Crowley’s O.T.O. Charter to Gardner, Gardner’s U.S. visit, and also
coincides rather closely with the writing of High Magic’s Aid by Gardner.
If your friend is right, then it would mean that old Gerald actually went
through a charade of pretending to Arnold Crowther that Arnold was introducing him to Crowley for the first time—a charade which Crowley for some reason was willing to go along with. Why? I can’t see the point of such a pretense; but then occultists sometimes do devious things…
Gnosticism and Wicca, the subjects of Jack Parsons’ essays, republished by the O.T.O. and New Falcon Press in 1990, are the two most successful expressions to date of Crowley’s dream of a popular solarphallic religion. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think Aleister and Gerald may have cooked Wicca up. The issues for Thelemites and Wiccans here are, as I see it, two-fold:
If Wicca is the O.T.O.’s prodigal daughter, in fact, authorized directly by Crowley, how should they now relate to this?
Then too, what are we to make of and infer about all this business of a popular Thelemic-Gnostic religion? Were Crowley, Parsons, Gardner and others trying to do something of note with regard to actualizing a New Aeon here which bears scrutiny? Or is this mere speculation, and of little significance for the Great Work today? If the Charter Crowley issued Gardner is, indeed, the authority upon which Wicca has been built for half a century, sometimes, I muse, the Inner Order revoked Wicca’s charter in 1986, placing it, so to speak, in my hands. Since I hold it in Trust for the O.T.O., perhaps Wicca has, in symbolic form, returned home at last. It remains for the Wiccans, literally (since the charter hangs in my temple space), to read the handwriting on the wall.
“The belief in witchcraft was not all superstition; its psychological roots were sound. Women who are thwarted in their natural instincts turn inevitably to all kinds of malignant mischief, from slander to domestic destruction…”
Personal letters referenced in this essay:
Aleister Crowley to W.B.C., May 30, 1947
Frieda Harris to Frederic Mellinger, December 7, 1947 Gerald Gardner to Vernon Symonds, December 24, 1947 Frieda Harris to Karl Germer, January 2, 1948
Karl Germer to Frieda Harris, January 19, 1948
Doreen Valiente to Allen Greenfield, August 8, 1986 Doreen Valiente to Allen Greenfield, August 28, 1986 Doreen Valiente to Allen Greenfield, December 8, 1986
5 Ibid., pp. 12-13.
- Ibid., p 16.
- Tomorrow, p 20.
- Witchcraft Today, p 27.
- Gardner, ibid., introduction.
- Man, Myth And Magic, p 3204.
It’s 1966 and drug-numbed hippies are running wild. The glare of psychedelia has begun to daze and confuse the masses, while the youth scene degenerates into one big, narcotized Love-In. What’s a Luciferian outsider to do, as the rest of humanity takes a downward plunge into mobocratic misery?
If you are Anton Szandor LaVey, you come up with a sensible solution, proclaim the Year One and inaugurate history’s first Church of Satan, fully aware of what kind of flak you’re going to catch for it. A circle of alienated illuminati had already gathered around the charismatic LaVey, thus forming the fertile nucleus for “the ultimate conscious alternative to herd mentality and institutionalized thought,” as he often described it. In LaVeyan philosophy, Satan is not a phantasm out of a Catholic exorcism, but rather a perfect symbol for the forces of Nature. It boils down more to operating within lex talionis, the law of retribution, than chanting mumbo- jumbo out of dusty spellbooks. But knowing wisely that every movement needs its Mein Kampf or Das Kapital, LaVey penned The Satanic Bible, outlining his strategies for the strong: those who would be gods among men. It’s a razorsharp, no-bullshit primer in natural and supernatural law, a tome of true heresy in the grand tradition. The Satanic Rituals followed hot on its heels, and by this time the Church was soaking up the international media spotlight and attracting notorious members like sexpot Jayne Mansfield, whose affair with LaVey proved legendary and, unfortunately, deadly. I’ll leave it to his biographers to reveal the many facets of LaVey’s vital interaction with the world of mortals—his associates, comrades, and romantic conquests were a veritable who’s who of the underworld of 20th century America and beyond.
