Light, dark, crowns and reversals

Coronadolores By Cofradía de Ntro. Padre Jesús Nazareno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons - digitally altered

I’ve been finding it good to do videos at the moment, having found a nice way of recording them on my phone while pacing around the flat, which makes the flow and spontaneity work for me. I’ve been focusing on Spiritual (Theistic) Satanism, and things like Qabalah, and it has been a relief to be able to just focus on the kind of Satanism that speaks to me, without qualifying it with an attempt to (not mis-) represent Satanism more broadly. In fact, since really embracing the sense of Satan as a being, things have really slotted into place, and I’ve come that much closer to finding the next steps of my path. In some ways this was inevitable for me, as I am a polytheist and occultist, and the spiritual (rather than the materialism of more purely LaVeyan inspired Satanism) was bound to play a large part for me.

My last video was more of a video diary entry, and in it I was musing on the meanings of “dark” and “light” which people refer to.

One of my problems with neopaganism was its prosaic use of what were meant to be significant insights. We were told often of how monotheism “demonized” the dark and exulted a sense of the “light”, and how Pagan religions, being far more “natural”, accepted the different parts of life, the dark and the light, the painful and the blissful. We were given the sense of dark and light being a polarity of Nature, embraced by naturalism. Night and day, Summer and Winter, sunrise and sunset, birth and death. But there’s a catch here.

Is all that we have to consider really natural? Are we really accepting suffering equally with happiness (and should we)? Are we, in all our apparent aberrations as human beings, not also Nature? And when you have gone through the cycle of accepting day and night, birth and death (speaking as an ex-nurse, I have never got used to death), with that panacea of “reincarnation” as the supposed solution – have you really done the dark? Even if we talk about “facing the shadow” psychologically, what do we really mean? And what of “evil”, that ultimate emotive term of condemnation? I have no doubt that none of this is as the monotheists claim. But is it really so easy, so clean, so tamable?

As you might guess, my answer is “I don’t think so”. It’s good as far as it goes, but it only really goes as far as the insights of secularism and a tolerant common sense, which is fine, but not profound.

If you want to enter into a spiritual understanding of existence, then the darkness you deal with can’t just be “psychological” or symbolic, and can’t just be natural. And beyond a certain point, neither can magick. My critique here is not of the “Paganism” of old, which while it may be only partly known to us, dealt in grittier, dodgier stuff. It’s more modern, mainstream Paganism that I think hasn’t got it. The monotheisms, while I am opposed to them on pretty fundamental grounds, at least know something is there, and have the guts to call it “evil”, even if they don’t understand it, or its place in self-actualisation, and are antagonistic to the latter.

At some point we have to deal with the alien, the monstrous, that which doesn’t even belong to this Universe, which cannot for that matter be said to either exist nor not exist. This brilliant, lawless darkness we glimpse through the cracks, the points inbetween, and in so doing breathe a freedom we have never known before, an original creativity which lies also at the heart of ourselves. At that point, all bets are off. It is neither evil nor good, but ecstatic, yet in the absence of goodness will always be rationally and conventionally viewed as “evil”.  This freedom is part of what I see as being at the heart of both Satanism and Thelema.

The Left Hand Path has different goals to the Right. It is not “one of the infinite paths up the mountain”. This is no holism or universalism.

The Right Hand Path would have us ascend the Tree of Life, and merge ultimately in egoless union with The One. At least I believe that is the general picture. At the top of that tree (qabalistically) is Kether, The Crown. I don’t see any point in this, the coming here, only to go back, not even to a heaven, but blissful extinction in the unity we were meant to have come from, and should necessarily still be a part of already. So the Left Hand Path (in my view) takes another crown for its system, the sphere of Da’ath (knowledge, I think as gnosis), the gateway in the abyss, to other Universes, to the reverse of the Tree of Life.

Here we have the mystery of time and space, multiple alternate realities, and the labyrinthine, lustrous, black mother of pearl of the tunnels of being. And here the lawless creativity and gratification, the Sabbat of the dark of the Moon, the New, the brilliant, the free.

Here poetry, art, criminality (inevitably though not necessarily), and the savage desire that fires genius and the crackling, reckless impulse of science.

Here a figure dances and glitters between dark and light. An illicit Mercurius; magician, trader, thief, demon.

