Saturday, November 30, 2019

In case anyone needed a reminder that "fan" is short for "fanatic"

It’s approximately the one-year anniversary now of the incident I spoke of in my first journal entry.  On one hand, I have the urge to reflect, but on the other, I have limited time-capacity for doing so right now, given the workload-rhythm of my chosen career.  Nonetheless, I’d like to have more than one entry for November, so what follows is a condensed version of a longer reflection/rant that I tried to write back in July/August but failed to finish before getting distracted by other things.

I also shelved it because I figured it made me sound crazy, but we won't worry about that just now. ;)

Anyway: at Terminus this last year, I wore outfits on all four days that were inspired by four bands who’ve had an especially big impact on my life.  To put that impact in a nutshell:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Of black dragons and blind idiot gods, part IV: Yes, this is a functional basis for a religion

Last part now of this 4-part series on my idiosyncratic beliefs about “ultimate reality”:

This entry is longer than the previous three, and hence split into several sections discussing various right-hand path and sinister path perspectives on my proposed “dark trinity”:

The latter three are really all one discussion, just split up for the purposes of manageability length-wise.

* * *

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Of black dragons and blind idiot gods, part III: Azerate

Part 3 now of the following 4-part series on my idiosyncratic beliefs about “ultimate reality”:

As mentioned previously, each entry in this series will start off by describing the “primary” entity as I have come to understand it from various sources, and then provide some tie-ins re: why, beyond the “A” and the “z,” I interpret these as all being essentially one being, albeit with three distinguishable facets.

Note about the entry below: Technical terminology for “what Dissection believes in” has only recently been clarified to me, vs. in the past absence of said terminology (“The 218 Current”) my ability to seek out any/all connected literature was hindered.  I have thus not yet gotten around to reading the actual books of the 218 Current, e.g. “Sitra Ahra” and so forth.  Therefore, what follows does not pretend to be a comprehensive take on how Azerate is conceptualized by that particular Satanic tradition.  Rather, it is a reflection on how I relate what I have discerned about the entity - mostly via Dissection’s music, but also via a limited selection of online sources – to other things that I know and believe, so as to arrive at something meaningful to myself. 

* * *


Azerate is an entity venerated by black metal band Dissection on their album Reinkaos.  Some lyrics typical of how the entity is conceptualized can be found in the song “Beyond the Horizon”:
This is the realm of Azerate, eleven as one
Destroyer of cosmic order, extinguisher of the sun
In this place so sinister I shall find my dreams
Illuminated by the blackest flame to transcend with dragon wings

Salient details thus alluded to include:
  • Azerate is a composite being, consisting of eight Dark Gods and three Dark Goddesses, for a total of eleven-entities-in-one.*  The significance of the number eleven is tied to this Satanic denomination’s interest in Qabalah (an interest that I myself definitely share), but that is way too complicated a topic to get into in the current entry.
  • As a being of chaos, it is an enemy of order in general, but particularly of the current order inasmuch as that order is dominated by light-oriented right-hand-path religions.
  • The occult adept who is a devotee of Azerate sees the promised destruction positively, inasmuch as it will deliver them to “a place of eternal freedom, the void where all illusions die,” as lyrics later in the same song state.  Multiple Satanic denominations associate “black flame” with self-evolution; context then suggests that “place so sinister” here can be taken to mean “via the left-hand path,” though of course it can also be taken to mean something less ethos-oriented and more overtly-occult-oriented, such as “the acausal realm.”
  • As a composite being, Azerate is envisioned as an eleven-headed dragon.*  Other songs on the same album refer to “dragon mother” and equate her with primal chaos monsters of every pantheon, e.g. Tiamat, Leviathan, Apep, etc.

(* = the chaos magician in me feels it is salient to point out: these two details in combination look to yield the somewhat-amusing conclusion that apparently, what we have here is not only a Hydra in the mythological sense of “multi-headed dragon,” but also a Hydra in the Marvel sense of “a group of villains cooperating toward the end of producing maximum mayhem.” :))

Beyond just the association with chaos, the aspect of Azerate that makes me think of Azathoth is the reference in multiple songs to bringing about the apocalypse by waking the dragon.  This detail fits very well, it seems to me, with the notion that the world’s stability depends on Azathoth remaining in some sort of torpor, vs. the end of the cosmos coming about if he were roused. 

This analysis admittedly paints Dissection as being real-life’s manifestation of the worst kind of insane Lovecraftian cultists.  Really though, I feel like that is not entirely unfair, what with the whole “they probably would have eventually staged their own mini-Jonestown if Nodtveidt hadn’t gone to prison for that homophobic-murder-thing first” business. 

Important note related to this issue: I stand solidly with what I hope is a majority of Dissection fans when I say, “great music, but too bad about the lunatic-asshole front-man.”  Also, I personally think you have to be a special kind of loser to style yourself as any kind of chaos-devotee while at the same time taking issue with anyone’s sexuality for any reason, but maybe that’s just me.

In any case, the aspect of Azerate that makes me think of Az is the dark feminine aspect, as when the entity is given any gender at all, it is typically female – “dragon mother” as above.  Going even further though, there is also an explicit tie-in to Lilith here, both via Lilith being one of the eleven “Azerate members,” and via Lilith herself being called “dragon goddess” on the song “Dark Mother Divine” on the same album.  The lawlessness of Az, and the adept’s hope of “eternal freedom” in Azerate’s wake, also appear to be congruent with one another.

Now, since the previous two entities discussed are horrifying primarily in concept, vs. this one, as per the above-given link, has actual real life casualties of both a homicidal and suicidal nature associated with its adherents, obviously it’s a bit urgent for me to clarify where I’m going with the idea that there’s any possible way of engaging constructively with Azerate. 

The nature of the beast though is such that I’ll have to wander through quite a bit of philosophy to get there, much of which is not going to initially sound like it is helping much.  Nonetheless, to proceed:

One thought is that, parallel to the above discussion of “dark realities” personified via Azathoth and Az, I think Azerate can be understood similarly: basically, in Freudian terms, Az is equivalent to libido and Azerate to thanatos; the former seeks a pleasure as total as that of the embryo with all its needs supported by the mother’s body, while the latter seeks dissolution in accord with the default entropic tendencies of the inorganic matter.  

