Or, when your Satanism just isn’t dark enough
It’s dawn and I stumble downstairs. A little gentle stretching to wake up, tea and toast. Before I get on the cute little train which runs from North Devon to Exeter, I decide to check Facebook. I’ll start by saying that I really like Facebook. It provides an excellent method of communicating. Much less direct than an email, much more targeted than a blog, all those lovely links. A channel programmed by my friends. Now my Facebook list is fairly extensive and, since I publish and speak publicly, I’ve got a fair few people on my ‘friends’ list that I don’t know personally. Some of these are folk that I suspect would identify as Satanists (some tell me so in their info details). So, as dawn comes and I dip into my Facebook feed, I get to see lots of death metal, Satanic injunctions featuring the emoticon \m/ ,and posts with an eldritch or antinomian flavour. These are predominantly from people on the western side of the Atlantic.
This morning I was also presented with a delightful Shiva spiritual which I elected to listen to. This was a perfect morning tune, uplifting, powerful, comforting and, ironically, posted to me by one of the biggest metal fans I know.
Listening to this tune as I scroll through the dark Satanic links I’m reminded of a Facebook interaction a few weeks ago with a female Satanist from North America.
“No matter where you are in the world- India, Canada, United States, Iran, Europe, Africa, etc… Satan can hear you. No matter what language you speak… Satan can understand you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to have certain qualifications in order to approach him or worship him… just be yourself. Satan knows who you are already…”
So I commented:
“Hey that’s great! Satan sounds just like Jesus :)”
I have to say that my response may not be word for word accurate since, when I looked back, my comment had been disabled along with my ability to comment on any future posts. Alas my jocular remark had upset my Satanic chum.
Beyond Good and Evil
I’ve met lots of people over the years who are Satanists; from the theistic sort (rather like the lady above who, as far as I can tell, has simply replaced a Big Beard In the Sky with a Dark Lord Under The Earth), to those who see Satan as an exemplar of the process of individual realisation (like those who have accepted the doctrine of Michael Aquino and his interpretation of the Sethian mythos promulgated by groups like the Temple of Set). Now it’s probably also true that plenty of people go through a Satanic ‘phase’, traditionally around their teenage years when one is ‘supposed’ to rebel. I certainly did things like burning a copy of the Bible given to me by my Uncle (who ironically I now realise as one of the few people in my family with whom I share a common interest in matters spiritual) and painting my bedroom black. I’d already got into all that Satanic culture; inverted pentagram with goats head, wearing black, listening to music which my parents couldn’t understand etc etc. That’s all good (or bad) in it’s own way and I’d certainly never try to dissuade someone from engaging with the shadow side of spirituality. But what I think can happen is that some people become so enamoured with the superficial symbolism of Satanism that it actually gets in the way of their gaining a wider spiritual (and indeed in some some sense more deeply Satanic) world-view. And this isn’t just about leaving Satan behind, no indeed, it’s, “less of the ‘get thee behind me’, and more of the ‘come in my old mate and have a cup of tea’”. It’s about breaking through the real underlying conventions; the childish observation that the world is composed of goodies and baddies, and the subsequent juvenile rebellion about how cool it would be to be on the side of the baddies.
One of my best friends studied for years at theological college and is now a chaos magician. He explains that part of his ‘conversion’ (or ‘loss of faith’ depending on where you stand) was to realise that he loved Jesus and he loved Satan too. Of course this is a reasonable, if theologically and historically dangerous, view. There are have been, and indeed are, interpretations of the monotheist creeds where Satan is given back his role as the agent provocateur of God. He’s the bit of God that tests Jesus in the wilderness rather than some (again often theologically tricky) anti-God. Although his interpretation of Satan is one that finds favour in some Gnostic Christian, Sufi and Yezidi spiritualities it’s always been a minority sport. Although not very well thought out (eg ‘if God is all powerful, and God is love, how come shitty things happen to good people?’) it’s easier in the short term to have a baddie to point the finger at. Satan is the cause of our ills not God, the father of lies, the tempter etc. This kind of white vs black hat theology might make sense if you’re five years old but, once you’ve grown and have a slightly more nuanced view of the world, it’s time to look for other richer interpretations of the world.
