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)