Today I’ve been seeing Satanists on Facebook talk about Michael Aquino having passed away, and I was of the impression that he had recently died. Naturally curious, I inquired about this and was shown a link to a Temple of Set web page that announced his death. The way his death was announced seems rather cryptic at first, but as you read on it becomes clear what the Temple is attempting to communicate. Here is what they say:
Let it be known that on Sunday, September 1, LIV of the Aeon of Set, Ipsissimus Michael A. Aquino, Ph.D. Remanifested from his physical body. As he had let the world know, he had been experiencing declining health for several years. This period also saw a tremendous outpouring of written material, public interviews, and important correspondence within and beyond the Temple of Set.
Among those titles completed during this time was his trilogy MindWar,MindStar, and FindFar, covering his thought about the transformations of human conflict in order to better preserve human life, the transformations of the Self, and the long-range facing the world. In addition to this, he completed his Initiatory memoir, Temple of Set, and a more personal memoir Ghost Rides. He also left behind materials to encourage a deeper understanding and application of non-Setian Initiatory traditions in the form of IllumiAnX: Rosicrucianism Reawakened and The Satanic Bible: 50thAnniversary ReVision.
Ipsissimus Aquino’s thoughts on death have become more widely known with the publication of MindStar. The physical death of the body, or the khat to use the Egyptian term, acts as the loss of only one aspect of the greater complexities of the Self. The rest of the Self, particularly the akh, continues, both in this world through the influence set in motion while living, and beyond in a new exploration of the Unknown. In a sense, one enters into the realm of the neteru, where one’s Xeper guides and shapes what you may become.
We as human individuals, however, will experience considerable emotional and intellectual outpourings as the result of a loss like this. It is to be expected and honored that these experiences arise. Be mindful of how you chose to express these moments, and remember as much of an impact as Ipsissimus Aquino has had upon your life and Initiation, there are those for whom this is a far more personal, and private, loss.
Xeper – Become.
Hail Ra-En-Set, who Uttered the Eternal Word!
Hail Ipsissimus Michael A. Aquino!
The phrase “Remanifested from his physical body” in lieu of more familiar phrases such as “passed away” or words like “deceased” or “died” rather reminds me of Scientology, specifically in that when L Ron Hubbard died the Church of Scientology’s new leader, David Miscavige, referred to Hubbard’s death in terms of having “discarded” his physical body (as if by choice) in order to continue to do “research” in an “exterior state” (as in, outside of the corporeal realm). his death thereby representing not the end of his life but the “next step” of his research. Indeed, this missive from the Temple of Set presents a similar picture in that, per what seems to be Setian doctrine, after the demise of the physical body the Self in its totality continues to exist and act beyond the corporeal realm and continues its journey in the realm of the Neteru, thus continuing its self-transformation outside the body much as Miscavige would claim Hubbard was merely “continuing his research” after death. That having been said, however, it is nonetheless clear to anyone capable of reading between the lines that Aquino has died.
I could go on about the sort of man Michael Aquino was, and what he brought to the table. As a Church of Satan member he was certainly very committed to what he saw as the vision of Satanism, up until 1975 when he felt (I’d say not incorrectly) that Anton LaVey had betrayed this vision, and as the founder and leader of the Temple of Set he set forth his own individual vision of Satanism – which, as I’ve discussed in my review of his ReVision of the Satanic Bible, is a deeply flawed doctrine of Satanic idealism. He was also one of the most active users on the Satanist forum called the 600 Club, where he would frequently get into argumentative discussions with atheistic Satanists and others. What interests me more, however, is the secrecy which seems to surround his death.
The date given for Aquino’s death is “September 1st, LIV of the Aeon of Set”. We can clearly assume that Aquino died some time ago, possibly September of last year if I had to make an educated guess (unfortunately I’m not well-versed enough in the ways of the Temple of Set to tell you what “LIV” could mean). I’m told that the web page already existed on their website just that they did not publicize it and that you couldn’t just access it from their front page, presumably until recently. There’s also something I’ve heard about the 600 Club, the very same website that Aquino was active on, being inaccessible for a year, which may or may not be related to his death. In fact, I have attempted to visit 600 Club myself upon hearing this, and I find that I still cannot access them. The 600 Club appears to still be down. It begs the question: why didn’t the Temple of Set just announce that Michael Aquino was dead at or around the time of his actual death? If Aquino had died in September, why not let everyone know in September? Why make it so that, essentially, you might not have known unless you were in the Temple of Set or close to them? And of those people, why did they not spread the word? Why keep Aquino’s death a secret, particularly considering his importance to Satanism and many in the Left Hand Path community?
It’s so bizarre how much mystery tends to be involved. I remember, when I was getting into Satanism initially, I had heard about Michael Aquino and his exploits, and how, in those days, I could not be sure if he was still alive. Back then some people said he had died, but others said he was alive, and all I had to go on were some mysterious interviews he conducted on the internet and appearances in forums. Later on I found out that he had been giving spoken interviews on podcasts and that he was releasing a new book, the ReVision of the Satanic Bible that mentioned earlier, in 2018. Now I find that not only is he dead, but also that he’s been dead for some time now and most of us didn’t know it because the Temple of Set tried to keep it under wraps for no discernible reason. I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time they tried to do something like this, considering that Michael Aquino himself rather openly tried to sue the ISP of a random internet user for anonymously accusing him of being involved in child molestation charges for the purpose of shutting him down (a witless endeavor, considering you would have to do this for potentially thousands of people because the idea that Aquino was a pedophile is, although undoubtedly false, widely believed by certain communities).
Regardless, as much as I have a metric shitload of critical things to say about Michael Aquino, he was nonetheless a towering figure for the Satanist movement, and there are times when his influence could be felt even by those who did not identify with the Setian strain of Satanism and weren’t a part of the Temple of Set. For this reason, his death will be a profound loss for many Satanists, and will have undoubtedly had some effects on the leadership of the Temple of Set, who are surely looking for a new Ipsissimus.
A while back my good friend Summer Thunder began posting about how he essentially no longer identified with the label of Satanism, saying that it no longer reflected the nature of his beliefs and that instead suggesting something along the lines of paganism would be more fitting of his own belief system. He identifies Satanism as a phenomenon, or more or less Satanists as a movement, as being too attached to vices such as hatred, resentment, unintelligent passion and narcissism, as well as general sense of negativity and a general lack of positivity. The reason I say he seems to be interested in a form of paganism nowadays is because the framework of his “devil worship” appears nonetheless to be at least somewhat polytheist, owing largely to the presence and role of the daemons. But now it seems that my friend here is not the only one undergoing this shift. In a recent episode of his Dark Illumination Report Podcast, the theistic Satanist R J Womack (a.k.a. Brother Nero) announced that he will no longer be using the term Satanism to refer to his belief system and practice, saying that he will be in the process of creating his own tradition. Further, he also said that he will no longer refer to his belief system as either Left Hand Path or Right Hand Path, on the grounds that he considers it to be the product of Christian dualism (which is pretty ahistorical but I can sort of see how he might think that).
Where is Womack going with this? Well, much like Summer Thunder, the implication seems to be that Womack is heading towards paganism, or more or less a dark take on neopaganism. The rationale for this is that, in pre-Christian pagan religions, there was no such thing as good vs evil and the gods were indifferent to the morality of Man. Based on this, there are no absolutes and that every individual is responsible for creating their own distinct moral code based on their relationship with Satan. Spirituality and magick also follow from this in that there is no good and evil beyond intention. In practice, this still seems to me to be theistic Satanism, in that there’s the belief in a literal Satan. However, the reason for dropping the term Satanism is that the term attracts people who are, in his eyes, immature and not serious about their spirituality and magickal practice, and that the focus should instead be on about “love for Satan, and not the demons”. Instead of the Left Hand Path or the Right Hand Path, he refers to his magickal milieu as the “Crooked Shadow Path”, “the Path of Shadow” (which honestly sounds like something that could still refer to the Left Hand Path in practice) or the “Grey Path”, and he stresses that it is not a path of good vs evil as such, but rather a path of Nature. Womack also explains that, because he no longer define himself as a Satanist, he no longer has to worry about the conventions of Satanism, or about what Anton LaVey or Michael Aquino had to say about Satanism, and this applies to all others who take his approach.
From the sounds of it, Womack’s realignment has more to do with the identity of Satanism than its core doctrines. The emphasis that there is no meaningful good or evil, especially in its application to magick, is not particularly distinct from baseline Satanism, LaVeyan or otherwise, the moniker of “Crooked Shadow Path” could in practice still imply Left Hand Path, and the central object of this new approach remains Satan, all implying that we are still dealing with Satanism, merely Satanism rebranded. However, we also get the sense that Womack is hinting at a shift towards paganism, albeit a type of paganism wherein the central object just happens to be Satan. He lays great emphasis on how Satanism as an identity is based in Christian conceits, how the Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path dichotomy itself is the product of Christian understanding, even though ironically it actually predates Christianity in the sense that it is a product of Hindu Tantra rather than Christian dualism, though I imagine popular understanding of it is conditioned through Christian culture. As a result, the true substance of his doctrine is for Womack reflected in pre-Christian belief systems. The problem, of course, is that pagan mythos was used to convey ethical lessons of some kind, though not quite in the same way as the Christian mythos, and that pagan philosophers have very much been in the business of defining what is just and virtuous and what is not, because, you know, of course they were, that’s part of what philosophy is for. The fact that Satan remains a central subject is enough to make it seem like it’s a surface-level rebranding, but the overall direction gives us hints that Womack will be seeking a sort of dark neopagan framework.
I wonder, then, if this will prove itself to be a larger trend. Between Summer Thunder and R J Womack, there is this sense of dissatisfaction with the idea of Satanism on the grounds that it does not elevate virtue and instead celebrates vice, which I suppose some critics would just glibly say “well, what did you expect? this is Satanism after all!”. .The longing for a more pagan framework of spiritual identity sort of makes sense in this light, even though in some cases it’s not a particularly historical enterprise. Theistic Satanism has always had some overlap with neopaganism, much to the chagrin of many neopagans. In my experience at least, many theistic Satanists relate to Satanism via a dark take on polytheism which, although centered around Satan, features mutliple gods that often include the various figures found within Christian demonology, often reinterpreted as gods and sometimes as their old pagan counterparts. If the core of Satanism or at least the Satanic identity no longer appeals to them, there is always this take on pagan polytheism to fall back on. It does make me wonder how many other Theistic Satanists will join this trend.
Perhaps this correlates, also, with the more general rise of neopaganism that had been taking place through the 2010s into today. It may now be the case that this neopaganism is growing at the expense of Satanism. Or, perhaps, it is the case that Satanism is changing, and evolving, at its own expense. In any case it seems that there is a shift towards a different, more distinctly neopagan, identity within Theistic Satanism, even if in many cases it’s hard to tell what’s un-Satanic about it..
After my two recent posts I sense that, perhaps, there may be some interest in discussion over the group I mentioned called The Satanic Reds, the Satanist organization that also happened to be communist. Just who are they, and just who is Tani Jantsang, the group’s founder? To quote one of Varg Vikernes’ more memetic lines from his YouTube channel, let’s find out.
I suppose we can start with Tani Jantsang first. She appears to have been active in either the Satanic movement or just occultism more generally since the 1960s. She seems to have started out as a big fan of H P Lovecraft during the 1960s, when she intially encountered his writings, and in 1965 she came into contact with a group that was purportedly known as Societas Selectus Satanas, an organization that we know next to nothing about (although at least one person claims that there was actually no Societas Selectus Satanas and in fact what is referred to as such was actually a sect of “Family Tradition” Wicca), of which she believed the fantasy author Lin Carter was a member. As the 60s progressed, Jantsang’s interest in Lovecraft was so intense that it began to intertwine with her spiritual outlook. She started to believe that Lovecraft was connected to an ancient “Black Tradition” of magick that originated in Mongolia and unspecified parts of central Asia, and in 1969 she joined a magical order called Starry Wisdom, which appears to have been inspired by Lovecraft. In future decades she would also go on to become a prolific author of several essays, novels, and poems, many of them themed around the Chthulhu mythos, and she along with a man named Philip Marsh were also the editors of a magazine called Chthulhu Cultus, which ran from 1995 to 2001. In 1974, Tani and Philip formed an organization known as the Kishites, named for the ancient Sumerian (though they claim it to be Babylonian) city of Kish, which seemed to combine the Lovecraftian mythos with Tantric lore and other spiritual systems. In fact, Tani considers the Satanic Reds to be a continuation of the Kishite sect, albeit stripped of any references to Lovecraftian fiction.
Besides her work on Lovecraftian fiction, Tani is also apparently known for being a co-author of 11 historiographical monographs of various incarnations of Left Hand Path spirituality, so she seems to be a seasoned author of both fiction and non-fiction within the realm of Satanism. She is also an enigmatic figure in the movement, relatively obscure nowadays compared to the likes of Peter Gilmore or Michael Aquino (not to mention that very few photos of her exist), and so her life and involvement within Satanism sometimes the subject of rumour, speculation, and even drama. She is sometimes said to have been a Magistra of the Church of Satan in the past, a claim that Tani herself denies. She does seem to have had some correspondence with the Church of Satan, via letters that were sent between her and the Church of Satan between 1992 and 2000. In these letters she was praised by both Anton LaVey and Blanche Barton on various points, such as her pronouncements against the Nazis (or “Aryanists”), various articles of hers that were evidently submitted to the Church of Satan, and some music that she showed them that was apparently composed by her, as well as her correspondence with Anton’s son Xerxes. This is in itself would not be proof of her being a Magistra, but there is a quote of her saying that she was a Magistra going around in old Google forums dating back to 2003. It’s not entirely clear where this quote originates. Her relationship with the Church of Satan appears to have been amicable at first, and she also defended their doctrine of Satan as a dark force in nature against the Temple of Set, but by the time of her last correspondence with Blanche Barton there seems to have been a falling out between her and her organization, supposedly over her increasingly vocal anti-fascist pronouncements against some members of the Church of Satan.
Now, this is very interesting because, in a previous correspondence with Blanche Barton, dated to 1995, Blanche praises Tani for condemning the Nazis in the organization. In fact, Blanche refers to the “Aryanists” (as she calls them) as lacking nobility and purpose and accuses their cosmology and methods of being linked to Christianity (which is silly but at least it seems like she opposed Nazism). Curiously, this is the same year in which Blanche wrote that article for Black Flame in which she gaslighted Satanists who were expressing concern about the presence of fascists in the organization. But by the year 2000, it seems that Tani Jantsang had began calling them out again, in a similar way that she had before only perhaps more vocally, and this time that seems to have pissed off Blanche Barton and others in the Church of Satan. And that gets into some questions. How is it that the Church of Satan, an organization that, as I’ve demonstrated, has had a longstanding association with fascists up to the top of its hierarchy since its early years, would find itself admitting a self-identified communist into their ranks? Perhaps they weren’t lying after all when they said they were an apolitical organization? But then again why would they sideline a member or associate who they previously praised because of her vocal criticism of fascism, after previously praising such criticism?
However, I would be being one-sided if I did not bring up the fact of Tani’s own associations with fascists. I already talked about how she used to be a member of the fascist Order of the Left Hand Path, but she also seems to have known James Madole, the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party. There is an interview in which Jantsang recounts meeting with Madole, along with a few other Nazis, who shit-talked Anton LaVey and ranted about him being a Jew taking over “the dialobic current”, that presumably was just a noble Aryan pagan warrior cult before he showed up (I tell you, the delusions that these volkisch fascists conjure within themselves never ceases to be entertaining). In addition it is known that Madole, who is noted for his fascination with occultism, was also, like Tani Jantsang, very interested in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, which leads me to believe that it was probably through this that the two initially became acquainted decades ago. And much later in life, despite calling out the Nazism of Church of Satan members, we find an interview she did in 2007 in which she praises Pat Buchanan’s books Where the Right Went Wrong and A Republic, Not An Empire as accurate books that everyone should read and even claimed that they constituted satanic literature, despite the notable handicap of Pat Buchanan and his vision for American society being characterized by conservative Christianity. And can I just say, isn’t it strange that a self-proclaimed Marxist would have such a high opinion of a man who believes that Jewish Marxists are responsible for the decline of Western Civilization? Not to mention, in that same interview, she praises the work of the white nationalist Kevin McDonald for his book The Culture of Critique, which argues that Jews are genetically predisposed towards ethnocentrism and to infiltrate white societies in order to eliminate their white populations and replace them with non-white peoples, and was directly inspired by the “Great Replacement” myth, and she also seems to dabble in Eurabia-style conspiracy theories, and along with that some ideas that sound suspiciously like the talking points of the far-right, when she says this:
Some of the Islamics even admit that they are unarmed invaders that will outbreed the Europeans and simply take over their societies and destroy their culture. These European countries have their own cultures and they are secular and advanced civilizations. I’d hate to see Western Civilization lost. It just might take extreme measures to fix what’s wrong in Europe. Playing the political correctness game has to stop if European culture, language and civilization is to survive this onslaught – and that means in the USA too. I regard the USA as primarily a European-culture nation, Western Civilization, post enlightenment. It should stay that way.
In addition to this, in her article about “Generational Satanism“, she says ” I also said, “JEWS are Generational Satanists, and THEY RULE YOU.”. On the other hand, she also gives Jews quite a bit of credit within the remit of her ostensibly materialistic philosophy, in the sense that she holds that Jews are hated by Christians because hold the view that there is no heavenly afterlife. So, with all that in mind, I actually wonder why she would come out against the Nazis if she appears to harbour anti-semitic sympathies herself? Is it truly because of a moral opposition to the ideological program of Nazism (which, as I surely don’t need to tell you, is inseparable from anti-semitism), or is it just because she thinks of the Nazis as obvious bad guys, or because they’re most likely to actually bring her harm should they ever take power in her country? It’s hard for me to say, and I don’t think the answer to this question is going to be a particularly good one, since she appears to promote white nationalist (and blatantly anti-semitic) thinkers and ideas when given the chance. I think that Tani seems to be very confused on the question of Jews and anti-semitism, and, as we’ll see, politics more generally.
Returning to drama, though, there’s also a weird drama that Tani Jantsang has concerning Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set. There was an apparent incident involving Aquino in 1972, when he was still a member of the Church of Satan, in which the Lovecraftian lodges seemed to get into conflict with Aquino over some manuscripts that it is claimed were written by Lin Carter. Jantsang’s critics accuse her of plagiarizing an essay that was originally written by Michael Aquino. There’s also the matter of the Order of the Left Hand Path, and the circumstances surrounding her leaving the order. She recalls that she “started a shitfight” with Bolton, and this was likely motivated by an increased sense of ideological divergence and the apparently dogmatic tendencies of its leader, Kerry Bolton. She accused Bolton of having used the idea of the Dark Doctrines to browbeat people into submission. This split caused the Order of the Left Hand Path to reconstitute into the Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, and in the process jettisoning the influence of Jantsang’s doctrine and other Eastern influences in favour of a doctrine inspired by the Order of Nine Angles.
Her drama is not entirely limited to Satanist groups, as she seems to have been in some sort of feud with a secretive communist group called Maoist Internationalist Movement, which considered her to be a terroristic anti-communist agitator. Jantsang, in turn, considers MIM to be an FBI COINTELPRO group that also endorses terrorists and attacks other communist organizations (which, to be fair, considering the fact that the CIA started up and supported Maoist groups in the 1960s for the purposes of splintering the communist movement, would not be without precedent). And in general, from what I have noticed of her writings or rather her exchanges on forums and particularly the old group chats she started from the early 2000s, she had the tendency to be highly polemical and defensive to the point of being excessively confrontational and often vulgar towards others, which lends to some sharp dramatic tendencies. This also lends itself to some extreme positions being on her part, such as her apparent opinion that the US should drop nuclear bombs on Afghanistan. I must say, if she is a Marxist, she must be a very confused one. For instance, in the quotation wherein she identifies herself as a Magistra of the Church of Satan, she also identifies herself as a Stalinist, but in another post she describes Stalin as a totalitarian dictator (and in that case she’d be right about that btw).
All of this comes from what little information is out there about Tani Jantsang herself, gleamed from a handful of books on the subject, the Satanic Reds website, and a series of forums often dating back around half a decade. Even from this, there are many who doubt even the most basic details about her, including her very name. Some believe that Tani Jantsang is actually a woman named Tanya Lysenko, or Phyllis Rose, or Phyllis Rosenbaum, but these come from a few old forum posts and I have no way of verifying the authenticity of such claims. So, in many ways, a lot of her life seems to be a mystery.
But enough about Tani herself, let’s talk about The Satanic Reds as an organization. They were founded by Tani Jantsang and Philip Marsh in 1997, decades after their formation of the Kishites and a couple of years after her involvement with the Order of the Left Hand Path. It’s unknown how many members they have, though Tani Janstang claims that the group has 800 members. This organization bases itself on two identifiable core doctrines – the first is what they call the Dark Tradition or Dark Doctrines and the second is what they call Social Realism. The Dark Doctrines is their way of referring to their overall cosmology and the line of esoteric tradition that they claim to draw from. The basic idea of this is that there’s an ancient tradition of Tantra that constitutes the primordial form of Satanism, which Tani claims is found not only in ancient Tantric Hinduism but also in the Pythagorean tradition, Advaita Vedanta and “Turanian” mysticism. The cosmological doctrine of the Dark Tradition is based on the idea of Sat, Tan, and Asat, with Sat and Tan in particular supposedly forming the primordial basis for the archetype of Satan. Sat is the name of the concept that they define to be the Boundless Darkness, the substance of the All which is then infused into all things and particularly living beings as Atma (the Hindu concept of the soul), and the source of the light, or the Flame as it were. Tan is the name of the force by which this Darkness is infused into all of creation, and in a broader sense the process of Becoming. Satan, in this light, is interpreted the synthesis of these two, the unfolding and its object, and thereby the embodiment of the creative process by which all things come into being in the universe. Asat in this doctrine is their word for Non-Being, which is described as giving rise to Sat or Being (much like Wuji, or the Without Ultimate, gives rise to Taiji, or the Supreme Ultimate, in Taoist cosmology), but they also seem to use it to refer to temporal or temporary phenomenon within the cosmos.
Although I’m not convinced that it is the historical representation of Tantra (or Satanism for that matter) that Tani Jantsang purports it to be, it does seem to derive from Tantric Hinduism in the use of several Hindu concepts possibly connected to Tantra. The connection to Tantra may, however, just be as stretched as the name Tan supposedly being the basis of the word Tantra, in which case this is just a particularly inventive system of religious syncretism. And such a syncretism is not an uninteresting one either, in all fairness. In Sat and Tan we could extrapolate a dynamic of creation associated with some pantheistic belief systems, in which Tan becomes the creative impetus or force which compels the generation of things upon the embryo of the universe. There’s also the invocation of various archetypal links – there’s wrathful Buddhist deities such as Shri Kalachakra and Mahakala, there’s the Tao, there’s Sanat Kumara (who for them refers to the five Kumaras which are the five Tan that make up the five points of the pentagram in their tradition), and there’s the Slavic deity Chernobog (or “Chynerii Bog”), which are all taken to be names of this force of darknesss. They also seem to root themselves in the idea of unity with Nature, or more specifically their own Nature, and in their Nine Postulates (their own take on the Nine Satanic Statements), they stress that humans are of Nature, and that those who try to rebel against their own nature, thereby defying Nature more broadly, spiritually die and become nothing, and I think the emphasis on nature does sound nice if framed from the perspective of the Ziran concept found in Taoism. The term for a person who defies Nature is called a Klippoth, which for them means Nothing, but in one article Tani Janstang also uses the term Setian, as in a follower of Michael Aquino’s doctrine, in a similar way, to refer to someone who, like the Christian, detaches himself from the natural world and views themselves apart from (or indeed threatened) by it, which in my view seems to be an attack on the Setian doctrine of human self-consciousness (and Set, its progenitor) as being outside of and apart from nature and the Satanist therefore as seeking to seperate from nature. Honestly, that’s quite the burn. She also calls them pretas, a Hindu/Buddhist term referring to the “hungry ghosts”.
The major problem, however, is that Tani’s concept of a Dark Tradition is ultimately ahistorical. There is nothing tracing her doctrines of Sat, Tan and Asat, or indeed the Satanic pentagram, to Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans – indeed, we all know that the Satanic pentagram in its modern form can be traced to 19th century occultism, where it was used as a negative symbol asssociated with the forces of subversion and opposition to God. There is also nothing linking her particular philosophy to the original Tantra in the historicist sense, and there is certainly no etymological link between Sat, Tan and Satan. I would perhaps appreciate it if Tani and the Satanic Reds were honest about the fact that this philosophy is their own syncretic invention, and in this sense a modern doctrine, but it seems they’re rather invested in the idea that this is just something that people have always believed in if it weren’t for those pesky Christians (which, given what we’ve already established about her associations with volkisch fascists, sounds like it’s not too different from what they believe about how everyone followed Esoteric Hitlerism or some such until the Jews decided that we shouldn’t), and given her claims to “Turanian” heritage, it almost feels like a massive projection of a sense of ethnic identity. Not to mention, her writings on the Dark Doctrines, much like her comments in general, are difficult to read and make sense of for some reason. There’s a certain disjointedness to her writing style, I often find it difficult to grasp her work, not because of its ostensible profundity but instead because everything feels jumbled and it’s hard to make sense of what she’s saying. It’s like she has some sort of communication problem.
As for Social Realism, this is the name given to the political ideology of the Satanic Reds doctrine. It’s not really given its own definition, it just seems to be a moniker they give to their particular left-wing politics and its synthesis with Satanism. Now, it’s here that we come to one thing that I never really addressed in this post, which is probably the most interesting subject of this matter, is the question of how exactly do you be both a communist and Satanist, given that Satanism at large tends be an anti-egalitarian philosophy that in particular has a habit of embracing Social Darwinism? Whilst I can’t speak for other Satanists who happen to consider themselves communist, the Satanic Reds apparently have their own way of reconciling it, and, to be quite honest, it’s confusing. Even though the Satanic Reds are referred to as communist and their logo can be seen brandishing the hammer and sickle symbol of the Bolshevik movement, their FAQ seems to suggest that they are not in fact strictly socialist, but instead are both capitalists and socialists, or more specifically supporters of Dirigist capitalism, which they maintain is a form of socialism (to which any other Marxist, myself included, would laugh and then tell you to read basic Marxist theory as regards socialism and/or communism). What’s more, they seem to purport that they self-identify as “Reds” (meaning communists) not because of any actual adoption of communist ideology but because Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs they appear to support, was considered a communist back in his day, and, in their words, “if F. D. Roosevelt was a Red, then so are we!”.
This suggests that they are not in fact communists, or even socialists, but instead New Deal progressives who dress up their ideology in communist garb for nakedly contrarian reasons. In fact, they apply this logic to everything else as well. They embrace the label Red (or communist) on the grounds that liberals, feminists, gay rights advocates, advocates of social and religious tolerance, anti-racists, anti-fascists, and advocates of state planning or regulationist economic reforms, have all been considered communists at one point or another by right-wing reactionaries, and so being a communist to them simply means an expression of support for all of these things (oddly enough without the actual communism to support it). This is ultimately not so much an expression of meaningful communist politics so much as it is getting willfully hung-up on the fact that right-wingers, especially Republicans, have done what they will do even to conservative Democrats: so long as they are running against the GOP, the GOP’s supporters will denounce them as communists. Hell, even Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican President, was demonized as a communist by the John Birch Society over opposition to the military-industrial complex among other issues, but you can bet for certain that the Satanic Reds will never vote Republican just because of that. The overall stance follows from the logic that those who do not adopt Christianity are considered Satanists, so you might as well adopt that identity. Tani herself is an example of this; she claims to be “generational Satanist”, in that she claims her family was Satanists, but in reality they were likely not Satanists and Tani herself describes them as “non-Islamic Turko-Tartars” who she claims practiced a syncretic religion based on Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Tantric Hinduism (or “Tantric-Vedantic concepts”) and some form of shamanism.
And look, I know it can seem tempting to some left-leaning individuals on the internet to embrace the commie label just because reactionary forces and right-wing idiots deem them to be communists and will call you a communist no matter what you do, but consider the reverse of this phenomenon. For ages, Democrats have had a bad habit of calling their Republican enemies Nazis, and outside of America you will often find people with a left-leaning bent who will call various right-wing politicians fascists or Nazis, regardless of whether or not they are actually fascists or Nazis. Now, if hypothetically a right-winger were to say that he decided to move to the far-right on the grounds that “the left” has decided that everything’s fascist now, would you be willing to believe them or take them seriously? Come on, I’ve seen that Matt Bors comic you guys like to share. Of course you don’t buy it. So why do this for yourselves through the label of communism? Now, I get that it makes a tiny bit of sense if you take it from the lens of Satan being the archetype of opposition to the establishment or whatever, but the way you manifest that within a leftist outlook is through the union of the Satanic archetype and a meaningfully radically outlook. Apparently the anarchists managed to do it since the 19th century, so why can’t these guys?
That being said, however, the Satanic Reds website contains multiple links to various articles written by either Tani Jantsang or other members outlining their postulations about communism, socialism, and even dialectical materialism – the very philosophical basis of Marxism. It may be interesting, therefore, to examine them.
It seems obvious to me that we are dealing people who are, at least in some sense, socialists, and they operate within Marxism in particular. Tani herself I think is a Marxist-Leninist of some type (judging by the fact that she once called herself a Stalinist, which is the name of a specific tendency within Marxism-Leninism). In some ways, I find them to be convincing leftists. However, I also find them to be confused. On the one hand, you have all of this material that establishes a credible Marxist ideological current for themselves, but on the other, their Q&A establishes that they might actually be pro-capitalist in the sense of Dirigist or New Deal capitalism. I’d say that they’re being a bit too coy about their political beliefs if you ask me.
The last thing I want to address about their doctrine is their views on the definition of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. It seems that they are simultaneously of the Left Hand Path and not of the Left Hand Path, in that they define the Left Hand Path and the Right Hand Path as inseparable parts of each other that, when separated, are reduced to falsity and error. Tani points out that the LHP and the RHP are, in their original Tantric context, defined not by their respective goals (because they had the same goal of attaining unity with God) but by their respective methods, but also suggests that LHP refers to Yin (the passive principle) while RHP refers to Yang (the active principle). This would be a strange idea because it would require us to categorize whether or not the Vamachara methods of transgression as either passive or active, or whether or not transgression itself is passive or active. And under this framework, transgression in the active sense, of all kinds, is RHP, even the Luciferian impulse and even violent revolution against the status quo. By the way, speaking of Lucifer, in this article Tani Jantsang claims that the term Lucifer was never used to refer to Satan until John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, when in reality the identification likely begins with Jerome.
And, that’s pretty much all I want to talk about with regards to the organization. The only other thing I could say about them is that it seems their website hasn’t been updated in several years. In the year 2020, this website still looks like it’s the late 1990s or early 2000s, suggesting that the website has not been updated at all since the group became somewhat popular in the early online Satanist scene of that time.
Overall, I find that the Satanic Reds are a group that could have had some promise in its weird mixture of Tantra, Satanism and Marxism, but while there are several promising elements I can’t say that it’s a well-executed synthesis. And it doesn’t look like the movement is still active and today it is largely treated as obscure footnote in the history of Satanism, which is kind of a shame because there was a lot going on in the background of the organization’s history that also ties in with the history of the Church of Satan. As for Tani Jantsang herself, I find her to be a very strange figure. On the one hand, she is commendable in being one of the few Satanists out there to actively try and challenge things like “might makes right” and Ayn Rand style individualism within the remit of Satanism, and there are aspects of her doctrine I find interesting, but on the other hand she also seems to be kind of a kook, she ultimately failed to produce the kind of refined synthesis that would be serviceable and ripe for expanding upon. And, on top of that, despite her commendable opposition to Nazis within the Satanic movement, it also seems that she, for a long time in her life, herself associated with fascists, and appears to have sympathies with white nationalists and the works of white nationalists and anti-semites, and I think that’s simply unacceptable.
I think, in the end, that the kind of thing that Tani Jantsang seeks would be better acheived by doing for Anton LaVey what Karl Marx did for Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel. Just as Marx took the foundation of Hegel’s dialectical philosophy and reconstituted it as a doctrine built upon materialism rather than idealism, so too must a Marxist running either within or adjacent to the Left Hand Path continuity take a foundation of something like Anton LaVey or whatnot and reconstitute it into a new philosophy using dialectical materialism. That is what I believe Jantsang would do if she were a more capable intellect, and in some ways it is the primary goal of my studies, wherever that path takes me.
While doing some research for “Pete Helmkamp’s satanic fascism“, I stumbled across an old New Zealand-based black metal zine called Key of Alocer, specifically Volume #2 which was released in 1993. You probably already know about from that post, but I bring it up again for this post is because of an article within the zine titled “The Nature of Satanism”, written by a man named Kerry R. Bolton, a fascist who founded a group called the Order of the Left Hand Path. Let us pay attention to one particular passage:
From whence did Satan-ism come from? From Sat and Tan, Sanskrit for the dark force infusing nature (Sat) and the way that Force acts upon nature (Tan). The Hebrews recognized this Life-Force as the enemy; so ‘Satan’ became their ‘adversary’ because they (the Jehovah cult) were shut off from the Tree of Life – the flow of life.
We see the Satanic cosmology in TANtra and Taoism, among other ways, reflecting the flow of the life force in humanity; concepts far more ancient than either Christianity or Judaism.
Now, let’s get something out of the way. The beginning premise of this is pure, ahistorical nonsense. The Hebrew root of the name Satan, which meant “adversary”, has no basis in the Sanskrit language, and there is no linguistic evidence connecting the term Satan to anything found within the Hindu lexicon or the Sanskrit language. As was mentioned before, the idea that it originates from the words Sat and Tan seems to be a product of the doctrine of Tani Jantsang and her Satanic Reds organization, which claims just as Bolton did that Sat and Tan are pre-Sanskrit Vedantic terms which respectively refer to the dark force of the cosmos and the way it is infused. Sat in Sanskrit just means “truth”, and in the ancient forms of Brahmanic Hinduism it was just another name for the Brahman, which is the Hindu conception of God. Sat also forms part of the word Satchitananda, a term that means “existence (or truth), consciousness and bliss” and is used to describe the nature of the Brahman. As for Tan, it seems to be a Sanskrit term that means various things like “stretching”, “confiding”, “trusting”, or “assisting”. Exactly where Jantsang gets their “pre-Sanskrit” or Devanagari meaning is not obvious in the slightest, in fact I have been unable to corroborate any evidence that might support the hypothesis and her writings appear to show no sources for her claims.
That having established, let’s not lose sight of the reason I felt compelled to write this. The reason in question is that Bolton and Jantsang are not the only people who in some ways sense some vague connection between Satanism and belief systems such as Tantra and Taoism. I have seen many times Satanism being compared to both Tantra and Taoism, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, by people both inside and outside of Satanism. One example that springs to my mind is the Luciferian occultist Vincent Piazza, and I’ve seen Cassie from the Satanic blogosphere write a post touching on Satanism and Taoism back in 2013. Now, this is a peculiar thing because when you think about Satanism, Taoism, and Tantra, you’d note that there aren’t very many doctrinal similarities between. Both Tantra and Taoism preclude the egoism, both ethical and ontological, that is usually seen in baseline Satanism, so what is the connect? Well, usually the connection is made in various themes. It could be the absence of an over-bearing, authoritative God or the identification of an Absolute with the Supreme Godhead. With Taoism there is the Tao and an emphasis on Nature, and while Satanists don’t necessarily worship Nature they often do honor it to some extent. There’s also the emphasis in Taoism on how self-cultivation is to be pursued independent of the rigid social pieties that Confucianism upholds. One could also make the point about how Taoism had been banned and driven underground by the Confucian Christians who ruled the Republic of China, which existed in what is now called Mainland China between 1912 and 1949. With Tantra, it’s trickier but I would guess the theme would involve the possibility of aligning yourself with the divine in a way through the transcendence of various religious restrictions, and the view of sex as not merely sanctionable but also purposive in relation to religious fulfillment. This by itself establishes no doctrinal connection, but what if, if there is a connection, it is not a doctrinal connection at all, but instead something broader, dare I say, archetypal, as sister doctrines within the same inclusive spiritual-philosophical absolute (similar to Law and Chaos in the SMT series, only perhaps more complicated and less binary, being real life after all)?
It is an idea that I have been meditating on, and to be honest I don’t think I have the precise answer to that question just yet. However, perhaps we have clues in one god in particular who is sometimes identified with Satan or Lucifer by those within the Left Hand Path – the Greek god Dionysus. Why Dionysus? Well Dionysus does have some very real correspondence with the god Shiva, who is typically the favored god for Tantra enthusiasts. Both of them were worshipped through the phallic image, signifying fertility and life – the Rural Dionysia, one of the most ancient celebrations of Dionysus, involved participants carrying phalluses among other things, which may have led Heraclitus to associate the worship of Dionysus with the phallus, while the Rig Veda chastises the people it calls Shishnadevas, worshippers of a phallic object that may have been associated with a non-Aryan deity identified with Shiva or Rudra. Both have an association with the defiance of authority in some way – the cult of Dionysus was a often assigned with the breaking of the rules and upending of hierarchies, to the point that in Rome one of his names was Father Liber, and his contrasting god Apollo became an emblem of Roman authority with Marsyas, the satyr he flayed alive, was a taken as a warning against those who criticize authority, while Shiva sometimes associates with commoners, vagabonds, and delinquents who mock the rule of the Brahmins and is “accused of teaching the secrets of wisdom to the humble”. And it is perhaps the link to sex, liberty and undifferentiated nature that leads people to link the cult of Dionysus with Shaivism and Tantra. Does this, then, establish an archetypal clue? A Dionysian absolute?
I hope that by reading some Jung and some Kerenyi I might acquire the answers I seek.
Sometimes when I check my emails I get notifications from the website of Hells Headbangers Records, probably because of one time when I bought a Rigor Mortis T-shirt from them. I don’t typically complain. Hells Headbangers is a venerable metal label responsible for the distribution of countless classic metal albums, both old and new, and the emails I get from them keep me somewhat up to date about what they release, a lot of which, though, consists of re-releases of classic albums, but it is often useful in that it sometimes alerts me to bands that I hadn’t heard of beforehand. As is my instinct as a metalhead what then follows is a trip to Metal Archives or somewhere to do some light research. In that spirit, the most recent instance of this is an email telling me about a band called Abhomine, a black/metal band based in Florida, USA. Through some light research I learned about one of its members, Pete Helmkamp, and the fact that he wrote a book called The Conqueror Manifesto: Capricornus Teitan, and it’s from there that we learn about his fascist ideas.
Helmkamp is fairly prolific in the intersection between black metal and death metal. Before Abhomine, he was in more famous black/death metal bands such as Order From Chaos, Angelcorpse, and Revenge, the last of which is considered to be a pioneer in a subset of black/death metal referred to as bestial black metal (or “war metal”), which is even more extreme than garden variety black metal, death metal or any mixture thereof – the basic distinction lies in the significant influence of grindcore on the overall sound, which tends to be generally more chaotic, frenetic, and brutal than baseline black metal or death metal. To summarize, bestial black metal is not simply what you get when you mix black metal and death metal; it’s what you get when to mix black metal, death metal and crack cocaine.
The main focus here is his book, The Conqueror Manifesto, which seems to have been published in 1993 under the alias Seirizzim. In his book, he advocates a philosophy aimed at helping mankind reach a new stage in human development that he terms Homo Deus, which Feldkamp defines as the stage in which he is free from mythological thinking and morality. On the surface, his philosophy doesn’t seem that different from baseline Satanism, at least judging from what extracts from the book I can find. He bases his doctrine on “self-will”, which sounds like the kind of rebranding of Nietzschean will-to-power that would fit pretty much perfectly within Satanic philosophy, and the doctrine of might makes right certainly isn’t out of place in baseline Satanism. But from reading interviews with Pete Feldkamp about his philosophy, it’s clear that there are other undertones that are seemingly unique to his philosophy, and which reveal deep fascist leanings. We can gain key insights into his thinking via an interview he took part in with the Finnish metal zine Isten, which seems to have been undertaken during his time in Order From Chaos.
