Chaos is portrayed as more of a tempestuous, oceanic space—and, as such, is somewhat closer to Milton’s description (II.890–927). In the video, upon entering Chaos, Satan assumes his final, serpentine form, slithering through the air in defiance of the fierce winds, waves, lightning, and flaming rainfall. Finally, the Satanic serpent pierces through to our cosmos, our vulnerable world reflected in his glassy eye. Darting downward, the Satanic serpent descends toward the Earth in spirals. What follows next: “all Hell broke loose,” in the words of Milton (IV.918), a massive vacuum sucking the Underworld through the gates of Hell and Chaos, the debris (including the chain which bound the fallen angel earlier) swirling downward with the serpent, encircling the Earth. As Nature is disrupted by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the “golden Chain” suspending our “pendant world” (II.1051–52) is withdrawn into the ocean as the serpent and the sulfurous swirls which follow in his wake enwrap the globe, the camera zooming out to reveal the planet free-floating, seemingly alone in the universe, alienated from Heaven.

As the “Rattle That Lock” video ends, we are left with the same ambivalent impression made by Milton’s poem: while we sympathize with the fallen angel who is cast down from Heaven into Hell, and while we admire Satan for his dauntless courage—exhibited not least in his temerity as a voyager—we are made to remember the end result of Satan’s heroic voyage: the infernal conquest of the world. All the same, the dramatic fall of Lucifer at the start of the video is genuinely Romantic: catastrophic loss and liberation intertwined. “Rattle that lock, lose those chains,” the chorus chants as Lucifer plummets toward the lake of fire, the voice of Gilmour reassuring us that “From the burning lake or the eastern gate / You’ll get through it…” The message matches that of the Romantic Satanists: “Whatever it takes to break / Gotta do it…”

Whether it’s the fallen archangel chained on Hell’s burning lake or our postlapsarian parents exiled through Eden’s eastern gate, what matters most is that, even if they could not break their fetters, they rattled their locks. Milton’s Satan could not overthrow Almighty God, but by his doomed defiance, Satan “shook his throne” (I.105) inasmuch as he refused to offer “Knee-tribute…prostration vile” (V.782), and even in Hell disdained “To bow and sue for grace / With suppliant knee, and deify his power,” which, the prideful Satan declares, “were an ignominy and shame beneath / This downfall…” (I.111–16). “Satan wants to go on being Satan,” observed Christian apologist and Milton critic C. S. Lewis. “That is the real meaning of his choice ‘Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n’ [I.263].”1 We can all sympathize with the spirit of this: we face seemingly insurmountable forces in life, but trudge on, wading through the world in a struggle to stay true to ourselves. It a sentiment at the heart of Romantic Satanism, captured quite beautifully in Gilmour’s “Rattle That Lock” song and its accompanying video, which, if nothing else, is the closest we’ve come to getting an animated film of Paradise Lost, demonstrating the potential in such an endeavor.



1. C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, [1942] 1961), p. 103.

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.

The Satanic Anti-Theism of the New Atheists: Part 2 of 2

New Atheism is at its heart anti-theism—opposition to the traditional concept of God as a malevolent force that must be challenged and overcome. Yet, as Romanticism revealed, antipathy to God and sympathy for Satan appear to go hand-in-hand; “anti-theism leads to Satanism,” explained Maximilian Rudwin in his seminal study of The Devil in Legend and Literature:

If what has been considered good is found to be evil, what opposes it must necessarily be good. Thus the denunciation of the Deity led to the sanctification of Satan. If the ruler of an evil world is bad, his adversary must necessarily be good. This paradox accounts for the belief held by many Romantics that Satan was wronged and that there was…a great historical case to be judged anew before the court of our conscience.1

Disdain for the divine autocrat of Judeo-Christian theology certainly led to Romanticism’s reassessment of this despotic Deity’s great Adversary. The revolutionary Thomas Paine—a member of the intellectual circle presided over by radical publisher Joseph Johnson, which, with contributions from the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and William Blake,2 laid the foundation for Romantic Satanism—unleashed an unprecedented, acerbic assault on orthodox religion with The Age of Reason (1794–95, 1807). Paine was writing in defense of Deism—the belief in God as the Creator of the cosmos, the non-interventionist Deity far grander than the petty, micromanaging, all-too-human God of the Abrahamic faiths—but Paine’s Age of Reason waxes Satanic when he demonizes the Bible as “the word of a demon,” as opposed to “the Word of God.”3 Finding in the so-called Good Book “a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind,”4 Paine believed the sanguineous Scriptures sullied the Deist God he adored: “It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.”5

