Category Archives: Paranormal
And so, my quest to understand magical theory continues with another volume on Chaos Magic. I gained a great deal of insight and clarity from Carroll’s prior book, Liber Null & Psychonaut. The present work under review, published five years later, has turned out to be not so valuable.
We begin with heady material on quantum theory from a magical perspective. The majority of this was beyond me, but what I could understand struck me as far too theoretical to place any real confidence in – the idea that magic, which has its roots in the transcendent, can be reduced to a few equations. I don’t buy it. Carroll also makes the startling claim that there was no singularity at the beginning of the universe. He states that no matter when you exist in time, the universe always gives the appearance of being four and a half billion years old. This claim is in stark opposition to what we appear to observe about the motions of galaxies, and what we know of gravitation.
Next we have some material on aeonics. Carroll claims that all philosophical worldviews fit one of three basic paradigms: materialistic, magical, and transcendental. The ebb and flow of these paradigms throughout history is reduced to a line graph that shows a definite cyclic pattern, as the world moves through aeons called shamanic, religious, rationalist and pandemon – the latter being the one that is allegedly emerging. It’s all very interesting, but unconvincing. There was plenty of rationality going round in the days of the ancient Greek philosophers, and there has been plenty of religion in the two and a half millennia since. There’s no doubt that Carroll has done a lot of homework, but his “psychohistory model” of aeonics appears fanciful at best. The decline and growth of our various worldviews is a product of consciousness, and consciousness will not be turned into a deterministic line graph that we have no control over. We are not automatic machines.
When Carroll turns to practical magic, that’s when the book takes a shift in a much more positive direction. He introduces a delightful phrase, “sleight of mind,” and explains it at length – as the key to effective magic. In my own experience with psionics, I can affirm that success requires a mind that is distracted from the task you wish to perform. You have to play a little mental trick with yourself to, for instance, accomplish a successful act of psychokinesis.
Terms like “psychic censor” and “sleight of mind” are useful in understanding the inner workings of magic, but a good portion of the book is also concerned with building new a system of magic, full of pointless new terms – as if the world needs yet another. Magic is divided into eight categories (seemingly for no other reason than the Chaos symbol has eight arrows). These are: octarine (pure magic), black (death magic), blue (wealth magic), green (love magic), yellow (ego magic), purple or silver (sex magic), orange (thinking magic), red (war magic). My question is: why? All these categories are arbitrary and artificial. It’s fine to break magic down like this for the purpose of talking about particular applications of magic in the practical sphere. But there is no benefit whatsoever to memorising this jargon as some kind of fundamentally meaningful system. Magic comes from that fuzzy non-dual transcendence from which everything springs. It isn’t truly eightfold in any sense outside of the author’s personal subjective preferences.
Evocation, divination, enchantment, invocation, illumination, sorcery, shamanic magic, ritual magic, astral magic, high magic. In my opinion, there’s a lot of pointless vocabulary being held up as important. And if that’s not enough, we have to contend with “sorcery invocation,” “shamanic enchantment,” “ritual evocation,” and a plethora of other allegedly meaningful combinations.
The book closes with some appendices that are mostly concerned with the administration of the organisation, the Illuminates of Thanateros (also known as The Pact). The material was of no value to me other than to reinforce the pointlessness of such semi-secretive groups.
I had high hopes for this book. Sadly, I have to report that I was able to extract only a few morsels of usable insight.
Ever since I achieved some success in experimenting with psychokinesis a few years ago, I’ve been faced with the reaity of what may be called “magic,” and I’ve been highly motivated to learn what I can about it. This ongoing quest has been both mind-expanding and frustrating, as magical theories tend to be littered with all kinds of unprovable abstractions.
The Chaos Magic approach is somewhat unique in that it supports using beliefs as methods rather than relying upon them as objective truths. For instance, when attempting particular magical endeavours, it may be suitable to view the universe as having an astral plane populated by actual entities that can be compelled to do your bidding. This may not be true, but it could be a useful method of producing a desired effect. Another belief is that all minds are interconnected as a single Mind, allowing subtle communication and influence to occur between individuals. The truth behind appearances is a very slippery thing to get hold of. “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is the slogan of Chaoist. This is mirrored in our conventional science, too. The dualistic Newtonian view of the universe worked fine until, in the early 20th century, our experiments forced us to to develop a quantum theory that blew our assumptions about the nature of reality to bits. Nevertheless, the Newtonian perspective can still be employed successfully as a usable model of reality for the vast majority of our everyday experiences.
Hine has done a great deal more dabbling into ritual magic than I have, so I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of his approaches. I found the material on the creation of sigils fascinating. The book’s brevity is deceiving, as it is crammed with information, and requires slow, careful reading to digest. Something of a treasure trove. Much of the magical theory concerns the transformation of the self, and the information is often given with a dose of humour. I like Hine’s presentation of magic a lot. He comes across as a genuine person, rather than someone who projects himself as a grand poo-bah of the occult.
This is one of those weird books that is hard to review, because I’m not sure what I got out of it, but I know I got something important. It’s hard to crystallise that benefit as one single thing, because the structure of the book is diverse; I got a bit of this and bit of that. In particular, I gained a deeper rational appreciation that the world is magical, as opposed to viewing magic as something completely otherworldly. When I read a magical text, I’m not looking for a whole new belief system to swallow. I’m ploughing through information that is unusual and cryptic, looking for insights that will make me go “Ah-ha!” adding greater depth and rationality to my own personal take on magic. Condensed Chaos provided that. A worthy addition to any occultist’s library.
There is good reason to believe that the universe is, in some sense, holographic. Put another way: solidity isn’t quite so solid. Science has a lot to say in defence of this counter-intuitive idea. Atoms are mostly empty space, which is what allows vast portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as X rays and radio waves, to pass right through solid matter, including our bodies. Inside the atom, electrons are bouncing all over the universe with no regard for the speed of light restriction. There is a universe of localised objects which is held together by a deeper and more fundamental universe that is non-local. We may say the universe is “holographic” as a means of useful analogy. A holographic photograph has no actual three-dimensional solidity, but it gives the appearance that it does – as does the universe.
Talbot’s book begins by reiterating some deep and complicated scientific ideas by Karl Pribram and David Bohm. He suggests that the term “holographic” is more than mere analogy. Holograms have the curious property that if you cut them in half, you don’t end up with half the picture in each segment; you get two copies of the whole picture. The universe, it is claimed, is also like this. Each part contains the whole. Personally, I find more value in the simpler model that the universe is a non-dual unity; each part appears to contain the whole because there aren’t any parts. I rather like Bohm’s terms for the two sides of reality: the implicate and explicate order.
Once Talbot establishes his theoretical model of the universe, his interest is in showing how it can provide a rational basis for explaining paranormal phenomena. This is the very same insight that struck me some years ago, when I got to grips with non-dualism. I proceeded to experiment with psychokinesis, and managed to get some small but mind-blowing reults. PK was, however, something very slippery and hard to replicate on demand – which strikes me as the key reason why paranormal phenomena have never yet been integrated into science.
