One consistent translation of the word “satan” comes from the Hebrew, the second language of scriptural texts as they were being formed into a collection. When “Satan” is mentioned, the Hebrew is often “prosecutor,” a legal term for the one who makes a case against a person, lobbying the court for a sentence of “guilty.”
That is how Satan shows up in my life.
Satan is usually attributed with the same masculinity with which we have, as a culture, attributed God. The interesting thing is that although modern, enlightened, progressive society lobby’s for God to be genderless, satan seems to be quietly allowed to retain masculinity. I have heard feminist arguments for God’s feminine qualities and for references to God being translated into less masculine language- all of which are arguments with which I agree. I simply find it curious that no such arguments are made for satan’s femininity nor for changing language about satan into the feminine. Perhaps this is because, in my experience, men are so often the proponents of violence at so many levels out of a deep insecurity at not being able to make and produce life. But I digress.
Satan, as “prosecutor,” makes sense as my life unfolds through the wisdom which can come with a cocktail of age and suffering. Satan is as much a mystery to me as God is. So all I can do for each is watch, listen and notice when one or the other seems to be moving in my life or around it, burning me and scorching those around me. All I can do is notice the hooks which inspire goodness in me and the hooks which throw me back into the well-worn groves of unhelpful habits.
Buddhism is more gifted than Christianity when it comes to teaching on this prosecutorial evil in our lives. Christianity’s superstitious fetishes with guilt tend to color our view of Satan’s work as prosecutor.
I know that in my life, it is a rather simple unfolding.
I have tendencies, large and small, which are unholy habits that cause havoc in my life when they go un-noticed. They are usually small habits like anger, reaction, projection, judgement, envy, ego-inflammation, compassion-withholding, pride. When these habits present themselves, they emerge from long-held habits. When that happens, I then get attached to a “story” that my ego has built in anticipation of the Prosecutor’s arrival – his arms laden with note pads. So my story hardens in defense of the prosecutor’s arguments about why I am a bad person even as angels swirl around me, whispering not to listen – whispering about how loved I am by God – whispering about how good God made me.
(the photo is of the water reflection of the purple glass boat in the pond of the Japanese Garden in the Botanical Gardens Chihuly exhibit. The image looked a lot like what I am trying to capture in this meditation – darkness, with tendrils while surrounded by God and light.)