Forgive the interruption between my inquiry on Revolutionary Demonology, but it seems there’s been a nuisance coming my way. Suffice it say that, it is quite incredible to see what lengths some people will go to in order to keep other people’s mouths shut. Last month, I wrote an article about a small Italian Theistic Satanist organisation called the Union of Italian Satanists (or, Unione Satanisti Italiani), in which I analysed their philosophy as best I could, and discussed its relationship to the ideology of National Socialism. It would seem that, since then, the leader of the USI, Jennifer Crepuscolo (or rather Jennifer Mezzatta), has discovered that article, and is none too happy about what I have said. In fact, she sent a message to the Facebook page of this website to say this:
Your article on Unione Satanisti Italiani is dishonest and leads to slander. Precisely for this reason we’re evaluating with our law firm to proceed with a lawsuit against you. We hope that in the future you will be more careful about making unfounded accusations. You should have read more about us before writing such slanders. We are open to discussion but we do not like those who try to cleverly reinterpret our contents with malice.
Since you chose to wrongfully assault us, if we have any other contact between us, it will likely be through the law.
For posterity, here is the same message in a screenshot taken from the messages of my blog’s Facebook page:
“Best regards”? Yes I suppose that is the polite way to conclude a message in which you accuse me of “assault”. But observe the utter folly of what Jennifer is saying. Her objection is that my article is “dishonest” and “leads to slander”, and that for this reason she thinks she can intimidate me with groundless threats of litigation. Take stock of this: I am not even primarily being accused of slander, I am being accused of writing things that “could lead to slander”. How exaclty do you intend to prove that? And just how can you charge someone on the basis that you think what they said “could lead to slander”? Do you not see how legally absurd that is on its own, let alone the idea of hashing that out internationally?
As long as we’re focusing on the “dishonesty” canard, I intend to talk about many things I discussed in the original article, but I would also point out that Jennifer Mezzetta’s Facebook bio contains the words “Onore a Satana, il Dio Gentile dell’Anima”, or, “Honor to Satan, the Gentile God of the Soul”.
I don’t know how anyone thinks they can beat any allegations of Nazism when they openly and publicly refer to their version of the Satan they worship as “the Gentile God”. Remember that the USI also talks on their website about Jewish influences being a corruption of Satanism. In this context especially, “Gentile” is a dogwhistle being used by non-Jews, or more specifically by white non-Jews, define themselves in active contradistinction to Jewishness.
Jennifer seems keen enough to talk about “slander”. But slander is only slander if I am wrong and have made up everything that the USI website says from whole cloth. I contend that I am not wrong, and that the USI cannot prove that I am inventing its own words, let alone drag me from my home country just for a case that they don’t have and which would be dismissed. And just to underscore all of this, let’s focus on the parts where I talk about the particularly objectionable highlights of the USI’s website. We will present screenshots of these highlights, with the Italian and English language versions side by side, in that order, for maximum posterity.
This will be a systematic overview of the antisemitism and Nazi alignment of the USI, focusing largely on material I already covered, and more. These are, in large part, Jennifer’s own words, in that most of the articles being discussed have been written by Jennifer Creposcolo. We will also cover a few articles written by a USI member named Mandy Lord. Any accusation of “slander” will have to prove that they are not her own words. I maintain that this would be impossible, because they are clearly their words. This will not be terribly exhaustive, at least not compared to the entire breadth of the USI website, the totality of which I will not be covering. But I will cover much of what I have already discussed in my original article, which should also be enough to encapsulate the ideological content of the Union of Italian Satanists, in their own words.
Now, just bearing in mind. I am not entirely fluent on the Italian language. I have certain aspirations to effect, of course, but for the purpose of covering this article I am relying on available translations, which are of course provided as an option within the website via my browser. All English screenshots come from a Google-provided translation, which I am reasonably confident is not inaccurate, especially since I have not been made aware of any translation errors by anyone, especially not Jennifer Creposcolo.
The “God of the Gentiles” and Antisemitic Screeds About Jewish Mysticism
To start with, let’s refer to their pages on “Original Satanism” where they discuss Jewish mysticism as blasphemous, decry modern Satanist movements by accusing them of “Judaizing” Satanism, and assert that atheism is a product of “Jewish influence”. But first things first let’s just get one point out of the way right now: the fact that they refer to Satan as “God of the Gentiles”. That is what Jennifer says for instance in “What is Satanism really?” and it will be fairly important as a cornerstone of the USI’s philosophy.
Now, let’s see them talk about Jewish mysticism and the “Judaization” of Satanism. In “Cult of Origins”, Jennifer can be seen accusing other Satanists of being “slaves of the Jewish preconception” by accepting the etymology of Satan as meaning “Adversary”.
And here, in the same article, Jennifer writes that Satanic intiation centers around the “Satanist”‘s self-declaration of their “Gentile nature” and that the “Gentile” is centered around both their roots and the evolution of their “spiritual race”.
Immediately after this, Jennifer describes Jewish mysticism as “blasphemy”, again seemingly without a shred of irony or self-awareness, and accuses it of being “violent” and “opportunistic”.
There is much more antisemitism and Nazi ideology in this page alone right below this paragraph. Here, for instance, Jennifer refers to the awakening of “Gentile Memory”, and thereby a return to “our blood” (as in, the “blood of the Gentiles”), as the goal of her particular system of “Original Satanism”.
And afterwards, Jennifer goes on to refer to Jews as “historical criminals” who “corrupt” and “distort” the “Gentile” in various ways. For some reason the English translation seems to repeat the last few sentences.
Jennifer’s Nazi-esque Definition of Satanism
Moving on from this page, let’s briefly, and just as an aside, refer to this fairly colourful paragraph from the page “Define Yourself As Satanist”, in which we can see familiar fascist rhetoric about sex and gender identity that is used to justify transphobia, itself couched in a concept of “rootlessness” that is inherently tied to white identiarianism and antisemitism (the concept of “rootless cosmopolitans” as an antisemitic reference to Jews).
In their page “Etymology of the name Satan”, Jennifer refers to Satanists as the purest form of the “Gentile” while accusing Jewish people of racism towards non-Jews. It is important to note that here Jennifer incorrectly asserts that the Hebrew word “goyim” means “cattle”. The word “goy” actually means “nation”, not “cattle”, while in the Biblical context the word “goyim” often referred simply to the various non-Israelite nations.
Here of course we also see Jennifer establish a Sanskrit etymology by way of the words “Sat” and “Nam” as what she claims to be the “true” etymology of Satan, as opposed to the Hebrew etymology. There is of course no basis to any of this, and in fact it is an idea strongly associated with neo-Nazis such as the Joy of Satan group. I suspect that it was originally invented by Kerry Bolton, a white supremacist fascist who spent the 1990s spreading neo-Nazi interpretations of Satanism, neopaganism, and Thelema to various subcultural movements (such as black metal and industrial music) before eventually converting to Christianity.
There is an entire section dedicated to the etymology of the word “Aryan”, which the USI claims does not influence their philosophy in way, though it is also full of defenses of Nazi iconography as ancient and therefore legitimate symbology. Note that Jennifer also personally connects the mythology of Aryans and Hyperboreans to her own views the divine origins of the “Satanids” as linked to the lineage of the Nephilim and therefore the Fallen and Satan, which, contrary to what Jennifer says otherwise, establishes a credible ideological link between the concept of “Aryans” and her philosophy.
And, once again, at the end of this page, Jennifer once again links the religious identity of the “Satanist” with the racial identity of the “Gentile”.
Racist Nazi-esque Ramblings About “Satanid Nature”
Next, let’s refer to the article “Satanid Nature”. Here, we see Jennifer assert that the Jews made their pact with Yahweh because they wanted revenge and conquest and this is the cause of a progressive civilizational decline. She also seems to contrast this with the example of Jesus and his refusal of the temptations of Satan.
It is in this same page that Jennifer, who calls herself a “Satanist”, lauds the figure of Jesus Christ as a personifiction of “the Gentile spirit” as supposedly represented by ancient pre-Christian gods and by Satan. This idea clearly echoes Nazi ideology, which portrayed Jesus as an “Aryan” German god or hero instead of being Jewish.
Jennifer also seems to refer to the idea of a link between Satan and “wanton materialism” as the product of “Judeo-Christian corruption”. This opinion reflects a Nazi belief that materialism is Jewish in origin and thereby a corruption of the “Aryan” spirit.
And here, Jennifer accuses modern American Satanists of trying to “Judaize” Satanism, and thereby make it more “plebeian”, “lifeless”, and atheistic. Again, this presents the idea that atheism is a Jewish product, which is both inherently antisemitic in that it positions atheism as a form of corruption and a major component of Nazi ideology, in which the main opponent “Jewish materialism” is presented in opposition to “Aryan” idealism.
Now let’s turn to the page titled “The Way of Signs”, which features a discussion of the “black sun” alongside an image of the Nazi Sonnenrad symbol, which was invented for use by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, as the insignia for Wewelsburg Castle.
Next let’s refer to their page about Lucifer, or “Luciferus”, written by Mandy Lord. This page contains multiple expressions of antisemitism and Nazi ideology. For example, Mandy almost dismisses a source because it was Jewish, and then proceeds to quote Otto Rahn, a Nazi Ariosophist who was also literally an Obersturmführer in the SS.
Later in the same page, Mandy quotes Miguel Serrano, a neo-Nazi occultist and proponent of a system referred to as Esoteric Hitlerism, before describing contemporary Christianity as “totally Judaicized” in contrast to its “Gentile origins”.
Jennifer’s Remarks on National Socialism
An important source of concern would be Jennifer’s “Joy of Satan Analysis”. First of all, let’s note that even Jennifer’s supposed criticism of Joy of Satan’s antisemitism also consists in the objection that she thinks that they are too Jewish. I’m not kidding around: Jennifer critcises Joy of Satan for having a “Jewish mentality”, even in their antisemitism. This “Jewish mentality” appears to simply consist of summoning demons in order to fulfill material needs, which is again based on the Nazi belief that materialism is a “Jewish corruption”.
And then, of course, there is in the same page Jennifer’s defense of National Socialism, which she seems to regard as fundamentally moral, noble, and ethical in substance.
The “Kabbalah” of Mandy Lord
In the page “Occult History”, Mandy Lord claims that Kabbalah is actually a non-Jewish system of mysticism that belonged to “the Arii” and came from Satan and his demons. Mandy also claims that there is an Egyptian Kabbalah, called “Ka Ba Ankh”, and a “true runic Kabbalah” practiced by the Druids, in contrast to Jewish Kabbalah. This idea is very similar to an idea from the Austrian volkisch mystic Guido von List, who claimed that the Kabbalah was originally invented by German “Aryans” rather than Jews.
Jennifer’s Views on “The Illuminati” (Somehow Even More Antisemitic!)
In an article titled “Are The Illuminati Satanists? But Also Not!”, Jennifer runs through a litany of antisemitic tropes about Jews while discussing the Illuminati. For example, early on she falsely claims that Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, was the son of a Jewish rabbi and supported by the Rothschild family. Adam Weishaupt’s father was a man named Johann Georg Weishaupt, who was in fact a lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt, and there is no record of him ever having been a rabbi or of him having been Jewish.
Later, Jennifer talks about the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in an incredibly apologetic manner. She claims that it is not possible to know if “Protocols” was written by Jewish authors, claims that its content is being proven true “before our eyes”, and brings up verses from the Talmud that supposedly justify the book’s contents. I need to stress that this is blatant antisemitism.
There is also this take from Jennifer in the same article, which is once again a familiar element of fascist conspiracy theories, naturally latent with antisemitism. Basically she’s asserting that the Illuminati want to eliminate traditional gender roles and biological sex or all that stuff in order to somehow control society.
Of course this also comes with a standard ethnonationalist argument.
Jennifer again explicitly ties “the Illuminati” to Jews and asserts that they are aligned to Yahweh as the “God of Israel” and want to destroy all cultures that are not Jewish.
Jennifer puts forward an argument that Jews cannot be Satanists because Jews are “the Sons of Yahweh” and Satanists are “the Sons of Satan”. This is Jennifer arguing that Jews, because of their race, cannot be Satanists, and conversely that Satanists are Satanists because of their race. It is a racialist argument, and in this sense is antisemitic.
In the same article, Jennifer also defends ancient Roman colonialism by saying that the white colonialism was bad specifically because the white colonialists and slavers in question were “Judeo-Christian”. This is effectively blaming Jews for the enslavement of African-Americans and the systematic genocide of native Amerindians by white colonialists.
The Racial Mission of the Union of Italian Satanists
Finally, the mission of the USI, as outlined in “Presentation of Italian Satanists Union”, consists of three objectives. The third objective is “Restore Satanic Identity”. In the article, Jennifer establishes that the goal of the USI is to activate what she believes to be the racial consciousness of “the Gentiles” and that to be a Satanist you have to be born a Satanist as if genetically, and hence ethnically or racially.
I think that I have shown more than enough at this point. The website itself has much more content within it, but this was about demonstrating that what I have said to be the words of the USI are in fact the words of the USI. I would ask again: would anyone be able to prove that I am fabricating these words, and that this is not what Jennifer and the USI have said? What basis could there be for any claim of “dishonesty” or the potential to “lead to slander”, let alone “assault”? These are Jennifer’s own words, as well as those of Mandy Lord where applicable.
Being that there is little point in discussing any supposed case, let us simply summarize what USI say in their own words. We are talking about an organisation whose “Original Satanism” appears to be based on a racial ideology built around the idea “recovering” the “genetic memory” of the “Gentiles”. There is a heavy emphasis on “de-Judaicizing” Satanism, which entails reinterpreting Satan as a “Gentile” god of truth, soul, origin, and the divine order rather than The Adversary, Kabbalah as “Gentile” mysticism, and even Jesus as a “Gentile” hero who only opposed the Jewish Satan rather than the “Gentile” Satan, all of which mirror the Nazi ideology of “Positive Christianity”, whose volkisch interpretation of Christianity meant bracketing out everything the Nazis deemed to be Jewish “corruption”. The USI website contains defenses of the ideology of National Socialism and also features quotes from Nazi and neo-Nazi esotericists. Antisemitism is pervasive in the USI writings, sometimes more subtly and sometimes quite blatantly, as an effect of their racial ideology, even to the point that they can’t criticise antisemitism in others without also expressing their own antisemitism. The “noble Gentile spirit” is positioned in opposition to Jews and “Judeo-Christianity”, Christianity is described as an originally “Gentile” faith that they deem totally “corrupted” by Judaism, and antisemitic conspiracy theories form a major part of the USI’s opposition to both Judaism and Christianity. In short, USI an organisation that promotes an ethnofascist ideology strongly aligned with National Socialism. Based on the mateiral available this is an open and shut matter of fact.
For additional posterity, I will provide archived links below to each article being referred to here, to remove any last shred of doubt without requiring you to provide traffic to their website. The archived links, however, will only show the pages in Italian. However, it should be evident that these are the same pages contained within the screenshots.
Here I continue my exploration of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, and concurrently a much deeper exploration of the Left Hand Path as a whole. So far, in Part 1, I have explored the first main sections of Revolutionary Demonology, comprising its introductory “ritual” (“Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”) as well as the first (“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology”) and second (“Notes On Gothic Insurrection”) chapters. If you have not read Part 1 before reading this article then I suggest you go back and do so first. Here, in Part 2, I will focus solely on the contents of the third chapter of Revolutionary Demonology.
The third chapter is titled “Nigredo”, and it is here also that we cut deeper into the core ethos of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun by way of more elaborate expositions of it. Though, of course, there are somewhat multifaceted. On the one hand, we can see the contours of the philosophy of ontological masochism that Gruppo Di Nun means to get across. On the other hand, there are the makings of a much more active worldview, that arcs in a direction other than this ethos so eloquently summarized by Amy Ireland’s afterword. In any case “Nigredo” consists of five essays, which we will go through in order: “Cultivating Darkness” by Claudio Kulesko, “Mater Dolorosa” by Laura Tripaldi, “Solarisation” by Valerio Mattioli, “The Highest Form of Gnosis” by Enrico Monacelli, and “Catholic Dark” by Claudio Kulesko.
The World Falling Apart (The First Nigredo)
“Cultivating Darkness” begins by establishing our total immersion in darkness, alien yet familiar. To realize this immersion is to realize that our prevailing representation of the world is either simply false or merely limited, and is it collapses, Kulesko asserts, the world shows itself to be a collection of fragments forming a collage. But the other lesson we’re given is that there is always more than one world, and that it is always possible to construct new worlds from the fragments. Yet, once our world shatters, it cannot be reconstructed as it was – like Humpty Dumpty falling from the wall, when his shell shatters no one can piece him back together. Human life is a network of stories, and meaning in this setting is simply an internal coherence between the pasts, presents, and futures of these stories. In moments of existential dread, we think of ourselves as like scale insects: mummifying but alive, and so it must seem as we live in the advanced, technologically accelerated capitalism of the late Anthropocene. History appears to be either advancing or standing still waiting to be set in motion, but in despair we find neither advance nor standstill, and the fragments of our world blindly and incoherently fly around without direction. Thus we fall out of time, and into the subject of depressive realism – thus, a kind of psychological nigredo.
Depressive realism is the name given to the theory that depressed people, far from suffering from a negative bias that hinders their objectivity, actually tend to access a greater dimension of objectivity than non-depressed people might possess. Kulesko seems convinced that this theory is basically correct, and in some ways goes a little bit further: the depressed person not only perceives the world more objectively, this also means they can (in theory) more accurately locate their own personal responsibility in terms of what is and is not within their control. To Kulesko they become like oracles of an uncaring subterranean world. Paging Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the depressive realist subverts the axiom of neoliberalism by saying, “there is no alternative, except for the end of the world”. Yet they also go further, in their despair they might conclude that the world either already ended or had simply never existed. What then also ensues is a kind of disorientation and self-aggravation; depressive realism can change into full blown extinctionism, as, for Kulesko, philosophical pessimism and nihilism tended to change into eliminativism – the idea that truly nothing exists at all.
Is there a way out of this trajectory? I would be inclined to think that the idea that life is a series of fragments can lend itself to a freedom of interpretation, wherein the great thing about life is precisely its fragmentation, or rather the fact that it allows everyone to create their own world, to the extent of their will. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Kulesko tells us that the problem with the development towards eliminativism is that, in the depressive moment, what emerges is not the non-existence of things but rather their inconsistency, or metastability (that is, the utter fragility of the universe). In terms of empiricism this comes down to the fact that the “laws” of nature are not actually “laws” at all, but rather chains of cause and effect or rather still a set of tenuous regularities or rhythms. In this view there is no logical reason why the sun rises and sets when it does except that we continually see it rise and set each day, and from there further that there is no inherent reason why the universe itself will not be annihilated. In view of this, the world as we know hangs precariously above an abyss, and everything is pervaded by nothingness. “Darkness”, here, is an uncanny property: a shapeless, indeterminate atmosphere and field of experimentation, wherein one may either destroy oneself or discover unknown pleasures. It is in this sense meant to be seen as none other than reality in its purest state, from which all worlds and meanings emerge and into which they die. From a certain point of view it is a rather gloomy and depressive world, like the world that was before humans or the world that will exist after humans. Not to entirely take away from that, but I might suggest that other perspectives, such as found in at least some forms of Zen Buddhism, it is simply a realm of intangible content and worlds. I suppose both Kulesko’s darkness and Zen nothingness are to be understood as pure potentiality, but taken with a different attitude. But it is here that I am again drawn to refer to the fact that Ernst Schertel ascribes this to the realm of Satan and Hell, as the starting basis of magical power. I sense a conceptual synchronicity here somewhere at least. In any case, it is perhaps here that any notion of a “way out” becomes apparent.
Humans must either realize the absence of teleological meaning and unity in the universe and gain self-consciousness of the real, or remain forever ignorant as they are consumed by time and matter. To acheive this self-awareness, one must abandon hope without succumbing to despair. That means realizing how the ontological collapse of the world can open up new horizons. Those horizons are contained in the negativity at the heart of things, the apophatic nothingness that runs parallel to our world of things, forms, facts, and narratives. If everything arises from nothing or from chaos, it follows that nothingness is plastic, in that it is possible to extract from it an infinite quantity of worlds and meanings. An infinite diversity of constructions can result from nothing. The only issue is getting stuck within them; if you let yourself be lied to by the worlds and meanings that arise, you will become their slave, or you will find yourself having to go through dark nights of the soul all over again – perhaps, an eternal recurrence of nigredo. Perhaps here we get what can amount to basically nihilist alchemy. One begins in a nigredo, in this case the whole process of seeing the world around you fall apart and realizing its nothingness, and after that first step the nihility changes into the material by which you will, somehow, perform the Great Work, creating a philsopher’s stone. In many ways, though, conatus as a vehicle for the ceaseless development even greater perfections and freedom emerges as the best way to make sense of just why everything might stop being nothing in the first place, and that why really remains a missing piece in Kulesko’s philosophical presentation. To be sure, if we are dealing with philosophical nihilism through and through then one could ask why the question even matters, but one cannot ignore amidst a collapsing world why one has found oneself here to start with. That is surely one of the components of the despair Kulesko discusses, except to the extent that Kulesko’s depressed subject has stopped asking the question. And if there is an answer, there is only one: our life is so that we may arrange ourselves at will, overcoming and transforming that which is in accordance with will and desire.
We now come to a discussion of Giacomo Leopardi, an Italian philsophical pessimist and skeptic, for whom the truth consists principally of a doubt unassailable by human reason. This particular form of skepticism brings thought to the point where knowledge collapses and leaves behind only doubt as the manifestation of the pure unknowability of reality. It is also to be contrasted with more popular (and palatable) forms of skepticism, wherein knowledge is cast aside, suspended, only to be recovered. The point of this skepticism is to discover the abyss. But it is also essentially a hyper-manifestation of the rationalist materialism that developed during the Enlightenment, and which influenced Leopardi’s thought. He believed that rational analysis dissects nature to the extent that it “resolves and undoes” it into something akin to a corpse, and, ostensibly as a result of his research, that every faculty of mind is material and that spirit is a deception of “the heart” by itself. Such a worldview makes for a potential step towards eliminativism: after all, so the logic goes, if only sensory perception is real, then self-consciousness is only a second-level perception. Yet for Leopardi appearance is the only thing that counts, because substance in itself does nothing and makes no impressions. This seems contrasted with the blind brain theory we are then introduced to, which holds that the world, as represented by our minds conceals a “real” world much more multifaceted; in other words, here substance is richer than appearance.
A problem that can stem from this perspective lies still within the scientific nigredo that ensues: this is summed up in Thomas Ligotti’s quotation of Thomas Metzinger, when he says “there are aspects of the scientific world-view which may be damaging to our mental well-being”. This theme of psychic damage brought on by the collapse of the teleological and phenomenal world into darkness is in some ways captured by both Giacomo Leopardi and H. P. Lovecraft, the latter a fan of the former, the latter writing that complete knowledge of the world would traumatize us such that would either “go mad from the revelation” or retreat into a new “dark age”. If consciousness is accepted as an illusion (mind you, this is not an opinion that I hold), along with the inevitable extinction of everything, then, according to Ray Brassier, then the philosophical subject is already dead, and philosophy itself is the organon of extinction.
An interesting point Kulesko goes on to make is that the enterprise of philosophy tends to consist of isolating one component of reality that can then be established as its ultimate principle and the foundation of thought itself. One recalls that ancient quest of Greek philosophers, as far back as the pre-Socratic era, for the one element or substance that could be acknowledged as the prime arche upon which the cosmos is founded. Kulesko’s examples include a metaphysics of becoming produced by the isolation of change or becoming, or a metaphysics of static being by isolating the existence of an object. In any case, for Kulesko there is an abyss between these two possibilities, which contains both, their mixture, their conflict, and their absence, and reality at large resists all efforts to define it by isolating a single principle. Yet, what interests me is that a question emerges: does a metaphysics of becoming not naturally emerge from the condition of abject fragmentation and the change that is implied by the condition of indeterminacy? In fact, that idea can be seen as the whole throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s metaphysics, in that transformation is the fundamental potential of magical practice and philosophy. Nothingness almost certainly changed into everything that we know, so in this sense absolute power of becoming is one the core properties of Kulesko’s abyss. In that sense, a metaphysics of becoming is not a natural outcome, but also necessary.
But now we return to Kulesko’s central point about the abyss of reality: its ultimate potential. Rather than defeat, the chaos, unknowing, and senselessness of darkness offer a limitless wealth of possibility. In this setting, the practice of philosophy means bracketing out everything we know or think we know about the world in order to unlock new configurations that at the same time exist in the world. Fiction itself, and for Kulesko especially science fiction, emerges as a gateway to the groundlessness of the world, which is it at once the ground of its being. The end of the world, the nightmare of the apocalypse that animates human beings to the point that they endlessly narrate their own demise, is itself its own gate. Total destruction is the limit that thought drifts towards, the darkness that arises from just the thought of that destruction can negate everything, but if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, then, even for that, we are gifted with an utter freedom of action. We can go wherever we please and build whatever we want, and we may cast off the burdens that modern philosophy has imposed on us. This becomes Kulesko’s version of the primary axiom of Thelema: do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Not only do we and our particularity emerge from chaos but matter itself is this chaos, and at the innermost core of both reality and our own souls is lawlessness and multiplicity. As unreal as it sounds, for Kulesko that’s all there is, and it is everything. For this reason, it is best to cultivate darkness when lost in the night.
When I read the end of that essay, I sensed in Claudio Kulesko the formation of what I recognised as the basic principle of anarcho-nihilism. I don’t think Kulesko identifies himself with that, and in fact I don’t think he commits himself to any particular label, apart from philosophical pessimism – and, as far as I can see of his work, beyond all other labels he is first and foremost a student of philosophical pessimism. Nonetheless, somewhere in Kulesko’s conclusion I could sense the core idea in that in the negation of everything we come free to no longer be arranged and in turn arrange ourselves in any way we wish. It presents the ultimate silver lining to the question of meaning and its absence, and it illuminates the real meaning of the expression that nihilism does entail a position of despair or emptiness, and that meaning for the nihilist is exactly what they create for themselves. Of course, for Kulesko it is all fully ontological in ways that I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to agree with, whereas for anarcho-nihilism it pertains largely to the political dimension, in that the point is to negate all social and political institutions to create a space of full autonomy for individuals which can then manifest and experiment in all directions. Still, that itself may find extension in the nigredo that Kulesko presents, and in the magma of darkness that lies beneath the lies of the world and its utopias. The chaos embodied by that eight-pointed star expanding in all directions, unleashing the world after the world like, in late Norse mythology, the rebirth of the world after the carnage of the battle of Ragnarok, it’s the fragmentation of the Image of the World. The insurrection is its own cultivation of darkness.
Wounds of the Divine Feminine (The Second Nigredo)
Our second discussion of nigredo, “Mater Dolorosa”, which as the name suggests seems to centre around a discussion of the Virgin Mary, begins with Laura Tripaldi taking us on a recollection of her childhood frolics in a garden in her school, hidden from the eyes of adults, filled with vegetation and small animals – sometimes dead ones that she and her friends would hold funerals for. We are also introduced to the flower Veronica persica, or Persian speedwell, known locally as the “eyes of the Madonna”, a namesake that naturally then pivots focus figure of the Virgin Mary, her heavenly abode evoked by an analogy to her eyes, and to the torment she supposedly feels when you pluck the petals of the speedwell. Amusing, by the way, that this Virgin is called “Mother of God”: we’re told that the Christian God created everything thousands of years if not eons ago and yet also that his mother is a teenage girl who lived 2,000 years ago. A testament to the incoherence of Christianity, or at least especially Roman Catholicism. Then we’re presented with an anecdote about a pregnant female earthworm that the children punctured, seemingly to assist the earthworm’s delivery of its offspring; an act that seemed to almost primordially disgust the young Tripaldi. The particular reproductive economy of invertebrates, profoundly alien to our own, brings us to the subject of Georges Bataille’s assessment of abiogenesis and the relationship between asexual reproduction and death – the original one dying and becoming two – and then we get to a more fundamental pain at the heart of living matter. The ancestral wound of life, for Tripaldi consists of a primordial separation from the primordial condition of indistinction, and in this setting life is Giacomo Leopardi’s garden, which Leopardi insists is nothing but a beautiful hospital. Thus, the second nigredo is the realization of the pain of primeval separation.
It all comes down to the idea that not being born is better than being born. In many ways, this theme communicated in terms of a perceived separation from original matter and the concurrent pain of that separation is a lot closer to what I expected of Gruppo Di Nun based on the opening salvos of Revolutionary Demonology and its core dogma than much of what we have previously discussed so far. It certainly is closer in spirit with the thematic emphasis on the myth of the dismembered Mother Tiamat that they present much more than the subject of Gothic Insurrection or even the latent alchemical theme strewn throughout, and as we’ll see that theme takes us through a much larger response to the doctrine of emanation. This could offer us a rather multifaceted journey.
We are introduced to a man named Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-Australian geologist who, in 1972, went to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and attacked Michaelangelo’s Pieta, striking the face of the Madonna with a hammer while shouting “Christ is risen! I am the Christ!”. At the time of the incident it was assumed that Toth was mentally ill, consequently he was sent to a psychiatric hospital without criminal charges before being deported to Australia. I tend to think that there can be few bolder blasphemies against Christendom than declaring yourself Christ and smashing one of the holy symbols of the Christ myth, not to mention the synchronicity of having done so at the same age as Jesus supposedly was when he died. But for Tripaldi the incident carries a different meaning: for her it displays an uncanny alchemical property associated with depictions of the Virgin Mary – the transfiguration of suffering and disgrace into triumph and splendour.