The fruit of Saturn, and Pan and our deepest dreams.

The new flesh.

 

issues in Satanism

Why Not? by C. D. Batchelor 1919 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post is in response to my friend Aleph’s excellent piece on his place in “the Satanic zeitgeist”.

There are many kinds of Satanists, and a number of different types of Satanism discernible nowadays, not to mention a near unlimited number of individual variations (given the minimalist individualism of Satanic philosophy), but it is good for us to look at what has grown, and where we find ourselves in it, 50 odd years on from the proper genesis of modern Satanism, courtesy of Anton LaVey. I consider modern Satanism to have antecedents (notably in Crowley’s Thelema from my point of view), but the emergence of a movement consciously self-identified as “Satanist” dates back to LaVey most clearly*. I look upon this as the emergence of a spiritual stream that actually goes deeper and broader than “what it says on the tin” of LaVey’s Church or Bible.

So without further ado, I’d like to look at Aleph’s points.

Egoism versus egotism versus Altruism

The distinction between egoism and egotism will be seen as academic by many, but I get that the former is a philosophy of self-interest taken as the basis of one’s moral compass, while egotism is the more pejorative or judgemental term, coming somewhere closer to “narcissism” and self-absorption. In this respect Satanism could be seen as an explicitly egoistic philosophy, but I have dealt before with my sense of the potential place of altruism within a Satanic life. We are complex, interdependent, social animals (no matter how selective we might get), and self-interest and a sense of higher or broader fulfilment are not mutually exclusive; there just isn’t a rule on it in Satanism, and you have to come to your own conclusions as to your values. Self-actualisation includes more than food, sex, power and survival, so I would in a sense recommend an intelligent and psychologically literate egoism.

Morality/ethics

I think one of the brilliant things about Satanism is the way it collapses the authority of all external morality (which is one of the reasons why Satanism is inappropriate for children, who need such external structure). What this means in practice is that you have to make enquiry into your own personal ethics. What is pretty incontrovertible for me is that ethical coherence forms a part of our self-actualisation needs, though as a Satanist it is for you to make the judgement on what is coherent and self-actualising. Aleph asks whether there could be an objective morality of any sort, and I think there is no moral form which is objectively true, but there may be moral or ethical principles which hold true for a great divergence of circumstances, and the more this is so, the more basic the principle would be, and the more self-evident and neutral. It is a bit like the question of “rights”, which though it forms a powerful piece of “mental technology”, is in fact a fabrication in any natural terms. As an animal you have no rights, but to survive if you and your circumstances allow. That’s it. But ethics comes into the field of higher self-actualisation and value, and it is good to look into not “good and evil”, but what “the good” means to you. I think it was Aleister Crowley that said that you could look into good and evil and see that they didn’t truly exist, but to act as if  they didn’t exist in practice would ultimately  be degrading for the person themselves. I think it is best to say that morality is subjective and relative, but that ethics is an ongoing enquiry of enormous importance to the individual.

Self-preservation vs self-transformation

It is quite true that an unhealthy attachment to preserving one’s own status quo can form a block to growth and transformation, but on the other hand, transformation needs a stable base upon which to work, growth requires a healthy prior stage to grown from.

Self-preservation and self-transformation are actually complementary processes, though there comes a time when preservation must give way to a kind of death and rebirth to allow growth (as in the end of childhood), and where transformation must slow to bring about a stable new state; not a stagnant one, simply a vigorous and strong one. These are actually alterations in the ratios of ever present factors, for no living stability is based upon actual stasis, and no transformation is without limits and essential tendencies towards form,  if it is to be meaningful.

Aleph here discusses the differences between Satanism and Luciferianism thus: “Satanism is the philosophy that places emphasis on self-preservation, while Luciferianism talks about self-transformation”. But I would replace “self-preservation” with “self-actualisation” as the more integral emphasis of Satanic philosophy, as this is implicit in it, and a better description of a lived life. This of course includes self-preservation as one of its most basic requirements.

I very much agree with the quote attributed by Aleph to Lilith Aquino:

“Glorification of the ego is not enough; it is the COMPLETE psyche, the entire Self or soul, which must be recognized, appreciated, and actualized”

Indeed, it is this sense of the complete psyche and its actualisation that is strongly represented in Thelema with its sense of the True Will, and I feel is implicit within Satanism, though some might deny it.

