World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
The scriptures of all religions testify to demonic beings and powers. Some regard them as real and rival powers to God (Dualism); others consider them to be a manifestation of ignorance and ultimately unreal (Monism). They testify that at their head is a chief, known by various names: Satan, Beelzebul, Lucifer, Iblis, Mara, Angra Mainyu, among others. We have already met some of them in the various accounts of the human fall and the origin of evil. But the demonic powers are continually active, drawing people's hearts to do wickedness. While rationalists have difficulty accepting the reality of the Devil, merely looking at the horrors of the twentieth century causes one to realize that the capability of human beings to inflict evil on one another transcends the realm of reason. Scriptures teach that when a person has the desire to do a small evil, the devil has a claim and may influence him to do something far worse. Conversely, many people on the religious path experience the temptations of the devil precisely at the point when they are about to make great progress in their path.
We begin with descriptions of the Evil One from the texts of many religions. Some emphasize the devil's power, some his enmity to God, and some his wrong teachings. Some identify him with death and disease, others with lusts and selfish desires. We then include two passages, one from Zoroastrianism and one from Native American religions, which describe a dualism in which the Evil One creates all evil in the world to counter God's good creation. However, for the monotheistic faiths that emphasize the goodness of God's creation, the demons themselves are resultant beings who must have fallen from being good creations of God. Thus, the following group of passages in this section portray the fall of the angels. A fourth selection of passages treats the theme of the devil's disguises as a being of light, and next come two passages on the devil's positive role to test and prove the faith of human beings. Finally, we give texts on the devil's temptations and the manner in which people make themselves vulnerable to his influence.
The Evil Ruler spoils the Word, the plan of life, by his teachings. He, indeed, deprives me of the exalted goal of Good Thought. With the word of my spirit, I pray to You, O Wise One, and to truth!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 32.9
O believers, follow not the steps of Satan; for whoever follows the steps of Satan will assuredly be bid to indecency and dishonor. But for God's bounty to you and His mercy not one of you would have been pure ever; but God purifies whom He will; and God is All-hearing, All-knowing.
Islam. Qur'an 24.21
Jesus said to them... "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me."
Christianity. Bible, John 8.43-45
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Christianity. Bible, Ephesians 6.12
The foremost of your armies is that of Desire, the second is called Dislike. The third is Hunger-Thirst and the fourth is Craving. The fifth is the army of Lethargy-Laziness and the sixth is Fear. The seventh is Doubt and the eighth is Obstinacy-Restlessness. Then there are Material Gain, Praise, Honor, and Fame... These, O Mara, are your forces, the attackers of the Evil One. One less than a hero will not be victorious over them and attain happiness.
Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 436-39
Yasna 32.9: See Videvdad 19.1-7, pp. 622f.; cf. 2 Corinthians 4.4, p. 400. Qur'an 24.21: Cf. Qur'an 4.116-17, p. 405; 4.118-20, p. 454. John 8.43-45: Cf. Matthew 12.22-29, p. 379. Sutta Nipata 436-39: Cf. Buddhacarita 13, pp. 623f.
The Essence of Mind or Suchness is the real Buddha, While heretical views and the three poisonous elements [greed, anger delusion] are Mara. Enlightened by right views, we call forth the Buddha within us. When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements We are said to be possessed by the devil; But when right views eliminate from our mind these poisonous elements The devil will be transformed into a real Buddha.
Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 10
You, trees, hear my words, and you, grass, hear my words, and you, Divinity, hear my words and you, earth, hear my words. Repeat, ee! O Divinity, because of sickness, you help out my tongue. For we have dedicated the ox and invoked over it. And if a man has hated Akol [and his sickness is the result of malice] then that man will find what he deserves.... And you, ox, we have given you to the Power [the illness]. And you fetish-bundles, they say that you kill people. Leave off, you are shamed. You fetish, I have separated you, cease! And you Macardit they say that you kill people, I have separated you, cease! Thus!