In the last two thirds of the book, Talbot tackles dreams, healing, stigmata, psychokinesis, the aura, clairvoyance, precognition, reincarnation, out of body experiences, near death experiences, etc. This is where the book started to fall apart for me. Although I have had direct experience of a psychic “ability,” there is no doubt that charlatans abound. Talbot provides a catalogue of paranormal experiences, some of which beggar belief. To his credit, he is conscientious about quoting his sources, but some of those sources seem more than a little dubious to me.
For instance, it is claimed that some stigmatics have nail-like growths protruding from their hands, mimicking the wounds of Christ. In Talbot’s view, this is due to the mind’s ability to change the body through intention. The Christian’s powerful identification with Christ through a lifetime of meditation eventually manifests in his own body. The problem is: if such stigmata are real, why isn’t the medical world standing back in awe? Why hasn’t it revolutionised our ideas about mind and body? This isn’t some highly subjective piece of evidence for PK or ESP. The stigmata is present and observable; it won’t wanish like a ghost when you shine a light on it. Since the phenomenon hasnt been subjected to scientific scrutiny, I have to question the reliability of the source. Talbot, however, doesn’t.
Similarly, he talks about Sathya Sai Baba in a positive light. Sai Baba was a very popular Indian guru, surrounded by countless devotees. He claimed to be able to manifest objects out of thin air. I have a hard time taking such claims seriously. The warning signs of fakery are all there: a love for public adoration, the projection of a larger-than-life image, and a refusal to subject your “powers” to scientific enquiry. It beggars belief how Talbot can simply accept this man’s claims without question. Talbot himself claims to have had profound experiences of his own in childhood: poltergeist manifestations and objects materialising out of thin air. All I can say about that is: I wish I had experienced it, because I’m unable to believe it otherwise.
I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. But when Sai Baba and the stigmatics came up, I lost all confidence in Talbot’s ability to separate truth from nonsense in the arena of the paranormal. If all the things that Talbot catalogues are true, then there is no good reason why James Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge has remained without a winner for decades. For a far more rational and level-headed examination of paranormal phenomena, read the works of Dean Radin.
The first book ever to be written on the subject of satanic ritual abuse (SRA) was Michelle Remembers in 1980, co-written by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder. Over a period of one year, Pazder records hundreds of sessions where Smith allegedly recovers repressed memories of herself as a five-year-old undergoing a prolonged period of ritual abuse at the hands of a satanic cult. She is tortured, sexually abused, locked in a cage, witness to murders, and painted in the blood of sacrifice victims. At one point, a Satanist sews horns and a tail into Smith’s flesh. The scars left by this surgery would have proved invaluable in authenticating the account, but there is no such evidence on Smith’s adult body.
The ceremonies were gory and bizarre, and bore no relation to the rituals of the Church of Satan. Nevertheless, Pazder wastes no time in naming this specific organisation as the perpetrator of Smith’s abuse. He also states, in total ignorance of known facts: “The Church of Satan is a worldwide organization. It’s actually older than the Christian Church.” Pazder was forced to withdraw his assertion of the Church of Satan’s involvement after the book’s publication, when Anton LaVey threatened to sue for libel.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Smith’s idea of Satanism suffers from the same faulty assumptions as Doreen Irvine’s account (see From Witchcraft to Christ); she depicts Satanists as worshippers of the literal devil of the Bible. The rituals are filled with pointless, nonsensical, sinister elements, and horror movie trappings, including at one point the appearance of a monstrous spider crawling across the altar cloth and a vampire bat with claw-tipped wings perched on the altar’s edge. In the final quarter of the book, Satan makes regular appearances in the flesh. And Smith’s depiction of him is an all-out horror movie cliché, right down to the horns on his head and the claws on his hands. Curiously, he has a pig’s snout and sports a tail that occasionally shape-shifts into a snake. Fire sprouts from his back. Amusingly, Satan insists on continually speaking in rhyming verse throughout the account:
The knife is ready. It is time to begin.
It has been poisoned and sharpened very thin.
I confess that when I began reading this book, I seriously considered that this child might have been the victim of some deeply unethical occult group. But by the time I finished, the entire tale had made a nosedive into total religious farce. In addition to enduring the devil’s bad poetry, Smith witnesses heads spinning, just like Linda Blair in the movie The Exorcist (1973). Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Michael appear to Smith at various points during her dark days in the ritual chamber. Absurdly, Mary sprinkles her sentences with French, which would not have been her native language, nor is it Smith’s. The two authors’ combined depiction of Satanism seems to be a fusion of their own Catholic prejudices and Pazder’s past encounters with unusual religion from when he was working and living in Africa in the 1960s. He goes as far as drawing this comparison himself in the book. It’s hard to see how Pazder maintained any credibility with his peers after publishing this unconscionable mix of psychiatry and superstition as fact.
It also turns out that some of Smith’s claims are provably false beyond reasonable doubt. Early in the story, she is allegedly involved in a car crash that is staged to look like an accident, as a means of the Satanists getting rid of a dead body. Conveniently, it happened so long ago that police and hospital records of the event were destroyed at the time of Smith’s therapy. However, Pazder overlooked the fact that it’s possible to check the newspaper records in library archives. No such incident was reported around the time indicated by Smith’s testimony.
The book features a photograph of a mausoleum at Ross Bay cemetery, at which a ritual allegedly took place. However, when this building is snapped from different angle (as another photographer has demonstrated), the mausoleum is revealed to be within eyeshot of suburban houses. Maybe the Satanists used one of Doreen Irvine’s invisibility spells!
Towards the end of the book there is an eighty-one-day non-stop ceremony. Yearbooks from Smith’s elementary school have revealed no indication of her being missing for a lengthy period of time.
There are many more problems with Smith’s account that I could raise, but these examples suffice to destroy her credibility. All that remains is to determine whether she is delusional or an outright liar. The coherency and detail in her account causes me to side with the latter.
Even without the evidence against Smith and Pazder, the simple fact that nothing can be corroborated ought to raise warning bells in the minds of readers. But many people have never made the mental effort to learn what criteria they ought to use in determining truth from falsehood. People tend to believe things if they merely feel true, or if they simply want to believe. The ability to believe claims in the absence of evidence is how witch-hunts are born. And in this instance, that’s exactly what happened.
Michelle Remembers opened the floodgates for countless reports of satanic ritual abuse. Pazder was considered to be an expert. He became involved in the Cult Crime Impact Network and lectured to police agencies about SRA during the late 1980s. By September 1990 he had been consulted in more than a thousand ritual abuse cases.
