July 29, 2017

What dreams may come?

Morpheus (Neil Gaiman's Sandman)

This may be the flakiest thing you’ll ever hear me say, but the Tarot arrangement in this blog entry came to me in a dream. I don’t believe that this arrangement was channelled from a higher (or lower) power, but that doesn’t make it any less useful. Every element in this arrangement has been known to me for some time, but I had never thought to assemble it this way. 

Because this arrangement came to me in a dream, I'm calling it the Sandman. As I dreamed it, the Sandman arrangement must be performed with two people, the reader and the seeker, and is arranged according to the following diagram:

Although this diagram only shows five positions, it’s still composed of 10 cards because each position is filled by two cards. Let me show you the method to this madness:
  1. The reader shuffles the deck and deals to both him or herself and the seeker five cards each. The reader and the seeker pick up the cards and hold them as a hand, not allowing the other party to see the cards’ faces.
  2. The seeker chooses one card from his or her hand and lays it down in any of the assigned positions. The order in which the cards are laid is not important.
  3. After considering the card chosen for the assigned position, the reader chooses a card from his or her hand and lays it horizontally across the card just laid.
  4. Repeat the previous step for the each remaining position. The positions of Needs, Habits, Desires, and Future are plainly stated, but the position of the Shadow represents hidden fears, shameful mistakes, buried nightmares, and all the skeletons you’ve pushed into the far back of your closet.
  5. The arrangement is performed as usual except that each position is interpreted as a pair with the principal card being the one laid down by the seeker, and the modifying card being the one laid down by the reader.
  6. The reader interprets the cards as they lay for the seeker.
  7. If both parties to the Sandman are able to read cards, then after the reader has performed for the seeker, then everything is inverted: the reader becomes the seeker, the seeker becomes the reader, and the arrangement is interpreted a second time. The second interpretation is the mirror opposite: future becomes shadow, needs become desires, principal becomes the modifier, and so on. 
The Sandman is a fascinating arrangement to me because it allows the seeker to choose his or her preferred fortune, but not without the reader's interference. If you’re a reader who wants to have this arrangement performed for you but there’s not another reader to do it, then you need only reverse the roles: ask a friend to play the role of the reader who shuffles and deals the cards, and you play the role of the seeker. After laying down cards, you read the cards for yourself but remember that your chosen card is the principal - not the modifier. It’s not quite the same as asking another reader to perform for you, but the effect is sufficient.

Be forewarned that the position of the Shadow in this arrangement can elicit shameful, embarrassing, and painful responses. Some people enjoy being publicly shamed, embarrassed, and hurt, so this is right up their alley, but some people (myself included) don’t enjoy stripping themselves figuratively naked no matter how few strangers are watching. For this reason I don't perform this arrangement for anybody who has not been warned of its nature and explicitly agreed to be potentially humiliated, and for the same reason I'm not going to include an example of this reading for myself on this blog entry.

But I will include a hypothetical reading for an imaginary friend. Be advised that I follow a non-standard interpretation of the Tarot, so the interpretations given are supplied primarily to illustrate how the message of the first reading changes after inverted for the second reading. Let's see what comes up:
  • Needs: Ace of Diamonds / The Magician I
  • Habits: 3 of Clubs / The Sun XIX
  • Desires: Death XIII / 3 of Pentacles
  • Shadow: 3 of Hearts / Slave of Pentacles
  • Future: The Star / The Lovers VI
HABITS: Upon examining your desires, I see that the knowledge of who you are and how you move forward in life is fundamentally based upon your being witness to others' misfortunes. And why not? Like we said in the Marine Corps, "Better you than me." If you can learn from somebody else's mistakes, then that's a great way for you to avoid the same. Still, all things being equal, this shows that you've achieved this awareness as a response to other affairs versus active involvement in your own life.

DESIRES: But I think you must already know that? Because when I look at your desires which motivate you into action, I see that you're motivated by personal clarity and a drive to translate what you know not only into material success, but also respect from others. But is that possible? Again, your greatest awareness of yourself is based on bearing witness to others' failings, and not on your own achievements. Is that enough?

NEEDS: I don't think it is. When I look at your needs, I'm seeing that you need to recognize how your own choices create the very failings in others from which you've gained so much personal insight. Do you see? You're ignorant not only to the pain you're inflicting upon other people, but also the reason why you're inflicting the pain.

SHADOW: But perhaps I'm wrong? When I look at your shadow, I see that it's connected to the 3 of Diamonds in your desires by way of the Slave of Diamonds. Maybe you are aware of what you're doing? Are you? Because the shadow is telling me that you're selfishly aware of your position of safety and the fact that you won't be discovered. With the cards I'm seeing here, you know that this safety gives you leverage over other people. But does it help you? I see that you crave respect and admiration, but you're trying to achieve this substantial reality with insubstantial deception. Is your shadow sustainable?

