An inquiry into the philosophy of Darkness

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

– Martin Eric Ain (1967-2017)

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

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

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

Dark Materialism and Averse Gnosticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abraxas by Gordon Napier (2013)

Divine Darkness and Negative Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Name of The Tao That Cannot Be Named

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

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

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

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

The Innate Enlightenment of Demons in Esoteric Buddhism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thangka depicting Chaturbhuja Mahakala (Four-Armed Mahakala)

The Power of The Creative Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

The Unconscious and the Power of Nigredo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Satan in Council” by Gustave Dore

Conclusion: Towards A Theory of Darkness

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

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

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

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

“Abyss” by Denis Kosyakov (2012)

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

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

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

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

Kickass image from @queerbandit161

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A guide I’ve made to hopefully illustrate my point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reactionary pose of false intellectualism: a response to Sam Buntz’s garbage article about Satanism

While reading up about Satan’s (no, not that Satan) upcoming album Earth Infernal, as I do and all, I somehow stumbled on a website named Athwart and a little article about Satanism written by one of their authors, Sam Buntz. The article is titled “Infernal Bore: The Satanic Pose of False Individualism”, and believe me, it is truly self-masturbatory, so much so that I actually want to go through it and show you why.

But before I do that, let’s establish who we’re talking about here. Athwart is a small-time web magazine that seems to focus on social commentary. There’s clearly a political edge to it but for the life of me I can’t actually figure out their primary ideological inclination or their basic values. The impression I get from them seems to suggest that they might be into some conservative expression of left-wing politics. Their articles complain about such things as a lack of metaphysical thinking in contemporary society and the prevalence of pornography, and they discuss the works of socialist intellectuals such as Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Christopher Lasch. The actual name of the website appears to have been derived from William F. Buckley Jr., the famous right-wing conservative ideologue, or more specifically the mission statement he wrote for The National Review, which he founded in 1955 and which he said “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it”. From this, my impression is that Athwart represents a pretentious crossover between socialist and conservative tendencies, possibly erring towards the milieu referred to as “post-liberalism”. A fair summary of this tendency is that it is reactionary and boring. As for Sam Buntz himself, his bio tells us that his work has appeared on the “centre-left” Washington Monthly, the apparently far-right New English Review, the right-wing Federalist magazine, the “politically unaffiliated” Christian journal Fare Forward, Pop Matters, and Jonathan Pageau’s website The Symbolic World. This oeuvre plus his social media content gives us a good idea that he seems to be a reactionary of some sort.

With that accounted for let’s get into the article itself. Buntz begins by referring to an article written by Mary Harrington which supposedly showed that Satanism was the prevailing ideology of the United States of America. Harrington’s argument is essentially that Satanism is just a byword for “untrammeled individualism” and that The Satanic Temple is supposedly adored by the American ruling class (no, they’re not; a couple of liberal magazines are not a synonym for the bourgeoisie as a whole), and much of the rest is just a kindergartener’s history of so-called Romantic Satanism leading up to blatant distortion of the teachings of Crowley and Nietzsche, homophobic screeds about Pride Month, and transphobic bile about how trans rights is somehow an arm of US imperialism. Needless to say Harrington just casts any expression of self-love or pride as “Satanism”, declares this to be the ideology of the establishment, and all the while never demonstrates any actual influence that Satanism or trans people have in a society where they’re actually quite powerless. Such is what Buntz refers to as “daring” work; and I suppose it is, if by this you mean she dared to be stupid.

Oh and by the way Harrington also appears to be a transphobic “radical feminist”, or TERF as she would rather we not call them but which we will do anyway because that’s what they are. Let’s just get that out of the way while also adding that she’s generally a whiny conservative in numerous other areas too.

Before we go anywhere else let’s just establish basic reality here: no, Satanism is not “the dominant American ideology”. If it were, then American politicians would feel no need to make frequent reference to Jesus, God, or the Bible, however insincerely, nor would there be any invocations to God in American money or the Pledge of Allegiance. There are no Satanists who actually have access to the levers of political power, and many don’t even desire said political power. Only a few Satanists have ever ran for political office, and none of their campaigns have succeeded. Nor for that matter have most of the legal campaigns enacted by The Satanic Temple. And, if Satanism is the dominant spiritual ideology in America, why are Satanic Panics still a thing that thousands if not millions of people can fall for? Honestly, I wish that America was actually the Satanic society that these idiots seem to think it is. I would legitimately enjoy living in such a society. At the very least I could die a happy man knowing that Christianity died and was replaced by Satanism in a country that was previously the proudest and most obnoxious exponent of Christianity, if only that were true! But it’s not! Instead, Christianity of some sort still holds the most political clout and forms much of the superstructure of bourgeois society.

Also, I think something’s worth pointing out about the liberal magazines being pointed to and their ostensible promotion of The Satanic Temple. I can guarantee that they’re only doing it because they’re a secular atheist progressive group that presents the aesthetic of Satanism with very little of what might be thought of as Satanic philosophy, though of course they do boast an appropriated canon. In reality, The Satanic Temple paid probably thousands of dollars to give argument in court on behalf of a Catholic organisation rather than just complain about freedom of speech on Twitter, so as far as I’m concerned they are allies of Christianity, but neither the media nor conservatives like Mary Harrington will tell you about that because it compromises some convenient narratives about how The Satanic Temple are “the last line of defence in the battle for reproductive rights”. And all the while, with both Harrington’s article and the media discussion of The Satanic Temple, it seems like only popular forms of atheistic Satanism are ever discussed. Things like Theistic Satanism are never discussed in any of these pretentious treatises on Satanism, even though Theistic Satanism is very prevalent in Satanist movement even if lacking popular organizations and if anything there’s the argument to be made for Theistic Satanism being older at least than Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.

Anyways, Buntz talks about how “the pose of Satanism” was attractive for centuries across a wide range of people and summarizes basically the popular understanding of Satan as an archetypal cosmic rebel. Then he claims that Satanism doesn’t actually lead to a state where individual personalities can flourish freely but instead leads to “the opposite condition”. On its face, this claim is absolutely laughable and there’s no basis for believing it at all. But how does Buntz justify such an absurd position? Well, he doesn’t make reference to any extant self-defined Satanism in practice, but instead appeals to the development of the character of Satan as depicted by John Milton, who for all the romantic anti-heroism of his Satan figure it must be remembered that he was trying to depict Satan as the villain of his story. Basically, to prove that Satanism leads to the opposite of individual freedom, he’s going to consult a work created by a Christian to illustrate the Christian perspective of why Satan is bad, instead of referring to any actual self-lived Satanism. That’s rather like trying to get an account of Muslim life from Melanie Phillips.

Buntz’s main point is that all of the heroic radiance associated with Milton’s Satan is compacted into the early parts of the book, after which he grows progressively “duller” and “more boring”. Well, actually, that’s about all Buntz has to say about Milton’s Satan. He never actually describes Satan’s actions or personality progression, except through the aphorisms of others such as C. S. Lewis. The only thing he references is Satan secretly observing Eve in the Garden of Eve. How this is meant to represent dullness is something of a mystery, but I guess it does serve as a signifier of reactionary antipathy towards “coomers” (meant to be a condescending way of a referring to sex or porn addiction but in practice is just a way of expressing hatred of anybody who likes sex at all or masturbates ever). His purported boringness is compared to Dante’s Satan, and I must say, it’s easy for Dante’s Satan to be “boring” since his only appearance in Inferno consists of him being trapped waist-deep in a lake of ice, which is honestly more of an indictment of Dante than of Satan.

Buntz is of the opinion that not only is our culture “increasingly Satanic”, but it is also “zombified”, a supposed trend that he compares to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (yet another Christian morality tale, this time for children), in which the White Witch lures one of the characters with Turkish delights only to freeze him in his place. He argues that this is meant to mean that the desire for independence “without relation or obligation” (presumably God here is just a by-word for any kind of obligation whatsoever) produces nothing but mediocrity. His example of this really doesn’t have anything to do with Satanism in practice. Instead his example of cultural decay just seems to be when entertainment media doesn’t solely center around cis straight white people (“the quantitative enumeration of identities, the checking of representation boxes”) and Netflix shows he doesn’t like presumably because they don’t exclusively pander to those same cis straight white audiences (“Eventually, the “Dark Satanic Mills” start to churn out the same, boring, repetitive, pandering Netflix shows”). This, he claims, leads to the abolition of “the Good, the Beautiful, and the True” (yep, we’re dealing with Platonic conservative bullshit again). Again, none of this is ever actually linked to real world Satanism. It’s all just extrapolated from a poetic representation that, while it is classic, was created by a Christian. Plus, if all Satanism means here is just the assertion of individual freedom, I would argue that the idea that this necessarily leads to mediocrity simply isn’t true! Barnett Newman positioned his own artwork as an “assertion of freedom”, which read properly would herald the end of all forms of authoritarianism, such as state capitalism and totalitarianism, and many have found his art to be moving and challenging, or in some cases threatening (certainly threatening enough for white supremacists to frequently vandalize his work). But, of course, because Barnett Newman as an abstract expressionist represents what has come to be derisively referred to as “modern art” or “postmodern art”, Buntz will likely see his work and dismiss it as insufficiently life-affirming in the same way that all reactionaries dismiss modern art simply because it doesn’t seek to imitate classical art.

There is a paragraph from the article that is worth analyzing and deconstructing:

When a ’70s or ’80s rockstar declares that he is on the highway to hell before burying his head in a mountain of cocaine, it seems believable. He really is runnin’ with the devil. But a contemporary “Satanist,” logging on to doomscroll or gaze at pornography, is devoid of this same rebellious aura. He or she is simply going on the computer, like every bored teen on planet earth. Below deck, Satan is no doubt rubbing his hands excitedly. But his nefarious plans lack the epic scale and carnage of a Hitler-on-Stalin throwdown. He has settled for making people watch lousy Netflix original programming. That is atomized Satanic “individualism” at its terminus, a sad and numb person opening tabs in Google Chrome and then slamming the laptop shut when Mom unexpectedly walks in the room. Not exactly Stalingrad, but Satan will take it.

What’s obvious here is that Buntz operates on the idea of “Satan as the representation of evil and badness in the abstract”, taking it at face value and assessing Satanism and Satanists on the basis of this presumption. Thus, if Satanists aren’t destroying themselves by becoming addicted to dangerous drugs or trying to start World War 3, then in Buntz’s eyes they are not “real” Satanists. The problem with this should be obvious. Satanism is not in itself a mere inversion of morality. On the contrary, it can be said to present its own distinct ethical framework, albeit one that, unlike so many others, actually centers itself around individual fulfilment and exploration to some degree, and even then what this looks like will probably depend on the form of Satanism you’re dealing with; such nuance is of course flattened in almost every mainstream discussion of Satanism. Buntz whines that modern Satanists supposedly do nothing but “doomscroll” (constantly surfing the internet for negative news) and watch pornography, as though watching pornography is supposed to be an inherently bad thing (well, given that he’s probably a Christian I’d say he does think that), but how exactly is doomscrolling and watching Netflix and pornography something exclusive to Satanism? I’d argue that a lot of modern Christians are doing the same thing while also going to church, praying to God, and all the things that regular Christians do to affirm their faith. But Buntz needs to frame Satanists as sad losers (again, as if scrolling for news, watching porn, and watching Netflix somehow makes you a loser) so he can’t afford to acknowledge reality. If you want to see masses of sad loserdom, you shouldn’t look to Satanism. Instead you should look to 4chan, or to the fact that there’s entire Discord servers made around one meme.

But I have to say, what is it with people having a go at Satanism and always bringing up rock stars who sang about the devil for fun, rather than musicians who were open and professed Satanists, such as King Diamond (incidentally one of the guys who got me into Satanism), Glen Benton from Deicide, or the several black metal bands and musicians who at least ostensibly devote themselves to some sort of religious, esoteric, or theistic Satanism (many of whom hated Anton LaVey for being too humanist for them)? Again, they’re never going to be talked about because the only Satanism that interests anyone in the media is the The Satanic Temple, and honestly that’s probably because they’re the most marketable and least offensive branch of Satanism.

Buntz then makes a very amusing accusation towards Satanists. He accuses the Satanist of wanting to preserve the state of affairs he attributes to them by “defending himself” from “anything that might provoke his curiosity” or “might rattle him into an awareness of the poetry in nature or in other people”, thus he accuses the Satanist of demanding a safe space from the world, which he accuses our culture of happily obliging. I don’t recall our culture obliging a safe space from Harry Potter books or Dave Chappelle specials, but what’s amusing about it is that this is just Christianity projecting all of its weaknesses onto Satanism. It was Christians who sought to block out anything that was “Other” to the Christian worldview, and where they couldn’t do that they sought to recuperate it so as to make it compatible with the Christian “safe space”. God himself has surely set up the ultimate “safe space” in the form of Heaven, a place where only people he likes and only people who believe in him or agree with him are allowed to live forever after death. God is a narcissist whose whole purpose for humanity and all life is to praise his name, and can’t stand any being suggesting any notion of co-divinity or any kind of equality and diversity amongst the divine. God knows well the concept of the “Other” in relation to himself, and for him that that “Otherness” is compacted into the form of the Devil, sin, evil, something that from his standpoint should be destroyed. Easily God is more narcissistic than Satan, or anyone, but you can’t admit that to yourself or anyone because it offends both tradition and certain modern forms of progressive apologetics prevalent today.

Then Buntz tried to liken Satanism to the Unitarian Universalist Church, on the basis that they supposedly believe that God is whatever you want him to be:

I remember attending a Unitarian Universalist Church during a period of religious investigation. The congregation’s guiding mantra was “God is whatever you want God to be.” I reasoned to myself that if God was whatever I wanted God to be then I would, in effect, be God. This struck me as absurd. What Harrington calls Satanism is this very tendency—to deify one’s own will, whim, or power of arbitrary choice. According to this ideology, what one wills does not actually matter. You can will getting burned with wax in a dominatrix’s cavern, will ending illiteracy, will transforming yourself into a dolphin person, will recycling, will all sorts of evil, or will curing the common cold. All desires are on the same plane, and none are preferable. You just need to will it.

It is true that the Unitarian Universalist Church does not have what is called a “formal creed”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a religion or that God is interchangeable with your own will. Technically speaking, Paganism is not just “one system of belief”, and neither really was Christianity for the first century of its existence, but being a religion is not about being defined by single fixed points of doctrine. Religion should instead be defined in terms of its relationship to whatever is conceived as numinous or sacred, and not only the ideology but also the praxis (often ritual praxis in particular) through which this is expressed or mediated. The Unitarian Universalist Church seems to believe in a single God who is entirely loving, does not punish everyone forever, and will redeem everyone after death, though it is also said that belief in God is optional. I think that Satanists would actually laugh at that belief system. I certainly don’t find myself particularly impressed, but to tell the truth they actually do seem to have a clear belief system that can be interpreted as comprising more than just “God is whatever you want him to be“. This attempt to undermine the credibility of Satanism by likening it to the Unitarians through a bowdlerised interpretation of Satanic individualism falls flat on its face.

I should also state for the record that no Satanist actually believes that you can simply will any outcome you want into existence. To assume otherwise is a clear sign of Buntz not having consulted any Satanists in regard to their beliefs about will, which he derived entirely from Mary Harrington, who herself did not bother to ask any Satanists about their beliefs. Satanists don’t believe that you can cure the common cold, end illiteracy, or turn into a dolphin solely through the force of will and desire. No one does, because everyone knows that is self-evidently absurd. Satanists do deify the individual self, but they also regularly counsel against solipsism, because they correctly assume that they are not the only individual selves or the only beings capable of will. Again, simply talking to Satanists would probably clarify things for Sam Buntz, but he won’t.

Instead, Buntz continues to not actually address any extant form of Satanism, preferring instead the “idea” of Satanism, by pointing to G. K. Chesterton’s response to Nietzsche, who Buntz characterizes as “like a man grabbing you by the lapels demanding that you will something, while the genuinely interesting question, the question of what is worth willing, goes unanswered”. There is an answer, though: what business is it yours what I consider “worth” willing? Nay, does God even ask himself that question before willing the death of fetuses via miscarriage? The question is always asked by others for the purpose of deciding the actions of others. But as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, why is it so important what you consider to be “worth” someone else to will?

I find it very curious that Buntz feels the need to point out that there is a reality outside of the self that we ought to acquaint ourselves to, when really that’s all that Satanists insist to Christians. Indeed, I might well insist that I merely seek people to shed their conditioning and acquaint themselves with the inner nature or principle of reality: from my standpoint, God is nothing of the sort. Atheistic Satanists in particular would probably be allergic to much of occultism because they assume it does not observe this principle, and generally mock Christians for the same reasons. Once again, Buntz hasn’t got a clue.

The article is titled “Infernal Bore: The Satanic Pose of False Individualism”, yet for most of the article no discussion of what the “true” individualism is. Towards the end, though, we get an elaboration. “True” individualism, for Buntz, is an affirmation of individuality that is dependent on the consideration of your relationship to the universe and its inhabitants. In a separate article about his opposition to sex work (which he refers to as “sexual exploitation” based on the assumption that people never choose to be sex workers), he refers to this concept as “organic individualism”, as opposed to “atomistic individualism” (I’m half-convinced that this dichotomy sounds like it comes from some form of fascist ideology). Exactly what “your relationship to the universe and its inhabitants” is supposed to mean for your individual will and the validity of its expression isn’t really clear, but it seems like it might be a vague way of saying that your individual will needs to be validated by God in order to be legitimate. His criticism of individual self-determination is that it somehow leads to a state of being “plunged into slavery under our darkest compulsions”. It’s a common reactionary argument, one I first became familiar with (and dismissed) when encountering a debate in which the alt-right author Greg Johnson argued that allowing pornography to be legal leads to men becoming slaves to their desires, which is an argument now made by guys like Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin who previously opposed such a position. The problem with this argument is obvious: individual will exercised in a way that harms no one is otherwise arbitrarily cast as slavery because it is “dark”, which in this context may as well mean something icky that you personally dislike. If you exercise individual free will in a way that doesn’t really hurt anyone, at least individually or interpersonally, and Sam Buntz approved of it, he would not complain, but if you exercise individual free will in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone, and Sam Buntz does not approve of it, the entire notion of such self-determination is condemned. I have to wonder how this could be applied to self-determination in a larger sense, namely the self-determination of independent nations and/or peoples.

