On Big Joel’s “Satanists”

Even though it is yet another unplanned interjection between working on my article about Revolutionary Demonology, I just can’t say no to the opportunity to address some common secular conceptions and misconceptions about Satanism by responding to YouTube commentator Big Joel’s short ramble about Satanists and why he seems to dislike them.

Joel, obviously, does not “love the Satanists”. That much is not in question. What, though, are misgivings towards Satanism? Joel recounts a video he previously uploaded where, in a larger discussion about Christianity, he briefly discussed Satanists as defined within the Christian imaginary. This apparently was a cause of offence to certain Satanists, who insisted that Satanism is not about worshipping or loving Satan, but instead is about atheism, rationality, and “free thinking”. Joel thinks that this is actually false, and perhaps something of a facade: he thinks that the “Satanism” of his Satanist critics is actually not Satanism, that it’s just an edgy way of saying you’re a “normal” atheist, and that “real” Satanists are just people who, in some way, love Satan. To him, that most consistently means worshipping Satan. The funny thing is, I can say with confidence that there are Satanists who would completely agree with this assessment.

In its own way Joel’s understanding of what Satanism is is not incorrect. True, it lacks the sense of distinct philosophical subtext by which Satanism is usually defined and presented in contrast to other religions, but in many ways it presents a much simpler way of looking at Satanism, as an internally diverse contemporary religious phenomenon. The only thing is, it does still invite the obvious question of “what does it mean to worship, revere, or honour Satan?”, which must be up to individual Satanists to answer. But, if Satanism is simply any belief system centering around Satan in some way, and that really means any way, then even the very atheists who Joel considers to not be Satanists would indeed be Satanists. Of course, since I connect Satanism to the concept of a distinct Satanic philosophy, I can think of atheists for whom their Satanism is in fact nothing but a provocative facade. But, that being said, the rejection of God as entailing atheism was at least a part of Eliphas Levi’s concept of Satan himself, though as far as I can see Levi himself had no doubts about the existence of either God or Satan.

There’s really not much to what Joel says here except that he then complains about how, in his opinion, Satanists are solely interested in looking for ways to correct people who say that Satanists are people who worship Satan, looking for every opportunity to butt in and assert that Satanists are not Satan-worshippers and instead just love rationality and atheism. It would seem that he is talking strictly about LaVeyan Satanists, or even more specifically just the official Twitter account of the Church of Satan.

His objection, in this light, is a curious one. He asks, perhaps somewhat facetiously, “then why do you name yourselves Satanists?”, followed by the suggestion that they do this simply to get a reaction from non-Satanists. The funny thing about it is that, as much as I am loath to say it these days, this was an argument that Anton LaVey already addressed within The Satanic Bible. LaVey predicated the distinction his own brand of Satanism from standard secular humanism, and attendantly the justification for calling his philosophy Satanism, on the argument that .

“Satanism is based on a very sound philosophy,” say the emancipated. “But why call it Satanism? Why not call it something like ‘Humanism’ or a name that would have the connotation of a witchcraft group, something a little more esoteric – something less blatant.” There is more than one reason for this. Humanism is not a religion. It is simply a way of life with no ceremony or dogma. Satanism has both ceremony and dogma. Dogma, as will be explained, is necessary.

As elaborated further:

Inevitably, the next question asked is: “Granted, you can’t call it humanism because humanism is not a religion; but why even have a religion in the first place if all you do is what comes naturally, anyway? Why not just do it?”

Modern man has come a long way; he has become disenchanted with the nonsensical dogmas of past religions. We are living in an enlightened age. Psychiatry has made great strides in enlightening man about his true personality. We are living in an era of intellectual awareness unlike any the world has ever seen.

This is all very well and good, BUT – there is one flaw in this new state of awareness. It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is man’s inherent need for emotionalizing through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment. Psychiatry, despite all the good it has done, has robbed man of wonder and fantasy which religion, in the past, has provided.

Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalizing, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.

In this context, the argument is essentially a psychological one, albeit one carried from a rather optimistic view of the institution of psychiatry and flat rejection of religion (except, of course, for Anton LaVey’s religion!). LaVey and LaVeyan Satanism treat religion as a psychological structure which, in selfish terms, fulfills the emotional needs or desires of humans, specifically the ones that all connect to the practice of ritual. It’s all taken as “fantasy”, or psychodrama, the specific form of which can unlock certain instincts and satisfy certain needs. The LaVeyan view in this sense is that most religions are psychodramas that satisfy a few specific needs or desires, but require the denial many others, often of a basic variety, and in the process elicit a tendency towards aggressive self-denial, whereas Satanic psychodrama is meant to satisfy the whole complex of the needs of “human nature” in its religious alignment with flesh and its wants. It’s an argument that is in many ways central to LaVeyan Satanism in particular, and I think this argument has sort of fallen out of focus in contemporary discussions of atheistic Satanism. I suppose that’s almost just natural as the Church of Satan, for all its internet presence as a notable Twitter gadfly, gradually slipped out of media relevance as The Satanic Temple eventually eclipsed it.

But as to the other atheistic Satanists, who may not be LaVeyans and in the overall may or may not share the LaVeyan view of religion as psychodrama, one may indeed still say, on a case by case basis, “why even call yourselves Satanists?”. The Satanic Temple is in this respect all the more hollow, lacking a larger philosophy of Satanism and preferring instead to take up aspects of the mythology of the Romantic Satan in service of an opportunistic commitment to egalitarian secular humanism. Yet, as obnoxious as the insistence on correction must seem in view of the particular attitude of the LaVeyans and their successors regarding “real Satanism”, if we’re being fair, it seems a tad natural that contemporary Satanists might bother to correct any sort of record at all. Popular culture, still driven latently by the Christian imaginary, contains many misconceived or simply tropey ideas about Satanism, at least some of which can be traced to some rather old and often fascistic conspiracy theories, which then occasionally, often subtly, still feed back into public consciousness. Thus, in principle, Satanists do have an imperative to push back against popular conceptions of Satanism. For one thing, it is an essential part of our broader struggle against the Christian imaginary, and Christianity as a whole. For another, at least some of these ideas and narratives are, in themselves, weapons against us, and they do often support actual social persecutions against Satanists as carried out typically by Christians.

In this sense, there are pretty much only two problems. The first is the fact that some Satanists are doing it in the wrong way, like the Church of Satan insisting its own distorted narrative and narrow definition of Satanism as the sole truth, or the far more general flat denial of all historical or pre-1960s expressions of Satanism on the grounds of their non-atheism. The second is that the media at large, whenever it does not cover Satanism through stories of criminal sects and neo-Nazi “accelerationist” cults, focuses pretty much all vaguely sympathetic or at least non-hostile coverage on atheistic Satanism: whether that’s the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, or the Global Order of Satan, to the exclusion of many esoteric or theistic tendencies within Satanism.

I will say that in the overall Joel’s video was more underwhelming than offensive, and I find it embarrassing that, even as a joke, he feels the need to insinuate that we might be itching for a fight with him over his ill-informed commentary. But I suppose I could close this with an answer to the question of why I embrace the label of Satanist, and I promise to keep it brief. For one it’s because it is the natural expression of religious egoism, hedonism, and “active nihilism” at least in our context, and for another its solar myth and philosophy of inversion has always been, for as long as it has been known, the key to your own inner freedom. Satan is the being who himself is the primordial spiral of insurrection, a solar myth denoting the “other side”, the inner and outer of life, the darkness, that is nonetheless life’s true basis. While I am Pagan, I am a Satanist because I see the war of all against all in the cosmos, the insurrection that ceaselessly propels life, and thus recognise and in turn honour Satan as its divine-demonic apogee, and to follow his black light. In short, I am a Satanist because I honour the war of all against all, and aspire to fight in it on my own side, just as he did.

Satan and the principle of the sun

For months I had been obsesssed with the idea of a link between Satan and the sun. I believe this fixation in recent times started off a while after I wrote my article about Darkness, and I encountered solar references to Satan in the work of Aleister Crowley. The main point of reference here would be in Liber Samekh, which features invocations to Satan as identified with the Sun, such as in section B:

Thou Satan-Sun Hadith that goest without Will!

And section C:

I invoke Thee, the Terrible and Invisible God: Who dwellest in the Void Place of the Spirit:

Thou spiritual Sun! Satan, Thou Eye, Thou Lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the Wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!

