October 22, 2016

No True Satanist?

This morning I woke up to the news that a Satanist in London, England had lured a man (who turned out to be a police officer) to his apartment for sex, but then decided to kill, dismember, cook, and eat him. There were additional plans to dissolve the body in acid, but his plan failed when his neighbors called the police to report the smell of decomposition and noxious chemicals.

At any moment, the Satanic interwebs are going to start furiously chanting, "He's not a true Satanist!" And you know, in a way, I'll agree with that sentiment: if he was practicing Satanism the same way as I practice Satanism, then he'd realize that what he did was not Satanic. At least, not according to my definition of the word. But then, for the most part, I disagree with this defense because I think that the "no true Scotsman" fallacy is no basis for a defense of Satanism.

Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religionists regularly make this argument to condemn the least attractive elements within them, and every time they make this argument, the world rightly responds, "Nah ah - those people belong to your faith tradition fair and square."

Whenever the Westboro Baptist Church trots out its "God Hates Fags" and "God Loves IED's" signs to attack people who died from HIV/AIDS or soldiers killed in war, the Christian world predictably starts up with, "They're not true Christians! They're warping the true message of Christianity!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. The Westboro Baptists are Christian. No way around it. 

Whenever Muslims blow themselves up with a suicide bomb or murder their women for the sake of family honor, the Muslim world always goes into their, "Not all Muslims!" routine. And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Muslims. No way around it.

Whenever Hindus use machetes to slaughter people based on the accusation that they ate beef, the Hindu world soundly condemns it and says, "There were so many extenuating factors!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Hindus, no way around it.

Whenever Buddhists fire-bomb mosques and churches, Buddhist leaders will report that the attacks are a "perversion of Buddhism!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Buddhists. No way around it.

So when a Satanist lures a man to his lair for sex and then brutally murders him and consumes his body, how does anybody think that we can make the argument that he's not a true Satanist as a defense of Satanism? Crazy Christians emerge from Christianity; crazy Muslims emerge from Islam; crazy Hindus emerge from Hinduism; crazy Buddhists emerge from Buddhism; and crazy Satanists emerge from Satanism. This man can't be retroactively expelled from True Satanism™. Even though I happen to think that he's a disturbed individual who deserves death for this disgusting crime, I can't deny that the thoughts which informed his actions emerged from the same source material which informs my own beliefs and practices.

It's right to say that what this man did is a crime, and it's right to say that this man deserves the harshest possible punishment, but I think it's wrong to say that he's not a Satanist. We don't accept the No-True-Scotsman fallacy from other religionists because we rightly acknowledge the source of their radicalism, and we shouldn't accept it from ourselves, either. While his actions are not representative of the majority of Satanists, he's still a Satanist fair and square. 

Retroactive denial of Satanic identity is a broken argument. If this man's crime bothers you, then speak against it for the right reasons (it's a disgusting crime worthy of death), and not for the wrong reasons (he's no true Satanist!) Humans have the capacity for tremendous love and compassion, but so too do they have the capacity for incredible cruelty and psychopathy. Because people create religion (and not the other way around), people are the common denominator among all religions. Therefore, murder, depravity, and psychopathy are present within a hopefully extreme minority of all religious communities.

I think that retroactive denial is also a broken argument because it relieves the Satanic community cabal of the responsibility of discussing these things and further defining amongst itself what are its social mores, what actions and behaviors are either within or beyond the pale, and how extreme transgressors of both the written and unwritten rules are dealt with.

Or, I suppose you could stay quiet - there's no obligation to speak out - but don't be surprised when misinformation rules the day.

October 20, 2016

Ask me Anything: Sexism in Tarot?

Hi, James! Love your posts - well most of 'em lol. I'm an amateur reader just about to start into business doing Tarot readings. It seems I'm quite talented by the feedback I've already received. I'm just wondering: as you're clearly another guy in a seemingly female dominated field, is there any advice you can give me starting out?
Howdy! I'm flattered that you reached out to me! And without giving too much away, good timing, too - just yesterday I did an interview with another Tarot blogger about men in Tarot and sexist assumptions that get made about intuition and how this impacts me as a professional. I'm really happy to participate in that interview - I'll post a link when it's published - but am also happy to share my views here. There's more that I said in the interview that's not being said here, so you'll have to check that out if you want the whole story!