The stated alternative to “plunging into slavery under our darkest compulsions” is to start “becoming interested in other people and in the surrounding world”, which Buntz believes would “liberate individuality to shine forth through this relation”. Exactly what “becoming interested in other people and in the surrounding world” should mean to him is not clear, and that’s important because that can mean basically any form of social interaction. I guess, though, that based on his quotation of Joseph S. Laughon that it might have something to do with going into the nature and spending time with the birds, not that I oppose such activities of course. But really, depending on what you mean, being interested in other people and the surrounding world is what humans do all the time. Frankly, people can’t shut up about other people or their surrounding world, and that’s more true than ever in the age of hyper-interconnectivity that our developed internet bequeathes us with. Buntz’s exhortation in itself seems quite meaningless in this light. The only way I can see it having meaning is that it is actually code for something else, that his idea of “organic individualism” is really a way of saying that your self-determination and self-essencing needs to be legitimated or perhaps controlled by the society around you. And in that light, I see a problem. If it is interaction with other people that should be the primary constituent of individual self-determination, then we enter into a state infinite regression as applicable to all of humanity; after all, if the individual is to be determined and fashioned principally by other humans, then who was there to condition the first human? Who conditions the conditioners, up to the start of the human species? You see, we are to assume that it is always the individual that is empty on its own, and requires an Other to make him an individual, but then through this there are surely no individuals, because the Other that makes the individual is necessarily empty as well, just that we assume that the Other possess inherent subjective content but never the individual self.

And, look, believe it or not, I actually don’t in principle oppose the idea of considering individuality in relationship to its surroundings, or at least not in the way that he makes it seem when saying “One develops an authentic inner life by means of this vibrant connection with a wider world”. I actually think I could read something similar out of Percy Bysshe Shelley, a man who I think Sam Buntz would have hated because of his anti-clerical and anti-Christian romanticism as well as his idiosyncratic neopaganism, in his letter to Thomas Love Peacock when he wrote that the ancient Greeks “lived in perpetual commerce with external nature”, which he believed explained the greatness of Greek poetry and art. Baron D’Holbach used to say “Let him study Nature, let him study himself”. But even if I granted Buntz’s premise of individualism I don’t think I can recognize it as being in alignment with my own worldview, because even there to me the point is that you self-essence on your own terms and pursue individuation by fighting social conditioning, even if that means harmony with nature (or even the nature of nature as I might say). I don’t think Buntz believes in that individuation, or in any kind of self-essencing in that it functions as self-determination. So what does Buntz’s “organic individualism” look like? Glancing quickly at his article about sex work, we still get nothing other than the assertion that sex work is somehow paradigmatic of capitalism, or “hyper-capitalism” rather, never mind of course that they don’t call it the oldest trade for nothing. To be honest, I get the sense that Buntz’s view of freedom is that it is not meant for itself, but must be legitimated by taste, namely his own taste. The freedom to offer your body by trade or by hobby is not valid in itself for him, and hence not valid at all because society does not (or, for him, should not) legitimate it. His “organic individualism” is thus the idea that individuality is fulfilled when society determines a range of expression that society deems valid, beyond which free expression of individuality may not transcend. In a word, oppression.

And through it all, what’s so bad about egoism per se? I know that certain forms of narrow egoism, the kind of bullshit that Ayn Rand gave us are part of the problem with a lot of the contemporary Left Hand Path, but what would be so bad about everyone deicidng to read Max Stirner and the egoist-anarchists and egoist-communists? Taken seriously, these actually lead to a re-discovery of egoism as something beyond the limits of the false individualism offered by Randian “libertarianism”, which is in reality nothing more than the uncontested rule of property-owning capitalists. From the standpoint of this egoism, individuality is what is called ownness, and it is a condition shared by all individuals. I am an ownness and so are you. You can even put a “collectivist” spin on it, paradoxically enough, insofar as if only I enjoy freedom and ownness while you do not, then I possess privilege upon myself and you possess oppression but then neither of us possess the true condition of egoistic freedom. Of course, I imagine part of Sam Buntz’s problem with this is not only that it rejects all authority in the most consistent way possible but also the implications of this involve seeing trans people as being exactly who they say they are on the grounds of their ownness, and we know already that Buntz thinks this is a problem. But his opinion is worthless, for he sells an individualism to us that is as well false, because your individuality is not valid in itself, and instead must allow itself to be shaped by society.

Imagine that society is no less an egoist or no less composed of egoists than you your yourself. Imagine that there is only you living amongst others who are unique just like you are. In this, there is no inherent moral right, or empirical materialist cause (in Marx’s terms), for society to assert that it is the only valid individual in the world. In Buntz’s “individualism”, you as a creation of society have no right to the exercise of egoistic freedom or will-to-egoism, only society has that right, because society is the only egoist, and it absorbs you back into itself the moment you declare independence because you in that declaration are a threat to its existence. Society declares absolute sovereignty over you, at which point we ask: who created this right, and who created society? God? Whose God? I don’t worship him and can’t be made to worship him. The law? Which law? It changes over generations, and you will write new laws. Reason? Whose reason? I think you’ll laugh at their “reason” once you study it. History? If you take historical materialism seriously, you will eventually realize that material conditions are also political decisions, and thus that a large number of the material conditions we point to result ultimately from choices made by people who have or assert power, and at that point you destroy all notion of history being some phantasmic force independent of human agency. But again, who created society? People, people who are no less “unique” than you and me, but whose interests consist in ruling over you, and who have acted in a way that might ensure they continue to do so. But if you are “unique”, you are ownness, you are an egoist, and society is built by people who are ultimately not so different except that they set themselves against you, you have only the “right” to assert yourself as an egoist, and that society is not the only egoist in the world. Sam Buntz’s “individualism” serves only to favour one egoist over the other, as the determinant of your own individuality, but if society determines you who determines society? People make society, and at that, none other than the same egoists that we are told society exists against!

So that’s about it for this response. There really wasn’t a whole lot to say about Satanism in that article, because, again, Buntz never addresses any extant forms of Satanism, only a vague idea of it presented by a TERF who knows almost nothing about it and the poetic ideas of Satan created within Christian culture. Needless to say, this article is not very useful in understanding Satanism, let alone a particularly insightful critique.

Dante and Virgil Encounter Lucifer in Hell by Henry John Scott (1922)

The garbage article in question: https://www.athwart.org/infernal-bore-satanic-pose-dull-individuality/

The Valentinian God and Gnostic Luciferianism

I must admit, seeing Christopher Williams (serpentchrist69) with his take on Gnostic Luciferianism left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth. I have to say, what I feel inside me tells me that the inner Satanist has not died, and may still have been alive for some time. I do legitimately worry for the direction of contemporary Luciferianism if it is truly eager to accept what is still Christian mysticism to the point of even rejecting the rebellion against God so characteristic of Luciferian mythos. And yet this on its own is perhaps not doing things justice. No, I think what is need is to address the ideas that seem to be going into this new synthetic project, and in order to do so, let’s go to the root. Christopher Williams seems to take as his basis for Gnostic Luciferianism the Valentinian sect of Christianity. Very well, let us address the doctrine of Valentinus. Or more specifically, the role of God and the Demiurge, who are once again to be considered distinct in the vein of much of Gnostic tradition.

In assessing the doctrine of Valentinus, it may help us to consult the Gnostic Society Library for their summary of Valentinian theology. I aim to summarize even this over the course of this article so as to give commentary.

Valentinus seems to have believed that Jesus expounded a set of esoteric teachings that were passed on to his disciples in secret and which Jesus concealed from the public by speaking in metaphors and parables. For Valentinus, this esoteric doctrine represented the essential key to understanding Jesus’ message, but it could only be revealed to the “spiritually mature”, because it would only be meaningful to them and everyone else would treat it as nonsense. If you’ve ever recognized this in vaguely cultish pronouncements found in contemporary New Age or esoteric movements, that’s probably because Valentinus and others like him in the “Gnostic” Christian movement may have pioneered such an approach in ancient Rome.

God, according to the Valentinians, is an infinite, incomprehensible being, who cannot be known directly, defies all descriptions, and is the origin of all things. But for a being without description, this God is described as androgynous, and possessing “masculine” and “feminine” aspects. God, or the Godhead, manifests through a process of “self-unfolding” into the multiplicity of being, which nonetheless retains unity. God’s male and female energies act in conjunction to manifest themselves in the form of The Son, who in turn manifested himself twenty-six spiritual beings referred to as Aeons, who exist within God but also somehow possess some degree of independence and separation from God, which led to them feeling incomplete. Because of this, the Aeon Sophia sought knowledge of the supreme parent. She attempted this by thinking alone, but this apparently was impossible, and she split into two halves, the “lower” of which descended in exile to the physical world, here a place of deficiency, suffering, and imperfection. Meanwhile, the Son gave the Aeons gnosis of their origins in God, after which the Aeons celebrated and then integrated into the body of the Son, who then became the Saviour, meant to be the bride of the fallen Sophia.

Sophia, while in the physical world, suffered from illusions, underwent a conversion, and pled for salvation. In response, the Savior and his angels descended from the Pleroma to the physical world in order to impart gnosis of God to Sophia and free her from the suffering of that world. Sophia then produced spiritual seeds in the image of the divine retinue, representing the presence of spirit in all Christians. In her quest to understand God, Sophia also ended up creating the Devil, who the Valentinians interpreted as a personification of the illusion that characterises the physical world, out of ignorance and suffering, as well as the Demiurge, referred to as the Craftsman, who fashions the material world in the image of the Pleroma and represents the soul born from Sophia’s conversion. These two beings, together with the spiritual seed personified in Sophia herself, are the three substances that Sophia created in her quest to know God.

In Valentinian cosmology and theology, the creation of the material world is seen as necessary in order for the spiritual seeds created by Sophia to grow, develop, and mature so that they could rejoin the Pleroma, because even though Sophia herself is no longer ignorant, ignorance itself still remains. This as it happens meant that, in Valentinian ethics, marriage and child-raising were also thought to be necessary, and hence justified, as is presumably much of “normal” human life except for wealth and worldly authority. The Valientinians were different from many other Gnostics in that they had no issue with the form of the physical world, since it was meant to reflect and preserve the image of the Pleroma, and instead focused their attention on the perceived substance of the material world, which they believed was suffering borne of separation from God. The Demiurge/Craftsman created human beings, including Adam and Eve, thus he serves as the parallel to the God depicted in the Bible, or at least the Old Testament. The Demiurge/Craftsman, ignorant of his mother Sophia, thinks that he is acting alone and is thus the one true God, but his actions are actually guided in secret by Sophia and the Saviour. Jesus is, in a sense, the physical manifestation of the Saviour, incarnated on earth in order to bring gnosis of God to humanity by joining the spiritual seeds with the angels. Although Jesus was born human as the son of Mary and Joseph, when he was baptised the Saviour descended into Jesus’ body and Jesus was “reborn”. The divine Jesus experienced every human emotion, including every suffering, but only the physical human Jesus suffered pain and death on the cross, and when the body of Jesus died, the divine Jesus rose from the body and ascended, and after this he appeared to his disciples to instruct them about “the Father” for eighteen months. Even after this, he is believed to have appeared to people in visions.

Valentinian Gnosticism is, like all of the other historical schools of Gnosticism, a sect of Christianity, and like any other Christian sect the ultimate goal is the “redemption” of humanity. For the Valentinians, this meant attaining a state of gnosis which sees them joined with an angel who accompanies the Saviour. This leads to a recognition of their spiritual nature which frees them from ignorance and suffering, which is the “true” resurrection from death, one which does not take place after death but instead takes place in this life, in the here and now. The enlightened Christian ascends above the Demiurge/Craftsman and all the powers of the world in order to join with Sophia, the Saviour, and their angel and become part of the Pleroma.

So, what to make of it all? God is beyond description, and I doubt the Valentinians would have described him as a being in the strict sense. Yet, God necessarily has some kind of teleological process or consciousness behind him. He manifests in a process of unfolding towards multiplicity. To what end is not obvious, but it seems that there would be some kind of end. But all is contained within God, who himself is not contained. This is not unlike the doctrine presented in Acts, and in the same sense leaves essentially no free will for God’s creation. I would suppose this means that the creation of the Devil and the Demiurge resulting from the fall of Sophia, the fall itself, and the separation of the Aeons from God via their origination is indeed bound to happen by God. So, thus, is the suffering of humans. All is within God, contained within God, and thus nothing is outside of God, which means that the physical realm in all its sufferings, even though ostensibly separated from God, happen within and because of God. In a sense, God remains responsible for the sufferings. To what end? If the Saviour is meant to be taken as an aspect of God, formed from God’s energies, then the Saviour incarnating and experiencing human suffering through the body of Jesus means an aspect of God manifesting so as to allow God to experience said suffering in order to spreading gnosis to humans. But that also means God ushering in countless generations of suffering or setting it into motion before and after that point, since nothing can happen outside of God, since all things are contained within God.

Once a link between the Valentinian concept of God, with its apparent monism, and the apparent pantheism of Acts, it becomes apparent that Valentinian theology is actually not a million miles away from New Testament theology, with the key difference that it centers a doctrine of redemption that hinges on attaining gnosis so as to allow the ultimate excarnation of the soul from the material world. It could be argued that Valentinian Gnosticism is the more “quintessentially Christian” of the “Gnostic” sects, though that’s somewhat pointless considering all of the “Gnostic” sects were without exception sects of Christian mysticism. We can assume that, just as in regular Christianity, God has a plan for everything, including every successive being become more separated from him as they are born, but it doesn’t seem like there’s an apocalypse involved, no final holy war leading to a thousand year kingdom. Instead, God just wants you to know God, and the material universe, with all of its suffering, is necessary in order for humans to know God, and the origination of everything is contained within God. So God has everyone suffer and wail in ignorance just so that they might eventually come to know him. As in regular Christianity, God can’t not be responsible for evil and suffering, since even Sophia bumbling it into existence is his will, and this time there is no satanic scapegoat to hoist all agency of evil onto. It may not seem sadistic in the same way as in normal Christianity, but it’s still a pretty sick game God plays.

Lucifer, of course, or at least a being named Lucifer, plays no role in the Valentinian cosmology. You could interpret Lucifer as being the Devil in line with mainstream Christianity, but the Valentinians would have made no reference to it. So Lucifer entering into a Valentinian Gnostic framework is necessarily a modern, contemporary innovation, and Christopher Williams’ Lucifer doesn’t seem to be a Jesus figure. He’s instead framed as the adversary of the Demiurge, which itself is framed as the divine personification of the ego, the force that separates creation from God, which is nonetheless seen as necessary. In the original Valentinian cosmology, the Demiurge/Craftsman struggles against the Devil, leading the “archons of the right” in constant war against the “archons of the left” who are led by the Devil. The Valentinian Demiurge is still a servant of God, albeit an unwitting one, but his forces and their power still cannot save the soul because they are imperfect. The difference with Christopher’s framework, I guess, is that the Valentinian’s ultimately regarded the Devil as evil as did every other Christian, whereas Christopher doesn’t. His God’s game is still a sick one, just that God’s shadow, or rather the shadow of the Demiurge comes into focus as an essential part of the work of the true God. Thus, Christopher’s Lucifer serves God, rather than rebels against it. Unsurprisingly, this Luciferian also doesn’t oppose authority, or even hierarchy, all that much, and even seems to endorse authoritarianism and hierarchy as something that society “needs”. I suppose I can’t have expected much else from someone who is decisively of the authoritarian branch of communism, as opposed to the libertarian one.

Recently, Christopher Williams has posted yet another article elaborating his concept of Gnostic Luciferianism, and because of this it’s worth exploring the beliefs presented. Williams again distinguishes himself from the “dark fetishism” (on which point he simply has no leg to stand on when considering what his practice of witchcraft actually looks like), “valorisation of trauma”, and “personal toxicity” attributed to the contemporary Left Hand Path, in favour of a “more mature” Gnostic Luciferianism based on the doctrine of Valentinus, with trappings of Hermetic Qabalah and Traditional Witchcraft, focused on “spiritual wholeness” and “embodied liberation”. As far as its actual tenets are concerned, this involves a sort of pantheistic belief that reality consists of “One Divine Essence” (which already seems to recall the Christian belief in One True God), manifesting as a diversity of forms that are actually vibrations of energy experienced as pure consciousness (this honestly seems like New Age shit). This is also meant to entail a fundamental unity of spirit and matter, symbolized by Baphomet, which also seems to means that both “scientifically verifiably natural laws” and “Divine Laws” are aspects of the “Divine Will” (read: God). Lucifer and Lilith are the central deities worshipped as complimentary aspects of “Divine Will” and spiritual guides for humanity; Lucifer, thus, is an aspect of God rather than a rebel against God, and in fact he is “the dark and radiant Gnostic Christ”, while Lilith is the “the dark and radiant Gnostic Sophia”, the former being the destroyer of illusion and liberator from social condition and the latter being “the dark womb from which all things spring”. Lucifer here is not to be identified with Satan, except in the sense that this is his role from the standpoint of the Demiurge, here an embodiment of the ego; thus, Lucifer is only Satan insofar as he is the adversary of the ego. Williams’ idea of Gnostic Luciferian morality centers around enabling others to realize their “Divine” nature and act accordingly as part of a cosmic process of “unfolding”, which ultimately comes down to the idea that “You are and always have been utterly Divine, whole, and perfect right from the start, you need only taste and see”, and places blasphemy and ritual transgression as acts that practically express the idea that all things are divine in a way that also breaks down social conditioning and redirect the power of the prevailing institutions towards the use of the magician.