The cult of the Virgin Mary, and particularly the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows centres around miraculous events that often involve the disfigurement of the various depictions of the Virgin Mother. Across Italy, there are local tales about icons of Mary being attacked or defaced by an unbeliever and then, as if to answer the assailant’s lack of faith, shedding tears of blood. In that exact sense, Laszlo Toth smashing the Pieta is interpreted as actually making it beautiful. But then we get to theme of weeping. Our Lady of Sorrows is always weeping. Her exposed heart illuminates the reason for her weeping: seven daggers, representing the seven sorrows she suffered in the Gospel narrative, pierce for open heart. That number, 7, recurs throughout religious and esoteric symbolism as a number of significance. In Hermeticism, for instance, the number 7 represents the manifestation of divine perfection in matter. In Christianity, 7 means the realisation of God’s kingdom in this world, through the conjunction of the Holy Trinity with the four corners of the earth. In Kabbalah, or rather at least according to Eliphas Levi, 7 represented the totality of the power of magic, backed by the sum of the soul and the four elements. Since the Hermetic tradition the number 7 denoted throughout “traditional” esotericism a mysterious harmonic function of the divine order that can be found everywhere in the universe. But, in the work in the Aleister Crowley, the number 7 referred to the goddess Babalon, as explicitly denoted by the seven-pointed star seal of the A∴A∴ (Astrum Argentum). Babalon, who in Thelema corresponds to the Biblical figure of the Whore of Babylon, is on her own a very complex representation of “divine” femininty, which is nonetheless defined primarily by transgression and wickedness, down to her angelic namesake (“Babalon” in the angelic langauge meaning “wicked”). The Biblical narrative presents the Whore of Babylon as a sinister and voluptuous feminine, opposed to the pious and sorrowful feminine embodied by the woman clothed in sun. Their visions are both accompanied by a demonic beast with seven heads and ten horn, who is both the antagonist of the woman clothed in sun and the ally of the Whore of Babylon. For Tripaldi this recurrence presents an alternate meaning to the number 7 that clashes with both the meaning presented by traditional “Western” esotericism and the symbolism of the seven daggers.
So where is that all going? Tripaldi’s reflection on the number 7 serves as the gateway to a broader discourse of an esoteric “divine feminine” that can be positioned against a divine patriarchal order and the traditional doctrine of its emanation across creation. It also seems to attend the recovery of a theme of pain and restraint that she perceives to be latent in the original Kabbalah and forgotten by the Western esoteric traditions that appropriated it, and, in a larger sense, to recover a dynamism and processuality in Kabbalah from the order imposed by the glyph of the Tree of Life.
In the Zohar, we are told, the descent of the divine into matter, and the ascent of matter into the divine, can occur in non-linear moments of emanation – moments that are marked by complication and interruption. Such moments are called Tzimtzum, or “contractions”, and are an important part of the manifestation of divine light as conceived in Kabbalah. They are also moments of rupture and separation that are in turn associated with “feminine” aspects of the process of emanation, as well as two of sefirah in particular: Binah and Malkuth. Binah and Malkuth seem to be involved in a ceaseless series of ascending and descending transmutations that see them both constantly merge and separate from each other. This process, for Tripaldi, points to the presence of a multitudinous “divine feminine” trapped within the architecture of creation. Rather than that familiar idea of a monotheistic Goddess parallel to a masculine God, Tripaldi proposes a multiplicity of divine femininity, and the liberation of this femininity in the processual forces of Kabbalah. In this sense, the cryptic diagram on the cover of Revolutionary Demonology is in some way illuminated. The Tree of Life is without a head. Kether, as the unity from which the divine order is emanated and the masculine godhead, is cut off, liberating the multiplicity of divine femininity and the form of nine apocalyptic goddesses. It is thus a signifier for a kind of alternative Kabbalah, animated by the spiral of a sinister divine feminine. I can perhaps sense the makings of a particular form of an goddess-centered (and arguably “anti-cosmic”) polytheism revolving around the goddesses that Gruppo Di Nun identifies with this spiral.
The tzimtzum are here defined as processes of separation within divinity that in turn facilitate its manifestation. To repair the separation of Malkuth from the divine light, Binah, the heavenly mother, is divided and her lower sefirot fall into darkness and corruption: a process referred to as tears falling into the Great Sea. This imagery obviously strikes a chord with the Catholic icon of Our Lady of Sorrows as Tripaldi has presented her so far, but for Tripaldi it also recalls the myth of Tiamat and her dismemberment by Marduk (I note here that Tripaldi refers to Tiamat as a “draconic Virgin Mother”, despite not ever being depicted as a “virgin mother” and really only tenuously identified as a dragon). The feminine polarity consists of a distance between two aspects that are identified and yet distant, and their respective symbolisms (the celestial abode for Binah, a red rose for Malkuth) ostensibly point to the two distinct female figures of the Book of Revelation: the woman clothed in sun and the Whore of Babylon. The process of rupturing and separation shatters the sefirot, interrupts the chain of divine emanation, and the empty shells sefirot become filled with impure forces (presumably the qliphoth). Through Gershom Scholem we get a throughline of an original rupture and separation as the causes of a primordial suffering brought on by a necessary separation from God, resulting in all being existing in exile. Three aspects of the Mother are part of this whole disruptive process: The Dragon, The Celestial Virgin, and Babylon The Great. They also represent a hidden generative force latent in the machinery of divine emanation, which replicates itself and will suffocate the order that contains it.
For Tripaldi, any esoteric struggle against the order of patriarchy means understanding the phenomena of disequilibrium that secretly make the divine order possible to start with. On its own, it is very possible to derive from this analysis a much larger analysis on the relationship between order and chaos, and especially the centrality of the latter. On the other hand, we still cannot but return to the question of the implications of the ancestral wound, especially when aligned with Kabbalah. I remember an analogy given to describe Kabbalah, whereby the point was for humanity to return to the garden of Eden. In essence, what that means is to correct the separation of humanity from God, represented in this analogy by the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Only here it’s not necessarily about God, and the separation pertains to the dismemberment of Tiamat. What does it entail for life, having arisen from separation? But I suppose for now, the pressing question is, what does the Tree of Life look like without the head?
We continue this inquiry by exploring migraine attacks, and their apparent prophetic character. Tripaldi perceives migraine as a pain that has no wound because it is the wound at the heart of the world. Percolating into every last particle of matter, migraine is said to reveal in everything the spectre of decomposition. A migraine crisis arrives and passes of its own accord and without a trace, and when it leaves all that remains is a feeling of well-being that is nonetheless plagued by a sense of guilt and suspicion. Tripaldi seems to recall an experience of being locked in a hotel room for two days, without eating or drinking, suffering so much that at points her consciousness began to waver, and at one night she experienced a vision of nostalgia for a primitive motherhood. One could say that this vision hints at Tripaldi’s idea of a hidden dimension of the world, accessible only by occult means, or, perhaps, made vaguely accessible by a migraine crisis. This, migraines are a kind of sinister unveiling of a hidden substratum of the world – an arcane world of pain, of the wound lodged in the heart of creation, and of the cry of agony that reverberates through the whole universe. In other words, the occult body of Tiamat. But it’s also here that we come to another, more concerted application of Christian mysticism. This starts with an account, from Oliver Sacks’ Migraine, of a patient suffering from a migraine attack and describing feeling a hole not only in their own memory but in the world itself, and feeling the instability of their own bodies. Tripaldi, through Sacks, links the migraine experience to the idea of suffering as a vehicle for the realisation of spiritual truths, and from there to “female mysticism”. And, by this, we of course mean Christian mysticism. Specifically, for example, we are invited to consider Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Catholic Carmelite nun who, in 1539, suffered a paroxysm in the process of what she called her “conversion”. This paroxysm caused Teresa to lay comatose for days and then remain paralysed for three years, and it also brought her to the brink of death. But, while she suffered all manner of torments from her paralysis, her body overcome with weakness and the feeling of death, she also described her experience as a kind of martyrdom, and asserted that when the body is in rapture it is as though it is in death.
For Tripaldi this all represents a very specific mode of mysticism, centered around an ecstasy that afflicts the soul from the outside like a disease, cannot be summoned intellectually, cannot be “resisted” once it visits upon the individual, and is defined by an intense suffering that, to lesser degrees, remains with the individual after the ecstasy has subsided. This form of mysticism can thus be understood as an ecstatic system, and for Tripaldi the basic idea is to be applied as an introspective, ecstatic, and fundamentally feminine mysticism in which suffering, rather than positioned as a another path to traditional initiatic gnosis, is its own goal as the highest form of gnosis. This is also meant to be contrasted with the application of meditation within “the intiatic traditions” as tending towards a desired state of “absolute concentration”, whereby the practitioner excludes all stimuli and gradually obliterates their individual consciousness in order to elevate it to the level of cosmic or universal consciousness, thus bringing it into coincidence with God. Tripaldi argues that Chaos Magick is an example of this in that Peter Carroll ostensibly marshalls a concept of no-mind that he calls “Gnosis” as a medium for magic to be affected. It’s a strange and arguably somewhat myopic interpretation of Chaos Magick, not least since it positions Chaos Magick as part of “the Right Hand Path”, and its justification is not especially systematic for the scope of Revolutionary Demonology. In fact, about a page and a half and one quote from Peter Carroll’s Liber Null seems to be the full extent of Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of Chaos Magick, which hardly merits the prejudice reserved for Chaos Magick as a whole, let alone their distinct classification of it as part of “Western initiatic traditions”. But, since Chaos Magick is meant as an example of the mysticism of absolute concentration, and the mysticism of Teresa of Avila as a paragon of the ecstatic mysticism of suffering, it also almost seems like Tripaldi means to contrast Chaos Magick with – and there’s no beating around the bush here – Christianity.
This has a number of interesting implications. Obviously Gruppo Di Nun’s system can’t be thought of as Christian in itself, since it centers around a non-Christian mythology while rejecting many of the familiar tenets of Christianity at least in its exoteric sense. But we seem to see here a distinct application of Christian mysticism in conceptual terms: in other words, it accepts Christian ideas about mysticism and ecstasy, God and his son notwithstanding of course, and reapplies them to its own distinct framework. In my view, this still has the effect of lodging Christian mysticism at the centre of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun in that it serves as the intellectual basis of its philosophy of cosmological suffering, and that to me is another notch against their critique of Satanism as reproducing Christianity by inverting it. I know I never tire of the opportunity to seize on points like this, but it is interesting that the alternative to “reproducing Christianity” by way of Satanism should be to reproduce Christian mysticism in the name of Tiamat. The thing is, for Teresa of Avila, suffering could constitute a form of prayer to the Christian God, or a trial through which the sufferer would find God and become more spiritually pure through it. Perhaps “that my soul may emerge from the crucible like gold” denotes a hidden alchemical metaphor, with the suffering obviously being a form of nigredo. But the whole point is still opening yourself up to sufferings visited upon you presumably by God so that you can love God more. This form of suffering, in Teresa’s words, pleases God. The very notion of suffering as “the way of truth”, which she expounds, is inherently Christian thought. God gives trials that inflict suffering on those he considers spiritually strong so that the love of God may respond to them, while the saints inflict severe penances on themselves to battle the Devil. God, who is joyless in all instances except for moments of profound suffering, humbles and tests his would-be servants, leaving them with a hunger for suffering.
We invoke the term “suffering cult” a lot to describe Christianity in exoteric terms, but if anything that term is all the more apt for the deeper core of Christian mysticism that a lot of popular exoteric Christianity doesn’t always reflect. It is important remember that here, even though suffering can be positioned as its own goal, that is distinctly for its perceived revelatory practices, and in Christian mysticism, moments and revelations of suffering such as the visions and ecstasies of Teresa of Avila are meant to be understood as proof of God’s presence in and love for creation. Thus, Laura Tripaldi has reproduced Christian love, and even the cult of suffering in its mystical dimensions, in the form of mystical devotion to the primordial wound at the heart of the world, the cuts made into the flesh of Tiamat by Marduk, all while Gruppo Di Nun denounces Satanism as an expression of the Right Hand Path by accusing them of reproducing Christianity by way of inversion. One must wonder if we are to be thought fools for such a pretentious repression response to Satanism to be made so transparent. And ultimately, if we’re talking about a dichotomy between centripetal and centrifugal motion while favoring the centrifrugal, what irony, because what could be a bigger “cult of the Centre” than the God for whom Teresa suffered so abjectly?
Also, it is here that we come to a hole in the broad narrative concerning self-designation as an edifice of the Right Hand Path. After all, for starters Tripaldi says that, in the purview of absolute concentration, your own self-consciousness is obliterated. That part may be consistent with modern understandings of the Right Hand Path, but it is not consistent with the notions of self-deification found in a lot of the modern Left Hand Path. And, are you here fashioning your own selfhood into God or a god, or simply harmonizing it with God? After all, it does not seem that to “be brought into coincidence with God” must mean that the initiate actually becomes or imitates God. In that sense, this “self-deification” is not as it seems, and would call into question the critique made against the modern Left Hand Path.
Our journey through Tripaldi’s mysticism does not end here. We continue on through an exploration of virginity through the Greek and Roman cults of Artemis and Diana – both traditionally considered virgin goddesses. For Tripaldi, the myth of Artemis living alone in the woods in solitude, away from any male suitors, resonates with her own adolescent hope of refuge from patriarchal society in a pure wilderness: a hope seemingly shattered by that same uncontaminated purity consisting of the same obscenity and violence as the body. Virginity for Tripaldi is a pact tied to death because it is a sacrament of war. That is because for Tripaldi it is the promise to never participate in the reproductive order of patriarchal civilization, and embodies a militant recognition of womanhood as the key to both the preservation and destruction of this order. This is presented as a kind of self-sufficiency inherent in womanhood that amounts to an absolute monotheism that holds the entire universe to ransom in its power. A more lofty exaltation of womanhood there almost isn’t, let alone one more at odds with the notion that. More curiously though, I was sure that self-monotheism of some sort was supposed to be what Gruppo Di Nun declared a fascistic folly reserved the initiatic Right Hand Path. I suppose I’m left to conclude that it’s supposed to be bad when Satanists strive for their own apotheosis but not bad at all to consider virgin women their own goddesses, and just leave whatever rationale there is for that contradiction to my own imagination – I doubt its interpretation would be very charitable. But perhaps patience is in order: there is a subject we will examine later that will be relevant to the subject of self-deification.
In any case, virginity is its own mystery for Tripaldi, due to the paradoxical quality she attributes to it: simultaneously a source of the integrity of the social order and a cause of its very negation. The sanctity of virginity, which is obviously also a familiar fetish of traditional/conventional Christian sexual morality, is exemplified in the Vestal Virgins, whose vow of chastity was linked to the preservation of the whole body politic of the Roman state, and in Joan of Arc, whose purity is said to have ensured the destiny of the medieval Kingdom of France. It is here meant to be understood as a sacred condition, relevant to feminine mysteries, and representative of what Tripaldi supposes to be a purity that passes through creation. The goddess Artemis is here understood as fiercely representing just such a purity: those who approach her know that any outrage against her purity would be paid in their flesh and blood. That at least is the myth of Actaeon, the hunter who saw the naked body of Artemis and, as punishment for ogling her, was silenced, then turned into a stag, and then killed by his own oblivious hunting dogs.
As lunar goddesses Artemis and Diana are seen as dual-natured: bright and yet dark, chaste and yet perverse, protector and yet also destroyer, at once luminous and murderous. Of course, it should be noted that just this sense of duality is not at all unique to Artemis or Diana in the context of pre-Christian polytheism, where basically every deity was assumed to be “dual-natured” or multifaceted, and I think there’s a sense that this basic fact is more or less excluded as is a lot of the perspective of paganism for much of the book except for its second chapter. What seems unique about these goddesses, however, is what Pierre Klossowski describes in The Bath of Diana as their “closed” nature, by which is meant their renunciation of the possibility of the possibility of mortal union and their existence “beyond destiny”. That said, I doubt that the interpretation that the wholeness of the universe rests on a single goddess is in any way consistent with polytheism as a religious worldview where a multitude of divine presences pervade a universe that exists between all of them. Nor for that matter does it make sense to assume that Artemis or Diana exist “beyond destiny’ in a religious context where even Zeus answers to the Fates. Again, it seems that here the goddesses of pre-Christian antiquity are invoked so as to represent a larger metaphysical concept of virginity as part of the formation of a divine feminine multiplicity, but without sufficient consideration for the actual context of the ancient polytheism they were a part of. What seems far more operative for Tripaldi is the lunar symbolism of Diana, which certainly does reflect Diana’s dual nature in a more historical sense, and how she connects this back to the subject of Kabbalah.
In classical terms, the moon is both celestial and chthonic, a light in the sky that also represented the powers of the underworld. As a celestial object, the moon’s light is really a reflection of the sun, which makes it seems like a spectral double of the sun. But, we are told, the moon in Kabbalah corresponds to the sefira Malkuth, the “impure” aspect of the divine feminine from before, because it reflects light from God. According to Gershom Scholem, this reflected an exile referred to as “the lessening of the moon”, which in turn was interpreted as the exile of the Shekhinah, the “holy moon”. The moon is also heavily associated with cyclical time, its influence linked to the movemennts of the tides, the reproductive cycles of many marine animals, and at least traditionally the menstrual cycles of women. Tripaldi interprets this cyclicality as a cycle of purification through death, through the cycle of the Flood and the purification of menstruation, and thus the moon as a symbol of virginal purity and death. This makes the moon a distrubing aspect of the divine feminine, an object of maniacal love and sacred terror, containing in itself all the ancient violence directed upon its flesh. But for Tripaldi the moon also has a mask, whose removal is but the hunter’s foolish and blasphemous quest to domesticate the divine feminine. It is presumed that behind the face of the moon lies a lost harmony, but we have no certainty that its true face is any better than the mask we have built for her. Sacrilege and unknowability interplay in an interesting way here. God in Christian terms is not only unknowable but the attempt to comprehend him, let alone imitate him, is a sin. Knowledge is in Christian terms the blasphemy and disobedience that overturns everything, because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in so doing they began their link to the realm of the gods, and so they were exiled from the garden, punished with the burden of original sin, and plagued further still by the apparition of their redemption in the form of Jesus Christ. If what hides behind the mask is no harmony, then what is it? No doubt a representation of raw entropy, or the death that is at once ineffable life. Might the blasphemy of discovery thus force us to confront the truth that lay beyond? Might the piety to the contrary only promote ignorace?
Still not finished, Tripaldi turns us next to the subject of Paolo Gorini, an Italian scientist whose legacy is commemorated in a square outside the University of Milan. He was also an embalmer, and was known as “the petrifier” for his experiments in mummification and preserving corpses. Gorini also found himself coming up against the Catholic Church for advocating the return of cremation to common practice for disposing of the dead. In the context of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy), Gorini was going against traditional authority in a time of radical political and social change. At this time, positivist rationalism and new natural sciences were an axis of resistance against the obscurantism of traditional religious authority, and secret societies worked towards a new future governed by enlightened ideals, while in northern Italy that very struggle was fought over the bodies of the dead, and its traces are left in the necropolises. Gorini rationalized his interest in the preservation and destruction of human bodies through his horror at their decomposition after burial. He believed that what happened to buried bodies was worse than if they were simply left on the ground, and that burial would be unequivocably left behind as soon as anything less cruel was introduced. To that end, Gorini turned to two practices from two ancient civilizations. On the one hand, the ancient Egyptians petrified and mummified corpses to preserve the body for what was believed to be its resurrection; on the other hand, the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced cremation, burning the bodies of the dead and thereby hastening their decay. Either proposal, Tripaldi notes, amounted to the “mineralisation” of the body: whether petrification or combustion, the dead body is turned into a new form of matter.
In all truth, this is a rather strange interjection. It’s not quite clear how this discourse connects to the rest of Tripaldi’s discussion of the divine feminine in the context of her heterodox interpretation of Kabbalah. There is a discourse present in the treatment of the body as an alchemical matter, and Gorini deriving his ideas about cremation from his research into plutonic liquid, and its ostensible Hermetic significance. Plutonic liquid is the name of a mysterious liquid that Gorini thought created volcanoes and mountain ranges when made solid. Tripaldi opens the suggestion that Gorini was a magician, for which there is scant basis both within this essay and certainly without, but in any case his cause to preserve the human body or at least save it from burial is seen by Tripaldi as a magical quest to stop or reverse time. As if a “Promethean” challenge to the disintegration of matter, or, through the words of Elemire Zolla, a form of alchemy similar to the transmutation of metal into gold. And, in the face of defeat, Gorini chose cremation; for Tripaldi, this meant a last stand against time in which his body “decapitated” time by returning to an original state. But as fascinating as it may be to take this view of cremation and alchemy as a plunge into immolation over surrender to time, I am still unsure of how it pertains to the whole essay. Unless, perhaps the “petrifying gaze of eternity in the eyes of a severed head” is none other than the face behind the mask of the moon that Tripaldi discussed. Is that what we, like the example of Actaeon, are counselled to never reveal to ourselves? Would it destroy us so?
The last relevant section of this essay returns us to the subject of the Virgin Mary, or rather one of her names: Stella Maris, meaning “star of the sea”. This name is meant denote her as watching over sailors or seafarers, thus linking her to the light of the North Star. The name’s origin seems to be a transcription error upon the original Latin name Stilla Maris, meaning “drop of the sea”, as translated by Jerome from the Hebrew name Maryam. Now, what is the meaning of all this? It would seem to establish a connection between the Virgin Mary and the depths of the ocean, which must seem very unusual compared to her conventional association with the heavens. From this we’re then introduced to Thalassa, a book written by the psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi. Ferenczi’s apparent aim was to establish a scientific basis for a psychological link between motherhood and the ocean and the broader view that all life is based on return to the womb. The fact that Thalassa is almost exactly a century old (having been written in 1924) leaves us with the suggestion that we should not take the “science” strictly at face value. Incidentally, though, the name Thalassa, which is the Greek word for “sea”, resonates with the name Thalatte, the Hellenistic name for the Babylonian Tiamat – certainly a meaningful coincidence given the overall centrality of Tiamat throughout Revolutionary Demonology and particularly in Tripaldi’s essays. Anyways, Ferenczi’s thesis is based on a theory he called “thalassal regression”: the idea of a latent drive to return to a long-lost aquatic mode of existence, which he thought continued to operate in genitality. Within this theory, it’s not the ocean that symbolises the womb but rather the womb that reminds us of the ocean, from which our distant mammalian ancestors emerged.
Trauma seems to be the main fixation of Tripaldi’s exploration of Ferenczi’s Lamarckian psychoanalysis. Human beings here are like living fossils that bear in their bodies evidence of eons of geological trauma created by ancient catastrophes visited upon our evolutionary ancestors, like the drying up of the primordial ocean. Birth is presented as a trauma that repeats the trauma of life emerging from the sea, and sexual intercourse is presented as means of regression, fulfilling a desire to return to the ocean. It’s not hard to see how the analogy to the womb comes into play, but it also almost feels like the ocean is like a center-point from which life plunges and to which, even as it crawls to the surface, it remains chained, and thus must at some point plunge back. I assure you, it’s not obvious what’s so centrifugal about this diagram of origination and return. The main insight that Tripaldi derives from Thalassa is in the idea that inhuman, geological, catastrophic forces mold individual subjectivity in the context of a catastrophic cosmogony of separation that positions the human being as the ultimate recepticle of cosmic suffering. Our drive to emerge from the abyss is framed thus as a catastrophic urge for separation, rather than a creative act. The strange thing about this idea, though, is that Tripaldi has spent pages of her illuminating separation and exile as fundamental to the creation of the world in the Kabbalistic context of the manifestation of God’s light. In this setting, you cannot just uncouple separation from creation. Nonetheless, evolution is presented by Tripaldi through Ferenczi not as a rise to the top of some natural order but a continuous propagation of traumas that in turn always motivates the desire for regression. After this, the essay ends with a lamentation of everything plunging into darkness, paging the cry of Angela of Foligno: “my son, my son, do not abandon me, my son!”. Perhaps for Tripaldi this is also Tiamat crying out for her myriad offspring, her own flesh and blood separated from her body, hung on the cross of creation. Now that I think about it, a more Christianized metaphor for the myth of Tiamat there isn’t.
So what emerges from all this? We see a particular interpretation of Kabbalah through the theme of cosmogonic separation and exile that is then taken through the theme of primordial agony and manifests as a metaphysics of a catastrophic divine feminine. This divine feminine is multifaceted: in many ways a reification of the perceived wound of our separation from an original state of non-creation, but also a reflection of the death and entropy that underlies the whole basis of life itself, albeit more so the violence of creation. It is obvious that the multitudinous divine feminine is still supposed to be Tiamat, but perhaps it is also Babalon, the exposed and bleeding heart of the Virgin Mary, the virginal divinity of Artemis and Diana, the petrifying gaze of Medusa, and the ocean itself. It is still curious that eight out of the nine goddesses of the seal of Gruppo Di Nun (namely Ammit, Nammu, Kauket, Hushbishag, Nungal, Sekhmet, Uadjet, and Ishtar), while only Tiamat seems to be discussed anywhere at all. In any case, this is the complex of feminine mystery that Tripaldi proposes alignment with as an occult axis against the patriarchy, and which, in Tripaldi’s occult schema, is the hidden machinery of Kabbalah meant to rise up and take the head from the Tree of Life.
One does wonder, though, to what end? Perhaps it can be connected to Kulesko’s discourse of the shattering of the world which then facilitates endless creation, thus to sever the Tree of Life and shatter the Image of the World would mean to open up the space for endless horizons of new creation. Yet, I doubt this is the throughline we get from Tripaldi. Instead it seems more like this is to fulfill a different kind of death drive, that the divine feminine might resolve the agony of separation by constricting around the whole machinery of Kabbalah and initiating an ecstatic regression towards the ocean of Nun (which, we might be assured, is not an alternative Centre from which we have still fallen). In Tripaldi’s premise, creation is a violence that leaves a wound at the heart of the universe, of matter itself, and, if that pain has any means of resolution, regression to the ocean, which is here the drive towards dissolution, is that resolution. But if life inexorably carved itself out, would it not do so again? If so, then I wonder, what is the point? And, I suppose the question arises that if we had any awareness of the pain of the world and of our own desire for regression, and if dissolution was the love that fulfilled it, then if we really wanted to go back to the ocean we could just die. Yet we choose to live for as long as we can.
Italian Southern Gothic (The Third Nigredo)
Our third discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Solarisation”, written by Valerio Mattioli. It is a rich exploration of the distorting power of the sun, and the alchemical cipher of the black sun, which is to be understood as a symbol of the process of nigredo, as situated in a tour of multiple distinct contours of modern Italian culture (or perhaps counter-culture). From Italian neorealist cinema, to giallo movies, to underground music, this scene is also explored in terms of an occult context of a land bathed in the sun’s light, and in my view provides valuable context for solar mythology relevant to the Left Hand Path. I have already discussed this particular essay in a separate article about the solar myth of Satan, which I propose as a central locus of Satanism that makes Satanism what it is (and, in turn, makes us Satanists what we are), with particular attention paid to Mattioli’s discussion of solarisation in relation to the subject of inversion and blasphemy. As such, I may attempt to minimize anything that risks repeating ground that I already trod last month. But a much broader exploration of the whole of the essay can be taken up in the scope of this article, and within this scope it would be my pleasure to give focus to Mattioli’s psychogeographical exploration of the occult landscape of Italy.
We are first introduced to Minor White, an American photographer known for his Surrealist pieces that employ the effect of solarisation: that is, a process of overexposure that both darkens and inverts the colour of an image. The monochromatic Oregon landscape of White’s “Black Sun”, made in 1955, is almost literally a textbook example of the technique of solarisation. It almost seems to reveal another world, as if hidden within this one, equal and opposite to it. For Mattioli, it’s as if that’s the point: to investigate and peer into a subconscious world parallel to our own. Photography was invented so as to produce images as mirrors of the real world around us, but ironically enough it was ostensibly first used to try and capture spectral presences (like ghosts or ectoplasms), and the camera filter, when activated properly, can invert photographs in ways that overturn the principles of empiral experience. Already, we see that humans by way of technical creativity can invert the world around them, revealing an other world and creating new worlds. What was meant as a tool to rationally document the world brought life to irrational worlds. Thus, through photography we begin to examine our subject of solar myth. The sun illuminates the world around us with its light, which to us should mean more reality accessible to us. But instead, more sunlight has the counterintuitve effect of distortion: solarisation means an exposure that exposes an “incorrect” truth. The solar disk turns black, the sky becomes milky, and all values change places. Thus, more sun does not mean more reality, but instead an inversion of reality. That observation has important implications that I intend to explore (or rather revisit), but suffice it to say for now that solarisation and sunshine appear magical a the fundamental sense: they change the world around them and overturn everything.
The black sun of alchemy, not to be confused with the other so-called “black sun” of neo-Nazism, enters into this in that solarisation is itself likened to nigredo. In alchemy, nigredo denotes the process of putrefaction in which matter is reduced to primordial chaos, the initial stage of the Great Work in which matter can begin to be transfigured into the perfection and immortality represented in the philosopher’s stone. For Mattioli, solarisation represents a kind of mechanical nigredo that explodes the sun’s light so as to translate it into what appears to be its opposite, and thus shatters the confines of the phenomenal world to reveal the invisible, unnameable, and the unknowable locked beneath it. To Mattioli this reveals primordial chaos in the form of an uninhabitable planet, and that it is revealed through a mechanical filter is to him all the more befitting of the inhumanity of the dimension that solarisation reveals, represented by the darkness of the black sun itself. But while it might be revealed through technique, it can only be known by occult means, by recourse to witchcraft and similar practices. Our sun ultimately emerges from that same world. The nigredo of solar myth can be interpreted along the lines of an active inversion, a blasphemy that will be made clear as we explore further. For Mattioli it is perhaps and abdication on the part of the alchemist’s self. But for the Satanist, this nigredo is the Fall re-enacted, a conscious inversion undertaken to reshape the world around you. There’s a sense in which solarisation here is a lot like Walter Benjamin’s concept of profane illumination: a non-contemplative materialist consciousness meant to allow the revolutionary subject to decode the superstructure of bourgeois society, destroy its field of reification and interact in full free consciousness with conditions as they really are. Or the way Henri Lefebvre described the mission of Surrealism as to “decode inner space and illuminate the nature of the transition from this subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world, and thence to social life”. Yes, perhaps solarisation actually denotes an active principle of surreality, bending the world so as to reveal it.
An ancient folk belief (or perhaps superstition), illuminated by a quote from Giacomo Leopardi at the start of the essay, hangs in the background of this exploration. In Italy and other Mediterranean lands, people believed that the spirits of the dead would appear at noon and disturb the living. For this reason, Leopardi said, classical authors would warn shepherds against going to places like Pallene or Phlegra, the latter thought to house the bones of giants, at noon. At midday, when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the world of the dead crossed with the world of the living, and the demons of the underworld appeared in the world above. Similar beliefs seem to appear in other cultures. In East European countries, a demon named Lady Midday (known in Poland as Południca) was believed to appear at the hottest time of noon, attack people in the fields, and occasionally ask them questions or challenge them to a dance. The Book of Psalms refers to a “destruction that despoils at midday”, which over time was translated through Jerome as the “daemonium meridianum”, or “Meridian Demon”. In Jewish demonology, a plague demon called Keteb was believed to be most powerful in the midsummer season and during the mid-day, and was also called Keteb Meririm. According to Cornelius Agrippa, Meririm was the name of the “Meridian Devil”, which he believed was the power of the air that worked in the children of disobedience. It’s often thought that these spirits were folk representations of the phenomenon of sunstroke, but the “daemonium meridianum” was also taken as a form of melancholy, depression, or rather a condition known as acedia (meaning basically listlessness or lack of care). Incidentally, acedia is also the Latin word given to the “deadly sin” of sloth. The irony, of course, is that we also use words like “sunny” to refer to the exact opposite conditions: happiness, joy, vibrancy etc., no doubt communicating a sense of life felt from the sun’s presence, which we in turn stereotypically associate with the peoples of the Mediterranean Basin. Or perhaps this all a cipher for a daemonic life, the vivifying light of an inner darkness that is the soul of this world, a soul that can be unlocked through solarisation.