Acknowledging these forces then need not be equivalent to worshipping them, but rather just entails recognizing that life is driven by chaotic forces that are both antisocial and destructive if unregulated.  It would then follow that if “indulgence” is the goal, self-mastery is a pre-requisite, which brings us back to the ethos of LaVeyan Satanism.

Another “dark reality” that Azerate can be taken as an expression of would be the Medea hypothesis, which argues that contra the Gaia theory of life on earth self-regulating toward a harmonious state, actually life tends to be suicidal in the long run, since: 
  1. The drives and adaptations that are selected-for by evolution are those that favor the individual and its immediate descendents, without an eye to the horizon of the species or biosphere as a whole;
  2. Populations just are large groups of such individuals, who are then adapted in such a way that they tend to individually compete for resources and reproduce until a shortage of resources forces starvation and die-off, not before;
  3. Such a population additionally produces ever-increasing amounts of waste just in the process of staying alive, which within the context of a closed system (which a planet ultimately is) means slowly poisoning itself;
  4. Getting life to not behave in the manner just described in 2 & 3 is an uphill battle, because to accomplish this, you would have to convince it to resist drives strongly selected for in 1. 

This is not, by the way, an argument against trying to fix the environment, so much as it is rather a case of “I am really, really not surprised that we are failing” on that front. :/  

What is interesting mythology-wise though is that Medea seems to embody a lot of the same drives as Az so long as she is getting her way (i.e. accomplishes all manner of wondrous feats and transgresses all sorts of boundaries in pursuit of her own desire), vs. the same drives as Azerate once she is not getting her way (i.e. seeks total destruction of the currently-existing order – the familial, in this particular case – out of sheer malice).

That this should be so is suggestive of the unity of the two figures.  It is suggestive too of the dystopian experience of an evolved-and-aware consciousness, simultaneously insisting on the goodness of persevering in existence on one hand, and sensitive about the frustrations of life to the point of being tempted toward nihilism on the other. 

Faced with such a fork in the road, the LaVeyan Satanists go one way and the Anti-Cosmic Satanists go the other.  This is perhaps most evident via contrasting LaVey’s strongly negative attitude toward suicide to Nodtveidt’s seeing suicide as a fitting and perhaps even triumphant conclusion to his life.  

I would nonetheless argue that the difference between the two positions lies not in one denying the darkest side of life and the other plunging headfirst into it, but rather, in one merely acknowledging that darkness with open eyes while the other was utterly overpowered and possessed by it.  

One thus arrives again at the idea that, from a Satanic perspective that values “undefiled wisdom,” we ought to acknowledge this dark force within ourselves in order to become empowered to take steps to overcome the aspects of it that are ultimately not in our best interest. 

A further constructive angle for Azerate is an angle that I think also applies to a lot of other apocalyptic discourse, regardless of specific religious origin of that discourse: that which leads to very bad places when taken literally and projected outward can be constructive if taken figuratively and directed inward.  From this perspective, references to destroying the cosmos refer to the need to break down one’s unreflective default worldview, toward the end of replacing it with something more comprehensive, adequate and/or freeing.  This process naturally manifests as tribulation prior to its full completion though, since it throws one into a state of pervasive doubt and attendant temptations toward hatred and despair – i.e. chaos prior to the re-establishment of a better order. 

The inadequacy of Anti-Cosmic Satanism – at least in my heavily-skewed-by-Dissection-and-thus-not-necessarily-reflective-of-the-218-Current-as-a-whole opinion – lies primarily in its neglect of that rather-important last step.  And yet, at the same time, I think hints of this perspective can be found on Reinkaos itself in the song “Internal Fire,” specifically with its reference to “Atazoth.”  This name is the Order of Nine Angles’ dyslexic spelling of Azathoth (i.e. I am under the impression that there is literature openly attesting that they are the same thing) with the rationale that “at-azoth” means “an increase of azoth,” azoth being the agent of transformation in alchemy. 

So, in other words: keeping the Daemon Sultan asleep may be a good idea if you are fine with the status quo, but if that is dissatisfactory, waking up the Black Dragon of Chaos would mean clearing the path of the obstacles that stand in the way of evolution and actualization.  

Construed that way, Azerate starts to seem rather a lot like some of the Hindu deities like Shiva and Kali, whom plenty of people manage to venerate without construing “the Destroyer” as permission to be a nihilistic fuckhead.  Yes, I know, there’s a Kali song on Reinkaos, but let’s not write off all the actual Indian Shiva and Kali worshippers who are functional people over that one small detail. :)

Summing up then about Azerate: tempting as it may seem to jettison the idea of a Destroyer in this trinity, since doing so might make it easier to explain the whole thing in a way that sounds constructive, it seems to me that destruction does have its place here, both as a force of nature that simply needs to be acknowledged with open eyes, and as a process worth undertaking intentionally for the purposes of replacing that which has become old and inadequate with something new and better. 

The idea mainly goes astray when it drifts into destruction for destruction’s own sake, wherein it can wind up leading into some disturbing territory.  I would argue, however, that this drift can be arrested via proper attention to the other two elements of the trinity.  I will elaborate more on this in the final installment to follow.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Of black dragons and blind idiot gods, part II: Az

Part 2 now of the following 4-part series on my idiosyncratic beliefs about “ultimate reality”:

As mentioned previously, each entry in this series will start off by describing the “primary” entity as I have come to understand it from various sources, and then provide some tie-ins re: why, beyond the “A” and the “z,” I interpret these as all being essentially one being, albeit with three distinguishable facets.

Note about the entry below: as we’re now moving on to a being that originates in a specific culture, rather than in fiction, it seems worth pointing out that I am not a religious specialist in Zoroastrianism, with much of what follows coming more from Michael Ford’s Luciferian take on the demons of that pantheon than from academic/primary/etc. sources.  One should thus keep in mind that what follows is presented primarily because I find the narrative in question, whatever its ultimate true source, to be an apt fit with my beliefs, vs. no claim is being made as to its adequacy in educating anyone about any “real” beliefs pertaining to Zoroastrianism.

* * *

Monday, September 30, 2019

Of black dragons and blind idiot gods, part I: Azathoth

Previously I wrote an entry about Tezcatlipoca in the context of the “dark pagan” element of my practice, i.e. while I still think LaVeyan is a better descriptor of my ethos than other labels, my particular styling of greater magic is outwardly pagan-like as far as positing a relationship with particular entities predicated upon interest in the mythology that surrounds that entity.