A lot of this really has little to do with Valentinian Gnosticism, but the influence is definitely there, and it basically anchors Williams’ conception of Gnostic Luciferianism insofar as it assumes that the whole universe and everything in it is just God unfolding itself and realizing its own perfection and fullness – it’s just that this version comes mixed with witchcraft, a certain variation of Left Hand Path esoteric philosophy or at least its original Tantric root, and arguably a set of conceptions familiar to the New Age but which otherwise probably have a very different source. Such a worldview obviously has no place for the conception of the individual as something “above and outside of social context” or “rejects any sense of social obligation to other Divine beings”, whatever any of this actually means substantially for individual freedom. But here we come to the same problem, and it’s the same problem with basically all of pantheism. Williams’ Gnostic Luciferian may not lash out against God and said Gnostic Luciferian still cries out against the world of oppression, a world that seeks to enslave. The problem there is that even this world is God’s world, since all things are God and all events are just the processes of God insofar as they eventually arc toward’s God’s own unfolding and self-realization. Your oppression, then, is once again ultimately the machination of the same God whose feet you once again prostrate before and who you merely give a new and more respectable name so as not to sound anymore Christian than it already is. Indeed, through the logic of this form of pantheistic monism, it literally cannot happen outside of God, outside of Divine Will. Literally everything is “Divine Will”, even your own oppression, even the separation of successive beings from the Pleroma, even the condition of ignorance that must be transcended in order to regain unity with the fullness of divinity. Ultimately you’re being asked to abandon your much more sensible wrath against God in order to worship a new conception of God, in which everything is God desiring to “unfold” himself and this still means God sets all suffering and tyranny into motion because of it, because it cannot be any other way since everything happens inside of God’s being and unfolding.

But anyway, that’s about what I have to say about Valentinian Gnosticism at least insofar it relates to certain new developments of Gnostic Luciferianism. I once again express my fondest hope that this doesn’t become the norm for Luciferian movement or even all that big a branch thereof, because I hate to say it but if it is then what’s even the point of the Luciferian movement existing?

A 19th century Russian Orthdox depiction of “Holy Wisdom”

A Brief Summary of Valentinian Theology: http://gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Brief_Summary_Theology.htm

Addressing Peter Grey’s terrible take on We Are The Witchcraft

I have a lot more that I’d probably prefer to talk about, which I plan to talk about over the course of this month, but first I’m afraid I find myself compelled to respond to some esoteric e-drama concerning a man whose work I’ve cited over the last year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s one of those situations again. This time the person we’re talking about is Peter Grey, a self-styled Luciferian Witch who had been an esteemed author on witchcraft known for books such as Acopalyptic Witchcraft, The Red Goddess, and Lucifer: Princeps, and who had more recently released The Two Antichrists last year. Yesterday I had stumbled upon a take of his so bad that I find myself compelled to make some sort of statement about it.

On February 24th, coincidentally the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Peter Grey joined Gordon White for another episode of his podcast Rune Soup, this one apparently the third module of his Protection and Malefica Course, to discuss the ethical implications of cursing in magick as well as the content of Jack Parson’s landmark manifesto We Are The Witchcraft. That’s all good, valid, and important to talk about, and it’s not like you won’t find insight here, but towards the end of that podcast is when Peter Grey decided to talk politics, and things do not get good in that department.

Ostensibly, Peter Grey is an anarchist and a radical socialist, though perhaps with certain quasi-primitivist tendencies, and in theory this approach to politics shows itself in his work. But in Rune Soup we see a different side of Grey’s politics, namely that of crass opportunism and big tent populism. Grey is apparently one of those people on the left who appears to be convinced that we really need to unite with the people who hate us, by which we mean they will either do violence against us or invoke the power of the state to oppress us, and who we hate in turn, in order to fight the much bigger foe of capitalist state repression. We see this towards the end of the podcast, after they’re done talking about Parson’s essay. First he briefly mentions the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which took place on the same day as that podcast episode, by saying that Russia “sent the tanks” to Ukraine because “the West is falling”, whatever that means. Then he complains about people who think “Biden-style leftism” (which is absolutely not a fucking thing but go off I guess) will prevail, saying that they are in for a “very rude awakening” because of the mighty backlash from “the forces of repression”. That’s when he says “you’re going to need people on your side who at the present time you’re calling fascists, transphobes – what are the other meaningless hate words that are thrown around at the moment? – white supremacists”. He refers to these categorical descriptions as “the nonsense rhetoric of division”, and claims that anyone who reads We Are The Witchcraft and agrees with it has the duty to “do the work” to “connect with the others around” and not engage in “an endless witch-hunt” or “a purity death-spiral”. This is when Grey concludes that we need to ask “why they hell aren’t we seeing it now?” in reference to the radicalism of Jack Parsons.

Before we need to go anywhere we need to establish something right away: this is all obviously nonsense. Grey does not know that Jack Parsons would not have rejected transphobes, and he has absolutely no way to claim that he would’ve supported unity with fascists – in fact it seems very obvious that these would be his enemies. But having established this, it is important to understand what Peter Grey means when he says all of this. Grey’s overall position is that Western capitalism is collapsing, the time is approaching for anti-capitalist witches to usher in a new society, and in order to achieve this they will need all the help they can get, and so on this basis Grey argues that witches seeking to oppose capitalism should make alliances with essentially anyone who opposes the current establishment. When Grey complains about people being referred to as fascists, transphobes, or white supremacists, presumably by leftists and liberals, it might be inferred that he is referring to people who he thinks are resisting the establishment and are merely unfairly demonised by people who he refers to as “Biden-style leftists”. My guesses in that regard would be the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, TERFs who at least claim to be anti-capitalist in some way, possibly people like Derrick Jensen, or really just any self-styled radical who comes out with a bigoted take and doesn’t issue any sort of self-correction or apology for it. I suspect that he may also be responding to the discourse around attempts at left-right convergence, which are initiated either by fascists or idiots. Jimmy Dore and his buddies spring to mind.

So, Grey’s take is essentially that the far-left should unite with the far-right in order to seize the opportunity to destroy capitalism as it is collapsing. Well, there are several problems with this. It’s certainly not obvious how the invasion of Ukraine is supposed to single-handedly usher in the collapse of global capitalism, at all. It’s also not obvious why radical socialists, communists, or anarchists (which Grey claims he is) should ally with people whose primary political goals involve oppressing and destroying them. More to the point, this sort of big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics doesn’t work in that it doesn’t succeed in bringing us any closer to dismantling capitalism. The only thing it eventually succeeds in is normalizing not only reactionary ideology but also some incredibly toxic bigotry that goes with it. Chip Berlet already examined this phenomenon in his 1999 essay Right Woos Left and had already demonstrated therein the ways in which left-right convergences lead to fascists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories gaining influence in progressive activist circles while never actually generating any long-term political victories against the ruling class.

Not to mention, the argument is that we need to ally with reactionaries in order to fight “the forces of repression”, but if given the power those “allies” would be doing the repressing. Here in the United Kingdom we already have a government and opposition that is doing everything in its power to undermine the rights of trans people, while in many US states there are efforts to actually oppress trans people by forcing trans kids to undergo invasive “physical examinations” and abducting them from their parents if they undergo gender affirmation surgery. Isn’t this also repression, Peter Grey? What about the fact that the American right-wing seems to be increasingly interested in overthrowing elected leadership in order to abolish democracy and replace it with a dictatorship run by Trump? Would the outcome of that not be repression? You’re so concerned with the spectre of “cancel culture” on the left that it’s blinding you to what’s going on and to the reality of the people you want us to unite with.

The point regarding “rhetoric” of division is notable in that forces me to return to the subject of unity. As ever, “unity” is only valuable in a relativistic sense; unity of whom, or of who with what? Has it ever occurred to anyone that you don’t have to unite with everyone and everything, or that there are people that you should not unite with and who do not deserve such unity? Why should trans people and their allies unite with people who not only deny the very existence of trans people but also want trans people to be legislated out of existence? Why should Jewish people be asked to unite with people who hate them and want them to be exterminated or persecuted? Why should we be asked to unite with people who want to create a totalitarian system maintained through genocide? The self-styled “Luciferian” would do well to consider that the defining action expressed in the myth of Lucifer, his rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven, is precisely the refusal of unity with the greatest fascist of them all! Rebellion, the “renewal of the war”, is the refusal of unity by the renewal of conflict against power, against that which is, such that there can be no unity with it, and from the standpoint of certain pre-Christian cosmologies it is this and not unity in the abstract which comprises the cosmos itself.

I also see a distinct contradiction in Grey’s overall stance brought about by his big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics in relation to what seems to be a relatively elitist view of witchcraft. Drawing from We Are The Witchcraft along with Jack Parson’s apparent experience as a practitioner of Thelema, Grey likes to assert that witchcraft and magick are only “for the few”. However meritorious the position is argued to be, we are supposed to accept this and at the same time also accept that witches are supposed to bring anyone who happens to hate the establishment for literally any reason no matter how reactionary and bigoted into the fold of the cause. It’s like witchcraft is for the few to participate in, but for also anyone claiming to oppose the system to participate in. That makes no sense.

Bringing this back to the subject of We Are The Witchcraft, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the following passage from that manifesto, which reads thus:

Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.

Peter Grey would like us to think that to follow in the example of Jack Parsons means that we should ally with reactionaries for the purposes of unity. This is implied by the fact that he closes his rant on the subject by appealing to the supposed loss of Parson’s radicalism in the world. But I think that a more consistent of application of the message of We Are The Witchcraft is precisely the opposite of what Peter Grey prescribes. When Parson talks about “those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain”, we can easily see that it is in fact the people Grey wants us to ally with who embody this description. The people we refer to as transphobes, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are in fact transphobes, and they are this because they want to prevent trans people from being liberated or acheiving the full range of rights to which they, if at least we operate from the conceits given to us under the banner of the human rights framework, would be entitled to instead of denied. The transphobes do this because trans people, along with queer people, non-binary, and all the others that do not conform to the experience of cisheteronormativity, are through their mere existence a threat to established notions of gender that have been the basis of long-standing systems of oppression and hence authority for certain individuals over others. The people we refer to as fascists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are fascists, and we call them such because they want nothing less than the re-organization of the capitalist state along the precept of absolute submisson to the reified authority of a single dictator – hardly different in principle to the tyranny for which the Devil opposed God. The people we refer to as white supremacists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are white supremacists, and we call them such because they want to establish, or perhaps rather reinforce, a brutal hierarchy of power based on race in which some people are privileged and the rest are oppressed. All of these either suggest a fear of freedom or even afflict it upon both the subject and the sovereigns, and those who seek to implement them are thus not the natural allies of The Witchcraft as Grey would have us believe. In fact, Parsons is quite clear as to what the Witch should do with them: “these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how”.

You would think that in a podcast devoted partially to an exegesis of We Are The Witchcraft would have had no trouble arriving at this understanding of the political implications of the text, but it seems that this understanding has eluded both Peter Grey and Gordon White, and I’ll be honest, the idea of getting around this and side-stepping it sounds like classic pseudo-intellectualism, seeking more of the thing than what it is and contorting the substance through sophistication. I’m inclined to think of it as a sort of privilege on Peter Grey’s part, since it really does speak of a sort of detachment from the gritty realities of radical politics in favour of some intellectual landscape, some retreat into the kingdom of thought and contemplation. Grey no doubt lives off of money generated from his relatively well-esteemed body of work and made through his company Scarlet Imprint. But of course, Grey reminds me to some extent of Rhyd Wildermuth, funny enough a man who has said he derived influence from Grey, and Wildermuth currently lives in the Ardennes, completely unconnected to any practical experience of American radical politics, making money partially through his books and his courses on neopaganism. I mean, fuck, I hate to say it but even Noam Chomsky sort of follows the trope as well, not because of Jimmy Dore’s drivel about how he’s a class traitor because he knows his “Force The Vote” campaign was never going to work, but because he looks at what’s going in Ukraine and his answer is simply to act like Russia has no agency in all this because it’s all America’s fault; and if you’re wondering how that connects to any sort of aloofness to the material circumstances at hand, you need only ask a Ukrainian translator. To be very honest, I’m getting mighty tired of this pattern.

In view of Grey’s comments, on their own I think he is merely purveying a populist outlook that naturally aligns someone towards the idea of left-right convergences as a form of praxis. And yet, there are signs of something else. For one thing, while I know him as basically an anarchist, he did in the stream briefly say that “post-anarchism” was the correct way to arrive at his interpretation of We Are The Witchcraft. It’s possible, then, that Peter Grey is technically no longer an anarchist in the sense that we might understand it, but rather some sort of “post-anarchist”, which necessarily entails that he has departed from baseline anarchism, possibly because baseline anarchism does not allow him to justify some of his positions and prejudices. The same thing basically happened with Rhyd Wildermuth, except Wildermuth nowadays prefers to call himself an Autonomist Marxist rather than “post-anarchist”, as though Autonomist Marxism is supposed to somehow better accomodate Rhyd’s reactionary socialism. Another sign I get from him is that he still whines about “social justice warriors” among other things for part of The Two Antichrists, at least if memory serves me well. This is in 2021. I’ll just say that by then I had already stopped doing that for quite a few years. Then, there’s Phil Hine mentioning in comment on the podcast that Grey had spoken positively, even fanboyishly, of Ted Kaczynski. And then there’s something that, admittedly, I didn’t initially give much thought to, but there’s the logo that used to represent Scarlet Imprint. It’s not their logo anymore, but you can still see it a lot in Lucifer: Princeps, and I can see why there would be problems with it in that it really does look like a variation of the swastika. It’s not the swastika that was used by the Nazis, to be clear on that front, and I’m guessing to them it’s an original esoteric sigil or whatever, but it looks sort of like they’ve put two triskleions together but the triskelions are in the shape of swastikas. That’s not even the only sus symbol around. Not to mention, I seem to recall him complaining at some point in The Brazen Vessel that the witchcraft community and the Left Hand Path needed to abandon “individualism”, however he defines it. But then why is “individualism” a problem if you declare that your legacy of witchcraft derives from Jack Parsons, who was literally an individualist anarcho-communist!? Suffice it to say, there is much about Peter Grey’s overall politics that is probably not as it seems, and it has some troubling implications to say the least.

All in all, the last thing to say is that for all of these reasons I will not be waiting to purchase Lucifer: Praxis after this point. I probably won’t even need it anyway for reasons I plan to explain, but really I have one important reason for spurining this book. It’s meant to elaborate the practical manifestation of his idea of Luciferian witchcraft, and the main problem there is what the political implications of it could be. Peter Grey is still not so foolish as to completely side-step the issue of politics in occultism and spirituality more broadly, he knows full well the necessity of politicizing witchcraft and indeed is known for advocating such politicization himself. But that’s very much the problem: now I have some very specific ideas of what that looks like in his hands, none of them good. His “post-anarchist” take on Luciferian witchcraft could well involve esoteric justifications for traditionalism undertaken in the name of rebellion against hierarchy, simply so as to forge an intellectual bridge for the alliances he intends to be made, and I would rather not lend any financial support to that bullshit. Take from the good parts of his work by all means, but just know that this might not be a totally unrealistic assumption on my part.

Satanic Panic and the Ukraine-Russia War

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the Ukraine-Russia war as it has unfolded since last week, and in the process of this I’ve been observing a lot of reactions to the invasion. Most of the world condemns Russia’s actions, and has extended tremendous (at least formal) solidarity to the people and government of Ukraine. But not everyone seems to be keen to support Ukraine, or even to oppose Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Besides the so-called “anti-imperialist” socialists, there is a tendency within the far-right in Western countries to actually defend Vladimir Putin and in some cases even support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A lot of right-wingers defend Putin for idiotic contrarian reasons, such as Tucker Carlson defending him because he believes that Putin didn’t call him a racist and try to get him fired for disagreeing with him (as though Putin isn’t doing so much worse). Russia itself justifies invading Ukraine on the grounds of “de-Nazification” against a supposedly “fascist” country, and that Ukraine is supposedly rightful Russian territory. But others in the far-right have a very different angle: they support Putin and oppose Ukraine because they believe that Ukraine is a “satanic” regime, and that Putin is fighting for Christianity.

In examining this idea, let’s go through some examples. Lauren Witzke, the white nationalist Republican and candidate for Delaware Senate, expressed support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds of his “Christian values”, further expressed solidarity with Russia as a “Christian nationalist nation”, stated that she identified more with Putin’s Russia than with Joe Biden, and argued that “Christian nationalist countries” like Russia are demonized by the media because they are “threat to the global regime”, which she refers to as “the Luciferian regime that wants to mash everything together”. It should go without saying, of course, that none of the Western ruling class are “Luciferians”, and there is no “Luciferian regime” anywhere. Luciferianism, in fact, is not even a distinct religion. It’s just a name given to any esoteric belief system that venerates Lucifer as a non-diabolical figure of enlightenment and liberation in a context that is usually (though not really always) conceptually distinguished from Satanism. Beyond this, there is no formally shared doctrine, tradition, theology, or ritual praxis, or even a shared concept of the identity of Lucifer, that could form the basis of a consistent and distinct “Luciferian tradition”. Needless to say, Joe Biden is not a Luciferian. He’s actually a Catholic, albeit a liberal Catholic. But the idea that he is running a “Luciferian regime”, here meant to be understood as a world order ruled by a conspiracy of devil-worshipping elites (thus, in this instance “Luciferian” is meant to be interchangeable with “Satanist”), is a flank within a larger Christian nationalist ideology, in which the Satanic Ritual Abuse trope positions the so-called “globalists” (the “elites”, as it were) as diabolical threats to the nation and its “freedom”, order, and ethnic make-up, which is to be preserved by a right-wing authoritarian Christian regime, whether through the democratic process or through a coup d’état.

Another example within the American right is Wendy Rogers, a pro-Trump Republican Senator in Arizona, who tweeted her support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds that he is “Russia First”, which she considers equivalent to her “America First” position, and described most European leaders as “globo Satanic bankers” (which is also just her way of saying she hates Jewish people). Mike Cernovich, a notable alt-right conspiracy theorist, has described Putin as someone “who doesn’t center Moloch” while characterizing Western leadership as un-Christian. The official Twitter account for Gab, the right-wing echo chamber billed as a “free speech” alternative to Facebook, summarized their view of the Ukraine-Russia war as “Christians liberating other Christians from the demonic, secular, anti-God globalist West”, which according to them is “pretty based”. Andrew Torba, the owner of Gab, has said that Ukraine “needs to be liberated and cleansed from the degeneracy of the secular Western globalist empire”. Alex Jones, the InfoWars man himself, has apparently urged Ukrainians to welcome an invasion by Russia if they don’t want George Soros to “cut your son’s balls off”, by which he clearly means that he thinks that if Russia doesn’t capture Ukraine then George Soros and the Western leaders will somehow “impose” transness on people (I mean, the whole mutilation trope is classic transphobia). Keep in mind also that Jones thinks all of this is the work of “satanic” cultists supposedly running the elite. It’s also worth noting that, before the invasion took place, Jones also asserted that there would be no invasion of Ukraine and that all hint to the contrary was manufactured by propaganda, but after the invasion happened, his followers started claiming that Jones predicted the invasion even though he did no such thing. When Putin gave his speech right before invading Ukraine, Jones offered nothing but praise for Putin and asserted that everything Putin said about Ukraine was true. The QAnon movement, which believes that Donald Trump is secretly arresting and executing members of a secretive conspiracy of cannibalistic devil-worshippers, seems to support Russia’s actions on the grounds that they believe that Russia, by invading Ukraine, is fighting the deep state and foiling trafficking operations taking place there; of course, there are also QAnoners who think the whole invasion isn’t even real. John Enlow, a self-professed “prophet” of QAnon”, claimed that Putin was actually fighting a clan of “Luciferian pedophiles” who were using Ukraine to enact the Illuminati’s plan to wipe out 90% of the global population. Another conspiracy theorist named Delora O’Brien claimed that Putin was on the side of God and that Russian troops discovered a “child sex trafficking den” while looking for bio-weapons in Ukraine. The QAnon movement in general, insofar as they don’t think the invasion of Ukraine is completely fake, seems to be convinced that Putin is actually “liberating” the people of Ukraine by “purging” the country of its corrupt government, which they believe to be connected to the “deep state” and/or Joe Biden and his “crime family”.

