The last few months have had me dwelling heavily on my life as of ten years ago. In the summer of 2012 I had just graduated from high school, and a few months later I had begun life as an eccentric and semi-lonesome art student. By that time, by Society’s terms, I had just become a young adult. And though I was very un-social and ended up missing out, I was rather expressive, and I saw my time in college as a grand opportunity to set my mind and imagination free, even if you could say I wasn’t a very good artist back then. I took on a lot of unique ideas back, and I’d say some discussions and influences have survived in my psyche to this day.
Ten years later, I have felt a noticeable urge to revisit that aspect of my life, and the potential that I feel could have been unleashed had I, perhaps, done things differently in my life instead of going through a game design course and never getting a career out of it. At the same time, seeking to deepen any sense of concrete religio-magickal praxis has me naturally thinking about just how such creative aspirations might intertwine with practice, inspired mainly by discussions in modern Paganism. And so to this end I got inspired to write some notes and cobble some ideas together in order to assemble an artistic philosophy that would animate my work in much the same way that my two articles on my concept of Satanic Paganism seem to animated the way think about religion and life philosophy going forward. In much the same way as the two articles about Satanic Paganism were all about establishing philosophical footing towards a practical end, this article continues exactly that goal in application to a practical interest that I desire to deepen.
Art As Occult Pagan Praxis
Back in December of last year, Aliakai hosted an interview with Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, a Kemetic polythetist iconographer and the author of the book Sacred Verses: Entering the Labyrinth of the Gods, to discusss art as a means of conversing with the divine. The basic idea being presented is that art itself, regardless of your level of skill or even your own confidence in that skill, is by its nature a conversation with or about the divine. Thus we see art brought into focus as a part of Pagan praxis. Aliakai pointed out that, from the Hellenic perspective, the divine works in all aspects of artmaking and including the written word; the Mousai (or Muses) presided over the written word (which was itself considered art), Athena over weaving, Hephaistos (Hephaestus) over pottery and metallurgy, Hermes over messages and speech, Dionysos (Dionysus) over all kinds of performance, to name a few. The point being made is that art itself, and the flow state attendant to it, may constitute conversation with the divine. This also connects to a broader idea that Ptahmassu laid out in which mundane activities, insofar as they can be invested with meaning or creative purpose, can be dedicated to the gods, even as offerings to the gods; such a model, Ptahmassu, notes, is present across the various polythetistic traditions. In this perspective, activities such as cooking can be thought of as a way of honouring gods such as Hestia.
The idea is that basically (potentially) any activity can be dedicated to the gods and received as an offering. This observation is sort of expanded on in Aliakai’s more recent video, “What to Offer To the Gods in Hellenism”. Here, it is noted that songs written by bards and poems written by poets could be counted as offerings alongside animal offerings (which were actually fairly uncommon in practice), fruits and vegetables, incense, and votives. Relevant to the discussion I give here is the section about devotional offerings. The concept of a devotional offering includes what is called a devotional activity, which is simply an intentionally performed activity within the domain of interest of a god that is then focused and concentrated towards that god. Examples of this could include plays performed to Dionysus at the Dionysia festivals, or the concept of rhapsoidos (from which we get the word “rhapsody”) as a poetic offering. Feats of strength or artistic creativty, not to mention poetry itself, were often believed to be recognised by the gods as offerings to them insofar as they were devoted to the gods. What counts is that the act is consciously considered as actively devoted to the gods.
For the purpose of what I’m writing here, I have pursued a line of inquiry involving the connection between art, devotional offerings, and magick. Finding leads in that direction was difficult, but I have found aspects of chaos magick that may prove sufficient. In the eighth chapter Condensed Chaos, Phil Hine discusses the conception of Invocation, or Pathworking, as a way to identify oneself with a god-image in order to amplify a desired attribute or multiple thereof. Hine uses an example of a woman who identified herself with an image of the Hindu goddess Kali and, by way of Pathworking, seemed to take on some her powerful attributes. Another example is in a Pathworking invocation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, a Thelemic avatar of the Egyptian god Horus, through which one may apparently gain magickal prowess. Something about this conception of Invocation feels very much in harmony with the magickal practice of divine identification found within the Greek Magickal Papyri, and I’m tempted to think of it as a modernized take on it, less steeped in older forms of ceremonial magick. It is also possible for me to interpret Invocation in artistic terms.
Phil Hine talks about the connection between Invocation and acting or drama. It’s actually likened to a performance, directed at the entity being invoked, and a good performance would be met with reward while failure would not. Voice, gesture, form, and other attributes form part of what Hine calls the “theatre” of magic. This connection is then expanded in the subject of mask work. Much like ancient Greek theatre, Hine’s concept of Invocation/Pathworking also involves the use of masks, which, although commonly understood by modern societies as simply aesthetic objects, were understood by older cultures as powerful magickal implements, even weapons. The mask is here understood as a channel through which a spirit or divinity enters the individual personality, takes possession of it, and thereby enact a transformation of personality. Face-painting, props, instruments, pose, all kinds of elements of performance are drawn together in the Invocation, because in that concept of Invocation you are indeed meant to put on a good show for the gods, or at least one of them in particular.
So how do we track Phil Hine’s overall principle of Invocation to the concept of devotional offerings in Hellenism, and thereby Pagan praxis in a wider sense? The short answer is that the Invocation entails making an Art of yourself and that this is the offering. The long answer is context, which we will explore forthwith.
One important aspect of this context is not merely theatre itself but the origins thereof. Ancient or “classical” Greek theatre originated from religious ritual, particularly as devoted to the god Dionysus. As early as the 6th century BCE, worshippers of Dionysus would publicly perform wild and ecstatic cultic songs called dithyrambs in his honour, not to mention their very namesake referencing the god’s death and rebirth, and from this period it is acknowledged that the dramatic arts gradually developed. During such festivals as the Dionysia and the Lenaia, actors would perform on the stage at the Theatre of Dionysus, attended by thousands of spectators, enacting the myths and tragedies with divine import. Other similar Hellenic cultural artefacts include the paean, a much more sober and triumphant set of songs dedicated to the god Apollo, as well as the Delphic Hymns also dedicated to Apollo. Theatre in ancient Greece had all the trappings that Phil Hine described as part of mask work: masks, costumes, instruments, vocal performances, and more. It would make sense to contextualize this in terms of devotional offerings in the sense that poetry competitions were, in that these poetry competitions were indeed dedicated as offerings to gods, and the theatres themselves derived origin from similar ritual performances.
The way Phil Hine talks about performance in Invocation in some ways brings to mind the idea that, as Aliakai noted in her video, the gods enjoyed watching humans as their own form of entertainment – an idea that apparently stretches all the way back to Homer’s Iliad, with its emphasis on the divine audience. Indeed, it has been observed by critics that, throughout the Iliad, the gods appear to observe the world of mortals as though watching a show from Mount Olympus, albeit a very special show where they get to intervene in the affairs of a cast whose fate they sometimes invest themselves in. They feast and laugh while seeing us performing our roles in the world, and Zeus alternates between amusing himself at the antics of the mortals and beholding in anguish as his sons die in the same world as the others. It’s almost tragic when you put it that way, but then that would make sense for Homer, wouldn’t it?
To extend this to a logic appropriate for Satanic Paganism, though, means to place us as more than actors that the gods occasionally invest themselves in. Our “performance” is in this setting a conscious, active, magickal act, aimed at reaching out to that realm in such a way that we might actually approach it, and take on divinity into ourselves. This is thus the sense in which the gods may be understood as potential partners or even collaborators in our self-actualization, as in a Great Work on a cosmic scale. Those who partake in this effort are the alchemists who turn the world around them, and in a certain way themselves, into the magnum opus, the philosopher’s stone, and become their own divine individuals. That work in itself, the performance and ritual we undertake, and perhaps especially the means by which invocations allow the gods (and the demons!) to work their hands in the world and in human life, can in their own way be thought of offerings in the precise sense that any of the traditional devotional offerings were.
Warlike Soul, Magickal Self
What I found somewhat notable is the role of the Egyptian god Ptah, a creator god who was also the god of craftsmen, from the Kemetic perspective. For Ptahmassu, anyone who does anything in the arts receives divine inspiration from Ptah, and all creative acts ultimately come from the gods, even if one is not conscious of that, and indeed this springs from the belief that really everything and even the other gods originate from Ptah as per Memphite theology. But more interesting from my perspective is the discussion of the wrathful/warlike aspect of Ptah – that may seem like a random subject, but stay with me on this. Ptahmassu says that Ptah is also a god of war, and was one of the gods of the four branches of the ancient Egyptian military, and that one of his epithets is “bull who rampages with sharp horns”, among other apparent epithets not known outside of specialist circles. In this way Ptah is not only a creator god but also a war god and a destroyer. It is noted that one of his spouses is Sekhmet, the war goddess who was seen as a wrathful manifestation of the power of Ra.
Modern polytheists (including reconstructionists), because of the modern context in which we often see war and violence, prefer not to think of the gods of war as to be invoked in relation to actually going into battle with enemy combatants, but instead as deities who may fight spiritual battles for us when we face overwhelming obstacles, or give us the strength (or as Ptahmassu says “heavy artillery”) to fight them. But from my perspective, this view, believe it or not, is not dissimilar to the way wrathful deities are viewed in Buddhist practice. Buddhist wrathful deities are invoked to destroy the spiritual obstacles a practitioner faces in pursuit of enlightenment, as well the obstacles to the Buddhas and the Dharma more generally, and in this they represent the force, energy, and power by which passion, anger, and ignorance are turned into compassion and wisdom. You might well think them as the “heavy artillery” of Buddhist meditative practice, and for this reason the proper term for them is the Wrathful Destroyers of Obstacles (or Krodha-Vighnantaka).
Those figures have always been fascinating to me. Warrior gods in particular have a way of bringing into focus a persona of desire and individuality I’ve sought to cultivate. It’s going to sound more weird, trust me. In high school and college I would take any sword substitute I could find, usually a ruler or a bamboo stick, and make like it’s a sword to practice with. One day in college I’d just go out back to do sword swings with what I think was a bamboo stick. I seem to recall having the faculty talk to me about that not long afterwards; seems that was a tad disturbing for them. I suppose it must have also felt weird that I was probably the only person in my college class to support the idea of owning a firearm. When collecting old metal records I sometimes referred to it as collecting weapons or ammo. That’s kind of just how being into old school metal felt like. Some of that is still with me. The whole “classic/underground metalhead” aesthetic, right down to its often wildly liberal use of bullet belts, always had me feeling it was the genre that’d have you thinking you were a warrior if you listened to it. I rather liked that feeling.
Shin Megami Tensei undeniably set off a lot of sparks of identification for me. That probably started with identifying with the Chaos alignment, and with it the aesthetics and some of its attendant themes. A big part of that is the gods and demons, and in this regard it’s arguably responsible for the way I interact with anything from “The East” as I were. I mean look at theseguys from the original Shin Megami Tensei. Did I mention the Gaians too? Or the Chaos Hero? Maybe some more examples. Something about it formed what I think of as a sort of gestalt aesthetic and spiritual identification that has persisted over the years and shaped the contours of my spiritual aspirations. Honestly, though, I think the ethos of it all that can only deepen when looking at anarchism in the way Shahin talks about it in Nietzsche and Anarchy. Living free can only mean living fighting, embracing the conflict inherent in life and finding joy within it, with yourself as a participant in this conflict.
This probably feeds into the deep-seated appreciation for war gods, warlike and wrathful deities in various contexts. The interview I mentioned earlier brought up not only Ptah but also the Hellenic god Ares. Ares in particular actually seems very ontologically significant, being that he is not only the god of violence but also the patron of rebels – he is thus the renewal of the war (the literal meaning of rebellion) in the cosmos. Though in the context of polytheism it is probable that “god of [insert thing]” doesn’t really apply. Several deities counted war, battle, and the like as part of their overall complex of attributes. Some really good examples include Inanna, Anat, Athena, Tezcatlipoca, Perun, Set, Anahita, Ba’al Hadad, and of course Odin to name but a few. In fact, one of the very fascinating things about Norse/Germanic polytheism is that many of the gods could be thought of as “war gods” to some extent or another. Besides Odin, there’s Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Ullr, Thor, Hodr, to name a handful. Some expressions of Germanic polytheism also seem to have been associated with a particularly warlike cultus in at least some accounts. Anglo-Saxon accounts (keeping in mind the probable Christian bias) described Vikings partaking of ecstatic war dances to their gods during their campaigns in England, while in northern Italy the Langobards are defined by their worship of gods of war and fertility (specifically Odin (or Godan as they called him) and the Vanir). I get a bit of a kick from reading about the Mairiia, an apparent band of polytheistic warriors from ancient Iran, and how they held orgiastic feasts and worshipped “warlike” deities such as Indra, Rudra, Mithra, Vayu, Anahita, and Θraētaona (or Fereydun), and whose ecstatic cult was apparently eventually banished as a supposed enemy of the emerging Zoroastrian religion. At least quite of the Buddhist wrathful deities double as war/warrior gods in particular; these include Begtse, Tshangs Pa, and Vaisravana/Bishamonten among others.
How does that play into any kind of personal “magickal self”? I suppose I should start with the base concept. Aleister Crowley, in Book 3 of Liber ABA, defined the Magical Operation as “any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will”. Crowley suggested that this definition could include a range of activities from potato-making to banking. What makes it magical is the extent to which Will may be exercised in the material world towards a desired affect. It’s consistent with Crowley’s overall definition of magick and therewith the conception That alone does not tell us much, but what if we were to consider the notion of the magickal self as a sort of artistic Magical Operation? Crowley says later on, that “No matter how mighty the truth of Thelema, it cannot prevail unless it is applied to any by mankind”, meaning in practice that the Book of the Law had to go from simply being a manuscript to being published in order to achieve magickal effect. So then, Will must reach outwards to achieve its affect.
The Magical Operation I may speak there is thus: to cultivate and impress the power of a wild, warlike magickal self whose object is to fill the world with his will. The magickal self, in this sense, can be thought of as the active, imprinted manifestation of the magician’s subjective universe via identity, through which the magician affects their own consciousness onto the world, and conveying that which it means to affect in its inner and outer world. For me, for this “wild, warlike magickal self”, that is a sort of transgressive mystic freedom and strength, bound to the unbridlding of the inner darkness of life and the hearth of will nestled within it.
The entire enterprise is to be considered a manifestation of the Left Hand Path, insofar as this is to be understood in modern parlance. The magickal self is a process of the creative actualization of the will of the artist-magician, done so as to become an active force in their own existence, and not only this persisting, survivng presence in the world through the creative power of magickal subjectivity. By imprinting the world with Art, the artist-magician transforms themselves and then the world around them by the same practice, and, in a way, they might well contribute to their own “immortality”, their own will surviving in the face of death, joining a world of divine wills. The spirit you want to impress on this world is down to the individual. For my purpose, I wish to cultivate and impress transgressive strength.
There’s also obviously another purpose to it. After all, if one desires to affect a warlike spirit or persona in the world, then even if it’s just for its own sake or out of one’s own raw affinity, it only makes sense that you mean to fight in the long term. And I do, for many reasons. I suppose one of the main ideas ideologically is to produce an autonomy capable of participating in the broad social war, as Shahin puts it, or the broader war of all against all (in Stirner’s terms) that pervades the cosmos, upholding its own freedom and ownness by standing and fighting against all of its enemies. In full candour, though, there is also a pure desire to it. The desire to be able to have the inner and outer strength to independently rely on, to always be able exert myself in will, and to be able to enter into moments of destiny that might depend on it: in other words, to fight and put the fear of the gods into anyone hostile to those persons, or just the one, to whom I invest my full devotion. But there’s also an obvious way to connect it to the way Toby Chappell conceives of magick as, at least I’d argue, a sort of dialectical transformation of the inner and outer worlds. Or, perhaps, as Michael Bertiaux put it in his Voudon Gnostic Workbook, “the imagination making the world to be as it is in itself”. The development of subjectivity towards its own empowerment, and working performed upon it, is to become an agent upon the outer world, and perhaps so on. The warlike spirit grows so that it can be its own full ontological autonomy, so that it can forge its will as like a blade within an actual forge, and then imprint will as the expression of active creative agency and as the mark of resistance.
To briefly return to ideological-philosophical considerations, it is worth establishing that struggle is never absent in life. Indeed, our species is perhaps alone in its thinking that it can cut itself off from the struggle: establishing civilization itself as an ostensible enclave from that whole world, all while actually containing struggle within itself, and then collapsing and being rebuilt again and again, beholding new iterations of the same cycle. Struggle in many ways can be thought as essential to life, certainly so if we take from the Pagan worldview that rebellion is locked into the origination and perpetuation of cosmic life in itself. Thus, as Kropotkin says in Anarchist Morality, to struggle is to live. Certain philosophers of resignatory pessimism, like Arthur Schopenhauer, almost certainly sensed this albeit to the precise extent that they wanted an out from it. Even in a world of Anarchy, nothing tells us that struggle will end, as a new world without authority will yet contend with those whose desires tend toward social control and intimate authoritarianism, which thus threaten the re-establishment of every system of social domination you can name, thus leading to new cycles of social war marked by the necessary battle against social domination and its various sources. All I mean to say, though, is that insofar as the struggle is endless, one has the option to take it up and make oneself a combatant, knowing all of this, as a matter of amor fati. Thus is the world into which warlike spirits maintain their place in the eternity of resistance.
The “Luciferian” Impulse in Art (Or, A Word on the Mysterium Luciferianum)
I’d also like to discuss the sort of “Luciferian” current that not only runs about through the way I’ve appreciated this whole warrior theme, as well as a much broader artistic theme that might have a broader place in the artistic worldview, all of which sort of gradually emerged as I wrote this article.
Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, is the spirit who rebels against the Sun. Fraternitas Saturni, who linked Lucifer and Satan together with the Roman god Saturn, interpreted this as the conflict between Saturn and the Solar Logos (or Sorath), which they hoped would end in the absorption of the Solar Logos by Saturn. Japanese astrology also believes that the planet Venus (which in Japan is often called Taihakusei) was believed to compete with the Sun for brightness. Although the Roman Lucifer and the Hellenic Phosphoros seem like purely innocuous spirits of light and dawn, several other morning star gods and spirits were also linked to war, and even death and the underworld.
This includes Athtar, the Ugaritic god whose myth is a likely “origin” point for the Luciferian Fall mythos, since he represented war and battle as well as fertility and water. Athtar was connected with the goddess Astarte or Ishtar, to whom he was considered a male counterpart, and Ishtar is known for being a goddess of both sex and war and was regarded as the evening star. Athtar was also paired with the Moabite god Chemosh, who is perhaps Biblically notorious as the god who managed to defeat Yahweh once in battle. The Syrian deity Azizos was a morning star god who the Roman emperor Julian identified with the Hellenic god Ares, the Arabian goddesses al-Uzza and Baltis were identified with the morning star and worshipped as warrior goddesses, the Iranian goddess Anahita was connected to the planet Venus and worshipped as a goddess of war as well as water and fertility, the Egyptian god Sopdu was a morning star deity who was also a god of war, and the Slavic Zorya goddesses, representing the morning and evening stars, were also warrior goddeses. The ancient Mayans venerated the planet Venus in the context of war and planned military campaigns based on the planet’s movements, the Japanese gods Daishogun and Taihakujin, who were associated with the planet Venus, were depicted as generals, and the Pawnee venerated the morning star as a god of war.
The morning star itself was sometimes believed to be a rebellious entity. The Mayan Chak Ek was believed to bring disorder to the world and fight the other gods. In Islam, Zohreh is the name of Venus and a woman who tricked two angels into giving her the secret of how to enter Heaven. In Shinto, the morning star was likely personified as the god Ame-no-kagaseo (more popularly known as Amatsu-mikaboshi), who rebelled against the Amatsukami by refusing to submit the land of Japan to them, while in Japanese astrology the star called Taihakusei was believed to inspire sedition and was considered an omen of coup d’etat.
What’s funny is that, as far as Michael Bertiaux is concerned, people are motivated to become artists because of the “Luciferian” impulse. Also funny is that, in that interview, the actual line between “Luciferianism” and Satanism is not really established in that interview, and in fact his concept of the “Luciferian impulse” emerges in relationship to his discussion of esoteric Satanism – specifically the so-called “school of Rops” that Bertiaux says was founded by the artist Felicien Rops in Paris in 1888 as well as the so-called “Temple of Boullan” that was ostensibly founded by a Haitian occultist named Paul Michaël Guzotte. I think I’ll have to look into those at some point. Still, there’s a way to make sense of it especially when we don’t consider “Luciferianism” to be a distinct religious tradition (which it can’t be, since there are several doctrines called “Luciferian” and some of them are basically just brands of Satanism). If we creatively apply the way Rene Guenon defined “Luciferianism” as “rebellion” or “counter-tradition” (bearing in mind that he also considered it to be basically just “unconscious Satanism”), that can apply as much to my own enterprise of Satanic Paganism inasmuch as it too bears this impulse.
Therein lies a larger point, though. “Luciferianism” is not a religion in itself. There is no real shared body of doctrine or praxis that can be called “Luciferian”. Instead there’s a bunch of doctrines and praxes from a variety of occultists for whom the term often seems to have very different meanings – in some cases it literally is just a different take on what is basically Satanism. And to be honest the more I see self-styled Luciferians around the more it becomes somewhat obvious that “Luciferianism” exists as part of the Satanic landscape, just that it focuses on a very distinct mode of magickal-mythical identification.
But as much as I’d like to elaborate more on what I might call the “Mysterium Luciferianum” (to adapt Rudolf Otto’s terminology of the Holy), what matters is the impulse that Bertiaux speaks to. It’s fundamentally what Carl Jung talked about when he discussed the principium individuationis: that is, selfhood seeking to define itself on its own terms. Art is probably the most ubiquitous means for the principium individuationis to manifest itself concretely, and perhaps that is why it is so reviled by mass society when it does exactly this and shunned by mass markets for not being some mere product. In this sense, art cannot be adequately understood as solely the production of beauty and thus the recapitulation of forms. The individual artist, insofar as they pursue conscious self-definition through artistic media, can apply the “Luciferian” impulse in that this impulse is fundamentally to assert your own creative will, especially in rebellion against Society.
My Very Own Little Sparta
One artistic ambition that I have nurtured since I was a student in college was the creation of my very own space in the vein of Little Sparta by Ian Hamilton Finlay. All I can think of when it comes to what that would actually be like is that I would practice the sword there or maybe even do some outdoor worship there, but to understand just the idea being explored it’s necessary to explain the concept of Little Sparta.
Little Sparta is a garden that was created in 1966 by Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue Finlay. It still exists to this day and is still open for public visitations in Dunsyre, located in South Lanarkshire in Scotland. I think what attracted me to Little Sparta was this idea of a personal artistic space that was loaded with invested meaning, by which I of course mean poetry, allegory, and revolutionary symbolism connected to pre-Christian mythos. The garden features a “Temple of Apollo”, which is dedicated to the god Apollo, his music, his “missiles”, and the Muses. The Temple is apparently meant to represent a thematic attention to certain ideas about civilization, violence, tenderness, and sublimity meant to be conveyed throughout the garden. Elsewhere in the garden there’s a golden bust of Apollo’s head, with the name “APOLLON TERRORISTE” inscribed on the forehead. This icon of Apollo is modelled after the image of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, one of the leaders of the French Revolution, and invokes the myth of Apollo slaying Marsyas after defeating him in a music contest (incidentally, the Little Sparta website claims that Marsyas won the contest and was thus punished by Apollo for it). A quote from Saint-Just, “The order of the present is the disorder of the future”, is depicted in an inscription somewhere in Little Sparta. Several other inscriptions can be found on the various sculptures scattered throughout the garden, all of them meant to carry some sort of poetic message that Finlay meant to express.
One comparison that I find to be potentially significant is the comparison to sacred groves. Prudence Carlson, writing for The Financial Times, suggested that Little Sparta – along with another garden he created called Fleur de L’Air – represents an expression of the concept of the sacred grove. This is supposedly illustrated by the seriousness of the undertaking of its creation, and also the extent to which it renders the natural world as a place of solitary ideality set apart from the ordinary “world of man”. Of course, we may remember that an actual sacred grove is specifically uncultivated land that is set apart as a place for the divine to be communally observed. Still, it is probably possible to make a connection by the way of the concept of a space that is “set apart” as a site of meaning, including individual meaning.
In the context of a magickal framework, this means my equivalent of Little Sparta would be a place upon which my Will is embedded through edifices of creative expression that imbue individual meaning. A daemonic habitat that constitutes the power of a subjective universe, or perhaps a lasting physical link to said universe. An island into which perhaps a “magickal self” might flourish and enact itself, perhaps. The home of the artistic persona, and its identification with the divine.
I, to reiterate, don’t really have the clearest idea of what that garden would consist of. Space to practice swords is a no-brainer for me, though Shahin’s Nietzsche and Anarchy has me thinking about taking the concept of “idea-weapons” and giving them the form of aesthetic expression. Obviously the place would be stamped with expressions of individuality, especially in an esoteric way, and ritualistic and occult trappings alongside depictions of pagan gods and divine demons would be a must-have for this space.
Back when I was starting college we had an induction week and I remember the main project we were doing was to get into groups of two and work on a flag for what was going to be a display. We were supposed to base the flag on objects we brought from home – one object per person, so two per group. I brought a very strange wooden animal head that my grandfather had, it was like the head of a buffalo on one side and that of a hippopotamus on the other. That became a big red buffalo head, meant to denote some idea of personal strength. I thought of it as a flag of freedom. I was then again the odd one out, not just for its theme but also, as far as I recall, for having the only one of the induction flags whose background wasn’t white. Perhaps some day I might revisit the idea, and create a new, similar banner, as the banner of the garden of warlike individuality.
The idea of it as a “sacred space” or “ideal space” can, in Pagan terms, intersect again with the notion of devotional offering as previously discussed. A distinct enclave of will, of concentrated subjectivity, perhaps including the elements of gods or demons, may contain potential in relevance to the link, established through Phil Hine’s concept of Invocation via mask work, to “performance”, in the ontological sense. You have created your own “sacred space” for yourself, but this “sacredness”, this setting apart of creative will in physical form, may be extended in devotional terms, that will reaching out as an offering of spirit to the realms of divine power. Perhaps it pleases them as the dedication in itself does, and the point of all that is to elicit the larger work of divine identification and actualisation of which the mortal and the divine are both a part.
Alchemy, Carnal and/or Otherwise
The aim of art is principally expression and to develop means of expression, even if that is so that it can be enjoyed by others (which, in turn, is so that you are happy). Kink is another means of self-expression, one much more intimately connected with the enjoyment of an other, and as I read certain books about BDSM more I tend to think that there’s a role that a certain magickal understanding of BDSM can play in the broader creative philosophy. Granted, this is all possible principally because I happen to have that kink myself. I don’t want it to come off as some mere rationalization, rather a part of the “unity” of psychic life in the context of philosophical praxis.
The book Carnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical Exploration of Pleasure, Pain, and Self-Transformation by Stephen Flowers and Crystal Flowers (the former of whom I normally don’t like) has been a surprisingly interesting source for ideas on how to imbue your kink with a distinct religio-magickal context. But, for my purposes, it would actually be better to start with a discussion of Marquis De Sade. The Flowers’ refer to Geoffrey Gorer, who in The Life and Ideas of the Marquis de Sade presents his definition of sadism (or “Sadeanism” as the Flowers’ put it) as “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer”. A very simplistic interpretation of this idea would have it that all of magick fits this definition and is thus “sadism” in its own right. Indeed for Gorer himself it can encompass a broad array of activities: from creating works of art to blowing up bridges, as long as it represents a modification of the external world as willed by the agent. In fact, it is perhaps especially applicable to the Artist, whose magickally application of their is the impression of their individual subjective universe and therefore Will upon the objective world. But putting aside the question of the extent to which masochism fulls under the general magickal applications of this (and I’m convinced that it does, but I’m not much of a masochist to know precisely how), it also connects with the sort of creative-destruction (to which Mikhail Bakunin in his own way referred) you see locked in the basis of life, and from there a broader appreciation of the darksome kernel of pure reality.
Imagination is an important part of the worldview being discussed. The character Dolmance in Philosophy in the Bedroom says that imagination is “the spur of delights”, upon which all (presumably at least in the realm of pleasure) depends and by which the greatest joys are known. As the Flowers’ note, the exercise of willful imagination is thus key to extending the possibilities of individual pleasure, which is thus understood as the cultivation and enactment of fantasies, in order to transform yourself through such acts of will. This is meant to be understood as “in accordance with Nature”. The “law” of Nature is pretty frequently invoked by De Sade’s characters as justifications for their actions, which are often outlandish at best and downright tortuous at worst, but the key theme there is that human vices, as much as “virtues”, are part of the workings of Nature, since Nature seems to allow them to take place. On the basis of this idea and the mortality of human beings, there emerges the argument that destruction is part of the “laws” of Nature, an indispensible one in fact, without which Nature cannot create. Incidentally, one of the interesting aspects of this worldview is that, on this basis, death itself is not actually the annihilation so frequently discussed in modern atheist circles but instead merely the re-arrangement of matter. In Justine we see this idea expressed by some of the characters, one of whom says “What difference does does it make to her creative hand if this mass of flesh today wearing the conformation of a bipedal individual is reproduced tomorrow in the guise of a handful of centipedes?”. What matters about this, though, is the extent to which Nature and Will/Imagination interact. Your subjective universe is as natural as anything else, insofar as Nature allows it to exist. Nature refers not merely to that which is outside of human civilization, but to the system of life and processes that all things are a part of and outside of which nothing really exists. Unlike De Sade I see the nature of Nature as a kind of spontaneous negativity, an always fertile Darkness, not a body of purposive law. Nature is a creative system with perpetuation as its fundamental trait, and those who create and assert their own subjective universes, even to the extent that it alters their external world, may be said to be in tune with Nature, at least in their own sense, whether that its following Nature or following their own nature.
Returning to the focus on BDSM in Carnal Alchemy, “alchemy” is basically the watch word here. The Flowers’ elaborate that their concept of Sado-Magic or Carnal Alchemy is in essence an extension of the old idea of alchemy: turning lead into gold is thus translated as turning pain into pleasure and power into powerlessness. The phrase “solve et coagula” (which you’ve doubtless seen on the arms of Baphomet), meaning the breaking down of a substance into constituents and then recombining them into perfection, is then interpreted as the submissive undergoing that same process by their ritual submission to the dominant as the object of transformation into perfection. The dominant or sadist in this framework is thus analogous to the alchemist seeking to create the philosopher’s stone, for whom the body of the submissive is a microcosm of the objective world in which they work their Will, taking on. On the other side of this equation, though, the submissive is actually the power that the dominant strives to work with and develop magickally. This alchemy for both parties can also entail a form of identification: the dominant, or a certain type thereof, may identify with the “tortures” inflicted on the submissive, and both partners by way of the principle of sexual magick may even identify each other as the God in each other. From a certain point of view, the dominant may even be seeking to perfect themselves as much as the objective world through the bondage they practice upon the submissive. Self-perfection, of course, is a magickal aspiration, especially on the left hand path, going hand in hand with divine identification.
From this standpoint, though, the connection between the dominant/sadist and art is well-explored in the Flowers’ book. The dominant’s role and the pleasure the dominant feels through it is likened to artist working in their medium, like Michaelangelo taking pieces of marble – specifically pieces that he believed contained the image he was looking for, and upon which he used his tools to “liberate” that image. The dominant through their ritual enacts their subjective will into the world, and liberates and transforms the submissive because their ritual fulfills their desires.
