I often cross paths online with esoterically-inclined folks – left-hand-path or otherwise – referring to past-life memories / experiences. This phenomena struck me as interesting to reflect upon in connection with Tenebrous Satanism’s beliefs re: spirits, the afterlife, etc. This entry therefore presents my general impressions on this topic, plus some gnosis I’ve received re: my own past lives.
This post covers three issues re: past lives:
- Is the concept of “past lives” something that Tenebrous metaphysics allow for? If so, how does this work?
- Why might the concept of “past lives” be meaningful even if one rejects literalistic belief in this concept?
- What do I believe about “past lives” in my own personal case?
I’ll address each of these in turn below.
The metaphysics of rebirth
I have a strong tendency toward looking for how any/every religion may simultaneously be part right, part wrong. Regarding the topic of death and the afterlife, this plays out in the following fashion:
I believe in the transmigration of spiritual energies. This is a widespread belief held by a variety of traditions, particularly ancient, indigenous/tribal, and/or Eastern religions. In accord with these, I believe each life lived in the flesh conditions the next enfleshed form spirit will take. This is “karmic” in terms solely of cause-and-effect, though – i.e. I understand karma only in terms of objective consequences for every action, not moral judgment.
Transmigration most commonly entails return to the realm of flesh, but other outcomes can also occur. Broadly, Tenebrous Satanism envisions three:
- Extinction: a being allows its spiritual energies to disperse instead of remaining cohesive. This dissolving back into the Void is equivalent to Buddhist nirvana, Hindu moksha, etc.
- Sanctuary: taking refuge in an acausal realm. This kind of thing can include something like what Abrahamic religions envision; I just deny such realms being “eternal,” for reasons I’ll get to.
- Translation: a formerly-causal being transforms itself into an acausal one. This is what most other left-hand-paths call “ascending”. I’ll explain why Tenebrous Satanism doesn’t call it this later in this post.
Sanctuary differs from translation thus: in the former, an acausal being intervenes to prevent your return to the world of matter. Vs. in the latter, you have altered your own nature such that you remain in the acausal of your own accord.
I do not believe the soul is immortal, unchanging, etc. I instead view it as similar to the body, taking in new energies and eliminating no-longer-useful ones. What persists from one incarnation to the next is not a substance, but a continuity of energies and experiences. The Buddhist concept of skandhas is probably the closest idea in mainstream religions to my view.
Some implications of this include:
- Though spirit itself – i.e. Darkness – is everlasting, the individual is not. Rather, the individual congeals out of the Void at some point in time, persists as a dynamic nexion for as long as the will permits, and eventually dissolves back into the Abyss. Sometimes this dissolution happens after a single lifetime. In other cases, though, an individual’s continuity may persist over long aeons. What we typically call “gods” or “demons” are beings of this long-persisting kind. Such beings are also, I believe, capable of “making copies of themselves” or “splitting off parts of themselves”.
- The parcel of energies that actually carry over from one life to the next is just a tiny seed. Vs. much of “what makes me, me” in the current incarnation is reclaimed by the Abyss at death. This dispersed energy may then wind up being scooped up by other beings newly-congealing in the Void.
Both points carry some interesting implications for how “past lives” may work. 1 is relevant to the notion that one can be “the incarnation of” a god/demon/etc. 2, meanwhile, implies there’s more than one way for present-being-X to have continuity with past-being-Y. X might be the new vessel of Y’s seed of consciousness; on the other hand, X might just be formed of some of the dispersed energy that formerly was part of Y.
Primacy of the Flesh
I believe that fundamentally, enfleshed existence is the true will of Darkness. As a result, I radically reject the notion of the world as a “prison” we are “supposed” to “ascend” from. Yes, incarnate existence is often monumentally shitty, and wanting to be free of it either temporarily or permanently is understandable. Ultimately, though, I believe spirit “wants” flesh for the sake of novelty, diversity and the overcoming of adversity. This is, to me, an inherently Satanic view: the fallen angel represents “the just preference of Earth over heaven,” to paraphrase Milton.
