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

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/

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.]

The problem with liberal Christianity

Contrary to what some of us might have assumed, the Western world does not live in a “post-Christian” era. Not yet, anyway. Christianity is still the dominant religion in Western countries and composes much of the prevailing superstructure of bourgeois society in its religious aspects, as well as festering in the background of some of the more secular mythologies prevalent in the West. In the case of the United States of America, it’s not even the fact that Christianity is more “moderate” or “progressive” nowadays (such that it ever was anyway), as reactionary Christian nationalism continues to grow ever stronger, forming a key plank of the increasingly radical right which now threatens to install a fascist dictatorship in the White House via coup d’état. In addition to this, we can see that Christian creationism, far from having been consigned to the dustbin of bad ideas, is still alive and continues to enjoy a sizeable platform via well-funded propaganda outlets such as Prager “University”, and there are attempts in parts of America to ban books that are deemed “homosexual material”.

Christian hegemony is alive and well, but virulent reactionism is not the only way that Christianity tries to preserve its hegemony. Sometimes Christianity is defended by liberal and progressive or even leftist voices, both Christian and secular, who advance that all of the hallmarks of reactionary Christianity are little more than misinterpretations of the “true” Christianity, which is held to be much more progressive. Similar efforts are directed towards Islam in response to prevalent racism against Muslims, which can lead to people forgetting that Islam, in all reality, isn’t much more progressive than Christianity in many aspects. In both cases there’s often a great deal of special pleading and creative interpretations of scripture involved, and in this regard the focus of this article is Christianity.

One of the core problems with Christianity’s attempts to engage with the modern world regards the Christian attitude towards homosexuality. Christian opinion of homosexuality has been historically, and consistently, negative, and therefore homophobic. Many contemporary Christians may today be fairly tolerant and even accepting towards LGBT people, and increasingly so, but the idea of “hate the sin not the sinner” is still trafficked to this day. There are those who insist that Christianity is not actually homophobic because, among other things, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Stephen Colbert, a Catholic liberal, is known for popularizing this idea to liberal audiences. The first problem with this is that at face value, at least, this establishes only that Jesus had nothing to say, and consequently that Jesus cannot defend homosexuals or their human rights. The second problem with this is that Jesus made it explicitly clear that he did had no intention of overturning the law of the Old Testament or the word of its prophets, saying “I did not come to destroy them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Old Testament law is painfully clear on the subject of homosexuality, and in this regard it’s worth addressing the arguments made in defence of Biblical scripture as not inherently homophobic.

For our purposes, let’s consult the Human Rights Campaign (which, by the way, endorses anti-LGBT politicians while claiming to defend LGBT rights) for a summary of the arguments against attributing homophobia to the Bible. One argument is that the injunction in Leviticus that “man must not lie with another man” is that it “coheres with the context of a society anxious about their health, continuing family lineages, and retaining the distinctiveness of Israel as a nation”. The problems with this should be fairly obvious. For starters, this doesn’t change the explicit nature of “man must not lie with another man”, just that perhaps tells us a little something about the origins of monotheistic homophobia. Second, if the context for it is “anxiety about health”, that definitely doesn’t reduce the homophobia. Depending on what’s meant by health, all it establishes is that the ancient Israelites probably considered being gay itself to be a health risk, which is still in itself homophobic. So is the idea that being gay presents a threat to “the distinctiveness of the nation”. In other words, it’s still homophobic, and the homophobia comes with a bit of nationalistic moral panic behind it. 1 Corinthians 6:9 is explained as “more than likely about the sexual exploitation of young men by older men”. Well “men having sex with men” really says nothing about the age of the men in question. To be blunt, it could be any men in any age dynamic. Indeed, does tying homosexuality to pedophilia not service reactionary homophobia? 1 Timothy 1:10 refers quite explicitly to “those practicing homosexuality” alongside “the sexually immoral”, and it rather does stretch credulity to assume that this is only referring to some elite Greek practice of pederasty. Paul’s homophobic comments in his letter to the Romans are described as “part of a broader indictment against idolatry and excessive, self-centered lust that is driven by desire to “consume” rather than to love and to serve as outlined for Christian partnership elsewhere in the Bible”. This is still homophobic. It still means that homosexual sex, when portrayed in the Biblical context, is portrayed as a negative, more specifically as a sort of giving in to “self-centered” passions which itself is framed as a punishment from God for the crime of worshipping any gods other than God.

A lot of the argument hinges on the idea that the authors of the Bible had no idea what “sexual orientiation” in our modern use of the term was, but this is a bit like saying that tuberculosis actually didn’t exist until the 19th century simply because it wasn’t called tuberculosis until then, even though it had otherwise existed for centuries under many different names. In fact, when it comes to the issue of trans rights, the line that the authors of the Bible had “no concept of trans people” is curiously not employed, and instead it is recognized that being trans has been real and recognized in various ways for centuries. Another refrain would be that the Bible doesn’t condemn loving (presumably in the emotional or Platonic rather than physical sense) same-sex relationships, which is just nonsense. Even if the Bible says nothing about non-sexual homosexual relationships, it’s still rather clearly hostile to same-sex relationships whenever they come up, even if that’s mainly the sexual sense. But besides, why would the difference matter so much? If you’re condemning homosexual sex because it’s homosexual, and presumably not heterosexual sex in the same way, the condemnation emerges from the premise that homosexual sex “goes against nature”, which is simply homophobia. Paul is rather explicitly clear about men “abandoning natural relationships with women” in favour of “lust for one another”, and Romans 1:27 (which the Human Rights Campaign barely examines) explicitly states that men who did this would “receive the due penalty” for it, and that is exactly how the fathers of the Christian church have interpreted homosexuality; as an unnatural lust. If that was the wrong interpretation, then that just means that everyone in the early Christian movement somehow misinterpreted an otherwise LGBT-positive message supposedly inherent in the Bible, which would be interesting considering that as far as I can see none of the church fathers or even many “Gnostics” ever expressed tangible opposition to, say, John Chrysostom’s declaration that gay people were “an insult to nature”. And even if the Bible doesn’t say that essentially emotional, platonically romantic gay relationships are a sin, so what? It never affirms such relationships, and again, that’s important. If you want to be LGBT-positive, you have to affirm the validity of same-sex relationships as being valid in and of themselves, which neither Jesus nor anyone in the Bible ever does. The argument that God “wouldn’t judge” on its own just doesn’t cut it, and at any rate has little to do with the scripture upon which Christianity is necessarily based. Besides, if you want to affirm loving relationships, you have to affirm the sexuality of these relationships as well, since that is an inseparable part of it at least for many relationships.

If the best that Christianity can say for itself is that the Bible hates it when gay people have sex but not when they love each other emotionally, then that’s just the same thing as when conservative homophobes say that they only hate it when gay people “act on their desires”. If any form of love between LGBT people is endorsed, if we take the Human Rights Campaign seriously, it’s a fundamentally reified, abstract, and de-sexualized love, which is legitimated not of itself but as a representation of marriage between Christ and the Church, or as a vessel through which God’s “love” is fulfilled; LGBT love is thus, from the Christian standpoint, legitimated only insofar as Christ or God are legitimated, not because it is valid on its own, because in Christianity everything is validated only through God. Luke 15 is brought up as somehow evidence that the Christian God had already accepted LGBT people into his communion, which is hardly evident in that text. If anything, if there’s supposed to be a reference to homosexuality in there, what do you think the chance is that it’s not the “sin” referred to by the son who confessed before his father and before God. Remember also that Jesus said “go and sin no more” to a woman who was about to be stoned for supposed adultery. It seems evident that this is to be taken as a counsel to not repeat any behaviours deemed sinful, which has implications for homosexual sex which is still repeatedly regarded by the Bible and the church fathers as sinful.

Another appeal to scriptural gaps can be found in relation to the argument regarding “gender complementarity”, which conservative and homophobic Christians base in the Book of Genesis’ statement that God created a sexual or gender binary that is then used as an argument against gay marriage; in other words, the classic homophobic “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” canard that was once frequently trotted out by the Christian right. The counter-argument summarized by the Human Rights Campaign is that the account says nothing about gender and does not say that God only created the gender binary. That might be a point to made regarding the inclusion of trans, intersex, and non-binary people, but addresses nothing about gay marriage. Again, so? The Bible also never actually affirms the idea that gender is not a binary, and, again, that is important since you can’t build a consistent LGBT-positive worldview based on the fact you merely (or rather ostensibly) say nothing about it; especially when there’s still explicit homophobia in the mix.

And why don’t we apply this to other aspects of the Bible as well. Like, for instance, the Biblical stance on slavery. Although Christianity is often popularly associated the movement to abolish chattel slavery, the Bible not only does not oppose slavery, it actually seems to support slavery, and not only that it also seems to offer counsel on how the slaves should obey their slave-owners and how slave-owners should treat their slaves. Luke 12:47 counsels slave-owners to beat their slaves if they knowingly disobey their commands, and that slave who disobeys unwittingly is still to be beaten, just a little more mercifully. In Exodus 21:20-21, it is counselled that a slave-owner is to be punished if they beat their slaves to death, but if the slave survives the beating and recovers after a few days then the slave-owner would not be punished for it. This is a pretty clear endorsement of slavery and the abuses inflicted through it. Now we could talk about the context of the time in which it was written, which is to say a time in history where slavery was widespread and considered a matter of course even by the victims of slavery, but does this change the content of the pro-slavery verses or the fact that the Bible never challenges the system of slavery? No, it doesn’t. Likewise, what changes about the verses in which homosexual sex is expressly condemned by appealing to the context of the times, or asserting that the authors of the Bible had no concept of homosexuality in their time?

The way the issue of trans rights in the Bible is covered isn’t too much better, even though you can argue that there’s actually a better case for trans-inclusion in the Bible than for particularly enligthened attitudes towards gay people and women – which if we’re honest is kind of saying something weird. A verse apparently used by transphobes to justify their bigotry against trans people is Psalm 139:13-14, which states that God knitted the individual person together in their mothers’ womb. For the Christian transphobe this verse is taken as proof that God fixed the individual gender identity of each person before birth, thus supposedly invalidating trans identity. But in the argument given by the Human Rights Campaign, we’re told that this verse is supposed to mean that God lovingly created everyone such that every part of them was created with dignity, and that there was no textual basis for excluding gender identity. Besides the problem that some might argue that God just gave them the wrong body by, say, giving men the bodies of women thus leading them to be assigned female at birth when really they’re not (I suppose admitting that would raise serious problems for the concept of divine omniscience), and besides the other problem of what happens when children are born with terrible genetic disorders and this is to be interpreted as being “lovingly made”, it doesn’t seem all that clear that the Bible actually does affirm trans identity or the idea that gender identity itself is not a binary. The closest we come to a Biblical affirmation of trans identity is through the eunuchs. On the one hand, Deuteronomy 23:1 says that “men with crushed or severed genitals” may not enter the “assembly of the Lord”. On the other hand, Isaiah 56:4-5 seem to suggest that eunuchs who sufficiently serve God will receive a monument and name “better than sons and daughters” and a name that shall not be cut off, which seems to suggest some special place in God’s eyes. Thus we see that the Old Testament has a rather internally contradictory stance on the role of eunuchs; they can’t enter the “assembly of the Lord”, but at the same time if they serve God loyally God will give them everlasting names and monuments. That said, it is not like the practice of eunuchry is thus endorsed by the Bible, and the law of Deutoronomy is still pretty explicit against eunuchs. The difference is that, in Isaiah, God offers an abrogation of that law on the condition that the eunuchs sacrifice their own prerogatives on behalf of conscientious obedience in keeping God’s Sabbath. On a semi-related note, Deuteronomy, specifically Deutoronomy 22:5, also forbids the practice of cross-dressing. This verse is usually one of the only verses that transphobes can theoretically point to in order to justify their bigotry, and when applied to trans people problems obviously abound. It is textbook transphobic bigotry to assume that trans people are merely “dressing up” as the gender they “aspire to be”, as opposed to outwardly confirming their real inward gender identity, so there isn’t much reason to assume that cross-dressing in itself can be taken as a reference to being transgender. On the other hand, a lot hinges on whether or not the Bible actually affirms the inward gender identity of trans people, which there’s no explicity sign of anywhere in the Bible, and meanwhile the Bible contains legal condemnations of men who castrate themselves and engage in homosexual relationships with men, both of which are practices that, in a lot of the ancient world, were taken as signs of a man casting off his maleness and embracing femininity, thus crossing traditional lines of gender identity.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus doesn’t seem to condemn eunuchs, and even referred to those who made themselves eunuchs in service of heaven. But, there’s a complication. Firstly, the context of Matthew 19 as a whole is that Jesus is talking about marriage and divorce. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4 that God created humans in male and female, citing Genesis 1:27 to that effect, which at least could conceivably be interpreted as endorsing a gender binary, and in a broader context this is meant as an argument by Jesus against divorce. Jesus argued that Moses merely permited men to divorce their wives because their hearts were hard, and that this was not originally the case, further stating that if a man divorces his wife then, unless he does it in response to “sexual immorality”, he is committing adultery. Second, where the eunuchs come in is that they are among the people who cannot be given to marriage and thus cannot “accept this word”. I shouldn’t really need to explain that being trans does not or at least should not render you incapable of matrimony, but more to the point several Biblical commentaries suggest that eunuch here, or more specifically those who make themselves eunuchs in service of heaven, is likely meant as a reference to celibacy, self-denial, and self-mortification, rather than the castration practiced by the eunuchs. Indeed, the Pulpit Commentary suggests that it cannot refer to literal “excision”, since this is apparently deemed contrary to the order of creation as established by God. Origen, who was accused by Eusebius of having castrated himself, explicitly advocated against literal interpretations of Matthew 19:12 as a counsel to actually castrate yourself. Given this, it’s very unlikely that the Biblical attitude to gender affirmation surgery would have been particularly positive, and there is certainly no express affirmation of the practice that can be pointed to anywhere in the Bible, on top of which it’s reasonable to assume based on the moral condemnation of self-castration and Augustine’s hatred of the priests of Cybele that such a practice would have been condemned as an attack on God’s order.

Through all this let’s return to the subject of Old Testament law and Jesus’ relationship with it. From the perspective of Judaism, the law of the Old Testament was the law set to the Israelites by God, as part of the covenant they made with said God, which the Israelites needed to follow in obedience to God in order to cultivate righteousness and atone for the sin that humanity inherited from Adam and Eve. Jesus was pretty clear on the point that he had no intention of overturning that law or the word of the old Hebrew prophets. That means that the law about how eunuchs wouldn’t be admitted into the assembly of God, the prohibition of homosexual sex, the prohibition of cross-dressing, the rules regarding slavery let alone the very existence of slavery, all of this Jesus had no intention of challenging or abolishing, since his stated mission was to “fulfill” the law and the prophets. So even if he said nothing about LGBT people, that doesn’t matter because he isn’t standing up for them either, since he has no intention of challenging the prohibitions that would have oppressed them.

