I was thinking for a moment one day last week about what Hans Dieter Betz said in his introduction to The Greek Magical Papyri In Translation, which I keep bringing up now and again in discussions about the Pagan conception of religion, and for that moment I also for some reason turned back to something that Bernard Faure said about esoteric Tendai Buddhist hongaku thought, which I also seem to enjoy referencing when I get the chance.
Let me bring up what Betz said first, starting with his discussion of the religious worldview that he observes as being reflected within the Greek Magical Papyri:
The people whose religion is reflected in the papyri agree that humanity is inescapably at the whim of the forces of the universe. Religion is nothing but taking seriously this dependency on the forces of the universe. Whether the gods are old or new, whether they come from Egyptian, Greek, Jewish, or Christian influences, religion is regarded as nothing but the awarenesss of and reaction against our dependency on the unfathomable scramble of energies coming out of the universe. In this energy jungle, human life can only be experienced as a jungle, too. People’s successes and failures appear to be only the result of Chance (Tyche). Individuals seem to be nothing but marionettes at the end of power lines, pulled here and there without their knowledge by invisible forces.
Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells, (1986, p. xlvii)
And then, arguably more relevant what Betz has to say about the role of the magician in this pagan cosmos, this jungle as it were:
If this world view takes hold of people, what hope can there be for human life? How could ordinary men and women in the small towns of Egypt get something out of their lives? It’s at this point that the magician enters the picture. In a transitional culture like Greco-Roman Egypt, a religious functionary who operated as a crisis manager became a necessity to the lives of ordinary people. This is the role the magician was able to fill.
Applying his craft, the magician could give people the feeling that he could make things work in a world where nothing seemed to work the way it used to. He had handbooks of magic, which contained the condensed wisdom of the past, wisdom made effective to solve the problems of the present.
The magician claimed to know and understand the traditions of various religions. While other people could no longer make sense of the old religions, he was able to. He knew the code words needed to communicate with the gods, the demons, and the dead. He could tap, regulate, and manipulate the invisible energies. He was a problem solver who had remedies for a thousand petty troubles plaguing mankind: everything from migraine to runny nose to bedbugs to horse races, and, of course, all the troubles of love and money.
Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells, (1986, p. xlvii)
Now, for Betz this ultimately forms an assessment wherein the whole point of magic is that it’s a deception that helps people live comfortably in “naked reality”. But I am not interested in Betz’s overall worldview, and am instead all too interested in the pagan worldview he points to as being presented in the Greek Magical Papyri. And to this effect, our focus is on the magician as the figure who, situated within the jungle of invisible powers, is able to direct and negotiate these powers which most people seem hopelessly caught between. It strikes us that the same cosmic caprice, the same place which for much of the human species is consistance source of entanglement, and even powerlessness (and the despair that always follows), is for the magician also a source of power, the basis of a radical religious and magical activity of self-assemblage.
In contrast to the idea that magic represents a counter to nihilism, when reading Betz on this point, after reading Revolutionary Demonology, in my mind I found it easy to compare to the nihilism expressed by Claudio Kulesko’s “Cultivating Darkness”. To hone in on this throughline, let us start here:
If everything there is, including the universe, has emerged from nothingness (regularity from chaos, meaning from meaninglessness, comprehensibility from incomprehensibility, melody from noise), and is composed of this same nothingness, then it follows that nothingness is a plastic and malleable material from which it is possible to extract infinite worlds and infinite meanings. The trick is to not let oneself be captivated by these constructions, not to believe the lies that they whisper into our ears.
Claudio Kulesko, Gruppo Di Nun, Revolutionary Demonology (2020, p.164-165)
Much relevant though, we can turn our glance here, some pages beforehand, the start of the essay immediately suggesting the horizon of depressive realism, and the liberatory horizon of a shattered world:
There are moments of mourning, despair, or depression; moments suspended over the chasm of madness, when the world falls apart and life seems to have lost all meaning. From a philosophical point of view, this means that the represenation of the world that we have received from our loved ones, or that we have constructed along with them – and which we have often shared with an entire community – turns out to be false, limited, or too narrow. As it falls apart, ‘our’ world, which had until then revolved like a planet around the sun of an I or a We, shows itself to be no more than a collection of fragments from which, like a collage, it had emerged.
If there were a lesson to be learned from such moments, it would consist in the bitter discovery that there is always more than one world and that, even from the same fragments, it is possible to construct totally different worlds.
Claudio Kulesko, Gruppo Di Nun, Revolutionary Demonology (2020, p.159)
It is quite easy to think of this in terms of the cosmic energy jungle, as a chaotic, fragmentary scramble of invisible power, that then becomes the fundamental basis of the power of the magician to, through magic, create their own world by way of their invocations and rites, and the powers they seek to derive, and, ultimately, their ascent towards divine identity. In simple terms, the hopeless jungle is itself the basis of the infinite potentiality of self-directed assemblage, pregnant with infinite power.
Into this we insert hongaku, per Bernard Faure. I summarize this by, as I often do, by referring first to Faure’s discussion of Daikokuten (Mahakala), and specifically the development of his role in the context of esoteric Tendai doctrine:
As Mahakala’s roles as an earth deity and protector of Japanese Buddhist monasteries moved to the forefront, smoothing the way for his evolution into a god of fortune, his dark, nocturnal side was downplayed and progressively forgotten. In Tendai esotericism, the Great Dark One continued to be perceived as a symbol of fundamental ignorance (“great darkness”). But his name lent itself to a Tendai exegesis based on the notion of the identity between defilement and awakening; in this interpretation, the first character of his name, dai 大, designates ultimate reality, the realm of awakening, whereas the second character, koku 黒, refers to the darkness of ignorance. Dai is also said to refer to the cosmic buddha Ichiji Kinrin 一字金輪, and koku to Isana (Mahesvara), who is not only one of the twelve directional devas, but also a god of obstacles. In this way, Daikokuten came to symbolize the principle that transcends all such oppositions.
Bernard Faure, Gods of Medieval Japan Volume II: Protectors and Predators (2016, p.54-55)
And then, to his concluding discussion of the whole triad of “earthly powers” to which he refers (Bishamonten, Daikokuten, and Enmaten):
Enmaten and Daikokuten share the same retinue and reveal a dark, sinister, bloody world, which, while being Buddhist, seem closer to a demonic darkness than to the bright realm of awakening, And yet it is the heart of darkness, the unfathomable horror, which, in the hongaku paradigm, comes to represent the ultimate truth, the deep source of the mystery of human life.
Bernard Faure, Gods of Medieval Japan Volume II: Protectors and Predators (2016, p.73)
Between the seemingly disaparate and dissimilar worlds of esoteric Buddhism and ancient Greco-Egyptian pagan magic there is a synchronicity, a shared wisdom that the same place of chaos is not only the principal realm of reality but also, in magical terms, the fundamental seat of “power”, by which is at least meant the ability to direct and assemble oneself, and one’s surroundings, in accordance to will.
I see this is as a potent, and in some ways quite harsh but also in some ways anarchic, invocation of what is most fundamentally a Pagan philosophy of religion and magic. In the context of the Left Hand Path it is easy to employ this as an expression of Gothic Insurrection, in the sense of a magical immersion in a distant past by which the present is overcome through joyous destruction: in this sense, the reduction of the world to chaos, to destroy the order of things in order to liberate all possibilities. Life may be a jungle, but the order that we impose upon the world makes us forget that, and as we are captivated by the comfort and amenities of our oppression we find ourselves trapped in the lies told to us by the order of the world. Smash, dissolve, destroy whatever prevents yourself from operating in full clarity of “nature”, and thereby the freedom of the will, and with it the magical path of apotheosis. That, in another sense pertaining to the Left Hand Path, is the transgressive audacity of the goetes, whose magic was reviled as it was and defined as evil and superstitious sorcery on the sole basis that it was independent, self-willing, practice of magic that operated outside the remit of the official priesthoods.
The idea of goeteia in this sense points to another kernel of transgressive theurgy contained in traditions such as presented in the Greek Magical Papyri. And make no mistake, it is, in a certain sense, theurgy. Iamblichus and many traditionalist Platonists would have thought otherwise and rejected all suggestion to that effect, but the difference presented between their theurgy and goeteia is a moral one, as is the traditional difference between the “goetes” who was reviled and the “magoi” who, in many cases, were not, a philosophical difference between those whose motives are at least perceived be aligned with some sort of self-willing egoism or certain selfish pursuits and those whose motives are aligned with some philosophical “greatest good” or to “civilised” customs. It is moral definition, a debate over the same basically neutral conceptual terrain, but it’s also fair to say that this goetic sense of tolma, rebellious audacity, conceived within antiquity, is quite natural for a magic whose home is the dark forest, the energy jungle, of our pagan cosmos.
Artificial intelligence has long been a subject of broad social and scientific speculation as well as cultural fascination and terror. But now, there seems to be a louder consensus about the subject of artificial intelligience, one that is rather familiar: that artifical intelligence is a real existential threat to the human species, and it must be brought under control somehow.
Ever since “AI art” thrusted into focus last year, with much of the conversation continually centred around the negative consequences of the mainstreaming of “AI art”, the broader subject of AI at large also seems to have come into focus as the subject of a much larger debate on the world-historic role of artificial intelligence. Some recent opinion articles, I think, represent this shift in focus. There’s Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine, writing in The Guardian this month about what she describes as the “hallucinations” of the corporate movement around artificial intelligence. A more recent Guardian article written by Jonathan Freedland is a little more emphatic about artificial intelligence as a generalized existential threat to civilization and the human species. These articles often refer back to apparent pioneers and experts in the field of artificial intelligence, including Geoffrey Hinton, to support their general throughline on the subject. Actually, it seems that there’s a broader development in play. Eric Schmidt (former Google CEO), Elon Musk (the dumbass who owns Twitter), Brad Smith (Vice Chairman of Microsoft), and even AI companies like OpenAI are all out there talking about how artificial intelligence poses a significant threat to the continued existence of the human species and human civilization. Meanwhile, the potential prospects of AI art systems and similar AI systems are also a major part of the dispute surrounding the ongoing writer’s strike, with many writers and actors expressing their fear of creative displacement by AI systems, while others in the film industry seem eager to embrace the potential of AI systems within the process of film production.
I have long maintained some sense of concern about the development of artificial intelligence in my life, albeit often in a fearful sense the much further back I go. I’m not unfamiliar with the idea that artificial intelligence carries some kind of existential risk, and in this regard, throughout my life I’ve carried some latent concern regarding some notion of disempowerment. I remember one day as a university student, I think it has to have been in 2016 or so, talking to a university lecturer about the idea that one day human beings might become slaves to computers or machines, and then that lecturer quipped to me that we were already slaves to computers. I remember at the time that, in my mind, that didn’t really resolve anything intellectually. I still have the sense that, if anything, that just kind of makes it worse, because all it means is that our agency as humans seems not only hopelessly caught up in a technological labyrinth but also destined be reduced even further, and on top of all that this is just something that we humans should simply accept. At present, I’m not totally sure how to take the truth of such ideas. They could all be theoretical, arguably “utopian” from a certain standpoint, but then over the years I still did encounter people, including within the socialist movement, who appeared genuinely convinced not only that it would be possible for human governance to be replaced by that of some super-advanced computer but also that this was actually a positive thing. And, as Aaron Bastani begins to discuss the prospects of AI to his left-wing audience, I find once again that some “communists” who follow his commentary look on the idea of our species being ruled by machines as something to be optimisitc about, something to look forward to as part of a brighter future for the world. If I’m being honest, I never did come around on that idea. It’s something to probably be very skeptical about, and, to be frank, the thought that contemporary civilization might just collapse under its own weight either within or not long after my lifetime often has me thinking that I have little to worry about from too many AI-powered fever dreams. But then I still can’t look very brightly on the hopes that a lot of people have about AI, not just because of their limited possibility but also, still, the simple thought: why would you want to live in the world you seem to be pining for? And why accept it as fait accompli?
There’s still this idea that recurs, now and again, that the technology of AI systems is strictly inevitable. I like to think that I’ve always opposed this idea to some extent or another. Even when I began to explore certain arguments about AI art, the fact that people opposing AI art have started talking loudly and openly about how the technology is not inevitable and that they can resist it has, in my opinion, always been more interesting than the prospects of AI art in itself. Because what if it actually isn’t inevitable? What if the march of progress that we seem to see in things like this is just an obvious lie? What if we actually can just stop certain technological developments we don’t like? Into this we can insert a crucial observation that I derived from one side of the aisle: the only reason that the Luddites are remembered today as classic reactionary technophobes is because they were the losers in a struggle against industrial capitalists who were rapidly displacing their livelihoods.
And in this respect, I look at what I see lately and can’t help but smirk. I watch, with a perverse and haughty sense of fascination, governments and commentators proclaim the existential risk of artificial intelligence, and the fact that I can tell that it’s not enough, not for what they claim to be the central problem. Look at Jonathan Freedland for instance. He says there’s a real risk that AI systems could develop towards a massive, generalized intelligence, capable of acting completely autonomously on behalf of their own agency, without any need for human input (I think in some circles this is referred to as “True AI”), which will then inevitably destroy the human species in order to fulfill some goal to which we are somehow an obstacle. He also talks about an AI image crashing the stock market and cites Yuval Noah Harari about humans being willing to kill and die for illusions generated by AI like we don’t already do that for our own illusions. But for stakes like that, the solutions he presents seem remarkably bland, and perhaps even somewhat daft. Moratoriums on AI development, restrictions on how much computing power companies are allowed to work with, restrictions on how much data they can train AI systems with, and legal demands for transparency from both AI systems and the corporations that run them. I mean, think about it for a moment. You’re talking about systems that you say are poised to displace, overpower, and/or ultimately annihilate the human species, and all you can propose is some asinine discussion of what AI systems are and are not allowed to do as if that will stop what you prima facie assume to be an incipiently conscious system?
How about Naomi Klein? At least she talks about the economic rammifications with much more clarity, I will say that. But we’re also supposed to look to Molly Crabapple’s letter about how we need to take a pledge for “human values”. What does that mean? What human values? It seems to me be a meaningless phrase. Humans are creatures who carry all manner of different values between themselves. But as to solutions? Refusing to use AI products, while demanding that governments and companies also refuse to use them. You can certainly refuse to use those products, but call me a cynic if you must but I heavily doubt that governments are that interested in not using them, even if they want to regulate them. OpenAI seems somewhat more ambitious. They emphasize the need for an international regulator to audit AI systems to ensure compliance with safety standards. But we’re still talking about something that OpenAI and the Centre of AI Safety are convinced will either destroy or enfeeble the entire human species. If you believe that, doesn’t that sense of existential risk call for a much more radical response?
Let me make myself plain in this matter: if you’re serious about the existential risks of AI systems, as you claim them to be, then why aren’t you trying to destroy those AI systems before they take over the earth? Our governments are certainly starting to talk about the idea that AI systems present an existential risk to the human species. But, I think that if they were serious about it, they wouldn’t just be trying to regulate and control AI systems. Instead, they would be trying to destroy them. But then to me it really is no mystery. After all, why should governments be so cavalier about destroying something that they might instead prefer to control? That way they can still exploit certain applications of AI systems that would allow them to modify the existing systems of state control.
There are people who think that “stopping” AI requires the existence of a massively authoritarian state. The leaders of OpenAI would seem to agree with that idea, in that they think it will require a global surveillance regime. I don’t see how, exactly, it should require that. How come people can imagine the idea that you can just dismantle every gun in the world and call it there, but they can’t imagine that we can dismantle or destroy every useless data machine or algorithm generator that they’re also convinced will literally bring an end to human life or enslave it? No seriously, what explains this? What allows people to subsist like this? The only way to make sense of it is the idea that we’re going to need all of these AI systems for some reason. For what purpose, I can only speculate, but I’m sure it involves streams of useless, pointless, purposeless data. Well, perhaps it might not be pointless to some people, but I doubt that you can weight the value of that data against that of human life, if indeed it is human life and agency that’s supposed to be stake.
Or perhaps it is again the breath of inevitability, creeping into the horizons of what can and cannot be done. From an anarchist standpoint, however, it is easy to subvert this idea: after all, why should we even try to abolish or dissolve the state if the state is to be taken as some kind of historical inevitablity, the next progressive step away from pre-civilized hunter-gatherers. And if you don’t believe that, and you want to abolish the state, then you believe it is possible to undo what you have been told is world-historic destiny. There is no logical way to get past this, and I suppose the Marxist is incensed enough by this that they must declare anarchists to be reactionaries, on par with fascists in some nostalgia for mythical time now dead. From the same standpoint, the freedoms that we fight for in the various struggles for social autonomy could actually be seen as struggles to regain freedoms that had been lost, either at the hands of statehood at large or specifically at the hands of the project of “Western Civilization”, rather than merely as struggles for new values against old and outdated ones. In this light, I suppose I have dared to claim that our fight is to regress away from the forward motion of civilization. As well we should. The forward motion of state-civilization is an evolving chain of agonizing repression, built upon elaborate tapestries of genocide, slavery, tyranny, and exploitation. Nothing permits us to escape this truth, but we try anyway.
What always fascinates me about the way people talk about AI art systems, and increasingly about AI systems at large, is the great emphasis laid on a truth that many moderns are perhaps beginning to, in their own superficial way, take seriously: that the forward march of progress is a convenient fiction we tell ourselves, that it is not actually “inevitable”. But I also think that too many people only come upon it as part of a reactive defense of the economy of contemporary art, upon which the counter-AI art movement is based and upon which its adherents depend on in order to survive. Still, a start is a start. Yet, if it is mean anything, more depth is required. There are depths that must be sunk to, to which I don’t know if people are really willing to sink to. After all, the belief that they are riding against, whether they realize it or not, is none other than the phantasm of progressive time. The construct of linear, absolutely forward time, which Christianity has imbued into the whole of Western thought, to the extent that secular humanism, dialectical materialism, and even the more classically reactionary ideologies of white supremacy all flow from that premise. The idea of the inevitability of certain social structures is also the basic expression of this notion of time, and for this reason, it will not be possible to really figure a world “free” of any imagined march of AI without the ability to overcome progressive time. And when you do, when you smash it and scatter it to the winds, you will be able to see a world where everything is truly possible. Because, to be poetic, if you can reject the forward motion of the world you creation, and allow ancient flowers to grow from the black earth that remains, then anything is possible. Deny the future, it doesn’t exist; only a forward-moving enclosure of possibilities that you have accepted besides yourself, and now drag you away in chains. Shattering this enclosure means setting every possibility free.
If you truly object to the notion of the inevitability of the progress of AI systems, then I want to see how far you can go to oppose the progressive time inherent in that idea; that is, how far are you really willing to go to actually grind AI to a halt? If you can’t do that, then I’m afraid there’s not much to do but accept that these AI systems are going to be ubiquitious, and hope that they can be controlled. Seems like a bit of a miserable prospect though, doesn’t it? I wonder just what humans will do.
Online reactionaries have a strange relationship to anime. On the one hand they are sometimes known as great admirers of anime, fetishizing it and from there Japanese society and culture at large for aligning with their own ideas about how society should be structured, or at least for supposedly nurturing their own particular commitment naievte. On the other hand, anime can often be reviled by reactionary masculinitsts, such as one I encountered who seemed to regard it as both “low art” and “virtual estrogen”, on the belief that men who watch anime are insufficiently masculine or even somehow effeminate. I suppose there’s a conversation to be had about gender and the nature of patriarchal normative ideas about masculinity as such. However, the conversation I am interested in is altogether different.
There is an irony to the complaint against the “hairless creatures” of anime. If you look at the sculptures from “classical” Greece and Rome as well as the Renaissance, you will find seemingly idealized male figures that lack body hair. Even if they have thick, bushy beards, these men typically lack the body hair of real, living men, which, if anything, must seem quite strange when reflecting on typical notions of the “proper” masculine body. You’ll find no hair on the limbs or torso of the bodies of Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, even though Hercules in particular has a very hairy face. In fact, we can see plenty of Greek status of male figures that apparently lack even pubic hair. In the case of the Kroisos Kouros, a statue meant to mark the gravesite of a young warrior named Kroisos, any pubic hair was probably originally painted on the statue rather than sculpted. That said, while we tend to see depilation in male statues, it is all the more common in female statues, given the patriarchal expectation of women, especially in Roman society, to remove all hairs from their genitals, even while men may keep theirs intact. That said, body hair in men was also often considered uncivilized or plebian. Yet this is ultimately a digression. We are still speaking about idealization, here. More importantly, I think it’s from here that I can touch on some thoughts that I had, originally surfacing perhaps last month, about anime through “Lifting the Absolute” by Bronze Age Collapse, as contained within Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun. Yes, it seems I must return to the subject of that work.
We should make a cautionary note, however, that for Bronze Age Collapse, the ancient statues are not merely idealizations of the human form. Bronze Age Collapse’s point, after all, is that the bodies depicted by those statues did exist in their time, and we only assume that they did not because of our distance in modernity from antiquity. In his words, “how could Greek artists have idealised entire muscle groups in the smallest detail, without having had concrete models of flesh and blood at their disposal?”. “Before Mediterranean antiquity, we are like children”. Yet, there is a body not of this world that Bronze Age Collapse is ultimately concerned with. What does Bronze Age Collapse consider to be “supreme fitness”? The answer lies in the immortality sought by not just men but even gods themselves, who in classical myth were themselves known to bleed. The tendency or tension towards the absolute is to be understood as the desire to embody a kind of energetic or atmospheric state or principle, linked to the chaos of the world soul is an immortality characterised by perpetual metamorphosis, seemingly agentic at that. Struggle and the coincidence of opposites contains the secret of this tension towards the absolute. Claudio Kulesko conveys a similar but somewhat different idea in his discussion of asceticism in “Catholic Dark”, where altitude and lightness form a negative spiral that approaches eternity and wherein the flesh becomes precisely energetic or atmospheric, and thereby godlike. But, where am I going from there?
When I thought about anime, and what we often think of as “anime bodies”, I could not at the time think of a kind of energetic or even atmospheric virtuality. It is naturally somewhat limited by way of the fact that it is ultimately representational, but it may also be possible to sketch something from it. There is one important component to all of this: in my opinion, anime is basically inherently anti-realist, even when it reflects or shows fidelity to the real world. On a basic level, it is simply an affect of the aesthetic style of anime. You are probably not going to find what we typically envision as an “anime body” in the real world. That fact inevitably colours the way “weeaboos” or “otakus” sometimes relate to the world, and it also illustrates the odd sense of “weirdness” we feel when people try to become actual, real world “anime girls”. Anime bodies are energetic in ways that seem to exceed the “real” human body, and that trait seems to be afforded by both the style and the medium itself. They also tend possess forms that simultaneously imitate and transcend the human body, and that’s when they don’t completely defy human proportionality in all manner of ways. The virtual representation of anime allows the formation of an inhuman human, a body that can be anything – and believe me, bodies in anime can be anything, can be part of anything, and make anything part of themselves. But the appeal of the anime body can seem to not only the possession of virtual form as object, as in the case for many male “weeaboos”, but to embody the virtual form, as a virtual transcendence of flesh as an energetic body.
You could say that the appeal of the anime body comes from the way that its sort of ideal image contains a representative possibility of energetic form. On the internet, this is becomes a horizon of digital representation, home to endless pathways of becoming-anime. It’s not lifting the absolute, it’s not apotheosis, but perhaps it is a representation of energetic bodies. It is, in this way, a form of the process of identification, by which one attempts an approximate embodiment of the energetic-atmospheric form in virtual terms. My suspicion is that this insight is also locked somewhere in the recesses of the transphobic belief transness is being artificially inspired in young people, particularly young men, by anime. That idea is obviously specious nonsense that exists only promote transphobia and especially transmisogyny while also underwriting within that blatant xenophobia (in this case not only establishing transness as dangerous to society but framing it as a product of foreign cultural influences trying to weaken “Western” masculinity). But it also hides within itself (poorly, at that) the fear not only of men adopting and performing some notion of femininity but also of the horizon of virtuality and representation. Becoming-anime on the internet is a virtual becoming of a desired form, and that in its own way is at odds with what passes for patriarchal normalcy, even if reactionary “weeaboos” might earnestly believe that the opposite is true.
It’s been a funny week, this week. Yesterday was the official coronation ceremony held for Charles III, the new king of Britain, and as a consequence of that we have had to deal with absurd, obsequious displays of servility to the royal family. In fact, we’re actually at a point where it’s getting repressive. Anti-monarchist protesters seem to have had their signs confiscated and been arrested by police, anti-monarchist groups seem to have received threatening letters from the Home Office, the government keeps making plans to crack down on protests while claiming to support freedom of speech, and it’s even been said that there were plans to compel everyone watching the coronation ceremony at home to publicly swear allegiance to the King, which were ultimately walked back. And of course, the BBC can’t even give you the whole story about Charles III’s coronation without facing censorship from the monarchy. Mind you this isn’t new at all. On September 12th last year, a man named Paul Powlesland was told by police officers that if he wrote “Not My King” on a blank paper sign then he would be arrested under the Public Order Act, for daring to protest the succession of Charles III.
You might wonder, is this Russia? Is this Belarus? Is this North Korea? We should be so lucky! It’s “the theatre of being British”. A miserable pageant of oppression, deceit, and waste. Oh sure, the government may not knock on everyone’s doors and make everyone bow before the King, but from what I understand that’s what they were hoping to do. There’s certainly a cult of personality around the royals that is frequently enforced and upheld by state violence. You should see the absurd depths of corruption to which the worshippers of the King descend. They are so thoroughly spiritually attached to the monarchy, that they sometimes decide that simply calling someone a racist is worse than being a paedophile. I wish I could say this was an exaggeration. Why the monarchy deserves this kind of universal deference, let alone the violence required to stop people from voicing their conscientious objection, is almost beyond comprehension. At least that’s true for me anyway, as someone who has always opposed the existence of the monarchy.
Don’t let me make bones about it. I do not question whether the monarchy can maintain its social legitimacy in the year 2023, rather I deny the right of the monarchy to exist as an insitution entirely. I do not believe, as many other young adults do, that the monarchy is simply stodgy and outdated. No, I believe that the monarchy should not have existed to start with. If one were to propose that justice exists at all, I would say the existence of monarchy is inherently unjust. It should be dissolved, their land and their wealth redistributed, and all the nations (if we still entertain the concept of nations at all) still bound to the royal commonwealth should renounce the British monarchy as free republics.
We keep talking about the “modernity” of the new king’s reign, but this is a facade. Our notion of this “modernity” consists of nothing more than the inclusion of interfaith participation in what is still an explicitly Christian ceremony, made what is still a Christian king, still sworn to the Christian God. Bear all of those basic facts in mind when you hear anyone insist that we are somehow a secular nation, despite our contrasting reality of a nation whose official head of state is also the leader of the Church of England. It is the idea that the appearance of diverse representation within the institution of monarchy will allow it to somehow transcend its conservative role in the present and its historic basis in colonial rule. “Modernity” for the monarchy is as if to say that the same royal family that presided over colonial repression and genocide against Africans is entering a new era because it includes BAME priests and interfaith leaders. Or as if the same royal family that hoards millions and millions of pounds on its own pomp and circumstance could ever be a beacon of hope for people living through a protracted cost of living crisis. As long as this is what we mean when we talk about “modernity”, then “modernity” is just a joke.
And yet this is only a pathetic progressive cover for why people here really want the monarchy: they desire the stability of power. Indeed you can see it in the way people contrast the instability of the last year of British politics, shifting between three Prime Ministers (at least two of which we didn’t even elect!) and the supposed stability of the monarchy, as if to reassert the role of the monarchy as the guarantor of order. No matter how “progressive” the monarch, monarchy is the single most conservative institution in the entirety of British political life. It is also the one institution that manages to retain official or tacit reverence, even if the British public at large increasingly either does not believe in the monarchy or simply doubts its contemporary relevance. The previous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, become queen in 1952 and was coronated in 1953, and until her death last year her reign lasted for 70 years. For most of the British masses, this meant that Elizabeth II could be thought as someone who was “always there” in British life. For some people, her reign may have encompassed their whole lifetimes; many people might have lived and died while Elizabeth II was still queen. Her death was seen as the loss of that quasi-spiritual sense of stability, but the coronation of Charles III is seen as the renewal and continuitiy of that promise.
It’s bewildering seeing people in British media talk about the value of the monarchy as sincerely as they do. One journalist talked about how, in a world of artificial intelligence, democratic backsliding, climate change, and all manner of destabilizing changes to the world, Charles III will be working to make the case for the British monarchy as a force of “stability” in the world. There is something inherently reactionary about all of this. Think about it: the response to widespread social change (good or bad) is to cling on to the vestiges of feudal power, to the institution of uncontestable hereditary authority, and to the power of the church. But more to the point, it’s a lie. The King can do nothing in the face of the world that our media presents him as facing. Charles III cannot save liberal democracy from collapsing in on itself, he can do nothing regarding AI, he can do nothing about the United States racing towards totalitarianism, he will have absolutely no role to play in stopping the wars that are happening, and, much as I know he would like to try, he will not lead the world to a resolution of our anthropogenic ecological crisis. All King Charles III can do is keep the British masses comfortable, and therefore weak, by inculcating us with some false sense of stability and from there a false sense of hope. Politically speaking, he is only there to keep us thinking “the King is with us, God is with us”, while his goons in the British government repress anyone who openly challenges the insitution of the monarchy in civil protest.
But then we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all of this is tied to the Traditionalist agenda that Charles III has always had, and which is once more the will of the White Lodge. Charles III has always been very explicit about his belief that the problem with modernity is that for him the modern world is out of sorts with what he takes to be the divine order (that is to say the order of God). Modernity to him as that which is cut off from “transcendence”, from some immutable principle of divine truth that is supposed to govern all things. Thus, in the face of the “chaos” of modenity, we are called to return to the “order” of God. That is the real substance of the “stability” that Charles III is supposed to embody. It is an attempt by the White Lodge, by those acolytes of the Right Hand Path, to realign the world with (as they at least imagine) the will of God, or the universal spirit of order (it really doesn’t matter what they call it, or even if they call it anything Christian).
Yes, we are indeed to remember that the White Lodge is at work again, once more striving to bring the world under their control. And in the meantime, every conceit of British society, including its reverence for the monarchy, will inexorably lead it to totalitarianism of some kind. There are many who point to a development towards fascism, and we can definitely see signs that the UK is on track to becoming something like Hungary under Viktor Orban, or even Russia under Vladimir Putin. I also seem to remember many times when the ruling Conservative Party would propose ideas that sound like the policies of Marxist-Leninist dictatorships. For example, the Welsh Conservative Party leader Andrew R T Davies called for public broadcasters to play “God Save The Queen” on TV every day. Believe it or not, something similar was actually done in the Soviet Union, where every night TV channels would shut off broadcasting and sign off with the national anthem. It’s interesting to think of the kind of culture the Conservatives seem to want.
But all the more fitting. Mark me when I say that Britain is not a free country. We never have been. And we never will be until we discard the institutions upon which we base British society, and never look back.
The sun in the spring compelled me to write this. Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I originally wanted to write about this as part of my article about the solar mythology of Satanism, and didn’t proceed because I, at that time, had trouble connecting it to solarisation and felt that the article would not maintain scope for it. But as the spring sun rolled in, in the middle of me writing my articles about Revolutionary Demonology, I must have sensed the inspiration from the warmth of the sun again. This is simply an article wherein I take it upon myself to write about the black ram with which I symbolize myself – what I take up as a “glyph”, as it were.
In March 2016, I took advantage of two consecutive days I had off from my usual university course to visit Swansea University in order to attend a series of lectures about ancient Egyptian demonology. Yes, that is to say the study of demons or demonic figures as they appear in ancient, pre-Christian Egyptian texts, spells, funerary artefacts etc. Many of these lectures can be found in the journal Demon Things: Ancient Egyptian Manifestations of Liminal Entities, published by the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections and edited by Kasia Szpakowska. The lectures featured discussions of the various liminal entities and even some familiar Egyptian gods, including Anubis and Bes, as demonic figures. But the more relevant lecture for this is “Liminal Sources of Dangerous Power: A Case of the Black Ram”, attributed to Nika Lavrentyeva and Ekaterina Alexandrova. It is this figure of the Black Ram that I am talking about.
The Black Ram is a figure apparently portraying a mysterious being referred to as “the lord of power”. This “lord of power” is a demonic figure who represents dangerous inhabitants of the Netherworld that repel the living and the dead alike. In the Egyptian Coffin Texts, specifically CT 1071, the “Lord of power” appears as one of the judges that the deceased soul must pass by in order to access a blessed afterlife in the company of Osiris, the ruler of Duat. In the Pyramid Texts, specifically Spell 246, the black ram is an aggressive and liminal form taken by the divine spirit of the deceased pharaoh Unas. In another spell from the Pyramid Texts, mentions Unas turning into the “Lord of power”, also called “the Great One”. Curiously this being is said to have “grew strong through the injury which was done to him”, which, through the term “nkn”, is apparently supposed to reference the mutilation of Horus; that part fits the prevailing idea of the pharaoh as a living incarnation of Horus. The figure of a black ram also appears several times in the Book of Amduat. In one incarnation, he is possible a reference to a hidden sun. A character with the head of a black ram is named “The Soul Who Belongs to the Damned”, stands before a goddess referred to as “The demolishing one, who cuts the damned to pieces”; perhaps the ram here represents the darkness of the souls who are to be denied rebirth (and hence “damned”). The god Tatenen also appears as a ram, to whom creatures cry out with the voices of rams, and when he leaves they are covered in darkness. These characters also seem to be connected to “the shadow of the sun”, by which is meant its negative aspect as “the Sun-destroyer”. This destroyer is referred to as a “black sun”, which serves as a dark double of the sun that protects the sun god from evil forces. It does this by taking the attacks of the sun’s enemies and absorbing, perhaps even “devouring”, all evil during the judgement of the dead. For example, in a scene from the Book of the Dead, illustrated at the Tomb of Irunefer at Deir el-Medina, a black sun represents the darkness that will absord all evil plotted against the deceased soul who is illuminated by the sun.
Lavrentyeva and Alexandrova argue that this dark solar figure is also a reflection of the situation of judgement in the netherworld, and the role of the deceased soul itself. In the Pyramid Texts, the deceased soul initially seems to be an alien being whose liminal state threatens the order of the cosmos. The deceased soul must claim a secure place in the afterlife by or besides the gods, so that the aggression of the deceased soul could be pacified and transformed into something that can uphold the cosmos. The “lord of power” himself reflects in both appearance and namesake not only the threat of chaos and the violation and overturning of the cosmic order, but the very border between chaos and cosmos whose properties partially define his nature. In this sense, we may be looking at a cipher for a chaos, insurrection, an aggressive force that threatens the upheaval of everything but which nonetheless upholds and is the basis of everything.
The destructive aspect of the sun as a power of darkness figures as perhaps one way of looking at the theme of meiridian sunlight as explored by Valerio Mattioli in his essay “Solarisation” within Revolutionary Demonology. We would remember per Mattioli that the very brightness of the sun can be seen as a destructive, distorting, benighting thing, especially in the Mediterranean. Solarisation, meanwhile, overturns everything, so as to reveal another world. The power of the sun is in this sense a delirium that overturns that which is, manifesting something new or different. That is the power that threatens the cosmos, and yet it also surely generates it. The black ram, the “lord of power”, is the force that intrudes. I am inclined to make a connection between the way the ram, in Egyptian symbolism, was always linked to certain ideas of masculine “fertility”, which could be understood as generative power. For this reason, for instance, Banebdjedet was “the soul of the lord of Mendes”, that is to say the “Ba” of Osiris, while the ram was generally a symbol of creator deities such as Amun-Ra and Khnum. The god Ra appeared with a ram’s head in his “nocturnal” form during the solar cycle. There’s also an unusual depiction of Seth-Baal, a Hyksos syncretism between two storm gods both frequently tied to fertility (Set and Baal Hadad), in which he seems to have either the head of a ram or simply ram horns on his head. A “black” ram, representing the shadowy aspect of the sun, would thus represent the destructive powers of the sun and resonate with solarisation, and in the “lord of power” we might get a perverse sense of the generative power of the sun and the distorting power of solarisation as unified in a single image. Additionally, it would also almost recall the role of Set as the original guardian of Ra’s solar barque. It is of course very unlikely that Set, typically understood as a god of storms and the desert, was ever venerated as a solar deity. Nonetheless, on the solar barque, Set is the one who repels Apep and the enemies of Ra with his spear. In this sense, he could be seen as the violence that upholds the course of the sun. But of course he is also a wild and chaotic deity, whose worship sometimes involved alcohol.
