by Jake Block
“Every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser,
And the best we can hope for
Is to die in our sleep.”
— The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Making bets, either in a casino or in your day to day life can be a curious thing. Either way, there are two ways that it can be done. You can go with your gut and play your hand. The casinos make a lot or money from this kind of gambler who sometimes wins, but most often walks away from the tables, wallet empty, mumbling, “I was sure the next card would be a six!” Then you have the type of gambler who considers his odds, knows how to manage his cash flow, watches the play of others at the table, and when his time come to play, takes one lest chance to consider it all, and then makes his play. The casinos also make a lot of money from this kind of gambler, who sometimes wins, but seldom walks away mumbling, and he’s at least saved enough for a good meal before calling it quits for the night.
There’s an old saying that someone told me when I began gambling. “Don’t gamble when you’re feeling lucky. Gamble when you’re feeling REALLY lucky.” Now, I can and do play a variety of card games, from Texas Hold’em to straight Stud Poker, and when I’m in the mood to sit at a table and just move chips around, I’ve even been known to play the kid’s game “War,” for a buck a card. Given my choice, and time to spend enjoying myself, I’ll opt for my favorite game of chance, Blackjack. I get more relaxation from a 12 hour run at a Blackjack table than most people get from a full night’s sleep! My favorite time to find a place at the tables is between midnight and 5AM, when people who tend to be more card savvy and less prone to rookie mistakes are more likely to be sitting at my left or right.
There’s a song by the rock group Steppenwolf that has the refrain:
“Life is a gamble
Where you search and you ramble,
And you try for the high that will help to see you through;
Life is a gamble and so if you can handle
The uncertainty of tomorrow with me,
Today I’ll bet on you.”
That’s what I like about gambling, both on cards and people, in a nutshell. I treat each about the same. I can read a hand of card as it slowly unfolds at the table, and I can read a person’s intent and motion as their hand unfolds in my life. There are some hands that encourage me, and I bet, but there are more hands that show you the futility of pursuing them, so you fold… or bluff and see how far you are willing to push things before circumstances change or things fall in on you. And that’s key. In all or the time that I have been a gambler, I have chosen to play my hand as it lays much more often that I have chosen to bluff it out, and not from a lack of “heart.”
Most often, bluffing becomes more financially draining than just folding your cards to hope for a better play in the next hand. Like I said, I can read the cards and, experience has shown me that when I see things unfold with people that tend toward a loss, I have to make a decision that is best for me. In cards, I protect my funds, and in dealing with people I protect my emotional capital. Even a hand that starts with a pocket pair of aces can end in a loss as further cards provide information. You learn to be bold and bluff only when you can read your opponent by his expected play based on your experience with him or her at the tables.
An experienced gambler will often play his opponents in much the same way be will play his cards. He will watch his opponents as they play, looking for what players call “tells.” A “tell” is something that a player habitually does that will give you an indication of what his position is during the game. For example, a person who shuffles his chips and then bets big because he has a gook kicker (hole card) to back up what you can see in open play is showing you a “tell.” You mentally catalogue it along with other “tells” you find in them and other players at the table.
People in daily life exhibit “tells” as well. They might not be as prevalent as shuffling chips, but if you deal with them for any length of time, you can indeed pick up on them. Things people do when they are happy to see you, things they do to hide their disapproval, that glance to the left when they tell you a lie all go into my mental catalogue. I might deal with people for a long time, but when that catalogue becomes laden with negative tells, especially when experience shows me that they’re being used when dealing with me, I’m going to move to protect my emotional capital and cut them loose.
It’s hard for me to deal with the self-serving machinations of those who would claim to be my friend or ally. When they try to use my good graces to further their own agendas, they soon find out that I’m nobody’s fool, and while I may sometimes play along to see where their game is going, bluffing isn’t generally my style, so sooner or later, the cards will be laid on the table. Then they will learn that I play to win, and I’m very good at it.
One of the most important things to remember in poker and in life is the old saying, “If you sit in on a poker game, and you don’t see a sucker at the table, get up. You are the sucker.”
by Jake Block
The world changes daily, often influenced by the actions and reactions of others that are sometimes strange, or not in your best interests. This might be because of an election, pandemic, economic upward or downward turn, or perhaps even a major sea change in human understanding of the world. In any case, a new reality might occur, and that new reality might be uncomfortable to deal with.
Ok. Change happens, and change has happened before, and change will happen again. One of the only absolutes in the world is that change happens. But for those of us who have learned that freedom is in the mind much sooner than it manifests itself in the physical world, change is simply an adjustment that can be dealt with.
Deal with it first in your mind. Engineer the world as you would create it in your own vision, much as I might do with a photograph in infrared. Engineer it in your mind and then bring it into reality, in your personal sanctuary and home. That’s the beauty of the satanic concept of one’s personal alternative reality space, whether it be in a ritual chamber for a moment or, like LaVey’s Black House or Rotwang’s abode in the film Metropolis, your own different reality in the midst of the outside consensus.
“Take extra care not to lose what you feel.
The apple you’re eating is simple and real.
Water the flowers that grow at your heel,
Guiding your vision to heaven,
And heaven is in your mind.”
— Heaven is in Your Mind (Three Dog Night)
by Jake Block
You can read it in the Bible, although the same sentiment has been said, perhaps in different words, by various people throughout human history.
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and. not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
— Matthew 5:29 (The Bible)
“You will be obliterated. The good of the Body is the Prime Directive.“
— The Return of the Archons (Star Trek – 1967)
It’s a dramatization of a simple medical principle. If an infection or a disease is affecting the body you can try to cure it with medicines, but should that fail, it its sometimes more efficacious to simply remove the source of contagion or corruption from the body, sacrificing that at one time viable tissue for the continued health of the body as a whole. A simple example would be that of the appendix. Now, the appendix is a small organ in the body and, apart from human beings, can be found in over 500 other mammalian species. It’s a thin tube about four inches long. Normally, the appendix sits in the lower right abdomen. A vestigial remnant of our evolution, the appendix acts as a safe house for good bacteria. After intense diarrhea, the appendix repopulates and reboots the intestine with good bacteria before harmful bacteria finds a home there.
Sometimes, it simply goes wrong. When it goes wrong, it is a painful and potentially dangerous threat to the person affected. A rupture of this small organ spreads infection throughout your abdomen (peritonitis). Possibly life-threatening, this condition requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean your abdominal cavity. Removal of the organ is relatively simple and preferable to the damage it can cause if untreated, so it is excised surgically and thrown away. The body can work without it, and its elimination negates its threat to the health of the body.
The body can survive reasonably well when some of the corrupted organs of the body are removed, leaving one unchanged to the casual eye. These are the spleen, stomach, reproductive organs, colon, gallbladder, appendix and kidney. Even some of the body’s most important organs and tissues can be surgically removed and transplanted from healthy tissues, such as the heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, stomach, intestine, cornea, bones, tendons, skin, the islets of the pancreas, heart valves, some nerves and veins, bone marrow, stem cells and even hands and feet.
Another thing that we can do without is toxic interaction with people in our lives. This can be a random shit-disturber on the web, a coworker, “friend,” business associate or even a family member. It’s a strange thing though, in that while we can discard a body part when we need to for out health and self-survival, many people find the jettisoning of people in our lives to be very difficult, even when we know that they are toxic or are using us for their own purposes, disregarding the havoc they cause in our lives. We often know that these people are bad for us, but once they have their claws dug into our souls they’re difficult to dislodge, and the longer we leave them attached to our psyche, the harder they are to excise.
When you find that there is a problem with your body, you don’t hesitate to take actions intended to make yourself well again, and so should it be with toxic influences in your life. In removing those who are toxic, you must proceed with intent, using whatever degree of firm resolve necessary to accomplish this “psychic exorcism.” If you are lucky, just putting distance between you and your problem will be enough. Absence of one’s prey forces them to find someone else to glom on to. Sometimes a more firm approach is necessary, and you will have to inform them that you just don’t have time to dedicate to them any longer. Worst case scenario, you have to do an up close and personal confrontation to tell that toxic person to “hit the bricks.” In the end, it doesn’t matter how you get rid of that contagion oppressing your soul, so long as you DO.
