In my previous entry on baneful magick, I discussed whether there is a Satanic conception of karma. I concluded that for esoteric Satanists, there may well be such a thing. If so, though, it is a metaphysical principle, not a moral one. If any moral principle restrains a Satanist’s use of baneful magick, it is not to be found in “Satanic karma.” Are there moral principles relevant to Satanists that restrain the use of baneful magick, though? Such is the question at the intersection of baneful magick and Satanic ethics that the current entry will explore.
My past experience has been, when one tries to talk about morality in Satanism, other Satanists may react unproductively. For example, they may make as if even bringing up the topic is somehow anti-Satanic. Or they may get defensive due to leaping to the conclusion that they’re being judged, told what to do, etc.
Let’s therefore be clear: the aim of discussing the topic here is fostering self-insight. Personally, if I hear someone get huffy re: “obviously, I would never do X,” yet refuse to unpack their reasoning beyond appeals to “common sense,” I can’t help concluding this is not a very self-aware person. Basically you just admitted you haven’t thought about your personal values beyond whatever the herd around you does.
I get that sometimes such reactions just stem from people not liking getting caught off-guard in a conversation. Still, shouldn’t you at some point sit down and reflect on why you think certain things are right/wrong? Isn’t this worth doing, not to impose rules on others, but to better understand yourself? Shouldn’t Satanists be able to articulate what we stand for? Not out of need to justify it to others, but as a demonstration to ourselves of self-knowledge?
What I’m then doing with an entry like this is proposing: this is what I think on this topic; what do you think? Some may agree; others, through disagreeing, will gain greater awareness of their own stance on the issue. That’s good if so. Those who don’t care about this kind of reflection are, in turn, free to not participate. Understand, though, that the sheer existence of the conversation isn’t meant as an imposition on you or on Satanism. Nothing I’m saying limits what you can/can’t do with Satanism yourself.
Tie-in to previous entry on Satanic karma
I concluded my previous baneful magick entry with the following thoughts:
Imagine an application of baneful magick that in my experience, many magicians reject: destroying an innocent person for petty reasons. The specific example I gave was an annoying toddler. But if you hate children, pretend it’s an annoying dog or something instead.
Either way, my point is that I reckon most Satanic magicians have some “moral line” re: just because you can use baneful magick doesn’t mean you should in cases like this. I don’t doubt that there do exist hardened magickal psychopaths with no scruples about such instances. As far as I know though, we are not all or even mostly like that. In which case, the question is, what exactly restrains us – especially if we claim to profess “indulgence, not abstinence”?
I went on in that entry to ask: do Satanic magicians restrain themselves from such actions due to considerations of “Satanic karma”? By Satanic understandings of karma, though, there won’t be karmic backlash so long as: i) the magician feels fully that they are in the right, hence is free of guilt and will not suffer regret; ii) the innocent lacks a protector positioned to oppose the magician’s attack; and iii) the magician either acts alone, or only involves acausal entities who assent to the act.
This line of thought suggests, if something restrains the Satanist from frivolous baneful magick use, it’s not karmic considerations. I didn’t, however, get into what the constraint might instead consist in. And so, that’s where we’re now picking up.
Some reasons for not resorting to baneful magick
Let’s start off by considering some potential rationales against baneful magick that are not directly related to karma.
Today’s scenario: if you hate the neighbour’s annoying yappy mutt, why not eliminate it? (Irresponsible baneful magick motto: “All the satisfaction of raining down malice upon everything you hate, none of the prison time!” ;)) For the sake of the thought experiment, assume obvious solutions like moving away etc. are ruled out for whatever reason; hence, this animal is a daily irritant you’re stuck with and you want it gone.
Here are some considerations that I assume would bar many Satanists from such a course of action:
- “It’s just an animal, doing its thing.”
- “If the animal’s annoying, why not shift the situation so the neighbour moves away etc. instead of being malicious about it?”
- “If the dog’s undisciplined, the real problem is the owner. So if you’re going to throw curses, throw it at them instead of the animal!”