African Traditional Religions. Dinka Invocation at an Ox Sacrifice (Sudan)
Seated on his golden throne, blazing like flame, Ravana resembled a great fire kindled on an altar kept alive by sacrificial offerings. Unconquered by gods, gandharvas, rishis or other creatures, that warrior, who resembled death itself with wide-open jaws, bore on his person the wounds inflicted by the thunderbolts in the war between gods and titans... He, the scourge of the gods, who transgressed every moral law, the ravisher of others' wives, the wielder of celestial weapons, the destroyer of sacrifices, who descended into the city of Bhogavati and subdued the serpent Vasuki, from whom, on his defeat, he stole the gentle consort; he who scaled Mount Kailasha and overcame Kuvera depriving him of his aerial chariot Pushpaka, which transported him wherever he desired; he who in his anger destroyed the garden of Chaitaratha, the lotus pool and the Nandana Grove and all the pleasurable retreats of the gods... proud of his strength, he stole the Soma juice, sanctified by mantras, before its pressing by the twice-born in the sacrifice; this perverse wretch, Ravana of evil deeds, slayer of the brahmins, ruthless, pitiless, delighting in causing harm to others, was verily a source of terror to all beings.
Hinduism. Ramayana, Aranya Kanda 32
Sutra of Hui Neng 10: Buddhism traditionally identifies Mara with cravings and delusions, the nature of our own (evil) mind, just as Buddha is within us, a the nature or our own true mind. Cf. Dhammapada 46, p. 328. Dinka Invocation: An ox is being sacrificed in order to propitiate the evil powers that are causing illness in a man named Akol. These evil powers include Macardit, the malign divinity who is for the Dinka the final cause of suffering and death. A fetish is a bundle of medicine imbued with black magic. It is used to gain influence over another person or cause him harm. But if the owner of a fetish neglects it, its magic will come back upon his head. Ramayana, Aranya Kanda 32: Ravana is the chief of the demons, who terrorizes the worlds of gods and humans. Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, appears on earth to defeat him. Cf. Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15, p. 625. Cf. Yasna 30.3-5, p. 388.
The first of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Paradise, by the good river Araxes. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created by his witchcraft the serpent in the river and winter, a work of the devils.
The second of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the plains in Samarkand. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created by his witchcraft the fly Skaitya, which brings death to the cattle.
The third of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the strong, holy Merv. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created by his witchcraft sinful lusts....
The eighth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Urva of the rich pastures. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created by his witchcraft the sin of pride.
Zoroastrianism. Videvdad 1.3-11
Many winters in the past, the Earth was entirely covered by a great blanket of water. There was no sun, moon, or stars and so there was no light. All was darkness. At that time, the only living creatures of the earth were water animals such as the beaver, muskrat, duck, and loon. Far above the earth was the Land of Happy Spirits where lived Rawennio, the Great Ruler. In the center of this upper world was a giant apple tree whose roots sank deep into the ground.
One day, Rawennio pulled this giant tree up by its roots. The Great Spirit called his daughter, who lived in the Upper World, and commanded her to look into the pit caused by the uprooted tree. This woman, who was to be the mother of the Good and Evil Spirits, came and looked into the hole by the uprooted tree. She saw far below her the Lower World covered with water and surrounded by heavy clouds. "You are to go to this world of darkness," said the Great Spirit. Gently lifting her, he dropped her into the hole. She floated downward....
[The water animals then dive beneath the water to find some dry land for her to land upon; they erect the land on the back of a giant turtle.]
After a time, the Sky Woman gave birth to twins. One, who became the Good Spirit, was born first. The other, the Evil Spirit, while being born, caused her mother so much pain that she died during his birth.
The Good Spirit immediately took his mother's head and hung it in the sky. It became the sun. From his mother's body he fashioned the moon and stars and placed them in the sky. The rest of his mother's body he buried under the earth. That is why living things find nourishment in the soil. They spring from Mother Earth.
