When a magickal current believes that baneful magick works, but you shouldn’t do it, karma is a commonly-given reason. The Threefold Law is a widely-known concept, even among those who reject it as simplistic or simply false. I think it is safe to assert that most Satanists have little use for moralizing metaphysics of this kind. At the same time, though, the notion of an entirely consequence-free universe seems foreign to esoteric worldviews generally. So is any kind of karmic belief plausible for esoteric Satanists? I would argue yes… but this Satanic karma will deviate significantly from how other esotericists typically imagine the “law of karma” working…
A note about “esoteric Satanism”
I should first clarify what I mean by “esoteric Satanist.” For the current entry’s purposes, it includes any Satanist who believes effective baneful magick can cause real, direct harm. This includes:
- Non-theistic Satanists of the LaVeyan Church of Satan (CoS) persuasion who practice what LaVey calls “greater” magick. These are folks who believe ritual magick has real effects, but conceptualize it in terms of self-directed energies. One can practice such magick without evoking any otherworldly entities per se.
- Theistic Satanists, whether Luciferian, Niner (O9A) or otherwise. These are folks whose ritual magick entails cooperation from supernatural beings at least some of the time. It should not necessarily be assumed, though, that all their magick always entails evocation of otherworldly entities.
Nothing in this entry is thus relevant to atheistic Satanists who believe that magick isn’t a thing. That will include many members of The Satanic Temple (TST), CoS members who embrace the philosophy but not ritual, etc.
For more about my use of “esoteric Satanist,” see this previous entry on my dissatisfaction with the theist/atheist distinction.
My starting point regarding “karma”
Coming from a LaVeyan background, I have long seen karma as a typical right-hand-path feel-good delusion. Satanists who think similarly to me are likely to reject karmic belief for the following kinds of reasons:
- It is inconsistent with the basic facts of the world. Good goes unrewarded, and evil goes unpunished, on a regular basis – just look around!
- It is one of those beliefs that implies the universe “cares” about what humans do. Nature is not bereft of cooperation and benevolence, but it contains enough violence and cruelty to make karma implausible. Insofar then as humans are just another part of nature, there is no reason to believe in such a thing.
- It has more to do with social regulation than with metaphysical actualities. This puts it in the same category as heaven/hell re: discouraging antisocial behaviors via otherworldly lies. This is a childish and herdish method for making people get along with one another.
- It discourages people from standing up for themselves, obligating them to instead wait for the universe to make things right. It thus upholds the status quo, enables exploitation to continue, and deprives the wronged of a tool of deterrence.
“Law of the jungle” -talk I’ve heard among theistic Satanists suggests such dismissal of karma is widespread in those circles too.
At the same time though, esoteric worldviews typically assert that all things are interconnected. Energetic interconnection is, one could argue, a prerequisite for magick to “work” at all. It then seems implausible to suppose actions taken within such a system will not have consequences. And in my experience, this is indeed something competent magicians will take seriously.
So, do esoteric Satanists believe in something like karma? The answer that comes to me is “not really… and yet, sort of…”
In what sense is karma plausible within a Satanic worldview?
Aside from this being in “Niner-ese” (worried about it? see explanation here), I reckon most esoteric Satanists would agree:
- The acausal world operates on similar Darwinian principles to the causal world
- Interconnection of the causal and acausal worlds – i.e. nexions – are a pervasive feature of existence
It follows from this combination of beliefs that the magician isn’t living in a consequence-free playground. But it also follows that any “rules” derive from harsh realities having little to do with idealistic moral expectations.
Now, consider: many esoteric Satanists, even if they embrace a somewhat “brutal” view of reality, typically won’t cross certain lines. Example: if you could get rid of a super annoying toddler by cursing them to illness and death, would you? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect many would say no.
What the current entry will reflect on in connection with this assertion is twofold:
One, there are three mechanisms associated with baneful magick going awry that together suggest a sort of “Satanic karma.”
Two, none of these actually furnishes a strong rationale against, say, murdering a toddler for self-indulgent reasons. (!)
Some may argue that this demonstrates the amoral nature of Satanism. But to me, it merely demonstrates that esoteric Satanism’s acausal metaphysics are amoral, not that the Satanist themselves need be.
