“With Freedom is thy struggle, O Evil One: it can cast on thee a muzzle, if it so please. … I confess, O Evil One that as usury: I lay up the King’s treasures, till His coming. O Death, rather deny that this belongs to God: this treasure of subtlety, which I have stored. Thy coinage is fraudulent, then, O Satan: that into the treasuries of God, is not received. … Closed and bound be thy mouth, Evil One, who art thus bold: to set thyself, lo! In comparison with the creator. … Love melts down many, as in a furnace: and makes one powerful mass, that overcomes all. In it are wisdom and cunning, and force and power: it is greater far than an image of sixty cubits.” ~St. Ephraim the Syrian
You may not believe this, but when I opened this book on my Kindle and started quoting from this passage, I was not aware that it was written by a Syrian. Who wrote it, however, is really not important. What matters is what it can teach us, if we choose to listen.
First, St. Ephraim tells the Evil One (Satan) that his struggle is with freedom, for freedom has the power to bind him and muzzle him. That is allegory, of course. Freedom doesn’t literally bind Satan, it allow people to learn, to grow, and to see the falseness in his teachings and his fear-mongering.
Fear tells us that we must take the job that is offered, even though we consider the work immoral or unethical, otherwise our family will starve, we will be shunned as lazy welfare people, and so on. Fear makes us take the job that pays us one forth of what we are earning for the wealthy business owner, otherwise we might not find a job at all, and the wealthy love that we do all the work, and they get most of the perks. Satan tells us to fear those of another race, nationality or religion. And in doing so, manipulates us just at the very wealthy who run the world do. Irrational fears like banning five million refugees because one turned out to be a terrorist.
But, Ephraim goes on to say, Satan “coinage” is fraudulent and will be rejected by God. What are the coins of Satan? There are many, but the primary ones are fear, lies and materialism. There are, of course, overlaps with them. In order to make us fear things that should not be feared, we are lied to, over and over until we accept the lies. We are lied to when we are told that the material world is the only world, or the only real world, and therefore we are justified in doing whatever we can to get ahead in this world or death, destruction and competition because of the lie that there isn’t enough to go around, so we need to grab what we want and don’t worry about those who have to do without. “It is just Nature’s way,” we are told. No, it isn’t, its Satan’s way. And we are led to fear the things that can harm our material bodies and material possessions because we are led to believe they are important, when they really are not, at least nowhere near as important as our spirit and soul.
Finally, Ephraim tells us that Love “melts down” Satan’s lies and reveals the truth. That is true, but wisdom and knowledge—REAL knowledge—are also important in helping us bind Satan and escape the Great illusion. When we love someone it is impossible to fear them. When we love something, we cannot fear it, be lied to about it, or be convinced to use it as a weapon to kill others (I know some will say, “what about those who love guns?”. They don’t really love guns, they cling to them like a crutch out of fear, or worship them as symbols of the false god, Satan. Neither of those is really love. ) But wisdom and knowledge is also important. When we are wise, we know that surrendering to fears, even ones that do make sense, will only make fear more powerful in us and allow it to soon make us irrational with fear.
The solution to the problem, the way to bind and muzzle Satan, is to awaken our spiritual faculties: our spirit and soul. When those faculties are awakened and developed, we gain wisdom and knowledge through contact with the spiritual worlds, the angels and other beings that live there, including God, and we see beyond the fears and illusions and develop love for all as St. Francis did.