Another discussion of alchemy in relation to kink can be found in Carolyn Elliott’s Existential Kink. Admittedly it’s very self-helpy, and its discussing of embracing kink is decidedly fixated on the submissive side of kink, but we can take on a generalized perspective in its discussion of alchemy. Alchemy is likened to the process of individuation, which Elliott relates to as The Great Work. Partaking in this Great Work sees the individual consciousness evolve and integrate such that it expands its own possibilities for “seeing and acting upon beautiful worldly opportunities for fulfillment” – or, perhaps in better terms, to enact Will in the world. By establishing a unified mind, and then from there attaining a “one world”, you attain a sort of “embodied unity with reality”. This process involves the integration of that part of you that is disowned by the “ego” (I can take this to mean normative consciousness), thereby changing the locus of your own agency in alignment with the “kinkier” and “darker” whole of the self, which results in the cultivation of genuine individuality and, through the fulfillment of the Great Work, a greater ability to manifest will in the objective world. Thus Elliott frames her vision of The Great Work as an expression of the Left Hand Path (which she also calls the “lightning path”, because it quickly and radically transforms you).
I’m establishing a pretty strong thread connecting a sort of general principle of alchemy to the artistic philosophy by connecting it to kink, but that is not its only connection. Reiterating the way Liber ABA sheds light on the intersection between magick and worldly creative practice, let’s note Crowley’s discussion of Rembrandt: Crowley says that Rembrant took a number of ores and crude objects and from these he “banished the impurities, and consecrated them to his work, by the preparation of canvasses, brushes, and colours”, and then “compelled them to take the stamp of his soul”. In this, Crowley says, Rembrandt created a being of truth and beauty out of the “creatures of earth”. This is meant to be taken as an application of Crowley’s understanding of the larger process of magick, or more specifically initiation: here initiation is understood as the process of transforming “First Matter” into immortal, incorruptible, eternally individual intelligence. According to Crowley, this is how one comes to understand alchemy.
Moreover, I think there’s room to apply the alchemical understanding of individuation to certain forms of anarchist psychology. In their book, Nietzsche and Anarchy, Shahin argues from a Nietzschean perspective that individuals as such are not born ready-made but instead have to be created, both by social processes outside of a person’s control and ultimately by the person themselves. The Nietzschean worldview that Shahin presents holds that most people are what Shahin calls “dividuals”, not “individuals”. For Shahin, an “individual” would be a person or body that has developed full psychological coherence, having a single, unique, self-directed, consistent set of values, drives, thought structures, and patterns of action, whereas most human beings, as “dividuals” do not and instead carry multiple and often conflicting sets of drives and patterns, some of which are far from self-directed. The aim of individuation, in this sense, is to develop that sense of coherence, however ultimately imperfect even that may be, in order to become a fully autonomous and self-determining individual (well, again, to the best possible extent).
The alchemical metaphor here pans out when we take Crowley’s discussion of the process of initiation and then map it onto the context of Shahin’s Nietzschean self-transformation. In such a scheme, “dividuals” would correspond to “First Matter” or “creatures of earth”. “First Matter”, in alchemist terms, is a state of disorganized matter or energy, but in alchemy this is very specifically in reference to the state of primordial chaos that contains all possibilities of creation. Our “dividual” would not exactly correspond to this, save perhaps as an expression of the possibilities of chaos, but it is unorganized, at least in the sense that it does not necessarily organise itself creatively. Indeed, it is an all too obvious fact that we don’t simply organise ourselves under the direction of some discrete rational consciousness when we are born, and instead find ourselves dependent upon a system of social processes created by others. That’s where the arts of individuation and initiation come in.
Even if we learn the tools of our own self-reflection through the relationships we have with others, simply growing up in the set of social relationships we are born into is far from a guarantee of our individuality. In fact, it can be very easy to lose our sense of individuality, or even simply never cultivate one, within society. In fact, contrary to the insistences of common socialist narratives about the “individualism” of capitalism, life under capitalism finds many people in some ways “forgetting who they are”, losing sight of their individual aspirations and identities as they allow them to be entirely dedicated by capitalist stimuli or just forget about them as they set about “growing up” – entering the rat race and keeping up with social convention, whether they really believe in it or not, to survive in a society so tightly built upon it, all while probably being convinced that this is just the way the world works. Individuation means to break from that whole process, to change the locus of agency towards yourself, and in so doing changing from being disorganized, meaning in this case not entirely organised by your own direction and consciousness, to embodying autonomous self-direction.
A Short Word About AI Art
Since this is an article about art in itself I would be remiss if I were to ignore the subject of artificial intelligence in art, and its surrounding discourse which has become very relevant to art as a whole. AI art, meaning any art made using artificial intelligence tools, has increasingly been the subject of major controversy in the art world. Many artists hate AI art, often because they deem it inferior to traditional art or even dismiss the idea that it is really art at all, and sometimes also accuse AI artists of stealing the work of other artists. Some artists, however, seem to believe that AI art is the future of art-making, even believing it to be superior to non-AI art. AI art tools very much available across the internet, often freely at that, AI art pieces have already been sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions, an AI art piece recently won a prize at the Colorado State Fair, and AI art tools are already being integrated into Microsoft’s family of software products. All told, it’s not for nothing that AI art is such a hot topic in the art world.
But what do I think? Or rather, how does it figure into my overall philosophy of art? Ostensibly, the answer is “not much”. For now, the use of AI Art figures little into whatever designs I have, and, admittedly, I think that the actual output of AI art tools is vey hit-or-miss. It could range from what’s basically a new wave of outsider digital expressionism, to complex algorithmic images that resemble old first person shooter games, to, if I’m being honest, mediocre and distorted parodies of traditional art, and at that some of the worst softcore pornography I’ve ever seen. On the other hand so much criticism goes down to the replication of form, and this comes back to how we define art.
In my opinion, it is impossible to define art without considering it as an expression of individual subjectivity. That’s not to say the depiction of form is absent from it, and for generations Nature has inspired countless artists with its abundance of form. But what counts is the starting place of art, the investment and reception of meaning from it, and that all derives from the relationship between the artist’s subjectivity and the world around the artist. Without subjectivity, without imagination, without abstraction, the capacity for art really becomes impossible, or confined only to illustration as a form of stenography. In simple terms, the mere repetition of forms is not in itself art. What is art is the conveyance of subjective relationship to it, even if it’s just a realistic depiction of the natural world. But if art is all about individual creative subjectivity, then art is also intimately related to the expression of individual will, and because of that, there are many ways in which art is not so far apart from magick, or indeed the precise sense in which Stanislaw Przybyszewski meant “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”. Art is thus not a collection of dead aesthetic objects, it’s not just “pretty pictures/paintings” as all too many people across modern political persuasions seem to think it is. To simplify: art, at base, is will.
So how does this tie back to AI art? Well, the idea that it’s “not real art” is really not a matter of objective fact. What counts is the extent to which AI tools allow the individual artist to express creative subjectivity in a completely self-directed manner. And in this regard, especially when it comes to proficiency, I believe it’s fair to say these tools need some work. But one thing I think about is what would happen if AI tools crossed into video game development? After all, video games are in themselves a form of art in their own right, even if it’s not something like Disco Elysium or Death Stranding, despite what our consumeristic conditioning would have us believe. The difference from other artforms, however, is that video games tend to be collaborative projects, since their design typically depends on the efforts of a team of developers working in tandem with each other. Multiple subjectivities are invested in development, leading to contradiction between them, and more often than not some visions prevail at the expense of others; and if it’s not one part of the design team over another, it’s the corporate hierarchy and capitalist markets over the developers. This is especially true for projects meant to follow the current industrial standard – “AAA” games, if you will – but it is no less true for indie projects in large part. Perhaps one person can do it, or more realistically just two, but it can be incredibly difficult and taxing labour, and one project could probably take many years to finish. So imagine if AI tools could be developed that would allow an individual artist to create an entire game effectively by themselves, its content dictated by their own individual subjectivity?
It sounds like a wild and fantastical idea, but I do remember seeing a few lectures back in university where people would discuss artifical intelligence in design and, in turn, discuss exactly this possibility. It was pretty exciting, thought at the time I couldn’t receive it without the same latent fears that many others have. From the same standpoint of individual subjectivity, there also arises the fear of the loss of its investment in traditional media. After all, we’re told that it’s just “the machine doing it all for you” – ignoring of course the fact you still have to give it input, and no doubt fashion the raw output that proceeds from it to your liking. But what if far from displacing the labour of the individual artist, and far from merely compensating for a lack of artistic talent, it could actually free individual game designers and their creative development from the dominant industrial relationships of collaboration, in which their subjectivity must contend with the propsect of getting drowned out by both capitalistic interests and your colleagues?
That whole world still has a long way to go, and to be honest I have no idea how to balance all of this with my longstanding skepticism of the positive potential of artifical intelligence as a whole, but to reiterate, in the end what matters is the possibilities that it affords the expression of individual subjectivity. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about your jobs being taken away by it. If you’re really serious about that, you should turn your gaze towards capitalism as the real enemy.
The Art As Esoteric Anarchist Prefiguration
Let’s return to Nietzsche and Anarchy for an overview of the concept of projectual life. Projectual life is the conscious self-direction of one’s individual life towards one’s own individuation. This is in the sense that it’s the conscious project to move away from the herd and its passivity towards the development of an active embodied consciousness capable of demonstrating a continuous lived resistance to the world. Drawing from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, a Nietzschean view on projectuality emerges from Nietzsche’s description of self-transformation. In The Gay Science, Nietzsche’s idea of this would be “to give style to one’s character”; an art, and a rare one at that. This art comes about through the surveyance of one’s personality or character (Nietzsche and thence Shahin prefer the term “nature” here) so as to transform all of your strengths and weaknesses into artforms. The aim of the constant process of projectuality is to develop a creative self-consciousness to the extent of concentrating the locus of agency in the self and transforming the psyche to become, as Nietzsche said, “those that we are” – that is, an individual, a unique self-creating body that can administer its own law unto itself. By my interpretation: this means an individuated being with the perpetual power to manifest their Will.
There’s a few things to note about Shahin’s idea that make my interpretation sort of different. For one thing, Shahin seems to resist thinking about projectuality in relationship to will. But I tend to think it’s not possible to separate projectuality from will. Besides the simple fact that will in a somewhat mundane sense and the ability to exercise it (even if it is not perfect or fully discreet) is absolutely necessary affect the change and transformation entailed in projectuality, the throughline we can get from understanding projectuality dovetails fairly nicely with Crowley’s discussion of alchemy and initiation. The process of initiation as a transformation from “First Matter” or “creatures of earth” to “an immortal, incorruptible, eternally individual intelligence” is not so alien to Nietzschean projectuality. One starts from the base, that base being the complex dividual body, and progresses towards individuation, the Nietzschean individual being in many ways the “intelligence” Crowley spoke of. The difference, besides perhaps Crowley’s methodology, would be that Nietzsche arguably would not have thought of his individual as entirely discrete even in the process of individuation.
The other thing, of course, is the way Shahin appears to define projectuality in opposition to what he calls “negative nihilism”, by which he seems to mean a reflexive mode of rebellious action without (or indeed even against) any kind of affirmative project or new set of values, without which, they believe, it is impossible to do anything except revert to despair, self-destruction, conformity, and submission. I think that this is just nonsense. For starters, Shahin is in this context not speaking strictly in individual terms. When Shahin says “we can only destroy the values, desires and cultures that destroy us if we also create and affirm new values to take their place”, we have to understand that “taking their place” means to create a new overculture whose “place” is the domination of mass valuation. No anarchy will be complete unless it can rid itself of precisely this. If you want new values, make them for yourself and live them yourself. After all, from the standpoint of any consistent ontological application of nihilism, that’s all you’re doing this for: there’s no objective teleological value in the universe, you value and create values because you want to do so, therefore do it for your own sake, your own desire. That ultimately is Shahin’s starting point, since Shahin engages in projectuality because they desire freedom. More to the point, projectuality framed as the idea that you can live joyfully towards the construction of liberation/freedom is not only not somehow “anti-nihilist”, the anarcho-nihilist concept of jouissance is, in itself, a fulfillment of projectuality by much of the criteria Shahin sets out. If the anarcho-nihilist already accepts the premise that their business is to live joyfully even in a world that they believe will not be saved, then projectuality is already part of nihilist praxis.
All of this, however, is ultimately a tangent. The real point is to establish what projectuality has to do with the Art. It connects to the extent that individuals may prefigure real freedom in their lives through the application of meaning through ritual and will, through our interaction with some decidedly non-rational structures of life.
Unlike some anarchists (including many “classical” anarchists and probably including Shahin as well) who reject religion as such, I am fairly convinced that religion and especially occultism are ways by which an individual may cultivate a form of projectual individuation. It is true that you don’t necessarily “need” religion or occultism to “be a good person” or “have morals/ethics” as such, but then what if that’s not the point? Anyone can be a “good person” through the consistent application of either personal or shared ethics. Likewise, “community” is also irrelevant to what I consider to be the value of religion. True, religion can seem to play a role in forming strong social bonds and communal relationships, but this is no proof that this is itself the value of religion – indeed, we have ample proof that it can even be a significant downside for those who don’t conform to society. “Cohesion”, too, is similarly a red herring, since secular societies are just as capable of producing “cohesion” without religion.
The real value of religion, along with occultism, consists in the precise relationships that these generate, the extent to which one may identify themselves with the divine, and from there, cultivate individuation. It consists in the extent to which the pattern of ritual (perhaps thus “re-legere”, the Pagan definition of religion) allows us to develop individual coherency and autonomous consciousness in collaboration with the numinous, through channels of meaning such as myth and ritual and non-rational communion with divine reality (or perhaps the Darkness of “pure” reality). Admittedly, many mainstream ideas of religion don’t necessarily acheive this, perhaps even basing the value of religiosity in something entirely different, and “organised religion”, by which we mean the institutionalisation of religion as hierarchy, is simply worthless in this regard. But that’s the bath water, and not the baby, when discussing religious experience. If projectuality in Nietzschean terms is an art, so is ritual, and ritual itself can be thought of as posessing projectual aims in itself, at least insofar as their aim is the Great Work. Still, there is the argument to be made that even in the more “established” religious traditions we may find magickal sense in their practices of contemplation, at least from the purview that the idea is to immerse yourself in all of the sacred images and patterns in religious contemplation so that, in this contemplation, you may imitate them. I would interpret that as in some way a means of identification, but, I would stress that most religions don’t share the ideas and aims of divine identification that I have, from my starting point within the Left Hand Path. Nonetheless, I would say it’s a useful way of making sense of religion, the good side of it anyway, or at least an aspect of what religion should be as a function. I would also suppose that it’s the different approaches to imitation, contemplation, and identification that really give concrete definition to the Right Hand Path versus the Left Hand Path as we understand them in modernity: one, the Right Hand Path, positions imitation as harmonization, to “imitate the divine” as a vessel for it so as to accord oneself with it or with the “right order”, while the Left Hand Path positions imitation as apotheosis, to imitate the divine so as to ontologically become divine, join the divine, and achieve a sense of spiritual equality with it.
But perhaps all of this links to a much broader concept found within the tradition of anarchist thought: prefiguration. Prefiguration, or “prefigurative politics”, simply refers to the idea that our actions and relationships in the current world should strive to reflect the new world that we wish to bring into being. Some people have summarized it in that famous saying “be the change you want to see in the world” (which is often erroneously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi), and I’d say that’s not necessarily incorrect. Prefiguration entails a micro-political practice of harmony between means and ends, which is fulfilled by the desire to embody the values of the desired to new world via the relationships built upon anarchistic prerogratives, or the spread of behaviours that generally follow them, in order to meaningfully establish the social possibility of life without authority or hierarchy in real time. This often means the rejection of consequentialist, utilitarian, or instrumentalist ethics (such as attributed to Marxism-Leninism or more “centrist” tendencies within the Left) in favour of what some might argue to be a radical interpretation of virtue ethics. There are critics even within anarchism who see the concept of prefigurative politics as pregnant with the notion of apocalyptic imminency, akin to a Christian idea that God’s will/plan for our salvation is prefigured almost fatalistically in our preceding actions, which is then translated into the belief in revolutionary imminency – that is the historic inevitability of the revolution, typically associated with Marxist orthodoxy. But I completely reject that comparison. Instead, I tend to believe that prefiguration in its most sincere sense relies on the understanding that we have no such guarantees, we cannot derive such guarantees from any external source, and there is no final point of moral authority or fulfillment, and so if we are to enact major social change or enjoy the fruits of our desired world we are thus entirely dependent on our own consistent programmatic actions.
So where does this position religious life, the occult, and the Art? It’s absolutely true that you don’t “need” religion in order to “be a good person” – except is that necessarily the point? I suppose the answer to that depends on our criteria of “good”. But what counts is that in order to be able to prefigure the world desired on anarchistic terms, then it is fundamentally necessary for individuals to prefigure the mind for that very possibility so as to set the possibilities for action or behaviour. This means that, despite what such figures as Frére Dupont might suggest, it is entirely necessary to centre consciousness, and I thus mean prefigurative consciousness. Now what if a person were to ritually dedicate themselves to their own individuation? For a person to pursue the Great Work means to partake in the transformation of individual personality through ritual and esoteric means, to become the philosopher’s stone, to achieve alchemistic perfection as a beacon of freedom. People think themselves free only in the secular means by denying all spiritual concepts and forms, but what I see in modern societies and radical spaces increasingly convinces me that this is probably an illusion, and at that hardly less an illusion than the supposed authority of God. But in ritual pattern and praxis, there is an obvious extent to which the psychological affectation associated with religious life and myth may arc towards liberatory ends and, thus, make for effectual means. For better or worse, I believe that the Left Hand Path as we understand it contains this idea within itself.
In this framework, so-called “lifestyle anarchism” emerges not as the handmaiden of bourgeois rule but instead as simply a dismissive byword for what consistent anarchist praxis can look like if it is projectual and prefigurative. For this, we should see fit to reject the influence of Murray Bookchin’s critique which still haunts the “social-anarchism” of the present in favour of its opposite. What I call Esoteric Anarchy locates this value in the study and practice of esotericism and ritual as the locus of projectual individuation, which is then thus the ground of prefigurative politics. If the simplest end of magick is change or transformation on behalf of the person, if it is the art of will reshaping the inner and outer world, then Esoteric Anarchy is the recgonition of this as prefiguration, as the means and the end in themselves. Indeed, I believe that this understanding also applies to the way Phil Hine, at the very end of Condensed Chaos, talked about the concept of gnosis. Here, gnosis entails experiential magickal knowledge that then transforms you and becomes the basis of a new mode not merely of thinking but also, crucially, of acting within the world. This is what Phil Hine calls “Knowledge of the Heart”. Experience here is the secret language of magick, passing into it is required in order to grasp esoteric meaning. Thus the magickal transformation of the inner and outer world is a process in which the praxis of ritual and gnosis set the basis of the magician to prefigure themselves and the world around them in thought and deed.
Even in John Michael Greer’s Blood of the Earth, which unfortunately betrays a markedly conservative outlook, we can see relevant links in the significance of magic and occultism to prefigurative politics. In the last chapter, summarizing basically everything discussed in the book, Greer establishes that magical training, in practically distinct system with its unique tools, can allow the individual to liberate their minds from the limits of collective consciousness and what he calls “mass thaumaturgy” in order to better prepare themselves for the crises set for what believes to be the end of the industrial age. He then adds that, once this is done, the magician then has to bring their magickal work down into the material plane and anchor it with actions, a practice he associates with seemingly all of the old philosophies of occultism. If we throw aside all of the major ideological presumptions that otherwise attend his discussion of magic, a major takeaway that is no doubt of some value is that the indiviudal, and the extent to which the individual affects and alters their own life in accordance to will, is the starting point all the work Greer talks about. That’s basically the primary subject of prefigurative politics and Nietzschean projectuality: even if you won’t be able to do everything alone, it all has to start with you; you, as an individual, must prefigure an alternative way of life for yourself. And for Greer, both magick and the pursuit of lifestyles that break you away from the dominant set of industrial lifestyles affect changes into your individiual consciousness that set the horizon for this prefiguration in the material world.
From an opposing perspective, as an esoteric anarcho-nihilist ultra (just one way of putting it!), this can easily take a different focus; as in take out the ideological considerations from Greer, swap it with different set of said considerations, and the throughline remains more or less the same. You must be able to prefigure a world no longer guided by authority, hierarchy, or the total order of things, and hence a world in which you, and your communities, must rely on yourself and each other autonomously. You must prefigure the world after the world, a world beyond good and evil, a world where the last chain is scattered into the wind. That is enormously difficult to imagine within the shell of the current world, no doubt nearly impossible in the minds of most people. But by establishing new modes of autonomous life you become an example through it that imagination becomes very possible for more people, which in turn spreads the mode of prefiguration across social life. Magick can hardly be discounted from this effort, since the object of magick is the transformation of the inner and outer world through will, as I believe all of the occult authors discussed and the tradition of occultism at large typically all acknowledge.
Conclusion: The Art of Satanic Paganism
Before really summarising the form and relevance of all of this I think it’s worth really focusing on art as a creative medium where you really see the occult connect to creative work, and not only this it permeates creative media with its inspiration. Would you believe me if I told you that you wouldn’t have Martin Scorsese without Kenneth Anger? Because it’s true. He inspired Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and from there surely countless other directors. Would you believe that Dan Aykroyd was a little bit into occultism and that this even went into the initial development of Ghostbusters? Because that’s true too. In fact, this is probably referenced in Ghostbusters II, where Dan Aykroyd’s character Ray Stantz owns an occult book shop called Ray’s Occult Books. Everyone knows about David Bowie, but I wager not that many people are aware of the fact that he based lyrics for whole songs on occult themes, often especially drawing from the quasi-historical Morning of the Magicians, and even fewer people know that he literally believed in magick. Some more people are probably more familiar with Jimmy Page’s enthusiasm for Aleister Crowley. Returning to the subject of visual art, though, I could easily point to the art scene of fin de siecle Germany, in which we see artists whose work is deeply inspired by esotericism and pre-Christian myths, even to the point of there being whole personal artistic cults to gods and spirits such as Hypnos.
There really is an extent to which the occult can often be ubiquitous in the creative world, and I really do believe that this comes down to the horizons that it contains for the pursuit of individuation. Neville Drury in The Occult Experience talked about how there is a gap between what we think we know and what we feel, between (what we believe to be) the limitless horizons of knowledge as pertains to the world around us and the comparative miniscule knowledge we actually have about ourselves, and fields the possibility that occultism offers a bridge between that gap, that it can “take us beyond ourselves” and “to the infinite”. I believe that John Michael Greer, from the perspective of Paganism and deep ecology, makes basically the same point in Blood of the Earth, where he talks about how magick serves as a valuable response to the world after peak oil and mass ecological crisis.
I also think that all of the major considerations presented tell us that the ontological aspect of the conversation around magick, while definitely not unimportant, almost finds itself de-centered. One of the better points of Blood of the Earth is the overview of just this ontological question. Greer says that within a year or two of consistent ritual practice the magician begins to have real experiences with spirits, powers, planes, and all the other major metaphysical stuff, and establishes that these are mental experiences, not physical ones. They may be real, but they are real in basically the same sense that dreams are real. This has lead to questions and debate across occultism about their ontological status, with propositions ranging from hallucinations, to dissociated complexes, to Jungian archetypes, to actual extradimensional entities. There has so far been no way to establish any ontological certainty to comport the experiences of the magician, we have no real answers in this regard. But what if that doesn’t exactly matter? It’s the gnosis that counts, the possibility of experiencing the Great Work, the prospect of cultivating and applying your will, and thereby prefiguring your own freedom, that is what counts, and I do think that as long as that goes you don’t have to worry about ontology too much – but I will say you really should abide yourself by ontological agnositicism, especially in the Satanic sense.
And speaking of Satanic, I think that at this point we can begin summarizing what all of this means within the broader polycentric framework of Satanic Paganism. I think I’ve gone out of my way to elaborate some of the major contours of that philosophy in relation to artistic praxis throughout this article, but more can be said here. The Art, in this sense, comes to mean the creative application of the basic goals and ethos of Satanic Paganism, which can sort of be summarized as achieving individual apotheosis through ritual identification with the divine and the shattering of normative consciousness, or really all illusions that defile both human freedom and knowledge of deep reality or nature. Prefigurative politics in this setting means being able to live in a cultivate state of relative self-perfection, internal autonomy, consistent individuation and lived manifestation of will, wrapped in the full embrace of the dark, creative-destructive core of divine reality; a sort of ontological inner freedom that echoes into the outer world in will, and through the example of prefigurative life. I almost think of it as what the idea of the Anarch should be and would be if it were not an almost entirely passive subject.
In the view of Satanic Paganism, the Art is the medium in which the divine and Man actualise each other, prefiguring a world where everyone is a star. The Art is the creative effort of the religious magician directed towards their own apotheosis – it is will, striving towards that goal. The Art is the application of creative subjectivity in aesthetic, ritual, and/or projectuality at large. The Art is alchemy; it is how the individual goes beyond itself in order to become itself. The Art is in so many senses the vehicle by which Anarchy is made manifest as a practice of everyday life. The Art is the form of the transvaluation of values. And of course, The Art is also a spiritual weapon in the fight against the Demiurge and against all tyrannies and the domination of order.
And so, within the purview of the philosophy of Satanic Paganism, The Art is a way of conceptualising creative praxis as a vehicle for the broader goal of apotheosis. You could say it is an indispensable part of your journey; to paraphrase something I remember Michael Bertiaux saying (and I swear I wish I could find you the exact quote), you must be capable of producing The Art. A person seeking individuation must, in their own way, even if it doesn’t mean they are “artists” per se, be able to practice and develop The Art. From the perspective of esoteric anarchism this makes The Art an essential medium of prefigurative politics. This also means that the idea that occulture and religion are entirely apolitical is, from this perspective, not only false but also antithetical to any consistent practice of The Art.
And so Satanic Paganism itself can be thought of as a religious or religio-magickal worldview that is dedicated to the realisation of The Art. Thus, we who adhere to this philosophy should, to the best of our ability, to develop, cultivate, practice, and perhaps “master” The Art, and study this practice as much as we can, in order that we might fill this world with unbridled daemonic life, and produce a world truest to that classic axiom of occultism; a world where all people are stars.
In May this year I wrote two articles outlining, in long form and short form respectively, my philosophy of Satanic Paganism. In so doing, I did not set out to examine the historical relationship between Satanism and Paganism as distinct concepts, and on Twitter I promised that I would write about this in its own article. What you’re about to read is exactly that article. I set out here to examine the relationship between Paganism and the various historical representations of Satanism, with of course the aim of supporting the overall project of my Satanic Paganism.
Before we start, I should take the time to note that as a historical treatment this will mean addressing a messy, problematic history fraught with reactionary tendencies. Unfortunately there was a time where folkism was not challenged to the extent that it arguably is now, and the history of occulture is not without the presence of the far-right to some extent or another. As such, going through the history that I mean to explore means exploring a history that includes some truly odious actors who just happen to have made a mark. Another thing worth stressing right away and which will be repeated going forward is that the instances of intersection that I present do not constitute proof that Satanism is itself a form of Paganism. It merely demonstrates the interaction between Satanism and Paganism to the extent that, although they are distinct religious worldviews that can each be defined on their own terms, the two are not as neatly separated as both parties present them to be.
We can start, rather appropriately, with Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Unless we count the “Sathanists”, Przybyszewski is easily the first person to actually refer to himself as a Satanist and espouse Satanism. As I have already established in my commentaries on his essay The Synagogue of Satan (see Part 1 and Part 2), Przybyszewski links his own Satanism to a certain idea of Paganism which he calls “the heathen cult”, which he regards as the original historical phase of Satan’s church. Przybyszewski repeatedly links his Satanism, his Satan, his Witch, and his “sabbat” to themes from pre-Christian religion. Here Satan appears as the gods Thoth, Hecate, and Pan, and through him Apollo and Aphrodite (as well as the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda for some reason), and is also worshipped as a Phallus. People tasted “the holy joys of Pan” before Christianity arrived, whereupon the temples of the gods were desecrated and their priestesses reviled. The “heathen cult” in Przybyszewski’s narrative is essentially a mixture of polytheistic nature worship and orgiastic libertinism. His pagans lived in and with nature, and the demons dwelled in the forests, grottoes, and caves and gathered worshippers in orgiastic rites. Even as the church came to dominate Europe, the “heathen cult” still lurked beneath the Christian order which gradually conceded to its rites. The Witch, and the demonic femininity that Przybyszewski associates with Satan, descends from a lineage of pre-Christian goddesses and demons, and his “sabbat” is ostensibly a descendant of the orgiastic mysteries of Cybele. Although Przybyszewski never references Dionysus or his mysteries, he does describe the worship reserved for the “Black God” and aspects of the “sabbat” in ways that invoke the Bacchanlias and the classical mysteries of Dionysus.
Moving onto “modern Satanism”, Anton LaVey may have defined his form of Satanism as rather highly distinct from Paganism as we understand it, but he does nonetheless rely on pre-Christian references for his infernal pantheon, and they do sort of figure in his communication of Satanism. The Satanic Bible opens with a declaration of “the gods of the right hand path” bickering with each other becoming devils, while the Norse god Loki “sets Valhalla aflame” with “the searing trident of Inferno” and Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, proclaims the dawn of the age of Satan. LaVey also appealed to a very flawed etymological argument in which the word “Devil” is purported to come from the Sanksrit word “Devi”, which in fact it doesn’t. Insofar as he held Satan to be the patron of Man’s carnal nature, he said that before the arrival of Christianity this was governed by the gods Dionysus and Pan, from whom the medieval Satan got his appearance. The “Infernal Names” comprises not only Satan and his menageries of devils but also pre-Christian gods and spirits who LaVey sometimes identifies as “devils”. These gods include Cizin (listed as “Ahpuch”), Ba’al-berith, Bastet (listed as “Bast”), Bilé, Chemosh, Dagon, Damballa, Enma-O (listed as “Emma-O”), Fenrir (listed as “Fenriz”), Eurynomos (listed as “Euronymous”, from which we get Mayhem’s Euronymous), Hecate, Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Jormungandr (listed as “Midgard”), Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto (but not Hades, apparently), Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (listed as “Thamuz”), Typhon, Xipe Totec (listed as “Yaotzin”) and Yama (referred to by his Japanese and Chinese counterparts “O-Yama”, “Emma-O” or “Yen-lo Wang”). These names are meant to be invoked in the course of a Satanic ritual, as though you are calling upon them for your craft, and so in this sense some of the gods theoretically join the LaVeyan Satanist in their praxis, though the LaVeyan rather definitely does not believe in those gods. It should go without saying that this dynamic has noticeable flaws; among them, the rather atrocious idea of listing Native American spirits such as Coyote as “devils”.
The Church of Satan in general tends to reject any and all suggestion of alignment with neo-paganism, on the grounds that Paganism is a “supernatural” religion. Nonetheless, besides invoking many of the same gods they refuse to actually worship into their rituals, the Church of Satan is content to mark the solstices and equinoxes as holidays. As a similarly atheistic Satanic organisation (or at least they avowedly present themselves as Satanists), The Satanic Temple marks not only the solstices and equinoxes but also go much further in appropriating and retooling whole pre-Christian festivities as their own religious holidays. Two in particular are Lupercalia, a Roman festival which TST brands as a “celebration of bodily autonomy, sexual liberation, and reproduction”, and Sol Invictus, named for the Roman god which TST brands as a “Celebration of being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge” (now if only TST didn’t try suing people for doing the same thing!). While it’s not listed on their holidays page, members and chapters also claim to celebrate Saturnalia, the pre-Christian Roman celebration of the winter solstice. Indeed, The Satanic Temple actually argues that Satanic holidays come from a tradition long-predating TST, seemingly suggesting a claim to some sort of pre-Christian heritage. In TST’s case, this is unfortunately not much more than an act of cultural appropriation, and fitting for TST there are problems with its interpretation.