To be clear, I am definitely NOT saying esoteric Satanists either do, or should, go around murdering children with magick! My point, rather, is that what restrains those who submit to such a restraint is something other than karma. What exactly it is, though, is something I’ll talk about in another entry.
1. Three acausal mechanisms of Satanic karma
Any instance of baneful magick will involve the following parties:
- The magician
- The target
- The magician’s acausal ally or allies (if any)
My thought is that each of these is a potential failure point in a working of baneful magick. Such failures in turn produce phenomena that can appear “karmic,” i.e. it will seem as though the magician is being “punished” for their working. In actual fact, though, the mechanism in each case is amoral. Consequences are driven by power and its competent or incompetent use, not by any judgments about good/evil etc.
I discuss mechanisms of this kind in connection with what the Seventh Key calls the principle of adverse consequences. The terminology below thus reflects that used in my book, Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness.
Mechanism 1: Deflection Via Infirmity of Purpose
The first potential mechanism of “karma” is via the magician themselves. Some relevant scenarios include:
- Insufficient self-honesty regarding one’s own feelings – e.g. the infamous “still in love with the ex” -type scenario.
- Secretly harboring distaste for baneful magick because “it’s cruel,” “revenge is wrong,” etc.
- Insisting the target is 100% the problem, while knowing deep down that one’s issue with them is partly self-created.
- Casting a curse only to change one’s mind afterward.
These are all instances in which the pathway for karmic return is the magician’s own energies. The mechanism is psychological, though, not moral. What you’re doing with your own energy here is basically making yourself vomit, then turning around and eating it. Obviously that’s not a healthful scenario.
I’m under the impression that belief in these sorts of mechanisms is fairly well-established in Satanism. LaVey wrote of hypocritical guilt causing problems with magick, and I never got the impression that other writers disagreed. This kind of thing is, of course, why introspective honesty prior to doing any kind of working is so essential.
Mechanism 2: Instinctual Retaliation
The second potential mechanism of “karma” is via the target of the baneful magick. To envision how this would operate, consider these corollaries of what I said above re: Darwinian principles and interconnectedness:
- If the acausal world operates on “survival of the fittest” no less than the causal, then acausal defensive adaptations can be expected to resemble causal ones.
- A nexion is inherently a point of mutual vulnerability: if there is contact, then any party involved in that contact can potentially influence others.
To quote myself regarding what follows from this:
Tenebrous Satanism does not believe in karma as a moral principle. It does, however, recognize that every living organism has an interest in its own well-being. Any kind of assault thus inherently provokes retaliation, for such is what survival of the fittest both demands and selects for. It follows that, for example, the casting of curses can trigger unconscious acausal defense mechanisms in the target, and the magician will then have to deal with the resultant energy backlash. This is no reason not to curse one’s enemies, for if one anticipates the effect, one can easily mitigate it. The point, though, is that one ought to anticipate it.
I haven’t seen this kind of mechanism discussed in other Satanic works to the extent I have with the first mechanism. It correlates, though, with the advice of LaVey and others re: a sleeping target is vulnerable via being off-guard. What, then, does it mean to be on-guard? A mechanism along the lines I just outlined would seem to be implied.
Mechanism 3: Acausal Antagonism
The third potential mechanism of “karma” is via the magician’s acausal ally or allies, if any. The issue is, if you involve a spirit, and it dislikes your actions, it’s likely to lash out at you.
This could happen if the magician tries to use an entity’s power to do something against the entity’s own principles. A sorcerer breaking a covenant (e.g. you have a patron spirit + do something to offend them) would be another scenario prompting backlash. Or yet another would be when you fail to accompany your working with a sacrifice appropriate to your ally/allies. In all such cases, the blunt fact is that you’ve pissed off someone you shouldn’t have pissed off.
Someone who doesn’t believe in or work with acausal entities will readily declare this mechanism N/A. As someone who does believe in such things, though, I do think spirits sometimes take action against the unaware. Perhaps one is bound by a pact from another lifetime, and the spirit is aggrieved by one’s obliviousness to this. Or, perhaps the magician’s target happens to have an acausal protector in their corner.
These kinds of scenarios strike me as far less common channels for karma-like effects than the other two. But in cases where baneful magick seems to result in unexpectedly severe backlash, such possibilities are surely worth considering.
