I decided that it might be worth my time to address some arguments against anarcho-nihilism, if mostly because I keep seeing them floating around. This is mostly in reference to arguments from non-anarchist communists, including Marxist-Leninists, but social-anarchists and standard issue anarcho-communists also tend to make similar arguments – either from first principle, as the case may be, or perhaps simply to take after the old “Anarcho-Bolsheviks” who thought that allying with the Soviet Union would save them after the suppression of Makhnovschina. In the process of this, however, we will not spend any time addressing any accusations of fascism, because in reference to our subject those are simply aesthetic slurs made with no consideration of the actual nature of their object, and as such can be dismissed out of hand.
Let’s consider the following arguments against anarcho-nihilism:
“Nihilism means doing nothing”
“Anarcho-nihilism is the ideology of the ruling class”
“What has anarcho-nihilism negated?”
“Anarcho-nihilism is the ideology of serial killers/abject immorality/suicidal ideation”
(the adventurism accusation)
“Aren’t you just pessimists, not actually nihilistic?”
“Nihilism can only lead back to conformity and submission”
“We live in a society”
Objection #1: “Nihilism Means Doing Nothing”
This is a fairly obvious case where the people making this complaint don’t even bother to read the quotations presented to them. Let’s go to the quotation in question, from Serafinski’s Blessed Is The Flame, to see where some people might be going wrong:
The anarcho-nihilist position is essentially that we are fucked. That the current manifestation of human society (civilization, leviathan, industrial society, global capitalism, whatever) is beyond salvation, and so our response to it should be one of unmitigated hostility. There are no demands to be made, no utopic visions to be upheld, no political programs to be followed – the path to resistance is one of pure negation.
Blessed Is The Flame, Serafinski (2016)
So, where have critics gone wrong here? The answer is to be found in but another question: how do you derive “do nothing” from “unmitigated hostility”? I suppose the phrases “we are fucked” and “human society is beyond salvation” would have some people interpreting it as a statement of utter resignation to fate, but such a sentiment is in no way reflected in Blessed Is The Flame. If it were, why would the book consist of detailed accounts of insurgent resistance undertaken by concentration camp prisoners against their Nazi captors, guided by no hope in futurity but instead by the purity of their desire to destroy systematic and genocidal oppression. Or perhaps it just comes down to the rejection of formal programs or utopic visions? In that case, what you understand as “doing nothing” is simply the rejection of new ways of ordering people, of new grand designs to impose upon the each other after the old ones perish one by one. In this sense we take after Max Stirner when, in juxtaposing insurrection against “Revolution”, he said that the point should not be to let ourselves be arranged but to clear the way for us to arrange ourselves, reserving no hope for any great institutions. In this sense, then, rather than advocating for doing nothing, anarcho-nihilism in this sense binds actions towards a locus of agency which is then drawn back into its rightful place in individual (and then collective) subjectivity.
The thing is, though, when Marxist-Leninists make this argument, they are making it against all of anarchism and are always talking about it from the standpoint of certain ideas of revolutionary success. What I mean is, when they say that anarcho-nihilists, or really any anarchists for that matter, have never accomplished anything, their standard is the “success” of the various so-called “socialist” states – the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Venezuela, to name just a few. It sounds believable if you only think about it in terms of holding onto power and controlling states for maybe more than one decade, but when you think about it in terms of the goals of Marxism itself the argument loses meaning.
Even if we discount the matter of the authoritarianism that they practiced, whenever the conversation about their acheivements comes up, it seems impossible to identify any actual establishment of socialism (at least insofar as we define it as a system wherein the working class control the means of production) within these countries. Instead, what comes up is mostly expansions of public infrastructure, maybe some state support for public service, as well as certain quotas about “raising living standards”, all under the supervision of one party states, none of which actually has much to do with “socialism”, let alone “communism”, as such. In Marxism-Leninism, the whole goal of establishing a socialist state or “dictatorship of the proletariat” is to (gradually) establish the conditions of communism, but after over a century (and, keep in mind, Marxist-Leninist governments still exist to this day) not only has this never happened, if anything the reverse seems to keep happening as under their leadership ostensibly “socialist” nations actually seem to be developing rudimentary capitalism, with no sign of any reverse course. So under this very criteria, we can’t actually judge these states as “successful revolutions” just because of the fact that they managed to take power when and where they did.
To summarize, it’s a meaningless objection. That is, it is meaningless to accuse your opponents of “doing nothing” when, first of all, you yourself are doing no more than they are, and secondly, the powers you support, and for which you demand solidarity from others, have failed to acheive any kind of communism anywhere.
Or perhaps the whole canard is simply an extension of the idea that nihilists “believe in nothing” – if you “believe in nothing”, you will ergo “do nothing”, so it supposedly goes. But even nihilism in itself comes in different shades. For one thing there is often a distinction between “passive” nihilism and “active” nihilism. Passive nihilism is understood basically as a sort of Schopenhauerian pessimism, the resignation to life as an “unprofitable episode”, while active nihilism represents the conscious effort to break down existing value structures, at least insofar as they are undesired, so that you can carve your own meaning yourself, and so all may enjoy the same freedom. Very much the opposite of “doing nothing”, especially when applied in the context of the Russian nihilist movement, or for that matter all similar movements.
Objection #2: “Anarcho-Nihilism Is The Ideology Of The Ruling Class”
This is another staple not only of Marxist-Leninist critics but also of social-anarchists, and to be honest I have absolutely no idea how this idea came into being. I have to suspect it comes from the deliberate conflation of any and all individualist forms of anarchism with right-wing ideology. Maybe it also comes from Murray Bookchin, who in Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism explicitly referred to so-called “lifestyle anarchism” (meaning individualist anarchism and basically whatever else he didn’t like about contemporary anarchism) as “a bourgeois form of anarchism”.
Of course, it’s nonsense. You will never see Joe Biden, Liz Truss, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Ursula Von der Leyen, Kristalina Georgieva, or any of the bourgeoisie present any suggestion that they want to destroy society or abolish all of the institutions of capitalism and statehood. In fact, you would think that they all benefit from the very institutions that we would like to see destroyed. That much should seem obvious from even the most cursory reflection, but for some reason people on the Left like to believe nihilism is bourgeois. Are we to forget that the Russian nihilists, who were very likely the first to take up that name for themselves in a modern sense, worked towards the negation of all of the major institutions of Russian society, including class society?
I think that a lot of this criticism rests on the idea of the supposed “individualism” of modern capitalism. Thus, for our purposes, let us put that myth to rest. Whatever capitalism presents as “individual freedom” is often anything but. Whatever you believe to be “capitalist individualism” is actually a sophisticated form of collectivism developed through the admixture liberal ideology and Christian morality. You hear the establishment talk of the importance of”individual responsibility”, but when you ask “who or what is the individual responsible to”, the answer reveals itself as economy, society, the state, work, the major social institutions of the present. Thus “personal responsibility” in capitalist parlance is, in reality, the expectation of the individual to conform to society at large as a productive agent for the state. Social marginalization is the function of societies as collective bodies that then invariably base their order on some kind of authoritarian normativity. And so individuals that defy normativity are either violently repressed or socially shunned. I ask you, what “individualism” is this?
Further, I say that the “communist” objection to nihilism, alongside egoism and individualism, is rendered all the more meaningless by none other than the existential criteria of communism. To illustrate this, let’s consult Karl Marx in Critique of the German Ideology:
In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.
Karl Marx, Critique of the German Ideology (1846)
Communism, in this understanding, would mean a set of social conditions in which an individual is free to pursue any creative activities they desire without the division of labour, class society, and statehood, and without the individual subjectivity of creative activity being locked into any sort of professional identity. In other words, the communist subject is someone who creates because they enjoy creating, not because they are a creator. They produce things in accordance with will, interest, desire, and not because they are workers. Such an understanding is easily transferred towards and nourished by the egoist worldview; for the Unique, in establishing communism on behalf of itself, destroys the totality of existing conditions in order to arrange itself for itself, produce and create for itself, and share this condition with others without coercion or hierarchy.
As a matter of fact, there are at least some Marxists who understand quite well what this entails, and ironically, without realising it, end up as anti-communists because of it. The main illustrative example here would be Domenico Losurdo, a Stalinist intellectual whose main response to Marx’s elaboration of communism is to call for revising the definition of communism entirely, rejecting Marx’s proposal as “fantastical” and “anarchistic” in favour, presumably, of an idea more congruent with the actual conditions of Soviet capitalism. My point here is that at least some Marxists are well aware of what Marx’s communism entails, even if the majority are utterly confused, and one of the responses, ironically enough, is to attack the theoretical basis of communism.
I am well aware that my approach to nihilism and communism is not always accepted even by others in the same milieu, but just to support it further we can turn to none other than Stirner’s egoism itself, at least as presented by Jacob Blumenfeld. Here, I am specifically drawing from a lecture he presented in 2016. Blumenfeld here illustrates that Stirner’s “communism”, or at least communism as unwittingly borne out from Stirner’s egoism, consists in the insurrectionary/revolutionary negation of Capital as a world-historic force, in the liberation of unique individual relationships to create and devour each other, and in the ontological nothingness of the proletariat and the impermanence of its labour that then enacts its own emancipation in the devourment of the order of things. Communism in nihilist terms is thus to destroy the totality of extant social conditions so as to fully realise the freedom of human beings, manifest in the full negative splendour of the Unique.
Objection #3: “What Has Anarcho-Nihilism Negated?”
This is something of a silly question, because, again, those who ask this question have invariably done no more than we have. Actually, when I think about it, this is sort of the same as the first objection. In a way, the better question would be “what is anarcho-nihilism trying to negate?”. But then the answer should be obvious.
All of the ordering processes that humans have to created regiment our collective existence, every project that can roundabout be described as “the New Man”, every grand teleological design, every new regime of futurity, all of this is what we cast to the fire.
Objection #4: “Anarcho-Nihilism Is [Insert Bad Thing Here]”
Most outside encounters with anarcho-nihilism appear to treat it as either a statement of abject malevolence, an expression of utter despair, or outright suicidal ideation. It’s an obvious ad hominem of course, and there really is no evident basis for it other than a reflexive emotional response. Perhaps an unconscious script, you might say.
There is a somewhat prejudicial idea at play here. The idea seems to be that being a nihilist of any sort means that, since you “believe in nothing”, supposedly meaning that you believe “nothing matters”, you will be willing to do all sorts of heinous things to people just because “nothing matters”. There’s a bunch of problems with that though. For starters, if nihilism in an ontological sense is just the belief that life does not possess any inherent meaning or teleological will, what about that is supposed to be so inherently anti-ethical, or even “anti-social” necessarily? And what about that belief is supposed to be so conducive to murder, when countless more people have been by people and organisations whose actions were all guided by some greater good they thought they were serving?
That really is the strange thing, isn’t it? Everyone seems to have a problem when someone kills maybe a hundred people in a self-satisfying spectacle of violence, but no one seems to have any problem when states, whether capitalist or “socialist” kill tens of thousands or even millions of people, either directly or as the consequence of a set of conditions they create. You think you are morally upstanding because you condemn some imagined mayhemic violence that you associate with statelessness, but in reality by supporting statehood you also support the systematic violence that invariably supports it. You may object, but what are the processes and functions that uphold the existence of states? Wars, incarceration, slavery, patriarchy, punishment, intelligence, eugenicism, economics, even sexual abuse, there are countless apparatuses of violent instrumentality that support the state, and chances are your average non-anarchist person is prepared to support at least one of those things and thereby its effects, all while handwringing over the threat of lawless violence. And it’s not because they’re assholes or bad people necessarily, it’s definitely not because they’re “nihilists”, “sadists”, “sociopaths”, “psychopaths” or the like; they’re probably often nice people interpersonally in many other respects. In fact, you’re looking at the current majority of the world’s population, and they can’t all be “insane” and “psychotic”. And whether they are or not isn’t the problem. You can believe anything you want, be “perfectly sane”, and under certain circumstances you’ll justify the worst atrocities you can think, not because you get off on it but because you think there’s a greater good that makes it all worthwhile.
Don’t make any mistake: in more people than you might think, there’s an ideal that people are willing to countenance sacrificial violence to fulfill. There’s legions of people that are willing to condemn the whole world to a long and painful ecological catastrophe so that some way of life that they cherish, that they’ve taken as the natural order of their lives or life more generally, can continue unabated for generations more. Even more people are prepared to tolerate or even justify the fact of thousands of millions of indigenous peoples being killed and/or displaced, in either case amounting to acts of genocide, if it means they can lead comfortable lives or that the progress of “civilization” can continue to enrich the world or so they believe. So, on that count, people may accuse anarcho-nihilists of being serial killers in waiting (or training) only to deflect the reality of unmitigated violence away from whatever social order they prefer to defend.
At heart the whole objection comes down to the perception that anarcho-nihilists are just anarchists who are just enthusiastic about committing violence. Pacifists hold this objection and sometimes refer to nihilists as “violentoids”, while also making the same arguments about violence and authoritarianism that Friedrich Engels already made in On Authority, albeit from the opposite perspective to Engels. The pacifist opposes all forms of violence because, like Engels, they deem that all violence is a form of coercion and authoritarianism. I say that this perspective runs into severe problems when we consider the possibility of abuse victims using violence to liberate themselves from abuse; namely, it establishes false equivalence between the people being abused and the people doing the abusing. Frequently motivated by the self-righteous belief that anarchism is just a signifier for “good person”, they attack the nihilists for being willing to accept what is already the basis of all politics, and believe that they can transcend it. Now you could say that it is very possible to embody anarchistic relationships without violence, and you can establish small-scale communities to that effect. But how are you going to dismantle the state just by getting into drum circles? The state is never going to abolish itself, even if pacifists, reformists, and orthodox Marxists seem to think so, and I will gods-damned if it is only anarcho-nihilists who are going to be honest about that fact!
Objection #5: “Anarcho-Nihilists Are Just Edgy Pessimists”
This objection is somewhat more interesting, because it’s at least ostensibly an actual philosophical objection rather than simply an aesthetic one. Of course, it could still be an ad hominem, but it is worth examining the distinction between nihilism and pessimism.
Pessimism, in itself, is not necessarily nihilism. I find revolutionary pessimism to be highly meaningful and valuable, and the French Surrealist conception thereof is an important part of my current political/philosophical ideology, but even this doesn’t necessarily start off from a nihilist perspective, or at least not inherently so. Pessimism on its own can mean many things, philosophically, often starting from very anti-nihilist perspectives (including forms of Christianity). That said, philosophical pessimism can overlap with philosophical nihilism. An interesting example is 19th century German pessimism, certain forms thereof have sometimes been termed nihilism – Julius Bahnsen, for instance, used that term to describe his own philosophy. But more to the point, a pessimist can be someone who takes a generally dim view of the world, sentimentally or ontologically, they can be someone whose worldview is built on the centrality of suffering, contradiction, or evil in the world regardless of the attitude towards it (religions such as Christianity and Buddhism all can have their pessimistic streaks), or it can be the broad thesis that life is in some ways not worth living. Depending on who you ask, a nihilist might reject at least one of these ideas.
If there’s a definition of nihilism we can work with, it’s the ontological position that existence has no inherent meaning, that meaning only consists of what we create, and, following from this, all of the externalised meanings that obscure this for us should be smashed or cast aside. That doesn’t always start from a pessimistic outlook. A pessimist can still be beholden to the same meaning-structures that a nihilist is not or strives not to be. A nihilist may not even necessarily derive melancholy from their position. From the standpoint of at least some nihilists, the rejection of meaning-structures can be an unambiguously positive and joyous thing.
Anarcho-nihilism is admittedly a case where the nihilism and the pessimism interlock. That’s probably part of what makes it meaningful, ironically enough. The pessimism is in the rejection of the received horizons of hope and futurity, of revolutionary optimism, of the idea that there’s a program out there that’s going to deliver us from all of our sufferings – loaded of course with the premise that the only thing left for us is to save ourselves. The nihilism is in the active pursuit of the destruction of the horizons of futurity, normative meaning, and social ordering and, most strikingly, in the joy that accompanies this destructive liberation – in a word, jouissance. So then, it is not that anarcho-nihilism is merely pessimistic. It is often pessimistic yes, but it is also strictly more than pessimism.
Objection #6: “Nihilism Only Leads Back To Oppression”
This is an argument I observed in Shahin’s Nietzsche And Anarchy, a book that otherwise enjoyed reading and have found very valuable in illustrating a psychological individualist standpoint for collective action based around individuation. Shahin seems to define nihilism in terms of “the trap of reflexive action” (apparently borrowing from Alfredo Bonnano here), action done without planning or critique and with no vision of the future, and appears to argue that we can only destroy the dominant values-structures if we also create new ones to take their place, and without new affirmative projects one slips into despair, self-destruction, and ultimately back into conformity with the status quo. This is another far more interesting argument than the usual ad hominems, and bears a response.
There’s a way in which the emphasis on “reflexive action” as “action done without planning or critique” cuts into the subject of direct action. What is direct action? People don’t always understand it, but it is as the term suggests: taking actions in order to directly achieve political goals or interests. Ziq in Burn The Bread Book defines it as “an isolated use of force unconnected to institutional systems of power”. There’s no appeal to any kind of higher authority, no official “legitimacy” conferred upon it by anyone, no monopoly on violence granted to them for or by this action, and often, because of that, nothing to guarantee safety from the threat of retalitation. Now, by what standard do we say that such actions are necessarily “non-reflexive”? It’s not true that there is no planning or critique involved, but it’s also not true that the tactic of direct action is entirely unspontaneous. And insofar as that’s the case, does it entirely matter if, for instance, you could destroy the war effort of a fascist state with our without reflexion, with or without “planning” or “critique”?
But this is obviously only somewhat meaningful. Who says nihilists don’t make plans or engage in critique? As if we don’t have theory for the latter, which is all too often hardly read. No, the real fixation here is on the idea of the “vision of the future”. One could say that, if we’re serious, everyone has a vision of what they want the future to look like, even anarcho-nihilists with an almost entirely negationist vision. From that standpoint, the simple problem is that our future is not your future and that we want our future and not your future. But it’s deeper than that. Part of anarcho-nihilist theory concerns itself with opposition to what is called futurity, or “reproductive futurism”. But you might ask, what is that? Futurity is not just the general idea that we can create and live in a better world than the world we live in. Futurity is the reproduction of order, that is the prevailing social order, it is the idea of teleological Progress which then elicits the concentration of order at the expense of autonomous life.
In Lee Edelmann’s No Future, as well as baedan, we see this concept of futurity tied intrinsically to the familiar reactionary forces of cisheteronormativity and white supremacy, all of whom and even sometimes progressive ideologies appeal to the abstract figure of The Child at the expense of actual children. Put this way, ideologies of futurity and progress can be understood as a devotion to abstract notions of better futures (and, I assure you, there are few things more abstract than “the future”) at the expense of the present or even the actual possibility of a better future world. So then, it is only pitiable that other anarchists might look down on nihilist anarchists because of their lack of faith in “the future”, because at heart what counts for the core of it is the ordering process of futurity, and its inexorable authoritarianism.
Next, consider what Shahin says here: “we can only destroy the values, desires and cultures that destroy us if we also create and affirm new values to take their place”. Now consider what this actually means in practice. What are “the values, desires and cultures that destroy us”? They are dominant value-systems, they are social systems of ordering human life predicated on imperative valuation, they are meant to be understood collectively as structures that are imposed upon subjects. Therefore, what does it mean “to take their place”? It means to create new systems of social ordering based, ultimately, around dominating value-structures, which then order the behaviour of humans in conformity to value. Is it really possible to interpret such organisation as consistent with the anarchist commitment to oppose all forms of hierarchy, authority, and collective domination? Or are we just aiming for new arrangements instead of no longer letting ourselves be arranged by anyone but ourselves?
And then there’s despair. I ask you: who in their right mind can persist in the world we live in entirely absent of despair? Who, other than someone who may stand to benefit from the existence and perpetuation of the order of things? Is despair in itself such a bad place to begin collective action? At the very least, it’s not a bad place for alchemy and mysticism to get going, and I can promise you that those things have more prefigurative value than many people think! But let’s just pose the alternative question: how do you know the nihilist is necessarily a mere reflection of embodied despair? Indeed, the nihilist emphasis on jouissance could betray just the opposite attitude. What room is there for despair when there is so much joy to be had in the resistance to and destruction of oppression, and in the transvaluation of values undertaken by each one of us who partakes in the realisation of anarchy in the world?
Objection #7: “We Live In A Society”
This last one is something of an ad hominem, but, as with the others, makes for an ample springboard for a larger conversation around anarcho-nihilism. The objection is aimed at the destruction of the abstract notion of “society”, to which the inevitable retort is that we live in a society. A sardonic quip, a meme, thereby an ad hominem. But it is not without meaning.
You see, every materialist is a materialist who questions everything until it’s time to question society itself. Every leftist learns to see things as the products of social processes and see social arrangements as at least arbitrary enough that they can be dismantled, until it’s time to consider society itself. Now, “society” is sacrosanct to the extent you in your propaganda will tell others that you’re actually fighting for civil society. Scratch that, you’re fighting for civil society as an organism, your ideology is in fact not ideology, more like the “natural immune system” of civil society, through which you will destroy every “foreign parasite” that threatens its integrity. You congratulate yourself for saying this, to everyone and to yourself, mired in a micro-fascism that you will never recognise for what it is. We tell people that we live in a society when the point is to challenge it. We mean it to mock some sort of reactionary pseudo-profundity but then see how quickly it extends as a cudgel against all critics of civil society in itself.
What the hell is society in itself? It’s simply the confederation of human social relationships. That’s it. That’s all it is. Societies are groupings of relationships between individuals who confederate with each other towards what is at least theoretically their mutual advantage. That’s what we all really mean when we say that you can’t fight the status quo alone. The warm fuzzies we get about togetherness are just a way of obfuscating what is ultimately as egoistic as anything else. Modern societies are also networks of ordered relationships that are necessarily maintained through extensive social control. But modern or no, societies also tend to possess their own sort of normativity, which can create marginalization. You would think that there’s no inherent justification for such a thing, but apparently “human nature” demands civil society and so it should not be questioned. But there is no actual “human nature”. We are a “social species” only in the sense that humans tend to like and enjoy forming social relationships and fulfill their needs through sociation. But there are also people who are for many reasons averse to such sociation, perhaps even preferring solitude, or who prefer individuation over sociation. You might argue that this is a minority, but that doesn’t matter if you consider the obvious fact that such tendencies should not exist if “human nature” is inherently social or collectivist, for the same reason that, if a thing is outside what we call “Nature” it could not be said to exist.
Societies, understood in “materialist” terms, are arrangements of human relationships and their attendant conditions. They are not essential presences of human life, or fixed elements of “nature”. They can be altered, reformed, dismantled, or destroyed. “Society” itself is a fixed idea of said arrangements. People blindly conform to it, and then compel others to conform, because they assume that Society is just the essential link of being human. It isn’t. It’s a frozen image of the bonds that we forge with each other, the rules we assume for and impose upon each other, and in sum the relationships we cultivate. In itself, it has no actual meaning.
By indulging myself in the writings of Renzo Novatore, Italy’s most well-known exponent of individualist/egoist and nihilist anarchism, I came to notice a theme across these writings. Throughout his literary work, Novatore frequently used the term “pagan” or “paganism” as a way of describing the spirit of his ideas. I am fairly convinced that this was in practice probably a poetic affectation, on the grounds that Novatore was an atheist who, by his own terms, opposed religion. Then again, the terms in which he opposed religion are, much like Max Stirner and others before him, rather blatantly conditioned by the Christian understanding of what religion is. But beyond that, as a Pagan who is definitely interested in Novatore’s philosophy, and arguably aligns with it, I think I would derive some intellectual pleasure from examining the way Novatore talks about Paganism. And so, to further indulge myself, that’s what I’m going to do.
In The Expropriator, Novatore describes the titular archetype as “singing playful songs of beauty”. In Beyond the Two Anarchies, he describes his own mind as a “passionate, pagan mind” which he likens to that of an uninhibited poet, after passionately declaring the shattering of all -archies before egoistic self-exaltation. In A “Female”, Novatore talked about a woman giving herself over to a loving embrace and her body becoming a “Harp of voluptuousness” seized by a “pagan fire”, and further a “hymn of intoxication sung beyond good and evil”. In Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution, he describes the ethical part of Individualism as amoral, wild, furious, warlike, and rooted in “the phosphorescent perianth of pagan nature”, and later says that “pagan nature” “placed a Prometheus in the mind of every mortal human being and a Hercules in the brain of every thinker” and that this same heroic impetus was later condemned by “morality”. In In The Circle of Life, he praised “this vigorous creature” who blossomed through the “pagan mystery” of homerically tragic art which he took to be a symbol of “sublime heroic beauty”. In Towards the Creative Nothing, Novatore condemned Christianity for “killing” the joy of the earth he attributed to Paganism and setting itself against “the dionysian spirit of our pagan ancestors”, while also lauding the gaze of the “pagan poet” and the preservation of “pagan will”. In In Defence of Heroic and Expropriating Anarchism, Novatore briefly refers to the Italian anarcho-communist Errico Malatesta as someone “who cannot be accused of having a pagan, Dionysian, Nietzschean concept of anarchism”, presumably to mean that Malatesta opposes his form of anarchism.
