Reflections on egoistic love (and religion)

Being in love a few years ago and then out of love since last year has done some really weird things to how I relate to egoism. But reading Stirner’s Critics turns out to be a good way to make sense of it. When I fell in love, and keep in mind that back then it was probably the first time in years since I felt like that about someone, it was like I was ready to live my life for another person for the first time, and only her. But is that not because I felt like I was alive through her? Or is it not that there’s a certain forgetting involved?

Max Stirner, writing in third person in Stirner’s Critics, talks about egoistic love in response to the likes of Ludwig Feuerbach, a certain “Szeliga” (possibly Franz von Zychlinski), and Moses Hess. Their contention is that the egoist cannot really have love, that the egoist cannot have a “sweetheart”, that the egoist man is destined only to marry a rich woman who then bickers at him constantly, that the egoist is nothing but a “human-beast”. They rally around “unselfish love”, which they take to mean a sort of self-sacrifice towards some higher purpose, in opposition to the mere satisfaction of the organ. The part about Stirner’s response that stuck out for me is the discussion of self-forgetting in relation to love. He pointed out that Feuerbach still lived in a world that was essentially his own, just as we all really do in the sense not only of egoism being mutual to us all but also that this world is really “our” world because of it. The world here is basically what you are not, but it is in a relationship with you and then belongs to you, and you, the unique, are unique together with “your property”. But it doesn’t escape you that this “property” is still also its own as much as you are, it has its own existence just like you do.

The real deal for me was the point about self-forgetfulness. You forget yourself in sweet self-forgetting in your relationships. But do you disappear as a result of that? No. You just stop thinking of yourself. People forget about themselves in the moment of looking into another person’s eyes, or looking up to the stars, or even looking at tiny animals under a microscope, and in fact everyone seems to forget themselves all the time, often thousands of times in an hour. But do you only exist just because you think about yourself all the time? That’s absurd. Of course you’re still here. You’re just thinking about something else while you’re here! But forgetting about yourself, “losing” yourself in a moment and coming back, is one of the ways that individuals enjoy themselves. It’s part of why people get intoxicated in various ways. That’s the pleasure we take in our world. But it’s not this in itself that dupes us. The ignorance that leads to the illusion of “unselfishness” comes from forgetting that the world is “our” world. What Stirner calls “duped egoism” is what happens when we throw ourselves at the mercy of an alienated world (or what Stirner calls the “absolute” world) that we take as a “higher” world outside ourselves and waste our self-consciousness as a result. We thus fall into self-denial while idealising a world outside ourselves.

You know, that can happen as you forget about yourself, at least for long enough. Or at least it can happen when you forget about the fact that it’s you who is enjoying, you who is coming alive, you who “owns” around you, and so does everyone else. You stop thinking about yourself once in a while, more often than you might think, and sometimes you actively set out to do so for your own self-enjoyment. But what if you forget the fact that you’re forgetting yourself for your own pleasure? That’s what Stirner means when he says that the real problem is when we forget that the world is “ours”. It’s self-denial. And, convinced that we are not of ourselves or owning our world when we love others, convinced that we now draw our breath just so another person can feel us, we fall into ignorance and we dupe ourselves. And in the end it doesn’t help anyone when you forget yourself as the lover, that you’re the star in someone’s sky just as much as the other person might be in your own.

Egoism a deux is how the petty ideologues of history often imagine false love. In fact, you might notice that in describing that basic conceit I’ve stolen that term from Erich Fromm, who used it to refer well-oiled reciprocal relationships between people who remain basically strangers to each other, whereas “real” love meant “active concern for the life and growth of that which we love” – an abstracted unselfishness, which is also easily explainable through the fact of our own desire for that which we love. In fact, when Fromm said that real love only exists in a union based on respect for each other’s individual integrity, that’s actually fully understandable as egoistic union, since what that means is the keeping of each other’s Ownness in mutual recognition. Egoism a deux, then, is actually real love, and we just happen to forget the egoism in mutual love. But Society, judging from the way it tends to present love on almost the exact same terms as Feuerbach, Szeliga, Hess, indeed all Christians both religious and secular, has a vested interest in our amnesiac self-denial, because Society, at least insofar as we’ve set it apart from ourselves (a separation from which it derives its own conceptual life) is its own interest and its business is that we forget about our own interest so as to become part of Society’s absolute interest. You can read this in almost all discussions of egoism or individualism carried out by people who see it as a problem or something that needs to be “balanced” with “the interests of the collective”.

While we’re still here, talking about Stirner’s Critics, let me also extend some thoughts about religion that I derive from the distinction between “absolute”/”sacred”/”holy” interest and egoistic interest. This is important partly because, although Stirner can be counted as a critic of atheism, he often did talk about religion in ways that can be interpreted as anti-religious or anti-theistic. Still, I don’t think that you have to absorb such a perspective in order to appreciate egoism.

We can start by discussing what Stirner means by “absolute interest”, a.k.a. “sacred interest” or “holy interest”. “Absolute interest” is the interest that does not spring from the egoist and exerts itself outside and above yourself. It is a universal interest, because everyone is meant to be a vessel for it in some way. It is called “sacred interest”, fitting in that the one of the root words for sacred can mean “to set apart”, and in Stirner’s sense is set apart from your own interest. In the face of this “absolute” interest, your own individual interest is categorized against the absolute as “private interest”, and against the holy as “sin”. Many religions do function as absolute interests, as does a lot of conventional morality. But at the same time, when we observe conformity to abolsute interest as “religious behaviour”, this is pretty much a reflection of the terms of Christianity and its understanding of religion. Granted, you will find similar attitudes towards religion outside of Christianity. I think about “absolute interest”, what Stirner calls “holy” or “sacred” interest, and I am inclined to interpret it in terms of alienation. In literal terms that’s exactly what it is: it is an interest that does not spring from your own and, unless you can make it your own, it is thusly alienated from you.

But if a lot of religion presents itself and its conception of divinity as an alienated interest, does that really have to be how we approach religion as a whole? Remember: to devour the sacred is to make it your own. That is what pre-Christian pagan magicians did in the spells they devised so as to allow them to identify themselves with the gods. It’s also part of those same magicians identifying themselves with the places of power they saw in nature. The act of religious identification in this sense presents what I think is the way to look at it, in that it very much literally presents the making of divinity your own in the context of apotheosis. Admittedly this idea makes little sense to much of the world’s religions. But it makes quite a bit of sense for Paganism, and for Satanism, and it especially makes sense when we look at religion from a magickal perspective. But even if you don’t conceive it on those terms, what matters is the idea that religion can be pursued on the terms of a framework where it centers an unalienated divine interest that is at once acknowledged as individual or egoistic interest, even in the case of religions that would never expressly understand it as egoism. At heart, the problem of alienation is central to egoism, and the primary egoist answer to alienation, the main course of egoist de-alienation, is the act of devourment and ownership, to de-alienate interest by making alien interest your own, for egoism opposes no interest – not love, not communism, not even religion or at least if we’re not dealing with Christianity writ large – except for disinterestedness and the alienation of interest from Ownness.

So it is with love. And make it a lovers’ devourment, devour love as you “devour” your lovers’ body, and your lover “devours” you in turn. Let everyone possess one another out of longing for possession. Let everyone embark upon free love, where their longings may spread across as many people as desired. As long as no one may coerce and abuse each other, may longing, desire, egoistic love, all manifest themselves in universal liberty. For love is not the battlefield for some witless quest to “remake the human condition”. Because love is so of itself.

Make Total Destroy America

Roe vs Wade was officially abolished last Friday. Almost 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to have an abortion was protected by the Constitution of the United States. Now that Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood vs Casey are gone, abortion can be outright banned in several states. 13 US states are already moving to immediately ban abortion after the SCOTUS ruling, while several more states could either eventually ban abortion later or just impose stricter legal restrictions. For millions of people, it will be impossible to get an abortion without unsafe backdoor procedures. Countless people will die as a result of botched abortion procedures or having to carry ectopic pregnancies. Many more will have to suffer being forced to carry a baby conceived by someone who raped them.

This oppressive reality represents the unambiguous destruction of the reproductive rights of millions of people, and is the fulfillment of a concerted assault against them and of anti-abortion politics. Those who contented themselves with a sort libertarian halfway house position on abortion – in which one has a confused moral aversion to abortion while nonetheless opposing criminalisation on the grounds of personal freedom and harm reduction – should find themselves disabused of the ability to content themselves with such a weak position. To seriously care about freedom is to oppose criminalisation completely and entirely, and endorse full bodily autonomy on principle and without qualification. The simple truth is that it really is either this or you want the state to control that autonomy, and thus undermine the whole premise of individual liberty. Even “moderate” restrictions of abortion, whereby it is banned after some ultimately arbitrary period of time has passed, is still an unjust restriction of individual liberty in this sense. And the fact is, giving even a fraction of an inch to the anti-abortion crowd is, in reality, lending support to a kind of fascist biopolitics. Look at Mary Miller declaring that the SCOTUS ruling is a victory for “white life”, look at self-described traditionalist Christians angrily denouncing pro-choice women as “blood libelous bitches”, and look at the contingent of left-wing anti-abortion figures who clutch their pearls at their imagined “rootless society”.

But if all of this was bad enough on its own, there’s more and worse to come. It is increasingly clear that, in a larger sense, the abolition of Roe v Wade will not only affect the right to an abortion. We know that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has argued that the Supreme Court should “reconsider” all substantive due process precedents. This includes Griswold vs Connecticut, Lawrence vs Texas, and Obergefell vs Hodges. Griswold vs Connecticut is the ruling that established the constitutional right of married couples, and later all couples, to buy and use contraceptives. Yes, you heard me: until 1965, it was illegal in some US states to buy, sell, and use contraceptives. Lawrence vs Texas established that laws against same-sex intercourse were unconstitutional. Until 2003, there were “anti-sodomy” laws all over the USA, that so-called “land of the free”. Obergefell vs Hodges established that same sex marriage was a fundamental right protected by the constitution, and that all states were required to recognise same sex marriages as a fulfilment of that right. This means that the Supreme Court could ensure that contraceptives, same sex marriage, and even same sex intimacy all become illegal again in several US states. Incidentally, right before Roe vs Wade was abolished, the Supreme Court also ruled in Vega vs Tekoh that police officers can no longer be sued for violating your rights during your arrest or a criminal trial, even if you were found not guilty of any crime.

In addition to all of this, after Roe vs Wade was abolished, conservative politicians have already begun publicly calling for more SCOTUS “reconsiderations” over the weekend and well before that. Republican Senator John Cornyn said that the Supreme Court should move to reconsider Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka. Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka was the ruling that established that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. “Reconsidering” this, on Cornyn’s terms, could mean the revival of racial segregation. In March this year, Senator Mike Braun suggested that interracial marriage should be left to individual states to decide on, which would mean that Loving vs Virginia would be overturned and it would be possible that interracial marriage could become illegal in some states. The Texas GOP recently released a platform that called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that prevent non-white Americans from voting, while also attacking homosexuality.

What we’re looking at is the culmination of a decades-long agenda by American conservatives to roll back almost every gain made for the advancement of freedom for women, LGBTQ people, and non-white Americans, and really any American who does not conform to the expectations of their desired theocratic Christian Nationalist society. Clarence Thomas himself is a member of the Federalist Society, which was set up to promote right-wing ideas in elite college campuses and then funnel right-wing lawyers to affect their ideology through the Supreme Court. In fact, all current Republican SCOTUS justices, with the possible exception of John Roberts, are or have been members of this same Federalist Society, and they were pivotal to the legal make-up of the last couple of Republican administrations. To fulfill this decades-long right-wing agenda, all federal protections for abortion, same-sex marriage and intimacy, trans and queer people, racial equality, and universal democratic suffrage/franchise, will all be abolished, which will allow Republicans to turn as many states as they can into theocratic, biopolitically-controlled fascist states. The very move to abolish Roe vs Wade seems to have been motivated partially by concern over a “domestic supply of infants”. And it will be enforced through repressive violence, even if Democrats get elected. The Supreme Court building had snipers on the roofs before protesters could even throw the first fist or have the first club lobbed at them, peaceful protesters demonstrating for abortion rights were mercilessly beaten by police officers over the weekend, and troops of armoured and militarized cops were seen patrolling Washington DC in full anticipation of protests. At this point it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that fascism is increasingly incipient in the United States of America.

So, besides the ramifications I already talked about, what does all of this mean? To me, it means a lot of harsh conclusions and a bitter struggle. I hope it makes clear to more and more people that world-historic progress is a myth, and that you cannot expect the world to “arc towards justice” as President Joe Biden said in his inauguration speech. In fact, in the context of US history, the rights that the Supreme Court established might well be a pause in what is otherwise the domination of patriarchal white supremacy in the context of an authoritarian society. That is, unless those rights are relentlessly fought for by those who demand them. That’s the other side of this. When we say rights, we mean to establish liberty in our own jurisprudence. The repression of this freedom is, as well, the establishment of a different jurisprudence by a given extant authority. Freedom cannot be granted, it must be taken and/or fought for. History, progress, fate, God, the state, none of them will ever win liberty for you.

Staying on world-historic progress as a theme, I find myself annoyed by frequent pronouncements by progressives and others that the developments we’re seeing represent some return to the Middle Ages. America is not going back to the Middle Ages. It’s going back to the 1970s at the most recent, and to the 19th century at the furthest. For one thing, I cannot stress enough that all of the rulings being “reconsidered” addressed social conditions that persisted all through the tailend of the 20th century, though often did base themselves on 19th century laws. That means that the repressive nightmare we’re looking at is nowhere near as distant from living memory as the Dark Age America trope would have us believe. For another thing, the entire concept that life “begins at conception” as advanced by the anti-abortion movement has seemingly no evident basis in medieval theology, and is instead the product of 19th century Catholic theology and the then-contemporary secular medical establishment. Until then, Catholic theology had long established that a human fetus was not immediately ensouled before what was called the “quickening”. While abortion in itself was still legally restricted by medieval society, it was specifically punished if performed after the “quickening”, whereas pre-“quickening” abortions weren’t punished and were not considered murder. And of course, well before Christianity, abortion was not generally regarded as a homicide. There are several pre-modern texts regarding abortion practice, abortifacients were widely produced and procured for use, any legal punishment for abortion was not for murdering a fetus but for doing it against the wishes of the husband, and the whole “quickening” argument itself comes from Aristotle, who was most definitely not the only classical or ancient philosopher to reject the modern anti-choice argument. If anything it was the Enlightenment that “progressed” towards greater and more absolute restrictions of reproductive freedom. Meanwhile, the fascist biopolitics of the anti-abortion movement is inherent an expression of right-wing belief in reproductive futurity as applied to whiteness. Almost nothing expresses this more clearly than the infamous white supremacist fourteen words, which end with “a future for white children”.

But enough about that. What do we do about it all? Well, even if America insists on keeping its brand of capitalist federal democracy, I think that, at the barest minimum, the Supreme Court must be abolished. I will not be satisfied by the court being stacked, expanded, or rearranged by Democrats. Only the complete abolition of the Supreme Court will suffice – again, at the bare minimum. And it’s not just because they’re doing conservative rulings, but because this is where the investiture of jurisprudence in a handful of unelected judges to decide or affect the fate of everyone else leads to. The core concept of the Supreme Court is frankly absurd and obscene! Though, I suppose, one can make similar objections to the state itself – I would agree and advance that objection as well. But then while it sounds radical it still isn’t enough, hence “bare minimum”. While we would abolish that institution, we might still have to deal with the course of fascism now in motion, and Americans would still have to contend with the sovereignty of the federal government, and a Democratic Party that has shown, time and again, that it cannot be relied upon not make any meaningful and desirable reforms. In fact, the advance of fascism will ultimately taken as reason for the Democratic Party to insist that progressive policy ambitions be set aside for the “more immediate” goal of opposing either Donald Trump, his successor, or more generally the increasingly fascist Republican Party, thus ensuring a cycle in which reform is sidelined for the sake of party unity against the far-right, and American progressives will ultimately acquiese. It is for this reason that people like Bernie Sanders, or really any of the progressive Democrats, are ultimately unreliable.

I think that American radicals should take seriously the idea that direct action is the only way to overcome the present conditions. This is meant on revolutionary or even insurrectionary terms. Violence is the reality of the power being exercised in the jurisprudence of the establishment, and it is also the reality of the overcoming of this jurisprudence in pursuit of liberation. I have some reason to believe that a lot of American anti-fascists are indeed taking this seriously. But even if it is insisted that this is a step too far, the least that should be expected is the relentless activist disruption of the activities of the Supreme Court and the right-wing functionaries of the US state and the anti-abortion agenda. If the point is not to simply get rid of them, as would be much better for everyone, then at minimum it should be as hellishly difficult as possible for the bastards to keep doing what they want to do. If Democrats made it a point to do things like codify Roe vs Wade or went full force in campaigning for unrestricted reproductive freedoms, then even if they’re never going to be enough that would still genuinely do some good. But they can’t be relied upon. Already the best that the Democratic establishment has to offer is telling people to go vote for Democrats and admonishing people for not protesting peacefully enough. As if the American state “deserves” peace after attacking the freedoms of millions of people! I seriously think that the right course involves preparedness for, and will to, the total dismantling of the complex of American political and societal institutions as the only path out of the cycle that America is in. In other words, make total destroy.

But of course, to conclude this article, there’s the matter of what this means for our little world, for our communities. Obviously, I think that we should align ourselves with exactly that struggle of destruction and negation. Even if one cannot wage the fight, at least stand by those who will. Groups like Jane’s Revenge and all the black blocs looking to take up the fight should be supported unequivocally, while the liberals and reformists who want to stand in their way should be unreservedly opposed. Oh, and any opportunists no matter how “revolutionary” seeking to co-opt their efforts should be obstructed and humiliated for their attempts. In the meantime though, at the very least it is still important to support groups and individuals that make concrete material gains in providing or protecting access to abortion however possible. But don’t just accept anyone who presents themselves to be on your side as allies. Groups like the Boogaloo Bois, who present themselves as anti-government anarchists but are actually neo-fascists, should be opposed, and groups like The Satanic Temple, who present themselves as a beacon for reproductive rights while failing to do anything substantive for that cause and refusing to heed expert criticism on their practice, should also be rejected. We should also reject any and all responses to the abolition of Roe vs Wade that seek to reframe the carceral power of patriarchy as something that can be turned back around just to prove a point. Every liberal calling for “sex strikes”, joking about “mandatory vascectomies”, or complaining about how if men could abort we would have free abortion, all languish in erroneous and futile hypocrisy arguments, ignore the racist and eugenicist history of actual mandatory vascetomy policies, ignore the problems that they actually pose for women, and ultimately ignore transness and queerness. In fact, I am willing to go so far as to say that such hot takes are the result of an “unqueered” perspective on reproductive rights and the carceral state – that is, a perspective that is not informed by a critical understanding of queerness. For Satanists and Pagans, the nature and stakes of the struggle at hand is clear: Christian theocracy and authoritarianism is asserting itself once more, and it must be fought to the last.

If only one thing is to be made clear and internalised, it’s that America is not the “land of the free”. How could it ever claim to be, when love itself has been restricted and oppressed for so long and will be oppressed again? The only freedom that will exist in America, or anywhere, is that which is taken or fought for. And don’t ever think that you can’t do it. The Republicans by now know that almost nothing is politically impossible as long as you have the will to enact and fight for it. Charlie Kirk outright said it. Nothing is impossible for conservatives, and the abolition of Roe vs Wade under a Democratic government has shown them that. Nothing should be impossible for American radicals either. If after decades and even under a Democratic administration conservatives can succeed in turning the United States of America into a collection of fascist states, I don’t see why it’s impossible to tear their whole society down and replace it with only the void of ungovernable liberty.

Oh and just to say it right at the end: abortion is not murder. You’re just terminating an amalgamation of unconscious cells, not a lifeform in any meaningful sense. The idea that life “begins at conception” has no basis in science, philosophy, or theology, and is basically an entirely ideological moral claim. There is no credible justification for any restriction of liberty or bodily autonomy in this domain, and undermining bodily autonomy is ultimately to undermine liberty itself. On this basis, any efforts to either ban or simply restrict abortion in any country must be uncompromisingly opposed.

Commentary on “The Synagogue of Satan” by Stanislaw Przybyszewski – Chapter 2: The Cult of the Church of Satan

This is the second half of my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan, based on the second chapter. The original plan was to simply write one single article covering the whole book. That plan seemed feasible, as the book itself was fairly short. But I had a lot to say about the book, its overall claims about Satanism and all attendant subjects, and the overall contours of Przybyszewski’s Satanic philosophy. So it ended up bloating until finally I had to split my commentary in two.

This second article covers the second chapter of The Synagogue of Satan, and covers Przybyszewski’s treatment of witchcraft, the “sabbat”, and the “black mass”, and with it the exposition of his own brand of Satanism that proceeds from this treatment. And, remember, it’s not possible to really take up Przybyszewski’s work as actual history, so what matters is what is said about Satanism.

Part 3: The Witch

The church of Satan is in full swing. The people agreed that everything which originates in evolution and owes its existence to procreation and generative activity belongs to Satan, the Prince of Darkness. We’re told that the Cathars, with sad resignation, acquiesed to this idea as well. The Christian church, for its part, had actually “Satanized” the world with its attacks on nature and instinct, while the refined ideas they created to salvage some sort of moral freedom were ignored by the people. The people had little to no regard for the sophisticated theories and sophistries that the church was busy crafting on the subject of evil, these were seen as some alienated and internal church affair. What interested them instead was the dualism between heavenly matter and infernal matter, that there was “Evil” per se, and that this “Evil” was in fact good. How “Evil” came to be was unimportant. People knew almost nothing about God, God’s son was abandoned by the theologians, and there was only one real religion in the world: the church of Satan.

Satan was the sole ruler of the world, and his demons flowed everywhere as they comprised an ocean of demons. Satan was no “ape of God”, but a god in his own right whose power reaches just as far as the “White God”. Satan taught people enter ecstatic states, produce stigmata, and even gave the saints the idea to “paralyze evil” through choc en retour. Satan alone is the father of life, propagation, evolution, and eternal return. By this, it is understood that “Evil” is good because life is “Evil”, and “Good” is therefore the negation of life, since it is the negation of its basis in passion. Satan is “positive”, eternal, and in itself. Satan is the god of the brain, and therefore governor of the realm of thoughts, from which the power to ceaselessly defy and remake the world derives its basis. In this power Satan inspires curiosity towards all things, which reveals the hidden things and unravels the runes of the night. Satan also inspires the daring to destroy even that which appears to make thousands of people happy so that something new and better might emerge instead. In other words, Satan embodies the negation embodied in active nihilism, which counsels the negation of the order of things as the sole source of new life. This nihilist’s negation is the drive for new conditions, spurred by “evil desires” whispered by Satan. Satan is continually persecuted, periodically vanquished, but he always emerges from his own ashes more powerful and beautiful than before. The Christian church tried to destroy Satan, only to be subverted and destroyed by Satan. Satan is unconquerable, and in his own way “conquers” everything. Satan is eternally evil, and the eternally evil is life.

Here Przybyszewski explores further the negativity of Satan as embodied in the contrary projection into the future. This is called a raging negation of negation, which I suppose we could take as negation unfolding from and upon itself. Another phrase he uses for this is “e pur si muove”, meaning “and yet it moves”, which is actually a famous phrase attributed to Galileo Galilei. I believe that this is not incidental. It is said that Galileo said this phrase after being forced by the church to recant his observation that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It is unclear whether Galileo actually uttered that phrase, and in fact the only actual sources for it come from after Galileo’s death, but what matters here is its contextual implications: namely, it embodies intellectual defiance of persecution and authority on behalf of one’s own revolution against the prevailing order of thought, and with it an inner freedom of thought that cannot be erased, even during incarceration. Unfortunately, however, Przybyszewski then goes on to refer to Christopher Columbus as an example of Satanically-inspired curiosity.

This is problematic for a number of reasons, among the most stark, for one thing, is the implication that it presents for colonialism and its attendant genocides. Though, of course, it might be argued that it is expected that men in The Enlightenment would countenance colonialism as a progressive world-historic force, though it does mean that poor Przybyszewski was not nihilist enough. Another problem might well be the fact that Christopher Columbus very probably didn’t “discover” America, or at least not before a certain band of Christianized Vikings got there first. Yet perhaps the biggest problem with framing Christopher Columbus as a paragon of Satanic curiosity is ultimately the fact that his expeditions were actually religious and missionary in purpose, on Christian terms. Columbus wrote in his journals about how he wanted to convert all the peoples of the world to Christianity and ultimately gather enough gold and other resources in order to allow Christian leaders to launch a new Crusade to retake Jerusalem from the control of Islamic empires, all under the belief that this would lead to the Second Coming of Jesus. Columbus was not contrarily projecting into the future to follow an irreducible quest for knowledge. Instead he was a missionary and proselyte of God and his son, seeking to fulfill God’s will on earth, eager for him to “save” the world. In other words, he was actually in many ways the opposite of Przybyszewski’s Satanic heroism.

That said, there are certainly better examples given by Przybyszewski. He cites the chemical sciences as owing their origin to “evil”, here meaning the curiosity of Satan. Remember that here the power of curiosity consists in its ability to remake the world, and so Przybyszewski says that in the name of Satan that Friedrich Nietzsche called for the re-evaluation of all values, that anarchists dreamed of the abolition of the state, and that the artist created works that could only be understood in secret. Nietzsche in particular is important to note, as he was arguably Przybyszewski’s favourite philosopher and certainly had a great influence on Przybyszewski’s thought. At one point, Przybyszewski might have fancied himself as one of the few to have grasped his work.

But, having waxed lyrical about “Evil”, what is the “Good” that opposes Satan? In a word, thoughtlessness. As Przybyszewski says, “Good” is Gregory the Great boasting of his ignorance and forbidding the study of grammar to clerics. Gregory, of course, made efforts to suppress pre-Christian literature, such as the works of Cicero and Livy, the latter of which he burned, because in his opinion they promoted idolatry and distracted people from the study of Christian scripture. “Good” is Francis of Assisi imitating the donkeys that stood and brayed around the manger of baby Jesus. “Good” is the surrender and/or abnegation of individual will in order to imitate God and/or his order/will. “Good” here obviously denies the work of Satan, to the point of denying evolution on the grounds of its origination with Satan; thus evolution in religious terms is heresy, in political terms is treason, and in terms of life is perversion, all punishable as crime. The summary of “Good” is ad maiorem Dei gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”), which incidentally was the motto of the Jesuits. I believe that on egoist terms the distinction between “Evil” and “God” is easily illuminated. Since “Evil” is meant to pertain to your own curiosity, nature, instinct, and of course lust, “Evil” thus connotes your own egoistic enterprises in their purity, without the disguise of a higher cause outside yourself. “Evil”, then, is your own undertaking for your own sake, albeit as borne of the universal egoism and negativity of Satan. “Good”, as “for the greater glory of God”, can be understood as the undertaking done on God’s behalf, so as to imitate God or his will, it is that which brings you closer to God, closer to being one with his will. But this means that “Good” is nothing more than the egoism of another that is then, under the spell of illusion, taken up as some higher purpose or greater good beyond yourself. Max Stirner elaborated in The Unique And Its Property that God’s cause is a purely egoistic one, just like all other causes. What is God’s cause? Does he make an alien cause for himself? God is love, truth, but that means he cannot promote them as alien causes, since he himself is them. Thus, God is an egoist, an Ownness or Einzige, like any other, whom Christianity and similar religions afford the status of the world’s only egoist – and of course, our business is to drag that falsehood away from him, expose it for the fraud that it is, and thus abolish the alienation of causes. Put simply, “Evil” is what you do for yourself”, “Good” is when you think you’re doing it for God or someone else. “Evil” is honest-to-goodness egoism, “Good” is self-denial. Per Stirner’s Critics we may make further sense of sin in this dynamic. Sin is a tendency towards your own interest, and its opposite is “sacred interest”, by which is only meant the alienation or “setting apart” of egoistic interest.

Przybyszewski’s Satan is a philosopher, even a demon, in short a god. That is his role as the father of the sciences which shine into the deepest secrets of human life, always melancholic because he must draw his circle anew after being destroyed by some fool. For this Satan is called “Samyasa”, or the fallen angel Samyaza, who Przybyszewski describes as the Father and the “mathematician”. As the patron of the secret sciences, Satan was purportedly only accessible to the few to whom he revealed his mysteries, thus Przybyszewski refers to him as a “dark aristocrat”. This in some ways presents a contradiction. On the one hand, Satan reveals mysteries only to a few individuals (including, for some reason, Christian occultists such as John Dee or Christian alchemists such as Paracelsus). On the other hand, Satan whispers his doubts to the whole masses, and receives worship from and fulfills the desires of the people. He is too universal to truly be exclusive, but I suppose when dealing with the secret sciences, there are only a few people who can receive them. Still, the secret sciences are not preached. They must be accessed by those who want to pursue them and who can understand them, and not many people can claim to that. According to Przybyszewski, Satan could only be conjured by the “most powerful”, presumably meaning magically powerful, while he sent his demon servants across the land to ingite human passions, sowing the baser instincts of humans and cultivating their pride and arrogance, in order to awaken the beast within.

And so we come to what Przybyszewski calls the sole principle of Satanism: a rebours. This French phrase, in English, means “backwards” or “going against the grain”, and for Przybyszewski it meant the reversal of all values sanctified by law and order. The phrase a rebours is also the title of a book written by the French decadent author Joris-Karl Huysmans; his famous book of the same name, whose title is translated in English as “Against Nature”, published in 1884, follows the story of a French aristocrat who, disgusted by his current life, retreats from Paris to lead alife of luxury, excess, and intellectual and aesthetic contemplation that ultimately leaves him physically ill and alienated from human society. Elsewhere, Huysmans described Satanism as essentially based on Catholic principles “followed in reverse (a rebours)”, which is reflected in his depiction of the Satanic Mass in his novel La Bas in which a Satanic priest holds consecrated hosts upside down and generally performs an inverted Catholic ritual. The principle of a rebours is also linked to Friedrich Nietzsche, Przybyszewski’s favourite philosopher, a link that I am quite certain comes about through Nietzsche’s concept of the transvaluation (or re-evaluation) of values, which, because of its diametrical conflict with Christianity, must seem like its forthright reversal. Indeed, there is a suppressed passage from Nietzsche’s The Antichrist which calls for the transvaluation of value, whereby the divine becomes criminal, thus we see reversal, a rebours. In any case the principle and act of reversal, a rebours, constitutes a subversive negation, the art of turning against, negating, destroying the order of things in the totality of normative and social conditions in order that something new may emerge in the place of their destruction.

The servants of Satan, or “Satan-Samyasa”, came to earth and made themselves masters there, while Satan as Lucifer, the bringer of light and “Paraclete” of humanity, practiced black magick in locked laboratories with magicians. At this time, the people remained “heathen” in their hearts, and they were also desperate to the point of madness. They hated Christianity and they hated Jesus, who promised salvation and left them only torments, but most of all they hated the church, that empty edifice who extorted every penny from the peasant and every acre of land from the nobles. They also hated the bishops who accused each other of adultery, whoremongering, and perjury. The synods attempted to impose taxation on the drunkenness of clerics. But, in the age of repeated prohibitions against drunkenness and fornication, when “our sacrilege is piled up over our heads” and “our crimes are stacked to heaven”, the servants of the Devil renounced and mocked all things holy, and derided the impotence of God in orgies. The people hated Christianity, and were only kept in check by the fear of eternal damnation and punishment in Hell. Hell and the Devil and you should fear those things were at the center of the church’s sermons, designed principally to keep the masses in line. The fantasies of the priests evoked the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well as the fear of nocturnal gatherings of heretics, Jewish and Arab magicians spreading their systems of mysticism, and “Gypsies” spreading intoxicating herbs throughout Europe.

Against this backdrop we embark on Przybyszewski’s discussion of Satanic femininity leading into the discussion of the Witch. And here it should be noted in advance that there is an engagement with classically misogynistic ideas about women leveraged by reactionary Christianity which are, at once, taken up in a positive sense in Przybyszewski’s application of negativity. It is taken to some cartoonish and grotesque levels, but on this I see no reason to deviate from Per Faxneld’s argument in The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity or Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth Century Culture, which stresses that Przybyszewski’s philosophy establishes Christian evil as actually good, since decadence is progress and lust is nature and so on, and that on this basis there is a sort of ambivalent or even laudatory element in his writings about women, even when he speaks in terms of outrage, based on his belief in evolution and ontological evil as the motor of life and progress, with Good being the engine of stasis and repression, and so on these grounds it’s not quite possible to interpret his writing as a condemnation. With that established, we can safely begin this exploration.

Satan loves evil because he loves life, and hates “Good” because he hates stagnation and inertia. Because of this, Satan loves women, who the Christian church had long regarded as the principle of evil, which as far as Satan was concerned meant life. And in turn women, in Przybyszewski’s account, loved Satan, and Satan had a preference for them as the evangelists of his cult. We are then taken through Przybyszewski’s account of the pre-Christian history of his idea of the Satanic feminine. First we are told that the “night-side of life” in Babylon and Chaldea was embodied in Mylitta, who Przybyszewski characterized as a goddess of lust, sexual excess, and “the cosmic secret of decay”. The name Mylitta is simply Herodotus’ name for a goddess who was actually called Mullissu, the wife of Ashur, who may also have been identified with the goddess Ninlil. I can only assume Przybyszewski got the “goddess of lust” idea from Herodotus’ account of sacred prostitution in association with the goddess, which of course we can’t quite rely on as a historical source, and the rest was simply his own idea. Then, turning to Syria, the goddess Astarte is presented as “the adversarial, evil, and destructive divinity”. Obviously a rather inappropriate idea for the context of pre-Christian polytheism, though I will say that one would’ve thought that the god Mot would’ve been the better candidate for such a role. In any case, Przybyszewski refers to Astarte for the horns on her head (supposedly a bull’s head) and being a goddess of war. Next he talks about the Phrygian goddess Cybele, and how her temples were places of fornication and orgasm. Then Semiramis, who was not a goddess but merely a mythological queen, who we’re told killed her lover with her lust. Then we’re presented with Maya, the Indian goddess;(except she kind of wasn’t) of deception who created illusions that made reality inaccessible. Then the Devas (Daevas) of Iran, who we’re told represented untruth, deception, and the “pollution” of the souls of men; the supposed “feminine virtues”.

From there Przybyszewski slowly graduates from talk of goddesses to talk of demonesses. Regarding Greece, Przybyszewski talks about the “dark demons of death” emerging from the earth goddess Gea (Gaia) and everything terrible and frightening being dedicated to Hecate, who travelled with demons and drove men to madness. Lastly we are turned to the Romans, who most feared the demons they called Strigas, most likely meant to mean Strix, who we’re told were believed to suck the blood of the young and devour their guts before flying away. Przybyszewski says that the most feared demons of antiquity were female, because, as he put it, they were demons of death, madness, debauchery, obsession, crime, nocturnal horror, and spectral terror. This includes none other than Lilith, the destroyer of men in her lusts, and for some reason a goddess named Lady Holda, who we’re told is the leader of the Wild Hunt. Such themes are ultimately connected forwardly to witchcraft, via the landlady of Horsselberg who led sabbaths with witches. And, of course, Przybyszewski tells us that, in the Middle Ages, witches were accused of basically everything the Strigas did. We then get to what is quite easily a discussion of patriarchy. We’re told that alongside the “night-side” of the feminine ancient people worshipped the fertility and life-giving power of women, but it was assumed that the man had to protect life from the destructive and deceptive impulses they believed were present in women. Thus patriarchal society had established man as “the real originator of life”. Through Christianity, in the Middle Ages, patriarchy had almost completely denied life-giving power to women and instead preferred to view them exclusively as evil. This attitude even seemed to affect depictions of Satan. We’re told that Satan was originally feminine, and that by the Middle Ages the only feminine part of Satan that remained was the breasts. Satan had transformed into an entirely masculine entity, while woman had become completely subordinate to the male Satan as a concubine who led souls to him while receiving his lusts. Male magicians were expected to command the Prince of Darkness himself to reveal the secrets of nature, female witches were expected to serve as obedient handmaidens of demons who learned the arts of destruction but gained little from their covenant beyond the erotic discipline of demonic masters.

It would seem that medieval patriarchy was so universal that even the cult of Satan came to be conditioned by it, to the extent that church patriarchy had found itself dressed in black rather than in a coffin. The traditions of dead generations had weighed like a nightmare on the brains of the living, and as long as that contradiction was not resolved, we might say that the transvaluation of values could not yet have taken place. Since we’ve already established that we’re dealing with a narrative rather than an actual history, it’s probably not unfair to say that Przybyszewski colours this with what is clearly a BDSM-esque kink involving demons and witches.

And so finally we move on to the subject of the Witch, and things still get weird from here. Przybyszewski starts with the question of why witches were much more likely to be women then men such that it is claimed that hardly a single man was condemned. Putting aside the fact that this is not completely true (while women were the typical target of witch-hunts, in some countries more men were killed on charges of witchcraft), Przybyszewski proposes certain answers to that question. He says that, whether for good or evil nothing could stop three things: the tongue, the priest, and woman. It was supposed that women were gullible, and the Devil works against faith so he prefers to work through them. Then there goes the old argument about “flexible” constitutions, their supposedly “limited” faith, and the idea that women tended to pass on malefic arts to other women through speech. At this point I think it’s worth reiterating that as far as Przybyszewski was concerned practicing dark arts while lacking faith in God was basically a good thing. We’re then presented with a strange etymological argument attributed to Jacob Sprenger (who himself was listed as an author of the Malleus Malificarum alongside Heinrich Kramer), who argues that the word “foemina”, a medieval Latin word for women from which we get the word “feminine”, derives from the words for “faith” and “minus”, presumably so as to mean “faithless”. That’s not actually the etymology of “foemina”, but that obviously never stopped Sprenger from waxing lyrical on the depravity and vices of women. Sprenger goes to many lengths to justify his absurd misogynistic views of women. Sprenger relates an anecdote about a man whose wife had drowned and, because she always talked back to him in life, he looked for her upstream on the presumption that this would mean her soul must have gone upstream. As bizarre and non-sequiturish as that is, Sprenger further cites Sirach and John Chrysostom to argue that marriage is torture (presumably because of women) and Seneca to argue that women don’t actually weep and are only capable of negative thoughts and either love or hate. From all this Sprenger makes the argument that women are most susceptible to magical heresy and that men should thank God for protecting them from it. Of course we can gleam from all this an obvious problem: God loves his children so much that he can only keep the male ones from becoming agents of Satan. Or God just seems to love the men and think nothing of women.

Przybyszewski then moves away from Sprenger to discuss his own ideas about how the witch comes to be. This involves possession, or “demonomania”, which Przybyszewski asserts as having been commonplace in the Middle Ages and apparently was accompanied by clairvoyance and somnambulism. Demonomaniacs were led by visions and fell into monstrous paroxysms. The symptoms of demonomania, at the lowest level, appear to be voluntarily produced through narcotics and salves. Przybyszewski says that this how the Witch, for whom everything is inverted, is born. Highest is lowest, right is left, front is behind, the witch embodies the complete inversion of values which places her at odds with the order of the world. This, of course, would make the Witch the apogee of Przybyszewski’s Satanism via the principle of reversal, or a rebours. But still we deal with the symptoms of demonomania. The possessed body curls into a sphere before then standing up on its toes and throwing itself back onto its head so that its back forms the shape of a bow. Then the possessed body’s arms and legs are held up in the air like interwoven weeds, the hair stands up as if wanting to fly everywhere, the person walks backwards or in a continuous circle with the face turned outward. In an ecstatic demonomaniac state, Przybyszewski’s Witch is capable of superhuman flexibility and power. She can intertwine her limbs like pliable rods, she can stretch her whole body any way she wants and shrink back again, her center of gravity is altered, she cannot drown in water, she can be lighter than air, and she can rise up and hover in the air for several minutes.

Then, of course, there is the “mark” of Satan, the sign left on the bodies of those possessed. These are small, no more than pea-sized places on the skin, insensitive and without blood, sometimes red or black spots. They are typically unseen and located in the genitals, and if pricked they will draw no blood, whereas any other part of the body does draw blood. Several marks could also be found elsewhere; on eyelids, the back, the breasts, and in rare cases can even change its place on the body somehow, as though at will. Really there is no consistency in this, that’s just how the old medieval superstition was. But this “mark” was not the only distinguishing sign of the Witch. Her magical powers make her “physical sensitivity” unusually low, which seems to mean she is impervious to torture and/or generally cataleptic. Supposedly, even when put on the rack or the strappado, the Witch felt nothing, laughed, or slept through it, seemingly not feeling any pain. The Witch also possessed a certain “organic healing power”, connected to the “sorcery of maintaining silence” that was given by the Devil, usually linked to an amulet. This power apparently allowed the Witch to rapidly and easily heal severe injuries or wounds. For this reason witches were stripped naked and then shaved before they were tortured. In an ecstatic state of demonomania, all laws that normally apply to organisms are reversed or suspended, as for example in the power of the Witch to, just like the Magician before her, not be burned by fire. Taken together this quite an exceptional complex of superhuman power for someone who we were told was meant to simply be an obedient handmaiden for male demons. In this sense, patriarchy truly does sell women short.

And, of course, in this setting we should realize that Przybyszewski seems to believe that all of this was real, or at least he writes as if this were the case. When giving accounts of the abilities of the Witch, even from Sprenger, he regards that there is no reason to doubt such accounts, and asserts that all descriptions of the powers and ecstatic states of the Witch correspond to reality. Whether this is the actually the case, and there is probably reason to doubt, among other things, the existence of the “Devil’s mark” as described by Sprenger, what it establishes about Przybyszewski’s thought is that he was not a rationalist seeking to debunk stories of witchcraft on behalf of reason and enlightenment. Although Przybyszewski definitely praised rationalists for the extent to which they undermined faith in God and ostensibly encouraged curiosity towards the workings of the world, he himself can’t be counted as a rationalist, and he tended to prefer the madness he ascribed to the individual soul over the cold reasoning of the brain. From this, Per Faxneld argues, probably correctly, that his writing on madness and “hysteria” is probably not entirely a condemnation, and may even contain a laudatory aspect. This is one way to make sense of how Przybyszewski talks about the Witch, and in this subject it is more obvious when considering that the Witch’s transgression of rational mind and body is presented as a source of insurmountable power ultimately connected to Satan.

The Witch’s invulnerability and physical insensitivity is then shown to deny compassion, leaving her “bestial in her cruelty” and lacking sympathy while given to a delight in the pain she may cause. Her love of cruelty is also mixed with intense sexual desire to the extent that she can be thought of as a sort of sadomasochist, or at least as far as Przybyszewski might have understood it. But Przybyszewski stresses that it was not enough that the Witch flogged others or was flogged herself. No, for this Witch only the most extreme, grotesque, and frankly absurd acts of violence enthused with her strange drives can she feel the hint of emotional satisfaction. The Witch despises every notion of law, she hates the church and all its establishments, indeed she hates that which inhibits her demonic or demonomaniacal drives, and derives joy in that hatred and in mixing the body of God into her salves for perverse ends.

If we look past the grotesque and senseless depravity that Przybyszewski ascribes to the Witch, which almost certainly has nothing to do with any real historical expression of witchcraft, what might we derive from the character being presented. The character of the Witch is not so easily separated from the oppressions and tortures she experiences, so it is easy to make the point of the monsters that society creates, even if every instance of this argument never dare march towards the moral conclusion of the destruction of society – one might assume that after this the monsters would no longer exist. But I would argue that what is operative is what is derived from the hatred of authority and the joy derived from that hatred and the destruction of authority. In nihilism, the basic concept of this is called jouissance. Jouissance is the name given to the sensation of liberation and richness in life that emerges from the act of resistance, and which cannot be measured against incentive or as teleological will. It is part of the core of what distinguishes nihilism, or at least the active nihilism found in anarchist thought. In this, we may at least Przybyszewski’s Satanism as a nihilist religious philosophy in the sense that it counsels joy in the resistance towards and the overcoming and destruction of authority and in the active principle of reversal or a rebours. The culmination of this is found in the location of jouissance in the Nietzschean transvaluation of values, on Satanic nihilist-egoist terms of course. And from that standpoint, it is only natural to derive liberationist joy in that very negative engine of life itself.

Right after all this we enter the discussion of the “witch craze” that swept across Europe, and in this context we unexpectedly return to the so-called “Manicheans”, with whom we are told the church was not yet finished. The Christian church had of course persecuted the Manicheans for decades with exceptional cruelty, thousands of them were burned on the stake or broken upon the wheel, but they still survived, forming secret societies and congregations even in the places where they were once completely rooted out. These Manicheans held on to a tradition of nocturnal masses that they celebrated in the woods or on hilltops. People appeared to have converted to Christianity in order to save themselves from persecution and torture, but actually continued to participate in there nocturnal gatherings in order to run wild. Przybyszewski says that in these gatherings and in “real sabbatical orgies” it was women who whipped the men into instinctual excesses. A comparison may perhaps be found in pre-Christian Bacchanalias celebrating the mysteries of Dionysus, in which the priesthood of Dionysus was said to have been dominated by women. Przybyszewski described medieval women as having been rendered anemic by the conditions of medieval society. Covered in filth, enslaved by men, rejected by the church, condemned by the God who the church says created them from Adam’s rib, women were treated like animals in the society they lived in; actually, you might argue they were treated somewhat worse. In this setting their “evil instincts” developed and they plotted revenge against their oppressors, against the people who kicked them, cast evil eyes at them, or whipped them out of boredom.

Things get stranger from here. In these conditions Przybyszewski says that women would lie beneath any man, even against her will, but in either case never be satisfied. A ceaseless longing for sexual enjoyment and its lack of fulfillment became a source of torment, and in the melancholy of “The Devil’s Bath” all feelings became poisonous. Przybyszewski hints that it is here, once all the “seeds of possession” sprout, a woman may become a Witch. One woman, agitated like never before, is tormented by the desire for violence and the urge to rave and scream when, suddenly, she suddenly flees into the woods, she flies above the ground and hovers in the air before ultimately plunging to the ground again. And then the incubus appears besides her. He appears as a red man with a carefully concealed tail and horns, dressed like a hunter. The woman instinctually knows that this is a devil, but as much as she fears him she is also inexorably curious about him. She knows that he has the power to give her anything she wants, she doesn’t think about his money turning out to be sand or shit, and she is much more curious than afraid. That’s when the Devil, knowing her inner longings and wanting to fulfill them, promises to fulfill her wishes if she submits herself to him and without regret. The demon presses and mounts himself upon her, and she gives in, hoping to be fulfilled. But the fulfillment does not happen, there is only a cold feeling and shivering in her body, and a regret accompanied by the fear of eternal damnation.

You might think that would be the end of it, but, one night, she sleeps beside her husband, and experiences a vision of Hell itself before her eyes. She fearfully stares into Hell and prays only to be pulled back, while hellish laughter surrounds the room. Green lights flicker about the room, increasingly loud knocks can be heard, her bed rotates and its sheets dance around her, all the while she herself is paralyzed. Then she sees the Devil once again. She endures intercourse with him again, but this time not only does she do it without fear she even starts to ask him questions during the act, and the Devil, that “friendly master” (oddly kinky language here), for his part tells her to look for a witch in the forest who can give her miraculous herbs. When she wakes up that becomes her first thought. With neither husband nor children around she waits impatiently for nightfall. Finally finding the old witch of the forest, herself feared by the public, she talks to the old witch and the old witch gives her a salve and a staff to take home with her and keep hidden from every except a member of “the same sect”. Then the signal is given for her to go to the “synagogue”, and at midnight she strips completely naked in order to apply the salve to every part of her body. She briefly falls into a deep sleep, and then awakens to go to the “synagogue”, somehow knowing the way despite never having been there, as though her whole journey is unconscious. This “synagogue” is actually a pathless heath upon a mountain, whose existence she knew only whispers of. An assemblage of people has gathered here already, but it is dark and they can only be seen faintly through the flickers of torches. Half-naked women run around and jump wildly and nimbly, as though they were weightless, and the cries “Har! Har! Sabat! Sabat!” can be heard. This is the beginning of the Witches’ Sabbath.

Everyone forms a circle, their hands touching each other’s backs, while a man and a woman turn their backs toward one another. Then, an ecstatic dance begins, people throw their heads back with increasing tempo while singing “obscene” songs, occasionally interrupted by a cry: “Har! Har! Sabat! Sabat! Har! Devil! Devil! Jump here! Jump here!”. An orgy begins, greed joins with lust, the frenzy triggers a delirium of desire, and people throw themselves upon each other indiscriminately. A woman controls and exalts these ceremonies, she throws herself to the ground with her hands behind her and her legs up towards the air in order to receive the phallus. This is then followed by absurd and senseless sacrificial violence. Przybyszewski likens her furious nymphomania to the priestesses of Cybele, who he says are re-awakened in her. Indeed, Przybyszewski likens the whole orgy to what he imagines to be the pre-Christian and pre-Manichean “sabbats” of Babylon, Greece, and Rome, and says that only after this does the contemporary “sabbat” begin in earnest. In this “sabbat”, reality disappears, the senses fade, the infinite realm of night manifests, and Satan appears perched upon a chair.

Przybyszewski’s Satan has a number of features that make him worth remarking upon. He appears in the shape of a goat, or half human and half goat. He wears a crown of black horns, one of which illuminates the “sabbat” with a light brighter than the full moon. He has huge circular eyes. He has female breasts, which hang down towards his stomach. But most uniquely, he has a giant, red, crooked dog penis which is itself tipped with a vulva. He also has a second face below his navel, with a gaping mouth and outstretched tongue, and his voice is without timber and hard to understand. Here the image of Baphomet is radically embellished, or from another perspective enhanced, its androgynous qualities magnified in comparison to the original, and further mixed with the influence of medieval iconography of the Devil. We can vaguely see what Przybyszewski meant when he said that Satan was originally feminine, though to refer to this Satan as strictly a woman would be inaccurate. This is completely different from the entirely masculine Satan discussed previously, and certainly unique when compared to many traditional images of Satan. This Satan is not merely a paragon of dark masculinity, instead this Satan brazenly defies normative gender with his simultaneously male and female body.

The mass begins, and it is altogether an inversion of Christian rites. First, the participants gather before Satan to confess their failure to be evil; to confess their chastity, their humility, their patience, their temperance, their brotherly love among other pieties and general lack of sin. Satan patiently listens to these confessions, but also dispenses beatings to the confessors, because he does not appreciate anyone going only halfway, for all who enter his church must fulfill his commandments completely. The confession is then followed by the introduction of those wishing to join Satan’s church. These people move before the throne of Satan, Satan asks if they want to become his minions, and they say yes. Those wanting to join Satan’s church follow his instructions. First the initiate must renounce the following: “I reject God, then Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit, the Virgin, the saints, the Holy Cross, I give myself over to your power and into your hands in every way, I also acknowledge no other God, so that you are my God and I am your servant.”. The initiate then kisses Satan on his second face, a sign of eternal servitude to evil. Then, Satan scratches the effect of baptism off of the initiate’s forehead with his claw, and the initiate is then baptised in a font of filthy water. The initiate swears to never again take up Christian sacrament except for blasphemy, to defile Christian relics, to keep the secret of the “sabbat”, to acquire new membership for Satan’s church, and to dedicate all strength to Satan. The mass ends with the petition of a person rebaptized by Satan to their name erased from the book of life and then have it written in the book of death. At that point Satan marks the initiate with a stigmata. Men are stigmatized on their eyelids, shoulders, or lips, while women receive this on their nipples or their labia. At that point, the pact with the Devil is concluded, and the soul of the initiate is forever sworn to Satan. From then on, the initiate’s nature is completely reversed. What was highest becomes the lowest, and vice versa, the law that once bound them has been rendered powerless, and the virtues of the law were stripped away in mockery. For women, Przybyszewski says, this means freedom from the restrictions that men placed on them.

So, to summarize what all of this means for Przybyszewski’s doctrine of Satanism, we should above all return to the subject of reversal, or a rebours. The witches’ sabbath and the black mass culminate in a reversal that is at once the transvaluation of values. A rebours as an act initiates the re-evaluation and dissolution of the order of things as applicable to the soul, and this reversal, as a Decadent and Satanic extension of Nietzschean transvaluation, is the essence of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. This has an obvious appeal to those who find themselves trodden underfoot by society, while those who benefit from its structures are not quite capable of grasping its value and indeed find themselves arrayed against it.

Since Przybyszewski makes comparisons to pre-Christian orgiastic rites or more aptly his idea thereof, it is worth briefly examining the subject of the mysteries of Cybele, as quite probably the only extant historical subject we can actually assess. Przybyszewski does point to Babylonian orgies, but from a historical standpoint this can probably be dismissed as the fantasy of Herodotus, who is himself rather well-known for his fantasies and exaggerations. Regarding the mysteries of Cybele, the thought of the priestess of Cybele receiving the phallus in an orgy must seem quite alien to the actual worshippers of Cybele. Indeed, as far as the male member is concerned, one of the more well-known aspects of the worship of Cybele consists in the severing of said member from and by male priests. These priests, the Galli, castrated themselves in imitation of the god of Attis, and then lived and presented as women in devotion to Cybele. A similar tradition can be seen in ancient Sumeria, where a similar priesthood also castrated themselves and embraced femininity while defying male norms in worship of the goddess Inanna. The amusing thing about all this is that I would think Przybyszewski would find this act of castration an attack on nature, if solely for the reason that it involves the severing of the phallus. I would say that this comprises a misunderstanding of the orgiastic rites dedicated to Cybele. Again, if there is an analogue to Przybyszewski’s “sabbat”, it is in the Dionysian mysteries or popular worship of Dionysus. The mysteries were presided over by a largely female priesthood, while more local festivals honouring him involved carrying a phallus sculpture through the streets to denote fertility. But of course, perhaps the operative aspect is that it serves to re-establish Przybyszewski’s Satanism as a continuation of the orgiastic pagan tradition, of “the heathen cult” as it were.

Finally, before the next section, let us return to the subject of how Przybyszewski writes about women and the Witch. There is still doubtless something problematic, in that many aspects of the text present an inherently contradictory impression of his Satanism and the Witch as its apostle, and it is a trend that continues on further in the book. Per Faxneld in The Devil’s Party explains this development with two possibilities: either Przybyszewski felt pressure towards the second half of the book to increasingly vilify Satan worship, or he as a Decadent author consciously drew from the trappings of Decadent literature so that his presentation of Satanism is coloured by, well, abject decadence. I tend to think the latter theory, that he deliberately hyperbolized his narrative, is much more plausible than the idea of probably the world’s first self-avowed modern Satanist somehow felt the need to re-tailor his work to appease Christian audiences. I do maintain that Faxneld is probably correct to assume that Przybyszewski is not simply vilifying women here, he almost certainly seems to lionize the Witch albeit it in a very perverse way. But even while Faxneld assures that Przybyszewski is no woman-hater based on his journals, I am inclined to suspect that there is some misogyny in Przybyszewski as well. We should remember that he writes as if the old Christian accounts are accurate, even if his overall point is that the evil women are saints because they are evil, which could still be interpreted simply as their will to destroy the authority and norms of the church. Ultimately there is a remarkable and somewhat disturbing ambiguity Przybyszewski’s writing, which is underscored by the fact that his whole point is about reversal and that the Witch embodies this reversal, and that on this basis, it’s not possible that Przybyszewski’s Witch is necessarily meant to be taken as a malefic character, at least in that the decadent narrative contains within itself more than its sensational lustre.

I think Przybyszewski may have, in his own deeply flawed way, attempted to communicate a negativity similar to the way baedan talks about queerness. The birth of the Witch is still situated in the utter bleakness of the Middle Ages and particularly the life of women in that setting. Enslaved and contained by patriarchy both Christian and pre-Christian and even subordinated by the male Magicians and demons, branded as criminals by the church and its God, women in Przybyszewski’s narrative occupy a special space of deviance and criminality that they in turn embrace through their will to destructive vengeance against the world that attacks them. Culminating up to the pact with Satan at the end of the “sabbat”, Przybyszewski’s Witch makes it her business to tower over even the very role foisted upon her in her embrace of evil, and the promise of liberation contained within Satanic a rebours becomes the mechanism of unmitigated revenge. In this way, the pact is sealed and Christianity ain’t seen nothing yet.

Part 4: The Progress of The Sabbat

We continue our exploration of the Witches’ Sabbath. For Przybyszewski, the entire sordid history of the Middle Ages is reflected in this “sabbat”. The “sabbat” is characterized as an orgasm of unbridled instincts, an all-powerful revolt of the flesh against its repression, and a dark cry of hallelujah to a crucified paganism. Yet again we see Przybyszewski establish his Satanism as an evolution of “the heathen cult”. In fact, he goes on to describe the “sabbat” as a synthesis of every pre-Christian orgiastic cult. Again we are referred to the cult of Cybele, where greedy desire culminated in “a frenzy of refined cruelty”, then to the sacred prostitution attributed to the cult of Astarte, and then to Greek witches invoking Hecate through conjurations. Przybyszewski asserts that all of this was synthesized together in the medieval “sabbat” and revised to suit the contemporary religious context. The difference between the two “sabbats” is established as their aim, with the pre-Christian versions of the “sabbat” being entirely “positive”, or rather about as positive as it gets with Przybyszewski’s bleak Decadent prose, and the medieval “sabbat” was entirely negative. In the pre-Christian “sabbats”, the aim was to draw everything into the realm of the divine; the instincts of nature were sanctified and the orgiastic ecstasies were a way of worshipping the gods. In the medieval “sabbat”, by contrast, was based almost entirely in the hatred of Christianity, the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, and all things ecclesiastical.

It is at this point worth discussing the nature of the orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religiosity again. Actually, I suppose it’s better to start with the whole concept of sacred prostitution in the context of pre-Christian Syria. Perfectly lurid, scandalous, and ostensibly titillating, this is very much an archaic trope in historical discussion of pre-Christian religion. It makes sense that someone like Przybyszewski in his day would take it for granted, let alone lauded it, as hardly anyone questioned it by the time The Synagogue of Satan was written. But in modern scholarship, depending on what context we are referring to, it is a point of contention. While there are credible accounts of the practice of sacred prostitution in the context of ancient Greece in temples devoted to the goddess Aphrodite, in the context of ancient Phoenicia, there isn’t really much in the way of hard evidence for the practice being devoted to Astarte. As for the cult of Cybele, I’m not totally sure how violent Przybyszewski meant it to appear, but it is documented that the orgies dedicated to Cybele did involve flagellations, ritual mutiliation, and self-castration. Sex didn’t enter into it, but there was some ecstatic dancing and drinking set to music and ritual cries. The term “orgy” itself bears some examination. It comes from the Greek word “orgia”, or “orgion”, which referred to an ecstatic religious celebration, often specifically in worship of the god Dionysus. The word actually meant “secret rites”, and although modern use of the term “orgy” (including by Przybyszewski) tends to connote large-scale sex parties, it’s not obvious that these involved sex of any sort. The real point of the orgia was simply ecstatic union with the divine (which, in his own way, Przybyszewski did still acknowledge), though they were “unrestrained” in the sense that they involved unscripted frenzied dances meant to embody the divine madness of Dionysus and reflect his myths. That said, what is true is that there is an extent to which this ecstasy allowed its participants to shatter the norms of the society they lived in. It can also be said that the orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religiosity were intimiately connected with social transgression. Examples of this include not only the mysteries of Dionysus and Cybele but also the religio-magickal practice of goeteia, the mysteries of Sabazios, the Egyptian Festival of Drunkenness, the Scandinavian Berserker cult, the worship of Inanna by the Gala priests in Sumeria, the bands of Mairiia warriors in ancient Iran, the “primitive” cult within Manchu folk religion, and the art of sacred transgression (or “seihan”) in Japanese Shinto festivals. This is not to mention the whole practice of Vamachara Tantra within Hinduism and its Buddhist counterparts. In this sense, it is not totally wrong for Przybyszewski to locate a pre-Christian mode of transgression in the ecstatic or orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religion, and, while in practice he is very probably working backwards from his ownn ideas of the “sabbat”, it is also possible to take his idea of Satanism in development from that orgiastic legacy.

In the description of the negativity of the medieval “sabbat”, we arrive once more at the theme of “the heathen cult” as the negative space lurking beneath the Christian church. On the substratum of hate were the deep layers of the shadow of the church built; this was the site of all that the church despised, persecuted, and suppressed. This was every remnant of paganism that lived on after the rise of Christianity, and every foreign opinion and custom, that was accepted by the people and attacked by the church. And, of course, this also included Przybyszewski’s constructed “Manichaeanism”, which we’re told is the progenitor and custodian of the medieval “sabbat”. What the church constructs as its criminal shadow, which it does straight from the soil of its foundation, inevitably contains within itself, in this very construction, the pure potential of its unraveling in the transvaluation of anti-Christian revolt and reversal.

The church insisted that demons raged in those who were possessed and sought to heal them with prayer and holy water. The possessed “knew” this, they acknowledged that they were being possessed by the Devil, and they let him roar fearsome blasphemies against the church. The Witch especially allowed this possession by the Devil, giving herself over to him after all difficulty, and thereby accessing the superhuman ecstasies of the “sabbat” through their erotic dedication to Satan. This, we’re told, had an effect on “Manichaeanism”, which was thus merged with a widespread popular desire for anti-Christian sacrilege. Positive matter, the “God quand méme” of the Cathars, became filth amidst the rage of battle and in the polemics of the dying Albigensians and possessed witches. The principle that Przybyszewski attributes to the Cathars, that “no one can sin below the navel”, and which he asserts was the holy precept of the priestesses of Ashtaroth, was turned into a means by which the Satanic Witch could assail all things holy and crucify Jesus once more. Whereas the devout Cathar renounced the Catholic Church with holy seriousness, the Witch took up the Cathar’s renunciation as a form of mockery that concluded in devil worship. For the Witch, the religion of the Cathars was but a vessel of satirical detournement from which she might derive weapons with which to attack God and his church.

The people, who were apparently converted to Christian love through cruelty, nonetheless took up the heritage of their ancestors. The desperate, the enslaved, and the tortured did not cease to celebrate the festivities of old; the festivals of instinct, the rituals of purifying sin by means of sin (odd, considering this was already established as an attempt by the church to try and defeat the power of Satan), and the celebration of the phallus and the fury of generation. The church of Satan was so powerful that even if you only once visited the church of the initiates, your soul would forever belong to Satan. The “sabbat” melted into the phantasms of the possessed, and the originally natural forms of the “sabbat” transformed into monstrous visions that made it impossible to tell where reality begins and ends. Thus thousands of years of distinct religious heritages and perversions carried across all times and peoples amalgamated into a chaos of contrasting instincts. But as monstrous as Przybyszewski makes it sound, he also makes it seem like an unrivalled rapture of joy. It was a form of intoxication and addiction in itself. Attending the “sabbat” was like taking up opium; after the first time, it was a passion that could not be broken. But the witches referred to the “sabbat” as a “true paradise”, home to more joys than it was possible to express, and the sign being given at the “sabbat” was equivalent to being called to a wedding. The soul was said to connect to the heart and the will in a manner that overrode all other concerns.

We can again assess the pre-Christian thematic content being invoked. Phallicism, of course, was a part of pre-Christian religion. Indeed, depictions of the phallus have been around since pre-historic times. Throughout pre-Christian cultures, the phallus was a symbol of fertility, and therefore I suppose part of the generative powers of nature. In Greece, the phallus was part of the celebration of the Rural Dionysia, a festival in honour of Dionysus in which participants carried phalluses among other objects. The phallus was a symbol of Dionysus that adorned the entrance to his temple in Delos. It was also a symbol of the god of Hermes, which may have connoted some association with fertility. The Norse god Freyr was often worshipped in a somewhat phallic form. In the Balkans, a god of fertility named Kuker is represented with a phallus. In India, the cult of the phallus was linked to the worship of the god Shiva. In Japan, phalluses are sometimes carried in festivals meant to celebrate fertility and the harvest. In ancient Rome, phalluses were universal and often apotropaic symbols. The point is, the celebration of the phallus was a thing in the pre-Christian world, and which Christianity has, of course, suppressed. “Festivals of instinct” is certainly another way of referring to orgiastic celebrations as was already discussed, but the idea of purifying sin by means of sin has essentially nothing to do with Paganism and is instead the innovation of certain “Gnostic” Christian sects, such as the Carpocratians and the so-called “Borborites”. Perhaps Przybyszewski is again working backwards from his own ideas in defining “the heathen cult” specifically as an expression of religious libertinism, and it is very clear that he seems to mean libertinism when discussing his idea of the pre-Christian “heathen cult”, but at least it is true that Przybyszewski is discussing something that Christianity had tried to suppress in the wake of its own ascendancy.

