The wisdom of Satan

As a child, I couldn’t imagine that anything existed apart from my presence, and this resulted in the happy thought that the entire universe was but a product of my imagination. Only later did there settle upon me the horrifying realization that this could only mean that I was completely and inexorably alone. The following conversation from Mark Twain’s novelette, The Mysterious Stranger echoes my imagining, if it was an imagining. When I’m smoking marijuana, it almost seems that I was right the first time (this feeling of being lost and alone within an unknowable universe is the thing that most frightens me about pot, and that makes pot irresistible to me). The speakers are a 15th century boy named Theodor and his friend, the angel Satan—a character who is surely a hundred times more interesting than any of the gods. I am so moved by this passage that I sometimes howl when I read it (or is that too unbalanced to admit?) It starts with Satan speaking.

“…I must go now, and we shall not see each other any more."

“In this life, Satan, but in another? We shall meet in another, surely?”

Then, all tranquilly and soberly, he made the strange answer, “There is no other.”

A subtle influence blew upon my spirit from his, bringing with it a vague, dim, but blessed and hopeful feeling that the incredible words might be true - even must be true.

“Have you never suspected this, Theodor?”

“No. How could I? But if it can only be true –”

“It is true.”

A gust of thankfulness rose in my breast, but a doubt checked it before it could issue in words, and I said, “But - but - we have seen that future life - seen it in its actuality, and so –”

“It was a vision - it had no existence.”

I could hardly breathe for the great hope that was struggling in me. “A vision? - a vi –”

“Life itself is only a vision, a dream.”

It was electrical. By God! I had had that very thought a thousand times in my musings!

“Nothing exists; all is a dream. God - man - the world - the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars - a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space - and you!”

“I!”

“And you are not you - you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no existence; I am but a dream - your dream, creature of your imagination. In a moment you will have realized this, then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the nothingness out of which you made me . . .

“I am perishing already - I am failing - I am passing away. In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever - for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!

“Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago - centuries, ages, eons, ago! - for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities.

"Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane - like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell - mouths mercy and invented hell - mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him! . . .

“You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks - in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

“It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream - a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought - a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he had said was true.

24 comments:

julie said...

I wonder about this all the time...well, often. I wonder how the world might change if we cold truly grasp this? I wonder if we changed our collective dream would the world shift and change with us? I wonder if this is the reason why we often feel so alone? I wonder if this is why we are often drawn to other dreamers for reasons we don't understand? Dreamers who seem to be on the cusp of seeing...I wonder a lot.
I howl with you...

Linda said...

A little existential angst and dread thrown in the mix. Pot does that to me also and that's why I haven't turned to it for help. Yet anyway.

Snowbrush said...

Julie said: "I howl with you..."

I knew you would, sweetie, you and a few more.

Julie said: "I wonder if we changed our collective dream would the world shift and change with us?"

You know of "The Hundredth Monkey" book, right? It drew in a lot of people in the '80s, and was very much about how worldwide paradigm shifts could place overnight if critical mass was reached. Too bad that the conclusions he made based upon real research on monkeys was unrelated to the conclusions of the actual researchers.

Snowbrush said...

Linda said: "A little existential angst and dread thrown in the mix. Pot does that to me also and that's why I haven't turned to it for help."

Existential angst and dread are there anyway, though, at least for me. Pot often intensifies them temporarily, but it also enables me to look at them from unaccustomed angles. This is what leads me to think that the result is beneficial.

Strayer said...

Oh gosh, that is funnier than shit.

Strayer said...

I still think we are a play world of beings in another dimension and, our world, being like a fish tank, we kept as pets, has been determined by all but the fish tank owner, (in this world, many call the fish tank owner "God" by various names), that the fish tank must go, that the occupants are a nuisance, violent and destructive and dangerous. Fish tank owners disagrees, says, let me prove it, installs a video cam so all in the other dimension can watch our shenanigans here, in the fish tank, and laugh, like a reality show in a way. We're supposed to be proving worthy, like fish tanker owner thinks we are. However, we are proving worthy as entertainment value, but the decree is holding and when the show is over, fish tank gets drained, smashed, end of story. Our story that is. Just a thought.

Kay Dennison said...

I'm just glad that it gives you enough relief to think. I've seen 'the white light' that so many people report when they've had a near death experience and I found it comforting but don't ask me why because I'm not really sure. Maybe if I smoked some pot, I'd know. I'm just delighted that it's working for you.

