An inquiry into the philosophy of Darkness

There are many many more shades and colours to darkness than just black.

– Martin Eric Ain (1967-2017)

I would to take the time to elaborate, as best as I can, an inquiry into the concept of Darkness as an essential postulation. What I mean by this is that I aim to present the contours of a concept of Darkness as a thing itself, in no way subordinate to Light, not even as a lynchpin of certain ideas of cosmic balance. It’s pretty common in certain circles to hear talk of facing and accepting Darkness, but not as a thing in itself, as a force to be reckoned, as anything intractable; no, only so that it may be admitted as part of something greater other than itself, or even merely as an appendage of a greater light. Darkness is something that simply and at all costs can never be afforded the same privileged position granted to Light. Always we are counselled to seek the light. But light is already everywhere, and we find it without seeking. We may step outside by day and behold the Sun and the glow of the day, surely beautiful as it is, or we may saunter into the night and see if anything an excess of light created by our own technical hand, such even that it sometimes obstructs the natural lights of the stars. What is inner, what is “deep”, what is “Other” and “alter” is Darkness, and the fear of Darkness itself speaks pronounces this to us through our instincts even where thought may fail to communicate it.

There is a long heritage in religious thought concerning schism between dualism and what might perhaps be referred to as monism, and all the while we see definite contrasts between two poles both within Christianity, whose spectre has yet shaped a large chunk of occultism, and outside of it. Obviously there is the familiar Christian dualism into which we are inundated and which we are, in many ways rightly, encouraged to overcome. But dualism yet persists, and is the actually existing content of much that we refer to as doctrines of balance. Michael W Ford, for instance, asserts his brand of Luciferianism as a non-dualistic philosophy aimed at apotheosis through cultivating “balance” in the self. But this balance is still a dualistic construction, in that it posits to essential forces, as representative of different aspects of the self, in tension with each other, just that by “non-dualistic” he merely means that one of those forces is not to be privileged over another. Of course, outside of this, there are contrasts where, even where Darkness is not dismissed as “evil”, Light is still privileged above it. This status quo, in my view, cries out for an alternative, for the proclamation of fundamental Darkness. In order to answer this inner and outer demand, it is vital to investigate the concept of Darkness as a fundamental and primary postulation, category, or substance; something that not simply compliments Light, but precedes and supercedes it. It is quite common in witchy circles as well to affirm Darkness as legitimate in itself, though still assert Darkness and Light as existing as necessarily complimentary dialectical poles, both not existing without the other. I, in my inquiry, long for so much more than this.

In full disclosure, this is coming from the perspective of a rediscovery of Satanism alongside Paganism, and part of the purpose of this inquiry involves forging a perspective that binds the synthesis between the two realms. In the not very distant future I plan to elaborate the nature of this synthesis in an article that, though it may seem manifesto-ish, wouldn’t entirely take the form of a manifesto at least by my reckoning. But for now, even in the presently-established context, I will say that much of my intentions for establishing the conceptual nature of Darkness will lean towards the more satanic aspect of that synthesis. I say this because in the process of all of this I intend to touch upon ideas that will allow me to point towards a concrete philosophical-ideological basis for Satanism as a whole that is neither the old LaVeyan/post-LaVeyan orthodoxy of metaphysical rational-objectivism as parsed via Ayn Rand nor the vague progressive humanism of either The Satanic Temple or their rivals, and that project involves the rediscovery of a radical and apophatic concept of egoism. As I wrote this article, I also waded into the discourse as regards nihilism, or anarcho-nihilism, even though I don’t necessarily consider myself one, and it is in view of this that a part of the hopes I have for this inquiry also involve but one way of assessing any philosophical proxmity to nihilism, and that the content I’m exploring may prove a good judge for that.

Dark Materialism and Averse Gnosticism

Starting this inquiry, let’s refer to Georges Bataille’s essay, Base Materialism and Gnosticism, a short discussion of the philosophical content of “Gnosticism”. The central thesis of this essay is strange, in that Bataille seemingly meant to argue that “Gnosticism” was the embodiment of an uncompromising and (from a certain perspective) crude materialism. But even here, there’s something to derive from his argument in terms of an original take on religious materialism. Bataille asserts that the leitmotif of Gnosticism is a concept of matter as an active principle that exists eternally and autonomously as darkness and as “evil”. This darkness is not simply the absence of light, but is rather the prime state of things that is revealed by this absence of light; a “monstrous archontes”. Bataille reckoned that the severed head of an ass, representative of an ass-headed god purportedly worshipped by Gnostics, alongside an overall “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces”, represented the “most virulent” manifestation of materialism. Strangely, Bataille argues that this is more of a psychological expression, rather than an ontological statement of matter as thing-in-itself. Bataille noted base matter as something that external and foreign to ideal human aspirations and thus rejecting any attempt by humans to reduce it to “the great ontological machines” these aspirations produce. In other words, matter, darkness, evil (by Bataille’s terms), these are things that cannot be subordinated beneath any sort of teleological mission or will as set by human thought, and perhaps because of this it bears the name of evil, at least insofar as the Good represents the moral, historical, teleological projections of human thought and its wishes for the world. Fittingly, the materialism Bataille attributes to Gnosticism serves an important philosophical function; to allow the intellect to escape from the constraints of philosophical idealism.

Of course, it is worth assessing Bataille’s overall position critically. This appears to be a broadly psychoanalytical analysis of Gnosticism as he understood it, and in this sense there is much that many Gnostics would likely object to. After all, no Gnostic sect had ever seen fit to worship matter or the archons, and basically all of them viewed the material world as something to be transcended, and spirit as the true essence of divinity in Man that needs to be excarnated from a prison called matter. Materialism, therefore, is something that would not ever be characteristic of traditional Gnosticism. Further, the only ass-headed god we can refer to is the figure depicting in an ancient Roman graffito depicting a man Alexamanos worshipping “his god”, a crucified donkey-headed man usually interpreted as a caricature of Jesus; it’s just that some scholars interpret it as depicting a Gnostic ritual directed towards either Anubis or Typhon-Set. Thus, however, the Gnosticism that Bataille would present is what Nicholas Lacetti refers to as Averse Gnosticism. It is a Gnosticism that privileges matter and the powers of the world over spirit, instead of the other way around. This Gnosticism worships a monstrous Demiurge and a pantheon of similarly monstrous deities as representations of the active and creative principle of matter and darkness, whose representation as monstrous deities befits an incongruity and adversarial nature that Bataille attributes to this principle. The adherents of this Averse Gnosticism make it a principle to never submit themselves or their intellects to any elevated idea that sets itself above them nor to the reasoning that allows for such elevation.

It is fitting that Lacetti connects this idea to the histoy of pre-Satanist ideas about God and the Devil, running from William Blake’s basically corporeal Christ and his apparent kinship with Blake’s Satan to the old French practitioners of black magick and Eliphas Levi’s denunciation of Eugene Vintras as a Satanist. Indeed, Bataille’s more or less psychoanalytical description of Gnosticism corresponds very strongly to Satanism as we often imagine it, to the extent that I would argue that, were it not for the precise absence of Satan, you would identify it as a form of Satanism. I can only imagine what Stanislaw Przybyszewski or Anton LaVey would have thought of Bataille’s idea. Lacetti’s analysis draws comparison to Eliphas Levi’s construction of “Satanism”, and while I think Levi was slandering Eugene Vintras it’s not something to be dismissed conceptually insofar as it clearly informs a great deal of what would come to be modern Satanism.

As Lacetti recounts, Eliphas Levi denounced Eugene Vintras, described his miracles as “satanic”, and accused him of brandishing “the devil’s signature”. This signature composes of three symbols and their explanation is revealing in that it yields both a legacy of Satanic symbology and a set of postulates readily embraceable I’m detournement. The first symbol, we are told, is the inverted pentagram, the “sign of the goat of black magick”, of “antagonism and blind fatality”, of the “goat of lewdness assaulting heaven with its horns” – ah, how many war metal albums have milked that last image in particular. This inverted pentagram is none other than the same pentagram used today by modern Satanists to signify adherence to Satanism, and which the Church of Satan prefers to claim is their symbol alone, and the goat of black magick, antagonism and lewdness whose horns rage towards heaven is pretty definitely Satan. The second symbol is a caduceus, but one without its central line, and in which the two serpents diverge instead of converge and the sign of V, or the “typhonian fork”, stands above them. This symbol, Levi tells us, represents the idea that antagonism or conflict is eternal and that God is “the strife of blind causes which perpetually create by destroying”; as it happens, as Kadmus Herschel has explained, there is a constancy of rebellion locked into the polytheistic cosmos, or at least particularly the Greek cosmos. The third and final symbol is the reversal of YHVH, the name of God, which would thus presumably read HVHY, which Levi denounced as the “most frightful of blasphemies” and which apparently represents the idea that God and spirit do not exist, that matter is the grand totality, spirit its dream, that form stands above idea, woman stands above man, pleasure above thought, vice above virtue, multitude above chiefs, children above their fathers, and “madness” above “reason”. In essence, the sign of HVHY represents the inversion or subversion of all traditional idealism and all traditional societal forms, with a view to their destruction. Taken seriously, this means that hierarchy and coercion are overturned on behalf of freedom, traditional morality is overturned on behalf of individual wants and desires, and the traditional norms of philosophy are overturned on behalf of egoism. Definitely a Satanic premise, and, I would suggest in contrast to the reactionary “apoliticism” of LaVeyan Satanism and to the progressive humanism of rival atheistic Satanist movements, that it is fundamentally an anarchistic outlook.

Of course, it’s worth remembering at this point that Eliphas Levi was essentially a Christian mystic, a common tendency for the utopian socialist movement of which he was a part, and in fact he seems to have identified his own belief system as “Catholicism”. Eugene Vintras, the man who Levi denounced as a Satanist, was also a Catholic mystic, just that he was much more heretical in his beliefs than almost anyone of his time. Vintras believed that the archangel Michael told him of the arrival of the “Third Kingdom”, which was meant to already be present for Vintras and his followers, which meant they were already spiritually perfect. This perfection was the real symbolism of Vintras’ use of the inverted cross, which was meant to signify the end of the “age of suffering” and the beginning of the “age of love”. It’s no doubt because of this, along with Catholic Mass being deemed obsolete and women being officiated as priests, that Levi concluded that Vintras’ heresy must have amounted to full-blown Satanism. But although Vintras was certainly not a Satanist, Levi’s construction of what Satanism presents a conception of Darkness as both an active force and negative condition comprising a multitude of states; strife, rebellion, multiplicity, longing, adversity, alterity, inalienability, and creative destruction, all in one state.

There is in fact one man who, it may be argued, espoused a form of inverted Gnosticism that worshipped a Demiurge and centered around a kind of ontic darkness at the root of the cosmos. That man was a Danish occultist named Carl William Hansen, a.k.a. Ben Kadosh. He was the first man in the world to actually identify himself as a Luciferian, the earliest reference to that effect going all the way back to 1906. That said, the actual belief system given the name Luciferianism can be described as essentially a unique blend of Gnostic Freemasonry, mixed in with Satanic imagery and possibly even an early Satanist edge, worshipping Lucifer as the Demiurge, identified with Hiram Abiff and the Greek god Pan. In his pamphlet, The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or, as I call it, Lucifer-Hiram), Hansen outlines his belief system centering around the Demiurge Lucifer and Pan. He espouses that there exists both an “active material darkness” and an “immaterial darkness” above it. The latter is called “the infinite bottomless” and a cosmic Abyss in which light is born, while the former is described as a “material wall”. The “material” and “immaterial” darknesses correspond to matter and force respectively, which conflict in order that life is created and destroyed and to produce the “Natural Fire”, the cosmic light represented as Pan. Hansen also emphatically rejects the idea of Light having been created before Darkness, describing such an idea as “absurd and a delusion”, and proposed instead that Darkness is the source and the abyss of matter, a position he claimed to have derived from ancient esoteric texts. Demiurgon (the Demiurge), or “Ildabaoth” (clearly Ialdabaoth), is an aspect of that Darkness which forms the basis of reality, and is given several names – Kronon (Kronos), Sheitan, Jupiter, Pan, Ophiocus, The Dragon, Satan. Lucifer, though the “Genius of Light”, is a manifestation of the Darkness, described as the energy of Darkness, the true light which breaks forth from Darkness, who derives his very being necessarily from Darkness. Darkness represents, “the end of illusion”, the unvarnished reality, such that the light of Lucifer is thus the power of Darkness to destroy illusion. For this, Lucifer is the enemy of the church and thus the rebel and “criminal” in Christian culture. The fear and terror associated with what he calls “shadow life”, emerges from ignorance and unfamiliarity, and that by getting used to it the “sinister atmosphere and emptiness” disappears.

Darkness as presented by Carl William Hansen is thus to be understood as an active force, an intractable reality, the source of life and the light to which it is superior. It is the supreme principle of Hansen’s cosmos, though perhaps not in the sense of a supreme being. Darkness creates, Darkness destroys, Darkness manifests as light which destroys illusion, Darkness is either two-fold or one, Darkness refuses anything that seeks to subordinate it away from its rightful place. This conception of Darkness is very familiar indeed to the way Bataille talks about matter in Gnosticism, and in a certain way to Eliphas Levi’s construction of Satanism.

Abraxas by Gordon Napier (2013)

Divine Darkness and Negative Theology

Now let us explore another way of looking at Darkness, one which defines it in terms of the apophatic nature of the divine. While looking into Rokkatru, which is essentially a Left Hand Path brand of Heathenry or Germanic Paganism focused primarily on worshipping traditionally maligned gods such as Loki, Hel, and the Jotun (not to be confused with Thursatru, which is essentially just Anti-Cosmic Satanism themed around Norse mythology and only worships the “thursian” gods), I read the Shadowlight website and came to understand Rokkatru in terms of worshipping “the nature of nature”, which, in this case, is Darkness. Darkness is held to be the underpinning element of reality, a fundamental basis that cannot simply be ignored or moreover acknowledged only to be forgotten. The curious part is that Shadowlight refers to how even some Christians seemingly acknowledge that “the core of the divine is darkness”, citing Christian mystical theologians such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart. Let’s explore such authors for a moment, and what they mean by “darkness”.

A quotation attributed to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite says that the mystery of divine truth resides in “the translucent darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret”. This is probably one of many ways that Pseudo-Dionysius had been translated over the years. A probably more accurate translation may be “The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret.”. But what did Pseudo-Dionysius mean by darkness? In Mystical Theology, he says that divine silence, darkness, and unknowing emerge when one has negated all names, speech, and affirmations meant to describe the nature of God. Darkness, in his parlance, is set beyond light and above intellect, and, far from denoting evil or the profane or even necessarily a lack of light, denotes a transcend unknowing, which is to say a knowledge of God that is not and cannot be attained through discursive reason. Damascius once claimed that the ancient Egyptians had basically the same idea, supposedly they said nothing but instead celebrated it as a Darkness, beyond all perception. Meister Eckhart described God as “utterly dark”, “the darkness behind the darkness”, and “the superessential darkness”. Again, here darkness does not mean evil or anything diabolical, but instead refers to the unknowability of the hidden divinity (God, of course), the eternally nameless mystery within mystery, the nothingness that empties the self and the senses in order to facilitate transcendent knowledge of God. In short, God is dark because he is fundamentally unknowable and inaccessible. For another Christian mystic, Angela of Foligno, darkness was a way of referring not only to moral and physical decay but to a “divine darkness”, which instead refers to power of the divine, or God, to both surpass human understanding and to annihilate the human in an ecstatic divine abyss of oblivion into joy.

All of this is part of a whole tradition of theology known as apoptotic theology, also known as negative theology or “via negativa”. Apophatic theology, in the context of Christianity, refers to the idea that God is to be understood by way of negation, which is to say that God is to be understood properly what God is not, premising itself on the idea that God is so beyond being as to be absolutely transcendent and unknowable, and thus unable to be described discursively. This is in contrast to cataphatic theology, which holds that God can be understood through affirmative descriptions of the perfections of God and his creation. Apophatic theology can seem obscure, strange, and sometimes even downright morbid for some, and sometimes there are those who accuse apophatic theology of practically being a form of agnosticism or outright atheism, but apophatic theology is one of the main traditions of Christian theology, whose influence can be found in many parts of the broader Christian tradition, arguably even down to the early fathers of the church. Darkness, in this setting, is less of an active force in the way that we would derive from Bataille, Levi, and Hansen, and more like a passive quality to be attributed to God so as to describe just how far removed from human comprehension he is. In Satanist and/or Luciferian you sometimes see terms like “luminous darkness”, or terms I prefer such as “bright darkness”, usually serving to denote the union between the previously separated forces of light and darkness brought together in union, in this sense echoing the concept of the sacred marriage (as in hieros gamos) as interpreted in psychoanalysis, or the chemical wedding found in alchemy and likely inspired by the The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. In Christian negative theology, however, terms like “luminous darkness” or “divine darkness” mean something different. Here, “divine darkness” refers to the quality of utter transcendence attributed to God, which is meant to be understood as “dark” because it negates the discursive word and the formal image in its fullness of divinity. Darkness as the space in which God is to be discovered is connected by Gregory of Nyssa to the Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 20:21 in which Moses is said to have approached the darkness above Mount Sinai where God was, as well as David’s statement that God made darkness his hiding place in Psalm 18:11, and to the Gospel of John, specifically John 1:18 in which John testified that no one has ever seen God. In this sense, “divine darkness” means in the Christian context the idea that God is hidden from. Gregory Palamas expressed a similar concept in the term “dazzling darkness”, referring to an “unknowing” that is beyond knowledge and beyond radiance, and from which Palamas said the saints received divine things.

There is, though, a flip-side to this. It is very much arguable that the purpose of negative theology in the broader context of Christianity is precisely to preserve the apparent incomprehensibility of God, in this sense to reinforce the separation between God and the human which then reinforces the hierarchy of the church so as to stand between God and human knowledge. Further, it could be said God’s “darkness” is just as surely none other than light, just that the light beyond light is so bright that it is beyond sight, utterly incomprehensible I’m the sense that blinds human eyes with its brightness. God himself is still conceived in terms of light, suggested by the reference to “the true light” in the Gospel of John meant to refer to God’s incarnation as Christ. That said, Christianity has no monopoly on apophatic theology, and even among Christians it is acknowledged that Christians did not invent apophatic theology. Like much of Christianity as a whole, this idea has its roots in pre-Christian philosophy. The link between Christian apophatic theology and pre-Christian apophatic theology is usually credited to Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who was a major influence on the early Christian movement. Philo argued that, while the existence of God could be demonstrated, the exact nature of God can’t be demonstrated, because God’s essence is beyond all human cognition. Because of this, Philo argued that God could only be described in terms of what he is not, and that God is free from distinctive qualities and is not of the form of Man. Apophatic theology can also be found in the tradition of Neo-Platonism, in which philosophers such as Plotinus and Proclus advocated for the philosophical perception and revelation of The One through negation. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is also said to have represented an apophatic approach to philosophy in that he refers to a deity that is “unapparent”, “unseen”, and “unknown to men”, and declared that the unseen and unknown are better admired than the known.

In ancient Greek polytheism more generally, it was believed that the precise forms of the gods consisted of immortal bodies that weren’t constrained by the normal limits of space, matter, and time, but could not be comprehended by humans except through interpretation, thus the forms of the gods were mediated through mythological narratives and visual representations, which of course changed with culture over time. The implication of such a perspective is that the divine cannot really be understood through the limits of perception and that it may be at least technically “unknowable”, thus we may see an example of apophatic theology as applied to polytheism. According to Verity Jane Platt, such apopthatic theology is probably expressed in Hesiod’s narration of an encounter with the Muses, a group of goddesses who remembered all things and granted divine inspiration to poets. In this encounter, the Muses travel by night, are “shrouded in thick invisbility”, and seemingly capriciously decide when to speak true things and when to speak false things that resemble true things. All representation of the divine must begin and end with the Muses, and the Muses may transmit divine knowledge directly to mortals, but the mortals can never be sure that the Muses are being 100% clear or truthful. Platt suggests that this reveals a gap between divine truth and the human ability to know and express it, which would appear consistent with apophatic theology. In this sense, the Pagan expression of apophatic theology is that the negative and apophatic understanding of “darkness” is not some byword for transcendent quality of the light of one God but instead a description of the condition of Divinity (or The Divine) itself, which cannot be exclusive to a single deity.

“Dance of Apollo and the Muses” by Baldassare Peruzzi (1481–1536)

The Hidden Name of The Tao That Cannot Be Named

Turning our attention eastward, when it comes to apophatic philosophy and Darkness, many aspects of apophatic theology feel familiar to the philosophy of Taoism, whose core premise is that the universe is governed by a mysterious principle known as the Tao, which cannot be described, cannot be named, and can for the most part only be described in terms of what it is not. As it says quite simply in the Tao Te Ching, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. Much of Christian apophatic theology would make essentially the same claim about God: if God can be described, then he is not the true God. Indeed, the Tao, as the source of being, cannot itself be being, which is an argument shared by Western apophatic theology, both Christian and non-Christian. Much more curiously so, the same passage of the Tao Te Ching that I just referenced also says “The source is called darkness. Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.”. What does darkness mean in this context, since it almost certainly has nothing to do with hot Christian culture popularly understands darkness? Some versions of the Tao Te Ching translate “darkness” as mystery. In Chinese, this quality is referred to as “xuan”, denoting the sheer intangibility, impenetrability, and mystery of the Tao. The Tao itself can seem like a passive presence of reality, but the nothingness of the Tao is not “empty” or “nothing” in the sense that we discursively understand those terms. Rather, the Tao also operates the universe in its rhythms and functioning, is itself a process initiating the ceaseless movement and transformation of things, thus it might be thought of as an active impersonal force.

Although traditionally the Tao cannot be named, there is perhaps an attribute capable of describing the Tao: Negativity. Of course, by negativity I don’t mean things like toxicity, despondency, morosity, pessimism and the like (although perhaps I could some day talk about pessimism from the lens of French Surrealism). Instead I’m referring to a concept explicated by Wang Bi, a Chinese Taoist philosopher who sought to produce a radical interpretation of Taoist philosophy that might also be commensurate with Confucianism. Wang Bi argued that the word Dao (Tao) is an appellation of Negativity, that is to say it refers to the concept of Negativity, on the grounds that it is vacant, without substance, and no image can be made of it, and there is nothing that it cannot penetrate or that cannot be based on it. But Negativity also has another meaning in Wang Bi’s philosophy. Negativity is also the ground by which all things are set into motion via dialectical opposition. It is the simultaneous contradiction and interdependence of opposing things that forms the basis of the cosmos. This idea of Negativity is also an important part of how Wang Bi conceptualizes Darkness, or what he calls The Dark (or Xuan). The Dark is a constituent of what Wang Bi refers to as Suoyi, or the “that-by-which”, the ground of being and thus a description of Negativity. The Dark itself is the aspect of both Tao and Negativity that denotes the impossibility of humans to speak of or discern it, but it also refers to the substance from which the subtle and the many emanate, thus it is the font from which the entities emerge. Darkness, then, is both the apophatic quality and creative force of Negativity, a power that grounds the whole of reality.

It is pertinent to note that there were also other Chinese philosophers, and not necessarily just Taoist philosophers at that, who have developed their own conceptions of The Dark. Yang Xiong believed that Darkness, or Xuan, was the source of all creation and the process of their sustenance and origination, and used the term to denote the body of Heaven and the darkness, ambiguity, silence, and indefiniteness from which all creation springs forward. He said that those who understood darkness upheld “the ridgepole of the Tao”, travelled to the court of the spiritual, and took care of the house of virtue. This Darkness is thus a creative force that, when realized in the individual, would allow them to truly cultivate and uphold virtue. Zhang Heng conceived Xuan as the root of Ziran, in other words “nature” or “self-so” in the sense of spontaneity, and the absolute beginning of all things, preceded by nothing. Ge Hong thought that the term Xuan denoted both the origin of nature and all things and a metaphysical oneness that pervades the whole universe. Well into modernity, there is a similar concept to the Chinese notion of Xuan that can be found in Japanese Buddhism, or at least in the modern Zen Buddhism of the Kyoto School. Its leading exponent, Nishida Kitaro, espoused a concept of Absolute Nothingness that he argued was the central locus of place for all things and defined as a creative element of the dialectical negation that is the epistemic source of everything.

“Fishermen on a Mountain Stream” by Xu Daoning (1049)

The Innate Enlightenment of Demons in Esoteric Buddhism

If we stay on the subject of Buddhism for a while, we can discuss another concept of foundational Darkness that hues closer to the theme of Bataillean materialism, and for this purpose we turn to the subject of esoteric Buddhism in “medieval” Japan. One of the major ideas associated with Tendai Buddhism is Hongaku, meaning “original enlightenment”. Originally developed in China as part of a collection of Mahayana doctrines before spreading to Japan, Hongaku is the doctrine which holds that all sentient beings, or even all things in general, already possess the potential for enlightenment or already possess some degree of enlightenment, thus theoretically establishing the potential for enlightenment in otherwise unenlightened and ignorant beings. In Tendai Buddhism, this meant not only that all things, even animals and inanimate objects, were considered to be Buddha in some way, but also that all thoughts and actions, even deluded ones, are considered to be expressions of original enlightenment, without transformation or cultivation. During Japan’s “medieval” period, when Japanese Buddhists were assimilating the various kami of the Shinto faith into the schemata of Mahayana Buddhism, many gods were interpreted within the Tendai tradition as manifestations of original enlightenment, while in other sects they become aspects of the ultimate enlightenment of Dainichi Nyorai. As Bernard Faure has analyzed in Protectors and Predators: Gods of Medieval Japan Volume 2, this has sometimes even meant seemingly demonic deities or entities, including gods who were originally considered to be demons, were themselves manifestations of original enlightenment, and much more. In his discussion of the “earthly powers”, referring to a triad of Buddhist deities consisting of Bishamonten (Vaisravana), Daikokuten (Mahakala), and Enmaten (Yama), all chthonian deities that may share a demonic heritage and retinue, Faure argues that these deities functionally represented a way for esoteric Buddhism to think the “unthinkable reality” of a “heart of darkness”, the “sinister, bloody world” revealed by the deities, that is also rendered the ultimate truth from the framework of Hongaku thought.

This, of course, bears quite a lot of exposition. I suppose we should start with the category of “demon”. I would prefer to devote a separate article to the subject, and some day I intend to, but it’s necessary to explore the nature of the demonic in the context of Japanese Buddhism. Not a lot seems to be said about exactly what a demon is in the context of Buddhism, as opposed to the context of Christianity. The Nichiren Library seems to define “ki”, a Japanese word we often translate as “demon”, as essentially a kind of hostile or negative spirit, described as possessing humans in order to curse, revile, or shame others, or as being external forces that hinder or destroy human happiness. In Rage and Ravage, Faure says that, in the various Asian cultures encountered by Buddhism, demons were feared for their power to cause calamity and misfortune but were not necessarily regarded as “evil”. I’m Buddhism, demons could be converted into protector spirits or guardian deities, but were often regarded as perverse. Just as Judaism and Christianity transformed the gods of polytheism into evil demons, thus forming the basis of Western demonology as we know it, so too did Buddhists condemn many deities worshipped in local cults as demons or evil deities (in Japan, such beings are called “Jashin”). Faure ultimately summarizes the demon in the Buddhist context as “a type of reality that subverts and overflows the structure”, embodying a negativity that is “the very source” of movement and of life and which subverts the “en-stasis” often attached to Buddhist practice.

With that established, it may help us to consider the nature of the “earthly powers” being referred to. Bishamonten, even though he is traditionally venerated as a subduer of demons in his capacity as a god of war, himself originated as a demon and even retained the title of Demon King for himself. Daikokuten, or Mahakala, whom Faure refers to as “Fear itself”, was described in Japanese Buddhist texts as a demon who steals the vital essence of humans and roams the forest all night with a horde of demons who feast on flesh and blood. In Tendai Buddhism, Daikokuten was interpreted as a symbol of fundamental ignorance, hence “great darkness”, hence from his name the “Great Dark One”, but even in this way he, through the Hongaku teaching, came to be an embodiment of the ultimate reality. Enmaten, or Yama, a king of hell and deity of death, was menacing to the unrighteous and benign to the innocent, was seen as the ultimate ruler of the underworld, and was feared for his power to bring sudden death and “cut the roof of life”, the latter of which simply means to cut off ignorance. Daikokuten/Mahakala in particular brings into focus the idea that even the dark, the fearsome, the demonic as a representation of ultimate reality and enlightenment via the Hongaku doctrine. These beings were not alone. Snake symbolism was established both as a symbol of delusion and fundamental ignorance and as a symbol of the gods themselves, and in medieval Japan snakes were even seen as the “true forms” of the gods; as the Keiran Shuyoshu stressed, every deity always manifested as a snake body. As a snake deity, Ugajin thus sometimes embodied fundamental ignorance and the Three Poisons, yet Ugajin also destroys ignorance as a predator of toads, which themselves are also symbols of ignorance. The snake symbolism and its link to ignorance and the Three Poisons is reflected in Aizen Myo-O when he appears as a snake, as well as the god Susano-o and the demon Vinyaka (a.k.a. Shoten). The Keiran Shuyoshu also states that the snake of the Three Poisons dwells within the humand body; “Inside our lungs, there is a fundamentally existing snake body”. All of this, from the standpoint of Hongaku thought, also represented fundamental enlightenment, and the ultimate identity between ignorance and awakening; thus, the snake of the three poisons inside the human body is also the gleam of enlightenment. The wild dance of the demon god Matarajin has him produce the co-identity of defilement and awakening through the rhythm of his drum, as the performance of his acolytes expresses the endless cycle of samsara. Even Mara, the adversary of the Buddha himself, was once interpreted as a morally ambiguous source of reality in some esoteric Japanese Buddhist circles, along the lines of Hongaku thought, before being relegated to his more traditional role as an external enemy.

In this sense, we can parse a way of understanding Darkness as a ground of being for reality and an active force that represents enlightenment just as much as ignorance. The representation of this co-identity by demonic deities accords well with the logic of Bataille’s construction of Averse Gnosticism and the significance it affords to the monstrous deities or “archontes” whose worship Bataille attributes to this constructed “Gnosticism”, thereby presenting a ground of being and of awakening which is thus a transformative matrix of creative destruction and the enlightenment of defilement. There’s also a sense in which we can see applications of this ontological proposition to the politics of egoist-communism. The fifth thesis of The Right To Be Greedy declares that “it is upon this corruptibility of man that we found our hopes for revolution”. In the same sense, the logic of hongaku thought proposes that it is upon fundamental ignorance, perhaps even desire itself, that one may establish the basis of enlightenment.

Staying on Buddhism for a moment, it’s worth touching on the wrathful deities within esoteric Buddhism more generally, as beings like Mahakala appear throughout the world of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. With few exceptions they tend to look like how we might imagine demons. They have vicious faces bearing huge bloodshot eyes and open fangs, long flowing hair sometimes bound by snakes, fiery halos around their heads or aureoles covering their whole body, wearing only crowns and garlands of human skulls and pelts of animal and sometimes even human skin, brandishing skull cups and various weapons in their many arms, trampling over some diminutive adversary, and sometimes having sex with a female deity while doing all of that. Some of these deities, such as Yama, Yamantaka, Simhamukha, and Ganapati (a.k.a. Maha Rakta), have the heads of various animals. Because of their appearance, they are often interpreted as evil demons by people visiting Tibet, leading Christians to declare Tibetan Buddhism to be a form of “demon worship”; indeed, some believe that Richard Nixon denied sending foreign aid to Tibet in part because he found the image of Yamantaka to be obscene and demonic during a visit to Tibet. But even though they may look demonic, for Tantric Buddhists their actual purposes include banishing “demons”, a bit like violent divine exorcists, but more importantly their purpose is to forcefully remove all obstacles to achieving Buddhist enlightenment faced by the practitioner.

Their demonic appearance can be interpreted in a number of ways, none of them really “evil” by our common “Western” standard for the term. Its primary symbolism denotes the idea of “poison as its own antidote”, which refers to an internal processes of Buddhist yoga (no, not those “downward-facing dog” exercises; I mean the actual meditative practice of yoga) aimed at attaining enlightenment. This meant the means by which passions and ignorance are, rather than banished into the ether, transformed into compassion and wisdom. The idea of “poison as its own antidote” rings in accord with the way that Japanese hongaku thought positioned the seemingly demonic deities as we have already explored, and in fact the basic element of “original enlightenment” thought has deep roots in Tantric Buddhism. The Hevajra Tantra states that all beings are Buddhas, their buddha-nature merely obscured by defilement. In this sense, the idea is that all beings are enlightened Buddhas but don’t yet realize it, and the wrathful aspects of the self become transformative and ennobling in their capacity to realize enlightenment. But the appearance of the wrathful deities is also often interpreted as an expression of violence as a fundamental reality of both the cosmos and the human mind. In this, perhaps we might parse the idea of a violent ground of being that extends even into the nature of the interdependence of things. The Indian phrase “jivo jivasya jivanam” (“one living thing is the food of another”), denoting what we understand as the axiom that life derives from life, serves as a deeper articulation of the shadow of this interdependence; if all things arise from other things, if all things exist because of another, this means that life exists because of life in that it derives from other life, and the survival of many life forms, including humans, sustain their existence and generate their flesh from the flesh of other animals and the bodies of plants. To an extent, this means that suffering manifests via the whole network of interdependence, not just caused by desire.

The violent ground of being communicated by the wrathful deities also necessarily points us to the reality of death as a part of this picture, for it underpins a great deal of the legacy of religious understanding, mythology, and symbology. Even in Christianity, death lies at the root of the Christian concept of salvation even as Christianity strives vainly to conquer death, for the very foundation of Christian salvation itself is death, specifically the death of Jesus Christ, which initiates his descent into Hell, his condemnation of Satan, and his earthly resurrection followed by his ascent from earth to heaven. The old theme of death and rebirth found in the pagan worldview echoes even there, but is repurposed so as to suggest the hope that God will defeat the death he himself set into his own creation. In any case, death finds itself integral to the monstrous dialectic that forms one idea of Darkness that is core to our understanding of Darkness as a whole.