For Mattioli, the sun is an altogether different presence from the optimistic light we perceive culturally. Per Antonin Artaud, it is a messenger of the breath of chaos, and Mattioli believes this communicates a perverse reality intuited by gothic fiction, whose classics were set in Mediterranean lands. For example, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, often considered the very first gothic novel, is set in a guilt-ridden Otranto, located in southern Italy, and Walpole claimed that he based it on what was originally an Italian manuscript, supposedly written in Naples in 1529. Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk casts its decadent story in Spain, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya is set in Venice, and need we say anything about Ann Radcliffe’s novels? In many ways this tendency reflected a mix of revulsion and fascination for an irrational outside within the Enlightenmentarian English psyche. But to really venture into a world where the sun doesn’t shine, we are to touch on a genre referred to as Italian Southern Gothic.
Italian Southern Gothic is the name given to a very broad cultural exploration of the macabre, the decadent, and the occult as running through the Mezzogiorno (as in, southern Italy). Italian Southern Gothic as we know it begins in 1954, when Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist, visited Italy. Alongside his colleague Diego Carpitella, he travelled across the south to places such as Liguria and Carrara in order to study the sounds and culture of the region. It was also at this time that the modernization of Italy was about to begin in earnest, as Italy’s “economic miracle” was set to transform Italy into a modern industrial nation in its own right alongside its European peers. This of course was to see older, archaic communities obscured beneath the new highways built for the rat race of modern consumer capitalism. But it was just the arcane world beneath that Lomax was to find, and while he still could: a wild, transgressive, immoral world, unlike the quaint image of Italian folk culture. Wild and uncanny sounds portrayed a world of sexual mania, irrationality, demonic fantasy, inexplicable fear, mind-shattering guilt, and archaic religious and ritual practices that go back centuries in time. This all led to the development of a “New Hypothesis” wherein southern Italy was to be understood as a clash between the human body, its surrounding social context, and memory. It also not only disturbed Lomax himself but also apparently horrified some of the Italian cultural intelligentsia, as I’m sure the dark side of life so often does.
Lomax was not alone in searching this arcane world. Ernesto De Martino, an Italian anthropologist, wrote essays and studies that elaborated a geography of sinister tales of decadence and even abuse interspersed with arcane religious rites and magical formulas. De Martino thus, for Mattioli, embodies a solarisation that unravelled a world of meridian demons and blind divinities just as Lomax unravelled the lost world of Mezzogiorno. This solarisation is indeed an unparalleled exercise in profane illumination. Further, I find myself imagining a perverse form of Terrence McKenna’s “Archaic Revival”, one where unlocking the liberationist values of a distant past means unlocking the sinister underbelly of the present. Italian Southern Gothic is in this sense a mechanism of solarisation whose hyperrealist gaze allows us to discover truly archaic contents that animate or lurk beneath the world we live in. It may indeed open up mystical and esoteric praxis that enhances the Left Hand Path in its access to the true ground of being, as if the substance of innate enlightenment (here I am admittedly invoking Bernard Faure’s image of Daikokuten within esoteric Tendai Buddhism).
The theme of hyperreality turns us toward a genre of film that, in its late years, seemed to draw inspiration from the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino. Enter, Italian Neorealism. The term “neorealism” refers to a gritty and almost documentary form of cinema that emerged in the middle of the 1940s and focused on depicting the realities of life in post-World War II Italy. Directors such as Luigi Di Gianni, Roberto Rossellini, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Vittorio De Sica, Cecilia Mangini, and Federico Fellini all sought to bring to focus a society exhausted by poverty as it struggled in the beginning of life after Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. The point was to portray the real conditions of contemporary Italian society just as they were, right down to its worst aspects, without any artifice, metaphor, symbolism, or dreamlike flourish. For this, neorealism is typically recognised as a form of documentary denunciation rather than an expression of Italian Southern Gothic. But, for Mattioli, this impression is not complete, and merely reflects a more polite repression of a latent arcane world, one befitting the emerging reign of rational modernity.
To illustrate what Mattioli sees as a practical interplay between hyperrealism and demonic solarisation, we are referred to the novel Conversations in Sicily, written by Elio Vittorini in 1941. In the novel, Vittorini apparently lets his documentary narrative of Sicilian life subtly move towards oneiricism. Perhaps the better example might be Carlo Levi’s memoir, Christ Stopped At Eboli, which is a reflection of Levi’s life and travels as a political exile in southern Italy that is apparently nonetheless populated with witches, cemeteries, drunken priests, and invisble brigands, who all form the image of a land where time has stopped and neither reason and history have a place, all inaugurated by a solar eclipse. More than that, however, it is in neorealism we see a perverse magic to solar inversion. The example we are presented with is a short documentary film titled Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Notes On A News Story), directed by Luchino Visconti in 1951, which focuses on the story of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 12-year old Annarella Bracci in the Primavelle district, which was probably one of the most notorious crimes of the day. The film depicts the sunlit outskirts of Rome in the throes of its worst nightmares, almost morphing before our eyes into a desert where human and non-human garbage is tossed aside, and a road in the final shot connecting the Primavelle flats to a sky that seems like an omen of damnation. The inertia and salvation of the golden city seems like an inferno, and thus, in Mattioli’s words, Hell lies in the celestial vaults. Mattioli treats this as an iconic representation of solar inversion. That very solar inversion also strikes a chord with Satanic inversion: after all, if heaven is hell, is hell not heaven, and is God not thus the ultimate villain of his own cosmic drama? Though, for Mattioli, the relevant aesthetic fulfillment of solar inversion for the old neorealism is in its slow rhythm, its narratives of abject fatigue and social nightmares, lack of colour, and above all the fact that these films were typically filmed on long summer days and shot in the open air, altogether conveying the acid of excessive sunlight.
The transition from black and white films to colour films also meant a transition from neorealism to “post-neorealism”, and the qualities of neorealism passing into two iconic Italian cult movie genres: spaghetti westerns and giallo movies. Spaghetti westerns were Italian movies set in the “American West”, or rather the picture of an American West filled with stylized violence and revolving around the bleak stories of rugged, often silent protagonists. Giallo movies were essentially horror-thriller or murder mystery movies that were also known for their wild eroticism, madness, violent gratuity to the point that they can be called “slashers”, and, often enough, a flair for esotericism, supernatural horror, and even psychedelia. Their bright colours manage to subtly invoke the weight of the Mediterranean sun, but they also still seem to lead back to a kind of meridian nigredo. But from there we come an odd but insightful discussion of a principle of solarisation that is also descriptive of the magical principle of solar myth: the whiteout. Here, Mattioli is talking about what he calls the “Mediterranean whiteout”. This is a phenomenon where, when the sun is its at brightest, its light seems to turn the whole field of vision into a vast white expanse, leading a blindness bound in the liquification of existence. For Mattioli, the cinematic genius of the whiteout is none other than Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose movies seem to activate inverting properties of solarisation and the amplifying the properties of the principle of neorealist cinema: the need to know and modify reality. Mattioli then positions this need as a magical gesture, an expression of Aleister Crowley’s definition of magic as “the Science and Art of causing changes in conformity with the Will”. Thus magic itself expresses the quality of solarisation.
Here, we can briefly revist the solar myth of Aleister Crowley. As Cavan McLaughlin observed in his essay The Dark Side of the Sun, Crowley’s own life was a solar myth supported by his own magical will. He was born as Alexander Edward Crowley, dubbed himself Aleister Crowley as an act of magical self-authorship, and in 1930 he even faked his own death by suicide by spreading false information and producing a fake suicide note, only to then re-emerge alive and well in Berlin. Crowley in a sense distorted the boundary between fiction and realtiy, solarising the world around him and creating a new one. The property of solar myth consists in the interpretation of the need to know and modify the world as the desire to overturn everything, changing it in accordance with will. Neorealism was received as a documentary denunciation, and welcomed with the moral ends of humanism. But in Crowleyan terms, the need to know and modify the world is an amoral desire, from which begins an amoral quest. McLaughlin again illuminates this, in that, if every man and every woman truly is a star, then the magical quest for transcendence or doing what thou wilt has the potential to “make monsters of us all”. But then if life per Schopenhauerian terms life is kind of monstrous, and we are all thus monsters for participating in it, then, in Nietzschean terms, we cannot really cower from it. Thus is the starting point of Crowleyan solar heroism as its own solarisation: every man and woman is a star, meaning that they are Suns, in that they are at the center of their own magical universe, and their light may shine down on the world, transforming it entirely, overturning everything in the process.
Mattioli presents the cinematic career of Pier Paolo Pasolini as a kind of journey of initiatory journey of solarisation. This journey begins with Accattone, where Pasolini seems to turn Rome, the “Eternal City”, into a phantasmagorical sea of light marked by a stark contrast of white and black, whose geometries come to take a surreal and tenebrous quality associated with the city of R’lyeh in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. The journey ends in Salo, Pasolini’s adaptation of The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, whose reputed unwatchability and brutality would seem to coincide with the similar unwatchability of the noonday sun. Mattioli connects the “death and terror” of Salo to Georges Bataille’s description of Mount Vesuvius as a “filthy parod of the blindingly hot sun”, and then, to a different parody: the anus. For Bataille, volcanoes are like the asshole of a world that eats nothing, and constantly spew out its contents. Mattioli then links that theme to Salo as the sum of the link between the sun and the asshole, both at least figuratively impossible to lay eyes on, then we are brought to the magical property of anal sex. Seemingly an inversion of the function of procreation and the mandate of the sun to illuminate the world, anal sex is here positioned as an instrument of reconciliation with the arcane world parallel to ours, revelaed by the light of a black sun, and in a way that echoes Austin Osman Spare’s concept of “new sexuality”. For Spare, this meant accessing the innermost layers of the psyche through “unnatural” sexual acts in order to trigger the awakening of primordial states of the subconscious mind, which he called “atavistic resurgence”. Kenneth Grant described this as a process by which Spare visted fantastical cities constructed of lines and angles that seemed unlike anything on Earth. Mattioli relates this to the lost city of R’lyeh in Lovecraft’s work and Pasolini’s treatment of the city of Rome in Accattone. It’s fairly interesting that in this essay Chaos Magick (or at least as anticipated by Spare) seems to align with the aims that Mattioli and the Gruppo Di Nun at large present while in the previous essay the entire tradition of Chaos Magick is portrayed as part of the “Western iniatic tradition” on the basis of a single passage from Liber Null.
But, from here, we come to an aspect of Pasolini’s solarisation that I find rich with Satanic significance: the assassination of Pier Paolo Pasolini on the beaches of Ostia. The very name Ostia clues us in on the nature of solar inversion: simply put, it overturns everything. It simultaneously references the holy communion wafer of Catholic liturgy and the hidden blasphemy of the solar disc. The name Ostia relates to the Latin words “hostia”, meaning “victim”, and “hostis”, meaning “adversary”: the former can be seen as Jesus, the divine victim central to Christianity, and the latter as Satan, the Adversary himself. Yet, it also actually comes from the Latin word “ostium”, meaning “mouth”, as in the mouth of a river. A mouth where water and shit exit the metropolis of Rome: the anus of the city. But it is also the Mithraic solar disc trapped inside the Christian host, and thus the secret of blasphemy. Every mockery and desecration of the cross, every carnal gratification for its own sake, kink, queering, disinhibition, insurrection, all sure the same magic as solar inversion, and the monstrous duality of solar mystery, and in turn solar myth. In Satanic terms, this is the creative act of blasphemy, the creative act of “Satan’s Fall”, the primordial insurrection, the a rebours (reversal) that is central to Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s understanding of Satanism. Without surrender or abdication, we penetrate the world with our own solar rays, as we partake in a defiant Satanic nigredo that is disinhibition and solarisation. The Ostia described by Mattioli is perhaps its own psychogeography of blasphemy, its own example of satanic solar inversion, as the place where, as he put it, the hierarchies of the city of Rome are upended.
What Pasolini brought to life in his work was an alternate city of Rome. In ancient Roman myth and tradition this city had a name: Remoria. Remoria was the mythical city that was to be founded by Remus, the twin brother of Romulus. The traditional myth goes that, when Romulus and Remus had finished restoring their grandfather as king of Alba, the two brothers set out to found a city of their own, but they argued bitterly over where the city should be built, and eventually Remus was killed while Romulus established Rome as we know it. Remoria can thus be seen as an image of what Rome could have been. All this also sits beneath a dark sun, or rather a solar eclipse. According to Plutarch, Remus was killed by Romulus during what happened to be a solar eclipse. For Mattioli this invites us to look beyond the sun to another world.
But what does that other world look like? Mattioli says that Romulus, as the founder of Rome, seemed to establish the civilizational archetype of “the West”, with its emphasis on a vertical ideology of hierarchy, order, and discipline, constructed atop a square city of continuous conquest and production what is, with no tolerance for waste. Remoria, in this picture, would seem to be a chaotic and circular city of expenditure and sacrifice of what never was, a spectral twin city born dead, welcoming the waste of the world and reflecting the irrational qualities attributed to Remus. Yet this Remoria exists within Rome itself: the senseless and chaotic suburbs that are connected to Rome by the anal symbol of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, which seems to mimic the circumference of a volcanic crater and form a solar disc on the ground. In this way, it would seem that the other world is always lying beneath the surface of this one, seemingly inseparable from this world. If Mattioli is to be believed, there are urban legends surrounding the Grande Raccordo Anulare that position it as some kind of magic seal, which if we take them for granted would perhaps literally make it an occult ideogram planted in Rome. This, the hidden structure of an arcane world is there, waiting to be unravelled by the solar will of a magician looking to unleash the darkness of the world.
Delving deeper into the Italian underground we start to explore what Mattioli figures as the sound of Remoria. This begins with Italian techno music, focusing on the album Muta, which was released by Leo Anibaldi in 1993. Muta seems to be unique among techno records in that techno as a genre seems to inaugurate a cybernetic age, but Muta does not, apparently sounding a little too much like old giallo soundtracks to have that feel. But then, from Mattioli’s description, Rome at this time was still hardly a cybernetic city; in fact, he claims that Rome was never even a punk city. By the turn of the 1970s and 80s, the most prevalent subculture among the young working class of Rome was goth subculture (which, incidentally, centres around a music genre that spun off from punk), which celebrated the night, the long sunless winters, and tanless flesh. This apparently has nothing to do with the old gothic novels frequently being set in Italy. More fitting the scene seems to be the disc of death celebrated by Coil on their album Scatology. But Leo Anibaldi’s work is also positioned in what Mattioli calls a “dark continuum”, which apparently begins with a band named Goblin.
Goblin was an Italian progressive rock band formed in 1972 by Claudio Simonetti, the same Claudio Simonetti who went on to compose soundtracks for several Italian horror movies. In fact, Goblin made music for numerous films directed by Dario Argento, including Suspiria,Deep Red, and Phenomena to name just a few. But, at the end of the 1970s, Claudio Simonetti became a disco producer and got involved in a number of disco bands. Local DJs around this time played alongside Simonetti before eventually moving on from Italo disco to house, and then new DJs would discover techno and develop a new “Sound of Rome”. Then, as the 1990s progressed and rave parties became the new scene, amidst the electronic decadence of drugs and esotericism emerged a rap group called TruceKlan, which brought Anibaldi’s brand of techno together with Satanism and the legacy of neorealism and giallo movies into their own distinct sound. Although they remained obscure everywhere else, they apparently had a major impact in Rome, and into the 2010s one of TruceKlan’s producers went on to create a trap collective called Dark Polo Gang. Thus is Mattioli’s dark continuum, running from the morbid legacy of giallo movies to a new kind of depressive dark trap music.
That dark continuum seems in itself to be an expression of Italian Southern Gothic, in that we behold a hidden world of decadence beneath the surface of the golden city, locked inside, per Visconti’s description, the inertia and salvation. Hell continues to lie inside the celestial vaults. Celebrations of anal sex and roundabouts around the GRA form a kind of modern Witches’ Sabbath. The myth of the Witches’ Sabbath resonates in the rave parties due to their character as an ecstatic, transgressive, and “illicit” counterculture, but also in a commitment to inverting their surroundings, revealing the symbol of the world turned upside down. Again we see an avenue for Satanism. For Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the myth of the Witches’ Sabbath corresponded to a ritual manifestation of a Satanic-Nietzschean transvaluation of values, an event whose orgies, dances, and sacrifices culminate in a dissolution of reality and/or the sensorium into an endless night in which Satan appears. This inversion sees flesh and its instincts triumph over law and the social order, desire exceeds itself by its fulfillment in communion with Satan, and sin itself, along with holiness, and all good and evil, dissolve into nothingness. Only joy and desire remain: wealth, God, morality, the pursuit of power, all of these are worthless before this raw revolt of flesh, and they melt before Satan’s inner world as revealed by the frenzy of the Witches’ Sabbath. In the case of the Italian underground, their frenzy, their artifical rhythms, synthetic drugs, samples, and autotune all reveal an inhuman, inorganic world, the image of a dead planet. For Italian Southern Gothic at large, in the work of Alan Lomax the frenzy of the songs and screams he recorded were a revelation of a spectral world seemingly populated by the living dead. But these all point to an axis that reveals disinhibition as a solarising act that unravels an arcane world, that is at once the ground of this world. It is as if ecstasy as a means of revelation, and yet that ecstasy is not the suffering of Teresa of Avila. No, for Satanism it is a joy and triumph that destroys all else.
Finally, we revist the legacy of giallo movies through one film in particular that Mattioli deems archetypical for the genre. Directed by Giulio Questi in 1972, Arcana is a film that depicts a widow named Ms. Tarantino and her son living in Milan, having moved there from the south, and practicing spiritualism and magic. Ms. Tarantino makes money by performing seances with the aid of her secret magical knowledge, while her son somehow forces her to teach him said magical arts so that he can use them to cause panic wherever he goes and however he pleases. At the background of the film seems to be an unresolved tension between a fully modern and industrial Milan on the one hand and a still very much occult south on the other hand. Questi apparently performs a cinematic whiteout to depict the south in overexposed but dark images to convey its constant presence in the past. But Milan contains its own darkness. Its underground construction sites almost seem home to ancient chthonic powers and irrationality, while conveying assemblies of men amputated in their work. Even though Arcana is a film that centers occult themes, for Mattioli it is fundamentally a realist movie, in that it also centres an emigration from southern Italy to the north that has been depopulating the south since World War II. Modern, “enlightened” Milan sits ensconsed in the comforts of Capital, while sinking its bowels into an underworld of construction sites and curses. That underworld is a negative of Milan itself, a kind of negative that every city contains witin itself, a double that pushes for the inversion of the city we know, and it which is thus a force of solarisation. From there Milan upends itself from within, as in the Covid-19 pandemic, for Mattioli, unravels the truth of the disk of death: that there is no consumption without waste, no nourishment without excrement, and that there is always an asshole somewhere. But another inversion took place: Milan, which previously saw continous emigration from the south, was abandoned by those some southerners seeking refuge in their motherlands, and became one big ghost town. Within Italy, that flight was portrayed as a betrayal by southerners of the city that welcomed them, but for Mattioli it was just the city consuming and then execrating a mass of labour, and thus having suceeded in its mission as the machinery of Capital.
From this final psychogeographic revelation we turn our heads to the sky once more, to see the Medierreanean sun burn and evaporate everything one last time, and behold Lucifer shining in the sky. The Canicola that conludes Mattoli’s essay tells us of a Sun that, from 150,000,000 kilometres above our planet’s surface, evaporates all shadows, and melts all knowledge, desertifies the earth, and whose fire is the very fire of hell itself. Mattioli in this sense portrays light and darkness as ultimately the same; hell lies and the celestial vaults, but hell is heaven and heaven is hell. Too much light actually means too much darkness rather than more illumination, and for this reason Lucifer, the light-bringer, is in truth a master of shadows. The connection between Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star himself, and the sun almost seems like an echo of Charles Leland’s Lucifer (or Lucifero), who was cast in Aradia as a sun god, similar to the Greek and Roman god Apollo. In any case the sun stands as the source of life, death, and the life of death, and the principle of delusions, abnormalities, and all abysses of the human psyche. Mattioli’s sun almost seems to take on the principles of the God of Christian negative theology, who is “dark” in the sense that God is “dark” precisely because he exists as a superabundance of light, which would naturally blind human consciousness. But, on the other hand, this sun might just as well be the “Father of Lies”, the Devil, on the same terms. Either way, it is the light of the sun overturning everything in a surreal field of vision, that surreality being nothing but creation, and new creation. By this understanding God would be one more magician, and Satan in this schema would just happen to reject God’s particular design.
Without reprising the entirety of my previous article on solarisation, we can summarize the primary takeaway. The exploration of Italian Southern Gothic (which I believe I would like to continue on its own in a future article) is a valuable illustration of a particular kind of gnostic katabasis and magical gesture, whereby one “descends” into hidden structures or membranes of the world so as to become fully aware of the world in a way that is only possible through its darkness. Yet it is solar inversion in particular that poses a problem for Gruppo Di Nun’s critique of Satanism, at least in the sense that I, within my previous article alone, am able to elaborate ways in which the discourse of solarisation aligns with and even enhances some conception of Satanism. Granted, much hinges on a matter of perspective. If, after all, what primarily matters is some sense of “abdication” to the other world, then Satanism at large would still not align with that. But if what counts is the illustration of blasphemy as a magical act, by which the will may make change occur through solar inversion, then it is actually somewhat easily to develop a Satanic understanding of what Mattioli means to convey. Satan is insurrection, Satan is the sun at the heart of the world, the primordial engine of overturning everything: The Adversary.
Masochism As Gnosis (The Fourth Nigredo)
Our fourth discussion of nigredo is revolves around the essay “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, written by Enrico Monacelli. This essay is Enrico Monacelli’s elaboration of masochism not only as a principle of inverted wisdom but the absolute fundamental principle of the overall philosophy put forward by Gruppo Di Nun as a whole. I believe it is here that again move closer and closer to the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s answer to life. “Solarisation”, in Gruppo Di Nun’s schema, would serve as the revelation of a world whose tongue invites its visitors to become vessels of its transmission. “Mater Dolorosa” in a certain sense prepares the centrality of masochism by positioning suffering as its own goal and the mechanism of revelation. Yet “Solarisation” and “Cultivating Darkness” present alchemical avenues that, as I have shown, can still lead to an alternative to masochistic mysticism. “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, in this sense, is different, in that its philosophical pessimism lacks these avenues of subversion, and hinges entirely on ontological masochism. What is also central to Monacelli’s essay and the masochistic ontology he presents is a dialogue around the fearful encounter of Julius Evola, one of the foremost philosophers of traditionalism and 20th century fascism, and Carlo Michelstaedter, arguably one of the most formidable philosophical pessimists of the 20th century. This dialogue serves as a way to dissect Evola’s system of esoteric fascism as a response to Michelstaedter’s philosopher, so as to contrast it with Monacelli’s philosophy of masochism, with the aim of presenting this masochism as the diametric opposite of esoteric fascism and the ultimate means of breaking the spiral of fascism. Such a discourse cuts right into Gruppo Di Nun’s particular strategy of inversion, reflected in the namesake being a subversion of Julius Evola’s Gruppo Di Ur, and therefore allows us to cut deeper into its conceits.
We can, to start with, skip the first seven pages of Monacelli’s essay insofar as they largely recapitulate the psychogeographical exploration carried out by Valerio Mattioli in the previous essay. Instead, I think it is more pertinent to move straight on to his discussion of masochism. And even there, it is difficult to see if anything valuable could be said of Mattioli’s conceptual denunciations of “healthy sex”, “the abandonment of fetish”, and “the BDSM romantic comedy we find ourselves trapped in”. Monacelli appears to think that modern sexuality consists only of a one bivalent form of sexual deviancy consisting of the servant-master dialectic. I would posit that this is only his own unfamiliarity. He quotes Gilles Deleuze to support this idea and apparently Deleuze thought the very term “sadomasochism” was a construction of psychoanalysis meant to convince us that there is only one form of sexual deviancy. Well, notwithstanding that I might consider some aspect of Monacelli’s writing here to constitute psychoanalysis in itself, and to some extent the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun as a kind of psychoanalytical application, if Deleuze says this then I would maintain that Deleuze is also wrong. Everyone even vaguely familiar with fetishes or pornography knows what kind of fetishes exist which exceed this familiar field, and it is almost safe to assume that no one actually believes that there is just one form of sexual deviance. What exactly is the “servant-master” dialectic of the fecalphiliac, for instance? The assumption of bivalence in regards to fetish or kink is in many ways inherently flawed, and one would think that that a system billing itself as queer occultism should be innately familiar with that. I don’t find it entirely productive to dwell on this subject too long. In the end, Monacelli’s discussion of feitsh is a protracted appeal to taste, and perhaps it’s safe to assume Monacelli just isn’t into BDSM. But what he believes to be a comedy is its own ritual, a ritual that some of us enjoy and live by. In Kulesko’s terms, as long as we’re all just making our own meaning from the black magma of the cosmos, what does it matter what “comedy” by which people fornicate with each other? Kink and taste are what they are, so what matters is the philosophical substance Monacelli intends to propose.
That being said, I suppose we can comment on Monacelli’s discussion of sadism. Monacelli interprets sadism as an annihilating desire to be God’s right hand man, and echoes Deleuze’s opinion that the apogee of sadism is, rather than Marquis De Sade, none other than the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. This perhaps comes solely down to the perception of Spinoza’s philosophy as mechanistic, and sadism as a mechanistic desire. Not really much to work with in this sense, though Deleuze claims this is all to do with sadism supposedly impersonalizing violence with the support of an idea of pure reason. This almost feels like the way Vladimir Lenin and his successors define imperialism into something distinct from imperialism. Deleuze’s “sadism” could as well describe all conventional violence or political violence, which typically de-personalize or even deny violence, justifying it by turning it into reason, whereas sadism simply isn’t sadism without the derivation of pleasure. Indeed, even the most extreme and systematic forms of fascism are justified not by sadistic pleasure but by depersonalization as the hand of fascistic reason. But Monacelli in any case derives from this the idea of sadism as “separative wisdom”, meaning that it divides and lacerates the unity of the world, but for Monacelli it also cuts against and dissolves the self. His description of sadism sort of strikes a chord with Stirner’s concept of devourment, but that’s what makes it all the stranger that he should read it as “self-dissolution”. It seems obvious that, since the masochistic death drive is, in Gruppo Di Nun’s analysis, the centre of all cosmic life, all behaviour must be mapped onto self-dissolution or the desire to surrender. I will say that one can take up a form of self-dissolution as dissolving into apotheosis in the sense that Kulesko’s Dracula, and in turn Hellsing‘s Alucard, embody, it also seems like it’s also, ironically enough, just what Kulesko was counselling us against: to isolate a single desire or aspect of being as the fundamental principle of the universe. That may just be the inherent self-made contradiction for Gruppo Di Nun’s core ethos.
With that, we can move on to the “perverse mysticism” of masochism. Whereas sadism is “separative wisdom”, masochism could be understood as “regressive wisdom”. Masochism, for Monacelli, means to recall our point of origin and enjoy descent and immersion in the terror of infinite night. But already, from the starting point of the masochist as the faithful receiver of the massacre of the cosmos, back through Monacelli’s definition of sadism, it almost seems that, despite the denunciation of the servant-master dialectic in BDSM, Monacelli positions us as part of the one servant-master dialectic that he can accept. If sadism is the amplified wisdom of separation that lacerates the body and the cosmos, and the universe itself is a Landian machine of laceration, then it feels amusing to think that we might be asked to accept a God that separates and to reject any separative wisdom that might be our own. It almost comes back to the idea that God can distort, create, and destroy but we humans cannot. Our place is not to imitate God, only to be constantly solarised, confused, perverted, and destroyed by God. The opposite perspective is the path of Satan, of Lucifer, or Sophia.
It’s worth briefly focusing on what Deleuze tells us about Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Galician Tales. In the beginning of the book, a wanderer condemns Nature as evil, and Nature responds to the wanderer that she does not hate humans, even when she deals death, but is simply cold, severe, and maternal. Deleuze proposes this as a steppe that buries sensuality and sadism and also transmutes desire and cruelty. From another perspective, though, the coldness of Nature is an idea shared by De Sade. For De Sade, Nature is a whole matrix of generation whose basic process depends on destruction and recombination. Death and destruction are the basis of Nature’s ability to create, things die so that Nature can bring new things into being, and matter is continually re-arranged by Nature as it dies. It makes no difference to Nature if a human being were to reincarnate as a centipede. This idea appears frequently in De Sade’s work, often as a device for characters to justify the tortures they inflict. But in this sense, both the sadistic worldview of De Sade and the masochistic worldview of Masoch as an almost cruelly impersonal and necessarily destructive basis for life. The difference is that De Sade’s sadist views themselves as following in Nature’s example, deriving solely from Nature’s power and “law” while perhaps imitating its destructive creativity in their exercise of imagination, per Geoffrey Gorer’s description modifying the external world for the pleasure of doing so, while Masoch’s masochist seems to surrender to this Nature, and this Nature, rather than furnishing the desires of the individual, seems to subsume and change them. Monacelli seems to embrace Masoch’s idea on the basis that it sketches a descent into what he sees as the “geo-traumatic core of sexuality”. It seems here that we have returned to Laura Tripaldi’s ideas about the wound of creation, and by extension to Ferenczi’s psychoanalytical theories.