The ultimate thing to remember is that liberal and progressive efforts to rehabilitate Christianity as a progressive force are essentially a form of Christian apologetics. Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that exists to intellectually defend the Christian faith against objections from various sources. For the early Christian movement, this tended to mean defending the faith against criticism from polytheists as well as defense against accusations of various (often lurid) wrongdoings levelled against Christians. In a more general and traditional sense, it can mean defending Christianity by giving a theoretically rational reason to believe in God or accept the claims of Christian teaching, as well as address serious questions regarding the role that evil and suffering plays in the creation of an otherwise “benevolent” God; in this sense, theodicy (the philosophical vindication of God) functions as a branch of apologetics. But while the usual brands of apologetics have often proven unfashionable, progressive apologetics seems to be popular. And it is apologetics in the most basic sense, just that in this case Christianity is being defended against arguments that Christianity is inherently bigoted, which would undermine the moral legitimacy of the faith. It’s all part of defending Christianity in much the way that it has always been defended, and in the modern context it serves as a way to forestall Christianity’s inevitable demise.

The final point to make as regards progressive apologetics concerns God himself, and strangely enough I find myself seeing it come up from self-described Luciferians. A Gnostic Luciferian who goes by the handle serpentchrist69 objects to the description of God being a tyrant by suggesting that such a description speaks more to the people writing the Bible being problematic than the being inspiring said writing, which is to be balanced against the perceived “good” within the text, and that to call God a tyrant is simply an oversimplistic kneejerk reaction. Well, perhaps it’s worth looking at what God does throughout the Bible. The Old Testament begins with God punishing Adam and Eve for eating the fruit of a tree that probably wouldn’t even be in the garden of Eden if not for him in order to prevent Adam and Eve from joining the gods and becoming immortal. He then declares all the other gods to be unworthy of worship, promises to turn women who aren’t traditionally submissive into burnt deformities, interferes with human free will by hardening people’s hearts, and in this way ensuring the continued persecution and suffering of his own believers, as well as the suffering and deaths of innocent Egyptians, and has repeatedly ordered the genocide and enslavement of non-believers, not to mention all the prohibitions we discussed before. In the New Testament, we are introduced to the idea that the soul will be thrown into a lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels if he does not sufficiently believe in God or his son, and that the world will eventually end with a gruesome Judgement Day in which those who believe will be saved while the unbelievers will be ground in a wine-press by angels or simply damned until the end of the age. It also affirms not only the absolute authority of God but also, based on that, the legitimacy of all earthly authority, which must be obeyed without question. In this context, we can easily see how the picture of God as a tyrant forms on the basis of the scripture devoted to him. You can argue that it’s all just a flawed interpretation of an ineffable divine being forged from the understandings of people with old attitudes, but then it’s impossible to parse God’s actual character this way, and this hardly even gets into how the God who we’re meant to assume is still all good even if his scripture gets him wrong lets suffering and evil run rampant in his own creation or is actively responsible for it as the creator of everything. Besides, a similar argument can and has been made in the context of the gods of polytheism. God’s not special, in this regard.

Here’s the thing: if you give God an inch, he’ll take the whole nine yards. We already saw what happened when even non-Christian progressives put their faith in Pope Francis or more specifically the hope that maybe he’ll reform the Catholic Church to make it more inclusive and accepting, and then it never happened. Instead the church still refuses to support gay marriage, and pushed for the Italian government to not prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes. The icing on the cake is that there’s still no actual action on the rampant institutional child abuse within the church, and under Francis’ tenure more revelations of more ecclesiastical abuses of children have emerged.

And here’s the other thing: why should we want this? Why should we want a more benign and progressive way to serve YHWH when the point should be to be free from the rule of God and his son? Why should we depend on God to justify the rights of marginalized people when their existence should derive validity from itself and thus their liberation counts for more? Why does society need to defend the legitimacy of Christianity, or at least more particularly the Catholic Church, so badly? Is the thought that perhaps the world might leave Jesus behind, let alone in favour of either the Devil or the gods of old, so unbearable? I think that there seems to be a “need” among certain people to maintain in themselves the idea of Christianity as some sort of positive and even progressive force, rather than question the reason why it merely appears munificent and then freely abandon Christianity. The world, it seems, cannot yet come to grips with the idea, or indeed the reality, that Christianity is a false hope that was cruelly inflicted upon the world.

The last thing I want to say concerns the very Christianized direction being introduced by the Gnostic Luciferian Christopher Williams (a.k.a. serpentchrist69), since it kind of touches into the realm of apologetics I’m discussing here, and to be honest I couldn’t be asked to delegate these matters to a separate article. He appears to see his Luciferianism as a synthesis involving Christianity, his form of Gnostic Luciferianism based on the Valentinian sect of Christianity, which holds the Demiurge to be ultimately a valid part of the cosmos, and insists that God should not be seen as a tyrant. In this, he frames the opposition to Christianity, and any attendant attraction to Satanism, as essentially just a kneejerk response motivated by trauma experienced by the oppression of the church and its authorities. It’s a very American perspective, obviously, not without a modicum of merit, and yet I think it fails to consider that not everything about how people receive and react to religious ideas is about trauma, and not everyone despise Christianity because they were hurt in some way by their Christian parents or community. I was born in a country where people are fairly tolerant when it comes to religion. My parents were and still are Christians but they were never fundamentalists about it (not always really devout for that matter) and they seemed to tolerate people who weren’t straight. But all the same, I never liked Christianity in the overall, and when I was a kid my only connection to Christianity consisted of doing one or two prayers to Jesus to save the rainforests and telling a teacher I believed in Jesus to avoid punishment, meanwhile I refused to go to church the first time I was told to. My hatred of Christianity does not come from trauma. It comes from Christianity. And frankly, I find the more progressive apologia that appeals to trauma in order to make its adherents sound like they “understand” you is actually more annoying that conservative Christian proselytism. The conservative Christian is undeniably toxic and authoritarian, but this new shit where you act like the only thing wrong with Christianity is your parents hurt you in the name of God is an insidious mode of condescending obscurantism, in which you think you can ignore everything wrong with God and his creeds by reducing all objection to it as a mere trauma. Well not every conversation about religion is about trauma let alone some stupid rhetoric about “healing”. To be honest, I don’t think I like what you’re doing, Christopher. You may call yourself a Luciferian, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, but as far as I’m concerned the form of Luciferianism you espouse and the way you talk about much of the Left Hand Path, and the things you accuse us of, puts you alongside the dogs of the Christian church, just that you prefer to recuperate the power of transgression in service of God. It’s nothing but liberal Christianity, which is to say a way of restoring or perhaps renewing the hegemony of Christianity, whether that’s in the vain hope of “transcending” it or not.

Why should we pretend that we have no problem with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam just because a couple billion people happen follow these religions, or more accurately are blindly conditioned into it? If your response to Christianity is to perform meaningless apologetics to coddle the masses rather than liberate them then you really have no issue with Christian hegemony except that it’s not sufficiently open to change. Well I don’t care if Christianity “changes”, because my desire is for it wither away, and for mankind to abolish it in themselves of their own free will.

Joe Biden and Pope Francis (image taken from Getty Images)

On the Colin Batley case, Satanic Panic, and the vilification of the occult

Recently I’ve been seeing that Nathaniel Harris has been up to his Satanic Panic shenangians again, which my friend James Hind has been covering a lot of as late. For those not in the know, Nathaniel Harris is a man who used to be an occultist, in fact I think he used to be a Chaos Magician, and he used to collaborate with the well-known Luciferian Satanist Michael W. Ford. But at some point, for reasons I’m not sure I understand, Harris not only renounced occultism, he also viciously attacked every occult movement and alternative religion and accused a conspiracy of Satanists of abusing him and several children in connection to the Kidwelly sex cult case from over ten years ago.

As it happens, I have some memory of the case, though nothing really direct. When the case broke out, I was just a teenager who happened by the story on a newspaper in my area while sitting on a bus. Looking back, am I entirely surprised to have had some exposure to vaguely “occult” happenstance early in my life? Ha, that’s probably meaningless conjecture. But I think that Nathaniel Harris’ persistent relitigation of the Colin Batley case is a good opportunity to examine that very case, so as to examine the true nature of the so-called “Satanism” attributed to him.

Key in this enterprise should be an assessment of Colin Batley himself, or more specifically his beliefs. Colin Batley is the man who ran a cult that abducted, tortured, and sexually abused several children in Kidwelly until he and his accomplices were caught and arrested by the police in 2010. Batley had apparently moved to Wales during the 1990s after previously living in London, and it’s said that he had been involved in multiple instance of sexual abuse for decades. Throughout local media, Batley has been referred to as a “Satanist” or someone “dedicated to the study of Satanic material”. The “Satanic material” in question is never referred to. In my attempt to research Batley’s motives, all references to Satanism are very clearly ascribed to him by others. There is no first-person description that makes use of the term Satanism, so the term is clearly not self-referential. As to the practice of Satanism, it’s not obvious that this is what the cult was doing. What we at least ostensibly know of their ritual practice is that it involved incense burning, disrobing and going “skyclad”, and having copious amounts of sex, often involving wife-swapping and coercion. Well that would certainly be evidence of a prostitution ring with a lot of ritual trappings, and a very low-effort approach to ritual, but still no sign of anything recognisably or distinctly Satanic.

One of the few books actually referred to in connection to the case is The Book of the Law. The Book of the Law, written by the almost legendary British occultist Aleister Crowley, not a Satanist book. Rather it is considered a central part of the canon of Thelema, and is believed to have been inspired by the message of a being named Aiwass. This book, alongside The Book of Magick and Equinox of the Gods, were purportedly read out in Batley’s cult, and it’s reported that each member of his cult kept a laminated copy of The Book of the Law. The way Wales Online covered this back in 2011 was in some ways laughable. It referred to The Book of the Law as “the occult bible” and its author Aleister Crowley as an “arch-Satanist”. Such lurid misrepresentations are the mark of a misleading sensationalism usually expected of some gutter tabloid rag.

In any case, Crowley himself could not be called a Satanist. He in many ways played an essential and dual role in shaping the modern Left Hand Path as we understand it today. This manifested through both his denunciations of the “Black Brothers” who according to him deified their own ego-consciousness and are thus counted as “of the left hand path”, which to him surely meant the “wrong” path within Thelema, and through his own antinomian, transgressive, and ethically libertarian spiritual praxis, laden with blasphemies and sexual magick as a part of a broad system by which to attain the True Will, which is thus very consistent with pre-modern understandings of the Left Hand Path. But however iconic and even essential Crowley and his philosophy and praxis are in shaping the modern Left Hand Path, he would have counted himself as a practitioner of the Right Hand Path within the context of his belief system, and he rejected the way that Satanism emphasizes the veneration, worship, and in some cases even excarnation, of ego-consciousness. Crowley was thus, despite referring to himself as “The Great Beast 666”, not a Satanist and not a practitioner of the Left Hand Path. And, although Thelema has Left Hand Path variations and spin-offs, such as the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis and Fraternitas Saturni, and can potentially be practiced in the fashion of the Left Hand Path, Thelema is not itself a religion of the Left Hand Path, and its adherents would likely reject such a label.

It is also worth noting that, in the eyes of both practicing Satanists and practicing Thelemites, Colin Batley would be considered a criminal failure. One of the main points of principle for both Satanism and Thelema concern individual agency. For Satanism, it is repeatedly emphasized that the sexual abuse of both adults and children is intolerable. In Thelema, it is not uncommon for adherents to practice and espouse a form of self-discipline as means of cultivating the True Will. On both fronts, Colin Batley is surely a failure, due to his use of coercion and psychological slavery as a means of fulfilling his obviously abusive and predatory desires. On its own this would merely demonstrate that he was a bad Satanist or a bad Thelemite, but this requires the assumption that he was either a Satanist or a Thelemite, and the evidence for this is not what it seems.

Returning to The Book of the Law for a moment, it is worth commenting upon the fact that the book was submitted to Swansea Crown Court in 2011 during the trial of Colin Batley and his accomplices, in which the prosecutor Steven Murphy accused the book of “containing worrying trends and themes”. He claimed that the book encouraged people to have sex with everyone and anyone, endorsed prostitution, and he even accused the book of promoting rape, and further complained that he had tried to read The Book of the Law and gave up, while asserting his faith in Mormonism and the Bible. Well isn’t that cute, mindlessly abjuring an occult religion through slander on behalf of a Christian sect that is widely considered to be heretical by many other Christians. The judge even described Batley as having “lived up to your mentor, Aleister Crowley”. The obvious question that arises from this is, did Aleister Crowley keep people as sex slaves? Do any Thelemites do that outside of the context of BDSM or kink? It seems to me that a religion known for prizing individual freedom albeit in a very mystical sense would not endorse a system of sexual slavery or chattel slavery, and I think that the actions of Colin Batley and his accomplices are not very representative of the ethics or ethos of Thelema, even though both Colin Batley and his prosecutors ignorantly assume the contrary. Further it would seem that, if The Book of the Law did indeed sanction rape, let alone sexual slavery and pedophilia, we would find that all adherents of Thelema would be responsible for committing such behaviours, but of course most are not. I also think that, if the prosecution did read The Book of the Law, they certainly didn’t make much note of the end of the book which says the following:

The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.

Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.

Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.

All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.


This part of the book, perhaps more than many others, is barely understood even by many Thelemites, and some purchase the book out of an eagerness to understand Thelema and then read that last part and, in some cases, burn their copy of The Book of the Law thinking that they were supposed to do it. This more than anything establishes the often cryptic nature of Crowley’s pronouncement within the book, and suffice it to say that literalism is not going to help you understand what Crowley is saying here. To be completely honest it’s actually something of a relief that The Book of the Law wasn’t banned in Wales over this case.

Another problem concerns a threat apparently made by a member of Colin Batley’s cult to then-teenage girl, who he reportedly said would “go to the abyss” if she did not have sex with him. This is a blatant distortion of the teachings of Thelema, both on the part of Batley’s associate and on the part of a media that appears uninterested in challenging such distortion. The Abyss, in the context of Thelema, is not a place of punishment equivalent to the Christian concept of Hell. Rather, the Abyss is meant as the “storehouse” of all phenomenon, the source of all impressions as relevant to the world in which they are manifest – “the Real”, as Crowley put it, which originates from a noumenal realm known as “the Unreal”. Guarded by a demon named Choronzon, the Abyss is also the place that those seeking the highest level of mystical attainment within Thelema must cross in order to dissolve their ego-consciousness and become a “babe of Babalon”. It is not a place that a person may be “sent to” after death, rather it is a threshold that must be willingly crossed in life, and even then this can only be done after a long period of preparation. Thus, to threaten to send someone the Abyss in the context of Thelema is utterly absurd. It also doesn’t make sense in Satanism, either, since none of the variations of Satanism that I have seen in my years of study endorse any doctrine of punishment after death. Such nuance, of course, is not grasped by the prosecutor, who rhetorically asked Batley “Do you really think there’s a difference between the pit and the abyss?”.

It is impossible to find evidence that members of Batley’s cult used Satanic symbols to identify their belief systems. Instead, reports seem to say that members of the cult used the Eye of Horus, a symbol of the Egyptian god Horus, to symbolise membership. This is certainly not a symbol of Satanism. It may have been given some vague connection to Thelema within the cult in that Horus is a central divine figure within Thelema, but even in this light, I have not seen the eye symbol used by Crowley or within Thelema historically. It is possible to interpret this in terms of a broad fascination with ancient Egyptian religion, though it is certainly not a reconstructionist attempt to actually revive ancient Egyptian polytheism. Of course, The Daily Mail claimed in their article that Batley’s cult was host to serpents and “Satanic” symbols such as inverted crucifixes, but of course the less said about The Daily Mail the better.

