Skip to content Skip to navigation


April 1, 2015

By Mary Warnement and Arnold Serapilio, in humble service to the Dark Master

Satan bust

Lucifer, made manifest in dreamy neoclassic marble.
Thomas Ridgeway Gould (1818-1881), Satan, 1862.
Marble. Boston Athenæum, Gift of several
subscribers, 1878.

Born of a nasty fall that knocked out whatever scraps of good will the angel ever possessed, Lucifer was raised in the Lake of Fire, i.e., the dark part of our hearts. He lives there to this day since none of us has raised the rent yet.

Lucifer spent his youth playing practical jokes on local fast-talkin' foot-washin' sensation Jesus Christ. One time he brought Jesus to the top of Mount Quarantania and said he would bequeath him all the lovely kingdoms spread magnificently before them, and all Jesus had to do in return was worship Lucifer instead of Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Of All That Is Seen And Unseen.

"Yeah, that one was a bust," Lucifer concedes. "I believe his exact words were, 'Nice try, but I get my boundless glory from within, thank you.' Whenever he preaches he gets this smug look on his face and he's just insufferable. Anyway, not my best work."

He's not all fun and games, though—he's got a serious side too. “I’ve got this pet project I’ve been working on for the past couple millennia," he says, his tone deliberate. "I breed psychopaths and then place them in positions of influence. Sociopaths, too. Hell, anyone with an antisocial personality disorder will do, though it helps if they're powerful. You put them around other people and watch things unfold. Quite fascinating."

With so much of his time tied up in machinations (more on that below), when did Lucifer find out about the Athenæum? “First, please don’t call me Lucifer. That sounds so stuffy—so formal," he says. "Satan is fine. Or The Devil. Or Beelzebub. Or The Prince of Darkness. Or The Anti-Christ. Or The Son of the Morning. Or the Lord of the Underworld..."

Fine, but the Athenæum…? “Right,” he says. “I’ve been with the Athenæum since the beginning…1800 something [1807 -ed.]  I am the Athenæum. Remember, it’s my job to reign supreme over humanity’s myriad malevolent impulses. At land or at sea; in the air, everywhere. There is no place too obscure, no state too pure, that I might stay my hellish hand, all are doomed in this jilted land. This entire marble's my workshop. Libraries, museums, sanctuaries—all of it."

So everybody is damned, simple as that, end of story? "I prefer to say ‘guaranteed'. Only mortals say ‘damned’. But yes, everybody.”

The only patron with an eternal membership, Satan opts to work in the basement rather than the fifth floor that so many other members hold dear. “I prefer to be underground whenever possible. Love the bathroom down there. It shares a wall with the steam room, so it’s always boiling hot and dripping wet. Just my speed.”

Like so many other Athenæum members, Satan is a dedicated artist. His most famous piece, Humanity (‘a work in progress,” he mumbles, gazing at the floor), has been panned and praised more than he cares to admit. Noted for its elliptical narrative structure, relentless and often ham-handed irony, wildly fluctuating tone, and ever-increasing cast of unreliable narrators, Humanity is a meditation on—on what, exactly?  

“Damned if I know,” he says. "I just started writing it one day. Didn’t know why, just knew I needed to do it. I’ve been working on it for a while now and I still don’t have a plot. I have no idea how close I am to the end. Imagine you've been walking through a forest for hours? days? months? years? You don't even know how long. And you're just trying to get through the forest so you can get on with life. But all you see around you is trees and so there’s no telling whether the clearing is just a few paces ahead or miles away.”

Creative endeavors aside, what's it like to be a forsaken angel? "Rough." The historical, theological, and psychic sublimation of humankind's collective acknowledgement and profound fear of their worst inclinations, Satan is often used as a scapegoat for Why Bad Things Happen. He has been linked to world wars, indifference to other people and/or outright pleasure in their misfortune, all technological advances, almost every genre of music, fetid and corrosive odors, and keeping an open mind.

"And so much more. I get blamed for lots of crazy stuff," he chuckles (when Satan laughs he snorts, a sound reminiscent of an incorporeal entity howling through a car horn, cacophonous and ghoulish). "'I want to say to these goofs, 'It's aaaall you, my friends.' But who listens? You have to just throw up your hands and say ‘I haven’t got time for this, I’ve got enough on my plate.’"

He’s not kidding. His daily itinerary, reprinted with permission:

1. Midnight: complete low-impact aerobics [he is partial to walking squats]
2. 12:20 a.m.: deploy bad weather maneuvers
3. 12:34 a.m.: make a wish
4. 12:35 a.m.: incite moral transgression—matters of the flesh
5. 8:26 a.m.: incite moral transgression—matters of the mind
6. 6:66 p.m.: eat dinner/corrupt a world leader
7. 7:07 p.m.:  incite moral transgression—matters of the spirit
8. 10:00 p.m.: work out tomorrow’s stratagems
9. 10:30 p.m.–midnight: post-mortem with God over bowling

When does he find time to sleep in all this? “I don’t,” he says. “I’ll sleep when the kingdom, the power, and the glory are mine, now and forever.” He raises an eyebrow in thought. “Should be any day now.”