When asked about the mentality of the average American, which the interviewer characterizes as pathologically hypocritical, Feldkamp declares nearly all of humanity to be a slave race and that “only the elite ASTR will have the necessary strength and wisdom to rule”. What is ASTR? Later in the interview, Helmkamp tells us that ASTR stands for Arya Serpent Theos Race, which he believes to be a European race that once ruled much of the ancient world – he cites the Central Asian steppes, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Egypt and North India as their supposed original territory. If that’s not enough he also seems to believe that Chinese civilization has European rather than Asiatic roots, citing the alleged discovery of mummified Europeans dating back to 2000 BC as proof. What this thesis comes down to when you think about it for about five minutes is the idea that Europeans ruled the Old World, which can be taken to mean that the white race, or “Aryans”, (what else could Arya refer to?) once ruled the world. If you think that seems uncharitable, just look at the way he endorses Adolf Hitler in that interview as a man who had “incredible” ideas. He even cites his sense of Germanic identity (the name Helmkamp being apparently of German extraction) as an influence on his way of thinking and acting. Therefore, Helmkamp is an ethnocentric fascist, nay, a neo-Nazi of some type, and it is laughable then that in the same interview he claims that his idea of “Heretic Supremacy” as not based on racial supremacy. There’s also something he said in an interview with Voices from the Darkside, wherein he appears to give a soft defence of eugenics:
We burn cattle in England because of a terrible contagious disease. Do we burn humans in Africa because of a terrible contagious disease? We proscribe birth control to koala bears in Australia after we allowed the population to grow out of control. Firstly, wouldn’t bullets be cheaper, and then we could utilize the meat. Secondly, do we proscribe birth control to humans that we allow to grow out of control? We proscribe rice. Indeed. Evolution does not happen over night.
During the mid-1990s, Helmkamp and The Unsane (from the Dutch black metal band Bestial Summoning) formed a group promoting his philosophy called the Heretic Supremacist Brotherhood. Take note also of this flyer they released, which seems to have been released at around the time of the release of Helmkamp’s manifesto in 1993.
As you can see, what is presented is a synthesis of Satanism, the doctrine of Aleister Crowley, Nietzschean philosophy, and the writings of Adolf Hitler. It’s generally a good rule of thumb that if you cite Mein Kampf as a key inspiration for your philosophy, and indeed you refer to your own doctrine as “following in the wake of Mein Kampf”, you’re a Nazi. In addition to this is the inclusion of the writings of Adam Parfrey, a fascist and a supporter of eugenics who in turn was beloved by fascists.
You will also notice references to OLHP, meaning the Order of the Left Hand Path. The Order of the Left Hand Path is a fascist Satanist group founded by Kerry R. Bolton in 1992. This group existed for a few years before reconstituting as Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, which then went on to become fairly influentual in the black metal underground of the early-to-mid-1990s. Bolton seems to have originally been a member of the Temple of Set, but left the group after some sort of dispute with other members. I imagine this dispute must have had something to do with his neo-Nazi beliefs because, prior to founding the Order of the Left Hand Path, Bolton had already been deeply involved in neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movements since the 1970s, and from there went on to have a whole network of Satanic Nazis surrounding him. In 1994, Bolton also started another Satanic Nazi organization known as Black Order, which served as a sort of on-the-ground activist movement intended to mobilize groups of like-minded Satanic Nazis, including artists and musicians, to advance their ideological goals. And if you needed some idea of the nature of Bolton’s Nazi ideology, know that he believed that the world was being dominated by what he called a “Puritan-Jewish aristocracy” seeking to impose a New World order by creating a docile and consumeristic mass via the three prongs of laissez-faire capitalism, communism, and multiculturalism, and that only Nazism and fascism could serve as effective opposition against these forces. Furthermore he published several pro-fascist books through Realist Publications and Renaissance Press, distributed a series of National Socialist texts from David Myatt from the Order of Nine Angles, and issued a rerelease of Savitri Devi’s The Lightning and the Sun. He even founded a Thelema-oriented group called The Thelemic Society in 1996, which sought to establish Thelema as a “fighting creed” for his ideology.
The doctrine of the OLHP/OSV seems to be based on an extrapolation of Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch (or Overman, the next stage of human development which would overcome the perceived decadence and egalitarianism of the “last man”), in that it bases its philosophy on the idea of the Higher Man, a sort of midway between the ordinary man and the Ubermensch which serves as a nexus of transition to the Ubermensch. The goal of the Satanist in this doctrine is to start the path of embodying the Higher Man, which means withdrawal from mass society, and to create what it deems the Faustian Civilization, their name for a society which discards the various doctrines they despise (Christianity, liberalism, socialism, human rights, egalitarianism, humanism, democracy, the “welfare state” and so forth) and expunges those they deem to be inferior through eugenicsn programs, ruled by an elite composed of what it deems to be “Faustian heretics”, who through their governance will usher in the arrival of Homo Galactica, the genetically engineered successor to mankind. Just the reference to Homo Galactica is a suggestion of heavy influence from the Order of Nine Angles, whose whole schtick concerning Satanism is that it is supposed to be the religion of a space-faring Aryan empire who will conquer the universe. One main difference though is that Nietzsche is directly emphasized in OLHP/OSV in a way that he wasn’t in other groups, and they even refer to Nietzsche as “Satan’s hammer”. The organization offered courses on their version of Satanism that were taught via Collegium Satanas, which taught that Satan was an archetypal opponent of stasis and conformity (pretty much the same doctrine the Church of Satan teaches), that Nietzschean philosophy is the cornerstone of Satanism to the point that Nietzsche was the primary basis of Anton LaVey’s own philosophy, that Satanism is an anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian doctrine that seeks to bring about a god-man race through eugenics, and that the Faust who sold his soul to Mephistopheles was based on the Norse god Odin. Despite being founded by a neo-Nazi, the OLHP wasn’t a completely fascist organization, as suggested by a schism that involved a member named Tani Jantsang, who was a Marxist Satanist (yes, that apparently exists) and the creator of a group called the Satanic Reds which blended Satanism with communist ideolgy and various Eastern religious/spiritual influences – indeed, they are notable for their thesis that Satan comes from the words Sat and Tan, which they claim to be Vedantic words and concepts. The Sat-Tan doctrine is clearly visible in the writings of Kerry Bolton and the OLHP as is suggested by Bolton’s reference to this theology in a 1993 edition of Key of Alocer, a New Zealand-based underground black metal zine, though it seems this influence was apparently discarded in 1994 when the OLHP became Ordo Sinistra Vivendi.
There appears to be quite a bit of crossover between Feldkamp and a network of Satanic Nazis who promote their own idiosyncratic takes on what is otherwise the philosophy of the Order of Nine Angles and even Anton LaVey in parts, all united in what seems to be a synthesis of Satanic philosophy and esoteric racialist politics. And thus, what we have in Feldkamp is an avatar of a type of racialist Satanism that had been developing and growing back in the early 1990s, where it co-habitated with elements of the black metal underground. What’s also troubling is the knowledge that, for a time, Hells Headbangers Records sold Felkamp’s Conqueror Manifesto on their website, thus giving his brand of Satanism a platform.
I was meaning to write this post much sooner, after Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den was released on Vimeo, but I became busy over the last few weeks, dealing with personal matters in large part, and I got little time to sit down and watch the film. And then, as I was writing this post, the election in the UK drew closer and closer, so I decided wait until after the election, when I wrote my commentary on the election results, before publishing this post. But now, at last, I can present my thoughts on the film, and the rather morbid discoveries about the Church of Satan I made as I began writing about it.
Back in April of this year I became aware of an Indiegogo campaign started by Carl Abrahamsson to crowdfund a film project entitled Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den. Abrahamsson apparently met LaVey at some point in 1989, and the angle of this documentary, in contrast to other documentaries about LaVey or the Church of Satan, is to bring forward a perspective about LaVey by those who knew him closely, and others who seem to continue the work he left behind after he died. After many months of waiting since then, it seems that the documentary is finally out and available to watch online on Vimeo, which I did. What follows is a review of what I saw.
Right off the bat I get the sense that this film has a rather gushing take on LaVey, as evidenced by the way the opening screen describes the film as “the titillating tale of one courageous character who took on an entire world of stupidity and mediocrity”. But we also get this sense from the way Abrahamsson introduces LaVey and his work early in the film. He describes encountering The Satanic Bible as a teenager, through an apparent interest in occultism, American pop culture and generally weird things, and he describes his love for the book as a primer of magical manipulation that in his view scared the simple minded. The sense of elitism isn’t lost on me, I think. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure LaVey shocked many people in his time, but, as you’ll soon see, the fear and awe I think is largely misplaced among both the masses of the time and LaVey’s ardent supporters.
For now though, let’s note that we learn quite a bit of how Carl presumably came to know LaVey – through his rock band, which was called The White Stains, and a friend named Genesis P-Orridge, the famous experimental musician of the band Psychick TV. In 1988, The White Stains released a song entitled Sweet Jayne, which was apparently all about an actress named Jayne Mansfield, who had a romantic relationship with Anton LaVey at one point in time, and then Carl sent that song to LaVey on the advice of Genesis P-Orridge, and LaVey then inducted Carl as a member of the Church of Satan.
Anyways, the actual movie appears to be a series of interviews from people who knew LaVey and talk about him. Hardly something that isn’t for the “faint of heart” whoever they may be, but I digress. The first interview is conducted with a woman named Blanche Barton, who is Magistra Templi Rex at the Church of Satan and the last romantic partner Anton LaVey had before he died. What’s interesting is how, in the start of her interview, she recounted hearing of LaVey through The Satanic Bible, which she discovered through her interest in witchcraft, and she thought of LaVey as being rather full of himself initially, and was not initially very interested in The Satanic Bible, and it was only after a book called The Devil’s Avenger: A Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey was released that she began to learn more about him, and began to praise him for his apparent love of life, and his disdain for conventional Christianity, and after reading about other Satanists she felt his philosophy begin to make sense to her. Another individual, a writer named Robert Johnson, author of The Satanic Warlock, praised him for “having the balls” to write The Satanic Bible. Another, LaVey’s secretary Margie Bauer, praised LaVey as someone who thinks the way that she thought for her whole life. Several individuals speak of LaVey as having been a major part of their respective lives through their discovery of him and The Satanic Bible or other books of his during their youth. Peter Gilmore, current leader of the Church of Satan, described his encounter with The Satanic Bible, and feeling an immediate sense of resonance towards the book, and its dramatic flair.
The first fifteen minutes of interviews consists of a very autobiographical lens from the many individuals shown in the film, and after this Carl takes over to narrate about how we must understand Satanic philosophy by beginning with the early life of Anton LaVey. It’s recounted that LaVey grew up by a place called Playland in San Francsico (also known as Playland at the Beach), which was basically a big amusement park that hosted all sorts of rides, attractions and music until it was closed down in 1972, and also visited the Golden Gate Exposition in Treasure Island. Like many boys at the time he liked the rides and the escapism, perhaps as he got older he appreciated the “girly shows” featuring scantily clad ladies. One thing I find worthy of note is that Carl notes that those shows immersed you in the promise that you would be getting more than you actually got, which honestly tells me that those shows were a giant tease at best and debatably false advertising at worst and then based on that it’s pretty weird that LaVey would come to join the circus and form his philosophy in part based on the imprint that this left him. More than that, apparently we get the sense that his interest in the occult came directly from his time working in the circus, or according to Carl the lessons about human psychology he learned from working at the circus (which essentially boils down to “people need to let off steam”).
One other noteworthy thing about the documentary as a whole is that it’s not solely a third-person account of LaVey’s life and beliefs. At certain points, we find the documentary interspersed with clips of Anton LaVey during interviews. The first of which is him explaining his beliefs about Satan, where he explains that for him Satan represents everything that is rebellious, pioneering, “achievement-oriented” and critical, as well as cynical and questioning – essentially, that LaVeyan take on what is basically the John Galt archetype that Ayn Rand already gave us. One of the guests notes that LaVey’s concept of Satan is an examination of the fact that many of the pleasurable things in life have been rendered Satanic by conventional religions, and then essentially LaVey decided that if that’s the case then he should be a Satanist. Of course what he must not have realized is that this in fact resigns him to Christian morality via its shadow rather than representing the fight against Christianity, but I digress. I don’t like the fact that another guest makes the claim that LaVey reached back into “primeval philosophy” to form his own intellectual family tree, because the reality of it is that this just isn’t true. We know for a fact where LaVey got his ideas from: Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ragnar Redbeard, Playboy, and carny culture. It wasn’t the continuation of a heritage of ancient philosophy or anything like that, it was effectively just an eclectic modern product drawn from specific 19th-20th century philosophies, hedonism and popular culture. But for all this, LaVey is praised as having a better understanding of human nature. Then we talk about artifical human companions and “total environments”, but also some more respectable talk about the decadence of Christian institutions such as the Catholic Church. It’s easy to see that LaVey came across as a striking figure to the people being interviewed, offering a new perspective on the Christian culture, and life more generally, that had not yet been unleashed to the world, and thus it activated quite a few imaginations, even if for some of the wrong reasons. As a side-note, one interesting point Blanche Barton does bring up is the point of rule by “poor me syndrome”, which, of course, is a rather apt descriptor of how bourgeois liberal politics operates nowadays. Though honestly, I think many of the guests LaVey too much credit for what is otherwise observed to be the great liberalization of society, the effects of which have been observed by many for decades. Even the “poor me syndrome” type has had a certain public consciousness for decades that isn’t neatly attributable to LaVey, and in fact has been capitalized on by his Christian conservative enemies throughout the 1990s and beyond.
At a certain point we arrive upon the subject of the Church of Satan and its establishment, as well as the attention that this garnered from the media. One curious detail sticks out. In the news clip featuring a Satanic wedding between two socialites, the narrator commented that the wedding appeared to smack of a publicity stunt, on account of the fact that, the very next day, the couple acquired a conventional wedding license. Arguably a minor detail in the context of the film as a whole, but nonetheless moderately significant in the context of the Church of Satan more generally, suggesting that the many socialites who became curious about the Church of Satan had no real attachment to Satanism as a tradition, and instead simply became attracted to it as a nexus of bourgeois or petit-bourgeois hedonism. Through this, we still get expositions of philosophy, and at that, LaVey’s characterization of the ideal Satanic society, which is to say a stratified society in which, for him, individuals would be free to live in “total environments” of their own chosing. What is a total environment? Well, in LaVeyan Satanist parlance, the total environment appears to be a psycho-magickal space of isolation in which the individual may retreat from the crowd in order to engage in a type of psychological evocation and intellectual decompression through ritual psychodrama involving many aesthetic components, such as fetishism, possibly shared with artificial companions. But you’d never guess this from the examples brought up by LaVey and his followers. In the interview clip, LaVey mentions that successful experiments in the field of total environments have been conducted, and the examples he lists are Disneyland, Disney World (or the Walt Disney World Resort), and Epcot Center, on the grounds that they basically serve as a kind of escapism (or as he puts it they allow individuals to play a role suited to their lifestyle and happiness).
Now, honestly, this is an aspect of Satanic philosophy that I hadn’t considered, even during my time as an avowed Satanist, but now that I re-examine it, there’s something bothersome about it. I mean, think about it. For a start, all of the examples LaVey gave in that interview clip are extensions of the Walt Disney Company – the Epcot Center, as I’m sure many are familiar with, is part of the Walt Disney World Resort. And of course the Church of Satan’s website offers us the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a chain of theme parks based on the Harry Potter franchise) as another example. This is the total environment in practice? Massive theme parks? I suppose one can’t help but get the impression that this is a product of his upbriging adjacent to Playland at the Beach, but what we’re talking about, let’s face it, is consumerism. And not only that, consumerism peddled to us by multinational corporations. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? But beyond theme parks, the Church of Satan’s website also offers such examples as virtual reality, the video game industry, and ancient Rome, which had many forms of entertainment designed to distract the populace, including the infamous gladiatorial games. Essentially, what this means is that the freedom that LaVey describes with total environments is only the freedom to disengage from society and collective action and submerge into consumerism, in order that one might distract oneself from the harsh realities of life – or, perhaps, the iniquities, subjections and machinations of a state that has immense power over you, the individiual. The latter is particularly relevant when dealing with the fact that LaVey asks for a society built on stratification. In essence, what we get from this is a vision of a society in which you are a subject within a rigid social hierarchy, and those at the top have incredible power over you and have quite a bit of license to do as they do (even in my Satanist days I’ve never been keen on this aspect of LaVey’s thought), and your only real liberty thus consists of, essentially, consumerism. I’m sad to say that this is not a liberating vision for society. In fact, if anything it almost reads like a mirror of bourgeois society, perhaps a chilling vision of the future to come as capitalism reaches its futuristic phase at a time of almost total consolidation of power. In other words, a dystopian, totalitarian nightmare where the pleasure principle rules supreme that it may obscure power and its mechanisms from the masses. But what did LaVey’s followers and admirers make of this? Not much apparently.
Michael Moynihan (yes, that Michael Moynihan) talks about “good guy badges” and some such about the incongruity between the good guys and their wicked private lives, which is fine and all until you remember that this guy edited collections of writings from James Mason, the neo-Nazi who wrote the infamous book Siege and also happened to be a convicted and admitted paedophile (he was arrested for and gled guilty to sexually abusing a teenager and possessing child pornography). Peggy Nadramia talks about how LaVey said “the animals should be our gurus”, which apparently meant that we should observe animal behaviour in order to understand our own priorities – itself a somewhat salient point, but one that ironically serves to betray LaVey’s philosophical ideals (if you observe ravens, for example, you’ll find that they are a highly monogamous species that punishes cheating, and if you observe most species more generally you find they embrace cooperation over internal competition). The general argument seems to be that because tigers don’t think about whether or not they’ve sinned that we shouldn’t either. But even though humans are animals, we are not the same animals, and we have developed complex moral thinking as part of our evolutionary development. I mean, put it this way, why would the bird, if it considered its own behaviour, think to emulate the nature of the fish? They are of different species, with different sets of behaviours. But no one really talks about the implications of a stratified social order supported by consumeristic escapism. Instead we move on to the subject of artifical companions, meaning of course robots, vis-a-vis a clip of LaVey talking about how he strived to make robots of people that would be more interesting and “palatable” than real humans. In LaVey’s ideal society, everyone will have a robotic companion (which he dubs a “real companion”) custom-made to their desires, and he thinks that’s a positive because everyone wants to feel better than someone else. What he describes is not real friendship, or companionship, or any kind of relationship other than a one-sided master-servant relationship between a conscious, sentient being and an automaton, and it cannot be any other way because, despite all the hype around artificial intelligence, a machine cannot truly emulate human intelligence nor possess consciousness. The automation can never be the equal of Man, and in some ways perhaps LaVey implicitly knows this which is why he makes no attempt to frame the robotic companion as the ultimate equal of their human counterpart.
Then for some reason we move rather hastily on to music, or the idea of what “satanic music” should be. LaVey in an interview clip describes “satanic music” as music that “elicits a gut reaction” (which honestly could apply to any music), “sends a shiver down somebody’s spine” (again, almost any music), and music that really gets people thinking or feeling about something (almost any music). All of this can be applied to many non-satanic forms of music, so what’s so special here? Peter Gilmore talked about LaVey’s fascination with classical music and his tendency to practice the songs of Wagner and the like, and then we get to another clip about how real satanic music isn’t rock and roll, but instead a selection darkly-themed classical music songs (such as The Mephisto Waltz, Danse Macabre, Night On Bald Mountain and others), along with several other classical musicians, some of whom may have written songs about the Devil. Which of course gives the impression that satanic music is just classical music that’s about Satan, or something. Also there’s talk about music being a type of ritualism, and that Satanism in its foundations emerged from just the right aesthetic confluence associated with certain forms of music, but that’s about the extent of it.
Our next stop is when LaVey in an interview clip begins talking about the occult, and noted that the occult section of book stores consisted of things like dream books, books on fortune-telling and similar affairs, and how the only books about calling up spirits involved marshalling the protective names of Jehovah – in other words, traditional ceremonial magick. Poor LaVey doesn’t seem to have had much effect on your average book shop today – the spirituality section at Waterstone’s, probably the closest thing to an occult section there is, is not too different, it’s full of books about New Agery and whatnot, and the closest thing to the magick he might like is essentially just petit-bourgeois books on Wicca. And then of course we talk about magick, and how it worked. Well, actually, exactly how it worked insodar as the actual practical effect it had upon the external world isn’t discussed so much as just the premise that, well, it worked, and then we just move on to the Black House for some reason – about the fireplace that led to the bar, LaVey’s proclivity to mock even his fellow Church of Satan members, and how one of his guests thought there was a camera above the toilet, that perhaps might have been there for the purpose of voyeurism.