TST interprets Lupercalia as basically a BDSM sex orgy day built around celebrating bodily autonomy, sexual freedom, asexual awareness, and mock sacrifices. I wish! The actual Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to a sort of orgiastic worship of Pan Lycaeus or Apollo Lycaeus, but this involved the ritual sacrifice of a goat and a dog followed by a sacrificial feast. This was then followed by two young noble males receiving a sword dipped in blood a running around the Palatine in which participants run naked with thongs made from the flayed skins of the sacrificed animals. These thongs were used to whip people, women would sometimes get themselves whipped believe that this would ritually induce fertility, before returning to the Lupercal cave. As kinky as some of this must sound, the actual point was that it was a festival of attrition meant so that the gods would ensure the fertility of crops, and if all didn’t go well famine and disease would follow. As for Sol Invictus, TST interprets Sol Invictus as basically the Roman version of Christmas. This is in some sense the product of a popular myth regarding the origin of Christmas as we know it. As Andrew Mark Henry points out, early Christians landed on December 25th by calculating the date of Jesus’ birth backwards from the supposed date of his crucifixion and death, which was assumed to be March 25th – this, incidentally, was the same day on which pre-Christian Romans celebrated the vernal equinox. Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th, but only as far back as the year 354 under the emperor Aurelian, after Christianity had already emerged. Both Christians and Pagans celebrated December 25th because of its broader cosmological significance via the winter solstice, for which they respectively imparted very different religious meanings.
Returning to the subject of the Church of Satan, individual members tend to present their own intersections with modern Paganism. One example is Michael J. Moynihan, who is a musician who founded the neofolk band Blood Axis and otherwise a notable folkist fascist. Moynihan is a member and in fact a Reverend of the Church of Satan, but he has also been consistently affiliated with folkist forms of Heathenry. Since 1994 Moynihan was a member of a folkist Asatru collective called Wulfing Kindred, which was itself affiliated with the Asatru Folk Assembly until 1999, is friends with the AFA’s founder Stephen McNallen and sometimes joined him on stage with his band Changes, and is the editor of a “Radical Traditionalist” journal called Tyr, which is obviously named after the Germanic/Norse god Tyr and, sure enough, argues in defence of pre-modern and specifically pre-Christian societal institutions and a return to pre-Christian (typically Germanic) religion in the context of reactionary traditionalist ideology. One of the other fascists in the Church of Satan, a man named Kenaz Filan, is also a folkist pagan/polytheist who writes books about Paganism (in between grotesquely racist troll-posting, I assume) and has ties to other folkist polytheists such as Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera. This, of course, is all different shades of problematic on its own due precisely due to the fascistic folkism of the parties involved. Though, I would insist that this says more about the institutional fascism of the Church of Satan than anything else. Having said that, it’s actually somewhat ironic that the organisation which insists that Pagans, polytheists, or really any theist cannot be Satanists because they claim that Satanism is a strictly atheistic philosophy is nonetheless quite happy to have said people in their ranks as Satanists by virtue of being Church of Satan members. Of course, I assume that the Church of Satan only makes those allowances out of some shared affinity with fascism.
An important examination of the intersections between Satanism and Paganism comes from Between the Devil and the Old Gods: Pagan and Satanic Milieus, an essay written by Ethan Doyle White for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. White argues that both Satanism and Paganism can be regarded as milieus within the broader movement of occulture, occultism, and alternative religion, and which actually intersect with each other rather than existing as completely distinct milieus. To study the extent to which the boundaries between Paganism and Satanism are blurred, White examines Wicca and what he considers to be elements of Satanism within it, as well as the Temple of Set and Order of Nine Angles.
In analysing Wicca, White points out that a few elements that he believes are consistent with Satanism. Perhaps the main such element is the presence of Lucifer, who is traditionally regarded as distinct from Satan but in practice carries in himself aspects of a “satanic” identity. Lucifer is the name that figures like Doreen Valiente and Alexander Sanders profess to be the name of the enigmatic Horned God of Wicca, an association that is likely inherited from Charles Lelands romantic-mythological account of Italian pagan witchcraft. The Horned God is not meant to be identical with the Devil, but the idea of an ancient horned god worshipped by witches dovetails rather nicely with traditional depictions of the Devil. Also noted by White is the inclusion of fallen angels such as Azazel (a.k.a. “Azael”) and Naamah as gods of witchcraft alongside gods like Cernunnos or Habundia in Paul Hason’s Mastering Witchcraft, which, while not really a “Wiccan text”, is part of the background of modern British witchcraft of which Wicca is a part. A much more obscure French sect of Wicca, known as Wicca Francaise (a.k.a. “Wicca International Witchcraft”), is purported to have taken Gerald Gardner’s basic system of Wicca and mixed it up with not only the Lucifer mythos but also a set of rituals that they interpreted as “Anglo-Saxon Satanist” rituals or the supposed “black mass”.
As regards the Temple of Set, there are many elements White considers that are not limited to the central role of the Egyptian god Set. Michael Aquino’s The Book of Coming Forth by Night declares that Set is the “ageless Intelligence of the Universe”, who only allowed himself to be called Satan because it meant that he might be perceived by humans. This premise itself establishes the Temple of Set as a Satanist organization in that it is consciously directed in alignment with an entity that is recognized as Satan by a different name, and indeed they still represented themselves with the inverted pentagram emblematic of Satanism. Indeed, Aquino expressly regarded the identity of Set as a way to fully divorce Satanism from the baggage of Christianity. Predictably, the identity of Set and the links to ancient Egyptian religion, to the point that the title of Aquino’s book is itself a play on the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (which was also called The Book of Coming Forth by Day), would seem to link it to the context of modern Paganism, though this does not come without explicit boundaries as set by the Temple. That said, some members considered themselves to be practitioners of Satanism that was merely “hued” in the fashion of ancient Egyptian religions, while others earnestly believed that they were practicing the return of an ancient pre-Christian religion, and still others considered the Temple of Set to represent an entirely new vision. Indeed, many Setian Satanists would vehemently reject the label of “Pagan” on the grounds that they see themselves as “consciousness-worshipping”, in the sense of individual self-consciousness, and view Paganism as “nature-worship”, which they reject. While I see no need to label Setian Satanists as Pagans, the point is to explore intersections with Paganism, not outright identification with Paganism.
The connections to pre-Christian polytheism are not merely aesthetic, and can instead be felt in the doctrine and praxis of the Temple of Set. In Aquino’s book Black Magic, which is presented as sort of a manifesto of the Temple’s doctrine, there are several historical discussions ancient Egyptian religion buttressed by references to existing scholarship on Egyptology. Indeed, Black Magic opens with the statement that the Temple of Set is premise upon the apprehension of the “neteru” (or “neter”), which seems be referring to the gods, as well as Set in particular as the principal agent of individual self-consciousness. The Temple of Set is presented as a return to “the original, undistorted apprehension of Set”, which presumably also applies to the neteru as well who Aquino says were active controllers of the universe and present within it. This may also pertain to a supposed original cult of Set, which was then erased by the cult of Osiris that they say prevailed in the Egyptian establishment. Outside of this, White refers to the fact that the Temple of Set also established an inner esoteric order known as the Order of the Trapezoid, which ostensibly focuses itself on Germanic magical tradition. Unfortunately, this Order’s efforts take on a volkisch, indeed rather fascistic, character inherited from Aquino’s fascination with Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which itself was ostensibly obsessed with uncovering ancient Germanic history. It is worth noting that the Ahnenerbe cannot be counted as some link to Paganism, since Himmler expressly stated that you had to believe in God in order to join the SS. The Order of the Trapezoid professes its aim as to “extract the positive, exalted, and Romantic from the Germanic magical tradition” while removing all of the negative aspects linked to Nazism. In essence, it’s an attempt to rehabilitate German volkisch esotericism. Linked to this is a man named Edred Thorsson, otherwise known as Stephen Flowers, who was inspired by the Order’s efforts and joined the Temple of Set while also being a Heathen and active within the Heathen community. When this became public knowledge, other Heathens at the time condemned him for his association with Satanism.
When discussing the Order of Nine Angles, White points out that the writings of the founder David Myatt (or “Anton Long”) suggest the influence of older (presumably long-dead and now obscure if they were real) organisations. One of them, referred to as either “Camlad” or “Rouwyntha”, has been described as an “aural pagan esoteric tradition” supposedly found only in a few parts of England and Wales, specifically remote rural enclaves within Shropshire, Herefordshire, Sir Faesyfed (a.k.a. Radnorshire), and Sir Drefaldwyn (a.k.a. Montgomeryshire). White further points out that O9A writings often posit their brand of Satanism (frequently dubbed “Traditional Satanism”) as being descended from the depths of pre-Christian antiquity, taught for centuries from “Master”/”Mistress” to pupils and springing out from the area around Stonehenge since the year 7,000 BP at the oldest. Ancient stone circles in England were supposed to be aligned with the star Antares, which the O9A presents as being linked to Baphomet, who they present as a violent pre-Christian goddess who was worshipped with human sacrifice. This is then presented as an unbroken tradition whose survival stretched from the Neolithic era into the present, with “Western Civilization” thus containing an inherent “pagan” essence despite being “corrupted” by the “Magian” and “Nazarene” influence of Judaism, Christianity, and really everything that the O9A doesn’t like about modern society. Other conscious derivations from Pagan sources include the frequent use of the word “wyrd”, borrowed from Heathenry, and according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke the O9A sometimes emphasizes ceremonies performed during equinoxes or solstices and various practices meant to cultivate a sense of rootedness in “English nature” or “native tradition”, which of course is very obviously suggestive of a particularly folkist interpretation of Paganism. Moreover, as noted by Goodrick-Clarke, there were several spin-off groups scattered in “the West” that sought to combine O9A doctrine with existing neopagan movements such as Heathenry. Suffice to say, out of the three case studies White presents it would seem that the O9A is where the intersection is more pronounced.
To be sure, none of this intersection erases the differences between Satanism and Paganism, their distinction, or the enmity between certain practitioners. As White notes earlier in his essay, Pagans have, especially in the past, carefully and strictly defined themselves separately from Satanists – a move partially motivated by the fear of being cast as religious criminals by Christians. Many Satanists have, almost in turn, sometimes trafficked in their own brand of anti-Pagan rhetoric, branding modern Pagans as “soft”, “white light”, or “white witchcraft”. And, of course, both Pagans and Satanists have often taken turns accusing each other of failing to fully transcend the baggage of Christian morality in various ways. And yet, according to White, it is not actually not so common for Satanists to insist on hard differentiation from modern Pagans; White attributes this to a clear antinomian stance among Satanists through which they reject the desire to not be seen as a bogeyman.
Another examination can be found in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, specifically a section written by Fredrik Gregorius which discusses “Luciferian Witchcraft”. Here, Gregorius uses the term “Luciferian” loosely to mean groups that center around Lucifer as taking on a generally positive role defined typically by a neopagan context, but stresses that there really is no clear separation between Satanism and Luciferianism and argues that even the latter hinges on what is still a post-Christian interpretation of the figure of Satan. With that established, we can note for starters the Clan of Tubal-Cain started by Robert Cochrane, centered around the Biblical figure of Cain who murdered Abel in revenge for God’s favouring Abel over him. In the work of Shani Oates, current Maid of Tubal-Cain, Lucifer is given a greater focus and, possibly following Michael Howard, is re-interpreted as a “Gnostic” divine presence incarnated in flesh and matter and which motivates the evolution of humanity. Andrew Chumbley, while dismissing any identity between Lucifer and Satan, nonetheless depicts Lucifer and the fellow gods of witchcraft in a very satanic or diabolical light. Chumbley presents his craft as the continuation of a pre-Christian tradition referred to as the “Sabbatic Craft”, and in the context of his belief system Satan, if we can speak of Satan, can be interpreted as the “Man in Black” (or Al-Aswad), who Chumbley referrs to as “The Daemon”, Shaitan, The Adversary, or “The Reverse One”, who is the Lord of the Sabbat and embodies Death as “the Gateway to the Other”, meaning the liminal inbetweenesss betwixt every stasis of being. Lilith, of course is the bride of Shaitan/”The Man in Black”. Michael Howard rejected any identity with Satanism, and aside from his neo-Gnostic views he tends to couch Lucifer in a neopagan context by framing Lucifer as an older deity who in turn incarnates as several pagan gods. Nonetheless, his Lucifer is also identified with Samael, or “Zamael”, and his books have often been adorned with quasi-satanic imagery, goat heads and all. In fact, Howard’s last book, the posthumously released The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism, is adorned with inverted pentagram imagery that would be very consistent with Satanic aesthetics. This is similarly true for Gemma Gary’s The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One, where the Devil venerated by the witches is theoretically distinguished from Satan, presented as a pagan god taking on the names of multiple pagan gods (such as Herne, Woden, or Odin) alongside the names Lucifer or Azazel as part of a pre-Christian tradition of witchcraft, though not necessarily a pure unbroken survival thereof.
Michael W. Ford is a particularly illustrative case where the exact boundaries between Satanism and “Luciferianism” are, despite insistence, practically non-existent, and where Satanism may intersect and syncretize with Paganism. Although Ford likes to formally define Luciferianism as distinct from Satanism and although he tends to reject the idea of a conscious Satan that inspires humans to revolt (preferring a more symbolic interpretation), in practice he tends to repeatedly identify Lucifer with Satan via the identity of the Adversary. Books such as Liber HVHI are meant as “a path to Ahriman, or Satan as it is called in the west”, though with the aim of becoming a manifestation of Satan rather than worshipping Satan, while explicitly identifying Lucifer with Satan. This identification also occurs in Luciferian Witchcraft, Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim, and Wisdom of Eosphoros. Ford takes many philosophical cues from Satanism in its various manifesations and, of course, the imagery that Ford employs in all of his works is perfectly consistent with Satanic aesthetics. Meanwhile, Ford also argues that his system of Satanism/Luciferianism is based in a pre-Christian religion and incorporates magickal workings with various pre-Christian gods. In Wisdom of Eosphoros, Ford positions Lucifer/Satan as originally a pre-Christian deity or complex of pre-Christian deities such as Ishtar or Chemosh, and argues for the existence of an ancient pre-Christian tradition of self-deification based on the Hellenistic ruler cult and the worship of gods such as Baal-Shamem or Melqart or more specifically the identification with these gods by the king of Tyre. In Adversarial Light we are presented with a whole descending diagram of systems that Ford purports to have influenced the development of his “Luciferianism”, the oldest of which include Greek Theurgy, Babylonian sorcery, and the Egyptian cult of Set. In some of his books, like Magick of the Ancient Gods, Ford goes out of his way in interpreting basically whole pre-Christian pantheons of gods, particularly the Hellenic pantheon, on the terms of his Satanic/”Luciferian” belief system.
Two more obscure figures in British witchcraft also present interesting areas of intersection between Satanism and Paganism. One of them is a figure who Michael W. Ford takes as a source for his own system: Charles Matthew Pace (a.k.a. “Hamar’at”). Pace apparently referred to himself as a Luciferian, a Satanist, and a “Sethanist” simultaneously, and centered his belief system around the worship of a god named “Seth-an” which he identified with Lucifer. Pace frames his belief system as a continuation of a pre-Christian tradition and goes out of his way to reject all “Abrahamic” contexts even to the point of explicitly denouncing Kabbalah, but the context of Pace’s belief system is not wholly separable from Satanism. Though Pace preferred the label “Luciferian” the most, the identity of Lucifer with “Seth-an” arguably presents an idenity with Satan. According to Pace, Seth-an was originally a human king who went against the Egyptian establishment in some way, and attained the status of “Adversary” because he was the patron god of the Hyksos dynasty. It is possibly to argue that “Seth-an” is simply a way of referring to Satan on ostensibly Pagan terms, and so Luciferian and Satanist for Pace are interchangeable. Another case I refer to is Alastair Robert Clay-Egerton, who was a member of an obscure group called Templi Satanas Luciferi (or “Temple of Satan the Light-Bearer”), which is claimed to be a forerunner to the modern Tubal-Cain tradition. In Clay-Egerton’s doctrine, Lucifer appears to be the main focus, but Lucifer is also identified as Satan as the “Lord of this World”, and although Clay-Egerton generally preferred the term Luciferian to describe members of Templi Satanas Luciferi, he also accepted the use of the term Satanist interchangeably with Luciferian on the grounds that Luciferians are adversaries of those who promote intolerance, despoil the earth, destroy life, and twist the teachings of “Emmanuel bar Joseph” (or “Emmanuel of Nazareth”, seemingly a reference to Jesus). Lucifer is also identified as the “male principle” of the world, who is paired with a female principle referred to as the “Great Mother” or “Mother Goddess”, which seems to be an obvious echo of Wiccan doctrine, and he lays a great stress on how Man should live in harmony with the earth and in accordance with nature, while lauding the supposed cult of the Great Mother and lamenting its suppression by Christianity. Clay-Egerton also considers the idea that “Emmanuel of Nazareth” is another name for the Light-Bearer and so is “Satan-Lucifer” as well as the gods Cernunnos, Pan, Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, and Horus.
Outside of witchcraft, a very old and also obscure example I am keen to point to is Carl William Hansen, otherwise known as Ben Kadosh. He referred to himself as a Luciferian, not a Satanist. Yet, he employs the iconography of Satanism including the inverted pentagram to represent his belief system aesthetically, and accepts Satan as another name for both Lucifer and Pan, who are both interchangeable in Hansen’s system. But Lucifer is not only identical with Pan and Satan, he is also identified with a number of pre-Christian gods, namely Jupiter, Zeus, Venus, Marduk, Tyr, and Hermes. Lucifer is also interpreted as an “esoteric outer” of Pan, who can be taken as representative of the originary principle of darkness. Pan in turn was also identified with Jupiter as well as Kronon. Not only are there several identifications involving pagan Gods, Hansen frames his belief system as essentially a revivial of the old pre-Christian cult of Pan, and his 1906 pamphlet The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or as I call it Lucifer-Hiram) with the Orphic Hymn to Pan and proclamations of the return of the ancient cult. So while Hansen did not call himself a Pagan, his own belief system takes up a decidedly Pagan narrative.
Returning to the subject of witchcraft, Gregorius notes that, in Charles Leland’s Aradia, there is an invocation that implicitly positions Lucifer as the Devil, despite him functioning as a pagan deity in the overall text. Lucifer is referred to as the “most evil of all spirits” who “once reigned in hell when driven away from heaven”. Much of Aradia‘s presentation still has very little to do with the Christian myths, and he is still generally treated as a pagan deity and identified with the god Apollo, but the Fall from Heaven and the motive of pride is still referenced in its characterization of Lucifer. On this basis it is possible that Leland’s Lucifer can be interpreted as both a Devil and a pagan god and thus embodying the intersection. Then again, as Gregorius also points out, Aradia‘s overall narrative is highly inconsistent. Cain, for instance, as both imprisoned beneath the earth and as the Sun, while Lucifer himself seems to be both a god of the sun and the moon even though his consort Diana is also goddess of the moon.
If there is anywhere in Satanism where intersection with modern Paganism is strongest, it is in none other than the broad current we call Theistic Satanism. Theistic Satanism is generally overlooked in mainstream and even academic discussions of Satanism, who ultimately prefer to focus on the most visible Satanic organisations which often tend towards atheism. Nonetheless, despite the popular claim that Satanism is strictly an atheist philosophy, there are several expressions of Theistic Satanism in the modern world, and they are in no way less Satanic than movements like the Church of Satan are. There tend to be many intersections with pre-Christian polytheism within Theistic Satanism, at least in practice, as reflected in both various approaches to the veneration of demons and the veneration of or working with pre-Christian gods alongside demons. As just an anecdotal example, I remember back in 2015 being friends with a Theistic Satanist who also claimed to work with or venerate the Babylonian god Marduk. In the scene I was in or adjacent to, a certain sense of identification with or interest in pagan gods was commonplace even if we didn’t regard ourselves as Pagans. It is also not uncommon for some Theistic Satanists to regard Satan as a Christian caricature a pre-Christian deity who they believe was worshipped under other names, and sometimes identify Satan with gods such as Pan, Set, Shiva, Prometheus, or in some cases Enki.
The old Ophite Cultus Sathanas (or, the Our Lady of Endor Coven), founded by Herbert Arthur Sloane, was probably influenced by the Neopaganism that was developing in his time. Sloane believed in a Horned God and apparently had a vision of said horned god in the woods at a young age, and then after reading Margaret Murray’s The God of the Witches he decided that this god was Satan (or Sathanas) and worshipped him as such thereafter. However Sloane did not regard Satan as a fertility god, viewed witches who worshipped him as a fertility god as being misled, and instead viewed Satan as an agent of the “true God”. In this sense Sloane was definitely influenced by Neopaganism but ultimately rejected identification with it. Diane Vera has described herself as a Polytheistic Satanist and her organisation, the Church of Azazel, worships Satan-Azazel as their main god alongside Lilith and the gods Pan, Ishtar, Prometheus, and Sophia (as Lucifer). The Church of Azazel believes in the existence of multiple gods as distinct entities and accepts the veneration of other gods alongside their main pantheon, and so expressly aligns itself with “hard polytheism” and the reconstructionist movement. Here, then, Paganism is not identified as Theistic Satanism but intersects with it in Vera’s doctrine. The Cathedral of the Black Goat, which was founded by Brother Myrmydon and Sister Nephtys and also serves as basically a war metal festival, tends to accept some pre-Christian deities such as Set and Kali as representations of Satan. In my article about Satanic Panic in the context of the Ukraine-Russia War, I discussed a Ukrainian Theistic Satanist group called Bozhichi, which worshipped Satan and also includes the worship of pagan gods and the practice of a form of magic called Veretnichestvo.
A more contemporary group called the First Church of the Morningstar, is a Theistic Satanist group (and an anarchist one at that!) whose membership also includes Chaos Magicians, “Luciferians”, Thelemites, Discordians, and Pagans, and on their website they list a series of pre-Christian gods that they venerate alongside Satan and the host of Hell. These gods include Enki, Ereshkigal, Pan, Inanna, Prometheus, Eris Discordia, Set, Thoth, Eros, Hades, Persephone, Hecate, Aphrodite, Sekhmet, and Isis. It also includes gods from the Thelemite pantheon, namely Babalon, Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Kuit, as well as Greek mythological women who weren’t historically considered goddesses, namely Pandora and Ariadne. It is worth noting the founder, Johnny Truant, regards Paganism as distinct from Satanism on the grounds of what he sees as Paganism’s orientation towards ecology and nature worship, so on those terms we could not regard the First Church of the Morningstar as a syncretic Satanic-Pagan organization solely because of the inclusion of multiple gods. Though again, the point is intersection, not identification, and there is a noticeable intersection in any case.
I consider the subject of Demonolatry to be related in that it does contain within itself what is in essence a Theistic Satanist doctrine. Practitioners of Demonolatry may, as do many of the Satanists already discussed, refuse the label of “Pagan” for themselves, but the point here is not to graft that onto them anyway and instead more to discuss intersections. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, she argues that her tradition of Demonolatry is built on Hermetic teachings originating in ancient Egypt and that many of the demons worshipped in Demonolatry are pagan gods. The “Demon Directory” gives us a whole list of demons, which includes pre-Christian gods that are sometimes categorized as “devils”. These gods include Adad, Cizin (once again listed as “Ahpuch”), Amun (as “Ammon”), Ashtaroth, Astarte, Baal, Baalberith, Bastet (again as “Bast”), Bile, Charon, Dagon, Enma-O (again as “Emma-O”, “O’Yama”, and “Yan-lo-Wang”), Eurynomos, Hecate, Hel (as “Hela”), Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto, Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Succoth-benoth (as “Succorbenoth”), Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (again as “Thamuz”), Thoth, Typhon, and Xipe Totec (again as “Yaotzin”). Many of these are the same as the “Infernal Names” listed in the Satanic Bible. The timeline of the history of Demonolatry seems to begin at 3000 BC, with the supposed date of the writing of the Hermetica and Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Canaanite, Semitic, and Amorite polytheism as the foundations of Demonolatry, thus we are presented with pre-Christian Paganism as the purported origin of Demonolatry. A section titled “The Hermetica – The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs” outlines a sort of pantheistic theology Man and the cosmos are one with the deity Atum, and how on this basis Man takes on the attributes of the gods as if he were one of them and knows the gods because they spring from the same source as Man. Connolly interprets this as a doctrine of self-worship or self-deification, arguing on this basis that the pre-Christian ancient Egyptians were the first practitioners of the (Western) Left Hand Path, and, most crucially, her version of this doctrine replaces Atum with Satan, thus positing Satan as the god of the cosmos or the All. Thus in Connolly’s system of Demonolatry (at least, and I must stress hers is probably not the only one).
It is to be stressed again that this does not necessarily make Demonolatry a “pagan religion” or a form of Paganism necessarily if strictly by its own consideration. For its practitioners, Demonolatry is separate from Paganism on the basis that Paganism is defined in terms of its nature-centeredness, which is not necessarily shared by Demonolatry. That’s not necessarily saying that Demonolatry is “anti-Pagan”, and certainly not in light of the intersections with Paganism that have already been established, but practitioners often find the label of “Pagan” to be something externally imposed on them rather than something that they consciously embrace.
When it comes to Anti-Cosmic Satanism, the intersections with Paganism are generally very minimal, if they exist at all, although I suppose if one wanted to stretch the subject one might examine the extent to which Anti-Cosmic Satanists draw from the syncretic Latin American and Afro-Caribbean religious traditions, which are often polytheistic albeit generally not identified as “Pagan”. According to Benjamin Hodge Olson in his essay At the Threshold of the Inverted Womb: Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Radical Freedom, this influence is particularly evident in Templum Falcis Cruentis and the writing of N.A-A.218. Beyond this, the tendency to identify Satan with various “adversarial gods” and the re-interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth is about the faintest link standard fare Anti-Cosmic Satanism has with Paganism, and it’s not much. There is, however, an example of outright syncretism between Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Paganism in the form of Thursatru, a modern brand of Heathenry that is based almost entirely on Anti-Cosmic Satanist doctrine remodelled in the contest of Norse mythology. Thursatru takes the Anti-Cosmic narrative and interprets Odin, the king of the Aesir, as the Demiurge and therefore identical to Yahweh and Marduk, and therefore the cosmic oppressor, while aligning with a clan of giants called the Thursar in order to . Thursatru is sometimes regarded as another name for Rokkatru, another modern branch of Heathenry with a notably adversarial alignment, but they are not to be confused. As I understand it, Thursatru is based entirely in the current of Anti-Cosmic Satanism and is exclusively dedicated to the worship of the Thursas and opposes the worship of all other Norse gods, whereas Rokkatru is ultimately still based in Heathenry but, insofar as it is influenced by Satanism, tends to take influences from different forms of Satanism, and while Rokkatru focuses itself on the worship of the jotnar or the gods who are considered “rokkr” (of the twilight, relevant to the commencement of Ragnarok), it seems to me that many contemporary Rokkatruar are generally not opposed to the worship of other Norse/Germanic gods. In my opinion, if there is to be any comparison between Thursatru and Rokkatru, I would regard Rokkatru as much more consistently Pagan. That said, however, both Thursatru and Rokkatru could be regarded as points of syncretic intersection involving Satanism and Paganism to varying extents.
If we count certain pre-modern individual cases of apparent devil worship as individual professions of “Satanism” in a loose sense, I think it’s worth looking at Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party again for a fascinating instance of Satan worship intersecting with pre-Christian beliefs. Faxneld notes that, in medieval Sweden, there were individuals who, as outlaws, are at least attested to have worshipped Satan as their patron. This includes a man named Tideman Hemmingsson, a notorious outlaw who lived in the forest and allegedly made a pact with Satan and a forest nymph (or “skosgraet”) to grant him luck in hunting and enable him to shoot as much game as he wanted. Hemmingsson wasn’t alone; two other men, Hakan Jonsson made a similar pact, and much later a fisherman named Mickel Kalkstrom claimed to have made a pact with the Devil to catch as much fish as he wanted. According to Faxneld, these pacts intersected with a surviving folk belief in nature spirits, presumably more consistent with pre-Christian religion. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, it was believed that spirits, such as nymphs, lived in the woods, trees, rivers, and/or lakes, and could either bring good fortune and endanger people in some way. One could think of it as a kind of animism in the context of folk beliefs. The wilderness was the home of spirits and nymphs, which were then recast as demons in the eyes of Christianity, and so in Christian demonology the wilderness was also a kind of “inverted world” and a “gateway to demonic powers”. Satan, then, became seen as the ruler of the wilderness, the space outside the law of Christian civilization, to whom, according to Faxneld, some Swedish outlaws turned to as their patron and their god.
In the final hand, we should conclude that Satanism and modern Paganism tend to intersect with one another, but also note that Paganism can and has intersected with other religious movements. Ethan Doyle White notes that there are ways in which Paganism has also intersected with “Abrahamic” religions, or at least particularly Christianity. As an example, White points out that Maltese Pagans tend to observe both Pagan and Catholic ceremonies simultaneously, no doubt drawing on the deep influence of Roman Catholicism on social life in Malta. Another example White points to is the existence of Trinitarian Wicca, or Christian Wicca, which consciously blends Wicca with Christianity. I would count the Church of Light and Shadow as a similar example drawing on that example. More to the point, I would also point to the numerous pre-modern attestations of syncretism between pre-Christian polytheism and the then-new Christianity. This includes Vikings in Scandinavia praying to both the Christian God and to Norse gods such as Thor, the spells of the Greek Magical Papyri containing invocations of the names and angels of God and apparently even Jesus alongside the pre-Christian gods and spirits, Roman syncretism of Jesus and the god Sol or Helios, and the various syncretic Afro-Caribbean traditions that include Jesus and other Christian figures. Outside of Christianity, there have also been syncretic forms of Judaism and that blended Judaism with Paganism both in pre-Christian antiquity and in the modern era.
The point is that Paganism in itself can intersect with many different religious traditions, and in fact has demonstrated cases of syncretism with many different belief systems without much conflict with its overall core, even if it inevitably poses problems for the core of religions such as Christianity. The point is that this applies as well for the relationship between Paganism and Satanism, and that, on this basis, there is no reason to think of Satanism as entirely separable from Paganism. On this basis and other bases, syncretism, and my own project of Satanic Paganism, stands on solid ground. And yet, it is evident that the history of which I speak is not without problems. Satanism and Paganism intersect with each other in numerous ways, but, as we have shown, this can also include some rather reactionary doctrines. But, as we have seen, there is nothing indicating that either Satanism, Paganism, or their intersection or syncretism, necessarily must follow such paths.
Satanism and Paganism are not solely defined by their historical representation (yes, even though part of the essence of Paganism consists of revitalizing ideas from the past), but are defined both by generalized sets of core worldviews and the people who practice them in the here and now. I wonder if the latter fact is given as much consideration as it deserves. Satanic Paganism itself is ultimately an individual and rather idiosyncratic stance, one whose very label makes sense as a summary for that which cannot be contained dogmatically. That, and the knowledge of Pagan syncretism and Satanist-Pagan intersection, gives it its power.
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….
There are many many more shades and colours to darkness than just black.
– Martin Eric Ain (1967-2017)
I would to take the time to elaborate, as best as I can, an inquiry into the concept of Darkness as an essential postulation. What I mean by this is that I aim to present the contours of a concept of Darkness as a thing itself, in no way subordinate to Light, not even as a lynchpin of certain ideas of cosmic balance. It’s pretty common in certain circles to hear talk of facing and accepting Darkness, but not as a thing in itself, as a force to be reckoned, as anything intractable; no, only so that it may be admitted as part of something greater other than itself, or even merely as an appendage of a greater light. Darkness is something that simply and at all costs can never be afforded the same privileged position granted to Light. Always we are counselled to seek the light. But light is already everywhere, and we find it without seeking. We may step outside by day and behold the Sun and the glow of the day, surely beautiful as it is, or we may saunter into the night and see if anything an excess of light created by our own technical hand, such even that it sometimes obstructs the natural lights of the stars. What is inner, what is “deep”, what is “Other” and “alter” is Darkness, and the fear of Darkness itself speaks pronounces this to us through our instincts even where thought may fail to communicate it.
There is a long heritage in religious thought concerning schism between dualism and what might perhaps be referred to as monism, and all the while we see definite contrasts between two poles both within Christianity, whose spectre has yet shaped a large chunk of occultism, and outside of it. Obviously there is the familiar Christian dualism into which we are inundated and which we are, in many ways rightly, encouraged to overcome. But dualism yet persists, and is the actually existing content of much that we refer to as doctrines of balance. Michael W Ford, for instance, asserts his brand of Luciferianism as a non-dualistic philosophy aimed at apotheosis through cultivating “balance” in the self. But this balance is still a dualistic construction, in that it posits to essential forces, as representative of different aspects of the self, in tension with each other, just that by “non-dualistic” he merely means that one of those forces is not to be privileged over another. Of course, outside of this, there are contrasts where, even where Darkness is not dismissed as “evil”, Light is still privileged above it. This status quo, in my view, cries out for an alternative, for the proclamation of fundamental Darkness. In order to answer this inner and outer demand, it is vital to investigate the concept of Darkness as a fundamental and primary postulation, category, or substance; something that not simply compliments Light, but precedes and supercedes it. It is quite common in witchy circles as well to affirm Darkness as legitimate in itself, though still assert Darkness and Light as existing as necessarily complimentary dialectical poles, both not existing without the other. I, in my inquiry, long for so much more than this.
In full disclosure, this is coming from the perspective of a rediscovery of Satanism alongside Paganism, and part of the purpose of this inquiry involves forging a perspective that binds the synthesis between the two realms. In the not very distant future I plan to elaborate the nature of this synthesis in an article that, though it may seem manifesto-ish, wouldn’t entirely take the form of a manifesto at least by my reckoning. But for now, even in the presently-established context, I will say that much of my intentions for establishing the conceptual nature of Darkness will lean towards the more satanic aspect of that synthesis. I say this because in the process of all of this I intend to touch upon ideas that will allow me to point towards a concrete philosophical-ideological basis for Satanism as a whole that is neither the old LaVeyan/post-LaVeyan orthodoxy of metaphysical rational-objectivism as parsed via Ayn Rand nor the vague progressive humanism of either The Satanic Temple or their rivals, and that project involves the rediscovery of a radical and apophatic concept of egoism. As I wrote this article, I also waded into the discourse as regards nihilism, or anarcho-nihilism, even though I don’t necessarily consider myself one, and it is in view of this that a part of the hopes I have for this inquiry also involve but one way of assessing any philosophical proxmity to nihilism, and that the content I’m exploring may prove a good judge for that.
Dark Materialism and Averse Gnosticism
Starting this inquiry, let’s refer to Georges Bataille’s essay, Base Materialism and Gnosticism, a short discussion of the philosophical content of “Gnosticism”. The central thesis of this essay is strange, in that Bataille seemingly meant to argue that “Gnosticism” was the embodiment of an uncompromising and (from a certain perspective) crude materialism. But even here, there’s something to derive from his argument in terms of an original take on religious materialism. Bataille asserts that the leitmotif of Gnosticism is a concept of matter as an active principle that exists eternally and autonomously as darkness and as “evil”. This darkness is not simply the absence of light, but is rather the prime state of things that is revealed by this absence of light; a “monstrous archontes”. Bataille reckoned that the severed head of an ass, representative of an ass-headed god purportedly worshipped by Gnostics, alongside an overall “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces”, represented the “most virulent” manifestation of materialism. Strangely, Bataille argues that this is more of a psychological expression, rather than an ontological statement of matter as thing-in-itself. Bataille noted base matter as something that external and foreign to ideal human aspirations and thus rejecting any attempt by humans to reduce it to “the great ontological machines” these aspirations produce. In other words, matter, darkness, evil (by Bataille’s terms), these are things that cannot be subordinated beneath any sort of teleological mission or will as set by human thought, and perhaps because of this it bears the name of evil, at least insofar as the Good represents the moral, historical, teleological projections of human thought and its wishes for the world. Fittingly, the materialism Bataille attributes to Gnosticism serves an important philosophical function; to allow the intellect to escape from the constraints of philosophical idealism.
Of course, it is worth assessing Bataille’s overall position critically. This appears to be a broadly psychoanalytical analysis of Gnosticism as he understood it, and in this sense there is much that many Gnostics would likely object to. After all, no Gnostic sect had ever seen fit to worship matter or the archons, and basically all of them viewed the material world as something to be transcended, and spirit as the true essence of divinity in Man that needs to be excarnated from a prison called matter. Materialism, therefore, is something that would not ever be characteristic of traditional Gnosticism. Further, the only ass-headed god we can refer to is the figure depicting in an ancient Roman graffito depicting a man Alexamanos worshipping “his god”, a crucified donkey-headed man usually interpreted as a caricature of Jesus; it’s just that some scholars interpret it as depicting a Gnostic ritual directed towards either Anubis or Typhon-Set. Thus, however, the Gnosticism that Bataille would present is what Nicholas Lacetti refers to as Averse Gnosticism. It is a Gnosticism that privileges matter and the powers of the world over spirit, instead of the other way around. This Gnosticism worships a monstrous Demiurge and a pantheon of similarly monstrous deities as representations of the active and creative principle of matter and darkness, whose representation as monstrous deities befits an incongruity and adversarial nature that Bataille attributes to this principle. The adherents of this Averse Gnosticism make it a principle to never submit themselves or their intellects to any elevated idea that sets itself above them nor to the reasoning that allows for such elevation.
It is fitting that Lacetti connects this idea to the histoy of pre-Satanist ideas about God and the Devil, running from William Blake’s basically corporeal Christ and his apparent kinship with Blake’s Satan to the old French practitioners of black magick and Eliphas Levi’s denunciation of Eugene Vintras as a Satanist. Indeed, Bataille’s more or less psychoanalytical description of Gnosticism corresponds very strongly to Satanism as we often imagine it, to the extent that I would argue that, were it not for the precise absence of Satan, you would identify it as a form of Satanism. I can only imagine what Stanislaw Przybyszewski or Anton LaVey would have thought of Bataille’s idea. Lacetti’s analysis draws comparison to Eliphas Levi’s construction of “Satanism”, and while I think Levi was slandering Eugene Vintras it’s not something to be dismissed conceptually insofar as it clearly informs a great deal of what would come to be modern Satanism.
As Lacetti recounts, Eliphas Levi denounced Eugene Vintras, described his miracles as “satanic”, and accused him of brandishing “the devil’s signature”. This signature composes of three symbols and their explanation is revealing in that it yields both a legacy of Satanic symbology and a set of postulates readily embraceable I’m detournement. The first symbol, we are told, is the inverted pentagram, the “sign of the goat of black magick”, of “antagonism and blind fatality”, of the “goat of lewdness assaulting heaven with its horns” – ah, how many war metal albums have milked that last image in particular. This inverted pentagram is none other than the same pentagram used today by modern Satanists to signify adherence to Satanism, and which the Church of Satan prefers to claim is their symbol alone, and the goat of black magick, antagonism and lewdness whose horns rage towards heaven is pretty definitely Satan. The second symbol is a caduceus, but one without its central line, and in which the two serpents diverge instead of converge and the sign of V, or the “typhonian fork”, stands above them. This symbol, Levi tells us, represents the idea that antagonism or conflict is eternal and that God is “the strife of blind causes which perpetually create by destroying”; as it happens, as Kadmus Herschel has explained, there is a constancy of rebellion locked into the polytheistic cosmos, or at least particularly the Greek cosmos. The third and final symbol is the reversal of YHVH, the name of God, which would thus presumably read HVHY, which Levi denounced as the “most frightful of blasphemies” and which apparently represents the idea that God and spirit do not exist, that matter is the grand totality, spirit its dream, that form stands above idea, woman stands above man, pleasure above thought, vice above virtue, multitude above chiefs, children above their fathers, and “madness” above “reason”. In essence, the sign of HVHY represents the inversion or subversion of all traditional idealism and all traditional societal forms, with a view to their destruction. Taken seriously, this means that hierarchy and coercion are overturned on behalf of freedom, traditional morality is overturned on behalf of individual wants and desires, and the traditional norms of philosophy are overturned on behalf of egoism. Definitely a Satanic premise, and, I would suggest in contrast to the reactionary “apoliticism” of LaVeyan Satanism and to the progressive humanism of rival atheistic Satanist movements, that it is fundamentally an anarchistic outlook.
Of course, it’s worth remembering at this point that Eliphas Levi was essentially a Christian mystic, a common tendency for the utopian socialist movement of which he was a part, and in fact he seems to have identified his own belief system as “Catholicism”. Eugene Vintras, the man who Levi denounced as a Satanist, was also a Catholic mystic, just that he was much more heretical in his beliefs than almost anyone of his time. Vintras believed that the archangel Michael told him of the arrival of the “Third Kingdom”, which was meant to already be present for Vintras and his followers, which meant they were already spiritually perfect. This perfection was the real symbolism of Vintras’ use of the inverted cross, which was meant to signify the end of the “age of suffering” and the beginning of the “age of love”. It’s no doubt because of this, along with Catholic Mass being deemed obsolete and women being officiated as priests, that Levi concluded that Vintras’ heresy must have amounted to full-blown Satanism. But although Vintras was certainly not a Satanist, Levi’s construction of what Satanism presents a conception of Darkness as both an active force and negative condition comprising a multitude of states; strife, rebellion, multiplicity, longing, adversity, alterity, inalienability, and creative destruction, all in one state.
There is in fact one man who, it may be argued, espoused a form of inverted Gnosticism that worshipped a Demiurge and centered around a kind of ontic darkness at the root of the cosmos. That man was a Danish occultist named Carl William Hansen, a.k.a. Ben Kadosh. He was the first man in the world to actually identify himself as a Luciferian, the earliest reference to that effect going all the way back to 1906. That said, the actual belief system given the name Luciferianism can be described as essentially a unique blend of Gnostic Freemasonry, mixed in with Satanic imagery and possibly even an early Satanist edge, worshipping Lucifer as the Demiurge, identified with Hiram Abiff and the Greek god Pan. In his pamphlet, The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or, as I call it, Lucifer-Hiram), Hansen outlines his belief system centering around the Demiurge Lucifer and Pan. He espouses that there exists both an “active material darkness” and an “immaterial darkness” above it. The latter is called “the infinite bottomless” and a cosmic Abyss in which light is born, while the former is described as a “material wall”. The “material” and “immaterial” darknesses correspond to matter and force respectively, which conflict in order that life is created and destroyed and to produce the “Natural Fire”, the cosmic light represented as Pan. Hansen also emphatically rejects the idea of Light having been created before Darkness, describing such an idea as “absurd and a delusion”, and proposed instead that Darkness is the source and the abyss of matter, a position he claimed to have derived from ancient esoteric texts. Demiurgon (the Demiurge), or “Ildabaoth” (clearly Ialdabaoth), is an aspect of that Darkness which forms the basis of reality, and is given several names – Kronon (Kronos), Sheitan, Jupiter, Pan, Ophiocus, The Dragon, Satan. Lucifer, though the “Genius of Light”, is a manifestation of the Darkness, described as the energy of Darkness, the true light which breaks forth from Darkness, who derives his very being necessarily from Darkness. Darkness represents, “the end of illusion”, the unvarnished reality, such that the light of Lucifer is thus the power of Darkness to destroy illusion. For this, Lucifer is the enemy of the church and thus the rebel and “criminal” in Christian culture. The fear and terror associated with what he calls “shadow life”, emerges from ignorance and unfamiliarity, and that by getting used to it the “sinister atmosphere and emptiness” disappears.
Darkness as presented by Carl William Hansen is thus to be understood as an active force, an intractable reality, the source of life and the light to which it is superior. It is the supreme principle of Hansen’s cosmos, though perhaps not in the sense of a supreme being. Darkness creates, Darkness destroys, Darkness manifests as light which destroys illusion, Darkness is either two-fold or one, Darkness refuses anything that seeks to subordinate it away from its rightful place. This conception of Darkness is very familiar indeed to the way Bataille talks about matter in Gnosticism, and in a certain way to Eliphas Levi’s construction of Satanism.
Divine Darkness and Negative Theology
Now let us explore another way of looking at Darkness, one which defines it in terms of the apophatic nature of the divine. While looking into Rokkatru, which is essentially a Left Hand Path brand of Heathenry or Germanic Paganism focused primarily on worshipping traditionally maligned gods such as Loki, Hel, and the Jotun (not to be confused with Thursatru, which is essentially just Anti-Cosmic Satanism themed around Norse mythology and only worships the “thursian” gods), I read the Shadowlight website and came to understand Rokkatru in terms of worshipping “the nature of nature”, which, in this case, is Darkness. Darkness is held to be the underpinning element of reality, a fundamental basis that cannot simply be ignored or moreover acknowledged only to be forgotten. The curious part is that Shadowlight refers to how even some Christians seemingly acknowledge that “the core of the divine is darkness”, citing Christian mystical theologians such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart. Let’s explore such authors for a moment, and what they mean by “darkness”.
A quotation attributed to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite says that the mystery of divine truth resides in “the translucent darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret”. This is probably one of many ways that Pseudo-Dionysius had been translated over the years. A probably more accurate translation may be “The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret.”. But what did Pseudo-Dionysius mean by darkness? In Mystical Theology, he says that divine silence, darkness, and unknowing emerge when one has negated all names, speech, and affirmations meant to describe the nature of God. Darkness, in his parlance, is set beyond light and above intellect, and, far from denoting evil or the profane or even necessarily a lack of light, denotes a transcend unknowing, which is to say a knowledge of God that is not and cannot be attained through discursive reason. Damascius once claimed that the ancient Egyptians had basically the same idea, supposedly they said nothing but instead celebrated it as a Darkness, beyond all perception. Meister Eckhart described God as “utterly dark”, “the darkness behind the darkness”, and “the superessential darkness”. Again, here darkness does not mean evil or anything diabolical, but instead refers to the unknowability of the hidden divinity (God, of course), the eternally nameless mystery within mystery, the nothingness that empties the self and the senses in order to facilitate transcendent knowledge of God. In short, God is dark because he is fundamentally unknowable and inaccessible. For another Christian mystic, Angela of Foligno, darkness was a way of referring not only to moral and physical decay but to a “divine darkness”, which instead refers to power of the divine, or God, to both surpass human understanding and to annihilate the human in an ecstatic divine abyss of oblivion into joy.
All of this is part of a whole tradition of theology known as apoptotic theology, also known as negative theology or “via negativa”. Apophatic theology, in the context of Christianity, refers to the idea that God is to be understood by way of negation, which is to say that God is to be understood properly what God is not, premising itself on the idea that God is so beyond being as to be absolutely transcendent and unknowable, and thus unable to be described discursively. This is in contrast to cataphatic theology, which holds that God can be understood through affirmative descriptions of the perfections of God and his creation. Apophatic theology can seem obscure, strange, and sometimes even downright morbid for some, and sometimes there are those who accuse apophatic theology of practically being a form of agnosticism or outright atheism, but apophatic theology is one of the main traditions of Christian theology, whose influence can be found in many parts of the broader Christian tradition, arguably even down to the early fathers of the church. Darkness, in this setting, is less of an active force in the way that we would derive from Bataille, Levi, and Hansen, and more like a passive quality to be attributed to God so as to describe just how far removed from human comprehension he is. In Satanist and/or Luciferian you sometimes see terms like “luminous darkness”, or terms I prefer such as “bright darkness”, usually serving to denote the union between the previously separated forces of light and darkness brought together in union, in this sense echoing the concept of the sacred marriage (as in hieros gamos) as interpreted in psychoanalysis, or the chemical wedding found in alchemy and likely inspired by the The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. In Christian negative theology, however, terms like “luminous darkness” or “divine darkness” mean something different. Here, “divine darkness” refers to the quality of utter transcendence attributed to God, which is meant to be understood as “dark” because it negates the discursive word and the formal image in its fullness of divinity. Darkness as the space in which God is to be discovered is connected by Gregory of Nyssa to the Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 20:21 in which Moses is said to have approached the darkness above Mount Sinai where God was, as well as David’s statement that God made darkness his hiding place in Psalm 18:11, and to the Gospel of John, specifically John 1:18 in which John testified that no one has ever seen God. In this sense, “divine darkness” means in the Christian context the idea that God is hidden from. Gregory Palamas expressed a similar concept in the term “dazzling darkness”, referring to an “unknowing” that is beyond knowledge and beyond radiance, and from which Palamas said the saints received divine things.
There is, though, a flip-side to this. It is very much arguable that the purpose of negative theology in the broader context of Christianity is precisely to preserve the apparent incomprehensibility of God, in this sense to reinforce the separation between God and the human which then reinforces the hierarchy of the church so as to stand between God and human knowledge. Further, it could be said God’s “darkness” is just as surely none other than light, just that the light beyond light is so bright that it is beyond sight, utterly incomprehensible I’m the sense that blinds human eyes with its brightness. God himself is still conceived in terms of light, suggested by the reference to “the true light” in the Gospel of John meant to refer to God’s incarnation as Christ. That said, Christianity has no monopoly on apophatic theology, and even among Christians it is acknowledged that Christians did not invent apophatic theology. Like much of Christianity as a whole, this idea has its roots in pre-Christian philosophy. The link between Christian apophatic theology and pre-Christian apophatic theology is usually credited to Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who was a major influence on the early Christian movement. Philo argued that, while the existence of God could be demonstrated, the exact nature of God can’t be demonstrated, because God’s essence is beyond all human cognition. Because of this, Philo argued that God could only be described in terms of what he is not, and that God is free from distinctive qualities and is not of the form of Man. Apophatic theology can also be found in the tradition of Neo-Platonism, in which philosophers such as Plotinus and Proclus advocated for the philosophical perception and revelation of The One through negation. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is also said to have represented an apophatic approach to philosophy in that he refers to a deity that is “unapparent”, “unseen”, and “unknown to men”, and declared that the unseen and unknown are better admired than the known.
In ancient Greek polytheism more generally, it was believed that the precise forms of the gods consisted of immortal bodies that weren’t constrained by the normal limits of space, matter, and time, but could not be comprehended by humans except through interpretation, thus the forms of the gods were mediated through mythological narratives and visual representations, which of course changed with culture over time. The implication of such a perspective is that the divine cannot really be understood through the limits of perception and that it may be at least technically “unknowable”, thus we may see an example of apophatic theology as applied to polytheism. According to Verity Jane Platt, such apopthatic theology is probably expressed in Hesiod’s narration of an encounter with the Muses, a group of goddesses who remembered all things and granted divine inspiration to poets. In this encounter, the Muses travel by night, are “shrouded in thick invisbility”, and seemingly capriciously decide when to speak true things and when to speak false things that resemble true things. All representation of the divine must begin and end with the Muses, and the Muses may transmit divine knowledge directly to mortals, but the mortals can never be sure that the Muses are being 100% clear or truthful. Platt suggests that this reveals a gap between divine truth and the human ability to know and express it, which would appear consistent with apophatic theology. In this sense, the Pagan expression of apophatic theology is that the negative and apophatic understanding of “darkness” is not some byword for transcendent quality of the light of one God but instead a description of the condition of Divinity (or The Divine) itself, which cannot be exclusive to a single deity.
The Hidden Name of The Tao That Cannot Be Named
Turning our attention eastward, when it comes to apophatic philosophy and Darkness, many aspects of apophatic theology feel familiar to the philosophy of Taoism, whose core premise is that the universe is governed by a mysterious principle known as the Tao, which cannot be described, cannot be named, and can for the most part only be described in terms of what it is not. As it says quite simply in the Tao Te Ching, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. Much of Christian apophatic theology would make essentially the same claim about God: if God can be described, then he is not the true God. Indeed, the Tao, as the source of being, cannot itself be being, which is an argument shared by Western apophatic theology, both Christian and non-Christian. Much more curiously so, the same passage of the Tao Te Ching that I just referenced also says “The source is called darkness. Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.”. What does darkness mean in this context, since it almost certainly has nothing to do with hot Christian culture popularly understands darkness? Some versions of the Tao Te Ching translate “darkness” as mystery. In Chinese, this quality is referred to as “xuan”, denoting the sheer intangibility, impenetrability, and mystery of the Tao. The Tao itself can seem like a passive presence of reality, but the nothingness of the Tao is not “empty” or “nothing” in the sense that we discursively understand those terms. Rather, the Tao also operates the universe in its rhythms and functioning, is itself a process initiating the ceaseless movement and transformation of things, thus it might be thought of as an active impersonal force.
Although traditionally the Tao cannot be named, there is perhaps an attribute capable of describing the Tao: Negativity. Of course, by negativity I don’t mean things like toxicity, despondency, morosity, pessimism and the like (although perhaps I could some day talk about pessimism from the lens of French Surrealism). Instead I’m referring to a concept explicated by Wang Bi, a Chinese Taoist philosopher who sought to produce a radical interpretation of Taoist philosophy that might also be commensurate with Confucianism. Wang Bi argued that the word Dao (Tao) is an appellation of Negativity, that is to say it refers to the concept of Negativity, on the grounds that it is vacant, without substance, and no image can be made of it, and there is nothing that it cannot penetrate or that cannot be based on it. But Negativity also has another meaning in Wang Bi’s philosophy. Negativity is also the ground by which all things are set into motion via dialectical opposition. It is the simultaneous contradiction and interdependence of opposing things that forms the basis of the cosmos. This idea of Negativity is also an important part of how Wang Bi conceptualizes Darkness, or what he calls The Dark (or Xuan). The Dark is a constituent of what Wang Bi refers to as Suoyi, or the “that-by-which”, the ground of being and thus a description of Negativity. The Dark itself is the aspect of both Tao and Negativity that denotes the impossibility of humans to speak of or discern it, but it also refers to the substance from which the subtle and the many emanate, thus it is the font from which the entities emerge. Darkness, then, is both the apophatic quality and creative force of Negativity, a power that grounds the whole of reality.
It is pertinent to note that there were also other Chinese philosophers, and not necessarily just Taoist philosophers at that, who have developed their own conceptions of The Dark. Yang Xiong believed that Darkness, or Xuan, was the source of all creation and the process of their sustenance and origination, and used the term to denote the body of Heaven and the darkness, ambiguity, silence, and indefiniteness from which all creation springs forward. He said that those who understood darkness upheld “the ridgepole of the Tao”, travelled to the court of the spiritual, and took care of the house of virtue. This Darkness is thus a creative force that, when realized in the individual, would allow them to truly cultivate and uphold virtue. Zhang Heng conceived Xuan as the root of Ziran, in other words “nature” or “self-so” in the sense of spontaneity, and the absolute beginning of all things, preceded by nothing. Ge Hong thought that the term Xuan denoted both the origin of nature and all things and a metaphysical oneness that pervades the whole universe. Well into modernity, there is a similar concept to the Chinese notion of Xuan that can be found in Japanese Buddhism, or at least in the modern Zen Buddhism of the Kyoto School. Its leading exponent, Nishida Kitaro, espoused a concept of Absolute Nothingness that he argued was the central locus of place for all things and defined as a creative element of the dialectical negation that is the epistemic source of everything.
The Innate Enlightenment of Demons in Esoteric Buddhism
If we stay on the subject of Buddhism for a while, we can discuss another concept of foundational Darkness that hues closer to the theme of Bataillean materialism, and for this purpose we turn to the subject of esoteric Buddhism in “medieval” Japan. One of the major ideas associated with Tendai Buddhism is Hongaku, meaning “original enlightenment”. Originally developed in China as part of a collection of Mahayana doctrines before spreading to Japan, Hongaku is the doctrine which holds that all sentient beings, or even all things in general, already possess the potential for enlightenment or already possess some degree of enlightenment, thus theoretically establishing the potential for enlightenment in otherwise unenlightened and ignorant beings. In Tendai Buddhism, this meant not only that all things, even animals and inanimate objects, were considered to be Buddha in some way, but also that all thoughts and actions, even deluded ones, are considered to be expressions of original enlightenment, without transformation or cultivation. During Japan’s “medieval” period, when Japanese Buddhists were assimilating the various kami of the Shinto faith into the schemata of Mahayana Buddhism, many gods were interpreted within the Tendai tradition as manifestations of original enlightenment, while in other sects they become aspects of the ultimate enlightenment of Dainichi Nyorai. As Bernard Faure has analyzed in Protectors and Predators: Gods of Medieval Japan Volume 2, this has sometimes even meant seemingly demonic deities or entities, including gods who were originally considered to be demons, were themselves manifestations of original enlightenment, and much more. In his discussion of the “earthly powers”, referring to a triad of Buddhist deities consisting of Bishamonten (Vaisravana), Daikokuten (Mahakala), and Enmaten (Yama), all chthonian deities that may share a demonic heritage and retinue, Faure argues that these deities functionally represented a way for esoteric Buddhism to think the “unthinkable reality” of a “heart of darkness”, the “sinister, bloody world” revealed by the deities, that is also rendered the ultimate truth from the framework of Hongaku thought.
This, of course, bears quite a lot of exposition. I suppose we should start with the category of “demon”. I would prefer to devote a separate article to the subject, and some day I intend to, but it’s necessary to explore the nature of the demonic in the context of Japanese Buddhism. Not a lot seems to be said about exactly what a demon is in the context of Buddhism, as opposed to the context of Christianity. The Nichiren Library seems to define “ki”, a Japanese word we often translate as “demon”, as essentially a kind of hostile or negative spirit, described as possessing humans in order to curse, revile, or shame others, or as being external forces that hinder or destroy human happiness. In Rage and Ravage, Faure says that, in the various Asian cultures encountered by Buddhism, demons were feared for their power to cause calamity and misfortune but were not necessarily regarded as “evil”. In Buddhism, demons could be converted into protector spirits or guardian deities, but were often regarded as perverse. Just as Judaism and Christianity transformed the gods of polytheism into evil demons, thus forming the basis of Western demonology as we know it, so too did Buddhists condemn many deities worshipped in local cults as demons or evil deities (in Japan, such beings are called “Jashin”). Faure ultimately summarizes the demon in the Buddhist context as “a type of reality that subverts and overflows the structure”, embodying a negativity that is “the very source” of movement and of life and which subverts the “en-stasis” often attached to Buddhist practice.
With that established, it may help us to consider the nature of the “earthly powers” being referred to. Bishamonten, even though he is traditionally venerated as a subduer of demons in his capacity as a god of war, himself originated as a demon and even retained the title of Demon King for himself. Daikokuten, or Mahakala, whom Faure refers to as “Fear itself”, was described in Japanese Buddhist texts as a demon who steals the vital essence of humans and roams the forest all night with a horde of demons who feast on flesh and blood. In Tendai Buddhism, Daikokuten was interpreted as a symbol of fundamental ignorance, hence “great darkness”, hence from his name the “Great Dark One”, but even in this way he, through the Hongaku teaching, came to be an embodiment of the ultimate reality. Enmaten, or Yama, a king of hell and deity of death, was menacing to the unrighteous and benign to the innocent, was seen as the ultimate ruler of the underworld, and was feared for his power to bring sudden death and “cut the roof of life”, the latter of which simply means to cut off ignorance. Daikokuten/Mahakala in particular brings into focus the idea that even the dark, the fearsome, the demonic as a representation of ultimate reality and enlightenment via the Hongaku doctrine. These beings were not alone. Snake symbolism was established both as a symbol of delusion and fundamental ignorance and as a symbol of the gods themselves, and in medieval Japan snakes were even seen as the “true forms” of the gods; as the Keiran Shuyoshu stressed, every deity always manifested as a snake body. As a snake deity, Ugajin thus sometimes embodied fundamental ignorance and the Three Poisons, yet Ugajin also destroys ignorance as a predator of toads, which themselves are also symbols of ignorance. The snake symbolism and its link to ignorance and the Three Poisons is reflected in Aizen Myo-O when he appears as a snake, as well as the god Susano-o and the demon Vinyaka (a.k.a. Shoten). The Keiran Shuyoshu also states that the snake of the Three Poisons dwells within the humand body; “Inside our lungs, there is a fundamentally existing snake body”. All of this, from the standpoint of Hongaku thought, also represented fundamental enlightenment, and the ultimate identity between ignorance and awakening; thus, the snake of the three poisons inside the human body is also the gleam of enlightenment. The wild dance of the demon god Matarajin has him produce the co-identity of defilement and awakening through the rhythm of his drum, as the performance of his acolytes expresses the endless cycle of samsara. Even Mara, the adversary of the Buddha himself, was once interpreted as a morally ambiguous source of reality in some esoteric Japanese Buddhist circles, along the lines of Hongaku thought, before being relegated to his more traditional role as an external enemy.
In this sense, we can parse a way of understanding Darkness as a ground of being for reality and an active force that represents enlightenment just as much as ignorance. The representation of this co-identity by demonic deities accords well with the logic of Bataille’s construction of Averse Gnosticism and the significance it affords to the monstrous deities or “archontes” whose worship Bataille attributes to this constructed “Gnosticism”, thereby presenting a ground of being and of awakening which is thus a transformative matrix of creative destruction and the enlightenment of defilement. There’s also a sense in which we can see applications of this ontological proposition to the politics of egoist-communism. The fifth thesis of The Right To Be Greedy declares that “it is upon this corruptibility of man that we found our hopes for revolution”. In the same sense, the logic of hongaku thought proposes that it is upon fundamental ignorance, perhaps even desire itself, that one may establish the basis of enlightenment.
Staying on Buddhism for a moment, it’s worth touching on the wrathful deities within esoteric Buddhism more generally, as beings like Mahakala appear throughout the world of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. With few exceptions they tend to look like how we might imagine demons. They have vicious faces bearing huge bloodshot eyes and open fangs, long flowing hair sometimes bound by snakes, fiery halos around their heads or aureoles covering their whole body, wearing only crowns and garlands of human skulls and pelts of animal and sometimes even human skin, brandishing skull cups and various weapons in their many arms, trampling over some diminutive adversary, and sometimes having sex with a female deity while doing all of that. Some of these deities, such as Yama, Yamantaka, Simhamukha, and Ganapati (a.k.a. Maha Rakta), have the heads of various animals. Because of their appearance, they are often interpreted as evil demons by people visiting Tibet, leading Christians to declare Tibetan Buddhism to be a form of “demon worship”; indeed, some believe that Richard Nixon denied sending foreign aid to Tibet in part because he found the image of Yamantaka to be obscene and demonic during a visit to Tibet. But even though they may look demonic, for Tantric Buddhists their actual purposes include banishing “demons”, a bit like violent divine exorcists, but more importantly their purpose is to forcefully remove all obstacles to achieving Buddhist enlightenment faced by the practitioner.
Their demonic appearance can be interpreted in a number of ways, none of them really “evil” by our common “Western” standard for the term. Its primary symbolism denotes the idea of “poison as its own antidote”, which refers to an internal processes of Buddhist yoga (no, not those “downward-facing dog” exercises; I mean the actual meditative practice of yoga) aimed at attaining enlightenment. This meant the means by which passions and ignorance are, rather than banished into the ether, transformed into compassion and wisdom. The idea of “poison as its own antidote” rings in accord with the way that Japanese hongaku thought positioned the seemingly demonic deities as we have already explored, and in fact the basic element of “original enlightenment” thought has deep roots in Tantric Buddhism. The Hevajra Tantra states that all beings are Buddhas, their buddha-nature merely obscured by defilement. In this sense, the idea is that all beings are enlightened Buddhas but don’t yet realize it, and the wrathful aspects of the self become transformative and ennobling in their capacity to realize enlightenment. But the appearance of the wrathful deities is also often interpreted as an expression of violence as a fundamental reality of both the cosmos and the human mind. In this, perhaps we might parse the idea of a violent ground of being that extends even into the nature of the interdependence of things. The Indian phrase “jivo jivasya jivanam” (“one living thing is the food of another”), denoting what we understand as the axiom that life derives from life, serves as a deeper articulation of the shadow of this interdependence; if all things arise from other things, if all things exist because of another, this means that life exists because of life in that it derives from other life, and the survival of many life forms, including humans, sustain their existence and generate their flesh from the flesh of other animals and the bodies of plants. To an extent, this means that suffering manifests via the whole network of interdependence, not just caused by desire.
The violent ground of being communicated by the wrathful deities also necessarily points us to the reality of death as a part of this picture, for it underpins a great deal of the legacy of religious understanding, mythology, and symbology. Even in Christianity, death lies at the root of the Christian concept of salvation even as Christianity strives vainly to conquer death, for the very foundation of Christian salvation itself is death, specifically the death of Jesus Christ, which initiates his descent into Hell, his condemnation of Satan, and his earthly resurrection followed by his ascent from earth to heaven. The old theme of death and rebirth found in the pagan worldview echoes even there, but is repurposed so as to suggest the hope that God will defeat the death he himself set into his own creation. In any case, death finds itself integral to the monstrous dialectic that forms one idea of Darkness that is core to our understanding of Darkness as a whole.
The Power of The Creative Nothing
In returning to Darkness as negativity, I next have my sights on none other than Max Stirner, the grand egoist who, in many aspects, doubles as the grand nihilist. Stirner’s egoism is not like the bourgeois egoism espoused by Ayn Rand and her followers, which centers itself on the sovereignty of a propertied rational subject or self-image. Instead Stirner’s self, his “ego”, is a very apophatic presence. Stirner says things like “I have built my affairs on nothing”, “all things are nothing to me”, and “I am all and nothing”. The self that Stirner espouses is a self that is composed of Nothing. The basis of this Nothing is not the colloquial sense in which we mean “empty”, as in lacking content, but in the sense of what Stirner refers to as the “creative nothing”, by which he means “the nothing out of which I myself create everything as creator”, the nothing from which the unique one is born and into which the unique one returns. Stirner himself doesn’t really elaborate on the nature of the Creative Nothing, but there is an apparent meaning and concept behind the phrase, and Jacob Blumenfeld’s All Things Are Nothing To Me may offer a helpful exegesis. The Creative Nothing is the source of the individual’s ownness, which is Stirner’s way of referred to individuality, or perhaps what we might call selfhood; or, as Stirner puts it, “Ownness is my whole being and existence, it is I myself”, which the individual remains at all times. That condition of ownness is also a reference to the extent to which an individual may create, maintain, or destroy themselves even in spite of constraints, and is thus meant to mean a consistent form of life as a much as a description of the individual. It is also an apophatic quality, defined by what remains of yourself when you all external reification has been torn away. The self, the I, the “ego”, the unique one, it is not reducible to one fixed thing, and cannot come from anything, except from Nothing. The nature of the Creative Nothing could be likened to time, in that time is the “non-thing” that destroys and then creates all things as its own, consumes everything and then produces it as its own, and thus is exactly the power of the Creative Nothing; thus, the Creative Nothing is the force of creative destruction imminent and characteristic of life, of the Darkness of Bataillean matter and Levi’s constructed Satanism, that expresses itself in individuality as espoused by Stirner. The apophatic nature of the individual self is defined by is radical difference, by the fundamental inability to identify each individuality fully and essentially with another, by the fact that the self can be named precisely for the fact that it exists is set apart from others in this difference – to put it another way, to define the individuality of nothing means to establish what it is not; that’s the negative quality of radical difference and individuality. That is why der Einzige, the unique one, is techincally the proper term for that concept of Stirner’s which we otheriwse refer to as “ego”.
The Darkness of the Creative Nothing is a force that manifests as apophatic individuality in its creative-destructive potentiality and its negative power of differentiation. It has no teleological character, and its existence is principally of itself and for itself. It takes in all beings in a way that is in no way identical to each other, and in all it is equal only in that for all it is surely Einzige. The Creative Nothing, as a condition or characteristic of the Einzige echoes the dark power inherent in the universe that expresses itself as the power of negation that produces Ownness, and manifests in multitudinous corporeality, and its active and conscious realization in living beings produces a state of active and conscious, indeed awakened (as opposed to slumbering) or even enlightened (as opposed to unknowing) egoism whose state of being may indeed be what some of us refer to as The Black Flame.
The comparison to time offered Jacob Blumenfeld invites me to consider the lion-headed divinity of the Mithraic mysteries. The exact name and even role of this leontocephaline figure is unknown to us. Certain inscriptions lead scholars to suggest that this figure was called Arimanius, otherwise known as Ahriman or Angra Mainyu, the ruler of the evil spirits and adversary of the god Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism. Other scholars suggest that this being was called Kronos or Aion, both Greek gods of time. A few others suggest that it is Phanes, the primeval creator god of the Orphic mysteries, or Zurvan, the supreme god of an obscure sect of Zoroastrianism. But for our purposes, it’s the symbolism of the leontocephaline god that matters more than what we call him. Scholars seem to agree that this deity was a god of time and change. Franz Cumont, attempting to reconstruct the Mithraic cosmogony, positioned the leontocephaline god as Unlimited Time, which was born from Chaos and created a “holy family” of gods consisting of Caelus, Kronos, and Pluto. It’s possible, though definitely not certain, that the lion’s head may link to the destructive connotations associated with Time in ancient Rome, linked to how Romans understood the god Saturn or Kronos. Ovid referred to Time as “the devourer”, the destroyer that nibbles all things away and consumes them into death, and in this Time was the agent of both destruction and metamorphosis. Saturn himself, the god of time, was considered a devouring god who was “sated” by the years and chained up by Jupiter in the hopes of constraining his power.
The power of the Creative Nothing is a destruction in its own right. It destroys and creates from negation, from destruction, from its own no-thing-ness. In the Orphic cosmogony, it is Time, or Kronos, along with Necessity (Ananke), that gives rise to the creation of the cosmos, the heavens and the earth, and the divine Phanes. The Einzige devours and makes its own, even doing so for the holy and the sacred. The power of Ownness, or rather the power behind it, operates as the force of a truly negative creation that is the true generative power. And Ownness has no teleological drive, in fact the Ownness of living beings often finds itself repressed by the phantoms of teleology. Its only “purpose” is itself, thus its only “goal” is its own endless perpetuation.
The Unconscious and the Power of Nigredo
Another concept of Darkness we can explore comes to us from ideas of the collective unconsciousness, or simply the unconscious, as expounded by Carl Jung. A famous quote of Jung’s is that “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”. But what does this mean? The “darkness” in this case is probably a reference to the unconscious or to the shadow, the confrontation, acceptance, and integration of which is central to the Jungian process of individuation. For Jung, the unconscious represented the totality of all psychic phenomenon that lack consciousness. This totality tends to consist of conscious thoughts or emotions that have been repressed, novel thoughts that are not conscious but will become conscious later, and psychoid functions of which we lack and cannot possess direct knowledge. It possesses a creative potential in that has the power to present hidden contents to consciousness, but typically requires the mediation of the ego. In Jung’s archetypalist analysis, the unconscious is typically related to darkness and the forces thereof, and the triumph of light and heroism over darkness and monsters is often related as the “long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious”. The shadow is the term given to hidden or unconscious aspects of the self, typically repressed desires or “uncivilized” impulses but sometimes also includes even “morally positive” traits that have been rendered unconscious – qualities that might vitalize human existence but which convention deems forbidden. Individuation is the process of self-differentiation cultivated through psychological wholeness, the unity of the conscious ego and the unconscious, which allows the individual to bring the world into itself.
It is important to understand that, although Jung emphasized the unity of the two opposites and ostensibly denies that the unconscious is superior to the conscious, his thought suggests that the unconscious predominated and enveloped human life to a profound extent. In his foreword for Lucifer and Prometheus by R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, he states that “in the last analysis, psychic life is for the greater part of an unconscious life that surrounds consciousness on all sides”. This is him saying that the unconscious comprises the dominant portion of the human psychological experience, a fact that Jung believed “is sufficiently obvious when one considers how much unconscious preparation is needed, for instance, to register a sense-impression”. It is this “dark soil of Hades” as Jung put it that is thus the ground principle of psychic life, within which psychic life sinks and from which it arises. It’s a worldview that is also part of a much broader conversation over the merits of rationalism as a way to understand and encapsulate the nature of the human condition; a debate that permeates many fields outside of psychology. German art was sometimes divided between figures like Aby Warburg, whose fixation on what he called “the dialectic of the monster” led him to appreciate a sort of sub-rational unconscious as part of his tragic form of rationalism as a way to understand the image, and Erwin Panofsky, who regarded all fixation on the unconscious as a mistake. That whole split between the unconscious and rationalism has very deep roots in the original split in ancient Greece between the then-new cult of the polis, centering around “rational” ideas of how to relate to worship and political life, and an earlier pre-Hellenistic religious outlook centered around ecstatic ritual and individual expression. The latter of which is decidedly connected to the worship of chthonic gods and spirits, and the chthonic aspect in the later Greek religion that we recognize is defined by Luther H. Martin in Hellenistic Religions as “a response to the spontaneity of the sacred, a voluntary association of individuals that embodied an implicit challenge to the official sociopolitical order”.
Staying with Jung and the connotations of the underworld, we could talk about Jung’s concept of Nigredo and its broader relevance. Jung defined Nigredo as a process of mental disorientation that attends the process of assimilating unconscious contents into the self, particularly the contents of the shadow. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, he talked about how self-knowledge meant a deep inner journey that led to a kind of “mental darkness” referred to as “melancholia”, which was understood as an affliction and/or confusion of the soul akin to the “dark nights of the soul” described by mystics. Jung believed that this was appropriately symbolised by the black raven, which he also thought was an allegory of the Devil for medieval adepts. Though, of course, the alchemists had a different symbol in mind. Jung’s description of the Nigredo more or less lined up with the way the alchemists themselves described it. To them, it was the process of putrefaction that cooked alchemical ingredients into a black substance that allowed for the initiation of a gradual transformation into the philosopher’s stone, which could also be extrapolated as an allegory for the spiritual “death” that preceded the renewal and purification that lead to the realisation of the Great Work. The symbol for this in alchemy was referred to as Sol Niger, literally meaning “Black Sun”. In antiquity, black suns were generally symbols of the power of the underworld in all manner of ways, and served as a cipher for various gods associated with the underworld in some way. So it’s not too surprising to see in alchemy a dark solar image, “the shadow of the sun”, used to signify a greater process of spiritual death-and-rebirth. That Jung links this to an allegory of the Devil is, while almost certainly a historical stretch, not incongruous with the legacy of medieval diabolical iconography, which derived not only from the Greek god Pan but also from a litany of chthonic gods such as Hades and Charun. In some parts of Europe, pre-Christian chthonic gods became local names for the Devil or even the basic concept of demons, such as the Slavic god Veles or the Hungarian god Ordog.
A pre-Christian pagan practice that may line up with the logic of Nigredo can be found in ancient Greek Sicily, in the time of what was known as Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”). In Sicily, Western Greeks practiced a ritualistic descent to the underworld, referred to as a Katabasis, involving the worship of chthonic deities such as Dionysus, Demeter, and/or Kore (or Persephone). These rituals entailed re-enactments of mythological narratives as well as an initiation that put the initiate in a sort of otherworldly experience characterized by the temporary dismantling of everyday self-hood, or “ritual death”, followed by ritual rebirth. Contact with the chthonic gods was in this way part of a process by which the self would “die” and “be reborn”, entailing a dissolution leading up to the moment of rebirth in divine knowledge.
To summarize, Darkness in the Jungian view is like a fundamental Other connected to life, part of consciouness, springing it into being, but lurking in the background of a consciousness that does not yet understand it. It’s something that those seeking individuation have to reckon with in order to achieve said individuation, if indeed that is still their goal. The raw stuff of psychic life, this is what comprises Jungian Darkness, and the focus on which is at the root of what modern spiritualities frequently refer to (whether substantially or otherwise) as “shadow work”.
Satan, The Great Anarchist and Nihilist, and The Satanic Negativity of Anarchist Nihilism
At the very end of this inquiry let us return to our most familiar emblem of the power of Darkness; Satan himself. In the past, discussion of Satan here focused on the literal separation between Satan and Lucifer, so as to establish the difference of meaning between them. But whatever salience that discourse still has, if we assume that this conversation is still to be had then an angle to be introduced is the idea that Satan means more than an executor of God’s will. Defining Satan solely in terms of Biblical myth, especially when the same is never actually done for God, misses out on a much greater significance afforded to Satan as an entity, and in this respect it is important to consider the concept of Satan as the embodiment of negation. Eliphas Levi proposed that Satan is the negation of God, whose true name “according to the Kabbalists” is the name of Jehovah reversed. Levi described Satan as a personification of atheism and idolatry, two things that would indeed negate the Christian faith (a very esoteric form of which, we should remember, Levi ultimately upheld as his own), but for Levi the occult initiate did not see Satan as a personality but instead a force created with “a good object” but which can be applied to evil, and which is an instrument of liberty. Satan, in this conception, is a force or presence that negates God and the faith built around God, and, in this exact sense, the instrument of liberty. This is on the basis of the liberating power of negation. By negating the Supreme Being, by negating all forms of moral artifice and idealism, by destroying all the efforts of one egoist to become the only egoist, Satan liberates the individual and represents the power of Darkness as the active force of liberation for corporeal-spiritual ownness against all reifications. Insofar as Satan’s most archetypical act is his ceasless war with God, beginning from his rebellion and separation from God, and, in some tales, his refusal to bow before Adam, Satan asserts his own egoism and ownness above the sovereignty of God and/or Adam, which is to say their respective egoisms, thus, Satan stands as the primordial egoist, the true example for all egoists, and his force of negation and darkness the power that runs through us. It is this that betrays the true significance of The Devil and of satanic rebellion, not mere reason.
Rebellion itself can be understood philosophically as an act of negation. Fundamentally, rebellion is an act of refusal, which makes it an act of denial. Per Camus, the rebel claims for everyone whatever he claims for himself, and denies for everyone whatever he refuses for himself. Admittedly, in this, it can be said that Camus presents a profound expression of the anarchist conception of freedom as a universal condition as expounded by Mikhail Bakunin. But while Camus was insistent in his opposition to nihilism in its apparent negation of everything that was not itself, in the end rebellion is a negation in itself. While Camus derides nihilism for its negation of all that is not itself, the same description holds true for his rebellion, for rebellion denies that which it does not embrace, thus it denies that which is not itself, and therefore, rebellion, in its erection of boundaries even against “total freedom” by the simple act of refusal, serves, in its own way, as a form of negation, just that Camus dare not locate negation as the divine source of both freedom and rebellion, perhaps out of fear that this would make himself a nihilist and a revolutionary at once. Stirner’s rebellion takes on a different form: the war of all against all. This phrase is familiar to many through the received political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, for whom it referred to a hypothetical (and practicality fantastical) state in which all human relationships disintegrated into a state of ceaseless and mayhemic violence in which people do nothing but abuse, betray, exploit, and kill each other in the absence of government, the state, or authority. Stirner, however, gives it a different meaning. In The Unique And Its Property, Stirner says that the war of all against all begins with the act of seizing and taking what you need. His egoism rejects the premise of private property, whether as something to be accumulated by capitalists or distributed/leased by the state as is the case for at least some forms of socialism, and instead, if anything, holds property to be universal and a matter of the individual or Einzige’s own assumption; put simply, “I alone decide what I will have”. Thus the war of all against all is declared when the poor, instead of waiting for the deliverance of property, rise up, rebel, in order to win the right to own themselves. Stirner says that, however much is bestowed on the poor, they will want more because they want nothing less than this.
Here we may parse Want as a universal condition of ownness, and I would argue the true of foundation of class struggle, which is why social-democracy or progressivism for its “war on want” is to be opposed as the deception and self-denial that it is. Want runs at the root of power and its destruction, because of the root condition of Ownness. I do not desire your order, I want myself, or I want something else. Therefore, I rebel. I do not want your desires, I assert my will against against them, therefore I deny your desires for myself, and in Camusian terms I deny this for everyone, because of Want. Want, then, is imbued with the power of negation among its traits. Seen in terms of the polytheist or Pagan outlook, or at least especially the pre-Christian Greek worldview, the gods are actually in a state of perpetual discord (a state of affairs which, of course, Socrates and others like him tried to oppose with their visions of a perfectly just and united cosmos), and the successive overthrow of previous rulers of the gods establishes rebellion as the core of a cosmos filled with a multiplicity of divine personality and body. Even the gods refuse, deny, go against the will of others, thus negate through the definite boundaries they set in their refusal, and the divine heritage of rebellion echoes into humanity and its inner spark of rebellion. From this perspective it could be argued that the gods cannot expect much else from humans, even if traditional religion even in a polytheistic context has not always fully grasped this aspect of Man’s relationship to the divine.
The dialectical power of negation in relation to anarchism is worth mentioning here. In Occult Features of Anarchism, Erica Lagalisse describes the way that Mikhail Bakunin differed from Karl Marx in their perspectives on Hegelian dialectical logic as applied to the state. Here, we behold Bakunin’s presentation the dialectic as clash between the “Positive” and “Negative” poles of the dialectic that proceeds with their mutual destruction which then culminates in their mutual transcendence, leaving nothing preserved, in contrast to the dialectic presented by Marx (and Hegel), in which contradiction is resolved through not simply the destruction but the transcendence and preservation of the “Positive”, or thesis, via the “Negative”, or antithesis. In application to the state, the dialectic of Bakunin entails that the social revolutionaries are the “Negative” of the dialectic, who then violently overcome the social reactionaries, the state, and the old order of which they are a part, all of which make up the “Positive” of the dialectic, the latter of which is completely destroyed and transcended by the revolution, after which nothing of the old order survives; this is the destruction of the state in a general conflagration. By contrast, Marx apparently believed that the state needed to be realized at its highest degree, which would mean that the state as the “Positive” of the dialectic needed to be overcome, transcended, and preserved in the dialectical process, allowing it to be realized anew in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat as it theoretically projects itself into a communist society; the same basic idea is clung to like a dogma by the Marxists that came after his time, even as Marx himself seems to have presented an altogether different view of the state in The Civil War in France. It is the presentation of Bakunin’s dialectic that is of interest here, because even though Lagalisse presents us wiith a dialectic involving a “Positive” and a “Negative”, the process of Bakunin’s dialectic is negation itself. It is the total negation of the old order, and it is destruction, which, insofar as it is still revolutionary, entails the creation of a new world, thus it is a creative act that is also an act of destruction (paraphrasing Bakunin himself). But this creative power, this creative destruction, and the transcendence it delivers, is only possible as a form of negation. It cannot take place as an affirmation of the old order, because the old order in toto must die and be reborn in the revolution. For the anarcho-nihilists that would later emerge long after Bakunin’s death, this reality of the dialectic of creative destruction perhaps leads them to the understanding of revolution as an act/principle of pure negation, total warfare against the order of the world, but without any prescriptive dogma as regards “the new world”. Satan presents this negation in his ceaseless war against God, the razing of the kingdom of heaven manifesting as the spiritual triumph of the dialectic of creative destruction; God will be attacked and dethroned, his angels driven back to the earth, heaven will burn, and once the old order is completely destroyed, only at that moment can the new take place, and the gardens of Ownness will flourish again with flowers of selfhood. Thus it is not for nothing that Bakunin and his fellow anarchists took up Satan as the romantic-heroic representation of anarchist ideals against God, the church, and the state, and herein lies the true legacy of Satan, so much more than the feeble confines of either Rand or the humanists.
Staying on the subject of anarchism and nihilism, we can get some incredibly valuable insights into negation, creative destruction, and thus Darkness from anarcho-nihilism, communicated specifically through Serafinski’s Blessed Is The Flame. The defining feature of anarcho-nihilism as presented by Serafinski is that revolution, properly understood and insofar as it is still regarded as legitimate, represents “pure negation”, that is to say the total destruction of the prevailing order of things, in the face of the abject dominance of that order and the death spiral to which it is heading and to which mankind remains bound. This means that no great vision of the future can be proposed or proceeded except by this negation, meaning that the new world cannot be born in the shell of the old. What Bakunin said about creation and destruction is extended into the axiom that the primary aim of anarchism as a whole is negation, which is to say that the overriding goal of anarchism is the destruction of all systems of domination and all that constitute them. This negation is radically emphasized over the defining of anarchism by any number of “positive programs”, which is to say any ideal for how the new world should be, within the existing order. As members of the CCF said, “the deeper we destroy, the more freely we will be able to build”. This essentially means that any and all hope of constructing a new world could only be preceded by the absolute negation of the old world. Negation in this worldview is justified precisely by the existence of its object – the ruling order – and not any attendant positive structures, which exist for the purpose of survival and not negation, and from the anarcho-nihilist standpoint this negation is at the core not only of anarcho-nihilism and not only of anarchism itself but also of all anti-capitalist politics. The contrary stance, that anarchism is not negation, is interpreted as hiding real intentions to no practical or moral end. The property of anarcho-nihilist negation is also jouissance, the quality of enjoyment or joyfulness that manifests as “uncivilised desire” and the richness of life that emerges from the act of resistance. Jouissance is something that cannot be measured against risks, rewards, or results, and cannot be measured as a teleological goal, rather it expresses itself in itself, through resistance and wildness in, of, as itself. It is like ziran in its self-so-ness. That is the anarcho-nihilist emphasis on the act itself. Strength, that is to say the strength that emerges from the refusal to bow and the capacity to destroy oppression, emerges as jouissance from the will to simply fight, regardless of victory or defeat.
In this, Negation is the true source of life, and is hence a creative destruction. Destroying the old order down to its last vestiges, without yielding to the concept of futurity or the idea of a rational struggle for human progress, alone leads to creation as a jouissant phenomenon. The new world is not born in the shell of the old but in its ashes. Darkness is that timeless power of negation which is the true source of life, and even the brightest lights. It reduces things to ash and nothingness and is in this destruction the source of the potentiality of creation that gives rise to life, thus life itself. In Darkness, creation and destruction are indistinguishable from each other. Satanism itself contains this wisdom, and when Stanislaw Przybyszewski emerged the critics of Satanism knew it. Constantin Ponomareff, for instance, had observed “liberating impulses for renewal” in what he called “the intrinsic nihilism of the symbolist sensibility”. He may have been describing an apparent fin-de-siecle artistic/romantic Satanism found in the Decadent movements in Russia and Poland, among the latter of which we find the first self-declared Satanist: Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski’s Satanism has certain elements suggestive of a broader nihilist outlook, perhaps familiar to the anarcho-nihilism previously discussed. In Satan’s Children, the character Gordon opposes one of his comrades for his desire to build a future directed around “socialist principles” by suggesting that it was better to destroy the order of the world for the sake of negation, as is suggestible by his statement that Napoleon would have been a god (or more accurately a Satan) to him if he had overthrown kings without instating new ones and dissolved the order of things without creating a new one. Satan is described as “the God who speaks through the deed, and incites the deed”, from which we may gather that Satan favours and is expressed through acts of liberation (hence, negation) in themselves and not their teleological significance. In The Synagogue of Satan, Satan is established as the great liberator and God the great oppressor, but in this Satan is not merely the author of science and all the great “humanistic” arts and virtues but also the god of lawlessness and defiance in themselves. Przybyszewski’s conception of Satan and the “evil” (and for him evil is affirmative) he represents possesses a further agonistic quality, the darkness of the soul linked to the presence of pain and the absence of happiness, suffering and dissatisfaction linked to progress and evolution. Satan is also an abject embodiment of sexuality, which for Przybyszewski is also the engine of human creativity and individuality, and sexual desire is framed as both the eternal creativity and the remodeling-destructive. In all of this Satan as presented by Stanislaw Przybyszewski represents the force of creative-destruction and negation expressed as cosmic anarchy and lawlessness, all natural to humans and the driving force of the growth and freedom of life.
Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism hues very closely to the Russian nihilist movement that emerged in the late 19th century. This nihilism tended to mean a political and social belief in the negation of all social authority. In Ivan Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, a nihilist is defined as someone who “does not bow down before any authority, who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in.”. It also seems to have been a term used to refer to a broader philosophy of epistemological and moral skepticism that was developed in Russia at that time. The young Russian nihilists were completely against the traditionalist establishment and also disappointed with the progressive reformists of their day, and so they found themselves opposed to both at once. Nihilism has been characterized as a demand for “nakedness”, meaning the “stripping from oneself of all the trappings of all culture, for the annihilation of all historical traditions for the setting free of the natural man, upon whom there will no longer be fetters of any sort”. That basic idea accords well with Przybyszewski’s concept of the “naked soul”, a pure soul or self that is stripped of all social constraints and which he believed was accessed by artists who managed to transcend normal cognition and the five senses. It’s also an idea echoed by anarcho-nihilists to this day. In fact, the Russian nihilists themselves, such as Sergey Nechayev, were uncompromising in their opposition to both the state and the church. Other anarchists have taken up support for nihilism in Russia and beyond. The Russian anarcho-communist theoretician Pyotr Kropotkin, in his Memoirs of a Revolutionist, defended nihilism from being construed as terrorism, and argued that nihilism was an affirmation of the rights of the individual and a negation of all hypocrisy, and because of this a “a first step toward a higher type of men and women”. Encyclopedia Britannica likely interpreted this stance as Kroptokin having “defined nihilism as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy, and artificiality and for individual freedom.”. In Italy, the individualist anarchist Renzo Novatore frequently called himself a nihilist on the basis of having defined nihilism as negation, meaning of the negation of “every society, of every cult, of every rule and of every religion” and the rejection of all retreat from life as it is. The negation inherent in Mikhail Bakunin’s precept of the unity of destruction and creation and his statement “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life” has sometimes been argued as the influence of nihilism upon Bakunin’s thought. And of course, how can we forget Max Stirner, who set his affairs on Nothing. Although anarcho-nihilism is itself its own tendency defined by a set of ideas about anarchism and negation that distinguish it from the “mainstream” of contemporary anarchism, in all reality nihilism has always been sort of a part of the history of anarchist thought and at least some aspect of it makes anarchism as a tradition of political philosophy what it is. Many founding figures of anarchism were never big opponents of nihilism, and at least some actually supported it. Ultimately, thought, what matters about all of this is the tradition of negation, in an active political and philosophical sense, that lies at the core of nihilism or anarcho-nihilism, and the extent to which it relates to the concept of Darkness that has been discussed at length thus far, to Satan, and to Satanism as a living concept with a radical heritage that extends past the claims of authority established by Anton LaVey and his acolytes.
In the admittedly very Christian-influenced tradition of Western occultism, Satan has almost always represented the power of negation. I have already outlined Levi’s views on Satan as the principle of negation, and how this was the true nature of his role as instrument of liberty. Stanislas le Guaita, a French occultist taking after Eliphas Levi, presented an inverted pentagram with the goat’s head in his book The Key to Black Magic. He described the original pentagram as a symbol of the “Magician of Light” that “transmits the power of the Divine Plan”, and described the inverted pentagram as “nothing more than a symbol of iniquity, perdition, and blasphemy”, whose horns rise from the mud to attack heaven. This subversion, of course, can be thought of as necessarily a negation of the “Divine Plan”. Ideas about Satan as “the eternal negation” are not uncommon in mysticism as well as religious and literary commentary. Among the literary tradition of Romantic Satanism itself, Lord Byron’s Satan, or rather Lucifer, as he appears in Cain tells the titular protagonist that the sum of human knowledge is “to know mortal nature’s nothingness”. In Ernst Schertel’s Magic: History, Theory, and Practice, we find a conception of the “satanic” not dissimilar to the ideas of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, in that Schertel casts Satan as a creative, “value-setting”, “value-increasing” principle, a “fertilizing, creative-destroying warrior”, set against Seraph, the resting, preserving, “value-effecting” principle, the spirit of possession and peace. The “satanic” is described as meaning “kinetic”, “actuality”, “ektropic”, or “free energetic valence”. In theory, this can sound like the opposite of negation, but Schertel insists that “Evil is the dark-violent, irrational, destructive-creative”, that this is the principle of Satan, and, citing Schelling, this principle is “nothing less than nothing else but the original cause of existence, insofar as it is striving towards actualization in the created being”. Hell in this view is the “pre-world” of pure potentiality, the power of evil being the raw potency that, in Schertel’s view inexorably arcs towards the created world of Seraph. Such is the meaning of that cryptic phrase “Satan is the beginning, Seraph is the end”, but the latter is not greater than the former and Satan is in everything that lives and appears, lying in the depths that he might break through again. Thus darkness, thus Satan, thus an unreasonable depth is the source and heritage of reality and creation. Satan, then, is a sort of “ground of being” for the universe.
A more literal interpretation of Satan parsed from the source material of the Bible would position Satan as an entity as The Satan, a title for a generic adversary or the name of an angel in God’s court charged with the prosecution of mankind on his orders. This, admittedly, is an interpretation I held when I was more attached to Luciferianism in particular, which obviously required a strict distinction between Lucifer as God’s adversary and Satan as God’s angel; but of course, the reality that approaches me nowadays is not so straightforward in view of history. From the New Testament’s hint of Satan as a larger and less tangible force against the work of God, to the occult legacy of Satan as a force of negativity, there is always more to Satan than appears in any static literary form. And since I’m still talking about the concept of Satan as negativity, let’s assess his role in the system of Kabbalah, or more particularly his place in the Qliphoth. The Qliphoth are the “impure” forces within creation born from an event referred to as “the breaking of the vessels”, caused by the overflowing of the light of Geburah. Their function is seemingly to continually perpetuate destruction through their contact with and enveloping of the seed of God’s creation, and in Western occultism they are collectively referred to as the Tree of Death, the reverse or “other side” (Sutra Ahra) of the Tree of Life. Satan, in this arrangement, represents Thaumiel, the inverse of the sephirah Kether. Whereas Kether represents the singular and indivisible unity of God, Thaumiel represents the aggressive tension between two poles that suggests intractable conflict instead of indivisible unity; whereas in Kether all is united, in Thaumiel all is divided. Satan, alongside Moloch, can be understood as the Prince of Division (to paraphrase Guy Debord), and their presence emblematic of a warlike urgrund or concept thereof meant to contrast with the divine urgrund of God’s unity as presented by the system of Kabbalah.
Conclusion: Towards A Theory of Darkness
So, we have traversed many ideas of how to look at Darkness in this article. What can we learn from them so as to summarize our conception of Darkness? We might be able to parse from all of this a concept of Darkness as an active-negative force that serves as the urgrund of authentic creative process. Darkness might also be thought of as a condition of negativity in a broader and more abstract sense, as well as active negativity, that negativity which destroys and then creates in the ashes of the destroyed. Darkness inasmuch as it relates to “the demonic”, accrues a “monstrous” quality via its negative power, in that it is, in an apophatic sense, not “the light”, but also in a more active sense a destroyer of the fetters affixed to “the light”. Because of the consistent themes of philosophical negation and negativity I have been able to parse from these diverse conceptions of Darkness, it may in fact be prudent to understand negativity as the primary characteristic of Darkness. Of course we probably shouldn’t overlook the idea of Darkness as mystery, as denoting a kind of quality of occultation and alterity. This aspect of negativity, drawing from the apophatic quality, might position Darkness as the Other that is presented via the Jungian unconscious. But then Darkness is not entirely other, in that haunts us as the soil of life and the engine of our very selfhood. Perhaps we could look at it as a compound concept.
Insofar as we may discuss the concept of a violent – no, the better word is perhaps wild – ground of being, parsed from Esoteric Buddhism and Satanism among other sources discussed here, I think it is actually worth considering if it is not more worthwhile to treat it as somewhat broader than Darkness in the strict sense, a conception of Chaos in the sense that I might have thought about for a long time. But it’s worth noting that Chaos in the world of the ancients was more specifically a pre-state of formless and undifferentiated potentiality, or an original state of jumbled matter, than the dialectic being described here. Perhaps the question of Chaos, and indeed Wildness as a concept, is best saved for separate articles, though perhaps it is also worth considering that multiple principles of this nature operate rhizomatically in multiplicitous cosmos. The dialectic of rebellion in conjunction with violence presented in my treatment of egoism, hongaku thought, interdependence, and Satanism, may in fact point to that dialectic comprising a greater abstract force to be dubbed perdition, whose emblem, at least as far as Western occultism is concerned, is none other than the goat and its pentagram, and hence Satan. No doubt this conception should provide depth and charge to Satanism as a creed and worldview, especially insofar we may say that perdition is the only true “law” in the universe, but it also calls upon a heritage of pre-Christian concepts such that I will argue that it may constitute at least part of a Pagan worldview. We can refer what I have discussed earlier about the rebellion inherent in the Greek cosmos, we may also refer to the dialectic of successive conflict that proceeds the creation and destruction of the North Germanic cosmos, and perhaps there is still more room to consider Mesopotamian cosmos similarly.
In any case, as long as we are at this point, and we have some idea how to establish Darkness as a concept, even if possibly a compound concept, there is but one elephant in the room: what to make of Light? I feel like that ought to be its own article, but in the sense that opposites attract it is fitting I try to address it to some extent here. If we relate Darkness to the source of things, to a concept of a negative ground of being, then light is one of the things that issues out from it., eventually sucked back in, and eventually re-emerging, and so on, and so forth. What we understand thematically as “Light” is often tied to ideas about consciousness, which society and countless generations of philosophical thought set against the impenetrable unconscious, and this consciousness itself owes its existence to the chain of creation and destruction set by that same ground of being, and derives its sense of self-awareness from that same impenetrable unconscious. In thinking about it for this article, I have sometimes thougt about Light in terms of the way Guo Xiang, yet another ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher, talks about “traces”. A “trace”, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a footprint of an original actuality, an echo of the original self-so or spontaneity that we may read as the original self-so but which is ultimately not the original self-so or spontaneity. But when a person comprehends the traces, they don’t comprehend their origin. Laws, for example, are what Guo Xiang regards as traces of “marvellous events”, and the latter is to be proclaimed over than the former. Darkness, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a way of referring to the original spontaneity preceding the “trace”, such that his concept of “darkening” means to dissolve trace-cognition so as to harmonize yourself with the original spontaneity and self-so of the original Wu, or Non-Being. The dark spontaneity of Non-Being, originary spontaneity, leaves traces that suggest teleological will and light, which must be surpassed in order to grasp the original spontaneity. The discussion of Being versus Non-Being is not irrelevant here in that light, if it corresponds to anything, probably corresponds to Being, like the concept of God, and darkness with Non-Being. But if Being proceeds from a ground of being, theoretically that would make Being dependent on that ground as its point of origination. Philosophers like Tillich would posit that God is this ground, but God is just one more Being, one more consciousness, one more light, his creation one more trace of the spontaneous power of Darkness.
Light issues forth from Darkness, not as a binary opposite to some equal and antagonistic power (or at least, not antagonistic outside the sense that Light sets itself against a Darkness it feels it must vanquish or dominate), but was one of the countless products of the negative ground of being, the creative nothing of the universe, in the same way our selfhood and any fixed ideas about ourselves are mere traces of the creative nothing that is our “true” selfhood. There are lights out there, that is there are things that produce light, ourselves included, but they are small parts of an infinite larger field of cosmic being, a field whose source is dark instead of light. To alight the Black Flame is to take up the creative nothing of ourselves, the inner negativity of life, and the shadow that is other and inward to us, as the active force of our being and power, to activate the true nature of ourselves and of things. It is to hold ourselves to the root, as Wang Bi said, that is to say we hold ourselves to Darkness, wield the power of negation, with our eyes alight with the light of profane illumination as Walter Benjamin saw it, against all of the illusions before us. The enlightenment that proceeds from this, from our depths in the underworld, this light of our profane illumination, that is the true dark sun in us.
I have a lot more that I’d probably prefer to talk about, which I plan to talk about over the course of this month, but first I’m afraid I find myself compelled to respond to some esoteric e-drama concerning a man whose work I’ve cited over the last year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s one of those situations again. This time the person we’re talking about is Peter Grey, a self-styled Luciferian Witch who had been an esteemed author on witchcraft known for books such as Acopalyptic Witchcraft, The Red Goddess, and Lucifer: Princeps, and who had more recently released The Two Antichrists last year. Yesterday I had stumbled upon a take of his so bad that I find myself compelled to make some sort of statement about it.
On February 24th, coincidentally the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Peter Grey joined Gordon White for another episode of his podcast Rune Soup, this one apparently the third module of his Protection and Malefica Course, to discuss the ethical implications of cursing in magick as well as the content of Jack Parson’s landmark manifesto We Are The Witchcraft. That’s all good, valid, and important to talk about, and it’s not like you won’t find insight here, but towards the end of that podcast is when Peter Grey decided to talk politics, and things do not get good in that department.
Ostensibly, Peter Grey is an anarchist and a radical socialist, though perhaps with certain quasi-primitivist tendencies, and in theory this approach to politics shows itself in his work. But in Rune Soup we see a different side of Grey’s politics, namely that of crass opportunism and big tent populism. Grey is apparently one of those people on the left who appears to be convinced that we really need to unite with the people who hate us, by which we mean they will either do violence against us or invoke the power of the state to oppress us, and who we hate in turn, in order to fight the much bigger foe of capitalist state repression. We see this towards the end of the podcast, after they’re done talking about Parson’s essay. First he briefly mentions the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which took place on the same day as that podcast episode, by saying that Russia “sent the tanks” to Ukraine because “the West is falling”, whatever that means. Then he complains about people who think “Biden-style leftism” (which is absolutely not a fucking thing but go off I guess) will prevail, saying that they are in for a “very rude awakening” because of the mighty backlash from “the forces of repression”. That’s when he says “you’re going to need people on your side who at the present time you’re calling fascists, transphobes – what are the other meaningless hate words that are thrown around at the moment? – white supremacists”. He refers to these categorical descriptions as “the nonsense rhetoric of division”, and claims that anyone who reads We Are The Witchcraft and agrees with it has the duty to “do the work” to “connect with the others around” and not engage in “an endless witch-hunt” or “a purity death-spiral”. This is when Grey concludes that we need to ask “why they hell aren’t we seeing it now?” in reference to the radicalism of Jack Parsons.
Before we need to go anywhere we need to establish something right away: this is all obviously nonsense. Grey does not know that Jack Parsons would not have rejected transphobes, and he has absolutely no way to claim that he would’ve supported unity with fascists – in fact it seems very obvious that these would be his enemies. But having established this, it is important to understand what Peter Grey means when he says all of this. Grey’s overall position is that Western capitalism is collapsing, the time is approaching for anti-capitalist witches to usher in a new society, and in order to achieve this they will need all the help they can get, and so on this basis Grey argues that witches seeking to oppose capitalism should make alliances with essentially anyone who opposes the current establishment. When Grey complains about people being referred to as fascists, transphobes, or white supremacists, presumably by leftists and liberals, it might be inferred that he is referring to people who he thinks are resisting the establishment and are merely unfairly demonised by people who he refers to as “Biden-style leftists”. My guesses in that regard would be the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, TERFs who at least claim to be anti-capitalist in some way, possibly people like Derrick Jensen, or really just any self-styled radical who comes out with a bigoted take and doesn’t issue any sort of self-correction or apology for it. I suspect that he may also be responding to the discourse around attempts at left-right convergence, which are initiated either by fascists or idiots. Jimmy Dore and his buddies spring to mind.
So, Grey’s take is essentially that the far-left should unite with the far-right in order to seize the opportunity to destroy capitalism as it is collapsing. Well, there are several problems with this. It’s certainly not obvious how the invasion of Ukraine is supposed to single-handedly usher in the collapse of global capitalism, at all. It’s also not obvious why radical socialists, communists, or anarchists (which Grey claims he is) should ally with people whose primary political goals involve oppressing and destroying them. More to the point, this sort of big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics doesn’t work in that it doesn’t succeed in bringing us any closer to dismantling capitalism. The only thing it eventually succeeds in is normalizing not only reactionary ideology but also some incredibly toxic bigotry that goes with it. Chip Berlet already examined this phenomenon in his 1999 essay Right Woos Left and had already demonstrated therein the ways in which left-right convergences lead to fascists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories gaining influence in progressive activist circles while never actually generating any long-term political victories against the ruling class.
Not to mention, the argument is that we need to ally with reactionaries in order to fight “the forces of repression”, but if given the power those “allies” would be doing the repressing. Here in the United Kingdom we already have a government and opposition that is doing everything in its power to undermine the rights of trans people, while in many US states there are efforts to actually oppress trans people by forcing trans kids to undergo invasive “physical examinations” and abducting them from their parents if they undergo gender affirmation surgery. Isn’t this also repression, Peter Grey? What about the fact that the American right-wing seems to be increasingly interested in overthrowing elected leadership in order to abolish democracy and replace it with a dictatorship run by Trump? Would the outcome of that not be repression? You’re so concerned with the spectre of “cancel culture” on the left that it’s blinding you to what’s going on and to the reality of the people you want us to unite with.
The point regarding “rhetoric” of division is notable in that forces me to return to the subject of unity. As ever, “unity” is only valuable in a relativistic sense; unity of whom, or of who with what? Has it ever occurred to anyone that you don’t have to unite with everyone and everything, or that there are people that you should not unite with and who do not deserve such unity? Why should trans people and their allies unite with people who not only deny the very existence of trans people but also want trans people to be legislated out of existence? Why should Jewish people be asked to unite with people who hate them and want them to be exterminated or persecuted? Why should we be asked to unite with people who want to create a totalitarian system maintained through genocide? The self-styled “Luciferian” would do well to consider that the defining action expressed in the myth of Lucifer, his rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven, is precisely the refusal of unity with the greatest fascist of them all! Rebellion, the “renewal of the war”, is the refusal of unity by the renewal of conflict against power, against that which is, such that there can be no unity with it, and from the standpoint of certain pre-Christian cosmologies it is this and not unity in the abstract which comprises the cosmos itself.
I also see a distinct contradiction in Grey’s overall stance brought about by his big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics in relation to what seems to be a relatively elitist view of witchcraft. Drawing from We Are The Witchcraft along with Jack Parson’s apparent experience as a practitioner of Thelema, Grey likes to assert that witchcraft and magick are only “for the few”. However meritorious the position is argued to be, we are supposed to accept this and at the same time also accept that witches are supposed to bring anyone who happens to hate the establishment for literally any reason no matter how reactionary and bigoted into the fold of the cause. It’s like witchcraft is for the few to participate in, but for also anyone claiming to oppose the system to participate in. That makes no sense.
Bringing this back to the subject of We Are The Witchcraft, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the following passage from that manifesto, which reads thus:
Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.
Peter Grey would like us to think that to follow in the example of Jack Parsons means that we should ally with reactionaries for the purposes of unity. This is implied by the fact that he closes his rant on the subject by appealing to the supposed loss of Parson’s radicalism in the world. But I think that a more consistent of application of the message of We Are The Witchcraft is precisely the opposite of what Peter Grey prescribes. When Parson talks about “those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain”, we can easily see that it is in fact the people Grey wants us to ally with who embody this description. The people we refer to as transphobes, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are in fact transphobes, and they are this because they want to prevent trans people from being liberated or acheiving the full range of rights to which they, if at least we operate from the conceits given to us under the banner of the human rights framework, would be entitled to instead of denied. The transphobes do this because trans people, along with queer people, non-binary, and all the others that do not conform to the experience of cisheteronormativity, are through their mere existence a threat to established notions of gender that have been the basis of long-standing systems of oppression and hence authority for certain individuals over others. The people we refer to as fascists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are fascists, and we call them such because they want nothing less than the re-organization of the capitalist state along the precept of absolute submisson to the reified authority of a single dictator – hardly different in principle to the tyranny for which the Devil opposed God. The people we refer to as white supremacists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are white supremacists, and we call them such because they want to establish, or perhaps rather reinforce, a brutal hierarchy of power based on race in which some people are privileged and the rest are oppressed. All of these either suggest a fear of freedom or even afflict it upon both the subject and the sovereigns, and those who seek to implement them are thus not the natural allies of The Witchcraft as Grey would have us believe. In fact, Parsons is quite clear as to what the Witch should do with them: “these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how”.
You would think that in a podcast devoted partially to an exegesis of We Are The Witchcraft would have had no trouble arriving at this understanding of the political implications of the text, but it seems that this understanding has eluded both Peter Grey and Gordon White, and I’ll be honest, the idea of getting around this and side-stepping it sounds like classic pseudo-intellectualism, seeking more of the thing than what it is and contorting the substance through sophistication. I’m inclined to think of it as a sort of privilege on Peter Grey’s part, since it really does speak of a sort of detachment from the gritty realities of radical politics in favour of some intellectual landscape, some retreat into the kingdom of thought and contemplation. Grey no doubt lives off of money generated from his relatively well-esteemed body of work and made through his company Scarlet Imprint. But of course, Grey reminds me to some extent of Rhyd Wildermuth, funny enough a man who has said he derived influence from Grey, and Wildermuth currently lives in the Ardennes, completely unconnected to any practical experience of American radical politics, making money partially through his books and his courses on neopaganism. I mean, fuck, I hate to say it but even Noam Chomsky sort of follows the trope as well, not because of Jimmy Dore’s drivel about how he’s a class traitor because he knows his “Force The Vote” campaign was never going to work, but because he looks at what’s going in Ukraine and his answer is simply to act like Russia has no agency in all this because it’s all America’s fault; and if you’re wondering how that connects to any sort of aloofness to the material circumstances at hand, you need only ask a Ukrainian translator. To be very honest, I’m getting mighty tired of this pattern.
In view of Grey’s comments, on their own I think he is merely purveying a populist outlook that naturally aligns someone towards the idea of left-right convergences as a form of praxis. And yet, there are signs of something else. For one thing, while I know him as basically an anarchist, he did in the stream briefly say that “post-anarchism” was the correct way to arrive at his interpretation of We Are The Witchcraft. It’s possible, then, that Peter Grey is technically no longer an anarchist in the sense that we might understand it, but rather some sort of “post-anarchist”, which necessarily entails that he has departed from baseline anarchism, possibly because baseline anarchism does not allow him to justify some of his positions and prejudices. The same thing basically happened with Rhyd Wildermuth, except Wildermuth nowadays prefers to call himself an Autonomist Marxist rather than “post-anarchist”, as though Autonomist Marxism is supposed to somehow better accomodate Rhyd’s reactionary socialism. Another sign I get from him is that he still whines about “social justice warriors” among other things for part of The Two Antichrists, at least if memory serves me well. This is in 2021. I’ll just say that by then I had already stopped doing that for quite a few years. Then, there’s Phil Hine mentioning in comment on the podcast that Grey had spoken positively, even fanboyishly, of Ted Kaczynski. And then there’s something that, admittedly, I didn’t initially give much thought to, but there’s the logo that used to represent Scarlet Imprint. It’s not their logo anymore, but you can still see it a lot in Lucifer: Princeps, and I can see why there would be problems with it in that it really does look like a variation of the swastika. It’s not the swastika that was used by the Nazis, to be clear on that front, and I’m guessing to them it’s an original esoteric sigil or whatever, but it looks sort of like they’ve put two triskleions together but the triskelions are in the shape of swastikas. That’s not even the only sus symbol around. Not to mention, I seem to recall him complaining at some point in The Brazen Vessel that the witchcraft community and the Left Hand Path needed to abandon “individualism”, however he defines it. But then why is “individualism” a problem if you declare that your legacy of witchcraft derives from Jack Parsons, who was literally an individualist anarcho-communist!? Suffice it to say, there is much about Peter Grey’s overall politics that is probably not as it seems, and it has some troubling implications to say the least.
All in all, the last thing to say is that for all of these reasons I will not be waiting to purchase Lucifer: Praxis after this point. I probably won’t even need it anyway for reasons I plan to explain, but really I have one important reason for spurining this book. It’s meant to elaborate the practical manifestation of his idea of Luciferian witchcraft, and the main problem there is what the political implications of it could be. Peter Grey is still not so foolish as to completely side-step the issue of politics in occultism and spirituality more broadly, he knows full well the necessity of politicizing witchcraft and indeed is known for advocating such politicization himself. But that’s very much the problem: now I have some very specific ideas of what that looks like in his hands, none of them good. His “post-anarchist” take on Luciferian witchcraft could well involve esoteric justifications for traditionalism undertaken in the name of rebellion against hierarchy, simply so as to forge an intellectual bridge for the alliances he intends to be made, and I would rather not lend any financial support to that bullshit. Take from the good parts of his work by all means, but just know that this might not be a totally unrealistic assumption on my part.
NOTE: This was originally written about a month ago and I’ve wanted to get it out sooner, but a lot of important things came up. In the time since, I’ve reflected on Luciferianism as something that can be really anything, and the term “Luciferian” for me is basically falling out of use because of it. This article represents a discussion of just one of many ways “Luciferianism” is expressed.
Recently I stumbled onto the website of a Satanist by the name of T. L. Othaos, specifically an article discussing the terminology surrounding the broader milieu of Satanism and the Left Hand Path. This, of course, means a discussion of Luciferianism, and what it means, and I think Othaos’ discussion of what Luciferianism means is potentially an insightful one.
First, though, there is a necessary disclosure. T. L. Othaos’ project is unique, to say the least. Othaos espouses a brand of esoteric Satanism (it is my understanding that Theistic Satanism is not her preferred term) that she refers to as Tenebrous Satanism. It is called Tenebrous Satanism because it emphasizes a positive engagement with occultism and even “the supernatural”, with the aim of cultivating a positive relationship with the “Dark Gods”, or Nekalah. Of course, if you’ve ever seen the term Nekalah before, you probably know that this is the term that the Order of Nine Angles uses to refer to their pantheon of deities. Now before anyone sounds the appropriate alarm bells, Othaos seems to have an original take on the O9A brand of Satanism. It adopts the O9A pantheon and much of its theology and occult practice, but without the cullings, the encouragement of criminal behaviour or esoteric fascism/neo-Nazism that is usually a part of O9A ideology and praxis. It’s easy to think of it as an attempt to reform O9A Satanism, but it actually kind of seems like a synthetic project that builds itself on top of O9A occultism and then separates into its own unique thing. It’s definitely not something I would get into, and given the historic nature of the Order of Nine Angles I would be hard-presssed to see how an “O9A Reform” project would turn out, but evidently Othaos seems to have had some positive experiences with O9A occultism, sans the murderous fascism of course, and by her account at least worshipping the Nekalah seems to have had a positive impact on her life. If T. L. Othaos thinks that it is possible to develop an actually positive formulation of O9A Satanism, and that O9A occultism can be separated from its neo-fascist underpinnings, then on an individual level I think that she is certainly welcome to try, but I do not endorse the project.
With that disclosure out of the way, let’s get started for real.
The present discussion concerns an article written by T. L. Othaos titled “Satanist, Luciferian, and related terms”, which is basically an overview of terminology within the broader Satanist “community” as such. My focus here is on the section concerning Luciferians, and Luciferianism. It seems that Othaos accepts the term Luciferianism as a valid synonym or classification for her own practice of Tenebrous Satanism, but does not personally gravitate towards the label. Her aversion to the term, and it is a strictly personal aversion, is partially motivated by certain preconceptions of Luciferianism. Such preconceptions include the idea that Luciferians prefer a “whitewashed” Devil to the more openly adversarial Satan (though, as far as Ford is concerned, they’re practically the same archetype), and the idea of Luciferianism being separated from Satanism by its emphasis on the spiritual side being arbitrary, since her brand of LaVeyan Satanism and then Tenebrous Satanism is also highly spiritual. Another preconception involved is the idea that Luciferians believed in the objective existence of “dark” entities (demons, gods, etc.), leading her to see Luciferianism as more or less a form of Theistic Satanism (which is not an uncommon perception to this day) at a time when she was basically a LaVeyan Satanist.
I will say, in fairness to Othaos, that some Luciferians absolutely do fit the stereotype of “whitewashing the Devil”, and in a fairly ridiculous way. Michael Howard to me is a well-known example of that, and he basically helped codify the idea of Luciferian Witchcraft in Britain. Howard talks plentifully about Horned Gods, frequently identifying Lucifer with several “horned gods” (including Janicot and Odin), and discusses Cain, Lilith, and fallen angels being central figures in his Luciferian tradition, yet absolutely insists that Lucifer is not a Devil or Satan figure, instead preferring to see him as a self-sacrificial avatar of the godhead! I should wonder if anyone told Howard and other British witches that Azazel, the name of the fallen angel, was also a name used by Christian theologians such as Origen as a name for their nameless Satan. It’s such a silly thing, because even though there’s no need to identify Lucifer with Satan, much of historical Luciferian veneration of Lucifer involved seeing him as a less than fluffy being. Carl William Hansen saw Lucifer as an expression of the inner darkness of the universe, Eugen Grosche viewed him as identical to the dark god Saturn, and even within British witchcraft Lucifer’s identification with the Horned God led to chthonic associations. People can indeed take the “light” in “light-bringer” quite literally, without much thought to what the light is.
Another issue for her is ritual praxis, which for her didn’t really work and thus she found herself drawn away from it. But more to the point, it’s after this we come to how she defines Luciferianism in the present. Her summary of Luciferianism is “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods.”. This summary is extrapolated from her current perception of Luciferianism, which is that it involves the veneration or worship of dark spiritual beings, whether as external intelligences, archetypes, inner energies, or what have you, that this supposed may or may not include Lucifer (which sounds strange considering the question of “how do you have Luciferianism without Lucifer?”), and that, apart from all of that and apart from some Luciferians saying they value discipline more than indulgence, Luciferianism has the same basic ethos as Satanism, in terms of individualism and anti-clerical opposition to traditional forms of religion. It is on these grounds that Othaos says that it is intelligible (here perhaps meaning valid) to refer to Tenebrous Satanism as a form of Luciferianism. She also states that it is also a form of “Dark Paganism” or even Demonolatry, though she seems to prefer the term “Dark Pagan” over the term “Luciferian” or “Demonolater”.
Having established this as the assessment of Luciferianism offered by T. L. Othaos. Let’s begin discussing what insight it might offer for how we might view Luciferianism as a whole.
Since Luciferianism is here at least potentially equated with “Dark Paganism”, let’s start by discussing what “Dark Paganism” means. Dark Paganism can seem somewhat obscure within the broader milieu of neopaganism, and it definitely doesn’t seem like reconstructionist polytheists are big fans of the idea, but from what little is available we can see that “Dark Paganism” is sort of an umbrella term for a set of approaches to Paganism that centre around the worship of “dark” gods (such as Hades, Morrigan, Cernunnos, Set, Hecate, Hel, and others). John McLoughlin defines Dark Paganism in terms of an emphasis on the “dark” portion of the light-dark polarity, the attendant emphasis that darkness is not to be confused with evil, the acceptance of “the shadow” and primary embrace of shadow work, a focus on self-expression via aesthetic darkness, and a general attunement to “darker” or more internally-focused currents of spirituality, which favour self-discovery and self-realization without the perceived focus on external morality and traditional worship found in other religious paths. Darkness in McLoughlin’s brand of Paganism is not just about a corrective aspect of “the balance”, it is a link to awareness of both the self and the sacredness of life (which, of course, is inseparable from death) and to the importance of living life to the fullest and remaining true to who you are; as I may understand it, to align yourself with the true basis of life, to the true nature in an inner and outer sense, and self-essence freely without being bound to the norms of society. The way I talk about it, it kind of sounds like Dark Paganism is an apt enough label for what I aspire to. Given the emphasis on darkness and transgression, the focus on self-expression, and the stated objectives of freeing people from social conditioning that blockades authentic, self-originating individuation, Dark Paganism can be seen as an application of the Left Hand Path within Paganism.
Othaos in her articles uses the term Dark Paganism interchangeably with Demonolatry, but this is not necessarily accurate to Demonolatry, not least since there are many Demonolaters who do not consider themselves Pagans and would reject being called Pagan. The way I see it, it is very possible to approach Demonolatry in a manner consistent with Paganism, but I think some of the theology that comes with it can’t be described as Pagan. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, there’s a theology that seems to be inspired by Hermeticism in that it derives from it a pantheistic cosmos, which is to say a monotheistic cosmos in which God, or rather in this case the Egyptian god Atum, is the universe or reality itself rather than an intelligence that exists beyond it. The difference, of course, is that Satan is the identity of this pantheistic divine presence instead of God or Atum, and that the co-identity of Man and the Whole represented by Satan/Atum/God is interpreted as a form of self-worship. When it comes to Dark Paganism versus Demonolatry, I would also refer to Amaranthe Altanatum, who is a Theistic Satanist and practicing Demonolater. She points out that Demonolatry is not in itself Pagan, due to the fact that it is not a nature-based tradition, which she considers to be more definitive of at least contemporary Paganism. I’d add that, although there are plenty of modern Pagans, especially reconstructionist ones, who reject the idea of Paganism as a nature-based religion, it is possible to parse a nature-based or even somewhat “naturalistic” religious outlook from the animism that sometimes comes with polytheism and is especially integral to Heathenry in particular.
So how does all of this come back to Luciferianism? Well, Luciferianism does have some intersection with Paganism, or at least neopaganism. Fredrik Gregorius, in a section of Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, at least tentatively argues that Luciferianism can be (theoretically) distinguished from Satanism by placing Lucifer in a more distinctly non-Christian, sometimes even neopagan, context. In this definition, Lucifer is distinguished from Satan by the consideration of Lucifer as a pagan god versus Satan as a strictly Abrahamic entity (the enemy or angel of God). This definition is met by many Luciferian groups, historical and present. Carl William Hansen identified Lucifer with the Greek god Pan, and several other Greek gods, as well as some gods from other pantheons such as the Norse gods. Eugen Grosche, while obvious playing with aspects of Gnosticism and even claiming descent from a particular set of “Gnostic” teachings, he identified Lucifer with the Roman god Saturn. Several British Luciferian witches, and those who do not call themselves Luciferians, identify Lucifer as a figure similar to the Horned God of Wicca, and link him to a litany of pre-Christian deities. Even some Wiccans believe that Lucifer is either a name for their Horned God or a sun god in the vein of Charles Leland’s Aradia. And of course, Michael W. Ford argues that Lucifer is an ancient pre-Christian archetype, and probably popularized the approach to Luciferianism built around what could be termed an adversarial take on neopaganism; or, as Amaranthe put it, “adversarial polytheism” – albeit, in Ford’s case, definitely a rather soft form of polytheism in light of its heavy reliance on the archetypal theory of deity.
It’s not universal, since there are plenty of Luciferians who can’t be counted as neopagans and instead lean much closer to Gnosticism. In such an approach, Lucifer would still basically be distinguished from Satan, but not so much as a pagan god and more as a sort of Christ-like figure, or even assuming the same role that Gnostic Christianity actually reserves for none other than Jesus Christ. In fact I’m quite worried that a more Christianized version of Gnostic Luciferianism may become an influential current of Luciferianism, if not somewhat dominant. Still, the description T. L. Othaos gives of Luciferianism as “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods”, or to put another way “like Neo-Paganism but based around the Left Hand Path”, almost certainly applies to a number of historical representations of Luciferianism, and to a number of contemporary Luciferians. Thus, could Luciferianism as Dark Paganism, or a subset thereof, be valid? I suppose in some ways that depends on whether or not it’s accepted as a subset of Theistic Satanism, and what I’ve seen historically suggests to me that Luciferianism is too broad for that to be the case. I think that Luciferianism as a mode of Dark Paganism is viable as one of the different ways of being a Luciferian, and not just because Luciferianism seems to be a big tent of Left Hand Path occult movements anyway. There do in fact seem to be modern Pagans around who consider themselves Luciferians, and whose idea of what that means involves gravitating towards darker deities in the various pantheons with the aim of ritual self-empowerment, and in this sense perhaps these Luciferians can be called Dark Pagans, at least by John McLoughlin’s definition. In older online communities, many more mainstream Pagans, Neopagans, and especially Wiccans have taken to defining Luciferianism as essentially “devil worship” in opposition to Paganism, supposing that Luciferians (or more specifically practitioners of Luciferian Witchcraft) are not Pagans because they worship a Christian Devil. Such a fearful response obviously fails to account for the Latent Christianity inherent in the rejection of all things dark and devilish (even while also accepting the worship of the chthonic gods that were often feared in antiquity) or for the fact that ancient polytheists or at least magicians did worship or invoke the angels and names of God alongside the old gods in the time before Christianity had almost completely eclipsed polytheism. I mean, if Pagans could include the heavenly host of the Christian God as part of polytheistic worship and pluralism, and not be thought of as fluffy idiots even though the God of Christianity calls for the oppression of all other gods, I don’t see why the Devil and his demons should be so taboo? To say that it’s because they’re considered totally malevolent in the Christian context is, quite simply, to accept the moral claims of Christianity at face value, which is untenable so long as you also (correctly) refuse to take the claims they make for their God at face value.
I would maintain that the description of Dark Paganism is not universally applicable to all forms of Luciferianism. But if it can be practical to define Luciferianism or parts thereof as a kind of Dark Paganism, that idea has some positive potential, and I may find it very useful.
There is, however, one snag. While I was sleeping on it one day I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that the more concrete way to define Luciferianism is actually a lot more simplistic. It occurs to me that the main thing, possibly even the only thing, separating Luciferianism from Satanism is the idea that Lucifer is to be venerated as a being separated from and distinguished from the Satan or the Devil; essentially Lucifer for the Luciferians is a non-Satanic figure, and the idea that Lucifer is a Devil or a Satanic figure is just Christian slander. That would make sense of the idea of Lucifer as a Pagan god as Luciferian Pagans might suggest, but it also makes sense of the idea as a Gnostic saviour or even an appearance of Christ. But even then, a lot of Luciferians seem to venerate Lucifer as a Devil figure, even if they don’t consider that Satanic. Even older Luciferians used the terms and concepts interchangeably, such as the case with Carl William Hansen (who used Satanic imagery for fuck’s sake!) and guys like Alasdair Bob Clay-Egerton were Luciferians but he called his organisation the Luciferians Temple of Satan and defended the concept of devil worship in witchcraft from mainstream Wiccan critics. So even here, can the boundaries be said to be all that solid? Not to mention that Peter Grey in Lucifer: Princeps offers the suggestion via historical analysis that perhaps the boundaries between Lucifer and the Devil were never very strict.
So we’re coming up to the end of the year, once again, and to the simultaneous onset of darkness and return of the sun, the winter solstice, the seasonal end that brings forward the new. It’s a time of year for merry-making or simple relaxation, but it also seems appropriate a place for reflection.
This year has been pretty intense for me, for a variety of reasons. It’s a year in which I’ve crossed a fair number of thresholds in life, one which seems to have played host to a slow but potent change, if not in worldview then in its conception.
It was a year in which I still had a fulfilling relationship with a woman, only to see it slip away from my hands. It was also a year in which I ended some friendships, and rebuilt others. I had a friend from very far away for a few years, who I learned a lot from, in fact he ended up being the spark for my transition into a radical leftist worldview, but from breaking off from him I came to the conclusion that he was a manipulator whose intellect proved a more than capable disguise for his true personality and proved to be more of a crypto-fascist than he let on. And so I broke away from him. Almost at the same time, the relationship I had with the kind of woman I had waited for had ended. Without blathering excessively, I can say that she was the only woman I knew so far who, at least I thought, could simply take me as I am, “let me in” as it were, let me unravel before her and over her, and in return I wanted for nothing except for us to have our own life together and for me to fulfill my loyalty to her. But the pressures of life, particularly the struggle to maintain a living, the imperfections between us, and frankly mistakes I made, caused her to become distant from me even as I did not grow distant from her, until finally we lost what we had between us.
Between breaking away from a man who could have been considering a mentor, and having to end things with a woman who really seemed like she could have been “the one” (though we are still friends), it was like I had been shed of a host of bonds, and almost thrown back into the space before they had existed. The side-effect of that, of course, is that this meant the me that was there before had resurged and deepened, carrying new knowledge through the same timeless path whose clarity had been made manifest again. What do I mean when I say this? Once the bonds had been upended, and around the same time as this happened, my concurrent studies have led me back to an important place of essencing, towards what matters to me.
I spent the last months of last year and the first couple months of this year studying and reconnecting with the history of Luciferianism. What I learned is that Luciferianism is less of a religion and more an esoteric mytho-traditional counterculture, which centers around the mythos of Lucifer as the rebellious initiator of witchcraft, enlightenment, and/or the secrets of the occult along with a set of transgressive values more or less consistent with historical notions of what is called the Left Hand Path, and often with an attendant mode of ethical, spiritual, religious, and in some cases political anarchism. It then occurred to me that this could be formatted onto, or syncretized with, an existing religious perspective. My primary instinct for this was Paganism, and this became all the clearer to me after reading The Brazen Vessel by Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech, as well through my encounters with the writings of Kadmus Herschel, reading his book True to the Earth, my short-lived fascination with Rhyd Wildermuth, and my eventual discovery of YouTube polytheism.
But this is yet a deepening of something that had always been there, in some way, even when I thought I had challenged or gotten away from it. From childhood, I revered nature, had little genuine interest in practicing Christianity and no interest in the church, told peers I believed in Jesus only to avoid possible punishment, and was fascinated throughout my life with the gods of old and their stories, along with those who still revere them. That theme continued through my eventual embrace of first Satanism and then later Luciferianism, and the eventual intellectual quest that I would undertake on behalf of the Luciferian Idea. That my mind should continually revisit some kind of Pagan perspective, and that, when I stand at the beginning and the end and seek a primary mode of spiritual expression, I should return to it, is not a surprise. It seems to be my fate.
But for years, the limits of secular humanism and the Enlightenment had impressed themselves upon me, and presented limits that conditioned the way I engaged with the religious and the spiritual. It’s a framework whose limits I don’t see myself as having fully transcended, but reading A World Full of Gods by John Michael Greer, as well as some of Kadmus’ posts, checking out some of Ocean’s videos, and observing the developments of atheism and anti-theism has helped me begin to make sense of it. It is then that I see some of the most salient anti-clerical ethos and ideas of Satanism, atheism, and in a sense Epicurean materialism, given greater meaning and religious sense in the Paganism that I have sought to renew and deepen, over time. Most recently, and pretty amusingly, I learned that even kink can be a religious activity, a knowledge that I think disrupts the imposed boundaries between secular life and religio-magickal life, and, ironically enough, showing the latter to be disruptive of normative societal expectation. The same insights have relevance to the pursuit of the occult, the deepening of which can only be accomplished by further study. But at present I’m now fairly agnostic about it, yet this itself is a kind of religious agnosticism, inherited from the skepticism expressed in Cicero’s De Rerum Natura, along with a more general wisdom regarding anything divine: you must experience it in order to actually “know” it. Ironically, this would mean that my concept of religious knowledge is fundamentally a “gnostic” one (in a generic sense prioritizing expriential gnosis as the vehicle of spiritual knowledge, not specifically the sense of the sects of world-denying Christian mysticism).
All of this has taken place throughout this one year, and as I approach the annual new dawn of the sun’s light, I am compelled to draw myself to reflection of all of that in one day. And there is but more. I see myself striving to eliminate the contradictions I once walked in, and take the politics of liberation more seriously than ever before, but in so doing reinvigorating my former self, once again in the light of new knowledge, and new ways of seeing liberation. That itself has but one mission: the fulfillment of liberation as an existential choice, and, in a much broader sense, the realization of the Luciferian Idea, to make it not merely fully internal, but external and total. Actually, there is another mission: to renew myself as I really am, in what could almost be thought of as a gestalt sense, and as a fighter ablaze with demon eyes. This is what comes not just with seeing previous bonds collapse but also being alerted to what matters, and remembering the reality of things. Seeing the truth of contemporary electoral politics unfold, knowing that people still die for their differences, internalizing that we either fight for what we have, what is our right, and what we desire as the future, or embrace the violence of our world unto ourselves forever, as its eternal human sacrifices to its own progress, and above all, revisiting the shadow of war, the war for life itself.
With that, be assured that my journey is far from finished, nor is my knowledge and discovery. I’m waiting for my life to change – no, I’m waiting for the chance to change my life – in a big way. I’ve gained a significant sense of mobility after so many years of struggling with driving lessons, and my work has resulted in a slow but certain growth in my savings such that exceeds anything I ever enjoyed as a student. I mean sure, there’s still a global pandemic out there, and that means dealing with the stifling “new normal” that comes with it, at least so long as there doesn’t seem to be much of a way out yet, but as long as human tenacity leaves from for us to adapt, and if we’re honest at least as long as my regional government ensures somewhat more favorable conditions than the rest of the union, I might well be able to just sort of kind of prosper. I seek to build a life so as to not merely cultivate myself but also to make my internal external, engrave strength into my life, create as I please, and glide my feet through the darkness. I will build my own world, so to speak, continue to follow William Blake’s maxim that I have emblazened on this blog, and one day, I will once again find one beautiful bright spark, like the one I had known before.
Now, to finally return specifically to the subject entailed in the title: Yule, Christmas, the holidays, whatever, The Winter Mass as I sometimes called it in the past. There’s a fluidity to genuine Paganism that makes some exclusionary attitudes to the festive season make remarkably little sense. “Christmas is Christian”, it is said, by Christians who insist it is their property and some non-Christians who seem to concur without a second thought. As Andrew Mark Henry has elucidated, in antiquity both polytheists and Christians celebrated the winter solstice, sometimes partaking the same celebrations, and for different yet altogether common reasons. Polytheists celebrated December 25th as what was recognized officially as the traditional Roman day of the winter solstice, while Christians calibrated the birth of Jesus as December 25th so as to correspond to a given date of his death, March 25th, and the life cycle of the sun and thus the cosmological significance of the winter solstice, all to ensure the full apotheosis of Jesus. It was not so much the birth of a single sun god but rather the specific appearance of the sun in a cosmological sense that marked the season, which was celebrated in any number of ways then as now, and rather than Christmas having been “stolen” from Pagans by Christians, everyone had their own solar narrative, celebration, and theology to correspond to that annual cosmological event, sharing its cosmological significance as expressed in differing religious significances.
On this basis, the only reason there need be to celebrate Yule in the same space as Christmas is because their divergent celebrations occupy the same cosmological space. Christmas is technically not Yule, Yule is technically not Christmas, but they overlap, and now in our largely secularized culture the exact boundaries between the two can be incredibly porous. Of course, from a consistent Pagan perspective, this should not matter as much as it would for Christians except when defining traditional contexts. Even if you’re doing a certain form of reconstructionism, from the standpoint of the polytheists of antiquity, there was no inherent reason to oppose the integration, syncretism, adoption, or interlocking of customs from any number of foreign traditional backgrounds into your own traditional context. The exceptions, such as the banning of the Bacchanalia in Rome and the explusion of Jews as worshippers of Sabazius were essentially politically driven, reflective not necessarily of polytheistic religiosity in its implications and premises but instead contemporary conservative agendas predicated on a distrust of foreignness and mystery tradition and the desire to preserve certain notions of archetypical moral order. In simple terms this would mean that, a Greek for example, could partake of the gods and customs of various other traditions, even from Judaism or Christianity (as is evidenced in the Greek Magickal Papyri). In some cases of later Christian missionary efforts to convert the polytheists, missionaries would recoil with frustration when some polytheists would react to the presence of Christianity by simply worshipping Jesus as one more of their multiple gods. This, incidentally, is part of the same argument by which I justify the incorporation of Luciferianism, left hand path occultism, and its attendant demonological tendencies as part of a Pagan practice, and even as expressions of rebellion defined within that same context.
In a similar sense it really doesn’t matter whether or not Odin was Santa Claus, not least because, I mean, you don’t actually worship Santa Claus do you? More to the point you can pretty easily lean into the whole “Yulefather”/Jolfadr connection as a meme, mostly for irony but also as a form of detournement; in this case, subverting the dominant secular capitalist culture by converting one of its archetypes into a representation of the gods of old. In that spirit, I was hoping this year to actually get a sweater themed around Odin as Jolfadr that I remember seeing three years ago for precisely this purpose. Unfortunately, however, the website that originally carried it has since disappeared. I ended up setting with a different sweater, themed around Lord of the Rings but sufficiently festive-looking and, with its particular colour scheme and a big fat Eye of Sauron at the centre, actually seems to fit my sensibilities as a fan of dungeon synth and black metal, to say nothing of the left hand path of course.
Well, anyway, that about does it for Yuletide reflections that I wanted to get off my chest. I might have reserved this post for December 25th, but Solstice is Solstice. Well, that and I have a big essay on Shin Megami Tensei V scheduled for Boxing Day, in lieu of my original plan to publish it in January 2022 at the earliest. So, have a happy Yule, a good solstice, a Merry Christmas, a festive winter mass, and a happy and vibrant New Year, if you can.
Asenath Mason, the Luciferian Satanist author of books such as Rites of Lucifer and Draconian Ritual Book, recently came forward with a statement on her Facebook account in which she publicly defended Become A Living God, E. A. Koetting’s brand organization of which she is a contributing author. Koetting’s brand has been talked about quite bit over the last month in relation to the murders carried out by Danyal Hussein, a former BALG forum member, and the subject of BALG and its problems has been outlined in detail, but for our purposes let’s recap.
Become A Living God is a website that publishes the works of not only E. A. Koetting but also several other Left Hand Path occultists, and it is pretty notorious for the extortionate prices attached to their books as well as a host of expensive courses on how to do everything from bind women to your will, to making blood pacts with angels and demons, to creating a literal empire of wealth, to even making you fall in love with yourself, and you can pay as much $1,600 for your trouble. Koetting himself, the man behind Become A Living God, was a member of Tempel ov Blood, and probably still is, and has written books in which he advocates for human and animal sacrifice as a way to become a god, and those books are published through Become A Living God. That all came to everyone’s attention this year, and last, when Danyal Hussein murdered two women in Fryent County Park, and was found guilty in July. When the police raided Hussein’s home they discovered a blood pact with Lucifuge Rofocale which involved human sacrifice as a condition for fulfillment, and after the murder it was discovered that Hussein was, at least for a time, a member of the Become A Living God forum.
Asenath Mason, as a BALG-affiliated author, seems to rather Jane-come-lately in light of this situation, responding to outcry about Koetting a month after other BALG contributors like Stephanie Connolly and Orlee Stewart already gave their takes on the subject. Nonetheless, her response is an unambiguous defence of BALG. It reads as follows:
In the recent times I’ve watched a lot of unhealthy competition between occult authors, magicians, and their followers, as well as silly games and fights between people in occult circles. I usually stay away from such things, but sometimes you just need to say something. I was attacked in the past myself, dealing with freaks and stalkers, and I know how draining it may be, so I definitely sympathize with those who get attacked only because they’re successful in what they’re doing. There’s way too much envy and stupid games between magicians these days. I’m not going to mention any names here, but if you’ve been watching groups and pages, you’ve possibly noticed all that yourself. There have been attacks e.g. on Become A Living God lately, and since I’ve been working with them for the last several years, I just want to say that I fully support them. Over these years my experience with them was nothing but positive. I’ve never experienced there anything that wouldn’t be supportive or professional, no drama or betrayal, and I really can’t say the same about some other publishers, authors, or magicians I’ve worked with so far. I believe they’ll be fine, just like I came out successful from similar attacks in the past, while my attackers are long gone from the picture and don’t matter on the occult scene anymore. Why? Because you’re never attacked by someone who’s doing more than you or is more successful than you. It’s always triggered by envy, and those who attack you are usually no match to you. And for those who start such fights, I have just one advice – you won’t ascend spiritually if you’re a piece of sh** in your day-to-day life, so if you want to be more successful than others, focus your efforts on fixing that, instead of trying to take someone else down to your level.
In essence, Asenath Mason believes that the only people who criticize Become A Living God and E. A. Koetting are losers who are jealous of BALG and Koetting because of their success. No effort is made to address anything about Koetting’s involvement with Tempel ov Blood, let alone refute anything that has been said about it, and there is no attempt to discuss Koetting’s advocacy of human sacrifice. All Asenath Mason has to say is that the people pointing those things out are just bitter that other people are doing better than them. This represents a total lack of accountability from a BALG contributor.
As the title of this post suggests, Asenath Mason’s statement leaves me with a couple of questions for her. Does she know about how Koetting advocates for human sacrifice in his books? It seems to me to be naive to assume she doesn’t, since both Mason and Koetting are BALG authors, meaning it’s safe to assume she probably did read some of Koetting’s work and chances are came across his material on sacrifice. So then, what’s her opinion of that. And to illustrate my point, let me relay a quote from Koetting’s book Works of Darkness on the subject:
In the performance of ritual sacrifice, however, the psychological justifications and explanations flow away like life from veins, and the Black Magician is left kneeling with blood on his hands, chest, face, and soul. He once thought he understood, up until the ritual dagger which had hitherto seemed so inert plunged into the victim’s heart like a key with which a doorway to absolute Darkness was unlocked and flung open.
Traditionally, the throat of the victim is to be slit from the victim’s right to the left, and in the same motion, the dagger is to be plunged up to the hilt in its heart. This type of bloody human sacrifice can be made in other ways, however, such as immolation, hanging, asphyxiation, or any other method of ending the life of the victim, so long as the killing begins and ends within the Temple, whose walls contain the spiritual explosion long enough for the Black Magician to direct it towards his goal.
This is very literally and straigtforwardly Koetting advocating for ritually murdering people as part of the practice of black magick, a way for the black magician to cultivate esoteric power to do with as he/she wishes. This is in Koetting’s book, and more of his books as well. If Asenath Mason is familiar with Koetting’s work then I am certain she has read stuff like this, and I am not certain that she has expressed any disapproval of it. So, what does she think of this? What does she think of books that talk about how human sacrifice is a way for aspiring black magicians to cultivate the power of darkness? Does she approve of such practices? And if she doesn’t, why doesn’t she say anything? Is it just a classic case of someone from BALG defending her own? That makes sense, but then why defend them over human sacrifice? Why even be on BALG? Is the exposure and the revenue really worth defending human sacrifice books written by a guy who is probably still a Tempel ov Blood fascist?
So what does Asenath Mason really value in all this? Probably nothing.
After my post covering E. A. Koetting and Michael W. Ford’s ties to Tempel ov Blood and the Order of Nine Angles, I cannot help but be overcome by a sense of morbid curiosity dominated by one question: just how many more self-styled leaders in the left hand path scene are secretly part of the Order of Nine Angles family? I don’t think that many are, realistically speaking, and perhaps not many even there even know, and it’s probably not possible to grasp the true depth of the involvement of those who are actually involved. This is in part down to what the O9A call “insight roles”, a practice where members assume roles that are markedly distinct from and disassociated with their activity in the O9A, often while publicly renouncing the O9A or denying any involvement with them. The life of Christos Beest is a good example of this, where his public rejection of the O9A and conversion to Catholicism were actually, according to his memoirs, just another step in the Sinister Path which he still consciously followed, and it’s an important reason why you can’t trust that E. A. Koetting or Michael W. Ford aren’t still associated with them in some way. In that spirit, however, my curiosity recently led me to a Medium article written by an anti-fascist leftist podcast called The Empire Never Ended in which they document the infiltration of the government of Montenegro as well as the Montenegrin Orthodox Church by O9A members. It was here that I stumbled onto a bizarre and obscure occult organization called the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer (a.k.a. Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera). Being as the article doesn’t cover it too much, I opted to investigate.
There’s very little information out there about the organization, but before we get into what does exist about it let’s talk about its leader, who the article discusses at length. The leader of the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer is a man by the name of Nikola Poleksić, who along with his wife Mirna Nikčević is also the leader of a nexion of the Order of Nine Angles called Astral Bone Gnawers Lodge. Poleksić is also a musician, being involved in a number of rock and metal bands as well as a dark ambient project called Dark Imperivm, and as far as O9A members go he is easily the most active and prominent in Montenegro at least. He further seems to be a seasoned occultist, and quite the braggart at that, always bragging about how he spent 20 years of his life studying the works of occultists such as Franz Bardon, and he frequently uses his social media accounts to openly defend National Socialism and support Adolf Hitler (who he compares positively to Vladimir Putin). He’s definitely very deep into esoteric Nazism, being an avid reader of the literature of Savitri Devi and Tempel ov Blood in addition to simply being a supporter of National Socialism. Almost unbelievably, as of June 20th of this year Poleksić is also a deacon of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, after somehow rapidly climbing up the ladder of the church. Of course, while he’s in the Montenegrin Orthodox Church as a deacon, he somehow still runs the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer as his church, and bizarrely enough he doesn’t seem to believe there is any contradiction involved in him simultaneously embracing Christianity and Satanism. That Nikola Poleksić can operate as a card-carrying Nazi Satanist while fronting as a deacon of a Christian church is a striking example of the insight roles of the Order of Nine Angles.
With that out of the way, let’s look into the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer and try to find out what they actually believe. The article mentions that, in an interview he gave with Jake Hanrahan, Poleksić described the doctrine of his church as essentially an Order of Nine Angles interpretation of Christianity (yes, as absurd as that sounds, that is what his pitch is), and states that his theology is influenced by the teachings of Savitri Devi, the infamous pioneer of Esoteric Hitlerism. That’s about as much as the article covers. Like I said before, there’s not much information about them, but a quick trip to Google leads us to their Facebook and a five-page manifesto. Their website appears to no longer be accessible, but their Facebook page seems to have been active since 2019. Nothing of theirs is in English, so I’m having to resort to Google Translate to show you anything, and to be honest it’s probably going to be pretty shit. So if any Montenegrins happen to read this, feel free to check my ass with better translations.
Anyways, on their About page we get this description:
Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera je autonomna vjerska zajednica i mistična Tradicija nastala s ciljem promovisanja jednog specifičnog teološkog i mističnog pogleda na Hrista, prirodu naše realnosti i duhovnu evoluciju čovjeka.
Our probably bad Google translation gives us the following:
The Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer is an autonomous religious community and a mystical Tradition created with the aim of promoting a specific theological and mystical view of Christ, the nature of our reality and the spiritual evolution of man.
That sounds supsiciously vague. If we go off of this it can look like all they’re about is basically some weird Christian mysticism that aims to facilitate the evolution of humanity through a “specific theological and mystical view of Christ”. This view of Christ is expanded upon in what seems to be their first Facebook post, mercifully translated through Facebook. The post begins with “What is the GCHL?” and contains the exact same statement as before, but the rest of it reads as follows:
Speaking in purely mythological terms, we believe that human species is enslaved by Demijurg, malevolent being, head of the cosmic race of spiritual predators in the Bible, known as ′′ Elohim ′′ (gods). For us Christ is a rebel against this spiritual tyranny of Elohim, similar to Prometheus from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. Fire is a symbol of enlightenment and immortality that this predatory race wants to deprive us. Where is Christ for us the same as Lucifer-′′ lucifer “, the one who brings freedom to man by giving him the light of Truth, being, again, like Prometheus, punished for such a ′′ crime “.
We believe that the first, true Christians were systematically persecuted and oppressed by the official Roman Church (which later divided into Orthodox and Catholic), and that the teachings about the true nature and mission of Christ were deliberately distorted. Our mission is to, among other things, put these teachings in the right context and educate people about the same.
There’s plenty that sounds like the classic, archetypal “Gnostic-Luciferian” fare about how Lucifer is the “Gnostic” saviour who seeks to bring enlightenment to humanity and is punished by the Demiurge for doing so, just that here Lucifer is identified directly with Jesus Christ, and that the “first, true Christians” presumably follow this idea and were persecuted by the Roman Church – we are left to assume that this is meant to be the “Gnostic” sects of Christianity, none of whom ever venerated Lucifer in any capacity. Here Christ and Lucifer are one and the same, a Prometheus-like figure who rebels against the Elohim and their tyranny in order to liberate mankind.
Then you look at the group’s other posts and the picture you get of their doctine gets really convoluted. There’s this post for example where Christ is Lucifer and Jehovah is Satan, but both Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan are aspects of God and divine manifestations of the polarity of opposites. So somehow God is rebelling against God in this instance. Also Christ/Lucifer is taken to be Spirit while Jehovah/Satan is taken to be Matter, and, unlike in standard “Gnostic” doctrine, both Spirit and Matter express each other through each other, which sounds to me like their way of expressing the dualism of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. Another post professes a faith in a Mother Earth, identified as Bafomet-Babalon which seems to be derived from Thelema, as well as a “Mother Sofia”. The same post also professes a belief in a cycle of death and rebirth and the escape from said cycle, and said escape being made possible through a “baptism of wisdom with water and spirit”. In yet another post the GCHL seems to explicitly refer to their belief system as “Luciferian Christianity”, a “syncretic religion of the New Age” that happens to be based on the “Jewish-Christian” tradition, and takes as their source material the Bible, the “Gnostic” gospels, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Book of the Law, as well as modern science. The organization also claims to receive all people as members regardless of “racial, ethnic, national, ideological and classical affiliation”, which is somewhat laughable when you remember that it’s run by a neo-Nazi who claims that his church’s teachings are based on the work of Savitri Devi. They even claim to be a matriarchal organization.
Last year the GCHL published a 5-page manifesto outlining their beliefs. In it they describe themselves as the first official Luciferian church founded in the South Slavic area (who knows, they very well could be), as well as a Western form of Indian Bhakti Yoga. Much of the manifesto’s content is already seen in the group’s public Facebook posts, although curiously enough the section where it talks about baptism refers to a “Heretical Mass” whereas the Facebook post refers to this same ceremony as the “Jewish Mass”. It’s not at all clear what this “Heretical Mass” could be, but since we have to remember that the church is run by an O9A member, it might just as well refer to the O9A’s infamous Mass of Heresy which is essentially just a Nazi prayer for Hitler. One interesting thing to note is that, halfway into the manifesto, we see a cross and above it says “Theological Synthesis (Above Good and Evil)”. By itself it says little other than probably a no-effort Nietzsche reference, but again, since this guy is O9A, we have to keep in mind what “being above good and evil” could mean in that context, since O9A and Tempel ov Blood people like to talk about committing extremely immoral acts in order to transcend the limits of morality.
At some point the manifesto begins to discuss the Trimurti of Hinduism – the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – in the context of the GCHL’s view of cosmic struggle, and refers to each of the gods of the Trimurti in relation to time: Brahma represents “forces beyond time”, Vishnu represents “forces against time”, and Shiva represents “forces of time”. This framework is derived from Esoteric Hitlerist doctrine, specifically the work of Savitri Devi. In Devi’s worldview, the “Man in Time” is a figure who embodies destruction and exists to further the process of historical decay, the “Man Above (or Beyond) Time” is a figure who embodies creation and exists to transcend the process of historical decay, and the “Man Against Time” embodies the power of destruction used for a “life-affirming purpose”, by which is meant fighting the process of historical decay through violent and brutal means. Savitri Devi praised Adolf Hitler as the “Man Against Time”, and believed that he was an avatar of Vishnu who came to “save” humanity. Keep that in mind. The doctrine of the GCHL is essentially employing Savitri Devi’s Esoteric Nazism by framing the Trimurti gods in relation to Devi’s framework of time and decay, right down to Vishnu representing the “forces against time” and thereby embodying the purpose of the Hitlerian incarnation imagined by Devi and her followers. The document might not make any outright references to Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, or anti-semitism, but if you know anything about what the Esoteric Nazis/Hitlerists believe, you’ll easily figure out that it is a work of Nazi mysticism, just that it carefully avoids explicitly pro-Nazi or anti-semitic rhetoric to hide its true intentions and hopes you won’t know better.
And, as if it’s not convoluted enough, Vishnu and Shiva are treated as identical to each other as aspects of Brahma, the creator. This would mean that the forces against time and the forces of time are one and the same, and are both aspects of the forces beyond time, and it would mean that Hitler, Genghis Khan, and the Jews are all the same thing. Which, to be honest, makes the whole thing pretty pointless. Why do the whole racial holy war that Nazis are all about if in the end all sides of that war are exactly the same?
In any case, we come to the point of the manifesto where all of this talk of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and the forces relating to time come back to Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan, and it’s here that we come to the other side of the esoteric anti-semitism of the GCHL’s doctrine. Christ/Lucifer is identified as fulfilling the function of Vishnu, and represents the “forces against time”. This represents Light, and Christ/Lucifer as the “preserver” acts within nature to sustain all things. Thus Lucifer is identified with Christ and Vishnu, and insofar as Christ/Lucifer is the “force against time”, he is essentially identified with Adolf Hitler. By contrast, Jehovah/Satan fulfills the function of Shiva, and represents the “forces of time”, thus representing Darkness and acting within nature to manifest through destructive phenomenon. Think carefully about where this is going. If Christ/Lucifer/Vishnu represents Light and as the “forces against time” can be identified with Hitler, then Jehovah/Satan/Shiva, insofar as he represents Darkness and the “forces of time”, meaning destruction and historical decay, would represent the Jews, who Hitler and the Nazis believed set out to destroy “Aryan” civilization. Remember also that the O9A, of which Nikola Poleksić is a card-carrying member, identifies Christianity, democracy, and basically everything they don’t like with the “Magian” epoch, which they believe to be ushered in by the Jews. Of course, the GCHL still ultimately insists that Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan are ultimately two faces of the same entity, the nameless entity called God, which I swear is just a way of conveniently skirting the implications of the esoteric conflict between an “Aryan” god of light versus a Jewish god of darkness. I mean if the “Aryan” god and the Jewish god are all the same god, why even should there be conflict between them? But I suppose if all else fails refer to the Hegelian dialectic or some version thereof.
The manifesto ends with a paragraph that can also be found on the GCHL’s Facebook page, and it outlines a doctrine of alchemistic unity of spirit and matter in which Christ/Lucifer is Spirit and Jehovah/Satan is Matter, but their union forms the “Living Soul”, the Azoth, and outlines how the GCHL’s ideal for Western civilization is for both Christ and Satan to be worshipped on the same altar as aspects of God.
The article from The Empire Never Ended brings up that the GCHL document contains many symbols that are also found on the website for the Astral Bone Gnawers Lodge, the O9A nexion led by Nikola Poleksić. If you check the article and then check out the Facebook page for Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera, you will find at least one of the images that were taken from ABG imagery, suggesting a definite link. The doctrine concerning Vishnu and “forces against time” itself presents an obvious link to the O9A’s doctrine, in that Vishnu as an avatar of Hitler dovetails harmoniously with the O9A’s doctrine of Vindex as a kind of messianic incarnation of Hitler, and the logic is more or less the same in both doctrines.
There is very little else to cover about the GCHL, but I think it is obvious what we’re dealing with here. They appear to be a kind of Esoteric Nazi form of Gnostic Christian “Luciferianism”, but they also try to appear as an open, progressive, or accepting organization, who are of the assumption that allowing gay marriage and embracing matriarchy in their organization somehow negates the presence of Nazism or fascism despite the belief in Nazi mysticism. They are very careful to avoid making explicit references to Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, Jews, National Socialism, or any of the usual subject matter for Nazis, but they clearly believe in the Esoteric Hitlerist doctrine of the “Man Against Time”, which denotes the belief in Adolf Hitler as the physical incarnation of a divine esoteric force manifesting in a violent struggle against “historical decay”. They don’t say outright that they worship Hitler, but they do worship the “Man Against Time” nonetheless, even if you have to read between the lines to see that. And, at the end of the day, they should be treated as an O9A proxy due to the fact that their leader Nikola Poleksić is almost certainly still a member of the organization, merely moonlighting as a Christian deacon and “Gnostic” church leader. And, just as a bit of good advice, it’s probably not a good idea to get yourself involved with a guy who is not only not going to be honest with you but also probably killed someone or multiple people in order to advance within the hierarchy of the O9A.
I imagine E. A. Koetting doesn’t need much introduction for anyone who’s ever been involved with or followed the Left Hand Path in any sense. Koetting (whose real name is Matthew Joseph Lawrence) is sort of infamous for his “Become a Living God” brand and his line of books on occult Satanism, and his name is well-known enough to show up in many familiar Left Hand Path occult spaces. But despite his relative popularity, I never liked him or took him seriously. I mean, as titillating as YouTube videos about love spells or sex magick with bondage thumbnails on them must seem, especially now that I’m unfortunately single again, I have never taken any interest in his books, videos, or his web forum. In fact, when I looked him up in the past, it did not take long for me to see that he was in no way the “living god” that he liked to position himself as or that he offered to help you become, due mainly to the arrest of both himself and his wife in 2014 for abusing mephamphetine and illegal gun ownership. It certainly strikes me that a “living god” in the sense implied by guys like Koetting would not face serious problems with narcotic addiction or the authorities, and that’s not because of them being good little boys either just so we’re clear on that. His weird thing for meth still hasn’t gone away, at least judging by his apparent claims that methampethamines are some kind of entheogen in his recent book Herbarium Diabolicum.
Truth be known, even though he is relatively popular in the left hand path scene, E. A. Koetting is actually fairly notorious in occult communities, where there are many occultists who despise Koetting and see him as a scam artist and a phony. Despite all of that, however, Koetting has maintained a certain status as a successful occult author in the field of Satanic magic and has thus retained some currency within the broader Left Hand Path. I believe that this is a problem, and Koetting must be challenged. I have recently stumbled onto the YouTube channel of a polytheistic Hellenic pagan going by the name Aliakai. They have two videos on the subject of E. A. Koetting, and they both contain some very disturbing facts about Koetting, which I would like to share here.
Aside from a lot of seriously scammy shit that Koetting peddles, such as in one book where he unbelievably claims to have revealed a forbidden cipher from some esoteric order that nobody could solve, he seems to have been affiliated with the Order of Nine Angles, that infamous Nazi Satanist sect responsible for multiple terroristic murders, and may have drawn some influence from them. He also appears to describe “sanguinary vampirism”, as in literally draining human blood for consumption, as part of the practice of black magic, to the point of arguing that reluctant and unwilling donors are the best source for human blood and thereby power for the black magician, and that the path of the black magician involves continually practicing “sanguinary vampirism” until eventually he/she eventually moves on to feasting on “blood essence” instead. Essentially, Koetting is saying that part of his black magic belief system involves attacking and potentially murdering people to feast on their blood in order to gain more and more personal power. He even explicitly outlines a practice of constructing a ritual space specifically for human sacrifice, a “Temple” as it were, which can involve killing someone any number of ways so long as it happens within the “Temple”. He also argues that blood sacrifice is a way for the magician to destroy his old world and create his new world, and further that sacrificing animals allows the magician to confer the characteristics of that animal onto him/herself. This would mean that actual ritual murder is a part of the magical practice that Koetting advocates.
