The Devils You Know


Freud said that we have drives, mostly toward gaining immediate pleasure, but we also have more realistic plans that require us to put those drive on hold if not repress them forever. And he said that most of this desire and denial goes on without us being aware of it.

Jean Paul Sartre, an existentialist to the core, declared Freud’s unconscious a myth no better than those of religions. “Knowing is consciousness of knowing” says Sartre. Self-deception, which by Sartre’s definition is all that the unconscious is, is a voluntary act and thereby not unknown to some part of ourselves. This self-deception is “Bad faith” and not at all good.

So this drawing is a little mash-up of those theories. The devils–our drives, our unconscious–are not quite us nor are they invisible to us. “Hell [the devils] is the others” says Sartre in one of his plays. The others, shown here on stage as in a play, are treating the devils at best as servants; useful, necessary but invisible. So here hell isn’t the others, the people like us, but the other in us; the part of us which according to Freud we can’t know unless an other explains it to us but according to Sartre we can know and only don’t know because we choose not to.

Only the artist, shown here as but another actor, is acknowledging his prideful devil, by drawing with his devilish tail. But who’s to say he not an actor but the author and the other devils in the cast–envy, gluttony and lust–are not his as well projected to the others?