Perhaps enlighteningly, we see Monacelli’s discussion of masochism venture into Christianity. In fact, he seems to regard masochism as the basis and fulfilment of Christian mysticism and theology. It seems to me like this says something about the nature of Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic outlook. Monacelli here invokes the example of Henry Suso, a German Dominican friar who our author considers to be among the most misunderstood pioneers of mysticism. Suso apparently tortured himself and built instruments of torture for the purpose of understanding the self-torture of God, thus, in this exact sense, almost “imitating” Jesus Christ. Suso’s dialogue with “Eternal Wisdom” seems to show God revealing transcendence as a humiliating immanence that empties desire and everything else. In this exact sense, mysticism for Monacelli means going down into what he takes to be Love, a kind of primordial trauma at the basis of sexuality. Thus, Monacelli’s masochism is a sexuality that abolishes humanity and turns the mystic into a voice for an omniscient, ineffable, unmanifest, and unnameable God, which is thus Monacelli’s representation of the Outside.
It is here that we revisit the problem and contradiction of Gruppo Di Nun’s rejection of Satanism. Gruppo Di Nun interprets the entirety of modern Satanism as a reinterpretation of the “principles of the Right Hand Path”, accuses Satanism of being structurally identical to the religions that it opposes, and asserts that Satanism reproduces Christianity by way of inverting it. But, just like in the case of Laura Tripaldi, we see Enrico Monacelli quite literally reproduce Christianity, quite literally basing his philosophy of masochism on Christian mysticism, literally identifying Gruppo Di Nun’s Outside with the Christian God. Admittedly a most fascinating, if misguided subversion: here, if Satanism is somehow “the Right Hand Path”, then per their terms the “Left Hand Path” at least looks an awful lot like Christianity. In fact one might reckon the notion of cosmic love at the centre of things as a reflection of Christianity. There is certainly a notion of disintegrating love that both Monacelli and Tripaldi trace directly to Christian mysticism. Is it on the back of this substance that Gruppo Di Nun rejects Satanism? In this sense their rejection of Satanism emerges as all the more hypocritical, incoherent, and actually quite farcical. Yet it also seems to echo the old divide of philosophical pessimism: that of Schopenhauer versus Nietzsche. In this sense one cannot help but sense the fulfilment of masochism in Christian mysticism as the consummation of the Nietzschean critique of Christianity, the full circle of the denial of life often typified as the Schopenhauerian response to life.
But from here we move on to the subject of a “terrible Italian affliction”, by which Monacelli means the suicidal gnosis of Carlo Michelstaedter, the illumination of what Monacelli observes as the anti-social pleasure and revelation of suicidal descent. Michelstaedter’s thesis, Persuasion and Rhetoric, is regarded by Gruppo Di Nun as a precursor of the philosophy of entropic cosmic love that they outline at the start of Revolutionary Demonology, which would make it rather central to their core project. Michelstaedter outlined what was, in his view, a radically indifferent universe that consists of a primordial hyperentropic hunger of a will whose end is annihilation. After writing Persuasion and Rhetoric, Michelstaedter committed suicide: an act that some people believe to be the practical culmination of his philosophy. It seems that none other than Julius Evola also almost committed suicide after reading Persuasion and Rhetoric. Apparently it was only by reading a fragment of the Majjhima Nikaya, one of the five Nikaya texts within the canon of Theravada Buddhism, did Evola become persuaded to not kill himself. And then, against annihilating cosmos of Michelstaedter, Evola proposed a fascist metaphysics that he called “Magical Idealism”. Monacelli contrasts this with Michelstaedter’s answer to life, which Monacelli supposes to be an openness to “inorganic desire”, even if means total surrender to the laws of cosmic massacre. Such illustrates the core dichotomy of Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview: the split is between the “Right Hand Path”, defined by idealistic self-fortification of a consciousness trained to rule the world, and the “Left Hand Path”, defined as a mysticism that strives to unveil the true and hideous nature of the world in order to surrender to it. That last part is more operative than anything. Other iterations of the Left Hand Path also share with Gruppo Di Nun the aim of destroying the veil of reality so as to unleash its true nature, in all its darkness, and break down the barriers to your own agency and self-awareness, and, yes, derive power from it. I suppose I could be describing what Monacelli calls “sadistic” worldview. Such a worldview can, as I have hopefully shown thus far (especially in the previous article), draw a perverse sense of strength from many aspects Gruppo Di Nun’s entropic philosophy. But in the overall Gruppo Di Nun’s response is not the “sadistic” response, and is in fact the “masochistic” response, one that ironically actually hues closer to what is traditionally understand as the “Right Hand Path”. Again, the example of Marxism-Leninism and its definition of imperialism versus any other practical definition of the term springs to mind for a suitable analogy to what I see.
The duality of Michelstaedter’s pessimism and Julius Evloa’s esoteric fascist response to it seems to get more attention in Amy Ireland’s afterword at the end of the book, so I think we can brief turn to it. To hear Ireland tell it, Michelstaedter proposed a universe in which it was impossible for individuals to access things like eternity which might bring themselves into coincidence with themselves, thereby attaining what Michelstaedter called “persuasion”, because that would mean an absence of lack that is impossible to attain. For Michelstaedter, only death allows being to experience itself fully, but death also extinguishes being: thus, the entirety of human existence is a tortuous paradox. Evola’s response involved the reinterpretation of Michelstaedter’s philosophy into an extreme theory of the self-sufficiency of being, in which persuasion and direct access to the absolute were both attainable for specific individuals (“spiritually strong” and “Aryan” men) through a certain form of occult training that he devised. Evola’s dichotomy was between “spontaneity” and “domination”, which he coded in terms of gender and sexual and racial determinism, which seems ironic for his rhetoric of “freedom” and “the absolute individual” until you remember that Evola defined “freedom” as “domination” – that is to say, the domination of an elite clique of “Aryan” men. There can be few more abject forms of false hope than this. But is that not coloured by a broader idea that you must first accept yourself as part of an order of the universe, in that it is only within this order that, for select individuals who have the “correct” place (biological, racial, sexual, gendered etc.) within it, allows them to secure their ordained place as rulers of the world. True, Evola’s philosophy at every turn aims for the fascistic transcendence of – or perhaps rather escape from – matter, but if we take seriously the idea of “self-deification” as a function of a Hermetic order, that order is already surely latent even in the material world. Evola may had denied the existence of God, but his throughline, taken through Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding, gives us the picture that people can only “overcome matter” because “God” or some stand-in for him allows it, as the secret ruler of everything. Thus, in practice, the dichotomy between the acceptance and control of reality is a false one within the purview of esoteric fascism, whose adherents are all too happy to insist on their image of objective truth being accepted as reality, often by force. And in the end, it seems like a fundamentally mediocre alternative to the contradiction presented by Michelstaedter, or rather to the masochistic acceptance presented by Monacelli.
But, as much as there is to talk about the matter of Evola, we are not finished with Monacelli’s exploration of masochism. Returning to the essay at hand, we now get something of a curveball. Because in Monacelli’s words, “we need to impale God himself”. Having just established God as the Outside for which the masochist is a kind fo ecstatic, suffering transmitter into the world, this seems puzzling. But we are introduced to Andrea Emo, a reclusive Italian philosopher apparently known for a uniquely pessimistic take on the Hegelian dialectic. Emo’s God is the unstoppable abolition of everything, a hidden war latent within time that ceaselessly and meaninglessly destroys everything that is, and which will eventually destroy itself. Emo’s maxim was that God consists in his own annihilation. Now this would be the point where Monacelli at least appears to extend his masochism beyond Christianity. Before getting ahead of ourselves we can look at Emo’s adherence to what was called “actualism”, which was incidentally also the same form of Hegelianism advocated by Giovanni Gentile. Actualism can be summarized as a philosophy that interprets the Hegelian dialectic as centering a perpetual action that always moves away from its inner potential towards its outer consumption. For Giovanni Gentile, this meant that everything is like a fire, in that everything exists because it burns and exists to be combust. For Andrea Emo, though, everything is already being consumed, and everything in the universe is its own massacre, every chain of being sheds blood until the whole universe is nothing but blackness. For Gentile, the dialectical act is the foundation and constitution of everything. For Emo, it actually demostrates that there is no foundation or constitution to anything, and that everything is progressing in a straight line towards the “final attractor”. In this philosophy, the crucifixion of Jesus is itself God crucifying himself just to show humanity the way to its self-consumption. And of course, for Emo, the only legitimate knowledge consists of masochistic regression, of a “return to the Heart of Darkness”, abandoning everything and going back before creation: salvation consists, in a word, in memory.
The metaphor of Heraclitus is interesting to play with. Monacelli describes Emo’s actualism as the expression of an all-consuming war. For both Emo and Monacelli it would almost seem to be a one-sided battle if that’s the case, to the point that it seems to be misleading. It’s not a war if it’s a massacre. The metaphor of war is ultimately obscured and subsumed into the metaphor of the massacre. But the Heraclitean metaphor could as well be turned towards the dialectic as the conatus described by Bronze Age Collapse in “Lifting the Absolute”. In the all-consuming war, everything is burned, cut, recombined, remade in the alchemical conatus of struggle. But more important is the metaphor of crucifixion, because it is here that we realize that even God’s “impalement” in this scheme can be seen as a consummation of Christianity in almost theothanatological terms. At base, Christianity asserts that there is one God, and that he incarnated himself as a man who would suffer and die in agony (only to be resurrected) so that humans could access the “salvation” offered by God through his “love”. Here, the message is our self-consumption and that we are all pacing in a straight line towards the final attraction of dissolution, and God allows himself to suffer before us so that we can see it. It is ultimately in many ways a reproduction of Christian philosophy, with the possible difference being that God himself dies at the end of the dialectic, as the final sacrifice of his own ceaseless violence. One can can think of it as a kind of Hegelian Christian theothanatology, except that God isn’t dead…not yet. Christianity is in this sense maintained, albeit “accelerated”.
Lastly, Monacelli introduces us to one more major influence on Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic philosophy: an Italian novelist named Guido Morselli. Particularly important among Morselli’s novels is Dissipatio H. G. (“The Vanishing”), which is about a man who, after attempting and failing to end his own life in a cave, discovers that he somehow survived the extinction of the human species, and now finds himself in a world without human beings. It is not irrelevant to note that, in 1973, Morselli himself committed suicide, apparently motivated by his book being rejected by Italian publishers. Through Morselli, Monacelli outlines Gruppo Di Nun’s masochism as centered around a vision of the world without humans as the emptying out of everything human. Dissipatio H. G. is taken as presenting a world which, in the absence of humans, an oddly serene and certainly inhuman emptiness. Morselli, in presenting this extinction, apparently relishes in the demise of his own species. Through his protagonist he seems to seize every opportunity to deride humanity and mock all human hopes and dreams. Thus, Monacelli portrays Morselli as the saint of omnicidal visions, misanthropic joy, and extinction. The masochism that Monacelli advocates hinges on the desire to capture that feeling, a particular kind of ecstasy and emptiness that they associate with extinction, but without actually passing through the gates of suicide. The gnosis that Monacelli attributes to Morselli is established as a guiding inspiration for Gruppo Di Nun, alongisde a religious love for the laws of thermodynamics, and so the point for them is the pleasure of living without your humanity and infinite reflection on dissolution. That is what going beyond the human means in the context of this philosophy, and thus it colours their perception of the demonic.
It would seem here that masochistic mysticism, based on Christianity, cultimates in the desire to see the extinction of humanity, yet inevitably even the gnosis of suicide must be felt in the absence of actual suicide. Such a masochism would turn life back against itself, a thought that makes little sense without reflecting on the morality of humanity at the height of civilizational modernity, and its current crash course. The Christian-Schopenhauerian spiral is complete, reaching its natural conclusion, and it calls for the denial of everything else. The totality and exclusivity of masochism is the consummation of the Gospel, which seems to ingeniously wear the flesh of the demonic as its disguise, like a reversal of the trope of the sheep in wolf’s clothing. True, the visions that Monacelli’s masochism offers would never be offered by much of Christianity, though really that’s just much of exoteric Christianity, but even the hellish nightmares seem to be the relevations of a reinterpretation of a Christian God in a reinterpretation of Christian mysticism. Perhaps Monacelli means for this to be the extinction that we are to consider in Mandy, which is curious because it’s just not what one gets from the Unmensch of Stirner’s egoism: as if the Unique would possibly abolish itself just to be one with the God that it had just destroyed in the pyres of the black flame. But there of course remains the question of Satanism and inversion, because as it still stands we are looking at extinctionism as the consummation of Christianity, which is thus posed as an alternative to the Right Hand Path. Entirely distinct from Hermeticism it may be, but a break from Christianity it most decidely is not.
But there is one last question, one that may offer some fascinating horizons, but for which I have no answer. It is in fact the question that Monacelli asks towards the end of his essay: can the homicidal dream have a different purpose? It is of course wedded to the question of how to mystically experience human extinction without giving up your own life, but I find that it has other ramifications as well, and perhaps even a faint possibility of Satanic perversion even here. My suspicion is that it goes back to Monacelli’s definition of sadism as “separative wisdom”, almost certainly for the philosophy of kink and fetish, or at least certain parts thereof. Perhaps one may even see in this a gnosis of Cain, as much as a Gnosis of Sophia, Satan, Lucifer, Odin, a broad Gnosis that, no doubt is distinct from that of Tiamat, the Mother Goddess of Sorrows, or for that matter the Christian God. Ironically enough, perhaps a passage from the Bible is a fitting enough closure for this section, if only that it might be a spark for the future. For the Book of John said of Satan, “he was a murderer from the beginning”. But in the Bible you almost never see Satan kill anyone, certainly not in “the beginning”. So who did Satan kill in the beginning?
Via Negativa (The Fifth Nigredo)
Our fifth and last discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Catholic Dark”, written by Claudi Kulesko. This essay appears to be a discussion of asceticism and apophatic mysticism and theology in the context of xenophilia and Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of the “great attractor”. Here, again, we seem to cross through the context of Christian mysticism as conditioning the overall core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, but in a way that serves to communicate a sense of “lightness” that perhaps presents fairly interesting implications about nothingness, or rather darkness, and some will to darkness, though one still has to content with the Christianity.
Kulesko begins with a digression, a story about a woman in medieval Flanders named Christina: known to Catholics as Saint Christina the Astonishing. When she was just 21 years old, Christina had apparently “died” after suffering a seizure, But then, as her funeral rites were being observed, she suddenly opened her eyes and then rose up to the beams supporting the roof of the local church, or so her legend goes. In any case, she went on to live a long life before dying of old age in 1224. But her “resurrection” is what interests Kulesko. Christina “dies”, then in her resurrection she tells everyone the story of her journey from Hell, through Purgatory, and to Heaven, meeting God himself and being allowed to return to her life in order atone for the sins of the souls stuck in Purgatory. But Kulesko sees something morbid in it as well. He asks, what if Christina was just a rotting body infested with demons, or one of the living dead? Kulesko says that she apparently started to seem more disgusted with humans, and increasingly inhuman herself. She spends hours on end in solitude, climbing everywhere, supposedly she even soared in the air, and when her parents chained her up to keep her home, she somehow broke those chains. On top of all that she supposedly couldn’t burn, drown, or be hurt in any way. Locals started calling her “wild”, “savage”, or “crazy”, and subsequently abused her, forcing her to flee to a city where criminals take pity on her and show her kindness.
Where exactly is this all going? Perhaps it is that the life of Christina – or perhaps, the life she lived after her life – portrays the anti-gravity of a great attractor. Kulesko figures her body as being inhabited by an “alien” presence, that presence being the Outside. For Kulesko she is nothing but an appendage of this power, a link to a paradise that Kulesko interprets as absolute night (where for Christina herself it was otherwise probably just the Christian Heaven, harps and all), for whom the world of the living and of humans is a Hell. I can sense a faint Gnostic throughline here in that the longing for death seems inseparable from the longing to return to God as the divine origin of everything, and the separation felt in the physical world populated by humans feels like a curse. That is how it must be for Christina, since she longed constantly for the return to death, and on the day of her second death she apparently yelled at a nun “Why are you disturbing me, why are you forcing me to come back?”. But then what are we looking at from this standpoint: God as the great attractor?
Next we turn to the example of Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic who lived in Syria during the 5th century. In his youth, Simeon was apparently so intense in his asceticism, and his uncompromising practice of austerities caught on so rapidly, that he was expelled from a local monastery who thought his practices were excessive and dangerous to their followers. Then he decided to go and take up a space for himself to continue his austerities, and a few years later he decided to climb up a pillar and install a platform at the top, sitting four meters above the ground, where he could only be accessed by the public through a nearby ladder. Over the years, he ascended to ever taller pillars, placing himself ever higher and ever farther away from the masses who pestered him so. By the time he died, Simeon sat as high as 15 meters above the ground. Kulesko suggests that in this activity Simeon broke with all the trends of ancient Christianity – the Church Fathers, the Christian Cynics, and even the Desert Fathers – while producing a completely new discipline. In the process, Simeon seemingly makes use of the tools of this world in order to progressively abandon it, discarding the tools themselves as he goes and makes his ascent. The pillar itself can almost be seen as akin to a leader to heaven, whereby the ascetic moves closer and closer to God, and further away from the desires of the world. For Kulesko this then connects to the very structure of the cathedral itself, in that its spires are the remnants of an ascetic ideology of progressive elevation.
We arrive at gravity, and it’s opposition to the lightness of the mystic. We should note that, from the standpoint of Christian asceticism, “gravity” would mean the weight of the world and its temptations, perhaps arguably even matter itself from a certain point of view, while “lightness” is the condition of having emptied oneself for God. In any case, Kulesko directs us to the example of Joseph of Cupertino, an Italian Franciscan friar and saint known for supposedly having levitated above the ground. Kulesko interprets the story of Joseph of Cupertino as an illustration of the horizon of “gravity”, whose only favourable end is death. Until death, light spirits must keep their feet on the ground. This is compared to a scenario where a hot air balloon, in this instance capable of rising indefinitely, and its crew, increasingly and understandably anxious as the air thins and becomes less visible, refuses to continue the journey. The verticality of the cathedral seems to be its own symbolic institution, which then gave way to horizontality and in turn to monasticism and hermitude, with their perceived autonomy and silence.
Where is this all going, besides perhaps to the surface of the moon? The answer, it seems, is solitude. The worldly and vertical church strives to destroy or recuperate the horizontal, which thus causes the anchorites or stylites of the age to flee to whatever precipice they can find for themselves, that they might rise above the monastery and the cathedral. In so doing, they might claim a path towards a sort of original place and from there an unlimited altitude. To paraphrase a passage of one Arthur Schopenhauer’s manuscripts, one who takes the high mountain road must leave everything behind in making their path through the snow, cling themselves to the rocks with as much strength as they can muster, and then in so doing they might see the whole world beneath them, without being disturbed by anything. Thus the stylite severs themselves from all humanity and all worldly stimuli in order for the soul to reach the ultimate altitudes of an inner highness.
I believe that there are familiar themes that converge on this point. For one thing, the theme of the abandonment of humanity is obviously striking, and also conveys itself as if directly continued from Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”. There seems to me to be some sort of connection to the theme of self-emptying that Monacelli talks about, including the empyting of humanity, and in this case it’s reflected in ascetic severance. On the other hand, it also seems to play out as another application of what Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”: that process of bracketing out everything, so as to unlock new configurations, or, in this case, the highest altitude of the soul. I almost think that the stylite striving toward the supreme altitude is meant to echo Bronze Age Collapse’s concept of “tendency towards the absolute”. Of course, it’s worth noting that the asceticism we are talking about is still Christian asceticism and Christian mysticism, not the pagan physical culture of the Hellenes. But, perhaps there is an inescapable familiarity to it, as though supreme altitude is comparable to the absolute being tended towards. Perhaps even the lightness of the ascetic may be the closest that the Chrisitan gets to the deathlessness of the gods that they despise as demons. But it comes from a bracketing out that is at once the denial of the world around them and their own desires, whereas the alchemical conatus of steel and flesh always happens within it, and the mountain path is that of a soul struggling towards God, whereas our conatus pushes towards the overcoming of God.
In any case, we turn from the mountain path to the mountain itself. The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, a.k.a. Petrarch, wrote in his (possibly fictitious) Ascent of Monte Ventoux about his shame for the selfish passion of climbing, and his reckoning with the real eschatological status of mountain-climbing. In this setting, the mountain itself is a continuation of the body of the Church, as the precipice which, just like a cathedral spire, elevates itself towards heaven. In some pre-Christian religious traditions, it was more like the mountain was its own deity in an animistic sense, though in traditions such as Greek and Canaanite polytheism there were mountains (namely Olympus and Sapon respectively) that can be seen as elevated precipices towards the divine realm. But what Kulesko focuses on is the oppressive weight of gravity in places such as Aokigahara, the infamous “Suicide Forest” located at the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji in Japan, where if you go down through the lower valley you will find a force at the centre of earth that seems to confine spirit, to the point that not even in the suicides can the soul rise to the sky. That weight seems to be a gravitational attractor, but it also seems like something meant to be escaped. Or at least, there is this tendency towards escape, one that makes the ascetic fundamentally vertical and anti-terrestrial, fundamentally alien. Their desire for constant vertical surpassing meant to be understood here as based on a desire for lightness, which is thus to be understood as a negative will, in the sense that the soul must sever and bracket everything keeping it attached to the earth. Yet again. it’s hard to escape the presence of a throughline more or less aligned with conventional Gnosticism (which, to be fair, historically consisted of heterodox sects of Christian mysticism), for whom the entire material cosmos was literally a prison from which the soul must escape in order to be reunited with God. But from there we turn our attention towards a different, “alien” attractor.
Between 1578 and 1579, the Spanish Catholic mystic Juan de Yepes Alvarez (a.k.a. John of the Cross) wrote a treatise called Ascent of Mount Carmel, which outlined what he believed to be a progression towards the summits of “the Highness” and the “luminous darkness” that awaits. In this system, perfection leads upward in a narrow path, requiring that every “burden” associated with “lower thing” must be denied. Indeed, God in the Carmelite scheme seems to demand nothing less than “spiritual death” in all things. God, being completely incomprehensible and inaccessible as per the tradition of negative/apophatic theology, needs the will to centre its activity precisely on the incomprohensible and inaccessible rather than what it can sense. Within this purview of negative theology, one extinguishes every divine attribute, and in this case brackets the principle of the intellectual soul. It also seems to amount to an individual and cosmic process of unlearning, in which one frees oneself not only from a lifetime of social conditioning but also from billions of years of gravitation in matter. Here, I suppose, is where we are able to see Christian negation ultimately turning against Christianity, as part of the dominant complex of social conditioning that must be negated. The ultimate point of this negation is to manifest the most volatile concept of all: nothingness. That is how Christian mystical theology understands God. From another perspective, though, it is larger than God. In any case, for Kulesko, nothingness is all that remains when everything has been negated, and there is nothing lighter than nothingness. Even so, however, the Christian notion of mystical ascension being discussed doesn’t end in nothingness, even though we have just established that the apophatic God is nothingness.
The emptying that both Monacelli and Kulesko talk about, and what is referred to in Christian mysticism and theology as “kenosis”, is the culmination of a process whereby God becomes more alien as he loses all the attrbites afforded by humans while the human loses everything that makes them human, and both become more intangible and abstract in the process of negation. There is something that connects them, and it is lightness. Because lightness doesn’t want for anything, except nothingness and the annihilation of all distinction between God and his creation. In Christian terms, this means the surrender of everything to the love of dissolution through which God loses his creatures and all creatures lose God, the abjuration of free will, wisdom, and all faculty to rapture and endless ascent. Here I think, I get the feeling I remember being told that the idea that the Christian God opposed free will was some mere paranoia, the prejudice of some Reddit-brained “edgy new atheist” in modern internet parlance. Yet that appears to be exactly what is spelled out, not merely in the exoteric form of Christianity that the masses are supposed to just consume, but in the core of Christian mysticism itself. Right at the core of Christianity is a belief system built around one God whose one desire, more than anything, is for humanity, and all life, to surrender itself completely to him – and, perhaps, to be destroyed by him. And the Christian, at the most core sense, strives to be raised up by God, even if they take up Meister Eckart’s maxim “Therefore let us to pray to God that we may be free of God”, to never return to the earth and forever be united and identical with God. To return, in this setting, would “weigh down the soul”.
Return and non-return possess their own significance for Kulesko. Desire itself, by way of etymology, in his interpretation signifies a kind of cosmic nostalgia. The “mysticism of return” seems to involve bracketing out the world, knowledge, individual consciousness, but always with the prospect of removing those brackets to regain them. The mystic is sated by having been changed irrevocably even in their return, their heart made full with even a small taste of the stars. The “mysticism of non-return”, by contrast, offers no satisfaction, no confirmation, only an endless continuity of rapture and ascent. If the mystic is a channel through which the boundless night signals into the world, then perhaps we might interpret “return” as the ability to fill yourself with the night, retain part of it in yourself, and by this bring it into the world, while “non-return” would be to simply disappear into the night forever. But “non-return” entails more. “Non-return”, for Kulesko, entails a process of the soul being completely stripped of the body and the casuality of nature, guided away from the world by an alien attractor. The “non-returning” mystic seems again like a Gnostic pneuma, a piece of God’s spirit longing to return to God, longing to break from the weight of the hylic realm that was set in motion by Sophia’s transgression. Though it is perhaps here that we may arrive at the sense all of this is simply setting up the logic for a very specific kind of attraction.
Our final exploration dwells on the subject of xenophilia: that is, the attraction to or love of the foreign, or in this case the “alien”. The xenos at the centre of Kulesko’s concept of xenophilia does not denote something merely foreign, but rather something “wholly other”. The supreme xenos in this sense is silence, that is to say the deafening silence and extrahuman indifference of the universe. Here perhaps we may note that, no matter how apophatic, Christianity still predicates itself on the belief that God loves us, so perhaps we are looking at something quite different: after all, how exactly can God love us while also being indifferent to humanity, and how can the Christian God be so radically indifferent without invalidating the core premise of Christian salvific love? In this sense cosmic xenophilia would appear fundamentally one-sided: the universe cannot possibly love us, but we can love the universe, more than it will ever love us. One wonders, what is the point?
In any case, Kulesko takes cosmic silence to be at the root of Christina the Astonishing’s nostalgia and for the universe to be but a tomb, and part of the fabric of Rudolf Otto’s concept of the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinans, the latter of which is the magnetism of cosmic silence. The “mysticism of non-return”, with its dizzying ascent, fills the mystic with xenophilia. But there is still the locus of the body, in that xenophilia is to begin in the flesh. There’s also a locus in all the distinct forms of the natural world, all manifestations of a kind of “positive nothingness”. In all things, the divine exists as an “imprint”, which is to say an innate faculty of ascension of anti-gravity. I think this may be another strange double: from the standpoint of Christian mysticism, this is the innate love of God thereby tending towards God, but from an alternative, creatively Pagan standpoint drawn from Bronze Age Collapse, it is not God’s love but instead the primordial tension towards the absolute. These two avenues, from what we have shown, bear out different conclusions. But in either case, the imprint is to be seen as a faculty of emancipation, which appears to be connected to the quality of nothingness. Vanity, that lightness of things, reveals infinite horizons at the height of the eternal. If there is no limit to form, there is no limit to matter, and, in the words of Jean Buridan, different worlds can be created by divine power.
From there we arrive at quite the curveball, wherein the apophatic quality of the divine is a nihility by which one accesses none other than apotheosis itself! At the highest altitude, which approaches eternity, flesh changes and becomes mineral, energetic, or atmospheric, objects made of unknown materials and possessing inscrutable characteristics and functions come into existence, and the organism becomes all the more alien and disharmonious, more deformed and inaccessible. That, for Kulesko, is the very image of God, in that it repudiates all worldly attributes on behalf of the darkness of the unknown, at which point one attains “maximum propulsion”. The soul has become godlike, having either surpassed or abandoned everything. For Kulesko this means entering the heart of the divine, which means merging oneself with the xenos, the Outside, the wholly Other. This in turn means entering into a place without beginning or end, here or now, one or many, before or after. It is anti-gravity triumphant, and it is eternity. It is also interpreted in terms of xenophilia, that sense of oneness being its apogee and consummation. But, this xenophilia is both unconditional and unsatisfiable, and so it has no goals and no foundation, leads nowhere, and progresses only as a ceaseless plummet to silence.
With the conclusion of “Catholic Dark” I at this point think it is worth very carefully considering the role of Christianity in all this as seemingly multiple contours from the rest of Revolutionary Demonology converge. On the one hand, much of this essay is focused on an explication of Christian mysticism and theology in relation to asceticism, and there’s throughline that feels similar to the essays “Mater Dolorosa” and “The Hightest Form of Gnosis” in that appears to employ Christianity or aspects of Christianity as part of its own distinct framework, which of course undermines Gruppo Di Nun’s broader rejection of Satanism. On the other hand, the culmination of Kulesko’s discussion of nothingness in apophatic theology appears to lead into places more or less consistent with Kulesko’s broad body of work within Revolutionary Demonology but which are unfamiliar to Christianity, such as in the horizons of the apotheosis of the soul. I would also say that the basic model of progressive elevation, forgetting that it is a model drawn from Christian asceticism, strikes me as one of the clearest illustrations of an actually centrifugal motion. That may sound strange in view of the example of Christina’s nostalgia, but one is not “returning to the void”, in fact the point is to go up to eternity and not return at all. Instead, from the starting point of the earth, one ascends the mountain path to move further and further away from the earth, from any notion of the centre, towards the endless horizon of transfiguration and, to go against Christian terms, apotheosis. And as much as self-deification is meant to be opposed by Gruppo Di Nun, apotheosis of some sort is what we’re looking at. Of course, we absolutely cannot ignore that everything being discussed about Christian asceticism comes from the Christian standpoint that the world is fundamentally plagued by evil, latent with the taint of Adam and Eve’s original transgression, and it is for this reason that the ascetic strives to “lighten himself”, climb pillars, or in any way detach themselves from the world.
Yet, for everything I have said about this discussion of Christian theology and mysticism, perhaps there is another way to look at it. The horizon of nihility is consistent with the darkness that Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”. So what if we were to take the presentation of Christian negative theology as containing a different potentiality: what if, instead of simply reproducing Christianity, we are seeing the inner diagram of Christianity’s undoing? What if we see God writing his own demise? And what if, that entire horizon is to be seen in the infinite power of nihility, hidden beneath the name of God? Or, yet again paging Bronze Age Collapse, the absolute to which humans and perhaps even gods strive for and in which they unlock their own apotheosis.