Contra my above agreement with Buddhism, then, this points to where I diverge from Buddhism. As I’ve also alluded to in several past posts, I affirm Buddhist metaphysical mechanisms without drawing the same conclusions re: “how then should we live.” It doesn’t follow that everything being impermanent renders all endeavors futile and meaningless. Rather, what is futile is the attempt to escape from these conditions: extinction only annihilates you-as-an-individual. The energies that formed “you” are still there, and will just become part of some other being-who-suffers. If your goal is just to end your own specific nexus of suffering, fine. But don’t delude yourself into imagining that being a quitter is going to solve some kind of cosmic problem.
Implications re: “past lives”
The upshot of all of the above can be summarized thus:
- Tenebrous Satanism’s metaphysics do allow for the possibility of “past lives.”
- Such previous existences could take the form of any manner of causal (e.g. human, animal, etc.) creature in the world (e.g. any planet), and/or any manner of spirit (e.g. god, demon, etc.) dwelling in an acausal realm (e.g. a “heaven,” “hell,” etc.).
- It is possible for multiple beings A, B, etc. to each have a valid past-life connection to past-existence-N, via A having inherited one portion of N’s energies, B another portion, etc. It’s thus not necessarily a problem for multiple people to claim they’re all reincarnations of the same person/god/etc.
- From a Satanic perspective, past lives are just part of the inherent Adventure of existence. They are only a “bad” thing insofar as experience or dogma have convinced the individual of such.
A non-metaphysical take on “past lives”
Now, I’m aware that the degree of afterlife-theorizing in this post is likely annoying to atheistic Satanists. These and similarly-tempered individuals may well be thinking, “this kind of otherworldly preoccupation has no place in Satanism.” And I am definitely not without sympathy to that view. Certainly, I agree with such folks re: afterlife speculation shouldn’t dictate how a Satanist lives their life here-and-now.
That said, though, the ritual exercise of consulting a “spirit” about one’s “past lives” need not be rendered meaningless by an absence of supernatural belief. As is so often the case with those kinds of occult endeavors, you can look at it metaphorically. Jungian concepts, such as active imagination, archetypes, the shadow, etc. can offer a useful lens here.
Looked-at from such a perspective, “past lives” can be interpreted as an identity-articulating narrative. Some fronts on which such a narrative can be illuminating include:
- Vividly articulating one’s own aspirations and fears
- Reconciling with aspects of one’s own nature that one would otherwise experience as inexplicable, contradictory, and/or disturbing
- Expressing the depth of affinity and connection one feels with certain people in one’s life
It’s easy for the rationalist to point out that none of this “requires” telling a supernatural-flavored story about oneself. As is so often the case with “that kind of atheist,” though, this kind of complaining strikes me as coming from an “everything must be science, nothing is allowed to be art” -type stance that most human beings do not actually relate to. My own stance is that personal narratives about past lives can be meaningful regardless of what you believe spiritually. Even if one doubts their literal truth, they can still articulate something meaningful about one’s self-understanding.
Personal gnosis re: “past lives”
Having been an atheistic Satanist (LaVeyan) for over two decades, I am not without skepticism about “past lives”. I think often, when people articulate them, the exercise illustrates wishful thinking more than metaphysical “fact”. One should also beware of unacknowledged impulses to appropriate cultural contexts that are not one’s own, by projecting oneself into another peoples’ pasts, and of historically-suspect visions – e.g. “I was burned as a witch in many of my past lives” when historically, witches were more often hung than burned. Take what follows with a bit of a grain of salt due to such considerations.
How I received this gnosis
That aside, though, there are two main sources for my own past-life gnosis:
- Chaos magick gnosis: experimenting with shamanic drumming to induce trance states. In this context, I asked “the web of being” for visions of my past lives, and proceeded to receive them. (I may post more about this technique in a future blog, for general interest sake, but it’s not actually part of my praxis as a Satanist per se.)
- Tenebrous current gnosis: the Nekalah have occasionally told me things while I was in ritual communion with them. Contra the previous method, this has tended to be unsolicited, e.g. during my very first encounter with Nythra in particular.