Christian authorities could not understand the appeal of the “sabbat”, since they understood it only as a place of abomination and filth. When judges asked for the answer, they were told that the people enjoyed the “sabbat” with a wondrous lust and furious desire and in that, in so doing, time elapsed so quickly as the idolatries were indulged that one only left the “sabbat” with regret and felt an irresistable longing to return. The joys of the “sabbat” are not mundane joys, but are instead superhuman joys. As the “sabbat” grew, the Witch transitioned in her priorities. She moved on from merely sacrilegious appropriation of Cathar doctrine and had taken up the “sabbat” as her religion. The reversal of her nature took place almost imperceptively, and as a result she had become a new being. The orgy of the “sabbat” became an end in and of itself, and because of this the Witch no longer considered the relationship of her cultus to the Christian church and no longer even considered her rites to be a form of sacrilege. The orgies were hence celebrated for their own sake, and with no reference to prior customs or blasphemies. The supposed joys of heaven were nothing compared to the “sabbat”, thus the participants raged in the consciousness of eternal damnation, believing that hell was preferable to heaven, and in the magical fury of sabbatical desire the participants often transformed into wolves, vampires, goats, or pigs. Over time, the “sabbat” became the only cultus of the people, changing from a place of trembling to a place of immeasurable desire, and Satan, the lord of the “sabbat”, had transformed from the anti-God par excellence to the only God. And, where the people originally turned to him for gold and power, the revolt of the flesh experienced in the “sabbat” that he presided over made the gold and the power seem quite worthless.

The “sabbat” in this sense reveals the real locus of Przybyszewski’s Satanism: flesh. We must remember that Satan, in Przybyszewski’s framework, is the god of flesh. Through the “sabbat”, flesh and sensation become a portal for the highest of spiritual or superhuman experiences, in which desire heightens and is fulfilled in its transmutation into the ecstatic experience of dark divinity in communion with Satan. Gold is ultimately nothing but worthless dust and power over others is ultimately nothing but foolish vanity when compared to the ecstasy brought about with the tremors of the flesh. And so the “sabbat”, as the supreme celebration of desire as communion with the divine, or with Satan, supercedes mundane society, its classed hierarchies and acquisitive norms one and all. The “sabbat” is where people raise their instincts above all the structures of society, and from their the ecstatic desire arced toward Satanic communion becomes a force of communization in its own right. Thus the appeal of the “sabbat” is easily elucidated, and the desire of the church to stamp it out requires only basic intuition to understand.

God, of course, was completely forgotten in the course of the “sabbat”, for there was no God but Satan. Satan raised the black host, and barked the words “this is my body!” in reference to a towering phallus. The whole congregation fell to their knees, engaged the same reverence once reserved for Christian sacrament, and they cried out: “Aquerra goity! Aquerra boyty!” (supposedly meaning “goat above! goat below!”). Another, more modern, version of this chant is “Akhera goiti, akhera beiti!“, meaning “the He-goat on high, the He-goat below!”. The Basque word “Akerra” means “he-goat”, and the Basque term for the Witches’ Sabbath was “Akelarre”. This Akelarra is the subject of legend, supposedly the remnants of a pagan culture that once flourished in Spain and possibly involving the use of hallucinogens. This was said to involve the company of a black goat, who may be recognisable as Akerbeltz, a spirit or possibly a deity who protected animals. In any case, the witches who were judged in the Basque region insisted that they had no idea they were committing any sins or doing anything wrong, and to the contrary considered their activity to be the only true religion. Far from ashamed of their actions, they recounted their celebrations with comfort, shamelessness, and pleasure, for they preferred the caress of the demons to any other and no matter what questions were directed to them.

This in my view invites us to return to the subject of “purifying sin by means of sin”, as it was related by Przybyszewski to the “sabbat”, and there is an extent to which we might discuss the form it takes. When Przybyszewski first discussed this idea, it was in the context of the Christian church resorting to the development of this idea in the hope of ultimately extinguishing sin. This, of course, is one of the contradictions that in our narrative contributed to the decline of the church. In the “sabbat”, however, something different occurs. Instead of extinguishing sin by means of sin, the esctatic eruption of sinful desire ends up enveloping and dissolving the concept itself. Passing into the maelstrom of evil passion, the participants seem to experience the breakdown of the barriers that comprise the notion of sin. Once again we can turn to Stirner’s terms: in the sacrilege against the ecclesiastical and the holy, the “absolute interest” in the face of which the concept of sin is created has been destroyed, sin no longer exists because that which sin sins against is gone, and so sin itself has been forgotten along with the holy (the “absolute interest”). Sin has not been extinguished by means of sin, as the church or the “Gnostics” may have hoped. Instead, sin has withered into nothing by means of its unfolding, giving way into what it was before the emergence of the holy, or what it shall be after the death of the holy. The “sabbat”, as communization, acheives the realization of sin into the dissolution of sin and the holy, into its own unfolding into its own forgotten, which is the product of the mass liberation of consciousness in the ecstasies of the “sabbat”. In a few words, the “sabbat” has become a means by which to abolish good and evil, leaving only unqualified desire and immeasurable joy.

The “sabbat” proves to be a source of great difficulty for the powers that be. No matter how many witches are tortured and burned at the stake, Satan ensures that just as many new witches take their place. But now, in relation to this, we come to Przybyszewski’s presentation of the Enlightenment, and it serves not only to recapitulate that Przybyszewski was not a rationalist but also to show that, if anything, despite his praises of rationalism earlier in the book, he might even have been a sort of anti-rationalist – or, again, at least writes as if that’s the case. Przybyszewski here regards the Enlightenment as an erroneous dismissal the “sabbat” and the occult more generally. He considers the Enlightenment explanation of witchcraft and the various other subjects he discusses in terms of superstition or ignorance as not only an error but also an opportunistic bias whose aim is simply to attack the church. He viewed historians who dismissed the “sabbat” and witchcraft and similar subject matter as having glossed over “all-too-well-attested facts” because they made them uncomfortable. In his view, only comparatively recently did historians begin to seriously consider the occurences of occult phenomena, whose existence he regarded as undeniable, and only then be able to shed light on them. As far as Przybyszewski is concerned, the fundamental problem is that the supposed reality of the “sabbat” was overlooked, and as proof Przybyszewski offers not only the accounts already offered about Satanic sects and their practices but also his claim that the gatherings were happened upon by outsiders. In such instances, we’re told, the participants either scattered and fled from the scene or beat the outsider to death, in both cases in order to preserve the secrecy of the “sabbat”. Thus, for Przybyszewski, the reality of the “sabbat” and all occult phenomenon is not in doubt, however historically dubious it seems to us. To him, we are all swimming in a hopeless opportunistic that presents us from clearly seeing the truth. Unfortunately for Przybyszewski, however, I cannot quite say that he is right.

We then return to the nature of the “sabbat”. Participants induced orgasm in themselves through furious dance, and the visionaries cannot distinguish this orgasm from “the real one”. The orgiastic condition was elevated through the use of narcotics, demonology books are apparently supposed to be full of them, and the orgiastic condition then concludes in a kind of epileptic somnambulism. All present in the “sabbat” were in a state of mutual interconnectedness, and because of this their visions appear to be identical and share characteristics. The visions were already insinuated into their minds by “the Satanic code” to the extent that those participating in the Satanic circle would enter into a visionary spiritual union with the others without even having any awareness of this union. People share in the sacrilegous abolition of absolute or holy interest, and then in the pure egoistic eruption and ecstasy of desire, and in so doing they seem to unite with each other during the duration of the “sabbat”, in this way self-consciousness appears to be shared in the process of sabbatical communization, individual interests find themselves interconnected in the Satanic visionary state. The hypnagogic narcotics employed in “sabbats” made various extant phenomena appear veiled, and the image of Satan was rarely seen clearly. In one instance Satan appeared as just an immense mass of fog, while in another in the shape of tree stump with a human face, albeit covered in darkness, and in yet another appears as a red human-shaped fire burning in a barely visible oven. Then there is the stiffening of extremities; the icy coldness supposedly felt during coitus or the offering of the host, abnormal muscular activity during dances, the sensation of flight, the complete reversal of natural orientation in space, terrible cramps that are perceived to be the whips that they receive from the Devil, and certain phenomenon related to light and fire. All of this, Przybyszewski, says, is indicative of epipleptic and somatic processes brought about by the use of narcotics. This, I think, is somewhat curious, because it arguably lends to a physical explanation of what Przybyszewski might otherwise insist is strictly non-physical occult phenomenon. Yet it also arguably helps his thesis of the “sabbat” as a continuation of paganism, since psychedelics were actually a part of pre-Christian mystery traditions such as the Eleusinian Mysteries.

But, Przybyszewski tells us, the historical “sabbat” slowly disappeared. Gatherings became limited to a midsummer night, or faded away entirely as the witches found a way to enjoy all the pleasures of the “sabbat” without actually being present in any gatherings. We are told that Alphonso de Spina referred to the existence of a sect which was called the Xurginae, or Bruxae, which consisted of men and women who voluntarily involved themselves with the Devil. This is most likely an archaic reference, and outside of The Synagogue of Satan I can’t find anything about the so-called “Xurginae” or “Bruxae” or any reference to them apart from in Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan’s Geschichte der Hexenprozesse (“History of Witch Trials”). What are told about them, though, is that they involved themselves with the Devil, that the Devil took their souls away from “that place”, and that by means of deceptions he makes them believe that they can fly 200,000 miles in four or five hours. Spina is then said to have recounted a witch boasting before her Inquisitor and the royal court that she was carried through air on a trip with the Devil. She only needer her salve to prove it to the court, but when she applied it to herself nothing happened, indicating that her flight was an illusion, a deception from the Devil. In another account, attributed to the French jurist Jean Bodin (a.k.a. Bodinus), a witch told Inquisitors that she would travel to the “sabbat” if she were allowed to apply her salve, which she did and then immediately feel asleep. Tied in her bed, and beaten and pricked without her giving any sign of life, the next day she recounted her trip to the “sabbat”, but, according to Przybyszewski, this was a hallucination that got mixed up with the tortures inflicted on her. He further adds that no credible accounts of levitation have ever been given in the entire study of demonology.

Here we see an interesting contradiction. Przybyszewski previously established levitation as an attribute of the Witch or a phenomenon of the “sabbat”, but now it seems that Przybyszewski is in the business of refuting it. Is the idea here to establish that later developments away from the “sabbat” are based in falsehood? Whatever the case may be it seems he’s explaining the trips with the Devil in physical terms, in terms of some sort of confusion of the senses, whereas he had just previously regarded Enlightenment historians as stupid and opportunistic for doing so in their refusal to recognise occult phenomena as real. In any case, Przybyszewski says that in every case the witch prepared herself for trip to the “sabbat” in the same way: she stripped naked and applied the witch’s salve upon her body, and then fell into a trance. If we remember, this is the same way that the actual “sabbat” starts in Przybyszewski’s account of the Witch, but previously this was meant to refer to an actual process of an actual “sabbat”, and yet now the same process is depicted as a deception or an illusion.

The salve is an important part of the accounts of the witch trials, and Przybyszewski that it is not unique to medieval witchcraft. We are referred to the soma drink of the “Brahmans”, as in the Soma that was believed by Vedic to heal people, cure sickness, grant immortality and allow humans to commune with the gods. Vedic myths described trhe consumption of Soma by Indra and his warriors as giving them near-invincibility and a trance-like state of battle-fury. In Zoroastrianism, a similar substance is called Haoma, and the prophet Zoroaster condemned a series of ecstatic rituals involving haoma before a more moderate version of the ritual was introduced. Przybyszewski says that Soma was consumed in order to attain clairvoyance and the perfection of yoga. We are also refered to the “repenthes” of Homer, probably actually referring to a drug called “nepenthes”, which in the Odyssey was said to quiet all pain and strife and induce forgetfulness of all ills. These and other drugs, such as the potamantis (apparently an Indian plant, which he calls “protomantes” for some reason), the thalassegle (which seems to actually be another name for the potamantis), and the gelatophyllis (which may or may not have been an old word for cannabis), as all referred to by Pliny, are asserted by Przybyszewski to be ways of separating the soul from the body in order to transport it into a state of otherworldly joy and happiness. Another plant given as an example is the heliocabus, also called “atropia mandragora” or “antropa belladonna”, which seems to be another name for the plant we know as deadly nightshade.

We are told that Karl Kiesewetter, a German Theosophist and occultist, had contemporarily performed experiments on himself in which he rubbed witches’ salves on himself. According to Przybyszewski, Kiesewetter found that rubbing the salve (seemingly a form of hyoscyamine) in the pit of his stomach produced visions dreams of animated flight in a spiral, as though he was being hurled around in a tornado. Witches are said to be able to dispense with all artificial means to go to the “sabbat”, provided they sleep for a little while beforehand. This was apparently agreed upon by the witches who were prosecuted by Pierre de Lancre, all about 1,000 of them. A consistent “awakening” occurs if the sleep is only so deep. Some said it was sufficient to close one eye, and then in the next instance one “awakens” and is spirited away. After a short nap, the witches enter a perfect awakened state, with no doubts about the reality of what they see while spirited away or what is presently occurring. Somnambulism, then, is presented as something distinct from regular sleep, the difference between which is not understood by normal people. Apparently only one witch ever doubted the reality of the “sabbat”. Przybyszewski says that people definitely do not have normal eyesight during the “sabbat”, everything appears confused, no one can see anything definite. This is compared to drunkenness or sleep, or trickery. Cases of partial waking sleep are said to be extremely rare. Somnambulism is established as being so highly developed that the time of transition between physical sleep and transcendental time contracts, meaning that it would not take long to go from sleeping to some sort of transcendent “awakening” state. Thus a woman named Katharina of Landal says that she does not need sleep, but when sitting by the fire in the evenings she feels an incomparable longing to go to the “sabbat” and is immediately transported there.

So, after a somewhat confusing assessment of the reality of the “sabbat”, at least confusing as far as Przybyszewski’s position on it is concerned, our understanding of Przybyszewski’s Satanism is increased via our discussion of the “sabbat”. It reveals to us the essence of Satanic communization locked within the “sabbat”, in which the limits of reality are upended and even good and evil themselves are dissolved, leaving only the immeasurable and unqualified quantity of desire that takes the soul away towards infinite night, that it may behold Satan and his ecstasies. The liberation of consciousness in the tunnel of desire is the outcome of the “sabbat”, and so it is the highest desire, longed for again and again, and in the “sabbat” egoistic interest is purified, being free from holy interest, and then in the void of the holy even sin is gone, having transformed back into the purity of desire, and then egoisitic interests join together in communization under Satan. This is also attendant to a will to reversal that is cultivated in the communion with Satan, as previously established about the “sabbat”. Witchcraft, in the context of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, is thus the means to bring about the ultimate liberation induced by the “sabbat”. The Witch emerges from persecution and moves from heresy to blasphemy and finally becomes the priestess of the ultimate religion and its ultimate God; that religion being the communization of the “sabbat” and that God being Satan.

Before we move on to the final section of The Synagogue of Satan, I think it is worth once more re-examining the Witches’ Sabbath, this time touching on its possible pre-Christian roots. Whether real or concocted by the church or by heresy-hunters, the fact remains there is something about it that is not entirely Christian in its legacy. Just where did people get the idea of people stripping naked, convering themselves with hallucinogens, taking drugs, dancing at the hilltops and performing magic to worship a black goat? The whole idea of nocturnal revelry is rather consistently Pagan, specifically it harks back to ancient Greek mysteries, such as to Cybele, Dionysus, or Sabazios. They had orgiastic ecstasies (though, again, not exactly orgies in the modern sense) and ritual cries, not to mention drugs. Heraclitus described worshippers of Dionysus as magicians roaming together in the night, raving madly in performance of “unholy” rites to the phallus. The idea of the soul travelling away from the body for the purpose of communion is much in line with how ancient Greeks would have understood the concept of ecstasy, whose root word “ekatasis” means “to stand outside oneself”. The idea of hallucinogens inducing a sense of flying may have been attested to at least far back as the 2nd century, when Apuleius depicted witches using unguents to confer supernatural powers, such as flight and shapeshifting onto themselves in his Metamorphoses. Beyond this, there are attestations to the worship of the goddess Diana in nocturnal gatherings that involved singing and dancing, as possible remnants of folk pagan custom in parts of Europe. This has been interpreted as a rebellion of witchcraft against the Catholic Church. The goat himself can be interpreted as a unique medieval image of Satan, but of course it does have certain antecedents. Many people point to Pan as the obvious origin of the goat-like appearance of many depictions of the medieval Devil, and this has no doubt in informed Przybyszewski’s treatment of Pan as a pre-Christian avatar of Satan. But Pan is not the only influence here. In Francisco Goya’s Witches Sabbath, one of the classic artistic representations of the Witches’ Sabbath, the Great He-Goat featured therein may have been based on Athansius Kircher’s depictions of Molech, or Moloch. Moloch was purportedly a Canaanite idol, but since there probably was no actual Moloch outside of the Bible, this is probably a cipher for other deities such as Ba’al Hammon, Milcom, Malik, or Ba’al himself.

Yet, if we are looking for a precise point in pre-Christian history where we might find the existence of an original Witches’ Sabbath, we would be chasing phantoms. Perhaps the trope itself is more like the amalgamation that Przybyszewski said the actual “sabbat” was, though not quite the merger of all customs that he assumed it was; more like a transmission of certain elements of Pagan mystery into the context of a Christian overculture, when then saw these elements as absolutely satanic. In this, the church had that much in common with the Roman establishment, who regarded witches as dangerous and illicit elements of society.

Part 5: The Black Mass

For the final section of The Synagogue of Satan, we are once again referred to a discussion of the Witch. This, of course, also means that we must observe the exact same caveats as before when inevitably we must deal with Przybyszewski’s sensationalistic depictions of the crimes of the Witch. We are told that the crimes committed by the Witch are countless, and Przybyszewski cites the German theologian Johannes Nider in providing a list of crimes attributed to the Witch. These include defaming the church and the Pope by way of the Devil, performing rites of homage to the Devil, joy-riding with devils, bewitching or hexing crops and livestock, inciting hate and/or lust among people, interfering with intercourse and copulation among humans or animals, transforming humans into animals or causing lycanthropy, killing the “fruit of the womb” (presumably meaning either children or the unborn, it’s difficult to tell which) through sorcery, using the body parts of the slain for slaves, and sexual intercourse and copulation with demons such as the incubus or succubus. Of note here is that Nider himself doubted that witches could actually fly so it does have me working how Przybyszewski got the “joy-riding” accusation from him. Whatever the case, Przybyszewski assures us that, while it became customary to accuse witches of every absurd charge, what the witches actually did caused even hardened Inquisitors to recoil in horror. The other thing to bear in mind here is that, in actual fact, most of the people who were actually charged with witchcraft probably never even came close to doing any of the things that Przybyszewski described.

We are then brought back to themes of reversal and evil as contained in the Witch. Her “criminality” resulted from the reversal of her whole nature, spiritual and physical, and the total devaluation of the laws given to their bodies. This, we are told, is not quite an expression of volition or will but instead an expression of necessity, specifically a necessity akin to the necessity felt by those doing “good”, which is thus undertaken without any awareness of the nature of one’s actions; we can think of it as an involuntary and unconscious will-to-evil, akin to a similarly unconscious will-to-good. The Witch, here, contains within herself the reversal of all conventional and divine law, and thus the question of “where does evil come from?” is supposedly answered and the supposed “Satanic code” arises in her. In essence, this code is to go against the law and vex the holy. Przybyszewski insists that, for the Witch, this meant loving Satan, serving only Satan, regarding Satan as the only God, despising and defiling the name of Jesus, honouring the holy days in the “synagogue” (of Satan), killing men, women, and even children so as to vex Jesus in his saying “Suffer the little children to come unto me”, committing adultery, fornication, robbery, and murder, bearing false witness, and lying. In essence, the code is to commit every sin, and to sin on principle, and subvert all laws.

It is at this point hard for me to ignore an obvious contradiction, returning to the issue of misogyny. The worst crimes are attributed to the Witch, while the male Magician’s only real crime is against the laws of gravity and thermodynamics. Practically the entire second chapter of The Synagogue of Satan is devoted to recounting the extravagant and frankly fantastical crimes of female witches, but the Magician’s is introduced in the first section of the first chapter and ultimately gives way to the subject of the “Manichaeans” and the Cathars, all of whom don’t even come close to the depravity assigned to the Witch. The bias is fairly obvious in this setting. Women are obviously being positioned as “more evil” than men. Now, there is a general sense in which it is still probably correct to adhere to Faxneld’s argument that ambiguities and reversal are the primary tropes at play, being a self-declared Satanism and that Satanism entailing evil and evolution being linked and therefore positive, but even there, a certain degree of skepticism is naturally elicited when we look at the details. It is frankly not possible to assume that Przybyszewski would seriously have accepted every sin he describes as actually a virtue. Yet, at the core of it all, it may yet be more troublesome and typical Decadent ambiguity.

However, if we accept the argument that Przybyszewski deliberately sensationalized his accounts in order to weave a narrative suitable for his Decadent sensibilities, and those of his audience, then we may accept that there’s a larger point, perhaps comprising the “spirit” of the work for a lack of better terminology. And so we may ask, what is the operative point? The obvious answer is reversal, a rebours, as the central point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. Reversal is in essence an extension of the transvaluation of values set forth by Nietzsche, realized in the act of the practical dissolution of fixed values that are set over individual action.

Continuing Przybyszewski’s recapitulatory discussion of the Witch, we are told that the Witch possessed magical powers that gave her a terrible power over other people. Her glance alone could cripple her enemies. When brought to trial, she was presented before the judge with her back to him so that the judge would avoid receiving her glance and its effects. A certain gesture of one of her hands was enough to hypnotize someone and cause them to receive stigmata, and she could do so to people far away from her due to the strength of her magickal will. And she did not limit herself in her means. Both natural and artificial means suited her just fine. An industrious poison-mixer, there was no poisonous plant she did not know about. But, of course, she needed human flesh and blood to increase the effects of those plants. This is obviously in reference to those tropes about Satanists collecting blood and fat for the Witches’ Sabbath, or in Przybyszewski’s telling in order to produce the so-called “anthropotoxin” for their concoctions. Of course, this all not only has no basis in reality (for one thing, there’s no such thing as “anthropotoxin”) but also bears a similarity to accusations of blood libel that preceded the witch trials. This positions the Witch in the space where Christian society designates the Other as inherently hostile towards it, and therefore establishes it as a negativity, or as the death drive. The lacking reality of the accusations belies a contradiction that marks the power inherent within Christian society to produce its own antagonism and potential for internal revolt.

Przybyszewski then moves on to the subject of murder. Witches were not the only people thought to have abducted children. Przybyszewski claims not only that at least one child was sacrificed during “sabbats” but also that hunting children for sport became a popular pastime in the Middle Ages, partaken by people of every major religion, with an unbelievable (and I mean perhaps quite literally unbelievable) number of victims. He references the notorious French serial killer Gilles de Rais and asserts that he murdered around 1,000 children for “Satanic purposes”. This particular idea, on its own, should be addressed first and foremost.

Gilles de Rais has long had a reputation as some sort of medieval Satanist in connection with his crimes, and a few people have even attempted to somehow cast him as a persecuted witch or martyr for a long-lost pre-Christian religion, but on what grounds has he been called a Satanist? Is it simply because his crimes were so unbelievably grotesque that they could only be understood as the work of a “Satanic” mind? Or is it because of his apparent esoteric inclinations? Certain testimonies assert that Gilles de Rais practiced alchemy and the art of demon summoning. But King Solomon summoned demons and he was no Satanist. Indeed, he summoned them with the authority of God, and the reality of much of old ceremonial magic, not discussed by Przybyszewski, is that until relatively recently that is how demons were meant to be summoned in the Christian era. A magician, following what was ultimately a Christian system, cast a circle and the names of God and his angels, summoned demons, and through God’s authority bound the demon to his will. Not the most consistently Satanic idea by my standard at least. There is no evidence that Gilles de Rais opposed this idea, certainly none to suggest that he had ever dedicated such efforts to Satan. People, especially when they are unfamiliar with occultism, tend not to understand that just because you’re an occultist and you summon demons doesn’t mean you’re a Satan, particularly not when Satan has nothing to do with your craft. I think that it is more likely that Rais was some sort of lapsed Catholic who dabbled into the occult, as some scholars suggest, and I suspect that the fact that he was testified as having tried to summon demons and killed people for it is the sole reason that anyone, including Przybyszewski, ever regarded him as a Satanist, despite the lack of evidence of any belief system that could be called Satanism or any first or even third person reference to Satanism by name.

Another example Przybyszewski gives is the abbot Guiborg, presumably referring to Etienne Guibourg, who he says held “Black Masses” in which he slaughtered children to mix their blood with menstrual blood and offered the resulting concoction as communion wine. For one thing, I have no doubt that this is one of the original ideas that spawned countless other contemporary Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories. For another thing, it’s not entirely clear if he was an avowed Satanist, and even the details of the alleged crime scene are disputed among historians, though Montague Summers claims to have an account of him performing a sacrificial rite to Astaroth and Asmodeus. In all truth, we really don’t know if the “Black Masses” ever actually happened, though I personally would not be surprised if in reality they never happened. Przybyszewski then asserts that not only children but also adults were used in these concoctions. He claims, for example, that an Italian cardinal once took a concubine (funny, I thought he already said those were banned by the church) and buried in the ground her up to her breasts, placed snakes at her breasts to bite them, and then took the “juice” that flowed out and used it to mix poisons. There’s no name so I think it’s safe to sarcastically file that under “thing that definitely happened”. According to Przybyszewski, all poisons, including the notorious Aqua Tofana, were supposedly manufactured in this way. Except, that’s not actually true. What is apparently known about the Aqua Tofana, which was created in 1630 by Giulia Tofana, is that it was made with arsenic, lead, and belladonna, not human blood or anything derived from human flesh, although we don’t actually know how it was mixed.

Whole epidemics are attributed to these concoctions, which seems doubtful in my eyes. Remember that he said that these were made using human blood obtained through sacrifice. Creating deadly concoctions through the use of mixtures of human blood would probably caue some sort of blood-related disease. In fact, just drinking human blood on its own is hardly safe; besides the possibility of becoming poisoned by ingesting too much iron from blood, different people can carry all sorts of diseases and pathogens in their blood, and drinking that blood would likely transfer this into your own bloodstream. Now imagine what a mixture of blood from two different people mixed with all sorts of other substances could do to you? Based on Przybyszewski’s claim that Gilles de Rais killed 1,000 children, the allegation that Etienne Guibourg and his mistress Madame de Montespan killed another 2,500, and the presumably innummerable cases of people who Przybyszewski says were killed so that their blood could be turned into poisons, there should have been evidence of massive epidemic of blood-related diseases. I have not found any noteworthy outbreaks of blood diseases in the Middle Ages, let alone any that could be attributed to any sort of witches’ concoction or “black masses”. Frankly, if such ceremonies were real let alone frequent, there would at least be evidence of small outbreaks of blood disorders caused by drinking blood or blood mixed with other substances en masse. The fact that Przybyszewski seems to nonetheless present such things as real and factual is inherently problematic, particularly considering the broad similarity between these “black mass” claims and claims of blood libel, and that problem is not necessarily reduced by the argument about his views about evil.

In any case this is all connected by Przybyszewski back to the subject of witch trials, which are then presented as “well justified” from the standpoint of society. Przybyszewski claims that in 1605, about 2,000 poison mixers were executed in Bohemia, Silesia, and Lausatia. I can’t verify that claim anywhere, so I have no idea where he got it from. Assuming it was true, the poison-mixers would supposedly have been punished by being pinched with red-hot tongues, broken on the wheel, and then “smoked”: that is, roasted by a fire encircled around them. One might as well have already died and gone to the Christian Hell if we go by that description. This, of course, is all justified by the power of these poisons and how they were made. Going from an account attributed to the Swiss physician Bartholomäus Carrichter, we are told that a witch takes certain herbs, speaks magickal words taught to her by a demon or “evil spirit” and which she supposedly does not actually understand (Carrichter treats the whole thing as a creation of her imagination as conditioned by false beliefs), then she presses the juice out of the herbs, washes her hands with it three times, lets it dry by itself in her hands, and don’t wash their hands anymore until they have touched the one they want to harm. As soon as they approach the person they want to harm and that person is not “committed to God”, the spirit of the herbs entered the target and blocked the spirits of their blood, causing a maddening and continuous pain and convulsions. Somehow I fail to see this being an effective epidemic threat, let alone one capable of justifying what must seem like the actual tortures of the Christian Hell upon probably thousands of people. But, of course, Przybyszewski would disagree, suggesting that people in the Middle Ages were highly suggestible to the effects of the poison, which apparently ensured that it worked.

By Przybyszewski’s telling, people in the Middle Ages “had to defend themselves”, and medieval society “had to root out criminal sects” just like how the British attempted to wipe out the “Thuggee” in India in Przybyszewski’s time. It is interesting enough that the witches are being compared to another sect whose existence is not entirely accepted by contemporary scholarship and made for a convenient target for state violence, in this case the British Empire as opposed to the old monarchies of medieval continental Europe. From this standpoint, persecution is framed as a matter of self-defence. From a critical standpoint, we may well admit that this inevitably the case from the standpoint of the overall logic of society, or at least statehood. Society and the state always needs some kind of “Other” to oppose and project a wide array of crimes onto. The state retains its existence through an exclusive monopoly of violence, and so it must always find ways of justifying that violence or ability to dispense it, and so it continually seeks out those it can persecute in order to exercise its own authority. So goes for society in order retain widespread conformity and, from there, authority. Crimes were continually attributed to witches, which allowed the medieval state and church rationalize persecuting them. The fear of the strappado, the tongs, the wheel, and the pitch-boot were assumed to prevent magically-talented people from giving themselves to Satan and mixing poisons in his honour, and supposedly there were many such witches. Eight million were supposedly processed, only a small portion of which turned out to be innocent. I suppose that all depends on the question, “innocent of what?”, when we account for the actual reality of the witch trials. For one thing, the actual number of people executed for witchcraft was definitely far lower than eight million (a figure likely influenced by Gottfried Christian Voigt’s similar count of nine million); the highest estimated death toll is likely to have been 60,000. For another thing, we know that at least most of the people who were killed as a result of these trials were actually other Christians, sometimes practicing a form of folk magick alongside their faith but often simply poor women who were considered rebellious – most certainly not people who had “given themselves over to Satan”. So on those terms, it is definitely not “a small number of people” who were innocent, contrary to Przybyszewski’s assertion.

And yet Przybyszewski also hints that perhaps much worse was done by the anti-witch party. We are told that it is hard to “nab” a good medium, a supposition that Przybyszewski gleams from the accounts of Sprenger, Bodin, Nicolas Remy (a.k.a. Remigius), de Lancre, and the many judges who Przybyszewski seems to suggest as having carried out massacres against entire sects and mediums in order. This was supposedly justified by “the consideration of the well-being of the human family”, on the basis that the people killed by the witch-hunters suffered from “moral insanity”. Freethinking individuals are advised to thank Remy that no outrageous dances, doppelgangers, or hellish noises were ever present at these witch trials. Not quite sure where that was meant to go.

After all that, however, now we come to what appears to be the next stage of the development of Satan’s church. We are told that Satan has become bored with his band of witches, and that the militant church, up to now assumed to have been crushed by Satan’s church, appears to have triumphed at this point. Satan decided that he no longer needed agitation and propaganda, and he became indifferent to the women who danced before him. Out of boredom and desire for new forms of lust, Satan became cruel. Sex with him became a form of torture, the women he chose screamed in agony and trickled blood from wherever he penetrated them. We’re told that Paracelsus claimed that the women were virgins and did not desire the act. Satan’s imagination could no longer bring any variety to the orgies of old, and he no longer cared to hide in remote and inaccesible places. Instead, he was now powerful enough to infiltrate the church of his Christian adversary, and from there to topple him from his own altar and make the priests into his servants. By the end of the 16th century, the advances made by Satan ensured that this was not difficult.

Przybyszewski says that at this time there were a plethora of priests who brought the “sabbat” to their congregations and staged “black masses”. We are told that Pierre de Lancre had burned three priests, presumably on charges of holding “black masses”, and offered endless excuses for his actions. Soon the “black mass” became common and widely practiced in convents, held and developed by priests who wanted to satisfy the desires of flesh. We are then presented with an account of the development of an “obscene cult”, ostensibly derived from the Memoires of Madeleine Bavent (or “Magalaine Bavent” as he seems to spell it for whatever reason). “Memoires” seems to actually be The Confessions of Madeleine Bavent, which for some reason Przybyszewski inaccurately referred to as “Memoires”. In any case, the account of the “obscene cult” begins with a location: a chapel in the cloisters at Louivers. There are no sects, it was bright because of the arrangement of lamps on the altar, supposedly fueled with human fat, which was supposedly common practice. A few priests are said to be involved: one named Picard, his vicar, Boullé, and about five or six nuns. The host bore no image, blasphemies were uttered as the host was elevated, and the mass was conducted with maledictions against the Trinity, the Eucharist, and all Christian sacraments. Supposedly, it was asserted that, while the Saints of God “do great things”, the unholy ones of the Devil are not inferior to them. This particular aspect would seem to recall the dualism between God and Satan that was established at the beginning of The Synagogue of Satan and later attributed to “Manichaeanism”. The priest then supposedly carved a hole into the mass and then stuck a piece of prepared parchment through the hole, apparently to satisfy some kind of lust.

A woman named Maria Von Sains is said to have recounted that the priest would sprinkle “the blood of Christ” all over the congregation, while the cry “may his blood cover us and our children!” resounded during the service. This exact saying seems to come from Matthew 27:25, in which it originally followed the act of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’ blood. This seems to have since been interpreted as an acceptance of collective responsibility for the crucifixion, and hence became a part of Christian anti-semitism. I can only assume that in this context it’s being uttered in a different, purely blasphemous context. During this mass, the congregation stuck out their tongues, took off their clothes, or simply presented their bare asses to the altar, or they masturbated to the elevation of the host before converging into an orgy. This was the “Black Mass”, which so far appears as a subversion of Christianity that is nonetheless within Christianity, though clearly packaged with aspects of the older forms of Satanism as presented by Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski asserts that this “Black Mass” was not only very popular but also “almost public” towards the middle of the 17th century. Such celebrations were supposedly no longer a secret, and Przybyszewski cites as an example the gatherings of women in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Paris and the Abbey of Montmartre.

We then return to the subject of Etienne Guibourg and his trial. This trial is purported to have compromised the aristocracy of the court of the “Sun King” Louis XIV as well as his mistresses to such an extent that it had to be covered up. Whether or not that was actually the case, Przybyszewski insists that despite this there are plenty of facts to establish about the case. Again, these should be understood solely as claims made by Przybyszewski, since we have no actual idea if Guibourg’s “Black Mass” actually happened. We are told in any case that, in a chapel, completely decked out in black, there was an altar with a wreath surrounded by black candles, and that it is here that Guibourg awaited his many clients. These clients apparently included the poet Jean Racine, Marquis D’Argenson, a man referred to as “de Saint-Pont”, Cardinal de Boullion, the Duke of Luxembourg, Lord Buckingham, and none other than Madame de Montaspan. It can’t have escaped your notice that these consist mostly of powerful and influential people in the court of Louis XIV. Madame de Montaspan supposedly wanted to become the queen of France, and would do and sacrifice anything in order to win the crown, while Guibourg, who Przybyszewski says supplied the entire French royal aristocracy with poisons, was the only man who could help her achieve her goal. Przybyszewski says that just after entering the chapel the Madame stripped down completely and placed herself on the altar.

The ritual itself, according to Przybyszewski, began when Guibourg laid a cloth over the Madame’s belly and placed a chalice upon it. Then he recited the liturgical mass in accordance with Catholic tradition, except that he then kissed the naked body of the Madame instead of the altar, and then consecrated the host over her vagina before inserting a piece of said host into her body. Then, the daughter of the witch La Voisin cried out three times while Claude des Oeillets, here presented as a witch, brought in a child purchased from their mother. Exactly why the mother would ever agree to such a transaction is frankly beyond my understanding, but Przybyszewski claims that children were viewed as a cheap commodity in that time. Then, Guibourg supposedly said “Christ said, suffer the little children who come unto me. I want you to go to him and become one with him.”. Then he allegedly invoked the “princes of friendship”, Astaroth and Asmodeus, to receive the child as sacrifice. Blood flowed into the chalice, and spilled everywhere else, and the blood that entered the chalice was mixed with wine, part of the host, and the ashes of the unbaptised to produce communion wine, while the sacrifice is turned into a mummy. Guibourg supposedly said “This is my body! This is my blood!” before sharing the blood wine between himself and the Madame. Then he conjured “dark powers” to fulfill the Madame’s primary goal for this ritual: to win the affection and favour of Louis XIV in order to become the queen of France. Then the mass concludes with Guibourg covering his genitals as well as those of the Madame with blood and having sex.

Probably the most important thing to reiterate is that almost certainly none of this happened. There is no evidence of any of the sacrificial rites having been carried out. There would be evidence of human remains if any of it happened, but La Voisin’s garden was never even searched. What is Przybyszewski’s source for any of the details of Guibourg’s so-called “Black Mass”? According to Przybyszewski, what little evidence exists comes from Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel La Bas and the preface to Le Satanisme et La Magie by Henri Antoine Jules-Bois (a book that Przybyszewski otherwise regards as mediocre). So his source is a work of fiction written by a Catholic and fellow Decadent whose actual connection to Satanism is entirely unverifiable and a book about Satanism written by a man known in the French occult partly for accusing his rivals of being Satanists. Stuff like that is basically what I mean when I established at the outset that you cannot treat The Synagogue of Satan as an actual history of Satanism, because as history it’s frankly fairly terrible. But here let us return to the operative point: what does all of this lurid exposition tell us about Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism? Frankly, not much. I suppose all the blasphemy might be interpreted in terms of reversal, though the rest of the details take us back to the exact same conversation about possible problems with Przybyszewski’s overall approach to negativity. More to the point, even here it is hard to believe that Guibourg is necessarily a Satanist. Even if we assume that the blasphemies that Przybyszewski describes could invoke some sort of Satanic reversal, even in Przybyszewski’s account it seems that Guibourg never actually invokes Satan. Although he petitions the powers of Astaroth and Asmodeus, it’s not clear that he actually denies Christ or God; though of course, the ritual in the overall can hardly be described as Christian. It’s an absurd mess with no inherent concept behind it. I am absolutely confident that no one has ever actually performed it in reality.

We are then directed to the subject of Leo Taxil’s infamous hoax, in which he claimed that the Freemasons were a Satanic sect only to publicly reveal that he made the whole thing up as a prank. I believe that it is here, after all the absurdities regard black masses, poisons, and witch trials, that we are once again able to get deeper into Przybyszewski’s philosophy of Satanism. While Przybyszewski does not defend the idea that the Freemasons were Satanists as Taxil’s hoax said they were, he does nonetheless propose that the Satanists did in fact split into two camps. The first of these camps is the so-called Palladians, who, according to Przybyszewski, simply turned Catholicism upside down. The name “Palladian” brings to mind the “Palladists”, who supposedly worshipped Lucifer and consorted with demons. Przybyszewski’s Palladians are apparently a “neo-Gnostic” sect who believed that Lucifer, apparently also called Adonai, was the “God of Light” and Principle of Good, in opposition to Jehovah-Adonai, the “God of Darkness” and presumably “Principle of Evil”. I would say that Przybyszewski might as well have called them Luciferians, since in essence it is the same idea as certain stereotypical representations of Luciferianism as (theoretically) distinct from Satanism: Lucifer is the true expression of divine goodness and knowledge, who was unjustly opposed, usurped, and cast down by the God of the Bible. This dualism between a “God of Light” and a “God of Darkness” is very much familiar, it reminds us of the “Manichaeans” that Przybyszewski discussed in previous sections of the book. And indeed Przybyszewski himself draws this comparison, saying that the Palladians represent the tenacity and life force of the old “Manichaeanism”. As long as we’re comparing the Palladians to the “Manichaeans”, it stands to reason that the Palladians are a new incarnation of the “Manichaean” sect that favoured the worship of the “White God” or “God of Light” over the “Black God”. But, of course, from the starting point of the Palladians we are also presented with a space in which Satanism distinguishes itself from them.

Whereas the Palladians identify Satan as Lucifer and regard him as the God of Light and Principle of Good, Satanism, on Przybyszewski’s terms, absolutely rejects this idea. Satanists accept Satan as the Fallen Angel, the Great Adversary, the eternal Serpent of temptation, the Prince of Darkness; in essence, Satanists do not deny evil from Satan, and instead revere him for it. Satan for the Satanists remains as he was in the Middle Ages; the Devil who could help people obtain strange powers, and under whose protection one could commit crimes or transgress the law without fear. This apparently is even moreso the case now that black magic is no longer accounted for in the law books. According to Przybyszewski, the Satanists are typically lead by a priest who is gifted with magical abilities and performs blasphemous masses. His example, of course, is Canon Docre, which seems to simply be a nickname for Etienne Guibourg, and I have already gone through the problems of him as an example. Citing Huysmans’ La Bas, we get a description of what the generic Black Mass is apparently supposed to be. The Black Mass is meant to consist of blasphemous recitations of mass and the defiling of the sacraments concluding with a sexual orgy. This apparently is meant to involve a particularly horny priest (one afflicted with satyriasis) and women with somnambulistic tendencies, which essentially just means giving to hypnotic states of trance, much like the witches that Przybyszewski. These seem to be the basic elements of a Black Mass, and it’s interesting and rather fortunate that blood sacrifice isn’t actually listed as an essential part of it. But as for what is basic to the Black Mass, open transgression against God, wanton carnality, and somnanmbulistic ecstasy are the key themes here, because the part of the central point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, lodged beneath the sensationalism is that Satan is to be worshipped with ecstatic and orgiastic rites, with sexuality, and an unremitting defiance and will-to-reversal. That’s a big part of why Przybyszewski positions “the heathen cult” as essentially religious libertinism, that’s why the “Manichaean” splinter sect who favoured “The Black God” worshipped him with nocturnal orgies resembling the ancient worship of Dionysus, and it’s part of the reason why sexuality, drunkenness, and intoxication are such big features of the “sabbat”. But, of course, that’s not the only reason. The other reason is that, in Przybyszewski’s philosophy, sex itself is the refuge of transgression, where everything is possible and thus every transgression.

Satanism, Przybyszewski tells us, is a religion a rebours, a religion of reversal, a religion of hate, revenge, and fornication. It is in this setting no less than the cult of the transvaluation of values, the doctrine of negation of the so-called law that stands against desire, the church of vengeance against oppression and authority, and the unholy mystery of sexuality. This encapsulates the raw negativity that is the real point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. And, again, sex is central to Satanism, and to Satanic reversal. Sex is an abyss in which all things are possible, every crime is hatched, and a terrible urge for delirium rages that can only be stifled by inhuman things. Thus it is the seat of the destruction of all that is binding on the human psyche. Such things are a mystery to the outsider, a “normal” person, so called by nature of their conditioning and the extent to which they passively accept it, cannot quite understand it, no more than your average cishet man or woman understands queerness. Perhaps even those with “Satanic inclinations” must first pass into the mystery of Satanism before they really grasp its essence; as with Life itself, it is a dark forest, it is arrheton. And so, Przybyszewski says that a “normal” person cannot comprehend the Black Mass. But, of course, he does insist that no one can deny what people do in the frenzy of the Black Mass.

Now we come to Przybyszewski’s remarks on the growth of Satanism in the 19th century, his own time, and I find it is another instance which tells us of his ultimate lack of regard for the Enlightenment and his contradictory relationship with materialism. Przybyszewski says that Satanism has continued to grow under the protection of the “atheistic” liberal state and “liberal church”, the latter of which has come to a certain understanding with a nascent Darwinism and materialism. Both are said to have based their existence on “materialistic” teachings, and in this setting Satanism becomes strong and powerful. Ah, if only things were so simple in reality, then perhaps Christianity would have been nothing but a memory in my age. The liberal church, of course, has no desire to deal with Satanism, despite apparently having every cause to do so, supposedly because it denies its own origins and is the enemy of all forms of mysticism. Liberalism is thus positioned simultaneously as the unwitting ally of Satanism, who protects Satanism and Satanists from the persecutions of the traditionalist church, and as an interminable nuisance whose presence ultimately harms all attunement to mysticism. This latter trait, of course, sets liberalism at odds not only with Christianity, but with all forms of occultism and ultimately with the individualist mysticism of Satanism. It is very much implied that Przybyszewski does not like contemporary materialism, on the grounds of its similar rejection of mysticism, the occult, the soul, the Devil, witchcraft, and all the attendant subject matter. Yet, I am also not convinced that Przybyszewski was entirely opposed to materialism, not while he positions Satan as the god of flesh and matter and thus extolls what Iwan Bloch refers to as the “Physical Mysterium of Copulation” in opposition to the idealism of the “Metaphysical Mysticism of Idolization”. Indeed, by placing sex at the center of his Satanic mystery, Przybyszewski could arguably interpreted as privileging flesh, or at least such would seem to be the case if it were not for his belief in the soul as something that can be separated from the body.

Przybyszewski apparently concludes The Synagogue of Satan with a discussion of Eugene Vintras, one of the more notorious Catholic mystics, and his sect, the Church of Carmel, which he says practiced “the most shameful” fornication and blasphemy. He cites Stanislas de Guaita’s book Le Serpent de la Genese as his source for the information he writes about Vintras. To begin with, we are told that the Carmel sect is based on a belief in the progressive redemption of all beings from the lowest level to the highest level. To that end, each individual must work on their own perfection and participate in the common effort of perfection. The goal of the Carmelite is to reunite with the Garden of Eden through religious rites involving sexual union; the rationale here is that Eve lost Paradise through an act of “sinful love”, but through an act of “religious love” it can be recovered. Thus, sex can lead to either sin or salvation depending on its purpose. From there we are told that the Carmelites practiced “heavenly love” by fornicating among themselves in order to perfect themselves as well as with “lower elementary spirits” or demons with the aim of converting them into celestial beings. It seems that sex, if practiced in the Carmelite way, has the power to turn you into an angel. For the Carmelite, salvation is found only in sexual union. Supposedly, every man in the sect “owned” every woman, and vice versa. Przybyszewski refers to this as “sexual communism”, which he asserts forms the basis of this doctrine and others like it. The bed was the altar, the kiss was the priestly office, and masturbation (“the unnatural vice of Onan”) was a means of elevating lower beings. Public sex and prostitution supposely became not only virtues but also acts of inner sanctification.

This was deemed to be quite exceptionally offensive in France, and the Rosicrucians called for the head of Eugene Vintras. Przybyszewski says that a death sentence was to be carried out by the Vehme if Vintras did not cease his activities within a few years. The “Father” Vintras is alleged to have sanctified his followers through sexual intercourse. Infidelity among spouses was purportedly resolved through “celestial unions”. The Carmelite leader was apparently surrounded by mediums and somnambulists, through he whom he wanted to explore the secrets of black magick. This, we’re told, poses a danger that the liberal state should not ignore, due to the growing membership of the Church of Carmel. Przybyszewski then frames the “highest eternally old and eternally new principle” of Gnosticism as essentially the worship of copulation; “the skeleton was created to bear children, the genitals for mating”. Przybyszewski then claims that the Carmelites even railed against “the taboo of blood” on the grounds that “even the Christians mated amongst themselves”. Sexual mysticism, allegedly sanctifying the worst forms of fornication, is both central and nothing new; Przybyszewski claims that it is in essence the doctrine of the Cathars in a new form. He asserts that the “positive character” of Carmelite sexual mysticism made it more dangerous than Satanism, because Satanism was according to him rooted in a negation full of the fear of hell. But why the bad conscience when you’re under Satan’s protection? Why the fear of hell in the face of the torments of God? Perhaps the real point is that the fear of hell is one of the contradictions that lies at the center of Satanic transgression, which is then resolved in the “sabbat” and the cult of Satan through the ecstatic rejection of heaven.

And so again we return to the serious philosophy of Satanism, and Przybyszewski reiterates that sex is central to it. Satanism, on Przybyszewski’s terms at least, is about acquainting oneself with the hidden powers of sexuality, and being able to do so requires quelling the ever-increasing demands of sex and satisfy its vengeance. This is why a person gives themselves over to Satan. Not for nothing, then, that Iwan Bloch refers to Przybyszewski’s Satan as the “Personification of the Physical Mysterium of Copulation”. Indeed, this doctrine makes a lot of sense of the way sexuality and sexual excess figure so strongly into the cult of Satan as presented by Przybyszewski throughout The Synagogue of Satan. But the other important part of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, indeed, the last important premise to be discussed, is the central role of intoxication. In the realms of night and even pain, one finds delirium and intoxication. You may fall into hell, but by receiving delirium in frenzy, you can forget about it. And so in this forgetting and ecstasy, we lean into the grand formula of Satanism: “Erase me from the book of life, inscribe me in the book of death!”.

At last I can talk about this in an interesting way. After all, what is the “book of life”, and what is the “book of death”? The “book of life” is something that is referenced in the Bible, but the idea of there being a book for life and for death seems to be a more apocrine idea. The “book of life” in both Judaism and Christianity is the tablet on which God inscribes the names of those he considers righteous. Those whose names are recorded in the “book of life” are assured of everlasting life with God, while those whose names are blotted out of that book are condemned to death. In the Book of Revelation, those whose names are inscribed in the “book of life” are saved, while those who are not inscribed are cast into the lake of fire where they die the second death. But although death is the fate of those blotted out of the “book of life”, the “book of death” is found not in the Bible but in the apocryphal Book of Jubilees. In Jubilees, whereas “the righteous” are recorded in the “book of life”, those who are wicked and walk a path of impurity will be inscribed in the “book of death”, also known as the “Book of Perdition”. The latter name suggests the camp of rebels, those who defy God, like the “son of perdition” who is the most intractable enemy of the church. “Everlasting life” with God is to be propertied to God. You belong to God for as long as your name is inscribed in the “book of life”, and that name stays there for as long as you remain servile to God, as one of the sheep presided over on the right side of Christ. To take yourself out of God’s property, then, is to take your name out of the “book of life”. To inscribe your name into the “book of death”, or rather the Book of Perdition, is in this sense the act of self-assertion, to partake in the war of all against all on your own behalf. It is a declaration of Rebellion. Though, as we will see, perhaps Przybyszewski has a somewhat different view.

Towards the very end of The Synagogue of Satan, we see Przybyszewski’s Satanism unfold as a form of philosophical and mystic pessimism. For you see, life, according to Przybyszewski, is cruel. Life is a difficult burden that is foisted upon you. This is the realm of daylight. The realm of night, however, represents intoxication, delirium, and the attendant forgetting of life. Bourgeois life cannot do much to help you understand this, there is no measure by which the middle class citizen may compensate themselves for their ignorance through their riches. The facts of life, to truly be understood, must be understood in their abyss. It is again arrheton, that which is ineffable and whose knowledge requires passing into it. Life is harsh and cruel, and so there is only one way out: intoxication. Desperate people have intoxicated themselves with poisons, with filth, and with sexual ecstasies. The individual “splits in two”, their nerves rip, and they suffer tortures, but in the process at least they forget about life. This we are told is the one horror that exceeds every other: the filth, the slavery, the herds of lizards, the sacraments of blood and piss, all these for Przybyszewski pale in comparison to the horror of life itself. This ultimately motivates Przybyszewski’s ideas about Satanic transgression in the context of his fantastical narrative; the crimes that are committed, the vengeance that is undertaken, the shattering of the laws that commences, all of it is to inscribe one’s name into the “book of death” in order to negate the life that is so hated.

Przybyszewski’s Satanist would rather give himself up than allow himself to be deterred from his crimes. Przybyszewski’s Satanist breaks, inverts, mocks, and pollutes all laws, and hates everything that is in power over him, whether that is religion, secular institutions, the state, or capitalism. Przybyszewski’s Satanist would rather die than surrender or be forced to recant. Przybyszewski’s Satanist makes it his business – no, his religious duty – to shatter the restrictions of life, and judging by how cruel life is we might say that this rebellion and will to reversal is his reason to continue living. Przybyszewski’s Satanist is also the witch who, when her executioner wanted to free her in exchange for sexual subservience, rejected his advances with anger and pride: “I, who have kissed the ass of Satan, should give myself to you, the executor of the law!?”. Through everything else this simple roar of outrage expresses the true ethos of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. Total refusal and negation of authority and power, taken up as the highest virtue. That is the raw nihilist ethos Przybyszewski’s Satanist. This supremely anti-authoritarian nihilism is in utter contrast to LaVeyan Satanism, with its Pentagonal Revisionism and Anton LaVey’s self-avowed law and order ideology, or the bastardised Platonism of Michael Aquino, or The Satanic Temple with their humanism and their police regalia. I think that Przybyszewski would probably laugh at today’s Satanists for this and their lack of nihilistic vitality, let alone for the fact that many of them deny worshipping Satan (I must remind you at this point that, as far as Przybyszewski was concerned, Satanism meant actually worshipping Satan).

Finally, Przybyszewski derides the Cathars and the Carmelites, and presumably any similar sects, for their apparent efforts to sanctify delirium, nymphomania, and satyriasis. He considers this to be a sad and miserable hypocrisy. I think there may be a contradiction here, since he does hold the same regard for “the heathen cult” and the pre-Christian form of the “sabbat” for doing the same thing. But, it is also obvious that “sanctification”, for the Cathars and the Carmelites, would have meant dedicating those things to the Christian God as a means of blessing and saving beings. Satanism, of course, rejects such efforts. The whole premise of “salvation” is diametrically opposed to Satanism, and so Satan himself is no Saviour. Przybyszewski’s Satan is the creator and the destroyer, the god who creates life and then destroys it again and generates evolution only to negate it again. Funny enough, the exact same thing could be said about God if we take the monotheistic claims about him seriously, though I suppose at least Satan never claimed that he was going to “save” mankind in this telling. We should remember that Przybyszewski’s framing easily positions Satan as the true creator, being the father and patron of matter, flesh, and the generative powers of the world, which would make the Christian God a false creator. Satan-Paraclete is but the Paraclete of Evil, the spirit that proclaims the only law: the submergence of sin in something greater. Satan teaches humans to forget and overcome the maladies of life by means of negation and the ecstasy of instincts. The word of the Satan-Paraclete is enivrez-vous, meaning “get drunk”. And so ends the text of Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan.

I suppose before we conclude we could well examine this doctrine of enivrez-vous, of drunkenness as a virtue. Charles Baudelaire, one of France’s great Decadents, wrote a poem with exactly that title, Enivrez-vous, and its overall message is sort of similar. One must always be drunk or intoxicated in order to not feel the bruises of Time, you must intoxicate yourself with what you can – wine, poetry, or even virtue, truly anything! – in order to avoid becoming a “martyred slave of Time”. Przybyszewski’s Satanism would thus present a slight alteration of this: you must always intoxicate yourself in order to become a tortured slave of life, or indeed a slave of God. The doctrine that Przybyszewski presents regarding intoxication allows us to make a great deal of sense of the radical emphasis on ecstatic ritualism, hypnotic states, and narcotic consumption in the celebrations of Satan, and even the emphasis on sexuality can be said to fold into this broader doctrine.

Conclusion: Summary of Przybyszewskian Satanism

So, now to summarize what we can understand about Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism. We may understand it as comprising the following points:

  • Przybyszewski’s Satanism is based on the worship of Satan.
  • It is also based on a philosophy defined by nihilism, pessimism, libertinism, and egoism.
  • The core aspects of Przybyszewski’s Satanism are reversal, negation, intoxication, sexual ecstasy, and drunkenness.
  • Przybyszewski’s Satanism begins with “the heathen cult” and gradually evolved into “Manichaeanism” and then into the church of Satan.
  • Satan is the patron god of matter, flesh, and the evolution, generation, and negation contained within it.
  • Opposed to Satan is God, his son Jesus, and the church, who all represent the invisible kingdom against the world.
  • Satan is not the misunderstood principle of good, rather he is “good” because he is “evil”, and “evil” is the transvaluation of values.
  • Satan is worshipped through orgiastic and ecstatic celebrations, such as the “sabbat” and the “black mass”.
  • Satanism is based on pride, instinct, curiosity, and individualistic mysticism (or “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”). This means that Przybyszewski’s Satanism opposes Christianity and similar religions, but also modern rationalism.
  • While Przybyszewski’s Satanism can be thought of as materialistic, it also seems to privilege the soul and the possibility of its ecstatic movement away from the body.
  • Free will is a myth, but at the same time the ability to exercise individual will is central.
  • Sin is good, no one is culpable of sin because Satan is the author of sin, so no one is punished for sin after death.
  • Life is cruel, death is certain, but by worshipping Satan you can forget about life and overcome its horrors through ecstatic negation.
  • The aim of the “sabbat” is to transform sin into the purity of desire through Satanic communization.
  • Przybyszewski’s Satanist is someone who opposes all authority and all laws, and thus negates everything in an act of transvaluation of values.
  • The goal of the Satanist is to erase their name from the “book of life” and inscribe it in the “book of death”.

It should be pointed out that I don’t think I agree wholeheartedly with Przybyszewskian Satanism. For one thing I think it’s already clear that I don’t think The Synagogue of Satan can be taken as an actual historical account, and in this sense I don’t agree with Przybyszewski’s presentation of the so-called facts of the history of Satanism. I reckon that any modern observer of history would likely understand me here. For another, I obviously don’t align with Przybyszewski’s views on free will, and I maintain that his views on free will are ultimately self-contradicting on the grounds that individual will still exists so that it can be exercised as he says it ought to be, whereas if we take the absence of free will seriously this should not be possible. While I may be something of a pessimist, indeed I insist on revolutionary pessimism and on freeing the power of pessimism, while I definitely have a good sense of where Przybyszewski goes when he says that life is cruel, I don’t think I inclined myself towards the view of life as an abject horror the way he seems to present it as. How can we totally do so, when the ecstasies of instinct that Przybyszewski presents are so latent to life, even if this only means that this is the online purpose to an otherwise totally meaningless life? All this of course is to say nothing of the problematic ambiguity surrounding Przybyszewski’s presentation of women.

But I insist that there is a great deal of value in Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism that should seriously be considered. For one, understanding the “sabbat” as a form of communization, the desire it upsurges as superseding the value of currency and hierarchy, and understanding Satanic negation as applicable to all authority and all “systems” carries with it an immense potential to define Satanism on anti-capitalist nihilist-egoist terms that allow for an easy break from the reactionism that LaVey and his legacy have largely put forward. For another, in the overall we see an emphasis on negation and reversal that allows us to develop away from the limits of the humanist orthodoxy that seems to pervade modern discussions of Satanism (and at this point I should say right now that Satanism isn’t reducible to the idea that by rejecting God you can be a nicer and more rational person). From the standpoint of Satanic Paganism I can’t deny that I have some fondness of his attempt to link back to some orgiastic pre-Christian tradition, though I must say it smacks the old Enlightenment-era Romantic Paganism and its simplistic understanding of Paganism. At the very least it may also provide a way of enriching the links between the two worlds. I would also say that Przybyszewski is absolutely correct to suggest that our understanding of things should consist “in their abyss”. From one of his other works, Homo Sapiens, we behold a demand for life and its “terrible depths” and “bottomless abyss”, which I think can be interpreted at least on its own as a call for the understanding of life as something that cannot be separated from its “abyss”. The inner darkness of life is to be cherished, not exorcised.

Regardless of everything, though, it must be stressed here and now: this is the Satanism that predated Anton LaVey. This is what was called Satanism before LaVey claimed to have invented it. This is the Satanism that Stanislaw Przybyszewski identified with since 1889 at the earliest, and around which he formed a small movement including people like Hanns Heinz Ewers and Wojciech Weiss dedicated to spreading Satanism. This apparently even inspired later movements such as Fraternitas Saturni. Its philosophy, when considered carefully on its own terms and in its own context, flies squarely in the face of our existing orthodoxy about what Satanism is. And, even if not for all else, Przybyszewski deserves a lot of credit for extending the philosophy of Nietzsche into the form of a Satanic doctrine.

I won’t say that The Synagogue of Satan is the best read even on Satanism, not least because as history it’s just not fit for purpose. But we ought to remember that book anyway, and Przybyszewski more generally. I should hope to eventually be able to get my hands on more of his work at some point. Perhaps they might say yet more.

Black Mass by Felicien Rops (1877)

Commentary on “The Synagogue of Satan” by Stanislaw Przybyszewski – Chapter 1: The Creation of the Church of Satan

Last year I wrote an article about Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who at the time I had sort of “discovered” through the work of Per Faxneld, and in the process got to know a fair bit about Przybyszewski’s philosophy, enough to conclude that Stanislaw Przybyszewski, not Anton LaVey, was in fact the world’s first Satanist. But at the time, I did not have access to probably the main statement of his vision of Satanism: The Synagogue of Satan. Written in 1897, The Synagogue of Satan is a decadent manifesto that outlines his own somewhat artistic account of what he seems to have believed was the tradition of Satanism, which in his view emerged from deep roots in mystic traditions that reacted against Christianity and presented a philosophy that included an active principle of “evil”. In last year’s article I could only discuss parts of that text, as presented via Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity. But, a few months ago, I managed to track down and purchase a physical copy of The Synagogue of Satan to have and to read, and now, because of this, I am able to discuss its contents in full.

What follows is a commentary on The Synagogue of Satan, undertaken from the standpoint of its place in the history of Satanic canon and from the standpoint of a contemporary treatment of Satanism. It examines what The Synagogue of Satan has to say about Satanism, how to interpret Przybyszewski’s treatment of Satanism, issues within the overall work, and what insights we can weave through it. In this way, I hope to address what is from my standpoint probably the original essence of modern Satanism, at least insofar as we’re dealing with the word of the first modern Satanist, and contribute to its revival, and thereby the work of philosophically grounding contemporary Satanism against the vision offered by the “mainstream” of modern Satanist organizations such as the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple.

I should note that the edition of The Synagogue of Satan that I possess is the Runa Raven Press edition, translated by Istvan Sarkady and published in 2002. I have scoured all over the internet for literally any edition for a physical English translation, and this was the only one I can find. This edition seems to consist of five chapters, whereas other editions split the same content into two chapters; the first is usually called “The Creation of the Church of Satan” and the second is called “The Cult of the Church of Satan”. I am informed that the same appears to be true for the Alkahest Press edition, though like the Runa Raven Press edition there is a paragraph at the beginning referencing three “essays”. In the Runa Raven Press edition, the first chapter is presented as an account of what Przybyszewski believed to be the historical development of Satanism from antiquity up to the time when “the church of Satan” was fully developed, which from the seems of it he seemed to believe occurred with the rise of Manicheism. The second chapter is presented as a treatment of the priesthood and cult of “the church of Satan”, and seems to focus on how he believed Satan became popular in the Middle Ages. The third chapter is presented as a “critical scientific evaluation of Satanism”, though it tends to focus on the concept of the witch. The fourth chapter seems to be Przybyszewski’s exposition of the sabbat, or witches’ sabbat, in its supposed historical origin and relevance to Satanism. The fifth and final chapter seems to continue discussion of the witch and the sabbat but tending ultimately toward the broader subject of Satanic negation.

Still, for the ease of the reader, it may actually be better that I run with the structure of the Runa Raven Press edition that I own, especially since the original is technically divided into five parts between its two chapters anyway, so that I can divide this commentary into five parts. Part 1, The Heathen Cult, examines Przybyszewski’s account of the supposed origin of the cult of Satan in pre-Christian polytheism and its development towards his construction of “Manichaeanism”. Part 2, The Church, explores Przybyszewski’s account of the gradual deterioration of the Christian church as beset by heresy, revolt, and the vengeance of Satan. Part 3, The Witch, examines Przybyszewski’s conception of the Witch as the most notorious expression of Satanic negativity as well as the nature of Satan’s church. Part 4, The Sabbat, continues to explore the nature of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, or the church of Satan, through the subject of Witches’ Sabbath. And finally, Part 5, The Black Mass, concludes the investigation of Przybyszewski’s Satanism with a discussion of the “Black Mass” as well as Przybyszewski’s overall Satanic philosophy as ostensibly expressed in the occult of Przybyszewski’s time.