I think that the theme of the atmospheric body is a clue here. Remember that Bronze Age Collapse also described the form of the absolute, and thereby his notion of “supreme fitness”, in terms of force or atmosphere. Remember that Kulesko described Dracula’s barbarian heritage in terms of his becoming-mist, his death as his dissolving into the atmospheric world, and his bloodlust as the desire to dissolve into this kind of atmospheric becoming. For Bronze Age Collapse, to exist is to insist, since life is a conatus, and therefore one insists and struggles to transform and enrich flesh and spirit up to apotheosis. For the Christian ascetic, to exist is to insist mostly on cutting away from the flesh and the world for the sole sake of approaching God. But there is still the throughline of atmospheric apotheosis that is, in many ways. I sense a point at which the horizon that becomes available is not surrender in the fashion of Christian or Christian-esque cosmic love, but instead the stealing of fire from heaven. Of course, perhaps that’s not quite “non-return” as Kulesko put it. But the diagram of Christianity’s undoing that is locked within nothingness. To hear Claudio Kulesko tell it, Christian apophatic mysticism positions God as essentially nothingness, and on this basis divine power appears to be absolutely capable of generating any possibility. But then there is God, being the only egoist who constantly depends on herds of duped egoists to support him, and then there is the egoist themselves. Then there is the idea that both Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli present, by way of Miroslav Griško and Andrea Emo, that God seems to always be in some kind of eliminativistic war against the universe he is supposed to have created. Monacelli puts it as an all-consuming war, but there is no such thing as a one-sided war. Thus, there is nothingness against nothingness. Our ability to pervert the horizon we are given lies in the ability to oppose negation against negation: for every manifestation of Einzige to participate in the war of all against all, against God.
I’ve talked for a bit about Gruppo Di Nun on this blog before, commenting on a series of ideas that were presented in an interview conducted on Diffractions Collective, and since then I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of a copy of their book Revolutionary Demonology, which I had already been waiting for since the summer. The book launch event, hosted by Urbanomic as a lecture tilted “Cultivating Darkness”, further deepened this anticipation for Revolutionary Demonology, particularly as I grappled with its particularly bleak vision and resolved to derive something unique from Grupp Di Nun’s take on the occult philosophy of becoming. Now, at last, I have a copy of Revolutionary Demonology, and am now able to analyse its content. This article will be represent my effort to do just this; to study its philosophical contours and from there derive value or critique. I think that Revolutionary Demonology ultimately presents a work that cannot be overlooked.
This will be Part 1 of a lengthy discussion of Revolutionary Demonology and the overall philosophy presented within it. Here we will discuss the introductory ritual and first two chapters of Revolutionary Demonology. Part 2 will focus on the thid chapter, “Nigredo”. Part 3 will consist of a series of reflections around the whole of the book and what I perceive to its overall ethos and my own response to it.
But first, up until now I’ve neglected to give Gruppo Di Nun a proper introduction in my writings. To put it simply, they’re at least ostensibly a collective of Italian anti-fascist psychoactivists and philosophers of the occult who want to redefine the Left Hand Path away from what they perceive as the Hermetic and Kabbalistic orthodoxy of modern occultism. They seem to have dissolved relatively recently for reasons unknown, and it seems that all attempts to reach them have been met with silence. But it seems to me that, although Amy Ireland says they are “enemies of identity” known only by given initials, you can actually find most of the authors by name. “CK” is Claudio Kulesko, who was publicly acknowledged as one of the founders of Gruppo Di Nun, and is otherwise an author and editor at Nero Editions and Not Nero Editions, and who also studied philosophy at Roma Tre University. “VM” is Valerio Mattioli, another editor at Nero who also contributed for Liberazione and La Repubblica and might also be a musician in the experimental band Heroin in Tahiti. “EM” is Enrico Monacelli, who seems to be a PhD at the State University of Milan and is also a writer for The Quietus, Nero, and Not. And “LT” is Laura Tripaldi, who seems to be a researcher in Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca. The only truly mysterious figure here is Bronze Age Collapse: all we know about them is that they are an obscure blogger whose pseudonymous identity is a parody of the far-right ideologue Bronze Age Pervert. On the other hand I suppose I have no idea who the “High Priestess of Nun”, from the Diffractions Collective interview, is either.
In any case, the fundamental basis of their esoteric philosophy is a kind of philosophical or ontological masochism, or masochistic mysticism, based in turn on a distinct expression of cosmic pessimism and almost anti-cosmic nihilism, the main ideological premise of which is the death drive interpreted as an overriding love for one’s own dissolution, and the rejection of everything else. In this, they reject self-deification of just about any kind in favour of a disintegration of the self that brings about what they believe to be the deepest form of cosmic love. That love, they believe, is a force of cosmic attraction that draws all beings towards dissolution and disintegration.
Before we begin properly, I think it is best to address an elephant in the room immediately: the demonology. It seems at once to be a misnomer and (arguably) not a misnomer. There’s not really any study of demons or how to magically work with or religiously worship them in any way, or at least not in. The book has “rituals”, but these are more like brief manifestos. “Demonology” here is a term used to refer to systems of hyperstition – as K-HOLE put it, neither disinformation nor mythology but rather “fictions that make themselves true”. Gruppo Di Nun refers to “the demonological practices of the alt-right”, presumably meaning dangerous systems of hyperstition created by and around modern right-wing nationalism and fascism, which are in turn powered by the esoteric fascism that Gruppo Di Nun attributes to the Right Hand Path, and it can be assumed from the title of Revolutionary Demonology that Gruppo Di Nun means to counter the hyperstitions of patriarchy and fascism with a new set of queer hyperstitions devoted to the outsideness of chaos. The demonic itself is defined as a dimension that is external to the order of humans but which, at the same time, is capable of breaking into that order and disrupting it, and demons themselves are understood as entities that can enter the material plane and both feed and multiply within it through human vectors. That said, the demons themselves don’t get much focus at all, and instead the book arguably devotes itself almost entirely to that dimension that perhaps they represent.
Fundamentals of Revolutionary Demonology
We start off with a forceful proclamation of the cult of entropy, the fundamental ethos of Gruppo Di Nun’s working in ritual form followed by elaborations of the basic principles of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy.
The ritual opening, “Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”, establishes a fairly pessimistic mytho-philosophical basis of what Gruppo Di Nun takes to be the Left Hand Path. The universe begins as primordial chaos, a boundless ocean of night and infinite recombination. This nocturnal ocean is the body of an ancient dragon, who we can interpret as Tiamat from Babylonian mythology, and her hisses are the music that all matter vibrates to, that you can hear in silence in its deepest recesses, in the beating of your own heart. The order of the cosmos, taken specifically as the order of the One God Universe (implying a monotheistic cosmos), appears to us as a primordial unity, but in reality is a “thermodynamic abomination” carved in the flesh and blood of the original Mother, from which it continually and coercively derives life. We humans are born from her dismembered body and entrails, our civilization is perpetually nourished on her blood, and as it continually builds itself higher on her shattered body we are perpetually separated from her. But the blood and entrails that form us serve as the link to her being, and so our atoms tremble before her endless cries, such to the extent that love itself is the constant hunger for return to her womb. Meanwhile, the order of creation is always in danger of its inevitable collapse, and contains within itself its own decay. The ancient goddesses are replicated and then infiltrate the order of Man’s Unique God as remnants of the ancient dragon. The light at the moment of creation was so intense that the order of the universe could not contain it, and then it shattered, and the world plunged into darkness. At the heart of matter is the fall of this order and of the emanations, amidst its ruins is a blasphemy that replicates itself in its own collapsing structure, and over this reigns the infernal mother Malkhut. Pain in this world is an insurrectionary agony by which the ego is sacrificed in flames. The city of Babylon stands on an underworld where the devotees of the primordial Mother erect temples to a chthonic goddess. The metropolis pulsates with larva as the division of universal order is multiplied, and the city gradually suffocates as a result. And so we are all waves of decline partaking in a ritual of death. Every drop of the blood of the dragon Mother illuminates the abyss, and as the city burns and crumbles the slaughtered dragon will return and bring the abyss upon the world. That is the narrative that Gruppo Di Nun gives us.
An important theme pervading the work of Gruppo Di Nun is what is apparently the radical definition of the concept of the Left Hand Path, and with it the Right Hand Path. Gruppo Di Nun operate on a distinct conception of these two paths that it asserts as being derived from the tradition of Hermetic Qabalah. On this basis, they assert that self-deification, normally understood in modern occultism as the purview of the Left Hand Path, is actually the fundamental goal of the Right Hand Path, which is understood as collection of sects that, in practice, tend to differ from and conflict with each other but are nonetheless united by the goal of producing godlike initiates who can live forever and gain control over the entire world as God. So what’s the Left Hand Path, then? In a previous section, they refer in a footnote to Moshe Idel’s Primeval Evil in Kabbalah, which in turn refers to the sefirot of Binah, Gevurah, and Malkhut as representing negatively portrayed feminine qualities that then belong to the “left side” of the divine hierarchy. The terminology of the left-right hand paths is, to my knowlege, not employed in pre-modern Kabbalistic tradition, so we have to assume the connection to the Left Hand Path is extrapolated by Gruppo Di Nun. Unfortunately the precise definition of the Left Hand Path is not really explored anywhere else in the book, or at least not nearly as much as the Right Hand Path (it seems this is not an uncommon part of RHP vs LHP discourse), which they understand as the separation of spirit from unformed matter for the birth of an ordered world. However, on the other hand it is not difficult to infer what they mean by the term, in that their conception of the Left Hand Path centers around acheiving magical attainment (in their case the realization of cosmic love) through disintegration by invoking the chaotic and entropic (and hence “demonic”) forces of outside the order of humanity and Man’s Unique God.
These forces are perhaps encapsulated in Gruppo Di Nun’s tri-triangular seal, whose nine points denote monstrous beings and goddesses presumably of the entropic outside; Ammit (the Egyptian beast-goddess they refer to as “The Devourer”), Nammu (the Mesopotamian creator goddess they refer to as “The Mother”), Kauket (the Egyptian goddess of darkness they refer to as “The Twilight”), Hushbishag (the Sumerian chthonic goddess they refer to as “The True Form of Night of Time”), Nungal (the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld and prisons they refer to as “The Expression of All That is Done”), Sekhmet (the Egyptian solar goddess they refer to as “The Fires that Consume the Universe”), Uadjet (the Egyptian snake goddess they refer to as “The Black Sun”), Ishtar (the Babylonian goddess of love and war they refer to as “The Bleeding Star”), and finally none other than Tiamat (“The Worm” herself). Yet, with the exception of Tiamat, none of these entities are ever discussed again. In any case, though, honouring them means abnegating oneself in a sacrificial love for cosmic dissolution and the disintegration of the self in the jaws of the dragon.
There is something I can’t help but escape when it comes to the subject of inversion. In the “Dogma” section, which I believe was originally a standalone manifesto/essay by Gruppo Di Nun, Satanism is rather starkly pillaried for its inversions of Christianity, under the belief that Satanism represents a symmetrical reversal of Christianity and thus an identical copy. The thesis in play is that Satanism, by ostensibly reversing Christian morality, negating the existence of God, simply reproduces Christianity in itself. But already at the start of Revolutionary Demonology we see three separate scripts flipped in the fashion of inversion. The narrative of the dismemberment of the Mother obviously retains of the narrative territory of Enuma Elish, but adopts a sort of anti-cosmicist framing within it and takes the side of Tiamat against Marduk. In so doing it sort of directly references the narrative of “the ancients” (clearly the ancient Babylonians or Mesopotamians) Marduk is in this sense an ancient Mesopotamian expression of the Man-God Machine, and Tiamat is the slaughtered dragon, the primeval chaos that was the original victim of an original crime, and will return from the depths and bring the abyss upon the Earth. Similarly, the framework of Egyptian mythology is inverted in the veneration of Apophis, the enemy of the Egyptian sun, the serpent that devours the whole cosmos, as the indestructible and lesbian True Zero that is always capable of overcoming the patriarchal order of creation, taking the perspective of Egyptian magic (where Apophis is the uncreated matter that must always be slaughtered for the sake of the world) and then flipping it: identifying with a love for Apophis the uncreator, instead of his solar opponent. In regards to Kabbalah itself, although they seem to reject the Qliphtoth as essentially an inverted reproduction of Right Hand Path Kabbalah, they thus far flip the existing structure of Kabbalah so as to privilege the lower sefirot rather than the highest one, even identified Malkhut with the primordial and dismembered Mother. And this is far from the end of the discussion to be had about inversion.
One of the most important themes in the entire work is the central location of dissolution, death, suffering, and entropy. This of course is all constructed along the lines of their understanding and interpretation of thermodynamics, which forms of the core Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview. One of the important kernels of this is the link between dissolution and recombination. The discussion of Apophis – both the asteroid and the serpent it’s named after – is perhaps what first brings us to that theme. The solar disk of Ra plunges into the darkness of Duat in the course of its journey, and with it the souls of the dead, to face Apophis. Apophis is constructed as the monster that lies beyond the light of existence, representing dissolution, unconstructed matter, and eternal recombination, as the unborn uncreator swallowing all things and all souls back into the prima materia of Nun, though this very concept is also presented through a discussion of 99942 Apophis, a near-Earth asteroid that, for a brief time, people predicted would collide with Earth and cause the annihilation of the human species. Even though at this point it has been established that the asteroid Apophis will probably never impact the Earth within our lifetimes, and probably won’t be the cause of our extinction, the asteroid still occasionally haunts the imagination of the internet, which itself is a repository of every question and prediction about the doom of humanity, every manifestation of our seemingly primordial obsession with the question of our own demise. The asteroid Apophis is thus discussed as an omen of a much larger fear of and desire for our own destruction, and, for Laura Tripaldi, a lesbian love of extinction (at least in a weird Landian use of the term), an alien rejection of the cycle of heterosexual reproduction.
Something interesting is the way the absolute dissolution embodied by Apophis is positioned against the reproduction of human-divine order. But, in the tradition of Egyptian mythology and magick, Duat as a zone of becoming is itself a source of ostensibly endless life for the Sun. It always renews itself as it descends into the dark waters, even as it is constantly threatened with total destruction. To become anew is surely one horizon of becoming or recombination (itself a species of becoming). Indeed, does the reverse birth of Nibiru and creation of Planet Earth framed as the reincarnation of Tiamat in Earth (an idea I should hope that Gruppo Di Nun doesn’t take literally) not strike one as rebirth?
In any case, Apophis is of course is part of a whole “Catastrophic Astrology” which includes Nemesis, the dark phantom of twin of our Sun which supposedly threatens to exterminate life, Nibiru, the mythical Planet X and incarnation of Marduk believed to destroy all life in a cataclysmic encounter with Earth, and none other than the remnants of Tiamat herself. The imaginary of doomsday and the fictitious mythology of Zecharia Stitchin are turned into a hyperstitious expression of their overall mythology about Tiamat that then blends into the figure of the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. The primordial matter of the Mother that was dismembered to give birth to the Kingdom of God is nonetheless not dead, but rather undead, crawling up from the abyss, through the gates of Babylon, rising to destroy all of creation, and herself with it, in an unspeakable blaze of ekpyrosis. She, reborn in the clash of Nibiru, is the future, a future that consists of annihilation, a disintegration into which everything is sucked. The world’s creation itself is inverted by Nibiru’s mythical clash with Earth: whereas the cosmos was carved out of the dismembered remains of Tiamat, the Earth that was created it smashed to pieces and life drawn into disintegration.
“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology” concludes with a section titled “Spectral Materialism”, also authored by Laura Tripaldi. We’re treated to a critique of the philosophy modern science, where the idea of science as the triumph of reason over matter gives way in the laboratory where an apparent magical thinking seems to emerge in practice. By Tripaldi’s admittedly anecdotal account, there are instances where votive candles and magical talismans could sometimes be seen in the laboratories of otherwise secular-scientific study. Irreproducibility haunts a methodology wherein material evades a chemist’s control, but the chemist’s proper skill is described in terms that suggest a strange sense of “affinity” between human minds and the inanimate substances. There is a discussion of the physics of Erwin Schrodinger, which then goes towards a sort of anti-mechanistic physics where atoms and molecules are simply miniature bodies, all transformation is physical, macro-physical “laws” are just statistical results of microscopic processes, and those processes may not at all be mechanical in nature. Chemistry, by way of quantum chemistry, is potentially understood as radically indeterministic, without a single body of “law” governing its operation or capable of predicting the evolution of chemical reactions. Chemicals themselves are quantum in that they cannot be approximated to any classical model of physics, and so the laboratory is like liminal space where two realms of matter make contact. Indeterminacy, rather than simply being a principle of incomplete knowledge, is a fundamental problem and condition of physics. The harmonious order of classical physics is thus an illusion, and matter is at the quantum level more like a chaotic symphony of waves.
Intruigingly, Gruppo Di Nun’s spectral materialism to very consciously draw from the concept of alchemy. First there’s the reference to Isaac Newton having been an alchemist, with the implication of his alchemist pursuit being complimentary to the apparent inadequacy of his theory of bodies in motion before the spectral behaviour of quantum matter. More than that, though, there is practically a whole section exploring the subject of Azoth, the universal agent of transformation in alchemical tradition. Here, Azoth is relevant to the subject of nitrogen, in that right down its etymology (the Greek root word means “lifeless”) links to the inert nature of the gas, and to a chaotic aspect of the traditional equilibrium of the universal agent. Azoth, as the Elixir, is intrinsically circular in containing all things, but it also is also indeterminate and numinous in the way that primordial chaos is. This is then connected to the Lovecraftian figure of Azathoth, the blind idiot god, and from it the spectral and viral nature of Lovecraftian substance that contaminates and interacts with bodies in a manner befitting the principle similia similibus solvuntur – like dissolves like. The colour that the Great Work is divided around is thus said to reveal the idea that we ourselves are spectres and that the blackness that consumes is a resonance from the core of matter, and our whole being, and thus a likeness that allows bodies and the darkness of matter to dissolve into each other.
The alchemical resonance of spectral materialism continues. Escaping a hard binary between “primitive science” and magical-religious initiation, it contaminates the borders between two supposedly strictly separate worlds, while the content of the philosopher’s stone is ostensibly reflected in an interpretation of the concept of complementarity, that principle whereby objects possess complimentary attributes that cannot be observed simultaneously. But then the formula of the philosopher’s stone is reversed: while traditional alchemy, per Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding of it, is supposed to arrive at the reconciliation of spirit and matter by the descent of the soul into the world, the quantum proposed by Gruppo Di Nun is instead the revelation of sheer distance, inaccessibility, or even incompatibility between mind and matter, or between human reason and cosmic physis. Spectral materialism here emerges as a worldview concerned with an unobservable relationship between matter and itself, and matter itself as beyond the human gaze. The process of nigredo is, in this alchemy, understood as a deliberate process of intoxication brought on by interactions with chemical matter and its contamination of mind, which thus reveals the “living death” of matter. Chemistry at large is presented as a spectral science, concerning the dissolution of the individuality of the objects it studies into the ocean of quantum matter. That ocean itself emerges as none other than the blind idiot god and the quicksilver, an abyss whose vibration haunts the phenomenal world and the structures that emerge over the abyss, and whose incessant sound and presence unites all beings in embrace, and could contaminate us at any time. And thus it is only this ocean, not any God, larger than any God, that could possibly have given rise to everything.
In the course of this, though, we arrive at something strange. Through the analogy of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris we get the picture of a matter that could not be produced by any Demiurge, or the guiding hand of any Creator. Yet this in some ways clashes with the whole notion presented in Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ritual, of the cosmic order as the violent ordering of chaos. On the other hand, per “Catastrophic Astrology” we are given the picture of existence as an expression of spontaneity, which in Tripaldi’s reading is inherently sacrificial: we spontaneously exist, and this condition contains within itself the price of extinction, making the spontaneity of transformation a species of death. But then, perhaps the spontaneity in this setting must emerge as a spontaneous insurrection at the quantum level. If no demiurge or creator could possibly have given rise to the universe as it is, then the spontaneity is the insurrection of a willing life that ruptured and transformed the void that existed before, and has marched away for eons. This quantum will that, at the highest price, overturns everything, is perhaps the key to something larger. But we will explore this more later.
I have perhaps said far too much about the initial principles of Revolutionary Demonology, but we can summarize this core so far. The occultism of Gruppo Di Nun founds itself on a materialism in which matter, at the quantum level, is fundamentally alien to itself, to us as its manifestations, and a cosmic pessimism undergirded by the anti-cosmic mythology of Tiamat which is also resonated in a doomsday astronomy. Beyond the world we live in lies spectral matter as a chaotic ritual dance of death, to which all of life ultimately vibrates and through which life is drawn towards its own dissolution. This is also an extinction which Gruppo Di Nun asserts that life contains an inherent drive towards, and in which they locate the possibility of rejecting heterosexual reproductive futurity, and with it the whole hyperstitious order of patrairchy. God did not create the universe, and yet, per the ritual, the universe is Tiamat’s flesh and blood carved into order by ordering gods, though in any case this order always intrinsically writes its own demise. Magic is therefore the art of letting go into this condition, into the morbid love that attracts all things towards dissolution, in a sense reconciling with the universe. But, as you’ll see, even this is just the beginning.
“Notes on Gothic Insurrection” presents a part of the philosophy that forms the body of Revolutionary Demonology by way of a strange and complex concept referred to as “Gothic Insurrection”. Gothic Insurrection, or “Goth/Ins”, seems to be a species of accelerationist theory concerned with temporal multiplicity in the context of a Real that supercedes ideology as such, and seemingly also with a kind of inorganic time and matter relevant to developments that, in their virtuality, can be activated, corrupted, and “recovered” in a seemingly “undead” way. It is also intimately concerned with the hauntology or “retromania” of modernity, with how modernity seems in itself to give way to the revival of older, pre-modern structures and thought-forms, or perhaps rather their “undead” manifestation. That’s about the best I can do to summarize the concept, and I can tell you that the main authors of Gothic Insurrection, Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli, do not make that very easy for me. But it’s in the broader discussion of Gothic Insurrection that counts, in that it’s from here that we can derive philosophical content that contains in itself an averse potentiality relative to Revolutionary Demonology as a whole.
Claudio Kulesko’s essay, “Gothic Insurrection”, establishes the context of a neo-medieval landscape, a new Middle Ages in which traditionalism and the project the “New Right” are corroding modernity from within, bending all of its means and forces to repressive ends in the name of medieval power. Modernity itself almost seems like just a long dream in a world otherwise still very medieval. Reaction is in full swing in calling for the reversal or closure of modernity, while at the same time always an innate part of its nightmare spiral, in which liberal world peace either gives way to a theatre of violent bigotry or simply belies it. This is the world of the cybergothic. In this setting, hauntology emerges as a way to understand this re-activation of the past. But, Gothic Insurrection, while so intimately concerned with the past as a location of inorganic time, also sees itself as a sort of progressive motion: like the spires of a medieval cathedral peaking into the sky, or like bats flying into the twilight, its only route is upwards, and outwards. The cybergothic in this sense is present in a strange union between technological modernity and medieval apocalypse.
The spiral of Gothic Insurrection begins with a consideration of how to ring in the cybergothic era without embracing fascist neoreaction. Art, as a means of the reactivation of the past, is explored from the work Jacques-Louis David and his nostalgia for the French Revolution on the one hand, to William Bevan’s “re-dreaming of the past” through his electronics on the other hand, until we arrive at black metal, of all artforms, as the key to an alternative temporal distortion against that of the alt-right, despite the reactionary tendencies often found in the black metal scene. Neoreaction seems to distinguish itself from other models through its double spiral vector, paradoxically regressing to the past and advancing to the future, but its particular acknowledgement of violence and chaos as the primary source of order, or at least its particular order, against any perceived ideological containment of the violent spontaneity of (human) nature, exposes it to an even more profound presence of violence and chaos in the form of ancient, not quite dead horrors. Thus, we are to imagine an alternative spiral of anti-modern rebellion in black metal: a spiral that, unlike neoreaction, does not want to constitute or liberate anything, and is a spirit set purely on negation.
The black metal imaginary is palpably distinct, made unique by its sort of symbiotic fusion of Satanic iconoclasm, witchcraft, and pagan myth and romance. The first wave of black metal itself inaugurated this spiral, and none other than Bathory is its paragon. Beginning with the pure satanic fury of their first three albums (“Bathory”, “The Return”, and “Under the Black Mark”), over time Bathory evolved towards an emphasis on the pre-Christian Norse past and a style that came to be dubbed “viking metal”. Quorthon, the man behind Bathory, imbued this new direction with a hauntological voice for the life and time of pre-Christian Scandinavia, and with it a pagan nostalgia for a time where humans and extant wild nature were inseparable with the divinity of its many gods, all of which then invoke the spectral character of the barbarian. Outside and against Christianity, rationalism, humanism, and universalism, the barbarian resists civilization, resists boundaries, not only smashing through the borders of nations and civilizations but also crossing the boundary of the human itself via the figure of the Berserker or wolf-like Mannerbund, and, in Christian terms, exists somehow outside and against even God himself. The barbarian is, here, a chrono-warrior who brings ancient interpretations of the world and the quest to reunite with nature, plunging forward in a disordered assault into the cybergothic arena. Representing another barbarian vector of the black imaginary is Darkthrone, whose album “Transylvanian Hunger” and especially the title track invite us to consider the figure of the vampire, through both its sheer, cosmically inorganic sonic negativity and the obvious lyricism. The vampire is not alive, and not dead, and emblematic of the darkness of the gothic novels that represent an eternal, inorganic, and immobile time – gothic time – sitting below the present and threatening to intrude into modernity, or in a larger sense the world of civilization and phenomena. The apogee of this gothic time is Dracula, the vampire par excellence, embodying both the barbarian archetype in his outsideness and becoming-animal/mist and in his undead multiplicity (he is alive and not alive, dead and not dead, Dracula and not Dracula, Vlad III and not Vlad III).
I seem to have a particular affinity for this concept of Gothic Insurrection and its barbarian modality. Although in the context of Revolutionary Demonology as a whole it is still supposed to connect to the cosmic love of self-disintegration, and Kulesko’s writing about Dracula is an interesting demonstration of this theme, it also, to mind points to something that can take a different form. As I lay out in my article about Kulesko’s essay on the subject of Dracula, tsking on the gothic insurrection of barbarian becoming and liminality is its own becoming-demon, a modality of propulsion by which not only ride against the order of things but also thrust open the portals of reality itself, and, from a satanic perspective, vampiric dissolution changes from the disappearance of will implied by much of Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ideology to the embedding of it, its embodiment within the world and its totality, the form of katabatic apotheosis. The apocalypse of Gothic Insurrection is not only the vampiric resurrection of the Middle Ages, the reactivation of a past or myth into the weapons of a horde marching into the future. It is Legion, the Hobbesian “Kingdome of Darknesse” or “Confederacy of Deceivers”, and by these examples the spiralling breakdown of order at the level of fixed identity into multiplicity, and the smashing of the identity between political order and its projection into cosmic order. The Image of the World, the imaginary representation of world order, is smashed, destroyed by the new barbarians of gothic time against the world. The only thing I might add is that it is in this sphere that might join this gothic horde, whose spiral of recombination and battle presents a path to immanent apotheosis.
Perhaps something different can be seen in Enrico Monacelli’s essay, “Extinction”, which discusses and responds to Kulesko’s essay. After a lengthy exposition of Lil Peep’s “Cry Alone” music video, in which Lil Peep seems to be discussed as the martyr of a kind of ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God, Monacelli begins his answer to Kulesko’s Gothic Insurrection by asserting that our turn towards the new Middle Ages is a kind of fatalistic linearity, a destiny that has seemingly already set for us in advance and which renders everything futile, guided by the obsession of the modern world with the idea that it will be annihilated. Lil Peep in his essay emerges as the contemporary symbol of this feeling of predestined extinction, but also one of a number of examples by which to understand hauntological structure of our social body. Monacelli also invokes two horror movies, the 2018 Halloween and Hereditary, to show the horror genre itself as representing this “tragic temporality”. In the 2018 Halloween, we see Laurie Strode constantly preparing the return of the serial killer Michael Myers, her house covered in traps and her mind tormented, she goes on to struggle with Myers and again and trap him in her basement, set the house on fire in the hopes of destroying him, only for it to be revealed that Myers survived and is still on the loose; not unlike the original Halloween. This repetition is clearly a device for the production of future movies, but for Monacelli it also communicates a spectre of silent death that has already condemned us to extinction, as if in a script that has already been written all along. In Hereditary, a sacrificial rite from beyond the grave meant to summon the demon Paimon is the ground of an occult predestination that propels the film’s events in a way that the characters, as spectators, do not fully understand. For Monacelli it represents an impenetrable facticity that resonates with a universe that seems predestined to self-destruction but which is also completely unknowable to us.
The whole reckoning of this mystifying and hopeless tragedy is what Monacelli calls “passive extinctionism”. Passive extinctionism is composed of time seemingly flowing in reverse, from a future already set towards a past that activates said future, moving solely and single-mindedly towards the sole destination of extinction, supported by the inability to comprehend this temporality and its motives (if any). So far I suppose “ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God” remains an apt metaphor, in that it seems obvious that Monacelli’s universe is seemingly utterly fatalistic. But while that is the basic form of Monacelli’s proposal, there is also so much more beneath even the surface of fate, in the sense that horror both creates and destroys. This becomes apparent as Monacelli discusses the movie Mandy and barbarism as an escape from our time prison that only horror could provide.
In Mandy, there are essentially two rituals. The first one summons the Black Skulls, a quasi-demonic biker gang enlisted by a redneck cult leader named Jeremiah Sands to capture Mandy and her boyfriend Red, which Monacelli presents as an involuntary evocation whose consequences cannot be controlled. The second one, however, subverts these consequences, with Mandy laughing in the face of her captor, her mockery embodying joy in the face of her own death, which then unleashes Red’s unrelenting vengeance. For Monacelli, drawing from the work of Nicola Masciandaro, this amounts to the creation and assertion of a kind of mystical sovereignty formed by being the vector of the Outside that breaks tragic time. That sovereignty is a wild abandonment that deposes all authority, breaks tragic temporality, and transforms ignorance into the sublime dark power of Max Stirner’s Unmensch; the inhuman individual who devours all and transforms it into power.
It’s impossible to escape the gulf between the whole ethos of disintegration established by the core throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy and this state of power that Monacelli expressly recognises as sovereignty. Mandy, the Unmensch, are positively death-defiant, “letting go” into their ostensible fate only so that they might overcome it, overturn everything, and become their own true masters. Dracula, and Alucard, in many ways embody the same process, accepting their own dissolution so as to re-emerge as everything. Between the prospect of deathless negative power and the invocation of egoism, there could not be a greater antithesis to surrender, and it’s right here, in a book ostensibly about the joys of surrender. I cannot help but recall the concept of katabasis in the context of pre-Christian Greece, and the many similar forms across other pre-Christian cultures: to willingly descend into the underworld, and as is often the case return, in order to become a god. I sense that it is somewhat at odds with the core of Revolutionary Demonology, and yet I actually somewhat find it almost clarified by it.
