Over the last 27 years of the Æon of Set we have come a long way in terms of the occult arts and sciences. Much of our Church of Satan
period was devoted to separating sense from nonsense - both in terms of old/traditional occultism and in the current context of pseudosciences and “new age” occult interests and fads. Whatever else may be said about him, Anton LaVey
deserves credit for putting the torch to “occult” concepts that were nothing more than lingering relics from medieval nonsense - and looking instead for authentic and practical principles of a “hidden/forbidden” nature.
By X/1975 we had pretty much sorted through the “old” occult - at least within the Judæo/Christian tradition, which was conclusively exposed as nothing more than imperfect plagiarism from pre-existing Mediterranean religions and philosophies. Into the sewer it went in its entirety - save that we chose to use some of its “demonic” symbols for our own illustrative, artistic, or sometimes mischievously-entertaining purposes.
Here I should add that this was by no means a simple, one-time operation. Periodically we have had to re-flush the toilet because the contents of the bowl keep backing up. There are a few obvious reasons for this:
(1) The Temple of Set exists primarily in countries and cultures in which J/C is not only the dominant social religion, but also the tacitly-acknowledged basis for civic morality generally. Hence the prescriptions of the Enlightenment’s social-contract philosophers for some blend of pulp-feed Christianity as a way to keep the masses quiet and obedient.
(2) Persons who enter the Temple of Set generally come from some degree of J/C psychological conditioning in their youth and adulthood. They bring J/C values and precepts along with them, either consciously or unconsciously, either positively ["I don’t have to abandon all my good moral principles, do I?"] or negatively ["I can hardly wait to get into the Temple so I can get even with that hateful, hypocritical J/C which has wrecked my life to date!"]. Such persons tend to see the Temple of Set through J/C “glasses” and to conduct themselves within it accordingly.
(3) As a religion designed to appeal to and control stupid and/or uneducated people, J/C has the best “Marvel Comics” imagery. It is much easier and more emotionally gratifying to construct fantasies, art, and pageantry based upon the well-known “toons” of Satan, Jesus, JHVH and other J/C characters than upon Ahura Mazda, Quetzalcoatl, etc. And of course in dramatic relations with profane [J/C-trained] society, it is far easier to impress or shock someone by saying “I’m a Satanist” [which makes people scream and run] instead of saying “I’m a Quetzalcotalian” [which makes people just blink and stare].
So there are various reasons why all of us, myself included, tend to lapse into J/C imagery from time to time. It’s not a problem as long as we know what we’re doing and why, and don’t allow ourselves to be governed by it, either consciously or unconsciously.
Take Enochiana as an example. This was a system developed by John Dee based firmly on J/C imagery: angels, demons, and a Hebrew Cabalistic schematic of “creation”. If you believe in it as John Dee wrote it down, you’re a good little amateur Hebrew.
First Mathers, then Crowley, then LaVey saw it for what it was: a collection of confusing gobbledegook which they could reword here and there and use as an LBM device to impress their followers. And so it did. People would read the Satanic Bible
and say of the first half, “Yeah, he’s got a point, but all this social critique stuff doesn’t look very ‘occult’ to me.” Then they’d reach the Enochian Keys, be properly mystified by both the Enochian and the English versions, and say, “Wow, this is spooky & weird stuff. Apparently he does know something ‘occult’ that the rest of us don’t.”
And of course the “Dumbo’s feather” principle [cf. Black Magic
in the Crystal Tablet
] applied beautifully. We dutifully used the Enochian Keys in C/S rituals and they did exactly what we expected them to do [i.e. what Anton said they would do!] without realizing that they held no intrinsic power at all, but instead served as “keys (apt name!) to unlock” certain dormant/latent powers within our own beings.
