On the Nietzschean Paganism of Renzo Novatore

By indulging myself in the writings of Renzo Novatore, Italy’s most well-known exponent of individualist/egoist and nihilist anarchism, I came to notice a theme across these writings. Throughout his literary work, Novatore frequently used the term “pagan” or “paganism” as a way of describing the spirit of his ideas. I am fairly convinced that this was in practice probably a poetic affectation, on the grounds that Novatore was an atheist who, by his own terms, opposed religion. Then again, the terms in which he opposed religion are, much like Max Stirner and others before him, rather blatantly conditioned by the Christian understanding of what religion is. But beyond that, as a Pagan who is definitely interested in Novatore’s philosophy, and arguably aligns with it, I think I would derive some intellectual pleasure from examining the way Novatore talks about Paganism. And so, to further indulge myself, that’s what I’m going to do.

In The Expropriator, Novatore describes the titular archetype as “singing playful songs of beauty”. In Beyond the Two Anarchies, he describes his own mind as a “passionate, pagan mind” which he likens to that of an uninhibited poet, after passionately declaring the shattering of all -archies before egoistic self-exaltation. In A “Female”, Novatore talked about a woman giving herself over to a loving embrace and her body becoming a “Harp of voluptuousness” seized by a “pagan fire”, and further a “hymn of intoxication sung beyond good and evil”. In Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution, he describes the ethical part of Individualism as amoral, wild, furious, warlike, and rooted in “the phosphorescent perianth of pagan nature”, and later says that “pagan nature” “placed a Prometheus in the mind of every mortal human being and a Hercules in the brain of every thinker” and that this same heroic impetus was later condemned by “morality”. In In The Circle of Life, he praised “this vigorous creature” who blossomed through the “pagan mystery” of homerically tragic art which he took to be a symbol of “sublime heroic beauty”. In Towards the Creative Nothing, Novatore condemned Christianity for “killing” the joy of the earth he attributed to Paganism and setting itself against “the dionysian spirit of our pagan ancestors”, while also lauding the gaze of the “pagan poet” and the preservation of “pagan will”. In In Defence of Heroic and Expropriating Anarchism, Novatore briefly refers to the Italian anarcho-communist Errico Malatesta as someone “who cannot be accused of having a pagan, Dionysian, Nietzschean concept of anarchism”, presumably to mean that Malatesta opposes his form of anarchism.

We can see from this that, although Novatore probably wasn’t a religious man, he clearly regarded some idea of Paganism as a core part of his concept of anarchism as opposed to certain others. It’s easy enough to understand this as an aesthetic quality, or at most a flamboyant extension of Friedrich Nietzsche’s anti-Christian worldview. But even in the context of the latter, what does it tell us?

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on “the dionysian” in Novatore’s writings, and that itself is often expressly linked to Nietzsche. In I Am Also A Nihilist, Novatore says the following:

But I don’t yearn for Nirvana, any more than I long for Schopenhauer’s desperate and powerless pessimism, which is a worse thing than the violent renunciation of life itself. Mine is an enthusiastic and dionysian pessimism, like a flame that sets my vital exuberance ablaze, that mocks at any theoretical, scientific or moral prison.

Here Novatore invokes “the dionysian” in order to distinguish his own brand of pessimism from the pessimism he perceives of Arthur Schopenhauer. Novatore’s pessimism and nihilism is a doctrine of the negation of every social order which, in this negation, allows egoistic self-consciousness to truly freely and mutually develop without being bound to any conceptual prisons. That basic conception of nihilism would echo the nihilism that was developed in Russia during the 19th century. Central here, though, is the “dionysian” part. What do we derive from this?

Of course, I’m sure we all know about Dionysus. Dionysus is usually understood as a god of wine and drunkenness, but is more broadly a chthonic god, a god of death and rebirth, a god of ecstasy, festivity, and intoxication, a father of liberation through whom his worshippers could transgress the boundaries of society and everyday consciousness in order to commune with the divine. Dionysus was worshipped in intoxicating mysteries, festivals involving phallicism, and ecstatic ceremonies of ritual death and rebirth, and in Rome he was the center of a plebeian republican cult and thus a patron god for the masses who were subjugated by the Roman ruling class. The way Novatore invokes Dionysus may have some link to the way Friedrich Nietzsche talks about him, and in fact the very idea of “dionysian pessimism” was born from Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s concept of “dionysian pessimism” was, to put it simply, a pessimism that justified life rather than abhorred it (the latter, of course, being Schopenhauer’s school of pessimism). This justification comes from life itself, even at its most terrible, ambiguous, and mendacious, without the belief in progress or even reason to undergird that affirmation of life. In other contexts, for Nietzsche, the “Dionysian” seems to denote a fundamentally tragic outlook in life.

From here we can see that Nietzsche’s influence on Novatore’s anarchism was far from subtle. It seems to me in fact that Novatore’s anarchism was very essentially a Nietzschean anarchism. But what exactly does it have to do with Dionysus himself, or with Paganism? Nietzsche in a certain sense did identify with a notion that he called “paganism” and regarded this worldview as superior to Christianity. But again, what was that for Nietzsche? I have to doubt that it meant much in the way of any concrete religious practice since, even if he liked to call himself a pagan, there’s no evidence of him having ever worshipped any gods or nature or partaken in pagan celebrations (in fact he seemed to regard devotional worship as foolish), but that’s ultimately beside the point.

“Paganism” for Nietzsche meant a conscious appreciation of that which is beyond good and evil, since the pagan gods in his observation were beyond good and evil. But it also seems to involve a “return” of sorts to the natural world, and to embrace nature even in its terrors and inclinations, either by living apart from civilization or by staying true to one’s “natural inclinations” – or, in a word, Wildness. In Twilight of the Idols, he says that “It is in our wild nature that we best recover from our un-nature, our spirituality” (“spirituality” here meaning “religious sensibility” as he understood it mostly in terms of Christianity). While Nietzsche tended to use the term “idol” in reference to moral ideals that he opposed, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he mocked those who would destroy idols through the pronouncements of his character Zarathustra and also says that an image may not remain an image in the context of the authentic use of the will. It’s also possible to interpret the opening lines of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as Zarathustra’s “prayer” to the sun. Nietzsche believed that the earth was sacred in pre-monotheistic religions and that it should be regarded as sacred again, which Zarathrustra communicates by urging the lauding of that which is earthly and the rejection of the heavenly, and in The Antichrist he wrote that humans are not only animals but also that other animals shared “the same stage of perfection” with humans. In The Will To Power, Nietzsche explicitly refers to”pagans by faith”, describes their aim as being the “dismoralization” of the world, and prefers believing in Olympus instead of believing in the Crucifixion. In the same text he thought that the pagan cults of old were typified by sexuality, pleasure in appearance and deception, and joyful gratitude for life in itself and that this was the mark of good conscience.

In this sense, even though it’s difficult to regard him as what would in proper terms be a religious Pagan, it is beyond doubt that Nietzsche sought the revival of Paganism as a system of values insofar as he understood it. In such a context we may understand that Nietzsche’s anti-Christian transvaluation of values ultimately has this restoration in mind. I do suspect that Nietzsche’s conception is very influenced by the way the 19th century Enlightenment received “Paganism” as a more rational or humane religion compared to Christianity, though I would definitely insist that Nietzsche was not simply a “man of the Enlightenment” or a mere “man of his time”. Regardless, though, I will say that I do rather feel well-aligned to much of how Nietzsche talked about his idea of Paganism, in that he describes certain ideas that have been almost instinctual to me personally. I would say that this includes the idea of nature as actuality, the idea that prevailing systems of moralization tend to be ways of attacking or suppressing this nature, and the upholding of “wild nature” as a means of setting us free from moralization, as understand it to be communicated in Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist. His Dionyisan Pessimism is made further sense of in this context as well, and is made the more admirable and closer to instinct.

But back to Renzo Novatore, the man whose anarchism seems to be expressly modelled on Nietzsche’s philosophy as well as that of Max Stirner, and back to his “Paganism”. What do we derive from Novatore’s work? Returning to Towards the Creative Nothing, we see the sanctification or veneration of the earth or nature, which of course Christianity had suppressed, and we see essentially a recapitulation of Nietzsche’s conception of Paganism as based in the embrace of the full integrity of life. And yet unfortunately Novatore offers very little exposition compared to Nietzsche. It would seem that Novatore seems to have taken up Nietzsche’s idea of .

Yet we can also find certain pre-Christian parallels in Novatore’s about “libertarian aristocracy”, which when carefully considered seems very obviously not representative of any actual aristocratic hierarchy and instead perhaps something more like Stirner’s concept of the Union of Egoists. This “libertarian aristocracy” in any case consists of the outsiders who band together in their individualistic struggle against society. About a year ago I read Towards the Creative Nothing, and then, as I later read about Stanislaw Przybyszewski in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party, I noticed a similar theme emerge in Przybyszewski’s depiction of Satan as the “dark aristocrat”, no doubt meaning him as the patron of rebels and outsiders who join his company for the pursuit of their own curiosity, pride, and instinct against society. The parallel that instantly emerged in my mind was none other than Odin, the king of the Norse/Germanic gods.

