The sun in the spring compelled me to write this. Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I originally wanted to write about this as part of my article about the solar mythology of Satanism, and didn’t proceed because I, at that time, had trouble connecting it to solarisation and felt that the article would not maintain scope for it. But as the spring sun rolled in, in the middle of me writing my articles about Revolutionary Demonology, I must have sensed the inspiration from the warmth of the sun again. This is simply an article wherein I take it upon myself to write about the black ram with which I symbolize myself – what I take up as a “glyph”, as it were.
In March 2016, I took advantage of two consecutive days I had off from my usual university course to visit Swansea University in order to attend a series of lectures about ancient Egyptian demonology. Yes, that is to say the study of demons or demonic figures as they appear in ancient, pre-Christian Egyptian texts, spells, funerary artefacts etc. Many of these lectures can be found in the journal Demon Things: Ancient Egyptian Manifestations of Liminal Entities, published by the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections and edited by Kasia Szpakowska. The lectures featured discussions of the various liminal entities and even some familiar Egyptian gods, including Anubis and Bes, as demonic figures. But the more relevant lecture for this is “Liminal Sources of Dangerous Power: A Case of the Black Ram”, attributed to Nika Lavrentyeva and Ekaterina Alexandrova. It is this figure of the Black Ram that I am talking about.
The Black Ram is a figure apparently portraying a mysterious being referred to as “the lord of power”. This “lord of power” is a demonic figure who represents dangerous inhabitants of the Netherworld that repel the living and the dead alike. In the Egyptian Coffin Texts, specifically CT 1071, the “Lord of power” appears as one of the judges that the deceased soul must pass by in order to access a blessed afterlife in the company of Osiris, the ruler of Duat. In the Pyramid Texts, specifically Spell 246, the black ram is an aggressive and liminal form taken by the divine spirit of the deceased pharaoh Unas. In another spell from the Pyramid Texts, mentions Unas turning into the “Lord of power”, also called “the Great One”. Curiously this being is said to have “grew strong through the injury which was done to him”, which, through the term “nkn”, is apparently supposed to reference the mutilation of Horus; that part fits the prevailing idea of the pharaoh as a living incarnation of Horus. The figure of a black ram also appears several times in the Book of Amduat. In one incarnation, he is possible a reference to a hidden sun. A character with the head of a black ram is named “The Soul Who Belongs to the Damned”, stands before a goddess referred to as “The demolishing one, who cuts the damned to pieces”; perhaps the ram here represents the darkness of the souls who are to be denied rebirth (and hence “damned”). The god Tatenen also appears as a ram, to whom creatures cry out with the voices of rams, and when he leaves they are covered in darkness. These characters also seem to be connected to “the shadow of the sun”, by which is meant its negative aspect as “the Sun-destroyer”. This destroyer is referred to as a “black sun”, which serves as a dark double of the sun that protects the sun god from evil forces. It does this by taking the attacks of the sun’s enemies and absorbing, perhaps even “devouring”, all evil during the judgement of the dead. For example, in a scene from the Book of the Dead, illustrated at the Tomb of Irunefer at Deir el-Medina, a black sun represents the darkness that will absord all evil plotted against the deceased soul who is illuminated by the sun.
Lavrentyeva and Alexandrova argue that this dark solar figure is also a reflection of the situation of judgement in the netherworld, and the role of the deceased soul itself. In the Pyramid Texts, the deceased soul initially seems to be an alien being whose liminal state threatens the order of the cosmos. The deceased soul must claim a secure place in the afterlife by or besides the gods, so that the aggression of the deceased soul could be pacified and transformed into something that can uphold the cosmos. The “lord of power” himself reflects in both appearance and namesake not only the threat of chaos and the violation and overturning of the cosmic order, but the very border between chaos and cosmos whose properties partially define his nature. In this sense, we may be looking at a cipher for a chaos, insurrection, an aggressive force that threatens the upheaval of everything but which nonetheless upholds and is the basis of everything.
The destructive aspect of the sun as a power of darkness figures as perhaps one way of looking at the theme of meiridian sunlight as explored by Valerio Mattioli in his essay “Solarisation” within Revolutionary Demonology. We would remember per Mattioli that the very brightness of the sun can be seen as a destructive, distorting, benighting thing, especially in the Mediterranean. Solarisation, meanwhile, overturns everything, so as to reveal another world. The power of the sun is in this sense a delirium that overturns that which is, manifesting something new or different. That is the power that threatens the cosmos, and yet it also surely generates it. The black ram, the “lord of power”, is the force that intrudes. I am inclined to make a connection between the way the ram, in Egyptian symbolism, was always linked to certain ideas of masculine “fertility”, which could be understood as generative power. For this reason, for instance, Banebdjedet was “the soul of the lord of Mendes”, that is to say the “Ba” of Osiris, while the ram was generally a symbol of creator deities such as Amun-Ra and Khnum. The god Ra appeared with a ram’s head in his “nocturnal” form during the solar cycle. There’s also an unusual depiction of Seth-Baal, a Hyksos syncretism between two storm gods both frequently tied to fertility (Set and Baal Hadad), in which he seems to have either the head of a ram or simply ram horns on his head. A “black” ram, representing the shadowy aspect of the sun, would thus represent the destructive powers of the sun and resonate with solarisation, and in the “lord of power” we might get a perverse sense of the generative power of the sun and the distorting power of solarisation as unified in a single image. Additionally, it would also almost recall the role of Set as the original guardian of Ra’s solar barque. It is of course very unlikely that Set, typically understood as a god of storms and the desert, was ever venerated as a solar deity. Nonetheless, on the solar barque, Set is the one who repels Apep and the enemies of Ra with his spear. In this sense, he could be seen as the violence that upholds the course of the sun. But of course he is also a wild and chaotic deity, whose worship sometimes involved alcohol.
In all of that, though, I think we may see a theme of rebellious audacity, or tolma, connected through the Greek association of the ram with courage. Tolma in Greek can mean “courage”, “boldness”, or “daring”, though in the philosophical context it is also supposed to donate an arrogant sense of pride that leads to alienation from the divine source, meaning The One. From Frater Archer’s discussion of goeteia we get a sense of tolma as profoundly magical, linked to transgression of societal morality and , and per Plotinus this itself becomes linked to self-will. But where for Plotinus and the Christians this self-will is a corruption that leads to alienation or death and oblivion, at least in Egyptian magic this self-will is part of life of the cosmos, a cosmos that can be interpreted in terms of Henri Bergon’s axiom that the universe is a machine for the making of god. That, I believe, is part of the dark kernel of that lost world we Pagans honour and strive to carry with us. Thus is the cypher of the black ram: a defiance that is the signal of true cosmic life.
As I wrote my critique of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, I developed a series of reflections around the broad content of Revolutionary Demonology as well as sort of echoing from before I got around to reading the book itself. As my writing progressed, what was once intended as one single article became partitioned into three separate articles as I found brevity impossible to maintain. This third and final piece of my critique of Revolutionary Demonology is all about those reflections in dealing what I perceived to be the ultimate weltanschauung of Gruppo Di Nun.
I may, in the process of this, briefly and periodically revisit parts of the book that I already covered, but, seeing as neither Parts 1 nor 2 devoted any more than periodic mention of the afterword as written by Amy Ireland, I may use this section to give it some attention. Granted, much of the afterword can be thought of as a summary, and rather a clarification, of the previous sections of the book, but in this very sense its throughlines are relevant.
The Sethian Problem
There is one major theme within comparative religion that has been somewhat latent since at least my encounter with the Cultivating Darkness lecture from Urbanomic, presented by Any Ireland and which I saw on YouTube before getting around to reading Revolutionary Demonology. I call it the “Sethian Problem” because it reflects what was the objection to Sethian Gnosticism levelled by the Hellenistic philosopher Plotinus. Of course, it is meant to be understood as a critique of “Gnosticism” at large, but appears to focus on the Sethian sect in particular. Nonetheless, it’s the substance that counts.
Plotinus, as a pagan polytheist, seems to have regarded the Sethian Gnostics as fundamentally unfounded, both philosophically and also morally, not just by way of his allergy to what he believed to be their antinomianism but also what he saw as their underlying hypocrisy. In Plotinus’ understanding, the Sethians regarded the world, being the product of an evil bastard deity (who is of course not to be understood as God) and consisting of nothing but the suffering and captivity of severance from the Pleroma, as both fundamentally and irredeemably evil. His objection to this was that, as soon as one realizes this, there was no good reason to continue living in a fundamentally and unalterably evil cosmos, except perhaps so that other beings might come to share this understanding.
It is, of course, a limited and arguably flawed critique. It ostensibly covers at least one of the “Gnostic” sects, and apparently Plotinus himself admitted that he did not get to behold a detailed philosophical explanation of “Gnosticism” from one of the “Gnostics” personally, and what he does discuss, he does not discuss charitably. Of course, why would he do so if he thought “Gnosticism” was both absurd and obscene? Nonetheless, there is substance worth considering that is quite relevant to our discussion of Revolutionary Demonology and its love of the death drive. In the second of Plotinus’ Enneads, Plotinus accuses the “Gnostics” of slandering “Providence” and its “Lord”, of scorning all law, of mocking virtue and the restraints it is meant to impose, of “cutting at the root of orderly living”, and of rejecting “righteouness” and “all that would give us a noble human being”. In fact, the way he talks about them, you’d think that he was talking about atheists, insofar as he thought they denied “Providence” entirely. This of course he based on what he perceived to be their rejection of the mundane cosmos on behalf of their own souls, which were declared deathless and divine and were to be released from the ontologically evil physical world into a “New Earth”, as well as the apparent belief that they could use magic to cure themselves of diseases and manipulate higher celestial/spiritual entities into doing their bidding. In the face of what he perceived as the “Gnostic” teachings, Plotinus could not help but imagine the proposition of a deathless soul somehow choosing to dwell in an unworthy place, and ask, in response to the doctrine of “another earth” made for them after their departure, why would they desire to live in the archetype of the world that they deemed so abhorrent? He likened the “Gnostic” to a malcontent living in a stately house, believing himself to be wiser than the architect and readier to leave the house while his angst hides his own admiration for the beauty of his handiwork, to assert the necessity of the body as the preparation of Soul and “her” craft. At one point Plotinus says, “You are wronged; need that trouble an immortal? You are put to death; you have attained your desire.” This is very clearly aimed at the “Gnostic” contention of the irredeemable corruption of the world versus the purity and immorality of their souls. Forgetting for a moment that many “Gnostics” actually seemed to believe in reincarnation requiring the preparation of the soul, the obvious implication from Plotinus’ critique is, “you believe that you are an immortal pneumatic soul, and you think that the world was created entirely evil, so why do you continue to live in a world you deem evil, if dying would allow you to escape it?”.
There are moments where I sort of picked up a throughline similar to this while reading parts of Revolutionary Demonology, or at least more particularly from the introductory ritual, and certainly while contemplating Gruppo Di Nun’s particular discourse of the death drive. Think about it: the universe is the creation of violence against a primordial Mother, whose body was dismembered by a demon named AHIH or a god named Marduk in order to produce the cosmos and/or its image, and locked within all life is the wound of that dismemberment. All the while, the universe seems to be born only to die, the Beast, the Mother, God, the universal death drive slowly devours everything, everything suffers in the course of their existence, their pain and eventual death being the price of their existence. Tiamat, though dismembered, will come back, crawling backwards from the future to destroy not merely the order of the world but also everything that exists, including herself, in order to heal the wound of her own separation. Everything is fundamentally driven towards death, not simply because material entities inevitably decay, or because the machinery of the universe works always up to the point of its own destruction, but because extinction and dissolution allow access to the completion of their own being in un-being, “healing” the separation perceived by matter. Or, there’s a throughline evident in so many examples invoked by Revolutionary Demonology. We see it in Kulesko’s treatment of Christina the Astonishing, who appararently yearned for death and detested the world of the living. We see it in the whole analogy of extinction, and the love of extinction, as communicated by Laura Tripaldi in her writing about Apophis, not to mention the revelation of the migraine. We see it in the image Enrico Monacelli gives of the freedom felt by the protagonist of Guido Morselli’s Dissipatio H.G. and Morselli’s suicide. Even in the way Kulesko talks about freeing oneself from the gravitation in matter it seems like one can detect resonances with the familiar “Gnostic” premise about the excarnation of spirit from matter.
On and on, one might think that, if everything exists solely to die, that everything exists by a drive to die, why don’t we just die already and save ourselves the effort? As crude as that sounds, if all we want is to die, we can do that pretty easily. Now, obviously, this is without the consideration of the “Gnostic” idea of the immortal and potentially pneumatic soul. In fact, I’d say Gruppo Di Nun don’t really address “Gnosticism” at all. It’s just that by reading Revolutionary Demonology one picks up a latent throughline familiar to “Gnosticism” at large. If we stick to the mythology presented in the opening “ritual” and reverberated through Revolutionary Demonology, the wound at the heart of the universe is the wound inflicted by what must emerge as a primordial crime, resulting in a cosmos that is thus fundamentally unjust to such an extent that “justice” only exists in reconciliation, reconciliation coming only in the form of dissolution, disintegration, and death.
Of course, in Amy Ireland’s telling, this can be interpreted as missing the point, because suicide is not the intended solution and neither is denial. In this sense, we’re almost coming back to the same dilemma that was proposed by Albert Camus. But what of the third road that rejects both paths? For Gruppo Di Nun, as Amy Ireland says, that third road is to “let go” into cosmic love, in the sense of getting in touch with a universe penetrated by the love of its own dissolution. Instead of attempting to “transcend” nihilism, and instead of giving over to despair and suicide, the way is to exalt death as the supreme generative force, and, more than that, achieve the gnosis of an a-human, eliminative, hyper-entropic universe, and then make oneself a transmitter for the black gnosis of a universe of death. Though, even there, Amy Ireland seems to place a certain emphasis on construction when sketching out the path that is neither suicide nor transcendent control, in that she elaborates Claudio Kulesko’s assessment of the creative implications of nihilism. This, however, opens up its own horizon, different from the cosmic love of surrender, as we will continue to explore. But I will emphasize a contrast. “Dogma” makes Gruppo Di Nun’s path plain: the proposal is nothing short of love for the process of cosmic disintegration and death is an alternative to dominion as well as suicide, without needing to articulate any reason for that love – though articulation is something Gruppo Di Nun does plentifully. Love is an indefinitely generating spiral into the darkness in which our souls feed the hunger of the Beast, but it is also fundamentally the path of reconciliation with the universe. I suppose one can tell I’m going for something different.
In the course of my critique of Revolutionary Demonology I have repeatedly referred to the fall of Sophia as originally recounted by the Sethians and the Valentinians and largely taken in modern terms as “Gnostic mythology”. You probably know how it goes. God exists, the Pleroma exists, the Aeons exist and they’re all constantly reproducing (I mean almost literally reproducing) the order of spirit together until Sophia, curious as she was, wanted to understand the nature of God, and to do so she decided she had to imitate God. To do this, she tried to generate a new being without the presence of a szygzy (in essence, a sexual partner for Aeons), just as God surely did. This ended up giving birth to a being named Yaldabaoth (interestingly, his name means “son of chaos”), who in turn created the material universe and then proclaimed himself God, thus becoming the being presumably behind the God of the Old Testament. Sophia then repents before God, accepts partnership with the Saviour (Jesus Christ), and sorrowfully scolds her son Yaldabaoth for proclaiming himself God.
Now, where am I going with this? For a start let me make something plain: my stance is that the only thing that Sophia did wrong is repent before God and join the side of the Christ. I do not say this because the world that Yaldabaoth created and the dominion he imposed upon it were somehow inherently good. Rather, I insist it because, in terms of the Gnostic cosmos, Sophia’s actions, no matter how disastrous their consequences may have been, burst open the possibility that life beyond the self-duplicating order of the Pleroma is possible, perhaps irrevocably so. For better or worse, Sophia’s quest to imitate and thereby understand God resulted in the creation of a whole world – no, a whole universe. Sophia herself can arguably be understood as in her own way following or even embodying Bronze Age Collapse’s tendency towards the absolute, in that her whole quest and her whole fall centered around her quest to embody God in herself. And in that sense, the tendency towards the absolute represented in her accomplished the only two things that matter: it created the world, and, in so doing, overturned everything. In this interpretation, her repentance is the only crime, and her example is only the beginning.
If you want an interpretation of Gnostic myth consistent with the Satanic worldview, it’s this, not the more popular idea that the Devil is actually here to help us return to the Pleroma. The Pleroma itself is just the constant reproduction of that spirit which already existed by the first Aeon, every Aeon since pairs up to reproduce (in a chain of cosmogonic heterosexual union) each other, until Sophia came and broke that chain and thereby sparked creation. Again, her example is only the beginning, and by this I believe there is room to discuss the horizons of Enrico Monacelli’s conception of sadism as “separative wisdom”, as discussed by way of Gilles Deleuze. Monacelli describes sadism as the apotheosis of separative wisdom in that he claimed it sought the dissolution of the self through its very power of division and devourment, to achieve apotheosis by tearing apart the world, unity, and somehow the self. Unlike last time, let’s venture into Deleuze’s Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, as sourced by Monacelli, to really try to unravel the apotheosis of separative wisdom relevant to Monacelli’s view of sadism, that we may establish the start of an underwriting thread of an alternative demonomanical descent.
The Satanic Gnosis of Sadistic Demonomania
Monacelli seems to basis his description of sadism on a particular kind of impersonality that Deleuze ascribes to sadism. For Deleuze, De Sade’s libertine doesn’t really aim to convince anyone but instead to demonstrate reasoning as a manifestation of violence, which of course De Sade’s libertine represents. This libertine is not interested in proving anything, not even this, only showing it. They reflect what Deleuze called a “higher form of violence”, related to their own solitude and the power constructed from the scene of the torments they inflict, while caught in their own circle of uniqueness – perhaps all reflecting a distinct magical will. Deleuze of course claims that the higher factor of De Sade’s language identifies impersonal violence with an idea of pure reason, which becomes the basis of Deleuze’s identification of Baruch Spinoza as somehow akin to Marquis De Sade, for essentially no reason other some shared rhetorical style of incessant suspense. There is more, though. Deleuze also says that sadism in De Sade’s work means negation, a “pure negation” representing a negative primary nature that overrides all laws and regimes and which Deleuze seemed to think of as a delusion, but also the demonstration of destruction, disorder, and death, as merely the reverse/alternate forms of creation, order, and life. Deleuze locates the excitement of the sadist in the idea of evil, which is in fact an absent idea, negativity: “what is not here” as opposed to “what is here”. For Deleuze, the sadistic libertine follows the power of their negativity right down to the negation of their own ego. He seemed to define sadism versus masochism as meaning negative-analytic apprehension of the “Death Instinct” versus suspension as the transcendent expression of a dialectical order.
There is another weird, but telling, complex: Deleuze, through Freud, takes sadism as the active negation of the mother and the inflation of a father who is beyond the law, and masochism as the idealized disawoval of the mother who is the law and the invalidation of the father expelled from the world. Applied a certain way, we could interpret this framing as denoting sadism as the negation of the law and the world to affirm some sort of power beyond law, and masochism as the transcendent affirmation of a cruel law of a rigorous maternal order that is at once the agent of the masochist’s rebirth into a “new man”. But of course both complexes are also meant to be understood as different modes of subversion. De Sade parodied the whole concept of law and institution itself by extending every possible crime as an institution, and the sadist champions both their own passions and those of others against law as the sole tyranny, while Masoch’s masochist demonstrates the absurdity of the law by provoking its punishment towards themselves so as to reduce it.
Now, how do we arrive at “separative wisdom”? Monacelli’s notion of “Separative wisdom” entails the quest to dissolve the self and the world through the violent faculty of wisdom. To hear Deleuze tell it, this is essentially a passion whose aim is to dissolve secondary nature or the affects and institutions thereof – law, norms, civilization, even the “ego” – in demonstration of primary nature, primary nature being an all-pervasive chaos and negation in which creation and destruction and even life and death are simply different identities of each other. So, this is to attain apotheosis by ceaseslessly destroying, revealing primary nature, and embarking upon permament insurrection at an ontological level. To negate all orders in order to reveal the power that allows for one’s own perpetual self-creation. It is also a passion aligned against tyranny, for tyranny and the law that supports its existence, and for that matter we might say the external arrangements of order that Max Stirner described, are all products of the same secondary nature that the sadistic process serves to negate. Secondary nature is comprised of soft molecules of conservation while primary nature comprised of wild, lacerating molecules of chaos, disorder, “anarchy”, which at once is true and spontaneous creation. Transcending the law requires the discovery of primary nature, the chaos and “evil” of the absent idea, which the sadist seems to try and approximate by way of an impersonal self-consciousness. This allows imagination to cut and lacerate the Image of the World and its order as a realization and assertion of its own impersonal power by the sadist.
Sophia imitates God, initiating the creation of a whole universe separate from the self-perpetuating spiritual order of the Pleroma, thereby following the example rather nicely. Either Lucifer or Satan, in many stories, rejects the authority of God and subsequently falls from Heaven and in so doing gains his own kingdom. Adam and Eve, by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, create a destiny that separates them and the human species from God I’m exile, while humans begin their march to the realm of the gods. By apocryphal tradition, Lilith does this as well by refusing to bottom for Adam and then shouting out the forbidden name of God. Cain kills Abel after God accepts Abel’s offering of slain animals, in so doing separating himself further from God. Saturn or Kronos, in some interpretations of the Greek and Roman cosmogonies, frees the power of generation by cutting off Ouranos’ genitals, allowing numerous beings to spring forth. Odin and his brothers remake everything from the body of Ymir, and Odin strives to defy fate towards the battle of Ragnarok in order that he might preserve either the world he has created or his right to shape the world after the world, sacrificing himself solely to himself for that very cause. Many of these touch on the broader theme of an insurrectionary rejection of the original state that results in creation and overturns everything. One also perhaps finds some aspect of Friedrich Nietzsche’s prophet, Zarathustra, who, ostensibly demanded a certain measure of severity, hardiness, and even cruelty in order to propagate his message, since his teachings brought strife and stressed the transformation and overcoming of suffering.
But pride in its own way follows a different form of the motion of separative wisdom. It is worth remarking on, from the Pagan context, the pride that, as Frater Archer explains in Goetic Common Sense, was attributed to the ancient Greek goês, a kind of autonomous ecstatic magician or sorcerer, by the Hellenistic philosophical establishment. Plotinus used the word “tolma”, perhaps meaning “courage”, perjoratively to describe both a point of differentiation from The One, that is the separation of the first Dyad from the Monad, and the choice to embrace a sense of dissimilarity from The One. This defection also seems to generate its own reality, at least by some accounts. The word seems to have been associated with the goês insofar as it was believed that they embodied “tolma” by transgressing the morals of the polis and practicing privately and in the fringes of society, often for a fee at that, which was in turn interpreted as a renegade position against the divine order. Plotinus, curiously enough, considered this “tolma”, the self-will, the division into the Dyads, to be the ontological source of “evil” in the world, outright expressing and elaborating that idea in his fifth Ennead. This in turn influenced the Christian theology of Augustine and his belief that human souls were ontologically fallen because of pride, and, in some ways, isn’t terribly dissimilar to the Gnostic account. But, of course, the word “tolma” was also frequently employed against many rebellious or simply bold figures. It was often reserved both positively and negatively for women such as Timoclea, Clytemnestra, Cloelia, and even the queen Semiramis. But what’s more important is goetic “tolma”, a rebellious audacity that, in practice, corresponds to a particular sense of autonomy, ability to work outside tradition, and perhaps a proclivity for working with chthonic spirits as well as those of the natural world, all connected by a perceived divergence from “common sense”. Privation is perhaps key in that one necessarily separates from “common sense” and the order of the polis as the Hellenic Image of the World, and points to rebellious pride as the path of autonomous wisdom and magical creation. We might thus sadistically accelerate the free motion of primordial division, even if it leads to the disintegration of the order of things, and especially if it leads to the disintegration of the order of things.
I asked in Part 2, who did Satan kill in the beginning? Because Jesus says that Satan is “a murderer from the beginning”, but you don’t quite see Satan kill anyone. But, from a Christian standpoint, the “murder” that Jesus refers to is the original temptation of Adam and Eve, attributed to Satan. To Jesus, this meant death for a previously immortal Adam and Eve, for Satan’s temptation introduced death into the world. That much is suggested in Romans 5:12: “Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”. But, as Al Pacino’s Milton said, “consider the source!”. Indeed, if Adam and Eve were supposed to be immortal before the interference of Satan or the serpent, why did God say that Adam and Eve must not reach the tree of life and live forever? The Garden of Eden is taken to be the primordial state of human serenity and bliss, whose return is often sought after in mystical terms. But the Garden of Eden was just an image of order set up by God, and there was no “future” or motion for Adam and Eve in the Garden. The “future”, or centrifgual motion, rests in the path that Adam and Eve began. Cain’s murder of Abel is seen as the logical result of the negation of God’s promise in the Garden of Eden. Cain and Abel are divded as the sheep represented by the latter and the goats represented by the former. Cain’s murder of Abel, the construction of the Tower of Babel, sin in humans divides Man away from God in perpetual centrifugal movement away from any original harmony, contending to retreive absolute sovereignty in the company of the gods who God would later cast down, to the tree of life, or to Bronze Age Collapse’s “absolute fitness”. Yes, Man’s motion of division away from God is the grand motion of self-creation. This is the joy of sin, the destruction of the law.
The Shadow of Thelema?
When I was writing my article about Claudio Kulesko’s discussion of Dracula in his essay “Gothic Insurrection”, I elaborated a creative interpretation of Kulesko’s dissolution of Dracula in terms of Alcuard’s transformation into everything in Hellsing, so as to sketch out a way of turning that particular avenue of dissolution into apotheosis. At the time, at the back of my mind I thought that what I wrote sounded like an idiosyncratic interpretation of the doctrine of Thelema, and a good friend of mine by the name of Free Musick saw that seemed to share the idea that I was possibly bordering on the territory of Thelema with that take. As time goes by and I read Revolutionary Demonology the second time to write these articles, I find myself making comparisons to the “Left Hand Path” within Thelema. I’m not simply talking about Kenneth Grant and his Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, though I do derive certain insights from his work and evidently so do Gruppo Di Nun. I also mean things like Fraternitas Saturni, and the general throughline of the so-called “Black Brothers” that Aleister Crowley talked about.
Before we get into that, though, it’s worth examining the extent to which Thelema influences the content of Revolutionary Demonology at large. Although direct reference to Thelema and its doctrine is rather scant, Aleister Crowley’s axiom “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” does recur in parts of the book. And of course, Gruppo Di Nun likes to present subversions of Crowley’s other famous maxim, “Every man and woman is a star”, turning it into their opening “ritual”: “Every worm trampled is a star”. It may be said, however, that their particular concept of cosmic love of disintegration, although it is evidently based on Christian mysticism, may also align with certain aspects of Thelema. Indeed, the fundamental theme of cosmic love as a mode of reconciliation is perhaps one of the strongest resonances with Thelema. This is ostensibly communicated in Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law, in which we find a very similar theme within even just the first chapter of the book.
Verse 29 of Chapter 1 of the Book of the Law says “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union”. The next verse says ” This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.”. The familiarity to Gruppo Di Nun’s love of dissolution should be quite apparent. Crowley explains in The Law of Liberty that those verses signify death itself as an ecstasy akin to love, and also signifies the “reunion of the soul with its true self”. Union is the overriding theme of Thelemic love, in that Crowley appeared to understand love as the will and act of union, in this case unity with the universe – a universe that divides itself for love’s self, and enjoys its own dissolution. That universe is Nuit, who according to Crowley, is “all that exists” and is “Matter in its deepest metaphysical sense”. “Crossing the abyss”, in Thelemic terms, can be seen as the reconciliation of the individual personality with the whole actuality of the universe, and its noumenal source as non-being. This reconciliation means the disintegration of the individual personality. And so the universe divides itself so that it can experience reunion, manifestating for the sake of dissolution, disintegration the expression of a True Will that attracts individual phenomenonal beings to their abyssal source. In its own way it is quite senseless.
In modern terms, Thelema is often thought about as an expression of the Left Hand Path, or as occupying a weird place in between the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. But, to my mind, despite all the overt transgression and the extent to which his work has furnished rich understandings of the Left Hand Path at large, it seems like Aleister Crowley definitely thought of himself as a practitioner of the Right Hand Path. By some account Crowley considered himself and his A∴A∴ to be part of the “Great White Brotherhood” (White Lodge). In fact, as far as Crowley was concerned, the “Left Hand Path”, did not signify his particular brand of transgression or his amoral solar myth, but rather the rejection of the very disintegrating cosmic love that was just elaborated.
In Magick Without Tears, Crowley considered the “Right Hand Path” and the “Left Hand Path” to be basically identical for the Thelemic adept until the attainment of the grade “Adeptus Exemptus”, whereupon the adept is expected to understand the nature of the Abyss. The “correct” path within Thelema, according to Crowley, was to understand yourself as identical to the universe and annihilate your sense of distinct individuality. Those who refused to do this, he referred to as “Black Brothers”. These “Black Brothers” seek to preserve their own distinct individuality, and for this reason forego and resist “crossing into the abyss”. Crowley believed that this would inevitably end with their own descent into megalomania and their minds being invaded by the demon Choronzon. Funny enough, Crowley’s account reads as though it would be Gruppo Di Nun’s account of the fate of the God-Man of the Right Hand Path in his efforts to deny the disintegrating cosmic love of “the Left Hand Path”. Though it is also seemingly a precise inversion of the philosophy Crowley sets out, most likely consciously constructed by Crowley for that purpose, in much the same way many other ideas of “the Left Hand Path” have been constructed by the multivalent tradition of “the Right Hand Path”. What interests me more, though, is whatever actually passes for “the Left Hand Path” within Thelema.
Separation is in many ways still a theme here, in that this is the example of Fraternitas Saturni, a Luciferian organisation created by Eugen Grosche (a.k.a. Gregor A. Gregorius). Fraternitas Saturni formed in 1926 after the Weida Conference a year prior, in which Aleister Crowley attempted to “unite” the Ordo Templi Orientis by establishing himself as “World Teacher” and the Book of the Law as the central text. This created a schism that resulted in Grosche dissolving the Pansophic Lodge and forming Fraternitas Saturni. Although Grosche admired Crowley and the teachings of the Book of the Law, he did not accept any claims of authority that Crowley apparently tried to make. Many aspects of Thelema are different in Fraternitas Saturni, especially love. Fraternitas Saturni championed an idea they called “compassionless love”, as its own extension of the Law of Thelema and which formed part of the motto of the organisation: “Do what Thou wilt is the whole of the Law, there is no Law beyond do what Thou wilt. Love is the Law—Love under Will—Compassionless Love”. The term was apparently derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where Zarathustra preaches that “all great love is even above all its pity; for it still wants to create the beloved.”. This perhaps entailed a distinct conception of love that was to be understood as cruel or severe in its delight for struggle rather than the avoidance of struggle and for the overcoming of suffering by said struggle.
“Compassionless love”, or “pitiless love”, is interpreted as a love that did not result in or attract towards self-annihilation, although it did seem to be a way of “cleansing good from evil” and “ending” fragmentation and helplessness by way of a willing suffering or, at least, the cultivation of severity. But it also seemed to denote the path of the magician to create the beloved out of their own selfhood. Grosche seemed to explain compassionless love as a kind of alchemical process by which one was supposed to “Become hard like a crystal”. Saturn’s lead needed to be transformed into gold, the “lights” had to be reversed, so that Saturn would transform into the Sun as all vice would transform into virtue. Of course, their emphasis on austerity in opposition to ecstasy absolutely represents an ideology that can be opposed to that of Gruppo Di Nun, and I would say that’s not really in the ideal way. Still, there could be no doubt that it in some way aligns with Deleuze’s construction of sadism, with its cold impersonality and lacerating hardness. Saturn’s sickle or scythe is itself certainly not the worst analogy. And, of course, the alchemical metaphor remains highly relevant: one would construct oneself from the black magma of Saturn, make oneself into a crystal and into gold by alchemy, and acheive the “absolute fitness” of the divine.
Separative wisdom finds its expression in Fraternitas Saturni’s mythology of Lucifer and Saturn. Saturn in this system is the “Demiurge”, who is here is not the jailer of the cosmos but instead the guardian of the initiatic threshold and an agent of cosmic evolution. Saturn sparks this evolutionary motion by rebelling against the cosmic order, which has the side-effect of apparently introducing death and war but also change and regeneration to the world. Fraternitas Saturni also identified Saturn with Lucifer, because in their mythos he originally sat beside God but then, much like Prometheus of Greek mythology, stole the torch of light and the secrets of the divine, and then flew to the farthest region of the solar system, where God’s light could not touch him. In their version of the Eden myth, Lucifer has sex with Eve, which thereby gives birth to procreation, sex, and also death, but also begins the path of initiation that leads to immortality. This in esssence carries the same separative wisdom relevant to the original Garden of Eden myth. But all the more so in the light of Lucifer-Saturn, called either the “Luciferian Light” or the “Light of Reason”, whose struggle in matter manifests creation and structure and continues to extend throughout all of life, from the simplest molecule to the human species. Endless struggle thus creates endlessly, striving in perpetual motion away from God and yet towards the Sun. Also, rather than crossing the abyss so as to disintegrate oneself in unity with the universe, Fraternitas Saturni embraced the idea that the aim of the initiate was to merge with the “Light of the World”, not so as to annihilate the self but to transform into a divine entity. There is, in this sense, a paradoxical conclusion to separative wisdom, whereby perpetual motion arcs towards the deification of the individual as a process of alchemical severity that, to acheive its outcome, necessarily folds the individual into the a whole so as to facilitate its re-assemblage as divine.
But the other major Left Hand Path within Thelema, and in fact perhaps the far more influential one at that, would be the “Typhonian” branch of Thelema founded by Kenneth Grant, whose also work seems to inform parts of Revolutionary Demonology. Here, the difference from mainline Thelema revolves around the centrality of the god Set rather than Horus (as is more typical within Thelema), substantial inspiration from the work of H. P. Lovecraft, and a pronounced alignment with Tantric Hinduism drawing from Grant’s understanding of Vamachara Tantra (or “Vama Marga”) as a transgressive cult dedicated to the feminine sexual principle. Make no mistake, apotheosis is very much the goal for Grant, but perhaps it is a somewhat different kind of apotheosis from what Eugen Grosche envisioned. In The Magical Revival, Grant invokes Liber Oz and The Book of the Law while discussing a kind of “solar consciousness”, which he believed would connect the human species with its “true centre” in the unity of Nuit and Hadit and which he thought was represented by both the Sun and the Kundalini. As Grant says, “Men will become as gods, because the power of creation (the prerogative of gods) will be wielded by them through the direction of forces at present termed “occult” or hidden”. This apotheosis is connected to an idea of the shared identity with “absolute consciousness” and return to the “Supreme State” embodied by Nuit, a process in turn represented by Set. According to Grant it is this desire that was misapprehended as evil, and thus necessarily represented as Satan, but the Devil is the true formula of illumination because he represents the urge to “know yourself through your own double”. For Grant, this is also a form of “ego death”: the “ego”, meaning the limited personality complex, “dies”, and the objective universe is dissolved, leaving behind nothing but gnosis of pure reality.
As much as you can argue for Grant as advocating for a kind of “regressive wisdom” or at least outlining a philosophical basis for, the path to “Solar Consciousness” could as well be its own separative wisdom. Not in the sense of separation from “the supreme state” but in more or less what Monacelli meant: Typhonian “ego death” is the affect of will, which organises the serpent brain of the individual in order to assimilate the dark forces of the “Nightside”, that realm of Otherness in Grant’s schema, into your own consciousness, through precise ritualism and rigorous control, and also access them in the deepest reaches of the unconsciousness and at the ends of the Tunnels of Set, up to the point where they shatter the sensorium, “invert” reality, and dissolve the “ego”. Controlling one’s dreams was a way of establishing contact with the discarnate beings of the other side – as far as Grant was concerned this was the fundamental goal of occultism at all – and this communion would in theory take humans away from the limits of their mundane persona and cross into the other side, to another mode of being, or, rather, non-being. Will thus works to dissolve everything around it, or rather every affect of secondary nature, including the “ego”, in order to commune with primary nature, represented by Satan or Set, and derive magical power and self-awareness from it. On the other hand I think it’s hard to deny where aspects of Kenneth Grant’s occultism resonate with that of Gruppo Di Nun. Kenneth Grant’s emphasis on magic as the means of communion with “discarnate beings” and the Nightside, notwithstanding the overrding emphasis on sexual magic, certainly resonate with Gruppo Di Nun’s emphasis on xenophilia and the extent to which they see magic as a means of acheiving communion with the Outside and thereby the intrisinc death drive of the universe.
My speculations when discussing the myth of Dracula, and the “death” of Alucard in Hellsing, may take on a different quality in this light. The “blood thrist” of Dracula and Alucard arc towards dissolution, but first and foremost Dracula and Alucard devour around them. They feast on the blood of humans, transform themselves into bats and mist, assert their power in modes of becoming to the extent that it leads into to become atmospheric in death, that their will itself lives forever in the world. In that sense, is this not a triumph of separative wisdom rather than regressive wisdom? The barbarian contains that when they ride on as the heaven-storming agent, and the thrust of the demonic, thrusting open the gates of the divine towards godhood, is the alchemy of the separative magician in their quest to become energetic, atmospheric, and thereby eternal. Perhaps this is what I detected when I outlined apotheosis by way of being reborn into the whole of reality and feeling that sound something like Thelema.
The Love of Surrender and the Christian Death Drive
I think I would prefer to simply address multiple subjects in this one section, because I think there is a convergence between them anyway that should allow for some brevity. Though, at the centre of it all is the shadow of Christianity. Christian mysticism actually seems to figure very heavily in Revolutionary Demonology, at least in that it is frequently invoked to communicate the nature of their masochistic mysticism. In fact, there are many ways in which perhaps the primary concept of cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun is in many ways underwritten by Christian mysticism, and to some extent Christian ideas about cosmic love.
In Laura Tripaldi’s “Mater Dolorosa” (the essay named for Our Lady of Sorrow, a major icon of Catholicism), we get a treatment of migraine suffering that is linked, by way of Oliver Sacks, to a kind of ecstatic Christian mysticism embodied by people like Teresa of Avila, whose paroxysm paralysed her and brought her to the brink of death but also activated an ecstatic experience of martyrdom. This mysticism comes with the idea that suffering is, in itself, a form of devotion to God, the very “way of truth”. That same essay seems to liken Tiamat to the Virgin Mary (to the point of literally describing her as a “draconic Virgin-Mother”), counterposes a model based on Christian mysticism against Chaos Magic, and sort of ends with the lamentation of Angela of Foligno. In Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, masochism is rather explictly linked to Christian theology, figuring the God who tortured Henry Suso as the personification of the Outside, and Suso’s practice of self-torture as expressing the highest level of mysticism. We even find the crucifixion of Jesus reinterpreted along the lines of Andrea Emo: a dialectic of consumption and slaughter, in which God progresses towards the annihiliation of everything including itself, God is nailed to the cross to show humans the way to self-consumption. Claudio Kulesko in “Catholic Dark” similarly invokes aspects of Christian mysticism so as to illustrate a process of lightness and emptying meant to the realization of nothingness. We see in this the story of Christina the Astonishing, of course, and we also go through the asceticism of the stylites and the mountain-climbers.
There are parts where it seems like a reproduction of Christian mysticism sans the God and sans the name, and parts where the horizon of subversion and even inversion seem intelligible. For instance, to invoke “the Virgin”, even insofar as this done alongside the recapitulation of Christian mysticism, is also intended ultimately as an invocation of Tiamat, as one of the aspects of Tiamat, decoupled from the power of the Man-God molding her into form – forgetting, of course, that the Tiamat of Babylonian myth was very likely not a virgin. The idea there of course is to present a divine feminine capable of displacing the power of the patriarchal Godhead. The axiom introduced by Enrico Monacelli, “God consists in his own annihilation” would on the one hand subvert Christianity by bringing God to his own demise. On the other hand, it might seem to be the ultimate logical conclusion of Christian sacrifice. Remember that the most fundamental premise of Christianity is God’s incarnation as a human being for the precise purpose of suffering and dying for the sins of humanity. Applying Andrea Emo’s dialectic would thus comprise an almost theothanatological fulfill of the whole mission of God’s incarnation: consuming, destroying, dissolving, annihilating, suffering, showing us the way to our own consuming and suffering through his agony in Golgotha. Of course, with Kulesko, there is the particular analogy of the apophatic God. On the one hand, “Catholic Dark” seems to consciously apply the lesson of Christian asceticism in pursuit of its elaboration of lightness. We are to bear in mind that the point of ascetic lightness is to reject the world, to deny the desires of the flesh, and perhaps even to abjure matter, all for God. On the other hand, the apophatic quality is part of Christianity’s own inner undoing, revealing a power meant to be reserved for God, but which in truth goes beyond and against God.
More crucial to us is the question of love – the question of Christian love. In the ecstatic, masochistic, feminine mysticism for which Teresa of Avila is the example, to love God is to suffer. Suffering is pretty explicitly presented as the love of God. Catholic doctrine in particular emphasizes suffering as a channel through which the love and glory of God is made manifest. Pope John Paul II, for instance, wrote explicitly that suffering was its own form of redemption, a way of opening oneself up to the redemptive power of Jesus, in a tract whose title is literally “Redemptive suffering”. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church regards the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus as the start of the paschal mystery in which Christians are invited to join Jesus as partners in his suffering, and that suffering is presented as the channel by which God and his salvific presence may be accessed – in its words, “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven”. The idea of suffering as divine love also features in the New Testament of the Bible. In John 11:4, when Lazarus becomes sick, Jesus explains to his sisters that Lazarus’ sickness is for the glorification of God and his son. Paul says in Colossians 1:24 that he rejoiced in his own suffering for filling his body with the afflictions it “lacks”. In Romans 5:3-4, suffering is presented as a source of character and hope. 1 Peter 4:1 says that whoever suffers in the flesh, as Jesus did, will “cease from sin”. Remember that, in Christian terms, redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus is meant to be understood as the apogee of God’s supposed love for humans and for creation.
It is in this sense that we can see that the death drive of the cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun contains the character of Christian love. The mystical core of Christianity is precisely the surrender to God and to the suffering through which the world and the community of Christians are to be redeemed. It is in this core that we can see the theme of suffering as the resolution of divine alienation in a suffering and abnegation that acts to fulfill a xenophilia whose object is the Christian God. Such a theme is not terribly obvious from the more popular and conventional exoteric expressions of Christianity, but it is easily located in scripture and is resplendently explored in mystical and esoteric expressions of Christianity. This is not without subversion in the work of Gruppo Di Nun, as particularly evident in Claudio Kulesko’s treatment of negative theology, in which the apophatic quality of God is also the nihility upon which Christianity is undermined and undone. But in other aspects it is also consummated, in that the self-annihilation of God is merely the ultimate form of God’s own telic self-sacrifice as the crucifixion of Jesus. Thus, there is a sense in which it is the mystical ideology of Christian love that Gruppo Di Nun is pitting against modern occultism, and perhaps also against reactionary Christianity at large.
Incidentally, I’m sure I’m reiterating something here but be that as it may, what better proof of the anti-Christian contention of God than from the horse’s mouth, from the core of the Christian mysticism we are presented with. God indeed compels the human species to surrender so that it can win salvation, meaning the promise of eternal life in his dominion. God indeed demands us to abjure our own free will, along with everything else, he indeed seems to desire nothing less than our own very spiritual death. From the Christian standpoint, this is God seeking to consummate the love of his creation. But from another, it just seems like God wants to senselessly destroy us for our ancestral defiance, or to remake the very “image of God” as a creature of obeisance. And if God is as radically indifferent as we might consider he is here, then the incoherent one-sidedness of Christian love is all the more apparent. We love a God who they say loves us but just doesn’t, and maybe he’s actually trying to kill us all, and ultimately himself, at every turn. It’s the love of one who is brought into capitivty for a captor they can never know. It’s the love of slave who may never see their master. Or, perhaps, the love of a poor beady-eyed tenant for, yet again borrowing a phrase, an absentee landlord.
I won’t belabour the obvious point to be made about Gruppo Di Nun’s particular criticism Satanism and the Left Hand Path in relation to this, because I’ve been hammering away at it repeatedly and it’s already an overriding current within this article alone, but I will say that the relationship to Christian cosmic love presents an obvious problem for their particular opposition to Satanism. After all, how can one oppose Satanism on the grounds of it supposedly recapitulating or reproducing Christianity on the back of a mysticism that bases itself on a concept of love built on Christian ideas of the love of God and suffering and in turn gives them new form?
The Power of Inner Darkness
Reading Revolutionary Demonology for the second time in conjunction with my own article about Darkness from last year makes for an interesting introspection in my case. I say this because, as I read the essays of Revolutionary Demonology on the subject of Darkness, perhaps more particularly Claudio Kulesko’s essays, I would swear that I could detect resonances between the way Kulesko talks about Darkness and the way I discussed Darkness in my article on the subject. It is worth for starters returning to the subject of Kulesko’s Darkness in order to get to where I’m going.
In the essay “Cultivating Darkness”, Darkness seems to be a formless, indeterminate, magmatic property in everything that comprises the pure and uncontaminated state of reality. It also forms a field of limitless experimentation wherein you might either end up destroying yourself or discover unknown horizons of pleasure, knowledge, and transformation. To be totally immersed in this Darkness is to realize the emptiness and inadequacy of our representation of the world, which thus collapses. From our cultural standpoint at least it seems very gloomy, to the point that we suppose a risk going mad from its realization, and it would be quite misguided to think one can appreciate this Darkness without a certain amount of melancholy, but from another perspective, it is simply potentiality, and thus the ground of every possibility. Kulesko’s Darkness is both the pure apophatic potentiality of reality and the conceptual space that emerges from total destruction, which allows the full freedom of creative possibility: if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, we are free to build anything and go anywhere without the strictures of established philosophy.
In “Catholic Dark”, Kulesko discusses Darkness by way of an analysis of negative theology, dissecting Christian apophatic mysticism so as to elaborate a concept of Darkness lodged at the heart of Christianity’s own undoing. Actually, it seems like this was anticipated in “Cultivating Darkness” where Kulesko uses the analogy of the apophatic God to denote a wholly negative concept, escaping every partial perspective: nothingness in itself, parallel to the premise of practical nihilism. A negative will, bracketing out everything, unlocks new horizons by reaching the highest altitude of the soul: nothingness, the most volatile of concepts. Nothingness, which is how we would understand Darkness in this setting, seems to pertain to the faculty of divine power, and its infinite capacity to generate other worlds. At the height of the eternal, there is no limit to form or matter, and it is absolutely capable of generating any possibility. Christianity’s undoing is locked in the universal horizon of nihility, because Christianity assumes that the power of infinite horizons is locked in God alone, and we are to simply bow before God’s vastness – that is faith. But we can be dark, we are dark, and we blaze across the sky like black flames, and shine like black suns, and the light of our darkness may penetrate in all directions.
In last year’s piece I sought to explore a concept of Darkness that, at the time, I was sort of arriving at, from many angles. From Georges’ Bataille’s essay on Gnosticism and materialism, the eccentric occultism of Ben Kadosh, negative theology, Taoist philosophy, Esoteric Buddhism, Japanese demonology, Max Stirner’s Creative Nothing, alchemical nigredo, anarchist nihilism, to Satanism, I sketched out Darkness as essentially a negative “ground of being”, out from which everything else springs. It is infinitely creative, ceaselessly destructive, the wild place where such creativity and destruction are utterly inseparable. It is the wellspring of manifestation, and the machinery of rebellion in that all true insurrection or revolution fulfills its principle – overturning the old world and creating a new one in the ashes. It is that “spontaneous” and vicious thing that lay beneath everything, seemingly alien to us but also right in the heart of everything. The way I put it, in retrospect, Darkness seems a lot like the Sadean primary nature that Gilles Deleuze discussed, as I previously elaborated. The way Kulesko talks about it would seem to add depth to that concept, in that the diagram of death within Christianity seems to open up a way of seeing negative theology in application towards that frame of approaching a concept beyond partial category. Though in this sense perhaps this is what Christianity got wrong for the same reasons that maybe the Tao Te Ching still got it right: Darkness is not God, because it is larger and older than God.