America is not the only place where you can find reactionary Satanic Panic narratives used to justify support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As my friend Satanicviews has recounted recently, several of the conspiracy theorists dubbed Satan Hunters have declared their support for the invasion. Richard Carvath, a British conspiracy blogger who calls himself a “journalist”, has apparently called for Ukrainians to surrender to Russia in a post that has since been deleted; such a position could be referred to as “revolutionary defeatism”. Lydia Lowe, a conspiracy theorist from Gravesend who runs a Facebook page called “Supporting SRA Survivors”, has apparently supported Putin and referred to all of his critics as “satanic”. S Hill, a member of Jeanette Archer’s QAnon-esque conspiracist personality cult, has apparently not only supported Russia but also posed for a photo in front of an aircraft with a Nazi swastika. Brian P Willmot, a British conspiracy theorist who inserted himself into the Wilfred Wong case by violating a court order protecting one of Wong’s kidnap victims, has promoted Russia Today on the subject of Ukraine and has asserted that the narrative of Russian invasion is “pure bullshit”. Wayne Fox, a British priest and a leader in Archer’s conspiracy movement, stated on February 28th that “Russia has stood up to the West”, stated that NATO wants to intervene in Ukraine because they serve “the New World Order”, who he claims want to use Ukraine as a base of operations for child trafficking hubs, adrenochrome factories (adrenochrome is believed by SRA conspiracy theorists to be harvested by devil-worshipping elites in order to preserve their vitality) and bio-laboratories, and has further stated that Putin as “against the Rothchilds” (again, another way of making this about Jewish people). These people are all part of a movement of conspiracy theorists that sprung up in relation to the Hampstead conspiracy movement of 2015, which alleged that a primary school and various individuals were kidnapping, abusing, and even eating children as part of an international cult of devil worship and human trafficking. This movement’s cause was defeated when their allegations were resoundingly disproven and rejected in court, but they never stopped harassing people on the basis of allegations of pedophilia.

There are more pro-Russian conspiracy theorist outside of this milieu. David Icke, the lizardman guy himself, seems to support Russian claims of territorial sovereignty over Ukraine by arguing that Ukraine was always part of Russia. Beyond this, it seems that Icke has been arguing that Ukraine was a pawn in American or global plots to destabilize Russia for years, presumably as part of a global conspiracy by Jewish Satanists who are also lizard people because that’s basically how David Icke conspiracies work. In Canada, there’s a restaurant in Ontario called The Leaky Tank which has gone viral for putting up a sign declaring that Russia is “de-Nazifying” Ukraine rather than occupying it and that Putin spoke out against the “Satan worshippers” supposedly behind the “Great Reset”.

It has become commonplace among reactionary conspiracy theorists to automatically side against Ukraine and defend the Russian invasion on the grounds that the people they hate all support Ukraine, or that Putin is somehow foiling some sinister or “satanic” deep state plot by invading Ukraine. Right after the invasion, conspiracy theorists started pushing the idea that Putin is invading Ukraine in order to get rid of supposed US biolabs, dubbed “satanic buildings” by an army of copy-pasting conspiracist drones, which were supposedly built in order to manufacture the next global pandemic. The fact that Marina Abramovic, the conceptual artist who had been accused of being a baby-eating devil worshipper by insane conspiracy theorists since 2016, has urged Western leaders to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression is no doubt taken as proof that Ukraine is on the side of their hated “satanic elites”. And of course, there are many anti-semitic conspiracy theorists (read: overtly anti-semitic as opposed to merely implicitly anti-semitic as most conspiracy theories are) who believe that the invasion of Ukraine is nothing more than the liberation of Ukraine from “the Khazarian mafia”, who of course are believed by these anti-semites to control the “Deep State” and practice some sadistic form of devil worship. Unsurprisingly, this idea is also one of many that can be seen promoted by members of the QAnon movement. Proponents often justify this conspiracy theory through a comparison between the Ukrainian Coat of Arms and the so-called “Khazarian Tamga”, but there doesn’t seem to any such thing as a “Khazarian Tamga”, and the symbol given that name is actually probably just a variation of the Tryzub, an ancient heraldic symbol used by the Rurikid dynasty that ruled the Kievan Rus and is basically the origin of the Ukrainian Coat of Arms. Simply put, it’s not a symbol of some secret Khazarian dynasty, it’s just a symbol that has basically always been used to represent Ukraine.

It is easy to assume that all of these conspiracy theories are coming from America, presumably created by the QAnon movement as an application of extreme conservative negative partnership to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. However, it seems that there is actually an extent to which the Russian government, through its media apparatus, has been actively manufacturing conspiracist narratives against its enemies, and these narratives then find their way to the West as the basis of many right-wing conspiracy theories about Russia and Ukraine. As you will see, this extends to Satanic Panic as well, which would mean that the Russian government may be playing a role in keeping Satanic Panic alive. According to EUvsDisinfo, a counter-propaganda website and conspiracy theory database run by the European External Action Service, the Kremlin repeatedly promotes the idea that the West’s main plan is to use Ukraine to somehow inject Satanism into Russia and the Christian world. The report lists Rossiya 24, a news outlet owned by the Russian government, as a source of this conspiracy theory. Unfortunately I can’t actually watch the video linked in the report due to the fact that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore, and all I can ascertain from an archive link of it is that it’s a segment of a Russian talk show called “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” that aired on September 26th 2018. Nonetheless, I have been able to find other evidence of Rossiya 24 concocting a Satanic Panic narrative against Ukraine.

On August 17th 2014, Rossiya 24 (a.k.a. Russia-24) ran a report claiming that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the then-Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Oleksandr Turchynov, then-Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, were working in tandem with a newly-formed “Satanic sect” to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s obviously an absurd conspiracy theory, but like many conspiracy theories this one is built on a few small nuggets of truth that are then distorted into a larger narrative based on lies. One of the things that Rossiya 24 builds its argument on is that, on June 6th 2014, a community of apparent Satanists was officially registered in Ukraine, specifically in Cherkasy. Curiously, however, the Christian-aligned Russian media did not pick up on this story until August that year. Founded by a man named Sergey Neboga, this community is referred to as “Bozhichi”, and in September of that year they apparently opened up their first church in the Pastyrskoye village. It is reported that Neboga styles this organisation as a community of sorcerers and witches which professes devil worship and the practice of Veretnichestvo (apparently a form of Russian or Slavic witchcraft). Neboga also purportedly advocated the worship of pagan gods as part of his system of Satanism, which would make this a polytheistic expression of Satanism, perhaps a form of Theistic Satanism. However, on October 7th 2014, it was reported that on October 3rd of that year this church had been burned down by unknown arsonists, and that, by this time, the Cherkasy Regional State Administration sought to cancel the state recognition of the Bozhichi movement.

The Bozhichi movement seems to be what Russian state media accused of being part of a Ukrainian plot to destroy Russian Orthodox Christianity. That this community seems to have been very small and obscure, and in no credible position to have any political influence, probably didn’t bother the people at Rossiya 24 when concocting their narrative. Nor perhaps did it bother them that neither Arseniy Yatsenyuk nor Oleksandr Turchynov were ever Satanists – in fact, Arseniy Yatsenyuk is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Oleksandr Turchynov is a Baptist minister. Both of them are Christians and thus would have no interest in promoting Satanism, much less attacking the Russian Orthodox Church or Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a whole. But I presume that, because they do not align with the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian state media could present them as a threat simply on the grounds that they do not represent “Russian religion” by being non-Orthodox, coupled with the fact that they are part of a government that Russia has been invading. If the Russian state considers Ukraine to be “satanic”, the feeling seems to be mutual in Ukraine, since in 2014 the then-Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused Vladimir Putin of being under the influence of Satan.

In any case, it seems that the Russian state has been spreading certain ideas about the spread of Satanism, or at least the destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church, through Ukraine for years now. In fact, other more well-known conspiracy theories may have originated in the Kremlin, or at least in Kremlin-aligned media outlets or Russian social media, or are otherwise merely promoted in those channels. The conspiracy theory which says that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to destroy US biolabs was probably actually invented by the Kremlin, or more specifically it seems to originate from yet another report aired by Rossiya 24. In 2015, Rossiya 24 covered an apparent disease outbreak in Georgia and Ukraine, which purportedly killed pigs and other livestock, and supposedly no one had figured out the cause of the disease. The reporter accused the United States government of causing the outbreaks by funding bio-laboraties in Georgia and Ukraine, supposedly for the purpose of manufacturing deadly pathogens. Of course, in reality the disease was identified and contained within the Lugar Research Center, which was established in Georgia in 2011 with the aim of detecting, containing, and combatting viral diseases. The Russian government, however, doesn’t accept that, and has been waging a misinformation campaign against the Lugar Research Center for years. In 2017, the Russian government accused the Lugar Research Center of creating illegal bioweapons and claimed that the Pentagon was trying to establish a network of biolaboratories along Russian borders, all of which are completely unsubstantiated. Sputnik, a Russian news and radio network owned by the Russian government, claimed in 2016 that the United States is creating a network of bio-laboratories with the aimed at setting up hostile military bio-infrastructure against Russia. In 2018 the New Eastern Outlook, a conspiracist website run by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is operated by the Russian government, claimed without evidence not only that the Lugar Research Centre was actually a bioweapons facility but also that they were testing newly-developed viruses on the Georgian population. One American source for the conspiracy theory might be a man named Jeffrey Silverman, a conspiracy theorist who claimed in an interview with Patrioti TV, a pro-Russian Georgian right-wing outlet, that Georgians were being “used as white rats” by the Lugar Research Centre, who he believes are testing deadly viruses on humans. Silverman is also frequently cited by both Russian state media and conspiracist “alternative” websites. The claim that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to try and destroy bio-laboratories is certainly a very recent one, but it also builds on long-standing Russian state narrative that purports the existence of US biolaboratories in Ukraine and Georgia that exist to create viral bio-weapons, which has been constructed in order to attack the Lugar Research Center for years.

As another example, you may have heard about a conspiracy theory which alleged that European Union leaders were holding a “satanic ritual” to commemorate the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel in the world, in Switzerland. It’s all preposterous, of course, but the idea may have originated with Asaval-Dasavali, a pro-Russian Georgian news outlet which is also notoriously homophobic, racist, ethno-nationalist, and prone to cartoonish misinformation. Another popular right-wing conspiracy theory asserts that the European Union is a Satanist project on the grounds that the Seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg is supposedly modelled after the Tower of Babel and there are supposedly “Satanic stars” on an EU poster. Again, this is false; the European Parliament Building is known to have been modelled after Roman amphitheatres such as the Coliseum, and the stars not only aren’t “satanic” but they’re actually just regular EU stars, and the poster featuring them was created by the Council of Europe. The idea that the Seat of the European Parliament Building was designed after the Tower of Babel and thus shows that the EU is a Satanist project has been documented in Russian social media, like the website Odnoklassniki, on accounts like “Biblia i Prorochestva” dated to 2015. The same basic claim also appears in pro-Russian websites such as Protiproud, a far-right Czech news website. That said, it also seems to have surfaced much earlier on a right-wing website called Vigilant Citizen, in article dated to 2008, which suggests that this conspiracy theory was not invented in Russia but is rather simply promoted in Russia and in pro-Russian media. Fort Russ News, a US-based pro-Kremlin right-wing news outlet, often runs articles accusing Western elites of being Satanists, such as their 2020 article accusing Melinda Gates of being a Satanist for supposedly wearing an upside-down cross (which, on its own, wouldn’t prove anything). Pro-Kremlin media also asserts that the Council of Europe and the European Union are “Satanic” organisations and that allowing homosexual couples to create a family would lead to destruction.

In a similar vein, Russian intelligence may also be responsible for creating one of the most prolific conspiracy theories found in the American right-wing. According to a Yahoo News investigation by Michael Isikoff, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or SVR) created fake intelligence bulletins which purported that Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Convention employee, was killed by a team of assassins hired by Hillary Clinton, which was then planted in a website called Whatdoesitmean.com and then circulated in right-wing circles all the way up to the Donald Trump campaign team. Although this is not itself a Satanic Panic trope, the murder of Seth Rich was picked up by the PizzaGate movement, whose central premise involves a conspiracy of devil-worshipping pedophiles, who then made it part of its own conspiracist mythology, and then over the years others within the movement would be compared to Seth Rich so as to portray them as martyrs. Of course, Russian media denies all Russian involvement in possibly inventing conspiracy theories.

Another major Satanic Panic scare in Russia is centered around Pussy Riot, the all-girl Russian punk band who became famous in 2012 for performing a “punk prayer” protest song in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow directed against Vladimir Putin, which led to three members of the band being arrested by Russian authorities. Following this arrest, the Russian media along with Russia’s political and religious establishment was quick to condemn them as blasphemers, and this sometimes meant that Pussy Riot were framed as part of a satanic conspiracy to destroy Russia. Rossiya 24 ran a documentary presented by Arkady Mamontov arguing that Pussy Riot were anti-Christian blasphemers who were funded by exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the US State Department with the intention of destroying Russian society by corrupting the souls of Russians and attacking Russian Orthodox Christianity, and even suggested that Pussy Riot’s actions constituted a path to what he called “neo-Bolshevism”. Incidentally, this is also the same Arkady Mamontov who, in 2013, claimed on another Rossiya 24 programme that the meteorite explosion over Chelyabinsk was a punishment from God for the activities of LGBT people, argued that worse would come to Russia if Russians did not preserve “traditional love”, and further claimed that the LGBT community is a way for the West to destroy Russia. During the trial of Pussy Riot, two lawyers representing a man Vladimir Potan’kin, a security guard on duty at the Cathedral and supposed “injured party”, described Pussy Riot as a “criminal conspiracy” organized by an unidentified “satanic group” and “the global government” under the direction of Satan himself. Vsevolod Chaplin, who was a leading figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, described Pussy Riot as “literally satanic rage” and accused opponents of Vladimir Putin of fomenting said “satanic rage” against the Church. Patriarch Kirill chimed into the national conversation by asserting that the Russian Orthodox Church had become the victim of an “information war” waged by the enemies of Russia. Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist leader of the Eurasian Youth Union and advisor to Vladimir Putin himself, stated that “Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan”, while calling on members of the Eurasian Youth Union to greet opposition marches, referred to as “the devil’s spawn”, with “crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell”. Pussy Riot had no apparent intentions of attacking the Russian Orthodox Church, or Christianity at large, and their only goal in singing their punk prayer was condemning Vladimir Putin. But, regardless of that, Russian Orthodox Christians have frequently regarded Pussy Riot as a “satanic” attack on Christianity, sometimes asserting that the women in Pussy Riot were possessed by Satan, and many Russian conspiracy theories often place the West as the source of such “satanism” and “blasphemy”.

Russian media also promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschilds. The Russian right-wing think tank Katehon, which is run by the pro-Putin channel Tsargrad TV, ran an article accusing the Rothschilds of having an “esoteric Luciferian agenda” and controlling the global media. It is worth mentioning that Katehon’s supervisory board includes Russian politicians like Sergey Glazyev (who is sometimes considered a potential successor to Vladimir Putin) and Andrey Klimov (Russian Senator and Deputy of the State Duma), as well as the Russian secret service agent Leonid Reshetnikov. Tsargrad TV itself also promotes conspiracy theories alleging that the European refugee crisis was created by George Soros and accusing the Rothschilds of wanting world domination. The president of Katehon, Konstanin Malofeev, is a right-wing traditionalist businessman who is also connected to the Kremlin and who financed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Malofeev is also known in Russia as the right-hand man to none other than Aleksandr Dugin. Russian institutions also seem to promote QAnon, which tends to come with quite a lot of anti-semitic tropes and ideas to the point that they’re actually practically a neo-Nazi movement, and other similar conspiracy theorists and movements through systematic online propaganda campaigns. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm likely financed by the Putin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, is known to have promoted QAnon, PizzaGate, and several other right-wing conspiracies after the election of Donald Trump by creating a series of troll accounts operated from St Petersburg. Guccifer 2.0, the so-called “lone hacker” known for spreading PizzaGate conspiracy theories and claiming to have exposed the “Illuminati” by breaching the Democratic National Convention, appears to have actually been a Russian intelligence officer working for the GRU, a military intelligence agency operated by the Russian government.

Russian media even sometimes promotes conspiracy theories about Covid-19. RT Deustch, the German branch of Russia’s flagship state propaganda channel Russia Today, is apparently the source of numerous German social media posts and articles alleging, among other things, that there is an unreported number of deaths caused by vaccines or that there are deadly coronarvirus experiments being carried out by the WHO. While RT Deutsch is now banned by the German government, it was one of the most popular news stations in Germany, and other Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and Pravda also enjoyed relative prominence in Germany. Tsargrad TV also ran programmes opposing the implementation of QR Codes (apparently equivalent to vaccine passports) by claiming that those who don’t have them will not be allowed to go to church and that the QR Codes constitute the mark of Satan, while arguing for prayer as the cure for Covid-19.