In all of that, though, I think we may see a theme of rebellious audacity, or tolma, connected through the Greek association of the ram with courage. Tolma in Greek can mean “courage”, “boldness”, or “daring”, though in the philosophical context it is also supposed to donate an arrogant sense of pride that leads to alienation from the divine source, meaning The One. From Frater Archer’s discussion of goeteia we get a sense of tolma as profoundly magical, linked to transgression of societal morality and , and per Plotinus this itself becomes linked to self-will. But where for Plotinus and the Christians this self-will is a corruption that leads to alienation or death and oblivion, at least in Egyptian magic this self-will is part of life of the cosmos, a cosmos that can be interpreted in terms of Henri Bergon’s axiom that the universe is a machine for the making of god. That, I believe, is part of the dark kernel of that lost world we Pagans honour and strive to carry with us. Thus is the cypher of the black ram: a defiance that is the signal of true cosmic life.
As I wrote my critique of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, I developed a series of reflections around the broad content of Revolutionary Demonology as well as sort of echoing from before I got around to reading the book itself. As my writing progressed, what was once intended as one single article became partitioned into three separate articles as I found brevity impossible to maintain. This third and final piece of my critique of Revolutionary Demonology is all about those reflections in dealing what I perceived to be the ultimate weltanschauung of Gruppo Di Nun.
I may, in the process of this, briefly and periodically revisit parts of the book that I already covered, but, seeing as neither Parts 1 nor 2 devoted any more than periodic mention of the afterword as written by Amy Ireland, I may use this section to give it some attention. Granted, much of the afterword can be thought of as a summary, and rather a clarification, of the previous sections of the book, but in this very sense its throughlines are relevant.
The Sethian Problem
There is one major theme within comparative religion that has been somewhat latent since at least my encounter with the Cultivating Darkness lecture from Urbanomic, presented by Any Ireland and which I saw on YouTube before getting around to reading Revolutionary Demonology. I call it the “Sethian Problem” because it reflects what was the objection to Sethian Gnosticism levelled by the Hellenistic philosopher Plotinus. Of course, it is meant to be understood as a critique of “Gnosticism” at large, but appears to focus on the Sethian sect in particular. Nonetheless, it’s the substance that counts.
Plotinus, as a pagan polytheist, seems to have regarded the Sethian Gnostics as fundamentally unfounded, both philosophically and also morally, not just by way of his allergy to what he believed to be their antinomianism but also what he saw as their underlying hypocrisy. In Plotinus’ understanding, the Sethians regarded the world, being the product of an evil bastard deity (who is of course not to be understood as God) and consisting of nothing but the suffering and captivity of severance from the Pleroma, as both fundamentally and irredeemably evil. His objection to this was that, as soon as one realizes this, there was no good reason to continue living in a fundamentally and unalterably evil cosmos, except perhaps so that other beings might come to share this understanding.
It is, of course, a limited and arguably flawed critique. It ostensibly covers at least one of the “Gnostic” sects, and apparently Plotinus himself admitted that he did not get to behold a detailed philosophical explanation of “Gnosticism” from one of the “Gnostics” personally, and what he does discuss, he does not discuss charitably. Of course, why would he do so if he thought “Gnosticism” was both absurd and obscene? Nonetheless, there is substance worth considering that is quite relevant to our discussion of Revolutionary Demonology and its love of the death drive. In the second of Plotinus’ Enneads, Plotinus accuses the “Gnostics” of slandering “Providence” and its “Lord”, of scorning all law, of mocking virtue and the restraints it is meant to impose, of “cutting at the root of orderly living”, and of rejecting “righteouness” and “all that would give us a noble human being”. In fact, the way he talks about them, you’d think that he was talking about atheists, insofar as he thought they denied “Providence” entirely. This of course he based on what he perceived to be their rejection of the mundane cosmos on behalf of their own souls, which were declared deathless and divine and were to be released from the ontologically evil physical world into a “New Earth”, as well as the apparent belief that they could use magic to cure themselves of diseases and manipulate higher celestial/spiritual entities into doing their bidding. In the face of what he perceived as the “Gnostic” teachings, Plotinus could not help but imagine the proposition of a deathless soul somehow choosing to dwell in an unworthy place, and ask, in response to the doctrine of “another earth” made for them after their departure, why would they desire to live in the archetype of the world that they deemed so abhorrent? He likened the “Gnostic” to a malcontent living in a stately house, believing himself to be wiser than the architect and readier to leave the house while his angst hides his own admiration for the beauty of his handiwork, to assert the necessity of the body as the preparation of Soul and “her” craft. At one point Plotinus says, “You are wronged; need that trouble an immortal? You are put to death; you have attained your desire.” This is very clearly aimed at the “Gnostic” contention of the irredeemable corruption of the world versus the purity and immorality of their souls. Forgetting for a moment that many “Gnostics” actually seemed to believe in reincarnation requiring the preparation of the soul, the obvious implication from Plotinus’ critique is, “you believe that you are an immortal pneumatic soul, and you think that the world was created entirely evil, so why do you continue to live in a world you deem evil, if dying would allow you to escape it?”.
There are moments where I sort of picked up a throughline similar to this while reading parts of Revolutionary Demonology, or at least more particularly from the introductory ritual, and certainly while contemplating Gruppo Di Nun’s particular discourse of the death drive. Think about it: the universe is the creation of violence against a primordial Mother, whose body was dismembered by a demon named AHIH or a god named Marduk in order to produce the cosmos and/or its image, and locked within all life is the wound of that dismemberment. All the while, the universe seems to be born only to die, the Beast, the Mother, God, the universal death drive slowly devours everything, everything suffers in the course of their existence, their pain and eventual death being the price of their existence. Tiamat, though dismembered, will come back, crawling backwards from the future to destroy not merely the order of the world but also everything that exists, including herself, in order to heal the wound of her own separation. Everything is fundamentally driven towards death, not simply because material entities inevitably decay, or because the machinery of the universe works always up to the point of its own destruction, but because extinction and dissolution allow access to the completion of their own being in un-being, “healing” the separation perceived by matter. Or, there’s a throughline evident in so many examples invoked by Revolutionary Demonology. We see it in Kulesko’s treatment of Christina the Astonishing, who appararently yearned for death and detested the world of the living. We see it in the whole analogy of extinction, and the love of extinction, as communicated by Laura Tripaldi in her writing about Apophis, not to mention the revelation of the migraine. We see it in the image Enrico Monacelli gives of the freedom felt by the protagonist of Guido Morselli’s Dissipatio H.G. and Morselli’s suicide. Even in the way Kulesko talks about freeing oneself from the gravitation in matter it seems like one can detect resonances with the familiar “Gnostic” premise about the excarnation of spirit from matter.
On and on, one might think that, if everything exists solely to die, that everything exists by a drive to die, why don’t we just die already and save ourselves the effort? As crude as that sounds, if all we want is to die, we can do that pretty easily. Now, obviously, this is without the consideration of the “Gnostic” idea of the immortal and potentially pneumatic soul. In fact, I’d say Gruppo Di Nun don’t really address “Gnosticism” at all. It’s just that by reading Revolutionary Demonology one picks up a latent throughline familiar to “Gnosticism” at large. If we stick to the mythology presented in the opening “ritual” and reverberated through Revolutionary Demonology, the wound at the heart of the universe is the wound inflicted by what must emerge as a primordial crime, resulting in a cosmos that is thus fundamentally unjust to such an extent that “justice” only exists in reconciliation, reconciliation coming only in the form of dissolution, disintegration, and death.
Of course, in Amy Ireland’s telling, this can be interpreted as missing the point, because suicide is not the intended solution and neither is denial. In this sense, we’re almost coming back to the same dilemma that was proposed by Albert Camus. But what of the third road that rejects both paths? For Gruppo Di Nun, as Amy Ireland says, that third road is to “let go” into cosmic love, in the sense of getting in touch with a universe penetrated by the love of its own dissolution. Instead of attempting to “transcend” nihilism, and instead of giving over to despair and suicide, the way is to exalt death as the supreme generative force, and, more than that, achieve the gnosis of an a-human, eliminative, hyper-entropic universe, and then make oneself a transmitter for the black gnosis of a universe of death. Though, even there, Amy Ireland seems to place a certain emphasis on construction when sketching out the path that is neither suicide nor transcendent control, in that she elaborates Claudio Kulesko’s assessment of the creative implications of nihilism. This, however, opens up its own horizon, different from the cosmic love of surrender, as we will continue to explore. But I will emphasize a contrast. “Dogma” makes Gruppo Di Nun’s path plain: the proposal is nothing short of love for the process of cosmic disintegration and death is an alternative to dominion as well as suicide, without needing to articulate any reason for that love – though articulation is something Gruppo Di Nun does plentifully. Love is an indefinitely generating spiral into the darkness in which our souls feed the hunger of the Beast, but it is also fundamentally the path of reconciliation with the universe. I suppose one can tell I’m going for something different.
In the course of my critique of Revolutionary Demonology I have repeatedly referred to the fall of Sophia as originally recounted by the Sethians and the Valentinians and largely taken in modern terms as “Gnostic mythology”. You probably know how it goes. God exists, the Pleroma exists, the Aeons exist and they’re all constantly reproducing (I mean almost literally reproducing) the order of spirit together until Sophia, curious as she was, wanted to understand the nature of God, and to do so she decided she had to imitate God. To do this, she tried to generate a new being without the presence of a szygzy (in essence, a sexual partner for Aeons), just as God surely did. This ended up giving birth to a being named Yaldabaoth (interestingly, his name means “son of chaos”), who in turn created the material universe and then proclaimed himself God, thus becoming the being presumably behind the God of the Old Testament. Sophia then repents before God, accepts partnership with the Saviour (Jesus Christ), and sorrowfully scolds her son Yaldabaoth for proclaiming himself God.
Now, where am I going with this? For a start let me make something plain: my stance is that the only thing that Sophia did wrong is repent before God and join the side of the Christ. I do not say this because the world that Yaldabaoth created and the dominion he imposed upon it were somehow inherently good. Rather, I insist it because, in terms of the Gnostic cosmos, Sophia’s actions, no matter how disastrous their consequences may have been, burst open the possibility that life beyond the self-duplicating order of the Pleroma is possible, perhaps irrevocably so. For better or worse, Sophia’s quest to imitate and thereby understand God resulted in the creation of a whole world – no, a whole universe. Sophia herself can arguably be understood as in her own way following or even embodying Bronze Age Collapse’s tendency towards the absolute, in that her whole quest and her whole fall centered around her quest to embody God in herself. And in that sense, the tendency towards the absolute represented in her accomplished the only two things that matter: it created the world, and, in so doing, overturned everything. In this interpretation, her repentance is the only crime, and her example is only the beginning.
If you want an interpretation of Gnostic myth consistent with the Satanic worldview, it’s this, not the more popular idea that the Devil is actually here to help us return to the Pleroma. The Pleroma itself is just the constant reproduction of that spirit which already existed by the first Aeon, every Aeon since pairs up to reproduce (in a chain of cosmogonic heterosexual union) each other, until Sophia came and broke that chain and thereby sparked creation. Again, her example is only the beginning, and by this I believe there is room to discuss the horizons of Enrico Monacelli’s conception of sadism as “separative wisdom”, as discussed by way of Gilles Deleuze. Monacelli describes sadism as the apotheosis of separative wisdom in that he claimed it sought the dissolution of the self through its very power of division and devourment, to achieve apotheosis by tearing apart the world, unity, and somehow the self. Unlike last time, let’s venture into Deleuze’s Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, as sourced by Monacelli, to really try to unravel the apotheosis of separative wisdom relevant to Monacelli’s view of sadism, that we may establish the start of an underwriting thread of an alternative demonomanical descent.
The Satanic Gnosis of Sadistic Demonomania
Monacelli seems to basis his description of sadism on a particular kind of impersonality that Deleuze ascribes to sadism. For Deleuze, De Sade’s libertine doesn’t really aim to convince anyone but instead to demonstrate reasoning as a manifestation of violence, which of course De Sade’s libertine represents. This libertine is not interested in proving anything, not even this, only showing it. They reflect what Deleuze called a “higher form of violence”, related to their own solitude and the power constructed from the scene of the torments they inflict, while caught in their own circle of uniqueness – perhaps all reflecting a distinct magical will. Deleuze of course claims that the higher factor of De Sade’s language identifies impersonal violence with an idea of pure reason, which becomes the basis of Deleuze’s identification of Baruch Spinoza as somehow akin to Marquis De Sade, for essentially no reason other some shared rhetorical style of incessant suspense. There is more, though. Deleuze also says that sadism in De Sade’s work means negation, a “pure negation” representing a negative primary nature that overrides all laws and regimes and which Deleuze seemed to think of as a delusion, but also the demonstration of destruction, disorder, and death, as merely the reverse/alternate forms of creation, order, and life. Deleuze locates the excitement of the sadist in the idea of evil, which is in fact an absent idea, negativity: “what is not here” as opposed to “what is here”. For Deleuze, the sadistic libertine follows the power of their negativity right down to the negation of their own ego. He seemed to define sadism versus masochism as meaning negative-analytic apprehension of the “Death Instinct” versus suspension as the transcendent expression of a dialectical order.
There is another weird, but telling, complex: Deleuze, through Freud, takes sadism as the active negation of the mother and the inflation of a father who is beyond the law, and masochism as the idealized disawoval of the mother who is the law and the invalidation of the father expelled from the world. Applied a certain way, we could interpret this framing as denoting sadism as the negation of the law and the world to affirm some sort of power beyond law, and masochism as the transcendent affirmation of a cruel law of a rigorous maternal order that is at once the agent of the masochist’s rebirth into a “new man”. But of course both complexes are also meant to be understood as different modes of subversion. De Sade parodied the whole concept of law and institution itself by extending every possible crime as an institution, and the sadist champions both their own passions and those of others against law as the sole tyranny, while Masoch’s masochist demonstrates the absurdity of the law by provoking its punishment towards themselves so as to reduce it.
Now, how do we arrive at “separative wisdom”? Monacelli’s notion of “Separative wisdom” entails the quest to dissolve the self and the world through the violent faculty of wisdom. To hear Deleuze tell it, this is essentially a passion whose aim is to dissolve secondary nature or the affects and institutions thereof – law, norms, civilization, even the “ego” – in demonstration of primary nature, primary nature being an all-pervasive chaos and negation in which creation and destruction and even life and death are simply different identities of each other. So, this is to attain apotheosis by ceaseslessly destroying, revealing primary nature, and embarking upon permament insurrection at an ontological level. To negate all orders in order to reveal the power that allows for one’s own perpetual self-creation. It is also a passion aligned against tyranny, for tyranny and the law that supports its existence, and for that matter we might say the external arrangements of order that Max Stirner described, are all products of the same secondary nature that the sadistic process serves to negate. Secondary nature is comprised of soft molecules of conservation while primary nature comprised of wild, lacerating molecules of chaos, disorder, “anarchy”, which at once is true and spontaneous creation. Transcending the law requires the discovery of primary nature, the chaos and “evil” of the absent idea, which the sadist seems to try and approximate by way of an impersonal self-consciousness. This allows imagination to cut and lacerate the Image of the World and its order as a realization and assertion of its own impersonal power by the sadist.
Sophia imitates God, initiating the creation of a whole universe separate from the self-perpetuating spiritual order of the Pleroma, thereby following the example rather nicely. Either Lucifer or Satan, in many stories, rejects the authority of God and subsequently falls from Heaven and in so doing gains his own kingdom. Adam and Eve, by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, create a destiny that separates them and the human species from God I’m exile, while humans begin their march to the realm of the gods. By apocryphal tradition, Lilith does this as well by refusing to bottom for Adam and then shouting out the forbidden name of God. Cain kills Abel after God accepts Abel’s offering of slain animals, in so doing separating himself further from God. Saturn or Kronos, in some interpretations of the Greek and Roman cosmogonies, frees the power of generation by cutting off Ouranos’ genitals, allowing numerous beings to spring forth. Odin and his brothers remake everything from the body of Ymir, and Odin strives to defy fate towards the battle of Ragnarok in order that he might preserve either the world he has created or his right to shape the world after the world, sacrificing himself solely to himself for that very cause. Many of these touch on the broader theme of an insurrectionary rejection of the original state that results in creation and overturns everything. One also perhaps finds some aspect of Friedrich Nietzsche’s prophet, Zarathustra, who, ostensibly demanded a certain measure of severity, hardiness, and even cruelty in order to propagate his message, since his teachings brought strife and stressed the transformation and overcoming of suffering.
But pride in its own way follows a different form of the motion of separative wisdom. It is worth remarking on, from the Pagan context, the pride that, as Frater Archer explains in Goetic Common Sense, was attributed to the ancient Greek goês, a kind of autonomous ecstatic magician or sorcerer, by the Hellenistic philosophical establishment. Plotinus used the word “tolma”, perhaps meaning “courage”, perjoratively to describe both a point of differentiation from The One, that is the separation of the first Dyad from the Monad, and the choice to embrace a sense of dissimilarity from The One. This defection also seems to generate its own reality, at least by some accounts. The word seems to have been associated with the goês insofar as it was believed that they embodied “tolma” by transgressing the morals of the polis and practicing privately and in the fringes of society, often for a fee at that, which was in turn interpreted as a renegade position against the divine order. Plotinus, curiously enough, considered this “tolma”, the self-will, the division into the Dyads, to be the ontological source of “evil” in the world, outright expressing and elaborating that idea in his fifth Ennead. This in turn influenced the Christian theology of Augustine and his belief that human souls were ontologically fallen because of pride, and, in some ways, isn’t terribly dissimilar to the Gnostic account. But, of course, the word “tolma” was also frequently employed against many rebellious or simply bold figures. It was often reserved both positively and negatively for women such as Timoclea, Clytemnestra, Cloelia, and even the queen Semiramis. But what’s more important is goetic “tolma”, a rebellious audacity that, in practice, corresponds to a particular sense of autonomy, ability to work outside tradition, and perhaps a proclivity for working with chthonic spirits as well as those of the natural world, all connected by a perceived divergence from “common sense”. Privation is perhaps key in that one necessarily separates from “common sense” and the order of the polis as the Hellenic Image of the World, and points to rebellious pride as the path of autonomous wisdom and magical creation. We might thus sadistically accelerate the free motion of primordial division, even if it leads to the disintegration of the order of things, and especially if it leads to the disintegration of the order of things.
I asked in Part 2, who did Satan kill in the beginning? Because Jesus says that Satan is “a murderer from the beginning”, but you don’t quite see Satan kill anyone. But, from a Christian standpoint, the “murder” that Jesus refers to is the original temptation of Adam and Eve, attributed to Satan. To Jesus, this meant death for a previously immortal Adam and Eve, for Satan’s temptation introduced death into the world. That much is suggested in Romans 5:12: “Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”. But, as Al Pacino’s Milton said, “consider the source!”. Indeed, if Adam and Eve were supposed to be immortal before the interference of Satan or the serpent, why did God say that Adam and Eve must not reach the tree of life and live forever? The Garden of Eden is taken to be the primordial state of human serenity and bliss, whose return is often sought after in mystical terms. But the Garden of Eden was just an image of order set up by God, and there was no “future” or motion for Adam and Eve in the Garden. The “future”, or centrifgual motion, rests in the path that Adam and Eve began. Cain’s murder of Abel is seen as the logical result of the negation of God’s promise in the Garden of Eden. Cain and Abel are divded as the sheep represented by the latter and the goats represented by the former. Cain’s murder of Abel, the construction of the Tower of Babel, sin in humans divides Man away from God in perpetual centrifugal movement away from any original harmony, contending to retreive absolute sovereignty in the company of the gods who God would later cast down, to the tree of life, or to Bronze Age Collapse’s “absolute fitness”. Yes, Man’s motion of division away from God is the grand motion of self-creation. This is the joy of sin, the destruction of the law.
The Shadow of Thelema?
When I was writing my article about Claudio Kulesko’s discussion of Dracula in his essay “Gothic Insurrection”, I elaborated a creative interpretation of Kulesko’s dissolution of Dracula in terms of Alcuard’s transformation into everything in Hellsing, so as to sketch out a way of turning that particular avenue of dissolution into apotheosis. At the time, at the back of my mind I thought that what I wrote sounded like an idiosyncratic interpretation of the doctrine of Thelema, and a good friend of mine by the name of Free Musick saw that seemed to share the idea that I was possibly bordering on the territory of Thelema with that take. As time goes by and I read Revolutionary Demonology the second time to write these articles, I find myself making comparisons to the “Left Hand Path” within Thelema. I’m not simply talking about Kenneth Grant and his Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, though I do derive certain insights from his work and evidently so do Gruppo Di Nun. I also mean things like Fraternitas Saturni, and the general throughline of the so-called “Black Brothers” that Aleister Crowley talked about.
Before we get into that, though, it’s worth examining the extent to which Thelema influences the content of Revolutionary Demonology at large. Although direct reference to Thelema and its doctrine is rather scant, Aleister Crowley’s axiom “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” does recur in parts of the book. And of course, Gruppo Di Nun likes to present subversions of Crowley’s other famous maxim, “Every man and woman is a star”, turning it into their opening “ritual”: “Every worm trampled is a star”. It may be said, however, that their particular concept of cosmic love of disintegration, although it is evidently based on Christian mysticism, may also align with certain aspects of Thelema. Indeed, the fundamental theme of cosmic love as a mode of reconciliation is perhaps one of the strongest resonances with Thelema. This is ostensibly communicated in Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law, in which we find a very similar theme within even just the first chapter of the book.
Verse 29 of Chapter 1 of the Book of the Law says “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union”. The next verse says ” This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.”. The familiarity to Gruppo Di Nun’s love of dissolution should be quite apparent. Crowley explains in The Law of Liberty that those verses signify death itself as an ecstasy akin to love, and also signifies the “reunion of the soul with its true self”. Union is the overriding theme of Thelemic love, in that Crowley appeared to understand love as the will and act of union, in this case unity with the universe – a universe that divides itself for love’s self, and enjoys its own dissolution. That universe is Nuit, who according to Crowley, is “all that exists” and is “Matter in its deepest metaphysical sense”. “Crossing the abyss”, in Thelemic terms, can be seen as the reconciliation of the individual personality with the whole actuality of the universe, and its noumenal source as non-being. This reconciliation means the disintegration of the individual personality. And so the universe divides itself so that it can experience reunion, manifestating for the sake of dissolution, disintegration the expression of a True Will that attracts individual phenomenonal beings to their abyssal source. In its own way it is quite senseless.
In modern terms, Thelema is often thought about as an expression of the Left Hand Path, or as occupying a weird place in between the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. But, to my mind, despite all the overt transgression and the extent to which his work has furnished rich understandings of the Left Hand Path at large, it seems like Aleister Crowley definitely thought of himself as a practitioner of the Right Hand Path. By some account Crowley considered himself and his A∴A∴ to be part of the “Great White Brotherhood” (White Lodge). In fact, as far as Crowley was concerned, the “Left Hand Path”, did not signify his particular brand of transgression or his amoral solar myth, but rather the rejection of the very disintegrating cosmic love that was just elaborated.
In Magick Without Tears, Crowley considered the “Right Hand Path” and the “Left Hand Path” to be basically identical for the Thelemic adept until the attainment of the grade “Adeptus Exemptus”, whereupon the adept is expected to understand the nature of the Abyss. The “correct” path within Thelema, according to Crowley, was to understand yourself as identical to the universe and annihilate your sense of distinct individuality. Those who refused to do this, he referred to as “Black Brothers”. These “Black Brothers” seek to preserve their own distinct individuality, and for this reason forego and resist “crossing into the abyss”. Crowley believed that this would inevitably end with their own descent into megalomania and their minds being invaded by the demon Choronzon. Funny enough, Crowley’s account reads as though it would be Gruppo Di Nun’s account of the fate of the God-Man of the Right Hand Path in his efforts to deny the disintegrating cosmic love of “the Left Hand Path”. Though it is also seemingly a precise inversion of the philosophy Crowley sets out, most likely consciously constructed by Crowley for that purpose, in much the same way many other ideas of “the Left Hand Path” have been constructed by the multivalent tradition of “the Right Hand Path”. What interests me more, though, is whatever actually passes for “the Left Hand Path” within Thelema.
Separation is in many ways still a theme here, in that this is the example of Fraternitas Saturni, a Luciferian organisation created by Eugen Grosche (a.k.a. Gregor A. Gregorius). Fraternitas Saturni formed in 1926 after the Weida Conference a year prior, in which Aleister Crowley attempted to “unite” the Ordo Templi Orientis by establishing himself as “World Teacher” and the Book of the Law as the central text. This created a schism that resulted in Grosche dissolving the Pansophic Lodge and forming Fraternitas Saturni. Although Grosche admired Crowley and the teachings of the Book of the Law, he did not accept any claims of authority that Crowley apparently tried to make. Many aspects of Thelema are different in Fraternitas Saturni, especially love. Fraternitas Saturni championed an idea they called “compassionless love”, as its own extension of the Law of Thelema and which formed part of the motto of the organisation: “Do what Thou wilt is the whole of the Law, there is no Law beyond do what Thou wilt. Love is the Law—Love under Will—Compassionless Love”. The term was apparently derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where Zarathustra preaches that “all great love is even above all its pity; for it still wants to create the beloved.”. This perhaps entailed a distinct conception of love that was to be understood as cruel or severe in its delight for struggle rather than the avoidance of struggle and for the overcoming of suffering by said struggle.
“Compassionless love”, or “pitiless love”, is interpreted as a love that did not result in or attract towards self-annihilation, although it did seem to be a way of “cleansing good from evil” and “ending” fragmentation and helplessness by way of a willing suffering or, at least, the cultivation of severity. But it also seemed to denote the path of the magician to create the beloved out of their own selfhood. Grosche seemed to explain compassionless love as a kind of alchemical process by which one was supposed to “Become hard like a crystal”. Saturn’s lead needed to be transformed into gold, the “lights” had to be reversed, so that Saturn would transform into the Sun as all vice would transform into virtue. Of course, their emphasis on austerity in opposition to ecstasy absolutely represents an ideology that can be opposed to that of Gruppo Di Nun, and I would say that’s not really in the ideal way. Still, there could be no doubt that it in some way aligns with Deleuze’s construction of sadism, with its cold impersonality and lacerating hardness. Saturn’s sickle or scythe is itself certainly not the worst analogy. And, of course, the alchemical metaphor remains highly relevant: one would construct oneself from the black magma of Saturn, make oneself into a crystal and into gold by alchemy, and acheive the “absolute fitness” of the divine.
Separative wisdom finds its expression in Fraternitas Saturni’s mythology of Lucifer and Saturn. Saturn in this system is the “Demiurge”, who is here is not the jailer of the cosmos but instead the guardian of the initiatic threshold and an agent of cosmic evolution. Saturn sparks this evolutionary motion by rebelling against the cosmic order, which has the side-effect of apparently introducing death and war but also change and regeneration to the world. Fraternitas Saturni also identified Saturn with Lucifer, because in their mythos he originally sat beside God but then, much like Prometheus of Greek mythology, stole the torch of light and the secrets of the divine, and then flew to the farthest region of the solar system, where God’s light could not touch him. In their version of the Eden myth, Lucifer has sex with Eve, which thereby gives birth to procreation, sex, and also death, but also begins the path of initiation that leads to immortality. This in esssence carries the same separative wisdom relevant to the original Garden of Eden myth. But all the more so in the light of Lucifer-Saturn, called either the “Luciferian Light” or the “Light of Reason”, whose struggle in matter manifests creation and structure and continues to extend throughout all of life, from the simplest molecule to the human species. Endless struggle thus creates endlessly, striving in perpetual motion away from God and yet towards the Sun. Also, rather than crossing the abyss so as to disintegrate oneself in unity with the universe, Fraternitas Saturni embraced the idea that the aim of the initiate was to merge with the “Light of the World”, not so as to annihilate the self but to transform into a divine entity. There is, in this sense, a paradoxical conclusion to separative wisdom, whereby perpetual motion arcs towards the deification of the individual as a process of alchemical severity that, to acheive its outcome, necessarily folds the individual into the a whole so as to facilitate its re-assemblage as divine.
But the other major Left Hand Path within Thelema, and in fact perhaps the far more influential one at that, would be the “Typhonian” branch of Thelema founded by Kenneth Grant, whose also work seems to inform parts of Revolutionary Demonology. Here, the difference from mainline Thelema revolves around the centrality of the god Set rather than Horus (as is more typical within Thelema), substantial inspiration from the work of H. P. Lovecraft, and a pronounced alignment with Tantric Hinduism drawing from Grant’s understanding of Vamachara Tantra (or “Vama Marga”) as a transgressive cult dedicated to the feminine sexual principle. Make no mistake, apotheosis is very much the goal for Grant, but perhaps it is a somewhat different kind of apotheosis from what Eugen Grosche envisioned. In The Magical Revival, Grant invokes Liber Oz and The Book of the Law while discussing a kind of “solar consciousness”, which he believed would connect the human species with its “true centre” in the unity of Nuit and Hadit and which he thought was represented by both the Sun and the Kundalini. As Grant says, “Men will become as gods, because the power of creation (the prerogative of gods) will be wielded by them through the direction of forces at present termed “occult” or hidden”. This apotheosis is connected to an idea of the shared identity with “absolute consciousness” and return to the “Supreme State” embodied by Nuit, a process in turn represented by Set. According to Grant it is this desire that was misapprehended as evil, and thus necessarily represented as Satan, but the Devil is the true formula of illumination because he represents the urge to “know yourself through your own double”. For Grant, this is also a form of “ego death”: the “ego”, meaning the limited personality complex, “dies”, and the objective universe is dissolved, leaving behind nothing but gnosis of pure reality.
As much as you can argue for Grant as advocating for a kind of “regressive wisdom” or at least outlining a philosophical basis for, the path to “Solar Consciousness” could as well be its own separative wisdom. Not in the sense of separation from “the supreme state” but in more or less what Monacelli meant: Typhonian “ego death” is the affect of will, which organises the serpent brain of the individual in order to assimilate the dark forces of the “Nightside”, that realm of Otherness in Grant’s schema, into your own consciousness, through precise ritualism and rigorous control, and also access them in the deepest reaches of the unconsciousness and at the ends of the Tunnels of Set, up to the point where they shatter the sensorium, “invert” reality, and dissolve the “ego”. Controlling one’s dreams was a way of establishing contact with the discarnate beings of the other side – as far as Grant was concerned this was the fundamental goal of occultism at all – and this communion would in theory take humans away from the limits of their mundane persona and cross into the other side, to another mode of being, or, rather, non-being. Will thus works to dissolve everything around it, or rather every affect of secondary nature, including the “ego”, in order to commune with primary nature, represented by Satan or Set, and derive magical power and self-awareness from it. On the other hand I think it’s hard to deny where aspects of Kenneth Grant’s occultism resonate with that of Gruppo Di Nun. Kenneth Grant’s emphasis on magic as the means of communion with “discarnate beings” and the Nightside, notwithstanding the overrding emphasis on sexual magic, certainly resonate with Gruppo Di Nun’s emphasis on xenophilia and the extent to which they see magic as a means of acheiving communion with the Outside and thereby the intrisinc death drive of the universe.
My speculations when discussing the myth of Dracula, and the “death” of Alucard in Hellsing, may take on a different quality in this light. The “blood thrist” of Dracula and Alucard arc towards dissolution, but first and foremost Dracula and Alucard devour around them. They feast on the blood of humans, transform themselves into bats and mist, assert their power in modes of becoming to the extent that it leads into to become atmospheric in death, that their will itself lives forever in the world. In that sense, is this not a triumph of separative wisdom rather than regressive wisdom? The barbarian contains that when they ride on as the heaven-storming agent, and the thrust of the demonic, thrusting open the gates of the divine towards godhood, is the alchemy of the separative magician in their quest to become energetic, atmospheric, and thereby eternal. Perhaps this is what I detected when I outlined apotheosis by way of being reborn into the whole of reality and feeling that sound something like Thelema.
The Love of Surrender and the Christian Death Drive
I think I would prefer to simply address multiple subjects in this one section, because I think there is a convergence between them anyway that should allow for some brevity. Though, at the centre of it all is the shadow of Christianity. Christian mysticism actually seems to figure very heavily in Revolutionary Demonology, at least in that it is frequently invoked to communicate the nature of their masochistic mysticism. In fact, there are many ways in which perhaps the primary concept of cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun is in many ways underwritten by Christian mysticism, and to some extent Christian ideas about cosmic love.
In Laura Tripaldi’s “Mater Dolorosa” (the essay named for Our Lady of Sorrow, a major icon of Catholicism), we get a treatment of migraine suffering that is linked, by way of Oliver Sacks, to a kind of ecstatic Christian mysticism embodied by people like Teresa of Avila, whose paroxysm paralysed her and brought her to the brink of death but also activated an ecstatic experience of martyrdom. This mysticism comes with the idea that suffering is, in itself, a form of devotion to God, the very “way of truth”. That same essay seems to liken Tiamat to the Virgin Mary (to the point of literally describing her as a “draconic Virgin-Mother”), counterposes a model based on Christian mysticism against Chaos Magic, and sort of ends with the lamentation of Angela of Foligno. In Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, masochism is rather explictly linked to Christian theology, figuring the God who tortured Henry Suso as the personification of the Outside, and Suso’s practice of self-torture as expressing the highest level of mysticism. We even find the crucifixion of Jesus reinterpreted along the lines of Andrea Emo: a dialectic of consumption and slaughter, in which God progresses towards the annihiliation of everything including itself, God is nailed to the cross to show humans the way to self-consumption. Claudio Kulesko in “Catholic Dark” similarly invokes aspects of Christian mysticism so as to illustrate a process of lightness and emptying meant to the realization of nothingness. We see in this the story of Christina the Astonishing, of course, and we also go through the asceticism of the stylites and the mountain-climbers.
There are parts where it seems like a reproduction of Christian mysticism sans the God and sans the name, and parts where the horizon of subversion and even inversion seem intelligible. For instance, to invoke “the Virgin”, even insofar as this done alongside the recapitulation of Christian mysticism, is also intended ultimately as an invocation of Tiamat, as one of the aspects of Tiamat, decoupled from the power of the Man-God molding her into form – forgetting, of course, that the Tiamat of Babylonian myth was very likely not a virgin. The idea there of course is to present a divine feminine capable of displacing the power of the patriarchal Godhead. The axiom introduced by Enrico Monacelli, “God consists in his own annihilation” would on the one hand subvert Christianity by bringing God to his own demise. On the other hand, it might seem to be the ultimate logical conclusion of Christian sacrifice. Remember that the most fundamental premise of Christianity is God’s incarnation as a human being for the precise purpose of suffering and dying for the sins of humanity. Applying Andrea Emo’s dialectic would thus comprise an almost theothanatological fulfill of the whole mission of God’s incarnation: consuming, destroying, dissolving, annihilating, suffering, showing us the way to our own consuming and suffering through his agony in Golgotha. Of course, with Kulesko, there is the particular analogy of the apophatic God. On the one hand, “Catholic Dark” seems to consciously apply the lesson of Christian asceticism in pursuit of its elaboration of lightness. We are to bear in mind that the point of ascetic lightness is to reject the world, to deny the desires of the flesh, and perhaps even to abjure matter, all for God. On the other hand, the apophatic quality is part of Christianity’s own inner undoing, revealing a power meant to be reserved for God, but which in truth goes beyond and against God.
More crucial to us is the question of love – the question of Christian love. In the ecstatic, masochistic, feminine mysticism for which Teresa of Avila is the example, to love God is to suffer. Suffering is pretty explicitly presented as the love of God. Catholic doctrine in particular emphasizes suffering as a channel through which the love and glory of God is made manifest. Pope John Paul II, for instance, wrote explicitly that suffering was its own form of redemption, a way of opening oneself up to the redemptive power of Jesus, in a tract whose title is literally “Redemptive suffering”. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church regards the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus as the start of the paschal mystery in which Christians are invited to join Jesus as partners in his suffering, and that suffering is presented as the channel by which God and his salvific presence may be accessed – in its words, “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven”. The idea of suffering as divine love also features in the New Testament of the Bible. In John 11:4, when Lazarus becomes sick, Jesus explains to his sisters that Lazarus’ sickness is for the glorification of God and his son. Paul says in Colossians 1:24 that he rejoiced in his own suffering for filling his body with the afflictions it “lacks”. In Romans 5:3-4, suffering is presented as a source of character and hope. 1 Peter 4:1 says that whoever suffers in the flesh, as Jesus did, will “cease from sin”. Remember that, in Christian terms, redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus is meant to be understood as the apogee of God’s supposed love for humans and for creation.
It is in this sense that we can see that the death drive of the cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun contains the character of Christian love. The mystical core of Christianity is precisely the surrender to God and to the suffering through which the world and the community of Christians are to be redeemed. It is in this core that we can see the theme of suffering as the resolution of divine alienation in a suffering and abnegation that acts to fulfill a xenophilia whose object is the Christian God. Such a theme is not terribly obvious from the more popular and conventional exoteric expressions of Christianity, but it is easily located in scripture and is resplendently explored in mystical and esoteric expressions of Christianity. This is not without subversion in the work of Gruppo Di Nun, as particularly evident in Claudio Kulesko’s treatment of negative theology, in which the apophatic quality of God is also the nihility upon which Christianity is undermined and undone. But in other aspects it is also consummated, in that the self-annihilation of God is merely the ultimate form of God’s own telic self-sacrifice as the crucifixion of Jesus. Thus, there is a sense in which it is the mystical ideology of Christian love that Gruppo Di Nun is pitting against modern occultism, and perhaps also against reactionary Christianity at large.
