Essays in the Tim Maroney Web Collection
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The Book of Dzyan
Definition of the Sacred
Descent: A Meditation
Even If I Did Believe
Facts and Phallacies
The Freedom of Doubt
Healing The Spiritual Community
Hekate and the Satanic School
Introduction to Crowley
The Included Middle
A Letter to Close
The Problems of Syncretism
Theory of Divination
Why Crowley Doesn't Suck
Why I Study Magic
In the late 1980's I underwent a series of visionary dreams or underworld initiations in which I performed devotional practices to Hekate and her classical sorceress Medea. These images were life-changing for me on many levels, and they opened me to spiritual experiences through ritual that made me a priest. I considered this vision potential infrastructure for forming a group, since I was dissatisfied with the occult and pagan group of the time, but I soon found the experiment unsatisfying and abandoned it. I have abstracted the idea for that group to a statement of principles of of the Satanic school, a literary approach to underworld spirituality. These are principles by which I still live.
Thirty centuries ago, dark crossroads were haunted by Hekate, earth goddess (or demon) of magic and sorcery. Hekate was far older than the "classical" gods of the Greeks. She was one of that band of primeval deities known as Titans who were deposed by the patriarchal conquerors of the Grecian lands. The myths were rewritten to parallel politics: the Titans were cast down from Heaven to the pits of Tartarus by Zeus, the God-King; yet Hekate had always lived there beneath the ground. Alone of the Titans she retained her status in later myth. Of the elder goddesses of the region, she was one of many retained by the invaders, but the only one not reduced to a pretty ankle and a breeder. Every home in Athens was fronted by an altar to Hekate: her worship was strongest in the Greek city-state with the smallest amount of centralized control and with the least power given over to a King.
Ghost-herding Hekate, with her hair wound with snakes, dogs howling about her heels, and a guttering torch borne in one hand, represented a vital current of underworld power too strong for the force of arms to suppress. Her old Colchian sorceresses, Medea and Circe, became oddly sympathetic villainesses: their old herbal drugs were fermented to poisons, their sex magics were retold as child murders, their shamanistic animal transmutations were reduced to spells that waylaid careless adventurers; yet as a token of "respect", each became the lover and helpmate of great heroes - Jason over Medea, and Odysseus over Circe. Hekate's great sorceresses were thus degraded more than the goddess herself. In the West's Middle Ages, these legendary sorceresses became the models of those most feared women, the witches, and Hekate was degraded to their unholy Queen. Those dead who were refused the sacraments were buried at crossroads, where once sacrifices to Hekate were held. And all without any change in their basic attributes, representing those qualities sacred to paganism which despots abhor in any hands but their own :- will, beauty, immortality, knowledge, power, mystery, ecstasy, love. In middle Christendom all these became crimes.
In middle and modern times, this current of dark power has come to be known as "Satanic" by analogy to Satan, the chief demon of the monotheistic triad. Like Hekate, Satan represents the underworld, sorcery, and opposition to the ruling gods. Satan's name is the Hebrew word for "enemy" he is identified with the Serpent that brought humanity to ruin, and in legend he was cast down to Hell from Heaven. In the Zoroastrian religion a similar devil was known as Ahriman, a name which also means "enemy". Zoroastrianism, endorsed and enforced by the Persian Kings, saw all existence as a war between Ahura Mazda, the god of light and the Sun, and Ahriman, the dark god of evil and snakes. The ancient Egyptians feared Set, an earlier form of Satan, dweller in the demon-haunted land beneath the earth through which the Sun-King fought his way each night. Set was aided by his serpentine ally, the monstrous Apep, and a host of magical snakes. Set had been one of the greatest and most ancient gods of Egypt, but his people were conquered. For a long while he enjoyed a Hekatean status as the necessary ruler of the darker aspects of life, and he was degraded into more and more a demon as time wore on. By the time of the mythical Exodus, Set was a generic enemy, and glorious tales of battle became tales of victory of the Sun over Set and his minions. Just so the early Hebrew scriptures use "satan" as a generic term for their military enemies in Palestine.
A pattern emerges from the "anti-gods" of history. Time and again, serpent deities representing both the underworld and magic have been declared inconvenient and driven from their status by official violence, figured in myth by a Sun-God who is also the King. It is not enough to forget them as most deposed deities are forgotten; they must be demonized.
