It’s worth remembering that when we deal with the Devil he honours his side of the bargain and we do actually get what we wanted, or so the stories tell. We want to be rich and powerful; done. We want to be a great blues guitarist; done. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t deliver, it’s that later on we inevitably realise that in our blinding desire to get what we wanted, what we’ve traded away was infinitely more valuable than what we received.
The rule when dealing with the Devil is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. But it’s not to beware that the goods are shoddy, or that the Devil’s a cheat. He’s not, he’s legit. No, the thing to beware of, and of course the moral of these stories, is that however sweet the deal may seem, when we sell our soul, we WILL live to regret it.
So it’s our choice all along. The devil doesn’t force anyone to do anything, he only tempts and seduces.
The better choices can always be made but they rely on a change of heart and mind, a metanoia, where we move beyond the small egoic mind into the higher – meta – space of perception, awareness itself. From there we recognise our essential freedom, and our identity as loving awareness, and quite naturally the choices we make are more loving, more holistic.
This foundational change of consciousness can only happen in the heart of an individual, and it’s a mistake to think that the loving behaviour that we wish to see in the world could be achieved by some collective moral imposition on people. If it is imposed it ultimately fails because of the internal tensions and conflicts that coercion creates. And so the individual must be free to discover and choose, because whether we like it or not, suppression and coercion only work so far, our nature is such that we’ll burst out all our repressed and shadowed parts in involuntary ways.
We’ll either have a world where peace reigns because we all choose it thus on the basis of our individual awakened hearts, or the fight for power will continue.
The philosopher Rene Girard spoke about the Apocalypse which comes from the Greek word meaning to ‘uncover, reveal’. For him it wasn’t some grand event, but rather a historical process whereby all things will be shown, revealed. All ways will become apparent. It’s a long drawn out affair this historical apocalypse, it’s happening now, and it can an ugly business, but at least we get to contend with it all, we get to choose our way based on reality, not delusion or illusion.
That’s what Gandhi was all about; revealing the hidden violence and oppression of the British Raj through acts of non-violent non-cooperation. And in the revealing of that violent reality the society got to see it and contend with it, but also the perpetrators themselves had to face their own violence. And so each individual, through exposure to naked truth received the opportunity for a change of heart, a metanoia, and when it occurred, an enemy became a friend.
I feel that life in service to universal love — agape — is our highest good, the reality of our ultimate well-being, and perhaps our only means of survival as a species. And so despite the necessary sacrifice of prestige and power, it turns out to be the very opposite of that deal with the Devil. When making a deal with the Divine, it seems we have to give up so much that we value and cherish, so much that it seems unbearable and nonsensical make such a great sacrifice, particularly as the promised reward is entirely taken on faith. But when we’ve given up everything that we are, all that we have, our very will, we are returned life, and life more abundantly.