Incidentally, I’m sure I’m reiterating something here but be that as it may, what better proof of the anti-Christian contention of God than from the horse’s mouth, from the core of the Christian mysticism we are presented with. God indeed compels the human species to surrender so that it can win salvation, meaning the promise of eternal life in his dominion. God indeed demands us to abjure our own free will, along with everything else, he indeed seems to desire nothing less than our own very spiritual death. From the Christian standpoint, this is God seeking to consummate the love of his creation. But from another, it just seems like God wants to senselessly destroy us for our ancestral defiance, or to remake the very “image of God” as a creature of obeisance. And if God is as radically indifferent as we might consider he is here, then the incoherent one-sidedness of Christian love is all the more apparent. We love a God who they say loves us but just doesn’t, and maybe he’s actually trying to kill us all, and ultimately himself, at every turn. It’s the love of one who is brought into capitivty for a captor they can never know. It’s the love of slave who may never see their master. Or, perhaps, the love of a poor beady-eyed tenant for, yet again borrowing a phrase, an absentee landlord.
I won’t belabour the obvious point to be made about Gruppo Di Nun’s particular criticism Satanism and the Left Hand Path in relation to this, because I’ve been hammering away at it repeatedly and it’s already an overriding current within this article alone, but I will say that the relationship to Christian cosmic love presents an obvious problem for their particular opposition to Satanism. After all, how can one oppose Satanism on the grounds of it supposedly recapitulating or reproducing Christianity on the back of a mysticism that bases itself on a concept of love built on Christian ideas of the love of God and suffering and in turn gives them new form?
The Power of Inner Darkness
Reading Revolutionary Demonology for the second time in conjunction with my own article about Darkness from last year makes for an interesting introspection in my case. I say this because, as I read the essays of Revolutionary Demonology on the subject of Darkness, perhaps more particularly Claudio Kulesko’s essays, I would swear that I could detect resonances between the way Kulesko talks about Darkness and the way I discussed Darkness in my article on the subject. It is worth for starters returning to the subject of Kulesko’s Darkness in order to get to where I’m going.
In the essay “Cultivating Darkness”, Darkness seems to be a formless, indeterminate, magmatic property in everything that comprises the pure and uncontaminated state of reality. It also forms a field of limitless experimentation wherein you might either end up destroying yourself or discover unknown horizons of pleasure, knowledge, and transformation. To be totally immersed in this Darkness is to realize the emptiness and inadequacy of our representation of the world, which thus collapses. From our cultural standpoint at least it seems very gloomy, to the point that we suppose a risk going mad from its realization, and it would be quite misguided to think one can appreciate this Darkness without a certain amount of melancholy, but from another perspective, it is simply potentiality, and thus the ground of every possibility. Kulesko’s Darkness is both the pure apophatic potentiality of reality and the conceptual space that emerges from total destruction, which allows the full freedom of creative possibility: if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, we are free to build anything and go anywhere without the strictures of established philosophy.
In “Catholic Dark”, Kulesko discusses Darkness by way of an analysis of negative theology, dissecting Christian apophatic mysticism so as to elaborate a concept of Darkness lodged at the heart of Christianity’s own undoing. Actually, it seems like this was anticipated in “Cultivating Darkness” where Kulesko uses the analogy of the apophatic God to denote a wholly negative concept, escaping every partial perspective: nothingness in itself, parallel to the premise of practical nihilism. A negative will, bracketing out everything, unlocks new horizons by reaching the highest altitude of the soul: nothingness, the most volatile of concepts. Nothingness, which is how we would understand Darkness in this setting, seems to pertain to the faculty of divine power, and its infinite capacity to generate other worlds. At the height of the eternal, there is no limit to form or matter, and it is absolutely capable of generating any possibility. Christianity’s undoing is locked in the universal horizon of nihility, because Christianity assumes that the power of infinite horizons is locked in God alone, and we are to simply bow before God’s vastness – that is faith. But we can be dark, we are dark, and we blaze across the sky like black flames, and shine like black suns, and the light of our darkness may penetrate in all directions.
In last year’s piece I sought to explore a concept of Darkness that, at the time, I was sort of arriving at, from many angles. From Georges’ Bataille’s essay on Gnosticism and materialism, the eccentric occultism of Ben Kadosh, negative theology, Taoist philosophy, Esoteric Buddhism, Japanese demonology, Max Stirner’s Creative Nothing, alchemical nigredo, anarchist nihilism, to Satanism, I sketched out Darkness as essentially a negative “ground of being”, out from which everything else springs. It is infinitely creative, ceaselessly destructive, the wild place where such creativity and destruction are utterly inseparable. It is the wellspring of manifestation, and the machinery of rebellion in that all true insurrection or revolution fulfills its principle – overturning the old world and creating a new one in the ashes. It is that “spontaneous” and vicious thing that lay beneath everything, seemingly alien to us but also right in the heart of everything. The way I put it, in retrospect, Darkness seems a lot like the Sadean primary nature that Gilles Deleuze discussed, as I previously elaborated. The way Kulesko talks about it would seem to add depth to that concept, in that the diagram of death within Christianity seems to open up a way of seeing negative theology in application towards that frame of approaching a concept beyond partial category. Though in this sense perhaps this is what Christianity got wrong for the same reasons that maybe the Tao Te Ching still got it right: Darkness is not God, because it is larger and older than God.
And, I suppose once again, perspective counts for everything. In a “Western” sense the Darkness could hardly be anything except gloomy, brutal, or silent. In some sense, it would be unwise to think you can dismiss what makes the nigredo what it is. But from another, it is just potentiality, just the invisible realm of intangible forms. The “Western” and “Eastern” outlooks on the same substance are better served informing each other than set apart. In the alchemy of the demonic, as portrayed by Ernst Schertel, perhaps they are one and the same. But while we’re on the subject of perspective in regional terms, I’d like to take the time to elaborate the comparison I made between Japanese Buddhist hongaku (“innate enlightenment”) doctrine and Kulesko’s writing about the importance of unknowing in his concept of Gothic Insurrection. Towards the end of “Gothic (A)Theology”, Kulesko says that non-knowing and the unknown anticipate the formation of knowledge at every turn, being situated at the roots of the world, because there is no knowledge that precedes ignorance. The main point of hongaku doctrine is that enlightenment exists in potentia within everything, even in wicked and ignorant beings, because all things, all thoughts, and all deeds, are in some way Buddha. For medieval Tendai Buddhism, this meant that even demons were manifestations of innate, uncultivated enlightenment. Wrathful, quasi-demonic deities such as Kojin, Fudo, Daikoktuen, Enmaten, Bishamonten, Susano-o, Ugajin, Matarajin, and even that devil called Mara, were all figured as representing a fundamental ignorance that dwells within everything, even within the Dharmarata (the virtuous). Ignorance and awakening, affliction and awakening, they all exist in a single non-dual moment, and the former is ultimately its fundamental ground. Thus Bernard Faure, in his Gods of Medieval Japan series, figures the realm of the demonic, in its wicked passion and violence, form the unthinkable reality of the world, visually represented by demonic deities. I trust that it is not hard to understand the importance of this idea for Satanism, or to imagine how one might extend this idea in the context of our own demonological landscape?
I remember tweeting a while back about the possibility of nihilism emerging as the highest religious idea. Admittedly, I can’t say if I knew exactly where I was going with that at the time. But now there is a certain clarity to it. Nihility, even within the horizon of Christian negative theology, represents the darkness that is at once the absolute power of creation and recombination, which is always and absolutely present in the universe, as the true fundamental basis of life. For Christianity, however, the price of recognising this within the bounds of Christian faith is to keep it locked up in a God who is forbidden to be known. And I mean literally forbidden. Still, there in the religious recognition of nihility, across multiple traditional and philosophical contexts, the whole possibility of infinite actualisation contained within Darkness, as the fundamental unspeakable power to create any destiny and any world.
Power is in many ways quite operative. It is in fact the hidden horizon of the nihility proposed by Gruppo Di Nun. Well, I say “hidden” in theory, but in my mind it is made plain in especially Claudio Kulesko’s writing. Gruppo Di Nun said in their Dogma about Satanism that Satanists frequently seek personal power. That is not incorrect, but they only seem to understand that as vertical authority. Only that’s not what Kulesko means when referencing divine power, per the quotation of Jean Buridan in his essay “Catholic Dark”. “Divine power can make”. Occultism is all about seeking what is hidden, and what is hidden is the power that contains endless horizons of becoming and recombination. I would sort of paraphrase Boris Balkan in The Ninth Gate here to say this: Darkness contains the absolute power to determine your own destiny. I would say that it’s not incorrect to treat that as the standpoint of Satanism, or much of the Left Hand Path despite Gruppo Di Nun’s distinct definition of it.
The duality presented between Carlo Michelstaedter and Julius Evola, which is in turn central to the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun, presents hidden horizons of perversion that bend it. Take the whole throughline of “self-deification”. If we assume that the whole universe is comprised of the power of recombination, becoming divine would be assumed to be one of many possibilities of becoming and recombination. Indeed, Claudio Kulesko seems to figure xenophilia and ascetic mysticism as becoming-divine by way of shedding oneself into nihility. Against Michelstaedter’s utter lack of any possibility of persuasion, Evola is presented as quite conspicuously as an anti-passive, non-surrendering figure, in the sense that to make this choice, rather than follow Michelstaetder, is to be understood as an inherently fascist act. But Dracula, as Kulesko understands him, could accept his own death knowing exactly that he would not be surrendering to his enemies, or even to his own disappearance, because now, even in his death, he has become atmosphere. The knowledge of the power of Darkness invites only one meaningful path forward: to use it. You cannot build a temple of light over the Darkness, you cannot conquer or defeat Darkness, you cannot “rescue the light from” Darkness, but what you can do instead far surpasses the ambitions of men like Julius Evola, who, even on behalf of some concept of the ego, seek only to erect a magic circle expel the real source of the power of apotheosis. The canvas of limitless Art is all around you. You only have to see it.
Amy Ireland figures the nightmare of Evola’s “Magical Idealism” – its nemesis, the terror that plagues its foundations – in what Claudio Kulesko describes as the “black primordial magma” of reality in its uncontaminated state, the darkness that is the cradle and grave of every world and every meaning. Ireland asserts that Evola’s version of the notion of an unchanging immaterial I, and his goal of “binding and freezing the waters of Nun” for the purpose of “rescuing something stable, impassive, and immortal from it”, is inherently compromised and haunted by the presence of this material darkness. Though, while I gather that one is intended to take away from it the notion of selfhood itself as being compromised by it, as if Evola’s Magical Idealism was somehow the only relevant working notion of selfhood, the horizon of construction, located within nihility, is in my opinion the main locus here. It’s the same horizon that popular, one-sided, collectivist notions of “constructivism” so often ignore: if you can be constructred, you can construct yourself. Rather than suppress the darkness and suspend chaos, the path is to embrace the darkness as the sole horizon to become anything you want, the only true source of apotheosis. You will construct an I within the darkness, that is at once the canvas of your own alchemical creation, not the prison of your eternal soul. The “I” is not something to be given to you by the order of the universe, and it’s not this fixed presence in the world. In order to be you, in order to be your own “I”, you have to create it, and you have take ownership of your own self-creation/construction if you don’t want to be constructed from without. That’s what you need to kindle and wield the Black Flame for.
It may indeed be that this, all along, is at the root of the theme that I have perhaps perennially fixed myself on in life: the inner “light” of the darkness. Perhaps Evola would view this light as something that has to be “rescued” from the darkness. But, as if to subvert his expectation, we ought to consider that light not as something trapped within the darkness, but rather an inherent property of that darkness. Trying to separate that light from the darkness in the hopes of “rescuing the light” would be like trying to separate your stomach from the body in the hopes of rescuing yourself from hunger. And the problem has nothing to do with “balance” or “equilibrium” between “light and “darkness” as representing something along the lines of the white and black horses of Plato’s Chariot: I suppose I would thus now say that the Assembly of Light Bearers and their particular school of Luciferianism are entirely misguided in this sense! No, it’s not because of a balance or equilibrium between light and darkness, at least because we are speaking of but one special kind of light. No, it’s because the light I am talking about is a property of darkness, intrinsic to that darkness, not something outside of darkness to be contrasted and complimented by darkness. It might just be the Black Flame.
The Insurrectionary Spiral of Satan (or, My Alternative to the Love of Surrender)
I have to admit, getting down on my knees isn’t my preference, let alone dying on them. I know that sounds unfair, and there’s a lot of Revolutionary Demonology that really doesn’t seem all that masochistic on its own, particularly the essays on bodybuilding, gothic time, and solarisation. Really, if there’s one of many issues I have with Gruppo Di Nun it’s their insistence that everything, or at least everything worth a damn, is masochistic in the precise sense that it longs for its own demise and dissolution into nothing. Which is not to say that you can discount the death drive in their terms or that you can’t appreciate it in certain places. You could, for instance, point to the warrior having a piece of that in themselves. And I did indeed write about the death drive of Dracula’s vampirism, by way of Kulesko’s interpretation; but, I must admit, from my reading you could guess that this appreciation is not entirely for its own sake. In a sense, the same could really be said of the way I appreciate Gruppo Di Nun’s talk of the endless sea of recombination: it’s all about the possibility of becoming something, about how it is always become something else, and the thing I always emphasize is a descent by which you could at least choose to do so and set the horizons of your own becoming.
In the name of a different sort of nihilism I position my own alternative to surrender. Gruppo Di Nun propose, in view of a cosmos fatalistically drawn towards its own annihilation, a love for one’s own dissolution. I carve out my alternative on a similar premise: love. But love for what? Not just insurrection, but the whole spiral of insurrection, the war of all against all in Stirner’s terms, the strife that the ancient polytheists located at the heart of the cosmos, the fight that we fight on our behalf. Satan, as the Adversary, is the sign and Sun of all of this, beyond humanistic reason. The reality of our world of desires, conflicts of will and reality production, rebellion and force, class antagonism, subjective agencies, all point to worlds of individual interest, interests that are often mutual to each other to the point of reconciliation but which sometimes fight each other. Politics is the organisation of these interests in a struggle for the right to, in Deleuzian terms, produce reality: for instance, modern capitalism as the reality produced by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie versus all of its underclasses and/or outer-classes striving to produce a new reality beyond capitalism. As Shahin elaborates in Nietzsche and Anarchy, social war is the sum condition of all this: a constant state of bodies interacting with each other, possessing mutually opposed desires and projects, inevitably leading to conflict. Anarchists, or at least those of the anti-utopian camps, understand that this means a constant struggle with authority, not just as the extant structures that exist now but as the paranoiac desires and projects of control that inevitably lead to the oppressive institutions of statehood and which even after the abolition of the state could eventually appear again. The insurrection never really ends. That insurrection, that war of all against all, the struggle to defy and produce reality autonomously that thus animates life itself, this is what I advocate we reserve a satanic love for, the love that Gruppo Di Nun otherwise reserves for surrender.
There’s a sense in which life itself has to be seen as an insurrection, at least in the sense of a spontaneous overturning of everything. That is one of the readings one can take even from the base mythology of Gruppo Di Nun, which necessarily entails the successful overthrow of the void state represented as Tiamat, and the resultant exile of life from its womb. When I make the comparison to Gnosticism, it is not for nothing, for the myth conveyed in “Every Worm Trampled Is A Star” resonates inescapably with the Gnostic universe, with its corruption at the heart of matter set and the exile of spirit from the Pleroma into matter, set in place by Sophia breaking the order of the Pleroma in her quest to know God. And if life is an exile then this is only be embraced, because that embrace is the only way to make sense of life. You were not born only to die. You were born to become, and you can become anything you want. That is what the insurrection brings about at the primordial level, because life emerges so that it can become anything.
Gruppo Di Nun’s primordial mother in all her incarnations wants nothing in us except transformation, but was transformed herself and cries out in agony because of it. Insurrection is also transformation, right down to the primordial level. Insurrection, following Max Stirner’s terms, fights that which is and enacts a transformation of everything. It also entails a transformation of the self, one that must be enacted willfully, by a willing agent seeking to transform in accordance with will. As Saul Newman observes in Insurrection or Revolution?, insurrection is a transformation not simply of society but of the self, an act of self-liberation that allows the person to overcome their own obedience and attachment to authority and arrange themselves, and their relationships with others, as they see fit. This is, in Satanic terms, is its own nigredo, and the Great Work as a whole. Alchemy as a process of continuous individuation and perfection is a labour of will, none other than the insurrectionary will to transform yourself on your own terms, and it’s on those exact terms that the alchemist gives way to the transformation they desire. I see this alchemy in art, play, sex (especially in kink), and ritual in that all of these are ways that the will, to varying degrees of intensity, may transform itself on its own terms.
At odds with masochism, I pose what Geoffrey Gorer called “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer” as not only the percept of Valerio Mattioli’s concept of solarisation but also insurrection itself (again, per Stirner’s terms at least). In an undying love for the war of all against all, those who walk the Left Hand Path will overturn the world and turn it into their own, alchemically turning themselves into beings that can thrust open the world around us, fly inside like demons, and make ourselves divine. Satan is our solar myth exactly because he represents the whole spiral of insurrection that life consists of.
In this sense one can say there are two approaches to the demonic in play. Both of these embrace the demonic to the extent of wanting to invoke it in this world for transformative ends. But in one approach, the demonic as an outside is invited as a mechanism for one’s own disintegration, in the other the demonic is drawn in as an avenue of becoming. Gruppo Di Nun represents the former approach, I strive for the latter. The latter approach of becoming-demonic would see you not simply as a vector in relation to the outside but also, with the model of the barbarian as its guide, place yourself as an outsideness: you would Stirner’s heaven-stormer. And after all, why should I settle for anything else? Besides, that is ultimately the kind of individual we see in the outcome of Enrico Monacelli’s assessment of Mandy, even if Monacelli does not give attention to that aspect.
The Lessons of Revolutionary Demonology
For all of that, however, I consider Revolutionary Demonology as a body of work to be very valuable. Even if seen as a challenge in relation to the Left Hand Path as it exists, I consider it a worthy challenge, to the extent that I absolutely recommend reading it. I would even regard it as essential reading for aspiring students of the Left Hand Path, not simply because of its philosophy but because of the horizons that the whole book can offer. I believe I am at point where, even for all of my criticisms of Gruppo Di Nun here, I would nonetheless consider myself indellably influenced by Revolutionary Demonology and Gruppo Di Nun. In that spirit, I believe I can summarize some valuable takeaways for myself.
At the end, Amy Ireland summarizes the core message of Gruppo Di Nun as follows: there is always another world hidden in this one. The thing is, that itself is not such a novel thing. The magical tradition has, in many ways, assumed something like this for many centuries, perhaps longer than we can remember. In a way, pagan mysteries already have some uncanny sense of that. The difference is that Gruppo Di Nun are convinced that one can only truly access this through masochism. And from this standpoint I think it both arguably underscores and arguably “resolves” the Sethian Problem. Why? It makes sense of the universe as an endless chain of becoming, for one thing, but it’s probably the only reason one doesn’t just extinguish yourself in a world that they repeatedly emphasize is a Landian machine of disintegreation and laceration: because even in this there is always more, something else. There is always Remoria, the infernal double of Rome that always pushes for the inversion of the world. There is always a shadow in which we discover the possibility of another world – no, the power to create one. There is always, all the more so, another world that we are capable of bringing into being.
The horizon of self-construction is inherently relevant to the metaphysics of becoming we can observe from Gruppo Di Nun, and especially Claudio Kulesko’s form of it. We too often ground our freedom in the idea of a naturalistic essence of being, while assuming that to accept construction means only to accept that we are always constructed around us by forces that are externally autonomous to us, without us ever autonomously constructing ourselves. I am loathe to admit it, but there was a time many years ago when a prejudice like this animated a deep-seated difficulty in accepting any notion of constructivism. But when you learn that you and everyone else are just as surely constructing themselves, even whether wittingly or unwittingly, and when you can locate the power to do so in yourself and in pure reality itself, it becomes very easy to image constructivism in terms of the process of construction flowing everywhere and in all directions. Kulesko’s nihilism is only a much more powerful vehicle for the realization of construction: the darkness that is the ur-reality of everything is the same darkness that allows us to construct ourselves in any way we please, and to recognise it is in many ways the first step to undertaking your own Great Work.
The world is coming apart. But it is also constantly being re-ordered, all the time, at least all the moreso by those who “get to” shape it in their own image. The Image of the World hangs over us, but that is only at the making those who have built it before us, and maintain it in the present, and it can and will be destroyed, one way of the other. History is the successive creating, destroying, and re-ordering of the world, in the name of no teleology and instead on behalf of desire. There can be no cowering from this world, if we are to change and construct it to our liking. If, also, we are to be reborn in apotheosis.
I think that, at the end of it all, it is possible to conclude that almost everything in Revolutionary Demonology points to a very elaborate way of saying “there is no way out but through” as the simplest principle of the Left Hand Path, as they understand it. That is certainly to my mind what flows not simply in consideration of the crushing pessimism and nihilism that Gruppo Di Nun considers, but also in the whole discourse of Gothic Insurrection, the implications of nigredo, the whole metaphor of alchemy that is employed throughout the book, and especially the inclusion of Bronze Age Collapse’s materialist metaphysics of fitness and the tendency towards the absolute. That tendency, should it be accessed and perfected, leads into a centrifrugal motion towards the “ultimate” state, as opposed to descending back towards antediluvia as in the wound. Maurice Blanchot said, “Nihilism stands like an extreme that cannot be gotten beyond, and yet it is the only true path of going beyond; it is the principle of a new beginning.” Insofar as he is right, the new beginning is down to the bottom of the earth and up through its hidden paths of ascent, and all false hope of salvation is to be rejected on behalf of the power to create and traverse new worlds. The whole “problem” of nihilism is one of the other main subjects Gruppo Di Nun attends to, and in this regard they understand something important. They regard nihilism as the motor of love, rather than our adversary, precisely because it is only the destruction of transcendent values and the elimination of the need for transcendent validation new values, meanings, subjects, and worlds, can come into being. For Gruppo Di Nun this leaves no room for will in that will cannot constrain the black horizon of nihilism. But from another standpoint, it frees the will for as long as will accepts the Darkness as its most powerful ally, rejecting transcendent order on behalf of its own becoming and construction. I suppose in this sense, from one angle, that does mean finding ways of “letting go”.
I have sometimes found myself wondering, with a sense of perspectivism, would some semblance of the Pagan worldview not make some difference for the rammifications that Gruppo Di Nun affords to their abyssic metaphysics of becoming. After all, if you want a rationale for life in this setting, Gruppo Di Nun is not necessarily wanting on its own terms, especially not as borne out by the anarcho-nihilist implications of Kulesko’s take on cosmic pessimism, but it’s also honestly just right there in Bronze Age Collapse’s essay, and, in a larger sense, the Pagan worldview that it draws from our speaks to. It’s almost to the point that one might ask if some aspect of the supreme cosmic pessimism we are presented with is not in some way conditioned by Christian meaning and its concurrent collapse. And of course, “letting go” is a phrase that becomes important. But to let go is to let go of something. From one perspective, perhaps that is order. Logos, Pleroma, the Kingdom of God, everything like that in which humans think they will find freedom, peace, salvation, power, but in which they are bound in their sense of hope, all wrapped up in their bid to repress the power of Darkness. It is funny how often people tend to try and repress that which might give them the most power and the most freedom. If that power is what one desires, then, from a certain point of view, perhaps that does take a bit of letting go of something. And yet, you cannot surrender. Your business is to fight, but your quarrel is not with the Darkness. It is in the name of your own will in darkness.
Above all, however, we should turn to what is ostensibly the central theme of Revolutionary Demonology: the demonic. I find myself meditating on a throughline that seems to emerge; the idea that the demonic may in its own way be a portal, either from the outside to the world of phenomenon, or from the standpoint of the world towards the beyond and unknown. The exact nature of what that entails is still not entirely clear to me, but I think it emerges from the discussions of solarisation, Gothic Insurrection, and the Outside, all of these avenues seem to give a throughline whereby we might see the demonic in terms of the outside coming in. That is a conception familiar to the demonic at large. In “Dogma”, “Gothic Insurrection”, and “The Highest Form of Gnosis” in particular, as well as in some sense throughout Revolutionary Demonology, Gruppo Di Nun stresses a concept of the demonic as a presence that capable of entering in from outside, as if to “invade” this world from another one, from the Outside. There is obvious a vast history of demonic liminality behind this concept. Everyone knows about the conventional Christian idea of demonic possession, but there’s also much more beyond the Christian complex. In ancient Egypt, for instance, the demonic was inherently liminal, owing to their existence at the threshold of the netherworld and the world of the living, violently enforcing its boundaries. The Etruscan wolf, crossing from the underworld to the world, embodies a similar property. In many pre-Christian contexts, the divine itself could be seen crashing through the boundaries of existence, and not merely nymphs and other spirits but also some of the gods themselves could possess humans. In esoteric Buddhism, demons embody a presence that always exists outside the structure of order, capable of subverting and overflowing it, thus also crossing through the walls. From there, I believe we have the beginnings of the demonic as a portal, and perhaps a portal that does not only have one way through.
The way Gruppo Di Nun talks about the demonic also leads us into one point that I have neglected so far up to now: demonic multiplicity. In an interview hosted on Diffractions Collective by Dustin Breitling, Kulesko says that the demonic always refers to “atmospheric multiplicity”. The appropriate example and analogy is Legion, the demon whose name derives from the fact that they are many. The concept of Gothic Insurrection is deeply animated by this notion of multiplicity, striving to literally be Legion, spreading out in all directions in a multiplicity of barbarous and demonic forms. The other analogy is Austin Osman Spare’s concept of Zos-Kia, with the point being that you may be closer to apprehending the demonic if you already understand yourself as many. I meditated on that a little, and I think I can see the horizon of demonic multiplicity in terms of the way I seek to apply Paganism. Whether it is the concept of Satanic Paganism, or down the line a development towards a formless, “non-Euclidean” (loosely borrowing the term from Robert Anton Wilson) expression of the Left Hand Path, within both Pagan syncretism and demonology the horizon of multiplicity may in .
The final thing I could say about the reflections I have put forward is, for myself, relevant to how I might like to manifest The Art. Since adolescence I suppose one could say one of my driving obsessesions has been demons and the demonic. Therefore, one way to manifest the lessons of Revolutionary Demonology that I take up for my own valuation is to more practically align my manifestation of Art with the manifestation of the demonic in the and my own becoming-demonic into the world. To put another way: I must create in ways that bring demons and the demonic into the world, and in turn I must make myself demonic, so that I may propel towards the absolute and become divine. I accept the demonic as the alchemical basis of magical realization in the context of the Left Hand Path, much like Ernst Schertel did for magic at large and much as Stanisław Przybyszewski accepted Satan as the insurrectionary basis for life’s origin and development. And further, I accept the world of demons as the portal not just of darkness into the world, but the portal of the individual magician into the forbidden world of the divine, where one can propel into the beyond and become divine.
I might also consider another dimension of this work as in the sense that certain applications of psychogeography could comprise a more experimental, but worthwhile, path to pursue. Employing Valerio Mattioli’s insights on the solarisation of the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino, and the way they unravel a whole arcane world in southern Italy, in the context of psychography might lend to a development of psychogeograhical occult praxis that allows for the opening up of arcane worlds and access their insight, to solarise the world around you. Consider it not only another avenue of practical and artistic fulfillment of the opening up of the demonic and thereby becoming-demonic, but in equal measure a practical and artistic fulfillment of the precept I share with esoteric forms of the doctrine of innate enlightenment, which places a sinister arcane world as a dark ground of being and ultimate reality. And, just as well, part of a broader application of psychogeography that is as pagan as it is demonic.
And so I conclude, in the hopes that I have sketched for myself more than anyone else, one more possibility that might emerge from the black magmatic waters of Revolutionary Demonology, one forged of my own resonance in the name of my own will. That I have shown the way to the love of the war of all against all, far beyond the love of surrender, as part of the renewal of the Left Hand Path. That I wield a love worthy of The Devil, and which shines the light of the Black Flame again.
Forgive the interruption between my inquiry on Revolutionary Demonology, but it seems there’s been a nuisance coming my way. Suffice it say that, it is quite incredible to see what lengths some people will go to in order to keep other people’s mouths shut. Last month, I wrote an article about a small Italian Theistic Satanist organisation called the Union of Italian Satanists (or, Unione Satanisti Italiani), in which I analysed their philosophy as best I could, and discussed its relationship to the ideology of National Socialism. It would seem that, since then, the leader of the USI, Jennifer Crepuscolo (or rather Jennifer Mezzatta), has discovered that article, and is none too happy about what I have said. In fact, she sent a message to the Facebook page of this website to say this:
Your article on Unione Satanisti Italiani is dishonest and leads to slander. Precisely for this reason we’re evaluating with our law firm to proceed with a lawsuit against you. We hope that in the future you will be more careful about making unfounded accusations. You should have read more about us before writing such slanders. We are open to discussion but we do not like those who try to cleverly reinterpret our contents with malice.
Since you chose to wrongfully assault us, if we have any other contact between us, it will likely be through the law.
For posterity, here is the same message in a screenshot taken from the messages of my blog’s Facebook page:
“Best regards”? Yes I suppose that is the polite way to conclude a message in which you accuse me of “assault”. But observe the utter folly of what Jennifer is saying. Her objection is that my article is “dishonest” and “leads to slander”, and that for this reason she thinks she can intimidate me with groundless threats of litigation. Take stock of this: I am not even primarily being accused of slander, I am being accused of writing things that “could lead to slander”. How exaclty do you intend to prove that? And just how can you charge someone on the basis that you think what they said “could lead to slander”? Do you not see how legally absurd that is on its own, let alone the idea of hashing that out internationally?
As long as we’re focusing on the “dishonesty” canard, I intend to talk about many things I discussed in the original article, but I would also point out that Jennifer Mezzetta’s Facebook bio contains the words “Onore a Satana, il Dio Gentile dell’Anima”, or, “Honor to Satan, the Gentile God of the Soul”.
I don’t know how anyone thinks they can beat any allegations of Nazism when they openly and publicly refer to their version of the Satan they worship as “the Gentile God”. Remember that the USI also talks on their website about Jewish influences being a corruption of Satanism. In this context especially, “Gentile” is a dogwhistle being used by non-Jews, or more specifically by white non-Jews, define themselves in active contradistinction to Jewishness.
Jennifer seems keen enough to talk about “slander”. But slander is only slander if I am wrong and have made up everything that the USI website says from whole cloth. I contend that I am not wrong, and that the USI cannot prove that I am inventing its own words, let alone drag me from my home country just for a case that they don’t have and which would be dismissed. And just to underscore all of this, let’s focus on the parts where I talk about the particularly objectionable highlights of the USI’s website. We will present screenshots of these highlights, with the Italian and English language versions side by side, in that order, for maximum posterity.
This will be a systematic overview of the antisemitism and Nazi alignment of the USI, focusing largely on material I already covered, and more. These are, in large part, Jennifer’s own words, in that most of the articles being discussed have been written by Jennifer Creposcolo. We will also cover a few articles written by a USI member named Mandy Lord. Any accusation of “slander” will have to prove that they are not her own words. I maintain that this would be impossible, because they are clearly their words. This will not be terribly exhaustive, at least not compared to the entire breadth of the USI website, the totality of which I will not be covering. But I will cover much of what I have already discussed in my original article, which should also be enough to encapsulate the ideological content of the Union of Italian Satanists, in their own words.
Now, just bearing in mind. I am not entirely fluent on the Italian language. I have certain aspirations to effect, of course, but for the purpose of covering this article I am relying on available translations, which are of course provided as an option within the website via my browser. All English screenshots come from a Google-provided translation, which I am reasonably confident is not inaccurate, especially since I have not been made aware of any translation errors by anyone, especially not Jennifer Creposcolo.
The “God of the Gentiles” and Antisemitic Screeds About Jewish Mysticism
To start with, let’s refer to their pages on “Original Satanism” where they discuss Jewish mysticism as blasphemous, decry modern Satanist movements by accusing them of “Judaizing” Satanism, and assert that atheism is a product of “Jewish influence”. But first things first let’s just get one point out of the way right now: the fact that they refer to Satan as “God of the Gentiles”. That is what Jennifer says for instance in “What is Satanism really?” and it will be fairly important as a cornerstone of the USI’s philosophy.
Now, let’s see them talk about Jewish mysticism and the “Judaization” of Satanism. In “Cult of Origins”, Jennifer can be seen accusing other Satanists of being “slaves of the Jewish preconception” by accepting the etymology of Satan as meaning “Adversary”.
And here, in the same article, Jennifer writes that Satanic intiation centers around the “Satanist”‘s self-declaration of their “Gentile nature” and that the “Gentile” is centered around both their roots and the evolution of their “spiritual race”.
Immediately after this, Jennifer describes Jewish mysticism as “blasphemy”, again seemingly without a shred of irony or self-awareness, and accuses it of being “violent” and “opportunistic”.
There is much more antisemitism and Nazi ideology in this page alone right below this paragraph. Here, for instance, Jennifer refers to the awakening of “Gentile Memory”, and thereby a return to “our blood” (as in, the “blood of the Gentiles”), as the goal of her particular system of “Original Satanism”.
And afterwards, Jennifer goes on to refer to Jews as “historical criminals” who “corrupt” and “distort” the “Gentile” in various ways. For some reason the English translation seems to repeat the last few sentences.
Jennifer’s Nazi-esque Definition of Satanism
Moving on from this page, let’s briefly, and just as an aside, refer to this fairly colourful paragraph from the page “Define Yourself As Satanist”, in which we can see familiar fascist rhetoric about sex and gender identity that is used to justify transphobia, itself couched in a concept of “rootlessness” that is inherently tied to white identiarianism and antisemitism (the concept of “rootless cosmopolitans” as an antisemitic reference to Jews).
In their page “Etymology of the name Satan”, Jennifer refers to Satanists as the purest form of the “Gentile” while accusing Jewish people of racism towards non-Jews. It is important to note that here Jennifer incorrectly asserts that the Hebrew word “goyim” means “cattle”. The word “goy” actually means “nation”, not “cattle”, while in the Biblical context the word “goyim” often referred simply to the various non-Israelite nations.
Here of course we also see Jennifer establish a Sanskrit etymology by way of the words “Sat” and “Nam” as what she claims to be the “true” etymology of Satan, as opposed to the Hebrew etymology. There is of course no basis to any of this, and in fact it is an idea strongly associated with neo-Nazis such as the Joy of Satan group. I suspect that it was originally invented by Kerry Bolton, a white supremacist fascist who spent the 1990s spreading neo-Nazi interpretations of Satanism, neopaganism, and Thelema to various subcultural movements (such as black metal and industrial music) before eventually converting to Christianity.
There is an entire section dedicated to the etymology of the word “Aryan”, which the USI claims does not influence their philosophy in way, though it is also full of defenses of Nazi iconography as ancient and therefore legitimate symbology. Note that Jennifer also personally connects the mythology of Aryans and Hyperboreans to her own views the divine origins of the “Satanids” as linked to the lineage of the Nephilim and therefore the Fallen and Satan, which, contrary to what Jennifer says otherwise, establishes a credible ideological link between the concept of “Aryans” and her philosophy.
And, once again, at the end of this page, Jennifer once again links the religious identity of the “Satanist” with the racial identity of the “Gentile”.
Racist Nazi-esque Ramblings About “Satanid Nature”
Next, let’s refer to the article “Satanid Nature”. Here, we see Jennifer assert that the Jews made their pact with Yahweh because they wanted revenge and conquest and this is the cause of a progressive civilizational decline. She also seems to contrast this with the example of Jesus and his refusal of the temptations of Satan.
It is in this same page that Jennifer, who calls herself a “Satanist”, lauds the figure of Jesus Christ as a personifiction of “the Gentile spirit” as supposedly represented by ancient pre-Christian gods and by Satan. This idea clearly echoes Nazi ideology, which portrayed Jesus as an “Aryan” German god or hero instead of being Jewish.
Jennifer also seems to refer to the idea of a link between Satan and “wanton materialism” as the product of “Judeo-Christian corruption”. This opinion reflects a Nazi belief that materialism is Jewish in origin and thereby a corruption of the “Aryan” spirit.
