Satanism, Paganism and Nature

Two years ago I left Paganism, and by May 1st of that year I had declared myself a Satanist.

It was good to make the break with Paganism, and I have no regrets about that, or becoming a Satanist. After two years of rest from the online tangle of neopaganism, and all the community roleplaying, I feel like I can look at things a little more neutrally though, and recognise a great deal of common ground between Satanism and Paganism. Having remained a polytheist with a deep interest in the occult has probably helped there admittedly.

When people used to ask me about modern Paganism, I used to point to two things which didn’t define it, but which one way or another described modern Paganism as far as I could see. I used to say that modern Paganism tended to be polytheistic and/or Nature centred as a spirituality. You could find Pagan paths that were one, the other or both, but really rather few that were neither.

There is of course a major part of modern Satanism which is atheistic, but there are whole sections of neopganism which are at the least non-theistic in essence. Then again, there are other parts of Satanism which are polytheistic or henotheistic. I maintain that the most natural default for Satanism is agnostic, as this leaves all options open for the individual to determine themselves. Personal experience is the royal road of Satanism, and actually this seems to be what a lot of neopagans are looking for in Paganism too.

The reverence for Nature, while not universal within Paganism, is quite prominent. Within Satanism Nature is pretty much the bottom line, and is one of the things reflected in the acceptance of carnality and fulfilment of the whole person. Satanists in general have a love of Nature, and of our own deepest nature. On the other hand, Satanists recognise our capacity to negate and seemingly go against Nature, as part of our creative, individuating essence. But this level of sophistication is part of Nature itself, when seen in a wider perspective.

So I see a good deal of commonality between the phenomena of modern Satanism and Paganism, and what people are looking for in both. That is something I celebrate and enjoy.

Here is a clip of the front man of the black metal band Inquisition taking about Satanism, which my friend Aleph turned me on to. I really liked it.

I liked the way he talks about love, showing that it is important for him, but not making a defining badge out of the concept. I put love very central in my own spirituality, but I leave it to others to discover their own terms and understandings. I like the way he brings everything down to the individual, without prior conditions in essence, to the open minded enquiry into Nature. I can see that we are experiencing some of the same thing here.

What I can also say now, after two years, and a reconciliation with Paganism, is that I feel an increasing sense of the “personage” of Satan, alongside the concept or symbol, particularly transitional, subtle, metaphorical, open, free, fearless, clear. As with everything for me, it is the direct experience that counts, rather than the formal sense or definition, for this is where we find the reality of things. This is good.

Meanwhile I feel a renewed sense of connection with deities and Nature.

Bon voyage, and Hail Satan.

Witch

The witches Sabbath by Luis Ricardo Falero [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

16th February 2017: 9th paragraph edited.

Satanic causes?

We see a certain amount of activism in the Satanic community (most publicly with The Satanic Temple), so I just thought I’d give my own view on the sort of things I’d find relevant to Satanic philosophy for myself.

First, let me say there is no obligation to support any cause as a Satanist, and no expectation – Satanism is just too individualistic for that. However, here are a few things I can see as compatible with Satanism.

Satanism is very concerned with the individual and with individual sovereignty, so anything that adds to individual freedom and responsibility would go well. Censorship would be anathema to most Satanists where it affects them. Similarly, attempts to infringe upon the bodily autonomy of the individual could easily be opposed from a Satanic point of view. Free speech would be a natural thing for a lot of Satanists to support.

Satanism holds carnality and carnal fulfilment high in its estimation, so the moralistic restriction of sexual and other physical forms of gratification would generally be opposed, as would prying into the private lives of others. The exceptions would be where the will and consent of an individual is directly violated by another, so consensuality comes into play, as this reflects the issue of individual sovereignty. Needless to say, children cannot give adult consent so are not in the equation here.

Satanism holds a particular appreciation of the qualities of children and animals, who to an extent have the properties of natural Satanists (being closer to Nature and instinct), though they can’t themselves be Satanists, as Satanism requires human maturity. So the prevention of abuse of animals and children would be a natural concern for many Satanists.

Nature is also held in high regard by Satanists, who see us as animals most essentially, and part of Nature, so preventing the destruction of natural environments could be a cause that appeals to a Satanist.

As Satanism is a natural opponent of the imposition of religion upon individuals, secularism and religious freedom would be supported by many Satanists, though it needs to be pointed out that “religious freedom” means the freedom to practice any religion you choose, so long as you do not infringe upon the rights of others. It doesn’t mean freedom to infringe upon the rights of others in the name of religious belief. Related to this would be resistance to things like blasphemy laws, and prosecution for obscenity or nakedness.

As Satanism is so concerned with individuality and individual freedom, it makes a natural opponent to collectivising philosophies that seek to define and impose laws upon people according to what they are, rather than who they are, as an agent exhibiting their own behaviours.

And not least, Satanists are natural opponents of the hysterical demonization of people, whether it is the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” craze, or other kinds of scapegoating witch hunts. Satanists might well work to counter these kind of destructive and deranged mob mentalities.