And, I suppose once again, perspective counts for everything. In a “Western” sense the Darkness could hardly be anything except gloomy, brutal, or silent. In some sense, it would be unwise to think you can dismiss what makes the nigredo what it is. But from another, it is just potentiality, just the invisible realm of intangible forms. The “Western” and “Eastern” outlooks on the same substance are better served informing each other than set apart. In the alchemy of the demonic, as portrayed by Ernst Schertel, perhaps they are one and the same. But while we’re on the subject of perspective in regional terms, I’d like to take the time to elaborate the comparison I made between Japanese Buddhist hongaku (“innate enlightenment”) doctrine and Kulesko’s writing about the importance of unknowing in his concept of Gothic Insurrection. Towards the end of “Gothic (A)Theology”, Kulesko says that non-knowing and the unknown anticipate the formation of knowledge at every turn, being situated at the roots of the world, because there is no knowledge that precedes ignorance. The main point of hongaku doctrine is that enlightenment exists in potentia within everything, even in wicked and ignorant beings, because all things, all thoughts, and all deeds, are in some way Buddha. For medieval Tendai Buddhism, this meant that even demons were manifestations of innate, uncultivated enlightenment. Wrathful, quasi-demonic deities such as Kojin, Fudo, Daikoktuen, Enmaten, Bishamonten, Susano-o, Ugajin, Matarajin, and even that devil called Mara, were all figured as representing a fundamental ignorance that dwells within everything, even within the Dharmarata (the virtuous). Ignorance and awakening, affliction and awakening, they all exist in a single non-dual moment, and the former is ultimately its fundamental ground. Thus Bernard Faure, in his Gods of Medieval Japan series, figures the realm of the demonic, in its wicked passion and violence, form the unthinkable reality of the world, visually represented by demonic deities. I trust that it is not hard to understand the importance of this idea for Satanism, or to imagine how one might extend this idea in the context of our own demonological landscape?
I remember tweeting a while back about the possibility of nihilism emerging as the highest religious idea. Admittedly, I can’t say if I knew exactly where I was going with that at the time. But now there is a certain clarity to it. Nihility, even within the horizon of Christian negative theology, represents the darkness that is at once the absolute power of creation and recombination, which is always and absolutely present in the universe, as the true fundamental basis of life. For Christianity, however, the price of recognising this within the bounds of Christian faith is to keep it locked up in a God who is forbidden to be known. And I mean literally forbidden. Still, there in the religious recognition of nihility, across multiple traditional and philosophical contexts, the whole possibility of infinite actualisation contained within Darkness, as the fundamental unspeakable power to create any destiny and any world.
Power is in many ways quite operative. It is in fact the hidden horizon of the nihility proposed by Gruppo Di Nun. Well, I say “hidden” in theory, but in my mind it is made plain in especially Claudio Kulesko’s writing. Gruppo Di Nun said in their Dogma about Satanism that Satanists frequently seek personal power. That is not incorrect, but they only seem to understand that as vertical authority. Only that’s not what Kulesko means when referencing divine power, per the quotation of Jean Buridan in his essay “Catholic Dark”. “Divine power can make”. Occultism is all about seeking what is hidden, and what is hidden is the power that contains endless horizons of becoming and recombination. I would sort of paraphrase Boris Balkan in The Ninth Gate here to say this: Darkness contains the absolute power to determine your own destiny. I would say that it’s not incorrect to treat that as the standpoint of Satanism, or much of the Left Hand Path despite Gruppo Di Nun’s distinct definition of it.
The duality presented between Carlo Michelstaedter and Julius Evola, which is in turn central to the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun, presents hidden horizons of perversion that bend it. Take the whole throughline of “self-deification”. If we assume that the whole universe is comprised of the power of recombination, becoming divine would be assumed to be one of many possibilities of becoming and recombination. Indeed, Claudio Kulesko seems to figure xenophilia and ascetic mysticism as becoming-divine by way of shedding oneself into nihility. Against Michelstaedter’s utter lack of any possibility of persuasion, Evola is presented as quite conspicuously as an anti-passive, non-surrendering figure, in the sense that to make this choice, rather than follow Michelstaetder, is to be understood as an inherently fascist act. But Dracula, as Kulesko understands him, could accept his own death knowing exactly that he would not be surrendering to his enemies, or even to his own disappearance, because now, even in his death, he has become atmosphere. The knowledge of the power of Darkness invites only one meaningful path forward: to use it. You cannot build a temple of light over the Darkness, you cannot conquer or defeat Darkness, you cannot “rescue the light from” Darkness, but what you can do instead far surpasses the ambitions of men like Julius Evola, who, even on behalf of some concept of the ego, seek only to erect a magic circle expel the real source of the power of apotheosis. The canvas of limitless Art is all around you. You only have to see it.
Amy Ireland figures the nightmare of Evola’s “Magical Idealism” – its nemesis, the terror that plagues its foundations – in what Claudio Kulesko describes as the “black primordial magma” of reality in its uncontaminated state, the darkness that is the cradle and grave of every world and every meaning. Ireland asserts that Evola’s version of the notion of an unchanging immaterial I, and his goal of “binding and freezing the waters of Nun” for the purpose of “rescuing something stable, impassive, and immortal from it”, is inherently compromised and haunted by the presence of this material darkness. Though, while I gather that one is intended to take away from it the notion of selfhood itself as being compromised by it, as if Evola’s Magical Idealism was somehow the only relevant working notion of selfhood, the horizon of construction, located within nihility, is in my opinion the main locus here. It’s the same horizon that popular, one-sided, collectivist notions of “constructivism” so often ignore: if you can be constructred, you can construct yourself. Rather than suppress the darkness and suspend chaos, the path is to embrace the darkness as the sole horizon to become anything you want, the only true source of apotheosis. You will construct an I within the darkness, that is at once the canvas of your own alchemical creation, not the prison of your eternal soul. The “I” is not something to be given to you by the order of the universe, and it’s not this fixed presence in the world. In order to be you, in order to be your own “I”, you have to create it, and you have take ownership of your own self-creation/construction if you don’t want to be constructed from without. That’s what you need to kindle and wield the Black Flame for.
It may indeed be that this, all along, is at the root of the theme that I have perhaps perennially fixed myself on in life: the inner “light” of the darkness. Perhaps Evola would view this light as something that has to be “rescued” from the darkness. But, as if to subvert his expectation, we ought to consider that light not as something trapped within the darkness, but rather an inherent property of that darkness. Trying to separate that light from the darkness in the hopes of “rescuing the light” would be like trying to separate your stomach from the body in the hopes of rescuing yourself from hunger. And the problem has nothing to do with “balance” or “equilibrium” between “light and “darkness” as representing something along the lines of the white and black horses of Plato’s Chariot: I suppose I would thus now say that the Assembly of Light Bearers and their particular school of Luciferianism are entirely misguided in this sense! No, it’s not because of a balance or equilibrium between light and darkness, at least because we are speaking of but one special kind of light. No, it’s because the light I am talking about is a property of darkness, intrinsic to that darkness, not something outside of darkness to be contrasted and complimented by darkness. It might just be the Black Flame.
The Insurrectionary Spiral of Satan (or, My Alternative to the Love of Surrender)
I have to admit, getting down on my knees isn’t my preference, let alone dying on them. I know that sounds unfair, and there’s a lot of Revolutionary Demonology that really doesn’t seem all that masochistic on its own, particularly the essays on bodybuilding, gothic time, and solarisation. Really, if there’s one of many issues I have with Gruppo Di Nun it’s their insistence that everything, or at least everything worth a damn, is masochistic in the precise sense that it longs for its own demise and dissolution into nothing. Which is not to say that you can discount the death drive in their terms or that you can’t appreciate it in certain places. You could, for instance, point to the warrior having a piece of that in themselves. And I did indeed write about the death drive of Dracula’s vampirism, by way of Kulesko’s interpretation; but, I must admit, from my reading you could guess that this appreciation is not entirely for its own sake. In a sense, the same could really be said of the way I appreciate Gruppo Di Nun’s talk of the endless sea of recombination: it’s all about the possibility of becoming something, about how it is always become something else, and the thing I always emphasize is a descent by which you could at least choose to do so and set the horizons of your own becoming.
In the name of a different sort of nihilism I position my own alternative to surrender. Gruppo Di Nun propose, in view of a cosmos fatalistically drawn towards its own annihilation, a love for one’s own dissolution. I carve out my alternative on a similar premise: love. But love for what? Not just insurrection, but the whole spiral of insurrection, the war of all against all in Stirner’s terms, the strife that the ancient polytheists located at the heart of the cosmos, the fight that we fight on our behalf. Satan, as the Adversary, is the sign and Sun of all of this, beyond humanistic reason. The reality of our world of desires, conflicts of will and reality production, rebellion and force, class antagonism, subjective agencies, all point to worlds of individual interest, interests that are often mutual to each other to the point of reconciliation but which sometimes fight each other. Politics is the organisation of these interests in a struggle for the right to, in Deleuzian terms, produce reality: for instance, modern capitalism as the reality produced by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie versus all of its underclasses and/or outer-classes striving to produce a new reality beyond capitalism. As Shahin elaborates in Nietzsche and Anarchy, social war is the sum condition of all this: a constant state of bodies interacting with each other, possessing mutually opposed desires and projects, inevitably leading to conflict. Anarchists, or at least those of the anti-utopian camps, understand that this means a constant struggle with authority, not just as the extant structures that exist now but as the paranoiac desires and projects of control that inevitably lead to the oppressive institutions of statehood and which even after the abolition of the state could eventually appear again. The insurrection never really ends. That insurrection, that war of all against all, the struggle to defy and produce reality autonomously that thus animates life itself, this is what I advocate we reserve a satanic love for, the love that Gruppo Di Nun otherwise reserves for surrender.
There’s a sense in which life itself has to be seen as an insurrection, at least in the sense of a spontaneous overturning of everything. That is one of the readings one can take even from the base mythology of Gruppo Di Nun, which necessarily entails the successful overthrow of the void state represented as Tiamat, and the resultant exile of life from its womb. When I make the comparison to Gnosticism, it is not for nothing, for the myth conveyed in “Every Worm Trampled Is A Star” resonates inescapably with the Gnostic universe, with its corruption at the heart of matter set and the exile of spirit from the Pleroma into matter, set in place by Sophia breaking the order of the Pleroma in her quest to know God. And if life is an exile then this is only be embraced, because that embrace is the only way to make sense of life. You were not born only to die. You were born to become, and you can become anything you want. That is what the insurrection brings about at the primordial level, because life emerges so that it can become anything.
Gruppo Di Nun’s primordial mother in all her incarnations wants nothing in us except transformation, but was transformed herself and cries out in agony because of it. Insurrection is also transformation, right down to the primordial level. Insurrection, following Max Stirner’s terms, fights that which is and enacts a transformation of everything. It also entails a transformation of the self, one that must be enacted willfully, by a willing agent seeking to transform in accordance with will. As Saul Newman observes in Insurrection or Revolution?, insurrection is a transformation not simply of society but of the self, an act of self-liberation that allows the person to overcome their own obedience and attachment to authority and arrange themselves, and their relationships with others, as they see fit. This is, in Satanic terms, is its own nigredo, and the Great Work as a whole. Alchemy as a process of continuous individuation and perfection is a labour of will, none other than the insurrectionary will to transform yourself on your own terms, and it’s on those exact terms that the alchemist gives way to the transformation they desire. I see this alchemy in art, play, sex (especially in kink), and ritual in that all of these are ways that the will, to varying degrees of intensity, may transform itself on its own terms.
At odds with masochism, I pose what Geoffrey Gorer called “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer” as not only the percept of Valerio Mattioli’s concept of solarisation but also insurrection itself (again, per Stirner’s terms at least). In an undying love for the war of all against all, those who walk the Left Hand Path will overturn the world and turn it into their own, alchemically turning themselves into beings that can thrust open the world around us, fly inside like demons, and make ourselves divine. Satan is our solar myth exactly because he represents the whole spiral of insurrection that life consists of.
In this sense one can say there are two approaches to the demonic in play. Both of these embrace the demonic to the extent of wanting to invoke it in this world for transformative ends. But in one approach, the demonic as an outside is invited as a mechanism for one’s own disintegration, in the other the demonic is drawn in as an avenue of becoming. Gruppo Di Nun represents the former approach, I strive for the latter. The latter approach of becoming-demonic would see you not simply as a vector in relation to the outside but also, with the model of the barbarian as its guide, place yourself as an outsideness: you would Stirner’s heaven-stormer. And after all, why should I settle for anything else? Besides, that is ultimately the kind of individual we see in the outcome of Enrico Monacelli’s assessment of Mandy, even if Monacelli does not give attention to that aspect.
The Lessons of Revolutionary Demonology
For all of that, however, I consider Revolutionary Demonology as a body of work to be very valuable. Even if seen as a challenge in relation to the Left Hand Path as it exists, I consider it a worthy challenge, to the extent that I absolutely recommend reading it. I would even regard it as essential reading for aspiring students of the Left Hand Path, not simply because of its philosophy but because of the horizons that the whole book can offer. I believe I am at point where, even for all of my criticisms of Gruppo Di Nun here, I would nonetheless consider myself indellably influenced by Revolutionary Demonology and Gruppo Di Nun. In that spirit, I believe I can summarize some valuable takeaways for myself.
At the end, Amy Ireland summarizes the core message of Gruppo Di Nun as follows: there is always another world hidden in this one. The thing is, that itself is not such a novel thing. The magical tradition has, in many ways, assumed something like this for many centuries, perhaps longer than we can remember. In a way, pagan mysteries already have some uncanny sense of that. The difference is that Gruppo Di Nun are convinced that one can only truly access this through masochism. And from this standpoint I think it both arguably underscores and arguably “resolves” the Sethian Problem. Why? It makes sense of the universe as an endless chain of becoming, for one thing, but it’s probably the only reason one doesn’t just extinguish yourself in a world that they repeatedly emphasize is a Landian machine of disintegreation and laceration: because even in this there is always more, something else. There is always Remoria, the infernal double of Rome that always pushes for the inversion of the world. There is always a shadow in which we discover the possibility of another world – no, the power to create one. There is always, all the more so, another world that we are capable of bringing into being.
The horizon of self-construction is inherently relevant to the metaphysics of becoming we can observe from Gruppo Di Nun, and especially Claudio Kulesko’s form of it. We too often ground our freedom in the idea of a naturalistic essence of being, while assuming that to accept construction means only to accept that we are always constructed around us by forces that are externally autonomous to us, without us ever autonomously constructing ourselves. I am loathe to admit it, but there was a time many years ago when a prejudice like this animated a deep-seated difficulty in accepting any notion of constructivism. But when you learn that you and everyone else are just as surely constructing themselves, even whether wittingly or unwittingly, and when you can locate the power to do so in yourself and in pure reality itself, it becomes very easy to image constructivism in terms of the process of construction flowing everywhere and in all directions. Kulesko’s nihilism is only a much more powerful vehicle for the realization of construction: the darkness that is the ur-reality of everything is the same darkness that allows us to construct ourselves in any way we please, and to recognise it is in many ways the first step to undertaking your own Great Work.
The world is coming apart. But it is also constantly being re-ordered, all the time, at least all the moreso by those who “get to” shape it in their own image. The Image of the World hangs over us, but that is only at the making those who have built it before us, and maintain it in the present, and it can and will be destroyed, one way of the other. History is the successive creating, destroying, and re-ordering of the world, in the name of no teleology and instead on behalf of desire. There can be no cowering from this world, if we are to change and construct it to our liking. If, also, we are to be reborn in apotheosis.
I think that, at the end of it all, it is possible to conclude that almost everything in Revolutionary Demonology points to a very elaborate way of saying “there is no way out but through” as the simplest principle of the Left Hand Path, as they understand it. That is certainly to my mind what flows not simply in consideration of the crushing pessimism and nihilism that Gruppo Di Nun considers, but also in the whole discourse of Gothic Insurrection, the implications of nigredo, the whole metaphor of alchemy that is employed throughout the book, and especially the inclusion of Bronze Age Collapse’s materialist metaphysics of fitness and the tendency towards the absolute. That tendency, should it be accessed and perfected, leads into a centrifrugal motion towards the “ultimate” state, as opposed to descending back towards antediluvia as in the wound. Maurice Blanchot said, “Nihilism stands like an extreme that cannot be gotten beyond, and yet it is the only true path of going beyond; it is the principle of a new beginning.” Insofar as he is right, the new beginning is down to the bottom of the earth and up through its hidden paths of ascent, and all false hope of salvation is to be rejected on behalf of the power to create and traverse new worlds. The whole “problem” of nihilism is one of the other main subjects Gruppo Di Nun attends to, and in this regard they understand something important. They regard nihilism as the motor of love, rather than our adversary, precisely because it is only the destruction of transcendent values and the elimination of the need for transcendent validation new values, meanings, subjects, and worlds, can come into being. For Gruppo Di Nun this leaves no room for will in that will cannot constrain the black horizon of nihilism. But from another standpoint, it frees the will for as long as will accepts the Darkness as its most powerful ally, rejecting transcendent order on behalf of its own becoming and construction. I suppose in this sense, from one angle, that does mean finding ways of “letting go”.
I have sometimes found myself wondering, with a sense of perspectivism, would some semblance of the Pagan worldview not make some difference for the rammifications that Gruppo Di Nun affords to their abyssic metaphysics of becoming. After all, if you want a rationale for life in this setting, Gruppo Di Nun is not necessarily wanting on its own terms, especially not as borne out by the anarcho-nihilist implications of Kulesko’s take on cosmic pessimism, but it’s also honestly just right there in Bronze Age Collapse’s essay, and, in a larger sense, the Pagan worldview that it draws from our speaks to. It’s almost to the point that one might ask if some aspect of the supreme cosmic pessimism we are presented with is not in some way conditioned by Christian meaning and its concurrent collapse. And of course, “letting go” is a phrase that becomes important. But to let go is to let go of something. From one perspective, perhaps that is order. Logos, Pleroma, the Kingdom of God, everything like that in which humans think they will find freedom, peace, salvation, power, but in which they are bound in their sense of hope, all wrapped up in their bid to repress the power of Darkness. It is funny how often people tend to try and repress that which might give them the most power and the most freedom. If that power is what one desires, then, from a certain point of view, perhaps that does take a bit of letting go of something. And yet, you cannot surrender. Your business is to fight, but your quarrel is not with the Darkness. It is in the name of your own will in darkness.
Above all, however, we should turn to what is ostensibly the central theme of Revolutionary Demonology: the demonic. I find myself meditating on a throughline that seems to emerge; the idea that the demonic may in its own way be a portal, either from the outside to the world of phenomenon, or from the standpoint of the world towards the beyond and unknown. The exact nature of what that entails is still not entirely clear to me, but I think it emerges from the discussions of solarisation, Gothic Insurrection, and the Outside, all of these avenues seem to give a throughline whereby we might see the demonic in terms of the outside coming in. That is a conception familiar to the demonic at large. In “Dogma”, “Gothic Insurrection”, and “The Highest Form of Gnosis” in particular, as well as in some sense throughout Revolutionary Demonology, Gruppo Di Nun stresses a concept of the demonic as a presence that capable of entering in from outside, as if to “invade” this world from another one, from the Outside. There is obvious a vast history of demonic liminality behind this concept. Everyone knows about the conventional Christian idea of demonic possession, but there’s also much more beyond the Christian complex. In ancient Egypt, for instance, the demonic was inherently liminal, owing to their existence at the threshold of the netherworld and the world of the living, violently enforcing its boundaries. The Etruscan wolf, crossing from the underworld to the world, embodies a similar property. In many pre-Christian contexts, the divine itself could be seen crashing through the boundaries of existence, and not merely nymphs and other spirits but also some of the gods themselves could possess humans. In esoteric Buddhism, demons embody a presence that always exists outside the structure of order, capable of subverting and overflowing it, thus also crossing through the walls. From there, I believe we have the beginnings of the demonic as a portal, and perhaps a portal that does not only have one way through.
The way Gruppo Di Nun talks about the demonic also leads us into one point that I have neglected so far up to now: demonic multiplicity. In an interview hosted on Diffractions Collective by Dustin Breitling, Kulesko says that the demonic always refers to “atmospheric multiplicity”. The appropriate example and analogy is Legion, the demon whose name derives from the fact that they are many. The concept of Gothic Insurrection is deeply animated by this notion of multiplicity, striving to literally be Legion, spreading out in all directions in a multiplicity of barbarous and demonic forms. The other analogy is Austin Osman Spare’s concept of Zos-Kia, with the point being that you may be closer to apprehending the demonic if you already understand yourself as many. I meditated on that a little, and I think I can see the horizon of demonic multiplicity in terms of the way I seek to apply Paganism. Whether it is the concept of Satanic Paganism, or down the line a development towards a formless, “non-Euclidean” (loosely borrowing the term from Robert Anton Wilson) expression of the Left Hand Path, within both Pagan syncretism and demonology the horizon of multiplicity may in .
The final thing I could say about the reflections I have put forward is, for myself, relevant to how I might like to manifest The Art. Since adolescence I suppose one could say one of my driving obsessesions has been demons and the demonic. Therefore, one way to manifest the lessons of Revolutionary Demonology that I take up for my own valuation is to more practically align my manifestation of Art with the manifestation of the demonic in the and my own becoming-demonic into the world. To put another way: I must create in ways that bring demons and the demonic into the world, and in turn I must make myself demonic, so that I may propel towards the absolute and become divine. I accept the demonic as the alchemical basis of magical realization in the context of the Left Hand Path, much like Ernst Schertel did for magic at large and much as Stanisław Przybyszewski accepted Satan as the insurrectionary basis for life’s origin and development. And further, I accept the world of demons as the portal not just of darkness into the world, but the portal of the individual magician into the forbidden world of the divine, where one can propel into the beyond and become divine.
I might also consider another dimension of this work as in the sense that certain applications of psychogeography could comprise a more experimental, but worthwhile, path to pursue. Employing Valerio Mattioli’s insights on the solarisation of the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino, and the way they unravel a whole arcane world in southern Italy, in the context of psychography might lend to a development of psychogeograhical occult praxis that allows for the opening up of arcane worlds and access their insight, to solarise the world around you. Consider it not only another avenue of practical and artistic fulfillment of the opening up of the demonic and thereby becoming-demonic, but in equal measure a practical and artistic fulfillment of the precept I share with esoteric forms of the doctrine of innate enlightenment, which places a sinister arcane world as a dark ground of being and ultimate reality. And, just as well, part of a broader application of psychogeography that is as pagan as it is demonic.
And so I conclude, in the hopes that I have sketched for myself more than anyone else, one more possibility that might emerge from the black magmatic waters of Revolutionary Demonology, one forged of my own resonance in the name of my own will. That I have shown the way to the love of the war of all against all, far beyond the love of surrender, as part of the renewal of the Left Hand Path. That I wield a love worthy of The Devil, and which shines the light of the Black Flame again.
Here I continue my exploration of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, and concurrently a much deeper exploration of the Left Hand Path as a whole. So far, in Part 1, I have explored the first main sections of Revolutionary Demonology, comprising its introductory “ritual” (“Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”) as well as the first (“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology”) and second (“Notes On Gothic Insurrection”) chapters. If you have not read Part 1 before reading this article then I suggest you go back and do so first. Here, in Part 2, I will focus solely on the contents of the third chapter of Revolutionary Demonology.
The third chapter is titled “Nigredo”, and it is here also that we cut deeper into the core ethos of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun by way of more elaborate expositions of it. Though, of course, there are somewhat multifaceted. On the one hand, we can see the contours of the philosophy of ontological masochism that Gruppo Di Nun means to get across. On the other hand, there are the makings of a much more active worldview, that arcs in a direction other than this ethos so eloquently summarized by Amy Ireland’s afterword. In any case “Nigredo” consists of five essays, which we will go through in order: “Cultivating Darkness” by Claudio Kulesko, “Mater Dolorosa” by Laura Tripaldi, “Solarisation” by Valerio Mattioli, “The Highest Form of Gnosis” by Enrico Monacelli, and “Catholic Dark” by Claudio Kulesko.
The World Falling Apart (The First Nigredo)
“Cultivating Darkness” begins by establishing our total immersion in darkness, alien yet familiar. To realize this immersion is to realize that our prevailing representation of the world is either simply false or merely limited, and is it collapses, Kulesko asserts, the world shows itself to be a collection of fragments forming a collage. But the other lesson we’re given is that there is always more than one world, and that it is always possible to construct new worlds from the fragments. Yet, once our world shatters, it cannot be reconstructed as it was – like Humpty Dumpty falling from the wall, when his shell shatters no one can piece him back together. Human life is a network of stories, and meaning in this setting is simply an internal coherence between the pasts, presents, and futures of these stories. In moments of existential dread, we think of ourselves as like scale insects: mummifying but alive, and so it must seem as we live in the advanced, technologically accelerated capitalism of the late Anthropocene. History appears to be either advancing or standing still waiting to be set in motion, but in despair we find neither advance nor standstill, and the fragments of our world blindly and incoherently fly around without direction. Thus we fall out of time, and into the subject of depressive realism – thus, a kind of psychological nigredo.
Depressive realism is the name given to the theory that depressed people, far from suffering from a negative bias that hinders their objectivity, actually tend to access a greater dimension of objectivity than non-depressed people might possess. Kulesko seems convinced that this theory is basically correct, and in some ways goes a little bit further: the depressed person not only perceives the world more objectively, this also means they can (in theory) more accurately locate their own personal responsibility in terms of what is and is not within their control. To Kulesko they become like oracles of an uncaring subterranean world. Paging Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the depressive realist subverts the axiom of neoliberalism by saying, “there is no alternative, except for the end of the world”. Yet they also go further, in their despair they might conclude that the world either already ended or had simply never existed. What then also ensues is a kind of disorientation and self-aggravation; depressive realism can change into full blown extinctionism, as, for Kulesko, philosophical pessimism and nihilism tended to change into eliminativism – the idea that truly nothing exists at all.
Is there a way out of this trajectory? I would be inclined to think that the idea that life is a series of fragments can lend itself to a freedom of interpretation, wherein the great thing about life is precisely its fragmentation, or rather the fact that it allows everyone to create their own world, to the extent of their will. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Kulesko tells us that the problem with the development towards eliminativism is that, in the depressive moment, what emerges is not the non-existence of things but rather their inconsistency, or metastability (that is, the utter fragility of the universe). In terms of empiricism this comes down to the fact that the “laws” of nature are not actually “laws” at all, but rather chains of cause and effect or rather still a set of tenuous regularities or rhythms. In this view there is no logical reason why the sun rises and sets when it does except that we continually see it rise and set each day, and from there further that there is no inherent reason why the universe itself will not be annihilated. In view of this, the world as we know hangs precariously above an abyss, and everything is pervaded by nothingness. “Darkness”, here, is an uncanny property: a shapeless, indeterminate atmosphere and field of experimentation, wherein one may either destroy oneself or discover unknown pleasures. It is in this sense meant to be seen as none other than reality in its purest state, from which all worlds and meanings emerge and into which they die. From a certain point of view it is a rather gloomy and depressive world, like the world that was before humans or the world that will exist after humans. Not to entirely take away from that, but I might suggest that other perspectives, such as found in at least some forms of Zen Buddhism, it is simply a realm of intangible content and worlds. I suppose both Kulesko’s darkness and Zen nothingness are to be understood as pure potentiality, but taken with a different attitude. But it is here that I am again drawn to refer to the fact that Ernst Schertel ascribes this to the realm of Satan and Hell, as the starting basis of magical power. I sense a conceptual synchronicity here somewhere at least. In any case, it is perhaps here that any notion of a “way out” becomes apparent.
Humans must either realize the absence of teleological meaning and unity in the universe and gain self-consciousness of the real, or remain forever ignorant as they are consumed by time and matter. To acheive this self-awareness, one must abandon hope without succumbing to despair. That means realizing how the ontological collapse of the world can open up new horizons. Those horizons are contained in the negativity at the heart of things, the apophatic nothingness that runs parallel to our world of things, forms, facts, and narratives. If everything arises from nothing or from chaos, it follows that nothingness is plastic, in that it is possible to extract from it an infinite quantity of worlds and meanings. An infinite diversity of constructions can result from nothing. The only issue is getting stuck within them; if you let yourself be lied to by the worlds and meanings that arise, you will become their slave, or you will find yourself having to go through dark nights of the soul all over again – perhaps, an eternal recurrence of nigredo. Perhaps here we get what can amount to basically nihilist alchemy. One begins in a nigredo, in this case the whole process of seeing the world around you fall apart and realizing its nothingness, and after that first step the nihility changes into the material by which you will, somehow, perform the Great Work, creating a philsopher’s stone. In many ways, though, conatus as a vehicle for the ceaseless development even greater perfections and freedom emerges as the best way to make sense of just why everything might stop being nothing in the first place, and that why really remains a missing piece in Kulesko’s philosophical presentation. To be sure, if we are dealing with philosophical nihilism through and through then one could ask why the question even matters, but one cannot ignore amidst a collapsing world why one has found oneself here to start with. That is surely one of the components of the despair Kulesko discusses, except to the extent that Kulesko’s depressed subject has stopped asking the question. And if there is an answer, there is only one: our life is so that we may arrange ourselves at will, overcoming and transforming that which is in accordance with will and desire.
We now come to a discussion of Giacomo Leopardi, an Italian philsophical pessimist and skeptic, for whom the truth consists principally of a doubt unassailable by human reason. This particular form of skepticism brings thought to the point where knowledge collapses and leaves behind only doubt as the manifestation of the pure unknowability of reality. It is also to be contrasted with more popular (and palatable) forms of skepticism, wherein knowledge is cast aside, suspended, only to be recovered. The point of this skepticism is to discover the abyss. But it is also essentially a hyper-manifestation of the rationalist materialism that developed during the Enlightenment, and which influenced Leopardi’s thought. He believed that rational analysis dissects nature to the extent that it “resolves and undoes” it into something akin to a corpse, and, ostensibly as a result of his research, that every faculty of mind is material and that spirit is a deception of “the heart” by itself. Such a worldview makes for a potential step towards eliminativism: after all, so the logic goes, if only sensory perception is real, then self-consciousness is only a second-level perception. Yet for Leopardi appearance is the only thing that counts, because substance in itself does nothing and makes no impressions. This seems contrasted with the blind brain theory we are then introduced to, which holds that the world, as represented by our minds conceals a “real” world much more multifaceted; in other words, here substance is richer than appearance.
A problem that can stem from this perspective lies still within the scientific nigredo that ensues: this is summed up in Thomas Ligotti’s quotation of Thomas Metzinger, when he says “there are aspects of the scientific world-view which may be damaging to our mental well-being”. This theme of psychic damage brought on by the collapse of the teleological and phenomenal world into darkness is in some ways captured by both Giacomo Leopardi and H. P. Lovecraft, the latter a fan of the former, the latter writing that complete knowledge of the world would traumatize us such that would either “go mad from the revelation” or retreat into a new “dark age”. If consciousness is accepted as an illusion (mind you, this is not an opinion that I hold), along with the inevitable extinction of everything, then, according to Ray Brassier, then the philosophical subject is already dead, and philosophy itself is the organon of extinction.
An interesting point Kulesko goes on to make is that the enterprise of philosophy tends to consist of isolating one component of reality that can then be established as its ultimate principle and the foundation of thought itself. One recalls that ancient quest of Greek philosophers, as far back as the pre-Socratic era, for the one element or substance that could be acknowledged as the prime arche upon which the cosmos is founded. Kulesko’s examples include a metaphysics of becoming produced by the isolation of change or becoming, or a metaphysics of static being by isolating the existence of an object. In any case, for Kulesko there is an abyss between these two possibilities, which contains both, their mixture, their conflict, and their absence, and reality at large resists all efforts to define it by isolating a single principle. Yet, what interests me is that a question emerges: does a metaphysics of becoming not naturally emerge from the condition of abject fragmentation and the change that is implied by the condition of indeterminacy? In fact, that idea can be seen as the whole throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s metaphysics, in that transformation is the fundamental potential of magical practice and philosophy. Nothingness almost certainly changed into everything that we know, so in this sense absolute power of becoming is one the core properties of Kulesko’s abyss. In that sense, a metaphysics of becoming is not a natural outcome, but also necessary.
But now we return to Kulesko’s central point about the abyss of reality: its ultimate potential. Rather than defeat, the chaos, unknowing, and senselessness of darkness offer a limitless wealth of possibility. In this setting, the practice of philosophy means bracketing out everything we know or think we know about the world in order to unlock new configurations that at the same time exist in the world. Fiction itself, and for Kulesko especially science fiction, emerges as a gateway to the groundlessness of the world, which is it at once the ground of its being. The end of the world, the nightmare of the apocalypse that animates human beings to the point that they endlessly narrate their own demise, is itself its own gate. Total destruction is the limit that thought drifts towards, the darkness that arises from just the thought of that destruction can negate everything, but if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, then, even for that, we are gifted with an utter freedom of action. We can go wherever we please and build whatever we want, and we may cast off the burdens that modern philosophy has imposed on us. This becomes Kulesko’s version of the primary axiom of Thelema: do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Not only do we and our particularity emerge from chaos but matter itself is this chaos, and at the innermost core of both reality and our own souls is lawlessness and multiplicity. As unreal as it sounds, for Kulesko that’s all there is, and it is everything. For this reason, it is best to cultivate darkness when lost in the night.
When I read the end of that essay, I sensed in Claudio Kulesko the formation of what I recognised as the basic principle of anarcho-nihilism. I don’t think Kulesko identifies himself with that, and in fact I don’t think he commits himself to any particular label, apart from philosophical pessimism – and, as far as I can see of his work, beyond all other labels he is first and foremost a student of philosophical pessimism. Nonetheless, somewhere in Kulesko’s conclusion I could sense the core idea in that in the negation of everything we come free to no longer be arranged and in turn arrange ourselves in any way we wish. It presents the ultimate silver lining to the question of meaning and its absence, and it illuminates the real meaning of the expression that nihilism does entail a position of despair or emptiness, and that meaning for the nihilist is exactly what they create for themselves. Of course, for Kulesko it is all fully ontological in ways that I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to agree with, whereas for anarcho-nihilism it pertains largely to the political dimension, in that the point is to negate all social and political institutions to create a space of full autonomy for individuals which can then manifest and experiment in all directions. Still, that itself may find extension in the nigredo that Kulesko presents, and in the magma of darkness that lies beneath the lies of the world and its utopias. The chaos embodied by that eight-pointed star expanding in all directions, unleashing the world after the world like, in late Norse mythology, the rebirth of the world after the carnage of the battle of Ragnarok, it’s the fragmentation of the Image of the World. The insurrection is its own cultivation of darkness.
Wounds of the Divine Feminine (The Second Nigredo)
Our second discussion of nigredo, “Mater Dolorosa”, which as the name suggests seems to centre around a discussion of the Virgin Mary, begins with Laura Tripaldi taking us on a recollection of her childhood frolics in a garden in her school, hidden from the eyes of adults, filled with vegetation and small animals – sometimes dead ones that she and her friends would hold funerals for. We are also introduced to the flower Veronica persica, or Persian speedwell, known locally as the “eyes of the Madonna”, a namesake that naturally then pivots focus figure of the Virgin Mary, her heavenly abode evoked by an analogy to her eyes, and to the torment she supposedly feels when you pluck the petals of the speedwell. Amusing, by the way, that this Virgin is called “Mother of God”: we’re told that the Christian God created everything thousands of years if not eons ago and yet also that his mother is a teenage girl who lived 2,000 years ago. A testament to the incoherence of Christianity, or at least especially Roman Catholicism. Then we’re presented with an anecdote about a pregnant female earthworm that the children punctured, seemingly to assist the earthworm’s delivery of its offspring; an act that seemed to almost primordially disgust the young Tripaldi. The particular reproductive economy of invertebrates, profoundly alien to our own, brings us to the subject of Georges Bataille’s assessment of abiogenesis and the relationship between asexual reproduction and death – the original one dying and becoming two – and then we get to a more fundamental pain at the heart of living matter. The ancestral wound of life, for Tripaldi consists of a primordial separation from the primordial condition of indistinction, and in this setting life is Giacomo Leopardi’s garden, which Leopardi insists is nothing but a beautiful hospital. Thus, the second nigredo is the realization of the pain of primeval separation.
It all comes down to the idea that not being born is better than being born. In many ways, this theme communicated in terms of a perceived separation from original matter and the concurrent pain of that separation is a lot closer to what I expected of Gruppo Di Nun based on the opening salvos of Revolutionary Demonology and its core dogma than much of what we have previously discussed so far. It certainly is closer in spirit with the thematic emphasis on the myth of the dismembered Mother Tiamat that they present much more than the subject of Gothic Insurrection or even the latent alchemical theme strewn throughout, and as we’ll see that theme takes us through a much larger response to the doctrine of emanation. This could offer us a rather multifaceted journey.
We are introduced to a man named Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-Australian geologist who, in 1972, went to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and attacked Michaelangelo’s Pieta, striking the face of the Madonna with a hammer while shouting “Christ is risen! I am the Christ!”. At the time of the incident it was assumed that Toth was mentally ill, consequently he was sent to a psychiatric hospital without criminal charges before being deported to Australia. I tend to think that there can be few bolder blasphemies against Christendom than declaring yourself Christ and smashing one of the holy symbols of the Christ myth, not to mention the synchronicity of having done so at the same age as Jesus supposedly was when he died. But for Tripaldi the incident carries a different meaning: for her it displays an uncanny alchemical property associated with depictions of the Virgin Mary – the transfiguration of suffering and disgrace into triumph and splendour.
The cult of the Virgin Mary, and particularly the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows centres around miraculous events that often involve the disfigurement of the various depictions of the Virgin Mother. Across Italy, there are local tales about icons of Mary being attacked or defaced by an unbeliever and then, as if to answer the assailant’s lack of faith, shedding tears of blood. In that exact sense, Laszlo Toth smashing the Pieta is interpreted as actually making it beautiful. But then we get to theme of weeping. Our Lady of Sorrows is always weeping. Her exposed heart illuminates the reason for her weeping: seven daggers, representing the seven sorrows she suffered in the Gospel narrative, pierce for open heart. That number, 7, recurs throughout religious and esoteric symbolism as a number of significance. In Hermeticism, for instance, the number 7 represents the manifestation of divine perfection in matter. In Christianity, 7 means the realisation of God’s kingdom in this world, through the conjunction of the Holy Trinity with the four corners of the earth. In Kabbalah, or rather at least according to Eliphas Levi, 7 represented the totality of the power of magic, backed by the sum of the soul and the four elements. Since the Hermetic tradition the number 7 denoted throughout “traditional” esotericism a mysterious harmonic function of the divine order that can be found everywhere in the universe. But, in the work in the Aleister Crowley, the number 7 referred to the goddess Babalon, as explicitly denoted by the seven-pointed star seal of the A∴A∴ (Astrum Argentum). Babalon, who in Thelema corresponds to the Biblical figure of the Whore of Babylon, is on her own a very complex representation of “divine” femininty, which is nonetheless defined primarily by transgression and wickedness, down to her angelic namesake (“Babalon” in the angelic langauge meaning “wicked”). The Biblical narrative presents the Whore of Babylon as a sinister and voluptuous feminine, opposed to the pious and sorrowful feminine embodied by the woman clothed in sun. Their visions are both accompanied by a demonic beast with seven heads and ten horn, who is both the antagonist of the woman clothed in sun and the ally of the Whore of Babylon. For Tripaldi this recurrence presents an alternate meaning to the number 7 that clashes with both the meaning presented by traditional “Western” esotericism and the symbolism of the seven daggers.
So where is that all going? Tripaldi’s reflection on the number 7 serves as the gateway to a broader discourse of an esoteric “divine feminine” that can be positioned against a divine patriarchal order and the traditional doctrine of its emanation across creation. It also seems to attend the recovery of a theme of pain and restraint that she perceives to be latent in the original Kabbalah and forgotten by the Western esoteric traditions that appropriated it, and, in a larger sense, to recover a dynamism and processuality in Kabbalah from the order imposed by the glyph of the Tree of Life.
In the Zohar, we are told, the descent of the divine into matter, and the ascent of matter into the divine, can occur in non-linear moments of emanation – moments that are marked by complication and interruption. Such moments are called Tzimtzum, or “contractions”, and are an important part of the manifestation of divine light as conceived in Kabbalah. They are also moments of rupture and separation that are in turn associated with “feminine” aspects of the process of emanation, as well as two of sefirah in particular: Binah and Malkuth. Binah and Malkuth seem to be involved in a ceaseless series of ascending and descending transmutations that see them both constantly merge and separate from each other. This process, for Tripaldi, points to the presence of a multitudinous “divine feminine” trapped within the architecture of creation. Rather than that familiar idea of a monotheistic Goddess parallel to a masculine God, Tripaldi proposes a multiplicity of divine femininity, and the liberation of this femininity in the processual forces of Kabbalah. In this sense, the cryptic diagram on the cover of Revolutionary Demonology is in some way illuminated. The Tree of Life is without a head. Kether, as the unity from which the divine order is emanated and the masculine godhead, is cut off, liberating the multiplicity of divine femininity and the form of nine apocalyptic goddesses. It is thus a signifier for a kind of alternative Kabbalah, animated by the spiral of a sinister divine feminine. I can perhaps sense the makings of a particular form of an goddess-centered (and arguably “anti-cosmic”) polytheism revolving around the goddesses that Gruppo Di Nun identifies with this spiral.
The tzimtzum are here defined as processes of separation within divinity that in turn facilitate its manifestation. To repair the separation of Malkuth from the divine light, Binah, the heavenly mother, is divided and her lower sefirot fall into darkness and corruption: a process referred to as tears falling into the Great Sea. This imagery obviously strikes a chord with the Catholic icon of Our Lady of Sorrows as Tripaldi has presented her so far, but for Tripaldi it also recalls the myth of Tiamat and her dismemberment by Marduk (I note here that Tripaldi refers to Tiamat as a “draconic Virgin Mother”, despite not ever being depicted as a “virgin mother” and really only tenuously identified as a dragon). The feminine polarity consists of a distance between two aspects that are identified and yet distant, and their respective symbolisms (the celestial abode for Binah, a red rose for Malkuth) ostensibly point to the two distinct female figures of the Book of Revelation: the woman clothed in sun and the Whore of Babylon. The process of rupturing and separation shatters the sefirot, interrupts the chain of divine emanation, and the empty shells sefirot become filled with impure forces (presumably the qliphoth). Through Gershom Scholem we get a throughline of an original rupture and separation as the causes of a primordial suffering brought on by a necessary separation from God, resulting in all being existing in exile. Three aspects of the Mother are part of this whole disruptive process: The Dragon, The Celestial Virgin, and Babylon The Great. They also represent a hidden generative force latent in the machinery of divine emanation, which replicates itself and will suffocate the order that contains it.
For Tripaldi, any esoteric struggle against the order of patriarchy means understanding the phenomena of disequilibrium that secretly make the divine order possible to start with. On its own, it is very possible to derive from this analysis a much larger analysis on the relationship between order and chaos, and especially the centrality of the latter. On the other hand, we still cannot but return to the question of the implications of the ancestral wound, especially when aligned with Kabbalah. I remember an analogy given to describe Kabbalah, whereby the point was for humanity to return to the garden of Eden. In essence, what that means is to correct the separation of humanity from God, represented in this analogy by the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Only here it’s not necessarily about God, and the separation pertains to the dismemberment of Tiamat. What does it entail for life, having arisen from separation? But I suppose for now, the pressing question is, what does the Tree of Life look like without the head?
We continue this inquiry by exploring migraine attacks, and their apparent prophetic character. Tripaldi perceives migraine as a pain that has no wound because it is the wound at the heart of the world. Percolating into every last particle of matter, migraine is said to reveal in everything the spectre of decomposition. A migraine crisis arrives and passes of its own accord and without a trace, and when it leaves all that remains is a feeling of well-being that is nonetheless plagued by a sense of guilt and suspicion. Tripaldi seems to recall an experience of being locked in a hotel room for two days, without eating or drinking, suffering so much that at points her consciousness began to waver, and at one night she experienced a vision of nostalgia for a primitive motherhood. One could say that this vision hints at Tripaldi’s idea of a hidden dimension of the world, accessible only by occult means, or, perhaps, made vaguely accessible by a migraine crisis. This, migraines are a kind of sinister unveiling of a hidden substratum of the world – an arcane world of pain, of the wound lodged in the heart of creation, and of the cry of agony that reverberates through the whole universe. In other words, the occult body of Tiamat. But it’s also here that we come to another, more concerted application of Christian mysticism. This starts with an account, from Oliver Sacks’ Migraine, of a patient suffering from a migraine attack and describing feeling a hole not only in their own memory but in the world itself, and feeling the instability of their own bodies. Tripaldi, through Sacks, links the migraine experience to the idea of suffering as a vehicle for the realisation of spiritual truths, and from there to “female mysticism”. And, by this, we of course mean Christian mysticism. Specifically, for example, we are invited to consider Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Catholic Carmelite nun who, in 1539, suffered a paroxysm in the process of what she called her “conversion”. This paroxysm caused Teresa to lay comatose for days and then remain paralysed for three years, and it also brought her to the brink of death. But, while she suffered all manner of torments from her paralysis, her body overcome with weakness and the feeling of death, she also described her experience as a kind of martyrdom, and asserted that when the body is in rapture it is as though it is in death.
For Tripaldi this all represents a very specific mode of mysticism, centered around an ecstasy that afflicts the soul from the outside like a disease, cannot be summoned intellectually, cannot be “resisted” once it visits upon the individual, and is defined by an intense suffering that, to lesser degrees, remains with the individual after the ecstasy has subsided. This form of mysticism can thus be understood as an ecstatic system, and for Tripaldi the basic idea is to be applied as an introspective, ecstatic, and fundamentally feminine mysticism in which suffering, rather than positioned as a another path to traditional initiatic gnosis, is its own goal as the highest form of gnosis. This is also meant to be contrasted with the application of meditation within “the intiatic traditions” as tending towards a desired state of “absolute concentration”, whereby the practitioner excludes all stimuli and gradually obliterates their individual consciousness in order to elevate it to the level of cosmic or universal consciousness, thus bringing it into coincidence with God. Tripaldi argues that Chaos Magick is an example of this in that Peter Carroll ostensibly marshalls a concept of no-mind that he calls “Gnosis” as a medium for magic to be affected. It’s a strange and arguably somewhat myopic interpretation of Chaos Magick, not least since it positions Chaos Magick as part of “the Right Hand Path”, and its justification is not especially systematic for the scope of Revolutionary Demonology. In fact, about a page and a half and one quote from Peter Carroll’s Liber Null seems to be the full extent of Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of Chaos Magick, which hardly merits the prejudice reserved for Chaos Magick as a whole, let alone their distinct classification of it as part of “Western initiatic traditions”. But, since Chaos Magick is meant as an example of the mysticism of absolute concentration, and the mysticism of Teresa of Avila as a paragon of the ecstatic mysticism of suffering, it also almost seems like Tripaldi means to contrast Chaos Magick with – and there’s no beating around the bush here – Christianity.
This has a number of interesting implications. Obviously Gruppo Di Nun’s system can’t be thought of as Christian in itself, since it centers around a non-Christian mythology while rejecting many of the familiar tenets of Christianity at least in its exoteric sense. But we seem to see here a distinct application of Christian mysticism in conceptual terms: in other words, it accepts Christian ideas about mysticism and ecstasy, God and his son notwithstanding of course, and reapplies them to its own distinct framework. In my view, this still has the effect of lodging Christian mysticism at the centre of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun in that it serves as the intellectual basis of its philosophy of cosmological suffering, and that to me is another notch against their critique of Satanism as reproducing Christianity by inverting it. I know I never tire of the opportunity to seize on points like this, but it is interesting that the alternative to “reproducing Christianity” by way of Satanism should be to reproduce Christian mysticism in the name of Tiamat. The thing is, for Teresa of Avila, suffering could constitute a form of prayer to the Christian God, or a trial through which the sufferer would find God and become more spiritually pure through it. Perhaps “that my soul may emerge from the crucible like gold” denotes a hidden alchemical metaphor, with the suffering obviously being a form of nigredo. But the whole point is still opening yourself up to sufferings visited upon you presumably by God so that you can love God more. This form of suffering, in Teresa’s words, pleases God. The very notion of suffering as “the way of truth”, which she expounds, is inherently Christian thought. God gives trials that inflict suffering on those he considers spiritually strong so that the love of God may respond to them, while the saints inflict severe penances on themselves to battle the Devil. God, who is joyless in all instances except for moments of profound suffering, humbles and tests his would-be servants, leaving them with a hunger for suffering.
