The devil and Jesus

The devil and Jesus

Who or what is the devil whom Jesus encountered in the desert?

Christ did by no means sever himself from his shadow at the beginning of his career. If we accept for the moment the view of the devil as his shadow, Jesus’s behavior is an absolutely exemplary mode of how to deal with the shadow. He allows him to surface, he lets him state his case and show what he has to offer, he calmly and open-mindedly listens to him and even lets himself be guided by him to that high mountain. He lets „the shadow“ become fully conscious and faces him directly. And rather than splitting the shadow off, suppressing him, fighting him. he merely ANSWERS him, openly contradicts him, says „no“ to him. The encounter happens as a dialogue, on the level of SPEAKING. Both put their cards on the table and so KNOW now where they stand with regard to each other. Jesus’s knowledge gained about „his shadow“ is neither repressed nor gets lost for Jesus in the times to come. Because his own goal is the negation of what the devil offered him, it being the result of Jesus’s pushing off from it, he always carries with him what he pushed off from. The devil’s spelling out his offers was indispensable for Jesus to clearly become aware of and define the totally other dimension of logical negativity („spirit“) that was to be his own concern. Without getting the literal option clearly spelled out he could not have clearly pushed off to the figurative sense of kingdom. A negation presupposes the position. So the devil, rather than being his shadow in the usual sense of the word, was, as a literal devil’s advocate, his facilitating psychopomp, his soul-guide. For a psychological understanding, this story is not really about two separate figures, the devil and Jesus, at all. Rather, what is actually one single process of self-reflection and self-clarification – an acquiring of a clearer, deeper understanding of himself and his project – is merely NARRATIVELY played out as an dialogic interaction between two figures. We should not take literally this substantiating or personifying which simply occurs for the purpose of narration. But this means that the whole talk about Christ’s shadow is misplaced. In the sphere of the soul’s logic the „position“ is not an ontic fact, an entity, or situation, nothing naturally existing, not a literal PRE-existing starting point, but a presupposition. Instead, the negation POSITS WITHIN ITSELF the presupposition from which it „then“ pushes off. The devil in this story must not be seen as an externally existing being, nor as a projection or split-off and denied part of the whole personality. He is precisely internal to the whole operation, namely as the soul’s or mind’s instrument for taking a radical step forward to a new status of itself.

— According to Wolfgang Giegerich, Ph.D.

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