God and the gods

If there is one area where I have diverged markedly from LaVey’s Satanism it is in being a polytheist, though I would consider agnosticism to be the default optimal position for Satanism, as the truth is we know little, if anything, once we ask and ask and ask of ourselves what it is we mean. Don’t even get me started on how overrated I find the hip new atheism. I was an atheist when I was 14, and it was amazingly cool for me in 1973, but I’m very bored with the “does God exist?” contention.

I consider all kinds of things to exist beyond sensory testing, and if I’m wrong, well it’s been a wild trip. Whether gods and spirits do or do not exist, the universe behaves as if they do for the purposes of magic. If you wish to plug into psychological archetypes or symbols as a way of communicating with or manipulating the forces of both the mind and of Nature, you will get way further, way quicker by sincerely treating those things as real and independent. Further, I’m of the generation of occultists that found no necessary contradiction between a reality being both entity and psychological symbolic reality of force, or indeed intermediate between these perceived states. When it comes to both being and reality, we generally have but one toe dipped in that sea. You won’t swim by deliberating if wetness is real or symbolic.

Hedonism vs eudaimonism

Hedonism: “living and behaving in ways that mean you get as much pleasure out of life as possible, according to the belief that the most important thing in life is to enjoy yourself

Cambridge dictionary

Eudaimonism: “a moral philosophy that defines right action as that which leads to the “well-being” of the individual, thus holding “well-being” as having essential value”

The Basics of Philosophy

Further re hedonism:

All hedonistic theories identify pleasure and pain as the only important elements of whatever phenomena they are designed to describe. 

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Satanism has generally been described as hedonistic, and this may hold in appearance, though even hedonism involves more than physical gratification. Satanism also acknowledges that pleasure and pain are complex experiences that can well wear each others clothes. Satanism generally values pleasurable indulgence, but pleasure can be physical, emotional, mental, and at the level of experience of meaning (and whatever else the human spirit might discover). While Satanism tends to be quite reductive in its value system if you follow LaVey’s “Bible” rigidly, even there it attempts to trace out a limit to pleasures, based upon competing pleasures and their consequences. While this is a little two-dimensional, it is pointing to an intrinsically self-balancing experiential process which has as its implicit goal the pursuance of individual well-being.

What Satanism  doesn’t do is prescribe right action, as that is up to the individual to discover and determine. An action that didn’t lead to your own well-being (ultimately) would be seen not as “wrong”, but as unsuccessful.

Where I find hedonism (in its unrefined forms) substandard is in seemingly missing the value of things like hardship and suffering, in personal development and the gaining of strengths, and what I can only term the development of individual virtues. Discrimination is required, but I see nothing un-satanic about the concept of individual virtue, so long as it is individually arrived at. This does not suggest that suffering should not be avoided, it should where it is meaningless and unworthwhile. But the experience of personally unavoidable suffering, given the complexity of our natures, and the drive for self-actualisation, is something which needs to be honestly engaged with.

Satanism seeks refinement, honesty and subtlety, as well as pleasure, but it will never be a collective morality.

Revenge

“Lex talionis” (the “law of retaliation”, “an eye for an eye” etc) is bandied about quite a bit among modern Satanists, in distinction to “turning the other cheek” or trying to understand your enemies, and I think there are severe limitations to this, though it needs to be put into context.

The literal sense of punching someone for punching you, shooting someone for shooting you, stealing from someone for stealing from you, abusing someone for abusing you, is really not what this is about. What it is saying is the malice of others can expect a response (if that is worthwhile for you, and what you genuinely want) and revenge is not necessarily bad. Sometimes it is meant to hurt. There is no virtue in tolerating crap, not in itself. But it needs to be pointed out that nothing in Satanism will turn out well if it is done unintelligently,  because Satanism is like life. Satanism offers no rule book, only tools for enquiry into self and life.

Again here, we have to look into the question of individual well-being. If you get into a feud that drags your life down, or adversely affects you or your loved ones, then you have acted unskilfully. Fighting back stupidly, or seeking revenge unintelligently, is not Satanic. Letting something go can be entirely more freeing sometimes, and there is nothing wrong with taking the better option for yourself and your loved ones.

