Title: Signed in Blood: The Spiritual Legality of Selling One’s Soul to the Devil
Author: Antonio Simon, Jr.
File Number: 03-230508
Release Date: May 8, 2023
This dossier investigates the nature of a human soul within the context of transactions in goods. The inability to tender one’s soul while alive as one would a marketable object makes it impossible to sell one’s soul. Human modes of barter fail to render any means of tendering a soul to its buyer. Moreover, the soul is not alienable—it is not one’s own to trade away at will while one is still alive. It is equally impossible to transact business when one is dead.
This aside, it is not advised to attempt such a transaction because to do so contemplates a number of grave sins. Such behavior lays a trap for the eventual loss of one’s soul. It is opined that this is the mode of contract performance anticipated to achieve the bargainers’ aims.
While it may be impossible to deliver one’s soul through a commercial agreement, it is possible to live in a way that would facilitate the surrender of one’s soul upon one’s death. Thus, a contract resulting in the delivery of one’s soul to the devil would likely call for the bargainer to live in mortal sin.
Pacts with the devil have long been the stuff of speculation, with violinist Niccolo Paganini, blues singer Robert Leroy Johnson, and Beatles front man John Lennon among the stand-out examples. Perhaps the most iconic of such pacts, in fiction at least, is given in Goethe’s nineteenth-century play, Faust. It is from here that the term “Faustian bargain” entered English parlance. The titular character signs a pact in his own blood, trading his soul to the devil in exchange for worldly advantages.
This dossier investigates the nature of human souls and the practical impossibility of selling one’s soul to the devil (or anyone for that matter). Having said as much, the reader is cautioned not to attempt contact with demons and certainly not to engage them in commerce. Such behavior lays a trap for the eventual loss of one’s soul, as will be discussed further below.
If we are to get to the bottom of whether a soul can be traded away, we must begin by discussing what constitutes a soul.
A soul can be thought of as “an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body…” St. Thomas Aquinas observes that the presence of a soul in a physical body is the reason why those bodies are “animate” and why physical bodies without souls are “inanimate.” Not all things in existence have a soul. A rock exists, but does not have a soul, never has had one, and never will. The body of a creature that has died does not have a soul, but did have a soul prior to its death. Thus, a soul is something peculiar to living things.
Aquinas further notes that the soul is the “form” of the body, present “in the whole body, and in each part thereof… [which] perfects not only the whole, but each part of the whole.” The soul present in a body informs the operation of the matter to which it is associated. Thus, when a kitten is conceived in the womb of its mother, its soul provides three important functions. First, the presence of its soul is what makes it alive. Second, its soul directs the matter to organize itself into the shape of a cat. Third, the soul informs how this creature should behave.
On this latter note, observe how cats and dogs may both be furry and have four legs, but their behavior is markedly distinct. While both animals possess some capacity to learn, in general they act on their instincts. Animals do not have to be trained to act like the animals they are. A cat raised around dogs may adopt some characteristics of a dog simply by close association with them, but the cat will always be a cat and the dog will always be a dog. The “catness” of a cat is an expression its soul.
The souls of material creatures are not equal. Man is the only material creature that possesses a rational soul. A rational soul possesses three powers: “memory, understanding, and free will.” While non-human material creatures may exhibit these capacities to varying degrees, compared to mankind, their capabilities fall short by a large margin.
The interrelatedness of a creature’s soul to its body is another point of distinction. Following Aquinas’s line of thought, for so long as a cat is alive, its soul is in its body. When the condition of the cat’s body can no longer support the operations of its soul, the soul ceases to be present in the cat’s body. This results in the cat’s death, whereupon its soul is extinguished. It ceases to be. No portion of it persists. This individual cat goes completely out of existence.
Compare this to the souls of mankind. Like other living creatures, a human’s soul is an entity distinct from its matter. Christ stressed this truth when admonishing to guard one’s soul even at the cost of one’s body. But man is unlike other creatures in that he is a body-soul composite. The cat, while alive, possesses a soul; but a man is his body and soul: “spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.”
Human nature necessarily consists of a physical body and a rational soul. Lacking one or the other, a human being is incomplete. This rational soul is unique because it survives the death of its body. This was by design. God created man to His image and likeness, to serve Him, and to be with Him. Man is the only being God created for its own sake—God made man so that man might share in the life and love of God. God will never go out of existence. Since man is called to be with God, neither will any rational soul go out of existence. And so, for mankind, death is the temporary separation of the soul from the body. At a future time appointed by God, the souls of all human beings will be reunited with their bodies.
