Illustration Friday - Angels & Devils
Jonh Steinbeck wrote in Chapter 34 of East of Eden, " I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us... Humans are caught – in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too – in a net of good and evil... A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill?"
The battle between good and evil within one's soul (psychomachia) was the main concern of medieval allegories, a tradition that originated with the Bible commentators of the early Christian era and continued on through the High and Late Middle Ages. Although these allegories appeared in diverse forms, such as the poem "Psychomachia" written by the Latin poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in about 400 A.D., the morality play Everyman, and Dante's The Divine Comedy, written between 1308 and 1321, all were ulitmately concerned with ars morendi, or "dying well." The moral lessons upon which these stories were built were intended to help their audiences lead a good Christian life so they might die in a state of grace. Although taking on many forms and appearances, the battle for one's soul and the desire to die with an unblemished record, continued through the centuries as a prominent element in literature and the arts.
Even in our modern world that has become increasingly secular, the concept of psychomachia continues to be a pervasive theme, most certainly because it is such a basic and compelling topic for human consideration. Many of us might say we've moved beyond good and evil, but still find ourselves playing referee between the angel on the right shoulder and the devil on the left shoulder. Steinbeck concludes chapter 34 with his apt explanation: "[In] the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil... evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue is immortal. Vice always has a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is."
(micron pen/ background done in photoshop)
5/18 edit - the finished version is posted above