Dialogues with the Devil by Taylor Caldwell

I personally am not a religious person, though I was raised around religion. I don’t normally read religious works, fiction or nonfiction, but this one seemed like such an interesting concept to me. The majority of the novel is comprised of letters being exchanged between Lucifer and the Archangel Michael. Within the letters, they debate about the fate of humanity on Terra (Earth), and Lucifer recalls all the other worlds of God’s creation that he has destroyed time and time again in order to eliminate Man.

“There are a thousand ways to death and only one way to life, but men seek the road to destruction.”

The “one way to life” would, I assume, mean following God always. However, Lucifer has made it his duty to tempt and suggest to men the ways of defying God and living only for themselves. He claims again and again in his letters that he is not the guilty one – man is the only one who can shoulder the guilt because it was their choice to turn away from God. God continually gave Men free will, even though it was that same free will that Lucifer preyed upon to ignite Mens’ defiance – on Terra as well as the other worlds Lucifer has visited and brought destruction and death to.

“If my entry into Heaven must be accompanied by the souls of Men, then I prefer my Hells.”

Lucifer’s hatred for Man, his desire for their complete downfall, is what brought about his own fall from Heaven, and it is the only thing that keeps him from Heaven. He still loves his Father and brother angels; he just cannot accept Man being raised to the status of the angels and welcomed into Heaven. He tempts them to prove to God that his creating Man was a mistake and that they deserve to be eradicated. However, he is only holding himself prisoner along with the humans he is able to corrupt and damn.

“He holds you, though not entirely blameless, not the ruthless killer Men consider you to be. You are in truth only their servant. You are the designer, but it is Men who project the design into reality… Men hail you as their God, but you are a god in chains.”

Lucifer’s striving to tempt and damn humans is very paradoxical. He hates them for the exact behaviors that he tempts them into. He hates what he drives them to be. Michael poses the idea several times throughout the letters that Lucifer is probably more satisfied of the souls that refuse him and enter into Heaven rather than follow him into Hell, because that is one soul less to chain him in his prison. If no human soul was corruptible, if Lucifer would be proven wrong in his contempt for humanity, then he could repent and return to Heaven. But instead, he draws out the wretchedness he sees in humanity and brings down with him any who embrace that wretchedness over the lighter, saintly sides of themselves.

“My demons look upon the bountiful harvest of the souls of men with revulsion, for never even among demons was ever a spirit so malicious, so imbued with hatred for his fellows as the spirit of man. Never was a creature so loveless even as he preached love to the Heavens.”

As I mentioned, I’m not a religious person. I believe this book, if read by old-fashioned, overly devout Catholics, would be a major ego check. Getting ridiculed by Lucifer would be understandable, but Michael is not easy in his judgement on the humans of Earth either. Several times, he concedes with Lucifer on the stupidity, the ugliness, the depravity, the the overall insignificance of humanity on Earth. They both find it beyond comprehension that of all the worlds God had created, he chose Earth to send his son to die for. Michael, at one point, refers to Earth as a “bloody little ball of mud.” Personally, I laughed at a lot of the criticisms from both of the angels – the blunt truth of them. Coming from Michael, it was even more amusing to me, but I assume some of the more religious minded people might find that blasphemous in some way. I don’t have much confidence that any zealously Catholic folk would take kindly to reading about how the demons view us as pathetic and abhorrent and even less so to read that the angels find us small and naïve. Contempt from demons is one thing, that would be expected I suppose, but contempt from the angels would be like a slap to the face to some I’m sure.

“Why did you harken to me, Beast of beasts?” The answer fell before me: ‘I believed in nothing but myself, in my own grandeur, in my own will.’ But they believed in me.

Although I said the criticisms from both Lucifer and Michael didn’t affect me, there were certain topics brought up in Chapters 12 and 13 that made me a bit angry. I’ll go more into detail on this and I’ll put brackets [ ] around it in case you want to skip it in order to read it for yourself, and maybe come back and read my words on it after. First, I’d like to include some other quotes that I found intriguing:

  • When they emerge with words of love and mercy and compassion, they’re greeted with derision, or with the inevitable murder. Have they not learned? Will they never learn? The man who comes with the bread of pity and the bread of life in his hands is doomed to hatred and assassination.
  • The serpent in the forest is not as poisonous as man. The rabid bat is not as mad and loathsome. The toothed shark is not so foul a scavenger. For none of these can lie. That is the prerogative of man only. He is more dreadful than these, for he lacks their innocence, and he knows what he does and he does it with enthusiasm and passion. It is through his lies that man comes to me. Lie is a perversion and man is a pervert.
  • “I did not see God among men,” he said. You did not look. You were too dull in your human arrogance and too enamored in humanity.
  • When virtue is carried to excess, it becomes an evil thing and mortally dangerous.

[ Chapter 12 is in Lucifer’s voice and chapter 13 is in Michael’s voice. Both of these chapters start off extremely misogynistic. Lucifer talks about how the women of Earth have become ugly, shrill, demanding, and just overall “unwomanly” in their search for equality with men. He is disgusted by them even though he is the one who put the thoughts into their heads to become more “masculine.” He also talks about his disgust with the men who have become more “feminine” – examples he gives are men taking care of the children (*gasp* such a lowly occupation), gay men (homophobia, I should have expected it to pop up somewhere in the book I suppose), and men being friendly companions to their wives (for real, he states that men should be worshipped by their women, not become their friends/equals). And Michael agrees with him about it all! He is saddened about women diverging from the saintly, patronage image of Mary (who Michael and Lucifer both view as the perfect woman) and denounces them as damned for daring to make a life for themselves other than in the servitude to men. Misogyny and Homophobia are 2 main reasons I tore myself away from the church, despite my parent’s wishes I’d stay. I never understood the bigotry and hypocrisy that runs rampant in Catholicism. These two chapters just agitated that lasting exasperated anger at the hatred religion has always seemed – at least to me – to stir in people. ]

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