- “Sure, you’re irritated because the yapping is disruptive, but doesn’t reacting by inflicting suffering on both the dog and the owner who loves it seem a bit much?”
- “Maybe you should overcome your own sound oversensitivity instead of trying to force the world to accommodate you.”
Three questions we can in turn ask about each of these considerations are:
- To what extent is this a pragmatic concern (re: the best way to accomplish the goal of non-annoyance) or a moral one (re: the well-being of others besides oneself)?
- Why should we think this is a consideration genuinely grounded in a Satanic worldview?
- How does this consideration tie into the ethics of Tenebrous Satanism specifically?
I’ll address these with each point in turn, rephrasing each one into a more general principle as I proceed.
1: Leave other living beings to their exuberance
Point 1 draws one’s attention to the nature of the being under consideration. That nature is posited as having implications re: how we should/shouldn’t act toward the being in question. This sounds like what most people would recognize as an ethical consideration.
The principle here alluded-to is that all sentient lifeforms implicitly seek to enjoy their own existence. This can be construed as LaVey’s “indulgence, not abstinence!” universalized as life’s own motto. If one recognizes this as “good,” it would seem to follow that it is “bad” to arbitrarily impair others’ pursuit of this good. The ethical reasoning that follows is, “indulgence, and the freedom to seek it, are good; you would count it bad if someone were to take these things from you; therefore, other things being equal, you should not take them from others.”
In the current case, one might counter “but the yapping drives me crazy, hence impinging on my enjoyment of life!” Here, it seems to me Satanism can go two ways. It can take the path of narrow egoistic solipsism, say “fuck everybody but me,” and wonder why it gets dismissed as morally-immature by critics. Or, it can recognize that insofar as the world is an interconnected web of individuals all trying to get by, considering others is simply part of living in reality. As someone who sees life as a nexion of the causal and acausal, I personally lean toward the latter.
Tenebrous Satanism connects the above line of thought to the virtue of zeal. From zeal derives our equivalent of LaVey’s prohibition of harm toward animals or children. In the joy of such innocents, one sees an expression of pure natural exuberance, indulgence incarnate. It does not then seem justifiable to direct wanton destruction at such as these out of mere petty annoyance.
2 & 3: Act wisely in accord with fair-handed judgment
Points 2 & 3 both have a clear pragmatic component via proposing better solutions to the problem. However, both also have moral content.
2 suggests a preference to avoid violence when it is possible to do so. Insofar as violence often begets violence, and thus greater risk to oneself, this is a pragmatic consideration. Frame as “violence disrupts others’ indulgence more than other approaches, hence should be avoided,” though, and we’re on moral ground. Such a point dovetails with the previous section’s considerations.
3 makes a different kind of moral claim: malice should be reserved for those who deserve it. Pragmatically, karmic backlash may be a risk if this principle is not observed. Even absent that, though, I think many would agree you’re doing something wrong in throwing curses at undeserving parties. It suggests poor judgment on the magician’s part. The black-magick-psychopath opts for a kneejerk, poorly-reasoned response instead of a more artful and effective one. A Satanist with any pride in themselves, one may here feel, ought to strive for better.
There are two relevant Tenebrous virtues to the current line of consideration: wisdom and honor. Re: wisdom, acting thoughtlessly and without regard for details of a situation harms both one’s own well-being and others’. Re: honor, it’s not appropriate to seek vindication against a party who is not the true source of the problem. Acting without regard for these considerations yields behavior that is both harmful and idiotic. It strikes me as incumbent on a Satanist claiming to “be their own God” to demonstrate better “life competence” than this. The moral angle here pertains less to what is owed to others than what is owed to oneself. Nonetheless, it does still strike me as a moral consideration.
4: Empathy is an appropriate response to the common suffering of all
At first glance, 4 might sound purely like the bleeding-heart moralism that opposes all baneful magick as such. “You should suck up your own suffering, because harming others is mean, boo hoo!” I think some would-be Satanists do internalize such rationalizations as masks for their own timidity and infirmity. And insofar as excessive pitying bars one from harsh but appropriate action, it’s something a Satanist should train to overcome.
