Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians
Connecting the esoteric teachings of Rosicrucians, Theosophists and Freemasons with Witches, Pagans and Heathens
Making Deals With the Devil
Pagans don't believe in Satan, but we certainly know when things aren't going the way we planned. You could say that the devil is anything that stands between you and your dharma – the work, service, or path in life that you feel destined to fulfill, and which would bring you the most contentment.
The devil doesn't have to assume a human form; it is most often encountered as negativity - a barrier, or a depression, or a convinced rigid belief within your own mind that blocks you from making any further progress.
In 1985 I accepted a Personal Assistant job under a controlling boss who grudgingly agreed to let me start work at 9:00 AM, rather than the 8:00 time he had originally said he wanted. But less than a month later, when he was satisfied that I could do the work and I had gotten used to the paycheck, he sat me down and told me that he really needed someone at 8:00 - and that person better be me, or I could look for employment elsewhere. I caved in, realizing too late that he had planned to pull this on me from the beginning.
Arizona is a "Right to Work" state - a cynical euphemism meaning "Right to Get Fired If You Don't Happen to Like Whatever Draconian Demands Your Boss May Make On You." I had freshly come from the East Coast, where laws were in place to protect employees from being taken advantage of. I was unprepared for the total lack of such laws in Arizona.
In the four years I continued to work for this guy, he frequently made me come in on Saturdays - for no extra pay. On Secretaries' Day (now known as Administrative Professionals' Day) he gave me a flower arrangement, just like he gave the female secretaries in the office. All of us would have preferred cash. Goddess knows we deserved it.
That was my deal with the devil. I don’t mean my employer – he was not the devil; he was just an Arizona Republican. Such creatures tend to think of employees as a lower species, like an especially clever pound dog which doesn't need to be dealt with honestly. It would complicate the boss' life too much, to believe that animals have souls.
No, the devil was in my own mind; it was fear. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do any better than to accept this demeaning situation.
It was entirely my own doing. I had pegged this man as a control freak used to getting his own way when I first met him at the job interview; yet I convinced myself that I had covered all my bases. That decision exposed me to a world of disrespect. You can't cover your bases when the boss holds all the cards and has more ways to screw you than an electric drill has bits.
Today, I feel that no paycheck is worth the loss of my self-respect. I know what it is to need money; I will swallow my pride to beg cash for groceries, and that includes holding onto a dismal job until something better comes along; but there are limits. I will not rob people at gunpoint, for example. And I will no longer play the role of chewing gum on the bottom of another man’s shoe.
With the wisdom of age and hindsight, I realize that I should have turned down that job and held out for something else. Because, over the next four years, he continually gave small perks with one hand while taking away major promises with the other – as though none of his employees was intelligent enough to notice it.
But, you see, we had all made the same deal, each with our own inner devil. For one reason or another, that voice in our heads persuaded us that we couldn’t do any better and shouldn’t expect anything more.
If that’s not the devil, I don’t know what is.
I have a friend who was an extremely gifted actor, convinced from earliest childhood that he was destined to tread the boards. But the cold-hearted business and politics of the Theatre wore him down. Time after time he auditioned for leads in Broadway plays, and came in second for the part – week after week, month after month, year after year. He was that good!
Finally, after enduring this for a very long time, he quit; just couldn’t take it any more. Who could blame him? Certainly not me, as I had left the Business myself many years earlier.
But there was a difference between us: I had only decided to be an actor at age 16, whereas he had looked in the mirror as a baby and received the message that he was an actor – always had been. And there was another difference between us: I have found that teaching yoga and performing weddings fulfill me just as much - proving that what I had thought was my dharma could actually find expression in other ways. He, on the contrary, has never found true happiness in any other profession. As a result, he now defines happiness in negative terms - repeating dully that it is only “the absence of pain.” Poor soul. Which is like saying that the blessed relief a cancer patient gets from morphine is equal to living a strong, healthy life because you never had cancer in the first place.
He has never stopped feeling that he was thwarted in fulfilling the purpose for which he was put on earth. If that isn’t an encounter with the devil, I don’t know what is.
The thing is, we are both still alive as I write this - and while there is life there should be hope. If he didn’t have that devil in his mind telling him that there's no point in trying anymore, he could start going out for parts again. He is still healthy enough, even after a twenty-five year sabbatical. He's collecting Social Security now, in addition to a flexible job (East Coast!) that allows him to take a day off now and then; and his young wife would certainly support him, emotionally as well as financially. So what is there to stop him? Nothing that I can see - except that voice in his head; the deal he has made with the devil.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you till it seems you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then; for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
In other words, she says don’t listen to that voice in your head; don’t make that deal with the devil in your mind. If you really, truly feel that you were put here to do something else, keep trying to do it until you die. You never know when something miraculous might happen. And if it doesn’t – what will you care after you’re dead?
The point is, you're not dead yet. So why give up as though you already were?
Yes, the economy sucks. Yes, millions of qualified people are out of work. We all know the multitude of factors that are stacked against us. But what the devil in our heads doesn't want us to acknowledge, is that there may also be influences at work on our behalf - which we don't know about.
And perhaps we never will, if we don't give them a chance to see the light of day.
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