The Appeal of Satanism in Young Goodman Brown

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Mankind has a history of turning away from God and embracing evil. From the days of Cain to the present, there is a chain of men and women who have forsaken the promise of salvation in favor of what we call Satanism. Literature has sought to record this turning away in many instances. Even today, alternative, rebellious youths practice pseudo-Satanism. However, what remains unclear is the surviving appeal of the essentially self-defeating religion. Dr. Faustus sells his soul to the Devil in return for worldly success. Macbeth deals with the witches for their aid in prophesying his future. Even King Solomon consults a witch to assist the Israeli forces in battle. Yet, there are no real benefits to satanic worship. Any earthly gains are offset by eternal damnation. There must be some inherent appeal to Satan worship in the human psyche. Young Goodman Brown demonstrates the appeal of Satan worship due to its aspects of conspiracy, rebellion and man's inherent attraction to evil.

Human beings have an inherent desire for the companionship that is accessory to the state of conspiracy. Human beings are social creatures. We desire and need human contact. The popularity of the Kairos retreat is an example of the appeal of brotherhood and secrecy. The appeal of underground cults, such as Satan worship or Freemasonry lies in the occult sharing of secrecy. The society described by Mr. Hawthorne certainly fits this category. Goodman Brown is described as feeling a "loathsome brotherhood" with the gathered cultists. (108) The presider promises that the catechumens will gain knowledge of the "secret deeds" of their fellow townsmen. (108) It is significant to note that all of the people whom Goodman Brown admired are included in the diabolica...

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... character synthesizes this theme eloquently, explaining the "sympathy of your human hearts for sin." (109) "Evil is the nature of mankind," explains the fiend. (109) The final element that explains the appeal of Satan worship become clear as the supposed darkness of man's own soul is revealed.

The attraction of Satan worship can be seen as the derivative of basic evil in the human condition, the desire for rebellion and the desire for conspiracy. Since these aspects apply equally to all of the characters in the story, it logically follows that none of the members of society at large are unaffected. It appears that this seemingly isolated occurrence of Satanism is a condition of the human existence: perhaps the yan to a Christian yin. In that case, there is nowhere to hide from the all-pervasive influence of evil, not even within the confines of the human mind.

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