And here, Jennifer accuses modern American Satanists of trying to “Judaize” Satanism, and thereby make it more “plebeian”, “lifeless”, and atheistic. Again, this presents the idea that atheism is a Jewish product, which is both inherently antisemitic in that it positions atheism as a form of corruption and a major component of Nazi ideology, in which the main opponent “Jewish materialism” is presented in opposition to “Aryan” idealism.
Now let’s turn to the page titled “The Way of Signs”, which features a discussion of the “black sun” alongside an image of the Nazi Sonnenrad symbol, which was invented for use by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, as the insignia for Wewelsburg Castle.
Next let’s refer to their page about Lucifer, or “Luciferus”, written by Mandy Lord. This page contains multiple expressions of antisemitism and Nazi ideology. For example, Mandy almost dismisses a source because it was Jewish, and then proceeds to quote Otto Rahn, a Nazi Ariosophist who was also literally an Obersturmführer in the SS.
Later in the same page, Mandy quotes Miguel Serrano, a neo-Nazi occultist and proponent of a system referred to as Esoteric Hitlerism, before describing contemporary Christianity as “totally Judaicized” in contrast to its “Gentile origins”.
Jennifer’s Remarks on National Socialism
An important source of concern would be Jennifer’s “Joy of Satan Analysis”. First of all, let’s note that even Jennifer’s supposed criticism of Joy of Satan’s antisemitism also consists in the objection that she thinks that they are too Jewish. I’m not kidding around: Jennifer critcises Joy of Satan for having a “Jewish mentality”, even in their antisemitism. This “Jewish mentality” appears to simply consist of summoning demons in order to fulfill material needs, which is again based on the Nazi belief that materialism is a “Jewish corruption”.
And then, of course, there is in the same page Jennifer’s defense of National Socialism, which she seems to regard as fundamentally moral, noble, and ethical in substance.
The “Kabbalah” of Mandy Lord
In the page “Occult History”, Mandy Lord claims that Kabbalah is actually a non-Jewish system of mysticism that belonged to “the Arii” and came from Satan and his demons. Mandy also claims that there is an Egyptian Kabbalah, called “Ka Ba Ankh”, and a “true runic Kabbalah” practiced by the Druids, in contrast to Jewish Kabbalah. This idea is very similar to an idea from the Austrian volkisch mystic Guido von List, who claimed that the Kabbalah was originally invented by German “Aryans” rather than Jews.
Jennifer’s Views on “The Illuminati” (Somehow Even More Antisemitic!)
In an article titled “Are The Illuminati Satanists? But Also Not!”, Jennifer runs through a litany of antisemitic tropes about Jews while discussing the Illuminati. For example, early on she falsely claims that Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, was the son of a Jewish rabbi and supported by the Rothschild family. Adam Weishaupt’s father was a man named Johann Georg Weishaupt, who was in fact a lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt, and there is no record of him ever having been a rabbi or of him having been Jewish.
Later, Jennifer talks about the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in an incredibly apologetic manner. She claims that it is not possible to know if “Protocols” was written by Jewish authors, claims that its content is being proven true “before our eyes”, and brings up verses from the Talmud that supposedly justify the book’s contents. I need to stress that this is blatant antisemitism.
There is also this take from Jennifer in the same article, which is once again a familiar element of fascist conspiracy theories, naturally latent with antisemitism. Basically she’s asserting that the Illuminati want to eliminate traditional gender roles and biological sex or all that stuff in order to somehow control society.
Of course this also comes with a standard ethnonationalist argument.
Jennifer again explicitly ties “the Illuminati” to Jews and asserts that they are aligned to Yahweh as the “God of Israel” and want to destroy all cultures that are not Jewish.
Jennifer puts forward an argument that Jews cannot be Satanists because Jews are “the Sons of Yahweh” and Satanists are “the Sons of Satan”. This is Jennifer arguing that Jews, because of their race, cannot be Satanists, and conversely that Satanists are Satanists because of their race. It is a racialist argument, and in this sense is antisemitic.
In the same article, Jennifer also defends ancient Roman colonialism by saying that the white colonialism was bad specifically because the white colonialists and slavers in question were “Judeo-Christian”. This is effectively blaming Jews for the enslavement of African-Americans and the systematic genocide of native Amerindians by white colonialists.
The Racial Mission of the Union of Italian Satanists
Finally, the mission of the USI, as outlined in “Presentation of Italian Satanists Union”, consists of three objectives. The third objective is “Restore Satanic Identity”. In the article, Jennifer establishes that the goal of the USI is to activate what she believes to be the racial consciousness of “the Gentiles” and that to be a Satanist you have to be born a Satanist as if genetically, and hence ethnically or racially.
I think that I have shown more than enough at this point. The website itself has much more content within it, but this was about demonstrating that what I have said to be the words of the USI are in fact the words of the USI. I would ask again: would anyone be able to prove that I am fabricating these words, and that this is not what Jennifer and the USI have said? What basis could there be for any claim of “dishonesty” or the potential to “lead to slander”, let alone “assault”? These are Jennifer’s own words, as well as those of Mandy Lord where applicable.
Being that there is little point in discussing any supposed case, let us simply summarize what USI say in their own words. We are talking about an organisation whose “Original Satanism” appears to be based on a racial ideology built around the idea “recovering” the “genetic memory” of the “Gentiles”. There is a heavy emphasis on “de-Judaicizing” Satanism, which entails reinterpreting Satan as a “Gentile” god of truth, soul, origin, and the divine order rather than The Adversary, Kabbalah as “Gentile” mysticism, and even Jesus as a “Gentile” hero who only opposed the Jewish Satan rather than the “Gentile” Satan, all of which mirror the Nazi ideology of “Positive Christianity”, whose volkisch interpretation of Christianity meant bracketing out everything the Nazis deemed to be Jewish “corruption”. The USI website contains defenses of the ideology of National Socialism and also features quotes from Nazi and neo-Nazi esotericists. Antisemitism is pervasive in the USI writings, sometimes more subtly and sometimes quite blatantly, as an effect of their racial ideology, even to the point that they can’t criticise antisemitism in others without also expressing their own antisemitism. The “noble Gentile spirit” is positioned in opposition to Jews and “Judeo-Christianity”, Christianity is described as an originally “Gentile” faith that they deem totally “corrupted” by Judaism, and antisemitic conspiracy theories form a major part of the USI’s opposition to both Judaism and Christianity. In short, USI an organisation that promotes an ethnofascist ideology strongly aligned with National Socialism. Based on the mateiral available this is an open and shut matter of fact.
For additional posterity, I will provide archived links below to each article being referred to here, to remove any last shred of doubt without requiring you to provide traffic to their website. The archived links, however, will only show the pages in Italian. However, it should be evident that these are the same pages contained within the screenshots.
Here I continue my exploration of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, and concurrently a much deeper exploration of the Left Hand Path as a whole. So far, in Part 1, I have explored the first main sections of Revolutionary Demonology, comprising its introductory “ritual” (“Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”) as well as the first (“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology”) and second (“Notes On Gothic Insurrection”) chapters. If you have not read Part 1 before reading this article then I suggest you go back and do so first. Here, in Part 2, I will focus solely on the contents of the third chapter of Revolutionary Demonology.
The third chapter is titled “Nigredo”, and it is here also that we cut deeper into the core ethos of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun by way of more elaborate expositions of it. Though, of course, there are somewhat multifaceted. On the one hand, we can see the contours of the philosophy of ontological masochism that Gruppo Di Nun means to get across. On the other hand, there are the makings of a much more active worldview, that arcs in a direction other than this ethos so eloquently summarized by Amy Ireland’s afterword. In any case “Nigredo” consists of five essays, which we will go through in order: “Cultivating Darkness” by Claudio Kulesko, “Mater Dolorosa” by Laura Tripaldi, “Solarisation” by Valerio Mattioli, “The Highest Form of Gnosis” by Enrico Monacelli, and “Catholic Dark” by Claudio Kulesko.
The World Falling Apart (The First Nigredo)
“Cultivating Darkness” begins by establishing our total immersion in darkness, alien yet familiar. To realize this immersion is to realize that our prevailing representation of the world is either simply false or merely limited, and is it collapses, Kulesko asserts, the world shows itself to be a collection of fragments forming a collage. But the other lesson we’re given is that there is always more than one world, and that it is always possible to construct new worlds from the fragments. Yet, once our world shatters, it cannot be reconstructed as it was – like Humpty Dumpty falling from the wall, when his shell shatters no one can piece him back together. Human life is a network of stories, and meaning in this setting is simply an internal coherence between the pasts, presents, and futures of these stories. In moments of existential dread, we think of ourselves as like scale insects: mummifying but alive, and so it must seem as we live in the advanced, technologically accelerated capitalism of the late Anthropocene. History appears to be either advancing or standing still waiting to be set in motion, but in despair we find neither advance nor standstill, and the fragments of our world blindly and incoherently fly around without direction. Thus we fall out of time, and into the subject of depressive realism – thus, a kind of psychological nigredo.
Depressive realism is the name given to the theory that depressed people, far from suffering from a negative bias that hinders their objectivity, actually tend to access a greater dimension of objectivity than non-depressed people might possess. Kulesko seems convinced that this theory is basically correct, and in some ways goes a little bit further: the depressed person not only perceives the world more objectively, this also means they can (in theory) more accurately locate their own personal responsibility in terms of what is and is not within their control. To Kulesko they become like oracles of an uncaring subterranean world. Paging Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the depressive realist subverts the axiom of neoliberalism by saying, “there is no alternative, except for the end of the world”. Yet they also go further, in their despair they might conclude that the world either already ended or had simply never existed. What then also ensues is a kind of disorientation and self-aggravation; depressive realism can change into full blown extinctionism, as, for Kulesko, philosophical pessimism and nihilism tended to change into eliminativism – the idea that truly nothing exists at all.
Is there a way out of this trajectory? I would be inclined to think that the idea that life is a series of fragments can lend itself to a freedom of interpretation, wherein the great thing about life is precisely its fragmentation, or rather the fact that it allows everyone to create their own world, to the extent of their will. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Kulesko tells us that the problem with the development towards eliminativism is that, in the depressive moment, what emerges is not the non-existence of things but rather their inconsistency, or metastability (that is, the utter fragility of the universe). In terms of empiricism this comes down to the fact that the “laws” of nature are not actually “laws” at all, but rather chains of cause and effect or rather still a set of tenuous regularities or rhythms. In this view there is no logical reason why the sun rises and sets when it does except that we continually see it rise and set each day, and from there further that there is no inherent reason why the universe itself will not be annihilated. In view of this, the world as we know hangs precariously above an abyss, and everything is pervaded by nothingness. “Darkness”, here, is an uncanny property: a shapeless, indeterminate atmosphere and field of experimentation, wherein one may either destroy oneself or discover unknown pleasures. It is in this sense meant to be seen as none other than reality in its purest state, from which all worlds and meanings emerge and into which they die. From a certain point of view it is a rather gloomy and depressive world, like the world that was before humans or the world that will exist after humans. Not to entirely take away from that, but I might suggest that other perspectives, such as found in at least some forms of Zen Buddhism, it is simply a realm of intangible content and worlds. I suppose both Kulesko’s darkness and Zen nothingness are to be understood as pure potentiality, but taken with a different attitude. But it is here that I am again drawn to refer to the fact that Ernst Schertel ascribes this to the realm of Satan and Hell, as the starting basis of magical power. I sense a conceptual synchronicity here somewhere at least. In any case, it is perhaps here that any notion of a “way out” becomes apparent.
Humans must either realize the absence of teleological meaning and unity in the universe and gain self-consciousness of the real, or remain forever ignorant as they are consumed by time and matter. To acheive this self-awareness, one must abandon hope without succumbing to despair. That means realizing how the ontological collapse of the world can open up new horizons. Those horizons are contained in the negativity at the heart of things, the apophatic nothingness that runs parallel to our world of things, forms, facts, and narratives. If everything arises from nothing or from chaos, it follows that nothingness is plastic, in that it is possible to extract from it an infinite quantity of worlds and meanings. An infinite diversity of constructions can result from nothing. The only issue is getting stuck within them; if you let yourself be lied to by the worlds and meanings that arise, you will become their slave, or you will find yourself having to go through dark nights of the soul all over again – perhaps, an eternal recurrence of nigredo. Perhaps here we get what can amount to basically nihilist alchemy. One begins in a nigredo, in this case the whole process of seeing the world around you fall apart and realizing its nothingness, and after that first step the nihility changes into the material by which you will, somehow, perform the Great Work, creating a philsopher’s stone. In many ways, though, conatus as a vehicle for the ceaseless development even greater perfections and freedom emerges as the best way to make sense of just why everything might stop being nothing in the first place, and that why really remains a missing piece in Kulesko’s philosophical presentation. To be sure, if we are dealing with philosophical nihilism through and through then one could ask why the question even matters, but one cannot ignore amidst a collapsing world why one has found oneself here to start with. That is surely one of the components of the despair Kulesko discusses, except to the extent that Kulesko’s depressed subject has stopped asking the question. And if there is an answer, there is only one: our life is so that we may arrange ourselves at will, overcoming and transforming that which is in accordance with will and desire.
We now come to a discussion of Giacomo Leopardi, an Italian philsophical pessimist and skeptic, for whom the truth consists principally of a doubt unassailable by human reason. This particular form of skepticism brings thought to the point where knowledge collapses and leaves behind only doubt as the manifestation of the pure unknowability of reality. It is also to be contrasted with more popular (and palatable) forms of skepticism, wherein knowledge is cast aside, suspended, only to be recovered. The point of this skepticism is to discover the abyss. But it is also essentially a hyper-manifestation of the rationalist materialism that developed during the Enlightenment, and which influenced Leopardi’s thought. He believed that rational analysis dissects nature to the extent that it “resolves and undoes” it into something akin to a corpse, and, ostensibly as a result of his research, that every faculty of mind is material and that spirit is a deception of “the heart” by itself. Such a worldview makes for a potential step towards eliminativism: after all, so the logic goes, if only sensory perception is real, then self-consciousness is only a second-level perception. Yet for Leopardi appearance is the only thing that counts, because substance in itself does nothing and makes no impressions. This seems contrasted with the blind brain theory we are then introduced to, which holds that the world, as represented by our minds conceals a “real” world much more multifaceted; in other words, here substance is richer than appearance.
A problem that can stem from this perspective lies still within the scientific nigredo that ensues: this is summed up in Thomas Ligotti’s quotation of Thomas Metzinger, when he says “there are aspects of the scientific world-view which may be damaging to our mental well-being”. This theme of psychic damage brought on by the collapse of the teleological and phenomenal world into darkness is in some ways captured by both Giacomo Leopardi and H. P. Lovecraft, the latter a fan of the former, the latter writing that complete knowledge of the world would traumatize us such that would either “go mad from the revelation” or retreat into a new “dark age”. If consciousness is accepted as an illusion (mind you, this is not an opinion that I hold), along with the inevitable extinction of everything, then, according to Ray Brassier, then the philosophical subject is already dead, and philosophy itself is the organon of extinction.
An interesting point Kulesko goes on to make is that the enterprise of philosophy tends to consist of isolating one component of reality that can then be established as its ultimate principle and the foundation of thought itself. One recalls that ancient quest of Greek philosophers, as far back as the pre-Socratic era, for the one element or substance that could be acknowledged as the prime arche upon which the cosmos is founded. Kulesko’s examples include a metaphysics of becoming produced by the isolation of change or becoming, or a metaphysics of static being by isolating the existence of an object. In any case, for Kulesko there is an abyss between these two possibilities, which contains both, their mixture, their conflict, and their absence, and reality at large resists all efforts to define it by isolating a single principle. Yet, what interests me is that a question emerges: does a metaphysics of becoming not naturally emerge from the condition of abject fragmentation and the change that is implied by the condition of indeterminacy? In fact, that idea can be seen as the whole throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s metaphysics, in that transformation is the fundamental potential of magical practice and philosophy. Nothingness almost certainly changed into everything that we know, so in this sense absolute power of becoming is one the core properties of Kulesko’s abyss. In that sense, a metaphysics of becoming is not a natural outcome, but also necessary.
But now we return to Kulesko’s central point about the abyss of reality: its ultimate potential. Rather than defeat, the chaos, unknowing, and senselessness of darkness offer a limitless wealth of possibility. In this setting, the practice of philosophy means bracketing out everything we know or think we know about the world in order to unlock new configurations that at the same time exist in the world. Fiction itself, and for Kulesko especially science fiction, emerges as a gateway to the groundlessness of the world, which is it at once the ground of its being. The end of the world, the nightmare of the apocalypse that animates human beings to the point that they endlessly narrate their own demise, is itself its own gate. Total destruction is the limit that thought drifts towards, the darkness that arises from just the thought of that destruction can negate everything, but if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, then, even for that, we are gifted with an utter freedom of action. We can go wherever we please and build whatever we want, and we may cast off the burdens that modern philosophy has imposed on us. This becomes Kulesko’s version of the primary axiom of Thelema: do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Not only do we and our particularity emerge from chaos but matter itself is this chaos, and at the innermost core of both reality and our own souls is lawlessness and multiplicity. As unreal as it sounds, for Kulesko that’s all there is, and it is everything. For this reason, it is best to cultivate darkness when lost in the night.
When I read the end of that essay, I sensed in Claudio Kulesko the formation of what I recognised as the basic principle of anarcho-nihilism. I don’t think Kulesko identifies himself with that, and in fact I don’t think he commits himself to any particular label, apart from philosophical pessimism – and, as far as I can see of his work, beyond all other labels he is first and foremost a student of philosophical pessimism. Nonetheless, somewhere in Kulesko’s conclusion I could sense the core idea in that in the negation of everything we come free to no longer be arranged and in turn arrange ourselves in any way we wish. It presents the ultimate silver lining to the question of meaning and its absence, and it illuminates the real meaning of the expression that nihilism does entail a position of despair or emptiness, and that meaning for the nihilist is exactly what they create for themselves. Of course, for Kulesko it is all fully ontological in ways that I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to agree with, whereas for anarcho-nihilism it pertains largely to the political dimension, in that the point is to negate all social and political institutions to create a space of full autonomy for individuals which can then manifest and experiment in all directions. Still, that itself may find extension in the nigredo that Kulesko presents, and in the magma of darkness that lies beneath the lies of the world and its utopias. The chaos embodied by that eight-pointed star expanding in all directions, unleashing the world after the world like, in late Norse mythology, the rebirth of the world after the carnage of the battle of Ragnarok, it’s the fragmentation of the Image of the World. The insurrection is its own cultivation of darkness.
Wounds of the Divine Feminine (The Second Nigredo)
Our second discussion of nigredo, “Mater Dolorosa”, which as the name suggests seems to centre around a discussion of the Virgin Mary, begins with Laura Tripaldi taking us on a recollection of her childhood frolics in a garden in her school, hidden from the eyes of adults, filled with vegetation and small animals – sometimes dead ones that she and her friends would hold funerals for. We are also introduced to the flower Veronica persica, or Persian speedwell, known locally as the “eyes of the Madonna”, a namesake that naturally then pivots focus figure of the Virgin Mary, her heavenly abode evoked by an analogy to her eyes, and to the torment she supposedly feels when you pluck the petals of the speedwell. Amusing, by the way, that this Virgin is called “Mother of God”: we’re told that the Christian God created everything thousands of years if not eons ago and yet also that his mother is a teenage girl who lived 2,000 years ago. A testament to the incoherence of Christianity, or at least especially Roman Catholicism. Then we’re presented with an anecdote about a pregnant female earthworm that the children punctured, seemingly to assist the earthworm’s delivery of its offspring; an act that seemed to almost primordially disgust the young Tripaldi. The particular reproductive economy of invertebrates, profoundly alien to our own, brings us to the subject of Georges Bataille’s assessment of abiogenesis and the relationship between asexual reproduction and death – the original one dying and becoming two – and then we get to a more fundamental pain at the heart of living matter. The ancestral wound of life, for Tripaldi consists of a primordial separation from the primordial condition of indistinction, and in this setting life is Giacomo Leopardi’s garden, which Leopardi insists is nothing but a beautiful hospital. Thus, the second nigredo is the realization of the pain of primeval separation.
It all comes down to the idea that not being born is better than being born. In many ways, this theme communicated in terms of a perceived separation from original matter and the concurrent pain of that separation is a lot closer to what I expected of Gruppo Di Nun based on the opening salvos of Revolutionary Demonology and its core dogma than much of what we have previously discussed so far. It certainly is closer in spirit with the thematic emphasis on the myth of the dismembered Mother Tiamat that they present much more than the subject of Gothic Insurrection or even the latent alchemical theme strewn throughout, and as we’ll see that theme takes us through a much larger response to the doctrine of emanation. This could offer us a rather multifaceted journey.
We are introduced to a man named Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-Australian geologist who, in 1972, went to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and attacked Michaelangelo’s Pieta, striking the face of the Madonna with a hammer while shouting “Christ is risen! I am the Christ!”. At the time of the incident it was assumed that Toth was mentally ill, consequently he was sent to a psychiatric hospital without criminal charges before being deported to Australia. I tend to think that there can be few bolder blasphemies against Christendom than declaring yourself Christ and smashing one of the holy symbols of the Christ myth, not to mention the synchronicity of having done so at the same age as Jesus supposedly was when he died. But for Tripaldi the incident carries a different meaning: for her it displays an uncanny alchemical property associated with depictions of the Virgin Mary – the transfiguration of suffering and disgrace into triumph and splendour.
The cult of the Virgin Mary, and particularly the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows centres around miraculous events that often involve the disfigurement of the various depictions of the Virgin Mother. Across Italy, there are local tales about icons of Mary being attacked or defaced by an unbeliever and then, as if to answer the assailant’s lack of faith, shedding tears of blood. In that exact sense, Laszlo Toth smashing the Pieta is interpreted as actually making it beautiful. But then we get to theme of weeping. Our Lady of Sorrows is always weeping. Her exposed heart illuminates the reason for her weeping: seven daggers, representing the seven sorrows she suffered in the Gospel narrative, pierce for open heart. That number, 7, recurs throughout religious and esoteric symbolism as a number of significance. In Hermeticism, for instance, the number 7 represents the manifestation of divine perfection in matter. In Christianity, 7 means the realisation of God’s kingdom in this world, through the conjunction of the Holy Trinity with the four corners of the earth. In Kabbalah, or rather at least according to Eliphas Levi, 7 represented the totality of the power of magic, backed by the sum of the soul and the four elements. Since the Hermetic tradition the number 7 denoted throughout “traditional” esotericism a mysterious harmonic function of the divine order that can be found everywhere in the universe. But, in the work in the Aleister Crowley, the number 7 referred to the goddess Babalon, as explicitly denoted by the seven-pointed star seal of the A∴A∴ (Astrum Argentum). Babalon, who in Thelema corresponds to the Biblical figure of the Whore of Babylon, is on her own a very complex representation of “divine” femininty, which is nonetheless defined primarily by transgression and wickedness, down to her angelic namesake (“Babalon” in the angelic langauge meaning “wicked”). The Biblical narrative presents the Whore of Babylon as a sinister and voluptuous feminine, opposed to the pious and sorrowful feminine embodied by the woman clothed in sun. Their visions are both accompanied by a demonic beast with seven heads and ten horn, who is both the antagonist of the woman clothed in sun and the ally of the Whore of Babylon. For Tripaldi this recurrence presents an alternate meaning to the number 7 that clashes with both the meaning presented by traditional “Western” esotericism and the symbolism of the seven daggers.
So where is that all going? Tripaldi’s reflection on the number 7 serves as the gateway to a broader discourse of an esoteric “divine feminine” that can be positioned against a divine patriarchal order and the traditional doctrine of its emanation across creation. It also seems to attend the recovery of a theme of pain and restraint that she perceives to be latent in the original Kabbalah and forgotten by the Western esoteric traditions that appropriated it, and, in a larger sense, to recover a dynamism and processuality in Kabbalah from the order imposed by the glyph of the Tree of Life.
In the Zohar, we are told, the descent of the divine into matter, and the ascent of matter into the divine, can occur in non-linear moments of emanation – moments that are marked by complication and interruption. Such moments are called Tzimtzum, or “contractions”, and are an important part of the manifestation of divine light as conceived in Kabbalah. They are also moments of rupture and separation that are in turn associated with “feminine” aspects of the process of emanation, as well as two of sefirah in particular: Binah and Malkuth. Binah and Malkuth seem to be involved in a ceaseless series of ascending and descending transmutations that see them both constantly merge and separate from each other. This process, for Tripaldi, points to the presence of a multitudinous “divine feminine” trapped within the architecture of creation. Rather than that familiar idea of a monotheistic Goddess parallel to a masculine God, Tripaldi proposes a multiplicity of divine femininity, and the liberation of this femininity in the processual forces of Kabbalah. In this sense, the cryptic diagram on the cover of Revolutionary Demonology is in some way illuminated. The Tree of Life is without a head. Kether, as the unity from which the divine order is emanated and the masculine godhead, is cut off, liberating the multiplicity of divine femininity and the form of nine apocalyptic goddesses. It is thus a signifier for a kind of alternative Kabbalah, animated by the spiral of a sinister divine feminine. I can perhaps sense the makings of a particular form of an goddess-centered (and arguably “anti-cosmic”) polytheism revolving around the goddesses that Gruppo Di Nun identifies with this spiral.
The tzimtzum are here defined as processes of separation within divinity that in turn facilitate its manifestation. To repair the separation of Malkuth from the divine light, Binah, the heavenly mother, is divided and her lower sefirot fall into darkness and corruption: a process referred to as tears falling into the Great Sea. This imagery obviously strikes a chord with the Catholic icon of Our Lady of Sorrows as Tripaldi has presented her so far, but for Tripaldi it also recalls the myth of Tiamat and her dismemberment by Marduk (I note here that Tripaldi refers to Tiamat as a “draconic Virgin Mother”, despite not ever being depicted as a “virgin mother” and really only tenuously identified as a dragon). The feminine polarity consists of a distance between two aspects that are identified and yet distant, and their respective symbolisms (the celestial abode for Binah, a red rose for Malkuth) ostensibly point to the two distinct female figures of the Book of Revelation: the woman clothed in sun and the Whore of Babylon. The process of rupturing and separation shatters the sefirot, interrupts the chain of divine emanation, and the empty shells sefirot become filled with impure forces (presumably the qliphoth). Through Gershom Scholem we get a throughline of an original rupture and separation as the causes of a primordial suffering brought on by a necessary separation from God, resulting in all being existing in exile. Three aspects of the Mother are part of this whole disruptive process: The Dragon, The Celestial Virgin, and Babylon The Great. They also represent a hidden generative force latent in the machinery of divine emanation, which replicates itself and will suffocate the order that contains it.
For Tripaldi, any esoteric struggle against the order of patriarchy means understanding the phenomena of disequilibrium that secretly make the divine order possible to start with. On its own, it is very possible to derive from this analysis a much larger analysis on the relationship between order and chaos, and especially the centrality of the latter. On the other hand, we still cannot but return to the question of the implications of the ancestral wound, especially when aligned with Kabbalah. I remember an analogy given to describe Kabbalah, whereby the point was for humanity to return to the garden of Eden. In essence, what that means is to correct the separation of humanity from God, represented in this analogy by the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Only here it’s not necessarily about God, and the separation pertains to the dismemberment of Tiamat. What does it entail for life, having arisen from separation? But I suppose for now, the pressing question is, what does the Tree of Life look like without the head?
We continue this inquiry by exploring migraine attacks, and their apparent prophetic character. Tripaldi perceives migraine as a pain that has no wound because it is the wound at the heart of the world. Percolating into every last particle of matter, migraine is said to reveal in everything the spectre of decomposition. A migraine crisis arrives and passes of its own accord and without a trace, and when it leaves all that remains is a feeling of well-being that is nonetheless plagued by a sense of guilt and suspicion. Tripaldi seems to recall an experience of being locked in a hotel room for two days, without eating or drinking, suffering so much that at points her consciousness began to waver, and at one night she experienced a vision of nostalgia for a primitive motherhood. One could say that this vision hints at Tripaldi’s idea of a hidden dimension of the world, accessible only by occult means, or, perhaps, made vaguely accessible by a migraine crisis. This, migraines are a kind of sinister unveiling of a hidden substratum of the world – an arcane world of pain, of the wound lodged in the heart of creation, and of the cry of agony that reverberates through the whole universe. In other words, the occult body of Tiamat. But it’s also here that we come to another, more concerted application of Christian mysticism. This starts with an account, from Oliver Sacks’ Migraine, of a patient suffering from a migraine attack and describing feeling a hole not only in their own memory but in the world itself, and feeling the instability of their own bodies. Tripaldi, through Sacks, links the migraine experience to the idea of suffering as a vehicle for the realisation of spiritual truths, and from there to “female mysticism”. And, by this, we of course mean Christian mysticism. Specifically, for example, we are invited to consider Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Catholic Carmelite nun who, in 1539, suffered a paroxysm in the process of what she called her “conversion”. This paroxysm caused Teresa to lay comatose for days and then remain paralysed for three years, and it also brought her to the brink of death. But, while she suffered all manner of torments from her paralysis, her body overcome with weakness and the feeling of death, she also described her experience as a kind of martyrdom, and asserted that when the body is in rapture it is as though it is in death.
For Tripaldi this all represents a very specific mode of mysticism, centered around an ecstasy that afflicts the soul from the outside like a disease, cannot be summoned intellectually, cannot be “resisted” once it visits upon the individual, and is defined by an intense suffering that, to lesser degrees, remains with the individual after the ecstasy has subsided. This form of mysticism can thus be understood as an ecstatic system, and for Tripaldi the basic idea is to be applied as an introspective, ecstatic, and fundamentally feminine mysticism in which suffering, rather than positioned as a another path to traditional initiatic gnosis, is its own goal as the highest form of gnosis. This is also meant to be contrasted with the application of meditation within “the intiatic traditions” as tending towards a desired state of “absolute concentration”, whereby the practitioner excludes all stimuli and gradually obliterates their individual consciousness in order to elevate it to the level of cosmic or universal consciousness, thus bringing it into coincidence with God. Tripaldi argues that Chaos Magick is an example of this in that Peter Carroll ostensibly marshalls a concept of no-mind that he calls “Gnosis” as a medium for magic to be affected. It’s a strange and arguably somewhat myopic interpretation of Chaos Magick, not least since it positions Chaos Magick as part of “the Right Hand Path”, and its justification is not especially systematic for the scope of Revolutionary Demonology. In fact, about a page and a half and one quote from Peter Carroll’s Liber Null seems to be the full extent of Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of Chaos Magick, which hardly merits the prejudice reserved for Chaos Magick as a whole, let alone their distinct classification of it as part of “Western initiatic traditions”. But, since Chaos Magick is meant as an example of the mysticism of absolute concentration, and the mysticism of Teresa of Avila as a paragon of the ecstatic mysticism of suffering, it also almost seems like Tripaldi means to contrast Chaos Magick with – and there’s no beating around the bush here – Christianity.
This has a number of interesting implications. Obviously Gruppo Di Nun’s system can’t be thought of as Christian in itself, since it centers around a non-Christian mythology while rejecting many of the familiar tenets of Christianity at least in its exoteric sense. But we seem to see here a distinct application of Christian mysticism in conceptual terms: in other words, it accepts Christian ideas about mysticism and ecstasy, God and his son notwithstanding of course, and reapplies them to its own distinct framework. In my view, this still has the effect of lodging Christian mysticism at the centre of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun in that it serves as the intellectual basis of its philosophy of cosmological suffering, and that to me is another notch against their critique of Satanism as reproducing Christianity by inverting it. I know I never tire of the opportunity to seize on points like this, but it is interesting that the alternative to “reproducing Christianity” by way of Satanism should be to reproduce Christian mysticism in the name of Tiamat. The thing is, for Teresa of Avila, suffering could constitute a form of prayer to the Christian God, or a trial through which the sufferer would find God and become more spiritually pure through it. Perhaps “that my soul may emerge from the crucible like gold” denotes a hidden alchemical metaphor, with the suffering obviously being a form of nigredo. But the whole point is still opening yourself up to sufferings visited upon you presumably by God so that you can love God more. This form of suffering, in Teresa’s words, pleases God. The very notion of suffering as “the way of truth”, which she expounds, is inherently Christian thought. God gives trials that inflict suffering on those he considers spiritually strong so that the love of God may respond to them, while the saints inflict severe penances on themselves to battle the Devil. God, who is joyless in all instances except for moments of profound suffering, humbles and tests his would-be servants, leaving them with a hunger for suffering.
We invoke the term “suffering cult” a lot to describe Christianity in exoteric terms, but if anything that term is all the more apt for the deeper core of Christian mysticism that a lot of popular exoteric Christianity doesn’t always reflect. It is important remember that here, even though suffering can be positioned as its own goal, that is distinctly for its perceived revelatory practices, and in Christian mysticism, moments and revelations of suffering such as the visions and ecstasies of Teresa of Avila are meant to be understood as proof of God’s presence in and love for creation. Thus, Laura Tripaldi has reproduced Christian love, and even the cult of suffering in its mystical dimensions, in the form of mystical devotion to the primordial wound at the heart of the world, the cuts made into the flesh of Tiamat by Marduk, all while Gruppo Di Nun denounces Satanism as an expression of the Right Hand Path by accusing them of reproducing Christianity by way of inversion. One must wonder if we are to be thought fools for such a pretentious repression response to Satanism to be made so transparent. And ultimately, if we’re talking about a dichotomy between centripetal and centrifugal motion while favoring the centrifrugal, what irony, because what could be a bigger “cult of the Centre” than the God for whom Teresa suffered so abjectly?
Also, it is here that we come to a hole in the broad narrative concerning self-designation as an edifice of the Right Hand Path. After all, for starters Tripaldi says that, in the purview of absolute concentration, your own self-consciousness is obliterated. That part may be consistent with modern understandings of the Right Hand Path, but it is not consistent with the notions of self-deification found in a lot of the modern Left Hand Path. And, are you here fashioning your own selfhood into God or a god, or simply harmonizing it with God? After all, it does not seem that to “be brought into coincidence with God” must mean that the initiate actually becomes or imitates God. In that sense, this “self-deification” is not as it seems, and would call into question the critique made against the modern Left Hand Path.
Our journey through Tripaldi’s mysticism does not end here. We continue on through an exploration of virginity through the Greek and Roman cults of Artemis and Diana – both traditionally considered virgin goddesses. For Tripaldi, the myth of Artemis living alone in the woods in solitude, away from any male suitors, resonates with her own adolescent hope of refuge from patriarchal society in a pure wilderness: a hope seemingly shattered by that same uncontaminated purity consisting of the same obscenity and violence as the body. Virginity for Tripaldi is a pact tied to death because it is a sacrament of war. That is because for Tripaldi it is the promise to never participate in the reproductive order of patriarchal civilization, and embodies a militant recognition of womanhood as the key to both the preservation and destruction of this order. This is presented as a kind of self-sufficiency inherent in womanhood that amounts to an absolute monotheism that holds the entire universe to ransom in its power. A more lofty exaltation of womanhood there almost isn’t, let alone one more at odds with the notion that. More curiously though, I was sure that self-monotheism of some sort was supposed to be what Gruppo Di Nun declared a fascistic folly reserved the initiatic Right Hand Path. I suppose I’m left to conclude that it’s supposed to be bad when Satanists strive for their own apotheosis but not bad at all to consider virgin women their own goddesses, and just leave whatever rationale there is for that contradiction to my own imagination – I doubt its interpretation would be very charitable. But perhaps patience is in order: there is a subject we will examine later that will be relevant to the subject of self-deification.
In any case, virginity is its own mystery for Tripaldi, due to the paradoxical quality she attributes to it: simultaneously a source of the integrity of the social order and a cause of its very negation. The sanctity of virginity, which is obviously also a familiar fetish of traditional/conventional Christian sexual morality, is exemplified in the Vestal Virgins, whose vow of chastity was linked to the preservation of the whole body politic of the Roman state, and in Joan of Arc, whose purity is said to have ensured the destiny of the medieval Kingdom of France. It is here meant to be understood as a sacred condition, relevant to feminine mysteries, and representative of what Tripaldi supposes to be a purity that passes through creation. The goddess Artemis is here understood as fiercely representing just such a purity: those who approach her know that any outrage against her purity would be paid in their flesh and blood. That at least is the myth of Actaeon, the hunter who saw the naked body of Artemis and, as punishment for ogling her, was silenced, then turned into a stag, and then killed by his own oblivious hunting dogs.
