by Alexander Quaresma | @WombatBites
On the significance of the Temple of Satan's unveiling of their "Satanic" statue one year ago and an examination of history since the days of the very first Satanic heretic, the Satanist "heresy," and what it all means in an American context.
History is a concept only relevant in the minds of men. Individually each man contends with his or her own truth about how history should be interpreted. The truth is a tricky wrinkle in time to isolate. Often it is hidden beneath abstractions, delusions, particular points of view, and most undoubtedly political affiliations. The great mystic philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) correctly observed that there is only one world and it is in that world where truth happens. While I’m sure Hegel was keenly aware of this, what he did not mention, however, was that in the one world where truth happens, lies and deception also occur. We are conditioned to think only with the surface of our intellect - to think any deeper takes individual initiative.
We'll attempt to apply reason while trying to measure truths against lies, presupposing that there is only one truth to arrive at. But much like Galileo’s (1564-1642) discovery after drawing a larger circle around a smaller circle, opening a doorway to a paradox that would literally go on to draw some highly refined mathematical minds into insanity, there is perhaps something else about truth that should be surmised. Galileo discovered that some infinities are larger than other infinities with his doodles and diagrams; therefore it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that there are some truths greater than others. Another great mystic, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), is attributed the quote: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” In this regard one could say that art has been trolling truth for the sake of greater truth since whenever it was we started believing in what societal conventions told us was the truth to begin with. There was a reason why Plato (428-348 BCE) never liked artists.
Happy birthday Baphomet
Speaking of art that is intended "to make others see," July 27th, 2016 will mark the one year anniversary of the Satanic Temple of Detroit's unveiling of a nearly nine foot tall, one ton in weight, bronze-covered statue of the devil. That event marked an interesting crossroad in America's growing post-9/11 fascist anti-free speech milieu. The young century has seen freedom of speech and expression being bombarded from the ultra-right in the form of faux super patriot religious zealots and the from the far out fringes of the so-called left, seeking to constrain language so their feelings don't get too hurt. That unveiling also marked the most recent development in the endeavor of truth deconstruction in the name of greater truth. How this was accomplished was by a timeless methodology that is and remains entirely “Satanic.”
To quickly run down the particulars, the Satanic Temple’s Detroit chapter intended to have their devil statue - as it’s been popularly referred to - placed on the Oklahoma City capitol grounds right beside a monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments of the Judaeo-Christian Old Testament god. If one of America's prime directives was to have a separation of church and state, a monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments had no business being on the lawn of a state capital. Somebody needed to make this point. The Satanic Temple was one of a number of groups that petitioned the state of Oklahoma to allow a statue of their design on the same grounds adjacent to the Ten Commandments statue. Not surprisingly Oklahoma officials rejected such petitions. Meanwhile, after numerous other groups petitioned to have their own monuments erected, Oklahoma's state supreme court would go on to rule that the "Ten Commandments" monument must be removed from the capitol grounds as it was in violation of the state's constitution. Though I’ve never taken the time to read the Oklahoma state constitution, I am as sure that the Oklahoma state supreme court was correct in their interpretation of the state law as I would be if it cited the federal law of the land instead. Finally, in October of 2015, the 4,800 pound Ten Commandments monument was quietly removed under cover of darkness.
Without a political platform to situate the unveiling of the statue the Satanic Temple of Detroit instead unveiled its masterpiece at a warehouse party. The event garnered a lot of national media attention, and as a result, a lot of reactions from people losing their minds on their social media applications over such an affront to their idea of what the country supposedly meant to them.
At the time I recall certain members of my kith and kin posting messages of disdain and distress on their facebook outlets that such a thing might be allowed to happen, be created, or even covered by the press; "What is the country coming to?" That any American would ever question the legality of art or the freedom of someone to express themselves is distressing. Ironically, it is often these same people that I will often see posting jpgs of angry bald eagles and gifs of Old Glory waving in the winds of cyberspace. "This is America, love it or leave it" would be a typical rallying cry these petulant fair weather patriots often like to invoke; whatever that's supposed to mean. Meanwhile, the truth of what the country was founded on is lost to them.
An artistic representation of an abstract entity, such as Satan, from a book that more than half of these people have never even read was just too much for them. In their fantastical folktales, which they often refer to as history, they believe the country was founded as a Christian nation for Christian purposes. It wasn't. But these are often the kinds of people who don't like to let the greater truth ruin the illusion of their lesser truth.
... écrasez l'infâme
The founding fathers of the United States of America were students of the Enlightenment. Many of the Enlightenment-era philosophs were deists much like those founding fathers. They may have believed in Providence, but knew better than to try to confine it to some make-it-up that would otherwise violate the empirical world and the newly emerging laws of physics. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in particular, very much recognized the importance of forging ahead upon the path of a middle road between reason and science on the one hand and faith and belief on the other.
The abstract, the irrational, mythology, even human emotion and feelings; they're all important facets of human existence. Kant understood this when he wrote about finding that middle road between the noumenal world of belief and the phenomenal worlds of empiricism. But the Enlightenment-era thinkers also understood that there was a whole lot of nonsense that needed to be done away with. "Écrasez l'infâme" was how Voltaire (1694-1778) liked to put it; "Crush the infamous thing."
Voltaire was specifically referring to the superstition he'd observe the church fermenting amongst the laity who simply didn't know any better; that as well as all of the corruption, abuses and double standards the clergy would indulge in. The hands that the royals played in these European systems of control predicated on monopolizing faith and belief didn't go unnoticed either. Kant was very careful not to enflame the anger of the church or state; probably a wise move. Voltaire wasn’t always as cautious:
“Our [religion; Christianity] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think.” -Voltaire, letter to King Frederick II of Prussia, Jan. 5, 1767, “Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire,” Vol. VII, p. 184.