Then we come to talking about sex, a topic introduced by LaVey describing his attitude towards orgies, how he simply wasn’t particularly excited by them and how they aren’t a prerequisite to Satanism, instead the prerequisite being Epicureanism, by which he means “Epicurean sex”, which for him simply means you’re fussy about sex partiners – which is really a rather creative but also grossly reductive interpretation of the actual philosophy of Epicureanism. Seriously, read about Epicurus; there’s parts of his philosophy that almost line up with Buddhist philosophy at times, which I don’t think LaVey would have appreciated if he had known given that his philosophy is in many ways the total opposite of Buddhism. At first not much about his sexual philosophy is discussed beyond how sexy his book The Satanic Witch was, except for when Blanche Barton discusses how LaVey had “witch classes” or some such to teach women how to manipulate the minds of men to their desires – in other words how to teach women use men. It later seems that this also sort of relates to his opposition to feminism, which for my money is at least still one of his more salient positions. He evidently disagreed with a certain idea about women trying to emulate masculinity that was emerging in popular culture during the 70s and onwards, partly because to do so contradicts the nature of most women, but in his case it had more to do with the idea that it took away the specific power that women had that men did not, which Blanche does explain rather curiously terms of companionship and of woman being of the “right hand man” of men and leaders. Later on though we do get into the depths of LaVey’s general tolerance of just about any sex involving consenting adults, and to that end most sexualities (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and so forth).
We touch on Jayne Mansfield again, how LaVey considered her a sex goddess, how she was supposedly an active member of the Church of Satan before her untimely death in 1967, and how her death was not the result of a curse on his part. Much has been said about Mansfield’s death and the car crash that killed her, and it is apparently still the subject of mystery, but I think it goes without saying that her death wasn’t the work of a curse. Not just because curses don’t actually work, but because even within the occult community LaVey just wasn’t capable of a curse that would have that effect, or at least that’s what I get from Kenneth Anger, who claims that LaVey wasn’t powerful enough a magician to curse people into their deaths. In the same interview clip LaVey mentions that he was also interested in Marilyn Monroe, and that she had a profound interest in the dark side, however there is no evidence that Marilyn Monroe and Anton LaVey were ever together.
And then we return what honestly strikes me as the red thread of the movie: LaVey the aesthete. Carl narrates about the aesthetics of LaVeyan Satanism being drawn from a cavalcade of neo-noir films and dark photography, and the points to a film called Freaks, which was released in 1932 and directed by Tod Browning. In yet another interview clip from LaVey, LaVey talks about how he considered it to be a satanic movie because it apparently centered around the theme of retribution, the doctrine of lex talionis, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. This incidentally is the first time in the whole film that this subject comes up, even within the scope of discussing the philosophy of Satanism. But the guests don’t appear to talk about that, they just talk about the film itself, and how they were fascinated by it. One guest even remarks how LaVey never talked to him about Satanism, Satan, witchcraft or any related subjects, but did talk to him about movies, movie directors and similar subjects. LaVey also liked to claim that film-noir itself was a satanic genre.
Then we talk about a famous interview that Anton LaVey did with Joe Pyne, and how LaVey handled himself during the interview. Pyne was notorious for his confrontional persona in his shows. His shows occaisionally devolved into violent outbursts, and at one point, while interviewing a black militant, he revealed on-air that he had concealed a handgun in his coat, and then his guest did the same, and in general he has a habit of ridiculing guests he disagrees with. So one could imagine LaVey would have a challenging time on Pyne’s show, but he seemed to be quite calm in the face of Pyne’s obnoxiousness. And then this segues into a broader tangent about people misunderstanding LaVey, how it became fashionable to misunderstand, which I’m sure was the case all the time. I think it’s worth noting that one of the guests notes that terms like “Satan”, “Satanism” or “Satanic” appealed to people who felt that there was something fake about the world around them as a sort of uncorrupted expression of this sentiment, and that such a concept could never be sanitized and made safe by consumerism. Well it’s been quite a long time since LaVey showed up and made his mark, and now the Church of Satan is embraced by liberals as a snarky Twitter persona and The Satanic Temple has reinvented Satanism as a force that is safe for a type of progressive politics that remains friendly to consumerism and the current system. Oh and not to mention that you can still sell plenty of metal music these days with the moniker of Satan slapped on it, and most bands don’t even believe in Satanism (to be honest I’m not even sure how many black metal bands really believe in it). So yeah, he’s pretty much wrong on that point. Peter Gilmore at one point says that the philosophy of The Satanic Bible was deliberately misrepresented by people who already read it and decided they opposed so that it could not be understood by the public, because they felt threatened by it as an alternative to their belief system. Well I’m sure that might been going through the minds of many Christian ideologues, but other than that the idea strikes me as an expression of self-importance.
And then, of course, we talk about Satan himself, the central object of Satanism, and here it seems Carl describes the appeal of Satan with a remarkable lack of ontological import. For him the value of Satan comes less from any actual values contained within the archetypal resonance of Satan but rather just the fact that he provoked Christians by virtue of being the bad guy in the Christian mythos. This for him was proof that Satan is a kind of “bullshit detector”, though really it’s just proof that we are dealing with a framework that cannot escape the shadow of Christianity. And in relation to the theme of identification with Satan, Blanche Barton points to examples of LaVey being approached by those who asked him “why not call it something other than Satanism?” on the grounds that it would be less controversial, and points out that being controversial was basically the point, and that by employing the concept of Satan you are using the power of language to thwack the initiate over the head with the unvarished form of the idea. As usual Blanche’s explanations tend to have quite a bit more content or even substance to them than the other guests, but ultimately we still see that the point is essentially contrarianism. Margie Bauer points out something similar, but with a much bigger tell towards pathological elitism, saying that the reason the Satanist chooses the term Satanism over Humanism is because the whole point is to alienate those who aren’t inclined towards your philosophy or exist within normalcy and stratify accordingly. Even LaVey himself seems to establish this in a later interview clip wherein Satan appears to be defined principly as opposition to just about any popular trends. But for all that one guest boasts that he’ll be taken seriously by anyone who reads him. One is tempted to say “if only”, but honestly I haven’t been able to return to The Satanic Bible for instance and look at it the same way I once did. I get the sense from that one guest that honestly the world is to be divided between those who read LaVey and agree with him, and those who disagree with him and are deemed to just not have read him, or not read him “correctly”. In the overall, the point is established quite clearly: only “a certain type of person” will and is supposed to embrace Satanism.
There’s also the broader point only by invoking Satan could an atheist have any real impact on the consciousness of society. Peter Gilmore says that you can throw a boulder in the pond with Satanism, but with baseline atheism or humanism you through only a pebble. And the problem with this, historically speaking, is that this isn’t really true. Sure Satanism made an impact on the public consciousness in that it shocked the masses to a certain extent, but this never translated to widespread popular support. By contrast, the more baseline atheists didn’t have a small impact as Peter Gilmore believes, in fact secularists have made major ripples in the public consciousness via major public debates about theism and atheism, and many atheist thinkers have since become and remain quite popular, certainly more popular than LaVey and the like have managed to become. So this thesis that LaVey’s followers have simply did not prove itself correct.
We then return to the red thread of LaVey the aesthete, which then leads us to the conclusion that Carl himself is rather the aesthete given that he was sort of lulled into Satanism in a sense by a reading of some dark poetry set to some dark music, and from there we’re also brought to a man named Adam Parfrey, who was an acquaintance of Carl’s. Now who is Adam Parfrey exactly? I covered him a bit in a post I wrote about The Satanic Temple last year, but basically he is the guy who ran a publishing company called Feral House, which deals in “forbidden” subject matter, and who also happens to be either a fascist or at least fascist-adjacent. Parfrey was friends with Boyd Rice, who in turn worked closely with actual white supremacists such Bob Heick and Tom Metzger and was himself a self-identified fascist, and he was a member of Rice’s Abraxas Foundation, which promoted an ideology based in totalitarianism and social Darwinism (in other words, fascism). Another buddy of his was a man named Nick Bougas, the man who made those infamous “Happy Merchant” illustrations which demonize Jews as schemers against white people under the alias A. Wyatt Mann. Through his Feral House company he published the works of Michael J Moynihan, who, although he denies being a far-righter and a fascist, himself edited the works of James Mason and Julius Evola, was for a time a member of the Abraxas Foundation, and is the editor of a journal called Tyr which combines reconstructionist/traditionalist paganism with third-positionist (which basically just means fascist) ideology, and apparently he even criticized Boyd Rice because he thought he was only aesthetically fasicst, as well as Robert Stark, a fascist who chats with people like Greg Johnson (from the alt-right website Counter-Currents) about eco-fascism.
Parfrey’s own work also contains elements of fascist ideology. In his book, Apocalypse Culture, he published many essays that were apparently attributed to fascists and fascist organizations, such as “Long Live Death” from the Abraxas Foundation, an essay called “The Christian Right, Zionism and the upcoming Penteholocaust” by a far-right Christian named Gregory Krupey and even “A New Dawn Has Come…” which is a selection of quotes from literally Adolf Hitler. The book also contains in various places several quotations from fascists such as Savitri Devi, Dan Burros, Boyd Rice, and Oswald Spengler, and also contains numerous posters for neo-Nazi groups such as the National Socialist Liberation Front (which James Mason was a member of during the 1970s) as well as a lionizing portrait of Hitler. Of course the book does not consist solely of fascist and far-right voices, as suggested by the inclusion of an essay from the anarchist Hakim Bey and the communist Red Brigades, suggesting in theory that the book is a platform for all sorts of ideological extremists, but despite this it does seem that the book consists of a lot of fascist authors and quotations. One of his own essays in that book is called “Eugenics: An Orphaned Science”, which cites Adolf Hitler and a wide variety of eugencists, as well as Plato and the Bible, to defend eugenics. And to top it all off, when Parfrey died he was praised by David Cole, who worked for his Feral House company and was also a Holocaust denier until 1998 (after which he became an activist for the Republican Party), who wrote a puff piece about him on Taki’s Magazine, which is run by a man named Taki Theodoracopulos, a Greek far-right ideologue who publicly defended the Wehrmacht and supports the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party (who he insists are nothing more than the Greek equivalent of UKIP), and also likes the idea of samurais beheading liberals who slight him. So, in short, Adam Parfrey was a fascist, was friends with fascists, promoted the ideas of fascists and was beloved by the far-right.
OK, that having been established. How does this film handle him? Well, his ties to fascism don’t seem to be discussed at all, let’s just get that out of the way. Instead, Michael Moynihan talks about his love of obscure books and photography, and in particular their collaboration on a book called American Grotesque, which is a book about an artist named William Mortensen who was praised by Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible for his dark work. Margie Bauer, of course, had absolutely nothing of substance to say about him. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any tangible discussion of Adam Parfrey other than from Michael Moynihan. Parfrey was mentioned very briefly in the film, and then moments after we begin talking about him everyone just goes back to talking about how great LaVey was and Parfrey is never referred to again. All the more baffling is the fact that this was the case and yet the film was dedicated to Adam Parfrey in addition to Anton LaVey! Of course, given Parfrey’s fascist background, surely the fact that the film would be dedicated to him in itself seems all the more suspect than this fact alone.
One of the last sections of the film appears to be introduced by a clip of LaVey saying that the future of Satanism is assured and that nothing could retard it (except for, you know, the incompetence of the Church of Satan) and that Satanism is here to stay. And from there on out, his guests talk about how his legacy is basically everywhere, which really seems like rather obseqiuous praise to me considering that his legacy has been mostly insular to the Left Hand Path. One of the guests seems to say that his legacy has led to more individual freedom in the world, which of course doesn’t seem true to me considering we live in times where there is if anything less freedom in the world. That same guest basically equates his legacy to that of Tony Robbins, saying that Robbins and people like him all get their schtick from him. Not exactly a credit considering their line of work. Robert Johnson credits him with codifying the way most people already live their lives, which to be honest kind of smacks of that old “you may already be [insert religion here] and don’t even know it” canard that is sometimes employed by cults. Kenneth Anger points to him as proof that generally far out ideas can thrive without censure. Johnson claims that he would be amazed to see the Satanists of today “kicking ass and killing it”, a comment that can only come from self-delusion when you consider the present state of Satanism, dominated by an insufferably politically correct liberal organization, and beneath the surface you find numerous failed Theistic Satanist groups and actual esoteric fascist groups. Towards the end, there’s nothing left but praise of LaVey’s legacy, which I suppose is to be expected.
So in the overall, I don’t know what I was expecting with this film, but it was not a critical reflection of LaVey’s life and legacy. In general, a common thread with many of the guests being interviewed is that they still seem to be spellbound by Anton LaVey. The man has been dead for over twenty years at this point, his organization has failed to realize or proselytize the type of Satanic philosophy that LaVey championed (and indeed this failure began taking shape while LaVey was still alive), but for some reason his followers still seem to be captivated by his philosophy. What I get out of Carl Abrahamsson is that, although he clearly believes in the philosophy of Satanism at least to some extent, he appears primarily drawn to it for aesthetic reasons. It shows in the fact that the rammifications of LaVey’s philosophy are not adequately dealt with, and he does not have his guests discuss this in large part. Instead, a lot of attention is devoted to the aesthetics of Satanism, and him being spellbound by LaVey relates very much to aesthetic experience, rather than philosophical enlightenment. But then he was invited to join the Church of Satan in the first place just because he wrote a song about a lady who LaVey had a brief fling with and LaVey liked it enough for him to be approved as a member. Indeed, I think there is so much in the film that speaks the dark, occultnik aesthete, more than someone looking to consider his philosophical legacy, and some rather shady associations in his time that his guests would never answer for. I still find it telling that things like the doctrine of lex talionis and the Social Darwinist aspects of LaVeyan Satanism, despite being major aspects of LaVey’s philosopy, are never addressed in the entire film by either Carl or the many guests that appeared on the film, not even Michael Moynihan talked about it.
And, being as this film was partially dedicated to an actual fascist (namely Adam Parfrey), I think I may as well use the film to discuss one other detail about LaVey’s life, one that I’ve seen unearthed by some anti-fascists; his association with James Mason, and Mason’s praise of LaVey. I was horrified to find out about it, and, for a while, I couldn’t believe that such a detail would have gone unnoticed not only by myself but also by, well, other Satanists. But I didn’t say anything about it because I thought that the Church of Satan, given their more recent confrontations with some of the online left, would give me reason to have doubts about it. But I haven’t seen them talk about it, and I suppose I couldn’t expect Carl’s film to talk about it either. So I’m going to have to use my platform to talk about this myself.
The cold hard truth that too little Satanists realize is that Anton LaVey personally praised and endorsed James Mason and his work. We know this because there exists a signed copy of The Satanic Bible which features his signature and a comment wherein he praises Mason as “a man of courage and reason”.
And James Mason in turn praised LaVey on numerous occaisions, despite LaVey being of Jewish heritage of course. Mason compared LaVey to George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, on the grounds that apparently both were showmen who used shock and symbolism to advance their ideology, as well as the fact that both of them intended to remain legal actors, avoiding insurrectionary and illegal activity, and supposedly even the idea of Satan itself. Mason praised The Satanic Bible, describing it as “absolutely brilliant” in a 2003 edition of his book Siege. He even quoted Anton LaVey in Siege, and owned a copy of the Satanic Mass LP, which he purchased in 1969. It must be noted that he didn’t stay a Satanist all his life, and has apparently converted to Christianity later in his life, but he still praised Anton LaVey despite this, and it is said that later editions of Siege, such as one edition released as recently as 2017, never removed any praises of LaVey or The Satanic Bible. Now it is true that, besides the signed copy of The Satanic Bible praising Mason, there isn’t a whole lot to say about LaVey’s views on Mason or his book Siege, because LaVey seemingly did not say much about it. But even then, just that detail alone should be rather damning on LaVey’s part given he was willing enough to endorse him. And then Mason isn’t even the only fascist he’s been friends with: he was apparently buddies with James Madole, who was the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party and apparently an early pioneer of esoteric fascism, with whom LaVey spent quite a bit of time at an occult book shop.
And if that’s not enough, the Church of Satan as an organization certainly seemed to have plenty of nice things to say about Mason and his book. Peter Gilmore, the current head of the Church of Satan, wrote a positive review of Siege in volume 27 of The Black Flame, the organization’s magazine, in which he described the book as a “monumental achievement”. He even positively compared Satanists to neo-Nazis by saying that, while Mason is a political extremist, the Satanist is also a religious and philosophical extremist. The Black Flame magazine has also contained spreads featuring artwork glorifying neo-Nazism, such as a painting of Charles Manson as the anti-Christ that was painted by Bill Ehmann Jr, and has also promoted the music of Rahowa, a notorious white supremacist rock/metal band. Gilmore was also seen photographed with Mason in 1992, alongside his girlfriend Peggy Nadramia and Mason’s girlfriend Eva Hoehler. On a related note, Nadramia herself is also known to have softballed neo-Nazism by denying that there is even an emerging threat of neo-Nazi terrorism in the US, and also described Satanists as believing in nature as a fascistic force. Perhaps she can’t really condemn neo-Nazism as a serious threat because many of the church’s members were also Nazis or generally far-right themselves, such as Kurt Saxon, who was a reverend of the Church of Satan and also a member of the American Nazi Party (which incidentally James Mason was also a member of for a while), and who also appeared before the Senate in 1970 to advocate that student protesters be massacred with machine guns and the police and vigilante groups should murder leftists in bombings. When confronted about this, the Church of Satan responds merely by saying that the personal politics of their members are up to them, which suggests that they tolerate violent neo-Nazis in their ranks. Then there’s Ashley Palmer, a Church of Satan reverend who was also the subject of a puff piece on The Independent and runs a fashion company called ASP Culture. He endorsed white nationalism on Twitter, specifically the ideas of Richard Spencer and Identity Europa, adveritses symbols that are blatantly associated with Nazism (such as the Sonnenrad and Wolfsangel), and has openly tweeted “Make Europe Great Again”, a variation of the MAGA slogan which is used by white nationalists. Peter Gilmore himself not only endorsed Siege back in the 90’s, but he also wrote an introduction to a recent edition of Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard (itself a tract known for proto-fascistic and anti-semitic statements) in which he apparently cited James J Martin, a Stirnerite individualist-anarchist who also happened to think that the Holocaust didn’t happen.
Now, take stock for a moment and think about that, because there is a noteworthy point of comparison from this year that we can draw from. Jeremy Corbyn, present leader of the Labour Party, wrote a foreword for a 2011 edition of John A Hobson’s book Imperialism: A Study. The book, although it was taught in academia for many decades and influential to many worthy critics of imperialism, is also notorious for allusions to “men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”, which is very obviously an anti-semitic trope. The book also apparently talks about the elimination or repression of “primitive colonial peoples” and “degenerate or unprogressive races”. Outside of that book Hobson is known for having blamed the war in South Africa on the idea of Jewish racial elites. But whereas Corbyn is condemned, and I’d say correctly so, for his eagerness to endorse such a book and its author, nothing is said of Peter Gilmore’s willingness to endorse a Holocaust denier (or indeed James Mason for that matter). But at least Corbyn made some effort to denounce the more racist aspects of Hobson’s Imperialism, even if in the end his only complaint was that the “language” (not the actual ideas about racialism) was awful. The Church of Satan, on the other hand, won’t even attempt to address the subject except through deflection and condescencion.
What’s more, some Church of Satan members were also revealed to have fascistic beliefs and associations as the result of doxxing by Antifa members. Kenaz Filan, who is a Warlock of the Church of Satan, is a racist troll who likes to post and share anti-black and anti-semitic memes, as well as memes that express support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, on Gab, and in general promotes all manner of ideas associated with the alt-right. Kevin Slaughter, a Magister of the Church of Satan, runs an alt-right account on Twitter and Facebook that goes by the name Satanic American, where he argues for eugenics, race realism, volkisch paganism, and the border wall that Trump wants to build, and against racial egalitarianism, and generally promoting all manner of alt-right material (he even proliferated the idea that the Charlottesville riots were a false flag constructed by the establishment to demonize white nationalists). Slaughter also authored a book called Iron Youth Reader, which is a compilation of writings dominated by reactionaries and fascists like Oswald Spengler, Gustave Le Bon (a reactionary crowd scientist who opposed democracy and talked about a “racial unconscious”), Savitri Devi, and Francis Galton (a eugenicist), and published it through his company Underworld Amusements. He also has a Gab account where he follows Jack Donovan, who believes in “anarcho-fascism”, and the Traditionalist Worker Party, which was a self-described National Socialist party before it disbanded last year. James Sass, another Magister, is another outright fascist who openly praised Nazis such as Otto Skorenzy, supports the ideas of Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, Oswald Mosley, Charles Manson and James Mason (and also made music for Mason’s Necrofascist project), condemned homosexuality by comparing it to necrophilia, opposed democracy and the US Founding Fathers, is an anti-semite who supports Holocaust denial, constructed an altar to the Ebola-chan meme draped in the flag of the NSDAP, and believes Western civilization and popular culture should be annihilated. James Stillwell III, another member and also the author of a book titled Power-Nihilism, posts about white nationalism on Gab, is anti-semitic, and he even supported James Alex Field Jr, the white nationalist terrorist who murdered an anti-fascist protester and injured several others in Charlottesville by running them over with his car. Matt Paradise, yet another Magister, runs an alt-right podcast called The Accusation Party, whose Twitter and Gab accounts brandish the symbolism of Italian fascism, and supports race realism and other alt-right ideas as well as the ideas of Jack Donovan. The Church of Satan has also actively promoted The Accusation Party, despite their claims to being apolitical. Other fascists in the organization include David Williams (a CoS reverend who is so pro-Nazi that he actually has a “favorite Nazi” and also blames humanism for the pedophilic abuses of the Catholic Church), Trevor Blake (who collaborates with Kevin Slaughter), David Harris (who likes Matt Paradise’s alt-right podcast), David Wallace (who endorses the ideas of Jack Donovan), and Vincent Crowley (the lead singer of Acheron who was a priest for a time, promotes NSBM bands and has done an interview with an explicitly neo-Nazi website).