It’s perhaps worth noting explicitly that these are quite different experiences from one another. The first has tended to offer the kind of insights that lend themselves more readily to a Jungian interpretation. e.g. “OK, seems like a valid metaphor for why I’m the way I am, regardless of whether it’s ‘true’ or not”. The second, by contrast, has more often taken the form of being suddenly confronted by something that was totally not on my radar at all, yet either imposed itself on me as undeniably true as soon as it was said, or has come to make more and more sense over time as coincidences connecting the supposed-past and the actual-present have built up.
My own past lives
In light of the metaphysical beliefs I outlined above – i.e. fragmenting of energies + attendant lack of clarity re: what counts as “I” – it’s reasonable to expect that no all-encompassing narrative of one’s past lives is ever forthcoming. Here are a few of the more interesting highlights I’ve received, though:
- My continuity as an individual being does not predate Earth’s existence, but begins relatively close to when humans first appear.
- There was a “pact with Dark forces” forged in my first human incarnation, which has inflected all subsequent rebirths.
- My human rebirths have been about two-thirds to three-quarters male. In many of these, I had proclivities of an anti-social or even predatory nature. My female rebirths largely having unpleasant conditions is karmically-related to this.
- One of my better lives was as a Faust-like occult scholar during the Renaissance. It’s not anyone “known,” as he frittered away too much time studying and hesitating without actually finishing a book. He at least got to die in his bed, though, vs. most other incarnations getting murdered for heresy/witchcraft/etc.
- According to Nythra, my most-recent human incarnation prior to my current form was as Salem-witch-trial victim Martha Carrier. Now, as I’ve written elsewhere, I have strong reasons for suspecting wish-fulfillment in picking that specific individual. If nothing else, though, it was a woman who lived and died in similar circumstances.
- Upon the conclusion of said life, bitterness made me resist human incarnation. I was thence taken into the Nekalah’s realm for about 300 years.
- During that time, I took on a sizable share of energy from one Nekalah in particular: Aosoth. I thus came into my current life as what could be called an incarnation of her. Hence, “Othaos.”
Past-life narrative implications
Without having to insist that the above account “is” or “isn’t” true, psychologically I do find it interesting and meaningful. A few key points on this front:
- I have long found a strange and contradictory mix in my nature between feeling like my empathic understanding of other humans is above-average, and struggling to relate to people “normally” in day-to-day social interactions. The length of my human-incarnation-continuity seems to speak to the former. The 300-year-break from being human seems to speak to the latter.
- Partners have often told me that my grasp of male psychology is uncannily better than most other women they’ve encountered. I have also long struggled with internalized misogyny that runs along patterns that evoke a disdainful male outsider’s view more than a subjugated female insider’s view. The gendered rebirth pattern described seems consistent with / illustrative of this.
- I have a troubled relationship with the whole “cancel culture” concept. I grasp why many leftists either deny it’s a thing, or support it as positive. That very sympathy, however, aggravated my fretting myself into near-suicidal anxiety/depression over it a few years back. (See this previous entry for a partial glimpse into my issues driving this.) The notion that I’d been persecuted and executed by the mob countless times before strangely helped me overcome this, though. For one thing, it offered a narrative that validated my uneasiness amid an environment wherein my peers were constantly invalidating my fears. For another, it suggested I had already survived herd condemnation and continued to remain myself, despite a high price. Both angles helped me reach the place of diminished fearfulness about such things that I currently enjoy… even though what I’m into these days is far more controversial than anything I was formerly into…
I’ll close by reiterating that I sympathize with dismissiveness re: claims about “past lives.” Nonetheless, the main points this entry is making are:
- Tenebrous Satanism is a religion that allows for “past lives,” but with complexities and reservations different from other “spiritual” worldviews.
- Even rejecting such a worldview, a past-life narrative can still articulate something meaningful about a person’s self-understanding when interpreted metaphorically.
- Having such a past-life narrative myself, I can maintain healthy skeptical about its metaphysical accuracy while still finding that it articulates something meaningful about the complexities and peculiarities of my psyche.
Do you have any thoughts to share about past lives? What do you know of yours, and how has that information come to you? Or, when you hear of others’, are there claims or patterns you see as demonstrating veracity, or as “red flags”? Let me know in the comments.
This post received minor edits for stylistic consistency on Aug 24/23.