Another link Crowley made between Satan and the Sun is his assertion that 666, the colloquial “number of the beast”, is the number of the Sun. This may have been playfully derived from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s assertion that the Sun has a square composed of 36 squares, which then produces the number 111 and the sum of all squares as 666. Section J of Liber Samekh also contains this rather explicit link:

Now this word SABAF, being by number Three score and Ten, is a name of Ayin, the Eye, and the Devil our Lord, and the Goat of Mendes. He is the Lord of the Sabbath of the Adepts, and is Satan, therefore also the Sun, whose number of Magick is 666, the seal of His servant the BEAST.

The Crowleyan Satan presents an interesting picture of Satan as a cipher of inversion in the precise sense of being the god of the other side. We get some interesting commentary on this theme in Cavan McLaughlin’s The Dark Side of the Sun, which focuses on the double-sided nature of solar myth; a theme that will be central to later explorations of our subject. The observation that McLaughlin gives is that Crowley presents Satan as a chthonic double of the Sun, or Self in Jungian terms. From one perspective, though, we can think of the dark solar double as absolutely inherent to the Sun as it is: the other side, which is at once the “true” image. The Devil is thus the shadow of the world that is also its ultimate and original truth.

The Typhonian occultist Kenneth Grant seems to have developed this idea of the other sun as Satan, and in turn Satan as the true root of life. In The Magical Revival, we find a description of Satan, here identified interchangeably with the Egyptian god Set (clearly a manifestation of the erroneous Set-Sat-Satan line) as the “true formula of illumination”. The full quotation is as follows:

In the preceding Aeon (that of Osiris), Set or Satan was regarded as evil, because the nature of desire was misunderstood; it was identified with the Devil and with moral evil. Yet this devil, Satan, is the true formula of Illumination. “Called evil to conceal its holiness”, it is desire that prompts man to know himself – “through another” (i.e. through his own double, or “devil”). When the urge “to know” is turned inwards instead of outwards as it usually is, then the ego dies and the objective universe is dissolved. In the light of that Illumination, Reality, the Gnosis, is all that remains.

In this doctrine, enlightenment means to know yourself through “your own double”, presumably meaning your own shadow. In a sense, knowing Satan is to know “the self behind the self”. The macrocosm of this idea consists in Satan, or Set, or Sirius as the “sun behind the sun”, and so “the hidden god”.This idea is extrapolated further in Cults of the Shadow wherein Grant gives the following description of Set:

The prototype of Shaitan or Satan, the God of the South whose star is Sothis. Set or Sut means ‘black’ (q.v.), the main kala or colour of Set is black, or red (interchangeable symbols in the Mysteries), which denotes the underworld or infernal region of Amenta. As Lord of Hell, Set is the epitome of subconscious atavisms and of the True Will, or Hidden Sun.

We need not concern ourselves with this portrayal of Set as an actual reflection of the historical representation of Set, because there can be no doubt that it has nothing to do with the historical cult of Set. What matters here is the idea of Set/Satan as the “True Will” or “Hidden Sun”. Earlier in the book, Grant explains that, in his particular parlance, the “True Will” is the term given to the “Hidden God” that accompanies humans through the cycles of birth and death, always uniting mankind with “the Shade” and seeking reification in the objective universe, and only the adept can determine its substance. The Magical Revival explores the notion of “the sun behind the sun” via Sirius as the original presence of the Sun:

As the sun radiates life and light throughout the solar system, so the phallus radiates life and light upon earth, and, similarly, subserves a power greater than itself. For as the sun is a reflection of Sirius, so is the phallus the vehicle of the Will of the Magus.

Grant obviously means here that Sirius is the power behind the Sun, and as Sirius is identified with Set/Satan, this itself is to be understood as meaning that darkness, or Set, or Satan, is the power behind the light of the solar system. In a much larger sense, it’s an idea that positions the forms of nature as the expressions of an unseen force or substance, the “true will” or “hidden god”. This is perhaps viewed in terms of a sort of subconscious content, though perhaps we can extend it to the realm of unconscious content, that is then the source of conscious thought and form. Obviously this hidden power is darkness, this hidden god, for Grant, is Set, but for us it could as well be Satan. Though, it could be said that in a pre-Christian context chthonic gods would be that hidden divinity: for example, Paramenides’ descent to the underworld in search of being seems to have led him to the goddess Persephone, the queen of the underworld.

Finally, in Nightside of Eden, Grant brings up a quote from J. F. C. Fuller’s The Secret Wisdom of the Qabalah which, in full, goes as follows:

Satan, as we call this power, is in fact the Tree of Life of our world, that free will which for its very existence depends on the clash of the positive and negative forces which in the moral sphere we call good and evil. Satan is therefore the Shekinah of Assiah, the World of Action, the perpetual activity of the Divine Essence, the Light which was created on the first day and which in the form of consciousness and intelligence can produce an overpowering brilliance equal to the intensest darkness.

The power in question seems to refer to the divine power that conciliates all oppositions and permeates and vitalizes all things. It is course likely purely the interpretation of Fuller and later Grant that this power is supposed to be Satan, but our focus is not the interpretation of Kabbalah (a conversation that, in the hands of white occultists, may invariably veer towards cultural appropriation). What does interest me is the way in which Grant, through Fuller, positions Satan as the inner active creative force that is, thus, the deep source of the agency of life. Grant ultimately links this concept of Satan to inversion, and it would seem this inversion is linked to enlightenment. A footnote in Cults of the Shadow references an apparent quotation in Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine which says “Satan represents metaphysically simply the reverse or the polar opposite of everything in nature.”, which in certain ways conforms with many similar ideas about Satan that persisted in the occult milieu and ultimately in Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s view of Satanism as a religion based in a rebours (“reversal”, as in the reversal of values). The full significance of this theme will be revisited soon, but here we can say that this inversion is also inseparable from the reality that Satanism seeks to access, for the “reverse” image also lies beneath the world as it is.

But, enough about Kenneth Grant. The other more profound throughline in McCaughlin’s essay is in the amorality of the Sun, and the implications of this in solar mythos. The sun, McLaughlin stresses, is amoral, inherently double-sided. We understand the Sun as the giver of life, but it is also a bringer of suffering, pain, and even death. For this analogy we can turn to a number of solar deities and myths across the pre-Christian world. We can start with the Iranian deity Mithra as a particularly interesting example. Mithra was, among other things, a sun god, occasionally even identified with the Sun itself. He was also a god with two sides: one of them is benevolent and concerned with the bonds of friendship and contract, and the other was mysterious, secretive, uncanny, even “sinister”, and according to Kris Kershaw in The One-Eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-)Germanic Männerbünde the daeva Aeshma may have been actually represented an aspect of Mithra’s being. Yet, it is said that Mithra only appears “malicious” to humans because they cannot control or understand him. The Egyptian sun god Ra has his own double-sided persona as suggested by his wrathful emanation of the goddess Sekhmet. The very solar image of the pharoah also contained a demonic aspect in the symbol of the black ram, denoting a divine sovereignty that at once protected and threatened the order of the cosmos. The Babylonian Utu (a.k.a. Shamash) is also a judge in the underworld. Nergal, a warlike god of disease and death, also represented a harsh aspect of the sun at noon. The Greek god Apollo, who over time was increasingly linked to the sun, shared Nergal’s domain over disease alongside the power of oracular healing, and was otherwise regarded as a destroyer and punisher, at least for the wicked. Helios, the traditional Greek god or representation of the Sun, was himself also one of the Titans, those ancient chthonic gods occasionally regarded as wicked, while one of his epithets, Apollo or Apollon, denoted him as “the destroyer”, suggesting that the Helios as the Sun was also a destructive power.

Somewhat related to this is Valerio Mattioli’s discussion of an ancient Mediterranean belief about the demonic; that the demons of the underworld materialised in the world above at midday, when the sun is at its highest. As strange as it sounds, it does seem to be reflected in other cultures – the Bible, for instance, talks about a “destruction that despoils at midday” – and it may harken to certain qualities of the sun that are linked to depression and melancholy. But for all that, there’s that jovial temperament we associate with sunlight, which we see as characteristic of Mediterranean life. It may, indeed, be something of a stereotype. Or, perhaps, there is a strange cipher for daemonic life: a vivifying light of an inner darkness, that is thus the soul of the world.

More importantly, though, is McCaughlin’s idea about the implications of Crowleyan solar myth regarding Thelema. The summary of McCaughlin’s idea is that the sun is by nature amoral and thus, if every man and every woman truly is a star, then the magical quest for transcendence or doing what thou wilt has the potential to “make monsters of us all”. The solar link to the axiom “every man and woman is a star” can be traced to the identification of Horus, the god of Crowley’s new Aeon, with the Sun, and as “a symbol of That which contains [and] transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual”. Horus, as the Sun, is meant as a cipher for the True Will and its inherent solar duality, presumably along with everything that goes with that. As the Sun itself is a star in space, McLaughlin interprets everyone being a star as everyone being their own Sun, in that everyone is the center of their own personal solar system.