All of these people represent or have represented the Church of Satan in some official capacity, many of them are high-ranking members, some of them occupying the second-highest rank in the Church of Satan (the highest being Magus or Maga), and the Church of Satan itself either tolerates their views on in some cases outright endorses them (Peggy Nadramia, for example, follows and endorses the work of James Sass), and you have a love of James Mason’s Siege that goes right to the top of the hierarchy. None of this is discussed in the film, which is noteworthy because both Gilmore and Nadramia are in the film and speak frequently in it, and of course we never have the opportunity to see them justify some of the less than savory aspects of Satanism, such as the Social Darwinism, and I have to suspect this is because it might lead to a discussion or defence of fascism, given the fact that Social Darwinism is the lifeblood of fascism in many ways, but then why would any of them have a problem with that if they’re truly radical enough to not care about what everyone else thinks? But I suppose it wouldn’t make sense for Carl to bring it up because Carl himself promotes Underworld Amusements, which is run by Kevin Slaughter. The bottom line? The Church of Satan is, and has been for years, an institutionally fascist organization, one which supports fascists and allows them to occupy the top of their hierarchy. The fact that Gavin Baddeley has to say that the relationship between LaVeyan Satanism and fascism is “a complicated one” all the way back in 1999 indicates a problem – if you oppose fascism, then your relationship with fascism shouldn’t be a complicated one. It should be an unequivocably negative one, otherwise you’re giving a soft hand to totalitarian ideology. End of story.
And even if the Church of Satan isn’t institutionally fascist (despite the evidence showing precisely that it is), their membership doesn’t seem to care if they are because they are too nihilistic to concern themselves with anything beyond their personal pleasure. In a 1995 article for Volume 5 of The Black Flame, Blanche Barton responded to concerns about fascist infiltrations of Satanism, which it seems must have already been a concern then as now, by saying “what are we supposed to be? A bunch of kindergarten babies? Are we supposed to be such self-righteous prigs that we can’t stand to see a swastika? By accusing us of fascism, are we supposed to be distracted from the fact that we live in an extremely puritanical, fascistic society?”. This is a kind of soft-balling of fascism similar to the type that we now see in modern classical liberals, built upon a delusion that tells you that, because most people already know fascism is bad, there is no need to point to evidence of fascistic infiltration within your movement, and that to do so smacks of political correctness. But I suppose I should be glad that it isn’t giddily pro-fascist like Peggy Nadramia’s article.
All of this I found out just from researching Adam Parfrey and his fascist associations. It is not in any credible sense difficult to uncover Parfrey’s fascist sympathies, and in so doing I somehow ended up finding out about numerous other fascistic associations within the Church of Satan as an organization. Much of this has also been discussed since before the film was released and before the crowdfunding project for it was launched. With this in mind, Carl’s loving biopic of Anton LaVey amounts to the purest of puff pieces. Very few of the guests come close to a serious reflection of LaVey’s philosophy, and at that it is still mostly positive. The Church of Satan’s ties to fascism and not to mention LaVey’s own are never discussed, they aren’t even mentioned, and nor is the doctrine of lex talionis or “might is right”. It’s my opinion that this is the work of people who are still spellbound by LaVey. Well, those people can continue being spellbound by him if they must, but I just can’t conscionably stand by it.
In January 9th of last year, a YouTuber by the name of Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad) announced that he was planning on starting a new political movement on the internet that he thought would eventually break into mainstream politics in the real world. He called it the Liberalist movement, and we call it Liberalistism because seriously what the fuck is wrong with that name. The rationale for that name was to distinguish himself from modern liberalism because, of course, modern liberalism is too politically correct for him (even though it stems from the same rationale as liberals like Karl Popper who he should be all rights be praising as one of his own). He started a website for the movement not long afterwards, and he would have livestreams talking about the principles of his Liberalist project, and would engage in debates with alt-right YouTubers defending his concept of Liberalistism. But after a few months, nothing ultimately came of it before Carl eventually decided to abandon the project in favour of joining UKIP, and the website had never been updated at any point during the Liberalist saga. There are still accounts that associate with the Liberalist movement, and they still post political content, but beyond that the movement has no bearing on politics, whether on the internet or in real life.
Now you might be wondering, why the hell am I talking about some fat English classical liberal YouTuber? Well, because I fear his failure is eerily echoed into another project: The Global United Nightside Movement.
Last month, I covered this project on this blog, expressing my hopes and fears for the project. I had expected that within a month, maybe we wouldn’t see a fully consolidated mass movement, but at least that the people behind the movement would be at least talking about it. Hell, I expected a website of some kind. But after well over a month, what happened? Nothing. There is no discussion of the Global United Nightside Movement project anywhere. I’ve gone through Thomas Karlsson’s Facebook for updates. No real updates were found, except for maybe a cryptic post about how this year the LHP’ers are supposed to take action, but in what way is not at all clear and still doesn’t really discuss the movement. The only time the movement is actually talked about is in a literal repeat of the same post from August 9th. I check out Don Webb? Nothing. Michael W. Ford? Nothing. Not even his YouTube channel has anything to say about it. Stephen Flowers? Nothing. There is not a single ounce of discussion of this project, despite there evidently being some credible interest in the project, and there is no website for it. In fact, as it stands now, when you type “Global United Nightside Movement” on Google to find out anything about it, you’ve probably discovered my blog as the first thing that pops up.
Now why does this matter exactly? Well a nascent movement of any type needs to have some presence for it to go anywhere. That means discussion of what the project means, or at the very least a website that signifies its existence as a real, potentially credible movement that people can go to and learn about, and possibly become a part of. But no such thing exists. Also, going back to the Liberalist movement, at least Carl Benjamin tried to start something credible with his shitty Liberalist movement. At least he started a website, some Facebook groups, and discussions of Liberalist ideas and strategies. But in the case of Thomas Karlsson’s Global United Nightside Project, there’s nothing, and it’s been well over a month. Carl and his Liberalists are more productive than Karlsson and his crew, and this is a source of grave concern to me given the state of the Left Hand Path movements today.
Think about it: the Church of Satan is doing nothing other than correcting people on Twitter and making money for Peter Gilmore and his wife. Jeremy Crow’s Luciferian Research Society website was doomed to irrelevance outside of the people who already use it due to its failure to change to a new hosting site. There is no news coming from the Assembly of Light Bearers, which leads me to believe that nothing is happening with them. Back in 2015, when they were called the Greater Church of Lucifer they actually came close to having an official church in Texas. But after a harrassment campaign from Christian zealots, their landlord refused to renew the lease that they acquired for the church premises and so the church disappeared. Was there a new church established after this? No. Did the Greater Church of Lucifer do anything after this? No. They got scammed by Jacob McKelvy, reformed into the Assembly of Light Bearers and then proceeded to do absolutely nothing other than reorganize their website. No one is actually doing anything there. Michael W. Ford is still publishing books and Jeremy Crow I think is still giving lectures, but that’s about it. The Temple of Set actually does have something going for it in that Michael A Aquino released a revision of The Satanic Bible, but, as I’ve explained, it represents a push towards some of the most idealist garbage I’ve ever seen outside of esoteric fascism. The Neo-Luciferian Church may as well be dead, because they’ve done absolutely nothing of note and haven’t been active online in a few years, and their websites are either outdated or gone. The Sect of the Horned God still appears to be somewhat active, their website and social pages still post pretty regularly, but other than that they aren’t producing literature and I haven’t seen them do anything outside of the internet. The only group that’s doing anything to affect anything in the real world is The Satanic Temple, and they’re an embarrassment to Satanism – not so much because of their actual activism, as some strive to suggest, but because of their ludicrous liberal identity politics and their serious organizational problems. Of course, the Order of the Nine Angles is doing something alright: they’ve been busy infiltrating neo-Nazi movements.
So, with a few exceptions, it seems to me that nothing is growing in the Left Hand Path movements, and what is growing in the Left Hand Path doesn’t seem to be going in a positive direction. This to me just puts the Global United Nightside Movement in a position of being wasted potential, and the Left Hand Path more broadly in a position of doom. No really. Nothing is growing for us, nothing is developing, no credible movement other than a handful of online actors is manifesting. That’s not to say nothing is happening, per se. Books are still being published, people are still talking about their beliefs and expressing them in some way, but nothing is coaslescing into an effective movement capable of leading the people away from Abrahamism. And why would we be in a position to do that. The major movements don’t even realize that Christianity is coming back and only The Satanic Temple seems to be attempting to do something about that. You’d think that the rise of someone like Jordan Peterson bringing people back to the Christian faith would be motivation for us to fight back and assert our values on a grand scale, to actually wage war with Christianity like we should, but not only has this not happened, but a lot of us ended up liking him and treating him as a subject of serious study, and to be honest I used to be one of those people until I found out about his Maxims for Men. It’s like we shit on The Satanic Temple for being liberals and sometimes rightly so but at the same time we’re not actually fighting for our values like they are.
Yeah, all told, this looks like a hefty dose of reactionary and potentially even fascistic influence, possibly even hinting at a similar type of creationism as Michael Aquino, coming from the key figure behind the Global United Nightside Movement. So what’s the libertarian part exactly? Well he does talk quite a bit about sex and nudity in religious contexts, and opposes the censorship of adult nudity on Facebook, which (to be fair) I agree with him on for the most part, but let’s be honest I find it difficult to believe that he’s in this out of a consistent belief in freedom, if you catch my drift.
Most worrisome of all, and I’m sure this will support my worries about fascism further, is his endorsement of a book about the life and work of Guido von List. Called Wotan’s Awakening: The Life and Times of Guido von List, and forwarded by none other than Michael Moynihan (who, btw, is totally not a fascist), the book appears to be an examination of the legacy of the eponymous 19th-20th century volkisch occultist. But who is Guido von List? The short answer is: he’s the pretty much the grandfather of the type of racist volkisch paganism you find espoused by neo-Nazis and a major inspiration for the Nazi Party. The long answer: Guido von List is the creator of a gnostic racialist volkisch pagan sect that he referred to as Wotanism, which he also designed as the exoteric form of another religion called Armanism, also known as Ariosophy, which is basically a system of occultism centered around the “wisdom of the Aryan race”. Ariosophy is the esoteric core of his doctrine which was meant for the elites while Wotanism is the folk religion that he intended for the masses to believe in. His opposition to Christianity and the Catholic Church did not stem from the philosophical substance of Christianity and the church (or lack thereof), but instead from some racist dribble about Christianity being a foreign religion in contrast to what he believed to be the authentic ancestral Indo-European religion, despite the fact that Christianity as we know it was actually synthesized within the Western world through the transfusion of Hellenistic concepts into Jewish salvationism. Although the Armanists would eventually be purged by the Nazis, von List’s doctrine presaged, and some would say inspired, the spiritual ideology of Nazism through its racialist characteristics, specifically regarding the dominion of the Aryans. He believed in an ideal society that consisted of imperial pan-German rule under a rigid hierarchical society organized along the lines of feudalism and Qabbalistic occultism, with Aryans at the top of the hierarchy and the non-Aryans at the bottom, oppressed by their Aryan overlords. The Aryans would be free of the wage system, relieved of labour and entitled to a life of liberty and dignity (as far as von List would define those things anyway) while their non-Aryan counterparts would be subject to the wage system, robbed of freedom and dignity, and barred from certain jobs and positions and even real citizenship because of their lack of racial purity. In addition to this he believed that the new society should require families to keep detailed genealogical records to prove their racial purity and uphold an authoritarian patriarchal social structure based on the supreme authority of the father. So needless to say he was a fascist, and a proto-Nazi one at that, and apparently Thomas Karlsson thinks it’s a good idea to promote his beliefs within the Left Hand Path. Frankly, if this is the man that Thomas Karlsson thinks has some valuable spiritual insights for us, then I think he should probably not talk about “imperialist religions” anymore.
Now, of course, you might point out that Karlsson is one guy out of the four main people doing this project. Well OK, Don Webb doesn’t seem to have the same worldview as him at least from what I’ve seen, and Michael W Ford doesn’t say much, but the less said about Stephen Flowers, the better, given his belief in the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory. Not to mention that Karlsson appears to be the main figure behind this movement. Thus it is not hard to connect the dots as far as where this movement might be going.
All of this, even at an early stage, makes me worry. I have a sense of foreboding at play. I complained before about how the Order of Nine Angles was pushing fascism, specifically actual neo-Nazism, into the Left Hand Path through subversion, but given that the O9A don’t seem to be involved here, it leads me to suspect that the slide towards esoteric fascism in this space will be the work of Thomas Karlsson’s influence by means of his promotion of Ariosophy and authoritarian hierarchical values. And if this is going to be the main push from our movement towards a united front, I’m left thinking that, perhaps, there is no way out of this one. Maybe esoteric fascism is not merely coming to the Left Hand Path, but in a sense it’s always been with these spaces, and that in this case they’re going to just either tolerate it or say nothing or do nothing to push back against such influences, and there’s nothing I can do about it. At which point, we’re fucked.
I have just been apprised of a new development that is set to undertake within the broader Left Hand Path community. Thomas Karlsson, the Swedish occultist known for his involvement in Dragon Rouge, wrote a Facebook post on Friday announcing the birth of a Global United Nightside Movement. This is not to be taken as a pet project of his, but rather it appears to be a collaboration between Thomas Karlsson and Michael W. Ford (founder of the Assembly of Light Bearers, formerly known as the Greater Church of Lucifer), Stephen Flowers and Don Webb (two prominent and high-ranking members of the Temple of Set). It’s not strictly associated with either Satanism or Luciferianism or any specific Left Hand Path tendency per se, rather it is intended be a movement for all religions that fall under the category of “Nightside Spirituality”, otherwise known as “The Dark Path” or The Left Hand Path. With such leading lights as Karlsson, Ford, Flowers and Webb behind it, you can be assured that this is supposed to be a major project.
Right off the bat, I have a mixed opinion of this pursuit. Unity is a sorely lacking feature in many LHP circles. I’ve heard it once said that we are like a heard of cats. Therefore, it is easy to imagine that we would need to find a source of unity, and thus the idea of a Global Unified Nightside Movement has some appeal in the sense that it might seem to bring such a unity. However, I find it difficult to imagine such unity being possible in the long run. People often chalk it up to just different Satanists or different Luciferians being too different from each other, and in many ways that’s true, but in my view it comes down more to the fact that Satanism, Luciferianism, Setianism or what have you all represent movements that are distinct from each other. They can be thought of similarly to the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, or between Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – all of them can be thought of as belonging to a loose family of faiths, whose relationship is defined by a shared common origin or a shared set of themes, tropes or philosophical and mythological frames of reference, but are ultimately distinct in content and ideology. To me as a Luciferian I find that, in the ultimate analysis, to treat me as being part of a united front with Satanists or Setians seems to be missing the point, especially given that I disagree with a lot of the doctrines from various Satanist organizations nowadays, and I’ve made clear that I do not support Michael Aquino’s particular vision of Satanism. And to be honest, I don’t think I would want to be a part of anything that would ask that I find common cause with the Order of Nine Angles and the degenerates that comprise that fascist cult. Not that I should assume that, of course, but it is worth raising as a concern as regards the theme of unity. My sense of reservation also emerges from my experience as a socialist, having entered into various left-wing spaces via the internet and observed conversations such as the theme of “left-unity”. The left has, historically, never been a united front in the same way that the right has managed to be. Throughout the history of socialism you have Marxists, utopian socialists, social democrats, anarchists, progressives (if you could call them left-wing) and other factions of the left constantly fighting each other over doctrinal differences. In Marxism itself, doctrinal division is also all too common – in my country alone, there are numerous self-identified communist parties, some of them splintering off from each other or existing as splinters from existing socialist parties, and many of them all subscribing to similar doctrines of Marxism-Leninism. Now I’m not quite saying it’s like that for LHP movements, but I derive from my knowledge of the history of socialist politics and of modern leftist spaces a sense of skepticism for any attempt of unity between wide and disparate movements.
That said, although there is little information to go on other than Karlsson’s Facebook post, I believe that there is some potential in the proposal. There is clear ambition and reflection in the project proposal, there is the desire to be a genuine, large-scale spiritual movement, which is something that I respect. There is quite a bit of emphasis on the exoteric aspect of Left Hand Path practice. What I would like to know more about, however, is precisely the exoteric side, the activity and praxis that this entails. We are invited to gather collectively as part of a larger movement dedicated to what is called Nightside Spirituality, but what we could really use is a well-defined plan of action or set of events to go on. I realize it’s early days, and I’m expecting there to be some sort of website or Facebook page or whatever to go with this project, but I still long for more information on the subject.
At the center of my desire to assess this project, however, is the nine constituents that Karlsson outlines in order to break down the essence of the movement. These constituents serve as basic points underpinning the philosophy of the movement. They are as follows:
1) Individual freedom: “The bigger the government – The Smaller the citizen.”
2) Spread the knowledge of The Nightside to those worthy.
3) Support science against superstition.
4) Be Watchmen against imperialist religions.
5) Create strong networks.
6) Inspire to Indiviuation as C.G. Jung called it.
7) preserve and relive the ancient traditions and make them adapted to our times.
8) Support each other.
9) Be loyal to our common taskmaster who has many names.
I like most of these constituents, but I think it’s worth discussing them in more detail.
I won’t lie, the first point is a real eyebrow-raiser for me, due to my familiarity with right-wing politics. Now I’m prepared to give these guys credit by pointing out that the statement “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen” could mean have a number of meanings beyond right-wing libertarianisma and conservatism, and it could just be a generic assertion of the value of individual freedom or liberty, as can be found in left-wing doctrines as well as right-wing doctrines. In fact an argument for left-wing minarchism is very much possible to make, drawing from the works of authors like Anton Pannekoek, Eric Hass, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mihailo Markovic, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves. But when I see talk of “big government vs small government”, it almost invariably comes from right-wingers, and American conservatism/libertarians in particular, and while the discussion of “big government vs small government” is often applied to discussions of individual liberty, in practice the whole point of that theme is economics, specifically the role of the state and its regulations in overseeing market forces within the context of capitalism. “Big government” usually means the expansion of government bureaucracy in theoretical context, but it also tends to . Thus I worry that there is a noticeable right-wing political flavour to this effort by Karlsson and co, which I suppose may be but a broader sign that the Randian framework of the Church of Satan is still subtly at play.
In case you may think I’m being out of line in saying this, consider two things. First, the fact that “big government vs small government” is a theme that only really appears in right-wing circles, and at that it’s mostly an American thing. I almost never encounter it outside of the US, except for in some British conservative circles, particularly the ones partial to Nigel Farage. Second, Stephen Flowers, one of the men behind this project, seems to be intensely right-wing. In his comment to Karlsson’s post, Flowers responds to the point about opposing superstition in which he singularly blames Karl Marx for what he believes to be, a sentiment that echoes the right-wing conspiracy theory known as Cultural Marxism. In fact, if you read Flowers’ book Lords of the Left Hand Path, you will find there are many times where he comments on Marx, Marxism and communism, and he makes claims about Marxist philosophy without ever citing any works from Marx or Engels or any other Marxists, or at least not directly. This is even more telling when you consider that, when he comments on the anarchists and their apparent reverence for Satan or Lucifer as literary figures, he will directly cite anarchists like Bakunin and Proudhon. Also, in the same book, there’s a section in which he accuses Marxism of being the origin of what we would call political correctness, a claim that is no different to the kind of conspiracy theories that have been bequeathed to us by people like Paul Weyrich and William Lind, the former of whom I might add was a leading figure in the conservative Christian “Moral Majority” movement. Again, no citations offered within that part of the book.
Honestly, I wonder what people are still doing talking about Cultural Marxism these days after Slavoj Zizek demolished Jordan Peterson, its chief exponent in the current decade, on the subject in their debate in April. Just for the sake of illustrating it, I will present the relevant clip from that debate below. But, I can sum it up with the following: Peterson fails to identify any Marxists that he holds to be responsible for the trend of academic postmodernism within the mainstream or for political correctness.