But what does this all mean for Gothic Insurrection? We can understand Monacelli’s view of Gothic Insurrection as articulating a nameless barbaric mysticism whose aim is to destroy hegemonic time and the tragic prison it holds us in. The identity of the barbarians is unimportant. Only the work of destructive liberation matters, and Monacelli sees Gothic Insurrection as that work, which turns tragedy, decadence, and chaos into sources of power for the barbarians, demons, and Unmensches: the warlike gods of darkness! I must admit here that Monacelli’s explanation of Gothic Insurrection seems much more succinct and concise than what I have seen of Kulesko’s. I should also note that the theme of multiplicity is shared by both authors, with Monacelli’s take on Gothic Insurrection still acknowledges it as multitudes. But moreover, while Gruppo Di Nun never gives an explicit definition of its concept of the Left Hand Path, I suspect that we find it anyway in the new barbarians of Gothic Insurrection. Monacelli says it almost outright. The new barbarians turn tragedy and decadence into sources of power and subversion, while fascism and the Right Hand Path want to expel them and replace chaos with order. The insurrection means the overcoming of the tragic world by its own surpassing, while the Right Hand Path wants to escape and/or cast a magic circle over it. It seems obvious that what Monacelli is trying to describe amounts to the Left Hand Path. Historically speaking the aim of Left Hand Path sects and traditions in the context of Vamachara was to cultivate power, enlightenment, and God-realization through decadence, while a similar and more modern take also, at minimum, draws power from traditionally “dark” or averse sources. It’s also, if you think about it, the basis of Stanisław Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism, where decadence and evil are sources of the power for the satanist magician or witch to enact their own transvaluation of values, and of the Witches’ Sabbath’s dissolution of everything in the vortex of flesh. Monacelli in some ways adds to this another way of saying that the “only way out” is through and not without. Instead of the conquest of the world by order, apotheosis is almost a victory over tragedy by turning it into divine power. I can’t help but sense a continuation of the theme of alchemy here, a Great Work complete with its own nigredo, in the form of horror.
We are not quite done with the subject of Gothic Insurrection yet. In “Gothic (A)theology”, Claudio Kulesko continues to explore the subject in terms of horror and terror through two young philosophers – Vincent Garton and Miroslav Griško – and their unusual takes on Christianity.
Beginning with Vincent Garton, Kulesko examines a view of Christianity, and particularly Catholic Christianity, that stresses Christian temporality as being founded on a time outside of time and the divine as an absolute Other or Outside to humanity. What we get is the closure of the Enlightenment and the postmodern landscape that attends it as pointing to the rediscovery of the soul, which Kulesko stresses as to be understood as an abyssal interiority that places everyone before horror and absurdity. In a sense, Kulekso gets from Garton the idea of the “return to the sacred” as his understanding of the reactivation of the past, which the dissolution of the future is also supposed to open up and for which the reascent of irrationalism and fundamentalism serves as a signpost, while for Kulesko this return of the sacred is also paired with the revival not just of horror but also cosmic pessimism. Turning to Miroslav Griško, Kulesko arrives at horror, the sense of annihilation and paralysis before atrocity or fatality, and terror, the interdeterminacy that attends the presence of horror, as the twin qualities of God, the ultimate intelligence who is also the supreme murderer, hidden beyond time, waiting to unleash the war that will annihiliate the world. Both views are connected by a stark dualism between immanence and transcendence, and a wager on the Real that posits that either the world has a purpose or is ruled by chance, whose answer remains suspended beyond time. Kulesko then discusses classic gothic novels, such as The Monk by M. G. Lewis and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, as representing a kind of “obscure Catholicism” and gothic time. These novels present an overrarching inorganic power, a virtuality of death, desire, decadence, and fatality, whose secret life and “presence of absence” can be found everywhere and whose exploration is the novels’ prime subject. And thus we come to the “Hidden God”, the worst and most tenebrous of demons, the myth behind all manner of cosmic and technological nightmares, an invisible direction of destinies who becomes larger and more evident as it is paranoiacally pursued. That is the “God of the Outside”.
This “God of the Outside” also seems to be discussed as a symptom of a monomaniacal linearity and corresponding idealism that Kulesko attributes to accelerationism itself. For Kulesko, the only field of absolute freedom is the “real-material field” in which the world constructs itself independently, and that’s a problem for accelerationist anti-naturalism because of it ascribes injustice to nature despite that injustice, and its just counterpart, having nothing to do with nature. More relevant, though, is the belief in the Singularity (the point where human technology becomes totally uncontrollable and supercedes matter) and its supposed inevitability; as if the will of the entire universe set to this end. This prophecy (and it might as well literally be prophecy) obviously runs against the realities of supposed predestination: that not everything is already decided, inevitable, or perhaps even possible. But, more than that, here we also come to the last major component of Gothic Insurrection: its alternative model of acceleration. It is the Nietzschean passing of knowledge that is to be accelerated, “to guide the blade here” as it were, taking up unknowing as situated at the root of the world and anticipating the formation of knowledge. Here, we arguably find a statement of the doctrine of innate enlightenment (hongaku) in Buddhist terms, but in the context of the Gothic. The Gothic denotes an infinite virtuality of formless matter and perpetual actualisation, becoming, denoting the basis of the production of form, and which constantly thwarts everything we think we know in the moment. Accelerating the passing of knowledge means speeding up the “thawing” of structures, proceeding to the unknown and blurring the boundaries between natural and unnatural or even between possibility and impossibility, and the purest form of gothic terror is disruption of immanence by immanence, and its destruction at the hands of chaos. In every direction, the end is to be accelerated, and every direction overcomes every future, including the Singularity.
In the overall this turn in Gothic Insurrection is a multifaceted one. Because of the focus on Catholicism, and the meditation on God as “God of the Outside” (and thus of the central theme of Gruppo Di Nun’s occult philosophy), it almost feels like Kulesko is attempting to construct particularly decadent form of what is nevertheless a mystical form of Catholicism. It’s almost strictly diagnostic in that it ultimately serves as a construction through which the flaws of accelerationism can be studied in a way that informs the larger construction of Gothic Insurrection at large, but in view of a much later essay also devoted to the subject of Catholicism, it feels like there are the makings of a particular, albeit subverse, interpretation of Christianity. The irony, which I think I will keep stressing, is that Gruppo Di Nun opposes much of modern Satanism for relying on the flat inversion of Christianity, thereby supposedly reproducing it, and thus there is the call to completely break from Christianity, and yet in order to illustrate and inform Gothic Insurrection both Kulesko and Monacelli turn to Christian philosophy and mysticism. In fact, Monacelli seems to directly identify the active extinctionism of Mandy and the darkness of Stirner’s Unmensch with the darkness and unknowing referred to by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in The Mystical Theology – not to mention a footnote in the same essay interpreting “real faith” as a venture into darkness by way of Kierkegaard. Though, in Gothic Insurrection, this is but one small piece of a larger idea, and not outside the purview of the reactivation of the past. In fact, this basic idea seems to permeate Gruppo Di Nun’s core to some extent, right down to the reference to the creation myth of the Enuma Elish. The ancient mythology of a long-dead civilization is reanimated, re-aligned, and turned as a weapon against the Image of the World. In this sense we can understand the project of Gothic Insurrection as part of the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, from my perspective clearly the strongest and most insightful aspect of it, and I believe this presents interesting implications for that philosophy.
But, Gothic Insurrection understood as the reactivation of a distant, dark past as an insurrection against the order of the present is a throughline that already, in its own way, underpins so much of the Left Hand Path, including those tendencies that Gruppo Di Nun finds either dangerous or simply mediocre. Satanism as a whole has historically sometimes invoked a distant pre-Christian past defined by unfuttered indulgence and magical power, to the extent that even atheistic models of Satanism such as the LaVeyan model as a vehicle for the presumed restoration of some ancient hedonism. The theme of reactivation is all the more pronounced in the more esoteric forms of Satanism and what is called Luciferianism. For example, Carl William Hansen (a.k.a. Ben Kadosh) presented his system of Luciferianism as essentially the return of the ancient cult of Pan, while for Fraternitas Saturni this is the cult of Saturn brought together with what they see as a lost “Barbelo-Gnostic” teachings. I can hardly forget Michael W. Ford’s particular emphasis on his idea of Luciferianism as an ancient pre-Christian philosophy weaving through various cults and re-summoned in the present day as his own distinct system. In many ways it’s a lot more blatant with the Temple of Set, which sees itself as a magical restoration of the cult of Set. And there are many more examples within Satanism, including the distinctly unsavoury and fascist forms thereof. Gothic Insurrection, in this sense, should be seen within Satanism as a conscious insurrection in which the reactivation of an occult past is aligned with insurrectionary, rather than reactionary, aims: an awareness that reawakens the true anarchic content of the Left Hand Path. I see this as my current aim within Satanism and within the Left Hand Path: to renew them by reactivating the radical and insurrectionary forms within this milieu – to plunge into the future by going down into the past. In my mind, this is the only real way to “rescue” the Left Hand Path in a climate of endemic reaction, and it is the path that must be taken, or else there is no point to anything.
Before we move on to our next section, I would like to use the scope of this article to discuss the value of the barbarian archetype as the force that strikes its blow against reaction, retroprogressivism, and modernity alike while marching into the cybergothic age. There’s a sense (limited as it may be within the scope of this article) in which we can briefly touch on a contrast relevant to a certain prevailing discourse about masculinity and certain progressive efforts to counter right-wing machismo with their own humanistic version of male-centered mythopoesis. Indeed, all too often, there is an opportunistic employment between certain ideas about toxic masculinity, inherited ultimately , in which reactionary behaviours of control are ideologically intermixed with a more abstract “macho” wildness, perhaps so as to repress notions of barbarian wildness. But while violent excess is often fetishized in fascist spaces, the central archetype of fascist masculinity was not a wild warlike barbarian. Instead fascist ideologists, particularly the Nazis, preferred what they saw as a much more orderly pedigree to be found in the mythical “Aryan” farmer. As discussed by Stefan Arvidsson in Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, and explored in adequate summary by Krešimir Vuković in Wolves of Rome: The Lupercalia from Roman and Comparative Perspectives, Nazi ideologists were what Arvidsson called “ideologists of order”, who favored a nationalist interpretation of history centering around mythologized Indo-German Aryans as the only true progenitors of historical culture. These Aryan Germans were thought to be primitive farmers who practiced a cult that centered around agricultural life and the veneration of a solar hero figure whose struggle against monsters was interpreted as a moral allegory of good against evil. Nazi mythologists considered myth itself to be, in the words of Alfred Rosenberg, “an image of order”, namely the hidden order of the “folk soul”. This idea meant an ideological contrast between the Aryan farmer and the perceived “decadence” of modernity, which was also meant as an opposition between “Indo-European” order on one side against “Jewish” subversion on the other side. This broad idea was also contrasted against scholars who positioned an ecstatic cult of warrior fellowships, or Mannerbund, as the center of ancient Germanic society, and in turn supported a cultural ideology that centered a kind of Dionysian ecstasy. That ideology was opposed by the mainstream of Nazism because it seemingly cast the ancestry of the German nation as uncivilized and barbaric, and clashed with the conservative values of the Nazi intellectual establishment.
At its historical root, fascism recognises the barbarian as its diametrical opposite, because, at its root, fascism itself is the ideology of order par excellence. In this light, National Socialism can be seen as the apogee of this fascist love of order, being systematically the ultimate logical conclusion of all the major systems of domination that preceded it – if you want an idea of this, just think about how the Nazis derived their basis not only in the image Roman imperial civilization but also the American and British imperial systems of oppression and extermination. Indeed, I find it interesting that both the Nazis and the United States of America drew from the dutiful farmer as the font of civic order, whether it’s an invented mythology of Indo-European farmers or George Washington modelling himself after the Roman farmer/statesman Cincinnatus. And, if you examine modern fascism, order and cleanliness quickly emerge as the idee fixe of fascist politics. In the end, that’s why people on the more reactionary corners of Satanism, such as Anton LaVey and Doug Mesner, so professed themselves as law and order ideologists: they are reactionary authoritarians or straight up fascists, and on the back of that they prefer “nice”, “clean” orderely communities that answer to the fear of political concentration. It is communicated with almost immaculate subtlety in right-wing rhetoric about “law and order”, and it is this ideology of order, rather than some mental aberration or the triumph of unbridled sadism or some abstract “evil”, that lies at the root of all fascist genocide: purgation is the lifeblood of fascist order, and so the fascist will, without any sense of remorse or imbalance, countenance all atrocities under the hyper-concentration of state violence, as fascism requires in order to generate the purity of a total order. So, from there, in Gothic Insurrection we may locate the ecstatic barbarian war bands, these warlike fellows of Odin or Rudra, as a chaotic, antithetical gothic time wielded against a present whose ordered path bends towards fascism once again. If you want your alternative to reactionary masculinity, just meditate on Gothic Insurrection, and you will do the rest of the work for yourself almost without any need for programmatic intellectualism.
An Alchemy of Steel
I felt that the last chapter of Part 2, “Notes on Gothic Insurrection”, merits its own separate discussion here, simply because to me it felt very different to the rest of the book, or at least certainly at first it did. “Lifting the Absolute” by Bronze Age Collapse seems like its own distinct messsage. Amy Ireland assures us in the afterword that it fits into Gruppo Di Nun’s overall message of magic as a masochistic practice of anti-mastery and ‘letting go’, this is not the sense that I got from reading Bronze Age Collapse’s sort of alchemical take on physical culture. And, while it seems almost random at first, it ties well into the theme of Gothic Insurrection with the author’s conscious reactivation of pre-Christian religious, mythological, and philosophical forms.
“Lifting the Absolute” was originally part of a collection of writings released by Bronze Age Collapse as The Search for Absolute Fitness: Plato as a Bodybuilder in 1991. Apparently this essay contributed to the development of the concept of Gothic Insurrection, and a judicious footnote reminds us of the basic point at stake: the idea that the present moment is to be overcome both joyous destruction and immersion in a distant but reactivated past. So far this past has been discussed in the geneaology of the barbarian, the gothic novel, and “the sacred” of Garton’s take on Catholicism. Through Bronze Age Collapse, this immersion takes us, quite splendidly, through Paganism, to an extent exceeding even Kulesko’s treatment of Bathory, but this time focusing on ancient pre-Christian Greece.
We begin with an account Pankration, a dangerous ancient Olypmic sporting event similar to both wrestling and boxing. It was an extreme contest of strength where almost any move was permitted, and there were only three ways out of a fight: surrender, lose consciousness, or die. The legend of Sostrtus “Acrocheriste” Sicionio, and his defeat by the young Aristocles of Athens, opens a whole dialogue on the philosophy of physical culture. For Bronze Age Collapse, Aristocles won because his body represented a complete and total harmony of muscular strength, instinct, intelligence, expertise, and experience, and that this perfect harmony, consisting of the subjection of all individual parts of the body to a whole, was the founding myth of the philosophy of mind as well as wrestling. The Platonic and “classical” view is that psychophysical harmony – that between body and mind – is the work of adapting one’s body to a paradigm, an Idea, by submitting it to gradually more intense labours and more refined challenges. But within this discourse, our author goes on to assert that this whole process is a means of returning the body to beauty. The author’s express conviction is that harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness. This obviously invites the question of the fall: after all, if harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness, it follows that something must have happened for harmony and beauty to change into discord and ugliness. Indeed I sense it’s very easy for such a conviction to find itself warping towards the doctrine of involution, in which we have degenerated from some imagined state of antediluvian perfection and unity. But patience, because there is more to be explored, and what our author valorizes is not so much a fallen spiritual presence to which matter must conform, but the body, and in this sense matter, itself.
Bronze Age Collapse upholds that the body is not originally weak, passive, and sedentary, but powerful, active, and dynamic, and that it is this dynamism that, in the modern world, seems lost but can be recovered. In fact, our author positions this dynamism in a larger sense: the tendency towards the absolute – that is, understood properly, a tendency towards enhancement, recombination, speed, and efficiency, which is naturally followed not only by the body and the mind but also the entire universe itself. This is actually a fairly bizarre twist in the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun that came after this original essay: what Gruppo Di Nun proposes as the universal death drive, the cosmic love of disintegration, becomes for Bronze Age Collapse not so much the longing for demise in itself but the yearning for transformation to the point of greater and greater perfection. To that end, life erupts from the void and beings ceaselessly create, destroy, and reorder things around them. In a way, “tendency towards the absolute” is an apt metaphor, because it rather makes sense as the quest for apotheosis, or at least to become godlike. Self-deification may not be what Gruppo Di Nun had in mind, but in a certain sense that is what it is, just that it’s not the same self-deification that Julius Evola or Hermeticism had in mind and which is in practice the only concept of self-deification that Gruppo Di Nun actually seems invested in refuting. The only thing is, so far we must ask if this perspective does not clash with the way Enrico Monacelli discusses decadence as a source of power for the Gothic Insurrection. The point, however, is that in this setting life is a conatus, a repeated insistence or striving, necessarily of will, and thus a perpetual tension and discharge. This is what steel acquaints flesh, and which the battered and weak body of modernity is supposed to discover, and thereby become daemonic.
Bronze Age Collapse points to Arthur Schopenhauer as having posited the body as the vehicle of metaphysics, in that the body poses itself as the visible and physical expression of individual interiority and is not only the seat of all perceptions and instinctive causality but also, since in Schopenhauer’s view these things precede all objective activity, the origin of all cosmic activity – essentially, the basis of the universe itself. Our author takes this understanding of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and extends it into the idea that the activity of each individual bodies determines the nature of the cosmos that it inhabits. This means that, for a reactive body, the world around it seems to become reactive, linear, and static, while for a dynamic body, the world around it seems to become similarly dynamic. No, more than that: for our author, the world of a truly dynamic body spins into a vortex, the heroic spiral of the Nietzschean will to power. This, for our author, is the hidden meaning of the Greek phrase kalos kagathos (“the beautiful and good”), and the psychophysical rhythm and harmony it denotes. But more important, it seems to locate the body as the voice of the spirit, the source of wisdom. This rather fundamentally places matter at the centre of ontology. Human history, in this worldview, is an account of every trial that matter undertakes to rise above itself, and every effort that we undertake to measure ourselves against the cosmos: this is what the weight or the pull-up bar come to symbolise for our author – personally, I like to think that the blade has a similar meaning. This also means never satisfying yourself with any proposal of the perfect fundamental order and its image. To borrow our author’s analogy: if God were a lobster, and the lobster (as God) is the model of every human action and law, the hero prefers to be a star, a supernova, or a black hole. This means that, in order to really measure yourself against the cosmos, you must reject and defy God and his law.
From my standpoint, this all has some important Satanic (or perhaps also “Luciferian”) implications. In fact, if we take our author’s proposal as rooted in a pre-Christian Hellenic philosophy of mind and the body, then we can extend our author’s heroic rejection of the law of the lobster as a manifestation of Satan’s rebellion and insurrection on behalf of himself, and from there we can arrvie quite easily as, dare I say it, a Satanic application of Paganism. But it also poses an interesting implication for the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun. After all, from this standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to regard what is presented to us as the violence of creation as anything other than the primordial conatus of matter, as the rupturing of the primordial void into forms appears as simply matter overcoming itself. For me, the obvious is to recognise this as an insurrectionary outcome, and the work that proceeds after this as a new insurrection after this against the order of things that has come to pass. In this setting, both history and the work of magic are insurrection upon insurrection.
Moving on from there, we get a tour of the proper understanding of bodybuilding, which for Bronze Age Collapse is neglected even by the trainer at the gym, and of the error of temporal linearity. For our author, bodybuilding is the process of the return to the body, or to oneself, as the restoration of eidetic harmony. For the average gym trainer and their students, on the other hand, bodybuilding is apparently more like a one-time projectual cleansing meant to reach some seasonal event – often the path to the beachfront, where a sufficiently honed body can be presented typically in the hopes of impressing the opposite sex. Meanwhile, modernity tries to refashion the dignity of body and spirit while running up against a corruption generated by the teleological and economical influences created by Christianity. Sin is met with punishment and renunciation, because sin incurs debt, and purification is met with reward in accordance with a promise made with a creditor: the body Christianity in this sense is a religion not of death but of debt. Eternal return and the mythic property of Sisyphus or Prometheus fundamentally important to genuine bodybuilding, without which it lapses into a hyperreal torment of steroid abuse. Our author also locates in this a gulf between antiquity and the present, pronounced by the way modern people afford supernatural stature to the muscular forms of classical art that they encounter in museums or in images on the internet. It is sometimes said that the ancient Greeks idealised the human body, but it might be more accurate to say that it is modern men, hopelessly distanced from antiquity, that idealise what the forms that the ancients produced – that idealisation is fundamental to the traditionalist reaction of the digital age, right down to the Roman statue cliches. Thus our author goes on to say that we are like children before Mediterranean antiquity, in the same way that children cannot imagine their father’s strength at their age. In a way that it is indeed all the truer of every pathetic neofascist brandishing an image of statue from ancient Greece and Rome or the Italian Renaissance as their profile picture online: idealising these images, denouncing the world for supposedly abandoning them, but so utterly distant from their form, totally unable to perceive and conceive them, let alone embody them. These reactionaries are in a sense no different to any other modern, they can only be amazed at what once was.
The statues are interpreted as a call to invert the course of history, to change your life as it were, and in this sense act on the observer with the appropriate inspiration. This too feels like it is part of that same gulf. Imagine not just the life of antiquity, but all of prehistory, the life of all hominids who preceded us and every fearsome long-dead creature that they co-existed and/or contended with. Some of us might be relieved that they no longer exist and that we no longer struggle with them. Others, though, might feel remorse for the passing of what could have versus the life of what exists now. For our author this gulf is also like the abyss of Tartarus into which the Titans were thrown, where Kronos became king and reigns supreme above all else, but where the Titans nonetheless became weak and docile as their strength faded. This, for our author is exactly our situation: it’s like we are the Titans in Tartarus, cast into a pit where we become weak. But, we are told, our imprisonment will end, and a Golden Age might begin again, and in this Golden Age everything will speak again, all humans will find gods in themselves, everything will be accompanied by joy, and the sun will shine on everyone. All of that, however, is the struggle, our primordial conatus.
Keep in mind that when I said that “tendency towards the absolute” was an apt metaphor for apotheosis or some concept of self-deification, that’s only because Bronze Age Collapse says forthrightly that bodybuilding and weight training brings the body closer to the body of a god or goddess. “Absolute fitness” is meant as the realization of impersonal form, and the desire to attain this form is what our author believes drives the motion of the whole universe. In this sense, our author agrees with Henri Burgson that the universe is a machine for the making of gods, and in fact, it seems that this axiom is only deepened in content by the philosophy we mean to explore so far. At this point we come to an articulaion of our author’s view through an expression of ancient Hellenic polytheism that clicked with me as I read it. The gods, while imagined to be a pantheon of superior beings that embody a pure principle or essence, were born of chaos, and often found themselves having to scale or overturn hierarchies of beings by their own strength and power before getting to Olympus. The origin of the gods in chaos is the same origin of everything else that exists – perhaps this is what Pindar meant by the one mother from whom both gods and men draw their breath. That origin, our author asserts, also means that both the gods and mortals share a desire to embody a certain kind of force or atmosphere. Chaos here is not simply the void that existed before the first god, but the supreme power that generates and destroys without mercy, to which all beings, even the gods, are subject. The anima mundi of this cosmos contains every possibility, combination, environment, and adaptation, while living beings are contractions of the infinite activity of matter. Immortality, supreme fitness, is to be understood as perpetual metamorphosis. Form and elan are locked in a battle at the heart of reality that tears the cosmos apart, and this reality lends itself to the real secret of the tendency towards the absolute.
Bronza Age Collapse’s physical philosophy has its flipsides. Being strictly carnal, our author shuns the practice of writing. This must be why he writes so infrequently. Writing is seen as a moment stolen from living thought, whose proper pasttime is training, play, and sex. It’s to the point where writing is even discussed as an “original sin”, or perhaps more aptly “false consciousness”, either way a corruption more ancient than any other, because of its apparent stasis. Writing is to be reserved for rare occasions, the marginal pursuit meant only for the exposition of the truth, rooted in the impersonality of the absolute. Here we run the risk of assuming the “God’s Eye” perspective of objectivity, one that is necessarily problematic if we take as our starting point that the individual body is the origin point of the perception of objective activity. And that body does not in itself possess an objectivity that, in Archimedean terms, is free of distortion. In fact, as our author insists, the body requires nutrition, and the way we nourish and refine our body impacts the supposed objectivity it generates, and the illness of modernity requires that, by force of will, we tear time at the hinges to recover it. I suppose if we take it as the Gods eye view the very notion seems absurd, certainly too absurd to merit almost never writing about the glories of cultivating the Hellenic body even to develop theory. But then I suppose the point is to constantly develop the absolute in the flesh. The point, the real point, is alchemy. Through steel, you are developing matter in a way that overcomes its base form and transfigures into the absolute: the Great Work, the Philosopher’s Stone, Azoth, this is the flesh-god of the divine body that has tended to the absolute.
I would contend, though, that maybe bodybuilding is not the only way to derive the basic contour of Bronze Age Collapse’s pagan-alchemical philosophy of mind and body. What I mean here hinges on understanding bodybuilding as a creative act, and I know it sounds strange since that’s not how we think about it culturally. But why not? It is a creative act in the precise sense that you are trying to create the body out of itself. There’s something fundamentally aesthetic about bodybuilding, that is in the strict sense that many modern bodybuilders build their bodies for show. But even so, a painter could as well paint in order that their painting would be seen, or the sculptor sculpts their statues so that the forms they represent can be seen and impact the viewer. Art itself, and from there The Art, thus has to be seen in terms of the same alchemical conatus, and so too should magic itself. So too should fighting, especially in view of the introductory analogy of Pankration. I did not suggest the metaphor of the blade idly: the clashing and honing of the blades is its own magical conatus of will, leading the fighter in the battle against the world that so comprises their life, all the way up to the storming of heaven and the fight against God. None other than the war of all against all is this conatus. Art, combat, training, sexual intercourse, insurrection, love, all forge its participants towards “the absolute”, at least if they put their minds towards alchemy. And yet, if art and magic are part of that, who’s to say writing, to a certain extent, is not also a means of creatively impacting the observer as any other Art does, especially if the point is to transmit knowledge, theory, or experience.
The last major point we can explore in “Lifting The Absolute” is Bronze Age Collapse’s discussion of the Cynic philosophy, or more specifically the legend of Diogenes of Sinope, and sunbathing. The basic details of this legend should be familiar. One day Alexander the Great visited Greece, and upon his arrival he received visits and homage from seemingly all the intellectuals, politicians, scientists, and philosophers; all except Diogenes, who was sunbathing idly amidst the streets of Corinth. Alexander found himself impressed by Diogenes, and offered to grant the sunbathing Cynic any wish. Diogenes responded simply, “stand out of my sun”, as if to say Alexander was blocking the light. Our author recognises this as the legend of a sovereign and unyielding spirit, quite naturally given how indifferent Diogenes seemed in the face of the imperial authority embodied by Alexander. But our author also connects that spirit to the properties of sunlight itself.
We are told that sunlight draws thought out from its depths and refuges, allows us to distinguish night and day and stabilize the mood of the body by instinct, and allow our bodies to synthesise calcium and Vitamin D. These, seemingly, are faculties that the enclosures of modernity often perturb. The sun is the “greatest gift of heaven”, to which human beings may offer themselves in order to become part of a life-process that joins all other life forms together. We draw power and life from the sun: our bodies tend to become strong, healthy, and beautiful while our minds grow intuitive and spontaneous as apprentices of cosmic existence, and at night we rest, reproduce, and regenerate. That’s our author’s prognosis for the physical property of sunlight, but the author also proposes a “secret” meaning relevant to the legend of Diogenes. Diogenes renounces worldly possessions and all hierarchy (the summit of which is, again, embodied by Alexander), and in turn gains everything, including the sun. The sun “belongs” in this sense to Diogenes, from whom only the seasons can always take away but to whom they will always return it, both at any time. Diogenes’ supreme self-sufficiency is the basis of his truth. The Cynic, like many Greek philosophers who came before, searches for a “primal scene”, an eternal preceding substrate as the basis of all harmonious action. For our author, that is the undertaking where everything converges to illuminate the path to the absolute.
Perhaps really, in lieu of the substrate of order that was the fixation of many classical philosophers and the late Hellenistic spiral towards monotheism, we might say the primal scene is a double. First, there is the primordial chaos, by which is meant the eternal rhythm of ceaseless creative destruction. Second, there is “the absolute”, the divine existence, that force and atmosphere that imparts the quality of deathlessness – the traditional quality of the Hellenic gods. The Great Work proposed by Bronze Age Collapse sees us go into the primal scene, to embrace our origin in the chaos at the heart of the cosmos, and then propel towards the absolute through the primal scene that is itself alchemical conatus. How strange that I might find myself thinking about Ernst Schertel as I write this. After all, Schertel locates a chaotic, creative-destructive ground of being in Satan, identifies Hell as pure potentiality, and takes this as the starting point that arcs towards Seraph, representing the created world. In Schertel’s thought, Satan and Seraph are two ends of a pole, ostensibly opposite but actually conceived in and through each other. But in this philosophy the demonic, as the source of all magical power, communion with which is for Schertel the first principle of magic, develops towards the seraphic, towards the creation of a contained world. There is, though, a more “decadent” basis to this. Schertel believed that all art was, at root, amoral and even pornographic, and thus that the pornographic was the root of all cultural values. This in turn emerged from a belief that art was the manifestation of an unconscious energy, or trance. Dance, eroticism, and occultism, were all held to produce art, love, and religion, what he in called “the highest values that humanity can represent”. The point for Schertel was that the goal of spiritual and occult practice was not some “release” of spirit from the body but rather the transfiguration of the body, which he hoped would become the basis of a new religion to supercede the old religions. You can think of Satan as that unconscious, erotic, occult energy, Seraph as the “highest values” and the “new religion”, and both the demonic and the body as the vehicles for an alchemical tranfiguration that is, in the terms of Bronze Age Collapse, the tendency towards the absolute. What I’m getting at is that the pressing of steel and demonic magic and ecstatic trance point to the same alchemical transfiguration of matter, which starts from a demonic basis and, when activated at that level, pushes centrifrugally in that level towards mastery, that is, “the absolute”, towards apotheosis. Thus the path to Olypmus is, in the admittedly idiosyncratic understanding I present, an infernal, demonic path, and we have here arrived again at an understanding of the Left Hand Path.