How does this demonization serve the needs of those in power? Authority feeds on enmity. The exercise of power is easiest to justify against an absolutely evil enemy who plainly demands the strictest opposition. Once this license for power against evil is obtained by consent of the people, it is easily applied against the people themselves. Most will never object to the ferreting out of "agents of evil" in their midst, will indeed gleefully support such a campaign of persecution. By supporting the authorities they vicariously exercise the same unfettered power. It is very comforting to be one of the agents of shining good standing firm against unimaginable depravity. But reality is not obliging in providing absolute evils for the use of Kings; all enemies are more understandable and sympathetic when more is known about their motives and history. Imaginary enemies do not evoke this difficulty, and once the belief in imaginary enemies - Satan, the International Communist Conspiracy, whatever - is established, it is easy to represent real people as agents of these ultimate enemies. Hekate would hardly have found a friendly home in Sparta. The common beliefs about Hekate, Ahriman, Marx, and the rest serve a vital political purpose.
But why are underworld and sorcerous deities especially demonized? Officialdom is chiefly opposed to the individual will: the power that authority delights in exercising is the power of imposing its will on others. The opposition to this authoritarian will is the individual fount of creativity and unpredictability. In psychology, this fount is called the unconscious mind, the obscure and unseen intelligence which motivates us all to seek our own paths. The unconscious mind, the dark side of the psyche, is the symbolic meaning of the mythical underworld or "Hell." Tyrants are right to fear this deep well of power and to frighten their subjects away from it. Sorcery is a symbol of independent action, unauthorized and unregulable, obeying only the laws of the dark side and scorning the workings of temporal power. Tyrants who believe in its "magical" power fear it for pragmatic reasons, but these mundane concerns reflect the nature of the sorcerous myth. The individual sorceress could, like Medea, shatter the structures of authority if they became intolerably alienating. Sorcery is the mythological face of art. All good artists are sorcerors; spell-weavers; subversives; Satanists.
The veneration of demons is not, as is commonly believed, the "worship of evil", but an escape from the authoritarian mentality of "us vs. them", of allies and enemies, of repressive and arbitrary regulations expressed for power itself rather than for the general interest, of good and evil as absolute forces in the world rather than as subjective judgments applied to human behavior. All these naive or corrupt political influences are banished from the crossroads at twilight by the irresistible, but subtle, influence of Hekate, snake-woman, Medea's muse, friend and mistress of the hounds of Hell; they are cracked and ruined by this sorceress behind and beyond all sorcery.
Among the major exponents of this "Satanism" or "Diabolism" have been poets and playwrights, musicians and magicians: such as Rabelais, Blake, Shelley, Baudelaire, Swinburne, Shaw, Crowley, and (most recently) Galas. Hekatean Satanists or Luciferians today have an interest in continuing and expanding on this tradition, known as the"Satanic school" in the Oxford English Dictionary, without dogmatically adhering to any one creator's conception of it.
The symbol of the crossroads is significant beyond its Hekatean correspondence (but in ways that reflect on that symbolism). Conventional magical orders, covens, and the like, teach a path, a sequence of initiations or similar steps, more or less fixed in structure and adapted little if at all to the individual. The Satanic school is instead a meeting of paths, an intersection of ways: yet a particular meeting point, a crossroad sacred to Hekate, rather than a union of all paths. There may be those people whose roads do not touch this crossroad, but we welcome meetings with them at other intersections; and we remind them (and ourselves) that Hekate may live even where she is not at once apparent.
The Hekatean or Satanic school is expressed in poetry, theatre, music, magic, and other arts. It makes no promises of magical powers, exalted spiritual degrees, contact and contract with discorporate beings, nor simple answers to difficult questions. Nor does it forbid its students from asserting such powers, degrees, contacts, or answers.
They are free to believe what they will, but they must scrutinize their beliefs to avoid dogmatism and folly.
They are free to behave as they will, but they are expected to monitor their actions to avoid disrespect for their own interests and the interests of others.
The underworld current opposes all restriction of human rights on grounds of race, gender, national origin, social class, sexual preference, religion, and creed. Yet it holds that those demonized have the right to assemble in private and to keep their own counsel.
Hekatean symbolism should not be taken as a mandate of literal belief in such a being, or in any spiritual being. Nor must the use of the symbolism of sorcery be taken as mandating a belief in the "paranormal" or extrapsychological powers of the black arts. Such matters are left to the individual judgment of members.
Rituals of initiation, meditation, invocation, celebration, and so forth may be sponsored by students of the Satanic school for the artistic and spiritual benefit of all assembled. In all such rituals, the widest possible latitude of beliefs is to be embraced, so that no one should feel excluded because of the integrity of their intellectual conscience. Rituals and other works are to avoid all definite statements of belief or disbelief in such matters as the primacy of a certain artistic movement or the reality of spiritual beings and psychic powers. Private assemblies may be composed only of those who share an opinion on certain matters.