From the evidence available we can conclude that Colin Batley, though certainly guilty of sexual abuse and practicing slavery, was not a Satanist, despite what the media appears to suggest. It is arguable that he may not even be a Thelemite, since during the trial he demonstrated no discernible grasp of the teachings of Thelema or The Book of the Law, despite apparently utilizing it in his cult and handing out copies of it to his followers. I think it is likely that Colin Batley was forming an idiosyncratic and highly dysfunctional charismatic belief system which slapped together whatever proved useful to his end goal of justifying the abuse of children as it suited him, with no real underlying religio-magical philosophy, praxis, or theology. He may have claimed inspiration from The Book of the Law, but nothing appears to suggest that he consciously identified with either Thelema or Satanism, and in the trial he could barely answer for any given religious conviction.

Now, how does this connect back to Nathaniel Harris? Ever since Harris began abandoning the realm of occultism entirely, he has become something of a poor man’s Geraldo Rivera on the internet, spewing his incoherent conspiracy theories about Satanist pedophiles to what I assume to be the few who actually listen to him. He went from defending Satanists and occultists from Christian moral panic to becoming a servant of that same hegemonic paranoia, and his extolling of the narrative of Colin Baltey as a Satanist serves this. As a conspiracy theorist, he no doubt believes that he is challenging a media apparatus that is complicit in some Satanic conspiracy to commit ritual abuse by not covering his theories about how he was abused by devil worshippers, but in reality he is at least serving the line put forward by the media that seeks to frame Colin Batley’s cult as a sincere manifestation of Satanism and the teaching of Aleister Crowley, which the media frequently depicts as being one and the same. He thus contributes to the broader phenomenon of Satanic Panic and the vilification of the occult and alternative religions within the media, which frequently goes unquestioned even in the supposed tolerance of modern secular liberal society.

Guys like Nathaniel Harris should be opposed at every turn. But we, and he, should also know that he is never going to win in the long run. His conspiracy theories about how he was abducted and abused by the Batley cult will never have purchase anywhere, and I’m willing to bet that if he ever tried to take the stand in court his case would be soundly defeated in short order due to the sheer lack of evidence on his side, and the actual victims of the Batley cult would rightly condemn him for shamelessly exploiting their trauma to his own benefit. Yet, the Satanic Panic that he serves is not so easily defeated, and will continue with and/or without his efforts, because the truth is that Nathaniel Harris is such a small and ultimately petty player in a much grander social phenomenon, in which spiritual alterity is constantly marginalized in order to uphold the social order. That is what must always be challenged, and eventually dismantled.

I think that one other thing to take away from this is that, insofar as secrecy is still a thing in occult praxis, at least on an interpersonal level, I have a bit of a better understanding as to why that is; and it’s not because they’re hiding criminal activities or some bullshit like that. Although some practitioners, such as Peter Grey and R. J. Womack, are of the view that secrecy is a source of power for occult practice, I think one of the real reasons is simply the fact that few people actually seem to understand the works of occultism, and most people are uninterested in trying to understand it, much less study it in a sincere academic context. As such, misunderstandings are common, sometimes even deliberate, and popular culture and media sensationalism feed off of the distortion that is so common in society. It is for this reason that occultism could be summarised in terms of “anyone can get into it, but it’s not for everyone”, much like how Stephanos Chelydoreus has described mystery traditions. Of course, a lot of contemporary Satanism tends to opt for a different response: namely to follow the lead of The Satanic Temple in casting Satanism as an entirely secular and aesthetic ideology meant to communicate libertarian and progressive opposition to religion or communicate a particularly aggressive mode of secular atheism, and then sometimes reject all else as “not real Satanism”. But regardless, the fact that occultism or alternative religion finds itself frequently, almost violently, misunderstood may lend itself to an appreciation of secrecy.

Indeed, there are four cryptic precepts classically associated with occultism: to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Keep Silent.

This is what I think Nathaniel Harris believes he’s getting up to

Addendum: It seems that both Nathaniel Harris and more sympathetic observers say that I claim that Nathaniel Harris claims that he was kidnapped by Colin Batley and his cult. As far as I can tell, this is not true. I state that Harris claims to have been abused by Batley and his cult, which is based on James Hind’s many articles discussing Nathaniel Harris and his conspiracy theories, which often make reference to Harris’ own claims on the matter. But to say that I claimed that Nathaniel Harris was kidnapped is not quite true.

Nazism is not, and never was, Pagan

You are all probably all too familiar with the creeping presence of esoteric fascism and folkism within alternative religious communities and subcultures, and how frequently this is used by outsiders to attack our validity. You probably also have some idea about the problem of NSBM in the black metal scene, and if you’ve been reading this blog lately it’s a problem I’ve been giving a lot of focus to in recent years. Our communities have a great need to fight this problem, and to do so, we must challenge a very pernicious myth about the Nazis: namely, the myth that the Nazis were anti-Christian Pagans. It seems to me that this myth is at the root of the phenomenon of certain esoteric Nazi or fascist enterprises as well as the spread of neo-Nazi folkist Paganism and the idea of NSBM. To give an example of what I mean, remember that there are Nazi black metal musicians, such as Anthony Mignoni from the band Seigneur Voland, who praised Adolf Hitler for his supposed “will to found a neo-pagan empire in Europe”. And do I really have to say anything about Varg Vikernes alone? What I’m trying to say is that a lot of all this comes from a residual mythology that casts the Nazis as Pagans looking to overturn the Christian world order, and this mythology serves as a way for Nazis to try and exploit certain themes within Paganism, occultism, and the Left Hand Path for their own purposes. But, as you will see, the whole idea that the Nazis were esoteric Pagans is a lie.

If there is one thing that I think dispels the idea of Nazism being Pagan more than anything else, it would probably be the opinion of none other than Adolf Hitler on the subject of Pagan revivals. It is popularly claimed that Hitler extolled the value of Christianity in public, while also denouncing Christianity as a religion based on weakness even as he praised Jesus as some sort of honorary Aryan, and that the Nazis were some sort of almost uniquely anti-Christian powerhouse (I say “almost uniquely”, given that the other 20th century anti-Christian powerhouse commonly referred to is the Soviet Union). The presence of volkisch ideology and the pretences to Germanic paganism within the Third Reich, combined with Hitler’s supposed disdain for both Christianity and atheism, has led some to believe that he was some sort of avatar for the revival of Paganism, as has been the contention of Christian intellectuals and commentators. Carl Jung’s essay on “Wotan” as an archetype of wild ethno-nationalist frenzy and irrationalism has been influential in generating a supposed link between Germanic neopaganism and Nazism, and meanwhile a whole generation of pretentious Christian intellectuals have further poisoned the well with their own nonsensical pronouncements on the subject. But what did Hitler actually think of Paganism of any sort, and what was the actual religious alignment of Nazism as a whole?

In his Table Talks, Hitler described the re-establishment of the worship of pre-Christian Germanic deities as “foolish” and said that the old pre-Christian mythology “ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself”. In other words, Hitler considered Christianity to be superior to Paganism, which is on its own all the confirmation you need at least that Hitler wasn’t a Pagan. But, there’s more. In Hitler: Memoirs of a Confident, which was published by Otto Wagener in 1985, Wagener recounted that Hans Schemm, an esteemed Nazi educator and Gauleiter (regional leader), expressed his frustration at people who espoused “a lot of nonsense talked about blond men, about the Nordic race, about the cult of Wotan and the spirit of the Edda”, likely referring to certain neopagan elements of the Nazis, accused them of creating inferiority complexes and inspiring hatred among non-blond Germans and from there promoting division between Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (the irony of this coming from a Nazi officer has to have been lost on both Schemm and Hitler). Hitler interrupted by saying that he expressly and repeatedly forbade expressions of neopaganism within the NSDAP, mocking what he dubbed “All that rubbish about the Thing places, the solstice festivals, the Midgard snake, and all the rest of the rubbish they dredge up from the German prehistory!”. After this, Schemm further denounced the “solstice festivals” he heard about as being propagandistic rather than atavistic and jeopardizing the “Volk community”, Hitler then agreed and asserted that “We Germans in particular must avoid anything that works to create even more divisiveness”. Wagener recounted that he feared that the “Old Germanic Festivals” were increasingly reshaping the mission of the Hitler Youth somehow. Hitler apparently also stated that he had no issue with Christmas, instead objecting to the association of Christmas with pre-Christian nature worship, and asserted that he did not want to rob the Christian church of its holy day, though he then ultimately told his advisors not to worry about the festivals, claiming that he thought that whatever brought the Hilter Youth closer to “the godhead” was good and that whatever separated them from it, “even if it was a Catholic priest”, was bad.

Keep in mind that Schemm was very much a Christian, and in fact his notable slogan was “Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!”, clearly suggesting his belief that Nazism was a Christian ideology. If Hitler and the NSDAP were such militant neopagans that would exclude or even liquidate Christianity from their Third Reich, Hans Schemm would probably not have the official status he did within the NSDAP. Instead, in reality, the Nazis honored Schemm after his death in 1935 by naming entire schools and streets after him, and he was evidently important enough for the Nazis that Hitler personally ordered a surgeon to fly to Bayreuth in an attempt to save him from the injuries that Schemm received in the plane crash that killed him. As it turns out, for a supposed anti-Christian, Hitler seemed to value certain Christian officers while ridiculing his more “neopagan” subordinates.

The Nazis are fairly notorious for their seeming and widely mythologized interest in the occult, even despite the fact that the Nazis, when they entered power, criminalized even volkisch mystic organizations. The reputation of the Nazis as occult obsessives can be traced in large part to Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen SS commander who was known for an interest in esotericism and self-declared non-Christian status. Himmler, however, was not much of a Pagan, if it could even be said that he was a Pagan at all. He had an interest in incorporating solstice celebrations into the SS, but this same SS was modelled on the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits, which tells me that he was simply layering ostensible Pagan custom onto what was ultimately an organization inspired by Christianity. Apparently he sought to challenge the customs of Christianity on the grounds of his own synthetic occult belief system, but there is no evidence that he ever worshipped any pre-Christian gods or that he was a polytheist, animist, nature-worshipper, or anything usually defined as part of the spectrum of Pagan religiosity. Himmler was quite explicit in saying that being in the SS means to believe in “a God Almighty who stands above us” and accepting the doctrine that God created the earth, the “Fatherland”, and its “volk”, and that he sent Adolf Hitler to earth, and further insisted that anyone who did not believe in God was unsuitable for SS membership and should be considered “arrogant, megalomaniacal, and stupid”, all of which is more consistent with a very volkisch interpretation of Christianity than any concept of Paganism. Himmler may have formally left Christianity or at least the Christian church, but he still believed in some religious premises that were rather close to Christian doctrine. If we are to take his apparent non-Christian status seriously, you could say he ascribed to a kind of Latent Christianity.

Some within the SS seem to have sought after the existence of a “true Christianity”, which they believed to have originated in Atlantis, which they believe was inhabited by “Aryans” who practiced monotheism. Himmler is also known for establishing the Ahnenerbe, a branch of the SS dedicated to exploring parts of the world in search of esoteric secrets that would “prove” the superiority and lineage of the “Aryan race”. But Hitler himself had no interest in these expeditions, and if anything he mocked them, lamenting that under Himmler’s watch “we might as well have just stayed in the Church”. In fact, for a German volkisch nationalist, Hitler really didn’t seem to appreciate Germany’s past. He denounced ancient Germans for “living in mud huts” while their Roman counterparts were “erecting great buildings”, and derided Himmler for apparently digging up ancient Germanic villages to reveal a past that Hitler considered embarrassing because he considered it inferior to Greece and Rome, who he thought had “already reached the highest stage of culture”.

Furthermore, the supposedly “Pagan” National Socialists declared from the beginning that they saw themselves as a Christian movement and not a Pagan one. In the NSDAP Party Program of 1920, the Nazis emphatically stated in Point 24 that their party represented “positive Christianity”, while of course claiming to demand freedom for all religious confessions; at least, so long as they “do not endanger its [the state’s] existence of conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race”. The Nazis chose “positive Christianity”, effectively a volkisch interpretation of Christianity, as a representative of the “customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race” (Germans at that time consisted mostly of Christians), and as a vehicle through which to oppose “Jewish materialism”. “Positive Christianity” can be thought of as a highly revisionist form of Christianity (which, don’t get confused, is still a form of Christianity; we’re not doing the “No True Christians” fallacy here) meant to present a “true” or more authentically “Aryan” form of Christianity. This meant removing any trace of Jewish influence, including much of the Old Testament, from Christianity, recasting Jesus Christ as an “Aryan” warrior instead of King of the Jews, and reframing the Christian conception of the struggle of Good versus Evil as a struggle being “Aryan” light and “Semitic” darkness, thus pitting Germans and Jews against each other in a racialist holy war. Many Christians in Germany, far from being repelled by Nazism, actually embraced Nazism and its “Positive Christianity” as an affirmation of Christian values against secular uncertainty, and although some churches opposed Nazism (these were grouped together as the “Confessing Church”) and faced persecution because of it, many other churches, clergymen, and ordinary Christians remained complicit with the Nazi regime, and after the fall of Nazi Germany, Christianity in Germany struggled with the silence they demonstrated during this period.

Several Nazis held to the idea of “Positive Christianity” in some form. Artur Dinter, the Gauleiter of Gau Thuringia, formed a religious organization called the “Spiritual Christian Religion Community” (later renamed the “German People’s Church”) in 1927, which sought to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and establish National Socialism as an expressly religious movement dedicated to Christianity. Dinter and Hilter did oppose each other, but this is because Dinter’s goals conflicted with Hitler’s own plans to present the NSDAP as neutral on religion. Dinter did not believe that Jesus was a mere political centerfold, rather he indeed believed in the doctrine of Jesus as the only incarnated spirit who never “misused his free will to sin”. He also opposed the Old Testament because it was “too materialistic”, and believed that its expurgation would reveal the “true” teachings of Jesus. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi arch-propagandist, was also a religious Christian. Goebbels believed that the idealized “struggle” against Jews upheld by Nazism was also a struggle between God and the Devil, he considered God to be on the side of Adolf Hitler, he believed that God was absolute and that nothing existed outside of God, he loved the New Testament and read the Sermon of the Mount every evening, and he even believed himself to have conversed with Jesus Christ. True, he did have anti-clericalist tendencies, but this is only to the extent that he thought Christianity was in need of renewal and that its churches and “false priests” have failed. Dietrich Klagges, a prominent Nazi educator and friend of Goebbels, emphasized the divinity of Jesus and wrote a whole book expounding what he believed to be the meaning of the Gospel. Walter Buch, one of the most powerful officials in the Nazi Party, likened the aims of Nazism to the struggle of Jesus, and upheld Point 24 of the 1920 NSDAP Party Program as “the cornerstone of our thinking”, thus he seemed to affirm Positive Christianity as the core religious ideology of Nazism.

