On the RWS version of this card we see a man and a woman submitting to the control and influence of a big, scary, winged, horned beast of a Devil. The man and woman are both chained to the block on which the devil is perched, but they don’t seem to be terribly upset about it, judging by their faces. Apparently they haven’t noticed that there is enough slack in those chains to simply slip them off over their heads and walk away. Ah, but then they would have to take responsibility for their own cute little horns and tails. If they stay in bondage, they have someone to blame.
Those chains need to be loose, because otherwise the people in them would not have been able to get them on. The devil didn’t make them do it. Darkness and light exists within us all. Sometimes those forces become personified to the point that we appear to be mere pawns in a game we cannot hope to influence beyond choosing the “right” side. So one side is chosen and the other rejected or, more to the point, repressed. This choice can go either way.
There is dark and light in us all. You cannot have one without the other. There’s a reason the Tao symbol looks the way it does. We are all capable of anger, violence, mayhem, ignorance, greed, envy. Political parties thrive on eliciting an emotional response from their constituents, drilling fear into their hearts and counting on collective ignorance to propagate lies. We don’t allow people to watch cinematic sex until they are 18, but any twelve year old can legally watch people being shot, tortured, beaten, etc. to the point it becomes mundane, or see worse on their gaming consoles, while many of us celebrate socially acceptable violence in certain sporting events. Children are conditioned to grow up into adults who will conform to the systems laid out in a given society or else suffer consequences of the kind that leave them feeling marginalized, powerless, or just plain wrong. Is that the work of the devil? Get a grip. Collectively, as the human race, we did all that and much, much more. Did we get something out of each of these things? Sure. Was it worth it? You tell me.
The terms “good” and “bad” are too often used as a stick to beat people with. It’s not really about that. It’s about awareness, learning what your thoughts and feelings mean to you, where they come from, what the consequences of acting on them are for yourself and others, how to resolve the personal issues they reveal. It’s certainly not about repressing these things. All repression accomplishes is to keep the lid on the pressure cooker until the cooker explodes, sometimes in spectacular ways. The phrase “going postal” comes to mind.
Our feelings, thoughts and actions are the materials we use to collectively construct our world. However, our thoughts and feelings are what they are, not what people might tell us they should be. Do yourself a favour and don’t listen to those people. Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Be aware of them. You don’t necessarily need to act them out, but you do need to integrate them as part of who you are. When we ignore or try to repress them it is most likely we are ignoring issues we should be dealing with. Ignoring them won’t make them go away, but it might make them fester.