The important thing in a religion or spirituality is, well spirituality. The official criteria are really insignificant compared to the sincere personal reality of the adherent, and their relationship with their religion, faith or practice. I agree with RJ Womack’s assertion that Satanism is essentially a form of Paganism, and I’m going to try to explain why.
Needless to say this is my view and experience of my spirituality, which is developing for me all the time. I have always been most interested in personal religion. It’s that which gave stability and integrity, and the preservation of value. In that sense I am quite religiously conservative, but unconventional. I am a secularist because it both ensures religious freedom (and freedom from any single religion), and protects spirituality from the contamination of politics. But to embark on the subject of this post:
I feel we are most essentially polytheists or spiritists, as Spiritual Satanists. We generally have a profound interest in spirits, gods, demons, otherworldly entities, the supernatural, magick, and making contact with these things.
We generally have a love for Nature, its forces, beauty, majesty and power. I think Satanists also have an appreciation of the capacity to go against Nature, against the apparent natural order, and understand that this is itself a part of Nature. But we love it and try to learn from it.
Satanists generally have a real (though unsentimental) admiration for animals, often seeing them as embodying a wisdom and dignity which we can learn from.
The romance of the “Witches’ Sabbat” and of Witchcraft has been key to the revival of modern Paganism. There is really no question that the imaginal leader of the Sabbat, whatever his possible names and ancestry, was The Devil himself for the people at large.
Similarly the god Pan became a key focus of the Pagan revival in the early 20th century. That Pan’s form was also ascribed to The Devil was I think no coincidence. In The Devil the Old Gods returned, for in The Devil and his world, they had never left.
Aleister Crowley did a great deal to bring occultism into the 20th century and beyond, and he took one of his missions to be assisting the return of Paganism. If you take a look at the “Charge of The Goddess” of Wicca, Crowley’s influence is quite clear. Just compare the language of the “Star Goddess” section with chapter 1 of The Book of The Law. Crowley said he received this text from a being called Aiwaz, and it eventually came to define his life’s work. He identified Aiwaz with Satan and Set, the Devil. So according to the man who shaped it, The Charge of The Goddess is at least partly authored or inspired by The Devil.
I feel it is also quite clear that Thelema had a great influence on Anton LaVey and his philosophy, which certainly did not start out as atheistic or anti-supernatural. So the modern popularisation of Satanism has I feel got genuinely occult roots, which are themselves both Pagan and Satanic, prior to the creation of The Church of Satan.
As with many Pagan spiritualities, we draw on direct experience, Nature, supernatural beings, magick, poetry and art. We are not a “religion of the book”, but part of the perennial search for mystery and meaning, undimmed by monotheism and modernity.
Well here I am, sat in bed with my dog curled up beside me, warm and peaceful, and I have to say it feels pretty idyllic. In a little under a month it will be Walpurgis Night, one of the great Satanic and witchcraft sabbats. In May Uranus will move into the sign of Taurus the bull, which will be a change in the energies. Uranus the magician, the rebel, the “deviant angel”, and Taurus the fecund, the stable, the earthy. Quite a change from the pioneering but volatile fire of Aries. Maybe a welcome change.
It is my hope that sincere Spiritual Satanists will lay down deep roots in this time, flourish quietly and grow in their fellowship and care of each other. We’ve seen a lot of activity and enthusiasm from atheistic Satanists on the internet, and in their activism, and the energy of the last eight years favoured that. Good for them. But the fuel for that is about to become more scarce, and the limitations of materialism will become apparent. Spiritual desire and the quest for the spiritual will prove more long lasting though, and I believe that the energies coming into play will aid that. We are an earthy folk, but much concerned with the unseen and the mysterious, and the unique. We can recognise and provide the Scorpio to compliment the sign that Uranus is about to move into. We love Taurus’ natural sense of pleasure and enjoyment, Uranus loves Scorpio’s piercing depth and mystery.
Taurus is about values, foundations, stability, work, patience, endurance, instinctive well being. Feel it in your belly. Touch it, eat it, hug it, smell it, rest on it, make love together with it. It’s what you really have in a fundamental sense. Uranus is the crackling energy of magick and of the self. It’s not an obvious combination, but then the connections between worlds aren’t obvious. It requires spirituality, and beings from the spirit world to augment our limitations. I believe it always has.
But now I’m rambling on about astrology too much. I just have a sense that in this coming year Spiritual Satanists can do real work, and do so fruitfully.
I’ve been through a lot of trials in the last two years, and what I have found is that Satanism has acted as a religion for me. It provided strength, clarity, comfort, stability, fellowship, and influences that helped me return to firm foundations. This is something that a philosophy or a life style on its own is poorly equipped to do. Life style is a fair weather friend, and philosophy is excellent for the mind, but neither of these things comprehend the circumstance of lived experience for ordinary people. And in those circumstances we are all ordinary people, like any other. But the life of the Spirits is involved in everything, from the most common to the most rare.
Generally we are a diaspora rather than an actual community as Satanists, and Spiritual Satanists are a minority within a minority, though I have no doubt that there are far more people than we generally know of. I personally think we have the greatest natural kinship with Heathenry, Voodoo, and Typhonian Thelema. Compared to inner realities, what you are called is really not the point, though I am a Satanist as it happens, and I feel a pride in that. The conventional world (and this includes the internet, media and politics) broadcasts loudly and dominates the fractious mind, but this is not the life of the Spirits, nor of deep Nature, or our own deep nature. And this is not the life of ordinary people, who have always had to live in this world as it really is.
