Jan 10, 2015

Ivan Ilyin: On the Devil


In this 1947 essay, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) addresses the reality of the devil in history and our own time. Tellingly, the advance of the secular and materialist outlook has corresponded with an ever-growing fascination with the demonic – along with its public justification. Translated by Mark Hackard.

In the life of the human race, the diabolical principle has its own history. On this question serious academic literature exists – not concerning, however, recent decades. Yet namely recent decades shed new light on the past two centuries. The age of European Enlightenment (beginning with the French Encyclopedists of the 18th century) undermined within men belief in the being of a personal devil. The educated man cannot believe in the existence of such a revolting anthropomorphic being “with a tail, claws, and horns” (according to Zhukovsky), unseen by anyone but portrayed in ballads and in pictures. Luther still believed in him and even hurled filth at him, but later centuries rejected the devil, and he gradually “disappeared” and flamed out as an “outdated prejudice.”

But it was precisely then that art and philosophy became interested in him. The enlightened European had only Satan’s cloak remaining, and he began to drape himself in it with fascination. There burned a desire to find out more about the devil, discern his “true form,” guess his thoughts and wishes, “transform” into him or at least walk before men in his guise…

And so art began to imagine and portray him, while philosophy attended to his theoretical justification. The devil, of course, “didn’t succeed,” because the human imagination is incapable of containing him, but in literature, music, and painting began a culture of demonism. From the beginning of the 19th century, Europe has been fascinated with his anti-divine forms; there appears the demonism of doubt; negation; pride; rebellion; disappointment; bitterness; melancholy; contempt; egoism, and even boredom. The poets depict Prometheus, the Son of the Morning, Cain, Don Juan, and Mephistopheles.

Byron; Goethe; Schiller; Chamisso; Hoffman; Franz Liszt; and later Stuck, Baudelaire, and others display an entire gallery of demons or demonic men and moods. Moreover, these demons are intelligent, witty, educated, ingenious, and temperamental, in a word, charming and evoking sympathy, while demonic men are the incarnation of “world-angst,” “noble protest,” and some “higher revolutionary consciousness.”
Franz Von Stuck Lucifer
Lucifer, by Franz Von Stuck
Simultaneously the mystical doctrine holding that there is a “dark principle,” even within God, is revived. The German Romantics find poetic words in favor of “innocent shamelessness,” and the Left-Hegelian Max Stirner comes out openly preaching human self-deification and demonic egoism. Denial of a personal devil is gradually replaced by the justification of the diabolic principle…

The abyss concealed beyond this was seen by Dostoevsky. He identified it, and with prophetic alarm sought the means to overcome it his whole life.

Friederich Nietzsche also approached this abyss, was captivated by it, and would extol it. His last works, The Will to Power, The Antichrist, and Ecce Homo, contain direct and open propagation of evil…

Read the rest of this article at - http://souloftheeast.org/2015/01/08/ivan-ilyin-on-the-devil/