There is also a definite connection between Western right-wing conspiracy theorists and Russian media. David Lawrence Booth, a conspiracy theorist writing under the nom-de-plume Sorcha Faal (an alter ego usually presented as a female Russian scientist), disseminated numerous conspiracy theories of all kinds through WhatDoesItMean.com, including stories based on or adapted from Russian intelligence reports, sometimes conspiracy theories from the website end up becoming news stories on Russian media outlets such as Svobodnaya Pressa and Izvestia, and Russian troll operations connected to the Internet Research Agency boost his work. Charles Bausman, an American expat living in Russia who founded an anti-semitic pro-Kremlin news outlet called Russia Insider, was also involved in the right-wing insurrection attempt at Capitol Hill that took place on January 6th 2021, and has also appeared on Tsargrad TV. Tsargrad TV was launched with the help of Matt Hanick, a former Fox News producer, Fox News of course being arguably the biggest disseminator of conspiracy theories within US legacy media. Alex Jones has appeared on Russia Today as a guest and interviewee on multiple separate occasions; once in 2008 (here he was referred to as an “investigative reporter”), again in 2009, again in 2010, once more in 2011, again in 2012 in an interview with Abby Martin, and many more occasions. In turn, Alex Jones also hosted an interview with Aleksandr Dugin on InfoWars in 2017. Alex Jones also seems to have appeared on Max Keiser’s show on Russia Today on numerous occasions, and Max Keiser in turn has made guest appearances on InfoWars. In 2018 it was revealed that Alex Jones was interviewed by Kristine Frazao, a Russia Today journalist who would go on to join the growing Sinclair media empire. Alex Jones has also reproduced over 1,000 news articles from Russia Today, and many more from Sputnik along with several other news outlets, without their permission, according to data compiled by BuzzSumo. In 2016 Alex Jones has also appeared on Tsargrad TV with Aleksandr Dugin to discuss Donald Trump.

Alex Jones is not the only conspiracy theorist to appear on Russia Today. Russia Today has over the years lent its platform to a number of toxic cranks such truthers, birthers, climate change deniers, and even actual white supremacists. These include Orly Taitz (the man who claimed to possess a Kenyan birth certificate belonging to Barack Obama), James David Manning (that infamous homophobic pastor also known for his birtherist views), Jim Stachowiak (an extremely racist and Islamophobic militia organizer who has called for terroristic acts against non-white people and leftists), Jared Taylor (infamous white nationalist ideologue), Piers Corbyn (anti-semitic conspiracy theorist), Christopher Monckton (right-wing climate denier), James Corbett (“anarcho-capitalist” conspiracy theorist), Lyndon LaRouche (almost legendary neo-fascist crank), Mark Dice, Lori Harfenist (9/11 truther), Michael “Lionel” Lebron, David Ray Griffin (who is both a truther and a Christian theologian), Mike Adams (the guy from NaturalNews), Jimmy Dore, and even Ryan Dawson (a Holocaust denier) among presumably many others. Mark Watts, a British conspiracy theorist known for spreading false accusations of child sexual abuse and paedophile rings originally conocted by Carl Beech on his website Exaro, appeared on Russia Today via George Galloway’s show to defend his work by claiming that it was “the biggest political scandal in post-war Britain”. In fact, in 2009, on the anniversary of 9/11, Russia Today themselves hosted a special series on its website arguing that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, and for this occasion they released several articles by Robert Bridge in which he uncritically presents the claims of 9/11 truthers as legitimate narratives of what happened on September 11th. RT Deutsch has also promoted Alternative for Deutschland, the primary representative party of the German far-right.

On top of that, Russia Today hosts sometimes join in on the conspiracy-mongering themselves. Peter Lavelle, the host of CrossTalk, claimed in 2014 that Ukraine was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Abby Martin, who was a host at Russia Today until 2014, used her platform on Russia Today to argue that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job and defend proponents of the 9/11 truther movement that she was a part of. Abby Martin, in her capacity as an RT host, also tried to present the Bundy standofff as the next Waco massacre. Adam Kokesh, a right-wing libertarian activist, briefly had a show on RT America called Adam vs The Man in which he ran conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg Group, the FDA, and other subjects. Max Keiser, the host of Russia Today’s Keiser Report, repeatedly asserted before the invasion of Ukraine that the Ukraine-Russia war was a hoax created by CNN, and is otherwise known for promoting many conspiracy theories about the global finacial system, such as that the Euro currency was set up to fail so that Germany could establish a “Fourth Reich”. One of Russia Today’s most prolific reporters is an American journalist named Caleb Maupin, who is also most certifiably what I would describe as a “left-fascist”. Caleb Maupin has written numerous books in which he promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories surrounding Israel, Ayn Rand, and various left-wing political commentators on YouTube, and uncritically promotes other virulent conspiracy theorists such as the neofascist named Haz as well as transphobic conspiracist talking points of CPGB-ML vice-chairperson Joti Brar.

In the context of the current invasion of Ukraine, the biggest peddler of conspiracy theories in relation to the Ukraine-Russia war is surely none other the Russian media itself, which works tirelessly to present Russian citizens with its own manufactured vision of the conflict. When Russian forces attacked a TV tower in Kyiv, Russian media instead reported that the Ukraine was attacking its own cities, effectively accusing the Ukrainian government of carrying out a false flag operation. Russian state media channels such as Rossiya 24 and Channel One still do not refer to the invasion of Ukraine as an invasion, or the events taking place in Ukraine as a war. Instead they prefer to call it a “demilitarization operation” or “special military operation, which they assert is being carried out to target military infrastructure in Ukraine and defend the “people’s republics”. This is in stark contrast to the reality of the events in Ukraine, in which we see civilian infrastructure destroyed by Russian bombs. As Kherson was captured by Russian forces, Russian media staged a greeting wherein people from Crimea would welcome Russian troops as “liberators”. Caleb Maupin, in his livestream on the invasion, also insists that Russia is not invading Ukraine and is not starting a war there, and instead argues that Russia is simply protecting the people of Donbas from supposed genocide being carried out by Ukrainian forces, and if anything that Russia is “ending the war”. In fact, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Caleb was ecstatic, and opened up a livestream on the day of the invasion by proclaiming that the “forces of righteousness” were “scoring some blows for once”, lamenting that he has “seen Satan win” and seen “the forces of evil have so many victories” for his whole life before excited declaring that he is “watching the forces of good in the world kick ass!”. We can safely assume that Caleb believes that the “forces of good” are Russia and the two separatist “people’s republics” in Donbas whereas he almost certainly assumes the “forces of evil” or “Satan” to be the United States government, Western leaders, and the “Israel Lobby”. This seems rather ironic for a self-styled “communist”, considering that Vladimir Putin basically accused the leadership of the Soviet Union of having created Ukraine in his pre-invasion speech. Some Russian media outlets apparently even claim that there are no Russian troops in Kyiv at all, despite all evidence to the contrary. On Rossiya 24 the state pundits make all sorts of unverified claims about the conflict, such as that Ukrainian forces have been taking hostages to use as human shields, and they never talk about any Russian air strikes being carried out against Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv. Rossiya 24 also seems to be the source of numerous false claims about the Ukraine-Russia conflict that later get uncritically promoted in some left-wing circles, such as the claim that the Latvian government is criminalizing support for Russia and creating a hotline to report any citizen deemed sympathetic to Russia. In general, Russian media appears to be actively trying to cover up Russian aggression in Ukraine in order to maintain popular support for Russia, in this way omitting several viral images from Ukraine or outright presenting them as attacks carried out by Ukraine instead of Russia. The sheer volume of disinformation on Ukraine coming from Russian media is pretty staggering.

At this point I have probably described the landscape of Russian conspiracism in arguably much more detail than necessary, but the point is surely well-illustrated. There is practically a whole industry of conspiracy theories produced by none other than the Russian government itself, through a network of media institutions along with sympathetic foreign media companies. The purpose of this network appears to be to promote ideological narratives created by the Kremlin as well as spread disinformation to confuse the populations of rival countries and possibly bring said countries closer to Russia’s sphere of influence. But this alone doesn’t completely explain the dynamic of the relationship between the conspiratorial right and Putin, because it also seems that there is an affinity between the Western right wing and Putin and his Russia, and the reactionary conspiracism seen in Russia has many similairities to its counterpart in the Western world. Right-wing conspiracists in America and Western Europe are enamored with the idea that any cultural influence they happen to despise is inherently “satanic”, and there are countless conspiracy theories based around the idea that certain celebrities, often politically liberal/progressive ones, are actually devil worshippers who the Illuminati or George Soros or the Deep State employ as subversives to destroy American or European culture and identity. The Satanic Temple sometimes figures into American reactionary conspiracy theories, insofar as their activism is interpreted as an open anti-Christian subversion campaign organized by their political enemies to destroy the basis of American society, and the reasoning for it is not really all that distinct from the reasoning employed by Russian state media institutions such as Rossiya 24 when accusing Ukrainian politicians of being anti-clerical Satanists or from the arguments made by the people who wanted to send Pussy Riot to prison. At the root of the ideology of Satanic Panic, whether it’s set in America or Russia, is a traditionalist conservative ideology that predicates itself on a conspiratorial worldview which positions any alterity or Other that might transform society, a trope that goes all the way back to the age of the French Revolution and the conspiracy theories that presented a new class of bourgeois liberal intellectuals as part of a diabolical conspiracy to destroy civilization.

Ideas of Satanic influence as the cause of civilizational collapse do feature in the Russian far-right in much the same way that they do in the most virulent American and Western European conspiracy theories. One example of this is the idea that the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused by Yuri Andropov, the sixth official leader of the Soviet Union, who supposedly authored a secret plan to restructure Soviet society codenamed “Golgotha” during the 1980s. No evidence for this “Golgotha” plan exists, and in fact the name “Golgotha” seems to have emerged from a Russian spoof novel titled Operation Golgotha: The Secret Plan of Perestroika, which was written by Mikhail Lyubimov (himself a former KGB colonel) in 1995, but Orthodox Christian nationalists assert that the “Golgotha” plan was developed by the CIA, who they deem “the servants of Satan”, with the intention of “crucifying” Russian Christians and creating a “new world order” ruled by the Antichrist, and also Israel and the “Khazarians” are somehow involved. Tsargrad TV has run self-styled “exposés” on so-called “American Satanists” who supposedly “openly supported the killing of children”. Andrey Kormukhin, the leader of the Forty Forties movement honored by Patriarch Kirill, claims that Europe is ruled by a clan of elites who worship Satan and want to legalize pedophilia. That he and his movement are honored by the literal Patriarch of Moscow shows that conspiracy theories like these can be endorsed by the religious and political establishment of Russia, and in some ways normalized in Russian society at large.

Vladimir Putin himself has expressed a worldview similar to that of many reactionary conspiracy theorists; during a speech to the Valdai Discussion Club in 2013, Putin accused “Euro-Atlantic countries” of “rejecting their roots”, which is to say rejecting Christianity, of “denying moral principles and all traditional identities”, and of implementing policies that “equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan”. In the same speech, Putin also accused Western countries of trying to promote pedophilia by registering political parties that promote pedophilia. It’s not for nothing, then, that Putin is so readily embraced by right-wing conspiracy theorists; ultimately, it’s because there is an extent to which believes much of the same things they do. And Putin may not outright say that the West is controlled by “Satanic pedophiles” as some fake quotes have attested, the Kremlin does still like to promote the idea that Western leadership is somehow “satanic”. In 2014, the Kremlin-aligned biker gang known as the Night Wolves held a show in Sevastopol approved by Putin himself and broadcast by the Kremlin to celebrate the annexation of Crimea. The show depicted the United States and its then-president Barack Obama as “the giant black penis of Satan“, splashing the “black sperm of fascism” on Kyiv, and the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv as having conceived “a deformed embryo with hairy face and black horns”. The message of this was clear: Ukraine and the United States represent the forces of Satanism and evil, which Russia means to do battle with in the name of God and the Russian nation. The leader of Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, argued that Russia’s invasion of Crimea “showed resistance to global satanism” as well as opposition to “the destruction of traditional values, all this homosexual talk” (suffice it say Zaldostanov is a massive homophobe). Remember, again, this kind of talk is supported by the Kremlin and Putin.

Sometimes however, similar conspiracy theories are actually directed against Putin’s leadership, and a key example of this can be found in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic. When Russia was implementing its emergency measures to try and curtail the spread of Covid-19, some vocally opposed the restrictions, and among those, some of them accused the Russian government of declaring war against Christianity. Sergii Romanov, a controversial Russian Orthodox monk, branded the Covid-19 pandemic a “hoax”, condemned the Russian government for ordering the closure of churches, denounced a so-called “vaccine conspiracy” to supposedly organised by Bill Gates to exterminate 90% of the global population, claimed that 5G towers spread coronaviruses, hit out at “the satanic leadership” for supposedly mulling over a plan to microchip the population through vaccines, and asserted that the Antichrist would come from Russia and look like a clone of Vladimir Putin. These are all claims that are very similar if not identical to the claims made by QAnon and similar right-wing conspiracy theorist movements.

A core part of the affinity between right-wing conspiracy theorists, along with hard right-wing nationalist politics in general, and Russia or Vladimir Putin, is the idea that Russia represents an alternative to Western society, with Russia ostensibly representing a society more “traditionally Christian”, more “religious”, and more defined by “spiritual values” on the one side, and the West representing every aspect of modern secularism and liberalism that they despise on the other side and which they link to all of their various conspiracy theories about Satanism, the LGBT movement, and/or Jewish people. Maksim Shevchenko, a Russian nationalist journalist and the leader of the Russian Party of Freedom and Justice, arguably illustrates this seeming difference of values in his denouncement of the West as a place where “there is no more sin or holiness”, where instead there are “desires, opportunities to achieve them and the permission of society”, where faith is considered “antisocial”, and where religion is considered “radical”. Patriarch Kirill asserted in 2012 that Russian faith in Orthodox Christianity caused its enemies to hate Russia. By the time that members of Pussy Riot were arrested for calling on the Mother of God to drive Putin away, the Russian establishment was keen to define itself and Russian identity in terms of religious character and Christian faith. In this context, Sergei Markov, a prominent political scientist and professor at Moscow State University, asserted that the Russian Orthodox Church was a depository of Russian national identity and culture, while claiming that there was a powerful international conspiracy working to destroy that identity. Russian society is also so grotesquely reactionary that there was actually a movement in Russia to protest the criminalization of domestic violence, on the grounds that they thought such legislation would destroy the traditional family and make the family “inhospitable to life”, and there’s also a law against “homosexual propaganda” in Russia, while gay people protesting for their rights have been brutally beaten up by the Russian police.

It’s not hard to see why people who believe in things like the QAnon movement, PizzaGate, Satanic Ritual Absue conspiracies, and similar right-wing conspiracy theories would find themselves ideologically aligned with Vladimir Putin and Russian traditionalism. The heritage of all of these conspiracy theories is the idea of a traditional hierarchy predicated on religious authority and meaning, or at least a very specific idea thereof, and also often a hierarchy of racial power and privilege, which is always threatened by some nebulous Other; a religion that does not quite conform to the dominant one and is therefore to be deemed evil, a race that is deemed foreign to the dominant one and is considered a threat, new norms that perhaps challenge the old ones and are therefore determined to be a threat to civilization. At the center of these conspiracy theories is a form of Christian apocalypse, the idea that the forces of righteousness will bring deliverance to a godless world ruled by the forces of darkness and lurching towards chaos and tyranny. Vladimir Putin presents himself and Russia in much the same light, positioning his authority and the power of Russian Orthodox Christianity as a vanguard against the supposed decadence of the Western world. Being an authoritarian strongman at the helm of a hegemonic imperial state that claims to represent a traditional Christian order, it’s not for nothing that Putin is considered to be the spiritual leader of the Western far-right. Konstantin Malofeev also presents a similar idea, claiming that a “Christian Russia” can “liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma”. The irony of this statement is surely palpable in the context of his alignment with the Kremlin.

In considering the connections between right-wing conspiracism and Russia, at the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t ignore Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist traditionalist and advisor to Putin who also basically authored the invasion of Crimea. Dugin has multiple connections with the American right-wing. Besides having held interviews with Alex Jones, he was also interviewed by alt-right e-celebrities Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone, has publicly endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election, had a foreword for one of his books written by the paleoconservative Paul Gottfried, was endorsed by former Trump campaign man Steven Bannon, and was frequently invited to speak in conferences with white nationalists/supremacists such as Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach, and David Duke. Dugin is also the main source of the ideological mission behind Tsargrad TV, which he presents as representing a “silent majority” supposedly oppressed by modern liberalism. Dugin believes that every aspect of the modern world stems from a “Satanic idea” that has captured most of the world and supposedly spells doom for mankind, and that the only way to save mankind is through “tradition”, which in his ideology corresponds to the assertion of God, the church, the empire, the “congregation of the faithful”, the state, and the “people’s traditions”. Considering the fact that Dugin has publicly called for genocide against Ukraine, it’s clear that he certainly does not mean all people’s traditions. But in any case, when correctly understood, we can see that one the bases of Dugin’s ideology is none other than a form of Satanic Panic; he believes that the modern world and its elites represent a kind of Satanism, which he believes threatens to destroy mankind, and that only a return to tradition might save the human species. Thus, the goal of his Eurasianism is to be understood as the creation of a new empire based on Christian traditionalism, as well as “a more fascist fascism”, to oppose what he considers to be the forces of Satan. As war broke out, Dugin claimed on Facebook that the invasion was not a war with Ukraine but instead a “confrontation with globalism as a whole planetary phenomenon”, war between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic liberal elites rather than war between Russia and Ukraine, and asserted that Russia must either “build her world” or “disappear”. The basic justification for war given by Dugin is in essence the same justification given by the QAnon movement and several right-wing pundits who are now defending Russia in the face of international condemnation.

The affinity between Dugin’s notion of traditionalism and the Western right-wing conspiracist movements is not difficult to assess. Maybe the QAnon movement, for instance, doesn’t share all of Dugin’s views on geopolitics and other subjects, they share a belief with Dugin that the Western world is ruled by a class of people who represent a kind of “satanic” liberalism and that Russia is the international vanguard of Christian civilization. Indeed, I would go so far as to argue that Russian traditionalism in a way serves to complete the right-wing conspiracist worldview in the Western world, by giving it a vision of the world that corresponds to the desires of the conspiracists in a way that consists beyond the negative partisanship in the context of liberalism that pervades much of the right. Simply put, the world Dugin puts forward may yet be the world that many right-wing conspiracists would like to see, and the struggle that both Dugin and Putin present is in essence identical to the struggle put forward by the far-right in the West. Traditionalism, therefore, might be the ideology and world political order that links Russian and Western conspiracism.

