Saturday, April 08, 2006

selling the soul

My heart wanted only a kiss from you;

The price you asked for that kiss was my soul.

Heart jumped in the deep and flowed alongside soul,

Advising, 'Close the deal. The price is cheap.'

#388: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

According to, to "sell your soul (to the devil)" is "to do something bad in order to succeed or get money or power" or "to accept immoral behavior in order to succeed". This is clearly a Christian idiom, probably closely related to the story of Judas who betrayed Jesus in return for money. This story is being revised in the light of the discovery, restoration and translation of an ancient Gospel of Judas. (See the major coverage at and a gnostic commentary at Ecclesia Gnostica.) The Gospel's main "revelation" is the notion that Judas was serving Jesus - obeying orders, if you like - when he "betrayed" him to the Roman soldiers. In the 1951 Nikos Kazantzakis novel and the 1988 Martin Scorsese movie of The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus and Judas are co-conspirators in His sacrifice through crucifixion, so this idea is not really so new.

Although Rumi was writing from outside the Christian culture I would guess that selling his soul in return for a kiss would have a similar connotation. This sounds like one of Rumi's more subversive ideas. Somewhere else, in the Mathnawi I think, Rumi uses a similar idea only it is life that is sacrificed or used to pay for achievement of the goal. Perhaps I am thinking of a different translation, perhaps by Coleman Barks. Various Rumi bits and pieces, in different translations, are currently floating around in the dark corners of my own soul. I sometimes wonder whether they will coalesce and take some sort of distinct form some day.

From a Jungian perspective, this selling of one's soul, presumably to the devil, corresponds to a giving up of perfection in return for completeness. The bad or evil side of our nature holds the key to such wholeness. This is where there is sense in Satan worship. If we look back to Victorian times, we can see how Satan carried the repressed sexuality of the time (more broadly, the repressed sexuality characteristic of long periods of Christianity). Today, post Elvis and Madonna, we are more comfortable with sexual expressiveness. Today, it is death and destruction that is foisted onto the devil and it is Islam and the West (with its strong Christian heritage) that are seeing the devil in each other. It is almost certainly true that each side will need to sell its soul in return for that brief kiss from the beloved. Each side will need to admit to and truly own its dark or shadow side. And then, perhaps, we can all move on.


William Blake: Satan Inflicting Boils on Job
Note how Blake depicts Satan as a beautiful and healthy youth and how he relates the imagery of his bat wings to the imagery of a rising sun, a symbol of spiritual enlightenment. Blake was into marrying Heaven and Hell, the light and the dark.



At Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

And people forget that the angel Lucifer/Satan was beautiful and once God's favorite. At least, according to Milton, I think.

At Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n.
— Milton, Paradise Lost

I've not even tried to read Milton but I'm sure you're right about that.


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