Another day on Facebook, another day of stumbling onto some weird vaguely culty new religious movement with gothic overtones. This time, instead of Hyperianism, it’s this movement called the Temple of Chrysalis, which seems to have been around since 2018. I heard about them through a sponsored post advertising them on Facebook, and, to tell you truth, there are many things in that post that make it sound like a grift. Led by a woman calling herself Luminary Blackthorn and dressed like someone who got rejected from Heilung for being too horny on main, this group is a strange case wherein it simultaneously feels mildly culty and even calls itself a cult, but at the same time it almost doesn’t seem like one at all. How does that work exactly? I’ll do my best to explain as we go forward.
First there’s the opening statement: “What the f is this “Temple of Chrysalis” and why are they on my feed? Is this some sort of cult?”. I love the fact that they already anticipate being called a cult, and it honestly makes me wonder what would motivate someone to refer to it as such. Perhaps the line “Use 5 minutes to read this post, and your life might take an important step towards astounding change.” is probably a weird sign in itself. The first idea we get about what they are and what they stand for is the sentence “We are an online community that explores the concept of reality and how it can be affected by your own actions and surroundings. And we are opening our doors to a LIMITED number of new members.” Essentially we get the impression that they have a vague interest in mysticism and spirituality (let’s face it, “reality and how it can be affected by your own actions and surroundings” could refer to any number of doctrines), and they seem to be an esoteric club of sorts, judging by the . Even stranger is “And why did I spend my money to reach YOU? 🧐 I am not yet sure, to be honest.”. Pro-tip: nobody cares. They seem to lean very keenly on the perception of difference in society, and by that I basically just mean they like to exploit alternative subcultures as a source of membership, just like Morgue does with his Hyperianism cult. That message is summed up in “But you also know that dimming yourself down will leave you feeling empty, not being true to yourself. We know we are different. And I believe that you are too. Because this is how I targeted this post: to people with extraordinary and peculiar interests.”. It’s a pretty positive message, at least on the surface that’s what it seems to be about, but obviously that’s not all there is to this. We’re led on by the author to ponder the real reason why you’re being targeted with this message. Ostensibly not because you happen to be the group’s target demographic, but because “this is the exact turning point of your life to cut down all the bs and finally start actually doing something to change things”. Vaguery seems to be the order of the day here, as suggested by the description “Temple of Chrysalis is for those of you who wish to consolidate enjoyment, the moments of pleasure and the energy of your core to be part of your life.” What does that mean exactly? Your guess is as good as mine. But apparently it might have something to do with individual self-fulfillment in that the group promises the freedom to be alternative and different (as if we don’t already have that to some extent), as well as ritualism and some sort of support community. But the strange thing about them is that they openly bill themselves as a secret society and even a cult. “Because that cult thing was not a joke. You are being recruited.”. I wonder what’s up with that. Then the post ends with an encouragement to “take the red pill”, which honestly is a surprise to still see in 2020 let alone outside of online overtly right-wing political circles, and it kind of tells me that we’re in for some pretentiousness and stupidity going forward.
So that’s the first impression I got from them on Facebook, but what are they really all about? On their Facebook page, there’s a post called “What is the Chrysalis Path?”. What does that tell us? Well it tells us for a start that they bill themselves as an “occult philosophical paradigm”, based on the goal of discovering “the Ideal self” and “multiplying ones potential, through powerful transformation and influencing of the mind”. The name Chrysalis comes from the fact they draw inspiration from the metamorphosis of the catterpillar in which it transforms into a butterfly or a moth. Indeed, their logo, in keeping with this theme, is a moth, but it also has a skull on its back, much like the poster for the movie Silence of the Lambs, as well as the cover art for the novel of the same name. Obviously this is just for aesthetic edge. The group claims to adopt a more scientific approach to things like ritualism or the supernatural, which is something I could get behind in theory but I honestly wonder what exactly their approach to that is. Certainly not Scientific Illuminism, that’s for sure. All I know is that it invovles ” the concept of reality and how it can be affected by your own actions and surroundings” and consolidating “enjoyment, the moments of pleasure and the energy of your core to be part of your life”. The stated goal of the Chrysalis community is to allow you to eventually reach the “Imago”, the “ideal self”. Membership of this group is free, meaning anyone can join in, but of course there’s an “inner circle” whose membership has to be earned somehow, and the group makes money by selling various courses, packages and retreats among various other products, including an online academy. All of this billed under the label of “socially positive cult”.