So, now that we have all of this context at our disposal, let’s establish a summary of our findings. Russian state media, Russian intelligence services, and pro-Kremlin media in both Russia and elsewhere in Europe compose a vast propaganda network dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories about not only Ukraine but also the European Union, vaccines and Covid-19, the United States, and Jewish people among many other subjects, and in many cases these conspiracy theories come with a Satanic Panic element, the idea that a conspiracy of Satanists are controlling the world, or trying to, and are weaving sinister plots in the world. Conspiracism seems to be widily prolific in Russian politics, to the point that conspiracy theory is both rife among the Russian ruling class and media and to some extent prominent enough among Russian society as a whole. The conspiracies weaved by Russian institutions often make their way to right-wing conspiracy theory circles in the United States and Europe, and sometimes even in some radical left-wing (specifically the so-called “anti-imperialist”) circles as well, and sometimes Western conspiracy theories make their way to Russian media and become prolific enough that Russian media outlets hold interviews with experts to discuss them as though they were credible stories. The conspiracy theories generated by the Russian state correspond to a radical right-wing politics that is also ultimately in harmony with Russian traditionalist ideology, the two worlds being easier to bring together under the same sphere of influence, and both operate along an ideology of Satanic Panic.

All of that is not particularly hard to see once you know what I’ve established thus far, but it’s also not hard to see what’s wrong with all of it. Again, I have to stress above all else that there is no Satanic elite within modern liberal society. There are only Satanists who themselves might be convinced that they are part of some kind of esoteric elite, but who otherwise hold no political power whatsoever, and nearly all Satanists you will meet are not interested in messing with kids or eating human flesh, certainly none of them have any plans to inject microchips in your body to control you. And Russia is almost certainly not invading Ukraine over the presence of supposed Satanism in Ukraine, let alone bio-laboratories or child sex trafficking dens. The Russian state, and particularly Putin himself, have made it clear that they consider Ukraine to be Russian soil, to be absorbed into Russia as part of a long-term goal to re-establish Russia as an imperial power. The Russian government no doubt considers those who view Russia as waging Christian holy war against Ukraine to be useful insofar as it means they support Russia’s actions and will agitate against Western support for Ukraine, but holy war is not necessarily what Putin has in mind, even if it probably is what Dugin ultimately has in mind. If there is a religious aspect to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it certainly has nothing to do with any struggle against Satanism, and could instead be understood as a struggle involving the national churches of Ukraine and Russia, but this is merely incidental (though not unconnected) to the basic conflict at hand.

Moreover, in a broader sense, despite Dugin’s assertion that the myth of progress is a “Satanic idea” or emerges from said idea, conservatism and traditionalism, in all reality, still emanate the myth of progress in their own way. I mean, traditionalists constant wail about the evils of “degeneracy”, but “degeneracy” is a concept that is actually fairly teleologically progressive in its conceits, its core meaning being to “decline” from a supposedly more “advanced” state, to “regress” from a more “civilized” state. Social degeneration theory is an idea often associated with reactionary political ideologies aimed at consolidating a rigid social hierarchy that excludes essentially anything that does not conform to a “traditional” form of human experssion (which tends to a very militantly patriarchal, authoritarian, cisheteronormative, and ascetic conception of human life), but while it seems to modern audiences like an entirely pre-modern way of thinking, social degeneration theory was actually a product of the Enlightenment as a way of justifying the inequality and oppression that some people suffered through the application of “scientific” principles, and in this light it enjoyed popularity throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century. Central to social degeneration theory is the idea of linear progress as an objective phenomenon, with human evolution having a definite teleological aim or purpose, and that humans were to conform to this idea of objective evolutionary progress and behave accordingly, and if they didn’t, then they would be labelled “degenerates”. Crime itself was described as a failure to conform to such progress, as a step backward in human evolution towards a more “primitive” state, and hence “degeneracy”, while miscegenation was believed to cause the eventual regression of the evolution of the human species. In this light, the purpose of eugenics was from the standpoint of social degeneration theory to preserve a supposed objective path of human progress and evolution, by rooting out those who did not conform to that pattern of social progress and evolution. Thus in this way I would say that traditionalism, ethno-nationalism, certain forms of conservatism, indeed all of these modern reactionary ideologies that think they’re resisting modernity, shedding the Enlightenment, and transcending the myth of progress actually operate entirely from an Enlightenmentarian starting point that assumes an objective and ascending pattern of social progress and evolution that arcs towards the perfection of the human species, just that this is often couched in the assumption of restoring an originary and prelapsarian state of purity. The myth of progress is an evident enough part of modern conservatism that it’s actually fairly explicit in some cases; Vladimir Putin himself defined conservatism as something that “prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state”. In simple terms, preserving an objective teleological movement of progress, by controlling or rooting out anything that would “go back” from that into “primitivity” and “chaotic darkness”, the freedom that might exist if humanity were not directed as civilizational agents of some objective historical movement.

In any case, I believe I’ve elaborated about all that I need to elaborate here, and I understand that this was quite a lot to go through. I have to admit, I can still remember a time where I might have treated some of what I’ve explained as itself conspiratorial, and there was definitely a time where a lot of people believed that there wasn’t an integrally connected Russian disinformation/propaganda machine sowing conspiracy theories into the West. But, if nothing else, I’d say that the fact that so many right-wing conspiracy theorists nowadays are all now defending and justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine should convincingly alert many people to the realities of the Russian psyop machine. It is evidently clear that people in Western countries live their lives caught in the middle of a massive propaganda war being conducted between Western governments on one hand and the Russian conspiracy complex on the other.

From my standpoint, the ideological basis of thorough-going anti-fascism has to entail a deconstruction of the ideological basis of reactionary conspiracism, right down to the myth of progress (and its Christian roots) that underlies even the traditionalism of Aleksandr Dugin. It must also take the realities of the Russian conspiracy complex as one more reason to reject certain calls to embrace a campist one-sidedness that refuses to challenge Russia as an imperialist power with the same vigour that America is rightfully challenged, especially since, if we’re being honest, Russia appears to either be more systematically fascist or possess a much more systematic network of fascist organization than what is the case for Ukraine. Those who seek to fight Satanic Panic would do well to recognize it in the context of this conspiracy complex, and recognize the broader connections, tropes, and patterns seen in Russian conspiracism, and recognize the propaganda war being waged in the background. The more we look into Russian conspiracism, the more it looks to us like the kind of conspiracism we can see in America, and maybe then some too. And that’s no surprise, because American right-wing conspiracy theorists will defend Russia’s actions on the basis of the same ideas swirling around in Russia, some of which may well have already become what is now believed in the West.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin, Moscow; Russian Orthodox Christianity might be on the front lines of the conspiracy war that has been waged by Russia for years

Luciferianism as Dark Paganism?: Discussing T. L. Othaos’ terminology of Satanism

NOTE: This was originally written about a month ago and I’ve wanted to get it out sooner, but a lot of important things came up. In the time since, I’ve reflected on Luciferianism as something that can be really anything, and the term “Luciferian” for me is basically falling out of use because of it. This article represents a discussion of just one of many ways “Luciferianism” is expressed.

Recently I stumbled onto the website of a Satanist by the name of T. L. Othaos, specifically an article discussing the terminology surrounding the broader milieu of Satanism and the Left Hand Path. This, of course, means a discussion of Luciferianism, and what it means, and I think Othaos’ discussion of what Luciferianism means is potentially an insightful one.

First, though, there is a necessary disclosure. T. L. Othaos’ project is unique, to say the least. Othaos espouses a brand of esoteric Satanism (it is my understanding that Theistic Satanism is not her preferred term) that she refers to as Tenebrous Satanism. It is called Tenebrous Satanism because it emphasizes a positive engagement with occultism and even “the supernatural”, with the aim of cultivating a positive relationship with the “Dark Gods”, or Nekalah. Of course, if you’ve ever seen the term Nekalah before, you probably know that this is the term that the Order of Nine Angles uses to refer to their pantheon of deities. Now before anyone sounds the appropriate alarm bells, Othaos seems to have an original take on the O9A brand of Satanism. It adopts the O9A pantheon and much of its theology and occult practice, but without the cullings, the encouragement of criminal behaviour or esoteric fascism/neo-Nazism that is usually a part of O9A ideology and praxis. It’s easy to think of it as an attempt to reform O9A Satanism, but it actually kind of seems like a synthetic project that builds itself on top of O9A occultism and then separates into its own unique thing. It’s definitely not something I would get into, and given the historic nature of the Order of Nine Angles I would be hard-presssed to see how an “O9A Reform” project would turn out, but evidently Othaos seems to have had some positive experiences with O9A occultism, sans the murderous fascism of course, and by her account at least worshipping the Nekalah seems to have had a positive impact on her life. If T. L. Othaos thinks that it is possible to develop an actually positive formulation of O9A Satanism, and that O9A occultism can be separated from its neo-fascist underpinnings, then on an individual level I think that she is certainly welcome to try, but I do not endorse the project.

With that disclosure out of the way, let’s get started for real.

The present discussion concerns an article written by T. L. Othaos titled “Satanist, Luciferian, and related terms”, which is basically an overview of terminology within the broader Satanist “community” as such. My focus here is on the section concerning Luciferians, and Luciferianism. It seems that Othaos accepts the term Luciferianism as a valid synonym or classification for her own practice of Tenebrous Satanism, but does not personally gravitate towards the label. Her aversion to the term, and it is a strictly personal aversion, is partially motivated by certain preconceptions of Luciferianism. Such preconceptions include the idea that Luciferians prefer a “whitewashed” Devil to the more openly adversarial Satan (though, as far as Ford is concerned, they’re practically the same archetype), and the idea of Luciferianism being separated from Satanism by its emphasis on the spiritual side being arbitrary, since her brand of LaVeyan Satanism and then Tenebrous Satanism is also highly spiritual. Another preconception involved is the idea that Luciferians believed in the objective existence of “dark” entities (demons, gods, etc.), leading her to see Luciferianism as more or less a form of Theistic Satanism (which is not an uncommon perception to this day) at a time when she was basically a LaVeyan Satanist.

I will say, in fairness to Othaos, that some Luciferians absolutely do fit the stereotype of “whitewashing the Devil”, and in a fairly ridiculous way. Michael Howard to me is a well-known example of that, and he basically helped codify the idea of Luciferian Witchcraft in Britain. Howard talks plentifully about Horned Gods, frequently identifying Lucifer with several “horned gods” (including Janicot and Odin), and discusses Cain, Lilith, and fallen angels being central figures in his Luciferian tradition, yet absolutely insists that Lucifer is not a Devil or Satan figure, instead preferring to see him as a self-sacrificial avatar of the godhead! I should wonder if anyone told Howard and other British witches that Azazel, the name of the fallen angel, was also a name used by Christian theologians such as Origen as a name for their nameless Satan. It’s such a silly thing, because even though there’s no need to identify Lucifer with Satan, much of historical Luciferian veneration of Lucifer involved seeing him as a less than fluffy being. Carl William Hansen saw Lucifer as an expression of the inner darkness of the universe, Eugen Grosche viewed him as identical to the dark god Saturn, and even within British witchcraft Lucifer’s identification with the Horned God led to chthonic associations. People can indeed take the “light” in “light-bringer” quite literally, without much thought to what the light is.

Another issue for her is ritual praxis, which for her didn’t really work and thus she found herself drawn away from it. But more to the point, it’s after this we come to how she defines Luciferianism in the present. Her summary of Luciferianism is “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods.”. This summary is extrapolated from her current perception of Luciferianism, which is that it involves the veneration or worship of dark spiritual beings, whether as external intelligences, archetypes, inner energies, or what have you, that this supposed may or may not include Lucifer (which sounds strange considering the question of “how do you have Luciferianism without Lucifer?”), and that, apart from all of that and apart from some Luciferians saying they value discipline more than indulgence, Luciferianism has the same basic ethos as Satanism, in terms of individualism and anti-clerical opposition to traditional forms of religion. It is on these grounds that Othaos says that it is intelligible (here perhaps meaning valid) to refer to Tenebrous Satanism as a form of Luciferianism. She also states that it is also a form of “Dark Paganism” or even Demonolatry, though she seems to prefer the term “Dark Pagan” over the term “Luciferian” or “Demonolater”.

Having established this as the assessment of Luciferianism offered by T. L. Othaos. Let’s begin discussing what insight it might offer for how we might view Luciferianism as a whole.

Since Luciferianism is here at least potentially equated with “Dark Paganism”, let’s start by discussing what “Dark Paganism” means. Dark Paganism can seem somewhat obscure within the broader milieu of neopaganism, and it definitely doesn’t seem like reconstructionist polytheists are big fans of the idea, but from what little is available we can see that “Dark Paganism” is sort of an umbrella term for a set of approaches to Paganism that centre around the worship of “dark” gods (such as Hades, Morrigan, Cernunnos, Set, Hecate, Hel, and others). John McLoughlin defines Dark Paganism in terms of an emphasis on the “dark” portion of the light-dark polarity, the attendant emphasis that darkness is not to be confused with evil, the acceptance of “the shadow” and primary embrace of shadow work, a focus on self-expression via aesthetic darkness, and a general attunement to “darker” or more internally-focused currents of spirituality, which favour self-discovery and self-realization without the perceived focus on external morality and traditional worship found in other religious paths. Darkness in McLoughlin’s brand of Paganism is not just about a corrective aspect of “the balance”, it is a link to awareness of both the self and the sacredness of life (which, of course, is inseparable from death) and to the importance of living life to the fullest and remaining true to who you are; as I may understand it, to align yourself with the true basis of life, to the true nature in an inner and outer sense, and self-essence freely without being bound to the norms of society. The way I talk about it, it kind of sounds like Dark Paganism is an apt enough label for what I aspire to. Given the emphasis on darkness and transgression, the focus on self-expression, and the stated objectives of freeing people from social conditioning that blockades authentic, self-originating individuation, Dark Paganism can be seen as an application of the Left Hand Path within Paganism.

Othaos in her articles uses the term Dark Paganism interchangeably with Demonolatry, but this is not necessarily accurate to Demonolatry, not least since there are many Demonolaters who do not consider themselves Pagans and would reject being called Pagan. The way I see it, it is very possible to approach Demonolatry in a manner consistent with Paganism, but I think some of the theology that comes with it can’t be described as Pagan. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, there’s a theology that seems to be inspired by Hermeticism in that it derives from it a pantheistic cosmos, which is to say a monotheistic cosmos in which God, or rather in this case the Egyptian god Atum, is the universe or reality itself rather than an intelligence that exists beyond it. The difference, of course, is that Satan is the identity of this pantheistic divine presence instead of God or Atum, and that the co-identity of Man and the Whole represented by Satan/Atum/God is interpreted as a form of self-worship. When it comes to Dark Paganism versus Demonolatry, I would also refer to Amaranthe Altanatum, who is a Theistic Satanist and practicing Demonolater. She points out that Demonolatry is not in itself Pagan, due to the fact that it is not a nature-based tradition, which she considers to be more definitive of at least contemporary Paganism. I’d add that, although there are plenty of modern Pagans, especially reconstructionist ones, who reject the idea of Paganism as a nature-based religion, it is possible to parse a nature-based or even somewhat “naturalistic” religious outlook from the animism that sometimes comes with polytheism and is especially integral to Heathenry in particular.

So how does all of this come back to Luciferianism? Well, Luciferianism does have some intersection with Paganism, or at least neopaganism. Fredrik Gregorius, in a section of Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, at least tentatively argues that Luciferianism can be (theoretically) distinguished from Satanism by placing Lucifer in a more distinctly non-Christian, sometimes even neopagan, context. In this definition, Lucifer is distinguished from Satan by the consideration of Lucifer as a pagan god versus Satan as a strictly Abrahamic entity (the enemy or angel of God). This definition is met by many Luciferian groups, historical and present. Carl William Hansen identified Lucifer with the Greek god Pan, and several other Greek gods, as well as some gods from other pantheons such as the Norse gods. Eugen Grosche, while obvious playing with aspects of Gnosticism and even claiming descent from a particular set of “Gnostic” teachings, he identified Lucifer with the Roman god Saturn. Several British Luciferian witches, and those who do not call themselves Luciferians, identify Lucifer as a figure similar to the Horned God of Wicca, and link him to a litany of pre-Christian deities. Even some Wiccans believe that Lucifer is either a name for their Horned God or a sun god in the vein of Charles Leland’s Aradia. And of course, Michael W. Ford argues that Lucifer is an ancient pre-Christian archetype, and probably popularized the approach to Luciferianism built around what could be termed an adversarial take on neopaganism; or, as Amaranthe put it, “adversarial polytheism” – albeit, in Ford’s case, definitely a rather soft form of polytheism in light of its heavy reliance on the archetypal theory of deity.

It’s not universal, since there are plenty of Luciferians who can’t be counted as neopagans and instead lean much closer to Gnosticism. In such an approach, Lucifer would still basically be distinguished from Satan, but not so much as a pagan god and more as a sort of Christ-like figure, or even assuming the same role that Gnostic Christianity actually reserves for none other than Jesus Christ. In fact I’m quite worried that a more Christianized version of Gnostic Luciferianism may become an influential current of Luciferianism, if not somewhat dominant. Still, the description T. L. Othaos gives of Luciferianism as “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods”, or to put another way “like Neo-Paganism but based around the Left Hand Path”, almost certainly applies to a number of historical representations of Luciferianism, and to a number of contemporary Luciferians. Thus, could Luciferianism as Dark Paganism, or a subset thereof, be valid? I suppose in some ways that depends on whether or not it’s accepted as a subset of Theistic Satanism, and what I’ve seen historically suggests to me that Luciferianism is too broad for that to be the case. I think that Luciferianism as a mode of Dark Paganism is viable as one of the different ways of being a Luciferian, and not just because Luciferianism seems to be a big tent of Left Hand Path occult movements anyway. There do in fact seem to be modern Pagans around who consider themselves Luciferians, and whose idea of what that means involves gravitating towards darker deities in the various pantheons with the aim of ritual self-empowerment, and in this sense perhaps these Luciferians can be called Dark Pagans, at least by John McLoughlin’s definition. In older online communities, many more mainstream Pagans, Neopagans, and especially Wiccans have taken to defining Luciferianism as essentially “devil worship” in opposition to Paganism, supposing that Luciferians (or more specifically practitioners of Luciferian Witchcraft) are not Pagans because they worship a Christian Devil. Such a fearful response obviously fails to account for the Latent Christianity inherent in the rejection of all things dark and devilish (even while also accepting the worship of the chthonic gods that were often feared in antiquity) or for the fact that ancient polytheists or at least magicians did worship or invoke the angels and names of God alongside the old gods in the time before Christianity had almost completely eclipsed polytheism. I mean, if Pagans could include the heavenly host of the Christian God as part of polytheistic worship and pluralism, and not be thought of as fluffy idiots even though the God of Christianity calls for the oppression of all other gods, I don’t see why the Devil and his demons should be so taboo? To say that it’s because they’re considered totally malevolent in the Christian context is, quite simply, to accept the moral claims of Christianity at face value, which is untenable so long as you also (correctly) refuse to take the claims they make for their God at face value.