Thangka depicting Chaturbhuja Mahakala (Four-Armed Mahakala)

The Power of The Creative Nothing

In returning to Darkness as negativity, I next have my sights on none other than Max Stirner, the grand egoist who, in many aspects, doubles as the grand nihilist. Stirner’s egoism is not like the bourgeois egoism espoused by Ayn Rand and her followers, which centers itself on the sovereignty of a propertied rational subject or self-image. Instead Stirner’s self, his “ego”, is a very apophatic presence. Stirner says things like “I have built my affairs on nothing”, “all things are nothing to me”, and “I am all and nothing”. The self that Stirner espouses is a self that is composed of Nothing. The basis of this Nothing is not the colloquial sense in which we mean “empty”, as in lacking content, but in the sense of what Stirner refers to as the “creative nothing”, by which he means “the nothing out of which I myself create everything as creator”, the nothing from which the unique one is born and into which the unique one returns. Stirner himself doesn’t really elaborate on the nature of the Creative Nothing, but there is an apparent meaning and concept behind the phrase, and Jacob Blumenfeld’s All Things Are Nothing To Me may offer a helpful exegesis. The Creative Nothing is the source of the individual’s ownness, which is Stirner’s way of referred to individuality, or perhaps what we might call selfhood; or, as Stirner puts it, “Ownness is my whole being and existence, it is I myself”, which the individual remains at all times. That condition of ownness is also a reference to the extent to which an individual may create, maintain, or destroy themselves even in spite of constraints, and is thus meant to mean a consistent form of life as a much as a description of the individual. It is also an apophatic quality, defined by what remains of yourself when you all external reification has been torn away. The self, the I, the “ego”, the unique one, it is not reducible to one fixed thing, and cannot come from anything, except from Nothing. The nature of the Creative Nothing could be likened to time, in that time is the “non-thing” that destroys and then creates all things as its own, consumes everything and then produces it as its own, and thus is exactly the power of the Creative Nothing; thus, the Creative Nothing is the force of creative destruction imminent and characteristic of life, of the Darkness of Bataillean matter and Levi’s constructed Satanism, that expresses itself in individuality as espoused by Stirner. The apophatic nature of the individual self is defined by is radical difference, by the fundamental inability to identify each individuality fully and essentially with another, by the fact that the self can be named precisely for the fact that it exists is set apart from others in this difference – to put it another way, to define the individuality of nothing means to establish what it is not; that’s the negative quality of radical difference and individuality. That is why der Einzige, the unique one, is techincally the proper term for that concept of Stirner’s which we otheriwse refer to as “ego”.

The Darkness of the Creative Nothing is a force that manifests as apophatic individuality in its creative-destructive potentiality and its negative power of differentiation. It has no teleological character, and its existence is principally of itself and for itself. It takes in all beings in a way that is in no way identical to each other, and in all it is equal only in that for all it is surely Einzige. The Creative Nothing, as a condition or characteristic of the Einzige echoes the dark power inherent in the universe that expresses itself as the power of negation that produces Ownness, and manifests in multitudinous corporeality, and its active and conscious realization in living beings produces a state of active and conscious, indeed awakened (as opposed to slumbering) or even enlightened (as opposed to unknowing) egoism whose state of being may indeed be what some of us refer to as The Black Flame.

The comparison to time offered Jacob Blumenfeld invites me to consider the lion-headed divinity of the Mithraic mysteries. The exact name and even role of this leontocephaline figure is unknown to us. Certain inscriptions lead scholars to suggest that this figure was called Arimanius, otherwise known as Ahriman or Angra Mainyu, the ruler of the evil spirits and adversary of the god Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism. Other scholars suggest that this being was called Kronos or Aion, both Greek gods of time. A few others suggest that it is Phanes, the primeval creator god of the Orphic mysteries, or Zurvan, the supreme god of an obscure sect of Zoroastrianism. But for our purposes, it’s the symbolism of the leontocephaline god that matters more than what we call him. Scholars seem to agree that this deity was a god of time and change. Franz Cumont, attempting to reconstruct the Mithraic cosmogony, positioned the leontocephaline god as Unlimited Time, which was born from Chaos and created a “holy family” of gods consisting of Caelus, Kronos, and Pluto. It’s possible, though definitely not certain, that the lion’s head may link to the destructive connotations associated with Time in ancient Rome, linked to how Romans understood the god Saturn or Kronos. Ovid referred to Time as “the devourer”, the destroyer that nibbles all things away and consumes them into death, and in this Time was the agent of both destruction and metamorphosis. Saturn himself, the god of time, was considered a devouring god who was “sated” by the years and chained up by Jupiter in the hopes of constraining his power.

The power of the Creative Nothing is a destruction in its own right. It destroys and creates from negation, from destruction, from its own no-thing-ness. In the Orphic cosmogony, it is Time, or Kronos, along with Necessity (Ananke), that gives rise to the creation of the cosmos, the heavens and the earth, and the divine Phanes. The Einzige devours and makes its own, even doing so for the holy and the sacred. The power of Ownness, or rather the power behind it, operates as the force of a truly negative creation that is the true generative power. And Ownness has no teleological drive, in fact the Ownness of living beings often finds itself repressed by the phantoms of teleology. Its only “purpose” is itself, thus its only “goal” is its own endless perpetuation.

Statue of the lion-headed deity believed to be Aion at the Vatican Museum

The Unconscious and the Power of Nigredo

Another concept of Darkness we can explore comes to us from ideas of the collective unconsciousness, or simply the unconscious, as expounded by Carl Jung. A famous quote of Jung’s is that “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”. But what does this mean? The “darkness” in this case is probably a reference to the unconscious or to the shadow, the confrontation, acceptance, and integration of which is central to the Jungian process of individuation. For Jung, the unconscious represented the totality of all psychic phenomenon that lack consciousness. This totality tends to consist of conscious thoughts or emotions that have been repressed, novel thoughts that are not conscious but will become conscious later, and psychoid functions of which we lack and cannot possess direct knowledge. It possesses a creative potential in that has the power to present hidden contents to consciousness, but typically requires the mediation of the ego. In Jung’s archetypalist analysis, the unconscious is typically related to darkness and the forces thereof, and the triumph of light and heroism over darkness and monsters is often related as the “long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious”. The shadow is the term given to hidden or unconscious aspects of the self, typically repressed desires or “uncivilized” impulses but sometimes also includes even “morally positive” traits that have been rendered unconscious – qualities that might vitalize human existence but which convention deems forbidden. Individuation is the process of self-differentiation cultivated through psychological wholeness, the unity of the conscious ego and the unconscious, which allows the individual to bring the world into itself.

It is important to understand that, although Jung emphasized the unity of the two opposites and ostensibly denies that the unconscious is superior to the conscious, his thought suggests that the unconscious predominated and enveloped human life to a profound extent. In his foreword for Lucifer and Prometheus by R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, he states that “in the last analysis, psychic life is for the greater part of an unconscious life that surrounds consciousness on all sides”. This is him saying that the unconscious comprises the dominant portion of the human psychological experience, a fact that Jung believed “is sufficiently obvious when one considers how much unconscious preparation is needed, for instance, to register a sense-impression”. It is this “dark soil of Hades” as Jung put it that is thus the ground principle of psychic life, within which psychic life sinks and from which it arises. It’s a worldview that is also part of a much broader conversation over the merits of rationalism as a way to understand and encapsulate the nature of the human condition; a debate that permeates many fields outside of psychology. German art was sometimes divided between figures like Aby Warburg, whose fixation on what he called “the dialectic of the monster” led him to appreciate a sort of sub-rational unconscious as part of his tragic form of rationalism as a way to understand the image, and Erwin Panofsky, who regarded all fixation on the unconscious as a mistake. That whole split between the unconscious and rationalism has very deep roots in the original split in ancient Greece between the then-new cult of the polis, centering around “rational” ideas of how to relate to worship and political life, and an earlier pre-Hellenistic religious outlook centered around ecstatic ritual and individual expression. The latter of which is decidedly connected to the worship of chthonic gods and spirits, and the chthonic aspect in the later Greek religion that we recognize is defined by Luther H. Martin in Hellenistic Religions as “a response to the spontaneity of the sacred, a voluntary association of individuals that embodied an implicit challenge to the official sociopolitical order”.

Staying with Jung and the connotations of the underworld, we could talk about Jung’s concept of Nigredo and its broader relevance. Jung defined Nigredo as a process of mental disorientation that attends the process of assimilating unconscious contents into the self, particularly the contents of the shadow. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, he talked about how self-knowledge meant a deep inner journey that led to a kind of “mental darkness” referred to as “melancholia”, which was understood as an affliction and/or confusion of the soul akin to the “dark nights of the soul” described by mystics. Jung believed that this was appropriately symbolised by the black raven, which he also thought was an allegory of the Devil for medieval adepts. Though, of course, the alchemists had a different symbol in mind. Jung’s description of the Nigredo more or less lined up with the way the alchemists themselves described it. To them, it was the process of putrefaction that cooked alchemical ingredients into a black substance that allowed for the initiation of a gradual transformation into the philosopher’s stone, which could also be extrapolated as an allegory for the spiritual “death” that preceded the renewal and purification that lead to the realisation of the Great Work. The symbol for this in alchemy was referred to as Sol Niger, literally meaning “Black Sun”. In antiquity, black suns were generally symbols of the power of the underworld in all manner of ways, and served as a cipher for various gods associated with the underworld in some way. So it’s not too surprising to see in alchemy a dark solar image, “the shadow of the sun”, used to signify a greater process of spiritual death-and-rebirth. That Jung links this to an allegory of the Devil is, while almost certainly a historical stretch, not incongruous with the legacy of medieval diabolical iconography, which derived not only from the Greek god Pan but also from a litany of chthonic gods such as Hades and Charun. In some parts of Europe, pre-Christian chthonic gods became local names for the Devil or even the basic concept of demons, such as the Slavic god Veles or the Hungarian god Ordog.

A pre-Christian pagan practice that may line up with the logic of Nigredo can be found in ancient Greek Sicily, in the time of what was known as Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”). In Sicily, Western Greeks practiced a ritualistic descent to the underworld, referred to as a Katabasis, involving the worship of chthonic deities such as Dionysus, Demeter, and/or Kore (or Persephone). These rituals entailed re-enactments of mythological narratives as well as an initiation that put the initiate in a sort of otherworldly experience characterized by the temporary dismantling of everyday self-hood, or “ritual death”, followed by ritual rebirth. Contact with the chthonic gods was in this way part of a process by which the self would “die” and “be reborn”, entailing a dissolution leading up to the moment of rebirth in divine knowledge.

To summarize, Darkness in the Jungian view is like a fundamental Other connected to life, part of consciouness, springing it into being, but lurking in the background of a consciousness that does not yet understand it. It’s something that those seeking individuation have to reckon with in order to achieve said individuation, if indeed that is still their goal. The raw stuff of psychic life, this is what comprises Jungian Darkness, and the focus on which is at the root of what modern spiritualities frequently refer to (whether substantially or otherwise) as “shadow work”.

“A Bacchic Procession” by Hendrik van Balen I (1575-1632)

Satan, The Great Anarchist and Nihilist, and The Satanic Negativity of Anarchist Nihilism

At the very end of this inquiry let us return to our most familiar emblem of the power of Darkness; Satan himself. In the past, discussion of Satan here focused on the literal separation between Satan and Lucifer, so as to establish the difference of meaning between them. But whatever salience that discourse still has, if we assume that this conversation is still to be had then an angle to be introduced is the idea that Satan means more than an executor of God’s will. Defining Satan solely in terms of Biblical myth, especially when the same is never actually done for God, misses out on a much greater significance afforded to Satan as an entity, and in this respect it is important to consider the concept of Satan as the embodiment of negation. Eliphas Levi proposed that Satan is the negation of God, whose true name “according to the Kabbalists” is the name of Jehovah reversed. Levi described Satan as a personification of atheism and idolatry, two things that would indeed negate the Christian faith (a very esoteric form of which, we should remember, Levi ultimately upheld as his own), but for Levi the occult initiate did not see Satan as a personality but instead a force created with “a good object” but which can be applied to evil, and which is an instrument of liberty. Satan, in this conception, is a force or presence that negates God and the faith built around God, and, in this exact sense, the instrument of liberty. This is on the basis of the liberating power of negation. By negating the Supreme Being, by negating all forms of moral artifice and idealism, by destroying all the efforts of one egoist to become the only egoist, Satan liberates the individual and represents the power of Darkness as the active force of liberation for corporeal-spiritual ownness against all reifications. Insofar as Satan’s most archetypical act is his ceasless war with God, beginning from his rebellion and separation from God, and, in some tales, his refusal to bow before Adam, Satan asserts his own egoism and ownness above the sovereignty of God and/or Adam, which is to say their respective egoisms, thus, Satan stands as the primordial egoist, the true example for all egoists, and his force of negation and darkness the power that runs through us. It is this that betrays the true significance of The Devil and of satanic rebellion, not mere reason.

Rebellion itself can be understood philosophically as an act of negation. Fundamentally, rebellion is an act of refusal, which makes it an act of denial. Per Camus, the rebel claims for everyone whatever he claims for himself, and denies for everyone whatever he refuses for himself. Admittedly, in this, it can be said that Camus presents a profound expression of the anarchist conception of freedom as a universal condition as expounded by Mikhail Bakunin. But while Camus was insistent in his opposition to nihilism in its apparent negation of everything that was not itself, in the end rebellion is a negation in itself. While Camus derides nihilism for its negation of all that is not itself, the same description holds true for his rebellion, for rebellion denies that which it does not embrace, thus it denies that which is not itself, and therefore, rebellion, in its erection of boundaries even against “total freedom” by the simple act of refusal, serves, in its own way, as a form of negation, just that Camus dare not locate negation as the divine source of both freedom and rebellion, perhaps out of fear that this would make himself a nihilist and a revolutionary at once. Stirner’s rebellion takes on a different form: the war of all against all. This phrase is familiar to many through the received political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, for whom it referred to a hypothetical (and practicality fantastical) state in which all human relationships disintegrated into a state of ceaseless and mayhemic violence in which people do nothing but abuse, betray, exploit, and kill each other in the absence of government, the state, or authority. Stirner, however, gives it a different meaning. In The Unique And Its Property, Stirner says that the war of all against all begins with the act of seizing and taking what you need. His egoism rejects the premise of private property, whether as something to be accumulated by capitalists or distributed/leased by the state as is the case for at least some forms of socialism, and instead, if anything, holds property to be universal and a matter of the individual or Einzige’s own assumption; put simply, “I alone decide what I will have”. Thus the war of all against all is declared when the poor, instead of waiting for the deliverance of property, rise up, rebel, in order to win the right to own themselves. Stirner says that, however much is bestowed on the poor, they will want more because they want nothing less than this.

Here we may parse Want as a universal condition of ownness, and I would argue the true of foundation of class struggle, which is why social-democracy or progressivism for its “war on want” is to be opposed as the deception and self-denial that it is. Want runs at the root of power and its destruction, because of the root condition of Ownness. I do not desire your order, I want myself, or I want something else. Therefore, I rebel. I do not want your desires, I assert my will against against them, therefore I deny your desires for myself, and in Camusian terms I deny this for everyone, because of Want. Want, then, is imbued with the power of negation among its traits. Seen in terms of the polytheist or Pagan outlook, or at least especially the pre-Christian Greek worldview, the gods are actually in a state of perpetual discord (a state of affairs which, of course, Socrates and others like him tried to oppose with their visions of a perfectly just and united cosmos), and the successive overthrow of previous rulers of the gods establishes rebellion as the core of a cosmos filled with a multiplicity of divine personality and body. Even the gods refuse, deny, go against the will of others, thus negate through the definite boundaries they set in their refusal, and the divine heritage of rebellion echoes into humanity and its inner spark of rebellion. From this perspective it could be argued that the gods cannot expect much else from humans, even if traditional religion even in a polytheistic context has not always fully grasped this aspect of Man’s relationship to the divine.

The dialectical power of negation in relation to anarchism is worth mentioning here. In Occult Features of Anarchism, Erica Lagalisse describes the way that Mikhail Bakunin differed from Karl Marx in their perspectives on Hegelian dialectical logic as applied to the state. Here, we behold Bakunin’s presentation the dialectic as clash between the “Positive” and “Negative” poles of the dialectic that proceeds with their mutual destruction which then culminates in their mutual transcendence, leaving nothing preserved, in contrast to the dialectic presented by Marx (and Hegel), in which contradiction is resolved through not simply the destruction but the transcendence and preservation of the “Positive”, or thesis, via the “Negative”, or antithesis. In application to the state, the dialectic of Bakunin entails that the social revolutionaries are the “Negative” of the dialectic, who then violently overcome the social reactionaries, the state, and the old order of which they are a part, all of which make up the “Positive” of the dialectic, the latter of which is completely destroyed and transcended by the revolution, after which nothing of the old order survives; this is the destruction of the state in a general conflagration. By contrast, Marx apparently believed that the state needed to be realized at its highest degree, which would mean that the state as the “Positive” of the dialectic needed to be overcome, transcended, and preserved in the dialectical process, allowing it to be realized anew in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat as it theoretically projects itself into a communist society; the same basic idea is clung to like a dogma by the Marxists that came after his time, even as Marx himself seems to have presented an altogether different view of the state in The Civil War in France. It is the presentation of Bakunin’s dialectic that is of interest here, because even though Lagalisse presents us wiith a dialectic involving a “Positive” and a “Negative”, the process of Bakunin’s dialectic is negation itself. It is the total negation of the old order, and it is destruction, which, insofar as it is still revolutionary, entails the creation of a new world, thus it is a creative act that is also an act of destruction (paraphrasing Bakunin himself). But this creative power, this creative destruction, and the transcendence it delivers, is only possible as a form of negation. It cannot take place as an affirmation of the old order, because the old order in toto must die and be reborn in the revolution. For the anarcho-nihilists that would later emerge long after Bakunin’s death, this reality of the dialectic of creative destruction perhaps leads them to the understanding of revolution as an act/principle of pure negation, total warfare against the order of the world, but without any prescriptive dogma as regards “the new world”. Satan presents this negation in his ceaseless war against God, the razing of the kingdom of heaven manifesting as the spiritual triumph of the dialectic of creative destruction; God will be attacked and dethroned, his angels driven back to the earth, heaven will burn, and once the old order is completely destroyed, only at that moment can the new take place, and the gardens of Ownness will flourish again with flowers of selfhood. Thus it is not for nothing that Bakunin and his fellow anarchists took up Satan as the romantic-heroic representation of anarchist ideals against God, the church, and the state, and herein lies the true legacy of Satan, so much more than the feeble confines of either Rand or the humanists.

Staying on the subject of anarchism and nihilism, we can get some incredibly valuable insights into negation, creative destruction, and thus Darkness from anarcho-nihilism, communicated specifically through Serafinski’s Blessed Is The Flame. The defining feature of anarcho-nihilism as presented by Serafinski is that revolution, properly understood and insofar as it is still regarded as legitimate, represents “pure negation”, that is to say the total destruction of the prevailing order of things, in the face of the abject dominance of that order and the death spiral to which it is heading and to which mankind remains bound. This means that no great vision of the future can be proposed or proceeded except by this negation, meaning that the new world cannot be born in the shell of the old. What Bakunin said about creation and destruction is extended into the axiom that the primary aim of anarchism as a whole is negation, which is to say that the overriding goal of anarchism is the destruction of all systems of domination and all that constitute them. This negation is radically emphasized over the defining of anarchism by any number of “positive programs”, which is to say any ideal for how the new world should be, within the existing order. As members of the CCF said, “the deeper we destroy, the more freely we will be able to build”. This essentially means that any and all hope of constructing a new world could only be preceded by the absolute negation of the old world. Negation in this worldview is justified precisely by the existence of its object – the ruling order – and not any attendant positive structures, which exist for the purpose of survival and not negation, and from the anarcho-nihilist standpoint this negation is at the core not only of anarcho-nihilism and not only of anarchism itself but also of all anti-capitalist politics. The contrary stance, that anarchism is not negation, is interpreted as hiding real intentions to no practical or moral end. The property of anarcho-nihilist negation is also jouissance, the quality of enjoyment or joyfulness that manifests as “uncivilised desire” and the richness of life that emerges from the act of resistance. Jouissance is something that cannot be measured against risks, rewards, or results, and cannot be measured as a teleological goal, rather it expresses itself in itself, through resistance and wildness in, of, as itself. It is like ziran in its self-so-ness. That is the anarcho-nihilist emphasis on the act itself. Strength, that is to say the strength that emerges from the refusal to bow and the capacity to destroy oppression, emerges as jouissance from the will to simply fight, regardless of victory or defeat.

In this, Negation is the true source of life, and is hence a creative destruction. Destroying the old order down to its last vestiges, without yielding to the concept of futurity or the idea of a rational struggle for human progress, alone leads to creation as a jouissant phenomenon. The new world is not born in the shell of the old but in its ashes. Darkness is that timeless power of negation which is the true source of life, and even the brightest lights. It reduces things to ash and nothingness and is in this destruction the source of the potentiality of creation that gives rise to life, thus life itself. In Darkness, creation and destruction are indistinguishable from each other. Satanism itself contains this wisdom, and when Stanislaw Przybyszewski emerged the critics of Satanism knew it. Constantin Ponomareff, for instance, had observed “liberating impulses for renewal” in what he called “the intrinsic nihilism of the symbolist sensibility”. He may have been describing an apparent fin-de-siecle artistic/romantic Satanism found in the Decadent movements in Russia and Poland, among the latter of which we find the first self-declared Satanist: Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski’s Satanism has certain elements suggestive of a broader nihilist outlook, perhaps familiar to the anarcho-nihilism previously discussed. In Satan’s Children, the character Gordon opposes one of his comrades for his desire to build a future directed around “socialist principles” by suggesting that it was better to destroy the order of the world for the sake of negation, as is suggestible by his statement that Napoleon would have been a god (or more accurately a Satan) to him if he had overthrown kings without instating new ones and dissolved the order of things without creating a new one. Satan is described as “the God who speaks through the deed, and incites the deed”, from which we may gather that Satan favours and is expressed through acts of liberation (hence, negation) in themselves and not their teleological significance. In The Synagogue of Satan, Satan is established as the great liberator and God the great oppressor, but in this Satan is not merely the author of science and all the great “humanistic” arts and virtues but also the god of lawlessness and defiance in themselves. Przybyszewski’s conception of Satan and the “evil” (and for him evil is affirmative) he represents possesses a further agonistic quality, the darkness of the soul linked to the presence of pain and the absence of happiness, suffering and dissatisfaction linked to progress and evolution. Satan is also an abject embodiment of sexuality, which for Przybyszewski is also the engine of human creativity and individuality, and sexual desire is framed as both the eternal creativity and the remodeling-destructive. In all of this Satan as presented by Stanislaw Przybyszewski represents the force of creative-destruction and negation expressed as cosmic anarchy and lawlessness, all natural to humans and the driving force of the growth and freedom of life.

Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism hues very closely to the Russian nihilist movement that emerged in the late 19th century. This nihilism tended to mean a political and social belief in the negation of all social authority. In Ivan Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, a nihilist is defined as someone who “does not bow down before any authority, who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in.”. It also seems to have been a term used to refer to a broader philosophy of epistemological and moral skepticism that was developed in Russia at that time. The young Russian nihilists were completely against the traditionalist establishment and also disappointed with the progressive reformists of their day, and so they found themselves opposed to both at once. Nihilism has been characterized as a demand for “nakedness”, meaning the “stripping from oneself of all the trappings of all culture, for the annihilation of all historical traditions for the setting free of the natural man, upon whom there will no longer be fetters of any sort”. That basic idea accords well with Przybyszewski’s concept of the “naked soul”, a pure soul or self that is stripped of all social constraints and which he believed was accessed by artists who managed to transcend normal cognition and the five senses. It’s also an idea echoed by anarcho-nihilists to this day. In fact, the Russian nihilists themselves, such as Sergey Nechayev, were uncompromising in their opposition to both the state and the church. Other anarchists have taken up support for nihilism in Russia and beyond. The Russian anarcho-communist theoretician Pyotr Kropotkin, in his Memoirs of a Revolutionist, defended nihilism from being construed as terrorism, and argued that nihilism was an affirmation of the rights of the individual and a negation of all hypocrisy, and because of this a “a first step toward a higher type of men and women”. Encyclopedia Britannica likely interpreted this stance as Kroptokin having “defined nihilism as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy, and artificiality and for individual freedom.”. In Italy, the individualist anarchist Renzo Novatore frequently called himself a nihilist on the basis of having defined nihilism as negation, meaning of the negation of “every society, of every cult, of every rule and of every religion” and the rejection of all retreat from life as it is. The negation inherent in Mikhail Bakunin’s precept of the unity of destruction and creation and his statement “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life” has sometimes been argued as the influence of nihilism upon Bakunin’s thought. And of course, how can we forget Max Stirner, who set his affairs on Nothing. Although anarcho-nihilism is itself its own tendency defined by a set of ideas about anarchism and negation that distinguish it from the “mainstream” of contemporary anarchism, in all reality nihilism has always been sort of a part of the history of anarchist thought and at least some aspect of it makes anarchism as a tradition of political philosophy what it is. Many founding figures of anarchism were never big opponents of nihilism, and at least some actually supported it. Ultimately, thought, what matters about all of this is the tradition of negation, in an active political and philosophical sense, that lies at the core of nihilism or anarcho-nihilism, and the extent to which it relates to the concept of Darkness that has been discussed at length thus far, to Satan, and to Satanism as a living concept with a radical heritage that extends past the claims of authority established by Anton LaVey and his acolytes.

In the admittedly very Christian-influenced tradition of Western occultism, Satan has almost always represented the power of negation. I have already outlined Levi’s views on Satan as the principle of negation, and how this was the true nature of his role as instrument of liberty. Stanislas le Guaita, a French occultist taking after Eliphas Levi, presented an inverted pentagram with the goat’s head in his book The Key to Black Magic. He described the original pentagram as a symbol of the “Magician of Light” that “transmits the power of the Divine Plan”, and described the inverted pentagram as “nothing more than a symbol of iniquity, perdition, and blasphemy”, whose horns rise from the mud to attack heaven. This subversion, of course, can be thought of as necessarily a negation of the “Divine Plan”. Ideas about Satan as “the eternal negation” are not uncommon in mysticism as well as religious and literary commentary. Among the literary tradition of Romantic Satanism itself, Lord Byron’s Satan, or rather Lucifer, as he appears in Cain tells the titular protagonist that the sum of human knowledge is “to know mortal nature’s nothingness”. In Ernst Schertel’s Magic: History, Theory, and Practice, we find a conception of the “satanic” not dissimilar to the ideas of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, in that Schertel casts Satan as a creative, “value-setting”, “value-increasing” principle, a “fertilizing, creative-destroying warrior”, set against Seraph, the resting, preserving, “value-effecting” principle, the spirit of possession and peace. The “satanic” is described as meaning “kinetic”, “actuality”, “ektropic”, or “free energetic valence”. In theory, this can sound like the opposite of negation, but Schertel insists that “Evil is the dark-violent, irrational, destructive-creative”, that this is the principle of Satan, and, citing Schelling, this principle is “nothing less than nothing else but the original cause of existence, insofar as it is striving towards actualization in the created being”. Hell in this view is the “pre-world” of pure potentiality, the power of evil being the raw potency that, in Schertel’s view inexorably arcs towards the created world of Seraph. Such is the meaning of that cryptic phrase “Satan is the beginning, Seraph is the end”, but the latter is not greater than the former and Satan is in everything that lives and appears, lying in the depths that he might break through again. Thus darkness, thus Satan, thus an unreasonable depth is the source and heritage of reality and creation. Satan, then, is a sort of “ground of being” for the universe.

A more literal interpretation of Satan parsed from the source material of the Bible would position Satan as an entity as The Satan, a title for a generic adversary or the name of an angel in God’s court charged with the prosecution of mankind on his orders. This, admittedly, is an interpretation I held when I was more attached to Luciferianism in particular, which obviously required a strict distinction between Lucifer as God’s adversary and Satan as God’s angel; but of course, the reality that approaches me nowadays is not so straightforward in view of history. From the New Testament’s hint of Satan as a larger and less tangible force against the work of God, to the occult legacy of Satan as a force of negativity, there is always more to Satan than appears in any static literary form. And since I’m still talking about the concept of Satan as negativity, let’s assess his role in the system of Kabbalah, or more particularly his place in the Qliphoth. The Qliphoth are the “impure” forces within creation born from an event referred to as “the breaking of the vessels”, caused by the overflowing of the light of Geburah. Their function is seemingly to continually perpetuate destruction through their contact with and enveloping of the seed of God’s creation, and in Western occultism they are collectively referred to as the Tree of Death, the reverse or “other side” (Sutra Ahra) of the Tree of Life. Satan, in this arrangement, represents Thaumiel, the inverse of the sephirah Kether. Whereas Kether represents the singular and indivisible unity of God, Thaumiel represents the aggressive tension between two poles that suggests intractable conflict instead of indivisible unity; whereas in Kether all is united, in Thaumiel all is divided. Satan, alongside Moloch, can be understood as the Prince of Division (to paraphrase Guy Debord), and their presence emblematic of a warlike urgrund or concept thereof meant to contrast with the divine urgrund of God’s unity as presented by the system of Kabbalah.

“Satan in Council” by Gustave Dore

Conclusion: Towards A Theory of Darkness

So, we have traversed many ideas of how to look at Darkness in this article. What can we learn from them so as to summarize our conception of Darkness? We might be able to parse from all of this a concept of Darkness as an active-negative force that serves as the urgrund of authentic creative process. Darkness might also be thought of as a condition of negativity in a broader and more abstract sense, as well as active negativity, that negativity which destroys and then creates in the ashes of the destroyed. Darkness inasmuch as it relates to “the demonic”, accrues a “monstrous” quality via its negative power, in that it is, in an apophatic sense, not “the light”, but also in a more active sense a destroyer of the fetters affixed to “the light”. Because of the consistent themes of philosophical negation and negativity I have been able to parse from these diverse conceptions of Darkness, it may in fact be prudent to understand negativity as the primary characteristic of Darkness. Of course we probably shouldn’t overlook the idea of Darkness as mystery, as denoting a kind of quality of occultation and alterity. This aspect of negativity, drawing from the apophatic quality, might position Darkness as the Other that is presented via the Jungian unconscious. But then Darkness is not entirely other, in that haunts us as the soil of life and the engine of our very selfhood. Perhaps we could look at it as a compound concept.

Insofar as we may discuss the concept of a violent – no, the better word is perhaps wild – ground of being, parsed from Esoteric Buddhism and Satanism among other sources discussed here, I think it is actually worth considering if it is not more worthwhile to treat it as somewhat broader than Darkness in the strict sense, a conception of Chaos in the sense that I might have thought about for a long time. But it’s worth noting that Chaos in the world of the ancients was more specifically a pre-state of formless and undifferentiated potentiality, or an original state of jumbled matter, than the dialectic being described here. Perhaps the question of Chaos, and indeed Wildness as a concept, is best saved for separate articles, though perhaps it is also worth considering that multiple principles of this nature operate rhizomatically in multiplicitous cosmos. The dialectic of rebellion in conjunction with violence presented in my treatment of egoism, hongaku thought, interdependence, and Satanism, may in fact point to that dialectic comprising a greater abstract force to be dubbed perdition, whose emblem, at least as far as Western occultism is concerned, is none other than the goat and its pentagram, and hence Satan. No doubt this conception should provide depth and charge to Satanism as a creed and worldview, especially insofar we may say that perdition is the only true “law” in the universe, but it also calls upon a heritage of pre-Christian concepts such that I will argue that it may constitute at least part of a Pagan worldview. We can refer what I have discussed earlier about the rebellion inherent in the Greek cosmos, we may also refer to the dialectic of successive conflict that proceeds the creation and destruction of the North Germanic cosmos, and perhaps there is still more room to consider Mesopotamian cosmos similarly.

In any case, as long as we are at this point, and we have some idea how to establish Darkness as a concept, even if possibly a compound concept, there is but one elephant in the room: what to make of Light? I feel like that ought to be its own article, but in the sense that opposites attract it is fitting I try to address it to some extent here. If we relate Darkness to the source of things, to a concept of a negative ground of being, then light is one of the things that issues out from it., eventually sucked back in, and eventually re-emerging, and so on, and so forth. What we understand thematically as “Light” is often tied to ideas about consciousness, which society and countless generations of philosophical thought set against the impenetrable unconscious, and this consciousness itself owes its existence to the chain of creation and destruction set by that same ground of being, and derives its sense of self-awareness from that same impenetrable unconscious. In thinking about it for this article, I have sometimes thougt about Light in terms of the way Guo Xiang, yet another ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher, talks about “traces”. A “trace”, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a footprint of an original actuality, an echo of the original self-so or spontaneity that we may read as the original self-so but which is ultimately not the original self-so or spontaneity. But when a person comprehends the traces, they don’t comprehend their origin. Laws, for example, are what Guo Xiang regards as traces of “marvellous events”, and the latter is to be proclaimed over than the former. Darkness, in Guo Xiang’s thought, is a way of referring to the original spontaneity preceding the “trace”, such that his concept of “darkening” means to dissolve trace-cognition so as to harmonize yourself with the original spontaneity and self-so of the original Wu, or Non-Being. The dark spontaneity of Non-Being, originary spontaneity, leaves traces that suggest teleological will and light, which must be surpassed in order to grasp the original spontaneity. The discussion of Being versus Non-Being is not irrelevant here in that light, if it corresponds to anything, probably corresponds to Being, like the concept of God, and darkness with Non-Being. But if Being proceeds from a ground of being, theoretically that would make Being dependent on that ground as its point of origination. Philosophers like Tillich would posit that God is this ground, but God is just one more Being, one more consciousness, one more light, his creation one more trace of the spontaneous power of Darkness.

Light issues forth from Darkness, not as a binary opposite to some equal and antagonistic power (or at least, not antagonistic outside the sense that Light sets itself against a Darkness it feels it must vanquish or dominate), but was one of the countless products of the negative ground of being, the creative nothing of the universe, in the same way our selfhood and any fixed ideas about ourselves are mere traces of the creative nothing that is our “true” selfhood. There are lights out there, that is there are things that produce light, ourselves included, but they are small parts of an infinite larger field of cosmic being, a field whose source is dark instead of light. To alight the Black Flame is to take up the creative nothing of ourselves, the inner negativity of life, and the shadow that is other and inward to us, as the active force of our being and power, to activate the true nature of ourselves and of things. It is to hold ourselves to the root, as Wang Bi said, that is to say we hold ourselves to Darkness, wield the power of negation, with our eyes alight with the light of profane illumination as Walter Benjamin saw it, against all of the illusions before us. The enlightenment that proceeds from this, from our depths in the underworld, this light of our profane illumination, that is the true dark sun in us.