An even more fascinating horizon is how McLaughlin plays with Arthur Schopenhauer’s assertion that “life is something that should not have been”, that life is, in some way, monstrous, and that in participating in life we’re all monsters. That monstrosity is taken as a starting point for the solar heroism of the New Aeon, particularly in its utter defiance and transcendence of the moral binary (“good” versus “evil”) on behalf of a totality true to its own nature, and from there an individuating process that facilitates the impression of Will in the world. The amorality of it all is observed to be a fundamental to the principle of “do what thou wilt”, owing to a Nietzschean root in the statement that there is no such thing as moral phenomenon, only moral interpretation of phenomenon. In this setting, morality is simply a reflection upon will or desire. Thus, if everyone is a star, or rather Sun, then everyone is the bearer of their own amoral quest to enact their will in and upon the world and transform themselves and the world around them, their solar light reflecting on the world and will in accordance with their own will (or “nature” or “purpose” in the official philosophical framing of Thelema), in a manner as heroic and beautiful as it is potentially monstrous, all in the same measure. Or, if not monstrous, then certainly demonic.

This all makes for ample conceptual space in which to play with Gruppo Di Nun’s underlying cosmic pessimism, and its mythological narrative concerning the “thermodynamic abomination” of the cosmos. Gruppo Di Nun would seem to be more or less in agreement with the sentiment that life is monstrous, something of an anomaly. They indeed dub the cosmos a “thermodynamic abomination”. Carved from the Mother’s flesh, the creation of the universe emerges arguably as a sort of “crime”. But crime or not, the universe is monstrous in its natural tendency towards disintegration and dissolution, its inherent finitude. And yet, it’s funny to think about life as a crime. Should life never have come to be? Should the stars, the animals, the oceans, the clouds, the trees, us, everything, all never have been? Was the void meant to last forever? Could it have been expected to never change into life as it is, even if we could never expect life to not change or decay? The solar myth ventures into this mystery with a sense of defiance, in the sense of will as this monstrous agency that can never be satisfied without its own art, and thus transforms the world.

The double-sided nature of solar myth brings us neatly into the consideration of solar inversion, and it is in this realm that we may can get a much deeper perspective on the solar dimension of Satan via Gruppo Di Nun’s Revolutionary Demonology, an entire section of which is dedicated to the dark mysteries of the sun, and the alchemical symbol of nigredo dubbed the “Black Sun” (or Sol Niger). This section, an essay titled “Solarisation” written by Valerio Mattioli, centers around inversion, particularly solar inversion, and the overall mystery being contained in the concept of solarisation through multiple conceptual avenues. Funny enough, it presents an interesting contradiction for Gruppo Di Nun’s overall rejection of modern Satanism, since Satanism from the outset has involved inversion, and even though Gruppo Di Nun criticized Satanism for reproducing Christianity by inverting it, their discussion of solar inversion leaves us quite a lot of room to expand and deepen Satanism by way of its inversion.

We can begin our analysis in the concept of solarisation, as through the Surrealist art of Minor White, Man Ray, and Lee Miller. Solarisation here ostensibly refers to a photographic technique used by these artists not just darken the photos but also invert their colour, which in a monochrome palette turns white into black and black into white. For Valerio Mattioli this also serves to create snapshots of a subconscious realm and, thus, an inverse reality. The Sun illuminates our world with its light, so more sunlight should mean more visible reality. But in solarisation more sunlight actually means the inversion of visible reality; the solar disk turns black, positive and negative change places, and a hidden, inverse, “incorrect” truth is revealed. This also brings us to how Gruppo Di Nun understands the Black Sun, by which we mean the original alchemical symbol and the misnomer given to the Nazi sunwheel. The Black Sun here is a symbol of nigredo, the initial state of the Great Work, the putrefaction in which matter is disinterested and reduced back to its primordial state. In alchemical terms solarisation as a certain kind of nigredo, in which the power of the sun translates into its opposite: the light of a realm of shadows, of the invisible and unnameable, as opposed to the sun of the phenomenal world in which all of this darkness is hidden – an occult world, accessible only by occult means.

I would recall here an obscure aspect of ancient Greek religion and philosophy: the belief in a dark, hidden sun, which represented the power of the underworld. At Smyrna, Hades was worshipped as Plouton Helios, and hence as a solar deity. His consort, Persephone, was worshipped alongside him as Koure Selene, the moon. But Plouton Helios did not simply represent the visible or phenomenal sun. Rather, he represented a dark sun, as contrasted with the heavenly sun in the form of Helios Apollo. Plutarch interpreted this sun – Hades – as “the many”, the multiplicity that was contrasted with the unity of The One, represented by Apollon, whose namesake supposedly denied “the many”, while Ammonius proposed that Hades represented obscurity, darkness, and the unseen into which things pass – dissolution and non-Being – in contrast to Apollo representing Being, memory, light, and the phenomenal – for which Ammonius calls Apollo God Himself. Hades was thus the sun of an invisible, chthonic realm; a “black sun” if you will.

This idea carries broad resonances and contains many horizons. We see one of the ancestors of Christian dualism, in which “Being” is located in unity, paired with phenomenal light (the celestial Sun), and called God, while darkness is presided over by the ruler of the underworld and representative of death and non-Being, and the stamp of God implies an ontological alignment with Apollon’s light. The opposition of multiplicity in The Many to unity in The One can, to a very limited extent, recall Satan’s role in the Qliphoth as the ruler (or co-ruler alongside Moloch) of the order of Thaumiel, representing division as opposed to the unity of Kether. The idea of the invisible sun takes a broader and somewhat different significance in Neoplatonism, where the invisible sun represents the form of the sun that exists beyond and behind the visible sun, the source of the visible sun, of which the visible sun is a mere representation or likeness. In Neoplatonist philosophy, this invisibility is meant to denote the noetic or noeric realms, the unseen layers of divine mind or intellect from which the visible and phenomenal world derives its origin. But from a chthonic lens, this framework is easy to reorient from the unity of divine mind to the dark life of the underworld, whose deifying power sleeps hidden in everything and contains all possibilities; and of course, where the daemons come from, where their vivifying power dwells and from which it crosses into the world in which we live.

But, our journey of solar inversion has still only just begun. We come to an exploration of solarisation in Italian neorealist films, whose aim was to nakedly portray the harsh realities of everyday life in post-World War 2 Italy. In Luchino Visconti’s Appunti su un fatto di cronaca, a short documentary about the kidnapping and murder of 12-year old Annarella Bracci, the outskirts of Rome are shown to be a massive refuse where human garbage is dumped alongside non-human garbage, and in the “golden city” blocks of flats connect to a dismal sky stinking of damnation. As Mattioli puts it: hell lies in the celestial vaults. Hard indeed to find a better representation of solar inversion. But that’s also it isn’t it: how many times have I seen Satanic inversion blur the line between heaven and hell by reversing them? After all, from a certain standpoint, Satanism says exactly that what we call “heaven” is actually closer to what we might call “hell”, or at least is more tortuous than hell, not to mention God himself being “evil”; and what we call “hell” isn’t so bad, while Satan is good.

Going right back to Aleister Crowley, there’s an important dimension contained in neorealism’s “need to know and to modify reality” (per the Enciclopedia Treccani), which we may in turn connect to Crowley’s definition of magic as “the Science and Art of causing changes in conformity with the Will”. Magic by this term is then connected to the hallucinatory quality of the Sun; it’s said that the Mediterranean sun can get so bright that its light induces a blinding whiteout: your vision becomes nothing but a vast white expanse. Mattioli figures the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini as an initiatory journey that sees Rome, in Accatone, take on an almost Lovecraftian character a la the lost city of R’lyeh, and then culminates in the blinding solar anus of Salo; unwatchable and brutal like the body of the Sun, and filled with absurdly sadistic inversions of the function of coitus. But then anal sex and its “unnatural” quality becomes an instrument of reconciliation with the reality and truth revealed by the “black sun”, which for Mattioli seems to be hinted through Austin Osman Spare’s concept of Atavistic Resurgence, where his explorations of non-normative sexual activity penetrate the psyche and allowed him to explore fantastical cities constructed of otherworldly geometries.

