March 09, 2018

Satanism and Self-Awareness

church of satan
You're so vain, you prob'ly think this essay's about you.
Image via
I have a 9-y/o step-daughter and a 5-y/o daughter. Because little girls have a way of liking things that little girls like, we've got a lot of direct-to-DVD Barbie movies. Much to my surprise, I've learned a lot from watching these Barbie movies. One thing I've learned is that, much like people, not all Barbie movies are as entertaining as others. Some of them are the DVD-equivalent of Valentine's Day candy -- cheaply made, quickly sold, cloyingly sweet, and easily disposed -- and others clearly have a production team that wishes instead it could be doing the Tinkerbell movies with John Lasseter.

One of those less-awful Barbie movies is "Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus," in which Barbie's sister was turned into a pegasus by an evil wizard because she refused to marry him, and now Barbie has to find a way to undo the curse. Naturally, the only way to defeat the evil wizard is to go on an adventure and look for kind friends and helpful tools along the way. Early in the quest, Barbie ventures into the forbidden forest where she's caught in a hunter's net. Along comes the Ken du-jour who snarks, "What are you doing here? Only fools venture into the forbidden forest," to which Barbie replies, "And yet, you're here?"

At the risk of sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I think that's a pretty nifty piece of Satanic advice sweetly packaged in a Barbie movie: "And yet, you're here." Self-awareness... who knew? Well, my 5- and 9-y/o daughters might know it, but judging by the available evidence the Church of Satan doesn't. To illustrate my point, I submit five items for your consideration.

First, an interview between Church of Satan members Reverend Campbell and Magister Lang which the interviewer opens thus:
I have, on occasion, had the privilege of collaborating with like-minded Satanists, and through the course of those interactions I have learned that those of substance do not typically have the time to commit to an active online life. They are either too busy actually living their lives, or their contempt for the denizens of those virtual prisons holds no interest for them. One cannot hope to achieve his goals, or to manifest his desires if compulsively congratulating other social media thralls, after all.
Do you see why this is so hilarious to me? I don't know how the interview was conducted, but I can tell you how it was disseminated: via social media. Do you get it? The interviewer is saying, "People who have Internet lives are either worthless or contemptible," while ignoring both the fact that he uses the Internet to disseminate this and other media as well as the fact that he's calling the very people who are reading and sharing this interview worthless or contemptible. His hypocrisy and the disrespect for his audience astound me. How is it possible for him to lack such basic awareness of what he's saying? If you ever figure it out, let me know.

Second, an essay from Church of Satan Magistra Templi Rex Blanche Barton in which she compares mandatory public education to teaching a pig to sing:
Don’t shove kids who really do want to learn something in with the shit disturbers. Qualified teachers should teach where they’ll be appreciated, where they can communicate their enthusiasm for knowledge to children who are eager to learn. Let’s hire guards and baby sitters to minister to the needs of kids who are proud of their stupidity. Kids don’t want to be in school; parents don’t want to be involved with their children’s learning—so why force it on them?
"So why force it on them?" Here's why: because if it were up to the children, they'd be eating Kraft Dinner and cupcakes for every meal, that's why. Or, here's a better one: because the Church's of Satan membership depends on the minimal education of students served by public education. Speaking for myself, I don't know anybody anywhere who was privately schooled or home-schooled. I'm aware that these people exist, but I'm not personally acquainted with any of them. I'm not privy to the Church's of Satan member records, so what do I know -- maybe the rolls are stuffed full of prep school cadets and child geniuses? -- but I'd wager a lot of money that the vast majority of the Church's of Satan member rolls are composed of people just like me who were brought up in the system of mandatory public education which exists in many countries today.

And only because the short-sighted lack of awareness evident in this argument irritates me, let it also be said that mandatory school attendance is in place not just for the young students who'd childishly ask to spend all day watching YouTube, but also for the parents who would sacrifice their children's future education in favor of putting them to work, caring for their siblings or grandparents, or even begging on the street. Last I checked, Satanism is pretty big on not harming little children, and at least to my eyes it's pretty damn harmful to a child's development and future success to deny him or her access to peer socialization and a foundational education.

Third, an essay from Church of Satan Magus Peter H. Gilmore who wrote about the people who are unsuitable for membership in the Church of Satan:
So the spiteful brats who can’t bear to be ignored at times strike back by posting personal information about our members and representatives with whom they’re obsessed, or by stealing the sort of copyrighted material they could never create and illegally transmitting it (a real crime, folks). If that doesn’t give them away for failures, squealing for attention, then you might belong in their company.
Magus Gilmore is a man of passion and conviction, no doubt about it, and he clearly feels very strongly about the kind of people he lets through the front door, but where were his Satanic scruples when the Church of Satan under his leadership published in its official news-feed a so-called "fact sheet" about the Satanic Temple which for reasons that escape my comprehension was included the personal contact information for co-founder Lucien Greaves? At what point did Magus Gilmore so totally and completely lose sight of his deeply held convictions about what would invalidate a person for membership in the organization he leads that he would be willing to approve an official announcement that appears to serve no other purpose than to invite vigilante violence against another Satanist? In my estimation, exposing somebody's personal contact information is shamefully pathetic and inexcusable, especially considering all the years that Magus Gilmore served as a Church of Satan spokesperson during the Satanic Panic and warning against the murderous madness of theism

Fourth, an essay from the Black Pope himself, Anton LaVey, in which he condemns Satanists who want to practice Satanism but who don't want to join the Church of Satan:
It will be argued that, Satanically speaking, if anyone can assume and maintain the aforementioned position of having ones’ cake and eating it too—more power to them. My answer to that one is: “Fine, but not with my outfit, they don’t.” And if anyone in my outfit supports such chicanery, they in turn, should quit the Church of Satan and start their own thing. 
I'm gonna gloss over the implications he's making here that there's some kind of one, true Satanism, and if you practice according to his interpretation of Satanism then you must join with the Church of Satan or else you're a worthless parasite stealing from his legacy, and don't forget, people who don't feel the same way are devil worshipers, inverted Christians, opportunists, or nut-bags. Instead of dwelling on that, I'm going to focus on what he's really saying: "If you don't like what I'm doing, then go do your own thing." 

This kills me not only because Dr. LaVey's chosen intellectual successor Magus Gilmore has gone on to make a big deal of saying that one need not be a member of the Church of Satan to be a Satanist (and also emphasizing that joining isn't for everybody even if you are a Satanist), but also because this is exactly what at least one person did when founding the Satanic Temple: he didn't like what he was getting from the Church of Satan, so he left to do his own thing. 

So now, instead of respecting and abiding by the words of Dr. LaVey who specifically advised people to do their own thing if they didn't like what he was doing, the Church of Satan from the leadership top to the lowest membership down is waging an unrelenting war against the Satanic Temple for doing exactly what Dr. LaVey asked them to do. How did the Church of Satan become so massively self-unaware? How has this self-deception and willfully sustained lack of awareness and perspective flourished at what appears to be every level of the organization? 