The Evil Spirit put darkness in the western sky to drive the sun before it. The Good Spirit created many things which he placed upon the earth. The Evil Spirit tried to undo the work of his brother by creating evil. The Good Spirit made tall and beautiful trees such as the pine and hemlock. The Evil Spirit stunted some trees. In others he put knots and gnarls. He covered some with thorns, and placed poison fruit on them. The Good Spirit made animals such as the dear and the bear. The Evil Spirit made poisonous animals, lizards and serpents to destroy the animals of the Good Spirit's creation. The Good Spirit made springs and streams of good, pure water. The Evil Spirit breathed poison into many of the springs. He put snakes into others. The Good Spirit made beautiful rivers protected by high hills. The Evil Spirit pushed rocks and dirt into the rivers causing the current to become swift and dangerous. Everything that the Good Spirit made, his wicked brother tried to destroy.
Finally, when the earth was completed, the Good Spirit fashioned man out of some red clay. He placed man upon the earth, and told him how he should live. The Evil Spirit, not to be outdone, fashioned a creature out of the white foam of the sea. What he made was the monkey.
After mankind and the other creatures of the world were created, the Good Spirit bestowed a protecting spirit upon each of his creations. He then called the Evil Spirit, and told him that he must cease making trouble upon the earth. This the Evil Spirit refused to do. The Good Spirit became very angry with his wicked brother and challenged him to combat, the victor to become ruler of the earth. They fought for many days; finally the Evil Spirit was overcome. The Good Spirit now became ruler over the earth. He banished his wicked brother to a dark cave under the earth. There he must always remain.
But the Evil Spirit has wicked servants who roam the earth. These wicked spirits can take the shape of any creature that the Evil Spirit desires them to take. They are constantly influencing the minds of men, thus causing men to do evil things. The Good Spirit continues to create and protect mankind. He controls the spirits of good men after death. The Evil Spirit takes charge of the souls of wicked men after death.
That is why every person has both a bad heart and a good heart. No matter how good a man seems, he has some evil. No matter how bad a man seems, there is some good about him. No man is perfect.
Native American Religions Mohawk tradition
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you said in your 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 you shall be brought down to hell, to the depths of the pit.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 14.12-15
And when We said to the angels, "Bow yourselves to Adam," they bowed themselves, save Iblis; he said, "Shall I bow myself to one whom You have created of clay?" He said, "What do you think? This [creature] You have honored above me, if You defer me until the Day of Resurrection I shall assuredly master his seed, save a few."
Said He, "Depart! Those of them that follow you--surely hell shall be your recompense, an ample recompense! And startle any of them whom you can with your voice; and rally against them your horsemen and your foot [soldiers], and share with them in their wealth and their children, and promise them!"
But Satan promises them naught, except delusion.
Islam. Qur'an 17.61-64
The Lord God spoke to Moses, saying, "That Satan... is the same who was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying, 'Behold, here am I; send me, I will be Thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that not one soul shall be lost. Surely I will do it; therefore give me my honor.'
"But my Beloved Son, who was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said to me, 'Father, Thy will be done, and the glory be Thine forever.'
"Therefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give to him my own power; by the power of my Only Begotten [Christ], I caused that he should be cast down;
"And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice."
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4.1-4
Isaiah 14.12-15: In the Christian tradition these verses are taken to describe the primeval fall of Lucifer and the beginning of sin. Lucifer was the angel of the intellect who was puffed up with willful pride. His ambition was to exceed God. But he was cast down from heaven and became Satan, who would then work his malignant will on humankind. This story of the primeval rebellion of the angels is greatly elaborated in the Book of Enoch. The word 'Lucifer,' which is Latin for 'light-bearer,' was first used in the Vulgate; however most modern Bibles return to the Hebrew and translate 'Morning Star' or 'Day Star.' This passage by the prophet Isaiah is a taunt against the king of Babylon. He makes use of a Canaanite variant of the myth of the rebellious angel, one which identified the angel with the atmospheric phenomenon of the morning star, which shines brightly in the sky until it is quenched by the brightness of the rising sun. Cf. Psalm 82, p. 377. Qur'an 17.61-64: Cf. Qur'an 2.30-33, p. 313; Qur'an 7.11-27, pp. 426f.; Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20, p. 380; Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10, p. 405. Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4.1-4: Satan's request to God contained two errors: he wanted to claim all the glory and credit for man's salvation when credit is due only to God, and he would save humanity by compulsion--'not one soul shall be lost,' without regard for man's free agency. Christ, the Beloved Son, correctly offers to God the credit for salvation. God then ordered Christ to cast Satan down to the earth, where he continues to seek to enslave humankind.
The gods and the demons, both having the Creator as their origin, were rivals of each other. So the demons, swollen with pride, said, "In what, pray, should we place the oblation?" And they proceeded to place the oblation in their own mouths. The gods then proceeded to place their oblations each in the mouth of one of his fellows. And the Creator gave himself over to them. In this way they became owners of sacrifice, for sacrifice is really the food of the gods.
Hinduism. Satapatha Brahmana 126.96.36.199-2
Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Christianity. Bible, 2 Corinthians 11.14
Mara the Evil One will expound to the bodhisattva a counterfeit of the Path.
Buddhism. Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom 382
O men, God's promise is true; so let not the present life delude you, and let not the Deluder delude you concerning God. Surely Satan is an enemy to you; so take him for an enemy. He calls his party only that they may be among the inhabitants of the Fire.
Islam. Qur'an 35.5-6
When I first heard Buddha preaching the Greater Vehicle, In my heart I was greatly alarmed: "Surely Mara is playing Buddha, Confusing my thoughts!" The Buddha by resort to various means, Parables, and cunning phrases preaches, But his thought is as calm as the sea; When I hear him, my net of doubt is severed... The World-Honored One preaches the Real Path, While Mara has none of this. By this token I know for a certainty That this is no Mara playing Buddha, But that I, through having fallen into a net of doubt, Thought this was the work of Mara. When I hear the Buddha's gentle voice, Profound, far removed from the ordinary understanding, and extremely subtle, Setting forth the pure Dharma, My heart is overjoyed, My doubts and second thoughts are cleared away forever.
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 3
Satapatha Brahmana 188.8.131.52-2: There are two orders of spiritual beings: gods and demons; cf. Bhagavad Gita 16.6, p. 388; Vishnu Purana 3.17-18, p. 448. The chief difference between demons and gods is that the demons are self-centered while the gods are generous and share with others. 2 Corinthians 11.14: Cf. 1 John 4.1, p. 380; Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20, p. 380; Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-68, p. 830. Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom 382: Cf. Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 17.2, p. 447. Qur'an 35.5-6: Cf. Qur'an 22.52-53, p. 621.
The Maras who play the devil in the innumerable universes of the ten directions are all bodhisattvas dwelling in the inconceivable liberation, who are playing the devil in order to develop living beings through their skill in liberative technique. Those miserable beggars who come to the bodhisattvas to ask for a hand, a foot, an ear, a nose... a kingdom, a wife, a son, gold, silver, jewels... these demanding beggars are usually bodhisattvas living in the inconceivable liberation who, through their skill in liberative technique, wish to test and thus demonstrate the firmness of the high resolve of the bodhi- sattvas. Why? Bodhisattvas must demonstrate that firmness by means of terrible austerities.
Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 6
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, "Whence have you come?" Satan answered the Lord, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." And the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for naught? Hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse Thee to thy face." And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Job 1.6-12
Lotus Sutra 3: The 'Greater Vehicle' is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the doctrine of the One Vehicle. Shariputra's initial doubts were due to the novelty of the Sutra's teaching, which set forth a single path embracing and transcending the three vehicles of shravaka, pratyekabuddha and bodhisattva. For a story where Mara in fact comes in disguise to give a false teaching, see Samyutta Nikaya v.2, pp. 383f. On discerning the spirit, cf. 1 John 4.1, p. 380. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 6: This passage explains that the Maras and other temptations are not to be seen as fundamentally evil, but should rather be appreciated as offering trials and lessons to humans on the path to enlightenment. They may even be liberated bodhisattvas disguised as Maras as an expedient device (upaya) for the purpose of guiding and educating living beings. According to Udana 21-24, pp. 1022f., even the Buddha once tempted his disciple Nanda with visions of heavenly damsels in order to spur him to enlightenment. For another instance of a bodhisattva's deception, see Mahaparinirvana Sutra 424-33, pp. 753f. On the unreality of evil, cf. Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, p. 402; Science and Health, 480, p. 402.
Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.
Christianity. Bible, 1 Peter 5.8
One of the nights [when I "lamented"] the bad spirits came and started tearing the offerings off the poles; and I heard their voices under the ground, and one of them said, "Go and see if he is crying." And I heard rattles, but all the time they were outside the sacred place and could not get in, for I had resolved not to be afraid, and did not stop sending my voice to Wakan-Tanka for aid.
Native American Religions. Black Elk (Sioux)
When a man grasps at things, Mara stands beside him.
Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 1103
The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 4.6-7
The Messenger of God said, "There is none among you with whom is not an attache from among the jinn (evil spirits)." The Companions said, "With you, too?" He said, "Yes, but God helps me against him and so I am safe from his hand."
Islam. Hadith of Muslim
And Satan says, when the issue is decided, "God surely promised you a true promise; I also promised you, then I failed you, for I had no authority over you, but that I called you, and you answered me. So do not blame me, blame yourselves."
Islam. Qur'an 14.22
"We do not do all the evil that we do because of our own desire," said the Rakshasa. "It is because of your evil karma, and your disfavor toward us. Our faction increases because of the brahmins who behave like Rakshasas and the evil actions of the other three classes. Those who dishonor brahmins become Rakshasas, and their ranks are swelled by the sexual sins of evil women."
Hinduism. Vamana Purana Saromahatmyam 19.31-35
Job 1.6-12: In Job, as in the previous Buddhist passage, the devil is not fundamentally evil and opposed to God, but is rather the one whom God allows to test Job's integrity. In proving Job, Satan is serving a divine purpose. For more of this story, and Job's legendary patience, see Job 1.13-22, p. 747; 2.9-10, pp. 707f. God often tries people through confronting them with evils; cf. 2 Corinthians 12.7-10, p. 573, on Paul's thorn; Genesis Rabbah 56, pp. 621f. on the temptation of Abraham; and Qur'an 21.35, p. 571. 1 Peter 5.8: Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-68, p. 830. Genesis 4.6-7: Cf. Mahabharata, p. 391. Hadith of Muslim: Cf. Qur'an 114, p. 56. Qur'an 14.22: Cf. Qur'an 5.105, p. 678.
Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Mara overthrows, as the wind blows down a weak tree.
Whoever lives contemplating the impurities of the body, with senses restrained, in food moderate, full of faith, full of sustained energy, him Mara overthrows not, as the wind cannot shake a rocky mountain.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 7-8
Shall I inform you on whom it is that the devils descend? They descend on every lying, wicked person, into whose ears they pour hearsay vanities, and most of them are liars. And the Poets--it is those straying in Evil, who follow them: do you not see them wandering distracted in every valley? They preach what they never practice.
Islam. Qur'an 26.221-26
Endowed with two dharmas does the Bodhisattva become one hard to assail by the evil Maras: he surveys all phenomena from emptiness, and does not abandon any being. Endowed with two other dharmas does the Bodhisattva become one hard to assail by the evil Maras: as he speaks so he acts, and he is brought to mind by the Buddhas, the Lords.
Buddhism. Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom 431
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