But in everything, a Satanist makes their own ethical and rational enquiries into what they may or may not support or oppose, and takes responsibility for their choices. What should be noted though, is that making others feel like they should take part in supporting any kind of cause through moralism, shame or guilt can well be seen as a unskillful act that elevates emotional manipulation over reason or insight. Similarly, jumping on political or social band wagons can be fraught with the problems of participating in herd mentalities of dubious quality.

lady_chatterley27s_lover_penguin

Lady Chatterley’s Lover Penguin by Twospoonfuls (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Satanic altruism

I’ve never been one for conforming to type. As a Pagan I didn’t really fit the whole “green grow the merry o” rural image. As an effective homosexual I cannot embrace the term “gay”, or the whole mainstream sexual identity demarcation project (just put me down as human please). As a Satanist, aside from my tattoos and the odd pentagram, I don’t fit the common image of a Satanist. I’d put love and decency very high on my list of valued things, contrary to the idea of Satanism as somewhat social Darwinist and overwhelmingly self-centred. But for me this is entirely natural, as Satanism is about determining your own values and ethics (without imposing them on others judgmentally), rather than having them determined by Satanism or anything else.

The “burn it all down” aspect of Satanism is important as a tool to free you from false moral restriction, but it is no replacement for determining your authentic values. This is why Satanism is inherently individualistic: in practice it doesn’t come ready made. You have to do your own work.

While I have reservations about some of The Satanic Temple’s identity politics style activism, I appreciate their pointing out the place of things like empathy and compassion in human life, as things with a purpose beyond moral superstition. This is how life actually is. It shouldn’t be dogma. It should be intelligent and reflective. But empathy and compassion are powerful components of human life. Love that entails enduring suffering or personal sacrifice for a loved one is deeply meaningful to people when it is genuine (rather than  manipulated or expected). Similarly, something like faith has a bad rap due to the associations with behaviour manipulation and repression in various Churches. But faith is an inescapable, and at times crucial part of human relationship. When we have to go beyond what we have previously experienced, sometimes against what we have previously experienced, on the basis of intuition, love and positive intention, then we need faith, even if we don’t call it that. Needless to say, a person should be open to learning, attentive and responsive, but these things are givens in life, and are compatible with faith. It is not a life style, it is a deeply important human capacity.

Similarly again, when we talk about the well-being of society. If it is where we live, and it affects us, there are sound Satanic reasons for wanting to encourage the kind of society you want to live in. Be discriminating. Don’t waste your time, attention, work or money. Don’t give up your independence beyond what is reasonable for you. But it is entirely reasonable to care about something you can influence positively in some small way, without illusions or grand missions. Be honest and practical with yourself.

And lastly, while Satanism focuses on the carnal, and that is a very fine thing, we are animals with complex needs that extend into many areas of our experience and relationship. Areas that people term “spiritual” are part of our life too. And I am with the Buddhists on the subject of attachment having its own complications. I don’t view attachment as bad, but as needing a wise approach if it becomes intense or overly fixed. We want pleasure after all, and to alleviate unnecessary suffering in our lives. Wisdom comes from experience and learning. We all try to live according to the wisdom that we gather.

When something is Satanic, we often in practice mean that it is individual, free and authentic. That is my kind of altruism.

Gay Couple from back hand holding on CSD 2006 Berlin – Make Love Not War by Till Krech (extranoise on flickr.com) (www.flickr.com) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

love and service

Would it surprise people that love and service could be some of the most important things for a Satanist? Not that they have to be, but that they are in this case? Or wholeness?

I take some things as given, such as that all that we do is selfish at some level (and nothing wrong with that), that we seek gratification and fulfilment. Also that your individual choice with what you do with your life, and how, is sacred, within the boundaries of your own sphere (so you don’t fuck over others, because they also are sovereign individuals). You are the boss of your life.

But if service gives you gratification and fulfilment, then service it is (though you decide the terms). And love and devotion, ditto.

Of course it has to be acknowledged that mercy can only be exercised from a position of strength. Don’t make the mistake of serving yourself up as the plat du jour. No, no. And no “duty”, no “virtue” in the Christian sense. Absolutely no self-denial.

This self is big enough to want to play, and make it the game of life.

All the colours and tastes.

Crocodile Feast by Arturo de Frias Marques (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons - with additions

Crocodile Feast by Arturo de Frias Marques (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – with additions

the satan in the sunshine

UK_road_A666

It’s almost a year since I became a Satanist (call it first thing on 1st May as the real anniversary) and the identification has settled down nicely. It really comes into its own when dealing with life, dealing with the world, and when in action, even when that action is internal. The contemplative and relational aspects of spirituality remain largely the same. The ethical enquiry is sharpened inwardly, and more circumspect and tolerant in terms of outward expression, but it plays essentially the same role in personal orientation, though it hinges very explicitly upon personal responsibility. It’s in action, in doing and becoming that Satan seems to show most brilliantly.

I said a good while ago that to me “Satan” was the principle of individualized consciousness, and that remains a good indication. Maybe you should say “The Satan”, as you would say “the weather”, or “the force of gravity”. Different people see it different ways of course. It does in any case represent one of the mysteries of consciousness. In these associations there is something I would describe as “solar” in characteristic, both astrologically and magickally, just as the number 666* possesses. You can trace some of this through Crowley’s work, and find such lines as the following in Liber Samekh:

“O breathing, flowing Sun!”

“O Sun IAF! O Lion-Serpent Sun, The Beast that whirlest forth, a thunder- bolt, begetter of Life!”

“Thou that flowest! Thou that goest!”

“Thou Satan-Sun Hadith that goest without Will!”

Liber Samekh

and:

“Thou spiritual Sun! Satan, Thou Eye, Thou Lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the Wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!”

“Thou, the Saviour!”

“Silence! Give me Thy Secret!”