In summary, a rational soul is a thing of great value. It is the inmost portion of one’s being. It is that which fundamentally makes one be, and be what he is, and be how he is. A rational soul is that which distinguishes a person from an animal that operates on the basis of mere instinct. It is brought into existence literally out of nothing; and for something to emerge from nothing requires the application of infinite power. Because only God has command of infinite power, the act of ensouling a material body as happens at conception is a supernatural event—a miracle. Once created, a rational soul never goes out of existence. The loss of any one soul to perdition is more painful to God than the loss of the largest sum of wealth imaginable is to us. It is therefore not surprising that the enemy of God so desperately works to deprive humanity of their souls.
Commerce gets done by means of contracts. Contrary to what many believe, a written contract is not so much an agreement per se but evidence of an agreement. That an agreement can exist on the basis of a handshake is proof of this fact. In many jurisdictions, handshake agreements are as enforceable at law as written contracts.
Naturally, more sophisticated transactions—those with many terms or that involve the exchange of great sums of value—will necessitate that an agreement be reduced to writing. Writing out a contract’s terms helps to avoid misunderstanding between the parties. This, in turn, makes it easier for one party to enforce those terms against the other party.
Referring back to Goethe, the main character in Faust sells his soul to the devil by means of a written contract signed in his blood. Outside of fiction, such transactions are rare but not unheard of.
A cursory search of eBay might turn up a few listings for human souls which, one hopes, are the sellers’ attempts at being whimsical—except that this is a serious matter. Police trained to investigate occult criminal activity are instructed to search for writing implements specifically used in the making of contracts with the devil. Theologian Kurt Koch opines that people who exhibit those preternatural abilities which some today might call “psychic powers” obtain them by means of an actual bargain with the devil, some of which agreements are indeed physical contracts signed in a person’s blood.
This is to say that such transactions are attempted even to the present day. Whether or not these agreements are enforceable is a different matter entirely. With respect to compelling Satan to live up to his end of the bargain, suffice it to say that recourse to the human legal system would be ineffectual. As much should be obvious, but there is legal precedent on the matter.
In 1971, a Pennsylvania inmate attempted to bring a class-action lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Satan for violation of his civil rights, asserting that “Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff’s downfall.”
Judge Weber, who presided over the action, could have dismissed the lawsuit as a matter of course. Many jurisdictions have enacted laws empowering judges to perfunctorily dismiss suits against Satan as frivolous. Instead, Judge Weber provided a thoughtful discussion of Mayo’s claims. The Court expressed “serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted…” By this, the judge indicated that Mayo’s lawsuit was not cognizable under the law, and thus his efforts were futile.
More to the point, Mayo had failed to bring Satan under the court’s jurisdiction. Along with the filing of his lawsuit, Mayo was required to provide the United States Marshall an address where Satan could be served with the summons and complaint. The Court opined: “We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant… The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district.”
Thus, there exist no means by which a human being can force Satan to uphold his end of the bargain. By the same token, an agreement whereby a human being attempts to tender his soul to Satan should also be void, but note: while divine mercy may prevent this transaction from being consummated, God respects humanity’s free will. The mere act of contacting demons is hazardous, to say nothing of the fact that it is gravely sinful. Sin—contravention of the laws of God—merits hell. Add to this that demons are exquisitely cunning. They will find ways to get what they want from us so long as we are willing to cooperate with them. This is precisely how temptation operates.
Thus, while a person bargaining with his soul might commit himself to a contract with no teeth, he nonetheless stands to lose his soul for having attempted such a pact. This result should come as no surprise.
A person who hires a contract killer is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder even if the murder never occurs. The man desiring the killer’s services will provide him everything necessary to achieve his goal in the form of money, weapons, or access to the victim. By these means, the purchaser becomes complicit. Likewise, a person who bargains to sell his soul will behave in a manner consistent with his belief that Satan will deliver on his obligations.
Having established that such agreements can be attempted, the discussion shifts to how those agreements might be fulfilled. It is here that human means of barter fail.
In order to determine how to convey a thing, one must first determine the nature of that which is bought and sold. When a thing can be moved from one person’s hand to that of another, it suffices for the transaction that physical custody of the objects traded for be exchanged between the parties. This method works for physical objects that are moveable. It does not work for land or for one party’s rendition of a service to another. And so, generally speaking, commerce contemplates three forms of transactions: those dealing in goods, those dealing in land, and those dealing in services.
Because the object traded for is a soul, two types of transactions can be ruled out immediately. A soul is not a parcel of land, nor is a soul the performance of a service. By process of elimination, a transaction involving a soul must therefore be considered a sale of goods.
The Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) is a model law first drafted in 1952 to facilitate trade. It defines a good as anything moveable. For a soul to fit into the purview of the law covering transactions in goods, it must first be established that a soul is moveable, in order to meet the definition of a good.
This begs the question: can a soul be moved? If so, then it can be deemed a good under the U.C.C. If a soul cannot be moved, then it is not a good, and the mode of trading in goods becomes inapplicable to the transaction.