Closure of the Satanic Panic finally came with the publication of the Lanning Report (1991) by the FBI. Three hundred cases of multi-victim, multi-offender SRA were examined and no physical evidence of abuse could be found. Aside from the occasional unethical pseudo-Satanist, there was no evidence whatsoever of any underground occult organisation engaging in SRA. This document can be read in full on the internet. Conspiracy theorists still like to keep the phenomenon alive. I read this in an online forum: “The Lanning Report is load of pig shit, if you ask me. Written by the same people it claims ‘do not exist.’” Of course, the conspiracy theorist doesn’t require actual evidence of the FBI’s involvement in a cover-up; the mere suspicion of it is enough to warrant belief.
During the years of the Panic, the lives of many law-abiding Satanists (and other non-satanic occultists) were subjected to the judgements of a dangerously ignorant population (including its law enforcement) that was feeding on a diet of sensationalist propaganda.
By contrast, the uncovering of real, verified, widespread child abuse within the Catholic Church has to be one of the most spectacular reversals of expectation in history, as we discover that real evil lies within those who masquerade as the good, rather than those who merely enjoy the glamour of sinister symbolism.
The Satanic Panic must never happen again. That will only be possible through the widespread triumph of reason over superstition.
In 1978, Peter J. Carroll co-founded a magical order called the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT), deriving its name from the two Greek gods Thanatos (death) and Eros (sexual love). Liber Null and Psychonaut are two books, collected here in one volume, which are aimed at the newcomer to the organisation, as well as those seeking entry, and those pursuing their own individual magical path. The books explain the fundamentals of Carroll’s brand of occultism, which he calls “chaos magic.” His two primary influences are, by his own admission, Aleister Crowley and Austin O. Spare. Carroll describes his order as a “satrap of the Illuminati.” Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with that one.
“Chaos” is a term that Carroll uses as a substitute for what a philosopher might call God, or what I, in my own personal vocabulary call the Infinite. Chaos is the ground zero of everything that exists. It is a useful term, because it removes any notion that the Infinite is a personal being, or is in any way sypmathetic to the human condition. “Gnosis” is the term used to describe a state of no-mind gained through the use of trance. “Kia” denotes the basis of consciousness, the essence of which is will and perception. These are just some of the terms employed in the IOT’s lexicon.
This book really hit the spot, in terms of what a reader like myself hopes to obtain from reading a magical text: fresh insights and new angles that I might be able to integrate into my own personal understanding of the universe. The book was a treasure trove in this regard. It was especially exciting in light of my own experiments in psychokinesis. Carroll’s system not only accommodates such phemonena, but mirrors the very techniques I’ve already discovered trough trial and error, and suggests avenues for improvement. Those who pursue psychic abilities from a purely scientific perspective are missing out, in my opinion.
So often a magical text is concerned with personal development and influencing others – what the LaVeyan system calls “lesser magic.” Refreshingly, Carroll is chiefly preoccupied with “greater magic” – acts of a genuinely paranormal nature. He describes a interesting technique using personal “sigils” – where a desire is written down in words, and the words are then visually reconstructed into a “glyph of desire.” I have nothing to say, presently, on whether such a technique works, but it certainly was interesting.
I was by no means in agreement with everything that Carroll asserts, especially in regard to reincarnation. There was the bold assertion that a magician could carry his life forward into a new body, by means of a particular visualisation at the moment of his death. Unless Carroll himself has all the memories of a past life and can demonstrate this, how on earth could such a claim be proven?
Nevertheless, this was a thoroughly engrossing read, full of insight. I finished it wanting to read it all over again.
Edgar Cayce was an American psychic who lived from 1877 to 1945. The majority of his work consists of channelling answers to questions while in a hypnotic trance. This was called giving a “reading.” Readings consisted of: giving general advice on life from an astrological basis; giving medical advice on ailments; helping to locate missing persons; providing information about ancient Atlantis and the future of the planet.
Interestingly, Cayce was a devout Christian throughout his life, which is hard to marry with his use of astrology, given Christianity’s condemnation of magic. It is claimed that he had no education in this art, which is hard to believe, since his language mimics the general practice of astrology, which is, in my opinion, a rather flawed magical art.
The book begins, very interestingly, with a chapter entitled “The Universal Mind,” which is concerned with where Cayce obtains his information. The idea is that there is a sea of consciousness, of which our individual minds are just an aspect. Cayce’s trances allowed a greater flow of information from the Universal Mind than his normal waking consciousness would be able to process. I resonate very much with this way of thinking, and I was eager to know more.
Unfortunately, after a few chapters of this nature, the book changes tack, and concerns itself with raising Cayce on a pedestal rather than teaching anything useful about psychic abilities. I quickly grew bored reading case after case of supposedly accurate psychic readings. All the while, the sceptic in me was making note of the fact that, while the author Doris Agee had access to “The Cayce Files,” she chose to relay the stories to using aliases, which makes any verification of facts impossible.
When reincarnation was mentioned, Cayce’s readings always fell into a pattern that I see so often with frauds. Have you ever noticed that when a psychic talks about somebody’s past life, that life is always special: he either lived in Atlantis, or he was an Egyptian priest, or he was present with Jesus at the cruxificion, and so on. Statistically speaking, why would your past life be any more special than your present? But it always is. And that’s very telling, isn’t it?
The clincher came when Cayce offered some prophecy about the world’s future, that great “earth changes” would take place between 1958 and 1998, including the destruction of Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. FAIL.
I get frustrated when reading books about psychic matters, because it’s hard to tell the genuine information from the fraudulent. All things considered, I have to categorise Edgar Cayce in the latter group. What a waste of time.
My interest in books on psychic phenomena lies in the fact that I’ve had personal experience. First as someone who witnessed a genuine demonstration of psychokinesis, and then as someone who decided to go after the elusive proof by figuring out how to do it for myself (and getting results). I first heard of Dean Radin from the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!? Sadly, he was confined to the DVD extras, but after listening to him, I felt he was the most impressive voice of all the interviewees (the less said about J.Z. Knight, aka Ramtha, the better). It’s worth tracking down the extended cut (Down the Rabbit Hole), where Radin takes his rightful place within the film itself.
Radin is currently Laboratory Director at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, California, and has been involved in parapsychological research at various universities for over two decades. At Stanford Research Institute he was part of the then classified US Government “Stargate” program, which investigated psychic phenomena. I would say his credential are in order. But the real question is, does his book come up with the goods?
In my opinion, this is the book to read on psychic phenomena, for both the open-minded skeptic and the psychic dabbler seeking a little more confidence. God knows, the world is awash with “psychic” frauds; it’s about time we had a book by a believer who is prepared to be rigorous and dispassionate with the empirical data.
Pitting my own conversations with skeptics against the historical information in this book, I can only conclude that when the skeptic says, “There’s no evidence,” this is more of a blind materialistic assumption than a statement of fact based on informed opinion. Across the 20th century, there is a wealth of statistical information in favour of the reality of psychic phenomena. The trouble with validating psychic phenomena seems to stem more from the fact that the observed effects are not large enough for many people to make the necessary paradigm shift regarding how the universe works. There is still an unfortunate philosophical materialism in the minds of scientists, which hasn’t yet been eroded by the assertions of quantum physics.