On their website they have a list of principles that they purport to operate by, though the page for it is really just exposition of what they’re all about. We get the sense that the Temple of Chrysalis is, more than just a religious group, seems also to be a self-styled magical order of sorts, whose occult paradigm is called “Naos tis Chrysalis”. The rationale given for the name Chrysalis is elaborated here in that it refers to the cyclical process of spiritual metamorphosis, which is to say that the Chrysalis refers to the pupa, which is thus symbolic of the phase in which the metamorphosis can begin with the transcendence of that which came before, which would be the caterpillar, and the butterfly represents the Imago or ideal self which is then the end goal of that metamorphosis. It’s a tad more complicated that the website lets on. Contrary to what the page is titled, though, the object of discussion is not actually principles so much as themes, and what are these themes? Well here they are?
- Realities – The exploration, questioning, and utilization of them.
- Mind – Influencing it, playing with it, and modification.
- Change – Harnessing and utilizing it.
- Pleasure – Understanding it, and increasing your own well-being through it.
- Rituals – Reality shaping, amplifying transformation and sealing of decisions.
- The life cycle of the Buttefly – The symbolism of transformation, the finality of the process, the pain of giving up and rebirth.
It is at the same time vague and clear. It is vague in the sense that these themes, for the most part, tell us nothing. But it is clear in the sense that we get an idea of what the movement is. When they talk about reality, they actually mean “realities”, and these “realities” are things that can be in some way manipulated. Ritualism is established as a means of shaping reality, amplifying personal transformation and “sealing” decisions, which tells me that ceremonial magick plays a major role in this belief system and that it is a means by which to transform either reality or the “realities” of others. So what we get is something of a magickal group, with a bit of hedonism in the mix what with pleasure as a means to increase well-being. With this and its dark aesthetic in mind I can’t help but wonder if this is some sort of quasi-Satanic or quasi-Luciferian group, but then the gothic aesthetic could be just that: gothic aesthetics. However, we also find that Change, Mind, Chrysalis, Imago and Reality have their own dedicated pages on their website, which means there’s further elaboration on these concepts as they are to be understood in the context of the Temple’s belief system.
Change seems rather self-explanatory in this regard. Change is the basis of all progression and from there the foundational block of spiritual transformation, which is then encapsulated in the metaphor of the butterfly life cycle. The butterfly life cycle metaphor is also elobarated on in much more detail, giving us four stages. The first is the Egg stage, which represents the aspirational stage (that’s weird, I would think the Imago would be the thing to aspire to but oh well). The second is the Larva stage, which is just when you decide to commit to your goals and consecrate tha decision through sigils and ritualism. The third is the Chrysalis stage, which also involves ritualism but also is summed up as just whatever action is required to cultivate the Imago. The fourth and last stage is the Imago stage, which was already estasblished as just the higher self, but in this page it also seems to just mean whatever goal you’re aspiring to. So the cycle of Egg-Larva-Chrysalis-Imago can just be summed up as, you have a goal, you set yourself to it, and you accomplish it, but with rituals in between. Essentially, this is a basic bitch self-help program for people who don’t think there’s enough mysticism or goths involved. Mind here refers to the “intrinsic being of an individual, that contains, processes and directs consciousness, thoughts, and feelings”. This sort of makes it out like Mind is an entity separate from the being of the individual. The being is the individual or the living creature, and mind is one of its constituents. Anyways, Mind is central to the Chrysalis belief system, with the reaching of full potential being predicated on exploring the layers of mind, and indeed even reality itself is predicated on mind, since they believe that reality is merely a subjective image of mind and the senses. In other words, they are idealists, which I suppose is to be expected of the average magickal group. There’s a page on Chrysalis but it’s in Finnish so unfortunately I can’t read it, and so is the Reality page (keep in mind, these Finnish-language pages are on what is still the English language version of the site). Imago is explained in its respective page as “the version of you, where all the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place nigh perfectly, and where the mind and the vase which carries it are in harmony with one another”. It is essentially a mystical summary of an individual’s maximum potential, a state in which mind and body are in perfect harmony, and the awakened mind can dictate reality and his/her own emotional state as per desire, and individuals who attain this state essentially become godlike. This godlike potential is supposed to reside in every human, though merely in slumber, waiting to be awakened.
We get another window into the nature of the Chrysalis doctrine through their Edict, particularly in the five Pillars (wait, you mean like the five pillars of Islam?). The first pillar is Reality and says “The universe consists of vibrations, frequencies and energies. Reality is an interpretation of sensory feedback. Shaping reality is the key to self-improvement.”, which is essentially an affirmation of typical New Agey doctrine. The second pillar is Mind and says “The mind is the most important tool for shaping reality. Limits of the mind can be exceeded. With control, primitivity is freedom and chaos is power.”, and I’ll be honest the last part of that statement sounds pretty quasi-Taoist, which would be pretty cool if I had some evidence that they could draw effectively from Taoism. The third pillar is Metamorphosis and says “Each person has an Imago, the ideal self that can be achieved. The larva can be offered food, but it must make the decision to begin the Chrysalis. Resurrection requires death.”, which is all a pretty weird way of saying “you must commit to being your best self”. Of course “resurrection requires death” isn’t really wrong, after all life does derive from life, and ironically this can even be applied to the teachings of Christianity, in the sense that the new life in heaven requires the death of Jesus. The fourth pillar is Morality and says “Do as you desire, bear the responsbility. Goodness is reality and situation dependent. Evil is an anomaly in reality. Happy person doesn’t deliberately cause harm, hence happiness is an aspiration.”, and here we come to a problem: goodness is reality, and evil is an anomly of reality, but reality as was already established is also ultimately just an illusion because it’s just a projection of thoughts and senses. So which is it? Either reality is a real thing on the basis that morality is real and a reflection of reality, or reality is an illusion which would then mean morality is an illusion. The fifth and last pillar is Ecstasy and says “Joyful experiences increase happiness. Ecstatic experience brings you closer to reality shaping. The relationship of two people is what they agree with one another.”, and to be honest I think it has some pretty bad lessons in life. How good you feel doesn’t have any bearing on your ability to affect your surroundings, and love cannot be measured in the fact that two people agree with each other, particularly when opinion can be such a fickle thing in that people generally do not hold the same set of opinions in perpetuity.
Now, one thing I haven’t elaborated on yet is the Chrysoteria, which is their online academic program. There’s not much I can get into without paying for it, since their material will likely be behind a paywall, but supposedly it’s the means of accessing the “secret knowledge” of the Chrysalis sect. One wonders why it has to be a secret. It sounds like something that could be just given out for free, and particularly when for all I know it’s just more elaborated lessons on what is the same “knowledge”. It’s probably just some occult works that you could probably already find anyway without shilling out some money for what could just be a Google search’s worth of knowledge. In an introductory video on the Chrysoteria found on Blackthorn’s YouTube channel, she explains that being a member gets you access to monthly packages of information pertaining to spells, chants, seals and rituals, and from what I could glance on the video it looks stuff you could find on any blog or another YouTube channel, or just about any magick-oriented book, although I’m guessing the difference is that here the content is more specifically oriented towards Chrysalis doctrine (not that this makes a difference considering that Chrysalis doctrine doesn’t seem particularly original). It also mentions you finding blog posts and articles there alongside courses and “community”. Tell me, why exactly do you need to pay money to enroll on some online academic course in order to access articles and blog posts? Especially when you can just read articles on the Temple’s website for free anyway? And just what kind of quality articles would necessitate such a paywall in any context? Oh, never mind, what makes it all different is that she promises that you’ll learn how to become a God, because they believe that God is in you. OK, but I still don’t see why you need to pay for everything else, particularly just so you can learn Panentheism 101.
And since we’ve already established that all this isn’t for free, how much does it cost to be in the Chrysoteria? Like so many other things in this day and age, Chrysoteria comes with multiple payment plans, each with a different price and a different set of services. The Seeker membership plan costs €29 a month (or €25 a month when billed annually), and is pretty much just the basic membership plan in that it offers pretty much all the basic features (a community network, monthly “Knowledge Scrolls” and member-only articles). The Devoted membership plan costs €35 a month (or €29 a month when billed annually) and as additional content offers “Chrysalis Dark Arts”, which consists of “dark magic” (whatever that means) and sex magic courses (which honestly you can find anywhere on the internet or better yet in books that cost much less than a Chrysoteria membership plan), as well as 5% discounts on courses, merchandise and events, which I suppose is a perk and a half. It’s also worth noting that this plan is billed as the Launch plan and is presently reduced from its normal price of €49 a month. The Chosen membership plan is limited, with only ten placements available, and costs €150 a month (or €125 a month when billed anually), and as additional content offers 10% discounts on all courses, merchandise and events, VIP status for all events, and a 30 minute personal video call with Blackthorn (the latter of which I’m sure you could pretty much just get from her adult video service (more on that later)). Typically, though, membership is expected to cost €29 a month assuming you go with the basic plan. Therefore, you are going to spend a total of €348 every year for something that you can probably find for free, get in a book that you can buy for much cheaper, or hell write about yourself at no cost to yourself. If you’re having to fork over that much money just to get in a community where you get to learn about some lady’s personal rebranding of concepts that, if we’re very honest, already exist elsewhere (“Triagas”, for example, seem to me like just another name for what we already call sigils), not to mention that their whole system of magick is just them taking the basic concept of magick itself and claiming it as their own, I’d say this is a good sign that what we’re dealing with is a textbook scam.