Further more, something that really needs to be considered, is that if you need to seek revenge or redress more than as an aberrant occurrence, why are you putting yourself in that situation, and wouldn’t it show more mastery to choose or make a better environment, and better company? Satanists know that peace is built upon strength, so incessant battle in your life is more a sign of weakness, unless it is battle that you enjoy and find well-being in of course, in which case you need to find the right partners for your sport.

Again, one comes to the consideration of well-being and intelligence. I think revenge is overplayed in LaVey’s Satanism, which was in part acting as a stimulating antagonist to both Christianity and the hippie movement of the time. It should not be turned into more than common sense on the whole.

Conclusion

I view Satanism as a modern spiritual current, similar in many ways to the 93 current of Thelema. I view it as having emerged into wider self-consciousness through Anton LaVey’s work, though it is as much a proliferation of his bastard children as it is of his atheistic Church of Satan creed. There may be other elements feeding into this, indeed there are, from Thelema (especially its Typhonian recension), demonology and demonolatry, myth and folklore, the paranormal, decadent and gothic art and literature, and the ripe field of 19th century French occultism. I would add the influence of Austin Osman Spare and Rosaleen Norton for myself. In any case, what we have is a current that has emerged organically, rather than dogmatically. Or you could say it has emerged from the psyche, rather than just theory and teaching (even though it takes in its own forms of the latter).

LaVey’s work has inducted this current in its modern form, even though he seemed at pains to disguise his subtlety and contradiction in a delightful pulp style, and deny the depth of the subject at times. But I do not believe things happen on such a surface level, without currents stirring in the depths of the world of the psyche. He would laugh at that I am sure, and I would smile.

I advise people interested in Satanism to follow their instincts and intuition to find out what has attracted them to this area. Don’t get too hung up on what some will say is the doctrine of Satanism, for the philosophy is so simple, so irreducible, that it is a solvent that cannot be contained in any bottle, no matter how labelled.

* Obviously imaginatively, spiritually and in a literary and artistic sense you could trace all manner of things back into the more distant past.

a dream for midsummer

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Titania and Bottom - Edwin Henry Landseer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Evolving a path is I think a fascinating and rewarding thing. Construction (or reconstruction) is so mundane, compared to the emergence of something from the pages of books, snatches of poetry, film, dreams, deep desires, and the fount of the subconscious.

We have been trialing our own “black mass” – not the iconoclasm and parody of either Christianity or fashionable beliefs that often characterise a modern black mass, but a more direct communion with Satan, the god of the witches, and the buried treasures of blackened and forgotten deities and demons. It is a lovely experience.

Aside from Walpurgis Night and Halloween, we haven’t paid too much attention to festivals (apart from our birthdays, and enjoying the seasons naturally), but I had a thought. The place of the midwinter solstice is well established for both Christians and neopagans (and to our ancestors according to solar alignments at New Grange and Stone Henge), and has entered our consciousness as the time of the “rebirth” of the Sun, the turning point of darkness to the return of light, the mythical birth of Christ etc. What then of midsummer? It also occurs in alignments of ancient monuments, but the emphasis commonly seems to have been upon winter solstice, although in our modern, hedonistic age Summer Solstice has taken over at Stone Henge as an attractive festival.

If midwinter is the birth of light, midsummer is the yearly genesis of darkness. The very force that matures the year, bringing both fruitfulness and decay, the high heat of late Summer, the glorious and fragrant shedding of Autumn, and on to the barren clarity of Winter, and the rebirth of light. It is a trippy time, silly season, a touch of the fool, milky nights gone almost as soon as they have fully fallen, upon us before we know it, stretching out like a road trip, a vanishing point.

“Birth” would be the wrong term to apply to the dark, for the dark is more mystical than that. Like a walk backwards through time, through Nature, the shuddering calm after orgasm, the lock clicking shut, the expiration of release, the bestial, verdant fuck of the world.

Midsummer, at twilight and midnight, the promise of the Prince of Darkness, the Devil himself, a breeze cool and scented across fields, through woods, and open windows.

 

do we live in a Christian culture?

