In Jewish and Christian thought there are not only good angels but evil angels. These last, once the servants of god, though fallen are still mighty. Since they were once heavenly beings, they have wings; since they rebelled against god and rejected his gifts, they have been transformed into figures as hideous as they were formerly beautiful. Once noble, the devils are now foul and grotesque.
The tragic satan whom Milton describes as looking like the sun in a cloudy dawn or the moon in eclipse, sad but sublime, is not the devil as conceived by most Christian poets, artists and thinkers. For there is still something left to admire , even to pity. No, Satan is either the cruel tempter, jester and liar of Job and Faust or a monster like the Lucifer whom Dante saw at the very root of hell; with three faces: black, red, and pallid yellow- three mouths chewing the bodies of archsinners, and three pairs of wings, not like those worn by angels but like those night-flying, blood sucking bats, ” and he was flapping them to make three separate blasts of icy wind.”
Hatred, not pity; disgust, not admiration; yes, and fear-these are the three cold emotions which are stirred in most poets and artists by the sight, the very thought, of the foul fiend and his angels. There is a terror which Jacques Callot depicted in his Temptation of St. Anthony. Young men, distracted by their new sexual urge, often imagine that the worst affliction of the saints was their enforced celibacy, the worst temptation visions of beautiful, naked, accessible women.
But the hardest temptation for many saints has been the sense of hopeless terror in the presence of real, powerful, strong-willed, all but ubiquitous evil. And so, in Callot’s picture, we see the wretched saint alone, with no church, no sanctuary, no visible companion, surrounded and all but overwhelmed by the forces of unreason and utter disorganization, dominated for a time at least by the Prince of the Powers of the Air.