Anyways, returning to the constituents, the second constituent seems to show a sense of reservation regarding the distribution of knowledge. The idea seemingly is not to spread the knowledge of the Nightside to as many people as people, but only to “the worthy”. The logical questions that follow from this, of course, is “who are the worthy?”, “what determines whether you are worthy or not?”, and “what does it mean to be worthy?”, and for that matter, “worthy of whom?”. I suspect this plays into that idea of esotericism, of hidden knowledge, which I think all of us who get into Left Hand Path ideas and similar belief systems tend to be into. But I think there is this pervasive attachment to the idea of it being esoteric that misses the point: the point of being the light bringer is to reveal the hidden, and that means the esoteric no longer being esoteric, no longer hidden but instead known. No one will fear the darkness once it is brought into light. Isn’t that the point?.
The third constitutent is entirely positive and noble, and for me very befitting for those who seek to embody the Morning Star. Supersition is in no way the ally of those who seek truth and freedom, and we do not raise ourselves against the mystified reign of Yahweh only to mystify ourselves further. I think it’s worth noting that one comment to Karlsson’s post stook out in particular because it seemingly defended superstition on the grounds that the word superstition means the survival of pagan beliefs, on the grounds that the word superstition comes from the Latin words supra and stitio meaning “stay above” and “survive”, adding in a separate comment that this was the Christian meaning of the term. Of course, the word superstition originated not in Christian Rome but in pre-Christian pagan Rome, where authors such as Pliny used the term to refer to the survival of folk beliefs like divination. The similar term “superstitio” was used by Roman writers such as Tacitus to refer to religious movements that were barred by the Roman Empire, such as the religion of the druids. The concept of superstition in the Greco-Roman world also seemed to have . The Roman author Cicero used the term “superstitio” to refer specifically to fear or excessive fear of the gods, as opposed to the proper respect and veneration of the gods, for which he used the term “religio”. So in a way, when we say we oppose superstition, you can think of it not only as opposition to irrational folk belief in unfalsifiable supernatural phenomenon, but also opposition to the need to fear the gods and the unknown. This idea is completely consistent with Luciferianism in particular, and it was bequeathed to us by the Hellenists of Greece and Rome, and we would do well to learn from them.
The fourth constituent leaves me a little puzzled. What exactly is meant by “imperialist religions”? That’s another thing about this project I hope gets explained more. For my initial worries about right-wing political influence, one wonders if there’s a bit of a left-wing cue to this one. But I jest. Considering that the revivification of ancient tradition is involved in this project, I do wonder what this means for Alexander the Great (who is the subject of low-key praise in Michael W. Ford’s works), whose imperial expansion spread the Greek religion far and wide and resulted in syncretic interpretations of the Hellenic tradition. I don’t have much to go on here.
The fifth constituent is to me a genuinely positive one. It’s one of the key assurances that there will be a focus on collective solidarity, whether Karlsson and co realize it or otherwise. Exactly how this is to take shape is yet to be seen, but I think it’s safe to assume that this will involve the formation of a community of like-minded individuals. Of course this still leaves the question of whether this points chiefly to online communities or real life communities. I will find it hard to imagine that there’s much to be done in the way of real life community activity, but I do have high hopes and would like to see where this goes further. In fact, I am eager to find out whether or not the invariably social nature of this constituent and its demands leads to a collective pondering of how to interpret Left Hand Path ideas in a way that frees them from the atomizing effects of the hyper-individualism that the community often lays claim to.
The sixth constituent is interesting because it lends to itself a means to liberate the community from the egoism that was bequeathed to us by the likes of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan, along with similar figures and movements. After all, the process of individuation is contextualized by an idea of self that is not definable as the ego, and in relation to which the ego is nothing but a diminutive aspect of the broader whole, or even an entirely illusory entity. In fact, I’ve seen interpretations of Jungian individuation as in fact not referring to the consolidation of a unique state of being but instead referring to, in a bizarre way, the attain of oneness, of initation with the whole. In any case, you cannot interpret the concept of Jungian individuation in a manner that resembles egoism, Randian or otherwise, without bastardizing it completely, and I imagine that anyone familiar with Jung’s ideas knows this, so it will be interesting to see the notions of self that emerge from the emphasis on Jungian individuation.
The seventh constituent resonates with me because I find that it aligns with the Luciferian ethos, which is all about revivifying the ancient ways in a new context, centered around the revolutionary figure of the Morning Star, or Lucifer. Of course, with the Temple of Set a big influence in Karlsson’s project via Flowers and Webb, I am rather concerned about what they could mean by “the ancient traditions”, possibly they may follow from Aquino’s fanciful fictions about the religion of Atlantis, but as it is intended to be a broad principle this might not necessarily be the case. It could simply refer to the ancient custom as defined within the Indo-European milieu, which would include Hellenism. In either case, this is a strong element of the Nightside Spirituality being defined by Karlsson, and I can definitely support it.
The eighth consitutent is benign in much the same way as the fifth one, and to me it seems to be almost the same point, a very positive one at that. We all start out msiguided, confused, and ignorant outside of our volition, and many of us lose our way. As such, a network of support which forms the basis of a community is often vital, and a good way to promote interpersonal solidarity.
The ninth constituent to me is rather mysterious. Just who is “our common taskmaster who has many names” supposed to refer to? I have to guess it is the name of a deity or a force of some kind, which leads me to suspect the influence of theism, but I can’t quite say for sure. So for now, I’m just going to have to ponder on what was meant by that statement.
And that’s all there is so far on the Global United Nightside Movement project. I’m eager for more information on the project, and I wait patiently for the opportunity to learn what my place in it might be.
Remember in 2012 when the fast food company Chick-fil-A got in trouble over Dan McCarthy, the owner of the company, making public statements about how he opposes same sex marriage on the grounds that it opposes his Christian beliefs? Well after 2012 I was under the impression that the controversy had sort of gone away, though I later found out that the company has apparently continued to donate to anti-LGBT groups. But apparently the Church of Satan has gotten dragged into all of this a few days ago, over a few comments they made on Twitter about recent developments related to Chick-fil-A.
On Friday, the Texas governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter that he had recently signed a bill known as Senate Bill 1978, which has also been colloquially dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” despite not being specifically about Chick-fil-A. According to the bill, the state or other governmental entities are prohibited from taking “adverse actions” against private companies in response to the stated beliefs of the ownership. This in practice means that a company cannot be denied loans, agreements, grants, contracts or other benefits from the state, nor can they be barred from making tax deductions for charity events, nor can they be denied access to a property for forum for their purposes, among numerous other things, all based on the religious views expressed by the company or its leadership. The bill seems to have gotten the nickname “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” in response to Chick-fil-A recently being barred from opening a franchise at the San Antonio airport by the San Antonio City Council due to the anti-LGBT stance attributed to the company, most likely through the owner’s statements and the donations made to anti-LGBT groups. You can make of the bill itself what you will, but it can inferred that it has something to do with the rhetoric of “religious freedom” that has been employed by conservative US politicians over the years. Indeed it shows in Abbott’s tweet when he ends it with the statement, “Texas protects religious liberty”.
So how did the Church of Satan get involved in this one? Someone on Twitter responded to Greg Abbott’s tweet by mentioning that his business donates to the Church of Satan and bragged about how if he faced discrimination in Texas (presumably from Christians) then he could sue and win. The Church of Satan responded to this reply by asking the person not to get them involved, saying “Please leave us out of this”. When another person asked what the Church of Satan’s opinion on Chick-fil-A was, the Church of Satan responded by saying that they don’t have an opinion on the subject, saying “We don’t. Leave us out of it.”. Apparently, it was this that resulted in the Church of Satan being condemned on Twitter by progressives. Such condemnation would be understandable, perhaps even justified, if the Church of Satan took a decidedly wrong opinion on the subject, or at least straight up said that they support Chick-fil-A or Dan McCarthy (which would be absurd because that would mean the Church of Satan siding with Christian conservatism), and to be fair some of the condemnation I’ve seen still is understandable from the perspective that they are refusing to state any opposition to religious reaction, but there is a side of the condemnation that is essentially just calling the Church of Satan a far-right organization at the moment where no far-right opinion was actually being expressed. It’s a classic case of “if you are not with us, you are against us”, and I find it very fitting that such a line is being taken in particular by twoMuslims. It seems that the progressives have not figured out that the Church of Satan has a policy of not getting involved in political matters or making political statements (at least not as they please anyway).
Now I must state for the record that I do not agree with this philosophy of non-involvement and non-engagement with politics, in fact I think that for them to be not evangelizing a political message attached to your organization while both their Christian enemies and their progressive rivals seize the opportunity to wage culture war puts them in grave danger of becoming irrelevant to the larger social environment (a sentiment that would surely find me no favours in the ranks of the Church of Satan). But the fact is, the Church of Satan has no desire to get itself involved in politics as a matter of organizational policy. It’s not exactly in our power to change this, and to be honest I don’t think even the membership has any real say in that, not that most of the membership are inclined to disagree anyway.
I do, however, find it quite telling that all you have to do to be a far-rightist these days is to not have an opinion on a given subject. Not even have the wrong opinion on something, just not having an opinion on something apparently suffices. Again, “if you are not with then you are against us appears to be at play”. Oh but apparently Anton LaVey (who’s been dead for over 20 years) being a “skinhead” (read: bald, not actually a skinhead) in addition to that fact is enough for the organization to be deemed far-right, never mind that the actual organization takes great pains to avoid categorical definition. I personally think of them as nominally right-wing due to their embrace of Social Darwinism and what appears to be an unstated support for classical liberalism insofar as various social positions, but this for me is not enough to simply refer to them as far-right.
For my part, I am actually prepared to offer my own take on the Chick-fil-A controversy. Obviously it is detestable that Chick-fil-A’s ownership opposes gay marriage on the grounds of religious opposition to homosexuality and that they actively support anti-gay causes, and I think that such reaction is to be opposed unequivocally. At the same time, however, I find it rather tiresome that the whole debate comes down to how immoral it is that people still buy fast food from them even after their anti-gay religious stance is public knowledge. And of course, this bothers me in particular because, if you’re at all entrenched in a socialist perspective, one based in a structural view of material conditions, you know practically at the back of your head that this view smacks of the liberal, libertarian and even (ironically enough) Randian view of humans as being purely rational agents, and that this view is profoundly unreflective of the way human behaviour actually works (seriously, do some even light research on advertising; it will change your perception of how humans think). Moreover, because cultural debates like these allow us to escape debate over the productive forces of capitalism, we are invariably led to a position where we end up condemning people for making choices that conflict with any sort of high values in a system that is engineered in such a way that you rarely get to make decisions based on any such values, and the materialities of the system unavoidable condition many people into making the wrong decisions. In sum, there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism. Deal with it.
It’s time at last for me to comment on Michael Aquino’s new edition of Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible. I’ve been meaning to read that book for quite some time, and now that I have, I have a lot to say. My good friend Summer Thunder assured me once that it was an important work for Satanism or more specifically Satanic culture, and I have no reason to doubt him. After all, this is indeed a revision of The Satanic Bible, and one written by one of Satanism’s leading philosophers and exponents who also leads a major Satanist organization (the Temple of Set), so we can take this as a important point of development for Satanism, one that may indeed already have influenced its direction since its release last year. As such, the most important part for me will be to assess the general philosophical content of the book so as to gauge what could well be the direction of Satanism going forward.
Right off the bat, before we get into the content, I must mention how such intent is reflected within the structure of the book. The book can best be described as what The Satanic Bible would look like if it was written by Aquino, with his particular background and ontology in mind and with a lot of additional content included. The book has five chapters, the first four of which are named for Satan, Lucifer, Belial and Leviathan in that order, reflecting the structure and intent of the original Satanic Bible. The Satan chapter isn’t the quite the same as it was in LaVey’s book, but it does offer some diatribes intended to expound the spirit of Satanism, this time from the (alleged) perspective of the infernal pantheon (Satan, Beelzebub, Azazel, Abaddon, Asmodeus, Astaroth, Belial and Leviathan). The Lucifer chapter is devoted to Aquino’s formulation of a philosophy of Satanism that is somewhat distinct from LaVey’s original philsophy, much like how in LaVey’s original book the Book of Lucifer was dedicated to formulating moral and epistemological philosophy, with sections of the book divided between the subjects of the universe, time, gods, and the soul (with a lot of very silly titles). The Belial chapter is, much like in LaVey’s book, dedicated to magick, ritualism and explaining how it works. The Leviathan chapter is devoted to the word of Set, which is divided into nineteen parts in exactly the same way as the Enochian keys are in LaVey’s book. In addition to this the four chapters (except for the Belial chapter) each come with a backstory section dealing with the chapters of the original Satanic Bible. After those four chapters, however, there is an additional fifth chapter, titled Yankee Rose (a clear reference to the cryptic ending of the original Satanic Bible), which seems to be focused on the history of the Church of Satan (a subject also covered in the preface), with of course the aim of “decoding” the meaning of the Yankee Rose phrase in the original Satanic Bible.
The book begins with a foreword supposedly written by Satan himself. I think it’s safe to assume it was not quite written by Satan, but from the perspective of what Aquino believes to be Satan, but that it is taken as the word of Satan, and that the word of several other beings is mentioned in the book, indicates that Aquino intends his doctrine to derive from revelation, which is the tell that we’re dealing with a theistic framework. In any case, it serves as the introduction to what Aquino’s version of The Satanic Bible is supposed to be: a means of self-discovery from the Satanic viewpoint, the act of reading it to be taken as a rite passage to into “a universe” or “universes” not known to physics (he actually goes out of his way here to refer to physics as pedantic; totally not anti-scientific at all, I see we’re off to a wonderful start already). Also worth noting is how Satan is taken to be the name of an entity universal to human cultures, supposedly embodying the same tropes throughout his incarnations, with the name Satan just being the name specific to Western “Judeo-Christian” culture, and he treats various other deities as isomorphic to Satan archetypally, such as Set (of course, this is Aquino after all), Odin and Quetzalcoatl. All of these are very quizzical for numerous reasons. I find it funny how Aquino never referred to the Roman god Mercury, since Odin, and to a lesser extent Quetzalcoatl, both share traits with Mercury (Odin in particular was linked to Mercury through the Gaulish deity Lugus). Or Ba’al considering Set has more in common with Ba’al than Satan and indeed was directly identified with Ba’al by the Canaanites who migrated into Egypt (referred to by historians as the Hyksos). Also, I find it weird how, after Set got sick of being referred to by Satan at the time Michael Aquino began founding the Temple of Set (at least according to Setian lore anyway), Set seems to just be cool with being referred to as Satan. Weird how that works.
The preface appears to center itself around the idea of a revision of the Satanic Bible, entailing that the project was in planning for a long time (apparently LaVey intended to do his own revision as early as the 1970s but never got round to writing it before his death in 1997), but it also seems to focus on the subject of the authenticity of the original Satanic Bible, which Aquino seems to believe was repudiated not long after it was origianlly written. It’s here that we also, for a brief moment, see Aquino’s intent in so far as forming a philosophy based on what he believes to be beyond nature, unnatural. To me this is much in contrast with Anton LaVey, who (if Stephen Flowers is anything to go by) intended to create what can be described as a natural morality, and I say this on the grounds that, if Aquino’s morality is centered on an unnatural object, then his moral system can be framed as an avowedly unnatural morality. One minor detail to note however is that he appears to treat every Abrahamic book after the Torah as just a clone of it, which seems nonsensical when you consider the way that these texts diverge from each other (for example, the Hellenic influence on the New Testament in contrast to the Old Testament). Though, as you’ll see later, he tends to do that a lot with RHP religions. After some pretty interesting historical exposition on the early days of the Church of Satan, we return to the theme of the original Satanic Bible’s authenticity, where Aquino claims not only that it lost authenticity in 1975 due to LaVey’s careerist restructuring of the Church of Satan, but that the Satanic Bible itself had been reduced to a work “occult fiction” that happened to contain social criticism. That’s rather harsh of him, but I guess I can understand where he’s coming from.
After the preface is a page entitled Introduction by Lady Diane LaVey High Priestess Church of Satan, but that page consists entirely of the page title, Diane LaVey’s birthday, an image of Diane LaVey from the old days, and a statement saying “Michael’s audacity is breathtaking”. That’s it. After this is the contents section and then the rest of the book. Some introduction. One wonders what the purpose of this page was.
There are two short sections preceding the first chapter. The first is a list of Anton LaVey’s inspirations, and the second, more interestingly, is a section entitled Indulgence in Brimstone. This appears to be this books version of the Nine Satanic Statements as they appeared in the original Satanic Bible. In both cases they directly precede before the Satan chapters of their respective books, contain nine statements to sum up the ethos of the belief system in short order, and both are decorated with the Cross of Leviathan (a.k.a. the symbol of sulfur or brimstone). This to me is one of the things that demonstrates continuity between the two Satanic Bibles, which is good because it fulfills the purpose of the book. As far as the actual statements go, they are as follows:
Indulgence establishes life, as abstinence death.
Indulgence in the present realizes the future.
Indulgence is quickened by truth, stricken by falsehood.
Indulgence is nourished by love, generosity and benevolence: but only when so appreciated and recompensed.
Indulgence in the excitement of creation finds its balance in the annihilation of destruction.
Indulgence is the Fountain of Life, but forbidden to those who seek only to consume life.
Indulgence within Nature through a form of that Nature is a gift of the Natural and the NonNatural, that you may Become both.
Indulgence for its own pleasure is a sacrament.
Indulgence is ever beset by the death-worshipful who would kill whatever they fear: Beware!
Unlike the original Nine Satanic Statements, in these new statements Satan does not seem to make any appearance, and instead the center of this litany is the concept of Indulgence. In the footnotes, Aquino tells us that the concept of Indulgence “elicits far nobler, indeed divine qualities in the Satanist”, speaking in relation to the original Nine Satanic Statements and the speech from John Galt in Atlas Shrugged that Aquino thinks forms the basis of said Statements, but beyond that his concept of Indulgence is not precisely defined other than in distinction to LaVey’s formulation of hedonism in the Lucifer chapter, where he explains that Indulgence should be taken to mean an Epicurean rather than hedonist outlook. It seems that these nine statements are to be taken as the primary means of defining this concept of Indulgence. In many ways we see an echo of Anton LaVey’s original ethos, as summed up by that famous axiom of his, “Life is the great indulgence – death the great abstinence”. But we also get a framing that might be characterized as somewhat Epicurean, with the emphasis that Indulgence is nourished by truth and the warning that it shall be forbidden for those who seek only to consume it, suggesting that this is not a conception of baseline hedonism. The more peculiar detail is the assurance that one may become both natural and unnatural (or, sorry, “NonNatural”; you could have hyphenated that Mr. Aquino). I wonder how this is to be done, or moreover I wonder how the two can be equals if the highest object of his ontology is what he considers to be outside of Nature.
After this, we come to the Book of Fire, which appears to just be content of The Diabolicon, an essay which was written by Michael Aquino in 1970 while he was a member of the Church of Satan, written from the point of view of Satan and the infernal pantheon. The first thing I notice is that here Satan is identified synonymously with Lucifer which, as I’ve explained before, is historically incorrect. But that’s the least important detail here. I do like how it begins with “Hail Man!”, which suggests some commitment to humanism. In any case, what we’re getting from here on out is a retelling of the mythology of the War in Heaven and the creation of the universe. Here, Satan explains how he liberated mankind by disrupting the order that came into being with the emergence of a being named God by introducing Will. This brings him into conflict with the angels Michael (here the “Lord of Force”) and Masleh (a Hebrew angel of the zodiac who is apparently referred to as Messiah at one point), thus leading up to the War in Heaven (or “The Great Seraphic War”). Masleh then descends to the Earth to censor the effects of Satan’s gift, and inspire in humanity guilt, conformity, herd mentality and so forth, and the host of heaven imposes Abrahamism upon mankind and their prophets teach them to be mindless animals before God, with Satan being hated and mocked in this world order. Already I get weird Randian vibes from this, though Aquino would insist otherwise due to his theistic outlook. But we see an interesting side of Satan as well: a being who feels compassion for the species he is attempting to liberate, a being who feels sorrow for those who have befriended him and heeded his teachings only to be met with cruel persecution and often execution. We also, however, get a very strange doctrine about the nature of the universe.
What, man, art thou? Why thy presence? Because thy own purpose determines that of the cosmos itself, though otherwise it may have been suggested – the creation, perpetuation, and exercise of the Satanic marvel that is free and unbounded Will. Consider, were man to perish, what futility would envelop the Universe, for apart from appreciation and use it is a thing of insignificance.