“Give me suck, Thou Phallus, Thou Sun!”

“Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust!”

“Thou self-caused, self-determined, exalted, Most High!”

Ibid.

It is Crowley’s personal religious iconography of course, but the associations between Sun and Satan are spiritually sound for me. Selfhood, the deeper root of will, the light of conscious being and becoming, the crux of individuation.

Here it comes …

* the number being connected to the magic square of the Sun

the devil’s field guide – part 5

This is the concluding part of my review of LaVey’s Satanic Bible, which I began here. I’ll mainly be focussing on LaVey’s ceremonial and drawing a few things together, though if you want the full, published run down of his rituals you’ll need to look up the book itself, and it’s companion volume “The Satanic Rituals*”.

To back track, LaVey does talk about magic in the earlier parts of TSB, for instance defining its ethics according to the goals of the individual Satanist – ie that it is neutral and pragmatic.

This is a good time to look back at LaVey’s view on devils and Satan. He  gives some assorted background to them (with varying levels of accuracy), and what they mean to modern Satanists in his view. The original meaning of “satan” he gives as “the adversary” or “the accuser”, while “devil” comes from the Indian “devi”, meaning “god”, which is I think correct, aside from devi meaning “goddess”, deva being the masculine form. I used to hear the term translated as “shining one” by a number of esotericists and neopagans.

For LaVey:

“Satan represents opposition to all religions which serve to frustrate and condemn man for his natural instincts. He has been given an evil role simply because he represents the carnal, earthly, and mundane aspects of life”

And probably you could add to the first sentence: “and which serve to frustrate and condemn the individual for their authentic, individual perspective”, in opposition to supposed universal or natural law. Satanism was one of the first magical religions to fully embrace gay men for instance, way ahead of Wicca. LaVey does tend to return to carnality repeatedly, even as he tends to harp on blasting enemies at times, but it does go deeper than that. You can see why Satanism would be an attractive option for some people. It is not for everyone, but I do think that a “satanic” approach is the best for some, and an essential part of the spiritual ecosphere, whether it is labelled “satanic” or not. “Left Hand Path” would be a broader term of reference, but however it is termed, we need a way of breaking through the political and moral garbage, the consensual conformism, and the subjugation of the individual (the actual recipient of all direct experience) that conventional spirituality almost always involves at some level, depending on who you are and who you “bank” with, at what price socially or individually.

He dismisses the idea of “circle protection” as hypocritical, as:

“To the Satanist, it seems a bit two-faced to call on these forces for help, while at the same time protecting yourself from the very powers you have asked for assistance.”

It could be noted that there are other reasons for casting circles (and protection could just be a practical issue with some energies), but circle work is indeed dispensed with in his scheme, which he considers a better way of allying yourself with the forces you are working with.

Intellectual Decompression

Throughout the book LaVey presents Satanism as a rational philosophy, made for (and by) an animal with more than rational needs. The path from the rational to the (controlled) non-rational is ritual, which he characterises as intellectual decompression. Ritual can be solitary or group, each of which have their own advantages. A group ritual gives more of a reinforcement of faith and “an instillation of power”. It renews confidence in the power of magic. Furthermore, while his philosophy is very individualistic, it isn’t intended to be solitary by him, as he considers solitary religion to be in some regard self-denying, and this self-denial brings a person closer to anti-social behaviour in his view.

“It is for this reason that the Satanist should attempt to seek out others with which to engage in these ceremonies”

This is an interesting point for people to consider, and it’s interesting to note that LaVey is critiquing being too much of a loner (specifically spiritually), and looking to avoid “anti-social behaviour”. Of course our forms of social interaction have changed considerably since 1969, and with the internet people can be solitary yet connected at the same time to others, while the field of magic, witchcraft and alternative spirituality is probably now dominated by people following solitary paths, but I think it remains a good point. Better to go your own way rather than follow the wrong path for you, but better still to find “good company” for yourself, if it is genuinely available.

LaVey thinks that things like destruction rituals are better suited to group work, as he thinks the sharing of anger to be relatively unembarrassing. Certainly expressions of group anger are socially quite acceptable in our society, whereas group grief, and (especially) group lust are more likely to be devalued or demonized. That really does say something about our society, and what it finds useful in people.

We can note again here that LaVey’s ritual is very emotional, in fact floridly and deliberately so. But for these reasons he thinks compassion and sex rituals are better suited to private ceremonies. You could probably question his view on this, and work with it, under the right circumstances though. But a person can’t be self-conscious in the ritual chamber (unless it was itself part of a sexual kink for instance).

Whether group or solitary however, standard invocations etc are used. Personalized parts can then be sandwiched between the standardized beginnings and endings. “The formalized beginning and end of the ceremony acts as a dogmatic, anti-intellectual device”, dislocating the ritual chamber from the outside world. Ritual acts as a “training school for temporary ignorance”, in order to expand the magicians will.

The Ritual

I’m not going to go into all the details of LaVey’ general purpose ritual here, as you can find it all in his book,  so I’ll just touch on some points.

The ritual forms a coherent whole, with a beginning, middle and end, the actual magical working forming the centre of it. As noted above, there is no “protective” or circle casting element, though there is what LaVey calls a “purification of the air” by the ringing of a bell.