To explain, I submit the fifth example: Myself.

One of the criticisms members of the Church of Satan use to trim ideological hedges is that Church of Satan members who spend time with pseudo-Satanists are colored by the company they keep. I'm going to ignore how much this resembles Christian attitudes about not keeping company with sinners, because I want to focus on the deeper implication: what's really being attacked with that criticism is the permission to manage one's own community. So even though the Church of Satan furiously insists that there's no such thing as Satanic community, in the words of Barbie, "And yet, you're here?"

In my experience the leadership and broader membership of the organization are mighty invested in keeping the wrong people out, and either policing or praising the behavior of people who are in. In hindsight, that's pretty awful, but at the time before I joined and after I joined, to me it surely felt like a community in terms of offering "a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes and interests."

It's true what they say: I was colored by the company I kept. The more time I spent reading the canon literature of the Church of Satan and consuming media disseminated on the officially endorsed news feed, the more my attitudes and interests tended to align with those of other Church of Satan members. There were a lot of things I liked about the Church of Satan, among them will to power and the romanticized approval of might makes right. For a prior-service Marine, this kind of hyper-masculine, look-how-big-my-dick-is culture was something that felt really familiar...

... and I don't say that as a compliment. I have a lot of fond memories of the time I spent in the Marine Corps, but for me the fact remains that I left the service before my enlistment expired because I was chronically and severely depressed, had developed a personality disorder, was exhibiting symptoms that resembled bipolar disorder, and had been confined three times for either planning or attempting suicide. I was unwell and deeply unhappy, and at the time I believed the reason for my condition to be something that was wrong with me. I tried a lot of things to fit in with the my brothers in arms, some of which I still regret today and will not share here, but what I've realized only within the last two years after left the service 14 years ago is that the problem wasn't with me, but the culture of toxic masculinity in which I was immersed.

My feelings of depression, anger, shame, frustration, mania, confusion, and inadequacy were the result of living every hour of every day for years on end in a hyper-macho environment where kindness is mistaken for weakness, women are things and not people, and everybody is constantly jockeying for position in a fuck-or-be-fucked, "better you than me" culture. This sort of culture nurtures the fallacious belief that the in-group is in every way superior to the out-group for the sole reason that the out-group was either too weak or too stupid to join the in-group. This sort of culture encourages the in-group to dehumanize and objectify the out-group and to identify or invent weaknesses in the out-group in order to justify the in-group's superiority. This sort of culture teaches the myth of personal exceptionalism, because of course the in-group is exceptional (that's why they're in and everybody else is out.) This sort of culture is what I observed while I was a member of the Church of Satan, and while I'd been out of the Marine Corps for long enough to deprogram, it was as easy to get back into as putting on an old pair of boots.

When I think about the question, "How could all these people become so self-unaware?," I need only consider my own involvement with the organization and how it provides a community to meet the needs of people who want to be all the things they hold up as essentially Satanic: strong, independent, virile, successful, intelligent, and more than anything else superior. It sounds strange that the Church of Satan uses the same self-validating test as the LDS Church, but it works when they say, "Read the Satanic Bible, and if you see yourself in those pages, then by golly you're one of us, and by the way this means that you've always been one of us, and incidentally have we told you how special that makes you because of course Satanists aren't made, they're born? Welcome home, native child, and join the ranks of the alien elite!"

I can't speak for anybody else, but at least for me that was a powerful combination that appealed to my most selfish ideals about who I really am and what I deserve in life. I felt immediate gratitude and indebtedness to the Church of Satan, and consequently developed a strong ability to self-censor the things in myself that I attacked in others. And if you have to know, in hindsight this is something I acquired before I joined the Church of Satan from reading the canon literature they recommend to prospective allegiants and I carried it with me for several months after I left the Church of Satan.

You want to know how pervasive this is? I've been reading Tarot cards for better than 15 years and at the time I discovered Satanism through the Church of Satan I had reached the point where I was ready to write my personal magnum opus and contribution to fortune-telling. There's nothing I wrote in my book The Satanic Tarot that in principle is not of my own mind, but in practice my manuscript became filled with contempt and disrespect for the people who seek my services. The narrative of the book created a dichotomy between fortune-tellers and marks, where fortune-tellers are never so weak, stupid, and impotent as to have their fortunes told, and marks are sheeple who are incapable of independent thought and serve no purpose except to line the pockets of fortune-tellers.

At the time I wrote it, my self-censorship was in full force and I lacked the self-awareness to write the book that was really within me, a book in which I embraced a skeptical, informed approach to fortune-telling and a performer's sense of humor for entertainment. Consequently, I've found myself in the position where after having published a book that I spent more than a year of my life to write I'm now pulling it from publication because I cringe to hear myself parroting the cruel, condescending attitudes that I learned from Dr. LaVey and Magus Gilmore which convinced me to see the world in terms of gods and clods, winners and losers, strong and weak, intelligent and stupid, and productive or worthless.

I meant what I said when I wrote a few months ago that I'm not going to stop calling myself a Satanist. For a lot of reasons I've already written, and for more that I've yet to write, Satanism is terrific and I'm a happier and possibly better person since I became a Satanist. There are friends who've encouraged me to leave my book in publication and to simply replace it when I'm finished revising the manuscript, but over the past month I've reached the point where I can't smile when I see my name on my own book. For this reason, I'm editing the book to reflect what I've come to believe is a healthier, more self-respecting, and above all more self-aware way of looking at Satanism.

There are members of the Church of Satan -- some of whom I know still read my blog for the reason of keeping tabs on me -- who try to diminish my complaints by calling me a jilted lover, and you know, that's a fair accusation. Maybe I'm just not a True Satanist™ and that's why I had the experience that I did, but I fell in love with the canon literature and swooned for the sweet nothings it whispered in my ear. I'm angry that my self-awareness was corrupted by the desire to belong to the intellectual community of Dr. LaVey's Infernal Empire. I'm angry that I allowed myself to be gaslighted into thinking it was my fault that I couldn't grasp the arguably inhuman rhetoric of the Church of Satan and its pseudo-scientific belief that Satanists are innately different from other people. I'm angry that my passion for the work of Dr. LaVey and Magus Gilmore resulted in what feels like a lot of wasted time. I'm angry that I allowed myself to be persuaded into ignoring both my better judgement and a raft of fallacies and contradictions among the exemplars held up as Satanic masters worthy of my figurative slavery. I'm angry that I chose to not believe critics who tried to show me these things and angry with myself that I sided with the apologists who labeled them as cranks, shit-disturbers, and lunatics.

But I can at least be thankful for the efforts of organizations like the Satanic Temple who are promoting a way to practice Satanism and be a Satanist that in both principle and in practice respects self-awareness, self-honesty, and the maturity to admit mistakes.

Hail Satan.