We invoke the term “suffering cult” a lot to describe Christianity in exoteric terms, but if anything that term is all the more apt for the deeper core of Christian mysticism that a lot of popular exoteric Christianity doesn’t always reflect. It is important remember that here, even though suffering can be positioned as its own goal, that is distinctly for its perceived revelatory practices, and in Christian mysticism, moments and revelations of suffering such as the visions and ecstasies of Teresa of Avila are meant to be understood as proof of God’s presence in and love for creation. Thus, Laura Tripaldi has reproduced Christian love, and even the cult of suffering in its mystical dimensions, in the form of mystical devotion to the primordial wound at the heart of the world, the cuts made into the flesh of Tiamat by Marduk, all while Gruppo Di Nun denounces Satanism as an expression of the Right Hand Path by accusing them of reproducing Christianity by way of inversion. One must wonder if we are to be thought fools for such a pretentious repression response to Satanism to be made so transparent. And ultimately, if we’re talking about a dichotomy between centripetal and centrifugal motion while favoring the centrifrugal, what irony, because what could be a bigger “cult of the Centre” than the God for whom Teresa suffered so abjectly?
Also, it is here that we come to a hole in the broad narrative concerning self-designation as an edifice of the Right Hand Path. After all, for starters Tripaldi says that, in the purview of absolute concentration, your own self-consciousness is obliterated. That part may be consistent with modern understandings of the Right Hand Path, but it is not consistent with the notions of self-deification found in a lot of the modern Left Hand Path. And, are you here fashioning your own selfhood into God or a god, or simply harmonizing it with God? After all, it does not seem that to “be brought into coincidence with God” must mean that the initiate actually becomes or imitates God. In that sense, this “self-deification” is not as it seems, and would call into question the critique made against the modern Left Hand Path.
Our journey through Tripaldi’s mysticism does not end here. We continue on through an exploration of virginity through the Greek and Roman cults of Artemis and Diana – both traditionally considered virgin goddesses. For Tripaldi, the myth of Artemis living alone in the woods in solitude, away from any male suitors, resonates with her own adolescent hope of refuge from patriarchal society in a pure wilderness: a hope seemingly shattered by that same uncontaminated purity consisting of the same obscenity and violence as the body. Virginity for Tripaldi is a pact tied to death because it is a sacrament of war. That is because for Tripaldi it is the promise to never participate in the reproductive order of patriarchal civilization, and embodies a militant recognition of womanhood as the key to both the preservation and destruction of this order. This is presented as a kind of self-sufficiency inherent in womanhood that amounts to an absolute monotheism that holds the entire universe to ransom in its power. A more lofty exaltation of womanhood there almost isn’t, let alone one more at odds with the notion that. More curiously though, I was sure that self-monotheism of some sort was supposed to be what Gruppo Di Nun declared a fascistic folly reserved the initiatic Right Hand Path. I suppose I’m left to conclude that it’s supposed to be bad when Satanists strive for their own apotheosis but not bad at all to consider virgin women their own goddesses, and just leave whatever rationale there is for that contradiction to my own imagination – I doubt its interpretation would be very charitable. But perhaps patience is in order: there is a subject we will examine later that will be relevant to the subject of self-deification.
In any case, virginity is its own mystery for Tripaldi, due to the paradoxical quality she attributes to it: simultaneously a source of the integrity of the social order and a cause of its very negation. The sanctity of virginity, which is obviously also a familiar fetish of traditional/conventional Christian sexual morality, is exemplified in the Vestal Virgins, whose vow of chastity was linked to the preservation of the whole body politic of the Roman state, and in Joan of Arc, whose purity is said to have ensured the destiny of the medieval Kingdom of France. It is here meant to be understood as a sacred condition, relevant to feminine mysteries, and representative of what Tripaldi supposes to be a purity that passes through creation. The goddess Artemis is here understood as fiercely representing just such a purity: those who approach her know that any outrage against her purity would be paid in their flesh and blood. That at least is the myth of Actaeon, the hunter who saw the naked body of Artemis and, as punishment for ogling her, was silenced, then turned into a stag, and then killed by his own oblivious hunting dogs.
As lunar goddesses Artemis and Diana are seen as dual-natured: bright and yet dark, chaste and yet perverse, protector and yet also destroyer, at once luminous and murderous. Of course, it should be noted that just this sense of duality is not at all unique to Artemis or Diana in the context of pre-Christian polytheism, where basically every deity was assumed to be “dual-natured” or multifaceted, and I think there’s a sense that this basic fact is more or less excluded as is a lot of the perspective of paganism for much of the book except for its second chapter. What seems unique about these goddesses, however, is what Pierre Klossowski describes in The Bath of Diana as their “closed” nature, by which is meant their renunciation of the possibility of the possibility of mortal union and their existence “beyond destiny”. That said, I doubt that the interpretation that the wholeness of the universe rests on a single goddess is in any way consistent with polytheism as a religious worldview where a multitude of divine presences pervade a universe that exists between all of them. Nor for that matter does it make sense to assume that Artemis or Diana exist “beyond destiny’ in a religious context where even Zeus answers to the Fates. Again, it seems that here the goddesses of pre-Christian antiquity are invoked so as to represent a larger metaphysical concept of virginity as part of the formation of a divine feminine multiplicity, but without sufficient consideration for the actual context of the ancient polytheism they were a part of. What seems far more operative for Tripaldi is the lunar symbolism of Diana, which certainly does reflect Diana’s dual nature in a more historical sense, and how she connects this back to the subject of Kabbalah.
In classical terms, the moon is both celestial and chthonic, a light in the sky that also represented the powers of the underworld. As a celestial object, the moon’s light is really a reflection of the sun, which makes it seems like a spectral double of the sun. But, we are told, the moon in Kabbalah corresponds to the sefira Malkuth, the “impure” aspect of the divine feminine from before, because it reflects light from God. According to Gershom Scholem, this reflected an exile referred to as “the lessening of the moon”, which in turn was interpreted as the exile of the Shekhinah, the “holy moon”. The moon is also heavily associated with cyclical time, its influence linked to the movemennts of the tides, the reproductive cycles of many marine animals, and at least traditionally the menstrual cycles of women. Tripaldi interprets this cyclicality as a cycle of purification through death, through the cycle of the Flood and the purification of menstruation, and thus the moon as a symbol of virginal purity and death. This makes the moon a distrubing aspect of the divine feminine, an object of maniacal love and sacred terror, containing in itself all the ancient violence directed upon its flesh. But for Tripaldi the moon also has a mask, whose removal is but the hunter’s foolish and blasphemous quest to domesticate the divine feminine. It is presumed that behind the face of the moon lies a lost harmony, but we have no certainty that its true face is any better than the mask we have built for her. Sacrilege and unknowability interplay in an interesting way here. God in Christian terms is not only unknowable but the attempt to comprehend him, let alone imitate him, is a sin. Knowledge is in Christian terms the blasphemy and disobedience that overturns everything, because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in so doing they began their link to the realm of the gods, and so they were exiled from the garden, punished with the burden of original sin, and plagued further still by the apparition of their redemption in the form of Jesus Christ. If what hides behind the mask is no harmony, then what is it? No doubt a representation of raw entropy, or the death that is at once ineffable life. Might the blasphemy of discovery thus force us to confront the truth that lay beyond? Might the piety to the contrary only promote ignorace?
Still not finished, Tripaldi turns us next to the subject of Paolo Gorini, an Italian scientist whose legacy is commemorated in a square outside the University of Milan. He was also an embalmer, and was known as “the petrifier” for his experiments in mummification and preserving corpses. Gorini also found himself coming up against the Catholic Church for advocating the return of cremation to common practice for disposing of the dead. In the context of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy), Gorini was going against traditional authority in a time of radical political and social change. At this time, positivist rationalism and new natural sciences were an axis of resistance against the obscurantism of traditional religious authority, and secret societies worked towards a new future governed by enlightened ideals, while in northern Italy that very struggle was fought over the bodies of the dead, and its traces are left in the necropolises. Gorini rationalized his interest in the preservation and destruction of human bodies through his horror at their decomposition after burial. He believed that what happened to buried bodies was worse than if they were simply left on the ground, and that burial would be unequivocably left behind as soon as anything less cruel was introduced. To that end, Gorini turned to two practices from two ancient civilizations. On the one hand, the ancient Egyptians petrified and mummified corpses to preserve the body for what was believed to be its resurrection; on the other hand, the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced cremation, burning the bodies of the dead and thereby hastening their decay. Either proposal, Tripaldi notes, amounted to the “mineralisation” of the body: whether petrification or combustion, the dead body is turned into a new form of matter.
In all truth, this is a rather strange interjection. It’s not quite clear how this discourse connects to the rest of Tripaldi’s discussion of the divine feminine in the context of her heterodox interpretation of Kabbalah. There is a discourse present in the treatment of the body as an alchemical matter, and Gorini deriving his ideas about cremation from his research into plutonic liquid, and its ostensible Hermetic significance. Plutonic liquid is the name of a mysterious liquid that Gorini thought created volcanoes and mountain ranges when made solid. Tripaldi opens the suggestion that Gorini was a magician, for which there is scant basis both within this essay and certainly without, but in any case his cause to preserve the human body or at least save it from burial is seen by Tripaldi as a magical quest to stop or reverse time. As if a “Promethean” challenge to the disintegration of matter, or, through the words of Elemire Zolla, a form of alchemy similar to the transmutation of metal into gold. And, in the face of defeat, Gorini chose cremation; for Tripaldi, this meant a last stand against time in which his body “decapitated” time by returning to an original state. But as fascinating as it may be to take this view of cremation and alchemy as a plunge into immolation over surrender to time, I am still unsure of how it pertains to the whole essay. Unless, perhaps the “petrifying gaze of eternity in the eyes of a severed head” is none other than the face behind the mask of the moon that Tripaldi discussed. Is that what we, like the example of Actaeon, are counselled to never reveal to ourselves? Would it destroy us so?
The last relevant section of this essay returns us to the subject of the Virgin Mary, or rather one of her names: Stella Maris, meaning “star of the sea”. This name is meant denote her as watching over sailors or seafarers, thus linking her to the light of the North Star. The name’s origin seems to be a transcription error upon the original Latin name Stilla Maris, meaning “drop of the sea”, as translated by Jerome from the Hebrew name Maryam. Now, what is the meaning of all this? It would seem to establish a connection between the Virgin Mary and the depths of the ocean, which must seem very unusual compared to her conventional association with the heavens. From this we’re then introduced to Thalassa, a book written by the psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi. Ferenczi’s apparent aim was to establish a scientific basis for a psychological link between motherhood and the ocean and the broader view that all life is based on return to the womb. The fact that Thalassa is almost exactly a century old (having been written in 1924) leaves us with the suggestion that we should not take the “science” strictly at face value. Incidentally, though, the name Thalassa, which is the Greek word for “sea”, resonates with the name Thalatte, the Hellenistic name for the Babylonian Tiamat – certainly a meaningful coincidence given the overall centrality of Tiamat throughout Revolutionary Demonology and particularly in Tripaldi’s essays. Anyways, Ferenczi’s thesis is based on a theory he called “thalassal regression”: the idea of a latent drive to return to a long-lost aquatic mode of existence, which he thought continued to operate in genitality. Within this theory, it’s not the ocean that symbolises the womb but rather the womb that reminds us of the ocean, from which our distant mammalian ancestors emerged.
Trauma seems to be the main fixation of Tripaldi’s exploration of Ferenczi’s Lamarckian psychoanalysis. Human beings here are like living fossils that bear in their bodies evidence of eons of geological trauma created by ancient catastrophes visited upon our evolutionary ancestors, like the drying up of the primordial ocean. Birth is presented as a trauma that repeats the trauma of life emerging from the sea, and sexual intercourse is presented as means of regression, fulfilling a desire to return to the ocean. It’s not hard to see how the analogy to the womb comes into play, but it also almost feels like the ocean is like a center-point from which life plunges and to which, even as it crawls to the surface, it remains chained, and thus must at some point plunge back. I assure you, it’s not obvious what’s so centrifugal about this diagram of origination and return. The main insight that Tripaldi derives from Thalassa is in the idea that inhuman, geological, catastrophic forces mold individual subjectivity in the context of a catastrophic cosmogony of separation that positions the human being as the ultimate recepticle of cosmic suffering. Our drive to emerge from the abyss is framed thus as a catastrophic urge for separation, rather than a creative act. The strange thing about this idea, though, is that Tripaldi has spent pages of her illuminating separation and exile as fundamental to the creation of the world in the Kabbalistic context of the manifestation of God’s light. In this setting, you cannot just uncouple separation from creation. Nonetheless, evolution is presented by Tripaldi through Ferenczi not as a rise to the top of some natural order but a continuous propagation of traumas that in turn always motivates the desire for regression. After this, the essay ends with a lamentation of everything plunging into darkness, paging the cry of Angela of Foligno: “my son, my son, do not abandon me, my son!”. Perhaps for Tripaldi this is also Tiamat crying out for her myriad offspring, her own flesh and blood separated from her body, hung on the cross of creation. Now that I think about it, a more Christianized metaphor for the myth of Tiamat there isn’t.
So what emerges from all this? We see a particular interpretation of Kabbalah through the theme of cosmogonic separation and exile that is then taken through the theme of primordial agony and manifests as a metaphysics of a catastrophic divine feminine. This divine feminine is multifaceted: in many ways a reification of the perceived wound of our separation from an original state of non-creation, but also a reflection of the death and entropy that underlies the whole basis of life itself, albeit more so the violence of creation. It is obvious that the multitudinous divine feminine is still supposed to be Tiamat, but perhaps it is also Babalon, the exposed and bleeding heart of the Virgin Mary, the virginal divinity of Artemis and Diana, the petrifying gaze of Medusa, and the ocean itself. It is still curious that eight out of the nine goddesses of the seal of Gruppo Di Nun (namely Ammit, Nammu, Kauket, Hushbishag, Nungal, Sekhmet, Uadjet, and Ishtar), while only Tiamat seems to be discussed anywhere at all. In any case, this is the complex of feminine mystery that Tripaldi proposes alignment with as an occult axis against the patriarchy, and which, in Tripaldi’s occult schema, is the hidden machinery of Kabbalah meant to rise up and take the head from the Tree of Life.
One does wonder, though, to what end? Perhaps it can be connected to Kulesko’s discourse of the shattering of the world which then facilitates endless creation, thus to sever the Tree of Life and shatter the Image of the World would mean to open up the space for endless horizons of new creation. Yet, I doubt this is the throughline we get from Tripaldi. Instead it seems more like this is to fulfill a different kind of death drive, that the divine feminine might resolve the agony of separation by constricting around the whole machinery of Kabbalah and initiating an ecstatic regression towards the ocean of Nun (which, we might be assured, is not an alternative Centre from which we have still fallen). In Tripaldi’s premise, creation is a violence that leaves a wound at the heart of the universe, of matter itself, and, if that pain has any means of resolution, regression to the ocean, which is here the drive towards dissolution, is that resolution. But if life inexorably carved itself out, would it not do so again? If so, then I wonder, what is the point? And, I suppose the question arises that if we had any awareness of the pain of the world and of our own desire for regression, and if dissolution was the love that fulfilled it, then if we really wanted to go back to the ocean we could just die. Yet we choose to live for as long as we can.
Italian Southern Gothic (The Third Nigredo)
Our third discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Solarisation”, written by Valerio Mattioli. It is a rich exploration of the distorting power of the sun, and the alchemical cipher of the black sun, which is to be understood as a symbol of the process of nigredo, as situated in a tour of multiple distinct contours of modern Italian culture (or perhaps counter-culture). From Italian neorealist cinema, to giallo movies, to underground music, this scene is also explored in terms of an occult context of a land bathed in the sun’s light, and in my view provides valuable context for solar mythology relevant to the Left Hand Path. I have already discussed this particular essay in a separate article about the solar myth of Satan, which I propose as a central locus of Satanism that makes Satanism what it is (and, in turn, makes us Satanists what we are), with particular attention paid to Mattioli’s discussion of solarisation in relation to the subject of inversion and blasphemy. As such, I may attempt to minimize anything that risks repeating ground that I already trod last month. But a much broader exploration of the whole of the essay can be taken up in the scope of this article, and within this scope it would be my pleasure to give focus to Mattioli’s psychogeographical exploration of the occult landscape of Italy.
We are first introduced to Minor White, an American photographer known for his Surrealist pieces that employ the effect of solarisation: that is, a process of overexposure that both darkens and inverts the colour of an image. The monochromatic Oregon landscape of White’s “Black Sun”, made in 1955, is almost literally a textbook example of the technique of solarisation. It almost seems to reveal another world, as if hidden within this one, equal and opposite to it. For Mattioli, it’s as if that’s the point: to investigate and peer into a subconscious world parallel to our own. Photography was invented so as to produce images as mirrors of the real world around us, but ironically enough it was ostensibly first used to try and capture spectral presences (like ghosts or ectoplasms), and the camera filter, when activated properly, can invert photographs in ways that overturn the principles of empiral experience. Already, we see that humans by way of technical creativity can invert the world around them, revealing an other world and creating new worlds. What was meant as a tool to rationally document the world brought life to irrational worlds. Thus, through photography we begin to examine our subject of solar myth. The sun illuminates the world around us with its light, which to us should mean more reality accessible to us. But instead, more sunlight has the counterintuitve effect of distortion: solarisation means an exposure that exposes an “incorrect” truth. The solar disk turns black, the sky becomes milky, and all values change places. Thus, more sun does not mean more reality, but instead an inversion of reality. That observation has important implications that I intend to explore (or rather revisit), but suffice it to say for now that solarisation and sunshine appear magical a the fundamental sense: they change the world around them and overturn everything.
The black sun of alchemy, not to be confused with the other so-called “black sun” of neo-Nazism, enters into this in that solarisation is itself likened to nigredo. In alchemy, nigredo denotes the process of putrefaction in which matter is reduced to primordial chaos, the initial stage of the Great Work in which matter can begin to be transfigured into the perfection and immortality represented in the philosopher’s stone. For Mattioli, solarisation represents a kind of mechanical nigredo that explodes the sun’s light so as to translate it into what appears to be its opposite, and thus shatters the confines of the phenomenal world to reveal the invisible, unnameable, and the unknowable locked beneath it. To Mattioli this reveals primordial chaos in the form of an uninhabitable planet, and that it is revealed through a mechanical filter is to him all the more befitting of the inhumanity of the dimension that solarisation reveals, represented by the darkness of the black sun itself. But while it might be revealed through technique, it can only be known by occult means, by recourse to witchcraft and similar practices. Our sun ultimately emerges from that same world. The nigredo of solar myth can be interpreted along the lines of an active inversion, a blasphemy that will be made clear as we explore further. For Mattioli it is perhaps and abdication on the part of the alchemist’s self. But for the Satanist, this nigredo is the Fall re-enacted, a conscious inversion undertaken to reshape the world around you. There’s a sense in which solarisation here is a lot like Walter Benjamin’s concept of profane illumination: a non-contemplative materialist consciousness meant to allow the revolutionary subject to decode the superstructure of bourgeois society, destroy its field of reification and interact in full free consciousness with conditions as they really are. Or the way Henri Lefebvre described the mission of Surrealism as 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”. Yes, perhaps solarisation actually denotes an active principle of surreality, bending the world so as to reveal it.
An ancient folk belief (or perhaps superstition), illuminated by a quote from Giacomo Leopardi at the start of the essay, hangs in the background of this exploration. In Italy and other Mediterranean lands, people believed that the spirits of the dead would appear at noon and disturb the living. For this reason, Leopardi said, classical authors would warn shepherds against going to places like Pallene or Phlegra, the latter thought to house the bones of giants, at noon. At midday, when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the world of the dead crossed with the world of the living, and the demons of the underworld appeared in the world above. Similar beliefs seem to appear in other cultures. In East European countries, a demon named Lady Midday (known in Poland as Południca) was believed to appear at the hottest time of noon, attack people in the fields, and occasionally ask them questions or challenge them to a dance. The Book of Psalms refers to a “destruction that despoils at midday”, which over time was translated through Jerome as the “daemonium meridianum”, or “Meridian Demon”. In Jewish demonology, a plague demon called Keteb was believed to be most powerful in the midsummer season and during the mid-day, and was also called Keteb Meririm. According to Cornelius Agrippa, Meririm was the name of the “Meridian Devil”, which he believed was the power of the air that worked in the children of disobedience. It’s often thought that these spirits were folk representations of the phenomenon of sunstroke, but the “daemonium meridianum” was also taken as a form of melancholy, depression, or rather a condition known as acedia (meaning basically listlessness or lack of care). Incidentally, acedia is also the Latin word given to the “deadly sin” of sloth. The irony, of course, is that we also use words like “sunny” to refer to the exact opposite conditions: happiness, joy, vibrancy etc., no doubt communicating a sense of life felt from the sun’s presence, which we in turn stereotypically associate with the peoples of the Mediterranean Basin. Or perhaps this all a cipher for a daemonic life, the vivifying light of an inner darkness that is the soul of this world, a soul that can be unlocked through solarisation.
For Mattioli, the sun is an altogether different presence from the optimistic light we perceive culturally. Per Antonin Artaud, it is a messenger of the breath of chaos, and Mattioli believes this communicates a perverse reality intuited by gothic fiction, whose classics were set in Mediterranean lands. For example, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, often considered the very first gothic novel, is set in a guilt-ridden Otranto, located in southern Italy, and Walpole claimed that he based it on what was originally an Italian manuscript, supposedly written in Naples in 1529. Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk casts its decadent story in Spain, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya is set in Venice, and need we say anything about Ann Radcliffe’s novels? In many ways this tendency reflected a mix of revulsion and fascination for an irrational outside within the Enlightenmentarian English psyche. But to really venture into a world where the sun doesn’t shine, we are to touch on a genre referred to as Italian Southern Gothic.
Italian Southern Gothic is the name given to a very broad cultural exploration of the macabre, the decadent, and the occult as running through the Mezzogiorno (as in, southern Italy). Italian Southern Gothic as we know it begins in 1954, when Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist, visited Italy. Alongside his colleague Diego Carpitella, he travelled across the south to places such as Liguria and Carrara in order to study the sounds and culture of the region. It was also at this time that the modernization of Italy was about to begin in earnest, as Italy’s “economic miracle” was set to transform Italy into a modern industrial nation in its own right alongside its European peers. This of course was to see older, archaic communities obscured beneath the new highways built for the rat race of modern consumer capitalism. But it was just the arcane world beneath that Lomax was to find, and while he still could: a wild, transgressive, immoral world, unlike the quaint image of Italian folk culture. Wild and uncanny sounds portrayed a world of sexual mania, irrationality, demonic fantasy, inexplicable fear, mind-shattering guilt, and archaic religious and ritual practices that go back centuries in time. This all led to the development of a “New Hypothesis” wherein southern Italy was to be understood as a clash between the human body, its surrounding social context, and memory. It also not only disturbed Lomax himself but also apparently horrified some of the Italian cultural intelligentsia, as I’m sure the dark side of life so often does.
Lomax was not alone in searching this arcane world. Ernesto De Martino, an Italian anthropologist, wrote essays and studies that elaborated a geography of sinister tales of decadence and even abuse interspersed with arcane religious rites and magical formulas. De Martino thus, for Mattioli, embodies a solarisation that unravelled a world of meridian demons and blind divinities just as Lomax unravelled the lost world of Mezzogiorno. This solarisation is indeed an unparalleled exercise in profane illumination. Further, I find myself imagining a perverse form of Terrence McKenna’s “Archaic Revival”, one where unlocking the liberationist values of a distant past means unlocking the sinister underbelly of the present. Italian Southern Gothic is in this sense a mechanism of solarisation whose hyperrealist gaze allows us to discover truly archaic contents that animate or lurk beneath the world we live in. It may indeed open up mystical and esoteric praxis that enhances the Left Hand Path in its access to the true ground of being, as if the substance of innate enlightenment (here I am admittedly invoking Bernard Faure’s image of Daikokuten within esoteric Tendai Buddhism).
The theme of hyperreality turns us toward a genre of film that, in its late years, seemed to draw inspiration from the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino. Enter, Italian Neorealism. The term “neorealism” refers to a gritty and almost documentary form of cinema that emerged in the middle of the 1940s and focused on depicting the realities of life in post-World War II Italy. Directors such as Luigi Di Gianni, Roberto Rossellini, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Vittorio De Sica, Cecilia Mangini, and Federico Fellini all sought to bring to focus a society exhausted by poverty as it struggled in the beginning of life after Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. The point was to portray the real conditions of contemporary Italian society just as they were, right down to its worst aspects, without any artifice, metaphor, symbolism, or dreamlike flourish. For this, neorealism is typically recognised as a form of documentary denunciation rather than an expression of Italian Southern Gothic. But, for Mattioli, this impression is not complete, and merely reflects a more polite repression of a latent arcane world, one befitting the emerging reign of rational modernity.
To illustrate what Mattioli sees as a practical interplay between hyperrealism and demonic solarisation, we are referred to the novel Conversations in Sicily, written by Elio Vittorini in 1941. In the novel, Vittorini apparently lets his documentary narrative of Sicilian life subtly move towards oneiricism. Perhaps the better example might be Carlo Levi’s memoir, Christ Stopped At Eboli, which is a reflection of Levi’s life and travels as a political exile in southern Italy that is apparently nonetheless populated with witches, cemeteries, drunken priests, and invisble brigands, who all form the image of a land where time has stopped and neither reason and history have a place, all inaugurated by a solar eclipse. More than that, however, it is in neorealism we see a perverse magic to solar inversion. The example we are presented with is a short documentary film titled Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Notes On A News Story), directed by Luchino Visconti in 1951, which focuses on the story of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 12-year old Annarella Bracci in the Primavelle district, which was probably one of the most notorious crimes of the day. The film depicts the sunlit outskirts of Rome in the throes of its worst nightmares, almost morphing before our eyes into a desert where human and non-human garbage is tossed aside, and a road in the final shot connecting the Primavelle flats to a sky that seems like an omen of damnation. The inertia and salvation of the golden city seems like an inferno, and thus, in Mattioli’s words, Hell lies in the celestial vaults. Mattioli treats this as an iconic representation of solar inversion. That very solar inversion also strikes a chord with Satanic inversion: after all, if heaven is hell, is hell not heaven, and is God not thus the ultimate villain of his own cosmic drama? Though, for Mattioli, the relevant aesthetic fulfillment of solar inversion for the old neorealism is in its slow rhythm, its narratives of abject fatigue and social nightmares, lack of colour, and above all the fact that these films were typically filmed on long summer days and shot in the open air, altogether conveying the acid of excessive sunlight.
The transition from black and white films to colour films also meant a transition from neorealism to “post-neorealism”, and the qualities of neorealism passing into two iconic Italian cult movie genres: spaghetti westerns and giallo movies. Spaghetti westerns were Italian movies set in the “American West”, or rather the picture of an American West filled with stylized violence and revolving around the bleak stories of rugged, often silent protagonists. Giallo movies were essentially horror-thriller or murder mystery movies that were also known for their wild eroticism, madness, violent gratuity to the point that they can be called “slashers”, and, often enough, a flair for esotericism, supernatural horror, and even psychedelia. Their bright colours manage to subtly invoke the weight of the Mediterranean sun, but they also still seem to lead back to a kind of meridian nigredo. But from there we come an odd but insightful discussion of a principle of solarisation that is also descriptive of the magical principle of solar myth: the whiteout. Here, Mattioli is talking about what he calls the “Mediterranean whiteout”. This is a phenomenon where, when the sun is its at brightest, its light seems to turn the whole field of vision into a vast white expanse, leading a blindness bound in the liquification of existence. For Mattioli, the cinematic genius of the whiteout is none other than Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose movies seem to activate inverting properties of solarisation and the amplifying the properties of the principle of neorealist cinema: the need to know and modify reality. Mattioli then positions this need as a magical gesture, an expression of Aleister Crowley’s definition of magic as “the Science and Art of causing changes in conformity with the Will”. Thus magic itself expresses the quality of solarisation.
Here, we can briefly revist the solar myth of Aleister Crowley. As Cavan McLaughlin observed in his essay The Dark Side of the Sun, Crowley’s own life was a solar myth supported by his own magical will. He was born as Alexander Edward Crowley, dubbed himself Aleister Crowley as an act of magical self-authorship, and in 1930 he even faked his own death by suicide by spreading false information and producing a fake suicide note, only to then re-emerge alive and well in Berlin. Crowley in a sense distorted the boundary between fiction and realtiy, solarising the world around him and creating a new one. The property of solar myth consists in the interpretation of the need to know and modify the world as the desire to overturn everything, changing it in accordance with will. Neorealism was received as a documentary denunciation, and welcomed with the moral ends of humanism. But in Crowleyan terms, the need to know and modify the world is an amoral desire, from which begins an amoral quest. McLaughlin again illuminates this, in that, if every man and every woman truly is a star, then the magical quest for transcendence or doing what thou wilt has the potential to “make monsters of us all”. But then if life per Schopenhauerian terms life is kind of monstrous, and we are all thus monsters for participating in it, then, in Nietzschean terms, we cannot really cower from it. Thus is the starting point of Crowleyan solar heroism as its own solarisation: every man and woman is a star, meaning that they are Suns, in that they are at the center of their own magical universe, and their light may shine down on the world, transforming it entirely, overturning everything in the process.
Mattioli presents the cinematic career of Pier Paolo Pasolini as a kind of journey of initiatory journey of solarisation. This journey begins with Accattone, where Pasolini seems to turn Rome, the “Eternal City”, into a phantasmagorical sea of light marked by a stark contrast of white and black, whose geometries come to take a surreal and tenebrous quality associated with the city of R’lyeh in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. The journey ends in Salo, Pasolini’s adaptation of The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, whose reputed unwatchability and brutality would seem to coincide with the similar unwatchability of the noonday sun. Mattioli connects the “death and terror” of Salo to Georges Bataille’s description of Mount Vesuvius as a “filthy parod of the blindingly hot sun”, and then, to a different parody: the anus. For Bataille, volcanoes are like the asshole of a world that eats nothing, and constantly spew out its contents. Mattioli then links that theme to Salo as the sum of the link between the sun and the asshole, both at least figuratively impossible to lay eyes on, then we are brought to the magical property of anal sex. Seemingly an inversion of the function of procreation and the mandate of the sun to illuminate the world, anal sex is here positioned as an instrument of reconciliation with the arcane world parallel to ours, revelaed by the light of a black sun, and in a way that echoes Austin Osman Spare’s concept of “new sexuality”. For Spare, this meant accessing the innermost layers of the psyche through “unnatural” sexual acts in order to trigger the awakening of primordial states of the subconscious mind, which he called “atavistic resurgence”. Kenneth Grant described this as a process by which Spare visted fantastical cities constructed of lines and angles that seemed unlike anything on Earth. Mattioli relates this to the lost city of R’lyeh in Lovecraft’s work and Pasolini’s treatment of the city of Rome in Accattone. It’s fairly interesting that in this essay Chaos Magick (or at least as anticipated by Spare) seems to align with the aims that Mattioli and the Gruppo Di Nun at large present while in the previous essay the entire tradition of Chaos Magick is portrayed as part of the “Western iniatic tradition” on the basis of a single passage from Liber Null.
But, from here, we come to an aspect of Pasolini’s solarisation that I find rich with Satanic significance: the assassination of Pier Paolo Pasolini on the beaches of Ostia. The very name Ostia clues us in on the nature of solar inversion: simply put, it overturns everything. It simultaneously references the holy communion wafer of Catholic liturgy and the hidden blasphemy of the solar disc. The name Ostia relates to the Latin words “hostia”, meaning “victim”, and “hostis”, meaning “adversary”: the former can be seen as Jesus, the divine victim central to Christianity, and the latter as Satan, the Adversary himself. Yet, it also actually comes from the Latin word “ostium”, meaning “mouth”, as in the mouth of a river. A mouth where water and shit exit the metropolis of Rome: the anus of the city. But it is also the Mithraic solar disc trapped inside the Christian host, and thus the secret of blasphemy. Every mockery and desecration of the cross, every carnal gratification for its own sake, kink, queering, disinhibition, insurrection, all sure the same magic as solar inversion, and the monstrous duality of solar mystery, and in turn solar myth. In Satanic terms, this is the creative act of blasphemy, the creative act of “Satan’s Fall”, the primordial insurrection, the a rebours (reversal) that is central to Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s understanding of Satanism. Without surrender or abdication, we penetrate the world with our own solar rays, as we partake in a defiant Satanic nigredo that is disinhibition and solarisation. The Ostia described by Mattioli is perhaps its own psychogeography of blasphemy, its own example of satanic solar inversion, as the place where, as he put it, the hierarchies of the city of Rome are upended.
What Pasolini brought to life in his work was an alternate city of Rome. In ancient Roman myth and tradition this city had a name: Remoria. Remoria was the mythical city that was to be founded by Remus, the twin brother of Romulus. The traditional myth goes that, when Romulus and Remus had finished restoring their grandfather as king of Alba, the two brothers set out to found a city of their own, but they argued bitterly over where the city should be built, and eventually Remus was killed while Romulus established Rome as we know it. Remoria can thus be seen as an image of what Rome could have been. All this also sits beneath a dark sun, or rather a solar eclipse. According to Plutarch, Remus was killed by Romulus during what happened to be a solar eclipse. For Mattioli this invites us to look beyond the sun to another world.
But what does that other world look like? Mattioli says that Romulus, as the founder of Rome, seemed to establish the civilizational archetype of “the West”, with its emphasis on a vertical ideology of hierarchy, order, and discipline, constructed atop a square city of continuous conquest and production what is, with no tolerance for waste. Remoria, in this picture, would seem to be a chaotic and circular city of expenditure and sacrifice of what never was, a spectral twin city born dead, welcoming the waste of the world and reflecting the irrational qualities attributed to Remus. Yet this Remoria exists within Rome itself: the senseless and chaotic suburbs that are connected to Rome by the anal symbol of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, which seems to mimic the circumference of a volcanic crater and form a solar disc on the ground. In this way, it would seem that the other world is always lying beneath the surface of this one, seemingly inseparable from this world. If Mattioli is to be believed, there are urban legends surrounding the Grande Raccordo Anulare that position it as some kind of magic seal, which if we take them for granted would perhaps literally make it an occult ideogram planted in Rome. This, the hidden structure of an arcane world is there, waiting to be unravelled by the solar will of a magician looking to unleash the darkness of the world.
Delving deeper into the Italian underground we start to explore what Mattioli figures as the sound of Remoria. This begins with Italian techno music, focusing on the album Muta, which was released by Leo Anibaldi in 1993. Muta seems to be unique among techno records in that techno as a genre seems to inaugurate a cybernetic age, but Muta does not, apparently sounding a little too much like old giallo soundtracks to have that feel. But then, from Mattioli’s description, Rome at this time was still hardly a cybernetic city; in fact, he claims that Rome was never even a punk city. By the turn of the 1970s and 80s, the most prevalent subculture among the young working class of Rome was goth subculture (which, incidentally, centres around a music genre that spun off from punk), which celebrated the night, the long sunless winters, and tanless flesh. This apparently has nothing to do with the old gothic novels frequently being set in Italy. More fitting the scene seems to be the disc of death celebrated by Coil on their album Scatology. But Leo Anibaldi’s work is also positioned in what Mattioli calls a “dark continuum”, which apparently begins with a band named Goblin.
Goblin was an Italian progressive rock band formed in 1972 by Claudio Simonetti, the same Claudio Simonetti who went on to compose soundtracks for several Italian horror movies. In fact, Goblin made music for numerous films directed by Dario Argento, including Suspiria,Deep Red, and Phenomena to name just a few. But, at the end of the 1970s, Claudio Simonetti became a disco producer and got involved in a number of disco bands. Local DJs around this time played alongside Simonetti before eventually moving on from Italo disco to house, and then new DJs would discover techno and develop a new “Sound of Rome”. Then, as the 1990s progressed and rave parties became the new scene, amidst the electronic decadence of drugs and esotericism emerged a rap group called TruceKlan, which brought Anibaldi’s brand of techno together with Satanism and the legacy of neorealism and giallo movies into their own distinct sound. Although they remained obscure everywhere else, they apparently had a major impact in Rome, and into the 2010s one of TruceKlan’s producers went on to create a trap collective called Dark Polo Gang. Thus is Mattioli’s dark continuum, running from the morbid legacy of giallo movies to a new kind of depressive dark trap music.
That dark continuum seems in itself to be an expression of Italian Southern Gothic, in that we behold a hidden world of decadence beneath the surface of the golden city, locked inside, per Visconti’s description, the inertia and salvation. Hell continues to lie inside the celestial vaults. Celebrations of anal sex and roundabouts around the GRA form a kind of modern Witches’ Sabbath. The myth of the Witches’ Sabbath resonates in the rave parties due to their character as an ecstatic, transgressive, and “illicit” counterculture, but also in a commitment to inverting their surroundings, revealing the symbol of the world turned upside down. Again we see an avenue for Satanism. For Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the myth of the Witches’ Sabbath corresponded to a ritual manifestation of a Satanic-Nietzschean transvaluation of values, an event whose orgies, dances, and sacrifices culminate in a dissolution of reality and/or the sensorium into an endless night in which Satan appears. This inversion sees flesh and its instincts triumph over law and the social order, desire exceeds itself by its fulfillment in communion with Satan, and sin itself, along with holiness, and all good and evil, dissolve into nothingness. Only joy and desire remain: wealth, God, morality, the pursuit of power, all of these are worthless before this raw revolt of flesh, and they melt before Satan’s inner world as revealed by the frenzy of the Witches’ Sabbath. In the case of the Italian underground, their frenzy, their artifical rhythms, synthetic drugs, samples, and autotune all reveal an inhuman, inorganic world, the image of a dead planet. For Italian Southern Gothic at large, in the work of Alan Lomax the frenzy of the songs and screams he recorded were a revelation of a spectral world seemingly populated by the living dead. But these all point to an axis that reveals disinhibition as a solarising act that unravels an arcane world, that is at once the ground of this world. It is as if ecstasy as a means of revelation, and yet that ecstasy is not the suffering of Teresa of Avila. No, for Satanism it is a joy and triumph that destroys all else.
Finally, we revist the legacy of giallo movies through one film in particular that Mattioli deems archetypical for the genre. Directed by Giulio Questi in 1972, Arcana is a film that depicts a widow named Ms. Tarantino and her son living in Milan, having moved there from the south, and practicing spiritualism and magic. Ms. Tarantino makes money by performing seances with the aid of her secret magical knowledge, while her son somehow forces her to teach him said magical arts so that he can use them to cause panic wherever he goes and however he pleases. At the background of the film seems to be an unresolved tension between a fully modern and industrial Milan on the one hand and a still very much occult south on the other hand. Questi apparently performs a cinematic whiteout to depict the south in overexposed but dark images to convey its constant presence in the past. But Milan contains its own darkness. Its underground construction sites almost seem home to ancient chthonic powers and irrationality, while conveying assemblies of men amputated in their work. Even though Arcana is a film that centers occult themes, for Mattioli it is fundamentally a realist movie, in that it also centres an emigration from southern Italy to the north that has been depopulating the south since World War II. Modern, “enlightened” Milan sits ensconsed in the comforts of Capital, while sinking its bowels into an underworld of construction sites and curses. That underworld is a negative of Milan itself, a kind of negative that every city contains witin itself, a double that pushes for the inversion of the city we know, and it which is thus a force of solarisation. From there Milan upends itself from within, as in the Covid-19 pandemic, for Mattioli, unravels the truth of the disk of death: that there is no consumption without waste, no nourishment without excrement, and that there is always an asshole somewhere. But another inversion took place: Milan, which previously saw continous emigration from the south, was abandoned by those some southerners seeking refuge in their motherlands, and became one big ghost town. Within Italy, that flight was portrayed as a betrayal by southerners of the city that welcomed them, but for Mattioli it was just the city consuming and then execrating a mass of labour, and thus having suceeded in its mission as the machinery of Capital.
From this final psychogeographic revelation we turn our heads to the sky once more, to see the Medierreanean sun burn and evaporate everything one last time, and behold Lucifer shining in the sky. The Canicola that conludes Mattoli’s essay tells us of a Sun that, from 150,000,000 kilometres above our planet’s surface, evaporates all shadows, and melts all knowledge, desertifies the earth, and whose fire is the very fire of hell itself. Mattioli in this sense portrays light and darkness as ultimately the same; hell lies and the celestial vaults, but hell is heaven and heaven is hell. Too much light actually means too much darkness rather than more illumination, and for this reason Lucifer, the light-bringer, is in truth a master of shadows. The connection between Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star himself, and the sun almost seems like an echo of Charles Leland’s Lucifer (or Lucifero), who was cast in Aradia as a sun god, similar to the Greek and Roman god Apollo. In any case the sun stands as the source of life, death, and the life of death, and the principle of delusions, abnormalities, and all abysses of the human psyche. Mattioli’s sun almost seems to take on the principles of the God of Christian negative theology, who is “dark” in the sense that God is “dark” precisely because he exists as a superabundance of light, which would naturally blind human consciousness. But, on the other hand, this sun might just as well be the “Father of Lies”, the Devil, on the same terms. Either way, it is the light of the sun overturning everything in a surreal field of vision, that surreality being nothing but creation, and new creation. By this understanding God would be one more magician, and Satan in this schema would just happen to reject God’s particular design.
Without reprising the entirety of my previous article on solarisation, we can summarize the primary takeaway. The exploration of Italian Southern Gothic (which I believe I would like to continue on its own in a future article) is a valuable illustration of a particular kind of gnostic katabasis and magical gesture, whereby one “descends” into hidden structures or membranes of the world so as to become fully aware of the world in a way that is only possible through its darkness. Yet it is solar inversion in particular that poses a problem for Gruppo Di Nun’s critique of Satanism, at least in the sense that I, within my previous article alone, am able to elaborate ways in which the discourse of solarisation aligns with and even enhances some conception of Satanism. Granted, much hinges on a matter of perspective. If, after all, what primarily matters is some sense of “abdication” to the other world, then Satanism at large would still not align with that. But if what counts is the illustration of blasphemy as a magical act, by which the will may make change occur through solar inversion, then it is actually somewhat easily to develop a Satanic understanding of what Mattioli means to convey. Satan is insurrection, Satan is the sun at the heart of the world, the primordial engine of overturning everything: The Adversary.
Masochism As Gnosis (The Fourth Nigredo)
Our fourth discussion of nigredo is revolves around the essay “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, written by Enrico Monacelli. This essay is Enrico Monacelli’s elaboration of masochism not only as a principle of inverted wisdom but the absolute fundamental principle of the overall philosophy put forward by Gruppo Di Nun as a whole. I believe it is here that again move closer and closer to the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s answer to life. “Solarisation”, in Gruppo Di Nun’s schema, would serve as the revelation of a world whose tongue invites its visitors to become vessels of its transmission. “Mater Dolorosa” in a certain sense prepares the centrality of masochism by positioning suffering as its own goal and the mechanism of revelation. Yet “Solarisation” and “Cultivating Darkness” present alchemical avenues that, as I have shown, can still lead to an alternative to masochistic mysticism. “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, in this sense, is different, in that its philosophical pessimism lacks these avenues of subversion, and hinges entirely on ontological masochism. What is also central to Monacelli’s essay and the masochistic ontology he presents is a dialogue around the fearful encounter of Julius Evola, one of the foremost philosophers of traditionalism and 20th century fascism, and Carlo Michelstaedter, arguably one of the most formidable philosophical pessimists of the 20th century. This dialogue serves as a way to dissect Evola’s system of esoteric fascism as a response to Michelstaedter’s philosopher, so as to contrast it with Monacelli’s philosophy of masochism, with the aim of presenting this masochism as the diametric opposite of esoteric fascism and the ultimate means of breaking the spiral of fascism. Such a discourse cuts right into Gruppo Di Nun’s particular strategy of inversion, reflected in the namesake being a subversion of Julius Evola’s Gruppo Di Ur, and therefore allows us to cut deeper into its conceits.
We can, to start with, skip the first seven pages of Monacelli’s essay insofar as they largely recapitulate the psychogeographical exploration carried out by Valerio Mattioli in the previous essay. Instead, I think it is more pertinent to move straight on to his discussion of masochism. And even there, it is difficult to see if anything valuable could be said of Mattioli’s conceptual denunciations of “healthy sex”, “the abandonment of fetish”, and “the BDSM romantic comedy we find ourselves trapped in”. Monacelli appears to think that modern sexuality consists only of a one bivalent form of sexual deviancy consisting of the servant-master dialectic. I would posit that this is only his own unfamiliarity. He quotes Gilles Deleuze to support this idea and apparently Deleuze thought the very term “sadomasochism” was a construction of psychoanalysis meant to convince us that there is only one form of sexual deviancy. Well, notwithstanding that I might consider some aspect of Monacelli’s writing here to constitute psychoanalysis in itself, and to some extent the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun as a kind of psychoanalytical application, if Deleuze says this then I would maintain that Deleuze is also wrong. Everyone even vaguely familiar with fetishes or pornography knows what kind of fetishes exist which exceed this familiar field, and it is almost safe to assume that no one actually believes that there is just one form of sexual deviance. What exactly is the “servant-master” dialectic of the fecalphiliac, for instance? The assumption of bivalence in regards to fetish or kink is in many ways inherently flawed, and one would think that that a system billing itself as queer occultism should be innately familiar with that. I don’t find it entirely productive to dwell on this subject too long. In the end, Monacelli’s discussion of feitsh is a protracted appeal to taste, and perhaps it’s safe to assume Monacelli just isn’t into BDSM. But what he believes to be a comedy is its own ritual, a ritual that some of us enjoy and live by. In Kulesko’s terms, as long as we’re all just making our own meaning from the black magma of the cosmos, what does it matter what “comedy” by which people fornicate with each other? Kink and taste are what they are, so what matters is the philosophical substance Monacelli intends to propose.
That being said, I suppose we can comment on Monacelli’s discussion of sadism. Monacelli interprets sadism as an annihilating desire to be God’s right hand man, and echoes Deleuze’s opinion that the apogee of sadism is, rather than Marquis De Sade, none other than the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. This perhaps comes solely down to the perception of Spinoza’s philosophy as mechanistic, and sadism as a mechanistic desire. Not really much to work with in this sense, though Deleuze claims this is all to do with sadism supposedly impersonalizing violence with the support of an idea of pure reason. This almost feels like the way Vladimir Lenin and his successors define imperialism into something distinct from imperialism. Deleuze’s “sadism” could as well describe all conventional violence or political violence, which typically de-personalize or even deny violence, justifying it by turning it into reason, whereas sadism simply isn’t sadism without the derivation of pleasure. Indeed, even the most extreme and systematic forms of fascism are justified not by sadistic pleasure but by depersonalization as the hand of fascistic reason. But Monacelli in any case derives from this the idea of sadism as “separative wisdom”, meaning that it divides and lacerates the unity of the world, but for Monacelli it also cuts against and dissolves the self. His description of sadism sort of strikes a chord with Stirner’s concept of devourment, but that’s what makes it all the stranger that he should read it as “self-dissolution”. It seems obvious that, since the masochistic death drive is, in Gruppo Di Nun’s analysis, the centre of all cosmic life, all behaviour must be mapped onto self-dissolution or the desire to surrender. I will say that one can take up a form of self-dissolution as dissolving into apotheosis in the sense that Kulesko’s Dracula, and in turn Hellsing‘s Alucard, embody, it also seems like it’s also, ironically enough, just what Kulesko was counselling us against: to isolate a single desire or aspect of being as the fundamental principle of the universe. That may just be the inherent self-made contradiction for Gruppo Di Nun’s core ethos.
With that, we can move on to the “perverse mysticism” of masochism. Whereas sadism is “separative wisdom”, masochism could be understood as “regressive wisdom”. Masochism, for Monacelli, means to recall our point of origin and enjoy descent and immersion in the terror of infinite night. But already, from the starting point of the masochist as the faithful receiver of the massacre of the cosmos, back through Monacelli’s definition of sadism, it almost seems that, despite the denunciation of the servant-master dialectic in BDSM, Monacelli positions us as part of the one servant-master dialectic that he can accept. If sadism is the amplified wisdom of separation that lacerates the body and the cosmos, and the universe itself is a Landian machine of laceration, then it feels amusing to think that we might be asked to accept a God that separates and to reject any separative wisdom that might be our own. It almost comes back to the idea that God can distort, create, and destroy but we humans cannot. Our place is not to imitate God, only to be constantly solarised, confused, perverted, and destroyed by God. The opposite perspective is the path of Satan, of Lucifer, or Sophia.
