Satanism, Gnosticism and Kabbalah: a few thoughts

In both left-hand-path circles generally and Satanic ones specifically, I’ve observed a certain enthusiasm for Gnostic ideas. While there are facets of this that do make sense, I find it a bit odd and troubling. Why? Because I see Gnosticism as one of the most thoroughly anti-worldly religions to have ever existed. And that is, to my way of thinking, the opposite of what Satanism is about – even a spiritual/esoteric Satanism. Yes, we esoteric Satanists do borrow, appropriate and repurpose ideas from many occult sources. But when I see people insisting Kabbalah is irredeemable, yet embracing concepts from Gnosticism, let’s just say, I have questions. This post will thus explore some intersections and clashes between Satanism, Gnosticism and Kabbalah.

Satanism Gnosticism Kabbalah


First, let’s briefly define a few of the ideologies I’ll be talking about in this post.

What is Gnosticism?

Here are what I take to be the most striking claims of a recognizably Gnostic worldview:

  1. The earthly world is in some sense false and illusionary, and as such acts a prison that limits spiritual awareness.
  2. We have been trapped here in a state of spiritual limitation by malign spiritual forces and our own misconceptions.
  3. Some of us have the power to liberate ourselves if we overcome our misconceptions through knowledge and discipline.
  4. The malign spiritual forces that keep us trapped are associated with the world of matter and venerated by the ignorant. But beyond and above these exist benevolent spiritual forces who support our liberation.
  5. We are ultimately meant to ascend and leave this world behind, finding our true home in a higher realm.

Two further things are worth noting via academic sources on Gnosticism. One, it’s basically a Jewish-Christian bastardization of Greek philosophy. This is why Neoplatonic philosophers mocked it as a pseudo-philosophy of bumpkins and barbarians. Two, it is typically characterized by a complex mythos that posits many layers of separation between humans and the divine.

These features are interesting because they are ones that strike me as obviously in common with…

What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is a form of Jewish mysticism that emerged during the medieval era. Some of its most characteristic ideas include:

  1. Positing a complicated process of creation via God pouring himself out into “vessels” which “break”, hence this world’s imperfections.
  2. Creation is not a “mistake,” but it is flawed, and we need to cooperate with God to fix it.
  3. “Fixing” it entails some combination of closely studying the process of creation and diligently following Jewish ritual law.
  4. The shattering of the vessels produces the qliphoth, i.e., demonic forces that dominate the world. With the power of God, Kabbalists contend against these for the benefit both of themselves and the world at large.
  5. We are ultimately meant to ascend and return to God.

Many will notice that this sounds more-than-vaguely like Gnosticism. To those not convinced, I point out two things:

One, Gnosticism and Kabbalah are both monistic. In Kabbalah, there’s one God behind all the complex diagrams and such. Similarly, Gnosticism has a complex mythology, but behind it all is one single force, the Monad/Pleroma/etc. So you can’t really say that Kabbalah is more tainted than Gnosticism in this respect. You can split hairs about monism vs. monotheism if you like. But to me, they are far more similar than different in conceiving a more-abstract-than-most-of-the-Abrahamic-tradition type of entity behind everything.

Two, Gnosticism and Kabbalah both use messianic discourse. Both envision a savior figure who descends to bring enlightenment to a chosen few, thus aiding their liberation. So you can’t really say that Kabbalah is “more Jesus-proximate” than Gnosticism is. If anything, I would say savior discourse seems to be far more predominant in Gnosticism than Kabbalah.

Satanism, Gnosticism and Kabbalah: what this entry will explore

I primarily want to focus on Gnostic discourse in esoteric Satanism. There are elements in Gnosticism that I understand Satanists’ gravitation toward, as I’ll acknowledge below. But to my thinking, Gnosticism is basically the archetype of Satanism’s enemy as far as right-hand-path religions go. Tenebrous Satanism is, therefore, stridently and intentionally anti-Gnostic, as Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness makes clear at length. The current entry is thus illustrative of a significant facet of the philosophy my book lays out.