If it can be shown that a soul is not a good, land, or a service, then we will have exhausted all earthly means of effecting the transaction. There would remain no means of consummating the transaction. In this light, it would appear impossible to sell one’s soul.
Before continuing, we must dispense with the idea of contraband. Contraband is an illegal good. Human trafficking, horrible practice that it is, consists of the sale of people. People are moveable and so they meet the definition of a good, but the purchase and sale of human beings as goods is generally illegal. Given the apparent limitations of earthly modes of barter, those who traffic in people are more interested in their bodies than they are in their souls. But with that said, because a person’s soul is the essential portion of his being, it stands to reason that trafficking in human souls might constitute a form of human trafficking. Theoretically, then, the practice of selling souls—even one’s own soul—would be illegal. For the sake of this discussion, we will presume that illegality of trading in souls would not operate as a bar to the transaction.
As noted above, Aquinas posited that a soul is present within a living body. If the soul travels everywhere the body goes, then the soul is a good because anything moveable is a good. However, we must not jump to this conclusion. By the act of observing a living body one can conclude that body has a soul, but one cannot conclude that the soul in question is moveable. Nothing evident to the five physical senses informs one that a soul is inside the body of the person observed. The soul does not visibly emerge from a cut in the body like steam from a slice of fresh baked bread. It may therefore be the case that a soul is housed in a fixed location where it is connected to its body by an absurdly long silver tether. Were that the case, then the soul cannot be thought of as moveable, and so it is not a good.
If the soul departs from the body at death, might this be evidence that it is moveable? Ecclesiastes provides: “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before... the dust return into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God, who gave it.” This rendering uses the word “return” which can denote movement from one place to another. However, it is not clear whether the soul travels anywhere. The larger context here is of change in state, not of position: the body reverts into the base elements from which it was made, and likewise, the soul reverts to God, in whose likeness it was made.
While it may seem strange to couch the term “return” in this meaning, the above concept can be illustrated by resorting to inheritance rights. A man owns a tract of land that supports a logging operation. He has two children: a son, who is healthy; and a daughter, who is terminally ill. In the event his children survive him, the father wishes to provide for his sick daughter’s needs. And so, in his will the father deeds the land outright to his son, except that the daughter will be entitled to the land’s proceeds for as long as she lives because she is not expected to live long.
Normally, the right to exploit natural resources is encompassed in land ownership, except that the father has separated the two. When the father dies, his children inherit according to his will. Then, when the sick child dies some time afterward, the rights she enjoyed return to the current owner of the land.
What has returned in this illustration? Clearly not the land. Land cannot be passed physically from hand to hand as in the case with goods. And yet something has definitely changed ownership from the man’s daughter to his son. Property rights such as these can be referred to as “intangible” goods. They are sometimes embodied in the form of title deeds to rights over land. A physical title—the paper on which it is printed—is not the rights themselves, it is only evidence of one’s ownership of those rights.
An intangible good is a type of good that does not have a physical expression. This definition encompasses such intangibles as stock in a corporation and downloadable music. For practical purposes however, these are not goods per se but rights. A car may be a good, but when one rents a car, he does not own it; rather, he purchases the right to use the car for a limited time. Likewise when one purchases software from a retail store, he does not own the software but instead owns the right to use the software in the manner spelled out in its end-user license agreement (EULA).
Rights can be bought and sold, and this means they are transferrable, but transferability does not equate to movability. In order to tell if something is moveable, it must be capable of having its position in three-dimensional space shifted from one place to another.
Only things composed of matter are moveable. Something that is intangible is not material. Intangible things, though transferrable, are not moveable.
Souls are intangible. They are not made up of matter. Because they do not occupy three-dimensional space in a manner perceptible to our senses, it is impossible to tell if they are moveable.
And so if, upon a person’s death, his soul “returns” to God as is given in Ecclesiastes, this is not clear evidence of a soul being moveable. It may well be the case that the soul does not “return” in the sense of a change in position; rather, it reverts back to its owner like the logging rights to the owner of the land in the illustration above.
Thus, a soul cannot be a good. The human means of barter are inadequate to transfer ownership rights in a soul.
Put aside for a moment that a soul is not a good that can be transferred. Instead, let us approach the topic from a different standpoint: what if the agreement called not for the immediate delivery of one’s soul, but for the promise to render one’s soul on death? This does not convert the soul into a good, but it does change the contract from one regarding goods to one regarding performance of a service.
As is the case in all contracts, wording is crucial. If by promising to deliver one’s soul upon death, one intends to do everything necessary during life to achieve that aim, then this form of contract might operate to give Satan his due. In all likelihood, this is how such affairs are formalized to writing.