But while we’re on that subject, I would also like to get into the whole theme of cult identity, because as I established earlier the Temple and its founder really likes to lean in on the idea that they’re running a cult, and even though they call themselves a cult it’s honestly difficult to tell if they actually mean that or if it’s just some sort of tease. Blackthorn refers to her organization as a cult, specificallly she refers to it as a “socially positive cult”, which is a very strange term considering that every example of a cult that I and just about everyone else can think of is the complete opposite of “socially positive”. Given their rebranding of existing spiritual concepts, their leaning on exclusivity and not to mention cult identity, and not to mention the whole Chrysoteria program, it’s easy to see why they might seem like a cult. Another thing that would usually be a telltale sign is a Facebook post about the group’s Discord server wherein they say “It is a support network that offers you a family. People to share with, to laugh with, to cry with”. Now, that could mean something else entirely but I recognize in cults a tendency to offer a family-like community as part of their religious movement, especially with the intent to replace your existing family bonds. Not to mention, “At times we do very cult-like things, such as testing people’s loyalty by closing some of their favorite channels and allowing access only to the devoted.”. But, on the other hand, something’s amiss. I mean, of all the examples of cults that I’ve seen in my time, I’ve never actually seen them call themselves cults. Cults, and religious movements more generally, like to try and avoid the cult label as a rule, and for good reason. Cults are dangerous, predatory, manipulative, socially corrosive and spiritually degenerative phenomenon that no one in the right mind should want to consciously identify with, and the people that wind up joining cults don’t really consider them to be cults until after some time being in one it finally dawns on them that’s what it is. But the Temple of Chrysalis, seemingly, is a lone exception – it identifies itself as a cult and Blackthorn identifies herself as a cult leader, all while subject to no reproach for it (not yet, at least). You would think that somebody openly identifying as a cult or cult leader would be instantly called out for it, but apparently this hasn’t happened, and perhaps it’s from this that I’m left to suspect that something else is going on.
When I watch Blackthorn’s videos, I get the sense that she is not always a particularly serious person. She puts on some fairly comical affectations as part of her persona in her videos, which I have to admit is a much better touch than in Morgue’s videos where it’s just Morgue reciting a point-by-point argument that he wrote before-hand and in general he just seems to take himself way too seriously for a guy who probably goes to bed in the make-up he wears. She even has her own outtake reel, of sorts, in the form of a video of her trying to do her videos unscripted. That suggests that, perhaps, she doesn’t take herself or her witchy persona entirely seriously, or at least that she’s a light-hearted person who just happens to lean in on some rather dubious thematic ideas as part of some sort of act. And if that’s not enough, in the same Facebook post I mentioned before, the group also says “As I have always said, the Temple of Chrysalis is a human experiment. It is a game where you gain more levels.”. A game where you gain more levels? That is certainly an interesting angle, one that makes me wonder about the nature of the movement in that it opens up the possibility that even the whole cult identity isn’t ultimately sincere, and that it’s strictly for entertainment purposes. I think one of two things is certain: either this really exactly what they say it is, which is to say that it is a cult, or it’s a couple of irony-loving goths who larp as a cult because they think the idea of them being in a cult is fun to play with.