More of a side point I want to make is that while Kabbalah is similar to Gnosticism in important ways, I see it as less guilty of the thoroughgoing anti-worldliness I detest in Gnosticism. Satanists can draw inspiration from either one, just as we appropriate freely from Christianity. However, when Satanists are strongly against Kabbalah but not against Gnosticism, I kind of scratch my head… like, if you’re going to be an absolutist in opposition to one of the two, it genuinely seems to me like you’ve picked the wrong one.

A final thing I’ll acknowledge before proceeding is that I’m strongly influenced by the Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus’ critique of Gnosticism. Some of what I say below may therefore not be “fair” to historical Gnostics. A key part of my point, though, is that insofar as Gnosticism can be construed as the most ridiculously extreme of anti-worldly religions, it seems pretty opposite of Satanism to me. If others disagree, I’m not here to shit on their beliefs and don’t need to get into personal arguments with them. I do, however, think I have some interesting food for thought for others to mull over on this front.

Can Gnosticism and Satanism be reconciled?

I want to begin by admitting that Satanic gravitation toward Gnosticism does make some sense. Broadly speaking, it works thus:

  1. Most forms of Satanism are critical of significant dimensions of society. The person who uncritically adheres to society’s arbitrary rules etc. can thus be said to be living in a delusional state from this perspective. Vs. Satanists having wisdom to see past this, analogous to Gnostics possessing insights that others lack.
  2. Satanism typically entails negative discourse about the Abrahamic God. Insofar as this God can be thought of (even if only metaphorically) as the architect of Christian societies, which the Satanist in turn sees as flawed and overrated, equating this figure with the Gnostic Demiurge makes sense.
  3. Satanists strive to overcome limitation by cultivating personal excellence. At the same time, it’s widely understood that not everyone is cut out to be a Satanist. i.e., both self-empowerment and elitism are in evidence here.
  4. Many Satanists define Lucifer as a liberator. Insofar as he’s envisioned as dispensing wisdom that enables us to reject herd limitations and become our own god – i.e., realize our own inward divinity – he does resemble a Gnostic “here’s the wisdom you need, now go do it yourself” -type savior figure.
  5. Some Luciferians and Anti-Cosmic Satanists talk about ascent to a state of unconditioned freedom as a Satanic afterlife goal.

Overall, what Gnosticism and Satanism have in common can be boiled down to something like “I am alienated from what most people consider spiritually-normal; at the same time, the power to liberate myself from these stifling conditions is ultimately my own.”

That’s fine as far as it goes; I don’t go around getting in other Satanists’ faces about their Gnostic discourse, because this does make sense to me.

Nonetheless, there are several things Gnosticism stands for that Tenebrous Satanism stands against, as I’ll now detail.

Concepts in Tenebrous Satanism that clash with Gnosticism

Metaphysics: the protagonists of Gnostic mythology are Celestials

Tenebrous Satanism’s view

According to Tenebrous belief, the force behind all existence is the Abyssal Void of Darkness. Darkness gravitates toward the causal because only through flesh can it experience novelty, diversity, and overcoming of adversity. The ultimate power behind our system thus chooses the world of matter intentionally and inherently. Moreover, it is only because beings individuate themselves in matter that we even have different individual humans, gods, demons, etc.

Upon the conclusion of embodied life, there are very-broadly-speaking three things that may happen with the Darkness within:

  • Tellurian entities remain immersed in the material world. This may mean reincarnation. Or it may mean translation into a spirit who maintains an existence parallel to the world, defined by worldly concerns. e.g. fae, djinn, and other such spirits who live relatively “human-like” lives in the acausal.
  • Celestial entities flee from material existence on account of having been traumatized by existence’s Perils. Some beings thus-inclined seek to dissolve back into the undifferentiated whole, as per many Eastern spiritual practices. Others undergo translation into a spirit who makes a mission of world-hatred, seeking to “save” fellow sufferers. e.g. angels, boddhisattvas, etc.
  • Sinistral entities are those who awaken to the Darkness within them, becoming “enlightened” – i.e., aware of all life’s Perils; aware of Darkness’ unbending will to continue participating in life not despite, but because of them; and aware of its own complicity in suffering by accepting this. To those not receptive to such insights, these beings appear as demonic alien horrors. e.g. the Nekalah.