FUTURE: I don't think so. Your deception is sustainable, and I don't think anybody will see through the masks you wear, but because you build your life upon the sorrows of others this inevitably takes you to a sad and hollow place where you've let go everything of value in favor of that which you found easiest to accept. This is a process of diminishing returns for you, and unless you make a substantial change you'll soon find yourself standing in a rubbish pile of your own creation.

Assuming that both parties to the Sandman read Tarot, let's look at how the message changes when we turn it upside down and inside out:

  • Needs: 3 of Pentacles / Death XIII
  • Habits: The Sun XIX / 3 of Clubs
  • Desires: The Magician I / Ace of Diamonds
  • Shadow: The Lovers VI / The Star
  • Future: Slave of Pentacles / 3 of Hearts
HABITS: You've made shameful mistakes in the past when attempting to gain respect in the eyes of those who know, and this shame is something you carry with you. Past embarrassments need not be a cause of pain in the present, and while your failures may still be remembered by others, these failures in no way affect your potential for future success.

DESIRES: This personal shortcoming has had a really pivotal effect on what you want to accomplish in life. I see that you want to not only recover your sense of power, but use it against those who have for themselves what you don't have you for yourself. Revenge is sweet, and it's a dish best served cold, so I guess that means revenge is delicious ice-cream, but is that a dish you should really eat right now? I think your blame is misplaced.

NEEDS: And I also think you need to worry less about proving wrong the witnesses to your past failures. I'm seeing that the only way forward for you is through honest recognition of where you actual power lays and using that to do what others can't (or won't.) You have the ability to prove yourself - you have it already, right now - you need only embrace your success.

SHADOW: You can do that, can't you? Just reach out and grasp it... unless you're too scared to hold on. I'm seeing that you secretly want to fail and be abandoned by the very people whose approval you appear to crave. Just like everybody else, you've got faults and flaws, but there's no requirement that you insist on shoving your figurative warts in everybody's face. If you do that, you will surely find yourself abandoned. Is that what you really want? Is it?

FUTURE: The future is everything you claim you want it to be. All the pieces are in place for you to be the same or even better than the people whose respect you allegedly wish you had. The only thing preventing you from claiming power and being respected again is if you choose to wallow in your shame. Wear the hair shirt of your shadow if you really want to, but I think the day will come when you're ready to take it off.

Edit: What's the Final Verdict?

I wasn't sure I wanted to use this arrangement with anybody else primarily because I'm deeply averse to sharing my shadow work with anybody, but I decided that if I can't use this arrangement with my wife of seven years, then I'll probably never use it at all. So yesterday afternoon while lounging in bed and enjoying the afternoon sunshine through the window, I asked my wife to lend a hand and I've gotta say - the end result was both entertaining and intimate. It's the most fun either of us have had with Tarot in a long time, and I think this is something we'll both do again soon.

July 25, 2017

Would you give money to the homeless?

Somebody asked me the other day, "Would you give food or money to a homeless person? My answer is complicated. It's counter-intuitive, but poverty is expensive. I'm in favor of providing assistance to the homeless (even if it doesn't necessarily break the cycle of poverty) if only because it's a sound financial argument that improves my own quality of life. 

Beyond financial arguments and getting into appeals to emotion, yeah - I'm generally in favor of reducing suffering. I'm particularly affected by the suffering of children, seniors, and mentally or physically handicapped - the people least able to provide for themselves. An animal part of me screams out, "Law of the jungle, bitch!," and says that's just the way things are, but a compassionate part me can't endure their pain.

Strangely, I don't mind the pain and suffering of otherwise able-bodied people and I think the reason why is because they can voluntarily choose at any time to use their own skills, knowledge, and abilities to pursue any number of options to improve the quality of their lives. But incapable children, frail or senile elders, the mentally broken, and the physically impaired aren't able to make such choices for themselves, or if they are, they're not able to accomplish them.

So yeah, I'm in favor of my tax money being used to fund social programs for the most vulnerable. I'm in favor of donating money to programs like United Way and letting them do figurative or literal triage to determine who most needs assistance. I'm in favor of my provincial and national government trying to keep people off the streets.

But as a matter of personal policy, I don't give food or money directly to homeless people anymore largely because I don't want my money to be wasted. Shame on me if I'm jumping to conclusions based on a small number of interactions with the homeless during my lifetime, but what I've witnessed is that I'm not making a meaningful impact when I skip the humanitarian organization and give directly to individuals. 

I've got some experiences with homeless people who asked me for money to buy food, but then refused the food I offered because they wanted money. I've also got an experience with a neighbor who wanted to borrow $40 "to buy milk for the kids," when it was plain as day that it was actually $40 to buy some weed. But the example that sticks out the most for me was the homeless guy I knew in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

I knew a homeless guy who camped out in the woods near a shopping mall where I once worked. He slept in the woods at night, and hung out in the mall during the day. I know this because I was the over-night security guard who opened the mall every morning. We got to chatting in the mornings, and I suggested he could get an income started at the drop-in day-labor company, but he said that's too hard because he had to get there by 6am. 

