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)

3 comments:

  1. This is spectacular. It's given me a lot to think about as I work on my own Satanic creed. I'm going to have to sit with this for sometime. I particularly appreciate the distinction between wasteful and productive fantasy, and that weakness is no cause for shame. The Satan of Michelet and George Sand, who moves among the poor, broken, and oppressed, is far more interesting, useful, and inspiring than one who is simply a caricature of Nietzsche's ubermensch.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. I've been working through a really surprising paradigm shift lately that couldn't have come at a worse time for me. Regarding Michelet and Sand, could you recommend any reading from them on this subject?

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    2. Jules Michelet's Le Sorciere is a great read. It's often published in English translation under the title Satanism and Witchcraft. It's supposed to be a historical survey of the topic of witchcraft and devil worship, but at times threatens to become a quasi novel about how a peasant woman's quest for power and revenge leads her into a relationship with Satan. In terms of history it's inaccurate and fantastical, but it's a fun read and has a lot to offer in terms of creative fantasy.

      George Sand (another 19th century French writer) wrote a novel called Consuelo, which at times involves a network of left-wing Satanists. I mostly know about it from secondary sources, so I can't vouch for the quality of the text itself. I mentioned it because I know Michelet's conception of the Devil was partly inspired by and in reaction to Sand.

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