We can see from this that, although Novatore probably wasn’t a religious man, he clearly regarded some idea of Paganism as a core part of his concept of anarchism as opposed to certain others. It’s easy enough to understand this as an aesthetic quality, or at most a flamboyant extension of Friedrich Nietzsche’s anti-Christian worldview. But even in the context of the latter, what does it tell us?
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on “the dionysian” in Novatore’s writings, and that itself is often expressly linked to Nietzsche. In I Am Also A Nihilist, Novatore says the following:
But I don’t yearn for Nirvana, any more than I long for Schopenhauer’s desperate and powerless pessimism, which is a worse thing than the violent renunciation of life itself. Mine is an enthusiastic and dionysian pessimism, like a flame that sets my vital exuberance ablaze, that mocks at any theoretical, scientific or moral prison.
Here Novatore invokes “the dionysian” in order to distinguish his own brand of pessimism from the pessimism he perceives of Arthur Schopenhauer. Novatore’s pessimism and nihilism is a doctrine of the negation of every social order which, in this negation, allows egoistic self-consciousness to truly freely and mutually develop without being bound to any conceptual prisons. That basic conception of nihilism would echo the nihilism that was developed in Russia during the 19th century. Central here, though, is the “dionysian” part. What do we derive from this?
Of course, I’m sure we all know about Dionysus. Dionysus is usually understood as a god of wine and drunkenness, but is more broadly a chthonic god, a god of death and rebirth, a god of ecstasy, festivity, and intoxication, a father of liberation through whom his worshippers could transgress the boundaries of society and everyday consciousness in order to commune with the divine. Dionysus was worshipped in intoxicating mysteries, festivals involving phallicism, and ecstatic ceremonies of ritual death and rebirth, and in Rome he was the center of a plebeian republican cult and thus a patron god for the masses who were subjugated by the Roman ruling class. The way Novatore invokes Dionysus may have some link to the way Friedrich Nietzsche talks about him, and in fact the very idea of “dionysian pessimism” was born from Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s concept of “dionysian pessimism” was, to put it simply, a pessimism that justified life rather than abhorred it (the latter, of course, being Schopenhauer’s school of pessimism). This justification comes from life itself, even at its most terrible, ambiguous, and mendacious, without the belief in progress or even reason to undergird that affirmation of life. In other contexts, for Nietzsche, the “Dionysian” seems to denote a fundamentally tragic outlook in life.
From here we can see that Nietzsche’s influence on Novatore’s anarchism was far from subtle. It seems to me in fact that Novatore’s anarchism was very essentially a Nietzschean anarchism. But what exactly does it have to do with Dionysus himself, or with Paganism? Nietzsche in a certain sense did identify with a notion that he called “paganism” and regarded this worldview as superior to Christianity. But again, what was that for Nietzsche? I have to doubt that it meant much in the way of any concrete religious practice since, even if he liked to call himself a pagan, there’s no evidence of him having ever worshipped any gods or nature or partaken in pagan celebrations (in fact he seemed to regard devotional worship as foolish), but that’s ultimately beside the point.
“Paganism” for Nietzsche meant a conscious appreciation of that which is beyond good and evil, since the pagan gods in his observation were beyond good and evil. But it also seems to involve a “return” of sorts to the natural world, and to embrace nature even in its terrors and inclinations, either by living apart from civilization or by staying true to one’s “natural inclinations” – or, in a word, Wildness. In Twilight of the Idols, he says that “It is in our wild nature that we best recover from our un-nature, our spirituality” (“spirituality” here meaning “religious sensibility” as he understood it mostly in terms of Christianity). While Nietzsche tended to use the term “idol” in reference to moral ideals that he opposed, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he mocked those who would destroy idols through the pronouncements of his character Zarathustra and also says that an image may not remain an image in the context of the authentic use of the will. It’s also possible to interpret the opening lines of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as Zarathustra’s “prayer” to the sun. Nietzsche believed that the earth was sacred in pre-monotheistic religions and that it should be regarded as sacred again, which Zarathrustra communicates by urging the lauding of that which is earthly and the rejection of the heavenly, and in The Antichrist he wrote that humans are not only animals but also that other animals shared “the same stage of perfection” with humans. In The Will To Power, Nietzsche explicitly refers to”pagans by faith”, describes their aim as being the “dismoralization” of the world, and prefers believing in Olympus instead of believing in the Crucifixion. In the same text he thought that the pagan cults of old were typified by sexuality, pleasure in appearance and deception, and joyful gratitude for life in itself and that this was the mark of good conscience.
In this sense, even though it’s difficult to regard him as what would in proper terms be a religious Pagan, it is beyond doubt that Nietzsche sought the revival of Paganism as a system of values insofar as he understood it. In such a context we may understand that Nietzsche’s anti-Christian transvaluation of values ultimately has this restoration in mind. I do suspect that Nietzsche’s conception is very influenced by the way the 19th century Enlightenment received “Paganism” as a more rational or humane religion compared to Christianity, though I would definitely insist that Nietzsche was not simply a “man of the Enlightenment” or a mere “man of his time”. Regardless, though, I will say that I do rather feel well-aligned to much of how Nietzsche talked about his idea of Paganism, in that he describes certain ideas that have been almost instinctual to me personally. I would say that this includes the idea of nature as actuality, the idea that prevailing systems of moralization tend to be ways of attacking or suppressing this nature, and the upholding of “wild nature” as a means of setting us free from moralization, as understand it to be communicated in Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist. His Dionyisan Pessimism is made further sense of in this context as well, and is made the more admirable and closer to instinct.
But back to Renzo Novatore, the man whose anarchism seems to be expressly modelled on Nietzsche’s philosophy as well as that of Max Stirner, and back to his “Paganism”. What do we derive from Novatore’s work? Returning to Towards the Creative Nothing, we see the sanctification or veneration of the earth or nature, which of course Christianity had suppressed, and we see essentially a recapitulation of Nietzsche’s conception of Paganism as based in the embrace of the full integrity of life. And yet unfortunately Novatore offers very little exposition compared to Nietzsche. It would seem that Novatore seems to have taken up Nietzsche’s idea of .
Yet we can also find certain pre-Christian parallels in Novatore’s about “libertarian aristocracy”, which when carefully considered seems very obviously not representative of any actual aristocratic hierarchy and instead perhaps something more like Stirner’s concept of the Union of Egoists. This “libertarian aristocracy” in any case consists of the outsiders who band together in their individualistic struggle against society. About a year ago I read Towards the Creative Nothing, and then, as I later read about Stanislaw Przybyszewski in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party, I noticed a similar theme emerge in Przybyszewski’s depiction of Satan as the “dark aristocrat”, no doubt meaning him as the patron of rebels and outsiders who join his company for the pursuit of their own curiosity, pride, and instinct against society. The parallel that instantly emerged in my mind was none other than Odin, the king of the Norse/Germanic gods.
Odin is repeatedly typecast as a god of war but was always much more complex than that. He was the leader and magician of the battlefield, but could also be thought of as a trickster similar to Loki, a god associated with death, at least chthonic enough to be called the lord of the gallows, the keeper of a certain share of the slain, a tireless seeker of wisdom looking for ways to overcome his fated demise at the battle of Ragnarok, and a god of ecstatic divine inspiration (which, to be fair, was still also associated with battle). More importantly he was not only the patron of kingship, he was the divine patron of outcasts or outlaws, and was sort of an outcast himself. In a Danish myth, he was said to have been exiled from Asgard for ten years for seducing and having sex with the daughter of a king, while in the Lokasenna Odin was referred to as “ergi” (basically “unmanly”) for his practice of seidr, a magickal art typically regarded by Norse society as strictly women’s business. Odin seemed to favour men and women regardless of social stature who distinguished themselves individually through their talents, which made them valuable to Odin in his struggle to prevail in Ragnarok. And of course, for all the times Odin is compared to Mercury by the Romans or to Zeus or Yahweh in modern times, Odin actually had much more in common with Dionysus than almost any other non-Germanic deity. After all, Odin was also worshipped in ecstatic rituals, sometimes involving the assumption of consciousness of wild nature, and Odin also had his own “mead of divine inspiration”.
In a very strange way I think that the ecstatic or intoxication-oriented vision of Paganism as philosophy of life can make for a fairly valuable way of grounding modern Paganism, though not necessarily. A friend remarks that Paganism must strive for the continual reintegration with the state of religious intoxication apparently found in animals. In their own way, though as non-Pagans, I’d say that people like Stanislaw Przybyszewski or Charles Baudelaire would probably sympathize with that idea. More to the point there is something similar in the historical sense of Paganism that kind of aligns with that idea. The pre-Orphic Dionysian Mysteries could be defined by such an idea, as does the state of consciousness attained by the Norse berserkers or ulfhednar. The Eleusinian Mysteries, which were a major part of Hellenic antiquity, involved the use of psychedelics in order to commune with the divine through intoxication. In Egypt, goddesses such as Mut, Bastet, or Bathory were sometimes worshipped in drunken ecstasies, while none other than the god Set was worshipped with offerings of wine. In the old Vedic religion of India, a substance called Soma was offered to the gods and ritually consumed in order to achieve awareness of the divine as well as magickal visions/powers. A similar ancient Iranian ritual involving a similar substance called Haoma was initially condemned by Zoroaster for its “drunkenness” before being modified as part of later Zoroastrian practice. The idea of ecstatic intoxication as a means of liberating consciousness seems to also be shared in the Japanese concept of seihan (“sacred transgression”) as applicable to festivals. In Greek mysteries, the whole idea of orgia was predicated on a similar sort of ecstatic freedom.
Nietzsche for his part aligned with a certain type of intoxication. Not drunkenness of course, but with the kind of intoxication attained through sex, dancing, or religious activities. He also seemed to regard the essential characteristic of art as Rausch, a German word that seems to mean something like “frenzy”, which for Nietzsche denoted a condition of pleasure that signified a feel of rapturous strength and even mastery. One can link to this some pre-Christian ideas of ecstasy such as the earlier mentioned Germanic and Vedic forms. Ludwig Klages claimed that Nietzsche’s understanding of Rausch was his discussion of “the ultimate Dionysian state of mind”, but this seems somewhat doubtful in light of the whole of Nietzsche’s work. Walter Benjamin had his own concept of Rausch which denoted a form of experience that neutralised separation between subject and object, which had been likened to an ancient experience of the cosmos. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again: what about Novatore? Rausch is not exactly located in Novatore’s work, and would instead have to be synthesized through some form of exegesis in light of the Nietzschean context. Still, with Novatore we may find in his heroic emphasis something of Nietzsche’s Rausch if only in imprecise spirit.
In the overall, we can summon from this indulgent inquiry a grounding idea of the experience of intoxication in the context of Paganism in the overall. Nietzsche’s “Paganism” amounts to a philosophy of the experiential embrace of life in itself, contextualised as a life-affirming pessimism that sees the chaotic tragedy of life as the basis of its actuality and value. Novatore essentially recapitulates this idea as an expression of nihilistic anarchism, albeit with exceptional rhetorical bombast. The value of this outlook on Paganism is the grounding of religiosity in a sort of communion with raw actuality as represented by nature, and, within nature, Darkness and the divine. That at least is how I relate to it.
This is a summary edition of a much longer article that I previously wrote, “Satanic Paganism: An Adversarial Religious Philosophy”, in which I outlined what I see as my own religious/spiritual philosophy based in Satanism and Paganism. The original article is a really long read, perhaps my longest so far, and as I worked on it I decided that it would be a good idea to create a shorter version, if only because I wanted a way to get my ideas out there in short form. To me, that might make things more accessible. The original article will be linked at the bottom of this article. And, to my desired end, this article will focus predominantly on the content of Satanic Paganism itself, skipping almost all of the original discussion of Luciferianism, and only going over the distinctions of Satanism and Paganism as briefly as possible. With that, I can begin.
Satanic Paganism is an individualistic religious philosophy based on the intersection and syncretism of Satanism and Paganism, as we understand it. Individualistic in this sense means both a certain ideological individualism (and I mean anarchist/communist/egoist individualism, not capitalist “individualism”), and the nature of my relationship to religion. In this setting, I am someone who is both a Satanist and a Pagan, embracing both worlds and choosing neither one over another. To understand this let’s summarize both of these worlds. Satanism is a religio-philosophical belief system that centres around the liberation of egoistic consciousness through the practice of negation as embodied by Satan and the lighting of the black flame, with the aim of cultivating individual apotheosis (in other words, to “be your own god”). Paganism is the name given to a religious worldview or family of religions built around reciprocal relationships with gods, spirits, ancestors, and/or the world at large, typically within the context of pre-Christian traditions of Europe and surrounding areas. Bringing these worlds together results in a philosophy in which the power of divine negativity is imminent in a cosmos teeming with life, and in which you can, through negation and transgression, light the black flame in order to join the gods and win deathless liberty in the eternal condition of rebellion. It goes without saying that this is an eclectic system, not wholly aligned with reconstructionism, and certainly aligned with is referred to as the Left Hand Path.
In Satanic Paganism, rebellion is more than just an instant of defying a single authority. Rebellion is also a universal condition, the life force of a chaotic cosmos whose condition I term the war of all against all. This is not a re-statement of that classic Hobbesian imaginary about life without the state. Instead, it is a theological expansion of Max Stirner’s description of rebellion, in his view initiated by the desire to devour property, to make something your own. In pre-Christian myths, the gods often contend with and even overthrow each other. Socrates assures us that the gods are actually in discord. And in pre-Christian practice it was possible to turn from one god to another while in pre-Christian magic one may even make demands of the gods. The war of all against all is the ceaseless condition of rebellion in which life or the gods participate in, is affected by, and which you can partake of in apotheosis. Satan, adequately understood as the “rebel chief”, emblematizes this condition in his refusal to obey God, or Man for that matter, his fall from heaven because of it, and thus in lighting the black flame for all of us he heralds the war of all against all.
Satanic Paganism believes that Pagan syncretism includes the idea that the veneration of Satan and the various devils and demons of demonology can be part of a consistent Pagan practice, and embraces these figures wholeheartedly while rejecting any suggestion from modern Pagans (reconstructionist or otherwise) that this is a bad thing just because of Christianity. The demonic is just as much part of the numinous as anything “holy”. In fact, in older polytheistic contexts, it gets pretty hard to define what constitutes a “demon” separately from divinity. But our sense of the demonic is a mode of being based in a subversive negativity that lies at the source of the movement of life, an irreducible death drive signifiying the presence that always carries the potential to unravel the order of things. You can think of it as a pharmakon: at once the poison and the cure. God, on the other hand, is something that Satanic Paganism opposes, and so we don’t have much care for God’s servants, or his Son. God is just one more deity who happens to be convinced that he is the only one, another Ownness or ego who thinks he stands alone. Either that or he’s some larger idea of immovable teleological consciousness governing the universe. In either case God emerges as a tyrannical figure, and even if he really was some “Supreme Being”, an idea that Satanic Paganism rejects, his existence is ultimately a horrible thing, because then every suffering that takes place is actually his work. Even if “God” is 100% real and exactly what he said he is, I would refuse to worship him, and that is the stance of Satanic Paganism. Call it the teleological consciousness of God, call it that entity known as the Demiurge, our will is that of unmitigated opposition towards it.
Satanic Paganism is naturally not too fond of Christianity and its morality as a whole, and I see the ravages it has left in the wake of its authority. Satanic Paganism rejects the self-sacrifice embodied by the crucifixion of Jesus, because the only self-sacrifice we adopt is that we sacrifice ourselves to ourselves; like Odin sacrificing himself to himself for knowledge, or indeed Satan’s fall. But, Satanic Paganism also resists expressions of Christian-like tendencies well outside of Christianity, and even stresses a critical examination of the ways in which Christianity finds itself prefigured before its time, and later emulated outside its time. To me, it doesn’t matter what name you give “God” and his “salvation”. In this spirit, Satanic Paganism also plays with context of a split that Kadmus Herschel and Jake Stratton-Kent talk about in the context of Greek or Hellenic polytheism. One is a later development in which bases itself on some concept of universal harmony and law, the gods assumed to be morally perfect in spite of their narratives, and the celestial privileged over the chthonic. The other is much older, more archaic, more animistic, more attuned to the universal condition of rebellion, and, a way, more magickal and even individualistic. Of course, in practice, that dynamic is not so easily applicable when dealing with modern polytheism and Paganism, but it does make sense of how we relate to certain “modes” or religiosity in distinction from each other, once you can sense them anyway.
Satanic Paganism takes a complex and unusual stance towards gods in general. In practice, it takes up an agnostic stance, but this is to be understood as a sort of ontological agnosticism, powered not only by occultism but also the actual philosophical considerations of pre-Christian polytheism, which were far more skeptical and agnostic than many non-Pagans tend to realize. It also draws inspiration from apophatic (negative) theology, which holds that it’s not really possible to understand or reason discursively, and you can only understand it by experiencing it or passing into it. This idea, although associated with Christian theology, actually has a rich history outside of Christianity as well as within it, and in the Pagan context I think that a lot of Greek polytheistic philosophy, the Hesiodic myths, and the Hellenic mystery cults all expressed some form of it. What counts when passing into numinosity is what worship means. To us it can only go so far when grounded in simple piety, and our notion of rebellion tends to undermine the piety of Euthyphro that remains common to traditional religion. What matters is that, if we assume gods, we assume a multiplicitous numinous presence in life, working mysterious wonder and enchantment in the world, and, most importantly, which we can identify ourselves with. But we’ll get to the concept of apotheosis a little later.
For now, I want to bring us to the part of Paganism; its focus on nature. Many reconstructionists tend to dislike the idea of Paganism as “nature-centered”, and that’s not unreasonable when we consider that a lot of the old gods weren’t actually personifications of what we call natural phenomena. But the natural world remains intimately connected with pre-Christian practice in that the gods and spirits were often venerated in natural spaces like groves, mountains, or caves, which were often consecrated to gods, and often worshipped via trees or rocks. Pre-Christian magicians acknowledged these places as dwelling places of the numinous, and thus also places of power. The notion of religion as reciprocity also builds nicely into modern ecological ideas about reciprocal relationships we should build – or perhaps I would prefer to say re-establish! – with our environments. On this basis, Satanic Paganism wholeheartedly embraces nature-centeredness. But it also rejects the notion some people have of nature as referring to some homeostatic “natural order” of things, because ultimately it’s not so different from talking about “God’s order” and how we’ve sinned against it. Instead I prefer to look at it in terms of a self-deriving continuum of life in which Ownness arises in multiples, boundaries arise and are surpassed, cycles and rhythms pervade the fabric of things, and reciprocal relationships can be built with life. All of this is the only precise sense in which we might talk about “the natural order”, and even then, it’s hard to really call it “order”. Harmony with nature, thus, means observing reciprocal relationships with the world around us, not invoking some hypothetical lost paradise or that matter some fantasy about our “voluntary extinction”.
Similarly, dealing with natural states in our terms is fairly important, because I see Paganism as a religion that brings people to “natural states” in its reciprocal harmony with the world. For the most part this does take on a restorative impetus, sort of “drinking from the well” as John Beckett put it, and we do possibly see this in the Greek cult of Dionysus, the cult of Pan, the Norse bear and/or wolf cults, among other wild cults. “Wild” is really the operative word here, because what we’re talking about is Wildness. Not as a fixed state of purity, though definitely a state of being, all we’re really talking about is a kind of spontaneous existence, which is to say a consciousness that prevails when the stifling structures and strictitudes we put over ourselves our thrust off. In certain ways it’s a negative concept, defined mostly by what is cast off, but the positive form of it is a real anarchic consciousness, defined by freedom. I increasingly think that such a thing is the only way to meaningfully speak of “human nature”, which otherwise probably doesn’t actually exist, or at least if we’re talking about a universal template of “what it is to be human”. There is no “species being”, there is no idealised “Humanity”, and the only way to speak of “our nature” is “what is natural to us”. This, when you examine carefully and don’t stop at some basic aggregates, is actually an individual quality; “what is natural to you”. So in wilding or rewilding yourself you attain ecstasy in breaking what is put over you to free up your own nature, your spontaneity, your Wildness, what the Taoists call Ziran, in addition to bringing yourself into the world of ungoverned reciprocal relationships.
Another focus for Satanic Paganism is the “nature of nature”, and in this sense the only way I can describe “the source” is Darkness. In the original article I linked the “nature of nature” to Wildness, but that too was also linked to Darkness. But what is Darkness? Darkness to me is a compound concept that can embody multitudes, but which is perhaps best summed up as the anterior negative substance (not to be confused with “fundamental principle”) of life itself. It is, as I see it, the ground of being. It is Negativity itself. It is the name of the highest mystery, the power that has no source and is the source of everything else. It is the black soil of Hades, and the dark materialism of George Bataille’s inversion of Gnosticism. All unfolds from Darkness, Darkness permeates all things, the cosmos recedes into and is reborn out of Darkness. Darkness is not just the stuff of demons; in a way it is also the sacrality of the gods themselves. It is the unknowing that is the source of knowing, the arrheton into which we must pass to know the mystery, and thus it contains the inner logic of innate enlightenment as presented in Esoteric Buddhism. It is the uncanny, the other side, the underworld, the death that begets life, and even light owes itself to Darkness. Even Zeus has Night herself standing over him. Satanic Paganism bases its ultimate principle in the idea of liberating egoistic and spiritual consciousness by taking the negativity of things as your own, by identifying with the Darkness of the cosmos, practicing the profane illumination of negation, and, in so doing, activating the Black Flame, which is the active power of Darkness in the form of your own liberated and negative selfhood; the Creative Nothing. Satan is the champion of all those warriors who take up this Black Flame, this Power of Darkness, and join the war of all against all in apotheosis.
Apotheosis is the practice of identifying oneself with the divine, and the state of having joined the gods and their cycles. It is to participate in the war of all against all in joining the company and cycles of the gods, and in so doing win a state of deathless liberty. In the context of pre-Christian magick, this meant spells in which the magician identified themselves with a specific deity, in a few occasions even the whole cosmos, to gain magickal or spiritual attributes from a deity and enact the will through it. It has also meant the ritual “death-and-rebirth” enacted in Hellenic mystery cults or in the Western Greek chthonic cults, which arguably still follows the logic of divine identification to some extent (Dionysus, for instance, dies and is resurrected in the Orphic myths, and many gods have descended and re-ascended from the underworld). But why go through the effort? Propose that in our spontaneously arising, dying, and regenerating cosmos, the endless cycle of death-and-rebirth entails an endless chain of reincarnation, perhaps after some time in the underworld. In a sense it may be reassuring from the standpoint of our desire for this to not be “it”, but, it is also an unfathomable burden of causality, a terror that hangs over the living, which is nonetheless inseparable from the very possibility of life’s return. Even if there were “Heaven” in the Christian sense, as awful as such a place is, even that would not do much good, for as Stirner observed a new heaven is always established, stormed, and replaced in succession.
In order to be free of all this, then, one must join the company of the gods, and Satanic Paganism is arced towards this goal. Apotheosis is also the act and state that completes the individuality of the person, fully developing them in the spiritual sense and crowning their independence. In the Pagan cosmos, the gods are not 100% good, and although they may be worthy of worship, our idea of worship does not consist of mere piety. We don’t merely bow, even as we may pass into the divine on its own terms. Instead we seek to elevate ourselves with the divine, seeing the gods ultimately as partners in our self-actualization. I suppose it’s like “working with” the gods in the same vein as worshipping them, possibly lending to a very magick-oriented idea of religious praxis. Speaking of this, magick from our standpoint is enacting our will into the world through our will and bringing about a transformation of our own conditions in doing so.
Apotheosis in Satanic Paganism has nothing to do with the way people like E. A. Koetting talk about “becoming a living god”. In fact, although I decidedly still frame Satanic Paganism as an expression of the Left Hand Path, the Pagan conception of apotheosis that I have in mind actually involves a oneness with divinity. This may sound strange from the usual Left Hand Path perspective, given that many occultists, whether fairly or unfairly, associate oneness with the Right Hand Path. But for Satanic Paganism, and the historical context it draws from, oneness is not the end, but rather the beginning. You are not striving to be one with the universe in order to forever lose your ego-consciousness to some universal intelligence. Instead, you become one with a god or identify yourself with Darkness so as to pass into divinity, in order to then, like Stirner devouring the sacred, gain the ability to make divinity your own. Oneness then is here either the beginning or the gates you pass through in order to join the divine, and without necessarily “losing yourself”. There is actually some precedent or analogue for such an idea in the context of the “modern” Left Hand Path in the form of Fraternitas Saturni. Their magickal praxis had as their goal the unity of the “light of the individual” with the “light of the world”, and yet this oneness did not mean the obliteration of selfhood and instead was meant to lead to the deification of the self through its remaking. Thus, Satanic Paganism might change how you think of the Left Hand Path, and yet also hark back to more obscure ways of understanding.