By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with anything, but don’t worry: by the time Mattioli discusses Ostia, the place where Pasolini was murdered in 1975, we get to the defining characteristic of solar inversion: as Mattioli says, it confuses and overturns everything. That’s the need to know and modify the world, which in turn overturns everything. I could not help but think of the “Gnostic” version of the Fall, as Sophia’s quest to imitate and thereby understand God throws the order of the Pleroma into chaos resulting in the creation of Yaldabaoth and the material cosmos. The Fall in the sense of rebellion emerges as a similarly creative act, rejecting God’s world on his own behalf, and carving out his own kingdom afterwards: his rebellion, even as it is repelled and subjugated, throws creation into disarray. Satanism in magical terms aims for the Fall as an act of devourment, locating the darkness and the Fall in order to imitate it, to then storm heaven and seize all things in a dark solar myth, carving out a new kingdom in the process. That of course sounds nothing like what Gruppo Di Nun has in mind, with its ontological masochism and its attendant emphasis on masochistic surrender and the resulting interpretation of nigredo as abdication. But it’s one way of looking at solar inversion. Perhaps it’s my bias – I definitely don’t consider myself much of a masochist. But I think we can turn to blasphemy to illustrate my point, since blasphemy contains solar inversion.

Mattioli suggests that the name Ostia carries resonances with the contradiction and inversion in the Christian host. On the one hand, the name Ostia relates to two Latin words for “victim” and “adversary” – “hostia” and “hostis” respectively; one almost thinks of Christ (that divine victim) and Satan (the Adversary himself). On the other hand, Ostia actually comes from another Latin word, “ostium”, meaning “mouth”. As a place where waste and shit spill out, it is the literal anus of the metropolis. But it’s also the host: that is, the Mithraic disk trapped inside the Christian host. Inversion and blasphemy contain themselves in solar mystery, and it reminds us: blasphemy is a willful act. To place your feet on the cross, to spit upon, piss on, or destroy it, to penetrate the flesh in acts of self-gratification, to practice kink, to queer the body in all sorts of ways, to disinhibit the human sensorium (to be intoxicated), to rise up in insurrection or revolution, to overthrow order and take the head of the Demiurge with your sword: there is a magic between all such acts that connects to the will of solar myth, perhaps even to a primal will that could not content itself with undifferentiation – and therefore, to the fatality, primacy, and eternity of the fall of Satan. Thus we return to Satanism, for Satanism can be understood as the belief that rebellion, or the Fall, constitutes the highest creative act, and Satan is the wellspring, the emblem, the god of that endless spiral of insurrection.

And while we’re here I think there is the opportunity to take a quick detour into the Satanism of Stanislaw Przybyszewski – for all we know, the first man ever to identify himself as a Satanist. Satanism, per Przybyszewski, is a religion whose sole principle is reversal: it is religion a rebours. This idea was probably forged from the combined influence of French occultism and decadence on the one hand (Joris Karl-Huysman certainly described Satanism as “Catholic religion followed in reverse”), and Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the transvaluation of values on the other hand. A rebours emerges as an active negating principle, that of spiritual insurrection against order and authority. Przybyszewski takes the Witch, who inverts all values and sensations, as the apogee of this principle, for whom it is a source of exceptional power and the revelation of Satan in the Witches’ Sabbath. A rebours allows individuals to gain power over their lives amidst the oppression they suffer, to remake themselves into defiant agents of transvaluation, who can refuse authority, and cannot be satisfied by it, or anything except blasphemy, and by blasphemy the ability to know and modify the world. The association with intoxication completes the Przybyszewskian context of solar inversion: drunkenness, intoxication, enivrez-vous is necessary in order to not be a slave of God or the world. The hallucinatory aspect of solar inversion is here intoxication, and it completes the spiral of Przybyszewskian Satanism: swear yourself to Satan as the true father of this world, break the laws of God and his kingdom of spirit, get drunk, and have your name written in the book of death, then you will overthrow everything in the name of your own satanic will. That, in Przybyszewski’s Satanism, is negation.

The context of solar inversion that we explored through Luchino Visconti can also be found in none other than Przybyszewski’s inverted cosmogonic dualism. God, the spirit of “good”, is the ruler of a celestial kingdom of slavery, and on earth his rule is the author of countless brutal repressions carried out in his name; heaven truly is a hell. Satan, the spirit of “evil”, is actually humanity’s greatest benefactor, teaching humans all of the ways that they can manifest and fulfill their desires and gain freedom from God. Satan himself also pronounces to the world that he was “the God of Light” and that God was the “dark god of revenge” who overthrew him out of jealousy, and meanwhile also inverting the power of the church itself: not based in “salvation”, possibly not even in “God” either (who is in turn revealed to be absent), but in acquisition. As to sunlight, Przybyszewski’s statement that Satan was called Lightbringer arguably has us skipping ahead to the solar inversion of Lucifer (which I will revisit later): Mattioli says that Lucifer is the light-bringer, but his domain is the shadows; that might just be another way of saying that the bringer of light always casts darkness. But we’ll soon get to that.

Another horizon for solar inversion, relevant to sun of the other side that we have previously explored, can be seen through the mythological city of Remoria: the city that Remus had built, and, for Valerio Mattioli, perhaps the Rome that might have been if Remus had prevailed against Romulus in their ancient fratricidal duel. The duel is said to have taken place under a solar eclipse, which Mattioli figures as the illumination of another world. Remoria emerges as an inverted twin city, the parallel opposite of Rome, and the incarnation of the beyond-threshold. It is the city of expenditure, of the sacrifice of that which never was nor will be, where Rome was supposed to be the city that continually reproduces what already is, and it is a round and circular city, welcoming the waste of the world of the living, where Rome was meant to be a square city that strictly boundaries the inside and out. Remoria as a spectral, abymsal double of Rome, almost echoes the idea of the underworld as a surreal mirror image of life on earth – like the earth and yet not quite. But perhaps it also lies locked in the heart of the metropolis. For Mattioli the Grande Raccordo Anulare (or “Great Ring Junction”) that encircles the modern city of Rome is akin to a magic seal replicating the features of the solar disk on the city ground: an anal symbol, without beginning and without end, and a site where solarisation projects in a spiral between the earth and the sky.

The solar inversion of the Mediterranean “disk of death” then takes us into a dark continuum, represented in Italian underground music and through which Mattioli ultimately portrays the legacy of the Witches’ Sabbath. The Witches’ Sabbath, whether real or strictly imagined, was never sanctioned within any sacred, and its dances sought to invert the existing regime, revealing, according to Silvia Federici, “the living symbol of ‘the world turned upside-down;”. This upside-down world is also the world in which the noontide demons raged: remember, the middle of the day, when the sun is at its highest, and none other than the city so burned by that sun’s light. This reveals a hidden world, perhaps one that is at once this world, which for Mattioli is the synthetic, inorganic world of the living dead, and their dead planet, the Sun; too much heat and light means death rather than illumination. We can again turn to Stanislaw Przybyszewski for the Satanic significance of the inversion in the Witches’ Sabbath. Here, the Witches’ Sabbath is the vehicle for a personal Satanic-Nietzschean transvaluation of values, initiated by a frenzy of orgies, ecstatic dances, and sacrifices that culminate in the dissolution of reality and sensorium into an endless night in which Satan appears to lead his mass. Flesh revolts against law, its instincts triumph over the society that exists over them, desire is elevated and heightened to the point of being fulfilled in the transmutation of divine communion with Satan, or perhaps the gods. Gold, God, power over others, these are worthless before the Sabbath of the flesh, and as it is partaken the concept of sin itself is destroyed along with the holy, dissolving into itself and becoming nothing. In the dark continuum that is the infinite night of the Witches’ Sabbath, good and evil cease to exist, leaving nothing but joy.

Finally, we turn to Valerio Mattioli’s examination the solarisation of Milan via Giulio Questi’s 1972 film Arcana, a giallo movie set in Milan and containing in the background a setting of tension between the modern, industrial metropolis of Milan and an exhausted but still deeply occult South. Questi seems to present images of Milan that include underground construction sites that ostensibly and unwittingly invoke dormant chthonic powers and latent irrationality smouldering both within the earth and in the southern Italy sunshine. Mattioli then illustrates the two worlds as interconnected: Milan, that rational, enlightened, advanced capitalist metropolis, sinks its bowels into an underworld of underground construction sites where southern immigrant workers regularly lost parts of their bodies, not to mention a host of curses, memories, and spells. The city contains within itself its own nemesis, its own negative, its own dark mirror image that pushes for inversion: solarisation. And for Milan, that solar inversion is imminent, or already underway. Mattioli sees the Covid-19 pandemic as having unravelled the truth of the disk of death: there is no consumption or nourishment without waste or excrement, and there is always an asshole somewhere. Thus the mass flight of southerners from Milan to the South, which was interpreted as a betrayal of the metropolis, was simply the city having consumed and then excreted a labouring mass. In this sense the inverting quality of solarisation again reveals a hidden world, a hidden Remoria, that is perhaps at the same time this world.

And so we at last return to the Canicola, the conclusion, as our final exploration of Valerio Mattioli’s discussion of solar inversion. His summary of the inverting power of the sun centres on none other than Lucifer, the morning star, whose name is here invoked in reference to the sun. At first that’s a little strange, but given all the references to Italian folklore and counterculture I’m actually tempted to think it echoes the Lucifer, or Lucifero, of Charles Leland’s Aradia, who was cast as a sun god. What Mattioli says of “Lucifer” is more or less a summary of the whole discourse of solarisation. The sun, perched 150 million kilometres from our planet, shoots intense rays of light at Earth every day. Its rays, just as much as they support life, melt the shadows, evaporate knowledge of things, and make a desert of the earth. The light does not illuminate, it only brings darkness, because too much of it can only blind you. So the fire of the sun is also the very fire of hell, and Lucifer, though the bearer of light, would appear to be a master of shadows. The Sun itself is the source of both life and death for Earth, and, for Mattioli, the principle of delusions, abnormalities, and all abysses of the human psyche. One is almost tempted to call it the Father of Lies.

What’s somewhat amusing is that, when I read that Canicola, I picked up what sounded like a description of Christian negative theology, in the sense that God is dark because his light is beyond comprehension. For Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the “darkness” of the apophatic God is actually light, in his words a “light above light”, some might even say an excess of light. Even the negative theologians, insofar as they were Christians, would not worship a god of darkness, not as I would, so the apophatic God must still be light. Just that this light is too much for us, it would make us dark. The apophatic Christian God indeed blinds us by the supposed radiance of his absolute presence in the cosmos. There is also for them the darkness that is ignorance, and there is the darkness that is actually the supreme superabundance of God’s light. Perhaps it is a matter of interpretation for the Christian. Though of course, Christianity is not quite alone in its understanding of divine darkness. Neoplatonists also seemed to refer to a certain concept of divine darkness: Damascius said that the “first principle of the Egyptians” was what was called the “thrice unknown darkness”, beyond all human comprehension, and Iamblichus referred to the same concept in On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. Older Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus referred to a divine quality referred to as “unseen”, “unapparent”, or “unknown to men”, the rammifications ought to be fairly different from the need to maintain light as the supreme centre of truth rather than darkness in itself. In any case, one almost thinks of the God of negative theology as a sun in the way Mattioli talks about, so bright that it whites out the entire universe.

But the more important takeaway involves going back to the subject of solar myth. Let’s return to solarisation in relationship to Italian neorealism and Aleister Crowley, to that very neorealist desire to know and modify the world, its connection to the Crowleyan precept of magic as the art of causing change according to will, and their suggested link to the hallucinatory power of the sun. This will to know and modify the world, to overturn everything, is what makes the hallucinations of the sun the property of solar myth. Here, we can insert a little bit of philosophical sadism, well, of a sort. Geoffrey Gorer in The Life and Ideas of the Marquis de Sade presents a remarkably broad definition of sadism, which he summarizes as “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer”. Gorer submits that this is expansive enough to include creating works of art to blowing up bridges, so long as it constitutes a modification of the external world by a willing agent. This of course is fairly magically significant, in that it denotes the modification of the objective universe by the subjective universe of the will, a process that also transforms the magician, and it also in some ways echoes the creative-destruction that anarchists have talked about since Mikhail Bakunin first did. But in some ways, it also denotes a solar myth.

The Mediterranean whiteout is a phenomenon in which sun, at its brightest, turns the field of vision into a vast, dazzling field of white that then liquefies perceptual reality. As a creative and magical technique, it is a way of inverting the world into an unreal inner world of phantasmagorial structures and landscapes. Crowleyan solar myth sees the light of a willing Sun reforming the world in accordance with itself and its own universe, and again to some extent the magician. For Cavan McLaughlin, the whole life of Aleister Crowley is its own archetypical form of this process. As he points out, Crowley’s life is a personal mythology, supported by a magical authorial will. Born Edward Alexander Crowley, he dubbed himself Aleister Crowley as an act of magical self-authorship, itself understood as an expression of the “Western Esoteric Tradition” through the a key axiom of the Hermetic Orde of the Golden Dawn, “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened”, for which reason members take up new magical names for their initiation. In 1930 Crowley even faked his own death by suicide, leaving a “suicide note” and false information to the press, before re-appearing three weeks later, alive and well, in Berlin. In so doing he has blurred the lines between fact and fiction, and in this sense sort of solarising reality, in a sense blinding it with a hallucination, and in so doing creating a new one for himself. Crowley in this sense was a Sun named The Great Beast 666, whose light burned and warped his world in the image of his will. One might say similar things about other magicians as well, even the likes of Anton LaVey.

And what if, to turn back to the point about negative theology, God himself also qualifies? If we take that God’s light solarises the universe in his own image, and if we assume that God created the world, then God would be a magician who solarised his order of things into existence, theoretically at least overturning what state of things came before. God of course even has his own secret magical names. God, then, is at war with Satan simply for rejecting his creation and trying to do what God does, just as Sophia is cursed and having to redeem herself for the very same imitation of God. God, Pleroma, they are the egoists who would prefer that you deny this and not be egoists. But in rejection of monotheism, we may still assume an endless spiral of insurrectionary creative-destruction underpinning the whole of reality. That’s “Satan’s Fall”. From a certain standpoint this may indeed be the dragon at the centre of the world. By inversion, by blasphemy, overturn everything and reveal reality in order to create it anew. Perhaps this is the only meaningful way to express oneness with the nature of reality.

Now, after all of this exposition from Revolutionary Demonology, we should finally summarize what all of this discussion of solar myth and inversion means for understanding Satan in the view of Satanism. For this, I suppose we can briefly return to the subject of Lucifer. The relationship between Satan and Lucifer is complex to the point of occasional confusion, but I believe I can present a somewhat simple perspective in defense of their mutual distinction. Lucifer is the polytheistic spirit of the morning star, a rebel angel who emerges from a long chain of pre-Christian myth and chthonicism into modern day occultism, on his own an illuminating agent of gnosis. Satan, on the other hand, is a much larger presence. Satan is this great adversarial “Other” whose sign as it once within everything, a whole spiral of negative insurrection and desire that in its own way animates the flesh of everything, the atavistic rebellion that cuts through all silence and creates and destroys things without end, the Darkness of life that is inherent to it, cannot be ignored, and must embraced in order to access the truth and power of this world and run wild and free in it. In this exact sense, Eliphas Levi was correct to identify Satan as the instrument of liberty.

The relevance of the Sun is clearly in the significance of the Sun as a metaphor for the primordial ground of reality. That is why, in the course of the development of monotheism in antiquity, the Sun emerged as a cipher for the divine unity of the cosmos, or a nascent concept of “God”. This idea that still has some currency to this day. Carl Jung certainly thought it made sense when he wrote in Psychology of the Unconscious that the Sun is “the only rational representation of God” across culture, being the “father” or “parent” from whom everything on Earth derives its life, the source of living energy, the natural extra-human source of spiritual harmony, and simultaneously utterly destructive. George Gurdjieff proposed the “Most Holy Sun Absolute” as the kernel of all divine unity and reality, the ultimate platform, basis, and thereby original state of the universe, which he believed God created specifically to maintain the “Most Holy Sun Absolute”. Aleister Crowley also seems to have reflected the solar idea in his emphasis on a solar centre, encapsulated in his statement that Thelema (“our religion”) is “the cult of the Sun”. From a Satanic standpoint, obviously, it would be Satan that embodies this solar urgrund. Crowley certainly identifies him as such by identifying him as “Sun”, and Agrippa’s identification of 666 as the magical number of the Sun would do well assist Crowley in this regard. But Satan as the Sun is no mere cipher for the unity of reality. In some ways, perhaps the opposite is the case. Remember that Satan is, very literally, the Adversary. That’s the simplest way to understand Satan, but its significance for Satanism stems exactly from insurrection and longing in its primordial sense.

Think of it in terms of the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. This event is traditionally regarded as the primordial disgrace of humanity, in Christian terms the origin of our propensity to sin and, therefore, need for the redemption through Jesus. But, of course, for us on the Left Hand Path, in Satanic terms, this even is to be interpreted as the beginning of humanity’s initiation, the path of our own liberation and perfection. But there is another angle as well. There is the idea, a form of cosmic pessimism, that our existence is an exile, nothingness being our original home. That’s the question Emil Cioran posed in Tears and Saints, but if this is indeed the case then it means that life is a rebellion, an insurrection, that overturns everything that came before it. In that sense, life itself is an insurrection of solarisation, and one response to this is to simply embrace it. If to embrace life is to embrace exile, cruel as it may be, then so be it. To me, it is the only answer to the question of life that makes sense, if this is how one poses it. The mythological Satan and Lucifer both embrace their exile from heaven as the fruit of their insurrection/rebellion, and with it the very desire that it was based on. In Sethian or Valentinian terms, the exile of spirit in separation from the Pleroma, born of Sophia’s desire to understand God and the resultant creation of Yaldabaoth, was, from another standpoint, the sole reason a life beyond the order of the Pleroma is possible, thus life itself is a product of her Fall. On the other hand, perhaps it’s simply a more innocent longing to beyond what is. I remembered T L Othaos’ system of “Tenebrous Satanism”, and one idea from it being that life is basically an adventure of the acausal (spirit) in the realm of flesh, seemingly undertaken for the pleasure of the acausal. The point of reconciling with the Darkness is simply to disinhibit ourselves by removing the barriers of despair and fear in order to more fully embrace the adventure. The theme of exile and solarisation is still present in this interpretation of the Fall, however: here, Satan “fell” from heaven, embracing exile in order to reject the order of God, which traps the adventurous progression of life, which itself primordially overturns everything.

In a unique way the Sun, particularly because of its “black” and nocturnal aspect, is actually quite an apt analogy for Satan and the magical path of Satanism. Satan’s Fall overturns everything, and his spiral of insurrection is the basis of life. For this reason, his sign is the imprint of life. That is Satanic solarisation, and it can be our interpretation of the dragon at the heart of the world; the dragon for us can be other than Satan, though we usually much prefer to see him as the goat. Satanic nigredo is disinhibition, enivres-vous, blasphemy, inversion, a rebours, magic in itself, and, in Pagan terms perhaps, the journey into the underworld, going to the bottom of the earth so as to overturn everything per will, on the path to our own self-actualisation and alchemical perfection. Never surrendering to anything, the magician on the path fully embraces solarisation as the delirious overturning of everything, reshaping the world in their art in their will, and on the path to weaving their will into everything. That is our will-to-darkness, our path to becoming-demonic, for Satan is the whole basis of our path, by dint of everything that we have established so far. And for all of this Satan is also the emblem of our solar myth, the solar myth of the Satanist, overturning everything to reveal the truth of its double image, its hidden reality, whiting out everything in our black light and manifesting the truth our will, a new truth, in our own Art. That is our satanic solarisation.

I would like to conclude this article with an ironic note on the lamentation that in the next essay, “The Highest Form of Gnosis” by Enrico Monacelli, about the nature of the “worldwide annihilation” that is modernity. Monacelli says here, citing Amy Ireland’s The Poememenon:

Whereas pre-moderns lived in a world ‘marked by dogmatism, a drive towards unity, verticality, the need for transcendent rule and the symbol of the sun’, moderns live in a catastrophic miasma that can only be characterised as ‘lunar, secular, horizontal, multiple, and immanent’.

Why do I think there’s irony involved? Because one is to reflect on this either as a spiral of disintegration and lunacy pervading the world at large, or as proof of Nick Land’s argument that the universe is nothing but a distintegrating machine in which we’re all witnesses to our own laceration and martyrdom. But, if we humans are truly in need for a representation of the sun, we can have it, easily! Because that sun is not the unity of God or the daylight of the world of forms. No, that sun is the sun in the underworld, the shining light of Hades. Nay, the sun is Satan, without whose sign we should not be.

Hail Satan

Italian Nazis in Black: An analysis of the Union of Italian Satanists

Whenever Satanism is covered in the press, the focus is usually on the representations of atheistic Satanism, usually consisting of the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, and/or the Global Order of Satan. This is a very problematic phenomenon, one that typically leaves out theistic and esoteric expressions of Satanism, both historical and modern, to service the presentation of Satanism as an edgy but ultimately palatable form of humanism. I see that Vice recently published an article that, on the surface, would seem to buck that trend. But, in doing so, even they do not tell the whole truth, and this is a problem.

The article, written by Camilla Sernagiotto and originally published in Vice Italy, discusses a Theistic Satanist organisation that refers to themselves as the Union of Italian Satanists (or, Unione Satanisti Italiani), and consists of an interview with Jennifer Crepuscolo, the apparent founder of the USI, and a number of other Satanists who are members.

Sernagiotto’s article ostensibly gives us a basic overview of the beliefs of the Union of Italian Satanists. The USI purports to believe in what they call “Traditional Satanism”, or rather “Original Satanism” (or “Satanismo Originale”). In this system, Satan is regarded as a real and ancient deity, who was later turned into a demon by God. We are told that USI’s “Original Satanism” also worships a Mother Goddess as a central deity, a “dark and shining feminine figure that is widely stigmatized by patriarchal religions”. They also seem to believe that Satan and the Mother Goddess descended to Earth in order to impart knowledge to humans, then had sex with some humans and created a line of descendants referred to as “Satanids”. USI members often refer to themselves as “Satanids”, they believe themselves to be actually biologically descended from Satan and, thus, capable of accessing divine knowledge through “genetic memory” contained in their blood. Of course, the USI rejects the notion of Satan as corresponding to the Devil in the Biblical/Christian imaginary, but instead see him as a distinct primordial deity of knowledge and the human soul.

So far we’re already getting into vaguely familiar territory. There are sentiments among members that sound familiar enough to garden variety Satanism, theistic or atheistic, such as the belief in self-ownership, egoistic spiritual independence, the notion of Satan as a being who is distinct from Christian myth, a rejection of animal sacrifice and respect for nature. The doctrine of the “Satanids”, however, bears a suspicious similarity to the concept of the “serpent seed”. The “serpent seed” doctrine is a Christian idea which holds that Eve had sex with the serpent in the Garden of Eden and consequently gave birth to Cain, and in turned created a entire racial lineage descended from the serpent and therefore genetically and fatalistically inclined towards evil and destined for eternal damnation, as contrasted with the line descended from Adam who could earn eternal life in heaven. It’s an idea that has some antecedents in early Christianity or more specifically the “Gnostic” sects, but its modern form is the specific product of white supremacist movements and preachers who wanted to present Jews as the product of the “serpent seed” and therefore evil. Of course, here being part of the serpent’s line is in this case not to be seen as evil (indeed far from it!), but it’s still sort of the same idea: Satan has sex with humans and spawns a distinct racial line genetically aligned with his will and knowledge. On their website, as we’ll soon explore, they even apparently use the term “the satanic race” in a positive sense.

This is basically what Sernagiotto’s article discusses so far, but that is not all there is to it. They have a website, which the article handily links to. But that website also reveals some deeply troubling ideas that, for some reason, Sernagiotto did not see fit to discuss in her article and its interviews with USI members.

There’s a lot to unpack, and keep in mind that we’re going off of the available translation. From the website we learn that the Union of Italian Satanists was founded on August 11th 2010 with the intention of presenting its own take on Satanism to the public. The organisation was founded by Jennifer Crepuscolo (who also goes by “Jennifer Twilight”), but the webstie also features other authors such as Mandy Lord, Kate Ecdysis, Paola Difilla, and Khaibit, to name just a few who are listed on the “USI Authors” page. They insist that they are not “Judeo-Christian”, not rationalist, not atheists, not Freemasons (weird that they felt the need to point that out), and not “anything that we do not openly declare”. Their main purpose is to bring together the “Family of Satan” by spreading a doctrine that they call “Original Satanism”.