In answer to your questions, the #1 advice I can give you is to be really good at what you do. This is so important that almost nothing else matters. Yes, there's a lot to be learned about marketing and connecting with clients, closing the sale, keeping track of money for tax time, professional presentation, and so on. But so much of that just won't matter if you're not good at what you do. 

That's cool that you're getting good feedback, but be aware that in this profession, the people who weren't impressed usually don't tell you so - they just let you assume that you were great and then go post reviews somewhere else or just tell their friends what they really thought. You've got to keep your ego in check, and never assume that you know best. This is a very easy trap to fall into, and even though I'm sure you're nodding your head and agreeing with me right now, I'm not completely sure you really understand. 

As far as being a man in a woman-dominated field, all I can say is that in terms of online work, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. If you're a good entertainer and are able to provide a powerful experience for your clients every time, then that's going to count for a whole lot more than whether you have a penis or a vagina. However, if you expect the bulk of your business to be in-person, then yes - your gender is going to be a challenge. The fact is, women prefer to get readings with women. This is so partly because women prefer to talk about their problems with women because - let's face it - there are some problems that are unique to life as a woman (sexual harassment, for example.) 

But it's also because getting a Tarot reading can feel for the woman like the reader is stripping her naked. No woman wants to feel naked and exposed in front of a strange man, so if you're going to be doing readings primarily in-person, then you've got to be aware of your body language, the way your speak, and you overall demeanor because women are often intimidated by men - especially when the man (such as a Tarot reader) has all the power in an exchange. 

This is less important in online business because there's a digital divide between the two of you, but it's still important to think about what you say and how you're saying it, because if you're not careful you can fall into the trap of accidentally blaming the woman for her problems or making her feel guilty - and that's an absolute dead-end in any conversation with any woman.

The Power of Evil (and Donald Trump)

One of the essays by Anton LaVey that I find to be most insightful to his worldview is "On the Importance of Being Evil," as printed in "The Devil's Notebook." You can buy the book and read the whole essay if you're really interested, but in it LaVey talks about the beneficial impact of evil upon the greater good. Examples he provides include the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang inspiring a multi-billion dollar motorcycle market for riding enthusiasts, but also the horrors of WWII as stimulant for the creation of Israel. There are other examples given, but what it boils down to is that LaVey saw evil as a polarizing force for motivating and strengthening essentially "good" ideas, movements, and groups. 

In all of LaVey's writing, he never portrays himself as an anarchist: if anything, he leans authoritarian, and much of his recorded philosophy embraces the need for stability and power in government. LaVey was very consistent in his writing that he considers himself and those who take the name of Satan to be outsiders, but from what I read, he never advocated violent revolution. Instead, what I understand in his writing is that he advocates for a kind of watch-dog agitation. To LaVey, it was very important that a small number of people on the margin always be present to agitate and test the powers that be because - as a result of this constant agitation - weakness is discovered. And although he always considered himself an outsider to the mainstream community, he never saw himself as living in a vacuum and completely detached from the world (and country) in which he lived - because of course that would be solipsism and a loss of perspective.

Furthermore, this outside agitation is necessary because the greater number of people - by reason of their revulsion and rejection of the outsider - will polarize against unstable evil and seek to strengthen "good" outcomes. So LaVey reasoned, if not for Hitler's slaughter of the Jews, the rest of the world would never have cared enough to take notice and create the country of Israel.

But LaVey didn't say that this is justification for being just plain mean and stupid. In order for your evil to exceed the mere idiocy of "ripping wings off butterflies," your evil must expand beyond your local sphere of influence and disrupt the minds and lives of people far outside your regular life. In other words, don't pretend for an instant that you're going to change the world by shit-posting dank Satanic memes on your Facebook page. Surely you'll gain some satisfaction from doing so, but it doesn't actually do anything. No - if your evil is to create the kind of change described, you must have sufficient leverage to affect thousands and even millions of people at a time.

Enter the presidential election of 2016.

Donald Trump is no stranger to offense, and there's almost literally nothing and nobody he hasn't deliberately attacked, mocked, or insulted: Mexicans; Muslims; Blacks; many women, his own daughter, and even allegedly a teenaged girl; the disabled and deaf; dead, wounded, and captured veterans; journalists; his own political party... for fuck's sake, once he even kicked a crying baby out of a rally. I can't even list it all here - the man seems to lack even the most basic filter between his inner monologue and the words that come out of his mouth. There appears to be no line he won't cross, and this volatile aggression has made him the darling of racists and fascists everywhere. He's even gone as far as claiming that the elections are rigged by his preferred ennemi du jour, and has instructed his supporters to become vigilante poll monitors

In response to his sustained campaign of unhinged, conspiracy-laden vitriol and now his attack upon the very foundation of democracy in the USA - his refusal to accept the outcome of the election before it's even been settled - vast social movements have formed. He's spurred a civil war within the Republican Party which many (including longtime GOP leaders) believe has lost its way; motivated broad coalitions to organize under the banner of #NeverTrump; indirectly pushed record numbers of people to register to vote; spurred people from all levels of stratification to affirm their confidence in the political process; shamed the news media into fact checking their stories; and generally pushed the vast majority of Americans to come out against racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

Will evil Trump win the day? It's highly unlikely: the most reliable polls have a Trump victory at not more than 12%, and some as low as 8%. It's possible his chance of winning will fall even further between now and the election on November 8th, but it's generally agreed that Trump's chance of winning the White House is absolutely dead and buried. But just because he didn't win the White House doesn't mean that he hasn't had a substantial impact - you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to ignore Trump's cultural footprint, because that's the power of evil.

Does this mean that all Satanists should support Donald Trump because he's just so damn good at being evil? Absolutely not. First, each Satanist must decide for him or herself which candidates to support (or not support) based on his or her own values. And second, Trump would sooner shit on the American bed than let anybody else have it. He's already preparing his supporters for possibly violent protest when he almost certainly doesn't win the election. If he'd embrace his role as the outside agitator, I could at least respect what he unintentionally accomplished, but his rejection of the very system which sustains him proves him to be the parasite he is. 

But you know, even parasites can be useful in their way.

October 19, 2016

Satanic People

Successful People read every day.
Unsuccessful People watch TV every day.
Satanic People read or watch TV for pleasure, stimulation, or learning. Or they don't. Books and televisions are tools to be used for a chosen end.

Successful People compliment.
Unsuccessful People criticize.
Satanic People give compliments or criticism as they see fit, and for whatever purpose they choose, so long as it achieves the desired goal.

Successful People embrace change.
Unsuccessful People fear change.
Satanic People travel the spectrum of hyper responsive visionaries on the cutting edge to Luddites who refuse the latest technology for the comfort and nostalgia of yesteryear.

Successful People forgive others.
Unsuccessful People hold a grudge.
Satanic People acknowledge their mistakes and forgive if they truly feel sorry about what they've done, but also hold a grudge and gleefully punish those who deserve wrath.

Successful People talk about ideas.
Unsuccessful People talk about people.
Satanic People talk about whatever suits their fancy. Ideas are only as good as the person who puts them into motion, and practical application is far preferable to theoretical dreaming.

Successful People continuously learn.
Unsuccessful People think they know it all.
Satanic People believe that responsibility is for the responsible, and thus will both accept responsibility for their failures but also blame others whose decisions have caused unwanted personal consequences.

Successful People have a sense of gratitude.
Unsuccessful People have a sense of entitlement.
Satanic People give to those who deserve, and don't hesitate to point out when they're owed something in return and state their expectation that they should receive it.

Successful People set goals and develop life plans.
Unsuccessful People never set goals.
Satanic People are aware of their level of stratification and work within it to achieve their best life possible. This means that they make goals and plans, but it also means they know how to quit when they're ahead and live within their means.

October 15, 2016

The Shaving Mafia

The shaving mafia is cutting into your bottom line.
So, here's a random Saturday rant: shaving. No matter who you are, chances are excellent that at some point in your life you're going to be regularly shaving some part of your body. And, chances are excellent that you're going to shave that hair away with a two- or three-blade razor sold to you in a plastic package - perhaps you purchased the handle and got some free razor heads, or maybe you're paying protection money to the Shaving Mafia every time you purchase disposable razor heads at wildly inflated prices.

