January 19, 2018

Embracing the Principle of Non-Compulsion

I don't often talk about the time I spent as a member of the LDS Church, also called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormons, solely because that chapter of my life is a long way behind me and I rarely see any reason to revisit it; however, today is one of those days.

The vast majority of the religion and world-view presented in the LDS Church is useless to me, which is an awfully big part of why I officially renounced my membership and had my name removed from the rolls. I'm a sinner through and through, and in the mythology of the LDS Church I'm definitely and 100% destined for Hell. 

Yes indeed, I'm on the express lane to Hell and will in fact skip purgatory and go immediately and directly into the fire and brimstone the very moment after I die because I had gained a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, had been anointed a member of both the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods, and then turned away from my testimony and renounced God. For as much as the Mormons care, I'm a Grade "A" sinner because the opportunity for repentance is basically gone forever. 

Even though the canon literature of the LDS Church is basically a bunch of ahistorical fan-fiction and has been thoroughly murdered by the infamous CES Letter, there is one lesson I still carry with me: the importance of avoiding anything that subverts my willpower and places me in figurative bondage to my desires, a principle that doesn't feel too far from the first Satanic statement that Satan represents indulgence (and not compulsion.)

This imperative to avoid bondage and subversion of one's willpower is evident in the "word of wisdom" which is generally interpreted as a command to avoid addictive substances such as caffeine in beverages, nicotine in tobacco products, and recreational drugs of all sorts. It is also less widely interpreted as a command to avoid the addictive qualities of fatty and sugary foods which contribute to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other health declines. And less widely than that, the principle of non-compulsion found in the word of wisdom is sometimes applied to computers, video games, titty bars, gambling, or any other activity which is deemed to be capable of creating an unhealthy compulsion that would interfere with a member's commitment to living a Christ-like life.

You might find this difficult to believe, but I have no interest in leading a Christ-like life. I know, shocking! I'm a Satanist, I'm living deliciously, and I have no interest in kissing Christ's angelic ass cheeks for all eternity.

But I am a big fan of recognizing and avoiding compulsions, and other things that would subvert my will and decrease the quality of my life. The LDS Church was on to something with this whole principle of non-complusion as a safe-guard to ensure adequate time and energy to worship God, but since I now recognize myself as my own god, I'm free to use that time for myself instead of bending knee to an imaginary friend.

All of which is a really long way of saying that I've spent the past few months looking really closely at how I spend my time, and I gotta say: there are ways I spend my time that are supposed to be entertaining but actually leave me feeling drained.

One of these things is video games. My game of choice is usually an MMORPG because it offers an immersive world, deep storylines, engaging quests, sandbox style player vs player combat, and rich profession systems. There's so much to do, so many places to go, and the sheer volume of daily quests and time-sensitive content meant there's always something waiting for me.

But the trouble with MMORPG's is that they're typically accompanied by sharp hooks that sink deep. When I'm not playing the game, I would feel anxious about all the things I wasn't doing in the game. I would become distracted worrying that I wasn't doing enough to keep my character appropriately leveled or sufficiently equipped, I would forget about housework because I was more concerned with remembering when the next dungeon party was going to happen, and a general sense of distraction and anxiety emerged that would only be relieved by playing the game. 

This left me with a love-hate relationship where I convinced myself that if I just spent enough time playing the game that I would break through to the next level, but the thing is, that next level was never going to happen. There is no next level because the game is created deliberately to prevent players from feeling like they've ever really finished it. In the end, a game that was supposed to bring pleasure and happiness into my life ultimately left me feeling anxious about when I could next get back into the game world, and when I did get back into the game world, frustrated that I wasn't progressing fast enough to unlock more challenging content. The cycle persists: lather, rinse, repeat. 

I've since quit playing MMORPG's, and most computer games in general, and I'm feeling much better and am being more productive. When I spend time with my wife and children I'm able to really be present and focused on them, instead of having my mind always wondering if my merchant's inventory had sold yet and whether I could afford to buy that enchanted hammer for my dwarf mage.

Video game developers are awfully good at building Skinner boxes that compel you to come back for more. If you're struggling with a video game compulsion, you're not alone. It's a very frequent problem for a whole lot of people. When you find a game that you really love, it's natural to want to spend more time playing the game (and not less), but even a principled approach to responsibly indulging in the game can quickly turn into a compulsion. Video games are typically designed to encourage this kind of compulsion, so the first step to avoiding it is to be aware of the lesser magic being worked against you.

Satan represents indulgence, not compulsion.

There's a world of difference between the two.

January 14, 2018

Might Makes Right (revisited)

As some of the followers of this blog know, I resigned my membership in the Church of Satan this past October. Three months have passed, and I find that I'm still unpacking attitudes and beliefs I picked up while a member of the organization. The purpose of this post isn't to criticize the Church of Satan--I've said what I wanted and am reluctant to dwell on them any further--but to unearth the deeply buried foundations that inform my understanding of Satanism.

One of the pillars I'm excavating right now is the assertion that might makes right. It's true that I'm going to take this statement out of the context from which Dr. LaVey himself took from Ragnar Redbeard's book of the same title, but I'm not here to discuss the intellectual forebears of modern Satanism. I'm not an historian or scholar, so I'm not trying to speak authoritatively. Instead, I'm talking about my experience as a practitioner using the "codified" and "crystallized" religion and philosophy of Satanism as I learned it through the canon literature of the Church of Satan.