All hierarchy is suspect. The Satanic school stands firmly against all abuses of power, all attempts to reduce living beings to positions in an organizational chain, all stamping of people with formal estimates of merit, all dehumanization and forced conformity.
The Satanic school has no doctrines other than those intended to guarantee the freedom of its students and of all people.
The Satanic school harbors various assemblies, or special interest groups, dedicated to particular shared interests within the school. These may perform or create artistic projects, or they may form research groups, social groups, informal discussion groups not explicitly devoted to any particular project.
Students who share particular opinions may work together on projects dependent on those conditions. For instance, a group dedicated to atheism and to the freeing of members' minds from all belief in literal gods might fall under the aegis of the Satanic school, but it might also be incapable of meainingfully including students who believes in literal gods. Similarly, a group especially dedicated to occult spellcasting intended to work effects at a distance could hardly benefit from the presence of skeptics. And likewise for the reverse of these opinions.
Assemblies may draw their doctrinal basis more narrowly than The Satanic school as a whole, but they must deal with their differences from other opinions as disagreements among reasonable people, rather than a special handle on the absolute truth which renders them the denizens of Olympus and others the denizens of Hell. Assemblies with apparently contradictory beliefs should appoint liasons to each other and encourage dialog, but they should not shy away from argument as if intellectual competition were some unthinkable poison or rudeness.
Allowing doctrine in assemblies should not be taken as a license for dogmatism. Limits on opinion must be as unrestrictive as possible given the mission of the assembly and the nature of its shared interest. An assembly should be so arranged that persons not sharing the assembly's common opinions would not be interested in joining its projects.
Initiation is not required of any student of the Satanic school, though it may be required for membership in a particular assembly.
No initiation ritual shoudl be interpreted by the student as conferring any intrinsic spiritual superiority over those who have not taken the degree. Such rituals represent a personal progress along a particular path of artistic or spiritual refinement.
The Satanic school encourages its students to join any and all religious, spiritual or artistic groups which seem fit to them. Join any but set none upon Olympus, just as in the pagan mystery traditions of ancient Rome.
All groups should expect reasonable criticism from students of the Satanic school. This criticism is a vital and important function of its values; while not childishly seeking to hurt relations with other groups, neither should students fail to respect their own interests in free intellectual exercise by unduly restricting the scope of their critical comments.
Despite its orientation towards the Titans and Satan, the Satanic school has no fixed doctrine about Classical Greek mythology, nor towards Christianity or the other monotheistic religions. A person holding any of these traditions in high regard should not feel constrained by that opinion against studying in the Satanic school. Just as it is by no means obvious that a modern Christian must oppose Buddhism simply because it teaches that God is deluded, neither is it clear that a freethinking Christian must oppose the redeemed symbolism of Hekate or Satan merely because these are demons of their tradition. Modern Christian individuals and groups which share the Satanic school's distaste for dogma and repression may be of the Devil's party already.
The Satanic school is critical of many temporal authorities. All governments to date are flawed by authoritarianism and narrow-mindedness. The right to criticize is one of the most cherished values of the Satanic school. Medea overthrew the rulers of Corinth through her sorcerous knowledge, not by staging a coup. In Hekatean symbolism, sorcery indicates art, craft and knowledge, not the force of arms.
Students of the Satanic school may refuse to recognize laws which stand in contravention to the rights of artistic and religious freedom, and freedom of thought and privacy, such as restrictions against sexual practices between consenting and sexually mature persons and against the voluntary consumption of consciousness-altering drugs. From the prehistoric past through the present, many cultures have incorporated both sex and drugs into religious and artistic practices, and it has credibly been argued by some scholars that all religion derives from them. Religious prostitution and sacramental drugs have been common mysteries of pagan religion from before the start of recorded history, and strong traces of both remain in the myths of monotheism as well. Students of the Satanic school and all people have, by the freedom of thought and of religion, the right to study the spirituality of entheogens and eroticism. No government or other agency has the right to interfere in these sacred practices. Medea and Circe had mastered every form of magic drug and herb, and of the arts of love; we would be untrue to their legend were we to turn away from their wisdom for mere political convenience in the short term.
These writings on Hekate represent my thoughts and feelings from the late 1980's. While these are still the principles I live by, my Hekatean studies have moved forward. In the future I will integrate Hekate's Neo-Platonic and theurgical functions from later classical times, and more elements of ancient Greek magic. Hekate and the Satanic School is based largely on the oft-told Jason and Medea story and on Hesiod's Theogony.