It’s worth briefly focusing on what Deleuze tells us about Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Galician Tales. In the beginning of the book, a wanderer condemns Nature as evil, and Nature responds to the wanderer that she does not hate humans, even when she deals death, but is simply cold, severe, and maternal. Deleuze proposes this as a steppe that buries sensuality and sadism and also transmutes desire and cruelty. From another perspective, though, the coldness of Nature is an idea shared by De Sade. For De Sade, Nature is a whole matrix of generation whose basic process depends on destruction and recombination. Death and destruction are the basis of Nature’s ability to create, things die so that Nature can bring new things into being, and matter is continually re-arranged by Nature as it dies. It makes no difference to Nature if a human being were to reincarnate as a centipede. This idea appears frequently in De Sade’s work, often as a device for characters to justify the tortures they inflict. But in this sense, both the sadistic worldview of De Sade and the masochistic worldview of Masoch as an almost cruelly impersonal and necessarily destructive basis for life. The difference is that De Sade’s sadist views themselves as following in Nature’s example, deriving solely from Nature’s power and “law” while perhaps imitating its destructive creativity in their exercise of imagination, per Geoffrey Gorer’s description modifying the external world for the pleasure of doing so, while Masoch’s masochist seems to surrender to this Nature, and this Nature, rather than furnishing the desires of the individual, seems to subsume and change them. Monacelli seems to embrace Masoch’s idea on the basis that it sketches a descent into what he sees as the “geo-traumatic core of sexuality”. It seems here that we have returned to Laura Tripaldi’s ideas about the wound of creation, and by extension to Ferenczi’s psychoanalytical theories.
Perhaps enlighteningly, we see Monacelli’s discussion of masochism venture into Christianity. In fact, he seems to regard masochism as the basis and fulfilment of Christian mysticism and theology. It seems to me like this says something about the nature of Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic outlook. Monacelli here invokes the example of Henry Suso, a German Dominican friar who our author considers to be among the most misunderstood pioneers of mysticism. Suso apparently tortured himself and built instruments of torture for the purpose of understanding the self-torture of God, thus, in this exact sense, almost “imitating” Jesus Christ. Suso’s dialogue with “Eternal Wisdom” seems to show God revealing transcendence as a humiliating immanence that empties desire and everything else. In this exact sense, mysticism for Monacelli means going down into what he takes to be Love, a kind of primordial trauma at the basis of sexuality. Thus, Monacelli’s masochism is a sexuality that abolishes humanity and turns the mystic into a voice for an omniscient, ineffable, unmanifest, and unnameable God, which is thus Monacelli’s representation of the Outside.
It is here that we revisit the problem and contradiction of Gruppo Di Nun’s rejection of Satanism. Gruppo Di Nun interprets the entirety of modern Satanism as a reinterpretation of the “principles of the Right Hand Path”, accuses Satanism of being structurally identical to the religions that it opposes, and asserts that Satanism reproduces Christianity by way of inverting it. But, just like in the case of Laura Tripaldi, we see Enrico Monacelli quite literally reproduce Christianity, quite literally basing his philosophy of masochism on Christian mysticism, literally identifying Gruppo Di Nun’s Outside with the Christian God. Admittedly a most fascinating, if misguided subversion: here, if Satanism is somehow “the Right Hand Path”, then per their terms the “Left Hand Path” at least looks an awful lot like Christianity. In fact one might reckon the notion of cosmic love at the centre of things as a reflection of Christianity. There is certainly a notion of disintegrating love that both Monacelli and Tripaldi trace directly to Christian mysticism. Is it on the back of this substance that Gruppo Di Nun rejects Satanism? In this sense their rejection of Satanism emerges as all the more hypocritical, incoherent, and actually quite farcical. Yet it also seems to echo the old divide of philosophical pessimism: that of Schopenhauer versus Nietzsche. In this sense one cannot help but sense the fulfilment of masochism in Christian mysticism as the consummation of the Nietzschean critique of Christianity, the full circle of the denial of life often typified as the Schopenhauerian response to life.
But from here we move on to the subject of a “terrible Italian affliction”, by which Monacelli means the suicidal gnosis of Carlo Michelstaedter, the illumination of what Monacelli observes as the anti-social pleasure and revelation of suicidal descent. Michelstaedter’s thesis, Persuasion and Rhetoric, is regarded by Gruppo Di Nun as a precursor of the philosophy of entropic cosmic love that they outline at the start of Revolutionary Demonology, which would make it rather central to their core project. Michelstaedter outlined what was, in his view, a radically indifferent universe that consists of a primordial hyperentropic hunger of a will whose end is annihilation. After writing Persuasion and Rhetoric, Michelstaedter committed suicide: an act that some people believe to be the practical culmination of his philosophy. It seems that none other than Julius Evola also almost committed suicide after reading Persuasion and Rhetoric. Apparently it was only by reading a fragment of the Majjhima Nikaya, one of the five Nikaya texts within the canon of Theravada Buddhism, did Evola become persuaded to not kill himself. And then, against annihilating cosmos of Michelstaedter, Evola proposed a fascist metaphysics that he called “Magical Idealism”. Monacelli contrasts this with Michelstaedter’s answer to life, which Monacelli supposes to be an openness to “inorganic desire”, even if means total surrender to the laws of cosmic massacre. Such illustrates the core dichotomy of Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview: the split is between the “Right Hand Path”, defined by idealistic self-fortification of a consciousness trained to rule the world, and the “Left Hand Path”, defined as a mysticism that strives to unveil the true and hideous nature of the world in order to surrender to it. That last part is more operative than anything. Other iterations of the Left Hand Path also share with Gruppo Di Nun the aim of destroying the veil of reality so as to unleash its true nature, in all its darkness, and break down the barriers to your own agency and self-awareness, and, yes, derive power from it. I suppose I could be describing what Monacelli calls “sadistic” worldview. Such a worldview can, as I have hopefully shown thus far (especially in the previous article), draw a perverse sense of strength from many aspects Gruppo Di Nun’s entropic philosophy. But in the overall Gruppo Di Nun’s response is not the “sadistic” response, and is in fact the “masochistic” response, one that ironically actually hues closer to what is traditionally understand as the “Right Hand Path”. Again, the example of Marxism-Leninism and its definition of imperialism versus any other practical definition of the term springs to mind for a suitable analogy to what I see.
The duality of Michelstaedter’s pessimism and Julius Evloa’s esoteric fascist response to it seems to get more attention in Amy Ireland’s afterword at the end of the book, so I think we can brief turn to it. To hear Ireland tell it, Michelstaedter proposed a universe in which it was impossible for individuals to access things like eternity which might bring themselves into coincidence with themselves, thereby attaining what Michelstaedter called “persuasion”, because that would mean an absence of lack that is impossible to attain. For Michelstaedter, only death allows being to experience itself fully, but death also extinguishes being: thus, the entirety of human existence is a tortuous paradox. Evola’s response involved the reinterpretation of Michelstaedter’s philosophy into an extreme theory of the self-sufficiency of being, in which persuasion and direct access to the absolute were both attainable for specific individuals (“spiritually strong” and “Aryan” men) through a certain form of occult training that he devised. Evola’s dichotomy was between “spontaneity” and “domination”, which he coded in terms of gender and sexual and racial determinism, which seems ironic for his rhetoric of “freedom” and “the absolute individual” until you remember that Evola defined “freedom” as “domination” – that is to say, the domination of an elite clique of “Aryan” men. There can be few more abject forms of false hope than this. But is that not coloured by a broader idea that you must first accept yourself as part of an order of the universe, in that it is only within this order that, for select individuals who have the “correct” place (biological, racial, sexual, gendered etc.) within it, allows them to secure their ordained place as rulers of the world. True, Evola’s philosophy at every turn aims for the fascistic transcendence of – or perhaps rather escape from – matter, but if we take seriously the idea of “self-deification” as a function of a Hermetic order, that order is already surely latent even in the material world. Evola may had denied the existence of God, but his throughline, taken through Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding, gives us the picture that people can only “overcome matter” because “God” or some stand-in for him allows it, as the secret ruler of everything. Thus, in practice, the dichotomy between the acceptance and control of reality is a false one within the purview of esoteric fascism, whose adherents are all too happy to insist on their image of objective truth being accepted as reality, often by force. And in the end, it seems like a fundamentally mediocre alternative to the contradiction presented by Michelstaedter, or rather to the masochistic acceptance presented by Monacelli.
But, as much as there is to talk about the matter of Evola, we are not finished with Monacelli’s exploration of masochism. Returning to the essay at hand, we now get something of a curveball. Because in Monacelli’s words, “we need to impale God himself”. Having just established God as the Outside for which the masochist is a kind fo ecstatic, suffering transmitter into the world, this seems puzzling. But we are introduced to Andrea Emo, a reclusive Italian philosopher apparently known for a uniquely pessimistic take on the Hegelian dialectic. Emo’s God is the unstoppable abolition of everything, a hidden war latent within time that ceaselessly and meaninglessly destroys everything that is, and which will eventually destroy itself. Emo’s maxim was that God consists in his own annihilation. Now this would be the point where Monacelli at least appears to extend his masochism beyond Christianity. Before getting ahead of ourselves we can look at Emo’s adherence to what was called “actualism”, which was incidentally also the same form of Hegelianism advocated by Giovanni Gentile. Actualism can be summarized as a philosophy that interprets the Hegelian dialectic as centering a perpetual action that always moves away from its inner potential towards its outer consumption. For Giovanni Gentile, this meant that everything is like a fire, in that everything exists because it burns and exists to be combust. For Andrea Emo, though, everything is already being consumed, and everything in the universe is its own massacre, every chain of being sheds blood until the whole universe is nothing but blackness. For Gentile, the dialectical act is the foundation and constitution of everything. For Emo, it actually demostrates that there is no foundation or constitution to anything, and that everything is progressing in a straight line towards the “final attractor”. In this philosophy, the crucifixion of Jesus is itself God crucifying himself just to show humanity the way to its self-consumption. And of course, for Emo, the only legitimate knowledge consists of masochistic regression, of a “return to the Heart of Darkness”, abandoning everything and going back before creation: salvation consists, in a word, in memory.
The metaphor of Heraclitus is interesting to play with. Monacelli describes Emo’s actualism as the expression of an all-consuming war. For both Emo and Monacelli it would almost seem to be a one-sided battle if that’s the case, to the point that it seems to be misleading. It’s not a war if it’s a massacre. The metaphor of war is ultimately obscured and subsumed into the metaphor of the massacre. But the Heraclitean metaphor could as well be turned towards the dialectic as the conatus described by Bronze Age Collapse in “Lifting the Absolute”. In the all-consuming war, everything is burned, cut, recombined, remade in the alchemical conatus of struggle. But more important is the metaphor of crucifixion, because it is here that we realize that even God’s “impalement” in this scheme can be seen as a consummation of Christianity in almost theothanatological terms. At base, Christianity asserts that there is one God, and that he incarnated himself as a man who would suffer and die in agony (only to be resurrected) so that humans could access the “salvation” offered by God through his “love”. Here, the message is our self-consumption and that we are all pacing in a straight line towards the final attraction of dissolution, and God allows himself to suffer before us so that we can see it. It is ultimately in many ways a reproduction of Christian philosophy, with the possible difference being that God himself dies at the end of the dialectic, as the final sacrifice of his own ceaseless violence. One can can think of it as a kind of Hegelian Christian theothanatology, except that God isn’t dead…not yet. Christianity is in this sense maintained, albeit “accelerated”.
Lastly, Monacelli introduces us to one more major influence on Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic philosophy: an Italian novelist named Guido Morselli. Particularly important among Morselli’s novels is Dissipatio H. G. (“The Vanishing”), which is about a man who, after attempting and failing to end his own life in a cave, discovers that he somehow survived the extinction of the human species, and now finds himself in a world without human beings. It is not irrelevant to note that, in 1973, Morselli himself committed suicide, apparently motivated by his book being rejected by Italian publishers. Through Morselli, Monacelli outlines Gruppo Di Nun’s masochism as centered around a vision of the world without humans as the emptying out of everything human. Dissipatio H. G. is taken as presenting a world which, in the absence of humans, an oddly serene and certainly inhuman emptiness. Morselli, in presenting this extinction, apparently relishes in the demise of his own species. Through his protagonist he seems to seize every opportunity to deride humanity and mock all human hopes and dreams. Thus, Monacelli portrays Morselli as the saint of omnicidal visions, misanthropic joy, and extinction. The masochism that Monacelli advocates hinges on the desire to capture that feeling, a particular kind of ecstasy and emptiness that they associate with extinction, but without actually passing through the gates of suicide. The gnosis that Monacelli attributes to Morselli is established as a guiding inspiration for Gruppo Di Nun, alongisde a religious love for the laws of thermodynamics, and so the point for them is the pleasure of living without your humanity and infinite reflection on dissolution. That is what going beyond the human means in the context of this philosophy, and thus it colours their perception of the demonic.
It would seem here that masochistic mysticism, based on Christianity, cultimates in the desire to see the extinction of humanity, yet inevitably even the gnosis of suicide must be felt in the absence of actual suicide. Such a masochism would turn life back against itself, a thought that makes little sense without reflecting on the morality of humanity at the height of civilizational modernity, and its current crash course. The Christian-Schopenhauerian spiral is complete, reaching its natural conclusion, and it calls for the denial of everything else. The totality and exclusivity of masochism is the consummation of the Gospel, which seems to ingeniously wear the flesh of the demonic as its disguise, like a reversal of the trope of the sheep in wolf’s clothing. True, the visions that Monacelli’s masochism offers would never be offered by much of Christianity, though really that’s just much of exoteric Christianity, but even the hellish nightmares seem to be the relevations of a reinterpretation of a Christian God in a reinterpretation of Christian mysticism. Perhaps Monacelli means for this to be the extinction that we are to consider in Mandy, which is curious because it’s just not what one gets from the Unmensch of Stirner’s egoism: as if the Unique would possibly abolish itself just to be one with the God that it had just destroyed in the pyres of the black flame. But there of course remains the question of Satanism and inversion, because as it still stands we are looking at extinctionism as the consummation of Christianity, which is thus posed as an alternative to the Right Hand Path. Entirely distinct from Hermeticism it may be, but a break from Christianity it most decidely is not.
But there is one last question, one that may offer some fascinating horizons, but for which I have no answer. It is in fact the question that Monacelli asks towards the end of his essay: can the homicidal dream have a different purpose? It is of course wedded to the question of how to mystically experience human extinction without giving up your own life, but I find that it has other ramifications as well, and perhaps even a faint possibility of Satanic perversion even here. My suspicion is that it goes back to Monacelli’s definition of sadism as “separative wisdom”, almost certainly for the philosophy of kink and fetish, or at least certain parts thereof. Perhaps one may even see in this a gnosis of Cain, as much as a Gnosis of Sophia, Satan, Lucifer, Odin, a broad Gnosis that, no doubt is distinct from that of Tiamat, the Mother Goddess of Sorrows, or for that matter the Christian God. Ironically enough, perhaps a passage from the Bible is a fitting enough closure for this section, if only that it might be a spark for the future. For the Book of John said of Satan, “he was a murderer from the beginning”. But in the Bible you almost never see Satan kill anyone, certainly not in “the beginning”. So who did Satan kill in the beginning?
Via Negativa (The Fifth Nigredo)
Our fifth and last discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Catholic Dark”, written by Claudi Kulesko. This essay appears to be a discussion of asceticism and apophatic mysticism and theology in the context of xenophilia and Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of the “great attractor”. Here, again, we seem to cross through the context of Christian mysticism as conditioning the overall core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, but in a way that serves to communicate a sense of “lightness” that perhaps presents fairly interesting implications about nothingness, or rather darkness, and some will to darkness, though one still has to content with the Christianity.
Kulesko begins with a digression, a story about a woman in medieval Flanders named Christina: known to Catholics as Saint Christina the Astonishing. When she was just 21 years old, Christina had apparently “died” after suffering a seizure, But then, as her funeral rites were being observed, she suddenly opened her eyes and then rose up to the beams supporting the roof of the local church, or so her legend goes. In any case, she went on to live a long life before dying of old age in 1224. But her “resurrection” is what interests Kulesko. Christina “dies”, then in her resurrection she tells everyone the story of her journey from Hell, through Purgatory, and to Heaven, meeting God himself and being allowed to return to her life in order atone for the sins of the souls stuck in Purgatory. But Kulesko sees something morbid in it as well. He asks, what if Christina was just a rotting body infested with demons, or one of the living dead? Kulesko says that she apparently started to seem more disgusted with humans, and increasingly inhuman herself. She spends hours on end in solitude, climbing everywhere, supposedly she even soared in the air, and when her parents chained her up to keep her home, she somehow broke those chains. On top of all that she supposedly couldn’t burn, drown, or be hurt in any way. Locals started calling her “wild”, “savage”, or “crazy”, and subsequently abused her, forcing her to flee to a city where criminals take pity on her and show her kindness.
Where exactly is this all going? Perhaps it is that the life of Christina – or perhaps, the life she lived after her life – portrays the anti-gravity of a great attractor. Kulesko figures her body as being inhabited by an “alien” presence, that presence being the Outside. For Kulesko she is nothing but an appendage of this power, a link to a paradise that Kulesko interprets as absolute night (where for Christina herself it was otherwise probably just the Christian Heaven, harps and all), for whom the world of the living and of humans is a Hell. I can sense a faint Gnostic throughline here in that the longing for death seems inseparable from the longing to return to God as the divine origin of everything, and the separation felt in the physical world populated by humans feels like a curse. That is how it must be for Christina, since she longed constantly for the return to death, and on the day of her second death she apparently yelled at a nun “Why are you disturbing me, why are you forcing me to come back?”. But then what are we looking at from this standpoint: God as the great attractor?
Next we turn to the example of Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic who lived in Syria during the 5th century. In his youth, Simeon was apparently so intense in his asceticism, and his uncompromising practice of austerities caught on so rapidly, that he was expelled from a local monastery who thought his practices were excessive and dangerous to their followers. Then he decided to go and take up a space for himself to continue his austerities, and a few years later he decided to climb up a pillar and install a platform at the top, sitting four meters above the ground, where he could only be accessed by the public through a nearby ladder. Over the years, he ascended to ever taller pillars, placing himself ever higher and ever farther away from the masses who pestered him so. By the time he died, Simeon sat as high as 15 meters above the ground. Kulesko suggests that in this activity Simeon broke with all the trends of ancient Christianity – the Church Fathers, the Christian Cynics, and even the Desert Fathers – while producing a completely new discipline. In the process, Simeon seemingly makes use of the tools of this world in order to progressively abandon it, discarding the tools themselves as he goes and makes his ascent. The pillar itself can almost be seen as akin to a leader to heaven, whereby the ascetic moves closer and closer to God, and further away from the desires of the world. For Kulesko this then connects to the very structure of the cathedral itself, in that its spires are the remnants of an ascetic ideology of progressive elevation.
We arrive at gravity, and it’s opposition to the lightness of the mystic. We should note that, from the standpoint of Christian asceticism, “gravity” would mean the weight of the world and its temptations, perhaps arguably even matter itself from a certain point of view, while “lightness” is the condition of having emptied oneself for God. In any case, Kulesko directs us to the example of Joseph of Cupertino, an Italian Franciscan friar and saint known for supposedly having levitated above the ground. Kulesko interprets the story of Joseph of Cupertino as an illustration of the horizon of “gravity”, whose only favourable end is death. Until death, light spirits must keep their feet on the ground. This is compared to a scenario where a hot air balloon, in this instance capable of rising indefinitely, and its crew, increasingly and understandably anxious as the air thins and becomes less visible, refuses to continue the journey. The verticality of the cathedral seems to be its own symbolic institution, which then gave way to horizontality and in turn to monasticism and hermitude, with their perceived autonomy and silence.
Where is this all going, besides perhaps to the surface of the moon? The answer, it seems, is solitude. The worldly and vertical church strives to destroy or recuperate the horizontal, which thus causes the anchorites or stylites of the age to flee to whatever precipice they can find for themselves, that they might rise above the monastery and the cathedral. In so doing, they might claim a path towards a sort of original place and from there an unlimited altitude. To paraphrase a passage of one Arthur Schopenhauer’s manuscripts, one who takes the high mountain road must leave everything behind in making their path through the snow, cling themselves to the rocks with as much strength as they can muster, and then in so doing they might see the whole world beneath them, without being disturbed by anything. Thus the stylite severs themselves from all humanity and all worldly stimuli in order for the soul to reach the ultimate altitudes of an inner highness.
I believe that there are familiar themes that converge on this point. For one thing, the theme of the abandonment of humanity is obviously striking, and also conveys itself as if directly continued from Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”. There seems to me to be some sort of connection to the theme of self-emptying that Monacelli talks about, including the empyting of humanity, and in this case it’s reflected in ascetic severance. On the other hand, it also seems to play out as another application of what Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”: that process of bracketing out everything, so as to unlock new configurations, or, in this case, the highest altitude of the soul. I almost think that the stylite striving toward the supreme altitude is meant to echo Bronze Age Collapse’s concept of “tendency towards the absolute”. Of course, it’s worth noting that the asceticism we are talking about is still Christian asceticism and Christian mysticism, not the pagan physical culture of the Hellenes. But, perhaps there is an inescapable familiarity to it, as though supreme altitude is comparable to the absolute being tended towards. Perhaps even the lightness of the ascetic may be the closest that the Chrisitan gets to the deathlessness of the gods that they despise as demons. But it comes from a bracketing out that is at once the denial of the world around them and their own desires, whereas the alchemical conatus of steel and flesh always happens within it, and the mountain path is that of a soul struggling towards God, whereas our conatus pushes towards the overcoming of God.
In any case, we turn from the mountain path to the mountain itself. The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, a.k.a. Petrarch, wrote in his (possibly fictitious) Ascent of Monte Ventoux about his shame for the selfish passion of climbing, and his reckoning with the real eschatological status of mountain-climbing. In this setting, the mountain itself is a continuation of the body of the Church, as the precipice which, just like a cathedral spire, elevates itself towards heaven. In some pre-Christian religious traditions, it was more like the mountain was its own deity in an animistic sense, though in traditions such as Greek and Canaanite polytheism there were mountains (namely Olympus and Sapon respectively) that can be seen as elevated precipices towards the divine realm. But what Kulesko focuses on is the oppressive weight of gravity in places such as Aokigahara, the infamous “Suicide Forest” located at the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji in Japan, where if you go down through the lower valley you will find a force at the centre of earth that seems to confine spirit, to the point that not even in the suicides can the soul rise to the sky. That weight seems to be a gravitational attractor, but it also seems like something meant to be escaped. Or at least, there is this tendency towards escape, one that makes the ascetic fundamentally vertical and anti-terrestrial, fundamentally alien. Their desire for constant vertical surpassing meant to be understood here as based on a desire for lightness, which is thus to be understood as a negative will, in the sense that the soul must sever and bracket everything keeping it attached to the earth. Yet again. it’s hard to escape the presence of a throughline more or less aligned with conventional Gnosticism (which, to be fair, historically consisted of heterodox sects of Christian mysticism), for whom the entire material cosmos was literally a prison from which the soul must escape in order to be reunited with God. But from there we turn our attention towards a different, “alien” attractor.
Between 1578 and 1579, the Spanish Catholic mystic Juan de Yepes Alvarez (a.k.a. John of the Cross) wrote a treatise called Ascent of Mount Carmel, which outlined what he believed to be a progression towards the summits of “the Highness” and the “luminous darkness” that awaits. In this system, perfection leads upward in a narrow path, requiring that every “burden” associated with “lower thing” must be denied. Indeed, God in the Carmelite scheme seems to demand nothing less than “spiritual death” in all things. God, being completely incomprehensible and inaccessible as per the tradition of negative/apophatic theology, needs the will to centre its activity precisely on the incomprohensible and inaccessible rather than what it can sense. Within this purview of negative theology, one extinguishes every divine attribute, and in this case brackets the principle of the intellectual soul. It also seems to amount to an individual and cosmic process of unlearning, in which one frees oneself not only from a lifetime of social conditioning but also from billions of years of gravitation in matter. Here, I suppose, is where we are able to see Christian negation ultimately turning against Christianity, as part of the dominant complex of social conditioning that must be negated. The ultimate point of this negation is to manifest the most volatile concept of all: nothingness. That is how Christian mystical theology understands God. From another perspective, though, it is larger than God. In any case, for Kulesko, nothingness is all that remains when everything has been negated, and there is nothing lighter than nothingness. Even so, however, the Christian notion of mystical ascension being discussed doesn’t end in nothingness, even though we have just established that the apophatic God is nothingness.
The emptying that both Monacelli and Kulesko talk about, and what is referred to in Christian mysticism and theology as “kenosis”, is the culmination of a process whereby God becomes more alien as he loses all the attrbites afforded by humans while the human loses everything that makes them human, and both become more intangible and abstract in the process of negation. There is something that connects them, and it is lightness. Because lightness doesn’t want for anything, except nothingness and the annihilation of all distinction between God and his creation. In Christian terms, this means the surrender of everything to the love of dissolution through which God loses his creatures and all creatures lose God, the abjuration of free will, wisdom, and all faculty to rapture and endless ascent. Here I think, I get the feeling I remember being told that the idea that the Christian God opposed free will was some mere paranoia, the prejudice of some Reddit-brained “edgy new atheist” in modern internet parlance. Yet that appears to be exactly what is spelled out, not merely in the exoteric form of Christianity that the masses are supposed to just consume, but in the core of Christian mysticism itself. Right at the core of Christianity is a belief system built around one God whose one desire, more than anything, is for humanity, and all life, to surrender itself completely to him – and, perhaps, to be destroyed by him. And the Christian, at the most core sense, strives to be raised up by God, even if they take up Meister Eckart’s maxim “Therefore let us to pray to God that we may be free of God”, to never return to the earth and forever be united and identical with God. To return, in this setting, would “weigh down the soul”.
Return and non-return possess their own significance for Kulesko. Desire itself, by way of etymology, in his interpretation signifies a kind of cosmic nostalgia. The “mysticism of return” seems to involve bracketing out the world, knowledge, individual consciousness, but always with the prospect of removing those brackets to regain them. The mystic is sated by having been changed irrevocably even in their return, their heart made full with even a small taste of the stars. The “mysticism of non-return”, by contrast, offers no satisfaction, no confirmation, only an endless continuity of rapture and ascent. If the mystic is a channel through which the boundless night signals into the world, then perhaps we might interpret “return” as the ability to fill yourself with the night, retain part of it in yourself, and by this bring it into the world, while “non-return” would be to simply disappear into the night forever. But “non-return” entails more. “Non-return”, for Kulesko, entails a process of the soul being completely stripped of the body and the casuality of nature, guided away from the world by an alien attractor. The “non-returning” mystic seems again like a Gnostic pneuma, a piece of God’s spirit longing to return to God, longing to break from the weight of the hylic realm that was set in motion by Sophia’s transgression. Though it is perhaps here that we may arrive at the sense all of this is simply setting up the logic for a very specific kind of attraction.
Our final exploration dwells on the subject of xenophilia: that is, the attraction to or love of the foreign, or in this case the “alien”. The xenos at the centre of Kulesko’s concept of xenophilia does not denote something merely foreign, but rather something “wholly other”. The supreme xenos in this sense is silence, that is to say the deafening silence and extrahuman indifference of the universe. Here perhaps we may note that, no matter how apophatic, Christianity still predicates itself on the belief that God loves us, so perhaps we are looking at something quite different: after all, how exactly can God love us while also being indifferent to humanity, and how can the Christian God be so radically indifferent without invalidating the core premise of Christian salvific love? In this sense cosmic xenophilia would appear fundamentally one-sided: the universe cannot possibly love us, but we can love the universe, more than it will ever love us. One wonders, what is the point?
In any case, Kulesko takes cosmic silence to be at the root of Christina the Astonishing’s nostalgia and for the universe to be but a tomb, and part of the fabric of Rudolf Otto’s concept of the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinans, the latter of which is the magnetism of cosmic silence. The “mysticism of non-return”, with its dizzying ascent, fills the mystic with xenophilia. But there is still the locus of the body, in that xenophilia is to begin in the flesh. There’s also a locus in all the distinct forms of the natural world, all manifestations of a kind of “positive nothingness”. In all things, the divine exists as an “imprint”, which is to say an innate faculty of ascension of anti-gravity. I think this may be another strange double: from the standpoint of Christian mysticism, this is the innate love of God thereby tending towards God, but from an alternative, creatively Pagan standpoint drawn from Bronze Age Collapse, it is not God’s love but instead the primordial tension towards the absolute. These two avenues, from what we have shown, bear out different conclusions. But in either case, the imprint is to be seen as a faculty of emancipation, which appears to be connected to the quality of nothingness. Vanity, that lightness of things, reveals infinite horizons at the height of the eternal. If there is no limit to form, there is no limit to matter, and, in the words of Jean Buridan, different worlds can be created by divine power.
From there we arrive at quite the curveball, wherein the apophatic quality of the divine is a nihility by which one accesses none other than apotheosis itself! At the highest altitude, which approaches eternity, flesh changes and becomes mineral, energetic, or atmospheric, objects made of unknown materials and possessing inscrutable characteristics and functions come into existence, and the organism becomes all the more alien and disharmonious, more deformed and inaccessible. That, for Kulesko, is the very image of God, in that it repudiates all worldly attributes on behalf of the darkness of the unknown, at which point one attains “maximum propulsion”. The soul has become godlike, having either surpassed or abandoned everything. For Kulesko this means entering the heart of the divine, which means merging oneself with the xenos, the Outside, the wholly Other. This in turn means entering into a place without beginning or end, here or now, one or many, before or after. It is anti-gravity triumphant, and it is eternity. It is also interpreted in terms of xenophilia, that sense of oneness being its apogee and consummation. But, this xenophilia is both unconditional and unsatisfiable, and so it has no goals and no foundation, leads nowhere, and progresses only as a ceaseless plummet to silence.
With the conclusion of “Catholic Dark” I at this point think it is worth very carefully considering the role of Christianity in all this as seemingly multiple contours from the rest of Revolutionary Demonology converge. On the one hand, much of this essay is focused on an explication of Christian mysticism and theology in relation to asceticism, and there’s throughline that feels similar to the essays “Mater Dolorosa” and “The Hightest Form of Gnosis” in that appears to employ Christianity or aspects of Christianity as part of its own distinct framework, which of course undermines Gruppo Di Nun’s broader rejection of Satanism. On the other hand, the culmination of Kulesko’s discussion of nothingness in apophatic theology appears to lead into places more or less consistent with Kulesko’s broad body of work within Revolutionary Demonology but which are unfamiliar to Christianity, such as in the horizons of the apotheosis of the soul. I would also say that the basic model of progressive elevation, forgetting that it is a model drawn from Christian asceticism, strikes me as one of the clearest illustrations of an actually centrifugal motion. That may sound strange in view of the example of Christina’s nostalgia, but one is not “returning to the void”, in fact the point is to go up to eternity and not return at all. Instead, from the starting point of the earth, one ascends the mountain path to move further and further away from the earth, from any notion of the centre, towards the endless horizon of transfiguration and, to go against Christian terms, apotheosis. And as much as self-deification is meant to be opposed by Gruppo Di Nun, apotheosis of some sort is what we’re looking at. Of course, we absolutely cannot ignore that everything being discussed about Christian asceticism comes from the Christian standpoint that the world is fundamentally plagued by evil, latent with the taint of Adam and Eve’s original transgression, and it is for this reason that the ascetic strives to “lighten himself”, climb pillars, or in any way detach themselves from the world.
Yet, for everything I have said about this discussion of Christian theology and mysticism, perhaps there is another way to look at it. The horizon of nihility is consistent with the darkness that Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”. So what if we were to take the presentation of Christian negative theology as containing a different potentiality: what if, instead of simply reproducing Christianity, we are seeing the inner diagram of Christianity’s undoing? What if we see God writing his own demise? And what if, that entire horizon is to be seen in the infinite power of nihility, hidden beneath the name of God? Or, yet again paging Bronze Age Collapse, the absolute to which humans and perhaps even gods strive for and in which they unlock their own apotheosis.
I think that the theme of the atmospheric body is a clue here. Remember that Bronze Age Collapse also described the form of the absolute, and thereby his notion of “supreme fitness”, in terms of force or atmosphere. Remember that Kulesko described Dracula’s barbarian heritage in terms of his becoming-mist, his death as his dissolving into the atmospheric world, and his bloodlust as the desire to dissolve into this kind of atmospheric becoming. For Bronze Age Collapse, to exist is to insist, since life is a conatus, and therefore one insists and struggles to transform and enrich flesh and spirit up to apotheosis. For the Christian ascetic, to exist is to insist mostly on cutting away from the flesh and the world for the sole sake of approaching God. But there is still the throughline of atmospheric apotheosis that is, in many ways. I sense a point at which the horizon that becomes available is not surrender in the fashion of Christian or Christian-esque cosmic love, but instead the stealing of fire from heaven. Of course, perhaps that’s not quite “non-return” as Kulesko put it. But the diagram of Christianity’s undoing that is locked within nothingness. To hear Claudio Kulesko tell it, Christian apophatic mysticism positions God as essentially nothingness, and on this basis divine power appears to be absolutely capable of generating any possibility. But then there is God, being the only egoist who constantly depends on herds of duped egoists to support him, and then there is the egoist themselves. Then there is the idea that both Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli present, by way of Miroslav Griško and Andrea Emo, that God seems to always be in some kind of eliminativistic war against the universe he is supposed to have created. Monacelli puts it as an all-consuming war, but there is no such thing as a one-sided war. Thus, there is nothingness against nothingness. Our ability to pervert the horizon we are given lies in the ability to oppose negation against negation: for every manifestation of Einzige to participate in the war of all against all, against God.
I’ve talked for a bit about Gruppo Di Nun on this blog before, commenting on a series of ideas that were presented in an interview conducted on Diffractions Collective, and since then I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of a copy of their book Revolutionary Demonology, which I had already been waiting for since the summer. The book launch event, hosted by Urbanomic as a lecture tilted “Cultivating Darkness”, further deepened this anticipation for Revolutionary Demonology, particularly as I grappled with its particularly bleak vision and resolved to derive something unique from Grupp Di Nun’s take on the occult philosophy of becoming. Now, at last, I have a copy of Revolutionary Demonology, and am now able to analyse its content. This article will be represent my effort to do just this; to study its philosophical contours and from there derive value or critique. I think that Revolutionary Demonology ultimately presents a work that cannot be overlooked.
This will be Part 1 of a lengthy discussion of Revolutionary Demonology and the overall philosophy presented within it. Here we will discuss the introductory ritual and first two chapters of Revolutionary Demonology. Part 2 will focus on the thid chapter, “Nigredo”. Part 3 will consist of a series of reflections around the whole of the book and what I perceive to its overall ethos and my own response to it.
But first, up until now I’ve neglected to give Gruppo Di Nun a proper introduction in my writings. To put it simply, they’re at least ostensibly a collective of Italian anti-fascist psychoactivists and philosophers of the occult who want to redefine the Left Hand Path away from what they perceive as the Hermetic and Kabbalistic orthodoxy of modern occultism. They seem to have dissolved relatively recently for reasons unknown, and it seems that all attempts to reach them have been met with silence. But it seems to me that, although Amy Ireland says they are “enemies of identity” known only by given initials, you can actually find most of the authors by name. “CK” is Claudio Kulesko, who was publicly acknowledged as one of the founders of Gruppo Di Nun, and is otherwise an author and editor at Nero Editions and Not Nero Editions, and who also studied philosophy at Roma Tre University. “VM” is Valerio Mattioli, another editor at Nero who also contributed for Liberazione and La Repubblica and might also be a musician in the experimental band Heroin in Tahiti. “EM” is Enrico Monacelli, who seems to be a PhD at the State University of Milan and is also a writer for The Quietus, Nero, and Not. And “LT” is Laura Tripaldi, who seems to be a researcher in Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca. The only truly mysterious figure here is Bronze Age Collapse: all we know about them is that they are an obscure blogger whose pseudonymous identity is a parody of the far-right ideologue Bronze Age Pervert. On the other hand I suppose I have no idea who the “High Priestess of Nun”, from the Diffractions Collective interview, is either.
In any case, the fundamental basis of their esoteric philosophy is a kind of philosophical or ontological masochism, or masochistic mysticism, based in turn on a distinct expression of cosmic pessimism and almost anti-cosmic nihilism, the main ideological premise of which is the death drive interpreted as an overriding love for one’s own dissolution, and the rejection of everything else. In this, they reject self-deification of just about any kind in favour of a disintegration of the self that brings about what they believe to be the deepest form of cosmic love. That love, they believe, is a force of cosmic attraction that draws all beings towards dissolution and disintegration.
Before we begin properly, I think it is best to address an elephant in the room immediately: the demonology. It seems at once to be a misnomer and (arguably) not a misnomer. There’s not really any study of demons or how to magically work with or religiously worship them in any way, or at least not in. The book has “rituals”, but these are more like brief manifestos. “Demonology” here is a term used to refer to systems of hyperstition – as K-HOLE put it, neither disinformation nor mythology but rather “fictions that make themselves true”. Gruppo Di Nun refers to “the demonological practices of the alt-right”, presumably meaning dangerous systems of hyperstition created by and around modern right-wing nationalism and fascism, which are in turn powered by the esoteric fascism that Gruppo Di Nun attributes to the Right Hand Path, and it can be assumed from the title of Revolutionary Demonology that Gruppo Di Nun means to counter the hyperstitions of patriarchy and fascism with a new set of queer hyperstitions devoted to the outsideness of chaos. The demonic itself is defined as a dimension that is external to the order of humans but which, at the same time, is capable of breaking into that order and disrupting it, and demons themselves are understood as entities that can enter the material plane and both feed and multiply within it through human vectors. That said, the demons themselves don’t get much focus at all, and instead the book arguably devotes itself almost entirely to that dimension that perhaps they represent.
Fundamentals of Revolutionary Demonology
We start off with a forceful proclamation of the cult of entropy, the fundamental ethos of Gruppo Di Nun’s working in ritual form followed by elaborations of the basic principles of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy.
The ritual opening, “Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”, establishes a fairly pessimistic mytho-philosophical basis of what Gruppo Di Nun takes to be the Left Hand Path. The universe begins as primordial chaos, a boundless ocean of night and infinite recombination. This nocturnal ocean is the body of an ancient dragon, who we can interpret as Tiamat from Babylonian mythology, and her hisses are the music that all matter vibrates to, that you can hear in silence in its deepest recesses, in the beating of your own heart. The order of the cosmos, taken specifically as the order of the One God Universe (implying a monotheistic cosmos), appears to us as a primordial unity, but in reality is a “thermodynamic abomination” carved in the flesh and blood of the original Mother, from which it continually and coercively derives life. We humans are born from her dismembered body and entrails, our civilization is perpetually nourished on her blood, and as it continually builds itself higher on her shattered body we are perpetually separated from her. But the blood and entrails that form us serve as the link to her being, and so our atoms tremble before her endless cries, such to the extent that love itself is the constant hunger for return to her womb. Meanwhile, the order of creation is always in danger of its inevitable collapse, and contains within itself its own decay. The ancient goddesses are replicated and then infiltrate the order of Man’s Unique God as remnants of the ancient dragon. The light at the moment of creation was so intense that the order of the universe could not contain it, and then it shattered, and the world plunged into darkness. At the heart of matter is the fall of this order and of the emanations, amidst its ruins is a blasphemy that replicates itself in its own collapsing structure, and over this reigns the infernal mother Malkhut. Pain in this world is an insurrectionary agony by which the ego is sacrificed in flames. The city of Babylon stands on an underworld where the devotees of the primordial Mother erect temples to a chthonic goddess. The metropolis pulsates with larva as the division of universal order is multiplied, and the city gradually suffocates as a result. And so we are all waves of decline partaking in a ritual of death. Every drop of the blood of the dragon Mother illuminates the abyss, and as the city burns and crumbles the slaughtered dragon will return and bring the abyss upon the world. That is the narrative that Gruppo Di Nun gives us.
An important theme pervading the work of Gruppo Di Nun is what is apparently the radical definition of the concept of the Left Hand Path, and with it the Right Hand Path. Gruppo Di Nun operate on a distinct conception of these two paths that it asserts as being derived from the tradition of Hermetic Qabalah. On this basis, they assert that self-deification, normally understood in modern occultism as the purview of the Left Hand Path, is actually the fundamental goal of the Right Hand Path, which is understood as collection of sects that, in practice, tend to differ from and conflict with each other but are nonetheless united by the goal of producing godlike initiates who can live forever and gain control over the entire world as God. So what’s the Left Hand Path, then? In a previous section, they refer in a footnote to Moshe Idel’s Primeval Evil in Kabbalah, which in turn refers to the sefirot of Binah, Gevurah, and Malkhut as representing negatively portrayed feminine qualities that then belong to the “left side” of the divine hierarchy. The terminology of the left-right hand paths is, to my knowlege, not employed in pre-modern Kabbalistic tradition, so we have to assume the connection to the Left Hand Path is extrapolated by Gruppo Di Nun. Unfortunately the precise definition of the Left Hand Path is not really explored anywhere else in the book, or at least not nearly as much as the Right Hand Path (it seems this is not an uncommon part of RHP vs LHP discourse), which they understand as the separation of spirit from unformed matter for the birth of an ordered world. However, on the other hand it is not difficult to infer what they mean by the term, in that their conception of the Left Hand Path centers around acheiving magical attainment (in their case the realization of cosmic love) through disintegration by invoking the chaotic and entropic (and hence “demonic”) forces of outside the order of humanity and Man’s Unique God.
These forces are perhaps encapsulated in Gruppo Di Nun’s tri-triangular seal, whose nine points denote monstrous beings and goddesses presumably of the entropic outside; Ammit (the Egyptian beast-goddess they refer to as “The Devourer”), Nammu (the Mesopotamian creator goddess they refer to as “The Mother”), Kauket (the Egyptian goddess of darkness they refer to as “The Twilight”), Hushbishag (the Sumerian chthonic goddess they refer to as “The True Form of Night of Time”), Nungal (the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld and prisons they refer to as “The Expression of All That is Done”), Sekhmet (the Egyptian solar goddess they refer to as “The Fires that Consume the Universe”), Uadjet (the Egyptian snake goddess they refer to as “The Black Sun”), Ishtar (the Babylonian goddess of love and war they refer to as “The Bleeding Star”), and finally none other than Tiamat (“The Worm” herself). Yet, with the exception of Tiamat, none of these entities are ever discussed again. In any case, though, honouring them means abnegating oneself in a sacrificial love for cosmic dissolution and the disintegration of the self in the jaws of the dragon.
There is something I can’t help but escape when it comes to the subject of inversion. In the “Dogma” section, which I believe was originally a standalone manifesto/essay by Gruppo Di Nun, Satanism is rather starkly pillaried for its inversions of Christianity, under the belief that Satanism represents a symmetrical reversal of Christianity and thus an identical copy. The thesis in play is that Satanism, by ostensibly reversing Christian morality, negating the existence of God, simply reproduces Christianity in itself. But already at the start of Revolutionary Demonology we see three separate scripts flipped in the fashion of inversion. The narrative of the dismemberment of the Mother obviously retains of the narrative territory of Enuma Elish, but adopts a sort of anti-cosmicist framing within it and takes the side of Tiamat against Marduk. In so doing it sort of directly references the narrative of “the ancients” (clearly the ancient Babylonians or Mesopotamians) Marduk is in this sense an ancient Mesopotamian expression of the Man-God Machine, and Tiamat is the slaughtered dragon, the primeval chaos that was the original victim of an original crime, and will return from the depths and bring the abyss upon the Earth. Similarly, the framework of Egyptian mythology is inverted in the veneration of Apophis, the enemy of the Egyptian sun, the serpent that devours the whole cosmos, as the indestructible and lesbian True Zero that is always capable of overcoming the patriarchal order of creation, taking the perspective of Egyptian magic (where Apophis is the uncreated matter that must always be slaughtered for the sake of the world) and then flipping it: identifying with a love for Apophis the uncreator, instead of his solar opponent. In regards to Kabbalah itself, although they seem to reject the Qliphtoth as essentially an inverted reproduction of Right Hand Path Kabbalah, they thus far flip the existing structure of Kabbalah so as to privilege the lower sefirot rather than the highest one, even identified Malkhut with the primordial and dismembered Mother. And this is far from the end of the discussion to be had about inversion.
One of the most important themes in the entire work is the central location of dissolution, death, suffering, and entropy. This of course is all constructed along the lines of their understanding and interpretation of thermodynamics, which forms of the core Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview. One of the important kernels of this is the link between dissolution and recombination. The discussion of Apophis – both the asteroid and the serpent it’s named after – is perhaps what first brings us to that theme. The solar disk of Ra plunges into the darkness of Duat in the course of its journey, and with it the souls of the dead, to face Apophis. Apophis is constructed as the monster that lies beyond the light of existence, representing dissolution, unconstructed matter, and eternal recombination, as the unborn uncreator swallowing all things and all souls back into the prima materia of Nun, though this very concept is also presented through a discussion of 99942 Apophis, a near-Earth asteroid that, for a brief time, people predicted would collide with Earth and cause the annihilation of the human species. Even though at this point it has been established that the asteroid Apophis will probably never impact the Earth within our lifetimes, and probably won’t be the cause of our extinction, the asteroid still occasionally haunts the imagination of the internet, which itself is a repository of every question and prediction about the doom of humanity, every manifestation of our seemingly primordial obsession with the question of our own demise. The asteroid Apophis is thus discussed as an omen of a much larger fear of and desire for our own destruction, and, for Laura Tripaldi, a lesbian love of extinction (at least in a weird Landian use of the term), an alien rejection of the cycle of heterosexual reproduction.
Something interesting is the way the absolute dissolution embodied by Apophis is positioned against the reproduction of human-divine order. But, in the tradition of Egyptian mythology and magick, Duat as a zone of becoming is itself a source of ostensibly endless life for the Sun. It always renews itself as it descends into the dark waters, even as it is constantly threatened with total destruction. To become anew is surely one horizon of becoming or recombination (itself a species of becoming). Indeed, does the reverse birth of Nibiru and creation of Planet Earth framed as the reincarnation of Tiamat in Earth (an idea I should hope that Gruppo Di Nun doesn’t take literally) not strike one as rebirth?
In any case, Apophis is of course is part of a whole “Catastrophic Astrology” which includes Nemesis, the dark phantom of twin of our Sun which supposedly threatens to exterminate life, Nibiru, the mythical Planet X and incarnation of Marduk believed to destroy all life in a cataclysmic encounter with Earth, and none other than the remnants of Tiamat herself. The imaginary of doomsday and the fictitious mythology of Zecharia Stitchin are turned into a hyperstitious expression of their overall mythology about Tiamat that then blends into the figure of the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. The primordial matter of the Mother that was dismembered to give birth to the Kingdom of God is nonetheless not dead, but rather undead, crawling up from the abyss, through the gates of Babylon, rising to destroy all of creation, and herself with it, in an unspeakable blaze of ekpyrosis. She, reborn in the clash of Nibiru, is the future, a future that consists of annihilation, a disintegration into which everything is sucked. The world’s creation itself is inverted by Nibiru’s mythical clash with Earth: whereas the cosmos was carved out of the dismembered remains of Tiamat, the Earth that was created it smashed to pieces and life drawn into disintegration.
“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology” concludes with a section titled “Spectral Materialism”, also authored by Laura Tripaldi. We’re treated to a critique of the philosophy modern science, where the idea of science as the triumph of reason over matter gives way in the laboratory where an apparent magical thinking seems to emerge in practice. By Tripaldi’s admittedly anecdotal account, there are instances where votive candles and magical talismans could sometimes be seen in the laboratories of otherwise secular-scientific study. Irreproducibility haunts a methodology wherein material evades a chemist’s control, but the chemist’s proper skill is described in terms that suggest a strange sense of “affinity” between human minds and the inanimate substances. There is a discussion of the physics of Erwin Schrodinger, which then goes towards a sort of anti-mechanistic physics where atoms and molecules are simply miniature bodies, all transformation is physical, macro-physical “laws” are just statistical results of microscopic processes, and those processes may not at all be mechanical in nature. Chemistry, by way of quantum chemistry, is potentially understood as radically indeterministic, without a single body of “law” governing its operation or capable of predicting the evolution of chemical reactions. Chemicals themselves are quantum in that they cannot be approximated to any classical model of physics, and so the laboratory is like liminal space where two realms of matter make contact. Indeterminacy, rather than simply being a principle of incomplete knowledge, is a fundamental problem and condition of physics. The harmonious order of classical physics is thus an illusion, and matter is at the quantum level more like a chaotic symphony of waves.
