Devils’ Workshop

There is an old English adage, ‘An empty mind is a Devil’s workshop’. It implies that people who do not have any work to do tend to use their mental faculty in mischievous ways to harm others. However, the one question that arises in my mind is – is this a matter of perception? When we are young, we are given a whole lot of knowledge about the devil and his underworld workshop filled with cauldrons of boiling oil, his bed of nails and what not. So the moral that is imbibed in us is – ‘Be a good boy or the devil will sprint you away’. So let us take a while and delve into this topic for a while.

The first perception formed by us the moment we hear the word ‘devil’ is about heaven and hell. Hell, as described by Dante Alighieri, consists of nine circles – each of which represents a sin, each punishment different and more severe as the wickedness increases. The innermost or ninth circle houses Satan/Devil himself, being punished for committing treachery against God. The ninth circle is hell itself – but not the fiery depths we imagine but rather a frozen lake in the middle of which Satan is punished. Therefore, how can someone being punished create so much disruption/damage?

The next perception that comes to our mind is that of the boiling cauldrons of oil and bed of nails, etc. Classical historians and writers of old describe ‘Hell’ as starting with a ride in the boat with Charon, the pilot who ferries people from the land of living to Hell along the River Acheron. Once we reach the gates of hell, what we see is very different. There are no fiery fires, no bed of nails. Rather we see people compete against each other in tasks assigned to them so repent their avarices, sins, etc. Each hell has a guardian/overseer, a judge of the underworld (such as Minos, Cerberus, Pluto, etc in Greek mythology; Hades for the Romans myth; Chitragupta in Hindu mythology; etc). Greek, Hindu mythology, among others, contains different levels of Hell and each has a separate judge looking over the various levels.

Coming back to the adage, we find most miscreants or disruption creators do such activities out of a blank, bored mind. So what is the relation between a blank mind and the devils workshop? According to me, a blank mind tends to nurse non-utilitarian thoughts, which are projections of doubts one harbours in the subconscious or unconscious. The mind has a propensity to attach itself to depression, loneliness and doubts when left empty. A busy mind has too many processes to tend to and is unable to give these issues any thought. Various psychological researchers have studied and concluded that the more we use our mind the happier our lives are. Empty minds lead to negativity and hence to the path of destruction. Some of the world’s greatest disruptions have been caused by empty minds. The proportional of damage/ harm caused by empty minds differs, but the result is always counterproductive to the human race.

This question can be answered to an extent using the words of John Lennon, ‘Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky’. The simplicity and thought behind the song explains the ‘devil’ to an extent. All these compositions, musical or literary, repeatedly say the same thing. They all aim at spreading harmony and friendship among fellow humans. That way no one will ever feel lonely, depressed or have doubts. Eliminating these one can restrict the devil from entering ones thoughts. Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso contain a very subtle thought contained in between the lines. It is not only Dante’s travels through the various levels of hell and heaven, but rather I would say it describes the good and bad present in all of us. All of us have the devil trapped in the centre of our own ninth circle. Minds tend to unlock these nine circles of Dante’s hell whenever we keep them empty. The emptier the mind, the deeper into hell we go and bigger the harm we do. So my patient readers, I leave you with a question, how empty is ‘your’ mind and which level of hell are you unlocking?

Shirshadeep Bhattacharyya