Snowbrush said...

Strayer said: "Oh gosh, that is funnier than shit."

Oh, my god but you're a horrible woman, Strayer. Surely, one of the worst. This is NOT funny. NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT. Well, okay, maybe a little.

Jeez, Strayer. You made all that shit in your second response up, right? I mean, I've read the Bible, and I think the story it gives goes a little differently, something about a river instead of a tank and a snake instead of a fish. Of course, the tank owner (or river owner) does get really, really mad in the Bible story, and would have smashed the tank if not for his friendship with Noah, the drunkard who screwed his own daughters. Your story is at least a lot cleaner.

Kay said: "I've seen 'the white light' that so many people report when they've had a near death experience and I found it comforting but don't ask me why..."

I had what I would call a near death experience, but mine was on morphine, and, like yours, it comforted me. Even if it had no objective basis, it's good to know that the hand of death doesn't have to be frightening.

The Elephant's Child said...

Very true. And probably the reason why I intuitively/instinctively refuse to accept religion. And why my mama had troubles with my refusal to believe that there was/is nothing else. Thanks Snowbrush. Another scarily true post - your speciality.

Beau's Mom said...

When the doctors said no more could be done for me, and they were waiting for my kidneys to shut down, I obliged.

The worries I had concerning leaving my daughter with an abusive father turned into "It will be okay" and I felt peace. In fact, other than peace I felt nothing. The pain had stopped. I wanted the feeling to last forever...and then it was gone - and so was I.

So the endorphins that the brain fires at the end, as in all animals, had really kicked in and did its job for me.

Then the bastards shocked me back into a world of pain and fear they couldn't cure and no loving heavenly father was going to either.

I never prayed again. Mother nature does her job when the time comes.

The Bipolar Diva said...

So many days I wish it were all a dream.

Lorraina said...

I've often thought this in my own simple little way although sans pot. I know it's true due to my own far fletched dreams that could never be revealed nor discussed because the events and the decribing words are gone too fast upon awakening.
So glad to hear you're doing well, Snow, and again up to your very complicated thoughts on the world and life in general.

River said...

If no-one else exists, who is sending me those pesky electricity and telephone bills and expecting to get paid?

rhymeswithplague said...

Not to be dogmatic or anything, but (a) Mark Twain was an excellent writer, and (b) everything Satan (the father of lies) says is a lie.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

fascinating...

ellen abbott said...

We are a dream and we are the dreamers. The world exists as it does because we all here on this stage agree that this is what it should be. Should we change our minds, it would change with us. And so we create our own reality in which to play out the drama of our lives here.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

As I'm currently on holiday by the beach (:)), I've no time to give this post the attention it deserves, so just a quick comment on your comment.....

Don't take the bit about me not trusting new trends too seriously. I am on twitter now after all!

See you soon....

julie said...

and the tale of the stranger spreads...along with a hat tip..

https://www.google.com/reader/view/?tab=my#stream/feed%2Fhttp%3A%2F%2Fcoyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com%2Ffeeds%2Fposts%2Fdefault

Pearl said...

And THIS is why I love Twain.

Great post.

Pearl

Punk Chopsticks said...

This is BRILL!!! It gave me goosebumps contemplating it...

Strayer said...

Yes, Snow, I am one of the worst of the worst out there.

Of course I made up the shit in the second story and I know it's a cleaner version than the Bible. I grew up a prude, what do you expect? I clean up everything. It's in my nature.

Strayer said...

I just read For Whom the Bell Tolls, to praise another writer, Hemmingway.

However, I found the main character, Robert Jordan, to be too much like me. There he is, injecting himself in the problems of others, in this case, a Spanish Revolution. In the end, he lays there, broken leg, facing death, a soldier to the end in a cause not his, while the countries occupants, who have a real stake in the war's outcome, offer to shoot him but then just take off on their horses. He like a good soldier, sacrifices even a good clean suicide death, to wait there, in howling pain, to kill an officer and give the countrymen rebels more time to escape.

That's me I see in him, injecting myself to help others, well, I'm going to bed. The bell is tolling, but it's my alarm I'm hearing already.

Anasua Deb said...

marijuana hallucinations,eh?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Twain was, of course, brilliant ... and an atheist.