Also, in the process of writing this commentary, I have found that it has taken more effort to cover what I wanted to than I had hoped, and the overall has ended up becoming quite bloated. Rather than subject you, the reader, to another article in excess of 30,000 words, I have instead decided to split my commentary into two articles, based on the two chapters of the original German edition of The Synagogue of Satan. As you have seen first of these articles covers the first chapter, “The Creation of the Church of Satan”, and is named accordingly after it. It will consist of Part 1, The Origin of Satan’s Cult, and Part 2, The Decline of Christendom. The second article will be named after the second chapter, “The Cult of the Church of Satan”. It will consist of Part 3, The Witch, Part 4, The Sabbat, and Part 5, The Black Mass, as well as the overall conclusion of the commentary.

It should finally be noted that although my principle aim is to discuss the philosophical content and rammifications of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, there are also several problems and issues with Przybyszewski’s historical treatment of the subject matter, and these are to be addressed as they appear. It’s worth remembering that, at least based on his writing, Przybyszewski seems to have actually believed in the historicity of certain accounts of witchcraft and black masses, and did not regard them as superstitions or tall tales, and so we are required to take his accounts of such things with a grain of salt. It also seems to me that Przybyszewski may have based some aspects of his history of Christianity from the work of Jules Michelet. But of course, for our purposes, what matters is what is communicated about Przybyszewski’s vision of Satanism. In this respect, I tend to think that The Synagogue of Satan is best treated as a narrative meant to communicate his philosophy of Satanism, not so much an actual history of it.

Part 1: The Heathen Cult

We can start with Przybyszewski’s account of the two gods who oppose each other forever: Satan and God. Satan is the “evil god” or “bad god” that created the physical world, the flesh, the earth, nature, and all of the passions, doubts, conflicts, pain, and agonies that come with it. God is the “good” god that created spirits and “pure” beings, and the invisible kingdom in which they dwell, ostensibly perfect and devoid of suffering or conflict. This on the surface seems clear-cut: Satan is bad, and God is good, right? No. Because God, the supposed “good god”, is little more than the patron of law, normalcy, humility, and submission, a petty tyrant who claims the past and the future solely for himself, and who demands fully childlike obedience and ignorance so that his followers may have the faith needed to be admitted into the invisible kingdom. And Satan, the supposed “evil god”, is also none other than the lawless and visionary leap into the future, the curiosity for the most hidden secrets, and the defiance that overthrows all laws and all norms. God the “good god” is actually bad because God wants the souls of humans to remain fixed in a purity that is ultimately slavery to his will, and Satan the “evil god” is in his own way actually good because Satan, who is so clearly the force of active negation or negativity, kindled the instincts that allowed people to investigate the world around them and break the rules that were set against their liberty. Wisdom, depravity, pride, humility, in their highest, noblest, deepest, and wildest forms are in Satan, for this is what composes the negativity of the freedom that Satan represents. Satan is the author of heroism, science, philosophy, and art, who called upon his followers to use his herbs and poisons to be healthy, find hidden treasures of the earth to become rich, follow the signs to decipher the future, use magic to destroy enemies while remaining beyond the grasp of the law, and even learn the art of necromancy. Love comes from Satan, and the soul is said share the same origin as Satan, and Satan promises his followers that they will see and obtain everything by embarking his difficult path. This is Przybyszewski’s Satan: the patron of outcasts, heroes, rebels, magicians, and all those animated by his negation, who invites the creatures of his world to cast off the invisble kingdom on behalf of their shared freedom.

An interesting but probably somewhat flawed element here is in the many forms Satan is said to have taken in the book. Przybyszewski calls Satan the Light Bearer, obviously meaning Lucifer, Satan-Father, Satan-Samyasa, no doubt referring to the fallen angel Samyaza, and Satan-Paraclete; very peculiar, considering that Paraclete is another word for the Holy Spirit, though this will become more relevant later. But Przybyszewski also says that Satan lived in the clan of the Magi and the mysteries of the Chaldean temples, and that his priests were called “khartunim”, “kasdim”, and “gazrim”, and that thus Satan was part of the doctrine of “Mazdaism”, or Zoroastrianism, and appeared as the god Ahura Mazda to teach Zarathustra (Zoroaster) the secrets of the haoma plant. It seems like it would have made more sense for Satan to have appeared as Ahriman, the eternal opponent of Ahura Mazda, especially considering that Przybyszewski’s cosmology of two eternally opposed gods is pretty similar to Zoroastrianism, which also assumes two gods eternally locked in struggle. I suspect that the idea is obviously to connect Satan to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche through his character Zarathustra, the hermit prophet named after the prophet Zoroaster but who otherwise does not resemble Zoroaster. In this way Satan, in his guise as Ahura Mazda, would have inspired the re-evaluation of values in ancient Iran. And I suppose that’s true if we mean the shift from polytheism to monotheism, but as we’ll see it’s rather incongruous with what Przybyszewski says about pre-Christian antiquity.

Ahura Mazda is indeed not Satan’s only guise. Przybyszewski’s Satan seems to have appeared as the Egyptian god Thoth, who is here also referred to as “Trismegistos” (as in Hermes Trismegistos), to write down books of esoteric knowledge that shared among a chosen few. Satan also manifested as the Greek goddess Hecate, who shared magickal arts with her devotees including the “invisible death stroke”. Satan also appeared as Pan, also here referred to as Satyr or Phallus, here positioned as a universally revered god of lust and carnality who taught women how to seduce and men how to satisfy their lusts, as well inventing the flute. Przybyszewski’s Pan was also the god Apollo and the goddess Aphrodite “at the same time”, authoring schools of philosophy, building temples to Muses, and teaching medicine, mathematics, and the sexual arts. This all obviously has a simplistic bent to it, and is a fairly obvious sign of the influence of the way pre-Christian Greek and Roman antiquity were interpreted by Enlightenment-era radical liberal authors. In that time, there was a certain romantic notion of “paganism” as referring to a humane and rational creed based simply on the reverence of the natural world and the teaching of “natural law”, the latter rather conveniently dovetailing with certain ideas of “natural law” that were already an established part of the political philosophy of liberalism. It was thus in some ways a constructed religion of liberalism, a more antique Cult of Reason based on the idea of Greek and Roman religion but without actually reflecting its traditional content, and it should come as no surprise that this sometimes incorporated the ideas of what was contemporary hedonism. Words like “pagan”, “paganistic”, or “paganism” in this setting were often practically interchangeable with concepts like hedonism or libertinism, which were long believed to be widespread before the rise of Christianity; such terminology has continued in certain anarchist circles into the 21st century, sometimes to disastrous effect. In any case, the actual realities of Greek and Roman society don’t quite entail the free love that Enlightenment radicals longed for. If certain accounts of the life of Aristippus are anything to go by, ancient Greeks considered it immoral to sleep with a woman who has had sex with more than one man in her life. In Rome, the same place Christians like to look back on as a place of constant orgiastic excesses, the raucous Bacchanalias were banned before eventually being recuperated, while the poet Ovid was exiled by order of the emperor Augustus, possibly on the back of obscenity accusations. In Greece and Rome generally hedonism was often actually mistrusted or looked down upon, its adherents regarded as “slaves to passion”, and even merely contemplative hedonists such as Epicureans were presented by intellectuals such as Cicero as threats to the Roman religion and social fabric, and ultimately blamed for the collapse of the Roman Republic. Still, it remains true that pre-Christian attitudes towards sexuality where not the puritanical tendencies associated with Christianity. Phallicism (the veneration of the phallus), after all, was very much a part of pre-Christian religiosity, and there is reason to think that prostitution received religious sanction in some cases.

In any case, the role the gods mentioned by Przybyszewski take is consistent with the attributes seen in Satan. Thoth or Hermes in this framework obviously represent the pursuit of esoteric or forbidden knowledge, as does Hecate though she is referred to for more deadly magick. Pan is a no-brainer here, clearly invoked to express the untrammeled carnality that Satan represents. Of course, Pan was never a simple “god of sex”, and in Greece was more typically worshipped as a god of rustic wilderness who could inspire panic to those who wondered into his domain. That said, he was known for teaching people to masturbate. Nonetheless, although phallicism itself was a part of pre-Christian paganism, the idea of Pan as a symbol of sexuality is ultimately modern, and his identity with the Phallus is almost certainly Przybyszewski’s own idea. The association with Apollo and Aphrodite are ultimately extensions of the connection between Satan and the themes of knowledge, creativity, and sexuality. What is to be taken from this is the idea that Satan represented the free pursuit of knowledge and sensuality that was taken to be part of pre-Christian “Pagan” but which was denied in the ascent of Christianity, and which so becomes a negativity. There’s a sense in which it can be argued that, because hedonism was actually typically looked down upon by Greek and Roman normativity, it is just as well a negativity there too. Still, if we run with the idea of Satan as having incarnated as the gods of polytheism, then surely there’s more that could be done with that. We can make sense of what Przybyszewski went with, but why not Satan as Bacchus/Dionysus, for the drunken liberation of consciousness and terrible wrath against kings? Or Satan as Pluto/Hades, for the treasures of the underworld? Or Satan as Vulcan/Hephaestus, for the power of fire to transform raw matter? Or Satan as Ares, for rebellion and war?

At a certain point, the “good god” gets sick of observing the indulgences of mankind from his invisible kingdom and so sends a son to earth to proclaim the message of this same invisible kingdom. The son, no doubt meaning Jesus Christ, first revealed himself to the poor, the oppressed, the slaves, and day workers. Now, this is where we need to step back a little. On the one hand, it is known that Przybyszewski was a socialist, or at least that he involved himself with the socialist or workers movement, for which he was arrested and later expelled from university in 1893. In fact, in 1892 Przybyszewski worked as an editor for a socialist newspaper called Gazeta Robotnicza (“Worker’s Gazette”), which was founded in Berlin in 1891 by Polish socialist activists who lived in Germany and were aligned with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Yet, on the other hand, in The Synagogue of Satan he seems to glow with praise for “the aristocratic enjoyment of life” and remark with contempt for those who “had never tasted the holy joys of Pan”. What explains this? Of course the rigid social stratification of Roman society is rather unfortunately papered over in Przybyszewski’s telling, but I think it might be operative to point out how Christianity appeals to a religious sense of solidarity only so it may console and socialize the masses. Jesus was merely the “teacher” of the poor, teaching them contentment through the promise of “the good news”, not the advocate of the poor, who would have instead dragged the wealth of the elites down to the poor, and while he was given to flipping the tables of poor merchants he certainly was not interested in smashing open the shackles of slaves. Perhaps, though, Przybyszewski is ultimately working through the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, perhaps his favourite philosopher, in assigning slave morality to Christianity and master morality to Satan and pre-Christian antiquity. Yet it may be worth ourselves working through the influence of Renzo Novatore, the individualist anarchist who was himself thoroughly Nietzschean. For Novatore, the “aristocratic” that occupied his political thought was not the aristocracies who sat at the top of rigidly stratified hierarchies but instead a sort of defiant individualism that sets itself against conformity, the common, and the mass that set itself against it. It makes sense that this is the “aristocratic” quality of Przybyszewski’s Satan in the individuality he champions.

We come to Przybyszewski’s summary of the teachings of Christianity. In this summation, bread is no worry, earthly riches are fleeting, pride is meaningless because the highest ones will be in hell and the lowest ones in heaven, and, most crucially for Przybyszewski, carnal desire, which Przybyszewski the inexhaustible source of love for life and the will to eternal life, is the portal to Hell which must be shut in order to facilitate the reign of the invisible kingdom. Central to this discussion of the evils of carnality is, in Christian parlance, women, who the fathers of Christianity have long positioned as a threat to salvation. It is pointed out that Jesus said that a man has already defiled a woman simply by looking at her with lust, based on Matthew 5:28 where Jesus says that “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”. And after the master the pupil goes further. St. Cyprian, it seems, proclaimed that a woman who could excite a sigh of love from a man was shameless. Tertullian called women “the portal of the Devil”, accused women of destroying “that tree”, of being “the first sinner against the holy law”, and of turning “the one to whom the Devil does not want to be turned”, and proclaimed that everything evil comes from women. Jerome purportedly argued that women were not created in the image of God; that might actually have been Augustine, though make no mistake Jerome generally hated women for a slew of other reaons, and is known for declaring woman the root of all evil. Female sexuality is an important part of the space of Satanic negativity that Przybyszewski presents, and it is a subject that Przybyszewski delves into much further when discussing the witch. I suspect that female sexuality is operative in this space because of the power that men seem to have invested in it as something they really don’t have much control over, try as they might to control it.

For now, what is operative for Przybyszewski in this chapter is that the contempt for women and their arts is an expression of God’s contempt for earthly beauty. We are told of divine hatred directed against every ribbon, against paintings, poets, and philosophies, against theatres and circuses, and even against the colours of flowers as potential portents of demonkind. Temples and icons were destroyed, the priestesses of Aphrodite were condemned as whores, and it was proclaimed that the demonic was everywhere. Demons were feared to fill the air and hide in trees, Lucifer haunted men with debauched dreams as Venus, and so the first struggle is the struggle against demonkind. In this struggle the church waged war against the bonds that connected humanity to nature, and the “naked soul” (an important concept in Przybyszewski’s philosophy), meaning the soul as an “absolute phenomenon”, and its connections were declared the deceptions of Satan. Here again Przybyszewski connects to a certain idea of Pagan religioisty in that, in his account, pre-Christian societies lived both with and in nature, humans in this setting were intimately a part of nature, and that nature revealed itself in the symbols of “the heathen cult” and in the polytheistic gods themselves. There’s a sort of Feuerbachian premise being played with here, in that he grants the idea that the power of the gods was a projection of natural forces. Of course, this is an extension of the idea that pre-Christian polytheism was strictly the worship of nature which was taken for granted during the Enlightenment, but while nature worship in some form was a part of pre-Christian religion it is just not true that the gods of polytheism were strictly reifications of natural phenomena. Nonetheless, in the context of The Synagogue of Satan we can sketch out this general idea of “the heathen cult”, the orgiastic religion of polytheistic nature worship, as the first phase of the church of Satan. The veneration of the processes of nature (albeit clearly interpreted in the lens of a vulgar master morality) was expressed in the gods and symbols and in the veneration of the demon and the earth. This cult is here indestructible, and the demon hides in the forests, grottoes, and caves, gathering worshippers in “crude bacchanals”. Numinous, divine negativity, taking the form of the demonic, is in this way understood as imminent in nature itself, and impossible for the teleological will of Christianity to suppress.

Satan, from this standpoint, is understood as the most hated enemy of Christianity. And not just Satan in himself, but Satan as the magician and healer. Here, the Magician is understood as the active devotee of the church of Satan, through whom the principle of Satan’s cultus is realized. The principle was proud egoism against the laws of God. Przybyszewski’s Magician is an individualist who refuses obedience and all poverty of spirit, unlocks the secrets and mysteries of the world, and would follow no one. Such fantastical accolades are attributed to The Magician; he can levitate above the ground, he cannot drown in water, and he cannot be burned in fire. More importantly, The Magician could be as divine as Jesus Christ, and thus rival and set himself up against God and his son. In fact, Przybyszewski says that Jesus Christ himself was a magician, a defier of laws, and a seer, and so The Magician was the same thing as Jesus was, except that The Magician had more pride. The comparison between The Magician and Jesus Christ is operative because it establishes the profound egoism of Przybyszewskian Satanism. God is his own Ownness, just as you are, but God wants you to worship him as the sole Ownness and deny your own. So it is with Jesus Christ and The Magician. Jesus is a magician, but he must have you think of him as the only magician and worship him accordingly instead of practicing magick yourself and becoming a magician like Jesus. This is an absurd tyranny. The egoist is one who understands this, that there is no difference between God’s or Christ’s Ownness and your own, that their claims to sole sovereignty are a senseless oppression put over you, which must militantly be opposed and overcome, and thence participate in what I call the war of all against all in pursuit of apotheosis, to become divine, fully overcoming the barriers to individuation.

We must examine the pride of The Magician versus that of Jesus for a moment, because there are multiple angles approaching it. The Magician’s pride consisted in him passing his arts to a chosen few, the proudest and strongest, while Jesus passed his teachings on to the plebeians. On the one hand Jesus could just as well be proud enough to spread his teachings to as many people as possible, confident in their reception by the masses. On the other hand, perhaps Jesus’ “pride” ultimately makes the most sense as the “pride” of the preacher, of the proselyte and therefore of proselytism, and perhaps from this standpoint it is easy to see it as a folly. Likewise, the pride of Przybyszewski’s Magician is not hard to construe as a different sort of folly, thoroughly uninviting and obstinate in not disseminating liberation outwardly. But perhaps it is also true that The Magician does not spread his work everywhere because he is not a preacher or proselyte spreading a cult unto his own, and needs only for those who want his craft to come to him; and perhaps they most certainly will.

In Przybyszewski’s account, Christianity hated The Magician more than anyone as a competitor to Jesus, and so he tells of their vicious persecution under Christian authority. We are told that the emperor Constantine imposed heavy penalties on the practice of magick, that the philosophers were driven out under the emperor Valens, that the philosopher Iamblichus took poison after being imprisoned, and that the people gathered books and burned them. Thus Przybyszewski declares that the children of Satan were martyred by Christians in persecutions dwarfing those carried out under the emperor Nero. There are some things to account for here. For one thing, there’s no record of Iamblichus being imprisoned let alone poisoning himself. There were, however, book burnings carried out by Christians, such as in Alexandria and Antioch, in which literature deemed “unacceptable” was burned at the orders of the bishop Athanasius and the emperor Jovian respectively. Over the centuries books on divination and astrology were gathered up and incinerated by Roman authorities, while the Bible ostensibly recounts an incident where “books of sorcery” were burned en masse by recently converted Christians in Ephesus. And let’s not forget about the destruction of the Serapeum. Valens for his part did not quite “drive out the philosophers”. What he did do instead, however, was have Maximus of Ephesus executed and many other polytheists massacred because he thought they were conspiring to replace him. Constantine of course did issue a decree against divination, but it is also true that Romans had regarded magic as a form of superstition and often illicit even before the ascent of Christianity.

For all that, though, The Magician lived on, and magick with him, and he helped the signs and symbols retain meaning and power. Meanwhile, the church could not win by brute force alone, so it used the power of “atavism”, or “choc en retour” (meaning “backlash”), to imitate and thereby contain the magickal arts. Holy water, sacraments, and the sign of the cross replaced conjurations with magickal signs, while the art of envocatio was contained by Mass, and it was assumed that Satan was driven out with holy water and his magicians thwarted by the cross. And yet, Przybyszewski says, rthe church ended up acquiesing to the old ways. He claims that obscene figures seen on church pillars were remnants of the cult of the phallus, that the “Bacchanalia” at the festivals of Ceres Libera (possibly just meaning the goddess Ceres, who was not worshipped in Bacchanalias) were celebrated in festivals devoted to St. Mary, and that the priests together with the common folk celebrated old orgiastic festivals. Hell itself is taken as proof as the influence of “the heathen cult”, as the Greek rivers of the underworld appear as the river of hell and Charon as the ferryman of Hell in medieval literature and art. Thus Przybyszewski says that Satan triumphed over Christ, transforming from a means of reinforcing Christ’s dominion through fear of the Devil into the almighty lord of the world who people tried to appease out of fear. The fear of demonic possession became widespread, he Przybyszewski claims the existence of a sect called the Messalinians who believed they were possessed by the Devil. I can’t seem to find anything about these “Messalinians” other than one reference in Alphonsus Ligouri’s The History of Heresies and Their Refutation, in which it seems to be a name for a 4th century sect called the Euchites, who were accused by the early church of worshipping Satan but it doesn’t seem like they were constantly in fear of demonic possession. Satan in any case multiplies and takes on many new forms, tormenting the holy fathers in the desert with doubts, going to monasteries to tempt the minds of monks, visiting pious women to fornicate with them, and planting curses and blasphemies into thousands of believers. He is everywhere, and thus the church must constantly try to exorcise him. But, Przybyszewski says, this struggle only strengthened Satan as it was continuously waged, and he mocked God through the voices of the possessed, all the while revealing secret sins to priests, weaving prophesies, and granting power to the possessed through their possession.

Przybyszewski’s “heathen cult” at this point has been pushed into the bottom of the social hierarchy. Not quite banished, seemingly incapable of truly being banished, lurking in the periphery and eventually reasserting itself, and as it does gradually transforming and undermining the order of Christian faith. The “heathen cult” thus transitions into a negative space around Christianity, to which Christianity inevitably returns. But if “the heathen cult” is that negative space, Satan is none other than the death drive. Satanic negativity is irrepressible, irreducible, Satan is within himself a constantly self-reproducing power to destroy the order of the invisible kingdom and unravel the limits of theology and the church, and this power only seems to expand when the church confronts Satan, until finally Satan becomes the actual sovereign of the world. The death drive of Satan is revealed, pushed to the bottom, exorcised, and then thunders up to the top from the abyss, fought as the constant threat to society and order only to prevail over society anyway and tear it apart with blasphemy and madness. Satan then is the function of the death drive, a darkness and revolt producing the contradictions that threaten to destroy the power of the church. First presented as the contradiction outside of God, responsible for the evil and flaw in the otherwise perfect creation, thus freeing God from the culpability of his monstrous creation, Satan then breaks out of this role and threatens society with all of the contradiction that is actually internal to itself and to God’s creation, and by entering the minds of the masses Satan turns them into agents of this same negation.

As Satanic negativity overtakes and Satan’s death drive swamps over Christendom, sin is universal, Satan’s visions and voices impossible to avoid or deny, his seductions impossible to resist, and all thoughts sins before God. Supposedly, the devils even disregard exorcisms and don’t fear them at all. Thus all falls under the power of Satan, and Heaven is denied. In this setting, where madness and the fear of the end of the world plagued the land, the belief in “the Paraclete”, the “triune Satan”, and the Antichrist emerged, and the Antichrist became the perennial figure of speculation and intrigue. The Antichrist is the Adversary, the son of ruination, the “man of sin” more sinful than Jesus is virtuous, he is born from the Pope and a succubus, his reign is both imminent and already here, he will cut down the servants of Christ, he will cause miracles, and he will exalt himself to heaven and declare himself God. Basically, as an individual figure, the Antichrist is meant as the total opposite of Jesus. As a term, though, Antichrist seems to just signify that which is outside of and opposed to the community of Christians. In any case, in Przybyszewski’s account, the Antichrist seems to appear as an actual person, but not as an earthly ruler in accordance with Christian tradition. Instead the Antichrist is a spiritual sovereign, the spirit of pride and exaltation. Satan got bored of constantly possessing people and playing the game of exorcism with priests, and instead he wanted to “become God”, or rather “a proud and wild anti-God” capable of forcing Jesus back into his domain and end his ultimately hollow dominion over the world. The Antichrist in this setting is, apparently, Mani, the prophet of the religion of Manichaeism (or “Manichaeanism” as he refers to it). As strange as it sounds, his framing of it all ultimately comes back to the initial theology of the two gods: Satan and God.

Mani proclaimed the teaching of two gods, equally powerful and locked in eternal struggle with each other. One was the invisible god of goodness, seated in his heaven, unconcerned with the earth, concerned only with the perfection of his elect. The other was the god of sin, who rules the earth and is the source of sin in the world, and who says “do not strain yourselves, just imitate me”. Manichaeism, as well as Gnosticism, both supposedly spread rapidly in the Christian world. Przybyszewski presents what he considers the difference between Christianity and Manichaeism. Christianity presents mankind with the idea that humans can choose whether to sin or not, whereas Manichaeism rejects this idea on behalf of some form of determinism. Christianity from his standpoint valorized the imitation of stupidty, whereas Manichaeism supposedly lauded “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”. Christianity emphasized slave morality, whereas Manichaeism supposed endorsed proud sinning in the name of instinct, curiosity, passion, and “Satan-nature”. Thus Manichaeism in Przybyszewski’s story becomes the next phase of the cult of Satan.

I must elaborate at this point Przybyszewski seems to have obviously and completely missed the point of Manichaeism. Manichaeism did not reject free will, but it appears that the Manichaeans did believe in a sort of “true” free will, that is to say will that acts in harmony with the “World of Light”, the spiritual (or indeed “invisible”) world which was the birthplace of the soul. The soul had “free will” only so long as it remained pure and in harmony with its origins, and was not ultimately contaminated by the influence of matter. If the soul is mixed with matter and influenced by it, then free will was impossible. In this sense we can already infer that Manichaeism most certainly did not endorse “proud sinning” in the name of instinct or passion, since this too was the influence of matter that was to be avoided. Those who sinned were destined to reincarnate as animals, fall into the hands of demons, and ultimately be imprisoned with them in the realm called Bōlos. The whole goal for Manichaeism was the salvation of human souls, and the point of that was that humanity is responsible for redeeming both itself and the “World Soul”. The actual ethics of Manichaeism could be very strict: it was forbidden to drink alcohol, it was forbidden to eat the flesh of animals because animals were believed to be created from demons and contain “greed-arousing substance”, and it was forbidden to kill or at least hurt any living being, including plants. Everything, including not only plants but also the earth, the stars, skies, contained particles of the “World Soul”, and not only killing animals and cutting plants for sustenance but also to even walk across the earth or bathe in water was a violation of the World Soul. This all sounds quite unimaginably strict even by the standards of the most ascetic religions we know, and naturally it was assumed that most believers weren’t up to such a standard of holy life. The lay Manichaean was only expected to observe a set of moderate commandments, such as to not be miserly or to give alms to the elect. The elect, however, observed much stricter commandments in order to live a holy life. They were forbidden from eating meat, forbidden from drinking alcohol of any sort, forbidden to make money outside of business, and forbidden to practice any sexual activities at all. Both the elect and lay Manichaeans were expected to fail to live up to their commandments, so both regularly and constantly practiced atonement rituals. The point of leading a holy life in Manichaeism was not just to be saved, but also to become a physical instrument of the redemption of the “World Soul” from matter. Simply put, the actual religion of Manichaeism had nothing in common with Przybyszewski’s presentation of it.

The way Przybyszewski presents Manichaeism seems to based only on the part of Manichaeism that upholds dualism between light/spirit and darkness/matter as equally powerful, with the obvious assumption that this naturally elevates Satan as God and sin as an imitation of God. The idea seems to be that, in a Christian standpoint at least, to establish equality between Satan and God is to establish Satan as God, and I suppose it makes in the sense of Satan being the tangible ruler of creation as opposed to God the intangible one. But it doesn’t have anything to do with what Manichaeism was, it’s mostly just Przybyszewski projecting his own ideas onto Manichaeism. That said, this formula ends up presenting aspects of Przybyszewski’s philosophy to us. For one thing, it seems that Przybyszewski rejected free will in favour of some form of determinism. It’s not clear at this point how he meant to square this determinist rejection of free will with the defiant assertion of individual will so evident in his Satanic philosophy and especially in his concept of The Magician. Matter as represented by Satan is obviously superior to Spirit as represented by God, as the tangible principle and the vehicle in which sensation travels as opposed to be stifled by Spirit. And of course, mysticism, pride, and indulgence are held above obedience, faith, and humility. On “the autocratic imagination of mysticism” it is again perhaps worth inserting the later ideas of Renzo Novatore, for whom “autocracy” in anarchist terms means the “autocracy” of the individual unto itself, as set against the oligarchy of phantoms and all systems that seek to oppress, sublimate, or recuperate individual will. In this interpretation, “the autocratic imagination of mysticism” is, simply put, the free imagination of individual spiritual thought in rejection of dogmatic faith. Though, again, it’s not obvious how this is to be reconciled with the wholesale rejection of free will. Przybyszewski’s constructed “Manichaeism” is in this sense a vessel to communicate these values as represented in the “evil” side of a dualism in which it is supposed the “evil” side is ultimately better and more powerful than the “good” side.

The church is presented as ultimately the victor in the struggle against “Manichaean” darkness, and with the defeat of Avignon (which here represents the “anti-Christian” forces for some unknown reason) Satan blasphemed unto the world that he was the “God of Light”, that the “dark god of revenge” overthrew him out of jealousy of his “light”, that the time has come to fear his pride and hate. The “eternal light” will not sleep and neither do his children, but the children of his enemies will sleep, tired from struggle against the “light”. The “light” has sacrificed millions of fellows to the vengeance of its enemy, but these sacrifices are “fertilizer” for “the One”, who will in turn generate “a thousand new communities”. The vengeance is coming and it is to be feared. Blasphemy takes the form of inversion, and in this setting Satan presents himself as the true light, God the true darkness. This is the hint that the dark matter of Satan is the true nobility, and the invisible kingdom of spirit the true villainy, and the unjust takeover of the kingdom of spirit will be overturned by the power of Satan. As for the identity “the One”, however, I’m afraid that is a complete mystery.

The only thing I’m inclined to add at this point is concerning the Manichaean conception of Hyle, and through this a way parsing a doctrine of dark materialism through Przybyszewski’s constructions. The evil principle in Manichaean cosmology is the Prince of Darkness, who invaded the world of light out of lust to mingle with it, and can only create through copulation whereas the Father of Greatness can create out of nothing. The Prince of Darkness was identified with Ahriman, the main adversary of Zoroastrianism, Iblis, the main adversary in Islam, and of course Satan himself, but he also went by another name: Hyle. Hyle was the Greek word for matter. It was also sometimes used as a name for Az, the mother of demons in Zoroastrian myth. Darkness created the world or body in which Light was imprisoned, and so Darkness propagates matter. But, understood via Hyle, this means Hyle propagates itself. Hyle is linked to copulation, in that the Prince of Darkness creates through copulation while his demons set into motion the whole process of human generation. In Przybyszewski’s framing, Hyle identified with Satan becomes a principle, substance, and presence that is the source of copulation and which produces all things through a process of generation that starts from itself. Perhaps this is the true depth of Iwan Bloch’s description of Satan as the “Personification of the Physical Mysterium of Copulation”. It is still a negative force, though. It is dark in that it that raw, formless potentiality of generation that negations all barriers to itself, and for this reason opposes the “Metaphysical Mysticism of Idolization”.

Part 2: The Church

Przybyszewski says that Satan began his vengeance against God by possessing the world, and in the coming millennium humanity began to doubt God while miracles occurred everywhere. The Devil personally visited Pope Sylvester IV, Otto the Great saw the sun dim and turn saffron, and the order of the seasons seemed to change such that snow fell in the summer and thunderstorms broke out in the winter. As this took place, a “holy fire” melted the flesh of humans, leaving only tattered bones in its wake. The people were driven to madness and hunger, but would not eat the flesh of animals; instead they were driven to horrible acts of cannibalism. People tried to expiate God, bitter enemies swore the “Peace of God”, kings joined choirboys in singing prayers to God, but it was all to no avail. God would not help anyone, and as people became convinced that God had abandoned them they began turning to Satan to deliver them from their suffering. God’s symbols were desecrated and mocked, and Satan had already whispered doubts in people’s ears to turn them against God. The salvation offered by Jesus appeared quite hollow in the face of the world’s horror. What salvation is it when people eat each other, when the earth burns under their feet, and when plague rips off their flesh? Thus “salvation” was scorned while the church was scandalised by its infamous dealings.

The “temple of God” was no more, having changed hands to Satan. And so what were God’s children meant to do? Supposedly they made the children of barons and dukes into bishops, and then the people were convened to elect a six year old boy to the status of minister. A dove perched atop his head was meant to signify his election by the Holy Spirit itself. Meanwhile two women selected their lovers as Popes, and thereafter the “goodly father of sin” came to be secure in his reign and the church was restored. The world cried out for ecclesiastical reform, and Pope Gregory VII delivered on this reform by establishing the rule of celibacy. Woman was blamed for the church’s problems and so it was thought that Woman had to be “destroyed” within the church. Priests who refused to part with their wives were attacked by celibate monks. But the people defiled what they previously held sacred, drinking befouled communion wine and scattering communion wafers to the winds. The authority of the priests was completely undermined, while the authority of the monks and the mob prevailed. We are told that concubines were mutilated to death, that abbots who ordered castrations were rewarded with bishoprics, and that the theologian Manegold is said to have insisted that priests who resisted celibacy should be killed. In imposing celibacy the church had attacked nature, once again, by regarding Woman as an impure creature, equivalent to Satan, who spelled death for men. Fanatically bigoted pronouncements were made against women all the time. Pietro Damiani, for example, was said to have called women “scum of paradise” and “bait of Satan”.

What is operative in this narrative is that here the church is shown reconstituting itself on the back of a negative space, again. The negative space, from the Christian standpoint, is women, who are blamed for the corruption of the church, for which the solution is deemed to be the imposition of celibacy upon the clergy. And there was indeed a celibacy drive in the Catholic Church associated with Pope Gregory VII. Gregory VII did indeed absolve people from having to obey bishops who retained married priests. That said, Gregory VII was probably motivated less by the subject of women and more by a certain abstract ascetic ideal that he associated with the fulfillment of holy life. While I can’t find those quotes from Pietro Damiani outside of the texts of Jules Michelet, it is true that Damiani was a prolific advocate of clerical celibacy and vehemently condemned priests who were married. The ascetic ideal fulfilled in celibacy naturally clashes with sexuality, and in Christendom women were very often seen as portals through which temptation worked its way into the world, all then way back to the church fathers. Sexuality, female sexuality in particular, was feared for its power to unravel holy life and Man’s connection to God. The way this connects to the death drive is perhaps more fittingly explored once we get to the subject of the witch. But the point is that sexuality is the negative space upon which the church reforms sit, and which the order of clerical celibacy was instituted to repress, but to which humans, even the faithful, will inexorably return.

I would also take the opportunity to mention at this point that Przybyszewski’s idea of the imposition of celibacy, which would connote a clampdown on sexuality and libertinism, is a fairly obvious extension of the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. In his essay Nietzsche contra Wagner; Out of the Files of a Psychologist, specifically in a section titled “Wagner as Apostle of Chastity”, Nietzsche describes the advocacy of chastity as “an incitement to perversion”, and on such grounds regards Wagner’s opera Parsifal as “an attempt to assassinate ethics”. In The Antichrist, Nietzsche describes chastity, alongside humility and poverty, as having done immeasurably more harm to life than any vice or horror, and in a suppressed passage we see that the fourth position of Nietzsche’s “Law Against Christianity” describes the preaching of chastity as incitement against nature while stressing that contempt for sexuality and making it “unclean” are the real sins against life. This is an idea that carries on in Przybyszewski’s writing over the course of The Synagogue of Satan, and I think that it is best understood as a Satanic interpretation, or even extension, of Nietzsche’s anti-Christian transvaluation of values. From the lens of Stirnerite egoism we can also add an additional dimension via the discussion of lewdness and egoistic versus sacred love in Stirner’s Critics. Sin in the context of natural impulse, in this case lust, is denied for the sake of chastity as the result of what Stirner understands as a “religious consideration”, by which he means a strictly moral and therefore alienated consideration, which is not aligned to natural or egoistic interest, which would be lewd. “Absolute” interest, “spiritual” interest, set against natural or egoistic interest, is like a despot opposed to nature, like the God of the invisible and spiritual kingdom is a despot opposed to the world as belonging to Satan, thus we come right back around to Przybyszewski’s dualism on Stirner’s terms. And on that note I think it is reasonable to assume that, while I can’t tell you if Przybyszewski had read Stirner’s Critics, I can establish that he was at least familiar with Stirner on the grounds that he discussed Stirner and Nietzsche with fellow decadents. From there a convergence between Stirnerite egoism and Przybyszewski’s Nietzschean Satanism is fairly easy to develop.

With celibacy established and the church “finished with nature”, the priests having been separated from their wives began practicing unspeakable obscenities with their own flock, and we are told that meanwhile the church also waged war against reason. The investigation of the nature of God had already been forbidden, and now ideas were declared to be beings, which Przybyszewski tells us means they cannot be observed or learned from, which means the people gave up on thought. People flipped through fragments of Aristotle, and wrote commentaries on Aristotle which then distorted his writings such that Aristotle was to have prophesied the coming of Christ and proved his divinity. The philosophers of the day brooded over the psychology of angels and invented formulas to establish that comparing words is equivalent to knowledge of the real. In this setting, the “Satanic philosopher”, who we are told was a fan of Plato and shattered Christian thought by upholding Manichaean heresies, smiled at this state of affairs, presumably sensing the decline the Christian thought. This philosopher asked the doctors of the church, “what about when the farmer is leading a pig along to the market. What is doing the pulling there, the farmer or the leash?”, and the doctors of the church struggled to answer. Later we are told of a philosopher named Abelard ruining the efforts of the church by proclaiming that an idea is not a being and an abstraction is not reality. Somewhat unremarkable as an observation, but for some reason Przybyszewski lionized Abelard as “beautiful and glorious as a god”, such that no woman in France could resist him, and he possessed great eloquence and developed confusions that turned the doctrines of the church upside down. If by Abelard we mean Peter or Pierre Abelard, who lived from 1079 to 1142, the real Abelard was definitely considered a heretic, and he was an intellectual defender of women, but it is not evident that he was the stud that Przybyszewski makes him out to be. What is true, however, is that Abelard thought of original sin as a punishment or penalty for Adam’s sin, differing in some respects from other interpretations of original sin. Przybyszewski presents Abelard as wanting to know in order to believe, in opposition to Anselm who wanted to believe in order to know. But this simplisitc idea, one that is no doubt the product of its time in the context of the 19th century, smooths over much of Abelard’s thought, and positions him as a rationalist trying to challenge Christianity from the outside rather than, as is more likely, a logician and theologian seeking to redefine traditional doctrinal positions within the context of Christian moral thought. Unfortunately for Przybyszewski, what we know about Peter Abelard suggests that he was no “Satanic philosopher”, even if he was sometimes regarded as a heretic.

But whether we are dealing with heresy or simply a redefining of Christian teaching, what we are presented with is a state of affairs in which church orthodoxy is constantly under threat or being re-examined by mavericks. We are told that Abelard derided the faith of the morally simple and eviscerated the secrets of God, though of course he probably did no such thing and Bernard of Clairvaux never said that he did. But even if Abelard did not actually shake the foundations of the church, his student, Arnold of Brescia, arguably did. Arnold indeed revolted against the papacy, and in fact Arnold frequently denounced the political power of the church. He also condemned property ownership as sinful, and called on the church to renounce property and renounce worldliness. Arnold was exiled from Italy for his anti-clericalism, but he eventually returned and became part of the republican Commune of Rome, where he preached apostolic poverty and purity and demanded the institution of democratic rights and freedoms along with the restoration of a wholly spiritual church. For both this and the role he played in driving out Pope Eugene III, Arnold was denounced as “the father of political heresies”, excommunicated, arrested, and ultimately burned at the stake. We are then presented with Fredrick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Przybyszewski says that under Frederick’s protection Arab physicians opened a human corpse for medical study. Of course, although Fredrick did require studying physicians and surgeons to attend dissections, human cadaveric dissections had already been practiced in ancient Greece and elsewhere for centuries and Frederick did not single-handedly reinstate such practices. Frederick supposedly asked the Muslims “My lords, what do you think about God?” and this was to be taken as a display of unbridled skepticism. Again, this statement has no record, but it is true indeed that Frederick has a reputation for skepticism, known for his empiricism and Epicureanism, not to mention his penchant for sensual indulgence. His reputation was such that he was accused of writing a book called Treatise of the Three Impostors, which purportedly argued against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all at once, though in reality Frederick probably never wrote it and the book’s real authorship and even its very existence are impossible to verify. But while he was often seen as an atheist and a rationalist and even accused of being a predecessor to the Antichrist, he was not really an atheist, and although he often went against the wishes of the church he was no real opponent of it; in fact, he still placed strict edicts against heresy, joined in the suppression of heretics, and granted secular powers to the church.

The point to be taken from all of this is that Christendom was not quite all that it seemed, or at least the authority of the church and its faith was not as absolute as perhaps God would have hoped. There was contestation, there were deviations, there were doubts, and there was revolt. For Przybyszewski, this insecurity marked the growth of skepticism and disbelief among Christians, and the ego rose with enthusiasm to prove everything and then refute it, as was “the highest philosophical art”. We are told that the man of the 12th century disregarded God, felt that Christ had ruled for long enough, and that the Holy Spirit needed to take over. Messiahs and new sects began to appear, and humans did not search for God because God was already inside of them, and so individual striving and the liberation of instincts unfolded. In the mean time, the Crusades had failed, God apparently slept while the Muslim armies repeatedly triumphed over the Christian armies, and troubadours had begun to sing with melancholy about how God preferred Muslims over Christians. And the hardships didn’t stop; God kept heeping more torments, defeats, and humiliations upon the people. At this time, people were longing for the chance to part with God without shame, and Satan gave them just that chance. Satan, here also referred to as Chernebog or Diabol and described as ruling the world alongside “the good god”, came to shake the church with his iron fist. A sect called the Bogomils spread out from Bulgaria and settled in France, facing decimation along the way. Here the south of France is referred to as “the favorite seat of Satan”, because of the many heresies that gathered there. Black magick is said to have been widespread, and Kabbalah was supposedly spreading among a supposedly no longer Christian society. Grimoires allowed people to summon demons like Samael to serve them for “evil”, while the Satanim live inside Man and tempt Man.

Forgetting the obvious problem with bringing up Kabbalah in the context of black magick, when the whole point of Kabbalah is to unify with God, it is here that Przybyszewski once again invokes his construction of “Manichaeanism”, which he states has returned in a younger form, and so in this setting the device of “Manichaeanism” recapitulates some of Przybyszewski’s ideas of Satanic philosophy. Evil is established as possessing the same substantiality as Good, rather than only existing incidentally through the self-incrimination of Good. Evil and Good opposed each other, but were equally essential and substantial, and in their opposition they go back to the source of existence all the way to the Godhead. Sin is not self-incrimination because it is not a product of free will, and instead it is the work of the “Black God”. Thus there is indeed no such thing as sin, because it carries no volition, and incurs no punishment. Eternal damnation is dismissed as a stupid invention, the sacraments of penance and communion are regarded as invalid, and regret for sin is considered useless – what Nietzsche called the “bite of conscience”, which he regarded as like a dog biting a stone, which is to say pointless. The human being, just like the Godhead, is also divided into “good” and “evil”, which was based in spirit and matter respectively. I should stress again that the division of good and evil along the lines of spirit and matter is pretty much the only thing this “Manichaeanism” has in common with the real religion of Manichaeism. But then Przybyszewski tells us of a schism within this new sect, between those who decided to favour the worship of the “Light God” and those who favoured the worship of the “Black God”. The worshippers of the “Light God” embraced a highly austere moral code and severe asceticism, their beliefs were spread by zealots who were later worshipped as saints, and these saints had the power to completely purify a person after their death. The worshippers of the “Black God”, in contrast, gathered in secret, established secret organizations dedicated to worshipping this god, and celebrated the mysteries of the “Black God” in forests, caves, and mountaintops.

Here “Manichaeanism” becomes two distinct sects: one devoted to the “Light God” of spirit, the other devoted to the “Black God” of the world. It sounds a little bit like the “Light God” is meant to be Belobog, the “White God”, and the “Black God” must be Chernebog, or rather Chernobog, since that is one of the names Przybyszewski gave to Satan, or rather “the Slavic Satan” It was long supposed that these two gods were meant to be seen as complimentary opposites in a dualistic Slavic religion, but in reality Chernebog was just a minor local deity that was only ever worshipped in parts of Mecklenburg and Pomerania while Belobog was not actually a deity but rather a local name for the Christian God. I suppose on this basis, though, it is fitting enough that Przybyszewski states that the two sects serve as re-statements of the difference between Christianity and Paganism, although I would argue that the sect of the “Light God” presented here is much closer to what Manichaeism actually was than the “Manichaeanism” that he has typically presented as some sort of ancient Satanism. The schism establishes, or perhaps rather reinforces, Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism as essentially a continuation of “the heathen cult”, an evolution of a raucous, romantic, quasi-Epicurean pagan polytheism (as constructed by Przybyszewski of course) that was then pushed to the bottom by Christianity, beneath which it became an omnipresent negative space for Christendom as a whole. The idea of going to off to worship “The Black God”/Chernebog/Satan in the forests, the caves, and the mountains in orgiastic celebrations calls back to the mysteries of Dionysus, the worship of gods and nymphs in nature, and the old tradition that held that these old places of nature contained numinous power that humanity was a part of.

Then Przybyszewski talks about the Perfecti, or “perfected ones”, who possessed “oriental magical techniques” and performed miracles and spread under the name of a family of sects dubbed the Cathars. These Cathars, he says, “mangled and destroyed” the Christian faith. Secret societies were formed to pursue “obscene” aims, and the philosophical core of “Manichaeanism” was lost to the point that all that remained of “Manichaeanism” was doctrinnaire hatred of Christianity. The God of the Old Testament was despised by the Cathars, because he knew that Adam and Eve would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge and yet allowed them to eat of it, because ultimately he lied because they in fact did not die as he said they would, and because he killed both the innocent and the guilty at Sodom and Gomorrah. They are also purported to reject the doctrine that the “Good God” suffered on the cross because it was blasphemous to say that God could suffer, die, and come back to earth, let alone eat and drink as we do. They are also said to reject the idea of distinction between the sin of eating and the sin of procreation, and supposedly questioned the idea that procreation is sinful on this basis. And, of course, these Cathars hated the church of Rome perhaps more than anything; we are told they called Rome a den of murderers, that they likened Rome to the Whore of Babylon, and that they derided and supposedly even killed the priests of the church. Przybyszewski further claimed that Cathars held parodies of the Mass that were essentially almost complete reproductions of “the sabbat”, and that all novices had to renounce all Catholic teachings and sacraments and spit on the cross. Supposedly they even threw the sacred host into manure, broke the legs of Christ, and soiled him with filth. As far as reality in contrast to Przybyszewski’s narrative is concerned, I could remark about how much of this almost certainly had little to do with the “real” Cathars, but then there’s just one problem with that: the “Cathars” may never have existed at all.

In any case, as far as our narrative is concerned, the church responded to the rising Cathar movement by launching a Crusade against them, and so a massacre took place in which 60,000 people were killed. This seems to be in reference to the Massacre at Beziers, for which we actually don’t know exactly how many people died. But it’s from here that we apparently get the Latin phrase, “Caedit eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”, which means “Kill them all. The Lord knows those that are his own” (Przybyszewski seems to have rendered it a little differently; for him it’s “caedite omnes, novit enim Deus, qui sunt eius”, or “kill them all, for God will renew those that are his”); in modern English, the equivalent phrase is “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out”, as frequently used by Americans, especially in the military. The Albigensians fled massacre and persecution wherever they could, but every fortress they took refuge in in was conquered, one after another. Captured Cathars were burned at the stake for their heresy, supposedly even if they recanted, while the “knights of the Holy Spirit” executed thousands of people in all manner of ways. Nothing was left, and the church assumed that it had triumphed over heresy. But Satan felt more powerful than ever before. His church hadn’t actually been destroyed, for apparently the hearts of the people were loyal to Satan.

After the fall of Toulouse people apparently crept into catabombs or hid in mountain valleys in order to worship Satan, which never before had they done so enthusiastically, and a new priestess of Satan had emerged: the Witch. Of course, Satan needed to spring as many seeds as he could, and so he sought a wife with whom he could increase his kind. An allegory tells of Satan having intercourse with Godlessness, and producing seven daughters with her. These daughters were Pride, Greed, Infidelity, Hypocrisy, Envy, Vanity, and Fornication. When they grew up, Satan married six of these daughters off to mankind; Pride was married to the powerful, Greed was married to the rich, Infidelity was married to the masses, Hypocrisy was married to the priests, Envy as married to the artists, and Vanity was married to women. Only Fornication remained unmarried, and Satan reserved her for no one in particular, because she was for the whole world. Przybyszewski then says that what he termed “hysterical epilepsy” was common in the 13th century, and that leprosy was universal to the point that “everyone was a little bit leprous”. The succubi and the incubi destroyed those with “weak blood”, while women, we’re told, spontaneously fell down, lifted their dresses, and started masturbating, which suggested a sort of widespread sexual mania. Przybyszewski claims both that the “Albigensian theory” lent itself to such developments and that, in a turnabout, the priesthood of the church employed this very theory to develop new techniques of self-denial. Thus, orgies became a way to “kill sin by means of sin”, a means of negating individual will and instinct, and sacrifice yourself to God, by transforming self-indulgence into self-abnegation. It is true that certain “Gnostic” sects were assumed to have believed in indulging your sexual appetites to the point that you become sick of the material world, but it doesn’t seem that this was prevalent in the Middle Ages. Przybyszewski then says that the priests went further and taught that every act is holy for the saint, and sanctified anyone who sinned with him. The church was also the sole possessor of wealth, while the people were dying of hunger; a fairly basic indictment of class society in conjunction with Christianity. Thus the church was then mocked, scorned, and despised, and faced its collapse.

So, while Satan was growing his power in the world and while demons inspired sexual mania, the church in its attempts to recuperate the heresy it despised appear to have resulted in failure. The vices, married to the people or shared by all of humanity, reasserted themselves against Christian piety, and so dominated the world that the church tried to take them up as a pharmakon – the poison that is at once the cure – in the hope of destroying Satan’s power. Sin as death drive so unravels the world as to consume it completely, and with it seemingly the church itself, by now writhing in its own social contradictions. Interestingly, it is perhaps here that we see a fairly clear indicationg that Satan does not restrict his gifts to a few people, but rather has something to give for everyone, across class backgrounds. And of course, he certainly offers his doubts to the people at large at moments of intense contradiction in the reign of the church.

Then, in Przybyszewski’s telling, we see that the church owned land and the bishops were princes who could raise armies, while the monarchies were losing money and having to counterfeit currency. The solution of the monarchies to this was to confiscate from the church, and so kings incited soldiers against the priests and demanded portions of the chruch’s income. Przybyszewski seems to describe Pope Boniface VIII as a “perjured lawyer,” a “savage atheist”, who “debauched the church” with “filthy blasphemies”. As ridiculous as all of this is, he comes into conflict with Philip the Fair over the latter’s desire to impose levies on the church’s income. The Pope responds by issuing bulls against the king, and is derided in turn. After a feud with the king’s representatives, the Pope absolves the people all sins except sacrilege and stealing from the church, and then, Przybyszewski claims, he died while possessed by the Devil. From there the church declines further. Benedict XI released Phillip from excommunication, and then died of poisoning. From there the church was seemingly handed over to Phillip the Fair, who appointed Clement V as Pope under restrictions, and Clement V embarked on an inspection trip in which he stole from the French clerics. He cooperated in paying the king a tenth of church income, but this was not enough, so he “abandoned the Jews to him”, presumably meaning he let the king expel all Jewish people from France in 1306. When this was still not enough, Clement V withdrew all of Boniface’s bulls and elected cardinals that would ensure the new Pope would be completely under the king’s control, hoping to curry his favor. Still not enough, Clement V had to bring the Knights Templar to the king to be judged as heretics and executed. This, Przybyszewski says, outraged the people, and from there Satan went from being the god of secret societies and a handful of magicians to being the only god for the people. God could not be expected to give what was offered by Satan, he could only deliver torments to humanity and withheld paradise from them, and as the people turned to Satan his power grew immeasurably. Only Satan could give power to the weak, honor to the despised, vengeance to the wronged, and love to estranged lovers, and Satan alone was the god of the poor, the deceived, and the despised.

Here we see that Satan is, in truth, no elitist. How can he be, with “Evil” as universal as it is? And with the church in decline and God discredited in absence, Satan proved to be the true patron of the downtrodden. Satan was offering everything to the masses, God denied everything but torments to the masses, Christ was nowhere to be found and the masses were sick of Christ anyway. Christ’s position as the patron of the masses is at this point thoroughly discredited, although I should note that even in the Bible he never was the champion of the poor; how can he be, when all he has to offer the poor is the “good news” and the assurance that poverty will always exist?

And Satan was everywhere by now. He was in every household, he encountered people everywhere, he could even be sold in bottles. The ranks of hell swelled to 72 princes and over 7 million common devils. Sorcery became prolific, and so the authorities began charging people for it and punishing them with death, torture, and even rape. Przybyszewski appears to be referring to the three daughters of Philip the Fair, which is strange because in reality they were all charged not with sorcery but with adultery, and certainly not punished in the ways he seems to describe. The royal families were caught in adultery and crime, and Satan rubbed his hands together at the sight of such times. Then, eventually, there was a new idol: gold. Gold was the new God, and also the new Antichrist. Gold could be used to create treasures, fulfill every worldly wish, and even grant souls a place in heaven. The church turned it into crosses, reliquaries, and chalices, while other “important people” made jewelry and luxury with it. But gold began to run out. Everyone began a fanatical search for gold. Gold was seemingly manufactured, but it continually evaporated. Everyone needed gold, and at any price they would have it. The “prince of the earth” possessed all the gold, held onto it, and was willing to give some of it, but at the price of your immortal soul. People began a relentless persecution of Jewish people because they were believed to have all the gold and know where it was, but this was for naught. In the end, the people once again turned to Satan for gold. In this, Satan himself was gold, and he turned the church into a whore, the government into a band of counterfeiters, judges to scoundrels, priests to profiteers, peasant women to prostitutes, and morality to depravity. For gold the Templars were destroyed, for gold the church was expropriated by kings, for gold Jewish people were persecuted, and for gold the nobles began torturing the peasants. The people hid what gold they had from the nobles, and after a long period of oppression they violently rose up against the nobles and the priests, killing and plundering their oppressors and desecrating sacraments, but only to be suppressed each time. Through all this the peasants turned to Satan, The Devil, because only he had compassion for them, only he could bring them happiness, however brief, and only he could grant them vengeance against the nobles.

By now, Satan’s role as the champion and avenger of the oppressed is clear, and in this he emerges as the inverter and revealer of power and class. In his temptations, his blasphemies, and his gold, he inverts the power of the church and thereby revealing its true basis: not in righteousness, not even in God, but in acquisition; an acquisition shared by the state, by the nobles, quite arguably by everyone at least from Przybyszewski’s standpoint. Satan revealed the true nature of the authority hanging over the people, and the people then turned to Satan as their true saviour, the only one who could give the people what they really wanted. Not salvation, but freedom. Not peace, but revenge. Not abstinence, but indulgence. Not the daily bread, but gold. Christ could only promise the “good news”, and God could only promise torment in this life and heaven after it if only you obeyed him, and the nobles and the priests who oppressed the peasants did so in the name of God and his Christ. Thus Satan stands as the enemy and the subverter of the ruling classes, not their friend.

What follows next is another indictment of the medieval ruling classes. The nobles took a liking to abusing and torturing the peasants and common folk, and we are told that they developed increasingly elaborate ways of satisfying their brutality. One such way according to Przybyszewski was that the peasant would be thrown into a dough barrel, which was then tipped over, and the noble would put the peasant’s wife over the barrel and have their way with her, and they made their child watch while a cat was bound to the child’s leg and scratched the child every time they screamed. This is what Przybyszewski refers to as “ius primae noctis”, or “right of the first night”, in which feudal lords were supposedly entitled to assault women under their sovereignty during their first wedding night. It’s all very lurid and outrageous, certainly scandalising for the ruling class. But most modern historians conclude that this was a fictitious practice, whose accounts originate only from later sources and not from medieval accounts. Przybyszewski, as a 19th century man, no doubt took the side of a historical debate at the time on the subject which insisted that it was all true. In any case, within the scope of Przybyszewski’s narrative, such abuses naturally drove the people to a breaking point, and meanwhile people were dying of a plague that ravaged the land, and then dying of starvation afterwards. In this setting, no one worked, people waited for death, but in the country people fled to the woods and gathered to worship the Devil. Flagellants marched throughout France, the people became epileptic and performed orgiastic dances in the face of death, while the kings and emperors had gone mad. People renounced heaven and did not forget the misery in their hearts. It seemed that nothing really mattered, the popes were mocked and scorned and their authority ignored, and it was “better to kiss the stinking ass of a corpse than the mouth of Peter”.

Satan, in this setting, became popular, and so did the practice of magic and sorcery, which achieved the highest honour it ever had. The “witch-masters” in all nations gathered to summon demons that could possess the king, herbs with magical properties were brewed in cauldrons, the king enjoyed himself with an emerald magic book, and pearls were ground into dust that was used by magicians to please the Devil. Everyone enthusiastically participated in conjurations and the people performed orgiastic dances and carnal celebrations on the mountaintops to honour the Prince of Darkness. Meanwhile, alchemical laboratories were made to manufacture gold and people mixed poison in the courts of the dukes. Satan was now loved instead of feared, and even imitated in dress. Women would wear horned headdresses while showing their breasts and bellies, while men would wear stockings covered in magical signs, boots tipped with claws, and pouches that accentuated their genitals. Satanist sects arose, grew, and spread everywhere, and there was no village that did not have a dedicated Satanic congregation and nocturnal orgies.

And thus, the church of Satan is born, and the cult of Satan flourishes. Out of the oppressions of the church and feudal society, out of the madness of a world buckling underfoot, Satan’s cult arises as the true vehicle of the liberation of the people, it grows as the negative space from underneath the Christian church which then finally unravels it. Of course, at this point it must be stressed once more that a lot of this is best taken as pure narrative. If you were to take all of this as actual history, you would run into severe problems, and to put it forward as history today would be an act of revisionism. Still, my point was about what to derive about the philosophy and ideology of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. And what do we understand of it? Well, Przybyszewski has so far reiterated his construction of “Manichaeanism” which is no way the real Manichaeaism, but from which we derive the following:

  • Przybyszewski’s Satanism believes in the primacy of Satan, “The Black God”, as the author of sin and the father of corporeal life.
  • On this basis, free will is denied, and therefore no one is culpable of sin.
  • On that basis, the doctrine of eternal damnation or punishment after death is completely rejected.
  • Not unlike Manichaeism or Gnosticism, there is a dualism between matter as “evil” and spirit as “good”, but unlike these religions, Satanism favours “evil” and matter over “good” and heaven/spirit.
  • Przybyszewski’s Satanism also endorses the “autocratic imagination of mysticism”, by which is simply meant a form of mystical individualism, or individualistic mysticism.
  • Przybyszewski’s Satanism upholds pride, and especially pride in committing “sin”, as a virtue, while rejecting obedience and humility before God.

This idea then develops further through schism, and from “Manichaeanism” we get a cult based entirely on worshipping Satan as “The Black God” through nocturnal orgies in the wild. Magick for self-interested ends is a part of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, and Satan is of course the patron of these arts, for Satan encourages people to transgress. Much of this section has been less an exploration of Satanism and more an exploration of Christian decline, but the inversion presented by Satan’s vengeance gives us an important suggestion of a Satanic attitude towards political power; the rulers of the world rule in the name of faith, and faith rules by control, orthodoxy, and fear, but the basis of their authority is in no way righteous, and is instead greed and violence. Satan contains within himsel the negativity which is that same greed and violence, which is revealed to be shared across all social strata, and the negative spaces upon which Christendom establishes itself and then deteriorates and decays. It also establishes Satan’s place not as the patron of some elite values or as some Social Darwinist but instead as the real champion of the people, and the sole source of their deliverance, liberation, fulfillment, and vengeance against the powerful. Satan is the greed that impels the people against the greed of the powers that be, and which calls not for abnegation but for fulfillment in the liberating revenge against the powers that be and the long oppression that hangs over them. For Satan did indeed take pity on their long misery!

But, hold the thought, because Przybyszewski promises more, a greater divulgence of Satan’s church in the next chapter. Of course, we will explore further in the second half of my commentary.

Prelude to “The Cult of the Church of Satan”

So far we have established Przybyszewski’s Satanism as essentially a doctrine of libertinism, egoism, and individualistic mysticism centered around the worship of Satan. Przybyszewski presents this Satanism as having originated in the pre-Christian polytheistic worship of nature and generation – the “heathen cult” as Przybyszewski calls it – before it was driven underground by the Christian church, and then evolved into “Manichaeanism” and other heresies before the church of Satan proper began in earnest. Satan, as the patron of the generation of flesh and vengeance against the church, worked his influence into the world through heresy and revolt and then delivered the people fron the torments of God into and brought about a new age of Satanism. The church of Satan humiliated and competed against the Christian church, and orgies of sin shared with demonkind swept across the land.

But this is only the beginning of Przybyszewski’s narrative exploration of his philosophy of Satanism. The next section, “The Cult of the Church of Satan”, continues to convey it, but in a grisly narration of the story of witchcraft, the “sabbats” of Satan, and the “black mass”. Here Przybyszewski’s Decadent sensibilities colour his expression of Satanic negativity, and it takes a certain amount of discernment and context to get used to it. But through it all, we are gradually acquainted with the real substance of his nihilist philosophy of transgression which makes up the essence of Satanism as he defines it.

I hope you look forward to the second half of my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan.

“Satan Creating the Monsters” by Felicien Rops

Against the Milites Christi

As I write this short piece, I am supposed to still be busy working on my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s essay, The Synagogue of Satan, which I believe to the earliest written treatise on Satanism written by a self-declared Satanist. But recent events compel to interrupt such work for just a moment, because, thinking about it, I feel that it would be wrong for me to not say anything about it here on this blog when I have readily done so in the past. My work on Przybyszewski’s book is still in progress, but what I write now, I must write now, however briefly.

On June 10th, the headquarters of The Satanic Temple in Salem was attacked by a man who tried to set the place on fire. He placed some accelerants onto the premise and set it on fire. It seems that this individual was spotted in a T-shirt with the word “GOD” on it, likely indicating his commitment to Christianity. It also seems that the man was later identified as Daniel Damien Lucey, who, after his arrest, confessed to driving up to the building to light it on fire and that it was meant as a hate crime.

Although my opposition to The Satanic Temple are pretty well-known, and although I have questioned the very extent to which they could even be regarded as “Satanists”, the simple truth is that the attack isn’t really about any of that. It is reasonable to assume that Daniel Damien Lucey attacked The Satanic Temple quite simply because as far as he was concerned they were Satanists, and I further suspect that he may have been motivated by Christian nationalist ideology and the attendant moral panics centering Satanists and The Satanic Temple more particularly. This week, the American right condemned The Satanic Temple for their involvement in a Pride event in Idaho in which they were to offer “unbaptism” ceremonies and sell merchandise. The Satanic Temple pulled out of the Idaho event, probably not wanting to deal with reactionary backlash, but either way right-wingers already had their narrative that Satanists and LGBTQ people were “degenerates” looking to corrupt the community and, how do they put it, “sexualize your children”. In this sense I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to count this attack as a broader expression of right-wing Christian nationalist violence meant to target marginalized groups, and anti-Satanic moral panic is a huge part of that ideology.

The recent attack on The Satanic Temple in Salem is not the first time Christian reactionaries have attacked Satanists or places associated with Satanism. I still remember when the Greater Church of Lucifer (now called the Assembly of Light Bearers) opened their first physical church in Texas back in 2015, and faced vandalism from local Christians before eventually shutting their doors in 2017. I am also informed that, in November 2019, a place called The Wilde Collection, which featured a depiction of Baphomet among other things, was the target of an arson attack by a man who said “God told me to do it”. And how often do we forget that Satanists have been victims of hate crimes for years now. Christian reactionaries have been trying to attack Satanists and be rid of Satanism for a long time now, and they’re not going to stop, especially not now that the war being waged by Christian nationalism is in full swing. In other words, it’s not just about The Satanic Temple particularly, because we are all under attack in exactly the same way, and the difference certainly doesn’t matter to our attackers.