March 03, 2018

My Satanic Statements

satan is a woman gil brewer
10/10, would worship.
For a time, I was a registered, active member of the Church of Satan which means that I paid a fee and submitted a membership application as my way of showing support for the work done by the Church of Satan, but I also completed a lengthy set of interview questions for the church leadership to determine if I was a right-thinking sort of Satanist worthy of the name. In hindsight, it was a silly thing to do because Magus Gilmore's seal of approval on my decision-making process is worthless. There's nothing that either he or the organization he leads can do for me that I can't already do for myself, but for reasons that can only be explained by the fervor of first-phasing it was meaningful at the time.

It was never my goal to spend so much time on my blog talking about my decision to resign my membership in the Church of Satan -- I don't enjoy dwelling on the past, nor do I enjoy digging up hatchets I already buried -- but the context is important because it explains how I came to where I am. Without going too deeply into the story -- you can read the whole of it in my book The Satanic Tarot if you care -- my introduction to the Satanic Bible and by extension the Satanic statements figuratively saved my life, and although I can't say for certain that Satanism made me a better person, it definitely made me a happier person. Even my friends commented that they like me better since I became a Satanist, so I guess that counts for something.

But along the way, I committed a personal sin against which I've warned many people: I allowed myself to build too much of my foundation on central pillar which itself was not of my own creation. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel and I'm happy to use what works if it serves my purposes, but I also don't enjoy living in an unstable house because I've not replaced a faulty pillar. The Satanic statements have served me well for a very long time, but having let go my membership in the Church of Satan I no longer feel the same passion to follow them. My tribal devotion to the one, true Satanism of Dr. LaVey no longer motivates me to defend, apologize for, or support at all costs criticisms or even just mere differences of opinion on the Satanic statements.

To remedy the cognitive dissonance I feel and right the unsteady foundation of my understanding of Satanism, I've decided to do what perhaps I should have done at the start: write my own understanding of what Satan means to me and how my own beliefs and attitudes inform my understanding of Satanism (and not the other way around.) For a religion which borderline idolizes individuality, this ought to have been intuitive, but what can I say? First-phasing has a way of obscuring critical thought.

So what follows is my nine Satanic statements. This is not the truth. This is not a truth. This isn't even my truth. At this point, the only thing I'm comfortable calling this is my own perspective -- one which I may yet change or elaborate upon depending on my evolving and best understanding of myself and the world in which I live. I am a Satanist, these are my Satanic statements, and this is why I chose them. If you have a keen eye, you might see a pattern in their presentation, but that's a discussion for another day.

1. Satan is non-denial of the self and never apologizing for living according to one's conscience.

Among the qualities which I ascribe to Satan, non-denial of the self is primal and nothing may precede it. So the story goes, Jesus loves you enough to grant you eternal life and let St. Peter welcome you into Heaven if you dutifully deny yourself for the duration of your mortal life, but Satan loves you enough to meet you herself at the local crossroads at midnight. Me being an atheist, I interpret Satan as an archetypal representation of myself (and not as a literal being), so it's pretty fucking important that I'm comfortable in my own skin.

This means that I shouldn't feel guilt or shame for following my inborn sexual desires (so long as I respect the agency of others), how I express myself including the way I dress and speak, the shape and size of my body, my physical ableness, the way I hide or express my emotions, and all other aspects both internal and external which compose the totality of my being. In the words of Popeye, "I am what I am and that's all that I am," and in my own words, "Therefore, I'm going to accept all of me and other people don't get a vote in the matter." 

2. Satan is the arrogance to cross arbitrary boundaries in search of dignity and pleasure.

Arising from the primacy of the first statement is the second which affirms my self-given right to choose to disobey the rules and boundaries others would impose upon me for the sake of their own convenience or the alleged "greater good." Therefore, Satan is arrogant, which is to say that she claims for herself those things that bring dignity and pleasure, and rejects those things which would impose undue suffering or cruelly degrade her dignity and individual sovereignty.

In my eyes, this means open borders where people are free to follow their culture, language, and families, but also jobs, money, education, and industry (and if only there were an easily learned, internationally-recognized auxiliary language to facilitate the movement of people and exchange of goods and services?) Secure borders make for a nice talking point, but the boundaries that keep people out are also used to keep people in. As an extension of this, the second statement rejects compelled oaths both religious and patriotic as conditions for anything.

Beyond this, the second statement affirms my prerogative to take into my body whatsoever I please. It's my choice what I want to eat, drink, smoke, inject, or otherwise take into myself by whatever means I prefer without without appointed minders telling me whether or not they approve of my actions. 

Body modification of all kinds is also covered here, and for me that includes not only cosmetic modifications such as piercings, tattoos, scarification, branding, splitting, subdermal implants, and the potential for trans-human evolution through either technological or biological methods, but also no-cost contraception, abortion on-demand, doctor-assisted suicide, and even elective suicide (such as sallekhana.) I am the sole arbiter of my body and my life, therefore it is my decision how to treat my body, when and whether to have offspring, and for how long to prolong my life. 

3. Satan is the accusation, opposition, and punishment of those who stand in the way of basic fairness.

At this point, you may ask why I even bother with the mythological personage of Satan? Wouldn't it be easier call myself an atheist or a humanist, or even just skip labels all together to avoid this very predicament? I admit there's some truth to that line of questioning, but names and symbols have power especially when they can very quickly and easily tell people who and what I am. 

As it concerns Satan, I think it's pretty well understood that she's a forceful and potentially dangerous adversary, and as it concerns me I've come to favor interpreting her personage through the Miltonic lens which sees her as a rebel of reason and freedom fighter against the authoritarian impulses of theocrats and selfish despots everywhere, be they monumental tyrants in the highest offices of the land, the smallest tyrants lording over a student's desk or a patient's prescription, or even just the everyday assholes who evoke a well-deserved "Noli pati a scelestis opprimi!"

The consequence of grinding me down is that I rise up to meet you. If you don't like be called out for violating myself, the people I care about, or the world in which I live, stopped from perpetuating your misdeeds, and punished for thinking to take advantage of the less capable or betraying the trust of the people or system who put you where you are, then you better take responsibility for yourself and make a better choice. If not, I'll do my best to see that you're sat on a rusty pitchfork and spun widdershins until there's nothing left.

4. Satan is acceptance of truthful reality over wasteful fantasy.

There are many tools used by tyrants who work to control minds and bodies for their own selfish ends -- and if we're honest with ourselves, sometimes those tyrants are our own selves -- and among the most tools is the temptation to give in to wasteful and counter-productive fantasies because they appeal to our selfish pride, solipsistic assumptions about the way the world should operate, or reinforce unexamined stereotypes.

For me this means that both public policy and medicine should be based on the best available scientific evidence. For example, it's easy to support the death penalty in the name of summoning a sufficient punishment for crimes that are simply beyond the pale, but the simple fact is that there's still no evidence to show that the death penalty deters crime, but plenty of evidence to show that innocent people are being executed for crimes they didn't commit. Considering the evidence, there's a strong case to be made for the abolition of the death penalty. And that's not even getting into gun control...

