The Gurdjieff Journal—Fourth Way Perspectives

Working in the World
Opposing the Devil


(#) Parentheses indicate footnote number

A recent poll asked how many Americans believed in God and everyone seemed surprised that a majority said they did. Whether or not these believers practice their belief is another question. But, bypassing that, what about the Prince of Darkness? How many people believe in Satan? If Hollywood is any indicator—Gurdjieff once said it was a home of Hasnamusses—it would appear the devil is clearly big box office, for movieland is inundated with flicks and movies (we reserve the word film for serious efforts) directly or indirectly involved with Sammael.(1) The resulting societal thought-sewage is as amazing in its concentration in time as it is in its pervasiveness in geographical space. That within the same time frame millions upon millions of brains are being fed celluloid Satanic suggestions—and without any real opposition (2)—is a spectacle of psyche pollution that has no parallel in recorded human history.

In all this drivel The Devil's Advocate has appeared. It's a film worthy of comment. According to Taylor Hackford, its director, "The people in this story who get into trouble are people who have made certain choices. I don't believe in blaming the Devil for these terrible events; when people have the opportunity to exercise their free will, they choose to damn themselves nine times out of ten. I wanted to show that you make your own choices in life—the Devil is merely the impulse inside of us to choose what we know is ethically wrong. It's not some guy with a forked tail—we ourselves are responsible."

What Hackford takes as a given—that people are conscious of a choice that is to be made and that they have the clarity and will to make that choice—is of course, from a Gurdjieffian point of view, the great illusion. A will that is strong and purified enough to be free of the grip of organic animality and contemporary psychologisms is indeed free to act. Otherwise, one's will, as every other aspect of the person, is simply in the service of the chief feature of one's psychology. So the question of free will, like the question of the soul—whether or not people have one—is specific to the level of consciousness.

Now for The Devil's Advocate itself. From the driven and indulgent quality of their behavior, it seems unlikely that Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), the young hotshot Florida defense attorney, and Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), his rowdy but adoring country trophy wife, know of will as anything more than, as Gurdjieff says, the resultant of all their desires. But suspending that disbelief allows us to get into the meat of the story. Lomax, having successfully defended 64 clients—the last obviously guilty of child sex molestation—is summoned to New York City, the Big Apple, by John Milton(3) (Al Pacino), head of a powerful international law firm and the contemporary manifestation of the Devil, this time a cool, urbane CEO who never sleeps.(4) The scene in which Milton offers Lomax a job while strolling around the firm's rooftop water garden that looks down (sans railings) on the Lower Manhattan street scene fifty floors below is truly as breathtaking as it is symbolic. Lomax bites the apple, so to speak, takes the job, and he and Mary Ann are moved into Milton's own luxury building where everyone lives the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Milton hands Lomax his 65th case, a city sanitation charge against a black voodoo witch doctor who sacrifices goats in the practice of his craft. After Lomax gets him off, Milton throws him the big one, number 66,(5) the defense of Alexander Cullen (Craig T. Nelson), a wealthy real estate developer accused of three brutal murders and, again, obviously guilty.

Tempted by the high voltage glitz and glamour of modern Babylon's power-possessing beings, edged as it is with super-sensational beauty, desire and rivalry, what little identity Mary Ann has is soon swallowed up and she falls prey to her subconscious.(6) Lomax, meanwhile, spends long nights at the office preparing to defend Cullen. Throughout, Milton counsels his protégé, pointing out, for example, the "loudness" of the expensive hand-tooled cowboy boots Lomax has continued wearing. Says Milton of himself, "They never see me coming."

Just as Lomax is about to try his big case, Milton tells Lomax he is taking him off it. His wife is unraveling, Milton says, and Kevin needs to help nurse her back to health. So here it is: Kevin's big and defining choice after all the little choices he has made and Milton is making the decision for him—taking away his freedom of choice! And it's the right choice, the humanitarian choice! Kevin, go comfort your wife. Who would expect the Devil to be on the side of Good? It's an arch cunning move on the chessboard of life, a move of deep deception worthy of one known as the Prince of Lies.

Totally asleep in his desire, Kevin—there being no question of his having consciousness or free will—shows the lawyerly magic that has enabled him to stand the courtroom truth on its head. He argues that if he agrees to give up the case and his wife gets better, he will hate her. To avoid that—for the good of their marriage—Milton should keep him on the case and Kevin promises afterward to give Mary Ann all his attention. So Kevin argues with the Devil and apparently 'wins.' "All right, Kevin," Milton slyly intones, seemingly capitulating to Kevin's plea. Kevin thinks he has won but what he has done is to provide clear evidence that he loves win number 66 more than his failing wife.


Notes

(1) Satan goes by various names and titles in Jewish and Christian literature, among them: Semihazah, Azazel, Belial, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Apolyon, "god of this world," "father of lies." Says Neil Forsyth in his book The Old Enemy: Satan & The Combat Myth (Princeton University Press, 1987), 5-6, "His character, indeed his very existence, is a function of his opposition to God, or to man, or to God's son, the god-man. But he may appear as tempter, tyrant, liar, or rebel, each time taking on the characteristics appropriate to his role. If he appears as the opponent of God, he is (eventually) the rebel, and if God is good, as is often but not invariably the case, then he is evil; if he appears as the opponent of man, then he is the tempter, or the tyrant."

(2) That in the end the good guy wins or the bad guy gets his is not opposition. It's simply the "cover" under which the movie can be defended on educational or ethical grounds while pouring a lot of filth into people's minds. That a movie like The Silence of the Lambs is well written and directed and has a strong cast doesn't make it any more "clean." Rather, it only strengthens the movie's perversity.

(3) No doubt referring to the English poet, author of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

(4) There is no rest for the wicked because if the Devil falls asleep in any sense he exposes himself to his subconscious, his conscience. Therefore, he stays awake from fear, hatred. Not love of consciousness but fear and hatred of God keeps him awake. So he is awake only in the negative.

(5) The numerology is based on Revelations' number of the beast, 666.

(6) Actually, she begins to see how people and things are, but having no self-awareness in the real sense she cannot rightly absorb and understand what she is seeing.


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