As you may well know, here at the Blog of Baphomet, we like to view the positive aspects of differing traditions so as to more fully appreciate their contribution to the whole. In this spirit I was recently reflecting on the resignation of Pope Benedict and trying to glean the positive aspects of his pontificate. I’ll be honest, prior to his becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was not my favourite person in the world. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was central to the Church’s silencing the brilliant theological contributions of the Liberation Theologian Leonardo Boff and Matthew Fox, the father of Creation Spirituality. Both of these men were Catholic Priests at the time of their being silenced and yet their teachings were deemed as too dangerous and subversive. The work of both men makes a huge contribution to the Christian gospel both in terms of its alignment with social justice and a more positive relationship with the sensual Earth. Perhaps the best thing that he has done during his papacy is to step-down; I sincerely hope that its next incumbent is more attentive tohis humanity in embracing greater sexual and gender diversity and in promoting safer sex practices.
The world can be a chaotic, often frightening place and in our attempt to manage our fear, the desire to retreat to the known and to control via authority can feel overwhelming:safer to stay in our heads-away from the body and its longings, rather than trying to work with them. In the shadow of Descartes, Western thought has tended to depict the relationship between the body and the mind as being only partially connected at best-the messy, painful and all too mortal realm of flesh often seeming to run contra to the lofty aspirations of our best thinkers.
For this magical practitioner, the pursuit of awakening necessitates the integration of bodily passion with any more heady aspirations. Excessive attempts to by-pass or suppress the needs of enlightened self-interest, risk cutting us off from the potent life blood of our more serpentine, chthonic urges. The currents stirred up from the unconscious mind are the fuel that ensures that any more “lofty” goals are more than thin virtue and remain rooted in reality.
In trying to deepen my own engagement with the body, I’ve recently been carrying out some intensive research into the psychology and practice of shape shifting. In contemplating what it might mean to integrate those more animal aspects of ourselves, I sought the aid of the Black Pope himself Anton Szandor LaVey. It may seem easy at many levels to dismiss the insights of LaVey due to his love of carnival aesthetics and shock tactics, but if we do so we risk overlooking the incisive polemic of his insights and his genius as a magical synthesiser cum plagiarist. For LaVey the pursuit of truly satanic ethics meant the rejection of institutionalized hypocrisy and an acknowledgement of our animal humanity:
“1 Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence!
2 Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
3 Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit!”
(The Satanic Bible pg. 25)
Stephen Flowers offers the insight that rather than LaVey’s ethics being merely anarchist antinomianism: “It harkens back to pre-Christian tribal ethics: you have the right and responsibility to live, thrive and survive.” (Lords of the Left Hand Path pg. 335) To access the bestial self is not to indulge in mindless blood-lust, while wanting to access the visceral strength of instinctive gnosis, the great needs of the tribe are still held as vital.
Even though I personally believe that the gnostic path is one that ultimately moves through and beyond LaVey’s vision of indulgence, if we fail to ground ourselves in the body and the realm of the senses, our magic and initiatory work are unlikely to carry significant weight. If we disconnect ourselves from the imminent and the sensual, we risk a superficial awakening where we begin to attempt the expansion/deconstruction of an ego that has never truly been formed.
LaVey like Freud was masterful in recognising the drives and “darker” aspects of humanity. LaVey’s satanic philosophy rightly seeks to bring the libidinal drives of the Id above ground, so as to avoid the type of hypocritical suppression that he saw as rife within society. Arguably what neither Sigmund nor Anton developed fully was the realisation that the work of integratingthe unconsciouswas ultimately a path of ascent,illumination and refined return. While the adversarial rebellion of the “satanic” may be enough to catalyse the beginnings of the Hero’s journey, it is rarely enough to sustain it. In the psychological world this was brilliantly realised by Carl Jung and in an initiatory context this remains the focus of many of us working with the path of self-sovereignty and transformation.