Or, an evidence-based approach to health-care and public-health is needed to counter among other things the cruel attitude that drug addicts deserve to suffer their addiction even unto death because they chose that path (or did they?) Meanwhile, an evidence-based approach to public health and health policy would show the benefits of needle exchanges and other harm reduction strategies. Clearly, there are benefits to caring about the well-being of strangers...

Satan is called by some the father of lies, but I call Satan the mother of truth who reveals the chains that jealous gods would place upon our minds and bodies. You may not like what she has to show you, but she'll show it anyway and you must choose whether to be grateful for your oppression or to break your chains. In this sense, the importance of protecting evidence-based, non-partisan reporting and fact-checking cannot be understated. The consequences of buying into the comforting embrace of political tribalism are more expensive than any of us can afford to pay.

5. Satan is a gift from the past with a duty to the future.

Who I am and where I find myself today are only partly to do with my personal agency but probably much more to do with the time and place where I was born as well as both the contributions and deductions of my friends, family, and community, as well as other regional, national, and international influences.

If I am fortunate to enjoy pleasing circumstances, I owe at least some debt of gratitude to the people who came before me that made this so, and therefore I am indebted to not only cherish and indulge the privileges that come with my life, but also to ensure that the same are available to those who will come after me.

If I am unfortunate to suffer displeasing circumstances, I owe at least some vengeance on those who came before me and made this so, and therefore I am indebted to not only remedy and abolish the disadvantages that come with my life, but also to ensure that I don't impose the same upon those who will come after me.

Unlike the mythological God of Abraham who promises eternal life in Heaven and therefore encourages a perverse motivation to ignore pollution and climate change, Satan teaches mortality and the incontrovertible truth that each us will surely die -- and that if we're not careful, we'll take everybody and everything else with us.

The story of Abraham following God's command to sacrifice his son Isaac is disturbing enough when viewed as fiction, but the truth is that there are far too many people following in the footsteps of Abraham and sacrificing the well-being of following generations to satisfy their authoritarian urges in the present. I don't think I could call myself a Satanist if I were so shortsighted as to ignore the consequences of generational theft.

6. Satan is the application of productive fantasy over crushing reality.

Unfortunately, being only ever dead-honest with oneself about the state of one's life and the condition of the world in which one exists can very quickly feel like staring into the sun. Unlike proud and jealous Yahweh who only permits the purest and most choice of his flock to enter into his presence, Satan understands that each of us is a flawed individual who despite our best efforts is going to make mistakes and fall down in the face of unrelenting pressure.

In response to the crushing weight of the world, it is both natural and necessary to need a safe space to decompress, purge anxiety, and recover from the literal or figurative stresses of the day. For some people, such a safe space looks like a ritual chamber used to facilitate the performance of a psychodrama in which disbelief is temporarily suspended in favor of a cathartic fantasy.

It's true enough that Satan demands study, not worship, but it's also true that Satan demands both imagination and humor. Fantastical myths, legends, folktales, and stories may have no basis in reality but are frequently more effective vehicles for communicating important truths and lessons than, say, the periodic table or a legal codex. Satan isn't picky, and she'll use whoever and whatever gets results, even if those people or things exist outside of dry, sterile textbooks.   

7. Satan is the self-awareness to admit to missteps and the maturity to accept the consequences that arise from them.

And unlike Yahweh who's willing to forgive absolutely any transgression so long as you keep the faith, Satan is unwilling to give free passes to the guilty. If you've done wrong, you deserve to be punished and there is no magic incantation you can chant to escape the consequences of your actions. Satan might love you as you are, but just as she helps you punish those who've wronged you, so too does she help those whom you've wronged to punish you. Satan treats everybody fairly, in both giving and taking, in both rewards and punishments, and that includes you.

If you're such a person who thinks you can escape the consequences of your actions or expect somebody else to clean up your messes long after you're gone, you deserve the full weight of your punishment. Embrace maturity and accept that while you are free to choose your actions, you are not free to choose your consequences. Just as you will hold others accountable, so too will you yourself be held accountable. To expect otherwise is the worst kind of hypocrisy and is unworthy of the name of Satan.

8. Satan is respect for the agency of others and sufficient restraint to watch, listen, and learn from them.

I don't like making repeated contrasts between the Biblical personages of God and Satan because I'm not interested in defining myself according to what I'm not, and I don't know that this is true in a broadly historical sense, but at least in a contemporary sense I've observed that Christians -- well, I guess just lots of people in general -- are quick to act on either faith or assumptions when it suits their purposes without taking the time to understand the people or things against which they're acting. However, if I even partially accept the premise that Satan is an enemy to God, then Satan is a woman who takes nothing on faith and who applies both critical thinking and careful listening to the subjects of her attention.

For example, it's so easy to demonize people who voted for Trump and paint them as short-sighted stupes who should have known better and now deserve to suffer the consequences of the representative they elected to office, but just as I choose to support policies and politicians who I believe support my best interests, so too is there a reason that people who voted for Trump believed it was in their best interest. I am not saying that a calm, open-minded conversation can fix absolutely any problem, but I am saying that the illuminating light of context can go a long way toward keeping ignorant impulses from escalating into monumental mistakes and intractable misunderstandings.

For me this eighth statement is also an affirmation of respect for the treatment of animals, and while it could be interpreted as advocacy for a vegan lifestyle, I see it as an imperative to not dismiss animals as unthinking and unfeeling, and therefore it's important to raise food animals humanely, give them a painless death, and not mindlessly consume their bodies without consideration for where they came from and even more broadly the consequences that arise from keeping them.

Finally, because I think animals are great, I also extend this statement to respect for the environment in which animals live and being careful to not ruin their habitat based on elitist attitudes about human right to take whatsoever is needed without consideration for who or what else needs it and how that resources will be replaced. Watch and listen to the people and the world around you so that you can learn to see beyond your own immediate impulses. To do otherwise is to live on faith in things unseen, and I'm not capable of doing that.

9. Satan is the honesty to see, work within, and address one's faults and weaknesses while acknowledging the faults and weaknesses of others.

Unlike some people who see Satan as a hyper-macho, never-play-defense, solo-virtuoso archetype of individual power, I have come to see Satan as a solemn testament that weakness and imperfection are no cause for shame. To the best of my knowledge, the mythical Satan walks hand in hand with the broken, imperfect, flawed, and damaged people whom the followers and priests of the God of Abraham won't even give the time of day.

I do not interpret this statement that I should resign myself to whatever misfortunes enter my life, but I do interpret it as the importance of maintaining personal perspective, avoiding the trap of hubris, and not placing others on pedestals onto which I myself would not want to be placed. To paraphrase one of my favorite writers, Frank Herbert, "No more terrible disaster could befall you than to fall into the hands of a hero." There is no such thing as a perfect hero, not even in fantasy, and I do myself a disservice by expecting heroic perfection from myself and from anybody else.