Intruigingly, Gruppo Di Nun’s spectral materialism to very consciously draw from the concept of alchemy. First there’s the reference to Isaac Newton having been an alchemist, with the implication of his alchemist pursuit being complimentary to the apparent inadequacy of his theory of bodies in motion before the spectral behaviour of quantum matter. More than that, though, there is practically a whole section exploring the subject of Azoth, the universal agent of transformation in alchemical tradition. Here, Azoth is relevant to the subject of nitrogen, in that right down its etymology (the Greek root word means “lifeless”) links to the inert nature of the gas, and to a chaotic aspect of the traditional equilibrium of the universal agent. Azoth, as the Elixir, is intrinsically circular in containing all things, but it also is also indeterminate and numinous in the way that primordial chaos is. This is then connected to the Lovecraftian figure of Azathoth, the blind idiot god, and from it the spectral and viral nature of Lovecraftian substance that contaminates and interacts with bodies in a manner befitting the principle similia similibus solvuntur – like dissolves like. The colour that the Great Work is divided around is thus said to reveal the idea that we ourselves are spectres and that the blackness that consumes is a resonance from the core of matter, and our whole being, and thus a likeness that allows bodies and the darkness of matter to dissolve into each other.
The alchemical resonance of spectral materialism continues. Escaping a hard binary between “primitive science” and magical-religious initiation, it contaminates the borders between two supposedly strictly separate worlds, while the content of the philosopher’s stone is ostensibly reflected in an interpretation of the concept of complementarity, that principle whereby objects possess complimentary attributes that cannot be observed simultaneously. But then the formula of the philosopher’s stone is reversed: while traditional alchemy, per Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding of it, is supposed to arrive at the reconciliation of spirit and matter by the descent of the soul into the world, the quantum proposed by Gruppo Di Nun is instead the revelation of sheer distance, inaccessibility, or even incompatibility between mind and matter, or between human reason and cosmic physis. Spectral materialism here emerges as a worldview concerned with an unobservable relationship between matter and itself, and matter itself as beyond the human gaze. The process of nigredo is, in this alchemy, understood as a deliberate process of intoxication brought on by interactions with chemical matter and its contamination of mind, which thus reveals the “living death” of matter. Chemistry at large is presented as a spectral science, concerning the dissolution of the individuality of the objects it studies into the ocean of quantum matter. That ocean itself emerges as none other than the blind idiot god and the quicksilver, an abyss whose vibration haunts the phenomenal world and the structures that emerge over the abyss, and whose incessant sound and presence unites all beings in embrace, and could contaminate us at any time. And thus it is only this ocean, not any God, larger than any God, that could possibly have given rise to everything.
In the course of this, though, we arrive at something strange. Through the analogy of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris we get the picture of a matter that could not be produced by any Demiurge, or the guiding hand of any Creator. Yet this in some ways clashes with the whole notion presented in Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ritual, of the cosmic order as the violent ordering of chaos. On the other hand, per “Catastrophic Astrology” we are given the picture of existence as an expression of spontaneity, which in Tripaldi’s reading is inherently sacrificial: we spontaneously exist, and this condition contains within itself the price of extinction, making the spontaneity of transformation a species of death. But then, perhaps the spontaneity in this setting must emerge as a spontaneous insurrection at the quantum level. If no demiurge or creator could possibly have given rise to the universe as it is, then the spontaneity is the insurrection of a willing life that ruptured and transformed the void that existed before, and has marched away for eons. This quantum will that, at the highest price, overturns everything, is perhaps the key to something larger. But we will explore this more later.
I have perhaps said far too much about the initial principles of Revolutionary Demonology, but we can summarize this core so far. The occultism of Gruppo Di Nun founds itself on a materialism in which matter, at the quantum level, is fundamentally alien to itself, to us as its manifestations, and a cosmic pessimism undergirded by the anti-cosmic mythology of Tiamat which is also resonated in a doomsday astronomy. Beyond the world we live in lies spectral matter as a chaotic ritual dance of death, to which all of life ultimately vibrates and through which life is drawn towards its own dissolution. This is also an extinction which Gruppo Di Nun asserts that life contains an inherent drive towards, and in which they locate the possibility of rejecting heterosexual reproductive futurity, and with it the whole hyperstitious order of patrairchy. God did not create the universe, and yet, per the ritual, the universe is Tiamat’s flesh and blood carved into order by ordering gods, though in any case this order always intrinsically writes its own demise. Magic is therefore the art of letting go into this condition, into the morbid love that attracts all things towards dissolution, in a sense reconciling with the universe. But, as you’ll see, even this is just the beginning.
“Notes on Gothic Insurrection” presents a part of the philosophy that forms the body of Revolutionary Demonology by way of a strange and complex concept referred to as “Gothic Insurrection”. Gothic Insurrection, or “Goth/Ins”, seems to be a species of accelerationist theory concerned with temporal multiplicity in the context of a Real that supercedes ideology as such, and seemingly also with a kind of inorganic time and matter relevant to developments that, in their virtuality, can be activated, corrupted, and “recovered” in a seemingly “undead” way. It is also intimately concerned with the hauntology or “retromania” of modernity, with how modernity seems in itself to give way to the revival of older, pre-modern structures and thought-forms, or perhaps rather their “undead” manifestation. That’s about the best I can do to summarize the concept, and I can tell you that the main authors of Gothic Insurrection, Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli, do not make that very easy for me. But it’s in the broader discussion of Gothic Insurrection that counts, in that it’s from here that we can derive philosophical content that contains in itself an averse potentiality relative to Revolutionary Demonology as a whole.
Claudio Kulesko’s essay, “Gothic Insurrection”, establishes the context of a neo-medieval landscape, a new Middle Ages in which traditionalism and the project the “New Right” are corroding modernity from within, bending all of its means and forces to repressive ends in the name of medieval power. Modernity itself almost seems like just a long dream in a world otherwise still very medieval. Reaction is in full swing in calling for the reversal or closure of modernity, while at the same time always an innate part of its nightmare spiral, in which liberal world peace either gives way to a theatre of violent bigotry or simply belies it. This is the world of the cybergothic. In this setting, hauntology emerges as a way to understand this re-activation of the past. But, Gothic Insurrection, while so intimately concerned with the past as a location of inorganic time, also sees itself as a sort of progressive motion: like the spires of a medieval cathedral peaking into the sky, or like bats flying into the twilight, its only route is upwards, and outwards. The cybergothic in this sense is present in a strange union between technological modernity and medieval apocalypse.
The spiral of Gothic Insurrection begins with a consideration of how to ring in the cybergothic era without embracing fascist neoreaction. Art, as a means of the reactivation of the past, is explored from the work Jacques-Louis David and his nostalgia for the French Revolution on the one hand, to William Bevan’s “re-dreaming of the past” through his electronics on the other hand, until we arrive at black metal, of all artforms, as the key to an alternative temporal distortion against that of the alt-right, despite the reactionary tendencies often found in the black metal scene. Neoreaction seems to distinguish itself from other models through its double spiral vector, paradoxically regressing to the past and advancing to the future, but its particular acknowledgement of violence and chaos as the primary source of order, or at least its particular order, against any perceived ideological containment of the violent spontaneity of (human) nature, exposes it to an even more profound presence of violence and chaos in the form of ancient, not quite dead horrors. Thus, we are to imagine an alternative spiral of anti-modern rebellion in black metal: a spiral that, unlike neoreaction, does not want to constitute or liberate anything, and is a spirit set purely on negation.
The black metal imaginary is palpably distinct, made unique by its sort of symbiotic fusion of Satanic iconoclasm, witchcraft, and pagan myth and romance. The first wave of black metal itself inaugurated this spiral, and none other than Bathory is its paragon. Beginning with the pure satanic fury of their first three albums (“Bathory”, “The Return”, and “Under the Black Mark”), over time Bathory evolved towards an emphasis on the pre-Christian Norse past and a style that came to be dubbed “viking metal”. Quorthon, the man behind Bathory, imbued this new direction with a hauntological voice for the life and time of pre-Christian Scandinavia, and with it a pagan nostalgia for a time where humans and extant wild nature were inseparable with the divinity of its many gods, all of which then invoke the spectral character of the barbarian. Outside and against Christianity, rationalism, humanism, and universalism, the barbarian resists civilization, resists boundaries, not only smashing through the borders of nations and civilizations but also crossing the boundary of the human itself via the figure of the Berserker or wolf-like Mannerbund, and, in Christian terms, exists somehow outside and against even God himself. The barbarian is, here, a chrono-warrior who brings ancient interpretations of the world and the quest to reunite with nature, plunging forward in a disordered assault into the cybergothic arena. Representing another barbarian vector of the black imaginary is Darkthrone, whose album “Transylvanian Hunger” and especially the title track invite us to consider the figure of the vampire, through both its sheer, cosmically inorganic sonic negativity and the obvious lyricism. The vampire is not alive, and not dead, and emblematic of the darkness of the gothic novels that represent an eternal, inorganic, and immobile time – gothic time – sitting below the present and threatening to intrude into modernity, or in a larger sense the world of civilization and phenomena. The apogee of this gothic time is Dracula, the vampire par excellence, embodying both the barbarian archetype in his outsideness and becoming-animal/mist and in his undead multiplicity (he is alive and not alive, dead and not dead, Dracula and not Dracula, Vlad III and not Vlad III).
I seem to have a particular affinity for this concept of Gothic Insurrection and its barbarian modality. Although in the context of Revolutionary Demonology as a whole it is still supposed to connect to the cosmic love of self-disintegration, and Kulesko’s writing about Dracula is an interesting demonstration of this theme, it also, to mind points to something that can take a different form. As I lay out in my article about Kulesko’s essay on the subject of Dracula, tsking on the gothic insurrection of barbarian becoming and liminality is its own becoming-demon, a modality of propulsion by which not only ride against the order of things but also thrust open the portals of reality itself, and, from a satanic perspective, vampiric dissolution changes from the disappearance of will implied by much of Gruppo Di Nun’s whole ideology to the embedding of it, its embodiment within the world and its totality, the form of katabatic apotheosis. The apocalypse of Gothic Insurrection is not only the vampiric resurrection of the Middle Ages, the reactivation of a past or myth into the weapons of a horde marching into the future. It is Legion, the Hobbesian “Kingdome of Darknesse” or “Confederacy of Deceivers”, and by these examples the spiralling breakdown of order at the level of fixed identity into multiplicity, and the smashing of the identity between political order and its projection into cosmic order. The Image of the World, the imaginary representation of world order, is smashed, destroyed by the new barbarians of gothic time against the world. The only thing I might add is that it is in this sphere that might join this gothic horde, whose spiral of recombination and battle presents a path to immanent apotheosis.
Perhaps something different can be seen in Enrico Monacelli’s essay, “Extinction”, which discusses and responds to Kulesko’s essay. After a lengthy exposition of Lil Peep’s “Cry Alone” music video, in which Lil Peep seems to be discussed as the martyr of a kind of ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God, Monacelli begins his answer to Kulesko’s Gothic Insurrection by asserting that our turn towards the new Middle Ages is a kind of fatalistic linearity, a destiny that has seemingly already set for us in advance and which renders everything futile, guided by the obsession of the modern world with the idea that it will be annihilated. Lil Peep in his essay emerges as the contemporary symbol of this feeling of predestined extinction, but also one of a number of examples by which to understand hauntological structure of our social body. Monacelli also invokes two horror movies, the 2018 Halloween and Hereditary, to show the horror genre itself as representing this “tragic temporality”. In the 2018 Halloween, we see Laurie Strode constantly preparing the return of the serial killer Michael Myers, her house covered in traps and her mind tormented, she goes on to struggle with Myers and again and trap him in her basement, set the house on fire in the hopes of destroying him, only for it to be revealed that Myers survived and is still on the loose; not unlike the original Halloween. This repetition is clearly a device for the production of future movies, but for Monacelli it also communicates a spectre of silent death that has already condemned us to extinction, as if in a script that has already been written all along. In Hereditary, a sacrificial rite from beyond the grave meant to summon the demon Paimon is the ground of an occult predestination that propels the film’s events in a way that the characters, as spectators, do not fully understand. For Monacelli it represents an impenetrable facticity that resonates with a universe that seems predestined to self-destruction but which is also completely unknowable to us.
The whole reckoning of this mystifying and hopeless tragedy is what Monacelli calls “passive extinctionism”. Passive extinctionism is composed of time seemingly flowing in reverse, from a future already set towards a past that activates said future, moving solely and single-mindedly towards the sole destination of extinction, supported by the inability to comprehend this temporality and its motives (if any). So far I suppose “ultra-Calvinistic cosmos sans the God” remains an apt metaphor, in that it seems obvious that Monacelli’s universe is seemingly utterly fatalistic. But while that is the basic form of Monacelli’s proposal, there is also so much more beneath even the surface of fate, in the sense that horror both creates and destroys. This becomes apparent as Monacelli discusses the movie Mandy and barbarism as an escape from our time prison that only horror could provide.
In Mandy, there are essentially two rituals. The first one summons the Black Skulls, a quasi-demonic biker gang enlisted by a redneck cult leader named Jeremiah Sands to capture Mandy and her boyfriend Red, which Monacelli presents as an involuntary evocation whose consequences cannot be controlled. The second one, however, subverts these consequences, with Mandy laughing in the face of her captor, her mockery embodying joy in the face of her own death, which then unleashes Red’s unrelenting vengeance. For Monacelli, drawing from the work of Nicola Masciandaro, this amounts to the creation and assertion of a kind of mystical sovereignty formed by being the vector of the Outside that breaks tragic time. That sovereignty is a wild abandonment that deposes all authority, breaks tragic temporality, and transforms ignorance into the sublime dark power of Max Stirner’s Unmensch; the inhuman individual who devours all and transforms it into power.
It’s impossible to escape the gulf between the whole ethos of disintegration established by the core throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy and this state of power that Monacelli expressly recognises as sovereignty. Mandy, the Unmensch, are positively death-defiant, “letting go” into their ostensible fate only so that they might overcome it, overturn everything, and become their own true masters. Dracula, and Alucard, in many ways embody the same process, accepting their own dissolution so as to re-emerge as everything. Between the prospect of deathless negative power and the invocation of egoism, there could not be a greater antithesis to surrender, and it’s right here, in a book ostensibly about the joys of surrender. I cannot help but recall the concept of katabasis in the context of pre-Christian Greece, and the many similar forms across other pre-Christian cultures: to willingly descend into the underworld, and as is often the case return, in order to become a god. I sense that it is somewhat at odds with the core of Revolutionary Demonology, and yet I actually somewhat find it almost clarified by it.
But what does this all mean for Gothic Insurrection? We can understand Monacelli’s view of Gothic Insurrection as articulating a nameless barbaric mysticism whose aim is to destroy hegemonic time and the tragic prison it holds us in. The identity of the barbarians is unimportant. Only the work of destructive liberation matters, and Monacelli sees Gothic Insurrection as that work, which turns tragedy, decadence, and chaos into sources of power for the barbarians, demons, and Unmensches: the warlike gods of darkness! I must admit here that Monacelli’s explanation of Gothic Insurrection seems much more succinct and concise than what I have seen of Kulesko’s. I should also note that the theme of multiplicity is shared by both authors, with Monacelli’s take on Gothic Insurrection still acknowledges it as multitudes. But moreover, while Gruppo Di Nun never gives an explicit definition of its concept of the Left Hand Path, I suspect that we find it anyway in the new barbarians of Gothic Insurrection. Monacelli says it almost outright. The new barbarians turn tragedy and decadence into sources of power and subversion, while fascism and the Right Hand Path want to expel them and replace chaos with order. The insurrection means the overcoming of the tragic world by its own surpassing, while the Right Hand Path wants to escape and/or cast a magic circle over it. It seems obvious that what Monacelli is trying to describe amounts to the Left Hand Path. Historically speaking the aim of Left Hand Path sects and traditions in the context of Vamachara was to cultivate power, enlightenment, and God-realization through decadence, while a similar and more modern take also, at minimum, draws power from traditionally “dark” or averse sources. It’s also, if you think about it, the basis of Stanisław Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism, where decadence and evil are sources of the power for the satanist magician or witch to enact their own transvaluation of values, and of the Witches’ Sabbath’s dissolution of everything in the vortex of flesh. Monacelli in some ways adds to this another way of saying that the “only way out” is through and not without. Instead of the conquest of the world by order, apotheosis is almost a victory over tragedy by turning it into divine power. I can’t help but sense a continuation of the theme of alchemy here, a Great Work complete with its own nigredo, in the form of horror.
We are not quite done with the subject of Gothic Insurrection yet. In “Gothic (A)theology”, Claudio Kulesko continues to explore the subject in terms of horror and terror through two young philosophers – Vincent Garton and Miroslav Griško – and their unusual takes on Christianity.
Beginning with Vincent Garton, Kulesko examines a view of Christianity, and particularly Catholic Christianity, that stresses Christian temporality as being founded on a time outside of time and the divine as an absolute Other or Outside to humanity. What we get is the closure of the Enlightenment and the postmodern landscape that attends it as pointing to the rediscovery of the soul, which Kulesko stresses as to be understood as an abyssal interiority that places everyone before horror and absurdity. In a sense, Kulekso gets from Garton the idea of the “return to the sacred” as his understanding of the reactivation of the past, which the dissolution of the future is also supposed to open up and for which the reascent of irrationalism and fundamentalism serves as a signpost, while for Kulesko this return of the sacred is also paired with the revival not just of horror but also cosmic pessimism. Turning to Miroslav Griško, Kulesko arrives at horror, the sense of annihilation and paralysis before atrocity or fatality, and terror, the interdeterminacy that attends the presence of horror, as the twin qualities of God, the ultimate intelligence who is also the supreme murderer, hidden beyond time, waiting to unleash the war that will annihiliate the world. Both views are connected by a stark dualism between immanence and transcendence, and a wager on the Real that posits that either the world has a purpose or is ruled by chance, whose answer remains suspended beyond time. Kulesko then discusses classic gothic novels, such as The Monk by M. G. Lewis and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, as representing a kind of “obscure Catholicism” and gothic time. These novels present an overrarching inorganic power, a virtuality of death, desire, decadence, and fatality, whose secret life and “presence of absence” can be found everywhere and whose exploration is the novels’ prime subject. And thus we come to the “Hidden God”, the worst and most tenebrous of demons, the myth behind all manner of cosmic and technological nightmares, an invisible direction of destinies who becomes larger and more evident as it is paranoiacally pursued. That is the “God of the Outside”.
This “God of the Outside” also seems to be discussed as a symptom of a monomaniacal linearity and corresponding idealism that Kulesko attributes to accelerationism itself. For Kulesko, the only field of absolute freedom is the “real-material field” in which the world constructs itself independently, and that’s a problem for accelerationist anti-naturalism because of it ascribes injustice to nature despite that injustice, and its just counterpart, having nothing to do with nature. More relevant, though, is the belief in the Singularity (the point where human technology becomes totally uncontrollable and supercedes matter) and its supposed inevitability; as if the will of the entire universe set to this end. This prophecy (and it might as well literally be prophecy) obviously runs against the realities of supposed predestination: that not everything is already decided, inevitable, or perhaps even possible. But, more than that, here we also come to the last major component of Gothic Insurrection: its alternative model of acceleration. It is the Nietzschean passing of knowledge that is to be accelerated, “to guide the blade here” as it were, taking up unknowing as situated at the root of the world and anticipating the formation of knowledge. Here, we arguably find a statement of the doctrine of innate enlightenment (hongaku) in Buddhist terms, but in the context of the Gothic. The Gothic denotes an infinite virtuality of formless matter and perpetual actualisation, becoming, denoting the basis of the production of form, and which constantly thwarts everything we think we know in the moment. Accelerating the passing of knowledge means speeding up the “thawing” of structures, proceeding to the unknown and blurring the boundaries between natural and unnatural or even between possibility and impossibility, and the purest form of gothic terror is disruption of immanence by immanence, and its destruction at the hands of chaos. In every direction, the end is to be accelerated, and every direction overcomes every future, including the Singularity.
In the overall this turn in Gothic Insurrection is a multifaceted one. Because of the focus on Catholicism, and the meditation on God as “God of the Outside” (and thus of the central theme of Gruppo Di Nun’s occult philosophy), it almost feels like Kulesko is attempting to construct particularly decadent form of what is nevertheless a mystical form of Catholicism. It’s almost strictly diagnostic in that it ultimately serves as a construction through which the flaws of accelerationism can be studied in a way that informs the larger construction of Gothic Insurrection at large, but in view of a much later essay also devoted to the subject of Catholicism, it feels like there are the makings of a particular, albeit subverse, interpretation of Christianity. The irony, which I think I will keep stressing, is that Gruppo Di Nun opposes much of modern Satanism for relying on the flat inversion of Christianity, thereby supposedly reproducing it, and thus there is the call to completely break from Christianity, and yet in order to illustrate and inform Gothic Insurrection both Kulesko and Monacelli turn to Christian philosophy and mysticism. In fact, Monacelli seems to directly identify the active extinctionism of Mandy and the darkness of Stirner’s Unmensch with the darkness and unknowing referred to by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in The Mystical Theology – not to mention a footnote in the same essay interpreting “real faith” as a venture into darkness by way of Kierkegaard. Though, in Gothic Insurrection, this is but one small piece of a larger idea, and not outside the purview of the reactivation of the past. In fact, this basic idea seems to permeate Gruppo Di Nun’s core to some extent, right down to the reference to the creation myth of the Enuma Elish. The ancient mythology of a long-dead civilization is reanimated, re-aligned, and turned as a weapon against the Image of the World. In this sense we can understand the project of Gothic Insurrection as part of the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, from my perspective clearly the strongest and most insightful aspect of it, and I believe this presents interesting implications for that philosophy.
But, Gothic Insurrection understood as the reactivation of a distant, dark past as an insurrection against the order of the present is a throughline that already, in its own way, underpins so much of the Left Hand Path, including those tendencies that Gruppo Di Nun finds either dangerous or simply mediocre. Satanism as a whole has historically sometimes invoked a distant pre-Christian past defined by unfuttered indulgence and magical power, to the extent that even atheistic models of Satanism such as the LaVeyan model as a vehicle for the presumed restoration of some ancient hedonism. The theme of reactivation is all the more pronounced in the more esoteric forms of Satanism and what is called Luciferianism. For example, Carl William Hansen (a.k.a. Ben Kadosh) presented his system of Luciferianism as essentially the return of the ancient cult of Pan, while for Fraternitas Saturni this is the cult of Saturn brought together with what they see as a lost “Barbelo-Gnostic” teachings. I can hardly forget Michael W. Ford’s particular emphasis on his idea of Luciferianism as an ancient pre-Christian philosophy weaving through various cults and re-summoned in the present day as his own distinct system. In many ways it’s a lot more blatant with the Temple of Set, which sees itself as a magical restoration of the cult of Set. And there are many more examples within Satanism, including the distinctly unsavoury and fascist forms thereof. Gothic Insurrection, in this sense, should be seen within Satanism as a conscious insurrection in which the reactivation of an occult past is aligned with insurrectionary, rather than reactionary, aims: an awareness that reawakens the true anarchic content of the Left Hand Path. I see this as my current aim within Satanism and within the Left Hand Path: to renew them by reactivating the radical and insurrectionary forms within this milieu – to plunge into the future by going down into the past. In my mind, this is the only real way to “rescue” the Left Hand Path in a climate of endemic reaction, and it is the path that must be taken, or else there is no point to anything.
Before we move on to our next section, I would like to use the scope of this article to discuss the value of the barbarian archetype as the force that strikes its blow against reaction, retroprogressivism, and modernity alike while marching into the cybergothic age. There’s a sense (limited as it may be within the scope of this article) in which we can briefly touch on a contrast relevant to a certain prevailing discourse about masculinity and certain progressive efforts to counter right-wing machismo with their own humanistic version of male-centered mythopoesis. Indeed, all too often, there is an opportunistic employment between certain ideas about toxic masculinity, inherited ultimately , in which reactionary behaviours of control are ideologically intermixed with a more abstract “macho” wildness, perhaps so as to repress notions of barbarian wildness. But while violent excess is often fetishized in fascist spaces, the central archetype of fascist masculinity was not a wild warlike barbarian. Instead fascist ideologists, particularly the Nazis, preferred what they saw as a much more orderly pedigree to be found in the mythical “Aryan” farmer. As discussed by Stefan Arvidsson in Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, and explored in adequate summary by Krešimir Vuković in Wolves of Rome: The Lupercalia from Roman and Comparative Perspectives, Nazi ideologists were what Arvidsson called “ideologists of order”, who favored a nationalist interpretation of history centering around mythologized Indo-German Aryans as the only true progenitors of historical culture. These Aryan Germans were thought to be primitive farmers who practiced a cult that centered around agricultural life and the veneration of a solar hero figure whose struggle against monsters was interpreted as a moral allegory of good against evil. Nazi mythologists considered myth itself to be, in the words of Alfred Rosenberg, “an image of order”, namely the hidden order of the “folk soul”. This idea meant an ideological contrast between the Aryan farmer and the perceived “decadence” of modernity, which was also meant as an opposition between “Indo-European” order on one side against “Jewish” subversion on the other side. This broad idea was also contrasted against scholars who positioned an ecstatic cult of warrior fellowships, or Mannerbund, as the center of ancient Germanic society, and in turn supported a cultural ideology that centered a kind of Dionysian ecstasy. That ideology was opposed by the mainstream of Nazism because it seemingly cast the ancestry of the German nation as uncivilized and barbaric, and clashed with the conservative values of the Nazi intellectual establishment.
At its historical root, fascism recognises the barbarian as its diametrical opposite, because, at its root, fascism itself is the ideology of order par excellence. In this light, National Socialism can be seen as the apogee of this fascist love of order, being systematically the ultimate logical conclusion of all the major systems of domination that preceded it – if you want an idea of this, just think about how the Nazis derived their basis not only in the image Roman imperial civilization but also the American and British imperial systems of oppression and extermination. Indeed, I find it interesting that both the Nazis and the United States of America drew from the dutiful farmer as the font of civic order, whether it’s an invented mythology of Indo-European farmers or George Washington modelling himself after the Roman farmer/statesman Cincinnatus. And, if you examine modern fascism, order and cleanliness quickly emerge as the idee fixe of fascist politics. In the end, that’s why people on the more reactionary corners of Satanism, such as Anton LaVey and Doug Mesner, so professed themselves as law and order ideologists: they are reactionary authoritarians or straight up fascists, and on the back of that they prefer “nice”, “clean” orderely communities that answer to the fear of political concentration. It is communicated with almost immaculate subtlety in right-wing rhetoric about “law and order”, and it is this ideology of order, rather than some mental aberration or the triumph of unbridled sadism or some abstract “evil”, that lies at the root of all fascist genocide: purgation is the lifeblood of fascist order, and so the fascist will, without any sense of remorse or imbalance, countenance all atrocities under the hyper-concentration of state violence, as fascism requires in order to generate the purity of a total order. So, from there, in Gothic Insurrection we may locate the ecstatic barbarian war bands, these warlike fellows of Odin or Rudra, as a chaotic, antithetical gothic time wielded against a present whose ordered path bends towards fascism once again. If you want your alternative to reactionary masculinity, just meditate on Gothic Insurrection, and you will do the rest of the work for yourself almost without any need for programmatic intellectualism.
An Alchemy of Steel
I felt that the last chapter of Part 2, “Notes on Gothic Insurrection”, merits its own separate discussion here, simply because to me it felt very different to the rest of the book, or at least certainly at first it did. “Lifting the Absolute” by Bronze Age Collapse seems like its own distinct messsage. Amy Ireland assures us in the afterword that it fits into Gruppo Di Nun’s overall message of magic as a masochistic practice of anti-mastery and ‘letting go’, this is not the sense that I got from reading Bronze Age Collapse’s sort of alchemical take on physical culture. And, while it seems almost random at first, it ties well into the theme of Gothic Insurrection with the author’s conscious reactivation of pre-Christian religious, mythological, and philosophical forms.
“Lifting the Absolute” was originally part of a collection of writings released by Bronze Age Collapse as The Search for Absolute Fitness: Plato as a Bodybuilder in 1991. Apparently this essay contributed to the development of the concept of Gothic Insurrection, and a judicious footnote reminds us of the basic point at stake: the idea that the present moment is to be overcome both joyous destruction and immersion in a distant but reactivated past. So far this past has been discussed in the geneaology of the barbarian, the gothic novel, and “the sacred” of Garton’s take on Catholicism. Through Bronze Age Collapse, this immersion takes us, quite splendidly, through Paganism, to an extent exceeding even Kulesko’s treatment of Bathory, but this time focusing on ancient pre-Christian Greece.
We begin with an account Pankration, a dangerous ancient Olypmic sporting event similar to both wrestling and boxing. It was an extreme contest of strength where almost any move was permitted, and there were only three ways out of a fight: surrender, lose consciousness, or die. The legend of Sostrtus “Acrocheriste” Sicionio, and his defeat by the young Aristocles of Athens, opens a whole dialogue on the philosophy of physical culture. For Bronze Age Collapse, Aristocles won because his body represented a complete and total harmony of muscular strength, instinct, intelligence, expertise, and experience, and that this perfect harmony, consisting of the subjection of all individual parts of the body to a whole, was the founding myth of the philosophy of mind as well as wrestling. The Platonic and “classical” view is that psychophysical harmony – that between body and mind – is the work of adapting one’s body to a paradigm, an Idea, by submitting it to gradually more intense labours and more refined challenges. But within this discourse, our author goes on to assert that this whole process is a means of returning the body to beauty. The author’s express conviction is that harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness. This obviously invites the question of the fall: after all, if harmony and beauty pre-exist discord and ugliness, it follows that something must have happened for harmony and beauty to change into discord and ugliness. Indeed I sense it’s very easy for such a conviction to find itself warping towards the doctrine of involution, in which we have degenerated from some imagined state of antediluvian perfection and unity. But patience, because there is more to be explored, and what our author valorizes is not so much a fallen spiritual presence to which matter must conform, but the body, and in this sense matter, itself.
Bronze Age Collapse upholds that the body is not originally weak, passive, and sedentary, but powerful, active, and dynamic, and that it is this dynamism that, in the modern world, seems lost but can be recovered. In fact, our author positions this dynamism in a larger sense: the tendency towards the absolute – that is, understood properly, a tendency towards enhancement, recombination, speed, and efficiency, which is naturally followed not only by the body and the mind but also the entire universe itself. This is actually a fairly bizarre twist in the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun that came after this original essay: what Gruppo Di Nun proposes as the universal death drive, the cosmic love of disintegration, becomes for Bronze Age Collapse not so much the longing for demise in itself but the yearning for transformation to the point of greater and greater perfection. To that end, life erupts from the void and beings ceaselessly create, destroy, and reorder things around them. In a way, “tendency towards the absolute” is an apt metaphor, because it rather makes sense as the quest for apotheosis, or at least to become godlike. Self-deification may not be what Gruppo Di Nun had in mind, but in a certain sense that is what it is, just that it’s not the same self-deification that Julius Evola or Hermeticism had in mind and which is in practice the only concept of self-deification that Gruppo Di Nun actually seems invested in refuting. The only thing is, so far we must ask if this perspective does not clash with the way Enrico Monacelli discusses decadence as a source of power for the Gothic Insurrection. The point, however, is that in this setting life is a conatus, a repeated insistence or striving, necessarily of will, and thus a perpetual tension and discharge. This is what steel acquaints flesh, and which the battered and weak body of modernity is supposed to discover, and thereby become daemonic.
Bronze Age Collapse points to Arthur Schopenhauer as having posited the body as the vehicle of metaphysics, in that the body poses itself as the visible and physical expression of individual interiority and is not only the seat of all perceptions and instinctive causality but also, since in Schopenhauer’s view these things precede all objective activity, the origin of all cosmic activity – essentially, the basis of the universe itself. Our author takes this understanding of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and extends it into the idea that the activity of each individual bodies determines the nature of the cosmos that it inhabits. This means that, for a reactive body, the world around it seems to become reactive, linear, and static, while for a dynamic body, the world around it seems to become similarly dynamic. No, more than that: for our author, the world of a truly dynamic body spins into a vortex, the heroic spiral of the Nietzschean will to power. This, for our author, is the hidden meaning of the Greek phrase kalos kagathos (“the beautiful and good”), and the psychophysical rhythm and harmony it denotes. But more important, it seems to locate the body as the voice of the spirit, the source of wisdom. This rather fundamentally places matter at the centre of ontology. Human history, in this worldview, is an account of every trial that matter undertakes to rise above itself, and every effort that we undertake to measure ourselves against the cosmos: this is what the weight or the pull-up bar come to symbolise for our author – personally, I like to think that the blade has a similar meaning. This also means never satisfying yourself with any proposal of the perfect fundamental order and its image. To borrow our author’s analogy: if God were a lobster, and the lobster (as God) is the model of every human action and law, the hero prefers to be a star, a supernova, or a black hole. This means that, in order to really measure yourself against the cosmos, you must reject and defy God and his law.
From my standpoint, this all has some important Satanic (or perhaps also “Luciferian”) implications. In fact, if we take our author’s proposal as rooted in a pre-Christian Hellenic philosophy of mind and the body, then we can extend our author’s heroic rejection of the law of the lobster as a manifestation of Satan’s rebellion and insurrection on behalf of himself, and from there we can arrvie quite easily as, dare I say it, a Satanic application of Paganism. But it also poses an interesting implication for the broader philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun. After all, from this standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to regard what is presented to us as the violence of creation as anything other than the primordial conatus of matter, as the rupturing of the primordial void into forms appears as simply matter overcoming itself. For me, the obvious is to recognise this as an insurrectionary outcome, and the work that proceeds after this as a new insurrection after this against the order of things that has come to pass. In this setting, both history and the work of magic are insurrection upon insurrection.
Moving on from there, we get a tour of the proper understanding of bodybuilding, which for Bronze Age Collapse is neglected even by the trainer at the gym, and of the error of temporal linearity. For our author, bodybuilding is the process of the return to the body, or to oneself, as the restoration of eidetic harmony. For the average gym trainer and their students, on the other hand, bodybuilding is apparently more like a one-time projectual cleansing meant to reach some seasonal event – often the path to the beachfront, where a sufficiently honed body can be presented typically in the hopes of impressing the opposite sex. Meanwhile, modernity tries to refashion the dignity of body and spirit while running up against a corruption generated by the teleological and economical influences created by Christianity. Sin is met with punishment and renunciation, because sin incurs debt, and purification is met with reward in accordance with a promise made with a creditor: the body Christianity in this sense is a religion not of death but of debt. Eternal return and the mythic property of Sisyphus or Prometheus fundamentally important to genuine bodybuilding, without which it lapses into a hyperreal torment of steroid abuse. Our author also locates in this a gulf between antiquity and the present, pronounced by the way modern people afford supernatural stature to the muscular forms of classical art that they encounter in museums or in images on the internet. It is sometimes said that the ancient Greeks idealised the human body, but it might be more accurate to say that it is modern men, hopelessly distanced from antiquity, that idealise what the forms that the ancients produced – that idealisation is fundamental to the traditionalist reaction of the digital age, right down to the Roman statue cliches. Thus our author goes on to say that we are like children before Mediterranean antiquity, in the same way that children cannot imagine their father’s strength at their age. In a way that it is indeed all the truer of every pathetic neofascist brandishing an image of statue from ancient Greece and Rome or the Italian Renaissance as their profile picture online: idealising these images, denouncing the world for supposedly abandoning them, but so utterly distant from their form, totally unable to perceive and conceive them, let alone embody them. These reactionaries are in a sense no different to any other modern, they can only be amazed at what once was.
The statues are interpreted as a call to invert the course of history, to change your life as it were, and in this sense act on the observer with the appropriate inspiration. This too feels like it is part of that same gulf. Imagine not just the life of antiquity, but all of prehistory, the life of all hominids who preceded us and every fearsome long-dead creature that they co-existed and/or contended with. Some of us might be relieved that they no longer exist and that we no longer struggle with them. Others, though, might feel remorse for the passing of what could have versus the life of what exists now. For our author this gulf is also like the abyss of Tartarus into which the Titans were thrown, where Kronos became king and reigns supreme above all else, but where the Titans nonetheless became weak and docile as their strength faded. This, for our author is exactly our situation: it’s like we are the Titans in Tartarus, cast into a pit where we become weak. But, we are told, our imprisonment will end, and a Golden Age might begin again, and in this Golden Age everything will speak again, all humans will find gods in themselves, everything will be accompanied by joy, and the sun will shine on everyone. All of that, however, is the struggle, our primordial conatus.
Keep in mind that when I said that “tendency towards the absolute” was an apt metaphor for apotheosis or some concept of self-deification, that’s only because Bronze Age Collapse says forthrightly that bodybuilding and weight training brings the body closer to the body of a god or goddess. “Absolute fitness” is meant as the realization of impersonal form, and the desire to attain this form is what our author believes drives the motion of the whole universe. In this sense, our author agrees with Henri Burgson that the universe is a machine for the making of gods, and in fact, it seems that this axiom is only deepened in content by the philosophy we mean to explore so far. At this point we come to an articulaion of our author’s view through an expression of ancient Hellenic polytheism that clicked with me as I read it. The gods, while imagined to be a pantheon of superior beings that embody a pure principle or essence, were born of chaos, and often found themselves having to scale or overturn hierarchies of beings by their own strength and power before getting to Olympus. The origin of the gods in chaos is the same origin of everything else that exists – perhaps this is what Pindar meant by the one mother from whom both gods and men draw their breath. That origin, our author asserts, also means that both the gods and mortals share a desire to embody a certain kind of force or atmosphere. Chaos here is not simply the void that existed before the first god, but the supreme power that generates and destroys without mercy, to which all beings, even the gods, are subject. The anima mundi of this cosmos contains every possibility, combination, environment, and adaptation, while living beings are contractions of the infinite activity of matter. Immortality, supreme fitness, is to be understood as perpetual metamorphosis. Form and elan are locked in a battle at the heart of reality that tears the cosmos apart, and this reality lends itself to the real secret of the tendency towards the absolute.
Bronza Age Collapse’s physical philosophy has its flipsides. Being strictly carnal, our author shuns the practice of writing. This must be why he writes so infrequently. Writing is seen as a moment stolen from living thought, whose proper pasttime is training, play, and sex. It’s to the point where writing is even discussed as an “original sin”, or perhaps more aptly “false consciousness”, either way a corruption more ancient than any other, because of its apparent stasis. Writing is to be reserved for rare occasions, the marginal pursuit meant only for the exposition of the truth, rooted in the impersonality of the absolute. Here we run the risk of assuming the “God’s Eye” perspective of objectivity, one that is necessarily problematic if we take as our starting point that the individual body is the origin point of the perception of objective activity. And that body does not in itself possess an objectivity that, in Archimedean terms, is free of distortion. In fact, as our author insists, the body requires nutrition, and the way we nourish and refine our body impacts the supposed objectivity it generates, and the illness of modernity requires that, by force of will, we tear time at the hinges to recover it. I suppose if we take it as the Gods eye view the very notion seems absurd, certainly too absurd to merit almost never writing about the glories of cultivating the Hellenic body even to develop theory. But then I suppose the point is to constantly develop the absolute in the flesh. The point, the real point, is alchemy. Through steel, you are developing matter in a way that overcomes its base form and transfigures into the absolute: the Great Work, the Philosopher’s Stone, Azoth, this is the flesh-god of the divine body that has tended to the absolute.
I would contend, though, that maybe bodybuilding is not the only way to derive the basic contour of Bronze Age Collapse’s pagan-alchemical philosophy of mind and body. What I mean here hinges on understanding bodybuilding as a creative act, and I know it sounds strange since that’s not how we think about it culturally. But why not? It is a creative act in the precise sense that you are trying to create the body out of itself. There’s something fundamentally aesthetic about bodybuilding, that is in the strict sense that many modern bodybuilders build their bodies for show. But even so, a painter could as well paint in order that their painting would be seen, or the sculptor sculpts their statues so that the forms they represent can be seen and impact the viewer. Art itself, and from there The Art, thus has to be seen in terms of the same alchemical conatus, and so too should magic itself. So too should fighting, especially in view of the introductory analogy of Pankration. I did not suggest the metaphor of the blade idly: the clashing and honing of the blades is its own magical conatus of will, leading the fighter in the battle against the world that so comprises their life, all the way up to the storming of heaven and the fight against God. None other than the war of all against all is this conatus. Art, combat, training, sexual intercourse, insurrection, love, all forge its participants towards “the absolute”, at least if they put their minds towards alchemy. And yet, if art and magic are part of that, who’s to say writing, to a certain extent, is not also a means of creatively impacting the observer as any other Art does, especially if the point is to transmit knowledge, theory, or experience.
The last major point we can explore in “Lifting The Absolute” is Bronze Age Collapse’s discussion of the Cynic philosophy, or more specifically the legend of Diogenes of Sinope, and sunbathing. The basic details of this legend should be familiar. One day Alexander the Great visited Greece, and upon his arrival he received visits and homage from seemingly all the intellectuals, politicians, scientists, and philosophers; all except Diogenes, who was sunbathing idly amidst the streets of Corinth. Alexander found himself impressed by Diogenes, and offered to grant the sunbathing Cynic any wish. Diogenes responded simply, “stand out of my sun”, as if to say Alexander was blocking the light. Our author recognises this as the legend of a sovereign and unyielding spirit, quite naturally given how indifferent Diogenes seemed in the face of the imperial authority embodied by Alexander. But our author also connects that spirit to the properties of sunlight itself.
We are told that sunlight draws thought out from its depths and refuges, allows us to distinguish night and day and stabilize the mood of the body by instinct, and allow our bodies to synthesise calcium and Vitamin D. These, seemingly, are faculties that the enclosures of modernity often perturb. The sun is the “greatest gift of heaven”, to which human beings may offer themselves in order to become part of a life-process that joins all other life forms together. We draw power and life from the sun: our bodies tend to become strong, healthy, and beautiful while our minds grow intuitive and spontaneous as apprentices of cosmic existence, and at night we rest, reproduce, and regenerate. That’s our author’s prognosis for the physical property of sunlight, but the author also proposes a “secret” meaning relevant to the legend of Diogenes. Diogenes renounces worldly possessions and all hierarchy (the summit of which is, again, embodied by Alexander), and in turn gains everything, including the sun. The sun “belongs” in this sense to Diogenes, from whom only the seasons can always take away but to whom they will always return it, both at any time. Diogenes’ supreme self-sufficiency is the basis of his truth. The Cynic, like many Greek philosophers who came before, searches for a “primal scene”, an eternal preceding substrate as the basis of all harmonious action. For our author, that is the undertaking where everything converges to illuminate the path to the absolute.
Perhaps really, in lieu of the substrate of order that was the fixation of many classical philosophers and the late Hellenistic spiral towards monotheism, we might say the primal scene is a double. First, there is the primordial chaos, by which is meant the eternal rhythm of ceaseless creative destruction. Second, there is “the absolute”, the divine existence, that force and atmosphere that imparts the quality of deathlessness – the traditional quality of the Hellenic gods. The Great Work proposed by Bronze Age Collapse sees us go into the primal scene, to embrace our origin in the chaos at the heart of the cosmos, and then propel towards the absolute through the primal scene that is itself alchemical conatus. How strange that I might find myself thinking about Ernst Schertel as I write this. After all, Schertel locates a chaotic, creative-destructive ground of being in Satan, identifies Hell as pure potentiality, and takes this as the starting point that arcs towards Seraph, representing the created world. In Schertel’s thought, Satan and Seraph are two ends of a pole, ostensibly opposite but actually conceived in and through each other. But in this philosophy the demonic, as the source of all magical power, communion with which is for Schertel the first principle of magic, develops towards the seraphic, towards the creation of a contained world. There is, though, a more “decadent” basis to this. Schertel believed that all art was, at root, amoral and even pornographic, and thus that the pornographic was the root of all cultural values. This in turn emerged from a belief that art was the manifestation of an unconscious energy, or trance. Dance, eroticism, and occultism, were all held to produce art, love, and religion, what he in called “the highest values that humanity can represent”. The point for Schertel was that the goal of spiritual and occult practice was not some “release” of spirit from the body but rather the transfiguration of the body, which he hoped would become the basis of a new religion to supercede the old religions. You can think of Satan as that unconscious, erotic, occult energy, Seraph as the “highest values” and the “new religion”, and both the demonic and the body as the vehicles for an alchemical tranfiguration that is, in the terms of Bronze Age Collapse, the tendency towards the absolute. What I’m getting at is that the pressing of steel and demonic magic and ecstatic trance point to the same alchemical transfiguration of matter, which starts from a demonic basis and, when activated at that level, pushes centrifrugally in that level towards mastery, that is, “the absolute”, towards apotheosis. Thus the path to Olypmus is, in the admittedly idiosyncratic understanding I present, an infernal, demonic path, and we have here arrived again at an understanding of the Left Hand Path.
I might take the opportunity while I still can to note the relevance of the body to the ancient Cynics. Diogenes was not an athletic body by any stretch of the term. Nor was the typical body of the Cynic. But they did prize strength in more than one sense. Strength of spirit and mind was prized as much as physical strength. It could be argued that the Cynic needed that strength to continuously live in rejection of the civilized world around them. But Diogenes did note that, for the Cynic, there were exercises meant for the body and the mind, which depended upon each other because both mind and body depended on each others well-being to practice virtue. Strength as an active warlike quality was prized by the Cynics right down to the symbolic level. They were known to wield staffs or weapons in public when Greek society had deemed them a foolish old custom. Against state-decreed progress, then, the Cynic took up the staff against labour and on behalf not just of their own leisure but their strength and struggle. They held on to an old custom and reactivated its meaning against their present. How best befitting the concept of Gothic Insurrection!
Ultimately, I still cannot get past the sense that what Bronze Age Collapse proposes presents something radically different from the core of Revolutionary Demonology. True, our author may speak of a kind of submission to the process of training, but this is ultimately tangential to the surrender that Gruppo Di Nun repeatedly lauds, and the training that Bronze Age Collapse cannot be seen as a “discipline of anti-mastery” without some form of contortion. This is, in fact, a doctrine of personal/individual mastery, just that it is different from such fascistic doctrines as “Magical Idealism” that separate the individual from matter. One makes oneself a part of the dynamism of matter and the conatus of the corporeal and divine universe, rather than escape from it. One “submits” oneself only to become more powerful and masterful by way of cultivating psychophysical harmony, and the tendency towards the absolute is such that it sets the individual practitioner against God and against the cosmos. There can be no real “surrender” in this. The analogy of literally Olypmic striving would suggest the opposite. Though I do not doubt that it is ancestral to the conception of Gothic Insurrection, in that it reactivates the past to wage war on the present order. That to me is part of the makings of an active nihilism, but with a Pagan spirit, and Satanic character. That, to me, is the key to an ethos other than surrender, as Bronze Age Collapse points the way to an alternative outlook on the cosmic love proposed by Gruppo Di Nun – not mere disintegration in itself, not surrender, but recombination through the conatus of will, and of that conatus itself.
I had recently looked at an interview with the esoteric collective Gruppo di Nun on Diffractions Collective, conducted by Dustin Breitling, and there was an idea from that interview that had me thinking. At some point in the interview, a person called the High Priestess of Nun talks about how Gruppo di Nun wants to eschew “traditional” 20th century occultism in pursuit of a new magic that reaches “beyond the human” through all available means, and as part of this accepts the inspiration of scientific thought as a tool that could allow the access of “the inhuman depths of matter”. It’s that particular theme, the inhumanity of matter, that I would like to really over-extend and fixate on here.
To understand this inhumanity, perhaps we must first stay with the interview for a little longer. A key focus of Gruppo di Nun’s demonological worldview is that they see themselves as “vessels for a swarm of voices from the great outside”, and the attendant politics of this demonology involves the unleashing of the inhuman or anti-human forces against the “Man-God machine”. Such forces include, per their examples, Tiamat as the “Original Mother” slain by the masculine sun god in Mesopotamian mythology and then comes to represent a rebellious anti-cosmic matter, and The Beast as depicted in the Book of Revelation. The archetype of the barbarian also figures into this framework as an Insurrectionary rejection of “the Human” (among other things), and so does the concept of the demonic invasion as a path of resistance as conceptualised through the Witches Sabbath. It is also reflected in Gruppo di Nun’s namesake: Nun refers to the Egyptian goddess of the primordial abyss and represents the ocean of infinite recombination, while the name Gruppo di Nun inverts the premise of Julius Evola’s Gruppo di Ur, in which Ur represented the triumph of (male) human will over the abyss of matter.