I was like, "You're homeless and unemployed. WTF are you doing at 6am that would stop you from going to work?" And it's not because he couldn't get up on time: after all, he had a cell-phone for texting his network of friends who washed his clothes, gave him rides, put him up during the winter, and paid his cell phone bill.

I asked him if he had anybody who could help him get out of living in a shanty behind the mall, and he told me that he had a cousin in Virginia who had offered to take him in, but he wouldn't go because he didn't know anybody there and didn't like their house rules. 

I was like, "How can it possibly be worse to behave yourself in somebody else's heated house with running water and regular meals than to sleep under a tarp and get eaten by mosquitoes every night?" Evidently, he thought it was worse.

There are people who genuinely need help and are willing to do the work necessary to not be parasites. I understand that there are talented, capable people who wind up homeless due to circumstances outside of their control. And I get that the cycle of poverty is hard to break, but that's exactly why I'm going to leave that work to charitable organizations and governmental agencies who are far more effective at helping the poor than I am.

There are ways for the homeless and severely disadvantaged to get help, but I'm not one of them.

July 18, 2017

Belle Plaine says "no" to all religious monuments

via SWNewsMedia.com
In other news, remember that Baphometic bowl of wisdom that was going to be installed at a memorial park for veterans? After much public outcry from pearl-clutching, rosary-rubbing Catholics and a city hall being flooded with complaints from deeply concerned Christians around the country, the decision was made to remove all private monuments hosted on government property.

And to be honest, I'm disappointed by the outcome. Speaking as a veteran, I'd like it if there were a Satanic monument in the same place where my body is laid to rest. And while I have no great love for Christianity, I know that Christians feel the same way: they'd also like to have a monument that speaks to their beliefs. But as others have observed before me, Christians are big fans of religious liberties and freedom of expression only when those liberties and freedoms apply to Christians. Evidently, these rights aren't afforded to others lest God's tender feelings get hurt. 

And this is hilarious to me, because seriously: if they really believed that Casper the Friendly Ghost God is all powerful, all seeing, all knowing, and has a plan for everybody and everything, then why haven't they stopped to consider that this Satanic monument is actually part of God's plan? After all, God's all powerful, so why doesn't he just open a sinkhole under the monument, zap it with lightning, or wash it away with a flood? For people of faith, these Christians are awfully insecure about their god's ability to manage earthly affairs.

So, thanks to Christian censorship out of fear that the all-powerful creator of the entire universe would get his feelings hurt, nobody gets anything. As usual, Christians would rather shit the bed than let any damned, dirty, Satanists ever sleep on it.

July 17, 2017

10 Questions every Tarot Seeker Must Answer

This list has been a long time coming mostly because I've been super busy editing the third draft of The Satanic Tarot, but you know what they say - better late than never. I had a lot of fun writing my list of 10 questions for every Tarot reader should answer, so here's another one just for Tarot seekers. 

And really look at what I just said: it's for people who get Tarot readings. If you don't read Tarot and get readings from somebody else, then this list is for you. But if you read Tarot and also get readings from somebody else, then this list is also for you. Do you get it? Doesn't matter who you are: if you ever get readings from anybody else, then this list is for you!

You can take from this list whatever you like, but my purpose in writing it is to encourage anybody who gets Tarot readings to think about their motivations and question the question. Peel back the layers of the onion that is your desire to divine the future and what do you find? That might not be a great metaphor, because if you peel back layers of an onion you just keep finding more onion, but you know what I mean. Think about the thinks that you're thinking about. It's important.

Why are you getting a Tarot reading?

Seriously. Why are you getting a Tarot reading? If you can't say exactly why you need the services of a Tarot reader, then what's the purpose? When you go to a doctor, he or she will ask, "What's the problem?" When you respond, "I just don't feel very good and I can't really describe it," he'll rightly prescribe you a couple of aspirin and charge you $50 for wasting his time. Likewise, when you go to a Tarot reader and you can't explain why you're there, chances are excellent that your wallet will be lightened but your mind will remain burdened.

Will your reason for getting a reading still matter next week?

I once knew a karate instructor who was fond of telling his students that when in a fit of rage they should stop and ask themselves: "Will this thing that's upsetting you still be important next week?" His logic was that if it won't still be important next week, chances are really good that it's not important at all. 

Same way, when you're feeling anxious, confused, or uncertain, is a Tarot reading really going to help? Seeing as I sell Tarot to pay my bills, I don't care how often you get a reading so long as you pay me for it, but whenever I'm preparing to spend money for a Tarot reading I like to be damn sure I'm not wasting my money on a frivolous concern that'll be forgotten in a week's time. You don't like to waste money on frivolous purchases, do you? Of course you don't. Think about the reason for your reading - it's important.

What role do you expect your Tarot reader to play?

Have you ever met people you just didn't like very much? Of course you have. Some of you reading this probably don't even like me, and that's okay because I'm not going to be the best Tarot reader for every Tarot seeker. 