The focus is the “symbol of Baphomet“, which is borrowed from Stanislas de Guaita in fact, and the altar which is placed in the west. This is an unusual position for an altar in most forms of magic, where it is usually in either the east or the north. In the east it is in the place of the rising Sun, and the element of air (or fire sometimes). In the north it is the direction associated with earth, darkness and mystery, as well as the Pole Star (in the Northern Hemisphere, South of the equator north is the direction of noon of course). LaVey may be doing this in order to “throw” the associations and go against orthodox form, or he may be taking the place of the setting Sun as associated with the coming of night (and thus the powers of darkness), but he doesn’t actually say. West is still associated with water in his scheme, and with the serpent Leviathan, whose name is also written around the  Baphomet symbol in Hebrew. Is he enshrining the emotional power, desire and imagination of the element of water as key to his view of magic? I really don’t know.

The “invocation to Satan” starts with commanding “the powers of darkness” in the name of Satan, who is characterized as “Ruler of the earth” and “King of the world”. At the same time it seeks to call forth the powers of Hell, as their brother or sister. It asks for the things the magician will request, and affirms a vital alliance of being and nature between the magician and the personified forces involved. It affirms the certainty of the magician’s power, and then calls forth the demons/gods seen as appropriate (LaVey gives a list of names from demonology and Pagan lore which he recommends).

It’s a bit of a mixture as an invocation, but it does more or less progress from welcoming, to supplication, to identification and union with the forces involved, to empowered affirmation, though some of it is a bit back to front in order, and it is very short.

There are elements of communal sharing of wine, and asperging, which add to the communal “religious” form of the ritual. There is also a calling forth of the “crown princes of Hell” at the four directions, similar to a calling of the quarters, as each direction is also associated with an element (consistent with common western magical tradition, eg east-air, north-earth etc), but starting with Satan at the south and progressing counter-clockwise to Leviathan at the West. This is not a banishing, so it is unusual on two counts, for the starting and end point (ending up at the west again), and the direction in what is essentially an invocation. This dislocates the ceremony from common esoteric tradition, which may be LaVey’s intention.

The heart of the ritual is the magic that brings about the fulfilment of the participants. There are separate instruction given for each of the three ritual intent categories that LaVey identifies, but they all conclude in climactic outpourings of energy (orgasm, genuine tears, rage etc), followed communally by the priest reading aloud the requests and/or burning their written forms. The requests are followed by the exclamations “Shemhamforash!” and “Hail Satan!”. “Hail Satan” seems fair enough, but “Shemhamforash” is actually a Hebrew reference to the hidden name of God (a bit like “tetragrammaton”), thoroughly monotheistic, and LaVey’s use of it is puzzling, unless he just thought it sounded impressive! It makes no good sense to me though.

Concluding the ritual, an “appropriate” Enochian call is recited “as evidence of the participants’ allegiance to the Powers of Darkness”. Enochian is a “language” originating with the Elizabethan magician John Dee and his medium Edward Kelly, who considered it an “angelic” language of non-human origin, and while magicians often claim it has a genuine syntax and vocabulary, some linguists have counter-claimed that it has elements more commonly found in glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”), and the syntax it retains is closest to English (Dee and Kelly’s own language). I think LaVey was using it for its emotional effect, and its “barbarous” qualities in inspiring the mood and consciousness of the reciter and listener, though he was taking it quite out of its original context. In a sense it is the Latin to his Mass, though he has hijacked it from Dee and Kelly. I’ll take a closer look at his use of “Enochian” below.

After this is complete, a bell is rung, and the priest says the words “SO IT IS DONE”. And with that, the ritual is over.

Assorted points

The altar in LaVey’s scheme is ideally a naked woman, of which he says:

“Satanism is a religion of the flesh, rather than of the Spirit; therefore an altar of flesh is used in Satanic ceremonies”

and:

“A nude woman is used as the altar in Satanic rituals because woman is the natural passive receptor, and represents the earth mother”

This is the classic idea of a “Satanic altar” as propagated in 19th and 20th century art and literature, and having a naked human being as an altar has an obvious appeal and impact for a sex-positive and fleshly religion, but if for instance the congregation was largely gay male, this would really be nothing but high camp, and quite ineffective in that case. So I would think it better for the altar to be whoever suits the participants. As for being the “natural passive receptor”, well that might technically be true in terms of procreation, but not in any other sense necessarily, and LaVey’s Satanism is about indulgence, not making babies. The “earth mother” comment could have come from any Jungian influenced psychobabbler since the 1950s, and indeed here LaVey is for once sounding like a Pagan hippie. I can think of some men who would make wonderful altars, and I think it is up to the Satanists themselves as to what suits them.

On a related note, LaVey’s comments on clothing seem a little dated. The men wear black, cowled robes etc (ok), while the women wear suggestive garments that might arouse the men (unless they are older, in which case they go with black as well). Arousing sexual energy I can see as a good thing, but why only the energy of the men (though display can be arousing for the dsplayer as well of course)? But really, why not maximise everyone as a source of sexual inspiration? One thing that could be sensible though is the wearing of masks, which can help with disinhibition, and also might add to the surreal or sinister aura of the ritual.

The symbol of Baphomet is a subject that LaVey goes into a bit, with fanciful excursions to the Goat of Mendes (who was actually a ram in fact, though I will always love this term thanks to Dennis Wheatley), and the Knights Templar. He says that this symbol represents “the Powers of Darkness combined with the generative fertility of the goat”. The Hebrew characters circling the face of the goat spell out “Leviathan”, who is “the serpent of the watery abyss, and identified with Satan”. We can certainly thank LaVey for rescuing this symbol from obscurity and turning it into a definitive symbol of modern Satanism. As I stated before, its original form (with the addition of the names “Samael” and “Lilith”) can be found in La Clef de la Magie Noire by Stanislas de Guaita, published in 1897. The Church of Satan details their derivation and use of the symbol here. They certainly gave it its place in the modern world.

