bad girls and crimson lads

Astrology can be a very rewarding study, as it deals in a psychological language that subjectively correlates with our inner and outer lives. It does this in a way which is not rationally explainable, but due to its potency it seems to dig down into Nature. For the receptive astrologer it can illuminate principles that structure experience, and elements of identity in a luminous manner. It is not a science, nor a rational study, but it is real in the same sense that poetry and artistic meaning are. Its archaic interaction with our lives is one of the reasons I consider it akin to magick and divination. Magick and astrology both inhabit an intermediate, ensouled world between matter, body and psyche.

Astrology uses the planets and other astronomical bodies, and associates these with principles which it links to the gods of mythology (most commonly, though not exclusively Roman). These might not be understood in the way that a hard polytheist would, but they nevertheless carry an influence which can follow mythological themes and structures, in poetic recombinations. This is why exploring your natal chart can almost seem like the discovery of your own, personal sacred themes, as if you were discovering an unwritten mythology, which yet resonates with larger themes, but without absorbing or replacing the individual life and its meaning.

I’ve had some interesting experiences with this kind of thing. One of the challenges in my own chart lies in a square (90° aspect) I have between The Moon and Venus (the latter being on the IC). The square is generally consider a “difficult” or challenging aspect, as the planetary energies have conflicting modes of expression, due to the signs they are in. So for instance one may express impulsively and spontaneously, and the other express cautiously and sensitively, but being linked, they have to learn how to get the combinations of their energies “right”. In the case of the Moon and Venus, these are both archetypally feminine energies, and very compatible simply as energies, but the square aspect creates an awkwardness, with my responsive and reflective, receptive Moon nature being independent and spontaneous, and my more romantic, sensual and relating nature being protective and nurturing. I’m very Moon-Venus by nature, but it takes work to understand my own awkwardnesses and sensitivities, insecurities etc.

The challenge is further elucidated by my Moon being conjunct both Eris and Black Moon Lilith*. It’s important for me to be able to reconcile both my Venus (which is also my chart ruler) and the complex of Moon, Black Moon and Eris, for me to be myself most deeply, and have a full life where I fulfil my nature and “purpose”.

Recognising the necessary relationship (for squares are powerful relationships, and as necessary as any other) between Black Moon Lilith/Moon and Venus has itself been very important for me in understanding myself. Darkstar Astrology says the following about the conjunction:

“Moon conjunct Lilith fuses two ‘moons’ together. So we get the mother and the anti-mother in one being. I think it becomes rather like the Black Madonna, it is extra potent and a Virgo archetype. This combination has to successfully merge the paradox of the virgin and the whore or the very worst manifestation of Lilith can surface. At its best this is sheer priestess and occult ability at the highest level. The conjunction can work as a hard or soft aspect, so when it is good it is very good, but when it is bad it is terrible”

Darkstar Astrology

Yup, I get that. In fact it’s been one of the themes of my life, first surviving (in my earlier life), and then understanding this, and its meaning for me.

The connection with this in perception came about after I had come to relate to a deity that isn’t found in astrology at present though, the Thelemic goddess Babalon. This itself was accompanied by events in my life, which led me to search inwardly. Our lives are driven from deep within us at crucial points. Babalon is based upon a reinterpretation of The Whore of Babylon, and she is both a Venusian goddess, and also a transformative spiritual agent with “demonic” (or daemonic) associations. The above mentioned merging of “the paradox of the virgin and whore” is apparent in her qualities, for she is both deeply sexual and powerfully spiritual, and evokes Virgo’s self-possession, but with Scorpio’s transformative and taboo inheritance thrown in.

I knew Babalon was important to the person I most deeply was, and knew I had to become. Now I can see it in my natal chart, and the patterns fall into place still more. Love, nurturance, sexuality, spiritual transformation and the most raw forces of life and desire are all called forth, to confront shadow, and truly love.

Virgo and Scorpio are placed either side of Libra, the Venusian sign most associated with relationship and balance. In terms of astrological rulerships of signs, we have the planets Venus and Mars, combined under the auspices of Mercury/Hermes.

Babalon is an archetype of the “Scarlet Woman” in Crowley’s system, but this same energy can and does manifest through males. I like to call the male counterpart “crimson lads”, but that’s just a little poetic license.

In astrology, if you follow intuition, feeling, instinct and creativity, you can come to listen to its language more personally. At the right time, this can help to illuminate our authentic experience and natures.

septagram1

Star of Babalon

* I’ve written before on the subject of Black Moon Lilith, and this “imaginary Earth” is a fascinating astrological point that can resonate on many levels.