The current entry, as well as those that will follow, are about another such entity – one whom I might well go so far as to term the “ultimate reality” in my own idiosyncratic-belief-system-pertaining-to-acausal-matters. 

This entity I have not found to be captured adequately in any single tradition, but a survey of several of the most infamously “dark” streams of occultism enables one to build up a threefold-picture it via the following beings:

Each entry in this series will start off by describing the “primary” entity as I have come to understand it from various sources, and then provide some tie-ins re: why, beyond the “A” and the “z,” I interpret these as all being essentially one being, albeit with three distinguishable facets.  This latter, comparative portion is scarcely a footnote in the current entry, as you’ll see, but will become more substantial in later ones since the greater groundwork laid by then will make the endeavor easier at that point.

All of this will finally be followed by a fourth installment to tie up a few loose ends I foresee, namely:

Stick around and keep reading to find out… ;)

* * *

Monday, September 16, 2019

Thinking harder: "Indulgence, not abstinence"

I’ve been thinking for some time that LaVey’s first Satanic Statement, “Satan represents indulgence, not abstinence!”, if interpreted in a nuanced and constructive way, can be used to articulate a more complex and fruitful image of how to live one’s life than LaVey’s own writings by themselves may make evident to many people. 

And since fairly-recently I’ve run across a few instances on social media where it sounds like someone got turned off LaVeyan Satanism because of being under the impression that indulgence meant something that was not nuanced and constructive in this way, now seems as good a time as ever to write an entry on this subject.

There are three major points I’d want to make in this entry about my own understanding of the First Satanic Statement:
  1. The Statement does not only mean “animalistic” pleasures when it talks about “indulgence.”

  2. Inasmuch as the Statement can be construed in terms of “this is what makes life better for everyone, and therefore society would be better if we set things up to best foster it for everyone,” it arguably can lead to consequences irritating to folks on the right who want small government and no social programs.

  3. Inasmuch as the Statement can be construed in terms of “it’s better to address a problem by adding something constructive to the situation than by taking something away,” it arguably can lead to consequences irritating to the censorious “no art should be allowed to exist that doesn’t reflect my politics” folks on the far-left.

As usual, I’ll elaborate on each of these points below – the third one at much greater length than the other two, as to say it has been a bit of a pet peeve of mine for the last few years would be an understatement.  An implied thesis behind all of this though is that it’s possible to interpret the First Satanic Statement of LaVeyan Satanism in such a way that it implicitly leads to much that is in the Seven Tenets of the Satanic Temple, re: compassion for others, seeking justice, inviolability of the body and freedom including the freedom to offend. 

I will grant that whether most LaVeyans take the First Satanic Statement in the way I am describing is a separate question. Similarly, I have no problem professing that from a “what is the better face-forward for a group of Satanists living in and trying to constructively influence society at large,” Satanic Temple’s formulation is obviously better.  It is thus primarily the assumption of some that the LaVeyan formulation cannot be constructive that I am arguing against in this entry.

* * *

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Esoteric practices in Satanism, part IV: Greater Magic

Continuing with the esoteric matters I’d like to explore here in connection with Satanism – i.e…

… the last one I want to cover here is greater magic.

Subsections of this entry:

This is my longest entry so far, i.e. longer even than the cultural appropriation one, amazingly.  Then again, greater magic is a very complex topic, especially if you are trying to make it comprehensible to people who may have no occult background, as I am attempting to do here.  

I am aware that some of what follows will make me sound completely insane to a certain sort of reader.  Nonetheless, I hope that what follows will both give you an idea of what ritual magic entails for a Satanist who practices it, and provide some sense of how the practice itself might be beneficial to a practitioner personally, regardless of whether you-the-outsider believe that it “works” or not.

* * *

Monday, August 12, 2019

Esoteric practices in Satanism, part III: Lesser Magic

Continuing with the esoteric matters I’d like to explore here in connection with Satanism – i.e…

… next up is lesser magic.

Subsections of this entry:
  1. Lesser magic according to LaVey’s Satanic Bible
  2. Further nuances re: the workings of lesser magic
  3. Implications in connection with a Satanic worldview

As with divination, I originally had in mind to have a section about some intersections-with-current-hot-button-political-issues that arise in connection with this practice, but between length considerations and my feeling that some of the same issues arise with greater magic, I’ll be covering this separately later. 

Thus, if you read the entry below, and at any point find yourself thinking “OMG, the implications of that practice are terrible – haven’t you noticed that they’re terrible?” – yeah, very likely I have noticed, and just because I don’t talk about that issue in this entry doesn’t mean I haven’t thought of it; wait a little while and I’ll likely discuss it in another entry.

* * *

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A note about "the sinister path"

I have the entry for lesser magic basically written, but due to Terminus and other things consuming my attention in recent weeks, haven’t yet had time to finish off a few things related to it. 

I don’t like the prospect of then having only one entry for July though, so here’s a more-compact-than-my-usual-topics topic that I thought I’d dash off a few words about: the meaning of “right” and “left” from a spiritual rather than political perspective, and why, due to contemporary politics, I use different terms these days when I am talking about spiritual matters myself – namely, the potentially-pretentious-sounding wording of “the sinister path.”

* * *

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Esoteric practices in Satanism, part II: Divination

Previously, I’d mentioned these topics as being a few of the esoteric matters I’d like to explore here in connection with Satanism:
It makes sense to look at divination next inasmuch I see it as having a couple of connections to meditation: i) one way of understanding divination – the way that I myself use – basically situates it as a subtype of meditation; and ii) I think the two are similar with regard to people who have negative views of them perhaps not actually knowing what they entail to actual contemporary occult practitioners (whether Satanic or otherwise). 

Hence, subsections of the current entry:
I had a few thoughts to share also about a couple of political issues I’ve seen come up in connection with divination in online forums, but as my attempt to write these out ran toward the long side and contained repetition of some points made in my previous entry about cultural appropriation, that content may or may not wind up in another entry later on down the line.