As lunar goddesses Artemis and Diana are seen as dual-natured: bright and yet dark, chaste and yet perverse, protector and yet also destroyer, at once luminous and murderous. Of course, it should be noted that just this sense of duality is not at all unique to Artemis or Diana in the context of pre-Christian polytheism, where basically every deity was assumed to be “dual-natured” or multifaceted, and I think there’s a sense that this basic fact is more or less excluded as is a lot of the perspective of paganism for much of the book except for its second chapter. What seems unique about these goddesses, however, is what Pierre Klossowski describes in The Bath of Diana as their “closed” nature, by which is meant their renunciation of the possibility of the possibility of mortal union and their existence “beyond destiny”. That said, I doubt that the interpretation that the wholeness of the universe rests on a single goddess is in any way consistent with polytheism as a religious worldview where a multitude of divine presences pervade a universe that exists between all of them. Nor for that matter does it make sense to assume that Artemis or Diana exist “beyond destiny’ in a religious context where even Zeus answers to the Fates. Again, it seems that here the goddesses of pre-Christian antiquity are invoked so as to represent a larger metaphysical concept of virginity as part of the formation of a divine feminine multiplicity, but without sufficient consideration for the actual context of the ancient polytheism they were a part of. What seems far more operative for Tripaldi is the lunar symbolism of Diana, which certainly does reflect Diana’s dual nature in a more historical sense, and how she connects this back to the subject of Kabbalah.
In classical terms, the moon is both celestial and chthonic, a light in the sky that also represented the powers of the underworld. As a celestial object, the moon’s light is really a reflection of the sun, which makes it seems like a spectral double of the sun. But, we are told, the moon in Kabbalah corresponds to the sefira Malkuth, the “impure” aspect of the divine feminine from before, because it reflects light from God. According to Gershom Scholem, this reflected an exile referred to as “the lessening of the moon”, which in turn was interpreted as the exile of the Shekhinah, the “holy moon”. The moon is also heavily associated with cyclical time, its influence linked to the movemennts of the tides, the reproductive cycles of many marine animals, and at least traditionally the menstrual cycles of women. Tripaldi interprets this cyclicality as a cycle of purification through death, through the cycle of the Flood and the purification of menstruation, and thus the moon as a symbol of virginal purity and death. This makes the moon a distrubing aspect of the divine feminine, an object of maniacal love and sacred terror, containing in itself all the ancient violence directed upon its flesh. But for Tripaldi the moon also has a mask, whose removal is but the hunter’s foolish and blasphemous quest to domesticate the divine feminine. It is presumed that behind the face of the moon lies a lost harmony, but we have no certainty that its true face is any better than the mask we have built for her. Sacrilege and unknowability interplay in an interesting way here. God in Christian terms is not only unknowable but the attempt to comprehend him, let alone imitate him, is a sin. Knowledge is in Christian terms the blasphemy and disobedience that overturns everything, because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in so doing they began their link to the realm of the gods, and so they were exiled from the garden, punished with the burden of original sin, and plagued further still by the apparition of their redemption in the form of Jesus Christ. If what hides behind the mask is no harmony, then what is it? No doubt a representation of raw entropy, or the death that is at once ineffable life. Might the blasphemy of discovery thus force us to confront the truth that lay beyond? Might the piety to the contrary only promote ignorace?
Still not finished, Tripaldi turns us next to the subject of Paolo Gorini, an Italian scientist whose legacy is commemorated in a square outside the University of Milan. He was also an embalmer, and was known as “the petrifier” for his experiments in mummification and preserving corpses. Gorini also found himself coming up against the Catholic Church for advocating the return of cremation to common practice for disposing of the dead. In the context of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy), Gorini was going against traditional authority in a time of radical political and social change. At this time, positivist rationalism and new natural sciences were an axis of resistance against the obscurantism of traditional religious authority, and secret societies worked towards a new future governed by enlightened ideals, while in northern Italy that very struggle was fought over the bodies of the dead, and its traces are left in the necropolises. Gorini rationalized his interest in the preservation and destruction of human bodies through his horror at their decomposition after burial. He believed that what happened to buried bodies was worse than if they were simply left on the ground, and that burial would be unequivocably left behind as soon as anything less cruel was introduced. To that end, Gorini turned to two practices from two ancient civilizations. On the one hand, the ancient Egyptians petrified and mummified corpses to preserve the body for what was believed to be its resurrection; on the other hand, the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced cremation, burning the bodies of the dead and thereby hastening their decay. Either proposal, Tripaldi notes, amounted to the “mineralisation” of the body: whether petrification or combustion, the dead body is turned into a new form of matter.
In all truth, this is a rather strange interjection. It’s not quite clear how this discourse connects to the rest of Tripaldi’s discussion of the divine feminine in the context of her heterodox interpretation of Kabbalah. There is a discourse present in the treatment of the body as an alchemical matter, and Gorini deriving his ideas about cremation from his research into plutonic liquid, and its ostensible Hermetic significance. Plutonic liquid is the name of a mysterious liquid that Gorini thought created volcanoes and mountain ranges when made solid. Tripaldi opens the suggestion that Gorini was a magician, for which there is scant basis both within this essay and certainly without, but in any case his cause to preserve the human body or at least save it from burial is seen by Tripaldi as a magical quest to stop or reverse time. As if a “Promethean” challenge to the disintegration of matter, or, through the words of Elemire Zolla, a form of alchemy similar to the transmutation of metal into gold. And, in the face of defeat, Gorini chose cremation; for Tripaldi, this meant a last stand against time in which his body “decapitated” time by returning to an original state. But as fascinating as it may be to take this view of cremation and alchemy as a plunge into immolation over surrender to time, I am still unsure of how it pertains to the whole essay. Unless, perhaps the “petrifying gaze of eternity in the eyes of a severed head” is none other than the face behind the mask of the moon that Tripaldi discussed. Is that what we, like the example of Actaeon, are counselled to never reveal to ourselves? Would it destroy us so?
The last relevant section of this essay returns us to the subject of the Virgin Mary, or rather one of her names: Stella Maris, meaning “star of the sea”. This name is meant denote her as watching over sailors or seafarers, thus linking her to the light of the North Star. The name’s origin seems to be a transcription error upon the original Latin name Stilla Maris, meaning “drop of the sea”, as translated by Jerome from the Hebrew name Maryam. Now, what is the meaning of all this? It would seem to establish a connection between the Virgin Mary and the depths of the ocean, which must seem very unusual compared to her conventional association with the heavens. From this we’re then introduced to Thalassa, a book written by the psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi. Ferenczi’s apparent aim was to establish a scientific basis for a psychological link between motherhood and the ocean and the broader view that all life is based on return to the womb. The fact that Thalassa is almost exactly a century old (having been written in 1924) leaves us with the suggestion that we should not take the “science” strictly at face value. Incidentally, though, the name Thalassa, which is the Greek word for “sea”, resonates with the name Thalatte, the Hellenistic name for the Babylonian Tiamat – certainly a meaningful coincidence given the overall centrality of Tiamat throughout Revolutionary Demonology and particularly in Tripaldi’s essays. Anyways, Ferenczi’s thesis is based on a theory he called “thalassal regression”: the idea of a latent drive to return to a long-lost aquatic mode of existence, which he thought continued to operate in genitality. Within this theory, it’s not the ocean that symbolises the womb but rather the womb that reminds us of the ocean, from which our distant mammalian ancestors emerged.
Trauma seems to be the main fixation of Tripaldi’s exploration of Ferenczi’s Lamarckian psychoanalysis. Human beings here are like living fossils that bear in their bodies evidence of eons of geological trauma created by ancient catastrophes visited upon our evolutionary ancestors, like the drying up of the primordial ocean. Birth is presented as a trauma that repeats the trauma of life emerging from the sea, and sexual intercourse is presented as means of regression, fulfilling a desire to return to the ocean. It’s not hard to see how the analogy to the womb comes into play, but it also almost feels like the ocean is like a center-point from which life plunges and to which, even as it crawls to the surface, it remains chained, and thus must at some point plunge back. I assure you, it’s not obvious what’s so centrifugal about this diagram of origination and return. The main insight that Tripaldi derives from Thalassa is in the idea that inhuman, geological, catastrophic forces mold individual subjectivity in the context of a catastrophic cosmogony of separation that positions the human being as the ultimate recepticle of cosmic suffering. Our drive to emerge from the abyss is framed thus as a catastrophic urge for separation, rather than a creative act. The strange thing about this idea, though, is that Tripaldi has spent pages of her illuminating separation and exile as fundamental to the creation of the world in the Kabbalistic context of the manifestation of God’s light. In this setting, you cannot just uncouple separation from creation. Nonetheless, evolution is presented by Tripaldi through Ferenczi not as a rise to the top of some natural order but a continuous propagation of traumas that in turn always motivates the desire for regression. After this, the essay ends with a lamentation of everything plunging into darkness, paging the cry of Angela of Foligno: “my son, my son, do not abandon me, my son!”. Perhaps for Tripaldi this is also Tiamat crying out for her myriad offspring, her own flesh and blood separated from her body, hung on the cross of creation. Now that I think about it, a more Christianized metaphor for the myth of Tiamat there isn’t.
So what emerges from all this? We see a particular interpretation of Kabbalah through the theme of cosmogonic separation and exile that is then taken through the theme of primordial agony and manifests as a metaphysics of a catastrophic divine feminine. This divine feminine is multifaceted: in many ways a reification of the perceived wound of our separation from an original state of non-creation, but also a reflection of the death and entropy that underlies the whole basis of life itself, albeit more so the violence of creation. It is obvious that the multitudinous divine feminine is still supposed to be Tiamat, but perhaps it is also Babalon, the exposed and bleeding heart of the Virgin Mary, the virginal divinity of Artemis and Diana, the petrifying gaze of Medusa, and the ocean itself. It is still curious that eight out of the nine goddesses of the seal of Gruppo Di Nun (namely Ammit, Nammu, Kauket, Hushbishag, Nungal, Sekhmet, Uadjet, and Ishtar), while only Tiamat seems to be discussed anywhere at all. In any case, this is the complex of feminine mystery that Tripaldi proposes alignment with as an occult axis against the patriarchy, and which, in Tripaldi’s occult schema, is the hidden machinery of Kabbalah meant to rise up and take the head from the Tree of Life.
One does wonder, though, to what end? Perhaps it can be connected to Kulesko’s discourse of the shattering of the world which then facilitates endless creation, thus to sever the Tree of Life and shatter the Image of the World would mean to open up the space for endless horizons of new creation. Yet, I doubt this is the throughline we get from Tripaldi. Instead it seems more like this is to fulfill a different kind of death drive, that the divine feminine might resolve the agony of separation by constricting around the whole machinery of Kabbalah and initiating an ecstatic regression towards the ocean of Nun (which, we might be assured, is not an alternative Centre from which we have still fallen). In Tripaldi’s premise, creation is a violence that leaves a wound at the heart of the universe, of matter itself, and, if that pain has any means of resolution, regression to the ocean, which is here the drive towards dissolution, is that resolution. But if life inexorably carved itself out, would it not do so again? If so, then I wonder, what is the point? And, I suppose the question arises that if we had any awareness of the pain of the world and of our own desire for regression, and if dissolution was the love that fulfilled it, then if we really wanted to go back to the ocean we could just die. Yet we choose to live for as long as we can.
Italian Southern Gothic (The Third Nigredo)
Our third discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Solarisation”, written by Valerio Mattioli. It is a rich exploration of the distorting power of the sun, and the alchemical cipher of the black sun, which is to be understood as a symbol of the process of nigredo, as situated in a tour of multiple distinct contours of modern Italian culture (or perhaps counter-culture). From Italian neorealist cinema, to giallo movies, to underground music, this scene is also explored in terms of an occult context of a land bathed in the sun’s light, and in my view provides valuable context for solar mythology relevant to the Left Hand Path. I have already discussed this particular essay in a separate article about the solar myth of Satan, which I propose as a central locus of Satanism that makes Satanism what it is (and, in turn, makes us Satanists what we are), with particular attention paid to Mattioli’s discussion of solarisation in relation to the subject of inversion and blasphemy. As such, I may attempt to minimize anything that risks repeating ground that I already trod last month. But a much broader exploration of the whole of the essay can be taken up in the scope of this article, and within this scope it would be my pleasure to give focus to Mattioli’s psychogeographical exploration of the occult landscape of Italy.
We are first introduced to Minor White, an American photographer known for his Surrealist pieces that employ the effect of solarisation: that is, a process of overexposure that both darkens and inverts the colour of an image. The monochromatic Oregon landscape of White’s “Black Sun”, made in 1955, is almost literally a textbook example of the technique of solarisation. It almost seems to reveal another world, as if hidden within this one, equal and opposite to it. For Mattioli, it’s as if that’s the point: to investigate and peer into a subconscious world parallel to our own. Photography was invented so as to produce images as mirrors of the real world around us, but ironically enough it was ostensibly first used to try and capture spectral presences (like ghosts or ectoplasms), and the camera filter, when activated properly, can invert photographs in ways that overturn the principles of empiral experience. Already, we see that humans by way of technical creativity can invert the world around them, revealing an other world and creating new worlds. What was meant as a tool to rationally document the world brought life to irrational worlds. Thus, through photography we begin to examine our subject of solar myth. The sun illuminates the world around us with its light, which to us should mean more reality accessible to us. But instead, more sunlight has the counterintuitve effect of distortion: solarisation means an exposure that exposes an “incorrect” truth. The solar disk turns black, the sky becomes milky, and all values change places. Thus, more sun does not mean more reality, but instead an inversion of reality. That observation has important implications that I intend to explore (or rather revisit), but suffice it to say for now that solarisation and sunshine appear magical a the fundamental sense: they change the world around them and overturn everything.
The black sun of alchemy, not to be confused with the other so-called “black sun” of neo-Nazism, enters into this in that solarisation is itself likened to nigredo. In alchemy, nigredo denotes the process of putrefaction in which matter is reduced to primordial chaos, the initial stage of the Great Work in which matter can begin to be transfigured into the perfection and immortality represented in the philosopher’s stone. For Mattioli, solarisation represents a kind of mechanical nigredo that explodes the sun’s light so as to translate it into what appears to be its opposite, and thus shatters the confines of the phenomenal world to reveal the invisible, unnameable, and the unknowable locked beneath it. To Mattioli this reveals primordial chaos in the form of an uninhabitable planet, and that it is revealed through a mechanical filter is to him all the more befitting of the inhumanity of the dimension that solarisation reveals, represented by the darkness of the black sun itself. But while it might be revealed through technique, it can only be known by occult means, by recourse to witchcraft and similar practices. Our sun ultimately emerges from that same world. The nigredo of solar myth can be interpreted along the lines of an active inversion, a blasphemy that will be made clear as we explore further. For Mattioli it is perhaps and abdication on the part of the alchemist’s self. But for the Satanist, this nigredo is the Fall re-enacted, a conscious inversion undertaken to reshape the world around you. There’s a sense in which solarisation here is a lot like Walter Benjamin’s concept of profane illumination: a non-contemplative materialist consciousness meant to allow the revolutionary subject to decode the superstructure of bourgeois society, destroy its field of reification and interact in full free consciousness with conditions as they really are. Or the way Henri Lefebvre described the mission of Surrealism as to “decode inner space and illuminate the nature of the transition from this subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world, and thence to social life”. Yes, perhaps solarisation actually denotes an active principle of surreality, bending the world so as to reveal it.
An ancient folk belief (or perhaps superstition), illuminated by a quote from Giacomo Leopardi at the start of the essay, hangs in the background of this exploration. In Italy and other Mediterranean lands, people believed that the spirits of the dead would appear at noon and disturb the living. For this reason, Leopardi said, classical authors would warn shepherds against going to places like Pallene or Phlegra, the latter thought to house the bones of giants, at noon. At midday, when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the world of the dead crossed with the world of the living, and the demons of the underworld appeared in the world above. Similar beliefs seem to appear in other cultures. In East European countries, a demon named Lady Midday (known in Poland as Południca) was believed to appear at the hottest time of noon, attack people in the fields, and occasionally ask them questions or challenge them to a dance. The Book of Psalms refers to a “destruction that despoils at midday”, which over time was translated through Jerome as the “daemonium meridianum”, or “Meridian Demon”. In Jewish demonology, a plague demon called Keteb was believed to be most powerful in the midsummer season and during the mid-day, and was also called Keteb Meririm. According to Cornelius Agrippa, Meririm was the name of the “Meridian Devil”, which he believed was the power of the air that worked in the children of disobedience. It’s often thought that these spirits were folk representations of the phenomenon of sunstroke, but the “daemonium meridianum” was also taken as a form of melancholy, depression, or rather a condition known as acedia (meaning basically listlessness or lack of care). Incidentally, acedia is also the Latin word given to the “deadly sin” of sloth. The irony, of course, is that we also use words like “sunny” to refer to the exact opposite conditions: happiness, joy, vibrancy etc., no doubt communicating a sense of life felt from the sun’s presence, which we in turn stereotypically associate with the peoples of the Mediterranean Basin. Or perhaps this all a cipher for a daemonic life, the vivifying light of an inner darkness that is the soul of this world, a soul that can be unlocked through solarisation.
For Mattioli, the sun is an altogether different presence from the optimistic light we perceive culturally. Per Antonin Artaud, it is a messenger of the breath of chaos, and Mattioli believes this communicates a perverse reality intuited by gothic fiction, whose classics were set in Mediterranean lands. For example, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, often considered the very first gothic novel, is set in a guilt-ridden Otranto, located in southern Italy, and Walpole claimed that he based it on what was originally an Italian manuscript, supposedly written in Naples in 1529. Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk casts its decadent story in Spain, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya is set in Venice, and need we say anything about Ann Radcliffe’s novels? In many ways this tendency reflected a mix of revulsion and fascination for an irrational outside within the Enlightenmentarian English psyche. But to really venture into a world where the sun doesn’t shine, we are to touch on a genre referred to as Italian Southern Gothic.
Italian Southern Gothic is the name given to a very broad cultural exploration of the macabre, the decadent, and the occult as running through the Mezzogiorno (as in, southern Italy). Italian Southern Gothic as we know it begins in 1954, when Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist, visited Italy. Alongside his colleague Diego Carpitella, he travelled across the south to places such as Liguria and Carrara in order to study the sounds and culture of the region. It was also at this time that the modernization of Italy was about to begin in earnest, as Italy’s “economic miracle” was set to transform Italy into a modern industrial nation in its own right alongside its European peers. This of course was to see older, archaic communities obscured beneath the new highways built for the rat race of modern consumer capitalism. But it was just the arcane world beneath that Lomax was to find, and while he still could: a wild, transgressive, immoral world, unlike the quaint image of Italian folk culture. Wild and uncanny sounds portrayed a world of sexual mania, irrationality, demonic fantasy, inexplicable fear, mind-shattering guilt, and archaic religious and ritual practices that go back centuries in time. This all led to the development of a “New Hypothesis” wherein southern Italy was to be understood as a clash between the human body, its surrounding social context, and memory. It also not only disturbed Lomax himself but also apparently horrified some of the Italian cultural intelligentsia, as I’m sure the dark side of life so often does.
Lomax was not alone in searching this arcane world. Ernesto De Martino, an Italian anthropologist, wrote essays and studies that elaborated a geography of sinister tales of decadence and even abuse interspersed with arcane religious rites and magical formulas. De Martino thus, for Mattioli, embodies a solarisation that unravelled a world of meridian demons and blind divinities just as Lomax unravelled the lost world of Mezzogiorno. This solarisation is indeed an unparalleled exercise in profane illumination. Further, I find myself imagining a perverse form of Terrence McKenna’s “Archaic Revival”, one where unlocking the liberationist values of a distant past means unlocking the sinister underbelly of the present. Italian Southern Gothic is in this sense a mechanism of solarisation whose hyperrealist gaze allows us to discover truly archaic contents that animate or lurk beneath the world we live in. It may indeed open up mystical and esoteric praxis that enhances the Left Hand Path in its access to the true ground of being, as if the substance of innate enlightenment (here I am admittedly invoking Bernard Faure’s image of Daikokuten within esoteric Tendai Buddhism).
The theme of hyperreality turns us toward a genre of film that, in its late years, seemed to draw inspiration from the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino. Enter, Italian Neorealism. The term “neorealism” refers to a gritty and almost documentary form of cinema that emerged in the middle of the 1940s and focused on depicting the realities of life in post-World War II Italy. Directors such as Luigi Di Gianni, Roberto Rossellini, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Vittorio De Sica, Cecilia Mangini, and Federico Fellini all sought to bring to focus a society exhausted by poverty as it struggled in the beginning of life after Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. The point was to portray the real conditions of contemporary Italian society just as they were, right down to its worst aspects, without any artifice, metaphor, symbolism, or dreamlike flourish. For this, neorealism is typically recognised as a form of documentary denunciation rather than an expression of Italian Southern Gothic. But, for Mattioli, this impression is not complete, and merely reflects a more polite repression of a latent arcane world, one befitting the emerging reign of rational modernity.
To illustrate what Mattioli sees as a practical interplay between hyperrealism and demonic solarisation, we are referred to the novel Conversations in Sicily, written by Elio Vittorini in 1941. In the novel, Vittorini apparently lets his documentary narrative of Sicilian life subtly move towards oneiricism. Perhaps the better example might be Carlo Levi’s memoir, Christ Stopped At Eboli, which is a reflection of Levi’s life and travels as a political exile in southern Italy that is apparently nonetheless populated with witches, cemeteries, drunken priests, and invisble brigands, who all form the image of a land where time has stopped and neither reason and history have a place, all inaugurated by a solar eclipse. More than that, however, it is in neorealism we see a perverse magic to solar inversion. The example we are presented with is a short documentary film titled Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Notes On A News Story), directed by Luchino Visconti in 1951, which focuses on the story of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 12-year old Annarella Bracci in the Primavelle district, which was probably one of the most notorious crimes of the day. The film depicts the sunlit outskirts of Rome in the throes of its worst nightmares, almost morphing before our eyes into a desert where human and non-human garbage is tossed aside, and a road in the final shot connecting the Primavelle flats to a sky that seems like an omen of damnation. The inertia and salvation of the golden city seems like an inferno, and thus, in Mattioli’s words, Hell lies in the celestial vaults. Mattioli treats this as an iconic representation of solar inversion. That very solar inversion also strikes a chord with Satanic inversion: after all, if heaven is hell, is hell not heaven, and is God not thus the ultimate villain of his own cosmic drama? Though, for Mattioli, the relevant aesthetic fulfillment of solar inversion for the old neorealism is in its slow rhythm, its narratives of abject fatigue and social nightmares, lack of colour, and above all the fact that these films were typically filmed on long summer days and shot in the open air, altogether conveying the acid of excessive sunlight.
The transition from black and white films to colour films also meant a transition from neorealism to “post-neorealism”, and the qualities of neorealism passing into two iconic Italian cult movie genres: spaghetti westerns and giallo movies. Spaghetti westerns were Italian movies set in the “American West”, or rather the picture of an American West filled with stylized violence and revolving around the bleak stories of rugged, often silent protagonists. Giallo movies were essentially horror-thriller or murder mystery movies that were also known for their wild eroticism, madness, violent gratuity to the point that they can be called “slashers”, and, often enough, a flair for esotericism, supernatural horror, and even psychedelia. Their bright colours manage to subtly invoke the weight of the Mediterranean sun, but they also still seem to lead back to a kind of meridian nigredo. But from there we come an odd but insightful discussion of a principle of solarisation that is also descriptive of the magical principle of solar myth: the whiteout. Here, Mattioli is talking about what he calls the “Mediterranean whiteout”. This is a phenomenon where, when the sun is its at brightest, its light seems to turn the whole field of vision into a vast white expanse, leading a blindness bound in the liquification of existence. For Mattioli, the cinematic genius of the whiteout is none other than Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose movies seem to activate inverting properties of solarisation and the amplifying the properties of the principle of neorealist cinema: the need to know and modify reality. Mattioli then positions this need as a magical gesture, an expression of Aleister Crowley’s definition of magic as “the Science and Art of causing changes in conformity with the Will”. Thus magic itself expresses the quality of solarisation.
Here, we can briefly revist the solar myth of Aleister Crowley. As Cavan McLaughlin observed in his essay The Dark Side of the Sun, Crowley’s own life was a solar myth supported by his own magical will. He was born as Alexander Edward Crowley, dubbed himself Aleister Crowley as an act of magical self-authorship, and in 1930 he even faked his own death by suicide by spreading false information and producing a fake suicide note, only to then re-emerge alive and well in Berlin. Crowley in a sense distorted the boundary between fiction and realtiy, solarising the world around him and creating a new one. The property of solar myth consists in the interpretation of the need to know and modify the world as the desire to overturn everything, changing it in accordance with will. Neorealism was received as a documentary denunciation, and welcomed with the moral ends of humanism. But in Crowleyan terms, the need to know and modify the world is an amoral desire, from which begins an amoral quest. McLaughlin again illuminates this, in that, if every man and every woman truly is a star, then the magical quest for transcendence or doing what thou wilt has the potential to “make monsters of us all”. But then if life per Schopenhauerian terms life is kind of monstrous, and we are all thus monsters for participating in it, then, in Nietzschean terms, we cannot really cower from it. Thus is the starting point of Crowleyan solar heroism as its own solarisation: every man and woman is a star, meaning that they are Suns, in that they are at the center of their own magical universe, and their light may shine down on the world, transforming it entirely, overturning everything in the process.
Mattioli presents the cinematic career of Pier Paolo Pasolini as a kind of journey of initiatory journey of solarisation. This journey begins with Accattone, where Pasolini seems to turn Rome, the “Eternal City”, into a phantasmagorical sea of light marked by a stark contrast of white and black, whose geometries come to take a surreal and tenebrous quality associated with the city of R’lyeh in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. The journey ends in Salo, Pasolini’s adaptation of The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, whose reputed unwatchability and brutality would seem to coincide with the similar unwatchability of the noonday sun. Mattioli connects the “death and terror” of Salo to Georges Bataille’s description of Mount Vesuvius as a “filthy parod of the blindingly hot sun”, and then, to a different parody: the anus. For Bataille, volcanoes are like the asshole of a world that eats nothing, and constantly spew out its contents. Mattioli then links that theme to Salo as the sum of the link between the sun and the asshole, both at least figuratively impossible to lay eyes on, then we are brought to the magical property of anal sex. Seemingly an inversion of the function of procreation and the mandate of the sun to illuminate the world, anal sex is here positioned as an instrument of reconciliation with the arcane world parallel to ours, revelaed by the light of a black sun, and in a way that echoes Austin Osman Spare’s concept of “new sexuality”. For Spare, this meant accessing the innermost layers of the psyche through “unnatural” sexual acts in order to trigger the awakening of primordial states of the subconscious mind, which he called “atavistic resurgence”. Kenneth Grant described this as a process by which Spare visted fantastical cities constructed of lines and angles that seemed unlike anything on Earth. Mattioli relates this to the lost city of R’lyeh in Lovecraft’s work and Pasolini’s treatment of the city of Rome in Accattone. It’s fairly interesting that in this essay Chaos Magick (or at least as anticipated by Spare) seems to align with the aims that Mattioli and the Gruppo Di Nun at large present while in the previous essay the entire tradition of Chaos Magick is portrayed as part of the “Western iniatic tradition” on the basis of a single passage from Liber Null.
But, from here, we come to an aspect of Pasolini’s solarisation that I find rich with Satanic significance: the assassination of Pier Paolo Pasolini on the beaches of Ostia. The very name Ostia clues us in on the nature of solar inversion: simply put, it overturns everything. It simultaneously references the holy communion wafer of Catholic liturgy and the hidden blasphemy of the solar disc. The name Ostia relates to the Latin words “hostia”, meaning “victim”, and “hostis”, meaning “adversary”: the former can be seen as Jesus, the divine victim central to Christianity, and the latter as Satan, the Adversary himself. Yet, it also actually comes from the Latin word “ostium”, meaning “mouth”, as in the mouth of a river. A mouth where water and shit exit the metropolis of Rome: the anus of the city. But it is also the Mithraic solar disc trapped inside the Christian host, and thus the secret of blasphemy. Every mockery and desecration of the cross, every carnal gratification for its own sake, kink, queering, disinhibition, insurrection, all sure the same magic as solar inversion, and the monstrous duality of solar mystery, and in turn solar myth. In Satanic terms, this is the creative act of blasphemy, the creative act of “Satan’s Fall”, the primordial insurrection, the a rebours (reversal) that is central to Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s understanding of Satanism. Without surrender or abdication, we penetrate the world with our own solar rays, as we partake in a defiant Satanic nigredo that is disinhibition and solarisation. The Ostia described by Mattioli is perhaps its own psychogeography of blasphemy, its own example of satanic solar inversion, as the place where, as he put it, the hierarchies of the city of Rome are upended.
What Pasolini brought to life in his work was an alternate city of Rome. In ancient Roman myth and tradition this city had a name: Remoria. Remoria was the mythical city that was to be founded by Remus, the twin brother of Romulus. The traditional myth goes that, when Romulus and Remus had finished restoring their grandfather as king of Alba, the two brothers set out to found a city of their own, but they argued bitterly over where the city should be built, and eventually Remus was killed while Romulus established Rome as we know it. Remoria can thus be seen as an image of what Rome could have been. All this also sits beneath a dark sun, or rather a solar eclipse. According to Plutarch, Remus was killed by Romulus during what happened to be a solar eclipse. For Mattioli this invites us to look beyond the sun to another world.
But what does that other world look like? Mattioli says that Romulus, as the founder of Rome, seemed to establish the civilizational archetype of “the West”, with its emphasis on a vertical ideology of hierarchy, order, and discipline, constructed atop a square city of continuous conquest and production what is, with no tolerance for waste. Remoria, in this picture, would seem to be a chaotic and circular city of expenditure and sacrifice of what never was, a spectral twin city born dead, welcoming the waste of the world and reflecting the irrational qualities attributed to Remus. Yet this Remoria exists within Rome itself: the senseless and chaotic suburbs that are connected to Rome by the anal symbol of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, which seems to mimic the circumference of a volcanic crater and form a solar disc on the ground. In this way, it would seem that the other world is always lying beneath the surface of this one, seemingly inseparable from this world. If Mattioli is to be believed, there are urban legends surrounding the Grande Raccordo Anulare that position it as some kind of magic seal, which if we take them for granted would perhaps literally make it an occult ideogram planted in Rome. This, the hidden structure of an arcane world is there, waiting to be unravelled by the solar will of a magician looking to unleash the darkness of the world.
Delving deeper into the Italian underground we start to explore what Mattioli figures as the sound of Remoria. This begins with Italian techno music, focusing on the album Muta, which was released by Leo Anibaldi in 1993. Muta seems to be unique among techno records in that techno as a genre seems to inaugurate a cybernetic age, but Muta does not, apparently sounding a little too much like old giallo soundtracks to have that feel. But then, from Mattioli’s description, Rome at this time was still hardly a cybernetic city; in fact, he claims that Rome was never even a punk city. By the turn of the 1970s and 80s, the most prevalent subculture among the young working class of Rome was goth subculture (which, incidentally, centres around a music genre that spun off from punk), which celebrated the night, the long sunless winters, and tanless flesh. This apparently has nothing to do with the old gothic novels frequently being set in Italy. More fitting the scene seems to be the disc of death celebrated by Coil on their album Scatology. But Leo Anibaldi’s work is also positioned in what Mattioli calls a “dark continuum”, which apparently begins with a band named Goblin.
Goblin was an Italian progressive rock band formed in 1972 by Claudio Simonetti, the same Claudio Simonetti who went on to compose soundtracks for several Italian horror movies. In fact, Goblin made music for numerous films directed by Dario Argento, including Suspiria,Deep Red, and Phenomena to name just a few. But, at the end of the 1970s, Claudio Simonetti became a disco producer and got involved in a number of disco bands. Local DJs around this time played alongside Simonetti before eventually moving on from Italo disco to house, and then new DJs would discover techno and develop a new “Sound of Rome”. Then, as the 1990s progressed and rave parties became the new scene, amidst the electronic decadence of drugs and esotericism emerged a rap group called TruceKlan, which brought Anibaldi’s brand of techno together with Satanism and the legacy of neorealism and giallo movies into their own distinct sound. Although they remained obscure everywhere else, they apparently had a major impact in Rome, and into the 2010s one of TruceKlan’s producers went on to create a trap collective called Dark Polo Gang. Thus is Mattioli’s dark continuum, running from the morbid legacy of giallo movies to a new kind of depressive dark trap music.
That dark continuum seems in itself to be an expression of Italian Southern Gothic, in that we behold a hidden world of decadence beneath the surface of the golden city, locked inside, per Visconti’s description, the inertia and salvation. Hell continues to lie inside the celestial vaults. Celebrations of anal sex and roundabouts around the GRA form a kind of modern Witches’ Sabbath. The myth of the Witches’ Sabbath resonates in the rave parties due to their character as an ecstatic, transgressive, and “illicit” counterculture, but also in a commitment to inverting their surroundings, revealing the symbol of the world turned upside down. Again we see an avenue for Satanism. For Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the myth of the Witches’ Sabbath corresponded to a ritual manifestation of a Satanic-Nietzschean transvaluation of values, an event whose orgies, dances, and sacrifices culminate in a dissolution of reality and/or the sensorium into an endless night in which Satan appears. This inversion sees flesh and its instincts triumph over law and the social order, desire exceeds itself by its fulfillment in communion with Satan, and sin itself, along with holiness, and all good and evil, dissolve into nothingness. Only joy and desire remain: wealth, God, morality, the pursuit of power, all of these are worthless before this raw revolt of flesh, and they melt before Satan’s inner world as revealed by the frenzy of the Witches’ Sabbath. In the case of the Italian underground, their frenzy, their artifical rhythms, synthetic drugs, samples, and autotune all reveal an inhuman, inorganic world, the image of a dead planet. For Italian Southern Gothic at large, in the work of Alan Lomax the frenzy of the songs and screams he recorded were a revelation of a spectral world seemingly populated by the living dead. But these all point to an axis that reveals disinhibition as a solarising act that unravels an arcane world, that is at once the ground of this world. It is as if ecstasy as a means of revelation, and yet that ecstasy is not the suffering of Teresa of Avila. No, for Satanism it is a joy and triumph that destroys all else.
Finally, we revist the legacy of giallo movies through one film in particular that Mattioli deems archetypical for the genre. Directed by Giulio Questi in 1972, Arcana is a film that depicts a widow named Ms. Tarantino and her son living in Milan, having moved there from the south, and practicing spiritualism and magic. Ms. Tarantino makes money by performing seances with the aid of her secret magical knowledge, while her son somehow forces her to teach him said magical arts so that he can use them to cause panic wherever he goes and however he pleases. At the background of the film seems to be an unresolved tension between a fully modern and industrial Milan on the one hand and a still very much occult south on the other hand. Questi apparently performs a cinematic whiteout to depict the south in overexposed but dark images to convey its constant presence in the past. But Milan contains its own darkness. Its underground construction sites almost seem home to ancient chthonic powers and irrationality, while conveying assemblies of men amputated in their work. Even though Arcana is a film that centers occult themes, for Mattioli it is fundamentally a realist movie, in that it also centres an emigration from southern Italy to the north that has been depopulating the south since World War II. Modern, “enlightened” Milan sits ensconsed in the comforts of Capital, while sinking its bowels into an underworld of construction sites and curses. That underworld is a negative of Milan itself, a kind of negative that every city contains witin itself, a double that pushes for the inversion of the city we know, and it which is thus a force of solarisation. From there Milan upends itself from within, as in the Covid-19 pandemic, for Mattioli, unravels the truth of the disk of death: that there is no consumption without waste, no nourishment without excrement, and that there is always an asshole somewhere. But another inversion took place: Milan, which previously saw continous emigration from the south, was abandoned by those some southerners seeking refuge in their motherlands, and became one big ghost town. Within Italy, that flight was portrayed as a betrayal by southerners of the city that welcomed them, but for Mattioli it was just the city consuming and then execrating a mass of labour, and thus having suceeded in its mission as the machinery of Capital.
From this final psychogeographic revelation we turn our heads to the sky once more, to see the Medierreanean sun burn and evaporate everything one last time, and behold Lucifer shining in the sky. The Canicola that conludes Mattoli’s essay tells us of a Sun that, from 150,000,000 kilometres above our planet’s surface, evaporates all shadows, and melts all knowledge, desertifies the earth, and whose fire is the very fire of hell itself. Mattioli in this sense portrays light and darkness as ultimately the same; hell lies and the celestial vaults, but hell is heaven and heaven is hell. Too much light actually means too much darkness rather than more illumination, and for this reason Lucifer, the light-bringer, is in truth a master of shadows. The connection between Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star himself, and the sun almost seems like an echo of Charles Leland’s Lucifer (or Lucifero), who was cast in Aradia as a sun god, similar to the Greek and Roman god Apollo. In any case the sun stands as the source of life, death, and the life of death, and the principle of delusions, abnormalities, and all abysses of the human psyche. Mattioli’s sun almost seems to take on the principles of the God of Christian negative theology, who is “dark” in the sense that God is “dark” precisely because he exists as a superabundance of light, which would naturally blind human consciousness. But, on the other hand, this sun might just as well be the “Father of Lies”, the Devil, on the same terms. Either way, it is the light of the sun overturning everything in a surreal field of vision, that surreality being nothing but creation, and new creation. By this understanding God would be one more magician, and Satan in this schema would just happen to reject God’s particular design.