Adolf Hitler himself can ultimately be characterized as a volkisch Christian, despite all common assertion to the contrary. For one thing, Hitler believed in Jesus Christ, just that he believed Jesus was an “Aryan” instead of Jewish. Indeed, Hitler proclaimed Jesus to be “the true God” and “our greatest Aryan leader”, and declared that the “true message of Christianity” could only be found in Nazism. For another thing, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that it was the duty of the “folkish-minded man” to fulfill “God’s will” and not let it be desecrated, on the grounds that it “gave men their form, their essence and their abilities”, and he proclaimed that anyone who “destroys His work” is “declaring war” on God’s will and creation. Hitler also referenced the myth of the Garden of Eden by stating that “Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise”. He believed that Jews were “alien” to “true Christianity” because of their supposed materialism, and considered violence against Jewish people to be “fighting for the work of the Lord”. In 1919, Hitler wrote an unpublished tract in which he advocated for the “purification of the Bible”, that is to say the expunging of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was not only a cornerstone of revisionist Nazi Christianity but also an idea held by nationalist and volkisch Protestant theologians such as Adolf van Harnack before the NSDAP was even born.

Thus, Hitler, like many of the rest of his Nazi compatriots, was a volkisch Christian, one who believed in a “true” Christianity that he thought was obfuscated by the Old Testament, and thus wanted to get rid of everything about Christianity that he thought was too Jewish to represent the teachings of Jesus. And let’s make no bones about it, it’s an absurdly revisionist take on Christianity, it almost certainly seems heretical when put next to the more mainstream forms of Christianity, and its premises stem less from scripture and more from the racist volkisch mysticism that sprung up in Germany in the 19th and early 20th century, but it was nonetheless a form of Christianity, and particularly a representation of volkisch, nationalist Protestanism. It has often been claimed that Hitler was an atheist, but this is without basis as has already been discussed. He may certainly have thought of himself as anti-mystical and anti-clericalist, but when you consider that he believed himself to be an exponent of “true Christianity”, that is to say an “authentic” and “Aryan” Christianity not represented by the churches, then his opposition to the Church could be seen to have more or less the same basis as Goebbels’ Christian anti-clericalism. Hitler hated the Catholic Church, for instance, because of what he believed to be its “elaborate Jewish rites”, suggesting his belief that Roman Catholicism was a Jewish revision of Christianity.

There’s nothing about any of this that could be classed as “Pagan” except from the standpoint of Christians who will deem anything they don’t like to be “Pagan”, and none of it is without precedent in Christianity. For starters, the idea of Roman Catholicism as a “Jewish” religion is lifted straight from Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who claimed that the Roman Catholic Church preached a “Judaized” form of Christianity that had no resemblance to the supposed “true Christianity”, which he believed was established by an “Aryan” Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic Church did this as part of a conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan race”. Hardly a Pagan thing to long for the re-establishment of “True Christianity”. There’s also a very ancient precedent that to the Nazi enterprise of “de-Judaizing” Christianity in Marcion, a Christian who argued that the God of the Old Testament was actually an evil and false deity whose punitive nature stood opposed to the “true” God of the New Testament who represented love. And of course, it is impossible to overlook the influence of Martin Luther, the anti-semitic father of the Protestant Reformation, in shaping Nazi ideology. In fact, the Nazis themselves took Luther’s infamous tract On The Jews And Their Lies and displayed it prominently wherever they could, and repeatedly expressed their affinity for Luther’s anti-semitism, even comparing Hitler himself to Luther and hoping to “witness his [Luther’s] reappearance”. So what we get in terms of the religious underpinnings of Nazism is, in all reality, a form of Protestant Christianity that carries on the basic premise of Marcionite Christianity while recodyifing that in terms of struggle between two races as opposed to dualism between two versions of God, and all filtered through the revisionist volkisch ideology that was contemporary to the Nazi movement.

There’s also the matter of Hitler’s beliefs concerning the afterlife. Hitler apparently rejected Hell, denounced it as a barbaric doctrine, and instead subscribed to an annihilationist perspective in which those who would be damned to Hell would instead simply fade into oblivion. But this annihilationism is not some “Pagan” idea, and in fact it is a development of Christian theology whose supporters base their claims on Biblical scripture, and it is not without supporters among modern Christians. Moreover, annihilationism itself seems to go all the way back to early church fathers such as Tertullian. Meanwhile, Hitler does appear to have believed in some concept of Heaven, and at least nowhere in Mein Kampf or anywhere else do we see any sign of Hitler rejecting the idea of a heavenly afterlife. There also doesn’t seem to be any major evidence that Hitler rejected the belief in an immortal soul, despite what certain historians appear to have thought.

It is popularly assumed that Hitler actually hated Christianity behind closed doors, and that he wanted people to choose between being German and being Christian on the grounds that he supposedly thought they could not be both. The problem with this should be obvious. If Hitler seriously thought that you had to choose between being German and being Christian, while favouring the former over the latter, he would have at least required members of his Nazi Party to renounce Christianity before becoming members. But this is clearly not the case, as many Nazi officers, including the most powerful, were expressly religious (albeit volkisch) Christians. Moreover, Hitler would have to have required all of Germany’s Christian population to renounce Christianity in order to prove their loyalty to the German state. But this doesn’t seem to have happened either. And Hitler, as the one man who had the absolute power override all decisions and impose his own without objection, could conceivably have turned Germany into either a volkisch neopagan state or a state atheist regime (like the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist countries) through sheer imposition of his dictatorial will via the Fuhrerprinzip alone. But the only Christian churches Hitler persecuted were those who publicly criticized Hitler and refused to comply with the Nazi state. Every other chruch was allowed to exist through their complicity with the Nazi state, and the majority of Nazi German citizens were some form of Christian, suggesting that the Nazi state did not seek to eradicate Christianity and replace it with some form of “Paganism”, since otherwise the Nazis would have just ordered the mass deconversion of Germany’s Christian population. The one source for the claim that Hitler was privately anti-Christian is Hitler Speaks by Hermann Rauschning, which is considered dubious scholarship and even outright fraudulent, and its author, while claiming to have had several meetings and coversations with Hitler, was only ever a Nazi Party member for two years (from 1932 to 1934) and his sole importance to the party was as administrator of the Free City of Danzig. Being a conservative reactionary, Rauschning’s primary objection to Nazism was that he believed it was a “nihilist” and anti-Christian revolution that supposedly destroyed all traditions and ceased to be nationalist, and argued for the restoration of the German monarchy as the sole alternative to Nazism.

But in any case, Hitler Speaks is not considered to be an accurate account of Hitler’s views and words. Rauschning also seems to be cited in arguments that Hitler was possessed by demons and that this explained his evil actions, so….make of that what you will! And so, it is best to reject the claim that Hitler privately hated Christianity as a concoction of Christian conservatives seeking to assert the moral inscrutability of Christianity. Furthermore, Hitler expressly denounced any enterprises that harkened back to Germany’s pre-Christian past in Mein Kampf, where he described neopagans as “the greatest cowards that can be imagined”, mocked any ideas of “old Germanic heroism” as well the “dim pre-history” of the Germanic peoples, and accused neopagans of running away from “every Communist blackjack” while preaching struggle at the same time. So Hitler was pro-Christian, albeit in a very revisionist way, and anti-Pagan.

There is one important detail we should note, however. Hitler seems to have insisted that the Nazi Party, as a political apparatus, should not specifically be a formal religious movement, This meant Hitler sometimes conflicted even with devout Christians in his movement, such as Artur Dinter, since they wanted the Party to be a more avowedly religious movement. It is easy to come away thinking that Hitler meant his movement to be an entirely secular one because of this, but since the NSDAP Party Program explicitly stated a commitment to “Positive Christianity”, this is likely not the case. And besides, the Republican Party in the United States of America is not, in the strict sense, a religious movement in the sense that Artur Dinter would have wanted the NSDAP to be, yet it clearly operates along the lines of religious politics, in that it premises its political ideology on the perceived rightful governance of America by a Christian moral order. In fact, the whole concept of opposing certain churches because of their “foreign” character is not unfamiliar to right-wing opposition to certain sects or religions on the grounds of their “foreign” nature in the present as is found in modern Christian nationalist movements.

The supposedly “Pagan” Nazi Germany also seems to have venerated the Christian Frankish king Charlemagne, who destroyed the sacred Irminsul and massacred thousands of Saxons in Verden as part of his campaign to make the Saxons convert to Christianity. Curiously enough, there has been division about Charlemagne within the pre-Nazi volkisch movement and even among Nazis, but Charlemagne was celebrated by the Nazi German state in the form of a huge commemoration event in 1942 to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the birth of Charlemagne. There was also a whole unit of the SS that was named after Charlemagne to honour him as a “pan-European Germanic hero”. Alfred Rosenberg opposed the veneration of Charlemange, and argued that his Saxon enemy Widukind should be honored instead of Charlemagne, but he was privately told by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels to cease his public condemnations of Charlemagne, suggesting that the Nazi leadership favored the Christian king. Of course, from Goebbels’ standpoint, it was all to remain in alignment with popular opinion, which of course favored Charlemagne. This isn’t a surprise when you understand that the majority of the population of Nazi Germany self-identified as Christians, and particularly favoured Protestant Christianity. There’s no record of anyone in Nazi Germany outside maybe a handful of Nazi officers ever supporting or practicing any form of Paganism. Furthermore, it seems that the time of the Weimar Republic was seen by many German Christians of the time as a direct assault on God’s order, due to the secularism of the Weimar government and its attendant, or at least relative, de-privileging of Protestant Christian imperatives. This sense, combined with the “war theology” embraced by nationalistic Protestant theologians, which saw God favoring Germany in an interventionist quest to “liberate humanity from materialism” and establish his order, did not require much effort to transform into a theological imperative for “Aryan Christianity” to triumph against “Jewish materialism”.

On Alfred Rosenburg, we should note that it is true that he opposed Christianity, but for an apparent supporter of “Paganism”, his actual beliefs don’t seem all that “Pagan”. He believed in a monotheistic God who created mankind and divided its constituents into a hierarchy of separated races and imbued the “Germanic Nordic Aryan” with a unique soul corresponding with the Platonic ideal of humanity. He seemingly did call for the abolition of Christianity in the sense that he wanted Nazi Germany to replace all crosses with swastikas, the Bible with Mein Kampf (which, as I’ve established before, was not a non-Christian book), and the dominon of the National Reich Church of Germany over all churches, and he did call for a “new religion of the blood”. And yet he still denounced Jews specifically for their hatred of Jews and identified them with the Antichrist. In many ways Rosenberg’s views on Jesus and Christianity were not so different from Hitler’s. He believed that Jesus was the true god of the Europeans, rejected all notion that Jesus was Jewish, and argued for the replacement of mainstream Christianity, which he deemed both false and outdated, with “Positive Christianity”. He viewed Jesus as a superhuman mediator between mankind and God and as the biggest “storm” against “Jewish nature”. At no point is Rosenberg shown to refer to multiple pre-Christian gods, or make reference to any individual pre-Christian gods, except for when he is referring to the Norse god Odin as an example of a Christian quest for the kingdom of heaven within as referred to by Jesus. At his most “anti-Christian”, Rosenberg was actually more specifically anti-Catholic in practice, and meanwhile he praised the Christianity advocated by Marcion, who argued that the God of the Old Testament was the false God and the God of the New Testament was the true God. He may have opposed the veneration of Charlemagne, but this alone is not sufficient evidence that he was a “Pagan”, and in his light even his desire to replace the symbols and text of Christianity can be seen in keeping with the contention that these were symbols of an old and “false” Christianity to be replaced by a new and “true” Christianity.

If you were a Pagan or a believer in some other alternative religion and you lived in Nazi Germany, you would probably have been prosecuted by the Nazi state, and then probably thrown into a concentration camp like what happened to Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses there. Although some Nazi officers were allowed to hold some ostensibly non-Christian views, practicing occultism or pursuing occult interests outside of the SS was not permitted. Friedrich Bernhard Marby, a German occultist who sought the revival of pre-Christian Germanic religion, was arrested by the Nazis for being an unauthorised occultist whose ideas “brought the holy Aryan heritage into disrepute and ridicule”. His colleague, Siegfried Adolf Kummer, was arrested for the same reason. From there Marby apparently spent eight years in concentration camps until his release in April 1945, while Kummer’s fate is still a mystery. Erich Ludendorff’s Tannenbergbund, a volkisch nationalist organisation which expected its members to abandon Christianity in favour of a volkisch brand of Nordic polytheism, was banned by the Nazi government in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power. It’s not clear why the Tannenbergbund was banned, but I think it might have had something to do with Ludendorff having fallen out of favour with the Nazi establishment after previously having helped the Nazi Party rise to prominence. Ludendorff’s wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, attempted to insert a new anti-Christian religion that involved polytheism and nature worship into the Nazi movement, but her efforts were rejected by Hitler, who thought she was delusional. Ludwig Klages, a philosopher who espoused his own unique and rather abstract form of Romantic neopaganism, was disliked by the Nazis and denounced by the Nazi press due to his denunciations of National Socialism, and in 1938 his writings were banned by the so-called “neopagan” Alfred Rosenberg on the grounds that they were too “hedonist” for him. The Germanic Faith Community, a Germanic Pagan revival group founded by the artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog, faced several restrictions to their freedoms when the Nazis took power; they were no longer allowed to hold public meetings, they were barred from using a swastika as their symbol, since this had now become the official symbol of the Nazi Party, and in 1934 Fahrenkrog’s paintings were forbidden from exhibition by the Ministry of Propaganda.

A major exception to this trend, of course, was the volkisch neopagan German Faith Movement, but while it did seemingly advocate for the return of polytheism and purported pre-Christian rituals, it also apparently included a syncretism of Christian rituals as well alongside non-Christian counterparts. Its founder, Jakob Hauer, hoped that his own particular brand of Hinduism-inspired occult volkisch neopaganism would be adopted as the official religion of Nazi Germany. But this never happened, and in 1936 Hauer left the movement and abdicated its leadership, though he did become a member of the NSDAP the following year. Otto Sigfrid Reuter, as an NSDAP member and volkisch ideologue honored by Nazi academic institutions, would also be an exception to the trend of neopagans being persecuted or ignored by the Nazi state. Little is known about the Indepedent Free Church, founded by Friedrich Hielscher to express a more or less polytheistic belief system built around a belief in both God and the pre-Christian Germanic gods, though it seemed to continue existing. That said, Hielscher and other Independent Free Church members, along with his church itself, were involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement, for which Hielscher was arrested by the Nazis in 1944.

Turning away from the subject of Paganism in strict terms, we should note that several occult organisations were suppressed under Nazi rule. Fraternitas Saturni, the Luciferian magical order that broke away from Ordo Templi Orientis, was banned by the Nazi government in 1936, and its leader Eugen Grosche was arrested and bound for a concentration camp, before an apparently sympathetic officer helped him get released and get out of Germany. Ordo Templi Orientis itself was banned by the Nazi government, and so were Aleister Crowley’s books and the religion of Thelema as a whole. Karl Germer, who was the head of the OTO, was arrested by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders in 1935 and was sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp, but was temporarily released later that year upon his case of blood purity being put before Nazi authorities. Ernst Schertel, an occult philosopher and sexual liberation activist notable for his book Magic: History, Theory and Practice, although he apparently did send a copy of his book to Adolf Hitler, was himself arrested by the Nazis, imprisoned for seven months, and had his doctoral degree revoked. Other occultists, even racialist ones, had been banned, apparently as early as 1934, and it is alleged that the occultist Franz Bardon was interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for three months in 1945. Many forms of magic and alternative spirtual practice, such as witchcraft, astrology, fortune telling, and spiritual healing were all banned by the Nazi government, while Freemasonry in particular was viciously persecuted by the Nazis who thought that they were allies of a Jewish conspiracy against Germany.