Paine of course had little time for “his sooty highness,”6 but while The Age of Reason dismissively derides the Devil as one of the main arms with which institutional religions “terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit,”7 in Common Sense (1776) Paine had employed the example of Satan in its traditionally negative sense when idealizing the American system of government: “He that will promote discord, under a government so equally formed as this, would join Lucifer in his revolt.”8 More significantly, however, in the same work Paine let slip Satanic sympathies by quoting Milton’s fallen angel—when explaining why he could never repent and return to God’s service, even if such a path were open to him (IV.98–99)—to stress the impossibility of the American Colonies returning to subjection: “Reconciliation is now a fallacious dream.…For, as Milton wisely expresses, ‘never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.’ ”9 This subtle identification with the Miltonic Devil very much foreshadowed the Romantic Satanists who would go well beyond diabolically barbed criticism of God into open assertions of admiration for Milton’s sublime Satan.

Romanticism’s militant atheist Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his unpublished Essay on the Devil and Devils (ca. 1819–20), asserted that the Devil “owes everything to Milton,” in part because “Milton gives the Devil all imaginable advantage…[with] arguments with which he exposes the injustice and impotent weakness of his adversary…”10 By referring to God as the “adversary”—the literal definition of the Hebrew Satan—Shelley was deliberately echoing Milton’s Satan and his “Atheist crew” (VI.370) of rebel angels, who refer to God with epithets typically reserved for the Devil, such as “enemy” (I.188, II.137) and “foe” (I.122, 179; II.78, 152, 202, 210, 463, 769). In turn, Shelley, channeling the revolutionary spirit of the Miltonic Satan, exclaimed his wish “to crush the Demon, to hurl him back to his native Hell never to rise again,” the “Demon” in question being none other than God Himself.11 Lord Byron similarly demonized the Deity and heroized the Devil in Cain: A Mystery (1821), wherein Lucifer emerges as a genuine light-bringer (in the Promethean sense):

                                                               I tempt none,

Save with the truth: was not the tree, the tree

Of knowledge?.…

…Then who was the demon? He

Who would not let ye live, or he who would

Have made ye live for ever in the joy

And power of knowledge? (I.i.196–210)

Today, French philosopher Michel Onfray follows the tradition of Shelleyan/Byronic Satanism, for Onfray goes well out of his way in his Atheist Manifesto to express hypothetical appreciation for “fallen, rebellious angels, untamed, undefeated,” taking his atheism to the boundaries of Satanism proper:

In the Garden of Eden the devil — “the slanderous one, the libeler” — teaches what he knows best: the option of disobedience, of refusal to submit, of saying no. Satan — “the adversary, the accuser” — breathes the wind of freedom across the dirty waters of the primal world where obedience reigns supreme — the reign of maximum servitude. Beyond good and evil, and not simply as an incarnation of the latter, the devil talks libertarian possibilities into being. He restores to men their power over themselves and the world, frees them from supervision and control. We may rightly conclude that these fallen angels attract the hatred of monotheisms. On the other hand, they attract the incandescent love of atheists.12

In his orthodox reading of Paradise Lost, the Christian C. S. Lewis remarked that “Many of those who say they dislike Milton’s God only mean that they dislike God,”13 and John S. Diekhoff added that Satan sympathizers “will do well to ask whether their liking for Satan does not spring from enmity to God.”14 The atheist William Empson was not about to disagree, professing, “I think the traditional God of Christianity very wicked,” and concluding that Christians “worship as the source of all goodness a God who, as soon as you are told the basic story about him, is evidently the Devil.”15 This is an echo of Shelley, Byron, and the other Romantic Satanists, who cast the Christian God in a demonic light and, consequently, sympathized with the demonized God’s great Adversary, Satan. Yet Romantic Satanism’s overturning of the God and Satan paradigm was not mere literary criticism; the Romantic Satanists exalted the Miltonic Satan as a provocative symbolic means of challenging sociopolitical orthodoxy. Perhaps it is no surprise that we find a reemergence of the spirit of Romantic Satanism in the current zeitgeist. Perhaps it is no surprise that the New Atheists, fighting tirelessly to dethrone God in our culture—to in essence realize on Earth what the mythic Lucifer had vainly attempted in Heaven—are inclined to give the Miltonic-Romantic Devil his due.



1. Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, [1931] 1959), p. 306.
2. See Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 34–35, 42–43.
3. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, intro. Joseph Carrig (New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc., 2006), p. 21.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., p. 195.
6. Ibid., p. 71.
7. Ibid., p. 4.
8. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, Common Sense and Other Political Writings, ed. intro. and notes. Mark Philip (New York: Oxford University Press, [1995] 1998), p. 32.
9. Ibid., p. 27.
10. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Essay on the Devil and Devils, in Shelley’s Prose: or the Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark, pref. Harold Bloom (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1988), pp. 268, 267.
11. Percy Bysshe Shelley, quoted in Schock, p. 80.
12. Michel Onfray, Atheist Manifesto: the Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Jeremy Leggatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, [2007] 2008), pp. 97–98.
13. C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, [1942] 1961), p. 130.
14. John S. Diekhoff, Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Commentary on the Argument (New York: The Humanities Press, Inc., [1946] 1963), p. 48.
15. William Empson, Milton’s God [1961] (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1978), pp. 10, 255.