The majority of skeptics mischaracterise psychic abilities as “magic powers,” and when no magic (to their preconceived standard) is forthcoming, everything psychic is then characterised as ridiculous. But the real focus of this book is not power of any kind, but the deepening of our understanding of the nature of the relationship between mind and matter, something that is by no means well understood – except in the faulty presuppositions of the materialists, who suppose the mind to be nothing more than a product of the physical brain, and ultimately an illusion.
The book includes much data on intuition, telepathy, psychokinesis, presentiment. You won’t find anything on levitating objects, but you will find curious statistics on the outcomes of dice throws. There are some startling experiments on random number generators and their correlation to major world events like 9/11. At times the book is a little monotonous, simply giving example after example, but such repetition is justified in a topic as controversial as this.
Those interested in learning psychic abilities will not find any instruction sets in here. That’s not the focus of the book. Radin’s aim is clearly to effect some change for the better in a scientific community that is still stuck in the wrong paradigm. Entangled Minds is an important work. I can’t comprehend how any rational-minded skeptic could fail to be impressed with Radin’s handling of the topic.
Michael W. Ford calls himself a “Luciferian.” What this means, and how it differs from “Satanist,” is not easy to nail down. Equally difficult to answer definitively is the question: “What is Luciferianism?” Briefly, I think it is fair to say that a Luciferian is someone who finds greater relevance in the meaning of Lucifer (light-bearer) than Satan (adversary). There is certainly no evidence of a belief system of any significant scale called “Luciferianism” (despite what conspiracy theorists would assert). Furthermore, Ford’s own “Luciferian Magickal Order,” the Order of Phosphorous, is not the only contender; there is also the Ordo Luciferis, Ordo Luciferi, Temple of the Dark Sun, Neo-Luciferian Church.
The title of the book under review is an inversion (of sorts) of the Hebrew name of God in the Old Testament, rendered either as JHVH or YHWH. Y and J are the same in Hebrew, as are V and W. The language contains no vowels, so there is often some guessing required as to the correct pronunciation of words; hence we have Jehovah and Yahweh. Written backwards we get HVHJ. Where Ford comes up with HVHI is not explained, nor is any clue given as to how to pronounce this “name.”
Liber HVHI is a modern grimoire, drawing upon the myths of various past cultures, with a particular emphasis on Ahriman of Zoroastrianism. Also central to the book is the Qlippoth, a variation of the Tree of Life glyph from the Hebrew Cabala. Much of the historial material was so unfamiliar to me, and communicated with such brevity, that it was impossible to digest coherently. I also failed to grasp the reason for the importance Ford’s approach to magic. I understand myths as approximations to truth, which is why myths are always evolving over time, or outliving their usefulness. Ford’s insistence on the use of ancient myth strikes me as backward. It’s like learning astronomy, but refusing to let go of Ptolemy’s geocentric universe. In reading Liber HVHI, I was reminded of Anton LaVey’s opening statement in the preface to The Satanic Bible:
This book was written because, with very few exceptions, every tract and paper, every “secret” grimoire, all the “great works” on the subject of magic, are nothing more than sanctimonious fraud – guilt-ridden ramblings and esoteric gibberish by chroniclers of magical lore unable or unwilling to present an objective view on the subject.
And yet occasionally Liber HVHI struck a note of brilliance, as Ford communicated a rare insight, one hard to grasp by those unfamiliar to the Left-Hand Path. These flashes are what kept me reading, but they were few and far between. The material of worth in this volume would have filled a pamphlet. The book makes occasional references to a previous work of Ford’s, Luciferian Witchcraft. Perhaps I would have gained a little more out of Liber HVHI if I had started with the other one, but somehow I doubt it. There is a clarity to modern occult writers like Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino that is sadly lacking here.
When I was fifteen, in high school, we had one period of Religious Education per week. For about half of the school year, this lesson consisted solely of our class reading through From Witchcraft to Christ, chapter by chapter. Today, revisiting the book two decades later, I’m amazed by how much of the story I remember. You might say it had something of an impact on me originally; it certainly reinforced Christianity and coloured my opinion of the occult.
When I was fifteen I was completely naive, and when I became a Christian at age seventeen, I wasn’t much brighter. Now, however, as an adult who survived the brainwashing exercise of religion and came out the other side with a razor sharp intellect, my memories of Doreen Irvine’s autobiography take on quite a different light. My intention in re-reading this book is to either confirm or deny my suspicion that what we are dealing with here is a liar.
The problems begin with the author’s note at the beginning. “I have of necessity omitted many details of my former life, the people I was associated with at this time and other personal details.” She explains that her intention “was to present a readable account of part of my life and to avoid having to relate definite dates and situations with known persons living or dead.” Unfortunately for the reader, such details could have corroborated Irvine’s claims, Without them we are left to simply wonder how much of what we are reading is fantasy. This is especially important given the fantastical nature of some of her claims, which we will come to shortly.
Nevertheless, the early part of book has an air of credibility; the reader gets the feel of someone relating direct experience. Irvine was a disadvantaged child, living in a council estate in Britain during World War II, with her mother, alcoholic father, and younger sisters. She was mischievous and a ringleader to the children of the neighbourhood, continually getting into trouble. Home life got worse when her mother upped and left and her father brought home a mistress. In her early teens, a local charity worker decided to help Doreen by getting her a job as a maid for a local upper class woman. Doreen stuck it out for a while, but naively longed for the idea of a better life in London. After saving some money, she left on the train without a word to anyone. In the big city, she quickly found work as a prostitute, then as a stripper, calling herself Daring Diana. In this profession, she made some serious money, and was able to afford a classy flat for herself. Despite material success, her main problem was loneliness, for which she turned to drugs. Heroin addiction ended up ruining her ability to do her job, so she returned to prostitution and also indulged in shoplifting. One day she was caught stealing jewelry and got three months in prison, which at least served as a withdrawal clinic for the drugs.
You can tell that this is shaping up to be one of those sensationalist Christian testimonies where the author revels in telling the audience how rotten she was, and how great God is for saving her. In all honesty I have nothing but contempt for such screw-ups. If you’re dumb enough to invite a man to stick a heroin needle into your arm, then you deserve whatever consequences befall you; I have no sympathy. The only time I felt any sense of respect for Doreen was when she was getting it together as a stripper (something she no doubt looks back on with disdain). Not the most respectable of jobs, but you’ve got to salute a woman who brings about material success for herself using whatever assets she has. That said, for the most part, this is the story of a young girl who squandered the opportunities given to her and whose recklessness brought about her undoing. The message of the book is basically: “God rescued me from my stupidity.” Am I being too harsh? Frankly, the people I have respect for are those who have the sense not to ruin their lives, or those who bring themselves back from the brink of disaster by their own determination. Doreen Irvine, however, belongs to the self-pity school of thought: “Poor me. Help me, Lord.” You ever notice how such testimonies are always about acceptable sins: “I was an alcoholic, but God redeemed me!” “I was addicted to heroin, but by the grace of God I’m now free.” “I was an IRA hitman, but by God’s mercy I am forgiven!” “I was a Satanist, but the might of Jesus freed me from the power of the devil!” You never hear anyone say, “I used to rape little boys, but through the blood of Christ my sins are washed clean!” That’s why I can’t stand these big boastful displays of past sin, because there’s sin that’s trendy to parade, and there’s SIN that isn’t.
You may have noticed that From Witchcraft to Christ hasn’t yet included any witchcraft. That’s because there’s not a lot of it, only a couple of short chapters worth. And it’s these chapters where Irvine’s credibility falls asunder. The believable detail of the early chapters is replaced with the sort of summarising brevity that is indicative of someone who wasn’t really there doing what she claims to have been doing. But that’s only a minor criticism. The details that she does give are enough to damn her.
When she came out of prison, she went back to her life as Daring Diana the stripper. One night, she overheard two girls talking about a “Satanist temple.” She asked them about it. At first they were reluctant to say anything, but with a quick nudge, they conceded to take Doreen to their Satanist meeting place. Doreen was blindfolded and taken by car to a secret location. There were about five hundred people in the hall, which was draped in black. A Satanic ceremony takes place, involving the sacrifice of a cockerel, people dressed in robes, and lots of chanting. The ceremony is said to last two hours, but Irvine gives practically no detail. Afterwards, she is asked by the chief Satanist if she would like to join their religion. And she does.
Anyone who has done some research into the occult will see that Irvine has no more knowledge of the subject than you would gain from a few Hammer movies or Dennis Wheatley novels. She refers to her religion as “the order of Satanism,” not seeming to realise that an order is a subdivision of a religion – a religion that is never named. Perhaps it’s the order of Satanism of the religion Satanism? On another occasion she refers to it as “the most ancient order of Satanism.” If so, you would think that the leader would be called by a legitimate occult title like “Ipsissimus” or “High Priest.” No, Irvine has no familiarity with occultism, so in her limited imagination she continually refers to the leader as “the chief Satanist.” Often, she erroneously refers to Satan as Lucifer, something that crept into Christian tradition through a mistranslation of the Old Testament into Latin. You would think the real Prince of Darkness would know that he isn’t a minor Roman deity. Irvine is also fond of calling her master Diablos; it’s unfortunate that the devil can’t spell (correct rendering “Diabolus”).
Irvine furnishes us with some of the rules of Satanism that she was required to obey:
1. Secrecy is the keynote for all Satanists. They must never reveal the whereabouts of the temples to an outsider or the things that go on inside the temple.
And yet somehow all it took for Doreen to be transported right into the heart of the most secret organisation (one whose existence isn’t even known today in the internet age) was to ask a couple of its members in a stripclub?
3. Satanists must never enter a Christian church unless sent in to spy by the chief Satanist.
Why not? What would a Satanist be afraid of? The power of the Christian Gospel? I think not.
4. Satanists must never read the Holy Bible for their own edifiction.
Again, why not? What self-respecting Satanist would be afraid of a book he thinks is full of lies? Compared to Anton LaVey’s “Nine Satanic Statements,” Irvine’s rules of Satanism seem rather infantile.
Lies are compounded upon lies, as Irvine thoroughly insults the reader’s intelligence in her tale of how she became initiated as “the queen of black witches” (another title that has no existence in occult lore). She had to walk through a bonfire, and as she did so, the devil walked with her, visibly as a black figure. On several occasions she talks about seeing Satan physically, hearing his voice audibly, then later as a Christian she makes the same claims about Jesus. Of course, there’s not a shred of evidence, and the reader is simply expected to take her word for everything. One night Irvine is with her witch chums on the moor when several men come over the hill. She uses her Satanic powers to make the witches invisible, and avoid getting caught. Brimming with occult power, with zero esoteric knowledge. How does she do it?
In the two brief chapters about Irvine’s experiences with Satanism and witchcraft, she had opportunity to completely blow the lid off this. But she refains. Details are scant, events are summarised, locations remain unknown. She talks about how the meeting places used as Satanist temples change regularly to maintain secrecy, but after she becomes a Christian she doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting in touch with her old pals and attempting to convert them.
Irvine’s conversion to Christianity is fraught with difficulty, as apparently she is possessed by numerous demons. Rev. Arthur Neil exorcises her over a period of many months. The demons that leave her have names like Doubt, Deceit, Lust, Lies, Pride, Witchcraft, Tormentor. That’s right, folks, if you’ve ever experienced doubt, that’s not your brain’s way of making sure you have a robust enough reason to believe in something; that’s an infernal demon from the pit of hell gnawing at you! There’s even a demon called Lesbian. Yes, all you rug-munchers; you are possessed!
Once Irvine is on the “right path,” the final quarter of the book is taken up by sanctimonious, melodramatic stories of her early ministry as an evangelist. Oh, now we get the detail. I had to smile when she sprained her ankle and had to cancel one of her appointements, for she believed that to be Satan’s doing. This reminded me so much of the silly damaging ideas that used to occupy my own brainwashed mind in another life.
It’s difficult to know how much of Irvine’s story is deliberate deceit and how much is down to over-enthusiatic evangelists preying upon a psychologically unstable woman. In any case, it is clear that Irvine’s witchcraft experience is entirely bogus, or at best grossly exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Interestingly, there’s not a single mention of the Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) of children, something which became a staple of Satanic testimonies in the 1980s and 1990s (the period known as the Satanic Panic). Clearly, in the 1970s, when Irvine wrote her story, SRA hysteria had not become part of the zeitgeist. It’s omission makes From Witchcraft to Christ an important book historically, for it demonstrates how people simply accept sensationalist tales, regardless of their content or veracity. This book has become a big seller in Christian circles and is still in print today. That depresses me, because the material is easily debunked by anyone with a healthy sound mind. Sadly, the success of this book only attests to the credulity of the general mass of humanity.
Let the honest Christian reader take note, you should be every bit as concerned as I am to expose people like Doreen Irvine. Liars in your ranks do you no credit.
If you would like to see this lady in action, telling porkies for Jesus, look her up on YouTube.
The cover illustration on my copy of this book features a spooky skull, dagger, black candle, pestel & mortal, all sitting on what is presumably an occult grimoire. Along with the title, The Black Arts, this is presumably meant to mislead the would-be magician with the promise of forbidden secrets, and to perhaps evoke outrage from the “moral” majority, which is always good for popularity. Neither the title nor the illustration factored into my reasons for reading. First, Richard Cavendish is a well respected name as a researcher, and secondly the book was first published in 1967. Students of the occult will know that the Church of Satan (the first above-ground Satanic organisation) was founded in 1966, by one Anton Szandor LaVey, who published The Satanic Bible in 1969. Since then, LaVey has been the defining voice of what constitutes modern Satanism. It was my hope that Cavendish’s book would, on the other hand, provide an insight into pre-LaVeyan Satanism, if there even was such a thing.
