May 24, 2016

The Ego Trap

It’s in the “Nine Satanic Statements” but deserves to be repeated here. Another cardinal sin. We must not pay homage to any of the sacred cows presented to us, including the roles we are expected to play ourselves. The only time self-deceit should be entered into is when it’s fun, and with awareness. But then, it’s not self-deceit!
The Nine Satanic Sins

Something I've said before, but I'll say again: reading Tarot professionally has challenges, and one of those challenges is clients who put you on a pedestal. In a Satanic sense, what's wrong with that? If you've got massive influence over a slave, why not use it however you see fit? Well, there are two problems with that: 
  1. You lose the ability to make mistakes. The margin for error shrinks to zero, and the moment you fail to live to your slave's impossible expectations, you'll immediately change from savior to Satan (and not in a good way, either.)
  2. You allow your slave to make you believe you can do more than is realistically possible within your level of stratification. 
Let me show you a few examples of what I'm talking about:

"Hey James, I wanted to leave a tip but I do not have funds right now in fiverr account and fiverr restricts my card. So I will come back when revenues emerge in my account. I feel bad for not doing that right now. I just want you to know that I really feel connected to your message. Sometimes words fail me, now I just can not tell you its' significance. It was great. Kindly make me your disciple. I tried learning cartomancy 10 years ago but somehow left that. Anyways, I do not need to learn since you are there to do that for me. Thank you so much again. Have a great life. XXXXXX"
On the surface, this is an ideal kind of master-slave relationship: a client who utterly adores you, and whose obsequious fawning is sweet honey for hungry bears. But dig a little deeper and you'll find that this kind of master-slave relationship is highly unstable and requires a massive investment of time and energy to maintain. This kind of slave is an addict, and you the Tarot reader are the drug. Maybe the addiction is fun and exciting at the start, but left unchecked the addict will always fall into deeper cycles of drug abuse. Don't you dare push that drug, because it'll become a toxic co-dependent relationship, and you'll regret it before the end. 

It's also a dangerous kind of relationship to nurture because those who fall into this pattern may at the start be your devoted servant, but by the end they nearly always become your worst enemy for no other reason than that you failed to live up to their impossibly high expectations. Be exceedingly cautious when dealing with these kinds of clients. Do not accept the pedestal they earnestly give you. When the client's self-imposed illusion fades - and it always does - the imposition of reality is a messy and potentially dangerous conflict, especially for professional Tarot readers whose livelihood depends on maintaining a powerful reputation and a deep network of inter-connected clients. In a way, being a professional Tarot reader isn't like building a house of cards: if you fall for this ego trap, everything you've built can come crashing down faster than you know.

Another kind of ego trap is the temptation to play doctor. For example:

whats happening with my life my journey. is XXX coming back or finding someone else. Whats it say about love life. my health and my families health I’m scared. you said a lot thats come true so please tell me anything and everything you can i’ll pay more. money wise will i be able to work and look after my self. wedding on off baby yes or no. or am i doing right by wanting to end it.can you see a suicide will i be better
The temptation to play doctor - or at least to play the role of a psycho-analyst - is a popular temptation for Tarot readers because at the highest levels of accomplishment a Tarot reading can feel very similar to a counseling session. The rule of thumb that must be observed in a professional setting is this: you can't help people who can't help themselves. Unless you the Tarot reader are also a trained, certified counselor, there's absolutely nothing you can do to help self-destructive and suicidal clients that doesn't involve you taking responsibility for their decisions.

The amount of trust and confidence clients frequently put into the abilities of their readers is tremendous, and to be a successful reader you must have a healthy ego and strong respect for your limitations. It's not only irresponsible for a Tarot reader to play doctor to clients who need professional help, but it's also illegal. Tarot readers may not be mandated reporters under law, but if they want to avoid criminal or civil suits brought by the families of such clients, then it's in their best interest to consider themselves as such. If you're reading this and you're a Tarot reader, don't fool yourself into thinking you're anything other than what you are. To exceed your level of stratification and to commit the sins of self-deceit and pretentiousness by imagining that you're capable of handling these clients is a grave error. In such a scenario, the only response you can make is the following:

Hi, XXX; I hope this message find syou well. I'm contacting you because you've requested work that's not offered in this gig, specifically with regards to your question about your own health and the health of other family members, and also the question about harming yourself. I sincerely apologize, but I'm not qualified to provide the help you need and I must insist that you go directly to the nearest hospital. If you don't feel that you can do such a thing right now, then I must insist that you contact a suicide hotline. if you live in the USA, you can call this number: 1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week Languages: English Spanish Website: If you live outside the USA, please Google the phrase "suicide hotline COUNTRY" and replace "COUNTRY" with your present country of residence. I wish you the best, but what you're asking me outside my experience and I'm required by law to insist that you seek immediate help.
No matter what you think about an individual's right to euthanasia and elective suicide, we don't live in world of what-ought-to-be, but what-is, and in this world it's extremely illegal to encourage, advise, assist, or fail to report a suicide. Don't fall for the ego trap of thinking you can somehow provide the same services provided by healthcare professionals who've spent at least a decade of their lives in school and gone before multiple peer review boards to gain the experience necessary to handle these kinds of situations. Ignore this advice at your peril.

May 17, 2016

Regarding Community, and Satanists vs. Pagans

I follow a lot of blogs, and most of them don't have a thing to do with Satanism. Partly I do this because so many of these folks share a common interest - such as Tarot - but partly also because I appreciate the value and scarcity of perspective. It's too easy to fall into my own personal echo chamber, and because of the overlap that Satanism has historically had with Paganism, there are a few Pagan bloggers I follow because I appreciate the insight they provide. One of those bloggers is Thorn Mooney who writes the blog Oath Bound at Patheos. Ms. Mooney's latest blog entry caught my eye because it highlighted one of the stark differences between Satanists and Pagans. In a blog entry titled "Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a Beginner," Ms. Mooney writes:

You can click through to read the entire list and the rest of her second observation, but did you notice the difference? "They all seem to think they're alone." If you read this passage in context, it's part of a larger discussion of community and togetherness. For the Pagan movement, community is almost an article of faith. Cooperation, inclusivity, and group identity are frequently (but not always) considered integral goals in the myriad strands of Paganism. 

But for Satanists, community is almost a sin. Well, if you count herd conformity and the need for group validation, then yes - it is a so-called Satanic sin. Satanists don't prioritize group validation and don't base their identities on group membership. Satanists are themselves, united only by their shared belief in the pre-eminence of self and the power of iron will. It's examples like this discussion that remind me of Terry Pratchett who wrote in Witches Abroad,
“Your average witch is not, by nature, a social animal as far as other witches are concerned. There's a conflict of dominant personalities. There's a group of ringleaders without a ring. There's the basic unwritten rule of witchcraft, which is 'Don't do what you will, do what I say.' The natural size of a coven is one. Witches only get together when they can't avoid it.” 
I don't know that Mr. Pratchett knew any Satanists or that he was even thinking of them when he wrote the above mentioned excerpt, but to me it illuminates a great truth about Satanism, and also my own lived experience. As usual, I don't speak for any Satanists but myself and convey nothing but my own interpretation and application of Satanism, but for the most part I don't enjoy the company of other Satanists. So it's been said by others before me, Satanists tend to have very strong opinions. Even when those Satanists are very similar to each other, a conflict of dominant personalities is bound to emerge. I've found this to be true in my own interactions, not the least of all because of my own strong opinions and typical reluctance to compromise on what I believe to be important.

So while it's kind of a big deal to Pagans that they associate with other Pagans so that they can claim a tribe and have the validation and support of the group, Satanists care more for following their own passions even if those passions take the Satanist away from other Satanists. Although there are myriad occult and spiritualist traditions who predate him, Gerald Gardner - the father of Wicca - is frequently cited as a key figure in the development and growth of (neo)Paganism in the west. Looking at the earliest rituals, Wicca is a group religion intended to be practiced by a coven composed equally of men and women. In Wicca, group ritual is the norm and solitary ritual is the exception.

But look at the founder of Satanism, Anton LaVey - a contemporary of Gardner and possibly also an acquaintance (I've not seen any evidence to prove this is so) - and you'll see in his rituals that solitary ritual is the norm and group ritual is the exception. This isn't a matter of adapting rituals for the solitary Satanist, but a matter of the fundamental nature of greater magic and the instruction that all participants in a ritual must have a great deal of mental and emotional conviction to succeed. In that sense, group ritual is a liability for the success of the intended outcome.

So, what's to be gained from a community of like minds? Perhaps you see community and friendship, but I see too many masters and too few slaves. Is it worthwhile to have associations with other Satanists? So long as I find it be fulfilling and something they do outside of Satanism enriches my life, then yes. But if the only reason for community is "because," then it's not for me. I have no concern for surrounding myself with Satanists, but every concern with surrounding myself with worthwhile associates, friends, and family. Whether this expands my Satanic network is irrelevant. I only care if it expands me.