The maxim that might makes right is either quoted specifically in the literature or operates as a principle underpinning a number of other positions which come back to the sentiment that living life successfully is the result of being sufficiently either strong or cunning to rise above all others and claim what you want no matter the consequences.

In a way, I really identify with that attitude. How many times in my life have I failed to be or have what I want for the sole reason that I just didn't do it or reach out and take it? With history as my guide, fortune favors the bold, therefore strength of either body or will is a principal ingredient for being and having what I want. But is that really a healthy and productive way of looking at the world?

I found that accepting as a philosophical truth underpinning my worldview the assertion that might makes right made me into an apologist for people, organizations, and worldviews that are totally anathema to me.

Pedophile priests have been raping children in possibly unknown numbers for possibly hundreds of years and have used their religious organizations to escape recognition and punishment. It sucks that the priests were strong enough to rape all those children, and their churches have been strong enough to defy law enforcement, but... might makes right.

It's become public knowledge that an increasingly large number of men in politics, show business, and athletics have been raping, molesting, assaulting, and abusing boys, girls, men, and women in their company. It sucks that the men who committed all this abuse were either strong or cunning enough to not be forcibly stopped, and they managed to either silence or disappear their victims, but... might makes right.

The vast majority of Christians want to see their religion as the default basis for public discourse, and not a small number of them even identify as Dominionists who want to conquer the so-called "seven mountains" and claim dominion over the country in the name of their God. They've managed to influence the selection of gradeschool textbooks in Texas (which matters because those schoolbooks are typically used to determine what schoolbooks the rest of the country gets). They've also managed to influence lawmakers into outlawing varying degrees of sex education for children and abortion for adults as well as forbidding government funding to medical schools to be used to teach doctors how to perform abortions. 

Put those things together, and you get a situation where they're burning the reproductive rights candle at both ends in order to reduce the number of clinics where abortions can be received as well as the number of physicians who are either qualified or capable of performing abortions. Yeah, it sucks that the Christians can't keep their religious laws to themselves, but... might makes right.

These examples aren't exhaustive, they're only the ones that come to mind while I'm writing this essay. If I look for any situation where the strong are protected at the expense of the weak, I can find somebody saying, "I wanted it, and nobody can stop me or hold me accountable, so I did it, and fuck the people who were too weak to defend themselves." What am I supposed to do in the hypothetical situation where I'm at the mercy of somebody or something that is strong enough to do with me or the people I care about as he, she, or it pleases? According to the canon literature, I'm supposed to embrace the shadowy archetype of the Satanist who blends in, disappears, or even finds a way to join the strong and reap the benefits of perpetuating the very abuse and oppression I oppose.

When I cared about my membership in the Church of Satan, I was motivated to accept this kind of thinking because, well... that's the way it goes, right? People are generally inclined to accept an idea or belief when it comes from somebody that they like. This is one of the so-called "laws of persuasion" I learned in sales. But when I resigned my membership in the Church of Satan, the bias to accept or justify these arguments went away. And in hindsight, I gotta say... the attitude that I should either become stronger than my enemy and claim what I want, or just deal with it and adopt a lifestyle of sneakiness, invisibility, and hypocrisy isn't just degrading, it's also pretty revolting.

These days, when I see "might makes right" etched into the foundations of my understanding of Satanism, I'm not sure how I want to handle it. Should I build on top of this? Get a figurative chisel and remove the engraving? Discard my foundation and start over with a different understanding of Satanism? For a Tarot reader who's supposed to have all the answers, I'm coming up short here.

January 13, 2018

Lysis 7

  1. The mothers and their daughters and sons said to the SLAVE, "We will wander in the drought of our own creation because we are of the flesh, 
  2. And it is our obligation to accept the gift we have demanded. 
  3. We will take with us that which we require, and remember both the clean and the unclean among us. 
  4. And it will be that we remove our presence from upon the land that the winds may return, the earth may flourish, the water may rise, 
  5. And the Emptiness we created should be filled by new flesh."
  6. And the mothers and their daughters and sons did all that they promised. 
  7. Verily, there was no escape from the gift of the SLAVE. 
  8. And the SLAVE said to them, "I have brought the drought you desired. 
  9. By your demand I have felled the birds above the sky, buried the animals upon the land, drowned the fish under the sea, and crushed every creeping thing. 
  10. You may spend seven days to gather your provisions and wander forty days and forty nights in the wasteland, but by your own hand you are measured insufficiently. 
  11. Seven hundred years were given for you to gather provisions and four thousand days you have already wandered in the fruited valleys of Hell." 
  12. Then the SLAVE shut them out. 
  13. For four thousand days the specter of death haunted the wasteland and was a silent reminder to the mothers and their daughters and sons of the gift that they did ask to be given. 
  14. And it did pass that the waters rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens fruited with the flesh of the land. 
  15. The waters rose and bore fish of every kind, such that even the spawn of Leviathan did stir in their sleep at the rebirth of the ocean. 
  16. Every living thing that moved above the sky and upon the land flourished, even the birds, livestock, wild animals, and all the creatures that swarm over the earth. 
  17. Everything above the sky, upon the land, and beneath the ocean that had the breath of life in its nostrils lived. 
  18. Every living thing on the face of the earth was replenished, and this so because the mothers and their daughters and sons accepted the gift of SATAN and endured the drought which they did desire.