Did you ever notice how, in the movies, the bad guy is always laughing?
(Apologies to the late Andy Rooney for this opening line)
It made me wonder. After all, you see it all the time. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that since bad guys are a representation of Evil, and hence the Great Deceiver himself (a.k.a. the Devil, Satan, Old Nick, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, etc.), I think they take their cue from him. I’m sure you’ve encountered this business of the laughing Devil somewhere. A poor schlub is going to Hell for some reason or another, and the Devil is standing there laughing his tail off at him.
How can a being who is theoretically condemned to eternal damnation be so friggin’ jolly? I mean, ensnaring souls and poking those unfortunates with a pitchfork for all time must get repetitive and boring. One can get giggles out of that kind of thing for only so long, I would imagine.
I believe that there is an answer for this archetype of the Laughing Devil, and that answer lies in the symbology of the Tarot. In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, The Devil is card number 15 (picture at right). It is associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn, and therefore with Saturn, the planet of limitation. Some even see Saturn as oppressive, which it can be under certain circumstances. However, it is primarily linked with material manifestation, for without limitation, nothing could take form.
The Devil reminds us how easy it is to be ensnared by the illusion of the physical, placing us in a prison of our own making. The primary message to us is to look beyond illusion to the essential spirit underlying all things. This is the ultimate cosmic joke – that what we perceive is “how things really are.”
The realization to be grasped is that The Devil is actually God in disguise. We can undo that disguise by turning the pentagram in the picture right-side up, so that the proper order is restored.
The human faculty associated with The Devil card is mirth. It is important for us to see the humor in the everyday and, by seeing beyond, to approach the Divine.
So, now it is easy to see why the devil is laughing. He gets the joke! It seems that the deeper meaning of the symbol has been misunderstood, even perverted, into the laughing devil, or bad guy. In actuality, the archetype of The Devil wants us to join in and enjoy the joke that is being played on us by our senses. This is one of the crucial elements to understand in order to travel the path of enlightenment successfully.
Laugh it up!