Sometimes it’s claimed that Schertel in particular represented a direct link between Hitler and the occult, and thereby establishing the occult and even supposedly “Satanic” heritage of Nazism, based on the fact that Hitler apparently annotated his copy of Magic: History, Theory and Practice. But having examined the book, or at least the annotations, in light of the wider history of Nazism and its broad Positive Christian agenda, I honestly don’t see much reason to assume that the annotations meant anything for the ideological substance of Nazism. The sole annotation mentioned by Timothy Ryback, the author of Hitler’s Private Library, was “He who does not have the demonic seed within himself will never give birth to a magical world”. There is also no clear idea of how it connects back to the ideological formation and political practice of Nazism, nor can we determine the extent to which Hitler was actually interested in the ideas contained within Schertel’s book. Given that Hitler banned several occult groups and the practice of magic (except for certain Nazi officers like Heinrich Himmler), and that the Nazis arrested Schertel himself, it’s highly unlikely that Hitler gained any real respect for occultism as a result of reading Schertel’s book, and it seems obvious to me that Hitler likely treated the book as merely a piece of curiosity. If Hitler did derive anything substantial from it, it’s not clear what, and perhaps we may never actually know if the book was ever really influential at all. Though, even if it was, it was surely not nearly as infuential on Hitler as the prevailing volkisch Protestant ideology of his day. And to be quite honest, anyone who thinks that Hitler was some sort of esoteric Satanist is operating in complete ignorance of what Nazism stood for and who the Nazis were.

And of course, atheists and secularists were also criminalized by the Nazi government. In 1933, the Nazi government banned all “freethinking” and atheist organisations. One of these was the German Freethinkers League, a forum for atheists and materialist thinkers which was shut down in 1933, on Hitler’s orders and on the demands of Christians within Nazi Germany. Hitler also opposed secular schools on the grounds that all moral instruction had to emerge from religious faith (which, in practice, meant Hitler’s revisionist Christian faith). This is rather strange for a supposed atheist, as Christians often claim Hitler was, to do.

All of this paints a rather clear picture of the reality of the religious identity of the Nazi movement and the Nazi state. Although certain people of various stripes, ranging from Christians to certain anti-Christian neo-Nazis, want to believe that Hitler was this great rupture of anti-Christian revolution in the midst of Christian Europe, this is a myth that has no bearing on reality, and not only that it seems to actively distort and misconstrue reality in service of its own pre-determined conclusion of history. The actual reality of Nazism is that it was a movement that sought to construct its totalitarian state along the lines of a religious volkisch ideology whose prerogatives constituted the realization of the “true” Christianity. In essence, this was a revisitionist Christian project which saw itself as simultaneously restoring and renewing Christianity, simultaneously creating a new Christianity for a new era and restoring the “true” substance of the teaching and cultus of Jesus, by purging anything about Christianity that they felt was too Jewish or too materialist for them. The ultimate religious goals of Nazism consisted of bringing all German Christians into a single new Christian church in line with the new volkisch ideology, waging total holy war with Jews and Communists who they believed to be the forces of the Antichrist come to wage war with God, and in realizing the “true Christianity” that was supposedly contained in their volkisch interpretation of Christianity, by recreating the Bible and the major edifices of Christianity in the image of what they believed to be this “true Christianity”; even if, in practice, this could just as easily be said to be their own image. Insofar as they attacked Christianity, beyond the broader rammifications of their volkisch revisionism constituting a severe heresy against the Christian church, the Nazis preferred simply to attack the “Confessing Churches” who opposed them, while content with the other churches who complied with or supported them. And while Christianity was more or less still instituted and supported within Nazi Germany, we know that Paganism, atheism, occultism, and alternative religious/spiritual beliefs were attacked and often banned or persecuted by the Nazi government.

Take stock of what that means, as it is all too relevant for those in alternative subcultures, occultism, neopaganism, and Satanism and the like who seem willing enough to embrace some form of neo-Nazism. They are only rehashing the same fantasy that Heinrich Himmler had back in his day, when he thought that he might some day replace Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer and perhaps steer Nazi Germany away from Christianity. Now, just as then, this is an illusion. If the Third Reich were to be restored tomorrow, or if a new neo-Nazi regime were to be established, then they would be persecuting “degenerate art” as well as all expression of alternative religion and belief just as before. If you’re a metalhead (including a black metal enthusiast), a goth, a punk, even a skinhead, an occultist, a mystic, a Pagan, a Satanist, or anything like that, no matter how racialist you are, then a new Nazi government would curtail your freedom, imprison you, and/or throw you straight into one of their concentration camps alongside Jews, other non-white/non-“Aryan” people, LGBT people, the disabled, and political dissidents. It’s not for nothing that many neo-Nazi movements are still their own brand of Christian as opposed to being neopagans. If you support Nazism in any way, all that means is you’re selling who you are and your own kind to a Christian fascist agenda in the name of your own meaningless hatred against certain people. Whether you’re doing this because you got convinced that Nazism was good or because you just want to be a contrarian, do us all a favour and follow your new leader.

But why does this idea of the Nazis as some kind of neopagan occult empire persist even if the facts contradict it? The answer, in my opinion, is not very complicated. It’s obvious to me that Christians need the myth of Nazism as a sort of Antichrist state in order to save the legacy of Christianity from being forever damaged by its role in the development of Nazism and in facilitating the Third Reich. It seems that, in strict terms, much of our ideas about the religious identity of Nazism are propagandistic, the work of certain wartime figures looking to juxtapose the otherwise Christian Nazi state against the Christianity of contemporary Western liberal democracies by casting the Nazis as adherents of an esoteric Pagan revivalist religion. But I think, at root, the most basic motivation comes from the fact that Nazi Germany was such a systematically malevolent and sadistic state, and Nazism so seemingly alien to the “values” of the Western world (I mean, unless you count the fact that the Nazis were inspired by the practices of American colonialism and racism as well as that of the British Empire), that it could not possibly reflect the supposed Christian message of love, universalism, and salvation. In other words, Nazism appeared to be so evil that surely it couldn’t possibly be Christian, even though that is what the evidence bears out.

It appears that Christians are not the only ones who are convinced of this myth. Indeed, the idea of the Nazis as being a force of sheer anti-Christian power and archetypical evil seems to have echoed throughout our culture as a memetic presence, to the point that it is sometimes internalized by some who seek to oppose and rebel against Christianity. It’s the reason why certain ideas of embracing Nazi aesthetics as a form of transgression could be found in the early days of the modern Satanist movement, it’s ultimately the reason of why Nazi occultism sometimes finds its way in Left Hand Path circles and the reason why Nazi Satanism is a thing at all, and it’s part of the reason why Nazi aesthetics are sometimes taken up in transgressive subcutlures as a means of rebelling against bourgeois society. In this sense, it is also the reason why black metal sometimes finds itself struggling with the influence of Nazi bands, even despite the fact that Nazism, at its root, is built on a Christian ideology.

It is thus clear what is to be done in order to overcome the problem of creeping Nazism in the Left Hand Path circles as well as the problem of folkism and NSBM. For one thing, resisting fascism means taking an explicit and active anti-fascist stance of some kind, and it has to be more than liberal objection to the extremity of fascism. Rather, it must devote itself to a full conceptual opposition to Nazism and fascism, which stems from the full acknowledgement of what Nazism and fascism are at their root. For any movements dealing with a creeping fascism problem, this means that there needs to be a commited opposition to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, statism, authoritarianism, hegemony, LGBT-phobia, bourgeois-patriarchal morality, and other forms of bigotry, and thus it also means that trying to remain “apolitical” in the sense of a general stance is strictly impossible, since maintaining a committed anti-fascist opposition is an inherently political act. For our task, we are also charged with deconstructing the inherited dysfunctional myths we have concerning the religious basis of Nazism, as well as deconstructing folkist ideology of both the past and the present. To put it plainly, the problems we face require us to ruthlessly attack the premise that the Nazis were an anti-Christian or “neopagan” or occult movement at every chance we get, armed with the facts of history on our side. All of this is vital for us on the Left Hand Path, Pagan and similar milieus for our struggle against fascism, since it means attacking the myths that are used to legitimate its presence, and refusing to brook any elements who would allow the infiltration of fascism into our communities.

Additionally, if there are supposed anti-fascists who seem to be on our side of the struggle only to then turn around and accuse us of being fascists because of Paganism, then we cannot call them friends or comrades, and if anything they might just be our enemies. It is empty to profess opposition to religious bigotry only to turn around and insist that you are a fascist simply for brandishing ancient runes (and I’m talking about the actual Germanic runes, not the symbology that was created or adapted by the Nazis) or wanting to re-establish the worship of the old gods. If there are those who insist the contrary, then they are against us, and they operate under the same bias that is used to obfuscate the volkisch Christian roots of Nazism, and practically operate in service us the same myth invented by the Christian establishment, even if their actual guiding myth might be the abolition of all religion on the grounds that religion itself is somehow fascist or reactionary.

In summary, the big picture is clear. Nazism is not Pagan, and never was Pagan. Nazism is a political movement that derives a religious basis and justification in the idea of “Positive Christianity”, which is a revisionist and folkist form of Christianity that sought the emergence of a new Christianity, which is also meant to be the “true Christianity”, which is thus “freed” from its supposed Jewish trappings. This idea emerges from a line of volkisch/nationalist Protestant theology, and has its predecent centuries earlier in Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings and in the radically dualist Christianity of Marcion. Paganism only represented a minority of Nazis, and otherwise it was generally banned and persecuted, while occultism had no substantial influence on Hitler’s ideology, was mostly the reserve of the SS, and was otherwise banned and persecuted. Ideas of Pagan or occult Nazism are the product of a sort of post-war mythology that sought to make sense of the horrors of Nazism by presenting them as the metaphysical enemies of “Western”, here meaning Christian, civilization. This myth has been internalized in certain areas of modern Western occultism and folkist neopaganism, but it is a myth all the same, one that is at odds with and in opposition to reality. Therefore, the nature of our struggle within Paganism, occultism, Left Hand Path spirituality, and any and all subcultures that are adjacent to them, against fascist/Nazi creep consists in part of an active assault against the erroneous Christian mythology that has sought to assert the moral superiority of the Christian faith by trying to frame Nazism as the product of rival creeds.

We must be uncompromising in this battle, or we will fall.

Image from @WolfJointAktion on Twitter

Socialist Jesus, Communist Santa, and modern tailism

Alright, I’ll say it. I don’t like it when, every Christmas time, the left tries to claim Jesus and Santa as icons of socialist ideology. I don’t care if that happens to be the seasonal fetish of other communists or socialists, or for any rhetorical merits they might argue for. It’s stupid, it’s a form of cultural and religious tailism, and it only serves to reinforce either the still-hegemonic status of Christianity or the commercialist culture we live in, at least if it all isn’t a pure meme anyway, and I’m going to give my reasons for why you should pack this bullshit in if you’re a leftist and still doing it. Also, I know it’s pretty late for me to talking about this basically a week after Christmas, but the march to the New Year is still part of the holiday season in some unofficial sense, so in my opinion there’s time to explore this subject before 2022.

When it comes to Jesus, the obvious center of the Christian concept of Christmas (which, by its namesake, is meant to literally mean “Christ’s Mass”), there are no shortage of left-wing narratives aiming to cast Jesus as a socialist, or even the first communist. To be honest, a lot of this simply comes from Jesus having smashed up the money-changers in the Temple in Jerusalem, and his attendant proclamation against them, saying “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of theives” (Matthew 21:13). It’s a truly memorable episode from the New Testament, one that echoes through our culture as one of the central defining moments through which we understand the character of Jesus, and admittedly it does make for an epic moment of defiance against the intrusion of market forces, servicable to empire, in the otherwise unadulterated domain of religion. It’s easy enough to come away thinking of the Cleansing of the Temple as an ancient proto-typical anti-capitalist narrative. But, there are problems with framing it in this way.

What is a money-changer? A person whose trade is to exchange one currency for another. Are money-changers capitalists? It’s not obvious that they are. Keeping in mind, of course, that the society that Jesus lived in predated the existence of not only capitalism but also the medieval system we call feudalism. This has important implications for the material conditions relevant to any attempt to elevate the anti-capitalist credentials of Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple. A capitalist is an individual who controls a given means of production and portions out a fraction of the fruits of the labour generated through it to those willing to sell their labour power for a wage. So what’s a money-changer, then? Just a merchant, ultimately, and specifically one whose services allowed Jews to exchange Roman coins for shekels in order to make payments to the Temple, which did not accept the standard Greek and Roman currency as payments. It is not clear that these merchants followed the model practiced by the bourgeoisie as it would have emerged centuries after Jesus’ time. As for Jesus himself, he is traditionally described as a carpenter, and it’s not clear that he had any employees working under him, so Jesus would have been a self-employed carpenter. In Marxist terms, if we’re going to apply the definitions of the capitalist system onto the narrative of Jesus’ life, this might make him one of the labour aristocracy, which is a privileged sector of the proletariat who benefit from superprofits and have no desire for revolution, sometimes siding with the ruling capitalists to preserve their own advantage. So if we interpret the Cleansing of the Temple solely on the basis of class, Jesus would have been a pre-modern labour aristocrat clashing with merchants of a similar class background. This is hardly the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, in abandoning his carpentry in order to focus on his ministry, since he did not take on a productive job in which he sold his labour power for a wage, by some standard he might well be considered one of the lumpenproletariat, a submerged sector of class society who are either disorganized, “declassed”, and assumed not to be revolutionary. Marx and many successive Marxists also despised the lumpenproleriat, condemning them as degenerates and outcasts, which is sort of unusually moralistic for a thinker who Karl Vorlander noted for his wholesale mockery of morality as a concept. But returning to the subject of Jesus, if he is a lumpenproletarian, and we take the view that lumpenproletarians are still part of the proletariat, then it is only in this sense that, perhaps, Jesus represents the working class, but in a struggle against a mercantile labour aristocracy and not the bourgeoisie.

So what’s the real meaning of the Cleansing of the Temple? It’s not in any way obvious that Jesus has a problem with currency exchange in itself, and instead the problem expressed by Jesus is simply that the money-changers turn the “house of prayer” into a “den of thieves”. It’s easy enough to take from this that Jesus thinks currency exchange is in itself theft, but the only time Jesus seems to talk about money-changers is in the Temple instance. A popular explanation is that Jesus thought they were cheating their customers and overcharging them, though this might actually be a simplistic interpretation. In fact, some argue that the main issue with the Temple was its functioning as a bank, at the centre of a whole local economy in which wealthy property-owners lent money to the poor at the cost of debt, which if unpaid would result in the loss of land. Still, the exact language and statements given by Jesus suggest his main problem was not so much economy itself as much as the intermingling of economy with religion. In other words, Jesus’ problem was specifically with the presence of markets in the Temple, which means his problem was with the merging of economic life and religious life, the latter of which was to remain pure and unadulterated by the influence of economic activity, and in this instance the problem was not with the economic system as a whole, let alone with capitalism.