During his years in the public eye, the “Black Pope” was cheered and castigated, called everything from the world’s most dangerous devil-
worshipper to a mere sideshow charlatan. He’s been accused of harboring fascist agendas and libertarian leanings. Initially considered to be a renegade humanist, in his later years LaVey advocated the personal use of stimulating and aesthetic artificial companions rather than suffer pointless interactions with everyday humans. Although many assume that the Church of Satan may be little more than a money-making gimmick, LaVey has always campaigned for the strict taxation of all churches, and claims that most of them could never subsist without their financial exemptions.
In LaVeyan philosophy, Satan is not a phantasm out of a Catholic exorcism, but rather a perfect symbol for the forces of Nature.
In the mid-1970s, tired of the media and the masses, LaVey became a deliberately elusive entity. He was the shadow looming over an already shadowy faith, who slyly handled the reigns of the beast he brought to life more than a quarter of a century ago. Giving audiences to only his closest co-conspirators, when he granted an interview it was no longer with corporate magazines or television talk shows, both of which he considered enemy missiles in the “Invisible War” for your mind and soul.
Rather than pandering for publicity, in his latter days he was happier to spend his precious time at the helm of a bank of synthesizers, conjuring deep emotions with the long-forgotten music he believed embodies the Satanic spirit. Amidst the menagerie of his feral cats Zambeezee and Cromwell, and Boaz the serpent, he and his biographer/confidant Blanche Barton lived a private, secretive life away from the madding crowd—and they smiled knowingly as LaVey’s prophecies materialized one by one.
An additional by-product of this self-engineered seclusion was the multitude of unfounded rumors which swirled around his legacy, the two most common being that the Church no longer existed and that its founder passed away back in the ’70s, shortly after making his initial splash. These stories couldn’t have been farther from the truth, despite the wishful thinking of fearful Christians or save-the-world social activists. In 1993, at the ripe old age of 63, LaVey displayed his virility by siring a robust son, Xerxes—a magical child if ever there was one. Visiting his infamous Black House in the hills of San Francisco was an experience never forgotten, a reminder that there were still a few uniquely sentient and
admirable humans left on the planet. It was during such a visit in 1994 that the following conversation took place. The version presented here is extracted from a more extensive 1994 article that ran in the (now sadly defunct) music and culture magazine Seconds, edited by Steven Blush and George Petros.
Anton LaVey, 1968. (Courtesy the Church of Satan)
Anton Szandor LaVey passed away on October 29, 1997. His 67 years on earth were abundantly filled with excitement, study, travel, mystery, adventure, artistry, and above all an exalted awareness of the limits of mankind’s powers, both celestial and bestial. His achievements continue to inspire the next generation of modern Satanists. Since LaVey’s departure, the Church of Satan has been under the guidance of High Priestess Blanche Barton. With the onset of the new millennium the active leadership was passed to the newly appointed High Priest, Peter H. Gilmore. Alongside his unflagging loyalty to LaVey’s vision, Gilmore has distinguished himself as a writer and musical composer in his right, and he serves as the longstanding editor of The Black Flame, the church’s “Official Forum.”
I can understand well why some dynamic, independent, and perfectly sensible people might scoff at the idea of Satanism; I used to do so myself. Having never acknowledged Christianity in the first place, it is no wonder they feel little need for Satanism, especially as its most visible adherents seem predictably comprised of alienated teens or brash Rock and Rollers. But if the scoffers had ever happened to sit down next to LaVey in a tavern—not recognizing him, and thinking him no different from any other stranger—and strike up a conversation, the subject of Satanism probably wouldn’t have even reared its head. Talk might have ranged from that of cars, food, curious customs and human behavior, to love of animals, music, or forgotten lore of yesteryear; the conversation could have even broached upon the supernatural. Chances are they would remember it as a meeting with a charming and unpretentious fellow, possessed of a noir gleam in his eye and a penchant for off-color humor. They would recall him as one of the few people they’d met who seemed to truly know the score: aware of and even awed by the highest and most god-like aspirations demonstrated by exceptional personalities, but equally cognizant of the vast, turgid, and miasmal pits that most of mankind will forever wallow in, be it mentally or physically. He would have revealed himself as no starry-eyed dreamer, but rather one who knows that it has always been only a select few throughout history who are truly endowed with the ability of reaching the stars. Such scoffers would have deeply enjoyed conversing with this old curmudgeon who called himself “the Doc,” and would hope that they might cross paths with this astute stranger once more, for genuinely wise men are few and far between on this earth. When
reflecting on their meeting, the word “Satanic” might never even occur to them. And that, in fact, is the most sinister thing of all.