Babalon

Everyone comes to their own understanding of spiritual principles. For me the place of love and sexuality in spirituality has always been a key question, and one which I knew had crucial answers.

Certain faces of “the feminine” are very important to me, in that they coincide with my deeper nature, and the meaning I carry within me. Thus they carry an intimate and very personal meaning for me.

To be a man who loves men is not always an easy circumstance, for it really has nothing to do with being “gay”, and to be all that you are, often without social guidance or validation, and find true relationship, can be a challenge. But life is miraculous, and if we are true to ourselves, we can be taught directly, and find our loves.

Babalon is a modern Thelemic goddess, based upon a positive interpretation of “The Whore of Babylon” of the Book of Revelation. I used to find parallels between her and the Hindu goddess Durga, but I find it better to look at her uniquely now. I would particularly like to focus on the “whore” or prostitute aspect, and its relationship to a certain kind of feminine individuation¹.

The Roman Venus was a patroness of many things, but amongst them were prostitutes and homosexual men. The link between homosexual men and prostitutes is really quite long and abiding, probably because we are both manifestations of the feminine (at some level) that goes beyond the “respectable” and socially acceptable, or at least beyond the procreative family. In both our cases there is something conventionally “missing” or mismatched, but on a deeper level there is also something that convention cannot provide. Also, we both tend to find our meaning in a form of service (I think that is a reasonable if inevitably non-comprehensive generalisation*).

When I say homosexual men, to be historically (and maybe psychically) valid, I mean men who primarily love and desire men in a devoted and receptive way, as there are many men who are able to have active sex with another man without being “homosexual” or “gay”, and who may want to for many reasons. This kind of homosexuality doesn’t necessarily have outward feminine characteristics though, it being a much deeper and instinctive orientation within someone who is male, and little to do with superficial appearances. These of course cannot be definitive generalisations. Our modern categories are just overly controlling and inaccurately labelling.

Love engages all of us. Body, heart, soul and spirit. This kind of love is a fire that brings us alive and burns down our constraints, transforms us, and offers us the chance of both ultimate fulfilment and complete destruction. You have to be courageous to take up such a challenge, such a risk, but to not do so is to never live.

In my own life Babalon is an exemplar, of how to live from my heart and soul. And of how to have the strength to truly love, even beyond need, and beyond calculated safety. This same great force leads people to love purely and with absolute “fidelity” (which can mean many things), and to the madness of obsession if our own needs and blocks are not burnt up for the sake of love. Only through this fire do we understand the nature of union, and how we love with our whole body and soul, following our true meaning, with those we are truly bonded and intimate with.

tattoo of Leilah Waddel, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley - by Rosa Laguna

tattoo of Leilah Waddell, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley – by Rosa Laguna

¹ meaning individuation along a feminine pattern of experience, whether for a woman or man.

* it is striking that homosexual men do tend to end up in service occupations, whether it is retail, health care, counselling, mediumship, therapies or sex work. I think this is in many cases an instinctive orientation, rather than that we are “better with people” etc.

21st August 2016: last paragraph edited “needs” to “needs and blocks”.

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].

all the cake

Changing times, but change within a consistent pattern; that’s what it feels like to me at the moment. Renewal, growth.

It’ll be Chinese New Year on Monday, which I always like. We actually live in what was the original China Town of London, of the old docks and sailors, and opium dens, the one before the bustling, touristy one of the West End. It’s long gone of course, though there is a surviving British-Chinese community a little South of here. Phil actually has a very little bit of Chinese blood, going back generations, along with loads of other things.

It feels as if I may actually be doing work in more conventionally “spiritual” areas, such as energy healing, readings and spirit communication, though I will be keeping up the demon exploration and hopefully the art this year.

Connection and relationship are not things you can avoid, and one has to find one’s relationship with the whole, even as a Satanist. That’s always been so in fact, but while I’d say 90% of magick is relationship and working with holisms, there is that core work with the self which is irreplaceable, and which I took many years to tackle. The latter is a taboo subject is some regards, as I consider it to be necessarily satanic, in essence if not necessarily in name. To put it another way, it is negatory as compared with The Whole.

Love and relationship remain the greatest things for me, though the authentic work with the self is completely necessary. I am a Pantheistic polytheist, but I haven’t forgotten the lessons of the Great God Set.

So, life goes on, in its sacred smallness and richness.

Have it all, cake and eating, and wine and flowers too, and beasts to love each other forever. It can be done.

antoinette

Marie-Antoinette with the Rose (detail) by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

 

 

octopus

I had a nice “surprise” the other day, in the form of seeing an old video of Grant Morrison speaking at a Disinformation convention in 1999.

