Manifestophilis (Interviews With The Devil): Myths, Gods, Magic

Patrick Higgins: You’re very well read. 

The Devil: Well, when so much of the literary canon is about you it can be very useful to keep your finger on the pulse. Find out when you need to shake things up. Keep the heart beating.

PH: Would you say you’re the most prominent character in the history of literature?

TD: Probably not directly, no. But if you include me as an indirect figure. As a force, then maybe I could make the case. 

PH: You mean if we account for thematic and aesthetic elements we can still find you as a character in works where you don’t appear directly? 

TD: Something like that. Even structurally, any story of betrayal in a way can be traced back to me. At least in the West, but also in a lot of other places. Ancient Egyptian mythology, the Prometheus myth, all those stories are a web. And I crawl through that web to find my way into new stories. 

PH: Now you’re sounding like Anansi. 

PH: [Laughs] You caught that did you? Yeah, I kind of stole that bit. 

PH: So you’re not Anansi? You’re not the same person?

TD: No, we simply have some overlap in our interests. 

PH: Do you work together regularly?

TD: I wouldn’t say so. We just encounter each other sometimes when we attend events that appeal to the both of us. 

PH: Such as?

TD: Food-related stuff mostly. [laughs] Sneaking into potlucks, soup kitchens, wakes. Sometimes we see the same bands.

PH: Talking about yourself as a character in literature, you seem to suggest you have some power as an archetype.

TD: In the Jungian sense?

PH: Right, but you mention overlap with Anansi. Does that complicate this model of comparison? What stops me from saying that a story follows a Horusian, or Promethean model, rather than a Satanic model?

TD: Well nothing. They are quite fluid, but it’s a matter of publicity in some sense. I’ve got a very clear public image. Multiple public images really, and that image is in a lot more minds that Horus or Prometheus probably is. But I think that it should also be mentioned that figures like me, archetypal figures, can also be possessed by archetypes. Like, there’s me the trickster, or me the rebellious son, or me the traitor, or me the tempter. We have many different forms. We are possessed by these personas, these instincts, and those in turn change how we want to influence the world and other people. 

PH: Have you read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods? 

TD: I suspected this would come up. Yes I’ve read it, and Anansi Boys, and Good Omens.

PH: So you’re well-rounded in the recent utilization of mythology in contemporary fiction. 

TD: Perhaps, though there’s plenty more. American Gods is probably the most accessible and popular. It’s a well written book, interesting ideas, decent plot. 

PH: As someone who has interacted with Anansi would you agree with Neil Gaiman’s portrayal of the spirit? 

TD: It’s a yes-and-no situation. Very difficult to put into words. Again, as I said, there are many ways us so-called supernatural figures can be represented and do represent ourselves, and there is a battle there. Different figures are pitted against each other and compared in and across systems of belief, but I think it’s dangerous to equivocate cultural symbolism and trends to explicit religious beliefs and patterns. 

PH: So gods can’t be simply born by people believing enough? 

TD: They can if that’s what you’re trying to do. If you sit down and say I’m going to make a religion and make a religion, you’ve got a God. But saying that advertising, philosophy, symbols, things that spread are inherently religious because they affect the mind and belief is different. I would say it’s magical but I wouldn’t qualify it as religious. Or even spiritual. 

PH: Going back a bit, though, how does this play into your opinions of Gaiman’s work? I can see a criticism of his portrayal of new gods like The Technical Boy, but what about the old gods?

TD: Well, since Anansi is a cultural god of significant importance, and Gaiman is providing an inherently Americanized portrayal, it can cut away the bone of what Anansi is. The Gods in these works have to be generalized even when the author is doing his best to tie them back to their original roots. He has to melt down the archetypes into the mixing pot. I don’t fault him for this, it is about the Great American Melting Pot after all, but readers don’t always seem to understand that what makes gods and spirits and myths important is their ability to personally relate. Gaiman mentions in Anansi Boys how Anansi stories developed into Br’er Rabbit stories, and they also shows many synchronicities with Native American trickster stories, but I don’t think the message is that these things are godly because they are around us. These things are godly because people care about them and utilize them. When we say that media is a god, well why? Because it’s ubiquitous? People don’t worship things simply because they’re around us, or even because they’re important, there has to be something more. Some people may worship the media, but I think only a few people really actually feel a deep, spiritual connection there. Again, there’s a difference between a passingly developed addiction and worship.

PH: Would you say this legitimizes or delegitimizes the philosophy and practice of Chaos Magick developed by Peter Carroll, Robert Anton Wilson and the like?

TD: Well, I don’t think that Chaos Magick can really be delegitimized. As a practice it’s really just trying to break down the principles of what magickal practice is and how it can be used most efficiently by the individual. The problem is that it can go anywhere from that, and people go pretty ugly places. Giving anybody the tools to remake reality is problematic, especially when so many people are too lazy to read the whole instruction manual. It’s hard to say that contemporary Chaos Magick at all resembles the practice that Austin Osman Spare was trying to develop.

PH: Is there a proper use then?

TD: Most hardcore chaos magicians, the traditionalists, though they wouldn’t call themselves that, would probably say no. I say it’s art. Art is the proper application of magick. It’s the remodeling of the interior and exterior world, it’s a force in and of itself but it doesn’t necessarily force anything. It can only hope to succeed by the measure of its voice. 

PH: So then I guess it goes without saying that magick is real?

TD: Naturally. There’s just no way of guaranteeing when it works and when it doesn’t.

PH: Why did the summoning ritual work when I called you?

TD: First, because you had food. Second, because I knew you wanted to write, and that’s what I’m saying. What you’re doing is making a piece of art that speaks for itself. Even though this is an interview it doesn’t use my voice or your voice, it’s something else that’s been synthesized through many different powers. That’s a worthwhile magical practice. I don’t usually appear to people who just want money anymore, not unless there’s something worthwhile they’re going to do with it.

PH: So the diagrams and summoning circles didn’t have any effect at all? 

TD: Not really, that’s all just there for the sake of appearances. Aesthetic. 

PH: See, but I don’t think you’d have come if I didn’t do it. In addition to the other stuff you want to make sure you can keep up appearances. If you come with all the menacing threads it encourages me to follow through, and it encourages more of this artistic magickal practice. 

TD: Now you’re beginning to get it.

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