I can only hope that their upcoming book Revolutionary Demonology delves more into the content of that inhumanity, but at the same time I’m inclined to delve into other ideas about that from other places.
One of the things that springs to mind instantly is Georges Bataille’s essay, Base Materialism and Gnosticism, where he discusses his particular take on Gnosticism and its supposed leitmotif of esoteric materialism. Bataille argued that the Gnostics were fixated on “monstrous archontes” and “outlawed and evil forces”, such as the “ass-headed god” (no doubt the god referred to as Seth-Typhon), which to him represented “the most virulent manifestation of materialism”. This ostensibly was, to Bataille, more of a psychological obsession than an ontological statement, but it also denoted matter as something extant and foreign to the aspirations of human ideation, idealisation, or idolization, and thus could not be subordinated by “the great ontological machines”. In a way it does track with the way Gruppo di Nun talks about the demonic in terms of a great outsideness in relation to the order of things, or the barbarian as alien par excellence.
Insofar as Bataille’s Gnostic venerated these monstrous archontes, these inhuman forces, it is possible to interpret this Averse Gnosticism (per the terminology of Nicholas Lacetti) as a religious communion with the inhumanity of matter and nature as represented by the archontes. Per Lacetti the emblems of this dark principle of Averse Gnosticism are not only monstrous archontes or divinities featured but also tripartite devil’s signature of attested by Eliphas Levi, consisting of the inverted pentagram and sign of the goat, the “typhonian fork” and the diverging serpents, and the inverted name of God, all symbols of rebellion, negation, conflict, creative destruction, and a sort of Satanic subversion which all present a chaotic, inhuman, “blind” totality at the centre of reality. Of course, it’s probably not worth overlooking that this doesn’t necessarily have much to do with what was the makeup of esoteric Christian sects referred to as “Gnosticism”, and pertains much more to the shadow of “Gnosticism”. Yet, there is something about the historical movement of “Gnosticism” that perhaps we can discuss in relation to this idea.
In The Cult of The Black Cube, Arthur Moros’ treatise about his proposed cult of Saturn, Moros discusses the figure of Saturn in relation to Ialdabaoth, one of the many Demiurge figures presented within “Gnosticism”. In the course of this he argues that there was Gnostic current which did not reject the Demiurge or Archons and renounce the world but instead venerated and petitioned these beings as the rulers of the world in order to attain secret rites, which would allow them to cultivate magical power, fulfill worldly goals and desires, or perhaps even achieve some kind of liberation. He bases this idea largely on Origen’s account of an Ophite ritual within Contra Celsum in which the “Gnostic” invokes the rulers of the seven gates of wickedness in order to receive secret teachings from them. We can refer to a passage from Origen given by Moros, per his own translation, as follows:
Of course, Contra Celsum is likely the sole source for this ritual, and Origen in turn regarded it as a profane sorcery that had nothing to do with Christianity. But Arthur Moros believes that it was a real and reflected a historical, albeit probably heretical, tendency within “Gnosticism”, and thus that Origen somehow had access to this tradition. There’s no real way to have any historical certainty about this idea, but perhaps it should not be discounted. If the principle holds that to write against heresy is ultimately to preserve it, then there is reason to assume that Origen may have ended up preserving something. But moreover, if you look at the Greek Magical Papyri, you will find spells invoking archons such as Sabaoth and Abraxas for various worldly ends. Beings such as Ialdabaoth and Abraxas appear in various amulets attributed to Gnostic magic, which Moros takes as a sign that magicians were using the image of Ialdabaoth as a talisman for the purposes of invocation. Why exactly any Gnostics would want to invoke such a being is a mystery, but I suppose it’s into this mystery that you can explore any number of rationales. A creative interpretation of Valentinian Gnosticism, for instance, would position the Demiurge as a being who could be invoked by initiates to save them from the cycle of rebirth. An interpretation of the ritual described by Origen could lead to a similar conclusion, but the idea being to liberate yourself from the cycle by gaining the power to acheive apotheosis. One can think of passing through the gates of wickedness as an application of the credo of “no way out but through”, paging the approach to nihilism presented by Keiji Nishitani or Maurice Blanchot, but it’s also inseparable from the recognition of a monstrous and chaotic principle at the source of reality
And further reinforcing this on esoteric terms we can revisist the subject of hongaku thought and its applications in certain strands of Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Hongaku, or “innate enlightenment”, is the idea that all beings and even things in general already possess some kernel of enlightenment, or even a latent mode of enlightenment in toto. You can also sometimes find possibly similar ideas well outside Buddhism, including in modern neopagan groups: towards the end of Nevill Drury’s The Occult Experience, we see a member of The Temple of the Mother, an Australian neopagan group focused on worshipping the goddess Isis, explain his belief that humanity is already enlightened and just has to become aware of it, whcih to him means that the religious process consists of an “unfolding” of inner spiritual truths rather than creating them while spiritual freedom consists in Man realizing its own latent divinity and perfection. In an esoteric Buddhist context, the Hongaku philosophy establishes the possibility of enlightenment being present or potential even in the most ignorant, unenlightened, or wicked beings. Tendai Buddhism established not only that all things were in some way Buddha but also that all thoughts and deeds, even ignorant ones, could be seen as expressions of innate enlightenment without cultivation. In theological terms, it also meant that even demons were themselves manifestations of innate enlightenment. In Bernard Faure’s study Protectors and Predators, we see a triad of chthonian demon gods, Bishamonten (Vaisravana), Daikokuten (Mahakala), and Enmaten (Yama) emerge as emblems of an “unthinkable reality” of violence and evil that is nonetheless. Daikokuten in particular, as “The Great Black One” came to be regarded as the representation of fundamental ignorance, from “great darkness”, and thus, in Tendai doctrine, an embodiment of ultimate reality and innate enlightenment. A similar context developed for a number of Japanese Buddhist and Shinto deities that came to be regarded in demonic terms. Thus fear, anger, passion, violence, defilement, all the “poisons” – which were seen as attributes of beings such as Kojin, Daikokuten, Ugajin, Matarajin, and Mara – were all understood as the fundamental identity between ignorance and awakening, the inhuman ultimate reality that the practitioner must realise.
The inhumanity of Nature or matter as a larger subject should also be considered on its own terms. To play with Gnostic parlance, matter is not inherently “good”, but neither is it inherently “evil” as the “traditional” “Gnostic” perspective. What it is, though, is inhuman. It’s simply absurd to moralize it. Thus it is for Nature. The idea that Nature can be conceived in the terms of human morality is nothing but an illusion. The idea that Nature is inherently “Good” comes as a projection of our place within it, the fact that we necessarily derive existence from it, our perception of it as the organising principle of existence, and the further bias or prejudice that the organising principle must by dint of its status be “Good”. But destruction, as in the destruction of everything, is one of the immovable “laws” of nature, and the destructive aspect of Nature is bound up with its creative aspect. It’s worth noting the way that Spinoza recognises this in his assertion of his God-concept, which in some ways can and has been identified with Nature. Spinoza does posit definitions for “good” and “evil”, but these are defined in terms of what is beneficial to us versus what hinders that beneficence, while nothing is “good” or “evil” from the point of view of Spinoza’s “God”. “Good” and “evil” are either equally serviceable to this “God” or Nature or they do not exist as “good” or “evil” at all. They’re the products of we who spring up from the earth and which, with our seemingly distinctly developed sentience, we do not understand, struggle to understand, fail to understand and almost cannot understand.
The fundamental inhumanity is not hard to understand. There is a profound chasm that sits between Nature and thought; that is, between reality as it exists and the systems by which we strive to understand it. We try to cross or bridge that chasm, but neither reason nor moralization permit us to do so. We very often try to see Nature in human terms, and we might even occasionally regard the opposite perspective as merely a reflection of a cruel life. But there is nothing “human” about Nature, except perhaps for humans. Nature does not care what comes of humans, or any other creature or things, when we perish. It is not the concern of Nature what we become in life or in death. If within a system of metempsychosis we may reincarnate as one of the vast menagerie of animals whose existence we sometimes mock from the relative comfort of civilization, would Mother Nature really shed a tear, or even smirk upon as the vindication of some karmic law? And if it did, for what reason would it permit that living things often must devour other living things in order to continue their existence, or for that matter the very fact of their inexorable decay and death? But of course, even this is merely speaking with a degree of senselessness: after all, to talk of the “permission” of Nature is also absurd. Nature doesn’t “permit” or “forbid” anything in the fashion that the familiar lawmaking God might, just that nothing can exist beyond, apart from, or outside of Nature.
So long as we understand this about Nature, it is simple enough to locate the realities of destruction, struggle, and violence. Ah, but perhaps it is here that inhumanity becomes a somewhat tenuous category, for you see violence is perfectly human. In political life, the one and only taboo is that violence exists at the centre of all political arrangements, as well the alteration of and emancipation from said arrangements. Bourgeois democracies have their subjects pretend that they exist without any structural violence and do not depend on violence to exist, and even sometimes among some anarchists there is a tendency to pretend that violence exists only as something that other people do against you. Meanwhile, reactionaries and fascists opportunistically exploit the contradiction of violence by claiming some recognition of violence as the sole law of nature, and in some cases proudly proclaiming that their ideology is based on violence, and yet when anti-fascists exercise violence against fascists and militant reactionaries, they denounce the recognition of violence as a necessary part of defending the oppressed from fascism. The truth about fascists is not that they believe violence in itself a law of nature, rather they typically ultimately only accept that the violence of domination is natural; the violence of the master is just and natural but the violence of the slave is somehow to be accepted as an attack on “the natural order”, even when the very order they worship was quite literally established by the violence of rebellion or insurrection against a previously dominating order! In that sense their morality actually differs little from the tacit acceptance of the violence of liberal-democracy as somehow inherently legitimated, sans the matter of recognition as violence, while the violence arrayed against that system must only be some malefic aberration of history.
Whether we recognise it or not, though, violence is rather inseparable from political struggle, even if only in limited forms such as defense or the ability to threaten violence against adversaries. In fact, there is absolutely no way to guarantee that we will somehow abolish it once all the major structures of domination have been dismantled. There are many reasons for this, of course, but among the most relevant would be that you have no guarantee that no one will try to re-establish authority and domination, after cultivating some desire to dominate others. To establish that authority will invariably depend on violence, just as it has before when statehood itself emerged, and to oppose that authority, to prevent its re-emergence, will require violent resistance. Thus, since struggle is never absent, even in the world after the world, so too violence is never absent. Yet here it may seem that the inhumanity of nature is at once abject humanity, underpinning the universality of struggle.
There are other prospective considerations that emerge from the theme of the inhumanity of Nature. Gruppo di Nun seem to their understanding of the inhumane powers of outsideness to themes of disintegration, destruction, and ultimately towards becoming, even referring to Mihkail Bakunin’s axiom that the passion for destruction is also creative. Of course, the beginning and rest of that passage is “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternally creative source of all life”, and with Gruppo di Nun it’s safe to assume they interpret Bakunin’s quote as a reference to an actual esoteric power. The demonic outsidness is thus also a perennial source of becoming, but the link between this outsideness and becoming is also already established in Nun as the chaotic abyss that is also the zone of endless transformation. In Pagan terms, it’s not so hard to link this same theme to that of the deifying power of the underworld as discussed by Jake Stratton-Kent in relation to ancient Greek polytheism, and from there to the whole world of chthonic mystery. I also see in the conception of the inhumanity of nature the possibility of certain ways of conceiving chaos from years ago returning to life in different ways. I imagine any idea of Chaos that would emerge in such considerations would differ from how, when I was much younger, I inclined myself towards the idea of Chaos as a kind of energetic life force, but insofar as it pertains to a kind of abyssic power of becoming, Chaos as a power in itself would not be an invalid idea. On the other hand it all would smack of the way I’ve already written about Darkness as an ontological concept or urgrund, the nature of nature as it were, and I lean towards the idea of Chaos as a meta-condition of sorts; the inhumanity of nature and its rammifications not necessarily being a bad description of that condition, though perhaps incomplete when describing the condition of Chaos.
In any case I am rather looking forward to the clarifications that perhaps Revolutionary Demonology might bring forward in regards to the overall demonological philosophy of Gruppo di Nun, which I am actually eager to see more of and hope will prove to be both personally inspirational and an expression of new ways of thinking within the broader Left Hand Path.
The last few months have had me dwelling heavily on my life as of ten years ago. In the summer of 2012 I had just graduated from high school, and a few months later I had begun life as an eccentric and semi-lonesome art student. By that time, by Society’s terms, I had just become a young adult. And though I was very un-social and ended up missing out, I was rather expressive, and I saw my time in college as a grand opportunity to set my mind and imagination free, even if you could say I wasn’t a very good artist back then. I took on a lot of unique ideas back, and I’d say some discussions and influences have survived in my psyche to this day.
Ten years later, I have felt a noticeable urge to revisit that aspect of my life, and the potential that I feel could have been unleashed had I, perhaps, done things differently in my life instead of going through a game design course and never getting a career out of it. At the same time, seeking to deepen any sense of concrete religio-magickal praxis has me naturally thinking about just how such creative aspirations might intertwine with practice, inspired mainly by discussions in modern Paganism. And so to this end I got inspired to write some notes and cobble some ideas together in order to assemble an artistic philosophy that would animate my work in much the same way that my two articles on my concept of Satanic Paganism seem to animated the way think about religion and life philosophy going forward. In much the same way as the two articles about Satanic Paganism were all about establishing philosophical footing towards a practical end, this article continues exactly that goal in application to a practical interest that I desire to deepen.
Art As Occult Pagan Praxis
Back in December of last year, Aliakai hosted an interview with Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, a Kemetic polythetist iconographer and the author of the book Sacred Verses: Entering the Labyrinth of the Gods, to discusss art as a means of conversing with the divine. The basic idea being presented is that art itself, regardless of your level of skill or even your own confidence in that skill, is by its nature a conversation with or about the divine. Thus we see art brought into focus as a part of Pagan praxis. Aliakai pointed out that, from the Hellenic perspective, the divine works in all aspects of artmaking and including the written word; the Mousai (or Muses) presided over the written word (which was itself considered art), Athena over weaving, Hephaistos (Hephaestus) over pottery and metallurgy, Hermes over messages and speech, Dionysos (Dionysus) over all kinds of performance, to name a few. The point being made is that art itself, and the flow state attendant to it, may constitute conversation with the divine. This also connects to a broader idea that Ptahmassu laid out in which mundane activities, insofar as they can be invested with meaning or creative purpose, can be dedicated to the gods, even as offerings to the gods; such a model, Ptahmassu, notes, is present across the various polythetistic traditions. In this perspective, activities such as cooking can be thought of as a way of honouring gods such as Hestia.
The idea is that basically (potentially) any activity can be dedicated to the gods and received as an offering. This observation is sort of expanded on in Aliakai’s more recent video, “What to Offer To the Gods in Hellenism”. Here, it is noted that songs written by bards and poems written by poets could be counted as offerings alongside animal offerings (which were actually fairly uncommon in practice), fruits and vegetables, incense, and votives. Relevant to the discussion I give here is the section about devotional offerings. The concept of a devotional offering includes what is called a devotional activity, which is simply an intentionally performed activity within the domain of interest of a god that is then focused and concentrated towards that god. Examples of this could include plays performed to Dionysus at the Dionysia festivals, or the concept of rhapsoidos (from which we get the word “rhapsody”) as a poetic offering. Feats of strength or artistic creativty, not to mention poetry itself, were often believed to be recognised by the gods as offerings to them insofar as they were devoted to the gods. What counts is that the act is consciously considered as actively devoted to the gods.
For the purpose of what I’m writing here, I have pursued a line of inquiry involving the connection between art, devotional offerings, and magick. Finding leads in that direction was difficult, but I have found aspects of chaos magick that may prove sufficient. In the eighth chapter Condensed Chaos, Phil Hine discusses the conception of Invocation, or Pathworking, as a way to identify oneself with a god-image in order to amplify a desired attribute or multiple thereof. Hine uses an example of a woman who identified herself with an image of the Hindu goddess Kali and, by way of Pathworking, seemed to take on some her powerful attributes. Another example is in a Pathworking invocation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, a Thelemic avatar of the Egyptian god Horus, through which one may apparently gain magickal prowess. Something about this conception of Invocation feels very much in harmony with the magickal practice of divine identification found within the Greek Magickal Papyri, and I’m tempted to think of it as a modernized take on it, less steeped in older forms of ceremonial magick. It is also possible for me to interpret Invocation in artistic terms.
Phil Hine talks about the connection between Invocation and acting or drama. It’s actually likened to a performance, directed at the entity being invoked, and a good performance would be met with reward while failure would not. Voice, gesture, form, and other attributes form part of what Hine calls the “theatre” of magic. This connection is then expanded in the subject of mask work. Much like ancient Greek theatre, Hine’s concept of Invocation/Pathworking also involves the use of masks, which, although commonly understood by modern societies as simply aesthetic objects, were understood by older cultures as powerful magickal implements, even weapons. The mask is here understood as a channel through which a spirit or divinity enters the individual personality, takes possession of it, and thereby enact a transformation of personality. Face-painting, props, instruments, pose, all kinds of elements of performance are drawn together in the Invocation, because in that concept of Invocation you are indeed meant to put on a good show for the gods, or at least one of them in particular.
So how do we track Phil Hine’s overall principle of Invocation to the concept of devotional offerings in Hellenism, and thereby Pagan praxis in a wider sense? The short answer is that the Invocation entails making an Art of yourself and that this is the offering. The long answer is context, which we will explore forthwith.
One important aspect of this context is not merely theatre itself but the origins thereof. Ancient or “classical” Greek theatre originated from religious ritual, particularly as devoted to the god Dionysus. As early as the 6th century BCE, worshippers of Dionysus would publicly perform wild and ecstatic cultic songs called dithyrambs in his honour, not to mention their very namesake referencing the god’s death and rebirth, and from this period it is acknowledged that the dramatic arts gradually developed. During such festivals as the Dionysia and the Lenaia, actors would perform on the stage at the Theatre of Dionysus, attended by thousands of spectators, enacting the myths and tragedies with divine import. Other similar Hellenic cultural artefacts include the paean, a much more sober and triumphant set of songs dedicated to the god Apollo, as well as the Delphic Hymns also dedicated to Apollo. Theatre in ancient Greece had all the trappings that Phil Hine described as part of mask work: masks, costumes, instruments, vocal performances, and more. It would make sense to contextualize this in terms of devotional offerings in the sense that poetry competitions were, in that these poetry competitions were indeed dedicated as offerings to gods, and the theatres themselves derived origin from similar ritual performances.
The way Phil Hine talks about performance in Invocation in some ways brings to mind the idea that, as Aliakai noted in her video, the gods enjoyed watching humans as their own form of entertainment – an idea that apparently stretches all the way back to Homer’s Iliad, with its emphasis on the divine audience. Indeed, it has been observed by critics that, throughout the Iliad, the gods appear to observe the world of mortals as though watching a show from Mount Olympus, albeit a very special show where they get to intervene in the affairs of a cast whose fate they sometimes invest themselves in. They feast and laugh while seeing us performing our roles in the world, and Zeus alternates between amusing himself at the antics of the mortals and beholding in anguish as his sons die in the same world as the others. It’s almost tragic when you put it that way, but then that would make sense for Homer, wouldn’t it?
To extend this to a logic appropriate for Satanic Paganism, though, means to place us as more than actors that the gods occasionally invest themselves in. Our “performance” is in this setting a conscious, active, magickal act, aimed at reaching out to that realm in such a way that we might actually approach it, and take on divinity into ourselves. This is thus the sense in which the gods may be understood as potential partners or even collaborators in our self-actualization, as in a Great Work on a cosmic scale. Those who partake in this effort are the alchemists who turn the world around them, and in a certain way themselves, into the magnum opus, the philosopher’s stone, and become their own divine individuals. That work in itself, the performance and ritual we undertake, and perhaps especially the means by which invocations allow the gods (and the demons!) to work their hands in the world and in human life, can in their own way be thought of offerings in the precise sense that any of the traditional devotional offerings were.
Warlike Soul, Magickal Self
What I found somewhat notable is the role of the Egyptian god Ptah, a creator god who was also the god of craftsmen, from the Kemetic perspective. For Ptahmassu, anyone who does anything in the arts receives divine inspiration from Ptah, and all creative acts ultimately come from the gods, even if one is not conscious of that, and indeed this springs from the belief that really everything and even the other gods originate from Ptah as per Memphite theology. But more interesting from my perspective is the discussion of the wrathful/warlike aspect of Ptah – that may seem like a random subject, but stay with me on this. Ptahmassu says that Ptah is also a god of war, and was one of the gods of the four branches of the ancient Egyptian military, and that one of his epithets is “bull who rampages with sharp horns”, among other apparent epithets not known outside of specialist circles. In this way Ptah is not only a creator god but also a war god and a destroyer. It is noted that one of his spouses is Sekhmet, the war goddess who was seen as a wrathful manifestation of the power of Ra.
Modern polytheists (including reconstructionists), because of the modern context in which we often see war and violence, prefer not to think of the gods of war as to be invoked in relation to actually going into battle with enemy combatants, but instead as deities who may fight spiritual battles for us when we face overwhelming obstacles, or give us the strength (or as Ptahmassu says “heavy artillery”) to fight them. But from my perspective, this view, believe it or not, is not dissimilar to the way wrathful deities are viewed in Buddhist practice. Buddhist wrathful deities are invoked to destroy the spiritual obstacles a practitioner faces in pursuit of enlightenment, as well the obstacles to the Buddhas and the Dharma more generally, and in this they represent the force, energy, and power by which passion, anger, and ignorance are turned into compassion and wisdom. You might well think them as the “heavy artillery” of Buddhist meditative practice, and for this reason the proper term for them is the Wrathful Destroyers of Obstacles (or Krodha-Vighnantaka).
Those figures have always been fascinating to me. Warrior gods in particular have a way of bringing into focus a persona of desire and individuality I’ve sought to cultivate. It’s going to sound more weird, trust me. In high school and college I would take any sword substitute I could find, usually a ruler or a bamboo stick, and make like it’s a sword to practice with. One day in college I’d just go out back to do sword swings with what I think was a bamboo stick. I seem to recall having the faculty talk to me about that not long afterwards; seems that was a tad disturbing for them. I suppose it must have also felt weird that I was probably the only person in my college class to support the idea of owning a firearm. When collecting old metal records I sometimes referred to it as collecting weapons or ammo. That’s kind of just how being into old school metal felt like. Some of that is still with me. The whole “classic/underground metalhead” aesthetic, right down to its often wildly liberal use of bullet belts, always had me feeling it was the genre that’d have you thinking you were a warrior if you listened to it. I rather liked that feeling.
Shin Megami Tensei undeniably set off a lot of sparks of identification for me. That probably started with identifying with the Chaos alignment, and with it the aesthetics and some of its attendant themes. A big part of that is the gods and demons, and in this regard it’s arguably responsible for the way I interact with anything from “The East” as I were. I mean look at theseguys from the original Shin Megami Tensei. Did I mention the Gaians too? Or the Chaos Hero? Maybe some more examples. Something about it formed what I think of as a sort of gestalt aesthetic and spiritual identification that has persisted over the years and shaped the contours of my spiritual aspirations. Honestly, though, I think the ethos of it all that can only deepen when looking at anarchism in the way Shahin talks about it in Nietzsche and Anarchy. Living free can only mean living fighting, embracing the conflict inherent in life and finding joy within it, with yourself as a participant in this conflict.
This probably feeds into the deep-seated appreciation for war gods, warlike and wrathful deities in various contexts. The interview I mentioned earlier brought up not only Ptah but also the Hellenic god Ares. Ares in particular actually seems very ontologically significant, being that he is not only the god of violence but also the patron of rebels – he is thus the renewal of the war (the literal meaning of rebellion) in the cosmos. Though in the context of polytheism it is probable that “god of [insert thing]” doesn’t really apply. Several deities counted war, battle, and the like as part of their overall complex of attributes. Some really good examples include Inanna, Anat, Athena, Tezcatlipoca, Perun, Set, Anahita, Ba’al Hadad, and of course Odin to name but a few. In fact, one of the very fascinating things about Norse/Germanic polytheism is that many of the gods could be thought of as “war gods” to some extent or another. Besides Odin, there’s Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Ullr, Thor, Hodr, to name a handful. Some expressions of Germanic polytheism also seem to have been associated with a particularly warlike cultus in at least some accounts. Anglo-Saxon accounts (keeping in mind the probable Christian bias) described Vikings partaking of ecstatic war dances to their gods during their campaigns in England, while in northern Italy the Langobards are defined by their worship of gods of war and fertility (specifically Odin (or Godan as they called him) and the Vanir). I get a bit of a kick from reading about the Mairiia, an apparent band of polytheistic warriors from ancient Iran, and how they held orgiastic feasts and worshipped “warlike” deities such as Indra, Rudra, Mithra, Vayu, Anahita, and Θraētaona (or Fereydun), and whose ecstatic cult was apparently eventually banished as a supposed enemy of the emerging Zoroastrian religion. At least quite of the Buddhist wrathful deities double as war/warrior gods in particular; these include Begtse, Tshangs Pa, and Vaisravana/Bishamonten among others.
How does that play into any kind of personal “magickal self”? I suppose I should start with the base concept. Aleister Crowley, in Book 3 of Liber ABA, defined the Magical Operation as “any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will”. Crowley suggested that this definition could include a range of activities from potato-making to banking. What makes it magical is the extent to which Will may be exercised in the material world towards a desired affect. It’s consistent with Crowley’s overall definition of magick and therewith the conception That alone does not tell us much, but what if we were to consider the notion of the magickal self as a sort of artistic Magical Operation? Crowley says later on, that “No matter how mighty the truth of Thelema, it cannot prevail unless it is applied to any by mankind”, meaning in practice that the Book of the Law had to go from simply being a manuscript to being published in order to achieve magickal effect. So then, Will must reach outwards to achieve its affect.
The Magical Operation I may speak there is thus: to cultivate and impress the power of a wild, warlike magickal self whose object is to fill the world with his will. The magickal self, in this sense, can be thought of as the active, imprinted manifestation of the magician’s subjective universe via identity, through which the magician affects their own consciousness onto the world, and conveying that which it means to affect in its inner and outer world. For me, for this “wild, warlike magickal self”, that is a sort of transgressive mystic freedom and strength, bound to the unbridlding of the inner darkness of life and the hearth of will nestled within it.
The entire enterprise is to be considered a manifestation of the Left Hand Path, insofar as this is to be understood in modern parlance. The magickal self is a process of the creative actualization of the will of the artist-magician, done so as to become an active force in their own existence, and not only this persisting, survivng presence in the world through the creative power of magickal subjectivity. By imprinting the world with Art, the artist-magician transforms themselves and then the world around them by the same practice, and, in a way, they might well contribute to their own “immortality”, their own will surviving in the face of death, joining a world of divine wills. The spirit you want to impress on this world is down to the individual. For my purpose, I wish to cultivate and impress transgressive strength.
There’s also obviously another purpose to it. After all, if one desires to affect a warlike spirit or persona in the world, then even if it’s just for its own sake or out of one’s own raw affinity, it only makes sense that you mean to fight in the long term. And I do, for many reasons. I suppose one of the main ideas ideologically is to produce an autonomy capable of participating in the broad social war, as Shahin puts it, or the broader war of all against all (in Stirner’s terms) that pervades the cosmos, upholding its own freedom and ownness by standing and fighting against all of its enemies. In full candour, though, there is also a pure desire to it. The desire to be able to have the inner and outer strength to independently rely on, to always be able exert myself in will, and to be able to enter into moments of destiny that might depend on it: in other words, to fight and put the fear of the gods into anyone hostile to those persons, or just the one, to whom I invest my full devotion. But there’s also an obvious way to connect it to the way Toby Chappell conceives of magick as, at least I’d argue, a sort of dialectical transformation of the inner and outer worlds. Or, perhaps, as Michael Bertiaux put it in his Voudon Gnostic Workbook, “the imagination making the world to be as it is in itself”. The development of subjectivity towards its own empowerment, and working performed upon it, is to become an agent upon the outer world, and perhaps so on. The warlike spirit grows so that it can be its own full ontological autonomy, so that it can forge its will as like a blade within an actual forge, and then imprint will as the expression of active creative agency and as the mark of resistance.
To briefly return to ideological-philosophical considerations, it is worth establishing that struggle is never absent in life. Indeed, our species is perhaps alone in its thinking that it can cut itself off from the struggle: establishing civilization itself as an ostensible enclave from that whole world, all while actually containing struggle within itself, and then collapsing and being rebuilt again and again, beholding new iterations of the same cycle. Struggle in many ways can be thought as essential to life, certainly so if we take from the Pagan worldview that rebellion is locked into the origination and perpetuation of cosmic life in itself. Thus, as Kropotkin says in Anarchist Morality, to struggle is to live. Certain philosophers of resignatory pessimism, like Arthur Schopenhauer, almost certainly sensed this albeit to the precise extent that they wanted an out from it. Even in a world of Anarchy, nothing tells us that struggle will end, as a new world without authority will yet contend with those whose desires tend toward social control and intimate authoritarianism, which thus threaten the re-establishment of every system of social domination you can name, thus leading to new cycles of social war marked by the necessary battle against social domination and its various sources. All I mean to say, though, is that insofar as the struggle is endless, one has the option to take it up and make oneself a combatant, knowing all of this, as a matter of amor fati. Thus is the world into which warlike spirits maintain their place in the eternity of resistance.
The “Luciferian” Impulse in Art (Or, A Word on the Mysterium Luciferianum)
I’d also like to discuss the sort of “Luciferian” current that not only runs about through the way I’ve appreciated this whole warrior theme, as well as a much broader artistic theme that might have a broader place in the artistic worldview, all of which sort of gradually emerged as I wrote this article.
Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, is the spirit who rebels against the Sun. Fraternitas Saturni, who linked Lucifer and Satan together with the Roman god Saturn, interpreted this as the conflict between Saturn and the Solar Logos (or Sorath), which they hoped would end in the absorption of the Solar Logos by Saturn. Japanese astrology also believes that the planet Venus (which in Japan is often called Taihakusei) was believed to compete with the Sun for brightness. Although the Roman Lucifer and the Hellenic Phosphoros seem like purely innocuous spirits of light and dawn, several other morning star gods and spirits were also linked to war, and even death and the underworld.
This includes Athtar, the Ugaritic god whose myth is a likely “origin” point for the Luciferian Fall mythos, since he represented war and battle as well as fertility and water. Athtar was connected with the goddess Astarte or Ishtar, to whom he was considered a male counterpart, and Ishtar is known for being a goddess of both sex and war and was regarded as the evening star. Athtar was also paired with the Moabite god Chemosh, who is perhaps Biblically notorious as the god who managed to defeat Yahweh once in battle. The Syrian deity Azizos was a morning star god who the Roman emperor Julian identified with the Hellenic god Ares, the Arabian goddesses al-Uzza and Baltis were identified with the morning star and worshipped as warrior goddesses, the Iranian goddess Anahita was connected to the planet Venus and worshipped as a goddess of war as well as water and fertility, the Egyptian god Sopdu was a morning star deity who was also a god of war, and the Slavic Zorya goddesses, representing the morning and evening stars, were also warrior goddeses. The ancient Mayans venerated the planet Venus in the context of war and planned military campaigns based on the planet’s movements, the Japanese gods Daishogun and Taihakujin, who were associated with the planet Venus, were depicted as generals, and the Pawnee venerated the morning star as a god of war.
The morning star itself was sometimes believed to be a rebellious entity. The Mayan Chak Ek was believed to bring disorder to the world and fight the other gods. In Islam, Zohreh is the name of Venus and a woman who tricked two angels into giving her the secret of how to enter Heaven. In Shinto, the morning star was likely personified as the god Ame-no-kagaseo (more popularly known as Amatsu-mikaboshi), who rebelled against the Amatsukami by refusing to submit the land of Japan to them, while in Japanese astrology the star called Taihakusei was believed to inspire sedition and was considered an omen of coup d’etat.
What’s funny is that, as far as Michael Bertiaux is concerned, people are motivated to become artists because of the “Luciferian” impulse. Also funny is that, in that interview, the actual line between “Luciferianism” and Satanism is not really established in that interview, and in fact his concept of the “Luciferian impulse” emerges in relationship to his discussion of esoteric Satanism – specifically the so-called “school of Rops” that Bertiaux says was founded by the artist Felicien Rops in Paris in 1888 as well as the so-called “Temple of Boullan” that was ostensibly founded by a Haitian occultist named Paul Michaël Guzotte. I think I’ll have to look into those at some point. Still, there’s a way to make sense of it especially when we don’t consider “Luciferianism” to be a distinct religious tradition (which it can’t be, since there are several doctrines called “Luciferian” and some of them are basically just brands of Satanism). If we creatively apply the way Rene Guenon defined “Luciferianism” as “rebellion” or “counter-tradition” (bearing in mind that he also considered it to be basically just “unconscious Satanism”), that can apply as much to my own enterprise of Satanic Paganism inasmuch as it too bears this impulse.
Therein lies a larger point, though. “Luciferianism” is not a religion in itself. There is no real shared body of doctrine or praxis that can be called “Luciferian”. Instead there’s a bunch of doctrines and praxes from a variety of occultists for whom the term often seems to have very different meanings – in some cases it literally is just a different take on what is basically Satanism. And to be honest the more I see self-styled Luciferians around the more it becomes somewhat obvious that “Luciferianism” exists as part of the Satanic landscape, just that it focuses on a very distinct mode of magickal-mythical identification.
But as much as I’d like to elaborate more on what I might call the “Mysterium Luciferianum” (to adapt Rudolf Otto’s terminology of the Holy), what matters is the impulse that Bertiaux speaks to. It’s fundamentally what Carl Jung talked about when he discussed the principium individuationis: that is, selfhood seeking to define itself on its own terms. Art is probably the most ubiquitous means for the principium individuationis to manifest itself concretely, and perhaps that is why it is so reviled by mass society when it does exactly this and shunned by mass markets for not being some mere product. In this sense, art cannot be adequately understood as solely the production of beauty and thus the recapitulation of forms. The individual artist, insofar as they pursue conscious self-definition through artistic media, can apply the “Luciferian” impulse in that this impulse is fundamentally to assert your own creative will, especially in rebellion against Society.
My Very Own Little Sparta
One artistic ambition that I have nurtured since I was a student in college was the creation of my very own space in the vein of Little Sparta by Ian Hamilton Finlay. All I can think of when it comes to what that would actually be like is that I would practice the sword there or maybe even do some outdoor worship there, but to understand just the idea being explored it’s necessary to explain the concept of Little Sparta.
Little Sparta is a garden that was created in 1966 by Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue Finlay. It still exists to this day and is still open for public visitations in Dunsyre, located in South Lanarkshire in Scotland. I think what attracted me to Little Sparta was this idea of a personal artistic space that was loaded with invested meaning, by which I of course mean poetry, allegory, and revolutionary symbolism connected to pre-Christian mythos. The garden features a “Temple of Apollo”, which is dedicated to the god Apollo, his music, his “missiles”, and the Muses. The Temple is apparently meant to represent a thematic attention to certain ideas about civilization, violence, tenderness, and sublimity meant to be conveyed throughout the garden. Elsewhere in the garden there’s a golden bust of Apollo’s head, with the name “APOLLON TERRORISTE” inscribed on the forehead. This icon of Apollo is modelled after the image of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, one of the leaders of the French Revolution, and invokes the myth of Apollo slaying Marsyas after defeating him in a music contest (incidentally, the Little Sparta website claims that Marsyas won the contest and was thus punished by Apollo for it). A quote from Saint-Just, “The order of the present is the disorder of the future”, is depicted in an inscription somewhere in Little Sparta. Several other inscriptions can be found on the various sculptures scattered throughout the garden, all of them meant to carry some sort of poetic message that Finlay meant to express.
One comparison that I find to be potentially significant is the comparison to sacred groves. Prudence Carlson, writing for The Financial Times, suggested that Little Sparta – along with another garden he created called Fleur de L’Air – represents an expression of the concept of the sacred grove. This is supposedly illustrated by the seriousness of the undertaking of its creation, and also the extent to which it renders the natural world as a place of solitary ideality set apart from the ordinary “world of man”. Of course, we may remember that an actual sacred grove is specifically uncultivated land that is set apart as a place for the divine to be communally observed. Still, it is probably possible to make a connection by the way of the concept of a space that is “set apart” as a site of meaning, including individual meaning.
In the context of a magickal framework, this means my equivalent of Little Sparta would be a place upon which my Will is embedded through edifices of creative expression that imbue individual meaning. A daemonic habitat that constitutes the power of a subjective universe, or perhaps a lasting physical link to said universe. An island into which perhaps a “magickal self” might flourish and enact itself, perhaps. The home of the artistic persona, and its identification with the divine.
I, to reiterate, don’t really have the clearest idea of what that garden would consist of. Space to practice swords is a no-brainer for me, though Shahin’s Nietzsche and Anarchy has me thinking about taking the concept of “idea-weapons” and giving them the form of aesthetic expression. Obviously the place would be stamped with expressions of individuality, especially in an esoteric way, and ritualistic and occult trappings alongside depictions of pagan gods and divine demons would be a must-have for this space.
Back when I was starting college we had an induction week and I remember the main project we were doing was to get into groups of two and work on a flag for what was going to be a display. We were supposed to base the flag on objects we brought from home – one object per person, so two per group. I brought a very strange wooden animal head that my grandfather had, it was like the head of a buffalo on one side and that of a hippopotamus on the other. That became a big red buffalo head, meant to denote some idea of personal strength. I thought of it as a flag of freedom. I was then again the odd one out, not just for its theme but also, as far as I recall, for having the only one of the induction flags whose background wasn’t white. Perhaps some day I might revisit the idea, and create a new, similar banner, as the banner of the garden of warlike individuality.
The idea of it as a “sacred space” or “ideal space” can, in Pagan terms, intersect again with the notion of devotional offering as previously discussed. A distinct enclave of will, of concentrated subjectivity, perhaps including the elements of gods or demons, may contain potential in relevance to the link, established through Phil Hine’s concept of Invocation via mask work, to “performance”, in the ontological sense. You have created your own “sacred space” for yourself, but this “sacredness”, this setting apart of creative will in physical form, may be extended in devotional terms, that will reaching out as an offering of spirit to the realms of divine power. Perhaps it pleases them as the dedication in itself does, and the point of all that is to elicit the larger work of divine identification and actualisation of which the mortal and the divine are both a part.
Alchemy, Carnal and/or Otherwise
The aim of art is principally expression and to develop means of expression, even if that is so that it can be enjoyed by others (which, in turn, is so that you are happy). Kink is another means of self-expression, one much more intimately connected with the enjoyment of an other, and as I read certain books about BDSM more I tend to think that there’s a role that a certain magickal understanding of BDSM can play in the broader creative philosophy. Granted, this is all possible principally because I happen to have that kink myself. I don’t want it to come off as some mere rationalization, rather a part of the “unity” of psychic life in the context of philosophical praxis.
The book Carnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical Exploration of Pleasure, Pain, and Self-Transformation by Stephen Flowers and Crystal Flowers (the former of whom I normally don’t like) has been a surprisingly interesting source for ideas on how to imbue your kink with a distinct religio-magickal context. But, for my purposes, it would actually be better to start with a discussion of Marquis De Sade. The Flowers’ refer to Geoffrey Gorer, who in The Life and Ideas of the Marquis de Sade presents his definition of sadism (or “Sadeanism” as the Flowers’ put it) as “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer”. A very simplistic interpretation of this idea would have it that all of magick fits this definition and is thus “sadism” in its own right. Indeed for Gorer himself it can encompass a broad array of activities: from creating works of art to blowing up bridges, as long as it represents a modification of the external world as willed by the agent. In fact, it is perhaps especially applicable to the Artist, whose magickally application of their is the impression of their individual subjective universe and therefore Will upon the objective world. But putting aside the question of the extent to which masochism fulls under the general magickal applications of this (and I’m convinced that it does, but I’m not much of a masochist to know precisely how), it also connects with the sort of creative-destruction (to which Mikhail Bakunin in his own way referred) you see locked in the basis of life, and from there a broader appreciation of the darksome kernel of pure reality.
Imagination is an important part of the worldview being discussed. The character Dolmance in Philosophy in the Bedroom says that imagination is “the spur of delights”, upon which all (presumably at least in the realm of pleasure) depends and by which the greatest joys are known. As the Flowers’ note, the exercise of willful imagination is thus key to extending the possibilities of individual pleasure, which is thus understood as the cultivation and enactment of fantasies, in order to transform yourself through such acts of will. This is meant to be understood as “in accordance with Nature”. The “law” of Nature is pretty frequently invoked by De Sade’s characters as justifications for their actions, which are often outlandish at best and downright tortuous at worst, but the key theme there is that human vices, as much as “virtues”, are part of the workings of Nature, since Nature seems to allow them to take place. On the basis of this idea and the mortality of human beings, there emerges the argument that destruction is part of the “laws” of Nature, an indispensible one in fact, without which Nature cannot create. Incidentally, one of the interesting aspects of this worldview is that, on this basis, death itself is not actually the annihilation so frequently discussed in modern atheist circles but instead merely the re-arrangement of matter. In Justine we see this idea expressed by some of the characters, one of whom says “What difference does does it make to her creative hand if this mass of flesh today wearing the conformation of a bipedal individual is reproduced tomorrow in the guise of a handful of centipedes?”. What matters about this, though, is the extent to which Nature and Will/Imagination interact. Your subjective universe is as natural as anything else, insofar as Nature allows it to exist. Nature refers not merely to that which is outside of human civilization, but to the system of life and processes that all things are a part of and outside of which nothing really exists. Unlike De Sade I see the nature of Nature as a kind of spontaneous negativity, an always fertile Darkness, not a body of purposive law. Nature is a creative system with perpetuation as its fundamental trait, and those who create and assert their own subjective universes, even to the extent that it alters their external world, may be said to be in tune with Nature, at least in their own sense, whether that its following Nature or following their own nature.
Returning to the focus on BDSM in Carnal Alchemy, “alchemy” is basically the watch word here. The Flowers’ elaborate that their concept of Sado-Magic or Carnal Alchemy is in essence an extension of the old idea of alchemy: turning lead into gold is thus translated as turning pain into pleasure and power into powerlessness. The phrase “solve et coagula” (which you’ve doubtless seen on the arms of Baphomet), meaning the breaking down of a substance into constituents and then recombining them into perfection, is then interpreted as the submissive undergoing that same process by their ritual submission to the dominant as the object of transformation into perfection. The dominant or sadist in this framework is thus analogous to the alchemist seeking to create the philosopher’s stone, for whom the body of the submissive is a microcosm of the objective world in which they work their Will, taking on. On the other side of this equation, though, the submissive is actually the power that the dominant strives to work with and develop magickally. This alchemy for both parties can also entail a form of identification: the dominant, or a certain type thereof, may identify with the “tortures” inflicted on the submissive, and both partners by way of the principle of sexual magick may even identify each other as the God in each other. From a certain point of view, the dominant may even be seeking to perfect themselves as much as the objective world through the bondage they practice upon the submissive. Self-perfection, of course, is a magickal aspiration, especially on the left hand path, going hand in hand with divine identification.
From this standpoint, though, the connection between the dominant/sadist and art is well-explored in the Flowers’ book. The dominant’s role and the pleasure the dominant feels through it is likened to artist working in their medium, like Michaelangelo taking pieces of marble – specifically pieces that he believed contained the image he was looking for, and upon which he used his tools to “liberate” that image. The dominant through their ritual enacts their subjective will into the world, and liberates and transforms the submissive because their ritual fulfills their desires.
Another discussion of alchemy in relation to kink can be found in Carolyn Elliott’s Existential Kink. Admittedly it’s very self-helpy, and its discussing of embracing kink is decidedly fixated on the submissive side of kink, but we can take on a generalized perspective in its discussion of alchemy. Alchemy is likened to the process of individuation, which Elliott relates to as The Great Work. Partaking in this Great Work sees the individual consciousness evolve and integrate such that it expands its own possibilities for “seeing and acting upon beautiful worldly opportunities for fulfillment” – or, perhaps in better terms, to enact Will in the world. By establishing a unified mind, and then from there attaining a “one world”, you attain a sort of “embodied unity with reality”. This process involves the integration of that part of you that is disowned by the “ego” (I can take this to mean normative consciousness), thereby changing the locus of your own agency in alignment with the “kinkier” and “darker” whole of the self, which results in the cultivation of genuine individuality and, through the fulfillment of the Great Work, a greater ability to manifest will in the objective world. Thus Elliott frames her vision of The Great Work as an expression of the Left Hand Path (which she also calls the “lightning path”, because it quickly and radically transforms you).
I’m establishing a pretty strong thread connecting a sort of general principle of alchemy to the artistic philosophy by connecting it to kink, but that is not its only connection. Reiterating the way Liber ABA sheds light on the intersection between magick and worldly creative practice, let’s note Crowley’s discussion of Rembrandt: Crowley says that Rembrant took a number of ores and crude objects and from these he “banished the impurities, and consecrated them to his work, by the preparation of canvasses, brushes, and colours”, and then “compelled them to take the stamp of his soul”. In this, Crowley says, Rembrandt created a being of truth and beauty out of the “creatures of earth”. This is meant to be taken as an application of Crowley’s understanding of the larger process of magick, or more specifically initiation: here initiation is understood as the process of transforming “First Matter” into immortal, incorruptible, eternally individual intelligence. According to Crowley, this is how one comes to understand alchemy.
Moreover, I think there’s room to apply the alchemical understanding of individuation to certain forms of anarchist psychology. In their book, Nietzsche and Anarchy, Shahin argues from a Nietzschean perspective that individuals as such are not born ready-made but instead have to be created, both by social processes outside of a person’s control and ultimately by the person themselves. The Nietzschean worldview that Shahin presents holds that most people are what Shahin calls “dividuals”, not “individuals”. For Shahin, an “individual” would be a person or body that has developed full psychological coherence, having a single, unique, self-directed, consistent set of values, drives, thought structures, and patterns of action, whereas most human beings, as “dividuals” do not and instead carry multiple and often conflicting sets of drives and patterns, some of which are far from self-directed. The aim of individuation, in this sense, is to develop that sense of coherence, however ultimately imperfect even that may be, in order to become a fully autonomous and self-determining individual (well, again, to the best possible extent).
The alchemical metaphor here pans out when we take Crowley’s discussion of the process of initiation and then map it onto the context of Shahin’s Nietzschean self-transformation. In such a scheme, “dividuals” would correspond to “First Matter” or “creatures of earth”. “First Matter”, in alchemist terms, is a state of disorganized matter or energy, but in alchemy this is very specifically in reference to the state of primordial chaos that contains all possibilities of creation. Our “dividual” would not exactly correspond to this, save perhaps as an expression of the possibilities of chaos, but it is unorganized, at least in the sense that it does not necessarily organise itself creatively. Indeed, it is an all too obvious fact that we don’t simply organise ourselves under the direction of some discrete rational consciousness when we are born, and instead find ourselves dependent upon a system of social processes created by others. That’s where the arts of individuation and initiation come in.
Even if we learn the tools of our own self-reflection through the relationships we have with others, simply growing up in the set of social relationships we are born into is far from a guarantee of our individuality. In fact, it can be very easy to lose our sense of individuality, or even simply never cultivate one, within society. In fact, contrary to the insistences of common socialist narratives about the “individualism” of capitalism, life under capitalism finds many people in some ways “forgetting who they are”, losing sight of their individual aspirations and identities as they allow them to be entirely dedicated by capitalist stimuli or just forget about them as they set about “growing up” – entering the rat race and keeping up with social convention, whether they really believe in it or not, to survive in a society so tightly built upon it, all while probably being convinced that this is just the way the world works. Individuation means to break from that whole process, to change the locus of agency towards yourself, and in so doing changing from being disorganized, meaning in this case not entirely organised by your own direction and consciousness, to embodying autonomous self-direction.
A Short Word About AI Art
Since this is an article about art in itself I would be remiss if I were to ignore the subject of artificial intelligence in art, and its surrounding discourse which has become very relevant to art as a whole. AI art, meaning any art made using artificial intelligence tools, has increasingly been the subject of major controversy in the art world. Many artists hate AI art, often because they deem it inferior to traditional art or even dismiss the idea that it is really art at all, and sometimes also accuse AI artists of stealing the work of other artists. Some artists, however, seem to believe that AI art is the future of art-making, even believing it to be superior to non-AI art. AI art tools very much available across the internet, often freely at that, AI art pieces have already been sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions, an AI art piece recently won a prize at the Colorado State Fair, and AI art tools are already being integrated into Microsoft’s family of software products. All told, it’s not for nothing that AI art is such a hot topic in the art world.