The first thing I noticed about The Black Arts was that there’s nothing very black about much of the content. Cavendish devotes chapters to explaining the magical theory of the universe, numerology, the Cabala (or Kabbalah), alchemy and astrology. Only the last quarter of the book is devoted to ritual magic and devil worship. Cavendish does not appear to put much credence in occult theories, judging by his occasional critical anecdotes. Most of the time, however, he is completely dispassionate, simply offering us the historical facts and allowing us to make of them what we will. This is the real strength of the book. Key occult figures like Aleister Crowley, Eliphas Levi, John Dee are mentioned frequently, but in a scattered fashion. I would have loved a more comprehensive outline of their lives. H.P. Blavatsky is notable by her complete absence.
Regarding medieval Satanism, it is impossible to separate truth from lies, as it was an unfortunate habit of the Christian Church to brand heretics with the label “Satanist” and to accuse them of strange practices. In fact, the term “Satanist” would seem to have originated with the Church, and there is no evidence of the word being used to denote an actual ideology before Anton LaVey actively embraced it. In medieval times, accusing Satanists of stealing unbaptised babies for ritual sacrifice is a pretty sure way of ensuring that mothers baptised their infants fast. Satanists were, at least to some extent, the boogeymen. Although the spread of “devil worship” was certainly not nearly as prevalent as the Church made out, there remains some evidence of witchcraft afoot – an inversion of Christianity, where the devil is worshipped in place of God. The extent of witchcraft, and its exact nature, are lost in the mists of time.
I got a great deal out of this book. Much of the occult is based on flimsy ideas that don’t hold water when examined rationally. If there can be said to be any power in the speaking of incantations during ritual, it is not in the words themselves, but in the magician who chooses to invest power in the words. In other words, the magic is inside you, not in dusty old grimoires. One interesting anecdote for modern Satanists is the term “Shemhamforash,” which is quoted in The Satanic Bible during ritual, without explanation for what it means. According to Cavendish, the word is a name of God, arrived at through a numerological calculation on the Bible passage Exodus 14:19-21 (where the Israelites cross the Red Sea). These three verses are said to be significant because each contains 72 letters (in the original Hebrew). Interesting how LaVey, who put no credence whatsoever in the Bible, would use something derived from the Bible in his own Satanic rituals. That should tell you something about magical lore; it is all unneccesary fluff, borrowed from elsewhere. Its effectiveness is only in the effect you choose to give it upon yourself.
Magicians wishing to find powerful secrets will no doubt be disappointed by this book. Those who value separating truth from error will appreciate it. I think this handy volume has allowed me to avoid a lot of future disappointments and dead ends in my own research. Well worth the time invested.
Charles Fort (1874-1932) was a collector of unusual news items from a wide variety of sources. Due to his books, he became the man from whom the Fortean Society, as well as the British magazine Fortean Times, derives its name. He is very much like a Victorian Fox Mulder with his X-Files cabinet. Fort was originally a novelist, but The Book of the Damned (1919) was to be a turning point in his career, becoming the first of four books on the paranormal, which are commonly found today as a single omnibus edition.
This first volume is concerned largely with bizarre objects that have fallen from the sky, with the occasional mention of strange markings on the ground and submarine objects, both of which possibly originated in the sky. You won’t find the term “flying saucer” in the book, as this predates the saucer era. What you will find is a catalogue of the most bizarre things that will put furrows of confusion across any UFO ethusiast’s brow. There are falls of frogs, fishes, unknown gelatinous substances, a wide range of inorganic materials, impossibly large hailstones. The “damned” of the book’s title refers to anything that mainstream science cannot explain and therefore seeks to bend into a shape that will fit conventional explanation, or as a last resort, ignore. For instance, science seeks to explain the fall of frogs as frogs that were taken up in a tornado and deposited back to earth in a different location. Fort points out an instance which defies this explanation, such as when a second fall happens at the exact same place on a different date. Science, however, ignores this – damns it, if you will.
Fort proposes something that he terms the “Super-Sargasso Sea” as a quasi-explanation for what’s going on – an invisible realm in the sky populated by all sorts. It’s difficult to tell how much credence Fort himself puts in this theory, as the book is full of wit. Fort presents himself as someone who is more concerned with getting people to admit how little the know, rather than claiming he knows something himself. He calls himself an “intermediatist.”
Fort’s style is the book’s weakest point. Everything is tossed together in a somewhat random fashion, with the author’s rambling commentary flowing throughout, often making the same point over and over in different words. As such, it became tiresome to read at times, and I often felt that a good essay would have suffices in place of such a large volume. But what I loved about the book as a whole is that Fort has the heart of a philosopher, and this shines throughout. This is really a book about the nature of truth, and our relationship to truth. How do we know what we know, and do we really know anything at all for sure? Fort continually points the finger at the “positivists” – those whose attitude is “Well, such-and-such cannot be true, because it defies such-and-such, so we shall damn it,” as if current scientific theory were an unshakeable absolute. The universe according to Charles Fort is a place that keeps thwarting our attempts to “positivise” (as he calls it) – to determine absolute truth in our science.
It’s difficult to know how much or how little of Fort’s catalogue is trustworthy. But Fort himself admits that if only a portion is true, then his point stands. The Book of the Damned is an effective warning against the error of scientism. Far too many sceptics and rational thinkers turn mainstream science into dogma, and completely forget the lesson from history of how knowledge has continually evolved, and will continue to do so, with many corrections to what we “know” along the way. I leave you with a few quotes from the author:
Science of today – the superstition of tomorrow. Science of tomorrow – the superstition of today.
All phenomena are “explained” in terms of the Dominant of their era.
Michael Aquino was a Lt. Colonel in the US Army (now retired), as well as being a high-ranking member of the Church of Satan. These two facts have caused plenty of wild speculation among paranoid conspiracists about links between the government and Satanism; I will not indulge them here. Aquino left the Church of Satan in 1975, after a major disagreement with its founder Anton LaVey. He went on to form the Temple of Set, taking with him a portion of the Church’s priesthood who sympathised with his stance.
Aquino is interesting because he is what is known as a theistic Satanist (or Setian, as he would now call himself), where Satan/Set is viewed as more than a mere metaphor for rebellion. Theistic Satanists would seem to be in the minority today, but they are commonly misunderstood as being believers in the actual Satan of the Bible. In reality, they are no different from theists who see all religions as vaguely pointing to the same metaphysical reality. Words like “Set” are used to give substance to a reality that is ultimately beyond our understanding and must be intuited.
Black Magic was written in successive edits from 1975 to 2010. It was never published commercially, but reserved for new members of the Temple of Set. Due to it appearing in various forms on the internet, Aquino has now publicly released the definitive version for free download from his web site.
Early chapters of the book are mostly concerned with Temple-specific matters, such as identifying reasons why a person should or should not join, explaining the degree system of the Temple and the Egyptian connection.
Where the book really takes off for me is chapter 4, entitled “The Black Magical Theory of the Universe.” My own personal experience with psi phenomena leads me to believe that the fundamental nature of the universe is much weirder than materialistic science would give credence to, so I am always fascinated by bigger worldviews. The Temple divides the universe into two parts: the Objective Universe (OU), which is the world around you, and the Subjective Universe (SU), which is essentially the world inside your head, incorporating the OU filtered through your sense and brain, and also anything you imagine. In mundane existence, the OU affects the SU, and it doesn’t work the other way around. However, there exists what is called a Magical Link between your SU and the OU, which allows the SU to affect the OU.
Magic is divided into “Lesser Black Magic” and “Greater Black Magic.” The former is the use of obscure physical laws to affect another person’s SU; stage magic, for instance. The latter is something genuinely supra-mundane, achieved using ritual. Ritual is seen as a means of affecting one’s own SU to create the Magical Link. Ultimately, ritual is not a necessity, and is referred to as training wheels for magic. Medial Black Magic is non-ritualised magic.
The book also contains material on ethics, discussing various schools of ethics that have developed through philosophy. Of chief concern is the role of the Black Magician in the world, as an agent of productive change. The Temple of Set has completely moved away from the unfortunate stereotype that attaches itself to Satanism: the misconception by the would-be Satanist that he has found a philosophy that will allow him to justify his decadence and destructiveness. No such persons are welcome as members of the Temple of Set.
Aquino is an extremely clear and rational writer. There is no muddy water in his presentation. I’m not sure how much or how little I agree with his worldview, but I found this book to be a treasure trove of useful insights. It’s also not so intellectual that a lay reader can’t benefit.
The one piece of weak scholarship in the volume is Aquino’s conflation of the Hebrew “Satan” with the earlier Egyptian “Set-an.” This shows a complete lack of understanding of the origins of the Hebrew word, which is not even a name, but a common verb/noun, translated as “to oppose” in Numbers 22:22. It also needs to be understand that the Hebrew Satan is not the same as the later development of the Christian Satan. The original character was an angel in God’s service (see the Book of Job), not an adversary to God as he is depicted in Christianity.
Recommended reading for students of philosophy and metaphysics, as well as psychic and occult dabblers.
Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, wrote five books over the course of his life (including one published posthumously). The Devil’s Notebook is his fourth, and represents a return to publishing after a very long hiatus. Actually, not quite. Having now read all of LaVey’s books, I perceive that they can be separated into two clear categories: the early trio and the later duo. In 1969, just three years after the formation of the Church of Satan, LaVey published The Satanic Bible. In quick success after that came The Compleat Witch (1970, later rebranded The Satanic Witch), followed by The Satanic Rituals (1972). Nothing further was published by LaVey in book form, until the 1990s, although he published frequent essays in the church’s newletter The Cloven Hoof. In fact, the two books The Devil’s Notebook (1992) and Satan Speaks! (1998) consist mostly, if not wholely, of reprints of those very essays.
The first three books, from the first decade of the Church of Satan, are groundbreaking works, and when reading them you feel a very positive forward-looking vibe. The latter two works are markedly different in tone, more egotistical, angst-laden, and reflective of the past instead of the future (particularly Satan Speaks!). There is perhaps a sense of a man who is getting more and more misanthropic as he gets older. The gradual decline may be down to the lack of success enjoyed by the church, particularly since 1975 when a disagreement with his second in command, Michael Aquino, led to Aquino leaving the church and taking a substantial part of the priesthood with him, then forming the Temple of Set. Much later the Church of Satan also suffered bankruptcy. It continued to function, as it does today, but seems to have lost much of the mojo of its first decade.
Regardless of these criticism, The Devil’s Notebook contains many thought-provoking essays. Two in particular stood out for me. “Erotic Crystallization Inertia,” in which LaVey speculates about the persistence of the standards of beauty that we form in our youth. Then “Law of the Trapezoid,” in which LaVey speculates about the emotional effects of angles – particularly in relation to supposedly haunted houses or “cursed” rooms, where bad things happen. My background in art makes me familiar with the emotional effects of colours, and it would seem that shapes can likewise evoke feelings. LaVey claims that cursed rooms are due to a slightly off wall, where the conscious mind doesn’t spot the nasty angle, but the subconscious feels the effect of something being askew. This is how rooms can provoke angry confrontations or perhaps even multiple suicides over time. It’s got nothing to do with haunting spirits, as such; merely haunting angles. I’m not sure how much of what LaVey claims is true, but there is certainly something to the notion. I kept thinking about two characters from the Disney film The Black Hole: V.I.N.CENT, the grey-coloured, dome-headed, square-eyed robot, and Maximillian, the red-coloured cyborg with the single glowing red strip for an eye and the trapezoidal head. Ask anyone who has never seen the movie to guess which character is good and which evil, and I imagine everyone would score top marks. And not just because of the colours. It’s in the angles, too. It’s something you perceive intuitively.
Towards the close of the volume are a couple of essays on LaVey’s bizarre fascination with constructing what he calls “artificial human companions.” LaVey spent quite a bit of time modifying mannequins. He had the basement of his house decked out as a seedy bar-room, complete with flashing neon that filtered in through a fake window. In here he placed his companions and spent time with them. He predicted there would be a future industry of android companions – something that doesn’t show any sign of materialising. From a magical perspective, I understand the idea of the using proxies, but in mundane existence, a preference for artificial companionship over real companionship escapes me; it’s like having the choice between a real sexual relationship with a woman, or masturbating to porn – and choosing the latter. Perhaps LaVey’s fascination with artificiality simply reveals the extent of his misanthropia towards the human race.
The Devil’s Notebook is well worth reading, as are all of LaVey’s books. The real legacy of Anton LaVey is not the failed Church of Satan, or the Temple of Set. His legacy is the burning torch of individualism within so many people, that might never have been ignited without discovering his writings.
The Satanic Witch! An attention-grabbing title, if ever there was one. That said, occultniks and sensation-seekers may be disappointed to learn that the focus of this volume is not spell-casting in the supernatural sense, but in the entirely mundane manner of bewitchment by psychological manipulation – the effective use of feminine wiles, in other words.
LaVey appears to have undertaken a painstaking amount of personal research into typing human beings, the results of which he has condensed into what he calls the LaVey Personality Synthesizer. This is a clock diagram which places various body-types at points on the clock, then assigns various personality traits to each. In summary:
Twelve o’clock (the most male core) represents wide shoulders; long torso; narrow hips; short legs; hard, firm flesh; pioneer; domineering; aggressive; impulsive; always onstage; selfish; authoritarian.