Toxic persons often become obviously so over time, and that person who in the beginning was a loving, carefree type can become your worst nightmare, once that have you under their control. Like any infection, by the time you feel the pain as it festers and spreads, you’re already in danger of it overpowering your existence. You only have two choices. Act, or succumb and be overtaken and morphing from host to victim by someone who professes to care for you, but cares for no one and nothing nearly so much as their self.
There is no denying that the act of plucking the parasite from your life might be painful in and of itself, but after a short time, you’ll appreciate the relief of healing and a return to personal vibrancy and emotional health. Some people need to repeat this self-healing several times until they have cleared each individual toxic presence from their lives, and with each excision, there will always be some pain. The ultimate reward comes, though when you realize that it feels so damned good when the pain stops!
by Jake Block
I’ve been here with the Sect of the Horned God for many years, and in those years I’ve written hundreds of essays that are pretty much me on a page. Anyone who has bothered to read my essays on what I would call “practical Satanism” would understand that in my reality you either are a Satanist or you are something else. I’ve seen so many people attempting to be some kind of hybrid, based on their straddling of two worlds. What I bring here is my personal journey and experience in 50 years of actually being a Satanist, rejecting other paths that have been offered for what has proven to be right, for me.
LaVey spoke about this when he related that in his youth, while playing an organ on the carnival circuit, he would see people at the girlie shows, lusting after the dancers on stage, on Saturday night, and then on Sunday morning the same men would be in the front rows for the church services. Basically, they were sewing their wild oats on Saturday night, and then praying for a crop failure on Sunday. There are people today doing the same thing, here and on other Left Hand Path sites on the web. Hypocritically proclaiming themselves to be committed to the Left, they cling tenaciously to the right.
Too many people just visit the Left Hand Path to peek under the bed, assuming that there will be a monster peeking back at them. It’s simply a way to get that feeling of “eustress,” that “fun-fear” sensation of shock, like Carrie’s hand coming out of the grave, or some Halloween funhouse, knowing that the zombies aren’t really going to rip them limb from limb, but allowing themselves to suspend reality long enough to let their sensation starved minds feel something… anything… to make them feel alive. They talk about being called to “the Abyss,” when the “abyss stares back,” and they “survived their trial.” Next! Their never ending tales of trauma and drama, always bested , become almost like and old time serial drama. The hero or heroine tied to the train tracks, with the locomotive steaming ominously toward them and… CUT… in the next episode, Bobo the Wonder Dog throws the switch and the train is diverted just in time.
Too late, they find out that in the reality of life, when the abyss calls you, it’s no joke. Like the alcoholic or hardcore addict…. who says they can stop when they want to, they find that the abyss calls when it’s deadly serious… life or death… and you are its focus. Sometimes you don’t survive, other times you do, but you will always be fundamentally changed, in some way. The weak and the mighty are all subject to the summoning of the abyss, and only a fool thinks it’s just “some kind of a game that left hand pathers play.”
Life just isn’t some meaningless elective class where you read a book, regurgitate the right answers and move on to the next highest grade.” When you plant yourself on the Left Hand Path, you will only benefit from it if you are indeed committed and willing to sacrifice who you ARE for what you CAN BE. Being neither fish nor fowl isn’t an option for anyone, anymore. To put it into the biblical, one cannot serve God and Mammon… especially if you expect of find the spark of divinity within yourself. If you truly are traveling on the path, you will find that enlightenment, even by degrees, will bring real change to you and your world.
“Those who play with the devil’s toys will be brought by degrees to wield his sword.”
— R. Buckminster Fuller
by Jake Block
“How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days until I die?
Do I know any ways
That I can make you laugh,
Or do I only know how to make you cry?”
— Stranger in a Strange Land (Leon Russell)
The life expectancy for those living in the U.S. in 2019 was 78.87 years, a 0.08% increase from 2018.
I turned 71 this year, and entered what I’ve always called “the blink out decade.” While it’s a fact that we can die at any age, it seems, at least lately, that everyone around me is checking out in their 70s. Perhaps one can catch a break and survive to 78 or 79 years, and certainly there are a few that will continue living into their eighties, nineties and even over 100 years. It’s a reminder, though. We can’t afford to waste time at any age, but that’s especially important when one reaches seventy years of age and beyond.