I’m not one to throw Christianity, or any religion for that matter, completely under the bus. There are a lot of positive things one could say of religion, even the orthodox ones (once you divorce faith from the orthodoxy). Professor J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) knew the importance of fairy tales precisely because a fairy tale was a fairy tale. This included one of, if not his most favorite book of fairy tales, the Bible. There is a lot of inherent value in fairy tales. That’s why the Bible can never be considered insignificant. It is of course when the fairy tales are twisted into truth as a means to control, suppress, and skew that they become problematic. That’s what Voltaire was getting at. That’s also what the founding fathers of the United States of America sought to escape.
There were of course other reasons why the colonies opted for a path of self-determination. It wasn’t all pinned to a high falluting idealist hope that the New Atlantis would be a non-orthodox utopia. After all, the revolution didn’t truly get under way until the king prohibited the colonies from printing their own money. So in that fact alone we see that there was a strong materialist motivation to break free from British rule. The first amendment of the American Constitution, however, remains a testament to the fact that the men who helped establish the American nation did have some very progressive ideas far different from anything any European commonwealth had known for at least a thousand years.
Among all the other gripes they had, they especially wanted to disconnect from the phantasmagoric grip of relevance that the authoritative book of fairy tales held. They also wanted out from under the cottage industries of faith peddlers surrounding that book which had started springing up as early as the fourth century CE. With Emperor Constantine's (272-337 CE) first Council of Nicaea (325 CE) and Emperor Honorius's (384-423 CE) third Council of Carthage (397 CE) the messianic fervor that had swept the across the entire Mediterranean - seeing multiple figures from multiple faiths emerge as their people's "chosen one" during the last century BCE and first CE - began to be commoditized as a new set of protocols instilled into the people by the state as a means of exercising control took root. The business of controlling people via their belief and value systems became a powerful powerful tool. The new nation being conceived of in secret in the Masonic halls of Britain, France, and the North American continent itself was destined to be founded by imperfect men from an imperfect system who sought to establish a way of doing things better.
The fanatic Christians always disturbed the pre-Constantine Romans. The Romans were great historians with long memories. They recalled populist revolts in the days of the Senate. There was the Third Servile War (73-71 BCE) with Spartacus (111-71 BCE) on the Italian peninsula only a century or so prior to the emergence of Christians. Though Spartacus fought for reasons academic scholarship has definitively yet to determine, it is well known that the threat his revolt raised was one which Rome took very seriously. And so as a result the Appian Way was decorated with the crucified bodies of 6,000 of those rebelling slaves for over a stretch of 120 miles. But perhaps more so than the movement led by Spartacus, Rome could recall another, longer, populist slave revolt. This one had occurred in Sicily. Some three to four generations or so prior to Spartacus there was the First Servile War (135-132 BCE). This revolt was led by a Syrian slave magician, Eunus (d. 132 BCE). Eunus would tell his followers that he spoke the word of god. Those followers of this fanatic slave magician almost cost Rome its breadbasket. The deity Eunus claimed to be speaking for was the Semitic god Atargatis; Astarte or Asherah in the common tongue. Like Spartacus, things didn't end well for Eunus, but Rome always remembered. Then, of course, in the era of the Empire during the reigns of Claudius (10 BCE-54 CE) and Nero (37-68 CE), came the acolytes of yet another man who claimed to speak for another Semitic desert god which seemed to be behind another populist movement.
There was a difference, though. This time the man these people were said to venerate was already dead; there was no head to chop off the snake. This time the followers weren't camped in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius or sequestered away on an island like Sicily, they already populated the city streets of Rome itself. And this time - the clincher - it wouldn't cost a follower anything to be included as part of this emerging folk cult. You could be poor and still be a Christian. You didn't need to be able to afford a bull or a goat to make a sacrifice either to anyone in the Romanized Hellenic pantheon or at a temple in far off Jerusalem. You didn't need weapons of war to maraud the countryside. All you needed to do was believe (Christian churches really wouldn't pick up the old Jewish practice of tithes until the sixth century CE - long after the Empire had died in the west and the continent was in its infancy stage of the horrific Dark Age). Nobody can ever say St. Paul (5-67 CE) didn’t know how to start a grass roots movement. Incidentally, the Christians had another thing to sell their prospective masses on.
They metaphorically spoke about a common spiritual enemy working against them all the time, who lurked in every dark shadow, and who took on many varying forms. It was the beast itself: Satan. Though the Christians didn't band together militarily like a classic martial revolt, they were slowly undermining the social fabric of the Empire. Rome itself was very often referred to as this Satan. And in so far as symbolic Christian metaphors of the first few centuries CE were concerned, it was.
The Christian movement couldn't be stopped. Though many early Christians hadn't agreed to the minutiae of the newly developing faith yet, the overall message it was transmitting was too universal. Some two-and-a-half centuries later Constantine would grin and bear it, and succumb to the deep mystical veracity behind the mantra: “If you can't beat them, join them.” Perhaps this was at the behest of his Christian mother. In any case, Constantine would move the Empire in the direction of the Christian faith. The emperor legitimized the religion formally in 311 CE and paved the way for the en masse conversions of the citizens of the Empire itself over the remainder of the fourth century in the years after his death. Happy times for the clergy. They were now officially open for business. They were also sure to saint the Emperor for his troubles.
As the centuries began turning over, beginning right after the very first of the common era, the faithful were already beginning to forget that the message was metaphor. They began seeking to institute their faith as dogmatic history. These characters appropriated from the Hebrew faith were suddenly historical; including the supernatural ones! Including Satan!
In the time of the Empire immediately after Constantine's reforms, down through to the rise of outlaw Arian Christian kingdoms founded by the Visigoths and Vandals, the formation of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne (742-814), the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Anglo-Saxon dynasties, which sprouted like bad fungus in the European soils tilled over by the Church in the darkness of the Middle Ages, the continent became constrained by men who enthroned themselves with the backing of their clergy.