I would maintain that the description of Dark Paganism is not universally applicable to all forms of Luciferianism. But if it can be practical to define Luciferianism or parts thereof as a kind of Dark Paganism, that idea has some positive potential, and I may find it very useful.

There is, however, one snag. While I was sleeping on it one day I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that the more concrete way to define Luciferianism is actually a lot more simplistic. It occurs to me that the main thing, possibly even the only thing, separating Luciferianism from Satanism is the idea that Lucifer is to be venerated as a being separated from and distinguished from the Satan or the Devil; essentially Lucifer for the Luciferians is a non-Satanic figure, and the idea that Lucifer is a Devil or a Satanic figure is just Christian slander. That would make sense of the idea of Lucifer as a Pagan god as Luciferian Pagans might suggest, but it also makes sense of the idea as a Gnostic saviour or even an appearance of Christ. But even then, a lot of Luciferians seem to venerate Lucifer as a Devil figure, even if they don’t consider that Satanic. Even older Luciferians used the terms and concepts interchangeably, such as the case with Carl William Hansen (who used Satanic imagery for fuck’s sake!) and guys like Alasdair Bob Clay-Egerton were Luciferians but he called his organisation the Luciferians Temple of Satan and defended the concept of devil worship in witchcraft from mainstream Wiccan critics. So even here, can the boundaries be said to be all that solid? Not to mention that Peter Grey in Lucifer: Princeps offers the suggestion via historical analysis that perhaps the boundaries between Lucifer and the Devil were never very strict.

Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat) by Francisco Goya (1821-1823)

Relevant articles from T. L. Othaos

T. L. Othaos’ article on Satanism and Luciferianism: https://othaos.com/satanist-luciferian-related-terms/

T. L. Othaos’ article on Tenebrous Satanism: https://othaos.com/about-tenebrous-satanism/

T. L. Othaos’ article on Teneberous Satanism vs the Order of Nine Angles: https://othaos.com/tenebrous-satanism-vs-order-of-nine-angles/

Democracy versus autocracy, or oppression versus oppression?

As the possibility of war in Ukraine gradually unfolded yesterday (as of the time of this writing, Russia has now invaded and declared war with Ukraine), with Russian and Ukrainian troops gathering in the eastern Ukraine after the sham “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk were declared sovereign states by Vladimir Putin, I caught a Twitter thread from a Finnish liberal (well, I suppose he much prefers the term “leftist”) named Janne M. Korhonen, who argued that Putin’s actions in Ukraine were part of a broader plan to undermine and ultimately bring down the European Union. Korhonen’s idea of “the left”, or what “the left” should be, of course boils down to support for Nordic social democracy, which is essentially just capitalism with a human face as guided by the ideals of an ideology of progressive welfarism, and to preserve this order he feels that Finland should join with NATO in the hopes of protecting Finland from the possibility of being drawn into a war with Russia. Suffice it say, as far as “leftism” goes this certainly is fairly weak.

I will say that there are a number of valid points that Korhonen raises when he’s talking about Russian actions within Ukraine and the reasons why Finland and the Baltic states would fear any hint of Russian aggression or even expansion in Europe. However, the part of Korhonen’s thread that I wish to bring into focus is his overall narrative that what’s happening represents a struggle between “democracy” (referring to the West, of course) and autocracy (referring to competing imperialist dictatorships such as Russia and China). I find this to merely be liberal version of a phenomenon found in some corners of the left that is referred to as campism. Campism is a vulgar form of anti-imperialist analysis that frames the world as divided between, as the name suggests, two geopolitical camps; one “imperialist”, the other one “anti-imperialist”. In contemporary Marxist or even some non-Marxist socialist movements (and honestly even some nationalist and fascist circles), this means seeing the “imperialist” camp as consisting of the West, particularly the USA and NATO, and the “anti-imperialist” camp as any nation that can be seen to actively oppose the US-NATO sphere of influence, such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Syria. The campist approach to anti-imperialist politics typically entails uncompromising support for the latter “anti-imperialist” camp of nations, often regardless of whether said nations could even be called socialist countries or even regardless of their actual imperialist actions (such as Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Chechnya). But of course, the liberal has their own version of campism in practice. From the liberal standpoint, if Russia is doing imperialism, then surely NATO is the anti-imperialist party in all this, regardless of the nature of Western imperialism and the atrocities involved in its continuance, and if Russia represents autocracy and authoritarianism then the West must be the party of democratic freedom, regardless of the oppressions that plague the Western world.

It is on this note that I would highlight an important and disturbing development from the so-called “leader of the free world” that is the United States of America, or more specifically the state of Texas. On February 22nd, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that, according to the Office of the Attorney General, gender affirmation surgery constitutes “child abuse” under Texas law, and further announced that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services would be directed to investigate any reported instances of children receiving gender affirmation surgery in Texas, and investigate the parents of the children who receive them. All licensed professionals and even members of the general public are now required to report to the authorities on such surgeries, and those who refuse to report to the state will be subject to criminal penalties.

What this means is that it is illegal for trans children to undergo gender affirmation surgery in order to embody their real gender identity, since Texas law deems this to be “child abuse”, and that the parents of trans children can be arrested and investigated by the state for supporting the individuality of their children, along with any medical professionals who facilitate gender affirmation surgery. This is oppression. This is oppressing people for being trans. And it’s not like this is too big a surprise considering that the same state also implemented a law that allowed basically anyone to sue anyone for providing an abortion, thus oppressing reproductive rights through the incentives of the legal system.

Some may think “at least the US isn’t Russia!”. Maybe. Technically they’re right that the entirety of the US doesn’t work the way Russia does, and even in Texas there aren’t brutal crackdowns of LGBT protests, or at least none that I know of. But even then, such an objection misses the point. Oppression is oppression, and it does not matter what form your oppression takes. And besides, Texas is not the only US state that is oppressing trans children. In Florida, schools are permitted to carry out invasive “physical examinations” of children to make sure they aren’t trans, so as to enforce a ban on trans athletes competing in sporting events. Something similar has been proposed by Republican lawmakers in Utah, who want to ban trans students from competing in sports events and enforce that ban through a commission that would examine the bodies of children to make sure they’re eligible to compete (read: to make sure they’re not trans). And even outside the issue of LGBT rights itself, are we really going to ignore the fact that certain states are trying to ban books and make it practically illegal to protest against police brutality?

The United States of America is at this point an increasingly oppressive country. Its media can’t even acknowledge the issue of trans rights, without first pointing to how Russia banned trans people from adopting children, as though you’re supposed to be grateful that you don’t live in Russia, as if you’re not supposed to see that there is more than one oppressive country in the world. In this sense, just as pro-Russian campism obscures the real dynamics of imperialism as a global system by ignoring the way Russia engages in flat out imperialist aggression, and putting you squarely on the side of authoritarianism for as long as it means opposing the USA and NATO, so too does liberal pro-Western campism obscure or even sometimes excuse the nature of oppression as it takes place in the US and similar countries, such as the oppression of trans people that can be seen at present. Besides, the American liberal may whine that Russia is worse, but this is only because they cannot conceive the American conservative constructing a more systematic and equally brutal hierarchy of oppression than what exists in Russia. Oh, and for any British liberals who might be reading this, don’t fall asleep; Britain is much nicer to trans people than America is at the moments. You won’t see too many British conservatives gas on about the way God supposedly made you, but you will see even the Labour Party support the oppression of trans people – they’ve even tried to cover it up.

To return to Korhonen’s thread, which I used as a springboard for this much broader discussion, I will say straightforwardly that one of my disagreements with Korhonen is his belief that “violence cannot build a sustainable world”. To be frank, I think that Korhonen is simply wrong here. The entire geopolitical order of liberal-democratic that Korhonen so lauds was built and maintained through violence; whether that’s the revolutionary violence that inaugurated the age of bourgeois republics in the dawn of the Enlightenment, the war and revolutionary violence that was waged against chattel slavery in order to abolish it, the violence of the police force and system of incarceration that was created ultimately to defend the privilege of private property, the war that was waged to stop Nazism or fascism from taking over the whole world, and the conflict between the West and the so-called “communist states” that led up to the so-called “end of history”, culminating in the geopolitical order we see today. And not only is the world we live in built on some form of violence or another, so were all worlds before it, and so perhaps will whatever world succeeds this one – that may well be true for communists and anarchists, since how else is the capitalist state and the global system of imperialism to be defeated? Korhonen, thus, is wrong.

And the whole reason I raise this point is that in addition to creating new worlds, it is often necessary in order to preserve life and freedom. I have said before, not long ago, that the US left should consider being prepared for all-out war with the reactionaries that are increasingly threatening their lives. In the wake of the new Texas legislation, it is not unreasonable to see similar calls for militarization in order to resist the abject oppression being put forward. Only active resistance to oppression will lead to the triumph of liberation and the defeat of oppression. “Reform”, insofar as it still maintains the mechanisms of oppression, will still support oppression. Oppression and imperialism are global systems, and should be fought on those terms. Campism, thus, means consignment to an illusory perspective of the world, which serves only to hinder the struggle against oppression on behalf of one of the oppressors.

Janne Korhonen is thus only faintly correct in framing our situation in terms of democracy versus autocracy, if we refer specifically to Ukraine versus Russia, insofar as at least in Ukraine you could vote for Zelensky or someone else and vote out whoever’s in charge. That’s not much, but the same can’t be said for Russia. But if we’re talking about some bigger narrative of the democratic West, led by America, versus Russia, as a contestation between the principles of democratic freedom versus authoritarian autocracy, that’s just detached from reality when you look at the oppression being carried out right now. Whereas Janne Korhonen would say that the world is democracy versus autocracy, I prefer to see that the world is oppression versus oppression, and the real war worth fighting is the war against the global system of oppression.

It may seem strange to discuss both the thread, the war in Ukraine, and the mounting US oppression of trans people in the same post, but in a weird way it all kind of comes together, once we try to consider the claim that we’re dealing in the world that Korhonen would hope we do. Plus, all of this is going on at the same time, and neither can be readily ignored in favour of the other. Suffice it to say this has been an eventful timeline in more ways than we might prefer.

In closing: this should go without saying, but my solidarity goes to the oppressed trans people in the United States of America, to anyone in America who plans to fight this oppression, to the people of Ukraine escaping and fighting Russian invasion, to the Russian anti-war protesters who risk being brutally curtailed by Putin’s fascist thugs, and to the working class and anarchists in Ukraine, Russia, and Russian-controlled territories who are actively fighting imperialist war and oppresion in their lands!

The problem with Canada’s response to the “Freedom” Convoy

Canada is at the moment wrangling with an ongoing protest referred to as the Freedom Convoy, which is a generally right-wing protest whose core focus seems to be on vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions. For a self-described convoy, many of the protesters aren’t actually truckers, but what is true is that their protests involve blocking highways in order to try and extract concessions from the Canadian government through external pressure. Their goal seems to be the abolition of all Covid-19 restrictions in Canada.

Now, make no mistake; the Freedom Convoy protesters aren’t necessarily advancing a good cause. For one thing, their actual demands, if met, would likely only ensure that Covid-19 spreads to more Canadians and probably kills more of them, and in typical right-wing fashion they seem to lack any thought given to the question of “what about my freedom to not get Covid-19 from you?” or the fact that a lot of the oppression we’re seeing in Western countries actually seems to concern corporations forcing people to go to work even if they have Covid-19 symptoms. For another, it seems that at least a few of them might be aligned with the far-right and some of them do appear to be racist, as suggested by the appearance of swastikas and Confederate battle-flags among some of the protesters – the latter sometimes appears in other anti-vax protests outside of Canada as well as within Canada. But, while it is right to oppose the so-called Freedom Convoy, there’s also a different problem in relation to it, namely the response carried out by the Canadian government.

On February 14th, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would invoke the Emergencies Act, with the aim of expanding the powers of the Canadian police to seize the trucks of anyone participating in the protests, freeze their corporate accounts, and suspend their vehicle insurance. This also apparently meant that the Canadian government would give Canadian banks the authority to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected to have given support to the Freedom Convoy, without being required to obtain permission from the courts. Banks who decided to investigate and freeze accounts suspected of supporting the Convoy would be granted legal immunity by the government and be permitted to share more information from these accounts with the government. It was also announced that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada would be given the power to monitor funds sent through GoFundMe and other payment providers used by the protesters, as well as crypto-currency transactions.

It’s obvious what’s happening. The Canadian government is expanding the powers of surveillance and the police and incentivizing private corporations to effectively financially punish anyone who took part in the convoy protests. It can be thought of as a soft power response, and a military dispersion of the protests does not seem forthcoming, but this is still a carceral response. The reasons for the government doing this are not especially difficult to understand. The blockades matter mostly because they present economic difficulties, preventing products from moving across the country. That said, it also seems to have impacted emergency services, often preventing them too from crossing. In any case, it is the regular functioning of the system that I suspect presents the biggest priority for the Canadian government. Whenever I hear about this, for some reason I’m reminded of the whole discourse surrounding Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain here in my country, and the various blockades that they enacted not too long ago. Although their actual reasons for protesting were very different from those of the Freedom Convoy, the former demanding immediate action to fight climate change and the latter campaigning for environmentally friendly insulation of all homes within the next few years, a lot of the social discourse and political response focused not so much on their demands but on the disruption of the economy and functioning of the system, which is then framed as an attack on the livelihoods of ordinary people. For daring to make demands of the government through external pressure, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain were accused of “not being constructive” and “alienating ordinary people” and faced suppression by the police, and the British government expanded the powers of the police to “stop and search” protesters and enforce harsher penalties for motorway disruptions, not particularly mindful of the damage such moves would do to the right to protest.

That said, perhaps there’s a peculiar difference. For one thing, it’s said that members of the Freedom Convoy have weapons on hand. But also, the protests carried out by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain all, after some time, faced the exercise of hard power by the government, whereas this doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case for the Freedom Convoy; not yet, anyway. Indeed, at the moment it seems that there are counter-protesters in Canada that have faced getting dragged off the scene by police officers. It’s a very strange expression of the carceral state. For right-wing anti-vax protests, the government responds with what is essentially a drastic expansion of surveillance powers or the outsourcing thereof in order to financially target protesters, which will inevitably be a problem for the left should they cross their own bridge. But for left-wing counter-protests, the standard police suppression is often deployed. It can comparatively seem to some like the government’s playing nice with the anti-vaxxers, insofar as freezing their bank accounts and generally invoking emergency powers to disperse and disincentivize them was ever the “nice” response. But, this is still a broadly carceral response, one that is more versatile than certain traditional notions of authoritarianism. This carceral state employs numerous tactics, seemingly on a selective basis per the groups it targets, favouring a mix of leverage and blunt force.

It’s worth being stressed that what ultimately matters isn’t the Freedom Convoy, they’ll likely come to nothing at the end of it, but rather the nature of the state and the powers it may invoke whenever its interests and the order upon which it depends are seen to be threatened. It’s this conversation that matters, for much the same reasons that I covered in my article on Boris Johnson’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Britain. The carceral nature of the state colours everything from state responses to protest to the course of the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled and spread across the world, and so our conversations about protest and the Covid-19 pandemic should hinge on a much larger conversation about the conditions of the carceral state. I’m inclined to think that the political climate we have surrounding Covid-19 would be very different if our governments hadn’t carefully exploited the pandemic in order to establish states of exception and control to be justified via the pandemic.

How The Satanic Temple controls the media - and your mind (Part 2: After School Satan) [Mirrored from Queer Satanic]

[This article was originally published by Queer Satanic, a collective of former members of The Satanic Temple who are presentlty being sued by The Satanic Temple for speaking out against them. It was originally published on Medium on February 13th 2022, but it seems to have gone down, possibly as a result of The Satanic Temple’s efforts to silence Queer Satanic. I suspect it might have something to do with June Everett accusing Queer Satanic of having doxxed them. I’ve been asked if I would like to share or mirror this article to my blog, and I agreed on behalf of the cause of solidarity with anti-fascist Satanists who want to rebel against The Satanic Temple and oppose their leadership. The Satanic Temple has gone out of their way to spend money from Satanists who pay to be members on defending Catholic conservatives on free speech grounds, but this concern for free speech seems to not be applied to left-wing Satanists who speak out against The Satanic Temple. In solidarity with the cause, let me show you something that Lucien Greaves doesn’t want you to see.]

Last time, we looked in detail at how a press release from The Satanic Temple takes advantage first of weak local journalists and their editors by offering a compelling conflict narrative; this makes a story easy to cover “both sides” of and meets the minimum standards of objectivity. We showed how this simple, facile framework leads to a story that can be turned around quickly and neatly without any deeper questions pursued, and we showed how this tidy “man-bites-dog” Satanist story then works its way through each step of the rightwing media ecosystem, something that justifies further coverage by increasingly prominent “straight” news outfits as well as liberals and leftists looking to dunk on the right.

This time we’re not going to go through this process again in the same way, but we are going to examine how pernicious the effect is when no one bothers to actually fact-check an organization that started out in 2013 by lying to the media and just never stopped.

After School Satan logo

“After School Satan” clubs have been a point of pride for TST since first announced in late summer 2016 in the Washington Post.

If you are looking at that logo and chuckling to yourself because a.) you realize what the acronym is, and yet b.) you realize that would be inappropriate for an elementary and middle school program, you would be correct on both counts. But remember, we’re dealing with The Satanic Temple here, so all of the original iconography was not “After School Satan Clubs” (ASSC) it was just “After School Satan” (ASS). From conversations with some high-ranking ex-TST members, we’ve also been able to confirm that internally, “ASS clubs” was the joke, as well.

