what “self” means to you

I came to a realisation recently, about the “self” that I feel pride and worth in.

When I was very young I led a quite creative, bohemian life for a while. I painted and drew a great deal, and threw myself into meditation, magical practices and journaling, and I did access a good deal of creativity, and even seemed to enthuse others with an expressive spirit at times, but I was actually deeply unhappy. I had a very definite “self”, and a productive one, but I was unhappy because what really mattered to me was love. And I was very, very lonely.

It’s not uncommon for me to say to my loved ones that I wish to do or achieve things for them, and I do sometimes get the response that I should do it for myself. I understand why they say that, because self-esteem is very important. It can seem like I might be neglecting myself in some way, but what I realise is that I am working to actualize my deeper self. The self I truly value, love, and feel good in is the self that loves my loved ones, has those bonds with them, and lives in the capacity to love. This may be why Freya is my Heathen patroness, and Venus is my astrological chart ruler. I know it can be different for other people, but for me that is how it is, and it’s important for me to understand that about myself.

Love has always been the central reality of life for me, for as long as I can remember. Not the sterilised “love” of some kinds of exoteric religious teachings, and more than just the romantic type, which can be many things. But the spiritual heart of the erotic, rooted in soul, body and heart, that cannot be scripted, bound by a narrative, status or any power other than itself, infused with the energy of Life itself, seeking its true fulfilment, that has always been the meaning of life for me.

And that is why I am as I am, and I love as I do.

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to have, and to have not

In modern Satanism, there is a very strong thread of pragmatism and self-interest. This is very sensible and practical. You should go for all you can in life, and get the very best, most fulfilling life you can. On the other hand, there’s no point barking up the wrong trees, deluding yourself, or yearning for the impossible, if you can avoid it. But some things are genuinely hard to avoid, because they are too deep, or their denial  is too overwhelmingly circumstantial. People don’t get dealt equal hands, just a fairly standard set of needs, not all of which can be met for everyone. Anton LaVey was very clear in his admiration for the personal qualities of severely deformed individuals who had managed to put their situation to advantage by being sought after as “circus freaks”, and got people to pay for the privilege of seeing them. The strength, determination and individualism of these people was outstanding.

With some things it’s fine to say “suck it up”, and “bite the bullet”, but there are points at which a person suffers in a way which is so psychologically potent for them, that such advice doesn’t go very far.

What I would like to highlight here is that people face real losses and deprivations in life, inequalities and what  would be obviously unfair, if there were any expectation of existence being “fair” (which there clearly cannot be). However, without engaging in sentimental concepts of “everything being for a reason” (which really isn’t the point), the way life and human nature works out, there are often compensations, and ones which only become apparent through hard experience. These sort of areas I think go deeper into universal aspects of spirituality, as they deal with areas of self-realisation which we discover through facing life as it is, sometimes making surprising discoveries in the process.

I use the term “warlock” to describe myself because I am male, and I like the resonances of “warlock” as a Satanist. But I also like the term “witch” for its sexual ambiguity as a male. My inner life is a door, not a thing; a space, not an object. Beyond that door, you’d have to know me beyond words or appearances, or available categories, to see.

I have relationships with deities and spirits, with the “other world”, a world which could be judged “non-existent”, indeed you might well consider it such, if you hadn’t experienced yourself as part of it. Being and nothingness are threads in one cloth, and if you held that cloth to your face I would defy you to tell me which was which. That is the love of life for itself.

If I had experienced a happy, fulfilled younger life of relationship and love, I would not have fallen into the arms of that world. I would not have been seen from the other side, and found a kind of recognition. These bonds don’t come from practice, but from your own soul, that part of your being that recognises the stuff of life as poetry, and poetry as life. Why these things happen, why they are, I do not know, other than that they carry a meaning that bears its own gravity, attracting us and the events of our lives across fields to their ends, however distant and forbidding, hard or verdant, towards the meaning we most deeply share.

With time we see who we are, and lack becomes fullness. We see what we can do. We see how we can love.

The heart is bigger than we think; red as blood, luminous as dreams, warm as our lover’s flesh. And it is open.

There may be many kinds of want, each in their way revealed through different circumstances. The crucible is hollow, the pot useless without its emptiness. The fire is real. And we have lives to live, and meanings that may take time and experience to uncover.

dancing_with_helen_moller3b_her_own_statement_of_her_philosophy_and_practice_and_teaching_formed_upon_the_classic_greek_model2c_and_adapted_to_meet_the_aesthetic_and_hygienic_needs_of_to-day2c_with

Dancing with Helen Moller by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

love, surrender and self-worth

Modern Satanism is known for its emphasis upon self interest, self fulfilment and self determination. But these things are not simplistic. The place of our loved ones has always been acknowledged. Fulfilment of the self through our relationships and love is perfectly Satanic, even when these appear to manifest as selflessness, if that is what fulfils us. It’s us that puts these things into the context that is meaningful to us. Your self is just bigger and deeper than most people are taught.

This year I have come to learn more about myself, more deeply, than I probably have for decades. And in a way, I am more at peace with myself and the world than I have been for a long time. I gave up trying to change the world some time ago, but now I feel like I am just starting to engage with the world as it is (you could call it a kind of existential reconciliation), as who and what I am.

One thing I have come to accept more deeply than ever is the way I love. I am what some people would term a “romantic” (if an open minded one), and am by nature very submissive and devoted in love relationships. People often characterise “falling in love” as a liability, as it goes so far beyond the rational, and can make a person so vulnerable. But falling in love is one of the great archetypal experiences of human life. This is (potentially) where you find who you and another person really are.