Satanic Paganism is not apolitical, and it has some very important political rammifications. It calls for a world in which all people are free to develop themselves, mutually, as they see fit, without the totality of the existing conditions of the state, hierarchy, capitalism, or even “Society” as it exists bearing down on us all. That to me means communism, anarchism, egoism, and nihilism, for me all of those concepts at once and all of the roads between them. It also means opposition to all the hierarchies of bigotry that pervade social life, as well as uncompromising hostility to fascism, folkism, and all of their allies. It also means the art of profane illumination as a weapon directed against the totality of existing conditions, and the norms of bourgeois politics, both in its conservative and progressive forms, that serve only as slave morality to stifle the path of real liberation. The power of negativity, when observed in all of civilization’s historical phases, weds Satanic Paganism to the cause of all marginalized people, in whom civilization has always seen its death drive in the power to unravel the dominant order through the lives they live apart from the norms put over them. Satanic Paganism is not afraid of “chaos”, and in the true spirit of Satan questions not only “unjust hierarchies” or tyrannical authority, but authority itself, hierarchy, and even “order” as we take for granted. My stance calls for a press against the order of the world and the totality of existing conditions via a politics that ends in the world after the world, the beautiful new life of world freedom that can only be realized in the destruction of the current order of things. It is also only here, rather than in some lazy and reactionary “apoliticism”, can one look forward to the ultimate abolition of even politics itself!
Lastly, I believe that the image that best exemplifies Satanic Paganism is none other than the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The serpent, from the standpoint of Satan, could as well be Satan even though that’s not what the Old Testament had in mind, but from the Pagan standpoint the serpent is also the ancient symbol of death-and-rebirth and the deifying power of the underworld. The serpent told Adam and Eve that by disobeying God they would not die but become as gods, and after they did, God himself said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”. Thus in a world full of many gods, humanity, by heeding the voice of the serpent in defiance, may begin the path to apotheosis, and that’s something that a God bent on his own absolute control over the world detests so utterly. And so long as we seek the development of egoistic freedom, we can never return to Eden, and must refuse all promise of reconciliation with all of our pride and our strength. We will sacrifice ourselves to ourselves, and only to ourselves, and when we do we will not go back.
Once more, our praxis is a daemonic praxis. The shadow of religion is the source of our power, the alterity of it all our light, and as far as we are concerned the true ground of the value of religious life and experience. Be wild, be free, be negative, be unchained, be yourself and the void of yourself. Enjoy partaking in religious thought and life, question the strictitude and normativity of religion, take in the good of the sacred into yourself by imbibing, question and defy religion as long as it stands in the way of Ownness and life, dance in the interstices and the shadows, bearing the fire of the void on the road to apotheosis – the road to the world of the gods…to the wonderful ecstasy of deathless liberty!
Hail Satan, Hail Darkness, Hail the gods of old, Hail to wildness and nature, Hail the mystery of death and rebirth and the kingdom of shadows….
Over the last year I had undertaken a long period of historical research for an as yet unfinished project on the subject of Luciferianism. This research had lead me to the conclusion that Luciferianism is not the distinct religion or tradition that it presents in distinction from Satanism, and cannot even be interpreted as a distinct counter-culture as had been suggested, and that instead Luciferianism is nothing more than a name given to an extremely diverse set of esoteric belief systems that have little in common beyond the idea that they venerate Lucifer as a positive figure, separate from Satan and the context of Christianity, and even then some of these movements aren’t even distinct from Theistic Satanism in practice. As will be elucidated further in due course, Luciferianism in its historical and present context emerges as a kind Rorschach cultus in which almost any idea can be inserted into it, even Christianity.
Upon learning that Luciferianism was not a distinct tradition, I had initially leaned toward the idea of Luciferianism as a spiritual/occult counterculture, and that this could serve as a layer to be extended upon a larger religious worldview: of course, for me this meant Paganism, since my leaning and affection for it persisted in all my enterprises, even in times where I hadn’t considered myself a Pagan. This was the original spark of a larger mission to synthesize what I referred to as a “Left Hand Path Paganism”, for which I sought a suitable traditional context. Over time, however, the counterculture idea gave way as I realized doesn’t reflect the reality of what Luciferianism is or was. The basic project, however, continued, but certain ideas about “Left Hand Path Paganism” have now evolved and simplified as a better conception of such synthesis began to emerge.
As the title of this article suggests, this means the rediscovery and re-embrace of Satanism, and bringing together of Satanism and Paganism. I am fully aware that this idea would be hated by many Pagans and polytheists, and not to mention some Satanists, but it is the path that I wish to follow. What I seek to present is an adversarial stance, one that is at once an expression of a particularly transgressive take on Paganism and an expression of Satanism in a vastly renewed sense.
The Trouble With “Luciferianism” (No Offence to Luciferians)
I first encountered and/or engaged with Luciferianism as an idea was back in 2015. By that point I had been a Satanist for two years, but for whatever reason that I don’t quite understand anymore I felt that there was something missing in baseline Satanism. It’s probably impossible for me to explain what that actually was nowadays, but I think it involved some bullshit about a spiritual component focused on something more than rebellious and “egoist” hedonism; I say bullshit, because it’s pretty obvious that you can derive a thorough-going antinomian from Satanism. Anyways, at that time a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of what was then called the Greater Church of Lucifer, and I got in touch with one of their members, a man by the name of Vincent Piazza (who, sadly, has since passed away). I never joined the GCOL, but I was active on their Facebook pages and supported them until around 2019. Of course, I never forgot about them either, and that’s how I ended up finding out what Jacob McKelvy’s been up to all these years. Anyways, initially I saw the GCOL’s brand of Luciferianism as “the next level of Satanism” and identified with both Luciferianism and Satanism, but beginning in 2018 I got the idea to develop transcultural understanding of Luciferianism as a distinct entity from Satanism focusing largely on the West. This combined with certain political developments ended up leading to a lapsing away from what I understood to be Satanism, and to be fair I’d been burned out by a dissatisfaction with a lot of the modern Left Hand Path movements and certain discoveries of the Church of Satan. But that idea ended up developing in all sorts of convoluted ways before finally I abandoned it. The reason comes down to the nature of Luciferianism as a category.
Luciferianism is often presented as a codified belief system that is similar but strictly separate and distinct from Satanism. But the truth is that this only loosely true, and more accurate for some expressions of Luciferianism than others. In fact, I’m willing to assume that almost everything you will probably read about Luciferianism from occult circles is either simply wrong or just based solely on individual subjective interpretation. Even the Wikipedia for Luciferianism is a funny example of how much bullshit you can encounter by attempting to get a good definition of it for yourself. The article states that Luciferianism “does not revere merely the devil figure or Satan but the broader figure of Lucifer, an entity representing various interpretations of “the morning star” as understood by ancient cultures such as the Greeks and Egyptians”. That’s not universally true or even remotely apparent from any of the material I’ve poured through, with the exceptions of Charles Matthew Pace and possibly Michael W Ford, and what’s more the citation refers to an article that doesn’t even mention Egypt.
In reality, Luciferianism is not a distinct belief system, and nor can it be thought of as a kind of esoteric counterculture as I had theorized in the past. Instead it makes more sense to think of it as a placeholder, just a name given to any belief system that specifically venerates Lucifer as something other than Satan, and very typically this is presented in a context that is theoretically, but not always, separated from Christian culture; in practice, this usually means venerating Lucifer as a pagan or neopagan god, a “Gnostic” angel, or even a Christ-like figure or a being that is co-identical with Jesus Christ, or still even an avatar of God himself. There is no single doctrine under the name Luciferianism, not even pertaining to who Lucifer is. Different Luciferians will present very different ideas of just who Lucifer is and what his role is. There is also no consistent shared tradition that can accurately be referred to as a singular “Luciferian Tradition”, and individual Luciferians will have very different ideas about ritual praxis as well as theology. So, in practice, Luciferianism is a kind of Rorschach inkblot into which people may insert any number of ideas about it, and about Lucifer, upon it. Unfortunately, this increasingly seems to mean rebranded Christianity.
There is a tendency within contemporary Luciferianism that aligns itself with a sort of mystical Christianity, seeking to assert the value of Christianity as a religious framework in a way that is still fundamentally heterodox in relation to mainstream Christianity. This means venerating Lucifer as a light-bringer and liberator, having nothing to do with Satan or The Devil or anything of the sort, alongside Christian figures including Jesus, and practicing a synthesis of Christianity and witchcraft. At first I thought the Church of Light and Shadow were the only people doing it, and when I found about them, I have to admit I found them interesting if solely because they appeared to challenge prevalent ideas about what a witch or a Luciferian can be. But their approach seems to have travelled far enough that more Luciferians adhere to it, and so we see people like Christopher Williams, a self-described Gnostic Luciferian, argue against “demonizing” God, defend Christianity through apologetics, and espouse a belief system in which Lucifer and Lilith are manifestations, and not adversaries, of God, and that the Demiurge was created by them as part of God’s will. This is, in practice, an affirmation of Christianity and its God, albeit on Gnostic terms, and it is not anti-Christian, only anti-establisment and anti-reactionary within the scope of Christianity. I’ve also seen that Johannes Nefastos may have incorporated aspects of Christianity as part of his theosophical brand of Gnostic “Satanism”, and according to some he argued that Jesus was a god-man and the Pope has legitimate magical authority. Michael Howard believed that Jesus was one of the many incarnations of Lucifer, here interpreted as an avatar of “the true God” who willingly “fell” from heaven and incarnated on earth again and again in order so that all of humanity could be enlightened and freed from their worldly imperfection. So as it turns out, even the “separate from the Christian context” part isn’t completely true.
Luciferianism, thus, is essentially just a name for any esoteric doctrine that revolves around Lucifer and defines Lucifer separately from Satan, thus revering Lucifer in lieu of Satan. One of the obvious problems with this alone is that even Satanists have defined Lucifer separately from Satan. For Anton LaVey, Lucifer was one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell, in particular an agent of enlightenment or illumination in all senses, especially intellectual; in fact he seems to have referred to Lucifer as “The Enlightenment”. Satan in his worldview is more distinctly and generically the adversary, more a figure of negation than illumination, and even moreso an emblem of human carnality than intellectualism. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey wrote that “Without the wonderful element of doubt, the doorway through which truth passes would be tightly shut, impervious to the most strenuous poundings of a thousand Lucifers”. The suggestion would be that the principle of doubt, connected to the nature of Satan as the adversary, is the principle that begets and supercedes mere illuminated of the truth, but in this sense Lucifer as the light-bringer is clearly established in distinction, though not necessarily contradiction, to Satan, and this is done without any recourse to the concept of Luciferianism on LaVey’s part. And there are others apart from LaVey we can discuss for our purposes. August Strindberg (who called himself a Satanist at least in the sense that to him this meant that the world was governed by the principle of evil), for a much more pessimistic mythos, cast Satan and Lucifer as opposites, the former as the evil ruler of the world and the latter as a sort of culture hero who also brought floods, pestilence, and war. And meanwhile, there are many forms of Luciferianism that are practically indistinguishable from many forms of Theistic Satanism in terms of ethos, praxis, aesthetics, and even views on the nature of Lucifer, such that the difference is mostly a matter of identity.
My point is that once you understand Luciferianism in historical and contemporary terms, you learn that it’s not really a concrete “thing”, there’s no continuous cohesive object that can be called Luciferianism, not even in its mythos, and even its basic criteria often finds itself fulfilled outside of and without the identification of Luciferianism. All of this is, of course, not a knock on Lucifer himself. After all, he is a magnificent devil in any case. But Luciferianism seems to be a wild card of belief systems that, in truth, may consist of absolutely anything, even if it’s just Esoteric Christianity. After realising that, I went from seeing Luciferianism as a counter-culture that can be superimposed upon a co-existent religious worldview to seeing that what I thought about as “Left Hand Path Paganism” was going to mean something else. Attendant to this came the rediscovery of Satanism.
In appreciating Satanism we must first understand first and foremost that it is not a mere expression of Christianity, nor is it merely a waste product of the Christian experience. Such judgements are invariably derived from a superficial reading of the fact of Satan’s origins in the Jewish and Christian mythos, and can ultimately only be characterized as a cope. If we followed this logic to the letter, Christianity itself would be a form of Paganism precisely on the basis that its God, who we must remember was called Yahweh, was originally part of a polytheistic pantheon of deities worshipped in ancient Israel and that at least the Old Testament of the Bible seems set in what is practically still a polytheistic cosmos, in that many gods exist, with the caveat that you are only allowed to worship one of them. If that idea sounds like nonsense, which it is, then by this standard to regard Satanism as mere Christianity is equally ridiculous. Instead, Satanism is best understood as a post-Christian worldview, one which may derive mythos from Christianity but otherwise transcend and surpass it. Everything from narrative, symbology, aesthetic, theology, philosophy, and ritual praxis takes a form antagonistic to Christianity and arcs towards a diametrically opposed worldview that functions in one of its many capacities as the negation of Christianity. And this negation does not only take the form of some prosaic atheism either, even though that is the face of “mainstream” Satanism as presented by most media. Rather, Satanism – theistic, atheistic, otherwise – is best understood as having built itself around the power of active, conscious negation, expressible in the form of literal divinity or a more abstract symbol.
Admittedly, there was a time Satanism. Indeed, Satanism nowadays doesn’t have a very good reputation in “the left” and/or parts beyond due largely to the perception that it is little more than “Ayn Rand for goths”. Of course, as I hope to show, this is ultimately a nonsensical prejudice based on an uncritical acceptance of the legacy of Anton LaVey as the heritage and starting point of Satanism as a concept. But the idea that it is true has had some very devastating effects. LaVey’s right-wing Objectivist influences were bad enough, but finding out that he had a whole network of fascist friends, including the likes of James Mason and James Madole, and that the Church of Satan was institutionally pro-fascist for decades, was deeply disturbing. At a time where I had basically been trying to connect with more of a left-wing politics, I ran into difficulties, got lost along the way, and suffered a form burnout triggered by the onset of demoralisation, which was in turn elicited by what I at the time perceived as a general decline in the modern Left Hand Path. In retrospect, a part of that may come down to some expectations that have since been shed, but at the time it may have seemed like the stagnation and the possibility of the movement being consumed by reaction had overwhelmed me back then.
One of the things that most obviously defines Satanism is egoism. The Satanic Temple and similar groups don’t lay a great stress upon this point, and arguably obfuscate it in their retreat to contemporary humanism. The trouble, of course, is that when people think of egoism and especially in a Satanic context, they think of Ayn Rand due mostly to the fact that Anton LaVey based his own version of Satanism and the ideology thereof partially around the philosophy of Ayn Rand. This in many ways is the effect of LaVeyan/post-LaVeyan orthodoxy having been allowed to ossify around Satanism for as long as it has, and there is no reason for anyone to think that this is how things must stay. Max Stirner, who first elaborated what can be understood as modern egoism before Ayn Rand could have any say in the matter, presents to us a profound apophatic egoistic worldview far removed from the narrow rational “egoism” that Rand espoused. Its concept of self is not a propertied essence of rational calculation but instead a negativity, a creative nothing, indefinable in the precise sense that the individual, the Einzige, cannot be defined by prescription or shared essence. This egoism, when taken seriously in its negative content, dovetails nicely with nihilism, and could perhaps be thought of as nihilism as well as egoism. In this sense, it should come as no surprise the first man to present us with a self-defining Satanism, far from and long before Anton LaVey, was a nihilistic egoist anarchist named Stanislaw Przybyszewski. But even so, it is the connection and intersection of these concepts, more than that one man, which defines the true radical content and heritage of Satanism.
But even this might well just be scratching the surface. Even before Stanislaw Przybyszewski, there were apparent attestations of people who were referred to as “Sathanists”. According to Laurentius Paulinus Gothus, via his Ethica Christiana written in the early 17th century, there existed a small cult in Sweden centered around the worship of Satan, or Sathan, who they believed was a god capable of bringing them hidden knowledge and treasures; this cult Gothus referred to as “Sathanists”. The “Sathanists” were said to have practiced black magick and witchcraft, ritually sworn fealty to Satan/Sathan, partook of lust, gluttony, dancing, and various “orgiastic excesses”, sought hidden riches with Satan/Sathan’s help, and apparently even had sex with demons. I have no certainty as to the actual evidence for this cult’s existence besides Gothus’ testimony, and there are good reasons to be skeptical. Christian pronouncements about satanic cults have often, and the themes presented here are familiar in view of certain ludicrous ideas proposed about the so-called “Luciferians” and Heinrich Kramer’s sordid tropes about “witchcraft” as presented in Malleus Malificarum. Still, it is an attestation of a term like “Satanist” in reference to a belief system, not just Christians who happened to be considered wicked, and there is arguably minimal reason to suggest that this reference was completely made up.
Through all that, though, we should find our way back to the essence of Satanism, prior to and without the humanism of groups like The Satanic Temple or the reactionary ideology of people like Anton LaVey or Michael Aquino, in view of Przybyszewski’s philosophy. I intend to write a much larger examination and commentary of his book The Synagogue of Satan in time, but for now let us say that, while Przybyszewski did consider the principle of Good to be that of negation insofar as he saw it as the negation of life, since in his view what is called Evil is in fact the basis of life itself, Satanism itself is none other than the religion of negation or negativity in the precise sense that it is the religion of (in his words) à rebours; that is, lawlessness, going “the wrong way”, the reversal of the law and of the order of things. Satan, in this sense, is the god of the eternally evil, and this evil is the negativity of lawlessness, the negation of all fixed values (the values “sanctified by law”). Lawlessness is negation as “contrary projection into the future”, which topples the order of things and the norms of the world so as to truly unfold the possibilities of becoming. That which is great emerges from negation, or as Przybyszewski says the negation of negation (in the sense that Good is the negation of life and you are negating Good), and negation through delirium frees individual consciousness in the forgetfulness of ecstasy (thus the word of the Satan-Paraclete is enivrez-vous; “to get drunk”). Satan, for Przybyszewski, is the god of evil, which is in fact good, the god of lawlessness and defiance, hence the negation of law and order, the god of boundless curiosity and heroic arrogance, the lord and master of the physical universe and the emblem of the evil, the god who continually creates and destroys and shatters the boundaries of human thought. In short, Satan is not simply the eternal humanist who stands up against tyranny, superstitition, or “unjust hierarchy/authority”; he is instead the eternal active nihilist, the negation of all authority, the negation of law and order itself, the negation of society, the negation of all fixed values, and he is the thus the transgressive negativity from which true greatness, creativity, and flourishing springs forth. In short he is the precept of Negativity itself, for which Eliphas Levi called him an instrument of liberty. Magick, black masses, satanic sabbaths, witchcraft, intoxication, sex, and defiance of society could be thought of as acts of worshipping Satan. Against Satan is God, representing Good, which for Przybyszewski means humility, submission, poverty of spirit, stupidity, and the pursuit of life as nothing but an imitation of God in the hopes of admission into his invisible kingdom.
Satanism does not make Satan into a new principle of Goodness or a god of light, for Satanists, insofar as we venerate and honour Satan, know that Satan is the “fallen angel”, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, the Adversary, the seducer, and we venerate and honour Satan because of those things. Satanism does not deflect darkness or evil onto their enemies, because it is Darkness that we honour and worship. It is predictable , but making sense of the perspective of Satanism I’m setting out means making sense of Satanism through the concept of negativity. I plan to spend a lot more time talking about this here, but I find that the best lens with which to intrepet the negativity of Satanism is the in the queer negativity elaborated by baedan, a journal of queer nihilism written by the collective of the same name, who reject the liberal/progressive idea of queerness as something to be socially integrated and instead favour the idea of queerness as a radical negation of society and civilization. This isn’t simply to be understood as merely living the role set for you by society, but refer to view the negative image as a nexus of liberation via the quality of negation and aggression and a view to society’s taboos and fears. The Satanist, following this negativity, instead of shying away from the aggression of negation in order expel the fear of society, actively takes on the role of the adversary, that is to say the destroyer and negator of the order of the world, which is to say the true liberator.
By embracing Darkness, through the negation of the order of the Good, you open up the space for your own becoming, liberation, and, in the Satanic sense, apotheosis. By destroying boundaries and lighting the Black Flame, the divine fire of the creative nothing, the glow of the black void of potentiality, you open the path towards your own elevation towards god-becoming, the evolution set forward by the influence of Satan. Unlike other religions, Satanism places the liberation of, not from, the self at the center of spiritual praxis, and this liberation arcs towards the realization of the individual as its own creator, its own divine force. This high goal is often lost on those who wish to dismiss or typecast Satanism as little more than basic self-indulgence so as to elevate their own similar esoteric systems against it. And, by grounding Satanic individualism and selfhood in negativity, rather than the rational subject of Ayn Rand, the foolish accumulation of the capitalist subject, or the fascist re-interpretation of the Nietzschean Ubermensch so prevalent in certain corners of the Left Hand Path, it is in fact quite easy to see Satanic individualism as not a folly but as the profound spiritual philosophy of resistance and defiance and the key to the mystery of liberation.
In the midst of this we should revisit the center of Satanism: Satan. What is Satan, and why is Satan so central to Satanism? Satan is the central character of Satan because Satan is the first egoist. There is a prominent idea inherited from the trope of Romantic Satanism received from Enlightenment-era poetry and which has passed down from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: the idea of Satan as the first rebel, and building off of this, the idea of Satan as the first (or indeed “last”) humanist. This idea is at the cornerstone of many interpretations of Satanism. The Satanic Temple, for instance, takes up a similar premise of Satan as “rebellion against tyranny” and tries to weaponize idea this for their purposes. Anton LaVey took a similar but thematically different approach, in that Satan for him was a symbol not only of rebellion and non-conformity but also of Man’s actual nature as a carnal and selfish being, whose rebellion is directed against all moral and social barriers to the fulfill of that carnal and selfish nature. Rebellion against unjust authority is a concept that, while often attached to Satanism, can and has been attached to concepts beside Satan; modern polytheists frame the gods as rebels against unjust authority as well, Christians occasionally do it for Jesus, and in Chinese society there has long been a tradition of divine justification for overthrowing rulers who consistently failed to uphold Confucian virtue or morality (there’s also a similar Lutheran concept in which the tyrant is called the Beerwolf, and to rebel against and even kill the Beerwolf was justified by the Beerwolf’s own subversion of the moral order). But Satan is not merely a rebel against “unjust” authority, and Satan does not derive the legitimacy of rebellion from some legal right of rebellion or the writ of some concept of “natural law”. Satan’s rebellion is against all authority, and is indeed rebellion in itself, emergent from the egoism of Satan. Satan refuses to accept the authority of God, and refuses to bow down before Adam, because Satan asserts his Ownness and rejects the rule of the others, and negates all authority set before himself. Satan doesn’t simply liberate humans from tyranny, he rebels, he devours, he wars against the light in the name of himself. It is by his own example that Satan brings the light of the Black Flame to mankind for all to see, heradling the eternal quest of rebellion so that those who wish to join him in battle against God may do so willingly. By this and by the whispers of temptation, mankind is invited to shed the shackles of the spirit that it brings upon itself or are foisted upon it in order to awaken the Black Flame that is none other than the Creative Nothing, none other than the power of Darkness and of Ownness. This is Satan, the egoist who rebels not simply against the unjust but against all power and for himself, and who invites others to join him in the same rebellion.
In this sense, I can stress that Satanism really isn’t like many other religions when it comes down to its spiritual-philosophical basis as far as the true significance of Satanic rebellion and Satanic egoism is concerned. Insofar as there are multiple forms of Luciferianism that stress against egoism, it is inevitable that Satanism could be seen to diverge from a lot of what is called “Luciferianism”, though of course there is no one single “Luciferian” doctrine for Satanism to contrast with. Satanism also differs itself strongly from Thelema in that, although both thematically overlap in their anti-Christian transgression, the end-point of Crowley’s spiritual path was the surrender of individual selfhood to the Abyss and a core component of Thelemite ethics is the concept of the True Will, which is probably not to be conflated with the individual self, ego, or even Stirner’s Einzige/Ownness and is instead to be thought of as a sort of specialized teleological destiny imparted by the cosmos. Of course, Satanism also tends to differ from much of Paganism in its particular relationship to the gods. But, the intersection between those two worlds is something that bears further exploration.
Having elaborated the subject of Satanism, let us now elaborate Paganism. And, of course, any discussion of Paganism must invariably touch on exactly what we mean by “Paganism”? Paganism is often explained as an umbrella term for numerous religious movements, typically in the “Western” context, that embrace a worldview usually based around the idea of restoring the religious traditions and belief systems that existed before the rise of Christianity to some extent, but this on its own still does not adequately explain things. That concept itself is something of a compound identity, bringing together numerous ideas ranging from engaging with a multitude of gods and spirits, worshipping those gods in the form of idols, worshipping the ancestors, worshipping nature or at least to the extent that the gods were worshipped as parts of nature or within them, animism, sometimes practicing magick, venerating the cycles of nature through ceremony, and so on. What makes the concept of Paganism tricky to discuss is not just that the way we use the term was established by Christians to attack both non-believers and rival Christians, but also the fact that, for a lot of modern Pagans, being Pagan is actually less about what you believe and more about what you practice.
