Azazel & the Peril of Vanity

by keith on December 24, 2008

We often refer to the generation of the 1960′s as the “Me” generation. However, if you look at the current generation, we may be looking at a group more ego-centric than we’ve ever seen. From increases in Narcissistic Personality Disorder to the recent development of the concept of the “Truman Show” Syndrome, personalities in our society are totally out of whack.

Whereas in the old days, only true experts had a voice in shaping public opinion, nowadays everyone has a voice, everyone can become an overnight celebrity, and everyone can build enough hype around themselves to develop a following in their particular field of expertise (even if they aren’t really experts, as is often seen in the field of search engine optimization and social media optimization).

What results are over-inflated egos, built up and reinforced by people who blindly follow anyone who acts like they have it together, and a collective of self-concepts that are destined either for failure or for leaving a succession of destroyed relationships in their wake (usually both).

Swords, Shields, Lipstick and Eyeliner

If you’ve never read The Book of Enoch and you have some spare time, I would recommend it. I think it provides a great insight on how the ancients thought the world’s troubles came into being.

The Book of Enoch is a noncanonical book that expands on the story in Genesis 6:2-4, in which the “sons of God” (presumably the Watcher angels sent to guard over mankind) fall in love with the “daughters of men,” interbreed with them, and give birth to a race called the Grigori (or giants).

There was an undisclosed number of angels that made up this group of Watchers, and they were led by 18 chiefs. Each angel was assigned a task for teaching men the secret knowledge of God, from predicting the weather and mixing herbs to reading the stars and divination. Once their offspring, the Grigori, began reeking havoc on the earth, God sent his archangels to kill them and capture the Watchers for punishment.

Azazel, the WatcherNow, what I find interesting is that most of the angels were punished by being chained beneath the earth for 70 generations … all but one — Azazel. To Azazel was ascribed the whole crime, and, as a result, the following punishment was meted out:

“…Bind Azazyel hand and foot; cast him into darkness; and opening the desert which is in Dudael, cast him in there. Throw upon him hurled and pointed stones, covering him with darkness; There shall he remain for ever; cover his face that he may not see the light. And in the great day of judgment let him be cast into the fire.” (Book of Enoch, Chapter X, 6-9)

What could Azazel have done to receive the worst of all of the punishments given out? Was he a chief among the Watchers? No. Did he kill anyone? No. What he did was teach the following arts:

Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and of all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered.” (Book of Enock, VIII, 1)

In other words, he taught men how to make war and how to be vain. War left the Earth stained with blood, and vanity left behind souls addicted to dalliance.

Web 2.0: Narcissus’ New Pond

I always found it interesting that the author of the Book of Enoch thought that war and vanity were equally despicable sins against humanity and that they were worse than sorcery, astrology, and alchemy.

Is vanity really as destructive as war? I know I’ve seen my share of relationships destroyed by narcissism, however, even I have a bit of a challenge connecting the subversive negative impact of self-absorption with the overt devastation of war. Maybe the impact is a progressive and long-term decay of community and trust. It does seem to build with each successive generation. A 2006 study of Generation Y found that two-thirds of college students who took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory evaluation had above average scores, according to researchers at San Diego State University.

Nowadays, Web 2.0 allows anyone with a video camera, a mic, and an Internet connection to build up the misguided idea that the world revolves around them. They can have their own show on or post videos of their random monologues on without having to prove their knowledge or back up their claims with experience. These tools offer the possibility of instant fame and a means by which their underdeveloped psyches can fill some deep need, unmet by their coddling parents’ love and the foolish education system that focuses way too much on building self-esteem rather than teaching the basics.

Technology allows us to reinforce the bullshit marketing message of “it’s all about you” by giving us a ready-made audience, filled with enough people who don’t have the discernment or guts to call someone out for being a fraud. If someone is snarky or witty enough, it’s assumed that they must be right.

Over time, when enough famous morons speak in unison, no matter how wrong they are, what they say is considered truth. Perhaps this is how vanity can be as destructive as war. War devastates our infrastructure and destroys our bodies. Vanity corrupts our minds and destroys Wisdom.

“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than gold, for wisdom [Sophia] is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” The Call of Sophia, Proverbs 8:10-11

Additional reading:

Lam, Andrew. “Too much self-esteem spoils your child.” San Francisco Chronicle. July 15, 2007.

Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels, including the fallen angels. The Free Press. New York, NY. 1967.

The Book of Enoch, the Prophet. Wizards Bookshelf. San Diego, CA. 1995.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Siobhan Welch January 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm

While I see what you’re saying about this next generation, and ours, and our parents[ and how they can be considered the “Me” generations, I tend to see a pattern. I think this self absorption is more of a reflection of human naturethan a cultural shift. And while the venues of expression available to us have increased in number, people have always kept diaries, written memoirs, taken photographs, etc. and expressed themselves artistically on what one might call an amateur level.

That said, I find it interesting that you seem to condemn Web 2.0 and people who take advantage of its capabilities when you have a blog, a twitter acct, a facebook acct and Flickr acct. But would you say you are self-absorbed because you write a blog about the subjects that interest you? Probably not!


keith January 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Perhaps I didn’t express my thoughts clearly. I don’t think that everyone that takes advantage of Web 2.0 is narcissistic, just like I don’t think people who’ve kept journals for however long people have been keeping journals were narcissistic. I don’t think I said that anywhere in the blog post. However, I do think that the ease-of-access to an audience of millions combined with personalities trained their whole lives to think the world revolves around them is a dangerous combination. Studies suggest that the number of people “afflicted” with this narcissism is increasing significantly.

While I do have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a MySpace account, a FriendFeed account, etc., my motivation for starting most of them was business-related, trying to learn about social media and SEO. — My blog is my way of recording my thoughts. My Facebook is now my way of keeping up with old friends. The rest, I could live without. But, frankly, I do ask myself, “Who the hell do you think you are? Why would anyone want to read your thoughts anyway?” I have no delusions about my popularity or my importance.

That said, there are personalities out there that crave the attention (dare I say the name Tila Tequila?) and really don’t offer anything in return but self-promotion. They aren’t experts on anything, but they’ll spend hours in front of a webcam spouting off about something trivial on YouTube. On Twitter, every day, I receive a tweet from someone saying, “Hey, I’m trying to get to 1000 followers by next month. Help me out.” Why? Why should people follow you? Right?

Okay, now to the human nature issue. … I agree. I readily agree that when human beings aren’t faced with real challenges for survival, when they can sit around and not worry about poverty, plague, or sabertooth tigers, it is very easy to become self-absorbed. If you want to find someone who’s really got a grip on the importance of family and community nowadays, find someone who lived through the Great Depression, if you still can. And yet they are some of the most humble people you’ll meet as well. … Correlation? I think so.

Thanks for the comment. … By the way, what are you doing reading my stupid nonsense anyway? There are a lot more important people than me out there. ;-)


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