(This represents a really rough draft which attempts to get at some of the ideals which underlie socialist radicalism through an examination of the parallels of historical literary figures: Prometheus, Spartacus, and various conceptions of the devil – especially those developed in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and Goethe’s ‘Faust I’ and ‘Faust II’. It might come across as a bit of a sequel to my prior paper on Marxist ideas in Dracula and their effect on modern conspiracism.)
‘Prometheus is the foremost saint and martyr in the philosopher’s calendar.’ – Karl Marx, Berlin March 1841
‘Spartacus is revealed as the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history. Great general (no Garibaldi), noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat.’ – Karl Marx, Letter to Friedrich Engels 27 February 1861
It has been said that “Prometheus plus Spartacus equals the starting point of Marxism” (Draper, 1971). Such a view however ignores the importance of what might be considered ‘Hegelian Satanism’. Despite sometimes being equated with Jesus, the idea of Prometheus as a hero to revolutionaries was deeply informed by prior ideas about Satan as the ‘hero’ of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ — and indeed also it has been said that “the merging of Prometheus and Satan was one of the crucial symbolic transformations” as it related to revolutionary thinking (Boss, 1991, p. 157).
Karl Marx (1818-1883) is also seen to have a deep attachment to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749-1832) ‘Faust’ plays/poems. The Goethe story – though distinct in its portrayal of the devil Mephistopheles — was likely influenced by a Miltonian view of Satan, and Goethe praised Milton’s conception even before he wrote his Faust part I.
Marx’ fixation on both the ‘benevolent’ Lucifer-Prometheus (that is, the lightbringer and fire-giver) archetype and the darker/sinister Faustian Mephistopheles (‘deciever-enslaver’) archetype who exchanges short term worldly power for eternal damnation in hell — may be the origins of a ‘Hegelian dialectic’ in Satanism. However, Marx may have been an innovator in simultaneously praising ‘both sides’ of Satan, he was far from the first ‘literary radical’ to idolize these figures in a revolutionary sense.
Marx’ hero Spartacus is symbolically similar figure as the ‘human Prometheus or Lucifer’ who, unlike the fallen angel or Titan instead rises up from his chains against authority for the proletariat but is eventually destroyed by his master (rather than resultantly shackled for his transgression). In addition, a classical interpretation of Spartacus by Plutarch claimed that prophetic signs declared that Spartacus “would have a great and terrible power which would end in misfortune“. In this sense, the idealized historical character of Spartacus – who leads his uprising against the Roman authority despite its foretold catastrophe – may be seen as a ‘synthesis’ of Lucifer-Prometheus (thesis) and Faustian Mephistopheles (antithesis) ‘Satanic hero’ archetypes which were popular among radical writers of the Romantic era.