Without reprising the entirety of my previous article on solarisation, we can summarize the primary takeaway. The exploration of Italian Southern Gothic (which I believe I would like to continue on its own in a future article) is a valuable illustration of a particular kind of gnostic katabasis and magical gesture, whereby one “descends” into hidden structures or membranes of the world so as to become fully aware of the world in a way that is only possible through its darkness. Yet it is solar inversion in particular that poses a problem for Gruppo Di Nun’s critique of Satanism, at least in the sense that I, within my previous article alone, am able to elaborate ways in which the discourse of solarisation aligns with and even enhances some conception of Satanism. Granted, much hinges on a matter of perspective. If, after all, what primarily matters is some sense of “abdication” to the other world, then Satanism at large would still not align with that. But if what counts is the illustration of blasphemy as a magical act, by which the will may make change occur through solar inversion, then it is actually somewhat easily to develop a Satanic understanding of what Mattioli means to convey. Satan is insurrection, Satan is the sun at the heart of the world, the primordial engine of overturning everything: The Adversary.
Masochism As Gnosis (The Fourth Nigredo)
Our fourth discussion of nigredo is revolves around the essay “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, written by Enrico Monacelli. This essay is Enrico Monacelli’s elaboration of masochism not only as a principle of inverted wisdom but the absolute fundamental principle of the overall philosophy put forward by Gruppo Di Nun as a whole. I believe it is here that again move closer and closer to the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s answer to life. “Solarisation”, in Gruppo Di Nun’s schema, would serve as the revelation of a world whose tongue invites its visitors to become vessels of its transmission. “Mater Dolorosa” in a certain sense prepares the centrality of masochism by positioning suffering as its own goal and the mechanism of revelation. Yet “Solarisation” and “Cultivating Darkness” present alchemical avenues that, as I have shown, can still lead to an alternative to masochistic mysticism. “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, in this sense, is different, in that its philosophical pessimism lacks these avenues of subversion, and hinges entirely on ontological masochism. What is also central to Monacelli’s essay and the masochistic ontology he presents is a dialogue around the fearful encounter of Julius Evola, one of the foremost philosophers of traditionalism and 20th century fascism, and Carlo Michelstaedter, arguably one of the most formidable philosophical pessimists of the 20th century. This dialogue serves as a way to dissect Evola’s system of esoteric fascism as a response to Michelstaedter’s philosopher, so as to contrast it with Monacelli’s philosophy of masochism, with the aim of presenting this masochism as the diametric opposite of esoteric fascism and the ultimate means of breaking the spiral of fascism. Such a discourse cuts right into Gruppo Di Nun’s particular strategy of inversion, reflected in the namesake being a subversion of Julius Evola’s Gruppo Di Ur, and therefore allows us to cut deeper into its conceits.
We can, to start with, skip the first seven pages of Monacelli’s essay insofar as they largely recapitulate the psychogeographical exploration carried out by Valerio Mattioli in the previous essay. Instead, I think it is more pertinent to move straight on to his discussion of masochism. And even there, it is difficult to see if anything valuable could be said of Mattioli’s conceptual denunciations of “healthy sex”, “the abandonment of fetish”, and “the BDSM romantic comedy we find ourselves trapped in”. Monacelli appears to think that modern sexuality consists only of a one bivalent form of sexual deviancy consisting of the servant-master dialectic. I would posit that this is only his own unfamiliarity. He quotes Gilles Deleuze to support this idea and apparently Deleuze thought the very term “sadomasochism” was a construction of psychoanalysis meant to convince us that there is only one form of sexual deviancy. Well, notwithstanding that I might consider some aspect of Monacelli’s writing here to constitute psychoanalysis in itself, and to some extent the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun as a kind of psychoanalytical application, if Deleuze says this then I would maintain that Deleuze is also wrong. Everyone even vaguely familiar with fetishes or pornography knows what kind of fetishes exist which exceed this familiar field, and it is almost safe to assume that no one actually believes that there is just one form of sexual deviance. What exactly is the “servant-master” dialectic of the fecalphiliac, for instance? The assumption of bivalence in regards to fetish or kink is in many ways inherently flawed, and one would think that that a system billing itself as queer occultism should be innately familiar with that. I don’t find it entirely productive to dwell on this subject too long. In the end, Monacelli’s discussion of feitsh is a protracted appeal to taste, and perhaps it’s safe to assume Monacelli just isn’t into BDSM. But what he believes to be a comedy is its own ritual, a ritual that some of us enjoy and live by. In Kulesko’s terms, as long as we’re all just making our own meaning from the black magma of the cosmos, what does it matter what “comedy” by which people fornicate with each other? Kink and taste are what they are, so what matters is the philosophical substance Monacelli intends to propose.
That being said, I suppose we can comment on Monacelli’s discussion of sadism. Monacelli interprets sadism as an annihilating desire to be God’s right hand man, and echoes Deleuze’s opinion that the apogee of sadism is, rather than Marquis De Sade, none other than the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. This perhaps comes solely down to the perception of Spinoza’s philosophy as mechanistic, and sadism as a mechanistic desire. Not really much to work with in this sense, though Deleuze claims this is all to do with sadism supposedly impersonalizing violence with the support of an idea of pure reason. This almost feels like the way Vladimir Lenin and his successors define imperialism into something distinct from imperialism. Deleuze’s “sadism” could as well describe all conventional violence or political violence, which typically de-personalize or even deny violence, justifying it by turning it into reason, whereas sadism simply isn’t sadism without the derivation of pleasure. Indeed, even the most extreme and systematic forms of fascism are justified not by sadistic pleasure but by depersonalization as the hand of fascistic reason. But Monacelli in any case derives from this the idea of sadism as “separative wisdom”, meaning that it divides and lacerates the unity of the world, but for Monacelli it also cuts against and dissolves the self. His description of sadism sort of strikes a chord with Stirner’s concept of devourment, but that’s what makes it all the stranger that he should read it as “self-dissolution”. It seems obvious that, since the masochistic death drive is, in Gruppo Di Nun’s analysis, the centre of all cosmic life, all behaviour must be mapped onto self-dissolution or the desire to surrender. I will say that one can take up a form of self-dissolution as dissolving into apotheosis in the sense that Kulesko’s Dracula, and in turn Hellsing‘s Alucard, embody, it also seems like it’s also, ironically enough, just what Kulesko was counselling us against: to isolate a single desire or aspect of being as the fundamental principle of the universe. That may just be the inherent self-made contradiction for Gruppo Di Nun’s core ethos.
With that, we can move on to the “perverse mysticism” of masochism. Whereas sadism is “separative wisdom”, masochism could be understood as “regressive wisdom”. Masochism, for Monacelli, means to recall our point of origin and enjoy descent and immersion in the terror of infinite night. But already, from the starting point of the masochist as the faithful receiver of the massacre of the cosmos, back through Monacelli’s definition of sadism, it almost seems that, despite the denunciation of the servant-master dialectic in BDSM, Monacelli positions us as part of the one servant-master dialectic that he can accept. If sadism is the amplified wisdom of separation that lacerates the body and the cosmos, and the universe itself is a Landian machine of laceration, then it feels amusing to think that we might be asked to accept a God that separates and to reject any separative wisdom that might be our own. It almost comes back to the idea that God can distort, create, and destroy but we humans cannot. Our place is not to imitate God, only to be constantly solarised, confused, perverted, and destroyed by God. The opposite perspective is the path of Satan, of Lucifer, or Sophia.
It’s worth briefly focusing on what Deleuze tells us about Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Galician Tales. In the beginning of the book, a wanderer condemns Nature as evil, and Nature responds to the wanderer that she does not hate humans, even when she deals death, but is simply cold, severe, and maternal. Deleuze proposes this as a steppe that buries sensuality and sadism and also transmutes desire and cruelty. From another perspective, though, the coldness of Nature is an idea shared by De Sade. For De Sade, Nature is a whole matrix of generation whose basic process depends on destruction and recombination. Death and destruction are the basis of Nature’s ability to create, things die so that Nature can bring new things into being, and matter is continually re-arranged by Nature as it dies. It makes no difference to Nature if a human being were to reincarnate as a centipede. This idea appears frequently in De Sade’s work, often as a device for characters to justify the tortures they inflict. But in this sense, both the sadistic worldview of De Sade and the masochistic worldview of Masoch as an almost cruelly impersonal and necessarily destructive basis for life. The difference is that De Sade’s sadist views themselves as following in Nature’s example, deriving solely from Nature’s power and “law” while perhaps imitating its destructive creativity in their exercise of imagination, per Geoffrey Gorer’s description modifying the external world for the pleasure of doing so, while Masoch’s masochist seems to surrender to this Nature, and this Nature, rather than furnishing the desires of the individual, seems to subsume and change them. Monacelli seems to embrace Masoch’s idea on the basis that it sketches a descent into what he sees as the “geo-traumatic core of sexuality”. It seems here that we have returned to Laura Tripaldi’s ideas about the wound of creation, and by extension to Ferenczi’s psychoanalytical theories.
Perhaps enlighteningly, we see Monacelli’s discussion of masochism venture into Christianity. In fact, he seems to regard masochism as the basis and fulfilment of Christian mysticism and theology. It seems to me like this says something about the nature of Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic outlook. Monacelli here invokes the example of Henry Suso, a German Dominican friar who our author considers to be among the most misunderstood pioneers of mysticism. Suso apparently tortured himself and built instruments of torture for the purpose of understanding the self-torture of God, thus, in this exact sense, almost “imitating” Jesus Christ. Suso’s dialogue with “Eternal Wisdom” seems to show God revealing transcendence as a humiliating immanence that empties desire and everything else. In this exact sense, mysticism for Monacelli means going down into what he takes to be Love, a kind of primordial trauma at the basis of sexuality. Thus, Monacelli’s masochism is a sexuality that abolishes humanity and turns the mystic into a voice for an omniscient, ineffable, unmanifest, and unnameable God, which is thus Monacelli’s representation of the Outside.
It is here that we revisit the problem and contradiction of Gruppo Di Nun’s rejection of Satanism. Gruppo Di Nun interprets the entirety of modern Satanism as a reinterpretation of the “principles of the Right Hand Path”, accuses Satanism of being structurally identical to the religions that it opposes, and asserts that Satanism reproduces Christianity by way of inverting it. But, just like in the case of Laura Tripaldi, we see Enrico Monacelli quite literally reproduce Christianity, quite literally basing his philosophy of masochism on Christian mysticism, literally identifying Gruppo Di Nun’s Outside with the Christian God. Admittedly a most fascinating, if misguided subversion: here, if Satanism is somehow “the Right Hand Path”, then per their terms the “Left Hand Path” at least looks an awful lot like Christianity. In fact one might reckon the notion of cosmic love at the centre of things as a reflection of Christianity. There is certainly a notion of disintegrating love that both Monacelli and Tripaldi trace directly to Christian mysticism. Is it on the back of this substance that Gruppo Di Nun rejects Satanism? In this sense their rejection of Satanism emerges as all the more hypocritical, incoherent, and actually quite farcical. Yet it also seems to echo the old divide of philosophical pessimism: that of Schopenhauer versus Nietzsche. In this sense one cannot help but sense the fulfilment of masochism in Christian mysticism as the consummation of the Nietzschean critique of Christianity, the full circle of the denial of life often typified as the Schopenhauerian response to life.
But from here we move on to the subject of a “terrible Italian affliction”, by which Monacelli means the suicidal gnosis of Carlo Michelstaedter, the illumination of what Monacelli observes as the anti-social pleasure and revelation of suicidal descent. Michelstaedter’s thesis, Persuasion and Rhetoric, is regarded by Gruppo Di Nun as a precursor of the philosophy of entropic cosmic love that they outline at the start of Revolutionary Demonology, which would make it rather central to their core project. Michelstaedter outlined what was, in his view, a radically indifferent universe that consists of a primordial hyperentropic hunger of a will whose end is annihilation. After writing Persuasion and Rhetoric, Michelstaedter committed suicide: an act that some people believe to be the practical culmination of his philosophy. It seems that none other than Julius Evola also almost committed suicide after reading Persuasion and Rhetoric. Apparently it was only by reading a fragment of the Majjhima Nikaya, one of the five Nikaya texts within the canon of Theravada Buddhism, did Evola become persuaded to not kill himself. And then, against annihilating cosmos of Michelstaedter, Evola proposed a fascist metaphysics that he called “Magical Idealism”. Monacelli contrasts this with Michelstaedter’s answer to life, which Monacelli supposes to be an openness to “inorganic desire”, even if means total surrender to the laws of cosmic massacre. Such illustrates the core dichotomy of Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview: the split is between the “Right Hand Path”, defined by idealistic self-fortification of a consciousness trained to rule the world, and the “Left Hand Path”, defined as a mysticism that strives to unveil the true and hideous nature of the world in order to surrender to it. That last part is more operative than anything. Other iterations of the Left Hand Path also share with Gruppo Di Nun the aim of destroying the veil of reality so as to unleash its true nature, in all its darkness, and break down the barriers to your own agency and self-awareness, and, yes, derive power from it. I suppose I could be describing what Monacelli calls “sadistic” worldview. Such a worldview can, as I have hopefully shown thus far (especially in the previous article), draw a perverse sense of strength from many aspects Gruppo Di Nun’s entropic philosophy. But in the overall Gruppo Di Nun’s response is not the “sadistic” response, and is in fact the “masochistic” response, one that ironically actually hues closer to what is traditionally understand as the “Right Hand Path”. Again, the example of Marxism-Leninism and its definition of imperialism versus any other practical definition of the term springs to mind for a suitable analogy to what I see.
The duality of Michelstaedter’s pessimism and Julius Evloa’s esoteric fascist response to it seems to get more attention in Amy Ireland’s afterword at the end of the book, so I think we can brief turn to it. To hear Ireland tell it, Michelstaedter proposed a universe in which it was impossible for individuals to access things like eternity which might bring themselves into coincidence with themselves, thereby attaining what Michelstaedter called “persuasion”, because that would mean an absence of lack that is impossible to attain. For Michelstaedter, only death allows being to experience itself fully, but death also extinguishes being: thus, the entirety of human existence is a tortuous paradox. Evola’s response involved the reinterpretation of Michelstaedter’s philosophy into an extreme theory of the self-sufficiency of being, in which persuasion and direct access to the absolute were both attainable for specific individuals (“spiritually strong” and “Aryan” men) through a certain form of occult training that he devised. Evola’s dichotomy was between “spontaneity” and “domination”, which he coded in terms of gender and sexual and racial determinism, which seems ironic for his rhetoric of “freedom” and “the absolute individual” until you remember that Evola defined “freedom” as “domination” – that is to say, the domination of an elite clique of “Aryan” men. There can be few more abject forms of false hope than this. But is that not coloured by a broader idea that you must first accept yourself as part of an order of the universe, in that it is only within this order that, for select individuals who have the “correct” place (biological, racial, sexual, gendered etc.) within it, allows them to secure their ordained place as rulers of the world. True, Evola’s philosophy at every turn aims for the fascistic transcendence of – or perhaps rather escape from – matter, but if we take seriously the idea of “self-deification” as a function of a Hermetic order, that order is already surely latent even in the material world. Evola may had denied the existence of God, but his throughline, taken through Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding, gives us the picture that people can only “overcome matter” because “God” or some stand-in for him allows it, as the secret ruler of everything. Thus, in practice, the dichotomy between the acceptance and control of reality is a false one within the purview of esoteric fascism, whose adherents are all too happy to insist on their image of objective truth being accepted as reality, often by force. And in the end, it seems like a fundamentally mediocre alternative to the contradiction presented by Michelstaedter, or rather to the masochistic acceptance presented by Monacelli.
But, as much as there is to talk about the matter of Evola, we are not finished with Monacelli’s exploration of masochism. Returning to the essay at hand, we now get something of a curveball. Because in Monacelli’s words, “we need to impale God himself”. Having just established God as the Outside for which the masochist is a kind fo ecstatic, suffering transmitter into the world, this seems puzzling. But we are introduced to Andrea Emo, a reclusive Italian philosopher apparently known for a uniquely pessimistic take on the Hegelian dialectic. Emo’s God is the unstoppable abolition of everything, a hidden war latent within time that ceaselessly and meaninglessly destroys everything that is, and which will eventually destroy itself. Emo’s maxim was that God consists in his own annihilation. Now this would be the point where Monacelli at least appears to extend his masochism beyond Christianity. Before getting ahead of ourselves we can look at Emo’s adherence to what was called “actualism”, which was incidentally also the same form of Hegelianism advocated by Giovanni Gentile. Actualism can be summarized as a philosophy that interprets the Hegelian dialectic as centering a perpetual action that always moves away from its inner potential towards its outer consumption. For Giovanni Gentile, this meant that everything is like a fire, in that everything exists because it burns and exists to be combust. For Andrea Emo, though, everything is already being consumed, and everything in the universe is its own massacre, every chain of being sheds blood until the whole universe is nothing but blackness. For Gentile, the dialectical act is the foundation and constitution of everything. For Emo, it actually demostrates that there is no foundation or constitution to anything, and that everything is progressing in a straight line towards the “final attractor”. In this philosophy, the crucifixion of Jesus is itself God crucifying himself just to show humanity the way to its self-consumption. And of course, for Emo, the only legitimate knowledge consists of masochistic regression, of a “return to the Heart of Darkness”, abandoning everything and going back before creation: salvation consists, in a word, in memory.
The metaphor of Heraclitus is interesting to play with. Monacelli describes Emo’s actualism as the expression of an all-consuming war. For both Emo and Monacelli it would almost seem to be a one-sided battle if that’s the case, to the point that it seems to be misleading. It’s not a war if it’s a massacre. The metaphor of war is ultimately obscured and subsumed into the metaphor of the massacre. But the Heraclitean metaphor could as well be turned towards the dialectic as the conatus described by Bronze Age Collapse in “Lifting the Absolute”. In the all-consuming war, everything is burned, cut, recombined, remade in the alchemical conatus of struggle. But more important is the metaphor of crucifixion, because it is here that we realize that even God’s “impalement” in this scheme can be seen as a consummation of Christianity in almost theothanatological terms. At base, Christianity asserts that there is one God, and that he incarnated himself as a man who would suffer and die in agony (only to be resurrected) so that humans could access the “salvation” offered by God through his “love”. Here, the message is our self-consumption and that we are all pacing in a straight line towards the final attraction of dissolution, and God allows himself to suffer before us so that we can see it. It is ultimately in many ways a reproduction of Christian philosophy, with the possible difference being that God himself dies at the end of the dialectic, as the final sacrifice of his own ceaseless violence. One can can think of it as a kind of Hegelian Christian theothanatology, except that God isn’t dead…not yet. Christianity is in this sense maintained, albeit “accelerated”.
Lastly, Monacelli introduces us to one more major influence on Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic philosophy: an Italian novelist named Guido Morselli. Particularly important among Morselli’s novels is Dissipatio H. G. (“The Vanishing”), which is about a man who, after attempting and failing to end his own life in a cave, discovers that he somehow survived the extinction of the human species, and now finds himself in a world without human beings. It is not irrelevant to note that, in 1973, Morselli himself committed suicide, apparently motivated by his book being rejected by Italian publishers. Through Morselli, Monacelli outlines Gruppo Di Nun’s masochism as centered around a vision of the world without humans as the emptying out of everything human. Dissipatio H. G. is taken as presenting a world which, in the absence of humans, an oddly serene and certainly inhuman emptiness. Morselli, in presenting this extinction, apparently relishes in the demise of his own species. Through his protagonist he seems to seize every opportunity to deride humanity and mock all human hopes and dreams. Thus, Monacelli portrays Morselli as the saint of omnicidal visions, misanthropic joy, and extinction. The masochism that Monacelli advocates hinges on the desire to capture that feeling, a particular kind of ecstasy and emptiness that they associate with extinction, but without actually passing through the gates of suicide. The gnosis that Monacelli attributes to Morselli is established as a guiding inspiration for Gruppo Di Nun, alongisde a religious love for the laws of thermodynamics, and so the point for them is the pleasure of living without your humanity and infinite reflection on dissolution. That is what going beyond the human means in the context of this philosophy, and thus it colours their perception of the demonic.
It would seem here that masochistic mysticism, based on Christianity, cultimates in the desire to see the extinction of humanity, yet inevitably even the gnosis of suicide must be felt in the absence of actual suicide. Such a masochism would turn life back against itself, a thought that makes little sense without reflecting on the morality of humanity at the height of civilizational modernity, and its current crash course. The Christian-Schopenhauerian spiral is complete, reaching its natural conclusion, and it calls for the denial of everything else. The totality and exclusivity of masochism is the consummation of the Gospel, which seems to ingeniously wear the flesh of the demonic as its disguise, like a reversal of the trope of the sheep in wolf’s clothing. True, the visions that Monacelli’s masochism offers would never be offered by much of Christianity, though really that’s just much of exoteric Christianity, but even the hellish nightmares seem to be the relevations of a reinterpretation of a Christian God in a reinterpretation of Christian mysticism. Perhaps Monacelli means for this to be the extinction that we are to consider in Mandy, which is curious because it’s just not what one gets from the Unmensch of Stirner’s egoism: as if the Unique would possibly abolish itself just to be one with the God that it had just destroyed in the pyres of the black flame. But there of course remains the question of Satanism and inversion, because as it still stands we are looking at extinctionism as the consummation of Christianity, which is thus posed as an alternative to the Right Hand Path. Entirely distinct from Hermeticism it may be, but a break from Christianity it most decidely is not.
But there is one last question, one that may offer some fascinating horizons, but for which I have no answer. It is in fact the question that Monacelli asks towards the end of his essay: can the homicidal dream have a different purpose? It is of course wedded to the question of how to mystically experience human extinction without giving up your own life, but I find that it has other ramifications as well, and perhaps even a faint possibility of Satanic perversion even here. My suspicion is that it goes back to Monacelli’s definition of sadism as “separative wisdom”, almost certainly for the philosophy of kink and fetish, or at least certain parts thereof. Perhaps one may even see in this a gnosis of Cain, as much as a Gnosis of Sophia, Satan, Lucifer, Odin, a broad Gnosis that, no doubt is distinct from that of Tiamat, the Mother Goddess of Sorrows, or for that matter the Christian God. Ironically enough, perhaps a passage from the Bible is a fitting enough closure for this section, if only that it might be a spark for the future. For the Book of John said of Satan, “he was a murderer from the beginning”. But in the Bible you almost never see Satan kill anyone, certainly not in “the beginning”. So who did Satan kill in the beginning?
Via Negativa (The Fifth Nigredo)
Our fifth and last discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Catholic Dark”, written by Claudi Kulesko. This essay appears to be a discussion of asceticism and apophatic mysticism and theology in the context of xenophilia and Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of the “great attractor”. Here, again, we seem to cross through the context of Christian mysticism as conditioning the overall core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, but in a way that serves to communicate a sense of “lightness” that perhaps presents fairly interesting implications about nothingness, or rather darkness, and some will to darkness, though one still has to content with the Christianity.
Kulesko begins with a digression, a story about a woman in medieval Flanders named Christina: known to Catholics as Saint Christina the Astonishing. When she was just 21 years old, Christina had apparently “died” after suffering a seizure, But then, as her funeral rites were being observed, she suddenly opened her eyes and then rose up to the beams supporting the roof of the local church, or so her legend goes. In any case, she went on to live a long life before dying of old age in 1224. But her “resurrection” is what interests Kulesko. Christina “dies”, then in her resurrection she tells everyone the story of her journey from Hell, through Purgatory, and to Heaven, meeting God himself and being allowed to return to her life in order atone for the sins of the souls stuck in Purgatory. But Kulesko sees something morbid in it as well. He asks, what if Christina was just a rotting body infested with demons, or one of the living dead? Kulesko says that she apparently started to seem more disgusted with humans, and increasingly inhuman herself. She spends hours on end in solitude, climbing everywhere, supposedly she even soared in the air, and when her parents chained her up to keep her home, she somehow broke those chains. On top of all that she supposedly couldn’t burn, drown, or be hurt in any way. Locals started calling her “wild”, “savage”, or “crazy”, and subsequently abused her, forcing her to flee to a city where criminals take pity on her and show her kindness.
Where exactly is this all going? Perhaps it is that the life of Christina – or perhaps, the life she lived after her life – portrays the anti-gravity of a great attractor. Kulesko figures her body as being inhabited by an “alien” presence, that presence being the Outside. For Kulesko she is nothing but an appendage of this power, a link to a paradise that Kulesko interprets as absolute night (where for Christina herself it was otherwise probably just the Christian Heaven, harps and all), for whom the world of the living and of humans is a Hell. I can sense a faint Gnostic throughline here in that the longing for death seems inseparable from the longing to return to God as the divine origin of everything, and the separation felt in the physical world populated by humans feels like a curse. That is how it must be for Christina, since she longed constantly for the return to death, and on the day of her second death she apparently yelled at a nun “Why are you disturbing me, why are you forcing me to come back?”. But then what are we looking at from this standpoint: God as the great attractor?
Next we turn to the example of Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic who lived in Syria during the 5th century. In his youth, Simeon was apparently so intense in his asceticism, and his uncompromising practice of austerities caught on so rapidly, that he was expelled from a local monastery who thought his practices were excessive and dangerous to their followers. Then he decided to go and take up a space for himself to continue his austerities, and a few years later he decided to climb up a pillar and install a platform at the top, sitting four meters above the ground, where he could only be accessed by the public through a nearby ladder. Over the years, he ascended to ever taller pillars, placing himself ever higher and ever farther away from the masses who pestered him so. By the time he died, Simeon sat as high as 15 meters above the ground. Kulesko suggests that in this activity Simeon broke with all the trends of ancient Christianity – the Church Fathers, the Christian Cynics, and even the Desert Fathers – while producing a completely new discipline. In the process, Simeon seemingly makes use of the tools of this world in order to progressively abandon it, discarding the tools themselves as he goes and makes his ascent. The pillar itself can almost be seen as akin to a leader to heaven, whereby the ascetic moves closer and closer to God, and further away from the desires of the world. For Kulesko this then connects to the very structure of the cathedral itself, in that its spires are the remnants of an ascetic ideology of progressive elevation.
We arrive at gravity, and it’s opposition to the lightness of the mystic. We should note that, from the standpoint of Christian asceticism, “gravity” would mean the weight of the world and its temptations, perhaps arguably even matter itself from a certain point of view, while “lightness” is the condition of having emptied oneself for God. In any case, Kulesko directs us to the example of Joseph of Cupertino, an Italian Franciscan friar and saint known for supposedly having levitated above the ground. Kulesko interprets the story of Joseph of Cupertino as an illustration of the horizon of “gravity”, whose only favourable end is death. Until death, light spirits must keep their feet on the ground. This is compared to a scenario where a hot air balloon, in this instance capable of rising indefinitely, and its crew, increasingly and understandably anxious as the air thins and becomes less visible, refuses to continue the journey. The verticality of the cathedral seems to be its own symbolic institution, which then gave way to horizontality and in turn to monasticism and hermitude, with their perceived autonomy and silence.
Where is this all going, besides perhaps to the surface of the moon? The answer, it seems, is solitude. The worldly and vertical church strives to destroy or recuperate the horizontal, which thus causes the anchorites or stylites of the age to flee to whatever precipice they can find for themselves, that they might rise above the monastery and the cathedral. In so doing, they might claim a path towards a sort of original place and from there an unlimited altitude. To paraphrase a passage of one Arthur Schopenhauer’s manuscripts, one who takes the high mountain road must leave everything behind in making their path through the snow, cling themselves to the rocks with as much strength as they can muster, and then in so doing they might see the whole world beneath them, without being disturbed by anything. Thus the stylite severs themselves from all humanity and all worldly stimuli in order for the soul to reach the ultimate altitudes of an inner highness.
I believe that there are familiar themes that converge on this point. For one thing, the theme of the abandonment of humanity is obviously striking, and also conveys itself as if directly continued from Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”. There seems to me to be some sort of connection to the theme of self-emptying that Monacelli talks about, including the empyting of humanity, and in this case it’s reflected in ascetic severance. On the other hand, it also seems to play out as another application of what Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”: that process of bracketing out everything, so as to unlock new configurations, or, in this case, the highest altitude of the soul. I almost think that the stylite striving toward the supreme altitude is meant to echo Bronze Age Collapse’s concept of “tendency towards the absolute”. Of course, it’s worth noting that the asceticism we are talking about is still Christian asceticism and Christian mysticism, not the pagan physical culture of the Hellenes. But, perhaps there is an inescapable familiarity to it, as though supreme altitude is comparable to the absolute being tended towards. Perhaps even the lightness of the ascetic may be the closest that the Chrisitan gets to the deathlessness of the gods that they despise as demons. But it comes from a bracketing out that is at once the denial of the world around them and their own desires, whereas the alchemical conatus of steel and flesh always happens within it, and the mountain path is that of a soul struggling towards God, whereas our conatus pushes towards the overcoming of God.
In any case, we turn from the mountain path to the mountain itself. The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, a.k.a. Petrarch, wrote in his (possibly fictitious) Ascent of Monte Ventoux about his shame for the selfish passion of climbing, and his reckoning with the real eschatological status of mountain-climbing. In this setting, the mountain itself is a continuation of the body of the Church, as the precipice which, just like a cathedral spire, elevates itself towards heaven. In some pre-Christian religious traditions, it was more like the mountain was its own deity in an animistic sense, though in traditions such as Greek and Canaanite polytheism there were mountains (namely Olympus and Sapon respectively) that can be seen as elevated precipices towards the divine realm. But what Kulesko focuses on is the oppressive weight of gravity in places such as Aokigahara, the infamous “Suicide Forest” located at the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji in Japan, where if you go down through the lower valley you will find a force at the centre of earth that seems to confine spirit, to the point that not even in the suicides can the soul rise to the sky. That weight seems to be a gravitational attractor, but it also seems like something meant to be escaped. Or at least, there is this tendency towards escape, one that makes the ascetic fundamentally vertical and anti-terrestrial, fundamentally alien. Their desire for constant vertical surpassing meant to be understood here as based on a desire for lightness, which is thus to be understood as a negative will, in the sense that the soul must sever and bracket everything keeping it attached to the earth. Yet again. it’s hard to escape the presence of a throughline more or less aligned with conventional Gnosticism (which, to be fair, historically consisted of heterodox sects of Christian mysticism), for whom the entire material cosmos was literally a prison from which the soul must escape in order to be reunited with God. But from there we turn our attention towards a different, “alien” attractor.
Between 1578 and 1579, the Spanish Catholic mystic Juan de Yepes Alvarez (a.k.a. John of the Cross) wrote a treatise called Ascent of Mount Carmel, which outlined what he believed to be a progression towards the summits of “the Highness” and the “luminous darkness” that awaits. In this system, perfection leads upward in a narrow path, requiring that every “burden” associated with “lower thing” must be denied. Indeed, God in the Carmelite scheme seems to demand nothing less than “spiritual death” in all things. God, being completely incomprehensible and inaccessible as per the tradition of negative/apophatic theology, needs the will to centre its activity precisely on the incomprohensible and inaccessible rather than what it can sense. Within this purview of negative theology, one extinguishes every divine attribute, and in this case brackets the principle of the intellectual soul. It also seems to amount to an individual and cosmic process of unlearning, in which one frees oneself not only from a lifetime of social conditioning but also from billions of years of gravitation in matter. Here, I suppose, is where we are able to see Christian negation ultimately turning against Christianity, as part of the dominant complex of social conditioning that must be negated. The ultimate point of this negation is to manifest the most volatile concept of all: nothingness. That is how Christian mystical theology understands God. From another perspective, though, it is larger than God. In any case, for Kulesko, nothingness is all that remains when everything has been negated, and there is nothing lighter than nothingness. Even so, however, the Christian notion of mystical ascension being discussed doesn’t end in nothingness, even though we have just established that the apophatic God is nothingness.
The emptying that both Monacelli and Kulesko talk about, and what is referred to in Christian mysticism and theology as “kenosis”, is the culmination of a process whereby God becomes more alien as he loses all the attrbites afforded by humans while the human loses everything that makes them human, and both become more intangible and abstract in the process of negation. There is something that connects them, and it is lightness. Because lightness doesn’t want for anything, except nothingness and the annihilation of all distinction between God and his creation. In Christian terms, this means the surrender of everything to the love of dissolution through which God loses his creatures and all creatures lose God, the abjuration of free will, wisdom, and all faculty to rapture and endless ascent. Here I think, I get the feeling I remember being told that the idea that the Christian God opposed free will was some mere paranoia, the prejudice of some Reddit-brained “edgy new atheist” in modern internet parlance. Yet that appears to be exactly what is spelled out, not merely in the exoteric form of Christianity that the masses are supposed to just consume, but in the core of Christian mysticism itself. Right at the core of Christianity is a belief system built around one God whose one desire, more than anything, is for humanity, and all life, to surrender itself completely to him – and, perhaps, to be destroyed by him. And the Christian, at the most core sense, strives to be raised up by God, even if they take up Meister Eckart’s maxim “Therefore let us to pray to God that we may be free of God”, to never return to the earth and forever be united and identical with God. To return, in this setting, would “weigh down the soul”.
Return and non-return possess their own significance for Kulesko. Desire itself, by way of etymology, in his interpretation signifies a kind of cosmic nostalgia. The “mysticism of return” seems to involve bracketing out the world, knowledge, individual consciousness, but always with the prospect of removing those brackets to regain them. The mystic is sated by having been changed irrevocably even in their return, their heart made full with even a small taste of the stars. The “mysticism of non-return”, by contrast, offers no satisfaction, no confirmation, only an endless continuity of rapture and ascent. If the mystic is a channel through which the boundless night signals into the world, then perhaps we might interpret “return” as the ability to fill yourself with the night, retain part of it in yourself, and by this bring it into the world, while “non-return” would be to simply disappear into the night forever. But “non-return” entails more. “Non-return”, for Kulesko, entails a process of the soul being completely stripped of the body and the casuality of nature, guided away from the world by an alien attractor. The “non-returning” mystic seems again like a Gnostic pneuma, a piece of God’s spirit longing to return to God, longing to break from the weight of the hylic realm that was set in motion by Sophia’s transgression. Though it is perhaps here that we may arrive at the sense all of this is simply setting up the logic for a very specific kind of attraction.
Our final exploration dwells on the subject of xenophilia: that is, the attraction to or love of the foreign, or in this case the “alien”. The xenos at the centre of Kulesko’s concept of xenophilia does not denote something merely foreign, but rather something “wholly other”. The supreme xenos in this sense is silence, that is to say the deafening silence and extrahuman indifference of the universe. Here perhaps we may note that, no matter how apophatic, Christianity still predicates itself on the belief that God loves us, so perhaps we are looking at something quite different: after all, how exactly can God love us while also being indifferent to humanity, and how can the Christian God be so radically indifferent without invalidating the core premise of Christian salvific love? In this sense cosmic xenophilia would appear fundamentally one-sided: the universe cannot possibly love us, but we can love the universe, more than it will ever love us. One wonders, what is the point?
In any case, Kulesko takes cosmic silence to be at the root of Christina the Astonishing’s nostalgia and for the universe to be but a tomb, and part of the fabric of Rudolf Otto’s concept of the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinans, the latter of which is the magnetism of cosmic silence. The “mysticism of non-return”, with its dizzying ascent, fills the mystic with xenophilia. But there is still the locus of the body, in that xenophilia is to begin in the flesh. There’s also a locus in all the distinct forms of the natural world, all manifestations of a kind of “positive nothingness”. In all things, the divine exists as an “imprint”, which is to say an innate faculty of ascension of anti-gravity. I think this may be another strange double: from the standpoint of Christian mysticism, this is the innate love of God thereby tending towards God, but from an alternative, creatively Pagan standpoint drawn from Bronze Age Collapse, it is not God’s love but instead the primordial tension towards the absolute. These two avenues, from what we have shown, bear out different conclusions. But in either case, the imprint is to be seen as a faculty of emancipation, which appears to be connected to the quality of nothingness. Vanity, that lightness of things, reveals infinite horizons at the height of the eternal. If there is no limit to form, there is no limit to matter, and, in the words of Jean Buridan, different worlds can be created by divine power.
From there we arrive at quite the curveball, wherein the apophatic quality of the divine is a nihility by which one accesses none other than apotheosis itself! At the highest altitude, which approaches eternity, flesh changes and becomes mineral, energetic, or atmospheric, objects made of unknown materials and possessing inscrutable characteristics and functions come into existence, and the organism becomes all the more alien and disharmonious, more deformed and inaccessible. That, for Kulesko, is the very image of God, in that it repudiates all worldly attributes on behalf of the darkness of the unknown, at which point one attains “maximum propulsion”. The soul has become godlike, having either surpassed or abandoned everything. For Kulesko this means entering the heart of the divine, which means merging oneself with the xenos, the Outside, the wholly Other. This in turn means entering into a place without beginning or end, here or now, one or many, before or after. It is anti-gravity triumphant, and it is eternity. It is also interpreted in terms of xenophilia, that sense of oneness being its apogee and consummation. But, this xenophilia is both unconditional and unsatisfiable, and so it has no goals and no foundation, leads nowhere, and progresses only as a ceaseless plummet to silence.
