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

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

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

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

Kickass image from @queerbandit161

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A guide I’ve made to hopefully illustrate my point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salute to Andreas Engholm!

I have just learned through Christopher Scott Thompson of an inspiring Pagan rebel in Denmark who took part in a protest against greenwashing. His name is Andreas Engholm, and upon seeing what he had to say, I can’t bring myself to ignore it. I simply must share what he said here. On September 9th, Andreas was arrested by the Danish police for his participation in “Bloody September”, a protest organized by Extinction Rebellion Danmark at C. Andersen’s Boulevard to call attention to the grave risk of climate change to several people in the Global South and demand that the Danish government immediately act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss within the next five years. After Andreas was arrested, he had this to say:

“I am happy to be able to wear a banner that to me expresses the totality of the relations that I love and aim to protect. No, not the state, not concepts or ideology, not an idea of civilizational superiority. Yes, the land, the people of the land, including all the non-human, and my connection to the web of Life that exists on planet Earth. Here in these relations, that are real, my loyalty remains. Something as entirely artificial as a state will never have my loyalty or willing obedience – I am a free person, not a servant, not cattle. This is our land, we are entangled with it. We must restore and grow our relations with everything real, land, people, ancestors and those who come after, or perish by our own stupidity and ignorance. It is as simple as that. Hail to the Rebel.”


Look at this statement. It radiates with Pagan pride! This man is proud to stand up on behalf of loyalty to life on earth against the systems that are destroying it. Rebellion on behalf of the land, the ancestors, and web of life, and the assertion of freedom over obedience, is what Paganism is all about for him. I was not expecting to see such beautiful words of defiance today.

I have been critical of Extinction Rebellion in the past, and to be fair that does come from the way they operate in my country, where members actively surrender themselves to the police. Frankly I’m still pretty skeptical of the movement insofar as I consider to be insufficiently politicized (unless of course they’ve shifted away from refusing to consider themselves political in the last few years). But if Extinction Rebellion, at least in Denmark, has heroes like Andreas Engholm in their membership, then even for their faults, perhaps I can consider Extinction Rebellion worthwhile.

We can all learn something for Andreas Engholm’s Pagan pride. We as Pagans should honor his conviction and nobility.

Too much comfort and abstraction will kill you

I know this post is rather spontaneous, and I don’t plan on writing about the Gods and Radicals stuff for too long, or at least unless something major happens, but it seems that Rhyd Wildermuth’s article about anarchism just yesterday received a response on that very same website written by Christopher Scott Thompson, an anarchist and contributing author. The article, titled “We Are What We Always Were: A Response To “What Happened To Anarchism”“, is a sincere challenge to Wildermuth’s arguments against anarchist anti-fascism and I find that it put some real, heartfelt perspective to what Wildermuth strives to complain about, as well exposing his lies.

But, the article itself is not the main subject of this post, though the perspective it provides is a big part of what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is some reflections and perspective that was inspired by Thompson’s response.

Probably the most important point to consider from the article is about conflict, more specifically Thompson’s response to Rhyd’s points about the tactics used by anti-fascists. In response to Rhyd’s point about how it was ironic that anarchist websites got banned from Patreon and Facebook after Antifa groups “led the call” for far-right groups getting banned, Thompson argued, pretty convincingly, that even their own groups getting censored was, while bad for them, worth the risk to take out the far-right. His point was that a tactic in itself doesn’t become bad just because it can be turned against you, because the same applies for every tactic, in that there is no tactic that isn’t in some ways a double-edged sword. According to Thompson, everyone knew that this would happen, and accepted the risk on the grounds that it was worth taking the hit if it meant preventing harm being done. While I tend to be skeptical of deplatforming and definitely opposed to censorship on principle, when it comes to doxxing fascists who are about to do violence on others and bully others into committing suicide, it almost seems like there’s no reason to oppose that. I mean it’s just as Thompson says, which is more ethical? Is it more ethical to let fascists on 8chan “troll storm” Sophie Labelle into committing suicide because they didn’t like the fact that a trans person was creating comics that offended them, or is it more ethical to stop those fascists from doing that? If Thompson is right, the 8chan fascists seemed to stop harassing Sophie Labelle only after anti-fascists doxxed the people involved. I can’t help but think back to what happened to Near, the emulator developer who was bullied into suicide because they were trans and autistic, and wonder if perhaps the people at KiwiFarms might have backed off if they had the feeling that, perhaps, they would face the consequences of what they were doing? Would Near still be alive?

The perspective that Thompson offers is like a lightning bolt, it thrusts something important, but often forgotten, to the center of consciousness. From the perspective of Thompson, and the active, on-the-ground anti-fascist movement of which he is a part, it’s all about conflict, because theirs is a struggle in a real and visceral sense, one that is violent in nature in response to violence against the marginalized. For liberals, conservatives, vulgar libertarians (as opposed to radical, socialist ones), and apparently for people like Rhyd Wildermuth too, this is all just a conversation of ideas and opinions that can be hashed out intellectually. That’s in stark contrast to the anti-fascists fighting on the streets: for them, this is war.

Struggle, conflict, war, these are things that are lost to people who live in comfort and abstraction. Rhyd Wildermuth lives in the Ardennes, far away from anything happening in the United States that was once his home. Angie, his friend, is a middle class online socialite from London. Her friend, Aimee Terese is the rich daughter of a Lebanese capitalist living all the way in Australia, all the while doing nothing but incoherently rambling about the politics of a land whose people she has no real connection to. There’s all sorts of people who live, if not in comfort, then certainly in isolation from the struggle that persists at the center of the present. But if you live in relative security, comfort, alienation from struggle, it’s easy to think what you do about people who actually live in struggle and conflict, and make it their business to claw their way out rather than try to talk their way out of everything forever. And sometimes, just as is the case for the bourgeoisie, if you have comfort you’ll stoop to anything to protect it, even becoming a grotesque reactionary. I once met a guy who lived in the happiest country in the world and for him everything was about how to win debates and resolve the issues of “wokeness” to make socialism electable. The last time I saw him, he had fully embraced white nationalism. That’s what becomes of these people, because the truth is, if they’re not trying to hold on to their pre-existing biases, they have no skin in the game, and have no respect for those who do have skin in the game. Besides, all they like to do is get offended about everything and then complain about their rivals supposedly being like that. That is weakness.

Here’s something important to take away, consider it a lesson in life: never allow your struggle to be reduced to an intellectual quandary. If you do, then you’ll spend too much time trying to figure out how to solve the quandary, but all that means in practice is creating a set of rationalisations to justify yourself to others in a way that you hope your enemies will be satisfied with. They won’t be satisfied, because they never are, because that was never the point for them. Their real goal has never been to achieve resolution through reason, but instead to dominate you, gaslight you, and create insurmountable obstacles for your goals that can only be overcome on their terms, and while you never win they sit comfortably knowing that their victory is forever assured. Meanwhile the war, if it hasn’t already been ceded through intellectual compromise, is still going on all around you and your friends are dying or being brutalized, and figuring out how to rationalize yourself intellectually has solved nothing.

What has the working class ever gained by arguing that they have the right to equitable and humane living conditions, instead of fighting for those very conditions? What would Stonewall have ever gotten for the LGBT community if not for the riots of 1969? People talk about the American Founding Fathers to use them as a stamp of authority on behalf of their own positions, often for conservative goals, but you would never be able to do that if they didn’t wage revolutionary war against the British crown. Why do trans people have to debate their existence and their rights and endure the suffering of marginalization while their enemies get all the social protection and every benefit of the doubt?

Never forget what Heraclitus said, “war is common, strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity”. Struggle is real, it animates the transformation of things and of society, because Nature consists of cyclical growth and change, and therefore transformation. Life strives, therefore it fights. Therefore, the world turns. Change, justice, power, emancipation, these grow out of the barrel of a gun or the clash of a blade, or the smash of a brick, or the light of a flame. That’s also the only reason capitalism exists: it won the battle of the brutal transformation of the social order – that is what Marxists call the dialectic of history, and, I assure you, I’m convinced lately that the implications of dialectical transformation contain a grain of brutality to them. It’s also the only reason that losers get to evangelize about the greatness of civilization and progress, because they live off the fat of historic victory, turning that victory into the law of the land, and are eager to avoid losing their place.

Remember the struggle that matters, matters to you, because that knowledge at least might as well be sacred. If you lose it, you lose yourself.

Life Is A Struggle by Gustav Klimt (1903)

Ideologies of Chaos in Shin Megami Tensei

Every once in a while I think back to that wonderful meme that set the course of my life irrevocably into motion towards the self-identity and sense spiritual path whose quest for realization has defined me since: Chaos. That is to say, the Chaos alignment as it appears in the Shin Megami Tensei game series. However problematic it would be to actually believe in something like the generic Chaos ideology in real life, given that both Chaos and Law can be seen as intentionally extreme ideologies within the narratives of Shin Megami Tensei, I find that something about it always persists for me for some reason, despite its often problematic tendencies. So many ideas go into Chaos, along with the counter-alignments of Law and Neutrality, that I lately I have been thinking of doing a post outlining what I see as the main contours of Chaos in its manifestation throughout the series, and seeing as we have the remaster of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne coming next week, as well as Shin Megami Tensei V potentially coming this year or possibly next, this seems like decent timing for such an effort. These are games that center around competing visions of how the world should be organized, and so to discuss in terms of ideology is rather appropriate.

A few things to note before we proceed. This will mostly cover the main games , and will generally avoid spin-off games. An exception, however, will be Devil Summoner 2: Radiou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon, which features definite and concrete Law, Chaos, and Neutral pathways with their own ideological undertones and themes. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne represents a distinct problem in that it doesn’t really feature the same Law-Chaos dynamic as the rest of the series does, but it cannot be excluded either, since it is one of the main titles of the series and it does in its own way contain aspects of the Law-Chaos dynamic in complicated expressions. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, although it is part of the main series, will be excluded on the grounds that, although it does feature Law and Chaos, the game itself ultimately downplays the dynamic in favour of a narrative where both Law and Chaos are sublimated in favour of a grand battle against the Divine Powers, an assortment of gods from polytheistic belief systems who for some reason want to destroy the universe in order to “free” the souls of all humans. Shin Megami Tensei if…, although ultimately part of the main series, will be excluded on the grounds that it does not have alignment-based paths and endings. I will also not be covering Shin Megami Tensei NINE and Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE, both out of mercy and also because I can barely find anything coherent about their alignment paths. The Devil Survivor games will be excluded because techincally their multiple endings aren’t really alignment-based and instead are strictly character-based, and even the supposedly Law and Chaos paths may not necessarily fit traditional depictions of Law and Chaos.

And, of course, after this post, I’ll do follow-up posts in which I do the same discussion for the Law and Neutral alignments throughout the series, since they too have their own unique ideological contours and themes as expressed throughout the series.

Needless to say, this entire post will contain spoilers for all of the games featured here.

Shin Megami Tensei (1992)

The first Shin Megami Tensei game is also the first game in the series to establish the series’ main conceits concerning the Law and Chaos dynamic as inclusive absolutes. While there are cases where standard good vs evil choices can be mapped as Law and Chaos in the game, generally speaking Chaos seems to mean an ideology that is based on the prioritizing of personal freedom over order, which is here represented by the idea of aligning with the forces of Lucifer and/or the gods of Chaos against the angels of YHVH and/or the gods of Law, and creating a world where everyone is free to do whatever they want, so long as they have the strength to survive on their own.

Of course, there is much more to Chaos than just this, but for now we can consider that this is intended to be the game’s way of expressing what it believes to be an anarchist outlook. Both Law and Chaos can be seen as representations of extreme ideologies, and anarchism is generally perceived as “extreme” in the sense that it wants to do away with the state entirely. The Social Darwinist component typically attached to Chaos in the Shin Megami Tensei games can be interpreted as an interpretation of the popularly-perceived consequences of an anarchistic society, of the abolition of the state, which is perceived to be the abolition of all forms of order. It is thus possible to interpret it as a bowdlerization of anarchist ideology, since in practice most of the anarchist movement throughout history has broadly rejected Social Darwinism due to its alignment with socialist politics. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t anarchists who do in fact believe in some form of Social Darwinism. This of course would include anarcho-capitalists, whose propertarian beliefs dovetail with the broader right-wing libertarian movement, as well as some egoists and the even more marginal “anarcho-fascists”. Then again, however, there certainly were left-wing anarchists who did believe in some form of Social Darwinist ideas, such as Arthur Desmond (who may have been the real identity of “Ragnar Redbeard”) and Stansilaw Przybyszewski. Indeed, while the natural temptation is to refer to fascism as regards Social Darwinism, even fascism is not always consistent on that trope, given that the Strasser brothers (who, despite any assertion to the contrary, were fascists) seemed to reject the Social Darwinism that Hitler might have espoused, and in the Chaos context it ultimately makes little sense to invoke statism of any sort.

Early on in the game, we meet a character named Gotou, who seems to resemble Yukio Mishima for some reason, and his appearance is part of an early point in the game where you are confronted with a choice between Law and Chaos. On the Chaos side, Gotou is a general of the Japanese Self-Defence Force who, after coming into contact with demons, declares martial law in Tokyo and tries to summon lots of demons into the city, because he believes that this will help protect Tokyo from God’s plan, which apparently involves having America send nuclear missiles to annihilate Japan. Here a man who would in normal times be seen a crazy nationalist extremist can situationally be placed as the lesser evil, depending on your perspective of course. The American forces are represented by Ambassador Thorman on the Law side. You can, of course, choose to oppose both Gotou and Thorman, thus taking the Neutral path early on, and no matter what you do Gotou does eventually die either by your hand or in the coming nuclear assault, but this does go to show the early point in the game in which you are faced with a hard choice on your alignment.

In any case, what is notable for the purpose of this post is the much broader ideological conceit Gotou expresses. On a TV screen in Shinjuku, Gotou announces to passersby that civilization has rotted to its core because of its foundation in the exploitation of the planet, which he refers to as Gaia, and meanwhile humans eat away at each other with hatred, mistreatment, and prejudice. This situation compels Gotou to invoke “the ancient gods known as “demons”” to save Japan and the world from a conspiracy to destroy Japan and usher in a new totalitarian regime, and then, once the Americans and God are defeated, usher in a new age where humans and demons co-exist with each other in harmony. This is another idea of Chaos that persists in later games in different forms. Chaos here, in addition to representing freedom over order, represents harmony with nature, represented by the gods of Chaos and Gaia. Here, then, the major conceits of Chaos, such as freedom and strength, also construct a broader idea where this is situated in terms of a paradigm of “returning to nature”, in the sense that man “recaptures” what the Gaians might believe to be a more authentically natural way of life that is lost or forgotten as a result of thousands of years of civilization and then modernity. The basic return to nature idea does have analogues in real world philosophy. One of its main exponents is Taoism, which advocates for humans to realign themselves with the natural state of the Tao, which is ironic given that Chaos doesn’t really use any Taoist imagery (preferring esoteric Buddhist imagery instead) and instead it is the Neutral path here that uses the most Taoist imagery. Certain forms of Shinto and Buddhism, such as Ise Shinto and Zen Buddhism, also follow this formula, though it can be argued that harmony with nature may indeed be baked into the Shinto religion more broadly. In ancient Greece, the Cynics shunned social conventions in order to live a life in accordance with nature as understood by reason. Satanism can be interpreted in a similar light, with its egoist-hedonist philosophy from their perspective representing the more natural way of life that is suppressed by all the major religions, while anti-cosmic Satanists express this trope through an entirely different “Gnostic” philosophy based around the return of all creation to its “pre-cosmic” and acosmic origins. And of course, there are many neopagans who embrace broad ideas about living in harmony with nature and the gods.

Speaking of Gaia, the main representatives of Chaos in this game, and other games in the series, is the Cult of Gaia, of which Gotou seems to be a member. The Gaians seem to be devotees of Lucifer, who they believe sacrificed his place in heaven to disobey God on behalf of human freedom. In that sense, they can be thought of as Luciferians. But they are not just a sect of demon-worshipping Luciferians, for they believe also in the ancient gods and the veneration of nature, represented by Gaia. By ancient gods, of course, this seems to mean the gods that are aligned with Chaos. Gods like Vishnu and Thor are not among them, since they are aligned with Law. Gods like Yama, however, are. Although Lucifer represents the forces of Chaos, their actual commander during the final showdown in the Great Cathedral is an unspecificed king of the Asuras, referred to simply as Asura Lord (or Asura-Oh). He is joined by Surt, the giant who ruled Muspelheim in Norse mythology, and the demons Arioch and Astaroth, the latter of whom talks about originally being the goddess Ishtar. So there is a sense in which some of the “ancient gods” represent the adversaries of the head gods of the existing pantheons, such as Ravana and his son Indrajit, or simply the chthonic gods in the case of Yama. Insofar as this represents a kind of paganism, it is a paganism that is explicitly aligned with gods of the earth, as well as various Eastern warrior deities.