"A mafia," you say? I do say. Gillette, Schick, and other mafia bosses are controlling the shaving racket and keeping folks like you and me in the habit of paying protection money to protect ourselves from the danger of straight razors and double-edged razor blades. Every time you walk into the pharmacy to buy your razor blades, you come face to face with the mafia boss sitting in his big, black chair in a smoke-filled, dimly-lit room: "You don't want to take a chance with those other blades. Just pay your money and we'll make sure you don't get cut. You don't want to get cut, do you?"

Well, I got fed up with the razor-blade mafia and stopped paying for protection. Last year I moved to a single-blade shaving system when I purchased a twist-to-close Weishi razor handle. There was an adjustment period, for sure, but once I got clear of the mafia, I never looked back. Are you still paying for protection? If you are, then you're getting robbed. Think about it:

Gillette's Mach 3 razor may be the most popular triple-blade razor on the market. WalMart wants me to pay $17 for a pack of 5 disposable razor heads. This works out to $3.40 per razor blade, which gets about 10 shaves before crapping out. This means that with a Mach 3 razor blade, I'm paying about $.34 per shave. Oh, and don't forget that the entire package you purchased - plastic packaging, plastic blade holster, blade handle, and the blade itself - is landfill. You can't recycle any of it.

Compare that to double-edged razor blades. WalMart.ca sells those, too: for a package of 5 Wilkinson Sword Classic razor-blades, they'll only charge me $6, or $1.20 per blade. At four shaves per blade, this means I'm paying $.30 per shave. The mafia boss speaks up: "See? I told you this would happen. You're cheating me out of a nickel, and you're not even getting a good shave out of it. Give up on those other blades - only I can protect you."

Perhaps out of desperation you'll abandon the big bosses of the shaving mafia and turn to small-time operators like Dollar Shave Club. You might think you're escaping the protection racket, but their cheapest option is for them to send you four twin-blade razor heads a month at a cost of $3.50, or $.88 per blade. Assuming you can actually get 7 shaves out of this puny blade, then that's going to cost you $.13 per shave - and just like a Mach 3 razor head, it can't be recycled and is only good for landfill after it goes dull. I haven't used Dollar Shave Club, but if their two-blade disposables are like the disposable razors I can buy in the store, I'm doubtful that I can get even two shaves out of it. So you might halve your shaving costs by choosing the cheapest option at Dollar Shave Club, but you can do better.

Yes - if you really want to escape the shaving mafia, you have to stop shopping where the mafia does business. No more WalMart, Rexall, Shoppers Drug Mart, or discount razor clubs. Oh, no - if you want to hit the shaving mafia where it hurts, then you have to brave the wilds of eBay where you can buy bulk packages of 100 double-edged razor blades for $13. This works out to $.13 per blade, or $.03 per shave. And, unlike the Mach 3 razor, double-edged razor blades are steel: you can recycle them, and you can also frequently recycle the cardboard and paper packaging they're delivered in. And of course, your shaving handle is all-metal and will live longer than your grandchildren.

Go ahead - throw the boss of the shaving mafia off the roof. I'll even give you an alibi.

October 10, 2016

Fascism, Racism, False Faces, and Observation

via AntiFascistNews.net
I picked up this article from AntiFascistNews.net about the way fascism and racism creep into areas where they haven't been traditionally observed - including the left-hand path - and it stirred up a few thinks that I've been meaning to bring up for a while. This conversation revolves around the simple observation that you can know a lot about somebody when you find what he or she won't criticize. For example, look at contemporary atheism. These folks are really good at condemning theistic bullshit wherever it appears, but when it comes to things such as sexism, racism, and fascism, they get really quiet really fast. Could it be that so many of them won't say a bad word against sexism, racism, or fascism because - so the argument goes - they don't have anything to do with atheism? Or could it be that they consistently decline to condemn these things because they subscribe to sexist, racist, or fascist world views? I'm not talking about one single conversation, but about a long series of interactions. What patterns emerge? What subjects consistently evade criticism even when the speaker enthusiastically condemns all manner of other things? Think about it.

So, having said that... Satanism is going to look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people depending on how they interpret and apply the core principles. And it's also worth saying that each of us are responsible only to and for ourselves - we're not accountable for the actions of others. But it's also worth saying that if you're willing to embrace racist Heathens and alt-right fascists, then this says a lot about what you think is okay. 