With the conclusion of “Catholic Dark” I at this point think it is worth very carefully considering the role of Christianity in all this as seemingly multiple contours from the rest of Revolutionary Demonology converge. On the one hand, much of this essay is focused on an explication of Christian mysticism and theology in relation to asceticism, and there’s throughline that feels similar to the essays “Mater Dolorosa” and “The Hightest Form of Gnosis” in that appears to employ Christianity or aspects of Christianity as part of its own distinct framework, which of course undermines Gruppo Di Nun’s broader rejection of Satanism. On the other hand, the culmination of Kulesko’s discussion of nothingness in apophatic theology appears to lead into places more or less consistent with Kulesko’s broad body of work within Revolutionary Demonology but which are unfamiliar to Christianity, such as in the horizons of the apotheosis of the soul. I would also say that the basic model of progressive elevation, forgetting that it is a model drawn from Christian asceticism, strikes me as one of the clearest illustrations of an actually centrifugal motion. That may sound strange in view of the example of Christina’s nostalgia, but one is not “returning to the void”, in fact the point is to go up to eternity and not return at all. Instead, from the starting point of the earth, one ascends the mountain path to move further and further away from the earth, from any notion of the centre, towards the endless horizon of transfiguration and, to go against Christian terms, apotheosis. And as much as self-deification is meant to be opposed by Gruppo Di Nun, apotheosis of some sort is what we’re looking at. Of course, we absolutely cannot ignore that everything being discussed about Christian asceticism comes from the Christian standpoint that the world is fundamentally plagued by evil, latent with the taint of Adam and Eve’s original transgression, and it is for this reason that the ascetic strives to “lighten himself”, climb pillars, or in any way detach themselves from the world.
Yet, for everything I have said about this discussion of Christian theology and mysticism, perhaps there is another way to look at it. The horizon of nihility is consistent with the darkness that Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”. So what if we were to take the presentation of Christian negative theology as containing a different potentiality: what if, instead of simply reproducing Christianity, we are seeing the inner diagram of Christianity’s undoing? What if we see God writing his own demise? And what if, that entire horizon is to be seen in the infinite power of nihility, hidden beneath the name of God? Or, yet again paging Bronze Age Collapse, the absolute to which humans and perhaps even gods strive for and in which they unlock their own apotheosis.
I think that the theme of the atmospheric body is a clue here. Remember that Bronze Age Collapse also described the form of the absolute, and thereby his notion of “supreme fitness”, in terms of force or atmosphere. Remember that Kulesko described Dracula’s barbarian heritage in terms of his becoming-mist, his death as his dissolving into the atmospheric world, and his bloodlust as the desire to dissolve into this kind of atmospheric becoming. For Bronze Age Collapse, to exist is to insist, since life is a conatus, and therefore one insists and struggles to transform and enrich flesh and spirit up to apotheosis. For the Christian ascetic, to exist is to insist mostly on cutting away from the flesh and the world for the sole sake of approaching God. But there is still the throughline of atmospheric apotheosis that is, in many ways. I sense a point at which the horizon that becomes available is not surrender in the fashion of Christian or Christian-esque cosmic love, but instead the stealing of fire from heaven. Of course, perhaps that’s not quite “non-return” as Kulesko put it. But the diagram of Christianity’s undoing that is locked within nothingness. To hear Claudio Kulesko tell it, Christian apophatic mysticism positions God as essentially nothingness, and on this basis divine power appears to be absolutely capable of generating any possibility. But then there is God, being the only egoist who constantly depends on herds of duped egoists to support him, and then there is the egoist themselves. Then there is the idea that both Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli present, by way of Miroslav Griško and Andrea Emo, that God seems to always be in some kind of eliminativistic war against the universe he is supposed to have created. Monacelli puts it as an all-consuming war, but there is no such thing as a one-sided war. Thus, there is nothingness against nothingness. Our ability to pervert the horizon we are given lies in the ability to oppose negation against negation: for every manifestation of Einzige to participate in the war of all against all, against God.
I’ve talked for a bit about Gruppo Di Nun on this blog before, commenting on a series of ideas that were presented in an interview conducted on Diffractions Collective, and since then I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of a copy of their book Revolutionary Demonology, which I had already been waiting for since the summer. The book launch event, hosted by Urbanomic as a lecture tilted “Cultivating Darkness”, further deepened this anticipation for Revolutionary Demonology, particularly as I grappled with its particularly bleak vision and resolved to derive something unique from Grupp Di Nun’s take on the occult philosophy of becoming. Now, at last, I have a copy of Revolutionary Demonology, and am now able to analyse its content. This article will be represent my effort to do just this; to study its philosophical contours and from there derive value or critique. I think that Revolutionary Demonology ultimately presents a work that cannot be overlooked.
This will be Part 1 of a lengthy discussion of Revolutionary Demonology and the overall philosophy presented within it. Here we will discuss the introductory ritual and first two chapters of Revolutionary Demonology. Part 2 will focus on the thid chapter, “Nigredo”. Part 3 will consist of a series of reflections around the whole of the book and what I perceive to its overall ethos and my own response to it.
But first, up until now I’ve neglected to give Gruppo Di Nun a proper introduction in my writings. To put it simply, they’re at least ostensibly a collective of Italian anti-fascist psychoactivists and philosophers of the occult who want to redefine the Left Hand Path away from what they perceive as the Hermetic and Kabbalistic orthodoxy of modern occultism. They seem to have dissolved relatively recently for reasons unknown, and it seems that all attempts to reach them have been met with silence. But it seems to me that, although Amy Ireland says they are “enemies of identity” known only by given initials, you can actually find most of the authors by name. “CK” is Claudio Kulesko, who was publicly acknowledged as one of the founders of Gruppo Di Nun, and is otherwise an author and editor at Nero Editions and Not Nero Editions, and who also studied philosophy at Roma Tre University. “VM” is Valerio Mattioli, another editor at Nero who also contributed for Liberazione and La Repubblica and might also be a musician in the experimental band Heroin in Tahiti. “EM” is Enrico Monacelli, who seems to be a PhD at the State University of Milan and is also a writer for The Quietus, Nero, and Not. And “LT” is Laura Tripaldi, who seems to be a researcher in Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca. The only truly mysterious figure here is Bronze Age Collapse: all we know about them is that they are an obscure blogger whose pseudonymous identity is a parody of the far-right ideologue Bronze Age Pervert. On the other hand I suppose I have no idea who the “High Priestess of Nun”, from the Diffractions Collective interview, is either.
In any case, the fundamental basis of their esoteric philosophy is a kind of philosophical or ontological masochism, or masochistic mysticism, based in turn on a distinct expression of cosmic pessimism and almost anti-cosmic nihilism, the main ideological premise of which is the death drive interpreted as an overriding love for one’s own dissolution, and the rejection of everything else. In this, they reject self-deification of just about any kind in favour of a disintegration of the self that brings about what they believe to be the deepest form of cosmic love. That love, they believe, is a force of cosmic attraction that draws all beings towards dissolution and disintegration.
Before we begin properly, I think it is best to address an elephant in the room immediately: the demonology. It seems at once to be a misnomer and (arguably) not a misnomer. There’s not really any study of demons or how to magically work with or religiously worship them in any way, or at least not in. The book has “rituals”, but these are more like brief manifestos. “Demonology” here is a term used to refer to systems of hyperstition – as K-HOLE put it, neither disinformation nor mythology but rather “fictions that make themselves true”. Gruppo Di Nun refers to “the demonological practices of the alt-right”, presumably meaning dangerous systems of hyperstition created by and around modern right-wing nationalism and fascism, which are in turn powered by the esoteric fascism that Gruppo Di Nun attributes to the Right Hand Path, and it can be assumed from the title of Revolutionary Demonology that Gruppo Di Nun means to counter the hyperstitions of patriarchy and fascism with a new set of queer hyperstitions devoted to the outsideness of chaos. The demonic itself is defined as a dimension that is external to the order of humans but which, at the same time, is capable of breaking into that order and disrupting it, and demons themselves are understood as entities that can enter the material plane and both feed and multiply within it through human vectors. That said, the demons themselves don’t get much focus at all, and instead the book arguably devotes itself almost entirely to that dimension that perhaps they represent.
Fundamentals of Revolutionary Demonology
We start off with a forceful proclamation of the cult of entropy, the fundamental ethos of Gruppo Di Nun’s working in ritual form followed by elaborations of the basic principles of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy.
The ritual opening, “Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”, establishes a fairly pessimistic mytho-philosophical basis of what Gruppo Di Nun takes to be the Left Hand Path. The universe begins as primordial chaos, a boundless ocean of night and infinite recombination. This nocturnal ocean is the body of an ancient dragon, who we can interpret as Tiamat from Babylonian mythology, and her hisses are the music that all matter vibrates to, that you can hear in silence in its deepest recesses, in the beating of your own heart. The order of the cosmos, taken specifically as the order of the One God Universe (implying a monotheistic cosmos), appears to us as a primordial unity, but in reality is a “thermodynamic abomination” carved in the flesh and blood of the original Mother, from which it continually and coercively derives life. We humans are born from her dismembered body and entrails, our civilization is perpetually nourished on her blood, and as it continually builds itself higher on her shattered body we are perpetually separated from her. But the blood and entrails that form us serve as the link to her being, and so our atoms tremble before her endless cries, such to the extent that love itself is the constant hunger for return to her womb. Meanwhile, the order of creation is always in danger of its inevitable collapse, and contains within itself its own decay. The ancient goddesses are replicated and then infiltrate the order of Man’s Unique God as remnants of the ancient dragon. The light at the moment of creation was so intense that the order of the universe could not contain it, and then it shattered, and the world plunged into darkness. At the heart of matter is the fall of this order and of the emanations, amidst its ruins is a blasphemy that replicates itself in its own collapsing structure, and over this reigns the infernal mother Malkhut. Pain in this world is an insurrectionary agony by which the ego is sacrificed in flames. The city of Babylon stands on an underworld where the devotees of the primordial Mother erect temples to a chthonic goddess. The metropolis pulsates with larva as the division of universal order is multiplied, and the city gradually suffocates as a result. And so we are all waves of decline partaking in a ritual of death. Every drop of the blood of the dragon Mother illuminates the abyss, and as the city burns and crumbles the slaughtered dragon will return and bring the abyss upon the world. That is the narrative that Gruppo Di Nun gives us.
An important theme pervading the work of Gruppo Di Nun is what is apparently the radical definition of the concept of the Left Hand Path, and with it the Right Hand Path. Gruppo Di Nun operate on a distinct conception of these two paths that it asserts as being derived from the tradition of Hermetic Qabalah. On this basis, they assert that self-deification, normally understood in modern occultism as the purview of the Left Hand Path, is actually the fundamental goal of the Right Hand Path, which is understood as collection of sects that, in practice, tend to differ from and conflict with each other but are nonetheless united by the goal of producing godlike initiates who can live forever and gain control over the entire world as God. So what’s the Left Hand Path, then? In a previous section, they refer in a footnote to Moshe Idel’s Primeval Evil in Kabbalah, which in turn refers to the sefirot of Binah, Gevurah, and Malkhut as representing negatively portrayed feminine qualities that then belong to the “left side” of the divine hierarchy. The terminology of the left-right hand paths is, to my knowlege, not employed in pre-modern Kabbalistic tradition, so we have to assume the connection to the Left Hand Path is extrapolated by Gruppo Di Nun. Unfortunately the precise definition of the Left Hand Path is not really explored anywhere else in the book, or at least not nearly as much as the Right Hand Path (it seems this is not an uncommon part of RHP vs LHP discourse), which they understand as the separation of spirit from unformed matter for the birth of an ordered world. However, on the other hand it is not difficult to infer what they mean by the term, in that their conception of the Left Hand Path centers around acheiving magical attainment (in their case the realization of cosmic love) through disintegration by invoking the chaotic and entropic (and hence “demonic”) forces of outside the order of humanity and Man’s Unique God.
These forces are perhaps encapsulated in Gruppo Di Nun’s tri-triangular seal, whose nine points denote monstrous beings and goddesses presumably of the entropic outside; Ammit (the Egyptian beast-goddess they refer to as “The Devourer”), Nammu (the Mesopotamian creator goddess they refer to as “The Mother”), Kauket (the Egyptian goddess of darkness they refer to as “The Twilight”), Hushbishag (the Sumerian chthonic goddess they refer to as “The True Form of Night of Time”), Nungal (the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld and prisons they refer to as “The Expression of All That is Done”), Sekhmet (the Egyptian solar goddess they refer to as “The Fires that Consume the Universe”), Uadjet (the Egyptian snake goddess they refer to as “The Black Sun”), Ishtar (the Babylonian goddess of love and war they refer to as “The Bleeding Star”), and finally none other than Tiamat (“The Worm” herself). Yet, with the exception of Tiamat, none of these entities are ever discussed again. In any case, though, honouring them means abnegating oneself in a sacrificial love for cosmic dissolution and the disintegration of the self in the jaws of the dragon.
There is something I can’t help but escape when it comes to the subject of inversion. In the “Dogma” section, which I believe was originally a standalone manifesto/essay by Gruppo Di Nun, Satanism is rather starkly pillaried for its inversions of Christianity, under the belief that Satanism represents a symmetrical reversal of Christianity and thus an identical copy. The thesis in play is that Satanism, by ostensibly reversing Christian morality, negating the existence of God, simply reproduces Christianity in itself. But already at the start of Revolutionary Demonology we see three separate scripts flipped in the fashion of inversion. The narrative of the dismemberment of the Mother obviously retains of the narrative territory of Enuma Elish, but adopts a sort of anti-cosmicist framing within it and takes the side of Tiamat against Marduk. In so doing it sort of directly references the narrative of “the ancients” (clearly the ancient Babylonians or Mesopotamians) Marduk is in this sense an ancient Mesopotamian expression of the Man-God Machine, and Tiamat is the slaughtered dragon, the primeval chaos that was the original victim of an original crime, and will return from the depths and bring the abyss upon the Earth. Similarly, the framework of Egyptian mythology is inverted in the veneration of Apophis, the enemy of the Egyptian sun, the serpent that devours the whole cosmos, as the indestructible and lesbian True Zero that is always capable of overcoming the patriarchal order of creation, taking the perspective of Egyptian magic (where Apophis is the uncreated matter that must always be slaughtered for the sake of the world) and then flipping it: identifying with a love for Apophis the uncreator, instead of his solar opponent. In regards to Kabbalah itself, although they seem to reject the Qliphtoth as essentially an inverted reproduction of Right Hand Path Kabbalah, they thus far flip the existing structure of Kabbalah so as to privilege the lower sefirot rather than the highest one, even identified Malkhut with the primordial and dismembered Mother. And this is far from the end of the discussion to be had about inversion.
One of the most important themes in the entire work is the central location of dissolution, death, suffering, and entropy. This of course is all constructed along the lines of their understanding and interpretation of thermodynamics, which forms of the core Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview. One of the important kernels of this is the link between dissolution and recombination. The discussion of Apophis – both the asteroid and the serpent it’s named after – is perhaps what first brings us to that theme. The solar disk of Ra plunges into the darkness of Duat in the course of its journey, and with it the souls of the dead, to face Apophis. Apophis is constructed as the monster that lies beyond the light of existence, representing dissolution, unconstructed matter, and eternal recombination, as the unborn uncreator swallowing all things and all souls back into the prima materia of Nun, though this very concept is also presented through a discussion of 99942 Apophis, a near-Earth asteroid that, for a brief time, people predicted would collide with Earth and cause the annihilation of the human species. Even though at this point it has been established that the asteroid Apophis will probably never impact the Earth within our lifetimes, and probably won’t be the cause of our extinction, the asteroid still occasionally haunts the imagination of the internet, which itself is a repository of every question and prediction about the doom of humanity, every manifestation of our seemingly primordial obsession with the question of our own demise. The asteroid Apophis is thus discussed as an omen of a much larger fear of and desire for our own destruction, and, for Laura Tripaldi, a lesbian love of extinction (at least in a weird Landian use of the term), an alien rejection of the cycle of heterosexual reproduction.
Something interesting is the way the absolute dissolution embodied by Apophis is positioned against the reproduction of human-divine order. But, in the tradition of Egyptian mythology and magick, Duat as a zone of becoming is itself a source of ostensibly endless life for the Sun. It always renews itself as it descends into the dark waters, even as it is constantly threatened with total destruction. To become anew is surely one horizon of becoming or recombination (itself a species of becoming). Indeed, does the reverse birth of Nibiru and creation of Planet Earth framed as the reincarnation of Tiamat in Earth (an idea I should hope that Gruppo Di Nun doesn’t take literally) not strike one as rebirth?
In any case, Apophis is of course is part of a whole “Catastrophic Astrology” which includes Nemesis, the dark phantom of twin of our Sun which supposedly threatens to exterminate life, Nibiru, the mythical Planet X and incarnation of Marduk believed to destroy all life in a cataclysmic encounter with Earth, and none other than the remnants of Tiamat herself. The imaginary of doomsday and the fictitious mythology of Zecharia Stitchin are turned into a hyperstitious expression of their overall mythology about Tiamat that then blends into the figure of the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. The primordial matter of the Mother that was dismembered to give birth to the Kingdom of God is nonetheless not dead, but rather undead, crawling up from the abyss, through the gates of Babylon, rising to destroy all of creation, and herself with it, in an unspeakable blaze of ekpyrosis. She, reborn in the clash of Nibiru, is the future, a future that consists of annihilation, a disintegration into which everything is sucked. The world’s creation itself is inverted by Nibiru’s mythical clash with Earth: whereas the cosmos was carved out of the dismembered remains of Tiamat, the Earth that was created it smashed to pieces and life drawn into disintegration.
“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology” concludes with a section titled “Spectral Materialism”, also authored by Laura Tripaldi. We’re treated to a critique of the philosophy modern science, where the idea of science as the triumph of reason over matter gives way in the laboratory where an apparent magical thinking seems to emerge in practice. By Tripaldi’s admittedly anecdotal account, there are instances where votive candles and magical talismans could sometimes be seen in the laboratories of otherwise secular-scientific study. Irreproducibility haunts a methodology wherein material evades a chemist’s control, but the chemist’s proper skill is described in terms that suggest a strange sense of “affinity” between human minds and the inanimate substances. There is a discussion of the physics of Erwin Schrodinger, which then goes towards a sort of anti-mechanistic physics where atoms and molecules are simply miniature bodies, all transformation is physical, macro-physical “laws” are just statistical results of microscopic processes, and those processes may not at all be mechanical in nature. Chemistry, by way of quantum chemistry, is potentially understood as radically indeterministic, without a single body of “law” governing its operation or capable of predicting the evolution of chemical reactions. Chemicals themselves are quantum in that they cannot be approximated to any classical model of physics, and so the laboratory is like liminal space where two realms of matter make contact. Indeterminacy, rather than simply being a principle of incomplete knowledge, is a fundamental problem and condition of physics. The harmonious order of classical physics is thus an illusion, and matter is at the quantum level more like a chaotic symphony of waves.
Intruigingly, Gruppo Di Nun’s spectral materialism to very consciously draw from the concept of alchemy. First there’s the reference to Isaac Newton having been an alchemist, with the implication of his alchemist pursuit being complimentary to the apparent inadequacy of his theory of bodies in motion before the spectral behaviour of quantum matter. More than that, though, there is practically a whole section exploring the subject of Azoth, the universal agent of transformation in alchemical tradition. Here, Azoth is relevant to the subject of nitrogen, in that right down its etymology (the Greek root word means “lifeless”) links to the inert nature of the gas, and to a chaotic aspect of the traditional equilibrium of the universal agent. Azoth, as the Elixir, is intrinsically circular in containing all things, but it also is also indeterminate and numinous in the way that primordial chaos is. This is then connected to the Lovecraftian figure of Azathoth, the blind idiot god, and from it the spectral and viral nature of Lovecraftian substance that contaminates and interacts with bodies in a manner befitting the principle similia similibus solvuntur – like dissolves like. The colour that the Great Work is divided around is thus said to reveal the idea that we ourselves are spectres and that the blackness that consumes is a resonance from the core of matter, and our whole being, and thus a likeness that allows bodies and the darkness of matter to dissolve into each other.
The alchemical resonance of spectral materialism continues. Escaping a hard binary between “primitive science” and magical-religious initiation, it contaminates the borders between two supposedly strictly separate worlds, while the content of the philosopher’s stone is ostensibly reflected in an interpretation of the concept of complementarity, that principle whereby objects possess complimentary attributes that cannot be observed simultaneously. But then the formula of the philosopher’s stone is reversed: while traditional alchemy, per Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding of it, is supposed to arrive at the reconciliation of spirit and matter by the descent of the soul into the world, the quantum proposed by Gruppo Di Nun is instead the revelation of sheer distance, inaccessibility, or even incompatibility between mind and matter, or between human reason and cosmic physis. Spectral materialism here emerges as a worldview concerned with an unobservable relationship between matter and itself, and matter itself as beyond the human gaze. The process of nigredo is, in this alchemy, understood as a deliberate process of intoxication brought on by interactions with chemical matter and its contamination of mind, which thus reveals the “living death” of matter. Chemistry at large is presented as a spectral science, concerning the dissolution of the individuality of the objects it studies into the ocean of quantum matter. That ocean itself emerges as none other than the blind idiot god and the quicksilver, an abyss whose vibration haunts the phenomenal world and the structures that emerge over the abyss, and whose incessant sound and presence unites all beings in embrace, and could contaminate us at any time. And thus it is only this ocean, not any God, larger than any God, that could possibly have given rise to everything.
In the course of this, though, we arrive at something strange. Through the analogy of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris we get the picture of a matter that could not be produced by any Demiurge, or the guiding hand of any Creator. Yet this in some ways clashes with the whole notion presented in Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ritual, of the cosmic order as the violent ordering of chaos. On the other hand, per “Catastrophic Astrology” we are given the picture of existence as an expression of spontaneity, which in Tripaldi’s reading is inherently sacrificial: we spontaneously exist, and this condition contains within itself the price of extinction, making the spontaneity of transformation a species of death. But then, perhaps the spontaneity in this setting must emerge as a spontaneous insurrection at the quantum level. If no demiurge or creator could possibly have given rise to the universe as it is, then the spontaneity is the insurrection of a willing life that ruptured and transformed the void that existed before, and has marched away for eons. This quantum will that, at the highest price, overturns everything, is perhaps the key to something larger. But we will explore this more later.
I have perhaps said far too much about the initial principles of Revolutionary Demonology, but we can summarize this core so far. The occultism of Gruppo Di Nun founds itself on a materialism in which matter, at the quantum level, is fundamentally alien to itself, to us as its manifestations, and a cosmic pessimism undergirded by the anti-cosmic mythology of Tiamat which is also resonated in a doomsday astronomy. Beyond the world we live in lies spectral matter as a chaotic ritual dance of death, to which all of life ultimately vibrates and through which life is drawn towards its own dissolution. This is also an extinction which Gruppo Di Nun asserts that life contains an inherent drive towards, and in which they locate the possibility of rejecting heterosexual reproductive futurity, and with it the whole hyperstitious order of patrairchy. God did not create the universe, and yet, per the ritual, the universe is Tiamat’s flesh and blood carved into order by ordering gods, though in any case this order always intrinsically writes its own demise. Magic is therefore the art of letting go into this condition, into the morbid love that attracts all things towards dissolution, in a sense reconciling with the universe. But, as you’ll see, even this is just the beginning.
“Notes on Gothic Insurrection” presents a part of the philosophy that forms the body of Revolutionary Demonology by way of a strange and complex concept referred to as “Gothic Insurrection”. Gothic Insurrection, or “Goth/Ins”, seems to be a species of accelerationist theory concerned with temporal multiplicity in the context of a Real that supercedes ideology as such, and seemingly also with a kind of inorganic time and matter relevant to developments that, in their virtuality, can be activated, corrupted, and “recovered” in a seemingly “undead” way. It is also intimately concerned with the hauntology or “retromania” of modernity, with how modernity seems in itself to give way to the revival of older, pre-modern structures and thought-forms, or perhaps rather their “undead” manifestation. That’s about the best I can do to summarize the concept, and I can tell you that the main authors of Gothic Insurrection, Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli, do not make that very easy for me. But it’s in the broader discussion of Gothic Insurrection that counts, in that it’s from here that we can derive philosophical content that contains in itself an averse potentiality relative to Revolutionary Demonology as a whole.
Claudio Kulesko’s essay, “Gothic Insurrection”, establishes the context of a neo-medieval landscape, a new Middle Ages in which traditionalism and the project the “New Right” are corroding modernity from within, bending all of its means and forces to repressive ends in the name of medieval power. Modernity itself almost seems like just a long dream in a world otherwise still very medieval. Reaction is in full swing in calling for the reversal or closure of modernity, while at the same time always an innate part of its nightmare spiral, in which liberal world peace either gives way to a theatre of violent bigotry or simply belies it. This is the world of the cybergothic. In this setting, hauntology emerges as a way to understand this re-activation of the past. But, Gothic Insurrection, while so intimately concerned with the past as a location of inorganic time, also sees itself as a sort of progressive motion: like the spires of a medieval cathedral peaking into the sky, or like bats flying into the twilight, its only route is upwards, and outwards. The cybergothic in this sense is present in a strange union between technological modernity and medieval apocalypse.
The spiral of Gothic Insurrection begins with a consideration of how to ring in the cybergothic era without embracing fascist neoreaction. Art, as a means of the reactivation of the past, is explored from the work Jacques-Louis David and his nostalgia for the French Revolution on the one hand, to William Bevan’s “re-dreaming of the past” through his electronics on the other hand, until we arrive at black metal, of all artforms, as the key to an alternative temporal distortion against that of the alt-right, despite the reactionary tendencies often found in the black metal scene. Neoreaction seems to distinguish itself from other models through its double spiral vector, paradoxically regressing to the past and advancing to the future, but its particular acknowledgement of violence and chaos as the primary source of order, or at least its particular order, against any perceived ideological containment of the violent spontaneity of (human) nature, exposes it to an even more profound presence of violence and chaos in the form of ancient, not quite dead horrors. Thus, we are to imagine an alternative spiral of anti-modern rebellion in black metal: a spiral that, unlike neoreaction, does not want to constitute or liberate anything, and is a spirit set purely on negation.
The black metal imaginary is palpably distinct, made unique by its sort of symbiotic fusion of Satanic iconoclasm, witchcraft, and pagan myth and romance. The first wave of black metal itself inaugurated this spiral, and none other than Bathory is its paragon. Beginning with the pure satanic fury of their first three albums (“Bathory”, “The Return”, and “Under the Black Mark”), over time Bathory evolved towards an emphasis on the pre-Christian Norse past and a style that came to be dubbed “viking metal”. Quorthon, the man behind Bathory, imbued this new direction with a hauntological voice for the life and time of pre-Christian Scandinavia, and with it a pagan nostalgia for a time where humans and extant wild nature were inseparable with the divinity of its many gods, all of which then invoke the spectral character of the barbarian. Outside and against Christianity, rationalism, humanism, and universalism, the barbarian resists civilization, resists boundaries, not only smashing through the borders of nations and civilizations but also crossing the boundary of the human itself via the figure of the Berserker or wolf-like Mannerbund, and, in Christian terms, exists somehow outside and against even God himself. The barbarian is, here, a chrono-warrior who brings ancient interpretations of the world and the quest to reunite with nature, plunging forward in a disordered assault into the cybergothic arena. Representing another barbarian vector of the black imaginary is Darkthrone, whose album “Transylvanian Hunger” and especially the title track invite us to consider the figure of the vampire, through both its sheer, cosmically inorganic sonic negativity and the obvious lyricism. The vampire is not alive, and not dead, and emblematic of the darkness of the gothic novels that represent an eternal, inorganic, and immobile time – gothic time – sitting below the present and threatening to intrude into modernity, or in a larger sense the world of civilization and phenomena. The apogee of this gothic time is Dracula, the vampire par excellence, embodying both the barbarian archetype in his outsideness and becoming-animal/mist and in his undead multiplicity (he is alive and not alive, dead and not dead, Dracula and not Dracula, Vlad III and not Vlad III).
I seem to have a particular affinity for this concept of Gothic Insurrection and its barbarian modality. Although in the context of Revolutionary Demonology as a whole it is still supposed to connect to the cosmic love of self-disintegration, and Kulesko’s writing about Dracula is an interesting demonstration of this theme, it also, to mind points to something that can take a different form. As I lay out in my article about Kulesko’s essay on the subject of Dracula, tsking on the gothic insurrection of barbarian becoming and liminality is its own becoming-demon, a modality of propulsion by which not only ride against the order of things but also thrust open the portals of reality itself, and, from a satanic perspective, vampiric dissolution changes from the disappearance of will implied by much of Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ideology to the embedding of it, its embodiment within the world and its totality, the form of katabatic apotheosis. The apocalypse of Gothic Insurrection is not only the vampiric resurrection of the Middle Ages, the reactivation of a past or myth into the weapons of a horde marching into the future. It is Legion, the Hobbesian “Kingdome of Darknesse” or “Confederacy of Deceivers”, and by these examples the spiralling breakdown of order at the level of fixed identity into multiplicity, and the smashing of the identity between political order and its projection into cosmic order. The Image of the World, the imaginary representation of world order, is smashed, destroyed by the new barbarians of gothic time against the world. The only thing I might add is that it is in this sphere that might join this gothic horde, whose spiral of recombination and battle presents a path to immanent apotheosis.
Perhaps something different can be seen in Enrico Monacelli’s essay, “Extinction”, which discusses and responds to Kulesko’s essay. After a lengthy exposition of Lil Peep’s “Cry Alone” music video, in which Lil Peep seems to be discussed as the martyr of a kind of ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God, Monacelli begins his answer to Kulesko’s Gothic Insurrection by asserting that our turn towards the new Middle Ages is a kind of fatalistic linearity, a destiny that has seemingly already set for us in advance and which renders everything futile, guided by the obsession of the modern world with the idea that it will be annihilated. Lil Peep in his essay emerges as the contemporary symbol of this feeling of predestined extinction, but also one of a number of examples by which to understand hauntological structure of our social body. Monacelli also invokes two horror movies, the 2018 Halloween and Hereditary, to show the horror genre itself as representing this “tragic temporality”. In the 2018 Halloween, we see Laurie Strode constantly preparing the return of the serial killer Michael Myers, her house covered in traps and her mind tormented, she goes on to struggle with Myers and again and trap him in her basement, set the house on fire in the hopes of destroying him, only for it to be revealed that Myers survived and is still on the loose; not unlike the original Halloween. This repetition is clearly a device for the production of future movies, but for Monacelli it also communicates a spectre of silent death that has already condemned us to extinction, as if in a script that has already been written all along. In Hereditary, a sacrificial rite from beyond the grave meant to summon the demon Paimon is the ground of an occult predestination that propels the film’s events in a way that the characters, as spectators, do not fully understand. For Monacelli it represents an impenetrable facticity that resonates with a universe that seems predestined to self-destruction but which is also completely unknowable to us.
The whole reckoning of this mystifying and hopeless tragedy is what Monacelli calls “passive extinctionism”. Passive extinctionism is composed of time seemingly flowing in reverse, from a future already set towards a past that activates said future, moving solely and single-mindedly towards the sole destination of extinction, supported by the inability to comprehend this temporality and its motives (if any). So far I suppose “ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God” remains an apt metaphor, in that it seems obvious that Monacelli’s universe is seemingly utterly fatalistic. But while that is the basic form of Monacelli’s proposal, there is also so much more beneath even the surface of fate, in the sense that horror both creates and destroys. This becomes apparent as Monacelli discusses the movie Mandy and barbarism as an escape from our time prison that only horror could provide.
In Mandy, there are essentially two rituals. The first one summons the Black Skulls, a quasi-demonic biker gang enlisted by a redneck cult leader named Jeremiah Sands to capture Mandy and her boyfriend Red, which Monacelli presents as an involuntary evocation whose consequences cannot be controlled. The second one, however, subverts these consequences, with Mandy laughing in the face of her captor, her mockery embodying joy in the face of her own death, which then unleashes Red’s unrelenting vengeance. For Monacelli, drawing from the work of Nicola Masciandaro, this amounts to the creation and assertion of a kind of mystical sovereignty formed by being the vector of the Outside that breaks tragic time. That sovereignty is a wild abandonment that deposes all authority, breaks tragic temporality, and transforms ignorance into the sublime dark power of Max Stirner’s Unmensch; the inhuman individual who devours all and transforms it into power.
It’s impossible to escape the gulf between the whole ethos of disintegration established by the core throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy and this state of power that Monacelli expressly recognises as sovereignty. Mandy, the Unmensch, are positively death-defiant, “letting go” into their ostensible fate only so that they might overcome it, overturn everything, and become their own true masters. Dracula, and Alucard, in many ways embody the same process, accepting their own dissolution so as to re-emerge as everything. Between the prospect of deathless negative power and the invocation of egoism, there could not be a greater antithesis to surrender, and it’s right here, in a book ostensibly about the joys of surrender. I cannot help but recall the concept of katabasis in the context of pre-Christian Greece, and the many similar forms across other pre-Christian cultures: to willingly descend into the underworld, and as is often the case return, in order to become a god. I sense that it is somewhat at odds with the core of Revolutionary Demonology, and yet I actually somewhat find it almost clarified by it.
But what does this all mean for Gothic Insurrection? We can understand Monacelli’s view of Gothic Insurrection as articulating a nameless barbaric mysticism whose aim is to destroy hegemonic time and the tragic prison it holds us in. The identity of the barbarians is unimportant. Only the work of destructive liberation matters, and Monacelli sees Gothic Insurrection as that work, which turns tragedy, decadence, and chaos into sources of power for the barbarians, demons, and Unmensches: the warlike gods of darkness! I must admit here that Monacelli’s explanation of Gothic Insurrection seems much more succinct and concise than what I have seen of Kulesko’s. I should also note that the theme of multiplicity is shared by both authors, with Monacelli’s take on Gothic Insurrection still acknowledges it as multitudes. But moreover, while Gruppo Di Nun never gives an explicit definition of its concept of the Left Hand Path, I suspect that we find it anyway in the new barbarians of Gothic Insurrection. Monacelli says it almost outright. The new barbarians turn tragedy and decadence into sources of power and subversion, while fascism and the Right Hand Path want to expel them and replace chaos with order. The insurrection means the overcoming of the tragic world by its own surpassing, while the Right Hand Path wants to escape and/or cast a magic circle over it. It seems obvious that what Monacelli is trying to describe amounts to the Left Hand Path. Historically speaking the aim of Left Hand Path sects and traditions in the context of Vamachara was to cultivate power, enlightenment, and God-realization through decadence, while a similar and more modern take also, at minimum, draws power from traditionally “dark” or averse sources. It’s also, if you think about it, the basis of Stanisław Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism, where decadence and evil are sources of the power for the satanist magician or witch to enact their own transvaluation of values, and of the Witches’ Sabbath’s dissolution of everything in the vortex of flesh. Monacelli in some ways adds to this another way of saying that the “only way out” is through and not without. Instead of the conquest of the world by order, apotheosis is almost a victory over tragedy by turning it into divine power. I can’t help but sense a continuation of the theme of alchemy here, a Great Work complete with its own nigredo, in the form of horror.
We are not quite done with the subject of Gothic Insurrection yet. In “Gothic (A)theology”, Claudio Kulesko continues to explore the subject in terms of horror and terror through two young philosophers – Vincent Garton and Miroslav Griško – and their unusual takes on Christianity.
Beginning with Vincent Garton, Kulesko examines a view of Christianity, and particularly Catholic Christianity, that stresses Christian temporality as being founded on a time outside of time and the divine as an absolute Other or Outside to humanity. What we get is the closure of the Enlightenment and the postmodern landscape that attends it as pointing to the rediscovery of the soul, which Kulesko stresses as to be understood as an abyssal interiority that places everyone before horror and absurdity. In a sense, Kulekso gets from Garton the idea of the “return to the sacred” as his understanding of the reactivation of the past, which the dissolution of the future is also supposed to open up and for which the reascent of irrationalism and fundamentalism serves as a signpost, while for Kulesko this return of the sacred is also paired with the revival not just of horror but also cosmic pessimism. Turning to Miroslav Griško, Kulesko arrives at horror, the sense of annihilation and paralysis before atrocity or fatality, and terror, the interdeterminacy that attends the presence of horror, as the twin qualities of God, the ultimate intelligence who is also the supreme murderer, hidden beyond time, waiting to unleash the war that will annihiliate the world. Both views are connected by a stark dualism between immanence and transcendence, and a wager on the Real that posits that either the world has a purpose or is ruled by chance, whose answer remains suspended beyond time. Kulesko then discusses classic gothic novels, such as The Monk by M. G. Lewis and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, as representing a kind of “obscure Catholicism” and gothic time. These novels present an overrarching inorganic power, a virtuality of death, desire, decadence, and fatality, whose secret life and “presence of absence” can be found everywhere and whose exploration is the novels’ prime subject. And thus we come to the “Hidden God”, the worst and most tenebrous of demons, the myth behind all manner of cosmic and technological nightmares, an invisible direction of destinies who becomes larger and more evident as it is paranoiacally pursued. That is the “God of the Outside”.