He talked quite a bit about magick, time, being, “individuality” and culture, and mentioned Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, as well as the work of Terrence McKenna and Stan Grof. The latter two were real inspirations for me in the 90s, and there was plenty of times during this talk that I just thought “were we all reading the same stuff, and thinking the same things in the late 90s?!”. It was pretty delightful.

Terrence McKenna was a neo-psychedelicist, a playful and visionary thinker, and a beautiful mind to behold. Catch up on True Hallucinations if you get the chance. Stan Grof is a consciousness researcher with roots in psychedelic psychiatric therapies, who with his wife Christina pioneered Holotropic Breathwork, a technique I credit with freeing me significantly near the end of my thirties.

I found both these writers after I had gone through my own breakthrough at the beginning of the 90s, where I came to experience the Oneness of Being, and the inversion (or suspension) of conventional ideas of causality, and of temporospatially located being. It’s not so much a long story as a big one that isn’t conventionally describable, but it was one in which “the heart” became central. A lot of things opened up for me after that, because my understanding was so utterly different at a certain level. Grant Morrison really reminded me of that.

At one point he talks about how if you were a two-dimensional being, and someone stuck their fingers through your plane of existence, you would not see four fingers of a hand, you would see the four separate circles formed by the intersection of those fingers with the plane you existed on. And we, with our normal idea of being are that far from the higher dimensional reality of being. We see slices through time and we think “we” are “here”. And Grant exclaimed that same, common perception that  has occurred to so many people, that we are all the same thing. And that being is way more stretchy, continuous, and non-local than we imagine.

Contrary to what people sometimes think, this is not some kind of religious propaganda to divest you of your individuality. The propaganda comes into the limitations of repeated langauge, and how that gets used, but the perception is entirely original and experienceable. And when you experience this, the hilarious enigma of “how can I seem to be here in this body, experiencing myself as really separate?!” presents itself very naturally. It’s a complete mind boggler.

How I came to see “being” (ontos) was as the conscious content of what could be described as tunnels (the fingers of Grant’s “hand”), fractal tunnels that spiralled and branched, in the sensing of my inner imagining. In our identification with the separative body-mind we were right at the tip of these tunnels, and when we are squashed right down the end of these tunnels, we get into all kinds of claustrophobic problems. We struggle in a game that is already over. What we need to do is ease back, to a less cramped, more spacious part of the tunnel, were we can experience a greater bandwidth, and a greater range and inclusion of consciousness. We then find parts of our mind which we weren’t conscious of. Eventually we find that our being is greater, more multiple and more inclusive than we could have imagined. Eventually the tunnels join on to greater tunnels. I can also imagine this as being like an enormous sea creature of consciousness, a massive octopus. We’ve lived in the tips of this creature’s tentacles, as that is how we come to feel (maybe). But as we get to ease back, to inhabiting the tentacle, and not just the tip, and then the branches that the tentacles branch off of – are the tentacles “extinguished” in the whole? No, of course not. It just becomes more intelligent.

Grant was aware of the paradoxical place of “individuality” in this, as it can be identified with the constricted, troubled, tip of the consciousness tentacle. But I think individuality is still important here. If you are talking about conditioned ego and its primate compulsions, then yes, of course it is just a means to an end. A means that cuts us off from our own life in Big Squid (or whatever you want to call “it”). But here’s the conundrum. You need the tip, and the tentacle and everything; and the life of Big Squid is just what we feel in ourselves as living individuals. I don’t think the individual is, as Grant thought, just “scaffolding” for building this other thing. And remember as well, Big Squid is not in time the way that we are. It’s a very enigmatic scheme, which we can mainly only intimate, as it is itself the stuff of which our consciousness is made. Like a language that writes itself, and writes its own reading into its very texture. We are the implicit stories and meaning that emerges from this self generating langauge.

You might ask where is the Satanist in all this, and I would say right in the magick, in the paradox, in the exploration. I’m not so much a mystic, as a marine biologist here, albeit part of the animal. Most Satanists acknowledge “Nature”, albeit as including those things we pretend to be “against Nature”.

Magick itself needs both perspectives. That is why I love both the underestimatedly trippy work of Marion Weinstein, and the original (but more oppositional or poetic) brilliance of Crowley and Austin Osman Spare. Big Squid is just about everything, and the “extended being” experience does have applications in both magick and healing. But the paradoxical condition of the lights being on and someone really being home is down to you, just you. You, that unique, ruthless, tentacular beauty. Otherwise you are not writing the part of the langauge that only you can write, and you are reading the wrong script, acting in a film you are not included in. And how could you possibly enjoy that? You absolutely need both, and you’d be right to not want to be hoodwinked into being part of a film that doesn’t even have a director. You are the only director for your film. You just don’t realize how big and deep “you” is. That’s why Grant in the video was so insistent that you try this stuff out.