* * *

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Esoteric practices in Satanism, part I: Meditation

Inasmuch as I’ve gotten the impression that actual engagement in esoteric practices may be unusual among people who identify as Satanists, despite this element being present in the writings of LaVey and other authors, I thought making this aspect of the religion better understood to people who may have no familiarity with it might be an interesting challenge to take on.

Esoteric practices that I think a case can be made for in Satanism include the following:
As this list may imply, what I am here terming “esoteric practices” includes what I have elsewhere called “ritual practice,” but I’m adopting the former in this case as a better umbrella term than the latter when it comes to covering the full range of practices I want to discuss.

This is a big enough topic to constitute multiple entries, so I’ll cover only one area of practice at a time, starting with meditation:

* * *

Friday, June 7, 2019

Cultural appropriation vs. spirituality: a thorough dissection

Since my recent thrift-store luck in connection with an upcoming event has provided opportunity for a good accompanying photo for the topic, now struck me as the right time for a few things I wanted to say about cultural appropriation, specifically the concept’s salience within the context of what might broadly be called spirituality.

Sections of this entry:

Note: this wound up being insanely long even by this blog’s already-unreasonable standards - hence the jump cut below - so if you are mainly here for the spirituality-related content and find lengthy dwelling upon the concept of cultural appropriation to be tedious, feel free to skip down to the last section, as that’s where I get to the point that I’ve least seen people talking about elsewhere when cultural appropriation comes up.

* * *

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Why Satanic Temple is likely to continue growing: a theory

As some friends have already messaged to inform me, a recent article in the Calgary Journal about the Satanic Temple cited me for some background info on Satanism.

Now, given the focus of the article being the Calgary chapter of the Satanic Temple specifically, I had no expectation of the rather-lengthy interview the journalist did with me, re: other Satanic denominations and the appeal of Satanism more generally, making up any significant portion of the article in question.  However, inasmuch as I wound up making a few points to my interviewer that are germane to topics I’m discussing on this blog, I did nonetheless want to just post a short addendum here about a theory I have about why Satanic Temple strikes me a denomination especially likely to grow in the near future.

I want to stress, before getting into this, that this is just my own theory based on what I know of Satanic Temple’s tenets on one hand vs. the issues I’ve personally had with politics over the last few years on the other hand.  It is thus not a theory based on my own contact with specific Satanic Temple members, and it neither is, nor pretends, to have anything to do with the understanding of Satanism that the particular Satanic Temple folks who are the focus of the article may themselves have.  I am thus sharing it not because I have data to suggest that it is true, but because I find the claims I am making philosophically-plausible and will therefore be interested to see whether trends in the next few years support or refute it.

The theory has four components, as follows:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Black sun and black pharaoh

I’ve made a couple references now to appropriation, i.e. in this context, the taking of someone else’s or some other religion’s narrative/symbols/etc. and interpreting/applying these toward one’s own ends. 

Sooner or later I’ll have an entry on how this collides with contemporary politics, and was thus one element contributing to that spiritual crisis I was trapped in last year - but this is not that entry. 

This entry does, however, cover the content of my own practice where I figure the supposed appropriation issue is perhaps most relevant.

One component of LaVeyan ritual practice is the invocation of dark names that the individual finds best flesh out one’s own take on the values and/or spiritual realities of Satanism, these being either names of fallen angels, or names of dark gods from other cultures, or etc. 

One of the names I have long invoked in this context is that of Tezcatlipoca, who is an Aztec god of strife, sorcery and the night. 

I have no connection with the Aztec culture in any material way, nor pretenses toward representing any kind of “authentic” tradition here.  However, somewhere in the late high school / early undergrad era of my life, I ran across a book called “The Fifth Sun” by Burr Cartwright Brundage, which contains quite detailed info about Aztec mythology, religion and ritual practice, and something about the stories and folklore surrounding Tezcatlipoca (which I then went on to read more about via other sources) was definitely striking to me. 

The seed thus planted did not really sprout or bear fruit until recent years.  But as my practice has gradually become more “dark pagan,” it’s increasingly struck me as a resource worth returning to and reflecting upon more.

Here then are a few points about Tezcatlipoca that are of interest to me as a Satanist, organized along similar lines to the key points of Satanism that I referred to previously in this entry:

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Reflections about chaos magic

Since last entry mentioned chaos magic, and it increasingly looks like I’m likely to meet some folks of that tradition during my upcoming holiday in BC here, it feels worth taking the opportunity to reflect upon what exactly that particular occult “tradition” actually means to me.  I’ll do this in three sections: 1) history of applying the label in my case, 2) the appeal and 3) reservations I have at this point. 

History of using the label

My earliest relevant influence for chaos magick is probably Church of the Subgenius when I was in my late teens.  Subsequent reading included Discordia, Philip Hines, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Lon Milo Duquette, etc.  Probably my biggest influences overall though were Grant Morrison’s graphic novel series “The Invisibles” and Kenneth Grant’s book “Nightside of Eden.”

Interestingly, I’ve come to realize in retrospect that the short period of my life during which I was up-playing the chaos magic quite a bit and somewhat downplaying the Satanism largely overlaps the time when I was in the UK doing my MA.  I figure a big part of the reason for this is that I experienced North America and Britain quite differently from one another re: when you hear about “chaos magic,” what does that actually mean:

  • In North America, most chaos magic people I met seemed to be significantly influenced by the aesthetic of Discordia, Subgenius and/or what most readers would understand to be the “good” guys in The Invisibles, i.e. “chaos as fun and freedom.”  In that context, chaos magic seemed to be 50/50 between pure technique (see the “appeal” section below) and “joke religion.”
  • In the UK, I got the impression that in the circles I was moving, all the men said they were Heathens and all the women said they were Hedgewitches, but really they were all chaos magicians who didn’t like using the term because it had been previously ruined by people who thought chaos magic meant slavish dedication to the system of A.O. Spare in combination with being weird, dark and kind of an asshole.

Thus, in one setting, chaos magic seemed to entail both a specific ethos and a technique, whereas in the other, it mainly designated a technique compatible with a variety of ethos.  Naturally then, if you can have Heathen-chaos-magicians and Hedgewitch-chaos-magicians, you can have Satanist-chaos-magicians, and there I was. ;) 

It’s also probably worth noting that among the North Americans I knew, references to Cthulhu were always “part of the joke,” vs. in the UK, I’d say there were some contexts in which Lovecraft was taken light-heartededly and some contexts in which the notion of genuine “dark” encounters with entities of that nature did rear its head.  For me personally, chaos magic always had more of the “dark” than the “light” in it, so for this reason too, I gravitated toward it much more in the British context vs. the more time has passed since my MA, the more overtly I have drifted back toward explicitly Satanist territory.

