What is Tenebrous Satanism?
Satanism is a religion that affirms earthly life, promotes strong-willed individualism, and rejects traditional ways of thinking. Like other Satanic denominations, Tenebrous Satanism emphasizes human flourishing, the cultivation of wisdom, and the maximization of liberty.
The foundational text of Tenebrous Satanism is Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness, by T. L. Othaos. This publication presents the Tenebrous Creed in full. See below for a brief summary.
Distinguishing Traits of Tenebrous Satanism
The Latin word tenebrae, meaning darkness, evokes that which is haunted, gloomy and/or concealed. This adjective alludes to three characteristics of Tenebrous Satanism:
- Its embrace of occult elements, e.g. meditation, divination, ritual magick, spirits, etc. It is a Satanism that engages with the “supernatural,” rather than denying it.
- Its acknowledgment of “dark” aspects of both earthly and spiritual life. It rejects simple-minded social Darwinism, yet recognizes how all levels of existence are ruled by adversarial forces of evolution. Neither nature nor “God” are benign, and the Satanist must acknowledge both the strengths and limitations of human beings.
- The origination of its esoteric beliefs & practices – but NOT its ethics or politics – in those of the Order of Nine Angles (ONA/O9A). Tenebrous Satanism completely rejects the hateful, criminal behavior with which O9A is associated. It asserts, however, that the Dark Gods of O9A – Nythra, Atazoth and the other Nekalah – are best-venerated through creative strife, rather than O9A’s violent and destructive methods. A central goal of Tenebrous Satanism is to provide a channel by which left-hand-path occultists can enter into beneficial relationships with the Nekalah without endorsing the rest of what O9A stands for.
One could classify Tenebrous Satanism as a form of “Dark Paganism” or Luciferianism. However, Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness concerns itself with practical human affairs no less than spiritual ones. Such a balance is more typical of Satanic works (such as those by Anton LaVey) than Luciferian ones (such as those by Michael W. Ford, Asenath Mason, etc.).
Aims of the Keys as a Whole
The overarching imperatives that drive Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness include:
- Presenting a Satanism that is symbolically rich, philosophically reflective, and emotionally evocative
- Rejecting understandings of the Sinister Path that are intellectually lazy and inimical to living a good human life
- Producing Satanists who have more to offer the World than smug atheism, occult obscurantism, or nihilistic terrorism
- Encouraging more extensive collaboration between capable sorcerers and the Nekalah than O9A has thus-far achieved
The book is currently entering its final phases of editing. Updates about its publication will be revealed on the blog as they become available.
The First Key
The first tenet of the Tenebrous Creed is:
- Satan is an advocate of the unending Adventure of spirit in the realm of flesh, manifest in life’s multitudinous striving within an ever-evolving world.
Tenebrous Satanism asserts that life is a nexion (intersection) between the causal (flesh) and the acausal (spirit). Other religions treat life as a mistake in need of being fixed, instead of a union to be celebrated. Too many turn their gazes toward a utopian horizon, instead of finding constructive ways to live in reality.
The First Key features detailed reflection upon the mythology of the Adversary. Such narratives reveal Satan as he who demands the embrace of earthly life, instead of its denial. This provides justification as to in what sense the Tenebrous Creed is “Satanic.”
The Second Key
The second tenet of the Tenebrous Creed asserts:
- Satan is an adversary of any dogma that denies or distorts the realm of flesh, for such dogmas are insidious destroyers of life.
As Anton LaVey wrote in the original Satanic Bible, “Popular lies have ever been the most potent enemies of personal liberty” (Book of Satan II:15). Today, such lies arise less from the realm of religion than from the realm of “secular” politics. When a society becomes dominated by hypocritical preachers of reality-denying “Truths,” the Satanist ought not to stand silent. They ought, instead, to speak out against counterproductive discourse, intolerant persecutions, and other cancerous excesses of dogmatism.
The Second Key discusses how constructive, adaptive patterns of human thought can become dogmatic – and thus, destructive. Our concern is not with supposed a racial/cultural enemy, as per O9A’s ideology, but with a kind of otherworldly, dualistic arrogance that any human being may fall prey to. Accordingly, Tenebrous Satanism does not call for violent hate against groups or individuals. Satanists should instead use critical thinking and constructive action to oppose ideologies that stifle human liberty and flourishing. The Second Key thus offers a philosophically-sophisticated and ethically-sound definition of what Satan is the adversary of.
The Third Key
The third, fourth, and fifth tenets of the Tenebrous Creed state:
- Satan lights our way along the path of self-evolution, which we pursue by seeking ever-greater excellence in all of our affairs.
- Self-evolution is fostered by the possession of zeal, wisdom, honor, empathy and perseverance, which Satan therefore encourages us to cultivate.
- Insofar as the herd’s fears, fads and fictions hold us back from self-evolution, Satan urges us to stand apart from the herd.
Tenebrous Satanism posits a higher purpose for Satanists than mere self-indulgence. Whether their achievements be physical, intellectual, artistic, or etc., Satanism celebrates the merit of those who achieve great things. Conversely, it has no use for those who just tear down others’ accomplishments, offering nothing constructive of their own.