After Charlemagne allowed himself to be crowned on Christmas Day 800 CE by the Pope himself, that office in the Vatican specifically became the only be-all end-all king-maker of any consequence. The Roman Catholic-backed concept of the divine right of kings was the new world order and helping to hold it in place like an electromagnetic lock-and-key device was the ever-present specter of Satan, whose shadow was said to loom over everything that wasn’t sanctioned by the Vatican, and thereby the individual kingdom states in orbit around it.
Centuries later, with the slow collapse of the Byzantine Empire occurring in the east as a result of the encroaching Ottoman threat, the Italian de Medici banking family under Cosimo sent out their agents, including Leonardo de Candia Pistoia, and began a massive repatriation effort to bring many of the works previously contained deep in the Byzantine archives to Florence. Newly re-discovered ideas contained in numerous alchemical treatises, including the "Corpus Hermeticum," writings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, among others, hit the collective imagination of a people that had been kept isolated and in the dark for close to a thousand years like drops of water landing on the tongue of a man dying of thirst. “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above,” the Emerald Tablet text read. Tarot cards began to appear in upper caste society, contributing to a change in fifteenth century culture and arts in much the same way a film like Star Wars (1977) would in middle caste society five hundred years later. It was a time of re-remembering. Suddenly all of the superstition parading as reality the western world had been habituated to was subject to contemplation and creativity flourished.
From Renaissance to Enlightenment
These repatriated and preserved works were like rocket fuel for a floundering movement in the arts that had modestly began with the writings of Dante (1265-1321) and the paintings of Giotto (1266-1337). The Renaissance had arrived and with it the Enlightenment soon followed. Thanks to renegades like Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Copernicus (1473-1543), and most especially Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) people began to question the Church's subscription to Aristotelian methodology, cosmology and natural science. They began to realize the world was not as they had been told. The kings and clergy had been playing a long con game. The Bible would go on to be translated into different languages. More people had access to the poetry held within and as a result more questions began to arise. Even questions regarding that great murky adversary of the faith.
Renee Descartes (1596-1650) and Isaac Newton (1642-1726) began doing their math. Diderot (1713-1784) began compiling his Encyclopédie. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and the aforementioned Immanuel Kant began writing their essays. It was men such as this, and all of the others writing against the tide, that the idea of what America was supposed to be got its start (perhaps not Rousseau so much). Even Henry VIII (1491-1547) questioned the Church’s legitimacy in so far as his own reign went. The idea of Satan began to resonate with these men of empiricism. If the figure of Satan was the villain in a passion play sold as truth but was now perfectly understood as nothing more than fantasy, what better symbol for these men to rally around now as they sought to undermine the faux legitimacy of everything the Church had been championing?
Orthodox brands of spirituality were destroyed as a result of the Enlightenment. Ironically, however, it is in America that bastardized faux religions void of myth, metaphor and mystery, and therefore any legitimate spirituality, have since re-risen as zombified versions of the old faiths pre the Enlightenment. Now, like everything else in the free market, these religions are marketed to people as a means of promoting the state and its agenda. This often includes a false history that is now sold as truth.
Though much of Aristotle’s church sponsored philosophy was torn down in the days between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the American founders still had sense enough to remember Aristotle's (384-322 BCE) Politics- recalling the words of the great Greek sage; that of all the varying political systems a state could impose upon its people it was democracy that was the least terrible.
America takes shape
Men like James Madison (1751-1836) helped construct a governing body that wouldn't succumb to the whims of democracy entirely. A strong Senate was conceived, as Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) would describe “founded on the principle that there should be a democratic deficit.” Though America was never a true democracy, nor was it meant to be, a Bill of Rights was still drafted, becoming the law of the land in 1791 as a means of promoting a nation whose ideals were meant to be congruent with everything the Enlightenment had been trying to issue forth into the consciousness of men. That is, you know, so long as it was the rights white property-owning men that were being protected from the tyranny of the crown and clergy, of course.
So as radical as the concept of this American nation and all of its founders were on the surface they weren't beyond reproach, and they weren't saints, and they most certainly did not hatch from eggs bestowed to the planet by the pet bald eagle of Jesus himself. Though America was never meant to be a democracy in so far as Aristotle was concerned (Aristotle believed that one way in which democracy could work was to promote wealth equality; can't have that in America), the founding fathers still instituted into a law an amendment which read as follows:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It is the very first amendment of the American Constitution. It’s even written before that whole right to bear arms amendment. This rule of law took precedence over any and all concerns. Its protogenesis can be traced right to the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other amendments in the Constitution, nevertheless, it is still included and it is the first. It is the idea that the establishers of this new American nation wanted to make clear would now be the new normal from here on out; "Feel free to worship as you like, but understand your ideas are no better than anyone else's." It is arguably the foremost fundamental staple of what the new concept of "being American" would, and did, come to mean. The right to freely and openly express themselves.
In it the same law also states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Therefore it is, by definition, unconstitutional, and therefore un-American, to have a governing body promote one religion over any other - even if that religion is Christianity. There seems to be a myth which has ensconced itself as American history that the country was founded as a Christian nation. It was not. It was founded by deists, perhaps a few atheists as well, who understood the inherent value of faith, but understood that to impose one’s own values of faith onto another, particularly at the level of the state, even if only symbolically, is irrational, unwarranted, unethical, and does more harm than good.
The Temple of Satan of Detroit was making this exact point when they took action in the summer of 2015. But how they took action should also be noted. In commissioning that nine foot tall, almost one ton in weight bronzed statue, they were keeping in line with the one truly hallowed enterprise of Satanism. And in retrospect, there really is only one truly hallowed enterprise of Satanism.
In spite of what books you’ve read or what websites you've scanned and what they may or may not have had to tell you about what Satanism is really about, when one looks back through the monocle of history there is only one undertaking that can truly be applied to an adherent of Satanism. That’s at least in so far as the post-common era is concerned, when the very first modern Satanist was written about in that big book so many erroneously take so seriously.
Satanists have been accused of doing all kinds of things and holding to all sorts of beliefs. For example: sacrificing children is often a very common accusation hurled at would-be Satanists by people whose only conception of a Satanist adheres to nothing in reality. Sacrificing children doesn't make one a Satanist. When devotees of Ba'al in Carthage would sacrifice their sons to the fires of their god, it didn't make them worshippers of Satan. As far as they were concerned they were simply doing what they believed was right. Therefore what it made them was hyper-irrational and psychotic. That would be the nice way to put it. A more accurate description, to use modern verbiage, would be to say that it made them assholes. The ritual murder of children is a horrific aspect of the matrix of our collective history. It happens. But it is not done by Satanists. Even if the group doing the murdering follows and leaves offerings of blood to a statue meant to represent a demonic entity that they've even given the name Satan, though it would be easy to call them so, they're not Satanists. Again, in the extremely rare instance that something like that would happen, such people are merely psychotic assholes who've blindly given themselves to a false representation of a false entity that never existed in the first place. Calling them Satanists gives them too much credit. "Satanist" should be seen more so as an adjective than it is a noun.
There has not been a culture, society, or organized orthodox religion on Earth that hasn't been exempt from having psychotic and hyper-irrational people (assholes) in their ranks. People have done horrible things to other people for no other reason than that they are people; it's what people do! All of those priests who sexually abused boys for centuries in the Church weren't worshipping a dark winged lord chomping down on Judas (d. ca. 33 CE), Cassius (ca. 85-42 BCE) and Brutus (ca. 85-42 BCE) in the seventh circle of the Inferno. They were good god-fearing Christians who worshipped a man who died on a cross.
What you could say, however, is that a state which sanctioned the sacrifice of children, or a religion which hid the institutionalized activity of abusing children, or that suppresses anyone that is different from them or their beliefs, is evil. That's a fair description. There can be evil assholes who are Satanists, sure, just as there can be evil assholes that are of any other sub-religion, race or sub-group. Every barrel of apples will have a few that are spoiled. But evil and Satanism do not go hand-in-hand with each other. They are mutually exclusive.
Satan was never meant to mean "evil" specifically. Theoretically Satan could mean evil, depending on the context of the story being told. But in so far as the true spiritual (for lack of a better term) essence of Satanism is concerned, it means something else. Satan is a Hebrew word which means adversary. A word like adversary can have very broad interpretations. If you're playing a game of chess you are essentially always playing against Satan. That is, you are playing against someone who is seeking to capture your pieces and checkmate your king; you're playing against an adversary. Does that make your opponent evil? Well, I guess it depends on how you choose to see the world. Most people, I'm sure, wouldn't view their opponent in a game of chess as evil- but then, games on boards aren't the only kind of games that go in the world.
But so if a Satanist isn't inherently evil and there is only one hallowed enterprise of Satanism, what is it that the authentic Satanist does that makes him so authentically Satanic?
To provide us an understanding on what the true nature of Satanism is about all we need to do is take a look at the first truly modern Satanist we know about. This was a historical figure and a very interesting character written about in the Bible and in other works. Like Jesus, he was apocryphally said to have been baptized by St. John the Baptizer (d. ca. 33 CE), as well as by St. Philip (d. 80 CE), canonically, later on. He has even been said to have been a member of John's ministry for some time before the beheading. He was a convert to Christianity; though of course, Christianity was far from homogenized in that first century, and many brands of Christianity, including his, would go on to be labeled as heretical by early Church Fathers in later centuries. Most might know of him by his epithet "The Good Samaritan" in a parable told by Jesus in Luke. In the Book of Acts we get his name: Simon the Sorcerer, i.e. Simon Magus. Needless to say, the author who wrote both Luke and Acts was keenly unaware that the Good Samaritan of the parable in Luke was not the same Simon he wrote about in Acts.
Simon Magus, as his epithet of Good Samaritan would indicate, was originally a Jew from Samaria. Samaritans were always looked at with suspicion, and very often hatred, in the eyes of other followers of the Jewish faith in those times. Samaritans played by their own sets of rules and they had their own protocols when it came to worshipping their god, and it did not include the Temple or the Temple politics. They preferred to worship in their own district around their own sacred mountain. So this branded any Samaritan a good heretic in the eyes of New Testament Jews right off the bat as well. Simon, however, was a little different than your common first century Samaritan.
Doubtless there are entire volumes that could be written about Simon and his consort Helen: How Simon is also considered the first modern Gnostic (which history sometimes shows us often goes hand-in-hand with satanic heresies); how his teachings pre-dated the work of great Gnostic sages like Valentinus (ca. 100-160 CE), Basilides (ca. 90-138 CE), and Marcion (ca. 80-160 CE); and how he and Helen embodied a certain kind of living performance art in how their relationship manifested itself in relation to his personal proto-modern Gnostic mythology. One might even wonder how it was that Simon came to know about these Gnostic mysteries which he was said to have been teaching in Epiphanius’s (ca. 320-410 CE) fourth century work against heresies, the Panarion. But let's put all of that aside. None of it matters in so far as how Simon embodied the one trait of a tried and true "Satanist."
Simon was a sorcerer. To put it more pragmatically, Simon was a street and performance illusionist. He was the proverbial David Blaine or Criss Angel of his day. It's one thing to play psycho-visual tricks on people in the days centuries after the Enlightenment, it was another thing entirely to do such things in the first century CE, a century overrun with superstition. So to put it even more pragmatically, to spell it out using jargon most twenty-first century readers would understand: Simon was a troll.
Simon was a notorious troll of the first century CE, performing his magic on the unwitting and perhaps even saying the things he was accused of saying. Trolls are often known to say things to purposefully stir the pot. Simon has been said to say such things as “he was a god,” or even things such as he “was god.” The first century CE was rampant with messianic fervor and people awaiting a return of... something. Meanwhile, Simon was a trickster, rolling his eyes at this silly man named Peter, who just so happened to be conveniently going around town telling everyone he was now the vicar of the Christ; the one true living god. If you’re Peter, or in league with Peter, and trying to establish something in the city of Jerusalem or Rome, the last thing you wanted to be was trolled. But that's what Simon was doing. So the memory of Simon lasted, and he was demonized in the histories.
To be a trickster you have to be intelligent and aware. If Simon was saying such things as “I am god,” and I have little doubt that he did, he was well aware of the times he was living in and how such words would be taken. Some would denounce him, some might even believe him, and the smart ones, the ones to whom Simon would have been playing to, would chuckle at him. How was Simon to know that this little offshoot cult of the Jews would grow to be any different than any of the countless other offshoot cults of previous religions? It's that offshoot cult of Christians that seemed to take Simon's heresies (trolling and personal philosophy) the most serious. Nevertheless, Simon was good at what he did best; trolling. And it is that which made Simon the first great Satanist.
Trolling can manifest itself in many ways to many varying degrees. And though not all trolls are satanically inspired, I would argue that all authentic Satanists are indeed trolls. Someone who plays a card trick on you, and does it well, has trolled you. He or she has come between you and the world of observable phenomena to trick your mind into seeing, perhaps even believing, a truth that isn’t a truth. In doing so what that person has also done is expose a greater truth: that you were gullible enough to be fooled in the first place. What else might you be willing to buy if all you’re going to go on is what you see with the naked imperfect eye?
That is Satanism. It can be playful; it can be dangerous; it can be good; it can be bad; it can be purposeless; it can carry significance; it can be righteous; and yeah, it can even be evil (I'll have a little more to say on evil trolling further down). It is people who relish and perfect the art of trolling in such ways that are the real Satanists in so far as the etymology of the word is concerned.
I'm not referring to simple minded reactionaries who seek to worship in earnest the adversary of Jesus Christ in a big book of poetry. As I was getting at earlier, those aren't Satanists, those are the dim of wit. I'm also not referring to people who want to follow a code of ethics formulated by Anton LaVey (1930-1997), one of the great trolls of the twentieth century, as adherents of LaVeyanism are simply people who choose to follow a personal philosophical code that anyone can choose to live by. And I'm not referring to the Illuminati. In so far as the true authentic essence of Satanism is concerned, I'm referring to the trolls.
Simon, from what I gather was a playful troll who probably liked to imbibe available psychoactive substances whenever possible, while also preferring to live dangerously in dangerous times. He wasn't the only one in history, though. To further make my point let's look at another playful troll from the more immediate past, albeit, one whose aura through history includes a few darker shades.
“The Great Beast”
Have you ever been a faithful member of a particular cyber chat room, forum, or even message board? A place secluded from everyone else in the world that had its own protocols, its own ethics, and its own holy reverence beheld by its members? Well before there was the Internet there were secret societies. Some, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were spiritually motivated and taken very seriously by its members. Those who take themselves too seriously are always the easiest targets for a troll.
Imagine the disdain and horror those members of the Golden Dawn had for Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) when he was admitted to the club. Crowley would proceed to essentially troll them all by simply being who he was- someone who had a very sardonic sense of humor. The best source of information on this subject is the documented enmity between Aleister and the great magically-inspired poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Yeats was truly one of the great minds ever gifted to anyone who enjoys reading, but he and many others in the Order simply didn't understand Aleister or his humor. I don't believe Aleister Crowley had anything against the Golden Dawn members or its teachings; only perhaps he felt they took themselves a little too seriously. Trolls are great at deflating egocentric constructs that way. It's one of the reasons why they're not always liked and often demonized; just look at Aleister.
Aleister Crowley was a troll born and bred. He took for himself the moniker To Mega Therion; the Great Beast. On the surface Crowley may have wanted the everyday suckers to believe he was specifically making reference to the great boogeyman written about in Revelation. In reality, what Crowley was saying, even if he wasn't fully conscious of it, as the word didn't mean then what it does now, is that he was a troll. The greatest troll of all, perhaps.
Crowley wasn't just out to troll his brothers and sisters in the Golden Dawn or even Christians- though I’m sure he took delight in it just the same whenever he found someone that would give him the satisfaction. Crowley was out to troll convention itself, a feat which he accomplished. Crowley's trolling wasn't necessarily for shits and giggles like a street magician perhaps too intelligent for his own good, Crowley seemed to have something else in mind. What exactly that was I couldn't say, but it is safe to say that the trails Crowley blazed set the stage for the psychedelic mind-bending culture shift that materialized in his wake. There's a reason why other trolls such as The Beatles (They're bigger than Jesus? Paul is dead? What?) included him on their album cover to Sgt. Pepper's. There is no Beatles without Crowley. And if there were no Beatles, try to imagine what pop culture would be like today.
Yes, Crowley liked to indulge in drugs. Yes Crowley liked to indulge in culturally taboo sexual activities with his followers and whatever else might have been available. And yes, Crowley liked to indulge in occult activities, such as corresponding with alien intelligences and formulating his own religions when high as a ring of Saturn whilst on holiday in Egypt. None of these activities make him a Satanist. We should all be as intelligent as Crowley and divine our own codes. These activities make him curious and someone willing to try new experiences in an era when those kinds of activities were greatly frowned upon. Nevertheless, I would consider Crowley a Satanist just the same, and I would do so because he was a troll; and a very important one at that.
Crowley challenged everything the Victorian-Edwardian era ever thought it knew. He was the adversary. And, let's be honest, if there was a game being played between Crowley and convention, Crowley won. Like a Satanist of a most high caliber, he won by upsetting the pre-existing order via the art of trolling.
The Detroit Chapter of the Satanic Temple and their genius
By commissioning the Baphomet-headed devil statue, the Satanic Temple in Detroit was trolling the Oklahoma legislature, every fugazi patriot, and all the blind melon Christians who merely sought an audience for their displays of woe and despair upon hearing the news of the Temple's intentions. Those groups represented segments of society, which due to lazy scholarship, are content on relying upon pre-existing conventions which they had been fed and believed to be self evident truths as a result. As a result, such minds thought that they'd simply be allowed to get away with placing a monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments on the lawn of a state capitol in the United States unchallenged. They were wrong. And though the Satanic Temple's statue was never placed on the capitol grounds, the Satanic Temple still won. It achieved its ultimate aim, and that aim was in keeping with the first amendment written in the Constitution which guarantees that we live in a land that does not play favorites when it comes to something like religion. Rather than there being two monuments to two separate systems there are now none, which is how it was always supposed to be.
The Satanic Temple's statue mathematically negated a negative with a positive; just like magic. Where there was going to be a symbolic division there is now a symbolic unity. This was done via the ancient magical art of trolling as well as the use of fetish magic in reverse using what is perhaps the most powerful symbol of negation the west has ever known; Levi's Baphomet.
But for more proof of the magical qualities of trolling involved, just look at the statue itself. As I previously mentioned, it is a masterpiece. It is visually striking in its majestic form; it is now imbued with political significance and power; but most of all, above anything else anyone might want to say about it- it is fucking hilarious.
It is a statue of a shirtless winged man-goat giving us the revered alchemical hand signals written about in that Emerald Tablet Text re-discovered in the early days of the Renaissance with an engraved pentagram nimbus behind its head as two befuddled children look up in joyous bewilderment. It is scary enough to scare the baby Jesus-loving. It is beautiful enough to inspire the lost. And it is hilarious enough to make those who understand what it is they’re looking at laugh. It is a work of satirical genius, one which will likely last through the ages- assuming the fascist Christian right doesn’t take over and melt it down to make pennies, zippers, and Inquisition 2.0 torture devices.
Artistic expressions of real satanic evil and beyond
In 1973 a powerful film was released which marginally depicted a symbolically abstract notion of what an evil entity intent on trolling its victims could be like. Like any good troll, the Pazuzu character in The Exorcist (1973) was intent on psychologically toying with its victims to its own delight. The subtextual purpose of that film, however, was less a deconstruction of satanic evil and more of a subliminal political exposé on sexual misconduct with children within the Catholic Church. In spite of Sinéad O’Connor (b. 1966) sacrificing her career upon the altar of live television in an effort to shed light on this greater truth it was a greater truth that would still take another generation before it sunk in. In any event, The Exorcist, in spite of its demonic character being written like a good little satanic troll, it is less a film about spiritual satanic evil and more so a political statement about real earthly evil. But the main point to take away from this is that they did get the characterization of the "Satanic" antagonist correct. It wouldn't be until nine years later when a film would come along that would contain the perfect abstract symbolic metaphor on the nature of spiritually Satanic evil. In this case the entire story would specifically be concerned with how a satanically evil troll might behave, far surpassing even The Exorcist in this endeavor.
John Carpenter's film The Thing (1982) is a motion picture that perfectly exemplifies how an evil Satanic entity might troll its victims using psychological terror against them. The antagonist in that film is as wicked and evil in so far as any imagined simulation of how evil a satanic intelligent entity might act. The Thing in The Thing is essentially a troll whose dial has been turned up to eleven. The Thing uses superstition and irrational fears against a team of empiricists. For more on this I would recommend viewing Rob Ager's video essay on the film "Evil Imitating Science" which demonstrates how the alien not only physically terrorizes, but intentionally psychologically terrorizes its victims at Outpost 31, as it’s called in the film. Why would it do that? Because it is gratifying.
"Outpost 31," the name of the science station in Carpenter's film, is aesthetically similar to October 31; Halloween. The day that made John Carpenter famous is also a day all about trolling as little kids go around “terrorizing” the neighborhood seeking candy behind masks of monsters. This is similar to how the Thing goes around terrorizing the research team behind masks of men. Michael Myers essentially does the same thing in Halloween as well. What John Carpenter has shown us in those films, particularly in The Thing, is that there is such a thing as evil adversaries or satanic trolls capable of committing evil deeds. And if you’re paying real close attention, you get an idea of how it is these people involved in such activity get away with it. Think about it, if there was real disembodied spiritual evil in the universe, where might it be hiding? In basements? Or in the last place you'd be expected to look?
The Bible itself even loosely refers to what’s being hinted at with its symbolic statement in Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Earlier I made a cursory reference to the Inquisition. If you want an example for a real evil satanic troll that once walked the Earth, one needs look no further than someone like Torquemada (1420-1498). Let's just say that Torquemada and the Thing seemed to have a lot in common. This was a man who, first of all, was not who he claimed to be; his claim of course that he was a pious soldier of Christ doing the Lord's work. In fact, what he was was a bloodthirsty monster. Secondly, he and the men like him, used their office as a means to shield themselves as they committed heinous acts of evil and barbarity on the populace. Furthermore, they enjoyed using psychological ploys against their victims. Like Pazuzu in The Exorcist and like the alien in The Thing, Torquemada and the medieval inquisitors enjoyed what it was that they did.
History is full of Torquemadas. I'm sure you might be able to come up with a few in more recent times. Those are the Satans we all ought to be wary of. Not the people who support the unveiling of a work of art or who promote the expansion of conscious sovereignty. Incidentally, it is tempting to toss in Nazis like Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler as examples of this ultimate kind of Satanic evil. I wouldn't agree with that. The Nazis weren’t trolling. The Nazis were operating on an entirely different supra-level of evil, one which surpasses what I'd even consider to be the ultimate in Satanic evil. To express this in terms of logic: though there is a cap to satanic evil, satanic evil is not the most evil of evils.
To be satanically evil one has to be conscious of what it is he or she is doing. It is primarily the enterprise of an individual. If that individual can finagle converts out of his or her activity, all the better for he or she. And while I don't doubt the Nazis were conscious of what they were doing and enjoyed it, I also believe there was a drone-like dead unconscious collective paradigm which animated their industry of death as well. It’s as if they were under the trance of an ineffable evil. The kind of evil that surpasses even "ultimate satanic evil;" so long as you can divorce yourself from the popular folkloric associations people have with that word. As much as we already demonize the Nazis, I still feel that the evil the Nazi fascists represented in the stream of history actually remains understated in proportion to how great that threat was. It was a mechanized inhuman evil beyond comprehension.
Fascism can come in many forms. Like trolls, it can also manifest itself in varying degrees. In spite of our history and the first amendment to the Constitution, America, too, is constantly subject to succumbing to these internal fascist threats. While the Nazi threat attempted to sink its teeth into humanity, rolling its dead black eyes inward like a great white shark in a feeding frenzy, the threats of religious orthodoxy and political correctness hang over everyone's heads like vultures waiting for intellectual, creative, and spiritual autonomy to die so they can pick the bones. After which, they'd be free to impose whatever hell it is they wish to impose in the vacuum left behind. It is comforting to know that we still have agencies out there watching on all of our behalves
The Dionysian Mysteries
I was discussing the Roman affinity for history earlier and how they found this emerging Christian cult very unsettling. Not only had Rome recalled what populist movements could do in the form of the servile wars it fought, but almost two hundred years before the common era, in 186-180 BCE, there was an incident which left an indelible mark in Roman history. There was another cult which arrived in the city from its far off colonies that pranced around like crazed psychotic hippies at night like something right out of Charles Manson's worst nightmare. They too talked about feasting on the flesh of their dead savior, said to have died, and whose return from the underworld was awaited by the followers.
It was the followers of Dionysus and the cult of the Dionysian Mysteries and the Bacchae rituals. The central figure in the mysteries during Roman times was Bacchus, the god of wine, inhibition and rejecting convention. But before he was known as Bacchus the figure was known as the forgotten Olympian god Dionysus, who was also the god of ritual madness, fertility, and the arts. He is very closely associated with grapes of the vines and with the legends of Jesus Christ himself. Much has already been written about on this topic, so I won't get too much into comparative mythology, but it is sufficient to know, that like Jesus, Dionysus would undergo a passion (the turning of the grapes into wine) and his resurrection on the vine come the springtime.
Nobody knows everything there is to know about the Bacchaenids and the Dionysian Mysteries. What is known, however, is that the mysteries revolved around four concepts:
1. Enthousiasmos - The feeling, or idea, that god resides inside of you; sound familiar?
2. Ekstasis - Standing outside of one's body and station in society; in other words a rejection of convention.
3. Sparagmos - The ritual tearing apart of the flesh of a living animal; often a goat - sometimes a person.
4. Homophagia - The ritual devouring of the raw flesh of the rented animal or person; a real life “Walking Dead” scenario in essence.
It is little wonder that the Romans sought to stamp this cult out. But why exactly? Was it because of the entheogens, the orgies, the ritual sparagmos and homophagia? Or might it have had more to do about its members, who came from varying segments of society who'd see themselves as equals free from convention in the eyes of nature? Could Rome stomach that? Particularly in the instances that the lower caste portions of a very rigid Roman society might get undesirable notions planted in their minds. Perhaps even more particularly in so far as women were concerned in that same respect in what was a very patriarchal society.
Another interesting aspect to these Dionysian Mysteries is that Dionysius, much like Gilgamesh had with him Enkidu and Han Solo had with him Chewbacca, always had with him a satyr for a companion. A satyr would often be depicted as a man-goat, particularly in the Roman era. The satyr represented the return to a natural state and succumbing to animal pleasures and animal leisures free from the program. It is also interesting to note that Spartacus's wife was said to have been a prophetess and devotee of the stamped out Dionysus cult, which would have made her a member of the mysteries. In which case, perhaps we know what Spartacus was fighting for after all? Or at least we can surmise a somewhat educated guess.
Also of interest, it was Julius Caesar who'd later bring back the Dionysian Mysteries in an official capacity in the first century BCE. Caesar tamed it down of course, but isn't it interesting that these Dionysian Mysteries came back only a few generations or so before the Christian cult began proselytizing? I don't think there can be any doubt that the sacraments of these Dionysian Mysteries, even the toned down J.C. brand (as in Julius Caesar) of the mysteries, influenced the ways in which the burgeoning Christian religion expressed its sacraments in the preceding decades. They still drank the blood of their Christ in the form of wine, but instead of eating the raw flesh they’d make due with a wafer.
This then goes a long way in explaining the significance of the satyr, or the goat imagery used by the nineteenth century magus Éliphas Lévi (1810-1875) when he gave shape to the Bafometti in the creation of his alchemical Christ; a beautiful harmonious symbol which stood for the conjoining and negation of all opposites. I can't say that Lévi had Dionysus's satyr specifically in mind when he designed his "Goat of Mendes," which is how he referred to his illustration, for his work Dogme et Rituel (1856). Certainly the Egyptian Banebdjedet, departed soul of Osiris, and the ram cult at Mendes seemed to have been of primary significance in its design. Still, one is left to wonder after reading the tales of what Herodotus (484-425 BCE) reported as having taken place in the Delta region between goats and female members of the Mendesian goat cults of the fifth century BCE. It was all very much in line with what the satyr of Dionysus represented.
In the eyes of some, Éliphas Lévi's Baphomet stood as the counterpart to the Christian ideal of Christ. It was a powerful image, adapted by secret societies, even appropriated by Crowley for his mystical system of Thelema, and used by artists in a multitude of ways in the decades to come. This would include providing the model for the Devil card in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The image became synonymous with Satan in the eyes of those who wished to give the great adversary a shape. The nineteenth and twentieth century Christians had now seen the face of their enemy, in so far as they were concerned anyway, and they've been trolled by people using that symbol ever since. July 2015 was just another example.
There are a number of truths that the ancient yin yang symbol of the Taoists can teach us. Éliphas Lévi's Baphomet image is essentially an elaboration of the same symbol. Often nestled in truth are lies. And nestled in lies there is truth. Does Santa Claus exist? No. Yet I can research the figure just the same as I could Éliphas Lévi himself. Furthermore, for someone who never existed as the fairy tales say, Santa sure seems to hold a lot of sway over how people act. Can love and fear be measured, weighed, and observed? No. Yet we know these emotions exist. There's something else at play. It takes those with a sharp intellect to cut through the fog to arrive at a negation of opposites, which is how the greater truths are to be found. Again, refer to how the Satanic Temple negged the thesis of the Ten Commandments monument with the antithesis of a monument to “Satan.” In true Hegelian fashion the result was a synthesis providing us with the greater truth; unity over division.
It is somewhat ironic, but entirely apropos, that it is easier to represent a concept like infinity by merely drawing a circle, as Galileo was doing, than it is to find a symbol representing the greater truth. That’s not to say people haven’t tried. For Christians that symbol is Jesus Christ, an anthropomorphized symbol of the vesica pisces itself - the intersection of circular metaphors for Kant’s noumenal and phenomenal realms; or Hegel’s thesis and antithesis. And though I understand that the math behind the rationale I do not feel the intersection of two circles is the best symbol for greater truth man has come up with. Magically speaking, the Baphomet of Éliphas Lévi is a symbol heralding negation; a would-be bellows to blow away the smoke and a hammer to smash up the mirrors. When this is done the greater truth of the cosmos can then shine forth to be cognitively grasped by those ready to receive it. Lévi's Baphomet, the model upon which the Satanic Temple’s statue was based on, is a testament to the anticipation of such an event. It would therefore, by default, represent the best possible symbol of truth.
Something else that should also be taken into consideration, sometimes the lesser truth is preferred to the greater truth; have you ever see The Life of Pi (2012)? There is no general rule which says what lesser truths and which greater truths are better or worse. Ang Lee’s (b. 1954) film is a testament to that. All the poetry that’s ever been written and every song that’s ever been sung is a testament to this as well. The only way to truly know which is preferred, the greater or lesser truth, is to know both. Then the decision can be made harmoniously.
There will, however, always be self-evident instances where the lesser truths are pernicious and detrimental to freedoms and liberties we share. If a state is promoting a truth you can bet the farm that it is doing so in the interests of the state alone and not the greater truth, in which case it will always be just as pernicious and detrimental to leave it unchallenged. If they are not, the slow creep fascism is almost sure to follow. Ideally the Satanist will always recognize that behind the moon is the sun during a solar eclipse. Though one’s eleventh grade English professor might be the great Satan of your life, deconstructing the metaphors of your poem or song using the subtle trolling art of constructive criticism in an effort to get to the truth behind its origins, it is a small price to pay for the very important function these “Satans” ultimately play in the world.
Degas’s observation that art is about what you make someone else see is all about the magic of individual subjectivity and the magic of art itself. That is a greater truth everyone should be aware of. Nothing is magical and magic is nowhere, yet nothing happens without magic and it is everywhere. What is the proof? Art. What is art? Everything. What is subject to being synthesized by art? Nothing and everything. Mathematics is just an art. We like to think it isn’t, but it is. Everything from the shapes and designs of the numbers represented to how it is we seek to use these ideas we refer to as numbers. Yet all it took was the doodle of a couple of circles by Galileo to essentially verify the biggest mathematical truth one could discover, without using numbers (which would have been impossible). Galileo did it with art. Those doodles got a genius such as Galileo to understand the idea that certain infinities are greater than lesser infinities, but they also got a mathematical imbecile such as me to understand the principle I would have never been able to grasp otherwise. All the more ironic, Galileo wasn’t even trying to make art when he made that art; i.e. the magic of art at play. What might the Temple of Satan's statue accomplish in the future?
A very wise man once observed “History develops, art stands still.” We don’t know what the future holds. But we do know what's in our past. Attacks on the freedom of speech and expression in this country are not really a post-9/11 pro-patriotic or post-social media SJW phenomena. It wouldn't take long in an examination of American history to find where people have found their right to express themselves freely greatly resisted. Had a statue like the one the Satanic Temple commissioned been erected in seventeenth century New England the artist and his or her patrons would have all been hung, burned at the stake, or pressed to death under stones. The fight for people to freely express themselves openly without the worry that a sanctioned governing body might seek to cease such expression in favor of one that is more in line with beliefs that the governing body chooses to sponsor is part of the never-ending fight to preserve freedom of expression for all. It is a fight that has to continue to be fought- all of the time. When one set of values is super-imposed over others, a disharmonious conflict of oppositions has emerged. Let this statue symbolizing the negation of opposites and promoting harmonious unity be a reminder of this fight to do away with such nonsense wherever and whenever it arises. There is perhaps no more righteous a fight to be fought than this one.
The mark of true Satanist is always someone who stands against convention and does so cleverly. It's someone who causes ripples in a stagnant pool. He or she can do so for a purpose or it may simply be done for no reason other than personal amusement. Like anyone in any other walk of life they can be good or they might be bad, but what they will be skilled in is in the subtle art of the troll. Just as Satan trolled God in that timeless work of art, The Book of Job, the Satanist questions convention and does so in a way that it will undo itself. Trolling is an art form that can’t often be taught without a proper set of instincts or a pliable frame of mind. If such a person is bent on doing something constructive with his or her skill set, it will almost always have to involve further forms of art with further forms of trolling.
If you don't like the word Satanist used in the context which I have presented here, I don't blame you. The word is essentially meaningless as a noun. It has more totemic value than it has anything else. In any event it was the Satanic Temple, made up of Satanists, that commissioned the statue as a means of protest. And through the fine arts of trolling and aesthetic resonance they stood against monolithic convention and won whether the statue caused the Oklahoma State supreme court to reach its decision or not. Righteous justice had been accomplished. The statue stands like an Egyptian stele commemorating a victory on the battlefield over the Hittites never to be lost to the sands of time. Let those who seek to erode our freedoms feel its wrath to infinity and beyond, forever.