I was gently, and I felt humorously, making this criticism on my friend’s Facebook post. The simplistic swapping out of Satan for Jehovah gets us precisely nowhere in terms of either the ‘Satanic’ project of finding our own antinomian way in the world, or radically departing from the well-worn grove of didactic monotheism. If we’re after the ‘black flame’ of Xepher-ication and Luciferian liberation then we need to have a much more radical project.
But individuals who are caught up in the uncritical glamour of Satanism (ie don’t find my jokes funny) fall into a cultural loop which, especially in the internet age, is self-perpetuating.
Black metal on your ipod, demonic sigils on your desktop wallpaper, some really spooky looking volumes, bound in toad skin, on your bookshelf (purchased for the current crop of publishers providing those perfect-bound-grimoire-as fashion-accessory items). Then there are the clothes, the piercings, the tattoos, the list goes on. A whole Satanic lifestyle can be obtained right there, off the shelf (which, one might argue, is pretty Satanic in some senses…). Sprinkle it with something like Voudou (that being the dark-side spiritual path du jour), and serve with politically libertarianism. Add an insistent but actually fairly vaguely defined elitism, and season with apocalyptic observations about the world. Before you can say ‘Anton LaVey’ you’ve got a McSatan belief system ready to go.
And all this is quite fine. These things can be part of a balanced spiritual fare and personal program of magickal exploration., and I think the same rules apply as those for one’s culinary diet. A diversity of nutriments are needed, quality generally trumps bland quantity, and don’t get too specialised (remember the Panda).
But what happens if you find yourself locked in the (pseudo) Satanic media spiral? Take for example the potential fear of glitter and kittens…
There you are, the über dark metal Satanist. You know that everyone except you and your mates are without the Dark Flame of Our Lord Satan. You curse the slaves and celebrate your black majesty with, er, listening to Slipknot VERY LOUDLY. But lo, what is this? Here come some kittens, covered in glitter, rolling and leaping, wide-eyed and full of love! See them playing with balls of wool. Now behold! There are rainbows and spring flowers! The smiling faces of new-born babies! Then snuggling up with hot chocolate, a lover to cuddle you under the patchwork blanket that your grannie made for you when you were just seven….aaaghh! The horror! Back you (evil?) glitter and kittens! Back with your gentle, funny lol cat ways! Quick put something really dark on, let’s listen to Tool! Back, back I say! No mummy! I DO NOT WANT a cuddle! \m/ 😛
Nightside of Eden
Last year I visited a friend’s land out in the Devon countryside. At the bottom of a slope, planted with a huge variety of trees both native and exotic, there was a pond. I stood beside the pond as the light began to fade and watched. Insects were pulling themselves airborne, fighting their way through the meniscus to fuck in the air. Skating across the surface tension predatory spiders made snatch and grab raids on beetles and tiny fleas, sucking their blood and leaving their hollow bodies scattered on the glistening water. Beneath the surface who knows what horrors were going on; things eating and fornicating and dying and being born into the agony of brief, bloody lives.
For me, as expressed by my friend & Brother, ‘to love Satan and Jesus’ means to be able to see both aspects of the pond. To rejoice in the blessing of water, the scent of the flowers, the panoply of colour and form, the delight of life. To watch the birds playing at the waters edge. To see the funny snails lazily rasping their way over leaves. To hear the song of the wind in the trees and to celebrate life. This is also true as well as the dark-side perception that the pond is a battle ground and scene of un-ending violence.
As a chaos magician I aim for the fluidity that allows me to apprehend both these (and more) models of reality. And, to return to my amusing Facebook interaction. The key to this flexibility is often humour. As Ramsey Dukes puts it, there is the good, the bad and the funny. By seeking humour (be it of the Black, White or Yellow Schools) we can destabilise what we hold to be true and instead get a new perspective on things. We can stop being locked into a blinkered world-view and step outside those well-worn scripts (whether that script be the love of Jesus or the worship of Lucifer) and into a broader and often more inclusive perception of the world. If the cultivation of ‘the black flame’ means anything it means this. And that emphatically includes not bowing down to the idea of a ‘black flame’.
So I really enjoy it when my Satanist mates send me the latest pro-gun, death metal, demonic-artwork posts on Facebook. I just hope they understand were I’m coming from when I respond with the awesome power of glitter and kittens.