The appeal

The key appeal of chaos magic for me was the notion that all aspects of the human condition can be utilized toward the purposes of magic, i.e. discernment of unseen spiritual realities and manipulation of these in order to bring about change in accord with will – more specifically, that contemporary culture, technology and “the new” are not somehow inherently “unmagical” in comparison to traditional culture, nature and “the old.” 

I have long been self-aware about how, as a near-sighted asthmatic (and now, for that matter, celiac) with a very non-outdoorsy upbringing, I did not feel any kind of “closeness” with “nature.”  And as I have gotten older, I have also increasingly felt at odds with anything that resembles “tradition” because it so often entails assumptions about gender roles that don’t speak to my own experience and/or expectations about “looking to your roots” that are somewhat awkward for a biracial person.  This then left me in a position where there were certain things I liked about Wicca and Neopaganism, but I never really felt it was “for me” as far as being able to identify with those religions.

On the other hand, if one is both of an urban bent that appreciates technology, and hybrid in terms of one’s identities, the great thing about chaos magic is that you can just go explore and invent and figure out what works for you personally – i.e. you can elevate fictional entities to godhood if that’s what speaks to you; you can observe how divination’s most requisite feature is an element of randomization and posit that you ought then to be able to interpret your iPod shuffle results the way some people interpret runes and tarot (obviously in the context of ritual and intention); you can borrow from different cultures and construct something that reflects your own complexities instead of being stuck feeling “left outside” of everything (here’s that appropriation can-of-worms again); etc.

In other words, it’s fun and fulfilling inasmuch as it lets you proceed on your own instincts.  Additionally, I think there is a strong affinity of mentality between the effective chaos magician and the effective Satanist, inasmuch as both have the attitude of “this is all up to me, without any external authority, therefore I have to be ruthlessly honest with myself about my progress as well as disciplined in my practice if I want to actually improve.”  Yes, that attitude is to some extent present among all individual “spiritual” practitioners, but in my view, less strongly so in others than in these specific two cases, inasmuch as others fall back upon appeals to spirit guidance, ancient ways, supposed-universality of principles, and other elements beyond just one’s own experiences & results.

The reservations

Probably the biggest reservation I have about chaos magic pertains to the famous saying that “nothing is true, everything is permitted.” 

It is my impression that, for many people who put forward this saying, the underlying reality of the world (chaos) is conceptualized as a blank slate that different worldviews draw different things on; the chaos magician, realizing this, is then potentially empowered to draw whatever they like on there.

I do not myself conceive of chaos in this way.  To me, chaos is less like a blank slate than a really blurry out-of-focus picture (you may notice I did mention above being nearsighted ;)) that no one has the perfect lens to bring into full focus (because Lovecraftian madness would result) vs. everyone uses different lenses and thus sees different things in better/worse focus.  Unlike the blank slate though, here there is something there, and if you persist in using lenses that do not register certain key characteristics that it has, you are missing things that may bite you in the ass. 

Notice then that, according to the “typical” chaos magic view, you cannot really compare worldviews beyond just their being different/equal.  Vs. according to my view, yes there is an element of relativism re: no one is one-hundred percent “right,” but I do think some worldviews fare better than others at dealing honestly with a larger percentage of “reality, and “better/worse” here can be determined via empirical investigation, whether that means consulting science (regarding material matters) or consulting the experience of the individual (regarding matters of meaningfulness) or etc.  This then is plainly not “nothing is true, everything is permitted” – the Satanist reserves the right to be able to put forward critical claims that in some respects, society is deluded, people lie to themselves, etc.

I have other reservations about chaos magic, but I think fundamentally they all go back to this one and also tie in to what I said in my previous entry about Satanism about dark spiritual realities.  You might say on that front that I am not much of a “chaos as Eris” chaos magician vs. much more of a “chaos as Azathoth” chaos magician – i.e. no less of a chaos magician for that, but of the view that at least for me, a darker, more monstrous image of chaos better “fits reality” than certain cutesy, flippant-sounding characterizations I’ve occasionally encountered within the chaos magic context.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Obligatory "I'm a Satanist" post

Anyone who’s known me for awhile has likely noticed that every time I start blogging anew, there will at some point early-on be an entry about how I’m a Satanist and what exactly that means.  Well, here’s that entry for this time around. 

Why retread that ground yet again?  Because i) I find it useful to re-articulate this stuff to myself once in awhile; ii) it seems all the more worth unpacking given references to it in my previous entry (i.e. if you came here looking for the crazy "black metal convinced me to NOT kill myself" story, that's the link you're looking for); and iii) my understanding of the religion actually has changed in some details over the last few years.

Anyway, though: I was first exposed to LaVeyan Satanism when I was sixteen, i.e. like, a quarter-of-a-century ago now, which is kind of insane to think about. 

I would not say Satanism was something I hugely focused on during my early twenties, but from about 2003 onward (that being when I went to grad school at a university that had a pagan/occult student society), I began exploring that side of things much more explicitly and purposefully.  This has intensified further in recent years until the point where, from about 2013 onward, I was fairly “out” about it even at my workplace, inasmuch as I was by then teaching classes in which the subject was coming up.

Now, while these days I’d still say I am strongly influenced by LaVeyan Satanism, what I actually believe and practice has increasingly deviated from that denomination, enough that I gravitate toward the term “heterodox Satanist,” as I am not in wholesale agreement with any of the other denominations either.  This is hairsplitting though, vs. as a starting point, here’s what I see as a common core shared by pretty much everything that credibly calls itself “Satanism”:

  1. A critical, adversarial stance toward authorities and institutions that dominate society, especially inasmuch as said authorities and institutions make appeals to dogmas that the Satanist, by light of their own reason, reflection and experience, does not find intellectually convincing, emotionally satisfying and/or conducive to their own flourishing.