I don't say this to excuse the cruelest excesses and most unjust expressions of human nature, but to underline my belief that weakness and imperfection are perhaps the only shared qualities among all people everywhere. I'm neither interested in nor capable of becoming a perfect angel of unlimited potential, I only want to be the demon that I already am without being harassed by self-deluded angels who are either unwilling or unable to see their own demonic nature (without becoming one of them myself.) For now, suffice it to say:
"God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot; I love the Hell which formed my genius. I love the Earth where I have done some good, if it be possible to do any good in this fearful world where beings live but by rapine. Now, thanks to us, the god of old is dispossessed of his terrestrial empire, and every thinking being on this globe disdains him or knows him not. But what matter that men should be no longer submissive to Ialdabaoth if the spirit of Ialdabaoth is still in them; if they, like him, are jealous, violent, quarrelsome, and greedy, and the foes of the arts and of beauty? What matter that they have rejected the ferocious Demiurge, if they do not hearken to the friendly demons who teach all truths; to Dionysus, Apollo, and the Muses? As to ourselves, celestial spirits, sublime demons, we have destroyed Ialdabaoth, our Tyrant, if in ourselves we have destroyed Ignorance and Fear."
-Anatole France (The Revolt of Angels)

February 26, 2018

March 2018 -- Happy (almost) Spring Equinox

snow frozen body mummy
It's March... I suppose now I have to get out of this snowbank and get on with 2018.
via AFP / Malay Mail Online

Here's a random factoid about me: I don't like celebrating the New Year on January 1st. It's basically the dead of winter in January, it's still dark all day, and -- if you live as far north as I do -- the outdoors look like the ninth circle of Hell. It's for this reason that I prefer to celebrate New Year on the spring equinox when warm, bright days finally outpace the cold, dark nights. I can hear you now: "You're a Satanist, aren't you a creature of the night?" Well, yeah -- I'm a Satanist -- but I'm still human and if I had to choose between being comfortably warm or uncomfortably cold, the choice is clear. By the time of spring equinox, winter is more or less finished in northern Ontario, and just as growing things awaken around me and start reaching up from the soil and up toward the light of Lucifer, so too do I feel inspired to chase the light toward the best beast I can be.

This year, though, the search for my best beast is feeling delayed. Some of you know that I resigned my member in the Church of Satan this past October, and while it's been liberating to not have to look over my shoulder for the self-appointed minders of the black pope to ensure sufficiently orthodox commitment to the one, true Satanism, it's also been disorienting because it's thrown my entire understanding of Satanism into chaos.

I enjoy a lot of what Dr. LaVey wrote -- and a lot of what Magus Gilmore wrote, too -- and the Satanic paradigm offered by the Church of Satan continues to work very well for me. The earthy, unrestrained liberty in the canon literature is delicious. I eat that shit all day. The 9 Satanic statements echo wisdom to my ears, the 9 Satanic sins have proven useful lessons, and while the 11 Satanic rules of the earth have a way of being contradictory, I still think they're worthwhile.

But I've also come to appreciate the Miltonic/Romantic philosophy (if not aesthetics) of the Satanic Temple. The 7 tenets being the only original literature produced by the Satanic Temple is often held up as a criticism that they haven't done anything worthwhile -- and it's a criticism I've made in the past, too -- but the beauty of a narrowly defined set of guiding tenets is that it opens the door for broader investigation into other literature without including the ideological chains that would otherwise push members and supporters of the organization into defending, apologizing for, or dogmatically citing a piece of canon literature which can never be changed in response to an ever stronger understanding of a changing world.

So here I am, almost at the start of my preferred New Year and finding it difficult to pick a purposeful direction because I feel torn between what I used to believe and what I presently know. When it comes to Satanism, I think it's wrong to say that a house divided against itself cannot stand -- the marketplace of ideas is vast and non-exclusive -- but when it comes to me myself I think it's a decent analogy for at least this time and place in my life.

March might not be a good time for commencing any grand voyages. Right now, it's looking a lot like a good time to watch the growth of both the figurative and the literal light. What shadows have been hiding in the darkness of winter? What corpses got buried in the snowfall and are only now being revealed by the melt? Those shadows and the bodies to which they belong may be my friends, but they might also be my enemies. March is feeling like a good time to watch and wait.

February 22, 2018

Don't Thank God -- Thank Your Doctor.

doctor atheism healing

This is something I'll never understand: the people who make a big deal out of thanking God for their doctor's help, or who think it's really important to pray for well-being. I'm an atheist and have thus far read nothing to indicate the efficacy of prayer. When people say, "I'll pray for you," in my head what I hear is, "I'll masturbate for you." It's like saying, "I'll do this thing that makes me feel better but has literally no impact on your life." That's what it sounds like to an atheist who doesn't believe in an imaginary friend when somebody says "I'll pray for you." 

Or, "Thank God for my neurosurgeon!," that's like somebody saying, "Thank Casper the Ghost for my neurosurgeon!" Why not just thank your neurosurgeon and leave imaginary friends out of it? When I went for an MRI over six months ago and the technician found an intramedullary cystic expanding lesion from C7 to T1, I bought that guy a $40 gift card to the Tim Horton's in the hospital cafeteria. A $40 gift card costs more than praying on my knees for a few minutes, but prayers aren't going to put food in that guy's mouth. I mean, if prayers did put food in people's mouths, then I guess the estimated 25,000 people who die every day from hunger are just doing it wrong. 

If you believe in imaginary friends, then by all means pray to God and thank him, her, it, or them for the gift of your invisible soul, eternal salvation, or whatever else it is that your imaginary friend does for you. But if your doctor spends decades of his or her life -- or your medical team's possibly combined hundreds of years of experience? -- thank your doctor or your medical team. Those are people right here, right now, who've demonstrably contributed to your well-being, versus an invisible friend whose contributions to your well-being are unable to be quantified.

Or if you're a particularly devout sort of person who truly believes that your imaginary friend is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and has a plan for every single particle of reality that has ever existed, exists, and will ever exist, then have you stopped to consider that it was God's plan to make you sick or injured, and that by seeking treatment you're going against the decision of the supreme creator of the entire known universe? Don't thank God for healing you, because according to your religious paradigm he's the one who made you sick or injured in the first place.

Doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, and related specialists and therapists are real people who really exist. Thank them -- not God.

February 11, 2018

I live in Steel Town

In 2010 I emigrated to Canada. Specifically, I moved from North Carolina to Ontario to marry my wife and start a family. We live in Sault Ste. Marie, a city of 75,000 people that shares a border with the upper peninsula of Michigan. Sault Ste. Marie, called merely the Sault by locals, has a lot of great stuff. The Mill Market has some of the best smoked fish you'll find anywhere, artisan soap that'd be right at home in a New York boutique, and beef as good as anything I could eat at the Angus Barn in my native North Carolina. There's also the Hub Trail for people who enjoy bicycling and running, Whitefish Island for folks who enjoy nature, and some of the best fishing anywhere can be had in St. Mary's Rapids. And that's not even getting into the food: you can get Italian in the Sault as good as anywhere you could hope to find it.

It's easy to find what's good about the Sault when you're looking for it.