The Word of Set
Working with the Keys was thus a “pure” working with them, in which the original Dee “Enochian” and “translations” were used as a “magical trigger” to get at a coherent reality underlying Dee’s J/C-filtered thoughts. [For a detailed discussion of the principles involved, see Plato’s Meno
and other dialogues concerning the recollective basis of abstract knowledge (anamnesis
The same holds true for any other “system” of magic, whether a poem, painting, incantation, Tarot reading, I Ching wand-casting, or whatever: It is a “trigger” or “key” to unlock, inspire, or activate a certain power, level of consciousness, and/or mode of existence within yourself or others. Dumbo’s feather. As long as you understand this, you won’t go wrong with magic [or make a fool - or tool - of yourself].
At our present point in social time - the 1990s - what does it mean to be an “occultist”?
It should mean what it always has: to seek after, possess, and apply secret knowledge [for whatever purpose]. Think about that. Think about how you might go about doing it [and I’m not talking about going to the “New Age” section of your local bookstore].
Secret knowledge is either (a) stuff that exists but hasn’t been discovered or made coherent yet, or (b) stuff that exists but has been suppressed or distorted by people with the power to do so, because it conflicts with their interests. Sometimes occult knowledge is a mixture of both (a) and (b).
Books get on the Temple of Set’s reading list because they contain (a) or (b) information. But the reading list, like everything else about the Temple of Set, is a guide, a nudge in the right direction: a tool. You can find authentic occult knowledge almost anywhere - although never where the public is told that it exists. The occult knowledge in the AMORC, for instance, is not in the colorful show it presents to members through its ads, Egyptian buildings, etc. - but rather in the way that its owners use all such devices skillfully to accomplish their own goals of money, power, influence, and ego-gratification. [Complicating this example is the fact that AMORC leaders may be themselves wholly or partially under the illusion they have created for others.]
Reality within reality. This is why the Temple of Set is at once a simple thing [in that we have a commitment to speaking the truth plainly] and a complicated thing [in that simple truths, when examined carefully, often contain a sub-universe of factors which aren’t nearly so simple].
Another aspect of this: the role of “religion” in one’s intellectual state of being.
I see every letter that comes to the Executive Director requesting admission to the Temple of Set. Some are very impressive. Some include a comment something like this:
I was raised in Christianity but became disillusioned with it. So I tried Buddhism, Wicca, blah blah, and finally I found the Temple of Set, and this is clearly the religion for me!
That’s nice, but it implies that the Temple of Set occupies roughly the same niche in one’s mental makeup that the ding-dong religions did; we just do it better. Consider this:
The premise of all ding-dong religions is that you start with them and allow rational, logical, and scientific knowledge to “fill in the cracks” where they are conspicuously inadequate, or where their doctrines are at flagrant odds with common sense.
The Temple of Set is 180° away from this. To “do the Temple of Set right”, first you start with a sound rational, logical, and scientific knowledge base - both social and technical. You keep “religion” the hell out of this area [except in your analysis of social phenomena as a tool for popular control - see above].
Once you have explained everything you can using rational, logical, and scientific tools, and see that there are some things “left over”, then you are at the point where you need to construct a tool to (a) make those things comprehensible to you and (b) perhaps apply some of them to your interaction with existence. Then and only then should you bring the Temple of Set into your life.
Remember how we keep harping on the Temple of Set’s being only a tool? Well, this is when you apply that tool - to address those rarefied subjects that ordinary tools cannot.
“Metaphysical philosophy” (or GBM) is this tool used for understanding and analysis.
“Magic” (or LBM) is this tool used to affect your environment.
Because this is a realm of existence which is incompletely and imperfectly known, the tool to render it comprehensible and controllable is also imperfect. It works well in some ways, not so well in others. It also varies from individual to individual, from perspective to perspective, from perception to perception. This is why the “same” Temple of Set appears to be so many different things to different Setians.
(1) Recognize your pre-Setian conditioning for what it is, good or bad. Bring it to the surface. Keep the good [without apology for its source]. Chuck the bad.
(2) As a Setian, strive to control yourself for consciously, carefully, and deliberately-decided [by you!] reasons and goals.
(3) Be a real