Satanism And The Occult

The figure of Satan m romantic literature, particularly in the nineteenth century, has been used to represent the rebellion of the individual against the powerful, whether these are secular monarchs. Church leaders or the impersonal bureaucrats of the state. His fall from Heaven was portrayed as the result of his daring to opppose the all-powerful, rather than m the more orthodox manner as the triumph of good over evil, and he became, by this strange twist, a symbol of human liberty (Russell, 1991). Self-styled satamsts perceive themselves as aligned with this idealistic Satan, as iconoclasts and rebels, fighting to free individuals from the respression imposed by a Christian society. There are two main tenets to their opposition: first, they claim that Christianity denies and suppresses the physical nature of human beings, stigmatizing the body and its pleasures as evil. They therefore take the opposite view. Secondly they deny the Christian moral evaluation of self-seeking as wrong, asssemng that the only honest way is for each individual to pursue his or her own goals. Chanty to others may be self-seeking or gratifying to the individual and should be undertaken only for these reasons and not because it is designated as morally nghteous or because a group dictates such behaviour. The modern satamsts could thus be described as both hedonist and individualist, although they might themselves refer instead to anti-puntan-ism and anti-authontananism, all authonty being perceived as equally evil.

Interest in Satan waned towards the end of the nineteenth century and until the middle of the twentieth there was litde further interest in Satan or what he represented. As this volume shows, beliefs in witches did not disappear completely and isolated incidents of 'swimming' witches or attacking those suspected of witchcraft occurred nght into the twentieth century. Any connection with the devil was largely ignored, however, although the idea of the Witches Sabbath, which had onginally centred on the worship of the Devil, had long been well-established in folk-lore. Conservative Chnsnans continued to beEeve in the evil opponent of Chnst and His Father and fear his intervention in human affairs and his seduction of humans into sin, but more liberal Chnstians and the growing number of non-Chnstians ceased to believe in the existence of such a figure. The imagery of Satan might still be used and (presumably) evoked public response: for example, the Kaiser was portrayed as a devil-figure in World War I Bntish cartoons. Nevertheless, it was possible for an authonty on die subject of the Devil to wnte that, by the end of World War II, most people regarded the idea of the devil as !a silly superstition1 (Russell, 1991:49).

An interest in the occult that had also developed dunng the second half of the nineteenth century did continue into the twentieth. The establishment, in the 1880s, of vanous occult organizations, modelled on Freemasonry and Rosicruciamsm, had brought together people interested in learned magic and the ancient sources of such knowledge, such as the Kabbala, Few of the ongmal organizations survive today, although some have been revived. Others, like the Society of the Inner Light, have been founded m the intervening years and an interest in ceremonial magic is widespread among more recendy established groups. This form of magic is quite distinct from charms, love potions, wax figures or other forms of folk magic, whether of the black or white vanety. Instead, it harks back to the magic of the alchemists. The explosion of wnting on the subject has also allowed the establishment of groups of ntual magicians that have not been trained by any of those m the mainstream of this tradition, but who are self-taught. Modern satarusts are magicians m this sense.

The figure of Aleister Crowley, who today may be seen as the father of modern satamsm, properly belongs m this section concerned with the occult and learned magic, since it was here that his influence was greatest, although it has been claimed that his religion was 'diabolism' (Rose, 1989 (1962):! 1; cf. Button m this volume). Born in 1875, Crowley's independent means allowed him to follow his own whims while the money lasted, although he died in 1947 poor as well as discredited. In the early years of this century he joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and like the other members was deeply influenced by what was becoming known of the religion of ancient Egypt, to which they claimed to trace the ongins of their order. When he quarrelled with the leader of the Golden Dawn, allegedly over differences of opinion about the morality of homosexuality, Crowley founded his own Order, the Astrurn Argentimum3 or Silver Star. He also joined the Ordo Tempio Onentalis (OTO) and later became its head. He led the latter until his death but the Astrum Argentimum did not survive his move to America m 1914.

However, Crowley is also known for his temple, the Abbey of Thelema (a name taken from Rabelais' novel Gargantua and Patitagruel) that he established m Sicily to provide a place where he could pursue his interest in Tantrism and sex magic. His sexual activities and drug-taking with his disciples caused scandal which he appears to have enjoyed, since throughout his life he courted publicity for his iconociasm, referring to himself with pride as 'the wickedest man in the world'. His upbringing among the Plymouth Brethren was said to have inspired in him a passionate hatred of Christianity which he aimed to destroy, identifying himself with the Egyptian God Seth,4 with the Greek Pan and with Satan, and also calling himself 'The Great Beast'. This last ride comes from Revelations, from which he also, took the number 666 to be his personal number. Rather than being a satanist in the sense of worshipping the Devil, Crowley idendfied himself with the arch-antagonist in the Christian cosmos, as Satan himself; although he influenced some people to participate in his rituals and established a magical tradition that is still called 'Thelemic', he cannot be said to have founded a satanist religion. His books are widely read by many people who are not at all interested in satanism, but read him for his knowledge of magic. Nevertheless, he is popularly credited both with being a satanist and with being the founder of modern satamsm.

The direct legacy of Crowley's example and writing is not devil-worship but certain forms of ceremonial magic, many of them performed by individuals rather than as a group (Sutcliffe, 1996). Crowley combined an interest m> Tantnsm,5 from which he drew a distmction'between self-directed (black) and other-directed (white) magic, with elements of Gnosticism.6 His occult scholarship and his writing on :magick' still earn him the respect of serious magicians, who distinguish these achievements from his personal way of life, particularly his drug-taking, which they deplore. Crowieyan magick (he spelled it with a 'k' to distinguish it from mere conjuring) continues to be practised by various groups, most of which cannot be called satanist. The OTO now has two branches, one m Britain and another in the USA and a National Symposium of Thelemic Magick has been organized by a group called the Oxford Golden Dawn Society. A form of magick called Chaos magick is the most recent development of his approach; described as 'the latest attempt to make magic more scientific'' it was started m the late 1970s. Like all Crowieyan magick it aims to break down the inhibitions and fears inculcated m the individual by society and, particularly, by Christian precepts, and takes belief to be a tool of magick rather than its framework. The practice of magic throughout the neopagan movement shows Crowley's influence, even among those who explicidy reject many of his beliefs.

Crowley divided magick into Greater and Lesser forms: the Greater is aimed at transforming the subjective world and through that, by the imposition of human will, the objective universe. This may be expressed as unifying the microcosm of the individual self with the macrocosm of the entire universe but its purpose is unification not merely as an end in itself, but as the creation of a tool to secure change in the real universe. 'Magick', he claimed, !is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will' (Crowley, 1973:131). Greater magick is the focus of ntual or ceremonial and requires esoteric knowledge and skills; lesser magick is 'wile and guile obtained through vanous devices and contrived situations which, when utilized, can create change, in accordance with one's will' (LaVey, 1969:111).

Crowieyan magick, together with some other subsequent forms, constitute what magicians refer to as Left-Hand Path Magick (SutclifFe, 1996). According to Harvey this term is derived from the Tantnc tradition and cannot be translated as 'black' or 'evil* because the moral distinction is irrelevant to it (Harvey, 1997:97). Magick is held to be neutral, neither good nor evil. Left-Hand Path Magick is self-directed and distinguished by the use of sexual energies as a power to energize magick, a practice denved from tantnsm, but one which does not necessarily mean that sexual acts are part of the ntual employed by satamsts, at least not in the public ntuals. More important than this is the idea that magick should 'decondition' the individual, stopping away the inhibitions and conventions instilled by society in order to enable the individual to realize his/ her true self. This 'selfincludes the bodily or 'animal' dimension as well as the spmtual or mental, and sexuality symbolizes the complete self rather than aspects of the body's functioning that must be denied or hidden. Magicians of other persuasions may not use sex magick but would concur with the aims of self-realization expressed in the Crowieyan legacy.

Crowley is also influential today for his iconoclasm and for providing a way of shocking people that may be found attractive, even by people who know little or nothing of satanism or Crowley's ideas. The number 666 is displayed as a symbol by rock groups and is written on walls by young rebels, while the emblem of the Baphomet, which was designed by the nineteenth-century magician Eliphas Levi and popularized by Crowiey, is widely used and recognized. Members of satamst churches claim to follow Crowleyian precepts. These come from his Book of Laws which he claimed was dictated to him by his Holy Guardian Angel. The three that have most currency today are:

1. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. This precept also comes from Rabelais, m whose novel the Abbey of Thelema is entered through a doorway over which is inscribed 'Fay ce que voudras' (do what you will/want). This Law has been interpreted by anti-satamsts as a licence for total self-indulgence without any concern for others, but was used by Crowiey to emphasize self-realization as much as self-indulgence. It is cited by; the anti-satamsts as evidence of the evil encouraged by Satan but, in fact, it reflects the sense in which it was used by Nietzsche who also expressed it xn the words he put m Zarathustra's mouth: 'become who you are'. The term 'Will' (the translation of the Classical Greek, Thelema) refers to the essence of the self, its true being. Crowiey explicated the aphorism in the following terms: ' "Do what thou wilt" is to will the Stars to shine, Vines to bear grapes, Water to seek its level; man is the only being m Nature that has striven to set himself at odds with himself (Crowiey, 1973: 352).

2. Love is the law, love under will. This aphorism is rarely glossed, perhaps because its meaning seems obvious. One can take it to mean total engagement (in bodv and spirit) with others, subject to the expression of the true self of each.

3. Every man and woman is a star, that is, is a unique self that has its unique existence and its own laws of being which must be respected. This is glossed by Harvey as: 'No individuals have the right to impose their beliefs or values on any other person, not even if they think themselves more aware of the nature of reality' (Harvey, 1997: 99).

Satanists may say that they! do not believe m Satan as a personified force, but they are also inclined to refer to him as a person m such remarks as 'Satan will punish", or 'Satan doesn't like', etc. In this respect satanists resemble Christians, who vary widely in the degree to which they perceive God or bis Son as personified beings, rather than 'persons' m the theological sense. It is doubtful whether the philosophical background and the full meamng of Crowley's precepts or the developments from them are understood by all of those who quote them, whether in approval or in derugration, but the attitude of concentration on the self they appear to encourage is one that is wholly consistent with other self-realization and therapeutic movements that have developed in the twentieth century. Indeed, 20 years ago it was argued that membership of the Church of Satan performed 'magical therapy' that encouraged self-confidence m young men who were too shy or inhibited to enjoy social gatherings or approach the opposite sex (Moody, 1974). The self-development aspect of Crowley's philosophy is strong in modem satamsm but receives different emphases in the different groups, being more sensual and aesthetic in the Church of Satan and more intellectual in the Temple of Set. Other groups can be identified according to the special emphases they place on different readings of the works of Crowley or LaVey.

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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