There are many contours to this concept of “Original Satanism”. It positions Satan as the “God of Origins”, the god of choice and self-determination, the Sophia and Lucifer of the initiatory path of self-knowledge, the “root and essence” behind countless other cults and traditions, the originary truth hidden behind every alteration imposed upon it by successive generations under the influence of “Yahwehism”. The USI’s doctrine holds that reality is an illusion, a virtual form constructed around us as a way for humans to receive meaning, and beneath this illusion is the essence represented by Satan. It’s for this reason that the USI considers that Satan can be approached through a multitude of forms, and that it would be too static to approach him as just one. For example, the USI considers Enki and Odin to be Sumerian and Norse aspects of Satan repsectively. The same goes for traditions, on the basis that Satanism is a evolution and dynamism that nonetheless proceeds from roots; one could choose to interpret this as presenting Satanism as a “living tradition”. According to USI doctrine, Satan is not evil, the Devil or a servant of Yahweh, and is instead “the God of the Soul”, the guardian of the thresholds and of wisdom, and even Existence itself, even beyond this life. This Satan is also sometimes identified with Lucifer, to the extent that USI members occasionally call themselves “Heirs of the Morning Star”. The Fallen are counted as divine ancestors who descended to the Earth to give knowledge to humans and then created a line of humans who carry “the divine seed” through procreation. USI members also believe that the primary purpose of magic is to fully retrieve the memory of that “divine” seed in the soul.

The USI espouses something called “Natural Ethics” as the ethical basis of their version of Satanism. “Natural Ethics” is basically a form of ethics that is supposed to emerge spontaneously from the person, and in turn links them to their divine ancestors and the “natural order” of the universe. Mind you, this “Natural Ethics” seems to be based on the concept of “genetic memory”. “Morality” (or rather “Imposed Morality”) on the other hand is an anti-spontaneous code of behaviour that the USI opposes because they think it leads to involution and separation from the natural order. The USI apparently does believe that “good” and “evil” exist but they’re defined as follows: “good” means what is in harmony with “the natural order”, allows or supports its maintenance and perpetuity, and facilitates the evolution and existence of life as a continuum, whereas “evil” means that which is not in harmony with “the natural order”, hinders and attacks this order, causes “involution”, hinders evolution, and supports non-existence. The USI also espouses nine points dubbed “The Nine Values of Satanic Ethics”. These are “Completeness” (meaning to “complete yourself” by acheiving a unity of opposites), “Beauty” (meaning inner and outer self-care in pursuit of the perfection of form), “Honor” (meaning to “keep one’s memory alive” or to live in harmony with your own nature or ethos), “Truth” (sort of self-explanatory I think), “Justice” (neither good nor bad, seemingly just upholding “the natural order”), “Freedom” (here meaning self-control, self-sufficiency, and the soteriological possibility of “really being ourselves”), “Wisdom”, “Pathos”, and “Identity” (meaning to uphold the identity of “the People of Satan”).

The USI tend to be very strict with the term Satanism, and uses the term “Acid” or “Acidism” to refer to really anyone who commits generically “evil”, “immoral”, or “criminal” acts, particularly if they do so while presenting ostensibly “satanic” imagery. This is essentially their term for what has conventionally been dubbed the “Reverse Christian”. These “Acids” are regarded as non-Satanists, entirely the product of “Judeo-Christian” society, who are simply either anti-Christian and nothing else or “bad Christians”. They also use the term “Hipster Satanist” for people who they think are not Satanists and simply call themselves and dress as Satanists for the purpose of transgression. Bear in mind, though, that in their eyes, being a “real” Satanist means worshipping Satan as they define him – that is, not The Devil, but their own god of truth and origin, the father of the so-called “Satanids”. By their standard, that could amount to many Satanists. Satanism to the USI is simply the “Cult of Origins”, a supposedly authentic form of the religious values of the so-called “golden age”, and the self-styled mission of the USI is the “restoration” of their cult.

The USI also seems to be polytheistic in that they recognise and venerate numerous deities besides Satan, which includes both pre-Christian deities and demons from Christian demonology. The website lists Lucifer, Samael, Bast, Sekhmet, Haagenti, Maat, Andras, Bifrons, Buer, Asmodeus, Hel, Abigor, Agares, Aini, Amon, Anubis, Beelzebub (here identified with Baal and Bael), Belphegor, Bune, Dantalian, Decarabia, Foras, Gaap, Glasya Labolas, Haagenti, Halphas, Khepu, Lucifuge Rofocale, Marchosias, Nergal, Ronove, Set, Sorath, Volac as the many gods worshipped, at least individually, within the USI. It also has a section focused on various gods of war (also dubbed “protectors of life”), and discusses a whole list of war gods including Ogma, Set, Anhur, Sekhmet, Neith, Sobek, Horus, Pakhet, Wepwawet, Montu, Menher, Maahet, Satis, Sopdu, Mars, Ninurta, Mixcoatl, Xipe Totec, Huitzilopochtli, Shay Al Qawm, Athtar, Hubal, al-Uzza, Minerva, Morrigan, Ishtar/Inanna, Tyr, Durga, Indra, Ogun, Shango, Sobo, and Hachiman, while also listing Baal, Azazel, Glasya Labolas, Halphas, Volac, and Andras as “Demons of War”.

The USI also seems to have to some fairly peculiar thoughts on the subject of aliens, as suggested by the fact that they have an article discussing the notion that the gods are aliens. The short answer, in their opinion, is yes and no. They sort of argue that it doesn’t really matter if the gods are aliens or not since either way they would be extradimensional beings, also insisting that the gods manifested on Earth biologically while taking every opportunity to assert the categorical rejection of atheism. That said they do regard the appeal to the extraterrestrial as an attempt by humans to “control” the gods, who otherwise cannot be controlled, through scientific rationalism. For USI members, “alien” is a word that can also refer to creatures from other dimensions, not just extraterrestrial but also “otherworldly”, and they do ultimately describe the gods and Satan this way too, so the lines between terms are ultimately blurred. As far as the USI is concerned, the divine beings may or may not be basically ancient astronauts.

More importantly, however, the USI also seems to be really antisemitic, and they can arguably be described as neo-Nazis. Their page on “Original Satanism” describes many people as being “slaves of the Jewish preconception” of Satan, while also attacking Jewish mysticism as blasphemous (yes I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on anyone here). They hit out at other Satanist movements by accusing them of “Judaizing” Satanism, which to them means making it “more plebeian” and atheistic; the idea that atheism is a product of Jewish influence is of course both inherently antisemitic one of the basic talking points of Nazi ideology. Their article on “Satanid Nature” asserts that they made their pact with Yahweh because they wanted nothing but power over and revenge (funny how now revenge is a bad thing!) on other lands and are in turn responsible for destroying “a world full of traditions and values” and “the birth of a progressive decline”. The same article negatively compares them to Jesus by stressing that Jesus refused the temptations of Satan (again, you would think that Satanists would prefer that Jesus not be the Messiah) whereas Moses allowed Yahweh to “corrupt” them. The article “The Way of Signs” features an image of a shining Nazi Sonnenrad alongside a discussion of the so-called “Black Sun” versus the “White Sun”. The USI rejects the popular notion of a “pact with Satan”, specifically because they believe it to actually be “the pact between the Jews and Yahweh”, which they deem to be “spiritual opportunism”.

Another almost baffling example of USI’s antisemitism is that the page about Lucifer appears to almost dismiss a source because it is ostensibly Jewish, and then presents quotations from Otto Rahn, a literal SS officer and Nazi Ariosophist ideologue, and Miguel Serrano, one of the major original proponents of Esoteric Hitlerism, as part of its discussion of the nature of Lucifer. They even argue that Christianity in its current state is “totally Judaized” and that the original Christianity was strictly “Gentile”, based on the “physiognomy” and philosophy of Jesus. This is literally just Nazi ideology, in that the Nazis argued for a Christianity that they felt be fully divested of supposed “Jewish influences”, thus an “Aryan” faith, based in turn on volkisch Protestant nationalist ideas that had already circulated in Germany during the early 20th century. More to the point it’s incredibly bizarre for self-described Satanists to be concerned with Christianity being “too Jewish” or having fallen away from some supposed origin, when the church of any stripe is still the church to us!

As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the USI has its own version of Nazi “de-Judaization”, at least as concerns the very etymology of Satan. You see, in order to prove that Satanism is not “Judeo-Christian” and is “pure” “Gentile” religion, they have to show that Satan is not a Jewish concept (as opposed to, you know, not being Nazis and not being interested in “de-Judaizing” everything). As opposed to the Hebraic origins of the name Satan, the Hebrew word “satan” or “ha-Satan” meaning “adversary”, the USI proposes a supposed Sanskrit origin for the name Satan. They claim that the Sanskrit word “Sat”, ostensibly meaning “truth”, and a supposed Indian mantra “Sat Nam”, supposedly meaning “whose name is truth”, or alternatively the words “Sanat” (meaning “eternal”) or “Sat Ana” (supposedly meaning “acting in the truth”), as the true etymology of Satan. There is of course no evidence of any correspondence between these Sanskrit terms and Satan or any figure or concept like Satan. In fact, I suspect that this idea is the brainchild of Kerry R. Bolton, a white supremacist esoteric fascist who set up several fascist occult and pagan groups before ultimately converting to Christianity. Not to mention, the fact that I only ever seem to see this idea espoused by Nazi Satanists tells me that the idea of Satan having a Sanskrit rather than Hebrew origin suggests a various obvious attempt to portray Satan as a fully “Aryan” concept.