Odin is repeatedly typecast as a god of war but was always much more complex than that. He was the leader and magician of the battlefield, but could also be thought of as a trickster similar to Loki, a god associated with death, at least chthonic enough to be called the lord of the gallows, the keeper of a certain share of the slain, a tireless seeker of wisdom looking for ways to overcome his fated demise at the battle of Ragnarok, and a god of ecstatic divine inspiration (which, to be fair, was still also associated with battle). More importantly he was not only the patron of kingship, he was the divine patron of outcasts or outlaws, and was sort of an outcast himself. In a Danish myth, he was said to have been exiled from Asgard for ten years for seducing and having sex with the daughter of a king, while in the Lokasenna Odin was referred to as “ergi” (basically “unmanly”) for his practice of seidr, a magickal art typically regarded by Norse society as strictly women’s business. Odin seemed to favour men and women regardless of social stature who distinguished themselves individually through their talents, which made them valuable to Odin in his struggle to prevail in Ragnarok. And of course, for all the times Odin is compared to Mercury by the Romans or to Zeus or Yahweh in modern times, Odin actually had much more in common with Dionysus than almost any other non-Germanic deity. After all, Odin was also worshipped in ecstatic rituals, sometimes involving the assumption of consciousness of wild nature, and Odin also had his own “mead of divine inspiration”.

In a very strange way I think that the ecstatic or intoxication-oriented vision of Paganism as philosophy of life can make for a fairly valuable way of grounding modern Paganism, though not necessarily. A friend remarks that Paganism must strive for the continual reintegration with the state of religious intoxication apparently found in animals. In their own way, though as non-Pagans, I’d say that people like Stanislaw Przybyszewski or Charles Baudelaire would probably sympathize with that idea. More to the point there is something similar in the historical sense of Paganism that kind of aligns with that idea. The pre-Orphic Dionysian Mysteries could be defined by such an idea, as does the state of consciousness attained by the Norse berserkers or ulfhednar. The Eleusinian Mysteries, which were a major part of Hellenic antiquity, involved the use of psychedelics in order to commune with the divine through intoxication. In Egypt, goddesses such as Mut, Bastet, or Bathory were sometimes worshipped in drunken ecstasies, while none other than the god Set was worshipped with offerings of wine. In the old Vedic religion of India, a substance called Soma was offered to the gods and ritually consumed in order to achieve awareness of the divine as well as magickal visions/powers. A similar ancient Iranian ritual involving a similar substance called Haoma was initially condemned by Zoroaster for its “drunkenness” before being modified as part of later Zoroastrian practice. The idea of ecstatic intoxication as a means of liberating consciousness seems to also be shared in the Japanese concept of seihan (“sacred transgression”) as applicable to festivals. In Greek mysteries, the whole idea of orgia was predicated on a similar sort of ecstatic freedom.

Nietzsche for his part aligned with a certain type of intoxication. Not drunkenness of course, but with the kind of intoxication attained through sex, dancing, or religious activities. He also seemed to regard the essential characteristic of art as Rausch, a German word that seems to mean something like “frenzy”, which for Nietzsche denoted a condition of pleasure that signified a feel of rapturous strength and even mastery. One can link to this some pre-Christian ideas of ecstasy such as the earlier mentioned Germanic and Vedic forms. Ludwig Klages claimed that Nietzsche’s understanding of Rausch was his discussion of “the ultimate Dionysian state of mind”, but this seems somewhat doubtful in light of the whole of Nietzsche’s work. Walter Benjamin had his own concept of Rausch which denoted a form of experience that neutralised separation between subject and object, which had been likened to an ancient experience of the cosmos. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again: what about Novatore? Rausch is not exactly located in Novatore’s work, and would instead have to be synthesized through some form of exegesis in light of the Nietzschean context. Still, with Novatore we may find in his heroic emphasis something of Nietzsche’s Rausch if only in imprecise spirit.

In the overall, we can summon from this indulgent inquiry a grounding idea of the experience of intoxication in the context of Paganism in the overall. Nietzsche’s “Paganism” amounts to a philosophy of the experiential embrace of life in itself, contextualised as a life-affirming pessimism that sees the chaotic tragedy of life as the basis of its actuality and value. Novatore essentially recapitulates this idea as an expression of nihilistic anarchism, albeit with exceptional rhetorical bombast. The value of this outlook on Paganism is the grounding of religiosity in a sort of communion with raw actuality as represented by nature, and, within nature, Darkness and the divine. That at least is how I relate to it.

The Historical Relationship Between Satanism and Paganism

In May this year I wrote two articles outlining, in long form and short form respectively, my philosophy of Satanic Paganism. In so doing, I did not set out to examine the historical relationship between Satanism and Paganism as distinct concepts, and on Twitter I promised that I would write about this in its own article. What you’re about to read is exactly that article. I set out here to examine the relationship between Paganism and the various historical representations of Satanism, with of course the aim of supporting the overall project of my Satanic Paganism.

Before we start, I should take the time to note that as a historical treatment this will mean addressing a messy, problematic history fraught with reactionary tendencies. Unfortunately there was a time where folkism was not challenged to the extent that it arguably is now, and the history of occulture is not without the presence of the far-right to some extent or another. As such, going through the history that I mean to explore means exploring a history that includes some truly odious actors who just happen to have made a mark. Another thing worth stressing right away and which will be repeated going forward is that the instances of intersection that I present do not constitute proof that Satanism is itself a form of Paganism. It merely demonstrates the interaction between Satanism and Paganism to the extent that, although they are distinct religious worldviews that can each be defined on their own terms, the two are not as neatly separated as both parties present them to be.

We can start, rather appropriately, with Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Unless we count the “Sathanists”, Przybyszewski is easily the first person to actually refer to himself as a Satanist and espouse Satanism. As I have already established in my commentaries on his essay The Synagogue of Satan (see Part 1 and Part 2), Przybyszewski links his own Satanism to a certain idea of Paganism which he calls “the heathen cult”, which he regards as the original historical phase of Satan’s church. Przybyszewski repeatedly links his Satanism, his Satan, his Witch, and his “sabbat” to themes from pre-Christian religion. Here Satan appears as the gods Thoth, Hecate, and Pan, and through him Apollo and Aphrodite (as well as the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda for some reason), and is also worshipped as a Phallus. People tasted “the holy joys of Pan” before Christianity arrived, whereupon the temples of the gods were desecrated and their priestesses reviled. The “heathen cult” in Przybyszewski’s narrative is essentially a mixture of polytheistic nature worship and orgiastic libertinism. His pagans lived in and with nature, and the demons dwelled in the forests, grottoes, and caves and gathered worshippers in orgiastic rites. Even as the church came to dominate Europe, the “heathen cult” still lurked beneath the Christian order which gradually conceded to its rites. The Witch, and the demonic femininity that Przybyszewski associates with Satan, descends from a lineage of pre-Christian goddesses and demons, and his “sabbat” is ostensibly a descendant of the orgiastic mysteries of Cybele. Although Przybyszewski never references Dionysus or his mysteries, he does describe the worship reserved for the “Black God” and aspects of the “sabbat” in ways that invoke the Bacchanlias and the classical mysteries of Dionysus.

Moving onto “modern Satanism”, Anton LaVey may have defined his form of Satanism as rather highly distinct from Paganism as we understand it, but he does nonetheless rely on pre-Christian references for his infernal pantheon, and they do sort of figure in his communication of Satanism. The Satanic Bible opens with a declaration of “the gods of the right hand path” bickering with each other becoming devils, while the Norse god Loki “sets Valhalla aflame” with “the searing trident of Inferno” and Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, proclaims the dawn of the age of Satan. LaVey also appealed to a very flawed etymological argument in which the word “Devil” is purported to come from the Sanksrit word “Devi”, which in fact it doesn’t. Insofar as he held Satan to be the patron of Man’s carnal nature, he said that before the arrival of Christianity this was governed by the gods Dionysus and Pan, from whom the medieval Satan got his appearance. The “Infernal Names” comprises not only Satan and his menageries of devils but also pre-Christian gods and spirits who LaVey sometimes identifies as “devils”. These gods include Cizin (listed as “Ahpuch”), Ba’al-berith, Bastet (listed as “Bast”), Bilé, Chemosh, Dagon, Damballa, Enma-O (listed as “Emma-O”), Fenrir (listed as “Fenriz”), Eurynomos (listed as “Euronymous”, from which we get Mayhem’s Euronymous), Hecate, Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Jormungandr (listed as “Midgard”), Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto (but not Hades, apparently), Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (listed as “Thamuz”), Typhon, Xipe Totec (listed as “Yaotzin”) and Yama (referred to by his Japanese and Chinese counterparts “O-Yama”, “Emma-O” or “Yen-lo Wang”). These names are meant to be invoked in the course of a Satanic ritual, as though you are calling upon them for your craft, and so in this sense some of the gods theoretically join the LaVeyan Satanist in their praxis, though the LaVeyan rather definitely does not believe in those gods. It should go without saying that this dynamic has noticeable flaws; among them, the rather atrocious idea of listing Native American spirits such as Coyote as “devils”.

The Church of Satan in general tends to reject any and all suggestion of alignment with neo-paganism, on the grounds that Paganism is a “supernatural” religion. Nonetheless, besides invoking many of the same gods they refuse to actually worship into their rituals, the Church of Satan is content to mark the solstices and equinoxes as holidays. As a similarly atheistic Satanic organisation (or at least they avowedly present themselves as Satanists), The Satanic Temple marks not only the solstices and equinoxes but also go much further in appropriating and retooling whole pre-Christian festivities as their own religious holidays. Two in particular are Lupercalia, a Roman festival which TST brands as a “celebration of bodily autonomy, sexual liberation, and reproduction”, and Sol Invictus, named for the Roman god which TST brands as a “Celebration of being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge” (now if only TST didn’t try suing people for doing the same thing!). While it’s not listed on their holidays page, members and chapters also claim to celebrate Saturnalia, the pre-Christian Roman celebration of the winter solstice. Indeed, The Satanic Temple actually argues that Satanic holidays come from a tradition long-predating TST, seemingly suggesting a claim to some sort of pre-Christian heritage. In TST’s case, this is unfortunately not much more than an act of cultural appropriation, and fitting for TST there are problems with its interpretation.