The Book of Leviathan

And so we come to the art of verbal invocation according to Anton LaVey.

“If the magical ceremony is to employ all sensory awareness, then the proper sounds must be invoked”

He considers emotional experience to be primary here, and he says that his invocations are here designed as “proclamations of certainty”.

We have already mentioned his invocation to Satan, and in the separate invocations he uses for the three ritual intentions the language is theatrical, melodramatic and draws in part upon a broadly sci-fi/horror sensibility which is quite delightful.

In the lust ritual it is directed towards influencing the mind of the target.

In the destruction ritual again, the object is to influence the mind and psyche of the target. Various deities are called upon in both these invocations (which really act only in part as invocations in the classic sense).

The compassion ritual seeks protection, strengthening, citing comradeship in the Left Hand Path. It seeks revivification and healing, neutralisation of adversaries, and liberation in joy and strength.

LaVey’s Enochian

LaVey says that he used Enochian as the magical language of the Satanic Bible. He claims that the “angels” of the work are in fact “angles”, and that the work forms a window to the “fourth dimension”. In should be noted that this seems quite contrary to anything Dee himself wrote¹.

LaVey gives his own translations “with an archaic but Satanically correct unvarnishing”, though I think “unvarnishing” would be a bit of a euphemism. Even a cursory glance at his keys shows his substituting the name of Satan etc for other words where it suits him, so it may be that he really considers this to be the real “essence” of the keys (correcting for Dee and Kelly’s Christianising), but just as easily could be that he found enochian a good material to flesh out his rituals with, so he adapted it to a “Satanic” form. What is in little doubt is that Dee and Kelly would have disagreed with him, and if LaVey was as much of a materialist as he claimed, you would think that they as originators of the keys would be the authority, unless he actually believes that enochian was a real, pre-existing language of supernatural origin, and Dee and Kelly just got it wrong. But LaVey clearly has a genuine interest in the magical and paranormal, so there is a good deal of “wiggle room” here. Given LaVey’s tricksterish lilt in much of the book, it could of course be that enochian had the requisite aura and form to inspire awe, complete with magical associations, and so LaVey wove it into his performance. In the intellectual decompression chamber it all becomes “real”, and his patter softens up the mind for better participation. It wouldn’t be the first time a magus has told fibs in order to facilitate an experience.

We can take a simple look at one of the shorter keys:

18th key (LaVey):

Ilasa micalazoda olapireta ialpereji beliore: das odo Busadire Oiad ouoaresa caosago: casaremeji Laiada eranu berinutasa cafafame das ivemeda aqoso Moz, od maoffasa. Bolape como belioreta pamebeta. Zodacare od Zodameranu! Odo cicale Qaa. Zodoreje, lape zodiredo Noco Mada, hoathahe Saitan!

18th key – phonetic translation as per enochian.info

Ilasa micalazoda olapireta ialpereji beliore: das odo Busadire Oiad ouoaresa caosago: casaremeji Laiada ERANU berinutasa cafafame das ivemeda aqoso adoho Moz, od maoffasa. Bolape como belioreta pamebeta. Zodacare od Zodameranu! Odo cicale Qaa. Zodoreje, lape zodiredo Noco Mada, hoathahe IAIDA.

So we can see that LaVey is (mercifully) providing the phonetic versions of the keys, and these are very faithful here, apart from the substitution of “Saitan” (Satan) for “IAIDA” (discrepancies highlighted in red here).

Now we come to the English translations:

18th key (LaVey):

O thou mighty light and burning flame of comfort!, that unveilest the glory of Satan to the centre of the Earth; in whom the great secrets of truth have their abiding; that is called in thy kingdom: “strength through joy,” and is not to be measured. Be thou a window of comfort unto me. Move therefore, and appear! Open the mysteries of your creation! Be friendly unto me, for I am the same!, the true worshipper of the highest and ineffable King of Hell!

18th key – English translation as per enochian.info

O you mighty Light and burning flame of comfort which opens the glory of God to the centre of the earth, in whom the Secrets of Truth 6332 have their abiding, which is called in thy kingdom Joy and not to be measured: be you a window of comfort unto me. Move and show yourselves: open the Mysteries of your Creation: be friendly unto me: for I am the servant of the same your God, the true worshipper of the Highest.

We can see that there is a lot more discrepancy here, and given that the only enochian differences in the keys are the words “IADA” (highest) and “Saitan” (Satan presumably), there is quite a bit of interpretive licence in play. “Busadire Oiad” would be translated as “glory of God” according to this enochian dictionary, but LaVey translates the same words as “glory of Satan”. So whereas he substitutes the name “Saitan” for the enochian word for “the Highest” at the end of the key, at the beginning he just takes the word for “God” to mean “Satan”. On the other hand “for I am the servant of the same your God” becomes “for I am the same!”. The word “Noco” can be translated as “the servant” or “the minister”, and “Mad” translated as “of God” or “of your God”, but while the enochian is in LaVey’s phonetic version (“Noco Mada”) it is missing from the English, giving “for I am the same”.