“Abyss” by Denis Kosyakov (2012)

The reactionary pose of false intellectualism: a response to Sam Buntz’s garbage article about Satanism

While reading up about Satan’s (no, not that Satan) upcoming album Earth Infernal, as I do and all, I somehow stumbled on a website named Athwart and a little article about Satanism written by one of their authors, Sam Buntz. The article is titled “Infernal Bore: The Satanic Pose of False Individualism”, and believe me, it is truly self-masturbatory, so much so that I actually want to go through it and show you why.

But before I do that, let’s establish who we’re talking about here. Athwart is a small-time web magazine that seems to focus on social commentary. There’s clearly a political edge to it but for the life of me I can’t actually figure out their primary ideological inclination or their basic values. The impression I get from them seems to suggest that they might be into some conservative expression of left-wing politics. Their articles complain about such things as a lack of metaphysical thinking in contemporary society and the prevalence of pornography, and they discuss the works of socialist intellectuals such as Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Christopher Lasch. The actual name of the website appears to have been derived from William F. Buckley Jr., the famous right-wing conservative ideologue, or more specifically the mission statement he wrote for The National Review, which he founded in 1955 and which he said “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it”. From this, my impression is that Athwart represents a pretentious crossover between socialist and conservative tendencies, possibly erring towards the milieu referred to as “post-liberalism”. A fair summary of this tendency is that it is reactionary and boring. As for Sam Buntz himself, his bio tells us that his work has appeared on the “centre-left” Washington Monthly, the apparently far-right New English Review, the right-wing Federalist magazine, the “politically unaffiliated” Christian journal Fare Forward, Pop Matters, and Jonathan Pageau’s website The Symbolic World. This oeuvre plus his social media content gives us a good idea that he seems to be a reactionary of some sort.

With that accounted for let’s get into the article itself. Buntz begins by referring to an article written by Mary Harrington which supposedly showed that Satanism was the prevailing ideology of the United States of America. Harrington’s argument is essentially that Satanism is just a byword for “untrammeled individualism” and that The Satanic Temple is supposedly adored by the American ruling class (no, they’re not; a couple of liberal magazines are not a synonym for the bourgeoisie as a whole), and much of the rest is just a kindergartener’s history of so-called Romantic Satanism leading up to blatant distortion of the teachings of Crowley and Nietzsche, homophobic screeds about Pride Month, and transphobic bile about how trans rights is somehow an arm of US imperialism. Needless to say Harrington just casts any expression of self-love or pride as “Satanism”, declares this to be the ideology of the establishment, and all the while never demonstrates any actual influence that Satanism or trans people have in a society where they’re actually quite powerless. Such is what Buntz refers to as “daring” work; and I suppose it is, if by this you mean she dared to be stupid.

Oh and by the way Harrington also appears to be a transphobic “radical feminist”, or TERF as she would rather we not call them but which we will do anyway because that’s what they are. Let’s just get that out of the way while also adding that she’s generally a whiny conservative in numerous other areas too.

Before we go anywhere else let’s just establish basic reality here: no, Satanism is not “the dominant American ideology”. If it were, then American politicians would feel no need to make frequent reference to Jesus, God, or the Bible, however insincerely, nor would there be any invocations to God in American money or the Pledge of Allegiance. There are no Satanists who actually have access to the levers of political power, and many don’t even desire said political power. Only a few Satanists have ever ran for political office, and none of their campaigns have succeeded. Nor for that matter have most of the legal campaigns enacted by The Satanic Temple. And, if Satanism is the dominant spiritual ideology in America, why are Satanic Panics still a thing that thousands if not millions of people can fall for? Honestly, I wish that America was actually the Satanic society that these idiots seem to think it is. I would legitimately enjoy living in such a society. At the very least I could die a happy man knowing that Christianity died and was replaced by Satanism in a country that was previously the proudest and most obnoxious exponent of Christianity, if only that were true! But it’s not! Instead, Christianity of some sort still holds the most political clout and forms much of the superstructure of bourgeois society.

Also, I think something’s worth pointing out about the liberal magazines being pointed to and their ostensible promotion of The Satanic Temple. I can guarantee that they’re only doing it because they’re a secular atheist progressive group that presents the aesthetic of Satanism with very little of what might be thought of as Satanic philosophy, though of course they do boast an appropriated canon. In reality, The Satanic Temple paid probably thousands of dollars to give argument in court on behalf of a Catholic organisation rather than just complain about freedom of speech on Twitter, so as far as I’m concerned they are allies of Christianity, but neither the media nor conservatives like Mary Harrington will tell you about that because it compromises some convenient narratives about how The Satanic Temple are “the last line of defence in the battle for reproductive rights”. And all the while, with both Harrington’s article and the media discussion of The Satanic Temple, it seems like only popular forms of atheistic Satanism are ever discussed. Things like Theistic Satanism are never discussed in any of these pretentious treatises on Satanism, even though Theistic Satanism is very prevalent in Satanist movement even if lacking popular organizations and if anything there’s the argument to be made for Theistic Satanism being older at least than Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.

Anyways, Buntz talks about how “the pose of Satanism” was attractive for centuries across a wide range of people and summarizes basically the popular understanding of Satan as an archetypal cosmic rebel. Then he claims that Satanism doesn’t actually lead to a state where individual personalities can flourish freely but instead leads to “the opposite condition”. On its face, this claim is absolutely laughable and there’s no basis for believing it at all. But how does Buntz justify such an absurd position? Well, he doesn’t make reference to any extant self-defined Satanism in practice, but instead appeals to the development of the character of Satan as depicted by John Milton, who for all the romantic anti-heroism of his Satan figure it must be remembered that he was trying to depict Satan as the villain of his story. Basically, to prove that Satanism leads to the opposite of individual freedom, he’s going to consult a work created by a Christian to illustrate the Christian perspective of why Satan is bad, instead of referring to any actual self-lived Satanism. That’s rather like trying to get an account of Muslim life from Melanie Phillips.

Buntz’s main point is that all of the heroic radiance associated with Milton’s Satan is compacted into the early parts of the book, after which he grows progressively “duller” and “more boring”. Well, actually, that’s about all Buntz has to say about Milton’s Satan. He never actually describes Satan’s actions or personality progression, except through the aphorisms of others such as C. S. Lewis. The only thing he references is Satan secretly observing Eve in the Garden of Eve. How this is meant to represent dullness is something of a mystery, but I guess it does serve as a signifier of reactionary antipathy towards “coomers” (meant to be a condescending way of a referring to sex or porn addiction but in practice is just a way of expressing hatred of anybody who likes sex at all or masturbates ever). His purported boringness is compared to Dante’s Satan, and I must say, it’s easy for Dante’s Satan to be “boring” since his only appearance in Inferno consists of him being trapped waist-deep in a lake of ice, which is honestly more of an indictment of Dante than of Satan.

Buntz is of the opinion that not only is our culture “increasingly Satanic”, but it is also “zombified”, a supposed trend that he compares to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (yet another Christian morality tale, this time for children), in which the White Witch lures one of the characters with Turkish delights only to freeze him in his place. He argues that this is meant to mean that the desire for independence “without relation or obligation” (presumably God here is just a by-word for any kind of obligation whatsoever) produces nothing but mediocrity. His example of this really doesn’t have anything to do with Satanism in practice. Instead his example of cultural decay just seems to be when entertainment media doesn’t solely center around cis straight white people (“the quantitative enumeration of identities, the checking of representation boxes”) and Netflix shows he doesn’t like presumably because they don’t exclusively pander to those same cis straight white audiences (“Eventually, the “Dark Satanic Mills” start to churn out the same, boring, repetitive, pandering Netflix shows”). This, he claims, leads to the abolition of “the Good, the Beautiful, and the True” (yep, we’re dealing with Platonic conservative bullshit again). Again, none of this is ever actually linked to real world Satanism. It’s all just extrapolated from a poetic representation that, while it is classic, was created by a Christian. Plus, if all Satanism means here is just the assertion of individual freedom, I would argue that the idea that this necessarily leads to mediocrity simply isn’t true! Barnett Newman positioned his own artwork as an “assertion of freedom”, which read properly would herald the end of all forms of authoritarianism, such as state capitalism and totalitarianism, and many have found his art to be moving and challenging, or in some cases threatening (certainly threatening enough for white supremacists to frequently vandalize his work). But, of course, because Barnett Newman as an abstract expressionist represents what has come to be derisively referred to as “modern art” or “postmodern art”, Buntz will likely see his work and dismiss it as insufficiently life-affirming in the same way that all reactionaries dismiss modern art simply because it doesn’t seek to imitate classical art.

There is a paragraph from the article that is worth analyzing and deconstructing:

When a ’70s or ’80s rockstar declares that he is on the highway to hell before burying his head in a mountain of cocaine, it seems believable. He really is runnin’ with the devil. But a contemporary “Satanist,” logging on to doomscroll or gaze at pornography, is devoid of this same rebellious aura. He or she is simply going on the computer, like every bored teen on planet earth. Below deck, Satan is no doubt rubbing his hands excitedly. But his nefarious plans lack the epic scale and carnage of a Hitler-on-Stalin throwdown. He has settled for making people watch lousy Netflix original programming. That is atomized Satanic “individualism” at its terminus, a sad and numb person opening tabs in Google Chrome and then slamming the laptop shut when Mom unexpectedly walks in the room. Not exactly Stalingrad, but Satan will take it.

What’s obvious here is that Buntz operates on the idea of “Satan as the representation of evil and badness in the abstract”, taking it at face value and assessing Satanism and Satanists on the basis of this presumption. Thus, if Satanists aren’t destroying themselves by becoming addicted to dangerous drugs or trying to start World War 3, then in Buntz’s eyes they are not “real” Satanists. The problem with this should be obvious. Satanism is not in itself a mere inversion of morality. On the contrary, it can be said to present its own distinct ethical framework, albeit one that, unlike so many others, actually centers itself around individual fulfilment and exploration to some degree, and even then what this looks like will probably depend on the form of Satanism you’re dealing with; such nuance is of course flattened in almost every mainstream discussion of Satanism. Buntz whines that modern Satanists supposedly do nothing but “doomscroll” (constantly surfing the internet for negative news) and watch pornography, as though watching pornography is supposed to be an inherently bad thing (well, given that he’s probably a Christian I’d say he does think that), but how exactly is doomscrolling and watching Netflix and pornography something exclusive to Satanism? I’d argue that a lot of modern Christians are doing the same thing while also going to church, praying to God, and all the things that regular Christians do to affirm their faith. But Buntz needs to frame Satanists as sad losers (again, as if scrolling for news, watching porn, and watching Netflix somehow makes you a loser) so he can’t afford to acknowledge reality. If you want to see masses of sad loserdom, you shouldn’t look to Satanism. Instead you should look to 4chan, or to the fact that there’s entire Discord servers made around one meme.

But I have to say, what is it with people having a go at Satanism and always bringing up rock stars who sang about the devil for fun, rather than musicians who were open and professed Satanists, such as King Diamond (incidentally one of the guys who got me into Satanism), Glen Benton from Deicide, or the several black metal bands and musicians who at least ostensibly devote themselves to some sort of religious, esoteric, or theistic Satanism (many of whom hated Anton LaVey for being too humanist for them)? Again, they’re never going to be talked about because the only Satanism that interests anyone in the media is the The Satanic Temple, and honestly that’s probably because they’re the most marketable and least offensive branch of Satanism.

Buntz then makes a very amusing accusation towards Satanists. He accuses the Satanist of wanting to preserve the state of affairs he attributes to them by “defending himself” from “anything that might provoke his curiosity” or “might rattle him into an awareness of the poetry in nature or in other people”, thus he accuses the Satanist of demanding a safe space from the world, which he accuses our culture of happily obliging. I don’t recall our culture obliging a safe space from Harry Potter books or Dave Chappelle specials, but what’s amusing about it is that this is just Christianity projecting all of its weaknesses onto Satanism. It was Christians who sought to block out anything that was “Other” to the Christian worldview, and where they couldn’t do that they sought to recuperate it so as to make it compatible with the Christian “safe space”. God himself has surely set up the ultimate “safe space” in the form of Heaven, a place where only people he likes and only people who believe in him or agree with him are allowed to live forever after death. God is a narcissist whose whole purpose for humanity and all life is to praise his name, and can’t stand any being suggesting any notion of co-divinity or any kind of equality and diversity amongst the divine. God knows well the concept of the “Other” in relation to himself, and for him that that “Otherness” is compacted into the form of the Devil, sin, evil, something that from his standpoint should be destroyed. Easily God is more narcissistic than Satan, or anyone, but you can’t admit that to yourself or anyone because it offends both tradition and certain modern forms of progressive apologetics prevalent today.

Then Buntz tried to liken Satanism to the Unitarian Universalist Church, on the basis that they supposedly believe that God is whatever you want him to be:

I remember attending a Unitarian Universalist Church during a period of religious investigation. The congregation’s guiding mantra was “God is whatever you want God to be.” I reasoned to myself that if God was whatever I wanted God to be then I would, in effect, be God. This struck me as absurd. What Harrington calls Satanism is this very tendency—to deify one’s own will, whim, or power of arbitrary choice. According to this ideology, what one wills does not actually matter. You can will getting burned with wax in a dominatrix’s cavern, will ending illiteracy, will transforming yourself into a dolphin person, will recycling, will all sorts of evil, or will curing the common cold. All desires are on the same plane, and none are preferable. You just need to will it.

It is true that the Unitarian Universalist Church does not have what is called a “formal creed”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a religion or that God is interchangeable with your own will. Technically speaking, Paganism is not just “one system of belief”, and neither really was Christianity for the first century of its existence, but being a religion is not about being defined by single fixed points of doctrine. Religion should instead be defined in terms of its relationship to whatever is conceived as numinous or sacred, and not only the ideology but also the praxis (often ritual praxis in particular) through which this is expressed or mediated. The Unitarian Universalist Church seems to believe in a single God who is entirely loving, does not punish everyone forever, and will redeem everyone after death, though it is also said that belief in God is optional. I think that Satanists would actually laugh at that belief system. I certainly don’t find myself particularly impressed, but to tell the truth they actually do seem to have a clear belief system that can be interpreted as comprising more than just “God is whatever you want him to be“. This attempt to undermine the credibility of Satanism by likening it to the Unitarians through a bowdlerised interpretation of Satanic individualism falls flat on its face.

I should also state for the record that no Satanist actually believes that you can simply will any outcome you want into existence. To assume otherwise is a clear sign of Buntz not having consulted any Satanists in regard to their beliefs about will, which he derived entirely from Mary Harrington, who herself did not bother to ask any Satanists about their beliefs. Satanists don’t believe that you can cure the common cold, end illiteracy, or turn into a dolphin solely through the force of will and desire. No one does, because everyone knows that is self-evidently absurd. Satanists do deify the individual self, but they also regularly counsel against solipsism, because they correctly assume that they are not the only individual selves or the only beings capable of will. Again, simply talking to Satanists would probably clarify things for Sam Buntz, but he won’t.

Instead, Buntz continues to not actually address any extant form of Satanism, preferring instead the “idea” of Satanism, by pointing to G. K. Chesterton’s response to Nietzsche, who Buntz characterizes as “like a man grabbing you by the lapels demanding that you will something, while the genuinely interesting question, the question of what is worth willing, goes unanswered”. There is an answer, though: what business is it yours what I consider “worth” willing? Nay, does God even ask himself that question before willing the death of fetuses via miscarriage? The question is always asked by others for the purpose of deciding the actions of others. But as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, why is it so important what you consider to be “worth” someone else to will?

I find it very curious that Buntz feels the need to point out that there is a reality outside of the self that we ought to acquaint ourselves to, when really that’s all that Satanists insist to Christians. Indeed, I might well insist that I merely seek people to shed their conditioning and acquaint themselves with the inner nature or principle of reality: from my standpoint, God is nothing of the sort. Atheistic Satanists in particular would probably be allergic to much of occultism because they assume it does not observe this principle, and generally mock Christians for the same reasons. Once again, Buntz hasn’t got a clue.

The article is titled “Infernal Bore: The Satanic Pose of False Individualism”, yet for most of the article no discussion of what the “true” individualism is. Towards the end, though, we get an elaboration. “True” individualism, for Buntz, is an affirmation of individuality that is dependent on the consideration of your relationship to the universe and its inhabitants. In a separate article about his opposition to sex work (which he refers to as “sexual exploitation” based on the assumption that people never choose to be sex workers), he refers to this concept as “organic individualism”, as opposed to “atomistic individualism” (I’m half-convinced that this dichotomy sounds like it comes from some form of fascist ideology). Exactly what “your relationship to the universe and its inhabitants” is supposed to mean for your individual will and the validity of its expression isn’t really clear, but it seems like it might be a vague way of saying that your individual will needs to be validated by God in order to be legitimate. His criticism of individual self-determination is that it somehow leads to a state of being “plunged into slavery under our darkest compulsions”. It’s a common reactionary argument, one I first became familiar with (and dismissed) when encountering a debate in which the alt-right author Greg Johnson argued that allowing pornography to be legal leads to men becoming slaves to their desires, which is an argument now made by guys like Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin who previously opposed such a position. The problem with this argument is obvious: individual will exercised in a way that harms no one is otherwise arbitrarily cast as slavery because it is “dark”, which in this context may as well mean something icky that you personally dislike. If you exercise individual free will in a way that doesn’t really hurt anyone, at least individually or interpersonally, and Sam Buntz approved of it, he would not complain, but if you exercise individual free will in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone, and Sam Buntz does not approve of it, the entire notion of such self-determination is condemned. I have to wonder how this could be applied to self-determination in a larger sense, namely the self-determination of independent nations and/or peoples.

The stated alternative to “plunging into slavery under our darkest compulsions” is to start “becoming interested in other people and in the surrounding world”, which Buntz believes would “liberate individuality to shine forth through this relation”. Exactly what “becoming interested in other people and in the surrounding world” should mean to him is not clear, and that’s important because that can mean basically any form of social interaction. I guess, though, that based on his quotation of Joseph S. Laughon that it might have something to do with going into the nature and spending time with the birds, not that I oppose such activities of course. But really, depending on what you mean, being interested in other people and the surrounding world is what humans do all the time. Frankly, people can’t shut up about other people or their surrounding world, and that’s more true than ever in the age of hyper-interconnectivity that our developed internet bequeathes us with. Buntz’s exhortation in itself seems quite meaningless in this light. The only way I can see it having meaning is that it is actually code for something else, that his idea of “organic individualism” is really a way of saying that your self-determination and self-essencing needs to be legitimated or perhaps controlled by the society around you. And in that light, I see a problem. If it is interaction with other people that should be the primary constituent of individual self-determination, then we enter into a state infinite regression as applicable to all of humanity; after all, if the individual is to be determined and fashioned principally by other humans, then who was there to condition the first human? Who conditions the conditioners, up to the start of the human species? You see, we are to assume that it is always the individual that is empty on its own, and requires an Other to make him an individual, but then through this there are surely no individuals, because the Other that makes the individual is necessarily empty as well, just that we assume that the Other possess inherent subjective content but never the individual self.

And, look, believe it or not, I actually don’t in principle oppose the idea of considering individuality in relationship to its surroundings, or at least not in the way that he makes it seem when saying “One develops an authentic inner life by means of this vibrant connection with a wider world”. I actually think I could read something similar out of Percy Bysshe Shelley, a man who I think Sam Buntz would have hated because of his anti-clerical and anti-Christian romanticism as well as his idiosyncratic neopaganism, in his letter to Thomas Love Peacock when he wrote that the ancient Greeks “lived in perpetual commerce with external nature”, which he believed explained the greatness of Greek poetry and art. Baron D’Holbach used to say “Let him study Nature, let him study himself”. But even if I granted Buntz’s premise of individualism I don’t think I can recognize it as being in alignment with my own worldview, because even there to me the point is that you self-essence on your own terms and pursue individuation by fighting social conditioning, even if that means harmony with nature (or even the nature of nature as I might say). I don’t think Buntz believes in that individuation, or in any kind of self-essencing in that it functions as self-determination. So what does Buntz’s “organic individualism” look like? Glancing quickly at his article about sex work, we still get nothing other than the assertion that sex work is somehow paradigmatic of capitalism, or “hyper-capitalism” rather, never mind of course that they don’t call it the oldest trade for nothing. To be honest, I get the sense that Buntz’s view of freedom is that it is not meant for itself, but must be legitimated by taste, namely his own taste. The freedom to offer your body by trade or by hobby is not valid in itself for him, and hence not valid at all because society does not (or, for him, should not) legitimate it. His “organic individualism” is thus the idea that individuality is fulfilled when society determines a range of expression that society deems valid, beyond which free expression of individuality may not transcend. In a word, oppression.

And through it all, what’s so bad about egoism per se? I know that certain forms of narrow egoism, the kind of bullshit that Ayn Rand gave us are part of the problem with a lot of the contemporary Left Hand Path, but what would be so bad about everyone deicidng to read Max Stirner and the egoist-anarchists and egoist-communists? Taken seriously, these actually lead to a re-discovery of egoism as something beyond the limits of the false individualism offered by Randian “libertarianism”, which is in reality nothing more than the uncontested rule of property-owning capitalists. From the standpoint of this egoism, individuality is what is called ownness, and it is a condition shared by all individuals. I am an ownness and so are you. You can even put a “collectivist” spin on it, paradoxically enough, insofar as if only I enjoy freedom and ownness while you do not, then I possess privilege upon myself and you possess oppression but then neither of us possess the true condition of egoistic freedom. Of course, I imagine part of Sam Buntz’s problem with this is not only that it rejects all authority in the most consistent way possible but also the implications of this involve seeing trans people as being exactly who they say they are on the grounds of their ownness, and we know already that Buntz thinks this is a problem. But his opinion is worthless, for he sells an individualism to us that is as well false, because your individuality is not valid in itself, and instead must allow itself to be shaped by society.

Imagine that society is no less an egoist or no less composed of egoists than you your yourself. Imagine that there is only you living amongst others who are unique just like you are. In this, there is no inherent moral right, or empirical materialist cause (in Marx’s terms), for society to assert that it is the only valid individual in the world. In Buntz’s “individualism”, you as a creation of society have no right to the exercise of egoistic freedom or will-to-egoism, only society has that right, because society is the only egoist, and it absorbs you back into itself the moment you declare independence because you in that declaration are a threat to its existence. Society declares absolute sovereignty over you, at which point we ask: who created this right, and who created society? God? Whose God? I don’t worship him and can’t be made to worship him. The law? Which law? It changes over generations, and you will write new laws. Reason? Whose reason? I think you’ll laugh at their “reason” once you study it. History? If you take historical materialism seriously, you will eventually realize that material conditions are also political decisions, and thus that a large number of the material conditions we point to result ultimately from choices made by people who have or assert power, and at that point you destroy all notion of history being some phantasmic force independent of human agency. But again, who created society? People, people who are no less “unique” than you and me, but whose interests consist in ruling over you, and who have acted in a way that might ensure they continue to do so. But if you are “unique”, you are ownness, you are an egoist, and society is built by people who are ultimately not so different except that they set themselves against you, you have only the “right” to assert yourself as an egoist, and that society is not the only egoist in the world. Sam Buntz’s “individualism” serves only to favour one egoist over the other, as the determinant of your own individuality, but if society determines you who determines society? People make society, and at that, none other than the same egoists that we are told society exists against!

So that’s about it for this response. There really wasn’t a whole lot to say about Satanism in that article, because, again, Buntz never addresses any extant forms of Satanism, only a vague idea of it presented by a TERF who knows almost nothing about it and the poetic ideas of Satan created within Christian culture. Needless to say, this article is not very useful in understanding Satanism, let alone a particularly insightful critique.

Dante and Virgil Encounter Lucifer in Hell by Henry John Scott (1922)

The garbage article in question: https://www.athwart.org/infernal-bore-satanic-pose-dull-individuality/

Luciferianism as Dark Paganism?: Discussing T. L. Othaos’ terminology of Satanism

NOTE: This was originally written about a month ago and I’ve wanted to get it out sooner, but a lot of important things came up. In the time since, I’ve reflected on Luciferianism as something that can be really anything, and the term “Luciferian” for me is basically falling out of use because of it. This article represents a discussion of just one of many ways “Luciferianism” is expressed.

Recently I stumbled onto the website of a Satanist by the name of T. L. Othaos, specifically an article discussing the terminology surrounding the broader milieu of Satanism and the Left Hand Path. This, of course, means a discussion of Luciferianism, and what it means, and I think Othaos’ discussion of what Luciferianism means is potentially an insightful one.

First, though, there is a necessary disclosure. T. L. Othaos’ project is unique, to say the least. Othaos espouses a brand of esoteric Satanism (it is my understanding that Theistic Satanism is not her preferred term) that she refers to as Tenebrous Satanism. It is called Tenebrous Satanism because it emphasizes a positive engagement with occultism and even “the supernatural”, with the aim of cultivating a positive relationship with the “Dark Gods”, or Nekalah. Of course, if you’ve ever seen the term Nekalah before, you probably know that this is the term that the Order of Nine Angles uses to refer to their pantheon of deities. Now before anyone sounds the appropriate alarm bells, Othaos seems to have an original take on the O9A brand of Satanism. It adopts the O9A pantheon and much of its theology and occult practice, but without the cullings, the encouragement of criminal behaviour or esoteric fascism/neo-Nazism that is usually a part of O9A ideology and praxis. It’s easy to think of it as an attempt to reform O9A Satanism, but it actually kind of seems like a synthetic project that builds itself on top of O9A occultism and then separates into its own unique thing. It’s definitely not something I would get into, and given the historic nature of the Order of Nine Angles I would be hard-presssed to see how an “O9A Reform” project would turn out, but evidently Othaos seems to have had some positive experiences with O9A occultism, sans the murderous fascism of course, and by her account at least worshipping the Nekalah seems to have had a positive impact on her life. If T. L. Othaos thinks that it is possible to develop an actually positive formulation of O9A Satanism, and that O9A occultism can be separated from its neo-fascist underpinnings, then on an individual level I think that she is certainly welcome to try, but I do not endorse the project.

With that disclosure out of the way, let’s get started for real.

The present discussion concerns an article written by T. L. Othaos titled “Satanist, Luciferian, and related terms”, which is basically an overview of terminology within the broader Satanist “community” as such. My focus here is on the section concerning Luciferians, and Luciferianism. It seems that Othaos accepts the term Luciferianism as a valid synonym or classification for her own practice of Tenebrous Satanism, but does not personally gravitate towards the label. Her aversion to the term, and it is a strictly personal aversion, is partially motivated by certain preconceptions of Luciferianism. Such preconceptions include the idea that Luciferians prefer a “whitewashed” Devil to the more openly adversarial Satan (though, as far as Ford is concerned, they’re practically the same archetype), and the idea of Luciferianism being separated from Satanism by its emphasis on the spiritual side being arbitrary, since her brand of LaVeyan Satanism and then Tenebrous Satanism is also highly spiritual. Another preconception involved is the idea that Luciferians believed in the objective existence of “dark” entities (demons, gods, etc.), leading her to see Luciferianism as more or less a form of Theistic Satanism (which is not an uncommon perception to this day) at a time when she was basically a LaVeyan Satanist.

I will say, in fairness to Othaos, that some Luciferians absolutely do fit the stereotype of “whitewashing the Devil”, and in a fairly ridiculous way. Michael Howard to me is a well-known example of that, and he basically helped codify the idea of Luciferian Witchcraft in Britain. Howard talks plentifully about Horned Gods, frequently identifying Lucifer with several “horned gods” (including Janicot and Odin), and discusses Cain, Lilith, and fallen angels being central figures in his Luciferian tradition, yet absolutely insists that Lucifer is not a Devil or Satan figure, instead preferring to see him as a self-sacrificial avatar of the godhead! I should wonder if anyone told Howard and other British witches that Azazel, the name of the fallen angel, was also a name used by Christian theologians such as Origen as a name for their nameless Satan. It’s such a silly thing, because even though there’s no need to identify Lucifer with Satan, much of historical Luciferian veneration of Lucifer involved seeing him as a less than fluffy being. Carl William Hansen saw Lucifer as an expression of the inner darkness of the universe, Eugen Grosche viewed him as identical to the dark god Saturn, and even within British witchcraft Lucifer’s identification with the Horned God led to chthonic associations. People can indeed take the “light” in “light-bringer” quite literally, without much thought to what the light is.

Another issue for her is ritual praxis, which for her didn’t really work and thus she found herself drawn away from it. But more to the point, it’s after this we come to how she defines Luciferianism in the present. Her summary of Luciferianism is “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods.”. This summary is extrapolated from her current perception of Luciferianism, which is that it involves the veneration or worship of dark spiritual beings, whether as external intelligences, archetypes, inner energies, or what have you, that this supposed may or may not include Lucifer (which sounds strange considering the question of “how do you have Luciferianism without Lucifer?”), and that, apart from all of that and apart from some Luciferians saying they value discipline more than indulgence, Luciferianism has the same basic ethos as Satanism, in terms of individualism and anti-clerical opposition to traditional forms of religion. It is on these grounds that Othaos says that it is intelligible (here perhaps meaning valid) to refer to Tenebrous Satanism as a form of Luciferianism. She also states that it is also a form of “Dark Paganism” or even Demonolatry, though she seems to prefer the term “Dark Pagan” over the term “Luciferian” or “Demonolater”.

Having established this as the assessment of Luciferianism offered by T. L. Othaos. Let’s begin discussing what insight it might offer for how we might view Luciferianism as a whole.

Since Luciferianism is here at least potentially equated with “Dark Paganism”, let’s start by discussing what “Dark Paganism” means. Dark Paganism can seem somewhat obscure within the broader milieu of neopaganism, and it definitely doesn’t seem like reconstructionist polytheists are big fans of the idea, but from what little is available we can see that “Dark Paganism” is sort of an umbrella term for a set of approaches to Paganism that centre around the worship of “dark” gods (such as Hades, Morrigan, Cernunnos, Set, Hecate, Hel, and others). John McLoughlin defines Dark Paganism in terms of an emphasis on the “dark” portion of the light-dark polarity, the attendant emphasis that darkness is not to be confused with evil, the acceptance of “the shadow” and primary embrace of shadow work, a focus on self-expression via aesthetic darkness, and a general attunement to “darker” or more internally-focused currents of spirituality, which favour self-discovery and self-realization without the perceived focus on external morality and traditional worship found in other religious paths. Darkness in McLoughlin’s brand of Paganism is not just about a corrective aspect of “the balance”, it is a link to awareness of both the self and the sacredness of life (which, of course, is inseparable from death) and to the importance of living life to the fullest and remaining true to who you are; as I may understand it, to align yourself with the true basis of life, to the true nature in an inner and outer sense, and self-essence freely without being bound to the norms of society. The way I talk about it, it kind of sounds like Dark Paganism is an apt enough label for what I aspire to. Given the emphasis on darkness and transgression, the focus on self-expression, and the stated objectives of freeing people from social conditioning that blockades authentic, self-originating individuation, Dark Paganism can be seen as an application of the Left Hand Path within Paganism.

Othaos in her articles uses the term Dark Paganism interchangeably with Demonolatry, but this is not necessarily accurate to Demonolatry, not least since there are many Demonolaters who do not consider themselves Pagans and would reject being called Pagan. The way I see it, it is very possible to approach Demonolatry in a manner consistent with Paganism, but I think some of the theology that comes with it can’t be described as Pagan. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, there’s a theology that seems to be inspired by Hermeticism in that it derives from it a pantheistic cosmos, which is to say a monotheistic cosmos in which God, or rather in this case the Egyptian god Atum, is the universe or reality itself rather than an intelligence that exists beyond it. The difference, of course, is that Satan is the identity of this pantheistic divine presence instead of God or Atum, and that the co-identity of Man and the Whole represented by Satan/Atum/God is interpreted as a form of self-worship. When it comes to Dark Paganism versus Demonolatry, I would also refer to Amaranthe Altanatum, who is a Theistic Satanist and practicing Demonolater. She points out that Demonolatry is not in itself Pagan, due to the fact that it is not a nature-based tradition, which she considers to be more definitive of at least contemporary Paganism. I’d add that, although there are plenty of modern Pagans, especially reconstructionist ones, who reject the idea of Paganism as a nature-based religion, it is possible to parse a nature-based or even somewhat “naturalistic” religious outlook from the animism that sometimes comes with polytheism and is especially integral to Heathenry in particular.

So how does all of this come back to Luciferianism? Well, Luciferianism does have some intersection with Paganism, or at least neopaganism. Fredrik Gregorius, in a section of Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, at least tentatively argues that Luciferianism can be (theoretically) distinguished from Satanism by placing Lucifer in a more distinctly non-Christian, sometimes even neopagan, context. In this definition, Lucifer is distinguished from Satan by the consideration of Lucifer as a pagan god versus Satan as a strictly Abrahamic entity (the enemy or angel of God). This definition is met by many Luciferian groups, historical and present. Carl William Hansen identified Lucifer with the Greek god Pan, and several other Greek gods, as well as some gods from other pantheons such as the Norse gods. Eugen Grosche, while obvious playing with aspects of Gnosticism and even claiming descent from a particular set of “Gnostic” teachings, he identified Lucifer with the Roman god Saturn. Several British Luciferian witches, and those who do not call themselves Luciferians, identify Lucifer as a figure similar to the Horned God of Wicca, and link him to a litany of pre-Christian deities. Even some Wiccans believe that Lucifer is either a name for their Horned God or a sun god in the vein of Charles Leland’s Aradia. And of course, Michael W. Ford argues that Lucifer is an ancient pre-Christian archetype, and probably popularized the approach to Luciferianism built around what could be termed an adversarial take on neopaganism; or, as Amaranthe put it, “adversarial polytheism” – albeit, in Ford’s case, definitely a rather soft form of polytheism in light of its heavy reliance on the archetypal theory of deity.

