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Desire and its demons


"I am made a demon and you are to blame," says the lyrics of a famous song by Los Náufragos that was all the rage in the pop of the '70s. The "culprit" in the song was a young woman who danced sensually, and the "demon" who subscribes was a male metamorphosed by desire. It would be implausible to suppose that the sensuality of a girl could arouse the "angel" of her courtship, because the devil relates to pleasure just as the angel relates to duty. This relationship, as old as the Christian West or the Puritan East, continues in our culture today. The idea of sinful pleasure makes desire a concept to repress, and the devil a diabolical entity with a great vocation to tempt mortals.

While the angels appear in the social imaginary as sexless soldiers who incite to preserve good manners, the demons do so as libertine bohemians, prone to revelry and the most daring excesses. But this libidinal characteristic of demons is not isolated in official beliefs. The Curupí, for example, is a Guaraní demon endowed with great virility that drives (literally) women who see him crazy. It is said that he wanders between the Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones, and it is suspected that he tends to devour (metaphorically) some of his female victims. Another demon who is very enthusiastic about erotic activities is little Trauko, a famous entity in the southern forests of Chile who deflowers the young women of the region.

For Sigmund Freud, demons are rejected bad desires, ramifications of repressed instinctual impulses that in their failure seal an impossible repetition. Freud studied in detail the case of Christopher Haitzmann, a Bavarian painter of the seventeenth century who made a pact with the devil, and concluded that the so-called demonic possessions were acute neuroses. Psychoanalysts believe that poor Haitzmann had made the devil the substitute for the father; and so it was.

Some referents of transpersonal psychology, such as Ken Wilber, also tend to relate the mythology of the demon with the repressed psyche of the subjects, an unconscious space that they call "shadow." In this way, if a celibate practitioner is invaded by desire, he will cast his "shadow" on a third party, far from his psyche, to make him responsible for his conflicting instinct. That third party will generally be a terrible demon or a beautiful woman.

The association between devil and woman is not a simple whim. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, and especially after the Inquisition and the witch hunt, European religious groups installed - and even exported - the idea of women as accomplices of the devil. They understood that woman, "physically and morally weaker than man", was very permeable to the deceptions of Satan, which made her one of the main links between the hosts of hell and society.

Beyond the multiple interpretations in this regard, it can be affirmed, without fear of being wrong, that the devil exists. Whether in hot caverns of hell or in popular imagery, this monstrosity spends much of his time crafting dark strategies to unbalance the unwary.

He deeply cultivates the art of seduction and is very prone to laughter. Promiscuous by nature, he possesses great cunning in solving the enigmas of the intellectual world. It can change shape and represent the hidden desire of a naive lady, and then violate her.

The devil and desire have their amoral essence in common, and it is precisely this essence that makes them elusive. Amorality, unlike immorality, is so visceral that it is not susceptible to any bribery. Hence the irreducible character of the Marquis de Sade, the great demon of world literature. Sade's amorality reacts to the immorality of power, and there is no prison or torture that subordinates him. Desire cannot be institutionalized, political corruption can.

Against the devil, there is nothing to do.


Alejandro Crimi, 
Argentine Writer
Photo Thaís Silva.
São Paulo

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