Looking at the twelfth key, it follows very much the same pattern of largely faithful phonetic transliteration (with key substitutions), but with a “Satanically” skewed English translation. So, without going through every key with a fine-tooth comb, I think it would be fair to say that the phonetic translations alter the originals to a minor degree (eg a single name), while the English translations stray further and give LaVey’s version, significantly removed from the consensus interpretation of the originals.

But as LaVey says:

“In Enochian the meaning of the words, combined with the quality of the words, unite to create a pattern of sound which can cause tremendous reaction in the atmosphere. The barbaric tonal qualities of this language give it a truly magical effect which cannot be described”

And in subjective terms this is very likely true, and may well work within the context of LaVey’s usage. What LaVey has done is tailor the meanings to his own sensibilities, and he feels he has purged them of an overly pious meaning, more in tune with their true essence. This would of course be anathema to any orthodox scholar of Enochian magic (strictly speaking, he is not even using the original keys in the examples I looked at), but that isn’t really his concern. It just has to work for him.

Personal Conclusions²

LaVey’s views on magic contain a good deal of common sense and worldly practicality, though as with much of his writing, it is filtered through his own sensibilities, and sometimes these seem weighted on the side of aggression, at least to me. His approaches to magic and ceremony I think do foreshadow Chaos Magic in his pragmatic relativism and iconoclasm. He is a contradictory figure in some ways: a scathing materialist with an obvious belief in magic, a seemingly alienated individualist who implicitly reveres “Nature”, a decrier of esoteric “mystery mongering” who weaves obscure Elizabethan magic into his system. But that is part of what makes him fascinating. And indeed, contradiction, apparent obfuscation and folly are all part of the archetype of the “Magus” in some ways (but for a purpose).

My own approach to magic is quite different to LaVey’s, apart from anything else being polytheistic, so I am unlikely to use his forms too directly (and I am too old a dog to be doing other than my own work). I do admire him though for what he has done, both in experimenting according to his own interests, and in essentially founding an entire modern movement, which can be seen reflected to different degrees in the whole of modern Satanism, wider aspect of the modern Left Hand Path, and even in Demonolatry.

He may sound at times like the Boney M of ceremonial magic, but that just makes me like him even more. Disco, after all, was way more revolutionary than the people who looked down on it. LaVey might not have the subtlety of Austin Osman Spare or Rosaleen Norton, but he understood the importance of the individual, the imagination and feeling, and the place of the infernal in magical inspiration. And he didn’t mind offending people.

I owe him one.

demon brother5

Anton LaVey in still (screen capture) from “Invocation of my Demon Brother” by Kenneth Anger via YouTube

* “The Satanic Rituals” hasn’t been reviewed in these post.

¹ at least as far as the “angles” versus “angels” issue [comment added 10th February 2016].

² this conclusion also takes in Part 4 [comment added 16th March 2016].

the devil’s field guide – part 4

A tailpiece featuring one of Roger Bacon's devils with a grape vine by Harold Nelson. William Thoms, editor. [Public domain, Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A tailpiece featuring one of Roger Bacon's devils with a grape vine by Harold Nelson. William Thoms, editor. [Public domain, Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am here finishing off some work I started last year, looking at Anton LaVey’s “Satanic Bible”, in this case focussing on its magic and ritual. I’ll be looking at his ideas around spell casting and types of magic.

The Book of Belial

You get the drift of this section from the subtitle: “The Mastery of the Earth”. It’s about getting what you want.

LaVey doesn’t take long to get into iconoclastic mode with respect to esotericism.

“The greatest appeal of magic is not in its application, but in its esoteric meanderings. The element of mystery which so heavily enshrouds the practice of the black arts has been fostered, deliberately or out of ignorance, by those who often claim the highest expertise in such matter”

He then goes on to claim that the essentials of ceremonial magic have been overlooked in favour of “scholastic mysticism”, and that the would be magician is often taken in by his own performance. Nevertheless, a magician might still act according to the principles of magic and get it to work in spite of that. What LaVey intends to do here is strip magic of its mystification and present what works. In this respect he again prefigures some of the attitudes and approaches of Chaos Magic, in his pragmatism, and his dismissing of baroque authority in favour of boiled down essentials, results, and what would later be termed “sleight of mind”.

He gives a definition of magic which takes Crowley’s very universal sounding one, and restricts it to the bringing about of those changes (according to will) which would not be achievable by normally accepted methods. It’s a bit of a messy definition, as magic (even in his description) can be used to bring about things that could be brought about by ordinary means, it’s just that they are not being brought about by ordinary means by you directly, in this case. But I get what he means: magic has to have that non-rational side to its “logic” of causation, however it appears on the outside, otherwise it wouldn’t distinctly be magic.

As LaVey says, magic can never be totally scientifically explainable (otherwise it wouldn’t be magic to us), but science has always been considered “magic” at one time or other.

LaVey rejects the classification of magic as “white” or “black”, which is actually common among most magical practitioners nowadays. He considers the distinction between “altruistic” and “selfish” magic to be hypocritical, as even those seeking to be altruistic are gaining a gratification from it. He considers it to be “a matter of taste” as to how one gratifies oneself. Everyone thinks they are doing the right thing. Indeed, if you look at the convolutions that the Catholic Church quite consciously went through, to cover up child abuse, you can see that “doing good” depends on who you are in the activity, and altruism can have some questionable expressions. He’s not really addressing the question of harm here, so much as moral judgement, though the previously clearly delineated principle of sovereignty of the individual can be called to mind here to clarify what he means. The Catholic Church behaved very un-satanically towards the children that its priests abused.