2. Satanic karma is a pragmatic consideration, not a moral one
General implications of Satanic karma
So, do esoteric Satanists believe in karmic mechanisms that discourage the use of baneful magick? To an extent. What should be noted, though, is that none of the three mechanisms described above is “moral” per se. Rather, each posits practical reasons why you should watch what you’re doing with baneful magick. Specifically:
Don’t do baneful workings unless you’re 100% sure about where your emotions stand re: the target.
Absent the threat of prison, could you tie this person up and physically stab them until they’re dead? Without guiltless, determined ruthlessness like this, baneful magick either doesn’t work, or comes back to haunt the caster.
If the target is weak, oblivious, etc., it probably won’t amount to much. But inherent psychic defenses are likely to be strong especially if attacking another magician. Even more so if they know you’re their enemy, etc. This is why one does banishing or similar purification practices after baneful magick: it’s simply good energy management, not an admission that baneful magick is inherently “wrong.”
Don’t bring spirits into your affairs unless you have a thorough understanding of both their explicit and implicit terms.
Pick the right one for the job. Meet with them and secure their cooperation beforehand, instead of evoking without warning and taking their support for granted. And if you promise them something for their help, be sure to fulfill that promise.
Specific implications: the annoying toddler revisited
And so now, to see what I mean in even more forceful terms re: this is not about morality, consider:
Does deflection via infirmity of purpose rule out harming children?
Not if hesitation, scruples and remorse are 100% absent.
Does instinctual retaliation rule out harming children?
Hardly: if they’re relatively helpless on the causal plane, that implies they are relatively helpless on the acausal also.
Does acausal antagonism rule out harming children?
A bit of a longer answer for this one:
Personally I think the notion that there exist spirits who protect all children, just because they’re children, is sentimental bullshit. That’s the kind of thing you tell yourself because you’re afraid of the reality that the universe is, indeed, ruthlessly amoral. Are some protected, either arbitrarily or because past life circumstances, a guardian, etc. sees to it that it is so? Yes, I’m sure they are. And I find it similarly plausible that some or many spirits may object to attacks on children. I know, though, that others give zero fucks about human morality and will joyfully rain terror upon anyone whatsoever. This one, for example.
In all of these cases, though, you can see the mechanisms of Satanic karma pose questions about power, not morality. “Should I do a baneful working on this target?” is not parsed as “given considerations of moral law, is this permissible or not?” Rather, it’s parsed as “given how much power I can muster vs. how much power the target can muster, will I prevail?”
I must stress, yet again, that this does not mean Satanists are or should be amoral in their actual actions. The point, though, is that if a Satanist is morally opposed to doing something, metaphysical mechanisms built into the universe will not be what drives that opposition.
A common antitheist complaint about religion is that it regulates behavior via metaphysical delusions that appeal ultimately to self-interest. One does good to improve one’s karma, go to heaven, etc.; one avoids evil lest one suffer evil in return, reincarnate into something unpleasant, go to hell, etc. The complaint is that all this is a corruption of “true” morality. “True” morality would entail doing the right because it’s right, not to seek a reward or avoid a penalty. Religious people, the antitheist concludes, are not actually very good people if they “need” these mechanisms to motivate their “goodness.”
Such a perspective on the insufficiencies of religious morality should give food for thought to those wary of my take on Satanic karma. From a conventional religious perspective, it’s sinister that Satanists don’t believe in an external mechanism of morality. “Nothing stops them just going around hurting others willy-nilly!” the religious fret, clutching their pearls. To a humanist, though, this attitude is itself disturbing. What, you won’t do the right thing unless the universe has a gun pointed at your head to force you? Shouldn’t you have motivations grounded in the flourishing of yourself and your fellow humans, instead of metaphysical sticks and carrots?
I believe that Satanism, correctly understood, does offer a humanistic rationale for moral behavior along such lines. It’s just not what I’m talking about in the current entry, though! Here, I’m making a metaphysical point re: does it make sense for a Satanist to believe in anything resembling karma? And the answer is: yes, but only so long as we admit that this karmic “law” is the law of the acausal jungle, not the law of morality.
So does anything I’m saying here make sense to other Satanists? Agree / disagree? Let me know in the comments.