  2. A dedication to the pursuit of knowledge via the exercise of one’s own intellect and, in connection with this, a life of constant introspection, resulting in a high level of self-awareness regarding what one really wants, why, to what extent one is succeeding at attaining it, etc. – as per Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

  3. Appreciation for the carnal world in the form of sensual and aesthetic experiences, embrace of these experiences as an important part of the human condition, and awareness of how otherworldly religiosity tends to reject such experiences, thereby promoting a diminished quality of life in which human beings are alienated from themselves – hence the Satanist being the enemy of that kind of religiosity.

  4. Strong emphasis on such concepts as liberty, sovereignty and the strong will of the individual; it is not that one is never willing to ‘play ball’ with other people or with society (though some Satanists are like that) but rather that one ultimately puts oneself first and is thus resolutely unwilling to act against one’s own interests for the sake of others that one feels no adequately-justified obligations toward.  Most Satanists additionally understand that a natural consequence of this stance is that you are going to be labeled the “bad guy” at some point, and that from the perspective of those doing the labeling, you are the “bad guy."

  5. A recognition that, inasmuch as living a successful life as a Satanist requires intelligence, self-awareness, discipline, autonomy, etc., it is just a fact of life that not everyone is cut out to be one, at least not by default.  Differences in how they see the implications of this are what I see as a key distinguisher of Satanic denominations: there are optimists who think people can be educated and political moves made to create a more ‘Satanic’ society, there are pessimists who think society will always be ‘a herd’ and hence seek only to carve out a life for themselves that is as separate from stifling social mores as possible, and there are nihilists who actively strive toward the destruction of society.  In all cases though, some degree of alienation from society is a typical ingredient of Satanism, as a big part of the point of adopting the label is that you are basically saying to society “your idea of good sucks so much that I’d rather side with the Devil.”

  6. Rejection of “feel good” metaphysical claims – e.g. a benevolent personal God, “the universe is fundamentally made of love,” etc. – on the basis that such notions are not in accord with the harsh realities of life.  Satanists may run the whole range from atheistic materialists at one extreme to “dark” pagan polytheists at the other, but the implication then of that spectrum as a whole is “maybe there is nothing beyond the physical, or maybe there is a dark spiritual something that should not be assumed be in a caring relationship with humanity, but there is definitely NOT some lovey-dovey, anthropocentrically-conceived, inherently-good-thing that ensures justice in the universe and magically ‘makes it all okay in the end.’”

OK, so with all that said, the question that typically arises is “but why call that Satanism instead of just calling it humanism?” 

The short answer is “because the mythology of Satan vividly illustrates all of these themes.”

The longer answer is:

  1. Satan rebelled against God, and thereby models the criticism and rejection of irrational, tyrannical authorities who harbor attitudes such as “the way I’m running things is the best way and you are not allowed to question that” (as per the Devil’s rebellion in Christianity) or “this thing I made is awesome simply because I made it and you are not allowed to think otherwise” (as per Iblees’ rebellion in Islam).

  2. Satan encouraged Adam & Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge, and though that led to punishment by God, one cannot help observing that it seems like a bit of a waste of potential for human beings to have been expected to just remain innocent children in a garden forever.

  3. Satan is associated with temptation, whether that means fulfillment of primary earthly needs (“turn these stones into bread”), attainment of social power and influence (“all the kingdoms of the world if you bow down to me”) or self-aggrandizement via special talents (“throw yourself off this roof and angels will catch you – everyone will be very impressed!”).  One could argue that these things can be good at least in moderation, vs. absolute ascetic rejection of these things means a life of dissatisfaction, disempowerment and “hiding one’s own light” – that’s all fine if you’re a totally God-oriented person such as Christ, but is it realistic for anyone else?

  4. In Paradise Lost, some of Satan’s most famous quotes include “The mind is its own place, can in itself make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” and “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”  i.e. defeat is not a cause for despair, but rather an opportunity to make one’s own way and thereby rise to even greater eminence. There are also lines elsewhere in the poem indicating that this character knows he is “the bad guy” (e.g. “Evil, be thou my good”), yet many readers of the poem nowadays nonetheless find something compelling about his steadfast dedication to his chosen cause, even if it is “evil.”

  5. Medieval folklore about the Devil portrays him as being served by witches, i.e. a pariah group who could be construed variously as using magic to make life better for their communities, as simply outcasts rejected by the society around them, or as involved in an organized conspiracy to promote evil.  Note, then, that the Neopagan interpretation of this history conceptualizes witches optimistically, the secular interpretation is more pessimistic, and the traditional Christian view of witches portrays them as having nihilistic intentions.

  6. By questioning God about whether Job was truly good or not, Satan created a situation in which God wound up coming across as a giant asshole who destroys his own follower’s life and puts him through hell for no really good reason.  The story’s ending can be read as God himself admitting that he’s not wholly good while asserting that humans don’t get to complain about it.  Satan’s actions thus initiate a series of events by which a rather dark spiritual reality is revealed.

Obviously countless exegetical and historical objections can be raised against all of this – it self-evidently a very selective interpretation.  But the point is that in these narratives, the Satanist sees elements that speak to them, and in what might itself be said to be a Satanic gesture, dares then to appropriate whatever they find useful here in creating a meaningful and vivid worldview for themselves. (And yes, I will definitely return to the can-of-worms that this specific phrasing opens up in a later entry…)

As this predictably got long quickly, I’ll finish for now with a few summary-thoughts about where I’m at with the spiritual side of things these days:

  • As far as the values and ethos associated with Satanism, I don’t think I have changed that much over time – rather, I’ve just gotten better at more thoroughly articulating the implications and consequences of what I see as the fundamental principles.

  • LaVey’s Satanic Bible describes ritual practices, but I’m under the impression that most LaVeyans don’t bother, and the other most-visible denomination (Satanic Temple) does not appear to have much of an esoteric component at all (at least as per how its official tenets are phrased); I am thus something of an outlier inasmuch as for me, the “magical” or “religious” component was key from the start, and has always remained such.

  • When it comes to the beliefs and practices that differentiate me from other Satanists, I figure the two decisive drivers are: i) my broad knowledge of mythology, world religions, esoteric practices and etc. via my educational background; and ii) my having in recent years gotten obsessed with certain aspects of black metal.  Combine these factors with the sensibility of chaos magic (click here for brief explanation if you don’t know what this is), and the result is a “personal mythology” and “magic system” with some significant differences from that typically associated with LaVeyan Satanism.