You may notice the title of this article, “Against the Milites Christi”. That is no flowery hyperbole, and it is not simply a fancy name for fundamentalism. The term means “Solider of Christ”, and was the name used by the early Roman Christians to refer to themselves and the community of Christians in military terms. It is often also rendered as “Miles Christi” or “Miles Christianus”. The Christians saw themselves as soldiers on the side of God and his son, waging struggle on their behalf in order to spread the word of God and convert non-believers. Those who were not “Milites Christi” were called “pagans”, or “paganus”, in this case meaning “citizen” or “civilian”. The language of “Milites Christi” continued and evolved over the history of Christianity. The Christian Crusaders called themselves “Milites Christi”, and Christian leaders who advocated for the Crusades were also dubbed “Milites Christi”, while the basic concept took on more generic forms in the form of knighthood, chivalry, and the generic term “Christian Soldiers” referred to in Christian hymns. Modern Chrstian nationalists who attack Satanists, non-believers, and marginalized people tend to carry in themselves a similar zeal and fundamentally the same ideological mission: waging struggle in order to uphold God’s order, at least as they see it, under the desire to realize a theocratic nation-state. I will grant that many modern Christians do not view their faith in terms any great struggle, except perhaps for a more abstract sense of inner struggle with their own sins. But the Christians who are attacking Satanists with arson and violence absolutely see themselves as “soliders of Christ”, fighting evil in order to spread and uphold the order of God.

These people must be fought. There can be equivocation on this reality. Let them be cursed, let them be smashed, indeed let them burn in exactly the way they are trying to burn us. You should accept no counsel against the struggle that is to come – no, the struggle which has already been foisted upon you. In the American context, all talk of disarmament should be swiftly rejected, because it only means taking guns out of the hands of those waging anti-fascist struggle while the would-be “soldiers of Christ” get their hands on them anyway. And don’t doubt for a minute that they will. We’re talking about people who are convinced that their country is ruled by people who want to “sexualize” your children and get rid of Christianity and cis straight white males. Do you really think they’ll give a shit about how hard it is to get a gun if they think it means putting a stop to that? Make no illusions of the fight that is to be had. They want war. They want holy war on the streets. That’s how they see their actions against Satanists and anyone who they think is a Satanist, and if they’re allowed to run rampant they might indeed get their wish. Let’s not pretend everything is OK, and let’s not pretend that the powers that be will solve our problems. The politicians don’t care because they don’t regard us at all, the media doesn’t care and will happily tell us that those who kill in the name of God are not who they say they are, and it should ultimately be remembered that even now Douglas Misicko (sorry, “Lucien Greaves”) could still clutch his pearls about anti-fascist direct action taken against the people who just now tried to burn down The Satanic Temple’s Salem headquarters!

What action is to be taken against these Milites Christi, is to be taken into our own hands. Satanists are under attack, and other non-Christians will be too. The boots of the cross must not be allowed trample upon Satanic liberty; instead the cloven hooves must press upon them before they dare snuff it out!

The contradictions of Caleb Maupin: a response to “Four Forms of Satanism”

I have been meaning to write this article since last month, after I encountered a video published by Caleb Maupin titled “Four Forms of Satanism: A Marxist View”, in which Maupin attempts to define Satanism on his terms for his audience. But, at the time, I was still working on my article on my developing philosophy of Satanic Paganism, and above all else I wanted to complete that article and resolve the desire that animated that work, thus my writing was devoted entirely to that article as well as the abridged version I wrote immediately afterwards. But now that both articles are finished, I can now bring you a response to Caleb Maupin’s video, even though it’s a month late.

I’ve talked about Caleb Maupin before, three months ago, in the context of conspiracy theories and Satanic Panic in relation to the Ukraine-Russia War, but let’s briefly introduce Caleb Maupin for the purpose of this article. As many of you probably already know, Caleb Maupin is a prolific socialist journalist (and I use both terms loosely here) who works for Russia Today, a news station owned and controlled by the Russian government and which is thus a platform for Russian state propaganda. Of course, Caleb really doesn’t like it when you call him a Russian asset, and was outraged when his Twitter account got labelled Russian state-affiliated media. Caleb seems to operate as a Marxist-Leninist, and certainly invokes Marxist theory in his various arguments about socialism, but in practice he mixes his “Marxism” with pro-American conservative populism, the neofascism espoused by Lyndon LaRouche, and the Eurasianist neofascist ideology of Aleksandr Dugin, so in practical terms he is perhaps more accurately referred to as a “left-fascist” or “red-fascist”. His particular brand of “anti-imperialism” leads him to uncritically support for dictatorships such as Russia and China, even to the point of defending the idea that there will be billionaires in a socialist or communist system, and he is prepared to defend rank anti-semites such as Louis Farrakhan on the grounds that he sees them as “anti-imperialists”. In fact, as you’ll see, Caleb Maupin himself is actually grotesquely and notoriously anti-semitic. His current project seems to be the Centre for Political Innovation, a think tank that serves mostly as a vessel to transmit his own brand of left-right confusionism and rehabilitate the ideas of Lyndon LaRouche. It is probably fair to say that Caleb Maupin, the CPI, and their supporters represent a minor tendency within “The Left” as a whole, but they are building a network of parasocial influence through which to disseminate their ideas, including fascistic conspiracy theories, and so it is somewhat important to address Caleb Maupin’s claims about Satanism.

Now, to start with, I think it’s best for me to offer a definiton of Satanism for our purposes, before we get into how Caleb Maupin tries to define it. Satanism, broadly speaking, is a religious and philosophical or magickal belief system based most specifically in a conscious relationship to Satan, either as a conceptual archetype or an actual being, grounded in a egoistic philosophy of transgressive individuation and self-realization, in more magickal forms aimed at the apotheosis of the individual. By my understanding, Satanism is an egoistic religious philosophy whose goal is the liberation of human consciousness through the practice of negation, meaning the negation of the boundaries of egoistic consciousness, so as to light the Black Flame of active negativity and attain individual apotheosis. It is to identify with Satan, the eternal rebel and the lord of Darkness, and his path lit by the Black Flame in order to join the war of all against all on your own side against all that is put over you. That’s my definition of Satanism. But what is Caleb Maupin’s definition?

To summarize Caleb’s basic premise before we dissect his arguments, the idea seems to be that there are four distinct types of Satanism, which seem to differ in their content. The first of these is called “Constructive Satanism”, which Caleb seems to define as essentially just when any form of constructive criticism happens within any organisation. The second of these is called “Adolescent Satanism”, by which Caleb seems to mean either juvenile rebellion or any form of social contrarianism. The third of these is called “Ideological Satanism”, which seems to refer to a more concrete doctrine of Satanism but is in reality just a construction of every ideology that Caleb doesn’t like which is only tenuously linked to any extant Satanism. The last of these actually doesn’t seem to have a name but seems to be Caleb’s way of referring to some vague feeling of hopelessness and self-loathing, possibly even a suicidal ideation, which attacks all positive or affirmative aspirations or ambitions. On its own all of this must already sound pretty ridiculous, but I assure that there is more to what you’re about to see than just what has been presented here – and trust me, it only gets more absurd from here.

On “Constructive Satanism”

We can begin, appropriately, with Caleb’s discussion of the “first definition of Satanism”, which of course he calls “Constructive Satanism”. Right off the bat, we are treated to a very strange argument for this concept. We’re told for starters that every religion has some concept of “good and bad” or “good and evil”, despite the fact that this isn’t really true when you look at the old polytheistic religions, Buddhism, arguably Hinduism, Shinto, Wicca, Thelema, or probably any non-dualistic religion. That doesn’t really have to do with anything, but soon enough Caleb gives us an explanation of the role of “The Satan” in the Book of Job, in which “The Satan” is one of God’s angels who tests your loyalty and your faith, and, according to Caleb at least, brings you hardship and criticizes you in order “reveal who you really are” and “test your strengths”. It’s not a totally inaccurate understanding of the Jewish conception of “The Satan”, but I think he misses the point. The purpose of “The Satan” is specifically to oppose, and indeed the term “Satan”, literally meaning adversary, was used not only in reference to angels but also humans who opposed you in some way, and in Jewish theology this was indeed a functionary of God’s order, but it was less about self-improvement by helping you work on your flaws and more specifically about testing the extent to which you remained faithful to God. But regardless, from this starting point “Constructive Satanism” is defined as essentially just what happens when in an organization there’s someone pointing out flaws and “troubleshooting worst case scenarios”, and when people who care about you criticize you to stop you from going astray or something.

Absolutely none of this is connected to any extant tradition of Satanism. There’s a loose interpretation of “The Satan” from the Book of Job that extrapolates from the core concept some spiel about how every organization needs a critic, but no example of any form of Satanism that emphasizes this theme is ever mentioned. It’s basically just some archetypal image of Satan that Caleb Maupin seems to have synthesized or probably picked up from gods know where. The “Constructive Satanist” here is just someone whose job it is to criticize things and reveal flaws with things in order to point our problems that need to be addressed. I suppose this is almost taking the phrase “devil’s advocate” literally. It’s a very reductive interpretation of the term “Satan” in its etymological meaning, and to be honest it’s very weird that Caleb Maupin thinks there needs to be a special position in society or organizations whose specific role is to criticize the way things are when anyone and probably everyone can do that, and if anything you could argue that in a “functioning society” critique would be universal instead of an exclusive profession. But hey, I guess that’s just authoritarianism for you; only approved people can criticize the regime, and everyone else is just supposed to nod along and bow. While Caleb offers no examples from Satanism to support “Constructive Satanism” as a definition of Satanism, he instead uses the story of the emperor with no clothes to illustrate the problems of not having “Constructive Satanists” around. Then, in a bizarre turn, he tries to argue that Abraham Lincoln was somehow a “Constructive Satanist” on the grounds that Lincoln was “basically an agnostic” and was known in Illinois for visiting local churches to debate pastors about the Bible. Yes, apparently Satanism is nothing more than just having any skepticism about the Bible whatsoever and debating Christians about it.

Curiously enough, however, during the course of his argument, Caleb takes the opportunity to criticize the Soviet Union by saying that it “fell to the sound of applause”. What he means by this is that, as he says, in the Soviet Union every leader since Joseph Stalin would be applaued for basically every pronouncement he gave, no matter how right or wrong-headed, by the Soviet bureaucracy including future successors, which meant that after Nikita Khrushchev took over and denounced Stalin’s regime the same people who praised Stalin turned around and praised Khrushchev for it, and so on and so forth with each leader until the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. The fall of the Soviet Union cannot singularly be blamed on this trend, but it is worth pointing out that, insofar as you can quite rightly and deservedly make this criticism of the Soviet Union, the problem for Caleb Maupin is that to take this criticism seriously requires admitting that the Soviet Union was dictatorship. I mean think about it: if it’s true that nobody in the Soviet bureaucracy ever criticized any of the Soviet leaders, and that everyone applaued each leader for every pronouncement, why do you think people within that system would be compelled or inclined to simply applaude every pronouncement rather than disagree? It’s because you’re in a system where that sort of disagreement is literally punished by the state which dictates that you ultimately cannot go against the leadership. Even Khrushchev, framed as the arch anti-Stalinist, still brutally suppressed dissent. But if you were to try and get Caleb to think about it that way, I’m sure all he’d do is yell at you and accuse you of being a fascist for tarnishing a state that he insists lead the global struggle against Nazism (never mind that Soviet leadership ultimately credited American aid with the very possibility of being able to fight and defeat the Nazis). Oddly enough, though, he eventually admits that the Soviet Union dragged dissident elements away in the middle of the night, and I say “oddly enough” because for all that he’ll still defend the legacy of the Soviet Union from people who view it as a murderous dictatorship, often specifically from such charges! But the operative point here seems to be that the reason the Soviet Union collapsed, rather than anything to do with the weight of its own systemic contradictions as a gerontocratic dictatorship that was crawling away from anything remotely resembling “socialism” for decades, was because of a lack of “Constructive Satanism”, by which Caleb means nothing more than a lack of debate within the Soviet bureaucracy. Of course, like any Leninist, he attributes this solely to the multiple invasion attempts against the burgeoining USSR, despite his account being that these problems continued well past any danger of frontal invasion, and of course completely overlooking any argument that might point out that there is no inherent reason for a country to be “forced” to suppress literally any party comrade who goes against the leadership let alone to go on to invade other countries like Georgia, Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan, as though the Soviet Union had no agency to not do any of those things. Left out of this conversation, of course, is the working class of the Soviet Union, along with the people of the lands the Soviet Union came in and took over. Debate, as far as Caleb Maupin is concerned, is a privilege of the powerful, we might as well say a small class of people who hold authority over the masses, while those ruled by the so-called “Communist” Party have no right to debate on its agenda.

In any case, though, for all that I can say about his arguments about the Soviet Union, there is still no link between any of this discussion and any extant and conscious tradition, expression, or definition of Satanism. The only thing Caleb ever ties this notion of “Constructive Satanism” back to is the Hebrew conception of “The Satan” that he then twists into some abstract discussion of the need for constructive crticism or nitpicking for the good of society or an organization, but besides sort of missing the significance of Jewish theology in this regard, this simply misses the point of what Satanism is. The Negativity embodied by Satan, as understood in Satanism, is not some socializing form of critique, some troubleshooting functionary of the order of things. It is a universal attack on the order we put over ourselves, it is an affirmation of the freedom of egoistic consciousness through the negation of control. This negativity cannot be encapsulated in the mere function of an advisor who points out the flaws of the system so as to ultimately preserve its perpetuation, because this negativity is based in the destruction of systems and the totality of conditions.

On “Adolescent Satanism”

Moving on from there we come to the “second definition of Satanism”, which of course is called “Adolescent Satanism”, or as he initially calls it “Teenage Satanism” or simply “Contrarianism”. Now, I’m actually sure a lot of Satanists are somewhat familiar with some idea of “teenage Satanism”, by which we typically mean some disassociated act of malicious violence or “criminality” carried out by angry contrarian teenagers who may or may not attach some Satanic imagery to it in order to give some quasi-religious aura to their crimes. Of course, such a phenomenon is not limited to teenagers, there are plenty much less sound adults who do similar and sometimes worse things, and the media is happy to help them attach Satanism to their crimes, while almost never attributing Christianity to the actions of Christian killers no matter how many times they say that they are killing people in the name of God and his Son. But, when Caleb Maupin says “Teenage Satanism”, he simply means a type of behaviour where people “just want to break social norms” in order to go against authority and “assert their individualism”. Similar to the previous “definition”, this is one of those things that loosely plays into certain attributes of Satanism or Satanists, but is altogether separated from any conscious Satanism. In fact, just as before, Caleb Maupin never refers to any examples of any extant or self-defined Satanism embodying what he describes. Instead, the first thing he talks about is how he thinks communist movements end up “indulging the forbidden” as a response to the demonization of “communism” in the United States. “Communism”, Caleb tells us, is “Satan”, or “forbidden” in American society. There is of course some truth to this, but then you have to remember that, by “communism”, he means state socialists or state capitalists such as Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, all the various leaders of “actually existing socialist” countries who used to have their own major bloc of geopolitical power against “the West”; and let’s face it, in an age where the Cold War has long since ended, the “red menace” is a largely vestigal aspect of bourgeois propaganda, though still trotted out to some extent when the “leftists” appear to be gaining ground. Even when discussing China as a threat in some way, it’s usually the hard right more than anyone else that likes to emphasize the so-called “communism” of China.

An important point to address here is Caleb’s assertion that, because the United States of America is, as he says, “the capital of capitalism” and “the world center of anti-communism”, communists “embrace the opposite of what they are told”. There is an extent to which this is true, but it all depends exactly what you’re being told. The majority of mainstream discourse concerning “communism” would tell you that communism is nothing more than when you have a one party dictatorship that assumes control of all aspects of the economy as well as political and social life and transforms all private or personal property into state property. When Caleb says that Western communists embrace the opposite of what they’re told, this is accurate, but that’s to the extent that they reject that entire concept of “communism”, and with it whatever beady-eyed authoritarianism that Caleb Maupin would advocate for. Instead, many of the people who become interested in communism do so on the understanding that communism means that private property and capitalism is abolished in order to create a stateless, classless, moneyless society. Other serious communists take this further, understanding that communism is the movement of the abolition of the totality of the existing conditions, and that a communist society means a free association of people who, without the rule of the state or hierarchy or capital, interact with one another to fully develop themselves in any way they want. These people typically also reject the legacy of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, or any of the countries Caleb upholds because they were not only authoritarian but also not even close to what communism is. There are, however, some self-styled communists who do not follow this pattern, and instead reject entirely any suggestion that the old red bloc and similar countries were oppressive, authoritarian, or even bad, and take for granted that these were “communist” countries despite not actually having the conditions of communism, take the way they organize society as “communism”, and then embrace this model as the model they believe will solve all the world’s problems. These people are often referred to as “tankies”, and fortunately it seems that they probably don’t comprise the majority of today’s radicals.

But what exactly does all of this have to do with Satanism? Caleb asserts that contemporary communists take the opposition of the US narrative to the point of taking on “a childist, adolescent” character, and the reason he refers to this as “Satanism” is because, to him, it is similar to “the teenager who starts wearing a pentagram necklace and starts listening to Ozzy Osbourne” This person is “literally a Satanist” according to him. I would have thought that, in the decades since heavy metal became the cultural phenomenon that it is now, we all came together and understood that listening to Ozzy Osbourne does not make you a Satanist, no matter how many Satanists (myself included) happen to like Ozzy Osbourne. But apparently it’s Satanism, because to him, under this “definition” of Satanism anyway, you can be a “Satanist” simply by making aesthetic declarations of rebellion against authority and breaking from the conventions of your parents. Under this same “definition”, a young person becoming a Buddhist or a vegetarian is thus “being a Satanist” insofar as “Satanism” is simply an assertion of individuality in contradiction to society at the time; such a statement would have us ignore the fact that most forms of Buddhism (at least in its “orthodox” form) are actually diametrically opposed to Satanism while vegetarianism, though not exactly popular, is very compatible (and some might even argue more consistent) with the teachings of Christianity. “This is not politics, this is emotion”, we are told, as though emotion does not involve itself with “politics” at all, and as though Buddhism, vegetarianism, or for that matter Satanism, or any expression of individuality at all is invalid merely because it is “feelings”, as though the emotional capacity of humans is somehow inferior to some disembodied rationality that is somehow divorced from this very same emotional capacity.

Caleb then goes on to at last give what he sees as a concrete example of “Teenage Satanism”, but once again it’s not actually a form of Satanism. Instead it’s “the 1960s left”, by which he seems to mean the American counterculture of the 1960s and its general alignment with left-wing political movements. I’m pretty sure that most hippies in the 1960s would have rejected any suggestion that they were Satanists, and I know for a fact that Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan that arose in the 1960s despised hippies almost as much as they despised Christianity, but I’m also sure that this inconvenient reality doesn’t quite matter to Caleb. Caleb tells us a story about someone he once knew from that decade; a communist who, as a young woman, got involved with the anti-war movement, supposedly because she liked it when the protestors broke windows, confronted police officers, and chanted “smoke dope, get high, all the cops are gonna die!”. Caleb frames this as the dominant message of the 60s counterculture for some reason, no doubt intending to depict hippies as terrorists, and he relates to us the apparent existence of a left-wing organization in New York that called themselves The Motherfuckers. This seems to have been a real organization, apparently an anarchist group who incorporated Dadaism and the ideas of Situationist International. Caleb claims that they got their name from the comedian Lenny Bruce saying “This is a stick-up! Up against the wall motherfucker!”, but this doesn’t seem to be true and in fact they actually got it from a poem written by Amiri Baraka. But the operative point seems to be that shouting “Up against the wall! Motherfuckers!” is “Satanism”, somehow, because, again, “Satanism” in this setting is just when you openly confront authority. Again, this is take one aspect of what makes Satan who he is and Satanism what it is while divorcing it from any conscious relationship to Satan as an idea, and thereby missing the point of Satanism.

What I find to be an amusing contradiction within Caleb’s idea of “Teenage Satanism” is his account of an anti-war/anti-imperialist group he refers to as The New York City Committee To Support The Vietnamese (I swear I can’t actually find anything about this group anywhere). The communist woman Caleb talks about apparently joined this group because they “walked through the streets of New York waving the flag of the enemy”, supposedly they really did march across New York City waving the Vietnamese flag and chanted “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh! The NLF is gonna win! Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh!”. Now Caleb actually likes it when people chanted this, but for him the difference is that she didn’t mean it and just chanted it to be “bad”, whereas according to him other people who chanted it really meant it. Could we argue that, from a certain point of view, or at least from the perspective of power, the difference doesn’t matter that much? In fact, simply “going against what you have been told”, by Caleb’s standards, does that not animate the very “anti-imperialist” movement that he stands by so resolutely. Consider the Center for Political Innovation’s first conference in Austin, Texas, this year, of which Caleb Maupin was a part. Not only did they raise the flags of both the United States of America and the Soviet Union at the same time, they also displayed the flag of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic as well as the Z symbol that was found on Russian tanks and currently used to signify support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In practice, this sort of politics tends to play out as simple identification with the perceived enemies of “the West”, and Caleb, very strangely for his particular brand of “patriotic socialism”, is just happy to cultivate this sense of identification. In fact Caleb Maupin vocally supported the pro-Russian separatists in Donbas and the Russian army as the invasion of Ukraine began. In fact he had his own fanatical slogan: “Donbas Lives Matter!”. His Center for Political Innovation has also been seen holding rallies in support of Russia, in which they display the flag of Russia as well as the flag of Donetsk and the Z symbol, while also displaying pro-Russian slogans. Is Caleb Maupin not a “Satanist” by his own definition? He would say no, but that’s only because he claims he believes in the Russian cause “against imperialism”. In reality he simply takes the side of Russia and Donbas because it’s the apparent enemy of Western imperialism. It is contrarianism by any measure, except only that Caleb refuses to recognize it as such. The difference between his politics and the “not real politics” he attributes to “Teenage Satanists” is quite simply that Caleb decides that he is not a contrarian, that he is not merely “identifying with the enemy”, and it seems to me that this difference is ultimately decided by the proposal that the “Teenage Satanist” takes joy in his simple opposition while Caleb at least ostensibly refuses such joy. But if you are a revolutionary (and, I assure you, Caleb Maupin by his own consideration is not) then what is the point in not deriving joy from the overthrow of the existing conditions, and with it the casting off of oppression? What a poor revolution it is that cannot embody jouissance? In this sense, “Teenage Satanism” is definitely not a form of Satanism, not in any historical, contemporary or serious sense, but I am quite sure that Satanism, at least on my terms, embraces the idea of deriving jouissance from the act of resistance itself.

On “Ideological Satanism”

Now we come to the “third definition of Satanism”, which Caleb refers to as “Ideological Satanism”. I will establish here and now that this is the only part of the video in which Caleb even tries to connect what he’s saying about “Satanism” to any actual extant form of Satanism, but even then it’s very tenuous and brief, and much of his definition is still hardly connected to Satanism. This is also the section where, I assure you, things seem to get really “interesting” if you know what I mean.

First, Caleb brings up the Church of Satan, briefly, and then mentions Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, only to seemingly shift focus away from LaVey himself in order to focus on Ayn Rand, who he refers to as one of LaVey’s favorite authors. Now, there is a small connection to Satanism in that Anton LaVey did describe his form of Satanism as “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added”. But, for other people who have encountered Caleb Maupin and his work, they may have noticed that Maupin sometimes has a fixation on Ayn Rand in particular, among other intellectuals he seems to count as part of the “forces of darkness”. In his book Satan At The Fountainhead, ostensibly a book about the influence of so-called Israel Lobby in foreign policy, Caleb denounced Ayn Rand as having “no grounds to define what it means to be an American” as a Russian-born Jewish atheist who was not born in the United States, accused her of conspiring to overthrow the then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and at times he even refers to her by her birth name, Alysa Rosenbaum, instead of Ayn Rand, in what appears to be an obvious ploy to accentuate her Jewish identity as a negative so as to indicate her Jewishness itself as a form of villainy. In fact, this is not his only instance of fairly open anti-semitism, and there are in fact some people who reckon he is more anti-semitic than even the notorious white nationalist Nick Fuentes. In any case, it seems that Caleb’s discussion of Ayn Rand ultimately overshadows any discussion of Anton LaVey, and as he goes on he quotes the last part of Ayn Rand’s most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, as what he believes to be the distillation of “doctrinnaire Satanism”. The quote seems to be from John Galt’s speech and it goes like this:

Your acceptance of the code of selflessness has made you fear the man who has a dollar less than you because it makes you feel that that dollar is rightfully his. You hate the man with a dollar more than you because the dollar he’s keeping is rightfully yours. Your code has made it impossible to know when to give and when to grab. You know that you can’t give away everything and starve yourself. You’ve forced yourselves to live with undeserved, irrational guilt. Is it ever proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty that you owe him. Yes, if it’s your own free choice based on your judgment of the value of that person and his struggle. This country wasn’t built by men who sought handouts. In its brilliant youth, this country showed the rest of the world what greatness was possible to Man and what happiness is possible on Earth. Then it began apologizing for its greatness and began giving away its wealth, feeling guilty for having produced more than its neighbors. 

And then he skips ahead to what appears to be the last line of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt’s “oath”, “I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.”. “Selfishness as a virtue”, Caleb Maupin decries with utmost self-assurance. In fact, he categorizes that John Galt speech as a “rejection of morality”. From a certain point of view, it may be possible to concur, but based on my familiarity with the philosophy of Objectivism it actually seems that the aim of Rand and her followers was in fact to create a different and new code of morality, one that just happened to center an enclosed, rational, acquisitive ego, a thereotically ideal capitalist subject, at the center of its ethical considerations. The Randians, perhaps much unlike Anton LaVey and his antecedents, would if anything go out of their way to demonstrate their commitment to the cause of objective morality, just that they think that they can base that objective morality on the precepts of capitalist acquisition (reified of course as “rational self-interest”) and obviously without any recourse to God or to any religious concept of what morality is. Of course, let’s not be too charitable to Rand here, because in many ways her philosophy is still incredibly foolish, misguided, appears to have destructive and oppressive effects on the world, and is ultimately, insofar as it can be counted as “egoism”, in truth a very narrow-minded and shallow form of egoism when compared to the philosophy of someone like Max Stirner; not to mention, let’s make no mistake, Ayn Rand herself was a cruel-minded and disgusting person who lauded colonial genocide and happily counted the murderers of children as her idols. But with that said let’s take note of Caleb Maupin’s characterization of the John Galt speech. He regards it simply as “evil”, on the apparent understanding that it teaches against empathy and against helping others. Not inaccurately, though, Caleb refers to it as “the ideology of capitalism”, though in reality Randian free market fundamentalism is only one of the many ideologies with which capitalism supports itself. We in bourgeois society merely single it out because it is more honest in its alignment with the interests of the concentration of capital and more brazen in the rejection of any obstacles to it, while the subtler and more cunning forms of capitalist ideology, which assume the form of the very opposite of Randian morality, often go unchallenged even by progressives.

There is a lot we can say about Caleb Maupin’s overall assessment of this expression of capitalist ideology, but a lot of that is what can also be said of Ayn Rand’s version of “egoism”. Caleb complains that capitalism as Ayn Rand’s “unknown ideal” positions a society where untrammeled “greed” nourishes the world, and that the problem of contemporary society is that greed is in some way suppressed or simply discouraged. For Caleb, greed is bad, for Ayn Rand, greed is good, but altogether neither of them understand anything. Taking communism seriously means understanding that, even on Marxist terms, the self-interest of the proletariat is the actual “mass progressive force”. The working class, conditioned as a labouring class, have done nothing but sacrifice their labour and its fruits so that others, more specifically capitalists, may benefit from it, to the point of their impoverishment via surplus extraction, so the revolution of the proletariat is in fact the pursuit of self-interest on class terms; the workers revolt so that they might restore what is rightfully theirs, which has hitherto been stolen from them and whose theft has always been legitimized with some “greater good”. “Greed”, in this setting, is in fact the weapon against the “greed” of the ruling class. For Caleb, whose “socialist” instincts are ultimately guided by FDR’s fanciful “war on want”, this is an unthinkable statement of immorality against morality, but for Ayn Rand, the rightful greed of the working masses cannot be recognized as greed or egoism because to her the masses are somehow incapable of the greed displayed by those few capitalist adventurers that are her ideal individualist. Both are wrong, and Caleb’s critique falls short because of it, because his “Marxism” is not “materialist” enough to realize the egoism of communism.

In any case, Caleb continues to rail against his construction of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and declaring it to be “Political Satanism” or “Doctrinnaire Satanism”, which I suppose is accurate if you consider Anton LaVey himself to be the sole expression of Satanism (and, of course, he wasn’t). It is “ideological capitalism”, and “anti-moralism”, the latter of which is funny because some observers would describe Karl Marx as “anti-moralist”. But the funny part is that Caleb also describes this construction as “what most of the elite in the United States believe”. This is where the real meat of Caleb’s thesis starts to present itself. Now Caleb claims that Ayn Rand is merely what the elites present to the masses, business majors, “edgy teenagers”, and the right-wing talk radio scene, while their “real” philosophical foundation, shared with the “more educated” strata of society, is Friedrich Nietzsche. Basically, his conspiracy theory is that Nietzsche is “the more sophisticated Ayn Rand”, and that the elites water down Nietzsche’s philosophy through Ayn Rand for the masses to consume. The fact that Nietzsche’s books are readily available for just about anyone to read and purchase is the most obvious problem with this thesis that Caleb simply does not care to grapple with. Caleb goes on to characterize Nietzsche, or more specifically via his book Beyond Good and Evil, as arguing that Christian teaching is a form of slave morality, whuch is thus contrived in order to console the weak, in contrast to the “master morality” which “worships strength”, supposedly embodied by the ancient Romans and Greeks who supposedly lived only for their own pleasure. Caleb claims that Nietzsche argued for a return to “might makes right” and “greed is good”.

Before we go any further, let’s stop and assess what Beyond Good and Evil says, to see if Caleb Maupin got anything right about it. From the start of the book, Nietzsche makes clear his opposition to all forms of philosophical dogmatism, describing all philosophical dogmatizing as “the infantile high-mindedness of a beginner”. When addressing egoism versus altruism, Nietzsche seems to consider that a hard opposition between the two is the creation of metaphysicians and argues that altruism actually bears an insidious relationship to egoism, and suggests that a new class of dangerous philosophers will arrive and be able to deal with this possibility. That doesn’t sound much like how Ayn Rand frames egoism and altruism. He did say that a “noble soul” accepts its egoism, though. Part of Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity, and a lot of religion in general including Buddhism, is that he thought that these religions inculcated contentment with the harsh realities of the world and its order by placing them within “an illusory higher order of things”, but he also considered religion a means by which philosophers could educate and through which some people could elevate themselves to authority. It is true, though, that Nietzsche regarded Christianity as the worst of major religions, on the grounds that he believed it turned the human species into a herd animal, inverted all love for earthly things, and “turned all evaluations upside down”. As much as Caleb would disagree with that assessment, Caleb would make the same “turning all evaluations upside down” argument against what he deems “the Synthetic Left”. Regarding master morality and slave morality, in Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche actually seems to count charity or compassion as part of “master morality” on the grounds that he thought that the noble person would help the unfortunate out of an urgency created by an excess in their power. A tad naive on his part, I’d say, but it does punch a hole in Caleb’s idea that Nietzschean master morality was simply “might makes right” or “greed is good”; in fact it’s not obvious that this is relevant to the content of Beyond Good and Evil at all. Indeed, Nietzsche is not only not “anti-moralist”, he seems to concern himself with the subject of the cultivation and detoriation of moral values in a societal context; an arguably genuine “anti-moralist” would declare all talk of morality to be talk of fiction, and I am not convinced that Beyond Good and Evil really proposes this. For whatever else can be said of Beyond Good and Evil, I am fairly confident that Caleb Maupin is probably distorting its content.

It is on the subject of master morality that we discover another contradiction in Caleb Maupin’s thinking. Because, in spite of his defense of Christianity from the charge of slave morality and his condemnation of the constructed ideology of master morality, Caleb himself is a supporter of a kind of fascistic “master morality”, and nowhere is this more evident in his discussion of supposed “Odinist values”. Caleb has repeatedly stressed the virtues of what he refers to as “Odinist values”, by which he means the influence of a supposed “Germanic pagan ethos”. Of course, the irony of all this is that Caleb is, per his own description, a Christian. “Odinist values” in his parlance seems to just mean some abstract belief in the hard work of the individual, in self-sacrifice, grit, determination, “motor-mindedness” and entrepreneurialism, which, it is supposed, can come with an opposition to oversensitivity and weakness. Forgetting for a moment that almost none of this has anything to do with the actual pre-Christian Germanic religion or the actual character of Odin (Caleb in fact bases his entire idea of who Odin is on the work of Thomas Carlyle rather than any actual historical material on Norse/Germanic polytheism), if we understand master morality by Caleb Maupin’s definition, by which he means a glorification of strength at the expense of empathy, his own construction of “Odinist values” seems like it could be taken as an example of “master morality” by his terms, and yet he embraces it. On the other hand, it may be relevant to consider another interpretation of master and slave morality. What if appeals to “hard work” are a form of slave morality, imploring a person to consider that they will ultimately be rewarded if they obey their capitalist masters for long enough while heeping scorn and suspicion on anyone who suggests that perhaps this might just be a senseless grift? Still, the fact that Caleb Maupin has elsewhere stressed the idea that socialism should be associated with strength by appealing to the glories of the various authoritarian leaderships of figures like Joseph Stalin suggests that he leans on the side of “master morality”, which makes it all the stranger that he should condemn Nietzsche’s work.

Caleb ties the philosophies of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche together simply by how, in his view, they both casted “the People” as their enemy. On the basis of this, and after rambling about Nietzsche’s hatred of the Paris Commune, Caleb then goes on a bizarre pivot to discuss Leo Strauss, an influential neoconservative intellectual, and how he apparently is an exponent of “Political Satanism”. Caleb talks about how Leo Strauss argued that all the “great philosophers” had been persecuted throughout history and for this reason “wrote in code” so as to hide “what they really said” from “the rabble” who would “punish” them if they wrote without such “code”. He then goes on to say that this belief is animated by a broader belief that the intellectuals have always lived in fear of “the rabble”, supposedly just like Ayn Rand’s character John Galt or Nietzsche’s opposition to the Paris Commune, which is thus, according to Caleb, part of the belief system of “Doctrinnaire Satanism” which he claims believes that there are “chosen ones” who sit at the center of the elite and must be protected at all costs from “the rabble”. While it seems that Leo Strauss did espouse a belief that what he called “esoteric writing” was a widespread practice in philosophy, it would be a distortion on Caleb’s part to assume that the utility of “esoteric writing” concerns merely the protection of the elite from the masses. In fact, the practice can become very relevant in the context of totalitarianism, in which case the philosopher is not simply “protecting himself from the rabble” but instead concealing their real values from a totalitarian government that would have abducted and murdered them for going against the government’s ideological narrative. It seems telling that Caleb has not considered this possibility, and instead prefers to think only of “the elites” versus “the people”.

Then Caleb claims that Strauss argued that propaganda was needed in order to control the citizenry, supposedly modelled after his favorite show Gunsmoke, supposedly for the purpose of getting the masses to think of politics as just “good versus evil” so that they don’t rise up against the elites. Where even to begin with this? For starters, Strauss liked Gunsmoke because to him it was a great representation of the Hobbesian concept of the “state of nature”, not because it was some convenient narrative of “good versus evil”. Second, the whole delineation of politics along the lines of “good versus evil” via propaganda is exactly Caleb Maupin’s own enterprise. Remember, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, he literally described the Russian army and the pro-Russian separatists as the forces of good and the government of Ukraine and its allies as the forces of darkness allied with Satan. Remember that he describes a whole group of economists as “forces of darkness” set against an “inherently moral and religious” American people. For Caleb to attribute such thinking to Leo Strauss is entirely an act of projection, and, even if it wasn’t, the whole concept has nothing to do with Satanism. Satanists, if anything, tend to strive to break the power that the notion of good versus evil has over human consciousness, and to us the arts of negativity and subversion are ways of acheiving just such an end, so even if Caleb was correct about Leo Strauss, this would make Leo Strauss an opponent of Satanic liberation instead of its ally. Besides, as a man who forthrightly hated atheism and seriously considered the value of religion even as he was not an orthodox believer, Strauss would have opposed the sort of Randian or Nietzschean rejection of religion that Caleb assigns to “Doctrinnaire Satanism”.

Despite these facts, however, Caleb weaves together a constructed ideology of “protecting the freedom of the elites from the persecution of the rabble” as the ideological core of both neoconservatism and the so-called “Synthetic Left”. “Synthetic Left”, of course, is a term that Caleb Maupin created as a catch-all term for any expression of left-wing politics that opposes his own brand of socialism, with specific attention to online left-wing commentators such as ContraPoints and Vaush (who he namedrops at the very end of his video), with whom he has a frankly unhealthy obsession. Caleb claims that the Congress for Cultural Freedom was created to funnel money to “anti-communist” left-wing intellectuals who criticized American society while also criticizing the Soviet Union (the horror!). He names Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, and Herbert Marcuse as examples of “anti-communist” left-wing intellectuals. That Herbert Marcuse was himself a Marxist probably doesn’t bother Caleb much when making his arguments. In fact none of the individuals he names seem to have ever actually been affiliated with Congress for Cultural Freedom; the particular claim that Marcuse was affiliated with them seems to have originated in the LaRouche movement. What Caleb especially opposes about these intellectuals is how, according to him, they “reinterpreted” the concept of fascism away from Marxist orthodoxy (which he dubs the “scientific view” of fascism). Caleb asserts the “orthodox Marxist” view that fascism is essentially a crisis of capitalism and its resolution by the bourgeoisie (or one faction thereof) through authoritarian measures and the mass mobilization of the population to drive down living standards in the hope of stablizing capitalism. To summarize, this is the doctrine that “fascism is capitalism in decay”, as Lenin put it. Forgetting for a moment the simplicity and problems with this definition that could be discussed, the opposing perspective that Caleb constructs from “left-wing anti-communists” is that fascism is “when the rabble get together and start persecuting the intellectuals”. Caleb cites Fascinating Fascism by Susan Sontag and Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt as accounts of this definition of fascism, but this doesn’t seem evident in these works, or at best it’s a grotesque over-simplification. Sontag presents fascism as a totalitarian exaltation of the community carried out at the expense of rationality and individuality, while Arendt also largely (though not always) defines fascism in terms of totalitarianism. Ironically enough, the way Hannah Arendt refers to fascism as “the alliance of the Mob and Capital” in The Origins of Totalitarianism is actually rather well-aligned with the way Caleb Maupin seems to define fascism, and it seems obvious that the only reason he would not assume so is because Arrendt dare call it “the Mob”.

Of note is the way Caleb talks about Susan Sontag refers to communism as “fascism with a human face”. I see everything wrong with taking such statements at face value, but for this reason it’s worth noting that Caleb doesn’t seem to care to present her reasons for saying that. He doesn’t care about the fact that, by the time she was making those remarks, Poland had been repressing opponents of the pro-Soviet regime there, in a manner that she compared to right-wing repressions elsewhere. Her point is that the type of governance traditionally attributed to fascism is also very much possible within the “communist” or Marxist-Leninist framework, and this leads her to believe that democratic governance is not possible in that framework because of its denial. Caleb seems to dismiss this point, and derides Susan Sontag for referring to communism as “the most successful form of fascism”, but in so doing this Caleb ends up defending reactionary dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi as “communists”. Now, I don’t agree at all with Susan Sontag’s description of communism, for the simple reason that I don’t recognize the countries Sontag is clearly referencing as “communist”, but Caleb Maupin defending Hussein and Gaddafi as “communists” despite the fact that both leaders were openly anti-communist is a pretty easy way to prove her right, in my opinion.

The actual connection to Satanism is still incredibly thin if present at all, but we ostensibly see another contradiction in Caleb’s thought through his description of “Doctrinnaire Satanism”. He tells us that, at its core, “Doctrinnaire Satanism” believes that humans are evil. The problem there is that it’s Christianity that believes human nature is basically evil. Part of the core of Christian philosophy, and the very reason for Jesus Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, is that humanity has been corrupted by sin ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Now, I acknowledge that there are certain interpretations of Christianity that differ from this basic throughline, but it is baseline Christianity nonetheless, and for Caleb Maupin to imply that he opposes this is necessarily to imply that he is going against the basic core of Christianity, while still claiming to be a Christian. And yet, it is clear that Caleb means something else. By “human beings are evil”, he means the idea that “human beings are the problem”, and then, by implication, the idea that humans beings are animals. Satanists don’t tend to agree that humanity is necessarily “evil” or “the problem”, but if there’s one thing Caleb actually gets right about at least many Satanists, even if not all of them, it’s that we regard homo sapiens as another species of animal. Satanism, both LaVeyan and non-LaVeyan, tends to recognizes humanity as animals, and Caleb, naturally, as a Christian, has a problem with this conception. You see, in the opinion of Caleb Maupin, human beings are not animals. His argument for why human beings are not animals, while almost certainly a diversion from our main subject matter, does allow us the opportunity to address a sort of baseline Marxist conception of species-being relevant and discuss broader questions of what makes a human human in this setting.

Caleb refers to Friedrich Engels’ essay The Part Played by Labour in The Transition from Ape to Man (which he seems to have referred to “The Role of Labour in The Transition from Ape to Man”) so as to point to the argument that human beings are separate from animals not because of civilization (“an ant farm is a civilization”), not because they use tools (“you can see different animals using tools”), and not because of language (“some people argue that animals have a kind of spoken language”), but rather because humans supposedly have the unique ability to manipulate the environment around them. Caleb says that animals can only interact with their environment, whereas humans make the environment serve them, they master the environment around them. That does indeed seem to be Engels’ basic thesis, which is summarized by Engels as the following:

In short, the animal merely uses its environment, and brings about changes in it simply by its presence; man by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it. This is the final, essential distinction between man and other animals, and once again it is labour that brings about this distinction.

There is an obvious problem with this idea. Humans are fundamentally distinguished from animals by their ability to manipulate their environment. The problem with this is that there’s many other species of animal that have done the same. Termites take the soil around them and mix it with saliva and shit in order to construct termite mounds, in this manipulating their environment in their own service. Ants similarly construct and carve through the soil around them in order to create the colonies in which they live. Beavers take branches and logs from trees in order to create dams, and in so doing manipulating and restructuring the enivronment around them in order to serve them in some way. In directly manipulating their respective environments, by this definition, we could say that ants, termites, and beavers are also human beings. But Caleb would say the difference is that humans also “constantly reinvent the way they interact with the environment”, meaning that while animals build their mounds and dams the same way for thousands and thousands of years, humans by contrast have gone from hunter gatherers to space travel and iPhones in just a few thousand years. On this basis, “there is something unique about mankind”. But is this not simply saying that what is unique about humanity is only its products? The difference then is merely iteration and what is produced, but the core trait is in no way unique to the human species, and is found in other animal species. In this sense, we would find reason to question the truth of this concept of species-being, or labour as human nature; and that’s really what this is, it’s essentially just the standard Marxist argument for what is otherwise just another appeal to “human nature”, the naturalizing basis of an only questionably natural civilization. Well, it’s almost standard Marxism, until Caleb adds the idea of humans being “endowed by their Creator” (there’s that familiar rhetoric from the Declaration of Independence, odd for a Marxist-Leninist wouldn’t you say?) with special abilities that make them separate from other species, thus we seem to have gone from the standard Marxist argument of labour as species-being to some kind of Christian argument about how God is the source labour’s power to transform the environment. The idea of labour as human nature, in itself, is also very questionable, at least when we get into our concept of what labour is. Labour is a social activity and this activity is essentially work, and work is not something that humans actually inherently want to do; it’s something that we are made to do or which we might be persuaded to agree to do. The idea that we could refer to such a relationship as “human nature” is laughable, because, if we take “human nature” seriously, we would define it as something that is constant prior to, beyond, and beneath the structures that we socialize ourselves into and which cannot be altered by our conscious efforts, and work simply cannot be described as such a thing.

In any case, Caleb believes that labour as Man’s ability to dominate and constantly reinvent the environment around them is the fundamental distinction of mankind from the animal kingdom, and, according to Caleb, the “Doctrinnaire Satanists” disagree with this premise. If they do, they’re quite right to, because it seems obvious that humanity does not actually control nature as much as they think. We certainly have no control over the Sun, the weather, the tectonic plates, the tides, or indeed the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. Even Engels, in the same essay Caleb cited, admitted that humans do not actually “conquer” nature the way that Caleb puts it or in the way that the standard Marxist doctrine might imply. Engels said thus:

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with these farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.

Nonetheless, Caleb specifically points to Anton LaVey’s belief that Man is just another animal, in LaVey’s words, “sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours” (Caleb paraphrases this but it is esssentially the same quote). This is indeed quoting Anton LaVey, and it’s also practically the only time in this entire video that Caleb ever actually does quote LaVey or discuss what he or the Church of Satan actually said. For most of the rest of his section on “Political/Ideological/Doctrinnaire Satanism”, there is no discussion of any extant Satanism, not even LaVeyan Satanism, and instead all discussion of so-called “Doctrinnaire Satanism” is actually practically a discussion of liberalism (in fact later on he literally does just call it “Doctrinnaire Liberalism”) or just the various ideologies and philosophies that Caleb Maupin simply doesn’t like, which is then presented as one monolithic ideology of “the elites must construct a society that protects the intellectuals from the rabble”, which of course is not an actual, serious ideology but instead a nonsensical populist construct. In this absurd ideological amalgamation, Caleb derives a worldview that promotes elitism and misanthropy, opposes compassion and empathy, views collective solidarity as totalitarianism, and dictates that a small elite must rule the world while the masses must be prevented from challenging the power of the elites. Telling, of course, is the part where Caleb talks about how “the elites view people coming together as totalitarianism”, because the simple truth is he probably defends the totalitarianism that people like Hannah Arendt point to. In fact, it is probably not for nothing that Caleb is much friendlier with actual self-described fascists than with leftists who are consciously anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian. Caleb opposes anti-totalitarianism on principle, as is certainly evidenced by his defense of totalitarian regimes, and does not appear to deny a link between totalitarianism and his desired form of politics even as he dismisses allegations of totalitarianism, which leads us to think that he is probably a supporter of totalitarianism, on principle.

There is an irony in Caleb’s spiel about the value of law, to the point of him even literally quoting the US State Department when it says “when law stops, tyranny begins”. The irony being that Anton LaVey, as a man who established himself as a law and order ideologue, would likely have felt the same way. But the other irony is that in this sphere Caleb reiterates what is fundamentally a conservative worldview: law is the source of freedom, only laws and morals protect the “weak”. This would require us to forget the many ways in which the law was arrayed against the “weak”, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the powerless etc, and the many hypocrisies of our so-called morality. The law protects old ladies from people strong enough to beat them up and take their purses, never mind why they should do so, but what is the law? None other than an organization of force capable of overpowering said criminals. Law does not supercede power; in truth, law is built on the power of the state’s exclusive monopoly on violence. How else does law get its power, if not the ability to enforce it through violence or the threat thereof? Even more egregious here is his apparent belief that it’s because of the law that your boss has to pay you a minimum wage. The times that the working class had to organize and fight, and risk being bashed by the long club of the law, in order to get such concessions from the ruling class in the first place are mentioned only so as to make the point that without the law their boss could do whatever they wanted. But it’s not without the law that the boss could pay his worker’s nothing but rather because of it, and it is because of law and its basis in the exclusive monopoly of violence that the whole system of wage, currency, and class that produces the conditions of exploitation even exists! Such an analysis, however, is simply too materialist for him. Instead Caleb prefers to speak of socialism or communism as a means to be “even more civilized than capitalism”. What a truly horrifying notion! Why would you wish for such a thing, knowing what the “civilizing” power of capitalism is, and what maintains it! No, I am being too presumptuous here; he very obviously doesn’t know in the sightest the true nature of this power. If he did, perhaps he would join me in calling for its total destruction, instead of masturbating to the thought of reaching a “higher order of civilization”, which, in truth, would be nothing more than a new order of oppressive waking nightmares.

There is something that needs to be said about Caleb’s construction of the “Satanic worldview”, especially of the fact that he frames it as the worldview of Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Strauss, Susan Sontag, Irving Kristol, the “Synthetic Left”, and the right-wing all at once. Somehow people who critique and oppose capitalism are actually pro-capitalist and on the same side as right-wingers who hate them and probably want them to die. Every political force that Caleb hates somehow supports the same ideology. He reckons it’s because of this ideology that neoconservatives want America to invade “anti-imperialist” countries in order to install societies organized along the lines of this ideology, while he says the “Synthetic Left” regard any sort of collective unity or marching in unison or populism as fascism, dismiss communists as red-brownists, dismiss “class struggle” as “class reductionism”, supposedly in rejection of Marxist materialism, while regarding the United States and social media as the good guys and Russia, China, and Venezuela as the great world-historic villains. Utter nonsense. But according to Caleb, they all share the same “Satanic ideology”, and not only that but so do Wall Street, London, Paris, “the German bankers”, the London Stock Exchange, Harvard University, Yale University, all somehow believe. We’re left with the impression that the whole complex of bourgeois economic power, the whole spectrum of politics within capitalism, promotes Satanism and is controlled by the “elites” who want to suppress the masses and protect a special group of people through that suppression. This looks quite a bit like standard conspiracy theories about “Satanic elites” ruling the world, and it definietly amounts and builds to this. So it’s probably no surprise, then, that, as usual, this conspiracy theory places Jewish people at the center of its woes.

Think about all of the people Caleb has mentioned so far as exponents of “Doctrinnaire Satanism”. Most of them happen to be Jews. There’s Ayn Rand, for starters, and I’ve already explained Caleb’s anti-semitic fixation on Ayn Rand. There’s also Leo Strauss, who Caleb accused of wanting to brainwash the masses with propaganda about good versus evil to protect the elites, and he happened to be of Jewish heritage. Same with Irving Kristol, who Caleb mentioned briefly as one of the teachers of “Satanic” neoconservatism. Susan Sontag, whom Caleb derided for her left-wing opposition to totalitarianism, also happened to be of Jewish heritage. In fact, with the exception of Mary McCarthy, all of the left-wing “anti-communist” intellectuals Caleb mentions happened to be Jews. It makes you wonder, why did Caleb Maupin select these people specifically. He only talks about Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt in some detail, while Mary McCarthy and Herbert Marcuse are just mentioned as people supposedly affiliated with the Congress of Cultural Freedom. Indeed, Irving Kristol is only mentioned once in the entire video. So just how is he relevant to all this? As for “the Synthetic Left”, in a book titled BreadTube Serves Imperialism, whose admirers include the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, Caleb argues that “BreadTube” (basically just an assemblage of left-wing YouTubers) as we know it was created by a man named Steven Hassan, a famous cult deprogramming expert who happened to be Jewish. There’s a clear pattern emerging in the way Caleb constructs his enemies. In fact, in his article about “Odinist values”, Caleb refers both explicitly and implicitly to the Jewish backgrounds of neoliberal economists such as Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. Consider also how, in the past, Caleb openly talked about the idea of there being a “Satanic cabal of bankers” in the world. When examined in this context, it seems very self-evident that Caleb is arguing for an anti-semitic conspiracy theory in which Jewish “elites” are supposedly trying to spread “Satanism” and brainwash the masses in order to somehow prevent “socialism” or “communism” from being established. This, of course, comes as no surprise to a lot of people who’ve been examining conspiracy theories about Satanism for a while now, though I imagine Caleb Maupin would be furious about the suggestion. He certainly gets very angry if you suggest that his ideas have any commonality with fascism, as those who make the suggestion end up being accused of somehow trying to incite violence against him.

On “The Fourth Form of Satanism”

Finally we come to the “final type of Satanism”, the “fourth definiton of Satanism” if you will, for which it seems Caleb Maupin has no name. He says that it is not blatant, but it is “within all of us”. This is because it is “the part of yourself that is working against you”. Already this seems like yet another very loose interpretation of the fact that “Satan” means “adversary” in Hebrew, but which again misses the point. Very simply, Caleb describes it as “a voice in your head that gets in your way and says “There is no hope””. Or it interrupts your morning and tells you things like “what’s the point?”, “there’s no hope”, or “everyone’s against you”, or how it says “everyone’s gonna laugh at you”, “that’s stupid”, or “you’ll never succeed” when you want to accomplish something. This seems less like Satanism and more like a whole range of emotions mostly characterized by what we would call self-doubt, or arguably even depression. It certainly feels like he’s talking about depression when he brings in phrases like “you have no future”, “you have no value”, or “no one cares about you”. These can sound like things a person tells themselves when undergoing a profound state of despair or depression, possibly even a state of suicidal ideation. I have to be honest, I think there’s a grotesque side to it. Here it just seems like he’s trying to construct Satanism as some abstract synonym for anything bad, and in the process it seems like it’s just exploiting psychological suffering by treating it as some sort of religious type. Literally, the more he describes this “fourth form of Satanism” the less it seems like he’s talking about Satanism and more like depression, suicidal ideation, or perhaps a more generalized mode of psychological suffering or dysfunction that Caleb obviously doesn’t know much of how to talk about. At one point he refers to it potentially driving people to drug abuse in order to “silence that voice with drugs”. Then he compares it to the voice of an abusive parent, or abusive partner, or the result of a traumatic experience or hostile external conditions. Simply put, this “form of Satanism” is really just Caleb’s way of referring to the part of your soul or psyche that is actively trying to kill you, seemingly just for the sake of doing so. He thinks that that part of you is pessimism, which he seems to equate with depression.

This really is something that, on its own, should be addressed, because I’m just going to be straightforward about this: being a pessimist is not the same thing as being depressed. Pessimism is simply a way of saying that the negative tends to predominate things. It is usually interpreted as an emotional state where you don’t believe anything positive will happen to you, but there’s also philosophical pessimism which is generally a way of referring to a collection of philosophies that hold that suffering adversity, or meaninglessness pervade the cosmos in some way. In the Surrealist movement there is also a concept referred to as the “organization of pessimism”, by which Pierre Naville and Walter Benjamin meant a fundamental mistrust in the reconciliation of classes and in the hope of the positive reformation of the social order. I argue that such a perspective is actually the wellspring of the liberation of human consciousness, unfettered by the hopes generated by futurity. Depression isn’t any of this. Depression isn’t just when you feel sad about life or pessimistic about the world. Depression is an illness, not just a mental illness but a physical one. Depression is caused by adverse changes in the human brain, such as an undesired change in the functioning of neurotransmitters, and it actually has physical symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, decreased appetitie or a lack of or even excess of sleep, it can also increase your further susceptibility to illnesses or adverse physical conditions. Even on an emotional level, being depressed isn’t just when you’re sad, it’s more like when your body and your mind seem to be pressing down against you, like a weight beneath which you’re trapped. It’s not a simple matter of a “negative mindset” that can be changed with enough application, it’s something that often actually requires treatment. Caleb should really not be treating these concepts as though they are interchangeable, because this is a gross (but sadly all too common) misuse of clinical terminology, and its application here serves only to exploit real suffering in order to service some fake ideological construction.

Ultimately it seems that Caleb’s “fourth form of Satanism” probably shouldn’t even be termed “Psychological Satanism” or “Internal Satanism”, because as far as he is concerned, the “fourth form” is simply depression. Depression, here, is framed as “a destructive impulse within ourselves”. I would say that any scientific or professional assessment of depression simply wouldn’t agree with Caleb here, and they certainly wouldn’t have any time for anyone seeking to classify depression as a form of “Satanism”. The obvious problem with Caleb’s argument is that, by classifying depression as a “form of Satanism”, it thereby classes depression as some sort of religion or philosophy, which it simply isn’t. And it’s not something that can be batted away by platitudes such as “the best cure for it is other people”, especially when you establish that “other people” are just as well the cause as the supposed cure. Caleb blames the rise of “this fourth form of Satanism” on the purported rise of isolation. “Satanism”, thus, is blamed on loneliness. But it’s honestly such a convenient talking point when you think about it. We are told of our rapid isolation in the face of a reality defined by a rapid increase in our global interconnectivity. Even if you’re alone in “the real world”, it’s very possible to find arguably more acquaintances than you’ll ever have outside the internet, even if you never meet them. Some people even eventually find love halfway around the world. It’s pretty hard to take that as anything other than a sign of how increasingly connected we all are, and that connectivity has many blessings and many horrible curses attendant to it, like with many things in the world. I frankly don’t see what it is about merely socializing with others that has this inherent power to destroy pessimism or depression. If anything, it’s just as well possible that people can become pessimistic in their time with other people, for varying reasons, ultimately probably not reducible to people in themselves. Some people can live in solitude and even find it far healthier for them, even if most people don’t. The simple truth is that everyone is different, and it’s for this reason that there is no model of human nature, whether it’s “human beings are naturally acquisitive” or “human beings are inherently social” that can really do people any justice.

Conclusion

At the very end of the video we are told that Caleb’s discussion is merely the “opening remarks” of a broader presentation of Satanism. If that’s true, I honestly can’t say I look forward to any future content from Caleb on the subject of Satanism. Caleb proclaims that this is probably the first time you’ve ever heard a Marxist analysis of Satanism. I sincerely doubt that this is in fact the first time a Marxist has ever discussed Satanism in any capacity, but if it really is the first dedicated Marxist discussion of Satanism, then I’m sorry to say that the worst discussion of Satanism that I have ever seen was producd by a Marxist. Or, well, a very strange Christian populist fascist version of a Marxist I should say. Either way, I’m sure you get my point: if this really is the “first Marxist analysis of Satanism”, and I sincerely doubt that it is, it’s also the worst analysis of Satanism I’ve ever seen. Every single category of Satanism that Caleb constructs is entirely based in his own ideological construction, with almost no reference to any extant tradition of Satanism. Even his discussion of “Political/Ideological/Doctrinnaire Satanism” is largely based on his own construction and conspiracy theory, and the actual teachings of Anton LaVey are barely explored, and only serve as a basis from which he extrapolates a much larger and overshadowing anti-populist ideology he created himself to attribute to “the elites”. It’s all complete bullshit that has nothing to do with anything, and despite this Caleb seems entirely convinced that this is an accurate description of Satanism, or politics more broadly!

All I can say to make sense of the way Caleb frames Satanism is that it is ultimately consistent with the way the Russian establishment often likes to. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the concept of terrorism itself is described as “Satanism”. In fact, in a 2014 article written by a man named Yuriy Porodnenko for the website of the Ukrainian branch of the Russian state news outlet RIA Novosti, which can apparently be found on the Pravoslavie website, we can find the exact same analysis of Satanism that Caleb Maupin makes. According to Porodnenko, Satanism is the prevailing ideology of the Western bourgeoisie, was for all intents and purposes invented by Ayn Rand, and supposedly has been espoused by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Alan Greenspan. “Satanism” here is essentially used as a synonym for right-wing free market capitalist orthodoxy, not unlike the way Caleb Maupin defines “Doctrinnaire Satanism” as “the ideology of the elites”. Porodnenko also repeatedly refers to Ayn Rand by either her birth name or “Rand-Rosenbaum” similar to how Caleb Maupin did it in Satan at the Fountainhead. In this sense, there is a significant overlap between Caleb Maupin’s presentation of Satanism and the way Satanism has been presented in Russian state media, and since Caleb Maupin works for Russian state media (Russia Today) I think it’s not unreasonable to suggest that he may have developed his views on Satanism with the influence of Russian state media talking points.

This concludes my late response to Caleb Maupin’s video. I do not look forward to the possibility of having to write about Caleb Maupin’s views on Satanism again.

Satanic Paganism: Abridged

This is a summary edition of a much longer article that I previously wrote, “Satanic Paganism: An Adversarial Religious Philosophy”, in which I outlined what I see as my own religious/spiritual philosophy based in Satanism and Paganism. The original article is a really long read, perhaps my longest so far, and as I worked on it I decided that it would be a good idea to create a shorter version, if only because I wanted a way to get my ideas out there in short form. To me, that might make things more accessible. The original article will be linked at the bottom of this article. And, to my desired end, this article will focus predominantly on the content of Satanic Paganism itself, skipping almost all of the original discussion of Luciferianism, and only going over the distinctions of Satanism and Paganism as briefly as possible. With that, I can begin.

Satanic Paganism is an individualistic religious philosophy based on the intersection and syncretism of Satanism and Paganism, as we understand it. Individualistic in this sense means both a certain ideological individualism (and I mean anarchist/communist/egoist individualism, not capitalist “individualism”), and the nature of my relationship to religion. In this setting, I am someone who is both a Satanist and a Pagan, embracing both worlds and choosing neither one over another. To understand this let’s summarize both of these worlds. Satanism is a religio-philosophical belief system that centres around the liberation of egoistic consciousness through the practice of negation as embodied by Satan and the lighting of the black flame, with the aim of cultivating individual apotheosis (in other words, to “be your own god”). Paganism is the name given to a religious worldview or family of religions built around reciprocal relationships with gods, spirits, ancestors, and/or the world at large, typically within the context of pre-Christian traditions of Europe and surrounding areas. Bringing these worlds together results in a philosophy in which the power of divine negativity is imminent in a cosmos teeming with life, and in which you can, through negation and transgression, light the black flame in order to join the gods and win deathless liberty in the eternal condition of rebellion. It goes without saying that this is an eclectic system, not wholly aligned with reconstructionism, and certainly aligned with is referred to as the Left Hand Path.

In Satanic Paganism, rebellion is more than just an instant of defying a single authority. Rebellion is also a universal condition, the life force of a chaotic cosmos whose condition I term the war of all against all. This is not a re-statement of that classic Hobbesian imaginary about life without the state. Instead, it is a theological expansion of Max Stirner’s description of rebellion, in his view initiated by the desire to devour property, to make something your own. In pre-Christian myths, the gods often contend with and even overthrow each other. Socrates assures us that the gods are actually in discord. And in pre-Christian practice it was possible to turn from one god to another while in pre-Christian magic one may even make demands of the gods. The war of all against all is the ceaseless condition of rebellion in which life or the gods participate in, is affected by, and which you can partake of in apotheosis. Satan, adequately understood as the “rebel chief”, emblematizes this condition in his refusal to obey God, or Man for that matter, his fall from heaven because of it, and thus in lighting the black flame for all of us he heralds the war of all against all.

Satanic Paganism believes that Pagan syncretism includes the idea that the veneration of Satan and the various devils and demons of demonology can be part of a consistent Pagan practice, and embraces these figures wholeheartedly while rejecting any suggestion from modern Pagans (reconstructionist or otherwise) that this is a bad thing just because of Christianity. The demonic is just as much part of the numinous as anything “holy”. In fact, in older polytheistic contexts, it gets pretty heard to define what constitutes a “demon” separately from divinity. But our sense of the demonic is a mode of being based in a subversive negativity that lies at the source of the movement of life, an irreducible death drive signifiying the presence that always carries the potential to unravel the order of things. You can think of it as a pharmakon: at once the poison and the cure. God, on the other hand, is something that Satanic Paganism opposes, and so we don’t have much care for God’s servants, or his Son. God is just one more deity who happens to be convinced that he is the only one, another Ownness or ego who thinks he stands alone. Either that or he’s some larger idea of immovable teleological consciousness governing the universe. In either case God emerges as a tyrannical figure, and even if he really was some “Supreme Being”, an idea that Satanic Paganism rejects, his existence is ultimately a horrible thing, because then every suffering that takes place is actually his work. Even if “God” is 100% real and exactly what he said he is, I would refuse to worship him, and that is the stance of Satanic Paganism. Call it the teleological consciousness of God, call it that entity known as the Demiurge, our will is that of unmitigated opposition towards it.

Satanic Paganism is naturally not too fond of Christianity and its morality as a whole, and I see the ravages it has left in the wake of its authority. Satanic Paganism rejects the self-sacrifice embodied by the crucifixion of Jesus, because the only self-sacrifice we adopt is that we sacrifice ourselves to ourselves; like Odin sacrificing himself to himself for knowledge, or indeed Satan’s fall. But, Satanic Paganism also resists expressions of Christian-like tendencies well outside of Christianity, and even stresses a critical examination of the ways in which Christianity finds itself prefigured before its time, and later emulated outside its time. To me, it doesn’t matter what name you give “God” and his “salvation”. In this spirit, Satanic Paganism also plays with context of a split that Kadmus Herschel and Jake Stratton-Kent talk about in the context of Greek or Hellenic polytheism. One is a later development in which bases itself on some concept of universal harmony and law, the gods assumed to be morally perfect in spite of their narratives, and the celestial privileged over the chthonic. The other is much older, more archaic, more animistic, more attuned to the universal condition of rebellion, and, a way, more magickal and even individualistic. Of course, in practice, that dynamic is not so easily applicable when dealing with modern polytheism and Paganism, but it does make sense of how we relate to certain “modes” or religiosity in distinction from each other, once you can sense them anyway.