Making sense of modern Paganism requires getting into the distinction between a few camps within the movement. One such camp is reconstructionism. This refers to polytheists seeking to reconstruct the historical traditions of the pre-Christian religions as closely as possible, based on historical sources to the greatest extent possible. This includes Hellenists (reconstructing ancient Greek polytheism), Heathens, (typically reconstructing Norse and Germanic polytheism), Kemetists (reconstructing Egyptian polytheism), practitioners of the Religio Romana (Roman polytheism), Celtic polytheists, Gaulish polytheists, Slavic polytheists, Semitic polytheism, and so on. The general praxis of reconstructionism is also applied to traditions that otherwise aren’t considered “Pagan”, such as Aztec polytheism. Then there is the camp often referred to as “Eclectic Paganism”. This typically means not being bound to a single tradition and bringing together a wide range of different ideas into one single framework, guided by personal experience and a generalized “ethos” characteristic of Paganism; that at least is how it is generally explained. There is also something to be said about the concept of “Neopaganism” in relation to all of this. In theory, Neopaganism as a term simply refers to the modern or contemporary practice of Paganism. In practice, however, within the Pagan community and especially among reconstructionists, the term “Neopaganism” tends to refer very specifically if not almost solely to the new iterations of Pagan religion that emerged from the 19th or 20th century or later and have practically little to do with the original pre-Christian traditions. For example, this includes belief systems such as Wicca, the modern Druidic movement, basically anything from Robert Graves, and contemporary forms of neopagan witchcraft, and in practice can include belief systems that borrow from the New Age movement. Sometimes Eclectic Paganism itself is regarded as a synonym of Neopaganism. I would consider Romantic movements such as the Shelley Circle to be Neopagans in that, even if as an extension of the rationalist atheist critique of Christianity along with religion in general, they lauded “classical” pre-Christian religion as a more enlightened and prosaic religion closer to the truth than the “miserable creed” of Christianity. Similar efforts but from a very different set of ideological perspectives are found in certain German Romanticists who, during the 20th century, built a more or less neopagan movement on top of an esoteric romantic ideology. It should be stressed, however, that serious neopaganism didn’t seem to be the dominant voice of the Romantic movement, and in the end Romantic neopagans found themselves overshadowed, denounced, and ultimately persecuted by the Nazis, none of whom, not even Himmler or Rosenberg, were ever really Pagans (the overwhelming majority of Nazis were Christians and the Nazi Party from the beginning espoused its own brand of revisionist “Positive Christianity”, which sought to purge all trace of perceived “Jewish influence” from Christian doctrine).
Where do I fit into this, you ask? I think that the bulk of that is perhaps better elaborated when we unravel what “Satanic Paganism”, but I think it’s worth addressing here from a personal context. For so long in my life, before I even decided I wanted to be a Satanist back in 2013, I have had a noticeable affinity with Paganism, one that had never completely died out, and if anything has been deepening over the last year. If I had to explain why, I’d say that I think there’s a lot to do with the way Paganism seemed to sacralize the natural world, and with the idea of pre-Christian myths conveying all sorts of wisdoms and spiritual narratives, some of which preceded or even anticipated Christianity, but many of which seemed very different from the Christian message. Certain ideas about life, death, and rebirth, probably drawing from ancient mythology but also probably harking back to ancient Greek mystery traditions, have and continue to be deeply influential in my appreciation of Paganism and my overall spiritual thought. Over the years my appreciation for Paganism took on many different forms, even in times where I thought I had moved on from it. It’s almost like there’s an urge there, some spark that always reasserts itself. But, for reasons that will become apparent if they aren’t already, I cannot see myself as a reconstructionist, not in terms of what my path is.
I stress that I support the reconstructionist efforts to restore pre-Christian traditions across the world, and I think that aspects of reconstruction at least in the sense of authenticity to history are an important influence. It’s just that the approach to Paganism I wish to embody cannot accurately be classed as reconstructionist, for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit neatly into the existing traditions, obviously due to the fact that it means to blend with a rediscovered Satanism and carries in this the ethos of the Left Hand Path, and therefore is almost by definition a “non-traditional” approach. Reconstructionists, as far as I have seen, would have a problem with that, and in general I find that reconstructionists often don’t have much patience for that which doesn’t completely comport with historical polytheistic tradition. Because of this I find that the extent to which I am Pagan is definitely very eclectic, and has to be so because of the parameters and contours of my intended path, not to mention that I do indeed see myself taking on board a number of influences to build my path. That said, for Paganism as a whole, reconstructionism isn’t exactly dispensable, and there’s a standard of historical authenticity that informs my own approach. But even then, even in the reconstructionist approach in practice, modern reconstructionists tends to incorporate quite a fair bit of UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), which is naturally accepted on the basis of the acknowledgement that it is just UPG. And that’s sort of inevitable when dealing with the transmission of older religious frameworks long assumed to be extinct into the modern era, as well as the fact that, with a few exceptions, the full contents of most polytheistic traditions are completely lost to time, either because they were wiped out or because they were simply never preserved in writing except for some myths that were only put to parchment after Christianity took over.
Now with that established, the term “Pagan” itself can capture something fairly distinctive that I think has always had some resonance for me, though many traditional polytheists may seem to take umbrage with it. Kadmus Herschel describes it in True To The Earth, where he elaborates that the term in its regional context captures a rustic attachment to nature that is then given religious expressivity. Many reconstructionists don’t like to define pre-Christian religions in terms of nature worship, but while it is almost certainly inaccurate to reduce those religions to some concept of nature worship, we can find a number of instances where elements of the natural world were themselves worshipped as gods rather than simply represented by anthropomorphic deities. The Greek goddess Gaia, for example, was literally the earth itself, not just a representation of the earth. Gaia’s former husband, Ouranos, was the sky itself and not simply the god of the sky. At least some rivers, such as Scamander, were not simply represented by anthropomorphic river gods, rather those river gods were often literally the rivers themselves. And even when the gods themselves were not worshipped as physical elements of nature, parts of the natural world were often consecrated to gods, and so held sacred. This would include the forest held sacred to the Gallo-Roman goddess Arduinna in parts of what is now Belgium and France, the grove sacred to the god Adonis at Afqa in Syria, a grove scared to the goddess Nerthus and a whole woodland sacred to Thor (who Roman audiences interpreted as Hercules) according to Tacitus’ account of Germanic pagans, the oak tree that was sacred to Donar/Thor, and the forest of Caill Tomair in Ireland that was also sacred to Thor. According to Tacitus, at least, the ancient Germanic pagans worshipped their gods in trees, as the closest links between the gods and humans. Celtic pagans held rituals in groves, overseen by deities such as the goddess Nemetona, and other pre-Christian polytheists considered groves to be sacred spaces. Over time, reverence for trees and groves came to be understood as a trope for Christians when talking about returns to paganism, and from this nature worship came to be part of modern understandings of modern Paganism that extend from the “rediscovery” of Paganism during the Enlightenment into the present day. In pre-Christian Slavic polytheism, the gods were sometimes worshipped in sacred places where there were no man-made structures and the gods manifested in nature itself. For many polytheistic religions, sacred groves and forests were counted as the official centers of worship, where important community rites were carried out, and any violation of this space meant an attack on the community itself. In this, the idea that Paganism is a “nature-based religion” or that it involves “nature worship” is not really inaccurate.
But of course, to reduce Paganism to solely a sacralization of nature or natural states is reductive to the point of being ahistorical. After all, contrary to the popular idea that humans came up with the gods as reifications of natural forces that they merely didn’t understand, several of the gods of polytheism barely have anything to do with the natural world as we understand it. Insofar as we may venture to understand the gods of polytheism in terms of what they were “gods of”, there are gods of marriage (such as Hera, Hymen, Frigg, Pushan etc.), music (Apollo, Sarasvati, Ihy, Bragi etc.), law or justice (Tyr, Mitra, Lugh, Ma’at etc.), commerce or wealth (Mercury, Cernunnos, Lakshmi, Njord etc.), agriculture (Yarilo, Dagon, Sucellus, Dagda etc.). smithing and craftsmanship (Hephaestos, Ptah, Gofannon, Vishvakarman), and kingship (Horus, Anu, El, Baal etc.) to name a handful of things. Some gods are gods of both natural things and human constructs. Zeus, for example, is a god of law and order as well as the sky. Utu is a god of law as well as the sun. Demeter is also a goddess of law, as well as a goddess of the earth. Pan is a god of music as well as the wild. Ukko is a god of agriculture as well as the sky and thunder. Freyr is a god of kingship and war, as well as the weather and virility. Svarog is a god of smithing as well as the sky. Veles is a god of commerce, as well as a god of water, earth, magic, and the underworld. We can’t forget that almost none of the gods of polytheism were ever just gods of one thing or another, and sometimes multiple gods share the same domain or function. On top of that, across the old polytheistic religions, the gods had numerous epithets that represented various characteristics and functions attributed to them.
In a sense, it’s still true that Paganism, in both a modern and a historical sense, believes in a natural world that is considered divine or imbued with divine presence to some extent or another, and this likely lends itself to modern interpretations entailing nature worship, which may or may not have been applicable to the original pre-Christian religions. Though, of course, some pre-Christian traditions were arguably closer to some idea of “nature worship” than others, such as Germanic polytheism with its worship of the various nature spirits alongside the gods and the worship of gods and spirits in trees and natural environments. Pre-Christian polytheism often tended to intersect with animism in this regard, especially in traditions such as Heathenry, and some even argue that some form of pantheism is also part of this rich picture. Still, for historical Paganism, one of the larger points is the idea that divine exists in multiplicity, that divine presence is not one but many. Of course, even before Christianity emerged, later developments of pre-Christian polytheistic ended up prefiguring the monotheism that would later dominate “the West”, or later ideas of “universal religion” that would stretch from the Renaissance to Theosophy and to the New Age movement. Plutarch, for instance, argued that there were not different gods across peoples but instead one single Intelligence that rules the world that is merely called different names and worshipped in different ways as time passes. In The Metamorphoses by Apuleius, the goddess Isis presents herself as “the single power which the world worships in many shapes, by various cults, under various names”. The Roman theologian Cornelius Labeo proposed that the oracle of Clarian Apollo stated that the god Iao was the supreme god, who in winter was called Hades, in spring was called Zeus, in summer was called Helios, and in autumn Dionysos. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official state religion, defenders of paganism sometimes argued that Christians and pagans were merely worshipping the same god under different names. Neoplatonists argued that all things derived existence from a single source referred to as The One, and that the purpose of life as to become united or re-united with The One. Otherwise polytheistic philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato introduced concepts that may have prefigured the God we know today, such as the unmoved mover or Demiurge. And of course, at various points before the rise of Christianity, there were a few monotheistic cults that emerged, such as the Egyptian cult of Aten under the pharaoh Akhenaten or the Hellenistic cult of Zeus Hypsistos.
My point here is that Paganism in a historical sense (and honestly a modern sense too) was not one single set of beliefs in the way we understand Christianity to be (and, even there, Christianity isn’t necessarily as monolithic as we imagine it to be). That extends to other beliefs as well, such as pertaining to death. While modern Paganism can include a belief in reincarnation, it’s not clear that this belief was universally held in pre-Christian traditions. It is possible that some Germanic pagans did believe in a form of reincarnation; Roman sources purported that the ancient Teutons believed in rebirth and thus did not fear death, while some scholars suggest that Germanic pagans believed in rebirth within the extended clan based on some archaeological findings and exegesis of some stories in the Sagas. Many Norse polytheists, however, don’t share this concept, and have a wide array of beliefs about the afterlife that don’t necessarily end in rebirth. Indeed, the “more authentically pagan” version of Ragnarok ends not in the rebirth of the cosmos (as in the familiar post-conversion telling) but instead in its utter oblivion. Greek polytheist beliefs on this range from the arrival of most (if not all) souls to a dreary underworld, to the belief that the soul may go to a blessed afterlife upon achieving ritual purity or initiation into the mysteries of a god, to Plato’s account of how souls are judged and either admitted to a good afterlife or damned to a bad one again prefiguring Christian teaching), and of course the concept of reincarnation was sometimes proposed. What little we know about what we call the Celtic polytheists suggests that they probably believed in reincarnation, but some suggest that the soul goes to the Otherworld, a place inhabited by gods and spirits, after death. In ancient Egypt, it was believed that by living a virtuous life, the soul would be judged as being worthy to enter the field of reeds, or that by successfully undergoing a journey through the underworld and overcoming its perils, the soul would gain an immortal second life. Relevant to the conversation is the way that pre-Christian belief systems frequently advanced the concept of a cyclical cosmos, in which the cosmos is periodically formed, dissolved, and reformed again. The Norse cosmology appears to suggest cyclic time and rebirth, as did some of classical Greek philosophy such as Stoicism and Pythagoreanism, and it is very prominent in Indian religious philosophy.
Paganism in a historical sense isn’t really one set of beliefs. In fact, there is as Kadmus Herschel and Jake Stratton-Kent show an opposition between distinct expressions of pre-Christian religion, linked to the development of philosophy in one case and a change in the mode of Greek society in the other case, that is relevant to how I aim to elaborate Satanic Paganism. That said, I think the way we deal with Paganism, as an idea, is sort of a compound idea in which we find and derive the premise of a natural world brimming with the multiplicitous divine presence worshipped in and through the world, and often worshipped not out of fear or even bargaining but out of awe and yearning. Paganism as a concept can also be loosely defined by its particular conception of what religion is, as will be further explored. Whereas Christianity via Lactantius frames religion as “re-ligare”, meaning to be bound, as in bound to God or to the single ultimate truth, pre-Christian religion via Cicero is based on “re-legere”, meaning to go over again, which seemed to mean to a constant return to the ancestors and the gods, perhaps denoting a consistent process of ritual observance. It’s also possible to read “re-legere” in terms of observance as meaning to observe the cycle of reciprocity, a concept that animates the bulk of the pre-Christian attitude towards the gods. This is to be understood as the relationships in which humans give to the gods through their devotion (typically offerings) so that the gods may acknowledge this devotion and typically bestow blessings to humans in various ways. Heathens understand this as the Gifting Cycle, Hellenists understand this as Kharis, but even if it doesn’t have its own distinct name or terminology, the basic concept can be found basically everywhere in Paganism. While I have thought of “re-legere” in terms of a kind of anamnesis, of religious practice recalling something from the depths, something unconscious and profound, while I would defend that idea I think that it is ultimately simplest, perhaps even most sensible, to understand it as consistent observation of reciprocity; with gods, with ancestors, and with the natural world (for particularly naturalistic and even non-theistic individuals it may be ideal for them to think it through that last part in particular). It is this worldview that largely distinguishes the Pagan worldview from the Christian worldview.
What Is Satanic Paganism?
I will be forthright in saying that I bring these worlds together because I simply afore and identify with them at once. In this, it is an act of “religious” love, albeit a highly individualistic one (both in philosophical-ideology and even moreso in application) that cuts across certain boundaries between worlds. But is that individualistic interaction with religion not consistent with the “essence” of Satanism, and is the intermingling of divinities from differing traditional contexts a characteristic of Pagan polytheism? By this I mean, if modern polytheists can argue in defence of integrating the God of the Bible, his Son, and/or his angels into the litany of god’s they worship, and if ancient polytheists certainly did do this and even developed magickal systems involving them, I don’t see why you can’t do the same thing except you’re doing it with Satan and his band of devil’s instead of God and his heavenly menagerie. You might object that it would feed into Christian ideas about how Pagans are devil worshippers. I argue: no, it wouldn’t, or at least no more than what Christians already believe about Pagans. After all, the Christian has in most cases already decided that Pagans worship devils, their God and his Word already tell Christians that all gods other than Yahweh are demons. Somehow I’m not convinced that all the efforts to denounce or distance from the world of Satanism, and I make no judgement here on their validity, have ever persuaded Christian outsiders to stop regarding Pagans as devil worshippers or servants of Satan. I hate to have to remind people of this, but as far as Christian doctrine is concerned we are all demon worshippers, and we have no control over the optics of our practice in the eyes of Christians.
Anyways, with that established, let us focus on what Satanic Paganism means to me in terms of its content, and again it is very much unique to me.
To start with, it’s worth addressing that the mere idea of bringing Satan into the mix of a Pagan worldview is consistent with the logic of pre-Christian polytheism, and is an entirely legitimate expression of Paganism on those terms. The easiest way to demonstrate that is simply the ease with which it is possible to include God and his cohorts in the polytheistic context. The Greek Magical Papyri contain spells invoking the names of God – specifically Adonai, Sabaoth, and Iao – as well as the angels Michael and Gabriel alongside older polytheistic gods and goddesses such as Hekate, Zeus, Dionysos, Helios, Artemis, Demeter and many others. Sometimes the gods are identified with angels and names of God. Iao may have also appeared in the context of the Orphic mysteries, and, according to Cornelius Labeo, Iao was the supreme god spoken of in the oracle of the Clarian Apollo. Even Jesus appears in the Papyri, where there is a spell in which he is invoked alongside God (in various names) in order to drive out “unclean daimons” such as Satan. The Historia Augusta (which, although considered questionable by many scholars, is also the only continuous Latin account for a century of Roman history) describes the polytheist Roman emperor Severus Alexander wanting to erect a temple to Jesus where he would be worshipped alongside Roman gods, and supposedly he also worshipped Moses and Apollonius, included Jesus and Moses alongside Orpheus in some of his speeches, and had a statue of Jesus in his lararium. Jesus, of course, was syncretised with pre-Christian gods in various ways, including a depiction of him as the god Helios in what is now St. Peter’s Basilica. In Scandinavia, during the Viking age, some Vikings began to adopt the worship of Jesus (who was sometimes called “White Christ”) alongside Norse gods as they made contact with Christianity, and meanwhile some people who normally worshipped Jesus also prayed to gods like Thor in difficult situations. There are other examples to be found outside of the traditional context that typically defines “Paganism” as a discursive construct. Followers of Umbanda, a syncretic polytheist religion, worship Jesus and the saints as Orishas and/or alongside other Orishas. In Candomble, a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion also centered around the worship of Orishas, Jesus was integrated into their pantheon of Orishas and sometimes referred to as Senhor do Bonfim. In Santeria, another similarly syncretic tradition, Jesus is honoured alongside multiple Orishas or identified with Olofi, who is either the supreme god of Yoruba or one of his aspects, and Christian saints are also venerated alongside or as Orishas. In Manichaeism, a syncretic Iranian religion that is either arguably polytheist or arguably not, there is a pantheon several gods and goddesses (apparently up to 40 of them in fact), governed by a supreme deity called the Father of Greatness (a.k.a. Zurwan), and Jesus is one of the major deities alongside other deities such as Mithra, Ohrmazd, Wahrām, various buddhas, and the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesha (all four of whom are avatars of the Father of Greatness) to name just a few.
The operative point is this: if you can worship God, Jesus, and their angels in the context of what is essentially a polytheistic non-Christian religious worldview, what exactly is to prevent a person from doing the same thing except, instead of incorporating the worship of God, Jesus, and their angels, they are incorporating the worship Satan and the devils? Much of it comes from a fairly reactive assertion that “this has nothing to do with Paganism!” because “this is a Christian concept!” while existing forms of Christopaganism don’t get that scrutiny outside of maybe some witchcraft community. The whole refrain would have us ignore that the polytheists of old didn’t have much problem absorbing Jesus and/or God into their pantheons even though they were not only Christian concepts but also central to Christianity itself. It is common for people to react to the worship or veneration of Satan and the devils with the assertion that Satan and God depend on each other, no doubt playing into the doctrine of the unity of opposites as filtered through the dualism of Christian thought. But, putting aside all other considerations, we are not looking at this from the Christian lens. Satan and God to us are not two sides of the same coin, because to us they are not simply two ends of the same polarity of spirit. They are their own unto themselves, like anyone else would be, and they’re in conflict with each other over their opposed interests. From the logic of the pre-Christian worldview, it makes more sense to view God, Satan, the angels, the devils, on the same terms as the various gods and spirits of the old polytheistic traditions, and not as mutually interdependent abstractions as some monotheistic traditions may assert.
With that in mind, there really isn’t much that you need in order to justify incorporating Satan into your Pagan worldview; it is only a matter of your own calling. But, as long as we are talking about bringing Satan or Satanism into the mix, it would do us well to dwell on that shadow of religion we refer to in the modern context as “the demonic”. This can be somewhat tricky when working outside the Christian context, since in many pre-Christian cultures the distinction between a god and a demon was often vague, ambiguous, or even non-existent. Some would argue that the very term is simply non-applicable in much of pre-Christian polytheism, and instead the generic term “spirit” might perhaps be used. Nonetheless, it is possible to develop a concept of the demonic suitable for the purpose of Satanic Paganism. What do we mean by the demonic? The word “demon” is obviously adapted from the Greek word “daimon”, which can be a fairly open-ended concept. The term usually refers to spirits, typically spirits who were not gods but acted as divine personifications of things (often emotions), but the exact boundaries between what is a god and what is a daimon are blurred by the fact that gods such as Zeus were also referred to as a “Daimon” (as in the Orphic Hymn to the Daimon and the Orphic Hymn to Apollo for instance). Although “daimon” is often translated as “spirit”, it has also been translated to mean “godlike” or “lesser deity”. In Greece there also seems to have been the concept of a “personal daimon”, which could be thought of as an internal spirit for which some spells were designed to make contact with, while some philosophers used the term to refer to a sort of personal destiny given to each individual. In the context of ancient Egypt, demons in resemble the Greek daimons in that their existence sits between godhood and humanity, but their liminal nature derives not only from this but also from the fact that they live between this life and afterlife. Egyptian demons are guardians of the threshold, protecting the afterlife from unworthy souls, but they’re also dangerous, violent, capable of attacking and seizing human souls and occasionally even threatening the gods. On the other hand, some gods were also considered demons; this includes Bes, Pataikos, Tutu, Meneh, Tawaret, and even Anubis. In other pre-Christian belief systems, such as pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism, there was probably no major distinction between a god and a demon at all. In India, the word “asura” is used in modern parlance to refer to demons, but this was originally a reference to a clan of gods or demigods, arguably chthonic gods, and if you really go back to the Vedic period, “asura” appears as just an honorific for various gods denoting their power or might, and otherwise the difference between “asura” and non-“asura” gods only vaguely manifested itself in the battles between rivalling gods. Wendy Doniger suggests that the distinction was ultimately the product of the fact that some gods ascended in a developing religious hierarchy as Hinduism evolved while others descended.
One approach to the demonic that may help us is the idea of the demonic as a mode of being as applicable to the divine, one defined by a particular expression of Negativity. In this, I draw from the context of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism for its concept of demonic negativity, which can seem to resemble the realm of the demonic we recognize in the West but is not really contained within the framework of Christian dualism and morality. Bernard Faure, in his book Rage and Ravage, defines the demonic in terms of a shadow following and containing itself in the mythological structure; the demon is an entity that subverts and overflows the structures. It embodies a negative power that pervades and transcends boundaries, situated at the source of the very distinction between gods and demons, dwelling in the interstice that is itself the source or origin of all beings; thus, demonic negativity is the subversive source of things, counter to the en-stasis found in Buddhist goals and practice – indeed arguably even of all major religions – which then seeks to impose itself upon that negativity. In certain ways, this demonic negativity is much like the way Lee Edelman and baedan describe their concept of the death drive. This death drive is an unnameable and irreducible element of revolt and disruption within the social order, a constant presence of negation that dwells in society and holds the power to produce its undoing; it is intractable, it cannot be ignored or destroyed, its chaotic potential can only be contained by society, and for a time, but it is always present, and it evades the boundaries of representation and identity and refuses the stability of social form and the stasis of social order. For Mahayana Buddhism, this is arguably important to observe in, as the Avatamsaka Sutra relates, the premise that there is even a demonic side of the bodhi-mind, of samadhi, and of the kalyanamitra (good friend/spiritual guide). Through the development of hongaku thought, the death drive of demonic negativity thus came to be understood as part of the core of the absolute of reality, to the point that there were understandings of the Buddha and the demons (or even Mara himself) as one, and the wild demon god Kojin as the Tathagata.. Faure also identifies the demonic as a “pharmakon”: the poison that is also the cure; and hence, Japanese demonology as a form of pharmacology. There are a number of Japanese deities who could said to embody that elusive demonic negativity, or at least in that they were formally both demons and gods; these include Kojin, Shoten (a.k.a. Vinayaka), Kishimojin (a.k.a. Hariti), Gozu Tennoh, Michizane, Susano-o, Matarajin, Okuninushi/Onamuchi (who was identified in the Reikiki Shisho with the Demon King of the Sxith Heaven), Juzenji, and Daikokuten (a.k.a. Mahakala) to name just some. This negativity is also present in the gods of the land, the Kunitsukami, who were conquered by their heavenly counterparts the Amatsukami, in that they, as araburu-no-kami (“savage gods” or “unruly gods”), or aragami (“raging gods”), were also described as jissha (“real kami”), who represented the real nature of the kami according to Buddhist opponents of Shinto, and thus meant to be interpreted as violent and ignorant demons. This demonic “real nature” ultimately came to be understood via hongaku thought as the real or originary nature or basis of reality anterior to good and evil.
This anterior death drive of demonic negativity can be highlighted as one of the most important aspects of Satanic Paganism in that it guides and colours the approach to religion, in that it favours its shadow. For, indeed, the concept of anterior ontological darkness is the basis of authentic Satanic religious philosophy, in that it takes darkness, so-called “Evil”, Satan, as the fundamental of life, the irreducible element behind things, but which we are unconscious of. Although for baedan to embody the death drive was strictly not the point, from the religious standpoint of Satanic Paganism to embrace the demonic means precisely to access, identify with, and consequently receive power from this death drive, the shadow of religion which is also its true life. Playing into the link to the chthonic aspects of the polytheistic world, in view of the many of the demons and demon gods being chthonic entities, I would take this itself as a sign towards that vital wellspring. In ancient Greece and Rome, the underworld was not only the home of the dead but also a reservoir of many treasures of the earth, including mineral wealth and seeds of harvest, such that Hades, the feared god of the underworld, was often worshipped as Plouton, a god of wealth. India, the Asuras possessed wealth from the depths of the earth, and since the Devas could not generate wealth on their own, and could not get the Asuras to share their wealth peaceably, they sought to take it from the Asuras by force. In Japan, it is possible to take the underworld as a kind of “other side” to the world, and in the Izumo Taishakyo sect of Shinto this is interpreted in the doctrine of the unity of the human world and Kakuriyo (the spirit world, ruled by the kunitsukami Okuninushi); the two worlds are one, and one is merely the other side of the other. A similar idea may be found in Celtic polytheism or some interpretations thereof. To journey into that realm is to make that negative otherness known to you, to receive its wisdom, its power, and its very nature, and to bring into yourself the unity of the world and the kingdom of shadows, to the realm of the uncanny as referred to by Frater Archer in his discussion of Goeteia. But of course, we will return to that subject later.