And speaking of Nazism, there is a page of the USI’s website that implies the group’s possible ideological support for Nazism. In an article billed as an analysis of Joy of Satan, Jennifer appears to defend National Socialism by saying that “National Socialism has effectively been portrayed as the greatest evil in the world without however ever saying its positive aspects, much less telling how even Communism has shed blood and totalitarianism, indeed maybe more”. Ostensibly this takes the form of some argument about how all ideologies are violent and therefore none are sacred, which would still not merit any equivalence or defense of Nazism by any stretch, but then Jennifer goes on to say that she “learned about the ethics that moved the original ideology”, as well as “esoteric studies” and “the spirituality itself that distinguished our Aryan ancestors”. These suggest a clear ideological sympathy for Nazism. If I’m being honest, the fact that, in a separate article, the USI characterizes Jesus as a “personification of the Gentile spirit” modelled on the basis of pre-Christian gods and “pagan” heroism only further demonstrates that it is based on Nazi ideology . After all, the Nazis frequently insisted that Jesus was originally an “Aryan” German deity named Krist, while Adolf Hitler himself lionized Jesus as an embodiment of “Aryan” virtues. The USI similarly claims that there is a “real” Kabbalah (that is, an “Aryan Kabbalah”) that originated in ancient Egypt, was supposedly derived from a phrase “Ka Ba Ankh”, was violently suppressed by “Judeo-Christians”, and supposedly could be recovered by Satanists with the help of demons. In essence this is basically the same basic idea that the volkisch occultist Guido Von List (who did inspire the Nazis) had, except that List believed that Kabbalah was created by ancient Germans.

A major theme of USI doctrine is a supposed conflict between “Yahweism” and “the religion of the Gentiles”. This is of course forgetting for a moment that the “Gentiles” in Rome were really all too happy to embrace Christianity once it became part of the existing cultural and political spiral of proto-whiteness, or at least politically expedient for the ruling classes of European or “Gentile” nations. The subjugation of Satan by Saint Michael is thus interpreted as the subjugation of “Gentile religions” by “the Yahwehists”. They consider the awakening of “Gentile Memory” (which, if you’ll remember, is supposed to contained in the blood of the Satanids, which is supposed to be USI members!) to be a return to the origin of the soul of the Satanid, as the biological descendant of Satan, so as to deify themselves and “restore” their identity as a “spiritual race” – or, “the satanic race”. The fact that the USI repeatedly uses the word “Gentile” implores us to remember that “Gentile” is supposed to be a word used to refer to non-Jews. On this basis, using the word “Gentile” to refer to yourself, your religion, and your “racial memory” and contrasting it with “Yahwehism” or “Judeo-Christianity” is a clear statement of religious, spiritual, and ontological antisemitism. For fuck’s sake there’s an article in which Jennifer distinguishes Satanists from Pagans by saying that Pagans are the “civilians” and Satanists are a kind of military force fighting against “the Judeo-Christian regime guilty of having contaminated our ancient traditions”. Not only is that classically antisemitic, it’s essentially just the original Christian distinction between the Christian as “Milites Christi” (literally soliders of Christ!) and pagans as “civilians”.

Based on all of this, there are times when I question even the very validity of the USI’s self-designation as “Satanist”. The “Satan” they worship may share characteristics with prevailing ideas about Satan within Satanism, but can be understood as essentially their own “god of the Gentiles”, strictly separated from the idea of Satan as The Devil or The Adversary (which for the record is still typically honoured within Satanism) and representative of an originary “Gentile” religion. Jesus is lauded for refusing the temptations of Satan because to them the Biblical Satan is not Satan, but rather a “Judeo-Christian” construction meant to serve as God’s shadow, while the “real” Satan is basically the “Aryan” supreme deity and Jesus is one of the various “Aryan” gods. Everything about the USI’s doctrine is tied together by what is essentially a neo-Nazi ideology in which members believe that they are racially linked to Satan and are therefore biological representatives of ancient “Gentile”/”Aryan” religion. We can also see that the white supremacist concept of the “serpent seed”, originally created to demonize Jewish people, is basically reimagined by the USI as the lineage of the “god of the Gentiles” and thus the “Aryan race”. When USI members reject conversion on the grounds that “you are either a Satanist by nature or you will never be a Satanist”, what they mean is that you can’t be converted to Satanism because you have be born a “Satanid”, because their version of “Satanism” is basically an ethnic religion for “Gentiles” (“Aryans”).

It should thus also come as probably no surprise at all that the Union of Italian Satanists has also had a history with Joy of Satan, another notoriously antisemitic spin on Theistic Satanism in which Satan is believed to be Enki and worshipped as the god of the “Gentiles”. In fact, they even cited JoS leader Maxine Dietrich in their article arguing for the name Satan being Sanskrit rather than Hebrew in origin. There is a whole article written by Jennifer “Twilight” Crepuscolo (who we must remember is the founder and leader of the USI) about the Joy of Satan, in which a significant degree of praise is mixed with criticism. Jennifer wrote that she always admired the “passion”, “frankness”, “simplicity”, and “courage” of Joy of Satan, and praised them for allegedly coining the definition of “Spiritual Satanism” and thus supposedly slapping Satanists away from the materialism of atheistic currents such as LaVeyan Satanism, while also criticizing the organisation for its perceived dogmatism, angry young membership, and an obsession with having sex with demons and (ironically enough) antisemitism. I say ironically because the USI itself is a pro-Nazi antisemitic organisation that makes arguments based on Nazi ideology and cites Nazi authors, so really their only objection to JoS’ antisemitism is that they’re too loud and too virulent about it – nothing but a matter of taste, and I suppose the fact that JoS members like to call Jennifer things like “filthy Jewish whore” for not being sufficiently antisemitic. In fact, just to highlight USI’s antisemitism once again, there is an article on their website discussing the so-called Illuminati, which uses quotes from the Talmud to argue that Jews hate “Gentiles” and features a meme of a man wearing a shirt saying “I love shiksas”, so as to emphasize a supposed xenophobic misogyny in Jewish men (“shiksa” is apparently a disparaging word for non-Jewish women, which the USI article insists is an object of sexual fantasy). For a group that insists that JoS spends too much time hating on Jews, they seem awfully eager to do it themselves. By the way, that same article defends Roman colonialism while emphasizing that the colonization and enslavement of Africans was done by “Judeo-Christian” people and that the former was good and the latter bad.

OK, I think we’ve seen about enough. That website obviously has far too much content for the Sernagiotto’s article to cover fully in its intended scope, but I reckon that Sernagiotto could have at least visited the website once and asked questions about, among other things, the USI members’ opinions about Jews, National Socialism, and what the USI website says about those subjects. That she did not cover this at all is a serious omission, because all this stuff about “Gentiles” versus “Judeo-Christians” is core part of the USI’s worldview, not just an incidental oart of the beliefs of some individual members. The only problem there is that perhaps they might not have answered. I attempted to ask Jennifer Crepuscolo about the USI’s support for Nazism as she was responding to QueerSatanic, but she has not responded.

Let me clear about a few things, I want there to be more positive coverage of Theistic Satanism. I’m tired of glorified humanist think tanks and the Church of Satan, or just this narrative that “Satanism isn’t about worshipping Satan”, getting all the limelight whenever the press wants to talk about Satanism to the normies or what have you. What I do not want is for this to mean that neo-Nazis get to have puff pieces wrriten for them by people who don’t ever do the research they’re supposed to. And make no mistake: the Nazism is the main issue. It’s not their theism, it’s not necessarily their beliefs about aliens (though that subject has some problematic contours on its own), its primarily the fact that they uphold repackagings of Nazi and white supremacist ideology that they use as the basis for their broader worldview, and the fact that their founder and apparent leader seems to support National Socialism.

The Vice article contains a link to the website of the Union of Italian Satanists, so if you want look for it, just go through the Vice article, since I figure that’s ultimately better than just dropping the website here: https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3pxj5/why-satanists-believe-in-satan-interview