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Devil

Unlike the 1869 book of the same name by Protestant theologian Georg Gustav Roskoff (still a standard work on the topic of satanology), Vilém Flusser’s The History of the Devil (2014) – written in exile in São Paulo in 1957 in German, Die Geschichte des Teufels, rewritten in Portuguese, A História do Diabo, and published in São Paulo in 1965 – is a systematic depiction of the cardinal sins of classical theology, the seven attributes superbia (pride), avaritia (greed and miserliness), luxuria (lust and sensual indulgence), ira (wrath), gula (gluttony), invidia (envy), and acedia (sloth and despondency).

The Godhead is timeless; the Devil has a beginning. He swims in the river of time. His fall is the “beginning of the drama of time” (The History of the Devil, 2014, p. 1). To separate the divine from the diabolic, Flusser simply calls everything that points beyond time “divine influence” and ascribes everything bound to the temporal to the Devil. From the standpoint of the phenomenal world, Flusser says, the Devil is the sustaining principle, and God the purifying re. We recognize that we are nearer to the Devil than to God. “The first sympathy for the Devil sketches itself within our innermost being, and we recognize a kindred spirit in him, perhaps just as unhappy as our own.” (ibid., p. 4)

Lust and joie de vivre are the sources of all the other sins, culminating in sloth and despondency, in philosophical distance – a closed circle that the Devil draws around people. Hauteur (the arts) and despondency (philosophy) are the quintessence of the Devil. Flusser describes nationalism as a naive but satanic sin that prevents humans from recognizing that they are not part of a people, but of the divine.

For Flusser, the history of the Devil is the history of progress. He uses the seven deadly sins, the Devil’s metamorphoses, to develop a critique of science, technology, and economics, but also of art, in the hope of tearing apart the strands of the net that holds our spirit captive, and thereby achieving a new perspective on our situation. With his book, Flusser imposes an order on the sins. Order, however, is quintessentially diabolic. Flusser knows: God and the Devil cannot be disentangled.

Original article by Eckhard Fürlus in Flusseriana

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devil.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 (external edit)