Gaians incorporate Buddhism into their overall aesthetic, largely to serve as a contrast to the obviously Western Judeo-Christian Order of Messiah, though this Buddhism, if it is not purely aesthetic, reflects a broad subversion. Examples of Gaians you can encounter as enemies (or allies) in the game include Hakai-zo (sinful Buddhist monks), Oni Jorou (meaning “demon prostitute”, apparently they are kunoichi or female ninjas), and Yami Hoshi (“dark priests”, heretical masters of Shingon Buddhist mantras). There is even a rare Chaos-aligned Fiend in the game called Daisoujou, who is based on a Buddhist mummification pratice known as Sokushinbutsu, and gives you the strongest Chaos-aligned weapon in the game, the Reaper’s Bell. In the Sega CD version, even Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess, appears as a Gaian for some reason. Gaians also serve as Chaos-aligned healers, using their service brings you closer to the Chaos alignment and if you are Law-aligned they will reject you entirely, and they sell all manner of Buddhist items, such as Amida Beads (which protect you from having your energy drained) and Nyorai Statues (or Buddha Icons; these resurrect Chaos-aligned characters), as well as things like Pentagrams and Asura’s Palms. As the above screenshot shows they tend to embrace a cyclical view of nature that is largely consistent with certain forms of paganism. One possible angle to consider in light of Gotou’s views is that the emphasis on the East, at least aesthetically, plays into an assertion of native identity against the Messians, under whose God America can be seen waging imperial conquest against Japan through nuclear warfare. Small wonder how a lot of the gods of Chaos you can summon in the game tend to include numerous Shinto deities in the Kishin clan as well as Hindu-Buddhist deities in the Tenma clan (please bring that back Atlus). Indeed, the Japanese aesthetic makes quite a bit of sense for the Gaians when put in the context of the broad reputation of traditional Japanese culture to be built upon harmony with nature. Thus, in a sense, we see Chaos in this game as a marriage of Japanese ideas about harmony with the kind of libertarian individualism found in the West, and at that mostly in America. In general, though, we see the Chaos faction animated by broad ideas about restoring a more natural outlook as expressed by the theme of restoring the old gods, who were demonized by YHVH. The Asura Lord expresses this by stating that he was once a god named Ahura Mazda before he was cursed by God.

This brings us to the actual goals of the Gaians, which are usually presented within the game as mostly opposition to the Messians: namely they want to stop the Messians from bringing about the Thousand Year Kingdom. Before Tokyo is nuked, Gotou, who we should remember is an avid Gaian, mostly talks about stopping Japan from getting destroyed by the American missiles and, to this end, summons demons or “ancient gods” to erect a barrier to protect Japan. After the nuclear holocaust, things obviously change. While the Messians plan to build a Great Cathedral (or Basilica) to summon God himself to Japan, the Gaians and the forces of Chaos obviously want to stop the construction of the Cathedral, a cause that they at multiple times try to convince the player to join, and towards the final stretch of the game they decide to simply invade the Cathedral to perturb the forces of Law. The invasion succeeds in capturing the lower levels of the Cathedral, which are thus encamped by the Gaians, and this leads to the forces of Chaos changing plans. They originally intended to destroy the Cathedral to prevent God from being summoned, but now the plan is to simply take it over and convert it into a new temple for the Gaians, which the Asura Lord describes as a symbol of friendship between humankind and demonkind. That idea, in this sense, does of course link back to the ideological goal established by Gotou earlier: to bring about a state of harmony between humans and demons, and in turn harmony with the earth. Of course, disrupting God’s rule on Earth and defeating his angels also has the implicit goal of liberating humans, freeing them from divine tyranny to pursue the natural liberty cherished by Chaos.

As far as the relationship between humans and demons is concerned, Chaos can be seen as the side that seeks to embrace co-existence with demons, and one of the manifestations of this is a phenomenon that remains associated with Chaos-aligned characters in future games: the fusion of humans with demons to create a half-demon man. This is what happens to the game’s main representative of Chaos, who without a set name is referred to as Chaos Hero. Frequently bullied by gangsters for believing in demons in the events before the game’s story begins, he often sought to become strong enough to get revenge on his enemies, particularly a gangster named Ozawa. By fusing with a demon, the Chaos Hero becomes more than human, stronger and more powerful than he was before, and he becomes able to overpower Ozawa and his newfound demonic allies once and for all. In a certain sense this represents the ultimate expression of harmony between humans and the demons, combining their powers to unlock greater potential and strength, though it can also be interpreted as part of an idea shared by both Chaos and Law; the idea that humans are not strong enough on their own, and so must depend either on God or his adversary. Yet, there is another undercurrent we may consider here. Demons, in Shin Megami Tensei’s world, are dangerous creatures from a realm that humans do not understand, but the demons and their realm are at the same time part of humanity all the same, and they can be variously be either friends or foes. That’s the core of Shin Megami Tensei. The Chaos side, by emphasizing harmony with demons, can be seen to emphasize the embrace of a side of humanity that humans often prefer to keep hidden or suppress, in part because of its potentially dangerous quality, on the grounds that demons, and the force they represent, can be a source of power, if that is what humans want.

Mind you, this is also conditioned by a fairly general “survival of the fittest” belief that the Chaos Hero embraces. He wants to be strong not just to defeat Ozawa and remove his oppressive police state from Shinjuku (not mention get his revenge for all the bullying) but also to survive on his own in the post-apocalyptic Tokyo. He naturally sees the Messians as blind to the true nature of the world, because power rules the world and God will not save the weak but rather oppress them, and opposes the forces of Law for their tyrannous ambitions. He also opposes Neutrality on the grounds that the balance of Law and Chaos exists only to be tipped, suggesting arguably a view predicated on constant and dynamic change in opposition to balance as a static notion. There is, though, a possible irony of his talk of power, in the fact that Ozawa justifies his police state through the logic of him being able to do what he wants if he has the power. To be fair, however, it is doubtless that the way Ozawa uses his power disgusts him, being a society where if you obey him he will protect you and if you don’t you will be imprisoned, tortured, and killed by secret police – such a society is not too far away from what the Thousand Year Kingdom might entail in practice (to which the Law Hero would object on the grounds that Ozawa’s power was “power without God”). It could also be said that, if he despises the use of power to oppress people, his preferred use of power is to cultivate self-sufficiency, and for him fusing with a demon is a sure way to go. The problem, however, is that he doesn’t stop there. On the Chaos path you create what is called a Devil Ring in order to progress, and the Chaos Hero briefly swipes it in order to take its power, which becomes too much for him and causes him to explode to death. Thus, he paid the price for his excess.

And of course, there is much to be said for the Chaos alignment being represented by Lucifer. Lucifer can be seen as Shin Megami Tensei’s way of representing the Christian concept of the Devil, due to his role as the lord of all the demons, and the champion of those who rebel against YHVH. This Devil called Lucifer is not established to be Satan, and indeed later games draw a distinction between Lucifer and Satan with the appearance of the latter as a separate character. Here, Lucifer is the rebel against God as opposed to his executioner, and he is also the character introduced in the War in Heaven myth, that of the former angel, or perhaps former god from a certain perspective, who refused God’s authority and command and was thus banished to the earth or Hell. This Lucifer was formerly the spirit of the morning star (the planet we now call Venus was originally just called Lucifer or Morning Star until the 13th century), but was adapted into a Devil by the same religion whose Bible called Jesus Christ the morning star. This Lucifer also cements the point I made earlier about anarchism, because Lucifer as an icon of freedom over the state has been a literary trope of anarchism and libertarianism since at least the 19th century. This can be seen to support the idea of Chaos as a sort of bowdlerized form of anarchism, at least in the sense that, for some anarchists, most notable Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Lucifer could be seen as an icon of free will against arbitary authority, an idea that has since been grafted on to Satanism at large through the efforts of The Satanic Temple and similar groups. But of course, Lucifer here is far more ambiguous than just this icon. He is a perhaps a trickster figure, a master manipulator just as much as the benefactor of Man, arguably beguiling humans into his designs, and yet even in this sense only ever inviting their own free will. Such is the Devil in the parlance of baseline Christian culture, against which Chaos, as the expression of not only this Devil but the gods of old, the way of natural freedom, is juxtaposed.

But there is one detail from the Chaos ending that is somewhat significant. Lucifer describes himself as a part of YHVH that he has discarded. What’s that all about? The Apocalypse version of Shin Megami Tensei IV would have you thinking it’s because he too is a pawn of YHVH, but this is obviously not the case here. The game never does explain what is meant by it, but, if you think about it, it lines up very nicely with what Carl Jung often wrote about how Lucifer was best conceived as a fourth part of a Trinity that is thus rendered a Quarternity, in which Lucifer not only represents the dark sides of the psyche but also the principle of individuation, who, knowing God’s creation best, induced freedom and individuality by rebelling against God. Applied to Shin Megami Tensei, Lucifer will have some exactly the same, but YHVH rebukes him for it, for ruining his perfect order, and as a result we are the beginnings of a long war to depose YHVH, liberate the seeds of freedom that Lucifer had sown into YHVH’s order, and end his tyrannical rule.

Shin Megami Tensei II (1992)

The second game invites certain changes to the Law and Chaos dynamic. From here on out, the games generally focus less on Law and Chaos as broad trans-cultural absolutes and instead focus specifically on the antagonism between YHVH and Lucifer as the primary representation of the struggle of Law and Chaos. At the same time, the world of Shin Megami Tensei II is dominated by the Law alignment. After a great cataclysm, what is left of Tokyo is taken over by the Order of Messiah, after a presupposed Neutral path. Man is left to order the world by himself after the forces of Law and Chaos are defeated, but the species fails to live up to this task, so the Messians create a new city, Tokyo Millennium, guided by their teachings, where they wait for the arrival of the Messiah.

Next to this, coupled with YHVH appearing in the game as a brutal, tyrannical, and vengeful deity, it certainly seems quite attractive and even downright reasonable to consider Lucifer as the good guy in all of this. In fact, many fans of the series are in agreement that this game’s interpretation of Lucifer, and perhaps Chaos more broadly, is the most positive in the entire series. The themes of Social Darwinism present in the previous game are remarakably de-emphasized compared to both the last game and future games in the series. Lucifer, the main representative of the Chaos alignment, doesn’t talk at all about making a world of the strong like he did in the last game, and seems to be only interested in ensuring the survival of both humans and demons, both on earth and the underworld, and his rebellion against YHVH is characterized by this desire.

The world of Shin Megami Tensei II does not consist solely of Tokyo Millennium, and this game allows the player to visit a region known as Makai, the home of the demons, otherwise known as The Abyss. Makai is ruled by Lucifer, under whose watch the demons, and some humans fleeing persecution from the surface, live in peace for the most part. This in its own way reinforces the idea from the previous game of harmony and co-existence between demons and humans being part of the Chaos package. Humans can even form relationships with demons in Makai, such as is the case for a man named Petersen who lives with his partner who is a Siren, or Daleth whose girlfriend is the fairy Hannoun and lives with her in Shinjuku. Even Aleister Crowley (as just a sorcerer named “Crowley”) appears somewhere in Makai where he tries to summon demons in a Sabbath for the purpose of sexual recreation. In a sense, co-existence with demons is rather the norm in Makai. Other denizens of Makai include the Mutants, people who became mutated by the nuclear radiation that spread during the Great Cataclysm, and were consequently cast out of Tokyo Millenium by the Messians and sealed beneath its surface. These Mutants don’t desire social acceptance or reparations from The Centre, rather they want nothing more than to be able to see the sun on the surface once more and the rebirth of the old city of Tokyo.

The Gaians return in this game, but they play a marginal role in the game’s story, if anything, and face oppression from the dominant Messians. The soul of one Gaian is found in the realm of Makai and mentions being killed by Messians for worshipping the wrong god, though they long for the return of the old gods in Japan. As in the last game, you can visit Gaian churches in order to use their healing services (as long as you aren’t Law-aligned), purchase items from them, and give donations. Once again, the Gaians you find in the game consist of Japanese occultniks and ninjas, such as the Kugutsuchi (“puppeteers”), Jiraiya (a shape-shifting ninja from Japanese folklore), Onymoji (practitioners of Onymodo), and Kamen-Hijiri (masked Buddhist pilgrims). The Gaians in Makai live under the sanctuary of Virochana, who also identifies himself as Dainichi Nyorai. This Virochana may or may not be this game’s expy of the Asura Lord from the last game, though instead of leading an army against the Messians he’s offering salvation to anyone willing to accept it.

The theme of the return of the ancient gods is also noticeably de-emphasized, but that is not to say it does not exist. Before you make it to Kether Castle in Makai, you fight Astaroth, who suspects that you are working with Lucifer’s enemies and disguises himself as Louis Cypher in order to try and kill you. When you defeat Astaroth, he laments that he was once the goddess Ishtar and asks you to return him to this previous form. This is a desire that was also expressed in the previous game. After defeating Astaroth, you can take on a side-quest that sees you bringing Astaroth to a throne room in Binah where he splits into two deities, Ishtar and Ashtar, whom YHVH ordered to fuse together to create Astaroth long ago. The old gods of Japan are also sealed in Makai. In another side-quest we find that the Amatsukami gods, led by Amaterasu, were sealed in various shrines by the Kunitsukami, who made a deal with YHVH in order to get rid of them. However, once this was done, YHVH sealed the Kunitsukami away as well, being unwilling to share power with them, and so they reside in various shrines dotted around Makai. Some of the “ancient gods” also serve as guardians of the various regions of the Abyss, such as Tiamat, Hecate, and Atavaka.

Ultimately, the ending path you take depends on a set of choices made towards the end of the game. However, there is one decision in particular that can be made in the game that emphasizes values associated with the path of Chaos. For example, at a certain point in the game, you find a place called Arcadia, a utopian district of Tokyo Millenium where there are no demons run by a man called Gimmel (a.k.a. “Lord Apollo”). Later on, you encounter a mysterious building home to people who are bound to chairs and quite literally hooked up to computers and who talk about how wonderful being in Arcadia is. This is the real Arcadia: a virtual reality program where people live out the fantasy of paradise while actually being held against their will and probably slowly atrophying in the process. When you find and defeat Gimmel, the man responsible for all this, a terrible decision awaits. You can either take over as the messiah of Arcadia, which is the Law choice, or destroy Arcadia, which is the Chaos choice. The latter represents freedom from the coercive illusion of paradise, but unfortunately destroying Arcadia would also mean killing its residents who are hooked up to the computers. Of course, there is also the option to just leave the building without doing anything about Arcadia, which is the admittely much safer Neutral choice. But, in an extreme world, Chaos can represent the ethos that order, insofar as it represents oppression, is to be straightforwardly broken up, even if that comes down to violence.

If you choose to side with Lucifer towards the end of the game, you are locked into the Chaos alignment for the rest of the game. Once this happens, after meeting with Lucifer and his demon allies at Kether Castle, they join with you and make your way to Eden in order to destroy the Megiddo Ark and prevent YHVH from using it to destroy Tokyo. After defeating YHVH the two main protagonists, Aleph and Hiroko, return to Makai, where Aleph is hailed as the saviour of the Mutants. Light from the surface shines down into the underworld, and Lucifer proclaims that the oppression of humans and the separation of the bonds between humans and demons have ended with the death of YHVH and the Mutants living below the surface have been liberated. Notably Lucifer says that, within the chaos, the peace has been lost, but that humans and demons have gained true freedom. That is the ethos of Chaos presented in this game: that the pursuit of true freedom, even if it comes with the loss of peace and order, is the most important of values. Rather than emphasizing might makes right, this Chaos expresses the idea that anarchy (in the colloquial sense at least, moreso than the specific ideology of anarchism) is more valuable than an unjust peace. But peace of any sort is not totally precluded, at least in the sense that the freedom of this new world is also, by invitation, the freedom to re-establish peace on your own terms. The Mutants thank the protagonists for saving them from total destruction, Daleth and his fairy companion thank them for saving the fairies from extinction, and the two protagonists go on to create the new world under the auspice of Chaos.

It is also worth noting that, in light of the way Mutants, as people who are aggressively marginalized by the Centre and the Messians, are an object of concern in the Chaos ending, and the noticeable lack of Social Darwinist rhetoric, this version of Chaos almost seems downright egalitarian. This is somewhat ironic when we consider that many expressions of Law and Chaos in future games do not paint this picture at all. But this egalitarianism in combination with the intractable concern for freedom actually points a much less bowdlerized version of anarchism than the last game. It also points to an irony in having Gotou in the last game resemble Yukio Mishima. The real Yukio Mishima was certainly no anarchist, in fact he was some kind of fascistic reactionary who sought the restoration of the pre-modern power of the Japanese emperor. A polar opposite to Yukio Mishima as an author would be Kenzaburo Oe, a Japanese leftist who rejects the ancient imperialism of the Yamato dynasty and the restoration thereof in favour of an egalitarian society rooted in communal relationships with the natural world. Oe uses the Kunitsukami to represent this life, who happen to be Chaos-aligned in the SMT series, whereas Mishima’s political mythos is connected with the founding myth of the imperial ancestral dynasty created with the influence of the Amatsukami, who happen to be Law-aligned in the SMT series.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (2003/2005)

The third game in the series is somewhat unique in that the dynamic of Law and Chaos is radically subverted, if not done away with entirely. With the end of the world set into motion by an event called The Conception, a tiny handful of humans survive by being in the right place at the right time (Shinjuku Medical Centre, of course). The world as we know it becomes what is called the Vortex World, a desolate and chaotic intermission between the death of the old world and the birth of the new, presided over by a being named Kagutsuchi, and three people in particular emerge with ideologies, or Reasons (or Kotowari). A girl named Chiaki espouses a Reason identified as Yosuga, a man named Hikawa espouses a Reason identified as Shijima, and a man named Isamu espouses a Reason identified as Musubi. Because the protagonist becomes half-demon, hence he is referred to as the Demi-Fiend, he is forbidden from espousing a Reason of his own, and only has the power to support one of the three Reasons, or indeed reject all of them. The original game had five ending paths: one for Yosuga, one for Shijima, one for Musubi, one where the world is restored to its pre-Conception state, and one where nothing changes and the Vortex World remains for a thousand years.

So, who represents the Chaos side in all this? The answer is rather more complicated than in more traditional games.