TST interprets Lupercalia as basically a BDSM sex orgy day built around celebrating bodily autonomy, sexual freedom, asexual awareness, and mock sacrifices. I wish! The actual Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to a sort of orgiastic worship of Pan Lycaeus or Apollo Lycaeus, but this involved the ritual sacrifice of a goat and a dog followed by a sacrificial feast. This was then followed by two young noble males receiving a sword dipped in blood a running around the Palatine in which participants run naked with thongs made from the flayed skins of the sacrificed animals. These thongs were used to whip people, women would sometimes get themselves whipped believe that this would ritually induce fertility, before returning to the Lupercal cave. As kinky as some of this must sound, the actual point was that it was a festival of attrition meant so that the gods would ensure the fertility of crops, and if all didn’t go well famine and disease would follow. As for Sol Invictus, TST interprets Sol Invictus as basically the Roman version of Christmas. This is in some sense the product of a popular myth regarding the origin of Christmas as we know it. As Andrew Mark Henry points out, early Christians landed on December 25th by calculating the date of Jesus’ birth backwards from the supposed date of his crucifixion and death, which was assumed to be March 25th – this, incidentally, was the same day on which pre-Christian Romans celebrated the vernal equinox. Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th, but only as far back as the year 354 under the emperor Aurelian, after Christianity had already emerged. Both Christians and Pagans celebrated December 25th because of its broader cosmological significance via the winter solstice, for which they respectively imparted very different religious meanings.

Returning to the subject of the Church of Satan, individual members tend to present their own intersections with modern Paganism. One example is Michael J. Moynihan, who is a musician who founded the neofolk band Blood Axis and otherwise a notable folkist fascist. Moynihan is a member and in fact a Reverend of the Church of Satan, but he has also been consistently affiliated with folkist forms of Heathenry. Since 1994 Moynihan was a member of a folkist Asatru collective called Wulfing Kindred, which was itself affiliated with the Asatru Folk Assembly until 1999, is friends with the AFA’s founder Stephen McNallen and sometimes joined him on stage with his band Changes, and is the editor of a “Radical Traditionalist” journal called Tyr, which is obviously named after the Germanic/Norse god Tyr and, sure enough, argues in defence of pre-modern and specifically pre-Christian societal institutions and a return to pre-Christian (typically Germanic) religion in the context of reactionary traditionalist ideology. One of the other fascists in the Church of Satan, a man named Kenaz Filan, is also a folkist pagan/polytheist who writes books about Paganism (in between grotesquely racist troll-posting, I assume) and has ties to other folkist polytheists such as Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera. This, of course, is all different shades of problematic on its own due precisely due to the fascistic folkism of the parties involved. Though, I would insist that this says more about the institutional fascism of the Church of Satan than anything else. Having said that, it’s actually somewhat ironic that the organisation which insists that Pagans, polytheists, or really any theist cannot be Satanists because they claim that Satanism is a strictly atheistic philosophy is nonetheless quite happy to have said people in their ranks as Satanists by virtue of being Church of Satan members. Of course, I assume that the Church of Satan only makes those allowances out of some shared affinity with fascism.

An important examination of the intersections between Satanism and Paganism comes from Between the Devil and the Old Gods: Pagan and Satanic Milieus, an essay written by Ethan Doyle White for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. White argues that both Satanism and Paganism can be regarded as milieus within the broader movement of occulture, occultism, and alternative religion, and which actually intersect with each other rather than existing as completely distinct milieus. To study the extent to which the boundaries between Paganism and Satanism are blurred, White examines Wicca and what he considers to be elements of Satanism within it, as well as the Temple of Set and Order of Nine Angles.

In analysing Wicca, White points out that a few elements that he believes are consistent with Satanism. Perhaps the main such element is the presence of Lucifer, who is traditionally regarded as distinct from Satan but in practice carries in himself aspects of a “satanic” identity. Lucifer is the name that figures like Doreen Valiente and Alexander Sanders profess to be the name of the enigmatic Horned God of Wicca, an association that is likely inherited from Charles Lelands romantic-mythological account of Italian pagan witchcraft. The Horned God is not meant to be identical with the Devil, but the idea of an ancient horned god worshipped by witches dovetails rather nicely with traditional depictions of the Devil. Also noted by White is the inclusion of fallen angels such as Azazel (a.k.a. “Azael”) and Naamah as gods of witchcraft alongside gods like Cernunnos or Habundia in Paul Hason’s Mastering Witchcraft, which, while not really a “Wiccan text”, is part of the background of modern British witchcraft of which Wicca is a part. A much more obscure French sect of Wicca, known as Wicca Francaise (a.k.a. “Wicca International Witchcraft”), is purported to have taken Gerald Gardner’s basic system of Wicca and mixed it up with not only the Lucifer mythos but also a set of rituals that they interpreted as “Anglo-Saxon Satanist” rituals or the supposed “black mass”.

As regards the Temple of Set, there are many elements White considers that are not limited to the central role of the Egyptian god Set. Michael Aquino’s The Book of Coming Forth by Night declares that Set is the “ageless Intelligence of the Universe”, who only allowed himself to be called Satan because it meant that he might be perceived by humans. This premise itself establishes the Temple of Set as a Satanist organization in that it is consciously directed in alignment with an entity that is recognized as Satan by a different name, and indeed they still represented themselves with the inverted pentagram emblematic of Satanism. Indeed, Aquino expressly regarded the identity of Set as a way to fully divorce Satanism from the baggage of Christianity. Predictably, the identity of Set and the links to ancient Egyptian religion, to the point that the title of Aquino’s book is itself a play on the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (which was also called The Book of Coming Forth by Day), would seem to link it to the context of modern Paganism, though this does not come without explicit boundaries as set by the Temple. That said, some members considered themselves to be practitioners of Satanism that was merely “hued” in the fashion of ancient Egyptian religions, while others earnestly believed that they were practicing the return of an ancient pre-Christian religion, and still others considered the Temple of Set to represent an entirely new vision. Indeed, many Setian Satanists would vehemently reject the label of “Pagan” on the grounds that they see themselves as “consciousness-worshipping”, in the sense of individual self-consciousness, and view Paganism as “nature-worship”, which they reject. While I see no need to label Setian Satanists as Pagans, the point is to explore intersections with Paganism, not outright identification with Paganism.

The connections to pre-Christian polytheism are not merely aesthetic, and can instead be felt in the doctrine and praxis of the Temple of Set. In Aquino’s book Black Magic, which is presented as sort of a manifesto of the Temple’s doctrine, there are several historical discussions ancient Egyptian religion buttressed by references to existing scholarship on Egyptology. Indeed, Black Magic opens with the statement that the Temple of Set is premise upon the apprehension of the “neteru” (or “neter”), which seems be referring to the gods, as well as Set in particular as the principal agent of individual self-consciousness. The Temple of Set is presented as a return to “the original, undistorted apprehension of Set”, which presumably also applies to the neteru as well who Aquino says were active controllers of the universe and present within it. This may also pertain to a supposed original cult of Set, which was then erased by the cult of Osiris that they say prevailed in the Egyptian establishment. Outside of this, White refers to the fact that the Temple of Set also established an inner esoteric order known as the Order of the Trapezoid, which ostensibly focuses itself on Germanic magical tradition. Unfortunately, this Order’s efforts take on a volkisch, indeed rather fascistic, character inherited from Aquino’s fascination with Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which itself was ostensibly obsessed with uncovering ancient Germanic history. It is worth noting that the Ahnenerbe cannot be counted as some link to Paganism, since Himmler expressly stated that you had to believe in God in order to join the SS. The Order of the Trapezoid professes its aim as to “extract the positive, exalted, and Romantic from the Germanic magical tradition” while removing all of the negative aspects linked to Nazism. In essence, it’s an attempt to rehabilitate German volkisch esotericism. Linked to this is a man named Edred Thorsson, otherwise known as Stephen Flowers, who was inspired by the Order’s efforts and joined the Temple of Set while also being a Heathen and active within the Heathen community. When this became public knowledge, other Heathens at the time condemned him for his association with Satanism.

When discussing the Order of Nine Angles, White points out that the writings of the founder David Myatt (or “Anton Long”) suggest the influence of older (presumably long-dead and now obscure if they were real) organisations. One of them, referred to as either “Camlad” or “Rouwyntha”, has been described as an “aural pagan esoteric tradition” supposedly found only in a few parts of England and Wales, specifically remote rural enclaves within Shropshire, Herefordshire, Sir Faesyfed (a.k.a. Radnorshire), and Sir Drefaldwyn (a.k.a. Montgomeryshire). White further points out that O9A writings often posit their brand of Satanism (frequently dubbed “Traditional Satanism”) as being descended from the depths of pre-Christian antiquity, taught for centuries from “Master”/”Mistress” to pupils and springing out from the area around Stonehenge since the year 7,000 BP at the oldest. Ancient stone circles in England were supposed to be aligned with the star Antares, which the O9A presents as being linked to Baphomet, who they present as a violent pre-Christian goddess who was worshipped with human sacrifice. This is then presented as an unbroken tradition whose survival stretched from the Neolithic era into the present, with “Western Civilization” thus containing an inherent “pagan” essence despite being “corrupted” by the “Magian” and “Nazarene” influence of Judaism, Christianity, and really everything that the O9A doesn’t like about modern society. Other conscious derivations from Pagan sources include the frequent use of the word “wyrd”, borrowed from Heathenry, and according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke the O9A sometimes emphasizes ceremonies performed during equinoxes or solstices and various practices meant to cultivate a sense of rootedness in “English nature” or “native tradition”, which of course is very obviously suggestive of a particularly folkist interpretation of Paganism. Moreover, as noted by Goodrick-Clarke, there were several spin-off groups scattered in “the West” that sought to combine O9A doctrine with existing neopagan movements such as Heathenry. Suffice to say, out of the three case studies White presents it would seem that the O9A is where the intersection is more pronounced.