Anyway, here’s how TST’s website describes it at present:

The After School Satan Clubs meet at select public schools where Good News Clubs also operate.

“Good News Clubs” or GNCs are religious indoctrination clubs run by Child Evangelism Fellowship, which they describe as “weekly Christian programs for kids 5–12 years old featuring a Bible lesson, songs, memory verses, and games.”

But you shouldn’t trust an organization’s self-marketing. GoodNewsClubs.info has some independent information about GNCs, but understand that there are thousands of these clubs across the United States harming tens of thousands of students, and they absolutely deserve to be countered.

No wonder people who want something like that also want to believe that a group like The Satanic Temple‘s self-marketing actually does exist and offers an alternative to kids.

Unfortunately, TST’s claims are lies.

After School Satan description as of September 2020

As late as September 2020, the Temple claimed to have active ASS clubs in nine school districts. A person searching for themselves to double-check could even find multiple national and local headlines about it:

What you may notice (but journalists and fact-checkers never seem to) is that those stories don’t include the clubs getting to the point of actually meeting with students.

Ordo Sororitatis Satanicae detailed why Springfield, Mo., fell apart in their 2019 piece about Lucien Greaves and The Satanic Temple, but as far as we can tell, no news outlets thought it worth doing follow up at the time or ever since.

We reached out to Heinrich Kaiser, a former organizer for TST’s local affiliate group in the Washington, D.C.-area, about what happened to their program after getting all that press coverage and making public promises about it.

I was the spokesperson for PG [Prince George, Md.] county on this initiative years ago. Leadership pushed the promotion and left us high and dry like it never even happened after we had certified educators on board and a media blitz.

Which are both the more typical way of things with TST: the announcement is spoonfed to media who dutifully talk about it because it’s such a good and easy story for them, but then overworked journalists and understaffed newsrooms forget to follow up. By the time they do — if they do — the story is too old. Plus, the way the rules of news work, “turns out, nothing happened” is a tough sell to an editor.

Now, two of those places (Taylorsville and Portland) did get to the point of an “open house” at least, but there’s no evidence Taylorsville actually provided anything for students. Meanwhile, leadership of what in 2018 would break off from TST to become “Satanic Portland” confirmed publicly that one of their major sources of tension was that Portland’s local After School Satan club (mis-abbreviated here) fell apart after the national leadership got the headlines and photos they wanted then proceeded to ignore them for months at a time.

{{embedded tweet: https://twitter.com/sporkbot/status/1480410748081770499}}

In general, an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it seems pretty odd that dramatic protests and news coverage would accompany so many After School Satan clubs yet there then would be nothing about any of them actually meeting if they actually did.

See, though many provisional clubs were announced to great acclaim and consternation, when we asked around, only one program ever actually served a child that we can find: Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash.

There, a radio news story confirmed that a volunteer from the Seattle chapter taught one child once a month for two hours during the spring 2017 semester.

After-school Satan club tests the limits of church and state
At most schools, band practice, sports, drama and the chess club are the options that kids choose from for their…www.kalw.org

After a lot of hullabaloo about the club being on the grounds of Port Defiance Elementary, a young girl named Veronica (we’re not using her last name for privacy reasons) ended up being the only kid who joined.

“I am 11, I will be turning 12 on August 9th. My friend is a week older than me because she’s on July 28,” she says.

Erin Botello is Veronica’s After School Satan Club educator, and a member of the Satanic Temple in Seattle.

“Veronica is our only student,” she says. “She has come to every meeting that we have held … She is fierce. She has a great head on her shoulders, she also has a very supportive family who also shows up with her to the meetings.”

Additionally, we have documentation that TST’s non-church 501(c)(3) Reason Alliance Ltd. paid for a semester’s worth of once-per-month rent, starting December 2016 then till the end of spring semester 2017. Reason Alliance writing the check set off an entirely new round of rightwing outrage over how fast it got nonprofit status, but we won’t go further into that here.

Officially, the program was “on pause” the next semester. On the other hand, TST also told the Tacoma News Tribune the club was “well-attended” as a way to describe having one student participate.

The club met once a month with kids from all elementary grade levels during the second half of last school year, but it doesn’t have the resources to continue this year, according to the Satanic Temple of Seattle.

It was a matter of funding, and also volunteers who couldn’t take the time out of work because it’s right in the middle of the work day, so we didn’t have enough volunteers,” said [Seattle] Temple leader Lilith Starr.

Those volunteers were members of the Temple, and Starr said two of the three of them had a background in teaching.

While Starr declined to give specific numbers for how many kids came to the 90-minute club, she said it had been well-attended.

“It was a matter of funding” — it cost total of $154 to rent the room for the semester.

And according to Botello when we reached out last week, TST shut the program down not due to a lack of local support but because the national org already had all of the headlines they needed.

“I pushed to do it for another year, and to make it bigger. But I was shot down real quick,” Botello said. “I wanted to keep it going, being more intentional about lesson plans and expanding to more students. But they shot me down. They said the ‘jig was up’ basically and the stunt had run its course.

“I was very passionate about the program. And I put a lot of my own money and supplies into it,” she continued. “It was a real slap in the face that they reduced my work to a ‘political stunt.’ As a parent, I felt some type of way about using children as pawns for political gain.”

The partner of Derek Piersing, former leader of the “South Sound Satanists” affiliate group centered on Tacoma, also independently confirmed this in a statement written in March 2020.

The only reason I joined TST was for the After School Satan Club. The first year Derek and I were both students and we couldn’t make it to Point Defiance to participate, but we were told it was a huge success and I was so happy. That summer we moved to Tacoma (for unrelated reasons) and I told Lilith [Starr] I wanted to enroll our son and be a teacher in the program, which she was enthusiastic about. As the school year approached, though, I didn’t hear anything else. I tried to talk to her about what I needed to enroll our son, and what I needed to do to be able to teach and always she said ‘we’ll get back to you’. So I waited, and heard nothing, until the mass email saying the program was canceled. I was frustrated because we had a student (my son) and the year before we had only had one, we had volunteers, including myself and a few others thanked in the email, so what had happened? No answer, no explanation, nothing except my name on a list in a mass email.

Indeed, Australian comedian Jim Jefferies did more journalistic work that fall than most professional journalists ever have on the topic when he interviewed ASS club’s then-national program lead Chalice Blythe.

In press releases, as late as September 2017, Blythe was still claiming publicly that things were going great and going to be “even better and much bigger” than ever.

“Last year [fall 2016– spring 2017], the After School Satan Club curriculum was only offered in school districts where local chapters of The Satanic Temple could manage and maintain them. In that time, we received a flood of emails from parents, educators, and other qualified parties who were interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in schools near them.”

The Tacoma News Tribune included Blythe’s statement without further investigation, as did Seattle’s alt-weekly paper The Stranger. TST member and future high-level media contributor Jack Matirko of course went one step further for his Patheos blog:

Amusingly enough, when asked by the Washington Post last year about the ASSC program the Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman Mat Staver said:

“… I can’t imagine there’s going to be a lot of students participating in this. It’s probably dust they’re kicking up and is likely to fade away in the near future for lack of interest.”

If this expansion of After School Satan Clubs to a volunteer network is any indication, Mr. Staver may find that he was sorely mistaken.

But having Blythe on camera, Jefferies asked her a direct question, and Blythe confirmed that despite the massive amount of media coverage nationwide the year before, there were no active programs anywhere in the USA at that time.

{{embedded YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6vOvu4gzhw&t=240s}} 

Jim Jefferies: There’s 3,800 Good News Groups — clubs — across America. How many branches do you have?

Chalice Blythe: As of right now, we don’t have any currently in operation.

The airdate for that was October 2017. Despite being included in numerous press releases, we can’t find any evidence of such programs existing between then and January 2022. We were able to confirm that, as expected, TST’s 2021 year-in-review greatly mischaracterized what TST had done with its ASS clubs in that year and that there were no clubs in 2020, although this was blamed on Covid-19.

So, prior to January 2022 when an After School Satan club in Moline, Ill., actually met with students for the first time, there seem to have been none since Tacoma. (Even in Moline, we are relying on news to accurately characterize it as a meeting and not a provisional open house like in Portland.)

Again: we cannot prove that there were no ASS clubs during the previous five years, but it should be pretty easy for anyone to demonstrate TST actually met with kids other than that one program; as yet, no apologists for the Temple have been able to.

For five years, The Satanic Temple was able to advertise themselves offering a program without any of the work or headaches of actually doing it, knowing that news outlets were more interested in “reporting the controversy” than seeing if announcements or open houses ever got to the point of engaging students. Ignorant people without the time to do hours of follow-up on their own believed TST and these reporters, naturally.

People often say, “At least The Satanic Temple is doing something.” Well, the “something” TST was doing was getting attention and leaving all its volunteers high and dry.

Yet, when The Satanic Temple dusted off its After School Satan program this year and targeted the Midwest, it worked just as well. Numerous local and national news stories, including social media with rightwingers going nuts and smug liberals telling them that actually the Temple is great — why, just read TST’s own website for proof.

As far as we can tell, the program in Moline did actually meet, and when we asked campaign director “June Everett” on Facebook, she claimed it involved four students.

June Everett: We had 4 kids at the club in Moline.(emphasis added) Why does it matter? More are planning on attending in future months. They had such a great time I’ve been notified they want ASSC to be weekly. Geesh I don’t know why we don’t have 5,000 clubs up and going every year like GNC does. Maybe it has something to do with the 26 death threats I’ve received in the last 3 days? And all the doxxing that happens amongst other pissed off satanists? I plan on supporting my volunteers in anyway that I can. Being present for each club launch, taking care of all logistics to get the club approved, all documentation, required supplies, media training, ASSC training. Anything they need for future clubs. All of it.

Everett references doxing, and we’ll address that at the bottom because it turns out to be much too complicated to get into here. All subsequent press references to the campaign director of After School Satan also quote “June Everett”, so we’re going to have to follow that naming convention.

Just note that previously, someone named “Andrea Williams Wright” was also answering questions and also publicly identifying as the Campaign Director of the After School Satan clubs for The Satanic Temple.

June Everett: Well. I can tell you from experience that getting a school board to approve us is no easy task. The last two years have also been frustrating with COVID-19. Respecting the rules of the schools and considering that most were on and off with e-learning, therefore prohibiting most after school activities including Good News Club. I started receiving serious emails just this past fall notifying me that the GNC had returned, and that that there were parents willing to step up to volunteer to help run ASSC in their communities. I can assure you that just because a club never came to fruition, does not mean that there was zero effort trying to make it happen. (emphasis added)

I also just had a club approved in Ohio, and two more in the works in PA and NY. And of course now I’m getting flooded with volunteers who want to bring ASSC to their communities. So let’s see what the future holds. Cheers! & Hail Satan.

Of course, the work of volunteers on the ground is not and never has really been in question when it comes to The Satanic Temple. It’s what the national organization based out of Salem is doing with that volunteer labor and to what ends the two owners are seeking.

Everett did (apparently) actually pull off the ASS club meeting in Ohio she referenced with the Lebanon, Ohio, club facing a small protest Jan. 27.

Local Superintendent Isaac Seevers confirmed to The Dayton Daily News that there were “two students and seven adults that were participating in the meeting”, which sounds to us like an open house people were just scoping out, but we’ll be generous.

June Everett, an ordained minister of The Satanic Temple and the campaign manager of the After School Satan Club, said the meeting “was anti-climatic” and they were “just hanging out and having a good time playing games and enjoying snacks.”

Everett said the meetings will be held monthly unless the volunteer leadership determines the need to have more meetings.

“We’re not disappointed with today’s turnout,” she said. “We’re not going after numbers. We just want to make this available.”

Everett said there are more people interested in participating and that she has received about a dozen emails and messages. She said people are afraid of their children becoming a target. Everett also said the schools did a great job in preparing for the meeting and with security.

So, as far as we can (generously) confirm, that is a total of seven students in three states meeting since the program was first announced in fall 2016.

What this “accomplishment” has received in return is dozens but perhaps hundreds of articles from the local news to blogs to YouTube videos to the Washington Post to multiple Fox News segments devoted to it, as well as dutiful repetition of TST’s claims in press releases that the program is extant even when — if anyone who bothered to check — it was not.

This latest news cycle is even better than getting coverage of the “Baby Baphomet” on Fox News in December, because this time Lucien Greaves himself got to go on Fox News again.

TST even promoted it in an email blast ahead of time, telling people to tune in to Tucker Carlson’s show.

Satanic Temple email blast message Jan. 14, 2022

Why Greaves prefers someone like Carlson over someone like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or CNN’s Brian Stelter could be explained in many ways, but the most generous is that Greaves knows he’s going to get a copacetic interview from Carlson. The Fox News primetime host is certainly not interested in finding out that “there’s no Satan Claus” when it comes to an international Satanic organization that claims half a million members trying to get into the schools of his audience and educate children.

Carlson and the rest of the far-right media are absolutely not looking to point out that TST is, in reality, five hundred thousand email-newsletter subscribers in a trench coat and some dozens of people actually involved till they burn out, get kicked out, or find out about the whole “Aryan king” thingThe Gateway Pundit is absolutely not going to bother to point out the Temple’s public figures make a lot of (to TGP’s audience) scary promises TST never delivers on and therefore are not something their audience should be frightened of, are not a sign of the end times, are not another reason to stock up on doomsday prepper supplies they happen to also sell.

The right wants what The Satanic Temple is selling because it helps the right push its own grifts.

If you’re saying that the right-wing media ecosystem would be inventing Satanist conspiracies and fear-mongering even without TST, OK — you’re probably right.

But The Satanic Temple is the organization that actively seeks attention, clout, and money by handing these people pre-packaged fantasies to peddle without even bothering to actually do anything good.

All of this goes on and is allowed to glide on — frictionless — because everyone involved at every step of the way supporting or opposing the Temple is getting what they want.

The Satanic Temple “controls the media” because news orgs get a bigger audience, right-wing groups get a bogeyman, liberals and leftists get to feel superior or feel like they’re “trolling” the right, and TST gets to make a buck while Lucien Greaves gets to feel clever and important and have endless praise heaped on him by TST sycophants.

The only people who don’t benefit in all of these schemes are the people who are supposed to be benefitting: the pregnant people who need abortions, the organizations actually fighting to keep Christian dominionism out of the state, and children who probably could use a decent alternative to after school programs by the Child Evangelism Fellowship and their “Good News Clubs”.

And it seems like that ought to be important to someone by now.

Maybe next time.

Moreover, we’re still being sued by The Satanic Temple in federal court. If you’ve learned anything new, please follow us on our other social media to learn even more and show your appreciation with whatever you can afford so we can keep defending ourselves from this frivolous SLAPP suit.

@QueerSatanic | Linktree
We’re still being sued by The Satanic Temple in federal court. See below.linktr.ee


On doxing:

The Facebook profile “June Everett” clearly and unequivocally claims to be the Campaign Director of the After School Satan club program, as well as an “Ordained Minister of The Satanic Temple”.

June Everett
Campaign Director of TST’s After School Satan Club (ASSC). Ordained Minister of The Satanic Temple.

Early on in our exchange, she accused us of doxing and said that she had already had a conversation with us the previous weekend.

June Everett: I know whatever I share with you is going to be posted on your private shit-posting page and Twitter Account. I saw all the posts that you shared using your real name when I was answering questions for you last weekend. So that was cool. Don’t worry — I won’t doxx you like you doxx everyone else. 🙄 I’m sorry you hate TST so much that it has turned in to your full-time job. I would like to answer questions for you without you being so hostile about it. But I know whatever I say or honestly answer will just be flipped and twisted around and won’t mean a thing. So. What a conundrum.

At the time, this was a bit baffling, but with a bit of work we understood that she meant our fact-check of TST’s 2021 year-in-review where we referenced the conversation she had with someone else as “Andrea Williams Wright” under The Satanic Temple’s public Facebook post about After School Satan clubs returning mere weeks after TST had claimed they were actively meeting in 2021.

Although it remains public and we linked to the conversation directly there (and will do so again), the person asking those questions is not one of the four people being sued by The Satanic Temple, which is all “Queer Satanic” is, so we didn’t want to corral them into this without their permission.

Now, TST did attempt to dox the four of us by not only putting what they thought were our government names but also our home addresses into the public federal court record as part of serving us papers. Which is something fairly different from what the Temple’s supporters typically mean by doxing: referring to someone by the same government name they use when they buy stuff, own stuff, sue people, and give testimony in court as part of a “constellation of affiliate entities” exerting power over its members’ lives.

The Satanic Temple says, “We’re a legitimate religion!” But when pressed, it’s always, “I’m worried about being held accountable for things I say and do publicly for my legitimate religion.”

This is not deadnaming a trans person. This is not taking a new name as part of religious conversion.

This is the campaign director for what purports to be a national religious program for children, and she ought to perform the minimal amount of ownership and accountability of actually standing behind what she’s doing.

But — and this is where it gets tricky with The Satanic Temple — Wright being the same person as June Everett is based on only her word, and unlike typical “Satanyms”, there are multiple people legally named “June Everett”, including in Colorado, where Wright and Everett are from. Both were even involved in Menstruatin’ With Satan Campaigns in Colorado: Everett in 2020 and Wright in 2020, and Everett again in 2021. And yet the top non-Facebook search results for Everett including a LinkedIn profile clearly are a different person from Wright.

It should not be this difficult to just confirm that someone is who they say are.

So, while Everett says that she is the same person as Wright, and both Wright and Everett have publicly claimed to be Campaign Director for the After School Satan club program, we still cannot independently confirm that they are. Which is wild.

The same day the conversation was happening between us where Everett accused us of doxing, a Jewish community was targeted while meeting in their synagogue yet again. Somehow Jewish people — who are actually targeted for the ethno-religion rather than just by euphemism and proxy as Satanists are — conduct their work under their own names, meet publicly, and have a sense of community that can have internal and external accountability.

What an awful, pathetic religion Satanism is if it wants to get national headlines, untraceable money, and the right to teach children but is too craven to even endure scrutiny.


Editor’s note: a previous version of this article described Heinrich Kaiser’s role with The Satanic Temple inaccurately.

[Once again, this has been a mirror of what was originally written by Queer Satanic. All content here has been reproduced from the original article. And let me just thank Queer Satanic for giving me an unexpected opportunity to raise the issue of After School Satan being a scam.]