Some people want a reader who's strictly hands-off and doesn't do anything except communicate the message in the cards. Some people want a reader who's totally hands-on and provides lots of advice and instruction. Some people want a reader who's conciliatory or confrontational. The Tarot is what it is, but the cards are just ink on paper and can't speak for themselves. That's what your Tarot reader does: he or she filters the meaning of the Tarot cards through his or her personality. 

If your Tarot reader has a completely different world paradigm, uses an incompatible communication style, is more (or less) involved than you prefer, or simply rubs you the wrong way - you're going to have a bad time. Investigate before you hire: read the Tarot reader's blog, follow him or her on social media, and even send an email-as-interview so you know what role he or she most naturally fills in your reading.

What do you really want out of your Tarot reading?

Now be honest with yourself: what do you expect to receive out of your Tarot reading? The best way to have a successful reading is to define what a successful reading is before you start the reading. If you really want a general forecast, that's great - just be clear with yourself that's what you want. Or if you want specific advice how to resolve a love triangle without getting shot by the third party, that's okay too. Or if you want to know the exact temperature in centigrade of the next cup of tea you purchase at Tim Horton's including the day and hour when you'll purchase it, well, okay... I guess you can do that, too.

But the point is that you've got to be honest with yourself about what it is you want and how you're going to use that information! If you don't understand what you really want out of the reading and don't have any clear idea how you're going to use the information you gain from your reading, then you're going to feel lost at the end and be no better off than when you started.

What will you do if your reading reveals the worst-case scenario?

Speaking as a Tarot reader, I love to give good news. It's fun to be able to give good news in a Tarot reading, and I enjoy sharing happy endings whenever they turn up. But me being the reader that I am, and life being what it is, happy endings aren't possible for every person who consults me. Sometimes, the worst-case scenario turns up and the cards say that the only outcome possible is for you to take your lumps and get over it.

Are you prepared for the possibility that there is no happy ending to your story? If your Tarot reader does his or her best to tactfully break the news that there are no good answers to your bad situation, what will you do? Will you shut your eyes, cover your ears, and run to the nearest Doreen Virtue-style angel-card reader for a masturbatory dose of love and light?

If you're only open to hearing good news, then you're better off not getting a Tarot reading at all because chances are pretty good that you'll just be wasting your money when the 100% rainbows-and-butterfly-farts message you want to hear doesn't turn up. Pretending that the world isn't a difficult place is no way to go through life and you owe it to yourself to not only accept that the worst outcome might be revealed, but also to plan how you'll respond if it does.

How does it benefit you to read about other people?

Third-party readings in which you ask the Tarot reader to snoop around in another person's life aren't a safe topic for discussion among Tarot readers, but there's no reason that you the Tarot seeker shouldn't ask your Tarot reader if that's something that he or she does. In case you're curious, yes - I snoop with my Tarot cards and don't feel even a teensy bit guilty about it - but this isn't the same for every reader. For example, how do you feel about peeping Toms watching you undress? Or strangers going through your mail? Or the government secretly surveilling you without a warrant? If that makes your skin crawl, then you understand why there are Tarot readers who won't peep, snoop, dig, or surveil on other people outside the reading.

But more importantly, how will it help you to know what other people are doing? Here's a lightly edited question I was recently asked: John suspects his girlfriend Jane of cheating, and if she is cheating, he wants to know how to catch her in the act (but he still loves her a lot and wants to save the relationship if he can.) As it happens, I accepted his question (yes, she's cheating), but also asked if either possible outcome was relevant because he doesn't really sound like he loves her that much anymore. After all, if he really loved her then why does he want to catch her in the act? And for that matter, what amount of evidence would ever be enough to maintain his future faith in her fidelity? The fact that he's even asking me these questions says more about the quality of the relationship (and his true feelings for her) than anything else.

Unless you're going to lock somebody in a jail cell in order to control everything they see, hear, say, and do, it's impossible to have absolute control in life. Ultimately, you can only control yourself, and while it can be exciting and occasionally useful to snoop around, knowing other people's business is often much less helpful than you might think.

How will you translate your reading into action?

So all of the previous questions I've asked really build up to this point: What will you DO with the message you're given? If you go for a Tarot reading and spend a lot of time talking about your hurts and your sads but then don't do actually do anything with the message given to you in order to change your reality, that's just masturbation. You heard me: you're just flogging the dolphin. Flicking the bean. Playing pocket pool. Clubbing the clam. Choking the cyclops. Paddling the pink canoe. And that's okay! There's absolutely nothing wrong with masturbation, just don't mistake it for worldly success.

If you were a Christian, this is the point where you'd say I knew you were just a damned, dirty, perverted Satanist "faith without deeds is dead." Likewise, words without action are just self-abuse. Talk, talk, talk. It doesn't get you anywhere at all, does it? If you're not prepared to actually do anything with the message given to you, then you'll be happier if you just skip the Tarot and go straight to Pornhub.

What will you do if your prediction doesn't come to pass?

You want to know what your future will be, and you want to be sure about it. I understand. After all, that's what divination is for, isn't it? Certainty. But then, how much certainty can you really have? Consider for example that Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal were professional basketball players and they didn't even land every free-throw they took, or that Tiger Woods is a professional golfer and he doesn't even play a great round every time he goes to the greens. So why do you expect your Tarot reader to give 100% accurate predictions?

And for that matter, what will you do when a prediction doesn't come to pass exactly as it was predicted? Are you going to sulk in a dark room while you emotionally masturbte over the loss of your predicted future? Or are you going to get up and do something about it? You're welcome to argue this point with me - it is the Internet, after all - but I don't think that accuracy should be the ultimate qualifier of a Tarot reader; instead, I think that the ultimate qualifier should be if the reading you received was stimulating, thought-provoking, and productive.

If the Tarot reading gave you the necessary stimulation to take action and do something productive, then I think that's much more important than whether or not prediction was accurate. After all, if your Tarot reader could predict anything with 100% accuracy, then there's no such thing as free will and you'd be powerless to change your future if you don't like the outcome.

If your prediction fails, will you ask the same question again next time?

Life is full of stubborn problems that bring persistent irritation and distraction. I understand. Really, I do - I've got persistent problems of my own to deal with - so I get where you're coming from. But so it's said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. If you've already asked the question that weighed most heavily on your heart and a message given to you turned out to be wrong or a prediction given to you never transpired, what good reason is there to ask about it again?

There's a lot to be said about how a Tarot reading is like the ritualized process of greater magic in its ability to purge the anxiety and uncertainty that inhibit your ability to focus and be successful - in fact, I'm writing an entire book based on that premise and it's called The Satanic Tarot - but self-medicating your sorrows with repetitive Tarot readings on the same subject is a recipe for dependency. 

Why haven't you learned to do it yourself?

Like I said before, I sell Tarot for a living so I'm selfishly interested in convincing you to purchase a reading from me, but I also happen to be terrifically stingy and I resent spending money for something that I can do for myself. I do occasionally get a Tarot card reading from another reader when I feel like I'm unable to give myself an impartial perspective, but the vast majority of all my readings I do for myself.

And if I were somebody who didn't read Tarot cards but enjoyed getting Tarot readings on a regular basis, I'd be financially motivated by the sheer volume of money I'm spending to learn how to read the cards for myself. Not only will this save me some money, but it'd also give me more control over the experience and not leave me feeling dependent on somebody else...

... unless the feeling of the seeker petitioning the great guru is part of your personal fetish? Don't misunderstand me: I think you should do whatever within the law is necessary for you to be happy and productive in life, and if a seeker-guru relationship with a Tarot card reader is part of that, then you should do it. But I also think that you should be honest with yourself that there's a reason why you get Tarot readings more than once a month yet still haven't learned to read the cards for yourself.

How much money do you spend on Tarot readings? If you add up all the money you spent on Tarot readings over the past six months, how much would it be? Would it be enough to buy a deck of Tarot cards plus a couple of new student courses? If you add up all the hours you spent getting Tarot readings over the past six months, how much would it be? Would it be enough to do the 20 hours of study you need to become highly proficient? If you do the math and it shows that the money and the hours you've spent on Tarot readings is more than enough to learn how to do it yourself - but you're not learning how to do it yourself - there's a reason for that. Be honest with yourself about that reason.

July 16, 2017

George Romero (1940-2017)

I was sad to learn that George Romero died today after a short battle with lung cancer. He's no Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, but he almost single-handedly invented the zombie genre. For me, his original Night of the Living Dead is an iconic masterpiece which excelled not in spite of its low budget, but because of its low budget. Romero was able to capture with fairly simple tools and camera tricks the figurative and literal creeping horror of the walking dead.

There are a lot of zombie movies out there that are complete crap (such as Contracted) and there are a lot of zombie movies out there that are really terrific (such as The Girl with All the Gifts), and while there are zombie movies I could name which predated Night of the Living dead (such as White Zombie), Romero was the guy who was remembered above all others for his ability to clearly capture the unsettling quality of zombies in a way that set the stage for nearly every zombie movie that followed.

But why are zombies scary? On the surface, there's not much to them. I mean that literally: there's not much to them because their skin is falling off and they're missing limbs. But look a little deeper, and they embody so much of what makes horror effective.
Here's the difference between good horror and bad horror. Bad horror is big and loud and wants to kill you. Good horror is quiet and frail. It doesn't kill you. In fact, you kill it because it disgusts you. But here's the thing about good horror. Here's the trick: it never dies.
Zombies both figuratively and literally embody the fear of mortality, the loss of intelligent thought, and the worry that we'll never accomplish anything in life because our time was taken from us. Zombies say that at the end of your life, you might be nothing more than a withered corpse incapable of making voluntary decisions and who'll leave nothing of value in the world because it was stolen from you before you could accomplish anything. The only rational response to zombies is to bludgeon them to death and turn away from the crippling horror they represent. There's no reasoning with zombies. There's nothing to be learned from them, or logic to be understood. 