Last, but not least, let’s take a good look at the founder of this group: “Luminary” Blackthorn. Just who is she exactly? Her Linkedin and Twitter pages tell us that her real name is Ida-Emilia Kaukonen, and that, aside from being the leader of the Temple of Chrysalis, she’s also a game developer, a “community expert”, a “Community and Communications Consultant”, and, most hilariously of all, an online sex worker (well, an adult content creator to be more accurate, but let’s face it that’s what her video service amounts to). Her game development career seems to have been fairly extensive, having worked for a company called Nitro Games for a total of about six years. Most of her roles in that capacity focus on “community” skills, which basically means that she managed the social media accounts of the company, and generally was involved in the company’s media campaigns, PR, and marketing. Of course, she did do some level design, and apparently was the voice of one of the characters in a game called Medals of War, but the bulk of her role has been to essentially market her company. She had a similar role as the promotion lead for OldTown, a post-apocalyptic larp festival based in Poland, where she essentially managed their social media and visitor community for two years. She also has scores of acting and other roles from many years ago, often linked to universities. Her adult content can be found on a website called Only Fans, where she offers erotic videos, photography and audio for subscribers, typically at a rate $25 per month, as well as direct message chats for personalized content. In addition to this, she encourages her subscribers to pay her tips, and in typical e-girl fashion these are tips for things that you could just as easily do with a real person for free by having an actual relationship with said person. I’m not joking. She encourages you to tip her $5 just let you know she liked a direct message. For the “boyfriend experience” (which, by the way, is a service I’ve heard about being offered by prostitutes) you can tip her $150. Just read about the tips she encourages people to give, I could not help but laugh at it all. And, look, if you want to be one of those sex workers on the internet offering chumps the privilege of seeing your pussy via a camera for money, don’t let me stop you, same for if you want to be one of the suckers that pays for it. I just think it’s funny that this “cult leader” is also basically an internet whore (although I do look down on this profession at the end of the day, especially when you’re asking people to give you stupid amounts of money).
At present, she is the CEO of a company called Blackthorn Visions, which appears to be some kind of social media consultancy firm. According to her Linkedin profile it specializes in community management, social media algorithms, networking, public speaking, and social media psychology. All a fairly interesting resume, albeit in the field of what sounds like bullshit jobs with extra steps, but what’s really interesting is that the branding for this company is remarkably similar to the aesthetic seen in the Temple of Chrysalis. In fact, one of their Facebook posts mentions a company being involved in their community network or something to that effect, and given what we know, while there isn’t much information about the company (at least in English) I think it’s safe to assume that Blackthorn Visions is essentially a corporate vehicle for the Temple of Chrysalis in that it serves to facilitate their social media and community ventures, or at least serves as a satellite company for them. All-in-all, it’s eerily fascinating to see just how much experience Kaukonen seems to have under her belt, how many fields and careers she’s worked in, and how it all kind of seems to blend together into one picture, and to be honest it rather feeds into a certain sense that the Temple of Chrysalis, rather than a “cult”, is probably just an elaborate marketing scheme.
For all this, though, as funny as a lot of this is, I also sometimes feel distinctively negative about it. After all this is still someone seeking to profiteer off of alternative spirituality, particularly the occult or more or less the realm of pop-occultism. The belief system she promotes is a hodge-podge of New Age mysticism, gothic subculture, elements of Left Hand Path spirituality or at least aesthetics, some aspects of chaos magick, and contemporary neopaganism, which is carefully designed to appeal not only to people interested in alternative subcultures but also people who are interested in things like occultism and alternative religion, and just the fact that she charges people money to learn about this sort of stuff, let alone as part of some greater marketing bullshit, tells me that she treats this sort of shit as some sort of business venture, just a way to make money off of people who probably do have sincere interests in such things and feel alienated from society as a result. In a way I’m ultimately somewhat disgusted by all of this, and I actually think it reminds me of what Jacob McKelvy was doing, both in the Greater Church of Lucifer and with his evangelical ministry, except for the fact that Kaukonen is a lot more brazen about her money-hungry ways (and also being basically a whore on top of that). At any rate she certainly knows how to market just about anything, including her own body.
So is she a cult leader? To tell you the truth, I still consider that to be a grey area, but to my mind it looks like she’s less a cult leader and more or less a businesswoman or a shill, and while I’m sure her interests in video games, religion and alternative subculture are somewhat genuine, I also think she views them as things that can be effectively commodified and sold out as instruments of marketing. Mind you, to be quite honest, I didn’t think I’d find a person with such intersecting interests. I must admit that, if I had known about her at around 2015 or 2016, while I was still a game design student, maybe I would have been interested in networking with her for business-related purposes. But other than that, I can’t really respect what she’s doing, even if the Temple of Chrysalis isn’t a cult.
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