Coming off the International Bridge you can turn right or left. If you turn right, you'll flow toward the waterfront and Queen Street where you can enjoy the boardwalk, shop at the mall, and walk a well-lit main street. Follow the flow of traffic further east and you'll reach Bellevue Park with its playgrounds, walking trails, duck pond, boat harbor, and dog park. Keep going further east and you'll find Algoma University where you can take classes in Ojibwe language as well as environmental science and fine arts. Truly, the Sault has it all.  

It's also easy to ignore what's bad about the Sault when you're not looking for it.

If you turn left off the International Bridge, you'll travel away from the waterfront and go west into Steel Town, known locally as Steelton, which is also known locally as the edge of the ghetto. Go a little further west and you'll reach Carmen's Way which leads into the Jamestown neighborhood specifically named in the documentary as a hotbed for drugs.

I live in Steelton. This is my home. Much of the documentary "Steel Town Down" was filmed in my neighborhood. I know the places in the documentary because I see them out my bedroom window. You have to be skeptical about what's on TV because fiction has a way of selling better than reality, but as it regards Steel Town Down, you should believe all of it.

One of the impressions given by the documentary is that the city is flooded with drugs. For the seven-plus years I've lived in the Sault, my wife and I have joked about the four-room apartment building across the street. Some people call it a drug house, but we call it an unlicensed pharmacy. And mind you, this isn't nested down a side street, but is within sight of the International Bridge: turn right and you go into the beautiful, well-promoted, waterfront business district. Turn left, and you go to Steelton.

One of the impressions given in the documentary is that our elected leaders are either ignorant to the drug problem or they just don't care. The latest debate in the city is about where to install a splash pad. One side of the debate wants to install the splash pad at Bellevue park alongside all the other playgrounds where it'll be easy to find and access. The other side of the debate wants to install the splash pad on or near beautiful Queen Street as a way to encourage more people to visit the downtown business district. Meanwhile, it seems that not many people are asking if the estimated cost of $575,000 to install the splash pad plus annual operating costs of about $14,000 is really the best thing to do considering all the other problems the city is facing... and the mayor still won't declare a drug crisis in the city even with multiple overdoses happening every day.

One of the impressions given in the documentary is that the city's employment opportunities are dying. When I first moved to the Sault, I looked for work wherever I could get it, but getting a job in the Sault is little to do with your resume and more to do with your network. I have an associate's degree in Russian plus additional education in management, organizational development, and business, plus extensive training in direct sales, but I have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find employment.

I worked for a while at a call center, but seeing as I'm a US citizen it became problematic when the management liked to make jokes about dumb Americans. After that I worked as a security guard, but they wouldn't guarantee my hours and rotated my shift every week until my family obligations made it impossible for me to adhere to the schedule. After that I apprenticed as a granite polisher, but I was let go when it was made clear that the employer wouldn't receive more than two weeks of subsidy from the job placement program that helped me land the interview. There are so few jobs in this town, and it's such a relatively small town, that friends make sure their friends get the job. If you don't have connected friends in this city, you're not going to get the job. I gave up looking for work in the Sault a long time ago.

One of the impressions given in the documentary is that the quality of life in the city is degrading and crime is rising. Both of my cars have been opened during the night more times than I can remember over the past seven years. We don't leave anything of value in the cars overnight after a purse and a backpack were stolen on separate occasions. One time I made the mistake of forgetting to lock my back door when I went to pick up my kids from school. In the 30 minutes I was out, somebody jumped my fence, walked through my back door, and stole my laptop plus a few other items. There's also the time somebody jumped my fence overnight and stole the propane tank off my grill, or the time another fence-jumper inexplicably stole my daughters' outdoor kitchen play-set and accompanying table.

One of the impressions given in the documentary is that the Sault is dirty and dangerous. Every spring the local newspaper reminds people that as the snow melts to be careful of discarded needles, and this goes along with public awareness campaigns about where residents can safely discard used needles. Meanwhile, locals are organizing walks to collect discarded needles. Provincially, there's an estimated $19,000,000,000 gap for infrastructure spending, and like most money in Ontario, it travels south toward the greater Toronto area and not north to small cities like the Sault with a bare 75,000 residents.

One of the impressions given in the documentary is that the Sault is segregated between users and non-users, and that non-users don't see the users. I live in Steelton. I've been impacted by the crime, I've picked needles out of my garden, I've watched businesses open and close, I've watched people come and go at all hours from the den across the street, and I've watched police and EMS come and go when somebody's having a problem, but even with all that I don't personally know anybody who uses.

I live in ghetto of the Sault, and if the documentary is to be believed I'm inside the epicenter of the city's opium and fentanyl crisis. And yet, I'm not personally acquainted with even one user. I'm only tangentially affected by the crisis, but the people immediately involved and impacted might as well be living on the dark side of the Moon for all the contact we have. I live in immediate proximity to the subjects of the documentary, but I don't hear them, see them, or know them. These people are right in front of me and they're still invisible.

This is depressing because I've got two daughters, aged 9 and 5, and statistically speaking they're almost certain to encounter drugs either at school or in the company of their friends sooner or later. Going by the numbers, children are overdosing on opiods as young as 15, and I don't have to do a Google search to know that kids are using opioids even younger than that. Going by the numbers, my oldest daughter is going to start hearing about opioids and probably be offered them either this school year or the next. In the worst-case scenario where she becomes a user, would I be able to see it? Would I be able to stop it?

I don't know.

But so long as I live in Steelton, these are questions I need to start answering real fast. For a Tarot reader who's supposed to know everything, I'm coming up short here. The only answer that's real clear is that I can't afford to believe in the myth of Satanic superiority and deceiving myself into thinking that my family is magically immune to the risk of the same problems that are afflicting so many other families in my city. There are the people who take the attitude that we should let users die when they overdose, but in the nightmare scenario where the user that just overdosed is my daughter I'm inclined to embrace harm reduction strategies. Or, what if the person over-dosing is me? I don't use, but then, how many people got initially addicted as a result of prescriptions given to them by their physician? Statistically speaking, it's possible that I could find myself as one of those people who starts on the path of addiction as a result of well-intended medical support.

The Satanic argument in favor of letting users die when they overdose because "survival of the fittest, bitches!" is massively short-sighted and relies on the myth of Satanic exceptionalism and the false belief that, "It can never happen to me," or "It can never happen to the people I love." I'm not sure what I can reasonably do about the drug crisis at the community level, and I fear that I might not be doing enough at the family level, but doing nothing is a terrible choice.

February 06, 2018

Man as Animal (revisited)

I'm so horny right now.
via Ulric Collette
I've been reexamining the pillars of my understanding of Satanism over the past six months, and one of those pillars is the statement that man is no different from animals (sometimes better, more often worse, etc.) I'm not a scholar of Satanic history, but based on my understanding of multiple books written by Dr. LaVey, and how I saw this statement practiced by other Satanists, led me to think a certain way about it as a practitioner of Satanism.

