July 19, 2018

The Ship of Theseus

psychic occult satanic tarot


For people who like to try and answer these kinds of questions, there's a thought experiment called the Ship of Theseus. So the story goes, Theseus was a Greek hero who sailed a mighty, wooden ship. When his glory days were over, his ship was put to harbor as a museum piece. Unfortunately, the ship being made of wood, ever so slowly it began to rot... say, at the rate of one plank at a time. To preserve the ship, the rotten wood had to be replaced ever so slowly -- say, at the rate of one plank at a time. Eventually, every original piece of the ship of Theseus would no longer exist because it will have been replaced by a different piece of wood. So the question goes, "How many pieces of wood can be replaced before the ship is no longer of Theseus?

This is a question that's I've been asking myself lately, too, especially in regards to my efforts to reinterpret the meaning of Satanism and apply it to my own life. How many pieces of my original conception can I change before what I'm thinking can no longer be rightly called Satanism? I don't think I've replaced very many pieces in that particular ship, so I'm not worried that I've gone beyond the pale, but I think it's a question worth asking all the same. Me being who I am, one of the things I created to help me think through this process is a Tarot spread called by the same name of the Ship of Theseus. Here are the methods to my madness:
  1. Shuffle deck thoroughly and lay five cards into the positions of Needs, Habits, Desires, Past, and Point of Interest.
  2. The Needs, Habits, Desires, and Past are representative of the individual who reads the cards, or for whom the cards are read.
  3. The Point of Interest is something that plays an important role in the life of the individual who reads the cards, or for whom the cards are read.
  4. Read through the arrangement for the first time. If so desired, make note of the highlights.
  5. Choose any original card that hasn't already been replaced. Having chosen that card, draw one card off the top of the deck and lay it over the already chosen position.
  6. Read through the arrangement for the second time. What is the same? What has changed? If so desired, make note of the highlights.
  7. After each read of the arrangement, continue replacing one card at a time until all cards have been replaced.
  8. How is the fifth read different from the first read? What is revealed through the transition of the second, third, and fourth reads?
Let's take a look at the Ship of Theseus in action! Two examples will follow: the first will be the original five cards, and the second will replace one card. Watch and see what happens:


In this first arrangement, I've drawn the Queen of Hearts, Queen of Clubs, 5 of Diamonds, 4 of Diamonds, and the Moon as my Needs, Habits, Desires, Past, and Point of Interest, respectively. All positions in the arrangement are self-evident, except for the Point of Interest which you might have guessed to be the larger body of Satanism.

First, my Needs and my Habits (QH and QC) are very similar. Despite their cosmetic expression being of opposite suits (H/Water and C/Fire), their fundamental identity is the same (Q). This says that while I'm working to address my needs, the way in which I'm addressing them is off the mark. What needs to change? Going only by the elemental combination, I should permit watery Hearts to reign over fiery Clubs, or practically speaking, stop trying so hard. Well... hmm... I just don't know if I can do that. 

Second, my Past and my Desires are the 4 and 5 of Diamonds, respectively. Evaluated on their own, they create a short string that ties my understanding and perspective of what I value -- or what I want to value -- to evidence and lessons learned in the past. And because the number 3 is irrepressible in stories -- three acts to a story, three times the hero is tested, three times the magic words must be chanted, and so on -- where's the missing number in our incomplete string? I'm looking for a 3 or a 6 to complete the 4-and-5, but it's nowhere to be found. There's a missing piece to this puzzle, and neither the present nor the future are able to complete my past or complement my desires. Perhaps instead of focusing on how to satisfy my needs, I should instead work toward more relevant desires? Hmm... pairing this message with my Needs, there's a message here about not using my intellect to shape the world into what I'd like it to be, but instead of allowing the world to shape me into what I am. Well... hmm... I just don't know if I can do that, either.

As for Satanism itself, my Point of Interest is represented by the Moon. This says that owing to external influences over which I myself have little power (and to which I contribute very little), Satanism is on the wane. I'll be shocked if there's any truth to this because I'm rather biased in favor of Satanism and would be disappointed to see it fall from what appears to be a bit of a renaissance, but what do I know? At any rate, going by the cards my point of interest contributes in fact nothing to the rest of the cards on the table. Well, fuck me -- what am I supposed to do with this? Satanism is something that's become a real pillar of my life and if upon further evaluation it's not helping me as much as I think then I've got some serious discussions to have with myself.

That's the first read of the Ship of Theseus. 


Because I'm the sort of person who thinks that one's habits are fundamental to any situation, and because I'm not entirely happy with the message given to me in the first arrangement, I decided that my Habits position would be the first one to be replaced. Drawing one card off the top of the deck, I get the 5 of Clubs.

Now isn't that interesting? With one card, the link between my Needs and Habits (QH and QC) has been broken and replaced by a new link between my Habits and my Desires (5C and 5D). Or in other words, even after changing the central card, I'm still dealing with the same problems as before: I'm synchronized to the fundamental essence of my Desires, but I'm not synchronized to the cosmetic expression, or said differently, I can define the general shape of what I want but am unable to describe the specifics. It feels very relevant to me right now, and it's just as frustrating as you think. 

What else is frustrating is that the 5 of Clubs maintains the fiery attitude of the Queen of Clubs which it replaced, which means that the way my Habits relates to the rest of the cards on the table remains unchanged. What else remains unchanged is that incomplete string of 4-and-5 of Diamonds. A change of Habits still fails to complete the chain linking my Desires to the Past. Perhaps there's a larger discussion to be had about the ability of the Past to satisfy my Desires, and I should look either to the Present or the Future to find what I'm looking for? Hmm... hmm...

And you know what else hasn't change? The quality of my relationship to my Point of Interest. Satanism as a broader body of thought continues to wane under the dim light of the Moon, and while I couldn't say if this is only within the context of my life or in the broader cultural tapestry, either way Satanism diminishes in importance. If that's really so, then what a bummer -- I'm rather fond of Satanism -- but this is only the second read of the Ship of Theseus. Each consecutive read replaces additional planks and reveals different aspects of the self. Perhaps after I replace the entire ship of Theseus one piece at a time I'll discover what I'm most looking for?

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Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences