February 27, 2016

Book Review: How to Read Tarot under Any Circumstance

learn to read tarot book review
Image property of Theresa Reed / The Tarot Lady
Say what you will, but reading Tarot professionally is flaky. I wish I had a camera every time I explained to a loan officer or bank representative that I read Tarot cards for a living. "Oh! That's, uh... interesting." I don't need psychic abilities to know that the next question is going to be, "And before I give you any money, can you prove that you're not living in a painted wagon?" Among the other challenges that professional Tarot readers encounter is the difficulty of continuing education. My wife, for example, is an E-RYT 200 with the Yoga Alliance and she has a wide variety of accredited courses and seminars to choose from. Likewise, chiropractors, massage therapists, mechanics, and people from all places on the spectrum of professions have tremendous resources for continuing education.

But Tarot readers? Well, this is something that's largely self-guided. There are organizations like the Tarosophy Tarot Association, American Tarot Association, and others who offer courses for Tarot readers, but speaking from personal experience these courses have more to do with teaching the meaning of the cards, improving intuition, and placing an emphasis on Jewish mysticism. Which is cool - if you follow a Rider-Waite-Smith interpretation of the cards, believe in intuition, and you find meaning in kabbalah, then this is right up your alley. But for the rest of us, it's completely irrelevant. 

Blazing your own trail in Tarot is liberating, but it's also isolating. So in my search to become the best beast I can be, I keep my eyes open for what passes for continuing education courses: books, courses, seminars, and pretty much anything else I can use to improve my performance of the Tarot and how I relate to my clients. One of the things that caught my eyes recently was Theresa Reed's latest release, "How to Read Tarot under Any Circumstance," that she's offering as a digital download for $20. I'm a massive cheapskate, and I deeply resent spending money on a product or service that doesn't live up to my expectations. Am I broke? No. I'm just really cheap.

But I was willing to take a risk on this purchase because this book isn't advertised as yet another entry in the flood of 101-level Tarot resources. "How to Read" is advertised as a 115-page book that includes advice on how to build your reputation; avoid burn-out; set business policies; identify and deal with problematic clients; use techniques from yoga to enhance your calm and manipulate energy; and handle problematic situations outside of your control. It's also advertised as providing additional resources for Tarot professionals, recommended books, mentors to know, and suggested music for chilling out or pumping up.

So even though I don't consider myself psychic and I have no interest in energy work since I approach Tarot as performance art and not as a mystical practice, I was willing to put my money on the table because of the pro content that Theresa regularly publishes on her blog. For this review, I'm going to talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But before I start into this review, I want to make some qualifications:

First, Theresa is a fabulously successful Tarot professional and she didn't get to where she is today by accident. I have deep respect for her accomplishments, and no matter what you read in this review it's not meant to diminish anything about her as a Tarot reader. 

Second, I don't think I'm a member of the intended audience for this book. I purchased the book for myself, but I think it was intended for somebody else because the discussions about intuition, sexually intrusive clients, and hormone fluctuations are outside anything I've ever encountered because I don't consider myself psychic, I've never had to deal with disgusting men the likes she describes in the book, and as a man I don't have to deal with hot flashes.

So with that out of the way, let's break it down.

Theresa's got a wicked sense of humor and this is evident in her writing. I found "How to Read" to be very funny and absolutely entertaining. Her story about reading for a gang leader, or her description of how to identify The Hysteric nightmare client got good belly laughs out of me. 

And although I personally didn't find any value in the section detailing yogic practices for managing your breath and breathing or grounding your energy, I did find value in her discussions about maintaining good posture and remembering the very real dangers of sitting still for prolonged periods. Get up! Stretch! Believe it or not, sitting still for long periods is terrifically bad for your health and Theresa is very correct to remind Tarot readers of the importance of physical exercise. Speaking from experience, sciatica is nothing you want to deal with, and the best way to avoid is - duh - spending more time standing up, stretching, and doing physical exercise. So kudos to Theresa for including a message about the physical.

I also enjoyed Theresa's discussion about saying "no" to the money when either the client you're with or the environment you're in are problematic or dangerous. It's so tempting to compromise your mental or physical safety in the name of a paycheck, but speaking from my own experience I absolutely agree with Theresa: you must learn to be discerning about the clients you accept, and you must learn to say "no" and refuse service because if you spend any amount of time reading professionally you will encounter the dangers she describes in this book, and no matter how much you're getting paid for your time, you'll only thank yourself in the end for walking away.

Speaking of situations that you should just walk away from? The mentally ill. I don't just mean people who are sad and depressed, I mean people who live in group homes. I mean people who hear voices telling them to not refill their prescription because the pharmacist is working for the Illuminati. I mean people who are bipolar, don't sleep for days on end and go on week-long benders during which they spend all the money they don't have. As Theresa very correctly discusses: Tarot readers are not healthcare professionals. In these kinds of delicate situations, you should not only refuse service, but you should also consider yourself a mandated reporter and either call emergency services for this person's own well being, or find a friend or family member who can come get your client. Don't even think about playing doctor, because it will end badly for everybody involved.

So as you can see, a large portion of Theresa's book focuses on setting boundaries, making your clients respect them, and remembering not to compromise your boundaries (or exaggerate your responsibilities) the sake of a paycheck. That's a good message, and as long as I've been reading cards, it's a good message to hear again, again, and again.

But the one thing that I enjoyed most about the entire book is the template she provides for creating a business policy that clearly outlines what you do, what you don't, the clients you want to see, the clients you don't want see, and more. This template is so concise yet direct that I'd say it's almost worth the $20 price of "How to Read" all on its own. If you don't understand the value of a clear business policy, let me explain it to you with two questions:
  1. If you're a Tarot reader, do you ever find yourself dreading your Tarot work-day? Do you ever say to yourself, "Fuck me, what did I do to deserve the shitty clients I've got?" I'll tell you what you didn't do: you didn't write a business policy that tells your clients who you and what to expect. Those nightmare clients that make you resent your job will usually not hire you for a reading if they understand that you're not going to play their idiot games.
  2. If you're a client who gets Tarot readings, do you ever find yourself regretting the money you spent? Do you ever say to yourself, "Fuck me, I just wasted (Insert Dollar Value Here) on a useless message that didn't tell me anything or help me in any way." I'll tell you what you didn't do: Either you didn't read the business policies of the Tarot reader you hired, or you hired a reader who didn't specify his or her business policies. Don't assume that the reader is going to just "find whatever you need to hear." For the same reason that you'd shop around for the best doctor and research his or her clinic's history, you should also shop around for the best reader and research his or her business policies.
That's the importance of having a clear business policy. If you choose to not have business policies, then you're choosing to invite trouble into your business. Theresa didn't ask me to write this review, and as you can see, there aren't any affiliate links on this page. So when I say that the template Theresa provides is almost worth the $20 price of the entire book, I'm telling you what I honestly think.

As I said in the introduction to this review, I purchased this book for myself because I thought that it would be a useful resource for me; however, after reading through the entire book I came away with the impression that this book is written primarily for women, and even then, primarily for women who are either about to begin reading cards professionally, or have been reading cards professionally for less than two years.

This doesn't mean that the book is worthless, simply that I was disappointed. My impression is that it was somewhere between the 300 and 400 level, but I felt like the material was intended for a sub-200 level audience. And you know, if I were at the sub-200 level, I think I'd have found it tremendously useful. But me being who I am, I felt that it didn't speak to my interests. And that's okay - Theresa isn't required to write books exclusively for my benefit! - so I think this is a matter of me misunderstanding the pitch page.

The book is filled with stories and examples of people and situations from the span of Theresa's career, and while they're always entertaining and often quite funny, they're also quite limited. Again, maybe this is my fault because I imposed my expectations on her work? All the same, I feel that the book could have benefitted from more detailed story-telling if only because Theresa is an entertaining story-teller and I enjoy her writing.

I felt that for the $20 price, the book could have also been more detailed in other areas. My wife is an E-RYT 200 with the Yoga Alliance, and she says that the yogic principles taught in the book are solid, so I'm not criticizing the accuracy of the material Theresa presents. But my wife and I both felt that the instructions provided would make sense for people with a background in yoga, but wouldn't be enough for people who didn't have any yoga experience.

I like that Theresa tells you about the nightmare clients you're going to meet, but I find that her suggestions for how to handle them fell a little flat for me. For example, she recommends that when dealing with a skeptic that you should just ignore their criticism, continue with the reading, and blow them away with your intuitive abilities. 

Theresa, if you're reading this: I really admire the work you do, but that's patently terrible advice. Saying that the way to deal with skeptics is to prove them wrong with intuitive abilities sounds like an application for the James Randi Educational Foundation's $1,000,000 challenge. As always, speaking for myself: I don't think I'm psychic. I think that the Tarot is a tremendously powerful tool - not just for the performance of lesser magic, but even as an occult equivalent of a Christian church's prayer labyrinth, for example - but if dealing with skeptics were as simple as proving your psychic abilities, then at least one of the thousands of applicants who hoped to win James Randi's $1,000,000 should have taken it by now. 

I encounter skeptics frequently, and they're easily disarmed when I tell them I'm not psychic, I'm an entertainer. I embrace the mystery of the Tarot, but I accept all the limitations that come with it. Telling a skeptic that you can prove him or her wrong is simply a recipe for personal failure. This isn't really a criticism of Theresa - she says she has the gift, so who am I to disagree with her lived experience? - but I feel like her advice for dealing with skeptics is a poor strategy.

Speaking of problem clients, I disagree with one of the strategies she offers for keeping trouble clients away: only servicing existing clients and referrals from existing clients. If you've been in business for decades and have a huge client base, then this is solid advice, but for the majority of us this kind of solution would cut our legs out from under us. As much of the book addresses 100-level concerns for new professionals, I thought this piece of advice was bad because it creates a super-exclusive business model that depends on the reader not just having a large client base, but also depends on the client base doing all your advertising for you. I'm willing to be shown why I'm wrong, but speaking as somebody with my own brick-and-mortar business where I do readings in person, such a policy would ruin me and it would push my potential new clients to any of the five other readers in town.

The last criticism I'll add to this category is that I didn't understand the work-book elements in each section. It wasn't clear to me from the book's pitch page that this is a work-book, so I was a little bit surprised that a few sections have portions where I'm supposed to write about my experiences, how I felt about them, and so on. But after I got over the surprise that, "Oh, I was supposed to print a paper copy?," I was confused because I didn't understand what these portions were supposed to do. They don't integrate with anything presented later in the book, and unless I missed it, there aren't any follow-up activities about how to relate these experiences to anything else. To me, these work-book elements felt like diary pages where I'm suppose to discuss my feelings solely for the sake of writing it down for the "feels." If these work-book elements had been integrated into anything else in the book, or action steps had been provided to show me how these memories and feelings are used for some other activity, it would have made sense, but I'm a bit confused about what role they were supposed to play.

Like I said earlier in this review, I'm an incredible cheapskate. I'm not broke, I just resent spending money on anything that won't live up to my impossibly high expectations. It's true - I'm frequently disappointed in life - but I try to be Epicurean in my tastes, and for that reason I try to be discerning in any purchase I make. When I was evaluating the pitch page to decide if I wanted to purchase "How to Read," the first thing I looked for was the page count. Granted, a page count is no guarantee that I'm going to love the book, but it does help me quantify what I'm going to get for my money. 

In this case, I was really disappointed because although the book is formatted to 115 pages, I didn't feel like I was reading a book. Instead, I felt like I was reading a slide-show presentation that would be used as part of an in-person workshop. Assuming an A5 page size, most books have about 250 words per page, so I was anticipating about 28,000 words that I could digest over the course of a few days. In the case of "How to Read," a quick word count shows 13,476 words (and that's including all the page markings, fine print, table of contents, etc.) After reading through the entire book in 15 minutes, I have to be honest: I felt a little bit cheated.

I also felt a little bit cheated when I got to the end of the book where she provides the additional resources, Tarot mentors, books to read, and so on, because in my mind I thought that this was going to be more content written in the actual book, but what I found was a list of links to posts listed on other Tarot readers' public blogs and her own public blog; what appeared to be affiliate links to books and Tarot decks for sale on Amazon; recommended beauty products; and an entire page advertising her services as a Tarot reader and business coach. Now, me being who I am, I'm not opposed to self promotion, but like I said before: I feel a little bit cheated. Why should I have paid $20 for what - at the very end of the book - is a list of free, publicly available blog posts and a pitch page for the next level of business coaching?


So, here we are at the end. If you've reached this point of the review, then you might be thinking that I feel like I wasted my money, but you'd be wrong. Like I said in the beginning, there are a lot of good things about this book. Considering that Theresa offers business coaching at $30 per question, and the template for creating a business policy is in my opinion nearly worth the $20 price of the book, it feels like a bargain. When I get done with my work today, I'm absolutely going to use that template to write my own business policy because it's that damn good. And despite my other criticism, I genuinely enjoyed reading "How to Read." If I sound strongly negative in my criticism, it's because I purchased "How to Read" for myself. I thought it was a 300 to 400 level book, but it turned out to be sub-200 level. That was disappointing for me, but if I remember back to when I was a new professional, then I think I'd have had much higher praise for it. I lament that several portions of the book were shorter than I wanted them to be, but that's not to say that these portions were useless. I'm also disappointed that so much of the book felt like it was intended for women - I felt left out of the discussion! - but this may be less to do with me and more to do with the fact that I'm just not a member of the audience for whom this book was intended. At any rate, if you're a new professional, I think you'll enjoy this book. You can purchase a copy at Theresa's website, but don't forget you can also read her blog and follow her on Twitter.
  • Good: Thoroughly entertaining. Awesome template for creating a business policy. Practical advice. Drills the importance of creating and enforcing personal and professional boundaries.
  • Bad: Not enough detail. Feels like it's written for women - as a man, I felt like I couldn't relate to some portions. Feels like it's written for new professionals, but some advice doesn't work for new professionals. The work-book elements are confusing.
  • Ugly: Very short. Feels like I paid money for things that I could have read for free. Feels like an advertisement for additional services.

February 23, 2016

Satanism & Racism, part 2: the Eleven Rules of the Earth

Click here to read:
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4

So, for folks who are new to this blog, one of the things I talk about is Satanism. If you're not up for this kind of discussion, then you know where to find the exit. At any rate, this is a continuation of a broader discussion in which I talk about why Satanism is in fact compatible with left-leaning political views and why it's not un-Satanic to participate in the political process and protest personally undesirable and even unhelpful cultural and national paradigms.

Now, chances are that if you read the aforementioned post, or you're already a Satanist and are familiar with these things, then you've noticed something of a disconnect between the bombastic explosion of the 9 Satanic Statements and the 11 prudent rules outlined below. How does one reconcile these things? Well, to take a line from Captain Barbossa, "they're more like guidelines than actual rules."  As I mentioned in part one of this four-part series, this isn't about cherry-picking essays or statements from Doktor LaVey, Magus Gilmore, and other Satanic luminaries. Instead, this is about, "What is Satanism? What are its core tenets?" And, if we invoke the words of Captain Barbossa, how do we as Satanists interpret these rules as guidelines for living Satanically?

Without further delay, let's get into this discussion by simply outlining the 11 Rules of the Earth:
  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
  3. When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
  4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
  9. Do not harm little children.
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.
Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.

Easy peasy: don't make the mistake of thinking that anybody wants to hear what you have to say. Not only do you set yourself up for the Satanic sin of solipsism (which will be discussed in the next entry), but you're also potentially losing useful connections before you've even made them. You have no way of knowing what people know about you before you open your mouth, but you can be certain what they know about you after you start broadcasting it. This is an important element of lesser magic and learning to manipulate others for your advantage: It's better to err on the side of caution and let others assume the best (or suffer under the weight of their prejudice), than it is to show yourself to be somebody other than who they already think they know. This rule is frequently thrown at Satanists who choose to protest social or political problems, but then, following this rule in all things is also a good way to end up keeping your mouth shut and never saying anything to anybody. And since when have Satanists ever shied from accusing and opposing those who deserve an outpouring of fiery wrath? Never. Which is to say, choose your battles wisely.

Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.

Again: Unless you know that the other person really wants to hear about your latest drama, just keep your fucking mouth shut. First, When you complain to others, you're burdening them with your personal suffering. When you place your burdens on another person in this way, a few things happen. First, in the realm of lesser magic, you deliberately lower your status. Opening yourself to others - especially people for whom you may have a purpose waiting in the wings - brings them closer and diminishes your relative power and authority. Second, you're losing respect in the eyes of those people who whom you bare your struggles not just because they perceive you as somebody who can't handle his or her own shit, but also because you're infecting them with you shit and they resent you for it. Third, unloading your drama on another person is also invitation for that person to use that knowledge against you.

But looking at the first rule of the Earth, this rule - applied to all things and without discernment - is a good recipe for keeping your mouth shut and never speaking against anything ever. I think it's fair to say that Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan who knowingly chose to poison the entire population of Flint in the name of saving a few dollars on infrastructure didn't want to hear any protest from the people drinking the black water he was pumping into their homes (as opposed to the bottled water he was purchasing for city facilities.)

Rick Snyder was quite happy to stonewall the people he was poisoning - he didn't want to hear their troubles one bit - but because of continued protest the only future he has in government is as a trash collector. Does the rest of Michigan (and the rest of the country) really want to hear about the troubles people in Flint are having with their drinking water? Call me a skeptic, but probably not. But did the people of Flint do it anyway, and scare the rest of the country into realizing that their own elected officials could do the same to them? You bet. And I'll be surprised if Governor Snyder gets out of this crime without his head on a stick.

When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.

This is easy: follow the rules. Satanists are law-abiding citizens of whatever sphere of influence in which they find themselves. If you enter another's lair - which is not just that person's home, but any literal or figurative space where that person's authority governs the affairs that happen within the limits of its enclosure - you should not disrespect that person or challenge that person's authority and still expect any measure of hospitality. The mistress or master of that lair is inviting you into his or her life, and that means she or he may also incidentally reveal parts of her or his life to which others aren't privy. You will respect the authority and confidence of your host, or you should not go there. As it applies to the world at large, this means that Satanists abide by the laws of the land, and since the laws of the land invite and permit protest via myriad legal means, I don't think there's any reason to abstain from the political process. You may disagree with me that #BlackLivesMatter is a worthwhile organization, but that's a matter of opinion. I believe it absolutely benefits me and my family to support anti-racist initiatives, and I'm not disrespecting anybody's lair by doing so. Not even the president is the owner of the national lair that is the USA, so I'll do as I please and I'll do it for my own reasons.

If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.

This is the flip-side to the previous rule: if within a physical or figurative space where the affairs within the limits of its enclosure are governed by your authority and a guest challenges your authority, takes advantage of your hospitality, or deliberately breaks your rules, then you're within rights to treat her or him cruelly and without mercy. Take away that person's food or drink. Subject that person to scorn and ridicule. Throw her or his things out the front door and push her or him out the back door. As it applies to the world at large, this means again that Satanists are law-abiding citizens who believe emphatically that criminals who violate the social contract or break the laws of the land deserve to suffer for their actions. 

As it relates to racism and #BlackLivesMatter, I absolutely believe that people deserve to be punished for stupidity, and racism is about as stupid as it gets. And, as it happens, the laws of the land tend to agree with me. Contrary to what you might be thinking, I don't believe that all people are equal: one of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for example, I judge to be more valuable than 100 of David Duke (and that's a generous evaluation.) I believe that a level playing field should be maintained so that a meritocracy may emerge and social strata may be defined; however, a true meritocracy cannot emerge unless the cheaters who are deliberately rigging the system are removed or punished. And if you think that only minorities benefit from a level playing field, then you need to challenge your own assumptions.

Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.

Again, again, and again: Satanists are law-abiding citizens who follow the laws of the land and respect the liberty of their fellow beasts. This is covered in much deeper detail in the Satanic Bible, but it suffices to say that the intimate affairs of adults is a matter of consent. Pure and simple: yes doesn't mean no; yes means yes; and no means no. This reinforces the previous two rules of the Earth, but you know what else it reinforces? Consent culture. Yes, you read that correctly: Satanism, long a haven for the alternative right, has since its conception in April 30, 1966 by reason of its own fundamental philosophy been a supporter of consent culture. Do you find this surprising? If you do, then I encourage you reflect on why that's so. As it happens, #BlackLivesMatter is also a big supporter of consent culture, and since I'm a parent to two girls, that's kind of a big deal to me and reason for me to support organizations that promote consent culture.

Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.

You know that person who whines about his girlfriend and complains that she's such a pain in the ass? To some people what he's saying is that he wishes his girlfriend were more like his imagined ideal. And then, to Satanists, that's an enthusiastic invitation to woo said girlfriend away from a lover who doesn't appreciate her. As it happens, this is the same for women who complain about their boyfriends. Be careful what you complain about, because what you're actually saying is that you don't want it. Satanists are generous with their compassion as they see fit, and if they see a way to advance themselves in the process, all the better. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this rule is not free license to steal another's personal belongings. If another complains about his or her car, then ask if he or she will let you take it off his or her hands for cheap or free. If he or she declines, and he or she happen to be in your lair, then you're very welcome to tell him or her to shut the fuck up.

As it relates to the broader discussion, I struggle to connect this to anything in a meaningful way except to say that black and brown people have historically taken the jobs that white people didn't want. So you complain that it's too difficult to pick your own produce? Build your own houses? Slaughter your own animals? Cook your own food? No problem! On the whole, white people have generally retreated from blue collar work, and this space has generally been filled by people of color. And now, here we are in 2016 and Donald Trump wants to be president and he's running on the platform that he's going to make America great again. And who are the most frequent victims of his rhetoric? The people of color who occupied the cultural, occupational, and professional spaces left vacant by white people. At any rate, non-white minorities are projected to be the majority in the USA within 30 years, and as their collective economic influence grows, I'm guessing they'll be letting go of some of those blue-collar jobs in favor of white-collar executive positions.  
Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.

Whether you want to interpret greater magic as mere psychodrama for purging the psyche or as woo-woo sorcery, either way the premise for it remains the same: all power begins with the individual. Satanism postulates that the more mysterious aspects of greater magic are the result of chemical and electrical changes within the body of the practitioner during a hyper-elevated state achieved as a result of the 13 steps of ritual. Although it's accepted knowledge among Satanists that not every Satanist has the same capacity to perform greater magic, it is still accepted that every Satanist has the ability to do so, and that greater magic is an expression of individual power.

And although there's a persistent discussion among Satanists about the existence of a "Satan-gene," there's no belief that Satanists can't emerge from any land, nation, and people. Wherever you find humans, you'll find that at least a few of them are Satanists. Racism is incompatible with Satanism because it presumes that humans are not made equally. Racism presumes that your biological nature determines your worth, but Satanism is a meritocracy where which invites the most capable to take what they may - regardless of the nature of their birth. Racism is a system of prejudice (literally, pre judgement) which denies the power of an individual to create change in accordance with will. Satanists would do well to embrace the spirit of opposition and accusation found in the Satanic archetype, and both oppose and accuse a system that denies the pride and power of the individual.

Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.

Perhaps the biggest accusation made among Satanists against other Satanists who lean politically anywhere left of center right is that they're whiners who are complaining about things to which they need not even subject themselves to. But going back to the Biblical inspiration for the metaphorical personage from who Satanists take their name - was Satan a complainer? Was he merely a cosmic whiner? "Jeez, Jehovah - why do I have to bow to these meat sacks? They're not worthy of my reverence. Wah, I don't like being in Heaven - this place is boring. I'm bored! Jehovah! Give me something to do!" No. Satan wasn't a whiner who complained about his lot in life. He was an opposer and an accuser.

Likewise, when I see people and organizations - such as #BlackLivesMatter - accusing those who deliberately obstruct the maintenance of a level playing field and thus prevent true social stratification and the meritocracy it involves, I support them. When somebody raises his or her voice in protest, this doesn't equate to complaining. This is action. This is accusation and active opposition. Likewise, Satanists are not armchair warriors. Going by the second Satanic statement, Satanists are people who choose to involve themselves in meaningful reality. Words will always fail compared to actions, so for that reason I champion people, organizations, and movements who create change in accordance with will.

Do not harm little children.

Amidst all the discussion among Satanists that life is still a brutal jungle in spite of the concrete and wi-fi, and that animal-humans are the most vicious beasts of all, there are some things that are sacred and considered exempt from some rules. The first such exemption is children. As stated elsewhere, Satanists consider children to be among the purest and most vital expressions of life, and for those reasons children are not to be harmed.

Though not explicitly stated as part of the Satanic Statements, Eleven Rules of the Earth, the Satanic Sins, or Pentagonal Revisionism, this rule ties in with the over-arching principle that responsibility is for the responsible, thus Satanists - for all the Libertarian influence of Ayn Rand over Anton LaVey - aren't out of line with a nanny government that removes children from abusive or dangerous households and puts them in the trust of another responsible guardian. Be that guardian a blood relative or a representative of the state, this doesn't change the fact that Satanists believe children should receive special protection.

How this protection is carried out is of course debatable, but as it relates to the broader discussion - racism - I think most of us can agree that anti-racist initiatives tend to appear more frequently on the political left than on the political right... and the political left also frequently being a large proponent of government intervention in private affairs. There's room inside the tenets of Satanism to argue for the right of the political spectrum, but as I've stated before this isn't to say what Satanists should support politically - only that the political left isn't presumed to be automatically beyond the pale of Satanism.

Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.

As stated before, even though Satanists are carnal atheists who embrace the law of the jungle, there are some things they hold to be sacred and thus exempt from certain rules. In the same way that Satanists consider little children to be pure embodiments of life - the most important thing to a Satanist - animals are also considered to be pure embodiments of life unburdened by conscience. For these reasons, animals are not to be harmed except in self defense or for food.

This doesn't have a lot to do with racism, but if we look beyond the mere words and ask ourselves how this rule could be applied as a broad guideline, it would make sense for Satanists to choose to oppose factory farming, embrace the utility of veganism, support organizations like PETA or even Bat Conservation International, and perhaps even go so far as to refuse commercially produced clothing made of leather or fur for the reason of preventing cruelty to animals.

When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.

On the surface, this is pretty simple: if you're walking down the street and somebody gets in your face, you tell him or her to stop. If he or she doesn't stop, you're within rights to defend yourself and punish that person for invading your space. But this principle of "open territory" is another source of contention among Satanists when the subject of social and political protest is entered. Viewed from one perspective, social and political protesters are violating open territory. There they are, using whatever means they choose to call attention to their cause, disrupting the day to day affairs of people who didn't do anything to deserve such irritation! But from another perspective, as has been discussed before, what happens when there are people or organizations who've intruded into your own life? What if you were one of the people involuntarily sterilized by the Eugenics Board of North Carolina? What if you were one of the people deliberately infected with syphilis without your knowledge or consent in the Tuskegee syphilis experiment? What if you're one of the thousands of people threatened and even robbed by law enforcement officers every year?

The Eugenics Board of North Carolina operated from 1933 through 1977, but it wasn't even until as late as 2003 when the final laws supporting its operation were stricken from the books. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment ran from 1932 to 1972. Police officers continue to use search-and-seizure laws to confiscate vast sums of money and even private property, and this doesn't even include the officers who literally rob and rape citizens at gunpoint. Wildly unethical and irresponsible forced sterilization and medical experimentation only came to an end after widespread criticism, but victims didn't receive justice until decades later following long protest to destroy the agencies and state offices involved. Police officers have been told and trained to stop bothering citizens without due cause, and yet it continues. Citizens are within their rights to destroy those who show no respect to a citizen's right to traverse open territory unmolested.

Taken as a whole then these 11 rules can be interpreted a few ways. One way to interpret these rules is literally: they are rules to follow when you are outside of your home and interacting with other people face to face. They can also be applied to online interaction, but it becomes a blurry conversation when so many online interactions take place in public forums where participants are not only invited but encouraged to share their opinions or advice. Beyond that, they can be taken as reinforcement of the hyper-individualistic nature of Satanism. For example, in the USA we have freedom of religion. Contrary to what a lot of Christians believe, this doesn't mean that they're free to enforce the dictates of their religion on others. Instead, what it really means is that they're free to be religious in the ways that they see fit so long as those ways don't encroach on another's liberties. 

This is taken even further in Satanism where many Satanists (members or not) see no contradiction in associating with others who don't follow the same beliefs. And why not? Satanism is for the Satanist him or herself: there's no reason for the Satanist to require others to adhere to Satanic principles. I'll say it again: Satanism is only for the Satanist. Satanists do not consider themselves responsible for the words or deeds of anybody else or even their associates. And you know, that's a truthful and liberating way to live your life: responsibility is for the responsible. You're fully and only responsible for your own good and your own evil. 

But at the same time, you can't be a Satanist when it's convenient or it justifies your prejudices. Satanism, like any codified religion or lived philosophy, attempts to answer the question, "What is worthwhile? What is valuable?" In that sense, if something is worthwhile and valuable to you, it's because you see the intrinsic qualities in it. I'm not going to spend time with people who organize dogfights because I think it's wrong to harm or kill animals for entertainment. I'm not going to spend time with people who neglect or abuse minors. And, because I happen to think that harming or killing animals for entertainment is wrong, or that parents who neglect and abuse children should be whipped with a hose full of BB's, I'm absolutely going to protest. Likewise, I can think of a few other things that go against my beliefs as a Satanist - like tribalism or racism - that absolutely don't benefit me or my family, absolutely create a worse world for me to leave to my children, and absolutely deserve to be cast into the fiery abyss. 

Some people have said that Satanists are pragmatists and thus embrace compromise. If this were really true, then Satanists would not maintain the argument that Anton LaVey defined Satanism and that all others who claim the name are poseurs. If this were really true, there would be no emphatic pushback by Satanists against groups like the Temple of Set, the Satanic Temple, the Joy of Satan, and myriad other groups who argue for a different vision of Satanism. Compromise is a valuable thing to learn, but if you hold something to be true and you deliberately choose to associate with - or even promote - people and groups who do not hold the same things to be true, then your actions prove that these values do not in fact have any place of priority for you. 

If you truly believe that theism and belief in imaginary friends is a blight upon mankind, then you would not cooperate with or promote theist individuals or groups. If you truly believe that animal abuse is wrong, then you would choose to have no ties with individuals or groups whom you know to conduct animal sacrifice. If you truly believe that meritocracy is the foundation for civilization - and if you believe that a level playing field is necessary to permit the most successful to assert themselves and thus contribute to and build an even better civilization - then you would choose to dismantle the cultural and national paradigms that sustain and perpetuate racism.

Just as Satanists do not compromise about the definition of Satanism even though compromise would suggest that it's worthwhile and valuable because it would increase cooperation on common goals with others of like mind, I believe that Satanists should not compromise their values and the things they consider to be important by giving their time and voice to those who go against everything Satanism holds dear and the foundations which define it.

The vast majority of Satanists I've met have protested enthusiastically and at great length to ensure that they not be associated or confused with individuals or groups who are not Satanic. Why is this protest deemed worthwhile when defending Satanism, but then become the object of such ridicule and scorn when the protest in question no longer concerns Satanism?

I think that protest in my own name and for my own reasons against those people or organizations which I believe go against my values is worth breaking a few rules. I'm not willing to compromise on racism and abuse of animals or children. My support for organizations such as #BlackLivesMatter doesn't make me any more of an "uncompromising crusader" than does the support other Satanists give for men's rights activist organizations, the National Rifle Association, or even the Libertarian party. If it's truly better to "reign in hell than serve in heaven," then the Church of Satan should have kept its mouth shut during the Satanic Panic and said nothing against Jesse Helms and his effort to pass legislation against Satanism and witchcraft. That's an issue where compromise was absolutely not worthwhile, and official spokespersons of the Church of Satan openly and uncompromisingly crusaded to fight the legislation.

And they won.

As before, my goal is not tell you that there's only one way to be a Satanist. But my goal is to challenge assumptions among Satanists (be they members of the Church of Satan or not) that Satanists can only be one kind of person. Satanism is a tool kit. There are many ways to interpret and apply these tools, and just because I lean toward the political left doesn't make me less of a Satanist than your choice to lean to the political right.

February 22, 2016

Left-hand Tarot #9: Enter the Ritual Chamber!

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Satan demands study, not worship.
Enter the ritual chamber.

  • The ritual chamber of a Tarot reading requires focus. It's no place for feeling self-conscious. The strong reader must be completely present in the ritual.
  • A skeptic went to a Tarot reader and learned to embrace the future. Join a discussion about investing yourself in the ritual chamber of a Tarot reading, suspending disbelief, and using a tool for what it really does (as opposed to what you'd like it to do.)
  • But I'm not saying that it's all bullshit...
    • unscripted
Know your limits and learn how to work within them (and even exploit them) for your own success.
  • Speaking of tools, Tarot is a fantastically powerful tool, and not just for all the obvious reasons. For the same reason that Tarot challenges perspective and invites the subject of the ritual to indulge in an alternate reality, Tarot is an amazing tool for artistic expression and creative writing.
  • But as wonderful of a tool as the Tarot is, it's not a magic wand. The first lesson that any successful witch or warlock must learn is to work within her or his own limits.
It's all about the Benjamins, baby.

Enough about me, let's talk about you! And by you, I mean me.
  • Speaking of doing things one bite at a time, my work in progress continues and I'm slowly but steadily writing a summary of all 3,003 two-card combinations in the Tarot. I've got plans for this project. Oh, do I ever have plans.

February 21, 2016

Just look at the picture!

tarot satanism satanic

I understand that this argument is probably going to fall on deaf ears since I'm in an extreme minority of readers who are completely non-intuitive, but for the image-based intuitive readers out there, I don't know how to put into words the way I feel when you tell me that even though I read with a Marseille-style deck (non-illustrated pips) that I'm still an image-based reader because "Pip symbols are still images!"

I suppose yes, they're still images, but you're going to have a difficult time convincing me that I'm an image-based reader just like you when you turn around and talk about the importance of wrapping yourself in the image of the card and letting your intuition flow from the imagery on the card.

No. Just... no.

I'll talk about this later, but it's enough to say right now that I understand perfectly well what these readers are talking about. Believe it or not, I didn't learn to read Tarot in a vacuum. My earliest teachers prescribed to the same reading style that so many people follow: the insistence that the images on the cards are universal archetypes that are known to all humans, and all that's required to read them is to look at the images, open yourself to your intuition, and permit the answer to reveal itself.

This kind of reading style is deeply problematic for a variety of reasons.

First, What if you're not an intuitive? And I don't mean that you don't have "the gift." I mean, what if you don't care or don't believe in psychic intuition? Believe it or not, faith in intuition is not necessary for reading Tarot.

Second, Who says the images are universal? The images conceived by A.E. Waite are steeped in European culture and Gnostic Christianity and Jewish kabbalah. What if you're from, say... almost anywhere in Africa? Or from almost anywhere in the Middle East? These are countries whose interaction with Europe is in many ways marked by colonialism and war. Chances are, if you're from one of these countries, then the European conventions in the RWS Tarot aren't going to tickle your fancy. Or, talking about the Jewish kabbalah, What happens if Jewish mysticism has no place in your philosophical or religious world view? Then all of a sudden, all of those kabbalic references that Waite snuck into the Tarot mean absolutely squat.

Third, if looking at pictures and just letting it flow is all it takes to read Tarot, then why do you need a deck of Tarot cards? Why can't you just, you know... look at a copy of National Geographic? Answer me that.

Fourth, getting back to the Tarot... my biggest irritation with image-based readers is that they frequently say there's no need to do any real research into the philosophy that informed the images on the cards. Waite had a very particular idea of what each of the Tarot cards meant, and he didn't just dream it up. He was working from a vast reservoir of knowledge and philosophy, and when he commissioned Pamela Coleman Smith to paint his deck, he chose the images that he did based on the underlying philosophy. So, when Waite read Tarot, he looked at the cards and he knew exactly what he was looking at. In other words, the cards were a short-hand reference back to his original notes.

But where it gets tricky is when readers come along who aren't familiar with the source material that Waite used to inform his conception of the Tarot. When Waite looked at the 9 of Pentacles, he saw an image that matched up precisely with his own beliefs and philosophy. But when these other Tarot readers come along - who aren't in any way familiar with Waite's beliefs and philosophy - they'll look at the 9 of Pentacles and interpret it completely differently. Instead of seeing what Waite intended, they'll impose their own views on the card at hand with no regard for the originally intended meaning.

This is a lot like those church groups who hold their weekly Bible meetings at the public bookstore. They have zero conception about the context in which the Bible was written and are completely ignorant of the time and place in which it was formed - or the needs of the day which it was addressing - but they read out of it all the same and impose their own present-day concerns and limited views. Do you see the disconnect? These people are entirely missing the point...

... and that's the same way I feel when I see a Tarot reader tell me that the Tarot images are simply universal and known to all people the world over. Because they're not universal. They're not known to all people the world over. Yeah, I read with a Marseille-style deck, it's not the Marseille Tarot. In fact, it's the Tarot of the Loka, which was made specifically to be used for playing cards.

The pips are entirely non-illustrated and are only numbers and colored patterns.

The face cards are completely lacking any occultic references, and when I read them I'm not looking for snails in the corner, the presence of sunflowers, or the pattern on somebody's robe. There is no association with the image on the card and the underlying philosophy it represents.

The trump cards are illustrated, but again, outside of the most overt similarity since it was patterned on the appearance of the RWS Tarot, the cards lack any occultic reference. This is doubly distant because I don't follow a standard interpretation of the trumps.

There's nothing to do with me meditating on the images of the cards and allowing their universal archetypes to evoke an intuitive message from deep within my psychic depths. If that's your reading style, cool.  You keep doing it. But that's not who I am, that's not how I read the cards, and I challenge you to realize that when I say, "I don't read images," I mean it.

February 17, 2016

Satanism & Racism, Part 1: The Nine Satanic Statements

Black Lives Matter
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PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4

How many stories begin with the phrase, "I was on Facebook and...?"At any rate: I was on Facebook a few weeks ago and I made a post in the public and unofficial Church of Satan group and made the apparent faux paux of saying that I admired the Satanic spirit of subversion and opposition to the establishment that I perceived in Beyonce's performance at Super Bowl 50. In my mind, I thought it was a pretty clear example of a practical expression of the spirit of Satanism.

Judging by the response, talking about race in a forum of Satanists is taboo.

As the discussion continued, remarks were made that I felt were against the philosophy that I as a Satanist choose to follow. Me being who I am, I chose to argue for my position because I didn't understand how Satanism as a codified philosophy could support the arguments being made against me.

The comments from other respondents spanned the predictable range of accusations which labeled me a social justice warrior, an ignorant troll, a sheep supporting entitled whiners, and being so consumed with white guilt that I'm practically black. The accusations based within the framework of Satanism said that I was committing pretty much all the Satanic sins: stupidity; pretentiousness; solipsism; herd conformity; lack of perspective; counter-productive pride; and lack of aesthetics. Strangely, I wasn't accused of forgetting past orthodoxies or self-deceit. I'll address those accusations as this discussion continues.

Now, let's make some qualifications: first, this was in the public and unofficial Church of Satan group which can be joined by anybody, not the secret Church of Satan group that is only open to red-card carrying members of the Church of Satan. Second, the complaints that I encountered did not come from Church leadership or official spokespersons for the Church of Satan. The group where I posted is an unofficial page and is populated by a large number of non-members, so again - lest anybody misunderstand me - I'm not saying that this is representative of the Church of Satan.

But I am saying that the responses I received are representative of how people (members or not) are perceiving and applying Satanism.

So with that in mind, this is part one of a four part series I'm writing about the core tenets of Satanism. Just like a Christian quoting from the Bible, I'm sure there are Satanists who can cherry pick quotes and essays from the collected writings of Anton LaVey, Magus Gilmore, and other luminaries that have been recognized by the Church of Satan or published in the Black Flame, but this isn't about combing through extant publications to find what others have said about the way they apply Satanism in their lives. Instead, this is about Satanism itself: What is it? What are its core, fundamental qualities which inform its operation as a working philosophy and world-view? This fundamental essence is found in four documents: the Nine Satanic Statements; the Eleven Rules of the Earth; the Nine Satanic Sins; and Pentagonal Revisionism. The first three of these documents are cited more frequently than the fourth, but all will be addressed.

Let's start with the Nine Satanic Statements:
  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!
  4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
  5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
  6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
  7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
  8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
  9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!
What are the Satanic Statements? In another religion, you might call these articles of faith. In Satanism, they are the primary reference used to explain Satanism to outsiders. They are also used as a litmus test: if you can agree with all these things, then congratulations! You're a Satanist. Let's talk about these things and how they can translate into Satanic action.

"Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!"

The first statement of Satanism is about pleasure and choosing to say "yes" to the choices that bring you happiness and satisfaction, and saying no to the choices that diminish your happiness and satisfaction. In that sense, the first rule of Satanism is to choose to be occupied with the things that bring you pleasure. If you find pleasure from engaging in political pursuits and protests, then you should do that. 

The Church of Satan - as an entity - is apolitical and doesn't involve itself in political protest because it's not the place for the leadership to endorse a particular view: that's the decision of individual members. Just because the church leadership has chosen to be apolitical does not mean that members who choose to be political are un-Satanic. Or that Satanists are supposed to avoid politics entirely. 

Members like myself who take pleasure in being politically involved are no less Satanic than those who choose to abstain from the political process and thus permit others (like myself) to choose the politicians who will write the laws under which they will live.

"Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!"

This statement highlights the fact that Satanists are carnal atheists who worship the flesh and who don't believe in an afterlife. There is no time so important as the present. The past has happened, and while revisionist historians will try to rewrite it, it can't be undone. Anybody who has an ounce of initiative and self-interest will try to change the future, but since the future hasn't happened yet, it's only an unknown variable. The present moment really is all that any of us have, and it's wrong to invest ourselves into activities that have no impact on each of our own individual lives.

It's also a statement that woo-woo spirituality has no place in Satanism because we're not concerned with "higher planes of existence" that probably don't exist. For as much as any of us really know, we probably only have here and now. For that reason, embracing our passions and channeling our life force into the most carnal, invigorating, and worthwhile use of our time is more important than wishing and hoping to change a past etched in stone or for a future that may never come.

Depending on your perspective, political protest and even the political process at large is a pipe dream. After all, how can one person with limited means stand in the way of massive corporations who flood the electoral process with vast amounts of money? But then, political protest - in one's own name and because one perceives it to be pleasurable and worthwhile - is a deeply vital process. When many people of like minds pool their resources, they can change their personal and national environments. 

Certainly, Satanists are pragmatists. And while some pragmatic Satanists might consider it a poor return on their time and energy to give a damn about the political process, I take the long view. Because, in the spirit of the first Satanic statement, what gives me pleasure? My family gives me pleasure, and unless I live long enough to see the Singularity, I'll only have my children, grand-children, and so on to remember me. Because I love my family and they give me pleasure, I take pleasure from participating in the political process in my own name and for my own reasons so that I can attempt to give the blood of my line a better city, province, and country than those where I lived. And I think that caring for the life that my blood line will live is an absolutely vital concern.

"Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!"

This statement is typically regarded as seeing the world for what it is, and not for what we'd like it to be. As an extension, it also typically means to work with what you have ("better to reign in a hell of your own making...") than to work with what you don't ("... than serve in another's heaven.") For example, slavery. Most of us in North America think that slavery was abolished a long time ago, but if you look at the world the way it really is, you'll find that slaves (or the equivalent) are busily working to sew our clothes, catch our fish, pick our fruit, harvest our crops, manicure our nails, and do the most detestable manual labor. Slavery hasn't gone anywhere, and it's hypocritical to think otherwise.

But it's also hypocritical to think that there's no reason to make efforts to change it. After all, following the spirit of "undefiled wisdom," this means looking beyond the, "Oh well, can't change it," and into the question of, "How does this affect me?" Me being who I am, I'm not really interested in changing the entire world. Truthfully, I'm only concerned with where I live and the outcomes that affect me, and - as an extension of the question of slavery - that's why I ask questions like, "How does racism affect me?"

The truth is that I want to get paid more for the work I do. Don't we all? Each of us is an animal in a very real jungle (concrete or not), and each of us fight for the best we can get; however, unlike animals in a jungle, (most of) us aren't hunting for meat, but money. If we're self-employed, we do the best we can to earn as much as we can for our time and energy. But if we work for somebody else, it's a constant battle to convince management to pay us more, when management typically is looking for ways only to pay us less.

