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.
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