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).