Take WalMart as an example. WalMart is a massive, global corporation which takes in over $15 billion dollars every year. Do we as consumers like low prices? You bet. How does WalMart give us low prices? Most notably, they pay the majority of their employees minimum wage. Do you know why the minimum wage has sat where it has for so long? You can make all the Libertarian arguments you want about letting free markets decide what labor is worth (and if that's the case, then look at Chile and how well that worked out for them), but at least in the USA the minimum-wage debate is steeped in racism. 

The cost of racism to me - when I still lived in the USA and still worked minimum wage jobs - is that usually white politicians refuse to raise the minimum wage out of fear that black and brown people would get paid more - and there are legions of white people also working for minimum wage who line up in support of these politicians! The averaged nation-wide cost of living in the USA for a family of four is almost $49k, but two adults working 40 hours a week at $8/hr is $30,720.

There's nearly $20k missing here, which means that working at minimum wage those parents would have to work another 200 hours every month - more than another 40-hour per week job. You know what I like? Being able to raise my children. You know what else I like? Not living in a high-crime area. You know what goes hand in hand with crime? Low wages and lack of opportunity for success. This doesn't mean that low-income earners are automatically criminals - each chooses his or her own actions - but crime does in fact pay, and absent a legal opportunity for success, crime is a very attractive option. 

Raising the minimum wage, a goal supported by #BlackLivesMatter, is important to me because I know that this is something that will benefit me, my children, and my grand-children - not just in terms of giving us safer neighborhoods, but also in terms of ability to earn a living income. I'm quite selfish in saying that I'm only interested in fighting for this for my own benefit, but hey - I'm a Satanist, and truth told, I'm out my own success and that of my family. If I see a way to attain that practical goal, then you bet your fucking ass I'm going to take it.

But getting back to WalMart, they also give most of their employees only part-time hours which means WalMart doesn't have to pay the extra expenses that they're required to pay for full-time employees. And don't forget that WalMart only opens in locations where the municipal government has agreed to exempt WalMart from local business taxes. Or that WalMart has lobbied to be exempt from paying any taxes to support state- and federal-welfare and subsidy programs such as food stamps, and then specifically advises its low-income employees to apply for food-stamps which can then be used to buy food at WalMart. 

See what's happening here? WalMart is a parasite that's arguing politicians into letting them out of the social contract of paying taxes, and then stealing the taxes that the rest of us are paying - you, me, even their own employees! - in the form of food stamps. I think most Satanists can agree that parasites deserve to be exterminated, but unlike those who see black and brown people demanding a higher wage as parasites, I see a corporation that's deliberately stealing my tax money as the parasite. Given a chance, I'd kill such a parasite with extreme prejudice. I'd kill it with fire and take pleasure in listening to it scream. 

I've gained the wisdom and knowledge to see what's happening, and I also see how its adverse effects spill over into other arenas. I've learned that it's a problem that absolutely affects me. I've also learned that WalMart couldpay every single one of its employees double what they're earning now, and all they'd have to do is raise the average price of every item in their stores by one cent. But that's the problem with a system based in opposition to a higher minimum wage that's absolutely rooted in racism: WalMart would rather work people on part-time shifts for minimum wage and force them to go begging for handouts from the government who's agreed to let WalMart out of paying taxes than to increase prices by a single fucking penny.

This impacts the town in which I live, it impacts the money my municipal government has to pay for infrastructure, it impacts the safety and stability of my neighborhood, and for all these reasons that it affects me personally, I'm going to support movements like #BlackLivesMatter because it benefits me to do so.

"Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!"

A core tenet of Satanism it says to give to those who deserve generosity, and likewise, to deny those who deserve scorn. If we're going to stay on theme with #BlackLivesMatter, then let's look at the accusation that I'm "really just supporting a bunch of whiners" who "already have rights under law" and "don't deserve their megaphone." I'm going to look past the absurdities in those criticisms because I'm not going to waste my time dismantling the overtly racist assumptions they represent. 

First of all, why do I think #BlackLivesMatter is deserving of my kindness and - by extension - my vocal and financial support? Why do they deserve anything from me? Because I support their goals and I understand how I personally - and my children and grandchildren - can benefit from the changes they're trying to make. 

Because I don't live in a major metropolitan area, my ability to protest is quite limited. I'm a US citizen, but I'm also a permanent resident in Canada which means letters I write to US politicians are probably ignored. It also means that I can't vote in US state elections of any kind because I'm not a resident; I can't caucus or participate in state political events; and the only vote I can make that counts is for the presidential election. I'm voting for the Green Party, by the way. 

But as a permanent resident in Canada, it also means that I don't have the right to vote, so any letters I wrote to elected officials here are also probably ignored. And while I'm welcome to participate in protest, the town in which is so far away from being anywhere of importance that I might as well be living in Neverland (Peter Pan, not Michael Jackson.) If I acknowledge the balance factor, I have to accept that that I truthfully have little to no ability to personally effect the kind of change that I want to see. But there are people who can, and if supporting them means lending my voice to their message or giving financial support, then I'm going to do it.

#BlackLivesMatter is able to organize protests in major metropolitan areas and get the attention of elected officials that I can't get on my own where I am. Because they - as an organization, and the people who show up - are doing the things that I can't, I find them deserving of my kindness in the form of financial and vocal support.

"Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!"

Is this statement an embrace of violence and assertion that those who oppose you should be punished? Absolutely. If somebody makes a move on me, you bet your ass I'm gonna put him or her down on the ground. I didn't take martial arts because I thought it was a fun physical activity: I want to know that I'm able to beat the shit out of somebody who - in the spirit of the previous statement - deserves my wrath.

But taken beyond the literal and into the figurative, this statement is an absolute endorsement of full-throated political protest. Perhaps you're a Libertarian? Or a Republican? Or a Democrat? Or a Green? Or a Socialist? Or anything! That's great - good for you. If you're passionate about your beliefs, then lobby for them. If you believe that there are politicians, corporations, or cultural elements that have wronged you and deserve to be punished, then you should absolutely play the role of the accuser and prosecute them to the full extent of your ability: tooth and nail, first and foot, or pen and letter: pour your wrath upon those who've wronged you.

But the way you express your anger and smite your foes will vary depending on the foe and how you visit your vengeance upon them. If you find a criminal breaking into your car, then by all means extract payment from the thief for your car's broken window in form of his broken face. But what happens when you can't just punch out the person who deserves it? What happens when the enemy who's wronged you is a faceless corporation or entrenched social paradigms? A different weapon is required, and movements like #BlackLivesMatter can serve as a potent weapon with which to exact your vengeance. Anything can be perceived as a tool, and so long as the tool serves your purposes, use it.

"Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!"

I don't know that it's stated anywhere as a central tenet of Satanism, but as has been often repeated by Anton LaVey and his present successor Magus Peter Gilmore, Satanists are pragmatists. They embrace the possible, and in that sense, embrace the practical people who make things happen. Are there are lot of whiners out there who complain bitterly about how they're repressed and kept down? You bet. Are these whiners happy to take advantage of the others who'd bleed them dry like the parasites they are? You bet. In any organization you'll find bottom-feeders who try to get anything they can for nothing in return. Whether this organization is the Church of Satan or #BlackLivesMatter, people will rise or fall to their own level of stratification.

But those who have proven that they can be responsible and are capable of organizing diverse people to create real, substantial change in reality in accordance with will? They absolutely deserve my respect and admiration. This is why I have chosen to become a member of the Church of Satan: I deeply respect the contributions that Anton LaVey, Magus Gilmore, and others have made to advance the practice of Satanism.

But it also means that I deeply respect the efforts of groups like #BlackLivesMatter change - or, as the case may be, break - a system that does in fact create multiple disadvantages for me personally. Again, this is going to rub some of you the wrong way, but that's who I am: my reference point for everything I do is, "How does this thing increase pleasure for myself and the people I love?" I recognize that I can benefit from the efforts of the responsible people leading #BlackLivesMatter, and for that reason I respect and support them.

"Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!"

Doesn't matter if you live in a city: even with all the concrete, wi-fi, power lines, and plumbing, you're still an animal living in a jungle. Your jungle may not look like the Amazon or the forests of Borneo, but you are absolutely an animal competing for survival in an unforgiving world. You may not be a gazelle trying to keep away from a cheetah, but there are predatory animals preying on you. Unlike that gazelle who has no choice but to run from the cheetah, humans have evolved an incredible ability to out-think and counter-attack predators. This intelligence has made humans into the alpha predator of planet Earth: we eat everything, nothing eats us.

And, if we're going to be honest, we eat each other. The biggest beasts in the world are the corporations and governments. Some of these beasts are arguably benevolent, but at the end of the day they will always react quickly and violently against any predator who enters their territory and tries to poach its resources.

What happens when undefiled wisdom leads you to the knowledge that the benevolent beast you thought was your jungle protector is in fact preying on your family and tribe? If you're a thinking animal, you won't run from the predator and hope it won't follow you for dessert. If you're a thinking animal, you'll use your undefiled wisdom to unite the hunters, find where this predator sleeps, smoke it out with fire, and put its head on a stick.

On the micro scale, this means that mad dog criminals are hunted down by the police and either exiled from society via isolation in prison, or given the death they deserve as payment for their barbarities. But what happens when the police charged with dispensing justice are revealed by lived experience and accumulated wisdom to be corrupt, self-serving, and utterly cruel thugs little better than a government-sanctioned street gang? If you're a thinking animal, you fight back. I don't support breaking the law, so I'm going to stop short of endorsing vigilante justice, but I will absolutely endorse efforts to make criminals pay for their crimes - no matter what uniform they wear.

People who think that it's not worth their time or effort to protest police brutality are ignorant if they think they're immune to this kind of violence. Do a Google search for "White man shot by police," and you'll see that this isn't limited to black people. It happens to black people a lot more often than white people, but it's not a matter of "The damn dirty police are just picking on poor black people!" It's a matter of, "Humans are violent, dangerous animals, and no uniform is going to change it." I understand this truth, and as much of a law-abiding citizen that I am, I've learned that innocence is no defense against a corrupt asshole in a uniform who'll do what he likes because he knows he can get away with it. I'm a Satanist, so I make decisions based on what benefit it makes for me and my family. Me first. I see the benefit for myself and my family in opposing police brutality and holding our law enforcement officers responsible for their actions, so for that reason I also support #BlackLivesMatter.

Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!

There are others who'll interpret this statement differently, but me being who I am, I like to dissect things. When Anton LaVey wrote the Satanic Bible, he was (among other things) generally opposing theism, but was (among other things) specifically opposing Christianity. Thus, when he says that Satan represents all of the so-called sins, he was specifically referring to the 7 deadly sins of Christianity: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Again, there are others who'll interpret the seven deadly sins differently, but when I look for a common denominator what I find is the rejection of tribal over-culture and the pre-eminence of the self.

Am I black? Nope. I'm a white guy. I've been a white guy for, uh... as long as I can remember. Do I support #BlackLivesMatter because I want to be a part of some group or movement and gain identity as a result of that participation? Nope. But it does go back to my original sentiment when I first posted my opinion on the Satanic spirit in Beyonce's deliberate use of the Black Panthers motif in her half-time performance because she knew it would produce pearl-clutching and angst among the defenders of white cultural and racial hegemony. The #BlackLivesMatter movement rejects the establishment paradigm and instead asserts itself in opposition against vested interests who would keep them behind the jewelry counter (and not in front.) How can you be a Satanist and not admire the beauty in this kind of protest?

As was accused of me, Do I want to be black? Nope. I like who I am just fine. But I want to be the best beast I can be, and part of that means being aware that the defenders of white hegemony would turn my jungle into a walled garden, to be populated only by the flora and fauna they choose. If I chose to abstain from the political process, people like Donald Trump and others in the Republican party would gladly put limitations on who can enter the USA. 

There are people like Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan who do in fact support state legislation to equate the truly abominable act of bestiality with the truly human (and consensual) acts of anal and oral sex, and make both punishable by time in prison. 

There are people like Indiana Governor Mike Pence who would deny equal marriage to same-gender couples. 

I'm bisexual, so yeah - I kind of take offense at laws that effectively label me a dog-fucker and a second-hand citizen. As it happens, I chose to be in a heterosexual relationship... but I could have gone the other way, and just because I'm in a committed marriage right now doesn't meant that I'm willing to abandon fights for equal rights that I may choose to exercise later in my life.

Or, since I enjoy entertainment as much as the next person, what about the Oscars? If you think racism doesn't play a role in the kind of entertainment that major studios produce because they're catering to the racial and cultural preferences of the academy, then you're fooling yourself. Do I enjoy a lot of the movies that are in theaters? You bet. But I also get bored of watching the same white-washed story over and over. Give me something different! Give me something original! There are people who are deliberately maintaining a white-washed Hollywood, and the options I have for entertainment suffer as a result. 

Are there people in #BlackLivesMatter who want special treatment under the law for Black people? Yep. But the majority of their work addresses issues that benefit everybody - myself included. Am I selfish? You bet. But I see how #BlackLivesMatter benefits me and my family, so I absolutely support them.

Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!

The majority will always make use of a demonized minority to advance itself. Every bogey man serves a purpose, but not every bogey man is content to play that role. In most mythologies, Satan and all his derivative bogeymen are either willing or incidental servants to God. Satan tormented Job only because God asked him to do it. Even though Satan tempts humans to sin and draw them away from God, his role as the tempter is in Christian mythology a necessary test, which if passed results in eternal life in Heaven, or if failed, eternal torment in Hell to be carried out under God's command by the Devil himself.

Another Devil name, Leviathan, is described in the Bible of being an unstoppable force of nature - except on the last day, when God will slay the beast and feed the world with its corpse. In that sense, the Leviathan is the biggest, baddest bogeyman whose purpose is to serve as a measuring stick to the even greater power of Jehovah. 

Or in Islam, the Devil is Iblis, who refused to bow to man and was cast out but still permitted to serve God as a tempter of humans.

Or the Sufi view of the Devil which views his pride and refusal to bow to humans as a sign of his unconditional love for God. Viewed from within these mythologies, Satan still serves Jehovah's purpose by tempting, snaring, or hurting humans, and is either a resentful servant taking whatever God will still give him, or is a willing servant who still loves and adores jealous Jehovah.

The fear of the the Devil is deliberately exploited by countless churches as a tool to keep the faithful in the pews and money in the coffers. Likewise, at least in north America, fear of black and brown people is a dialogue that has been exploited for centuries as a tool for motivating white people toward a particular end.

Understandably, Black people are tired of being the bogey man trotted out for the evening news. They're protesting the system that uses their very existence as a reason to strengthen white racial and cultural hegemony. And you know, that's a lot like Satanists who embrace the carnal realities of who and what they are. Satan has served the church for as long as the church has existed, but Satanists have reclaimed Satan for themselves. Satan is no longer Jehovah's hired help. Likewise, #BlackLivesMatter is calling quits on a paradigm that puts black people last. For all the reasons that #BlackLivesMatter benefits me personally, but also because I consider it to be an expression of Satanism, I absolutely support it.

Am I telling you to support them, too? 


But I am telling you that there are many ways to interpret and apply Satanism. If you can't recognize this truth about Satanism, then you haven't eyes for seeing.