Types of Magic

In LaVey’s scheme there are two types of magic: ritual/ceremonial, and non-ritual or manipulative.

The purpose of ritual is “to isolate the otherwise dissipated adrenal and other emotionally induced energy, and convert it into a dynamically transmittable force”. This is an emotional rather than an intellectual activity, and any intellectual activity needs to take place before the ceremony. He also terms this “greater magic”.

Non-ritual or manipulative magic (“lesser magic”) he characterises as:

“wile and guile obtained through various devices and contrived situations, which when utilized can create ‘change in accordance with one’s will’

He says this used to be known as “fascination”, “glamour” or the “evil eye”. This is based upon using the command to look, and the attraction and holding of attention. The three methods he lists are sex, sentiment or wonder, or a combination of them, and a person has to decide which they can pull off, according to their attributes and the situation.

It is an interesting exercise to actually ask yourself (honestly) which of these categories you fall within, but there is something for everyone, of you want to apply yourself. On the other hand, insisting on using the wrong category is going to be a frustrating exercise in misdirection. What is interesting here is that I have know any number of people who have felt considerable chagrin at their (unnamed) inability to exercise a particular power in this regard, and it is clearly a sense of powerlessness they have (even if it is expressed as jealousy of another’s power), and this confirms LaVey’s view that this is a power issue. It is not “beyond the explanation of science”, but it is operating below the conscious radar. The irony for the frustrated is that if they identified their own area of power, they could maximise it, rather than fixating on what they lack. As LaVey says:

“Good looks are unnecessary, but ‘looks’ certainly are needed”

He also notes that odour is important: natural bodily secretions for sex, appeal to memories and nostalgia for sentiment, you get the idea.

Types of Satanic Ritual

LaVey’s magic (at least as presented in this paperback) has a definite feeling basis, as ritual is here divided up according to the basic human emotions it addresses and draws upon: sex (lust, sexual desire), compassion (for self or others) and destruction (anger, enmity).

Sex – this is basically a “love spell”, to create desire in another who you want, or to summon a partner to fulfil desire. He says you need to have a specific person or type in mind, strongly enough to arouse erotic feelings that can culminate in orgasm, in order for it to work. But it is also important to understand your real motivations. Working magic to build self-esteem and address a lack in your life would come under compassion most likely, so if that is expressing itself as a desire to have a sexual partner, it is still the former that is the real object, rather than sexual desire, and you have to be able to untangle that. Using the wrong ritual could lead to complications.

There are of course questions about the ethics of manipulating another, but it is worth bearing two things in mind here. One is that people are not automatons at the beck and call of the magician (and the fear of that amounts to a kind of superstitious megalomania on the behalf of the magician), and the other is that life is full of the give and take of what amount to charmings and manipulations, attractions and susceptibilities. We might like to think it is otherwise, and there are plenty of times we would probably prefer it not to be, but it is the stuff of everyday life. And yet again, one has to remember that nothing is actually for free, everything has consequences, and it is a matter of being prepared to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. A Satanist still has to abide by their own sense of ethical coherence, and acknowledge the world they are contributing to; but it is genuinely up to them as a responsible adult.

Compassion – this is for the purposes of helping others or yourself, eg for health, domestic happiness, successful study etc. This is the stuff of most mainstream spell work in neopaganism nowadays, and probably with good reason, as it is an area with broad applications, and probably less complications. From the Satanic perspective it is not better or worse however, as you should be considering what has it’s justifiable place in an appropriate context.

Destruction – as you would imagine, basically the cursing department: “used for anger, annoyance, disdain, contempt, or just plain hate. It is known as a hex, a curse, or destroying agent”. He makes this sound quite casual and cavalier, but in fact a person has to have clear ideas about what justifies such a magical response. If you engaged in destruction rituals or spells for every person that annoyed  you, or earned your contempt, you would probably spend a great deal of time in the ritual chamber, and be a pretty toxic flavour of nutcase. Magic changes people, it does things to you, which is why you need good reasons. If you have genuinely good reasons for your magic, you will be strengthened. If not, you are going to experience complications, and quite possibly end up bound to crap, rather than freeing yourself of it. If you make mistakes, you are going to learn about it. Many people will probably never have need of a full blown curse.

Just as some spells that seem like they would be love or lust spells, are actually better served by a compassion working, there are many things that on the surface might seem like a cursing candidate that are actually defensive in nature, or freeing or banishing, and these would also be better served by a compassion ritual. Think of it this way too: how much do you really want to be bound to that person by the attention you are focussing on them? Like it or not, cursing is a massive focussing of attention and energy on the object of the curse, even if it is temporary (and it had better be temporary and without remorse), and though this is not my area of expertise, I would always first resort to a more nuanced, less involved approach. It’s not a joke, and to treat it as a joke is to regard your magic as a frivolous exercise.

My personal position is that if someone has intruded maliciously on my life, my first question is “how did I let them in?”. Second, “how did I not manage to protect myself from them so far?”. Thirdly, “how do I protect myself and push them out of my life effectively?”. I basically don’t want to know about such people, and I don’t want involvement with them, and I want to learn how to avoid this in future. The psychic version of “le slap” is not a curse in my book, and neither is banishing, that is just defending my space and keeping it clear. I cannot say there is not a possible use for a curse (just as I cannot say that you should never fire a gun at a person, there are aberrant situations extreme enough to require it, everyone knows that), but I believe it is rare (otherwise you might want to ask yourself why you give yourself this kind of level of trouble?). There is a saying that “the power of a sword lies in its sheath”, ie if you’re having to use it all the time, then it’s not doing its job. You do however need your defence to have teeth, otherwise you are presenting yourself as a slap up free lunch.