I might take the opportunity while I still can to note the relevance of the body to the ancient Cynics. Diogenes was not an athletic body by any stretch of the term. Nor was the typical body of the Cynic. But they did prize strength in more than one sense. Strength of spirit and mind was prized as much as physical strength. It could be argued that the Cynic needed that strength to continuously live in rejection of the civilized world around them. But Diogenes did note that, for the Cynic, there were exercises meant for the body and the mind, which depended upon each other because both mind and body depended on each others well-being to practice virtue. Strength as an active warlike quality was prized by the Cynics right down to the symbolic level. They were known to wield staffs or weapons in public when Greek society had deemed them a foolish old custom. Against state-decreed progress, then, the Cynic took up the staff against labour and on behalf not just of their own leisure but their strength and struggle. They held on to an old custom and reactivated its meaning against their present. How best befitting the concept of Gothic Insurrection!
Ultimately, I still cannot get past the sense that what Bronze Age Collapse proposes presents something radically different from the core of Revolutionary Demonology. True, our author may speak of a kind of submission to the process of training, but this is ultimately tangential to the surrender that Gruppo Di Nun repeatedly lauds, and the training that Bronze Age Collapse cannot be seen as a “discipline of anti-mastery” without some form of contortion. This is, in fact, a doctrine of personal/individual mastery, just that it is different from such fascistic doctrines as “Magical Idealism” that separate the individual from matter. One makes oneself a part of the dynamism of matter and the conatus of the corporeal and divine universe, rather than escape from it. One “submits” oneself only to become more powerful and masterful by way of cultivating psychophysical harmony, and the tendency towards the absolute is such that it sets the individual practitioner against God and against the cosmos. There can be no real “surrender” in this. The analogy of literally Olypmic striving would suggest the opposite. Though I do not doubt that it is ancestral to the conception of Gothic Insurrection, in that it reactivates the past to wage war on the present order. That to me is part of the makings of an active nihilism, but with a Pagan spirit, and Satanic character. That, to me, is the key to an ethos other than surrender, as Bronze Age Collapse points the way to an alternative outlook on the cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun – not mere disintegration in itself, not surrender, but recombination through the conatus of will, and of that conatus itself.
Even though it is yet another unplanned interjection between working on my article about Revolutionary Demonology, I just can’t say no to the opportunity to address some common secular conceptions and misconceptions about Satanism by responding to YouTube commentator Big Joel’s short ramble about Satanists and why he seems to dislike them.
Joel, obviously, does not “love the Satanists”. That much is not in question. What, though, are misgivings towards Satanism? Joel recounts a video he previously uploaded where, in a larger discussion about Christianity, he briefly discussed Satanists as defined within the Christian imaginary. This apparently was a cause of offence to certain Satanists, who insisted that Satanism is not about worshipping or loving Satan, but instead is about atheism, rationality, and “free thinking”. Joel thinks that this is actually false, and perhaps something of a facade: he thinks that the “Satanism” of his Satanist critics is actually not Satanism, that it’s just an edgy way of saying you’re a “normal” atheist, and that “real” Satanists are just people who, in some way, love Satan. To him, that most consistently means worshipping Satan. The funny thing is, I can say with confidence that there are Satanists who would completely agree with this assessment.
In its own way Joel’s understanding of what Satanism is is not incorrect. True, it lacks the sense of distinct philosophical subtext by which Satanism is usually defined and presented in contrast to other religions, but in many ways it presents a much simpler way of looking at Satanism, as an internally diverse contemporary religious phenomenon. The only thing is, it does still invite the obvious question of “what does it mean to worship, revere, or honour Satan?”, which must be up to individual Satanists to answer. But, if Satanism is simply any belief system centering around Satan in some way, and that really means any way, then even the very atheists who Joel considers to not be Satanists would indeed be Satanists. Of course, since I connect Satanism to the concept of a distinct Satanic philosophy, I can think of atheists for whom their Satanism is in fact nothing but a provocative facade. But, that being said, the rejection of God as entailing atheism was at least a part of Eliphas Levi’s concept of Satan himself, though as far as I can see Levi himself had no doubts about the existence of either God or Satan.
There’s really not much to what Joel says here except that he then complains about how, in his opinion, Satanists are solely interested in looking for ways to correct people who say that Satanists are people who worship Satan, looking for every opportunity to butt in and assert that Satanists are not Satan-worshippers and instead just love rationality and atheism. It would seem that he is talking strictly about LaVeyan Satanists, or even more specifically just the official Twitter account of the Church of Satan.
His objection, in this light, is a curious one. He asks, perhaps somewhat facetiously, “then why do you name yourselves Satanists?”, followed by the suggestion that they do this simply to get a reaction from non-Satanists. The funny thing about it is that, as much as I am loath to say it these days, this was an argument that Anton LaVey already addressed within The Satanic Bible. LaVey predicated the distinction his own brand of Satanism from standard secular humanism, and attendantly the justification for calling his philosophy Satanism, on the argument that .
“Satanism is based on a very sound philosophy,” say the emancipated. “But why call it Satanism? Why not call it something like ‘Humanism’ or a name that would have the connotation of a witchcraft group, something a little more esoteric – something less blatant.” There is more than one reason for this. Humanism is not a religion. It is simply a way of life with no ceremony or dogma. Satanism has both ceremony and dogma. Dogma, as will be explained, is necessary.
As elaborated further:
Inevitably, the next question asked is: “Granted, you can’t call it humanism because humanism is not a religion; but why even have a religion in the first place if all you do is what comes naturally, anyway? Why not just do it?”
Modern man has come a long way; he has become disenchanted with the nonsensical dogmas of past religions. We are living in an enlightened age. Psychiatry has made great strides in enlightening man about his true personality. We are living in an era of intellectual awareness unlike any the world has ever seen.
This is all very well and good, BUT – there is one flaw in this new state of awareness. It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is man’s inherent need for emotionalizing through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment. Psychiatry, despite all the good it has done, has robbed man of wonder and fantasy which religion, in the past, has provided.
Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalizing, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.
In this context, the argument is essentially a psychological one, albeit one carried from a rather optimistic view of the institution of psychiatry and flat rejection of religion (except, of course, for Anton LaVey’s religion!). LaVey and LaVeyan Satanism treat religion as a psychological structure which, in selfish terms, fulfills the emotional needs or desires of humans, specifically the ones that all connect to the practice of ritual. It’s all taken as “fantasy”, or psychodrama, the specific form of which can unlock certain instincts and satisfy certain needs. The LaVeyan view in this sense is that most religions are psychodramas that satisfy a few specific needs or desires, but require the denial many others, often of a basic variety, and in the process elicit a tendency towards aggressive self-denial, whereas Satanic psychodrama is meant to satisfy the whole complex of the needs of “human nature” in its religious alignment with flesh and its wants. It’s an argument that is in many ways central to LaVeyan Satanism in particular, and I think this argument has sort of fallen out of focus in contemporary discussions of atheistic Satanism. I suppose that’s almost just natural as the Church of Satan, for all its internet presence as a notable Twitter gadfly, gradually slipped out of media relevance as The Satanic Temple eventually eclipsed it.
But as to the other atheistic Satanists, who may not be LaVeyans and in the overall may or may not share the LaVeyan view of religion as psychodrama, one may indeed still say, on a case by case basis, “why even call yourselves Satanists?”. The Satanic Temple is in this respect all the more hollow, lacking a larger philosophy of Satanism and preferring instead to take up aspects of the mythology of the Romantic Satan in service of an opportunistic commitment to egalitarian secular humanism. Yet, as obnoxious as the insistence on correction must seem in view of the particular attitude of the LaVeyans and their successors regarding “real Satanism”, if we’re being fair, it seems a tad natural that contemporary Satanists might bother to correct any sort of record at all. Popular culture, still driven latently by the Christian imaginary, contains many misconceived or simply tropey ideas about Satanism, at least some of which can be traced to some rather old and often fascistic conspiracy theories, which then occasionally, often subtly, still feed back into public consciousness. Thus, in principle, Satanists do have an imperative to push back against popular conceptions of Satanism. For one thing, it is an essential part of our broader struggle against the Christian imaginary, and Christianity as a whole. For another, at least some of these ideas and narratives are, in themselves, weapons against us, and they do often support actual social persecutions against Satanists as carried out typically by Christians.
In this sense, there are pretty much only two problems. The first is the fact that some Satanists are doing it in the wrong way, like the Church of Satan insisting its own distorted narrative and narrow definition of Satanism as the sole truth, or the far more general flat denial of all historical or pre-1960s expressions of Satanism on the grounds of their non-atheism. The second is that the media at large, whenever it does not cover Satanism through stories of criminal sects and neo-Nazi “accelerationist” cults, focuses pretty much all vaguely sympathetic or at least non-hostile coverage on atheistic Satanism: whether that’s the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, or the Global Order of Satan, to the exclusion of many esoteric or theistic tendencies within Satanism.
I will say that in the overall Joel’s video was more underwhelming than offensive, and I find it embarrassing that, even as a joke, he feels the need to insinuate that we might be itching for a fight with him over his ill-informed commentary. But I suppose I could close this with an answer to the question of why I embrace the label of Satanist, and I promise to keep it brief. For one it’s because it is the natural expression of religious egoism, hedonism, and “active nihilism” at least in our context, and for another its solar myth and philosophy of inversion has always been, for as long as it has been known, the key to your own inner freedom. Satan is the being who himself is the primordial spiral of insurrection, a solar myth denoting the “other side”, the inner and outer of life, the darkness, that is nonetheless life’s true basis. While I am Pagan, I am a Satanist because I see the war of all against all in the cosmos, the insurrection that ceaselessly propels life, and thus recognise and in turn honour Satan as its divine-demonic apogee, and to follow his black light. In short, I am a Satanist because I honour the war of all against all, and aspire to fight in it on my own side, just as he did.
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.
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.
While reading Gruppo Di Nun’s Revolutionary Demonology I encountered an interesting discussion of the figure of Dracula in the essay “Gothic Insurrection”, which was written by Claudio Kulesko. Here, Dracula figures as a major archetypical expression of the barbarian in popular culture, and it’s this particular context that I feel inspired to explore.
Why would I focus on this, you might wonder? Isn’t it a little early for Halloween? Fool! For some of us every day is Halloween, at least if you mean what I think you mean, but only one day of the year is Samhain! But seriously, I think that Kulesko’s discussion of Dracula in the context of the barbarian presents a fascinating opportunity to explore thematic underpinnings that have frequently found expression in the Left Hand Path and adjacent subcultures. Vampires have never been absent from the archetypal considerations of the Left Hand Path, indeed there are often frequent explorations of the theme of vampirism within modern Satanism, which is perhaps not too surprising when we consider how often that vampires were frequently linked to Satan himself as antitheses to Christianity. And it’s perhaps this combined with the Paganism of Dracula’s “barbarian heritage” in which Dracula emerges as a glorious icon of the intersection so important to my own polycentric project of Satanic Paganism.
But I suppose first of all: what is a barbarian, besides perhaps a loaded term? We can stay on Kulesko’s analysis for this question. The term “barbarian” derives from the Greek word “barbaros”, which in ancient Greece seemed to denote those who spoke in “incomprehensible” non-Greek languages, and therefore referred to foreigners. The barbarian’s linguistic outsideness from Greek (or indeed “Aryan”) civilization led to their consideration as almost non-human, more animal than human, and certainly not subject to the rights that civilization affords its subjects. By the Middle Ages, the term “barbarian” also came to designate non-Christians at large (“pagans”, “heretics”, Muslims, atheists, etc.), and in theological terms those who opposed God because they somehow lacked the light of natural intellect that would allow for some supposed latent intuition of God. Conceptually, the barbarian is always someone who not only sits on the wrong side of civilization but also threatens to cross through the borders and invade that civilization.
The barbarian’s “non-human” animality is reflected in the civilized imaginary via the nightmare of the Berserker, the ecstatic bear-skin warriors who dedicated themselves to the Norse god Odin. These Berserkers would actively negate the cultural boundary between “the human” and “the animal” by not only dressing in animal skins but also by taking on the traits of the animals they sought to emulate. It was even believed that they actually transformed into wild animals, thus completely transgressing the line between “human” and “animal”. For Kulesko the Berserker’s wildness and separation from the word figure strongly into black metal, such as in the case of Bathory with songs like “Baptised in Fire and Ice” and “Blood and Iron“, lyrically narrating a lost time without any clear boundaries between Man and beast and where humans were immersed in the voices of the land. Kulesko actually quite beautifully describes this admittedly nostalgic expression of the Pagan worldview:
So, without stretching our preamble too much further, how exactly does Dracula figure into all of this? Well, Dracula does share certain characteristics with the barbarian as we have thus far discussed. He along with the archetypical vampire share a sort of becoming-animal with the Berserker. He can turn into a bat or a wolf, and beyond this he could even turn into mist, thus going beyond even animal. The barbarian’s outsideness is also reflected in the way Dracula presents a chaotic and elusive threat in the form of the return of the undead, or of undeath itself, and with it the possibility that humanity could be destroyed by something that seems fundamentally alien to life. Perhaps Dracula inherits a “barbarian” reputation via the cruel reputation of the historical “Dracula”: Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes (“The Impaler”), the Voivode of Wallachia (modern day Romania) who became known for his exceptional brutality. The barbarian outsideness of Dracula is also, in Bram Stoker’s novel, given a conspicuous racial subtext, reflective of the anxieties of 19th century eugenicism. In Chapter 3 we find Jonathan Harker recounting his conversation with Dracula, in which Jonathan asks Dracula about the history of Transylvania and then Dracula regales Jonathan with the stories of his people – apparently the Szekelys, a Hungarian subgroup who lived mostly in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains in Romania.
We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, aye, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the werewolves themselves had come. Here, too, when they came, they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert. Fools, fools! What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?
The description of Dracula’s lineage as a “whirlpool of European races” serves to emphasize a background that is meant to be seen as both exotic and dangerous. Dracula descends from an ethnic melting pot of peoples, whose diverse admixture is from his perspective a source of unparalleled strength. In Victorian England “whirlpool” was a term reserved for impoverished parts of the East End in London, home to a diversity of immigrant populations, which to Victorian audiences seemed inexorably violent and unruly. This subtext is only exasperated when we remember that part of the plot of Dracula is that Dracula wanted to buy property in England in order to infiltrate English society, especially by seducing English women, to create more vampires.
All of that having been said, the point of my article was to disccuss the intersection involving Paganism, and having established the overall theme of the barbarian in Dracula, we can safely move on. In the same chapter, we see Dracula invoking, or at least recalling, the Norse gods Odin and Thor in the name of his apparent ancestors, the Vikings and the Huns. Kulesko notes this as a conscious choice on Stoker’s part, meant to convey a link between Dracula on the one hand and the polytheistic “barbarians” who were subjugated by Christians on the other hand. Dracula’s conceit is that he and his people derived their strength, their ability to conquer, from the lineage of Attila the Hun as well as the divine inspiration of Norse gods, and to this effect he later credits this influence to the successful repulsion of invasions by various enemies. It’s here that we can get into a theme that interests me.
The idea of evil pagan barbarians worshipping warlike gods and marching against Christian civilization has its own long chain of historical context. For one thing, the pre-Christian Vikings acquired that sort of reputation among Christian Anglo-Saxons, whose accounts described them partaking in ecstatic war dances dedicated to their gods during their campaigns. Before Scandinavian kings started converting to Christianity, the Vikings could be contrasted from other parts of early medieval Europe, and so marauding Vikings were feared as great heathen armies at war with Christendom. The Odin and Thor invoked by Dracula could be seen as “warlike” in their own way, at least in that both of them were warrior deities, though Odin was also more like the magician who directed the course of battle than the frontline fighter that Thor was. But there were also many other gods to some extent connected to war and battle, such as Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Ullr, or Hodr, and in the end, when Ragnarok comes, all the gods are warriors fighting in the “ultimate” war. But before Christianity there was the Roman Empire, whose imperialist narratives about barbarians are ultimately an urgrund for the later Christian imagination, and ultimately further the imaginary of the construction of whiteness. Consider the Roman campaigns against the Germanic tribes and Britain. Rome, Germania, and Britain, were all polytheistic, but they worshipped different gods (which the Romans often interpreted as actually being their gods) in their own cultural contexts, which have since become (perhaps utterly) lost to time. The Romans frequently depicted their Celtic and Germanic adversaries as practicing gruesome rites such as human sacrifice and contrasted them against the civilization of Roman religion, even as they also cast the gods of their enemies as their own Roman gods.
In the case of Vlad III, we should note that he was probably not a polytheist, and nor for that matter was the Wallachia he ruled over. Wallachia was officially founded in the 14th century long after what we now call Romania had already accepted Christianity as its official religion, and Wallachia was founded as a Christian principality. Still, it could be said in Eastern Europe there were late converts. The Bulgarian Empire, for instance, was officially polytheistic until the year 864, under Tsar Simeon I and his successful campaign to Christianize the empire. Pre-Christian Bulgarians worshipped Tengri alongside the various gods of Slavic polytheism, and in the eyes of Christians they were a warlike society that, initially, did not take well to Christianity. The Principality of Hungary essentially remained polytheistic, or at least continued to be ruled by pagan monarchs, until the year 1000 when Stephen I became King of Hungary after defeating the pagan duke Koppany. The Magyars likely remained pagan for centuries until the 11th century, what few sources remain of their beliefs suggest a prevailing animistic worship of the natural world. Lithuania, known as “the last pagan country in Europe” did not officially adopt Christianity until 1387, prior to which Lithuania continued to practice pre-Christian polytheism and had to fight the Christian crusades against it while expanding as a sovereign power in their own right. But, of course, even under the veneer of official Christianization, in the Slavic countrysides pre-Christian polytheism persisted among the general population, to the point that it took centuries for Christianity to actually integrate. The Kyivan Rus (which consisted of what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia), for instance, officially became a Christian state in the year 988, after Volodymyr I Sviatoslavych converted to Christianity and renounced polytheism, but most of the population still did not consider themselves Christian for centuries, and in the northern settlements (now corresponding to western Russia) many people continued to practice polytheism and occasionally revolted against Christian rule. Similarly, in Poland, polytheism persisted by the 11th century and there was popular opposition culminating in revolt against Christian rule, and the Catholic Church struggled to eventually suppress it.
Relevant also to the context of “barbarian” outsideness would be the nomadic Mongols that eventually came to be dubbed the “Golden Horde”. As they spread across Asia and towards Europe, the Mongols were feared by Christendom for the strength of their armies and the devastation they wrought, and with it the threat they posed to Christian Europe following the invasions of Hungary and the Rus, which by this point happened to be Christian states. Until the institution of Islam as the official state religion in the 14th century, the Mongols maintained the practice of their own autochthonous animistic religion, and although the Mongol empire probably had no particular anti-Christian animus, their being non-Christian while attacking Christian kingdoms led to the church presenting them as basically agents of Satan. Perhaps Christian leaders feared that a successful Mongol conquest of Europe would lead to the dethronement of Christianity, though within Mongol territory Christianity was actually tolerated alongside many other religions.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the context of his ancestral conceits emerges as a reflection of Pagan outsideness within the Christian imaginary. The “whirpool” of Dracula’s origins curiously reflects a cornucopia of antagonisms to Christianity. He claims descent from Attila the Hun, the leader of the Hunnic Empire, which was likely a non-Christian territory worshipping gods like Tengri or “Mars” (probably the Roman identification of a Hunnic god of war) and which led a campaign against Christian Rome, as well as the Norse Vikings, who up until between the 9th-11th centuries would typically have been polytheists. Dracula also claims that the Magyars, whose ancestors he asserted gave rise to the werewolves and the Beserkers (a claim, by the way, that Stoker probably sourced from Max Muller’s work), recognized the Szekelys as their kindred after conquering the Carpathian Basin under Árpád (who was a pagan), and trusted them with their protection from Turkish forces. Transylvania and Wallachia in the time of Vlad III would definitely not have been pagan, but it’s interesting that this context in Dracula swirls here, in the remnants of pagan resistance alongisde another sense of barbarian outsideness. Dracula, as contrasted with the seemingly unproblematic chain of English Christianity (we should at this point keep in mind that England had its own complicated history of Christianization), is presented as emblematic of the legacy of anti-Christian barbarism, positioned as foreign to Christian civilization.
At long last we can focus on the legacy of the warlike gods and spirits, and it is something I rather enjoy reiterating when I get the chance here. I could take any chance, for instance, to repeat the subject of the Mairiia, that purported band of polytheistic ancient Iranian warriors who celebrated orgiastic feasts, had promiscuous sex with women who were termed “jahika” (traditionally understood as promiscuous sorceresses), and worshipped “warlike” deities such as Indra, Rudra, Mithra, Vayu, Anahita, and Θraētaona (or Fereydun), and whose ecstatic cult we are told was proscribed by Zoroaster and banished from Iran as an enemy of the emerging Zoroastrian religion. These Mairiia, in this sense, embody barbarian outsideness in that they were considered enemies of the community within the Avestan context. They may or may not have been echoes of older Indo-European clans of warriors who disguised themselves as wolves, held orgiasitc sacrifices and feasts, and devoted themselves gods that represented “dark forces of life”, or Indo-European bands of warriors who similarly devoted themselves to esoteric worship of gods with strong connections to the realm of the dead. This is what scholars refer to as Koryos, meaning “war band”, or alternatively as Mannerbund, meaning “alliance of men”. The barbarian is well-reflected in them, not just in their resonances with the Berserkers but also in their nomadic outsideness, living outside the boundaries of their society with nothing but their weapons, and going on raids thus always threatening to cross the borders of the community; and also being employed by powers to do the raiding for them, perhaps so that they would not be raided themselves.
The rites and gods of these war bands tell us something else. In Greece, adolescent war bands typically dedicated themselves to Apollo, who was often called Lykeios and regarded as the master of wolves that symbolised their fighting style. The mythical battle between Melanthus and Xanthos, the former associated with Dionysus Melanaigis, has also been interpreted as a rite of passage for the ephebes, who wore dark goat skins just as Dionysus did. The Norse Ulfhednar and the Berserkers, of course, were devoted to Odin, the patron of their divine inspiration and madness. The wolf association spreads far and wide; the Langobards of northern Italy who worshipped Godan/Odin and the Vanir were intially called Winnili, meaning “wolves”. In Vedic India, adolescent warriors would be initiated into a band of warriors during a winter solstice ritual where they would go into a trance and then “die” and be reborn as war dogs. The outlaw warriors and their priests had the gods Rudra and Indra as their divine patrons, both linked to the Maruts, the latter believed to be a mythological representation of the Mannerbund. At Krasnosamarskoe, located in the Russian steppes, some people practiced midwinter rituals where they inverted social customs, particularly the taboo against eating dog meat, in order to become like dogs or wolves themselves, thus transforming themselves as a rite of passage. Darkness seems to be a theme for these sorts of ancient warrior bands, in that there may be keen preference for the nocturnal and the mobilization of chthonic forces. The Roman author Tacitus recorded something like this in the Germanic Harii, who he dubbed “savages”, wearing dark dye, brandishing dark shields, and preferring to conduct battle at night, while the Athenian ephebes wore dark black cloaks (or rather chlamys) and both hunted and fought at night. In India, warriors who worshipped the gods Rudra and Indra wore black clothes.
For Amir Ahmadi, writing in The Daēva Cult in the Gāthās, this would all resonate not just with the Mairiia but with the cult of the Daevas at large, with its preference for nocturnal sacrifices and its self-emphasis on a warlike divine centre. The Daeva cult was very chthonic in emphasis, with the daevas being worshipped at night and often underground, while the Mairiia also performed nocturnal sacrfices to their gods. Many of the ancient Koryos or Mannerbunds have their own chthonic link, often more implicit and symbolic by their wearing black or just the association with the wolf, which itself is often symbolically linked with death across culture, but also sometimes more forthrightly in the associations with gods such as Odin or Rudra. Ahmadi tells us that one of the operative points is that the warrior of the Koryos or Mannerbund took up a mystery in which they separated themselves from the herd, both in life and in death, in order to win not only fame in this life but also a place of distinction and honour in the afterlife. One then plunges into the underworld, and across the world sword in hand, to carve one’s own place in the beyond, one that cannot be taken away. But the consistent theme of wolves and bestial transformation also returns us to the subject of Dracula and the vampire.
The vampire, the barbarian, the warlike Mannerbunds that turn into wolves, and to a certain extent the witch (part of the fabled Witches’ Sabbath involves a carnival of shapeshifting into animals), all these share a very similar Deleuzian sense of becoming-animal, and in this sense we can understand that as a unique mode of becoming: freedom from the civilizing perception of the civilized human organism, a subject that is no longer stable but constantly anomalous, inaccessible to definition, and in a certain way irrepressible because of it. The sort of localised chaos, the double negation that elevates individual expression, a kind of abject liminality as subject to desire, that is the tendency of passing through dimensions at will instead of drawing permanent boundaries – thus Kulesko notes of the barbarian. Pagan religious consciousness is resplendent with this latent sense of barbarian liminality and outsideness, even in view of the many boundary-drawing civilization-states of pre-Christian antiquity. The spirits of the netherworld could always cross into our world, and at certain points the borders between worlds could be shattered completely: the divine was seen to be everywhere, always intermingled with the world, and could cross the boundaries of our world anywhere. Kulesko notes the reflection of this consciousness in Quorthon’s modern reassertion of Paganism, in his lamentation for the lost time when “Man and beast was one and the gods of the sky walked the face of the earth”. Per Kadmus Herschel we can be reminded of the way that polytheistic myth echoes the notion of a potentially endlessly transforming form or body. And, of course, we may recall Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s satanic observation of remnant paganism as the latest negativity beneath the Christian order, and its resonances with barbarian outsideness and perhaps the pre/intra/preter/anti-cosmic darkness that Gruppo Di Nun speaks to in their larger body of work.
I would invite the consideration of another theme as well: how the death of Dracula figures into the magical art of the Left Hand Path.
Consider Kulesko’s telling of the novel’s end, from the lens of a Marxist critique of neoreaction and its interpretation of catastrophic time (the bold/italic emphasis is my own):
When I read that passage, the first thing I immediately thought of was Hellsing, both the manga and the Hellsing Ultimate series. Why? Because it felt a lot like how Alucard “died” in the end.
For one thing, Hellsing’s Alucard is supposed to be none other than Dracula himself. The name Alucard is obviously the name Dracula in reverse, and prior to Hellsing it was used as the name of the son of Dracula, the first version of which was Count Alucard in the 1943 movie Son of Dracula. Here, though, Alucard is not the son of Dracula, but rather is Dracula himself. Based on the narrative of Bram Stoker’s novel, he was Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia, who in turn came to be known as Count Dracula. Dracula was defeated by Abraham van Hellsing, and then for some reason Abraham decided to, instead of killing him, bind him with sorcery and turn him into his servant, and from then on he became the servant of the Hellsing Organisation deployed in its battles against various occult adversaries.
Now, as regards Alucard’s “death”. The Millennium Organisation, a Nazi paramilitary group, created artificial vampires from the blood of an old vampire (referred to simply as “She”) and then sent a whole army of them, dubbed “the Last Battalion”, to invade London and destroy the Hellsing Organisation. These artificially-produced Nazi vampires do battle with the forces of Hellsing and the Vatican, and with Alucard himself. As Alucard slaughters all of his enemies, including his comrade-turned-traitor Walter Dornez, he absorbs the blood of all those who were slain in London, and with it their souls, gaining their knowledge and memories – in a sense their very lives – within himself in turn. That ability is what allows him to learn about the continued existence of Millennium after their presumed destruction during World War 2. Then, amidst Alucard’s protracted blood feast, Schrodinger, the Millennium Oberscharführer, cuts off his own head with a knife, and then falls into the ocean of blood in order to also be absorbed by Alucard. This results in Alucard vanishing into thin air, disappearing and “absorbing into himself” as Schrodinger’s power being absorbed along with millions of souls causes Alucard to no longer perceive himself. The flipside of this, however, is that while Alucard seemingly accepts his defeat and “dies”, he is also not really dead. For 30 years he persisted in an inert corpse-like state, in which he had to kill the millions of souls he had already absorbed to control Schrodinger’s power, and upon succeeding, he could then seemingly reincarnate into the whole body of existence. Somehow he became both everywhere and nowhere.
In Hellsing’s Alucard, Dracula’s “death” manages to take on a new and elevated significance. Dracula per Kulesko is a being of pure gothic time: that is to say, an “inorganic” or “eternal and motionless time, suspended below the veil of the present, ready to seize those human beings naive enough to go snooping around in the dark recesses where evil hides”. This makes him both Vlad III and not Vlad III, and both Dracula and not Dracula, and his thirst for blood is a desire for atmospheric dissolution that emerges from exactly his origin in the otherworld of gothic time. Alucard naturally shares this sense of gothic time, and the obscure essence of the vampire, with it double negation of individual unity, is magnified by his ability to contain countless souls in himself, as well as the way this eventually causes him to “disappear” into everything by absorbing Schrodinger. Alucard has simultaneously returned to his origin in gothic time and weaved his power into the whole world. He is and is not Alucard, because he is and is not everything, and this allows him to appear and disappear like a shadow at any time and any place. Moreover, perhaps even Alucuard’s thirst for battle can be interpreted on these terms in that it draws him to the conclusion of awesome cosmic dissolution and reincarnation. For this reason, Alucard could never be satisfied by any battle that would not draw him towards this conclusion: only the Battle of London, an apocalyptic confrontation with Millennium, could bring about this end, and that’s why, to the shock of everyone, he welcomes the Major’s declaration of war with such maniacal joy.
It is not sufficient for the Left Hand Path individual to exist as an eternal temple, gnawing away at everything in the name of its absolutism and sovereignty. No, there must be a different point to the cultivation of will, to divine identification. The Left Hand Path adept would rather strive to be reborn in the whole body of the endlessly becoming universe through their will. A will capable of imprinting itself and being absorbed into the world, as if becoming part of an endless stream of blood, or entering into the whole of things from the soul’s origin. Thus, we go to the bottom of the earth. Some aspect of this feels like I’m talking about Thelema, except there’s no surrender involved. It’s more like the blood thirst, or more appropriately as though you’re plunging into the world, and thus still penetrating it as the Left Hand Path practitioner might. In an endless chain of becoming, we will dictate the horizons of our own becoming, and gain the power to thrust open the doors of divine reality that we may enter the world itself, and join the company of the gods.
