Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Satanic Wisdom of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day in 1809. He is, of course, best known for his poem "The Raven" and his often macabre short stories. Though his contributions to literature occasionally incorporate Satanic values ranging from aesthetics to vengeance, there is one piece that has long struck me as his most thoroughly Satanic: a poem titled "Alone".

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov'd, I lov'd alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still —
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by —
From the thunder and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —
From beginning to end, this poem outlines several defining elements found in the lives of most Satanists.

We are born with the Satanic characters that we later refine, often finding ourselves outsiders — at least in our most avid interests — at an early age.

These solitary passions are not at all limited to the morbidity expected of many outsiders. Joy and sorrow, "good and ill" — the Satanist both embraces life's infinite pleasures and gains further strength and wisdom by overcoming unpleasant experiences. We love and hate completely, fully aware of and aligned with our instincts.

We are often inspired by the full spectrum of Nature's displays, from the soothing quiescence of fountains to the raging majesty of storms. As materialists, we find these profound in and of themselves — all the more so because our minds are free from the dulling effects of mythological superstitions. The very vicissitudes of our spectacular universe provide more than enough stimulation and insight for us.

I interpret the "demon" in this poem as a force that, though apparently ominous, embodies all of the diverse catalysts, enjoyable and difficult alike, mentioned by the narrator. A self-centered individualist, the narrator also uses his experience of the universe around him to enhance his self-awareness and self-understanding. He thus identifies with the external elements that rouse his spirit; he lives in alignment with the source of his inspiration, his "demon."

Most of this poem is included in The Book of Satanic Quotations; I was delighted to find it there, and not at all surprised that it was the only entry for Poe. The Satanic appeal of Poe is often in his aesthetics, whereas this piece depicts a personal experience often found in the lives of Satanists, many of whom can't even relate to each other beyond this peculiar brand of otherness.

Hail Edgar Allan Poe!

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