Belief and efficacy

LaVey’s views on the positive or negative effects of belief upon the target vary according to the type of magic. If it is a curse, then it helps if they don’t believe in magic, as any instinctive fear will be suppressed in the subconscious, where it will aid the curse. He says that for sex and compassion workings it helps if they faith and believe, while the reverse is true for cursing. A person who doesn’t believe is not going to defend themselves as well as they might, but they will still be susceptible to unconscious influence. In fact a lot of LaVey’s magic seems to be predicated upon such an unconscious influence, albeit not transmitted through rationally causal means. The goal is to bring about results in accordance with will, whether anyone (other than the magician) believes in it or not. He does however give the following guidance on attitude:

For sex or lust – take full advantage of spells that work.

Compassion – don’t regret the help that you give, even if it acts as an obstacle to you subsequently. “Be grateful for things that came to you through the use of magic”.

Destruction – do not care about what happens to the intended victim. Celebrate success, do not feel remorse.

He states forcibly “HEED WELL THESE RULES – OR IN EACH CASE YOU WILL SEE A REVERSAL OF YOUR DESIRES WHICH WILL HARM, RATHER THAN HELP YOU!”

This seems wise, as you should respect your magic, embrace it and take responsibility for it (which is why you consider magical action before you take it). Working with your mind against your magic, by doubts, picking it apart, or tying yourself to the object of a spell in an inappropriate way is not something to do. Keep it clean and simple.

The Ingredients of Success

LaVey gives five factors that add up to successful preconditions for magic: desire, timing, imagery, direction and the “balance factor”.

Desire – strong emotion is needed for LaVey’s model of magic, and you should not be working for something that you do not truly desire. It should not be “just for show”.

Timing – following LaVey’s drift of magic being a matter of influencing others subconsciously, he says the best time is when the object of the magic is most receptive. He identifies the time of dreaming sleep as the best, as this is when a person would be most receptive in his opinion. He gives this as being after an initial 4 – 6 hour period of profound sleep, when there is a period of dreaming sleep for 2 – 3 hours, or until waking. So, 2 hours before their waking time would be ideal. I don’t know how accurate this is, but certainly dreaming in the period before waking is common for many people. As the magician needs to be at their strongest at the time of “sending”, he considers this to be a reason for witches etc to often be characterised as nocturnal. Other times of receptivity are when a person is day dreaming or bored.

Imagery – this is used to intensify the emotions in ritual. Any visual representations, in addition to writing, scent, sound, dramatic enactments or music that will arouse the appropriate emotions are fine.

“Imagery is a constant reminder, and intellect-saving device, a working substitute for the real thing”

Imagery can be manipulated according to will, “and the very blueprint that is created by imagery becomes the formula which leads to reality”. So the magician creates situations on paper, canvas, or in writing, in the most exaggerated way possible, as part of the ceremony. This will “create a lodestone which will attract the situation or thing that you wish!”.

Imagery and imagination is very important to LaVey, and you can note that “imagination” does not just relate to visual images, but to all senses (and by implication to the underlying sixth sense of feeling). If we here take desire as representing “will”, then we have the classic combination of will and imagination as the major mechanisms of magic. Intention is implicit here, though I do think it can be separated out personally, due to its subtlety and power.

Direction – this is basically referring to accumulating and then directing force towards the desired end. LaVey points out that too many rituals are defused with anxiety and expectation, which can even prevent the build up of energy during the ritual itself. Similarly, over thinking and complaining dilute the force generated.

“Once the desire has been established strongly enough to employ the forces of magic, then every attempt must be made to symbolically give vent to these wishes IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THE RITUAL – NOT  before or after!”

Keep it clean, let it go, let it be done.

Ritual should free the magician of thoughts “that would consume him, were he to dwell upon them constantly”. LaVey has a strong awareness of the amount of emotional energy that is drained by day dreaming, scheming, and mulling over things. This is all energy that can be used to achieve a result.

The Balance Factor – this applies more to lust and compassion rituals than to curses. It is very common sense actually, and would benefit a lot of people in life. “This is, simply, knowing the proper type of individual and situation to work your magic on for the easiest and best results”. Aka knowing your limits.

This also comes into the failure debriefing department. Keep on failing at your goals in magic? Ask yourself if you are being realistic. Are you deluding yourself? Ignoring your actual strengths, and what you can have, for the sake of what you can’t? The balance factor relates to matching up your talents and strengths to what can be achieved by you. Pining for someone who is not attracted to anybody of your sex (by their inherent nature) is not going to be solved through magic. Neither is the quest to be a hit singer, when you really can’t sing. Do yourself a favour, and honour what you are good at, and what you can maximise.

“To be able to adjust one’s wants to one’s capabilities is a  great talent”

“One of the magician’s greatest weapons is knowing himself”

Wise words.

Concluded here

the_bookshelf_for_boys_and_girls_little_journeys_into_bookland_28191229_281477301741529

The Bookshelf for boys and girls Little Journeys into Bookland by University Society, New York [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons