Socialist Jesus, Communist Santa, and modern tailism

Alright, I’ll say it. I don’t like it when, every Christmas time, the left tries to claim Jesus and Santa as icons of socialist ideology. I don’t care if that happens to be the seasonal fetish of other communists or socialists, or for any rhetorical merits they might argue for. It’s stupid, it’s a form of cultural and religious tailism, and it only serves to reinforce either the still-hegemonic status of Christianity or the commercialist culture we live in, at least if it all isn’t a pure meme anyway, and I’m going to give my reasons for why you should pack this bullshit in if you’re a leftist and still doing it. Also, I know it’s pretty late for me to talking about this basically a week after Christmas, but the march to the New Year is still part of the holiday season in some unofficial sense, so in my opinion there’s time to explore this subject before 2022.

When it comes to Jesus, the obvious center of the Christian concept of Christmas (which, by its namesake, is meant to literally mean “Christ’s Mass”), there are no shortage of left-wing narratives aiming to cast Jesus as a socialist, or even the first communist. To be honest, a lot of this simply comes from Jesus having smashed up the money-changers in the Temple in Jerusalem, and his attendant proclamation against them, saying “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of theives” (Matthew 21:13). It’s a truly memorable episode from the New Testament, one that echoes through our culture as one of the central defining moments through which we understand the character of Jesus, and admittedly it does make for an epic moment of defiance against the intrusion of market forces, servicable to empire, in the otherwise unadulterated domain of religion. It’s easy enough to come away thinking of the Cleansing of the Temple as an ancient proto-typical anti-capitalist narrative. But, there are problems with framing it in this way.

What is a money-changer? A person whose trade is to exchange one currency for another. Are money-changers capitalists? It’s not obvious that they are. Keeping in mind, of course, that the society that Jesus lived in predated the existence of not only capitalism but also the medieval system we call feudalism. This has important implications for the material conditions relevant to any attempt to elevate the anti-capitalist credentials of Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple. A capitalist is an individual who controls a given means of production and portions out a fraction of the fruits of the labour generated through it to those willing to sell their labour power for a wage. So what’s a money-changer, then? Just a merchant, ultimately, and specifically one whose services allowed Jews to exchange Roman coins for shekels in order to make payments to the Temple, which did not accept the standard Greek and Roman currency as payments. It is not clear that these merchants followed the model practiced by the bourgeoisie as it would have emerged centuries after Jesus’ time. As for Jesus himself, he is traditionally described as a carpenter, and it’s not clear that he had any employees working under him, so Jesus would have been a self-employed carpenter. In Marxist terms, if we’re going to apply the definitions of the capitalist system onto the narrative of Jesus’ life, this might make him one of the labour aristocracy, which is a privileged sector of the proletariat who benefit from superprofits and have no desire for revolution, sometimes siding with the ruling capitalists to preserve their own advantage. So if we interpret the Cleansing of the Temple solely on the basis of class, Jesus would have been a pre-modern labour aristocrat clashing with merchants of a similar class background. This is hardly the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, in abandoning his carpentry in order to focus on his ministry, since he did not take on a productive job in which he sold his labour power for a wage, by some standard he might well be considered one of the lumpenproletariat, a submerged sector of class society who are either disorganized, “declassed”, and assumed not to be revolutionary. Marx and many successive Marxists also despised the lumpenproleriat, condemning them as degenerates and outcasts, which is sort of unusually moralistic for a thinker who Karl Vorlander noted for his wholesale mockery of morality as a concept. But returning to the subject of Jesus, if he is a lumpenproletarian, and we take the view that lumpenproletarians are still part of the proletariat, then it is only in this sense that, perhaps, Jesus represents the working class, but in a struggle against a mercantile labour aristocracy and not the bourgeoisie.

So what’s the real meaning of the Cleansing of the Temple? It’s not in any way obvious that Jesus has a problem with currency exchange in itself, and instead the problem expressed by Jesus is simply that the money-changers turn the “house of prayer” into a “den of thieves”. It’s easy enough to take from this that Jesus thinks currency exchange is in itself theft, but the only time Jesus seems to talk about money-changers is in the Temple instance. A popular explanation is that Jesus thought they were cheating their customers and overcharging them, though this might actually be a simplistic interpretation. In fact, some argue that the main issue with the Temple was its functioning as a bank, at the centre of a whole local economy in which wealthy property-owners lent money to the poor at the cost of debt, which if unpaid would result in the loss of land. Still, the exact language and statements given by Jesus suggest his main problem was not so much economy itself as much as the intermingling of economy with religion. In other words, Jesus’ problem was specifically with the presence of markets in the Temple, which means his problem was with the merging of economic life and religious life, the latter of which was to remain pure and unadulterated by the influence of economic activity, and in this instance the problem was not with the economic system as a whole, let alone with capitalism.

To further communicate some of the problems with the radical credentials ascribed to Christianity, I’m going to draw a lot from everyone’s favorite quasi-Marxist and quasi-apologic socialist politicial scientist Michael Parenti, or more specifically his 2010 book God and His Demons, which, although probably flawed on its own, draws from Biblical scripture to make its argument against the anti-capitalist or progressive credentials of Christianity. For all the abolitionist credentials ascribed to Christianity, Jesus himself in no way opposed the institution of chattel slavery and in fact affirmed the categories of slave and slave-owner as legitimate via the right of the slave-owners to beat the slave, harshly or gently depending on whether or not the slave knowingly disobeyed their owners (Luke 12:47). The master-slave or master-servant relationship is affirmed throughout Jesus’ parables, such as the parable of the faithful and wise servant described in Matthew 24 and Luke 12. Jesus also seems to accept poverty as something that will always exist, rather than something that can be abolished through socio-economic change, as is shown Mark 14:3-9 where a woman is admonished by others for pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ head instead of selling it and sharing the profits with the poor, and Jesus defends the woman by saying “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me”. In other words, Jesus is saying that poverty will always exist, and you can always ameliorate it through private charity, but what really matters is that his followers please and serve him because he won’t be around forever. This is not an anti-capitalist message, to say the least. Indeed, in the account of Jesus’ accomplishments given in Matthew 11:5, the poor are not given wealth but instead only “the good news”, while the blind, the “lame”, the lepers, and even the dead all received miraculous reversals of their prior predicaments. The Bible also declares that there is no authority on earth not established by God, and thus that whoever is in charge serves God for your good and rebellion against authority means going against God and paying for it (Romans 13:1-7). This would mean that the authority of capitalism exists by God’s decree, and thus should be obeyed.

And it doesn’t stop with the Jesus. St. Paul supported the institution of chattel slavery by urging slaves to respect their masters in order to defend God’s teaching (1 Timothy 6:1). St. Peter also supported slavery by urging those who reverently feared God to submit to their masters in slavery, even if their masters were harsh, and praised those who endured beatings for doing good as part of their service (1 Peter 2:18-22) . Origen, one of the early church fathers, chastised the poor in Book VI of Contra Celsus by claiming that the majority of them have bad characters and that “not even a stupid person would praise the poor indiscriminately”. Elsewhere, in On Prayer, Origen says that if you are poor and bear your poverty “ignobly”, and conduct yourself in a “more servile and base” way than is becoming of the Saints, you fall away from “heavenly hope”, and counselled that the “daily bread” that Christians are to subsist on consists not in actual physical bread but instead in spiritual or “supersubstantial bread”, thus the rich and the poor alike are to depend solely on the spiritual nourishment of God, and presumably thus not demand the betterment of their own living conditions, since this would mean subsisting yourself or enriching your situation with elevated material conditions by your own hands as opposed to simply relying on the spiritual sustenance of God. Clement of Alexandria referred to the destitute, those who begged for daily bread, and the poor who were dispersed on the streets as the “most blessed” on account of their extreme poverty, want, destitution, and lack of subsistence, thus sacralizing and glorifying the condition of poverty. Clement also opposed the view that God commanded Christians to renounce property, and instead counselled Christians to simply manage property without inordinate affection in service of God. The early Christian text On Riches, attributed to Peter of Alexandria, apparently rebuked the poor for their supposed envy, their concern about the rich, and their ingratitude to the God who “made them free from the cares about which the rich man is concerned”. In other words, the poor are to be grateful what they have. The rich are divided into the “wicked and merciless rich” who abuse their wealth and property and the “merciful and loving rich” who use their wealth and property benevolently and align with the will of God, whereas the poor are not divided in such a way and the author of On Riches declares that he does not “honor the poor by making them equal to the rich” nor “favour them”, and if anything holds that the poor man may leave his poverty only for “another poverty seven times more evil than this”.

Despite prominent popular discussion of Matthew 19:24 as a Christian indictment of the rich and despite The Cleansing of the Temple, in Christianity wealth is not always considered a bad thing, and in fact has been considered a good thing so long as it is managed according to the will of God. The Christian condemnation of the rich and their wealth pertains to the extent to which earthly riches or simply the love thereof impedes devotion to God, or that the management of wealth is unscrupulous, harms the poor, or simply leads the rich man away from God. From this standpoint, as applied to capitalism, capital, as a form of wealth, is not actually inherently against God’s will, only the “wicked” use of it against God is, and a just society is one where both the capitalists and the poor working class all observe their ordained social stations in a manner that comports with God’s will. Class society as divided between bourgeoisie and the proletariat is still to exist, since it too is ordained by God, but each class is to observe God’s will and act humbly, mercifully, and dutifully within their respective terms. Since wealth, thus capital, is only bad insofar as its use does not serve God, the capitalist class would be compelled to reform their ways so as to be more “merciful” in alignment with God, which would suggest no real policy changes other than perhaps a couple of benign reforms agreed upon by a consistently Christian ruling class. In modern terms, Christian teaching is only about as anti-capitalist as Elizabeth Warren is, which is to say not at all.

Some leftists might point to Acts 4:32-35 as a kind of pre-modern expression of religious communism, describing a society ruled by the apostles and inhabited by believers in Jesus who were all one in heart and mind, shared all of their possessions and claimed no private (or seemingly even personal) property, no one was needy, and those who owned land and houses sold them and brought their profits to the apostles who distributed the money to anyone who needed it. In Acts 5, it is further described that those who keep any of their profits from selling houses and property for themselves miraculously fall down and die after being called out by St. Peter, suggesting that God would punish those who retain some personal profit with death. This sounds vaguely like what a communist society might look like, though hard to reconcile with Jesus’ teaching about the inevitable condition of poverty or early church teachings about wealth and property. It could just be a vague utopian commune project devised by the apostles. But what has always bothered me is that, for a religion that supposedly has inscrutable socialist or proto-communist credentials, most of the history of Christianity has not yielded any lasting socialist or communist society under the banner of Christian power. There were Christian efforts at establishing proto-socialist communities in Europe, but they were suppressed by the larger Christian establishment, who invariably upheld the legitimacy of the owning class. Of course, the Catholic Church is well-recognized as an edifice of elite power, but anti-revolutionary sentiment is not limited to the Catholic Church. The German Peasants’ War, in which peasants fought for freedom from restrictions imposed upon them by their lords, divided the Protestant movement in its response, with Thomas Muntzer and some more radical sections of the Protestant movement supporting the peasants while Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, not only opposed the peasants and claimed they were on the side of the Devil but also sided with the nobles and called for the punitive and violent suppression of the peasants. Very little of Christian society has manifested lasting working class power under the banner of the Christian faith, and in fact the rise of capitalism seems to seen Christianity emerge as a religious legitimator of the capitalist order and state power.

The trouble with using the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity to form a religious anti-capitalist narrative, and from there the wider problem with Christian Socialism or Christian Communism, is that it is necessarily selective, and cannot reflect the whole of the Christian vision of a society that is considered just insofar as it aligns with God’s will. A socialist or radical anti-capitalist interpretation of Christianity requires a hyper-fixation on a select handful of verses of the Bible and episodes of Jesus’ purported life that can be interpreted in a sufficiently anti-capitalist light, while leaving out the parts of the Bible that can be interpreted as supportive of a capitalist order or not entirely condemning of the rich, as well as creatively de-spiritualizing the message of Jesus by reducing it to a single economic substance such as debt forgiveness, thus leaving out not only the broader religious/spiritual content of the Biblical message but also the wider history of the early Christian movement and its tendency to chastise the poor while telling them to be content with their lot and defending at least some of the rich. Their concern was not with the material emancipation of the masses from the ruling economic and political order but instead a spiritualized, ethereal, and indeed extramaterial deliverance from the world into the kingdom of God, and attaining it by obeying the will of God, which, as I have shown, includes obedience to the system. Such efforts make sense only so as to attract religious Christians to the message of socialism by hopping on the bandwagon of its hegemonic popularity, instead of challenging the authority of Christianity, presumably off the back of either winning the unity of the working class or votes that might otherwise go to conservatives. In summary, it is a kind of religious tailism.

But before we get to that let’s touch on the other subject of my article: Santa Claus. Jacobin Magazine, with what seems to be a touch of humour, once published an article in 2018 advocating that socialists should embrace Santa Claus on the grounds that he is an egalitarian internationalist who disregards the borders of the nation state and free market norms to give gifts to children. The same magazine, during the same year, also seems to have published a parody article deconstructing Santa Claus as a robber baron who exploits his elven workers and rose to power through violently subjugating of the inhabitants of the North Pole. But in any case, the idea of Santa Claus as some sort of communist icon spreads around annually in certain corners of the online left, and sometimes in conservative circles. But is there reason to go along with it?

Putting aside the predictable discourse about how Santa Claus, if real, would subsist on exploitative practices for his workers, expecting them to constantly produce toys for little in the way of a wage, let’s just go right to the heart of the matter: the Santa Claus we all know is just a corporate mascot. The modern image of Santa Claus derives his name from Saint Nicholas, who is known for his secret gift-giving involving distributing wealth to the poor, but much of the iconography and character of the modern Santa Claus was developed from various precursors in European folkloric traditions (some of which, such as the Dutch Sinterklaas, were based on Saint Nicholas) by several soft drink companies into the holly jolly gift-giving figure of pop culture, often sanitized from a number of harsher equivalents in pre-existing folklore, such as the Joulupukki of Finland. So one of the many faces of capitalism is to be recast as one of its opponents on behalf of the workers of the world. Of course, that’s not even getting into conversation we can have about how the myth of Santa Claus probably encourages rampant consumerism on the part of parents and children, lending to the annual mass support of capitalist markets.

Now, to be fair, there is the argument to be made all of this represents a form of detournement, the art of taking popular icons of the dominant culture and integrating them into a new, radical context, in which the original icons are then subtextually altered so as to gain a new and more subversive meaning. The idea of turning a capitalist icon into a partisan of communism certainly does make sense as an act of detournement, as does the idea of enlisting the most popular religious figure in the Western world as an opponent of capitalism. Except, the idea is not really to subvert the dominant culture. Instead, the idea is to affirm socialism and/or communism not as a radical opposition to the order of society but rather as innate within the cultural DNA of the society we live in, which need only be unlocked in order to awaken the class consciousness of the public. In practice, this means blindly following the popular ideas of Jesus, Christianity, and Santa Claus and what they represent in order to reinterpret them, without challenging them. Contrast with this with the use of the inverted cross by Satanists and other anti-Christian elements that I discussed a few months ago. This represents the subversion of traditional symbolism undertaken as a conscious challenge to its original traditional context, as opposed to embracing the popular context of Christianity so as to claim it as your own. Thus we come to the concept of tailism, as developed in Marxist political theory.

The concept of tailism, as it is understood by Marxists, can be traced to Vladimir Lenin and his 1902 pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, which for Marxism-Leninism can be thought of as a landmark expression of its core ideological goals. In What Is To Be Done?, Lenin talked about the tendency of some socialists who advocated for the practice of “dragging at the tail of the movement”, by which Lenin seems to mean “bowing to spontaneity” and straggling behind the tendencies of popular movements without actually leading and educating the masses, a tendency which is then elevated to a point of principle. This is what Lenin referred to as tailism. Mao Zedong took this concept further in On Coalition Government, in which he defines tailism as the practice of “falling below the level of political consciousness in the masses” instead of leading it forward, thus tailing behind backwards elements within the working class, resulting in some comrades adopting backwards and reactionary attitudes on social issues. In modern circumstances, we can see this tendency especially pronounced in certain social-democratic elements of the left who, like all social-democrats, are captured by the promises of electoral power and, unlike most, come to think that by appealing to facetious narratives of the inherent conservatism of the working class they may yet win power and defeat the conservatives, or even in certain Marxist-Leninists who seem convinced that the bourgeois conservative image of the working class is the true identity of the revolutionary proletariat or that their tailism is actually a means of breaking free from the limits of bourgeois politicial thought.

The way that certain leftist elements attempt anually to frame Jesus or Santa as socialist or communist revolutionaries, and Christianity as nothing more than a political message of debt forgiveness, constitute a form of tailism in one sense. Even if not in the manner of the notable reactionary contingents of the social-democratic or Marxist-Leninist movements, we can look at the frequent attempts to Marxify Jesus and Santa as tailing behind popular consciousness, or perhaps actually falling below the imaginary that has been constructed for the masses by the powerful, without actively and consciously challenging said consciousness or imaginary. In a religious sense, it is thus religious tailism, and in a cultural sense, it is thus cultural tailism, but these are still modes of tailism whether Novara Media or Jacobin like to admit it or not. As such, what might otherwise be an attempt at detournement is guided by the desire to bind revolutionary socialism to the spirit of a popular society that it is in the business of remaking or overturning, and showing the masses for the subjugation that it is.

Lilith, Satanism, and the power of detournement

Recently I have come across discussions of the familiar symbol of the upside down cross, the popular symbol of Satanism that is also not a symbol of Satanism. We all know that the upside down cross is technically actually the cross of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus who chose to be crucified upside down because felt unworthy of being crucified in the same way as Jesus, and also that St. Peter’s Cross is also traditionally a symbol of Catholicism, to the point that you find it on the seat of the Pope. Christians have typically used this fact to mock Satanists on the grounds that they merely appropriate Christian symbolism, almost parasitically depending on Christianity for its substance, as well as the heavy metal and gothic communities on the grounds of something to the tune of “trying too hard to edgy and rebellious”. But there was a take I came across on Twitter, from a user named Viv (@Continuousd3ath), that to me seems to put this old issue into perspective:

Is the upside down cross technically St.Peter’s cross? Yes. Can it still be used by Satanists as a symbol of empowerment and as a perversion of the Christian cross? Absolutely, because symbols can garner new meanings over time and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I want to use this take as a springboard for some more reflections, particularly on Lilith, but which will touch upon Lucifer and even YHWH. I wanted to wait until before I publish my big essay on Left Hand Path Paganism, which would include my way of redefining what it means to be of the Left Hand Path in a way free of the orthodoxy inherited from LaVey, Aquino and other mystic Randians, but it’s taking a long time, I’ve been convering other subjects in posts alongside that effort, and I really want to keep this discussion fresh. So, the sooner, the better. But to do that, I think it is worth bringing to the fore a concept outlined by Guy Debord, the French Libertarian Marxist philosopher and activist who was one of the founding members of the avant-garde Situationist International: the concept of detournement.

The word detournement means “hijacking” or “rerouting”, and refers to the process of integrating the artistic and cultural productions or constructions of society for the purpose of transforming them into new, and more radical (from the Situationist parlance, “superior”), constructs. In practice, this can mean taking on the language, symbols, and forms of the dominant society and subverting them, thus altering them, in a way that gives them a new, radical meaning, opposed to the status quo and the prevalent hierarchy of things. In this sense, according to the Situationist International, there is no such thing as “Situationist” art or culture, only the Situationist use of art and culture. This concept of detournement was initially developed by the Letterist International, an avant-garde art movement that was a precusor to the Situationist International, who later adapted it on their own. The opposite of detournement is recuperation, which is when the cultural or aesthetic constructions of previously radical or simply hostile movements are co-opted by the status quo or dominant hierarchy for the purpose of adapting them into forms more acceptable to society or the dominant hierarchy, or simply to neutralize them into harmless commodities so that they are no longer threatening to the status quo.

Now, what does this have to do with the upside down cross, or Lilith, for that matter? It’s best to start with the upside down cross.

Both the upside down cross and the right side up cross are traditional symbols of Christianity, with meanings that specifically affirm Christianity. But, it has also been possible to interpet the upside down cross as an inversion of the crucifixion of Jesus, since its appearance seems to be a reversal of the symbol of Christianity in the same way that the inversion of the pentagram represented the “evil” powers opposed to the “good” powers represented by the original pentagram. It might seem that such a connection was only made in the context of modern popular culture, but that is not the case. The idea of the inverted cross representing the satanic inclinations and the inversion of Christianity seems to have originated in the milieu of 19th century French occultism. This connection seems to have originated with the use of the inverted cross by Eugene Vintras, who, far from a Satanist, was a mystic neo-Catholic who led a movement centered around the “Work of Mercy”. At some point, Vintras supposedly started receiving visitations from the archangel Michael, who announced the speedy arrival of the “Third Kingdom”, the kingdom of the Holy Spirit, which, according to Vintras, was already present for his followers, which meant that they were already spiritually perfect. His disciples received angelic names, women were officiated as priests, and the traditional Catholic Mass was deemed obsolete, while Vintras himelf wore robes bearing an inverted cross, which signified the end of the “age of suffering” (represented by the regular cross) and the dawn of the “age of love”. This was no doubt a major transgression towards Catholic orthodoxy, and the church branded his sect as a “criminal association”. Eliphas Levi met Vintras once, purportedly saw an inverted pentagram on one of his hosts, and concluded that his sect was a kind of “Satanism”. His successor, Joseph-Antoine Boullan, was also accused of Satanism due to his association with Vintras and the use of the inverted cross.

Symbolism evolves over time, and previously established symbols gain a secondary meaning with time. In the context of 19th century occultism, what was a symbol of Peter’s unworthiness before his master Jesus took multiple new meanings. For Eugene Vintras, it was the inversion of the “age of suffering”, represented by the cross, and because of the transgressive nature of this meaning, it was attacked as a “Satanic” symbol by Christians, and then it slowly became a symbol of Satanism; or rather, it gained a secondary, Satanic meaning, alongside its traditional Christian meaning. Vintras took the Catholic symbol of Peter and altered it so as to give it a new, transgressive meaning. This has since evolved in a further detournement, with unworthiness before God becoming the inversion of God’s new covenant as symbolized by the cross. The reason this is considered invalid, or a theft of Christian symbolism, is, frankly, because Christianity, as the dominant overculture, is seen as something not to be tampered with, and because Christians are fully aware of the nature and power of Satanic detournement. But, of course, certain Satanists are all too happy to play the game themselves. They get heat from society because of the upside down cross, and society associates them with criminal acts because of some maniac with an inverted cross doing maniac stuff, even though the same treatment is never afforded to criminals and terrorists who brandish the regular cross, and so through a combination of this and the opportunity to exercise elitism over others, they gatekeep the symbolism of Satanism by declaring the upside down cross to be the purview of false Satanists or “edgy hipsters”. Of course, it would be wrong to say that the upside down cross is the symbol of Satanism, when the inverted pentagram and the cross of Leviathan already exist, but it is a fool’s errand to try and deny the subversive aspects of the upside-down cross in the context of a religious ideology that itself stridently inverts many of the precepts of Christianity.

But how do we get to Lilith?

Over a year ago I did a Mythological Spotlight centered around Lilith, and I believe I have had a mistaken analysis within it. It was focused on the various pop-mythological claims made about Lilith, such as that she was a dark goddess in the Mesopotamian myths, and in the process of this, I ended up treating the broad modern assessment of Lilith in the Romantic and Kabbalistic context as an intrusion upon her traditional context, that of a child-stealing demonness. But even though towards the end of that post I referred to the transformation of Lucifer and Serapis as an example of old myths gaining new forms, I somehow mistakenly decided that this did not apply to Lilith because…reasons. I was pompous then, probably carrying forward some residual elitism that was extrapolated different desires I had back at the time. If I had considered the theme of detournement carefully, in the context of the subject, it would become obvious that Lilith herself is perhaps the most radical detournement. Lilith had gone from the name of a set of child-stealing demons, to the queen of those demons, to God’s first wife, to an arch-demoness against God, and, from there, a symbol of the powerful, independent woman. The traditional context of the Abrahamic myths of Lilith is that of transgressive, disobedient womanhood, a perversion of obedient femininity, to which monstrous characteristics are then affixed to emphasize the evils of the disobedient woman. The detournement begins, actually, through the parodic context of the Alphabet of Ben Sira, which then creates space for Lilith to take on a new, transgressive, rebellious meaning. When you think about it, what could be truer to the Left Hand Path than to embrace the context of detournement against hierarchy?

Besides which, is there not an example of the reverse of Lilith’s transformation? There is. None other than YHWH! Think about it. What was YHWH before the arrival of Judaism and Christianity? A tribal god of metallurgy, war, or the wind, named Yahweh. And as he asceneded to the supreme sovereign of the Judaic religion, casting out all other gods, he ruled the cosmos of the Old Testament with wrath and revenge, spreading genocide, terror, plague, judgement, to all who opposed his rule. That reality is in stark contrast with the image of God we are still presented with. Through the New Testament, and even there it is not as though God has somehow become “less cruel”, and the later development of Christian theology and culture, God’s petulent malevolence was almost forgotten, obscured by the image of the “God of Love”, whose malevolence was then transferred onto a scapegoat: The Devil. The Devil himself more or less operates as a “Pagan” god, a divinity who, representing the “evils” of the pre-Christian world, competes with God’s power. So The Devil himself, Lucifer, became a subject of radical detournement by his admirers, and God before him was the subject of increasing recuperation by the ever-consolidating power of Christianity. Yet, these are God and the Devil as we know them. They did not remain static. Lucifer did not stay as a name for the brightest planet, and YHWH did not stay as the tribal god of metallurgy. They gained new context as tradition evolved, and that is simply the natural movement of religion.

That’s the point I’m trying to make. If YHWH can be recuperated from a warlike sky god to the benevolent “Good Lord”, and if Lucifer can go from the name of the brightest object of the sky to the name of the Devil, I don’t see why Lilith isn’t allowed to go from child-stealing demon to the emblem of subversive womanhood. And if you’re a Pagan, syncretizing the satanic figures into your practice is in no way a problem, not least because it wasn’t a problem for pre-Christian Pagan magicians to do the same for the angels and names of God.

“Lilith” by Charidimos Bitsakakis (2019)

I regret to inform you all that Rhyd Wildermuth is an ally to bigotry

Have you ever had that feeling when you encounter someone you really found fascinating, whose work got you thinking about something in a bit of a different way from before, and you start taking influence from them, and then you find out that they’ve made such egregious errors of judgement that it makes you question what you want to do with them, and then you feel kind of lost? That’s what happened regarding Rhyd Wildermuth. I discovered his work a few months ago, in the process of rediscovering Gods and Radicals, itself part of my own process of rediscovering, and re-envisioning, Paganism as a religious world-outlook, onto which Luciferianism as an esoteric outlook can be formatted in my own syncretic way. He inspired some ways of thinking about Paganism or had me thinking of some beliefs I always kind of had in a way that, at that time, I didn’t imagine before, or at least pointed the way to them. But recently I’ve begun to think he’s actively taking the side of some bigoted and reactionary corners of the online left – either that or he’s just too stupid to know the difference and he ends up as a dupe – and that has me questioning myself quite a bit. I mean don’t get me wrong, his more recent article on anarchism was very questionable enough and I had a lot of problems with it, but what I’m about to tell you is much worse. It has to do with two online left figures widely known for their snobbish, reactionary bigotry and who together form a kind of red-brown alliance in online circles: one is an (apparently) anarchist YouTuber/podcaster by the name of Angie Speaks, the other is another podcaster by the name of Aimee Terese. One of them, Angie, seems to be a friend of Rhyd Wildermuth’s and is actively platformed on Gods and Radicals’ website. This is a problem for reasons you are about to see.

This all started a few days ago when someone showed me a short Twitter thread that Angie posted last week, in which she attacked people who “”try to be something they’re not”. If that sounds vague, I’ll just post a screenshot of the thread below here:

Now this on its own can invite a fair few questions. What “self-hatred” is she referring to? Who are the people “trying to be something they’re not”? Why is aversion to said people “not bigotry”, and for that matter why the need to refer to bigotry, since this reference implies a response to accusations of bigotry? Who is “not living their truth” and why is it “perfectly natural” to be “creeped out” by them? But the answer to all of those questions, to anyone reading between the lines, is that Angie is referring to trans people. She believes that trans people are not and cannot be the gender they identify as, that they hate themselves, and that cisgender people being averse to them is “natural” because they are “uncanny” and “deceptive”. This is in part a fairly textbook case of ignorance about trans people, but also an equally textbook case of transphobic bigotry, since the whole premise of Angie’s argument is that she thinks trans people are inherently disturbing and that it’s both acceptable and justified for others to be disturbed by them and treat them like scum. When it’s coming from a right-wing conservative, and a Christian one at that, the bigotry tends to be easy to spot and most people react accordingly. When it’s coming from someone who calls themselves a leftist of any sort, the same is also almost true, except that for some reason there are more people willing to take them at face value or give them the benefit of the doubt, because left-wing transphobes, unlike right-wing transphobes, have the habit of masking the same exact bigotry in a labyrinth of intellectual jargon and obfuscation.

This is also not Angie’s first time being transphobic. In April, Angie, after seeing a video of a schizophrenic trans teenager panicking because their mother deadnamed them repeatedly and was in the process of kicking them out of their home, responded to said video by calling the trans person in question a “brat” and remarked that parents would “many parents would rethink having zoomer/ millennial brats if they new it entailed paying for their lifestyle and housing in adulthood”, among other things.

Just to emphasize, the poor individual with the green hair is pleading to anyone watching their TikTok video to help them find a new home in order to get away from their parents, because said parents are abusing them, and Angie’s response to this is to make it seem like the teenager deserved what they got, because of their “strange interests” (as though witchcraft somehow isn’t considered a “strange interest”) and supposed “bullying”. Angie decided to frame the teenager as the bully and her parents as the real victims, and following this she released a nearly-hour-long YouTube tirade about “narcissism”, “validation”, and “social justice”. Angie’s open and public stance on someone having a mental health crisis while being verbally and mentally abused by their parents and thrown out of their home is in fact a dispenser of abuse rather than its victim. Angie is thus justifying the suffering of young trans people, and is therefore a transphobe. Insofar as Angie considers herself to be a feminist, this would mean that she is also a TERF, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (more on that later).

Then, last week, there’s the other tidbit about Angie appearing on the What’s Left podcast, hosted by Aimee Terese. I didn’t get much into Aimee’s whole persona and even in the context of this post I don’t think going into much more than a paragraph of detail is merited, but there’s a lot out there, and none of it good. Born as Aimee Laba, Aimee Terese is a Lebanese-Australian self-styled Marxist (who apparently can’t debate about Marxism without shutting down) who likes to talk a big game about how she advances real working class politics against “the professional middle class” by smuggling conservative nationalist, and often bigoted (and more recently anti-vaccine), talking points into socialist/left-wing circles. This, of course, is despite being the scion of a wealthy Lebanese capitalist and reared in one of Sydney’s most prestigious (and not to mention reactionary) elite private schools, a fact that flies straight in the face of her claims that her father was an impoverished electrician, and also despite having people like Oren Cass on their show, who is so establishment conservative that he worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns (very “socialist”, I’m sure). Over the years Terese’s politics has gotten more and more reactionary to the point that she went from posturing about being the biggest supporter of Bernie Sanders on the block to literally opposing universal healthcare on the grounds that it would supposedly give the state the power to vaccinate and euthanize everyone in totalitarian fashion. I’m not kidding around, see below:

Nobody tell Aimee that this has never happened anywhere, or that she sounds almost exactly like a Tea Party goon

Oh and did I mention that she’s basically a white nationalist who is in turn supported by other white nationalists and also literal, actual neo-Nazis? Because that’s pretty important.

Aimee Terese is the only contemporary “Marxist” I am aware of who has actually been promoted by white nationalists as an ally of their cause. Consider American Renaissance, the organization founded by the white nationalist and alt-right thought leader Jared Taylor. On their website one of their authors, Chris Roberts, wrote an article on December 11th 2019 titled “Aimee Terese: Contrarian, Marxist — White Advocate?“, in which Roberts goes through a gallery of Terese’s many takes which he finds agreeable to his own white nationalist ideology. In the same vein, the website for the National Vanguard, which is an actual neo-Nazi group founded by a fairly notorious neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Storm, also published their own article expressing solidarity with Terese, written on July 28th 2020 by an anonymous author going by “Dissident Millenial”. Titled “Aimee Terese — A Witty Marxist and Fetching Thorn in the Side of “Woke” Liberals“, it contains basically the same collection of tweets as Chris Roberts’ article with basically the same intent, but the author also adds a certain degree of flirtatious feeling to it, almost like a pathetic attempt to get a date. She’s also known to be rather friendly towards a white supremacist and Daily Stormer contributor named Joseph Jordan (known on the internet as Eric Striker), and had agreeable conversations regarding Striker’s views on the “j-left” (presumably meaning “Jewish left”, implying the left they don’t like is a form of anti-white Jewish subversion). When this naturally attracted the ire of the rest of the online left, she pretended not to know who Striker was, accused people of policing her, preceeded to police other people for retweeting her enemies, and had Eric Striker come to her defence.

If you advertise yourself as a socialist, indeed the one of the “only real socialists” on the internet, but you echo the views of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, are friends with neo-Nazis, and will defend association with neo-Nazis, the possibilities are that you are a Nazi or a white nationalist yourself, or are just so colossally stupid that it isn’t even worth contemplating.

Of course, so far I’ve gone through all of this information without once tying it back to Rhyd Wildermuth. But that changes now. You’ll remember that I mentioned that Angie Speaks is still listed on the Gods and Radicals website, and still has a page on that website. I contacted Rhyd Wildermuth via email about much of what has been discussed previously, and expressed concerns about him platforming a transphobe with links to white nationalism. What you’re about to see below is his response:

Hi there,

I’ve checked out the links you provided and none of these amount to evidence of Angie being anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists.

Her views align with a growing number of Black Marxists (see for example the repeatedly de-platformed Black Marxist professor Adolph Reed, as well as many of Cornell West’s recent positions) that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together. While I do not have experience with Aimée Terese, after reading the screenshots provided in those links it appears she is also critiquing this same problem.

I have known Angie personally for many years, by the way, and can assure you she is not anti-trans either. She has absolutely critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity and the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media (see my own critique of this here, with links to large archives of this behavior ).

While some of her own rhetoric can absolutely be quite provocative in a way in which I myself would never engage (it’s one of the reasons I completely left social media in August), it would take much more for me to silence her–or anyone–on our website.

Thanks for your email.

In short summary, Rhyd Wildermuth has seen what I have sent him and does not believe that Angie is anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists, thinks of her as an intellectual critic of neoliberal identity politics doing nothing but critiquing “neoliberal dogma around trans identity”, treats Aimee Terese as yet another of said critics while seemingly not touching on why white nationalists and Nazis seem to actively promote her content, and will not dissociate her from the Gods and Radicals website. Let’s go through this response point by point.

I’ve already established that Angie is in fact anti-trans, so there’s no need to go into too much detail about that. What I could do, though, is get into Rhyd’s justification for why he maintains this idea that she is not anti-trans. He says that she has “critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity”. What is that “neoliberal dogma”, exactly? Judging from Angie’s statements it would appear that this “neoliberal dogma” is nothing more than the assertion that trans people are the gender they say they are, and that gender affirmation (or reassignment) surgery is valid. How exactly this is “neoliberal dogma” is a bit of a mystery, unless you consider that perhaps calling it “neoliberal dogma” serves as a way to de-legitimize what is otherwise essentially scientific consensus on the subject of being trans, and in a way that can seem palatable to certain idiotic leftists obsessed with certain ideas of “proletarian culture” against “bourgeois culture”. The only other “neoliberal dogma” I can see is the idea that trans people shouldn’t be deadnamed ad nauseum, let alone at all or by their parents for that matter, and shouldn’t be thrown out of their homes for suffering a mental breakdown because of it. And again, the only reason that’s seen as “neoliberal dogma” for some is because it can serve as a convenient intellectual justification for being cruel to trans people.

The other flank of his argument that Angie is not anti-trans is that she is also critical of “the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media”. As ludicrous as this all sounds, the tell is in the phrase “gender critical women”. “Gender critical” is the politically correct term for what are otherwise called TERFs – trans-exclusionary radical feminists. These feminists believe that trans women are actually men seeking to “invade women’s spaces”, borrow arguments from homophobic evangelical Christians to justify discrimination against trans people, and they have the habit of threatening violence upon people they disagree with – or at least, they like to stick razor blades under their posters to slice anyone who tries to pull them down. So for a start, it’s the TERFs that like to do the silencing in broad trends. As for the “death and rape threats” accusation, even the Twitter album that Rhyd cites isn’t necessarily the smoking gun that he thinks it is. Not least if you remember that Twitter is not representative of the entire LGBT community – in fact, it’s not even representative of the whole population. Besides which, no matter how many people in the LGBT community actually hold the kind of absurd and bigoted opinions towards homosexuals Rhyd alludes to, that doesn’t suddenly mean that Angie isn’t transphobic anymore than US imperialism suddenly means Iran isn’t an authoritarian theocracy. And even if there are people on Twitter who shit on gay people for not dating trans people, is that really worse than the fact that trans people can be murdered on a whim, with violence against trans people increasing, and their murders often still going unreported, and failing that they’re still regularly denied housing? That’s something that, for some reason, Angie and Rhyd don’t seem interested in talking about, or Aimee Terese for that matter, or any TERF. Or, for another matter, Glenn Greenwald, who went from one of the best journalists in America willing to stick his neck out to stand up to right-wing authoritarianism in Brazil, to a tired old centrist crank whining about how he thinks gay people are being replaced by trans people or some nonsense like that.

Oh but then there’s the point about Angie not being associated with white nationalism. Rhyd insists that Angie is not associated with white nationalism via her links with Aimee Terese, and that instead she is part of a growing movement of black Marxists (only two are actually cited) that are united by the contention “that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together”. This, again, is deflection. For starters, “neoliberal anti-racism” is never specified, but we can only assume it refers to various liberal ideas about race and discussion thereof. Without being given any canards to examine, we can sort of dismiss this by pointing out that many leftists who aren’t what we might call “class reductionists” already tear apart the work of people like Robin DiAngelo as essentially an arm of corporate power against working class coalition building and organization, in favour of socialist anti-racist projects that still emphasize the inclusion of various identity-based struggles.

There’s a reason for this that I’ve come to understand. In the past, there were communist parties that expressly refused to include struggles for black liberation in their political program, no doubt to emphasize that the class struggle was the only struggle. The main example of this would be the Communist Party USA, which in the early 20th century followed this exact approach even to the point of denying the existence of racism. The end result was that some black workers abandoned the communist parties, and the left, to support Marcus Garvey, a proto-fascist black nationalist and an admirer of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Of course, many who didn’t instead turned to the much more radical Black Panthers, who unlike Marcus Garvey actually did frame demands for black emancipation in the context of a revolutionary agenda. The point being, socialist movements that dismissed liberationist identity-based struggles ended up losing people to anyone who might champion whose causes instead, even if that included fascistic ethno-nationalists. That historical reality may end up explaining why certain “class reductionist” or “class first” leftists end up morphing into reactionaries, often of the white nationalist variety. So contrary to some talking points about how “woke” leftists are creating fascists, the communists who followed the approach that Angie and Aimee would have them follow were the ones actually creating fascists.

Returning to Angie, for a moment, if the idea is that she’s critiquing identity fetishism in the sense of leveraging racial identity against the working class, that’s frankly laughable. In many exchanges, including only a few years ago in which she was arguably just as much an “identity-fetishist” as the people she now hates, she will, during the course of argument, not hestitate to leverage the fact that she’s a black woman in order to shield herself from criticism. Not exactly something you’d expect from someone interested in fighting “identity politics”. Since Rhyd claimed that Aimee Terese makes basically the same critique, we should briefly address her once more. While Terese is framed as an opponent of “identity politics”, we can see from her tweets that she spends a lot of time leveraging white identity against a multicultural elite, which is the quintessential and core politics of white nationalism. Also, for someone ostensibly keen to oppose identitarianism, why is Aimee Terese an anti-Semite? Just a month ago she produced a meme which depicted mass vaccination against Covid-19 as some kind of Jewish plot to enslave non-Jews.

When you do explicitly Nazi memes after repeatedly insisting that you aren’t a Nazi

I guess I can’t blame Rhyd too much for not knowing about this, not having dealt with Aimee before. But I’ll bet Angie knows what she’s doing, considering that they are friends and fellow travellers. Insofar as Aimee Terese is a white nationalist, and there really can’t be any denying it at this point, Angie’s links to white nationalism are pretty definite. She’ll never express white nationalism ideologically herself, but she will ally herself with white nationalists seeking to infiltrate the left as comrades in being “cancelled” by everyone else, thereby creating a network of influence. This along with the obvious transphobia is the problem with Gods and Radicals still having Angie Speaks on their website.

In light of all this Rhyd Wildermuth’s stance is clear: he is on the side of TERFs, and from the sounds of it might be a TERF himself, and so he has no problem with transphobia except to the extent that he likes to deny being anti-trans. He has seen evidence to corroborate Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which would mean that, because Angie networks with Aimee, Angie represents a point of connection between left-wing contrarians and white nationalism, yet has chosen to dismiss the idea of Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which functionally means he denies that Angie has any connections to white nationalism, and therefore he will not distance himself from her. By continuing to have Angie on the roster of the Gods and Radicals website, Rhyd gives his website a place in that same network. This means that at this point Rhyd Wildermuth is an ally to some very bigoted people.

What does this all mean? Well, it does mean I’m feeling extremely conflicted, mostly because his writings on Paganism proved to be informative of the way Paganism and radical left-wing political thought could intersect and helped light the way to a meaningful Pagan left-wing critique of the Enlightenment, plus his website still has a lot of good work on it, in the form of not just the articles not written by Rhyd, as well as some he did write, but in the form of the books they have (Kadmus Herschen’s groundbreaking True to the Earth is on that website). But while all the good is still there, knowing that Rhyd is willing to go out to bat for these disgusting reactionaries makes things very painfully inconvenient. The best outcome of this is that this complicates my ability to appreciate his work, but the worst possibility is that he’s trying to smuggle some pretty chauvinistic attitudes into Pagan left-wing spaces.

To close out this post, I’d like to make a point about why being a TERF doesn’t make much sense if you’re serious about Paganism. Christian culture may have made a big point about hierarchical masculinity and femininity being fixed essences and set in stone by God, but while even pre-Christian societies tended to be patriarchal, there is also a lot of evidence that they tended to accept trans identity to some degree. 3,000 years ago, the Persians recognized a “third gender” alongside male and female. In Sumeria, the priests of the goddess Inanna were men who discarded their masculinity and became women, and Inanna herself was revered for having the power to change men into women and vice versa. In India, the Hijra were a kind of “third gender”, considered either intersex, transgender, or asexual, who, although often marginalized in Indian society, have been present within it since antiquity and can even possess religious significance. In pre-Christian Norse society, transgressing gender norms could be seen as a source of profound power, and the god Loki himself moved through the genders almost on a whim, a fact that the Norse also tended to accept of their gods in general. And of course, the Amerindian (or Native American) tribes are known to have acknowledged over a hundred different gender expressions, and many tribes had a variety of ideas about people who did not fit the traditional male-female dichotomy, which were then suppressed by the dictatorship of colonial morality.

The point I’m trying to make is that the Pagan world did not have the problems with accepting the identity of trans people that Christian culture or more particularly modern Western culture has up to the present. So what’s stopping Rhyd Wildermuth, a Pagan, from taking effectively the same stance as his ancient pre-Christian forbears and accepting trans people as valid? By legitimating the TERF stance on trans people, endorsing the delegitimating of the identity of trans people on TERF grounds, and falling into identity-based sectarianism between trans people and gay people based on some dumb bullshit on Twitter, itself trumped up by TERFs, Rhyd does not seem to take seriously or grasp the extent to which Paganism endorses the acceptance of the identity of trans people. It also means he doesn’t take too seriously the way he talks about the Right Sacred and the Left Sacred. By his terms, the Right Sacred segregates Man and the Sacred and rigidly enforces the boundaries of experience. The TERF position is all about rigidly enforcing conservative gender norms as the mandatory experience of gender. It doesn’t matter that this hierarchical conservatism happens to be disguised by the rhetoric of female empowerment and liberation, because hierarchical conservatism it most certainly is in reality. So, by Rhyd’s terms, the TERF position is that of the Right Sacred, which he tends to see as inferior to the Left Sacred. To take the Left Sacred, with its emphasis on liberation, disinhibition, and transgression of the boundaries of experience seriously, it would be far more sensible to embrace a society in which the boundaries of experience can be freely transgressed, and therefore being trans should be considered valid in itself on those grounds at least. But even without that framework, being trans was simply considered to be valid in the Pagan world, or at least it was a recognized social category even in the context of societies where this was still marginalized. It’s not something that has recently sprung up as the product of liberal modernity.

In broad terms, Rhyd Wildermuth is taking the wrong side of an issue where we on the left, and we as Pagans, really should not be having such a hard time being on the right side of, and his willingness to defend transphobes who also happen to network with white nationalists is a major problem for his own credibility, and unfortunately that of Gods and Radicals, which is his website. Perhaps it can be maintained that we need not completely disregard the work of Gods and Radicals because of it, but then perhaps it would be better if there was another Gods and Radicals that isn’t run by someone who may be a TERF.

There’s no reason for this image to be here, except for me to say “fuck TERFs”, because fuck TERFs

Profane illumination

I’m growing more and more fascinated by the Surrealist milieu of the early 20th century, by which I mean not so much the art movement but the philosophical movement surrounding it, and the largely left-wing political tendency that composed French surrealism in particular. From what I hear it was deeply libertarian, which is why many of them opposed Joseph Stalin while being communists (although many did align with Leon Trotsky instead, who, let’s face it, was not much better), and they seemed to be committed to dialectical materialism despite accusations to the contrary. I also read about how Lucifer made appearances in surrealist literature and essays, such as Andre Breton’s Arcane 17 and Roger Caillois’ The Birth of Lucifer, suggesting the presence of a Luciferian modality within Surrealism. I say modality, because it’s not like the Surrealists viewed themselves as Luciferians in a religious sense, but that’s a subject for another post. Anyways, in the process of searching through the Surrealist milieu I somehow stumbled across Walter Benjamin, a German intellectual who either was a surrealist himself or simply adjacent to surrealism, or more specifically one concept of his in particular: profane illumination.

What is profane illumination? In his 1929 essay Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, Benjamin defines profane illumination as referring to a form of inspiration that he stresses to be materialist, anthropological and secular, though as I’ll lay out it has some pretty mystical overtones that can used to relate it to an ultimately religious outlook (not that this should be to the discredit of Walter Benjamin, who was himself influenced by religious thinking). The main characteristic of profane illumination is that is meant to be a type of illumination that allows you to see through the illusions of the society you live in, particularly in the context of bourgeois values. As Donna Roberts and Daniel Garza Usabiaga write in The Use Value of Lucifer: A Comparative Analysis of the Figures of Lucifer and Satan in the Writings of Roger Caillois and Walter Benjamin in the 1930s, the concept is to be taken as a way of piercing through the phantasmagoria (illusions or make-believe images) that comprised the superstructure of bourgeois society and liberating all that is trapped under its spell of reification (which in Marxism is a term for when temporal human social relations come to possess immutable authority through idealization). Thus profane illumination is a surrealist device by which to see and illustrate bourgeois society as it really is, and destroy the self-image of this society that is presented by the ruling superstructure, in order to align oneself and others with the truth of present day conditions in order to create a new culture base defined by authentic freedom. Applied to the Situationist tendency that followed (and criticised) surrealism, we could still say that in this light the surrealist profane illumination is a tool by which to dismantle the Spectacle, the sum total of the spectacular reign of bourgeois superstructure and its manifold illusions, a task that, for Guy Debord, will only truly be completed with the revolutionary reconstruction of society through the destruction of capitalism and the mass implementation of workers councils as the dominant structure of the economy.

To add to this, Michael Löwy further describes profane illumination as the materialistic and “post-mystical” core component of the otherwise romantic and even “magical” tendency of Surrealist experience and formulas, thus, ironically for a supposedly secular concept, we have a what seems to be a deeply spiritual take on what could otherwise be seen as an empirical and materialist engagement with the world. The French neo-Marxist Henri Lefebvre observed that the Surrealists wanted to “decode inner space and illuminate the nature of the transition from this subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world, and thence to social life”. What this means is that the aim of Surrealism can be taken to mean the revelation of the unconscious forces prevalent in the social sphere and the psyche, and the mechanism by which these forces manifest in the body and the world and are translated in the social fabric. The German philosopher Hermann Schweppenhäuser added that the concept of profane illumination, although Benjamin partially defines them in relation to intoxication, is defined by its rejection of intoxication as a means of attaining spiritual enlightenment, stating that profane illumination is where “intoxication comes to its senses” and “speculative thinking becomes sober”. Thus, although Benjamin said that narcotic intoxication could give a lesson into this experience, he ultimately did not recommend it on the grounds that it was dangerous. In fact Benjamin also said that “the most passionate investigation of the hashish trance will not teach us half as much about thinking (which is eminently narcotic), as the profane illumination of thinking about the hashish trance”, suggesting that, ultimately, sober meditative contemplation is better for the purposes of profane illumination than narcotic intoxication. And all the better. Such illumination, though intended by Benjamin to be secular, makes the most sense not only as a clear mental pursuit, but spiritual praxis.

The easiest way to ground the otherwise secular concept of profane illumination in religious terms is through the concept of the Light of Nature, or Lumens Naturae, introduced by the medieval Swiss physician Paracelsus, and expanded by Carl Jung. Paracelsus, you may remember, was a Christian who, although ultimately loyal to the Catholic Church even in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, harbored a distinct naturalistic outlook that inspired skepticism towards religious dogma and ecclesiastical authority, at least on matters of his profession. He considered scientific, natural knowledge to be the domain of the Light of Nature, and theology to be the domain of the Light of God (Lumens Dei). He also considered both lights to be a gift imparted to Man by God. Even though his own preference was for the latter, as judged by his statement that “Christian knowledge is better than natural knowledge”, it nonetheless sketches out an interesting religious grounding for the concept that would later remanifest in surrealism as profane illumination. As Jung says the light leaves behind nothing but dross and scoriae and the rejected earth, which in light of profane illumination can be interpreted as the ruins of the illusions imposed upon the empirical, natural world. Its profane nature is due to it being, for Jung, the light of the darkness which illuminates itself as opposed to the light from above which renders the darkness darker still, the darkness in this case being not just the unconscious realities of human life but also Nature itself.

A concept that seems to be related to profane illumination is that of the organization of pessimism, or organized pessimism. I could also perhaps call it revolutionary pessimism as well, since while the term in other communist usages can mean more or less anything, Benjamin’s concept of the organization of pessimism easily lends coherent definition and context to such a concept. The concept comes from the writings of Pierre Naville, one of the French Surrealists who also happened to be a Trotskyist, who called for the organization of pessimism as the most authentic manifestation of revolutionary attitude, a sort of anti-optimism that is the only mode capable of dispelling the illusions of bourgeois society and the only idea that can, in his words, “save us from death”. In context this seems to be related to opposition to the optimism found in both bourgeois and social-democratic parties. This attitude seemed to alienate him from other French communists, and it contributed to his expulsion (or departure) from the French Communist Party, after which he began identifying with Trotskyism and the “left opposition”. For Walter Benjamin organized pessimism is “the Communist answer” the Surrealism has come ever close to, and this answer means “Mistrust in the fate of literature, mistrust in the fate of freedom, mistrust in the fate of European humanity, but three times mistrust in all reconciliation: between classes, between nations, between individuals.”, which is Benjamin’s way of describing an attitude of skepticism towards bourgeois optimism and the promises of reform that are offered by bourgeois society. The ironic reference to LO Farben and “the peaceful perfection of the air force” as the only things a person can trust is taken as a prediction of the rise of the Luftwaffe and the onslaught of World War 2, and suggests a skepticism and acute radical awareness of the dangers of the logic of modern technology, its tendency towards acceleration, and the destructive effects this brings upon the world – a point that Pierre Naville may not necessarily have shared in that his own attitude towards technology was somewhat more positive. Michael Löwy connects this idea with profane illumination on the grounds that it illuminates all of the forces, murmurs, energies and catastrophes that would be obscured through bourgeois optimism and its phantasmagorias of false hope.

But Naville and Benjamin take different approaches in a related sense, in terms of accompanying political ethos. Whereas Naville, as a committed Trotskyist, called upon Surrealists to simply abandon any anarchist leanings, Benjamin, as evidently more of a libertarian Marxist, instead suggested that the revolutionary discipline and structure of orthodox Leninism should be combined with the libertarian tendencies that were classically associated with anarchism. As Sami Khatib writes in To Win the Energies of Intoxication for the Revolution, this suggestion, inspired by Surrealism, entails a materialist theory of perception that entails “a revision of the commonplace dichotomy of sober ratio and enthusiast affect”, meaning of course the dissolution of the dichotomy between seemingly rational consciousness and the life-affirming unconscious, and as Benjamin says, this means that any exploration of the surreal entails a dialectical intertwinement of these opposing forces, to the extent that excessive focus on the mysterious element of the mystery is one-sided, ignoring the real world that the mystery ultimately underpins. Indeed the title of Khatib’s paper really sums up the project that Walter Benjamin describes of Surrealism, that is to “win the energies of intoxication for the revolution”, which means not to completely immerse yourself in transgressive ecstasy but instead to traverse reality and surreality and undertake cultural and political action that dissolves the boundaries of the bourgeois subject by way of a revolution of consciousness, concurrent of course with class revolution, leading ultimately to a community free of totalitarian spectacle and the formatting of bourgeois rational-positivism.

There are, of course, many applications for profane illuminations. We can, in a Jungian sense, take the component of profane illumination to reference the incorporation of the life-affirming contents of the personal and collective unconscious, the soil of Hades from which psychic and spiritual content springs and to which it returns. In this sense profane illumination is the light either of the unconscious or the individual who clings fast to his Hadean roots, the true light of the morning star. It is Luciferian light just as much as the Light of Nature is the light of Mercurius, the Christ of the unconscious and the alchemist’s world soul. We can then extrapolate revolutionary goals to this: to, in the fashion of the Morning Star, retrieve the worthies of the underworld, the liberatory contents of the unconscious, discover and reveal its hidden presence in all things, its true nature, and from there, in a way, the true order of things, and harmonize human beings with the true substance of their humanity and the true substance of humanity with human beings. In this sense such an idea can be applied beyond the class struggle and applied to the nature of psyche and reality, for no matter what time and what place, humans have always lied to themselves without realizing it, there was always been a hidden underbelly to life, to the psyche and to society that is frequently obscured by the ego and by reification, with the goal of spiritual enlightenment being to dispel that reification, cultivate profane illumination, and see the world, and yourself, as you really are, and attain spiritual freedom from this knowledge. That is the true fruit of psychoanalysis, the fruit of empiricism and, indeed, the fruit of genuinely good religion.

The accompanying element of revolutionary pessimism can be applied to confer other characteristics to profane illumination that are relevant to socio-political outlook, lending itself to a paradoxical intersection between the traditionally libertarian and the traditionally “conservative”, all within the context of a communist philosophical device. The libertarian end of this is not difficult to explain. In the original Surrealist context this meant an emphasis on complete creative and artistic freedom to interface with the unconscious without interference from the state or the party and any prevailing dominant culture, and these elements were associated with libertarians and anarchists and clashed with the prevailing Stalinist currents of the French left at the time as well as other Leninists (though not necessarily Trotskyists it seems). But we can, within the same field of cultural libertarianism and revolutionary pessimism we may derive a fundamental skepticism of teleological progress. Bourgeois society, dominated by economic liberalism and, in proceeding fashion, social liberalism, is anchored in an unshakeable belief in its own endless growth, a fantastical moral arc bending towards some transcendental conception of justice or progress, the idea that everything can be managed in a meticulously rational-technocratic fashion, and that the West has passed through the “end” of history. Even within the left, you notice some variation of this teleological progressivism, and in the broader sphere, it lends ultimately to the alienation of humans from their own destiny, as the march of progress ultimately wrests humans away from their central place in the world through the increasing complexity and all-pervasiveness of technology and our dependence upon it. The organization of pessimism in light of profane illumination instills a resolute contempt for the illusions of teleological progressivism and its moralizing content. This, combined with the insight of a pervasive unconscious element that has always permeated human life, lends itself to a profound skepticism of teleological progress that, ultimately, lends to a somewhat conservative outlook. And by no means is this a bad thing, if in the sense that such conservatism serves as an element of the libertarian component and perhaps a watch against excess rather than simply as a yoke to be imposed on non-conformists.

Of course, this ultimately presents a problem for orthodox Surrealism (yes, that was a historical thing) given that, unfortunately, the surrealists of old tended to oppose many of the moral conventions that would make sense to the average person even before capitalism had anything to say, under the premise of dismantling bourgeois values. Take the case of the Surrealist defence of Charlie Chaplin in 1927. At this time, Chaplin’s then-wife Lita Grey was divorcing him and demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars (at the time; surely millions in today’s money) in alimony from him on the grounds that Chaplin had cheated on her with multiple other women. The divorce was an international sensation at the time, and the public was aghast at Chaplin’s actions at least to the extent that they believed Grey’s testimony. But the French Surrealists, blinded by their admiration of Chaplin, decided to defend Chaplin’s actions, thinking he should live as he pleased. As part of their critique of bourgeois morality and its restrictive tendency towards human freedom and creativity, they decried marriage as an oppressive institution, a “prison” for human passions, and they admired Charlie Chaplin because he followed his desires wherever they went. This can be a dangerous attitude to have, in my opinion, and I wonder if the Surrealists ever found out about the fact that, went Chaplin met and impregnated Grey to start with, she was 15 years old and he was 35, and they had to marry in secret in order to avoid Chaplin being arrested for having sex with a minor. I suppose it’s no wonder that men like Roger Caillois decided that the Surrealists lacked the ideals of discipline and self-mastery that would come to form his conception of Lucifer, or why the Letterist International, a precursor to the Situationist International, hated Charlie Chaplin, began to transgress Surrealism, and in 1952 staged a disruption of Chaplin’s press conference at the Hotel Ritz Paris, accusing him of emotional blackmail and calling him a “fascist insect”.

Things like this pose a problem for interpreting the Surrealist enchantment with the past in a “conservative” light, even when it can be a potent source of teleological skepticism to counter the optimistic rationalism of the Situationist International – after all, if the Surrealists decided that there should be no limits as to how you live your life, what even can be preserved? However, with Walter Benjamin’s conception of profane illumination, we see the attempt to harmonize the almost anarchic instincts of Surrealism with the discipline of Leninism, and in a sense bring the surrealist ethos away from complete identification with the unconscious and the passions latent therein. Jung would tell you that it is supposed to be the conscious mind that integrates unconscious content, I would say darkening itself in the process, rather than the unconscious devouring conscious mind, because while the latter leads to possession of the personality and therefore disaster, the former leads to an integrated wholeness that leads to the birth of the Self. Of course, both paths ultimately entail the embrace of darkness.

And while we’re on this point, it may be worth briefly referring to the point of the “cult of evil” as a political device. In Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, Benjamin states that “One finds the cult of evil as a political device, however romantic, to disinfect and isolate against all moralizing dilettantism”. Darkness, the traditionally “evil” realm, the “cult of evil”, refers here not to some puerile Satanism let alone of the kind that is frequently imagined in popular consciousness, but instead to a way of guarding yourself against moral grandeur and teleological zeal, and the illusion, megalomania and decadence that follows for the spirit. In some ways one could make the comparison to Tibetan Buddhism, where the seemingly evil-looking wrathful deities are in reality merely the violent guardians of spiritual practice, disinfectants against illusion and destroyers of the ego. In this sense it makes sense that you find themes pertaining to Lucifer appear in Surrealist literature and discourse, or discourse adjacent to it, between Andre Breton, Walter Benjamin, Roger Caillois and Georges Bataille. Lucifer is the archetype that makes the most sense here because it seeks enlightenment defined what we would call profane illumination, not just in a social-political class context, but in an existential context.

However, for Surrealism to truly take on the form of Luciferian light, it must be developed in a way that its romantic elements can still lend itself not so much to flight from reason, as is sometimes suggested by the early Surrealists, but in subversion of rationalism, the detournement thereof in order to take the tool of reason and use it to make a scientific methodology for understanding and appreciating the darkness, the hidden, the unconscious, the dare I say occult layer of reality that is just as much a part of Nature and society as you or I. For that purpose, one should both retain surrealism as an ethos of communism and transcend it as a framework. I believe reading both Walter Benjamin and Roger Caillois simultaneously offers a good road for what that might look like. One should not, as Andre Breton would have us do, refuse to cut open the Mexican jumping bean simply in order to honor the mystery. How can a man honour any mystery if he cannot see it for himself? How can humans honour darkness and make it bright if he has no knowledge of the dark light? A science of the surreal is thus indispensable.

The “Dark Sun” of alchemy as depicted in the Splendor Solis by Salomon Trismosis (circa 1532-1535)

Why all Luciferians MUST read Erich Fromm

Some time ago I discovered the work of a philosopher named Erich Fromm, a German Marxist democratic socialist who dealt in humanistic philosophy and psychoanalysis, and the more I read him the more I think of him as being of profound value to the Luciferian outlook insofar as his analysis of mythology and the development of religion, though it can be said to emerge from an Abrahamist background, contains quite a few elements that can be useful to the formation of a Luciferian framework that can be situated in adjacence to Marxist aims but also more generally as something that stands out on its own, whereas in the present it is defined too much in relation to paganism, Satanism and/or Gnosticism, all three of which I find don’t ultimately express Luciferianism authentically and instead most of them define Luciferianism as just another name for their own product, no matter how fraudulent their claim to is (the case of “Gnostic Luciferianism” in particular shall be the subject of another post). I expect some Luciferians will find this proposal to be pretty strange, but I implore them to at least hear me out.

For starters, we can find The Sane Society an interpretation of the Garden of Eden for which a Luciferian reading is easily formulated. Taken from pages 23-24:

Man, who lives in the Garden of Eden, in complete harmony with nature but without awareness of himself, begins his history by the first act of freedom, disobedience to a command. Concomitantly, he becomes aware of himself, of his separateness, of his helplessness; he is expelled from Paradise, and two angels with fiery swords prevent his return.

Man, in Fromm’s conception, is ostensibly a part of nature and yet has transcended it in some way through the emergence of self-awareness, reason and imagination, which fundamentally alters the baseline animal existence that every other animal operates within and thus, in his conception, disrupts the harmony between Man and nature. This level of development, for humans, presents a contradiction that lies at the heart of human dynamism that, in its quest for dialectical resolution, sets humanity apart from the whole of creation. Reason is both a gift and a curse in that it compels Man to realize and cope with the disharmony that rests within himself, and the task of resolving what appears to be the insoluble contradiction of his existence. As Fromm puts it, Man cannot restore harmony with nature, and he must develop his faculties of reason until he becomes the master of nature as well as himself.

Now, the serpent of the Garden of Eden itself is not Lucifer, otherwise the Ophite Gnostic may as well have been Luciferians even though they were still just Gnostic Christians who happened to like the serpent as an archetype, though it does make sense to think of the serpent in Eden as a Luciferian archetype in much the same way that Prometheus could be seen as such (in a way that Fromm goes on to point out later). The serpent gives first humans knowledge of good and evil, despite the warnings of God that they shall “surely die”. The result of this is that the first humans gain self-awareness and are cast out of the Garden of Eden and into the wilderness, where they have lost harmony with God. But it is only because of this explusion, this divorce from Eden, that the beginnings of the ascent of Man take place, that the self-making of his destiny begins, and that means breaking away from the will of God. If God, for Fromm, is to be taken as an analogue for nature, then it presents an interesting way of framing certain other philosophies whose emphasis lies in a return to harmony. I remember once coming across a documentary on the Qabbalah many years ago, wherein a man was interviewed about it and he describes the goal Qabbalistic mysticism as essentially to “return to the Garden of Eden”, and indeed modern Jewish spirituality also seems to predicate itself on the idea of this return to the garden. The return to the Garden of Eden is a return to the original, unperfected state of nature, a return to a kind of primordial harmony that has ostensibly been lost through the attainment of human self-awareness and reason. Such an ideas have their echoes much outside Judaism and indeed Abrahamism more broadly, and can be found in the modern neopaganism with its emphasis on a return to a nature embodied by the multitude of gods and spirits, as well as forms of Eastern spirituality such as Shakti worship (in which such nature takes the form of a Great Goddess), Mahayana Buddhism (with certain schools that emphasize buddha-nature as a pure state to be returned to) and, I hate to say it, Taoism (with its return to the state of the uncarved block). Man, by his nature, deviates from the original template of the divine that he may become consciousness and attain divine destiny himself, in a similar way that the son eventually leaves his mother and father in order to become independent. The Morning Star, therefore, is the archetypal force of Man who walks away from the commands of God the Father (whose archetypal form is found in the mainstream Abrahamic religions as well as ancient pre-Christian religions) and the embrace of the Great Mother (whose archetypal form is found in goddess worship religions and also various forms of mysticism and Eastern spirituality). In any case, we do not unite with God, but place God in our hands and, from there, become the masters and stewards of nature rather than its servants.

Incidentally, the theme of mastery of nature isn’t so out of step with certain other descriptions of Lucifer, such as the Lucifer of Manly P. Hall:

Lucifer represents the individual intellect and will which rebels against the domination of Nature and attempts to maintain itself contrary to natural impulse. Lucifer, in the form of Venus, is the morning star spoken of in Revelation, which is to be given to those who overcome the world.

I’d like to note the reference made to the Book of Revelation because this is a reference to a verse in Revelation in which Jesus actually does call himself the morning star. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus says to John “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.”. This is not the only positive reference to the morning star in the New Testament of the Bible. 2 Peter 1:19 goes as follows:

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Returning to Erich Fromm, we also find in The Dogma of Christ a lengthy elaboration on his conception of the revolutionary character which also holds potential for Luciferian readings and forumlation, drawing not only from the Hebraic myth of the Garden of Eden but also the Greek myth of Prometheus:

The revolutionary character is capable of saying “No”. Or, to put it differently, the revolutionary character is a person capable of disobedience. He is someone for whom disobedience can be a virtue. To explain this, I might begin with a statement that is rather sweeping: Human history began with an act of disobedience that might end with an act of obedience. What do I mean by this? In saying that human history began with an act of disobedience, I refer to Hebrew and Greek mythology. In the story of Adam and Eve, there is a command by God not to eat of the fruit, and man – or rather, to be quite fair, woman – is able to say “No”. She is capable of disobeying and even of persuading man to share in her disobedience. What is the result? In the myth, man is driven out of Paradise – that is to say, man is driven out of pre-individualistic, pre-conscious, pre-historical and, if you wish, pre-human situation, a situation which could be compared to the foetus in the mother’s womb. And he is driven from Paradise, and forced onto the road of history.

In the language of the myth he is not permitted to return. He is, in fact, unable to return. Because once his awareness of himself has been awakened, once he is aware of himself as being separate from man, from nature, man cannot return again to the primordial harmony which existed before his awareness ever began. With this first act of disobedience, man’s history begins, and this first act of disobedience is the first act of freedom.

The Greeks used a different symbol, the symbol of Prometheus. It is Prometheus who steals the fire from the gods and commits a crime, who commits an act of disobedience, and with the act of bringing fire to man, human history – or human civilization- begins.

Within the same work, Fromm goes on:

Both the Hebrews and the Greeks taught that human endeavor and human history began with an act of disobedience.

And why do I say that human history may end with an act of obedience? Here I am unfortunately not speaking mythologically, but very realistically. If an atomic war should destroy, in two or three years’ time, half the human population, and lead to a period of complete barbarization – or if this should happen ten years from now and possibly destroy all life on this earth – this will be due to an act of obedience. That is, the obedience of the men who push the button to the men who give the orders, and the obedience to ideas which make it possible to think in such madness.

Disobedience is a dialectical concept, because, actually, every act of disobedience is an act of obedience, and every act of obedience is an act of disobedience. What do I mean by this? Every act of disobedience, unless it is empty rebelliousness, is obedience to another principle. I am disobedient to the idol because I am obedient to God. I am disobedient to Ceasar because I am obedient to God, or, if you speak in nontheological language, because I am obedient to principles and values, to my conscience. I may be disobedient to the state because I am obedient to the laws of humanity. And, if I am obedient, then I am indeed disobedient to something else. The question is not really one of disobedience or obedience, but one of disobedience or obedience to what and to whom.

Further:

To sum up: By “revolutionary character” I refer not to a behavioural concept, but to a dynamic concept. One is not a “revolutionary” in this characterological sense because he utters revolutionary phrases, nor because he participates in revolution. The revolutionary, in this sense, is the man who has emancipated himself from the ties of blood and soil, from his mother and father, from special loyalties to state, class, race, party, or religion. The revolutionary character is a humanist in the sense that he experiences himself in all of humanity, and that nothing human is alien to him. He loves and respects life. He is a skeptic and a man of faith.

He is a skeptic because he suspects ideologies as covering up undesirable realities. He is a man of faith because he believes in that which potentially exists, although it has not yet been born. He can say “No” and be disobedient precisely because he can say “Yes” and obey those principles which are geniunely his own. He is not half-asleep, but fully awake to the personal and social realities around him. He is independent; what he is he owes to his own effort; he is free and not a servant anymore.

This summary may suggest that what I have been describing is mental health and well-being, rather than the concept of a revolutionary character. Indeed, the description given is that of the sane, alive, mentally healthy person. My assertion is that the sane person in an insane world, the fully developed human being in a crippled world, the fully awake in a half-asleep world – is precisely the revolutionary character. Once all are awake, there need no longer be any prophets or revolutionary characters – there will only be fully developed human beings.

How do we read all of that in a Luciferian manner? If we talk the serpent of Eden and Prometheus as archetypally Luciferian in the sense that, although they are not Lucifer, they inspire self-awareness in Man and lend to disobedience against a divine authority that seeks to obfuscate that self-awareness for the sake of his own power (whether that be Jehovah or Zeus), the revolutionary character has a fundamentally Luciferian impetus in the sense that disobedience in the name of enlightenment is a virtue for him. The Garden of Eden is the mother’s womb, Yahweh and his commands are the father, the serpent takes the role of the enlightening morning star in that he leads Man away from the father and the mother and into independence, and away from primitive, baseline animalism and into humanity. Thus the Luciferian impulse in mythological terms is responsible for the awakening of the human species and the evolutionary refinement of our animal being that enables us to cultivate civilization, and the beginnings of the path to freedom through our freedom from the brute savagery that characterizes the pure state of nature. This enlightenment renders the re-unification of man with God, or primordial Nature, impossible, thus rendering the efforts of many forms of mysticism pointless and delusional and in some sense representing a rejection of the freedom that was evolutionarily won and attained.