In theory, Yosuga best approximates the Chaos alignment due to the doctrine of might makes right, a negative aspect of the traditional Chaos alignment, being central to its ideology. Chiaki talks about how the strong and the beautiful are the rightful makers of the world, and the useless and the mediocre are cast aside. However, while brutish demons are to be found among its supporters, its main representatives, ironically, are angels. The Four Archangels, the main representatives of the Law alignment, support Chiaki and her Yosuga vision, and you fight them if you do not align with Yosuga, and the other angels can be seen as allies of Chiaki throughout the game. This does not make sense if you understand Yosuga simply as this game’s version of the Chaos alignment, particularly when you account for the Law and Chaos dynamic not really existing, either in the plot or in gameplay. Instead Yosuga should be seen as a Reason that fuses conceits from both Law and Chaos together in pursuit of a fascistic ideology of elitism. Unlike the traditional Chaos alignment, freedom does not appear anywhere in Chiaki’s resume of ideological concerns. Instead, Chiaki’s primary ideological concern is “beauty”. She wants to create a world where only “beautiful” things exist. Strength happens to be a part of her conception of beauty. Thus, the angels would see Yosuga’s world as a Thousand Year Kingdom in which only the beautiful, cognate with the godly, may live, just that admittance is predicated on a brutal Social Darwinist selection process based on strength. It is for this reason alone that Yosuga is seen as the nominal “Chaos” alignment in this game, when in practice it seems to be a synthesis of Law and Chaos tropes.

Then there are the two other Reasons, Shijima and Musubi. Shijima, while ostensibly the “Law”-aligned Reason, is supported by traditionally Chaos-aligned demons such as members of the Fallen, Night, and Tyrant clans, and its demonic sponsor is Ahriman, a Tyrant demon and therefore traditionally Chaos-aligned. Musubi is ostensibly “Neutral”, but it does actually contain plenty of the “individualism” that is generally ascribed to the Chaos worldview, though this could also be interpreted as the product of taking the functional isolationism associated with Neutrality to the furthest degree. In practice, none of the three Reasons can be treated as simply clear-cut representations of the three classical alignments. And, in relation to these three Reasons, the other two paths in the original game are functionally Neutral endings. In the Freedom ending, you reject all Reasons in order to restore the world to its original state. In the Demon ending, you reject all Reasons and either try to create your own Reason or just prove too indecisive to initiate the creation of a new world, which results in the persistence of the Vortex World.

I suppose perhaps the closest to a traditional Chaos-aligned character in the game that appears early on in the game’s plot would be Gozu-Tennoh, a powerful demon god who leads the Mantra group against the Assembly of Nihilo. Gozu-Tennoh is based on a fearsome Buddhist protector deity who may have originally been a god of disease and pestilence. Gozu-Tennoh opposes the Assembly of Nihilo for wanting to “bring the world to a halt” with their world of stillness, and instead wants a “world of strength”, which is naturally a brutish might makes right utopia ruled by the strong. This certainly does hue from that classical negative aspect of Chaos, and Gozu-Tennoh even declares that he will rule “the kingdom of chaos”. In a weird way, the trial by combat for trespassing held at the Mantra Headquarters in Ikebukuro mirrors the events of the first game, in which the Gaian city was presided over by Yama, another fearsome Buddhist deity. However, Gozu-Tennoh eventually becomes one with Chiaki as the bearer of Yosuga, and so his power becomes folded into essentially one of the three avenues by which the power of creation can be realized by Kagutsuchi, and thus his spirit becomes part of a the three prongs of this game’s version of Law: a contest of visions by which to realize perfect order instead of chaotic freedom.

If there is a real Chaos ending, it is in the Maniax version of the game, which introduces the True Demon ending. This path requires the player to collect the Candelabra from powerful demons of death known as Fiends, make their way through the Amala Labyrinth, and go all the way to the end to meet Lucifer. Once this is done, all other endings become inaccessible and, after defeating Kagutsuchi, you face Lucifer as the real final boss, who seeks to test your strength as his new general, and from then on you and Lucifer, after stopping the cycle of death and rebirth in this world, march on with demon armies to begin the war against God. This fundamentally changes the dynamic set out in the original version of the game. In the original version of the game, there is no real Law and Chaos dynamic, just three Reasons and two Neutral paths. Now, all of the Reasons can conceivably be counted as Law endings insofar as they ultimately conform to the designs of The Great Will, the Freedom and Demon endings remain Neutral, and the True Demon ending is a Chaos ending in the sense that it actively sets out to make war with The Great Will, and ultimately God, in concious alignment with Lucifer.

The Gaians do make an appearance in this game’s story, though the role of the organization itself seems to be more in the background than anything active. They are mentioned early on in the game and appear to be responsible for multiple murders before the beginning of the game’s story, but after the Conception they disappear from the story entirely. One interesting tidbit about Gaian doctrine presented in the Amala Labyrinth is that the Gaians liked to bring together all sorts of doctrines out of a belief that the truth can be discovered from chaos, which no doubt was represented by a free flow of ideas that took place within their syncretism. Hikawa, one of the main characters, was a member of the Cult of Gaia, but his actual ideology doesn’t seem to resemble anything the Gaians advocated for, and is often seen as closer to the Law alignment than anything else. With the release of the Maniax edition, we see some additional information concerning Hikawa and the Gaians. Considered heretical even within the cult itself, Hikawa took the Miroku Scripture from them and began planning to betray them in order to create his own world of silence. To that end he started summoning demons everywhere, whom he had murder not only Gaians but also the Messians, basically anyone who stood in his way. Meanwhile, the souls of both Gaians and Messians reappear in the Amala Labyrinth, much like in Shin Megami Tensei II when they appeared in Makai. There, the Gaians tend to espouse much the same things they did in the first two games, about how they tend to advocate for harmony with nature and the demons. Both the Gaians and the Messians had wanted to stop Hikawa from triggering the Conception, no doubt motivated at least partially by the fact that this would mean the deaths of nearly all of humanity including themselves.

But of course, the True Demon Ending has little to do with these old themes associated with the Gaians. The True Demon Ending is a fundamentally anti-cosmic position. Whereas other Chaos alignments sometimes bill themselves as restorers of the true order of nature, the True Demon Path is based around the idea of destroying the cosmic order, indeed the cosmos itself. The rationale for this is that the universe, or rather multiverse, is constantly created, destroyed, and recreated by The Great Will, again and again until a perfect universe is created. Thus life is constantly destroyed by The Great Will, and the only way to stop this is to destroy the cycle of death and rebirth in the multiverse, which means to destroy the creation of The Great Will. The rammifications of this ending are far more severe than almost any of the other endings due to the fact that you’re destroying the universe, but even here, it is possible to argue this as an extreme expression of the Chaotic pursuit of freedom even at the expense of the collapse of the cosmic order itself. In a cosmos where you are destined to be nothing but a constant pawn of an endless cycle of death and rebirth, initiated by a God who will keep doing this until he creates his utopia off the back of the countless dead, it could be said that the only liberation available is to take the fight against creation itself. What happens afterwards is an open question. Will defeating God lead to the altering of creation itself, a new form for creation no longer dictated by the pursuit of perfect order? It can only be speculated, although it seems that in this path even a world of might makes right seems to be preluded, since you reject the Reason that already represents this idea and there is no talk of it in the True Demon path. What is most important for the True Demon path is that, at least for Lucifer’s forces, it represents revolution against the Absolute, as well as the ultimate and most extreme rejection of fate and of doubt towards the Absolute. The Lady in Black accompanying Lucifer asks the player if they would prefer to be predestined by God or if they would rather choose their own path. That is what defines the True Demon path at the end of it, and that is what it means to embrace Chaos.

The last thing we should note is that, according to Kazuma Kaneko himself, the world of the third game has Chaos as the dominant theme, in contrast to the second game being dominated by Law. The traditional aesthetic of Law and Chaos is on display with this orientation, with the world of Nocturne positively festooned with vibrant edifices of Japanese culture and character. There are a fair few links to Buddhism in the plot as well. The Gaians, before the events of the game, possess something called the Miroku Scripture. Miroku no doubt refers to Miroku Bosatsu, the Japanese name for Maitreya Boddhisattva, the future Buddha according to Buddhist eschatology who will appear when the Buddhist dharma is completely forgotten in order to teach “pure” dharma to the world.. The text of the Scriptue also makes references to Buddhist concepts such as Sangai (the three worlds), Taizo (the Womb Realm, which is used to refer to The Conception), and Daihi (the compassion of the bodhisattvas). The Vortex World is conceived as the Womb Realm, which is conceived as a place in which the creation of the new law of a new world will take place. The True Demon path also could be seen to have Buddhist contours in a somewhat extreme sense. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to emancipate yourself from the endless cycle of suffering in reincarnation, of death and rebirth, through the realization of anatma and the attainment of nirvana. Some more extreme interpretations of Buddhism can posit that the only way to liberate all beings from suffering is to destroy the universe itself. The outcome of the True Demon path definitely fits this description.

Ironically, however, for a world so defined by Chaos, the being at the center of it is Kagutsuchi, an avatar of the Great Will. He gathers up the last human survivors for the sole purpose of determining who will create a new world, in the hopes of this time creating a world of perfect order. Thus, his enterprise is Law. Though, could it also be said that the selection process for this is a contest of strength that might otherwise be associated with Chaos? But then even that contest seems to being directed towards what is ultimately the aim of Law, the realization of perfect order by the Great Will. And yet, the Vortex World as a state of primordial chaos in which creation takes place does seem to fit well with the idea of Chaos in some ways. Remember that, in the first game, if you’re Chaos-aligned in the Kongokai dungeon and encounter the Chaos Phantom, he will praise you and beckon you to walk the path of Chaos, “from which everything is born”. Chaos is primeval and timeless potentiality itself, the germ from and within which creation emerges, and the Vortex World reflects this. Also reflected in the Chaos emphasis is the quest of the Amala Labyrinth. Lucifer, as Kaneko said, is the idol of chaos who seeks to establish free will, and for better or for worse that is his purpose in this game: to establish free will will out from the primordial chaos, by waging war with the Great Will.

Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon (2008)

One of the few spin-off games mentioned here, Devil Summoner 2 (or should that be Raidou Kuzunoha 2?) has a rather scaled down but noticeable Law and Chaos dynamic. It has no little impact on gameplay, but it does have a presence in the game’s story, however small that may be. The basic premise of the game is that Raidou Kuzunoha, a Taisho-era occult detective, is investigating a series of strange misfortunes involving some equally strange people wearing masks, which leads him to the discovery of the Tento Lords, who terrorize a village and make the human inhabitants their subjects, as well as the Mushibito, who oppose the Tento Lords and their contempt for humans and instead follow the visions of “Lord Bellzeboo”.

Here, Law and Chaos are less definite ideologies and more about individual ethos, in the sense of how you live your life. In this sense, the Chaos-aligned Raidou is a person who lives his life mostly for himself and who does what he does out of his own principles, his actions are based on who he really is and not just based on his duties as Raidou Kuzunoha. It is not so much an ideology as much as general individualistic way of life, and not necessarily in a bad way. The Chaos-aligned Raidou is, in this sense, not motivated by any sense of duty towards the Yatagarasu organization, but is instead motivated by his own principles and desires, and simply utilizes the resources of the Yatagarasu to do what he really wants to do.

The Gaians make no appearance at all in this game’s story. Instead, the Chaos alignment is largely represented by Dahn Tsukigata. Dahn is an impulsive young man who despises the Tento Lords. His ambition seems to be to become the Insect King, or King Abaddon (hence the title of the game), in the hopes that it would enable him to free his village from having to rely on the Tento Lords. To that end he stole the Luck Locust from his own clan in order to gain the power to become King Abaddon and save his sister, Akane. This invites the risk of summoning dangerous monsters known as Apollyons, but the risk in his mind is worth it. Dahn is a man who is willing to take any risk and defy authority in order to do what he thinks is right, which in this case means interrupting the Marriage Ritual in which women are selected as “brides” (sacrifices) for the Tento Lords, and thus he embodies this game’s Chaos ethos succcinctly. By contrast, Dahn’s opposite is Akane, his sister, who is willing to accept being a sacrificial lamb for her community if it means sparing them from the wrath of the Tento Lords. Louis Cypher (Lucifer) also appears in the game and plays a major role in the story.

Louis Cypher appears as a blond young man as he does in so many other games, hanging around the Tamonten Shrine, but he also appears as “Lord Bellzeboo” (another name for Beelzebub), who appears to the Mushibto as a fly and imparts prophecy and instructions to them. It seems Louis Cypher is also the one who revealed that only King Abaddon can defeat the Tento Lords, and is thus the inspiration for Dahn’s ambition. In the New Game Plus playthrough, after aligning with Chaos, Lucifer also appears as the boss of a series of side quests where he tests your strength in order to see if you are capable of changing the future, by which he means the future as determined by God. Essentially, Lucifer’s interest in Raidou consists in his belief that Raidou will be strong enough to serve as the catalyst for wresting the power of fate away from God’s control, and make it so that God is no longer the author of human destiny. As a side-note, even though Satan and Lucifer are typically treated as separate entities in the SMT series, if you have Lucifer in your party and initiate conversations between him and some enemy angels, they refer to him as Satan (though for some reason they’re all rather polite to him otherwise).

Incidentally, speaking of SMT call-backs, although the Gaians are not in this game, the Asura Lord makes his return in a side-quest where we find that theme of the ancient gods being oppressed by YHVH also returns. Here, Raidou must go to the Akarana Corridor to get to an alternative space-time where Asura, who describes himself as the sun divinity and “the eternal warmonger”, is getting ready to lead the forces of Chaos against God. The Asura Lord once again says that he was once Ahura Mazda, but he calls himself Dainichi Nyorai, which is not his true form. After you defeat Asura, you can choose to either allow him to go and fight alongside the forces of Chaos or insist that he return to his role as Dainichi Nyorai. The former, naturally, is a Chaos choice, while the latter is a Law choice, and there is no middle ground.

The Chaos ending for this game sees you join forces with Dahn for the final stretch of the game. After the defeat of Shinado, who assumed the mantle of King Abaddon, and after the resulting disappearance of the Abyss brought forth as a result of Dahn’s reckless actions, Dahn sets out to leave the Tsukigata village to the villagers and go on a journey with the Mushibito to help them find a place where they can live in peace. In a certain sense this echoes the Chaos ending in the second game, in which the mutants, having been liberated, can now go and live in peace after seeing the sun. Indeed, Chaos overall in this game actually seems far more straightforwardly heroic than even in Shin Megami Tensei II. The basic substance is defying duty and tradition in order to try and save someone from being sacrificed to a clan of deities who hate humans. It’s also worth noting that, after Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, this is one of the first SMT games that allowed American audiences to choose between Law and Chaos in the proper and classical sense. A GameSpite article titled Shin Megami Tensei: Law Chaos and American Way, written by Cole Lastie in 2010, noted that while Japanese players believed the central plot choice to be a difficult one, cutting into a cultural dillemma between individual suffering and putting the needs of society above your own, American players easily identified with Dahn’s desire to stop the Marriage Ritual, because there usually is no dillemma between individual suffering and putting the needs of the group above your own in the collective American psyche. As a generic ethos of freedom over authority, Chaos tends to resonate with American attitudes.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2009)

Originally intended to be the official fourth game in the series, Strange Journey positions the Law and Chaos dynamic in the context of a radically different plot scenario to previous and future games. In this game, instead of being a lone young demon summoner changing the fate of Tokyo with just yourself and your demons, you’re a soldier wearing a demon-summoning suit (or DEMONICA), part of a whole crew of men and women sent to investigate a mysterious place called the Schwarzvelt that appeared over Antarctica. The Schwarzvelt seems to be a collection of alternate dimensions inhabited by demons, and through which demons seem to be pouring out and into Earth. Its emergence seems to be linked to the destructive behaviour of humans towards the natural world, and in particular to a zenith of accelerated consumption, violence, pollution, and general decadence. Basically, demons are invading the world in response to mankind destroying the world. The assumed premise of the Schwarzvelt Investigation Team is to reach the end of the Schwarzvelt in order to destroy it, but the Law and Chaos endings, rather than this, involve the player joining with the forces of either alignment to use the Schwarzvelt to create a new world with the power of the Cosmic Eggs.

The Chaos alignment, in this context, represents not only the usual ethos of freedom against order, but the restoration of the world, to a natural order free from the control of God and characterized by harmony with nature and the demons, or “the ancient gods”, with no hierarchy other than the familiar “might makes right” form of social organization found in the first game. In this game in particular it also seems to come down to sympathy for the demons in relation to the question of the role of the Schwarzvelt and its connection to the destruction of the world to which it responds. In simple terms this tends to mean that Chaos-aligned choices involve agreeing with the demons when they say that they’re here to save the world. This is in opposition to being strictly pro-human and anti-demon as is the case for Neutral choices, or to declaring that both humans and demons are wrong as is the case for Law-aligned choices. In Sector Horologium you may find Ongyo-Ki who summarizes the perspective of the demons: he views the angels as nothing to fear because they cannot do anything but listen to commands from on high, and views humans as incoherent creatures who ruin the world while blaming someone else for it.