To be sure, none of this intersection erases the differences between Satanism and Paganism, their distinction, or the enmity between certain practitioners. As White notes earlier in his essay, Pagans have, especially in the past, carefully and strictly defined themselves separately from Satanists – a move partially motivated by the fear of being cast as religious criminals by Christians. Many Satanists have, almost in turn, sometimes trafficked in their own brand of anti-Pagan rhetoric, branding modern Pagans as “soft”, “white light”, or “white witchcraft”. And, of course, both Pagans and Satanists have often taken turns accusing each other of failing to fully transcend the baggage of Christian morality in various ways. And yet, according to White, it is not actually not so common for Satanists to insist on hard differentiation from modern Pagans; White attributes this to a clear antinomian stance among Satanists through which they reject the desire to not be seen as a bogeyman.

Another examination can be found in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, specifically a section written by Fredrik Gregorius which discusses “Luciferian Witchcraft”. Here, Gregorius uses the term “Luciferian” loosely to mean groups that center around Lucifer as taking on a generally positive role defined typically by a neopagan context, but stresses that there really is no clear separation between Satanism and Luciferianism and argues that even the latter hinges on what is still a post-Christian interpretation of the figure of Satan. With that established, we can note for starters the Clan of Tubal-Cain started by Robert Cochrane, centered around the Biblical figure of Cain who murdered Abel in revenge for God’s favouring Abel over him. In the work of Shani Oates, current Maid of Tubal-Cain, Lucifer is given a greater focus and, possibly following Michael Howard, is re-interpreted as a “Gnostic” divine presence incarnated in flesh and matter and which motivates the evolution of humanity. Andrew Chumbley, while dismissing any identity between Lucifer and Satan, nonetheless depicts Lucifer and the fellow gods of witchcraft in a very satanic or diabolical light. Chumbley presents his craft as the continuation of a pre-Christian tradition referred to as the “Sabbatic Craft”, and in the context of his belief system Satan, if we can speak of Satan, can be interpreted as the “Man in Black” (or Al-Aswad), who Chumbley referrs to as “The Daemon”, Shaitan, The Adversary, or “The Reverse One”, who is the Lord of the Sabbat and embodies Death as “the Gateway to the Other”, meaning the liminal inbetweenesss betwixt every stasis of being. Lilith, of course is the bride of Shaitan/”The Man in Black”. Michael Howard rejected any identity with Satanism, and aside from his neo-Gnostic views he tends to couch Lucifer in a neopagan context by framing Lucifer as an older deity who in turn incarnates as several pagan gods. Nonetheless, his Lucifer is also identified with Samael, or “Zamael”, and his books have often been adorned with quasi-satanic imagery, goat heads and all. In fact, Howard’s last book, the posthumously released The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism, is adorned with inverted pentagram imagery that would be very consistent with Satanic aesthetics. This is similarly true for Gemma Gary’s The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One, where the Devil venerated by the witches is theoretically distinguished from Satan, presented as a pagan god taking on the names of multiple pagan gods (such as Herne, Woden, or Odin) alongside the names Lucifer or Azazel as part of a pre-Christian tradition of witchcraft, though not necessarily a pure unbroken survival thereof.

Michael W. Ford is a particularly illustrative case where the exact boundaries between Satanism and “Luciferianism” are, despite insistence, practically non-existent, and where Satanism may intersect and syncretize with Paganism. Although Ford likes to formally define Luciferianism as distinct from Satanism and although he tends to reject the idea of a conscious Satan that inspires humans to revolt (preferring a more symbolic interpretation), in practice he tends to repeatedly identify Lucifer with Satan via the identity of the Adversary. Books such as Liber HVHI are meant as “a path to Ahriman, or Satan as it is called in the west”, though with the aim of becoming a manifestation of Satan rather than worshipping Satan, while explicitly identifying Lucifer with Satan. This identification also occurs in Luciferian Witchcraft, Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim, and Wisdom of Eosphoros. Ford takes many philosophical cues from Satanism in its various manifesations and, of course, the imagery that Ford employs in all of his works is perfectly consistent with Satanic aesthetics. Meanwhile, Ford also argues that his system of Satanism/Luciferianism is based in a pre-Christian religion and incorporates magickal workings with various pre-Christian gods. In Wisdom of Eosphoros, Ford positions Lucifer/Satan as originally a pre-Christian deity or complex of pre-Christian deities such as Ishtar or Chemosh, and argues for the existence of an ancient pre-Christian tradition of self-deification based on the Hellenistic ruler cult and the worship of gods such as Baal-Shamem or Melqart or more specifically the identification with these gods by the king of Tyre. In Adversarial Light we are presented with a whole descending diagram of systems that Ford purports to have influenced the development of his “Luciferianism”, the oldest of which include Greek Theurgy, Babylonian sorcery, and the Egyptian cult of Set. In some of his books, like Magick of the Ancient Gods, Ford goes out of his way in interpreting basically whole pre-Christian pantheons of gods, particularly the Hellenic pantheon, on the terms of his Satanic/”Luciferian” belief system.

Two more obscure figures in British witchcraft also present interesting areas of intersection between Satanism and Paganism. One of them is a figure who Michael W. Ford takes as a source for his own system: Charles Matthew Pace (a.k.a. “Hamar’at”). Pace apparently referred to himself as a Luciferian, a Satanist, and a “Sethanist” simultaneously, and centered his belief system around the worship of a god named “Seth-an” which he identified with Lucifer. Pace frames his belief system as a continuation of a pre-Christian tradition and goes out of his way to reject all “Abrahamic” contexts even to the point of explicitly denouncing Kabbalah, but the context of Pace’s belief system is not wholly separable from Satanism. Though Pace preferred the label “Luciferian” the most, the identity of Lucifer with “Seth-an” arguably presents an idenity with Satan. According to Pace, Seth-an was originally a human king who went against the Egyptian establishment in some way, and attained the status of “Adversary” because he was the patron god of the Hyksos dynasty. It is possibly to argue that “Seth-an” is simply a way of referring to Satan on ostensibly Pagan terms, and so Luciferian and Satanist for Pace are interchangeable. Another case I refer to is Alastair Robert Clay-Egerton, who was a member of an obscure group called Templi Satanas Luciferi (or “Temple of Satan the Light-Bearer”), which is claimed to be a forerunner to the modern Tubal-Cain tradition. In Clay-Egerton’s doctrine, Lucifer appears to be the main focus, but Lucifer is also identified as Satan as the “Lord of this World”, and although Clay-Egerton generally preferred the term Luciferian to describe members of Templi Satanas Luciferi, he also accepted the use of the term Satanist interchangeably with Luciferian on the grounds that Luciferians are adversaries of those who promote intolerance, despoil the earth, destroy life, and twist the teachings of “Emmanuel bar Joseph” (or “Emmanuel of Nazareth”, seemingly a reference to Jesus). Lucifer is also identified as the “male principle” of the world, who is paired with a female principle referred to as the “Great Mother” or “Mother Goddess”, which seems to be an obvious echo of Wiccan doctrine, and he lays a great stress on how Man should live in harmony with the earth and in accordance with nature, while lauding the supposed cult of the Great Mother and lamenting its suppression by Christianity. Clay-Egerton also considers the idea that “Emmanuel of Nazareth” is another name for the Light-Bearer and so is “Satan-Lucifer” as well as the gods Cernunnos, Pan, Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, and Horus.

Outside of witchcraft, a very old and also obscure example I am keen to point to is Carl William Hansen, otherwise known as Ben Kadosh. He referred to himself as a Luciferian, not a Satanist. Yet, he employs the iconography of Satanism including the inverted pentagram to represent his belief system aesthetically, and accepts Satan as another name for both Lucifer and Pan, who are both interchangeable in Hansen’s system. But Lucifer is not only identical with Pan and Satan, he is also identified with a number of pre-Christian gods, namely Jupiter, Zeus, Venus, Marduk, Tyr, and Hermes. Lucifer is also interpreted as an “esoteric outer” of Pan, who can be taken as representative of the originary principle of darkness. Pan in turn was also identified with Jupiter as well as Kronon. Not only are there several identifications involving pagan Gods, Hansen frames his belief system as essentially a revivial of the old pre-Christian cult of Pan, and his 1906 pamphlet The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or as I call it Lucifer-Hiram) with the Orphic Hymn to Pan and proclamations of the return of the ancient cult. So while Hansen did not call himself a Pagan, his own belief system takes up a decidedly Pagan narrative.