This “God of the Outside” also seems to be discussed as a symptom of a monomaniacal linearity and corresponding idealism that Kulesko attributes to accelerationism itself. For Kulesko, the only field of absolute freedom is the “real-material field” in which the world constructs itself independently, and that’s a problem for accelerationist anti-naturalism because of it ascribes injustice to nature despite that injustice, and its just counterpart, having nothing to do with nature. More relevant, though, is the belief in the Singularity (the point where human technology becomes totally uncontrollable and supercedes matter) and its supposed inevitability; as if the will of the entire universe set to this end. This prophecy (and it might as well literally be prophecy) obviously runs against the realities of supposed predestination: that not everything is already decided, inevitable, or perhaps even possible. But, more than that, here we also come to the last major component of Gothic Insurrection: its alternative model of acceleration. It is the Nietzschean passing of knowledge that is to be accelerated, “to guide the blade here” as it were, taking up unknowing as situated at the root of the world and anticipating the formation of knowledge. Here, we arguably find a statement of the doctrine of innate enlightenment (hongaku) in Buddhist terms, but in the context of the Gothic. The Gothic denotes an infinite virtuality of formless matter and perpetual actualisation, becoming, denoting the basis of the production of form, and which constantly thwarts everything we think we know in the moment. Accelerating the passing of knowledge means speeding up the “thawing” of structures, proceeding to the unknown and blurring the boundaries between natural and unnatural or even between possibility and impossibility, and the purest form of gothic terror is disruption of immanence by immanence, and its destruction at the hands of chaos. In every direction, the end is to be accelerated, and every direction overcomes every future, including the Singularity.
In the overall this turn in Gothic Insurrection is a multifaceted one. Because of the focus on Catholicism, and the meditation on God as “God of the Outside” (and thus of the central theme of Gruppo Di Nun’s occult philosophy), it almost feels like Kulesko is attempting to construct particularly decadent form of what is nevertheless a mystical form of Catholicism. It’s almost strictly diagnostic in that it ultimately serves as a construction through which the flaws of accelerationism can be studied in a way that informs the larger construction of Gothic Insurrection at large, but in view of a much later essay also devoted to the subject of Catholicism, it feels like there are the makings of a particular, albeit subverse, interpretation of Christianity. The irony, which I think I will keep stressing, is that Gruppo Di Nun opposes much of modern Satanism for relying on the flat inversion of Christianity, thereby supposedly reproducing it, and thus there is the call to completely break from Christianity, and yet in order to illustrate and inform Gothic Insurrection both Kulesko and Monacelli turn to Christian philosophy and mysticism. In fact, Monacelli seems to directly identify the active extinctionism of Mandy and the darkness of Stirner’s Unmensch with the darkness and unknowing referred to by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in The Mystical Theology – not to mention a footnote in the same essay interpreting “real faith” as a venture into darkness by way of Kierkegaard. Though, in Gothic Insurrection, this is but one small piece of a larger idea, and not outside the purview of the reactivation of the past. In fact, this basic idea seems to permeate Gruppo Di Nun’s core to some extent, right down to the reference to the creation myth of the Enuma Elish. The ancient mythology of a long-dead civilization is reanimated, re-aligned, and turned as a weapon against the Image of the World. In this sense we can understand the project of Gothic Insurrection as part of the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, from my perspective clearly the strongest and most insightful aspect of it, and I believe this presents interesting implications for that philosophy.
But, Gothic Insurrection understood as the reactivation of a distant, dark past as an insurrection against the order of the present is a throughline that already, in its own way, underpins so much of the Left Hand Path, including those tendencies that Gruppo Di Nun finds either dangerous or simply mediocre. Satanism as a whole has historically sometimes invoked a distant pre-Christian past defined by unfuttered indulgence and magical power, to the extent that even atheistic models of Satanism such as the LaVeyan model as a vehicle for the presumed restoration of some ancient hedonism. The theme of reactivation is all the more pronounced in the more esoteric forms of Satanism and what is called Luciferianism. For example, Carl William Hansen (a.k.a. Ben Kadosh) presented his system of Luciferianism as essentially the return of the ancient cult of Pan, while for Fraternitas Saturni this is the cult of Saturn brought together with what they see as a lost “Barbelo-Gnostic” teachings. I can hardly forget Michael W. Ford’s particular emphasis on his idea of Luciferianism as an ancient pre-Christian philosophy weaving through various cults and re-summoned in the present day as his own distinct system. In many ways it’s a lot more blatant with the Temple of Set, which sees itself as a magical restoration of the cult of Set. And there are many more examples within Satanism, including the distinctly unsavoury and fascist forms thereof. Gothic Insurrection, in this sense, should be seen within Satanism as a conscious insurrection in which the reactivation of an occult past is aligned with insurrectionary, rather than reactionary, aims: an awareness that reawakens the true anarchic content of the Left Hand Path. I see this as my current aim within Satanism and within the Left Hand Path: to renew them by reactivating the radical and insurrectionary forms within this milieu – to plunge into the future by going down into the past. In my mind, this is the only real way to “rescue” the Left Hand Path in a climate of endemic reaction, and it is the path that must be taken, or else there is no point to anything.
Before we move on to our next section, I would like to use the scope of this article to discuss the value of the barbarian archetype as the force that strikes its blow against reaction, retroprogressivism, and modernity alike while marching into the cybergothic age. There’s a sense (limited as it may be within the scope of this article) in which we can briefly touch on a contrast relevant to a certain prevailing discourse about masculinity and certain progressive efforts to counter right-wing machismo with their own humanistic version of male-centered mythopoesis. Indeed, all too often, there is an opportunistic employment between certain ideas about toxic masculinity, inherited ultimately , in which reactionary behaviours of control are ideologically intermixed with a more abstract “macho” wildness, perhaps so as to repress notions of barbarian wildness. But while violent excess is often fetishized in fascist spaces, the central archetype of fascist masculinity was not a wild warlike barbarian. Instead fascist ideologists, particularly the Nazis, preferred what they saw as a much more orderly pedigree to be found in the mythical “Aryan” farmer. As discussed by Stefan Arvidsson in Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, and explored in adequate summary by Krešimir Vuković in Wolves of Rome: The Lupercalia from Roman and Comparative Perspectives, Nazi ideologists were what Arvidsson called “ideologists of order”, who favored a nationalist interpretation of history centering around mythologized Indo-German Aryans as the only true progenitors of historical culture. These Aryan Germans were thought to be primitive farmers who practiced a cult that centered around agricultural life and the veneration of a solar hero figure whose struggle against monsters was interpreted as a moral allegory of good against evil. Nazi mythologists considered myth itself to be, in the words of Alfred Rosenberg, “an image of order”, namely the hidden order of the “folk soul”. This idea meant an ideological contrast between the Aryan farmer and the perceived “decadence” of modernity, which was also meant as an opposition between “Indo-European” order on one side against “Jewish” subversion on the other side. This broad idea was also contrasted against scholars who positioned an ecstatic cult of warrior fellowships, or Mannerbund, as the center of ancient Germanic society, and in turn supported a cultural ideology that centered a kind of Dionysian ecstasy. That ideology was opposed by the mainstream of Nazism because it seemingly cast the ancestry of the German nation as uncivilized and barbaric, and clashed with the conservative values of the Nazi intellectual establishment.
At its historical root, fascism recognises the barbarian as its diametrical opposite, because, at its root, fascism itself is the ideology of order par excellence. In this light, National Socialism can be seen as the apogee of this fascist love of order, being systematically the ultimate logical conclusion of all the major systems of domination that preceded it – if you want an idea of this, just think about how the Nazis derived their basis not only in the image Roman imperial civilization but also the American and British imperial systems of oppression and extermination. Indeed, I find it interesting that both the Nazis and the United States of America drew from the dutiful farmer as the font of civic order, whether it’s an invented mythology of Indo-European farmers or George Washington modelling himself after the Roman farmer/statesman Cincinnatus. And, if you examine modern fascism, order and cleanliness quickly emerge as the idee fixe of fascist politics. In the end, that’s why people on the more reactionary corners of Satanism, such as Anton LaVey and Doug Mesner, so professed themselves as law and order ideologists: they are reactionary authoritarians or straight up fascists, and on the back of that they prefer “nice”, “clean” orderely communities that answer to the fear of political concentration. It is communicated with almost immaculate subtlety in right-wing rhetoric about “law and order”, and it is this ideology of order, rather than some mental aberration or the triumph of unbridled sadism or some abstract “evil”, that lies at the root of all fascist genocide: purgation is the lifeblood of fascist order, and so the fascist will, without any sense of remorse or imbalance, countenance all atrocities under the hyper-concentration of state violence, as fascism requires in order to generate the purity of a total order. So, from there, in Gothic Insurrection we may locate the ecstatic barbarian war bands, these warlike fellows of Odin or Rudra, as a chaotic, antithetical gothic time wielded against a present whose ordered path bends towards fascism once again. If you want your alternative to reactionary masculinity, just meditate on Gothic Insurrection, and you will do the rest of the work for yourself almost without any need for programmatic intellectualism.
An Alchemy of Steel
I felt that the last chapter of Part 2, “Notes on Gothic Insurrection”, merits its own separate discussion here, simply because to me it felt very different to the rest of the book, or at least certainly at first it did. “Lifting the Absolute” by Bronze Age Collapse seems like its own distinct messsage. Amy Ireland assures us in the afterword that it fits into Gruppo Di Nun’s overall message of magic as a masochistic practice of anti-mastery and ‘letting go’, this is not the sense that I got from reading Bronze Age Collapse’s sort of alchemical take on physical culture. And, while it seems almost random at first, it ties well into the theme of Gothic Insurrection with the author’s conscious reactivation of pre-Christian religious, mythological, and philosophical forms.
“Lifting the Absolute” was originally part of a collection of writings released by Bronze Age Collapse as The Search for Absolute Fitness: Plato as a Bodybuilder in 1991. Apparently this essay contributed to the development of the concept of Gothic Insurrection, and a judicious footnote reminds us of the basic point at stake: the idea that the present moment is to be overcome both joyous destruction and immersion in a distant but reactivated past. So far this past has been discussed in the geneaology of the barbarian, the gothic novel, and “the sacred” of Garton’s take on Catholicism. Through Bronze Age Collapse, this immersion takes us, quite splendidly, through Paganism, to an extent exceeding even Kulesko’s treatment of Bathory, but this time focusing on ancient pre-Christian Greece.
We begin with an account Pankration, a dangerous ancient Olypmic sporting event similar to both wrestling and boxing. It was an extreme contest of strength where almost any move was permitted, and there were only three ways out of a fight: surrender, lose consciousness, or die. The legend of Sostrtus “Acrocheriste” Sicionio, and his defeat by the young Aristocles of Athens, opens a whole dialogue on the philosophy of physical culture. For Bronze Age Collapse, Aristocles won because his body represented a complete and total harmony of muscular strength, instinct, intelligence, expertise, and experience, and that this perfect harmony, consisting of the subjection of all individual parts of the body to a whole, was the founding myth of the philosophy of mind as well as wrestling. The Platonic and “classical” view is that psychophysical harmony – that between body and mind – is the work of adapting one’s body to a paradigm, an Idea, by submitting it to gradually more intense labours and more refined challenges. But within this discourse, our author goes on to assert that this whole process is a means of returning the body to beauty. The author’s express conviction is that harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness. This obviously invites the question of the fall: after all, if harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness, it follows that something must have happened for harmony and beauty to change into discord and ugliness. Indeed I sense it’s very easy for such a conviction to find itself warping towards the doctrine of involution, in which we have degenerated from some imagined state of antediluvian perfection and unity. But patience, because there is more to be explored, and what our author valorizes is not so much a fallen spiritual presence to which matter must conform, but the body, and in this sense matter, itself.
Bronze Age Collapse upholds that the body is not originally weak, passive, and sedentary, but powerful, active, and dynamic, and that it is this dynamism that, in the modern world, seems lost but can be recovered. In fact, our author positions this dynamism in a larger sense: the tendency towards the absolute – that is, understood properly, a tendency towards enhancement, recombination, speed, and efficiency, which is naturally followed not only by the body and the mind but also the entire universe itself. This is actually a fairly bizarre twist in the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun that came after this original essay: what Gruppo Di Nun proposes as the universal death drive, the cosmic love of disintegration, becomes for Bronze Age Collapse not so much the longing for demise in itself but the yearning for transformation to the point of greater and greater perfection. To that end, life erupts from the void and beings ceaselessly create, destroy, and reorder things around them. In a way, “tendency towards the absolute” is an apt metaphor, because it rather makes sense as the quest for apotheosis, or at least to become godlike. Self-deification may not be what Gruppo Di Nun had in mind, but in a certain sense that is what it is, just that it’s not the same self-deification that Julius Evola or Hermeticism had in mind and which is in practice the only concept of self-deification that Gruppo Di Nun actually seems invested in refuting. The only thing is, so far we must ask if this perspective does not clash with the way Enrico Monacelli discusses decadence as a source of power for the Gothic Insurrection. The point, however, is that in this setting life is a conatus, a repeated insistence or striving, necessarily of will, and thus a perpetual tension and discharge. This is what steel acquaints flesh, and which the battered and weak body of modernity is supposed to discover, and thereby become daemonic.
Bronze Age Collapse points to Arthur Schopenhauer as having posited the body as the vehicle of metaphysics, in that the body poses itself as the visible and physical expression of individual interiority and is not only the seat of all perceptions and instinctive causality but also, since in Schopenhauer’s view these things precede all objective activity, the origin of all cosmic activity – essentially, the basis of the universe itself. Our author takes this understanding of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and extends it into the idea that the activity of each individual bodies determines the nature of the cosmos that it inhabits. This means that, for a reactive body, the world around it seems to become reactive, linear, and static, while for a dynamic body, the world around it seems to become similarly dynamic. No, more than that: for our author, the world of a truly dynamic body spins into a vortex, the heroic spiral of the Nietzschean will to power. This, for our author, is the hidden meaning of the Greek phrase kalos kagathos (“the beautiful and good”), and the psychophysical rhythm and harmony it denotes. But more important, it seems to locate the body as the voice of the spirit, the source of wisdom. This rather fundamentally places matter at the centre of ontology. Human history, in this worldview, is an account of every trial that matter undertakes to rise above itself, and every effort that we undertake to measure ourselves against the cosmos: this is what the weight or the pull-up bar come to symbolise for our author – personally, I like to think that the blade has a similar meaning. This also means never satisfying yourself with any proposal of the perfect fundamental order and its image. To borrow our author’s analogy: if God were a lobster, and the lobster (as God) is the model of every human action and law, the hero prefers to be a star, a supernova, or a black hole. This means that, in order to really measure yourself against the cosmos, you must reject and defy God and his law.
From my standpoint, this all has some important Satanic (or perhaps also “Luciferian”) implications. In fact, if we take our author’s proposal as rooted in a pre-Christian Hellenic philosophy of mind and the body, then we can extend our author’s heroic rejection of the law of the lobster as a manifestation of Satan’s rebellion and insurrection on behalf of himself, and from there we can arrvie quite easily as, dare I say it, a Satanic application of Paganism. But it also poses an interesting implication for the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun. After all, from this standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to regard what is presented to us as the violence of creation as anything other than the primordial conatus of matter, as the rupturing of the primordial void into forms appears as simply matter overcoming itself. For me, the obvious is to recognise this as an insurrectionary outcome, and the work that proceeds after this as a new insurrection after this against the order of things that has come to pass. In this setting, both history and the work of magic are insurrection upon insurrection.
Moving on from there, we get a tour of the proper understanding of bodybuilding, which for Bronze Age Collapse is neglected even by the trainer at the gym, and of the error of temporal linearity. For our author, bodybuilding is the process of the return to the body, or to oneself, as the restoration of eidetic harmony. For the average gym trainer and their students, on the other hand, bodybuilding is apparently more like a one-time projectual cleansing meant to reach some seasonal event – often the path to the beachfront, where a sufficiently honed body can be presented typically in the hopes of impressing the opposite sex. Meanwhile, modernity tries to refashion the dignity of body and spirit while running up against a corruption generated by the teleological and economical influences created by Christianity. Sin is met with punishment and renunciation, because sin incurs debt, and purification is met with reward in accordance with a promise made with a creditor: the body Christianity in this sense is a religion not of death but of debt. Eternal return and the mythic property of Sisyphus or Prometheus fundamentally important to genuine bodybuilding, without which it lapses into a hyperreal torment of steroid abuse. Our author also locates in this a gulf between antiquity and the present, pronounced by the way modern people afford supernatural stature to the muscular forms of classical art that they encounter in museums or in images on the internet. It is sometimes said that the ancient Greeks idealised the human body, but it might be more accurate to say that it is modern men, hopelessly distanced from antiquity, that idealise what the forms that the ancients produced – that idealisation is fundamental to the traditionalist reaction of the digital age, right down to the Roman statue cliches. Thus our author goes on to say that we are like children before Mediterranean antiquity, in the same way that children cannot imagine their father’s strength at their age. In a way that it is indeed all the truer of every pathetic neofascist brandishing an image of statue from ancient Greece and Rome or the Italian Renaissance as their profile picture online: idealising these images, denouncing the world for supposedly abandoning them, but so utterly distant from their form, totally unable to perceive and conceive them, let alone embody them. These reactionaries are in a sense no different to any other modern, they can only be amazed at what once was.
The statues are interpreted as a call to invert the course of history, to change your life as it were, and in this sense act on the observer with the appropriate inspiration. This too feels like it is part of that same gulf. Imagine not just the life of antiquity, but all of prehistory, the life of all hominids who preceded us and every fearsome long-dead creature that they co-existed and/or contended with. Some of us might be relieved that they no longer exist and that we no longer struggle with them. Others, though, might feel remorse for the passing of what could have versus the life of what exists now. For our author this gulf is also like the abyss of Tartarus into which the Titans were thrown, where Kronos became king and reigns supreme above all else, but where the Titans nonetheless became weak and docile as their strength faded. This, for our author is exactly our situation: it’s like we are the Titans in Tartarus, cast into a pit where we become weak. But, we are told, our imprisonment will end, and a Golden Age might begin again, and in this Golden Age everything will speak again, all humans will find gods in themselves, everything will be accompanied by joy, and the sun will shine on everyone. All of that, however, is the struggle, our primordial conatus.
Keep in mind that when I said that “tendency towards the absolute” was an apt metaphor for apotheosis or some concept of self-deification, that’s only because Bronze Age Collapse says forthrightly that bodybuilding and weight training brings the body closer to the body of a god or goddess. “Absolute fitness” is meant as the realization of impersonal form, and the desire to attain this form is what our author believes drives the motion of the whole universe. In this sense, our author agrees with Henri Burgson that the universe is a machine for the making of gods, and in fact, it seems that this axiom is only deepened in content by the philosophy we mean to explore so far. At this point we come to an articulaion of our author’s view through an expression of ancient Hellenic polytheism that clicked with me as I read it. The gods, while imagined to be a pantheon of superior beings that embody a pure principle or essence, were born of chaos, and often found themselves having to scale or overturn hierarchies of beings by their own strength and power before getting to Olympus. The origin of the gods in chaos is the same origin of everything else that exists – perhaps this is what Pindar meant by the one mother from whom both gods and men draw their breath. That origin, our author asserts, also means that both the gods and mortals share a desire to embody a certain kind of force or atmosphere. Chaos here is not simply the void that existed before the first god, but the supreme power that generates and destroys without mercy, to which all beings, even the gods, are subject. The anima mundi of this cosmos contains every possibility, combination, environment, and adaptation, while living beings are contractions of the infinite activity of matter. Immortality, supreme fitness, is to be understood as perpetual metamorphosis. Form and elan are locked in a battle at the heart of reality that tears the cosmos apart, and this reality lends itself to the real secret of the tendency towards the absolute.
Bronza Age Collapse’s physical philosophy has its flipsides. Being strictly carnal, our author shuns the practice of writing. This must be why he writes so infrequently. Writing is seen as a moment stolen from living thought, whose proper pasttime is training, play, and sex. It’s to the point where writing is even discussed as an “original sin”, or perhaps more aptly “false consciousness”, either way a corruption more ancient than any other, because of its apparent stasis. Writing is to be reserved for rare occasions, the marginal pursuit meant only for the exposition of the truth, rooted in the impersonality of the absolute. Here we run the risk of assuming the “God’s Eye” perspective of objectivity, one that is necessarily problematic if we take as our starting point that the individual body is the origin point of the perception of objective activity. And that body does not in itself possess an objectivity that, in Archimedean terms, is free of distortion. In fact, as our author insists, the body requires nutrition, and the way we nourish and refine our body impacts the supposed objectivity it generates, and the illness of modernity requires that, by force of will, we tear time at the hinges to recover it. I suppose if we take it as the Gods eye view the very notion seems absurd, certainly too absurd to merit almost never writing about the glories of cultivating the Hellenic body even to develop theory. But then I suppose the point is to constantly develop the absolute in the flesh. The point, the real point, is alchemy. Through steel, you are developing matter in a way that overcomes its base form and transfigures into the absolute: the Great Work, the Philosopher’s Stone, Azoth, this is the flesh-god of the divine body that has tended to the absolute.
I would contend, though, that maybe bodybuilding is not the only way to derive the basic contour of Bronze Age Collapse’s pagan-alchemical philosophy of mind and body. What I mean here hinges on understanding bodybuilding as a creative act, and I know it sounds strange since that’s not how we think about it culturally. But why not? It is a creative act in the precise sense that you are trying to create the body out of itself. There’s something fundamentally aesthetic about bodybuilding, that is in the strict sense that many modern bodybuilders build their bodies for show. But even so, a painter could as well paint in order that their painting would be seen, or the sculptor sculpts their statues so that the forms they represent can be seen and impact the viewer. Art itself, and from there The Art, thus has to be seen in terms of the same alchemical conatus, and so too should magic itself. So too should fighting, especially in view of the introductory analogy of Pankration. I did not suggest the metaphor of the blade idly: the clashing and honing of the blades is its own magical conatus of will, leading the fighter in the battle against the world that so comprises their life, all the way up to the storming of heaven and the fight against God. None other than the war of all against all is this conatus. Art, combat, training, sexual intercourse, insurrection, love, all forge its participants towards “the absolute”, at least if they put their minds towards alchemy. And yet, if art and magic are part of that, who’s to say writing, to a certain extent, is not also a means of creatively impacting the observer as any other Art does, especially if the point is to transmit knowledge, theory, or experience.
The last major point we can explore in “Lifting The Absolute” is Bronze Age Collapse’s discussion of the Cynic philosophy, or more specifically the legend of Diogenes of Sinope, and sunbathing. The basic details of this legend should be familiar. One day Alexander the Great visited Greece, and upon his arrival he received visits and homage from seemingly all the intellectuals, politicians, scientists, and philosophers; all except Diogenes, who was sunbathing idly amidst the streets of Corinth. Alexander found himself impressed by Diogenes, and offered to grant the sunbathing Cynic any wish. Diogenes responded simply, “stand out of my sun”, as if to say Alexander was blocking the light. Our author recognises this as the legend of a sovereign and unyielding spirit, quite naturally given how indifferent Diogenes seemed in the face of the imperial authority embodied by Alexander. But our author also connects that spirit to the properties of sunlight itself.
We are told that sunlight draws thought out from its depths and refuges, allows us to distinguish night and day and stabilize the mood of the body by instinct, and allow our bodies to synthesise calcium and Vitamin D. These, seemingly, are faculties that the enclosures of modernity often perturb. The sun is the “greatest gift of heaven”, to which human beings may offer themselves in order to become part of a life-process that joins all other life forms together. We draw power and life from the sun: our bodies tend to become strong, healthy, and beautiful while our minds grow intuitive and spontaneous as apprentices of cosmic existence, and at night we rest, reproduce, and regenerate. That’s our author’s prognosis for the physical property of sunlight, but the author also proposes a “secret” meaning relevant to the legend of Diogenes. Diogenes renounces worldly possessions and all hierarchy (the summit of which is, again, embodied by Alexander), and in turn gains everything, including the sun. The sun “belongs” in this sense to Diogenes, from whom only the seasons can always take away but to whom they will always return it, both at any time. Diogenes’ supreme self-sufficiency is the basis of his truth. The Cynic, like many Greek philosophers who came before, searches for a “primal scene”, an eternal preceding substrate as the basis of all harmonious action. For our author, that is the undertaking where everything converges to illuminate the path to the absolute.
Perhaps really, in lieu of the substrate of order that was the fixation of many classical philosophers and the late Hellenistic spiral towards monotheism, we might say the primal scene is a double. First, there is the primordial chaos, by which is meant the eternal rhythm of ceaseless creative destruction. Second, there is “the absolute”, the divine existence, that force and atmosphere that imparts the quality of deathlessness – the traditional quality of the Hellenic gods. The Great Work proposed by Bronze Age Collapse sees us go into the primal scene, to embrace our origin in the chaos at the heart of the cosmos, and then propel towards the absolute through the primal scene that is itself alchemical conatus. How strange that I might find myself thinking about Ernst Schertel as I write this. After all, Schertel locates a chaotic, creative-destructive ground of being in Satan, identifies Hell as pure potentiality, and takes this as the starting point that arcs towards Seraph, representing the created world. In Schertel’s thought, Satan and Seraph are two ends of a pole, ostensibly opposite but actually conceived in and through each other. But in this philosophy the demonic, as the source of all magical power, communion with which is for Schertel the first principle of magic, develops towards the seraphic, towards the creation of a contained world. There is, though, a more “decadent” basis to this. Schertel believed that all art was, at root, amoral and even pornographic, and thus that the pornographic was the root of all cultural values. This in turn emerged from a belief that art was the manifestation of an unconscious energy, or trance. Dance, eroticism, and occultism, were all held to produce art, love, and religion, what he in called “the highest values that humanity can represent”. The point for Schertel was that the goal of spiritual and occult practice was not some “release” of spirit from the body but rather the transfiguration of the body, which he hoped would become the basis of a new religion to supercede the old religions. You can think of Satan as that unconscious, erotic, occult energy, Seraph as the “highest values” and the “new religion”, and both the demonic and the body as the vehicles for an alchemical tranfiguration that is, in the terms of Bronze Age Collapse, the tendency towards the absolute. What I’m getting at is that the pressing of steel and demonic magic and ecstatic trance point to the same alchemical transfiguration of matter, which starts from a demonic basis and, when activated at that level, pushes centrifrugally in that level towards mastery, that is, “the absolute”, towards apotheosis. Thus the path to Olypmus is, in the admittedly idiosyncratic understanding I present, an infernal, demonic path, and we have here arrived again at an understanding of the Left Hand Path.
I might take the opportunity while I still can to note the relevance of the body to the ancient Cynics. Diogenes was not an athletic body by any stretch of the term. Nor was the typical body of the Cynic. But they did prize strength in more than one sense. Strength of spirit and mind was prized as much as physical strength. It could be argued that the Cynic needed that strength to continuously live in rejection of the civilized world around them. But Diogenes did note that, for the Cynic, there were exercises meant for the body and the mind, which depended upon each other because both mind and body depended on each others well-being to practice virtue. Strength as an active warlike quality was prized by the Cynics right down to the symbolic level. They were known to wield staffs or weapons in public when Greek society had deemed them a foolish old custom. Against state-decreed progress, then, the Cynic took up the staff against labour and on behalf not just of their own leisure but their strength and struggle. They held on to an old custom and reactivated its meaning against their present. How best befitting the concept of Gothic Insurrection!
Ultimately, I still cannot get past the sense that what Bronze Age Collapse proposes presents something radically different from the core of Revolutionary Demonology. True, our author may speak of a kind of submission to the process of training, but this is ultimately tangential to the surrender that Gruppo Di Nun repeatedly lauds, and the training that Bronze Age Collapse cannot be seen as a “discipline of anti-mastery” without some form of contortion. This is, in fact, a doctrine of personal/individual mastery, just that it is different from such fascistic doctrines as “Magical Idealism” that separate the individual from matter. One makes oneself a part of the dynamism of matter and the conatus of the corporeal and divine universe, rather than escape from it. One “submits” oneself only to become more powerful and masterful by way of cultivating psychophysical harmony, and the tendency towards the absolute is such that it sets the individual practitioner against God and against the cosmos. There can be no real “surrender” in this. The analogy of literally Olypmic striving would suggest the opposite. Though I do not doubt that it is ancestral to the conception of Gothic Insurrection, in that it reactivates the past to wage war on the present order. That to me is part of the makings of an active nihilism, but with a Pagan spirit, and Satanic character. That, to me, is the key to an ethos other than surrender, as Bronze Age Collapse points the way to an alternative outlook on the cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun – not mere disintegration in itself, not surrender, but recombination through the conatus of will, and of that conatus itself.
Even though it is yet another unplanned interjection between working on my article about Revolutionary Demonology, I just can’t say no to the opportunity to address some common secular conceptions and misconceptions about Satanism by responding to YouTube commentator Big Joel’s short ramble about Satanists and why he seems to dislike them.
Joel, obviously, does not “love the Satanists”. That much is not in question. What, though, are misgivings towards Satanism? Joel recounts a video he previously uploaded where, in a larger discussion about Christianity, he briefly discussed Satanists as defined within the Christian imaginary. This apparently was a cause of offence to certain Satanists, who insisted that Satanism is not about worshipping or loving Satan, but instead is about atheism, rationality, and “free thinking”. Joel thinks that this is actually false, and perhaps something of a facade: he thinks that the “Satanism” of his Satanist critics is actually not Satanism, that it’s just an edgy way of saying you’re a “normal” atheist, and that “real” Satanists are just people who, in some way, love Satan. To him, that most consistently means worshipping Satan. The funny thing is, I can say with confidence that there are Satanists who would completely agree with this assessment.
In its own way Joel’s understanding of what Satanism is is not incorrect. True, it lacks the sense of distinct philosophical subtext by which Satanism is usually defined and presented in contrast to other religions, but in many ways it presents a much simpler way of looking at Satanism, as an internally diverse contemporary religious phenomenon. The only thing is, it does still invite the obvious question of “what does it mean to worship, revere, or honour Satan?”, which must be up to individual Satanists to answer. But, if Satanism is simply any belief system centering around Satan in some way, and that really means any way, then even the very atheists who Joel considers to not be Satanists would indeed be Satanists. Of course, since I connect Satanism to the concept of a distinct Satanic philosophy, I can think of atheists for whom their Satanism is in fact nothing but a provocative facade. But, that being said, the rejection of God as entailing atheism was at least a part of Eliphas Levi’s concept of Satan himself, though as far as I can see Levi himself had no doubts about the existence of either God or Satan.
There’s really not much to what Joel says here except that he then complains about how, in his opinion, Satanists are solely interested in looking for ways to correct people who say that Satanists are people who worship Satan, looking for every opportunity to butt in and assert that Satanists are not Satan-worshippers and instead just love rationality and atheism. It would seem that he is talking strictly about LaVeyan Satanists, or even more specifically just the official Twitter account of the Church of Satan.
His objection, in this light, is a curious one. He asks, perhaps somewhat facetiously, “then why do you name yourselves Satanists?”, followed by the suggestion that they do this simply to get a reaction from non-Satanists. The funny thing about it is that, as much as I am loath to say it these days, this was an argument that Anton LaVey already addressed within The Satanic Bible. LaVey predicated the distinction his own brand of Satanism from standard secular humanism, and attendantly the justification for calling his philosophy Satanism, on the argument that .
“Satanism is based on a very sound philosophy,” say the emancipated. “But why call it Satanism? Why not call it something like ‘Humanism’ or a name that would have the connotation of a witchcraft group, something a little more esoteric – something less blatant.” There is more than one reason for this. Humanism is not a religion. It is simply a way of life with no ceremony or dogma. Satanism has both ceremony and dogma. Dogma, as will be explained, is necessary.
As elaborated further:
Inevitably, the next question asked is: “Granted, you can’t call it humanism because humanism is not a religion; but why even have a religion in the first place if all you do is what comes naturally, anyway? Why not just do it?”
Modern man has come a long way; he has become disenchanted with the nonsensical dogmas of past religions. We are living in an enlightened age. Psychiatry has made great strides in enlightening man about his true personality. We are living in an era of intellectual awareness unlike any the world has ever seen.
This is all very well and good, BUT – there is one flaw in this new state of awareness. It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is man’s inherent need for emotionalizing through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment. Psychiatry, despite all the good it has done, has robbed man of wonder and fantasy which religion, in the past, has provided.
Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalizing, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.
In this context, the argument is essentially a psychological one, albeit one carried from a rather optimistic view of the institution of psychiatry and flat rejection of religion (except, of course, for Anton LaVey’s religion!). LaVey and LaVeyan Satanism treat religion as a psychological structure which, in selfish terms, fulfills the emotional needs or desires of humans, specifically the ones that all connect to the practice of ritual. It’s all taken as “fantasy”, or psychodrama, the specific form of which can unlock certain instincts and satisfy certain needs. The LaVeyan view in this sense is that most religions are psychodramas that satisfy a few specific needs or desires, but require the denial many others, often of a basic variety, and in the process elicit a tendency towards aggressive self-denial, whereas Satanic psychodrama is meant to satisfy the whole complex of the needs of “human nature” in its religious alignment with flesh and its wants. It’s an argument that is in many ways central to LaVeyan Satanism in particular, and I think this argument has sort of fallen out of focus in contemporary discussions of atheistic Satanism. I suppose that’s almost just natural as the Church of Satan, for all its internet presence as a notable Twitter gadfly, gradually slipped out of media relevance as The Satanic Temple eventually eclipsed it.
But as to the other atheistic Satanists, who may not be LaVeyans and in the overall may or may not share the LaVeyan view of religion as psychodrama, one may indeed still say, on a case by case basis, “why even call yourselves Satanists?”. The Satanic Temple is in this respect all the more hollow, lacking a larger philosophy of Satanism and preferring instead to take up aspects of the mythology of the Romantic Satan in service of an opportunistic commitment to egalitarian secular humanism. Yet, as obnoxious as the insistence on correction must seem in view of the particular attitude of the LaVeyans and their successors regarding “real Satanism”, if we’re being fair, it seems a tad natural that contemporary Satanists might bother to correct any sort of record at all. Popular culture, still driven latently by the Christian imaginary, contains many misconceived or simply tropey ideas about Satanism, at least some of which can be traced to some rather old and often fascistic conspiracy theories, which then occasionally, often subtly, still feed back into public consciousness. Thus, in principle, Satanists do have an imperative to push back against popular conceptions of Satanism. For one thing, it is an essential part of our broader struggle against the Christian imaginary, and Christianity as a whole. For another, at least some of these ideas and narratives are, in themselves, weapons against us, and they do often support actual social persecutions against Satanists as carried out typically by Christians.
In this sense, there are pretty much only two problems. The first is the fact that some Satanists are doing it in the wrong way, like the Church of Satan insisting its own distorted narrative and narrow definition of Satanism as the sole truth, or the far more general flat denial of all historical or pre-1960s expressions of Satanism on the grounds of their non-atheism. The second is that the media at large, whenever it does not cover Satanism through stories of criminal sects and neo-Nazi “accelerationist” cults, focuses pretty much all vaguely sympathetic or at least non-hostile coverage on atheistic Satanism: whether that’s the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, or the Global Order of Satan, to the exclusion of many esoteric or theistic tendencies within Satanism.
I will say that in the overall Joel’s video was more underwhelming than offensive, and I find it embarrassing that, even as a joke, he feels the need to insinuate that we might be itching for a fight with him over his ill-informed commentary. But I suppose I could close this with an answer to the question of why I embrace the label of Satanist, and I promise to keep it brief. For one it’s because it is the natural expression of religious egoism, hedonism, and “active nihilism” at least in our context, and for another its solar myth and philosophy of inversion has always been, for as long as it has been known, the key to your own inner freedom. Satan is the being who himself is the primordial spiral of insurrection, a solar myth denoting the “other side”, the inner and outer of life, the darkness, that is nonetheless life’s true basis. While I am Pagan, I am a Satanist because I see the war of all against all in the cosmos, the insurrection that ceaselessly propels life, and thus recognise and in turn honour Satan as its divine-demonic apogee, and to follow his black light. In short, I am a Satanist because I honour the war of all against all, and aspire to fight in it on my own side, just as he did.
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