Edward Kelly prophet or seer to Dr Dee - by Thomas Pennant [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Would it be a surprise if I, as a Satanist, said “in considerable part, yes”? Not only that, but that it has what I consider desirable elements.

Let me elaborate.

I consider myself to be liberal in outlook, and in fact I consider Satanism to be essentially liberal in its apolitical world view, albeit Classical Liberal, and with a no tolerance clause on collectivism. Few Satanists would argue that freedom and individualism aren’t pretty irreducible values for Satanists. It’s a description rather than a definition.

While it’s possible to live under any form of society as a Satanist (in principle), I think some will afford greater enjoyment and fulfilment, not to mention a better state of general health. Liberal democracy in principle is a very promising one, and Liberal democracy in the sense we understand it, has grown out of Christian culture historically. Even the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, various “reformations”, and the rise of secularism were all things that grew out of Christianity, sometimes in direct opposition to Christianity, but they are things that arose and developed stably in Christian societies.

This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t grow out of other cultures, or that they only grew out of the Christian elements of our own (every culture has aspects of the preceding one within it in general), but it does make the form of liberal democracy we have in large part a product of Christian culture in this instance.

When we look at societies and cultures we see complex, dynamic systems that have developed over centuries and millennia, not just what that culture says about itself, or intellectual fashion dictates as an acceptable view. We now however have streams within this culture which are insidiously destructive to the dynamic of the society, notably essentially illiberal and collectivist streams of non-self-reflective social and political teaching which have become highly influential in the shaping of our society at the level of social and political management, ironically naming itself “liberal”, and focusing heavily on identity as a kind of moral category.

From the point of view of my own Satanism, let me say there is no such thing as a Satanic society. Satanism is a Left Hand Path philosophy and spirituality, and it cannot form a mainstream. That is not its function, and it is one of the reason’s children cannot be Satanists*. We can enjoy and contribute to society as full members of society, but we will always be in a borderland place in some sense. The Christian is really no more anathema to us than any other social form, in principle at least. The mainstream media at present would be a far better object of a “black mass” than the Church.

But to return to my original question, yes I think we in part live in a Christian culture, but one that has matured to the point of being free to reject itself. Our problem now is that this Christian-derived post-Christianity is decaying into a self-eating, self-hating weakness of moralism and delusion and ineffectiveness. Christianity in its history offers much to be enjoyed, just as the Pagan world it sprang from does. The new Round heads of morality and thought crime, and open borders however, they offer righteous ghosts feasting on dust.

* Not that it would necessarily be bad for the children (though it would be unintelligible for them, and inappropriate), it just can’t be done, as children have a requirement to be able to be immature in a protected environment, and Satanism is about (apart from anything else) reaching maturity and living fully as an adult. We can bring up children, but we just have to bring them up as children, in need of guidance and protection, which includes the kind of external authority which is foreign to adult Satanism.

update

I’ve had a year of transformation and crisis, turmoil and growth, which has been both traumatic and magical, appalling and unmissable. This isn’t one of those things where you can say “there, it’s over” (that isn’t how deep processes work), but I am coming through and feeling the joy of life return, and a much deeper sense of self-worth and original selfhood. I really have to thank my amazing husband for being with me through all this. He is an amazing man. Moreover I’m coming through as a Satanist, which I would consider a test of the fitness of my path.

We did a ritual at the weekend, with the first altar we have really set up as a Satanic altar, complete with a sigil of Baphomet wall hanging which I had painted.

WP_20170402_23_16_34_Pro

The altar was oriented to the western wall of the living room. Black cloth, black candles in brass holders, silver (plated) chalice with wine, votive statue of the Set animal, athame standing in for a sword, and ritual “phallus” (in fact a dildo!). A picture of a naked man offering himself (blurred in the picture below) was added to affirm the earthy and carnal nature of the Satanic altar. A naked woman is the traditional Satanic altar, but for gay men that doesn’t really connect erotically, so a naked man offering himself was more appropriate for us.

It was a very simple ritual, but significant.

One of the things that has come out of the last year is my personal identification on an inner level with the Thelemic goddess Babalon (an identification of primal nature and sacred function). In fact Thelema continues to come out as having a personal compatibility and elucidating applicability for my own path. Babalon and The Beast are good by me.

So on we go, for life, liberty and selfhood.

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