  • Despite my religious idiosyncrasies, and my growing impression that they likely make me closer to what is technically known as Luciferianism than Satanism, I have long stuck with the latter terminology because inasmuch as “Satan” means “accuser/adversary,” this to me is the most appropriate general term for the religious stance that is against what basically every other religion says.  Vs. I tend to use other diabolic names in invocation of specific sub-parts of the religion, e.g. in the case of Lucifer, the pursuit of knowledge in particular.

I’m not 100% sure yet how explicit I will ultimately want to get on here about my, as Ihsahn in Emperor once put it, pretentious secrets. ;)  But “articulating the implications and consequences of what I see as the fundamental principles” – with regard to a few political matters on my mind, but also with regard to other topics – is most definitely something I will be getting into more in future entries as far as Satanism goes.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Back from the Abyss...

After about six months here of minimized social media presence - i.e. that needed to promote events, but nothing like my old blog, Twitter or etc. that I actually use to share substantial thoughts in the way I had enjoyed doing for like fifteen consecutive years before that - I've decided it's time for me to start blogging again.

But whereas in the past, I blogged/tweeted/etc. out of a sense that there was some larger-fun-and-fulfilling thing that I was thereby participating in, I am this time around much more focused on articulating the ideas I present here solely for my own self-understanding and Satanic pride - i.e. if someone else gets something out of it, great, and hearing from either friends or strangers in such case would be wonderful, but fundamentally I am back on here just to tell my story, not to court the favor of the public by trying to "join a conversation" or etc.

To get this blog started off then, it's long-winded story time: 

Most of my close friends are aware that I have not been in the best of mental states these past few years, but I haven't really let the full extent of this on to anyone, because for reasons I'll get to below, I was having quite significant brain fog issues aggravating my already-existing emotional anxiety/depression issues particularly last year, and I thus could not even fully articulate the true situation to myself.

I would say in retrospect, though, that while I never actually made any plans to commit suicide, I was frequently in such a mental state that, were it possible to bring about an end to one's existence purely by thinking about it, it most definitely would have happened somewhere in the August to November range of last year.  

And as short a cock as this may seem in the penis-measuring contest of "real" depression issues, it has nonetheless been a thoroughly harrowing experience for me, with last year being easily the worst of my entire life as far as mental health goes.

It is natural to wonder how and why I would be in such a state, as unlike many who find themselves in such straits, I have a wonderfully supportive family, lots of friends, an amazing job that I find fulfilling to the point that there's nothing else I'd rather do, a variety of material comforts, etc. - i.e. seemingly not a whole lot of reason to be in distress.

Casting a shadow over all of this, however, was what I am now able to diagnose as a serious spiritual problem: due to certain messaging I'd unwittingly absorbed through social media, I had come to feel like the world was steadily moving in a direction such that basically everything I'd done or wanted to do with my life, everything I think and am, would sooner or later be counted against me as a horrible mistake. 

And since I did not see any plausible way to get out of this situation without giving up rather significant things that make me "me," I had gotten to a point where I was just going through the outward motions of life rather than exulting in the true sense of "vital existence" that is integral to a life lived in the truly Satanic mode.

I will likely talk in more detail about this matter in other entries I will make on this journal later.  But here is my attempt at a condensation of some of the contradictions of ideal-vs-reality that I felt trapped by in these recent bad years of my life:

  1. The life of an academic ought to be devoted to advancing human knowledge and seeking truth beyond mere popular opinion.  Yet there nowadays seems to be an academic "herd" which regulates knowledge and truth-seeking according to its own standards of a utopian justice that it is striving toward, and in so doing prevents dissenting individuals from freely exercising their own reason & conscience to advance competing visions of "the good" - a problem for those who feel that being able to express differing visions of the good freely is a key part of a secular democratic society.

  2. A primary purpose of art is to express in more vivid and compelling form the inner world of the individual, so as to both heighten self-understanding and assure others of similar inclination that they are not alone in this life.  Yet there nowadays seems to be a creators+fandom "herd" which behaves as if the sole purpose of art is to serve as propaganda advancing one particular "progressive" worldview, and that any art that is trying to do something else - or even is just mildly imperfect in its propagandistic message - should not be "taking up space" that could be otherwise-better-occupied by other, more "on-message" material.

  3. Academia and art alike are best enjoyed by those with the maturity to separate ideas from people and to reflect deeply on those ideas.  Yet nowadays, "the herd" increasingly demands super-simplistic answers regarding what is "good" and "bad" via mere reference to what demographic characteristics an individual possesses, and rules against competent and interesting thinkers and artists either on the basis of personal factors that have no direct impact on a given work in itself (e.g. assuming that because the artist is in some sense "bad," the art must inherently be "bad" regardless of its actual contents & execution) or on even-more-irrelevant matters of "guilt by association" (e.g. "so-and-so-who-is-problematic likes Book X, therefore Book X is bad as such, and I can magically know this without actually reading it").  This kind of judgment-by-simplistic-categorization is insufferable if one has a complex identity that falls outside of the relevant "boxes," e.g. a biracial person who looks white (me) then gets their opinions written off as "just speaking from privilege," etc.

  4. Anyone who questions the wisdom of "the herd" regarding any of the above matters is liable to be condemned as oblivious to the urgency of defeating an obvious evil in the world (here they will cite whatever awful thing happened in the news this week that, by happening, renders you a shitty person for daring to not talk about whatever "the herd" is talking about) and advised that they would do the world more good if they would talk less, listen more, never trust their own judgment if it contradicts the judgment of "the herd," and invest all of their energy in the new asceticism of constant apology, slavish deference and general fear-and-guilt-mongering.

Now, some of you at this point are likely getting grumpy because you signed up for reading about my mental health problems and here I have "tricked" you into reading what appears to you to be an anti-far-left political rant.

Said grumpiness I foresee being accompanied by one or both of the following two complaints: 

i) "That's all just stupid online stuff though - why don't you just ignore it instead of getting all depressed?"


ii) "But nobody is actually saying those things in the extreme form you are putting them - all they are asking is for you to care a little bit more about social justice, so why are you acting like such a bitch in response to that minimal request?" 