Both the opportunity and the problem of this is that one gives oneself away. You surrender completely. It is an enormous risk. But if one is loved back, then you are given back a deeper, truly living self, as one has never known before. What I realised after a while is that though you give everything to a loved one, you get to (indeed you must) accept back your own dignity and self-worth. And this is our Achilles heel, and where one of the common hazards of love occurs. One gives oneself away in total (because that’s what you do in love), and one gives away one’s self-worth temporarily (apart from the most essential self-worth which lies within us always, waiting to be discovered), thus loving is both blissful and incomparably painful at the same time. But this very hazardousness is what allows us to discover ourselves as we really are most deeply, open to another completely, and giving ourselves completely. But then we also get to find our own dignity and self-worth, not just in conventional terms, but in the most deeply personal and essential sense.

It took me time to understand this, partly because of failed experiences from my youth, and also because my nature is so submissive. I embrace that submissiveness, just as I embrace my sexuality without modern labels, my sex, my nature, my self-worth, my dignity and my purpose. It is vulnerable and yielding, but also self-possessed, and it is my inner power in myself.

That is how I love.

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Equinox

Today is the time of Equinox, Autumn in the North, Spring in the South. I’m writing from my own perspective here, so for me it is Autumn Equinox. It has cooled down, though actually very pleasant, and the leaves are falling increasingly.

Some feel sadness at the ending of Summer, though this (along with high Summer) are my favourite seasons. The great thing about this season is that it is a magnificent ending, so either it is a time to savour, or an enormous relief, depending on the Summer you have had.

Here the change in daylight hours is at its maximum, and we will increasingly plunge into shorter days and longer nights.

I feel myself getting stronger thanks to my loved ones, and also thanks to my own efforts. Libra (sign of the Equinox) is a sign of relationships, and the link between self and relationship with loved ones is a greatly important one for me. One of my loved ones today told me that my sense of doing things for the good of myself would increase as I got stronger. He is right I am sure, though love will always be central to me. Again, maybe it sounds strange for a Satanist to be saying that, but we understand ourselves through others, and only relate to others genuinely from our authentic self. Sometimes we ride into battle, or the play of the game, poised with  the black purity of selfhood. Sometimes we yield and respond from the wellspring of love and relationship. Eventually our fabric may be finely woven, love and will, shadow and light, depth gushing forth in the deepest pleasure, the most delighted love, the finest strength, the great happiness of our embodied spirit, living fully as ourselves. This is also something which I was trying to express in my post on Babalon. I associate selfhood-in-relationship with the colour red. That may be my quirk, but it secretly goes with what I have been taught over a period of time recently, dealing with myself and life as honestly as I can.

I feel great gratitude just to get to this point. Gratitude to who or what? The list is complex, and as a Satanist it does include myself, and especially my loved ones, but gratitude I do feel. It is why I have been able to make a more personal sounding post for the first time in a while.

Have a great Equinox, and enjoy the season.

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Venus, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539 by Hans Sebald Beham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Libra’s scales shown near feet

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

trouble in the head

If there were a place in human life to identify where our “trouble” is situated, it would surely be the mind. And if there were a place to identify where our talents and creativities and so many of our potentials arise, it would surely be the mind. Our Pandora, our Prometheus, our Lucifer; our Teslas and Einsteins, our Leonardos and our serial killers, it’s all in the electrical theatre of the mind.

Someone I once knew referred to psychedelics as spiritual laxatives, and while I have never taken powerful psychedelics myself, I have done holotropic breathwork, and had experiences that could be described as “psychedelic”, and I would entirely concur. It gets things moving.

Magically speaking, the area that I would find most interestingly relevant here is evocation, as described by Israel Regardie in “The Tree of Life”. Whether or not you use a “triangle of art”, the fact is we are all right in it, with our personal demons, that just might be our daemon, or its preliminary accompaniment.

The mind of course includes many things. In the East the mind is much wider and deeper than it has generally been taken to be in the West (until at least the advent of psychology, and more particularly trans-personal psychology, and even then I’d be cautious to claim too much). In traditions such as Buddhism the mind goes all the way down, and right to the centre. In the West, the profound area of the mind has generally be termed the heart, while what we think of as “mental” has tended to be termed the head. Whether we are talking about the “essence of Mind” in the eastern sense, or “the heart” in the western terminology, it is characterized by peace, bliss, and a resplendent, luminous quality. This is where we experience Oneness of Being, and love in the sense that mystics talk of it. This is where we are who we truly are.

But what then of the “mind”, the “head”? In truth this is surely the whole question, for there is no problem in “the heart”, and indeed no separation.

The heart is in fact the key to the head, but the head must be clear to allow it. Thus the Sufi’s talk of “polishing the heart”, because our thoughts and judgements obscure it. But the head is a wonder, and it reveals to us a distorted mirror show of our own divinity, a blessed freak show which we should honour. Sometimes reversed, sometimes twisted, sometimes heartbreakingly longed for, sometimes feared. It is a wonder, and all we take to be art and science and genius and poetry and vision, if it has any language at all, then it is the child of our head. Demons indeed, illumined by our daemon.

And this is where those psychedelic processes come in, and healing processes too. Between healing, and manifestation, and the tumbling cyphers of questions that we already have the answer for, the language we reach for, that articulates us.

So we can see, with clarity, and with cleansing, with what I call the dispensation of the heart, that all becomes simply mind, or simply heart, according to how it may appear to you. And all in relationship.

All love, or truth, or bliss.