Or is there? Zombies have three basic functions:
  1. They search for food.
  2. They destroy anything that stands between themselves and food.
  3. They kill living animals for food.
I suppose you could say that there's really not much difference between zombies and humans. When you get right down to it, are those three functions not so different from human existence? Comparing zombies to humans can become a disgusting reflection of similarities.

Romero captured all this so effectively in Night of the Living Dead that he set the template for everything that followed. He didn't hit home-runs with every other zombie movie he ever made, but he was an icon who'll never be replaced. Death is not the end: what is remembered, lives. Hail the undead! Hail George Romero!

July 13, 2017

Convicted murderer Haigh wants Tarot cards

via Herald Sun

In other news, Australia's worst serial murderer who's in prison for six consecutive life sentences is also a Pagan who wants access to a deck of Tarot cards. Before we cover anything else, let's get one thing straight: Haigh is a mad dog who deserves death.

Beyond that, the Commonwealth is a society of rules, and we've agreed - at least up to this point - that even murderers in prison for six life sentences get to benefit from the rules. If Christian murderers get to have a Bible in prison; Muslim murderers get to have a Quran in prison; then why shouldn't Pagan prisoners get to have a Tarot deck in prison? From the article:
Haigh argues a deck of 78 tarot cards is little different to a paperback book, which inmates are able to keep as many of in their cell as allowed under a points system used to control the amount of property individual inmates can keep.
This is an argument that I've made more than a few times myself: the Tarot deck is a 78-page book with unbound pages, and the narrative of said book changes depending on its physical configuration. Unlike the Bible or the Koran, the Tarot doesn't tell the same story front-to-back every time - it tells a different story depending on how you use it. And considering that the Tarot has in many ways become the unofficial holy book of Pagans, his argument is rather solid. 

I have zero sympathy for Haigh, and I'm skeptical what kind of future he'll predict for himself, but so long as we allow for prisoners to have holy books, Haigh ought to get the Tarot deck he's requesting.

July 07, 2017

Argument for Theistic Worship in Atheistic Satanism

Position statement

I am an active member of the Church of Satan. My views are my own, and I'm not a spokesperson for the Church of Satan. As it regards me personally, I follow the philosophy of Satanism as defined by Dr. LaVey in the Satanic Bible and elaborated upon by Magus Gilmore in The Satanic Scriptures: I am my own god; I alone am responsible for creating my own Heaven or Hell here on Earth; and for as much as anybody knows, death is THE END. 

I don't believe in Satan as a literal deity, nor do I believe in the existence of any gods, demons, or spirits. There are many fantasies I'm willing to indulge, but until extraordinary evidence can be presented to prove the extraordinary claim of the existence of gods, my understanding of the world is based on the best available scientific evidence.

There is no worship in Satanism.

Within the definition of Satanism that I know and practice, worship is a rare word. Satanists worship nobody and nothing except themselves, and even when we do worship ourselves it rarely requires ritual and is instead a self-evident act, process, or lifestyle which elevates the individual to a place of personal power and self respect. The word "worship" is used to describe the three kinds of ritual employed in greater magic, but given the context it should be clear that this is a word given to outsiders so that they understand the nature of the conversation. Among Satanists, I can't say that I've ever heard the word "worship" uttered with any frequency except in criticism or mockery of devotional theistic religions.

Then what is Satanic ritual?

The ritual employed in Satanism is called greater magic, and while no value judgement is made about Satanists who choose to believe that it is capable of implanting thoughts or harnessing unseen occult forces, it is accepted that greater magic is if nothing else self-transformative psycho-drama intended to purge unwanted emotions that otherwise hinder the Satanist's ability to live productively.

I don't intend to discuss the minutiae of Satanic ritual in this essay, so if you want that you'll have to find it elsewhere; instead, I'm going to talk about the broad strokes. Indeed, as explained in the Satanic Bible, the minutiae of greater magic is besides the point: the elaborate process; the ringing bells; the altar configuration; the ritual implements; and the occult chants serve only the singular purpose of aiding the Satanist in attaining a heightened state of emotional release.

Dr. LaVey hypothesized that this ecstatic state - either in the swells of fury, the rolls of lust, or the depths of grief - achieved biological changes within the Satanist which emanated outward either as mental vibrations thus far unexplained by science or as a hormonal release that could trigger a cascade of consequences among people who have physical contact with the Satanist.

Let's ignore the pseudo-science.

I don't care to investigate the hypotheses that Dr. LaVey put forth to rationalize greater magic. It's surely a discussion worth having, but it's not the one I'm having today. The important thing at this moment isn't the process, but the result: is the practice of greater magic and the process of ritualizing one's needs and desires stimulating and productive? Many Satanists - including myself - believe that it is. But many Satanists - including myself - don't follow the prescribed steps for greater magic as outlined in the Satanic Bible for the sole reason that ritual is an individual process. 