But what do I think? Or rather, how does it figure into my overall philosophy of art? Ostensibly, the answer is “not much”. For now, the use of AI Art figures little into whatever designs I have, and, admittedly, I think that the actual output of AI art tools is vey hit-or-miss. It could range from what’s basically a new wave of outsider digital expressionism, to complex algorithmic images that resemble old first person shooter games, to, if I’m being honest, mediocre and distorted parodies of traditional art, and at that some of the worst softcore pornography I’ve ever seen. On the other hand so much criticism goes down to the replication of form, and this comes back to how we define art.
In my opinion, it is impossible to define art without considering it as an expression of individual subjectivity. That’s not to say the depiction of form is absent from it, and for generations Nature has inspired countless artists with its abundance of form. But what counts is the starting place of art, the investment and reception of meaning from it, and that all derives from the relationship between the artist’s subjectivity and the world around the artist. Without subjectivity, without imagination, without abstraction, the capacity for art really becomes impossible, or confined only to illustration as a form of stenography. In simple terms, the mere repetition of forms is not in itself art. What is art is the conveyance of subjective relationship to it, even if it’s just a realistic depiction of the natural world. But if art is all about individual creative subjectivity, then art is also intimately related to the expression of individual will, and because of that, there are many ways in which art is not so far apart from magick, or indeed the precise sense in which Stanislaw Przybyszewski meant “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”. Art is thus not a collection of dead aesthetic objects, it’s not just “pretty pictures/paintings” as all too many people across modern political persuasions seem to think it is. To simplify: art, at base, is will.
So how does this tie back to AI art? Well, the idea that it’s “not real art” is really not a matter of objective fact. What counts is the extent to which AI tools allow the individual artist to express creative subjectivity in a completely self-directed manner. And in this regard, especially when it comes to proficiency, I believe it’s fair to say these tools need some work. But one thing I think about is what would happen if AI tools crossed into video game development? After all, video games are in themselves a form of art in their own right, even if it’s not something like Disco Elysium or Death Stranding, despite what our consumeristic conditioning would have us believe. The difference from other artforms, however, is that video games tend to be collaborative projects, since their design typically depends on the efforts of a team of developers working in tandem with each other. Multiple subjectivities are invested in development, leading to contradiction between them, and more often than not some visions prevail at the expense of others; and if it’s not one part of the design team over another, it’s the corporate hierarchy and capitalist markets over the developers. This is especially true for projects meant to follow the current industrial standard – “AAA” games, if you will – but it is no less true for indie projects in large part. Perhaps one person can do it, or more realistically just two, but it can be incredibly difficult and taxing labour, and one project could probably take many years to finish. So imagine if AI tools could be developed that would allow an individual artist to create an entire game effectively by themselves, its content dictated by their own individual subjectivity?
It sounds like a wild and fantastical idea, but I do remember seeing a few lectures back in university where people would discuss artifical intelligence in design and, in turn, discuss exactly this possibility. It was pretty exciting, thought at the time I couldn’t receive it without the same latent fears that many others have. From the same standpoint of individual subjectivity, there also arises the fear of the loss of its investment in traditional media. After all, we’re told that it’s just “the machine doing it all for you” – ignoring of course the fact you still have to give it input, and no doubt fashion the raw output that proceeds from it to your liking. But what if far from displacing the labour of the individual artist, and far from merely compensating for a lack of artistic talent, it could actually free individual game designers and their creative development from the dominant industrial relationships of collaboration, in which their subjectivity must contend with the propsect of getting drowned out by both capitalistic interests and your colleagues?
That whole world still has a long way to go, and to be honest I have no idea how to balance all of this with my longstanding skepticism of the positive potential of artifical intelligence as a whole, but to reiterate, in the end what matters is the possibilities that it affords the expression of individual subjectivity. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about your jobs being taken away by it. If you’re really serious about that, you should turn your gaze towards capitalism as the real enemy.
The Art As Esoteric Anarchist Prefiguration
Let’s return to Nietzsche and Anarchy for an overview of the concept of projectual life. Projectual life is the conscious self-direction of one’s individual life towards one’s own individuation. This is in the sense that it’s the conscious project to move away from the herd and its passivity towards the development of an active embodied consciousness capable of demonstrating a continuous lived resistance to the world. Drawing from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, a Nietzschean view on projectuality emerges from Nietzsche’s description of self-transformation. In The Gay Science, Nietzsche’s idea of this would be “to give style to one’s character”; an art, and a rare one at that. This art comes about through the surveyance of one’s personality or character (Nietzsche and thence Shahin prefer the term “nature” here) so as to transform all of your strengths and weaknesses into artforms. The aim of the constant process of projectuality is to develop a creative self-consciousness to the extent of concentrating the locus of agency in the self and transforming the psyche to become, as Nietzsche said, “those that we are” – that is, an individual, a unique self-creating body that can administer its own law unto itself. By my interpretation: this means an individuated being with the perpetual power to manifest their Will.
There’s a few things to note about Shahin’s idea that make my interpretation sort of different. For one thing, Shahin seems to resist thinking about projectuality in relationship to will. But I tend to think it’s not possible to separate projectuality from will. Besides the simple fact that will in a somewhat mundane sense and the ability to exercise it (even if it is not perfect or fully discreet) is absolutely necessary affect the change and transformation entailed in projectuality, the throughline we can get from understanding projectuality dovetails fairly nicely with Crowley’s discussion of alchemy and initiation. The process of initiation as a transformation from “First Matter” or “creatures of earth” to “an immortal, incorruptible, eternally individual intelligence” is not so alien to Nietzschean projectuality. One starts from the base, that base being the complex dividual body, and progresses towards individuation, the Nietzschean individual being in many ways the “intelligence” Crowley spoke of. The difference, besides perhaps Crowley’s methodology, would be that Nietzsche arguably would not have thought of his individual as entirely discrete even in the process of individuation.
The other thing, of course, is the way Shahin appears to define projectuality in opposition to what he calls “negative nihilism”, by which he seems to mean a reflexive mode of rebellious action without (or indeed even against) any kind of affirmative project or new set of values, without which, they believe, it is impossible to do anything except revert to despair, self-destruction, conformity, and submission. I think that this is just nonsense. For starters, Shahin is in this context not speaking strictly in individual terms. When Shahin says “we can only destroy the values, desires and cultures that destroy us if we also create and affirm new values to take their place”, we have to understand that “taking their place” means to create a new overculture whose “place” is the domination of mass valuation. No anarchy will be complete unless it can rid itself of precisely this. If you want new values, make them for yourself and live them yourself. After all, from the standpoint of any consistent ontological application of nihilism, that’s all you’re doing this for: there’s no objective teleological value in the universe, you value and create values because you want to do so, therefore do it for your own sake, your own desire. That ultimately is Shahin’s starting point, since Shahin engages in projectuality because they desire freedom. More to the point, projectuality framed as the idea that you can live joyfully towards the construction of liberation/freedom is not only not somehow “anti-nihilist”, the anarcho-nihilist concept of jouissance is, in itself, a fulfillment of projectuality by much of the criteria Shahin sets out. If the anarcho-nihilist already accepts the premise that their business is to live joyfully even in a world that they believe will not be saved, then projectuality is already part of nihilist praxis.
All of this, however, is ultimately a tangent. The real point is to establish what projectuality has to do with the Art. It connects to the extent that individuals may prefigure real freedom in their lives through the application of meaning through ritual and will, through our interaction with some decidedly non-rational structures of life.
Unlike some anarchists (including many “classical” anarchists and probably including Shahin as well) who reject religion as such, I am fairly convinced that religion and especially occultism are ways by which an individual may cultivate a form of projectual individuation. It is true that you don’t necessarily “need” religion or occultism to “be a good person” or “have morals/ethics” as such, but then what if that’s not the point? Anyone can be a “good person” through the consistent application of either personal or shared ethics. Likewise, “community” is also irrelevant to what I consider to be the value of religion. True, religion can seem to play a role in forming strong social bonds and communal relationships, but this is no proof that this is itself the value of religion – indeed, we have ample proof that it can even be a significant downside for those who don’t conform to society. “Cohesion”, too, is similarly a red herring, since secular societies are just as capable of producing “cohesion” without religion.
The real value of religion, along with occultism, consists in the precise relationships that these generate, the extent to which one may identify themselves with the divine, and from there, cultivate individuation. It consists in the extent to which the pattern of ritual (perhaps thus “re-legere”, the Pagan definition of religion) allows us to develop individual coherency and autonomous consciousness in collaboration with the numinous, through channels of meaning such as myth and ritual and non-rational communion with divine reality (or perhaps the Darkness of “pure” reality). Admittedly, many mainstream ideas of religion don’t necessarily acheive this, perhaps even basing the value of religiosity in something entirely different, and “organised religion”, by which we mean the institutionalisation of religion as hierarchy, is simply worthless in this regard. But that’s the bath water, and not the baby, when discussing religious experience. If projectuality in Nietzschean terms is an art, so is ritual, and ritual itself can be thought of as posessing projectual aims in itself, at least insofar as their aim is the Great Work. Still, there is the argument to be made that even in the more “established” religious traditions we may find magickal sense in their practices of contemplation, at least from the purview that the idea is to immerse yourself in all of the sacred images and patterns in religious contemplation so that, in this contemplation, you may imitate them. I would interpret that as in some way a means of identification, but, I would stress that most religions don’t share the ideas and aims of divine identification that I have, from my starting point within the Left Hand Path. Nonetheless, I would say it’s a useful way of making sense of religion, the good side of it anyway, or at least an aspect of what religion should be as a function. I would also suppose that it’s the different approaches to imitation, contemplation, and identification that really give concrete definition to the Right Hand Path versus the Left Hand Path as we understand them in modernity: one, the Right Hand Path, positions imitation as harmonization, to “imitate the divine” as a vessel for it so as to accord oneself with it or with the “right order”, while the Left Hand Path positions imitation as apotheosis, to imitate the divine so as to ontologically become divine, join the divine, and achieve a sense of spiritual equality with it.
But perhaps all of this links to a much broader concept found within the tradition of anarchist thought: prefiguration. Prefiguration, or “prefigurative politics”, simply refers to the idea that our actions and relationships in the current world should strive to reflect the new world that we wish to bring into being. Some people have summarized it in that famous saying “be the change you want to see in the world” (which is often erroneously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi), and I’d say that’s not necessarily incorrect. Prefiguration entails a micro-political practice of harmony between means and ends, which is fulfilled by the desire to embody the values of the desired to new world via the relationships built upon anarchistic prerogratives, or the spread of behaviours that generally follow them, in order to meaningfully establish the social possibility of life without authority or hierarchy in real time. This often means the rejection of consequentialist, utilitarian, or instrumentalist ethics (such as attributed to Marxism-Leninism or more “centrist” tendencies within the Left) in favour of what some might argue to be a radical interpretation of virtue ethics. There are critics even within anarchism who see the concept of prefigurative politics as pregnant with the notion of apocalyptic imminency, akin to a Christian idea that God’s will/plan for our salvation is prefigured almost fatalistically in our preceding actions, which is then translated into the belief in revolutionary imminency – that is the historic inevitability of the revolution, typically associated with Marxist orthodoxy. But I completely reject that comparison. Instead, I tend to believe that prefiguration in its most sincere sense relies on the understanding that we have no such guarantees, we cannot derive such guarantees from any external source, and there is no final point of moral authority or fulfillment, and so if we are to enact major social change or enjoy the fruits of our desired world we are thus entirely dependent on our own consistent programmatic actions.
So where does this position religious life, the occult, and the Art? It’s absolutely true that you don’t “need” religion in order to “be a good person” – except is that necessarily the point? I suppose the answer to that depends on our criteria of “good”. But what counts is that in order to be able to prefigure the world desired on anarchistic terms, then it is fundamentally necessary for individuals to prefigure the mind for that very possibility so as to set the possibilities for action or behaviour. This means that, despite what such figures as Frére Dupont might suggest, it is entirely necessary to centre consciousness, and I thus mean prefigurative consciousness. Now what if a person were to ritually dedicate themselves to their own individuation? For a person to pursue the Great Work means to partake in the transformation of individual personality through ritual and esoteric means, to become the philosopher’s stone, to achieve alchemistic perfection as a beacon of freedom. People think themselves free only in the secular means by denying all spiritual concepts and forms, but what I see in modern societies and radical spaces increasingly convinces me that this is probably an illusion, and at that hardly less an illusion than the supposed authority of God. But in ritual pattern and praxis, there is an obvious extent to which the psychological affectation associated with religious life and myth may arc towards liberatory ends and, thus, make for effectual means. For better or worse, I believe that the Left Hand Path as we understand it contains this idea within itself.
In this framework, so-called “lifestyle anarchism” emerges not as the handmaiden of bourgeois rule but instead as simply a dismissive byword for what consistent anarchist praxis can look like if it is projectual and prefigurative. For this, we should see fit to reject the influence of Murray Bookchin’s critique which still haunts the “social-anarchism” of the present in favour of its opposite. What I call Esoteric Anarchy locates this value in the study and practice of esotericism and ritual as the locus of projectual individuation, which is then thus the ground of prefigurative politics. If the simplest end of magick is change or transformation on behalf of the person, if it is the art of will reshaping the inner and outer world, then Esoteric Anarchy is the recgonition of this as prefiguration, as the means and the end in themselves. Indeed, I believe that this understanding also applies to the way Phil Hine, at the very end of Condensed Chaos, talked about the concept of gnosis. Here, gnosis entails experiential magickal knowledge that then transforms you and becomes the basis of a new mode not merely of thinking but also, crucially, of acting within the world. This is what Phil Hine calls “Knowledge of the Heart”. Experience here is the secret language of magick, passing into it is required in order to grasp esoteric meaning. Thus the magickal transformation of the inner and outer world is a process in which the praxis of ritual and gnosis set the basis of the magician to prefigure themselves and the world around them in thought and deed.
Even in John Michael Greer’s Blood of the Earth, which unfortunately betrays a markedly conservative outlook, we can see relevant links in the significance of magic and occultism to prefigurative politics. In the last chapter, summarizing basically everything discussed in the book, Greer establishes that magical training, in practically distinct system with its unique tools, can allow the individual to liberate their minds from the limits of collective consciousness and what he calls “mass thaumaturgy” in order to better prepare themselves for the crises set for what believes to be the end of the industrial age. He then adds that, once this is done, the magician then has to bring their magickal work down into the material plane and anchor it with actions, a practice he associates with seemingly all of the old philosophies of occultism. If we throw aside all of the major ideological presumptions that otherwise attend his discussion of magic, a major takeaway that is no doubt of some value is that the indiviudal, and the extent to which the individual affects and alters their own life in accordance to will, is the starting point all the work Greer talks about. That’s basically the primary subject of prefigurative politics and Nietzschean projectuality: even if you won’t be able to do everything alone, it all has to start with you; you, as an individual, must prefigure an alternative way of life for yourself. And for Greer, both magick and the pursuit of lifestyles that break you away from the dominant set of industrial lifestyles affect changes into your individiual consciousness that set the horizon for this prefiguration in the material world.
From an opposing perspective, as an esoteric anarcho-nihilist ultra (just one way of putting it!), this can easily take a different focus; as in take out the ideological considerations from Greer, swap it with different set of said considerations, and the throughline remains more or less the same. You must be able to prefigure a world no longer guided by authority, hierarchy, or the total order of things, and hence a world in which you, and your communities, must rely on yourself and each other autonomously. You must prefigure the world after the world, a world beyond good and evil, a world where the last chain is scattered into the wind. That is enormously difficult to imagine within the shell of the current world, no doubt nearly impossible in the minds of most people. But by establishing new modes of autonomous life you become an example through it that imagination becomes very possible for more people, which in turn spreads the mode of prefiguration across social life. Magick can hardly be discounted from this effort, since the object of magick is the transformation of the inner and outer world through will, as I believe all of the occult authors discussed and the tradition of occultism at large typically all acknowledge.
Conclusion: The Art of Satanic Paganism
Before really summarising the form and relevance of all of this I think it’s worth really focusing on art as a creative medium where you really see the occult connect to creative work, and not only this it permeates creative media with its inspiration. Would you believe me if I told you that you wouldn’t have Martin Scorsese without Kenneth Anger? Because it’s true. He inspired Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and from there surely countless other directors. Would you believe that Dan Aykroyd was a little bit into occultism and that this even went into the initial development of Ghostbusters? Because that’s true too. In fact, this is probably referenced in Ghostbusters II, where Dan Aykroyd’s character Ray Stantz owns an occult book shop called Ray’s Occult Books. Everyone knows about David Bowie, but I wager not that many people are aware of the fact that he based lyrics for whole songs on occult themes, often especially drawing from the quasi-historical Morning of the Magicians, and even fewer people know that he literally believed in magick. Some more people are probably more familiar with Jimmy Page’s enthusiasm for Aleister Crowley. Returning to the subject of visual art, though, I could easily point to the art scene of fin de siecle Germany, in which we see artists whose work is deeply inspired by esotericism and pre-Christian myths, even to the point of there being whole personal artistic cults to gods and spirits such as Hypnos.
There really is an extent to which the occult can often be ubiquitous in the creative world, and I really do believe that this comes down to the horizons that it contains for the pursuit of individuation. Neville Drury in The Occult Experience talked about how there is a gap between what we think we know and what we feel, between (what we believe to be) the limitless horizons of knowledge as pertains to the world around us and the comparative miniscule knowledge we actually have about ourselves, and fields the possibility that occultism offers a bridge between that gap, that it can “take us beyond ourselves” and “to the infinite”. I believe that John Michael Greer, from the perspective of Paganism and deep ecology, makes basically the same point in Blood of the Earth, where he talks about how magick serves as a valuable response to the world after peak oil and mass ecological crisis.
I also think that all of the major considerations presented tell us that the ontological aspect of the conversation around magick, while definitely not unimportant, almost finds itself de-centered. One of the better points of Blood of the Earth is the overview of just this ontological question. Greer says that within a year or two of consistent ritual practice the magician begins to have real experiences with spirits, powers, planes, and all the other major metaphysical stuff, and establishes that these are mental experiences, not physical ones. They may be real, but they are real in basically the same sense that dreams are real. This has lead to questions and debate across occultism about their ontological status, with propositions ranging from hallucinations, to dissociated complexes, to Jungian archetypes, to actual extradimensional entities. There has so far been no way to establish any ontological certainty to comport the experiences of the magician, we have no real answers in this regard. But what if that doesn’t exactly matter? It’s the gnosis that counts, the possibility of experiencing the Great Work, the prospect of cultivating and applying your will, and thereby prefiguring your own freedom, that is what counts, and I do think that as long as that goes you don’t have to worry about ontology too much – but I will say you really should abide yourself by ontological agnositicism, especially in the Satanic sense.
And speaking of Satanic, I think that at this point we can begin summarizing what all of this means within the broader polycentric framework of Satanic Paganism. I think I’ve gone out of my way to elaborate some of the major contours of that philosophy in relation to artistic praxis throughout this article, but more can be said here. The Art, in this sense, comes to mean the creative application of the basic goals and ethos of Satanic Paganism, which can sort of be summarized as achieving individual apotheosis through ritual identification with the divine and the shattering of normative consciousness, or really all illusions that defile both human freedom and knowledge of deep reality or nature. Prefigurative politics in this setting means being able to live in a cultivate state of relative self-perfection, internal autonomy, consistent individuation and lived manifestation of will, wrapped in the full embrace of the dark, creative-destructive core of divine reality; a sort of ontological inner freedom that echoes into the outer world in will, and through the example of prefigurative life. I almost think of it as what the idea of the Anarch should be and would be if it were not an almost entirely passive subject.
In the view of Satanic Paganism, the Art is the medium in which the divine and Man actualise each other, prefiguring a world where everyone is a star. The Art is the creative effort of the religious magician directed towards their own apotheosis – it is will, striving towards that goal. The Art is the application of creative subjectivity in aesthetic, ritual, and/or projectuality at large. The Art is alchemy; it is how the individual goes beyond itself in order to become itself. The Art is in so many senses the vehicle by which Anarchy is made manifest as a practice of everyday life. The Art is the form of the transvaluation of values. And of course, The Art is also a spiritual weapon in the fight against the Demiurge and against all tyrannies and the domination of order.
And so, within the purview of the philosophy of Satanic Paganism, The Art is a way of conceptualising creative praxis as a vehicle for the broader goal of apotheosis. You could say it is an indispensable part of your journey; to paraphrase something I remember Michael Bertiaux saying (and I swear I wish I could find you the exact quote), you must be capable of producing The Art. A person seeking individuation must, in their own way, even if it doesn’t mean they are “artists” per se, be able to practice and develop The Art. From the perspective of esoteric anarchism this makes The Art an essential medium of prefigurative politics. This also means that the idea that occulture and religion are entirely apolitical is, from this perspective, not only false but also antithetical to any consistent practice of The Art.
And so Satanic Paganism itself can be thought of as a religious or religio-magickal worldview that is dedicated to the realisation of The Art. Thus, we who adhere to this philosophy should, to the best of our ability, to develop, cultivate, practice, and perhaps “master” The Art, and study this practice as much as we can, in order that we might fill this world with unbridled daemonic life, and produce a world truest to that classic axiom of occultism; a world where all people are stars.
In my article about King Charles III and his ties to the Traditionalist School, you might have noticed me throwing around the term “White Lodge” towards the end while discussing the bourgeoisie’s frequent detox trips to Mount Athos. You may have gathered from this that I don’t regard this “White Lodge” as “the good guys” as such, and that I present them as an enemy. I have decided to write this small article to explain that concept, as well as explore an attendant set of ideas around that concept in short order.
You may have heard the term “White Lodge” from the TV series called Twin Peaks. That show in turn picked up the terms “White Lodge” and “Black Lodge” from the occultist Dion Fortune, or more specifically her 1930 book Psychic Self-Defence. In Twin Peaks, the White Lodge is this mystical place of goodness, home to benign spirits and heavenly nectar and open to love, in opposition to the Black Lodge, which was supposed to be a sort of nightmare realm of pure evil inhabited by wrathful spirits and open to fear. In Dion Fortune’s works, “the White Lodge” is probably another term for the “Great White Lodge”, which in turn is another name for the “Great White Brotherhood”. Whatever they called it, the concept ostensibly referred to a secret society of mystics or ascended masters who were believed to be guiding the spiritual growth of humanity. Much of 19th and early 20th century esotericism, which included those very occultists that René Guénon denounced as “counter-traditional”, took the idea of the Great White Brotherhood/Lodge very seriously – even Aleister Crowley identified his own secret magical society (which he called “A∴A∴”) with the Great White Brotherhood, the two groups sharing basically the same purpose. The Rosicrucians believed that the goal of every adept was to join the Great White Brotherhood. Dion Fortune tended to think of them as the secret masters of the order of the world. Particularly, she also believed that they gave each race a religion meant for them as racial traditions (yeah, did I mention that Dion Fortune was also racist yet?).
The Black Lodge, by contrast, was regarded as a sort of counter-organisation to the Great White Lodge/Brotherhood. It’s almost like one Lodge was thought of as the true esoteric initiation, and the other a sort of “counter-initiation”, not unlike the way René Guénon imagined it. Indeed, there’s an extent to which the Black Lodge was thought of as sort of a way of referring to what we might otherwise call the Left Hand Path – indeed, Dion Fortune linked these concepts together. Fortune claimed that the Black Lodge was responsible for fraud, blackmail, moral corruption, human suffering, revolutionary activities, and other horrible things. Aliester Crowley wrote about a “Black Lodge” in his 1917 novel Moonchild, in which the “Black Lodge” is a fraternity of evil magicians who believe in the combined power of LSD, sex, science, and magic, at war with a “White Lodge” that wants to “improve the human race” by having a woman give birth to a being called the “Moonchild”. The “Black Lodge”, in this framing, would be depicted as enemies of the progress of the “White Lodge”.
Now then, what do I mean? Clearly I reject the theosophical connotations associated with the original terminology, particularly because of the often reactionary character of Theosophy and similar movements of the day. Still, let’s play with the concepts of the “White Lodge” and the “Black Lodge”, and in that spirit give my own concept of these terms.
On Twitter I said that the White Lodge is the invisible fraternal order of the Demiurge, which is devoted to the hidden hand that Demiurge over the world. I posted that while writing my article about King Charles III, wherein I was exploring the relationship of the Western bourgeoisie to Mount Athos. What I communicated there is the undiscussed relationship between capitalism and Christianity, and the desires of capitalists for certain “heavenly provisions” that tend to be completely ignored in many popular anti-capitalist analyses. In that sense there are a few things that are necessary to understand. Insofar as we consider the concept of the White Lodge, we shouldn’t understand it as an organisation in itself. It’s more like an invisible network or fraternity of people who work seemingly in concert to fulfill the “grand design” of the world. The Demiurge in this sense is sort of like what most people would prefer to think of as “Leviathan” (a term borrowed invariably from the lexicon of Thomas Hobbes).
Order, Authority, concentrated power, what we might well call “God”, the Demiurge is all of this, and there are those who possess spiritual consciousness towards its end and work to fulfill it. For the “salvation of mankind”, or perhaps more accurately their own “salvation”, they take the side of the power pressed against the world, maybe out of the belief that the order that this power represents is “perfecting” the human species and leading it to a better place. That, by a certain definition, is the Right Hand Path. So many of the old esotericists who held themselves to a Right Hand Path believed that there was an order of metaphysical perfection that was to be understood in order to acheive esoteric attainment. From Guénon to Fortune, such attainment on such terms was believed to be the cornerstone of esoteric practice. To go against it was believed to be entirely self-destructive and evil.
Now what of the Black Lodge? This again is not exactly an organisation in itself. It’s the invisible fraternity of all those who dedicate themselves to the destruction of everything standing against the growth of autonomy, and who consequently wage war against the Demiurge. Their struggle may yet be eternal, since freedom is always necessarily fought for and always will be, and someone will always try to reassert order over autonomy, but that’s just how it is for rebellion. The Black Lodge is that invisible pack or bond of people united solely by the pursuit of occult forms and practices that might allow them to break the order of things, and smash the fetters wrought upon consciousness by the Demiurge and its adepts.
If honest-to-goodness adepts of the White Lodge are somewhat rare, since that involves active spiritual consciousness directed towards the goals of metaphysical order, equally sincere adepts of the Black Lodge are surely rarer still. You will find few people in the world who might genuinely be regarded as “of the Black Lodge”, and for that matter I am convinced that next to no one in the global bourgeoisie is part of it or even cares about anything approximating the Left Hand Path. But what counts is that, if we are conscious, projectual agents of autonomy and negation, in the sense of active struggle against the Demiurge, then as far as I know the Black Lodge could be you and me.
Remember, these aren’t distinct formal organisations. More like invisible packs or fraternities bound and animated by certain modes of spiritual consciousness: one aligned with some idea of the metaphysical order of things, and the other more or less against it.
As of September 8th 2022, Queen Elizabeth II is dead. That means the man we called Prince Charles is now King Charles III. I’m not going to talk too much about whether it’s “the end of an era” for us in the UK. Mostly because I don’t give too much of a shit. But there’s one thing that interests me about what the reign of Charles III might mean. I speak, of course, about his support for Traditionalism; specifically the philosophy of one René Guénon.
Now, some people stumbling onto this article might well wonder, who is René Guénon? René Guénon was a French esotericist and religious philosopher who is perhaps best known as an early proponent, or perhaps arguably the founder, of a school of thought known as Traditionalism. Traditionalism in this setting refers to the belief that all major religions are founded upon a single shared set of primordial metaphysical “truths” referred to as “perennial philosophy”. “Perennial philosophy”, otherwise referred to as “Absolute Truth”, is to be understood as a set of axioms that are to be intuited through a “divine intellect” that is also their source, believed to be latent in the souls of all humans. Traditionalists also tend to believe that adherence to “perennial philosophy”, through one of the major world religions based upon it, is the sole foundation of all genuine esoteric practice. Unsurprisingly, proponents of Traditionalism believe that the “truth” of “perennial philosophy” has been “lost” in modernity, seemingly having been obscured by modernism, secularism, “The Enlightenment” and similar philosophical tendencies, and that we must therefore abandon modernist ways of thought and life in order to reaffirm the”unchanging truth” that is “Tradition”. In practice, this tends to mean embracing a certain set of oppressive hierarchical relationships deemed to be in alignment with that perennial “Tradition”. René Guénon, for his part, opposed democracy in favour of a rigid caste system ruled by spiritual elites.
While Guénon is one of the earliest proponents of this concept of Traditionalism, other notable proponents include Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt, and Charles Upton, to name just a few. The fascist philosopher Julius Evola was also, in his own way, a Traditionalist, though he apparently developed certain ideas about Traditionalism that differed from Guénon’s original thought. Traditionalism in turn has been massively influential on not only modern far-right and fascist politics but also certain segments of modern conservatism. Evola’s Traditionalism became part of the broad ideology of Italian neo-fascism as well as the broader European “New Right”. For that matter, Evola himself attempted and failed to influence the Italian Fascist and Nazi German regimes. The ideas of both René Guénon and Julius Evola form a major part of the ideology of Aleksandr Dugin, one of Vladimir Putin’s most important advisors and the creator of the Russian Eurasianist movement. Guénon’s ideas also seem to have been influential on Steven Bannon, the former advisor to Donald Trump, as well as a major interest for Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian political philosopher, conspiracy theorist and apparent advisor to Jair Bolsonaro. In Argetina, Guénon’s ideas were widely read in (and had a major impact on) the bourgeoning fascist movement in the country during the 1920s and 30s. To this day Traditionalism is also a current in contemporary esotericism. Nigel Jackson, after having abandoned the Luciferian witchcraft of Michael Howard (which he would go on to completely denounce), took up the Guénon’s Traditionalism as his new esoteric path.
The basic throughline of Guénon’s Traditionalism is obviously a recollection of a much older idea found within the “humanist” tradition of the Christian Renaissance, in which it was often argued that all religions contained some aspect of a larger divine mystery. In this argument, the divine mystery means the hidden teaching of Christianity, which was said to have been spoken by Jesus in parables to all except his disciples and hidden in all religions preceding Christianity through poetic language and esoteric symbolism. Renaissance humanist philosophers such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola argued that this idea was confirmed Dionysius the Areopagite and supported by Augustine of Hippo’s statement that “What we now call the Christian religion existed amongst the ancients, and was from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh; from which time the already existing true religion began to be styled Christian”.
In the context of the time, this humanist thesis probably emerged as a way of reconciling Christianity with the ancient pre-Christian Greco-Roman philosophy and culture that had been rediscovered at the time, not to mention some Christian encounters with Jewish mysticism (Mirandola in particular is considered the father of what’s called Christian Kabbalah), but it has persisted over the centuries and can be found in certain variations within not only Traditionalism but also Theosophy and certain New Age and spiritualist circles. In fact, you’ve probably heard about the concept of “perennial philosophy” from the work of Aldous Huxley, who despite not being a Traditionalist in the strict sense definitely adhered to his own concept of perennial philosophy, for which he titled a book about mysticism. The irony of this, of course, is that the Renaissance is sometimes cited in Traditionalist narratives as the beginning of the current stage of humanity’s supposed spiritual decline. Even more ironic is the fact that the very term “perennial philosophy” itself was actually coined in 1540 by Agostino Stueco, an Italian Renaissance humanist.
Of a certain relevance to Satanists and travellers of the Left Hand Path as well as the subject of Satanic Panic is Guénon’s denunctions of what he considered to be “Satanism” and “Luciferianism”. Guénon believed that, just as surely as there existed a great perennial philosophy and tradition, there existed forces of “counter-tradition” or “counter-initiation” in the world, which thus opposed tradition. “Counter-initiation”, he said, involves “true Satanism” which “overturns the sacred” by way of “degradation until the most extreme degree”. For Guénon, such forces of “counter-initiation” included occultists such as Theodor Reuss, Aleister Crowley, Jean Bricaud, Charles Detre, G. I. Gurdjieff, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, and possibly Giuliano Kremmerz – no doubt all of them occultists who Guénon disagreed with or detested for whatever reason. Guénon also included Freemasons in his network of “counter-tradition”, as well as Mormons and practitioners of ancient Egyptian magic (the latter of which he believed consisted only of “dangerous” and “inferior” magic dedicated to Set or Typhon). Guénon also frequently claimed to be the victim of attacks by “counter-initiates” against him. To Guénon, the difference between Satanism and Luciferianism was simply a matter of consciousness – Luciferianism meant rebellion against tradition in the name of the idea that Satan was actually an angel of light named Lucifer or simply a form of “unconscious Satanism”, while Satanism per se meant the conscious subversion and degradation of tradition in itself. For Guénon, “unconscious Satanism” meant practically any theory that he believed “disfigured” the concept of God, including the “limited God” theory and the idea of an evolving God, which he thus attributed to thinkers like Baruch Spinoza, G. W. F. Hegel, and William James.
It cannot be overstated how important Guénon is to the imagination of right-wing and fascist conspiracism. In fact, I consider my precise lack of discussion of Guénon in my previous article on Satanic Panic to be a gross oversight. If you consider right-wing conspiracy theories with Guénon in mind, you can easily imagine all of the major villains of the right-wing imagination as “agents of counter-initiation”. That angle is essentially the idea of many of the original anti-Masonic and anti-Illuminati conspiracy theories in that the premise was that shadowy organisations were fomenting revolution in order to destroy the Catholic Church (thus, “Tradition”). From this standpoint, right-wing conspiracism itself emerges as an emergent, organic expression of what is essentially traditionalist ideology, and thus the growth of the far-right also means the growth of traditionalism at large.
So, having established all of this, how do we go from René Guénon to the new King of the United Kingdom? What does Charles III have to do with Guénon and his Traditionalism? The short answer is this: Charles III is a Traditionalist, in the sense that he is a student of René Guénon’s spiritual ideology.
When it comes to discussions of Charles III’s quasi-activist role in British politics and its public discourse, most people focus on either his tendency to talk about environmentalism, his apparent interest in homeopathy, or his prolific opposition to genetically modified crops. But if we take note of the fact that Charles buttresses those latter two concerns in a generalized appeal to “traditional” knowledge and ways of life, it is not hard to realize – and I think not even many critics of Charles’ political activism notice this – the way that Traditionalist ideology plays a role in even this particular form of nuisance politics.
Charles III is a patron of an organisation called the Temenos Academy, which asserts itself to be “dedicated to the teaching and dissemination of the perennial wisdom”, which they regard as “the ground of every civilisation”. This is very much an explicit statement of Guénon’s ideology of Traditionalism. Charles III, who has been a patron of the Temenos Academy since it was founded in 1991, seems to have held the work of the Academy in high regard, saying that the organisation was committed to “fostering a wider awareness of the great spiritual traditions we have inherited from the past”, which he asserted “form the basis of mankind’s most civilised values and have been handed down to us over many centuries”. Charles III also seems to have been a close friend of one of the Academy’s founders, Keith Critchlow, who apparently travelled with Charles for 30 years and taught both Charles and Prince Harry the art of “sacred geometry”. This friendship probably began while Charles was busy campaigning against “inappropriate architecture” (presumably meaning the “monstrous carbuncles” of “modern” architecture) in 1984, at which time Critchlow had come up with the idea behind the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, which Charles later founded in 2005. In 1986, Charles established the Prince’s School of Architecture, which then incorporated Critchlow’s Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts department into its cirriculum, which in turn was later transferred to the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts when it was founded. Critchlow himself was also acquianted with Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Traditionalist intellectual who was also a scholar of Sufi Islam.
The connection to Islam is somewhat fascinating, considering the nature of British conservative politics and its tendency towards Islamophobia, and so merits considerable attention. In fact, Charles III has something of a reputation as an unexpected advocate for the merits of Islam. In 1993, Charles III gave a speech at the Sheldonian Theatre in which he urged greater understanding between Islam and “the West”, arguing that Islam and Christianity share the same tradition of ethical monotheism, that sharia law is misunderstood by the public because of Western media, and, most importantly, that Islam, unlike modern Christianity, “has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us”. In 1996, he spoke at the Foreign Office Conference Centre to encourage the teaching of Islamic pedagogy and philosophy to young Britons, in 2010 he gave a speech to the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies arguing that the Quran teaches that “there are limits to the abundance of Nature” established by God and that “we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us”, and according to his 2018 biography, Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes, and Dreams written by Robert Jobson, it is recounted that Charles studied the Quran and that he argued that Christianity needs to learn from Islam as well as Judaism, and thus rediscover “universal truths that dwell at the heart of these religions” in order to secure the future.
Such a worldview can be interpreted as an appeal to tolerance or even multiculturalism, and it has certainly endeared him to Muslims around the world. Indeed, if his biography is to be believed, Charles III actually opposed the US invasion of Iraq, disagreed with banning the niqab, and even argued that a political solution for Palestine was necessary to resolve the enmity that he felt was at the root of international terrorism. However, his particular appreciation of Islam may also have brought him on the side of reactionary religious authoritarianism. In 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini issued the infamous death fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, Charles III refused to give any public support for Rushdie’s right to freedom of expression. According to Martin Amis, who had an argument with Charles III over this subject, Charles seemed to suggest that no one had the right to insult “someone else’s deepest convictions”, which by implication means that he may have supported Khomeini on this issue. He also seems to have made the same argument much later in response to the publication of Danish cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
In view of the broader context of Traditionalism, any connection to Islam is probably not an accident. Islam, or rather Sufi Islam in particular, is one of the religions that Traditionalists believe contains the perennial philosophy. In fact, Traditionalists also often believe that, whereas in “the West” this perennial philosophy is almost entirely lost or forgotten, in “the East” it has been preserved in doctrines such as Sufi Islam and Advaita Vedanta. Moreover, René Guénon himself converted to Islam in 1912, later moved to Egypt in 1930 in order to be initiated in a Sufi order and then study, practice, and preach Islam, and apparently the last word he uttered before he died in 1951 was “Allah”. This perhaps also explains the fact of Guénon’s work having spread and become as influential as it did in the Islamic world, at least if Seyyed Hossein Nasr is to be believed. In Iran, three out of seven members of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution organised by Ayatollah Khomeini were influenced by Guénon’s Traditionalism, and meanwhile Guénon’s work was widely read and discussed among the Iranian intelligentsia during the 1960s and 70s. Likewise, in Pakistan, Guénon’s ideas seem to have inspired the famed author Hasan Askari, as well as A. K. Brohi, the intellectual politician who served in the regime of Zia ul-Haq, and apparently Muhammad Shafi Deobandi, the father of Deobandi Islam.
For all of that, however, while Charles III has been presented as an inveterate anti-Western Islamophile and even a possible Islamic convert by sections of the British establishment and the Transatlantic right-wing press eager to present his appreciation of Islam as a rejection of Christianity and a possible threat to the British nation, Islam is not the only religion that Charles has a special appreciation for. Charles III has also been notable for a similarly intense interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which I have to assume has not come at the expense of his appreciation of Islam. In 1997, soon after the death of Princess Diana, Charles III visited Mount Athos, the famous autonomous Greek Orthodox monastic community, presumably seeking to find solace in the mountain’s cloisters. Charles has since made multiple visits to Mount Athos over the years, and in 2004 he offered to assist the Greek and Serbian governments in restoring the Monastery of Chelandari, which was damaged by fire. Around this time he also became a member of an organisation called Friends of Mount Athos, which was set up to raise funds for the Monastery of Chelandari. Close friends said that Charles adorned a section of his Highgrove home with Byzantine icons, possibly originally from Mount Athos, and Athonite monks were convinced that Charles was “Orthodox in his heart”. Charles has also made numerous visits to Orthodox churches not only in Greece but also Serbia, Romania, and elsewhere.
You might be wondering how to make sense of this. Charles III is definitely not a Muslim or a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church in any official capacity. He is a member of the Church of England, and for him to convert to Islam or Eastern Orthodoxy he would have had to give up the right to succeed the throne. Rather, it seems more likely to be the case that Charles admires both Islam and the Eastern Orthodox Church as doctrines in which he sees survivals of what he believes to be the “traditional worldview”. There’s a way that I believe makes more sense of this as it relates to Charles’ affinity for Mount Athos. Abbot Ephraim of the Vatopedi Monastery once said that Athonite monasticism is both “a signpost to heaven” and “a bridge over which pass true spiritual provisions for the world”. From this perspective, we might suppose that Charles III looks at Mount Athos as a worldly link to the universal order of life, a place where “traditional wisdom”, or “perennial philosophy”, and its “blessings” are passed from heaven to earth.
It is worth noting that Charles has also offered some praise to religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, though this praise seems to be mostly in connection to his much larger appraisal of Islam, and his opinion of all three of those religions is connected to his belief that they reject the idea of Man being separate from Nature, religion from science, or mind from matter. Charles III has also praised the principles of Sikhism ahead of his visit to India in 2019. However, it seems clear to me that much of his focus is on the three “Abrahamic” religions, or rather at least two of them: Christianity and Islam. As for Judaism, I haven’t been able to find any extensive discussion of Judaism from Charles, or at least nowhere near as much as Islam or Christianity. That said, Charles was apparently circumcised as an infant by Rabbi Jacob Snowman in a Jewish ceremony, maintained a close friendship with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and it has often been said that he had a special relationship with the Jewish community. At the same time, however, in 1986 Charles blamed unrest in the Middle East on “an influx of foreign Jews” and called for the United States government to “take on the Jewish lobby” in a letter addressed to his friend Laurens van der Post.
In a much broader sense, Charles III has been rather consistent in his advocacy of Traditionalism as an ideology. As Hannah Gais points out in her article for The Baffler, Charles suggested in an essay in 2006 that “so much discarded and derided tradition is not the enemy of modernity, but is its inevitable future precisely because of the balance that needs to be struck”. In a 2000 address before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Charles proclaimed that “our secular age” runs the risk of “ignoring, or forgetting, all knowledge of the sacred and spiritual”. In his 2010 book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking At Our World, Charles argued that all the major crises of the modern world comprise a “crisis of perception”, in that humanity no longer knows how to live in harmony with the planet because it has lost sight of the sacred principles that it embodies. In his lectures, Charles III often references the work of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who let’s once again establish is an intellectual devotee of René Guénon. In fact, I should also note that, in a 2008 issue of Sophia, a journal published by the Foundation for Traditional Studies, a speech from Charles III about humanity’s relationship to the environment, alongside a similar discussion by none other than Seyyed Hossein Nasr, can be found among its content.
Charles III is also a contributor to an organisation called The Matheson Trust, a think tank on comparative religion that was founded by Donald Macleod Matheson in 1974. The Matheson Trust seems to be interested in spreading works of traditionalist scholarship in order to promote the idea of the underlying metaphysical unity of all religions. Charles III has an essay titled A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between East and West published in Volume 13 of Sacred Web in 2004. Charles also gave an introductory speech for The Matheson Trust’s Sacred Web Conference in 2006. In fact, both the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and the Temenos Academy are listed as “academic contacts” on The Matheson Trust’s website, suggesting a solid connection between these organisations. Donald Macleod Matheson himself, by the way, in addition to being an active part of the Traditionalist School, having translated the works of Traditionalist authors such as Frithjof Schuon and Titus Burckhardt, was also the Secretary to the National Trust, for which he received appointment as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. That’s quite a prestigious honour, at least when you consider who else has received it.
Perhaps the smoking gun in all this is the fact that Charles III, even if he may not publicly call himself a Traditionalist, is clearly aware of his own connection to the Traditionalist School and its broad movement. The proof of this is that, in that 2006 introductory speech for The Matheson Trust’s Sacred Web Conference I previously referenced, Charles explained that the mission of both the Temenos Academy and Sacred Web is to explore the role of “Tradition” in the modern world while critiquing “the false premises of Modernity”. Charles refers to this critique as the same critique that was set out by none other than René Guénon, or more specifically in Guénon’s book The Reign of Quantity. Thus we see that Charles III, in an audience of Traditionalists, hosted by a Traditionalist organisation, directly acknowledges his ideological and cultural mission as being based on the ideas of René Guénon.
Understand now that it is the Traditionalism of René Guénon that is at the root of many of Charles III’s political involvements. He is a Traditionalist in the sense that he adheres to the basic form of René Guénon’s ideology, albeit in his own distinct way, and he takes that ideology seriously. He genuinely believes in Traditionalism as something that confronts what he believes to be the dominant ideology of modernity, and he defends Traditionalism from the charge of nostalgia by claiming that it seeks not so much the past as much as “the sacred”, and reveres the past only because it consisted of “the sacred”. There are many conservatives across the Atlantic who fail to understand this and so prefer to think of Charles III as little more than a freewheeling liberal dilettante for his inclinations, but no such prejudice could be further from the truth.
Think about why Charles expressed an interest in being called “Defender of Faith”, referencing religion at large, rather than the traditional “Defender of the Faith”, referencing specifically the Church of England to which he is royally bound. To most people it sounds like just an expression of liberal pluralism or multiculturalism, which some may find noble and high-minded while others deem it to be a bewildering eccentricity. But in reality, what appears to the conservative and liberal alike as an expression of multiculturalism is actually based on the Traditionalist premise that all major religions share an underlying metaphysical unity in the form of perennial philosophy.
Or how about Charles’ environmentalism? Most people assume that this is, again, just fashionable liberal politics, and in turn despised by many a conservative. But while environmentalism may be its own ideological interest for Charles, it is for him rather neatly blended with his overall Traditionalist worldview, or indeed may ultimately derive its core premise from that Traditionalism. His basic argument in Harmony is apparently that “Modernity”, in the sense of our purported move away from the metaphysical order and unity of the world, is the primary cause of our lack of harmony with the planet, which in turn is the supposed cause of the present ecological crisis, and all other social crises. Indeed, I think that Charles’ ideology might make for an curious template for what to expect of “conservative environmentalism”, or “traditionalist environmentalism”, in the future as the bourgeoisie continues to scramble for strategies on how to respond to climate change.
Even Charles’ prolific interest in homeopathy or “alternative medicine”, and further prolific opposition to genetically modified crops, is best understood through his adherence to the Traditionalism of René Guénon. Charles’ argument in defense of homeopathic/”alternative” medicine, as was given during his inauguration speech as President of the British Medical Association in 1982, is that according to him “folk healers” have over the centuries practiced a form of medicine that he believes to be “guided by traditional wisdom”, which, he claims, “sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patient’s body, but his mind, his self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment, as well as his relation to the cosmos”. It sounds like it’s just airy nonsense – though I would contend that actual indigenous people using their particular medicinal arts probably weren’t as hopelessly inadequate as the modern “skeptic” would have you believe – but even this is an expression of Traditionalism in Guénon’s sense. What is “traditional wisdom” for Charles if not a name for perennial philosophy? Indeed, that holistic worldview he discusses is basically the same as that which he attributes to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and to some extent Christianity. As for GM crops? Well, his objection that it involves meddling with “realms that belong to God and God alone” can probably be contextualized in his views on “Tradition”, which he most certainly assumes to be “God-given”.
And so we understand that Charles III, the new King of the United Kingdom, is a Traditionalist, and in all likelihood has been a Traditionalist for much of his life. Charles has undeniably studied Traditionalism, is familiar with the work of René Guénon and other Traditionalist authors such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and all of his political activism has been on behalf of his Traditionalist ideology. That’s why Charles granted patronage to homeopathic organisations, religious organisations, Islamic studies courses, and of course Traditionalist think tanks. That’s also why he lobbied for Tony Blair to give official state support for “alternative medicines”, it’s why he has devoted such personal and official effort to opening up dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and it’s also part of why he goes on visits to places such as Mount Athos and the Middle East.
Now, what does this all mean now that Charles III is the king of Britain? At this early stage of his reign it’s not easy to get a reliable picture of how his reign could turn. There is a general speculation that Charles III could be somewhat more interventionist than his predecessor. I suspect that this means he will actively lobby on behalf of his personal political priorities, not unlike his attempts to lobby Tony Blair’s government to endorse homeopathy. Perhaps we could expect royal diplomatic ventures in the Middle East? That depends, because the British government has already barred Prince William from getting involved in Israeli and Palestinian politics, though perhaps Charles III could order that bar to be lifted if he saw fit. Charles III has been publicly endorsing homeopathy for decades, it’s come up fairly recently as well, and it’s probably going to come up again, which means he may lobby the government on this again. It’s possible that Charles III may try to establish himself as a tangible world leader in the global effort to combat man-made climate change, which would contrast him with the fact that the ruling Conservative government is currently staffed with inveterate climate change deniers. I suspect that his particular ideological inclinations may actually put him at odds with those of the Conservative Party, whose conservatism is based essentially on the ideology of classical liberalism and its belief in “free market” capitalism, although we should be clear that Charles III obviously has no interest in the abolition of capitalism in any form whatsoever. Hannah Gais is probably on to something when she speculates that any solution Charles puts forward will involve elite management.
But whatever Charles III does, insofar as he takes any concrete actions as the official head of the British state, you could expect all of it to be guided by Charles’ particular form of Traditionalist ideology. If you follow through the connections I’ve presented thus far, this fact becomes obvious. That means Charles III being King means we now have a committed Traditionalist as the head of state. Don’t make any mistakes about what this might mean. While the British commentariat and much of the public currently assumes that Charles’ stances will bring more of a liberal-progressive social agenda into focus, the reality is that behind all of that is a deeply conservative and reactionary ideology that is just as much a part of the growing reactionary tide as any of the right-wing populists vying for power – not to mention, was part of the original primordial soup of reaction from which fascism as we know it emerged. No, Charles III won’t be somebody like Viktor Orban or Donald Trump (just for anyone who might be getting the wrong idea), but he will use his power to fulfill the agenda of Traditionalism as much as he can. That could be a major political victory for the Traditionalist movement, and in that sense a victory for global reaction.
And yes, make no mistake, Traditionalism is an enemy. The institution of the monarchy is itself already one of the eternal champions of authority against freedom, but Traditionalism is likewise such a vanguard, and all the more insidious. I believe that, if you study Traditionalist ideology from a critical perspective, you will be able to see aspects of its ideology across the major developments of global reaction, esoterica, and in the subtle, often barely noticeable contours of reactionary online discourse. Once that happens, it might just transform the way you look at politics and its intersection with culture.
In esoteric terms, Traditionalism is one of the clearest expressions of the Right Hand Path you will find in Western esotericism/occultism. Its premise is that the purpose of life is to live in harmony with a metaphysical order of truth that underlies everything, and esoteric attainment on Traditionalist terms requires participation in “orthodox” religions. René Guénon indeed positioned himself as the defender of traditional religion and esotericism, which set him against many other contemporary occultists that he deemed “counter-traditional”, and he established regular Masonic lodges, such as La Grande Triade (which currently still exists under the Grande Loge de France). The occultists that Guénon opposed include neo-Gnostics, the founder of Thelema, irregular Masonic rites/lodges and their members, syncretic practitioners, Egyptian magicians, to name a few, and he names Enlightenment-era rationalist, pantheist, and empiricist philosophers as “unconscious Satanists”. To my mind, this recalls the way that Enlightenment ideology and its exponents were invoked as a “Satanic” adversary against the Catholic Church. Conspiracy against the order of Christianity thus feeds the trope of conspiracy of counter-initiation against metaphysical tradition. Insofar as Guénon hit out against the arguably “counter-cultural” forms of occultism in his day while elevating regular Masonry and “orthodox” religions, Guénon can be thought of as, ultimately, a champion of The Establishment, in the sense that we mean the religious and esoteric establishment of his day, true to the will of the Right Hand Path.
Charles III is also The Establishment in modern Britain. Indeed, now that he is King of the United Kingdom, he is officially at the maximum possible level of being The Establishment that you can be in this country. And as a committed Traditionalist he thus stands as an almost conscious representative of the Right Hand Path. But on that note, I can’t allow myself to wrap up this article without discussing the fact that Charles III is not the only man of power to have convened at Mount Athos. It may surprise you to know that Mount Athos has, for decades, served as a place where world leaders and powerful people got together, ostensibly for the purpose of spiritual contemplation.
According to an article found on The Seattle Times written by A. Craig Copetas (apparently originally for Bloomberg News), thousands of politicians and elite businessmen have visited a private pilgrimage site at Mount Athos as a sort of spiritual retreat before travelling to Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum at Davos. According to Copetas these men include not only Charles III but also Silvio Berlusconi, Juan Carlos, Jimmy Carter, George Karaplis, George H. W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Peter Armitage, the Aga Khan, and even Fidel Castro. That sounds like quite a lot of names, and it does seem strange that they would all go to such a place. But I double-checked; at least a few of these aren’t solely off of Copetas’ reporting. George H. W. Bush appears to have visited Mount Athos in 1995 and attended a ceremony there, seemingly as part of a weekend trip to Greece where the shipping tycoon Yiannis Latsis presented a luxury yacht to the Bush family. Vladimir Putin has made multiple pilgrimages to Mount Athos over the years, the earliest I can find being at around 2005. Peter Armitage, who ran a company called Capital International, has visited Mount Athos, and in fact he seems to have taken an interest in Christianity and Buddhism some time after he left the company. Fidel Castro visted Mount Athos in 2004, after having invited Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the inauguration of Cuba’s first Orthodox Church. Apparently, in 1998, Mount Athos was visited by the exiled Bulgarian king Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, the fourth Aga Khan Shah Karim al-Husayni, and Vladimir Romanov, apparently to create a “Club for Friends of Byzantium”. In 2018, Abbot Ephraim met with Eugene Fishel, from the US State Department, along with Wess Mitchell and George Kent, at the Vatopedi Monastery in Mount Athos to discuss the Orthodox Church and apparently also the persecution of Christians in parts of the world. In fact, The Guardian noted in 2004 that Mount Athos has been seen as an ideal “detox trip” for the European bourgeoisie.
With these facts established, not to the mention the original Bloomberg article, I have to assume Copetas is on to something legitimate. So we can take as granted that George Karaplis, the former chief financial officer for the OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation), has in fact visited Mount Athos, apparently having made up to 70 pilgrimages since 1991, and has even described Vatopedi Monastery as “the original World Economic Forum”. He even claims to have accompanied senior executives from Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. Apparently Mount Athos was considered a highly fashionable retreat for world leaders, and according to the local Athonite monks businessmen come to the Vatopedi Monastery all the time. Father Irenaios has said that he has spent hours listening to professionals, politicians, and businessmen talk about their lack of focus in life, while Father Germanos has said that businessmen regularly come to Mount Athos with “a great emptiness”. According to Copetas in his book, Mona Lisa’s Pajamas: Diverting Dispatches from a Roving Reporter, businessmen, politicians, and monarchs have been making visits to Mount Athos since as far back as 985 AD, when three rich merchants built the Vatopedi Monastery with their fortunes, and since then the monastery has been visited by the likes of the Medicis, the King of Spain, and wealthy brokers such as Ciriaco d’Ancona. You wouldn’t know it too much today, though, since meetings with businessmen typically aren’t publicized. The visits are treated as private moments, and are apparently usually kept secret. This secrecy also goes for royalty, with both Charles and Harry having visited the Vatopedi Monastery in secret.
This is all fascinating especially when your mind turns to certain conspiracy theories about how the bourgeoisie are all godless devil-worshippers. I mean, you could argue that it doesn’t have much meaning, but think about it: if you have the money to go anywhere in the world to find yourself, why the holiest Orthodox site in the world? Is it because Vatopedi Monastery, in addition to being a place of monastic contemplation, also happens to be a historical place of financial influence? Or do they happen to find some vague meaning in Christianity in particular? That wouldn’t be too surprising. Despite decades of conspiracy theory there’s simply no way that the bourgeoisie consists of Satanists. Even things like the Bohemian Grove or that one Surrealism-themed party aren’t “Satanic rituals” in any sense. If they were Satanists, why the hell would they go to Mount Athos, which is an immensely holy place for Christianity – and they go there in private I might add! If nothing else it’s more proof of how Christianity is still to this day bound up in the dominant capitalist system, which is quite the problem for those on “the Left” who keep trying to appeal to some fanciful socialist Christianity. But in a broader sense, you should understand the ruling class not as godless nihilists or devil worshippers, but as faithful servants of the White Lodge, just as eager for the stamp of heaven as any poor worker fearfully humbling themselves before God. Thousands of businessmen, probably many more, and multiple politicians and heads of state, have all gathered at the Vatopedi Monastery at Mount Athos, and perhaps they seek some aspect of what Charles III was looking for. They go there for solace, contemplation, meaning, “heavenly provisions” etc.
King Charles III, and his Traditionalist inclinations together with his history of going to the Vatopedi Monastery, can be thought of as a symbol of the elite progress of the Right Hand Path. At least, if he indeed is as much of an “activist monarch” as we might suspect. He’s certainly much more concerted about any coherent spiritual project than almost anyone in the British ruling class that I can think of, almost impressively so. He should be observed in tandem with the continuing progress of global social reaction. The White Lodge is on the move. I wonder what will follow.
I will say that I am not a Chaos Magician, but I don’t think one necessarily needs to be a Chaos Magician in order to recognize the Chaos Star, also known as the Symbol of Chaos or Sigil of Chaos. The basic shape is eight-arrows pointing outward from one central point, meant to signify all possibilities expanding outward. In Chaos Magick, this star is often interpreted as a signifier for the endless potential of all action launching in all different directions instead of pursuing a fixed path. But, the Chaos Star is also one of a number of esoteric symbols that have been altered and recuperated by fascists as representations of their movement, leading some leftists to declare that the Chaos Star is itself a fascist symbol, despite the fact that it was a non-fascist symbol invented by a man whose own political convictions put him completely at odds with fascism. And recently, this has resulted in an entire tendency of anarchism, namely the nihilist anarchists, being tarred over the use of the Chaos Star in an image declaring the nihilist-anarchist position. Both anarchists and presumably Marxists take turns saying both that nihilist-anarchists are incapable of threatening the system and that they are dangerous fascist counter-revolutionaries, without the slightest bit of irony or self-awareness regarding the outright regurgitation of that old far-right trope that their enemy is strong but also weak.
Twitter drama in itself isn’t something I like the thought of covering here, but it is on Twitter that the discourse I’m trying to address is taking place, and it is important to address this discourse, because it touches on a number of important subjects. It touches on the extent to which social and cultural alterity is either allowed expression within leftist or radical spaces or condemned and cast away as an expression of fascism or reaction, a dynamic that has implications for how we view freedom of expression and has consequences for anyone trying to embrace sub/counterculture, occultism, alternative religion, and even kink within radical left-wing political spaces. It also touches on the old threat of moral panic that surfaces time and time again, and the way that esotericism is interpreted and received, as well as the arguments through which the logic of authoritarianism may be regurgitated even by people who consider themselves anti-authoritarian leftists. I also should stress that I don’t come at this from the standpoint of a nihilist, except in the sense of being very much nihilism-curious. While I don’t necessarily identify with nihilism, I have the inkling that my engagement with Max Stirner, forthcoming elaborations on Darkness, and a general interest in certain forms of revolutionary pessimism as put foward by Marxists like Walter Benjamin may end up putting me in alignment with some forms of nihilist communism and nihilist anarchism, to say nothing of recent sympathies with some of the nihilist anarchists presently being fash-jacketed. If that leads to a bias, then just know that this is the standpoint I’m coming from, and there are no neutral actors in discourse.
As far as I can tell, this all started with a tweet from Des (@queerbandit161), a queer anti-civ nihilist decolonial anarchist, originally posted on March 9th, which featured a meme depicting a balaclava-wearing wojak-style character wearing sunglasses, sporting an assault rifle and standing beneath the Chaos Star. The presumably memetic mascot for nihilist anarchism is accompanied by a quote from Blessed Is The Flame, a seminal text on anarcho-nihilism written in 2016 by Serafinski, which summarizes the basic position of nihilist-anarchism. It states that the current society cannot be saved, that hostility should be the only response to it, and that, rather than any demands for a new society, the revolution will be the “pure negation” of society. I’ll post the original meme below.
The post attracted a mixture of responses from various people. Some praised the post and its message, and expressed an interest in reading nihilist literature. Many, however, were quick to dismiss it and mock it, and a few of those resorted to cruelly suggesting that Des commit suicide. Some of Des’ detractors asserted that the anarcho-nihilist position was merely stuck in the bourgeois worldview, accepting its premise for the social order and merely positioning themselves as an antagonist; a strange objection for self-styled communists to make, considering they are supposed to be the material antagonists of bourgeois society.
For whatever reason, Des’ original post attracted further attention at around March 18th, 9 days after the original post, from numerous individuals spouting mostly the same lines, except that this time there were people accusing Des of being a crypto-fascist on the grounds that the Chaos Star is a “Duginist symbol”. This seems to have kicked off a whole discourse about nihilist-anarchism as a whole being somehow fascist, and besides that a wave of anarchists and socialists from other tendencies pronouncing that nihilist anarchists are ineffectual. Some users have gone so far as to claim that the Chaos Star is essentially the Sonnenrad, the Nazi sun wheel symbol (often popularly, but ultimately erroneously, dubbed the “Black Sun”). It’s at this point that we need to get into the problems with all of this discourse.
The Chaos Star as we know it was created by Michael Moorcock, the author of the Elric of Melnibone novels, as a symbol of the forces of Chaos. In Moorcock’s novels, there is constant struggle two cosmic forces, those of Law and those of Chaos, and a figure referred to as the Eternal Champion acts on behalf of the Cosmic Balance to ensure that neither Law nor Chaos come out on top for long. The forces of Law, symbolized by a single upward-pointing arrow, represent cosmic order and are credited with ensuring that anything material exists, but a world dominated by Law tends to lead to stagnation, and the Realm of Law is an empty and barren place where, in the absence of the ability to do wrong, law and justice become meaningless. The forces of Chaos, symbolized by a star of eight arrows, represent both entropy and a state of infinite possibility unfettered by any rules, and are credited as the source of the power of magic and sorcery, but a world dominated by Chaos is unstable, and all possibilities are exhausted in a state of constant change (personally I find that to be a strange idea considering that the possibilities are, well, infinite). Fans of Shin Megami Tensei, like myself, will easily notice similarities between the premise of Moorcock’s novels and the Shin Megami Tensei games that would be released decades later; in the original Shin Megami Tensei, one of the four demon generals of Chaos is called Arioch, which happens to also be the name of the gods of Chaos in Moorcock’s novels. Michael Moorcock himself was not a fascist. In fact, he has explicitly referred to himself as an anarchist, and specifically a “Kropotkinist” (that is, an adherent of Pyotr Kropotkin’s form of anarcho-communism), and he insists that his works often end with the message that “one should serve neither gods nor masters but become one’s own master”. So while the Chaos Star may not in itself be an anarchist symbol, it was created by an anarchist, and in the context of Chaos Magick it definitely dovetails with political anarchism rather more closely than fascism.
It’s worth mentioning that, although the Chaos Star as we know it was invented by Michael Moorcock, there actually was a similar older symbol that appeared in the work of Aleister Crowley. In the Thoth tarot deck, which also contained in Crowley’s The Book of Thoth, the Eight of Wands card depicts a large symbol consisting of eight arrows shaped like bolts of lightning and each extending outwards in all directions. It’s not really the Chaos Star, but it does look similar. According to Crowley, the symbol on the card represented energy that scattered at high velocity. That does sound fairly similar to the way the Chaos Star is talked about as representing infinite potential branching off in different directions. The Thoth deck project was originally initiated in 1938, and completed in 1943, and The Book of Thoth was published in 1944. That’s 17 before the first Elric of Melnibone novel, The Dreaming City, was published in 1961. It’s not quite the same symbol, but it does predate Moorcock. And, again, there’s no reason to interpret it as a symbol of fascism.
This brings us to Aleksandr Dugin, the fascist advisor to Vladimir Putin, who used his own eight-pointed star symbol to represent his Eurasianist movement. Dugin’s eight-pointed star seems to have first appeared on the cover of Foundations of Geopolitics, a treatise on neo-Eurasianist ideology and politics that was first published in 1997 and has since become widely influential in fascist circles in both Russia and “the West” and has been widely read within the Russian government. Although the two symbols are similar, there are important differences between them. The star of Eurasianism is typically squared, whereas the common Chaos Star is round, and the star of Eurasianism usually has the four intercardinal arrows appear larger or longer than the cardinal arrows, whereas the common Chaos Star is typically much more equilateral, with the eight arrows all of equal size and length. These are the obvious visual differences between the Chaos Star and the Eurasianist Star, or the Star of Dugin as we might also call it. As for the symbolic meaning, it’s not clear that the Chaos Star and Dugin’s Star have any symbolic correspondence. Frankly, I’m amazed that people have even managed to confuse the two symbols.
In a now-deleted tweet, a Twitter user going by the handle @DualPowerRanger repeated a claim from Alexander Reid Ross which asserted that Aleksandr Dugin is a practitioner (or “follower”) of chaos magick, and they asserted further that there is a convergence between the Chaos Star and National Bolshevism that is not accidental, based on the purported presence of eco-fascists in the nihilist milieu. Incidentally, the same basic claim of Dugin being a Chaos Magician was put forward by Robert Zubrin, writing for the conservative magazine National Review, in an article arguing that Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology was a “satanic cult”. Oh how easy it is to find certain people on the same side as reactionaries when it’s time to make people afraid of the occult again! In any case, the basic claim is wrong-headed for a number of reasons. For starters, Chaos Magick is not a religion, and there are no “followers” of Chaos Magick. The very notion is fundamentally at odds with the radically anarchic, anti-dogmatic, and anti-organizational ethos of Chaos Magick, and arguably offensive to its practitioners. For another thing, while it is true that Dugin was interested in occultism and wrote a number of tracts on the subject when he was much younger, he is at this point very much a Christian traditionalist. Dugin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church since he was six years old, he is deeply involved in right-wing Christian politics in Russia which so characteristically revolves around the Russian Orthodox Church, and much of the religious content of his politics is expressly a form of Christian nationalism; he explicitly frames his struggle between a Eurasianist Russia versus the liberal/”globalist” West as a struggle between the forces of God, church, state and empire against the forces of Satan. Some people have told me in the past that there is at least a noitceable contingent of folkist neopagans in the Russian National Bolshevik movement, but I have never seen any evidence of that being the case. Even if Dugin did at one point practice Chaos Magick, he likely doesn’t now, and even if he did, this certainly doesn’t make the Chaos Star a fascist symbol.
A particularly hilarious bit of conspiracy thinking comes from self-styled leftists who appear to sincerely believe that the Chaos Star is synonymous with the Sonnenrad, or the so-called “Black Sun” used by neo-Nazis to represent their ideology. This is patently absurd for a number of reasons. The Chaos Star not only does not carry the same symbolism as the Sonnenrad, the two symbols are not even the same shape! Whereas the Chaos Star consists of eight arrows pointing outward in different directions, the Sonnenrad consists of twelve seemingly stylized sig runes through two circles, the runes each meeting at the centre of the circle, thus forming a wheel. The design was probably modelled after old Germanic ornamental disks that were generally symbols of royalty or aristocratic power, but otherwise barely resembles even those. The Sonnenrad is a distinct symbol that was created by Wilhelm Landig and commissioned by Heinrich Himmler as a substitute for the swastika to adorn the Wewelsburg Castle. As for the name “Black Sun”, the Nazis themselves never referred to it as the “Black Sun”. The symbol itself wasn’t even originally black, more like a kind of dark green. We don’t really know what the Nazis originally called it and even the original symbolism is something of a mystery, though it is speculated in scholarship that it represented a source of power for the so-called “Aryan” race. The reason I refer to it the Sonnenrad is because the word means “sun-wheel”, and that’s all that the basic symbol is; just a sun wheel made of stylized sig runes. The Sonnenrad only started being called the “Black Sun” by neo-Nazis in the 1990s, likely deriving the name from the thriller novel The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo. The novel was published no earlier than 1991 by the German author Stephan Mögle-Stadel, under the pseudonym Russell McCloud, who probably wasn’t a neo-Nazi himself, though Mögle-Stadel’s lack of enthusiasm for Nazi ideology didn’t stop neo-Nazis from running with the concept regardless of its expressly fictitious basis.
The very name “Black Sun” as an esoteric concept is not the historic property of the Nazis. In Western alchemy, the “black sun” was the Sol Niger, a symbol of the process of nigredo, the state of spiritual putrefaction or “death” that necessarily precedes renewal and the completion of the Great Work. There have been other “black suns” and similarly dark lights with different symbolic meanings throughout the ancient pre-Christian world. In Egypt, a “black sun” can be seen in some tombs as a devourer of the unrighteous and the enemies of the gods, and this sun was represented by a demon in the form of a black ram dubbed “The Lord of Power”. In Greece and Rome, the god Dionysus or Bacchus was sometimes referred to as the “Night Sun”. The planet Saturn was in some cultures considered to be a “sun of night”, and in Mesopotamia the sun god Utu was believed to travel to the underworld as a “night sun” to judge the dead. Mayans believed that the Sun took the form of the “Night Sun” as it journeyed to the underworld.
The logic of the comparison between the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star is in essence the same logic used by your average conspiracy theorist to argue that every triangle or hand sign is secretly some esoteric or satanic symbol cryptically placed everywhere by a secret society of elites who for some reason want you to know that they rule the world and can’t tell you any other way. The Chaos Star is round and pointy, is employed by an occult subculture, and happens to be brandished by people you despise, while the Sonnenrad is round and jagged, maybe a little pointy in places, is linked to an esoteric movement, and is employed by people you despise, therefore, by ignoring the exact context and symbological differences between the symbols along with the precise ideological and political differences between the people who actually use those symbols, you can claim that the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star are the exact same symbol and that Chaos Magicians and nihilist-anarchists are secret Nazis with no effort whatsoever! And the people looking to attack nihilist-anarchists seem to see fascist symbols literally everywhere, or at least everywhere in Ukraine. Another person attacking Des and accusing the Chaos Star of being a fascist symbol also claimed to see that same symbol on a Ukrainian soldier as proof that the soldier was a fascist, as part of a broader party line that Ukraine is a Nazi regime. The actual symbol was not a Chaos Star, but instead the symbol of the Sith Empire, which doesn’t at all resemble the Chaos Star and really doesn’t signify anything other than being a Star Wars fan. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve also seen some people claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a secret Nazi on the basis of an equilateral cross-like symbol on his shirt that was somehow supposed to be the German Iron Cross. That cross is obviously not the German Iron Cross, but in fact a symbol of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fact that Zelenskyy happens to be Jewish should be relevant to anyone trying to claim that he’s some sort of secret Nazi, but apparently that doesn’t matter to pro-Russian conspiracy theorists.
My point is, there seems to be a noticeable element of conspiracism involved in the basic claim that the Chaos Star is inherently a fascist symbol, in that justifying such a claim often involves literally just seeing fascist symbols everywhere even where there aren’t, in the same way that lots of conspiracy theorists see symbols of Satanism or their imagined secret society everywhere even where they don’t exist.
What motivated me to write this article at all was a Twitter thread written by a self-described democratic socialist named Michael Paulauski, and it’s worth addressing the claims he makes against nihilist-anarchists. The thread begins with an endorsement of @DualPowerRanger’s problematic claims against nihilist-anarchists and the Chaos Star, and his bid to connect the Chaos Star to a broader issue of fascist creep in ecological movements. He claims that people who deny the existence of eco-fascism are relevant to the Chaos Star, implying the Chaos Star is a symbol of a broader fascist creep within anarchist movements. We’ve already addressed the reasons why the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, so it doesn’t bear repeating here. The argument I’m much more interested in addressing is Paulauski’s claim that “doomerism” is weaponized as a tool of fascists who supposedly use it to ensure that any and all constructive progress is obstructed, and claims that the utilization of the Chaos Star as a symbol of nihlist-anarchism fits perfectly with this along with the phenomenon of anti-civ and anarcho-primitivism, both of which he reflexively dismisses without argument.
In addressing this argument, we need to discuss the concept of the “doomer”, or “doomerism”. The word “doomer” seems to be a modern term the internet gives to someone who’s basically a long-term pessimist. It can mean someone who is convinced that society will collapse within their lifetime, and in fact it used to specifically refer to people who thought that this collapse would be brought about by the demise of peak oil production, and nowadays it can be interpreted to mean a latent assumption that the end of organized human society in the form of ecological collapse, global conflict, or any number of causes is basically inevitable and can’t be stopped at this point, and for whom the only thing left to do is figure out how to survive or live with the inexorable. It can also mean someone who finds themselves given to a much more personal resignment, having accepted the idea that, for various reasons, their own lives aren’t going to get any better than they currently are. Nowadays the terms “doomer” or “doomerism”, whenever they enter mainstream political discussion, are almost always related to the broader discussion around climate change, and the term “doomer” is thrown around interchangeably with terms like “nihilist” or “collapsitarian” to denounce or dismiss people who believe that it is too late for the human species to meaningfully avert the worst consequences of man-made climate change.
There are numerous and obvious problems with asserting that pessimism as a whole is merely an appendage of fascism. For one thing, pessimism is really rather common in left-wing movements, particularly in the United States. And there’s a host of good reasons for leftists to feel pessimistic without requiring the input of fascist interference operations. The climate crisis shows no signs of getting better, and in fact it seems like we really will be unable to stop most of the worst effects of climate change from being inflicted on the world, whole species and ecosystems are still being destroyed, there’s war everywhere, with Russia presently invading Ukraine while ongoing conflicts in the Middle East remain unresolved and continue to claim thousands of innocent lives, progressive politicians either make litle to no progress in improving the lives of the people or are actively compromised by the internal hierarchy of their party establishment, while their increasingly reactionary rivals on the right continue to grow and plot their next advance towards dictatorship, millions of people are still poor, suffering, with increasingly little hope that they’ll lead better lives or that their descendants will be better off, marginalized people continue to be brutally oppressed, the “democracy” we take for granted is being eroded even in the bastions of Western “freedom”, the whole world is slowly moving towards greater authoritarianism of some form or another, the capitalist system is still universal and the rich get richer and profit off of all of the misseration I’ve described, and all the while the left so far still appears powerless to change any of this in the long-term. In that sense, being a doomer as a leftist is an inevitable possibility, and that’s not usually because fascists are convincing otherwise faithful optimists to abandon hope. Rather, it’s a natural product of the grind that is left-wing politics in a late capitalist nightmare. Climate “doomerism” is also a natural reaction to the very real scientific conclusions being drawn about how much time we have and how much we can do to stop total ecological disaster from inflicting us all. The main difference, I suppose, is that some of us like the thought of turning what would be pure pessimism into a source of power and a deepening of the radical worldview, one that goes beyond the usual palliative quotations of Antonio Gramsci.
The other major problem is that the argument made against “doomerism” could also be applied to any counterculture, or any expression of alterity within society. Neopaganism and modern reconstructionist polytheist movements are not unaware of the problem of fascists trying to use their religion as an edifice of fascist ideology, and the same is true for Satanists and many occultists, and many within those movements are all determined to root out fascism from their communities. But if we followed Paulauski’s line of thought, then we would assume that, because fascists attempt to use Paganism, Satanism, and occultism as spaces for fascist ideology, then those things are now inherently fascist, even though they aren’t. Punk music, industrial music, noise music, and black metal are all music scenes where fascist movements are known for trying to set up shop, but that doesn’t make them inherently fascist, and if we followed Paulauski’s argument those subcultures would be totally off-limits and so would the gothic subculture simply because fascists attempt to weaponize them. The same goes for gaming, which is to this day a fairly notorious place for right-wing infiltration; you wouldn’t be able to play video games and be a leftist anymore, simply because fascists exist and try to seduce gamers into their cause. The final logical conclusion of this argument is that socialism itself cannot be trusted because the idea of socialism has in fact repeatedly been weaponised by fascists. The Nazis called themselves socailists even though they were just capitalist fascists, China still calls itself communist despite just being an authoritiarian capitalist state, and there is a surprising amount of people on the internet who call themselves socialists while peddling conservative and often white nationalist ideologies. If the left followed Paulauski’s argument consistently, they would abandon socialism completely, and ironically I would say this is far more defeatist than anything that anarcho-nihilism could put forward.
Paulauski points to another thread from a user basically saying that anarcho-nihilists inundate people with “doomer shit” and then entice them with their ideology, which I’m sure is totally not elementary conspiratorial thinking. I think that there is a much more realistic way to look at it. If by “doomer shit” you mean pessimism and reasons to be pessimistic, then people are definitely exposed to that pretty regularly, but it’s not because of nihilist-anarchists. I would assume that there are far too few nihilist-anarchists in the world for them to be responsible for people becoming doomers. To me, it makes much more sense to assume that people become doomers on their own, as a response to the fact that the world around is shitty not just to them but to everyone, and to the possibility that things might get truly irreparably bad within their lifetimes for a number of reasons. You just can’t look at the current political and ecological situation, or in some sense even the basis of modern capitalism or even modern civilization, and act like pessimism isn’t a completely legitimate response to it, and nor can you look at the fact that we’re stagnating even as we know what’s going on and theoretically trying to resolve it without something isnide you telling you that maybe we’re not actually going to get this right. Pessimism is a logical reaction to all of this and, if it doesn’t lead to resignment, people can and do radicalize on the basis of pessimism, and some people will follow that path in response to the conditions they live in whether you like it or not.
The reason people defend the Chaos Star has nothing to do with whatever false sense of victory you claim for yourself, or with fascist creep. The reason people defend the Chaos Star doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the merits of anarcho-nihilism itself. The reason people defend the Chaos Star is, rather simply, because the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, the claim that it is a fascist symbol is laughably absurd, there are plenty of non-fascists including anarchists who use the Chaos Star to signify interest in Chaos Magick or esotericism even if probably for subcultural reasons, and anarcho-nihilism is not a fascist ideology. It’s ultimately that simple, and, frankly, I think what distresses the anti-nihilist anarchist and the anti-nihilist socialist is the idea that perhaps the nihilist-anarchists might provide a more interesting critique of capitalism and might find themselves unmoored by the limits of mainstream socialism. And yet it is ultimately an irrational fear, in the end. There is inherent reason why nihilism, anarchism, communism, or egoism cannot exist alongisde each other and cannot form a coherent political worldview side-by-side; in other words, there is not much reason why you can’t be all of those things at once.
Anarcho-nihilism is not going to make anarchism or the left as a whole more fascist, but it’s honestly quite rich that the accusation is even flung around nowadays anyway in consideration of the fact that, if there is any part of the left that is at a major risk of becoming fascism or a pipeline to fascism, it’s none other than the entire edifice of state socialism. You might think that I am only referring to Marxist-Leninists, and they definitely are reactionary (I’m sorry not sorry but it’s the simple truth), but they are not the only ones. Paulauski describes himself as a democratic socialist? Very well, let’s see what the democratic socialists are doing. The eggheads over at Jacobin are currently advocating for a decadent big tent populism that would have leftists ignore social struggles in favour of strictly economistic understandings of capitalism. This has also sometimes meant bringing on white nationalists in socialist garb like Thomas Fazi for years, and their YouTube channel is full of videos of their hosts spouting a number of conservative talking points about “identity politics” among other social issues. Speaking of Fazi, he’s one of several reactionaries who certain leftists have decided to collaborate with to form a new magazine called Compact, which is essentially just an edgier and slightly more social-democratic version of what is essentially an establishmentarian neoconservative rag – try to imagine The Weekly Standard but for Bernie-boosters. The magazine positions itself as an editorial on behalf of a “strong social-democratic state” that “defends community” against “the libertine left and the libertarian right” (that sounds just a little bit like fascism but OK). They express say that they want to challenge “the overclass that controls capital”; that is to say, they don’t want to challenge capital, they just want a new set of paternalistic elites to rule society and govern capitalism. To that end, the magazine brings leftist voices like the ostensibly Marxist Slavoj Zizek and Ashley Frawley and racist social-democrats like Malcolm Kyeyunye and Paul Embery together with outright bourgeois conservative voices like Christopher Caldwell (literally a Weekly Standard editor), Sohrab Ahmari (Catholic neocon), Peter Hitchens (British right-wing crank), and Matthew Schmitz (if “establishment conservative” were an archetype, I’d say this guy is its embodiment), as well as conspiracy theorists like Alex Gutentag. Social-democrats across Europe (and, yes, I include the UK here) have for years made numerous efforts to meet the far-right half-way by accomodating many of their demands through conciliatory policy programmes designed to fit reactionary immigration policies in with social-democratic economics, and these efforts have never succeeded in doing anything except for creating a pipeline between social-democracy and fascism. It doesn’t look like that reality is going to convince social-democratic politicians to stop doing it either, since ultimately they need as many votes as they can get, and they often have a vested interest in preventing the radicalization of their party apparatus and the working class.
The core function of the socialization of the working class that defines social-democratic electoralism, and thereby much of the mainstream left, as well as even the vanguardism of state socialist forms of Marxism, ultimately bends much of the mainstream statist left towards a greater project of socializing the working class as functionaries of a more paternalistic state order, one theoretically more benevolent than its right-wing counterpart. The unity of this function with the still ever-present conservatism of bourgeois society leads inevitably to social-democracy arcing towards a reactionary reassertion of the dominant social order, and of hierarchical domination itself, and the unity itself is rendered inevitable by the realities of social-democratic electoralism. Every radical knows that this is not the first age in which social-democracy has proven reactionary or seen fit to ally with fascism or conservatism, and it may not be the last for as long as the status quo continues to perpetuate itself. Both social-democracy and Marxism-Leninism exist ultimately to socialize the masses as functionaries of the ruling system, whichever that ruling system happens to be, and that idea is not as incommensurate with fascism as any ostensible commitment to “the left” might make it seem. That socialization will arc inevitably towards the idea of a paternalistic state order that reinforces the hierarchy from which fascism derives life. Anarcho-nihilists, by contrast, seek the ultimate negation and destruction of this hierarchy, this state socialization, the order of the state itself, and every benign illusion that keeps it alive. At any rate, I would expect alliances between social-democrats and conservatives (not even necessarily “populist” ones at that) to continue growing. Right now you’re mostly seeing things like this confined to the internet and select columns on fairly mainstream media outlets, but there’s no reason to think it’ll stay that way. The alt-right used to just be a collection of think tanks, ideologues, and bloggers that nobody knew or cared about, but they’ve since evolved into a concrete political force that has extended well beyond its former limited sphere of influence, and is now still a driving element in the growth of contemporary fascism. Not to mention that whatever reactionary transformation “the left” undergoes will have a lot of money behind it, and, if the masthead at Compact is anything to go by, the support of numerous appartchiks from the neoconservative establishment, and my suspicion is that the mainstream, statist “left” will probably end up accepting this transformation once it is completed; after all, it was only ever about getting votes.
You want to worry about a pipeline to fascism in the left? Anarcho-nihilism not only isn’t a pipeline to fascism, but even with enough red flags it doesn’t even come close to the very real pipeline to fascism involving mainstream state socialism that is being forged right now and has been in the makings for years before you idiots decided to fash-bait people over the occult again. And when it happens, at least half of you will defend it. I guarantee that much.
Things like this are why it’s important to recapture something core to Satanism: the philosophy of no surrender. People who are part of occultism or alternative subcultures or alternative religions and who are also politically radical know that they can’t afford to surrender what they love just because the ignorant commissars of mainstream socialism have only relatively recently become attuned to the problem of fascist creep and now fancy themselves to be a sort of anti-fascist community police. Indeed every anti-fascist knows that if the enemy is given an inch they will take the whole mile. Fascists need every appendage they can grab hold of in order to form a network of culture presence that then translates into political influence, so that there are countless avenues into which a person can be radicalized into fascist ideology. The only answer to this is to preserve the cultures that the fascists want to take over by driving out fascists from those spaces and asserting the anti-fascist value of those spaces. The people who want anarchists to surrender the Chaos Star would have them walk the opposite path, no doubt in the hope of sacrificing everything that doesn’t conform to the cultural regime of the late Enlightenment. That cannot be allowed.
So listen well: no surrender! That is the ethos I believe certain anarchists know well indeed, and guides their praxis, even if mainstream socialists have all but abandoned it.
I have a lot more that I’d probably prefer to talk about, which I plan to talk about over the course of this month, but first I’m afraid I find myself compelled to respond to some esoteric e-drama concerning a man whose work I’ve cited over the last year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s one of those situations again. This time the person we’re talking about is Peter Grey, a self-styled Luciferian Witch who had been an esteemed author on witchcraft known for books such as Acopalyptic Witchcraft, The Red Goddess, and Lucifer: Princeps, and who had more recently released The Two Antichrists last year. Yesterday I had stumbled upon a take of his so bad that I find myself compelled to make some sort of statement about it.
On February 24th, coincidentally the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Peter Grey joined Gordon White for another episode of his podcast Rune Soup, this one apparently the third module of his Protection and Malefica Course, to discuss the ethical implications of cursing in magick as well as the content of Jack Parson’s landmark manifesto We Are The Witchcraft. That’s all good, valid, and important to talk about, and it’s not like you won’t find insight here, but towards the end of that podcast is when Peter Grey decided to talk politics, and things do not get good in that department.
Ostensibly, Peter Grey is an anarchist and a radical socialist, though perhaps with certain quasi-primitivist tendencies, and in theory this approach to politics shows itself in his work. But in Rune Soup we see a different side of Grey’s politics, namely that of crass opportunism and big tent populism. Grey is apparently one of those people on the left who appears to be convinced that we really need to unite with the people who hate us, by which we mean they will either do violence against us or invoke the power of the state to oppress us, and who we hate in turn, in order to fight the much bigger foe of capitalist state repression. We see this towards the end of the podcast, after they’re done talking about Parson’s essay. First he briefly mentions the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which took place on the same day as that podcast episode, by saying that Russia “sent the tanks” to Ukraine because “the West is falling”, whatever that means. Then he complains about people who think “Biden-style leftism” (which is absolutely not a fucking thing but go off I guess) will prevail, saying that they are in for a “very rude awakening” because of the mighty backlash from “the forces of repression”. That’s when he says “you’re going to need people on your side who at the present time you’re calling fascists, transphobes – what are the other meaningless hate words that are thrown around at the moment? – white supremacists”. He refers to these categorical descriptions as “the nonsense rhetoric of division”, and claims that anyone who reads We Are The Witchcraft and agrees with it has the duty to “do the work” to “connect with the others around” and not engage in “an endless witch-hunt” or “a purity death-spiral”. This is when Grey concludes that we need to ask “why they hell aren’t we seeing it now?” in reference to the radicalism of Jack Parsons.
Before we need to go anywhere we need to establish something right away: this is all obviously nonsense. Grey does not know that Jack Parsons would not have rejected transphobes, and he has absolutely no way to claim that he would’ve supported unity with fascists – in fact it seems very obvious that these would be his enemies. But having established this, it is important to understand what Peter Grey means when he says all of this. Grey’s overall position is that Western capitalism is collapsing, the time is approaching for anti-capitalist witches to usher in a new society, and in order to achieve this they will need all the help they can get, and so on this basis Grey argues that witches seeking to oppose capitalism should make alliances with essentially anyone who opposes the current establishment. When Grey complains about people being referred to as fascists, transphobes, or white supremacists, presumably by leftists and liberals, it might be inferred that he is referring to people who he thinks are resisting the establishment and are merely unfairly demonised by people who he refers to as “Biden-style leftists”. My guesses in that regard would be the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, TERFs who at least claim to be anti-capitalist in some way, possibly people like Derrick Jensen, or really just any self-styled radical who comes out with a bigoted take and doesn’t issue any sort of self-correction or apology for it. I suspect that he may also be responding to the discourse around attempts at left-right convergence, which are initiated either by fascists or idiots. Jimmy Dore and his buddies spring to mind.
So, Grey’s take is essentially that the far-left should unite with the far-right in order to seize the opportunity to destroy capitalism as it is collapsing. Well, there are several problems with this. It’s certainly not obvious how the invasion of Ukraine is supposed to single-handedly usher in the collapse of global capitalism, at all. It’s also not obvious why radical socialists, communists, or anarchists (which Grey claims he is) should ally with people whose primary political goals involve oppressing and destroying them. More to the point, this sort of big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics doesn’t work in that it doesn’t succeed in bringing us any closer to dismantling capitalism. The only thing it eventually succeeds in is normalizing not only reactionary ideology but also some incredibly toxic bigotry that goes with it. Chip Berlet already examined this phenomenon in his 1999 essay Right Woos Left and had already demonstrated therein the ways in which left-right convergences lead to fascists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories gaining influence in progressive activist circles while never actually generating any long-term political victories against the ruling class.
Not to mention, the argument is that we need to ally with reactionaries in order to fight “the forces of repression”, but if given the power those “allies” would be doing the repressing. Here in the United Kingdom we already have a government and opposition that is doing everything in its power to undermine the rights of trans people, while in many US states there are efforts to actually oppress trans people by forcing trans kids to undergo invasive “physical examinations” and abducting them from their parents if they undergo gender affirmation surgery. Isn’t this also repression, Peter Grey? What about the fact that the American right-wing seems to be increasingly interested in overthrowing elected leadership in order to abolish democracy and replace it with a dictatorship run by Trump? Would the outcome of that not be repression? You’re so concerned with the spectre of “cancel culture” on the left that it’s blinding you to what’s going on and to the reality of the people you want us to unite with.
The point regarding “rhetoric” of division is notable in that forces me to return to the subject of unity. As ever, “unity” is only valuable in a relativistic sense; unity of whom, or of who with what? Has it ever occurred to anyone that you don’t have to unite with everyone and everything, or that there are people that you should not unite with and who do not deserve such unity? Why should trans people and their allies unite with people who not only deny the very existence of trans people but also want trans people to be legislated out of existence? Why should Jewish people be asked to unite with people who hate them and want them to be exterminated or persecuted? Why should we be asked to unite with people who want to create a totalitarian system maintained through genocide? The self-styled “Luciferian” would do well to consider that the defining action expressed in the myth of Lucifer, his rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven, is precisely the refusal of unity with the greatest fascist of them all! Rebellion, the “renewal of the war”, is the refusal of unity by the renewal of conflict against power, against that which is, such that there can be no unity with it, and from the standpoint of certain pre-Christian cosmologies it is this and not unity in the abstract which comprises the cosmos itself.
I also see a distinct contradiction in Grey’s overall stance brought about by his big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics in relation to what seems to be a relatively elitist view of witchcraft. Drawing from We Are The Witchcraft along with Jack Parson’s apparent experience as a practitioner of Thelema, Grey likes to assert that witchcraft and magick are only “for the few”. However meritorious the position is argued to be, we are supposed to accept this and at the same time also accept that witches are supposed to bring anyone who happens to hate the establishment for literally any reason no matter how reactionary and bigoted into the fold of the cause. It’s like witchcraft is for the few to participate in, but for also anyone claiming to oppose the system to participate in. That makes no sense.
Bringing this back to the subject of We Are The Witchcraft, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the following passage from that manifesto, which reads thus:
Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.
Peter Grey would like us to think that to follow in the example of Jack Parsons means that we should ally with reactionaries for the purposes of unity. This is implied by the fact that he closes his rant on the subject by appealing to the supposed loss of Parson’s radicalism in the world. But I think that a more consistent of application of the message of We Are The Witchcraft is precisely the opposite of what Peter Grey prescribes. When Parson talks about “those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain”, we can easily see that it is in fact the people Grey wants us to ally with who embody this description. The people we refer to as transphobes, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are in fact transphobes, and they are this because they want to prevent trans people from being liberated or acheiving the full range of rights to which they, if at least we operate from the conceits given to us under the banner of the human rights framework, would be entitled to instead of denied. The transphobes do this because trans people, along with queer people, non-binary, and all the others that do not conform to the experience of cisheteronormativity, are through their mere existence a threat to established notions of gender that have been the basis of long-standing systems of oppression and hence authority for certain individuals over others. The people we refer to as fascists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are fascists, and we call them such because they want nothing less than the re-organization of the capitalist state along the precept of absolute submisson to the reified authority of a single dictator – hardly different in principle to the tyranny for which the Devil opposed God. The people we refer to as white supremacists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are white supremacists, and we call them such because they want to establish, or perhaps rather reinforce, a brutal hierarchy of power based on race in which some people are privileged and the rest are oppressed. All of these either suggest a fear of freedom or even afflict it upon both the subject and the sovereigns, and those who seek to implement them are thus not the natural allies of The Witchcraft as Grey would have us believe. In fact, Parsons is quite clear as to what the Witch should do with them: “these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how”.
You would think that in a podcast devoted partially to an exegesis of We Are The Witchcraft would have had no trouble arriving at this understanding of the political implications of the text, but it seems that this understanding has eluded both Peter Grey and Gordon White, and I’ll be honest, the idea of getting around this and side-stepping it sounds like classic pseudo-intellectualism, seeking more of the thing than what it is and contorting the substance through sophistication. I’m inclined to think of it as a sort of privilege on Peter Grey’s part, since it really does speak of a sort of detachment from the gritty realities of radical politics in favour of some intellectual landscape, some retreat into the kingdom of thought and contemplation. Grey no doubt lives off of money generated from his relatively well-esteemed body of work and made through his company Scarlet Imprint. But of course, Grey reminds me to some extent of Rhyd Wildermuth, funny enough a man who has said he derived influence from Grey, and Wildermuth currently lives in the Ardennes, completely unconnected to any practical experience of American radical politics, making money partially through his books and his courses on neopaganism. I mean, fuck, I hate to say it but even Noam Chomsky sort of follows the trope as well, not because of Jimmy Dore’s drivel about how he’s a class traitor because he knows his “Force The Vote” campaign was never going to work, but because he looks at what’s going in Ukraine and his answer is simply to act like Russia has no agency in all this because it’s all America’s fault; and if you’re wondering how that connects to any sort of aloofness to the material circumstances at hand, you need only ask a Ukrainian translator. To be very honest, I’m getting mighty tired of this pattern.
In view of Grey’s comments, on their own I think he is merely purveying a populist outlook that naturally aligns someone towards the idea of left-right convergences as a form of praxis. And yet, there are signs of something else. For one thing, while I know him as basically an anarchist, he did in the stream briefly say that “post-anarchism” was the correct way to arrive at his interpretation of We Are The Witchcraft. It’s possible, then, that Peter Grey is technically no longer an anarchist in the sense that we might understand it, but rather some sort of “post-anarchist”, which necessarily entails that he has departed from baseline anarchism, possibly because baseline anarchism does not allow him to justify some of his positions and prejudices. The same thing basically happened with Rhyd Wildermuth, except Wildermuth nowadays prefers to call himself an Autonomist Marxist rather than “post-anarchist”, as though Autonomist Marxism is supposed to somehow better accomodate Rhyd’s reactionary socialism. Another sign I get from him is that he still whines about “social justice warriors” among other things for part of The Two Antichrists, at least if memory serves me well. This is in 2021. I’ll just say that by then I had already stopped doing that for quite a few years. Then, there’s Phil Hine mentioning in comment on the podcast that Grey had spoken positively, even fanboyishly, of Ted Kaczynski. And then there’s something that, admittedly, I didn’t initially give much thought to, but there’s the logo that used to represent Scarlet Imprint. It’s not their logo anymore, but you can still see it a lot in Lucifer: Princeps, and I can see why there would be problems with it in that it really does look like a variation of the swastika. It’s not the swastika that was used by the Nazis, to be clear on that front, and I’m guessing to them it’s an original esoteric sigil or whatever, but it looks sort of like they’ve put two triskleions together but the triskelions are in the shape of swastikas. That’s not even the only sus symbol around. Not to mention, I seem to recall him complaining at some point in The Brazen Vessel that the witchcraft community and the Left Hand Path needed to abandon “individualism”, however he defines it. But then why is “individualism” a problem if you declare that your legacy of witchcraft derives from Jack Parsons, who was literally an individualist anarcho-communist!? Suffice it to say, there is much about Peter Grey’s overall politics that is probably not as it seems, and it has some troubling implications to say the least.
All in all, the last thing to say is that for all of these reasons I will not be waiting to purchase Lucifer: Praxis after this point. I probably won’t even need it anyway for reasons I plan to explain, but really I have one important reason for spurining this book. It’s meant to elaborate the practical manifestation of his idea of Luciferian witchcraft, and the main problem there is what the political implications of it could be. Peter Grey is still not so foolish as to completely side-step the issue of politics in occultism and spirituality more broadly, he knows full well the necessity of politicizing witchcraft and indeed is known for advocating such politicization himself. But that’s very much the problem: now I have some very specific ideas of what that looks like in his hands, none of them good. His “post-anarchist” take on Luciferian witchcraft could well involve esoteric justifications for traditionalism undertaken in the name of rebellion against hierarchy, simply so as to forge an intellectual bridge for the alliances he intends to be made, and I would rather not lend any financial support to that bullshit. Take from the good parts of his work by all means, but just know that this might not be a totally unrealistic assumption on my part.
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