It’s not universal, since there are plenty of Luciferians who can’t be counted as neopagans and instead lean much closer to Gnosticism. In such an approach, Lucifer would still basically be distinguished from Satan, but not so much as a pagan god and more as a sort of Christ-like figure, or even assuming the same role that Gnostic Christianity actually reserves for none other than Jesus Christ. In fact I’m quite worried that a more Christianized version of Gnostic Luciferianism may become an influential current of Luciferianism, if not somewhat dominant. Still, the description T. L. Othaos gives of Luciferianism as “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods”, or to put another way “like Neo-Paganism but based around the Left Hand Path”, almost certainly applies to a number of historical representations of Luciferianism, and to a number of contemporary Luciferians. Thus, could Luciferianism as Dark Paganism, or a subset thereof, be valid? I suppose in some ways that depends on whether or not it’s accepted as a subset of Theistic Satanism, and what I’ve seen historically suggests to me that Luciferianism is too broad for that to be the case. I think that Luciferianism as a mode of Dark Paganism is viable as one of the different ways of being a Luciferian, and not just because Luciferianism seems to be a big tent of Left Hand Path occult movements anyway. There do in fact seem to be modern Pagans around who consider themselves Luciferians, and whose idea of what that means involves gravitating towards darker deities in the various pantheons with the aim of ritual self-empowerment, and in this sense perhaps these Luciferians can be called Dark Pagans, at least by John McLoughlin’s definition. In older online communities, many more mainstream Pagans, Neopagans, and especially Wiccans have taken to defining Luciferianism as essentially “devil worship” in opposition to Paganism, supposing that Luciferians (or more specifically practitioners of Luciferian Witchcraft) are not Pagans because they worship a Christian Devil. Such a fearful response obviously fails to account for the Latent Christianity inherent in the rejection of all things dark and devilish (even while also accepting the worship of the chthonic gods that were often feared in antiquity) or for the fact that ancient polytheists or at least magicians did worship or invoke the angels and names of God alongside the old gods in the time before Christianity had almost completely eclipsed polytheism. I mean, if Pagans could include the heavenly host of the Christian God as part of polytheistic worship and pluralism, and not be thought of as fluffy idiots even though the God of Christianity calls for the oppression of all other gods, I don’t see why the Devil and his demons should be so taboo? To say that it’s because they’re considered totally malevolent in the Christian context is, quite simply, to accept the moral claims of Christianity at face value, which is untenable so long as you also (correctly) refuse to take the claims they make for their God at face value.

I would maintain that the description of Dark Paganism is not universally applicable to all forms of Luciferianism. But if it can be practical to define Luciferianism or parts thereof as a kind of Dark Paganism, that idea has some positive potential, and I may find it very useful.

There is, however, one snag. While I was sleeping on it one day I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that the more concrete way to define Luciferianism is actually a lot more simplistic. It occurs to me that the main thing, possibly even the only thing, separating Luciferianism from Satanism is the idea that Lucifer is to be venerated as a being separated from and distinguished from the Satan or the Devil; essentially Lucifer for the Luciferians is a non-Satanic figure, and the idea that Lucifer is a Devil or a Satanic figure is just Christian slander. That would make sense of the idea of Lucifer as a Pagan god as Luciferian Pagans might suggest, but it also makes sense of the idea as a Gnostic saviour or even an appearance of Christ. But even then, a lot of Luciferians seem to venerate Lucifer as a Devil figure, even if they don’t consider that Satanic. Even older Luciferians used the terms and concepts interchangeably, such as the case with Carl William Hansen (who used Satanic imagery for fuck’s sake!) and guys like Alasdair Bob Clay-Egerton were Luciferians but he called his organisation the Luciferians Temple of Satan and defended the concept of devil worship in witchcraft from mainstream Wiccan critics. So even here, can the boundaries be said to be all that solid? Not to mention that Peter Grey in Lucifer: Princeps offers the suggestion via historical analysis that perhaps the boundaries between Lucifer and the Devil were never very strict.

Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat) by Francisco Goya (1821-1823)

Relevant articles from T. L. Othaos

T. L. Othaos’ article on Satanism and Luciferianism: https://othaos.com/satanist-luciferian-related-terms/

T. L. Othaos’ article on Tenebrous Satanism: https://othaos.com/about-tenebrous-satanism/

T. L. Othaos’ article on Teneberous Satanism vs the Order of Nine Angles: https://othaos.com/tenebrous-satanism-vs-order-of-nine-angles/

It’s time to accept that the Church of Satan is wrong about Satanism

In recent years I have become more and more familiar with the “proto-Satanist” milieu of history, and just this week I have finally gotten my hands on a copy of The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity by Per Faxneld and Jesper Aagaard Petersen, and because of this I am able to reasses my perspective on the roots of Satanism. Over the years, even if I was never a member of the Church of Satan and often opposed them, I generally defended the narrative that Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan were the originators of Satanism as a belief system, and typically disregarded efforts by some Satanists to present forms of Satanism that existed prior to LaVey. To be fair, Herbert Arthur Sloane was a poor candidate for “world’s first Satanist” considering that there is no actual evidence that his Ophite Cultus Sathanas actually existed prior to 1966. However, there seem to be very real examples of Satanic movements and proponents of Satanism that existed for years before the Church of Satan was established. What I’m about to elucidate here, in simple terms, is that the Church of Satan’s claims to be the inventor, let alone sole authority, of Satanism is, in all reality, nothing but a convenient fiction crafted by the Church of Satan.

Central to this inquiry is Stanislaw Przybyszewski, a Polish poet who was, in all probability, the first person to ever call himself a Satanist and to present any kind of Satanic ideology. Born in 1868, Stanislaw was part of the Decadent movement of poetry, which focused on the aesthetic expression of dramatic excess, vice, and decay. He also seems to have been a leftist of some sort, at least judging from the fact that he had faced expulsion for various socialist activities, and given his contempt for authority, the state, and the imposition of bourgeois normativity, he could be seen as some sort of left-wing anarchist, rather unlike the markedly right-wing politics of Anton LaVey (though, as you’ll see, Stanislaw also does not fit the usual anarcho-communist/anarcho-syndicalist mode either). In light of his being a Decadent poet, he can seem rather familiar within the context of the genre of “Romantic Satanism”, a literary movement (not a religious one) in which Satan was employed by various writers as a creative symbol of rebellion against the established order on behalf of freedom, championing the oppressed over the powerful and a new liberation of values over the normative expectations of bourgeois society. On the surface, Stanislaw might be seen as one of its exponents, but unlike the “Romantic Satanists” Stanislaw advanced a whole spiritual ideology around a Satan who was far more than a mere symbol for revolutionary Enlightenment values.

In 1898, 68 years before the Church of Satan was founded, Stanislaw published a book called The Synagogue of Satan, in which he outlined his concept of Satan and Satanism. He begins by telling of two gods – one of them supposed to be “good” but who is actually the antagonist of humanity, the other supposed to be “bad” but who is actually the friend of humanity. The “good” god is quite clearly the God of the Bible, while the “bad” god is quite clearly Satan. Satan, here, is presented as the creator of the material universe, the flesh, nature, and the earth, with all the flaws, passions, struggles, doubts, and suffering it entails. The God of the Bible, by contrast, created pure spiritual beings and an invisible kingdom of spirit, which is ostensibly perfect and free of suffering. In theory, this sounds like the classic formula of “Gnostic” Christianity, in which God is the father of the realm of infinite and pure spirit and while a being imitating God, the Demiurge, who is sometimes identified with Satan, creates the material world and imprisons souls within it, thus causing suffering and evil. But in reality, this formula is inverted from the start. The God of the Bible, the author of a “perfect” spiritual kingdom free of suffering, is the antagonist of mankind and the creation story, because he encourages mankind to blindly submit to his rule and be “poor in spirit”, retard their own maturity, and surrender their individual will, and hated not only earthly beauty but also man-made creation. Satan, the creator of the material universe and thus the same being that authors death, pain, and suffering by it, is actually the real protagonist of creation, because he embodies the curiosity that leads to the uncovering of mysteries and the heroic will to defy authority, and teaches people how to how to stay healthy, become rich, know the future, destroy their enemies through magic and bring loved ones back from the dead. In short, the same being who authors a world of suffering and depravity is also the being who teaches humans how to better their lives and resist tyranny through his arts and teaching. To this end humans are encouraged to engage in proud sinning in the name of Satan-instinct, Satan-nature, Satan-curiosity, and Satan-passion. Satan in this sense is also believed to have incarnated as Samyaza, the leader of a band of angels who fell to earth and taught humans various “forbidden” arts, and was also expressly identified as the light bringer (Lucifer). Curiously, Satan is even referred to as Paraclete, which is a name for the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

So far, it doesn’t seem like this belief system is all that distant from the teachings of the Church of Satan, except that it is possible to interpret it in a somewhat theistic light. Then again, it is my understanding that Stanislaw referred to himself not only as a Satanist but also an atheist, so it is possible that we are not supposed to take his book as an account of literal deities in a literal creation presented as historical fact. In any case, we have a Satan who stands for the temporal physical world in opposition to a permanent spiritual one, carnal fulfillment over spiritual abstinence, knowledge (both worldly and magical) over faith in God, and individual strength and pride over Christian humility and meekness. We also have a Satan who encourages people to sin in the name of nature, insinct, curiosity, and passion, indeed a Satan who symbolizes all of those things. We also have a Satan who is the father of life, reproduction, progression, and eternal return, contrasted with a God who is the negation of life, since all life is evil. And of course Jesus, the “youth from Nazareth”, is his main enemy besides God. I can’t see any meaningful break between this Satan and the Satanic archetype presented by Anton LaVey, as well as similar Satanists in the present, except for maybe Stanislaw imbued this archetype with a certain pessimism not found in the more humanistic iterations of Satanism that emerged from LaVey onwards.

Stanislaw also identifies Satan with numerous pre-Christian gods, which serves to denote various attributes of Satan as well as link his Satanic belief system to pre-Christian religiosity or narratives thereof by presenting these gods as various incarnations of Satan. He says that Satan incarnated as Thoth, the Egyptian god of magic and knowledge, and also by extension Hermes Trismegistos (who may have been based on Thoth), who taught knowledge of magic and the body to his disciples and compiled it in multiple texts. He is said to have incarnated as Hecate, the “terrible” Greek goddess of witchcraft, who shared magical knowledge with her followers. He is said to have incarnated as the Greek god Pan, here portrayed as a god of lust who taught women the art of seduction and men how to increase their sex drive. Pan is further linked to the god Apollo and the goddess Aphrodite, believed to be the god of the bordello and the home hearth, the inventor of philosophy, builder of temples and museums, and the teacher of medicine and mathematics. Satan is even believed to have incarnated as Ahura Mazda, ironically the chief Good God of Zoroastrianism (and thereby equivalent to the God of the Bible), as the god who taught of the secrets of the Haoma plant to Zarathustra (obviously referring to the prophet Zoroaster), which is an obvious indicator of the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche in his thinking, and also that Satan lived in the doctrine of “Mazdaism” as well as its priests and Magi.

Stanislaw also held some very peculiar, and perhaps unique, views on women which stand as another example of the inversion found within his worldview, while giving an insight as to what evil means for him. He brings up the demonization of women by Christians as agents of Satan. Examples include Tertullian calling women “the portal to the devil”, “the destroyer of the tree”, “the first sinner against the divine law” and “the one who persuades those that do not wish to turn to the devil”, and St Hieronymus’ apparent declaration that everything evil comes from women and that they were not even made in the image of God. Stanislaw himself likes to invoke views on women as being inherently treacherous, malicious, and deviant, in line with the view of women as being “the chosen of Satan”, also describing them as “mentally aberrant”, and even going so far as to depict women as taking pleasure in murdering children and rummaging their remains. It’s easy enough to come away thinking of Stanislaw as some sort of misogynist, until you remember that he believed that evil, as represented by Satan, was actually good and therefore being the chosen of Satan is to be taken as a high honour. As such, in a pretty fucked up way, the “evil woman” of Stanislaw’s philosophy is actually a positive figure, who liberates humanity through her rapacious sexuality while at the same time bringing about extreme decadence, which Stanislaw may have seen as just a part of natural evolution, thus women in his view initiate the transformation and progress of life through irrational malevolence and lust. Stanislaw also lionizes the supposed evils of femininity to such an extent that even Satan himself adopts female physical traits: he envisioned Satan as having not only female breasts, no doubt drawing from Eliphas Levi’s depiction of Baphomet, but also a giant penis which has a vulva at the end of it. Thus his Satan, although ostensibly male in that he is referred to with male pronouns and adjectives (such as “he” or “father”), is in fact an androgynous being.

And one thing Stanislaw shares in common with the Church of Satan, and many other Satanic movements, is an apparent belief in elitism and Social Darwinism. Such ideals would normally run very much counter to the overall ideological ethos of anarchism as expressed in most of its manifestations (typically found on the left), which is based on the destruction of all hierarchies that are considered to be unjustifiable and the illegitimacy of vertical hierarchical societies. But Stanislaw seemed to reject the egalitarianism supported by most anarchist and socialist movements, no doubt believing it to be part of the percevied Christian celebration of weakness. He praised the “aristocratic enjoyment of life” found in ancient Roman society, and belittled the underclass of Roman society (who “never tasted the holy joys of Pan”) that had converted to Christianity while living under grotesque socio-economic inequality, and he believed that Satan represented all of the best products of natural selection and condemned Christianity for seeking to “castrate” mankind by elevating “ugliness, sickness, the cripple and the castrated”. This is a classic form of Social Darwinism, seeking to leverage the pre-Christian past as some sort of might makes right paradise (never mind of course that the governments of antiquity, for all their inequalities, did invest in large-scale welfare states, and philosophers like Aristotle believed that public welfare was essential to a functioning democracy). He viewed Satan as a “dark aristocrat”, revealing himself and his mysteries only to a select few individuals, magicians, thus his aristocracy is in some ways a spiritual aristocracy rather than an aristocracy of wealth. True to his socialist convictions and the ethos of the “Romantic Satanists”, Stanislaw is keen to position Satan as the god of the poor and the hungry, thus the lord of the downtrodden (perhaps even their “real” lord, with Jesus as a false saviour). However, he also lists imperial autocrats like Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander of Macedon as being among “Satan’s children”, no doubt a positive appellation owing to their vast military conquests and imperial enterprise. Satan here is not only the god of the poor and the downtrodden, but also the “ambitious”, and therefore the conquerors and the enterpreneurs, just as much as their victims. Certainly a god of contradictions indeed.

It is easy to take all of this and think of Stanislaw as some sort of fascist, due to his Social Darwinist convictions, his praise of elite conquerors, and the self-contradictory populism that results from his thinking. But being that Stanislaw was still an anarchist, he can’t have had much love for the state. Indeed, unlike the Church of Satan’s ostensible commitment to being apolitical (which, in reality, belies the entrenchment of fascism within its ranks), Stanislaw positioned Satan as “the first anarchist”, and linked his own Satanism with what appears to be a form of insurrectionist and nihilist anarchism, a confluence which is communicated by the character Gordon in his book Satan’s Children. In this sense, Stanislaw’s Satan is not only a religious and philosophical concept but also an expressly political one. Furthermore, although Stanislaw’s elitism might seem to make more sense in fascism, ideas about an aristocracy of like-minded individuals can be found in certain forms of individualist anarchism, such as in Toward the Creative Nothing by Renzo Novatore, who declared that anarchism in his view was “the eternal struggle of a small minority of aristocratic outsiders against all societies which follow one another on the stage of history”, an aristocracy that he believed transmitted “satanic outbursts of mad heroism”.

The role of the soul is also an area where there is commonality, as well as difference, between Stanislaw’s doctrine and that of the Church of Satan. The Church of Satan, like Stanislaw, emphasizes carnal life as the true sacred, but they do not have much to say about the soul as an object, except in that LaVey believed that the ego, if sufficiently cultivated, will survive the death of the body (which, ironically, is not all that different from “Abrahamic” doctrines on how properly cultivating the soul in harmony with their teachings will ensure its survival after death). Stanislaw had a similarly mixed take on the soul. On the one hand, as (at least ostensibly) an atheist he denied the reality of the soul, stating that “no professor has seen a soul” and declaring it as only “the backside of matter”. However, he also considered his Satanism to be the belief that “the human spirit” and not God can “work wonders”, he talked about carnal desire as the “will to eternal life”, which is very similar to LaVey’s beliefs about survival after death through fulfillment of the ego, and he espoused a concept which he referred to as “the naked soul”, a “soul” free of all social constraints that is accessed directly by the artist who goes beyond the five senses and normal cognition.

Some dismiss Stanislaw’s claim to being the first Satanist by stating that he is not known to have performed any Satanic rituals or founded a Satanic church. That may be true, but then Jesus, if he existed, or the writers of the Bible, didn’t found a church either and yet they are the origin of Christianity. But beyond that, while it may be true that Stanislaw did not have an official church, he certainly did have a fair few followers. These followers include famous artists such as Wojciech Weiss, a painter who talked about propagating Satanism (as he himself calls it) to the masses after getting inspired by Stanislaw, and Hanns Heinz Ewers, a German writer and actor who met Stanislaw in 1901 and afterwards began holding lectures on “The Religion of Satan” based on his work. This may have also ended up inspiring Fraternitas Saturni, the veteran Luciferian occult organization founded by Eugen Grosche (a.k.a. Gregor A. Gregorius). So, all told, Satanism as a self-defined religious movement was already spreading out and being codified on its own terms by the beginning of the 20th century, well before the Church of Satan was established. It’s just that Anton LaVey was the first person to actually and openly establish a Satanic church. Perhaps it can still be claimed that the Church of Satan established much of the practice of Satanism that exists in the present, but the ideology of Satanism and the phenomenon of Satanism as a self-conscious religious movement is clearly older than Anton LaVey’s efforts.

I imagine that the Church of Satan would not be particularly happy with this fact. And sure enough, they have attempted to disquality Stanislaw as the first Satanist in order to protect their LaVeyan brand. They appear to make a citation which suggests that no form of religious Satanism that exists to this day was created prior to 1966, and when someone points out the existence of Stanislaw Przybyszewski, they respond by insulting their intelligence and claiming, bafflingfly, that the author brings him up in order to say he does not apply. Well, if organized religious Satanism is the criteria, I would say that having a Satanic religious ideology that very closely mirrors your own and in fact inspired a following of people who talk openly about it, calling it Satanism or “The Religion of Satan” would fit that criteria. And if the Church of Satan is to complain that his following was too small, that would be something of an arbitrary argument, not least because, come on, it’s not like Satanism (let alone just the Church of Satan) was ever particularly popular to start with. Of course, the only problem there is that his existence is problematic for the brand that the Church of Satan depends on, that is to say the brand of Anton LaVey as the Black Pope and founder of Satanism, and therefore their institutional legitimacy. Indeed, it’s very funny to see a band of die-hard individualists try to disqualify Satanists who preceded Anton LaVey off the back of the fact that they were just individuals, because Satanism is only legitimate insofar as its identity can be validated as a group (by which, of course, they mean their group in particular).

And I know, sometimes there are awkward, inconvenient facts to deal with. Take me, as a Luciferian, for instance, wanting to talk about Luciferianism as a definite tradition separate from Satanism. Stanislaw talked a lot in his work about Satan in relation to Pan, in fact he seems to have treated Pan as an incarnation of Satan. I have seen it be speculated that Stanislaw’s work may have been read by Carl William Hansen, the first Luciferian. I don’t think there is any proof that Hansen did read any of Stanislaw’s work, and I don’t think that could ever be proven with any real certainty, but I do think that the employment of Pan as a form of Satan, coupled with Stanislaw’s inversion of “Gnostic” dualism, gives credence to the possibility. This, combined with the possibility that Fraternitas Saturni may have been inspired by Stanislaw’s work as well, even though I would say Fraternitas Saturni’s actual doctrine is very different from Stanislaw’s, invites the possibility that the lines between Satanism and Luciferianism are historically very blurred, right into their origins. Both Hansen and Fraternitas Saturni also used upside down pentagrams like Satanists would later do, and modern Luciferians often still do so. There’s also Charles Matthew Pace, an obscure witch who supposedly called himself a Luciferian as early as 1963. He also used the term Luciferian interchangeably with Satanist or “Sethanist”, worshipped a god named Seth-an as the original Lucifer (yet whose name very obviously communicates the name Satan), and called himself a “Master Satanist”. While I think I can still say Luciferianism can exercise a degree of separateness from Satanism in a loose sense, in that it seems to encompass a network of doctrines (perhaps even an ethos) that cannot be equated with baseline Satanism, all of these facts make it difficult to establish said separation in a manner as concrete as I would like, and I have to reckon with that.

And while we’re still on Satanists before LaVey, we might also briefly mention Maria de Naglowska, who, even though her ideology almost certainly didn’t correspond to Stanislaw’s, talked about having her initiates serve Satan before they can serve God, coming to the understanding that they were one and the same. She even used the term “satanic temple” to refer to The Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow, which she briefly ran in Paris during the 1930s.

In summary, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is time to retire the narrative that it is the Church of Satan that is the inventor of Satanism, or at least the sole inventor, because it is simply not true, and that the claim that the Church of Satan did invent Satanism serves only to legitimate the brand of the Church of Satan rather than reflect the truth about Satanism as a movement. Insofar as Satanism as a movement has any legitimacy to it, it is ill-served by the fictions crafted by the Church of Satan, which by now is a dead weight organization for Satanism as a whole.

Witches Sabbath by Cornelis Saftleven (1650); of note is that Stanislaw Przybyszewski believed that these Sabbaths were real and objected to any attempts to describe them as fiction.

Brian Holdsworth’s bullshit about Satanism

For some reason I’m in the mood lately for deconstructing bad arguments about Satanism, despite my being a Luciferian seeking a strict line of demarcation between Luciferianism and Satanism, and so in this spirit, as long as it is still relatively current, let me take the time to address a laughably bad video about Satanism made by a somewhat popular Catholic YouTube personality named Brian Holdsworth. Now Brian is quite the character in the Christian apologetics movement. By which I mean he has a habit of gladly defending nearly all of the worst aspects of Christian power: he has defened the Inquistion as a subject worthy of apathy rather than contempt, has argued that the Catholic Church has never opposed science, and more recently has openly defended the Crusades. So one can already expect him to be quite woefully ignorant on the subject of Satanism right of the gate. The video we are responding to is called Satanism: Inside the Incoherence, in which Brian argues that Satanism is an incoherent religious movement that exists solely to plagiarize Catholicism.

The video opens not so much with a discourse of satanic doctrine but rather a set of personal reflection on his relationship with metal music. By watching just one of his videos you may learn that he has some guitars on the wall, perhaps indicative of his musical inclination or aspirations, past or present, and he certainly looks the part in a somewhat stereotpyical sense (from whichever perspective, he either looks like a hippie or looks like a homeless person). Anyway, this reflection on metal music is intended to be an opening bridge to the broader subject of Satanism, and it certainly does contain some laughable pronouncements. He talks about having lived on a musical diet consisting of “heavy and dark music”, taking every chance he could not only to listen to it but also to play it on his guitar (and let’s give him credit here, that sounds like a fun part of his life). He reduces its appeal to the fact that, as he says it, it is unambiguous, noisy, and can get a lot of attention due to its “obnoxiousness”, not at all like the choirs that slowly become audible as the video goes forward to its introduction. I never really got this. We metalheads can and do have obnoxious tendencies, sure, but I always associated a fixation on this other type of music with a kind of pompous persona whose pronouncements about the falts of others serve as a projection of their own ceasless egoic pride and boundless self-importance. It even bleeds into when some of them denounce secular, colour-blind (by which we really mean not a racist of any variety) individuals as being “self-hating”, even if their worldview precludes any kind of self-discourse or any notion of individualism. He tends to broad-brush metalheads as being insecure and metal as appealing to insecurity, which is funny because Brian is the exact kind of Christian conservtive who would be inclined to feel deeply insecure about the apparent collapse of Catholic orthodoxy and dominance in modern life (perhaps the Catholics should have thought about that one).

Somewhat bafflingly for a video ostensibly dedicated to addressing the subject of Satanism, right after the title cue the first band Brian mentions is Opeth, who in no way promote Satanism and nowadays might not even be counted strictly as a metal band. Opeth established themselves in Sweden beginning in 1989 and for much of their career they did play some sort of progressive variety of death metal, but in more recent years have shifted from extreme metal, to progressive metal, to progressive rock, and now find their newer material played on general rock (or “classic rock”) stations such as Planet Rock. He brings them up because he listened to them more recently, and showed their music to his kids, and both he and his kids laughed at the “demonic” vocals, treating as an expression of insecurity. The only reason we have to infer insecurity is because of some spiel about “the appearance of toughness”, which only seems like an insecurity because it’s aggressive and involves something other than glorifying conventional beauty. Because of this, Brian reasons, bands like Opeth must be compensating for something. That exact something is intentionally left a mystery, but where we finally get to the subject of Satanism is that Brian believes that the appeal of Satanism, or any preoccuption with the demonic, is guided by the same pathology. Of course, how easily do we forget that it is Christians who, historically, have had the biggest preoccuption with the demonic, writing whole treatises on the subject and hunting down anyone they deemed to be in league with Satan.

Brian argues that people get into Satanism for the thrill of being seen as dangerous to society, and that they get a thrill out of mocking God or the sacred because doing something dangerous, and surviving, is indeed thrilling. Of course, that same thrill-seeking principle can apply to many other dangerous activities, like mountain climbing, so this on its own explains rather little. Then we get to his first attempt to explain the absurdity of satanic fascination, one which, ironically, is itself an absurdity. Brian argues that the mocking or challenging God can only look or feel dangerous because of the tacit acknowledgement that God exists. So it goes, supposedly, the only reason to put so much effort into mocking God is because he is actually real. But is there any reason why this is necessarily the case? Why does it have to be that mocking God is thrilling or feels dangerous because God is actually real, and why is it necessarily not the case that it could simply be explained by existing social context? Think about it: insofar as rebellion is usually salient specifically as relative to an object that it is rebelling against, the idea of mocking God being a rebellious thing ultimately makes sense in the context of a society wherein the God-concept is embedded into the superstructure of society, whether as overt religious doctrine held over the masses or simply as a residual cultural belief that had previously been conditioned for generations. Not to mention, there are other cultures where the use of the demonic is employed as a way to mock co-existing belief systems. Tantric Buddhism regularly features artwork depicting Hindu deities such as Ganesha or Shiva being trampled by wrathful, demonic-looking beings representing Buddhist enlightenment, and their literature sometimes depicts the Hindu gods as either inferior to the Buddha, ultimately dependent on his refuge, or as hostile forces that actively disrupt the cosmic order. If Brian followed his reasoning to the letter, he would have to concede that the Hindu gods are actually real, which would of course violate his Christian monotheism, and if he refuses to concede this, he must either admit that social context, not the actual existence of a God, is the correct inferrence or show himself to be a hypocrite.

Brian claims that no one spends any time or effort mocking the gods of pre-Christian polytheism, such as Thor or Odin. As he puts it, “why would you, if you were convinced they don’t exist?”. And to this I would point to the Bible itself. The New Testament spends some time mocking the gods of the non-Christians as demons whose worship was the folly of heathens, who in turn are mocked as well. The Christians certainly were never convinced of the reality of the other gods, nor were the Jews for that matter, and that never stopped them from mocking gods they were not necessarily convinced were gods. The name of the demon Beelzebub, for instance, comes from the god Baal Zebul, and his status as lord of the flies served as a way to cast his worshippers as flies buzzing around a pile of feces, thus mocking the god and his religion. Brian brings up that the Church of Satan to be atheistic, which they most certainly are, and dismisses this atheism, calling himself an atheist in relation to the various gods of polytheism and hence stating that this means he spends no amount of time thinking about them. He tries to own the Church of Satan on this point by stating that fixating on that which is not is a waste of time, and that, in contrast to himself, Satanists and atheists “obsess” over a God they believe does not exist. Again, this argument is much weaker and less profound than it appears to be, and is easily silenced when one begins to invoke social context. In the Western world, if atheism is not marginal at present, it is still the case where Christianity and its God-concept informs the cultural makeup of the society in which Western atheists live, and atheism still lives in tension with surrounding religious culture. Thus, the “obsession” with God is really just constant interaction with a counterveiling philosophical and cultural presence that has been here for centuries and still exerts psychological and cultural influence over the masses, not to mention still serves to legitinate power structures. As such, Brian proves himself to be dishonest by treating anti-theistic rebellion strictly in isolation as an expression of his own discomfort with something he considers sacred being treated as feeble and worthy of mockery. In other words, the atheist triggers him.

The second “absurdity” Brian points to is that it is, in his words, “entirely derivative”. Now there are arguments to be made about Satanism, at least in the parlance of Anton LaVey, as being fairly unoriginal, and there are accusations to be made conerning plagiarism on LaVey’s part. But this is not what Brian points to. The actual proof he gives is much weaker and less substantial. He argues that Satanism is completely contingent upon the Catholic Church, and to demonstrate this he starts out by bringing up examples of satanic musicians mockingly wearing the imagery of Catholicism in their music videos. He shows examples from Marilyn Manson, Behemoth, and Ghost (a.k.a. Ghost BC) wearing outfits intended to subvert the Catholic aesthetic as proof of Satanism simply copying it in order to appear more ancient and esoteric, thus Satanism supposedly parasitically feeds off of the Catholic aesthetic to sustain itself. Building from his he talks about the Black Mass being derivative of the Catholic Mass, except being a mockery of it. And dude, yes, that’s the point. It’s not an actual rite as such, merely a parodic re-enactment of it in order to profane Catholic liturgy. In fact, the Satanic Bible talks about this and is very open and up front about the fact that it is a mockery and a subversion, not so much an actual ancient rite that was once practiced by some ancient pagan cult or some nonsense. You can actually kind of understand this through the Situationist principle of detournement, the concept of radical movements taking edifices of existing cultures and more or less hijacking them, usually applied in the context of turning capitalist media culture against itself.

While we’re here, Brian uses the point of the Black Mass to make an utterly vapid point about tolerance vs intolerance. He finds it “interesting” that the Black Mass is tolerated because, in his view, the only thing society does not tolerate is intolerance. He seems to take that perceived fact with a sense of subtle, almost passive-aggressive grief, and he complains about liberal society’s apparent handwringing about tolerance, diversity, and respect for other people who are different, on the grounds that Satanism is the subject of a blind spot and that this is a problem because Satanism is, in his words, a hate group. Now this is a very specific charge, it’s not something that can be thrown around lightly. The term “hate group” is used to refer to organizations that actively spread bigotry and often encourage violence towards others on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, “gender identity”, national identity, or any such characteristics, typically on the basis that they are outside of their own. Now through some sort of manipulative argument you might be able to argue part of that for Satanism on the grounds that Satanists despise Christianity, along with all other forms of organized religion (other than, presumably, their own), but if you’re going to do that you’ll have to do the same for countless atheists who express open disdain towards Christianity and organized religion in general, often mocking it ferociously and treating it as a dinosauric obstacle to social progress. And yet atheists don’t typically call for jihad against religious people, unless of course you’re like Sam Harris and the idea is to sneakily justify such violence by proxy through foreign policy. It’s also worth noting that the Church of Satan may traffic in bombastic rhetoric against Christianity, but have never encouraged the violent persecution of Christians. But as for racial hatred, it is actually possible to talk about that in relation to the historical movement of Satanism, since high-profile Satanists, as I’ve laid out before, have associated with and promoted actual white nationalists, and as I’ve come to understand others such as Michael Aquino were even outright Nazis. This would not be enough to label Satanism as a whole as a “hate group”, categorically speaking anyway, though it does raise certain questions for the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set, and even The Satanic Temple given Lucien Greaves’ shady past on the Might Is Right podcast. But Brian Holdsworth doesn’t make any mention of this at all. In fact, fascism and white supremacy aren’t brought up by him at all, and if he really wanted to talk about how Satanists are hate-mongers he really could have. But instead it’s just him whining about how much Satanists hate Christians and about how they “get away with it”.

Now, how Brian goes on to explicate this further is to be taken in a peculiar light. He complains that “we can’t talk about racial slurs in an academic context without teachers jobs getting threatened”. If he’s referring to the incident that I think he’s referring to, I suspect Brian is only complaining that you can’t say the n word in public. And don’t get me wrong I do basically believe in free speech absolutism, but please don’t dress up your desire to simply spout racial slurs under the guise of some vague “academic context”, and I say it’s vague because Brian never in the entire video gives any examples of what he’s talking about (he alludes to the subject once and then never refers to it again in the video). He says further that we can’t talk about cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in “a similar academic context”. Again, which academic context? Those cartoons are blasphemous (by Islamic defintion) depictions of Muhammad, they are created to satirize Islam in a rather crude fashion, and I am unaware of any “academic context” being spoken of. And while it is true that these are often censored today, in recent times the French government has been rather brazen about displaying them in their campaign against “political Islam” (which they’ve since renamed “islamo-leftism”). So it is actually not entirely fair to say that we can’t talk about those cartoons. In fact, even in the extent that they face censorship, in a strict sense people talk about them all the time whenever Charlie Hebdo is back in the news.

Anyways, Brian’s complaint seems to be that racial slurs and anti-Islamic blasphemies are considered taboo but Satanists can appparently steal communion wafers for the purpose of desecrating them in their rituals. Um, can they? He doesn’t say what he’s talking about, in fact he alludes to the subject very abruptly, but I suspect he is making reference to a 2014 incident in Oklahoma, in which members of the Church of Ahriman stole a communion wafer. This incident was not broadly supported by society, and if anything it seems to have met condemnation, but it was ultimately a trivial affair. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City were planning to sue the Church of Ahriman for said theft, but the Church of Ahriman later agreed to return the wafer to the church, and the Archbishop dropped the lawsuit soon afterwards. The foolish Church of Ahriman hoped to get a rise out of the Christians with the daring stunt as part of their Black Mass, but its leader decided that the wafer wasn’t worth dealing with lawsuits from the church, and in the end the incident was resolved, and ultimately forgotten (along with the Church of Ahriman itself by my count). So to answer Brian on this point, the theft of the communion wafers was never “tolerated” under the aegis of political correctness. It was forgotten, because it was an irrelevant, and frankly pathetic, stunt that ended with the Church of Ahriman assenting to the demands of the Catholic Church. In the bigger picture, the incident is hardly worth dwelling on except as curisoity.

