I’ve been writing and thinking about Chaos Magic recently, and, coming across it again after many years, the following statement by founder and former head of the Illuminates of Thanateros and the Arconorium College Peter J. Carroll struck me supremely relevant to our own time:
Magic rejects politics as no more than some people’s perverse desire to dominate others.Peter J. Carroll in Liber Null & Psychonaut (p. 114)
It might be argued, of course, that politics is also employed to escape other people’s “perverse desire to dominate” us (and there seems to be plenty of that going around).
While Carroll’s statement may be — or should be — generally true, when we look at the history of modern occultism, we, nevertheless, find that it has been periodically embroiled with politics, with intentions both good and bad.
The Occult And Politics
Mme Blavatsky and, later, Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society were both active in opposing colonialism in India. And Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott was instrumental in the independence movement and Buddhist revival movement of Sri Lanka, even advising on the design for a universal Buddhist flag.
Again, some top Nazis had an interest in the occult (although they persecuted occultists who tried to retain any independence from the Nazi Party and, of course, ruthlessly persecuted Freemasons). And, while his mentor Rene Guenon rejected political involvement, author and magician Julius Evola (who, again, was anti-Masonic) collaborated with the Nazi Party for a short time during World War II and had an ambiguous relationship with fascism in Italy.
More recently, the Alt-Right has been accused of using “meme magic” and, in 2017, Lana Del Rey claimed (like many others) that she had used witchcraft against Trump.
Satanism Without Magick
Most notable, though, is the appearance of The Satanic Temple (TST) in 2013. While its logo and general aesthetics seem almost identical to that of the much earlier-established Church of Satan (CoS), the much more organizationally savvy Satanic Temple stands in ideological opposition to it.
The CoS promotes (or promoted while founder Anton LaVey was alive) a Nietzschean and individualistic struggle to become one’s true Self and to manifest one’s true expression in the world, against the obstacle of mass psychology. The Satanic Temple, in contrast, is essentially political. Indeed, despite the Satanic surface, it appears to be a mainstream, center-Left activist organization (standing against Evangelical Christianity (at least as it expresses itself in public education, etc.), against bullying, and pro-abortion).
In its own comparison chart of the two aforementioned organizations, TST points out that it is “socially and politically active” while the CoS is not. There are other differences, of course. The Satanic Temple has “after school” clubs (the CoS does not) and TST has tax-exempt status. The CoS does not.
But, most interestingly, TST points out that the CoS has a “belief in Magick.” Despite its Satanic and occult appearance, the Satanic Temple explicitly does not believe in Magick, nor in Satan. Indeed, TST criticizes LaVey’s belief in Magic/Magick (and the supernatural) at length:
[LaVey] denied that the power of magic, which he believed was harnessed through rote pageantry in the “ritual chamber,” could be described as supernatural as opposed to merely as-yet unexplained by science. However, LaVey’s own descriptions of MAGICAL SUCCESSES, from deadly hexes to unexplained healings, were as scientifically unjustified as any supernatural claims to magical influence. Even LaVey’s nontheism is uncertain. Upon his death, his partner and biographer, Blanche Barton, insisted that LaVey did, in fact, “believe in the devil.”
“HE DID BELIEVE IN THE DEVIL,” insisted Barton, a blonde woman who is the mother of LaVey’s [then] four- year-old son, Xerxes. “He believed in magic. He practiced it religiously.”The Satanic Temple, “Differences Between The Satanic Temple And The Church of Satan.”
It should be said that one of the reasons why Christianity has declined in the West in recent centuries — virtually disappearing in England and some other countries — is that, in many churches, politics and social conformity became far more important than spirituality. No one is energized by the Catholic Church’s position on condoms. The Church of England’s attempts to conform to the latest political opinions on everything from Islam to gender has made it a laughing stock (as if the Bible and two thousand years of history could furnish it with no views of its own). And Evangelical Christianity’s attempts to influence U.S. politics over recent decades has probably hurt it more than anything else. Dishonest and vaguely disgusting, the political doesn’t satisfy the natural human desire for the spiritual, the sacred, and the transcendent.
Magic Versus Politics
Magic (or Magick) has been characterized by four things: (1) a focus on deep self-exploration and self-transformation and the attempt to embody one’s Higher Self (especially through rituals and mental and spiritual practices such as meditation), (2) the belief in overarching cosmic or non-human forces or intelligences (such as angels and, ultimately, God or a god or goddess), (3) a strong interest in a wide array of spiritual traditions, and (4) a hefty dose of creativity.
In regard to the latter, we might point to members of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, including poet laureate W. B. Yeats, theater producer Annie Horniman, and actor (or “actress,” as she would have been called then) Florence Farr. We should mention, too, Aleister Crowley’s attempt to become a serious fine art painter while living in Berlin and his writing of fiction, Rudolf Steiner’s painting and architectural design, and the illustration and paintings of Austin Spare and Rosaleen Norton.
More recent examples would include Hagen von Tulien’s striking and enigmatic Chaos Magic-inspired art, dancer Aepril Schaile, artist and Chief Adept of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Sandra Tabatha Cicero, and artisanal-quality book publishers such as Theion Publishing and Ouroboros Press.
Magic is focused on the exploration of the archetypal and transcendent. As the religious believer once was, the magician is less interested in political rhetoric than in archetypal myths, believes corporate news less than he believes the ancient sages, and views the politician not as a savior but as a fallible human being who might lead us into all sorts of trouble even if he or she has the best of intentions.
Politics is not subversive. It is the subversion of the subversive instinct for the transcendent. It is a surrender to half-truths, lies, and group-think, and the surrender of one’s individual energy and creativity. (Notably, since politics has become our main interest in the West, over the last couple of decades, we have seen no creative and subversive movements comparable to Hippie, Punk, Goth, or early Hip-Hop.)
Like the artist, the magician is concerned with his Will and with his own actions, rather than with the behavior of others. He is a breaker of taboos, not an enforcer of dogma. He is an individual, not part of a mass. And he is a thinker of new thoughts that defy categorization, not a mouthpiece of slogans and talking points. He is not Left or Right but upward-oriented. He is ever-increasingly his True Self — or she is ever-increasingly her True Self — which defies the mass, the popular, the propaganda, the false opposition, and the empty spectacle.
Whatever political views you might have, I encourage you to work on yourself — mentally, physically, and spiritually — and to engage in that noble struggle to elevate yourself above the temporal.