To further communicate some of the problems with the radical credentials ascribed to Christianity, I’m going to draw a lot from everyone’s favorite quasi-Marxist and quasi-apologic socialist politicial scientist Michael Parenti, or more specifically his 2010 book God and His Demons, which, although probably flawed on its own, draws from Biblical scripture to make its argument against the anti-capitalist or progressive credentials of Christianity. For all the abolitionist credentials ascribed to Christianity, Jesus himself in no way opposed the institution of chattel slavery and in fact affirmed the categories of slave and slave-owner as legitimate via the right of the slave-owners to beat the slave, harshly or gently depending on whether or not the slave knowingly disobeyed their owners (Luke 12:47). The master-slave or master-servant relationship is affirmed throughout Jesus’ parables, such as the parable of the faithful and wise servant described in Matthew 24 and Luke 12. Jesus also seems to accept poverty as something that will always exist, rather than something that can be abolished through socio-economic change, as is shown Mark 14:3-9 where a woman is admonished by others for pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ head instead of selling it and sharing the profits with the poor, and Jesus defends the woman by saying “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me”. In other words, Jesus is saying that poverty will always exist, and you can always ameliorate it through private charity, but what really matters is that his followers please and serve him because he won’t be around forever. This is not an anti-capitalist message, to say the least. Indeed, in the account of Jesus’ accomplishments given in Matthew 11:5, the poor are not given wealth but instead only “the good news”, while the blind, the “lame”, the lepers, and even the dead all received miraculous reversals of their prior predicaments. The Bible also declares that there is no authority on earth not established by God, and thus that whoever is in charge serves God for your good and rebellion against authority means going against God and paying for it (Romans 13:1-7). This would mean that the authority of capitalism exists by God’s decree, and thus should be obeyed.

And it doesn’t stop with the Jesus. St. Paul supported the institution of chattel slavery by urging slaves to respect their masters in order to defend God’s teaching (1 Timothy 6:1). St. Peter also supported slavery by urging those who reverently feared God to submit to their masters in slavery, even if their masters were harsh, and praised those who endured beatings for doing good as part of their service (1 Peter 2:18-22) . Origen, one of the early church fathers, chastised the poor in Book VI of Contra Celsus by claiming that the majority of them have bad characters and that “not even a stupid person would praise the poor indiscriminately”. Elsewhere, in On Prayer, Origen says that if you are poor and bear your poverty “ignobly”, and conduct yourself in a “more servile and base” way than is becoming of the Saints, you fall away from “heavenly hope”, and counselled that the “daily bread” that Christians are to subsist on consists not in actual physical bread but instead in spiritual or “supersubstantial bread”, thus the rich and the poor alike are to depend solely on the spiritual nourishment of God, and presumably thus not demand the betterment of their own living conditions, since this would mean subsisting yourself or enriching your situation with elevated material conditions by your own hands as opposed to simply relying on the spiritual sustenance of God. Clement of Alexandria referred to the destitute, those who begged for daily bread, and the poor who were dispersed on the streets as the “most blessed” on account of their extreme poverty, want, destitution, and lack of subsistence, thus sacralizing and glorifying the condition of poverty. Clement also opposed the view that God commanded Christians to renounce property, and instead counselled Christians to simply manage property without inordinate affection in service of God. The early Christian text On Riches, attributed to Peter of Alexandria, apparently rebuked the poor for their supposed envy, their concern about the rich, and their ingratitude to the God who “made them free from the cares about which the rich man is concerned”. In other words, the poor are to be grateful what they have. The rich are divided into the “wicked and merciless rich” who abuse their wealth and property and the “merciful and loving rich” who use their wealth and property benevolently and align with the will of God, whereas the poor are not divided in such a way and the author of On Riches declares that he does not “honor the poor by making them equal to the rich” nor “favour them”, and if anything holds that the poor man may leave his poverty only for “another poverty seven times more evil than this”.

Despite prominent popular discussion of Matthew 19:24 as a Christian indictment of the rich and despite The Cleansing of the Temple, in Christianity wealth is not always considered a bad thing, and in fact has been considered a good thing so long as it is managed according to the will of God. The Christian condemnation of the rich and their wealth pertains to the extent to which earthly riches or simply the love thereof impedes devotion to God, or that the management of wealth is unscrupulous, harms the poor, or simply leads the rich man away from God. From this standpoint, as applied to capitalism, capital, as a form of wealth, is not actually inherently against God’s will, only the “wicked” use of it against God is, and a just society is one where both the capitalists and the poor working class all observe their ordained social stations in a manner that comports with God’s will. Class society as divided between bourgeoisie and the proletariat is still to exist, since it too is ordained by God, but each class is to observe God’s will and act humbly, mercifully, and dutifully within their respective terms. Since wealth, thus capital, is only bad insofar as its use does not serve God, the capitalist class would be compelled to reform their ways so as to be more “merciful” in alignment with God, which would suggest no real policy changes other than perhaps a couple of benign reforms agreed upon by a consistently Christian ruling class. In modern terms, Christian teaching is only about as anti-capitalist as Elizabeth Warren is, which is to say not at all.

Some leftists might point to Acts 4:32-35 as a kind of pre-modern expression of religious communism, describing a society ruled by the apostles and inhabited by believers in Jesus who were all one in heart and mind, shared all of their possessions and claimed no private (or seemingly even personal) property, no one was needy, and those who owned land and houses sold them and brought their profits to the apostles who distributed the money to anyone who needed it. In Acts 5, it is further described that those who keep any of their profits from selling houses and property for themselves miraculously fall down and die after being called out by St. Peter, suggesting that God would punish those who retain some personal profit with death. This sounds vaguely like what a communist society might look like, though hard to reconcile with Jesus’ teaching about the inevitable condition of poverty or early church teachings about wealth and property. It could just be a vague utopian commune project devised by the apostles. But what has always bothered me is that, for a religion that supposedly has inscrutable socialist or proto-communist credentials, most of the history of Christianity has not yielded any lasting socialist or communist society under the banner of Christian power. There were Christian efforts at establishing proto-socialist communities in Europe, but they were suppressed by the larger Christian establishment, who invariably upheld the legitimacy of the owning class. Of course, the Catholic Church is well-recognized as an edifice of elite power, but anti-revolutionary sentiment is not limited to the Catholic Church. The German Peasants’ War, in which peasants fought for freedom from restrictions imposed upon them by their lords, divided the Protestant movement in its response, with Thomas Muntzer and some more radical sections of the Protestant movement supporting the peasants while Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, not only opposed the peasants and claimed they were on the side of the Devil but also sided with the nobles and called for the punitive and violent suppression of the peasants. Very little of Christian society has manifested lasting working class power under the banner of the Christian faith, and in fact the rise of capitalism seems to seen Christianity emerge as a religious legitimator of the capitalist order and state power.

The trouble with using the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity to form a religious anti-capitalist narrative, and from there the wider problem with Christian Socialism or Christian Communism, is that it is necessarily selective, and cannot reflect the whole of the Christian vision of a society that is considered just insofar as it aligns with God’s will. A socialist or radical anti-capitalist interpretation of Christianity requires a hyper-fixation on a select handful of verses of the Bible and episodes of Jesus’ purported life that can be interpreted in a sufficiently anti-capitalist light, while leaving out the parts of the Bible that can be interpreted as supportive of a capitalist order or not entirely condemning of the rich, as well as creatively de-spiritualizing the message of Jesus by reducing it to a single economic substance such as debt forgiveness, thus leaving out not only the broader religious/spiritual content of the Biblical message but also the wider history of the early Christian movement and its tendency to chastise the poor while telling them to be content with their lot and defending at least some of the rich. Their concern was not with the material emancipation of the masses from the ruling economic and political order but instead a spiritualized, ethereal, and indeed extramaterial deliverance from the world into the kingdom of God, and attaining it by obeying the will of God, which, as I have shown, includes obedience to the system. Such efforts make sense only so as to attract religious Christians to the message of socialism by hopping on the bandwagon of its hegemonic popularity, instead of challenging the authority of Christianity, presumably off the back of either winning the unity of the working class or votes that might otherwise go to conservatives. In summary, it is a kind of religious tailism.

But before we get to that let’s touch on the other subject of my article: Santa Claus. Jacobin Magazine, with what seems to be a touch of humour, once published an article in 2018 advocating that socialists should embrace Santa Claus on the grounds that he is an egalitarian internationalist who disregards the borders of the nation state and free market norms to give gifts to children. The same magazine, during the same year, also seems to have published a parody article deconstructing Santa Claus as a robber baron who exploits his elven workers and rose to power through violently subjugating of the inhabitants of the North Pole. But in any case, the idea of Santa Claus as some sort of communist icon spreads around annually in certain corners of the online left, and sometimes in conservative circles. But is there reason to go along with it?

Putting aside the predictable discourse about how Santa Claus, if real, would subsist on exploitative practices for his workers, expecting them to constantly produce toys for little in the way of a wage, let’s just go right to the heart of the matter: the Santa Claus we all know is just a corporate mascot. The modern image of Santa Claus derives his name from Saint Nicholas, who is known for his secret gift-giving involving distributing wealth to the poor, but much of the iconography and character of the modern Santa Claus was developed from various precursors in European folkloric traditions (some of which, such as the Dutch Sinterklaas, were based on Saint Nicholas) by several soft drink companies into the holly jolly gift-giving figure of pop culture, often sanitized from a number of harsher equivalents in pre-existing folklore, such as the Joulupukki of Finland. So one of the many faces of capitalism is to be recast as one of its opponents on behalf of the workers of the world. Of course, that’s not even getting into conversation we can have about how the myth of Santa Claus probably encourages rampant consumerism on the part of parents and children, lending to the annual mass support of capitalist markets.

Now, to be fair, there is the argument to be made all of this represents a form of detournement, the art of taking popular icons of the dominant culture and integrating them into a new, radical context, in which the original icons are then subtextually altered so as to gain a new and more subversive meaning. The idea of turning a capitalist icon into a partisan of communism certainly does make sense as an act of detournement, as does the idea of enlisting the most popular religious figure in the Western world as an opponent of capitalism. Except, the idea is not really to subvert the dominant culture. Instead, the idea is to affirm socialism and/or communism not as a radical opposition to the order of society but rather as innate within the cultural DNA of the society we live in, which need only be unlocked in order to awaken the class consciousness of the public. In practice, this means blindly following the popular ideas of Jesus, Christianity, and Santa Claus and what they represent in order to reinterpret them, without challenging them. Contrast with this with the use of the inverted cross by Satanists and other anti-Christian elements that I discussed a few months ago. This represents the subversion of traditional symbolism undertaken as a conscious challenge to its original traditional context, as opposed to embracing the popular context of Christianity so as to claim it as your own. Thus we come to the concept of tailism, as developed in Marxist political theory.

The concept of tailism, as it is understood by Marxists, can be traced to Vladimir Lenin and his 1902 pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, which for Marxism-Leninism can be thought of as a landmark expression of its core ideological goals. In What Is To Be Done?, Lenin talked about the tendency of some socialists who advocated for the practice of “dragging at the tail of the movement”, by which Lenin seems to mean “bowing to spontaneity” and straggling behind the tendencies of popular movements without actually leading and educating the masses, a tendency which is then elevated to a point of principle. This is what Lenin referred to as tailism. Mao Zedong took this concept further in On Coalition Government, in which he defines tailism as the practice of “falling below the level of political consciousness in the masses” instead of leading it forward, thus tailing behind backwards elements within the working class, resulting in some comrades adopting backwards and reactionary attitudes on social issues. In modern circumstances, we can see this tendency especially pronounced in certain social-democratic elements of the left who, like all social-democrats, are captured by the promises of electoral power and, unlike most, come to think that by appealing to facetious narratives of the inherent conservatism of the working class they may yet win power and defeat the conservatives, or even in certain Marxist-Leninists who seem convinced that the bourgeois conservative image of the working class is the true identity of the revolutionary proletariat or that their tailism is actually a means of breaking free from the limits of bourgeois politicial thought.

The way that certain leftist elements attempt anually to frame Jesus or Santa as socialist or communist revolutionaries, and Christianity as nothing more than a political message of debt forgiveness, constitute a form of tailism in one sense. Even if not in the manner of the notable reactionary contingents of the social-democratic or Marxist-Leninist movements, we can look at the frequent attempts to Marxify Jesus and Santa as tailing behind popular consciousness, or perhaps actually falling below the imaginary that has been constructed for the masses by the powerful, without actively and consciously challenging said consciousness or imaginary. In a religious sense, it is thus religious tailism, and in a cultural sense, it is thus cultural tailism, but these are still modes of tailism whether Novara Media or Jacobin like to admit it or not. As such, what might otherwise be an attempt at detournement is guided by the desire to bind revolutionary socialism to the spirit of a popular society that it is in the business of remaking or overturning, and showing the masses for the subjugation that it is.

No, Rhyd Wildermuth, pluralism is not when you defend fascism

You probably already know about the controversy surrounding Edward Butler, his association with Indica, and Indica’s deep ties to the fascist Hindutva movement. It’s been some time, and the controversy within the Pagan community has definitely not gone away yet. In fact, Edward Butler has not gone without approbators, and one of the people stepping up to defend him is none other than Rhyd Wildermuth, the embattled editor at Gods and Radicals Press known for his increasingly contrarian and reactionary opinions that nonetheless somehow maintains within the scope of Marxism.

Yes, the same man who plays defence for transphobia, denies that people who call themselves fascists are fascists, and tried to claim that the openly fascist Jack Donovan and his Wolves of Vinland organization aren’t fascists, is now defending Edward Butler for his assocation with Indica. What are the odds!

His most recent article, “Polytheistic Pluralism and Sacred Cows”, begins with a meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia followed by a sort of biographical account of his transition from somebody who may have had some principles in the past to a guy who calls himself a leftist and yet does nothing attack other leftists, so we’re going to skip all of that and go straight to the point and address the part of the article where he actually starts talking about Edward Butler and Indica.

After puffing up Edward Butler as a friend and wellwisher who was merely attacked by “the woke crowds”, he gets to establishing Indica as “an academic and cultural organization promoting “global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom””, and then we get to his response to the criticisms of Indica:

To get into all the nuances of this problem would take another full essay, but a few things can be cleared up quickly. Firstly, Indica isn’t part of the BJP nor the nationalist youth movement, the RSS. Secondly, their usage of the term hinduvta is much broader and less political than the way the BJP uses it, approximating the way “blackness” is used in the United States as a cultural identity formation. And third, their general focus on “dialogue across civilizations” and focus on Indic religions (including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) rather than just Hinduism easily make false the accusations that Indica is really a Hindu-superiority outfit.

Bit by bit let’s attempt to respond to this “point”. First, at least some Indica members are or were demonstrably affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its offshoots, as I have discussed in my previous post on the subject. One of its Chapter Convenors is a man named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar, who Indica themselves note is a member of the BJP. Its Academic Council includes a man named M. D. Srinivas, who seems to have some ties to the RSS. Outside of membership, Indica frequently has featured Ram Madhav, a BJP member, as a guest while promoting his books, which include a treatise on the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay and another book in which he promotes Indian nationalism while condemning political opponents. This should already go some ways into refuting the second point regarding the supposed “apolitical” nature of their concept of Hindutva. But as to the idea that Hindutva could possibly be interpreted as “apolitical”, even if we took Rhyd’s claim seriously that the Indica people do see their project as non-political, it would be a mistake to see Hindutva this way, since the project of Hindutva is inseparable from politics. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, explicitly stated that his own concept of Hinduness was not even predicated on religion, and was instead predicated on the racial category of being “Hindu”, which more practically means an Indo-Aryan, autochthonous subject of the Indian state, and a member of any of the religions within India. This is inherently politically defined, and supercedes the traditional boundaries of all the main dharmic faiths, and it also segues nicely into the third point: for Hindutvas to engage in dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, is not a refutation of Indica being Hindutvas, because it actually makes perfect sense for Hindutvas to want dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hindutvas consider Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, to be part of the umbrella of the identity of “Hinduness”, since in their view, “Hinduness” simply means being Indian, in a national and racial sense, and sense all of the dharmic faiths originated in India, then Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, would be considered Hindu by Hindutva adherents, despite actually diverging from Hindu tradition in any number of ways.