Don’t worry about the conventional world and its chatter. Live your life for yourself and your loved ones, and happily. Do your real work, simply because it is right for you.
I’m not interested in politics. I’m not interested in materialism. The world of the spirit is primary for me. I’m not an atheist, and am quite underwhelmed by modern atheism. I’m not in the least interested in the so-called “God” of Christians and Muslims. Moralism is a disease. Collectivism a cowardice and failure of nerve. I don’t believe all religions are leading to the same goal, and we’re all going up the mountain by different routes. “Interfaith” is puréed pre-modern politics.
I’ve developed a little collection of inverted crucifixes and crosses, and have taken up making rosaries and necklaces for other Satanists. I really like inverted crucifixes, I find them beautiful, and their aesthetic I find most beautiful upside-down. People will often wonder if someone like me is a “reverse Christian”, and while it doesn’t bother me, the answer is in some ways both yes and no.
In moral form, no, nothing as predictable. But in spiritual essence and direction, yes in a sense. You see I consider monotheism to be a block on spirituality, and in some real senses anti–spiritual. So the spiritual assumptions and goals of Christianity are certainly reversed out in many cases, or side-stepped as a falsity, though the results of this would probably surprise some people.
Nevertheless, Christianity itself being a kind of inverted Paganism (I know that’s a sloppy statement considering the vagueness of the term ” Pagan”, but there is something to it), it does have content of rich form, even if a bit backwards and upside-down. That is maybe why figures such as Babalon and The Beast are so potent. Christianity has led to two things spiritually: atheism, and the delivery of antique goods, pre-Christian entities freed from their stories, made lean and modern by the journey. The Occident Express has more than reached its destination.
So am I opposed to Christianity spiritually? Well of course I am.
My friend and fellow Satanist Sean at The Daily Satanist recently did a post about his experience and views on the different types of Satanism he has met. Beyond the distinction between atheistic and theistic, there are quite a few other divergences, especially among theists.
One of the distinctions is in the relationship to Satan. For some he is a paternalistic father figure. For some he is a Master to be pleased. For some he is the real Creator God. For others he is an archetype, and others still a being, a god in the polytheistic sense; either a god among gods, or the head of an effective pantheon of demons.
I myself fall into the polytheistic camp, but what of the other approaches? I think Satan as archetype is well dealt with just about everywhere, as it is compatible with the most well publicised, atheistic forms of Satanism.
Satan as Creator God has me a little bemused, because I just don’t deal with creator gods as such, not in the cosmic sense. Gods are beings, like us, but very different to us in important ways (wisdom, knowledge, power, longevity etc), and I really wouldn’t want a replacement Jehovah or Allah, even without the laws and dogma. That would end up as a Deism for me, which is fine, but not much to communicate with there.
Satan as Master to be pleased is way off for me personally, as one of the big distinctions between monotheism and polytheism for me is that monotheistic “Gods” seem to want your will and obedience (in return for?), while polytheistic deities want things like your love, energy, state of consciousness, offerings, orgasms, whatever, but it is a relationship and it goes both ways. Your life remains your own, though they can have a wild sense of humour, and an uncomfortably intense sense of the “shortest route” at times. But you are not their slave, unless you get off on that and they like your energy when you’re submissive, in which case, you got yourself a deal (and hint, you can ask for things).
Now Satan as paternalistic, protective daddy I find a charming idea, but it’s just down to what you really need for your growth, what fulfils you, and what doesn’t hold you back. If you need a daddy, you probably will get one at some point, but your self-actualisation needs will determine the nature of your relationship (from your end) I reckon. You’d be surprised what kind of entities actually are tender and nurturing (in their own way) to the right person, and it’s a completely individual thing. But this isn’t “Satan is our Father” in an almost Christian sense. It’s more like the unlikely adoptive father to the unlikely kid (while that need and opportunity is there), because it fits, though in any relationship with deities there will be more to it than you are aware of at first. And it may well be more a question of “ok, and who’s yer daddy!” when they want a bit more of you than you were aware you wanted yourself*. I don’t believe it’s remiss to talk of divine (or infernal) empathy here. There are special bonds between deities, spirits and humans, and they occur for reasons. Such a bond is a real blessing.
Because Spiritual Satanism has the characteristics of a personal religion, without being a religion as such (it is a spirituality with a personal religious practice), I wonder about Satanism as a religion. Something that shelters people, helps them to grow in the ordinary sense, deal with life and their weaknesses, and be, after a fashion “better people”. As a Left Hand Path practice, Satanism cannot be this (and I think we need to be clear on that), but that is not to say that Satanism cannot have a Left Hand Path core, and a practically nurturing and protective exoteric form, though I can see this could be tricky, and more like Heathenry or Voodoo than a mainstream faith. It is like the question of bringing up children in Satanism. I am adamant that a child cannot be a Satanist – it goes against everything that lies at the heart of Satanism for me, which is maturity, freedom, responsibility and self-actualisation. But Satanists have a culture, and Satanists have children, so what is the form of healthy child rearing for a Satanist parent? Is it humanist? Something similar to what Pagan parents do? These are interesting questions for me.
Satan can be all things to all people, but what he isn’t is one thing to everyone. Behind it all is a figure who is challenging, uplifting, ardent, clear, subtle and surprising, as much as the quiet, resonant, inner voice of the self is. Yet he is an other, like an ancient breeze, carrying a fragrance we haven’t quite forgotten.
* and lest it be unclear, I don’t mean “do this thing I am commanding you to do” out of the blue stuff. No “the Devil told me to do it” shit. You are your own person, and you take responsibility for everything, including your own compulsions.
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.