The demonic lords of each sector of the Schwarzvelt, who constitute the main bosses of the game, tend to echo aspects of this game’s version of the Chaos alignment, and when they question the player, answering in agreement with them pushes you towards the Chaos alignment. Morax, the Goetic demon presiding over Sector Antlia, tries to get the player to agree with him that the demons he sends to the Earth are “the real heroes”, due to humanity’s atrocities. When he later reincarnates as Moloch, he again boasts of the greatness of demons in his crusade for revenge over his previous battle. Mitra, the god presiding over Sector Bootes, talks about how humans originally worshipped the demons out of fear and the desire for supernatural protection, and lamented that humans have grown to “eat the planet into ruin, as though you owned it”. When Mitra reincarnates as Mithras, he proclaims that demons were not made to serve humans and that instead they should rule humans, and if the player objects, Mithras says that it is humans who have “desecrated the bond”, by which he means forgetting the gods and losing harmony with the land and the rivers. Horkos, the gluttonous ruler of Sector Carina, lambasts humans for producing things until they become unmanageable, forgetting their “debt to the earth”, and disrupting the rhythm of the planet by joining the ranks of the consumed, viewing humans as less than beasts and mocking them for thinking they can control their rampant consumerism. When he reincarnates as Orcus, he complains about humans “drowning in civilization” and enjoying themselves too much, unable to accept death in the way that their ancestors did due to hedonism. Asura, the ruler of Sector Delphinus, lectures humans about how the Schwarzvelt was brought about by the humans themselves, blames the coveting of material goods, disregard for the planet, and the apparent weakening of the human spirit, by which he means its lack of Social Darwinism of course, while mocking order as comfort for the weak and chaos (meaning of course endless strife) as a source of beauty and strength, indeed he blames civilization itself for the decay of humans and Earth. When he reincarnates (inexplicably) as the goddess Asherah, she describes humans as “defilers of soil and destroyers of lives” and proclaims that demons as well as humans who “carry that noble seed within them” (presumably referring to Chaos-aligned humans) are needed to restore the Earth and the power of the land. Ouroboros (a.k.a. Ouroboros Maia), the serpent ruler of Sector Eridanus, refers to the Schwarzvelt as “the holy realm of the gods” and upon defeat laments of humans passing through it. Tiamat, the ruler of Sector Fornax, proclaims that she will give birth to an orchard of demons for as long as humans keep destroying the planet. Maya, the ruler of Sector Grus, complains that humans bring nothing but destruction and cannot build a beautiful future. Mem Aleph, the great mother goddess of Sector Horologium and also the final boss on most paths of the game, presents herself as the voice and protector of the Earth and laments humans for losing co-existence with the gods.

Here, it is established that the demons of the Schwarzvelt view themselves as a kind of antibody, the virus to which it responds being a type of civilizational decadence that results in environmental and societal destruction. A major conceit of the Chaos alignment from the first game is the idea of harmony with the ancient gods in a state of freedom. This game’s version of Chaos more or less elevates that conceit while emphasizing the Social Darwinism of the previous game and adding a great deal of misanthropy on the part of the demons. The idea the demons have of killing humans in order to save the environment is in many ways the most extreme and negative representation Chaos gets in the series as a whole and is reminiscent of the ideas of people like David Foreman and Pentti Linkola, proponents of “deep ecology” who interpret the idea that all living beings have worth regardless of utility to humans as entailing the mass death of humans being justified in order to protect the earth.

Once again, the Gaians don’t appear anywhere in the game, but then what would they be doing hanging around in the Schwarzvelt anyway. The main representative of the Chaos alignment in this game is a man named Jimenez, an American mercenary who is a member of the Strike Team on board the Red Sprite ship. He’s frank, pessimistic, cynical, prone to acting independently, and he constantly talks back to other crew members and even makes cruel jokes at their expense. One can see this attitude being problematic for team effort, but you can also sympathize with him in many respects. A notable trait of Jimenez’s that will metastasize later in the game is that while Jimenez has a difficult time getting along with most of his human crew members (except, at least potentially, for the protagonist of course), and he tends to mistrust the angels that later appear in the Schwarzvelt, he gets along with a demon named Bugaboo so well that he even frequently lets him accompany him outside of the Demon Summoning Program, which often gets him into trouble with the rest of the crew. Eventually, after getting captured by the mercenary unit called Jack’s Squad during a botched espionage mission, he fuses with Bugaboo in order to save the demon’s life and escape from torture. Just like the Chaos Hero in the first game, he becomes more than human, stronger than ever before, but this also means he loses some of his humanity and takes on some dangerous traits. Immediately after escaping he slaughters many of Captain Jack’s crew, kills Jack himself, and would certainly have killed his second-in-command Ryan, even as he pled for mercy, if not for Zelenin’s intervention. Afterwards, though, Jimenez can potentially take revenge on Jack’s Squad and finish them off for good. Ryan at some point takes over Jack’s Squad and announces plans to get revenge on the Red Sprite, but Zelenin pacifies them with her angelic song. For the demons in Grus, however, this is not enough, and they offer passage to Grus’ underbelly if they just kill the rest of Jack’s Squad. Agreeing to the demons’ request pushes you towards the Chaos alignment, while refusing their request and having Zelenin help you instead pushes you towards the Law alignment. Killing Jack’s Squad is justified by the demons on the simple grounds that they killed, imprisoned, and exploited them previously, and would rather they die than become agents of God against them.

Certain side-quests, or EX Missions, also give windows into the Chaos worldview. In Sector Eridanus, you see the Four Devas (or Four Heavenly Kings) – Zouchouten, Koumokuten, Jikokuten, and Bishamonten – say they have come in response to “the restoration of a world full of energy”, and offer to train you if you want some of that energy for yourself. You can fight three of them on all paths, but Bishamonten can only be fought on the Chaos path. A New Game Plus Ex Mission in Sector Grus has the player fighting Alilat, a goddess trying to stop the unsealing of the Demiurge, the false god of “Gnosticism”, proclaiming the revival of “the goddess-worshipping world” he once trampled upon her defeat. Another EX Mission has the player fighting the Demiurge, who is also the hardest boss in the game. Upon defeating Demiurge, the angel Metatron will try to fuse with him in order to regain some lost power, but the voice of a goddess will implore the player to switch off his Demonica visor so she can seal the two entities. Heeding her request will result in the Demiurge and Metatron being cut off from the Schwarzvelt, and the goddess thanks you for helping her seal the Demiurge away, stating that all will be purified in the end. This goddess previously warns the player not to go on before the fight with Demiurge. This is part of a broad conflict with the goddesses, who represent the will of the Earth, and the forces of God who sought to control it.

The major alignment lock comes after the defeat of Maya in Sector Grus, where Arthur, the Red Sprite’s AI, is temporarily shut down by a seemingly unknown power, and the crew see visions of the Three Wise Men on one hand, and Louisa Ferre (this game’s version of Louis Cypher, and thus Lucifer) on the other. This ends up dividing the crew of the Red Sprite into separate camps; those who were taken in by the Three Wise Men followed Zelenin (a scientist who later becomes an angelic being) and the angels on one side, those who embraced the vision of Louisa Ferre followed Jimenez and the “ancient gods” on the other side, while a third faction of the crew tries to preserve the original mission of the Schwarzvelt Investigation Team and refuses to follow either side. Louisa Ferre retorts to the Three Wise Men, proclaiming their world as a deathly world where nothing is born and nothing dies, and proclaims that the real solution is for humans to “return to their souls’ origin”, by letting the Schwarzvelt loose in order to restore the harmony of humans with nature, as opposed to living fat off the land and alienated from nature, living in a kind of anarchy with “free gods” in a world of strife-filled freedom, where the “depraved” are ultimately cast off for their weakness and fear of death. In practice this essentially just means a state of constant violence presided over by demons, which can be inferred through the way Asura talks about “polishing” the spirits of humans after making the crew of the Red Sprite go berserk. Jimenez is taken in by Louisa’s vision, describing it as a free life where “if you die it’s your own fault”, and decides to leave the Red Sprite in order to go off into the Schwarzvelt and live with the demons. A few of the crew become swayed by Jimenez in turn, expressing a newfound desire to reclaim lost freedom by turning toward the gods of old. After this, the crew arrives at Sector Horologium, and Commander Gore, who died early on and was previously resurrected by the Mothers, regains his former consciousness and returns to the crew of the Red Sprite. This is where the final alignment choice takes place. If the player is Neutral, he poses two questions to you, one where he asks if you will side with the angels, and one where he asks if you will side with the demons, and saying no to both ensures that you are Neutral. If you are already either Law or Chaos aligned, however, you will be forced to fight Gore without being posed any questions and be locked onto either alignment.

If the player is Chaos-aligned, Gore proclaims that the demons have devoured your soul leaving nothing but a body yearning for freedom, thus he resolves to defeat you as a demon wearing the uniform of the Investigative Team. After defeating Gore, Jimenez returns to the Red Sprite with an army of demons to take it over, proclaiming that he will take back freedom for both humans and demons, and proceeding to “baptise” them in the name of the demon mothers, by which of course he means have some demonic presences take over the minds of the crew except for the protagonist. After the takeover of the Red Sprite, Jimenez and the protagonist meet and pledge their loyalty to Mem Aleph, who congratulates the party for choosing “a world of freedom” and instructs them to collect the Cosmic Eggs that will allow them to rebuild the world. Once this is accomplished, she congratulates the party on their pledge that they and the demons will live in harmony, describing both humans and demons as opposite sides of a mirror, and gives them their final order to go to the Vanishing Point to release the Cosmic Eggs into the world. The Vanishing Point is guarded by Zelenin, who has transformed into a great pillar angel and tries to stop you, but you defeat her, and begin creating the world of Chaos. Energy from the Schwarzvelt pours over the Earth, human civilization is destroyed, and demons become the new rulers of a “world of life”, regaining their forms as gods of freedom, power, and “hope”. Humans establish harmony with demons, with “the ancient gods” as it were, but it is a brutal world, governed by the principle of might makes right; only the strong, “those whose own strength blazes brightly”, may live in the new world, and the weak are left to die. Ironically though, for a “world of freedom”, if you look closely at the artwork for that world you might see what appears to be a huge fence, possible with a view to keeping humans in a massive enclosure while they kill each other for the gods of old. After the Red Sprite crew becomes Chaos-aligned in the Chaos path, they come to the conclusion that fighting is all there is to the world, which is perhaps fitting for the world they’re about to create.

There is here a perplexing mix of the familiar tropes of bourgeois Western philosophy: namely the two views of human nature presented by the camps of Rousseau and Hobbes, which are normally opposed to each other. As per familiar and popular understanding, the Rousseau camp held that human nature was essentially good before being despoiled by the advent of civilization, and although Rousseau himself never coined or used the term “noble savage”, the term is applied to this concept of human nature, and similar thinkers invoked a primitve communist past defined in terms of this nature as a protest against the authoritarian rule of the monarchy and the church, while the Hobbes camp is typically portrays human nature in terms of inherent hostility and violence, though ironically Hobbes himself didn’t actually believe in human nature as such, and the Hobbesian view of pre-civilized life is described famously as “nasty, brutish, and short”. In this game, however, the Chaos view of original, pre-civilized human nature, mashes both the Rousseauan and Hobbesian camps of human nature together in a kind of synthesis. It takes the position of the Rousseau camp in that human nature was originally good before the advent of civilizational authority and censure, but this is actually filtered through the Hobbesian perspective of natural life as “nasty, brutish, and short”. In other words, for many of the Chaos demons, the state of the noble savage and the Hobbesian state of nature are the same thing, and human nature was originally good precisely because it was nasty and brutish, and the advent of civilization caused it to wane and become weak in its absolute submission to the law.

There is also, ultimately, an irony in the Chaos position as far as the problems of the world and humanity are concerned. In Sector Delphinus, you encounter the resurrected Commander Gore for the first time since his death early in the game, who at this time is on the side of the Mothers, and he bemoans humanity as a disease for its “joy in slaughter”, “addiction to desire”, “infinite consumption”, and “excretion beyond salvation”. Yet, the solution presented by some of the Chaos demons involves precisely the awakening of the joys of violence and the liberation of desire. Asura’s whole program for correcting what Gore describes is precisely in making humans more violent, and in the world of Chaos, most of what people do is engage in violence. How is this not the “joy in slaughter” that the Mothers, through Gore, complained about? And if “addiction to desire”, whatever that might mean, is such a problem for them, why is Mara, the literal embodiment of desire itself, retconned as one of the Mothers? Indeed, the mind-jacking that Jimenez does in the Chaos path is framed by Jimenez as essentially “freeing their madness”, and all it really amounts to heightening their taste for violence. How does the Mothers square that with their complaints about “joy in slaughter”, and how do they square any sort of liberation of desire with their complaints about “addiction to desire”?

All in all, Chaos in the context of Strange Journey can be seen as rather radically expanded. It represents not only the ethos of freedom and the generic alignment with demons, but its component of harmony with wild nature is very much elevated into a deep-seated, and unfortunately rather misanthropic, ideology built on the re-establishment of a sacred relationship between Man and the earth, albeit through a rather destructive method. But it cannot be overlooked that this game’s version of Chaos is also arguably the cruellest path in the game, and probably the cruellest form of Chaos in the entire series. Think about it: you spend the majority of the game fighting demonic lords who go on about how human civilization needs to be destroyed and taken over by demons, which in this game essentially entails demons spreading out into the Earth and killing untold numbers of people, only to betray your fellow crew, stop them from returning to Earth and doing great things with their loved ones, have your half-demon friend basically brainwash them into supporting your new cause, all to create a world where all humans do is kill each other under the oversight of “the ancient gods”. Far and away, the most grim take on Chaos found in the series. Of course, things take a different turn in the Redux version, but since the Redux version is several years apart from the original, this can wait.

Shin Megami Tensei IV (2013)

As the official fourth game in the serious, Shin Megami Tensei IV essentially recapitulates the Law and Chaos dynamic that has been in effect since the second game, with Law and Chaos defined and represented primarily by two opposing poles of the Judeo-Christian mythos, though also taking with it much of the tropes of the first game. Law is represented as the side of God, or more specifically his angels, while Chaos is represented as the side of Lucifer, and the various demonic adversaries of God, though Law is also a generic alignment denoting order, preservation, and everlasting peace at the expense of freedom, while Chaos is a generic alignment denoting freedom, change even through destruction, and the idea of a world where the strong can shape the world as they please.

Before we go any further we should note the setting. Most previous games have been set principally if not entirely within Tokyo, and this game is not much of an exception. The difference, however, is that unlike most games, this game is split between two main locations. The first is a place called the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, seemingly a kingdom in the vein of medieval Europe, though for some reason its main fighting force is referred to as Samurai (one would think that Knights would suffice for such a setting), and there’s an entrenched feudal class system split mainly between Casualries (peasants and labourers) and Luxurors (the nobles and aristocrats). The second is Tokyo, which is covered by a vast ceiling of rock, which is in reality the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, and which is infested by demons and split between rivalling factions – the Ring of Gaea on one side, and the Ashura-kai on the other (for some reason the Messians are absent in this game). You play as Flynn (or more or less the character officially named Flynn), one of the Samurai of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado who descend to Tokyo as part of their mission to protect the kingdom from demons. You companions are Jonathan, the main representative of the Law alignment, Walter, his Chaos-aligned counterpart, Isabeau, the paragon of Neutrality, and for a brief period Navarre, who is arrogant towards the rest of the team and ultimately abandons the quest.

The contours of the Law and Chaos alignment are established very early on in the game, as the protagonist experiences dream sequences where he discovers his Law and Chaos-aligned comrades, not unlike the dream sequence in which the first game begins. The dream in which you see Walter features a city in ruins, with fire everywhere, it looks like a war zone. When you meet him in the dream, Walter tells you that he was fighting while waiting for you to meet him, and that you and him are going to create “a world where anything can be changed if you have the will”. This establishes Walter right away as the representative of the Chaos alignment, and his personality throughout the game only emphasizes this further. He is consistently a headstrong and brash personality who tends to dislike authority and following rules, especially dislikes constantly being given new orders by the Abbot, and has little regard for the status quo in general. This suits the more generic idea of Chaos as a way of life that we see in Devil Summoner 2. He also tends to the kind of person who believes that, when a person’s suffering is too much, it is best to simply end it, as the case was in the battle against Isaachar, who suffered in the course of his demonic transformation. As the early part of the game’s story continues, you see more dreams of Walter, of him beckoning you to change the world with him, and another where he tells you that the world is beyond salvation, invites you to “wipe the slate clean and create a new one together!”, and beckons you to “hurry to the underground”. There is also a noticeable class dynamic at play. Walter, like Flynn, is a Casualry, born into the lower class. All Samurai are Luxurors, meaning that those who become Samurai also become part of the Luxuror class and climb the social hierarchy, but Walter’s class identity remains with him, and he has little regard for the social norms of his Luxuror companions. When the Samurai descend into Tokyo, Walter has little trouble adjusting to life in Tokyo. In fact, in the manga for the game we see Walter swap his Samurai uniform for a leather outfit suited to a punk.

As the game progresses, you are presented with multiple plot junctures that push you in the direction of one alignment or another, and these are useful in establishing the contours of the Chaos alignment presented in this game. One example is a main story quest given by the Ashura-kai to hunt down a demon named Kuebiko, the god of agriculture (who, ironically, is a Neutral-aligned earth spirit). The Ashura-kai want Kuebiko to get out of Shinjuku, so they send you to go and kill it. However, once you actually meet Kuebiko, you have a choice to kill either Kuebiko or spare him. Killing Kuebiko pushes you towards Law while sparing him pushes you towards Chaos, the latter being a bigger alignment shift than the former. If you choose to spare Kuebiko instead of kill him, you disobey the Ashura-kai and have to fight a swarm of Harpies summoned by him. Kuebiko complains that he had lived in the land of Shinjuku long before humans ever did, and if you fight him, he laments that there was once no superiority or inferiority between humans and the earth. Here, a conceit that was elevated in Strange Journey returns in a somewhat more modest form. Kuebiko expresses the belief often found in the Chaos alignment that it is best to restore harmony with the earth, and the demons. It coincides with the anarchistic (or quasi-anarchistic, or indeed meta-anarchistic) tendency inherent in the Chaotic belief in freedom by pointing to non-hierarchical relationships with the natural world as ideal for humans and the world around them.

