Christopher McQuarrie? Charles Baudelaire? Kevin Spacey? verbal Kint? Keyser Söze? john Wilkinson? william Ramsey? john Fletcher Hurst? Anonymous?

*
Dear Quote Investigator: The 1995 movie “The usual Suspects” includes a memorable line spoken by a guileful character about the presence or non-existence that the Devil.

You are watching: The greatest trick the devil ever played

The best trick the adversary ever pulled was convincing the people he didn’t exist.

Apparently, the influential French literary figure Charles Baudelaire stated something similar. Would you please discover this saying?

Quote Investigator: Charles Baudelaire did create a story that appeared in the Paris newspaper “Le Figaro” in 1864 that had a similar statement. The an exact citation is given additional below.

Interesting precursors developed even earlier; for example, the 1836 book “Quakerism Examined” by john Wilkinson contained the following. Emphasis included to excerpts by QI: 1

One of the artifices the Satan is, come induce guys to believe that that does no exist: another, perhaps equally fatal, is to make them an intricate that he is obliged to was standing quietly by, and also not come meddle with them, if they gain into true silence.

In 1856 “Spiritualism, a Satanic Delusion, and a authorize of the Times” by pastor William Ramsey contained this passage: 2

One the the many striking proofs of the an individual existence of Satan, i m sorry our times afford us, is discovered in the fact, that he has actually so influenced the mental of multitudes in recommendation to his existence and doings, as to make them believe that the does not exist; and that the master of Demons or evil Spirits, end whom Satan presides as Prince, are only the phantacies that the brain, part halucination of mind. Might we have a more powerful proof that the existence of a mind for this reason mighty regarding produce such results?

Here are extr selected citations in chronological order.

In 1864 “Le Figaro” published the tale “Le Joueur Généreux” (“The generous Gambler”) through Charles Baudelaire. The key character meets and also converses with a manifestation the the Devil. Right here is one excerpt in French: 3

Elle ne se plaignit en aucune façon de la mauvaise réputation not elle jouit dans toutes les next du monde, m’assura qu’elle était, elle-même, la personne la to add intéressée à la devastation de la superstition, et m’avoua qu’elle n’avait eu peur, relativement à kid propre pouvoir, qu’une seule fois, c’était le jour où elle avait entendu un prédicateur, to add subtil que le reste du troupeau humain, s’écrier en chaire: « Mes chers frères, n’oubliez jamais, quand vous entendrez vanter le progrès des lumières, que la plus belle des ruses du Diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas! »

Here is the very same excerpt indigenous a translate into by Arthur Symons released in 1918 in “The English Review”. Baudelaire referred to the evil one using the feminine pronoun “elle” and also the mrs pronoun “il” in different sections of the story. In ~ the excerpt over Baudelaire primarily employed “elle”, yet English translators have actually used “he” rather of “her”. The initial text included the mistaken phrase “your hear” rather of “you hear”: 4

He complained in no method of the evil reputation under which he lived, indeed, all over the world, and also he assured me that he self was of all living us the many interested in the destruction of Superstition, and also he avowed to me that he had been afraid, reasonably as come his proper power, as soon as only, and also that was on the day as soon as he had actually heard a preacher, much more subtle 보다 the remainder of the human herd, cry in his pulpit: “My too ~ brethren, perform not ever forget, when your hear the progression of lamp praised, that the loveliest cheat of the evil one is to sway you that they don’t exist!”

Here is a 1919 translate in by Joseph T. Shipley: 5

He did not in any method bemoan the bad reputation which the enjoys in all parts of the world, assured me the he self was the human most interested in the destruction of superstition, and also confessed that he had never feared because that his very own power conserve once, on the day when he had heard a preacher, more subtle 보다 his colleagues, cry from the pulpit: “My too ~ brethren, never ever forget, as soon as you hear the progress of wisdom vaunted, the the cleverest ruse of the adversary is to guide you that does not exist!”

In 1948 “LIFE” magazine released a item titled “The Devil” by Whittaker Chambers which had an circumstances of the saying: 6

Baudelaire, the old flower that evil, was right: ‘The Devil’s cleverest wile is to make men believe that he does not exist.’

In 1984 a reporter v “The Los Angeles Times” speak to Jeffrey Russell, a professor the medieval history at UC Santa Barbara, who referenced the saying: 7

“I favor to quote indigenous Baudelaire,” the retaliated. “‘The prettiest trick of the evil one is to do us believe he doesn’t exist."”

Christopher McQuarrie created the screenplay that the 1995 movie “The usual Suspects”. Actor Kevin Spacey played the role of i get it Kint whose nickname was “Verbal” due to the fact that of his loquacity. During a pivotal step Verbal defined a secret demonic number named Keyser Söze: 8

Nobody ever believed he was real. Nobody ever knew that or witnessed anybody that ever before worked directly for him, however to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody might have functioned for Söze. You never ever knew. The was his power. The best trick the adversary ever pulled to be convincing the human being he didn’t exist.

The line about the adversary was accentuated when it to be repeated near the finish of the film.

In conclusion, Charles Baudelaire might be attributed with the statement he wrote in “Le Joueur Généreux”. Yet, comparable remarks were currently in circulation. Man Wilkinson published a variation in 1836, yet the notion is daunting to trace and earlier instances most likely exist. Christopher McQuarrie’s variation harks earlier to Baudelaire’s statement.

See more: 4 Oz Of Water Is How Many Cups, How Many Cups Of Water In 4 Ounces

Image Notes: Portrait the Charles Baudelaire by Emile Deroy circa 1844; accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Satan displayed as a Fallen point of view by Gustave Dore; component of the Paradise shed series; accessed via wikiart.org. Images have actually been cropped and also resized.

(This question emerged from a conversation of “The normal Suspects”. Thanks to discussants Jonathan Lighter, Wilson Gray, Dan Goncharoff, Laurence Horn, Ron Butters, Amy West, Joel S. Berson, Dave Hause, and also Federico Escobar.)