The next “evidence” of plagiarism on the part of Satanism that Brian points to is The Satanic Bible. Now, you could actually talk about the fact that, at least according to some observers, LaVey seems to have simply taken Ragnar Redbeards’ Might Is Right and only slightly modified it in order to form the basis of the Book of Fire section of The Satanic Bible. But as usual, Brian does not seem interested in any case for his argument that might actually be based on anything serious or credible, preferring instead trifing and often groundless flanks for his position. The reason he blasts The Satanic Bible as plagiaristic has nothing to do with its actual content but instead the name, specifically the fact that it has the word “Bible” in it. Now, I could just go on about the fact that it’s consciously intended to be a detournement or subversive reference to a familiar point of reference within existing Western cultures, or the fact that there’s several other non-religious books with the word “Bible” in their names (including multiple “cooking bibles”) and you don’t see Brian or anyone else crying plagiarism over that, which would tell us that Satanism is being unfairly, indeed almost arbitrarily, singled out here. But far more salient is just the fact that the word “Bible” itself simply means a collection of books. It derives from the Greek word “byblos”, meaning book, or the Greek expression “ta biblia”, meaning “little papyrus books”, and such terms have been in use during antiquity before Christianity emerged. In fact, the use of the term “ta biblia” to refer to the collected Old and New Testaments, which we now refer to as The Bible, didn’t emerge right at the beginning of Christian history but instead developed in the 3rd or 4th century, probably beginning with John Chrysostom. So once again, Brian’s argument is weak. He desperately tries to invoke Zeena LaVey having renounced her father as being on the basis of plagiarism, but when you hear from Zeena herself, the actual reasons why she left the Church of Satan and renounced her father are somewhat different, though no less damning for LaVey.

In continuance of his point on plagiarism, Brian appears to cite the broad philosophical syncretism of LaVey’s original doctrine as either evidence of plagiarism or as simply related to it. He describes the philosophy as borrowed and sampled from various places but in an incoherent way, likening it to a glutton going to a buffet and, owing to his lack of restraint, stuffs together all manner of incompatible dishes. Of course, he never actually goes into detail as to these different philosophical influences, let alone explain why the result is incoherent. He simply expects us to believe him at his word. Meanwhile, if we look at the history of Christianity, we can find that it is more or less a synthetic doctrine. The early formation of Christianity borrowed much from surrounding influences of Greek philosophy, such as Stoicism, Aristotielianism, Platonism, and Cynicism to a certain extent, along with Greek mystery religiions such as the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries, with then merge with Jewish mythos and particularly reformist currents of Judaism such as Hellenistic Judaism. In fact, if you look at Brian’s beloved Catholic Church, you’ll notice elements that have almost nothing to do with the teaching of the Bible and instead have more in common with Roman polytheism, right down to the concept of the papacy being an evolution of the Roman pagan high priest, literally sharing the title of Pontifex Maximus. All told, it’s very interesting to see Brian, and perhaps other Christians as well, complain about philosophical syncretism and synthesis when it seems to have been a somewhat normal part of religious development, and thus it seems that it is only when it happens outside the remit of Christianity that it becomes a problem, which is a fundamentally arbitrary beef to have in my opinion.

The third “absurdity” Brian points to concerns the apparent ignorance of Satanists towards the Christianity that they despise. Now this can be a somewhat general phenomenon depending on what aspect of Christianity is being discussed, but the examples he points to, once again, in fact demonstrate Brian’s misunderstanding of Satanism rather than the Satanist misunderstanding of Christianity. Predictably, he points to the preponderance of the upside down cross in various music bands that, in his view, intentionally give off a satanic presence, and just as predictably he points out, correctly, that the upside down cross is in fact a symbol of the papacy and of St. Peter, who deemed himself unworthy to be crucified upright and so insited that he be crucified upside down. The problem with Brian’s point is that most serious Satanists already know this, and in fact there are memes illustrating this. But I would not dismiss the angle of hijacking or subversion either, considering it does still appear in some way, though, I would also say that all real acts of detournement must be conscious. You have to know what the upside down cross is in order to subvert its meaning.

After talking about St. Peter’s cross, Brian seems to leave the subject behind to masturbate about how it is Christians who are the real original rebels and badasses. He praises Peter and the martyrs as being immune to even the worst injustices that could be visited upon them by the powerful, and thus beyond the controlling influence of any despotic figure, holding up in particular an admittedly impressive example of rebelliousness in the form of Saint Lawrence, who refused to hand over the treasures of the church to the prefect of Rome, and instead distributed them to his community and was martyred for it upon a gridiron laden with hot coals, and in the process of said martyrdom he defiantly told his torturers “I’m well done on this side. Turn me over!”. He uses this to convey the point that, if rebelliousness and standing up against tyranny is what you’re attracted to, then Satanism plagiarizes this theme from “the real thing”, being Christianity. The problem, however, as I’m sure is obvious to many of my readers, is that Christianity stopped being some underground nexus of genuine rebellion centuries ago. He points out that the church, in its early existence, refused to sell itself out to the Roman Empire, and it is true that the early Christian movement was a real force of resisting authoritarian domination in its day. But the only way to paint the church as the real rebels in a contemporary sense is to ignore history of Christianity after Constantine. Sure, when Christianity initially took power, there was still in the early years a struggle between the priesthood and the constant threat of emperors who would oppose them theologically and demand their exile, but as time went on the priesthood ultimately found itself attached to elite hierarchy, doing whatever they could to curry favour with the internal structure of the empire, and eventually, over the centuries, the church in no way resembles the original Christian community and has since morphed purely into the religious establishment of Europe, and the West as a whole, and now makes up the superstructure of residual Western culture. Not to mention, even before taking power, the movement of the church spent a lot of its days going heresy-hunting, seeking to effectively stamp out non-conformity within its own ranks in the name of consolidating stringent orthodoxy. Attempting to cast Christianity as the real rebellion and Satanism as the false rebellion in many ways presents us a false dichotomy that sustains itself on a selective historical context rather than the whole of it, and it certainly does not account for the progression into modernity.

And with this, the video ends. Well, not accounting for the outro message he puts in anyway. Ultimately, I think this video is a masterclass of Christian projection and hypocrisy. Christians like Brian, and there are rather many of them, shriek at their opponents for all sorts of follies and sins while embodying many of the same follies and sins themselves. They have a nasty habit of lying in the name of what they suppose to be the truth, they treat nearly everything in isolation and pretend thusly to have understood things, they sometimes obsess over how easily offended society is while drowning in their own insecurity towards secularism, and despite being unable to justify their core concept of God or many of the impositions they place upon humans they tend to act like they have attained superior philosophy over all others. I find it ironic that Brian would be so dismissive of metal because of its drive to project toughness and strength in a supposedly obnoxious fashion, while staunchly conservative expressions of Christianity strive for essentially the same impulse Brian describes – an insecure, in some ways desperate, spirit of chest-thumping that comes across as an obvious compensation. Brian Holdsworth has not exposed the incoherence of Satanism. He has instead exposed only his own ignorance and hypocrisy.

The beasts of Revelation as depicted in the Book of Miracles

Link to Brian Holdsworth’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoXBjU_OqIo

The Satan vs Hitler argument

Tell me if you’ve seen this exchange before. Someone on social media almost out of nowhere gives their opinion that Satan is actually good, probably drawing on a popular Milton-esque conception of Satan. An incredulous and perhaps conservative individual takes exception to this statement and replies sacrastically that Hitler was good. The former person, with a certain blamelessness, denounces his responder as a fascist. I have also seen far-right-leaning metalheads whine that edgy paeans to Satan are to be expected in metal while bands that actively promote fascism or Nazism and sing the praises of Hitler are to be be shunned. I have seen at least one of those sport the imagery of the German Empire while making such pronouncements (that empire, incidentally, having been run for twenty years of its existence by the insane volkisch ideologue Wilhelm II).

The conceit being displayed in this argument is obvious. Satan and Hitler are to be taken as equal abstract representations of human evil, never minding of course the obvious problem that one of them is a fictional character and one of them was an all too real human. This alone only scratches the surface, however. If you read the Bible closely, you’ll notice that, for a start, Satan never fell from heaven in the events before the Book of Genesis, and so throughout the Old Testament he is an angel in the court of God. Even in the New Testament, the only time he appears to be an enemy of God is in the Book of Revelation, when a vision depicts Satan as having fallen from heaven. This scene itself is a.representation of the victory of Jesus over Satan, and death, through his own death on the cross at Calvary and then resurrection. This would mean that, before that fall, the Satan that tried to tempt Jesus in the desert was still an angel in God’s court, carrying out the same tempting, accusing function that he had in the Old Testament. What that means for the goodness, or evilness, of Satan kind of depends on how you choose to interpret things, not least given the Bible is much more open-ended a collection of myths and fables than Christians usually like to let on.

From one perspective, you can still interpret Satan as an evil figure here, in fact as an angel he may represent an abstract principle of evil persecuting mankind, but this is all on the orders of God, at least until the resurrection of Jesus happens. So from a certain standpoint, God ultimately comes out as the artificer of evil, as well as good, since all of the evil attributed to Satan emerges directly from God, being carried out on his orders, meaning that, even if Satan is evil, so is God to a certain extent. On the other hand, if God is still supposed to be good, indeed the ultimate good, then Satan’s activities on God’s orders must serve the purpose of good in some way, even if he seems to be the accuser of humans. Now this is a perspective that I, personally, do not hold. I think that Satan in the context of Biblical lore comes off as a tyrant angel serving under a tyrant god, rather than everyone’s favorite goat-headed rebel, and him being an extension of God’s power over humans pretty much damns God in some way. But if one really has to insist that God is good, and this means that everything God does is ultmately good, then logically even Satan, being under God’s service, would ultimately be good.

Of course, expect all of this to fly straight over the heads of anyone trying to compare Satan to Hitler. No doubt they barely even read the Bible, and their only conception of Satan comes from popular retellings of Christian myth which obfuscate the real meaning contained in the Biblical mythos. I notice that right-wing Christians have a similar pathology that rears its head whenever left-leaning critics of right-wing policy on immigration point out that the Bible actually endorses that immigrants be treated with compassion and liberality (see for example Exodus 23:9) and not with hostility and mistrust. Such is usually responded to with whiny memes meant to convey that they, as apostates, have no right to talk Christians about their faith, a gesture of defiance that serves only to cover for their own embarassment at their failure to have read their own scripture. White nationalist Christians suffer from the same blindspot on race, and mock you for pointing out that the New Testament preaches that there is neither Jew nor Greek, while refusing to cite any part of the Bible to back up their own racism themselves.

So next time some imbecile tries to gaslight you into witless comparisons between Satan and Hitler, you may want to talk to them about the role of Satan in the Bible. Or alternatively just ignore them, since you won’t get many meaningful conversations with them anyway.

A 1943 edition of Collier’s depicting Hitler and Satan on the cover

Mythological Spotlight #11 – Sata (not to be confused with Satan)

A depiction of the Sata serpent

Introduction

You are probably aware from reading my blog that there exists a tendency within the occult world to cast Satan as a god among the Egyptians through fallaciously tying him to actual Egyptian gods, thus establishing Satan not as the Evil Incarnate of Christian lore but as one of the great gods of pre-Christian polytheism. Proponents of this idea usually employ the Set-Sat-Saton-Satan etymological fallacy, in order to establish the link between Satan and the Egyptian god Set, a storm god (not unlike the Canaanite god Ba’al) and lord of the desert who became demonized as a god of chaos and evil after the Hyksos, who were patrons of his, were expelled from Egypt, and such a connection is certainly favored by those in the Temple of Set. But there is another idea I have come across – that Satan, or more specifically his connection to Lucifer, is connected to the Egyptian serpent deity Sata. According to Malcolm Godwin in Angels: An Endangered Species, the mythical (and also not actually canonical) fall of Lucifer into the Abyss reminds us that the Jews were in Egypt and that there was an Egyptian serpent deity named Sata who “is father of lightning and who likewise fell to earth”. The spurious connect between the motif of the light-bringer and lightning aside (surely gods like Zeus, Thor, Ukko or Marduk are now also Lucifers, aren’t they?), what is the actual truth of this connection? This is the subject of our Mythological Spotlight today.

 

History

So just who is Sata, you may wonder? In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, there is a spell apparently intended to transform the speaker into a snake, and this spell invokes a serpentine being named Sata. Here we get a description of Sata that goes as follows:

I am the serpent, long in years, sleeping and born every day
I am the serpent who is in the ends of the earth
As I sleep, I am born, I am renewed, I am rejuvenated every day

Or, alternatively:

I am the Sata-snake, long of years, who sleeps and is reborn each day. I am the Sata-snake, dwelling in the limits of the earth. I sleep and am reborn, renewed and rejuvenated each day.

The Sata-snake appears to be described as a symbol of renewal and cyclical transformation, very similar at least in thematic to the Ouroboros symbol that is more commonly recognized. Sata never dies for he is constantly reborn and renewed with each sleep he takes, thus approaching a motif similar to death and rebirth despite it not actually being suggested that he dies, that is unless “sleep” here is taken to mean death. He also seems to dwell in the deepest realms of the earth or underground, suggesting rather blatantly that Sata is some sort of chthonic deity. However we have no mention of mastery over lightning or falling from the heavens here, so where exactly did Godwin get that from? I’m not sure.

According to The Secret History of Lucifer by Lynn Picknett, the aforementioned spell was supposed to be a magical means by which practitioners of the Egyptian religious/magical system, or perhaps more specifically the Pharaohs, to become immortal and embody the traits of the serpent long in years, and that the Pharoahs like Sata would descend to the earth before ascending to the heavens as the resurrected Osiris. The book does little to establish the connection to the myth of the fall from Heaven, and given the connection to the Pharaohs it seems more likely that the descent is tied not to the fall of a serpent from Heaven but rather to the idea of descent into the underworld upon death, which is the necessary precursor for resurrection in the afterlife. And the book mentions Sata being a “father of lightning” but there is no indication of this in any source material, so yet again we’re left clueless.

And the more I look the more I find how little information there is about Sata. If he was a god within the Egyptian pantheon, he certainly seems to have been a very minor deity, nowhere near as important as many of the other gods of the pantheon, and every source I can find of him all seems to trace back to a single spell within the Egyptian Book of the Dead that doesn’t really establish most of the attributes that are assigned to him which supposedly tie him to Lucifer and Satan. There is no source available for Sata’s mastery over lightning, and certainly no source available for his “fall from Heaven”, but various books talk about Sata having those attributes anyway, with seemingly no justification for it, in order to make the case that Sata was the basis (or simply a basis) for Satan thus allowing the case to be made that Satan was originally a polytheistic god, rather than the adversarial angel in God’s court that his original lore establishes. Some books even claim that Sata was actually just another name for Set, and if you know anything about Egyptian mythology you’d know that Set was never depicted as a snake anywhere in Egyptian mythology even after he became recast as an evil deity.

But of course, no attempt to connect Satan with the Egyptian pantheon would be complete without bullshit etymology, and that’s where classic internet nonsense comes in. According to a guy on Steemit calling himself sandalphon, for instance, the ancient Egyptian lexicon provides proof of an etymological connection between the names Sata and Satan. His proof of this connection is an image showing a series of hieroglyphs that supposedly show Sata, Sat An and then Satan. Exactly how this connection is supposed to work is in no way explained, the article makes no build up to the subject within itself, and indeed that weird image is the only mention of Sata anywhere in the article, we’re just given the image and supposed to take its claims at face value. We have no reason to believe there is any connection between any of these hieroglyphics and the Hebraic name Satan unless we plan to do the Peter Joseph thing where “son of God” actually just means “the Sun” because the two sound similar. There may as well be no etymological connection to speak of.

Given all of this, it seems extremely unlikely that the Jews based their idea of Satan on Sata, not least considering Sata was a minor deity in the Egyptian pantheon. Now, to be fair, Yahweh was also originally a minor deity within the Canaanite pantheon, but at least he went somewhere and became the central deity of the Bible while the Egyptian deity Sata never really went beyond one spell of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Not to mention, the idea that the Jews got their idea of Satan from the serpent Sata would require us to assume that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was actually Satan, and the Jews never established any such connection between Satan and snakes – that was a later Christian idea.

 

Conclusion

Pretty much every account you read of Sata being the origin of Satan or Lucifer, or about him being the master of lightning who fell from Heaven, is very likely to be bullshit. There is no extant source for these attributions, and the people who peddle it most likely have a larger agenda concerning the supposed pre-Christian roots of the Satan archetype; not from a Satanist perspective, of course, and likely not for some neopagan project, but more probably for some pablum about how there is a universal religion that’s been practiced since the beginning of time, and presumably distorted over the years. Sata himself is mildly interesting as a chthonic emblem of renewal, but there are many other mythical figures that fit not only this role but countless others, so given his status as a minor deity who only seems to have appeared in one spell I fail to see how he got taken up as a pro-expy for Satan.

Into the Devil’s Den: Carl Abrahamsson and the whitewashing of the Church of Satan

I was meaning to write this post much sooner, after Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den was released on Vimeo, but I became busy over the last few weeks, dealing with personal matters in large part, and I got little time to sit down and watch the film. And then, as I was writing this post, the election in the UK drew closer and closer, so I decided wait until after the election, when I wrote my commentary on the election results, before publishing this post. But now, at last, I can present my thoughts on the film, and the rather morbid discoveries about the Church of Satan I made as I began writing about it.

Back in April of this year I became aware of an Indiegogo campaign started by Carl Abrahamsson to crowdfund a film project entitled Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den. Abrahamsson apparently met LaVey at some point in 1989, and the angle of this documentary, in contrast to other documentaries about LaVey or the Church of Satan, is to bring forward a perspective about LaVey by those who knew him closely, and others who seem to continue the work he left behind after he died. After many months of waiting since then, it seems that the documentary is finally out and available to watch online on Vimeo, which I did. What follows is a review of what I saw.

Right off the bat I get the sense that this film has a rather gushing take on LaVey, as evidenced by the way the opening screen describes the film as “the titillating tale of one courageous character who took on an entire world of stupidity and mediocrity”. But we also get this sense from the way Abrahamsson introduces LaVey and his work early in the film. He describes encountering The Satanic Bible as a teenager, through an apparent interest in occultism, American pop culture and generally weird things, and he describes his love for the book as a primer of magical manipulation that in his view scared the simple minded. The sense of elitism isn’t lost on me, I think. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure LaVey shocked many people in his time, but, as you’ll soon see, the fear and awe I think is largely misplaced among both the masses of the time and LaVey’s ardent supporters.

For now though, let’s note that we learn quite a bit of how Carl presumably came to know LaVey – through his rock band, which was called The White Stains, and a friend named Genesis P-Orridge, the famous experimental musician of the band Psychick TV. In 1988, The White Stains released a song entitled Sweet Jayne, which was apparently all about an actress named Jayne Mansfield, who had a romantic relationship with Anton LaVey at one point in time, and then Carl sent that song to LaVey on the advice of Genesis P-Orridge, and LaVey then inducted Carl as a member of the Church of Satan.

Carl Abrahamsson and Anton LaVey

Anyways, the actual movie appears to be a series of interviews from people who knew LaVey and talk about him. Hardly something that isn’t for the “faint of heart” whoever they may be, but I digress. The first interview is conducted with a woman named Blanche Barton, who is Magistra Templi Rex at the Church of Satan and the last romantic partner Anton LaVey had before he died. What’s interesting is how, in the start of her interview, she recounted hearing of LaVey through The Satanic Bible, which she discovered through her interest in witchcraft, and she thought of LaVey as being rather full of himself initially, and was not initially very interested in The Satanic Bible, and it was only after a book called The Devil’s Avenger: A Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey was released that she began to learn more about him, and began to praise him for his apparent love of life, and his disdain for conventional Christianity, and after reading about other Satanists she felt his philosophy begin to make sense to her. Another individual, a writer named Robert Johnson, author of The Satanic Warlock, praised him for “having the balls” to write The Satanic Bible. Another, LaVey’s secretary Margie Bauer, praised LaVey as someone who thinks the way that she thought for her whole life. Several individuals speak of LaVey as having been a major part of their respective lives through their discovery of him and The Satanic Bible or other books of his during their youth. Peter Gilmore, current leader of the Church of Satan, described his encounter with The Satanic Bible, and feeling an immediate sense of resonance towards the book, and its dramatic flair.

The first fifteen minutes of interviews consists of a very autobiographical lens from the many individuals shown in the film, and after this Carl takes over to narrate about how we must understand Satanic philosophy by beginning with the early life of Anton LaVey. It’s recounted that LaVey grew up by a place called Playland in San Francsico (also known as Playland at the Beach), which was basically a big amusement park that hosted all sorts of rides, attractions and music until it was closed down in 1972, and also visited the Golden Gate Exposition in Treasure Island. Like many boys at the time he liked the rides and the escapism, perhaps as he got older he appreciated the “girly shows” featuring scantily clad ladies. One thing I find worthy of note is that Carl notes that those shows immersed you in the promise that you would be getting more than you actually got, which honestly tells me that those shows were a giant tease at best and debatably false advertising at worst and then based on that it’s pretty weird that LaVey would come to join the circus and form his philosophy in part based on the imprint that this left him. More than that, apparently we get the sense that his interest in the occult came directly from his time working in the circus, or according to Carl the lessons about human psychology he learned from working at the circus (which essentially boils down to “people need to let off steam”).

One other noteworthy thing about the documentary as a whole is that it’s not solely a third-person account of LaVey’s life and beliefs. At certain points, we find the documentary interspersed with clips of Anton LaVey during interviews. The first of which is him explaining his beliefs about Satan, where he explains that for him Satan represents everything that is rebellious, pioneering, “achievement-oriented” and critical, as well as cynical and questioning – essentially, that LaVeyan take on what is basically the John Galt archetype that Ayn Rand already gave us. One of the guests notes that LaVey’s concept of Satan is an examination of the fact that many of the pleasurable things in life have been rendered Satanic by conventional religions, and then essentially LaVey decided that if that’s the case then he should be a Satanist. Of course what he must not have realized is that this in fact resigns him to Christian morality via its shadow rather than representing the fight against Christianity, but I digress. I don’t like the fact that another guest makes the claim that LaVey reached back into “primeval philosophy” to form his own intellectual family tree, because the reality of it is that this just isn’t true. We know for a fact where LaVey got his ideas from: Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ragnar Redbeard, Playboy, and carny culture. It wasn’t the continuation of a heritage of ancient philosophy or anything like that, it was effectively just an eclectic modern product drawn from specific 19th-20th century philosophies, hedonism and popular culture. But for all this, LaVey is praised as having a better understanding of human nature. Then we talk about artifical human companions and “total environments”, but also some more respectable talk about the decadence of Christian institutions such as the Catholic Church. It’s easy to see that LaVey came across as a striking figure to the people being interviewed, offering a new perspective on the Christian culture, and life more generally, that had not yet been unleashed to the world, and thus it activated quite a few imaginations, even if for some of the wrong reasons. As a side-note, one interesting point Blanche Barton does bring up is the point of rule by “poor me syndrome”, which, of course, is a rather apt descriptor of how bourgeois liberal politics operates nowadays. Though honestly, I think many of the guests give LaVey too much credit for what is otherwise observed to be the great liberalization of society, the effects of which have been observed by many for decades. Even the “poor me syndrome” type has had a certain public consciousness for decades that isn’t neatly attributable to LaVey, and in fact has been capitalized on by his Christian conservative enemies throughout the 1990s and beyond.

Just one example of what I mean here

At a certain point we arrive upon the subject of the Church of Satan and its establishment, as well as the attention that this garnered from the media. One curious detail sticks out. In the news clip featuring a Satanic wedding between two socialites, the narrator commented that the wedding appeared to smack of a publicity stunt, on account of the fact that, the very next day, the couple acquired a conventional wedding license. Arguably a minor detail in the context of the film as a whole, but nonetheless moderately significant in the context of the Church of Satan more generally, suggesting that the many socialites who became curious about the Church of Satan had no real attachment to Satanism as a tradition, and instead simply became attracted to it as a nexus of bourgeois or petit-bourgeois hedonism. Through this, we still get expositions of philosophy, and at that, LaVey’s characterization of the ideal Satanic society, which is to say a stratified society in which, for him, individuals would be free to live in “total environments” of their own chosing. What is a total environment? Well, in LaVeyan Satanist parlance, the total environment appears to be a psycho-magickal space of isolation in which the individual may retreat from the crowd in order to engage in a type of psychological evocation and intellectual decompression through ritual psychodrama involving many aesthetic components, such as fetishism, possibly shared with artificial companions. But you’d never guess this from the examples brought up by LaVey and his followers. In the interview clip, LaVey mentions that successful experiments in the field of total environments have been conducted, and the examples he lists are Disneyland, Disney World (or the Walt Disney World Resort), and Epcot Center, on the grounds that they basically serve as a kind of escapism (or as he puts it they allow individuals to play a role suited to their lifestyle and happiness).

Now, honestly, this is an aspect of Satanic philosophy that I hadn’t considered, even during my time as an avowed Satanist, but now that I re-examine it, there’s something bothersome about it. I mean, think about it. For a start, all of the examples LaVey gave in that interview clip are extensions of the Walt Disney Company – the Epcot Center, as I’m sure many are familiar with, is part of the Walt Disney World Resort. And of course the Church of Satan’s website offers us the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a chain of theme parks based on the Harry Potter franchise) as another example. This is the total environment in practice? Massive theme parks? I suppose one can’t help but get the impression that this is a product of his upbriging adjacent to Playland at the Beach, but what we’re talking about, let’s face it, is consumerism. And not only that, consumerism peddled to us by multinational corporations. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? But beyond theme parks, the Church of Satan’s website also offers such examples as virtual reality, the video game industry, and ancient Rome, which had many forms of entertainment designed to distract the populace, including the infamous gladiatorial games. Essentially, what this means is that the freedom that LaVey describes with total environments is only the freedom to disengage from society and collective action and submerge into consumerism, in order that one might distract oneself from the harsh realities of life – or, perhaps, the iniquities, subjections and machinations of a state that has immense power over you, the individiual. The latter is particularly relevant when dealing with the fact that LaVey asks for a society built on stratification. In essence, what we get from this is a vision of a society in which you are a subject within a rigid social hierarchy, and those at the top have incredible power over you and have quite a bit of license to do as they do (even in my Satanist days I’ve never been keen on this aspect of LaVey’s thought), and your only real liberty thus consists of, essentially, consumerism. I’m sad to say that this is not a liberating vision for society. In fact, if anything it almost reads like a mirror of bourgeois society, perhaps a chilling vision of the future to come as capitalism reaches its futuristic phase at a time of almost total consolidation of power. In other words, a dystopian, totalitarian nightmare where the pleasure principle rules supreme that it may obscure power and its mechanisms from the masses. But what did LaVey’s followers and admirers make of this? Not much apparently.

Michael Moynihan (yes, that Michael Moynihan) talks about “good guy badges” and some such about the incongruity between the good guys and their wicked private lives, which is fine and all until you remember that this guy edited collections of writings from James Mason, the neo-Nazi who wrote the infamous book Siege and also happened to be a convicted and admitted paedophile (he was arrested for and gled guilty to sexually abusing a teenager and possessing child pornography). Peggy Nadramia talks about how LaVey said “the animals should be our gurus”, which apparently meant that we should observe animal behaviour in order to understand our own priorities – itself a somewhat salient point, but one that ironically serves to betray LaVey’s philosophical ideals (if you observe ravens, for example, you’ll find that they are a highly monogamous species that punishes cheating, and if you observe most species more generally you find they embrace cooperation over internal competition). The general argument seems to be that because tigers don’t think about whether or not they’ve sinned that we shouldn’t either. But even though humans are animals, we are not the same animals, and we have developed complex moral thinking as part of our evolutionary development. I mean, put it this way, why would the bird, if it considered its own behaviour, think to emulate the nature of the fish? They are of different species, with different sets of behaviours. But no one really talks about the implications of a stratified social order supported by consumeristic escapism. Instead we move on to the subject of artifical companions, meaning of course robots, vis-a-vis a clip of LaVey talking about how he strived to make robots of people that would be more interesting and “palatable” than real humans. In LaVey’s ideal society, everyone will have a robotic companion (which he dubs a “real companion”) custom-made to their desires, and he thinks that’s a positive because everyone wants to feel better than someone else. What he describes is not real friendship, or companionship, or any kind of relationship other than a one-sided master-servant relationship between a conscious, sentient being and an automaton, and it cannot be any other way because, despite all the hype around artificial intelligence, a machine cannot truly emulate human intelligence nor possess consciousness. The automation can never be the equal of Man, and in some ways perhaps LaVey implicitly knows this which is why he makes no attempt to frame the robotic companion as the ultimate equal of their human counterpart.

Scene from the movie “Metropolis”, which I’m guessing LaVey must have gotten some fascination with robotics from

Then for some reason we move rather hastily on to music, or the idea of what “satanic music” should be. LaVey in an interview clip describes “satanic music” as music that “elicits a gut reaction” (which honestly could apply to any music), “sends a shiver down somebody’s spine” (again, almost any music), and music that really gets people thinking or feeling about something (almost any music). All of this can be applied to many non-satanic forms of music, so what’s so special here? Peter Gilmore talked about LaVey’s fascination with classical music and his tendency to practice the songs of Wagner and the like, and then we get to another clip about how real satanic music isn’t rock and roll, but instead a selection darkly-themed classical music songs (such as The Mephisto Waltz, Danse Macabre, Night On Bald Mountain and others), along with several other classical musicians, some of whom may have written songs about the Devil. Which of course gives the impression that satanic music is just classical music that’s about Satan, or something. Also there’s talk about music being a type of ritualism, and that Satanism in its foundations emerged from just the right aesthetic confluence associated with certain forms of music, but that’s about the extent of it.

Our next stop is when LaVey in an interview clip begins talking about the occult, and noted that the occult section of book stores consisted of things like dream books, books on fortune-telling and similar affairs, and how the only books about calling up spirits involved marshalling the protective names of Jehovah – in other words, traditional ceremonial magick. Poor LaVey doesn’t seem to have had much effect on your average book shop today – the spirituality section at Waterstone’s, probably the closest thing to an occult section there is, is not too different, it’s full of books about New Agery and whatnot, and the closest thing to the magick he might like is essentially just petit-bourgeois books on Wicca. And then of course we talk about magick, and how it worked. Well, actually, exactly how it worked insodar as the actual practical effect it had upon the external world isn’t discussed so much as just the premise that, well, it worked, and then we just move on to the Black House for some reason – about the fireplace that led to the bar, LaVey’s proclivity to mock even his fellow Church of Satan members, and how one of his guests thought there was a camera above the toilet, that perhaps might have been there for the purpose of voyeurism.

Then we come to talking about sex, a topic introduced by LaVey describing his attitude towards orgies, how he simply wasn’t particularly excited by them and how they aren’t a prerequisite to Satanism, instead the prerequisite being Epicureanism, by which he means “Epicurean sex”, which for him simply means you’re fussy about sex partiners – which is really a rather creative but also grossly reductive interpretation of the actual philosophy of Epicureanism. Seriously, read about Epicurus; there’s parts of his philosophy that almost line up with Buddhist philosophy at times, which I don’t think LaVey would have appreciated if he had known given that his philosophy is in many ways the total opposite of Buddhism. At first not much about his sexual philosophy is discussed beyond how sexy his book The Satanic Witch was, except for when Blanche Barton discusses how LaVey had “witch classes” or some such to teach women how to manipulate the minds of men to their desires – in other words how to teach women use men. It later seems that this also sort of relates to his opposition to feminism, which for my money is at least still one of his more salient positions. He evidently disagreed with a certain idea about women trying to emulate masculinity that was emerging in popular culture during the 70s and onwards, partly because to do so contradicts the nature of most women, but in his case it had more to do with the idea that it took away the specific power that women had that men did not, which Blanche does explain rather curiously terms of companionship and of woman being of the “right hand man” of men and leaders. Later on though we do get into the depths of LaVey’s general tolerance of just about any sex involving consenting adults, and to that end most sexualities (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and so forth).

We touch on Jayne Mansfield again, how LaVey considered her a sex goddess, how she was supposedly an active member of the Church of Satan before her untimely death in 1967, and how her death was not the result of a curse on his part. Much has been said about Mansfield’s death and the car crash that killed her, and it is apparently still the subject of mystery, but I think it goes without saying that her death wasn’t the work of a curse. Not just because curses don’t actually work, but because even within the occult community LaVey just wasn’t capable of a curse that would have that effect, or at least that’s what I get from Kenneth Anger, who claims that LaVey wasn’t powerful enough a magician to curse people into their deaths. In the same interview clip LaVey mentions that he was also interested in Marilyn Monroe, and that she had a profound interest in the dark side, however there is no evidence that Marilyn Monroe and Anton LaVey were ever together.

To be fair I’d be stretched to imagine Monroe being interested in anything

And then we return what honestly strikes me as the red thread of the movie: LaVey the aesthete. Carl narrates about the aesthetics of LaVeyan Satanism being drawn from a cavalcade of neo-noir films and dark photography, and the points to a film called Freaks, which was released in 1932 and directed by Tod Browning. In yet another interview clip from LaVey, LaVey talks about how he considered it to be a satanic movie because it apparently centered around the theme of retribution, the doctrine of lex talionis, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. This incidentally is the first time in the whole film that this subject comes up, even within the scope of discussing the philosophy of Satanism. But the guests don’t appear to talk about that, they just talk about the film itself, and how they were fascinated by it. One guest even remarks how LaVey never talked to him about Satanism, Satan, witchcraft or any related subjects, but did talk to him about movies, movie directors and similar subjects. LaVey also liked to claim that film-noir itself was a satanic genre.

Then we talk about a famous interview that Anton LaVey did with Joe Pyne, and how LaVey handled himself during the interview. Pyne was notorious for his confrontional persona in his shows. His shows occaisionally devolved into violent outbursts, and at one point, while interviewing a black militant, he revealed on-air that he had concealed a handgun in his coat, and then his guest did the same, and in general he has a habit of ridiculing guests he disagrees with. So one could imagine LaVey would have a challenging time on Pyne’s show, but he seemed to be quite calm in the face of Pyne’s obnoxiousness. And then this segues into a broader tangent about people misunderstanding LaVey, how it became fashionable to misunderstand, which I’m sure was the case all the time. I think it’s worth noting that one of the guests notes that terms like “Satan”, “Satanism” or “Satanic” appealed to people who felt that there was something fake about the world around them as a sort of uncorrupted expression of this sentiment, and that such a concept could never be sanitized and made safe by consumerism. Well it’s been quite a long time since LaVey showed up and made his mark, and now the Church of Satan is embraced by liberals as a snarky Twitter persona and The Satanic Temple has reinvented Satanism as a force that is safe for a type of progressive politics that remains friendly to consumerism and the current system. Oh and not to mention that you can still sell plenty of metal music these days with the moniker of Satan slapped on it, and most bands don’t even believe in Satanism (to be honest I’m not even sure how many black metal bands really believe in it). So yeah, he’s pretty much wrong on that point. Peter Gilmore at one point says that the philosophy of The Satanic Bible was deliberately misrepresented by people who already read it and decided they opposed so that it could not be understood by the public, because they felt threatened by it as an alternative to their belief system. Well I’m sure that might been going through the minds of many Christian ideologues, but other than that the idea strikes me as an expression of self-importance.