Six o’clock (the most female core) represents narrow shoulders; short torso; long legs; wide hips; marshmallow flesh; fluidic movements; carries things out; consistent; dedicated; receptive; dependable; generous; steady.
Three o’clock (intellectual) represents narrow, stick build; sinewy; no wasist; translucent; social critic; technical; abstract; least social; dour; hair-splitter; clinical; thinker, not doer.
Nine o’clock (emotional) represents thick sausage build; resilient; rubbery flesh; social; sense of humour; agreeable; concrete; doer, not thinker; practical; resourceful.
The idea is to locate your own position on the clock. This then reveals your perfect partner of the opposite sex, who should be directly opposite you on the clock. That’s the theory, anyway. I see myself at somewhere between one and two on the clock, so my perfect partner should be between seven and eight, having a feminine core, with emotional and practical traits. There’s something to be said for that, actually. Being a single man, I am well aware of my own lack of domestic practicality, which would be compensated for by a partner who had those natural nesting instincts. Without reference to the synthesizer, I fancy the idea of a partner who shares my intellectual pursuits, but in reality this could mean that my home would end up as twice as messy as it is at present! (I am also dangerously close to be being pegged as a male chauvanist.)
The LaVey Synthesizer Clock is something unique to LaVey. It’s not in common usage in modern psychology, and testing the subtleties of categorisation in your own personal experience might require almost as much time as it took LaVey to synthesize them. As such, this element of the book was of limited value. Broadly speaking, it is valid to say that maleness and femaleness are different; they are different for reasons of compatibility; these differences are differences of body and temperament, both of which are interlinked; and that degrees of maleness and femaleness are present to varying degrees in males and females, extreme examples being the female tomboy and the effeminate male.
The primary strength of this book is its frankness. Sexuality is the main focus and nothing is considered taboo. Most interesting of all was LaVey’s discussion of what he terms the Law of the Forbidden. How a mere glimpse of something that’s not meant to be seen will be far more stimulating to a man than a full-frontal nude; the flesh of a woman’s thigh coming into view above the hem-line of her tights as she crosses her legs – this can be more exciting than a woman dancing on a stage with no clothes on.
The main disappointment of the book is that its view of sex and romance is entirely manipulative. “How to bewitch a man” is true to the book’s title and theme, but I think it’s tragic that male-female relationships are painted entirely in this hollow light. There’s even something a little hypocritical to the Satanic principle of “Responsibility to the responsible” (see The Satanic Bible) when LaVey includes advice on how a woman who wishes to seduce a married man should go about it.
While the main focus of the book is “lesser magic” (psychological ploys), there is a chapter towards the end on “greater magic,” which reveals many fascinating additions to the information already presented in The Satanic Bible.
LaVey has been known to be dishonest about the details of his past (see The Secret Life of a Satanist by Blanche Barton). The Satanic Witch provides some insight on why he has indulged in myth-making about himself. In a section called “How and When to Lie” from the chapter “Bitchcraft,” LaVey states:
There is nothing wrong with saying you sang at Carnegie Hall and you could have stood in the doorway at midnight and hummed a few measures, but if you open your mouth to sing at the next party and it sounds rotten, you have, as they say, blown it. If, however, you have sung the lead in your local civic light opera production of Naughty Marietta and were acclaimed as an exceptionally talented singer, and you happen to be at an affair where your quarry will be suitably impressed and possibly arrange for you to go on tour with an important new show, a Type II lie is in order. Tell him you have sung wherever you’d like – before crowned heads, etc., because when he asks you to sing, if you can back your contrived pedigree up with action, those very lies you told will not be questioned and will pay off. If you hadn’t told him, he might never have asked to listen to you.
A fascinating book from which a measure of insight about human nature can be drawn, whether the reader is a woman or man. As always, one to read with a critical eye.
Readers whose only knowledge of Satanism comes from Christian pulpits and media sensationalism could be forgiven for thinking that this book is some dangerous occult grimoire. In fact, I imagine the title and cover design were picked to elicit that very response, much to the amusement of real Satanists. The term “The Satanic Scriptures” is purely an oxymoron, for the idea of scriptural dogma is the antithesis of what Satanism is about. Satanism is a philosophy of individualism, and being an individual necessitates being an adversary to societal (i.e. Christian) norms. Hence, Satanists embrace “Satan” as a symbol of their defiance. It should be noted that Satanists come in all shapes and sizes, from theists who view Satan as a literal God, to atheists who only make use of the Fallen Angel’s symbolic relevance. Peter H. Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, is firmly rooted in the latter category.
The Church of Satan was formed in 1966 by Anton LaVey, who authored The Satanic Bible (1969) and four other works. Upon his death in 1997, management of the organisation passed to LaVey’s long-time friend Gilmore. During his time as a member of the church, Gilmore contributed essays to the organisation’s magazine The Black Flame. Many of these essays (with some modifications) make up the bulk of The Satanic Scriptures.
There are a wide variety of subjects covered: reflections on life as an individualist; Satanic perspectives on world events such as 9/11 and Columbine; defence of accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse (dubbed the Satanic Panic); fascism; eugenics; asthetics; music; even light-hearted reflections on old-time monster movies. On of my favourite essays was entitled “Intellectual Black Holes,” concerning individuals who enter into conversation/debate with no other motive but to suck the life out of you (particularly relevant to me in light of my frequent controversial blogging).
Towards the end are a number of essays that are chiefly concerned with what a Satanist should aspire to be, and what sort of person the Church of Satan wishes to attract (as well as those it wishes to repel). These essays might cause some people to view Gilmore as being a bit self-important, but I actually found this to be a refreshingly different from the typical “Come and join us, everyone” attitude of Christianity. Clearly Gilmore is not playing the power-through-numbers game. He has a clear agenda of separating the wheat from the chaff, managing the Church of Satan as an elitist organisation where only a particular kind of person need apply. The Church of Satan is also one of the very few “religions” that understands the need for pluralism in society: Satanism for those who are natually inclined to be individualists, leaders, pioneers, and orthodox religions for those who wish to follow the herd.
The book finishes with a short section entitled “Rituals,” which includes a Satanic wedding ceremony and a Satanic funeral. If you can wrap your head around the idea of saying “Hail Satan!” while knowing you don’t believe in a literal devil, these rituals actually represent refreshing realism. The wedding ceremony conveys genuine meaning while jettisoning everything that is pretentious or melodramatic from a traditional church wedding. Likewise, the funeral is a celebration of a person’s past life, rather than a sanctimonious prattling about a hypothetical heaven.
Where do I stand, since I’ve been speaking so highly of Satanism? Well, I’m not a Satanist. Satanism, for me, represents one avenue of many for gaining insight. I don’t see it as something that I can use to form a total worldview, but I do see it as something that can be studied critically to help me become more self-realised. The Satanic Scriptures is recommended reading for anyone who wishes to learn a little something about “man the animal” from an unusal angle.