Returning to the subject of witchcraft, Gregorius notes that, in Charles Leland’s Aradia, there is an invocation that implicitly positions Lucifer as the Devil, despite him functioning as a pagan deity in the overall text. Lucifer is referred to as the “most evil of all spirits” who “once reigned in hell when driven away from heaven”. Much of Aradia‘s presentation still has very little to do with the Christian myths, and he is still generally treated as a pagan deity and identified with the god Apollo, but the Fall from Heaven and the motive of pride is still referenced in its characterization of Lucifer. On this basis it is possible that Leland’s Lucifer can be interpreted as both a Devil and a pagan god and thus embodying the intersection. Then again, as Gregorius also points out, Aradia‘s overall narrative is highly inconsistent. Cain, for instance, as both imprisoned beneath the earth and as the Sun, while Lucifer himself seems to be both a god of the sun and the moon even though his consort Diana is also goddess of the moon.

If there is anywhere in Satanism where intersection with modern Paganism is strongest, it is in none other than the broad current we call Theistic Satanism. Theistic Satanism is generally overlooked in mainstream and even academic discussions of Satanism, who ultimately prefer to focus on the most visible Satanic organisations which often tend towards atheism. Nonetheless, despite the popular claim that Satanism is strictly an atheist philosophy, there are several expressions of Theistic Satanism in the modern world, and they are in no way less Satanic than movements like the Church of Satan are. There tend to be many intersections with pre-Christian polytheism within Theistic Satanism, at least in practice, as reflected in both various approaches to the veneration of demons and the veneration of or working with pre-Christian gods alongside demons. As just an anecdotal example, I remember back in 2015 being friends with a Theistic Satanist who also claimed to work with or venerate the Babylonian god Marduk. In the scene I was in or adjacent to, a certain sense of identification with or interest in pagan gods was commonplace even if we didn’t regard ourselves as Pagans. It is also not uncommon for some Theistic Satanists to regard Satan as a Christian caricature a pre-Christian deity who they believe was worshipped under other names, and sometimes identify Satan with gods such as Pan, Set, Shiva, Prometheus, or in some cases Enki.

The old Ophite Cultus Sathanas (or, the Our Lady of Endor Coven), founded by Herbert Arthur Sloane, was probably influenced by the Neopaganism that was developing in his time. Sloane believed in a Horned God and apparently had a vision of said horned god in the woods at a young age, and then after reading Margaret Murray’s The God of the Witches he decided that this god was Satan (or Sathanas) and worshipped him as such thereafter. However Sloane did not regard Satan as a fertility god, viewed witches who worshipped him as a fertility god as being misled, and instead viewed Satan as an agent of the “true God”. In this sense Sloane was definitely influenced by Neopaganism but ultimately rejected identification with it. Diane Vera has described herself as a Polytheistic Satanist and her organisation, the Church of Azazel, worships Satan-Azazel as their main god alongside Lilith and the gods Pan, Ishtar, Prometheus, and Sophia (as Lucifer). The Church of Azazel believes in the existence of multiple gods as distinct entities and accepts the veneration of other gods alongside their main pantheon, and so expressly aligns itself with “hard polytheism” and the reconstructionist movement. Here, then, Paganism is not identified as Theistic Satanism but intersects with it in Vera’s doctrine. The Cathedral of the Black Goat, which was founded by Brother Myrmydon and Sister Nephtys and also serves as basically a war metal festival, tends to accept some pre-Christian deities such as Set and Kali as representations of Satan. In my article about Satanic Panic in the context of the Ukraine-Russia War, I discussed a Ukrainian Theistic Satanist group called Bozhichi, which worshipped Satan and also includes the worship of pagan gods and the practice of a form of magic called Veretnichestvo.

A more contemporary group called the First Church of the Morningstar, is a Theistic Satanist group (and an anarchist one at that!) whose membership also includes Chaos Magicians, “Luciferians”, Thelemites, Discordians, and Pagans, and on their website they list a series of pre-Christian gods that they venerate alongside Satan and the host of Hell. These gods include Enki, Ereshkigal, Pan, Inanna, Prometheus, Eris Discordia, Set, Thoth, Eros, Hades, Persephone, Hecate, Aphrodite, Sekhmet, and Isis. It also includes gods from the Thelemite pantheon, namely Babalon, Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Kuit, as well as Greek mythological women who weren’t historically considered goddesses, namely Pandora and Ariadne. It is worth noting the founder, Johnny Truant, regards Paganism as distinct from Satanism on the grounds of what he sees as Paganism’s orientation towards ecology and nature worship, so on those terms we could not regard the First Church of the Morningstar as a syncretic Satanic-Pagan organization solely because of the inclusion of multiple gods. Though again, the point is intersection, not identification, and there is a noticeable intersection in any case.

I consider the subject of Demonolatry to be related in that it does contain within itself what is in essence a Theistic Satanist doctrine. Practitioners of Demonolatry may, as do many of the Satanists already discussed, refuse the label of “Pagan” for themselves, but the point here is not to graft that onto them anyway and instead more to discuss intersections. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, she argues that her tradition of Demonolatry is built on Hermetic teachings originating in ancient Egypt and that many of the demons worshipped in Demonolatry are pagan gods. The “Demon Directory” gives us a whole list of demons, which includes pre-Christian gods that are sometimes categorized as “devils”. These gods include Adad, Cizin (once again listed as “Ahpuch”), Amun (as “Ammon”), Ashtaroth, Astarte, Baal, Baalberith, Bastet (again as “Bast”), Bile, Charon, Dagon, Enma-O (again as “Emma-O”, “O’Yama”, and “Yan-lo-Wang”), Eurynomos, Hecate, Hel (as “Hela”), Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto, Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Succoth-benoth (as “Succorbenoth”), Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (again as “Thamuz”), Thoth, Typhon, and Xipe Totec (again as “Yaotzin”). Many of these are the same as the “Infernal Names” listed in the Satanic Bible. The timeline of the history of Demonolatry seems to begin at 3000 BC, with the supposed date of the writing of the Hermetica and Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Canaanite, Semitic, and Amorite polytheism as the foundations of Demonolatry, thus we are presented with pre-Christian Paganism as the purported origin of Demonolatry. A section titled “The Hermetica – The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs” outlines a sort of pantheistic theology Man and the cosmos are one with the deity Atum, and how on this basis Man takes on the attributes of the gods as if he were one of them and knows the gods because they spring from the same source as Man. Connolly interprets this as a doctrine of self-worship or self-deification, arguing on this basis that the pre-Christian ancient Egyptians were the first practitioners of the (Western) Left Hand Path, and, most crucially, her version of this doctrine replaces Atum with Satan, thus positing Satan as the god of the cosmos or the All. Thus in Connolly’s system of Demonolatry (at least, and I must stress hers is probably not the only one).

It is to be stressed again that this does not necessarily make Demonolatry a “pagan religion” or a form of Paganism necessarily if strictly by its own consideration. For its practitioners, Demonolatry is separate from Paganism on the basis that Paganism is defined in terms of its nature-centeredness, which is not necessarily shared by Demonolatry. That’s not necessarily saying that Demonolatry is “anti-Pagan”, and certainly not in light of the intersections with Paganism that have already been established, but practitioners often find the label of “Pagan” to be something externally imposed on them rather than something that they consciously embrace.

When it comes to Anti-Cosmic Satanism, the intersections with Paganism are generally very minimal, if they exist at all, although I suppose if one wanted to stretch the subject one might examine the extent to which Anti-Cosmic Satanists draw from the syncretic Latin American and Afro-Caribbean religious traditions, which are often polytheistic albeit generally not identified as “Pagan”. According to Benjamin Hodge Olson in his essay At the Threshold of the Inverted Womb: Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Radical Freedom, this influence is particularly evident in Templum Falcis Cruentis and the writing of N.A-A.218. Beyond this, the tendency to identify Satan with various “adversarial gods” and the re-interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth is about the faintest link standard fare Anti-Cosmic Satanism has with Paganism, and it’s not much. There is, however, an example of outright syncretism between Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Paganism in the form of Thursatru, a modern brand of Heathenry that is based almost entirely on Anti-Cosmic Satanist doctrine remodelled in the contest of Norse mythology. Thursatru takes the Anti-Cosmic narrative and interprets Odin, the king of the Aesir, as the Demiurge and therefore identical to Yahweh and Marduk, and therefore the cosmic oppressor, while aligning with a clan of giants called the Thursar in order to . Thursatru is sometimes regarded as another name for Rokkatru, another modern branch of Heathenry with a notably adversarial alignment, but they are not to be confused. As I understand it, Thursatru is based entirely in the current of Anti-Cosmic Satanism and is exclusively dedicated to the worship of the Thursas and opposes the worship of all other Norse gods, whereas Rokkatru is ultimately still based in Heathenry but, insofar as it is influenced by Satanism, tends to take influences from different forms of Satanism, and while Rokkatru focuses itself on the worship of the jotnar or the gods who are considered “rokkr” (of the twilight, relevant to the commencement of Ragnarok), it seems to me that many contemporary Rokkatruar are generally not opposed to the worship of other Norse/Germanic gods. In my opinion, if there is to be any comparison between Thursatru and Rokkatru, I would regard Rokkatru as much more consistently Pagan. That said, however, both Thursatru and Rokkatru could be regarded as points of syncretic intersection involving Satanism and Paganism to varying extents.

