"Matter is Lucifer crawling itself back to God"?
December 13, 2007 2:22 PM   Subscribe

"Matter is Lucifer crawling itself back to God".... what's this mean then?

I heard Mark Kermode (UK film critic) on the radio (podcast) saying that he believed - "Matter is Lucifer crawling itself back to God". Which I assume is some sort of quote... though my google skills failed me in that matter. Anyone know where it's from and what it actually means?

The context is he was reviewing Silent Light and talking about believing an event at the end of the film was miraculous because he is an optimist and he believed "Matter is Lucifer crawling itself back to God" but refused to go it as he had previously been slurred as he a supporter of Intelligent Design and he did not want to associated with 'Nutballs'
posted by fearfulsymmetry to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Never heard that quote before, but I interpret it as "Things are inherently evil, cannot be destroyed, but are ultimately seeking redemption or movement towards goodness". Something like that perhaps.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:33 PM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: I first heard this as a belief of William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist; Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane/The Ninth Configuration). I think it might have been the second Exorcist novel, and I recollect running across a reiteration of this concept in a short story of his on EMP. In one of them the narrator has a dream in which a small blue light (Lucifer) separates itself out from a large, diffuse white light (God) because it has decided that it must know itself (God). Base matter must work its way through the permutations of entropy, chaos, and generally things that make humanity unhappy in order to know about good and evil.

It's been a good twenty plus years, so my recollection is fuzzy.
posted by adipocere at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Lucifer is the fallen angel, so it sounds like he's basically saying the material world is the "fallen" part of the world, working back to pure goodness or unity with god, which would presumably be some form of pure spirit - that rather than having been created as perfect matter and then falling, its very material creation would have been its falling away from the perfection of god. That goes along with some theological attitudes toward the unity of god and the inherent baseness of the material world.
posted by mdn at 2:47 PM on December 13, 2007

Yes, adipocere has it. This is the main theme running through Blatty's book Legion. Good book.
posted by oh pollo! at 2:58 PM on December 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, adipocere for pointing me in the right direction. Kermode is somewhat obsessed about film of The Exorcist (should have looked there first... ) turns out to be something from the prologue of the novel

"The brittle remnants of cosmic torment that once made him wonder if matter was Lucifer upward-groping back to his God."

And I've found this quote from Blatty (about the novel Legion) which explains it

'In the novel, the coda was needed to put a button on what the novel was all about -- Kinderman's rescue of God's goodness via his theory of "The Angel," which hypothesized that the fall of man was premundane; that before the Big Bang, mankind was a single angelic being who fell from grace and was given his transformation into the material universe as a means of salvation wherein his legion of fragmented personalities would spiritually evolve ("Can there be a moral act without at least the possibility of pain?") back into the original single angelic being, back into himself, a process foreshadowed on the opening page of The Exorcist ("that matter was Lucifer upward groping back to his God").'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:06 PM on December 13, 2007

Response by poster: (... Oh and thanks to Oh Pollo! Who nipped in while my back was turned who could have saved me some more googling...)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2007

The idea that the physical world is evil (created by the devil) is basic gnostic/neo-Platonist/kabbalist philosophy. See, for instance, the discussion of Lurianic cosmology here:
Before the Simsum, the various powers of the Ein-Sof or Infinite God, were harmoniously balanced and could not be separated from one another. These aspects were the opposing forces of Compassion (Rahamim) and Stern Judgement (Din), bound together in light. At the beginning of existence, the Ein-Sof withdrew into itself, creating an empty space (the Tehiru or vacuum), within which the forces of Din began to take on an independent life. This deeper concealment, or contraction of the Ein-Sof, thus resulted in a purging of the harsh dross which contained all elements of potential evil from the being of God. The empty space thus contained the forces of Din and a remnant, the Reshimu, or impression of the the Divine Light...

The vessels of the upper three Sephiroth Kether, Hokmah and Binah at first performed well in the task of holding the light, but when the light poured down through the lower vessels, from Hesed through Yesod, these six lower vessels shattered and were dispersed into the chaotic void of the tehiru. This was the Shebirat-ha-kelim, "the breaking of the vessels". The original vessels were in what is now the world of Atziluth, but when the light from above penetrated the Sephira Malkuth, this shattered into 288 sparks which failed to return to the primordial source but instead fell through the worlds, and became attached and trapped in the broken framents of the vessels which formed the kelipoth, the "shells" or "husks". These husks became the evil forces of the Sitra Ahra, the "other" or "under" world, preventing the return of the sparks of divine light to its source. Thus the light or energy of creation "fell into matter".

The next stage in the cosmic process, and the one in which we are ourselves living, is that of the Tikkun, the period in which processes of restoration and repair must be undertaken. The primary medium for this restoration is the light that continued to emanate from the eyes of Adam Kadmon. This light now became refashioned into a series of emanations known as the Partzufim or Archetypal Persons which restore order to the chaos of the Shebirah.
These ideas have been very trendy (among a certain type of intellectual, obviously) for the last few decades, and your quote sounds like a reflection of them.
posted by languagehat at 3:51 PM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is undoubtedly a Blatty reference, since Mark Kermode is "one of the world's leading authorities" on The Exorcist (as you know doubt know, if you're a listener of the podcasts!).
posted by hot soup girl at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2007

You find this idea of matter being inherently imperfect in a lot of the places languagehat mentioned. Zoroastrianism is the grand-daddy of this idea, where matter is infected with evil and humans are the battleground for good. Demi-Urgos spirituality, like the gnostics, had an inherent belief that only the spirit belonged to the true god and all of reality was impure since it was created by a half god. Check out Jainism for a more traditionally Eastern look at it. Michael Williams wrote a great book about it called 'Rethinking Gnosticism'. You see the theme come back in a more contemporary way in, for example, Albert Camus' 'The Plague'.
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2007

This concept is discussed by Arthur Young he calls it process theory
posted by hortense at 10:55 PM on December 13, 2007

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