Actually, that whole analogy is very suitably barbarian. If you’ll forgive the flaws in this initial comparison, remember that the barbarian is recognised as one who not only dwells outside the borders of civilization but also seeks to cross into them, invade them even. Barbarian outsideness invites the consideration of our own relative position. If there is a realm outside us perhaps we are just as surely outside of it. While Gruppo Di Nun speak of an outer that threatens to penetrate our own world at every turn, it could also be said that we stand outside another world or plane: one that stands beyond our perception, and (or) one that is as well inner to us. In a way, I suppose we can lend on a distinct interpretation of what Kulesko and Rhettt have called “stepping out of our present condition into an alien state of absolute Outsideness and community with the Unknown”. Humans, indeed all living things, are born into a world that they wake into without understanding it, as they then reach out to each other. The esoteric barbarian of the Left Hand Path will descend and penetrate the world, going down to open the doors that others will not, and into the unknown, and by doing so surpass the condition of other humans: perhaps, even, of humanity. The idea of storming heaven to steal the fire carries with it a similar meaning. Stirner’s notion of heaven-storming is also somewhat relevant, in that for Stirner the real storming of heaven consists in the total destruction of the heavenly boundary between the Unique and the world: that, after all, is the point of transgression, to destroy the boundaries that alienate our consciousness.
The theme of barbarian outsideness also inevitably connects us to the demonic, in the sense of demonic outsideness. The demonic, for Kulesko at least, is connected not only to un-being and becoming but also outsideness, in that demons represent a dimension that is both external to the order of humans and capable of breaking into it: that, of course, is the spectre of demonic possession. We may find that Bernard Faure’s analysis of the demonic in Japanese Buddhism, per Rage and Ravage, more or less aligns with this idea, with the addition that it represents a reality that not only subverts and overflows structure but also acts as the negative source of movement and life itself. Kulesko would probably nod to that to some extent, in that he locates a demonical presence in even the most mundane actions. In some contexts, such as in Egyptian magic, demons exists at the margins between this world and the otherworld, protecting the afterlife from intruders, and could be invoked, thus entailing the demonic as representative of a liminal space, or an interstice between life and death. And, of course, none other than The Devil himself brings together the demonic and barbarian outsideness. In the medieval imagination, The Devil, or Satan, was frequently positioned in the wilderness, outside the borders of the Christian community, but also constantly threatening to infiltrate this community. That sense is part of the root of the fears and superstitions around witchcraft, and with it the medieval mass panic that was the witch hunts. This idea also has its resonances with the Biblical conception of the wilderness, or rather particularly the desert, as the home of demonkind, not to mention Satan’s appearance in the wilderness as the attempted tempter of Jesus, and with the wild men or woodwoses that also preoccupied the medieval imagination and may themselves have also been identified as demons. In medieval Scandinavian folklore the Devil is allied to nature spirits and nymphs that were perhaps previously honoured or venerated before the dominance of Christianity, and in this setting the wilderness is pictured as an inverted world, as gateway to demonic powers. Outlaws would be believed to step in and out of this inverted world, making pacts with the Devil as their patron god and having sex with nymphs in order to gain magical knowledge and powers. Medieval devil-worshipping Swedish outlaws, such as Tideman Hemmingsson, Hakan Jonsson, or Mickel Kalkstrom, can here be pictured as stepping out into a realm of outsideness, into the unknown community, precisely so as to elevate themselves.
Dracula, of course, ultimately connects back to the realm of the Devil in some way, even at the level of his namesake. The name comes from the fact that Vlad III was called Dracul, which means “dragon”. It was originally inherited from his father, Vlad II, who gained this moniker from his service in the Order of the Dragon. But the word “dracul” in modern Romanian also came to mean “devil”. Perhaps this is shaped by the reputation of Vlad III, or equally by the long-standing link in Christian symbolism between the Devil and dragons, solidified in the Book of Revelation by the reference to Satan as “the great dragon” who “deceives the whole world”. In some versions of the Dracula story, Vlad III became Dracula by renouncing God and making a pact with the Devil for eternal life. A short story by Bram Stoker, titled Dracula’s Guest, seemingly links Dracula to Walpurgis Night, and to ideas about how it marks the arrival of the Devil in the world, along with the attendant uprising of the dead. It is even sometimes suggested that Dracula himself is a like a modern symbol of the Devil, from the Christian standpoint of course, emphasizing the idea of the Devil as the intractable adversary of humanity, struggling bitterly and insidiously against humans, to corrupt or destroy us.
In the end there’s much to be said for the crossing of boundaries as regarding the Left Hand Path. I remember a few years ago encountering certain ideas about, in Roger Caillois’s terms, the “left side of the sacred” in relevance to Paganism. This aspect of “the Sacred” (a term that I now accept as fairly insufficient as a descriptor as a descriptor of divine reality) concerns itself with the transgression of the “normal” boundaries that are attached to life, can be defined by a relationship with death and the powers of the underworld, and emphasizes the power of the sacred to disrupt and penetrate the day-to-day order that we live in. I remember Finnchuill relating this to certain practices of the pre-Christian world, such as Dionysian rites and the worship of chthonic gods such as Hecate in Greece, dealings with the dwellers of the sidhe mounds in Ireland, the invocation of chthonic deities by Gaulish sorcerers, and the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent to the underworld. He also used Bataille’s image of the Akephalos, the headless demon, to convey “the left sacred” in terms of the death of the monarch, the destruction of hierarchy, and the resulting disruption of the social order (Bataille’s Acephale was likely intended to symbolize the radical rejection of fascist spirituality in favour of anti-authoritarian mythology and ritual). For Paganism, this means the core matter is the trangression and dissolution of the boundaries between humans and “the Sacred”, which would come a resulting fixation on chthonicism, as contrasted with the “right sacred” which sought to preserve boundaries between Man and “the Sacred”, to prevent “the Sacred” from constantly pouring into the world. Disinhibition is central to this outlook: this meant flagrant defiance of the prevailing social customs as a means to access divine consciousness or community in ways that could be acheived within the boundaries of the civic order.
Dracula, that dragon containing within himself the wild negativity of demonic and pagan outsideness, the vampire lord who invokes the warlike gods and the Devil and can turn himself wolves, bats, and mist, the barbarian who thirsts for blood and so invades Christendom, is an emblem of the gothic time that shines upon and in the Left Hand Path. Here lies an interesting nexus of intersection that can be cultivated between Satanism and Paganism, and a darkly radiant ethos for the Left Hand Path. Thirsting, devouring, battling one’s way into the world, living forever in the black atmosphere of everything, becoming without end.
The hits just keep on coming for the start of 2023. First Andrew Tate gets arrested because he decided to tip himself off to Romanian authorities, then Benedict XVI dies, and now The Satanic Temple has once again lost their primary case against the Queer Satanic collective.
Yesterday, the United States District Court for the State of Washington in Seattle granted a motion to dismiss the claims made by The Satanic Temple, and its parent LLC the United Federation of Churches, against four queer Satanist activists collectively referred to as Queer Satanic. This is apparently the second time in the entire history of The Satanic Temple’s three year legal campaign against Queer Satanic where TST has had their case dismissed in court, which certainly does not bode well for TST’s attempts to silence their critics or their larger litigation record. In 2020, the United Federation of Churches and the leadership of The Satanic Temple accused the Queer Satanic activists of taking over their social media for the purpose of defamation as well as absurd charges of cyberpiracy, computer hacking, unfair competition, and tortious interference with business expetancy, and served them papers for a lawsuit. The case was originally dismissed in court in 2021, but TST re-filed it in order to finanically drain the defendants, no doubt hoping to demoralize them into submission. I would expect that these efforts have failed, at least for now. It remains to be seen what The Satanic Temple will do next.
The documented court ruling outlines that the plaintiff’s case was lacking in numerous regards. The US District Court seems to more or less accept the defendant’s argument that the case lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, which would necessarily mean the case being dismissed, as well as noting the absence of facts establishing an amount in controversy that would be required for the case. In simple terms, TST’s case was dismissed because it appeared to consist of nothing.
This ruling constitutes a major defeat for The Satanic Temple in that they had hoped to suppress activist dissent against the organisation. Indeed, it would add another failure to their long list of failures, which I will present below for reference:
I can already see, however, that this case is not getting much coverage. There has been no media coverage of this court ruling and its outcome for TST. The most recent media coverage of The Satanic Temple that I can see is an article from The Guardian, written by Adam Gabbatt, which largely lionizes The Satanic Temple and its official leader Douglas Misicko (or rather “Lucien Greaves” as he prefers to be called) as fighters against the religious right – no mention is given, of course, to Douglas’ public defense of Church Militant. The Satanic Temple itself appears to have no comment on the latest court ruling, and the same appears to go for their leadership and membership. It would seem that TST’s supporters can do nothing but sit in silence at this failure. Or perhaps they will regard it as a minor incident, irrelevant to the broader mission and priorities of the Temple. It would be a weak position, though, in view of how the “larger priorities” have been shaping up for them. The media is no doubt uninterested in this case, perhaps because it does not matter to them or perhaps because it interferes with the progressive reputation they mean to construct around The Satanic Temple as a pre-eminent countercultural adversary to American conservatism. Perhaps the Temple itself will continue to try and extend their SLAPP suit after dismissal, just as they had before, or perhaps they will find themselves facing the upper limit of their legal options before long.
But regardless, this remains an important victory against The Satanic Temple for queer, anti-fascist activists that have been fighting against the SLAPP suit. The Satanic Temple cannot maintain its litigious campaing forever, and the financial drain has clearly not destroyed the cause, as Queer Satanic continues to raise the funds necessary to continue fighting TST’s campaign against them. Freedom of speech has been upheld. TST’s case remains decrepit and stands in ruins while their hypocrisy lay bare, though perhaps a sympathetic media might see to it that this last part remain obfuscated.
The struggle against oppression can never truly be defeated, and it is without end. The minions of the Demiurge who impersonate the legacy of Satanism will not win, and will either be scattered to the wind or collapse on their own. The black flame will continue to burn in spite of The Satanic Temple, while the fighters of the black flame forever persevere.
Pope Benedict XVI died on New Year’s Eve 2022. May he rest in piss. He’s remembered for a litany of foul deeds in his life, and rightfully so. He was a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, and the years that followed he beatified Pope Pius XII, a man who knew about the Holocaust but remained silent and in fact collaborated with the Nazis on “anti-communist” grounds. He also excommunicated a 9-year old child for having an abortion after being raped by her stepfather, who he did not excommunicate for anything, and is in general notorious for his role in protecting priests who committed child sexual abuse. He also probably helped HIV/AIDS spread in the global south by actively discouraging condom use. But there’s one other horrible legacy that Benedict left in the world, and in fact it’s the continued modern legacy of the Catholic Church at large: the transphobic fascist concept of “gender ideology”.
Every time someone wants to intellectually justify their hatred of trans people, along with queer and non-binary people, and from there justify many policies that are meant to oppress them, they refer to this abstract concept called “gender ideology”. The term “Gender ideology” doesn’t have any real meaning in itself, in that it doesn’t seem to correspond to any clearly defined ideology, or really anything except for the premise that trans people exist and that the experience of their gender identity is real. “Gender ideology” is a rhetorical device favoured by a variety of reactionary ideologues ranging from Christian conservatives to aging Marxist-Leninists, but is often especially deployed by so-called “gender critical feminists”, or Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), as part of an apparent ideological opposition to the concept of gender, which is obviously a front from which to attack and marginalize trans and queer people. As Judith Butler notes in a 2021 interview with The Guardian (which we should keep in mind was later censored), the “anti-gender ideology movement” seeks not to oppose any specific account or idea of gender but rather to remove the concept of gender from discourse and banish it from academic study, in order to privilege the concept of biological sex, sometimes with a religious basis, in order to exclude non-traditional gender identities from the social order. The very phrase “gender ideology” seems like a relative novelty, but it has been around for years already. In fact, it seems that the core concept was invented by the Catholic Church.
It’s not clear who individually coined the phrase “gender ideology”, but there are three likely candidates: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II), and an American Catholic anti-abortion activist named Dale O’Leary. Per Juan Marco Vaggione’s account of the Catholic discourse on “gender ideology”, it would seem that most studies trace the spread of the concept of “gender ideology” to Dale O’Leary. Yet, Benedict XVI and John Paul II were an instrumental part of the whole construction of the concept and discourse of “gender ideology”, which was itself created by the Catholic Church as a response to both contemporary feminist theory and an emerging new political framework around gender, human rights, and the sexual sphere.
In the 1990s, the United Nations held conferences in Cairo, Egypt and Beijing, China to discuss and establish the recognition of reproductive rights and sexual rights as part of the overall concept of human rights. The Catholic Church opposed this development, on the grounds that it deemed sexual and reproductive rights to be antithetical to the doctrine of the Holy See. John Paul II referred to the UN recognition of sexual and reproductive rights as a “tragic denial” of human rights and regarded it as an affirmation of the “culture of death” – this seemed to be an umbrella term for all manner of things that the Church opposed, including abortion, euthanasia, artificial reproduction, and contraception. The Vatican opposed the UN by contrasting sexual and reproductive rights with a concept of “natural law”, presumably deriving from God, as the basis of “objective moral law”, which in turn they regarded as the necessary basis of civil law.
Beginning in 1994, Pope John Paul II launched a concerted campaign to promote the conservative/traditionalist agenda of Church ideology against progressive frameworks of human rights. This was done through the creation of two Pontifical Academies (the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences in 1994 and then the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1998), the publication of an encyclical titled Evangelium Vitae in 1995, and the establishment of a triennial Catholic conference called the World Meeting of Families in 1994. All of this was aimed at presenting sexual and reproductive rights as an attack on the traditional family, whose defense the Church saw as one of its main roles, as well as crafting a Catholic traditionalist narrative to be inserted in contradiction to the perceived new liberal cultural mainstream. He even seemed to include in his overall argument a proposal for “a new feminism”, which would oppose “gender ideology” and ultimately conform to Catholic essentialism.
The concept of “gender ideology” as an amorphous threat to society seems to have emerged within this background, and eventually replaced the idea of “the culture of death” in Vatican rhetoric. In this setting, Benedict XVI played an essential role in the construction of the discourse of “gender ideology”. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he apparently encountered feminist literature in his native Germany and then made it his business to oppose whatever ideas he saw in them. For Ratzinger, the so-called “ideology of gender” meant making “every role interchangeable between man and woman”, the idea that sex is no longer “a determined characteristic”, the idea that everything is a culturally and historically conditioned role rather than “a natural specificity inscribed in the depths of being”, and the idea that technology can allow both women and men to procreate at will without sex. There’s obviously a lot to unpack, and this all but a summary of Ratzinger ‘s larger rambling in The Ratzinger Report, which he released in 1985, but the general throughline of it all is that he viewed radical feminism and trans rights as an attack on the natural order of being dictated by God, and the basic arguments form a similar family of reactionary objections to the movement for trans rights. In fact, the way that Ratzinger paired feminism and trans rights with certain spectral notions of hyper-individualism and transhumanism recall the way that traditionalists like Aleksandr Dugin also talk about modern liberalism in general, and thus we see a pattern familiar to much of the far-right and modern fascism.
As Pope Benedict XVI, he continued to echo this form of traditionalism, repeatedly denouncing “gender ideology” as “rebellion against our God-given nature”. In 2000, Benedict XVI asserted that the United Nations was trying to destroy the family and world nations by “imposing” reproductive rights and other social changes. Such an idea bears obvious resonances to right-wing anti-UN conspiracy theories about “one world government” and later reactionary commentary concerning “cultural imperialism”. In 2003, the Vatican published the Lexicon of the Pontifical Council for the Family in order to oppose “misleading use of certain terms in order to create new rights that were contrary to universal principles” on the grounds that they “immediately turn crimes into rights”. In 2004, the Vatican released a letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning “the collaboration of men and women in the church and in the world”, in which the Church under Benedict XVI explicitly attacked a certain “theory” of gender for its “obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes” and for “inspiring” ideologies that “call into question the family”, “make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent”, and “strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture”, while affirming the idea of an objective gender binary as human nature, as reflective not only of the limit of biology but also the idea of difference as the basis of an ordered universe as created by God. Furthermore, Benedict XVI often espoused “anti-gender” traditionalism through the metaphor of ecology. In 2010, Benedict XVI asserted the existence of human nature as consisting of a binary between man and woman, likened this constructed state of human nature to endangered rainforests, and insisted that proponents of “gender ideology” threatened to destroy human nature, just as clear-cutters were destroying the rainforests, by advocating for reproductive rights and the concept of gender identity. In all, Benedict XVI represented the evolution of the Catholic Church’s campaign against sexual and reproductive rights and “gender ideology” as systematic defense of Catholic traditionalism and conservatism based around this overall theme, which of course has the effect of ideologically anchoring the Catholic Church to many forms of reactionary bigotry and cultural authoritarianism as reflective of the order of partiarchy.
Benedict XVI’s reactionary pronouncements about “gender ideology” and its supposedly destructive nature are probably no surprise to many people who are already aware of his apparent role as a strictly conservative Pope, notwithstanding the fact that his ideas about gender were also established by his predecessor John Paul II. But Pope Francis, despite his progressive-reformist reputation, not only did not oppose the traditionalist rhetoric predecessors but instead he continued the conservative Catholic discourse on “gender ideology”, albeit with his own superficially “anti-capitalist” twist.
In general, Pope Francis continued to espouse that “gender ideology” (or rather “gender theory” as he preferred to call it) as a threat to “human rights”. One difference in his rhetoric is that, unlike previous Popes, Francis positioned “gender ideology” as a form of intellectual colonialism. He in fact explicitly referred to it as “ideological colonization”, and accused people of demanding conformity to the teaching of “gender theory” as a condition of receiving grants for the education of the poor. This of course rings familiar to the right-wing conspiracist idea of the “long march through the institutions” as the triumph of so-called “Cultural Marxism”, pioneered by such ideologues as William Lind and Pat Buchanan. Another rhetorical difference is that, also unlike previous Popes, Francis connected “gender theory” to neoliberal capitalism by asserting that it is the product of the so-called “individualism” and “technocratic materialism” of capitalism. Francis also explicitly compared “gender theory” to nuclear war, Nazism, and the reign of King Herod, describing it as one of the so-called “Herods that destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation”. Ironically, he apparently said it right after embracing a trans Catholic man who wanted to know if he was welcome in “the house of God”. In 2016 Pope Francis remarked with horror at what he believed was the idea of children being taught that they can choose their own sex, claiming that this was the work of influential nations and a well-funded “ideological colonization”. In 2019, the Congregation for Catholic Education published documents that establish a theoretical separation between “gender theory” and “gender ideology”, the latter concept being reasserted as referring to “unnatural tendencies” that lead to “educational programs and legislative enactments” that supposedly promoted ideas about identity and the body that “make a radical break with the actual biological difference between male and female”. The CCE’s “Guidance on Gender Issues” also explicitly positions the gender binary as human nature, based on the narrative in Genesis 1:27 that God created humanity in the image of man and woman, which is explicitly framed as “moral law, inscribed in our nature”. In a 2020 book titled San Giovanni Paulo Magno, Francis described “gender theory” as a place where “evil” is at work today, describing it as “erasing all distinctions between men and women, male and female” and “an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women”.
It is clear that, even in view of the rhetorical differences from previous Popes, Francis’ actual views on gender are not substantially different from previous Popes. He is still a conservative traditionalist on this question, still continuing the tradition of Catholic ideology in asserting a human nature defined by an essentialized gender binary versus “gender ideology” or “gender theory” which aims to destroy it. His arguments about the nature of “gender theory” come from the same place as Benedict XVI and John Paul II in that they emerge from the traditionalist concern that the nuclear heterosexual family will no longer be a political absolute ostensibly secured by divine will, and this sense Francis has done nothing but continue and if anything expand the project of these two Popes. In fact, I am of the persuasion that perhaps this worldview, and particularly Francis’ emphasis on “gender ideology” as colonialism may resonate with reactionary “anti-imperialist” ideas about how “progressive” values concerning individual autonomy are inherently “imperialist”, supposedly a dogmatic imposition by “Western” powers upon the global south, and it may have some bearing on Francis’ lack of solidarity with Ukraine. Note that within the last year, Vladimir Putin in Russia used the idea of “the West” somehow imposing progressive values through imperialism as a justification for invading Ukraine.
But more importantly, Francis has clearly referenced Benedict XVI in his views. Allow me to present a quotation from his dialogue with the Bishops of Poland, which was held in Krakow on July 27th 2016, in which he presents “gender theory” as connected to “colonization”. Here, he emphatically restates Benedict XVI’s ideas about “gender ideology” and references him accordingly:
In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.
It’s worth noting that, in this same speech, Francis even continues the older Catholic use of the term “gender ideology”, saying of his so-called “ideological colonization”: “I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender'”.
Much of these ideas are, of course, a major part of the modern international right-wing movement. Consider that Jair Bolsonaro, during his inauguration as President of Brazil in 2019, promised to eradicate “gender ideology in the schools”, framing this as a resistance against “ideological submission”, and to that effect he replaced basically all sex education in Brazil with a cirriculum that enforces the teaching of the universal gender binary. In Poland, the term “gender ideology” is frequently deployed by right-wing activists who also use it to attack homosexuals, and the Polish government itself, ruled by the Law and Justice Party, explicitly attacked “gender ideology” as a facet of neoliberal globalisation, while far-right critics of the government insist that they are not doing enough. Right-wing parties across Europe, including the Italian Lega Nord, as well as right-wing protest movements, all deploy some variation of the concept of “gender ideology”, and in many cases use it as a platform to attack not only feminism and trans rights but also same-sex marriage. In Peru, conservative Catholics adapted the work of American conservative activists like Dale O’Leary to develop a notion of “gender ideology” as the secret antithesis to all morality, which then became part of the official rhetoric of Catholic churches throughout Latin America since the late 1990s. Denunciations of “gender ideology” as a threat to “identity”, “soul”, and “body” are common in right-wing anti-gender protests, and the idea presented in these protests is basically identical to the argument given by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. But of course it’s not strictly confined to the Right, either. Ostensibly “socialist” populists like Rafael Correa, former President of Ecuador, have also decried “gender ideology” as a tool to “destroy the family”.
To summarize the subject of “gender ideology”: “gender ideology” is not real. It’s nothing more than an invention of the Catholic Church, and particularly the thought of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It exists as nothing other than a projected “Other” that can be opposed in defense of essentialist ideology, presumably without taking on the crass language associated with conventional far-right bigots even while sharing the actual sexual politics of the far-right. The necessary premise of such an attack on the notion of gender is a belief in human nature as consisting principally of a static gender binary, man and woman as strictly defined representations of sex, which is thus a moral law that is set into the nature of being by God, and, co-attendant to this, the belief in its antithesis, “gender ideology” as a shadowy umbrella category for anything which might oppose or deviate from it. This idea can, in secular terms, be understood as essentialism. But in its religious underpinnings, and more specifically the modern project of the Catholic Church in its response to the United Nations’ definition of human rights, I would regard the construction of “gender ideology” as part of an edifice that I am inclined to refer to as Catholic ideology. In any case, this also means that all non-Christian proponents of this form of essentialism, whether it’s atheists or anybody else, are, despite any professed objection to Christianity (let alone specifically the Catholic Church), to be understood as simply regurgitating the propaganda of the Catholic Church.
So, in other words, to all the New Atheists, the folkists, or anything like that who might be reading this, congratulations; by attacking trans people in defense of gender essentialism in opposition to “gender ideology”, you’re actually just promoting Catholic ideology! Good going, you reactionary assholes.
To summarize the legacy of Benedict XVI in relation to “gender ideology”: for decades, he helped shaped the scope and agenda of Catholic ideology as part of a larger Church campaign against the ascent of a new framework of human rights that would account for ways of life that the Church deemed sinful. Things like sexual and reproductive rights and the category of gender appeared to present an expansion of individual autonomy within the legal and conceptual framework of human rights, which in turn appeared to present a threat to the moral authority of the Catholic Church, which insisted that these rights were contrary to “natural moral law”. To defend this moral authority, and the ideas about “natural moral law” that it was based on, the Catholic Church created an ideology in which “human nature” is constructed as an absolute binary and then pitted against an amorphous anti-essentialist ideology that somehow threatens to destroy it and thereby corrupt the order of God’s creation. That is what I call Catholic ideology. This Catholic ideology was originally meant to attack feminism, abortion, and the rights of homosexuals from a Catholic religious standpoint, but has over the last decade been deployed with increasing specificity against trans people and trans rights, presumably in reaction to an overall increase in the social visibility of trans people. In view of the nature of anti-trans arguments that appeal to “human nature”, even secular “scientific” forms that hinge strictly on biological essentialism sans the deity, we can trace the influence of Catholic ideology across the entirety of the Right, and all expressions of anti-gender thought, to the point that we can locate the Catholic Church as the fundamental basis of much of modern anti-trans opinion. In this sense, Benedict XVI probably helped create the modern anti-trans movement, having (at least partially) composed the fundamental logic of its animus and argument and having laid the groundwork for it even as far back as the 1970s, when he first began writing about supposed artificial reproduction technology in Germany. And not only this, but Pope Francis to this day continues the legacy of ideological anti-genderism and anti-transness that he consciously attributes to Benedict XVI.
In a way, then, contemporary anti-trans backlash can be understood as the handiwork of the Catholic Church through the last three Popes, including Benedict XVI, and in this sense it is a noxious legacy that will not die with him. By now Catholic ideology is already deeply embedded as part of a vast ecosystem of micro-fascisms that pervade the culture of modernity, and the current Pope continues to wage the same systematic anti-gender campaign. What radicals of all stripes should derive from this knowledge is that the Catholic Church, in its entirety, is to be understood as an enemy in the struggle for LGBTQ liberation. The Church’s interests and institutional legacy are incompatible with the autonomy of gender, and thus the Church opposed the freedom of trans, queer, and non-binary people to be themselves. That on top of everything else is part of the horrible legacy of Benedict XVI.
There’s something I thought about when contemplating the drunkenness that I sought after over the holidays. I don’t see myself as a “binge drinker” in the sense that I once had some vague idea about in my youth; in fact, for a lot of my early life, the main thing I had in common with Friedrich Nietzsche was never drinking alcohol. But in the years since I started drinking, this time in particular gives me a taste for the disinhibition of drunkenness. In fact, while I tend to avoid addictive behaviours, I do prefer that my drinking would have me reasonably disinhibited. But it’s from there that I reflected on the value of disinhibition in a much broader sense.
I would maintain that in life, and in politics, you should strive to disinhibit yourself to the extent possible. By which I mean, you should be able to cut off the fetters that prevent you from accessing the experience of life or cut off the options you would otherwise have to affect political change. A person lives, desires to keep living, and so works to avoid meeting danger and harm, and yet one never entirely approaches life in the safety of the normal limits of their sensorium. For this reason, people may push themselves beyond the limits of their “normal” state, their “everyday” consciousness, perhaps even if it means bringing themselves a little closer to death, so that they might access their own freedom or possibilities of action or being/becoming. There is perhaps a certain lack that is associated with a life that does not involve some extent of disinhibition, however small, because there is a sense that disinhibition, even if dangerous, brings some sense of completion to the fulfillment of individual life, by expanding it.
In the context of ancient pre-Christian religions, disinhibition was served not just as a way, but an important vehicle for the attainment of divine inspiration. The cult of Dionysus in Greece often centered around the liberation of consciousness through an intoxication that would invite the spirit of Dionysus to posssess his worshippers, and thereby experiencing ecstasy. Similarly ecstatic states of divine possession have been attributed to gods such as Pan, Hecate, Cybele, and Ares. In some other mystery cults, gods such as Sabazios were similarly worshipped in orgiastic festivals of drunkenness aimed at communing with the god to attain a blessed afterlife. In Scandinavia, religious disinhibition was part of the cult of the berserkers and the ulfhednar, the bear or wolf-pelted warriors whose battle frenzies were linked to the divine inspiration bestowed by the god Odin. In Egypt, disinhibition via drunkenness was sometimes observed as a way to re-enact the cycle of fertility and commune with the gods through the drunken worship of goddesses such as Hathor, Sekhmet, and Bast. In Vedic India, a substance called Soma was offered to the gods and then ritually consumed in order to become inebriated from it, which was believed to lead to a state of divine inspiration as well as magical powers and even immortality.
In politics, it’s obvious that everything depends on what you’re prepared to do in order to affect meaningful change, and it would seem that allowing your hands to be tied by the norms of those in power – that what we call “liberal-democratic rules” – does not allow you to do much. Our enemies certainly seem to have a certain sense of that, but we sometimes don’t. I’d wager that it’s usually only insurrectionary anarchists who have the idea that they must act without inhibition or decree. Many Marxists, of course, have an utterly confused stance on the matter: on the one hand, the Marxist-Leninist will assert that they will “make no excuses for the terror”, to justify basically any exercise of power, and then on the other hand repeatedly chastise other radicals for any broad commitment to political violence as a means of acheiving revolutionary aims outside of their sphere. Yet even they are all too aware of the need to assert themselves against the norms of the current system. Not only this, but all leftists, when discussing things as basic as anti-fascism or the labour movement, know the same thing, implicitly. Politics is basically a condition of social war, even if few political actors are actually conscious of this fact in their operations. To disinhibit yourself here means to shed the norms that stop you from acting in full knowledge of this reality.
In the Left Hand Path, disinhibition as transgression can be seen as part of the praxis of apotheosis, even if I can recall a few modern LHP practitioners who have insisted against intoxication. Whether involving intoxication or not, moral disinhibition is the name of the game, in that the bounds of custom and normativity are, as fetters, cut away in order to access knowledge, power, divinity, the truth of the world, really everything that the adept needs to progress on their path. In Satanism, this is in many ways the purpose of inversion: shattering the laws of “God” in devotion to the dark inner principle of the universe, from which endless liberty for the soul is to be derived.
So disinhibit yourself. Get weird with it. Cut down the spectre of morality in its many forms: authoritarian, democratic, conservative, progressive, essentialist, Christian, humanist, and all alike. If you need a New Year’s resolution, you can promise to set fire to the future. Or, if you need to be modest, you need only promise to go beyond yourself in what chances you have.
You must be logged in to post a comment.