The Third Key defines the virtues that support the Satanist’s quest for personal excellence, and the vices which threaten it. Its aim is not to preach morality, but to offer practical advice in the art of living well. This requires striking an intelligent balance between promoting self-reliance, and acknowledging the inherent interdependence of human beings.
The Fourth Key
The sixth tenet of the Tenebrous Creed asserts:
- The witch and the sorcerer recognize Satan not only in the Fire of the Will, but also in the Will of the Fire.
The Will of the Fire refers to spiritual forces that transcend the Flesh and exist beyond the individual. Satanists do not have to acknowledge such forces, but the witch and the sorcerer are those who do. It is their belief that behind existence lurks the Abyssal Void of Darkness, the origin and destiny of all beings. Terrifying though this entity is, it is a source of great power to those bold enough to approach it.
The Fourth Key explains what Tenebrous Satanists believe about the ultimate power behind the universe, spirits, and the afterlife. It also explains how and why other religions have arrived at very different conclusions from the Tenebrous position. A flippant-yet-apt summary of said position is “H. P. Lovecraft was right, and everyone else is frantically trying to pretend otherwise.” Tenebrous Satanism asserts that it is possible to venerate “alien” gods of the Abyss without lapsing into the nihilism associated with O9A.
The Fifth Key
The Fifth Key marks the transition from the initial four Keys of Doctrine to the remaining five Keys of Praxis. The specific practice that it focuses on is meditation.
The four methods of meditation which the Fifth Key describes are effective in purifying the Satanist’s mind and will. They also consecrate the tools of candle, dagger and crystal for use in ritual magick (see below). The visualization component of these meditations incorporates O9A sigils, such as those for Binan Ath, Ga Wath Am, etc.
The Sixth Key
The occult practice detailed by the Sixth Key is divination. Tenebrous Satanism uses an innovative divination system that combines tarot and runes. The system can additionally be used to aid contemplation of dark evolutionary realities that many people prefer to live in denial of.
The Sixth Key explains how to make a set of runic tarot tokens, and how to interpret the 84 omens. It also describes a meditative exercise that enhances one’s ability to divine intuitively, based on O9A’s book Naos. As with all O9A content in the Keys of Praxis, Tenebrous Satanism draws inspiration from O9A’s esotericism, not its political ideology.
The Seventh Key
The Seventh Key provides extensive instruction in Tenebrous magick, with an emphasis on ritual. The problem with less-formal methods of “Chaos Magick” is that novices easily fall prey to wishful thinking. The Tenebrous system, by contrast, ensures that learning magick instills mental discipline and self-honesty.
The Seventh Key begins by laying out seven fundamental principles by which magick operates. It follows this with a format for ritual that is efficacious on both the psychological and spiritual levels. This ritual format incorporates reinterpretations of several O9A words of power and associated sigils, but rejects O9A practices of violent sacrifice.
The Eighth Key
The Eighth Key describes methods of communion – i.e. direct contact with the Dark Gods of O9A. One ritual-method entails journeying to the acausal thrones of these beings. The other entails summoning them, albeit in a more limited and less dangerous form than what O9A would term “recalling.”
The Eighth Key follows its ritual descriptions with gnosis of the Nekalah that the author has obtained thereby. It thus offers insights into the appearances, personalities, stories and goals of the Nekalah that are unavailable elsewhere.
The Ninth Key
The seventh and final tenet of the Tenebrous Creed states:
- The Will of the Fire and the will of the sorcerer are one: the advancement of Satan’s cause through the embrace of creative strife.
In contrast to the Tenebrous witch, who engages with the occult more casually, the sorcerer makes a commitment, entering into a pact with the powers of Darkness. This endeavor entails a seven-stage initiation. The Ninth Key details the tasks of these stages, and what the sorcerer stands to gain through them.
Unlike O9A initiation, Tenebrous initiation does not require participation in acts that are violent or illegal. It is, however, like O9A’s initiatory practices in requiring the acquisition of physical and mental discipline – e.g. training oneself to become fitter and more capable; living close to nature for an extended period of time; leading a new group or infiltrating an existing one; etc. The central contention here is that initiation should be challenging, for it is through prevailing against difficulties that personal growth occurs. Earnest initiates stand to develop qualities that support effective real-world change-making, such as focus, patience, leadership and resilience.
The aim of Tenebrous Satanism’s initiatory practices, then, is not to be “O9A lite.” The goal, rather, is to offer the right balance of challenge and flexibility to enable a greater number and variety of Satanic sorcerers to experience the gains of self-evolution that initiation offers.
About the Author
T. L. Othaos has a PhD in Religious Studies and over 25 years of lived experience in various Satanic denominations. A mixed-race Canadian of center-left political leaning, she rejects totalitarianism regardless of which end of the political spectrum it comes from. She is well-acquainted with O9A’s scriptures and esoteric practices but has no affiliation with O9A as a human organization. She is a passionate fan of black metal and similar dark genres of music.