When you open your mouth, what do you have to say? Are you going to write something interesting to read or is it just trivial?
Just as Nietzsche cast a cold light on the abyss between Ubermensch and “human, all too human” in the 19th century, LaVey was one of the most unforgiving and shining realists of the 20th. Reality is a bitter pill, and both pie-in-the-sky Christians and nose-in-the-dusty-grimoire occultniks can expect similar gastrointestinal trouble as it makes its way through their system. Those who refuse to face reality, oblivious to their own interminable foibles and mishaps, were once summed up aptly by LaVey as akin to the man who’s jumped off the roof of a 20-storey building, and can be heard exclaiming as he flies past the third floor windows, “So far, so good!”
Accused of spreading the most dire diabolism to the masses, in truth LaVey was simply handing out high-voltage bullshit detectors. For those who misunderstood him and what he offered, sooner or later they’ll embarrassingly find themselves sitting on a 99-cent whoopee cushion.
MM: Has the agenda of the Church of Satan altered over its history?
ASLV: No, but the tactics have changed according to the times and with respect to the needs and logistics required. What would be a form of advancement in a Satanic sense 25 years ago wouldn’t be such an accomplishment now. Like recognition was important at the beginning, but that was before the era of “fifteen minutes of fame” and everyone thinking they’re a big shot. When the Church of Satan started, it was the mid-60s; you had the situation of everyone thinking they’re a god because they could take a drug to feel that. Now we see the results of that line of thought. But the Church of Satan said “Everyone is a god” as well. So between the psychedelic era and the Satanic counter-culture there weren’t many opportunities for the average guy to be a nothing, a nobody.
MM: So “reaching God” on an LSD trip is a whole different ballgame from what you’re talking about in Satanism.
ASLV: There’s a very fundamental difference. For example, if someone picked up The Satanic Bible and found they were indeed potentially a god or
goddess, they could make fools of themselves much easier than someone on drugs, since those people didn’t care if anyone else even recognized it. But if someone who’s a Satanist heard criticism, they might take it to heart and see they weren’t quite a god yet. And at least they’d hopefully realize they weren’t a zombie either.
MM: What is the next step for a Satanist after that?
ASLV: The Church of Satan claims we’re already supermen, but we withhold judgment until we see what these supermen can do. When you open your mouth, what do you have to say? Are you going to write something interesting to read or is it just trivial? There are supermen and supermen— some are more superior than others. That’s why there’s no way Satanism can be egalitarian. That’s what bothers people who come into it. If I make someone a priest it’s because of them; they impress me as being qualified. It’s not what they’ve studied; it’s what they’ve accomplished in the real world. So the lodge head types are very frustrated when they can’t come around here and be big shots. These people who join the Church of Satan and then say, “Is that all I get, a lousy red card?”—if they had a chestful of medals they’d still be a nobody. These endless occult degrees are just a substitute for achievement in the real world. It’s the same thing when you get one performer who can’t perform and is stupid, and they’ll praise another who also can’t perform. That’s the conspiracy of ineptitude.
Barton: We’re essentially living on a dust ball and the Satanic ethic is almost like fiddling while Rome burns. The nobility is in the fight—that’s all we have. Create your world as best you can. One person can justify and fulfill their existence by being the best they can be, like a spider does. We are extremely idealistic—you’d have to be to be a Satanist—but you’re insulted by Christianity. Insulted, dismayed, and the way you fight back is to be Satanist. I feel an intensity and a passion for life. The best humans are fabulous, wonderful people capable of the most incredible works of art, music, and creation. I do feel a passion of the human spirit.
These endless occult degrees are just a substitute for achievement in the real world. It’s the same thing when you get one performer who can’t perform and is stupid, and they’ll praise another who also can’t perform. That’s the conspiracy of ineptitude.
It’s not that I have so much against Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism, but they had better keep encouraging TV and the whole “global village” thought if they expect a changeover to total complacency. They tried to use Satanism as the last ditch to make an enemy for society but even that’s falling flat.