Historically speaking, Dr. LaVey had no true precedents or contemporaries. People have been talking about the mythological concept of Satan for as long as Satan has existed - Milton and Przybyszewski come to mind - but Dr. LaVey was the first to synthesize a set philosophy and collection of practices to be deliberately called Satanism and intended for widespread dissemination. So when Dr. LaVey wrote the Satanic Bible, in his way he going where nobody else had gone before. There were no other definitively Satanic voices to say what was right or wrong, or to provide perspective and definition.

You could even argue that the Satanic Bible can be called the LaVeyan Bible if only because of the circuitous nature of it: Dr. LaVey defined Satanism, and Satanism defined Dr. LaVey. This means that when you read the Satanic Bible's instructions for greater magic and Satanic ritual, what you're really getting is Dr. LaVey's personal grimoire and a collection of essays describing how he saw the world and the tools that he used to advance himself.

And one of the tools that Dr. LaVey used was ecstatic ritual, which included exactly what you can imagine: screaming and shouting; the destruction of sympathetic images; furious masturbation; crying and whimpering; and even the honest expression of fear and terror. But all these things serve only one purpose: to elevate the Satanist to a position of personal power. The only god present in the ritual is the Satanist him or herself.

I am not Dr. LaVey.

But what happens if you're such a person for whom this kind of ecstatic ritualization doesn't come naturally? Dr. LaVey wrote a lot of stuff that I agree with and which I've adopted entirely - it works for me, so I use it as-is. And then, Dr. LaVey wrote some stuff that really doesn't work for me at all - like his advocacy for ecstatic, deeply emotional ritual.

Remembering our premise: greater magic is only worthwhile if the act of ritualizing one's needs and desires proves to be stimulating and productive. If I enter my ritual chamber and follow the given steps yet during the ritual feel too self-conscious, or get to the end of the ritual and feel that it didn't address the emotional reason for its performance, then why follow the prescribed steps?

Use what's familiar.

I hypothesize that the rules for ritual developed by Dr. LaVey were influenced by his time working in the circus as well as the years he spent as a musical performer. He was accustomed to being in the spotlight and giving his emotions free rein during a performance, so greater magic performed as part of a highly ecstatic ritual is a natural extension for him.

But a lot of people - myself included - don't share that background. When I do a ritual as prescribed by Dr. LaVey and I don't feel like it's accomplished its purpose, it makes me feel like I've done something wrong. Did I do something wrong? Or did I make the mistake of using an unfamiliar tool that doesn't integrate with my life experiences?

Embrace your personal fetish.

Dr. LaVey wrote frequently about the importance of honestly recognizing and fully indulging one's personal fetishes in order to attain complete satisfaction in life. Much of his writing about personal fetishes waxed sexual and he made frequent reference to his own piss fetish. Beyond Dr. LaVey, the concept of a personal fetish has expanded in Satanic canon literature to include any of an individual's personally unique interests. 

For example: when asked about Satanic sex, Dr. LaVey said that it's all about honesty and consent. If a man honestly desires to physically dominate a beautiful woman, she consents to his domination, and the indulgence of this fetish provides the necessary release and stimulation that the man requires to be successful in life, then it's Satanic. Or, if a man honestly desires to be sexually humiliated by a beautiful woman and made to feel inadequate and unable to satisfy her, the woman consents to abuse him, and the indulgence of this fetish provides the necessary release and stimulation that the man requires to be successful in life, then it's Satanic. Or even the man who is honestly aware that he is asexual and prefers to channel his lust and passion into other areas of his life - that's Satanic, too.

So why isn't this the same for ritual?

The end goal of all Satanic ritual is personal stimulation and the achievement of worldly success and productivity. If I can accomplish those things through the ecstatic ritual, then that's Satanic. But if I can accomplish the same through devotional worship of Satan as a literal entity, then that's also Satanic.

Yes, it's oxymoronic for an atheist to conduct ritual in which he or she worships, venerates, and otherwise gives praise to a mythological deity. Yes, from the outside looking in such a ritual would appear to be incompatible with everything written in the canon literature recognized by members of the Church of Satan.

But what's wrong with temporarily indulging in self-imposed ignorance within the confines of the ritual chamber for the purpose of achieving personal release? Absolutely nothing.

If it works, use it.

Perhaps you're a Satanist who enjoys dominance and uses the ritual chamber to express your absolute power? Perhaps you're a Satanist who feels no need for ritualization and lives your life as its own form of greater magic? And then, maybe you're a Satanist who enjoys getting on your knees and offering solemn prayers to Satan?

Unlike Dr. LaVey, I haven't had formative life experiences working in a circus or playing music in front of large crowds. Like a lot of Satanists, I was raised Christian and spent a lot of years attending Christian worship services. Whether I like it or not, the kind of ritual that works best for me is the one that superficially resembles so-called "inverted" Christianity and the garden-variety blasphemy that exists in the imagination of plenty of Christians.