To which my responses are:

i) While in the depths of my depression (i.e. less so now in the present), I was under the impression that my particular industry was inescapably saturated in this kind of thinking, and inasmuch as that might be so, I am not free to ignore it, because I could get fired and have 12+ years of expensive and time-consuming post-secondary education go in the garbage over neglecting it.

ii) "Don't advance knowledge in the direction that your own reason points you and don't make the art that best reflects what's in your heart because it's problematic" is not a 'minimal' request if you feel like your being a thinker and artist is what you are here for, which I do indeed feel.  And as for what is "actually being said": I have in recent months made a concerted effort to talk to a variety of family, friends, colleagues and assorted others (e.g. hairdressers, mechanics and other people the progressive elite is apparently too "good" to actually talk to these days) about what they really think about "social justice," and it is seriously like 95% "fuck this toxic online SJW bullshit that makes people feel like they can't speak their minds or like what they like"... and I am pretty sure a fair portion of the 5% is holding back just because they are too afraid of how "the herd" would react to their true view of the situation.  So I would argue, on that basis, that if "the herd's" intent is to promote a positive progressive message, well... you yourselves said intent isn't magic, motherfuckers! - i.e. a massive number of people besides me seem to agree that the messaging needs some work there.

Anyway though, bottom line then before I get to the better part of this entry: Imagine that you are a practitioner of a religion that explicitly conceptualizes herd conformity as a sin, yet are trying to live a fulfilling life as a thinker and artist amid a situation in which it seems like a powerful "herd" rules over the key parts of your life from which you formerly derived the most fulfillment.

The result is that you either live in constant fear of being found out and exposed by "the herd" and therefore find yourself policing everything you think and make whilst still trying to carve out some minimal way for you to be you, or you concede to the ideology of the herd, feel fully how much it seems to rule against a person whose mind and soul by default work the way yours happen to, and get thinking that suicide would thus be a rather effective way of vacating that "space" which the woke-folk are so bent-out-of-shape about you "taking up."

I hope, even if you disagree with the politics I'm implying by raising this issue, that any reasonably humane person can see how someone could be worn down by thoughts and feelings of this nature.

Okay, now on to the good news: I turned a corner in the November 2018 - February 2019 timeframe, and I'm doing much, much better now on account of the following changes:

  1. I've done a lot of "reality checking" re: my workplace, my friends, etc. (see the 95% statistic I just mentioned) + separating myself from the online scene (I was never on Facebook, but Twitter turned out to be a huge part of my problem); by doing this, I discovered that the vast majority of people in my life are actually squarely on my side against this bullshit.  I'm thus enabled to see that "the herd" is smaller, less monolithic and less powerful than I'd thought - less in need of resisting and, when there is need, easier to resist;

  2. I've engaged in thorough self-examination by testing my own politics (every test I tried puts me about three-quarters to the left - i.e. FYI, I am definitely not "the right" now just because I don't agree with every last thing the current left is doing), by continuing to read "forbidden" books and be honest with myself about what I think of them, and better-training myself to be able to detect certain forms of mental manipulation that are rife in political circles these days - "you must agree with the speaker or else you are a bad person" -type mind games and so forth - so as to arrive at a place of feeling more "in charge" of my own mental space once again;

  3. I was diagnosed with celiac recently, and upon cutting all the gluten out of my diet, the physical/emotional part of my problem suddenly receded hugely and became much more manageable.  Irritating timing inasmuch as I could have saved hundreds of dollars on therapy etc. last year if I could have figured out earlier why, no matter how much and how constructively I talked to my therapist, it still felt all the time like I'm chained to this gigantic rock of awfulness that I just can't seem to move.  But at least the chain is broken now, and the war goes much easier when it is no longer unknowingly being fought on two fronts.

Now, much as I would like to say, as someone who has been a LaVeyan Satanist for a good portion of my adult life, that at some point the will kicked in and moved me to fix myself - to dredge up inquisitiveness enough to reality-check, and determination enough to keep going with all my heretical thoughts and feelings, and awareness enough to seek the medical attention I needed - the true impetus for all this, as I experienced it, has this strange element of "sometimes, the dark powers are just looking out for you" that I would tend to associate with the more esoteric "dark pagan" -style Satanic denominations that I now find myself drifting toward.

Basically, one day I was listening to music while driving, and a black metal song with these lyrics came on:

Twilight engulf us all
Supreme existence ignored
United we shall fall
Independence unexplored
Fading is the light that never shines
Aiding manipulation against our minds
- Uada - Devoid of Light

And I don't know what it was, but I found myself extremely struck by these words - the middle two lines in particular.

It was like some daemon was suddenly at my side and pointing out to me how badly short I was falling of my own standards as a spiritual practitioner, how I was in essence wasting my life in the shadow of what I feared whilst it slowly absorbed and destroyed me + warning me that I need to start living differently or I am going to perish without leaving any impact in my wake against that which is the enemy of my soul.

I would thus say it was this - this unexpected kick-in-the-pants from the acausal realm, as I now see it - that set things in motion for a better trajectory for me: like, I just did not realize how far off course things had gotten with my life and how urgent it was to do something about it until I had this experience.

And while music has always wielded a lot of influence in my life, emotionally and spiritually this goes beyond anything I have experienced before.  I felt well and truly shattered by it for several days after it happened, during which there were alternating fits of crying and spiritual transport more typically seen in the case of sudden, violent conversions to religions-that-are-not-LaVeyan-Satanism.  Unexpected and at times awkward as this was (I thank my friends for putting up with me), I do think a lot of long-held-onto bitterness was purged thereby, and the foundation thus laid for the better and more self-affirming direction that I am now moving in.

Now, it is probably worth observing that what I have just described is, of course, exactly and hilariously opposite to the normal relationship that is expected between black metal and suicide.  But I suppose that if one is walking "the sinister path," such reversals should probably be expected. ;)

In closing then, that's the big story I have to tell for now, but I have plenty I want to say in connection to its various details regarding my renewed understanding of my spirituality, my thoughts about the political and ethical implications of Satanism, exegesis of some other black metal lyrics that are on my mind these days, and other such topics.

The tentative goal is to post something on here at least 2-3 times a month, but we'll have to see how it goes.  

To keep you entertained in the meantime: Uada's playing the city I live in next weekend, so if you're here - or for that matter, elsewhere - please consider coming out to support them if you like what you hear (more music + awesome video here).