Satanic Paganism takes a complex and unusual stance towards gods in general. In practice, it takes up an agnostic stance, but this is to be understood as a sort of ontological agnosticism, powered not only by occultism but also the actual philosophical considerations of pre-Christian polytheism, which were far more skeptical and agnostic than many non-Pagans tend to realize. It also draws inspiration from apophatic (negative) theology, which holds that it’s not really possible to understand or reason discursively, and you can only understand it by experiencing it or passing into it. This idea, although associated with Christian theology, actually has a rich history outside of Christianity as well as within it, and in the Pagan context I think that a lot of Greek polytheistic philosophy, the Hesiodic myths, and the Hellenic mystery cults all expressed some form of it. What counts when passing into numinosity is what worship means. To us it can only go so far when grounded in simple piety, and our notion of rebellion tends to undermine the piety of Euthyphro that remains common to traditional religion. What matters is that, if we assume gods, we assume a multiplicitous numinous presence in life, working mysterious wonder and enchantment in the world, and, most importantly, which we can identify ourselves with. But we’ll get to the concept of apotheosis a little later.

For now, I want to bring us to the part of Paganism; its focus on nature. Many reconstructionists tend to dislike the idea of Paganism as “nature-centered”, and that’s not unreasonable when we consider that a lot of the old gods weren’t actually personifications of what we call natural phenomena. But the natural world remains intimately connected with pre-Christian practice in that the gods and spirits were often venerated in natural spaces like groves, mountains, or caves, which were often consecrated to gods, and often worshipped via trees or rocks. Pre-Christian magicians acknowledged these places as dwelling places of the numinous, and thus also places of power. The notion of religion as reciprocity also builds nicely into modern ecological ideas about reciprocal relationships we should build – or perhaps I would prefer to say re-establish! – with our environments. On this basis, Satanic Paganism wholeheartedly embraces nature-centeredness. But it also rejects the notion some people have of nature as referring to some homeostatic “natural order” of things, because ultimately it’s not so different from talking about “God’s order” and how we’ve sinned against it. Instead I prefer to look at it in terms of a self-deriving continuum of life in which Ownness arises in multiples, boundaries arise and are surpassed, cycles and rhythms pervade the fabric of things, and reciprocal relationships can be built with life. All of this is the only precise sense in which we might talk about “the natural order”, and even then, it’s hard to really call it “order”. Harmony with nature, thus, means observing reciprocal relationships with the world around us, not invoking some hypothetical lost paradise or that matter some fantasy about our “voluntary extinction”.

Similarly, dealing with natural states in our terms is fairly important, because I see Paganism as a religion that brings people to “natural states” in its reciprocal harmony with the world. For the most part this does take on a restorative impetus, sort of “drinking from the well” as John Beckett put it, and we do possibly see this in the Greek cult of Dionysus, the cult of Pan, the Norse bear and/or wolf cults, among other wild cults. “Wild” is really the operative word here, because what we’re talking about is Wildness. Not as a fixed state of purity, though definitely a state of being, all we’re really talking about is a kind of spontaneous existence, which is to say a consciousness that prevails when the stifling structures and strictitudes we put over ourselves our thrust off. In certain ways it’s a negative concept, defined mostly by what is cast off, but the positive form of it is a real anarchic consciousness, defined by freedom. I increasingly think that such a thing is the only way to meaningfully speak of “human nature”, which otherwise probably doesn’t actually exist, or at least if we’re talking about a universal template of “what it is to be human”. There is no “species being”, there is no idealised “Humanity”, and the only way to speak of “our nature” is “what is natural to us”. This, when you examine carefully and don’t stop at some basic aggregates, is actually an individual quality; “what is natural to you”. So in wilding or rewilding yourself you attain ecstasy in breaking what is put over you to free up your own nature, your spontaneity, your Wildness, what the Taoists call Ziran, in addition to bringing yourself into the world of ungoverned reciprocal relationships.

Another focus for Satanic Paganism is the “nature of nature”, and in this sense the only way I can describe “the source” is Darkness. In the original article I linked the “nature of nature” to Wildness, but that too was also linked to Darkness. But what is Darkness? Darkness to me is a compound concept that can embody multitudes, but which is perhaps best summed up as the anterior negative substance (not to be confused with “fundamental principle”) of life itself. It is, as I see it, the ground of being. It is Negativity itself. It is the name of the highest mystery, the power that has no source and is the source of everything else. It is the black soil of Hades, and the dark materialism of George Bataille’s inversion of Gnosticism. All unfolds from Darkness, Darkness permeates all things, the cosmos recedes into and is reborn out of Darkness. Darkness is not just the stuff of demons; in a way it is also the sacrality of the gods themselves. It is the unknowing that is the source of knowing, the arrheton into which we must pass to know the mystery, and thus it contains the inner logic of innate enlightenment as presented in Esoteric Buddhism. It is the uncanny, the other side, the underworld, the death that begets life, and even light owes itself to Darkness. Even Zeus has Night herself standing over him. Satanic Paganism bases its ultimate principle in the idea of liberating egoistic and spiritual consciousness by taking the negativity of things as your own, by identifying with the Darkness of the cosmos, practicing the profane illumination of negation, and, in so doing, activating the Black Flame, which is the active power of Darkness in the form of your own liberated and negative selfhood; the Creative Nothing. Satan is the champion of all those warriors who take up this Black Flame, this Power of Darkness, and join the war of all against all in apotheosis.

Apotheosis is the practice of identifying oneself with the divine, and the state of having joined the gods and their cycles. It is to participate in the war of all against all in joining the company and cycles of the gods, and in so doing win a state of deathless liberty. In the context of pre-Christian magick, this meant spells in which the magician identified themselves with a specific deity, in a few occasions even the whole cosmos, to gain magickal or spiritual attributes from a deity and enact the will through it. It has also meant the ritual “death-and-rebirth” enacted in Hellenic mystery cults or in the Western Greek chthonic cults, which arguably still follows the logic of divine identification to some extent (Dionysus, for instance, dies and is resurrected in the Orphic myths, and many gods have descended and re-ascended from the underworld). But why go through the effort? Propose that in our spontaneously arising, dying, and regenerating cosmos, the endless cycle of death-and-rebirth entails an endless chain of reincarnation, perhaps after some time in the underworld. In a sense it may be reassuring from the standpoint of our desire for this to not be “it”, but, it is also an unfathomable burden of causality, a terror that hangs over the living, which is nonetheless inseparable from the very possibility of life’s return. Even if there were “Heaven” in the Christian sense, as awful as such a place is, even that would not do much good, for as Stirner observed a new heaven is always established, stormed, and replaced in succession.

In order to be free of all this, then, one must join the company of the gods, and Satanic Paganism is arced towards this goal. Apotheosis is also the act and state that completes the individuality of the person, fully developing them in the spiritual sense and crowning their independence. In the Pagan cosmos, the gods are not 100% good, and although they may be worthy of worship, our idea of worship does not consist of mere piety. We don’t merely bow, even as we may pass into the divine on its own terms. Instead we seek to elevate ourselves with the divine, seeing the gods ultimately as partners in our self-actualization. I suppose it’s like “working with” the gods in the same vein as worshipping them, possibly lending to a very magick-oriented idea of religious praxis. Speaking of this, magick from our standpoint is enacting our will into the world through our will and bringing about a transformation of our own conditions in doing so.

Apotheosis in Satanic Paganism has nothing to do with the way people like E. A. Koetting talk about “becoming a living god”. In fact, although I decidedly still frame Satanic Paganism as an expression of the Left Hand Path, the Pagan conception of apotheosis that I have in mind actually involves a oneness with divinity. This may sound strange from the usual Left Hand Path perspective, given that many occultists, whether fairly or unfairly, associate oneness with the Right Hand Path. But for Satanic Paganism, and the historical context it draws from, oneness is not the end, but rather the beginning. You are not striving to be one with the universe in order to forever lose your ego-consciousness to some universal intelligence. Instead, you become one with a god or identify yourself with Darkness so as to pass into divinity, in order to then, like Stirner devouring the sacred, gain the ability to make divinity your own. Oneness then is here either the beginning or the gates you pass through in order to join the divine, and without necessarily “losing yourself”. There is actually some precedent or analogue for such an idea in the context of the “modern” Left Hand Path in the form of Fraternitas Saturni. Their magickal praxis had as their goal the unity of the “light of the individual” with the “light of the world”, and yet this oneness did not mean the obliteration of selfhood and instead was meant to lead to the deification of the self through its remaking. Thus, Satanic Paganism might change how you think of the Left Hand Path, and yet also hark back to more obscure ways of understanding.

Satanic Paganism is not apolitical, and it has some very important political rammifications. It calls for a world in which all people are free to develop themselves, mutually, as they see fit, without the totality of the existing conditions of the state, hierarchy, capitalism, or even “Society” as it exists bearing down on us all. That to me means communism, anarchism, egoism, and nihilism, for me all of those concepts at once and all of the roads between them. It also means opposition to all the hierarchies of bigotry that pervade social life, as well as uncompromising hostility to fascism, folkism, and all of their allies. It also means the art of profane illumination as a weapon directed against the totality of existing conditions, and the norms of bourgeois politics, both in its conservative and progressive forms, that serve only as slave morality to stifle the path of real liberation. The power of negativity, when observed in all of civilization’s historical phases, weds Satanic Paganism to the cause of all marginalized people, in whom civilization has always seen its death drive in the power to unravel the dominant order through the lives they live apart from the norms put over them. Satanic Paganism is not afraid of “chaos”, and in the true spirit of Satan questions not only “unjust hierarchies” or tyrannical authority, but authority itself, hierarchy, and even “order” as we take for granted. My stance calls for a press against the order of the world and the totality of existing conditions via a politics that ends in the world after the world, the beautiful new life of world freedom that can only be realized in the destruction of the current order of things. It is also only here, rather than in some lazy and reactionary “apoliticism”, can one look forward to the ultimate abolition of even politics itself!

Lastly, I believe that the image that best exemplifies Satanic Paganism is none other than the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The serpent, from the standpoint of Satan, could as well be Satan even though that’s not what the Old Testament had in mind, but from the Pagan standpoint the serpent is also the ancient symbol of death-and-rebirth and the deifying power of the underworld. The serpent told Adam and Eve that by disobeying God they would not die but become as gods, and after they did, God himself said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”. Thus in a world full of many gods, humanity, by heeding the voice of the serpent in defiance, may begin the path to apotheosis, and that’s something that a God bent on his own absolute control over the world detests so utterly. And so long as we seek the development of egoistic freedom, we can never return to Eden, and must refuse all promise of reconciliation with all of our pride and our strength. We will sacrifice ourselves to ourselves, and only to ourselves, and when we do we will not go back.

Once more, our praxis is a daemonic praxis. The shadow of religion is the source of our power, the alterity of it all our light, and as far as we are concerned the true ground of the value of religious life and experience. Be wild, be free, be negative, be unchained, be yourself and the void of yourself. Enjoy partaking in religious thought and life, question the strictitude and normativity of religion, take in the good of the sacred into yourself by imbibing, question and defy religion as long as it stands in the way of Ownness and life, dance in the interstices and the shadows, bearing the fire of the void on the road to apotheosis – the road to the world of the gods…to the wonderful ecstasy of deathless liberty!

Note: the text is a playful anime reference; from a promotional teaser from what was to be Hellsing: Psalm of the Darkness

Hail Satan, Hail Darkness, Hail the gods of old, Hail to wildness and nature, Hail the mystery of death and rebirth and the kingdom of shadows….


Here’s the full original article about Satanic Paganism: https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2022/05/30/satanic-paganism-an-adversarial-religious-philosophy/

While you’re here, consider my article on the philosophy of Darkness, dealing with important concepts relevant to Satanic Paganism: https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2022/04/08/an-inquiry-into-the-philosophy-of-darkness/

And on top of all of that, please consider watching Ocean Keltoi’s videos on agnosticism and skepticism as applicable to Paganism:

Satanic Paganism: An Adversarial Religious Philosophy

Over the last year I had undertaken a long period of historical research for an as yet unfinished project on the subject of Luciferianism. This research had lead me to the conclusion that Luciferianism is not the distinct religion or tradition that it presents in distinction from Satanism, and cannot even be interpreted as a distinct counter-culture as had been suggested, and that instead Luciferianism is nothing more than a name given to an extremely diverse set of esoteric belief systems that have little in common beyond the idea that they venerate Lucifer as a positive figure, separate from Satan and the context of Christianity, and even then some of these movements aren’t even distinct from Theistic Satanism in practice. As will be elucidated further in due course, Luciferianism in its historical and present context emerges as a kind Rorschach cultus in which almost any idea can be inserted into it, even Christianity.

Upon learning that Luciferianism was not a distinct tradition, I had initially leaned toward the idea of Luciferianism as a spiritual/occult counterculture, and that this could serve as a layer to be extended upon a larger religious worldview: of course, for me this meant Paganism, since my leaning and affection for it persisted in all my enterprises, even in times where I hadn’t considered myself a Pagan. This was the original spark of a larger mission to synthesize what I referred to as a “Left Hand Path Paganism”, for which I sought a suitable traditional context. Over time, however, the counterculture idea gave way as I realized doesn’t reflect the reality of what Luciferianism is or was. The basic project, however, continued, but certain ideas about “Left Hand Path Paganism” have now evolved and simplified as a better conception of such synthesis began to emerge.

As the title of this article suggests, this means the rediscovery and re-embrace of Satanism, and bringing together of Satanism and Paganism. I am fully aware that this idea would be hated by many Pagans and polytheists, and not to mention some Satanists, but it is the path that I wish to follow. What I seek to present is an adversarial stance, one that is at once an expression of a particularly transgressive take on Paganism and an expression of Satanism in a vastly renewed sense.

The Trouble With “Luciferianism” (No Offence to Luciferians)

I first encountered and/or engaged with Luciferianism as an idea was back in 2015. By that point I had been a Satanist for two years, but for whatever reason that I don’t quite understand anymore I felt that there was something missing in baseline Satanism. It’s probably impossible for me to explain what that actually was nowadays, but I think it involved some bullshit about a spiritual component focused on something more than rebellious and “egoist” hedonism; I say bullshit, because it’s pretty obvious that you can derive a thorough-going antinomian from Satanism. Anyways, at that time a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of what was then called the Greater Church of Lucifer, and I got in touch with one of their members, a man by the name of Vincent Piazza (who, sadly, has since passed away). I never joined the GCOL, but I was active on their Facebook pages and supported them until around 2019. Of course, I never forgot about them either, and that’s how I ended up finding out what Jacob McKelvy’s been up to all these years. Anyways, initially I saw the GCOL’s brand of Luciferianism as “the next level of Satanism” and identified with both Luciferianism and Satanism, but beginning in 2018 I got the idea to develop transcultural understanding of Luciferianism as a distinct entity from Satanism focusing largely on the West. This combined with certain political developments ended up leading to a lapsing away from what I understood to be Satanism, and to be fair I’d been burned out by a dissatisfaction with a lot of the modern Left Hand Path movements and certain discoveries of the Church of Satan. But that idea ended up developing in all sorts of convoluted ways before finally I abandoned it. The reason comes down to the nature of Luciferianism as a category.

Luciferianism is often presented as a codified belief system that is similar but strictly separate and distinct from Satanism. But the truth is that this only loosely true, and more accurate for some expressions of Luciferianism than others. In fact, I’m willing to assume that almost everything you will probably read about Luciferianism from occult circles is either simply wrong or just based solely on individual subjective interpretation. Even the Wikipedia for Luciferianism is a funny example of how much bullshit you can encounter by attempting to get a good definition of it for yourself. The article states that Luciferianism “does not revere merely the devil figure or Satan but the broader figure of Lucifer, an entity representing various interpretations of “the morning star” as understood by ancient cultures such as the Greeks and Egyptians”. That’s not universally true or even remotely apparent from any of the material I’ve poured through, with the exceptions of Charles Matthew Pace and possibly Michael W Ford, and what’s more the citation refers to an article that doesn’t even mention Egypt.

In reality, Luciferianism is not a distinct belief system, and nor can it be thought of as a kind of esoteric counterculture as I had theorized in the past. Instead it makes more sense to think of it as a placeholder, just a name given to any belief system that specifically venerates Lucifer as something other than Satan, and very typically this is presented in a context that is theoretically, but not always, separated from Christian culture; in practice, this usually means venerating Lucifer as a pagan or neopagan god, a “Gnostic” angel, or even a Christ-like figure or a being that is co-identical with Jesus Christ, or still even an avatar of God himself. There is no single doctrine under the name Luciferianism, not even pertaining to who Lucifer is. Different Luciferians will present very different ideas of just who Lucifer is and what his role is. There is also no consistent shared tradition that can accurately be referred to as a singular “Luciferian Tradition”, and individual Luciferians will have very different ideas about ritual praxis as well as theology. So, in practice, Luciferianism is a kind of Rorschach inkblot into which people may insert any number of ideas about it, and about Lucifer, upon it. Unfortunately, this increasingly seems to mean rebranded Christianity.

There is a tendency within contemporary Luciferianism that aligns itself with a sort of mystical Christianity, seeking to assert the value of Christianity as a religious framework in a way that is still fundamentally heterodox in relation to mainstream Christianity. This means venerating Lucifer as a light-bringer and liberator, having nothing to do with Satan or The Devil or anything of the sort, alongside Christian figures including Jesus, and practicing a synthesis of Christianity and witchcraft. At first I thought the Church of Light and Shadow were the only people doing it, and when I found about them, I have to admit I found them interesting if solely because they appeared to challenge prevalent ideas about what a witch or a Luciferian can be. But their approach seems to have travelled far enough that more Luciferians adhere to it, and so we see people like Christopher Williams, a self-described Gnostic Luciferian, argue against “demonizing” God, defend Christianity through apologetics, and espouse a belief system in which Lucifer and Lilith are manifestations, and not adversaries, of God, and that the Demiurge was created by them as part of God’s will. This is, in practice, an affirmation of Christianity and its God, albeit on Gnostic terms, and it is not anti-Christian, only anti-establisment and anti-reactionary within the scope of Christianity. I’ve also seen that Johannes Nefastos may have incorporated aspects of Christianity as part of his theosophical brand of Gnostic “Satanism”, and according to some he argued that Jesus was a god-man and the Pope has legitimate magical authority. Michael Howard believed that Jesus was one of the many incarnations of Lucifer, here interpreted as an avatar of “the true God” who willingly “fell” from heaven and incarnated on earth again and again in order so that all of humanity could be enlightened and freed from their worldly imperfection. So as it turns out, even the “separate from the Christian context” part isn’t completely true.

Luciferianism, thus, is essentially just a name for any esoteric doctrine that revolves around Lucifer and defines Lucifer separately from Satan, thus revering Lucifer in lieu of Satan. One of the obvious problems with this alone is that even Satanists have defined Lucifer separately from Satan. For Anton LaVey, Lucifer was one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell, in particular an agent of enlightenment or illumination in all senses, especially intellectual; in fact he seems to have referred to Lucifer as “The Enlightenment”. Satan in his worldview is more distinctly and generically the adversary, more a figure of negation than illumination, and even moreso an emblem of human carnality than intellectualism. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey wrote that “Without the wonderful element of doubt, the doorway through which truth passes would be tightly shut, impervious to the most strenuous poundings of a thousand Lucifers”. The suggestion would be that the principle of doubt, connected to the nature of Satan as the adversary, is the principle that begets and supercedes mere illuminated of the truth, but in this sense Lucifer as the light-bringer is clearly established in distinction, though not necessarily contradiction, to Satan, and this is done without any recourse to the concept of Luciferianism on LaVey’s part. And there are others apart from LaVey we can discuss for our purposes. August Strindberg (who called himself a Satanist at least in the sense that to him this meant that the world was governed by the principle of evil), for a much more pessimistic mythos, cast Satan and Lucifer as opposites, the former as the evil ruler of the world and the latter as a sort of culture hero who also brought floods, pestilence, and war. And meanwhile, there are many forms of Luciferianism that are practically indistinguishable from many forms of Theistic Satanism in terms of ethos, praxis, aesthetics, and even views on the nature of Lucifer, such that the difference is mostly a matter of identity.

My point is that once you understand Luciferianism in historical and contemporary terms, you learn that it’s not really a concrete “thing”, there’s no continuous cohesive object that can be called Luciferianism, not even in its mythos, and even its basic criteria often finds itself fulfilled outside of and without the identification of Luciferianism. All of this is, of course, not a knock on Lucifer himself. After all, he is a magnificent devil in any case. But Luciferianism seems to be a wild card of belief systems that, in truth, may consist of absolutely anything, even if it’s just Esoteric Christianity. After realising that, I went from seeing Luciferianism as a counter-culture that can be superimposed upon a co-existent religious worldview to seeing that what I thought about as “Left Hand Path Paganism” was going to mean something else. Attendant to this came the rediscovery of Satanism.

Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel (1847)

Defining Satanism

In appreciating Satanism we must first understand first and foremost that it is not a mere expression of Christianity, nor is it merely a waste product of the Christian experience. Such judgements are invariably derived from a superficial reading of the fact of Satan’s origins in the Jewish and Christian mythos, and can ultimately only be characterized as a cope. If we followed this logic to the letter, Christianity itself would be a form of Paganism precisely on the basis that its God, who we must remember was called Yahweh, was originally part of a polytheistic pantheon of deities worshipped in ancient Israel and that at least the Old Testament of the Bible seems set in what is practically still a polytheistic cosmos, in that many gods exist, with the caveat that you are only allowed to worship one of them. If that idea sounds like nonsense, which it is, then by this standard to regard Satanism as mere Christianity is equally ridiculous. Instead, Satanism is best understood as a post-Christian worldview, one which may derive mythos from Christianity but otherwise transcend and surpass it. Everything from narrative, symbology, aesthetic, theology, philosophy, and ritual praxis takes a form antagonistic to Christianity and arcs towards a diametrically opposed worldview that functions in one of its many capacities as the negation of Christianity. And this negation does not only take the form of some prosaic atheism either, even though that is the face of “mainstream” Satanism as presented by most media. Rather, Satanism – theistic, atheistic, otherwise – is best understood as having built itself around the power of active, conscious negation, expressible in the form of literal divinity or a more abstract symbol.

Admittedly, there was a time Satanism. Indeed, Satanism nowadays doesn’t have a very good reputation in “the left” and/or parts beyond due largely to the perception that it is little more than “Ayn Rand for goths”. Of course, as I hope to show, this is ultimately a nonsensical prejudice based on an uncritical acceptance of the legacy of Anton LaVey as the heritage and starting point of Satanism as a concept. But the idea that it is true has had some very devastating effects. LaVey’s right-wing Objectivist influences were bad enough, but finding out that he had a whole network of fascist friends, including the likes of James Mason and James Madole, and that the Church of Satan was institutionally pro-fascist for decades, was deeply disturbing. At a time where I had basically been trying to connect with more of a left-wing politics, I ran into difficulties, got lost along the way, and suffered a form burnout triggered by the onset of demoralisation, which was in turn elicited by what I at the time perceived as a general decline in the modern Left Hand Path. In retrospect, a part of that may come down to some expectations that have since been shed, but at the time it may have seemed like the stagnation and the possibility of the movement being consumed by reaction had overwhelmed me back then.

One of the things that most obviously defines Satanism is egoism. The Satanic Temple and similar groups don’t lay a great stress upon this point, and arguably obfuscate it in their retreat to contemporary humanism. The trouble, of course, is that when people think of egoism and especially in a Satanic context, they think of Ayn Rand due mostly to the fact that Anton LaVey based his own version of Satanism and the ideology thereof partially around the philosophy of Ayn Rand. This in many ways is the effect of LaVeyan/post-LaVeyan orthodoxy having been allowed to ossify around Satanism for as long as it has, and there is no reason for anyone to think that this is how things must stay. Max Stirner, who first elaborated what can be understood as modern egoism before Ayn Rand could have any say in the matter, presents to us a profound apophatic egoistic worldview far removed from the narrow rational “egoism” that Rand espoused. Its concept of self is not a propertied essence of rational calculation but instead a negativity, a creative nothing, indefinable in the precise sense that the individual, the Einzige, cannot be defined by prescription or shared essence. This egoism, when taken seriously in its negative content, dovetails nicely with nihilism, and could perhaps be thought of as nihilism as well as egoism. In this sense, it should come as no surprise the first man to present us with a self-defining Satanism, far from and long before Anton LaVey, was a nihilistic egoist anarchist named Stanislaw Przybyszewski. But even so, it is the connection and intersection of these concepts, more than that one man, which defines the true radical content and heritage of Satanism.

But even this might well just be scratching the surface. Even before Stanislaw Przybyszewski, there were apparent attestations of people who were referred to as “Sathanists”. According to Laurentius Paulinus Gothus, via his Ethica Christiana written in the early 17th century, there existed a small cult in Sweden centered around the worship of Satan, or Sathan, who they believed was a god capable of bringing them hidden knowledge and treasures; this cult Gothus referred to as “Sathanists”. The “Sathanists” were said to have practiced black magick and witchcraft, ritually sworn fealty to Satan/Sathan, partook of lust, gluttony, dancing, and various “orgiastic excesses”, sought hidden riches with Satan/Sathan’s help, and apparently even had sex with demons. I have no certainty as to the actual evidence for this cult’s existence besides Gothus’ testimony, and there are good reasons to be skeptical. Christian pronouncements about satanic cults have often, and the themes presented here are familiar in view of certain ludicrous ideas proposed about the so-called “Luciferians” and Heinrich Kramer’s sordid tropes about “witchcraft” as presented in Malleus Malificarum. Still, it is an attestation of a term like “Satanist” in reference to a belief system, not just Christians who happened to be considered wicked, and there is arguably minimal reason to suggest that this reference was completely made up.

Through all that, though, we should find our way back to the essence of Satanism, prior to and without the humanism of groups like The Satanic Temple or the reactionary ideology of people like Anton LaVey or Michael Aquino, in view of Przybyszewski’s philosophy. I intend to write a much larger examination and commentary of his book The Synagogue of Satan in time, but for now let us say that, while Przybyszewski did consider the principle of Good to be that of negation insofar as he saw it as the negation of life, since in his view what is called Evil is in fact the basis of life itself, Satanism itself is none other than the religion of negation or negativity in the precise sense that it is the religion of (in his words) à rebours; that is, lawlessness, going “the wrong way”, the reversal of the law and of the order of things. Satan, in this sense, is the god of the eternally evil, and this evil is the negativity of lawlessness, the negation of all fixed values (the values “sanctified by law”). Lawlessness is negation as “contrary projection into the future”, which topples the order of things and the norms of the world so as to truly unfold the possibilities of becoming. That which is great emerges from negation, or as Przybyszewski says the negation of negation (in the sense that Good is the negation of life and you are negating Good), and negation through delirium frees individual consciousness in the forgetfulness of ecstasy (thus the word of the Satan-Paraclete is enivrez-vous; “to get drunk”). Satan, for Przybyszewski, is the god of evil, which is in fact good, the god of lawlessness and defiance, hence the negation of law and order, the god of boundless curiosity and heroic arrogance, the lord and master of the physical universe and the emblem of the evil, the god who continually creates and destroys and shatters the boundaries of human thought. In short, Satan is not simply the eternal humanist who stands up against tyranny, superstitition, or “unjust hierarchy/authority”; he is instead the eternal active nihilist, the negation of all authority, the negation of law and order itself, the negation of society, the negation of all fixed values, and he is the thus the transgressive negativity from which true greatness, creativity, and flourishing springs forth. In short he is the precept of Negativity itself, for which Eliphas Levi called him an instrument of liberty. Magick, black masses, satanic sabbaths, witchcraft, intoxication, sex, and defiance of society could be thought of as acts of worshipping Satan. Against Satan is God, representing Good, which for Przybyszewski means humility, submission, poverty of spirit, stupidity, and the pursuit of life as nothing but an imitation of God in the hopes of admission into his invisible kingdom.

Satanism does not make Satan into a new principle of Goodness or a god of light, for Satanists, insofar as we venerate and honour Satan, know that Satan is the “fallen angel”, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, the Adversary, the seducer, and we venerate and honour Satan because of those things. Satanism does not deflect darkness or evil onto their enemies, because it is Darkness that we honour and worship. It is predictable , but making sense of the perspective of Satanism I’m setting out means making sense of Satanism through the concept of negativity. I plan to spend a lot more time talking about this here, but I find that the best lens with which to intrepet the negativity of Satanism is the in the queer negativity elaborated by baedan, a journal of queer nihilism written by the collective of the same name, who reject the liberal/progressive idea of queerness as something to be socially integrated and instead favour the idea of queerness as a radical negation of society and civilization. This isn’t simply to be understood as merely living the role set for you by society, but refer to view the negative image as a nexus of liberation via the quality of negation and aggression and a view to society’s taboos and fears. The Satanist, following this negativity, instead of shying away from the aggression of negation in order expel the fear of society, actively takes on the role of the adversary, that is to say the destroyer and negator of the order of the world, which is to say the true liberator.

By embracing Darkness, through the negation of the order of the Good, you open up the space for your own becoming, liberation, and, in the Satanic sense, apotheosis. By destroying boundaries and lighting the Black Flame, the divine fire of the creative nothing, the glow of the black void of potentiality, you open the path towards your own elevation towards god-becoming, the evolution set forward by the influence of Satan. Unlike other religions, Satanism places the liberation of, not from, the self at the center of spiritual praxis, and this liberation arcs towards the realization of the individual as its own creator, its own divine force. This high goal is often lost on those who wish to dismiss or typecast Satanism as little more than basic self-indulgence so as to elevate their own similar esoteric systems against it. And, by grounding Satanic individualism and selfhood in negativity, rather than the rational subject of Ayn Rand, the foolish accumulation of the capitalist subject, or the fascist re-interpretation of the Nietzschean Ubermensch so prevalent in certain corners of the Left Hand Path, it is in fact quite easy to see Satanic individualism as not a folly but as the profound spiritual philosophy of resistance and defiance and the key to the mystery of liberation.

In the midst of this we should revisit the center of Satanism: Satan. What is Satan, and why is Satan so central to Satanism? Satan is the central character of Satan because Satan is the first egoist. There is a prominent idea inherited from the trope of Romantic Satanism received from Enlightenment-era poetry and which has passed down from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: the idea of Satan as the first rebel, and building off of this, the idea of Satan as the first (or indeed “last”) humanist. This idea is at the cornerstone of many interpretations of Satanism. The Satanic Temple, for instance, takes up a similar premise of Satan as “rebellion against tyranny” and tries to weaponize idea this for their purposes. Anton LaVey took a similar but thematically different approach, in that Satan for him was a symbol not only of rebellion and non-conformity but also of Man’s actual nature as a carnal and selfish being, whose rebellion is directed against all moral and social barriers to the fulfill of that carnal and selfish nature. Rebellion against unjust authority is a concept that, while often attached to Satanism, can and has been attached to concepts beside Satan; modern polytheists frame the gods as rebels against unjust authority as well, Christians occasionally do it for Jesus, and in Chinese society there has long been a tradition of divine justification for overthrowing rulers who consistently failed to uphold Confucian virtue or morality (there’s also a similar Lutheran concept in which the tyrant is called the Beerwolf, and to rebel against and even kill the Beerwolf was justified by the Beerwolf’s own subversion of the moral order). But Satan is not merely a rebel against “unjust” authority, and Satan does not derive the legitimacy of rebellion from some legal right of rebellion or the writ of some concept of “natural law”. Satan’s rebellion is against all authority, and is indeed rebellion in itself, emergent from the egoism of Satan. Satan refuses to accept the authority of God, and refuses to bow down before Adam, because Satan asserts his Ownness and rejects the rule of the others, and negates all authority set before himself. Satan doesn’t simply liberate humans from tyranny, he rebels, he devours, he wars against the light in the name of himself. It is by his own example that Satan brings the light of the Black Flame to mankind for all to see, heradling the eternal quest of rebellion so that those who wish to join him in battle against God may do so willingly. By this and by the whispers of temptation, mankind is invited to shed the shackles of the spirit that it brings upon itself or are foisted upon it in order to awaken the Black Flame that is none other than the Creative Nothing, none other than the power of Darkness and of Ownness. This is Satan, the egoist who rebels not simply against the unjust but against all power and for himself, and who invites others to join him in the same rebellion.

In this sense, I can stress that Satanism really isn’t like many other religions when it comes down to its spiritual-philosophical basis as far as the true significance of Satanic rebellion and Satanic egoism is concerned. Insofar as there are multiple forms of Luciferianism that stress against egoism, it is inevitable that Satanism could be seen to diverge from a lot of what is called “Luciferianism”, though of course there is no one single “Luciferian” doctrine for Satanism to contrast with. Satanism also differs itself strongly from Thelema in that, although both thematically overlap in their anti-Christian transgression, the end-point of Crowley’s spiritual path was the surrender of individual selfhood to the Abyss and a core component of Thelemite ethics is the concept of the True Will, which is probably not to be conflated with the individual self, ego, or even Stirner’s Einzige/Ownness and is instead to be thought of as a sort of specialized teleological destiny imparted by the cosmos. Of course, Satanism also tends to differ from much of Paganism in its particular relationship to the gods. But, the intersection between those two worlds is something that bears further exploration.

Baphomet poster fanart from the Shin Megami Tensei Poster Book

Defining Paganism

Having elaborated the subject of Satanism, let us now elaborate Paganism. And, of course, any discussion of Paganism must invariably touch on exactly what we mean by “Paganism”? Paganism is often explained as an umbrella term for numerous religious movements, typically in the “Western” context, that embrace a worldview usually based around the idea of restoring the religious traditions and belief systems that existed before the rise of Christianity to some extent, but this on its own still does not adequately explain things. That concept itself is something of a compound identity, bringing together numerous ideas ranging from engaging with a multitude of gods and spirits, worshipping those gods in the form of idols, worshipping the ancestors, worshipping nature or at least to the extent that the gods were worshipped as parts of nature or within them, animism, sometimes practicing magick, venerating the cycles of nature through ceremony, and so on. What makes the concept of Paganism tricky to discuss is not just that the way we use the term was established by Christians to attack both non-believers and rival Christians, but also the fact that, for a lot of modern Pagans, being Pagan is actually less about what you believe and more about what you practice.

Making sense of modern Paganism requires getting into the distinction between a few camps within the movement. One such camp is reconstructionism. This refers to polytheists seeking to reconstruct the historical traditions of the pre-Christian religions as closely as possible, based on historical sources to the greatest extent possible. This includes Hellenists (reconstructing ancient Greek polytheism), Heathens, (typically reconstructing Norse and Germanic polytheism), Kemetists (reconstructing Egyptian polytheism), practitioners of the Religio Romana (Roman polytheism), Celtic polytheists, Gaulish polytheists, Slavic polytheists, Semitic polytheism, and so on. The general praxis of reconstructionism is also applied to traditions that otherwise aren’t considered “Pagan”, such as Aztec polytheism. Then there is the camp often referred to as “Eclectic Paganism”. This typically means not being bound to a single tradition and bringing together a wide range of different ideas into one single framework, guided by personal experience and a generalized “ethos” characteristic of Paganism; that at least is how it is generally explained. There is also something to be said about the concept of “Neopaganism” in relation to all of this. In theory, Neopaganism as a term simply refers to the modern or contemporary practice of Paganism. In practice, however, within the Pagan community and especially among reconstructionists, the term “Neopaganism” tends to refer very specifically if not almost solely to the new iterations of Pagan religion that emerged from the 19th or 20th century or later and have practically little to do with the original pre-Christian traditions. For example, this includes belief systems such as Wicca, the modern Druidic movement, basically anything from Robert Graves, and contemporary forms of neopagan witchcraft, and in practice can include belief systems that borrow from the New Age movement. Sometimes Eclectic Paganism itself is regarded as a synonym of Neopaganism. I would consider Romantic movements such as the Shelley Circle to be Neopagans in that, even if as an extension of the rationalist atheist critique of Christianity along with religion in general, they lauded “classical” pre-Christian religion as a more enlightened and prosaic religion closer to the truth than the “miserable creed” of Christianity. Similar efforts but from a very different set of ideological perspectives are found in certain German Romanticists who, during the 20th century, built a more or less neopagan movement on top of an esoteric romantic ideology. It should be stressed, however, that serious neopaganism didn’t seem to be the dominant voice of the Romantic movement, and in the end Romantic neopagans found themselves overshadowed, denounced, and ultimately persecuted by the Nazis, none of whom, not even Himmler or Rosenberg, were ever really Pagans (the overwhelming majority of Nazis were Christians and the Nazi Party from the beginning espoused its own brand of revisionist “Positive Christianity”, which sought to purge all trace of perceived “Jewish influence” from Christian doctrine).

Where do I fit into this, you ask? I think that the bulk of that is perhaps better elaborated when we unravel what “Satanic Paganism”, but I think it’s worth addressing here from a personal context. For so long in my life, before I even decided I wanted to be a Satanist back in 2013, I have had a noticeable affinity with Paganism, one that had never completely died out, and if anything has been deepening over the last year. If I had to explain why, I’d say that I think there’s a lot to do with the way Paganism seemed to sacralize the natural world, and with the idea of pre-Christian myths conveying all sorts of wisdoms and spiritual narratives, some of which preceded or even anticipated Christianity, but many of which seemed very different from the Christian message. Certain ideas about life, death, and rebirth, probably drawing from ancient mythology but also probably harking back to ancient Greek mystery traditions, have and continue to be deeply influential in my appreciation of Paganism and my overall spiritual thought. Over the years my appreciation for Paganism took on many different forms, even in times where I thought I had moved on from it. It’s almost like there’s an urge there, some spark that always reasserts itself. But, for reasons that will become apparent if they aren’t already, I cannot see myself as a reconstructionist, not in terms of what my path is.

I stress that I support the reconstructionist efforts to restore pre-Christian traditions across the world, and I think that aspects of reconstruction at least in the sense of authenticity to history are an important influence. It’s just that the approach to Paganism I wish to embody cannot accurately be classed as reconstructionist, for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit neatly into the existing traditions, obviously due to the fact that it means to blend with a rediscovered Satanism and carries in this the ethos of the Left Hand Path, and therefore is almost by definition a “non-traditional” approach. Reconstructionists, as far as I have seen, would have a problem with that, and in general I find that reconstructionists often don’t have much patience for that which doesn’t completely comport with historical polytheistic tradition. Because of this I find that the extent to which I am Pagan is definitely very eclectic, and has to be so because of the parameters and contours of my intended path, not to mention that I do indeed see myself taking on board a number of influences to build my path. That said, for Paganism as a whole, reconstructionism isn’t exactly dispensable, and there’s a standard of historical authenticity that informs my own approach. But even then, even in the reconstructionist approach in practice, modern reconstructionists tends to incorporate quite a fair bit of UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), which is naturally accepted on the basis of the acknowledgement that it is just UPG. And that’s sort of inevitable when dealing with the transmission of older religious frameworks long assumed to be extinct into the modern era, as well as the fact that, with a few exceptions, the full contents of most polytheistic traditions are completely lost to time, either because they were wiped out or because they were simply never preserved in writing except for some myths that were only put to parchment after Christianity took over.

Now with that established, the term “Pagan” itself can capture something fairly distinctive that I think has always had some resonance for me, though many traditional polytheists may seem to take umbrage with it. Kadmus Herschel describes it in True To The Earth, where he elaborates that the term in its regional context captures a rustic attachment to nature that is then given religious expressivity. Many reconstructionists don’t like to define pre-Christian religions in terms of nature worship, but while it is almost certainly inaccurate to reduce those religions to some concept of nature worship, we can find a number of instances where elements of the natural world were themselves worshipped as gods rather than simply represented by anthropomorphic deities. The Greek goddess Gaia, for example, was literally the earth itself, not just a representation of the earth. Gaia’s former husband, Ouranos, was the sky itself and not simply the god of the sky. At least some rivers, such as Scamander, were not simply represented by anthropomorphic river gods, rather those river gods were often literally the rivers themselves. And even when the gods themselves were not worshipped as physical elements of nature, parts of the natural world were often consecrated to gods, and so held sacred. This would include the forest held sacred to the Gallo-Roman goddess Arduinna in parts of what is now Belgium and France, the grove sacred to the god Adonis at Afqa in Syria, a grove scared to the goddess Nerthus and a whole woodland sacred to Thor (who Roman audiences interpreted as Hercules) according to Tacitus’ account of Germanic pagans, the oak tree that was sacred to Donar/Thor, and the forest of Caill Tomair in Ireland that was also sacred to Thor. According to Tacitus, at least, the ancient Germanic pagans worshipped their gods in trees, as the closest links between the gods and humans. Celtic pagans held rituals in groves, overseen by deities such as the goddess Nemetona, and other pre-Christian polytheists considered groves to be sacred spaces. Over time, reverence for trees and groves came to be understood as a trope for Christians when talking about returns to paganism, and from this nature worship came to be part of modern understandings of modern Paganism that extend from the “rediscovery” of Paganism during the Enlightenment into the present day. In pre-Christian Slavic polytheism, the gods were sometimes worshipped in sacred places where there were no man-made structures and the gods manifested in nature itself. For many polytheistic religions, sacred groves and forests were counted as the official centers of worship, where important community rites were carried out, and any violation of this space meant an attack on the community itself. In this, the idea that Paganism is a “nature-based religion” or that it involves “nature worship” is not really inaccurate.

But of course, to reduce Paganism to solely a sacralization of nature or natural states is reductive to the point of being ahistorical. After all, contrary to the popular idea that humans came up with the gods as reifications of natural forces that they merely didn’t understand, several of the gods of polytheism barely have anything to do with the natural world as we understand it. Insofar as we may venture to understand the gods of polytheism in terms of what they were “gods of”, there are gods of marriage (such as Hera, Hymen, Frigg, Pushan etc.), music (Apollo, Sarasvati, Ihy, Bragi etc.), law or justice (Tyr, Mitra, Lugh, Ma’at etc.), commerce or wealth (Mercury, Cernunnos, Lakshmi, Njord etc.), agriculture (Yarilo, Dagon, Sucellus, Dagda etc.). smithing and craftsmanship (Hephaestos, Ptah, Gofannon, Vishvakarman), and kingship (Horus, Anu, El, Baal etc.) to name a handful of things. Some gods are gods of both natural things and human constructs. Zeus, for example, is a god of law and order as well as the sky. Utu is a god of law as well as the sun. Demeter is also a goddess of law, as well as a goddess of the earth. Pan is a god of music as well as the wild. Ukko is a god of agriculture as well as the sky and thunder. Freyr is a god of kingship and war, as well as the weather and virility. Svarog is a god of smithing as well as the sky. Veles is a god of commerce, as well as a god of water, earth, magic, and the underworld. We can’t forget that almost none of the gods of polytheism were ever just gods of one thing or another, and sometimes multiple gods share the same domain or function. On top of that, across the old polytheistic religions, the gods had numerous epithets that represented various characteristics and functions attributed to them.

In a sense, it’s still true that Paganism, in both a modern and a historical sense, believes in a natural world that is considered divine or imbued with divine presence to some extent or another, and this likely lends itself to modern interpretations entailing nature worship, which may or may not have been applicable to the original pre-Christian religions. Though, of course, some pre-Christian traditions were arguably closer to some idea of “nature worship” than others, such as Germanic polytheism with its worship of the various nature spirits alongside the gods and the worship of gods and spirits in trees and natural environments. Pre-Christian polytheism often tended to intersect with animism in this regard, especially in traditions such as Heathenry, and some even argue that some form of pantheism is also part of this rich picture. Still, for historical Paganism, one of the larger points is the idea that divine exists in multiplicity, that divine presence is not one but many. Of course, even before Christianity emerged, later developments of pre-Christian polytheistic ended up prefiguring the monotheism that would later dominate “the West”, or later ideas of “universal religion” that would stretch from the Renaissance to Theosophy and to the New Age movement. Plutarch, for instance, argued that there were not different gods across peoples but instead one single Intelligence that rules the world that is merely called different names and worshipped in different ways as time passes. In The Metamorphoses by Apuleius, the goddess Isis presents herself as “the single power which the world worships in many shapes, by various cults, under various names”. The Roman theologian Cornelius Labeo proposed that the oracle of Clarian Apollo stated that the god Iao was the supreme god, who in winter was called Hades, in spring was called Zeus, in summer was called Helios, and in autumn Dionysos. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official state religion, defenders of paganism sometimes argued that Christians and pagans were merely worshipping the same god under different names. Neoplatonists argued that all things derived existence from a single source referred to as The One, and that the purpose of life as to become united or re-united with The One. Otherwise polytheistic philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato introduced concepts that may have prefigured the God we know today, such as the unmoved mover or Demiurge. And of course, at various points before the rise of Christianity, there were a few monotheistic cults that emerged, such as the Egyptian cult of Aten under the pharaoh Akhenaten or the Hellenistic cult of Zeus Hypsistos.

My point here is that Paganism in a historical sense (and honestly a modern sense too) was not one single set of beliefs in the way we understand Christianity to be (and, even there, Christianity isn’t necessarily as monolithic as we imagine it to be). That extends to other beliefs as well, such as pertaining to death. While modern Paganism can include a belief in reincarnation, it’s not clear that this belief was universally held in pre-Christian traditions. It is possible that some Germanic pagans did believe in a form of reincarnation; Roman sources purported that the ancient Teutons believed in rebirth and thus did not fear death, while some scholars suggest that Germanic pagans believed in rebirth within the extended clan based on some archaeological findings and exegesis of some stories in the Sagas. Many Norse polytheists, however, don’t share this concept, and have a wide array of beliefs about the afterlife that don’t necessarily end in rebirth. Indeed, the “more authentically pagan” version of Ragnarok ends not in the rebirth of the cosmos (as in the familiar post-conversion telling) but instead in its utter oblivion. Greek polytheist beliefs on this range from the arrival of most (if not all) souls to a dreary underworld, to the belief that the soul may go to a blessed afterlife upon achieving ritual purity or initiation into the mysteries of a god, to Plato’s account of how souls are judged and either admitted to a good afterlife or damned to a bad one again prefiguring Christian teaching), and of course the concept of reincarnation was sometimes proposed. What little we know about what we call the Celtic polytheists suggests that they probably believed in reincarnation, but some suggest that the soul goes to the Otherworld, a place inhabited by gods and spirits, after death. In ancient Egypt, it was believed that by living a virtuous life, the soul would be judged as being worthy to enter the field of reeds, or that by successfully undergoing a journey through the underworld and overcoming its perils, the soul would gain an immortal second life. Relevant to the conversation is the way that pre-Christian belief systems frequently advanced the concept of a cyclical cosmos, in which the cosmos is periodically formed, dissolved, and reformed again. The Norse cosmology appears to suggest cyclic time and rebirth, as did some of classical Greek philosophy such as Stoicism and Pythagoreanism, and it is very prominent in Indian religious philosophy.

Paganism in a historical sense isn’t really one set of beliefs. In fact, there is as Kadmus Herschel and Jake Stratton-Kent show an opposition between distinct expressions of pre-Christian religion, linked to the development of philosophy in one case and a change in the mode of Greek society in the other case, that is relevant to how I aim to elaborate Satanic Paganism. That said, I think the way we deal with Paganism, as an idea, is sort of a compound idea in which we find and derive the premise of a natural world brimming with the multiplicitous divine presence worshipped in and through the world, and often worshipped not out of fear or even bargaining but out of awe and yearning. Paganism as a concept can also be loosely defined by its particular conception of what religion is, as will be further explored. Whereas Christianity via Lactantius frames religion as “re-ligare”, meaning to be bound, as in bound to God or to the single ultimate truth, pre-Christian religion via Cicero is based on “re-legere”, meaning to go over again, which seemed to mean to a constant return to the ancestors and the gods, perhaps denoting a consistent process of ritual observance. It’s also possible to read “re-legere” in terms of observance as meaning to observe the cycle of reciprocity, a concept that animates the bulk of the pre-Christian attitude towards the gods. This is to be understood as the relationships in which humans give to the gods through their devotion (typically offerings) so that the gods may acknowledge this devotion and typically bestow blessings to humans in various ways. Heathens understand this as the Gifting Cycle, Hellenists understand this as Kharis, but even if it doesn’t have its own distinct name or terminology, the basic concept can be found basically everywhere in Paganism. While I have thought of “re-legere” in terms of a kind of anamnesis, of religious practice recalling something from the depths, something unconscious and profound, while I would defend that idea I think that it is ultimately simplest, perhaps even most sensible, to understand it as consistent observation of reciprocity; with gods, with ancestors, and with the natural world (for particularly naturalistic and even non-theistic individuals it may be ideal for them to think it through that last part in particular). It is this worldview that largely distinguishes the Pagan worldview from the Christian worldview.

“Consecration of the Herm” by Fyodor Andreyevich Bronnikov (1874)

What Is Satanic Paganism?

I will be forthright in saying that I bring these worlds together because I simply afore and identify with them at once. In this, it is an act of “religious” love, albeit a highly individualistic one (both in philosophical-ideology and even moreso in application) that cuts across certain boundaries between worlds. But is that individualistic interaction with religion not consistent with the “essence” of Satanism, and is the intermingling of divinities from differing traditional contexts a characteristic of Pagan polytheism? By this I mean, if modern polytheists can argue in defence of integrating the God of the Bible, his Son, and/or his angels into the litany of god’s they worship, and if ancient polytheists certainly did do this and even developed magickal systems involving them, I don’t see why you can’t do the same thing except you’re doing it with Satan and his band of devil’s instead of God and his heavenly menagerie. You might object that it would feed into Christian ideas about how Pagans are devil worshippers. I argue: no, it wouldn’t, or at least no more than what Christians already believe about Pagans. After all, the Christian has in most cases already decided that Pagans worship devils, their God and his Word already tell Christians that all gods other than Yahweh are demons. Somehow I’m not convinced that all the efforts to denounce or distance from the world of Satanism, and I make no judgement here on their validity, have ever persuaded Christian outsiders to stop regarding Pagans as devil worshippers or servants of Satan. I hate to have to remind people of this, but as far as Christian doctrine is concerned we are all demon worshippers, and we have no control over the optics of our practice in the eyes of Christians.

Anyways, with that established, let us focus on what Satanic Paganism means to me in terms of its content, and again it is very much unique to me.

To start with, it’s worth addressing that the mere idea of bringing Satan into the mix of a Pagan worldview is consistent with the logic of pre-Christian polytheism, and is an entirely legitimate expression of Paganism on those terms. The easiest way to demonstrate that is simply the ease with which it is possible to include God and his cohorts in the polytheistic context. The Greek Magical Papyri contain spells invoking the names of God – specifically Adonai, Sabaoth, and Iao – as well as the angels Michael and Gabriel alongside older polytheistic gods and goddesses such as Hekate, Zeus, Dionysos, Helios, Artemis, Demeter and many others. Sometimes the gods are identified with angels and names of God. Iao may have also appeared in the context of the Orphic mysteries, and, according to Cornelius Labeo, Iao was the supreme god spoken of in the oracle of the Clarian Apollo. Even Jesus appears in the Papyri, where there is a spell in which he is invoked alongside God (in various names) in order to drive out “unclean daimons” such as Satan. The Historia Augusta (which, although considered questionable by many scholars, is also the only continuous Latin account for a century of Roman history) describes the polytheist Roman emperor Severus Alexander wanting to erect a temple to Jesus where he would be worshipped alongside Roman gods, and supposedly he also worshipped Moses and Apollonius, included Jesus and Moses alongside Orpheus in some of his speeches, and had a statue of Jesus in his lararium. Jesus, of course, was syncretised with pre-Christian gods in various ways, including a depiction of him as the god Helios in what is now St. Peter’s Basilica. In Scandinavia, during the Viking age, some Vikings began to adopt the worship of Jesus (who was sometimes called “White Christ”) alongside Norse gods as they made contact with Christianity, and meanwhile some people who normally worshipped Jesus also prayed to gods like Thor in difficult situations. There are other examples to be found outside of the traditional context that typically defines “Paganism” as a discursive construct. Followers of Umbanda, a syncretic polytheist religion, worship Jesus and the saints as Orishas and/or alongside other Orishas. In Candomble, a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion also centered around the worship of Orishas, Jesus was integrated into their pantheon of Orishas and sometimes referred to as Senhor do Bonfim. In Santeria, another similarly syncretic tradition, Jesus is honoured alongside multiple Orishas or identified with Olofi, who is either the supreme god of Yoruba or one of his aspects, and Christian saints are also venerated alongside or as Orishas. In Manichaeism, a syncretic Iranian religion that is either arguably polytheist or arguably not, there is a pantheon several gods and goddesses (apparently up to 40 of them in fact), governed by a supreme deity called the Father of Greatness (a.k.a. Zurwan), and Jesus is one of the major deities alongside other deities such as Mithra, Ohrmazd, Wahrām, various buddhas, and the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesha (all four of whom are avatars of the Father of Greatness) to name just a few.

The operative point is this: if you can worship God, Jesus, and their angels in the context of what is essentially a polytheistic non-Christian religious worldview, what exactly is to prevent a person from doing the same thing except, instead of incorporating the worship of God, Jesus, and their angels, they are incorporating the worship Satan and the devils? Much of it comes from a fairly reactive assertion that “this has nothing to do with Paganism!” because “this is a Christian concept!” while existing forms of Christopaganism don’t get that scrutiny outside of maybe some witchcraft community. The whole refrain would have us ignore that the polytheists of old didn’t have much problem absorbing Jesus and/or God into their pantheons even though they were not only Christian concepts but also central to Christianity itself. It is common for people to react to the worship or veneration of Satan and the devils with the assertion that Satan and God depend on each other, no doubt playing into the doctrine of the unity of opposites as filtered through the dualism of Christian thought. But, putting aside all other considerations, we are not looking at this from the Christian lens. Satan and God to us are not two sides of the same coin, because to us they are not simply two ends of the same polarity of spirit. They are their own unto themselves, like anyone else would be, and they’re in conflict with each other over their opposed interests. From the logic of the pre-Christian worldview, it makes more sense to view God, Satan, the angels, the devils, on the same terms as the various gods and spirits of the old polytheistic traditions, and not as mutually interdependent abstractions as some monotheistic traditions may assert.

With that in mind, there really isn’t much that you need in order to justify incorporating Satan into your Pagan worldview; it is only a matter of your own calling. But, as long as we are talking about bringing Satan or Satanism into the mix, it would do us well to dwell on that shadow of religion we refer to in the modern context as “the demonic”. This can be somewhat tricky when working outside the Christian context, since in many pre-Christian cultures the distinction between a god and a demon was often vague, ambiguous, or even non-existent. Some would argue that the very term is simply non-applicable in much of pre-Christian polytheism, and instead the generic term “spirit” might perhaps be used. Nonetheless, it is possible to develop a concept of the demonic suitable for the purpose of Satanic Paganism. What do we mean by the demonic? The word “demon” is obviously adapted from the Greek word “daimon”, which can be a fairly open-ended concept. The term usually refers to spirits, typically spirits who were not gods but acted as divine personifications of things (often emotions), but the exact boundaries between what is a god and what is a daimon are blurred by the fact that gods such as Zeus were also referred to as a “Daimon” (as in the Orphic Hymn to the Daimon and the Orphic Hymn to Apollo for instance). Although “daimon” is often translated as “spirit”, it has also been translated to mean “godlike” or “lesser deity”. In Greece there also seems to have been the concept of a “personal daimon”, which could be thought of as an internal spirit for which some spells were designed to make contact with, while some philosophers used the term to refer to a sort of personal destiny given to each individual. In the context of ancient Egypt, demons in resemble the Greek daimons in that their existence sits between godhood and humanity, but their liminal nature derives not only from this but also from the fact that they live between this life and afterlife. Egyptian demons are guardians of the threshold, protecting the afterlife from unworthy souls, but they’re also dangerous, violent, capable of attacking and seizing human souls and occasionally even threatening the gods. On the other hand, some gods were also considered demons; this includes Bes, Pataikos, Tutu, Meneh, Tawaret, and even Anubis. In other pre-Christian belief systems, such as pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism, there was probably no major distinction between a god and a demon at all. In India, the word “asura” is used in modern parlance to refer to demons, but this was originally a reference to a clan of gods or demigods, arguably chthonic gods, and if you really go back to the Vedic period, “asura” appears as just an honorific for various gods denoting their power or might, and otherwise the difference between “asura” and non-“asura” gods only vaguely manifested itself in the battles between rivalling gods. Wendy Doniger suggests that the distinction was ultimately the product of the fact that some gods ascended in a developing religious hierarchy as Hinduism evolved while others descended.

One approach to the demonic that may help us is the idea of the demonic as a mode of being as applicable to the divine, one defined by a particular expression of Negativity. In this, I draw from the context of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism for its concept of demonic negativity, which can seem to resemble the realm of the demonic we recognize in the West but is not really contained within the framework of Christian dualism and morality. Bernard Faure, in his book Rage and Ravage, defines the demonic in terms of a shadow following and containing itself in the mythological structure; the demon is an entity that subverts and overflows the structures. It embodies a negative power that pervades and transcends boundaries, situated at the source of the very distinction between gods and demons, dwelling in the interstice that is itself the source or origin of all beings; thus, demonic negativity is the subversive source of things, counter to the en-stasis found in Buddhist goals and practice – indeed arguably even of all major religions – which then seeks to impose itself upon that negativity. In certain ways, this demonic negativity is much like the way Lee Edelman and baedan describe their concept of the death drive. This death drive is an unnameable and irreducible element of revolt and disruption within the social order, a constant presence of negation that dwells in society and holds the power to produce its undoing; it is intractable, it cannot be ignored or destroyed, its chaotic potential can only be contained by society, and for a time, but it is always present, and it evades the boundaries of representation and identity and refuses the stability of social form and the stasis of social order. For Mahayana Buddhism, this is arguably important to observe in, as the Avatamsaka Sutra relates, the premise that there is even a demonic side of the bodhi-mind, of samadhi, and of the kalyanamitra (good friend/spiritual guide). Through the development of hongaku thought, the death drive of demonic negativity thus came to be understood as part of the core of the absolute of reality, to the point that there were understandings of the Buddha and the demons (or even Mara himself) as one, and the wild demon god Kojin as the Tathagata.. Faure also identifies the demonic as a “pharmakon”: the poison that is also the cure; and hence, Japanese demonology as a form of pharmacology. There are a number of Japanese deities who could said to embody that elusive demonic negativity, or at least in that they were formally both demons and gods; these include Kojin, Shoten (a.k.a. Vinayaka), Kishimojin (a.k.a. Hariti), Gozu Tennoh, Michizane, Susano-o, Matarajin, Okuninushi/Onamuchi (who was identified in the Reikiki Shisho with the Demon King of the Sxith Heaven), Juzenji, and Daikokuten (a.k.a. Mahakala) to name just some. This negativity is also present in the gods of the land, the Kunitsukami, who were conquered by their heavenly counterparts the Amatsukami, in that they, as araburu-no-kami (“savage gods” or “unruly gods”), or aragami (“raging gods”), were also described as jissha (“real kami”), who represented the real nature of the kami according to Buddhist opponents of Shinto, and thus meant to be interpreted as violent and ignorant demons. This demonic “real nature” ultimately came to be understood via hongaku thought as the real or originary nature or basis of reality anterior to good and evil.

This anterior death drive of demonic negativity can be highlighted as one of the most important aspects of Satanic Paganism in that it guides and colours the approach to religion, in that it favours its shadow. For, indeed, the concept of anterior ontological darkness is the basis of authentic Satanic religious philosophy, in that it takes darkness, so-called “Evil”, Satan, as the fundamental of life, the irreducible element behind things, but which we are unconscious of. Although for baedan to embody the death drive was strictly not the point, from the religious standpoint of Satanic Paganism to embrace the demonic means precisely to access, identify with, and consequently receive power from this death drive, the shadow of religion which is also its true life. Playing into the link to the chthonic aspects of the polytheistic world, in view of the many of the demons and demon gods being chthonic entities, I would take this itself as a sign towards that vital wellspring. In ancient Greece and Rome, the underworld was not only the home of the dead but also a reservoir of many treasures of the earth, including mineral wealth and seeds of harvest, such that Hades, the feared god of the underworld, was often worshipped as Plouton, a god of wealth. India, the Asuras possessed wealth from the depths of the earth, and since the Devas could not generate wealth on their own, and could not get the Asuras to share their wealth peaceably, they sought to take it from the Asuras by force. In Japan, it is possible to take the underworld as a kind of “other side” to the world, and in the Izumo Taishakyo sect of Shinto this is interpreted in the doctrine of the unity of the human world and Kakuriyo (the spirit world, ruled by the kunitsukami Okuninushi); the two worlds are one, and one is merely the other side of the other. A similar idea may be found in Celtic polytheism or some interpretations thereof. To journey into that realm is to make that negative otherness known to you, to receive its wisdom, its power, and its very nature, and to bring into yourself the unity of the world and the kingdom of shadows, to the realm of the uncanny as referred to by Frater Archer in his discussion of Goeteia. But of course, we will return to that subject later.

For now, let us simply establish that one of the planks that makes sense for Satanic Paganism, building from this, would be not only a particular bent towards the chthonic but also the act of interpreting, venerating, and/or worshipping demons as gods. This is of course inherently transgressive from the standpoint of not only Christianity but also many of the world’s major religions, and even non-religious people, still reared in our Christian culture, struggle to make sense of it from a moral standpoint. But modern Pagans or Neopagans too are troubled by the idea as well, no doubt out of the fear that it contributes to further hostility by Christians. Of course, the problems of this have been established earlier, and there is thus no need to repeat them in this paragraph. What I will stress is that, from the standpoint of both the syncretic nature of historical polytheism and the often ambiguous nature of the boundaries between godhood and the demonic are a sound basis to argue that there really is nothing stopping a Pagan from worshipping demons, and, despite the way we think about it from the lens of Christianity, I’d say it’s actually highly consistent with the logic of polytheism. In fact, to relate an example from Heathenry, there is at least some reason to assume that the Jotunn, a similar category at least in that they were often considered adversaries of the ruling gods, were worshipped in pre-Christian Scandinavia, and some jotnar such as Skadi were widely venerated. The fact that demons could be worshipped as gods and as demons in Egypt let alone as far afield as Japan shows, that it is definitely possible in a polytheistic or Pagan context.

At this point, when speaking to the modern context, I think I would be remiss if I did not discuss Demonolatry, a modern religio-magickal tradition centered around the worship of demons as divine beings, constituting the Demonic Divine, led by Satan as the emperor of the demons. From a traditional standpoint, to frame Demonolatry as Pagan is inappropriate, in that, although practitioners like Stephanie Connolly may claim a lineage from a pre-Christian esoteric philosophy, it operates as its own distinct and contemporary traditional context. Of course, some Demonolaters, and some Pagans, disagree with this, suggesting that the latter may include the former. From my perspective, it is certainly possible to practice Demonolatry as a Pagan for much the same reasons as any other religious syncretism is in fact inherently possible in Paganism. Connolly, at least, for her part, describes Demonolatry as polytheistic as well as pantheistic, which in theory dovetails nicely with the milieu of modern Paganism. But of course, Demonolatry is best not treated as synonymous with Paganism, and indeed doesn’t really need to be treated that way even for our purposes. I see ideas from Demonolatry reflected in some of what I have written here, but it is probably improper to regard it as merely an extension of Paganism, in that Demonolatry as a tradition would prefer to be defined on its own terms. Any syncretic or multi-traditionalist praxis seeking to involve Demonolatry should take heed of that. I suppose if we would consider a primary ideological distinction, it’s that Demonolatry has in mind a form of oneness, in that it derives from Hermeticism the idea of the oneness of the whole cosmos in Satan and the aim of realizing that oneness, whereas in Satanic Paganism, as you will see, the idea of oneness that I express, drawn from pre-Christian magick, positions oneness as not the end but the beginning, or at least a gateway through which the individual progresses towards apotheosis. And I suppose I would add something about devourment, in the Stirnerite sense; by which is only meant that you are to make oneness your own.