An agreement worded thusly calls for one to lead a sinful life which will result, upon death, in the forfeiture of his soul. The effect is the same, but the method of achieving that effect is different. No opinion is offered on whether said contract would be enforceable, except to say that St. Paul would argue that the strictures of the law yield to the mercy of God.
Focusing the discussion back on contracts that specifically call for the delivery of one’s soul: a second reason for why we cannot sell our souls is that we do not own them. Our souls rightfully belong to God because they are the work of His hands. They are His, not ours; we are merely using them, so to speak. The Lord even says as much: “I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art mine.”
When you were conceived, one male gamete united with one female gamete to form the origin of your material body. The physical matter that comprised your parents’ gametes originated from their bodies. But you are more than just matter; you possess a spiritual nature that emerged ex nihilo—out of nothing. This was provided by God.
By virtue of God’s having brought your soul into being, God is the primary cause for why you exist. God is also the reason you continue to exist. If He were to withdraw the support that underpins your existence, you would no longer have a reason for being. You would collapse back into that from which you emerged, and since the vital part of you was made from nothing, then to nothing you would return. You would be annihilated.
You exist solely by the permissive will of God.
To illustrate: think of a coffee table in a living room. On the table there is a book. Resting atop the book is a drinking glass. We can say that the book supports the drinking glass, because if we snatch the book away quickly, the glass will fall. But we can also say that the table is just as responsible for the glass being where it is, because if we pull the table out from under the book, neither can remain where they are.
If we take this illustration back as far as it can go—past the earth’s surface supporting our feet, past gravity keeping the earth in orbit—we will end with God being the ultimate reason for why everything remains in existence.
Further demonstrating God’s complete authority over our souls is His right to determine when we die—that is to say, the moment at which any soul He created should leave its body. There is also the consideration that when we die, He will determine our ultimate fate. His authority to determine our souls’ destinies also demonstrates His ownership rights over them.
Having taking into consideration God’s complete sovereign authority over us and everything else, it would appear that our souls are not our own to sell. One philosophical maxim in particular puts it best: Nemo dat quod non habet, which means: “You cannot give what you do not have.” While the saying is used in different contexts, it is applicable here. If a person’s soul is not his own, then it should be impossible for him to trade it away.
But leave it to Satan to find loopholes, because the devil is as clever as he is wicked. Notwithstanding the impossibility of closing the transaction, it is entirely possible for a human to intend that he become Satan’s property, and act on those intents.
This does not operate to bring such a transfer into the realm of possibility, except in a roundabout manner. Satan would have us believe such transactions are valid and binding. This is especially true if the circumstances might fool us into placing greater importance on worldly things than on God, or perhaps make us lose hope in the mercy of God. The net effect would be the same for an unrepentant sinner—another soul lost to the abyss.
While the response to the question of whether we can sell our souls appears to be no, the answer comes with an obligatory disclaimer: do not attempt this, because you do so at your peril. Demons are not the genies of Arabian folklore. They cannot be pigeonholed into granting wishes through the use of shrewd language. Assuming a demon did agree to provide what was asked, there is no guarantee it will uphold its end of the bargain, nor is there any way to compel it to.
In addition, making a pact with the devil contemplates several grave sins. This bears mentioning because the practice continues even into this modern day and age. Attempting such a bargain entails the sins of idolatry, witchcraft, and superstition, to name just three, where any one in isolation would suffice to invite demonic activity into one’s earthly life and damnation in the next.
The foregoing is presented as a theological examination of a metaphysical phenomenon. While references have been made to statutes and legal precedent, this dossier is not legal advice, nor is it intended to render legal advice, nor is it an advertisement for legal services.
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 Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 75, Art. 1.
 Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 76, Art. 8.
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 For the sake of discussion, let us put aside the popular opinion that cats have nine lives.
 The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version, Matthew 10:28: “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
 Blackburn, Jim. “What Exactly Is A Soul?” Catholic Answers. www.catholic.com/qa/what-exactly-is-a-soul. Accessed May 8, 2023.
 Genesis 1:26.
 Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993, n. 356.
www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1A.HTM. Accessed 23 Feb. 2023.
 Romans 8:22-24.
 King, Zachary. Abortion Is a Satanic Sacrifice: The CD Transcript. Maitland: MCP Books, 2018.
 The City of Glendale Police Department. Occult Criminal Investigation. Accessed via U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/149064NCJRS.pdf. Accessed May 8, 2023.
 Koch, Kurt E. Occult ABC. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1986.
 54 F.R.D. 282 (1971).
 U.C.C. §2-105(1).
 Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 76, Art. 8.
 Ecclesiastes 12:6-7.
 Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7.
 Romans 7:1-6.
 Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 12:9.
 Isaiah 43:1.
 Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4.
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