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.
3 thoughts on “Satan and the principle of the sun”
I’ve always associated Lucifer with the Sun, so your more Satan-centered article was very interesting to read. Perhaps I should write something about the Sun in relation to Luciferian witchcraft at some point. By the way, the mention of the Sun’s more destructive aspect in relation to midday reminded me of a Slavic folk demon called południca (in Polish, but the word has similar variants in other languages). Południcas are spirits of midday who were said to attack people on the fields, often considered sunstroke personified today.
Interesting. So the południcas are essentially a sort of meridian demon, specific to Slavic cultures.
Yes, you could say so. I don’t know how it looks like in other Slavic cultures, but here in Poland they are one of the most well-known folkloric spirits. I don’t know about anyone who would believe in thee modern day they will get you if you are not cautious enough at noon, but in a certain way they remain a part of Polish culture. The stories about them are still told, and re-told for example in fantasy. They never became obscure.
As for their name, the word “południca” is often translated as Lady Midday, though I consider another translation, Noonwraith, more accurate.