To cap off the point about bringing Satan and the demons into your Paganism with that most familiar point: demonization, and its negativity. We all know the ways in which the rivals of the God of the Bible were converted into demons. Beelzebub was originally Baal, or more specifically named Baal-zebul. Astaroth, or Ashtoreth, was none other than the goddess Astarte. Lucifer was the demonized spirit of the morning star, Bael was Baal, the god Baal-tzephon became the name of a demon, as did Baal-berith, Amon was either the god Amun or Baal-Hammon, the god Nisroch became a demon and so did the god Adrammelech, Bifrons was originally Janus, to name just a few. Christian demonology is rife with gods from pre-Christian polytheism who found themselves re-classified as demons or devils in the hierarchy of Lucifer. As Christianity spread in Europe, not only were many gods declared demons but the names of some of the gods became names for the Devil in some countries; these include Veles, Ordog, Perkele (at least arguably), and even Odin or Woden (see the folkloric connection between “Grim”, an apparent Anglo-Saxon name for Odin, and the Devil). But, Christianity is not the only religion to employ demonization. When Zoroastrianism emerged, some of the Vedic gods, such as Indra and Rudra, were reclassed as evil demons, or Daevas. In Egypt, some time after the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty, the god Set was eventually demonized, and his place on Ra’s solar barge was taken by Horus. When Buddhism spread across Asia, gods from older belief systems were sometimes demonized. Shiva, one of the supreme gods of Hinduism, became Mahesvara, the most defiant and “arrogant” rebel against the Dharma, who was then trampled upon by Vajrapani. In Japan, gods worshipped by enemies of the Yamato, and even entire peoples who resisted Yamato rule, were demonized (see Tsuchigumo as an example for the latter), while in the medieval period under the influence of some sects of Buddhism some major local gods (such as Susano-o) were re-classified as demonic enemies of Buddhism or symbols of ignorance. The demonic in this relationship is, again, a negativity, defined in this way by its subversive and negative tendency in the mythological and religious schema. Demonization, then, while a mechanism of social dominance, also presents a window to the negativity lurking in the belly of society and religion with which the worshipper of the demonic may engage and identify with. And, if we’re sticklers for morality in the context of mythic literalism (which I’m not, because mythic literalism is a bad thing), the demons hardly ever do anything worse than some of the ruling gods.

More importantly, one of the conceptual bases for my Satanic Paganism, the thing that makes it both Pagan and Satanic, is the location of Rebellion at the center of life. In contrast and opposition to the tradition of “universal harmony” that Plato liked to talk about and which some polytheists maintain, I believe in a cosmos in which rebellion is part of the core of what comprises the so-called order of nature. As far as much of ancient Greek polytheism was concerned, the cosmos is a state of discord even as there is ostensible order. As Socrates told Euthyphro, the gods are at odds and even enmity with one another, and thus are in a state of discord. Socrates supposes that the gods conflict with each other over different ideas of justice, beauty, goodness, though it should be stressed that this is not necessarily obvious from their attendant myths (suffice it to say that the gods often had somewhat less abstract motives for conflict). In this setting it is really impossible to maintain the concept of piety that Euthyphro has, which is that of an uncritical piety towards the gods on the basis that piety is that which pleases all gods and impiety is that which displeases all gods. Instead, Kadmus Herschel points out that ancient polytheists were not universally pious towards all gods, and not on the basis of the kind of unconditional faith expected to be reserved for the Christian God. Change between the gods, even to the extent of rebellion, was a possibility in the polytheistic world. Within classical Greek mythology, the very motion of the cosmos consisted of the overthrow of previously ruling deities by a deity who would then take their place; Ouranos was overthrown by Kronos, Kronos was in turn overthrown by Zeus, and although Zeus rules the cosmos he still contends with challenges to his rule even within Olympus. Prometheus, the creator of mankind, defies Zeus’ will to give mankind fire, thus ensuring Man’s progress at the cost of his own punishment by being bound to a rock and perpetually tortured by an eagle. Hera, the wife of Zeus, led some of the other gods (including Apollo and Poseidon) in an almost successful revolt against him over his numerous infidelities. Poseidon and Apollon even suffer the temporary loss of their divine capacity for participating in Hera’s revolt and are cast down to the earth for a time to live in servitude as mortal humans. The gods often conflict among themselves, as shown in the conflict between Hades and Demeter initiated by Hades’ abduction of Persephone, or the conflict of the Erinyes versus Apollo and Athena over the trial of Orestes for his crime of matricide, not to mention the Titanomachy (the Titans themselves were a clan of gods). Demeter, in fact, succeeds in genuinely threatening the order of the cosmos through her power over death and life. In the Greek Magical Papyri, there are spells in which the magician may threaten to bind certain deities unless certain other deities meet their demands, or in the case of some spells bind some deities on behalf of others. The Greek pantheon even features a distinct “god of rebellion”; none other than Ares, the god of war and violence who was simultaneously the patron of both rebels and law enforcement.

Greek polytheism is not the only place where you find rebellion at the core of things. In Mesopotamian myth, when the god Enlil tries to destroy humanity, humanity owes its survival to the god Enki going against Enlil’s will by helping mankind survive the various cataclysms Enlil besets them with. Enlil himself also defied the rest of the gods in order to romance the goddess Ninlil. In Mesopotamiam myth, a generation of gods called the Igigi, or Dingir, revolt against an older generation of gods, often called the Anunnaki, who then created humans to do their work by sacrificing the god Geshtu-e to make their blood. As a rebel god, his blood passing into humanity carried the divine heritage of rebellion into human existence. A similar Hittite myth shows an older generation of gods being overthrown by a younger generation and then cast into the underworld. In Babylonian mythology, the very creation of the cosmos is set in motion by the younger gods, led by Marduk, violently overthrowing the primeval gods led by Tiamat. Odin, the king of the Aesir, was also himself a rebel, even an outcast, in some Germanic myths. Saxo Grammaticus, in his Gesta Danorum, presented a mythological story in which Odin was cast out of Asgard for ten years in order that the other gods would not be dishonoured by the wicked reputation he had acquired among humans; such a reputation was apparently earned by disguising himself as a maiden in order to have sex with the daughter of a king. In Grammaticus’ telling, Odin is replaced on the throne of Asgard by Ullr (or Ollerus), the god of archery, only for Odin to eventually drive Ullr out again, after the other gods finally decide that they want him back on the throne. Odin’s very quest for knowledge might also be thought of in terms of rebellion, at least in the sense that the underlying purpose of it is to gain as much magical knowledge as he can in order to win the doomed war of Ragnarok, thus in his own way defying fate. From another angle, however, it is perhaps all the more fitting to view Ragnarok itself as the violent rupture of the currently ruling order set in the cosmos, initiated by beings representing the chaos lay beneath it, kept at bay by the ruling Aesir until the hour of their doom, at which point they will rise up and destroy what the Aesir have established, along with everything else. In the Baal Cycle of Canaanite mythology, the god El abdicates from his position as king of the gods, his throne at Mount Zaphon becomes vacant and his son, the god Baal, is set to replace El, but the throne is challenged by Yamm, and Yamm is then defeated by Baal, only for Baal’s rule to be challenged by the god Mot, who succeeds in killing him. With Baal’s death, the god Athtar was poised to succeed Baal, but Athtar ultimately rejected the throne to rule his own kingdom in the underworld, and then Baal is revived and takes up the throne of Zaphon. In ancient Egypt, The Book of the Heavenly Cow outlines an instance in which humans revolt against the rule of the sun god Ra, resulting in their punishment, while in another myth, the goddess Isis forces Ra, the apparent supreme deity, to tell her his secret name by poisoning him and offering the cure.

My point is that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that rebellion is an elementary part of the polytheistic cosmos. In fact, even outside of Paganism, even in the Bible, in which we still see a polytheistic cosmos inherited from the pre-existing polytheism of Israel, there are gods in conflict with each other and in rebellion against each other. God himself is but one god among many, he is but Yahweh trying to establish his authority amongst the other gods, and the other gods resist his rule and sometimes succeed in defeating him and pushing back his rule; Chemosh, the god of Moab, wages war against Yahweh and defeats Yahweh, leading the Moabites to victory against the aggressing Israelites. Even insofar as the divine is everywhere, the divine is not a single unified thing containing harmony. In fact, for much of the pre-Christian pagan world, the divine actually seemed to be in conflict with itself all the time. It was from late developments of ancient Greek philosophy that we started to see the idea of a single, unitary, harmonious divine whose order is at work everywhere take shape and gain presence, and it is upon this basis that “the West” eventually arrives at the idea that there is but One True God and that his order must be obeyed. Relevant to that context and the ideological underpinnings of Satanic Paganism, I would point to Kadmus’ analysis of the Greek Magical Papyri in view of this. In True To The Earth, Kadmus argues that the Papyri, although late in origin, represent a transmission or survival of a more “authentically pagan” worldview in contrat to the late pre-Christian philosophies that existed alongside them. Multiple gods, often from mutually distinct cultural and religious backgrounds, appear as distinct entities within a more or less syncretic practice, typically invoked in order to help the magician attain some worldly goal, certain deities apparently appear in more archaic forms, and they don’t appear to be situated within consistent hierarchies. Hekate in particular is a central figure in what is contextually a split between the more archaic form of pagan polytheism, in which Hekate was a goddess of magic who could be invoked for worldly ends and worshipped , and the Platonic Hekate as presented in the Chaldean Oracles, in which Hekate is presented as a personification of the soul of the cosmos who guides souls in the course of their unity with The One. Such sets the ground for the distinction between two distinct worldviews, two approaches to embracing the divine. One approach is to embrace the idea that the point is to unite with the “universal harmony” of the cosmos; this is the worldview found in philosophical systems such as Platonism or Neoplatonism, as well as Stoicism to a certain extent, and you can find certain forms of it in many other religious-philosophical systems outside the context of ancient Greece. The other is to, on the basis of Rebellion as a core characteristic of the cosmos, join divinity in the sense of joining what I refer to as the war of all against all; this is the worldview I derive from the logic of mostly older or more archaic forms of paganism, as filtered through the lens of Stirner’s egoism, patchworked alongside Satanism. In a way, it’s almost like choosing between Law and Chaos in Shin Megami Tensei.

But of course, this “war of all against all” may seem to be a strange and alien idea, so let me explain my terms here. First, let’s establish that this use of the term does not derive from Thomas Hobbes’ more famous use of it, by which he meant his imagination of what human affairs would be like without the existence of the state. My use of it comes from the individualist anarchist Max Stirner, who said that the war of all against all is declared when the poor rise up and rebel against extant property in order to win the right to own themselves; when the individual declares, “I alone decide what I will have”, and seizes according to their own need or want, the war of all against all is declared. When given consideration, it would seem that this war of all against all could reference a universal condition of rebellion, which is of course the total opposite of harmony. I do not want your order, I want myself or I want something else. Therefore, I rebel. The gods in myth periodically assert their own desire in conflict with others, or assert their refusal against the desires of others, they each want something of their own, or they want themselves. Thus, the gods are in discord and even enmity amongst themselves. Thus the gods are in a condition of rebellion in and amongst themselves, and in the cosmos humans are able to partake of this universal rebellion themselves, by joining themselves with that condition, and with divinity at large. In other words, humans can either simply observe traditional piety in observance of a universal harmony involving essentially harmonious gods, or they can defy authority in order to join the war of all against all, and ultimately join with the gods in doing so. When thinking of the war of all against all, I often think about Ragnarok as depicted in Norse mythology, in that it would take the phrase almost literally, and Odin selects his warriors specifically to join him in this fight. But Ragnarok is an point in time ahead of our own, assuming of course we don’t start from the interpretation that it has already happened and we are the products of its aftermath, whereas the war of all against all is a present, ever-present, condition of life, with no beginning, and no end.

Satan is in many ways relevant to this idea, to the extent that he is emblematic of it. Satan, as the Adversary, in his own way sounds the war of all against all in his refusal to bow before God and/or Adam and his will that only he decides his own place in the cosmos. Accepting no universal harmony and authority above him, he embraces rebellion waged for himself, for his Einzige. The idea of joining the divine in the same way is an innovation, but it extends the logic of archaic polytheism so as to grant meaning to the apotheosis cherished within Satanism. There’s a very peculiar idea like that to be found in Kurtis Joseph’s Black Magick of Ahriman (which I must stress is flawed in many ways and I don’t like the fact that it’s with BALG), in which Joseph talks about “joining the war of the gods as a God”. Joseph really doesn’t explain the nature of that, but in context it seems to involve aligning yourself with the energies or power of Ahriman, which Joseph understands as the power of a boundless void of pure potentiality that contains all colours, and therefore all possibilities. In a word: Darkness. Perhaps we could extrapolate from this the idea that apotheosis here means taking on the latent Darkness or negativity within the nature of divinity itself; the power of the Black Flame, which is at base the active power of the creative nothing, is the brilliant resplendence of that divine negativity. In this, the idea is to take on and into yourself the realm of divinity in order to access it and join the company of divinity in the embrace of Negativity.

Satan for his individualism might bring us into focus with the other key division that animates the worldview of Satanic Paganism; on one side the religion of the goen (a practitioner of goeteia, or “sorcery”), on the other side the religion of the polis, and of course the philosophy of Satanic Paganism favours the former. As Jake Stratton-Kent has elaborated, the “primitive” religion of the goen centered around a seemingly individualistic, non-conforming magickal practice, built on individual talents and relationships with the gods which then transmitted into the community or the collective of which the goen was still a part. With the rise of the city state and the aristocratic humanist ideology that powered it, the goen were marginalized under a social order built by slavery and organized by a handful of bureaucrats and functionaries who dictated the new mode of religion, defining it through the social character of the polis, whose stability was now seemingly threatened by wild ecstasies that comprised older religious forms. The goen’s craft was deemed superstition and converted into an insult by the aristocratic intelligentsia of the polis. Some aspect of this may echo into the split between the ouranic and the chthonic in the old Hellenic religion. Luther H. Martin in Hellenistic Religions describes chthonic religion as “a response to the spontaneity of the sacred, a voluntary association of individuals that embodied an implicit challenge to the official sociopolitical order”. For the Hellenistic city state, the individualistic goens were at odds with order and custom of the rational aristocracy that set it, and the old goeteia were ones who performed ecstatic worship of and workings with chthonic gods and daemons (including the chthonic mother goddess Cybele), perhaps derided as by wider society “gloomy” and “irrational” in so doing. The aim of goetic practice was, of course, to attune themselves to what Stratton-Kent referred to as the “deifying power” of the underworld, and by working with the daemons they also identified with them, becoming one with them as extensions of the craft, a oneness which is still itself the gateway to chthonic and magickal apotheosis (though, of course, for Frater Archer this is ultimately all still submission to the authority of the great mother). Thus the divide hinted at by Kadmus Herschel can be observed as between the collective observance of the polis and the magickal apotheosis of the individual magician. Similar tension is observable in the relationship to mystery traditions, often including individual expression and aimed at the elevation of the practitioner towards a blessed afterlife, and embracing ecstasies and sometimes inversions that did not align with the social order.

All of this brings me to my next point; insofar as we deal with gods, how do we view them? Having already discussed rebellion, the war of all against all, we can already establish that my concept of relating to the gods cannot be defined in terms of unconditional piety as based on the idea that the gods are uniform in will and character. The point about the gods not being wholly benevolent is a point that kind of has to be stressed, and I tend to suspect that people try to get away from that in all sorts of ways. The gods are not necessarily malevolent, but they tend to act in ways that seem ambiguous and fickle to humans, not always answering prayers for varying reasons, and, although myth does not tell the whole story when it comes to religious thought and praxis, the gods are not always very nice or fair. I think the modern Heathen sect called Rokkatru, particularly as explained by Arith Harger (who does not himself align with Rokkatru), can be seen as one of the best tellings of this idea. As Harger relates, people only see the “evil” sides of certain gods, such as Loki, who happen to either typically despised or culturally typecast as villainous, but Odin in his myths does all manner of questionable and even downright awful things, and in many cases his actions are done either for his sole benefit or strictly to maintain the balance of power at all costs. From the perspective of Rokkatru, Loki is arguably only as “evil” as Odin, and he in turn as much as all of the other gods, who are in turn representatives of larger forces of order and chaos, opposing each other and yet working together to maintain the balance of the world. Our popular understandings of the gods have us thinking about certain gods as sanitized gods who embody superhuman character and virtue attendant to their status as rulers of the cosmos, which thus conceal the other sides of them that, I would argue, should not be made obscure. Norse mythology is a perfectly salient example, but does not stand alone. When it comes to Greek mythology how can we forget about Zeus; so elevated in status in Greek religion, that some mystical traditions transformed him from just the king of the current generation of gods to the supreme sovereign and principle of the cosmos itself. For all that, everyone reading mythology, and everyone struggling with mythic literalism, knows about Zeus’ many troublesome exploits, particularly with women (both human and otherwise). Zeus is not alone in his faults. The gods, just as much as they may be noble and beautiful, can be jealous, petty, quarrelsome, sometimes even cruel. Indeed, there is a similar story as regards all the “civilizing gods” in particular; perhaps Walter Benjamin said it best, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”.

Throughout pre-Christian polytheism, the acknowledgement is the same: the gods have two sides to them, one good, one bad, and for the gods they are in some ways inseparable from each other. But in the broad appreciation of this, we find that it does not seem to undermine worship in the way that it would for Christianity as based on the claims around the Christian God. Humans worship the gods ultimately because they want something from them, often something worldly but also often something more than this. Certain notions of traditional religious piety extends to the idea of a purely selfless devotion to gods, in a way that is not necessarily true in the case of traditional (or at least more archaic) forms of polytheist praxis. Though, there is a sense in which a Pagan could never approach the gods on a wholly transactional basis, and instead is drawn towards them by awe, by the desire for communion with the numious, and the nature of religious reciprocity tends to approach the level of friendship, not just a quid pro quo arrangement. Still, there is a self-interested impetus even here. Humans wish to elevate themselves by deepening reciporcal relationships with the gods, and although the gods are held to want or need nothing from humans, the gods themselves obviously have a desire that humans fit into; the desire to be recognized and honoured, and work their way into extant relationships.

A way of defining the relationship between men and gods in a manner befitting the Satanic Pagan framework is through magick. Magick, simply put, is the practice of causing change through hidden and abnormal means, some might say in conformity to will. Magick was somewhat common throughout the pre-Christian world, and even in the Christian era it was still prevalent to the point that a lot of “classical” medieval or pre-modern occultism is essentially an extension of Christianity. But magick is an art, a technique, a craft, and it has a variety of aims attached to it, very often conditioned by religious traditions. The aim that focuses our attention is the following set of goals: personal empowerment on the one hand, deepening the cycle of reciprocity with gods on the other. I aim in this sense for their bounding up in a religio-magickal praxis that positions worship alongside the concept of “working with” gods in a magickal sense, and arcing ultimately towards the goal of apotheosis. There are examples of apotheosis or god-identification that can be found in the Greek Magical Papyri. One such example is the Stele of Jeu (PGM V. 96-172), in which the practitioner evokes the Headless One (or Akephalos; possibly a solar deity) in order to identify themselves with Moses, a messenger of a pharoah or Osiris, and then the god Osiris by various names in order to command or expel daimons and attain oneness with the universe. In the Invocation of Typhon (PGM IV. 154-285), the practitioner ritually identifies with the god Set and “attaches” themselves to the god Helios, while binding the god of Osiris, in order to receive the power of Typhon, here referred to as the “god of gods”. In the Mithras Liturgy (PGM IV.475-834), the practitioner invokes Helios-Mithras in order to attain a state of immortality and divinization in order to join the world of the gods. There even spells for the apotheosis of animals, such as the Deification of a Hawk (PGM I,1-42), in which a deceased hawk is immersed completely in milk and rejoins the magician as an immortal daimon and companion. In a similar tradition, many Egyptian spells, such as found in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts (keeping in mind that the Greek Magical Papyri themselves were syncretic texts that incorporated Egyptian magical practice among others), often cast the practitioner in the identity of a specific god in order to speak and act through that divine identity. It was also believed that souls who successfully traversed the underworld became identical with the god Ra. In the First Book of Breathing, the soul of the dead beckons the gods of the underworld to turn their attention towards them, not in the manner of beseeching them but rather demanding their audience, the soul identifying itself with the sun god Ra. Spells were meant to transform the individual soul of the deceased into Ra and earning the audience of the gods, and then, during the night, the soul would become Osiris as well, just as Ra merged with Osiris upon his descent into the underworld, thus joining the cycle of the sun. This did not quite entail that the soul literally became Ra or supplanted Ra and the other gods in their function, but rather the dead took on elements of the identity as their own. Deification, for the ancient Egyptians, did not mean becoming a living god and assuming dominion over the cosmos, but rather identifying yourself with the gods, at least in death anyway, and in so doing join their place in the cycle of the world.

The nature of this apotheosis is complex, but is arguably understandable as both an individualistic and self-interested magickal pursuit of gaining the powers of gods and, in its own way, a religio-magickal pursuit of oneness (albeit temporary) with divine identity. When we discuss oneness in the context of religio-magickal doctrines and traditions, we typically discuss it in terms of some idea of the absorption of the self into the universe, or God, or some cosmic hivemind, and in this we typically envision it in terms of what we call the Right Hand Path. But the magickal assumption of divine identity found in pre-Christian polytheism does not follow this logic. It’s actually somewhat like what I have seen some people say about how oneness is not actually the conclusion but instead the beginning, the gateway to something else, and in the case of polytheistic magickal apotheosis, that may be very applicable. Oneness with the identity of a god is not the permanent absorption or replacement of personality into or by the divine. Instead it is done with the aim of assuming the power of the gods for magickal ends, and, perhaps, so as to engender the development of a mythic self capable of perceiving the world of the gods. This, of course, means ritually assuming their attributes in a way that does not mean you lose yourself. In application to the modern esoteric framework, it’s actually possible to see this approach, even insofar as we consider it oneness, as an expression of how we understand the Left Hand Path, in that the aim is for the divinization of the self through its assumption of divine attributes into itself with the view to entering the world of the gods, as one of them. Moreover, we can see the assumption of divine identity as a function of the old mystery traditions as well. In the Dionysian and Eleusinian Mysteries, we might locate the mythic self in the ritual re-enactment of their mythos and the powers of death and rebirth so as to cultivate esoteric divine knowledge that would grant the practitioner a place in a blessed afterlife. This idea is recapitulated in the Orphic tradition, wherein after a life of consistent praxis and ritual purity the practitioner is to descend into the underworld in order to be released from death in order to join the company of the gods. And so, Left Hand Path religio-magickal worship in a Pagan context follows this praxis and goal in mind: to pursue reciprocal relationships and ritual praxes that cultivate apotheosis and prefigure your assumption of divinity and joining with the divine. But in Satanic terms, the worship I seek is just as much an act of devourment (in Stirner’s sense), in that, rather than put myself under the divine I’m the manner of traditional religious hierarchies and pieties, I stand to put it into myself that it might be my own (“When you devour the sacred, you have made it your own!”), even if it means that I can only do this by assuming it on its terms.

Dealing with Paganism of any sort can mean dealing with natural states. Nature is undeniably important in a Pagan context, and for Pagan spirituality Nature is a central locus, but the point is what that actually means. Since in the philosophy of Satanic Paganism we reject the notion of inherent universal harmony in favour of the condition of rebellion as the war of all against all, we also reject any recourse to the idea of a lost homeostatic “natural order”, with a precise set of laws that humans are to obey in a manner similar to the laws of God or some notion of purity to which humanity is a corruption. But although the condition of rebellion as I describe it (in very warlike terms no less) sounds like something that inherently forecloses any notion of harmony with other beings, I must disagree with that assumption. Rebellion is an act that establishes boundaries in its refusal. Think about it. You, by refusing to obey the will of an authority figure, establish a barrier between your will and theirs by your rebellion, and will fight to preserve that boundary. Ownness asserts itself, in so doing rebelling against that which denies Ownness, each assertion of Ownness in rebellion creates boundaries set on the terms of Ownness. The ecosystems of the world are a complex of boundaries set by the interconnectedness of the various lifeforms, and it is in this field that human civilization has broken up these boundaries in order to assert the dominion of the human species over life on earth. But of course, there is an extent to which Man’s control over Nature is something of an illusion. Humanity has dominated most ecosystems but it cannot control the weather, much less its own effects on the global climate, and it most certainly has no control over outer space, time, the movements of the earth’s tectonic plates, its magnetic field, the force of gravity, or the very nature forces of death, destruction, decay and entropy. The domination that human civilization currently exercises over the world’s ecosystems, and order ability to manipulate the environment and transform natural resources towards our own purposes, assures us that we are the undisputed masters of the world. But we are not. In fact, if anything, our civilizational actions have not gone without consequences. Anthropogenic climate change has already been met with a diverse array of environmental consequences over decades, and the backlash in the form of extreme weather, heatwaves, wildfires, rising sea levels, and many more consequences has intensified in recent years and it’s only going to get worse, and it will spell disaster and destruction for humans. In a way, you can argue the world is fighting back against the domination we have imposed upon it.

Our invasion and destruction of ecological boundaries leads inexorably to the insurrection of the natural world against civilization. This is not to be interpreted as the effect of a violation of some transcendental law or a failure to uphold some duty of stewardship towards a natural world that is propertied by God or History. Instead, it is best to understand the ecological crisis in terms of the fact that our civilization has oppressed the world’s ecosystems in its desire for the instrumentality of life towards our various productive ends, and that oppression was destined to generate violent backlash from the world. Rebellion, the war of all against all, is at the core of the Pagan cosmos, and so life invariably grows to resist domination and attempts to curtail the course of its growth and freedom, and so extant nature violently resists Man’s regime of instrumentality. Yet, as Frater Archer might remind us, this same impetus to growth makes it somewhat difficult for even nature to uphold firm boundaries, since life or the consciousness of the earth is always seemingly expanding, growing, changing, moving, and that forward motion always seems to move past any obstacles to itself. Life is always growing mutually, and thus chaotically, sometimes life brushes against life, and so we see the world has an unpredictable rhythm to it.

In any case, understanding the relationship between the existential condition of rebellion and Ownness and the boundaries that Ownness and its rebellion creates in its expression allows us to more clearly understand Pagan harmony with nature in terms of reciprocity. Harmony with nature in this sense means maintaining relationships with the environment not based on domination or instrumentality, not even in the form of stewardship, but instead on the basis of reciprocity in which giving and taking occurs within the bounds set by the mutual assertion of Ownness, which thus comprises the interconnectedness that forms the ecosystems of the world. In very simple terms, harmony does not mean the universal harmony of The One and does mean submission to certain ideas of “natural law”, but instead that life respects life, to the extent it can, even as life ultimately derives from itself. And, also, let us not forget that, as Jake Stratton-Kent points out in Geosophia, as far as pre-Christian magicians were concerned the natural world as we understand it was a dwelling place for the numinous. Mountains, trees, rivers, and streams were among the places where the power of the divine could be felt and accessed just as much as graves, burial mounds, crossroads, monuments, or any temple, and so from a religio-magickal standpoint there is an extent to which we must think of Man’s quest for complete technological and civilizational domination over nature as a the spiritual devastation of life by human civilization, a death march that we must halt indefinitely and forcibly.

In many ways I think it is impossible to truly discuss Nature without discussing spontaneity. This is an idea I have inherited from the discourse of nature as spontaneity as described in Chinese philosophy, or rather more specifically Taoism, from which I learned about the concept of Ziran. The Chinese word “ziran” is often translated in the “West” as “nature”, but perhaps a more accurate meaning is “spontaneity”, and the literal meaning is more like “self-so”. The concept of Ziran refers to the self-emergent or self-arising tendency of things in the cosmos, which can be extended to the emergence of life and the cosmos itself. To describe something as Ziran is to describe something as self-unfolding, self-generating, non-teleological, spontaneous. On the one hand, it is used to describe the concept of nature, or as a shorthand for nature. On the other hand, it is suggested that Ziran does not actually refer to nature, but to something beyond or behind nature; you might even say, the “nature” of nature. But what is the nature of nature? Is it the chaos and blackness that Susan Stryker referred to? Stryker, of course, seems to refer to chaos in “the general sense”, by which is meant disorder or the fundamental lack of order, but also an “unstable matrix of material attributes”, from which form emerges (or, in the context of gender that Stryker means to discuss, from which a multitude of stable structures of gendered identity emerge). In baedan this same chaos and blackness is identified with what they see as the unintelligible force of homosexual desire and the concept of the death drive as discussed via the queer theorist Lee Edelman; this death drive is the indescrible and unintelligble force of disruption within society itself, the negativity that always produces contradiction and revolt within the order of the world, for as long as there is a society. Going back to Ziran, what is its source? Within ancient Chinese philosophy, there was a tendency to locate Darkness, or Xuan, as the origin or root of nature, or Ziran. Thus Darkness, which can be understood as Negativity, lies at the source of spontaneity, or “nature”. The Rokkatru sect of modern Heathenry dwells heavily on the idea of the “nature of nature”, by which is meant the underlying qualities and the means of its rhythm and change as well as its unpatterned causes, and for this reason they honor the Jotunn as the primal forces of nature that operate behind its main processes; the winter and the cold that freezes, the solar warmth and heat that causes buds to grow in spring, the wild fire that burns. To draw attention to the “nature” of nature, then, would be in the manner of Rokkatru to refer to something beneath and within the processes of nature that also arcs back to our discussion of spontaneity.

A concept that I find relevant to my discourse on Paganism, let alone in a Satanic framing, is the concept of Wildness. This is a concept that I encountered in ecological anarchist and anti-civilization theory, and it has many relevant meanings. In Desert, which I take as a landmark text of anti-civ and nihilist anarchism, Wildness can be seen to refer to a concept of uncultivated or non-civilized nature that also intersects with the concept of anarchy or liberty itself, a state of being ungoverned and of ungovernability, a state of unordered and undomesticated life that naturally connects with anarchism as a whole. This idea is expressed in the very name Desert via an archaic definition given at the beginning: “a wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region”. From my perspective, such a description is not insiginificant in religious terms. An example is the world of the Bible, in which the desert or wilderness was believed to have been inhabited by demons. This is suggested in the Old Testament when Leviticus (17:7) refers to sacrifices being made to goat demons (or se’irim) and Isaiah (34:14) prophesies the city of Edom becoming inhabited by demons after its collapse, and the New Testament when Luke (11:24) and Matthew (12:43) say that a demon leaving a possessed person flees to the desert to rest. Also, in the medieval period, the Devil himself was associated with the wild places outside of civilization, so for Europe this could mean the woods, and in Sweden this lead to folk beliefs concerning the worship of nymphs and nature spirits becoming mingled with ideas of Satan worship and black magick. Julian Langer (a thinker I otherwise have little regard for) gives a few interesting enough definitions of Wildness. In Feral Iconoclasm, Langer defines Wildness as “the transient becoming and dying, dying and rising” in all lifeforms, “the will of life that grows from death”, and connects it to a non-determination and spontaneity of matter that he feels panpsychism allows for. In Feral Consciousness, Wildness is similarly defined in terms of the quality of non-deterministic, fundamentally chaotic, inescapably pervasive entities, and the fundamental ontological condition of anarchy that also surrounds and dwells beneath the whole of life, and is a state best accessed when stepping into uncultivated nature and through personal individual experience; creative and destructive, wildness for Langer is not only identifiable with anarchy but with nature, thus it is in this way “the nature of nature”. Kevin Tucker, in To Speak of Wildness, takes a somewhat different approach, conflating Wildness with the state of being a hunter-gatherer, supposedly our “genetic state” (seemingly the true “human nature”), but he also frames Wildness as a continuum surrounding and inhabiting us, distinguished from wilderness. A much more interesting and probably more salient take comes from baedan, in which Wildness, as “a madness attacking the civilized social order”, is practically cognate with their concept of jouissance, the joy of resistance or insurreciton whose joy consists in the sheer act of attacking the order of domination, and echoes with their concept of the death drive, that mysterious and almost unnameable negativity best understood as the core contradiction of society, the inner tendency of its own revolt and deconstruction. Finally, some argue that Wildness appears to be taken as something almost wholly indefinable, except as a poetic way of describing the uniqueness of each individual.

To take it all together from the standpoint of discussing “the nature of nature”, we could probably understand Wildness as being at least a part of that, as long as we understand Wildness as state of prime spontaneity. Spontaneous at least in the sense of undomesticated life, “natural” in the same sense, liberated in its transgression of conditioned existence, and fundamentally un-teleological. If “human nature” means nothing more than a state of human being that we find when our societal order of humanity is torn off, Wildness as a spontaneous existence rather than a “genetic state” is probably a good description. Beyond this (contrary to what I espoused last year), there is no such thing as human nature, no universal template of species being, only the natures of individuals. But insofar as that’s the case, what is “natural” to us, that is Ziran, that is Wildness, it is how we act in our own state of uncultivated life, free of domestication, and it’s as true for individual humans as it is for the wilderness and all who live in it. But what does that have to do with Satanic Paganism? The answer is in the way certain forms of Pagan religiosity present a communion between the individual and the “wild state”, transgressing the norms of society in order to liberate individual consciousness or experience contact with divinity. In Greece, this was part of the mysteries of the god Dionysos, in which ritual intoxication was a way to become possessed by Dionysos, contact his divine presence, shatter the boundaries of individual consciousness and commune with authenticity of wild nature. Another Greek god Pan, possibly embodied a literal sense of wildness even more, being worshipped almost exclusively in uncultivated parts of nature such as caves, and he too was believed to possess people so as to manically liberate individual consciousness from its normal limits. Similar states in similar possible rationales can be discussed via the Berserkers and Ulfhednar in ancient Scandinavia, both ecstatic warriors of the god Odin who attained divine inspiration that would strengthen them in battle by embracing animal-like states, spiritually communing with the wilderness, shedding the limits of normal consciousness and, in a way, enacting the cycle of death and rebirth. It is certainly not for nothing that modern Pagans derive spiritual sustenance from wild nature, because the relationships with extant natural relationships that presuppose the presence of the divine within them lends to the idea of wild nature being sacred and venerated as such, inhabited and blessed by gods and spirits for whom it is just as much their home as for the animals.

How this pans out for Satanic Paganism might best be elaborated in terms of the basic antinomian goal of shedding boundaries in pursuit of self-discovery and liberation. But that’s not in pursuit of some pure or antediluvian identity that contains an original personality (perhaps bestowed by God or by the cosmos) for you to follow, or even the voice of a “True Will” (which, I should stress, is probably not actually your will as such). No, it’s about the discovery, or rediscovery, of the power to live an uncultivated life, in the spiritual sense at least; the liberation of consciousness that is felt and prefigured in Wildness, in “the other side”, in the Darkness of life. It’s not something that can only be found in the ideal harmonious state, or some essentialist concept of a “genetic state”, and in fact the point is that, when you have and keep this state, it will be with you everywhere and always. To this day I think about something Thomas LeRoy used to say, and I’m not sure I remember it fully, about how Satanism to him is all about having a freedom that can’t be taken from you even if you were locked up in prison. That’s a powerful idea, it speaks to a freedom and uncultivated-ness that could stay with you, even if the revolution or insurrection against the state never comes to pass. It’s what living anarchy is, it’s the power of the Black Flame of the Creative Nothing, it’s a remembrance of the kingdom of shadows that holds real meaning that cannot be found through piety in society. It is wild religiosity, “re-legere” as anamnesis but for Darkness instead of the Forms of the Good, truly ancient Pagan religiosity intersecting with authentic Satanic mysticism and ideology. I also think that the relationship of divinity and the numinous to wild nature that Jake Stratton-Kent talks about in Geosophia establishes a basis for a Pagan religio-magickal praxis that places wild nature as a place of power, a place for the magician to encounter the gods of the land and, in a seemingly disenchanted world, reinvest the land with power by reclaimng the sacred places. On this basis, perhaps we may map one road to apotheosis in the act of sharing in the numinosity of the wild in this way.

I would also stress my own standpoint in relation to spontaneity in terms of cosmic origination, and in this I relate to the Greek and also particularly Orphic cosmology here. In the Orphic cosmology, there isn’t really a Creator as such, and the forces of Limited Time and Necessity have no source, or at least are not intelligently set into motion, and the forces of creativity that animate the Orphic cosmos seem to spontaneously emerge from each other. I have seen Orphic cosmology interpreted as an unfolding of material substances beginning from an indescribable source or principle (or “Arrhetos Arkhe”), and from the unfolding of these substances the gods and eventually all life emerge, and then only after this the gods, or at least particularly Zeus, arrange the order by which the universe is governed. The Hesiodic cosmology has everything begin with Chaos, and then spontaneously emerging from Chaos are the first primordial beings or deities, and then they give rise to successive generations of gods, and finally humanity is created. Between, the actual starting point seems to be ineffable, outright unknown, but I’m inclined to take this as an opportunity for Negativity to fill the gaps here. Thus Darkness becomes the stuff in which the unfolding of life begins. It is possible to take a similar tack when dealing with the Norse cosmos. From the mythological source of material we have, at least, the Norse cosmos begins in a state of primordial chaos referred to as Ginnungagap, which nonetheless contains two elements that conflict with each other, and through this strife the no-thing-ness unfolds in the generation of Ymir and their abode, before a successive generations kills him and creates the cosmic order from Ymir’s primeval potentiality. Darkness, at least in the sense relatable to the the no-thing-ness we just touched upon, again lies at the beginning of things, its fertility the basis of the potentiality of Ymir and the violent creation initiated by the gods through his sacrifice, lurks beneath the surface of the cosmos and is felt in the nature of its progression and eventual unravelling and destruction in Ragnarok. From this standpoint, I derive a spontaneous cosmos on perfectly Pagan grounds.

To at last close thing section, let us return one more time to the subject of apotheosis, only this time let’s sketch out a rationale suitable for a Pagan worldview and a Satanic one. I talk about rebirth in the context of Pagan religious doctrine a fair bit, in relation to death of course, and let us start here from the context of the constancy of death and rebirth, and propose, from a Pagan standpoint, that all of life is inevitably reborn after death. I would envision that this rebirth would not be conditioned by moral conduct, meaning that your rebirth has nothing to do with good or evil, rather it is simply part of the cycle of life. That is, unless you attain apotheosis. There is an idea found in the Orphic mysteries, which held that the Orphist must undergo a life of contemplation, non-violence, and ritual purity before eventually undergoing a journey through the underworld, drink from the pool of Mnemosyne (memory), present formulae to the guardians or gods of the underworld, and then afterwords be released from death and reincarnation in order to join the company of the gods. Of course, the requirements of the original Orphic teaching might prove disagreeable in their apparently emphasis on purity and pacifism, but the underlying formula has many other echoes and roots, and at any rate is conceptually useful. In the Orphic perspective, apotheosis would not only have meant immortality and power, but also more strictly freedom, at least freedom from endless rebirths, and partaking in the nature and processes of divinity once one has passed into it. The underworld in pre-Christian Greece has been a place of (as Jake Stratton-Kent put it) deifying power probably before the Orphics codified their own doctrine of apotheosis. The underworld is not just the home of the dead; it’s also the place where death becomes the renewal of life. Far from the Christian view, in which Hell was the place of eternal suffering or even just a byword for oblivion, the underworld is a place not only where shades dwell in the condition of death, but pass into the condition of their rebirth, forgetting their past to become new life. This understanding is at the heart of why the Orphic soul descends to the underworld to receive release from death, and why the Elusinian Mysteries center the re-enactment of death and rebirth with the aim of immortality or simply a blessed afterlife. In Sicily, Western Greeks participated in “ritual deaths”, the dismantling of the everyday self, followed by rebirth through, through ritual communion with chthonic gods such as Dionysus, Demeter, and/or Kore (or Persephone). We know next to nothing about the Dionysian mysteries that preceded Orphism, but I think it is reasonable to suggest that the ritual death-and-rebirth aspect in connection to ritual communion may have been an element in those mysteries too.

Many ideas of Greek apotheosis seemed to, in some way, connect to the theme of death. Even in “classical” Orphism, one could only join the company of the gods after death, and even then, it may have taken multiple reincarnations for the practitioner to preced this apotheosis. Slain gods are reborn in majesty, Osiris reunites with his wife after death and becomes the lord of the Egyptian underworld, Achilles is reunited with Medea in the Elysian fields after death, and several mortals were transformed into gods or daemons after their deaths. This is the other aspect of Greek apotheosis, besides magickal and ritual identification of the gods as expressed in the Greek Magickal Papyri. In a sense this hints into the real meaning of the journey to the underworld; to take yourself into the maw of the death and rebirth, into the negativity of the cosmos, into blood and the other side of life, to receive knowledge, to be empowered, to take into yourself in order to truly commune with the divine and be divine yourself. And to do that thus would mean setting yourself free from the limits of ignorance and subjection, and set yourself into the realm of the gods. In the context of Satanic Paganism, this all has the aim of devourment, taking the sacred as your own absorbing divinity into your own self, in making and unmaking, setting into motion the liberation of consciousness, co-creating your own will, and persisting, no longer bound to reincarnation but instead free as part of the cycles of the gods. I actually sort of think of it as almost analogous to Buddhism in this regard, with its discourse on samsara and nirvana, especially in light of the way Esoteric Buddhism has influenced me in many other ways, but whereas you’re not trying to save yourself or the world from the immovable condition of suffering, you are unfettering yourself and participating in the deepest condition of life, taking divinity and negativity into yourself.

As Stirner said, a heaven arises, falls, is replaced and stormed by the next heaven. The existential condition of rebellion, of the war of all against all, assures this. You might well find yourself stuck within it, but, it’s just as well a place of power in the same way that negativity is. You don’t have to be beneath fixed piety or power, you can stand on your own feet and elevate yourself within the numinous world. Thus, in our path, there is no conflict stemming from the relationship to the gods, only in the war of all against all that pervades life.

Unknown art by Esao Andrews

Against God and/or The Demiurge

If we’re operating with a Satanic orientation, then there’s simply no way to approach God except with unmitigated hostility. For Paganism on its own, this is admittedly less true when Yahweh can simply be reintegrated as one more among the ranks of the polytheistic gods, even if that means ignoring that Yahweh is quite explicit about his utter rejection of that place in the world. The Satanist would understand that it is possible to take up God and his Son as part of a polytheistic “pantheon” (problematic though the term often is), but then our question to that is “why would you want to?”. This, after all, is the same God and his Son under whose cultus the worship of other gods was consistently and systematically suppressed and attacked for centuries. In his own Word, God orders the destruction of those who refuse to worship him, and in his law the worship of gods besides himself is explicitly forbidden. We thus find more contemporary takes on polytheism stressing the possibility of harmony between the gods and their would-be oppressor to be baffling to say the least.

You need not take the rejection of God as an expression of simple atheism, not least because I intend to present a rather precise conception of God which can be opposed even without the rejection of the divine itself. Think about it, when we talk about God, what do we really mean? “God”, imagined as a singular being, could generally be understood as just one more deity, and in this sense one more part of the polytheistic ecosystem of gods, albeit one who imagines himself the sole sovereign in the cosmos. But then there is the conceptual God, God as a postulate, God the Idea, this conception that separates the monotheistic worldview from the polytheistic worldview. This God is the supreme singular teleological consciousness which creates (or artifices) the cosmos, governs it’s operations and progress and with it that of all life, directs the motion of all things towards its own purpose, and perhaps for all beings it is their true image, beyond their discrete individuality. God, simply put, is the idea of the Supreme Being, the ultimate divine consciousness in the universe, the great will from which meaning itself is ultimately derived and to which all things ultimately answer.

We usually deal with the Christian conception of this, but besides the other two “Abrahamic” religions, you can find many iterations of the concept of the Supreme Being all over the religious world. You may see different iterations of it in Hinduism, and even some esoteric forms of Buddhism have pantheistic forms of the solar Buddha that sound suspiciously Godlike, there’s the concept of Heaven that we see in Confucian tradition, there’s Ahura Mazda prefiguring the Christian ideal of the good God in Zoroastrianism, to name a handful of examples. Even in the “classical” world of pre-Christian Greek polytheism, the concept of God we imagine is arguably prefigured by the cult of Zeus Hypsistios, the “Most High”, some versions of which involved the idea that the other gods were not proper deities and instead more like angels. Even today I would say that there are Hellenists who talk about Zeus as though they might as talk about God, at least were it not for the polytheistic context of their beliefs. But whatever identity we give it, let’s deal with the rammifications of the Supreme Being, or God. A being capable of being the supreme director, supreme teleological will, supreme arbiter or life itself, is inexorably responsible for everything that happens under its domain. Necessarily, God is responsible for an immeasurable amount of suffering in the universe, and every death, oppression, anguish, agony, despair, confusion, deception, pain, and every straying away from God is all directly caused or set into motion by him, all on purpose, all part of the plan he has for you, just as much as anything good. This means that if you suffered a miserable and agonizing life, then God arranged it to be this way on purpose, rather than this simply being a matter of chance, bad luck, or a spontaneous chain of events. It would be pointless even to say that it’s a matter of the consequences of bad decisions or the system you live in, because these themselves were set up by God through the course of events that he purposefully arranged. Even if God were as loving and benevolent as he said he was, the power he wields over all of life necessitates that he is the cause of life’s agony and suffering and exercises absolute dominion over its agency.

There’s also the egoist understanding of the problem, for you see God is the egoist whose sole mission in life is to convince you that he is the only legitimate egoist. You are an egoist either in potentia or in the active sense, in denial or in realization, you are Unique, an Ownness, and if we assume that there is God, then God himself would be just another of the same, except that he or his followers might claim that he alone is Unique. Even if we may further question the corporeality of God’s “Uniqueness” insofar as we may deny God, the claim of the Uniqueness of God as the serole Unique necessarily imposes itself upon the Uniquenesses of all other beings, who then, blinded by light, mistake just another being for the template of Being or even the sole constituent of the universe. Thus, cosmic tyranny is born, and it is still tyranny, still captivity, still slavery, even if God really was as benevolent as he was proclaimed to be.

And so, the Satanist is distinguished by their will to reject God and refuse to worship God let alone his Son, even if that God is real, regardless of if God is not real, even if God was as “Good” as he said he was, and even if the act of refusing to worship consigned you to a fate of damnation worse than death. Even a loving God would still grind you into the dirt because that was all part of his plan, and would still hold your soul to ransom such that the only way to claim it for yourself was by force of will directed against God. This knowledge is at least part of what animates the Satanic will to rebellion and transgression, and compels us to join Stirner’s “war of all against all” as active spiritual combatants, as devils bearing black flames.

There is a somewhat useful concept that can be pulled from Paul Tillich, a Christian existentialist theologian, for discursive purposes. He argued for a concept of “justified atheism” (justified, of course, being framed within Christian boundaries), which seems to have been meant as the idea that atheism can be justified as a reject to “theism”, by which is meant the idea of God being a personal deity as opposed to Tillich’s more abstract and existential view of God as the ground of being, the God-beyond-God who is thus the “justifier” of atheism. The way I see it, the a-theos stance is easily perversible, that is to say turned on its head. Instead of a-theos meaning a rejection of the personal God in favour of the God-beyond-God, here I will mean it as the rejection of the Supreme Being in all its various conceptions, on behalf of a wild, ungoverned, and ungovernable cosmos, in which, insofar as we may say there are personal gods, there are multiple of them and never just one, and insofar as there is power involved, it is also a zone of contestation and never a fixed point in the cosmos This a-theos thus means not so much the rejection of divinity (which is in multiplicity) and more like the rejection of objective teleological consciousness – thus, God.

And if indeed we are to speak of a ground of being, from my standpoint why should that be God, or teleological consciousness? I can imagine a ground of being that is not teleological, not rational, certainly not bright, or even particularly benign to be totally honest. It is not exactly God-beyond-God, but it is, in the Taoist sense, larger than God or indeed any one single deity. The ground of being I would conceive is negative, chaotic, even “violent” perhaps. I have discussed many ways of seeing Darkness this way. I suppose I practically do call it Darkness, at least in that Darkness is a summation of the characteristics I ascribe to it. It is not teleological, it could if anything be anti-teleological, it is senseless, it destroys so as to create and creates so as to destroy, it is the life and the death and the black soil that it glows in, it is the sublime fecundity of the night laid bare, the dark source of all that is and that which is. It sets no order, it spontaneously generates, dissolutes, and regurgiates, not even the term “whim” accurately describes such operation. How could one call that God, except that such is larger than God, and may one day claim his corpse along with all others.

I suppose what I am saying is that the universe is irrational, even when we consider the divine to be present within it. After all, perhaps the divine is in everything, but the gods are very often in conflict, so it cannot be assumed that there is harmony or reason inherent in the world just because of the presence of the divine. Even if we did affirm God, what would make you think God is any more “rational” than you or me, just because God is much more powerful and knowledgeable than you or me? You cannot know God’s will, but that means that, for all you know, all of God’s will is nothing more than irrational whims. But if God were rational, would that really be any better? Perhaps it might in fact be somewhat worse. Where does God’s rationality start from? I am certain that it is not from any human set of considerations, because, despite the Bible’s assurance that we are made in the image of God, God is absolutely not human, and if we take the concept of God seriously we could understand God as being certainly more powerful than humans would be. So God’s rationality, despite the promise of unconditional love for mankind, can only operate from a standpoint remarkable alienation from us, a lifeform immeasurably puny in comparison to the universe that people say God created, and this can only mean that God acts towards us either with apathy or, in truly rational fashion, with abject cruelty; if God is rational, then he rationally determines ideas of love, justice, benevolence that cannot possibly align with how we conceive them, which means that God’s love, justice, and even benevolence is for us nothing but a chamber of horrors. In this sense, I would actually say that it is better that the universe is irrational than if it were rational. Again, think of the tragedies, the evils, and the horrors that beset you in the universe as I have already set forth. More than anything, consider the fact that you can literally die not only at any time in your life but also suddenly and seemingly at random, even if you’re perfectly healthy. If you’re telling me that the universe is actually a rational universe, and that reason is self-evident in every happening and everything happens for a rational reason, then this necessarily means that the universe rationally decided to suddenly kill you for a reason, a reason that you will probably never be able to understand. To say that we live in a rational universe, or a universe controlled by God, or a universe possessing any kind of teleological will, is to say that all of life is nothing but cattle for the universe, raised up and then slaughtered for the designs of the universe. In my view, that is undoubtedly worse than the idea that we just crawled out of the slime of a cosmos that belched itself into existence or that life seems to have no inherent purpose. If we understand our death as taking place in the chaos of life, then it’s easy enough to understand that it is what it is, but we understand that there is some order to our otherwise random demise, then all this means is that we are being murdered and that the universe, God, or cosmic Reason are our murderers.

Now we come to the other part of this conversation: The Demiurge. But, I am not a Gnostic of any sort, so the sense in which I refer to a Demiurge is not as a distinct entity. In fact, I’m playing with a term has been frequently employed in political theory ever since Thomas Hobbes: I speak, of course, of Leviathan. And, frankly, I consider the term “Leviathan” to be entirely a misnomer. Hobbes seems to have invoked the term “Leviathan” in reference to the awesome power of the unitary sovereign state, partly because, in his day, the name “Leviathan” came to refer to a figure of sheer size and strength, aptly reflected by the size and strength of the Leviathan. But the actual Leviathan of myth wasn’t just some exceptionally big and strong animal; the Leviathan was a creature of wild, untamed chaos, part of a lineage of chaos serpents/monsters that form an ecosystem of myths of creation and struggle in the ancient Middle East and parts beyond, but in Biblical context also specifically symbolised the enemies of Israel. These enemies are framed in the Bible as a hostile wild outside the walls of Godly civilization, whether it’s the sea inhabited by the Leviathan or the demon-filled ruins that are to be lands such as Edom. The Biblical Leviathan, by Hobbes’ terms, was actually the nasty and brutish wild, which needed to have a strong and powerful order imposed upon it, and the agent of this order was God. Later Gnostic and also Jewish mysticism sees the Leviathan as an outer darkness encircling the world of mankind, like a serpent biting its own tail, certain Gnostics in particular taking it as the intrinsic evil of the universe of matter. Hobbes refers to his “Leviathan” as “the mortal God, to which we owe under the Immortal God, our peace and defence”. That has me thinking a little bit about the Demiurge in Valentinian Gnosticism, who in comparison to the “true God” might well be the “mortal god”, fighting the Devil and his forces to secure the world under the oversight of Jesus and Sophia, who are agents of the true God, who may as well be the “immortal God”. But whereas in the Gnostic sects there is the “immortal God” of pure spirit and the “mortal God” that is the Demiurge, the position I advance is down the mortal and immortal God both.

To cut to the point, I use the Demiurge instead “the Leviathan” to refer to what people mean by “the Leviathan”; that is, the totality not only of state power but of state-level relationships and organisation. Church, Capital, Society, “God”, Order, Authority, these taken together are the Demiurge. But whereas for the Christopher Williams’ of the world this Demiurge is yet still fundamentally good, we as Satanists, as Adversaries, join in the war of all against all so as to destroy this Demiurge. And it makes for such a better analogy than “the Leviathan”, since this totality of power is the artificer of the world, which the Demiurge is and which the Leviathan is not.

“Battlefield of the Demiurge” by Tokeli Productions (2017)

The Art of Agnosticism In All Things

Let us take note of a quote that appears in The Satanic Wiki, an independent crowd-sourced online community archive of information about Satanism. It seems to originally be from an invocation from The Satanic Temple, but in an act of detournement it is directed against The Satanic Temple as, themselves, another arbitrary authority figure that must not be spared its demise. In any case, here it is below:

Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.

I put emphasis on “Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true.” because this is the point I hone in on. What I mean here is the interpretation of agnositicism in all things as to embrace a fundamental state of unknowing that comprises life at large, as one of the facets of “darkness” and its apophatic nature which lies at the wellspring of everything. This unknowning denotes a fundamental uncertainty of knowledge, a void that the imagined sovereignty of discursive reason fails to penetrate, a void that can only really be navigated experientially. This unknowing demands the undertaking of experience as a path to knowledge, and the abandonment of any illusion of something that can guarantee any absolute sense of truth. However much people like to define Satanism by some commitment to popular rationalism, ontological agnosticism is quite probably more familiar to Satanism. Don’t forget that it was LaVey who exalted doubt above the principle of illumination in itself.

Rose Crowley, a modern practitioner of Satanism (or more specifically her own brand of “Integral Satanism”), has also explained the value of ontological agnosticism especially within the context of magickal ritual praxis. She points out that even the success of a ritual holds on inherent bearing on the concrete reality of the entities involved, and, citing Jean-Paul Sartre, states that even if God were real, whether or not you believed in the experience was up to you. You’re left to your own limited powers of discernment or reasoning to determine if you were experiencing anything real or some form of illusion, and no experience can fix your beliefs for you. Some interesting citations about ontological agnositcism include Aleister Crowley in Liber O, where he wrote that in this book it is spoken of things which “may or may not exist” and that it is immaterial whether they exist or not next to the results of working with them, warning against the attribution of hard objective reality to them, and a Tantric Buddhist master who answered a question on the reality of the deities by saying they were “no more real than you are”. For her, ontological agnosticism means the rejection of the fixidity of all frameworks of thought and action, the limits of which are to be transcended again and again. In this, we can easily insert a good word about Max Stirner and from there project the rammifications of the rejection of all fixed ideas before the Einzige. To be grounded in groundlessness and ride the current of unknowning, as in rather than being weighted down under it, that is the Satanic Agnosticism In All Things that Rose elaborates.

Where I draw the connection to Paganism in this theme is that my inquiry into this has Paganism as its origin. Pre-Christian polytheistic philosophy, or rather more specifically that of polytheistic Rome and Greece, had at base a tendency towards ontological agnosticism or even skepticism in its view of the nature of knowledge. As Cicero recounts in On The Nature of the Gods:

It was entirely with Zenon, so we have been told, I replied, that Arcesilas set on foot his battle, not from obstinacy or desire for victory, as it seems to me at all events, but because of the obscurity of the facts that had led Socrates to a confession of ignorance, as also previously his predecessors Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and almost all the old philosophers, who utterly denied all possibility of cognition or perception or knowledge, and maintained that the senses are limited, the mind feeble, the span of life short, and that truth (in Democritus’s phrase) is sunk in an abyss, opinion and custom are all-prevailing, no place is left for truth, all things successively are wrapped in darkness. Accordingly Arcesilas said that there is nothing that can be known, not even that residuum of knowledge that Socrates had left himself – the truth of this very dictum: so hidden in obscurity did he believe that everything lies, nor is there anything that can be perceived or understood, and for these reasons, he said, no one must make any positive statement or affirmation or give the approval of his assent to any proposition, and a man must always restrain his rashness and hold it back from every slip, as it would be glaring rashness to give assent either to a falsehood or to something not certainly known, and nothing is more disgraceful than for assent and approval to outstrip knowledge and perception.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, p.453

The truth of the truth for pre-Christian philosophers is that of a prevailing condition of unknowing, and this unknowing is what Cicero refers to as “darkness”. This fundamental unknowning is, incidentally, a part of how I have discussed Darkness, in terms of the apophatic quality I discussed in terms of negative theology, but as pertains to the nature of knowledge and not just divinity. Pagan unknowing is the condition in which we are compelled to recognize ultimately that nothing can truly be “known”, at least discursively, that truth lay hidden in darkness if we can speak of it, and that this goes even for the proclamation of unknowing itself. In modern Paganism, unknowing and hence agnosticism pervades the very concept of knowledge of the gods, which is divided between Unverified Personal Gnosis, Shared Personal Gnosis, and Verified Personal Gnosis. The division between them is measured by the extent to which knowledge might be shared among others or even “confirmed” extraneously, but even Verified Personal Gnosis cannot be considered in terms of what we usually consider perfectly objective truth, because its source is imperfect, and so ultimately is human knowledge and perception, thus, these things are locked in darkness. Such a worldview is one of the things that set pre-Christian paganism apart from the Christianity that would later be codified after the supposed death of Jesus, in that, even though Christians themselves may hold that it is impossible to really know God, it was Augustine who established that, from the perspective of Christian philosophy, the fundamental unknowing accounted for in polytheistic philosophy is merely an error, one that cannot be prevented (and is further perpetuated) by the suspension of judgement, and therefore cannot secure truth or happiness because of its inability to secure perfection.

Yet we should be compelled to return to what Rose said, the art of riding the unknowing. There are many ways of dealing with the unknowing so familiar to religious consciousness. The most familiar of these, peddled fervently by Christianity, is piety, faith in spite of the unknowability of God and indeed with the express taboo against even trying to gain knowledge of God. The approach I might suggest, however, is to step into the darkness, and shedding boundaries in order to do so. In a similar sense to how Keiji Nishitani said that there was no way out of nihilism but through it, if we are at all times surrounded by unknowing and darkness, and at all times finding it latent within life, the obvious path to truth and liberation is not against but through, not to extricate oneself from it but to take your step into it. We all feel our way through life even in our reasoning, but most of us assume that there is some reliable ground that we call “ultimate truth”. But insofar as that exists, we may say Darkness is that “ultimate truth”…just because what it conveys is, in its paradox, the only ontological certainty. As this entails unknowing, the implications for “ultimate truth” are obvious, albeit, again, paradoxical. Reason is very obviously not self-evident in all things, and there is no essential hierarchy of truth and being. What there is is the sleep of meaning set against the opportunity to radically engage with unknowing, as the experiential means of deriving knowledge, in full awareness of its unknowing. In the latter, if I may invoke the analogy to Esoteric Buddhist hongaku thought, the way I envision is fundamental ignorance realized as enlightenment.

Relevant to nihilism, let’s apply the apophatic quality of the self and the unknowing that attends it in relation to when Ivan Turgenev said, “The heart of another is a dark forest”. The “dark forest” is a metaphor for how it’s really impossible to “understand” the feelings of other people. You won’t have a codified map of the mind of a person, not least because, as a matter of fact, we don’t even have such a thing for the human brain itself or even the nature of human consciousness. There is a void that lies at the innermost beneath our actions, one which cannot and will never be “brought to the light” through reason or any discursive power. Each of us is an Ownness, even if most of us are merely asleep to this fact. The nature of Ownness as a substance and individual characteristic is beyond discursive categorization, irreducible to fixed things and states, unable to identify fully with another. It is a non-thing, it is Nothing, a Creative Nothing, defined on negative terms. You will not be able to master or shed light on the Ownness of another, and you can hardly establish any cataphatic structure to cage your Ownness either. Life possesses an inner darkness at least in its apophatic quality. But, of course, we may venture into the forest. Indeed, perhaps it is better to say that we have to venture into the dark forest. Only by doing so do we acquire the wisdom which calls darkness its home. That is what animates the journey into the underworld. Even from the standpoint of Christian negative theology, the prophet Moses met with God in the darkness surrounding the top of Mount Sinai, which is theologically understood as meaning to go beyond all things in order to encounter God. But however it is understood, this is to venture into what was understood in the Greek mysteries as arrheton. The word arrheton means “ineffable”, which has also been traditionally interpreted to mean that which cannot be spoken of. Arrheton thus denotes divine negativity and unknowing. It may not necessarily mean “forbidden” (the word for that is aporrheton), but it does denote something that cannot be understood discursively, and it must be passed into, which means that one must partake of the mystery in order to understand its life-affirming secret and its inherent sacrality. For the mysteries, this meant the teaching was to be kept secret, and all participants honoured the regime of silence, often on pain of death. But even if such secrecy is not necessary, and perhaps it isn’t, the point is that it cannot be spoken of, meaning you cannot simply reason about it discursively, and so you most pass into it. The heart of another is a dark forest, and so you must pass into the forest. To do this, you must embrace the unknowing of the world.

For the rationalist, especially the rationalist who calls themselves a skeptic, everything is matter of the ability to prove everything to everyone. For their Christian counterpart, everything is a matter of faith, and its confirmation, to whom reason is ultimately but a tool. An alternative to either, I believe, is best summarized in Voltairine de Cleyer’s poem The Toast of Despair; life is a problem without a why, and never a thing to prove.

“Aeneas and Sibyl in the Underworld” by Jan Breughel the Younger (1630s)

The Politics of Satanic Paganism

There is sometimes a tendency among both some Satanists and some Pagans to assume that their respective paths are not political, or that they can be totally separated from politics. I’m afraid that this assertion is just not true, and the syncretism that I present does not hold any promise of separation from political ramifications. In fact, up to now I have already related some of the contours of Satanic Paganism to political theory and philosophy, and at that a decidedly radical selection of theory. There is also an ever-present need to guard against the constant creep of fascism, and the bending of the world of alternative spirituality towards reactionary or right-wing ends. This requires a somewhat consistent politicization, which then serves to counter politicization in the other direction; if you do not politicize, the other side will do it for you on their terms, and you don’t want that. Therefore it is imperative that the political commitments or ramifications of Satanic Paganism are established. And bear in mind, this is still in the context of what is essentially an individualistic mode of religious or spiritual thought and praxis, so there is a sense which you can say these ramifications may be interpreted as individual from my standpoint. Yet, they are not isolated from the ways in which it can be applied in more generally, outside of myself.

I suppose it is really best for me to start by asserting what Satanic Paganism is not, or rather what it rejects. I see Satanic Paganism as expressly anti-fascist, anti-statist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-folkist, anti-authoritarian, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-queerphobic, anti-ecocide, and in general opposed to all forms of oppression. I also see Satanic Paganism as opposed to the dominant and mainstream representations of Satanism who have set themselves or have been set up as basically “the establishment” of Satanism, largely because of their authoritarian practice, reactionary tendencies, and overall failure to really challenge anything. I oppose the Church of Satan for its basis in Anton LaVey’s reactionary Social Darwinism, drawn from the Objectivism of Ayn Rand and the white supremacist nightmare of Might Is Right, the totalitarian vision of Pentagonal Revisionism, and the simple fact that the organisation is filled to the brim with outright neo-Nazis and other fascists, and its leadership has openly praised the neo-Nazi James Mason, all while they claim sole historical authority over the concept of Satanism, which they claim to have invented, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. As may have already been established, I oppose The Satanic Temple for the fact that they are nothing but your average atheist dressed in black clothes and pentagrams, with no serious development of Satanism as a religio-philosophical system beyond a series of failed Yes Men style activist campaigns, and on top of that their leadership is in the habit of silencing critics and exploiting their membership just so they can support their right-wing buddies. I also oppose more prolific esoteric groups who peddle fascism in their own way, like the Temple of Set (with whom I also have much more issues with them as well) and Become A Living God.

But having established what I oppose, what do I stand for? The answer is, in one word, freedom. In two words, egoistic liberty. I long for a world in which there is no power that can curtail the free expression, cultivation, and self-boundarying of Ownness in each individual. All authorities, all statehood, all class rule, all borders, all manifestations of normative Society, all of the social structures, as instruments of the Demiurge that has ruled and stood atop this ancient freedom for millennia, will be destroyed. People will simply live their lives “naturally” to themselves, insofar as there will be no force directing them to live against themselves. All the prevailing conditions of the world will be overthrown and dissolved, and thus freedom from these conditions is attained. This sounds like egoistic anarchism. Indeed, I am an egoist, an anarchist, a communist, and a nihilist at once. Right now I dwell in the intersection of these concepts as well as ecological politics. To create the world I seek means two things: to see the relationships of a world of autonomy prefigured in the here and now, and to destroy the totality of the world order in the here and now. In other words, anarchy as life and negation as praxis hold the keys to the kingdom of destruction. From this destruction, the world is set loose into an autonomy of reciprocal relationships between people, and once more between Man and Life.

As I see it, this entails a political outlook that is usually placed at the far corners of “The Left”, and yet even that description is fairly inadequate. In objective terms, “The Left” and “The Right” are constructs that, although generally abstract, derive their existence from their relationship to Capital in the context of their origins in the French Revolution. There’s almost no way to actually derive universal objective content from them, or a universal standard for what makes someone a “leftist”, but between “The Left” and “The Right” it may be possible to assess some vague core for each. “The Left” is simply a collection of ideologies defined only by the fact that all of them believe in some means of the socialization of politics. In bourgeois politics this typically means people who want to socialize the wealth of bourgeois society through the downwards redistribution of wealth, while in the broader context of “Socialism” it pertains to a broad idea of the public ownership of production, by any number of definitions. The most radical expression of the socialization of politics is to be found in the axiom found among many communists and anarchists which proposes that everything is to be owned universally, without the division between the state and the proletariat. Egalitarianism in the context of “leftist” politics means the socialization of the political franchise in that the whole mass may share this franchise, typically still within the context of the logic of democratic statehood. While one of the many ways “leftists” divide each other is on the subject of whether or not another is “really” a “leftist”, the reality is that, so long as their aim represents the socialization of politics, even the most rank social-chauvinist, insofar as they have the same basic goal, is arguably a “leftist”. This does not make them “comrades”, however, and that realization should attune you to the reality that simply being a “leftist” doesn’t actually make you a comrade or an ally of anyone, even of other “leftists”. Suffice it to say there is a reason that “left unity” is either illusory or arguably undesirable, and in this regard the problem is that there are multiple fundamentally opposed means of acheiving the socialization of politics. “The Right”, on the other side, is that collection of ideologies which is defined only by their interest in the concentration of politics. A very obvious expression of this is the fact that pretty much all of “The Right”, including fascists (even “Third Positionists”), support the concentration of private property in some way or another. In fact I’d say that the fundamental logic of right-wing politics was already authored by the act of enclosure, the confiscation of the commons by the state and its subsequent re-investment into the hands of the property-owning class. Even “anarcho”-capitalists perpetuate this logic to the point that their “statelessness” is nothing more than the concentration of private property at the expense of the very source of its existence. The right-wing obsession with hierarchy as an existential fact and moral necessity further illustrates the concentration of politics as the concentration of political power through the principle of social stratification. Expressions of social conservatism on “The Left” serve merely to socialize the idealised top of the hierarchy of values to be absorbed in every obedient member of the masses. Every Social Darwinist argument made by rightists of both the statist and “libertarian” camps is a way of promoting the hierarchical concentration of politics by naturalizing the existing conditions and constitution of social stratification.

Where does this place me, then? To me, the intersection of communism, anarchism, nihilism, and egoism points to an outcome wherein we see the unfolding of life ungoverned by the structures that emerge from statehood, hierarchy, and capital to restrict the horizons of existence and expressivity. I have come to reject the notion of any hard boundaries or borders between the ideological concepts that I stand behind. Communism is the real movement dedicated to the overthrow and abolition of the totality of the existing conditions. Taken seriously, this means we do not stop even at capital, and so statehood and hierarchy, even “Society”, as key constitutents in this totality, are also to be dismantled. Insofar as communism already means the establishment of classless, moneyless, and stateless conditions, it doesn’t take much effort to see that we approach the conclusion of anarchism. In fact, Pyotr Kropotkin had already understood this. But the abolition of the totality of existing conditions is inherently negativistic, and when deepened sufficiently, active political nihilism makes perfect sense of this goal, in that the whole point is to negate the totality of conditions in order that the new world is born out of the void; thus our aim is what I call the world after the world. I like to think it almost as that beautiful new world that emerges right after the conclusion of Ragnarok. Communism is also egoism, as Karl Marx himself declared in his meager attempt to refute Max Stirner in Critique of the German Ideology. Communist theory, if it is consistent, understands that there is no such thing as “the general interest” or even “the greater good” except for some idea created by the ruling class or society of a given era, and the total appropriation of Man by Man takes on the form of devourment in that alienation is to be overcome by the devourment of all property and production, ridding it of its concentration in privation and labour, in order to make it yours, and thus everyone’s. Remember from Bakunin that my freedom and your freedom are really the same freedom, and cannot be one-sided without it meaning privilege, and so through Stirner my egoism and your egoism is really the same egoism. On this basis the real condition of egoistic freedom is paradoxically a collective individualism, even if individuality rather than the collective is its ultimate source. Society, in this sense, is ultimately an abstraction, a fixed idea, a spook, it has no objectivity and is instead a byword for the various social and productive relationships we enter into in settlement and regulate through norms. The concept of “Society” is thus, in material terms, something we put ourselves but which obscures the real relationships and conditions that comprise it. On egoist and nihilist terms, this might well demand the abolition of “Society” as the fulfillment of the communist demand for the abolition of the totality of existing conditions. Alfredo Bonnano, a fairly notorious insurrectionary anarchist whose work currently informs the nihilist movement, in Armed Joy not only doesn’t oppose his anarchism to communism but instead refers to communism as a need that transforms all other needs, and whose fulfillment abolishes labour and replaces it with the condition of the individual’s complete availablity to themselves and expressivity of themselves, to the extent of breaking from all models, even production itself. And of course, if by communism all we mean is a free association of people who, without the rule of the state or hierarchy or capital, interact with one another to fully develop themselves in any way they want, we might find the Union of Egoists as the highest expression of this idea which fulfills it and brings it back to its dialectical source in the individualistic aspirations of Ownness. From there, it is easy to see the way communism, egoism, nihilism, and anarchism all come together for me. It is also for this reason that I must refuse the label of “socialist” for myself, because in practice, as an idea not confined to Marxist thought, it can mean any number of definitions for “public ownership of the means of production”, including some fairly meager and even almost reactionary forms of statist reform. Besides, it seems like these days anyone can call themselves a socialist.

Since religion is political, and modern politics arguably “religious”, this places Satanic Paganism at the depths of the camp of liberation, its negativity stretching out even to the abolition of politics by politics. That at least is my goal. Unlike many anarchists, or many communists for that matter, I think that there is an extent to which it is possible to prefigure the logic of Anarchy via religious thought in a way that secular thought does not always accomplish. I have seen Anarchy described as a “centerless constellation of relationships” built upon “affinity, trust, and reciprocal knowledge”. A constellation of reciprocal relationships is, at base, the ramifications of the pre-Christian polytheistic cosmos. Even the centerlessness of this constellation is applicable to such a context, as I have shown when discussing the theology of rebellion at length in this article. There’s no fixed hierarchy of power, no fixed centre, no centre that isn’t ultimately altered by change of hand, and reciprocity is the defining feature of the relationships people cultivate with the divine and the world in which the divine manifests. Granted, this didn’t necessarily translate to orchards of Anarchy across time until the emergence of Christianity; if that were the case, there should have been no states and no imperialism based on statehood. What it does mean, though, is that some of the most basic logic of pre-Christian religiosity is pregnant with the potential to prefigure the logic of Anarchy. Indeed, we might well consider how pre-Christian societies in Scandinavia were defined by barely governable decentralised societies up until the later periods where more “classical” central monarchies emerged and eventually led northern Europe into the Christian era.

But even if we can’t accept that all pre-Christian societies were very free, consider the efforts of militant atheism or anti-theism. The simple fact is that state socialist countries, typically formed along the lines of some form of Marxism-Leninism, had a penchant for “freeing people from reactionary religion” by oppressing religious communities, denying freedom of religious association, heavily regulating worship, and conquering lands that were deemed “backward”. To this day, capitalist China (which incidentally is statistically the most atheistic country in the world) still imposes harsh restrictions on religious worship, often persecuting churches and temples for not glorifying party leadership enough, and is currently carrying out a systematic genocide of the Uyghur Muslims. Even in the context of anarchism, there is the often downplayed case of Spanish anarchists who partook of massacres against Christians. The hero of modern secular Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, participated in a genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire against Greeks on the basis of religion and ethnicity. During the French Revolution, pre-existing religion was rejected only to be replaced by a new theistic civic cult dedicated to the “Supreme Being” (God by another name, perhaps less offensive to rationalist sensibilities), and de-Christianizers who were seen as not aligned with Robespierre’s cult were executed. In the Enlightenment, people like Bruno Bauer espoused the idea that people should be required to renounce their religious identity in order to become “free citizens”; today, that basic program is being carried out in China in its efforts to “Sinicize” religious and ethnic minorities. The simple lack of belief in God, or the simply commitment to Reason, has long been assumed to be the foundation of relationships of freedom, but in many ways this seems not necessarily to have been the case. Rather, I think of it the way I think of the ecological crisis. It is ultimately foolish to think that we can simply change the hands of the system, only address its economic conditions, and expect to resolve much. No, we must develop reciprocal relationships with the world, not unlike what may have once existed before; for me, this is part of why the Pagan worldview is so important. Similarly, I am inclined towards the idea that those who can develop a spiritual, religio-magickal praxis of liberatory negativity have the power to prefigure their own freedom, and light the way in their example.

I would say that the embrace of Negativity in a Satanic context is a core plank of the political aspect of Satanic Paganism as much as – no, more like because of – its wider philosophical basis. This is because Negativity in terms of active politics brings to focus the idea that all the existing structures, which carry forth the logic of status quo and assure its reproduction even in any new world, should be dismantled. This, of course, is the total opposite of even democratic socialist thought and a great deal of “dialectics” whose whole point is to preserve the political order, “the shell of the old world”, so that it can condition their grand new world. But the active nihilism or negativism of certain anarchist tendencies is actually perhaps the illuminating perspective on that theme that has stayed with me throughout my life. Death and rebirth, intertwined with one another, darkness the source of light. From the standpoint of active nihilism, death means the negation of the world order, of the compound interlocking structures that comprise state society (and which I call Demiurge), and this negation, thus this death, is the black soil from which the life of a new world may be born – indeed, it is the only place from which it really can emerge. Thus, I link my negativity and active nihilism to a fundamentally Pagan worldview (in which, of course, death is often a beginning more than the end) alongside the negativity of Satanism. But the other aspect of negativity in the political dimension pertains to the lens through which we see the death drive in society as it opens up a window to its contradictions, presenting the shadow of its order as manifest in its inherent structural anxiety.

In baedan, we see an expression of queer negativity that opens the way to a deeper appreciation of both the figure of Satan and the concept of the Satanic as a whole. Basically, baedan argues that, when society positions queerness as a threat to civilization, queer negativity embraces the role of queerness as a destroyer of the norms of civilized society and the undoing of society and the state. This negativity denies the positive counter-narrative offered by liberalism and cousins, which positions queerness as just another part of society, to be represented within the structures and hierarchies of society that representation ultimately legitimates. I find that it is possible to take from baedan that the negativity affixed to queerness is also a window into the contradictions of the social order itself, an insignia of civilization’s own “damnation”, a negative demonstration of the values of a society through its denunciation of what society hates. With this critical methodology in mind, let us heed the whispers of the Devil and delve into the anti-Satanic imaginary common to “Western Civilization”.

The Satanic Panic that swept United States and other parts of the “West” during the 1980s and 1990s, and continues to echoe into the present focused heavily on heavy metal and its more extreme forms, then as now a simultaneously “mainstream” and underground art form. As unfounded accusations of ritualistic child abuse collided with a rapidly growing musical subculture that allowed young men and women to transgress social norms, metal music came to occupy a negative space in the dominant culture similar to that occupied by the co-existing punk scene. Metalheads were unfairly treated because their expressivity stood at odds with traditional notions of masculinity, and vilified by a media and society that accused them of violent devil worship (and occasionally still does). Metalheads were not the only social and cultural deviants to hit with such tropes. For years, fear of homosexuality, bisexuality, transness or queerness was bound up with fear of the Devil and of Satanism, and sometimes this itself was linked to white racism. As an example, in 1994, four Latina lesbians in the US state of Texas were accused of “satanic rituals” and child abuse and incarcerated despite no forensic of any crime. It wasn’t until 2016, following documentary exposure, that the four women were exonerated, and even then only two years later were their criminal records expunged. To this day, you will find examples all over the world of LGBTQ people being accused of corrupting society through Satanism. In the US, right-wing moral panic around Lil Nas X is a rather recent example which is also directly connected to homophobia and transphobia, while the recently more prevalent moral panic around “groomers” is an only marginally more subtle new spin on the trope. In some parts of the world Satanic Panic is given an “anti-imperialist” or “anti-colonialist” twist. In Russia, for example, Pussy Riot was accused of spreading Satanism with the backing of the United States, and during the Ukraine-Russia War similar accusations have been repeated against Ukrainian forces. The very trope of devil worshipping sects as a threat to society, although time and again shown to be an illusion, is time and again reasserted because the order of society is always sustained by some sort of scapegoat. When we take a close look at this dynamic we may answer our central question: what does the Azazel say to us?

The SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) trope is ultimately a modern echo of tropes that ultimately connect back to blood libel, an anti-semitic conspiracy theory which accuses Jewish people of abducting non-Jewish children, murdering them in acts of human sacrifice, and using their blood to cook matzos for Passover. The fact that such acts are considered abominations according to Jewish law seems to never bother the bigots who make such absurd allegations or use them to justify vicious persecutions of Jewish people. But in the context of the medieval Christian society in which blood libel accusations became popular, the operative point was that to be Jewish was, in the eyes of medieval society, a threat to the hegemony of Christianity. Many Jewish people faced attempts by Christians to convert them, often forcibly, and because Christian faith was linked to political loyalty to the kingdom, deportations and genocides (including the Inquisition) were carried out under the justification of insufficient loyalty to the state. This itself is older than it seems. In ancient Rome, Jewish people were accused of corrupting the Roman religion by worshipping a god named Jupiter Sabazios, who the Roman establishment seemed to distrust as a foreign deity linked to perceived enemies of the state, and were expelled from Rome. In Rome we also see the idea of the Bacchanalia as a dangerous conspiracy against the state, in which participants from all social classes inverted social norms and supposedly plotted the murder of Roman officials. Livy’s claims about the Bacchanalia are very likely mostly fantastical, but his assertion that the Bacchanalia attracted women, plebeians, and “men most like women” gives voice to the real anxiety of Roman conservatism: a popular festive cult drew marginalized and dominated people into its fold, women were at least apparently the exclusive priests of this cult, and the popularity of this festivity was a threat to the authority exercised by Roman societal norms.

The negative space in all of this is alterity, alterity that is expressed in the expression of religious identity in a way that did not conform to the order of society. And there is somewhat more to it. You may notice that modern Satanic Panic conspiracy theories also incorporate organisations such as the “Illuminati”, and some others also add the Freemasons, as part of the angle that secret societies control the world and are responsible for everything bad. The Illuminati, as discussed in these conspiracy theories, does not exist. There was a Bavarian organisation founded by Adam Weishaupt which was called the Illuminati, and it was dedicated to promoting secularism with the aim of producing a society free from superstition and “free” from religion, but it was disbanded within only a few years. In the context of the French Revolution, the old Illuminati, despite having been disbanded, was believed by reactionaries to have somehow survived persecution and fomented the revolution in order to destroy the church. Secrecy here suggests danger and immorality, by which of course is meant the destruction of the dominant order of society, and this idea was not invented in the context of the French Revolution. The same conceit animates Roman mistrust of the Bacchanalia, because the Bacchanalia, although fairly popular, was practiced in secrecy. The mysteries themselves were sometimes distrusted for the same reason. In many ways it comes back to the fact that it breaks from the norms of things, and is not so well understood. In this sense, witchcraft is dragged into the conspiratorial imagination. In the pre-Christian world, mistrust of witchcraft was arguably little more than a matter of dismissal by a society that regarded them as either superstitious or unmanly. But in the medieval Christian era, folk magicians, ironically mostly Christian themselves, who practiced arts of healing and the like in a way that the church or the elites (who, themselves, were interested in magick at the time), and were burned en masse for it, and once the call to hunt witches was sounded, anyone and everyone could be burned as a witch. Such thinking seems to have periodically re-emerged in new and sometimes more sophisticated forms since the Middle Ages and now animates modern conservatism and fascism in its vicious moral panics against marginalized people.

Something brings these worlds in common. In India, moral panic against black magick takes a similar form as the others, where the entire practice of Tantra was deemed black magick, and the term Vamachara, or “Left Hand Path”, served as a convienient label for both British colonialists and Indian religious “reformers” to scapegoat religous heterodoxy for the various social ills and the colonization of India itself, while in Britain it became a way for chauvinistic occultists (such as Dion Fortune) and reactionary writers (such as Dennis Wheatley) to demonize those thought of as anti-colonialist elements as well as homosexuals and other “deviants”. Society, throughout its historical phases, defines an extant and “hostile” other in relationship to itself, based on the fact that the other seems alien to itself, and, because the other seems to behave differently its norms, and seems to show the possibility of life outside itself, it either tries to integrate this other into itself, thus taming it, or seeks to repress and destroy it. From our standpoint, if “mercy” and “judgement”, integration and repression, are two hands of the same God, down with God and both his mercy and his judgement. The “other” does not exist to be either repressed or integrated, but instead it is an Ownness that exists for itself, as all Ownness does, and it is the social order we put over ourselves that ensures that we do not understand this. But the negative space that we deal in, again, speaks to the fears of the social order, reveals its shadow, and with it the space of freedom pushed forth by the unravelling of society. For this reason, I position Satanic Paganism in its political content as something allied to the cause of the marginalized, and in this regard queerness is to be seen as a key to the world of negation in which the true Satanist derives the power of liberation.

On Pagan terms, what we moderns refer to as queerness is an expression of the whole range of essencing inherent in divinity. The myths of the transformations of various gods and heroes into their gendered opposites or into different species of animals communicates this matrix of essencing on social and individual terms that comprises the Pagan cosmos. It also tells us thats the whole of society, the whole sum of hierarchical relations that has hitherto comprised it, is not to be trusted and in fact should be uncompromisingly opposed and dismantled. No matter who holds the guard in the prevailing social order, much of the world is varying shades of bad for trans people. Even in more consistently liberal countries, trans people still face restrictions in access to healthcare practically on the basis of being trans, the practice of conversion therapy (which is basically just a way of torturing LGBTQ people) is often still legal, and in some countries your gender identity isn’t recognized without compulsory sterilization. Supposed allies on the progressive side will invent ways of justifying forms of transphobia, which means that, for trans people, it could be argued that nearly the whole political climate of the status quo is societally and structurally against them. Liberation, then, means tearing it all down. This is why Grow Your Future says that, because being queer puts you in opposition to the colonial power of the state, queer liberation means death for state power. As baedan says, queer liberation means refusing to negotiate with the society that regularly both oppresses them and rationalizes their oppression. Therefore society should not, as many leftists including social anarchists (from Pierre Joseph Proudhon to Daniel Baryon), be taken for granted as a value in itself, to be reformed and reproduced, and instead it must be suspended in a process of gruesome critique, of Benjamin’s profane illumination, and ultimately negated. By this count, to be an ally is at the very least to be in solidarity with this effort.

We often wonder about the nature of a world without capitalism, a world without the state, a world without hierarchy, a world in which the prevailing social conditions have been overthrown as communism was meant to accomplish. We often ask for precise plans for how the new world will be organized, typically perfect in nature and whose projected conditions possess complete accuracy. But such plans are actually impossible to give, and I think that some of the people who make such inquiries know this, knowing further that, within the shell of the world as it is, people can only be persuaded to break from such a world if they possess total certainty that order will remain or be improved. In truth, simply consider the matter of communism, or more precisely the fact that even some of modern history’s most strident anti-communists have understood that there is actually no “clear notion” of how communism will be organized, because as one society moves to its next stage of development there is no way of actually knowing what that stage will entail until we actually arrive at it. The short of it is that there is no clear and precise model of how the future will work, and that’s fine; because, as Marx himself said, communism is not a state of affairs or an ideal to adjust to. Even the idea of the higher phase of communism, as set out in Critique of the Gotha Programme, communism is more defined by a general set of conditions that, at least according to Karl Marx, comprised a communist society, not so much an actual organization or plan for how to manifest them. At the intersection of communism, anarchism, nihilism, and egoism, this becomes one more communist insight that is deepened into something more. It is strictly impossible to predict what the world of autonomy will look like with any precision, there’s no way to actually be “scientific” about this in the way that perhaps Engels or Lenin or their heirs would have you believe, and the only way to answer our questions about the practical and moral implications of this world is to not only participate in the cultivation of the relationships of the new world in the here and now but to negate and dismantle everything that comprises the structure of the current order, and thereby confront ourselves with the reality of the new mode of life.

In this sense what we understand as “anti-communism”, in the typical reactionary context, is not properly understood as mere opposition to the falsely-labelled “communist states” of the 20th century, but instead the highest form and most brutal expression of the fear of bourgeois society directed towards the abolition of its own conditions, and regardless of the actual reality of this abolition. You may already have noticed that “anti-communism” in the usual formal sense is not some “apolitical” or ideologically “neutral” force, merely entailing opposition to totalitarianism. It’s opposes communism and anarchism in equal measure because it fears the void of the abolition of existing conditions, it fears the chaos of the new world and the liberation it brings, and the fact that the falsely-labelled communist states were typically dictatorships serves as a convenient excuse to wrap up this fear as a defence of freedom. But it is all projection, because when it comes to authoritarianism, dictatorship, and totalitarian violence, the anti-communists are in no way better than their “communist” counterparts, and in certain cases they’re often much worse. In fact, don’t ever forget that one of National Socialism’s driving impetus’ was precisely a war against communism, and it is communists alongside Jews that are usually counted as the two great bogeymen of Nazism, and so it is for much of the rest of fascism. Much more importantly, though, the “freedom” defended by anti-communism is most obviously not freedom, and “freedom” as they present it is in reality a naturalization of the hierarchies that they deem to be the authentic nature of human being. In other words, what anti-communism preserves is not freedom but “order”, albeit in an abstract existential sense as relative to bourgeois society. Fascism in this setting is an outgrowth of the totality of the structures of imperial and colonial statehood together with the logic of capitalism and the various bigotries that grown with all of that, taking shape as violent, terroristic reaction against any perceived threat to the fundamental order of things. On this basis of fundamental order, growing out from the structures of the totality of conditions which produce oppression and marginalization, fascism embarks upon its ceaseless campaign of oppression and extermination, to subordinate all conditions and wipe out all resistance. This is the reason why the threat of fascism can’t just be contained in politics as usual.

But at this point, we may continue on the final operative point as it relates to anarchism. Plenty of anarchists respond to society’s cry that anarchism is “chaos” by asserting that anarchism is in fact “order”, sometimes with the attendant assertion that it is actually the state that represents “chaos” – a true inversion of the term if there ever was one. I know that the whole “order versus chaos” discourse is often considered cumbersome and even meaningless, but I argue that this changes somewhat when we look less to the fixed categories of “order” and “chaos” in themselves, the way that Jordan Peterson and his ilk often do, and instead focuses on what these concepts really communicate to us. In other words, what do “order” and “chaos” say? What are you afraid of when you say that anarchy is the collapse of “order”? By “order” do you mean statehood, the thing that like all of political organization is upheld by violence? Then even though freedom may indeed be as terrifying as philosophers say, “order” is surely worse. Those who benefit from the protection racket offered by the state have no idea what its order bases its existence on, while those who bear the brunt of state violence, especially abroad, feel the brutality of state power and its fundamental basis bearing down on all who oppose it and all who the state wishes to destroy. The “order” of all statehood is built on an atrocious chain of sacrifice, and the whole history of civilization effortlessly reveals this to be the case. On the other hand, if by “order” we mean what the Greeks meant by “kosmos”, then it should be said that “kosmos”, from its root words “kome” or “komeo”, suggest nothing but the continuous embellishment engendered by the growth of life, and of course, even if embellish we must, then each embellishment is replaceable. Or perhaps we might well do without.

But what to make of the proposal that anarchy itself is order? For one thing, this would entail that statehood is “chaos”, and such an idea flies squarely in the face of the fact that statehood and hierarchy are conditions of administration, management, and instrumentality embodied and enacted through nested ranks of authority. There is nothing chaotic about it. The violence that supports it, along with the fluctuations of the market under capitalism, must all seem like a frenzy of disorder, and I’m sure that’s how many Marxist theoreticians have made it out to be when they mistakenly speak of the “anarchy of production” (how foolish it was for Engels to assume that private property lacked hierarchy!). But in reality, these are conditions set by the administration of the totality of conditions. That said, if anarchy is “order”, what does that mean? What makes “social self-rule” “order”? Is it simply out of some utopian idea that every function of state administration, of the current order of things, can simply be mimicked by the masses without the state, or even just without it being called the state? Or is it like the way Daniel Baryon talks about anarchy as some kind of “immune response of the species against all hierarchical parasites”, thus assuming that society not only has objective existence but essentially functions as an organism and that hierarchy is merely some external “parasite”, as though this is not simply a repackaging of fascist thought? All of these strange concepts seem to spring forward from some need to assure the world, under the watchful eye of state and capital, that “chaos” will not befall the world if we finally destroy the source of its oppression. But if that’s the case, what really is “chaos”? Nothing but the void of statelessness, nothing but the absence of some greater structure or chain of structures being put over us, nothing but the ashes into which we form ungoverned relationships, nothing but wildness and desert, and it absolutely terrifies us only because we have absolutely no idea of what that looks like. But that’s just what freedom is, it’s just how it is when you have no control over how everyone will act, no instrumentality over them.

And so the politics I espouse, and which I attach to Satanic Paganism as I see it, is one that carries the art of profane illumination to its highest heights, cutting through anything that seeks to obscure the goal of achieving the condition of liberation and ecstatic self-rule in the free, stateless, classless, moneyless, and, yes, (arguably) structureless association of all individuals in their own egoistic development, by the negation of the state, capital, hierarchy, and totality of the existing social conditions. In this, the example is none other than Satan, and in the descent into the arrheton of negativity that, in addition to the already established religious significance, takes on the profoundest political significance. As far as I am concerned, nothing else really suffices. But, you’re free to disagree.

Conclusion

So, after all of this, we can at least establish a summary of Satanic Paganism, reiterating much of what I have said. It is individualistic not only in its ideological content, but also in that it is a distinctly personal approach, one that I don’t think is (at least entirely) mirrored in anyone else. It upholds Negativity at the center of its spiritual philosophy, through which it understands the many contours of Darkness. Darkness here is the key to highest and most noble mystery of the Pagan worldview, and the liberatory power of Satan and the adversarial quality of Satanism. It is an anti-teleoglical philosophy, it is a worldview that grounds rebellion in a restless ground of being and the ceaseless growth of life, and grounds apotheosis in not only the enactment of will in the world but also the determination to step into darkness in the sense of the ineffable. My creed is a negative creed, all things considered. But that is the essence of what gives it its meaning and power, and, frankly, deepening the understanding of that negativity is responsible for my renewed sense of place, as though I am what I was meant to be or on the cusp of such.

The last thing I would like to do in communicating Satanic Paganism is present an alternative narrative of the “fall” of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. This narrative, I feel, is most central to the weaving of the Pagan worldview with Satanism and the legacy of the Left Hand Path, and I saved it until the very end of this article for exactly this reason. Traditionally, at least as far as the Old Testament is concerned, the serpent is not Satan, though the New Testament redefines the serpent as Satan by referring to Satan as the “ancient serpent” or “old serpent”. As far as Satanism is concerned, though, perhaps the serpent may as well be the Devil, at least in that this is the identity it takes on in the Satanic context. Anyway, we all know how the story goes. Eve encounters the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and the seprent tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit; Eve tells the serpent that God said that whoever eats the fruit will die, the serpent tells Eve that she will not die and instead become a god, and then Eve and later Adam eat the fruit. Adam and Eve did not die, at least not from eating the fruit, though they did end up getting cast out into the world of death and toil, but the serpent was right in the end: they did join with the gods. In Genesis 3:22, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit and their punishments were decreed, God said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”. “One of us” is the operative part. Certain biblical commentaries make explicit that it’s not referring to the angels, but instead suggest a reference to the “Divine Persons”. To me, it is obvious that “one of us” means the gods. It’s later in the Bible that God establishes in the form of explicit commandment that the Israelites should worship no god except God (Exodus 20:3), and in Psalm 82 we see God presiding over a whole council of gods and judging them, and these gods are accused of ruling unjustly and allowing wickedness to spread. My narrative, then, is thus: the serpent was calling on Adam and Eve to defy the orders of God in order that they, and the whole of humanity, can begin the road to apotheosis, and begin joining the community of gods, knowing god from evil and living forever in divinity. God, of course, does not like this at all, clearly he finds Adam and Eve joining the community of gods to be some sort of threat to his authority. Since he likes to keep his authority over creation, he punishes Adam and Eve, and since the gods always seem to challenge Yahweh’s authority, he punishes and proscribes them too.

The serpent itself is a symbol that encapsulates so much of what I’ve talked about. A creature that sheds its skin and, in so doing, appears to have died and been reborn, the serpent is a sort of archetypal symbol of death and rebirth. Indeed, Jake Stratton-Kent recognizes the deifying power of the underworld as taking the form of a serpent. Greek heroes were worshipped in the form of serpents, as were some gods. In Mesopotamia, serpent symbolism connects to the fertility beneath the earth in the form of the god Ningishzida, who is often depicted as serpents. In Japan it was sometimes believed that the gods, or kami, took the form of serpents, while certain forms of Buddhism regarded serpents as the “true forms” of the gods. Taking on board this rich symbolism, the serpent of Eden emerges as representative of the call of the mystery of apotheosis, the whispers of the power of Darkness, of the underworld, compelling mankind to take the plunge to take up the community of divinity by defying authority, undertaking the mystery, and partaking the war of all against all (rebellion). And so the serpent Satan calls the human species to rebel so that the human species may become divine, or perhaps realize its divinity. And having eaten the fruit, there can be no going back; or at least, not for those seeking freedom. There are many spiritual worldviews who hark back to the garden, back to the ideal state preceding the so-called “Fall”. But this to me is a retreat. It arcs towards an easy answer for the human condition that inevitable evokes some notion of prelapsarian, homeostatic order and harmony. Satanic Paganism does not support such a position, knowing that in embarking the road to apotheosis we have already abandoned Eden. And let me assure you, Eden is not a synonym for Wildness. On the contrary, as a garden Eden is an enclosed space, with boundaries separating Adam and Eve from the wild lands in which death and toil were to be found. Amidst the chaos and wildness of the world, Eden is order itself, it is a haven of stability whose comforts are enjoyed so long as God’s absolute authority is agreed to and you obey God’s commands. Naturally, the order of Eden is something to be rejected, to be walked away from, or indeed to defy and willingly accept being banished from on behalf of your own freedom. In this sense, by eating the fruit and condemning themselves in the eyes of God in order to become gods, Adam and Eve, whether they knew it or not, sacrificed themselves to themselves, bringing forth death and apotheosis. And so, like them, like Odin sacrificing himself to himself for knowledge, like the death-and-rebirth of the Mysteries, like Satan willingly embracing the Fall on behalf of his own freedom, our ethos is thus: the only self-sacrifice we partake is that we sacrifice ourselves to ourselves.

Our praxis is a daemonic praxis. The shadow of religion is the source of our power, the alterity of it all our light, and as far as we are concerned the true ground of the value of religious life and experience. Be wild, be free, be negative, be unchained, be yourself and the void of yourself. Enjoy partaking in religious thought and life, question the strictitude and normativity of religion, take in the good of the sacred into yourself by imbibing, question and defy religion as long as it stands in the way of Ownness and life, dance in the interstices and the shadows, bearing the fire of the void on the road to apotheosis – the road to the world of the gods…to the wonderful ecstasy of deathless liberty!

Hail Satan, Hail Darkness, Hail the gods of old, Hail to wildness and nature, Hail the mystery of death and rebirth and the kingdom of shadows….

An inquiry into the philosophy of Darkness

There are many many more shades and colours to darkness than just black.

– Martin Eric Ain (1967-2017)

I would to take the time to elaborate, as best as I can, an inquiry into the concept of Darkness as an essential postulation. What I mean by this is that I aim to present the contours of a concept of Darkness as a thing itself, in no way subordinate to Light, not even as a lynchpin of certain ideas of cosmic balance. It’s pretty common in certain circles to hear talk of facing and accepting Darkness, but not as a thing in itself, as a force to be reckoned, as anything intractable; no, only so that it may be admitted as part of something greater other than itself, or even merely as an appendage of a greater light. Darkness is something that simply and at all costs can never be afforded the same privileged position granted to Light. Always we are counselled to seek the light. But light is already everywhere, and we find it without seeking. We may step outside by day and behold the Sun and the glow of the day, surely beautiful as it is, or we may saunter into the night and see if anything an excess of light created by our own technical hand, such even that it sometimes obstructs the natural lights of the stars. What is inner, what is “deep”, what is “Other” and “alter” is Darkness, and the fear of Darkness itself speaks pronounces this to us through our instincts even where thought may fail to communicate it.

There is a long heritage in religious thought concerning schism between dualism and what might perhaps be referred to as monism, and all the while we see definite contrasts between two poles both within Christianity, whose spectre has yet shaped a large chunk of occultism, and outside of it. Obviously there is the familiar Christian dualism into which we are inundated and which we are, in many ways rightly, encouraged to overcome. But dualism yet persists, and is the actually existing content of much that we refer to as doctrines of balance. Michael W Ford, for instance, asserts his brand of Luciferianism as a non-dualistic philosophy aimed at apotheosis through cultivating “balance” in the self. But this balance is still a dualistic construction, in that it posits to essential forces, as representative of different aspects of the self, in tension with each other, just that by “non-dualistic” he merely means that one of those forces is not to be privileged over another. Of course, outside of this, there are contrasts where, even where Darkness is not dismissed as “evil”, Light is still privileged above it. This status quo, in my view, cries out for an alternative, for the proclamation of fundamental Darkness. In order to answer this inner and outer demand, it is vital to investigate the concept of Darkness as a fundamental and primary postulation, category, or substance; something that not simply compliments Light, but precedes and supercedes it. It is quite common in witchy circles as well to affirm Darkness as legitimate in itself, though still assert Darkness and Light as existing as necessarily complimentary dialectical poles, both not existing without the other. I, in my inquiry, long for so much more than this.

In full disclosure, this is coming from the perspective of a rediscovery of Satanism alongside Paganism, and part of the purpose of this inquiry involves forging a perspective that binds the synthesis between the two realms. In the not very distant future I plan to elaborate the nature of this synthesis in an article that, though it may seem manifesto-ish, wouldn’t entirely take the form of a manifesto at least by my reckoning. But for now, even in the presently-established context, I will say that much of my intentions for establishing the conceptual nature of Darkness will lean towards the more satanic aspect of that synthesis. I say this because in the process of all of this I intend to touch upon ideas that will allow me to point towards a concrete philosophical-ideological basis for Satanism as a whole that is neither the old LaVeyan/post-LaVeyan orthodoxy of metaphysical rational-objectivism as parsed via Ayn Rand nor the vague progressive humanism of either The Satanic Temple or their rivals, and that project involves the rediscovery of a radical and apophatic concept of egoism. As I wrote this article, I also waded into the discourse as regards nihilism, or anarcho-nihilism, even though I don’t necessarily consider myself one, and it is in view of this that a part of the hopes I have for this inquiry also involve but one way of assessing any philosophical proxmity to nihilism, and that the content I’m exploring may prove a good judge for that.

Dark Materialism and Averse Gnosticism

Starting this inquiry, let’s refer to Georges Bataille’s essay, Base Materialism and Gnosticism, a short discussion of the philosophical content of “Gnosticism”. The central thesis of this essay is strange, in that Bataille seemingly meant to argue that “Gnosticism” was the embodiment of an uncompromising and (from a certain perspective) crude materialism. But even here, there’s something to derive from his argument in terms of an original take on religious materialism. Bataille asserts that the leitmotif of Gnosticism is a concept of matter as an active principle that exists eternally and autonomously as darkness and as “evil”. This darkness is not simply the absence of light, but is rather the prime state of things that is revealed by this absence of light; a “monstrous archontes”. Bataille reckoned that the severed head of an ass, representative of an ass-headed god purportedly worshipped by Gnostics, alongside an overall “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces”, represented the “most virulent” manifestation of materialism. Strangely, Bataille argues that this is more of a psychological expression, rather than an ontological statement of matter as thing-in-itself. Bataille noted base matter as something that external and foreign to ideal human aspirations and thus rejecting any attempt by humans to reduce it to “the great ontological machines” these aspirations produce. In other words, matter, darkness, evil (by Bataille’s terms), these are things that cannot be subordinated beneath any sort of teleological mission or will as set by human thought, and perhaps because of this it bears the name of evil, at least insofar as the Good represents the moral, historical, teleological projections of human thought and its wishes for the world. Fittingly, the materialism Bataille attributes to Gnosticism serves an important philosophical function; to allow the intellect to escape from the constraints of philosophical idealism.

Of course, it is worth assessing Bataille’s overall position critically. This appears to be a broadly psychoanalytical analysis of Gnosticism as he understood it, and in this sense there is much that many Gnostics would likely object to. After all, no Gnostic sect had ever seen fit to worship matter or the archons, and basically all of them viewed the material world as something to be transcended, and spirit as the true essence of divinity in Man that needs to be excarnated from a prison called matter. Materialism, therefore, is something that would not ever be characteristic of traditional Gnosticism. Further, the only ass-headed god we can refer to is the figure depicting in an ancient Roman graffito depicting a man Alexamanos worshipping “his god”, a crucified donkey-headed man usually interpreted as a caricature of Jesus; it’s just that some scholars interpret it as depicting a Gnostic ritual directed towards either Anubis or Typhon-Set. Thus, however, the Gnosticism that Bataille would present is what Nicholas Lacetti refers to as Averse Gnosticism. It is a Gnosticism that privileges matter and the powers of the world over spirit, instead of the other way around. This Gnosticism worships a monstrous Demiurge and a pantheon of similarly monstrous deities as representations of the active and creative principle of matter and darkness, whose representation as monstrous deities befits an incongruity and adversarial nature that Bataille attributes to this principle. The adherents of this Averse Gnosticism make it a principle to never submit themselves or their intellects to any elevated idea that sets itself above them nor to the reasoning that allows for such elevation.

It is fitting that Lacetti connects this idea to the histoy of pre-Satanist ideas about God and the Devil, running from William Blake’s basically corporeal Christ and his apparent kinship with Blake’s Satan to the old French practitioners of black magick and Eliphas Levi’s denunciation of Eugene Vintras as a Satanist. Indeed, Bataille’s more or less psychoanalytical description of Gnosticism corresponds very strongly to Satanism as we often imagine it, to the extent that I would argue that, were it not for the precise absence of Satan, you would identify it as a form of Satanism. I can only imagine what Stanislaw Przybyszewski or Anton LaVey would have thought of Bataille’s idea. Lacetti’s analysis draws comparison to Eliphas Levi’s construction of “Satanism”, and while I think Levi was slandering Eugene Vintras it’s not something to be dismissed conceptually insofar as it clearly informs a great deal of what would come to be modern Satanism.

As Lacetti recounts, Eliphas Levi denounced Eugene Vintras, described his miracles as “satanic”, and accused him of brandishing “the devil’s signature”. This signature composes of three symbols and their explanation is revealing in that it yields both a legacy of Satanic symbology and a set of postulates readily embraceable I’m detournement. The first symbol, we are told, is the inverted pentagram, the “sign of the goat of black magick”, of “antagonism and blind fatality”, of the “goat of lewdness assaulting heaven with its horns” – ah, how many war metal albums have milked that last image in particular. This inverted pentagram is none other than the same pentagram used today by modern Satanists to signify adherence to Satanism, and which the Church of Satan prefers to claim is their symbol alone, and the goat of black magick, antagonism and lewdness whose horns rage towards heaven is pretty definitely Satan. The second symbol is a caduceus, but one without its central line, and in which the two serpents diverge instead of converge and the sign of V, or the “typhonian fork”, stands above them. This symbol, Levi tells us, represents the idea that antagonism or conflict is eternal and that God is “the strife of blind causes which perpetually create by destroying”; as it happens, as Kadmus Herschel has explained, there is a constancy of rebellion locked into the polytheistic cosmos, or at least particularly the Greek cosmos. The third and final symbol is the reversal of YHVH, the name of God, which would thus presumably read HVHY, which Levi denounced as the “most frightful of blasphemies” and which apparently represents the idea that God and spirit do not exist, that matter is the grand totality, spirit its dream, that form stands above idea, woman stands above man, pleasure above thought, vice above virtue, multitude above chiefs, children above their fathers, and “madness” above “reason”. In essence, the sign of HVHY represents the inversion or subversion of all traditional idealism and all traditional societal forms, with a view to their destruction. Taken seriously, this means that hierarchy and coercion are overturned on behalf of freedom, traditional morality is overturned on behalf of individual wants and desires, and the traditional norms of philosophy are overturned on behalf of egoism. Definitely a Satanic premise, and, I would suggest in contrast to the reactionary “apoliticism” of LaVeyan Satanism and to the progressive humanism of rival atheistic Satanist movements, that it is fundamentally an anarchistic outlook.

Of course, it’s worth remembering at this point that Eliphas Levi was essentially a Christian mystic, a common tendency for the utopian socialist movement of which he was a part, and in fact he seems to have identified his own belief system as “Catholicism”. Eugene Vintras, the man who Levi denounced as a Satanist, was also a Catholic mystic, just that he was much more heretical in his beliefs than almost anyone of his time. Vintras believed that the archangel Michael told him of the arrival of the “Third Kingdom”, which was meant to already be present for Vintras and his followers, which meant they were already spiritually perfect. This perfection was the real symbolism of Vintras’ use of the inverted cross, which was meant to signify the end of the “age of suffering” and the beginning of the “age of love”. It’s no doubt because of this, along with Catholic Mass being deemed obsolete and women being officiated as priests, that Levi concluded that Vintras’ heresy must have amounted to full-blown Satanism. But although Vintras was certainly not a Satanist, Levi’s construction of what Satanism presents a conception of Darkness as both an active force and negative condition comprising a multitude of states; strife, rebellion, multiplicity, longing, adversity, alterity, inalienability, and creative destruction, all in one state.

There is in fact one man who, it may be argued, espoused a form of inverted Gnosticism that worshipped a Demiurge and centered around a kind of ontic darkness at the root of the cosmos. That man was a Danish occultist named Carl William Hansen, a.k.a. Ben Kadosh. He was the first man in the world to actually identify himself as a Luciferian, the earliest reference to that effect going all the way back to 1906. That said, the actual belief system given the name Luciferianism can be described as essentially a unique blend of Gnostic Freemasonry, mixed in with Satanic imagery and possibly even an early Satanist edge, worshipping Lucifer as the Demiurge, identified with Hiram Abiff and the Greek god Pan. In his pamphlet, The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or, as I call it, Lucifer-Hiram), Hansen outlines his belief system centering around the Demiurge Lucifer and Pan. He espouses that there exists both an “active material darkness” and an “immaterial darkness” above it. The latter is called “the infinite bottomless” and a cosmic Abyss in which light is born, while the former is described as a “material wall”. The “material” and “immaterial” darknesses correspond to matter and force respectively, which conflict in order that life is created and destroyed and to produce the “Natural Fire”, the cosmic light represented as Pan. Hansen also emphatically rejects the idea of Light having been created before Darkness, describing such an idea as “absurd and a delusion”, and proposed instead that Darkness is the source and the abyss of matter, a position he claimed to have derived from ancient esoteric texts. Demiurgon (the Demiurge), or “Ildabaoth” (clearly Ialdabaoth), is an aspect of that Darkness which forms the basis of reality, and is given several names – Kronon (Kronos), Sheitan, Jupiter, Pan, Ophiocus, The Dragon, Satan. Lucifer, though the “Genius of Light”, is a manifestation of the Darkness, described as the energy of Darkness, the true light which breaks forth from Darkness, who derives his very being necessarily from Darkness. Darkness represents, “the end of illusion”, the unvarnished reality, such that the light of Lucifer is thus the power of Darkness to destroy illusion. For this, Lucifer is the enemy of the church and thus the rebel and “criminal” in Christian culture. The fear and terror associated with what he calls “shadow life”, emerges from ignorance and unfamiliarity, and that by getting used to it the “sinister atmosphere and emptiness” disappears.

Darkness as presented by Carl William Hansen is thus to be understood as an active force, an intractable reality, the source of life and the light to which it is superior. It is the supreme principle of Hansen’s cosmos, though perhaps not in the sense of a supreme being. Darkness creates, Darkness destroys, Darkness manifests as light which destroys illusion, Darkness is either two-fold or one, Darkness refuses anything that seeks to subordinate it away from its rightful place. This conception of Darkness is very familiar indeed to the way Bataille talks about matter in Gnosticism, and in a certain way to Eliphas Levi’s construction of Satanism.

Abraxas by Gordon Napier (2013)

Divine Darkness and Negative Theology

Now let us explore another way of looking at Darkness, one which defines it in terms of the apophatic nature of the divine. While looking into Rokkatru, which is essentially a Left Hand Path brand of Heathenry or Germanic Paganism focused primarily on worshipping traditionally maligned gods such as Loki, Hel, and the Jotun (not to be confused with Thursatru, which is essentially just Anti-Cosmic Satanism themed around Norse mythology and only worships the “thursian” gods), I read the Shadowlight website and came to understand Rokkatru in terms of worshipping “the nature of nature”, which, in this case, is Darkness. Darkness is held to be the underpinning element of reality, a fundamental basis that cannot simply be ignored or moreover acknowledged only to be forgotten. The curious part is that Shadowlight refers to how even some Christians seemingly acknowledge that “the core of the divine is darkness”, citing Christian mystical theologians such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart. Let’s explore such authors for a moment, and what they mean by “darkness”.

A quotation attributed to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite says that the mystery of divine truth resides in “the translucent darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret”. This is probably one of many ways that Pseudo-Dionysius had been translated over the years. A probably more accurate translation may be “The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret.”. But what did Pseudo-Dionysius mean by darkness? In Mystical Theology, he says that divine silence, darkness, and unknowing emerge when one has negated all names, speech, and affirmations meant to describe the nature of God. Darkness, in his parlance, is set beyond light and above intellect, and, far from denoting evil or the profane or even necessarily a lack of light, denotes a transcend unknowing, which is to say a knowledge of God that is not and cannot be attained through discursive reason. Damascius once claimed that the ancient Egyptians had basically the same idea, supposedly they said nothing but instead celebrated it as a Darkness, beyond all perception. Meister Eckhart described God as “utterly dark”, “the darkness behind the darkness”, and “the superessential darkness”. Again, here darkness does not mean evil or anything diabolical, but instead refers to the unknowability of the hidden divinity (God, of course), the eternally nameless mystery within mystery, the nothingness that empties the self and the senses in order to facilitate transcendent knowledge of God. In short, God is dark because he is fundamentally unknowable and inaccessible. For another Christian mystic, Angela of Foligno, darkness was a way of referring not only to moral and physical decay but to a “divine darkness”, which instead refers to power of the divine, or God, to both surpass human understanding and to annihilate the human in an ecstatic divine abyss of oblivion into joy.

All of this is part of a whole tradition of theology known as apoptotic theology, also known as negative theology or “via negativa”. Apophatic theology, in the context of Christianity, refers to the idea that God is to be understood by way of negation, which is to say that God is to be understood properly what God is not, premising itself on the idea that God is so beyond being as to be absolutely transcendent and unknowable, and thus unable to be described discursively. This is in contrast to cataphatic theology, which holds that God can be understood through affirmative descriptions of the perfections of God and his creation. Apophatic theology can seem obscure, strange, and sometimes even downright morbid for some, and sometimes there are those who accuse apophatic theology of practically being a form of agnosticism or outright atheism, but apophatic theology is one of the main traditions of Christian theology, whose influence can be found in many parts of the broader Christian tradition, arguably even down to the early fathers of the church. Darkness, in this setting, is less of an active force in the way that we would derive from Bataille, Levi, and Hansen, and more like a passive quality to be attributed to God so as to describe just how far removed from human comprehension he is. In Satanist and/or Luciferian you sometimes see terms like “luminous darkness”, or terms I prefer such as “bright darkness”, usually serving to denote the union between the previously separated forces of light and darkness brought together in union, in this sense echoing the concept of the sacred marriage (as in hieros gamos) as interpreted in psychoanalysis, or the chemical wedding found in alchemy and likely inspired by the The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. In Christian negative theology, however, terms like “luminous darkness” or “divine darkness” mean something different. Here, “divine darkness” refers to the quality of utter transcendence attributed to God, which is meant to be understood as “dark” because it negates the discursive word and the formal image in its fullness of divinity. Darkness as the space in which God is to be discovered is connected by Gregory of Nyssa to the Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 20:21 in which Moses is said to have approached the darkness above Mount Sinai where God was, as well as David’s statement that God made darkness his hiding place in Psalm 18:11, and to the Gospel of John, specifically John 1:18 in which John testified that no one has ever seen God. In this sense, “divine darkness” means in the Christian context the idea that God is hidden from. Gregory Palamas expressed a similar concept in the term “dazzling darkness”, referring to an “unknowing” that is beyond knowledge and beyond radiance, and from which Palamas said the saints received divine things.

There is, though, a flip-side to this. It is very much arguable that the purpose of negative theology in the broader context of Christianity is precisely to preserve the apparent incomprehensibility of God, in this sense to reinforce the separation between God and the human which then reinforces the hierarchy of the church so as to stand between God and human knowledge. Further, it could be said God’s “darkness” is just as surely none other than light, just that the light beyond light is so bright that it is beyond sight, utterly incomprehensible I’m the sense that blinds human eyes with its brightness. God himself is still conceived in terms of light, suggested by the reference to “the true light” in the Gospel of John meant to refer to God’s incarnation as Christ. That said, Christianity has no monopoly on apophatic theology, and even among Christians it is acknowledged that Christians did not invent apophatic theology. Like much of Christianity as a whole, this idea has its roots in pre-Christian philosophy. The link between Christian apophatic theology and pre-Christian apophatic theology is usually credited to Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who was a major influence on the early Christian movement. Philo argued that, while the existence of God could be demonstrated, the exact nature of God can’t be demonstrated, because God’s essence is beyond all human cognition. Because of this, Philo argued that God could only be described in terms of what he is not, and that God is free from distinctive qualities and is not of the form of Man. Apophatic theology can also be found in the tradition of Neo-Platonism, in which philosophers such as Plotinus and Proclus advocated for the philosophical perception and revelation of The One through negation. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is also said to have represented an apophatic approach to philosophy in that he refers to a deity that is “unapparent”, “unseen”, and “unknown to men”, and declared that the unseen and unknown are better admired than the known.

In ancient Greek polytheism more generally, it was believed that the precise forms of the gods consisted of immortal bodies that weren’t constrained by the normal limits of space, matter, and time, but could not be comprehended by humans except through interpretation, thus the forms of the gods were mediated through mythological narratives and visual representations, which of course changed with culture over time. The implication of such a perspective is that the divine cannot really be understood through the limits of perception and that it may be at least technically “unknowable”, thus we may see an example of apophatic theology as applied to polytheism. According to Verity Jane Platt, such apopthatic theology is probably expressed in Hesiod’s narration of an encounter with the Muses, a group of goddesses who remembered all things and granted divine inspiration to poets. In this encounter, the Muses travel by night, are “shrouded in thick invisbility”, and seemingly capriciously decide when to speak true things and when to speak false things that resemble true things. All representation of the divine must begin and end with the Muses, and the Muses may transmit divine knowledge directly to mortals, but the mortals can never be sure that the Muses are being 100% clear or truthful. Platt suggests that this reveals a gap between divine truth and the human ability to know and express it, which would appear consistent with apophatic theology. In this sense, the Pagan expression of apophatic theology is that the negative and apophatic understanding of “darkness” is not some byword for transcendent quality of the light of one God but instead a description of the condition of Divinity (or The Divine) itself, which cannot be exclusive to a single deity.

“Dance of Apollo and the Muses” by Baldassare Peruzzi (1481–1536)

The Hidden Name of The Tao That Cannot Be Named

Turning our attention eastward, when it comes to apophatic philosophy and Darkness, many aspects of apophatic theology feel familiar to the philosophy of Taoism, whose core premise is that the universe is governed by a mysterious principle known as the Tao, which cannot be described, cannot be named, and can for the most part only be described in terms of what it is not. As it says quite simply in the Tao Te Ching, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. Much of Christian apophatic theology would make essentially the same claim about God: if God can be described, then he is not the true God. Indeed, the Tao, as the source of being, cannot itself be being, which is an argument shared by Western apophatic theology, both Christian and non-Christian. Much more curiously so, the same passage of the Tao Te Ching that I just referenced also says “The source is called darkness. Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.”. What does darkness mean in this context, since it almost certainly has nothing to do with hot Christian culture popularly understands darkness? Some versions of the Tao Te Ching translate “darkness” as mystery. In Chinese, this quality is referred to as “xuan”, denoting the sheer intangibility, impenetrability, and mystery of the Tao. The Tao itself can seem like a passive presence of reality, but the nothingness of the Tao is not “empty” or “nothing” in the sense that we discursively understand those terms. Rather, the Tao also operates the universe in its rhythms and functioning, is itself a process initiating the ceaseless movement and transformation of things, thus it might be thought of as an active impersonal force.

Although traditionally the Tao cannot be named, there is perhaps an attribute capable of describing the Tao: Negativity. Of course, by negativity I don’t mean things like toxicity, despondency, morosity, pessimism and the like (although perhaps I could some day talk about pessimism from the lens of French Surrealism). Instead I’m referring to a concept explicated by Wang Bi, a Chinese Taoist philosopher who sought to produce a radical interpretation of Taoist philosophy that might also be commensurate with Confucianism. Wang Bi argued that the word Dao (Tao) is an appellation of Negativity, that is to say it refers to the concept of Negativity, on the grounds that it is vacant, without substance, and no image can be made of it, and there is nothing that it cannot penetrate or that cannot be based on it. But Negativity also has another meaning in Wang Bi’s philosophy. Negativity is also the ground by which all things are set into motion via dialectical opposition. It is the simultaneous contradiction and interdependence of opposing things that forms the basis of the cosmos. This idea of Negativity is also an important part of how Wang Bi conceptualizes Darkness, or what he calls The Dark (or Xuan). The Dark is a constituent of what Wang Bi refers to as Suoyi, or the “that-by-which”, the ground of being and thus a description of Negativity. The Dark itself is the aspect of both Tao and Negativity that denotes the impossibility of humans to speak of or discern it, but it also refers to the substance from which the subtle and the many emanate, thus it is the font from which the entities emerge. Darkness, then, is both the apophatic quality and creative force of Negativity, a power that grounds the whole of reality.

It is pertinent to note that there were also other Chinese philosophers, and not necessarily just Taoist philosophers at that, who have developed their own conceptions of The Dark. Yang Xiong believed that Darkness, or Xuan, was the source of all creation and the process of their sustenance and origination, and used the term to denote the body of Heaven and the darkness, ambiguity, silence, and indefiniteness from which all creation springs forward. He said that those who understood darkness upheld “the ridgepole of the Tao”, travelled to the court of the spiritual, and took care of the house of virtue. This Darkness is thus a creative force that, when realized in the individual, would allow them to truly cultivate and uphold virtue. Zhang Heng conceived Xuan as the root of Ziran, in other words “nature” or “self-so” in the sense of spontaneity, and the absolute beginning of all things, preceded by nothing. Ge Hong thought that the term Xuan denoted both the origin of nature and all things and a metaphysical oneness that pervades the whole universe. Well into modernity, there is a similar concept to the Chinese notion of Xuan that can be found in Japanese Buddhism, or at least in the modern Zen Buddhism of the Kyoto School. Its leading exponent, Nishida Kitaro, espoused a concept of Absolute Nothingness that he argued was the central locus of place for all things and defined as a creative element of the dialectical negation that is the epistemic source of everything.

“Fishermen on a Mountain Stream” by Xu Daoning (1049)

The Innate Enlightenment of Demons in Esoteric Buddhism

If we stay on the subject of Buddhism for a while, we can discuss another concept of foundational Darkness that hues closer to the theme of Bataillean materialism, and for this purpose we turn to the subject of esoteric Buddhism in “medieval” Japan. One of the major ideas associated with Tendai Buddhism is Hongaku, meaning “original enlightenment”. Originally developed in China as part of a collection of Mahayana doctrines before spreading to Japan, Hongaku is the doctrine which holds that all sentient beings, or even all things in general, already possess the potential for enlightenment or already possess some degree of enlightenment, thus theoretically establishing the potential for enlightenment in otherwise unenlightened and ignorant beings. In Tendai Buddhism, this meant not only that all things, even animals and inanimate objects, were considered to be Buddha in some way, but also that all thoughts and actions, even deluded ones, are considered to be expressions of original enlightenment, without transformation or cultivation. During Japan’s “medieval” period, when Japanese Buddhists were assimilating the various kami of the Shinto faith into the schemata of Mahayana Buddhism, many gods were interpreted within the Tendai tradition as manifestations of original enlightenment, while in other sects they become aspects of the ultimate enlightenment of Dainichi Nyorai. As Bernard Faure has analyzed in Protectors and Predators: Gods of Medieval Japan Volume 2, this has sometimes even meant seemingly demonic deities or entities, including gods who were originally considered to be demons, were themselves manifestations of original enlightenment, and much more. In his discussion of the “earthly powers”, referring to a triad of Buddhist deities consisting of Bishamonten (Vaisravana), Daikokuten (Mahakala), and Enmaten (Yama), all chthonian deities that may share a demonic heritage and retinue, Faure argues that these deities functionally represented a way for esoteric Buddhism to think the “unthinkable reality” of a “heart of darkness”, the “sinister, bloody world” revealed by the deities, that is also rendered the ultimate truth from the framework of Hongaku thought.

This, of course, bears quite a lot of exposition. I suppose we should start with the category of “demon”. I would prefer to devote a separate article to the subject, and some day I intend to, but it’s necessary to explore the nature of the demonic in the context of Japanese Buddhism. Not a lot seems to be said about exactly what a demon is in the context of Buddhism, as opposed to the context of Christianity. The Nichiren Library seems to define “ki”, a Japanese word we often translate as “demon”, as essentially a kind of hostile or negative spirit, described as possessing humans in order to curse, revile, or shame others, or as being external forces that hinder or destroy human happiness. In Rage and Ravage, Faure says that, in the various Asian cultures encountered by Buddhism, demons were feared for their power to cause calamity and misfortune but were not necessarily regarded as “evil”. I’m Buddhism, demons could be converted into protector spirits or guardian deities, but were often regarded as perverse. Just as Judaism and Christianity transformed the gods of polytheism into evil demons, thus forming the basis of Western demonology as we know it, so too did Buddhists condemn many deities worshipped in local cults as demons or evil deities (in Japan, such beings are called “Jashin”). Faure ultimately summarizes the demon in the Buddhist context as “a type of reality that subverts and overflows the structure”, embodying a negativity that is “the very source” of movement and of life and which subverts the “en-stasis” often attached to Buddhist practice.

With that established, it may help us to consider the nature of the “earthly powers” being referred to. Bishamonten, even though he is traditionally venerated as a subduer of demons in his capacity as a god of war, himself originated as a demon and even retained the title of Demon King for himself. Daikokuten, or Mahakala, whom Faure refers to as “Fear itself”, was described in Japanese Buddhist texts as a demon who steals the vital essence of humans and roams the forest all night with a horde of demons who feast on flesh and blood. In Tendai Buddhism, Daikokuten was interpreted as a symbol of fundamental ignorance, hence “great darkness”, hence from his name the “Great Dark One”, but even in this way he, through the Hongaku teaching, came to be an embodiment of the ultimate reality. Enmaten, or Yama, a king of hell and deity of death, was menacing to the unrighteous and benign to the innocent, was seen as the ultimate ruler of the underworld, and was feared for his power to bring sudden death and “cut the roof of life”, the latter of which simply means to cut off ignorance. Daikokuten/Mahakala in particular brings into focus the idea that even the dark, the fearsome, the demonic as a representation of ultimate reality and enlightenment via the Hongaku doctrine. These beings were not alone. Snake symbolism was established both as a symbol of delusion and fundamental ignorance and as a symbol of the gods themselves, and in medieval Japan snakes were even seen as the “true forms” of the gods; as the Keiran Shuyoshu stressed, every deity always manifested as a snake body. As a snake deity, Ugajin thus sometimes embodied fundamental ignorance and the Three Poisons, yet Ugajin also destroys ignorance as a predator of toads, which themselves are also symbols of ignorance. The snake symbolism and its link to ignorance and the Three Poisons is reflected in Aizen Myo-O when he appears as a snake, as well as the god Susano-o and the demon Vinyaka (a.k.a. Shoten). The Keiran Shuyoshu also states that the snake of the Three Poisons dwells within the humand body; “Inside our lungs, there is a fundamentally existing snake body”. All of this, from the standpoint of Hongaku thought, also represented fundamental enlightenment, and the ultimate identity between ignorance and awakening; thus, the snake of the three poisons inside the human body is also the gleam of enlightenment. The wild dance of the demon god Matarajin has him produce the co-identity of defilement and awakening through the rhythm of his drum, as the performance of his acolytes expresses the endless cycle of samsara. Even Mara, the adversary of the Buddha himself, was once interpreted as a morally ambiguous source of reality in some esoteric Japanese Buddhist circles, along the lines of Hongaku thought, before being relegated to his more traditional role as an external enemy.

In this sense, we can parse a way of understanding Darkness as a ground of being for reality and an active force that represents enlightenment just as much as ignorance. The representation of this co-identity by demonic deities accords well with the logic of Bataille’s construction of Averse Gnosticism and the significance it affords to the monstrous deities or “archontes” whose worship Bataille attributes to this constructed “Gnosticism”, thereby presenting a ground of being and of awakening which is thus a transformative matrix of creative destruction and the enlightenment of defilement. There’s also a sense in which we can see applications of this ontological proposition to the politics of egoist-communism. The fifth thesis of The Right To Be Greedy declares that “it is upon this corruptibility of man that we found our hopes for revolution”. In the same sense, the logic of hongaku thought proposes that it is upon fundamental ignorance, perhaps even desire itself, that one may establish the basis of enlightenment.

Staying on Buddhism for a moment, it’s worth touching on the wrathful deities within esoteric Buddhism more generally, as beings like Mahakala appear throughout the world of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. With few exceptions they tend to look like how we might imagine demons. They have vicious faces bearing huge bloodshot eyes and open fangs, long flowing hair sometimes bound by snakes, fiery halos around their heads or aureoles covering their whole body, wearing only crowns and garlands of human skulls and pelts of animal and sometimes even human skin, brandishing skull cups and various weapons in their many arms, trampling over some diminutive adversary, and sometimes having sex with a female deity while doing all of that. Some of these deities, such as Yama, Yamantaka, Simhamukha, and Ganapati (a.k.a. Maha Rakta), have the heads of various animals. Because of their appearance, they are often interpreted as evil demons by people visiting Tibet, leading Christians to declare Tibetan Buddhism to be a form of “demon worship”; indeed, some believe that Richard Nixon denied sending foreign aid to Tibet in part because he found the image of Yamantaka to be obscene and demonic during a visit to Tibet. But even though they may look demonic, for Tantric Buddhists their actual purposes include banishing “demons”, a bit like violent divine exorcists, but more importantly their purpose is to forcefully remove all obstacles to achieving Buddhist enlightenment faced by the practitioner.