And then, of course, we talk about Satan himself, the central object of Satanism, and here it seems Carl describes the appeal of Satan with a remarkable lack of ontological import. For him the value of Satan comes less from any actual values contained within the archetypal resonance of Satan but rather just the fact that he provoked Christians by virtue of being the bad guy in the Christian mythos. This for him was proof that Satan is a kind of “bullshit detector”, though really it’s just proof that we are dealing with a framework that cannot escape the shadow of Christianity. And in relation to the theme of identification with Satan, Blanche Barton points to examples of LaVey being approached by those who asked him “why not call it something other than Satanism?” on the grounds that it would be less controversial, and points out that being controversial was basically the point, and that by employing the concept of Satan you are using the power of language to thwack the initiate over the head with the unvarished form of the idea. As usual Blanche’s explanations tend to have quite a bit more content or even substance to them than the other guests, but ultimately we still see that the point is essentially contrarianism. Margie Bauer points out something similar, but with a much bigger tell towards pathological elitism, saying that the reason the Satanist chooses the term Satanism over Humanism is because the whole point is to alienate those who aren’t inclined towards your philosophy or exist within normalcy and stratify accordingly. Even LaVey himself seems to establish this in a later interview clip wherein Satan appears to be defined principly as opposition to just about any popular trends. But for all that one guest boasts that he’ll be taken seriously by anyone who reads him. One is tempted to say “if only”, but honestly I haven’t been able to return to The Satanic Bible for instance and look at it the same way I once did. I get the sense from that one guest that honestly the world is to be divided between those who read LaVey and agree with him, and those who disagree with him and are deemed to just not have read him, or not read him “correctly”. In the overall, the point is established quite clearly: only “a certain type of person” will and is supposed to embrace Satanism.

Yep, we’re dealing with basically this only more elitist and dressed in goth clothes

There’s also the broader point only by invoking Satan could an atheist have any real impact on the consciousness of society. Peter Gilmore says that you can throw a boulder in the pond with Satanism, but with baseline atheism or humanism you through only a pebble. And the problem with this, historically speaking, is that this isn’t really true. Sure Satanism made an impact on the public consciousness in that it shocked the masses to a certain extent, but this never translated to widespread popular support. By contrast, the more baseline atheists didn’t have a small impact as Peter Gilmore believes, in fact secularists have made major ripples in the public consciousness via major public debates about theism and atheism, and many atheist thinkers have since become and remain quite popular, certainly more popular than LaVey and the like have managed to become. So this thesis that LaVey’s followers have simply did not prove itself correct.

We then return to the red thread of LaVey the aesthete, which then leads us to the conclusion that Carl himself is rather the aesthete given that he was sort of lulled into Satanism in a sense by a reading of some dark poetry set to some dark music, and from there we’re also brought to a man named Adam Parfrey, who was an acquaintance of Carl’s. Now who is Adam Parfrey exactly? I covered him a bit in a post I wrote about The Satanic Temple last year, but basically he is the guy who ran a publishing company called Feral House, which deals in “forbidden” subject matter, and who also happens to be either a fascist or at least fascist-adjacent. Parfrey was friends with Boyd Rice, who in turn worked closely with actual white supremacists such Bob Heick and Tom Metzger and was himself a self-identified fascist, and he was a member of Rice’s Abraxas Foundation, which promoted an ideology based in totalitarianism and social Darwinism (in other words, fascism). Another buddy of his was a man named Nick Bougas, the man who made those infamous “Happy Merchant” illustrations which demonize Jews as schemers against white people under the alias A. Wyatt Mann. Through his Feral House company he published the works of Michael J Moynihan, who, although he denies being a far-righter and a fascist, himself edited the works of James Mason and Julius Evola, was for a time a member of the Abraxas Foundation, and is the editor of a journal called Tyr which combines reconstructionist/traditionalist paganism with third-positionist (which basically just means fascist) ideology, and apparently he even criticized Boyd Rice because he thought he was only aesthetically fasicst, as well as Robert Stark, a fascist who chats with people like Greg Johnson (from the alt-right website Counter-Currents) about eco-fascism.

Parfrey’s own work also contains elements of fascist ideology. In his book, Apocalypse Culture, he published many essays that were apparently attributed to fascists and fascist organizations, such as “Long Live Death” from the Abraxas Foundation, an essay called “The Christian Right, Zionism and the upcoming Penteholocaust” by a far-right Christian named Gregory Krupey and even “A New Dawn Has Come…” which is a selection of quotes from literally Adolf Hitler. The book also contains in various places several quotations from fascists such as Savitri Devi, Dan Burros, Boyd Rice, and Oswald Spengler, and also contains numerous posters for neo-Nazi groups such as the National Socialist Liberation Front (which James Mason was a member of during the 1970s) as well as a lionizing portrait of Hitler. Of course the book does not consist solely of fascist and far-right voices, as suggested by the inclusion of an essay from the anarchist Hakim Bey and the communist Red Brigades, suggesting in theory that the book is a platform for all sorts of ideological extremists, but despite this it does seem that the book consists of a lot of fascist authors and quotations. One of his own essays in that book is called “Eugenics: An Orphaned Science”, which cites Adolf Hitler and a wide variety of eugencists, as well as Plato and the Bible, to defend eugenics. And to top it all off, when Parfrey died he was praised by David Cole, who worked for his Feral House company and was also a Holocaust denier until 1998 (after which he became an activist for the Republican Party), who wrote a puff piece about him on Taki’s Magazine, which is run by a man named Taki Theodoracopulos, a Greek far-right ideologue who publicly defended the Wehrmacht and supports the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party (who he insists are nothing more than the Greek equivalent of UKIP), and also likes the idea of samurais beheading liberals who slight him. So, in short, Adam Parfrey was a fascist, was friends with fascists, promoted the ideas of fascists and was beloved by the far-right.

Adam Parfrey and friends just chilling with Nick Bougas and a Nazi or two

OK, that having been established. How does this film handle him? Well, his ties to fascism don’t seem to be discussed at all, let’s just get that out of the way. Instead, Michael Moynihan talks about his love of obscure books and photography, and in particular their collaboration on a book called American Grotesque, which is a book about an artist named William Mortensen who was praised by Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible for his dark work. Margie Bauer, of course, had absolutely nothing of substance to say about him. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any tangible discussion of Adam Parfrey other than from Michael Moynihan. Parfrey was mentioned very briefly in the film, and then moments after we begin talking about him everyone just goes back to talking about how great LaVey was and Parfrey is never referred to again. All the more baffling is the fact that this was the case and yet the film was dedicated to Adam Parfrey in addition to Anton LaVey! Of course, given Parfrey’s fascist background, surely the fact that the film would be dedicated to him in itself seems all the more suspect than this fact alone.

One of the last sections of the film appears to be introduced by a clip of LaVey saying that the future of Satanism is assured and that nothing could retard it (except for, you know, the incompetence of the Church of Satan) and that Satanism is here to stay. And from there on out, his guests talk about how his legacy is basically everywhere, which really seems like rather obseqiuous praise to me considering that his legacy has been mostly insular to the Left Hand Path. One of the guests seems to say that his legacy has led to more individual freedom in the world, which of course doesn’t seem true to me considering we live in times where there is if anything less freedom in the world. That same guest basically equates his legacy to that of Tony Robbins, saying that Robbins and people like him all get their schtick from him. Not exactly a credit considering their line of work. Robert Johnson credits him with codifying the way most people already live their lives, which to be honest kind of smacks of that old “you may already be [insert religion here] and don’t even know it” canard that is sometimes employed by cults. Kenneth Anger points to him as proof that generally far out ideas can thrive without censure. Johnson claims that he would be amazed to see the Satanists of today “kicking ass and killing it”, a comment that can only come from self-delusion when you consider the present state of Satanism, dominated by an insufferably politically correct liberal organization, and beneath the surface you find numerous failed Theistic Satanist groups and actual esoteric fascist groups. Towards the end, there’s nothing left but praise of LaVey’s legacy, which I suppose is to be expected.

So in the overall, I don’t know what I was expecting with this film, but it was not a critical reflection of LaVey’s life and legacy. In general, a common thread with many of the guests being interviewed is that they still seem to be spellbound by Anton LaVey. The man has been dead for over twenty years at this point, his organization has failed to realize or proselytize the type of Satanic philosophy that LaVey championed (and indeed this failure began taking shape while LaVey was still alive), but for some reason his followers still seem to be captivated by his philosophy. What I get out of Carl Abrahamsson is that, although he clearly believes in the philosophy of Satanism at least to some extent, he appears primarily drawn to it for aesthetic reasons. It shows in the fact that the rammifications of LaVey’s philosophy are not adequately dealt with, and he does not have his guests discuss this in large part. Instead, a lot of attention is devoted to the aesthetics of Satanism, and him being spellbound by LaVey relates very much to aesthetic experience, rather than philosophical enlightenment. But then he was invited to join the Church of Satan in the first place just because he wrote a song about a lady who LaVey had a brief fling with and LaVey liked it enough for him to be approved as a member. Indeed, I think there is so much in the film that speaks the dark, occultnik aesthete, more than someone looking to consider his philosophical legacy, and some rather shady associations in his time that his guests would never answer for. I still find it telling that things like the doctrine of lex talionis and the Social Darwinist aspects of LaVeyan Satanism, despite being major aspects of LaVey’s philosopy, are never addressed in the entire film by either Carl or the many guests that appeared on the film, not even Michael Moynihan talked about it.

And, being as this film was partially dedicated to an actual fascist (namely Adam Parfrey), I think I may as well use the film to discuss one other detail about LaVey’s life, one that I’ve seen unearthed by some anti-fascists; his association with James Mason, and Mason’s praise of LaVey. I was horrified to find out about it, and, for a while, I couldn’t believe that such a detail would have gone unnoticed not only by myself but also by, well, other Satanists. But I didn’t say anything about it because I thought that the Church of Satan, given their more recent confrontations with some of the online left, would give me reason to have doubts about it. But I haven’t seen them talk about it, and I suppose I couldn’t expect Carl’s film to talk about it either. So I’m going to have to use my platform to talk about this myself.

The cold hard truth that too little Satanists realize is that Anton LaVey personally praised and endorsed James Mason and his work. We know this because there exists a signed copy of The Satanic Bible which features his signature and a comment wherein he praises Mason as “a man of courage and reason”.

And James Mason in turn praised LaVey on numerous occaisions, despite LaVey being of Jewish heritage of course. Mason compared LaVey to George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, on the grounds that apparently both were showmen who used shock and symbolism to advance their ideology, as well as the fact that both of them intended to remain legal actors, avoiding insurrectionary and illegal activity, and supposedly even the idea of Satan itself. Mason praised The Satanic Bible, describing it as “absolutely brilliant” in a 2003 edition of his book Siege. He even quoted Anton LaVey in Siege, and owned a copy of the Satanic Mass LP, which he purchased in 1969. It must be noted that he didn’t stay a Satanist all his life, and has apparently converted to Christianity later in his life, but he still praised Anton LaVey despite this, and it is said that later editions of Siege, such as one edition released as recently as 2017, never removed any praises of LaVey or The Satanic Bible. Now it is true that, besides the signed copy of The Satanic Bible praising Mason, there isn’t a whole lot to say about LaVey’s views on Mason or his book Siege, because LaVey seemingly did not say much about it. But even then, just that detail alone should be rather damning on LaVey’s part given he was willing enough to endorse him. And then Mason isn’t even the only fascist he’s been friends with: he was apparently buddies with James Madole, who was the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party and apparently an early pioneer of esoteric fascism, with whom LaVey spent quite a bit of time at an occult book shop.

And if that’s not enough, the Church of Satan as an organization certainly seemed to have plenty of nice things to say about Mason and his book. Peter Gilmore, the current head of the Church of Satan, wrote a positive review of Siege in volume 27 of The Black Flame, the organization’s magazine, in which he described the book as a “monumental achievement”. He even positively compared Satanists to neo-Nazis by saying that, while Mason is a political extremist, the Satanist is also a religious and philosophical extremist. The Black Flame magazine has also contained spreads featuring artwork glorifying neo-Nazism, such as a painting of Charles Manson as the anti-Christ that was painted by Bill Ehmann Jr, and has also promoted the music of Rahowa, a notorious white supremacist rock/metal band. Gilmore was also seen photographed with Mason in 1992, alongside his girlfriend Peggy Nadramia and Mason’s girlfriend Eva Hoehler. On a related note, Nadramia herself is also known to have softballed neo-Nazism by denying that there is even an emerging threat of neo-Nazi terrorism in the US, and also described Satanists as believing in nature as a fascistic force. Perhaps she can’t really condemn neo-Nazism as a serious threat because many of the church’s members were also Nazis or generally far-right themselves, such as Kurt Saxon, who was a reverend of the Church of Satan and also a member of the American Nazi Party (which incidentally James Mason was also a member of for a while), and who also appeared before the Senate in 1970 to advocate that student protesters be massacred with machine guns and the police and vigilante groups should murder leftists in bombings. When confronted about this, the Church of Satan responds merely by saying that the personal politics of their members are up to them, which suggests that they tolerate violent neo-Nazis in their ranks. Then there’s Ashley Palmer, a Church of Satan reverend who was also the subject of a puff piece on The Independent and runs a fashion company called ASP Culture. He endorsed white nationalism on Twitter, specifically the ideas of Richard Spencer and Identity Europa, adveritses symbols that are blatantly associated with Nazism (such as the Sonnenrad and Wolfsangel), and has openly tweeted “Make Europe Great Again”, a variation of the MAGA slogan which is used by white nationalists. Peter Gilmore himself not only endorsed Siege back in the 90’s, but he also wrote an introduction to a recent edition of Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard (itself a tract known for proto-fascistic and anti-semitic statements) in which he apparently cited James J Martin, a Stirnerite individualist-anarchist who also happened to think that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Now, take stock for a moment and think about that, because there is a noteworthy point of comparison from this year that we can draw from. Jeremy Corbyn, present leader of the Labour Party, wrote a foreword for a 2011 edition of John A Hobson’s book Imperialism: A Study. The book, although it was taught in academia for many decades and influential to many worthy critics of imperialism, is also notorious for allusions to “men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”, which is very obviously an anti-semitic trope. The book also apparently talks about the elimination or repression of “primitive colonial peoples” and “degenerate or unprogressive races”. Outside of that book Hobson is known for having blamed the war in South Africa on the idea of Jewish racial elites. But whereas Corbyn is condemned, and I’d say correctly so, for his eagerness to endorse such a book and its author, nothing is said of Peter Gilmore’s willingness to endorse a Holocaust denier (or indeed James Mason for that matter). But at least Corbyn made some effort to denounce the more racist aspects of Hobson’s Imperialism, even if in the end his only complaint was that the “language” (not the actual ideas about racialism) was awful. The Church of Satan, on the other hand, won’t even attempt to address the subject except through deflection and condescencion.

Then again, there’s still a lot of other anti-semitism Corbyn hasn’t quite addressed adequately

What’s more, some Church of Satan members were also revealed to have fascistic beliefs and associations as the result of doxxing by Antifa members. Kenaz Filan, who is a Warlock of the Church of Satan, is a racist troll who likes to post and share anti-black and anti-semitic memes, as well as memes that express support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, on Gab, and in general promotes all manner of ideas associated with the alt-right. Kevin Slaughter, a Magister of the Church of Satan, runs an alt-right account on Twitter and Facebook that goes by the name Satanic American, where he argues for eugenics, race realism, volkisch paganism, and the border wall that Trump wants to build, and against racial egalitarianism, and generally promoting all manner of alt-right material (he even proliferated the idea that the Charlottesville riots were a false flag constructed by the establishment to demonize white nationalists). Slaughter also authored a book called Iron Youth Reader, which is a compilation of writings dominated by reactionaries and fascists like Oswald Spengler, Gustave Le Bon (a reactionary crowd scientist who opposed democracy and talked about a “racial unconscious”), Savitri Devi, and Francis Galton (a eugenicist), and published it through his company Underworld Amusements. He also has a Gab account where he follows Jack Donovan, who believes in “anarcho-fascism”, and the Traditionalist Worker Party, which was a self-described National Socialist party before it disbanded last year. James Sass, another Magister, is another outright fascist who openly praised Nazis such as Otto Skorenzy, supports the ideas of Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, Oswald Mosley, Charles Manson and James Mason (and also made music for Mason’s Necrofascist project), condemned homosexuality by comparing it to necrophilia, opposed democracy and the US Founding Fathers, is an anti-semite who supports Holocaust denial, constructed an altar to the Ebola-chan meme draped in the flag of the NSDAP, and believes Western civilization and popular culture should be annihilated. James Stillwell III, another member and also the author of a book titled Power-Nihilism, posts about white nationalism on Gab, is anti-semitic, and he even supported James Alex Field Jr, the white nationalist terrorist who murdered an anti-fascist protester and injured several others in Charlottesville by running them over with his car. Matt Paradise, yet another Magister, runs an alt-right podcast called The Accusation Party, whose Twitter and Gab accounts brandish the symbolism of Italian fascism, and supports race realism and other alt-right ideas as well as the ideas of Jack Donovan. The Church of Satan has also actively promoted The Accusation Party, despite their claims to being apolitical. Other fascists in the organization include David Williams (a CoS reverend who is so pro-Nazi that he actually has a “favorite Nazi” and also blames humanism for the pedophilic abuses of the Catholic Church), Trevor Blake (who collaborates with Kevin Slaughter), David Harris (who likes Matt Paradise’s alt-right podcast), David Wallace (who endorses the ideas of Jack Donovan), and Vincent Crowley (the lead singer of Acheron who was a priest for a time, promotes NSBM bands and has done an interview with an explicitly neo-Nazi website).

All of these people represent or have represented the Church of Satan in some official capacity, many of them are high-ranking members, some of them occupying the second-highest rank in the Church of Satan (the highest being Magus or Maga), and the Church of Satan itself either tolerates their views on in some cases outright endorses them (Peggy Nadramia, for example, follows and endorses the work of James Sass), and you have a love of James Mason’s Siege that goes right to the top of the hierarchy. None of this is discussed in the film, which is noteworthy because both Gilmore and Nadramia are in the film and speak frequently in it, and of course we never have the opportunity to see them justify some of the less than savory aspects of Satanism, such as the Social Darwinism, and I have to suspect this is because it might lead to a discussion or defence of fascism, given the fact that Social Darwinism is the lifeblood of fascism in many ways, but then why would any of them have a problem with that if they’re truly radical enough to not care about what everyone else thinks? But I suppose it wouldn’t make sense for Carl to bring it up because Carl himself promotes Underworld Amusements, which is run by Kevin Slaughter. The bottom line? The Church of Satan is, and has been for years, an institutionally fascist organization, one which supports fascists and allows them to occupy the top of their hierarchy. The fact that Gavin Baddeley has to say that the relationship between LaVeyan Satanism and fascism is “a complicated one” all the way back in 1999 indicates a problem – if you oppose fascism, then your relationship with fascism shouldn’t be a complicated one. It should be an unequivocably negative one, otherwise you’re giving a soft hand to totalitarian ideology. End of story.

And even if the Church of Satan isn’t institutionally fascist (despite the evidence showing precisely that it is), their membership doesn’t seem to care if they are because they are too nihilistic to concern themselves with anything beyond their personal pleasure. In a 1995 article for Volume 5 of The Black Flame, Blanche Barton responded to concerns about fascist infiltrations of Satanism, which it seems must have already been a concern then as now, by saying “what are we supposed to be? A bunch of kindergarten babies? Are we supposed to be such self-righteous prigs that we can’t stand to see a swastika? By accusing us of fascism, are we supposed to be distracted from the fact that we live in an extremely puritanical, fascistic society?”. This is a kind of soft-balling of fascism similar to the type that we now see in modern classical liberals, built upon a delusion that tells you that, because most people already know fascism is bad, there is no need to point to evidence of fascistic infiltration within your movement, and that to do so smacks of political correctness. But I suppose I should be glad that it isn’t giddily pro-fascist like Peggy Nadramia’s article.

All of this I found out just from researching Adam Parfrey and his fascist associations. It is not in any credible sense difficult to uncover Parfrey’s fascist sympathies, and in so doing I somehow ended up finding out about numerous other fascistic associations within the Church of Satan as an organization. Much of this has also been discussed since before the film was released and before the crowdfunding project for it was launched. With this in mind, Carl’s loving biopic of Anton LaVey amounts to the purest of puff pieces. Very few of the guests come close to a serious reflection of LaVey’s philosophy, and at that it is still mostly positive. The Church of Satan’s ties to fascism and not to mention LaVey’s own are never discussed, they aren’t even mentioned, and nor is the doctrine of lex talionis or “might is right”. It’s my opinion that this is the work of people who are still spellbound by LaVey. Well, those people can continue being spellbound by him if they must, but I just can’t conscionably stand by it.

A review of Michael A. Aquino’s Satanic Bible

It’s time at last for me to comment on Michael Aquino’s new edition of Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible. I’ve been meaning to read that book for quite some time, and now that I have, I have a lot to say. My good friend Summer Thunder assured me once that it was an important work for Satanism or more specifically Satanic culture, and I have no reason to doubt him. After all, this is indeed a revision of The Satanic Bible, and one written by one of Satanism’s leading philosophers and exponents who also leads a major Satanist organization (the Temple of Set), so we can take this as a important point of development for Satanism, one that may indeed already have influenced its direction since its release last year. As such, the most important part for me will be to assess the general philosophical content of the book so as to gauge what could well be the direction of Satanism going forward.

Right off the bat, before we get into the content, I must mention how such intent is reflected within the structure of the book. The book can best be described as what The Satanic Bible would look like if it was written by Aquino, with his particular background and ontology in mind and with a lot of additional content included. The book has five chapters, the first four of which are named for Satan, Lucifer, Belial and Leviathan in that order, reflecting the structure and intent of the original Satanic Bible. The Satan chapter isn’t the quite the same as it was in LaVey’s book, but it does offer some diatribes intended to expound the spirit of Satanism, this time from the (alleged) perspective of the infernal pantheon (Satan, Beelzebub, Azazel, Abaddon, Asmodeus, Astaroth, Belial and Leviathan). The Lucifer chapter is devoted to Aquino’s formulation of a philosophy of Satanism that is somewhat distinct from LaVey’s original philsophy, much like how in LaVey’s original book the Book of Lucifer was dedicated to formulating moral and epistemological philosophy, with sections of the book divided between the subjects of the universe, time, gods, and the soul (with a lot of very silly titles). The Belial chapter is, much like in LaVey’s book, dedicated to magick, ritualism and explaining how it works. The Leviathan chapter is devoted to the word of Set, which is divided into nineteen parts in exactly the same way as the Enochian keys are in LaVey’s book. In addition to this the four chapters (except for the Belial chapter) each come with a backstory section dealing with the chapters of the original Satanic Bible. After those four chapters, however, there is an additional fifth chapter, titled Yankee Rose (a clear reference to the cryptic ending of the original Satanic Bible), which seems to be focused on the history of the Church of Satan (a subject also covered in the preface), with of course the aim of “decoding” the meaning of the Yankee Rose phrase in the original Satanic Bible.

The book begins with a foreword supposedly written by Satan himself. I think it’s safe to assume it was not quite written by Satan, but from the perspective of what Aquino believes to be Satan, but that it is taken as the word of Satan, and that the word of several other beings is mentioned in the book, indicates that Aquino intends his doctrine to derive from revelation, which is the tell that we’re dealing with a theistic framework. In any case, it serves as the introduction to what Aquino’s version of The Satanic Bible is supposed to be: a means of self-discovery from the Satanic viewpoint, the act of reading it to be taken as a rite passage to into “a universe” or “universes” not known to physics (he actually goes out of his way here to refer to physics as pedantic; totally not anti-scientific at all, I see we’re off to a wonderful start already). Also worth noting is how Satan is taken to be the name of an entity universal to human cultures, supposedly embodying the same tropes throughout his incarnations, with the name Satan just being the name specific to Western “Judeo-Christian” culture, and he treats various other deities as isomorphic to Satan archetypally, such as Set (of course, this is Aquino after all), Odin and Quetzalcoatl. All of these are very quizzical for numerous reasons. I find it funny how Aquino never referred to the Roman god Mercury, since Odin, and to a lesser extent Quetzalcoatl, both share traits with Mercury (Odin in particular was linked to Mercury through the Gaulish deity Lugus). Or Ba’al considering Set has more in common with Ba’al than Satan and indeed was directly identified with Ba’al by the Canaanites who migrated into Egypt (referred to by historians as the Hyksos). Also, I find it weird how, after Set got sick of being referred to by Satan at the time Michael Aquino began founding the Temple of Set (at least according to Setian lore anyway), Set seems to just be cool with being referred to as Satan. Weird how that works.

Me, upon encountering an instance of the Set-Sat-Saton-Satan trope

The preface appears to center itself around the idea of a revision of the Satanic Bible, entailing that the project was in planning for a long time (apparently LaVey intended to do his own revision as early as the 1970s but never got round to writing it before his death in 1997), but it also seems to focus on the subject of the authenticity of the original Satanic Bible, which Aquino seems to believe was repudiated not long after it was origianlly written. It’s here that we also, for a brief moment, see Aquino’s intent in so far as forming a philosophy based on what he believes to be beyond nature, unnatural. To me this is much in contrast with Anton LaVey, who (if Stephen Flowers is anything to go by) intended to create what can be described as a natural morality, and I say this on the grounds that, if Aquino’s morality is centered on an unnatural object, then his moral system can be framed as an avowedly unnatural morality. One minor detail to note however is that he appears to treat every Abrahamic book after the Torah as just a clone of it, which seems nonsensical when you consider the way that these texts diverge from each other (for example, the Hellenic influence on the New Testament in contrast to the Old Testament). Though, as you’ll see later, he tends to do that a lot with RHP religions. After some pretty interesting historical exposition on the early days of the Church of Satan, we return to the theme of the original Satanic Bible’s authenticity, where Aquino claims not only that it lost authenticity in 1975 due to LaVey’s careerist restructuring of the Church of Satan, but that the Satanic Bible itself had been reduced to a work “occult fiction” that happened to contain social criticism. That’s rather harsh of him, but I guess I can understand where he’s coming from.

After the preface is a page entitled Introduction by Lady Diane LaVey High Priestess Church of Satan, but that page consists entirely of the page title, Diane LaVey’s birthday, an image of Diane LaVey from the old days, and a statement saying “Michael’s audacity is breathtaking”. That’s it. After this is the contents section and then the rest of the book. Some introduction. One wonders what the purpose of this page was.

There are two short sections preceding the first chapter. The first is a list of Anton LaVey’s inspirations, and the second, more interestingly, is a section entitled Indulgence in Brimstone. This appears to be this books version of the Nine Satanic Statements as they appeared in the original Satanic Bible. In both cases they directly precede before the Satan chapters of their respective books, contain nine statements to sum up the ethos of the belief system in short order, and both are decorated with the Cross of Leviathan (a.k.a. the symbol of sulfur or brimstone). This to me is one of the things that demonstrates continuity between the two Satanic Bibles, which is good because it fulfills the purpose of the book. As far as the actual statements go, they are as follows:

  1. Indulgence establishes life, as abstinence death.
  2. Indulgence in the present realizes the future.
  3. Indulgence is quickened by truth, stricken by falsehood.
  4. Indulgence is nourished by love, generosity and benevolence: but only when so appreciated and recompensed.
  5. Indulgence in the excitement of creation finds its balance in the annihilation of destruction.
  6. Indulgence is the Fountain of Life, but forbidden to those who seek only to consume life.
  7. Indulgence within Nature through a form of that Nature is a gift of the Natural and the NonNatural, that you may Become both.
  8. Indulgence for its own pleasure is a sacrament.
  9. Indulgence is ever beset by the death-worshipful who would kill whatever they fear: Beware!

Unlike the original Nine Satanic Statements, in these new statements Satan does not seem to make any appearance, and instead the center of this litany is the concept of Indulgence. In the footnotes, Aquino tells us that the concept of Indulgence “elicits far nobler, indeed divine qualities in the Satanist”, speaking in relation to the original Nine Satanic Statements and the speech from John Galt in Atlas Shrugged that Aquino thinks forms the basis of said Statements, but beyond that his concept of Indulgence is not precisely defined other than in distinction to LaVey’s formulation of hedonism in the Lucifer chapter, where he explains that Indulgence should be taken to mean an Epicurean rather than hedonist outlook. It seems that these nine statements are to be taken as the primary means of defining this concept of Indulgence. In many ways we see an echo of Anton LaVey’s original ethos, as summed up by that famous axiom of his, “Life is the great indulgence – death the great abstinence”. But we also get a framing that might be characterized as somewhat Epicurean, with the emphasis that Indulgence is nourished by truth and the warning that it shall be forbidden for those who seek only to consume it, suggesting that this is not a conception of baseline hedonism. The more peculiar detail is the assurance that one may become both natural and unnatural (or, sorry, “NonNatural”; you could have hyphenated that Mr. Aquino). I wonder how this is to be done, or moreover I wonder how the two can be equals if the highest object of his ontology is what he considers to be outside of Nature.

After this, we come to the Book of Fire, which appears to just be content of The Diabolicon, an essay which was written by Michael Aquino in 1970 while he was a member of the Church of Satan, written from the point of view of Satan and the infernal pantheon. The first thing I notice is that here Satan is identified synonymously with Lucifer which, as I’ve explained before, is historically incorrect. But that’s the least important detail here. I do like how it begins with “Hail Man!”, which suggests some commitment to humanism. In any case, what we’re getting from here on out is a retelling of the mythology of the War in Heaven and the creation of the universe. Here, Satan explains how he liberated mankind by disrupting the order that came into being with the emergence of a being named God by introducing Will. This brings him into conflict with the angels Michael (here the “Lord of Force”) and Masleh (a Hebrew angel of the zodiac who is apparently referred to as Messiah at one point), thus leading up to the War in Heaven (or “The Great Seraphic War”). Masleh then descends to the Earth to censor the effects of Satan’s gift, and inspire in humanity guilt, conformity, herd mentality and so forth, and the host of heaven imposes Abrahamism upon mankind and their prophets teach them to be mindless animals before God, with Satan being hated and mocked in this world order. Already I get weird Randian vibes from this, though Aquino would insist otherwise due to his theistic outlook. But we see an interesting side of Satan as well: a being who feels compassion for the species he is attempting to liberate, a being who feels sorrow for those who have befriended him and heeded his teachings only to be met with cruel persecution and often execution. We also, however, get a very strange doctrine about the nature of the universe.

What, man, art thou? Why thy presence? Because thy own purpose determines that of the cosmos itself, though otherwise it may have been suggested – the creation, perpetuation, and exercise of the Satanic marvel that is free and unbounded Will. Consider, were man to perish, what futility would envelop the Universe, for apart from appreciation and use it is a thing of insignificance.

The implication of this would be that the universe has no existence outside of humanity, or human observance, or would have no purpose without the existence of humanity. This of course would raise such questions as “if this is the case when why does the universe generate us in the first place?” or “what of everything that came before mankind?” or “how do you deal with the concept of the universe existing outside of our opinion of it?”. Sadly, I find that these questions are not dealt with sufficiently.

Next we get to Beelzebub, who describes mankind as his inspiration and object of aspiration and tells us about the history of Heaven, Hell and Earth – basically this is the cosmology section of The Diabolicon. He tells of how, before the fall, he wanted to be Satan (or “be Lucifer”, because in this asinine Christian-inspired framework they’re the same entity), but Satan admonished him and told him that he is not God and that he is not here to offer salvation or “blissful nirvana”, before talking to him about how creation and design stem from impulse rather than by law (in other words, spontaneous creation, which is weird for a theist to advocate for and also kind of flies past the thought of there being a concept of laws of physics that can be observed). Will is also described as being of neither divine nor chaotic origin, and it’s not quite explained what that means. Beelzebub then tells of his desire to become independent from God, talks to Michael of his vision, after which Michael and Satan start arguing with each other, with Satan explaining that he differs in substance from Michael because he derives from himself, and as such is discord, whereas Michael derives from God. He tells then that after Satan reveals his mind to the angels, several join him, and then Masleh implores Michael to cast him down, which he does, resulting in their exile and the concept of God being “shaken”, resulting in the rise of endless chaos, which is weird because apparently humans have still had to deal with God and his angels since the events of the war in heaven. Where heaven is the place of order and conformity to God, Hell is a place where freedom is absolute and truth is not constant because it reflects the wills of all who inhabit it.

Then we get to Azazel, here the Arch-Daimon of Hell, who tells more about the war in heaven. Then we get to Abaddon, here the Daimon of death, who continues in that direction. Then we get Asmodeus, who in this book seems to have transformed from the demon of lust to the Daimon of science. Here Asmodeus claims to be responsible for Isaac Newton discovering the law of gravity, the materialist philosophy of Democritus (which is ironic because of what has already been established), and the efforts of mathematicians, astronomers and explorers to understand the cosmos around them. He also claims to be repsonsible for teaching politics and civilization to the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Aztecs and the Ashanti. This is a quite a departure from Asmodeus’ usual mythological role, and again affirms the revelationist aspect of Aquino’s doctrine, stressing that human enlightenment was the product of supernatural intelligences. Then we get to Astaroth, Daimon of the senses, who claims credit for the ability of man to comprehend the true depths of his progress. Then we get to Belial, who I’m sure is trying to talk about how he taught black magic but it feels drenched in jargon. One weird detail I find fascinating is that, at the end, Belial refers to Man as “at once child and father of the universe”, which in my view has the potential to be extrapolated into a framework that I doubt Aquino would appreciate because it sounds too much like Hinduism or Buddhism. Finally we get to Leviathan, or rather an entity describing Leviathan since this time it doesn’t appear to be in first person. Here Leviathan is treated as the Absolute, a principle of existential continuity, answerable to nothing other than the final master of the universe. It is stated here that the Black Flame will only achieve full mastery and perfection when the universe is destroyed and there is nothing but Man and Leviathan, because only then can Man be sure that he isn’t subject to a greater will. So essentially, in this framework, the only way to truly be autonomous is if nothing exists that can create dependencies. This to me is a profound weakness because it reveals just how bad this framework really is, at least so far. If we take this as the revelation of a supernatural being, then it shows that Aquino’s philosophy (or the words of the infernal pantheon) cannot deliver the true depth of its emancipation without the destruction of all that is. If it’s a metaphor, then it encourages the individual to simply cut himself off entirely from all that is, because in this framework only by doing so can you achieve real or perfect freedom. It’s a recipe for supreme alienation – after all you don’t get much more alienated than being willing to proclaim that the only way you’re going to be free is if the universe is destroyed. And, in that sense, it’s another form of the reaction that all too many LHP practitioners have when faced with the reality that, so long as you live in a society, or indeed an integrated universe governed by laws, you will always be subject to interdependence and a myriad of complicated hierarchies in which you are sometimes the master and sometimes but another subject. What better way to get rid of that problem than to cast aside the ultimate externality?