Knowing that you could “blink out” at any time terrifies most people. They don’t want to think of life in finite terms, so they invent elaborate scenarios to believe in, so that they will go on beyond the borders of what we call “life.” They invent rules that they should live by that will insure their survival, and gods that they can pray to and sacrifice to, in hope of tipping the scales in their favor, making them too valuable to just allow to waste into nothingness. The ancient Egyptians went so far as to create a vast array of gods and an entire world for them to live in that was unseen by those who were living, but guaranteed to be there after death, providing that their souls were lighter than a feather in purity. To concretize that belief, they rebuilt the world of their gods on earth in the form of massive temples and complexes that the living could see and touch. The invisible gods resided in these complexes, served by priests and priestesses, who the people supported in order to further still their need to believe and survive.
The Pharaohs of Egypt spent their lives planning and executing the construction of elaborate tombs to hold their earthly remains in mummified form, tombs filled with every conceivable thing that they would need to sustain them in the afterlife. They prayed that when Anubis weighed their heart against the feather of Maat, it should be found pure and they would be allowed to proceed to the afterlife, for if it was not, the fearsome Ammit, with the body of a lion and the head of the dreaded Nile crocodile would devour it, and send the Pharaoh into oblivion forever. The desperation of belief.
Reality has to come into the mix in that whatever belief one holds, that’s all it is. Their belief might be fervent, but fervency is simply a desperate grip on hope. One thing that can be guaranteed with a high degree of certainty is that death is indeed real and we all must, at some time, die. Granted, I might have a different outlook on death, having had a mortician for a father, but the concept of death holds no fear for me. That’s not to say that I’m a totally fatalistic wretch, looking for death to come at any minute and resigned to the idea that life has no meaning when death is the inevitable end. One must make use of the life they are given, else, why have it at all?
Certainly we all should drain the last ounce of joy from life for as long as we can, and you can bet the farm that I’m in that mode myself. As I get older, I tend to have less patience with the willfully ignorant and the shit disturbers and distance myself from their like a little more each year. “They harsh my mellow,” as we used to say in those hippy-dippy 60’s. But also, I’m taking care of the business of life and living so that when and if I “blink out,” I won’t be leaving a mess for someone else to clean up regarding my finance and the distribution of my personal possessions.
Developing some disease for which there is no cure, but there are treatments has an advantage, in so much as there is a timeline of progression until that fateful day when your doctor sits you down in a chair in front of his desk and says, “I think it’s time that you take that last vacation and then settle your affairs, because there’s not much else that medicine can do for you.” It’s a blessing that many more don’t receive as they “blink out” from heart attacks, strokes, accidents, dying anonymously while homeless, or warehoused in some of the over crowded and under staffed nursing homes.
Now this isn’t some plea to pity the poor “have nots” of the world, simply an illustration of the difference between those of us who have the chance to have some control of our lives, vs those whose lives are under control. You don’t need some sinister overlord to control your life, and even if there was one, he could hardly do a better job than nature. His inflictions of pain and deprivation might me more immediate, but the banality of his attacks is common enough to be ignorable. Nature gives us the big bang, in the form of mass casualties and death from natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, famines and plagues that make its current pandemic look like a headache. If you’re in the path of the Tsunami, you’re screwed. If you live on the other side of the world, watching it live on TV, not so much.
Living with the knowledge that by the luck of our birth in nation that has it better than others, we should also keep in the back of our minds that, as this pandemic has made painfully evident, we’re just one virus away from being as much in harm’s way as any poor denizen of any third world country, anywhere in the world. “Blinking out” is a real and present danger in this time, even for those who would normally be considered healthy, and having a better than average chance of survival. So, in the back of my mind, the long forgotten “Boy Scout” in me whispers, “Be Prepared.” We simply can’t leave of personal affairs to others., because even as you fall victim to the insidious nature of a virus, they could too.
I have a fireproof lock box in my home that if, by accident or disease, I “blink out,” my next of kin can open and find copies of various legal documents from the deeds to my houses, to insurance information, my Last Will and Testament, information on my prepaid cremation and disposal, Veteran’s information, my social security card, and other documents they will need to handle my estate. There is also about $5000 cash for any expenses they might have along the way, and a letter to my Lawyer releasing an additional sum of money once those tasks are completed. Some people might find this kind of preparedness a bit maudlin and fatalistic, but for me, it’s simply preparedness on a level commensurate to the event. Death for me is just “another damned thing you gotta do,” but my demise need not be a hassle for the one who’ll have to settle my estate.
Given the choice of a slow slide to my death in some nursing home or blinking out by a disease or, if necessary, by my own hand, I would always choose blinking out. Like any other tedious task, dying is best done quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of cleanup needed!
by Jake Block
“Brother Satan, I call forth this night, all of your forces to aid me in the elevation of the superior human animal. We are superior, and we are superior not by ethnic means, but by the superior force of the Will, the imagination, creativity and the very essence of resourcefulness and survival that is the heart and the very soul of the Satanist. Be with us tonight. Place us in a position of sovereignty, that we might look down upon our inferiors, and cast their kin into the morass of mediocrity, where they belong. Hail Satan! Shemhamforash!
To a return of understanding; an understanding of civility, an understanding of tranquility, an understanding of compassion, an understanding of vengeance, an understanding of sensuality, an understanding of love, and an understanding of triumph. I recognize Necessity Supreme, life everlasting, world without end. So it is done.”
— Anton LaVey (“Brother Satan Invocation”)
I’ve spilled blood and been bloodied, stood for right and been wronged, believed a lie and then learned the truth, shunned commandments and embraced taboos, I’ve used and have been used. At one point or another, life has found me on both sides of the coins I’ve tossed, and I make no apologies for the sides I’ve taken or the things I’ve done when a choice needed to be made. Life sometimes just makes you decide.
For most of our lives, like it or not, we’re really not in charge. When we are young, we’re pretty much under control most of the hours of our day by parents, teachers, or some other authority figure. And then there is the control of our culture; passive for the most part, but undeniably there, as we find a need to fit in and reap the benefits of inclusion. We spend much of our youth in the bubble of peer pressure, where name brands and name bands and popular choices can help you move in circles where fun and companionship is there for the taking. It makes you “better than” those “other kids,” whose parents can’t buy you the best clothes, or provide you with an allowance, or sponsor parties in your home, or fund your “Sweet 16 Parties,” sleepovers, or other “happy times” that the “in crowd” seems to enjoy so much.
Then, at some point, in our teen years usually, we make that first choice to say “no.” For some of us, being part of the “in crowd” begins to lose its luster and the kids in that group just don’t seem to be quite as cool as they were just a few days before. We’ve changed. The culture is still the same, the peer pressure is still the same. The kids are still the same. Yet at some point, for some reason we spin on a dime and become different than we were in attitude and need. We make a choice to turn our backs on the things that should motivate us, as it motivates millions of others of our same age in our same culture. We change and in our mutation to what is to come, we assume the role as “the other.” Rebel. Changeling. “Other.”
There are, however, others, and then there are “OTHERS.” Even amongst those who reject the control there are still others within that subset of society that will go still farther to become, at least in the eyes of the control and the masses, not only different, but the flip side of the coin. Anarchy is seen in their eyes, and these few become the antithesis of the control, capable by their difference of severely wounding the control and everything it stands for. They are capable of sewing dissent and disobedience, and undermining the dominance of the control culture itself. This dissident segment of the culture is visible, vocal and seemingly a serious threat to the control.
The Anarchist in their midst would be content to burn down any trappings of control, government or religion. When their dangerous, although most improbable mission of destruction is complete, they would then remake the world to suit themselves. The first action in the mind of any anarchist is to make new rules to replace the old. Retribution is rained down upon those who had held them in contempt while holding the reins of power. Their impotent rage and revolutionary zeal often fades with age and the acquisition of a few luxuries, or money in the bank. Their discontent might never be satiated, but mollified by comfort as they age and eventually fade away.
Still others, far more insidious to the health and continuation of “the control,” exist. On that rare occasion when the coin that has been tossed lands upon its edge, an additional choice is bestowed upon that lucky toss. Still more rare are those that, when granted that miraculous choice, choose to accept the choice the others simply could not make, for they did not possess the genetic disposition to accept their inborn Satanic nature. They were born with the innate ability to exist amongst all others of their kind and still, within their mind, stand alone. The concept of “being in this world, but not of it” has meaning for the Satanist.
Certainly, there is a strata of individuals who claim the name, but lack the “soul” of the Satanist. They need to be seen and they need to be performing and they need to claim some high goal towards saving those who clearly don’t want to be saved from the society that they serve willingly and gladly honor the role they play within it. They collect their good guy badges as so many pages in a scrapbook where they’ve appeared in public to push their political agendas. They entertain and they amuse the crowds who then move on to the next best thing that can provide them some relief from the boredom of their drone existence. They become well known, and familiar to those they claim to despise, but instead of finding a way to find their own space and create their own world, they do everything they can to remain in contact with the herd for just one more show.
They appeal to any number of people, and are enjoying themselves at their own expense, so one could argue the validity of such groups. Personally, though, they’re not my cup of tea. They remind me of some of the people I knew in Satanism who remain locked in what we termed “phase one Satanism.” Some grew out of it, and some never did. I wish them well and hope that they don’t allow themselves to become typecast as actors alone. I’m sure that if they survive, they will find their niche in the fabric of the culture and society, eventually perhaps even erecting their tax free edifices and pass the begging bowls or collection plates with whatever dignity and status that comes from being a protected group in a land where those on the right side of the line, even if left leaning, can share in the warmth of the herd, all the while rejecting it in words, if not deeds.
Now I know that people will say me wrong, and that their clinging to the trappings and conventions of the conventional world is “just for the kids,” and “all for show,” and… and… and… But, as a Satanist of my generation and living in this age, I hope that, for our own sanity, survival and Satanic sanctity, find it the best and most advantageous state of being to stand aside as OUR third side option, rejecting the herd and remaining, as LaVey coined it, “an organization for non-joiners.” In my vision of the future, I would prefer to see Satanists in the LaVeyan mode as separate entity in the cultures and societies of the world, and not just shaggy black sheep clinging to the edge of the herd, hoping to get fed with the rest of the flock.
I would as well prefer to see us not attempting to become some establishment oriented and untaxed organization where those who build appropriately named churches can feel free to then take from their flocks, providing little to nothing in return, whilst simply thumbing their noses at the government. Those who would style themselves as Satanists in LaVey’s mold should abide by the principles he stood by, even when, at the end, he could certainly have used the tax breaks. LaVey said, “If churches were taxed for all their income and property, they’d crumble overnight of their own obsolescence, and the National Debt would be wiped out as quickly. The productive, the creative, the resourceful should be subsidized. So long as the useless and incompetent are getting paid, they should be heavily taxed.”
LaVey firmly believed that if we, as Satanists, were to survive, we would eventually become “a group isolated within.” We might BE in America, France, Spain or anywhere else in the world but in an enclave all our own. He would site the example of Fritz Lang’s epic film Metropolis, wherein the wizard Rotwang, lived in his strange little house in the middle of the city. From this place, he would work his magics of control, and send out his minion, the mutable robot, Maria, to merge, mingle and work with those outside of his domain, on his behalf. Indeed, LaVey manipulated his life and image to fit that “Metropolean” vision, at the Black House, in San Francisco.
Our job as Satanists is not to burn down the society in which we live, but to bend it to our will and make it serve us. How then do we do this? First and foremost, we need to concentrate on “necessity supreme” — survival — of our core philosophy in LaVeyan based Satanism, and then in the enrichment and modernization of our cultural niche. We must, ourselves, thrive through the acquisition of personal education, wealth and power, and then pass on those skills and philosophies to those who will follow us into the future. “Just being a Satanist” is not enough to accomplish the goal of a sustainable and growing movement.
The purpose of building personal power through education, the attainment of good paying jobs and the ownership of property is to assist in attaining a degree of independence and autonomy in a world that is ever more repressive to its citizenry. The very nature of the Satanist as a non joiner contributes to his security and his strength. In maintaining his self-sovereignty, he “flies low” to avoid the radar of those forces arrayed against him. His adherence to the Orwellian concept of resistance, (“I tell you that the Brotherhood exists, but I cannot tell you whether it numbers a hundred members, or ten million. From your personal knowledge you will never be able to say that it numbers even as many as a dozen. You will have three or four contacts, who will be renewed from time to time as they disappear.”) keeps his “aggressive footprint” small, relative to the populace as a whole.