It is the will of certain Sinistrals that humans awaken to Darkness, accept its inmost nature (i.e., one’s own true nature) and embrace the power it offers. Tenebrous Satanism is then my way of articulating and promoting this will – what I call the Will of the Fire.

Why this clashes with Gnosticism

Now, import Gnosticism into this worldview, and boy does it come off as the worst kind of Celestial whine-fest. “OMG, material existence is the worst thing ever! Only an evil being could do this to us! Waaaahh!” It’s not as bad as Christianity insofar as it believes the individual has power to save themselves. But I don’t see how it’s any better than, say, Buddhism, as far as world-renouncing negativity goes. That’s not to argue for total incompatibility, since I did argue for Satanism-Buddhism overlap in this entry. But given the “indulgence, not abstinence” angle of Satanism as I understand it, it doesn’t seem natural for a Satanist to express themselves in Gnostic idioms.

Or at minimum, if I were to opt for a Gnostic idiom, I’d pick a very different angle:

  • In “my” Gnosticism, there is no distinction between the Demiurge (false creator god) and Monad (higher, true god). The mad puppeteer playing the seemingly-dystopian game of bodily life is the Ultimate power in the universe.
  • My ritual formulae address Sinistrals generally as “reconcilers of the flesh and the spirit,” as well as invoking “Archons” specifically. I thus reject the Gnostic position that “Archons” are something bad. I believe beings who receive the Dark enlightenment accept worldly existence as a joyful game, and want us similarly reconciled. Tenebrous Satanism works with these beings, and against beings who preach negativity about embodied existence.
  • By all means, seek power beyond the flesh if you want. Ultimately though, the destiny of all of us is here, not somewhere else. Enlightenment means embracing that constructively, not running away from it.

In other words, if you’re going to be a Satanist, why self-associate with Gnosticism’s “good” guys instead of its “bad” guys like we do with every anti-worldly religion??

Ethos: Gnosticism entails Dogmagian patterns and values

Tenebrous Satanism’s view

Tenebrous Satanism holds that all human beings and all human cultures evince a mixture of three qualities or patterns (defined at much greater length in Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness):

  • Apollonian: concerned with order vs. chaos; manifests positively in seeking harmony with others and with nature; manifests negatively in imposition of order on reality’s messiness
  • Magian: concerned with Truth vs. Falsehood; manifests positively in effective social coordination via shared narratives; manifests negatively in the preference for ideological “truth” over reality
  • Faustian: concerned with evolution vs. stasis; manifests positively in innovation of all kinds; manifests negatively in the utopian bulldozing of reality

All of these have some positives and some negatives depending on context, i.e. we do not have a problem with Magianism as such! At the same time though, the Magian pattern tends to cause the greatest harm when it becomes dominant and dogmatic. This dogmatic Magianism – abbreviated as Dogmagianism – typically revolves around the following sorts of tropes:

  • “We must keep ourselves and our community free from the stain of the outside world.”
  • “All worldly things are tainted with sin, as is anyone who participates in them.”
  • “Since we know the Truth, we are elite guardians of righteousness who are morally superior to everyone outside our circle.”
  • “The end of the world is coming soon, and everyone will see then that we were right all along!”

The position of Tenebrous Satanism is that Satanists are not the enemies of “the Christians,” “the Jews,” etc. Rather, we must oppose this Dogmagian-patterned thinking wherever it arises – whether in Abrahamic religious contexts, the ostensibly secular politics of the far-right and far-left, or even among other Satanists. Yes, it is commonly associated with traditional religion. But I would argue its most insidious manifestations today actually arise outside of that context.

Why this clashes with Gnosticism

Pretty much every extreme sect in Christianity evinces Dogmagian pattern thinking to some extent. I don’t see how Gnosticism could be exempt from this. To the contrary, everything I know frames it as one of the most obnoxious offenders – of elitism, particularly. I here see Gnosticism as sort of a “worst of all worlds” between Christianity and Greek philosophy. It has all those ideologies’ arrogant dismissals of the earthly world, but none of the balancing humility or prudence.