The implication of this would be that the universe has no existence outside of humanity, or human observance, or would have no purpose without the existence of humanity. This of course would raise such questions as “if this is the case when why does the universe generate us in the first place?” or “what of everything that came before mankind?” or “how do you deal with the concept of the universe existing outside of our opinion of it?”. Sadly, I find that these questions are not dealt with sufficiently.
Next we get to Beelzebub, who describes mankind as his inspiration and object of aspiration and tells us about the history of Heaven, Hell and Earth – basically this is the cosmology section of The Diabolicon. He tells of how, before the fall, he wanted to be Satan (or “be Lucifer”, because in this asinine Christian-inspired framework they’re the same entity), but Satan admonished him and told him that he is not God and that he is not here to offer salvation or “blissful nirvana”, before talking to him about how creation and design stem from impulse rather than by law (in other words, spontaneous creation, which is weird for a theist to advocate for and also kind of flies past the thought of there being a concept of laws of physics that can be observed). Will is also described as being of neither divine nor chaotic origin, and it’s not quite explained what that means. Beelzebub then tells of his desire to become independent from God, talks to Michael of his vision, after which Michael and Satan start arguing with each other, with Satan explaining that he differs in substance from Michael because he derives from himself, and as such is discord, whereas Michael derives from God. He tells then that after Satan reveals his mind to the angels, several join him, and then Masleh implores Michael to cast him down, which he does, resulting in their exile and the concept of God being “shaken”, resulting in the rise of endless chaos, which is weird because apparently humans have still had to deal with God and his angels since the events of the war in heaven. Where heaven is the place of order and conformity to God, Hell is a place where freedom is absolute and truth is not constant because it reflects the wills of all who inhabit it.
Then we get to Azazel, here the Arch-Daimon of Hell, who tells more about the war in heaven. Then we get to Abaddon, here the Daimon of death, who continues in that direction. Then we get Asmodeus, who in this book seems to have transformed from the demon of lust to the Daimon of science. Here Asmodeus claims to be responsible for Isaac Newton discovering the law of gravity, the materialist philosophy of Democritus (which is ironic because of what has already been established), and the efforts of mathematicians, astronomers and explorers to understand the cosmos around them. He also claims to be repsonsible for teaching politics and civilization to the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Aztecs and the Ashanti. This is a quite a departure from Asmodeus’ usual mythological role, and again affirms the revelationist aspect of Aquino’s doctrine, stressing that human enlightenment was the product of supernatural intelligences. Then we get to Astaroth, Daimon of the senses, who claims credit for the ability of man to comprehend the true depths of his progress. Then we get to Belial, who I’m sure is trying to talk about how he taught black magic but it feels drenched in jargon. One weird detail I find fascinating is that, at the end, Belial refers to Man as “at once child and father of the universe”, which in my view has the potential to be extrapolated into a framework that I doubt Aquino would appreciate because it sounds too much like Hinduism or Buddhism. Finally we get to Leviathan, or rather an entity describing Leviathan since this time it doesn’t appear to be in first person. Here Leviathan is treated as the Absolute, a principle of existential continuity, answerable to nothing other than the final master of the universe. It is stated here that the Black Flame will only achieve full mastery and perfection when the universe is destroyed and there is nothing but Man and Leviathan, because only then can Man be sure that he isn’t subject to a greater will. So essentially, in this framework, the only way to truly be autonomous is if nothing exists that can create dependencies. This to me is a profound weakness because it reveals just how bad this framework really is, at least so far. If we take this as the revelation of a supernatural being, then it shows that Aquino’s philosophy (or the words of the infernal pantheon) cannot deliver the true depth of its emancipation without the destruction of all that is. If it’s a metaphor, then it encourages the individual to simply cut himself off entirely from all that is, because in this framework only by doing so can you achieve real or perfect freedom. It’s a recipe for supreme alienation – after all you don’t get much more alienated than being willing to proclaim that the only way you’re going to be free is if the universe is destroyed. And, in that sense, it’s another form of the reaction that all too many LHP practitioners have when faced with the reality that, so long as you live in a society, or indeed an integrated universe governed by laws, you will always be subject to interdependence and a myriad of complicated hierarchies in which you are sometimes the master and sometimes but another subject. What better way to get rid of that problem than to cast aside the ultimate externality?
All in all, all the other problems aside, most of the Book of Fire makes for a somewhat interesting narrative device that can be utilized by Satanists and you can gleam some gems from it, but it’s not the best sign post for the philosophy we’re getting. One other complaint I have about the Satan section though is that it feels weird to read parts of it at first for one simple reason: the design is fucking awful. Seriously. Aquino used a different font for the sections where it’s supposed be the word of one of the Daimons, which I guess is intended to convey that it’s not the word of the author, but there are no quote marks where there’s supposed to be a quotation from another character, and I swear the commas look like period dots. On close inspection you can make out the difference between commas and period dots, but it’s pretty subtle, and if you read it at first glance you might not tell the difference. It’s just such an awkward design.
Now we get to the Lucifer chapter, and for the purpose of this review we’re going to skip the commentary on LaVey’s original Book of Lucifer essays and go straight to Aquino’s chapters. Before we do though, I must note that this chapter in particular showcases Aquino’s tendency to design very insular and stupid-sounding terms for concepts that may already be covered in the English language. For example, in his commentary on LaVey’s originaly essays, he uses a made-up word called “Internetrality” for what seems like he could have just used the word cyberspace instead. I also have this weird feeling of mild annoyance with when in the backstory section Michael Aquino insists that if you read his new chapters you’ll realize that you already assume his philosophy to be correct, that you “know these answers already, intuitively”, citing Plato (the most authoritarian and idealist of the ancient Greek philosophers) and his concept of “universal truths”. At best, it’s a pathetically arrogant attempt to justify his philosophy not in any empirical basis but in subjective “timeless” intuition. At worst, it smacks of something a cult leader might say. Either way, my suspicion is aroused.
We begin with a section on universes, which begins with the discussion of objective and subjective universes. The concept of an Objective Universe is pretty straightforward. It refers to the notion of the universe as we understand it, a matrix of reality comprising of matter and energy and indeed the totality of all phenomenon within it, governed by natural laws that can be apprehended via the scientific method. The concept of a Subjective Universe refers to the Objective Universe as perceived by an individual self-conscious being, or the universe that exists within their mental space. It’s here that we begin to see the development of what can only be described as an anti-scientific framework. He insists that human science has no idea about natural laws in the sense of what they are, why they are or what enforces them, without considering perhaps that we have some idea of why they exist in the sense that we know that they are necessary for the functioning of the universe in various ways. He then goes on about how it is impossible to acquire an accurate assessment of the objective universe through experiment and empiricism, because every interpretation of the universe is totally subjective according to him, even when large numbers of people observe the exact same phenomenon and report back to each other than they have. He even goes so far as to suggest that what we normally observe as insanity is actually just a person’s Subjective Universe replacing the Objective Universe, and he treats the designation of insanity as nothing more than the suggestion of social conformity, a suppression of individual will.
This for me is one of the biggest problems I can think of in Aquino’s framework, and one of the biggest dangers that you might come across in the Left Hand Path. The primary implication of what he is saying is that the Subjective Universe is either just as valid as the Objective Universe, or that it has the potential to be more valid and more meaningful than the Objective Universe, and that by telling someone that their Subjective Universe cannot reflect the truth outside of your perception of it then you are in a sense restricting their social freedom. If this is your epistemology, then you have surrendered your right to challenge the Abrahamic worldview, or any other worldview you condemn, because, if you do so, then your framework tells you that you are trying to suppress the Subjective Universes of those people. The Christian fundamentalist’s claims about God literally creating the world in six days, about evolution being false and dinosaur bones just being tricks from God (or Satan) designed to test your faith, about Noah’s Ark being real, about how building the Temple of Solomon will lead us to a Thousand Year Kingdom on Earth, about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus resurrecting, all of it would be counted as part of the Subjective Universe of the believer, and you now have no right to dislodge that because that’s just the triumph of the Subjective Universe and the will of the faithful. Or maybe it doesn’t apply when they do it. Maybe they’ve surrendered their subjective wills to a false god if they do it. Maybe when you do it, you’re exercising your free will and society has no right to stop you. But you’re only making that judgement on a subjective basis. If you base your framework on subjectivity, then my interpretation of reality is equally valid to anyone else’s, and talking someone out of an erroneous position becomes impossible and talking about philosophy becomes a case of talking about how good you are at telling stories or making paintings. It also lends credence to all of the bullshit that we’ve been seeing over the last decade or so from what we used to call “social justice warriors”, people who assert that their gender identity or racial identity is a much larger subject than any objective matrix that it may operate under. If you adopt this framework of subjectivism, then you’re unable to oppose the modern liberal/progressive tendencies that contain such thinking. The only way you can get past this and imbue your framework with truth is to entertain the premise that there is a reality that exists outside of subjective perception, but Aquino doesn’t necessarily allow this because he implies that this pursuit is scientifically and epistemologically impossible!
But that’s not all. There’s another dimension to the Subjective Universe idea: the Collective Subjective Universe (or CSU). The concept of the Collective Subjective Universe is just his term for when a Subjective Universe is shared, approved and/or enforced by a larger body of people – in other words, it’s his way of saying that human civilization is just the pursuit of cultivating a subjective universe capable of forming consensus (in other words, what is real is what we all agree to be real). There’s no actual justification for why you can’t collectively share the same observation of objective reality I must point out. It’s just his way of pointing out that societies are founded on or undergird themselves with a shared set of values. He pointed out the salience of George Orwell’s criticism of the concept of thoughtcrime, but viewed from the perspective of the ontology we’re given thus far, the only reason Aquino has to give a shit is because his own Subjective Universe is in danger of being suppressed. Hell, if we actually go far enough with this, further than Aquino himself would allow, we would arrive at the premise that Satan himself doesn’t have much of a moral ground to oppose God other than that humans wouldn’t have the freedom to express Subjective Universes or arrive at a state where this subjectivity supercedes reality. He’s already established that if you believe you’ve been possessed by the Holy Spirit we have no right to get in the way of that so why stop there?
But we haven’t even begun to wade in the river of bullshit yet. Aquino then claims without empirical basis that time does not exist. I’d say tell that to actual physicists like Lee Smolin or Carlo Rovelli, or really many physicists who can tell you that, even if there’s no real consensus on how we define it, there is some consensus on the fact that it exists. But that’s not all, he denies the theory of relativity as formulated by Albert Einstein, calling it a tar-baby without actually bothering to demonstrate why exactly it’s wrong other than apparently it refuted the ideas that Immanuel Kant had about time and space. This would require Aquino to explain why so many of the predictions laid out by the general theory of relativity have been proven correct – such as the Shapiro effect, the equivalence principle, frame-dragging effects, gravitational redshifting, light deflection by cosmic bodies, the perihelion procession of the planet Mercury, the gravitational microlensing of stars etc. – and the fact that the theory has been taken up as the best way of explaining the laws of gravity, not to mention the fact that general relativity has passed numerous experimental tests since its proposal by Einstein. Too bad he only devoted a paragraph worth of text to the subject. But not to worry, I’m sure his Subjective Universe will grant him the freedom to bypass this reality. Actually, he later goes on to insist that the speed of light is not 180,000 miles per hour and that curved space, wormholes, and black holes are all fictional concepts, all on the grounds that time has no basis in reality. Again we are compelled to ignore that many of these things have already been observed, and in fact this year we got our first up close and personal photo of an actual black hole. Yeah, needless to say I hope Aquino has re-evaluated that aspect of his epistemology. I will give him credit on one thing though: string theory is bullshit, being almost all metaphysics with no actual science to it, and I swear it’s being propped up by the more science-savvy wing of the religious right.
One thing he might be somewhat salient on is where he talks about meaning and points out that Adam and Eve’s true “sin” was that they recognize Good and Evil in a manner that is not in conformity with El (used as the true name for the Biblical God). He points out that meaning is not a function or property of the Objective Universe, but instead a property of the Subjective Universe, and, you know, there’s probably some truth to that. If there is a greater meaning or purpose to this life, the universe seems to reticent to instruct us on what that is, and as such we are left to either figure it out or indeed devise meaning for ourselves. But where Aquino would probably leave this to the dominion of your Subjective Universe, I would insist that we should be able to determine meaning for ourselves by apprehending the world around us. Our only path to mastering the world around us comes from correctly understanding how it operates, this means dealing with a conception of reality that might lie outside of our perception of it. But where Aquino insists that for some reason this is thought-slavery, the rest of us may recognize this is knowledge.
Unbelievably the next section of the Lucifer chapter is devoted to time. I say unbelievably, because Aquino already stated that time isn’t real. Actually, it’s about Aquino’s views on time in relation to religion, so I’m being unfair. In explaining what that has to do with anything, he claims that “OU-aligned” religions (that is, religions that base themselves around the premise of there being an Objective Universe that you have to grapple with) make you do slave tasks within a certain time limit, namely the duration of your life. Man, if only he applied this to labour, maybe he’d be semi-on to something. It’s in this section also that we get into the definitions of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. Here the two concepts are defined very simplistically: Right Hand Path means absorption of the individual into the universe or God, while Left Hand Path means the pursuit of individual divinity. Pretty standard. Of course this affects how Aquino defines the view of time in these paths, so what is he going for? For RHP religions, he assigns the concepts of linear or cyclical time, with linear time being common to Western religions and cyclical time being common to Eastern religions (and, of course, he seems to imply that the two perspectives are linked to each other, as he suggests in the footnotes where he claims that Buddhist concept of time and “the Great Mandala” contains nods to the Christian Peter, Paul and Mary). For the LHP, however, he seems to shift gears from discussing time and instead talk about an Egyptian-inspired framework on death. For Aquino, the fate of the Satanist is neither heaven, nor hell, nor reincarnation, but a postcarnate state of being or Xeper, quoting Peter Pan in saying “to die will be an awfully big adventure!”.
Sadly however this idea doesn’t seem to be elaborated on too convincingly, so I can only assume you have to read his book MindStar to get the full picture. Instead Aquino goes on about how the missing link proves that the Black Flame was brought to mankind by Satan and his Daimons, which he thinks is justified by the change in cranial size in early hominids such as Cro-Magnon. What bothers me is one simple thing: why does Aquino feel the need to attribute this change to supernatural intervention, as opposed to the laws of evolution by natural selection? We have working explanations for the development of cranium sizes that do not require literal divine intervention (as is what Aquino believes in), such as the transition to bipedalism and changes in the female reproductive system that resulted from this transition. Why is the intervention of literal deities necessary? I also find it curious how he writes off most of human history is “doing nothing”, disregarding the fact that humans spent most of their history until the age of agriculture forming hunter-gatherer societies, and then after that he goes on to invoke “the ghost of Atlantis”, implying that Plato’s Atlantis is the explanation. Well “Atlantis” was in all likelihood a morality tale by Plato, which may well have been based on the destruction of Thera by a volcanic eruption. Curiously enough he claims in the footnotes that the term missing link itself has fallen out of favour with paleantologists because it implies too simple a chain of evolution (not, you know, because the term is a colloquial rather than scientific term), and that now they refer to it as “transitional morphologies”. Well I still see the term missing link thrown around and I’ve never, repeat, never, seen the term “transitional morphologies” used anywhere. Then Aquino appears to suggest that the only reason we don’t know that Atlantis is real is because Christians and Muslims destroyed any evidence of its existence, and then complains about how talk of Atlantis is dismissed by mainstream archaeology (which isn’t actually true; they do talk about Atlantis, they just talk about what they think inspired the story of Atlantis because they know it’s not actually real) while the SS under Heinrich Himmler conducted major expeditions to find Atlantis. Well if the Nazis thought Atlantis was real then by god maybe there’s some truth to it surely! You know, the people who also insisted that the Earth was made of ice and thought most other science was wrong because it was Jewish? And not to mention also that even Adolf Hitler dismissed Heinrich Himmler as a nutjob (though admittedly this was coming from his own volkisch Protestant Christian perspective). Why is Aquino giving the Nazis credence?
After citing an unnamed scholar on how Egyptian civilization was complete from the beginning (which makes no sense), he proposes that there may have been an “OU Satanic Age” that began in 100,000 BCE and is presently ongoing. This would in theory mean that the Satanic Age has been going on since the beginning of humanity, but then Aquino would emphasize if, implying that there probably hasn’t been a Satanic Age within the Objective Universe, only the Subjective Universe. Curiously, however, he notes that there may be downsides to this age, or rather he hints at such, but says that it has not to do with the Age itself and more to do with it’s “OU byproducts”. What does he mean by that? Well he refers to two real world problems: the rammifications brought on by the discovery of the nuclear fission and fusion or more specifically the invention of the atom bomb, and the threat of overpopulation on the finite resources of Planet Earth. He doesn’t say how we should counter this in a Satanic fashion, of course. He just notes that the Gift of Satan has an ominous side, before referring back to the Diabolicon where Belial says that the gift can never be recalled. So essentially, Aquino’s idea of the Gift of Satan is a type of uncontrolled, absolute freedom (at least going from what was said in Satan’s and Beelzebub’s sections of the Diabolicon), the downside of which is the constant threat of environmental destruction, with no real safeguard against that, and the assurance that we can’t revoke that Gift, possibly meaning in this case that we can’t restrain the ability of human civilizations in Aquino’s vision to have destructive effects on the Earth. Needless to say, this is an extremely dangerous view of freedom, one that cannot account for the need for order (indeed order as an abstract concept is rejected entirely in the Diabolicon), and it reminds me of some of the worst excesses of libertarianism, especially anarcho-capitalism (I say that because I think it’s safe to assume Aquino is not a man of the left).
Then we get on to his idea of “Subjective Universal Time”, which seems to be his concept of how, in the subjective mental space, time is infinitely malleable, the magician can alter the flow of time in any way he/she likes (slow it down, accelerate it, freeze it etc). How this is possible is not explained beyond it being the property of a seasoned magician or how stage magicians create this illuision of altered time and space – yeah, key word, illusion; that’s what stage magicians do. After this is the Aeons section, of which there isn’t a lot to say other than apparently Aquino ties the concept of Aeons to Gnosticism, and then goes on to claim that, had Gnosticism become prevalent, we might have had a more intellectual and philosophical attitude towards religion in contrast to the dogmatism of mainline Christianity. If by philosophical and intellectual you mean a somehow even more idealistic and pessimistic version of Christianity, then yes. I still find it very strange how Gnosticism keeps getting praise from Satanists despite it being arguably even more anathema to their beliefs than Christianity. Technically speaking Gnosticism is just the name given to various sects of Christianity that coalesced around similar ideas about the nature of reality, but common to them is the belief that the world is the creation an inferior deity, and that the true God is composed purely of spirit. How this idea manages to be appealing to Satanists is beyond me.
Moving on from time, we now talk about the gods and devils. This should be interesting, right? The section begins with Aquino asserting that the Objective Universe must have a prior genius to conceive, establish and compel its order. In other words, he asserts that there needs to be a prime mover, a God. Of course for Aquino this genius is apparently not one God but instead the Neteru, a collective of supernatural beings that exist within Subjective Universes. In ancient Egypt, the term Neteru may or may not have been the word used to refer to the gods, so we can assume that Aquino is employing a polytheistic framework. These Neteru are considered timeless in that there was no point in time that they came into being, which would mean that they have always existed, and without them there is no explanation for the universe coming into being other than happenstance and the Objective Universe would comprise of utter chaos. He could explain the universe as being the product of laws, atoms, energy, matter and the process that comprise them, but he rejects this explanation and thinks it’s impossible to explain the universe that way. He poses the question of why humans should apprehend a multiplicity of Neteru rather than a singular God, only to leave the question unanswered, and then to suggest that Set and the multiplicity are the same thing. Apparently this is internally harmonious. Aquino says further that the Neteru are not apprehensible within mechanisms of the Objective Universe but through noesis, a Greek word that he uses to refer to intutive apprehension but which actually means the exercise of intellect or reason. Thus we again establish that Aquino’s framework is essentially a high-brow brand of Platonic (or Platonism-esque) polytheism in Egyptian costume.