For now, let us simply establish that one of the planks that makes sense for Satanic Paganism, building from this, would be not only a particular bent towards the chthonic but also the act of interpreting, venerating, and/or worshipping demons as gods. This is of course inherently transgressive from the standpoint of not only Christianity but also many of the world’s major religions, and even non-religious people, still reared in our Christian culture, struggle to make sense of it from a moral standpoint. But modern Pagans or Neopagans too are troubled by the idea as well, no doubt out of the fear that it contributes to further hostility by Christians. Of course, the problems of this have been established earlier, and there is thus no need to repeat them in this paragraph. What I will stress is that, from the standpoint of both the syncretic nature of historical polytheism and the often ambiguous nature of the boundaries between godhood and the demonic are a sound basis to argue that there really is nothing stopping a Pagan from worshipping demons, and, despite the way we think about it from the lens of Christianity, I’d say it’s actually highly consistent with the logic of polytheism. In fact, to relate an example from Heathenry, there is at least some reason to assume that the Jotunn, a similar category at least in that they were often considered adversaries of the ruling gods, were worshipped in pre-Christian Scandinavia, and some jotnar such as Skadi were widely venerated. The fact that demons could be worshipped as gods and as demons in Egypt let alone as far afield as Japan shows, that it is definitely possible in a polytheistic or Pagan context.
At this point, when speaking to the modern context, I think I would be remiss if I did not discuss Demonolatry, a modern religio-magickal tradition centered around the worship of demons as divine beings, constituting the Demonic Divine, led by Satan as the emperor of the demons. From a traditional standpoint, to frame Demonolatry as Pagan is inappropriate, in that, although practitioners like Stephanie Connolly may claim a lineage from a pre-Christian esoteric philosophy, it operates as its own distinct and contemporary traditional context. Of course, some Demonolaters, and some Pagans, disagree with this, suggesting that the latter may include the former. From my perspective, it is certainly possible to practice Demonolatry as a Pagan for much the same reasons as any other religious syncretism is in fact inherently possible in Paganism. Connolly, at least, for her part, describes Demonolatry as polytheistic as well as pantheistic, which in theory dovetails nicely with the milieu of modern Paganism. But of course, Demonolatry is best not treated as synonymous with Paganism, and indeed doesn’t really need to be treated that way even for our purposes. I see ideas from Demonolatry reflected in some of what I have written here, but it is probably improper to regard it as merely an extension of Paganism, in that Demonolatry as a tradition would prefer to be defined on its own terms. Any syncretic or multi-traditionalist praxis seeking to involve Demonolatry should take heed of that. I suppose if we would consider a primary ideological distinction, it’s that Demonolatry has in mind a form of oneness, in that it derives from Hermeticism the idea of the oneness of the whole cosmos in Satan and the aim of realizing that oneness, whereas in Satanic Paganism, as you will see, the idea of oneness that I express, drawn from pre-Christian magick, positions oneness as not the end but the beginning, or at least a gateway through which the individual progresses towards apotheosis. And I suppose I would add something about devourment, in the Stirnerite sense; by which is only meant that you are to make oneness your own.
To cap off the point about bringing Satan and the demons into your Paganism with that most familiar point: demonization, and its negativity. We all know the ways in which the rivals of the God of the Bible were converted into demons. Beelzebub was originally Baal, or more specifically named Baal-zebul. Astaroth, or Ashtoreth, was none other than the goddess Astarte. Lucifer was the demonized spirit of the morning star, Bael was Baal, the god Baal-tzephon became the name of a demon, as did Baal-berith, Amon was either the god Amun or Baal-Hammon, the god Nisroch became a demon and so did the god Adrammelech, Bifrons was originally Janus, to name just a few. Christian demonology is rife with gods from pre-Christian polytheism who found themselves re-classified as demons or devils in the hierarchy of Lucifer. As Christianity spread in Europe, not only were many gods declared demons but the names of some of the gods became names for the Devil in some countries; these include Veles, Ordog, Perkele (at least arguably), and even Odin or Woden (see the folkloric connection between “Grim”, an apparent Anglo-Saxon name for Odin, and the Devil). But, Christianity is not the only religion to employ demonization. When Zoroastrianism emerged, some of the Vedic gods, such as Indra and Rudra, were reclassed as evil demons, or Daevas. In Egypt, some time after the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty, the god Set was eventually demonized, and his place on Ra’s solar barge was taken by Horus. When Buddhism spread across Asia, gods from older belief systems were sometimes demonized. Shiva, one of the supreme gods of Hinduism, became Mahesvara, the most defiant and “arrogant” rebel against the Dharma, who was then trampled upon by Vajrapani. In Japan, gods worshipped by enemies of the Yamato, and even entire peoples who resisted Yamato rule, were demonized (see Tsuchigumo as an example for the latter), while in the medieval period under the influence of some sects of Buddhism some major local gods (such as Susano-o) were re-classified as demonic enemies of Buddhism or symbols of ignorance. The demonic in this relationship is, again, a negativity, defined in this way by its subversive and negative tendency in the mythological and religious schema. Demonization, then, while a mechanism of social dominance, also presents a window to the negativity lurking in the belly of society and religion with which the worshipper of the demonic may engage and identify with. And, if we’re sticklers for morality in the context of mythic literalism (which I’m not, because mythic literalism is a bad thing), the demons hardly ever do anything worse than some of the ruling gods.
More importantly, one of the conceptual bases for my Satanic Paganism, the thing that makes it both Pagan and Satanic, is the location of Rebellion at the center of life. In contrast and opposition to the tradition of “universal harmony” that Plato liked to talk about and which some polytheists maintain, I believe in a cosmos in which rebellion is part of the core of what comprises the so-called order of nature. As far as much of ancient Greek polytheism was concerned, the cosmos is a state of discord even as there is ostensible order. As Socrates told Euthyphro, the gods are at odds and even enmity with one another, and thus are in a state of discord. Socrates supposes that the gods conflict with each other over different ideas of justice, beauty, goodness, though it should be stressed that this is not necessarily obvious from their attendant myths (suffice it to say that the gods often had somewhat less abstract motives for conflict). In this setting it is really impossible to maintain the concept of piety that Euthyphro has, which is that of an uncritical piety towards the gods on the basis that piety is that which pleases all gods and impiety is that which displeases all gods. Instead, Kadmus Herschel points out that ancient polytheists were not universally pious towards all gods, and not on the basis of the kind of unconditional faith expected to be reserved for the Christian God. Change between the gods, even to the extent of rebellion, was a possibility in the polytheistic world. Within classical Greek mythology, the very motion of the cosmos consisted of the overthrow of previously ruling deities by a deity who would then take their place; Ouranos was overthrown by Kronos, Kronos was in turn overthrown by Zeus, and although Zeus rules the cosmos he still contends with challenges to his rule even within Olympus. Prometheus, the creator of mankind, defies Zeus’ will to give mankind fire, thus ensuring Man’s progress at the cost of his own punishment by being bound to a rock and perpetually tortured by an eagle. Hera, the wife of Zeus, led some of the other gods (including Apollo and Poseidon) in an almost successful revolt against him over his numerous infidelities. Poseidon and Apollon even suffer the temporary loss of their divine capacity for participating in Hera’s revolt and are cast down to the earth for a time to live in servitude as mortal humans. The gods often conflict among themselves, as shown in the conflict between Hades and Demeter initiated by Hades’ abduction of Persephone, or the conflict of the Erinyes versus Apollo and Athena over the trial of Orestes for his crime of matricide, not to mention the Titanomachy (the Titans themselves were a clan of gods). Demeter, in fact, succeeds in genuinely threatening the order of the cosmos through her power over death and life. In the Greek Magical Papyri, there are spells in which the magician may threaten to bind certain deities unless certain other deities meet their demands, or in the case of some spells bind some deities on behalf of others. The Greek pantheon even features a distinct “god of rebellion”; none other than Ares, the god of war and violence who was simultaneously the patron of both rebels and law enforcement.
Greek polytheism is not the only place where you find rebellion at the core of things. In Mesopotamian myth, when the god Enlil tries to destroy humanity, humanity owes its survival to the god Enki going against Enlil’s will by helping mankind survive the various cataclysms Enlil besets them with. Enlil himself also defied the rest of the gods in order to romance the goddess Ninlil. In Mesopotamiam myth, a generation of gods called the Igigi, or Dingir, revolt against an older generation of gods, often called the Anunnaki, who then created humans to do their work by sacrificing the god Geshtu-e to make their blood. As a rebel god, his blood passing into humanity carried the divine heritage of rebellion into human existence. A similar Hittite myth shows an older generation of gods being overthrown by a younger generation and then cast into the underworld. In Babylonian mythology, the very creation of the cosmos is set in motion by the younger gods, led by Marduk, violently overthrowing the primeval gods led by Tiamat. Odin, the king of the Aesir, was also himself a rebel, even an outcast, in some Germanic myths. Saxo Grammaticus, in his Gesta Danorum, presented a mythological story in which Odin was cast out of Asgard for ten years in order that the other gods would not be dishonoured by the wicked reputation he had acquired among humans; such a reputation was apparently earned by disguising himself as a maiden in order to have sex with the daughter of a king. In Grammaticus’ telling, Odin is replaced on the throne of Asgard by Ullr (or Ollerus), the god of archery, only for Odin to eventually drive Ullr out again, after the other gods finally decide that they want him back on the throne. Odin’s very quest for knowledge might also be thought of in terms of rebellion, at least in the sense that the underlying purpose of it is to gain as much magical knowledge as he can in order to win the doomed war of Ragnarok, thus in his own way defying fate. From another angle, however, it is perhaps all the more fitting to view Ragnarok itself as the violent rupture of the currently ruling order set in the cosmos, initiated by beings representing the chaos lay beneath it, kept at bay by the ruling Aesir until the hour of their doom, at which point they will rise up and destroy what the Aesir have established, along with everything else. In the Baal Cycle of Canaanite mythology, the god El abdicates from his position as king of the gods, his throne at Mount Zaphon becomes vacant and his son, the god Baal, is set to replace El, but the throne is challenged by Yamm, and Yamm is then defeated by Baal, only for Baal’s rule to be challenged by the god Mot, who succeeds in killing him. With Baal’s death, the god Athtar was poised to succeed Baal, but Athtar ultimately rejected the throne to rule his own kingdom in the underworld, and then Baal is revived and takes up the throne of Zaphon. In ancient Egypt, The Book of the Heavenly Cow outlines an instance in which humans revolt against the rule of the sun god Ra, resulting in their punishment, while in another myth, the goddess Isis forces Ra, the apparent supreme deity, to tell her his secret name by poisoning him and offering the cure.
My point is that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that rebellion is an elementary part of the polytheistic cosmos. In fact, even outside of Paganism, even in the Bible, in which we still see a polytheistic cosmos inherited from the pre-existing polytheism of Israel, there are gods in conflict with each other and in rebellion against each other. God himself is but one god among many, he is but Yahweh trying to establish his authority amongst the other gods, and the other gods resist his rule and sometimes succeed in defeating him and pushing back his rule; Chemosh, the god of Moab, wages war against Yahweh and defeats Yahweh, leading the Moabites to victory against the aggressing Israelites. Even insofar as the divine is everywhere, the divine is not a single unified thing containing harmony. In fact, for much of the pre-Christian pagan world, the divine actually seemed to be in conflict with itself all the time. It was from late developments of ancient Greek philosophy that we started to see the idea of a single, unitary, harmonious divine whose order is at work everywhere take shape and gain presence, and it is upon this basis that “the West” eventually arrives at the idea that there is but One True God and that his order must be obeyed. Relevant to that context and the ideological underpinnings of Satanic Paganism, I would point to Kadmus’ analysis of the Greek Magical Papyri in view of this. In True To The Earth, Kadmus argues that the Papyri, although late in origin, represent a transmission or survival of a more “authentically pagan” worldview in contrat to the late pre-Christian philosophies that existed alongside them. Multiple gods, often from mutually distinct cultural and religious backgrounds, appear as distinct entities within a more or less syncretic practice, typically invoked in order to help the magician attain some worldly goal, certain deities apparently appear in more archaic forms, and they don’t appear to be situated within consistent hierarchies. Hekate in particular is a central figure in what is contextually a split between the more archaic form of pagan polytheism, in which Hekate was a goddess of magic who could be invoked for worldly ends and worshipped , and the Platonic Hekate as presented in the Chaldean Oracles, in which Hekate is presented as a personification of the soul of the cosmos who guides souls in the course of their unity with The One. Such sets the ground for the distinction between two distinct worldviews, two approaches to embracing the divine. One approach is to embrace the idea that the point is to unite with the “universal harmony” of the cosmos; this is the worldview found in philosophical systems such as Platonism or Neoplatonism, as well as Stoicism to a certain extent, and you can find certain forms of it in many other religious-philosophical systems outside the context of ancient Greece. The other is to, on the basis of Rebellion as a core characteristic of the cosmos, join divinity in the sense of joining what I refer to as the war of all against all; this is the worldview I derive from the logic of mostly older or more archaic forms of paganism, as filtered through the lens of Stirner’s egoism, patchworked alongside Satanism. In a way, it’s almost like choosing between Law and Chaos in Shin Megami Tensei.
But of course, this “war of all against all” may seem to be a strange and alien idea, so let me explain my terms here. First, let’s establish that this use of the term does not derive from Thomas Hobbes’ more famous use of it, by which he meant his imagination of what human affairs would be like without the existence of the state. My use of it comes from the individualist anarchist Max Stirner, who said that the war of all against all is declared when the poor rise up and rebel against extant property in order to win the right to own themselves; when the individual declares, “I alone decide what I will have”, and seizes according to their own need or want, the war of all against all is declared. When given consideration, it would seem that this war of all against all could reference a universal condition of rebellion, which is of course the total opposite of harmony. I do not want your order, I want myself or I want something else. Therefore, I rebel. The gods in myth periodically assert their own desire in conflict with others, or assert their refusal against the desires of others, they each want something of their own, orthey want themselves. Thus, the gods are in discord and even enmity amongst themselves. Thus the gods are in a condition of rebellion in and amongst themselves, and in the cosmos humans are able to partake of this universal rebellion themselves, by joining themselves with that condition, and with divinity at large. In other words, humans can either simply observe traditional piety in observance of a universal harmony involving essentially harmonious gods, or they can defy authority in order to join the war of all against all, and ultimately join with the gods in doing so. When thinking of the war of all against all, I often think about Ragnarok as depicted in Norse mythology, in that it would take the phrase almost literally, and Odin selects his warriors specifically to join him in this fight. But Ragnarok is an point in time ahead of our own, assuming of course we don’t start from the interpretation that it has already happened and we are the products of its aftermath, whereas the war of all against all is a present, ever-present, condition of life, with no beginning, and no end.
Satan is in many ways relevant to this idea, to the extent that he is emblematic of it. Satan, as the Adversary, in his own way sounds the war of all against all in his refusal to bow before God and/or Adam and his will that only he decides his own place in the cosmos. Accepting no universal harmony and authority above him, he embraces rebellion waged for himself, for his Einzige. The idea of joining the divine in the same way is an innovation, but it extends the logic of archaic polytheism so as to grant meaning to the apotheosis cherished within Satanism. There’s a very peculiar idea like that to be found in Kurtis Joseph’s Black Magick of Ahriman (which I must stress is flawed in many ways and I don’t like the fact that it’s with BALG), in which Joseph talks about “joining the war of the gods as a God”. Joseph really doesn’t explain the nature of that, but in context it seems to involve aligning yourself with the energies or power of Ahriman, which Joseph understands as the power of a boundless void of pure potentiality that contains all colours, and therefore all possibilities. In a word: Darkness. Perhaps we could extrapolate from this the idea that apotheosis here means taking on the latent Darkness or negativity within the nature of divinity itself; the power of the Black Flame, which is at base the active power of the creative nothing, is the brilliant resplendence of that divine negativity. In this, the idea is to take on and into yourself the realm of divinity in order to access it and join the company of divinity in the embrace of Negativity.
Satan for his individualism might bring us into focus with the other key division that animates the worldview of Satanic Paganism; on one side the religion of the goen (a practitioner of goeteia, or “sorcery”), on the other side the religion of the polis, and of course the philosophy of Satanic Paganism favours the former. As Jake Stratton-Kent has elaborated, the “primitive” religion of the goen centered around a seemingly individualistic, non-conforming magickal practice, built on individual talents and relationships with the gods which then transmitted into the community or the collective of which the goen was still a part. With the rise of the city state and the aristocratic humanist ideology that powered it, the goen were marginalized under a social order built by slavery and organized by a handful of bureaucrats and functionaries who dictated the new mode of religion, defining it through the social character of the polis, whose stability was now seemingly threatened by wild ecstasies that comprised older religious forms. The goen’s craft was deemed superstition and converted into an insult by the aristocratic intelligentsia of the polis. Some aspect of this may echo into the split between the ouranic and the chthonic in the old Hellenic religion. Luther H. Martin in Hellenistic Religions describes chthonic religion as “a response to the spontaneity of the sacred, a voluntary association of individuals that embodied an implicit challenge to the official sociopolitical order”. For the Hellenistic city state, the individualistic goens were at odds with order and custom of the rational aristocracy that set it, and the old goeteia were ones who performed ecstatic worship of and workings with chthonic gods and daemons (including the chthonic mother goddess Cybele), perhaps derided as by wider society “gloomy” and “irrational” in so doing. The aim of goetic practice was, of course, to attune themselves to what Stratton-Kent referred to as the “deifying power” of the underworld, and by working with the daemons they also identified with them, becoming one with them as extensions of the craft, a oneness which is still itself the gateway to chthonic and magickal apotheosis (though, of course, for Frater Archer this is ultimately all still submission to the authority of the great mother). Thus the divide hinted at by Kadmus Herschel can be observed as between the collective observance of the polis and the magickal apotheosis of the individual magician. Similar tension is observable in the relationship to mystery traditions, often including individual expression and aimed at the elevation of the practitioner towards a blessed afterlife, and embracing ecstasies and sometimes inversions that did not align with the social order.
All of this brings me to my next point; insofar as we deal with gods, how do we view them? Having already discussed rebellion, the war of all against all, we can already establish that my concept of relating to the gods cannot be defined in terms of unconditional piety as based on the idea that the gods are uniform in will and character. The point about the gods not being wholly benevolent is a point that kind of has to be stressed, and I tend to suspect that people try to get away from that in all sorts of ways. The gods are not necessarily malevolent, but they tend to act in ways that seem ambiguous and fickle to humans, not always answering prayers for varying reasons, and, although myth does not tell the whole story when it comes to religious thought and praxis, the gods are not always very nice or fair. I think the modern Heathen sect called Rokkatru, particularly as explained by Arith Harger (who does not himself align with Rokkatru), can be seen as one of the best tellings of this idea. As Harger relates, people only see the “evil” sides of certain gods, such as Loki, who happen to either typically despised or culturally typecast as villainous, but Odin in his myths does all manner of questionable and even downright awful things, and in many cases his actions are done either for his sole benefit or strictly to maintain the balance of power at all costs. From the perspective of Rokkatru, Loki is arguably only as “evil” as Odin, and he in turn as much as all of the other gods, who are in turn representatives of larger forces of order and chaos, opposing each other and yet working together to maintain the balance of the world. Our popular understandings of the gods have us thinking about certain gods as sanitized gods who embody superhuman character and virtue attendant to their status as rulers of the cosmos, which thus conceal the other sides of them that, I would argue, should not be made obscure. Norse mythology is a perfectly salient example, but does not stand alone. When it comes to Greek mythology how can we forget about Zeus; so elevated in status in Greek religion, that some mystical traditions transformed him from just the king of the current generation of gods to the supreme sovereign and principle of the cosmos itself. For all that, everyone reading mythology, and everyone struggling with mythic literalism, knows about Zeus’ many troublesome exploits, particularly with women (both human and otherwise). Zeus is not alone in his faults. The gods, just as much as they may be noble and beautiful, can be jealous, petty, quarrelsome, sometimes even cruel. Indeed, there is a similar story as regards all the “civilizing gods” in particular; perhaps Walter Benjamin said it best, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”.
Throughout pre-Christian polytheism, the acknowledgement is the same: the gods have two sides to them, one good, one bad, and for the gods they are in some ways inseparable from each other. But in the broad appreciation of this, we find that it does not seem to undermine worship in the way that it would for Christianity as based on the claims around the Christian God. Humans worship the gods ultimately because they want something from them, often something worldly but also often something more than this. Certain notions of traditional religious piety extends to the idea of a purely selfless devotion to gods, in a way that is not necessarily true in the case of traditional (or at least more archaic) forms of polytheist praxis. Though, there is a sense in which a Pagan could never approach the gods on a wholly transactional basis, and instead is drawn towards them by awe, by the desire for communion with the numious, and the nature of religious reciprocity tends to approach the level of friendship, not just a quid pro quo arrangement. Still, there is a self-interested impetus even here. Humans wish to elevate themselves by deepening reciporcal relationships with the gods, and although the gods are held to want or need nothing from humans, the gods themselves obviously have a desire that humans fit into; the desire to be recognized and honoured, and work their way into extant relationships.
A way of defining the relationship between men and gods in a manner befitting the Satanic Pagan framework is through magick. Magick, simply put, is the practice of causing change through hidden and abnormal means, some might say in conformity to will. Magick was somewhat common throughout the pre-Christian world, and even in the Christian era it was still prevalent to the point that a lot of “classical” medieval or pre-modern occultism is essentially an extension of Christianity. But magick is an art, a technique, a craft, and it has a variety of aims attached to it, very often conditioned by religious traditions. The aim that focuses our attention is the following set of goals: personal empowerment on the one hand, deepening the cycle of reciprocity with gods on the other. I aim in this sense for their bounding up in a religio-magickal praxis that positions worship alongside the concept of “working with” gods in a magickal sense, and arcing ultimately towards the goal of apotheosis. There are examples of apotheosis or god-identification that can be found in the Greek Magical Papyri. One such example is the Stele of Jeu (PGM V. 96-172), in which the practitioner evokes the Headless One (or Akephalos; possibly a solar deity) in order to identify themselves with Moses, a messenger of a pharoah or Osiris, and then the god Osiris by various names in order to command or expel daimons and attain oneness with the universe. In the Invocation of Typhon (PGM IV. 154-285), the practitioner ritually identifies with the god Set and “attaches” themselves to the god Helios, while binding the god of Osiris, in order to receive the power of Typhon, here referred to as the “god of gods”. In the Mithras Liturgy (PGM IV.475-834), the practitioner invokes Helios-Mithras in order to attain a state of immortality and divinization in order to join the world of the gods. There even spells for the apotheosis of animals, such as the Deification of a Hawk (PGM I,1-42), in which a deceased hawk is immersed completely in milk and rejoins the magician as an immortal daimon and companion. In a similar tradition, many Egyptian spells, such as found in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts (keeping in mind that the Greek Magical Papyri themselves were syncretic texts that incorporated Egyptian magical practice among others), often castthe practitioner in the identity of a specific god in order to speak and act through that divine identity. It was also believed that souls who successfully traversed the underworld became identical with the god Ra. In the First Book of Breathing, the soul of the dead beckons the gods of the underworld to turn their attention towards them, not in the manner of beseeching them but rather demanding their audience, the soul identifying itself with the sun god Ra. Spells were meant to transform the individual soul of the deceased into Ra and earning the audience of the gods, and then, during the night, the soul would become Osiris as well, just as Ra merged with Osiris upon his descent into the underworld, thus joining the cycle of the sun. This did not quite entail that the soul literally became Ra or supplanted Ra and the other gods in their function, but rather the dead took on elements of the identity as their own. Deification, for the ancient Egyptians, did not mean becoming a living god and assuming dominion over the cosmos, but rather identifying yourself with the gods, at least in death anyway, and in so doing join their place in the cycle of the world.