You could do so much with this.

Octopus vulgaris by Beckmannjan at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons - digitally altered

Octopus vulgaris by Beckmannjan at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – digitally altered

gendering the devil

It will soon be New Moon, first since the eclipse, and a New Moon in Libra, just after 1am BST. I am quite relieved, as it feels like something moving, emerging; resolving would be the wrong word for it, but there feels like there is an answer in it. Almost a physical answer.

Venus is still conjunct Mars, which is conjunct Jupiter, all in Virgo. Venus forms a T square with Neptune and Saturn. It’s been quite uncomfortable, but it’s as if it now comes to rest, acceptance, like when the sticky mess turns to risen dough.

This morning I had dreams of a Venusian Middle Eastern goddess which I felt a very physical sense of identification with. Venus is my chart ruler, and it’s not so surprising, certainly not for me. Phil was in there somewhere too, and it was all between sleeping and waking, and Phil had a kind of membraneous “cowl” over his head, like babies with “second sight” are meant to be born with. I felt relief with this dream, for part of me is tired of the struggle, the fight, however necessary I might have learnt that it is. A part of me is at peace today.

One of the real joys of Satanism is its freedom from coercive, consensual politics and mob trending. It is too individual, and too boiled down by nature for that. “Political correctness” can’t survive long, and even an idea like being “on the right side of history” becomes a little wry in the long view. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make our own choices in the things we question and love, and the things we explore. Indeed we are bound to, as the actual people that we are, irrespective of what anyone thinks we should or shouldn’t do. Gender is one of the areas that I personally question a lot, even as I withdraw from political colonization of the subject, and all the unpleasantness and dishonesty that involves. I hate to see people boxed in on gender, told what they are or aren’t, and what it  means, whether they are being whipped for being non-conformist, or “traditional”, or something else. It is I think one of the more insidious assaults on individuality, and I can’t remember a time when that didn’t anger or upset me. It’s also an area which I find commonly confused with sexuality, which isn’t helpful either.

Satanism often has a quite male image (though there are many female Satanists, as well as transgender Satanists), and its iconography tends towards the masculine often. That was helpful to me, coming from the blithely female-centred world of neopaganism. It was refreshing, freeing and affirming. But I don’t actually want a solely masculine sacred universe, nor a solely binary one for that matter. Indeed myself is a mystery, entirely male, yet my very functioning is informed by resonance with intelligences both male and female, when I look into the world of the subconscious, and dream, and poetic communication. And btw I entirely reject the idea that as a gay man I am of an intermediate sex or gender. It’s something different to that, as I am a man without quotation marks. I have an unambiguous relationship to both my gender and to masculinity. Maybe when the fish swims upstream its meaning must take in more than itself, in order to be itself. I don’t know.

So my dream was a relief. And that got me thinking about figures and iconography, and that brought me to the Thelemic figure of Babalon. Babalon is a goddess who was brought to our consciousness by Aleister Crowley, along with The Beast as a god. You can see these two as demonic gods if you like, and I wrote something about Babalon here. Crowley was himself bisexual, yet his iconography is very heterosexual, but I think it is important to understand these figures not as role models of sexuality or gender. They are beyond that. I was disappointed to find male Thelemic magicians often viewing Babalon as a kind of cosmic porn queen, though the place of sexuality in Thelemic magick maybe makes it understandable, and I certainly have nothing against porn, quite the opposite. I on the other hand tend to relate to goddesses as wisdom figures, but there is in Babalon, as in a number of other Venusian goddesses, that fusion of sexual fire, soul and literal physical experience which, as in my dream, irrigates the fields of our inner life and its union with our own bodies. There is no desire for her, but in her there seems to be some of my own nature, or vice versa. As the glass rings to its musical note, I recognize a core part of myself.

I need my gods, my deities, my demons, to be free. That is part of the appeal of my practice. That is why I could not relate to the neopagan worshipping of sacrificial male and procreative female, dragging us back again to a world without choice, a world of loaded, coerced options. That is part of why I answered the Devil’s call, and answered as myself.

And the Devil is many genders.

version of Babalon, rewroked from Virgin Mary by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

version of Babalon, reworked from Virgin Mary by Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

13th October 2015: minor edits without change of meaning.