His critique of the Biblical God isn’t particularly bad, but I must note that his insistence on referring only to El seems historically questionable. Yes the name El is the earliest name given to the Biblical God in the Bible, but the identification of Yahweh with El can be explained rather adequately as a syncretism of sorts, with Yahweh assuming the role of El and taking his name through being identified with the head of the Canaanite pantheon by the Israelites. There’s also the claim that dualism is a uniquely Hebraic corruption (well, borrowed from Persia more accurately), which is odd because it is pretty well documented that the Greeks had their own homebrew dualism via the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Egyptian religion certainly had its own dualistic element in the conflict between Ra and Apep, which later became ever more central to the Egyptian religion following the exile of the Hyksos and Set becoming the resident enemy of the gods. More curious however is when we get to the claims about religion and violence. He points out that Satanists/Setians have never engaged in systematic violence in the same way that other religions have, which is correct, but then claims that the reason for this is simply that the Satanists/Setians are more secure in their beliefs, and that the other religions have no security or confidence in their beliefs. This is an idealist, entirely post-hoc rationalization that shunts to the side the role of power and the specific hierarchies that engender such aggression. Stop and wonder why Christianity transformed from a largely pacifist religion concerned with social reform, albeit packaged as a ridiculous pessimistic cult of resurrection, to the Christianity we know today, known for its countenance of rigid hierarchical authority and repression. The answer lies in the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state, which then fashioned an official Roman interpretation of Christianity, suitable for the use of the Roman state. But this point never comes up once in Aquino’s work, and indeed it’s barely addressed in the type of crude New Atheist arguments that he opportunistically channels in this book.
Then there’s his brief critique of Buddhism, and he sort of misunderstands the Buddhist take on suffering and consciousness. While there are more nihilistic schools of Buddhism out there, many Buddhists don’t actually deny consciousness. They just don’t believe that there exists a self or an ego, and that suffering is caused by cravings or attachments which spring from desire and are tied with the attachment to the ego.
In contrast to Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Aquino establishes that the Satanic religion is based on there being independent, self-aware consciousness that is external to the Objective Universe, and that, for him, the ancient precursor to this was the Neteru who were apparently collectively identified with Satan. Again, a simple search for the term Neteru yields no such determination, unless you count the fact that Christians tend to view every god that isn’t Yahweh or Jesus as Satan, and that the Neteru is widely considered to be the name the Egyptians used to refer to the gods. What Aquino is saying then, whether he would admit it or not, is that his conception of Satan and Satanism is firmly attached to, if not almost indistinguishable from, classical polytheism, but with modern LaVeyan affectations and, in true LHP fashion, taken from the lens of the darker or marginalized gods (chiefly Set). And then in that spirit we come to a few sections on Set and his priesthood where he, against his previously established theology, defines Set as the neter who is against the Neteru, defined as that which is not nature – the irony being with that part is that the Neteru are fundamentally outside of nature in his own theology!
After a long exposition on Set, Satan, and for some reason Melkor and Sauron from the Lord of the Rings universe, we come to a section entitled “Humancarnation” (seriously Mike what’s with the made-up words?), which appears to be a section dealing in metaphysics. The thing that stands out is the way that Aquino fundamentally misunderstands the naturalistic and scientific perspectives of human reality. He complains that the scientific perspective holds that Man is just another animal, which is ironic given that he was quite happy to join the Church of Satan, a religious group that then, as now, stated quite blatantly that Man is just an animal, just that he is the most advanced and vicious of them all. He holds that the scientific world view holds that man is nothing more than a machine, which requires him to ignore the fact that the scientific community does not automatically believe this, and in fact we know from our scientific understanding of the world that, as I covered in my case against transhumanism, that the brain does not actually operate in a way that can be described as mechanical. One the perspective of consciousness he assumes that everyone in the scientific community takes the Daniel Dennett perspective of consciousness – that it does not exist – at which point I would encourage him to look into Roger Penrose. He even goes so far as to claim that the scientific community is not confident to judge whether or not there exist an external God, which would require him to ignore that several esteemed members of the scientific community happen to be atheists.
Speaking of atheism, I find Aquino’s criticism of atheism to be very shallow. He accuses the atheist of only being interested in criticizing Biblical mythology, which is an interesting rehash of that whole “atheists just want to bash Jesus” argument. I mean yeah let’s ignore the way atheists tend to criticize Islam and Hinduism as well as Judaism and Christianity just to go out of your way to look like you got burned by an atheist who told you that general relativity is actually real. Don’t let reality stop you from accusing atheists of “scholasticism”. It’s worth noting that in the previous section Aquino marshals an interesting quote from John Fowles’s Aristos where it is stated “Intelligent Athenians of the fifth century knew that their gods were metaphors, personifications of forces or principles”. It’s particularly interesting considering, to my mind, this is a perspective that is entirely compatible with an atheistic outlook, but then Aquino has the nerve to deem atheism an inferior philosophical outlook. As for his take on agnosticism, there really isn’t much to say other than, at last, an argument of some sort, even if it is basically an ad hominem.
After this however we get a somewhat interesting criticism of the Church of Satan and its hedonistic outlook, criticizing its emphasis on carnal pleasure as not enough, suggesting instead that an Epicurean outlook on pleasure is preferable (which is ironic on his part considering Epicurus was a materialist and thus would be opposed to Aquino on epistemology) and suggested that virtue should be raised to the level of rationality, and that to be a god carries with it the responsibility of upholding a specific set of virtues pertaining to wisdom, ethics and the Agathon (or “the Good”, whatever that might mean), noting that the Biblical God failed in this regard. All of these are fine things, commendable in fact, but I can’t get past that all this is coming from the same guy who already establishing that this very good, as all things in the universe, are to be destroyed so that there is only Man and Leviathan, and assured us of no safeguard against the destructive side of his conception of absolute freedom. What’s even more telling however is that in this part of the book we see the arch-LHP guy Michael Aquino, who prizes himself on being more Satanic than Anton LaVey, propose a conception of serving a good that is by necessity greater than the individual, and marshalled a quote about Platonic philosophy that tells us that there must always be a good that transcends the particular goods of individuals. It makes me wonder just how confused Aquino’s framework is. Although I have to say, “serving the Holy Grail” is a particularly metal-sounding phrase, if a bit of an eyebrow-raising one coming from a Satanist (although in fairness there apparently have been pre-Christian conceptions of the Holy Grail).
After this though, we get to the last part of Chapter 12, which I mention only because it contains some claims that appear to be factually wrong. He claims that the Greek concept of telos originates in Egyptian symbolism, with the only evidence of this being a Plutarch quote that doesn’t seem to suggest this entirely. But far more egregious is his take on Darwinian evolution – he appears to consider the Lamarckian model of evolution to be superior to the Darwinian model of evolution, on the basis that Lamarckian evolution places a greater emphasis on individual will. Of course there’s too much evidence for Darwinian evolution to be correct for Aquino to simply dismiss Darwinism as he does and Lamarckianism is considered to have been supplanted by other scientific doctrines, but let’s not allow that to bother us because by god science has to conform to our individual will.
Now we come to Chapter 13, which is (thankfully) the last of the Lucifer chapter. This appears to be yet another chapter about metaphysics, albeit this time with specific attention being paid to the subject of consciousness or the soul, which is going to be fun to say the least. Yet again we open with a strawman of naturalistic philosophy that reads like the only guy he read on the subject was Daniel Dennett. One thing that is interesting, however, is that he claims that the ancient Egyptians recognized that consciouness was external to matter, and his source for this…is Deepak fucking Chopra! The literal Quantum Healing guy! I don’t know what I was expecting from Aquino, but it was almost certainly not this. Although I must say, perhaps I should have expected something New Agey given that he uses a term like MindStar to refer to the Xeper.
His critique of the “Judeo-Christian” concept of the soul is weird because it seems very heavily focused on the Judaic concept of the soul (or perhaps the lack of one), without much attention paid to Christianity. A very basic assessment of Christianity would lead you to understanding the Christian concept of a soul that would thus be distinct from Judaism, one may even go further and try to analyze the Hellenic influences of the Christian doctrine in this regard, but Aquino doesn’t seem to note this, and indeed is of the belief that post-Enlightenment Christians don’t even believe in such a doctrine. Even more curiously, for a guy who is to be taken as avowedly anti-Christian, Aquino seems very happy to employ the type of argument that would otherwise be reserved for Christian apologists. He seems to imply that, if you have a society where people don’t believe in an afterlife or a God, then the result is a society of hedonisitic decadence. He marshalls a scene from Pinocchio in support of his point (huh, I’m getting some Jordan Peterson vibes from this part) in which The Coachman invites unsuspecting youths to a place called Pleasure Island, an amusement park where they could do whatever they wanted without any rules until they, in their mischief, transformed into donkeys and were sold into slavery. This on its own is capable of illustrating a somewhat profound moral point, and in fact it sounds like something that can be used as a metaphor for something I remember hearing from Buddhism, but here it just seems like an arbitrary way of giving slack to people who don’t agree with your belief system.
Then we arrive at Aquino’s explanation of his concept of the “MindStar”. There isn’t much to say of the MindStar on its own, and it’s only a page before we talk about it in relation to an assortment ancient Egyptian concepts of the soul. What I will note however is that Aquino notes that, in his version of Satanism, death does not mean personal obliteration but rather “the MS T-Field relinquishing of a no-longer needed OU sensory interface”. No-longer needed eh? That sounds like something you can get away with when you describe what we’d call natural death, passing away into old age as it were, but I wonder how that works when you get killed? If a guy stabs me to death does my soul decide that I no longer needed that body anyway? What a strange concept of death and afterlife.
After this we arrive at the third chapter, the Belial chapter, which as I explained before is devoted to magic. Here, magic is defined as the means by which a practitioner renders the universe intelligible to his will and thus able to interact with and influence it, which seems fairly in line with that old Crowleyite axiom that much of the Left Hand Path uses to define magic. Of note is the definition of black magic and white magic, as based on the doctrine of the Temple of Set. Traditionally, black magic and white magic are defined as magic intended for malevolent and benevolent purposes respectively, and in the Left Hand Path the terms black magic and white magic are typically treated as arbitrary. Here, the term white magic refers to the magic that is specific to mainstream religions, which for Aquino is a form of self-deception and for him not real magic, while black magic refers to magic that operates from the Setian premise of the individual being distinct from the objective and subjective universes and as such is called “D5 tools”. This dichotomy is ostensibly based not on good magic or bad magic, but rather on true magic and false magic (though, surely this lends itself to a good vs bad value judgement if truth is tied to goodness). These concepts are expanded upon not too much further into the book. White magic is defined further as a highly concentrated form of conventional religious ritual, such as prayer, often with the intent of currying the favour of or seeking the will of a deity or daemon. Black magic is divided into two categories: Lesser Black Magic and Greater Black Magic. Lesser Black Magic is a tool to focus the mind outward in order to identify the properties of the objective and subjective universes, which for Aquino is an analytic process separate from traditional ceremonial magic, which seems like an attempt to frame the concept in rationalistic terms (wasn’t expecting that from him), with the aim of controlling natural law for the purpose of changing a situation in conformity to your will. Greater Black Magic is the category of black magic whose purpose is the analysis and control of subjective universes, with the aim of replacing the subjective universe that the individual learns as a result of societal conditioning with a subjective universe that is consciously created by the individual. Unless the practitioner is suitably disciplined, this comes with the risk of becoming mentally unstable, supposedly because you’ve been given license by the Black Flame to go into multiple subjective universes and do whatever you want with them.
In between the sections on Lesser and Greater Black Magic we get a section about how history is just a form of “reality control”. Aquino outright states that history is not a means by which to derive as a foundation for or evidence of anything because historical accounts are written by humans with different interests and therefore utterly subjective. It’s a particularly myopic form of nihilism because it completely bypasses the part about history where people gather evidence of things that happened and draw conclusions from them not to mention use them to either support or disprove certain accounts of history. It’s another case of something being more complex than Aquino makes it out to be. It’s also very rich that Aquino would complain about subjectivity considering his whole framework frames subjectivity as eing superior to the objective world, as is at the very least suggested by the fact that magic concerning the subjective universes is the “greater” category of magic. Of course he backpeddles later and says that the implications for black magic is that history is merely incomplete rather than unreliable.
In the section devoted to Ritual, Aquino gives a critique of LaVey’s use of the term Shemhamforash in his rituals, which is actually just one of the many Hebraic names of YHWH. He seems to treat the use of it as essentially “mystobabble”, which, while not entirely fair considering it isn’t an atraditional name, is salient insofar he is correct to point out that doesn’t really have anything to do with Satan. As for the rest of the Ritual section, there isn’t much for me to say given that it’s sort of a continuation of the epistemology of Aquino’s already established framework, but otherwise it’s not terrible in that it seems to me like it can be used to derive small aspects of methodology.
Now we move on to the fourth chapter, the Leviathan chapter. For the purpose of this post, I won’t comment on the Enochian Keys themselves and instead focus on the backstory lore surrounding them, particularly because it involves Aquino’s exposition on the character Enoch. Aquino considers him to be the Biblical equivalent of Cadmus, Hermes and Thoth, a connection that I’m not sure where it comes from, although it might be extrapolated from the way people have tried to connect him with Hermes Trismegistus, the alleged founder of Hermeticism. I’m also not sure where Aquino got the idea that Enoch was a sex-maniac. That’s news to me. Other than that, there is a somewhat decent summary of the Book of Enoch, and why Aquino thinks Enoch to be a missing figure of the Left Hand Path. Personally though I wonder if Aquino isn’t taking creative license with the myth, since it sounds like, in the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are still supposed to be the bad guys, and the “Black Flame” Aquino refers to is not depicted as a spark of divine consciousness, but a weapon by which to attack the believers of God.
But there’s another strange quirk to this chapter, one that gives me the clue to a particularly elitist character to Aquino’s thinking. His explanation for why the “Judeo-Christian cult of El” (read: Christianity) prevailed in Rome effectively amounted to him saying that the people were too stupid and ignorant to believe in esoteric mystery religions. Of course he frames it as being the religions of pre-Christianity, but that doesn’t make sense because the people were quite fine to be polytheists before Christianity showed up. In fact, we know that in the case of Rome at least, in the early days of Christianity, the Romans treated Christians with pity at best, and suspicion at worst, and at any rate many were certainly willing to cheer at the sight of the early martyrs being slaughtered in the Colosseum. But apparently the polytheism they already believed in wasn’t sophisticated enough, so it seems like he’s referring to a certain type of esotericism that existed in the ancient world that was not understood by the masses – probably because its practitioners willfully prevented the masses from understanding their doctrines by making their religions so exclusive. And again, the political realities of ancient Rome are casually ignored here. Aquino ignores how the Roman imperial hierarchy was rigid in its consolidation of state power, ruthless in its persecution of dissidents, and often too corrupt to do anything for the average citizen. Christianity, for better or worse, emerged as the answer to this political situation, offering deliverance from the poverty that Roman citizens felt in their day to day lives while preaching against the excesses of the Roman Empire. But Aquino doesn’t account for this. Instead he prefers to think that the masses were just insane gluttons for punishment who embraced a tyrannical god not because he promised worldly liberation and spiritual salvation (even if that was for naught) but because they were starving for attention. It’s a fundamentally elitist worldview, one that is destined to fail to enlighten the masses because it so fundamentally despises them for being too ignorant to grasp its spiritual doctrine, and also fundamentally idealist because it reduces the rise of ideologies to sentiment rather than account for external political and material conditions. I guess we can expect this from a guy who, for all his anti-establishment flair, appears to be nothing more than a garden variety liberal at best.
He also returns to the point about historians not accounting for the majority of human history, which is simply wrong because we know for a fact what humans did for 90% of their history. He asserts, without any evidence or even convincing argument at all, that there was undeniably ancient civilization for the 90,000 years or so that, in reality, were spent in a hunter-gatherer mode of social organization. There are only two points of evidence he refers to in support of this claim. The first is that, supposedly, the idea of Atlantis had different names under different cultures, which doesn’t really prove the actual existence of the settlement. The second is that there were 335,000 search results for the term “forbidden archaeology” in 2018. What he’s really saying is “go on Google and look up a shit ton of conspiracy theory websites”.
Finally, we’ll address the Yankee Rose chapter, the additional chapter. This section believe it or not is pretty fascinating in that it gives an account of the lore surrounding key aspects of Anton LaVey’s life, such as the Black House. There’s all sorts of colourful details, such as how LaVey preferred to greet guests in his house by arriving through the fireplace and the secret passages throughout the house, which really serve to breathe a type of life into the life of LaVey that you sometimes don’t see when we talk about Satanism, which is further a great contrast to the often dull pedantry found in much of the rest of the book. Then there’s the mysterious stuff about the sinkhole and the photograph of the house supposedly collapsing inward until nothing but darkness remained. It’s an intriguing closer – or so I would say, if it were indeed the closer.
The Ninth Solstice appears to be another section from the point of view of Satan, which means we’re back to that stupid font again although by now you’ve probably adjusted to its awkward character. It seems that in this text Satan is addressing Anton LaVey, who he treats as his anointed man, gives him his tribute, and by his will is consecrated a Daimon and becomes a god. It’s all strangely amicable for a being who, as I mentioned earlier, got sick of being called Satan and insisted on being called Set instead. But apparently this is accounted for when he says the Church of Satan has past its time, and implores LaVey to seek out “the Elect”, whoever that might be. There are a few other peculiar details to note here. Satan declares that he and his entourage have no need to justify their existence or their desires, a statement that I would have expected from an almighty sky deity whose rule is absolute and not his freethinking adversary. Once again the elitist aspect of Aquino’s worldview is visible, with Satan’s stress that he will not illuminate the many but instead the few, only the Elect. Only they can truly receive Satan’s wisdom. Such is the mark of a deeply esotericist doctrine (esotericism referring to mystery traditions and the religious practice of keeping occult knowledge hidden to all but a select group). And who is this “Elect”, exactly? Satan doesn’t tell us, and since he’s addressing LaVey we can only assume the two already know between themselves who the term “Elect” refers to, but we sure don’t. Perhaps it refers to the only people who identify as Satanists? Or the highest ranks of the Temple of Set? Who knows. Lastly, Satan tells LaVey to receive his Red Halo as the sign that he has become the Red Magus that Leviathan spoke of. If you remember the Diabolicon from before, you remember that the last section of it says that only with the obliteration of everything else that the Black Flame may “become red in the glory of its perfection”, obviously signifying the full attainment of self-divinity. That in mind, what’s happening in this dialogue actually? Is LaVey still alive at this time, or is he dead and this is supposed to be his disembodied spirit talking to Satan in the afterlife? What’s going on here, because I refuse to believe that LaVey actually destroyed the universe.
Appendices aside, that takes care of the book.
So what am I to make of this whole thing? How am I to summarize this book as a point of development for the direction of Satanism. Summer Thunder may be disappointed to hear me say this (or he would if he didn’t see it coming as he presumably read this post) but I do not see good things coming from the Aquinoite/Setian framework of Satanism.
If we take a look at Aquino’s worldview, it would be tempting to conclude that his framework can be reduced to a more sophisticated brand of inverted Christianity due to the fact that Christian apologist arguments are deployed in service of Satanism, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It’s more like a brand of polytheism that places strong emphasis on Platonism and esotericism, with Satan and his demonic entourage almost filling the role once filled by the gods of old, which is framed as a restoration of the original Egyptian cult of Set, which Aquino insists was the original cult of Egypt before being supplanted by that of Osiris. It’s classical theism, but from the lens of a kind of quasi-polytheist Platonism, mixed with an “I swear it’s not Ayn Rand” brand of hyper-individualist libertarianism, all wrapped up in a framework that lends itself easily to solipsism. It’s a confused philosophical outlook, and it tends to show in many areas. For instance, there is his classical theism and his dismissal of Ayn Rand, and then there’s the fact that his brand of individualism almost hasn’t changed from LaVey’s other than it’s more “Epicurean” in attitude. I guess you can say he can’t be an Objectivist because Objectivism categorically rejects belief in a God, but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from getting the sense that there are scents of Randian morality and ontology still there, bastardized by Plato-esque theism though they may be. And then there’s the fact that his absolute individualism is contradicted by his insistence on there being something higher than the self – whether it be Leviathan clearly taking the role of the All or the talk of the importance of an Agathon that the individual must serve and cultivate. And then to top it all off there’s just the fact that Aquino supports this whole picture by marshalling a variety of talking points on numerous subjects that are often either dubious, myopic or just straight-up factually wrong, not to mention a shocking level of ignorance regarding science – and how ironic is it that a guy who has a Daimon of Science in his infernal pantheon either rejects the scientific method or places it as inferior to divine revelation?
I’m sorry, but I can’t take this as anything other than a mess. If the Satanist movement follow’s Aquino’s doctrine, it will be doomed to exist under the shadow of Christianity, due chiefly to the fact that it marshalls classical theism similarly to how Christian apologists might just that it’s against Abrahamic monotheism and for a different theistic framework centered around Satan and his demons (or, excuse me, Set and the Neteru).