We also see a series of alignment questions in the Passage of Ethics, found beneath Tsukiji Hongwanji. The player goes through three forking pathways marked with three questions, each with only two answers, one pushing you towards Law and the other towards Chaos. You make your choice by taking either the door on the left or the door on the right. The left door invariably corresponds to the Chaos choice while the right door invariably corresponds to the Law choice, which in some ways corresponds to the Left Hand Path (for Chaos) and the Right Hand Path (for Law) within Western occultism. The first question places you as the ruler of a country gathering the population for a game, and one of the attendees is taller than all of the others. You are asked whether you would exclude the tall attendee for the sake of fairness, or include the tall attendee regardless of his height. Including the tall attendee in the game pushes you towards Chaos, and Walter remarks that a man can’t help being tall and thus the tall man would have to be accepted. The second question places you as the chief of a village that has lived the same way for 1,000 years until one day a man comes bringing revolutionary technology, which would improve the lives of the villagers at the cost of abandoning their continuous way of life. You are asked if you would expel the visitor to preserve your village’s way of life, or welcome the visitor in order to adopt his technological innovation. Without getting into exactly what technology we’re talking about, embracing the visitor pushes you towards Chaos and Walter remarks that if life for all the villagers would be improved then the risk of upending existing culture is necessary in pursuit of progress. The third and final question places you before the love of your life, lying in a hospital bed, alive but unconscious, with no visible hope of regaining consciousness and all efforts exhausted. You are whether you would stay beside this person and keep them alive despite no sign of recovery, or stop all treatment and let natural death take its course. Letting the person die pushes you towards Chaos, but it is such a difficult question that neither Walter nor Jonathan can decisively answer it.

Another small but not insignificant alignment moment is seen with the battle against Tenkai at Midtown. During the fight, Tenkai inquires about the ideals you possess and asks you what kind of Tokyo you want to see. The ideal Tokyo for the Chaos alignment is “a wild city of freedom”. Later, he asks you another question, this time he asks you what you plan to do once you learn the truth about the Ashura-kai. “Reform” it and “cause chaos”, or “sustain” it and “preserve order”? As strange a question as this must sound considering we are talking about a literal yakuza group, bearing in mind of course that in this game’s version of Tokyo they are the main force of order, it is clear enough that “reform it” is the Chaos-aligned choice, and Walter supports it on the grounds that, even if it causes chaos, a wrong must be addressed, “else we’re as good as corpses”. Between this and most of the questions in the Passage of Ethics we see another flank of Chaos when taken as a broad ethos or individual way of life, such as seen in Devil Summoner 2. That basic ethos is that changing to something better is more important than preserving what already exists, and that injustice and oppression can only be met with the willigness to radically overturn the status quo. Although the game words this as “reform”, it actually sounds rather revolutionary in tone, with Law as perhaps more “reformist” or simply conservative by comparison. Such a revolutionary attitude befits the broadly anarchistic tendency present in the Chaos alignment within various games. Chaos tends to see continuous tradition, authority, rules, and custom as potential obstacles to necessary reforms and progress which often have to be done away with.

Of course, we can hardly discuss the Chaos alignment without talking about the Cult of Gaia, or rather Ring of Gaea as is their new name in this game. The Gaians return in this game, beddecked in red Buddhist clothing and preaching an ideology of might makes right. They are mostly based within Ginza and their mainquarters is the nearby Tsukiji Hongwanji, a Buddhist temple that had been taken over by the Gaians. When you arrive at the inner sanctum of the temple you may notice a giant statue of a goddess resembling Mem Aleph from Strange Journey, suggesting that the “Gaia” they worship is in fact Mem Aleph. According to the art book for this game, the original idea for the Gaian headquarters was that they would dig out a cave to use as a temple, echoing the chthonic worship of gods like Pan in ancient Greece. Their main opponents within Tokyo are the Ashura-kai, a yakuza organization based in Roppongi Hills which controls most of Tokyo by offering protection to the humans in Tokyo and feeding many of the demons the Red Pills, a kind of foodstuff which ostensibly satisfies the demons enough that they won’t eat humans. The player first encounters the Gaians in Ikebukuro, while looking for the Black Samuari, where the Gaians struggle with the presence of Xi Wangmu (ironically a Chaos-aligned Lady), apparently a foreign demon who took over the region. During the fight with Xi Wangmu a Gaian named Kaga talks about how it is inevitable that the weak die and that, if she is weak, she will accept her fate of being eaten by Xi Wangmu, but also says that, if you want to live, you must struggle, give yourself over to your instincts and struggle with all your might, even if it leads to damnation. Walter is impressed by these words after the fight, and takes a liking to the people of Tokyo.

The Gaians certainly do wear their ideals on their sleeves in classical fashion. They typically emphasize strength as one of their primary values, even to the point that a Gaian blocking the way to Ginza praises you for your honesty if you tell him you’ve come to kill Yuriko, their leader, and considers his fight with you more of a test of your strength, and even after defeating him he offers to take you to Tsukiji Hongwanji to build your strength with the Gaians. At the temple the Gaians test the strength of potential applicants by having them go through an endurance test where they have to get through a demon-filled maze and get to the main temple while carrying a candle, and they have to get to the main temple without the candle going out. However, the Gaians in Ginza are not always consistent about this belief in strength as the main determinant of worth. In an optional part of Ginza, you can gain access to a shopping centre with expensive items. But rather than have to fight your way in as would be expected, you actually have to collect a series of entry cards, each more expensive than the last. First you get a Gold Card for 10,000 Macca (the main currency within the series), then you spend 50,000 more Macca to open up passage to a treasure chest containing the Platinum Card, then you pay a man 100,000 more Macca for him to give you a silver coin, and then finally you trade that silver coin for a Black Card. Certainly not what you’d expect of an ideology that places so much emphasis on strength.

The Gaians do still seem to have some belief in the power of the old gods, though they don’t talk about it as much as they talk about strength. In a New Game Plus playthrough, you can partake in multiple sidequests (or Challenge Quests as they’re called here) where you meet Minako, who was a member of the Ring of Gaea and who plans on reincarnating the goddess Ishtar, who she believes has the power to bring life back to the barren soil of Tokyo. This is rather obviously an echo of a side-quest in the second game, where the revival of Ishtar is desired in order to restore fertility to the land of Makai. Minako also seems to be a big believer in the idea that the demons currently prowling about Tokyo originated in the gods of Babylon. The first time you meet her, you see her trying to summon the demon lord Astaroth and summoning demons to fight the player. Her plan was to summon Astaroth so that he may serve as the “king” of the Ring of Gaea, and even though the player defeats Astaroth, she manages to capture Astaroth’s soul, through which she plans to revive Ishtar. The second time you meet Minako, in a Challenge Quest exclusive to the Chaos path, she tells about her plan to reincarnate Ishtar and asks you to defeat Asherah and Mother Harlot, and after you do she devours the souls of those demons before swallowing a Red Pill in order to become Ishtar herself (who, ironically, is a Law-aligned Megami), who nonetheless retains some of Minako’s mind.

One very strange detail about the Gaians comes from the Apocalypse version of the game, whose Notes describe the Ring of Gaea’s doctrine as built on “natural selection” while also adding that its members apparently confuse this to mean a “dog eat dog” philosophy, and that this was the work of Yuriko, who taught the Gaians to unleash their suppressed emotions upon the world to shape it as they see fit. It begs a lot of questions that neither the fourth game nor the Apocalypse version ever address at any point in the story. What does “natural selection” mean in this case, and what does it have to do with the findings of Charles Darwin? And if the “dog eat dog” angle is a misinterpretation, what is the correct interpretation? If Yuriko supposedly subverted the teachings of the Gaians, what were their “real” teachings? The answers to these questions are neither given nor explored.

All of this brings us to the leader of the Ring of Gaea, Yuriko, who is another of the main representatives of the Chaos alignment in the game. She first appears as the mysterious Black Samurai, who spreads certain books called “Literature” to the Casualries of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, who subsequently gather to discuss these books on occasions that they term “Sabbaths”. The choice of term is interesting in that, in view of the medieval setting established in the land of Mikado (in marked contrast to Tokyo of course), it invokes the trope of witchcraft, of the mythical Sabbaths held by so-called witches in which they supposedly gathering in congress with the Devil and in magical conspiracy against God and the Church. The “Literature” seems to give people “knowledge and wisdom”, inspiring people to question the class system of Mikado, and somehow occasionally turning people into demons. What’s funny, though, is that these books of “Literature” appear to consist of actual books written by real world Japanese authors, such as No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai and The Dancing Girl by Ogai Mori. No Longer Human is a novel written in 1948 about a man who struggles with alienation from society and eventually becomes insane, while The Dancing Girl is a short story first published in 1890 about a Japanese exchange student who has to choose between his career and a German dancing girl. Exactly how these particular books get them thinking about the nature of Mikado’s feudal society and its religious underpinnings, let alone trigger any kind of demonic transformation, is a total mystery. The only possible connection is that maybe Paradise Lost is “Literature” too, at least based on one NPC saying he wants to read it. Nonetheless, the Black Samurai serves as the witch of Mikado, spreading discontent and getting people to question society in the name of Lucifer. Casualries who read her books come to see their society as dominated by elites who establish practices convenient for themselves while depriving its underclass of knowledge and forcing them to labour for the upper class, and that really the Luxurors are unnecessary because it is the labour of the Casualries that upholds society. Here, Chaos gets an edge from anti-capitalist critique, borrowed from socialism, albeit within the context of feudal society rather than a capitalist one.

As the game progresses, you learn more about the Black Samurai and her goals. When you meet her in Tokyo, she tells you that Tokyo is a mirror image of Mikado before allowing herself to be arrested. During her execution, she tells the public that every vice in this world is always disguised as virtue, that Adam ate the apple because it was forbidden rather than because he desired it, that the apple has been set before all, and that, as those who read her books apparently discovered, the people of Mikado will find no love from God. She proclaims Mikado to be a distorted and biased kingdom, and that the Samurai visited Tokyo already know this, and that she will resurrect as many times as necessary to bring knowledge to the people. And sure enough, not long after her execution she is found to have resurrected and fled to Tokyo, and so the party is tasked with killing her in a mission of murder. Eventually, as you make your way through to Ginza and then Tsukiji Hongwanji, you discover the Black Samurai who reveals that her name is Yuriko, leader of the Ring of Gaea, and almost immediately afterwards, she further reveals that she is actually a demon named Lilith. This is actually just like in the first game where Lilith frequently took on the form of a woman named Yuriko. In any case, Lilith explains that the demonic transformations were apparently the result of the subjects of Mikado suppressing their desires, that humans and demons are the same in essence, and that, because of that, the hatred of humans should be reserved not for demons but instead the “absurd rules created to bend the ignorant to their will”. Her stated goal is to “restore the human world to its natural order”, which in her parlance seems to entail a society without rulers and where “the strong can shape the world as they please”. From her perspective, a world comprised only of natural freedom. Because this would potentially imply a great deal of freedom for Casualries and the removal of their Luxuror masters, Walter is naturally taken in by this vision, which results in the party becoming divided as Walter leaves after refusing to kill Lilith. Lilith tells the party to look into a facility run by Tayama beneath the ground in Roppongi, where she assures the party they will see what “true evil” is. The party soon discovers the Reverse Hills facility, in which humans are locked up and have their brains harvested in order to mass produce Red Pills for consumption by demons, and thereby discover the basis upon which Tayama claims his “utopia” of co-existence.

All of this builds up to what is arguably the main alignment split in the game’s story. After visiting Shene Duque, the holy land of Mikado, and meeting the Four Archangels who once again charge the party with killing the Black Samurai, Walter refuses to continue with the quest, deciding that both the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and Tayama’s “utopia” are no better than each other, both being ruled by selfish dictators. He expresses his desire to change the world, and tells the party that he intends to go to Lilith after packing his things, inviting those who want to join him to come to the residence hall. Walter allows himself to consider the possibility that some harm may arise as a result of following Lilith, but believes that it is a risk worth taking in order to change the world away from its current state. Siding with Walter is the Chaos choice, and after agreeing to go with Walter you return to Tsukiji Hongwanji to meet Lilith again. There she tells you to go to Camp Ichigaya in order to take control of the Yamato Perpetual Reactor, a huge electricity generator that also has the power to open up portals to the Expanse, the realm of demons. Lilith’s plan is to use it to unleash demons into the world in order to destroy society and possibly cultivate humans strong enough to lead a new society without rulers, stating that, this time, humans will build their own paradise. After fighting your way through Tayama’s minions, including the “National Defence Divinities”, you reach the Yamato Perpetual Reactor. After all that, the party gets transported to two alternative dimensions in succession by a mysterious cabal of beings known as the White, who are trying to convince the protagonist to use the Yamato Perpetual Reactor to wipe out the universe. The first of these is Blasted Tokyo, which seems to represent the outcome of a previous hero having taken the Law path, and the second of these is Infernal Tokyo, which seems to represent the outcome of the same hero having taken the Chaos path, and the apparent intent of both scenarios is to show the protagonist the supposed futility of the struggle between order and freedom and the absence of hope for the human race more broadly.

25 years before the events of the game, a barrage of nuclear weapons was headed for Japan, much like in the first game, and a previous incarnation of the protagonist sacrificed himself to Masakado in order to preserve Tokyo by having Masakado create a firmament over the city with his back, thus preventing the nuclear warheads from hitting the city while also resulting in the creation of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. The alternate dimensions respresent scenarios that happen should the previous hero have taken a different path, and for our purpose we will focus on Infernal Tokyo, the Chaos outcome. This is the Tokyo that emerges after the previous incarnation of Flynn takes the side of a man named Kenji, who took the side of the demons upon learning of the angels’ schemes and defeated them, and thus is the Chaos Hero of that timeline. This somehow resulted in the birth of the Demonoids, humans who fused with demons and now feed off of the neurotransmitters of humans called Neurishers. It also meant humans being given a choice – become Demonoids (a risky process in itself that can sometimes turn you into some kind of foul abomination), or stay human and become Neurishers – and also the collapse of essentially all order in society, with gang warfare between tribes of demons or Demonoids being commonplace. There’s also fire everywhere, just like in those dreams where Walter appears at the beginning of the game. Those with power rule the world, the strong can do anything they want, and it’s a dog eat dog world out there as one demon says. Walter naturally takes a liking to this alternate Tokyo, apparently the “simplicity” of it is most attractive to him. Here you meet a Demonoid named Akira, whose ambition is to dethrone Kenji and become the new king of Infernal Tokyo. The violence that pervades the burning city is more or less just accepted as a regular occurrence of life, and this is essentially a consequence of the might makes right ideology that has been instituted by the forces of Chaos. Akira himself is not particularly strong, and throughout the entire sojourn in Infernal Tokyo he hides behind the Samurai rather than attempt any fighting of his own. Nonetheless, he basically, at least tacitly, accepts the might makes right worldview that permeates Infernal Tokyo.

However, Akira does seem to want some change to the world. Before the party makes their way to Kenji, Akira says that he wants to create a world where everyone is treated equally. A version of the Law theme from the first game plays in the background, indicating that Akira’s egalitarian beliefs are the influence of Law instead of Chaos, and that Akira may be wanting to turn a Chaotic world into a Lawful one, or at least push towards Law from Chaos to generate a Neutral outcome. Walter, of course, disapproves of this, finding it strange that the strong and the weak can be treated alike, while Jonathan praises his vision as a form of selflessness worthy of a true king. But however strange Walter finds Akira’s vision, and however much Jonathan praises it, Walter should ultimately find common cause with Akira’s desire to change the world, since ultimately all Walter ever wanted to do in the first place was change his own world, while Jonathan wanted nothing more than to preserve it as it is. And even though the game hints at the influence of Law, Akira’s vision certainly does not involve Lawful methods, since all Akira wants to do is change the world through the violent upheaval of the absolute ruler of Tokyo, all ultimately in accordance with the methods and tropes of Chaos. Walter says he wants to “change this rotten world”, but so does Akira.

Later, in a downloadable Challenge Quest, the player can return to Infernal Tokyo to find Akira struggling against a powerful being named Sanat, after having only just defeated Kenji. Akira explains that he tried his best to create a new kingdom of equality, but then Sanat showed up to take over Infernal Tokyo and spread destruction wherever he went. Too weak to fight Sanat himself, and faced with the wrath of his new subjects, he once again has the player do the fighting for him. When you meet Sanat at the Infernal Camp Ichigaya, he tells the player that it was he who “planted the seeds of chaos” on the planet, and is overjoyed to find that humans have evolved from apes into beings that apparently can hold their own against himself, thus he challenges “this 5th humanity” to prove its worth before him. He never seems to explain why he seems so intent on destroying Infernal Tokyo, but is very interested in drawing out the player’s power, even if it’s not clear why he needed to smash up the place in order to do it. The only other motivation he states is that he is intent on preparing humanity for “the true war”, by which he means the war against “the dispensation of the universe”. Exactly what he means by this is never explained or explored any further anywhere in the game. The only clue is that his Lawful counterpart, Ancient of Days, also talks about “the dispensation of the universe”, but is himself trying to carry it out, which entails the purging of humanity. So Sanat is ostensibly trying to save humanity by readying it for war against his rival, Ancient of Days, but the rest of the details are quite mysterious. Both demons apparently derive from one or more characters from Theosophy, but it’s not obvious what connection they have to the actual lore of Theosophy.

And now we come to the ultimate end-game representative of the Chaos path, Lucifer, just as he was in many previous games. As you travel through Tokyo you see a girl named Hikaru, who is “interested” in the party and shows up during a few plot points in the game, though she actually seems somewhat unimportant in practice. If you end up in the Chaos path, however, it’s revealed that Hikaru is yet another disguise for Lucifer. If you tell the White that instead of destroying the cosmos you plan to destroy the status quo, and don’t end up Neutral, you become locked into the Chaos path for the final stretch of the game. When you arrive in their Monochrome Forest, you once again meet Walter, who tells you that he made the same choice as you, though Jonathan is missing, presumably because he chose differently to both you and Walter. That’s when you meet Hikaru, who appears out of nowhere only to show her hand as the fallen angel Lucifer. Opening the gate to the Expanse has allowed Lucifer to appear once again, although for some reason not yet in his true form. After defeating the White, the Monochrome Forest disappears and you return to Camp Ichigaya, which seems to be under Lucifer’s control. Tayama is dead, demons are all over Tokyo, presumably the Ashura-kai is reduced to basically nothing, and the city of Tokyo is beyond control – a world where “the strong can shape it as they see fit”. Because the angels up in Mikado probably don’t like this state of affairs at all, Lucifer’s plan is for his forces to take down the angels before they invade Tokyo, and fuse with Walter in order to regain his true form in order to make that possible. Walter, after ruminating about his life story as a fisherman’s son turned Samurai, volunteers, and Lucifer is reborn.

Reborn, Lucifer declares that he will “demonstrate the laws of power” to Mikado, the “kingdom of deceit”, by which he means he and his demons will take over Mikado and overthrow its government. Isabeau opposes the player, accusing you of wanting to create an endless war of succession, and after moping about her own indecisiveness she fights you to the death, which comes ultimately at her own hands. As the player progresses through Purgatorium, the realm of the angels that now stands between you and the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, and as you fight its angelic hordes, Lucifer remarks about the submission and repetitiveness of the angels, finding it rather disturbing. When fighting Merkabah, “God’s chariot”, Lucifer proclaims that he and his forces are animated by “the flames of life and passion”, as opposed to “the empty breath of God”. When Merkabah is defeated, Lucifer proclaims that no matter how loyal one is to God, God will never answer, and when you and him enter Mikado, he mocks its former king for instituting the worship of only one God. Looking down the rooftops, you and Lucifer see Mikado going up in flames, with Lucifer rejoicing the free will that was previously alien to Mikado, while also lamenting the chaos that, ironically, he and Walter sought after to begin with, and after all that talk from Walter and Lilith about opposing authority, Lucifer invites you to become the new king of Mikado.

If you fight Lucifer on the Law path, he chides you as being led astray by the angels (“God’s puppets” as he calls them), champions the free will of humanity, and proclaims that he will not give the world over to “order” (meaning the forces of Law), and towards the end of the fight he proclaims that he will not fall until he begets a universe full of knowledge and selfhood. If Lucifer is defeated on the Law path, you hear Walter’s voice, what’s left of him within Lucifer after his sacrifice, concede that your defeat of him makes you the stronger man, and therefore that this means you’re in the right, as is consistent with his belief that the strong can shape the world as they please. If you fight Lucifer on the Neutral path, Walter urges the player against fighting him, telling him that demons are the embodiment of humanity’s limitless desires and that Lucifer, as their king, is the desire of all humans. If Lucifer is defeated on the Neutral path, he warns that humans are not strong enough to live while repressing their desires, as representated by the demons, and that he will return when that time comes.

Between all of the talk about a world where the strong can shape it as they please, and all the talk about desire and its liberation, taken together we get an emergent picture of this game’s version of Chaos which seems to be rather unabashedly Satanic, in that it reminds us of LaVeyan Satanism in particular. In LaVeyan Satanism, the power of God is repudiated, there is a broad might makes right ideology in place, and one of its key ethical flanks is that the fulfillment of the ego and desire is what leads happiness and spiritual fulfillment (indeed, it’s probably the only religion that actually believes this). Indeed, there are only so few references to the other conceit of the Gaians and the Chaos forces concerning harmony with nature and the old gods, although the big statue of Mem Aleph indicates that the Gaians still have that idea in their actual worship and ideology, just that the idea plays a very minor role in the game’s story. Though, the nature aspect is sort of invoked by Lilith in her desire to “restore the natural order of humans”, which is meant to mean a world of freedom undirected by present structures of authority. The world of freedom granted by Chaos could indeed be said to be unburdened by the old structures of authority, but is certainly not without hierarchies, indeed these hierarchies are shown to be founded by the strong, who, ironically, come to be almost absolute rulers of their own (see Kenji, who is literally king of an alternate Tokyo), liberation from whom depends on you being strong enough to overthrow them. Such is ultimately a limitation imposed by the broad might makes right conceit that, in the early days of SMT, was mostly billed as simply a negative aspect, mostly a consequence, of what was billed mostly as a world dominated by individual freedom, and so the bowlderized anarchism of Chaos metastasizes into what we see today.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (2017)

The last entry for this post, the Redux edition of Strange Journey is notable in that in presents an altogether different take on Chaos through its New endings. These New endings are essentially alternate versions of the Law, Neutral, and Chaos endings that are made accessible by completing an optional dungeon known as the Womb of Grief and facing a new character named Alex. Alex is a daughter of Lucifer who by some unknown circumstance has a Demonica suit, with its own AI unit (called George), and who somehow travelled back in time to interfere with the mission of the Schwarzvelt Investigation Team in order to stop the player from begetting a terrible future into which she is born. The exact content of that future depends on the alignment chosen by the player, but for our purposes, the focus will be on the Chaos alignment.

Being a remaster of Strange Journey, most of the Chaos path, like much of the game’s story as a whole, still plays out just as it did in the original game. That means, for instance, that Jimenez still invades the Red Sprite and mindjacks the crew just as he did in the original game. The change to the New Chaos ending occurs after beating every boss in the Womb of Grief dungeon, which unlocks the possibility of an alternate Chaos ending. On the Chaos path, just before meeting Mem Aleph for the final time in Sector Horologium, Alex reappears to fight you for one last time and confront you and Jimenez on what you’re about to do. Alex explains to you and Jimenez that she would have been slaughtered in their new future, and Jimenez initially dismisses her on the grounds that, to him, Alex only abandoned the new world because she was weak, even though she could only have survived by killing anyone who got in her way. Indeed, as George explains, in the Chaos world, Alex becomes the strongest person alive. Once Jimenez understands this, he begins to respect Alex and treat her actions as the result of getting bored with a world full of people too weak to stand up to her, her time travel motivated by the desire for a world with much stronger foes. But this proves to be a misunderstanding, as Alex explicitly states that she doesn’t want the world Jimenez would create. When Jimenez protests on the grounds that her strength meant she had the most freedom, Alex explains that she was alone rather than free, and George explains that, as a result of the brutal contest of might makes right, Alex emerged as the last remaining human. Alex further explains that, because strength is the only rule in the Chaos world, you have to prove your strength, often brutally, to everyone you come across, and because of this everyone is an enemy, and every encounter is a matter of life or death for one person or another, “either they die or you do!”. When Jimenez further mocks Alex and states that humans went extinct because they were weak and leaves it at that, Alex retorts by asking Jimenez if his companion Bugaboo should have died because he was weak. Bugaboo was not a particularly strong demon, either in the story or in gameplay (being a somewhat low-level Jirae demon), so saving him out of sentimental companionship would be seen as a contradiction of Jimenez’s might makes right ideology.

The turning point begins when Alex asks the player if Bugaboo should have died. If the player says no, this triggers feelings of sadness in Jimenez, owing to his sentimental relationship with Bugaboo, and forces him to admit his own hypocrisy and re-consider his ideals and change his idea of what the world of Chaos should look like. George beseeches Jimenez that he and Alex don’t want to deny the strength they seek, only to remember the compassion invoked by his relationship with Bugaboo, and Jimenez listens to this and understands. He concludes that, under Mem Aleph, the human race will be destroyed no matter what, consequently he rejects this outcome as a world where humans have no freedom, no future, and no possibilities for them, and admits that humans cannot live on strength alone. Therefore, Jimenez rejects his previous ambitions of a might makes right utopia in favour of a simple new world where humans can become anything they want, even if that means becoming demons. This new resolve naturally means that the course of events has changed to the point where the future in which Alex travels back in time no longer exists, and consequently Alex and George no longer exist in the present. Thus the New Chaos path begins.

When the party meets Mem Aleph in this path, she initially congratulates the party on completing their mission in gathering the Cosmic Eggs and proclaims that “this long age of conflict” will end with humans and demons agreeing to live side by side, just as she did in the original Chaos path. Most of the conversation plays out exactly as it did before until Jimenez says that the demons can’t have humans going extinct and tells Mem Aleph that there is something missing in her new world. Mem Aleph takes umbrage with being told that she is mistaken by one of her minions, but Jimenez points out that, despite Mem Aleph saying that humans and demons are opposite sides of the same mirror, she doesn’t care about humans in the slightest, further insisting that humans don’t need “strength”, but instead “possibility”. Mem Aleph is disapponted and retorts that humans must be made “beautiful” again, whatever that means, and that “possibility” “only breeds corruption”. Jimenez tries to reason with Mem Aleph, but debate becomes futile as Mem Aleph declares the time for words over, and Jimenez’s retaining of his humanity beyond the pale, and so it becomes it necessary to fight Mem Aleph.

Here the difference between the old and the new Chaos paths is characterized by the true nature of Mem Aleph’s designs for the world. It was clear enough to the player in the original game that Mem Aleph had no love for humanity, though siding with her on the Chaos path would have necessitated a certain deal of ambiguity on her part, that she might appear to love a newly Chaotic humanity. But the whole might makes right vision she and other demons put forward, far from liberating humans from their vices and limitations and far from a simple consequence of having too much freedom, was always just an effort to engineer the destruction of the human race, who she probably always hated. Indeed, such is her misanthropy that she forgets the interconnected nature of humans and demons, which is such a hallmark for Chaos ideology and the nature of the SMT universe that Lucifer knows it full, and expresses his concern for human and demon alike in the second game. However much any demons may despise humans, the demons as a whole would die out with the extinction of the human species.

After Mem Aleph’s defeat, the goddess Demeter seemingly laments that Jimenez and the party killed “your own mother” (her being the mother of demons) simply to create a new world, though is ultimately merely amused. After she steals the fruit that Alex gives you, Lucifer (Louise Ferre) appears and reveals that Demeter is a servant of the Three Spirits, in fact the Three Wise Men from the original game, who sought the Cosmic Eggs sealed by Mem Aleph in order gain the power to wipe out humanity in order to create a new world in the name of God. That fruit Alex gave you is a piece of the fifth Cosmic Egg, and the whole idea of going through the Womb of Grief was to collect all the other pieces of that Egg. After fighting Zelenin (this time the fight with her takes place after the fight with Mem Aleph), they eventually deal with the Three Spirits/Wise Men, who reveal themselves to be a being named Shekinah. They refer to the player and Jimenez as demons who should be purged and proclaim their desire to create a world without demons where all beings sing their praise. With Shekinah defeated, Jimenez and the player return to the Vanishing Point to create a world for both humans and demons. When this happens, the power of the Schwarzvelt covered the Earth and swept away human civilization just as it did in the original Chaos ending. In this new Chaos ending, however, there is no talk of constant violence and brute competitions of strength. Instead the demons act as guardians of a world constructed through the power of creation, with nothing restricting people from exploring possibilities. Again the demons set out to “purify” the Earth, which presumably means to rid it of the corruptions of the previous era and its previous incarnation of the human race. The new humanity is free to choose whether it wants to work together, to create, to take by force, or destroy, and make new and better sets of rules than the previous civilization, while the demons return to being gods and exerting divine influence in the world. It is still an unstable world, with no rules except for what humans create, and infinite possibilities coupled with infinite dangers, but humans and demons alike would live and co-exist in freedom, and new rules would be created as a result of co-operation, as much as conflict, and whatever new society results is dependent on that.

Noticeably, although perhaps not uniquely, there is no mention at all of might makes right in the new Chaos ending. This was abandoned with the realization of Jimenez’s compassion for Bugaboo, a weak demon who probably would have been left to die if Jimenez were at all consistent about the ethos of Social Darwinism. Instead what we see is a kind of anarchic state, absent of Social Darwinism, and pregnant instead with the possibility of cooperation just as much as struggle and war, indeed its return to the theme of harmony with nature through the demons as old gods contingent upon this sense of anarchic cooperation and co-existence. This co-existence, even in the original game, can be seen as an essential trait of the Chaotic stance, in sharp contrast to both the Law and Neutral paths in which the demons are simply annihilated or banished. Now, the main perceived disadvantage of Chaos isn’t to be found in the brutish nature of might makes right competition, but instead in the almost complete uncertainty of freedom. Humans and demons live together in freedom, there are no external restrictions on what they can do together, but that also means there is no guarantee of how their new world will look. But then again there was almost never any certainty in the Neutral paths throughout the series except that humans will re-establish their civilizational status quo, with no actual guarantee that humans won’t once again be dragged into the war between Law and Chaos. In the end, the price of true freedom has always been uncertainty, because that’s just what happens when there is no control over the fate of humans. The certainty that stands in antithesis to this condition requires the imposition of order, but even this is not enough because the only way to be truly certain of the outcome of human destiny is to destroy its freedom to manifest autonomously, and so dictatorship over human destiny is what provides full certainty that it will flow to the course of any given teleological desire.

Conclusion

Insofar as we take Chaos as an inclusive absolute, what can we establish about it across all the major SMT games in which there is a Law and Chaos dynamic? Chaos seems to have certain variances about it, which I suppose is befitting of the traditional concept of chaos as popularly understood. We see in Chaos the idea of freedom as a kind of metaphysical return to nature, expressed in harmony with the “ancient gods” (the demons, or the gods of Chaos), and sometimes taking the form of the return to a harsh state of nature, which is often but not always expressed as might makes right ideology. We see in Chaos the primary rejection of authority as represented by God and his angels. We see in Chaos the liberation of desire, which is also expressed through harmony with the demons. We see in Chaos a generalistic embrace of individual autonomy even if it means dealing with harsh consequences. We see in Nocturne’s form of Chaos an anti-cosmic variation of the pursuit of ultimate freedom in a cosmos dictated by a rutheless cycle of creation and destruction under a God who will not cease until he attains the perfect sinless cosmos, and we see in this same iteration the principle of the rejection of the Absolute and of fate. We the embrace of primordial potentiality, chaos, as the seat of creation and freedom. We see in Chaos the idea that real freedom comes with the price of uncertainty, even if it that uncertainty might indeed be dangerous. We see in Chaos a generalistic stance that change is not only a constant in life but also in its radical form necessary for the resolution of injustice; indeed, encompassing revolution as a motor for progress and liberty.

All of this also harks back to the way chaos is often understood in its familiar, popular, and often misguided context, but perhaps far more saliently in a deeper philosophical context that is often somewhat alien to this understanding. Chaos in this sense represents the condition of potentiality and dynamics characterised by the lack of a teleological guarantee of order, especially divine order. It represents a kind of primoridal state of freedom in this sense. Small wonder that this is expressed in terms of an anarchic state of nature whose realization, or rather return, the representatives of Chaos advocate for. Lucifer, as the series’ most frequent patron of the forces of Chaos, makes the most sense as its representative for reasons that are not limited only to the ideal of individual free will. Luciferian freedom stands as archetypal liberty, not limited to the vaunted privileges of the bourgeois Enlightenment but in its fullness denotes the natural freedom absent of the teleological will of God, or the historic kingdoms of progress. It can be thought of in this sense as a kind of spiritual anarchism, the rejection of cosmic authority on behalf of freedom. And, for however much individualism is attributed to Chaos, and there is an individualist sense of freedom present that cannot quite be extricated from the picture, but the presence of the demonic also serves as the Other to which Man is inexorably bound, as is the Nature with which Man is to restore harmony.

Such a concept is as liberating as it is dangerous and as novel as it is timeless, and it cannot be reduced to the ideology of might makes right, itself in practice simply a new way of ordering the herd around. Originally this aspect was portrayed mostly as a consequence of the emphasis on individual freedom, no doubt inspired by the classic argument against anarchism that if you abolish the state it will lead to endless violence and/or a competition of disorganized wills. In later games it metastasized into an ideology of its own, to the point that to take the Chaos path is to believe in a world where the strong thrive and rule over the weak without any limits. Yet throughout the series we see many conceptions of Chaos that have little to do with might makes right ideology, and if anything that concept seems to hamper Chaos to a significant extent. But, will the trajectory for Chaos across the series change? Does Strange Journey Redux set the tone for how future Chaos paths will look? Only time will tell.

This has been the first in a series of posts dealing with the ideological contours of the Shin Megami Tensei alignments, focusing on Chaos. The second post will focus on the Law alignment, and will be published soon.


Part 2 – Law: https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2021/06/08/ideologies-of-law-in-shin-megami-tensei/

Part 3 – Neutrality: https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2021/06/19/ideologies-of-neutrality-in-shin-megami-tensei/

It’s time to accept that the Church of Satan is wrong about Satanism

In recent years I have become more and more familiar with the “proto-Satanist” milieu of history, and just this week I have finally gotten my hands on a copy of The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity by Per Faxneld and Jesper Aagaard Petersen, and because of this I am able to reasses my perspective on the roots of Satanism. Over the years, even if I was never a member of the Church of Satan and often opposed them, I generally defended the narrative that Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan were the originators of Satanism as a belief system, and typically disregarded efforts by some Satanists to present forms of Satanism that existed prior to LaVey. To be fair, Herbert Arthur Sloane was a poor candidate for “world’s first Satanist” considering that there is no actual evidence that his Ophite Cultus Sathanas actually existed prior to 1966. However, there seem to be very real examples of Satanic movements and proponents of Satanism that existed for years before the Church of Satan was established. What I’m about to elucidate here, in simple terms, is that the Church of Satan’s claims to be the inventor, let alone sole authority, of Satanism is, in all reality, nothing but a convenient fiction crafted by the Church of Satan.

Central to this inquiry is Stanislaw Przybyszewski, a Polish poet who was, in all probability, the first person to ever call himself a Satanist and to present any kind of Satanic ideology. Born in 1868, Stanislaw was part of the Decadent movement of poetry, which focused on the aesthetic expression of dramatic excess, vice, and decay. He also seems to have been a leftist of some sort, at least judging from the fact that he had faced expulsion for various socialist activities, and given his contempt for authority, the state, and the imposition of bourgeois normativity, he could be seen as some sort of left-wing anarchist, rather unlike the markedly right-wing politics of Anton LaVey (though, as you’ll see, Stanislaw also does not fit the usual anarcho-communist/anarcho-syndicalist mode either). In light of his being a Decadent poet, he can seem rather familiar within the context of the genre of “Romantic Satanism”, a literary movement (not a religious one) in which Satan was employed by various writers as a creative symbol of rebellion against the established order on behalf of freedom, championing the oppressed over the powerful and a new liberation of values over the normative expectations of bourgeois society. On the surface, Stanislaw might be seen as one of its exponents, but unlike the “Romantic Satanists” Stanislaw advanced a whole spiritual ideology around a Satan who was far more than a mere symbol for revolutionary Enlightenment values.

