July 12, 2018

Pop Culture Satanism I

pop culture illuminati conspiracy
Do you see what I see?
In the category of things that I almost can't believe I'm writing about, you can include this essay and all the others that I expect will follow from it: Satanism and the attendant myth of the Illuminati as portrayed in popular culture. There are a number of reasons that this has come to pass, but I think the chief among them is that after deciding to leave the exclusive and limited Satanic paradigm offered by the Church of Satan, I've had to redefine for myself and according to my own terms what I believe Satanism to be, and -- in the final calculation -- if that's a concept I still want to include in my life.

But in the final calculation, I favor the liberty of heterodoxy, value antagonism for its ability to stimulate progress, reject belief in things unseen, celebrate the pleasures of the flesh, seek worldly fulfillment, and shun neo-Platonism, so I think that whatever external configuration it takes, the internal essence of Satanism will be with me forever. And since the internal essence is what's most important to me, this leaves a lot of room to find the external configuration that's most satisfying for me personally.

Satanism being a religion of the individual, then, it follows that -- in line with what I believe to be the internal essence of Satanism (heterodoxy, antagonism, atheism, sex- and body-positivity, hedonism, and materialism) -- the external configuration of Satanism is dependent on the individual's chosen interests and preferred aesthetics. Because I am the sort of person who values an open world, easy access to information, a non-partisan society, and international cooperation, there are certain things which have appealed to me including the stimulating fantasies of Tarot and numerology, but also the pursuit of an international auxiliary language to enhance communication people without regard for national origin. Naturally, it also follows that some aesthetic choices have appealed to me more than others, namely the myth of the Tower of Babylon, the archetype of the all-seeing eye, and the modern conspiracy of the Illuminati.

Before I continue, I feel compelled to say that I do not believe in the literal existence of the Illuminati, but I do believe in the Illuminati in the same way that I believe in Satan as a productive and meaningful way to talk about how I understand myself, other people, the world, and how myself and other people exist in the world. The nonsense conspiracies about global pedophile cults, child sacrifice, lizard people, Nazis living on the dark side of the moon, and coded messages predicting 9/11 are the height of tin-foil hattery and not worth discussing in detail... I mean, it doesn't matter how deep you dig into a pile of shit, because at the bottom of the pile it's still just shit.

I'm also not drawing on the factual history of the Illuminati, which was originally styled as a fraternal organization and Masonic lodge for wealthy men. While the history of that organization has been stretched over the years to the point of lunacy, the fully known and well-documented history of that organization is much less interesting. You can consult Le Google if you really want to know, but short of it is that the organization collapsed as a result of arguments over authority, disappointments over the quantity and quality of content offered to members, political infighting with other Masonic lodges, and ultimately the cost to participate as well as lack of funds to perpetuate the order. For a group of people allegedly bent on world domination, you'd think that managing a Masonic lodge would be an easy task?

Where was I? ... So, having said that, I believe that popular culture has a way of synthesizing and recontextualizing past and present history with the dominant myths and stories which shape and influence cultural awareness, which at the very least in North America is the Bible and all the Christian trappings that go along with it. For these reasons, I sympathize with Michael Aquino who founded the Temple of Set and his decision to roll the clock back to an earlier myth which predated the Bible because in this way he was able to step outside the Christian frame in which Anton LaVey's Church of Satan was conceived. I understand why Aquino made that decision, but for me that ancient Egyptian frame of reference doesn't work because it's too foreign to my contemporary experience. So many Satanists say, "Satanism is a tool to be used by the individual," and so say I, the tool should be relevant to the circumstances. And while I completely understand how it is that many Satanists prefer to define themselves by what they are instead of by what they oppose, I think not only that context is important but also that this kind of thinking can contribute to the mistaken belief that it's possible for the individual to exist within the community yet not be a member of, or be influenced by, the community.

So for these reasons, I look close to home for the external configuration that satisfies my personal aesthetic. A paradox that's emerged within my personal aesthetic is that while I'm in favor of an open world without borders and hope to see the achievement of an internationally-recognized auxiliary language -- hence my affinity for the myth of the Tower of Babylon and its one-world language -- I dislike adopting or fetishizing other cultures. Not because I think it's necessarily wrong to do so, but because it feels foreign and inauthentic to me. A great example of this is LaVey's invocation of the crown princes of Hell: Lucifer, Satan, Leviathan, and Belial. I understand that he probably chose these names because they're straight out of The Book of Abramelin, but I've never had an interest in the historically accurate and culturally relevant mythology of demons. Lucifer, Leviathan, and Belial are all names which come with their own historical and cultural baggage which I just can't be bothered to care about, and since I'm not willing to put in the effort to claim these names as part of my religious practice, I'm not going to use them.

Likewise, though I've been exposed to all manner of occultism over the past 20 years, I just can't find within myself a spark of interest for some of them. For example, kabbalah. You'd think that me being a Tarot reader I'd be knee-deep into kabbalah, but you'd be wrong because no matter how much kabbalah has influenced modern Tarot (for sake of argument that being Tarot from the 1800's and on, versus other ancient Tarot systems dating to the 1500's) by way of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and others who have made use of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and weaving the 22 trumps into the kabbalistic tree of life, I just don't feel like I can relax into and fully integrate something that seems so foreign. Or, consider Norse runes: I've known more Tarot readers than I can remember who practiced both Tarot and runes, and while I can't think of any reason why the two systems can't work together, I've never been able to summon an affinity for casting runes because the divinatory meaning of the runes is tightly bundled into Norse mythology and folklore. I've got nothing against Norse mythology and folklore, but it just doesn't feel relevant to me because the meaning of the runes developed over a time and in a place that holds no personal or cultural meaning to me. Whether because I don't care to invest the necessary time and effort to learn their roots, or because they hold no personal or cultural relevance to me, there are some things I don't use because my use of them feels at best disingenuous and at worst meaningless. For these reasons, when considering what I bring into my religious practice, I've become accustomed to picking only things which I thoroughly understand and which are a part of my own, native cultural tableau...

.. and yes, that opens a whole 'nother door into a discussion about cultural appropriation, how ideas are transmitted between cultures, and what I mean when I say "native," but the core principle I try to observe is whether I'm reaching beyond my knowledge and, consequently, whether I'm trying to force a square peg into a round hole. This is why I've come to really appreciate the pop-culture conception and representations of Satanism especially through the contemporary myth of the Illuminati (which of course is obedient to Satan.) This appeals to me because the names of Leviathan and Belial are too foreign to me to hold resonance, and Lucifer is too closely associated with both the Biblical conception of Lucifer as well as the new religious movement of Luciferianism. Satan, meanwhile, has been so thoroughly digested by the culture in which I live, and is so closely associated with generic archetypes of the supreme Devil, that it feels like a native myth to me.

As for the contemporary myth of the Illuminati, I reject the insane conspiracy theories associated with its name as well as the scam artists who attempt to sell memberships to desperate people, but it has so thoroughly filtered into popular culture and especially popular music -- and is so closely associated with the heterodoxy, antagonism, blasphemy, atheism, sex and sexuality, money, and personal power of modern Satanism -- that it fits like a glove... you might even say, a crimson, velvet, left-handed glove?

The contemporary myth of the Illuminati is frequently invoked in the same breath as the myth of the Tower of Babylon, which is also used as a stand-in among conspiracy theorists as the alleged evil of human pride, material wealth, and the emergence of a "new world order." The so-called new, world order is also frequently referred to in popular culture as "Babylon," and is a catch-all for everything that isn't part of Christendom. See how the pieces are coming together? While all self-respecting Satanists seem to have prejudicially shunned the contemporary myths of the Illuminati and Babylon, what I've observed is that popular culture has almost without anybody's notice created a living Satanic canon ripe for exploitation by forward-thinking Satanists.
This is the first of a continuing series. For all entries, see Babylon Rising.

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