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Ex Libris Nocturnis

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The Concept of God and the Divine in Demon: the Fallen


by J. Tuomas Harviainen (tharviai@cc.helsinki.fi) Summary: A systematic analysis of Demon: the Fallen in the manner given to theological documents. This article originally appeared on Ex Libris Nocturnis at the URL: http://www.nocturnis.net/articles/demon/default /2003/January/360/page1.html Foreword This is an academic look at the concept, nature and attributes of the being called "God" in the core book of Demon: the Fallen. While a certain congruence with previous pieces of mythology (such as the controversial "Revelations of the Dark Mother") exists, they are not relevant to this study. I have not had access to the later "Lucifer's Shadow" text, and am thus considering Demon an isolated work for the purposes of this analysis. I will initially go through the basic traits attributed to God in the book, and then move on to analyze each facet of the "omnipotence-omniscience-omnibenevolence vs. the existence of suffering" paradox and its probable answers within the given material. (The paradox, for those who are not familiar with it, is that the existence of suffering in the world can be easily explained by God not having one of those key attributes, but not if all three exist at the same time.) A comparison to basic Judeo-Christian theories will be included within the analysis, as it is not possible to separate the document from its cultural background. As my method I have utilized standard systematic analysis. Source criticism Before ascertaining any attribute of God from the book, we must look at the reliability of the given information. For practical purposes, the only definition for God in Demon that is not told by the Fallen is the way he is addressed as "the Creator" throughout the Introduction chapter. Of the actual testimonies, I consider Malakh's the most reliable, as he has little to no reason to lie to his target audience. Gaviel is the most informative, but the least reliable due to Devil nature and signs of intentional manipulation of facts for his own benefit. Magdiel and Ahrimal appear less prone to outright lies, but have very little to offer. All sources have been utilized when creating this analysis, but when two or more of them come to conflict, Malakh's version is given preference. We must also consider the fact that God may or may not have displayed his true attributes to the angels, or those attributes may have been beyond the understanding of the Heavenly Host. Since the possibility of God having lied at least theoretically exists, any further statements about him made in this study are to be considered subject to this possible re-interpretation. For analytic purposes I am treating the elements as actual attributes, and therefore God "is" the Creator instead of "appearing to be". Further examination of the theses outside this diegetic mainframe is thus strongly suggested. Creator All sources refer to God as the Creator. Of the interconnected attribute, of being the Sustainer, there is no mention. As a result, the Creation appears essentially self-sustaining, a view that is supported by the way he used servants to build it instead of creating it ex nihilo like he did the angels, and by the creation of the "great engines of Heaven" to regulate it. God is present in relation his Creation in both the immanent and the transcendent sense, but descriptions of his participation in it seems to vary according to source.

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Ex Libris Nocturnis

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Gaviel describes God as the Unmoved Mover of Thomas Aquinas' kinetic (ex motus) argument, but mixes it with the stoicneoplatonic view of apathetic perfection. This latter view, discarded in this form as outdated by orthodox doctrine, sees perfection as a state where no change can happen because such a change would imply imperfection either before or after the change. The stories themselves deny this, as God is clearly capable of wrath, or at least willing to fake its existence. That which is not God is initially absolutely nothing. The Creator has a will, and that will becomes a reality, creating the finite to compliment God's infinity. The implementation of that will is done by proxy, as explained above. Other attributa absoluta of God are immortality, infinity and pre-existence. What is not said directly, but is made clear, is that God is also unique. The sole mentioned attributa respectiva is the fact that human souls are the image of God, and thus by implication the situation is vice versa. God's gender is questioned in the texts, but in this we must take the most likely explanation, that of Malakh using the masculine pronoun. Gaviel's talk of a female deity is by context far less reliable, and takes the appearance of an intentional provocation instead of a revelation. Due to this, I use the masculine version when referring to God in this study. The most interesting detail, however, is what is not said. God is consistently described with only one personality. Of the Logos (the Word of God, i.e. Christ), supposedly present at creation according to Christian doctrine, there is no sign. Neither is there directly of the Holy Ghost, although he has been traditionally associated with God's will, thus making a connection to what is mentioned on p. 23 a possible explanation. Even that is problematic, though, as the paragraph implies an act of creation, which is inconsistent with the Holy Spirit being a prosopon (roughly "face" or "mask" in lay terms) of the Godhead. In an analytical sense, all this implies a diegesis ("that which is true within the story") where Jewish and/or Islamic interpretations of the nature of God are closer to the truth than Christian ones. No contradictions to the last alternative essentially exist, and so by omission even that unlikelier explanation can be applied to the text, should it meet the needs of the reader better. Even the closest real-world approximation is still quite far from the game's view of God. Omnipotence Gaviel directly uses the word "omnipotent" to describe God. He also calls God "the Almighty". Yet if we examine the situation, the limits of that definition become apparent. God needed to create a host of angels to isolate the infinite from the finite and thus avoid destroying the latter. His merest caress permanently wounds Creation. This implies the simultaneous existence of immeasurable power and a lack of total control over it. The extent of that power is still so vast that feeling its absence is described as a negative experience by those banished from its presence. The worst inconsistency in Gavriel's speech is his referring to the famous stone-lifting paradox. It is out of place, being used to talk of multiple realities instead of the nature of omnipotence. By definition, omnipotence includes everything except the ability to break the law of contradiction (which states that nothing can truly be and not-be something at the same time.) A metalevel existence does nothing to allay this problem, instead convoluting it further. It is reasonably safe to assume thus that Gaviel is using it only to confuse and distract his audience, but that does not reduce the value of the connected information. If God created - and therefore either wanted or needed - servants existing simultaneously on multiple levels of reality, he very likely existed on at least those same levels himself, or was at the very least capable of doing so. Omniscience Omniscience is the most difficult aspect in the God-concept of Demon: the Fallen. Either he is all-knowing, which leads to him becoming a sadistic tyrant, or he is limited in his vision, in which case he no longer fits the profile of the Judeo-Christian God. There is evidence to support both views, and a third alternative. In theory, God must be aware of the traits he included in his creations, on either a personal or a theoretical level to remain omniscient. Thus he had to have some awareness of things like "rebellion" or "evil", just like the Cryptics say. This is not an issue of free will in itself, nor is it something governed by the aforementioned law of contradiction, but a conceptual matter. Either God knows everything, or he knows not. The third option is the apologetic route taken by modern-day fundamentalism, which explains that God has chosen to limit his own knowledge. In other words, at some point the Maker has decided to forget his knowledge of the future, or of some parts of it. No reason to such behavior can be truly postulated, with the possible exception of God "not wanting to know how the book ends". Yet that does not make the theory any less valid, or a simple cop-out. As sated elsewhere throughout this study, the only comprehensible aspect of god is his incomprehensibility.