If we count certain pre-modern individual cases of apparent devil worship as individual professions of “Satanism” in a loose sense, I think it’s worth looking at Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party again for a fascinating instance of Satan worship intersecting with pre-Christian beliefs. Faxneld notes that, in medieval Sweden, there were individuals who, as outlaws, are at least attested to have worshipped Satan as their patron. This includes a man named Tideman Hemmingsson, a notorious outlaw who lived in the forest and allegedly made a pact with Satan and a forest nymph (or “skosgraet”) to grant him luck in hunting and enable him to shoot as much game as he wanted. Hemmingsson wasn’t alone; two other men, Hakan Jonsson made a similar pact, and much later a fisherman named Mickel Kalkstrom claimed to have made a pact with the Devil to catch as much fish as he wanted. According to Faxneld, these pacts intersected with a surviving folk belief in nature spirits, presumably more consistent with pre-Christian religion. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, it was believed that spirits, such as nymphs, lived in the woods, trees, rivers, and/or lakes, and could either bring good fortune and endanger people in some way. One could think of it as a kind of animism in the context of folk beliefs. The wilderness was the home of spirits and nymphs, which were then recast as demons in the eyes of Christianity, and so in Christian demonology the wilderness was also a kind of “inverted world” and a “gateway to demonic powers”. Satan, then, became seen as the ruler of the wilderness, the space outside the law of Christian civilization, to whom, according to Faxneld, some Swedish outlaws turned to as their patron and their god.

In the final hand, we should conclude that Satanism and modern Paganism tend to intersect with one another, but also note that Paganism can and has intersected with other religious movements. Ethan Doyle White notes that there are ways in which Paganism has also intersected with “Abrahamic” religions, or at least particularly Christianity. As an example, White points out that Maltese Pagans tend to observe both Pagan and Catholic ceremonies simultaneously, no doubt drawing on the deep influence of Roman Catholicism on social life in Malta. Another example White points to is the existence of Trinitarian Wicca, or Christian Wicca, which consciously blends Wicca with Christianity. I would count the Church of Light and Shadow as a similar example drawing on that example. More to the point, I would also point to the numerous pre-modern attestations of syncretism between pre-Christian polytheism and the then-new Christianity. This includes Vikings in Scandinavia praying to both the Christian God and to Norse gods such as Thor, the spells of the Greek Magical Papyri containing invocations of the names and angels of God and apparently even Jesus alongside the pre-Christian gods and spirits, Roman syncretism of Jesus and the god Sol or Helios, and the various syncretic Afro-Caribbean traditions that include Jesus and other Christian figures. Outside of Christianity, there have also been syncretic forms of Judaism and that blended Judaism with Paganism both in pre-Christian antiquity and in the modern era.

The point is that Paganism in itself can intersect with many different religious traditions, and in fact has demonstrated cases of syncretism with many different belief systems without much conflict with its overall core, even if it inevitably poses problems for the core of religions such as Christianity. The point is that this applies as well for the relationship between Paganism and Satanism, and that, on this basis, there is no reason to think of Satanism as entirely separable from Paganism. On this basis and other bases, syncretism, and my own project of Satanic Paganism, stands on solid ground. And yet, it is evident that the history of which I speak is not without problems. Satanism and Paganism intersect with each other in numerous ways, but, as we have shown, this can also include some rather reactionary doctrines. But, as we have seen, there is nothing indicating that either Satanism, Paganism, or their intersection or syncretism, necessarily must follow such paths.

Satanism and Paganism are not solely defined by their historical representation (yes, even though part of the essence of Paganism consists of revitalizing ideas from the past), but are defined both by generalized sets of core worldviews and the people who practice them in the here and now. I wonder if the latter fact is given as much consideration as it deserves. Satanic Paganism itself is ultimately an individual and rather idiosyncratic stance, one whose very label makes sense as a summary for that which cannot be contained dogmatically. That, and the knowledge of Pagan syncretism and Satanist-Pagan intersection, gives it its power.

Jef Rouner vs Satanism

I’ve been seeing a thread on Twitter about Satanism do the rounds, written by freelance journalist and author Jef Rouner, in which he talks about his relationship to Satanism and his misgivings with it. It’s not spreading like wildfire as such, but I have seen Satanists discuss and respond to it, and I believe that I should join them in doing so, because I think we need to spend time addressing the “left-wing” critique of Satanism wherever it appears – believe me, you’ll see more of it as The Satanic Temple drags us through the mud. It’s not the longest thread around and the great thing about Twitter threads is that it’s actually fairly easy to respond point by point in this format. So we’ll focus mostly on the points that Rouner makes about Satanism without too much exposition elsewhere.

The first two tweets in Rouner’s thread are essentially just him recounting his days as a young man who was into LaVeyan Satanism and getting searched by cops who thought that he was in a cult. The first point Rouner makes about Satanism is in his third tweet, which is as follows:

I liked Satanism. It seemed like a very coherent ideology suited to my melodramatic personality. Watching Christian nationalism kill my gay friends made me comfortable in a reactionary faith. And make no mistake, Satanism is a reactionary faith.

There’s a certain pathologization at work, implicitly framing Satanism as something that can, for the most part, only be accepted by “edgelords” or, as Eduoard von Hartmann probably put it, “hypochondriacal whiners”. But much more important is his characterization of Satanism as “a reactionary faith”. Depending on who you ask, or depending on how you define it, just the word “faith” is quite the misnomer in application to Satanism. If they mean “faith” as a mere synonym for religion, then it is not unfair characterise Satanism as a religion, but to call it a “faith” in the sense clearly denoted is to miss the point entirely. Satanism rejects the notions of piety attached to traditional religions, which means that we do not simply “bow down” to the divine as is often implied by some of these notions.

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That said, as I got older and grew as a person, it was hard to miss the right wing origins and themes of the religion. So much of it is cribbed from Ayn Rand and libertarianism. There’s very little in Satanic thought concerned with our obligations to social Justice.

Here we come down to one of the most basic issues with Rouner and his representation of Satanism. It is based entirely on the false origin story concocted by the Church of Satan, who erroneously and arrogantly claim themselves to be the inventors of Satanism as we know it. In reality, however, Satanism does not have “right-wing origins”. If we don’t count the “Sathanists” that were attested to in the 16th century, the first man to actually refer to himself as a Satanist, Stanislaw Przybyszewski, was an anarchist who involved himself with the socialist and worker’s movements of his day, for which he was arrested and expelled from his university in Berlin. In fact, much of the literary Romantic mythos of Satan as the heroic rebel that Satanism builds itself on was aligned with left-wing and/or anarchist politics. So, if anything, it is far more accurate to attest “left-wing origins” to modern Satanism, and Anton LaVey’s right-wing philosophy was simply a later development. But even the Church of Satan doesn’t recognize itself as solely modelled after Ayn Rand, and in fact at least some members have articulated pronounced differences between Objectivism and the overall philosophy of LaVeyan Satanism.

We can talk for a bit about “our obligations to social Justice” too. What that actually means is, of course, fairly vague, because there are actually numerous ideas and theories about what that means. Bearing in mind that the term “social justice” itself has Catholic origins, its modern usage beginning with the development of “social justice” by Catholic, and particularly Jesuit, theologians and philosophers from a general idea of “the justice that rules relationships between individuals” to a religious and Thomistic alternative to the then-nascent capitalist and socialist social theories. I would think that it is understandable that Satanists, generally being individualists of some sort, would have little interest in “the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles”, particularly not with its Catholic roots in mind. But on its own, anyone can claim it, even right-wing conservative think tanks who influence the policy direction of right-wing governments.

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It didn’t escape my notice that most of the people I knew on the Left Hand Path were white and male. The sort of people who read Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, but not hooks, Federici, or any philosophers of color looking at systems. Everything was about a person’s soul, not a people’s

I am modestly surprised by this remark, mostly because of the fact that Silvia Federici is in fact read to some extent by esotericist circles, including by those who align with the Left Hand Path in some sense or another. I would also note that the Left Hand Path is not strictly reducible to Satanism, as Kennet Granholm would note, and in fact has a much larger history and much broader range of ideas than Satanism on its own, which is quite natural for a concept that was originally part of the umbrella of Tantric Hinduism. More quizzical is this implicit idea that there should be a focus on “a people’s soul” and not your own. One could make the point that nearly all of religion is aligned to your own soul to some extent, but for me the real point is a question. Just what is a “people’s soul”? Is the assumption here that given groups of people share a “collective soul” of some sort? I’m not exactly sure where Rouner is going but it sounds rather phantasmic.

For the next point, we can skip his ventures into Tantric Buddhism and “Whovianism” (I mean, come on, how is that much less a white spiritual guy pathway than he says Satanism is?) and move on to his discussion of The Satanic Temple, and for this point we can group the next two consecutive tweets together:

The abortion aspect of the Satanic Temple re-affirms my belief that Satanism is just a bit too far up it’s own arse to be very good in the current struggles we face. The idea that we could prank our way to freedom is juvenile to say the least. I thought it was funny back before the rise of American fascism, but now I think it’s a distraction that sucks resources away from actual aid into performance art.

I could make the point that I have often made about the actual Satanic credentials of The Satanic Temple in that they lack any actual Satanic philosophy beyond just a dressing up of secular humanism, but the much more salient and concise retort is simply this: Doug Misicko is not the emperor of Satanism. In fact, there is none. Even Anton LaVey’s “Black Pope” moniker is quite meaningless. That’s one of the important things about the individualism that Rouner so denounces: we have no actual authority over our religion and philosophy. In fact, for every loyal devotee of either LaVey or Misicko there are plenty of Satanists who reject both of them in favour of their own independent form of Satanism, often based on philosophical disagreements with their atheistic stance. The operative point is that it is inherently absurd to act like any one organisation can represent Satanists in the same way that perhaps a church might represent Christians. Satanism is defined not by one or two organisations and their leadership. Satanism is defined by a core philosophy and the people who practice Satanism, and those people are not bound to any leadership.