After this Rhyd attempts to consider the problem of Hindutva, accurately noting the violent attacks on Muslims by Hindutvas, only to then equivocate in relation to apparent attacks on Hindus by Islamic extremists and Naxalites. In attempting to establish the colonial context of the BJP, he seems to transplant the same centrist/quasi-Marxist analysis of America’s election of Donald Trump to the social conditions of India, the efficacy of which I can’t really speak to. His assessment of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be that he is similar but not the same as other politicians like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, but for him the difference is in the fact of India’s history as a nation that was colonized by the British.

Narendra Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindutva militia that preceded the BJP and worked to plant members inside the BJP, since he was only eight years old, and had risen through the ranks of the RSS over the course of decades. Therefore, if we’re really going to be discussing the context of colonialism so as to distinguish the Hindutva movement from Western fascism, we would do well to note the role of the RSS within that same context. I already discussed this in my previous post on the subject, but the RSS did not partake in the struggle against British colonialism. They discouraged their own membership from participating in civil disobedience against the British colonial government, such as the Dandi March, and when the Quit India movement was launched to demand an end to colonial rule, RSS leaders promised the British to encourage members to join the civic guards, a sort of special security force set up by the imperial government. Furthermore the founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak D. Savarkar, during his imprisonment, repeatedly pled for mercy from the British colonial government while encouraging Hindus to cooperate with the British and join the colonial armed forces. In a context of colonial domination, the RSS and the broader Hindutva movement were not only not part of the anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggle, they were if anything allies of the British colonial domination, and offered support and cooperation to the British government.

Rhyd seems to explicitly reject any comparison between the Hindutva movement and white nationalism on the grounds that Hindutva was formed under colonial rule whereas white nationalism in the US context isn’t. This is something that sounds nuanced until you actually read what the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement had to say about race and its role in the nation state. Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar was explicit in his belief that a nation ought to be defined by race, alongside land, culture, religion, and language, all at once, supported Nazi German notions of race pride, and advocated for the existence of a centralized state that suppressed all forms of pride and autonomy that conflicted with the Hindutva identity and its manifestation as the order of the state. Vinayak D. Savarkar expressly defined his notion of “Hinduness” as a racial category, not a religious one, which means that the Hindu nation he advocated was explicitly defined on an ethnic basis. Hindutvas, like Western white nationalists, also support the state of Israel for largely ethno-nationalist reasons, and Savarkar advocated for creation of a Jewish ethnostate while also praising Nazi Germany.

Moving along we arrive at his discourse on “Sacred Cows”, and here is where his attempt to defend Edward Butler by elucidating the nuances of ethno-nationalist fascism gets a tad stranger. He has shifted the subject towards the issue of cattle slaughter in India, supposed left-wing attitudes towards its continuation, and how supposedly the BJP are the only mainstream party to campaign on a platform featuring a ban on cattle slaughter, while critics supposedly denounce bans on cattle slaughter as fascist, and seems to bring up Vandana Shiva as someone on the left who is smeared as a fascist seemingly for supporting Indian traditional knowledge. This is not true. She’s been criticized for many other things, most particularly the scientific basis of her claims about genetically modified foods, as well being a plagiarist, prone to extravagantly incindiary rhetoric about her critics, and for apparently charging thousands of dollars for lectures, but as far as I can see not very many people accuse her of being a fascist or a supporter of Hindutva. That said, she did appear in an interview for Rajiv Malhotra, a fanatical Hindutva-aligned academic who likes to insist that everyone who criticizes him is simply being Hinduphobic. Not that it proves much, though.

And by the way, it might be well and good that the BJP pushes for a ban on cattle slaughter, but this is not proof that they are sincere defenders of Hindu tradition against neoliberal capitalism. In fact, the BJP government under Narendra Modi has overseen the destruction of several Hindu temples in Varanasi in order to make way for the Kashi-Vishwanath Ganga corridor, ostensibly an express motorway between the Ganges and the Kashi-Vishwanath Temple, which has also had the effect of destroying local neighborhoods in the process. Furthermore, in 2008, back when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi oversaw the demolition of several temples in Gandhinagar to make way for roads. That is until, ironically enough, the Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad got him to back down and halt the demolitions. All of this is to say nothing of the fact that Modi, far from offering resistance to neoliberalism, is actually a stalwart of neoliberalism within India.

What does all this have to do with Edward Butler and his role within Indica? Well, for Rhyd, the same thing that he claims happens to Vandana Shiva is happening in the United States of America, where he claims that even people with “clearly professed” leftist and anti-fascist beliefs are judged as fascist when their ideas are seen to intersect with “the bad people”, by which we can infer he means reactionary ideologues. Just so there’s no misunderstanding: when Rhyd talks about leftists who are called fascist, he is very obviously referring to himself, presumably along with any fellow travelers of being a reactionary contrarian under the banner of “leftism”. That may include Edward Butler, who Rhyd complains is being perceived as a threat to the Pagan community or an outright fascist for his work with a pro-Hindutva organisation – or, in his words, “an organization that stands for things which overlap with right wing iterations of hinduvta and iterates a de-politicized hinduvta” (we may return to that claim later).

Incidentally, I recognize the critics that Rhyd is indirectly referring to. In one paragraph he seems to be referring to Devo, who likened Butler’s arguments in defence of Hindutva to arguments made in defence of Donald Trump supporters. The paragraph before that, however, is him quoting yours truly! I’m almost flattered to report that Rhyd seems to have stumbled upon my blog, and quoted me when I said that Butler “might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated.”. Now this is a little unexpected! But of course, I suspect Rhyd is misrepresenting my arguments. He takes both myself and Devo as representatives of “woke” or “social justice” ideology (hey, Sargon of Akkad called, he wants his GamerGate-era right-wing clichés back), which he defines only as a left-wing continuation of the George W. Bush maxim, “You are either with us, or against us”. I am honestly quite baffled by how he manages to draw that comparison towards me, when if anything I would advance that my own response to the controversy could be interpreted as far more benign and charitable than perhaps some other responses were. If I truly was as fanatical as Rhyd implies I am, I would have condemned not only Edward Butler but also everyone who happened to enter his orbit and did not know about Hindutva at the time, I would not have bothered to discuss the dilemma presented by his contributions to the polytheist community, and I would have condemned Chelydoreus for his statement on why he couldn’t just snub the Indica grant he was given before all of this started, whereas in reality I think Chelydoreus’ statement was thoughtful and considered in light of his own situation and that people willing to attack him for it after hearing him out don’t actually give a damn about marginalized people living in financial precarity. But Rhyd simply paves over this nuance, despite being perfectly content to insist on the nuances of Hindutva fascism, because at the end of the day this isn’t about fanaticism or ideological puritanism. This is about people being challenged for their clear endorsement of fascism, along with their pathetic attempts to justify it, and evidently Rhyd has a problem with people he likes, not to mention himself, being challenged by the wider community. I’m fact I’m at least half-convinced that this is the real reason why he decided to fuck off from basically all social media this year. Good for him, I guess.

The basic problem Rhyd has with people like me is that we draw clear lines in the sand when it comes to fascism. His problem is that we don’t take the people who peddle fascist ideologies at face value when they try to soften it up, and in fact we have fearsome contempt for such efforts. Rhyd on the other hand takes the politically correct presentation of Hindutva as a sincere and apolitical enterprise entirely at face value, failing to consider that its very history and content is inescapably political. He seems to genuinely despise it when other leftists take a stand rather than treat all political conflicts as though they’re tea parties in which idle chatter conducted around abstractions is the sole business of things. He sounds like a god-damned centrist who insists on calling himself a Marxist, when any thoroughgoing Marxism should have informed him that ideas are not solely mental abstractions that have no material effect on the external world.

Rhyd then claims the following:

Edward Butler is no fascist, and Indica is not a fascist project. I personally suspect hinduvta will lead to the same ideological dead-end that every other identity politics (blackness, whiteness, etc) leads to, but there is nothing inherently fascistic about it. In the hands of right wing political parties, it can do an immense amount of damage, but if enough people attempt to steer it away from an imposed monotheist framework (“who is Hindu and who is not”) into a pluralistic framework (which appears to have been the mission of Indica, especially in their focus on Indic religions, rather than just Hinduism) than it has the potential to be quite liberating.

Contrary to Rhyd’s assertions, Hindutva is in fact an inherently fascist movement, not an innocent and purely religious concept that merely fell into the hands of the right. I have already shown that Golwalkar, one of its ideological founders, explicitly called for India to adopt a model inspired by Nazi Germany and a centralised state built on an authoritarian unitary cultural fabric and monocultural/racial identity, to the exclusion of all others, and that Vinayak D. Savarkar similarly endorsed fascist Germany and Italy as congenial systems to contrast with liberal democracy. His problem with Hindutva is merely that it is a form of “identity politics”, just that he thinks that this “identity politics” has the potential to be liberating. It’s very strange and fundamentally Orwellian how he thinks Western “identity politics” movements aimed at liberating and emancipating marginalized people are dumb, liberal, “woke”, and should be laughed at and scorned, while an Indian “identity politics” movement that was created from birth to enact a fascist agenda to produce an ethno-nationalist society and whose adherents collaborated with British imperialism are to be given the benefit of the doubt or recognised as actually liberationist. You’d think this reminds you of the sort of thing that certain “woke” leftists would be condemned over but hey Rhyd won’t let that bother him. And more to the point, you might as well argue that National Socialism was not inherently fascist and that it could have been emancipatory had it not fallen into right-wing hands. This, incidentally, is exactly the same argument made by Otto Strasser and his faction of the NSDAP, along with modern adherents of what is called Strasserism. I’m not saying Rhyd is a Strasserist here, but the logical consequence of what he’s saying is consistent with the Strasserist argument. You are free to make of that what you will.

I must mention that, beyond this point, Rhyd barely actually defends Edward Butler directly, though he does continue to defend the legitimacy of Hindutva in some fashion, but a lot of time is spent focused on a broad concept of “leftist ideological abandonment”. Translated from dollar store critical theorist lingo, this means “leftists rejecting positions that I hold and embracing positions that I disagree with”. It would be a waste of time to go through the whole thing point by point, but I will cover what he has to say about Hindutva, as well as some other things I consider relevant to his overall thought process and its attendant problems.

He again attempts to establish a dichotomy between secular neoliberalism and Hindutva as its religious opposition by stressing that Hindu religiosity is an obstacle to the expansion of capitalist markets, while claiming that neoliberals manipulate the Muslim and Christian minorities in India against the Hindu majority. This is just nonsense. Putting aside Modi’s own role as a neoliberal strongman, Indian capitalism has expanded tremendously and I have not seen any religious force in India prove to be an obstacle to it. But again, here he seems to take at face value the Hindutva line and especially its conspiratorial thinking. Equally baffling is the reference to apparent efforts in European countries to ban kosher and halal slaughter, non-descript opponents that, we’re told without any reference, are smeared as religious extremists, and the absurd claim that “woke” leftists actually advocate for the banning of kosher and halal slaughter, never mind that it’s the far-right that actually pushes for the ban of halal slaughter in particular; or at least, I’ve only ever seen far-right activists do so.

All of this is then extrapolated onto a broader point about how leftists should stop “abandoning ideological territory” to the populist right. What does that mean? Apparently stagnant wages, massive job losses, and increasing debt, but the left had already been talking about that and much, much more, in the context of an analysis that cannot be limited to the vagueries of populism. Unless it’s the analysis itself that’s bugging him, which as a self-proclaimed Marxist it shouldn’t. Actually he’s still talking about the trope about how dismissing working class people as racist ensured the victory of Donald Trump in 2016. Putting aside the obvious issue of Trump’s actual base being more middle class than working class and ignoring the mechanisms of US democracy and its relationship to the actual popular vote of that election, I would point out that Joe Biden won four years later, and in that context much of liberalism hasn’t changed drastically, and if anything the Biden campaign had made vague references to social-democratic policy so as to crib the defeated Bernie Sanders campaign, while Trump actually did little other than appeal to the fear of socialism and “cancel culture” while otherwise glorifying the neoliberal status quo. So in this sense it actually seems out of touch to continue beating the same drum that mainstream pundits like Salena Zito have been since the 2016 election ended just to gaslight the left into doing whatever you want.

You can argue that the only way to stop right-wing populism is to stop “abandoning ideological territory to them”, but you’d be wrong. Jean Luc Melenchon tried pandering to the populist/far-right in France throughout his career, and yet his party La France Insoumise has received barely any migration of voters from far-right parties to their side, while if anything far-right parties have been siphoning voters from La France Insoumise. The Communist Party of France also tried appealing to French nationalism in the 1980s, and it did not result in any substantial gains for the party, certainly not enough to restore what electoral success it once had decades before. In Australia, the notoriously racist social-democrat Arthur Calwell lost every federal election that he ran in as leader of the Australian Labour Party, and it was after he stepped down that the party’s fortunes were reversed. Here in the UK the Labour Party tried to do a course correction over perceived “wokeness” and “lack of patriotism” under the outgoing Corbyn leadership, and it hasn’t really rewarded them electorally or in polls. Only a massive Christmas scandal seems to be turning Labour’s fortunes around. My point is that what Rhyd and others like him suggest simply doesn’t work for the left, never has done, and never will do. Frankly, all signs point to the observation that if people want to vote for reactionaries they’ll just vote for right-wing parties rather than any opportunist trying to outflank them on the left, and that’s partly because right-wing conservatives and nationalists generally actually believe what they believe in whereas leftists who try to copy them have only ever cared about either winning votes or pissing off other leftists in order to feel superior to them; I personally bet that Rhyd is of the latter category.

By the way, I can’t but notice that Rhyd thought to quote The Communist Manifesto to demonstrate that the result of capitalist expansion is the destabilization of religious traditions and communities, which is all well and good until you take note of the last part of the quotation: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.“. While Rhyd was likely intending to connect Marx’s analysis of capitalism to religious decline in order to emphasize capitalism as a threat to spiritual life, in the context of the quote Marx probably saw this as kind of a good thing. Here religion and sacredness are illusions, and the wresting of these away from human consciousness would have been interpreted as one of the positive and radically emancipatory effects of capitalist expansion. Too many people forget that although Marx did think that capitalism ultimately needed to be abolished, he did not consider capitalism to be entirely bad, and thinking in terms of historical progress of material conditions, Marx saw capitalism as consisting partially of historically progressive effects both material and social, some of which he and Friedrich Engels thought were necessary precursors to the development of socialism. Now, you don’t have to agree with Marx that religion was inherently bad and delusional in order to maintain a political worldview and analysis consistent with Marxism, everyone knows Marx isn’t infallible and it would be improper to treat him as though he were a prophet or a Pope, but I think it’s worthwhile to at least mention that Marx had meant the destruction of traditional community to be an enlightening if radical disillusionment rather than a benighting disenchantment.