Their demonic appearance can be interpreted in a number of ways, none of them really “evil” by our common “Western” standard for the term. Its primary symbolism denotes the idea of “poison as its own antidote”, which refers to an internal processes of Buddhist yoga (no, not those “downward-facing dog” exercises; I mean the actual meditative practice of yoga) aimed at attaining enlightenment. This meant the means by which passions and ignorance are, rather than banished into the ether, transformed into compassion and wisdom. The idea of “poison as its own antidote” rings in accord with the way that Japanese hongaku thought positioned the seemingly demonic deities as we have already explored, and in fact the basic element of “original enlightenment” thought has deep roots in Tantric Buddhism. The Hevajra Tantra states that all beings are Buddhas, their buddha-nature merely obscured by defilement. In this sense, the idea is that all beings are enlightened Buddhas but don’t yet realize it, and the wrathful aspects of the self become transformative and ennobling in their capacity to realize enlightenment. But the appearance of the wrathful deities is also often interpreted as an expression of violence as a fundamental reality of both the cosmos and the human mind. In this, perhaps we might parse the idea of a violent ground of being that extends even into the nature of the interdependence of things. The Indian phrase “jivo jivasya jivanam” (“one living thing is the food of another”), denoting what we understand as the axiom that life derives from life, serves as a deeper articulation of the shadow of this interdependence; if all things arise from other things, if all things exist because of another, this means that life exists because of life in that it derives from other life, and the survival of many life forms, including humans, sustain their existence and generate their flesh from the flesh of other animals and the bodies of plants. To an extent, this means that suffering manifests via the whole network of interdependence, not just caused by desire.

The violent ground of being communicated by the wrathful deities also necessarily points us to the reality of death as a part of this picture, for it underpins a great deal of the legacy of religious understanding, mythology, and symbology. Even in Christianity, death lies at the root of the Christian concept of salvation even as Christianity strives vainly to conquer death, for the very foundation of Christian salvation itself is death, specifically the death of Jesus Christ, which initiates his descent into Hell, his condemnation of Satan, and his earthly resurrection followed by his ascent from earth to heaven. The old theme of death and rebirth found in the pagan worldview echoes even there, but is repurposed so as to suggest the hope that God will defeat the death he himself set into his own creation. In any case, death finds itself integral to the monstrous dialectic that forms one idea of Darkness that is core to our understanding of Darkness as a whole.

Thangka depicting Chaturbhuja Mahakala (Four-Armed Mahakala)

The Power of The Creative Nothing

In returning to Darkness as negativity, I next have my sights on none other than Max Stirner, the grand egoist who, in many aspects, doubles as the grand nihilist. Stirner’s egoism is not like the bourgeois egoism espoused by Ayn Rand and her followers, which centers itself on the sovereignty of a propertied rational subject or self-image. Instead Stirner’s self, his “ego”, is a very apophatic presence. Stirner says things like “I have built my affairs on nothing”, “all things are nothing to me”, and “I am all and nothing”. The self that Stirner espouses is a self that is composed of Nothing. The basis of this Nothing is not the colloquial sense in which we mean “empty”, as in lacking content, but in the sense of what Stirner refers to as the “creative nothing”, by which he means “the nothing out of which I myself create everything as creator”, the nothing from which the unique one is born and into which the unique one returns. Stirner himself doesn’t really elaborate on the nature of the Creative Nothing, but there is an apparent meaning and concept behind the phrase, and Jacob Blumenfeld’s All Things Are Nothing To Me may offer a helpful exegesis. The Creative Nothing is the source of the individual’s ownness, which is Stirner’s way of referred to individuality, or perhaps what we might call selfhood; or, as Stirner puts it, “Ownness is my whole being and existence, it is I myself”, which the individual remains at all times. That condition of ownness is also a reference to the extent to which an individual may create, maintain, or destroy themselves even in spite of constraints, and is thus meant to mean a consistent form of life as a much as a description of the individual. It is also an apophatic quality, defined by what remains of yourself when you all external reification has been torn away. The self, the I, the “ego”, the unique one, it is not reducible to one fixed thing, and cannot come from anything, except from Nothing. The nature of the Creative Nothing could be likened to time, in that time is the “non-thing” that destroys and then creates all things as its own, consumes everything and then produces it as its own, and thus is exactly the power of the Creative Nothing; thus, the Creative Nothing is the force of creative destruction imminent and characteristic of life, of the Darkness of Bataillean matter and Levi’s constructed Satanism, that expresses itself in individuality as espoused by Stirner. The apophatic nature of the individual self is defined by is radical difference, by the fundamental inability to identify each individuality fully and essentially with another, by the fact that the self can be named precisely for the fact that it exists is set apart from others in this difference – to put it another way, to define the individuality of nothing means to establish what it is not; that’s the negative quality of radical difference and individuality. That is why der Einzige, the unique one, is techincally the proper term for that concept of Stirner’s which we otheriwse refer to as “ego”.

The Darkness of the Creative Nothing is a force that manifests as apophatic individuality in its creative-destructive potentiality and its negative power of differentiation. It has no teleological character, and its existence is principally of itself and for itself. It takes in all beings in a way that is in no way identical to each other, and in all it is equal only in that for all it is surely Einzige. The Creative Nothing, as a condition or characteristic of the Einzige echoes the dark power inherent in the universe that expresses itself as the power of negation that produces Ownness, and manifests in multitudinous corporeality, and its active and conscious realization in living beings produces a state of active and conscious, indeed awakened (as opposed to slumbering) or even enlightened (as opposed to unknowing) egoism whose state of being may indeed be what some of us refer to as The Black Flame.

The comparison to time offered Jacob Blumenfeld invites me to consider the lion-headed divinity of the Mithraic mysteries. The exact name and even role of this leontocephaline figure is unknown to us. Certain inscriptions lead scholars to suggest that this figure was called Arimanius, otherwise known as Ahriman or Angra Mainyu, the ruler of the evil spirits and adversary of the god Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism. Other scholars suggest that this being was called Kronos or Aion, both Greek gods of time. A few others suggest that it is Phanes, the primeval creator god of the Orphic mysteries, or Zurvan, the supreme god of an obscure sect of Zoroastrianism. But for our purposes, it’s the symbolism of the leontocephaline god that matters more than what we call him. Scholars seem to agree that this deity was a god of time and change. Franz Cumont, attempting to reconstruct the Mithraic cosmogony, positioned the leontocephaline god as Unlimited Time, which was born from Chaos and created a “holy family” of gods consisting of Caelus, Kronos, and Pluto. It’s possible, though definitely not certain, that the lion’s head may link to the destructive connotations associated with Time in ancient Rome, linked to how Romans understood the god Saturn or Kronos. Ovid referred to Time as “the devourer”, the destroyer that nibbles all things away and consumes them into death, and in this Time was the agent of both destruction and metamorphosis. Saturn himself, the god of time, was considered a devouring god who was “sated” by the years and chained up by Jupiter in the hopes of constraining his power.

The power of the Creative Nothing is a destruction in its own right. It destroys and creates from negation, from destruction, from its own no-thing-ness. In the Orphic cosmogony, it is Time, or Kronos, along with Necessity (Ananke), that gives rise to the creation of the cosmos, the heavens and the earth, and the divine Phanes. The Einzige devours and makes its own, even doing so for the holy and the sacred. The power of Ownness, or rather the power behind it, operates as the force of a truly negative creation that is the true generative power. And Ownness has no teleological drive, in fact the Ownness of living beings often finds itself repressed by the phantoms of teleology. Its only “purpose” is itself, thus its only “goal” is its own endless perpetuation.

Statue of the lion-headed deity believed to be Aion at the Vatican Museum

The Unconscious and the Power of Nigredo

Another concept of Darkness we can explore comes to us from ideas of the collective unconsciousness, or simply the unconscious, as expounded by Carl Jung. A famous quote of Jung’s is that “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”. But what does this mean? The “darkness” in this case is probably a reference to the unconscious or to the shadow, the confrontation, acceptance, and integration of which is central to the Jungian process of individuation. For Jung, the unconscious represented the totality of all psychic phenomenon that lack consciousness. This totality tends to consist of conscious thoughts or emotions that have been repressed, novel thoughts that are not conscious but will become conscious later, and psychoid functions of which we lack and cannot possess direct knowledge. It possesses a creative potential in that has the power to present hidden contents to consciousness, but typically requires the mediation of the ego. In Jung’s archetypalist analysis, the unconscious is typically related to darkness and the forces thereof, and the triumph of light and heroism over darkness and monsters is often related as the “long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious”. The shadow is the term given to hidden or unconscious aspects of the self, typically repressed desires or “uncivilized” impulses but sometimes also includes even “morally positive” traits that have been rendered unconscious – qualities that might vitalize human existence but which convention deems forbidden. Individuation is the process of self-differentiation cultivated through psychological wholeness, the unity of the conscious ego and the unconscious, which allows the individual to bring the world into itself.

It is important to understand that, although Jung emphasized the unity of the two opposites and ostensibly denies that the unconscious is superior to the conscious, his thought suggests that the unconscious predominated and enveloped human life to a profound extent. In his foreword for Lucifer and Prometheus by R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, he states that “in the last analysis, psychic life is for the greater part of an unconscious life that surrounds consciousness on all sides”. This is him saying that the unconscious comprises the dominant portion of the human psychological experience, a fact that Jung believed “is sufficiently obvious when one considers how much unconscious preparation is needed, for instance, to register a sense-impression”. It is this “dark soil of Hades” as Jung put it that is thus the ground principle of psychic life, within which psychic life sinks and from which it arises. It’s a worldview that is also part of a much broader conversation over the merits of rationalism as a way to understand and encapsulate the nature of the human condition; a debate that permeates many fields outside of psychology. German art was sometimes divided between figures like Aby Warburg, whose fixation on what he called “the dialectic of the monster” led him to appreciate a sort of sub-rational unconscious as part of his tragic form of rationalism as a way to understand the image, and Erwin Panofsky, who regarded all fixation on the unconscious as a mistake. That whole split between the unconscious and rationalism has very deep roots in the original split in ancient Greece between the then-new cult of the polis, centering around “rational” ideas of how to relate to worship and political life, and an earlier pre-Hellenistic religious outlook centered around ecstatic ritual and individual expression. The latter of which is decidedly connected to the worship of chthonic gods and spirits, and the chthonic aspect in the later Greek religion that we recognize is defined by Luther H. Martin in Hellenistic Religions as “a response to the spontaneity of the sacred, a voluntary association of individuals that embodied an implicit challenge to the official sociopolitical order”.

Staying with Jung and the connotations of the underworld, we could talk about Jung’s concept of Nigredo and its broader relevance. Jung defined Nigredo as a process of mental disorientation that attends the process of assimilating unconscious contents into the self, particularly the contents of the shadow. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, he talked about how self-knowledge meant a deep inner journey that led to a kind of “mental darkness” referred to as “melancholia”, which was understood as an affliction and/or confusion of the soul akin to the “dark nights of the soul” described by mystics. Jung believed that this was appropriately symbolised by the black raven, which he also thought was an allegory of the Devil for medieval adepts. Though, of course, the alchemists had a different symbol in mind. Jung’s description of the Nigredo more or less lined up with the way the alchemists themselves described it. To them, it was the process of putrefaction that cooked alchemical ingredients into a black substance that allowed for the initiation of a gradual transformation into the philosopher’s stone, which could also be extrapolated as an allegory for the spiritual “death” that preceded the renewal and purification that lead to the realisation of the Great Work. The symbol for this in alchemy was referred to as Sol Niger, literally meaning “Black Sun”. In antiquity, black suns were generally symbols of the power of the underworld in all manner of ways, and served as a cipher for various gods associated with the underworld in some way. So it’s not too surprising to see in alchemy a dark solar image, “the shadow of the sun”, used to signify a greater process of spiritual death-and-rebirth. That Jung links this to an allegory of the Devil is, while almost certainly a historical stretch, not incongruous with the legacy of medieval diabolical iconography, which derived not only from the Greek god Pan but also from a litany of chthonic gods such as Hades and Charun. In some parts of Europe, pre-Christian chthonic gods became local names for the Devil or even the basic concept of demons, such as the Slavic god Veles or the Hungarian god Ordog.

A pre-Christian pagan practice that may line up with the logic of Nigredo can be found in ancient Greek Sicily, in the time of what was known as Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”). In Sicily, Western Greeks practiced a ritualistic descent to the underworld, referred to as a Katabasis, involving the worship of chthonic deities such as Dionysus, Demeter, and/or Kore (or Persephone). These rituals entailed re-enactments of mythological narratives as well as an initiation that put the initiate in a sort of otherworldly experience characterized by the temporary dismantling of everyday self-hood, or “ritual death”, followed by ritual rebirth. Contact with the chthonic gods was in this way part of a process by which the self would “die” and “be reborn”, entailing a dissolution leading up to the moment of rebirth in divine knowledge.

To summarize, Darkness in the Jungian view is like a fundamental Other connected to life, part of consciouness, springing it into being, but lurking in the background of a consciousness that does not yet understand it. It’s something that those seeking individuation have to reckon with in order to achieve said individuation, if indeed that is still their goal. The raw stuff of psychic life, this is what comprises Jungian Darkness, and the focus on which is at the root of what modern spiritualities frequently refer to (whether substantially or otherwise) as “shadow work”.

“A Bacchic Procession” by Hendrik van Balen I (1575-1632)

Satan, The Great Anarchist and Nihilist, and The Satanic Negativity of Anarchist Nihilism

At the very end of this inquiry let us return to our most familiar emblem of the power of Darkness; Satan himself. In the past, discussion of Satan here focused on the literal separation between Satan and Lucifer, so as to establish the difference of meaning between them. But whatever salience that discourse still has, if we assume that this conversation is still to be had then an angle to be introduced is the idea that Satan means more than an executor of God’s will. Defining Satan solely in terms of Biblical myth, especially when the same is never actually done for God, misses out on a much greater significance afforded to Satan as an entity, and in this respect it is important to consider the concept of Satan as the embodiment of negation. Eliphas Levi proposed that Satan is the negation of God, whose true name “according to the Kabbalists” is the name of Jehovah reversed. Levi described Satan as a personification of atheism and idolatry, two things that would indeed negate the Christian faith (a very esoteric form of which, we should remember, Levi ultimately upheld as his own), but for Levi the occult initiate did not see Satan as a personality but instead a force created with “a good object” but which can be applied to evil, and which is an instrument of liberty. Satan, in this conception, is a force or presence that negates God and the faith built around God, and, in this exact sense, the instrument of liberty. This is on the basis of the liberating power of negation. By negating the Supreme Being, by negating all forms of moral artifice and idealism, by destroying all the efforts of one egoist to become the only egoist, Satan liberates the individual and represents the power of Darkness as the active force of liberation for corporeal-spiritual ownness against all reifications. Insofar as Satan’s most archetypical act is his ceasless war with God, beginning from his rebellion and separation from God, and, in some tales, his refusal to bow before Adam, Satan asserts his own egoism and ownness above the sovereignty of God and/or Adam, which is to say their respective egoisms, thus, Satan stands as the primordial egoist, the true example for all egoists, and his force of negation and darkness the power that runs through us. It is this that betrays the true significance of The Devil and of satanic rebellion, not mere reason.

Rebellion itself can be understood philosophically as an act of negation. Fundamentally, rebellion is an act of refusal, which makes it an act of denial. Per Camus, the rebel claims for everyone whatever he claims for himself, and denies for everyone whatever he refuses for himself. Admittedly, in this, it can be said that Camus presents a profound expression of the anarchist conception of freedom as a universal condition as expounded by Mikhail Bakunin. But while Camus was insistent in his opposition to nihilism in its apparent negation of everything that was not itself, in the end rebellion is a negation in itself. While Camus derides nihilism for its negation of all that is not itself, the same description holds true for his rebellion, for rebellion denies that which it does not embrace, thus it denies that which is not itself, and therefore, rebellion, in its erection of boundaries even against “total freedom” by the simple act of refusal, serves, in its own way, as a form of negation, just that Camus dare not locate negation as the divine source of both freedom and rebellion, perhaps out of fear that this would make himself a nihilist and a revolutionary at once. Stirner’s rebellion takes on a different form: the war of all against all. This phrase is familiar to many through the received political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, for whom it referred to a hypothetical (and practicality fantastical) state in which all human relationships disintegrated into a state of ceaseless and mayhemic violence in which people do nothing but abuse, betray, exploit, and kill each other in the absence of government, the state, or authority. Stirner, however, gives it a different meaning. In The Unique And Its Property, Stirner says that the war of all against all begins with the act of seizing and taking what you need. His egoism rejects the premise of private property, whether as something to be accumulated by capitalists or distributed/leased by the state as is the case for at least some forms of socialism, and instead, if anything, holds property to be universal and a matter of the individual or Einzige’s own assumption; put simply, “I alone decide what I will have”. Thus the war of all against all is declared when the poor, instead of waiting for the deliverance of property, rise up, rebel, in order to win the right to own themselves. Stirner says that, however much is bestowed on the poor, they will want more because they want nothing less than this.

Here we may parse Want as a universal condition of ownness, and I would argue the true of foundation of class struggle, which is why social-democracy or progressivism for its “war on want” is to be opposed as the deception and self-denial that it is. Want runs at the root of power and its destruction, because of the root condition of Ownness. I do not desire your order, I want myself, or I want something else. Therefore, I rebel. I do not want your desires, I assert my will against against them, therefore I deny your desires for myself, and in Camusian terms I deny this for everyone, because of Want. Want, then, is imbued with the power of negation among its traits. Seen in terms of the polytheist or Pagan outlook, or at least especially the pre-Christian Greek worldview, the gods are actually in a state of perpetual discord (a state of affairs which, of course, Socrates and others like him tried to oppose with their visions of a perfectly just and united cosmos), and the successive overthrow of previous rulers of the gods establishes rebellion as the core of a cosmos filled with a multiplicity of divine personality and body. Even the gods refuse, deny, go against the will of others, thus negate through the definite boundaries they set in their refusal, and the divine heritage of rebellion echoes into humanity and its inner spark of rebellion. From this perspective it could be argued that the gods cannot expect much else from humans, even if traditional religion even in a polytheistic context has not always fully grasped this aspect of Man’s relationship to the divine.

The dialectical power of negation in relation to anarchism is worth mentioning here. In Occult Features of Anarchism, Erica Lagalisse describes the way that Mikhail Bakunin differed from Karl Marx in their perspectives on Hegelian dialectical logic as applied to the state. Here, we behold Bakunin’s presentation the dialectic as clash between the “Positive” and “Negative” poles of the dialectic that proceeds with their mutual destruction which then culminates in their mutual transcendence, leaving nothing preserved, in contrast to the dialectic presented by Marx (and Hegel), in which contradiction is resolved through not simply the destruction but the transcendence and preservation of the “Positive”, or thesis, via the “Negative”, or antithesis. In application to the state, the dialectic of Bakunin entails that the social revolutionaries are the “Negative” of the dialectic, who then violently overcome the social reactionaries, the state, and the old order of which they are a part, all of which make up the “Positive” of the dialectic, the latter of which is completely destroyed and transcended by the revolution, after which nothing of the old order survives; this is the destruction of the state in a general conflagration. By contrast, Marx apparently believed that the state needed to be realized at its highest degree, which would mean that the state as the “Positive” of the dialectic needed to be overcome, transcended, and preserved in the dialectical process, allowing it to be realized anew in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat as it theoretically projects itself into a communist society; the same basic idea is clung to like a dogma by the Marxists that came after his time, even as Marx himself seems to have presented an altogether different view of the state in The Civil War in France. It is the presentation of Bakunin’s dialectic that is of interest here, because even though Lagalisse presents us wiith a dialectic involving a “Positive” and a “Negative”, the process of Bakunin’s dialectic is negation itself. It is the total negation of the old order, and it is destruction, which, insofar as it is still revolutionary, entails the creation of a new world, thus it is a creative act that is also an act of destruction (paraphrasing Bakunin himself). But this creative power, this creative destruction, and the transcendence it delivers, is only possible as a form of negation. It cannot take place as an affirmation of the old order, because the old order in toto must die and be reborn in the revolution. For the anarcho-nihilists that would later emerge long after Bakunin’s death, this reality of the dialectic of creative destruction perhaps leads them to the understanding of revolution as an act/principle of pure negation, total warfare against the order of the world, but without any prescriptive dogma as regards “the new world”. Satan presents this negation in his ceaseless war against God, the razing of the kingdom of heaven manifesting as the spiritual triumph of the dialectic of creative destruction; God will be attacked and dethroned, his angels driven back to the earth, heaven will burn, and once the old order is completely destroyed, only at that moment can the new take place, and the gardens of Ownness will flourish again with flowers of selfhood. Thus it is not for nothing that Bakunin and his fellow anarchists took up Satan as the romantic-heroic representation of anarchist ideals against God, the church, and the state, and herein lies the true legacy of Satan, so much more than the feeble confines of either Rand or the humanists.

Staying on the subject of anarchism and nihilism, we can get some incredibly valuable insights into negation, creative destruction, and thus Darkness from anarcho-nihilism, communicated specifically through Serafinski’s Blessed Is The Flame. The defining feature of anarcho-nihilism as presented by Serafinski is that revolution, properly understood and insofar as it is still regarded as legitimate, represents “pure negation”, that is to say the total destruction of the prevailing order of things, in the face of the abject dominance of that order and the death spiral to which it is heading and to which mankind remains bound. This means that no great vision of the future can be proposed or proceeded except by this negation, meaning that the new world cannot be born in the shell of the old. What Bakunin said about creation and destruction is extended into the axiom that the primary aim of anarchism as a whole is negation, which is to say that the overriding goal of anarchism is the destruction of all systems of domination and all that constitute them. This negation is radically emphasized over the defining of anarchism by any number of “positive programs”, which is to say any ideal for how the new world should be, within the existing order. As members of the CCF said, “the deeper we destroy, the more freely we will be able to build”. This essentially means that any and all hope of constructing a new world could only be preceded by the absolute negation of the old world. Negation in this worldview is justified precisely by the existence of its object – the ruling order – and not any attendant positive structures, which exist for the purpose of survival and not negation, and from the anarcho-nihilist standpoint this negation is at the core not only of anarcho-nihilism and not only of anarchism itself but also of all anti-capitalist politics. The contrary stance, that anarchism is not negation, is interpreted as hiding real intentions to no practical or moral end. The property of anarcho-nihilist negation is also jouissance, the quality of enjoyment or joyfulness that manifests as “uncivilised desire” and the richness of life that emerges from the act of resistance. Jouissance is something that cannot be measured against risks, rewards, or results, and cannot be measured as a teleological goal, rather it expresses itself in itself, through resistance and wildness in, of, as itself. It is like ziran in its self-so-ness. That is the anarcho-nihilist emphasis on the act itself. Strength, that is to say the strength that emerges from the refusal to bow and the capacity to destroy oppression, emerges as jouissance from the will to simply fight, regardless of victory or defeat.

In this, Negation is the true source of life, and is hence a creative destruction. Destroying the old order down to its last vestiges, without yielding to the concept of futurity or the idea of a rational struggle for human progress, alone leads to creation as a jouissant phenomenon. The new world is not born in the shell of the old but in its ashes. Darkness is that timeless power of negation which is the true source of life, and even the brightest lights. It reduces things to ash and nothingness and is in this destruction the source of the potentiality of creation that gives rise to life, thus life itself. In Darkness, creation and destruction are indistinguishable from each other. Satanism itself contains this wisdom, and when Stanislaw Przybyszewski emerged the critics of Satanism knew it. Constantin Ponomareff, for instance, had observed “liberating impulses for renewal” in what he called “the intrinsic nihilism of the symbolist sensibility”. He may have been describing an apparent fin-de-siecle artistic/romantic Satanism found in the Decadent movements in Russia and Poland, among the latter of which we find the first self-declared Satanist: Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski’s Satanism has certain elements suggestive of a broader nihilist outlook, perhaps familiar to the anarcho-nihilism previously discussed. In Satan’s Children, the character Gordon opposes one of his comrades for his desire to build a future directed around “socialist principles” by suggesting that it was better to destroy the order of the world for the sake of negation, as is suggestible by his statement that Napoleon would have been a god (or more accurately a Satan) to him if he had overthrown kings without instating new ones and dissolved the order of things without creating a new one. Satan is described as “the God who speaks through the deed, and incites the deed”, from which we may gather that Satan favours and is expressed through acts of liberation (hence, negation) in themselves and not their teleological significance. In The Synagogue of Satan, Satan is established as the great liberator and God the great oppressor, but in this Satan is not merely the author of science and all the great “humanistic” arts and virtues but also the god of lawlessness and defiance in themselves. Przybyszewski’s conception of Satan and the “evil” (and for him evil is affirmative) he represents possesses a further agonistic quality, the darkness of the soul linked to the presence of pain and the absence of happiness, suffering and dissatisfaction linked to progress and evolution. Satan is also an abject embodiment of sexuality, which for Przybyszewski is also the engine of human creativity and individuality, and sexual desire is framed as both the eternal creativity and the remodeling-destructive. In all of this Satan as presented by Stanislaw Przybyszewski represents the force of creative-destruction and negation expressed as cosmic anarchy and lawlessness, all natural to humans and the driving force of the growth and freedom of life.

Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism hues very closely to the Russian nihilist movement that emerged in the late 19th century. This nihilism tended to mean a political and social belief in the negation of all social authority. In Ivan Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, a nihilist is defined as someone who “does not bow down before any authority, who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in.”. It also seems to have been a term used to refer to a broader philosophy of epistemological and moral skepticism that was developed in Russia at that time. The young Russian nihilists were completely against the traditionalist establishment and also disappointed with the progressive reformists of their day, and so they found themselves opposed to both at once. Nihilism has been characterized as a demand for “nakedness”, meaning the “stripping from oneself of all the trappings of all culture, for the annihilation of all historical traditions for the setting free of the natural man, upon whom there will no longer be fetters of any sort”. That basic idea accords well with Przybyszewski’s concept of the “naked soul”, a pure soul or self that is stripped of all social constraints and which he believed was accessed by artists who managed to transcend normal cognition and the five senses. It’s also an idea echoed by anarcho-nihilists to this day. In fact, the Russian nihilists themselves, such as Sergey Nechayev, were uncompromising in their opposition to both the state and the church. Other anarchists have taken up support for nihilism in Russia and beyond. The Russian anarcho-communist theoretician Pyotr Kropotkin, in his Memoirs of a Revolutionist, defended nihilism from being construed as terrorism, and argued that nihilism was an affirmation of the rights of the individual and a negation of all hypocrisy, and because of this a “a first step toward a higher type of men and women”. Encyclopedia Britannica likely interpreted this stance as Kroptokin having “defined nihilism as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy, and artificiality and for individual freedom.”. In Italy, the individualist anarchist Renzo Novatore frequently called himself a nihilist on the basis of having defined nihilism as negation, meaning of the negation of “every society, of every cult, of every rule and of every religion” and the rejection of all retreat from life as it is. The negation inherent in Mikhail Bakunin’s precept of the unity of destruction and creation and his statement “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life” has sometimes been argued as the influence of nihilism upon Bakunin’s thought. And of course, how can we forget Max Stirner, who set his affairs on Nothing. Although anarcho-nihilism is itself its own tendency defined by a set of ideas about anarchism and negation that distinguish it from the “mainstream” of contemporary anarchism, in all reality nihilism has always been sort of a part of the history of anarchist thought and at least some aspect of it makes anarchism as a tradition of political philosophy what it is. Many founding figures of anarchism were never big opponents of nihilism, and at least some actually supported it. Ultimately, thought, what matters about all of this is the tradition of negation, in an active political and philosophical sense, that lies at the core of nihilism or anarcho-nihilism, and the extent to which it relates to the concept of Darkness that has been discussed at length thus far, to Satan, and to Satanism as a living concept with a radical heritage that extends past the claims of authority established by Anton LaVey and his acolytes.

In the admittedly very Christian-influenced tradition of Western occultism, Satan has almost always represented the power of negation. I have already outlined Levi’s views on Satan as the principle of negation, and how this was the true nature of his role as instrument of liberty. Stanislas le Guaita, a French occultist taking after Eliphas Levi, presented an inverted pentagram with the goat’s head in his book The Key to Black Magic. He described the original pentagram as a symbol of the “Magician of Light” that “transmits the power of the Divine Plan”, and described the inverted pentagram as “nothing more than a symbol of iniquity, perdition, and blasphemy”, whose horns rise from the mud to attack heaven. This subversion, of course, can be thought of as necessarily a negation of the “Divine Plan”. Ideas about Satan as “the eternal negation” are not uncommon in mysticism as well as religious and literary commentary. Among the literary tradition of Romantic Satanism itself, Lord Byron’s Satan, or rather Lucifer, as he appears in Cain tells the titular protagonist that the sum of human knowledge is “to know mortal nature’s nothingness”. In Ernst Schertel’s Magic: History, Theory, and Practice, we find a conception of the “satanic” not dissimilar to the ideas of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, in that Schertel casts Satan as a creative, “value-setting”, “value-increasing” principle, a “fertilizing, creative-destroying warrior”, set against Seraph, the resting, preserving, “value-effecting” principle, the spirit of possession and peace. The “satanic” is described as meaning “kinetic”, “actuality”, “ektropic”, or “free energetic valence”. In theory, this can sound like the opposite of negation, but Schertel insists that “Evil is the dark-violent, irrational, destructive-creative”, that this is the principle of Satan, and, citing Schelling, this principle is “nothing less than nothing else but the original cause of existence, insofar as it is striving towards actualization in the created being”. Hell in this view is the “pre-world” of pure potentiality, the power of evil being the raw potency that, in Schertel’s view inexorably arcs towards the created world of Seraph. Such is the meaning of that cryptic phrase “Satan is the beginning, Seraph is the end”, but the latter is not greater than the former and Satan is in everything that lives and appears, lying in the depths that he might break through again. Thus darkness, thus Satan, thus an unreasonable depth is the source and heritage of reality and creation. Satan, then, is a sort of “ground of being” for the universe.

A more literal interpretation of Satan parsed from the source material of the Bible would position Satan as an entity as The Satan, a title for a generic adversary or the name of an angel in God’s court charged with the prosecution of mankind on his orders. This, admittedly, is an interpretation I held when I was more attached to Luciferianism in particular, which obviously required a strict distinction between Lucifer as God’s adversary and Satan as God’s angel; but of course, the reality that approaches me nowadays is not so straightforward in view of history. From the New Testament’s hint of Satan as a larger and less tangible force against the work of God, to the occult legacy of Satan as a force of negativity, there is always more to Satan than appears in any static literary form. And since I’m still talking about the concept of Satan as negativity, let’s assess his role in the system of Kabbalah, or more particularly his place in the Qliphoth. The Qliphoth are the “impure” forces within creation born from an event referred to as “the breaking of the vessels”, caused by the overflowing of the light of Geburah. Their function is seemingly to continually perpetuate destruction through their contact with and enveloping of the seed of God’s creation, and in Western occultism they are collectively referred to as the Tree of Death, the reverse or “other side” (Sutra Ahra) of the Tree of Life. Satan, in this arrangement, represents Thaumiel, the inverse of the sephirah Kether. Whereas Kether represents the singular and indivisible unity of God, Thaumiel represents the aggressive tension between two poles that suggests intractable conflict instead of indivisible unity; whereas in Kether all is united, in Thaumiel all is divided. Satan, alongside Moloch, can be understood as the Prince of Division (to paraphrase Guy Debord), and their presence emblematic of a warlike urgrund or concept thereof meant to contrast with the divine urgrund of God’s unity as presented by the system of Kabbalah.

“Satan in Council” by Gustave Dore

Conclusion: Towards A Theory of Darkness

So, we have traversed many ideas of how to look at Darkness in this article. What can we learn from them so as to summarize our conception of Darkness? We might be able to parse from all of this a concept of Darkness as an active-negative force that serves as the urgrund of authentic creative process. Darkness might also be thought of as a condition of negativity in a broader and more abstract sense, as well as active negativity, that negativity which destroys and then creates in the ashes of the destroyed. Darkness inasmuch as it relates to “the demonic”, accrues a “monstrous” quality via its negative power, in that it is, in an apophatic sense, not “the light”, but also in a more active sense a destroyer of the fetters affixed to “the light”. Because of the consistent themes of philosophical negation and negativity I have been able to parse from these diverse conceptions of Darkness, it may in fact be prudent to understand negativity as the primary characteristic of Darkness. Of course we probably shouldn’t overlook the idea of Darkness as mystery, as denoting a kind of quality of occultation and alterity. This aspect of negativity, drawing from the apophatic quality, might position Darkness as the Other that is presented via the Jungian unconscious. But then Darkness is not entirely other, in that haunts us as the soil of life and the engine of our very selfhood. Perhaps we could look at it as a compound concept.

Insofar as we may discuss the concept of a violent – no, the better word is perhaps wild – ground of being, parsed from Esoteric Buddhism and Satanism among other sources discussed here, I think it is actually worth considering if it is not more worthwhile to treat it as somewhat broader than Darkness in the strict sense, a conception of Chaos in the sense that I might have thought about for a long time. But it’s worth noting that Chaos in the world of the ancients was more specifically a pre-state of formless and undifferentiated potentiality, or an original state of jumbled matter, than the dialectic being described here. Perhaps the question of Chaos, and indeed Wildness as a concept, is best saved for separate articles, though perhaps it is also worth considering that multiple principles of this nature operate rhizomatically in multiplicitous cosmos. The dialectic of rebellion in conjunction with violence presented in my treatment of egoism, hongaku thought, interdependence, and Satanism, may in fact point to that dialectic comprising a greater abstract force to be dubbed perdition, whose emblem, at least as far as Western occultism is concerned, is none other than the goat and its pentagram, and hence Satan. No doubt this conception should provide depth and charge to Satanism as a creed and worldview, especially insofar we may say that perdition is the only true “law” in the universe, but it also calls upon a heritage of pre-Christian concepts such that I will argue that it may constitute at least part of a Pagan worldview. We can refer what I have discussed earlier about the rebellion inherent in the Greek cosmos, we may also refer to the dialectic of successive conflict that proceeds the creation and destruction of the North Germanic cosmos, and perhaps there is still more room to consider Mesopotamian cosmos similarly.

In any case, as long as we are at this point, and we have some idea how to establish Darkness as a concept, even if possibly a compound concept, there is but one elephant in the room: what to make of Light? I feel like that ought to be its own article, but in the sense that opposites attract it is fitting I try to address it to some extent here. If we relate Darkness to the source of things, to a concept of a negative ground of being, then light is one of the things that issues out from it., eventually sucked back in, and eventually re-emerging, and so on, and so forth. What we understand thematically as “Light” is often tied to ideas about consciousness, which society and countless generations of philosophical thought set against the impenetrable unconscious, and this consciousness itself owes its existence to the chain of creation and destruction set by that same ground of being, and derives its sense of self-awareness from that same impenetrable unconscious. In thinking about it for this article, I have sometimes thougt about Light in terms of the way Guo Xiang, yet another ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher, talks about “traces”. A “trace”, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a footprint of an original actuality, an echo of the original self-so or spontaneity that we may read as the original self-so but which is ultimately not the original self-so or spontaneity. But when a person comprehends the traces, they don’t comprehend their origin. Laws, for example, are what Guo Xiang regards as traces of “marvellous events”, and the latter is to be proclaimed over than the former. Darkness, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a way of referring to the original spontaneity preceding the “trace”, such that his concept of “darkening” means to dissolve trace-cognition so as to harmonize yourself with the original spontaneity and self-so of the original Wu, or Non-Being. The dark spontaneity of Non-Being, originary spontaneity, leaves traces that suggest teleological will and light, which must be surpassed in order to grasp the original spontaneity. The discussion of Being versus Non-Being is not irrelevant here in that light, if it corresponds to anything, probably corresponds to Being, like the concept of God, and darkness with Non-Being. But if Being proceeds from a ground of being, theoretically that would make Being dependent on that ground as its point of origination. Philosophers like Tillich would posit that God is this ground, but God is just one more Being, one more consciousness, one more light, his creation one more trace of the spontaneous power of Darkness.

Light issues forth from Darkness, not as a binary opposite to some equal and antagonistic power (or at least, not antagonistic outside the sense that Light sets itself against a Darkness it feels it must vanquish or dominate), but was one of the countless products of the negative ground of being, the creative nothing of the universe, in the same way our selfhood and any fixed ideas about ourselves are mere traces of the creative nothing that is our “true” selfhood. There are lights out there, that is there are things that produce light, ourselves included, but they are small parts of an infinite larger field of cosmic being, a field whose source is dark instead of light. To alight the Black Flame is to take up the creative nothing of ourselves, the inner negativity of life, and the shadow that is other and inward to us, as the active force of our being and power, to activate the true nature of ourselves and of things. It is to hold ourselves to the root, as Wang Bi said, that is to say we hold ourselves to Darkness, wield the power of negation, with our eyes alight with the light of profane illumination as Walter Benjamin saw it, against all of the illusions before us. The enlightenment that proceeds from this, from our depths in the underworld, this light of our profane illumination, that is the true dark sun in us.

“Abyss” by Denis Kosyakov (2012)

Chaos, nihilism, and the way of “No Surrender” (or, In defence of the Chaos Star and the Nihilist-Anarchists)

I will say that I am not a Chaos Magician, but I don’t think one necessarily needs to be a Chaos Magician in order to recognize the Chaos Star, also known as the Symbol of Chaos or Sigil of Chaos. The basic shape is eight-arrows pointing outward from one central point, meant to signify all possibilities expanding outward. In Chaos Magick, this star is often interpreted as a signifier for the endless potential of all action launching in all different directions instead of pursuing a fixed path. But, the Chaos Star is also one of a number of esoteric symbols that have been altered and recuperated by fascists as representations of their movement, leading some leftists to declare that the Chaos Star is itself a fascist symbol, despite the fact that it was a non-fascist symbol invented by a man whose own political convictions put him completely at odds with fascism. And recently, this has resulted in an entire tendency of anarchism, namely the nihilist anarchists, being tarred over the use of the Chaos Star in an image declaring the nihilist-anarchist position. Both anarchists and presumably Marxists take turns saying both that nihilist-anarchists are incapable of threatening the system and that they are dangerous fascist counter-revolutionaries, without the slightest bit of irony or self-awareness regarding the outright regurgitation of that old far-right trope that their enemy is strong but also weak.

Twitter drama in itself isn’t something I like the thought of covering here, but it is on Twitter that the discourse I’m trying to address is taking place, and it is important to address this discourse, because it touches on a number of important subjects. It touches on the extent to which social and cultural alterity is either allowed expression within leftist or radical spaces or condemned and cast away as an expression of fascism or reaction, a dynamic that has implications for how we view freedom of expression and has consequences for anyone trying to embrace sub/counterculture, occultism, alternative religion, and even kink within radical left-wing political spaces. It also touches on the old threat of moral panic that surfaces time and time again, and the way that esotericism is interpreted and received, as well as the arguments through which the logic of authoritarianism may be regurgitated even by people who consider themselves anti-authoritarian leftists. I also should stress that I don’t come at this from the standpoint of a nihilist, except in the sense of being very much nihilism-curious. While I don’t necessarily identify with nihilism, I have the inkling that my engagement with Max Stirner, forthcoming elaborations on Darkness, and a general interest in certain forms of revolutionary pessimism as put foward by Marxists like Walter Benjamin may end up putting me in alignment with some forms of nihilist communism and nihilist anarchism, to say nothing of recent sympathies with some of the nihilist anarchists presently being fash-jacketed. If that leads to a bias, then just know that this is the standpoint I’m coming from, and there are no neutral actors in discourse.

As far as I can tell, this all started with a tweet from Des (@queerbandit161), a queer anti-civ nihilist decolonial anarchist, originally posted on March 9th, which featured a meme depicting a balaclava-wearing wojak-style character wearing sunglasses, sporting an assault rifle and standing beneath the Chaos Star. The presumably memetic mascot for nihilist anarchism is accompanied by a quote from Blessed Is The Flame, a seminal text on anarcho-nihilism written in 2016 by Serafinski, which summarizes the basic position of nihilist-anarchism. It states that the current society cannot be saved, that hostility should be the only response to it, and that, rather than any demands for a new society, the revolution will be the “pure negation” of society. I’ll post the original meme below.

Kickass image from @queerbandit161

The post attracted a mixture of responses from various people. Some praised the post and its message, and expressed an interest in reading nihilist literature. Many, however, were quick to dismiss it and mock it, and a few of those resorted to cruelly suggesting that Des commit suicide. Some of Des’ detractors asserted that the anarcho-nihilist position was merely stuck in the bourgeois worldview, accepting its premise for the social order and merely positioning themselves as an antagonist; a strange objection for self-styled communists to make, considering they are supposed to be the material antagonists of bourgeois society.

For whatever reason, Des’ original post attracted further attention at around March 18th, 9 days after the original post, from numerous individuals spouting mostly the same lines, except that this time there were people accusing Des of being a crypto-fascist on the grounds that the Chaos Star is a “Duginist symbol”. This seems to have kicked off a whole discourse about nihilist-anarchism as a whole being somehow fascist, and besides that a wave of anarchists and socialists from other tendencies pronouncing that nihilist anarchists are ineffectual. Some users have gone so far as to claim that the Chaos Star is essentially the Sonnenrad, the Nazi sun wheel symbol (often popularly, but ultimately erroneously, dubbed the “Black Sun”). It’s at this point that we need to get into the problems with all of this discourse.

The Chaos Star as we know it was created by Michael Moorcock, the author of the Elric of Melnibone novels, as a symbol of the forces of Chaos. In Moorcock’s novels, there is constant struggle two cosmic forces, those of Law and those of Chaos, and a figure referred to as the Eternal Champion acts on behalf of the Cosmic Balance to ensure that neither Law nor Chaos come out on top for long. The forces of Law, symbolized by a single upward-pointing arrow, represent cosmic order and are credited with ensuring that anything material exists, but a world dominated by Law tends to lead to stagnation, and the Realm of Law is an empty and barren place where, in the absence of the ability to do wrong, law and justice become meaningless. The forces of Chaos, symbolized by a star of eight arrows, represent both entropy and a state of infinite possibility unfettered by any rules, and are credited as the source of the power of magic and sorcery, but a world dominated by Chaos is unstable, and all possibilities are exhausted in a state of constant change (personally I find that to be a strange idea considering that the possibilities are, well, infinite). Fans of Shin Megami Tensei, like myself, will easily notice similarities between the premise of Moorcock’s novels and the Shin Megami Tensei games that would be released decades later; in the original Shin Megami Tensei, one of the four demon generals of Chaos is called Arioch, which happens to also be the name of the gods of Chaos in Moorcock’s novels. Michael Moorcock himself was not a fascist. In fact, he has explicitly referred to himself as an anarchist, and specifically a “Kropotkinist” (that is, an adherent of Pyotr Kropotkin’s form of anarcho-communism), and he insists that his works often end with the message that “one should serve neither gods nor masters but become one’s own master”. So while the Chaos Star may not in itself be an anarchist symbol, it was created by an anarchist, and in the context of Chaos Magick it definitely dovetails with political anarchism rather more closely than fascism.

It’s worth mentioning that, although the Chaos Star as we know it was invented by Michael Moorcock, there actually was a similar older symbol that appeared in the work of Aleister Crowley. In the Thoth tarot deck, which also contained in Crowley’s The Book of Thoth, the Eight of Wands card depicts a large symbol consisting of eight arrows shaped like bolts of lightning and each extending outwards in all directions. It’s not really the Chaos Star, but it does look similar. According to Crowley, the symbol on the card represented energy that scattered at high velocity. That does sound fairly similar to the way the Chaos Star is talked about as representing infinite potential branching off in different directions. The Thoth deck project was originally initiated in 1938, and completed in 1943, and The Book of Thoth was published in 1944. That’s 17 before the first Elric of Melnibone novel, The Dreaming City, was published in 1961. It’s not quite the same symbol, but it does predate Moorcock. And, again, there’s no reason to interpret it as a symbol of fascism.

The Eight of Wands card as it appears in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck

This brings us to Aleksandr Dugin, the fascist advisor to Vladimir Putin, who used his own eight-pointed star symbol to represent his Eurasianist movement. Dugin’s eight-pointed star seems to have first appeared on the cover of Foundations of Geopolitics, a treatise on neo-Eurasianist ideology and politics that was first published in 1997 and has since become widely influential in fascist circles in both Russia and “the West” and has been widely read within the Russian government. Although the two symbols are similar, there are important differences between them. The star of Eurasianism is typically squared, whereas the common Chaos Star is round, and the star of Eurasianism usually has the four intercardinal arrows appear larger or longer than the cardinal arrows, whereas the common Chaos Star is typically much more equilateral, with the eight arrows all of equal size and length. These are the obvious visual differences between the Chaos Star and the Eurasianist Star, or the Star of Dugin as we might also call it. As for the symbolic meaning, it’s not clear that the Chaos Star and Dugin’s Star have any symbolic correspondence. Frankly, I’m amazed that people have even managed to confuse the two symbols.

In a now-deleted tweet, a Twitter user going by the handle @DualPowerRanger repeated a claim from Alexander Reid Ross which asserted that Aleksandr Dugin is a practitioner (or “follower”) of chaos magick, and they asserted further that there is a convergence between the Chaos Star and National Bolshevism that is not accidental, based on the purported presence of eco-fascists in the nihilist milieu. Incidentally, the same basic claim of Dugin being a Chaos Magician was put forward by Robert Zubrin, writing for the conservative magazine National Review, in an article arguing that Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology was a “satanic cult”. Oh how easy it is to find certain people on the same side as reactionaries when it’s time to make people afraid of the occult again! In any case, the basic claim is wrong-headed for a number of reasons. For starters, Chaos Magick is not a religion, and there are no “followers” of Chaos Magick. The very notion is fundamentally at odds with the radically anarchic, anti-dogmatic, and anti-organizational ethos of Chaos Magick, and arguably offensive to its practitioners. For another thing, while it is true that Dugin was interested in occultism and wrote a number of tracts on the subject when he was much younger, he is at this point very much a Christian traditionalist. Dugin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church since he was six years old, he is deeply involved in right-wing Christian politics in Russia which so characteristically revolves around the Russian Orthodox Church, and much of the religious content of his politics is expressly a form of Christian nationalism; he explicitly frames his struggle between a Eurasianist Russia versus the liberal/”globalist” West as a struggle between the forces of God, church, state and empire against the forces of Satan. Some people have told me in the past that there is at least a noitceable contingent of folkist neopagans in the Russian National Bolshevik movement, but I have never seen any evidence of that being the case. Even if Dugin did at one point practice Chaos Magick, he likely doesn’t now, and even if he did, this certainly doesn’t make the Chaos Star a fascist symbol.

A particularly hilarious bit of conspiracy thinking comes from self-styled leftists who appear to sincerely believe that the Chaos Star is synonymous with the Sonnenrad, or the so-called “Black Sun” used by neo-Nazis to represent their ideology. This is patently absurd for a number of reasons. The Chaos Star not only does not carry the same symbolism as the Sonnenrad, the two symbols are not even the same shape! Whereas the Chaos Star consists of eight arrows pointing outward in different directions, the Sonnenrad consists of twelve seemingly stylized sig runes through two circles, the runes each meeting at the centre of the circle, thus forming a wheel. The design was probably modelled after old Germanic ornamental disks that were generally symbols of royalty or aristocratic power, but otherwise barely resembles even those. The Sonnenrad is a distinct symbol that was created by Wilhelm Landig and commissioned by Heinrich Himmler as a substitute for the swastika to adorn the Wewelsburg Castle. As for the name “Black Sun”, the Nazis themselves never referred to it as the “Black Sun”. The symbol itself wasn’t even originally black, more like a kind of dark green. We don’t really know what the Nazis originally called it and even the original symbolism is something of a mystery, though it is speculated in scholarship that it represented a source of power for the so-called “Aryan” race. The reason I refer to it the Sonnenrad is because the word means “sun-wheel”, and that’s all that the basic symbol is; just a sun wheel made of stylized sig runes. The Sonnenrad only started being called the “Black Sun” by neo-Nazis in the 1990s, likely deriving the name from the thriller novel The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo. The novel was published no earlier than 1991 by the German author Stephan Mögle-Stadel, under the pseudonym Russell McCloud, who probably wasn’t a neo-Nazi himself, though Mögle-Stadel’s lack of enthusiasm for Nazi ideology didn’t stop neo-Nazis from running with the concept regardless of its expressly fictitious basis.

The very name “Black Sun” as an esoteric concept is not the historic property of the Nazis. In Western alchemy, the “black sun” was the Sol Niger, a symbol of the process of nigredo, the state of spiritual putrefaction or “death” that necessarily precedes renewal and the completion of the Great Work. There have been other “black suns” and similarly dark lights with different symbolic meanings throughout the ancient pre-Christian world. In Egypt, a “black sun” can be seen in some tombs as a devourer of the unrighteous and the enemies of the gods, and this sun was represented by a demon in the form of a black ram dubbed “The Lord of Power”. In Greece and Rome, the god Dionysus or Bacchus was sometimes referred to as the “Night Sun”. The planet Saturn was in some cultures considered to be a “sun of night”, and in Mesopotamia the sun god Utu was believed to travel to the underworld as a “night sun” to judge the dead. Mayans believed that the Sun took the form of the “Night Sun” as it journeyed to the underworld.

The logic of the comparison between the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star is in essence the same logic used by your average conspiracy theorist to argue that every triangle or hand sign is secretly some esoteric or satanic symbol cryptically placed everywhere by a secret society of elites who for some reason want you to know that they rule the world and can’t tell you any other way. The Chaos Star is round and pointy, is employed by an occult subculture, and happens to be brandished by people you despise, while the Sonnenrad is round and jagged, maybe a little pointy in places, is linked to an esoteric movement, and is employed by people you despise, therefore, by ignoring the exact context and symbological differences between the symbols along with the precise ideological and political differences between the people who actually use those symbols, you can claim that the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star are the exact same symbol and that Chaos Magicians and nihilist-anarchists are secret Nazis with no effort whatsoever! And the people looking to attack nihilist-anarchists seem to see fascist symbols literally everywhere, or at least everywhere in Ukraine. Another person attacking Des and accusing the Chaos Star of being a fascist symbol also claimed to see that same symbol on a Ukrainian soldier as proof that the soldier was a fascist, as part of a broader party line that Ukraine is a Nazi regime. The actual symbol was not a Chaos Star, but instead the symbol of the Sith Empire, which doesn’t at all resemble the Chaos Star and really doesn’t signify anything other than being a Star Wars fan. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve also seen some people claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a secret Nazi on the basis of an equilateral cross-like symbol on his shirt that was somehow supposed to be the German Iron Cross. That cross is obviously not the German Iron Cross, but in fact a symbol of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fact that Zelenskyy happens to be Jewish should be relevant to anyone trying to claim that he’s some sort of secret Nazi, but apparently that doesn’t matter to pro-Russian conspiracy theorists.

My point is, there seems to be a noticeable element of conspiracism involved in the basic claim that the Chaos Star is inherently a fascist symbol, in that justifying such a claim often involves literally just seeing fascist symbols everywhere even where there aren’t, in the same way that lots of conspiracy theorists see symbols of Satanism or their imagined secret society everywhere even where they don’t exist.

A guide I’ve made to hopefully illustrate my point

What motivated me to write this article at all was a Twitter thread written by a self-described democratic socialist named Michael Paulauski, and it’s worth addressing the claims he makes against nihilist-anarchists. The thread begins with an endorsement of @DualPowerRanger’s problematic claims against nihilist-anarchists and the Chaos Star, and his bid to connect the Chaos Star to a broader issue of fascist creep in ecological movements. He claims that people who deny the existence of eco-fascism are relevant to the Chaos Star, implying the Chaos Star is a symbol of a broader fascist creep within anarchist movements. We’ve already addressed the reasons why the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, so it doesn’t bear repeating here. The argument I’m much more interested in addressing is Paulauski’s claim that “doomerism” is weaponized as a tool of fascists who supposedly use it to ensure that any and all constructive progress is obstructed, and claims that the utilization of the Chaos Star as a symbol of nihlist-anarchism fits perfectly with this along with the phenomenon of anti-civ and anarcho-primitivism, both of which he reflexively dismisses without argument.

In addressing this argument, we need to discuss the concept of the “doomer”, or “doomerism”. The word “doomer” seems to be a modern term the internet gives to someone who’s basically a long-term pessimist. It can mean someone who is convinced that society will collapse within their lifetime, and in fact it used to specifically refer to people who thought that this collapse would be brought about by the demise of peak oil production, and nowadays it can be interpreted to mean a latent assumption that the end of organized human society in the form of ecological collapse, global conflict, or any number of causes is basically inevitable and can’t be stopped at this point, and for whom the only thing left to do is figure out how to survive or live with the inexorable. It can also mean someone who finds themselves given to a much more personal resignment, having accepted the idea that, for various reasons, their own lives aren’t going to get any better than they currently are. Nowadays the terms “doomer” or “doomerism”, whenever they enter mainstream political discussion, are almost always related to the broader discussion around climate change, and the term “doomer” is thrown around interchangeably with terms like “nihilist” or “collapsitarian” to denounce or dismiss people who believe that it is too late for the human species to meaningfully avert the worst consequences of man-made climate change.

There are numerous and obvious problems with asserting that pessimism as a whole is merely an appendage of fascism. For one thing, pessimism is really rather common in left-wing movements, particularly in the United States. And there’s a host of good reasons for leftists to feel pessimistic without requiring the input of fascist interference operations. The climate crisis shows no signs of getting better, and in fact it seems like we really will be unable to stop most of the worst effects of climate change from being inflicted on the world, whole species and ecosystems are still being destroyed, there’s war everywhere, with Russia presently invading Ukraine while ongoing conflicts in the Middle East remain unresolved and continue to claim thousands of innocent lives, progressive politicians either make litle to no progress in improving the lives of the people or are actively compromised by the internal hierarchy of their party establishment, while their increasingly reactionary rivals on the right continue to grow and plot their next advance towards dictatorship, millions of people are still poor, suffering, with increasingly little hope that they’ll lead better lives or that their descendants will be better off, marginalized people continue to be brutally oppressed, the “democracy” we take for granted is being eroded even in the bastions of Western “freedom”, the whole world is slowly moving towards greater authoritarianism of some form or another, the capitalist system is still universal and the rich get richer and profit off of all of the misseration I’ve described, and all the while the left so far still appears powerless to change any of this in the long-term. In that sense, being a doomer as a leftist is an inevitable possibility, and that’s not usually because fascists are convincing otherwise faithful optimists to abandon hope. Rather, it’s a natural product of the grind that is left-wing politics in a late capitalist nightmare. Climate “doomerism” is also a natural reaction to the very real scientific conclusions being drawn about how much time we have and how much we can do to stop total ecological disaster from inflicting us all. The main difference, I suppose, is that some of us like the thought of turning what would be pure pessimism into a source of power and a deepening of the radical worldview, one that goes beyond the usual palliative quotations of Antonio Gramsci.

The other major problem is that the argument made against “doomerism” could also be applied to any counterculture, or any expression of alterity within society. Neopaganism and modern reconstructionist polytheist movements are not unaware of the problem of fascists trying to use their religion as an edifice of fascist ideology, and the same is true for Satanists and many occultists, and many within those movements are all determined to root out fascism from their communities. But if we followed Paulauski’s line of thought, then we would assume that, because fascists attempt to use Paganism, Satanism, and occultism as spaces for fascist ideology, then those things are now inherently fascist, even though they aren’t. Punk music, industrial music, noise music, and black metal are all music scenes where fascist movements are known for trying to set up shop, but that doesn’t make them inherently fascist, and if we followed Paulauski’s argument those subcultures would be totally off-limits and so would the gothic subculture simply because fascists attempt to weaponize them. The same goes for gaming, which is to this day a fairly notorious place for right-wing infiltration; you wouldn’t be able to play video games and be a leftist anymore, simply because fascists exist and try to seduce gamers into their cause. The final logical conclusion of this argument is that socialism itself cannot be trusted because the idea of socialism has in fact repeatedly been weaponised by fascists. The Nazis called themselves socailists even though they were just capitalist fascists, China still calls itself communist despite just being an authoritiarian capitalist state, and there is a surprising amount of people on the internet who call themselves socialists while peddling conservative and often white nationalist ideologies. If the left followed Paulauski’s argument consistently, they would abandon socialism completely, and ironically I would say this is far more defeatist than anything that anarcho-nihilism could put forward.

Paulauski points to another thread from a user basically saying that anarcho-nihilists inundate people with “doomer shit” and then entice them with their ideology, which I’m sure is totally not elementary conspiratorial thinking. I think that there is a much more realistic way to look at it. If by “doomer shit” you mean pessimism and reasons to be pessimistic, then people are definitely exposed to that pretty regularly, but it’s not because of nihilist-anarchists. I would assume that there are far too few nihilist-anarchists in the world for them to be responsible for people becoming doomers. To me, it makes much more sense to assume that people become doomers on their own, as a response to the fact that the world around is shitty not just to them but to everyone, and to the possibility that things might get truly irreparably bad within their lifetimes for a number of reasons. You just can’t look at the current political and ecological situation, or in some sense even the basis of modern capitalism or even modern civilization, and act like pessimism isn’t a completely legitimate response to it, and nor can you look at the fact that we’re stagnating even as we know what’s going on and theoretically trying to resolve it without something isnide you telling you that maybe we’re not actually going to get this right. Pessimism is a logical reaction to all of this and, if it doesn’t lead to resignment, people can and do radicalize on the basis of pessimism, and some people will follow that path in response to the conditions they live in whether you like it or not.

The reason people defend the Chaos Star has nothing to do with whatever false sense of victory you claim for yourself, or with fascist creep. The reason people defend the Chaos Star doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the merits of anarcho-nihilism itself. The reason people defend the Chaos Star is, rather simply, because the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, the claim that it is a fascist symbol is laughably absurd, there are plenty of non-fascists including anarchists who use the Chaos Star to signify interest in Chaos Magick or esotericism even if probably for subcultural reasons, and anarcho-nihilism is not a fascist ideology. It’s ultimately that simple, and, frankly, I think what distresses the anti-nihilist anarchist and the anti-nihilist socialist is the idea that perhaps the nihilist-anarchists might provide a more interesting critique of capitalism and might find themselves unmoored by the limits of mainstream socialism. And yet it is ultimately an irrational fear, in the end. There is inherent reason why nihilism, anarchism, communism, or egoism cannot exist alongisde each other and cannot form a coherent political worldview side-by-side; in other words, there is not much reason why you can’t be all of those things at once.

Anarcho-nihilism is not going to make anarchism or the left as a whole more fascist, but it’s honestly quite rich that the accusation is even flung around nowadays anyway in consideration of the fact that, if there is any part of the left that is at a major risk of becoming fascism or a pipeline to fascism, it’s none other than the entire edifice of state socialism. You might think that I am only referring to Marxist-Leninists, and they definitely are reactionary (I’m sorry not sorry but it’s the simple truth), but they are not the only ones. Paulauski describes himself as a democratic socialist? Very well, let’s see what the democratic socialists are doing. The eggheads over at Jacobin are currently advocating for a decadent big tent populism that would have leftists ignore social struggles in favour of strictly economistic understandings of capitalism. This has also sometimes meant bringing on white nationalists in socialist garb like Thomas Fazi for years, and their YouTube channel is full of videos of their hosts spouting a number of conservative talking points about “identity politics” among other social issues. Speaking of Fazi, he’s one of several reactionaries who certain leftists have decided to collaborate with to form a new magazine called Compact, which is essentially just an edgier and slightly more social-democratic version of what is essentially an establishmentarian neoconservative rag – try to imagine The Weekly Standard but for Bernie-boosters. The magazine positions itself as an editorial on behalf of a “strong social-democratic state” that “defends community” against “the libertine left and the libertarian right” (that sounds just a little bit like fascism but OK). They express say that they want to challenge “the overclass that controls capital”; that is to say, they don’t want to challenge capital, they just want a new set of paternalistic elites to rule society and govern capitalism. To that end, the magazine brings leftist voices like the ostensibly Marxist Slavoj Zizek and Ashley Frawley and racist social-democrats like Malcolm Kyeyunye and Paul Embery together with outright bourgeois conservative voices like Christopher Caldwell (literally a Weekly Standard editor), Sohrab Ahmari (Catholic neocon), Peter Hitchens (British right-wing crank), and Matthew Schmitz (if “establishment conservative” were an archetype, I’d say this guy is its embodiment), as well as conspiracy theorists like Alex Gutentag. Social-democrats across Europe (and, yes, I include the UK here) have for years made numerous efforts to meet the far-right half-way by accomodating many of their demands through conciliatory policy programmes designed to fit reactionary immigration policies in with social-democratic economics, and these efforts have never succeeded in doing anything except for creating a pipeline between social-democracy and fascism. It doesn’t look like that reality is going to convince social-democratic politicians to stop doing it either, since ultimately they need as many votes as they can get, and they often have a vested interest in preventing the radicalization of their party apparatus and the working class.

The core function of the socialization of the working class that defines social-democratic electoralism, and thereby much of the mainstream left, as well as even the vanguardism of state socialist forms of Marxism, ultimately bends much of the mainstream statist left towards a greater project of socializing the working class as functionaries of a more paternalistic state order, one theoretically more benevolent than its right-wing counterpart. The unity of this function with the still ever-present conservatism of bourgeois society leads inevitably to social-democracy arcing towards a reactionary reassertion of the dominant social order, and of hierarchical domination itself, and the unity itself is rendered inevitable by the realities of social-democratic electoralism. Every radical knows that this is not the first age in which social-democracy has proven reactionary or seen fit to ally with fascism or conservatism, and it may not be the last for as long as the status quo continues to perpetuate itself. Both social-democracy and Marxism-Leninism exist ultimately to socialize the masses as functionaries of the ruling system, whichever that ruling system happens to be, and that idea is not as incommensurate with fascism as any ostensible commitment to “the left” might make it seem. That socialization will arc inevitably towards the idea of a paternalistic state order that reinforces the hierarchy from which fascism derives life. Anarcho-nihilists, by contrast, seek the ultimate negation and destruction of this hierarchy, this state socialization, the order of the state itself, and every benign illusion that keeps it alive. At any rate, I would expect alliances between social-democrats and conservatives (not even necessarily “populist” ones at that) to continue growing. Right now you’re mostly seeing things like this confined to the internet and select columns on fairly mainstream media outlets, but there’s no reason to think it’ll stay that way. The alt-right used to just be a collection of think tanks, ideologues, and bloggers that nobody knew or cared about, but they’ve since evolved into a concrete political force that has extended well beyond its former limited sphere of influence, and is now still a driving element in the growth of contemporary fascism. Not to mention that whatever reactionary transformation “the left” undergoes will have a lot of money behind it, and, if the masthead at Compact is anything to go by, the support of numerous appartchiks from the neoconservative establishment, and my suspicion is that the mainstream, statist “left” will probably end up accepting this transformation once it is completed; after all, it was only ever about getting votes.

You want to worry about a pipeline to fascism in the left? Anarcho-nihilism not only isn’t a pipeline to fascism, but even with enough red flags it doesn’t even come close to the very real pipeline to fascism involving mainstream state socialism that is being forged right now and has been in the makings for years before you idiots decided to fash-bait people over the occult again. And when it happens, at least half of you will defend it. I guarantee that much.

Things like this are why it’s important to recapture something core to Satanism: the philosophy of no surrender. People who are part of occultism or alternative subcultures or alternative religions and who are also politically radical know that they can’t afford to surrender what they love just because the ignorant commissars of mainstream socialism have only relatively recently become attuned to the problem of fascist creep and now fancy themselves to be a sort of anti-fascist community police. Indeed every anti-fascist knows that if the enemy is given an inch they will take the whole mile. Fascists need every appendage they can grab hold of in order to form a network of culture presence that then translates into political influence, so that there are countless avenues into which a person can be radicalized into fascist ideology. The only answer to this is to preserve the cultures that the fascists want to take over by driving out fascists from those spaces and asserting the anti-fascist value of those spaces. The people who want anarchists to surrender the Chaos Star would have them walk the opposite path, no doubt in the hope of sacrificing everything that doesn’t conform to the cultural regime of the late Enlightenment. That cannot be allowed.

So listen well: no surrender! That is the ethos I believe certain anarchists know well indeed, and guides their praxis, even if mainstream socialists have all but abandoned it.