For my part, I think that proto/neo/fascism is not okay. I think that racism is not okay. And it's not because I think it's wrong for you to think what you will, but because the fascists and racists of contemporary Internet fame care very deeply about creating a world paradigm in which I am not free to pursue my interests, associate with whom I desire, and enjoy the things I prefer. 

Advocates of fascist policies and racist purity (who frequently go hand in hand) would make my choices for me and push me into a neat and tidy box where they insist that I must be defined by their parameters. So the argument goes, "The anti-fascists are the real fascists!" Are They free to think and say that argument? Yes, They are. But here's the thing: They want a closed system which permits a very narrow definition of freedom and choice, but I want a broad definition of freedom and choice. I'm not trying to elevate people above their achieved level of stratification, I'm not trying to create safe zones for cry-babies who can't handle the real world. 

What I want is to preserve an open field where the best may rise and the worst may fall, and if They want to change that, you bet I'm going to say something. I'm especially going to say something to point out the hypocrisy of how quickly fascists (and often, racists) are to silence free speech, and that they only enjoy the right to free speech because it's afforded to them by the very government and social contract they wish to overthrow.

In a way, this is like my problem with vaccine deniers and Creationists: it's okay for them to think nonsense so long as it only affects them, but when they start advocating for bring vaccine denialism and creationism into public policy that affects me and my family, that's where I draw the line. You're welcome to think and say that the government should be run by autocrats and that jack-booted thugs should be on every street corner. You're also welcome to think and say that people who look differently than you are genetically and culturally inferior. 

Nobody ever said you have to like your government or share an identity with everybody you meet. I'm not opposed to fascism and racism because I think that it's Inherently Bad. I'm opposed to fascism and racism because the motivations which inform them are logically broken. If you don't like commie, left-wing Pinkos, then you do what you think is best - nobody ever said you had to become a party member. If you aren't attracted to Blacks or don't like Black music, fine - nobody said you had to be Black or listen to Black music. 

Each of us choose for ourselves what is aesthetically pleasing. But if you think I'm going to shut my mouth and be polite or pretend that I'm a part of a mutual appreciation society where everybody's opinion is equally respected and nobody can ever be wrong, then you're quite wrong: nobody and nothing are safe from criticism.

I am a Satanist, and that means that I'm a realist: I take the world as it is, not as I would like it to be, and I use the best available knowledge to inform my decisions. And, as it happens, the best available knowledge says that fascism and racism are literal dead ends. I have no regard for tribal identity, and draw nothing from my nation, race, family, or gender. Not that Popeye ever had anything to do with Satanism, but I'm proud to say that I am what I am and that's all that I am. 

I am not supplicant worshiping the power of the state to do as it pleases. I am not a religious devotee at the altar of the White Man. I worship only myself, and hold as my liberty as my highest value. You're free to hate whatever and whomever you like, but the moment you start advocating for a fascist government that would restrict my choices, or advocating on behalf of the Whites under the assumption that I'm going to support you, then you can go drink a gallon of bleach because your ideology is broken and deserves to die.

So when I see fascism, racism, and other contradictory mentalities appearing in Satanism or creeping along the left-hand path, I'm going to say something. Not because I want a Good Guy badge. Not because I want to control what you think, say, and do. But because those things are detestable to me, and I don't want them to be a part of my reality. I also don't want people who support those things as a part of my circle of friends - it's my prerogative to create and maintain a total environment of my own creation, and until such time Pentagonal Revisionism is achieved, the way I accomplish this goal is by speaking out against the things I dislike and making it clear that people who disagree with me and get the fuck out of my total environment.

You can know a lot about a person by what he or she won't criticize. If you find what a person won't criticize, then you've found part of that person's core identity. I'm making it very easy for the guests within my total environment to see who and what I am - let there be no misunderstanding about the total environment I'm building for myself and the aesthetics I prefer.

Also let there be no misunderstanding that I'm a keen observer: if you've been in my company for any period of time, chances are excellent that I'm looking for what you won't criticize so that I can see you clearly for who you are. I apply this principle in all things. If you're scared about what I may see, then you know where to find the exit.