In another book, Koetting argues for indiscriminately murdering people by magical means on the grounds that the act of killing is proof of a person’s godhood by his/her separation from the food chain and sets the magician on the path to using “the power of God to reign as God reigns”, which is to say the absolute power over the lives of others according to his/her own desires. I can’t help but wonder if the irony of a Satanist, who would otherwise rightly rail against the God of the Bible, advocate for a path where the aim is to be the God of the Bible and behave in exactly the same way he does, is lost on him or not. He also writes that the black magician revels in and celebrates the killing of his victim through his magic, and gradually eliminates any feelings of remorse on the grounds that, by killing whoever he wants, he is gaining the power to challenge the gods. Thus, killing people and ridding yourself of any feelings of remorse or empathy is part of the path to becoming a god. And when you become a god, according to Koetting, you will find yourself utterly alienated from the rest of humanity, having few friends who you only see as tools ultimately and marinating in the belief (or more accuraretly delusion) that the human species could have ascended to godhood but instead chose to be “nothing”, and consequently operating under the assumption that your fellow humans’ deaths are meaningless, if anything almost excusable, on the grounds that they could have been gods if only they tried. If you told someone who isn’t a complete psychopath that this is how you think, they would see you for how monstrous, evil, and sociopathic you are, because these are monstrous, evil, and sociopathic beliefs. And for Koetting, that might just be the point, since the whole idea is to rule in the manner he thinks a god would. He also adds a weird victim complex to the whole thing by saying that black magicians often start as victims in some way or another, as if that makes Koetting’s psychopathic worldview understandable.
Like Anton LaVey before him, Koetting claims to have actually murdered someone through magical means. Koetting specifically claims to have murdered his ex-girlfriend through black magic and justified it on the basis she was “slandering” his reputation by spreading false rumours about him sexually assualting her, murdering infants and leaving the dead and decapitated bodies of felines on her porch. It’s actually kind of funny to see him treat these rumours as obviously false but then say that she needs to be “silenced” because of it. You know, judging from what else he’s written in his books, even if the supposed rumours were false (I can’t actually verify even that she made rumours to start with or even who this ex-girlfriend is), you can kind of believe that Koetting would actually do stuff like this, because why not if you believe that killing innocent people and animals gives you personal power and is all part of you becoming a god, not to mention that you probably shouldn’t need to “silence” anyone if the “rumours” against you weren’t true. Think back to any case you can think of someone being secretly murdered for political reasons, and you’ll get the picture. And frankly, since I still treat my ex with whatever support, care, and honour I could muster, after everything, I find what Koetting claimed to have done to be utterly reprehensible and dishonorable, and it tells me that he probably only ever viewed his ex as an object for his whims in a way that is honestly unfathomable to me. But that ex was not the only person he claimed to have killed. He also claims to have killed another woman who he claims faked having a disability in front of him and had him do house chores for her.
On a side-note, it’s discussed in his book Ipsissimus that he was raised by Mormon parents. He apparently claimed elsewhere that his parents were Satanists and members of a Satanic cult. Very bizarre. But, more crucially, for me at least, it reminds me of yet another figure who was raised Mormon and then tried to set up a cult status within the left hand path and then went on to commit horrible crimes. It seems that both E. A. Koetting and Jacob McKelvy have a strange habit of having two completely different and conflicting backstories presented to the world, which is probably not surpising in that both of them are also brazen con artists who try to use occultism or some form of alternative spirituality (or in Jacob’s case, Christianity as well) as a means to make money from people who don’t know any better.
Perhaps most importantly, it seems that E. A. Koetting was a member of Tempel ov Blood, an offshoot of the Order of Nine Angles that is particularly devoted to vampirism as means of creating a new being capable of bringing about the “Day of Wrath”. This is the same Tempel ov Blood that published Iron Gates, that unspeakably grotesque dystopian novel which begins with a baby being killed in front of its mother and is considered required reading for its membership, and who was in the process of taking over the Atomwaffen Division, that infamous neo-Nazi militia, to the point that many neo-Nazis started abandoning Atomwaffen. Tempel ov Blood is notorious for their celebration of sexual violence, mass murder, terrorism, and racial holy war, and their leaders are white supremacists, such as Joshua Caleb Sutter who served as a propagandist for the DPRK (I’m not kidding, the DPRK literally appointed him as their PR guy) and larped as a Hindu priest before eventually joining the O9A. E. A. Koetting, for his part, wrote numerous articles for Tempel ov Blood under the alias Archaelus Baron, published through Ixaaxar Occult Literature, in which he encourages prospective members to study the “Terrorist Handbook” and take up military training in order to learn how to kill, advises that assassinations are sometimes necessary and states a preference for targeting religious figureheads, and explicitly tells people to never kill a person if they have a reason to kill them, entailing that murder is to be carried out at random, on a whim, targeting anyone, without requiring any justification at all. He also apparently went by another alias, Drill Sergeant 666, within ToB. There’s also a bit of mystery surrounding Koetting’s present relationship with Tempel ov Blood. Some occultists believe that Koetting is still a member or supporter of Tempel ov Blood and that he only publicly disavowed them while, in private, he either remained a member or is making financial contributions to the group. If that is true, then it would mean that Koetting is using his Become A Living God brand as a front to funnel money to an occult Nazi organization, which is something that should not be allowed to continue.
As if that’s not enough, Koetting’s work just might have played a role in the murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman at Fryent Country Park in Wembley. The murderer, Danyal Hussein (who is currently 19 years old), was a member of Koetting’s Become A Living God forum, where he says he infrequently practiced magick since 2015, briefly got into “spiritual Satanism” (whatever he means by this), believes that he is a “psychic vampire”, and says that his main challenge was summoning a demon who could help him get a girlfriend. He killed the two women as part of a supposed pact with the demon Lucifuge Rofocale that he believed would enable him to win the “Mega Millions Super Jackpot”. This pact required him to sacrifice six women every six months in order to avoid suspicion and arrest by the police. He also had a list of requests for a demon named “Queen Byleth”, who he hoped to summon in order to make some girl he knew fall madly in love with him and make himself more attractive. Hussein was arrested for the murders last year, had his home raided by the police shortly afterwards where they found evidence of his pacts, and was found guilty just last month. He was also especially vulnerable to falling under the influence of dangerous ideologies so his school referred him to a radicalization programme in 2017, and with little to no social support he struggled to socialize with others and especially with girls. It also seems that he held some kind of Nazi-esque ideology and he believed himself to be an “Aryan”. If I may comment, it doesn’t seem that Hussein was very smart, not just because of the mind-bogglingly stupid nature of thinking you can kill six women a month and avoid being caught, but also because he seemed to genuinely think that they would never identify his DNA because he refused to give a blood sample.
The actual pacts and spells found in Hussein’s house, specifically as relates to Lucifuge Rofocale, have been linked to E. A. Koetting’s book, Lucifuge: The Lord of Pacts, which is also co-authored by several other left hand path occultists, including Michael W. Ford, V. K. Jehannum, Orlee Stewart, Bill Duvendack, and more. However the book itself is prohibitively expensive, being sold on Miskatonic Books for $159, and if you go to the Become A Living God website he offers it via certain tiers with a price tag of close to $600. So Danyal Hussein must have had a hard time getting the book, if he did get his pacts and spells from that book. However, in my experience, I have found that it is possible to find some occult works as PDFs if you know where to look for them, and I have at one point been sent entire folders of works by people in the scene. That’s a very useful way to learn about any sort of occultism because actually buying lots of books on the subject is very expensive and a lot of distributors are frankly extortionate price-gougers of the highest order. If Danyal Hussein made a sort of spiritual family for himself in the BALG forum and related communities, it’s entirely possible that he may have accessed the book as a PDF or had it given to him by someone interested in helping him become a magician.
On top of all that, Koetting and his cohorts apparently advocated for the use of a ritual by which the magician would communicate with the spirits of Covid-19 and “hijack” their “frequencies” (awfully New Age-sounding I notice) for the purpose of supposedly protecting yourself from the virus by “making friends” with it. Naturally, this video comes with a disclaimer in the description which stresses that it cannot replace official medical advice, not that you’ll see them say that in the video. Or maybe the whole thing is J. S. Garrett’s idea and Koetting just happens to put it on his channel and doesn’t necessarily buy it himself, which would be something but it still means he’s on record platforming this. So not only are we dealing with people who advocate for literally murdering people in service of undead gods with the aim of becoming a god yourself, we’re also dealing with people who have their own version of those dogshit evangelical Christian faith healing solutions to Covid-19 – you know, the sort of thing they concoct specifically to justify not following the guidelines and not temporarily halting in-person congregations. Truly a cut above Christian superstition and slave mentality I must say. But I suppose it’s not beyond the remit of someone who offers to turn your crush or your ex into a magic sex slave, make you fall in love yourself, create your own wealth empire out of nothing for you, defend you against any esoteric adversary, help you make a blood pact with any spirit, and other assorted woo benefits all to the tune of $1,600 for a private consultation session. I have to feel bad for anyone who didn’t see the word “SCAM” written all over Koetting’s body when they saw this shit. It’s like Koetting may as well put “holy shit they’re actually giving me money!” somewhere on his web pages and maybe someone would still fall for it. Of course, we shouldn’t forget about the fact that relying on this ritual would probably result in some people dying of Covid-19, at least because they decided to do this instead of self-isolate or get vaccinated.
So, we have a situation where Koetting, as a prominent author of Satanic occultism, is instructing people to commit murder on a whim and enjoy it in order to become a god, by which he clearly means an absolute ruler of creation, and who is quite probably connected to a Nazi organization and has definitely produced ideological and spiritual guidelines for them, under their banner. E. A Koetting is still active today, he still writes books, still makes money off of his shitty brand, he still peddles his grift about personal godhood, vampirism, and how to make a woman your love slave, and more recently, despite his possible association with fascism, he’s busy talking about “Satanic revolution against fascist slave-gods”. He also evidently still manages to hang around high-profile left hand path figures – or perhaps more accurately, they associate with him and promote his work – so he is still treated as a legitimate voice within left hand path communities or by their figureheads. His YouTube channel currently has 87,000 subscribers, his videos tend to get thousands of views each, his Facebook account boasts 128,998 followers, and his Instragram account has 3,717 followers, so he retains a very large social media presence at least. His Become A Living God forum is still active and it seems that there is a lot of activity on the forum, and the Facebook page for the website has approximately 2,500 likes. Put together, he still has some popularity to boast, and that makes him a problem, especially when you consider that people on his forum literally talk about offering people as sacrifices to gods. Not that that’s particularly surprising, though, because Koetting himself has openly advocated for human sacrifice as part of the practice of Satanic occultism.
You know, people talk about “Reverse Christians” in relation to certain people who position themselves as Satanists. You know what I mean, right? Those edgy, and often young, criminals who kill people and do vandalism, flaunt vaguely “satanic” or at least anti-Christian symbolism while doing so? These people usually have no real attachment to Satanism in a religious sense and are often just insane. But here, in the case of E. A. Koetting, I think we can see some semblance of what is clearly a somewhat conscious case of “reverse Christianity” in an actual ontological sense within the context of religious or occult Satanism. I mean there’s the obvious faith healing grift that sounds like the stuff you get from evangelicals if not New Age spirituality, but there’s also a clip in which E. A. Koetting literally talks about the End of Days being upon us, which is just a transparent invocation of the Christian eschatology and sounds rather like you’re talking to a Christian fundamentalist, but instead of this End of Days leading to God’s kingdom on earth it’s supposed to lead to “a new cycle of ascent” towards “ultimate self-godhood”. In fact, it’s probably not for nothing that he comes from a Mormon background and moved his way into Satanic occultism, since Mormons do actually believe in a certain kind of self-deification to the effect that the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints actually believes that humans can become like God. Not to mention, in his books he talks about using the power of God to reign exactly as God does (or “as the gods do”, it’s contextually interchangeable in this framework).
That’s the most stark expression of “reverse Christianity” you can think of: while opposing the God of the Bible, you strive to become the God of the Bible. This would mean that even as Koetting talks about rebellion against fascist slave-gods, the whole concept of “self-godhood” in his belief system means to become one of them. The whole thing is situated specifically in the Christian (or “Judeo-Christian”) framework, and to be honest it has me asking the question. Why, as a Satanist, knowing how bad the God of the Bible is and literally telling your audience that he hates you, would you want to become anything like him? YHWH rules with a cruelty, tyranny, and hate unmatched by pretty much any of the other gods, and he demands absolute faith and expects perfection from his followers, and if you misstep from that your reward is eternal damnation, so why would you want to actually rule and behave in the way he does? It doesn’t make sense to affirm the power of YHWH in this way while positioning him as a fascist and yourself as Satanic opponent of God’s tyranny. But I suppose this is what can happen when a person leaves Christianity behind while failing to challenge its deeper premises internally (this is part of what is called “latent Christianity“). It would be rather sad were it not for the fact that we’re dealing with a guy who cultivates a way of life centered on the total domination of everything and everyone around you by a narcissitic individual subject, and also whose record consists of getting whoever he can to kill people and animals on a whim just like the God he supposedly despises.
I’m afraid at this point I must also talk about Michael W. Ford, or more specifically one unfortunate thing he may or may not have in common with E. A. Koetting, and a little more, based on some information that has come to my attention while looking into Koetting’s involvement with Tempel ov Blood. According to some occultists at least, Michael W. Ford was also a member of Tempel ov Blood at one point, and apparently some say he claimed to have left. It’s extremely difficult to find any information about Ford’s alleged involvement with Tempel ov Blood, and Ford himself emphatically denies ever being a member or contributor, but besides an old forum where a reader of his makes this claim, we can see that ToB’s Liber 333 apparently has sections and excerpts within it that are authored by or at least to attributed to Ford both under his real name and under the aliases Michael Nachttoter and Baron von Abaddon (both of which he also used for some of his musical projects) and attributed to the late 1990s, back when he was in the Black Order of the Dragon and Tempel ov Azathoth, and it’s said that Ford introduced a guy from ToB called Fra.13 to the concept of vampirism (or “Wamphirism” as it’s also called) and provided comparison between his system of vampirism and the system utilized by ToB’s Vampyric Order. In fact, there are quite a few pages dedicated to Ford promoting his own Tempel ov Azathoth and Black Order of the Dragon as well as expounding on his own concepts of esoteric vampirism.
If you’re familiar with Ford’s work, especially his older catalogue, you probably know that Ford has a major thing for vampirism and vampyric magick, and likes to mix it in with all sorts of other esoteric ideas and belief systems. That doesn’t sound too far away from what E. A. Koetting likes to do. In fact, the two authors seem to be closely connected, and in Liber 333 Ford tends to promote ideas about cultivating an eternal magical will that survives the death of the flesh, not too dissimilar to the way Koetting talks about how the old and the worldly dies and as you progress towards “the Eternal”. Ford also talked about how the Black Order of the Dragon aims to use “sinister archetypes” to unlock “the psyche of European and Euro-decended man and woman”, which sounds very racialist and folkist, and while promoting BOotD he even advocated for culling the masses. He even talks about draining “astral lifeforce” from human “prey”, not too different from Koetting’s ideas. Michael W. Ford appears on the Become A Living God website as a collaborating author, nine of Ford’s books are published through Become A Living God, and Ford has promoted Koetting and given introductions to his work. Koetting, in turn, wrote a foreword for one of Ford’s more recent books, Apotheosis: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Luciferianism & the Left Hand Path. More relevant to the subject of Tempel ov Blood, it is well-known that Ford was a member of its parent organization, the Order of Nine Angles, and has published and written introductions for O9A works, and even though he publicly disavows the O9A, he still makes money off the O9A works he published.
It’s worth mentioning again that Ford denies ever being in Tempel ov Blood, and he claims that rumours to that effect are based on a confusion of the fact that his Black Order of the Dragon was sanctioned by Christos Beest, who apparently was his mentor at that time, from around 1993 to 1997. It must be said that it is true that Liber 333 does not refer to Ford as a member of ToB itself, and instead refers to him as a member of Black Order of the Dragon. This would in theory mean that Ford was not actually a member of ToB, but then he somehow has considerable writing within Liber 333, which means that, even if he was never a member, we can only conclude that Ford’s Black Order of the Dragon and Tempel of Azathoth were in some way affilitated or associated with Tempel ov Blood and exchanged ideas with each other, which as far as I’m concerned is no better than simply being a member of ToB. We should also note that Christos Beest (whose real name is Richard Moult) was a high-ranking member of the Order of Nine Angles since the 1980s, and is still a member to this day. Although in 2001 he claimed to have left the O9A and converted to Catholicism, Beest in reality was still in the O9A and produced documents and media promoting O9A teachings, such as his manifesto “The Dreccian Way” (in which he straightforwardly advocates for “culling”), and his Tarot deck “The Emanations Tarot” (which features artwork containing, among other things, a pale-faced woman holding the severed head of Claus von Stauffenburg and a rifle favored by the SS), and he has even admitted to retaining a friendship with David Myatt, the O9A’s founder with a well-known background in neo-Nazism. Even if we take Ford at his word that he was never a member of Tempel ov Blood, it’s honestly not a good sign to know that, per his own admittance, his mentor was a Nazi, but then it’s already known and acknowledged that Ford used to be an O9A member for a few years. He even used to peddle the idea that the O9A was really an anarchist organization instead of a Nazi one in his Book of the Witch Moon, which is actually a tactic the O9A has trotted out before and will tend to do whenever they face external scrutiny over their political ideology. In that book he even claimed that the O9A didn’t practice cullings depsite their own express word to the contrary. Book of the Witch Moon was originally published in 1999, a year after Ford is often said to have left the O9A in 1998, supposedly after he found their fascist beliefs objectionable, which is odd when you consider that he goes on to refer to the O9A as anarchists. In fact, in Apotheosis: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Luciferianism & the Left Hand Path, he still explicitly refers to the Order of Nine Angles as anarchist, and this was from a book published in 2019, after the O9A again became well-known for their Nazi shenangians.
As I said before, Ford has still published and had writings featured in O9A books long after he supposedly left the Order. One of those was Codex Saerus – Black Book of Satan I, II, III, which was published by the O9A in 2003 and its second edition (published in 2008) includes a forward by Michael W. Ford in which he praises the O9A’s Black Book of Satan as a grimoire capable of challenging stasis and order and essential to the understanding of Satanic magical tradition. Christos Beest and Anton Long are also listed as authors, and the book contains the infamous O9A “Mass of Heresy”, in which Adolf Hitler is revered as a saviour sent by “our gods” to lead the “Aryan” race, Hitlerian salutes are performed, and the phrase “Hail Hitler” is uttered. Keep in mind that all of this is from a book that the O9A advertises as a collection of “anarchist” ritual workings – just what “anarchist” rituals involve praises to Hitler and celebrations of Nazi ideology? – and this is the same book Ford praises as essential to understanding Satanic magical tradition. That’s a worrying indication of Ford’s stance on esoteric Nazism. There is also another O9A book titled Order of Nine Angles: The Sinister Collection, apparently published in 2007, and it is a compilation of writings from O9A members and associates which also has Ford’s name attached to it and contains some his work. In the same year, Ford also published an edition of yet another O9A book, NAOS: A Practical Guide to Modern Magick, originally written by Thorold West, and in the foreword that Ford wrote for this edition he appraised the book’s practices of magickal development as similar to his own system of Luciferian Witchcraft, and justifies publishing it on the grounds that he deems that it is “worth being in any esoteric library”, despite not subscribing to the ideas and methods of the O9A (a difference that is not even downplayed, merely alluded to in passing).
Now, tell me, doesn’t something sound off to you? What we know for certain, or at least what is more or less the official story, is that Michael W. Ford joined the Order of Nine Angles in 1996 and was a member for a few years until he left the group supposedly because its fascist or neo-Nazi beliefs become too objectionable for him, which may have been at around 1998. So what was he doing defending the Order of Nine Angles, claiming them to be anarchists as opposed to Nazis, one year after he left? And if they were not Nazis or fascists, and instead were anarchists, why did Ford find the O9A’s views objectionable enough to leave? What are some of Ford’s writings doing in Tempel ov Blood’s Liber 333? And why does Ford still claim that the O9A were anarchists into the present day, even after they’ve increasingly become even more notorious for their involvement with violent Nazism? Ford has claimed that he was more of an anarchist in those days and that he was never interested in Nazism. So why are there writings from the 1990s where he talks about European racial consciousness and the need to awaken it, and why was he talking about cullings? Now, granted, that’s his teenage years and he was young, but at the same time he can’t claim that he was an anarchist back in those days when nothing of the sort is suggested in his writings except perhaps in name alone. Despite the official story that he left the O9A after a few years, he has still published O9A works under Succubus Publishing, which he owns together with his wife Hope Marie-Ford, which means that although he claims to have abandoned the O9A for being too extreme and fascist for him, he still published O9A books from his label.
Not to mention, what was it about the O9A that proved to be too extreme for Ford anyway? Supposedly he left because it was a neo-fascist group and he got sick of their neo-fascist ways, but there is no reason to assume that was a problem for him before, because there are writings from him where he talked about European racial consciousness and supported cullings like everyone else in the O9A did, and his mentor Christos Beest was a literal neo-Nazi, so I think there is cause to doubt that he was seriously bothered by the neo-fascism. Perhaps he suddenly changed his mind at the time? Unlikely, considering he published and promoted an O9A book containing a Mass devoted to Adolf Hitler as basically a classic Satanic text. Or was that change of heart and everything else was all just more misinformation, like the kind that Christos Beest manufactured when he told everyone he left the O9A while all along he was still a member? And even if Ford did decide that the O9A were neo-fascists, that doesn’t matter because he continued to claim that the O9A were anarchists even after that and to this day, which is an O9A tactic designed to obfuscate their true nature, and he still published books from the O9A, who he supposedly decided were too fascist and extreme for him to keep company with.
On those grounds we have to consider that, even if we can accept that Ford was not a member of Tempel ov Blood at any point, perhaps there is more to the story of his involvement with ToB and the O9A proper than he is willing to tell us. And the fact is that he has writings contained within ToB’s Liber 333, so even if it’s true that he wasn’t a member, his claim that he never contributed to their esoteric oeuvre is simply not true, and in fact I would go so far as to call it a blatant lie. In any case, it’s quite possible that the true extent and history Ford’s involvement with the O9A might not actually be apparent to us, and it is possible that we can’t even be sure that Ford ever even left the O9A, and even if he did leave them, he certainly never stopped supporting them.
To return to the subject of Koetting and his belief in the practice of human sacrifice to gain personal godhood, I had a thought about this as I was writing this post. Isn’t it so funny that we keep seeing people espouse insane conspiracy theories about the ruling class practicing Satanic rituals involving blood sacrifice supposedly to confer some kind of benefit from it, even though none of those people – Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Prince Andrew, Bill Gates, none of them – have ever been proven to be involved with any real Satanism or occultism or anything like that, and meanwhile you have people who actually do believe in human and animal sacrifice as a way to literally become a god or gain personal power and none of them ever get put in the center of some far out conspiracy theory, whether that’s QAnon or god forbid some jokey Chapo Trap House bromides about Moloch? I don’t see why we would even need to neglect the conspiracy angle, since we know that Tempel ov Blood literally conspire to infiltrate violent groups so they can use them as vehicles through which to commit random acts of murder for sacrificial reasons as part of their plan to become gods, and that they tried to do this with the Atomwaffen Division. As strange as this must sound, there actually is a shadowy group of people who call themselves Satanists and want to kill innocent people at random specifically for magical and sacrificial reasons, and they even cover themselves up by wrapping their movement in a shroud of conflicting information, but they’re not part of the ruling elite (though they certainly believe that they are some kind of esoteric elite) and don’t represent all of Satanism, and while I’m sure the far-right and the QAnon crowd despise them and would react with disgust if you told them about their activities (as I’m sure almost anyone would), you won’t see people talk about Tempel ov Blood conspiracies ad infinitum. In fact, a lot of the discussion I see about Tempel ov Blood activity comes from anti-fascist activists trying to curb the influence of their parent organization, the Order of Nine Angles, though you will also find it in news reports. The simple truth is that the Satanic Ritual Abuse quacks have always cared more about the invented and fantastical Satanic murder and abuse conspiracies they cooked up in their often drug-addled brains than any actual real-world organizations plotting widespread human sacrifice, or for that matter any actual widespread cases of child sex trafficking. That’s part of why absurd stories involving the Clintons, John Podesta, and basically every Democrat operative matter more to right-wing QAnon nutbags than anything the Order of Nine Angles and its offshoots do in the real world.
In conclusion, to follow the same spirit as Aliakai, I’d stress that the problem isn’t Satanism, or the left hand path, or occultism or even demon worship. In fact, I don’t take the side of neopagans who insist that venerating the dark side of life is the exclusive by-product of Christianity, and I’ll definitely hang out with pagans who like to venerate “demons” in what is still a non-Christian context. The problem, to be quite specific, is E. A. Koetting, and the network of influence that he has created. Not only is Koetting a notorious con artist known for his dumb videos and equally dumb takes in his books, he also uses his books to advocate for a spiritual practice that is completely sociopathic and dangerous in that it encourages people who are serious about becoming gods to kill whoever they please, and his sphere of influence proved to be a space which cultivates the murderous desires of at least some of its inhabitants, and he himself likely has his fingers in the pie of esoteric fascism. Where Ford may be involved is that he too had his fingers in the same pie, and he and Koetting promote each other and are also part of the same network of influence within the left hand path, and although both may publicly denounced the O9A, it is suspected by at least some that there is more to such ostensible renunication than meets the eye, since those within the O9A who have ostensibly left are sometimes found to actually still be part of the O9A and fulfilling what are called “insight roles”. That means that both Koetting and Ford are part of what I can only describe as an esoteric conspiracy aimed at killing people as sacrifices in order to gain the power to become gods and bring their desired Aeon and their “Dark Gods” for the purpose of destroying democracy and replacing it with a kind of Nazi Satanist empire.
But does all of this mean anything for the left hand path as a whole? Well, for one thing, it means that the network shared by E. A. Koetting and Michael W. Ford has to be avoided like a plague, it must lose the influence and status that it has in the more popular representations of the left hand path. One thing you can do to ensure this is to stay away from Become A Living God and avoid giving E. A. Koetting any money, though that’s not exactly a big ask for most people, stop buying Ford’s books or anything from Luciferian Apotheca, and stay away from any of Ford’s projects, and unfortunately that includes the slowly growing Global United Nightside Movement and the Assembly of Light Bearers. You don’t know that these people aren’t still involved with the O9A, and so you don’t know that any money going to these people isn’t going towards the O9A or anything adjacent to it. In fact, in the case of Koetting you can at least assume that he’s going to spend your money on his drug habit. It’s pretty fucking painful for me to say because even though I like to think I’ve outgrown Ford in a number of ways, I have still had to credit his work with the course of my spiritual development insofar as the guidance of a dialectic between left-hand path-aligned spiritual content and latent paganism has been central to what I believe is my destiny. The thought that a guy like that may have turned out to be with O9A or ToB all along, thus playing a role in a large-scale conspiracy of sacrificial murder, and that he might not be telling the whole truth as to whether he’s still with them (or even was with them at all) is horrifying, but unfortunately that’s just how it is, and so in order to curb all of that, I have to tell everyone and myself that Ford can’t be dealt with or trusted anymore.
The other important rammification for the left hand path, I feel, is that it must find a way to redefine itself away from the kind of framework that is imposed upon it in modernity through a dynamic created by colonialist Christian culture and its esoteric manifestations. Simply put, we should surpass and retire the idea that the left hand path is what denotes spiritual egoism vs the right hand path emphasis on the Other. I find this especially pertinent because even left hand path belief systems ultimately have some kind of Other within them despite claims to the contrary (Koetting, for instance, talks about the Eternal). The Social Darwinism that is core to the baseline of Satanism is built to some extent on a form of egoism, and so long as Social Darwinism retains its place, fascism and its inherent violence are destined to be drawn to it, because they are aligned and not to mention joined at the hip (we should point out that Anton LaVey’s many friends and the Church of Satan membership have often consisted of fascists). But the left hand path has always meant more than this. Before the arrival of Satanism, even within the context of Tantric Hinduism, it has generally encapsulated transgression and the embrace of the flesh as a means of accessing the Sacred, or ultimate unity with God in the context of Hindu doctrine. I plan to delve into the subject of the meaning of the left hand path in a separate post, but I would again mention the way the Pagans at Gods and Radicals talk about the right and left of the Sacred, drawing from 20th sociology in the process.
The right aspect of the Sacred is concerned with purity, order, and the boundaries placed between Man and the Sacred. This is what corresponds to the Right Hand Path, which in the Tantric context of Dakshinachara is defined by the observance of ritual purity and taboos. The left aspect of the Sacred, by contrast, is concerned with transgression, not simply social transgression but also transgression of the boundaries between Man and the Sacred. This is what corresponds to the Left Hand Path, which in the context of Vamachara is defined often by the transgression of ritual purity and taboos. Rhyd Wildermuth makes the point that, in animistic cultures, rituals were performed in order to ensure the spirits and/or gods of their culture stayed within their respective world rather than enter the human world. Under such a framework, the goal of the Left Hand Path would be not to solidify some fallacious notion of a transcedent isolate intelligence as the sovereign ruler of the world, but instead it would elevate individual freedom, spiritual independence, the embrace of the “dark side”, and transgression of the boundaries between Man and the Sacred as part of a way to bring the individual self together with the Other, to elicit communion with the Sacred, with nature, with the unconscious, with experience of whatever might be called “divinity”, and thus leading humans to be whole and united with the sacred nature of life, rather than purify themselves to meet the absurdity of transcendence. Thus, instead of the modern left hand path’s emphasis on atomic individualism, and occasionally fascistic terror, as a way to cut off all bonds the individual has with the world and, in its own way, set out a kind of negative transcendence, this left hand path would seek to produce a holistic (while of course liberated) individual by marinating it in the mulitplicity of a terrific, numinous, darksome Sacred that connects said individual to the world instead of severing them from it.
I can’t stress enough how stupid all of this fascist and Aryanist bile being brooked in corners of the left hand path is. The Satanic esoteric fascists believe that they are manifesting a left hand of the sacred, when, if you think about it, even in the context of manifesting their willpower, what they manifest is absolutely fundamental in the context of a right-hand understanding of the sacred. The whole point of folkish faith, for instance, is to establish strict boundaries between the Sacred and humanity, to limit the way that humans and the Sacred can interact with each other, in this case through racial hierarchy (I’ll post Ocean Keltoi’s video on Folkism at the end to help illustrate what I mean). A left-hand understanding of the Sacred, on the other hand, invites us to transgress those boundaries, so that Man and the Sacred are ever directly linked to each other, perhaps even to the point that they come together as one. Rather than impose limits on the presence of the Sacred in the world of Man, it calls for the Sacred to pour, nay flood, into said world. Ethnic borders between Man and the Sacred tightly control Man’s interaction with the Sacred in the most absurd way possible. But then I suppose that even the right and the left hand paths are not totally adequate to explain some of these types, since, for all I know, all of it could be motivated by the desire to enact the apotheosis of some kind of racial will. For many esoteric Nazis, this entails purity and is thus an extreme expression of the right aspect of the Sacred, but for the Satanic version of this, purity is affirmed in the racial sense but also almost denied in every other sense, yet the boundary between Man and the Sacred is not transgressed, since it remains closed by ethnic boundaries due to the volkisch religiosity so often embraced by the Order of Nine Angles and its various offshoots.
Regardless, I am firmly of the belief that the left hand path cannot be defined by the kind of people whose inexorable direction is fascism, let alone murderous conspiracy in service of fascism. Historically speaking, it is not something that can be limited to something as narrow as the pursuit of the ego, and has not been so until the ascent of LaVeyan Satanism, and morally speaking, the consequences of limiting the left hand path to the frankly pathetic egoistic Social Darwinism too often pushed by what passes for Satanism is something that will only eventually lead to the destruction and emptiness of those who continue to pursue it, even if it does not ultimately lead to the deaths of innocent lives. We who aspire to the divine darkness of the left hand of the Sacred believe in our path because we see in it something beautiful and noble, and absolutely essential, that cannot be found in the delusions of transcendence and purity too often sold to the world as the one true religion. We should not allow this to be obfuscated and snuffed out, whether through the work of the evangelists of God’s “light”, or through the work of sinister and traitorous conspiracy.
I’ve already linked an archive of Tempel ov Blood’s Liber 333 in the text of this article, but I urge you to look at it anyway and see Michael Ford’s writings contained within it, and judge for yourself the nature of his involvement with ToB.
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