In the current case, though, many would argue our overeager baneful magick user could use this perspective. You’re considering removing from existence someone’s best friend because they’re a petty annoyance to you? Seems like a selfish asshole acting disproportionately, even to many who embrace Satanic self-interest.
Question: does looking at things from this angle take us out of the orbit of Satanism? The social Darwinist who wants Satanism to bring forth a more cut-throat society will answer yes. I’ve argued at length elsewhere, though, that there’s a case for empathy as a Satanic value: 1 – the Eden and Watchers stories can be construed as fallen angels benevolently promoting human welfare; 2 – Job’s Satan reveals an “unfair” aspect to the universe that empathy is a reasonable response to; 3 – Catch a glimpse of the true nature of the puppet-master behind the existence, and you’d do well to develop some sympathy for your fellow puppets…
On such bases, I contend that empathy is indeed a Tenebrous virtue. Rejecting it, I’d argue, constitutes flight from the state of shared vulnerability that is fundamental to life itself. You’re then just performing the Satanic equivalent of Christians who reject evolution because they find the concept ideologically inconvenient. If “Satanism is a this-worldly religion,” then act like you actually live in this world alongside other beings!
5: Build yourself up instead of tearing down others
As with 4, 5’s overapplication tends toward rationalizing away any/all applications of baneful magick. “Actually, the problem is you!” I think sometimes there is validity to this, and sometimes there isn’t. Introspection aided by divination is the magician’s friend in sorting out which it is. In such instances where the real problem is some weakness of one’s own, though, one indeed ought to address this instead of making it into someone else’s problem. This is both a moral consideration (own the problem) and a pragmatic one (fix the real underlying issue).
Of the five points under discussion, this is arguably easiest to reconcile with a Satanic perspective. “Advancing self-evolution is a worthier use of magick than just spreading strife” sounds highly consistent with a Luciferian ethos. Additionally, self-awareness and mastery of one’s emotions are goals widely supported by left-hand-path esotericism. The point is not that any external authority says you’re “doing Satanism wrong” if you don’t seek these goods. It would be near-unimaginable, though, for any self-described “adept” to lack these qualities and dismiss their value.
Perseverance is the Tenebrous virtue I would most highlight in connection with this matter. Perseverance’s counsel in the current case is, “you ought to persist with the harder thing that fosters more self-development (i.e. discipline your emotions) instead of opting for immediate gratification that doesn’t fix the real problem (i.e. react with unjustified spite toward a trigger).” Yes, some will take this principle too far via rationalizing against baneful magick even when circumstances do justify such workings – just as in non-magickal contexts, some overemphasize fixing the individual as a way of avoiding discussion about systemic injustices. I in no way think that invalidates the predominantly-constructive element that motivates the principle itself, though.
In summary, ethical considerations weighing against baneful magick fall into two general kinds:
- Default preference for noninterference with other living beings, grounded in respect for each individual’s liberty to pursue its own flourishing. Points 1 & 4 illustrate this sort of principle.
- Upholding one’s own self-concept as “one’s own God” – i.e. a being possessed of sound judgment, mature self-control, etc. Points 2, 3 and 5 put more emphasis on this kind of concept.
1 pertains to the Satanist’s relationship with other beings we are interconnected with by virtue of all being alive. 2 pertains to the Satanist’s own ethos: what kind of person is it important to me to be, if I am to respect myself? Both lines of thinking can, I argue, be legitimately derived from recognizably-Satanic concepts. These include orientation toward earthly life, “indulgence, not abstinence,” self-awareness and self-development as intrinsic goods worth seeking, etc.
Such is my own perspective on the ethos inherent to Satanism. I personally feel that indifference to / rejection of such matters in a Satanist may indicate shallow engagement with the religion. But that is just a view that I am putting forward, which the strong-willed person who feels otherwise is free to ignore. It is not me setting down a law as to how Satanists should/must think. Treat it therefore as a discussion-starter, not an imposition on your liberty to formulate your own ethos.
Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.