With the myth of Prometheus, we see this in the stealing of the fire of Zeus which brings light to humankind and the innovation that precedes the birth of civilization itself. Out of love for mankind, whom he created, he desires that mankind not remain baseline apes and instead develop self-awareness, reason and the power to cultivate civlization, even if it means coming into conflict with the gods themselves. Zeus in Greek myth is in this sense no different from the God of the Old Testament other than he’s much more horny and less brutal. He in the end prefers a mankind that is just an unconscious or half-conscious ape whose highest act of sentience consists merely in worshipping him, and to that end he hides the fire of his self-awareness and civilization from him so that he may not advance beyond the ape state. Or, put another way, so that he cannot escape dependence on the father, Zeus being the “Allfather” of the Greek pantheon (despite never being the creator in any sense).

The Luciferian is disobedient in the dialectical fashion precisely because his disobedience is not rebellion without or against purpose but instead the highest mode of obedience towards the principles of liberty, human flourishing and human power. Disobedience to the Divine Father and the Divine Mother signifies obedience to Mankind and to human civilization. Disobedience to organized/traditional religion, as well as hegemonic ideology, signifies, in most cases at least, obedience to reason and the free-thinking intellect. The refusal to submit to capitalism siginifies not merely obedience to socialism, but in so doing obedience to the value of human life. Disobedence, therefore, is obedience to a greater principle that the thing being disobeyed, and that is a Luciferian principle.

We also see an interesting synthesis of skepticism and faith in Fromm’s revolutionary character: skeptical, because he questions hegemonic our bourgeoining ideologies on the grounds that they sometimes obfuscate problematic realities, but faithful, because he believes, faithfully, in principles larger than both himself and indeed the law of the land, and in human potentially whether manifest or unmanifest. For a Luciferian, this can be the same faith that Prometheus had in his creation, that the serpent of Eden had in Adam and Eve, indeed that Lucifer himself as Eliphas Levi’s angel of science, reason and freedom has in mankind. Incidentally, if we take seriously the belief in that which potentially exists, although it has not yet been born, we can also oppose abortion on precisely the grounds that we are destroying that which has not yet been born.

Finally, we can draw from, some sections of The Art of Loving in which we Fromm declares God to be the object of human identification, and that the dialectical sublation of monotheism leads inexorably to human divinity:

Following the maturing idea of monotheism in its further consequences can lead only to one conclusion: not to mention God’s name at all, not to speak about God. Then God becomes what he potentially is in monotheistic theology, the nameless One, an inexpressible stammer, referring to the unity underlying the phenomenal universe, the ground of all existence; God becomes truth, love, justice. God is I, inasmuch as I am human.

This is the stage that Fromm hypothesized to be the logical endpoint of monotheistic theology, the transition of God from a being to an idea, to code, to a byword for the totality of all things, and, quite tellingly, he identifies this as a stage of development that the majority of humans have not yet developed. They have not yet overcome the stage in which they feel they need a heavenly father to save, reward and punish them. Indeed, we should take note of the fact that Christianity, despite having a theological tradition that does contain something of what Fromm spoke about, at least in the realms of high philosophy, has not lead mankind out of bondage to the Divine Father in the thousand or so years it has held power over the Western world. God has not yet been reduced to a nameless substance, an inexpressible stammer, the abstract symbol of the cosmos and its ground. I have long wondered why that is, and why it seems that Christians seem to want God to remain a father figure, and from there a supernatural commanding being that exerts his will upon the natural universe, and I’m not totally sure as to the impetus for it, but I am inclined to think that the reason for it is because they may sense that, in a certain sense, to bring God to such a level is to abolish the concept of God, to “kill” God as it were. Now, this isn’t really true from a pantheistic perspective, and it is definitely possible to interpret Fromm in a pantheistic light, but just as we have moved away from the idols by taking the divine away from the multiplicity of gods and spirits, as we have rejected polytheism, by moving the divine away from the One God, from the Father of being, we reject monotheism, and we. In that dialectical sense, monotheism does in a weird way create the stepping stones for the abolition of the One God. As Crowley would say, there is no God but Man, and, as Fromm would say, Man is God inasmuch as he is human. By placing God into the image and breast of Man, we have made Man divine as the highest fruit of evolutionary pressure and striving, and that is a goal of Luciferianism.

Speaking of striving, in the same book Fromm also paints a picture of God as precisely a model of human evolutionary striving, rather than a divine being:

The truly religious person, if he follows the essence of the monotheistic idea, does not pray for anything, does not expect anything from God; he does not love God as a child loves his father or his mother; he has acquired the humility of sensing his limitations to the degree of knowing that he knows nothing about God. God to him becomes a symbol in which man, at an earlier stage of his evolution, has expressed the totality of that which man is striving for, the realm of the spiritual world, of love, truth, and justice. He has faith in the principles which ‘God’ represents, he thinks truth, he lives love and justice, and considers all of his life only valuable inasmuch as it gives him the chance to arrive at an ever fuller unfolding of his human powers – as the only reality that matters, as the only object of ‘ultimate concern’; and eventually, he does not speak about God – nor even mention his name.

Think back to what Fromm said in The Dogma of Christ: “Once all are awake, there need no longer be any prophets or revolutionary characters – there will only be fully developed human beings.”. Once we all cultivate self-governance, we let go of kings and masters. Once we all cultivate “God” as the object of personal and evolutionary striving, cultivate God-potential as it were, there is no longer any need for God. Thus through the cultivation of human self-consciousness and power we shall abolish the prophets, the kings and eventually God himself, until there really is no God but Man. This is the goal of the Luciferian revolutionary character. For the Luciferian, the only true monotheism is indeed Crowley’s maxim that there is no God but Man, and, indeed, Fromm’s maxim, “God is I, inasmuch as I am human”.

“Satan as a Serpent Enters Paradise in Search of Eve” by Gustave Dore

Who are the Satanic Reds?

After my two recent posts I sense that, perhaps, there may be some interest in discussion over the group I mentioned called The Satanic Reds, the Satanist organization that also happened to be communist. Just who are they, and just who is Tani Jantsang, the group’s founder?

I suppose we can start with Tani Jantsang first. She appears to have been active in either the Satanic movement or just occultism more generally since the 1960s. She seems to have started out as a big fan of H P Lovecraft during the 1960s, when she intially encountered his writings, and in 1965 she came into contact with a group that was purportedly known as Societas Selectus Satanas, an organization that we know next to nothing about (although at least one person claims that there was actually no Societas Selectus Satanas and in fact what is referred to as such was actually a sect of “Family Tradition” Wicca), of which she believed the fantasy author Lin Carter was a member. As the 60s progressed, Jantsang’s interest in Lovecraft was so intense that it began to intertwine with her spiritual outlook. She started to believe that Lovecraft was connected to an ancient “Black Tradition” of magick that originated in Mongolia and unspecified parts of central Asia, and in 1969 she joined a magical order called Starry Wisdom, which appears to have been inspired by Lovecraft. In future decades she would also go on to become a prolific author of several essays, novels, and poems, many of them themed around the Chthulhu mythos, and she along with a man named Philip Marsh were also the editors of a magazine called Chthulhu Cultus, which ran from 1995 to 2001. In 1974, Tani and Philip formed an organization known as the Kishites, named for the ancient Sumerian (though they claim it to be Babylonian) city of Kish, which seemed to combine the Lovecraftian mythos with Tantric lore and other spiritual systems. In fact, Tani considers the Satanic Reds to be a continuation of the Kishite sect, albeit stripped of any references to Lovecraftian fiction.

cthulhu-cultus-issues-through_1_39243a3e2d391c16fc59adfccda95ad6
A volume of Cthulhu Cultus

Besides her work on Lovecraftian fiction, Tani is also apparently known for being a co-author of 11 historiographical monographs of various incarnations of Left Hand Path spirituality, so she seems to be a seasoned author of both fiction and non-fiction within the realm of Satanism. She is also an enigmatic figure in the movement, relatively obscure nowadays compared to the likes of Peter Gilmore or Michael Aquino (not to mention that very few photos of her exist), and so her life and involvement within Satanism sometimes the subject of rumour, speculation, and even drama. She is sometimes said to have been a Magistra of the Church of Satan in the past, a claim that Tani herself denies. She does seem to have had some correspondence with the Church of Satan, via letters that were sent between her and the Church of Satan between 1992 and 2000. In these letters she was praised by both Anton LaVey and Blanche Barton on various points, such as her pronouncements against the Nazis (or “Aryanists”), various articles of hers that were evidently submitted to the Church of Satan, and some music that she showed them that was apparently composed by her, as well as her correspondence with Anton’s son Xerxes. This is in itself would not be proof of her being a Magistra, but there is a quote of her saying that she was a Magistra going around in old Google forums dating back to 2003. It’s not entirely clear where this quote originates. Her relationship with the Church of Satan appears to have been amicable at first, and she also defended their doctrine of Satan as a dark force in nature against the Temple of Set, but by the time of her last correspondence with Blanche Barton there seems to have been a falling out between her and her organization, supposedly over her increasingly vocal anti-fascist pronouncements against some members of the Church of Satan.

Now, this is very interesting because, in a previous correspondence with Blanche Barton, dated to 1995, Blanche praises Tani for condemning the Nazis in the organization. In fact, Blanche refers to the “Aryanists” (as she calls them) as lacking nobility and purpose and accuses their cosmology and methods of being linked to Christianity (which is silly but at least it seems like she opposed Nazism). Curiously, this is the same year in which Blanche wrote that article for Black Flame in which she gaslighted Satanists who were expressing concern about the presence of fascists in the organization. But by the year 2000, it seems that Tani Jantsang had began calling them out again, in a similar way that she had before only perhaps more vocally, and this time that seems to have pissed off Blanche Barton and others in the Church of Satan. And that gets into some questions. How is it that the Church of Satan, an organization that, as I’ve demonstrated, has had a longstanding association with fascists up to the top of its hierarchy since its early years, would find itself admitting a self-identified communist into their ranks? Perhaps they weren’t lying after all when they said they were an apolitical organization? But then again why would they sideline a member or associate who they previously praised because of her vocal criticism of fascism, after previously praising such criticism?

However, I would be being one-sided if I did not bring up the fact of Tani’s own associations with fascists. I already talked about how she used to be a member of the fascist Order of the Left Hand Path, but she also seems to have known James Madole, the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party. There is an interview in which Jantsang recounts meeting with Madole, along with a few other Nazis, who shit-talked Anton LaVey and ranted about him being a Jew taking over “the dialobic current”, that presumably was just a noble Aryan pagan warrior cult before he showed up (I tell you, the delusions that these volkisch fascists conjure within themselves never ceases to be entertaining). In addition it is known that Madole, who is noted for his fascination with occultism, was also, like Tani Jantsang, very interested in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, which leads me to believe that it was probably through this that the two initially became acquainted decades ago. And much later in life, despite calling out the Nazism of Church of Satan members, we find an interview she did in 2007 in which she praises Pat Buchanan’s books Where the Right Went Wrong and A Republic, Not An Empire as accurate books that everyone should read and even claimed that they constituted satanic literature, despite the notable handicap of Pat Buchanan and his vision for American society being characterized by conservative Christianity. And can I just say, isn’t it strange that a self-proclaimed Marxist would have such a high opinion of a man who believes that Jewish Marxists are responsible for the decline of Western Civilization? Not to mention, in that same interview, she praises the work of the white nationalist Kevin McDonald for his book The Culture of Critique, which argues that Jews are genetically predisposed towards ethnocentrism and to infiltrate white societies in order to eliminate their white populations and replace them with non-white peoples, and was directly inspired by the “Great Replacement” myth, and she also seems to dabble in Eurabia-style conspiracy theories, and along with that some ideas that sound suspiciously like the talking points of the far-right, when she says this:

Some of the Islamics even admit that they are unarmed invaders that will outbreed the Europeans and simply take over their societies and destroy their culture. These European countries have their own cultures and they are secular and advanced civilizations. I’d hate to see Western Civilization lost. It just might take extreme measures to fix what’s wrong in Europe. Playing the political correctness game has to stop if European culture, language and civilization is to survive this onslaught – and that means in the USA too. I regard the USA as primarily a European-culture nation, Western Civilization, post enlightenment. It should stay that way.

In addition to this, in her article about “Generational Satanism“, she says “I also said, “JEWS are Generational Satanists, and THEY RULE YOU.”. On the other hand, she also gives Jews quite a bit of credit within the remit of her ostensibly materialistic philosophy, in the sense that she holds that Jews are hated by Christians because hold the view that there is no heavenly afterlife. So, with all that in mind, I actually wonder why she would come out against the Nazis if she appears to harbour anti-semitic sympathies herself? Is it truly because of a moral opposition to the ideological program of Nazism (which, as I surely don’t need to tell you, is inseparable from anti-semitism), or is it just because she thinks of the Nazis as obvious bad guys, or because they’re most likely to actually bring her harm should they ever take power in her country? It’s hard for me to say, and I don’t think the answer to this question is going to be a particularly good one, since she appears to promote white nationalist (and blatantly anti-semitic) thinkers and ideas when given the chance. I think that Tani seems to be very confused on the question of Jews and anti-semitism, and, as we’ll see, politics more generally.

Good luck squaring this with one of the pro-FDR articles the Satanic Reds has, Ms Jantsang

Returning to drama, though, there’s also a weird drama that Tani Jantsang has concerning Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set. There was an apparent incident involving Aquino in 1972, when he was still a member of the Church of Satan, in which the Lovecraftian lodges seemed to get into conflict with Aquino over some manuscripts that it is claimed were written by Lin Carter. Jantsang’s critics accuse her of plagiarizing an essay that was originally written by Michael Aquino. There’s also the matter of the Order of the Left Hand Path, and the circumstances surrounding her leaving the order. She recalls that she “started a shitfight” with Bolton, and this was likely motivated by an increased sense of ideological divergence and the apparently dogmatic tendencies of its leader, Kerry Bolton. She accused Bolton of having used the idea of the Dark Doctrines to browbeat people into submission. This split caused the Order of the Left Hand Path to reconstitute into the Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, and in the process jettisoning the influence of Jantsang’s doctrine and other Eastern influences in favour of a doctrine inspired by the Order of Nine Angles.

Her drama is not entirely limited to Satanist groups, as she seems to have been in some sort of feud with a secretive communist group called Maoist Internationalist Movement, which considered her to be a terroristic anti-communist agitator. Jantsang, in turn, considers MIM to be an FBI COINTELPRO group that also endorses terrorists and attacks other communist organizations (which, to be fair, considering the fact that the CIA started up and supported Maoist groups in the 1960s for the purposes of splintering the communist movement, would not be without precedent). And in general, from what I have noticed of her writings or rather her exchanges on forums and particularly the old group chats she started from the early 2000s, she had the tendency to be highly polemical and defensive to the point of being excessively confrontational and often vulgar towards others, which lends to some sharp dramatic tendencies. This also lends itself to some extreme positions being on her part, such as her apparent opinion that the US should drop nuclear bombs on Afghanistan. I must say, if she is a Marxist, she must be a very confused one. For instance, in the quotation wherein she identifies herself as a Magistra of the Church of Satan, she also identifies herself as a Stalinist, but in another post she describes Stalin as a totalitarian dictator (and in that case she’d be right about that btw).

All of this comes from what little information is out there about Tani Jantsang herself, gleamed from a handful of books on the subject, the Satanic Reds website, and a series of forums often dating back around half a decade. Even from this, there are many who doubt even the most basic details about her, including her very name. Some believe that Tani Jantsang is actually a woman named Tanya Lysenko, or Phyllis Rose, or Phyllis Rosenbaum, but these come from a few old forum posts and I have no way of verifying the authenticity of such claims. So, in many ways, a lot of her life seems to be a mystery.

tanijantsang
One of the only existing photos of Tani Jantsang, possibly from 1977.

But enough about Tani herself, let’s talk about The Satanic Reds as an organization. They were founded by Tani Jantsang and Philip Marsh in 1997, decades after their formation of the Kishites and a couple of years after her involvement with the Order of the Left Hand Path. It’s unknown how many members they have, though Tani Janstang claims that the group has 800 members. This organization bases itself on two identifiable core doctrines – the first is what they call the Dark Tradition or Dark Doctrines and the second is what they call Social Realism. The Dark Doctrines is their way of referring to their overall cosmology and the line of esoteric tradition that they claim to draw from. The basic idea of this is that there’s an ancient tradition of Tantra that constitutes the primordial form of Satanism, which Tani claims is found not only in ancient Tantric Hinduism but also in the Pythagorean tradition, Advaita Vedanta and “Turanian” mysticism. The cosmological doctrine of the Dark Tradition is based on the idea of Sat, Tan, and Asat, with Sat and Tan in particular supposedly forming the primordial basis for the archetype of Satan. Sat is the name of the concept that they define to be the Boundless Darkness, the substance of the All which is then infused into all things and particularly living beings as Atma (the Hindu concept of the soul), and the source of the light, or the Flame as it were. Tan is the name of the force by which this Darkness is infused into all of creation, and in a broader sense the process of Becoming. Satan, in this light, is interpreted the synthesis of these two, the unfolding and its object, and thereby the embodiment of the creative process by which all things come into being in the universe. Asat in this doctrine is their word for Non-Being, which is described as giving rise to Sat or Being (much like Wuji, or the Without Ultimate, gives rise to Taiji, or the Supreme Ultimate, in Taoist cosmology), but they also seem to use it to refer to temporal or temporary phenomenon within the cosmos.

Although I’m not convinced that it is the historical representation of Tantra (or Satanism for that matter) that Tani Jantsang purports it to be, it does seem to derive from Tantric Hinduism in the use of several Hindu concepts possibly connected to Tantra. The connection to Tantra may, however, just be as stretched as the name Tan supposedly being the basis of the word Tantra, in which case this is just a particularly inventive system of religious syncretism. And such a syncretism is not an uninteresting one either, in all fairness. In Sat and Tan we could extrapolate a dynamic of creation associated with some pantheistic belief systems, in which Tan becomes the creative impetus or force which compels the generation of things upon the embryo of the universe. There’s also the invocation of various archetypal links – there’s wrathful Buddhist deities such as Shri Kalachakra and Mahakala, there’s the Tao, there’s Sanat Kumara (who for them refers to the five Kumaras which are the five Tan that make up the five points of the pentagram in their tradition), and there’s the Slavic deity Chernobog (or “Chynerii Bog”), which are all taken to be names of this force of darknesss. They also seem to root themselves in the idea of unity with Nature, or more specifically their own Nature, and in their Nine Postulates (their own take on the Nine Satanic Statements), they stress that humans are of Nature, and that those who try to rebel against their own nature, thereby defying Nature more broadly, spiritually die and become nothing, and I think the emphasis on nature does sound nice if framed from the perspective of the Ziran concept found in Taoism. The term for a person who defies Nature is called a Klippoth, which for them means Nothing, but in one article Tani Janstang also uses the term Setian, as in a follower of Michael Aquino’s doctrine, in a similar way, to refer to someone who, like the Christian, detaches himself from the natural world and views themselves apart from (or indeed threatened) by it, which in my view seems to be an attack on the Setian doctrine of human self-consciousness (and Set, its progenitor) as being outside of and apart from nature and the Satanist therefore as seeking to seperate from nature. Honestly, that’s quite the burn. She also calls them pretas, a Hindu/Buddhist term referring to the “hungry ghosts”.

The major problem, however, is that Tani’s concept of a Dark Tradition is ultimately ahistorical. There is nothing tracing her doctrines of Sat, Tan and Asat, or indeed the Satanic pentagram, to Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans – indeed, we all know that the Satanic pentagram in its modern form can be traced to 19th century occultism, where it was used as a negative symbol asssociated with the forces of subversion and opposition to God. There is also nothing linking her particular philosophy to the original Tantra in the historicist sense, and there is certainly no etymological link between Sat, Tan and Satan. I would perhaps appreciate it if Tani and the Satanic Reds were honest about the fact that this philosophy is their own syncretic invention, and in this sense a modern doctrine, but it seems they’re rather invested in the idea that this is just something that people have always believed in if it weren’t for those pesky Christians (which, given what we’ve already established about her associations with volkisch fascists, sounds like it’s not too different from what they believe about how everyone followed Esoteric Hitlerism or some such until the Jews decided that we shouldn’t), and given her claims to “Turanian” heritage, it almost feels like a massive projection of a sense of ethnic identity. Not to mention, her writings on the Dark Doctrines, much like her comments in general, are difficult to read and make sense of for some reason. There’s a certain disjointedness to her writing style, I often find it difficult to grasp her work, not because of its ostensible profundity but instead because everything feels jumbled and it’s hard to make sense of what she’s saying. It’s like she has some sort of communication problem.

The pentagram is an ancient symbol anyway, so it probably predated Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans

As for Social Realism, this is the name given to the political ideology of the Satanic Reds doctrine. It’s not really given its own definition, it just seems to be a moniker they give to their particular left-wing politics and its synthesis with Satanism. Now, it’s here that we come to one thing that I never really addressed in this post, which is probably the most interesting subject of this matter, is the question of how exactly do you be both a communist and Satanist, given that Satanism at large tends be an anti-egalitarian philosophy that in particular has a habit of embracing Social Darwinism? Whilst I can’t speak for other Satanists who happen to consider themselves communist, the Satanic Reds apparently have their own way of reconciling it, and, to be quite honest, it’s confusing. Even though the Satanic Reds are referred to as communist and their logo can be seen brandishing the hammer and sickle symbol of the Bolshevik movement, their FAQ seems to suggest that they are not in fact strictly socialist, but instead are both capitalists and socialists, or more specifically supporters of Dirigist capitalism, which they maintain is a form of socialism (to which any other Marxist, myself included, would laugh and then tell you to read basic Marxist theory as regards socialism and/or communism). What’s more, they seem to purport that they self-identify as “Reds” (meaning communists) not because of any actual adoption of communist ideology but because Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs they appear to support, was considered a communist back in his day, and, in their words, “if F. D. Roosevelt was a Red, then so are we!”.

This suggests that they are not in fact communists, or even socialists, but instead New Deal progressives who dress up their ideology in communist garb for nakedly contrarian reasons. In fact, they apply this logic to everything else as well. They embrace the label Red (or communist) on the grounds that liberals, feminists, gay rights advocates, advocates of social and religious tolerance, anti-racists, anti-fascists, and advocates of state planning or regulationist economic reforms, have all been considered communists at one point or another by right-wing reactionaries, and so being a communist to them simply means an expression of support for all of these things (oddly enough without the actual communism to support it). This is ultimately not so much an expression of meaningful communist politics so much as it is getting willfully hung-up on the fact that right-wingers, especially Republicans, have done what they will do even to conservative Democrats: so long as they are running against the GOP, the GOP’s supporters will denounce them as communists. Hell, even Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican President, was demonized as a communist by the John Birch Society over opposition to the military-industrial complex among other issues, but you can bet for certain that the Satanic Reds will never vote Republican just because of that. The overall stance follows from the logic that those who do not adopt Christianity are considered Satanists, so you might as well adopt that identity. Tani herself is an example of this; she claims to be “generational Satanist”, in that she claims her family was Satanists, but in reality they were likely not Satanists and Tani herself describes them as “non-Islamic Turko-Tartars” who she claims practiced a syncretic religion based on Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Tantric Hinduism (or “Tantric-Vedantic concepts”) and some form of shamanism.

And look, I know it can seem tempting to some left-leaning individuals on the internet to embrace the commie label just because reactionary forces and right-wing idiots deem them to be communists and will call you a communist no matter what you do, but consider the reverse of this phenomenon. For ages, Democrats have had a bad habit of calling their Republican enemies Nazis, and outside of America you will often find people with a left-leaning bent who will call various right-wing politicians fascists or Nazis, regardless of whether or not they are actually fascists or Nazis. Now, if hypothetically a right-winger were to say that he decided to move to the far-right on the grounds that “the left” has decided that everything’s fascist now, would you be willing to believe them or take them seriously? Come on, I’ve seen that Matt Bors comic you guys like to share. Of course you don’t buy it. So why do this for yourselves through the label of communism? Now, I get that it makes a tiny bit of sense if you take it from the lens of Satan being the archetype of opposition to the establishment or whatever, but the way you manifest that within a leftist outlook is through the union of the Satanic archetype and a meaningfully radically outlook. Apparently the anarchists managed to do it since the 19th century, so why can’t these guys?

Put it this way: it’s like being a hardcore Marxist-Leninist who’s otherwise a die-hard Bernie or Corbyn supporter, even though it ultimately doesn’t make much sense.

That being said, however, the Satanic Reds website contains multiple links to various articles written by either Tani Jantsang or other members outlining their postulations about communism, socialism, and even dialectical materialism – the very philosophical basis of Marxism. It may be interesting, therefore, to examine them.

For one thing, they have an article in which they argue for dialectical materialism as the analytical method of their organization, which to me suggests that perhaps they are Marxists. They have an article that harshly criticizes Ayn Rand, pointing out that the ideal man of Rand is a sociopath and was possibly inspired by a serial killer named William Hickman (who abducted and dismembered a 12 year old girl in 1927) on the grounds that his behaviour was a sign that he defied societal convention. This is quite a big deal in the Satanist movement because it strikes against the Randian inspirations that helped shaped the Satanism that began with Anton LaVey. In a similarly epic blow to Satanist orthodoxy, they also have an article featuring essays by Tani Jantsang and Ole Wolf which criticizes the “might makes right” doctrine found in the mainstay of Satanic philosophy introduced by Anton LaVey. They have an article in which Lucifer is interpreted as a champion of proletarian revolution through the lens of communist ideology. They have an article which praises Star Trek for what it sees as exploring the rammifications of a socialistic economy and refuting libertarian economic expectations. They have an article from someone praising the education system of the Soviet Union. They also (rather regrettably) have an essay of selection of quotes from Lavrenty Beria (who, to my mind, was pretty much the worst officer in the USSR who died the death he deserved). They even have annotated versions of On Contradiction and On Practice by Mao Zedong (the originals of which are excellent works on dialectical materialism), however these commentaries appear to consist of minor edits to the original works, do not effectively explicate a synthesis between Mao’s doctrine and theirs beyond basically claiming his concepts in On Contradiction as their own, appending their own names to the original.

It seems obvious to me that we are dealing people who are, at least in some sense, socialists, and they operate within Marxism in particular. Tani herself I think is a Marxist-Leninist of some type (judging by the fact that she once called herself a Stalinist, which is the name of a specific tendency within Marxism-Leninism). In some ways, I find them to be convincing leftists. However, I also find them to be confused. On the one hand, you have all of this material that establishes a credible Marxist ideological current for themselves, but on the other, their Q&A establishes that they might actually be pro-capitalist in the sense of Dirigist or New Deal capitalism. I’d say that they’re being a bit too coy about their political beliefs if you ask me.

The last thing I want to address about their doctrine is their views on the definition of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. It seems that they are simultaneously of the Left Hand Path and not of the Left Hand Path, in that they define the Left Hand Path and the Right Hand Path as inseparable parts of each other that, when separated, are reduced to falsity and error. Tani points out that the LHP and the RHP are, in their original Tantric context, defined not by their respective goals (because they had the same goal of attaining unity with God) but by their respective methods, but also suggests that LHP refers to Yin (the passive principle) while RHP refers to Yang (the active principle). This would be a strange idea because it would require us to categorize whether or not the Vamachara methods of transgression as either passive or active, or whether or not transgression itself is passive or active. And under this framework, transgression in the active sense, of all kinds, is RHP, even the Luciferian impulse and even violent revolution against the status quo. By the way, speaking of Lucifer, in this article Tani Jantsang claims that the term Lucifer was never used to refer to Satan until John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, when in reality the identification likely begins with Jerome.

And, that’s pretty much all I want to talk about with regards to the organization. The only other thing I could say about them is that it seems their website hasn’t been updated in several years. In the year 2020, this website still looks like it’s the late 1990s or early 2000s, suggesting that the website has not been updated at all since the group became somewhat popular in the early online Satanist scene of that time.

satanicreds
This old logo is probably the best one you can find

Overall, I find that the Satanic Reds are a group that could have had some promise in its weird mixture of Tantra, Satanism and Marxism, but while there are several promising elements I can’t say that it’s a well-executed synthesis. And it doesn’t look like the movement is still active and today it is largely treated as obscure footnote in the history of Satanism, which is kind of a shame because there was a lot going on in the background of the organization’s history that also ties in with the history of the Church of Satan. As for Tani Jantsang herself, I find her to be a very strange figure. On the one hand, she is commendable in being one of the few Satanists out there to actively try and challenge things like “might makes right” and Ayn Rand style individualism within the remit of Satanism, and there are aspects of her doctrine I find interesting, but on the other hand she also seems to be kind of a kook, she ultimately failed to produce the kind of refined synthesis that would be serviceable and ripe for expanding upon. And, on top of that, despite her commendable opposition to Nazis within the Satanic movement, it also seems that she, for a long time in her life, herself associated with fascists, and appears to have sympathies with white nationalists and the works of white nationalists and anti-semites, and I think that’s simply unacceptable.

I think, in the end, that the kind of thing that Tani Jantsang seeks would be better acheived by doing for Anton LaVey what Karl Marx did for Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel. Just as Marx took the foundation of Hegel’s dialectical philosophy and reconstituted it as a doctrine built upon materialism rather than idealism, so too must a Marxist running either within or adjacent to the Left Hand Path continuity take a foundation of something like Anton LaVey or whatnot and reconstitute it into a new philosophy using dialectical materialism. That is what I believe Jantsang would do if she were a more capable intellect, and in some ways it is the primary goal of my studies, wherever that path takes me.

Long live the democratization of deity

In the foreword of Karl Marx’s Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, there is noticeable attention paid to the myth of Prometheus, which he seems to view as the champion and affirmation of the virtue of philosophy. He makes reference to the philosopher Epicurus as echoing the cry of philosophy against its adversaries through the following quotation from his letter to Menoeceus:

“Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them, is truly impious.”

Now it is worth noting that, in the actual letter, the context of that statement is negative. Epicurus considered the affirmation to be a literal blasphemy, because in his words “the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions”.

There is a version of that quote that reads a little differently, found in Karl Marx’s Social and Political Thought: Critical Assessments by Robert Jessop, as well as Activity in Marx’s Philosophy by Norman D. Livergood, and it reads like this:

“The blasphemous is not he who scorns the gods of the masses, but he who adheres to the idea that the masses create the gods.”

And truly this would be blasphemy indeed for the classically religious person. After all, this brings the level of the gods, God, and divinity in general down to the domain of Man, and in so doing binds them to the earthly realm, to worldliness. This would be impermissible for most religious/spiritual systems. But, it is in part that quality that makes such an idea truly revolutionary in the context of the ancient world, and perhaps still so in the modern day.

It is also from the foreword of Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature that we derive a very peculiar quote, one that I find should appeal to those who seek to uphold the Promethean ideal:

“Prometheus is the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.”

In Marx’s canon, Prometheus is the mythological and heroic champion of philosophy, and through whom philosophy rebukes the clemency of the gods in his response to Hermes:

Be sure of this, I would not change my state
Of evil fortune for your servitude.
Better to be the servant of this rock
Than to be faithful boy to Father Zeus.

This quotation is in many ways the ancestor of that famous speech given by Satan in Paradise Lost, in which he proclaims, rightfully, that it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. When Hermes, a servant of Zeus, approaches Prometheus, he attempts to scare Prometheus into telling him what he knows about the eventual destroyer of Zeus, as this is one condition for Zeus to release him from his bondage to the Caucasus. Prometheus refuses to comply, and asserts that he would prefer to remain in his state of punishment and suffering then to serve as the lackey of the gods. This is how one can make sense of the Promethean interpretation of the character of Satan in Paradise Lost, assuming of course that John Milton was familiar with the story of Prometheus.

For Marx to cite him as the foremost saint of the philosophical calendar suggests that the spirit of Prometheus is very much intended to manifest in much of his worldview, and for him at least the practice of philosophy. Or, more pertinently, that the emancipatory spirit of Prometheus reminded Marx of his own overriding ideal of collective emancipation (Prometheus being the emancipator of humanity by stealing the fires of knowledge, with Marx’s .

Now, in Jessop’s book, We get an interesting analysis of the way Marx addressed the Promethean themes invoked in the foreword of Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature. First we address the analysis of the quotation of Epicurus.

“True blasphemy is not contempt for the gods but advocacy of the idea that the gods are human creations, detached ideas, become independent in the mind. Philosophy or secular self-consciousness, in other words, does not reject ‘gods’, a metaphor for ideas, but sees them as reflections of man’s own self-consciousness; i.e. gods, like ideas, are products of human self-consciousness and not the absolutes of theology.”

Theistic religions, from pre-Christian religions to Christianity to Islam to Hinduism, have traditionally held their gods in absolute, being tangible beings with tangible power, through the tremendous power they were held to have over natural and spiritual forces that directly affect the survival of humans. Framed this way, however, the gods are presented as the emanations of human consciousness, from there perhaps dependent upon it. Perhaps this is not too far away from the way that the naturalists of old viewed the gods, such as Prodicus of Ceos who regarded the gods as reflections of the natural forces that provided comfort to mankind, though perhaps it could also be taken in another way.

Continuing from there:

“The point is even more clearly established by Marx when he makes ‘the confession of Prometheus: “In simple words, I hate the pack of gods”‘, into philosophy’s own self-declaration; i.e, there will be no gods other than profane ‘human self-consciousness’. The same point is made in a footnote to the Appendix of his dissertation, where he presents the ontological proof of the existence of god as being in fact a proof of the ‘existence of essential human self-consciousness’. If the ontological proof states that the concept of a thing begs a corresponding reality, then, ‘which being’ Marx asks ‘is immediate when made the subject of thought?’. The answer he asserts is ‘self-consciousness’ – not the concept of self-consciousness but real, existing self-consciousness, the immediate source of all concepts, and the subject matter of the thesis.”

To say that there will be no gods other than human self-consciousness ties in rather nicely with the statement that it is the masses that create the gods, that they are the products of consciousness. For in much the same way, to declare human self-consciousness as the realm of the divine brings the divine into the world realm and through which, crucially, into the domain of Man.

This ethos permeates what Jessop identifies much further on:

The Foreword ends with the statement: “Prometheus is the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.”. In other words, philosophy, as human self-consciousness, finds its symbol in Prometheus, who brought the secret of fire to man from the gods so that man might develop his own arts and remove himself from subordination to the gods. Like Prometheus, philosophy must end the separation of the sacred from the secular, it must bring ideas down from the heavens and make them the content of real human consciousness.

It is from here that I get to my main point. The true ideal at the heart of the Promethean (and from there Luciferian) archetype is the idea of the abolition of the separation between Man and the divine, from there emancipating the whole of mankind.

In that sense, I’ve also begun to consider this in relation to even Jesus and Christianity. No, Prometheus is not an analogue of Jesus Christ. I covered this in a separate blog post in February 2017 (though, having said that, the satirist Lucian of Samosata apparently related Prometheus’ punishment in terms of Jesus’ crucifixion, and ironically there may be considerable similarities between Jesus and Heracles, the rescuer of Prometheus). But there is something the two figures have in common worth noting: theoretically, at least, Jesus through his death and resurrection was supposed to abolish Man’s separation with the divine.

In this sense, the real problem with Christianity is that it never in its thousand year plus reign truly achieved the abolition of that separation between Man and God. How could it, with its embrace of the rigid hierarchy of the great chain of being? Though I suppose it does not help things that the ideal of Christianity . There’s a profound sense of cuckoldery within the Christian religion. In Jesus you have a potentially emancipatory figure, potentially even the means by which God becomes accessible and tangible to mankind (whereas, in Judaism, he could only ever be so close, indeed his very being blinds and burns whose who lay sight upon it), and even then Jesus’ salvation can only really be a thing within the very same hierarchy within which, in Judaism, God is ever so inaccessible. Indeed, despite Jesus’ best efforts, the Christian conceptions of hierarchy served only to further or sustain Man’s partition with the divine. Not to mention, have we not forgotten when Jesus said “think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets”, referring to the Judaic law of the Old Testament, “I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill”, very clearly stating that, as much as he may have established the bridge between the divine and man, he still upholds Judaic law, and from there the spirit of the hierarchy of the intangible and the tyrannical authority of the Abrahamic Logos, and very much to the letter as he says “not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”.

The Luciferian, therefore, seeks to emancipate Man in a way that Christianity could not. His goal is to work towards ending the separation between the divine and Man, to liberate the soul from ignorance and bondage, and to generate freedom for all sentient beings. In so doing, the Luciferian rejects the order of the God of Abraham as a condition for Man’s freedom, whereas Jesus sought to uphold it. The Luciferian, in seeking to carry the mission of Prometheus, places the divine in the locus of Man, for man is the object of Luciferian liberation.

Prometheus and Hercules by Christian Griepenkerl

The common narrative of Christianity, Nazism, and Marxism

Everyone knows the traditional Christian narrative of the origin of mankind, the concept of original sin, and the concept of salvation and judgement. Jehovah creates Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge and gain knowledge of good and evil after being tempted by the serpent (often supposedly Satan or Lucifer), and get banished from the garden because of it. Thousands of years later, Jehovah sends Jesus, his only son, to die on the cross and supposedly open the way for the redemption of mankind. And eventually, the day of judgement arrives when the believers go to the kingdom of Jehovah and everyone else is condemned to hell.

“Fall and Redemption of Man”

This is also the narrative shared by Islam, except that in Islam it is the prophet Muhammad that reveals teachings that lead the way for mankind. I should point out the original sin myth was originally a Jewish myth (which may also have had its roots in older cultures), but the narrative of the fall followed by redemption and judgement is basically Christian.

But would you believe that same narrative is shared by both Nazi and Marxist ideology?

Apparently, Nazi ideology believed in the same cosmological conflict that underpinned Zoroastrian, Christian, and Islamic thought, just that they believed that the Aryan race was light and every other race of humanity was dark. They somehow convinced themselves that the world once consisted only of one race of people (namely the Aryan people) until the rise of different races, and they believed that paradise on earth would be ruled by the Aryan “master race” and brought about through their domination of the world and the destruction of so-called subhumans. There is a similar belief regarding the existence of other races found in the cosmology of Nation of Islam, which apparently believes that the whole of humanity used to be black and that white people were created by an evil scientist named Yakub. The same group believed that the Earth is 76 trillion years old.

The philosophy of Karl Marx also stresses a similar narrative. Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, argued that primitive human society was originally an egalitarian society where common ownership prevailed. Basically primitive communism, or Ur-Communism. According to this narrative, that age ends with the introduction of private property. Private property, according to Karl Marx’s theory of history, lead to monarchy, feudalism, and eventually capitalism, all described as authoritarian and slavish in nature. After a revolution of the workers against capitalism, and after the rise of socialism, Marx thought that society would be put under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that this would eventually lead to the dream of a world without governments, laws, nations, social class, and private property, a world were everyone works for everyone and not for their own reward.

Have you noticed the pattern yet?

Christianity, Nazism, and Marxism all believed that the world originally was “perfect” until the rise of some aberration, and that the world would finally be saved by the removal or destruction of that aberration and a perfect order would arise on earth. For Christians, the aberration is knowledge, particularly the knowledge to decide good and evil. Before the serpent tempted Adam and Eve they were mindless thought-slaves. For the Nazis, the aberration was racial diversity as opposed to racial “purity”. For Marxists, the aberration is private property as opposed to collective ownership. They all believed in an aberration that was based on that which enabled human beings to differentiate themselves from others or grant themselves their own identity. The Christians condemned individual thought, and the freedom thereof, as original sin. The Nazis condemned biological and racial individuation as “subhuman”. And Marxists condemned the birth of private property as equivalent to original sin. They condemned individuality, and dreamed of a world where everyone was the same as each other in some way or another. Christian belief prescribed total theocracy, Nazi ideology prescribed total racial hegemony, and Marxism prescribed total egalitarianism. If you think about it then I am certain you may realize that these goals aren’t so different after all. The only difference between them would be their attitudes towards religion, since Marxism attributes religious belief as part of the fall from the primitive egalitarian society.

I also sense that the narrative behind all three beliefs stems from Hesiod’s myth of the Golden Age, and the attitude that underpins it. In Greek mythology, the Golden Age was an age where mankind lived in harmony with the gods, without toil or grief, and where the abundance of food was practically infinite so there was no need for humans to practice agriculture. In the story of Hesiod, this Golden Age ends when Zeus defeats the Titans, ruled by Cronus, and rules mankind, and then Prometheus steals the fire of the gods, which was withheld by Zeus, and gave it to mankind. By doing so, Prometheus gave each person the source of intellect, spirit, and the drive to leave the nest and carve out ones own path and individuate oneself, and Prometheus was punished for it. After this and the mythical events of Pandora’s box, the Greeks believed that each age (except the Heroic Age) become progressively worse, with mankind having to toil for itself more and more. Thus the Greeks pined for the days when they lived in harmony with the gods, and Prometheus was viewed negatively for leading mankind into successive ages of suffering. The difference is that there doesn’t seem to any conception in Greek thought about a utopia happening at the end of human history, caused by the removal of a supposed aberration in humankind. All that is certain in Greek mythology is that someday the current generation of mankind would be destroyed like previous generations.

I honestly don’t know where this Golden Age mentality comes from, and I don’t feel like the idea of a perfect society in the beginning that degenerates over time has any real basis in actual human history. If anything, human civilization has been constantly evolving and progressing for the better, and our understanding of the world has evolved likewise with time. Whether that’s attributed to the fire of Prometheus is down to your opinion. 😉 But seriously, would you really want mankind to regress to the Stone Age, the Paleolithic Age, or the days when we were equivalent of chimpanzees? Because in my opinion, that’s what the narrative of the Golden Age seems to encourage. It encourages regression instead of increased understanding, and tribalism instead of individuated existence. And in the form of Christian, Nazi, and Marxist ideology, this is even more egregious because it condemns individuation on all levels and desires a state of homogeneity. In a sense, this might be taken as a regression in its own way.