In 1898, 68 years before the Church of Satan was founded, Stanislaw published a book called The Synagogue of Satan, in which he outlined his concept of Satan and Satanism. He begins by telling of two gods – one of them supposed to be “good” but who is actually the antagonist of humanity, the other supposed to be “bad” but who is actually the friend of humanity. The “good” god is quite clearly the God of the Bible, while the “bad” god is quite clearly Satan. Satan, here, is presented as the creator of the material universe, the flesh, nature, and the earth, with all the flaws, passions, struggles, doubts, and suffering it entails. The God of the Bible, by contrast, created pure spiritual beings and an invisible kingdom of spirit, which is ostensibly perfect and free of suffering. In theory, this sounds like the classic formula of “Gnostic” Christianity, in which God is the father of the realm of infinite and pure spirit and while a being imitating God, the Demiurge, who is sometimes identified with Satan, creates the material world and imprisons souls within it, thus causing suffering and evil. But in reality, this formula is inverted from the start. The God of the Bible, the author of a “perfect” spiritual kingdom free of suffering, is the antagonist of mankind and the creation story, because he encourages mankind to blindly submit to his rule and be “poor in spirit”, retard their own maturity, and surrender their individual will, and hated not only earthly beauty but also man-made creation. Satan, the creator of the material universe and thus the same being that authors death, pain, and suffering by it, is actually the real protagonist of creation, because he embodies the curiosity that leads to the uncovering of mysteries and the heroic will to defy authority, and teaches people how to how to stay healthy, become rich, know the future, destroy their enemies through magic and bring loved ones back from the dead. In short, the same being who authors a world of suffering and depravity is also the being who teaches humans how to better their lives and resist tyranny through his arts and teaching. To this end humans are encouraged to engage in proud sinning in the name of Satan-instinct, Satan-nature, Satan-curiosity, and Satan-passion. Satan in this sense is also believed to have incarnated as Samyaza, the leader of a band of angels who fell to earth and taught humans various “forbidden” arts, and was also expressly identified as the light bringer (Lucifer). Curiously, Satan is even referred to as Paraclete, which is a name for the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

So far, it doesn’t seem like this belief system is all that distant from the teachings of the Church of Satan, except that it is possible to interpret it in a somewhat theistic light. Then again, it is my understanding that Stanislaw referred to himself not only as a Satanist but also an atheist, so it is possible that we are not supposed to take his book as an account of literal deities in a literal creation presented as historical fact. In any case, we have a Satan who stands for the temporal physical world in opposition to a permanent spiritual one, carnal fulfillment over spiritual abstinence, knowledge (both worldly and magical) over faith in God, and individual strength and pride over Christian humility and meekness. We also have a Satan who encourages people to sin in the name of nature, insinct, curiosity, and passion, indeed a Satan who symbolizes all of those things. We also have a Satan who is the father of life, reproduction, progression, and eternal return, contrasted with a God who is the negation of life, since all life is evil. And of course Jesus, the “youth from Nazareth”, is his main enemy besides God. I can’t see any meaningful break between this Satan and the Satanic archetype presented by Anton LaVey, as well as similar Satanists in the present, except for maybe Stanislaw imbued this archetype with a certain pessimism not found in the more humanistic iterations of Satanism that emerged from LaVey onwards.

Stanislaw also identifies Satan with numerous pre-Christian gods, which serves to denote various attributes of Satan as well as link his Satanic belief system to pre-Christian religiosity or narratives thereof by presenting these gods as various incarnations of Satan. He says that Satan incarnated as Thoth, the Egyptian god of magic and knowledge, and also by extension Hermes Trismegistos (who may have been based on Thoth), who taught knowledge of magic and the body to his disciples and compiled it in multiple texts. He is said to have incarnated as Hecate, the “terrible” Greek goddess of witchcraft, who shared magical knowledge with her followers. He is said to have incarnated as the Greek god Pan, here portrayed as a god of lust who taught women the art of seduction and men how to increase their sex drive. Pan is further linked to the god Apollo and the goddess Aphrodite, believed to be the god of the bordello and the home hearth, the inventor of philosophy, builder of temples and museums, and the teacher of medicine and mathematics. Satan is even believed to have incarnated as Ahura Mazda, ironically the chief Good God of Zoroastrianism (and thereby equivalent to the God of the Bible), as the god who taught of the secrets of the Haoma plant to Zarathustra (obviously referring to the prophet Zoroaster), which is an obvious indicator of the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche in his thinking, and also that Satan lived in the doctrine of “Mazdaism” as well as its priests and Magi.

Stanislaw also held some very peculiar, and perhaps unique, views on women which stand as another example of the inversion found within his worldview, while giving an insight as to what evil means for him. He brings up the demonization of women by Christians as agents of Satan. Examples include Tertullian calling women “the portal to the devil”, “the destroyer of the tree”, “the first sinner against the divine law” and “the one who persuades those that do not wish to turn to the devil”, and St Hieronymus’ apparent declaration that everything evil comes from women and that they were not even made in the image of God. Stanislaw himself likes to invoke views on women as being inherently treacherous, malicious, and deviant, in line with the view of women as being “the chosen of Satan”, also describing them as “mentally aberrant”, and even going so far as to depict women as taking pleasure in murdering children and rummaging their remains. It’s easy enough to come away thinking of Stanislaw as some sort of misogynist, until you remember that he believed that evil, as represented by Satan, was actually good and therefore being the chosen of Satan is to be taken as a high honour. As such, in a pretty fucked up way, the “evil woman” of Stanislaw’s philosophy is actually a positive figure, who liberates humanity through her rapacious sexuality while at the same time bringing about extreme decadence, which Stanislaw may have seen as just a part of natural evolution, thus women in his view initiate the transformation and progress of life through irrational malevolence and lust. Stanislaw also lionizes the supposed evils of femininity to such an extent that even Satan himself adopts female physical traits: he envisioned Satan as having not only female breasts, no doubt drawing from Eliphas Levi’s depiction of Baphomet, but also a giant penis which has a vulva at the end of it. Thus his Satan, although ostensibly male in that he is referred to with male pronouns and adjectives (such as “he” or “father”), is in fact an androgynous being.

And one thing Stanislaw shares in common with the Church of Satan, and many other Satanic movements, is an apparent belief in elitism and Social Darwinism. Such ideals would normally run very much counter to the overall ideological ethos of anarchism as expressed in most of its manifestations (typically found on the left), which is based on the destruction of all hierarchies that are considered to be unjustifiable and the illegitimacy of vertical hierarchical societies. But Stanislaw seemed to reject the egalitarianism supported by most anarchist and socialist movements, no doubt believing it to be part of the percevied Christian celebration of weakness. He praised the “aristocratic enjoyment of life” found in ancient Roman society, and belittled the underclass of Roman society (who “never tasted the holy joys of Pan”) that had converted to Christianity while living under grotesque socio-economic inequality, and he believed that Satan represented all of the best products of natural selection and condemned Christianity for seeking to “castrate” mankind by elevating “ugliness, sickness, the cripple and the castrated”. This is a classic form of Social Darwinism, seeking to leverage the pre-Christian past as some sort of might makes right paradise (never mind of course that the governments of antiquity, for all their inequalities, did invest in large-scale welfare states, and philosophers like Aristotle believed that public welfare was essential to a functioning democracy). He viewed Satan as a “dark aristocrat”, revealing himself and his mysteries only to a select few individuals, magicians, thus his aristocracy is in some ways a spiritual aristocracy rather than an aristocracy of wealth. True to his socialist convictions and the ethos of the “Romantic Satanists”, Stanislaw is keen to position Satan as the god of the poor and the hungry, thus the lord of the downtrodden (perhaps even their “real” lord, with Jesus as a false saviour). However, he also lists imperial autocrats like Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander of Macedon as being among “Satan’s children”, no doubt a positive appellation owing to their vast military conquests and imperial enterprise. Satan here is not only the god of the poor and the downtrodden, but also the “ambitious”, and therefore the conquerors and the enterpreneurs, just as much as their victims. Certainly a god of contradictions indeed.

It is easy to take all of this and think of Stanislaw as some sort of fascist, due to his Social Darwinist convictions, his praise of elite conquerors, and the self-contradictory populism that results from his thinking. But being that Stanislaw was still an anarchist, he can’t have had much love for the state. Indeed, unlike the Church of Satan’s ostensible commitment to being apolitical (which, in reality, belies the entrenchment of fascism within its ranks), Stanislaw positioned Satan as “the first anarchist”, and linked his own Satanism with what appears to be a form of insurrectionist and nihilist anarchism, a confluence which is communicated by the character Gordon in his book Satan’s Children. In this sense, Stanislaw’s Satan is not only a religious and philosophical concept but also an expressly political one. Furthermore, although Stanislaw’s elitism might seem to make more sense in fascism, ideas about an aristocracy of like-minded individuals can be found in certain forms of individualist anarchism, such as in Toward the Creative Nothing by Renzo Novatore, who declared that anarchism in his view was “the eternal struggle of a small minority of aristocratic outsiders against all societies which follow one another on the stage of history”, an aristocracy that he believed transmitted “satanic outbursts of mad heroism”.

The role of the soul is also an area where there is commonality, as well as difference, between Stanislaw’s doctrine and that of the Church of Satan. The Church of Satan, like Stanislaw, emphasizes carnal life as the true sacred, but they do not have much to say about the soul as an object, except in that LaVey believed that the ego, if sufficiently cultivated, will survive the death of the body (which, ironically, is not all that different from “Abrahamic” doctrines on how properly cultivating the soul in harmony with their teachings will ensure its survival after death). Stanislaw had a similarly mixed take on the soul. On the one hand, as (at least ostensibly) an atheist he denied the reality of the soul, stating that “no professor has seen a soul” and declaring it as only “the backside of matter”. However, he also considered his Satanism to be the belief that “the human spirit” and not God can “work wonders”, he talked about carnal desire as the “will to eternal life”, which is very similar to LaVey’s beliefs about survival after death through fulfillment of the ego, and he espoused a concept which he referred to as “the naked soul”, a “soul” free of all social constraints that is accessed directly by the artist who goes beyond the five senses and normal cognition.

Some dismiss Stanislaw’s claim to being the first Satanist by stating that he is not known to have performed any Satanic rituals or founded a Satanic church. That may be true, but then Jesus, if he existed, or the writers of the Bible, didn’t found a church either and yet they are the origin of Christianity. But beyond that, while it may be true that Stanislaw did not have an official church, he certainly did have a fair few followers. These followers include famous artists such as Wojciech Weiss, a painter who talked about propagating Satanism (as he himself calls it) to the masses after getting inspired by Stanislaw, and Hanns Heinz Ewers, a German writer and actor who met Stanislaw in 1901 and afterwards began holding lectures on “The Religion of Satan” based on his work. This may have also ended up inspiring Fraternitas Saturni, the veteran Luciferian occult organization founded by Eugen Grosche (a.k.a. Gregor A. Gregorius). So, all told, Satanism as a self-defined religious movement was already spreading out and being codified on its own terms by the beginning of the 20th century, well before the Church of Satan was established. It’s just that Anton LaVey was the first person to actually and openly establish a Satanic church. Perhaps it can still be claimed that the Church of Satan established much of the practice of Satanism that exists in the present, but the ideology of Satanism and the phenomenon of Satanism as a self-conscious religious movement is clearly older than Anton LaVey’s efforts.

I imagine that the Church of Satan would not be particularly happy with this fact. And sure enough, they have attempted to disquality Stanislaw as the first Satanist in order to protect their LaVeyan brand. They appear to make a citation which suggests that no form of religious Satanism that exists to this day was created prior to 1966, and when someone points out the existence of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, they respond by insulting their intelligence and claiming, bafflingfly, that the author brings him up in order to say he does not apply. Well, if organized religious Satanism is the criteria, I would say that having a Satanic religious ideology that very closely mirrors your own and in fact inspired a following of people who talk openly about it, calling it Satanism or “The Religion of Satan” would fit that criteria. And if the Church of Satan is to complain that his following was too small, that would be something of an arbitrary argument, not least because, come on, it’s not like Satanism (let alone just the Church of Satan) was ever particularly popular to start with. Of course, the only problem there is that his existence is problematic for the brand that the Church of Satan depends on, that is to say the brand of Anton LaVey as the Black Pope and founder of Satanism, and therefore their institutional legitimacy. Indeed, it’s very funny to see a band of die-hard individualists try to disqualify Satanists who preceded Anton LaVey off the back of the fact that they were just individuals, because Satanism is only legitimate insofar as its identity can be validated as a group (by which, of course, they mean their group in particular).

And I know, sometimes there are awkward, inconvenient facts to deal with. Take me, as a Luciferian, for instance, wanting to talk about Luciferianism as a definite tradition separate from Satanism. Stanislaw talked a lot in his work about Satan in relation to Pan, in fact he seems to have treated Pan as an incarnation of Satan. I have seen it be speculated that Stanislaw’s work may have been read by Carl William Hansen, the first Luciferian. I don’t think there is any proof that Hansen did read any of Stanislaw’s work, and I don’t think that could ever be proven with any real certainty, but I do think that the employment of Pan as a form of Satan, coupled with Stanislaw’s inversion of “Gnostic” dualism, gives credence to the possibility. This, combined with the possibility that Fraternitas Saturni may have been inspired by Stanislaw’s work as well, even though I would say Fraternitas Saturni’s actual doctrine is very different from Stanislaw’s, invites the possibility that the lines between Satanism and Luciferianism are historically very blurred, right into their origins. Both Hansen and Fraternitas Saturni also used upside down pentagrams like Satanists would later do, and modern Luciferians often still do so. There’s also Charles Matthew Pace, an obscure witch who supposedly called himself a Luciferian as early as 1963. He also used the term Luciferian interchangeably with Satanist or “Sethanist”, worshipped a god named Seth-an as the original Lucifer (yet whose name very obviously communicates the name Satan), and called himself a “Master Satanist”. While I think I can still say Luciferianism can exercise a degree of separateness from Satanism in a loose sense, in that it seems to encompass a network of doctrines (perhaps even an ethos) that cannot be equated with baseline Satanism, all of these facts make it difficult to establish said separation in a manner as concrete as I would like, and I have to reckon with that.

And while we’re still on Satanists before LaVey, we might also briefly mention Maria de Naglowska, who, even though her ideology almost certainly didn’t correspond to Stanislaw’s, talked about having her initiates serve Satan before they can serve God, coming to the understanding that they were one and the same. She even used the term “satanic temple” to refer to The Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow, which she briefly ran in Paris during the 1930s.

In summary, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is time to retire the narrative that it is the Church of Satan that is the inventor of Satanism, or at least the sole inventor, because it is simply not true, and that the claim that the Church of Satan did invent Satanism serves only to legitimate the brand of the Church of Satan rather than reflect the truth about Satanism as a movement. Insofar as Satanism as a movement has any legitimacy to it, it is ill-served by the fictions crafted by the Church of Satan, which by now is a dead weight organization for Satanism as a whole.

Witches Sabbath by Cornelis Saftleven (1650); of note is that Stanislaw Przybyszewski believed that these Sabbaths were real and objected to any attempts to describe them as fiction.

Political developments

I first entered into some vague sense of political consciousness, like many in my generation, as a teenager during high school, and I started out with a heady mixture of idealism and confusion without any theoretical or ideological ground upon which to base my political assumptions, goals and ideals beyond a consistent passion for the idea of freedom. In my early years, I would oscillate frequently between an undefined anarchism and an equally vague left-liberalism, though many times I would often fall on the side of anarchism. Before that though you would probably find me supporting political candidates like Barack Obama or Nick Clegg in my early teenage years because I didn’t like the opposition or I suppose I was something of a basic liberal at the time. In the case of the anarchistic tendencies and passions, there was no real detail or ideology behind it, although I think I can say with some certainty that I was never an “anarcho-capitalist” (which I put in quotes because anarcho-capitalism even as a moniker is as much of a joke as the actual ideology appears to be). Literally, my primary reasoning was simply that the state was a bad thing, an infringement upon human liberty at its core, and alongside that I saw what I vaguely recognized as the right wing of politics, the conservative wing, as interested in the suppression of culture and the harvesting of the planet through hegemony and warfare. Back then I also used to be somewhat into the Zeitgeist films for a while, though I disagreed with what I perceived as their collectivism as well as their raging case of technophilia and utopianism, and I admired people like Bill Hicks, George Carlin and even Michael Moore, and I also had a fascination with people like Timothy Leary who were essentially free-thinking hippies for lack of a better word. So I guess you could say that I was pretty left wing at the time. This also coincided with the seeds of my interest in spirituality and to some extent the occult, as I discovered via the Internet the writings of people like Vadge Moore, Robin Artisson, and Osho.