The nature of this apotheosis is complex, but is arguably understandable as both an individualistic and self-interested magickal pursuit of gaining the powers of gods and, in its own way, a religio-magickal pursuit of oneness (albeit temporary) with divine identity. When we discuss oneness in the context of religio-magickal doctrines and traditions, we typically discuss it in terms of some idea of the absorption of the self into the universe, or God, or some cosmic hivemind, and in this we typically envision it in terms of what we call the Right Hand Path. But the magickal assumption of divine identity found in pre-Christian polytheism does not follow this logic. It’s actually somewhat like what I have seen some people say about how oneness is not actually the conclusion but instead the beginning, the gateway to something else, and in the case of polytheistic magickal apotheosis, that may be very applicable. Oneness with the identity of a god is not the permanent absorption or replacement of personality into or by the divine. Instead it is done with the aim of assuming the power of the gods for magickal ends, and, perhaps, so as to engender the development of a mythic self capable of perceiving the world of the gods. This, of course, means ritually assuming their attributes in a way that does not mean you lose yourself. In application to the modern esoteric framework, it’s actually possible to see this approach, even insofar as we consider it oneness, as an expression of how we understand the Left Hand Path, in that the aim is for the divinization of the self through its assumption of divine attributes into itself with the view to entering the world of the gods, as one of them. Moreover, we can see the assumption of divine identity as a function of the old mystery traditions as well. In the Dionysian and Eleusinian Mysteries, we might locate the mythic self in the ritual re-enactment of their mythos and the powers of death and rebirth so as to cultivate esoteric divine knowledge that would grant the practitioner a place in a blessed afterlife. This idea is recapitulated in the Orphic tradition, wherein after a life of consistent praxis and ritual purity the practitioner is to descend into the underworld in order to be released from death in order to join the company of the gods. And so, Left Hand Path religio-magickal worship in a Pagan context follows this praxis and goal in mind: to pursue reciprocal relationships and ritual praxes that cultivate apotheosis and prefigure your assumption of divinity and joining with the divine. But in Satanic terms, the worship I seek is just as much an act of devourment (in Stirner’s sense), in that, rather than put myself under the divine I’m the manner of traditional religious hierarchies and pieties, I stand to put it into myself that it might be my own (“When you devour the sacred, you have made it your own!”), even if it means that I can only do this by assuming it on its terms.
Dealing with Paganism of any sort can mean dealing with natural states. Nature is undeniably important in a Pagan context, and for Pagan spirituality Nature is a central locus, but the point is what that actually means. Since in the philosophy of Satanic Paganism we reject the notion of inherent universal harmony in favour of the condition of rebellion as the war of all against all, we also reject any recourse to the idea of a lost homeostatic “natural order”, with a precise set of laws that humans are to obey in a manner similar to the laws of God or some notion of purity to which humanity is a corruption. But although the condition of rebellion as I describe it (in very warlike terms no less) sounds like something that inherently forecloses any notion of harmony with other beings, I must disagree with that assumption. Rebellion is an act that establishes boundaries in its refusal. Think about it. You, by refusing to obey the will of an authority figure, establish a barrier between your will and theirs by your rebellion, and will fight to preserve that boundary. Ownness asserts itself, in so doing rebelling against that which denies Ownness, each assertion of Ownness in rebellion creates boundaries set on the terms of Ownness. The ecosystems of the world are a complex of boundaries set by the interconnectedness of the various lifeforms, and it is in this field that human civilization has broken up these boundaries in order to assert the dominion of the human species over life on earth. But of course, there is an extent to which Man’s control over Nature is something of an illusion. Humanity has dominated most ecosystems but it cannot control the weather, much less its own effects on the global climate, and it most certainly has no control over outer space, time, the movements of the earth’s tectonic plates, its magnetic field, the force of gravity, or the very nature forces of death, destruction, decay and entropy. The domination that human civilization currently exercises over the world’s ecosystems, and order ability to manipulate the environment and transform natural resources towards our own purposes, assures us that we are the undisputed masters of the world. But we are not. In fact, if anything, our civilizational actions have not gone without consequences. Anthropogenic climate change has already been met with a diverse array of environmental consequences over decades, and the backlash in the form of extreme weather, heatwaves, wildfires, rising sea levels, and many more consequences has intensified in recent years and it’s only going to get worse, and it will spell disaster and destruction for humans. In a way, you can argue the world is fighting back against the domination we have imposed upon it.
Our invasion and destruction of ecological boundaries leads inexorably to the insurrection of the natural world against civilization. This is not to be interpreted as the effect of a violation of some transcendental law or a failure to uphold some duty of stewardship towards a natural world that is propertied by God or History. Instead, it is best to understand the ecological crisis in terms of the fact that our civilization has oppressed the world’s ecosystems in its desire for the instrumentality of life towards our various productive ends, and that oppression was destined to generate violent backlash from the world. Rebellion, the war of all against all, is at the core of the Pagan cosmos, and so life invariably grows to resist domination and attempts to curtail the course of its growth and freedom, and so extant nature violently resists Man’s regime of instrumentality. Yet, as Frater Archer might remind us, this same impetus to growth makes it somewhat difficult for even nature to uphold firm boundaries, since life or the consciousness of the earth is always seemingly expanding, growing, changing, moving, and that forward motion always seems to move past any obstacles to itself. Life is always growing mutually, and thus chaotically, sometimes life brushes against life, and so we see the world has an unpredictable rhythm to it.
In any case, understanding the relationship between the existential condition of rebellion and Ownness and the boundaries that Ownness and its rebellion creates in its expression allows us to more clearly understand Pagan harmony with nature in terms of reciprocity. Harmony with nature in this sense means maintaining relationships with the environment not based on domination or instrumentality, not even in the form of stewardship, but instead on the basis of reciprocity in which giving and taking occurs within the bounds set by the mutual assertion of Ownness, which thus comprises the interconnectedness that forms the ecosystems of the world. In very simple terms, harmony does not mean the universal harmony of The One and does mean submission to certain ideas of “natural law”, but instead that life respects life, to the extent it can, even as life ultimately derives from itself. And, also, let us not forget that, as Jake Stratton-Kent points out in Geosophia, as far as pre-Christian magicians were concerned the natural world as we understand it was a dwelling place for the numinous. Mountains, trees, rivers, and streams were among the places where the power of the divine could be felt and accessed just as much as graves, burial mounds, crossroads, monuments, or any temple, and so from a religio-magickal standpoint there is an extent to which we must think of Man’s quest for complete technological and civilizational domination over nature as a the spiritual devastation of life by human civilization, a death march that we must halt indefinitely and forcibly.
In many ways I think it is impossible to truly discuss Nature without discussing spontaneity. This is an idea I have inherited from the discourse of nature as spontaneity as described in Chinese philosophy, or rather more specifically Taoism, from which I learned about the concept of Ziran. The Chinese word “ziran” is often translated in the “West” as “nature”, but perhaps a more accurate meaning is “spontaneity”, and the literal meaning is more like “self-so”. The concept of Ziran refers to the self-emergent or self-arising tendency of things in the cosmos, which can be extended to the emergence of life and the cosmos itself. To describe something as Ziran is to describe something as self-unfolding, self-generating, non-teleological, spontaneous. On the one hand, it is used to describe the concept of nature, or as a shorthand for nature. On the other hand, it is suggested that Ziran does not actually refer to nature, but to something beyond or behind nature; you might even say, the “nature” of nature. But what is the nature of nature? Is it the chaos and blackness that Susan Stryker referred to? Stryker, of course, seems to refer to chaos in “the general sense”, by which is meant disorder or the fundamental lack of order, but also an “unstable matrix of material attributes”, from which form emerges (or, in the context of gender that Stryker means to discuss, from which a multitude of stable structures of gendered identity emerge). In baedan this same chaos and blackness is identified with what they see as the unintelligible force of homosexual desire and the concept of the death drive as discussed via the queer theorist Lee Edelman; this death drive is the indescrible and unintelligble force of disruption within society itself, the negativity that always produces contradiction and revolt within the order of the world, for as long as there is a society. Going back to Ziran, what is its source? Within ancient Chinese philosophy, there was a tendency to locate Darkness, or Xuan, as the origin or root of nature, or Ziran. Thus Darkness, which can be understood as Negativity, lies at the source of spontaneity, or “nature”. The Rokkatru sect of modern Heathenry dwells heavily on the idea of the “nature of nature”, by which is meant the underlying qualities and the means of its rhythm and change as well as its unpatterned causes, and for this reason they honor the Jotunn as the primal forces of nature that operate behind its main processes; the winter and the cold that freezes, the solar warmth and heat that causes buds to grow in spring, the wild fire that burns. To draw attention to the “nature” of nature, then, would be in the manner of Rokkatru to refer to something beneath and within the processes of nature that also arcs back to our discussion of spontaneity.
A concept that I find relevant to my discourse on Paganism, let alone in a Satanic framing, is the concept of Wildness. This is a concept that I encountered in ecological anarchist and anti-civilization theory, and it has many relevant meanings. In Desert, which I take as a landmark text of anti-civ and nihilist anarchism, Wildness can be seen to refer to a concept of uncultivated or non-civilized nature that also intersects with the concept of anarchy or liberty itself, a state of being ungoverned and of ungovernability, a state of unordered and undomesticated life that naturally connects with anarchism as a whole. This idea is expressed in the very name Desert via an archaic definition given at the beginning: “a wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region”. From my perspective, such a description is not insiginificant in religious terms. An example is the world of the Bible, in which the desert or wilderness was believed to have been inhabited by demons. This is suggested in the Old Testament when Leviticus (17:7) refers to sacrifices being made to goat demons (or se’irim) and Isaiah (34:14) prophesies the city of Edom becoming inhabited by demons after its collapse, and the New Testament when Luke (11:24) and Matthew (12:43) say that a demon leaving a possessed person flees to the desert to rest. Also, in the medieval period, the Devil himself was associated with the wild places outside of civilization, so for Europe this could mean the woods, and in Sweden this lead to folk beliefs concerning the worship of nymphs and nature spirits becoming mingled with ideas of Satan worship and black magick. Julian Langer (a thinker I otherwise have little regard for) gives a few interesting enough definitions of Wildness. In Feral Iconoclasm, Langer defines Wildness as “the transient becoming and dying, dying and rising” in all lifeforms, “the will of life that grows from death”, and connects it to a non-determination and spontaneity of matter that he feels panpsychism allows for. In Feral Consciousness, Wildness is similarly defined in terms of the quality of non-deterministic, fundamentally chaotic, inescapably pervasive entities, and the fundamental ontological condition of anarchy that also surrounds and dwells beneath the whole of life, and is a state best accessed when stepping into uncultivated nature and through personal individual experience; creative and destructive, wildness for Langer is not only identifiable with anarchy but with nature, thus it is in this way “the nature of nature”. Kevin Tucker, in To Speak of Wildness, takes a somewhat different approach, conflating Wildness with the state of being a hunter-gatherer, supposedly our “genetic state” (seemingly the true “human nature”), but he also frames Wildness as a continuum surrounding and inhabiting us, distinguished from wilderness. A much more interesting and probably more salient take comes from baedan, in which Wildness, as “a madness attacking the civilized social order”, is practically cognate with their concept of jouissance, the joy of resistance or insurreciton whose joy consists in the sheer act of attacking the order of domination, and echoes with their concept of the death drive, that mysterious and almost unnameable negativity best understood as the core contradiction of society, the inner tendency of its own revolt and deconstruction. Finally, some argue that Wildness appears to be taken as something almost wholly indefinable, except as a poetic way of describing the uniqueness of each individual.
To take it all together from the standpoint of discussing “the nature of nature”, we could probably understand Wildness as being at least a part of that, as long as we understand Wildness as state of prime spontaneity. Spontaneous at least in the sense of undomesticated life, “natural” in the same sense, liberated in its transgression of conditioned existence, and fundamentally un-teleological. If “human nature” means nothing more than a state of human being that we find when our societal order of humanity is torn off, Wildness as a spontaneous existence rather than a “genetic state” is probably a good description. Beyond this (contrary to what I espoused last year), there is no such thing as human nature, no universal template of species being, only the natures of individuals. But insofar as that’s the case, what is “natural” to us, that is Ziran, that is Wildness, it is how we act in our own state of uncultivated life, free of domestication, and it’s as true for individual humans as it is for the wilderness and all who live in it. But what does that have to do with Satanic Paganism? The answer is in the way certain forms of Pagan religiosity present a communion between the individual and the “wild state”, transgressing the norms of society in order to liberate individual consciousness or experience contact with divinity. In Greece, this was part of the mysteries of the god Dionysos, in which ritual intoxication was a way to become possessed by Dionysos, contact his divine presence, shatter the boundaries of individual consciousness and commune with authenticity of wild nature. Another Greek god Pan, possibly embodied a literal sense of wildness even more, being worshipped almost exclusively in uncultivated parts of nature such as caves, and he too was believed to possess people so as to manically liberate individual consciousness from its normal limits. Similar states in similar possible rationales can be discussed via the Berserkers and Ulfhednar in ancient Scandinavia, both ecstatic warriors of the god Odin who attained divine inspiration that would strengthen them in battle by embracing animal-like states, spiritually communing with the wilderness, shedding the limits of normal consciousness and, in a way, enacting the cycle of death and rebirth. It is certainly not for nothing that modern Pagans derive spiritual sustenance from wild nature, because the relationships with extant natural relationships that presuppose the presence of the divine within them lends to the idea of wild nature being sacred and venerated as such, inhabited and blessed by gods and spirits for whom it is just as much their home as for the animals.
How this pans out for Satanic Paganism might best be elaborated in terms of the basic antinomian goal of shedding boundaries in pursuit of self-discovery and liberation. But that’s not in pursuit of some pure or antediluvian identity that contains an original personality (perhaps bestowed by God or by the cosmos) for you to follow, or even the voice of a “True Will” (which, I should stress, is probably not actually your will as such). No, it’s about the discovery, or rediscovery, of the power to live an uncultivated life, in the spiritual sense at least; the liberation of consciousness that is felt and prefigured in Wildness, in “the other side”, in the Darkness of life. It’s not something that can only be found in the ideal harmonious state, or some essentialist concept of a “genetic state”, and in fact the point is that, when you have and keep this state, it will be with you everywhere and always. To this day I think about something Thomas LeRoy used to say, and I’m not sure I remember it fully, about how Satanism to him is all about having a freedom that can’t be taken from you even if you were locked up in prison. That’s a powerful idea, it speaks to a freedom and uncultivated-ness that could stay with you, even if the revolution or insurrection against the state never comes to pass. It’s what living anarchy is, it’s the power of the Black Flame of the Creative Nothing, it’s a remembrance of the kingdom of shadows that holds real meaning that cannot be found through piety in society. It is wild religiosity, “re-legere” as anamnesis but for Darkness instead of the Forms of the Good, truly ancient Pagan religiosity intersecting with authentic Satanic mysticism and ideology. I also think that the relationship of divinity and the numinous to wild nature that Jake Stratton-Kent talks about in Geosophia establishes a basis for a Pagan religio-magickal praxis that places wild nature as a place of power, a place for the magician to encounter the gods of the land and, in a seemingly disenchanted world, reinvest the land with power by reclaimng the sacred places. On this basis, perhaps we may map one road to apotheosis in the act of sharing in the numinosity of the wild in this way.
I would also stress my own standpoint in relation to spontaneity in terms of cosmic origination, and in this I relate to the Greek and also particularly Orphic cosmology here. In the Orphic cosmology, there isn’t really a Creator as such, and the forces of Limited Time and Necessity have no source, or at least are not intelligently set into motion, and the forces of creativity that animate the Orphic cosmos seem to spontaneously emerge from each other. I have seen Orphic cosmology interpreted as an unfolding of material substances beginning from an indescribable source or principle (or “Arrhetos Arkhe”), and from the unfolding of these substances the gods and eventually all life emerge, and then only after this the gods, or at least particularly Zeus, arrange the order by which the universe is governed. The Hesiodic cosmology has everything begin with Chaos, and then spontaneously emerging from Chaos are the first primordial beings or deities, and then they give rise to successive generations of gods, and finally humanity is created. Between, the actual starting point seems to be ineffable, outright unknown, but I’m inclined to take this as an opportunity for Negativity to fill the gaps here. Thus Darkness becomes the stuff in which the unfolding of life begins. It is possible to take a similar tack when dealing with the Norse cosmos. From the mythological source of material we have, at least, the Norse cosmos begins in a state of primordial chaos referred to as Ginnungagap, which nonetheless contains two elements that conflict with each other, and through this strife the no-thing-ness unfolds in the generation of Ymir and their abode, before a successive generations kills him and creates the cosmic order from Ymir’s primeval potentiality. Darkness, at least in the sense relatable to the the no-thing-ness we just touched upon, again lies at the beginning of things, its fertility the basis of the potentiality of Ymir and the violent creation initiated by the gods through his sacrifice, lurks beneath the surface of the cosmos and is felt in the nature of its progression and eventual unravelling and destruction in Ragnarok. From this standpoint, I derive a spontaneous cosmos on perfectly Pagan grounds.
To at last close thing section, let us return one more time to the subject of apotheosis, only this time let’s sketch out a rationale suitable for a Pagan worldview and a Satanic one. I talk about rebirth in the context of Pagan religious doctrine a fair bit, in relation to death of course, and let us start here from the context of the constancy of death and rebirth, and propose, from a Pagan standpoint, that all of life is inevitably reborn after death. I would envision that this rebirth would not be conditioned by moral conduct, meaning that your rebirth has nothing to do with good or evil, rather it is simply part of the cycle of life. That is, unless you attain apotheosis. There is an idea found in the Orphic mysteries, which held that the Orphist must undergo a life of contemplation, non-violence, and ritual purity before eventually undergoing a journey through the underworld, drink from the pool of Mnemosyne (memory), present formulae to the guardians or gods of the underworld, and then afterwords be released from death and reincarnation in order to join the company of the gods. Of course, the requirements of the original Orphic teaching might prove disagreeable in their apparently emphasis on purity and pacifism, but the underlying formula has many other echoes and roots, and at any rate is conceptually useful. In the Orphic perspective, apotheosis would not only have meant immortality and power, but also more strictly freedom, at least freedom from endless rebirths, and partaking in the nature and processes of divinity once one has passed into it. The underworld in pre-Christian Greece has been a place of (as Jake Stratton-Kent put it) deifying power probably before the Orphics codified their own doctrine of apotheosis. The underworld is not just the home of the dead; it’s also the place where death becomes the renewal of life. Far from the Christian view, in which Hell was the place of eternal suffering or even just a byword for oblivion, the underworld is a place not only where shades dwell in the condition of death, but pass into the condition of their rebirth, forgetting their past to become new life. This understanding is at the heart of why the Orphic soul descends to the underworld to receive release from death, and why the Elusinian Mysteries center the re-enactment of death and rebirth with the aim of immortality or simply a blessed afterlife. In Sicily, Western Greeks participated in “ritual deaths”, the dismantling of the everyday self, followed by rebirth through, through ritual communion with chthonic gods such as Dionysus, Demeter, and/or Kore (or Persephone). We know next to nothing about the Dionysian mysteries that preceded Orphism, but I think it is reasonable to suggest that the ritual death-and-rebirth aspect in connection to ritual communion may have been an element in those mysteries too.
Many ideas of Greek apotheosis seemed to, in some way, connect to the theme of death. Even in “classical” Orphism, one could only join the company of the gods after death, and even then, it may have taken multiple reincarnations for the practitioner to preced this apotheosis. Slain gods are reborn in majesty, Osiris reunites with his wife after death and becomes the lord of the Egyptian underworld, Achilles is reunited with Medea in the Elysian fields after death, and several mortals were transformed into gods or daemons after their deaths. This is the other aspect of Greek apotheosis, besides magickal and ritual identification of the gods as expressed in the Greek Magickal Papyri. In a sense this hints into the real meaning of the journey to the underworld; to take yourself into the maw of the death and rebirth, into the negativity of the cosmos, into blood and the other side of life, to receive knowledge, to be empowered, to take into yourself in order to truly commune with the divine and be divine yourself. And to do that thus would mean setting yourself free from the limits of ignorance and subjection, and set yourself into the realm of the gods. In the context of Satanic Paganism, this all has the aim of devourment, taking the sacred as your own absorbing divinity into your own self, in making and unmaking, setting into motion the liberation of consciousness, co-creating your own will, and persisting, no longer bound to reincarnation but instead free as part of the cycles of the gods. I actually sort of think of it as almost analogous to Buddhism in this regard, with its discourse on samsara and nirvana, especially in light of the way Esoteric Buddhism has influenced me in many other ways, but whereas you’re not trying to save yourself or the world from the immovable condition of suffering, you are unfettering yourself and participating in the deepest condition of life, taking divinity and negativity into yourself.
As Stirner said, a heaven arises, falls, is replaced and stormed by the next heaven. The existential condition of rebellion, of the war of all against all, assures this. You might well find yourself stuck within it, but, it’s just as well a place of power in the same way that negativity is. You don’t have to be beneath fixed piety or power, you can stand on your own feet and elevate yourself within the numinous world. Thus, in our path, there is no conflict stemming from the relationship to the gods, only in the war of all against all that pervades life.
Against God and/or The Demiurge
If we’re operating with a Satanic orientation, then there’s simply no way to approach God except with unmitigated hostility. For Paganism on its own, this is admittedly less true when Yahweh can simply be reintegrated as one more among the ranks of the polytheistic gods, even if that means ignoring that Yahweh is quite explicit about his utter rejection of that place in the world. The Satanist would understand that it is possible to take up God and his Son as part of a polytheistic “pantheon” (problematic though the term often is), but then our question to that is “why would you want to?”. This, after all, is the same God and his Son under whose cultus the worship of other gods was consistently and systematically suppressed and attacked for centuries. In his own Word, God orders the destruction of those who refuse to worship him, and in his law the worship of gods besides himself is explicitly forbidden. We thus find more contemporary takes on polytheism stressing the possibility of harmony between the gods and their would-be oppressor to be baffling to say the least.
You need not take the rejection of God as an expression of simple atheism, not least because I intend to present a rather precise conception of God which can be opposed even without the rejection of the divine itself. Think about it, when we talk about God, what do we really mean? “God”, imagined as a singular being, could generally be understood as just one more deity, and in this sense one more part of the polytheistic ecosystem of gods, albeit one who imagines himself the sole sovereign in the cosmos. But then there is the conceptual God, God as a postulate, God the Idea, this conception that separates the monotheistic worldview from the polytheistic worldview. This God is the supreme singular teleological consciousness which creates (or artifices) the cosmos, governs it’s operations and progress and with it that of all life, directs the motion of all things towards its own purpose, and perhaps for all beings it is their true image, beyond their discrete individuality. God, simply put, is the idea of the Supreme Being, the ultimate divine consciousness in the universe, the great will from which meaning itself is ultimately derived and to which all things ultimately answer.
We usually deal with the Christian conception of this, but besides the other two “Abrahamic” religions, you can find many iterations of the concept of the Supreme Being all over the religious world. You may see different iterations of it in Hinduism, and even some esoteric forms of Buddhism have pantheistic forms of the solar Buddha that sound suspiciously Godlike, there’s the concept of Heaven that we see in Confucian tradition, there’s Ahura Mazda prefiguring the Christian ideal of the good God in Zoroastrianism, to name a handful of examples. Even in the “classical” world of pre-Christian Greek polytheism, the concept of God we imagine is arguably prefigured by the cult of Zeus Hypsistios, the “Most High”, some versions of which involved the idea that the other gods were not proper deities and instead more like angels. Even today I would say that there are Hellenists who talk about Zeus as though they might as talk about God, at least were it not for the polytheistic context of their beliefs. But whatever identity we give it, let’s deal with the rammifications of the Supreme Being, or God. A being capable of being the supreme director, supreme teleological will, supreme arbiter or life itself, is inexorably responsible for everything that happens under its domain. Necessarily, God is responsible for an immeasurable amount of suffering in the universe, and every death, oppression, anguish, agony, despair, confusion, deception, pain, and every straying away from God is all directly caused or set into motion by him, all on purpose, all part of the plan he has for you, just as much as anything good. This means that if you suffered a miserable and agonizing life, then God arranged it to be this way on purpose, rather than this simply being a matter of chance, bad luck, or a spontaneous chain of events. It would be pointless even to say that it’s a matter of the consequences of bad decisions or the system you live in, because these themselves were set up by God through the course of events that he purposefully arranged. Even if God were as loving and benevolent as he said he was, the power he wields over all of life necessitates that he is the cause of life’s agony and suffering and exercises absolute dominion over its agency.
There’s also the egoist understanding of the problem, for you see God is the egoist whose sole mission in life is to convince you that he is the only legitimate egoist. You are an egoist either in potentia or in the active sense, in denial or in realization, you are Unique, an Ownness, and if we assume that there is God, then God himself would be just another of the same, except that he or his followers might claim that he alone is Unique. Even if we may further question the corporeality of God’s “Uniqueness” insofar as we may deny God, the claim of the Uniqueness of God as the serole Unique necessarily imposes itself upon the Uniquenesses of all other beings, who then, blinded by light, mistake just another being for the template of Being or even the sole constituent of the universe. Thus, cosmic tyranny is born, and it is still tyranny, still captivity, still slavery, even if God really was as benevolent as he was proclaimed to be.
And so, the Satanist is distinguished by their will to reject God and refuse to worship God let alone his Son, even if that God is real, regardless of if God is not real, even if God was as “Good” as he said he was, and even if the act of refusing to worship consigned you to a fate of damnation worse than death. Even a loving God would still grind you into the dirt because that was all part of his plan, and would still hold your soul to ransom such that the only way to claim it for yourself was by force of will directed against God. This knowledge is at least part of what animates the Satanic will to rebellion and transgression, and compels us to join Stirner’s “war of all against all” as active spiritual combatants, as devils bearing black flames.