The Satanic Anti-Theism of the New Atheists: Part 1 of 2

Milton’s Satan was able to assume the position of nineteenth-century Romantic Hero in part because the Devil ceased to be terrifying—a shift which took place in the eighteenth century, as orthodox theology’s Prince of Darkness was brought to his deathbed by the Enlightenment. The decline in belief in the Devil as a literal entity walking to and fro in the Earth in search of souls to devour allowed for the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) to be read with greater sympathy as a literary rather than a theological character. Jeffrey Burton Russell, author of a five-volume study of the Devil in history and literature, explains that the “depersonalization of Satan, his reduction to a symbol, and the unmooring of the symbol from Bible and tradition meant that the idea of the Devil could float free of its traditional meanings.”1 Paradoxically, as the Devil shrank in theological significance—as Satan was reduced to symbolic form—he grew in mythic stature. No sooner than the “supernatural figure was killed off,” notes Peter A. Schock in his study of Romantic Satanism, was Satan “resurrected in the form of a modern myth,” indeed, “a Gnostic countermyth that idealize[d] revolution and free thought,” wherein “Milton’s Satan [was] constructed as an idealized antagonist of an Omnipotence embodying the dominant political and religious values of the era.”2 There is a discernible resurgence of this radical Romantic trend in the so-called “New Atheism” movement, which has flourished at the start of the new millennium.

Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): "Nine days they fell." (VI.871)
Gustave Doré, Paradise Lost, Book VI (1866): “Nine days they fell.” (VI.871)

Today, while belief in the Devil (and God, for that matter) is declining, Milton’s Satan looms large. The apostate angel’s impact extends well beyond the bounds of literary criticism, as the spirit of Miltonic Satanism pervades modern popular culture. For instance, His Dark Materials (1995 – 2000) trilogy author Philip Pullman—invoking William Blake’s infamous observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93) that Milton “was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it”3—has asserted that he is proud to “be of the devil’s party and know it,” reasoning, “if there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against…”4 This is to say, effectively, that Lucifer was right to revolt against the Almighty, and Pullman more or less confesses his Luciferian allegiance in his Introduction to an Oxford edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Pullman opens with a retelling of an anecdotal story “about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire two hundred years ago or more” who, having Paradise Lost read to him, “Suddenly…bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims ‘By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!’ Which are my sentiments exactly.”5



Pullman’s unequivocal love for the Miltonic Lucifer permeates his award-winning fantasy novels, described by the author as “Paradise Lost for teenagers in three volumes.”6 Conservative voices have naturally reacted to Pullman with hostility, Peter Hitchens even deeming Pullman “the most dangerous author in Britain,” a hyperbolic assessment echoing Southey’s “Satanic School” diatribe against Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.7 The significant difference, of course, is that while Byron and Shelley had to be evasive when it came to their Satanic sympathies, Pullman can be open—boastful, even—about his own. This is indicative of a nascent movement of neo-Romantic Satanism, provoked by theocratic encroachments upon secular life and liberty.

The Four HorsemenThe Islamic terror attacks against the United States on September 11 of 2001, along with the revitalization of crusaders for Christ which followed in its wake, were met with a backlash of pent-up anti-theism, which became a militant movement deemed “New Atheism,” leading the charge: contrarian Christopher Hitchens, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, neuroscientist Sam Harris, and philosopher Daniel Dennett. These four militant atheists embraced their collective moniker “the Four Horsemen,” but, like the Romantic Satanists, they flipped the Satanic symbolism on its head, waging a war of ideas against organized religion, which, rather than godlessness, they found to be a principal propagator of conquest (jihad), war, famine, and death.8 Yet because New Atheism is suffused by a diabolically charged resistance to religion and is open to employing Satanic symbols (albeit with tongue in cheek) as derisive challenges to the authoritarian God of the religious—both of which were hallmarks of Romantic Satanism and its Satanic School—the Miltonic Satan has reared his head in the New Atheism movement.



The late iconic public intellectual atheist Christopher Hitchens explained in a 2004 lecture bearing the Shelleyan title “The Moral Necessity of Atheism” that if there truly were a God who ruled as dictator of the cosmos, as the great religions propose, he, an admirer of Milton’s Satan for his unyielding resistance to such a God, would “be of the Devil’s party,” i.e., “I wouldn’t worship it; I wouldn’t agree to be bound by it; I wouldn’t become one the serfs.” Hitchens, who listed Lucifer as one of his favorite heroes of fiction,9 proclaimed a kinship with the Miltonic Satan because he was not only an atheist but a self-styled “anti-theist,”10 and by asserting himself as such, Hitchens echoed the Romantic Satanists two centuries before him.



