I’ve listened to Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil many times (as has everyone within earshot of a classic rock station) but it wasn’t until a recent experience of personal gnosis through a dream that I’m just getting some of the lyrics. Indeed Lucifer appeared to me as a ‘man of wealth and taste’.
I was fortunate enough to have a dream where I got a really good look at Lucifer. When I say I got a look at him, it was more than a glance, I feel I got a kind of portrait or direct download of the qualities he embodies. The refinement, the beauty, the quiet power, and an intelligence that is infinitely vast.
I recently heard a psychologist on a pod cast about dreams answer a question about which dreams have meaning, all of them or just some. I liked his answer which was: the ones where you feel like they do. This dream was certainly one of those. I have had experiences of ‘direct’ contact with spirits (a dead friend or two and unidentified spirits) where there was a conversation going on between us, this dream was just me looking down from my thirty or fourty feet in the air vantage point that is a familiar POV for me.
What is so great about this dream for me, is that Lucifer at once became very real for me, and not an abstract amalgamation of traits and data from judeo-christian tainted doctrine. In the days following I had such a feeling of the general masses being completely deceived that Lucifer is evil and waging a war against good! I don’t think Lucifer seems at odds with anyone or anything, but if you meet him I would bring all your well-learned politesse. This is the only time in the Stones song a method acting Mick is threatening the listener, basically ‘don’t be rude’! As BWS teaches in her BWC Offering of Time video, treat whomever/whichever deity you are invoking as an ‘honoured guest’. Clean your room, gussy up a bit, even if that just means soap and water for you.
Mick wrote this song and sings it in the first person, it was recorded fully (except for some extra woo woo overdubs) on the second take. Once they got the Samba beat, it all clicked, sophisticated and primitive at the same time, while evoking the renaissance of both music and the occult in 1968. This was the milieu of the time.
Mick attributes Baudelaire, and Bulkagov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ (which Marianne gave him), as well as Bob Dylan as his influences for the lyrics. Baudelaire himself coined the term ‘modernite´’, as the duty of an artist to capture the ephemeral experience of living in a modern world, and a period of questioning tradition. In Baudelaire’s essay “The Painter of Modern Life”, this refers to a particular relationship to time, one characterized by intense historical discontinuity or rupture, openness to the novelty of the future, and a heightened sensitivity to what is unique about the present. [Kompridis 2006, 32-59), Wikipedia] This song is a prime example of this premise.
Baudelaire was influenced by Poe. Baudelaire and Poe were kindred spirits, a couple of brilliant dandies. Russian Bulgakov’s novel was influence by Faust (Faust was a German folk legend before the many modern versions were written, about a ‘pact’ with the devil), and retelling of Pontious Pilate’s bible story as veiled political and social commentary which couldn’t be published until after his death.
Although Mick never mentioned them as an influence in interviews, I would be remiss not give a passing name check to the Process Church here as they were a ‘Satanic’ religious group with, what seems to me, to be a convoluted pseudo-Jungian philosophy which states that there are four great powers, or archetypes, which are, after all, just you and me. The Devil being one side of a four-sided coin consisting of Jehovah, Lucifer, Satan, and Christ. Mick and Anita, and others in their circle were supposedly quite involved during this time (‘66-‘68 roughly). What began as an offshoot of Scientology is now located in Utah as The Best Friends Animal Society, a registered nonprofit (I kid you not, pun intended). The leaders of the Church were called the Omegas (see Mick’s very cool t-shirt in pic above).
A lot of urban myth surrounds all of these groups, and all of the associated cast of rapscallions and geniuses, charlatans and dandies, princes and paupers, doomed (like Brian Jones) and charmed (like the rest of the surviving Stones who are still procreating, with the exception of Mick Taylor who got kinda ripped off but I think is alright). Combine their own self-mythologizing with the sensational news coverage that was totally overblown, and you probably get just a taste of what was going on! I’d have to include Baudelaire and Pilate in with the rest there!
Since Lucifer is much, much older than humankind and anything they have written, hearsay cannot stand in for personal experience in gaining an understanding for forming a relationship. Perhaps glimpses of the truth still exist in great works of art. As I chant my enns and meditate on his sigal, I feel fortunate to tune in to this vibration and I gain real spiritual guidance, things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, and yes, he’s real! What a relief, really, when it seems the world has gone mad at times, that there is this Ancient One who is the paragon of sanity, self-possession, and taste.
Like the Rolling Stones, Charles Baudelaire was accused of being a Satanist, here is a beautiful poem Charles wrote in the 19th century that may have raised eyebrows in that direction:
The Living Torch
They walk in front of me, those eyes aglow with light
Which a learned Angel has rendered magnetic;
They walk, divine brothers who are my brothers too,
Casting into my eyes diamond scintillations.
They save me from all snares and from all grievous sin;
They guide my steps along the pathway of Beauty;
They are my servitors, I am their humble slave;
My whole being obeys this living torch.
Bewitching eyes, you shine like mystical candles
That burn in broad daylight; the sun
Reddens, but does not quench their eerie flame;
While they celebrate Death, you sing the Awakening;
You walk, singing the awakening of my soul,
Bright stars whose flame no sun can pale!