There is a somewhat useful concept that can be pulled from Paul Tillich, a Christian existentialist theologian, for discursive purposes. He argued for a concept of “justified atheism” (justified, of course, being framed within Christian boundaries), which seems to have been meant as the idea that atheism can be justified as a reject to “theism”, by which is meant the idea of God being a personal deity as opposed to Tillich’s more abstract and existential view of God as the ground of being, the God-beyond-God who is thus the “justifier” of atheism. The way I see it, the a-theos stance is easily perversible, that is to say turned on its head. Instead of a-theos meaning a rejection of the personal God in favour of the God-beyond-God, here I will mean it as the rejection of the Supreme Being in all its various conceptions, on behalf of a wild, ungoverned, and ungovernable cosmos, in which, insofar as we may say there are personal gods, there are multiple of them and never just one, and insofar as there is power involved, it is also a zone of contestation and never a fixed point in the cosmos This a-theos thus means not so much the rejection of divinity (which is in multiplicity) and more like the rejection of objective teleological consciousness – thus, God.
And if indeed we are to speak of a ground of being, from my standpoint why should that be God, or teleological consciousness? I can imagine a ground of being that is not teleological, not rational, certainly not bright, or even particularly benign to be totally honest. It is not exactly God-beyond-God, but it is, in the Taoist sense, larger than God or indeed any one single deity. The ground of being I would conceive is negative, chaotic, even “violent” perhaps. I have discussed many ways of seeing Darkness this way. I suppose I practically do call it Darkness, at least in that Darkness is a summation of the characteristics I ascribe to it. It is not teleological, it could if anything be anti-teleological, it is senseless, it destroys so as to create and creates so as to destroy, it is the life and the death and the black soil that it glows in, it is the sublime fecundity of the night laid bare, the dark source of all that is and that which is. It sets no order, it spontaneously generates, dissolutes, and regurgiates, not even the term “whim” accurately describes such operation. How could one call that God, except that such is larger than God, and may one day claim his corpse along with all others.
I suppose what I am saying is that the universe is irrational, even when we consider the divine to be present within it. After all, perhaps the divine is in everything, but the gods are very often in conflict, so it cannot be assumed that there is harmony or reason inherent in the world just because of the presence of the divine. Even if we did affirm God, what would make you think God is any more “rational” than you or me, just because God is much more powerful and knowledgeable than you or me? You cannot know God’s will, but that means that, for all you know, all of God’s will is nothing more than irrational whims. But if God were rational, would that really be any better? Perhaps it might in fact be somewhat worse. Where does God’s rationality start from? I am certain that it is not from any human set of considerations, because, despite the Bible’s assurance that we are made in the image of God, God is absolutely not human, and if we take the concept of God seriously we could understand God as being certainly more powerful than humans would be. So God’s rationality, despite the promise of unconditional love for mankind, can only operate from a standpoint remarkable alienation from us, a lifeform immeasurably puny in comparison to the universe that people say God created, and this can only mean that God acts towards us either with apathy or, in truly rational fashion, with abject cruelty; if God is rational, then he rationally determines ideas of love, justice, benevolence that cannot possibly align with how we conceive them, which means that God’s love, justice, and even benevolence is for us nothing but a chamber of horrors. In this sense, I would actually say that it is better that the universe is irrational than if it were rational. Again, think of the tragedies, the evils, and the horrors that beset you in the universe as I have already set forth. More than anything, consider the fact that you can literally die not only at any time in your life but also suddenly and seemingly at random, even if you’re perfectly healthy. If you’re telling me that the universe is actually a rational universe, and that reason is self-evident in every happening and everything happens for a rational reason, then this necessarily means that the universe rationally decided to suddenly kill you for a reason, a reason that you will probably never be able to understand. To say that we live in a rational universe, or a universe controlled by God, or a universe possessing any kind of teleological will, is to say that all of life is nothing but cattle for the universe, raised up and then slaughtered for the designs of the universe. In my view, that is undoubtedly worse than the idea that we just crawled out of the slime of a cosmos that belched itself into existence or that life seems to have no inherent purpose. If we understand our death as taking place in the chaos of life, then it’s easy enough to understand that it is what it is, but we understand that there is some order to our otherwise random demise, then all this means is that we are being murdered and that the universe, God, or cosmic Reason are our murderers.
Now we come to the other part of this conversation: The Demiurge. But, I am not a Gnostic of any sort, so the sense in which I refer to a Demiurge is not as a distinct entity. In fact, I’m playing with a term has been frequently employed in political theory ever since Thomas Hobbes: I speak, of course, of Leviathan. And, frankly, I consider the term “Leviathan” to be entirely a misnomer. Hobbes seems to have invoked the term “Leviathan” in reference to the awesome power of the unitary sovereign state, partly because, in his day, the name “Leviathan” came to refer to a figure of sheer size and strength, aptly reflected by the size and strength of the Leviathan. But the actual Leviathan of myth wasn’t just some exceptionally big and strong animal; the Leviathan was a creature of wild, untamed chaos, part of a lineage of chaos serpents/monsters that form an ecosystem of myths of creation and struggle in the ancient Middle East and parts beyond, but in Biblical context also specifically symbolised the enemies of Israel. These enemies are framed in the Bible as a hostile wild outside the walls of Godly civilization, whether it’s the sea inhabited by the Leviathan or the demon-filled ruins that are to be lands such as Edom. The Biblical Leviathan, by Hobbes’ terms, was actually the nasty and brutish wild, which needed to have a strong and powerful order imposed upon it, and the agent of this order was God. Later Gnostic and also Jewish mysticism sees the Leviathan as an outer darkness encircling the world of mankind, like a serpent biting its own tail, certain Gnostics in particular taking it as the intrinsic evil of the universe of matter. Hobbes refers to his “Leviathan” as “the mortal God, to which we owe under the Immortal God, our peace and defence”. That has me thinking a little bit about the Demiurge in Valentinian Gnosticism, who in comparison to the “true God” might well be the “mortal god”, fighting the Devil and his forces to secure the world under the oversight of Jesus and Sophia, who are agents of the true God, who may as well be the “immortal God”. But whereas in the Gnostic sects there is the “immortal God” of pure spirit and the “mortal God” that is the Demiurge, the position I advance is down with the mortal and immortal God both!
To cut to the point, I use the Demiurge instead “the Leviathan” to refer to what people mean by “the Leviathan”; that is, the totality not only of state power but of state-level relationships and organisation. Church, Capital, Society, “God”, Order, Authority, these taken together are the Demiurge. But whereas for the Christopher Williams’ of the world this Demiurge is yet still fundamentally good, we as Satanists, as Adversaries, join in the war of all against all so as to destroy this Demiurge. And it makes for such a better analogy than “the Leviathan”, since this totality of power is the artificer of the world, which the Demiurge is and which the Leviathan is not.
The Art of Agnosticism In All Things
Let us take note of a quote that appears in The Satanic Wiki, an independent crowd-sourced online community archive of information about Satanism. It seems to originally be from an invocation from The Satanic Temple, but in an act of detournement it is directed against The Satanic Temple as, themselves, another arbitrary authority figure that must not be spared its demise. In any case, here it is below:
Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.
I put emphasis on “Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true.” because this is the point I hone in on. What I mean here is the interpretation of agnositicism in all things as to embrace a fundamental state of unknowing that comprises life at large, as one of the facets of “darkness” and its apophatic nature which lies at the wellspring of everything. This unknowning denotes a fundamental uncertainty of knowledge, a void that the imagined sovereignty of discursive reason fails to penetrate, a void that can only really be navigated experientially. This unknowing demands the undertaking of experience as a path to knowledge, and the abandonment of any illusion of something that can guarantee any absolute sense of truth. However much people like to define Satanism by some commitment to popular rationalism, ontological agnosticism is quite probably more familiar to Satanism. Don’t forget that it was LaVey who exalted doubt above the principle of illumination in itself.
Rose Crowley, a modern practitioner of Satanism (or more specifically her own brand of “Integral Satanism”), has also explained the value of ontological agnosticism especially within the context of magickal ritual praxis. She points out that even the success of a ritual holds on inherent bearing on the concrete reality of the entities involved, and, citing Jean-Paul Sartre, states that even if God were real, whether or not you believed in the experience was up to you. You’re left to your own limited powers of discernment or reasoning to determine if you were experiencing anything real or some form of illusion, and no experience can fix your beliefs for you. Some interesting citations about ontological agnositcism include Aleister Crowley in Liber O, where he wrote that in this book it is spoken of things which “may or may not exist” and that it is immaterial whether they exist or not next to the results of working with them, warning against the attribution of hard objective reality to them, and a Tantric Buddhist master who answered a question on the reality of the deities by saying they were “no more real than you are”. For her, ontological agnosticism means the rejection of the fixidity of all frameworks of thought and action, the limits of which are to be transcended again and again. In this, we can easily insert a good word about Max Stirner and from there project the rammifications of the rejection of all fixed ideas before the Einzige. To be grounded in groundlessness and ride the current of unknowning, as in rather than being weighted down under it, that is the Satanic Agnosticism In All Things that Rose elaborates.
Where I draw the connection to Paganism in this theme is that my inquiry into this has Paganism as its origin. Pre-Christian polytheistic philosophy, or rather more specifically that of polytheistic Rome and Greece, had at base a tendency towards ontological agnosticism or even skepticism in its view of the nature of knowledge. As Cicero recounts in On The Nature of the Gods:
It was entirely with Zenon, so we have been told, I replied, that Arcesilas set on foot his battle, not from obstinacy or desire for victory, as it seems to me at all events, but because of the obscurity of the facts that had led Socrates to a confession of ignorance, as also previously his predecessors Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and almost all the old philosophers, who utterly denied all possibility of cognition or perception or knowledge, and maintained that the senses are limited, the mind feeble, the span of life short, and that truth (in Democritus’s phrase) is sunk in an abyss, opinion and custom are all-prevailing, no place is left for truth, all things successively are wrapped in darkness. Accordingly Arcesilas said that there is nothing that can be known, not even that residuum of knowledge that Socrates had left himself – the truth of this very dictum: so hidden in obscurity did he believe that everything lies, nor is there anything that can be perceived or understood, and for these reasons, he said, no one must make any positive statement or affirmation or give the approval of his assent to any proposition, and a man must always restrain his rashness and hold it back from every slip, as it would be glaring rashness to give assent either to a falsehood or to something not certainly known, and nothing is more disgraceful than for assent and approval to outstrip knowledge and perception.
Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, p.453
The truth of the truth for pre-Christian philosophers is that of a prevailing condition of unknowing, and this unknowing is what Cicero refers to as “darkness”. This fundamental unknowning is, incidentally, a part of how I have discussed Darkness, in terms of the apophatic quality I discussed in terms of negative theology, but as pertains to the nature of knowledge and not just divinity. Pagan unknowing is the condition in which we are compelled to recognize ultimately that nothing can truly be “known”, at least discursively, that truth lay hidden in darkness if we can speak of it, and that this goes even for the proclamation of unknowing itself. In modern Paganism, unknowing and hence agnosticism pervades the very concept of knowledge of the gods, which is divided between Unverified Personal Gnosis, Shared Personal Gnosis, and Verified Personal Gnosis. The division between them is measured by the extent to which knowledge might be shared among others or even “confirmed” extraneously, but even Verified Personal Gnosis cannot be considered in terms of what we usually consider perfectly objective truth, because its source is imperfect, and so ultimately is human knowledge and perception, thus, these things are locked in darkness. Such a worldview is one of the things that set pre-Christian paganism apart from the Christianity that would later be codified after the supposed death of Jesus, in that, even though Christians themselves may hold that it is impossible to really know God, it was Augustine who established that, from the perspective of Christian philosophy, the fundamental unknowing accounted for in polytheistic philosophy is merely an error, one that cannot be prevented (and is further perpetuated) by the suspension of judgement, and therefore cannot secure truth or happiness because of its inability to secure perfection.
Yet we should be compelled to return to what Rose said, the art of riding the unknowing. There are many ways of dealing with the unknowing so familiar to religious consciousness. The most familiar of these, peddled fervently by Christianity, is piety, faith in spite of the unknowability of God and indeed with the express taboo against even trying to gain knowledge of God. The approach I might suggest, however, is to step into the darkness, and shedding boundaries in order to do so. In a similar sense to how Keiji Nishitani said that there was no way out of nihilism but through it, if we are at all times surrounded by unknowing and darkness, and at all times finding it latent within life, the obvious path to truth and liberation is not against but through, not to extricate oneself from it but to take your step into it. We all feel our way through life even in our reasoning, but most of us assume that there is some reliable ground that we call “ultimate truth”. But insofar as that exists, we may say Darkness is that “ultimate truth”…just because what it conveys is, in its paradox, the only ontological certainty. As this entails unknowing, the implications for “ultimate truth” are obvious, albeit, again, paradoxical. Reason is very obviously not self-evident in all things, and there is no essential hierarchy of truth and being. What there is is the sleep of meaning set against the opportunity to radically engage with unknowing, as the experiential means of deriving knowledge, in full awareness of its unknowing. In the latter, if I may invoke the analogy to Esoteric Buddhist hongaku thought, the way I envision is fundamental ignorance realized as enlightenment.
Relevant to nihilism, let’s apply the apophatic quality of the self and the unknowing that attends it in relation to when Ivan Turgenev said, “The heart of another is a dark forest”. The “dark forest” is a metaphor for how it’s really impossible to “understand” the feelings of other people. You won’t have a codified map of the mind of a person, not least because, as a matter of fact, we don’t even have such a thing for the human brain itself or even the nature of human consciousness. There is a void that lies at the innermost beneath our actions, one which cannot and will never be “brought to the light” through reason or any discursive power. Each of us is an Ownness, even if most of us are merely asleep to this fact. The nature of Ownness as a substance and individual characteristic is beyond discursive categorization, irreducible to fixed things and states, unable to identify fully with another. It is a non-thing, it is Nothing, a Creative Nothing, defined on negative terms. You will not be able to master or shed light on the Ownness of another, and you can hardly establish any cataphatic structure to cage your Ownness either. Life possesses an inner darkness at least in its apophatic quality. But, of course, we may venture into the forest. Indeed, perhaps it is better to say that we have to venture into the dark forest. Only by doing so do we acquire the wisdom which calls darkness its home. That is what animates the journey into the underworld. Even from the standpoint of Christian negative theology, the prophet Moses met with God in the darkness surrounding the top of Mount Sinai, which is theologically understood as meaning to go beyond all things in order to encounter God. But however it is understood, this is to venture into what was understood in the Greek mysteries as arrheton. The word arrheton means “ineffable”, which has also been traditionally interpreted to mean that which cannot be spoken of. Arrheton thus denotes divine negativity and unknowing. It may not necessarily mean “forbidden” (the word for that is aporrheton), but it does denote something that cannot be understood discursively, and it must be passed into, which means that one must partake of the mystery in order to understand its life-affirming secret and its inherent sacrality. For the mysteries, this meant the teaching was to be kept secret, and all participants honoured the regime of silence, often on pain of death. But even if such secrecy is not necessary, and perhaps it isn’t, the point is that it cannot be spoken of, meaning you cannot simply reason about it discursively, and so you most pass into it. The heart of another is a dark forest, and so you must pass into the forest. To do this, you must embrace the unknowing of the world.
For the rationalist, especially the rationalist who calls themselves a skeptic, everything is matter of the ability to prove everything to everyone. For their Christian counterpart, everything is a matter of faith, and its confirmation, to whom reason is ultimately but a tool. An alternative to either, I believe, is best summarized in Voltairine de Cleyer’s poem The Toast of Despair; life is a problem without a why, and never a thing to prove.
The Politics of Satanic Paganism
There is sometimes a tendency among both some Satanists and some Pagans to assume that their respective paths are not political, or that they can be totally separated from politics. I’m afraid that this assertion is just not true, and the syncretism that I present does not hold any promise of separation from political ramifications. In fact, up to now I have already related some of the contours of Satanic Paganism to political theory and philosophy, and at that a decidedly radical selection of theory. There is also an ever-present need to guard against the constant creep of fascism, and the bending of the world of alternative spirituality towards reactionary or right-wing ends. This requires a somewhat consistent politicization, which then serves to counter politicization in the other direction; if you do not politicize, the other side will do it for you on their terms, and you don’t want that. Therefore it is imperative that the political commitments or ramifications of Satanic Paganism are established. And bear in mind, this is still in the context of what is essentially an individualistic mode of religious or spiritual thought and praxis, so there is a sense which you can say these ramifications may be interpreted as individual from my standpoint. Yet, they are not isolated from the ways in which it can be applied in more generally, outside of myself.
I suppose it is really best for me to start by asserting what Satanic Paganism is not, or rather what it rejects. I see Satanic Paganism as expressly anti-fascist, anti-statist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-folkist, anti-authoritarian, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-queerphobic, anti-ecocide, and in general opposed to all forms of oppression. I also see Satanic Paganism as opposed to the dominant and mainstream representations of Satanism who have set themselves or have been set up as basically “the establishment” of Satanism, largely because of their authoritarian practice, reactionary tendencies, and overall failure to really challenge anything. I oppose the Church of Satan for its basis in Anton LaVey’s reactionary Social Darwinism, drawn from the Objectivism of Ayn Rand and the white supremacist nightmare of Might Is Right, the totalitarian vision of Pentagonal Revisionism, and the simple fact that the organisation is filled to the brim with outright neo-Nazis and other fascists, and its leadership has openly praised the neo-Nazi James Mason, all while they claim sole historical authority over the concept of Satanism, which they claim to have invented, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. As may have already been established, I oppose The Satanic Temple for the fact that they are nothing but your average atheist dressed in black clothes and pentagrams, with no serious development of Satanism as a religio-philosophical system beyond a series of failed Yes Men style activist campaigns, and on top of that their leadership is in the habit of silencing critics and exploiting their membership just so they can support their right-wing buddies. I also oppose more prolific esoteric groups who peddle fascism in their own way, like the Temple of Set (with whom I also have much more issues with them as well) and Become A Living God.
But having established what I oppose, what do I stand for? The answer is, in one word, freedom. In two words, egoistic liberty. I long for a world in which there is no power that can curtail the free expression, cultivation, and self-boundarying of Ownness in each individual. All authorities, all statehood, all class rule, all borders, all manifestations of normative Society, all of the social structures, as instruments of the Demiurge that has ruled and stood atop this ancient freedom for millennia, will be destroyed. People will simply live their lives “naturally” to themselves, insofar as there will be no force directing them to live against themselves. All the prevailing conditions of the world will be overthrown and dissolved, and thus freedom from these conditions is attained. This sounds like egoistic anarchism. Indeed, I am an egoist, an anarchist, a communist, and a nihilist at once. Right now I dwell in the intersection of these concepts as well as ecological politics. To create the world I seek means two things: to see the relationships of a world of autonomy prefigured in the here and now, and to destroy the totality of the world order in the here and now. In other words, anarchy as life and negation as praxis hold the keys to the kingdom of destruction. From this destruction, the world is set loose into an autonomy of reciprocal relationships between people, and once more between Man and Life.
As I see it, this entails a political outlook that is usually placed at the far corners of “The Left”, and yet even that description is fairly inadequate. In objective terms, “The Left” and “The Right” are constructs that, although generally abstract, derive their existence from their relationship to Capital in the context of their origins in the French Revolution. There’s almost no way to actually derive universal objective content from them, or a universal standard for what makes someone a “leftist”, but between “The Left” and “The Right” it may be possible to assess some vague core for each. “The Left” is simply a collection of ideologies defined only by the fact that all of them believe in some means of the socialization of politics. In bourgeois politics this typically means people who want to socialize the wealth of bourgeois society through the downwards redistribution of wealth, while in the broader context of “Socialism” it pertains to a broad idea of the public ownership of production, by any number of definitions. The most radical expression of the socialization of politics is to be found in the axiom found among many communists and anarchists which proposes that everything is to be owned universally, without the division between the state and the proletariat. Egalitarianism in the context of “leftist” politics means the socialization of the political franchise in that the whole mass may share this franchise, typically still within the context of the logic of democratic statehood. While one of the many ways “leftists” divide each other is on the subject of whether or not another is “really” a “leftist”, the reality is that, so long as their aim represents the socialization of politics, even the most rank social-chauvinist, insofar as they have the same basic goal, is arguably a “leftist”. This does not make them “comrades”, however, and that realization should attune you to the reality that simply being a “leftist” doesn’t actually make you a comrade or an ally of anyone, even of other “leftists”. Suffice it to say there is a reason that “left unity” is either illusory or arguably undesirable, and in this regard the problem is that there are multiple fundamentally opposed means of acheiving the socialization of politics. “The Right”, on the other side, is that collection of ideologies which is defined only by their interest in the concentration of politics.A very obvious expression of this is the fact that pretty much all of “The Right”, including fascists (even “Third Positionists”), support the concentration of private property in some way or another. In fact I’d say that the fundamental logic of right-wing politics was already authored by the act of enclosure, the confiscation of the commons by the state and its subsequent re-investment into the hands of the property-owning class. Even “anarcho”-capitalists perpetuate this logic to the point that their “statelessness” is nothing more than the concentration of private property at the expense of the very source of its existence. The right-wing obsession with hierarchy as an existential fact and moral necessity further illustrates the concentration of politics as the concentration of political power through the principle of social stratification. Expressions of social conservatism on “The Left” serve merely to socialize the idealised top of the hierarchy of values to be absorbed in every obedient member of the masses. Every Social Darwinist argument made by rightists of both the statist and “libertarian” camps is a way of promoting the hierarchical concentration of politics by naturalizing the existing conditions and constitution of social stratification.
Where does this place me, then? To me, the intersection of communism, anarchism, nihilism, and egoism points to an outcome wherein we see the unfolding of life ungoverned by the structures that emerge from statehood, hierarchy, and capital to restrict the horizons of existence and expressivity. I have come to reject the notion of any hard boundaries or borders between the ideological concepts that I stand behind. Communism is the real movement dedicated to the overthrow and abolition of the totality of the existing conditions. Taken seriously, this means we do not stop even at capital, and so statehood and hierarchy, even “Society”, as key constitutents in this totality, are also to be dismantled. Insofar as communism already means the establishment of classless, moneyless, and stateless conditions, it doesn’t take much effort to see that we approach the conclusion of anarchism. In fact, Pyotr Kropotkin had already understood this. But the abolition of the totality of existing conditions is inherently negativistic, and when deepened sufficiently, active political nihilism makes perfect sense of this goal, in that the whole point is to negate the totality of conditions in order that the new world is born out of the void; thus our aim is what I call the world after the world. I like to think it almost as that beautiful new world that emerges right after the conclusion of Ragnarok. Communism is also egoism, as Karl Marx himself declared in his meager attempt to refute Max Stirner in Critique of the German Ideology. Communist theory, if it is consistent, understands that there is no such thing as “the general interest” or even “the greater good” except for some idea created by the ruling class or society of a given era, and the total appropriation of Man by Man takes on the form of devourment in that alienation is to be overcome by the devourment of all property and production, ridding it of its concentration in privation and labour, in order to make it yours, and thus everyone’s. Remember from Bakunin that my freedom and your freedom are really the same freedom, and cannot be one-sided without it meaning privilege, and so through Stirner my egoism and your egoism is really the same egoism. On this basis the real condition of egoistic freedom is paradoxically a collective individualism, even if individuality rather than the collective is its ultimate source. Society, in this sense, is ultimately an abstraction, a fixed idea, a spook, it has no objectivity and is instead a byword for the various social and productive relationships we enter into in settlement and regulate through norms. The concept of “Society” is thus, in material terms, something we put ourselves but which obscures the real relationships and conditions that comprise it. On egoist and nihilist terms, this might well demand the abolition of “Society” as the fulfillment of the communist demand for the abolition of the totality of existing conditions. Alfredo Bonnano, a fairly notorious insurrectionary anarchist whose work currently informs the nihilist movement, in Armed Joy not only doesn’t oppose his anarchism to communism but instead refers to communism as a need that transforms all other needs, and whose fulfillment abolishes labour and replaces it with the condition of the individual’s complete availablity to themselves and expressivity of themselves, to the extent of breaking from all models, even production itself. And of course, if by communism all we mean is a free association of people who, without the rule of the state or hierarchy or capital, interact with one another to fully develop themselves in any way they want, we might find the Union of Egoists as the highest expression of this idea which fulfills it and brings it back to its dialectical source in the individualistic aspirations of Ownness. From there, it is easy to see the way communism, egoism, nihilism, and anarchism all come together for me. It is also for this reason that I must refuse the label of “socialist” for myself, because in practice, as an idea not confined to Marxist thought, it can mean any number of definitions for “public ownership of the means of production”, including some fairly meager and even almost reactionary forms of statist reform. Besides, it seems like these days anyone can call themselves a socialist.
Since religion is political, and modern politics arguably “religious”, this places Satanic Paganism at the depths of the camp of liberation, its negativity stretching out even to the abolition of politics by politics. That at least is my goal. Unlike many anarchists, or many communists for that matter, I think that there is an extent to which it is possible to prefigure the logic of Anarchy via religious thought in a way that secular thought does not always accomplish. I have seen Anarchy described as a “centerless constellation of relationships” built upon “affinity, trust, and reciprocal knowledge”. A constellation of reciprocal relationships is, at base, the ramifications of the pre-Christian polytheistic cosmos. Even the centerlessness of this constellation is applicable to such a context, as I have shown when discussing the theology of rebellion at length in this article. There’s no fixed hierarchy of power, no fixed centre, no centre that isn’t ultimately altered by change of hand, and reciprocity is the defining feature of the relationships people cultivate with the divine and the world in which the divine manifests. Granted, this didn’t necessarily translate to orchards of Anarchy across time until the emergence of Christianity; if that were the case, there should have been no states and no imperialism based on statehood. What it does mean, though, is that some of the most basic logic of pre-Christian religiosity is pregnant with the potential to prefigure the logic of Anarchy. Indeed, we might well consider how pre-Christian societies in Scandinavia were defined by barely governable decentralised societies up until the later periods where more “classical” central monarchies emerged and eventually led northern Europe into the Christian era.
But even if we can’t accept that all pre-Christian societies were very free, consider the efforts of militant atheism or anti-theism. The simple fact is that state socialist countries, typically formed along the lines of some form of Marxism-Leninism, had a penchant for “freeing people from reactionary religion” by oppressing religious communities, denying freedom of religious association, heavily regulating worship, and conquering lands that were deemed “backward”. To this day, capitalist China (which incidentally is statistically the most atheistic country in the world) still imposes harsh restrictions on religious worship, often persecuting churches and temples for not glorifying party leadership enough, and is currently carrying out a systematic genocide of the Uyghur Muslims. Even in the context of anarchism, there is the often downplayed case of Spanish anarchists who partook of massacres against Christians. The hero of modern secular Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, participated in a genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire against Greeks on the basis of religion and ethnicity. During the French Revolution, pre-existing religion was rejected only to be replaced by a new theistic civic cult dedicated to the “Supreme Being” (God by another name, perhaps less offensive to rationalist sensibilities), and de-Christianizers who were seen as not aligned with Robespierre’s cult were executed. In the Enlightenment, people like Bruno Bauer espoused the idea that people should be required to renounce their religious identity in order to become “free citizens”; today, that basic program is being carried out in China in its efforts to “Sinicize” religious and ethnic minorities. The simple lack of belief in God, or the simply commitment to Reason, has long been assumed to be the foundation of relationships of freedom, but in many ways this seems not necessarily to have been the case. Rather, I think of it the way I think of the ecological crisis. It is ultimately foolish to think that we can simply change the hands of the system, only address its economic conditions, and expect to resolve much. No, we must develop reciprocal relationships with the world, not unlike what may have once existed before; for me, this is part of why the Pagan worldview is so important. Similarly, I am inclined towards the idea that those who can develop a spiritual, religio-magickal praxis of liberatory negativity have the power to prefigure their own freedom, and light the way in their example.
I would say that the embrace of Negativity in a Satanic context is a core plank of the political aspect of Satanic Paganism as much as – no, more like because of– its wider philosophical basis. This is because Negativity in terms of active politics brings to focus the idea that all the existing structures, which carry forth the logic of status quo and assure its reproduction even in any new world, should be dismantled. This, of course, is the total opposite of even democratic socialist thought and a great deal of “dialectics” whose whole point is to preserve the political order, “the shell of the old world”, so that it can condition their grand new world. But the active nihilism or negativism of certain anarchist tendencies is actually perhaps the illuminating perspective on that theme that has stayed with me throughout my life. Death and rebirth, intertwined with one another, darkness the source of light. From the standpoint of active nihilism, death means the negation of the world order, of the compound interlocking structures that comprise state society (and which I call Demiurge), and this negation, thus this death, is the black soil from which the life of a new world may be born – indeed, it is the only place from which it really can emerge. Thus, I link my negativity and active nihilism to a fundamentally Pagan worldview (in which, of course, death is often a beginning more than the end) alongside the negativity of Satanism. But the other aspect of negativity in the political dimension pertains to the lens through which we see the death drive in society as it opens up a window to its contradictions, presenting the shadow of its order as manifest in its inherent structural anxiety.
In baedan, we see an expression of queer negativity that opens the way to a deeper appreciation of both the figure of Satan and the concept of the Satanic as a whole. Basically, baedan argues that, when society positions queerness as a threat to civilization, queer negativity embraces the role of queerness as a destroyer of the norms of civilized society and the undoing of society and the state. This negativity denies the positive counter-narrative offered by liberalism and cousins, which positions queerness as just another part of society, to be represented within the structures and hierarchies of society that representation ultimately legitimates. I find that it is possible to take from baedan that the negativity affixed to queerness is also a window into the contradictions of the social order itself, an insignia of civilization’s own “damnation”, a negative demonstration of the values of a society through its denunciation of what society hates. With this critical methodology in mind, let us heed the whispers of the Devil and delve into the anti-Satanic imaginary common to “Western Civilization”.
The Satanic Panic that swept United States and other parts of the “West” during the 1980s and 1990s, and continues to echoe into the present focused heavily on heavy metal and its more extreme forms, then as now a simultaneously “mainstream” and underground art form. As unfounded accusations of ritualistic child abuse collided with a rapidly growing musical subculture that allowed young men and women to transgress social norms, metal music came to occupy a negative space in the dominant culture similar to that occupied by the co-existing punk scene. Metalheads were unfairly treated because their expressivity stood at odds with traditional notions of masculinity, and vilified by a media and society that accused them of violent devil worship (and occasionally still does). Metalheads were not the only social and cultural deviants to hit with such tropes. For years, fear of homosexuality, bisexuality, transness or queerness was bound up with fear of the Devil and of Satanism, and sometimes this itself was linked to white racism. As an example, in 1994, four Latina lesbians in the US state of Texas were accused of “satanic rituals” and child abuse and incarcerated despite no forensic of any crime. It wasn’t until 2016, following documentary exposure, that the four women were exonerated, and even then only two years later were their criminal records expunged. To this day, you will find examples all over the world of LGBTQ people being accused of corrupting society through Satanism. In the US, right-wing moral panic around Lil Nas X is a rather recent example which is also directly connected to homophobia and transphobia, while the recently more prevalent moral panic around “groomers” is an only marginally more subtle new spin on the trope. In some parts of the world Satanic Panic is given an “anti-imperialist” or “anti-colonialist” twist. In Russia, for example, Pussy Riot was accused of spreading Satanism with the backing of the United States, and during the Ukraine-Russia War similar accusations have been repeated against Ukrainian forces. The very trope of devil worshipping sects as a threat to society, although time and again shown to be an illusion, is time and again reasserted because the order of society is always sustained by some sort of scapegoat. When we take a close look at this dynamic we may answer our central question: what does the Azazel say to us?
The SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) trope is ultimately a modern echo of tropes that ultimately connect back to blood libel, an anti-semitic conspiracy theory which accuses Jewish people of abducting non-Jewish children, murdering them in acts of human sacrifice, and using their blood to cook matzos for Passover. The fact that such acts are considered abominations according to Jewish law seems to never bother the bigots who make such absurd allegations or use them to justify vicious persecutions of Jewish people. But in the context of the medieval Christian society in which blood libel accusations became popular, the operative point was that to be Jewish was, in the eyes of medieval society, a threat to the hegemony of Christianity. Many Jewish people faced attempts by Christians to convert them, often forcibly, and because Christian faith was linked to political loyalty to the kingdom, deportations and genocides (including the Inquisition) were carried out under the justification of insufficient loyalty to the state. This itself is older than it seems. In ancient Rome, Jewish people were accused of corrupting the Roman religion by worshipping a god named Jupiter Sabazios, who the Roman establishment seemed to distrust as a foreign deity linked to perceived enemies of the state, and were expelled from Rome. In Rome we also see the idea of the Bacchanalia as a dangerous conspiracy against the state, in which participants from all social classes inverted social norms and supposedly plotted the murder of Roman officials. Livy’s claims about the Bacchanalia are very likely mostly fantastical, but his assertion that the Bacchanalia attracted women, plebeians, and “men most like women” gives voice to the real anxiety of Roman conservatism: a popular festive cult drew marginalized and dominated people into its fold, women were at least apparently the exclusive priests of this cult, and the popularity of this festivity was a threat to the authority exercised by Roman societal norms.
The negative space in all of this is alterity, alterity that is expressed in the expression of religious identity in a way that did not conform to the order of society. And there is somewhat more to it. You may notice that modern Satanic Panic conspiracy theories also incorporate organisations such as the “Illuminati”, and some others also add the Freemasons, as part of the angle that secret societies control the world and are responsible for everything bad. The Illuminati, as discussed in these conspiracy theories, does not exist. There was a Bavarian organisation founded by Adam Weishaupt which was called the Illuminati, and it was dedicated to promoting secularism with the aim of producing a society free from superstition and “free” from religion, but it was disbanded within only a few years. In the context of the French Revolution, the old Illuminati, despite having been disbanded, was believed by reactionaries to have somehow survived persecution and fomented the revolution in order to destroy the church. Secrecy here suggests danger and immorality, by which of course is meant the destruction of the dominant order of society, and this idea was not invented in the context of the French Revolution. The same conceit animates Roman mistrust of the Bacchanalia, because the Bacchanalia, although fairly popular, was practiced in secrecy. The mysteries themselves were sometimes distrusted for the same reason. In many ways it comes back to the fact that it breaks from the norms of things, and is not so well understood. In this sense, witchcraft is dragged into the conspiratorial imagination. In the pre-Christian world, mistrust of witchcraft was arguably little more than a matter of dismissal by a society that regarded them as either superstitious or unmanly. But in the medieval Christian era, folk magicians, ironically mostly Christian themselves, who practiced arts of healing and the like in a way that the church or the elites (who, themselves, were interested in magick at the time), and were burned en masse for it, and once the call to hunt witches was sounded, anyone and everyone could be burned as a witch. Such thinking seems to have periodically re-emerged in new and sometimes more sophisticated forms since the Middle Ages and now animates modern conservatism and fascism in its vicious moral panics against marginalized people.
Something brings these worlds in common. In India, moral panic against black magick takes a similar form as the others, where the entire practice of Tantra was deemed black magick, and the term Vamachara, or “Left Hand Path”, served as a convienient label for both British colonialists and Indian religious “reformers” to scapegoat religous heterodoxy for the various social ills and the colonization of India itself, while in Britain it became a way for chauvinistic occultists (such as Dion Fortune) and reactionary writers (such as Dennis Wheatley) to demonize those thought of as anti-colonialist elements as well as homosexuals and other “deviants”. Society, throughout its historical phases, defines an extant and “hostile” other in relationship to itself, based on the fact that the other seems alien to itself, and, because the other seems to behave differently its norms, and seems to show the possibility of life outside itself, it either tries to integrate this other into itself, thus taming it, or seeks to repress and destroy it. From our standpoint, if “mercy” and “judgement”, integration and repression, are two hands of the same God, down with God and both his mercy and his judgement. The “other” does not exist to be either repressed or integrated, but instead it is an Ownness that exists for itself, as all Ownness does, and it is the social order we put over ourselves that ensures that we do not understand this. But the negative space that we deal in, again, speaks to the fears of the social order, reveals its shadow, and with it the space of freedom pushed forth by the unravelling of society. For this reason, I position Satanic Paganism in its political content as something allied to the cause of the marginalized, and in this regard queerness is to be seen as a key to the world of negation in which the true Satanist derives the power of liberation.
On Pagan terms, what we moderns refer to as queerness is an expression of the whole range of essencing inherent in divinity. The myths of the transformations of various gods and heroes into their gendered opposites or into different species of animals communicates this matrix of essencing on social and individual terms that comprises the Pagan cosmos. It also tells us thats the whole of society, the whole sum of hierarchical relations that has hitherto comprised it, is not to be trusted and in fact should be uncompromisingly opposed and dismantled. No matter who holds the guard in the prevailing social order, much of the world is varying shades of bad for trans people. Even in more consistently liberal countries, trans people still face restrictions in access to healthcare practically on the basis of being trans, the practice of conversion therapy (which is basically just a way of torturing LGBTQ people) is often still legal, and in some countries your gender identity isn’t recognized without compulsory sterilization. Supposed allies on the progressive side will invent ways of justifying forms of transphobia, which means that, for trans people, it could be argued that nearly the whole political climate of the status quo is societally and structurally against them. Liberation, then, means tearing it all down. This is why Grow Your Future says that, because being queer puts you in opposition to the colonial power of the state, queer liberation means death for state power. As baedan says, queer liberation means refusing to negotiate with the society that regularly both oppresses them and rationalizes their oppression. Therefore society should not, as many leftists including social anarchists (from Pierre Joseph Proudhon to Daniel Baryon), be taken for granted as a value in itself, to be reformed and reproduced, and instead it must be suspended in a process of gruesome critique, of Benjamin’s profane illumination, and ultimately negated. By this count, to be an ally is at the very least to be in solidarity with this effort.
We often wonder about the nature of a world without capitalism, a world without the state, a world without hierarchy, a world in which the prevailing social conditions have been overthrown as communism was meant to accomplish. We often ask for precise plans for how the new world will be organized, typically perfect in nature and whose projected conditions possess complete accuracy. But such plans are actually impossible to give, and I think that some of the people who make such inquiries know this, knowing further that, within the shell of the world as it is, people can only be persuaded to break from such a world if they possess total certainty that order will remain or be improved. In truth, simply consider the matter of communism, or more precisely the fact that even some of modern history’s most strident anti-communists have understood that there is actually no “clear notion” of how communism will be organized, because as one society moves to its next stage of development there is no way of actually knowing what that stage will entail until we actually arrive at it. The short of it is that there is no clear and precise model of how the future will work, and that’s fine; because, as Marx himself said, communism is not a state of affairs or an ideal to adjust to. Even the idea of the higher phase of communism, as set out in Critique of the Gotha Programme, communism is more defined by a general set of conditions that, at least according to Karl Marx, comprised a communist society, not so much an actual organization or plan for how to manifest them. At the intersection of communism, anarchism, nihilism, and egoism, this becomes one more communist insight that is deepened into something more. It is strictly impossible to predict what the world of autonomy will look like with any precision, there’s no way to actually be “scientific” about this in the way that perhaps Engels or Lenin or their heirs would have you believe, and the only way to answer our questions about the practical and moral implications of this world is to not only participate in the cultivation of the relationships of the new world in the here and now but to negate and dismantle everything that comprises the structure of the current order, and thereby confront ourselves with the reality of the new mode of life.
In this sense what we understand as “anti-communism”, in the typical reactionary context, is not properly understood as mere opposition to the falsely-labelled “communist states” of the 20th century, but instead the highest form and most brutal expression of the fear of bourgeois society directed towards the abolition of its own conditions, and regardless of the actual reality of this abolition. You may already have noticed that “anti-communism” in the usual formal sense is not some “apolitical” or ideologically “neutral” force, merely entailing opposition to totalitarianism. It’s opposes communism and anarchism in equal measure because it fears the void of the abolition of existing conditions, it fears the chaos of the new world and the liberation it brings, and the fact that the falsely-labelled communist states were typically dictatorships serves as a convenient excuse to wrap up this fear as a defence of freedom. But it is all projection, because when it comes to authoritarianism, dictatorship, and totalitarian violence, the anti-communists are in no way better than their “communist” counterparts, and in certain cases they’re often much worse. In fact, don’t ever forget that one of National Socialism’s driving impetus’ was precisely a war against communism, and it is communists alongside Jews that are usually counted as the two great bogeymen of Nazism, and so it is for much of the rest of fascism. Much more importantly, though, the “freedom” defended by anti-communism is most obviously not freedom, and “freedom” as they present it is in reality a naturalization of the hierarchies that they deem to be the authentic nature of human being. In other words, what anti-communism preserves is not freedom but “order”, albeit in an abstract existential sense as relative to bourgeois society. Fascism in this setting is an outgrowth of the totality of the structures of imperial and colonial statehood together with the logic of capitalism and the various bigotries that grown with all of that, taking shape as violent, terroristic reaction against any perceived threat to the fundamental order of things. On this basis of fundamental order, growing out from the structures of the totality of conditions which produce oppression and marginalization, fascism embarks upon its ceaseless campaign of oppression and extermination, to subordinate all conditions and wipe out all resistance. This is the reason why the threat of fascism can’t just be contained in politics as usual.
But at this point, we may continue on the final operative point as it relates to anarchism. Plenty of anarchists respond to society’s cry that anarchism is “chaos” by asserting that anarchism is in fact “order”, sometimes with the attendant assertion that it is actually the state that represents “chaos” – a true inversion of the term if there ever was one. I know that the whole “order versus chaos” discourse is often considered cumbersome and even meaningless, but I argue that this changes somewhat when we look less to the fixed categories of “order” and “chaos” in themselves, the way that Jordan Peterson and his ilk often do, and instead focuses on what these concepts really communicate to us. In other words, what do “order” and “chaos” say? What are you afraid of when you say that anarchy is the collapse of “order”? By “order” do you mean statehood, the thing that like all of political organization is upheld by violence? Then even though freedom may indeed be as terrifying as philosophers say, “order” is surely worse. Those who benefit from the protection racket offered by the state have no idea what its order bases its existence on, while those who bear the brunt of state violence, especially abroad, feel the brutality of state power and its fundamental basis bearing down on all who oppose it and all who the state wishes to destroy. The “order” of all statehood is built on an atrocious chain of sacrifice, and the whole history of civilization effortlessly reveals this to be the case. On the other hand, if by “order” we mean what the Greeks meant by “kosmos”, then it should be said that “kosmos”, from its root words “kome” or “komeo”, suggest nothing but the continuous embellishment engendered by the growth of life, and of course, even if embellish we must, then each embellishment is replaceable. Or perhaps we might well do without.
But what to make of the proposal that anarchy itself is order? For one thing, this would entail that statehood is “chaos”, and such an idea flies squarely in the face of the fact that statehood and hierarchy are conditions of administration, management, and instrumentality embodied and enacted through nested ranks of authority. There is nothing chaotic about it. The violence that supports it, along with the fluctuations of the market under capitalism, must all seem like a frenzy of disorder, and I’m sure that’s how many Marxist theoreticians have made it out to be when they mistakenly speak of the “anarchy of production” (how foolish it was for Engels to assume that private property lacked hierarchy!). But in reality, these are conditions set by the administration of the totality of conditions. That said, if anarchy is “order”, what does that mean? What makes “social self-rule” “order”? Is it simply out of some utopian idea that every function of state administration, of the current order of things, can simply be mimicked by the masses without the state, or even just without it being called the state? Or is it like the way Daniel Baryon talks about anarchy as some kind of “immune response of the species against all hierarchical parasites”, thus assuming that society not only has objective existence but essentially functions as an organism and that hierarchy is merely some external “parasite”, as though this is not simply a repackaging of fascist thought? All of these strange concepts seem to spring forward from some need to assure the world, under the watchful eye of state and capital, that “chaos” will not befall the world if we finally destroy the source of its oppression. But if that’s the case, what really is “chaos”? Nothing but the void of statelessness, nothing but the absence of some greater structure or chain of structures being put over us, nothing but the ashes into which we form ungoverned relationships, nothing but wildness and desert, and it absolutely terrifies us only because we have absolutely no idea of what that looks like. But that’s just what freedom is, it’s just how it is when you have no control over how everyone will act, no instrumentality over them.
And so the politics I espouse, and which I attach to Satanic Paganism as I see it, is one that carries the art of profane illumination to its highest heights, cutting through anything that seeks to obscure the goal of achieving the condition of liberation and ecstatic self-rule in the free, stateless, classless, moneyless, and, yes, (arguably) structureless association of all individuals in their own egoistic development, by the negation of the state, capital, hierarchy, and totality of the existing social conditions. In this, the example is none other than Satan, and in the descent into the arrheton of negativity that, in addition to the already established religious significance, takes on the profoundest political significance. As far as I am concerned, nothing else really suffices. But, you’re free to disagree.
So, after all of this, we can at least establish a summary of Satanic Paganism, reiterating much of what I have said. It is individualistic not only in its ideological content, but also in that it is a distinctly personal approach, one that I don’t think is (at least entirely) mirrored in anyone else. It upholds Negativity at the center of its spiritual philosophy, through which it understands the many contours of Darkness. Darkness here is the key to highest and most noble mystery of the Pagan worldview, and the liberatory power of Satan and the adversarial quality of Satanism. It is an anti-teleoglical philosophy, it is a worldview that grounds rebellion in a restless ground of being and the ceaseless growth of life, and grounds apotheosis in not only the enactment of will in the world but also the determination to step into darkness in the sense of the ineffable. My creed is a negative creed, all things considered. But that is the essence of what gives it its meaning and power, and, frankly, deepening the understanding of that negativity is responsible for my renewed sense of place, as though I am what I was meant to be or on the cusp of such.
The last thing I would like to do in communicating Satanic Paganism is present an alternative narrative of the “fall” of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. This narrative, I feel, is most central to the weaving of the Pagan worldview with Satanism and the legacy of the Left Hand Path, and I saved it until the very end of this article for exactly this reason. Traditionally, at least as far as the Old Testament is concerned, the serpent is not Satan, though the New Testament redefines the serpent as Satan by referring to Satan as the “ancient serpent” or “old serpent”. As far as Satanism is concerned, though, perhaps the serpent may as well be the Devil, at least in that this is the identity it takes on in the Satanic context. Anyway, we all know how the story goes. Eve encounters the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and the seprent tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit; Eve tells the serpent that God said that whoever eats the fruit will die, the serpent tells Eve that she will not die and instead become a god, and then Eve and later Adam eat the fruit. Adam and Eve did not die, at least not from eating the fruit, though they did end up getting cast out into the world of death and toil, but the serpent was right in the end: they did join with the gods. In Genesis 3:22, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit and their punishments were decreed, God said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”. “One of us” is the operative part. Certain biblical commentaries make explicit that it’s not referring to the angels, but instead suggest a reference to the “Divine Persons”. To me, it is obvious that “one of us” means the gods. It’s later in the Bible that God establishes in the form of explicit commandment that the Israelites should worship no god except God (Exodus 20:3), and in Psalm 82 we see God presiding over a whole council of gods and judging them, and these gods are accused of ruling unjustly and allowing wickedness to spread. My narrative, then, is thus: the serpent was calling on Adam and Eve to defy the orders of God in order that they, and the whole of humanity, can begin the road to apotheosis, and begin joining the community of gods, knowing god from evil and living forever in divinity. God, of course, does not like this at all, clearly he finds Adam and Eve joining the community of gods to be some sort of threat to his authority. Since he likes to keep his authority over creation, he punishes Adam and Eve, and since the gods always seem to challenge Yahweh’s authority, he punishes and proscribes them too.
The serpent itself is a symbol that encapsulates so much of what I’ve talked about. A creature that sheds its skin and, in so doing, appears to have died and been reborn, the serpent is a sort of archetypal symbol of death and rebirth. Indeed, Jake Stratton-Kent recognizes the deifying power of the underworld as taking the form of a serpent. Greek heroes were worshipped in the form of serpents, as were some gods. In Mesopotamia, serpent symbolism connects to the fertility beneath the earth in the form of the god Ningishzida, who is often depicted as serpents. In Japan it was sometimes believed that the gods, or kami, took the form of serpents, while certain forms of Buddhism regarded serpents as the “true forms” of the gods. Taking on board this rich symbolism, the serpent of Eden emerges as representative of the call of the mystery of apotheosis, the whispers of the power of Darkness, of the underworld, compelling mankind to take the plunge to take up the community of divinity by defying authority, undertaking the mystery, and partaking the war of all against all (rebellion). And so the serpent Satan calls the human species to rebel so that the human species may become divine, or perhaps realize its divinity. And having eaten the fruit, there can be no going back; or at least, not for those seeking freedom. There are many spiritual worldviews who hark back to the garden, back to the ideal state preceding the so-called “Fall”. But this to me is a retreat. It arcs towards an easy answer for the human condition that inevitable evokes some notion of prelapsarian, homeostatic order and harmony. Satanic Paganism does not support such a position, knowing that in embarking the road to apotheosis we have already abandoned Eden. And let me assure you, Eden is not a synonym for Wildness. On the contrary, as a garden Eden is an enclosed space, with boundaries separating Adam and Eve from the wild lands in which death and toil were to be found. Amidst the chaos and wildness of the world, Eden is order itself, it is a haven of stability whose comforts are enjoyed so long as God’s absolute authority is agreed to and you obey God’s commands. Naturally, the order of Eden is something to be rejected, to be walked away from, or indeed to defy and willingly accept being banished from on behalf of your own freedom. In this sense, by eating the fruit and condemning themselves in the eyes of God in order to become gods, Adam and Eve, whether they knew it or not, sacrificed themselves to themselves, bringing forth death and apotheosis. And so, like them, like Odin sacrificing himself to himself for knowledge, like the death-and-rebirth of the Mysteries, like Satan willingly embracing the Fall on behalf of his own freedom, our ethos is thus: the only self-sacrifice we partake is that we sacrifice ourselves to ourselves.
Our praxis is a daemonic praxis. The shadow of religion is the source of our power, the alterity of it all our light, and as far as we are concerned the true ground of the value of religious life and experience. Be wild, be free, be negative, be unchained, be yourself and the void of yourself. Enjoy partaking in religious thought and life, question the strictitude and normativity of religion, take in the good of the sacred into yourself by imbibing, question and defy religion as long as it stands in the way of Ownness and life, dance in the interstices and the shadows, bearing the fire of the void on the road to apotheosis – the road to the world of the gods…to the wonderful ecstasy of deathless liberty!
Hail Satan, Hail Darkness, Hail the gods of old, Hail to wildness and nature, Hail the mystery of death and rebirth and the kingdom of shadows….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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