El Angel Caido. The Fallen Angel. Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost in which Satan’s not depicted as a clear-cut villain but portrayed in an intensely human light. When God severed his love, this cut deep and Satan’s internal battles raged before he unleashed Chaos on the world. God’s rejection propelled him towards corruption but Love lay at the heart of it all. While God’s task was/is supposedly to bring Good from Evil, Satan’s mission is to reap Evil from Goodness.
I recently finished reading Saramago’s brilliant and irreverent little book, Cain. My sympathies have always been for this character as opposed to the squeaky-clean Abel and it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to understand this story as a clear-cut example of acute sibling rivalry. Why didn’t God accept Cain’s offering yet embrace Abel’s gifts with open arms? Doesn’t this rejection make God culpable in Abel’s murder? Saramago’s Cain makes this very accusation:
‘you are the one who is really to blame, I would have given my life for him if you had not destroyed mine…you had the freedom to stop me killing Abel, which was perfectly within your capabilities, all you had to do, just for a moment, was to abandon that pride in your infallibility that you share with all the other gods, and, again just for a moment, to be truly merciful and accept my offering with humility, because you shouldn’t have refused it, you gods, you and all the others, have a duty to those you claim to have created…you were the one who pronounced sentence, whereas I merely carried out the execution.’
That age-old debate between Free Will and Determinism, not to mention God’s supposed omniscience within all of this…A question which has never been satisfactorily answered and yet it’s something I’m still pursuing in the novel I’m currently writing. It was there in Duende, too. Maybe because it’s a question that is, ultimately, unanswerable. If there is such a thing as Divine Intervention then where the hell was God when Breivik slaughtered all those children on a small Norwegian island?
Anyway. I’ll leave that one to the theologians to battle out…
Meanwhile, here’s my own small contribution in the form of fiction:
Lope de Vega’s heroes were outlaws rather than clean-cut goodies and, for Rosa, this connected with her own preference to Cain over Abel. Her empathy was for the man with the perfect brother, the one who could do no wrong. The apple of his parents’ eye, Abel diligently tended his flock of pure white sheep and even God gave him preferential treatment. Understandably, perhaps, Cain ended up killed him. Any modern day psychologist would interpret this as acute sibling rivalry. Every which way, Cain experienced rejection so an attack on his idealised mirror image was the natural outlet for his internal rage.
Cain tilled the land but his offering of crops was refused by God while Abel’s sacrifice of his firstborn lamb was embraced with open arms. Instead of comforting Cain who was already aware he was the black sheep of the family, God mocked him with his elusive line of questioning:
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?
And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
And unto thee shall be his desire,
and thou shalt rule over him.
All well and good but difficult to see how the hell that was going to help Cain realise what he’d done wrong. He must have felt tainted from the moment of his birth and perhaps that was all part of God’s divine plan. If God had simply said yes instead of no then Abel would’ve remained alive and kicking. Rosa felt slightly abhorrent at God’s enigmatic line of thinking and began to wonder, not for the first time, if he had some vindictive streak in him, underpinning his need for divine providence to remain intact while disgracing the actors who are necessary participants in the unfurling of the plot.
Just as Satan, the Fallen Angel, had fallen into a state of bitter despair when God expelled him from Paradise, so, too, Cain, dejected and isolated from both his family and the Great Creator, lured his brother into a field where he murdered him. Not having any sisters or brothers, Rosa imagined she might have done the same. There’s a limit and human beings can only take so much. Tempers flare, a life gets lost and on account of this, Cain gets cast as the progenitor of evil while the impeccable brother, glorified in life as well as death, is often viewed as the world’s first martyr. Well done, God, smiled Rosa. Once again, you achieved your aim without taking any of the blame. Man’s bestowed with Free Will in order to fulfil your negation of responsibility to the people you supposedly created. Touché, God, touché.
From a contemporary perspective, Cain was an example of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell someone they’re worthless, a piece of shit or, worse, that they’re evil, then chances are they’ll become what they’ve been told. God could’ve consoled Cain but to do so would upset the overarching scheme. Cain was the repository of the demonic, the oppositional point against which love and goodness can exert their superiority. Evil is and always will be the oxygen of purity. Without the one, the other dies. As the Devil concluded in The Master and Margarita, ‘What would your good do if evil did not exist?’ (Love at the end without dawn)