According to the seventh Satanic statement, "Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better (but more often worse) than those that go on all fours, and who by virtue of his divine intellect has become the most vicious animal of all." Given that this statement was written by Dr. LaVey, and given that Dr. LaVey had a dramatic and inflammatory writing style, it is what it is.

But what is it, really? Based on what I've observed not only among other Satanists but also among myself, this statement is interpreted a few different ways:

First, humans are animals, and therefore it can be understood that humans have qualities which are repugnant to the mind of the "civilized" person but which are in fact a natural expression of humanity. In this way, I came to understand that the 7th Statement means that humans could be as free as animals to do whatever they desire, but because humans invent arbitrary morals to govern their behavior, they forfeit the pleasure and presumed benefits that would come from following their animal instincts.

Okay, fair enough. Humans do some pretty wild things both with and without the encouragement of imaginary friends. But the point where I feel like there's a disconnect is when Satanists take this to mean that the cruelest excesses committed by humans are part of the full spectrum of human behavior, and therefore it's fully "human" to be a vicious asshole, and therefore it's Satanic to indulge the worst excesses of wrath, envy, pride, greed, and lust.

But what if instead of taking the default position that Satan represents the most aggressive and violent expressions of human behavior, the default position is that Satan represents innate human goodness, the desire to share with others, and to feel compassion as a natural response to injustice? If the 7th Statement is taken to mean that there's a "natural" or "default" setting for human behavior, then why do some Satanists assume this default to be cruel and violent, instead of what we know from the scientific study of human behavior which shows that humans are not intuitively selfish?

This observation that the violent, selfish, cruel, and abusive behavior defended by some Satanists as being quintessentially "Satanic" leads to the Satanic apologetic about "herd mentality," "group think," and people being discouraged against acting in their self interest based on social pressure.

And yeah, I can see how this argument works when we're talking about a so-called "mob mentality" and the way people get carried away in a highly charged situation, but I think that this particular apologetic stretches awfully thin when you stop to consider that the vast majority of the population chooses to live a certain way not because they've been duped into it, but because it's simply the most economical, practical, or pleasing choice available.

Second, inhuman behavior from non-human animals is acceptable behavior for humans. This is a fallacy that I've been guilty of in the past, and is a perspective I continue to struggle to decide what role it plays in my understanding of Satanism. According to this perspective, the behavior of non-human animals is compared to the behavior of humans in order to explain, defend, or justify controversial decisions or beliefs. 

This kind of comparison between humans and animals is superficially convincing, but if you resolve yourself to really consider the deeper implications the results are terrifying. After all, it's been readily observed among a variety of animals that it's not unusual to eat ones own babies, gang-rape both males and females of the species, murder other animals for no discernible reason, and worse. Among animals, some of this behavior is normal. Among humans, I think we can all agree that it tends to be the exception.

And that's what leads to the third and probably the most fantastical interpretation of the 7th Statement made by at least a few Satanists: Satanists are different from regular humans. According to this line of of argument, Satanists are naturally occurring animals in great wide world, but because "Satanists are born, not made," some Satanists -- and some of them in supposedly authoritative positions --  have taken the position that there is an inborn quality in Satanists which has yet to be discovered by science that definitively makes a person a Satanist, and that a person can be a Satanist whether or not he or she even chooses to identify as a Satanist. Because... Satanists are born, not made?

Shame on me for not tracking the quote, but this goes all the way back to Dr. LaVey who hypothesized a sort of "Satanist gene" or other immutable character quality existed from birth which set the Satanist apart from the rest of the herd. In this way, the apologetic Satanist can argue that "controversial" and "offensive" qualities other people criticize are in fact "just naturally occurring" and therefore he or she is only embracing his or her true nature.

The strongest reason I can see for the perpetuation of this argument in favor of an "inborn quality" is because it's a necessary barrier for some Satanists to use in order to blind themselves against the evidence collected by social scientists and anthropologists who have demonstrated that most people prefer kindness over cruelty, generosity over selfishness, and community over isolation.

I could sure be wrong about all this -- maybe somebody will come along and take the time to explain why I'm off base? -- but this is what I've come to believe based on what I've observed among practitioners of Satanism and more importantly within myself. Maybe I just have a poor understanding of what it means to be a Satanist? Okay, I'm willing to be shown differently. 

But to my eyes, the 7th Statement that man is no different from other animals isn't justification for the most revolting and hideous of behavior, but encouragement to embrace those inborn qualities that make me human including naturally feeling angry about the mistreatment of others, appreciation for social ties, and caring about my community.

February 03, 2018

The Satanic Sins of Dr. Facilier

The cards, the cards! The cards will tell:
The past, the present, and the future as well.
The cards, the cards! Just take three.
Take a little trip into your future with me.

-Dr. Facilier
Here's something you might not know about me: I love Disney villains. Because I have two children under age 10, we watch a lot of Disney movies in our house, and one of the things I enjoy doing is picking apart the villains to determine how they might have been successful in their scheming. Was there a single misstep that proved fatal in the end? Or was the villain's downfall the result of a character attribute which led to a series of missteps or miscalculations?

I think my all-time favorite Disney villain is Jafar, but the one with whom I most identify is Dr. Facilier because he is the most accurate big-screen representation of who I am as a fortune-teller. I'm not a practitioner of voodoo, hoodoo, or anything else Disney used to color his character, so I can't say how accurate any of that is, but in terms of the Tarot related stuff I'd say it was spot on for the reality of Tarot reading (whether or not Tarot readers are willing to acknowledge that reality.)

Regarding Dr. Facilier in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," though, I think his downfall was caused by his failure to work within his level of stratification. 

Now, let it not be said that people should content themselves to their lots in life. If people aren't satisfied with their lives, they're absolutely allowed to do whatever is within their power to create a different reality. But I also think that any of us who feel called to change reality according to our wills should do so with at least one rule in mind: Never reach your hand further than you can take it back.

Dr. Facilier was a skilled magician, no doubt about it. He could conjure familiar spirits, was served by a shadow familiar, could swap a person's consciousness from one body to another, and more. He was hungry for more material success than what he knew, but he was unable to accept that a half loaf could be better than none. Had he reconciled himself to accept this half-loaf proposition, he could have used his dark magic to monopolize the minds or bodies of local business owners and politicians.

Instead, he permitted his disgust for his present level of stratification to forbid the pursuit of half-loaves. In walks the Prince Naveen, though, and Dr. Facilier reaches out from his hole-in-the-wall voodoo shop to the top of an ivory tower (cue Prince Naveen: "It's actually polished marble.") Because the window of opportunity for Dr. Facilier to act was so small, and his resources so limited, he took on incredible spiritual debt to finance his occult manipulations...

... debt which he had no way to pay.

How might have Dr. Facilier's life been different if he had accepted every half- and even quarter-loaf he could get? I can't imagine it would be difficult for somebody like him to sink roots into the police department, courts, city hall, and main street. He could have built an empire on quarter- and half-loaves, but he refused those because he wanted the King cake, or nothing at all.

The moral at the heart of "The Princess and the Frog" is that taking the easy way is no way to get ahead, and you know, I agree completely: if Dr. Facilier had accepted the necessity of small steps to gradually build up his occult empire, he would have succeeded in his goals. In this way, the story of "The Princess and the Frog" isn't a condemnation of Dr. Facilier's methods, only his reach.

February 02, 2018

Kickstarting the Devil's Playground!

via Kickstarter
Have you folks heard about Dungeon Solitaire? If you haven't, then you're in for a treat. Created by Matthew Lowes, Dungeon Solitaire is a hand-building card game that creates randomly generated fantasy card adventures in which you delve into dungeons, fight terrifying monsters, steal incredible loot, and attempt to get out alive. And if anybody's curious, I'm not being paid or otherwise compensated to promote Devils Playground. I'm sharing it here because I've really enjoyed the other games from the creator and I think you will, too.

The basic version of Dungeon Solitaire is played with a deck of regular playing cards and the rule book is available for free. The game is quite fun, and I recommend it to anybody.

The advanced version of Dungeon Solitaire is called Labyrinth of Souls, and it uses a full Tarot deck to create a much deeper game experience in which you not only attempt to loot the tomb hoards of the four kings in the original Dungeon Solitaire, but also attempt to steal three heavenly gems without being eaten by the labyrinth's dragon, corrupted by death and madness, getting lost in the darkness, or worse.

I've enjoyed many hours of play with both Dungeon Solitaire as well as the Labyrinth of Souls, so you can imagine how excited I am to hear that the creator Matthew Lowes has released a new expansion that can be played on its own or combined with the full Labyrinth of Souls.

The new expansion is called Devil's Playground, and it's Kickstarting right now! Having played and loved both Dungeon Solitaire and its Tarot-themed expansion the Labyrinth of Souls, I can say with complete confidence that Devil's Playground is going to be great. If you enjoy card games, go support the Kickstarter: you're gonna love it.

via Kickstarter

January 25, 2018

February 2018

Satanic Tarot Cards

Let's start with the good news: The Satanic Tarot is finished. Both the book and the deck have been completed. The deck is available for purchase now, and the book will be available for purchase within the next week. If you want to be notified when the book becomes available in both paperback and Kindle, you can use the link at the top of this page to join my mailing list.

I had hoped that I would be able to arrange for a publisher to pick up the book and deck for combined distribution, and I've received some favorable feedback from the publishers I contacted over the past four months, but for reasons I'll explain shortly a publishing agreement is something I'm no longer willing to wait for.

In other news, February has historically been a bad month for me. An appendicitis, a collapsed lung, a major depressive episode, and even that time I fainted at the gym and ripped my scalp -- all of it happened in February. It's absolute superstition for me to believe in an annual curse, especially since I've had a whole lot of other really great Februaries, but the prejudice remains.

The prejudice is feeling especially sharp this February because this past August I was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. The neurologist I'm consulting told me in August that according to the MRI scan it appears benign and no action was necessary since I wasn't experiencing any of the expected symptoms. Last fall was great for me, but I got a December surprise when I began experiencing weakness in my hands. Since January, I've also begun experiencing pain radiating down my arms and into my hands and fingers. And since about a week ago, I've begun experience pain radiating down my legs and into my feet.

At the present moment, I'm fully able-bodied and to look at me you wouldn't know that anything was out of place, but benign as this tumor may be, left to run its course the symptoms will eventually lead to paralysis and worse. Fortunately for me, I live in Canada where I don't have to worry about how I'm going to pay for my health care. I've got access to all the diagnostic services I need as well as the advice of the best neurosurgeon I could ask for.

And can you guess when my next MRI is scheduled? 


Because I'm fully able-bodied, the most likely decision from my neurosurgeon is that we're going to continue to wait and watch. Even if I'm experiencing some discomfort from the nerve damage caused by the tumor ever so slowly expanding within my spinal cord, the surgery to remove the tumor is all but guaranteed to cause additional nerve damage and potentially result in loss of strength, a reduced range of motion, decreased sensation, and even partial paralysis. The cure is worse than the disease, and for this reason neurosurgeons typically wait until the the attendant risks of spinal surgery outweigh developing consequences of massive spinal damage.

The frustrating thing about living with a spinal cord tumor is that every time a new symptom appears or an existing symptom becomes more severe, it's permanent.

The symptoms I'm experiencing are irreversible.

Even so, it's possible that I could go on like this for years without needing surgery. Some people with the same kind of tumor have lived with the symptoms for more than a decade before needing surgery for the sole reason that their neurosurgeons won't risk possibly disabling them by cutting into the spinal cord.

But because it's impossible to know how long my tumor has been growing, there's no way to say how long I've already been living with it, and it's possible that the tumor could at any time start growing more rapidly and require urgent removal. In this way, it's a lot like living with a time-bomb strapped to my back: I don't know how much time is on the clock, and it's not possible to disarm the bomb without detonating it, so one way or another I'm not going to come out of this uninjured.

And did I mention that this kind of tumor is capable of growing back? Oh, yes: it's possible that at some point in the future I'll have to endure spinal surgery to removed the tumor followed by either radiation or chemotherapy to kill anything the scalpel missed only for the tumor to return. I'm in a situation now where I'm looking at charts displaying the statistical likelihood of survival rates at 3, 5, 20, and 30 years post-surgery. I'm only 34 years old, and this is deeply sobering. 

For this reason, I've decided that I'm going to pull back from most of my online life, reduce the amount of time that I spend on inconsequential activities, and generally eliminate people, activities, and things that reduce the quality of my free time.
I have no plans to abandon this blog, and I surely have no plans to die any time soon. Assuming I have the power to make this decision, I'm gonna be alive for a very long time. And, because I do have the power to make this particular decision, I'm eliminating sources of mental pressure and other distractions which reduce the quality of my free time.

I'm really excited to launch The Satanic Tarot and am looking forward to recording a series of video tutorials on my YouTube channel showing how to perform the method of cartomancy described in the book, and I plan to continue my Tarot parties (although those might move to a biweekly schedule.)

I'm not telling you this because I want your sympathy, but to explain my motivations. To the furthest extent possible, I'm engineering my life to avoid emotional stress and mental pressure while optimizing the time I'm able to spend with my family. My neurosurgeon has not expressed an interest in performing surgery, so the actuary tables I mentioned earlier don't yet apply to me, and I have in no terms been told that my days are numbered. It's possible that after reviewing my next MRI the neurosurgeon says that I'm not in any immediate danger, and he'll see me again in six to 12 months.

But in the final calculation, I still have a time-bomb strapped to my back. I can't disarm the bomb, but I can decide how to use my time most productively. In hindsight, this is good advice that I should have been following for years, but I guess there's no time like the present to cut away the unessential.

Tick, tock...

January 19, 2018

Embracing the Principle of Non-Compulsion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satan represents indulgence, not compulsion.

There's a world of difference between the two.