By the time I entered college, I aligned less with anarchism or left-liberalism and drew closer to what I would call a sort of libertarian-lite sort of philosophy. Like with my anarchist phase, there was no ideological or theoretical base or praxis that I worked with, and it was still not clear if I was into left-wing libertarian ideologies or right-wing libertarian ideologies, in fact often times I would hold positions from both sides of the aisle – from the American right, for example, you’d find me with a notably strong support for gun ownership, particularly in contrast to pretty much everyone else in my college class, while on the left you’d largely find me supporting fairly socially liberal and sometimes even progressive causes. Keep that in mind, because for a long time going forward, until very recently, I had a certain personal distrust of socialism and related ideologies. It was around this time, or perhaps somewhere before that, that I became a Satanist as well. The emergent egoistic perspective, loosely borrowed from Anton LaVey and largely drawn from my obsession with the thematics of the Shin Megami Tensei series, lent itself rather nicely to the satanic libertarian phase of my life. Even after abandoning anarchism, I have often said on this blog that I would still held anarchy as an ideal of things, just non-attainable in reality. Why, I’m surprised that I never read the writings of Max Stirner at the time, because open introspection something tells me that the egoistic outlook probably lent itself at times to being something of a crypto-Stirnerite without me realizing it (although, in all fairness, it’s probably for the best that I didn’t outright embrace Stirnerite philosophy from what I’ve heard). Instead I thought of myself more in line with LaVey, and I guess Ayn Rand by proxy to some extent given how influential she was to LaVey’s philosophical outlook, as well as the ancient Chinese egoist Yang Zhu, who I even devoted a short blog post to back in 2013. Anyways, this egoistic vaguely libertarian outlook remained fairly consistent, although as time drew on I became very cynical, even to the point where I would dismiss democracy as a failed system.

However, as you may know, a lot changed back in 2016. By this time I had been vaguely aware of concepts like political correctness, and I had started seeing all manner of ludicrously illiberal proposals put forward and laws enacted by my country’s government, but eventually I would start to become more and more aware of exactly what kind of hot mess liberal society was in. In the space of two months I went from a cynical individual who didn’t care about the Brexit referendum much other than “maybe the EU will stop the Tories from making anti-porn laws” to becoming a strong and convinced Eurosceptic after realizing that my rationale for this was complete nonsense (and after seeing David Cameron, one of my most hated of politicians and then Conservative Party leader, come out in support of remaining in the European Union). As I begun to see large sections of the “left” oppose this, and in general act as antithetical to the liberty of their political opponents, I shifted right over the course of the year and began to take interest in things like populism, nationalism and “classical liberalism” (I’ll explain why that’s in quotes later on). With regards to American politics, I eventually became one of the rare Satanists to lend his support to Donald Trump, having rejected Bernie Sanders, become fed up of the Libertarians, and utterly opposed to Hillary Clinton, and because initially it looked like he might actually. Of course, we now know how that worked out.

Being on the right hasn’t actually been that easy on me, and it’s more often than not been a source of conflict on my part. On the one hand, being a Satanist, I could justify sympathizing with the right through the sort of socially Darwinist perspective that you find in Satanism and that I stressed as separating Satanism from simply being humanism. On the other hand, the tendency towards traditionalism or just cultural conservatism makes them annoying from time to time, and trying to deal with some people who went on and on about Christian culture whilst being a Satanist who supported secularism has been frustrating. Even on economics I was never such an absolutist as many libertarian capitalists are. Looking back, I wonder how many people on the right managed to reconcile economic libertarianism with the desire for the nation state to maintain control of its borders considering that full on economic libertarian logic inevitably leads to the conclusion that borders violate the non-aggression principle (an argument that I oppose), as well as, as I will go on to mention, the fact that capitalism cannot stay nationally grassroots because it must transgress borders in order to sustain itself. And then there’s the alt-right, who I never supported but always had to deal with the fact that they were on the radical end on the right.

In addition to this, I had noticed quite a few dubious things. The first, and this is honestly where I get into repudiation territory here, when you look into it, what the right calls “Cultural Marxism” is largely a myth. It has nothing to do with Marxist economics, and the way they use it is simply a stand-in for what would otherwise be called postmodernism or simply liberal political correctness. The only reason I used the phrase at the time was because I didn’t know shit about Marxism at the time, and I wanted nothing to do with the left so I distanced myself from them too much to learn about it until recently. I will leave a video below from a channel named Comrade Pierre Tru-Dank which I think explains the myth quite well, and I highly recommend you check out his other content as well.

Of course what my man Pierre doesn’t mention is that the term “Cultural Marxism” originated by critics of the Frankfurt School, such as Trent Schroyer, before becoming distorted by people like Pat Buchanan and William Lind into the “Cultural Marxism” meme we know today so that they could wage culture war against socially progressive, hell even just plain liberal causes, under the guise of fighting communism after the fall of the Soviet Union. I don’t think I can say I was a total believer, in fact it was often when I saw it applied to religion that I often saw glimpses of the theory’s weaknesses (seriously, Christianity is not dying because of “Cultural Marxism”, it’s dying because it is an increasingly irrelevant religion, impotent before the dawn of consumerism and the death of Yahweh), but I was simply aware of the term being paraded by “classical liberals” and thought of it as just another way of referring to the particular ideology that we kept seeing from campus ideologues and their progressive apologists. I think it’s fair to say that many people who found themselves opposed to the modern, authoritarian culture warrior breed of the left ended up getting duped by this trope and its proponents, and sadly I think many of them will not realize the same thing as I did before they become further entrenched into the right than I was.

Another thing I began to realize is how many on the right will often lay claim to a principle, such as opposition to political correctness, and then violate it for tactical reasons, or sometimes out of pure idiocy and hypocrisy. We saw this with Laura Loomer and Jack Posobiec gatecrashing last year’s Shakespeare In The Park rendition of Julius Ceasar and having it shut down because they seemingly believed that the play was endorsing violence against the president, which anyone with two brain cells would have interpreted as utterly nonsensical. You can also see this with how many on the right will claim to hate Saul Alinsky and his tactics because of his communist political leanings, and condemn Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for allegedly using their tactics, only to cite the very same Alinskyite tactics as a rationale for condemning someone as having offended them, as was the case when a Twitter personality named psychicpebbles uploaded a caricature of Ajit Pai to express disapproval of the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality protections. Both of those things they will rationalize with some unprincipled tripe about how it is the only way to teach SJWs the errors of their tactics, when in reality all it does is showcase the idiocy of the people who play them and their willingness to violate the ideals they claim to stand for just to compete with, let’s face it, blindingly insane college liberals who have no real politics beyond the realm of outrage culture and a kind of selfish intersectionalist metaphysics. That leads us nicely into another thing: as time went on I noticed that the whole social justice thing had petered out and slowly become irrelevant, but the right on the other hand keeps wanting to milk the whole thing for what it’s worth, and all the while you’ve got plenty of right wing snowflakes out there. In fact, just this week I have noticed that a high school teacher in California was fired over a rant he made just shy of two months ago where he basically dissed the military, and not only that but the student who got him fired said he was happy to get a man fired over his speech. Yes, there’s people on the right who believe that mere offensive speech constitutes bullying, the same side that rallied in support of Jordan Peterson for refusing to say whatever pronoun Canada asks him to, and almost no one was calling this out. And it’s all a product of the culture war which we’ve allowed ourselves to think is another other than bullshit that distracts us from the real problem.

What real problem you might ask? The short answer, frankly, is capitalism. The long answer is multi-faceted, but I’ll do my best to explain. For starters, you may remember a series of events concerning social media and censorship, in particular pertaining to YouTube. I have covered YouTube’s path towards authoritarianism and retardation many times, including that time Jeremy Crow found himself the subject of demonetization. Also, as it turns out, it’s not just edgy right-wingers who get subject to the limited state feature. Even communists are subject to it. Even liberal SJW apologists are subject to it. I’ve even seen channels like ReviewTechUSA get a video put into limited state at one point. Once you discover this, the idea that Google is solely attacking right-wingers or Nazis falls apart, and what you instead see is that this is probably the product of the particular algorithm that YouTube has. But, that’s not my main point. My main point is that companies like Google and YouTube are simply doing this in order to secure advertisers on their platform, and you can also see Twitter banning far-righters and collecting data on what website you go on in order to curtail “hate speech” as simply a reaction to their decline in the market and the perception that it this is caused by an online harassment problem. Thus, the erosion of freedom of speech on social media is directly caused by capitalistic incentives via the profit motive: or, in other words, you. Not to mention, we all know that many of these companies also sell your data and information and have been doing so for years for much the same reason: to make a profit off of it. This on its own should be a refutation of the axiom of “the freer the markets, the freer the people”. But more than this, it is a manifestation of the capitalist, even liberal, idea that freedom is all tied in with property, meaning that, if you are a subject of that property, the property owner takes away your freedom of speech. See, many critics of the actions of these social media websites I’ve seen will question the private company argument because they rightly think that you should not be suppressed arbitrarily by these companies, but in every other instance they will ultimately use the propertarian lens to support the very same political and economic system that has made these problems manifest to begin with.

Then you have the looming automation crisis, which I have discussed before. I have always been worried about the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, and the effects that it will have on humanity and society at large. What I never realized though is that this is another reason to reject capitalism. Think about it: you’re going to see millions of people economically displaced, they’re not going to be able to get employment because they’re not needed anymore for the most part, and universal basic income will not help because you’re going to run out of money to support it because no one is going to get any income because they can’t get jobs. And if that’s not enough, . Not to mention, the only reason we have things like planned obsolesence is because companies like Apple know that they can make an extra buck by shortening the life span of their products, forcing customers to buy more. Oh, and if political correctness and feminism bother you, take a look at the kind of people who sponsor it. Then there’s mass immigration in regards to the current migration crisis, which, as it turns out, can be explained largely by decades of American destabilization of the Middle East coupled with the capitalistic interest in cheap labour. Hell, what I recognize as globalism is nothing more than the product neoliberal capitalism inevitably transgresses the borders of the nation state because, as a system built on profit, growth and consumption, it must access new markets by any means or it will stagnate and die. Not to mention, pretty much everyone who can accurately be pointed to as one of the globalists is also a died in the wool member of the capitalist class (just look at the American Deep State, the European Union, or the IMF and you’ll see what I mean). Then there is simply the fact the consumer culture that I have long hated can easily be traced to the mass industrialization of culture that the capitalist mode of production has generated.

I mean there are so many capitalistic interests underpinning what I’ve been opposing the entire time that I’m starting to think the only reason the right is so autistic about Marxism is because they don’t want to oppose capitalism despite it being the logical conclusion of some of their grievances. Only by replacing the current economic system with a system that isn’t based off of profit and consumption, and is instead based on putting economic power into the hands of the people rather than corporations or the state, are you going to get rid of the incentives that drive all of the woes I speak of, but I guess they’re not smart enough to realize it. And we’re going to need to do it pretty soon before either automation robs us all of jobs or we run out of the resources needed to make even tiny little computer chips within a century. Not to mention, when the next economic crisis arrives, which it is predicted to do so within relatively short order, people are going radicalize in response to the material conditions and turn away from liberal capitalism. At that point, the two options most people will pick will be either socialism or fascism. And I really, really, really would not like to see the return of fascism. I’ve even discussed this before when writing about Edward Bernays, just from the libertarian and anti-socialist perspective that I once had. Mark my words, we have seen fascism arise , it will happen again.

In many ways I am starting to think that I was right-wing for the following reasons: (1) I sympathized with libertarians on wedge issues, (2) I simply reacted to the left at the time, and without any understanding of the actual ideas of the left I could not criticize the actions of people like Antifa from a left position, and (3) because at the time I began to think that supporting some form of national populism was the logical means of rebelling against the establishment. But if I think about it, the position I was in really ultimately supports the system more than it opposes it. The only area in which that isn’t the case is in the culture war and the whole globalism thing, and even then, unless it goes outside of and opposes capitalism in meaningful way, all it’s going to do is support the status quo that generates my woes to begin with. All I did was dislike the way some of the left was acting, and then I found myself in a position that really isn’t going to do much in the long run, and is based simply on reaction. It was, I guess for all intents and purposes, a reactionary phase.

That, in one long rant, encompasses my political journey, and the realizations that I have made along the way. I hope it wasn’t too boring. I won’t be deleting any of my posts from my prior political phase simply because there is no point in trying to scrub that out of my blog’s history.

Liberty and lawlessness

Minerva repulsing Discord, as depicted in a Medal of Honour

About twelve days ago, I was chatting with Tadashi about a possible Latin motto, a translation of “in the bountiful freedom of chaos, I will create my own order”. Along the way, he mentions that he saw glimpses of such “anarchy” and said that, while he’s all for bending the rules, there’s nothing good that can come from shattering them all. For a long time I thought about that and eventually I finally started to drift away from political anarchism.

I used to identify as an anarchist when I was around 16 years old, though I would also identify as a libertarian. Over the past 4 or so years I began to be much more vague about the term anarchist, perhaps from various ideas and revelations from various places, though I still held anarchistic sentiments. But after my conversation with Tadashi, I finally decided three things:

  1. That anarchism is naive
  2. That anarchy is incapable of preserving liberty and justice
  3. I’ve been overlooking history

Just imagine a place where there is nothing protecting those who can’t protect themselves or are just concerned with going on with their lives, where the people cause the most violent mayhem are allowed to go unchecked, where families can abuse their own kind, where people can get into mobs and beat up or kill people for smoking joints or being gay or being a different race, where theft and rape may go unpunished, and where there is nothing to stop corporations from going too far and getting away with all kinds of crap. Of course eye for an eye may apply, but there’s no guarantee of justice since you never know when it will end. Even if anarchy and the absence of a criminal justice system doesn’t automatically mean an eruption of violent mayhem, there’s nothing stopping anything from escalating into that, or preventing thugs from effectively establishing a rule of fear. And even if none of this is true, people would want to create organization anyway, and people would accept it out of the natural desire for it. The only difference is what that organization is based on. And then there’s the forms of anarchism that wind up being either communism or a land where there’s no stopping corporations from going too far, and like communism they fundamentally underestimate human nature (which is capable of exploitation and savagery just as much as it is capable kindness or reasonable conduct, not to mean everything in between). Even if an anarchist society might start out just fine, I can imagine something sooner or later going wrong and then it’s all undone.

Let’s face it, in the natural state of things you may technically have freedom in the sense everyone may be free to do whatever they want, but that freedom is constantly vulnerable because there’s nothing guaranteeing you protection of your freedom or your rights, nothing protecting the individual from coercion, nothing that would guarantee justice, let alone no forms of organization. Since none of these things are guaranteed, all of these things have to be created by people.

I personally would want a social organization that is based on freedom, individualism, and justice, and I still strongly support absolute freedom of speech, religion, lifestyle, and belief, the right of responsible individuals to bear arms, and in general the freedom to anything that does not infringe on other people’s rights or constitute abuse, harm, or crime. I still heavily believe freedom, justice, and individualism, but now I am finally convinced that anarchy will not facilitate these effectively. So the answer would be any kind of government that creates laws based on freedom and justice, any form of social organization that protects civil liberty and delivers justice.

Liberty and justice for all!  😉

I don’t care how it might be done, though I still have my doubts regarding democracy. One the one hand, democracy (or at least democracy on its own) is weak and easily corruptible, open to tyranny of the majority, can suffer from a collectivist vibe, and it feels like it won’t make a difference who you vote for, but on the other hand I feel a democracy might actually be fine if the rights of the minority were still protected, and it might be worth noting that a real democracy would depend on people. Overall, I just don;t care so long as we have a society based on liberty and justice.

I still feel you should fight for your freedom too. Let’s face it, politicians can be corrupt, and so can the government. It happens. This is why we need people aware enough to keep their government on their toes, to remind them of its purpose.: not to enslave, but to protect and serve.  To be honest though, I would still want a government that consists solely of people disciplined enough to do their job, that way there would be less corruption.

Finally, I still feel that you shouldn’t have any blind faith in the government, for you as an individual would risk giving in to the same slave mentality on which authoritarian governments sustain themselves. Don’t obey the laws out of a blind sheep mentality, but rather observe them as long as they are reasonable, and protest anything that threatens liberty and justice, or is just plain nonsense. And don’t serve the army out of any sense of duty, service, or obedience, but rather out of an individual sense that you are fighting and risking your life for something you believe.

All in all, what I believe is the same as it’s always been, except that I feel anarchy is not the answer, not any more for me.

The false image of Guy Fawkes

Ever since the movie V for Vendetta was released, anarchists and Anonymous have picked up on the mask worn by V, the protagonist, and the 17th century English bomb-plotter Guy Fawkes (upon which the character V is supposed to be based on) as a symbol of revolution, freedom, rebellion, fighting against government and Internet control, and fighting against religious oppression and theocracy. If only this were true.

In reality, the historical Guy Fawkes was not a freedom fighter, and while he may certainly have entered Parliament with honest intentions, those intentions were not good, honorable, or noble. He was a Catholic terrorist who plotted to blow up the Parliament building in London so that he could replace the Protestant government of 1605 with Catholic rule. See, he was on the side of the Jesuits, who were a Catholic organization, and they didn’t like the fact that they were ruled by Protestant kings, or Parliamentary government, and wanted to hand control of Britain back to the Catholic Church and the Pope.

The actual gunpowder plotters, who as you can see bear no resemblance to comic book anti-heroes.

Now, let me ask you this: if you really loved freedom, why would you celebrate the image of a dead Catholic terrorist whose plan was to coerce Britain into being Catholic, blow up Parliament, and give the country back the Pope? What kind of believer in freedom does that?

Doesn’t it seem odd or even just ironic that Guy Fawkes, a man who was basically just another religious terrorist, not too different from your average Islamic extremist in modern society, has come to represent the opposition of state authority and religious oppression? Don’t you find it strange that Anonymous uses the image of a religious terrorist to fight the oppression of a religious organization (namely Scientology)? Keep in mind, all this comes from a graphic novel/movie and its influence on anarchism, protest, and modern culture, but I find it very strange that Alan Moore has turned a religious terrorist has been turned into a heroic anarchist, and actually supports the use of Guy Fawkes masks to represent the fight for freedom and individualism.

Through all this I’m simply reminding the Internet that Guy Fawkes was a terrorist. Not a hero, not a freedom fighter, not an anarchist, but a terrorist, no different to any religious terrorist in modern times. And in glamorizing the image of Guy Fawkes, we are glamorizing religious terrorism. Any anarchist worth his salt should reject Guy Fawkes as a symbol, because if he represents anything, it’s religious terrorism designed to create a theocratic state, not freedom or revolution against authority.