The Leviathan section of The Diabolicon reads something like the True Demon Ending in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (a great game btw)

All in all, all the other problems aside, most of the Book of Fire makes for a somewhat interesting narrative device that can be utilized by Satanists and you can gleam some gems from it, but it’s not the best sign post for the philosophy we’re getting. One other complaint I have about the Satan section though is that it feels weird to read parts of it at first for one simple reason: the design is fucking awful. Seriously. Aquino used a different font for the sections where it’s supposed be the word of one of the Daimons, which I guess is intended to convey that it’s not the word of the author, but there are no quote marks where there’s supposed to be a quotation from another character, and I swear the commas look like period dots. On close inspection you can make out the difference between commas and period dots, but it’s pretty subtle, and if you read it at first glance you might not tell the difference. It’s just such an awkward design.

Now we get to the Lucifer chapter, and for the purpose of this review we’re going to skip the commentary on LaVey’s original Book of Lucifer essays and go straight to Aquino’s chapters. Before we do though, I must note that this chapter in particular showcases Aquino’s tendency to design very insular and stupid-sounding terms for concepts that may already be covered in the English language. For example, in his commentary on LaVey’s originaly essays, he uses a made-up word called “Internetrality” for what seems like he could have just used the word cyberspace instead. I also have this weird feeling of mild annoyance with when in the backstory section Michael Aquino insists that if you read his new chapters you’ll realize that you already assume his philosophy to be correct, that you “know these answers already, intuitively”, citing Plato (the most authoritarian and idealist of the ancient Greek philosophers) and his concept of “universal truths”. At best, it’s a pathetically arrogant attempt to justify his philosophy not in any empirical basis but in subjective “timeless” intuition. At worst, it smacks of something a cult leader might say. Either way, my suspicion is aroused.

We begin with a section on universes, which begins with the discussion of objective and subjective universes. The concept of an Objective Universe is pretty straightforward. It refers to the notion of the universe as we understand it, a matrix of reality comprising of matter and energy and indeed the totality of all phenomenon within it, governed by natural laws that can be apprehended via the scientific method. The concept of a Subjective Universe refers to the Objective Universe as perceived by an individual self-conscious being, or the universe that exists within their mental space. It’s here that we begin to see the development of what can only be described as an anti-scientific framework. He insists that human science has no idea about natural laws in the sense of what they are, why they are or what enforces them, without considering perhaps that we have some idea of why they exist in the sense that we know that they are necessary for the functioning of the universe in various ways. He then goes on about how it is impossible to acquire an accurate assessment of the objective universe through experiment and empiricism, because every interpretation of the universe is totally subjective according to him, even when large numbers of people observe the exact same phenomenon and report back to each other than they have. He even goes so far as to suggest that what we normally observe as insanity is actually just a person’s Subjective Universe replacing the Objective Universe, and he treats the designation of insanity as nothing more than the suggestion of social conformity, a suppression of individual will.

This for me is one of the biggest problems I can think of in Aquino’s framework, and one of the biggest dangers that you might come across in the Left Hand Path. The primary implication of what he is saying is that the Subjective Universe is either just as valid as the Objective Universe, or that it has the potential to be more valid and more meaningful than the Objective Universe, and that by telling someone that their Subjective Universe cannot reflect the truth outside of your perception of it then you are in a sense restricting their social freedom. If this is your epistemology, then you have surrendered your right to challenge the Abrahamic worldview, or any other worldview you condemn, because, if you do so, then your framework tells you that you are trying to suppress the Subjective Universes of those people. The Christian fundamentalist’s claims about God literally creating the world in six days, about evolution being false and dinosaur bones just being tricks from God (or Satan) designed to test your faith, about Noah’s Ark being real, about how building the Temple of Solomon will lead us to a Thousand Year Kingdom on Earth, about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus resurrecting, all of it would be counted as part of the Subjective Universe of the believer, and you now have no right to dislodge that because that’s just the triumph of the Subjective Universe and the will of the faithful. Or maybe it doesn’t apply when they do it. Maybe they’ve surrendered their subjective wills to a false god if they do it. Maybe when you do it, you’re exercising your free will and society has no right to stop you. But you’re only making that judgement on a subjective basis. If you base your framework on subjectivity, then my interpretation of reality is equally valid to anyone else’s, and talking someone out of an erroneous position becomes impossible and talking about philosophy becomes a case of talking about how good you are at telling stories or making paintings. It also lends credence to all of the bullshit that we’ve been seeing over the last decade or so from what we used to call “social justice warriors”, people who assert that their gender identity or racial identity is a much larger subject than any objective matrix that it may operate under. If you adopt this framework of subjectivism, then you’re unable to oppose the modern liberal/progressive tendencies that contain such thinking. The only way you can get past this and imbue your framework with truth is to entertain the premise that there is a reality that exists outside of subjective perception, but Aquino doesn’t necessarily allow this because he implies that this pursuit is scientifically and epistemologically impossible!

But that’s not all. There’s another dimension to the Subjective Universe idea: the Collective Subjective Universe (or CSU). The concept of the Collective Subjective Universe is just his term for when a Subjective Universe is shared, approved and/or enforced by a larger body of people – in other words, it’s his way of saying that human civilization is just the pursuit of cultivating a subjective universe capable of forming consensus (in other words, what is real is what we all agree to be real). There’s no actual justification for why you can’t collectively share the same observation of objective reality I must point out. It’s just his way of pointing out that societies are founded on or undergird themselves with a shared set of values. He pointed out the salience of George Orwell’s criticism of the concept of thoughtcrime, but viewed from the perspective of the ontology we’re given thus far, the only reason Aquino has to give a shit is because his own Subjective Universe is in danger of being suppressed. Hell, if we actually go far enough with this, further than Aquino himself would allow, we would arrive at the premise that Satan himself doesn’t have much of a moral ground to oppose God other than that humans wouldn’t have the freedom to express Subjective Universes or arrive at a state where this subjectivity supercedes reality. He’s already established that if you believe you’ve been possessed by the Holy Spirit we have no right to get in the way of that so why stop there?

You can literally just encapsulate what we’ve establish so far with just this memetic axiom

But we haven’t even begun to wade in the river of bullshit yet. Aquino then claims without empirical basis that time does not exist. I’d say tell that to actual physicists like Lee Smolin or Carlo Rovelli, or really many physicists who can tell you that, even if there’s no real consensus on how we define it, there is some consensus on the fact that it exists. But that’s not all, he denies the theory of relativity as formulated by Albert Einstein, calling it a tar-baby without actually bothering to demonstrate why exactly it’s wrong other than apparently it refuted the ideas that Immanuel Kant had about time and space. This would require Aquino to explain why so many of the predictions laid out by the general theory of relativity have been proven correct – such as the Shapiro effect, the equivalence principle, frame-dragging effects, gravitational redshifting, light deflection by cosmic bodies, the perihelion procession of the planet Mercury, the gravitational microlensing of stars etc. – and the fact that the theory has been taken up as the best way of explaining the laws of gravity, not to mention the fact that general relativity has passed numerous experimental tests since its proposal by Einstein. Too bad he only devoted a paragraph worth of text to the subject. But not to worry, I’m sure his Subjective Universe will grant him the freedom to bypass this reality. Actually, he later goes on to insist that the speed of light is not 180,000 miles per hour and that curved space, wormholes, and black holes are all fictional concepts, all on the grounds that time has no basis in reality. Again we are compelled to ignore that many of these things have already been observed, and in fact this year we got our first up close and personal photo of an actual black hole. Yeah, needless to say I hope Aquino has re-evaluated that aspect of his epistemology. I will give him credit on one thing though: string theory is bullshit, being almost all metaphysics with no actual science to it, and I swear it’s being propped up by the more science-savvy wing of the religious right.

One thing he might be somewhat salient on is where he talks about meaning and points out that Adam and Eve’s true “sin” was that they recognize Good and Evil in a manner that is not in conformity with El (used as the true name for the Biblical God). He points out that meaning is not a function or property of the Objective Universe, but instead a property of the Subjective Universe, and, you know, there’s probably some truth to that. If there is a greater meaning or purpose to this life, the universe seems to reticent to instruct us on what that is, and as such we are left to either figure it out or indeed devise meaning for ourselves. But where Aquino would probably leave this to the dominion of your Subjective Universe, I would insist that we should be able to determine meaning for ourselves by apprehending the world around us. Our only path to mastering the world around us comes from correctly understanding how it operates, this means dealing with a conception of reality that might lie outside of our perception of it. But where Aquino insists that for some reason this is thought-slavery, the rest of us may recognize this is knowledge.

Unbelievably the next section of the Lucifer chapter is devoted to time. I say unbelievably, because Aquino already stated that time isn’t real. Actually, it’s about Aquino’s views on time in relation to religion, so I’m being unfair. In explaining what that has to do with anything, he claims that “OU-aligned” religions (that is, religions that base themselves around the premise of there being an Objective Universe that you have to grapple with) make you do slave tasks within a certain time limit, namely the duration of your life. Man, if only he applied this to labour, maybe he’d be semi-on to something. It’s in this section also that we get into the definitions of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. Here the two concepts are defined very simplistically: Right Hand Path means absorption of the individual into the universe or God, while Left Hand Path means the pursuit of individual divinity. Pretty standard. Of course this affects how Aquino defines the view of time in these paths, so what is he going for? For RHP religions, he assigns the concepts of linear or cyclical time, with linear time being common to Western religions and cyclical time being common to Eastern religions (and, of course, he seems to imply that the two perspectives are linked to each other, as he suggests in the footnotes where he claims that Buddhist concept of time and “the Great Mandala” contains nods to the Christian Peter, Paul and Mary). For the LHP, however, he seems to shift gears from discussing time and instead talk about an Egyptian-inspired framework on death. For Aquino, the fate of the Satanist is neither heaven, nor hell, nor reincarnation, but a postcarnate state of being or Xeper, quoting Peter Pan in saying “to die will be an awfully big adventure!”.

Oh I think I’m ready for this

Sadly however this idea doesn’t seem to be elaborated on too convincingly, so I can only assume you have to read his book MindStar to get the full picture. Instead Aquino goes on about how the missing link proves that the Black Flame was brought to mankind by Satan and his Daimons, which he thinks is justified by the change in cranial size in early hominids such as Cro-Magnon. What bothers me is one simple thing: why does Aquino feel the need to attribute this change to supernatural intervention, as opposed to the laws of evolution by natural selection? We have working explanations for the development of cranium sizes that do not require literal divine intervention (as is what Aquino believes in), such as the transition to bipedalism and changes in the female reproductive system that resulted from this transition. Why is the intervention of literal deities necessary? I also find it curious how he writes off most of human history is “doing nothing”, disregarding the fact that humans spent most of their history until the age of agriculture forming hunter-gatherer societies, and then after that he goes on to invoke “the ghost of Atlantis”, implying that Plato’s Atlantis is the explanation. Well “Atlantis” was in all likelihood a morality tale by Plato, which may well have been based on the destruction of Thera by a volcanic eruption. Curiously enough he claims in the footnotes that the term missing link itself has fallen out of favour with paleantologists because it implies too simple a chain of evolution (not, you know, because the term is a colloquial rather than scientific term), and that now they refer to it as “transitional morphologies”. Well I still see the term missing link thrown around and I’ve never, repeat, never, seen the term “transitional morphologies” used anywhere. Then Aquino appears to suggest that the only reason we don’t know that Atlantis is real is because Christians and Muslims destroyed any evidence of its existence, and then complains about how talk of Atlantis is dismissed by mainstream archaeology (which isn’t actually true; they do talk about Atlantis, they just talk about what they think inspired the story of Atlantis because they know it’s not actually real) while the SS under Heinrich Himmler conducted major expeditions to find Atlantis. Well if the Nazis thought Atlantis was real then by god maybe there’s some truth to it surely! You know, the people who also insisted that the Earth was made of ice and thought most other science was wrong because it was Jewish? And not to mention also that even Adolf Hitler dismissed Heinrich Himmler as a nutjob (though admittedly this was coming from his own volkisch Protestant Christian perspective). Why is Aquino giving the Nazis credence?

After citing an unnamed scholar on how Egyptian civilization was complete from the beginning (which makes no sense), he proposes that there may have been an “OU Satanic Age” that began in 100,000 BCE and is presently ongoing. This would in theory mean that the Satanic Age has been going on since the beginning of humanity, but then Aquino would emphasize if, implying that there probably hasn’t been a Satanic Age within the Objective Universe, only the Subjective Universe. Curiously, however, he notes that there may be downsides to this age, or rather he hints at such, but says that it has not to do with the Age itself and more to do with it’s “OU byproducts”. What does he mean by that? Well he refers to two real world problems: the rammifications brought on by the discovery of the nuclear fission and fusion or more specifically the invention of the atom bomb, and the threat of overpopulation on the finite resources of Planet Earth. He doesn’t say how we should counter this in a Satanic fashion, of course. He just notes that the Gift of Satan has an ominous side, before referring back to the Diabolicon where Belial says that the gift can never be recalled. So essentially, Aquino’s idea of the Gift of Satan is a type of uncontrolled, absolute freedom (at least going from what was said in Satan’s and Beelzebub’s sections of the Diabolicon), the downside of which is the constant threat of environmental destruction, with no real safeguard against that, and the assurance that we can’t revoke that Gift, possibly meaning in this case that we can’t restrain the ability of human civilizations in Aquino’s vision to have destructive effects on the Earth. Needless to say, this is an extremely dangerous view of freedom, one that cannot account for the need for order (indeed order as an abstract concept is rejected entirely in the Diabolicon), and it reminds me of some of the worst excesses of libertarianism, especially anarcho-capitalism (I say that because I think it’s safe to assume Aquino is not a man of the left).

Then we get on to his idea of “Subjective Universal Time”, which seems to be his concept of how, in the subjective mental space, time is infinitely malleable, the magician can alter the flow of time in any way he/she likes (slow it down, accelerate it, freeze it etc). How this is possible is not explained beyond it being the property of a seasoned magician or how stage magicians create this illuision of altered time and space – yeah, key word, illusion; that’s what stage magicians do. After this is the Aeons section, of which there isn’t a lot to say other than apparently Aquino ties the concept of Aeons to Gnosticism, and then goes on to claim that, had Gnosticism become prevalent, we might have had a more intellectual and philosophical attitude towards religion in contrast to the dogmatism of mainline Christianity. If by philosophical and intellectual you mean a somehow even more idealistic and pessimistic version of Christianity, then yes. I still find it very strange how Gnosticism keeps getting praise from Satanists despite it being arguably even more anathema to their beliefs than Christianity. Technically speaking Gnosticism is just the name given to various sects of Christianity that coalesced around similar ideas about the nature of reality, but common to them is the belief that the world is the creation an inferior deity, and that the true God is composed purely of spirit. How this idea manages to be appealing to Satanists is beyond me.

Moving on from time, we now talk about the gods and devils. This should be interesting, right? The section begins with Aquino asserting that the Objective Universe must have a prior genius to conceive, establish and compel its order. In other words, he asserts that there needs to be a prime mover, a God. Of course for Aquino this genius is apparently not one God but instead the Neteru, a collective of supernatural beings that exist within Subjective Universes. In ancient Egypt, the term Neteru may or may not have been the word used to refer to the gods, so we can assume that Aquino is employing a polytheistic framework. These Neteru are considered timeless in that there was no point in time that they came into being, which would mean that they have always existed, and without them there is no explanation for the universe coming into being other than happenstance and the Objective Universe would comprise of utter chaos. He could explain the universe as being the product of laws, atoms, energy, matter and the process that comprise them, but he rejects this explanation and thinks it’s impossible to explain the universe that way. He poses the question of why humans should apprehend a multiplicity of Neteru rather than a singular God, only to leave the question unanswered, and then to suggest that Set and the multiplicity are the same thing. Apparently this is internally harmonious. Aquino says further that the Neteru are not apprehensible within mechanisms of the Objective Universe but through noesis, a Greek word that he uses to refer to intutive apprehension but which actually means the exercise of intellect or reason. Thus we again establish that Aquino’s framework is essentially a high-brow brand of Platonic (or Platonism-esque) polytheism in Egyptian costume.

Some Neteru sailing across the river

His critique of the Biblical God isn’t particularly bad, but I must note that his insistence on referring only to El seems historically questionable. Yes the name El is the earliest name given to the Biblical God in the Bible, but the identification of Yahweh with El can be explained rather adequately as a syncretism of sorts, with Yahweh assuming the role of El and taking his name through being identified with the head of the Canaanite pantheon by the Israelites. There’s also the claim that dualism is a uniquely Hebraic corruption (well, borrowed from Persia more accurately), which is odd because it is pretty well documented that the Greeks had their own homebrew dualism via the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Egyptian religion certainly had its own dualistic element in the conflict between Ra and Apep, which later became ever more central to the Egyptian religion following the exile of the Hyksos and Set becoming the resident enemy of the gods. More curious however is when we get to the claims about religion and violence. He points out that Satanists/Setians have never engaged in systematic violence in the same way that other religions have, which is correct, but then claims that the reason for this is simply that the Satanists/Setians are more secure in their beliefs, and that the other religions have no security or confidence in their beliefs. This is an idealist, entirely post-hoc rationalization that shunts to the side the role of power and the specific hierarchies that engender such aggression. Stop and wonder why Christianity transformed from a largely pacifist religion concerned with social reform, albeit packaged as a ridiculous pessimistic cult of resurrection, to the Christianity we know today, known for its countenance of rigid hierarchical authority and repression. The answer lies in the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state, which then fashioned an official Roman interpretation of Christianity, suitable for the use of the Roman state. But this point never comes up once in Aquino’s work, and indeed it’s barely addressed in the type of crude New Atheist arguments that he opportunistically channels in this book.

Then there’s his brief critique of Buddhism, and he sort of misunderstands the Buddhist take on suffering and consciousness. While there are more nihilistic schools of Buddhism out there, many Buddhists don’t actually deny consciousness. They just don’t believe that there exists a self or an ego, and that suffering is caused by cravings or attachments which spring from desire and are tied with the attachment to the ego.

In contrast to Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Aquino establishes that the Satanic religion is based on there being independent, self-aware consciousness that is external to the Objective Universe, and that, for him, the ancient precursor to this was the Neteru who were apparently collectively identified with Satan. Again, a simple search for the term Neteru yields no such determination, unless you count the fact that Christians tend to view every god that isn’t Yahweh or Jesus as Satan, and that the Neteru is widely considered to be the name the Egyptians used to refer to the gods. What Aquino is saying then, whether he would admit it or not, is that his conception of Satan and Satanism is firmly attached to, if not almost indistinguishable from, classical polytheism, but with modern LaVeyan affectations and, in true LHP fashion, taken from the lens of the darker or marginalized gods (chiefly Set). And then in that spirit we come to a few sections on Set and his priesthood where he, against his previously established theology, defines Set as the neter who is against the Neteru, defined as that which is not nature – the irony being with that part is that the Neteru are fundamentally outside of nature in his own theology!

After a long exposition on Set, Satan, and for some reason Melkor and Sauron from the Lord of the Rings universe, we come to a section entitled “Humancarnation” (seriously Mike what’s with the made-up words?), which appears to be a section dealing in metaphysics. The thing that stands out is the way that Aquino fundamentally misunderstands the naturalistic and scientific perspectives of human reality. He complains that the scientific perspective holds that Man is just another animal, which is ironic given that he was quite happy to join the Church of Satan, a religious group that then, as now, stated quite blatantly that Man is just an animal, just that he is the most advanced and vicious of them all. He holds that the scientific world view holds that man is nothing more than a machine, which requires him to ignore the fact that the scientific community does not automatically believe this, and in fact we know from our scientific understanding of the world that, as I covered in my case against transhumanism, that the brain does not actually operate in a way that can be described as mechanical. One the perspective of consciousness he assumes that everyone in the scientific community takes the Daniel Dennett perspective of consciousness – that it does not exist – at which point I would encourage him to look into Roger Penrose. He even goes so far as to claim that the scientific community is not confident to judge whether or not there exist an external God, which would require him to ignore that several esteemed members of the scientific community happen to be atheists.

Speaking of atheism, I find Aquino’s criticism of atheism to be very shallow. He accuses the atheist of only being interested in criticizing Biblical mythology, which is an interesting rehash of that whole “atheists just want to bash Jesus” argument. I mean yeah let’s ignore the way atheists tend to criticize Islam and Hinduism as well as Judaism and Christianity just to go out of your way to look like you got burned by an atheist who told you that general relativity is actually real. Don’t let reality stop you from accusing atheists of “scholasticism”. It’s worth noting that in the previous section Aquino marshals an interesting quote from John Fowles’s Aristos where it is stated “Intelligent Athenians of the fifth century knew that their gods were metaphors, personifications of forces or principles”. It’s particularly interesting considering, to my mind, this is a perspective that is entirely compatible with an atheistic outlook, but then Aquino has the nerve to deem atheism an inferior philosophical outlook. As for his take on agnosticism, there really isn’t much to say other than, at last, an argument of some sort, even if it is basically an ad hominem.

After this however we get a somewhat interesting criticism of the Church of Satan and its hedonistic outlook, criticizing its emphasis on carnal pleasure as not enough, suggesting instead that an Epicurean outlook on pleasure is preferable (which is ironic on his part considering Epicurus was a materialist and thus would be opposed to Aquino on epistemology) and suggested that virtue should be raised to the level of rationality, and that to be a god carries with it the responsibility of upholding a specific set of virtues pertaining to wisdom, ethics and the Agathon (or “the Good”, whatever that might mean), noting that the Biblical God failed in this regard. All of these are fine things, commendable in fact, but I can’t get past that all this is coming from the same guy who already establishing that this very good, as all things in the universe, are to be destroyed so that there is only Man and Leviathan, and assured us of no safeguard against the destructive side of his conception of absolute freedom. What’s even more telling however is that in this part of the book we see the arch-LHP guy Michael Aquino, who prizes himself on being more Satanic than Anton LaVey, propose a conception of serving a good that is by necessity greater than the individual, and marshalled a quote about Platonic philosophy that tells us that there must always be a good that transcends the particular goods of individuals. It makes me wonder just how confused Aquino’s framework is. Although I have to say, “serving the Holy Grail” is a particularly metal-sounding phrase, if a bit of an eyebrow-raising one coming from a Satanist (although in fairness there apparently have been pre-Christian conceptions of the Holy Grail).

“That is your purpose, Adept. The quest for the Holy Grail.”

After this though, we get to the last part of Chapter 12, which I mention only because it contains some claims that appear to be factually wrong. He claims that the Greek concept of telos originates in Egyptian symbolism, with the only evidence of this being a Plutarch quote that doesn’t seem to suggest this entirely. But far more egregious is his take on Darwinian evolution – he appears to consider the Lamarckian model of evolution to be superior to the Darwinian model of evolution, on the basis that Lamarckian evolution places a greater emphasis on individual will. Of course there’s too much evidence for Darwinian evolution to be correct for Aquino to simply dismiss Darwinism as he does and Lamarckianism is considered to have been supplanted by other scientific doctrines, but let’s not allow that to bother us because by god science has to conform to our individual will.

Now we come to Chapter 13, which is (thankfully) the last of the Lucifer chapter. This appears to be yet another chapter about metaphysics, albeit this time with specific attention being paid to the subject of consciousness or the soul, which is going to be fun to say the least. Yet again we open with a strawman of naturalistic philosophy that reads like the only guy he read on the subject was Daniel Dennett. One thing that is interesting, however, is that he claims that the ancient Egyptians recognized that consciouness was external to matter, and his source for this…is Deepak fucking Chopra! The literal Quantum Healing guy! I don’t know what I was expecting from Aquino, but it was almost certainly not this. Although I must say, perhaps I should have expected something New Agey given that he uses a term like MindStar to refer to the Xeper.

His critique of the “Judeo-Christian” concept of the soul is weird because it seems very heavily focused on the Judaic concept of the soul (or perhaps the lack of one), without much attention paid to Christianity. A very basic assessment of Christianity would lead you to understanding the Christian concept of a soul that would thus be distinct from Judaism, one may even go further and try to analyze the Hellenic influences of the Christian doctrine in this regard, but Aquino doesn’t seem to note this, and indeed is of the belief that post-Enlightenment Christians don’t even believe in such a doctrine. Even more curiously, for a guy who is to be taken as avowedly anti-Christian, Aquino seems very happy to employ the type of argument that would otherwise be reserved for Christian apologists. He seems to imply that, if you have a society where people don’t believe in an afterlife or a God, then the result is a society of hedonisitic decadence. He marshalls a scene from Pinocchio in support of his point (huh, I’m getting some Jordan Peterson vibes from this part) in which The Coachman invites unsuspecting youths to a place called Pleasure Island, an amusement park where they could do whatever they wanted without any rules until they, in their mischief, transformed into donkeys and were sold into slavery. This on its own is capable of illustrating a somewhat profound moral point, and in fact it sounds like something that can be used as a metaphor for something I remember hearing from Buddhism, but here it just seems like an arbitrary way of giving slack to people who don’t agree with your belief system.

Then we arrive at Aquino’s explanation of his concept of the “MindStar”. There isn’t much to say of the MindStar on its own, and it’s only a page before we talk about it in relation to an assortment ancient Egyptian concepts of the soul. What I will note however is that Aquino notes that, in his version of Satanism, death does not mean personal obliteration but rather “the MS T-Field relinquishing of a no-longer needed OU sensory interface”. No-longer needed eh? That sounds like something you can get away with when you describe what we’d call natural death, passing away into old age as it were, but I wonder how that works when you get killed? If a guy stabs me to death does my soul decide that I no longer needed that body anyway? What a strange concept of death and afterlife.

After this we arrive at the third chapter, the Belial chapter, which as I explained before is devoted to magic. Here, magic is defined as the means by which a practitioner renders the universe intelligible to his will and thus able to interact with and influence it, which seems fairly in line with that old Crowleyite axiom that much of the Left Hand Path uses to define magic. Of note is the definition of black magic and white magic, as based on the doctrine of the Temple of Set. Traditionally, black magic and white magic are defined as magic intended for malevolent and benevolent purposes respectively, and in the Left Hand Path the terms black magic and white magic are typically treated as arbitrary. Here, the term white magic refers to the magic that is specific to mainstream religions, which for Aquino is a form of self-deception and for him not real magic, while black magic refers to magic that operates from the Setian premise of the individual being distinct from the objective and subjective universes and as such is called “D5 tools”. This dichotomy is ostensibly based not on good magic or bad magic, but rather on true magic and false magic (though, surely this lends itself to a good vs bad value judgement if truth is tied to goodness). These concepts are expanded upon not too much further into the book. White magic is defined further as a highly concentrated form of conventional religious ritual, such as prayer, often with the intent of currying the favour of or seeking the will of a deity or daemon. Black magic is divided into two categories: Lesser Black Magic and Greater Black Magic. Lesser Black Magic is a tool to focus the mind outward in order to identify the properties of the objective and subjective universes, which for Aquino is an analytic process separate from traditional ceremonial magic, which seems like an attempt to frame the concept in rationalistic terms (wasn’t expecting that from him), with the aim of controlling natural law for the purpose of changing a situation in conformity to your will. Greater Black Magic is the category of black magic whose purpose is the analysis and control of subjective universes, with the aim of replacing the subjective universe that the individual learns as a result of societal conditioning with a subjective universe that is consciously created by the individual. Unless the practitioner is suitably disciplined, this comes with the risk of becoming mentally unstable, supposedly because you’ve been given license by the Black Flame to go into multiple subjective universes and do whatever you want with them.

In between the sections on Lesser and Greater Black Magic we get a section about how history is just a form of “reality control”. Aquino outright states that history is not a means by which to derive as a foundation for or evidence of anything because historical accounts are written by humans with different interests and therefore utterly subjective. It’s a particularly myopic form of nihilism because it completely bypasses the part about history where people gather evidence of things that happened and draw conclusions from them not to mention use them to either support or disprove certain accounts of history. It’s another case of something being more complex than Aquino makes it out to be. It’s also very rich that Aquino would complain about subjectivity considering his whole framework frames subjectivity as eing superior to the objective world, as is at the very least suggested by the fact that magic concerning the subjective universes is the “greater” category of magic. Of course he backpeddles later and says that the implications for black magic is that history is merely incomplete rather than unreliable.

In the section devoted to Ritual, Aquino gives a critique of LaVey’s use of the term Shemhamforash in his rituals, which is actually just one of the many Hebraic names of YHWH. He seems to treat the use of it as essentially “mystobabble”, which, while not entirely fair considering it isn’t an atraditional name, is salient insofar he is correct to point out that doesn’t really have anything to do with Satan. As for the rest of the Ritual section, there isn’t much for me to say given that it’s sort of a continuation of the epistemology of Aquino’s already established framework, but otherwise it’s not terrible in that it seems to me like it can be used to derive small aspects of methodology.

Now we move on to the fourth chapter, the Leviathan chapter. For the purpose of this post, I won’t comment on the Enochian Keys themselves and instead focus on the backstory lore surrounding them, particularly because it involves Aquino’s exposition on the character Enoch. Aquino considers him to be the Biblical equivalent of Cadmus, Hermes and Thoth, a connection that I’m not sure where it comes from, although it might be extrapolated from the way people have tried to connect him with Hermes Trismegistus, the alleged founder of Hermeticism. I’m also not sure where Aquino got the idea that Enoch was a sex-maniac. That’s news to me. Other than that, there is a somewhat decent summary of the Book of Enoch, and why Aquino thinks Enoch to be a missing figure of the Left Hand Path. Personally though I wonder if Aquino isn’t taking creative license with the myth, since it sounds like, in the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are still supposed to be the bad guys, and the “Black Flame” Aquino refers to is not depicted as a spark of divine consciousness, but a weapon by which to attack the believers of God.

But there’s another strange quirk to this chapter, one that gives me the clue to a particularly elitist character to Aquino’s thinking. His explanation for why the “Judeo-Christian cult of El” (read: Christianity) prevailed in Rome effectively amounted to him saying that the people were too stupid and ignorant to believe in esoteric mystery religions. Of course he frames it as being the religions of pre-Christianity, but that doesn’t make sense because the people were quite fine to be polytheists before Christianity showed up. In fact, we know that in the case of Rome at least, in the early days of Christianity, the Romans treated Christians with pity at best, and suspicion at worst, and at any rate many were certainly willing to cheer at the sight of the early martyrs being slaughtered in the Colosseum. But apparently the polytheism they already believed in wasn’t sophisticated enough, so it seems like he’s referring to a certain type of esotericism that existed in the ancient world that was not understood by the masses – probably because its practitioners willfully prevented the masses from understanding their doctrines by making their religions so exclusive. And again, the political realities of ancient Rome are casually ignored here. Aquino ignores how the Roman imperial hierarchy was rigid in its consolidation of state power, ruthless in its persecution of dissidents, and often too corrupt to do anything for the average citizen. Christianity, for better or worse, emerged as the answer to this political situation, offering deliverance from the poverty that Roman citizens felt in their day to day lives while preaching against the excesses of the Roman Empire. But Aquino doesn’t account for this. Instead he prefers to think that the masses were just insane gluttons for punishment who embraced a tyrannical god not because he promised worldly liberation and spiritual salvation (even if that was for naught) but because they were starving for attention. It’s a fundamentally elitist worldview, one that is destined to fail to enlighten the masses because it so fundamentally despises them for being too ignorant to grasp its spiritual doctrine, and also fundamentally idealist because it reduces the rise of ideologies to sentiment rather than account for external political and material conditions. I guess we can expect this from a guy who, for all his anti-establishment flair, appears to be nothing more than a garden variety liberal at best.

Yeah, let’s pretend that stuff like this never happened.

He also returns to the point about historians not accounting for the majority of human history, which is simply wrong because we know for a fact what humans did for 90% of their history. He asserts, without any evidence or even convincing argument at all, that there was undeniably ancient civilization for the 90,000 years or so that, in reality, were spent in a hunter-gatherer mode of social organization. There are only two points of evidence he refers to in support of this claim. The first is that, supposedly, the idea of Atlantis had different names under different cultures, which doesn’t really prove the actual existence of the settlement. The second is that there were 335,000 search results for the term “forbidden archaeology” in 2018. What he’s really saying is “go on Google and look up a shit ton of conspiracy theory websites”.

Finally, we’ll address the Yankee Rose chapter, the additional chapter. This section believe it or not is pretty fascinating in that it gives an account of the lore surrounding key aspects of Anton LaVey’s life, such as the Black House. There’s all sorts of colourful details, such as how LaVey preferred to greet guests in his house by arriving through the fireplace and the secret passages throughout the house, which really serve to breathe a type of life into the life of LaVey that you sometimes don’t see when we talk about Satanism, which is further a great contrast to the often dull pedantry found in much of the rest of the book. Then there’s the mysterious stuff about the sinkhole and the photograph of the house supposedly collapsing inward until nothing but darkness remained. It’s an intriguing closer – or so I would say, if it were indeed the closer.

The Ninth Solstice appears to be another section from the point of view of Satan, which means we’re back to that stupid font again although by now you’ve probably adjusted to its awkward character. It seems that in this text Satan is addressing Anton LaVey, who he treats as his anointed man, gives him his tribute, and by his will is consecrated a Daimon and becomes a god. It’s all strangely amicable for a being who, as I mentioned earlier, got sick of being called Satan and insisted on being called Set instead. But apparently this is accounted for when he says the Church of Satan has past its time, and implores LaVey to seek out “the Elect”, whoever that might be. There are a few other peculiar details to note here. Satan declares that he and his entourage have no need to justify their existence or their desires, a statement that I would have expected from an almighty sky deity whose rule is absolute and not his freethinking adversary. Once again the elitist aspect of Aquino’s worldview is visible, with Satan’s stress that he will not illuminate the many but instead the few, only the Elect. Only they can truly receive Satan’s wisdom. Such is the mark of a deeply esotericist doctrine (esotericism referring to mystery traditions and the religious practice of keeping occult knowledge hidden to all but a select group). And who is this “Elect”, exactly? Satan doesn’t tell us, and since he’s addressing LaVey we can only assume the two already know between themselves who the term “Elect” refers to, but we sure don’t. Perhaps it refers to the only people who identify as Satanists? Or the highest ranks of the Temple of Set? Who knows. Lastly, Satan tells LaVey to receive his Red Halo as the sign that he has become the Red Magus that Leviathan spoke of. If you remember the Diabolicon from before, you remember that the last section of it says that only with the obliteration of everything else that the Black Flame may “become red in the glory of its perfection”, obviously signifying the full attainment of self-divinity. That in mind, what’s happening in this dialogue actually? Is LaVey still alive at this time, or is he dead and this is supposed to be his disembodied spirit talking to Satan in the afterlife? What’s going on here, because I refuse to believe that LaVey actually destroyed the universe.