I said at the start of this essay that I don't believe in Satan as a literal deity, and that's the truth. I don't suffer belief in things unseen, and I don't feel compelled to do ritual every weekend. I ritualize on an as-needed basis, and because my productive time is limited I don't spend it doing things that aren't personally stimulating or productive.

Be honest with yourself.

If it's stimulating and ultimately productive for me to embrace temporary self-deception by praying to a literal deity or humiliating myself in front of a graven idol, so be it. Perhaps devotional, theistic worship isn't your fetish, but it's mine, and I'm happier and more successful when I indulge it. Honestly recognizing my personal fetish and consenting to participate in a theistic, devotional expression of ritual may be superficially oxymoronic, but as I've argued in this essay, I think that it's fundamentally consistent with the principles of Satanism as outlined in the Satanic Bible and elaborated upon in the canon literature of the Church of Satan.

July 05, 2017

The Tarot I do for myself

Tarot readers are like musicians: they learn to read Tarot because it brings them pleasure, and because it's something to which they've given a lot of their time and energy, they find ways to monetize that investment in the form of paid readings and private services. However, just like musicians, the kind of things they get to do in a paid, private setting are a lot different than the things they do for themselves. 

The kind of readings that I enjoy and which pulled me into Tarot are open-ended, speculative, and present-only readings. This means that although I come to my readings with specific concerns, I don't usually frame the readings that I do for myself with a single question. Instead, I'll just lay down cards free-form to match the key elements of my driving concern and see what emerges from the play between them. I also typically don't investigate the past or the future in my own readings because I don't think there's anything worthwhile to investigate in the past, and I do think that the future pivots on a razor's edge depending on whatever decisions I make (and whichever ones I don't.)

I also don't typically require more than a minute or two with the cards to get answers to my questions. I shuffle, lay down cards in an aesthetically pleasing configuration, and look for the answers that emerge from the tableau I've created. I have no need to mentally masturbate over the nuances - it is what it is and that's all that it is. Once I've seen the answer, I can contemplate it more later, but it only takes a minute or two to see what I need.

And as for the kind of questions I ask, those are typically for the purpose of gaining perspective or at the very least shifting my own perspective. When I read for myself, I don't care much for predictions. I accept that prediction can be done, but for reasons I've discussed elsewhere it's just not important to me if I get accurate predictions in my own readings. In fact, when I read for myself - or get a reading for myself - I don't care if any of it is accurate. The only thing I care about in a Tarot reading is if it's mentally stimulating and relieves frustration, anxiety, fear, or uncertainty long enough for me to take meaningful action.

That's what I do when I read for myself.

It's not what I do when I read for my clients.

Now, if you who read this are one of my clients for whom I've read in the past, please know that I love you. I love bunches and bunches. I'm not complaining about you, and I want you to keep doing business with me. This is just shop talk, alright?

So just like there are musicians who have to play songs they don't enjoy because it pays the bills, there are kinds of questions and types of readings that I offer not because they bring me great pleasure, but because they pay the bills.

I don't personally enjoy doing readings for past events that are long finished. There's almost always zero actionable information to be gained from such a reading, and I don't honestly think it's a productive use of time. Every time a client asks me to investigate the past, it just feels like I'm figuratively whipping the dead horse. No matter how many times or how hard I flog the corpse, that horse is never going to get up again. So why bother with it?

I don't personally enjoy doing readings for future events whose outcome frequently depends on choices within the client's power to make. If everything is fated, then there's no point in asking the questions. If you like the fate I reveal, you'll be happy for many years. If you don't like the fate I reveal, then you'll be angry at me for having done so and will be unhappy for many years. And there's no reason for it! The future is dynamic and changes constantly. I accept that the future can be predicted, but revealing the future to you will change your choices which in turn will change the future. Do you see what I mean? I don't think that there's realistically any way to maintain a clear path forward.

I don't personally enjoy dealing with clients who ask me to read literally the exact same question every week for months on end. The answer is the same this week as it was last week and the week before that one. If you ask me to do a reading in which I make a six-month forecast, then you ought not to ask me the same question again for another six months.

And this sounds rather spoiled of me, but I do occasionally get tired of reading for the same question. You who read this might not know it, but the majority of all questions that I receive - in fact, the majority of all questions answered by all Tarot readers - are about love and relationships. Which is fine - love and relationships are important things - but it can feel repetitive when I have back to back readings which excepting the superficial differences are fundamentally the exact same question: Does he love me? How does he feel about me? When will we be together?

I have my days when I do not enjoy doing Tarot at all, but I guess that's the surest indicator that I've arrived as a professional. I accept that my clients don't use the Tarot the same way that I use it, and I don't require them to use it the same way that I do. I may not enjoy the Tarot work I do that feels dull and repetitive, but my personal passions are what pulled me to the Tarot and it's my personal passions that sustain me. If you could know the Tarot I do for myself in private, you'd understand why the Tarot I do for others in public is pale by comparison.