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Ex Libris Nocturnis

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As a tangential element, it is important to note that there are clear signs throughout the texts that God is not omnipresent. He comes and goes, by a manner not explained. Whether or not this is due to him living in Heaven, as stated by Malakh, is open to interpretation. What seems certain, however, is that God normally stays outside the boundaries of his creation, supposedly in order to protect it from destruction, but still ventures there nightly before the revolt without any trouble. This is an extremely important thing, to which I will return in the Conclusions chapter of this study. Omnibenevolence Again, according to Gavriel God is "benevolent". He is credited as having created creatures with the potential for but not access to a truly free will. Humanity was designed to be kept innocent, ignorant and incapable of higher functions. Viewed from any perspective but that of an omniscient entity, it can be construed as an autocratic, self-gratifying act by a superior being. On one hand, we have a creator to whom everything owed its existence, on the other is the intuitive sense that like it's not morally right for parents to do as they wish with a child they gave life to, it isn't right for God to toy with his creations. According to Malakh, it was as if humans were created to worship God, who came to them each night for worship, but forever remained silent. Adam and Eve grew worried because of this, but God did not see fit to change the situation. When he did react, it was in a vengeful manner that was the result of the humans showing a free will. The most biblical quality appointed to God in Demon is his propensity to make apparently arbitrary choices. This is best displayed in the story of Abel and Caine, where both are as eager to please God yet he accepts only the offering of one of the brothers. This is not said to be due to failure on Caine's part, but rather an act of the Creator's discrimination. A strange effect is created by several comments towards God's mercy, but solely in a context of not receiving it. The only occasion where it is even approached is the restoration of the faithful humans, and even then it is the loyal angels who, instead of God, provide the succor. Conclusions As a result of the analysis, the following are the most likely conclusions, and most probable to be true within the book's intended diegetic frame: 1. The game's God is beyond the comprehension of his creations. He is clearly a person and an individual, and has possibly assumed an anthropomorphic form (he is described as having feet by Magdiel, though it may be a metaphor), but utterly incomprehensible to all others. He lives in a transcendental place called Heaven by his (former) servants. 2. He presents an appearance, true or not, resembling a purely Old Testament perception of "God" more than any Christian view, including those interpreting the OT elements through a New Testament lens. He differs from even that enough, though, and does not equate with any major religion's concept of the Divine. 3. God preferred to remain distant, directing his wishes through a select hierarchy of messengers. In this he breaks the micromanagerial OT mold. Yet he has taken enough direct activity to make Deist explanations even less fitting. The reasons and nature of his current status as deus absconditus is not analyzable with the material at hand. 4. The Creator is not benevolent by any human or Fallen standards. If he is, he is that solely due to being privy to more information than anyone else, and considers suffering not negative enough in the long run to prevent it. His principal presented trait is that he demands obedience without explaining why. From a human perspective, he is a monster misusing his - questionable - ownership rights. The observable contradiction between his nightly visits to Eden and his apparent need to protect reality from his presence at other times lends heavy credence to the Cryptic assumption that God has been lying all along, and set both the Fallen and humanity up to further his own agenda. The testimonies of the Fallen point towards this agenda being the replacement of the Godhead by humanity. 5. The God of Demon: the Fallen is apparently an individual concept, on which no universal external interpretations can be imposed. At the same time, he is described vaguely enough that enough interpretation can be made to suit different gaming requirements without having to contradict the book. The best description of his observable qualities in Demon is within the information on the Cryptic faction (p. 113), as this study hopefully shows. 6. Within the context of the game, God is known to exist or at the very least as having existed. This is a very important thing to note, as it differs strongly from the real-life belief that he does or does not. It is such a central theme to the game that I strongly suggest that Storyteller emphasize this fact to players, even if it means imposing their own views of God's nature on

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Ex Libris Nocturnis

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it. All Content and Art is copyright 1998-2004 Katherine Burress and Christopher Simmons unless otherwise Specified. Applicable information, books and products are 1997 White Wolf Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved, any reproduced artwork or text are for review purposes only.

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