Appendices aside, that takes care of the book.

A depiction of Set

So what am I to make of this whole thing? How am I to summarize this book as a point of development for the direction of Satanism. Summer Thunder may be disappointed to hear me say this (or he would if he didn’t see it coming as he presumably read this post) but I do not see good things coming from the Aquinoite/Setian framework of Satanism.

If we take a look at Aquino’s worldview, it would be tempting to conclude that his framework can be reduced to a more sophisticated brand of inverted Christianity due to the fact that Christian apologist arguments are deployed in service of Satanism, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It’s more like a brand of polytheism that places strong emphasis on Platonism and esotericism, with Satan and his demonic entourage almost filling the role once filled by the gods of old, which is framed as a restoration of the original Egyptian cult of Set, which Aquino insists was the original cult of Egypt before being supplanted by that of Osiris. It’s classical theism, but from the lens of a kind of quasi-polytheist Platonism, mixed with an “I swear it’s not Ayn Rand” brand of hyper-individualist libertarianism, all wrapped up in a framework that lends itself easily to solipsism. It’s a confused philosophical outlook, and it tends to show in many areas. For instance, there is his classical theism and his dismissal of Ayn Rand, and then there’s the fact that his brand of individualism almost hasn’t changed from LaVey’s other than it’s more “Epicurean” in attitude. I guess you can say he can’t be an Objectivist because Objectivism categorically rejects belief in a God, but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from getting the sense that there are scents of Randian morality and ontology still there, bastardized by Plato-esque theism though they may be. And then there’s the fact that his absolute individualism is contradicted by his insistence on there being something higher than the self – whether it be Leviathan clearly taking the role of the All or the talk of the importance of an Agathon that the individual must serve and cultivate. And then to top it all off there’s just the fact that Aquino supports this whole picture by marshalling a variety of talking points on numerous subjects that are often either dubious, myopic or just straight-up factually wrong, not to mention a shocking level of ignorance regarding science – and how ironic is it that a guy who has a Daimon of Science in his infernal pantheon either rejects the scientific method or places it as inferior to divine revelation?

I’m sorry, but I can’t take this as anything other than a mess. If the Satanist movement follow’s Aquino’s doctrine, it will be doomed to exist under the shadow of Christianity, due chiefly to the fact that it marshalls classical theism similarly to how Christian apologists might just that it’s against Abrahamic monotheism and for a different theistic framework centered around Satan and his demons (or, excuse me, Set and the Neteru).

The Devil, The Goddess, and Luciferianism

During one of my regular online travels, I encountered a lengthy, fascinating and well-sourced essay entitled The Devil & the Goddess: Meditations on Blood, Serpents & Androgyny, originally written in 1997 by a man who goes by the name Gyrus and can be found within his 2007 book Archaeologies of Consciousness: Essays in Experimental Prehistory. The essay goes into incredible detail concerning the subjects of Satanism, the archetype of Satan, various strains of left hand path occult philosophy, pre-Christian pagan religions, Tantric Hinduism, goddess worship, sexuality, and many other topics, and according to Gyrus originated as an expression of dissatisfaction with the ethos of Social Darwinism he found in Satanism, particularly as expressed by black metal bands in interviews he had read via EsoTerra Magazine. In this essay, I feel I have found some keys towards crafting an identity for Luciferianism, particularly with Gyrus’ critique of Satanism and his dialogue concerning Taoism. What you are about to read is not, I must stress, a response to the essay itself, nor ultimately an appraisal of it as a standalone text, but rather a commentary on key ideas presented within it as it relates to the “real” subject: namely, the Luciferianism I seek to craft and embody.

There is one thing to bear in mind, of course, with his critique of Satanism. When dealing with Satanism, it is ultimately based on the LaVeyan doctrine of Satanism, as originally outlined in The Satanic Bible. While some theistic Satanists might be disappointed, I have said before that a lot of the core philosophy of The Satanic Bible permeates theistic Satanism as well, though the Church of Satan dares not to admit to such a fact.

Let’s begin this post proper with Gyrus’ commentaries on Satanism in “The Devil and the Tao”, more specifically with his critique of the social Darwinism of Satanism:

“The so-called rationalism of modern—usually ‘socially Darwinian’—Satanism rests on very dodgy philosophical ground, simply because when you bother to try and define the terms used in the idea of “the strong over the weak”, you’re invariably left with a sense of, “Yeah, and…?” It’s like saying you believe in the philosophy of “winners beating the losers”. Jello Biafra nicely undermined knee-jerk social Darwinism with his quip that “the strong prey on the weak, and the clever prey on the strong”; but in the end this just begs the question. Also, orthodox Darwinism inevitably holds that humanity is the latest in life’s progressively ‘better’ attempts at creating organisms. Surely social Darwinism would hold a similar view about contemporary culture? This doesn’t sit too well with the misanthropy, and contempt for the ‘lowering of standards’ in modern society, that is prevalent among many supposed social Darwinists. If the strong really do overpower the weak, why have we been dominated for so long by such a half-assed religion as Christianity? I think many Satanists, in claiming “strong over the weak” to be a universal principle of nature, are actually trying to say, “I’m harder than you and I could have you easily.” Or at least, “I could out-stare you, mate.” That’s another argument. But as for universal principles—forget it. Evolution and history are far too complex and multi-dimensional to limit themselves to the strategies of a fight in a pub.”

In this critique, I see many things. First of which, I see how easily I fell into the right wing of politics between the middle of 2016 and the outset of 2018. Even though many Satanists naturally find themselves averse to social conservatism and reactionary politics because of, among other things, the reactionary antipathy towards the expansion of human liberty and progress in the name of arbitrary tradition and the consolidation of state power and authority to achieve this end, the logic of social Darwinism permeates conservative politics so ubiquitiously, that many people hardly notice. The contempt for the “lowering of standards” is but one trope you see from them, as I often remember from High Tory lizards like Michael Gove when talking about the education system, but you also find it in the logic of free market libertarianism, wherein the market, in the society they ultimately desire, is this force of natural selection wherein those who are able to accumulate capital and wealth ascend to the top and those who cannot meet the demands of the market exist as essentially fish bait, and in this general conservative habit of extolling success above all else – if you aren’t successful, you’re not really worth anything.

More importantly, the brute simplicity of social Darwinism, and the primary mentality that drives it, are exposed in this section. The brute simplicity of social Darwinism lies in its emphasis on the hierarchy of strength, whatever basis for strength or superiority we’re going with here, and consequently in the ability to exert strength over others. The mentality at work is often invariably not just that the strong should rule over the weak, but also “I’m one of the natural elites and deserve to rule over the weak”, but even then this tends to amount to “I think I can beat you in a fight/arm wrestling competition/video game”. You kind of see it in this idea of being like a wolf as opposed to a sheep, after all wolves are mighty predators and sheep are defenseless domesticated herbivores who could be their prey. But wolf behavior doesn’t much the predatory vision of Ayn Rand individualism that some in the Left Hand Path suggest. Not only are wolves pack animals, immediately suggesting a little more collectivism, but the alpha male trope that supposedly stems from wolf behavior is inaccurate: wolves don’t actually compete for the spot of top dog in vicious battles for dominance with the strongest wolf becoming pack leader, rather a wolf becomes the leader of a pack simply by breeding with other wolves and producing pups which then form the pack. In fact, wolf packs are formed in much the same way human families are formed – that is, males and females from different families seek each other out, find each other, and form a pack. Don’t just take my word for it; take it from David Mech, the man who originally wrote about “alpha” wolves in his 1970 book The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species and changed his mind in the light of new evidence concerning wolf packs some 35 years later.

A typical wolf pack

The point of “If the strong really do overpower the weak, why have we been dominated for so long by such a half-assed religion as Christianity?” is a very fascinating and revealing dilemma for many social Darwinists. For the Satanist, Christianity is the religion of the weak and the dumb, the feeble teachings of the lamb, yet, it has dominated the Western world and the imagination of its people for less than two thousand years. Clearly, it is not the “strength” of the Christian religion that has propelled it to power – indeed, Christianity was pretty much persecuted by the Romans until the emperor Constantine embraced it; it gained power not through its own merits but through its elevation into the halls of power by the believing ruler. More to the point, if might makes right, Satan presents an odd scenario, depending on the interpretation of Satan being utilized. If we are dealing with the Satan of the Bible or even Paradise Lost, that figure is ultimately defeated, is he not? But then for many Satanists, Satan is not simply that figure, but a much broader, more universal and thus more powerful natural force that pervades the universe, a dark force of nature as Anton LaVey put it. Taken this way, what could be more consistent with might makes right than getting behind the might of nature itself! Returning to the main point, you might say that the clever rule the strong who rule the weak, and Boyd Rice certainly has, but even then, Christianity is not what I would call the religion of the clever. In fact, I believe it to be one of the most absurd and stupid religions the world has to offer, for reasons that I have devoted many a post within this blog over its entire lifespan to covering. So if the clever rule the strong, who in turn rule the weak, how did such an idiotic, foolish and self-contradicting religion as Christianity come to be the guiding religion of the Western world for over a thousand years?

At the risk of seeming glib, we find a very similar dilemma throughout fascist politics, especially in ethno-fascism. Why is it that if the strong rule the weak and the fascist represents the strong, that the fascist is always destined to be the loser in contemporary society? Why does the mighty Aryan/white man find himself subjected by other races, especially the Jews, when he is supposed to be the master race, the strongest and greatest race of mankind? Conservatives have a similar problem with their memes about how leftists are cucks, and they’re the “alpha males”. You find this encapsulated in Milo Yiannopoulos going on about Marxists being weak beta male cucks. One wonders, then, why the communists were historically more than capable of matching the West in combat, such as the Soviet victory over the Western-backed White Armies during the Russian Civil War, or the frequent routing of American armies by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Moreover, why does the fascist go on about how might makes right and yet never seem to line up in support of the victor? Oh wait, it must because the victor in the struggles of the 20th century was not fascism, but liberal democracy (or more or less whatever passes for democracy these days)! It must be, then, that the fascist places value on something other than simply might – if, that is, he isn’t simply using that as a cover for pure desire for a totalitarian, socially Darwinist state. Returning to Satanism, it seems to To value Satan, a being supposedly to be defeated by God, is to value so much more than the superficial value of might: otherwise, the logic of might makes right, taken to its conclusion, should lead to the Christian Yahweh or Jesus who defeat in in the corresponding myths.

I also find the overall mentality of social Darwinism to be inferior to the quest for knowledge, enlightenment, transformation and praxis, as well the broader sense of mission to emancipate mankind in this sense, and I will quote the late Robert Anton Wilson on this – specifically a section of his essay Don’t Be Afraid of Black Magick in which he criticizes people who pride themselves on being cunning black magicians as opposed to the “suckers” who deal in the light.

The hoodlum-occultist is “sociopathic” enough to, see through the conventional charade, the social mythology of his species. “They’re all sheep,” he thinks. “Marks. Suckers. Waiting to be fleeced.” He has enough contact with some more-or-less genuine occult tradition to know a few of the gimmicks by which “social consciousness,” normally conditioned consciousness, can be suspended. He is thus able to utilize mental brutality in place of the simple physical brutality of the ordinary hooligan.

He is quite powerless against those who realize that he is actually a stupid liar.

He is stupid because spending your life terrorizing and exploiting your inferiors is a dumb and boring existence for anyone with more than five billion brain cells. Can you imagine Beethoven ignoring the heavenly choirs his right lobe could hear just to pound on the wall and annoy the neighbors? Gödel pushing aside his sublime mathematics to go out and cheat at cards? Van Gogh deserting his easel to scrawl nasty caricatures in the men’s toilet? Mental evil is always the stupidest evil because the mind itself is not a weapon but a potential paradise.

Every kind of malice is a stupidity, but occult malice is stupidest of all. To the extent that the mindwarper is not 100 percent charlatan through-and-through (and most of them are), to the extent that he has picked up some real occult lore somewhere, his use of it for malicious purposes is like using Shakespeare’s sonnets for toilet tissue or picking up a Picasso miniature to drive nails. Everybody who has advanced beyond the barbarian stage of evolution can see how pre-human such acts are, except the person doing them.

Genuine occult initiation confers “the philosopher’s stone,” “the gold of the wise” and “the elixir of life,” all of which are metaphors for the capacity to greet life with the bravery and love and gusto that it deserves. By throwing this away to indulge in spite, malice and the small pleasure of bullying the credulous, the mindwarper proves himself a fool and a dolt.

With regards to my point, and I guess Gyrus’ as well, the TL;DR is thus: social Darwinism and the “alpha wolf” mentality of it is stupid because it tells people to focus on being the dominant personality who’s better than the suckers and the sheep rather than actually providing a framework by which the masses can emancipate themselves and seeking out anything more than the simplicity of strength, cunning and the reptilian psyche. There’s natural realism, the acknowledgement of the harsh realities of life and the necessity of strength and force, and then there’s simply wanting to gun for the king of the pack for its own sake. Church of Satan and Order of Nine Angles on suicide watch.

Why seek power for its own sake when you can seek the philosopher’s stone instead?

Next we will discuss how in “Satan’s Ancestry”, Gyrus discusses the pre-Christian lineage of Satan, and approaches discussion the Greek deity Dionysus as the nexus between the archetypes of Christ and Satan (before continuing such discussion in “Reclamation”).

“The greatest insights into Christianity and Satan can be gleaned from exploring the Greek god Dionysus. He is very typical of pagan nature gods: he is horned, signifying kinship with animals (like the closely related goat-god of the Arcadian pastures, Pan, another source of Satanic iconography); he is a ‘dying-and-rising’ god, reflecting the cyclic process of the seasons in nature; and he has a strong wild and untamed aspect, again like Pan, forming a bond with pre-civilised humanity. It’s obvious how Satan, Christianity’s repressed shadow, has derived from such an archetype. In its irrational suppression of sexuality, nature, cyclicity and the body, Christianity latched on to this archetype and pushed it so far away from human experience that it became alien, and we became alienated. The already feral, ego-shattering Dionysian godform became utterly evil and terrifying, a force to be held at bay at all costs.

Now things get confusing. Did not Jesus, like Dionysus, die and rise again? Both are intimately associated with vines and wine; both have been connected to the use of psychedelic mushrooms; the flesh of both is in some way eaten as part of their worshippers’ rites; and both names, according to John M. Allegro’s The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, stem etymologically from the same Sumerian root. There’s almost as much evidence connecting Dionysus with Jesus as there is with Satan.

It’s my feeling that we have here a crucial fork in the history of archetypes. Christianity appropriated the more abstract spiritual motifs of dying-and-rising nature gods (mainly supposed ‘life after death’) and up popped the mythical Jesus. The chthonic associations with the Earth, with sexuality and the body, were all repressed, compressed and demonised into Satan. In this division was lost all cyclicity, all the transformative and change-affirming power of nature’s process. We descended into truly profane time; linear time instead of rhythmic, spiralling, sacred time. Norman O. Brown has noted that “the divorce between soul and body [analogous to the Jesus/Satan split] takes the life out of the body, reducing the organism to a mechanism”. Likewise, the conception of an extra-terrestrial, eternal time (Heaven) as sacred renders the Earth profane, and binds us to the linear track of uni-directional historical ‘progress’. We may see ourselves as moving towards this sacred time—but it is an ever-receding carrot-on-a-stick, and tears us away from omni-directional immersion in the moment. “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.” (Jim Morrison)”

Dionysus’s transformation, like so many pre-Christian pagan deities, into Satan, becomes a metaphor for the bifurcation of mankind, who is split between his bright and shadowy selves, extrapolated in turn as Christ and Satan, engaged in metaphysical conflict at the end of which Christ is supposed to be the winner in the end. This divorce is something that is identified by Luciferians, who desire the completion and unity of the human psyche. In this sense, it is worth discussing Dionysus as a Luciferian archetypal deity of sorts, one whose internal dialectical unity of “light” and “darkness”, or spirit and matter, embodies the unity and wholeness of self that is to be present within the Luciferian consciousness.

Where exactly are the “light” and “dark” sides to Dionysus? In Dionysus one finds both the celestial and the chthonic, his celestial component obviously derived from being a son of Zeus, but his chthonic component coming from both his lineage from the goddesses Demeter and Persephone in some versions of his myth and his identity as Zagreus, “the first-born Dionysos”. He is also frequently associated with chthonic powers, shown to be defeating his enemies by invoking his power as a shaker of the earth, and his chthonic and Olympian personae were venerated alongside each other. Dionysus even seems to have an association with Hades through his apparent powers of the underworld, and he himself made the descent into Hades in order to rescue his human mother Semele. Some, including the philosopher Heraclitus, identified Dionysus with Hades himself, even going so far as to say that Dionysus and Hades were the same being. Interestingly, in Heraclitus, the link between Dionysus and Hades is an example of the unity between opposites within his worldview, with Dionysus representing life and fertility through a phallic cult devoted to him and Hades representing death, and this unity is also solidified by water – for him, death meant the soul becoming watery after life, and for him a man’s soul became moist when drunk.

Speaking of death, it’s in his dying-and-rising that often links him to the “light” half of the Christian archetypal mythos – Jesus. And indeed he did die and resurrect, but not in the way Jesus did. Dionysus died within the womb of his mother Semele, who burnt alive upon looking at the face of Zeus (whom no mortal could behold without burning to death), but Zeus rescued the unborn Dionysus and placed him inside his thigh until he was ready to be born. In another myth, Dionysus died after being ripped apart by Titans, who then ate every part of him except his heart, only for them to be destroyed by Zeus used his heart to create him anew. Later in his life, Dionysus would die again and attain the status of godhood thanks to Zeus, as his son. But Dionysus can overlap with Jesus in more ways than just dying and rising. For the Orphics, Dionysus represented the Good in Man, whose spirit is to be cultivated as opposed to the wicked influence of man’s Titanic heritage. He of course, has a strong association with wine miracles just as Jesus does. He shared his wine and its delights to all people of all walks of life, just as Jesus would claim to offer his salvation to all people of all walks of life. Both were even identified as the morning star, as one of Dionysus’ epithets in the Mysteries was Phosphorus, signifying him as the light bringer. His more devilish or “satanic” aspects are perhaps harder to pin down, but perhaps his historical connection and often outright identification with Hades makes this a little easier, what with him becoming a master of the underworld and all. Although, if Pan is any indication, his retinue of satyrs and maenads must have lent itself to a retinue of demons in the Christian imagination, and his association with the serpent and the phallus must have lent to his lustful associations in the same imagination.

We have, in what is typically recognized as the Greek deity of drunkenness, festivity, theater and revelry, the simultaneously embodied archetypes of the redeemer, the savior, the initiator of the mysteries, and of the wild and indestructible life force whose revelries set the limits of the self asunder. His dialectical unity of opposites, and his appellation of Phosphoros, make me think that Dionysus is a sort of Luciferian archetype, though hardly the same thing as Lucifer himself (historical mythology doesn’t fit the sort of patterns we’d often like them to).

A mosaic depicting Dionysus riding the panther

Continuing this theme of discussion, Gyrus critiques Satanism in discussion of Dionysus, or rather his being split in half by Christianity.

“In Satanism, Satan is seen as embodying the principle of division and duality, that principle without which manifestation—matter, flesh, bodies & sex—cannot occur. This is symbolized in the ‘inverted’ pentagram, where two points are directed upwards and one down. The dual realm of manifestation rules over the singular, united realm of spirit. In the ‘normal’ pentagram the spirit rules the flesh. Jesus is seen as opposing Satan, and embodies the spiritual principle of unity. So what are we to make of the actual historical beliefs and practices of the followers of these two figures? Christianity has turned out to be militantly dualistic, denying the body and ravaging the Earth, glorifying the ‘spirit’ and longing for some united heavenly kingdom. And Satanists, while obviously prioritising flesh over spirit, ego over collectivity, are inevitably involved in many practices which approach Dionysian revelry, serving to abolish individual distinction. Also, their emphasis on living for the moment instead of “spiritual pipe-dreams” could be seen to destroy the future-fixation of profane time, following Nietzsche into a whole-hearted immersion in the eternal present.

Our problems in analysing these contradictions betray our present evolutionary and cultural problems. In looking at the splitting of Dionysus, we’re seeing the mythical reflections of a phase in the development of the human species where the increase of city-dwelling and changes in agriculture & economics began to erode our bond with the rest of the biosphere. City walls are the rigidification of human ego-barriers writ large. “When Christians first distinguished themselves from pagans, the word ‘pagan’ meant ‘country-dweller’. For the first centres of Christianity in the Roman Empire were the great cities—Antioch, Corinth, Alexandria, and Rome itself.” (Alan Watts, Nature, Man & Woman) In our quest to urbanize our existence, to become as independent as possible from the less comfortable and benign aspects of nature, we have become lost in a mire of confusion. Witness Blake’s disgust at the industrial revolution in his phrase “dark Satanic Mills”, and the fact that most of the mill owners were probably devout Christians. Protestantism has been intimately linked to the rise of capitalism by psychoanalytical historians; Satanists advocate material power. A church in Coventry recently held a service in thanks for the car industry; and Jesus advocated shunning possessions and said rich people would have a bloody hard time getting into heaven. Such confusion seems to be the price for living under the sway of false dichotomies like Jesus/Satan, spirit/matter, collective/individual, intellect/instinct.”

There is an interesting contradiction referred to here with regards to Christian society, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the United States of America. Stop and wonder how it is that society that is the most openly Christian, and chauvinistically so at that, is also most openly pro-capitalist, and the most reticent to direct the flow of capital towards the downtrodden and the poor. Jesus preached that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, yet wealth and Christian power intersect and permeate American society under the guidance of free market capitalist ideology. It is in America that what we call the “prosperity gospel” was born, and which permeates so much of Christian televangelism in the country. I can hardly imagine many rich evangelists in America actually giving money to the poor; they’re too busy telling them that God helps those who help themselves! Not only that, but, as I covered in my post against Cultural Christianity, Christian power has not arrived upon the world with the love, beneficence, virtue and compassion it preached, but instead with violence, hatred, avarice and treachery across Europe and the world.

And in a way perhaps this is but a window but the turmoil and contradiction that inevitably springs forth from dichotomous thinking, which I intend to go into in my future Deconstructing Duality series of posts. When you examine our world hard enough, you find darkness where there should be light, and nothing is as it seems. We think ourselves free and individuals yet we’ve hardly been under so much pressure to conform in our lives than in modernity. We see so much contradiction in our being and in our society living in an existence bifurcated by the cross, leaving internal division that once did not exist. The pagans of old did not see the universe in same way that Christians do now. They do not see an omnipresent struggle of good and evil, overseen by an all-powerful and all-knowing intelligence, and they did not see Man fighting himself between his superego and his id. They saw ups and downs, they saw cycles inherent to the process of the natural world, and they saw multifaceted personality in both the human and the divine condition, animating the mythological and natural universes. The contradictions of Christianity simply weren’t present until, well, Christianity became the dominant force in society.

Luciferians, and pagans (and I suspect Taoists and maybe Buddhists too), know that most of the dichotomies we organize ourselves with philosophically are bullshit, they’re pointless, they bifurcate the soul in ways that are not only unnecessary but also harmful to the soul and serve as an impediment to its liberation, wholeness and internal harmony. Our interest, therefore is in smashing these dichotomies, in resolving those contradictions, in freeing mankind from his bifurcated state of being, in leading humans toward a more internally harmonious and from there liberated spiritual existence. We see the superegoic light embodied by the likes of Jesus, Horus, Zeus etc. and the id darkness of the likes of Satan, Set, Hades etc. inevitably represent but shades of Man’s psyche. (or, for the pagans, shades of Nature). Splitting the individual between the two constitutes a barbarity of the soul. Because of that, it makes just as little sense to confine oneself to the shadow as to flee to the light never part with it. It makes equal sense to desire soul as to desire flesh in that they are both parts of Man. That is why we smash the dichotomies presented to us by Christianity and related philosophies with a hammer, and that is why we do not limit ourselves to light and darkness.

Thor, seen here, philosophizing with a hammer (Thor and the Midgard Serpent, by Emil Doepler)

Much of the essay after this deals very strongly in the theme of goddess worship so as to build a case for a connection between Satanism and pre-Christian goddess worship, and from there a detailed discussing of sexuality in Tantric practice. Such a subject makes for interesting reading and you can make of it what you will, but since I ultimately did not garner a lot of clues for the direction I should be going in with regards to Luciferianism from such lengthy historical discussion of goddess worship and Tantra, we will skip most of it.

Later on in “The Androgyne”, Dionysus is discussed further in the context of androgyny.

“Dionysus, familiar to us here as precursor of the Jesus/Satan split and son of the Earth, was raised by women, often jeered at for his effeminate appearance, and referred to by a king in a text by Aeschylus as “man-woman”. Alain Daniélou presents copious documentation, in his book Gods of Love and Ecstasy, that Dionysus is almost precisely equivalent to the Indian god Shiva—from whom we may also derive another traditional aspect of Satan, the trident, which is closely associated with Shiva. One of Shiva’s principal aspects is the Ardhanarâshvara, the hermaphrodite. “The Prime Cause may be conceived as masculine or feminine, as a god or a goddess, but in both cases it is an androgynous or transexual being.””

Gyrus’ description of Dionysus, for me, embodies a principle of moving between opposites through his status as the nexus between Christ and Satan and his seeming transgression of the boundaries of gender. He becomes a Baphometic figure, in a sense. In another sense, he could be taken as the embodiment of balance. For me, however, this unity calls for more than just balance, but what I refer to as “elegance”. Why elegance, you might ask? My rationale for this comes from my game design studies, specifically Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams and Andrew Rolling. Here is how they explain it:

Interactive entertainment is an art form, but like film and television, it is a collaborative art form. In fact, it is far more collaborative than either of those media, and development companies seldom grant the level of creative control that a film director enjoys. Designing games is a craft, like cinematography or costume design. A game includes both artistic and functional elements. It must be aesthetically pleasing, but it also must work well and be enjoyable to play. The greatest games combine their artistic and functional elements brilliantly, achieving a quality for which the only word is elegance. Elegance is the sign of craftsmanship of the highest order.

What they describe is more than balance. It is unity. It is synthesis. And as craftmanship, applied to the spiritual principle of Luciferianism, translates itself as self-making, or self-creating. And in the vein of Gyrus’ discussion of the Tao, we should see this principle of self-creation as perpetual. Elegance then is an aspect of the principle of Praxis. Ah but if only Dionysus was a craftsman, then the metaphor would be complete.

The same sense of synthesis is found in Shiva, but it is not simply through Ardhnarishvara wherein Shiva and his Shakti achieve synthesis. Shiva himself contains many opposites within himself: he is an ascetic, the lord of the of yogis, and yet as the husband of Parvati he is also keeper of his household, he is one of the “good” guys in Hindu mythology who fights and destroys demons and yet he has a host of demons in his retinue (the ganas), and indeed he himself can assume many demonic forms within Hindu myth (such as Virabhadra and Kala Bhairava), he is most well known as the deity of destruction and yet he is also the greatest possessor of creative power and energy. This internal synthesis is a trait that I have always recognized in the deity, and is one of the key characteristics of his that I have always admired as among the qualities I admire the most about him. There probably is a great deal of commonality between the two deities, and perhaps it’s for this reason among many that Shiva fits so well into what might broadly be referred to as the pantheon of the Left Hand Path.

And speaking of Shiva, there is an interesting discussion of Shaivism in “The Divine Body” that I can use to point to something that I believe I already discussed in “For the New Luciferian Era…“.

“Tantric cosmology sees the ground of existence as the union of the male and female principles, Shiva and Shakti. The manifest world is the product of their interplay, where Shiva is the static principle of consciousness and awareness, and the female Shakti is the dynamic principle of energy and manifestation. This is very similar to the Vedic idea of maya, or illusion. The ‘material’ world is seen as an illusion weaved by the goddess Maya (incidentally, this was also the name of the Buddha’s mother), behind which lies the non-manifest reality of cosmic consciousness. We can also relate this back to the idea that Satan rules the world of manifestation—”The Devil is the lord of the world” (Luther)—and God rules the ‘non-material’ realm of the ‘spirit’. Tantra’s Shiva-Shakti cosmology is much more holistic, and does not treat the web of matter weaved by Shakti as ‘illusory’ in the sense of something to be overcome, some cosmic deception that inhibits us. It is seen as the basis of our spiritual quest, the ‘raw material’ with which we should work to transmute ourselves and the world.”

In the post I mentioned, I discussed Michael W Ford’s discussion of the creation myth presented in the Enuma Elish to elucidate the point Ford makes on human evolution in the context of the myth. The blood of Qingu, who is slain by Marduk, and the body of Tiamat, become the raw material upon which the world and mankind is based within Babylonian mythology, and as Tiamat and Qingu are chaotic, reptilian, abyssal beings, Ford is implicitly stating that it is darkness that is the raw material with which humans work to transmute themselves and evolve towards the light of Lucifer, or rather the unity of light and darkness embodied in the Holy Guardian Angel, the Daemon.

But more to the point, I should mention that this view of the world not as illusory but as raw material, I detect the sense of what I have read about Kashmir Shaivism, wherein the world is not an illusion superimposed upon the divine consciousness but a real, objective realm that can be sensed and observed as a product of the energy and consciousness of Shakti or Shiva. The more prevalent view in Hinduism, such as within Advaita Vedanta, has never appealed to me because of its negation of the world, and this sense of infinite regression that it brings with it – I mean, if the world is not real, what is, and from whence did this “real” object spring, and why is this reality real and not the one we experience, sense and observe? But in this form of Hinduism, at least from what I’ve heard, the material, phenomenal world is a real, tangible thing that can be observed, felt and experienced, which allows for the subject to at least attempt to divine the truth through observation and experimentation in a reality shared between him/herself and a multiplicity of other subjects. The interesting thing about this, at the root of their view of reality, is their view that the phenomenal world is based on the energy of the divine consciousness, or the divine energy of Shakti – the divine and the phenomenal form the same body of the existence, and become the same thing, which was otherwise cleaved by such schools as Advaita Vedanta.

I think it’s also worth touching on the comparison between the Hindu concept of Maya and its superimposition over reality and the Christian conception of Satan as the ruler of the world. Applying the Hindu concepts to Christianity arguably results in the Gnostic interpretation – the real Satan, in Gnostic Christian parlance, is the Demiurge, or Yaldabaoth, who created the material world as a prison for the soul, and this prison becomes equivalent to the illusion weaved by Maya, and in turn the unmanifested divine consciousness of the Brahman becomes the true God within Gnostic Christianity (the Monad, or Bythos). But in principle you can kind of see it play out within the Christian perspective: Satan, being the father of lies according to them, weaves a web of ignorance over God’s creation through temptation and deception, resulting in a sense in a world of illusion layered over the actual world. But for Gyrus, in Tantra and Shaivist cosmology, the setup of the inferior world of illusion superimposed upon the truth and divine consciousness is done away with – instead of being an illusion superimposed upon all-pervasive and unmanifested spirit, the material universe we experience and inhabit is a real, tangible, observable thing, and the basis of our spiritual, alchemical transformation. There can be no great demiurge pulling the wool over our eyes in this set up, and the classic dualisms of ontological God and Satan, the Monad and Yaldaboath, Maya and Brahman, become quite irrelevant.

In this sense, free of the grand and ultimately false meta-dichotomy imposed by Christianity, Gnosticism and orthodox Hinduism, the universe becomes not this chess game between Yahweh and Beelzebub, or Jesus and Satan, not some parlor trick imposed upon the real self which is somehow also God himself (who, by the way, is also for my money the only logical source of the grand illusion in the first place!), and not a prison imposed upon you by, if we go by Gnostic lore, the bastard offspring of a misguided emanation of God (by the way, how is it even possible for an emanation of the perfection of God itself to make mistakes?), but the authentic locus of the perpetual transformation and evolution of all beings, forms and processes within it, and thus of the quest and struggle of mankind to emancipate and perfect itself, within which praxis is lived and achieved, enlightenment is achieved and disseminated from the enlightened to the unenlightened, and the vivifying force of life, quest, and struggle animates sentient beings. That, for me, is not only a more sensible way to view the universe, it also creates the perfect ontology for any spiritual and philosophical worldview and pathway wherein liberation is the primary goal.

Shiva as Nataraja within a hexagram

So why did I bother going through all of this? What body of philosophical ideology have we grasped for Luciferianism to inherit?

First of all, I think I’ve established in a very lengthy and detailed fashion that the social Darwinism of many old forms of Satanism, for me at least, would not be a part of it. It is a simplistic outlook, one destined to lead to subjection after subjection based on such an inane characteristic as either animal might or reptilian cunning. The state of a might makes right world is one in which the criteria for the creation, maintenance and removal of human subjection is based on the possession of the greatest strength and force, it is one in which the pure competition of power generates subjection and thus cannot be emancipatory, and it ultimately appeals to so little of the human (or even animal) condition as to be crude.

Secondly, while Luciferianism in some forms already emphasizes a unity and balance of opposites, here I establish the understanding of this not simply as balance but as a dialectical unity, light and darkness contained as aspects within the broader whole rather than simply existing as poles to be checked against each other by moderation. Following from this, it is pertinent not simply to recognize both light and darkness but to smash the relevant dichotomies entirely in favor of synthesis. This idea is extended towards a much wider premise, calling for the abolition of the divorce between the world and the soul that inhabits it. Rather than retreat from the material world, embrace the unity of soul and matter.

Third, building from the idea of Michael W. Ford’s interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth, and from what seems to be Gyrus’ assessment of Tantric Shaivism, I propose a kind of spiritual ontology based on perpetual transformation and self-making and re-making, using the raw material of the world, the chaos, the ceaseless transformations therein, for there is where the potential lies. We need no Redeemer so long as we have the capacity to renew and “redeem” ourselves.

Fourth, we should all be reading up on Tantra I guess.

Baphomet, the esoteric symbol of the dialectical unity of opposites