This, then, is not a good religion for Satanism to borrow ideas from. The last thing I think Satanism needs is this “my soul is different and better than the souls of the masses” -type attitude that Gnosticism is so infamous for. I do think few Satanists (maybe just a handful of Luciferians) actually believe such a thing literally. But insofar as “we’re better than the herd” attitudes seem to be common in Satanism, gravitation toward Gnosticism seems to follow. This is pernicious IMO, as it encourages Satanists to spin a neutral matter of fact (we do tend to differ from the mainstream) into the kind of Dogmagian snobbery that discourages constructive engagement with the world (we’re better than them, no one understands us, so why should we work with them or have anything to do with them, etc.).

As a Tenebrous Satanist, I do believe individual flourishing and self-evolution are what we’re here for. However, I’d argue there’s no meaningful horizon for those things absent constructive social engagement. I therefore think it’s better to keep an eye out for whatever limited Satanic potential might dwell in each and every individual, instead of adopting a high-horse attitude of cynicism and dismissal toward our fellow human beings. The Dogmagian elitism of Gnosticism, I’d argue, therefore makes it unhelpful for Satanists to adopt.

Gnosticism vs. Kabbalah

Now, with all the above in mind, here are a few contrasts between Gnosticism and Kabbalah I’d like to highlight:

  1. Gnosticism says the world is a prison and that our material existence is a mistake. Kabbalah admits there are problems with the world, but is not as thoroughgoingly negative as this.
  2. Gnosticism says an inferior god made this world maliciously. Kabbalah says God made the best creation he could, but the process itself introduced limitations.
  3. Gnosticism’s practices seem to focus on separation from the world, e.g. rejection of sexuality. Kabbalah’s tend to maintain some degree of engagement, e.g. contra the asceticism preached in many other RHP traditions, Kabbalists must be married.
  4. Gnosticism is dualistic, defining entities as evil in proportion to their proximity to worldliness, e.g. Archons = demonic. Kabbalah’s conception of evil has more to do with lack of balance, and is thus more monistic.
  5. Gnosticism tends to be more consistently anti-worldly, e.g. starving oneself to death as a method of ascending. Kabbalah also has anti-worldly elements, but it’s actually the Jewish part of the tradition that limits this, because of the Biblical insistence that God created the world and it was good. (Christianity also limits anti-worldliness compared to Gnosticism: Gnostics downplayed Christ’s humanity vs. Christianity maintained the significance of the incarnation – even if they mostly sucked at putting their appreciation of it into practice, thanks to Augustine, but I’ll save that rant for elsewhere).

Implications for Satanic appropriation of these traditions

Okay, so what’s my point? Given all this, I find it kind of laughable that some Satanists will give you a hard time about borrowing ideas from Kabbalah, whilst they are off borrowing ideas from a tradition that’s even more anti-worldly.

Kabbalah is here interestingly more compatible with Tenebrous thought than Gnosticism is. Existence consists of Darkness slowly evolving to be able to do more and more things through the medium of matter, and in the meantime, sure, existence will sometimes seem not-real-awesome. Ultimately though, we are supposed to be here, working on making the world better, instead of just rushing to wash our hands of the whole messy affair. And personally I think that’s a far healthier frame for Satanism to appropriate than what Gnosticism offers.

So yeah… I’d hope there’s something more intellectual behind Satanic gravitation toward Gnosticism than “Demiurge discourse lets me bitch about the Jewish God without people noticing I’m an antisemitic bigot.” But I can’t help wondering here if at least in some cases, folks are letting what should be irrelevant cultural factors dictate what ideologies they gravitate toward, instead of thinking a bit harder about how compatible or not the actual contents of those ideologies are with Satanism. Just a thought…

Concluding thoughts

Again, this entry isn’t meant as a personal attack on anyone who uses Gnostic discourse just to express the social-alienation and self-empowerment aspects of being a Satanist. Beyond that though, there’s a lot in Gnosticism that I’d argue clashes with key Satanic values – at least as my own form of Satanism defines them, but I do think it goes beyond that.

Hopefully this entry offers some food for thought re: where we draw our lines regarding what can / can’t be repurposed to Satanic ends. Any thoughts on that or related matters, let me know in the comments.

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