Amelia Curran, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819)
Amelia Curran, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819)

The Romantic atheist Shelley, who was expelled from Oxford University for refusing to deny authorship and distribution of a pamphlet on The Necessity of Atheism (1811), was explicit that he would feel compelled to defy God if He did exist: “Did I now see him seated in gorgeous & tyrannic majesty as described, upon the throne of infinitude – if I bowed before him, what would virtue say?”11 This same sentiment is expressed by modern-day atheists perhaps less aware of their Romantic forebears and/or less keen on the prospect of using Satanic icons as a means of iconoclasm. For instance, Dan Barker, who transitioned from fundamentalist Christian minister to atheist activist—indeed, the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation—took a rather Shelleyan stance in his book Losing Faith in Faith: “Speaking for myself, if the biblical heaven and hell exist, I would choose hell. Having to spend eternity pretending to worship tyranny would be more hellish than baking in eternal flames. There is no way a Bully will earn my worship.”12 This mirrors in sentiment, if not in eloquence, the fallen rebel angel Mammon in Paradise Lost, who, exploring the idea of returning to Heaven, expounds upon Satan’s “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” (I.263) declaration:

                         …Suppose he [God] should relent

And publish Grace to all, on promise made

Of new Subjection; with what eyes could we

Stand in his presence humble, and receive

Strict Laws impos’d, to celebrate his Throne

With warbl’d Hymns, and to his Godhead sing

Forc’t Halleluiahs; while he Lordly sits

Our envied Sovran, and his Altar breathes

Ambrosial Odors and Ambrosial Flowers,

Our servile offerings. This must be our task

In Heav’n, this our delight; how wearisome

Eternity so spent in worship paid

To whom we hate. (II.237–49)

Richard Westall, Satan Alarmed—Dilated Stood (1794)
Richard Westall, Satan Alarmed—Dilated Stood (1794)

Anti-theism gives New Atheism a noble ring, for anti-theists not only dismiss the Judeo-Christian God as nonexistent, but decry Him as malevolent, proudly expressing that (at least in theory) they would prefer to burn in His Hell than bend their knees to Him in Heaven. Yet this is the quintessential Satanic sentiment, for Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost rejects “Knee-tribute” to the King of Heaven as “prostration vile” (V.782), and when damned to Hell he retains his “unconquerable Will” and “courage never to submit or yield” (I.106, 108) to the God he lambasts as a “Tyrant” (X.466) who “Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav’n” (I.124). What mythic figure could be a more apposite standard-bearer for the anti-theist strain of New Atheism? Reactionary Christians are of course comfortable demonizing the irreligious as friends of Satan, but it is remarkable and certainly culturally significant that a number of prominent nonbelievers increasingly accept this as complementary rather than opprobrious.



1. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, [1986] 1990), p. 169.
2. Peter A. Schock, Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley, and Byron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 2, 6, 5.
3. William Blake, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, rev. ed. (New York: Anchor Books, [1965] 1988), p. 35; pl. 6.
4. Quoted in Milton in Popular Culture, eds. Laura Lunger Knoppers and Gregory M. Colón Semenza, aft. Stanley Fish (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, [2006] 2007), pp. 8, 9.
5. Philip Pullman, Introduction to Paradise Lost, eds. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2005), p. 1.
6. Quoted in Stephen Burt, “ ‘Fighting Since Time Began’: Milton and Satan in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials,” in Milton and Popular Culture, p. 48.
7. In the Preface to A Vision of Judgement (1821), Robert Southey wrote: “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.
8. See Revelation 6:1-8.
9. See Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir (New York: Twelve, 2010), p. 331.
10. In his Introduction to The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007), p. xxii, Christopher Hitchens provided his most thorough explanation of his “anti-theist” stance: “I myself have tried to formulate a position I call ‘anti-theist.’ There are, after all, atheists who say that they wish the fable were true but are unable to suspend the requisite disbelief, or have relinquished belief only with regret. To this I reply: who wishes that there was a permanent, unalterable celestial despotism that subjected us to continual surveillance and could convict us of thought-crime, and who regarded us as its private property even after we died? How happy we ought to be, at the reflection that there exists not a shred of respectable evidence to support such a horrible hypothesis. And how grateful we should be to those of our predecessors who repudiated this utter negation of human freedom.”
11. Percy Bysshe Shelley, quoted in Schock, p. 80.
12. Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., [1992] 2006), p. 331.