All of this is still getting away from the base subject of Hindutva, but thankfully Rhyd takes us back there again with more whining:

Again, though I think hinduvta is probably a dead-end, what Indica has been attempting to do with it has potential beyond India. Dr. Edward Butler’s work with them to expand dialogue about polytheism across the world likewise has great potential, or did before he was accused of being fascist for that work.

Well don’t you worry, Rhyd. Edward Butler probably isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the time being. We can all disassociate from him and condemn him as we please, and he is free to stand alone in accordance with his own will, but that doesn’t mean his work is going to cease. He is probably still going to be involved with Indica, and he will continue to produce commentary in support of Hindutva, regardless of what we think of him. And you know what, that’s his business for as long as none of us have to be any part of it, but it will not go unchallenged, we will call it exactly as we see it, and we shall treat what we see accordingly. This is just how it is, and you’re just going to have to accept it, because we will be damned if we ever allow fascism to gain a foothold anywhere.

This seems to be the extent of his defence of Edward Butler and Hindutva, and if you look past the density of his article, it’s honestly a very weak one. But there’s something else to his overall argument that needs to be addressed, and it concerns his overall understanding of monotheism versus polytheism.

Towards the end of his article he says this:

Years ago, I made the very same mistake as his accusers. I failed to notice I was trapped in a monotheist framework, forced myself to answer a question whose only answers were binary. I was an idiot back then. I caused some harm and derailed something that is only now getting back on its tracks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s pretty eager to go off the rails again, and I’m not very hopeful they won’t make the same mistakes I did.

We need to stop doing this. We need to stop giving ground to right wing movements and abandoning sites of potential transformation. The world cannot be neatly divided between “fascist” and “antifascist” or even “right” and “left” anymore than it can be neatly divided between “Western” and “Eastern,” “Christian” and “Hindu,” and “white” and “black.” These are all rigid and fragile categories that we’ve created through a monotheist framework of thinking, forcing universals where they cannot be applied.

The alternative to this is pluralism. I call this polytheistic, but it isn’t exclusive to polytheist religions. And I deeply believe it’s our default state, the organic and natural way we tend to relate to each other without external ideologies setting the co-ordinates of meaning for us.

From this we are to infer that monotheism is when you establish a set of questions predicated on binary choices. In essence, Rhyd’s conception of monotheism is nothing more than the concept of a closed question. Monotheism for Rhyd is when you make any divisions between two things, between left and right, between fascism and anti-fascism, Christianity and Hinduism, West and East, white and black, all divisions that Rhyd treats as fully equivalent to each other, and polytheism thus stands as an alternative to this framework, with plurality framed as a way to validate difference of opinion by bypassing all of those divisions. In other words, Rhyd is a typical centrist idiot, one who merely happens to call himself a Marxist, and he thinks that polytheism is a way to justify being a centrist idiot by defining the presence of division and conflict between two sides as monotheistic artifice.

To explore this point further, it is necessary to return to a section of the article that we previously skipped. But I’ll be honest, you won’t be missing much judging from the fact that he says stuff like this:

I was on the “good” side, meaning Antifa. That’s not how I look at it now, but at the time I was pretty damn certain one side was completely right and one side was completely wrong and I wasn’t going to be on the wrong side. That’s where I fucked up really badly. Looking back, I realise there wasn’t actually a right side and a wrong side at all, just two opposing ideological positions rising out of the same monotheistic universalism I’d been arguing against at conferences and in speeches.

Yeah. “I used to be anti-fascist. That’s not what I am now. Now I think drawing a line in the sand when it comes to fascism is just monotheistic universalism” is the stance Rhyd intends to take, on an outlet that I think still presents itself as avowedly anti-fascist. But we’ll get to that. For now suffice it to say “I used to oppose fascism but now I don’t” is probably not something you should own with any pride, and certainly not my idea of what anti-fascism looks like. But apparently it is, and not only that but the insistence that you should not have any solidarity with fascism is to be treated as the same kind of tyrannical absolutism that George W. Bush brought the world. Antifa then are basically neoconservatives to this guy? Honestly, given this guy’s reputation for defending fascists, I don’t like the implications of this sentiment, along with the implications of rejecting the division between left and right in contemporary politics, because when paired with the knowledge that he’s defended fascists, including now the Hindutva movement, it actually kind of seems like there’s something about Rhyd that he’s not letting on. Or perhaps not. Maybe he could just be a giant idiot and not much else. Now that’s pluralism if I’ve ever seen it.

Rhyd reduces polytheism to a vague belief in the lack of universals, which is fine on its own, but then he warps this so as to represent a belief that you can accept what other people say about themselves, and yet not accept it within yourself at the same time – in his words, this is to “accept the “truths” of others without necessarily their universals”. Remember earlier when I mentioned a “meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia”? You’re about to see what I’m referring to:

Consider the most common reaction I’ve heard from people in person regarding the matter of trans identity. Most are happy to accept that someone considers themselves a different gender from their biological sex, and are even willing to make efforts to use the pronouns a person requests.

In this kind of pluralism, what doesn’t necessarily follow from such interactions is a simultaneous change in the personal beliefs about what is a man or what is a woman—because it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to for the exact same reason that we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost. We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict, and then go about the business of actually living life alongside each other.

At first, it can seem perfectly reasonable in that a pluralistic outlook is generally going to be more accepting of someone who professes a trans or non-binary identity. On that point alone, a lot of Pagans would have no issues. The problem emerges when Rhyd starts talking about how this doesn’t lend itself to any effects on how you view gender or identity, let alone any political commitments attendant to accepting trans or non-binary people as they are, and especially when he actually compares accepting trans or non-binary identity to what is essentially the act of humoring a friend who tells you he’s seen a ghost. It’s utterly condescending and serves only as a mask to hide your true beliefs from others. When you say “we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost”, you are first of all saying that you reject the person’s belief in a ghost, and when you say “We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict”, you are saying that you do not accept the person’s belief in ghosts, but will merely tolerate a person for having it, separate your beliefs about that person and their positions from your attitude to their personhood, and treat the matter as “live and let live”, but deep down you mock that person in some way, necessarily so, because you still think the person’s beliefs are wrong, perhaps even stupid and worthy of mockery, you just aren’t going to say anything about it.

Applied to the subject of trans identity, you are saying that you do not accept that a trans woman is a woman, or that a trans man is a man, and you reject what they say about their gender identity because you think biological sex, or rather your own particular essentialist understanding of it, trumps their subjective identity, but you accept the trans person’s account anyway, or so you claim to, and seemingly live your life and interact with others as “normal” in any case. But what that means is that you believe that you’re accepting the accounts of trans people, but without any examination of any beliefs you hold that would prevent you from meaningfully doing so, so you may live your life as though you assume yourself to be tolerant and accepting of trans people, when really, beneath it all, you don’t take what they say about themselves seriously, probably mock them in private, or in public you openly argue against accepting that trans people are the gender they identify as. In this sense, that “tolerance” is actually a false peace, unity for the sake of unity not borne of any actual acceptance, one that I think many trans and non-binary people will easily see for the cowardice that it is.

And besides which, it’s not actually the polytheistic perspective, or at least not as can be implied by its myths. The mythos of the various polytheistic and animistic religions of the world contains fascinating accounts of transformation across gender. As Kadmus Herschel has shown in True to the Earth, a book that I see Rhyd is borrowing terminology from without understanding the rest of what Kadmus is saying, the bardic poetry of the Celts depicts figures who undergo several transformations that cut across gender, species, and several other boundaries. Ceridwen transforms into several different animals, Gwion tries to hide in the form of a grain of wheat, but Ceridwen turns into a hen and eats him, only to become pregnant with Gwion, who is then reborn as Taliesin. They are transformations of body rather than soul, they cut against notions of essence or purity, and identity then is builty atop an ongoing event of conscious essencing. Several of the gods of polytheism, whether that’s Odin or Loki from Norse polytheism or Dionysus and Athena from Greek polytheism, exhibit either the capacity to transform their own gender identity or inhabit a set of gender characteristics not limited by the traditional gender binary; Athena, for instance, was meant to be born as a man, but instead was born a woman with male characteristics. You can also go to India and find deities that transform across gender lines as well as species lines, with Vishnu appearing as the female Mohini and Shiva manifesting as the dual-gendered Ardhanarishvara. The Hijras also represent within Indian society since ancient times a trans community that has existed in the context of non-monotheistic culture. If the gods can be seen as defined by more than the traditional gender binary, if the gods can be queer as can be and be accepted for it by their followers, if a person can be trans within pre-Christian cultures and meet some acceptance in a religious context, then it stands that the Pagan worldview on gender identity is that it is not defined by a binary that is fixed into human being through essentialist biology, but instead one of many places in which essencing takes place, and in which essencing can take place on individual as well as social terms.

Contrary to what Rhyd insists about how you don’t have to change your mind about trans people to accept them for what they are – although then again why should you even need to consider changing your mind unless you’re presently a transphobe – internalizing much of the polytheist worldview entails not merely accepting the accounts of trans people for performative and diplomatic reasons but on an existential basis, on the grounds that their identities are as natural as yours, as is the transformation that trans people rightfully undertake to fulfill themselves, and these exist as part of the multiplicity of life as much as you do. It is not about accepting “universals”. If you truly adhere to a multiplicitous and pluralistic cosmos, and reject a cosmos consisting of the inscribed designs of one supreme being, then you really do have to accept internally the validity of trans identity, instead of just formally validating it for the purpose of being polite and getting along while internally denying it; in that scenario, your outward stance is merely performance while your inward stance is your real position on the subject. At least a transphobic Christian or Muslim would prefer to brook no such deceptions since they believe what they believe to be the inalterable word of God. Rhyd on the other hand is a transphobe who wants to be considered valid for being a transphobe as long as it means just being polite about it. Well I’m sorry but being polite about your position doesn’t actually mean your position is any less dogshit. If it did, then Holocaust denial could be validated off the back of the affability of some of its proponents. Trust me: fascists are more than capable of presenting a respectable and polite face, and may even try to appear very tolerant of disagreement, even though this is a ruse in light of how they would actually govern you. Just because a fascist can get you thinking that leftists are intolerant and totalitarian because you got banned from their Discord server or whatever doesn’t mean a fascist society won’t be violently totalitarian, or for that matter that the left is necessarily as totalitarian in practice as you might have been told.

His idea of pluralism is based less on the philosophical ramifications of the polytheistic cosmos and its attendant mythos and more on a personal desire for unity, and political unity at that. I would say to him that the polytheistic world, and cosmos, was never always united. Cults could sometimes rival each other, a few were driven out in societies that considered them to be dangerous and foreign. Whole schools of philosophy rivalled each other, and some schools were sometimes mocked, scorned, vilified, and even demonized in some cases by whoever asserted themselves as the dominant school of thought. The gods themselves would fight amongst each other, sometimes just between individual deities each pursuing the same object (the mythological story of Troy features multiple goddesses fighting over Paris’ judgement on who was the most beautiful), sometimes out of desires for revenge (such as Hera), sometimes there is a conflict of values among the gods (as present in the trial of Orestes in which Apollo contests the ancient goddesses called the Eumenides), sometimes whole clans of deities fight and struggle against each other, with some compromise and intermingling in between (the Devas versus the Asuras, the Aesir versus the Vanir or Jotun, the Tuatha De Dannan versus the Fomorians, or the Amatsukami versus the Kunitsukami). Sometimes humans can rebel and challenge the gods, to varying degrees of success. As Kadmus has shown brilliantly, rebellion is a feature of a polytheistic cosmos, not a bug, and as Peter Grey has shown, rebellion is a part of the divine heritage given to humans from the gods. Insofar as a polytheistic cosmos consists of rebellion, and rebellion is a core part of that cosmos, the presumption of polytheistic pluralism entailing intrinsic cosmic unity seems entirely fanciful, and unbecoming of a cosmos of many divines, truths, and values.

More to the point, why exactly do you want unity with fascists? Why is it desirable? Contemporary polytheism has already understood the dangers of allowing itself to become a home for fascists and in allowing secular nationalism to appropriate the pre-Christian past so as to launder hateful authoritarianism. That is the reason for Declaration 127, The Xenia Declaration, and similar initiatives to exist, to deny solidarity with fascists since they do not deserve it, and to declare that you will not stand with white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or any form of bigotry. Rhyd should know well enough about these initiatives, and it would be interesting to see what his opinion of them is now, or for that matter his opinion on how we should deal with folkist groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly, in light of the dribble he’s putting forth.

Unity with the fascist means consignment to your own enslavement. It is permission for the fascist, it is the knowledge that they will not be challenged for being fascists, which therefore leads to the normalisation of fascism, and finally to the triumph of fascism. The unity Rhyd seeks is almost the definition of unjust peace. By subtracting the presence of division, conflict, and rebellion from a pluralistic cosmos that necessarily entails these things, Rhyd’s “pluralism” insists that solidarity in the abstract ought to be universal, at least so long as he can claim the people he wants solidarity with to share a common enemy (which they don’t!), and denies the ability to freely deny solidarity with the undeserving and contest that which should be contested. His “pluralism” is not a pluralistic cosmos, but a drum circle held between hippies and swastika-beddecked skinheads.

But for all the talk of pluralism, there’s another reason I’m not buying it. I know Rhyd’s kind of leftist well enough. I have been in circles where his sort of thinking operates as the order of the day. I have had a friend who regularly complained about the left because they “hate” him, and that same friend went on to be one of those socialists who, while calling himself a socialist, a Marxist at that, embraced all manner of far-right social positions and even advocated for a form of white nationalism even if not by name. What I learned is that these people become resentful of the left because the left does not respond positively to their insistence on the objectively correct politics, often even despite that politics being anything but correct, and the opposition from the rest of the left impedes their ability to mold the left as they see fit. Rhyd, I suspect, is one more of those leftists, so embittered from facing constant challenge from the left, who in his eyes are doomed because they have failed to sufficiently agree with and conform to his brand of leftism, that he fled all social media so that he dare not deal with the rest of the left any further. These people do not assume a pluralistic world, let alone the way Rhyd himself defines it. Instead, if anything, it’s closer to the monotheistic worldview, where there is one supreme principle, one vision, one ultimate truth, and everyone is to be cajoled or convinced to accept it or face doom and failure forever, and even his ideas of pluralistic unity smack of a more benign version of this where it doesn’t matter what we all think because we are all One. Meanwhile even polytheistic cultures had lines to be drawn on what their communities could and could not accept, and their cosmoses consisted not of unity but of diversity, and sometimes conflict.

In summary, this was truly a laughably weak defence on behalf of Edward Butler and Indica, one that served only to show Rhyd’s own ignorance of the subject he strives to represent, rather than the supposed ignorance of Edward Butler’s critics. It’s such a shame too, since he puts a black eye on Gods and Radicals Press as a whole in the eyes of many. This is a shame because it does still feature some good work from Christopher Scott Thompson, Mirna Wabi-Sabi, and a recent contributor promoting Gaulish reconstructionist polytheism as an anti-fascist force, and its store still features the brilliant work of Kadmus Herschel, True to the Earth. Hell, Rhyd himself used to be pretty cool back in the day until at least 2018 from what I understand. I suppose though it’s mostly Rhyd that I have a serious problem with, and until maybe he gets over his reactionary contrarianism I don’t see much hope that he won’t, as he put it, go off the rails. After all, it’s not the left derailing him, it’s him that’s derailing Gods and Radicals. He needs to see that, and I don’t hold out any hope that he will.