Next, and once again let’s group the next two tweets together:

That’s not to say all Satanists are selfish or lack social consciences. I know some lovely ones who find healing and strength from trauma caused by Christianity in Satanism. Like all systems, it can be a force for good. But turning it into that force means reckoning with its baggage. It means truly becoming the antithesis to Christian nationalism by embracing left wing politics. Until then, I’ll probably stay in the Tardis.

It is absurd to say that Satanists are “not selfish” unless by “selfish” you mean the narrow exclusion of interest that Stirner warned against. Satanism is not Satanism without philosophical and ethical egoism. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you an insipid foolishness or perhaps outright fraud. Equally insipid is this idea from Rouner and which I keep seeing elsewhere from grifters like Christopher Williamson is this idea that Satanism can only have positive value as a response to trauma. All they are really saying is that they never thought Satanism had any value in itself from its own spiritual substance! Whereas to be a Satanist and value Satanism is to align precisely with said substance as we perceive, as I do. It doesn’t just mean dealing with some traumatic experience of one particular expression of Christianity as Rouner and his ilk seem to mean. It is substantially the rejection of Christianity as a doctrine. If this were not the case, one could be anything else, and if the suggestion is that it is merely some of Christianity that is bad and not Christianity as a religion, then you can always choose a new and “more progressive” sect of Christianity as your faith.

We should also consider what “reckoning with its baggage” means, that is to say “embracing left-wing politics”. There is, of course, no one single “left-wing politics”. “The Left” is a disparate collection of ideologies unified solely by a shared interest in the socialization of politics under various schemes and definitions. And, frankly, it is not the shield from reactionism and bigotry that Rouner seems to believe it is. Any number of “leftists” can take up positions that, when examined, are actually not quite as “progressive” as they might imagine. In fact, in the context of the rising tide of reaction across the world, even leftists who aren’t among crypto-fascists such as the “patriotic socialist” movement will, without provocation, profess kinship with aspects of reactionary conservatism. I speak of course of people like Aaron Bastani, otherwise known as a “fully automated luxury communist”, who has written sympathetically about traditional conservatism for its emphasis on collectivism and their belief in society as an organism. You can even find surprisingly conservative pieces on Jacobin of all places.

But to make a real break from reaction, we can and need only draw into Satanism’s real roots and advance on the terms of its real ethos. For me, this means egoist anarchism as the most consistent political basis for Satanism.

Next:

To add another layer… I find Satanism’s obsession with individualism to be unhelpful. Americans already worship individualism far too much. There’s more than a little Cold War anti-communism in Lavey’s writings.

Putting aside all discussion we may have about the dichotomy itself, and ignoring the point that LaVey is not the granddaddy of Satanism as is being presented, the “individualism” that Americans supposedly worship is not actually individualism, not in any consistent sense anyway. They are enamored with the appearance of individual freedom, but in reality are invested in values of conformity to capital, state, and society, all fixed, absolute, alienated interests that thus become holy values of the nation arranged totally against the freedom of the individual. That idealized “American Dream” of nuclear familys living in suburbia undergirded by a shared faith in God and American Christian institutions, passed down through the generations through the discipline of tradition and parental authority, is in fact one of the most collectivist ideals in the entire Western world, and only appears as “individualism” thanks to generations of American marketing and propaganda. Life for marginalized people in America is not individualistic liberty, and instead it consists of brutal oppression by the collective of whiteness upheld by the power of the capitalist state. Capitalism itself is nowhere near as individualistic as garden variety “left-wing” criticism makes it out to be. It seems that way because individual acquisition of wealth is its basis, but this itself is ultimately a standard of conformity; economic growth, which is to say the growth of the economic and the nation (collective bodies, in a sense), is based on the instrumentalizing of individuals as classed subjects, whose labour power is then expropriated by the ruling class, to produce on behalf of industry and the state. This is predicated not on the liberation of individuals but making them conform to aspirations set by the capitalist state and society, and so calling this “individualism” is simply misleading. Rouner brings up the Cold War, and if anything that was a time where authoritarian patriotic collectivism was all the more intense; the individual was to be made into a God-fearing patriot, and if they resisted they were a “pinko”, a “commie”, a “dirty red”. Individual freedom of conscience was persecuted in a wave of accusations of subversion; that’s what McCarythism originally was.

Next:

Ideally, a spiritual path should guide us where we need to go, and the last thing Americans need is another reason to think they stand alone and owe nothing to nobody. While I do like that Lavey doesn’t knock altruism as a concept, he doesn’t encourage it either

Last time I checked, Americans have been told their entire lives that they owe something to someone; typically, that they owe allegiance to the American state and to the Christian God, or to some other value. In fact, the average American is being told that they must suck up every economic immiseration and impoverishment coming their way as a “patriotic donation in the fight for freedom over tyranny”. But for what it’s worth, Americans definitely don’t stand alone in such a situation. Surely everyone is told of their obligations to the democratic state, or for that matter to a dictatorship. Frankly we have owed a lot to society, and marginalized people have suffered more than anyone under the duties and obligations that they never asked for while enduring oppression. Such a platitude then is a disservice to the struggle against that oppression. But make no mistake; it is not any interest in others that egoism opposes. And make no mistake, Satanists are egoists, we do not believe in “altruism” as anything other than an alienation of what is otherwise the egoistic interest in others. We don’t oppose any interest in the welfare of others. What we insist is that it is our interest, and that we are delighting in each other and not sacrificing ourselves to each other.

Next:

Satanism can be very empowering, but I feel it fails to point that power well. When I look at the actions of TST, I don’t see a social conscience. I see well-intentioned Chan board stunts where good is a byproduct of trolling.

That about accurately describes The Satanic Temple, I’d say. But again, they are not the vanguard of Satanism, inasmuch as the very concept is anything other than a farce. Even if it were not a farce, they’re not even close to being representative of Satanism as a general idea. It is only thanks to intensive media representation that they are regarded as “Satanism”(TM) in the popular imagination, but there is no Satanic philosophy behind it other than a rebranding of secular humanism. As a matter of fact, part of its attempt to reframe of Satanism is very much an ideological inclusion of “social conscience” in its rhetoric: “compassion and empathy” as defining tenets of its Satanism and all that. And the real point is that you can emphasize social conscience as much as you wish, and your intentions may indeed be well, but hierarchy and organisational consolidation have the habit of turning it all into a bunch of controlling fan clubs for some tyrannical blowhard. This is what Satanists and others have observed for years, and this is what we mean when we say that organizations are shit. Thus, the real empowerment has always been the liberation of egoistic self-consciousness, and to realise the power to walk your own path and join with your equals in doing so.

Next:

That comes partially from Satanism’s roots where it treats dogma and ritual as a human need rather than a tool for guidance. As far as Lavey was concerned, community and group worship was the spiritual equivalent of taking a shit: gross, but necessary

I must stress again that the “roots” of Satanism are not Anton LaVey or the Church of Satan, and that there have been Satanists perhaps a century before LaVey ever established the Church of Satan. But let’s address the point anyway by saying that it is ultimately circular. After all, could it not as well be said that guidance is a need? And if it is, then if ritual and dogma are tools for guidance (and I do not necessarily share this opinion), then we have ultimately circled back to the idea that they are human needs. But instead of that need being spiritual pleasure as LaVey might have said (if I’m not misrepresenting him here), the need is “guidance”. Guidance by whom, and for what? Besides, you can go anywhere for guidance. People go to religion for so much more than perhaps the secular imagination is capable of understanding.

Next:

And that misses basically the entire point of nearly all human history. We’re a collaborative species, always have been. Individualism gets you killed. You can be part of a group and still yourself. I don’t think enough American spiritual paths teach that.

From the egoist standpoint, or at least Stirner’s, this is an obvious smokescreen, and in general it’s a rather grotesque simplification. Our tendency towards collaboration, co-operation, and socialisation, is not the product of some abstracted notion of “human nature”, and it is not the work of some transcendental principle of union or confederation that exists outside of human interests. People like Pytor Kropotkin may have assumed this to be the case, but the simple and obvious truth is what we come together for the sake of interests that we share and make our own. We share, because we benefit alongside someone else who also benefits from us. We befriend others, because we delight in the company it brings to us. We love, because it is natural to us, and we are brought into ineffable places of emotional experience through people who, for some reason or another, bring that to us. A tyrant may hoard resources for himself for his own advantage, his interest, but those under him may rebel, overthrow, and kill him to rescue those same resources, which is their interest. Humans may share interests, and so they come together, but, they may have opposing interests, and thus come into conflict with each other. This is also the most basic reality of class struggle: people, organized into classes by force, end up uniting on the basis of shared interest, and groups of people oppose each other on the basis of their opposed interests, namely in relation to the means of production. It actually more sense looking at it this way than the more humanistic explanation you usually see on “The Left”. Far from getting you killed, individualism (again, of a certain sort anyway) is simply the conscious recognition of this reality, and with it the freeing of that self-consciousness through the removal of the illusions created by the alienation from egoism by society.

Next, and lastly:

We’re so worried about not being “true to ourselves” that we abhor collectivism. And that’s why we lose. There’s a reason workplace protections and unions go hand in hand.

The last tweet in Rouner’s thread is almost certainly the most ridiculous. It’s quite natural that those who want to be true to ourselves abhor “collectivism”, at least as we understand it, quite possibly because the collectivisms that we have developed for millenia seem to prevent this, and to a certain extent always seem to. It’s easy to forget that this reality is one of the animating facts about the struggle of marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community. All they wanted was to be able to be themselves and not face oppression, discrimination, marginalization, or anything to curtail that self-expression. Our discussion of collectivism, here, runs the risk of having us forget about that, and if we can’t understand that without trying to subordinate that to some abstracted societal interest then we are not really interested in the liberation of marginalized people on principle. But more puzzlingly, what does any of that have to do with unions and workplace protections? Because collectivism is inherently responsible for that? Not if you understand the principle of union on egoistic terms, then that illusion falls apart. Why do union organization and workplace regulation pose a problem for being true to yourself, especially if you say that you can still be yourself in a group? What a bizarre thing to say, and it’s suggestive of what perhaps we can think of as “socialist idealism”. And again, it is ultimately a weak counter to egoism, because egoism does not oppose any interest, including socialism; it only opposes the alienation of that interest into something outside of yourself, into an etheral thing above yourself that you then confuse as The Absolute. In this sense, egoism has no opposition to union organisation, and does not exclude the interest of organised labour.

So, there we have our response to Jef Rouner and his discussion of Satanism. To summarize: individualism and egoism are not what you think it is, neither is collectivism, neither really is Satanism for that matter, and you can’t reduce Satanism to the two organisations that conveniently happen to be well-represented in mainstream media but which are often despised by Satanists. Trust me, I’m very acutely familiar with some of the basic impetus that Rouner is speaking to, and I have experienced burnout in coming to terms with the reactionary aspects of Satanism and attendant movements in the past. But, I guess you could say I took on a different way of dealing with it by deepening my study and relationship with the history of Satanism and Paganism, and committting to forging my own path.


Jef Rouner’s original thread, for reference: https://twitter.com/jefrouner/status/1545175626822418445

On the fall of the Georgia Guidestones

Initially I was unsure as to whether or not I wanted to do a whole article about this, but then it seemed like it made sense for me to do it given the penchant I have for writing about conspiracy theories and similar weirdness, and there’s a fair bit of nuance to get into anyway that I don’t want to be lost. But as for the main event, on July 6th, the famous (or arguably infamous) Georgia Guidestones were demolished; first one of the Guidestones was destroyed by an explosion, and then the rest was ultimately dismantled by local authorities for “safety reasons”.

We don’t know yet who is responsible for the explosion that blew up part of the Guidestones initially, but hardcore Christian conservatives and conspiracy theorists are convinced that the destruction was somehow an “act of God” against a “Satanic” monument. This, of course, is nothing new, given that up to this point the Guidestones were previously and repeatedly vandalised by conspiracy theorists, who have always regarded the Guidestones as the proclamation of a Satanic ideology supposedly held by the ruling elite. In fact, before the Guidestones were destroyed, Republican Georgian gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor publicly denounced the Georgia Guidestones and listed their demolition as one of her campaign pledges (or rather “executive orders”) in an advert for her gubernatorial run, which may suggest that she influenced an act of stochastic terrorism.

At this point I think I should get the obvious out of the way: no, the Georgia Guidestones are not a “Satanic” monument. There is no evidence that the creator of the Georgia Guidestones was a Satanist, and there is nothing inherently “Satanic” about their overall message. In fact, I should think that genuine Satanists would not put too much stock in the commandments of the Guidestones, particularly not “Balance personal rights with social duties”, at least knowing what these “duties” actually are.

Very little is known about who actually created the Guidestones, but Robert C. Christian is the alias of the man thought to have commissioned their construction. Christian was assumed to have been “a nut”, but he claimed to represent a small group of Americans who “seek the Age of Reason”. The Elbert County Chamber of Commerce claims that the monument was funded by a “small group of loyal Americans who believe in God”. We don’t know who exactly these Americans are, but it’s been claimed in a 2015 documentary titled Dark Clouds Over Elberton that the Guidestones were actually designed and financed by Herbert Hinzie Kersten, who, according to the documentary, is a white supremacist and a supporter of David Duke. This claim was then discussed and amplified on HBO’s Last Week Tonight. However, it is not 100% certain that Robert C. Christian is in fact Herbert Hinzie Kersten, and I would point out that Dark Clouds Over Elberton was made by a born again Christian fundamentalist and conspiracy theorist named Chris Pinto, whose other works include such illuminating pieces as Megiddo: The March to Armageddon (which argues that the “New World Order” trying to destroy the world through revolution) and Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings (which suggests that secret societies modelled America after the lost city of Atlantis).

What we know about the Guidestones consists in its famous message, which is inscribed in twelve different languages, including four ancient languages. The ten “commandments”, if you will, of the Georgia Guidestones are inscribed as follows:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the Earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

It all seems like the sort of thing that perhaps might be conducive to whatever “Age of Reason” that Robert C. Christian and his mysterious backers might have had in mind, and to be frank it’s quite obviously a utopian vision. But don’t ever lose sight of the eugenicist content that comes packaged with this vision, beginning and ending the inscriptions. The Guidestones set out a society in which all of humanity is united under international rationalistic governance and a single shared language, all nations are arbitrated by a single international court, and governments direct human reproduction with the aim of curating the “fitness” and “diversity” of their populations as well as managing their numbers to maintain a sense of homeostatic “balance” with nature. Such a utopian project is certainly not without its detractors, and definitely not without its admirers either. The usual conspiracy theorists not only oppose it but they also regard it as the “Satanic” vision of some godless elites, while some figures such as Yoko Ono have praised it as a “stirring call to rational thinking”. Most Americans, however, regard the Guidestones as essentially just a tourist attraction with a mystery. It has been speculated that the Guidestones were built to serve as a guide for human civilizations to manage affairs after a major catastrophe or apocalypse, and true enough Christian did specify that the Guidestones should be capable of withstanding the most catastrophic events possible, which given the time of their construction and installation is not difficult to understand as a response to fears of global nuclear annihilation occurring in the course of the Cold War.

But again, there’s nothing really “Satanic” about it. I don’t doubt that some LaVeyan Satanists might agree with some of what the Guidestones say, but I have to stress that, if we want to be general here, Satanism just isn’t Satanism without an active and conscious relationship with Satan or The Devil at the centre of its philosophy and praxis, regardless of whether this means engaging with a deity or just engaging with a literary mythos, and the Georgia Guidestones simply don’t outline any such thing! If anything, it’s probable that Robert C Christian was still more interested in Christianity, at least to the extent that he apparently chose Hebrew for one of the translations of his inscription specifically because of the perceived link to both Christianity and Judaism and ostensibly even chose the very name Robert C. Christian just because he himself happened to be a Christian. But of course, conspiracy theorists tend to insist that the name Robert C. Christian is a coded reference to the Rosicrucians or their mythological founder Christian Rosenkreuz. There is almost certainly no basis to any of this, but even if Christian was a Rosicrucian that would still absolutely not make him a Satanist, considering that Rosicrucianism wasn’t exactly an “anti-Christian” sect and that in fact modern Rosicrucian movements can be counted as expressions of Esoteric Christianity.

You might wonder by now, why does it matter from our standpoints that the Georgia Guidestones were demolished? After all, if you don’t count the possibility that the creator of the Guidestones was a fascist or white supremacist, they don’t mean much to most people outside of the state of Georgia, and even there it’s largely considered a tourist attraction. In a vacuum I’m not inclined to shed too many tears for the Guidestones or what they may have represented, but here’s the thing: for the Christian Nationalist (or should that be Christian Fascist?) movement that comprises the contemporary right wing of American politics, the Georgia Guidestones being destroyed is a moment of victory for the Christian God and his faithful soldiers.

Remember, the Georgia Guidestones have long been regarded by right-wing Christian conspiracy theorists as a monument to the wishes of a secret society of devil-worshippers who want to destroy Christianity and impose a one world government on everyone, and they view its creator, Robert C. Christian, as a member of just such a secret society. Those who prattle on about the existence of a so-called “Luciferian Agenda” often inevitably include the Georgia Guidestones as part of that “agenda”, and figures such as Mark Dice have claimed that Robert C. Christian was himself a “Luciferian”. Kandiss Taylor made the demolition of the Guidestones a cornerstone of her campaign against the so-called “Luciferian Cabal” (and I have to stress at this point that the phrase “Luciferian Cabal” is an anti-semitic dogwhistle). Marjorie Taylor Greene, of course, thinks that the Guidestones are part of an international conspiracy to commit “world genocide”. Before the Guidestones were destroyed, right-wing communities spread memes of Donald Trump bombing the Guidestones, and after their destruction you can find scores of QAnon fanatics cheering it on as the will of God. We still don’t know who caused the explosion of one of the Guidestones, and as I write this no one has been detained as a suspect yet, but based on all relevant factors I am very confident that the culprit can only be one of right-wing Christian Nationalists who wanted to destroy the Georgia Guidestones because he thought they were some sort of “Satanic” edifice.

And so, ultimately, far from a victory against fascism, the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones is still a victory for fascism. In fact, it is very arguable that, by demolishin the rest of the Guidestones and citing some vague “safety reasons” for doing so, the Georgia state authorities have only handed QAnon and the Christian Nationalists a scalp for the trouble of blowing up part of the monument. That is appeasement, plain and simple, and I do not have to tell you how appeasing fascists will go down in history. As such, I would mark the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones as but one more chapter in the progress of Christian fascism. Don’t ever forget that they’re getting what they out of this destruction. They’ve wanted those Guidestones gone for decades, and now they’re gone. It’s another point of escalation, and it also ultimately represents the vengeance of Satanic Panic in the modern era. For the Right, it’s more proof that basically anything is possible.

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.