We can have the best of both worlds by being in this world, and using its economies and its technologies to aid our growth and continuance, all the while rejecting as much as possible, its intrusion into our personal freedoms and indulgences that harm no one. We need not seek the approval of those outside of our ranks, nor should we accept their attempts to delegitimize our rights in favor of their own. We can then enjoy the benefits of “not being of this world” in caring for ourselves and our own with as little involvement in the cultural and societal demands that might surround us.
One can look to history to see that groups and isolative cultures marginalized by society have chosen to distance themselves and succeed. The Amish, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Jews, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Black Muslims, Sikhs, Krishnas and various other Hindu and Buddhist groups and others have all managed to live peacefully within the general culture and society with little controversy, despite obvious differences. In over 50 years since Anton LaVey declared Year One, in 1966 C.E., Satanism has already found a degree of acceptance that has overridden any threat to the greater society. It is my thought that given a little personal effort and personal commitment, one more isolate group could easily fade into the fabric of the culture, survive and thrive.
by Jake Block
I’ve been called an “OG Satanist.” It comes with the territory when you’ve been around for as many years as I have. It’s better than being called “a legacy,” or “an antique” or “a relic,” all of which I have heard before.
I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go, and I’m here to tell you that most of those I knew 50 years ago as a Satanist are gone from the scene. For some, Satanism was a rebellion, for some it was a fad. For some, it was a way to get chicks, for some it was a way to be left alone. For some it was a posture and for some it was a calling. Some joined the Church of Satan, and some just wore the “kit” and filled their house with kitsch. Everyone had their own reason for “being,” and everyone had their own reason for leaving. I’m often reminded of that old movie where students are in a classroom and the instructor tells them, “Look to the student on your left and your right. At the end of this class, they will probably not be there.”
Now, certainly, after fifty years or so, there are some of those whom I knew in the beginning that died. Nature has a way of thinning the herd, no matter what herd you belong to. Nature doesn’t care. You are simply meat for the harvest, the same as any other living thing on the planet. You are born, you serve your purpose, and you die. Nobody lives forever or gets out alive. One truism about life, is that as an organism, you either thrive and grow or wither and fade, thereby making room for others, at most becoming an inspirational tale on the road to success or a cautionary tale on the road to failure. Another truism is, that after fifty years on ANY path, you’re bound to be both at one time or another.
Looking back on the past fifty years, and remembering those I once knew or was in contact with as Satanists, one formed The Temple of Set and has since died, others went with him and still survive. One of those who went with the Temple of Set subsequently quit and became am independent Satanist, and a psychiatrist, doing decades of good work for his patients until his death just a few years ago. One gentleman died of AIDS in San Francisco in the 1990s. Another became a Baptist preacher in Massachusetts, a woman I was involved with quit Satanism and, after earning two Ph.Ds, eventually joined her father in the establishment of a new school of psychological thought, got married, had three kids and one divorce. Many others just “dropped off the map,” nevermore to be heard from, swallowed up by obscurity or simply lost in some quiet backwater niche, not that I spent any real time or effort in finding them.
Those who now call themselves “satanists” are greater in number these days, but often less in conviction and determination. Often when I think of it, I hear the voice of Anton LaVey in my head reciting the line from Kubla Khan by Coleridge, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The path might be more congested, but more lonely than ever before. Over all, this lane along the Left Hand Path has become more popular and evermore so diverse than it has ever been, but more dilute and fluid in philosophy. I sometimes wonder how long they will stay the course and if they will leave their mark or, as so many have before, simply find something new to glom onto as the next best thing, or disappear never to be seen again.
I am still on the path and have no idea where it ultimately leads, or how long I will have to follow it until I reach the end of either the path or my life. One thing that I am certain of, is that there are many of those on the path behind me that will falter and fail. Some will leave the path before me, and some will surpass my mark. How may will complete the trek is anyone’s guess, although my money is on “the path never ends.” Perhaps one day someone will make a movie and in it will be an OG Satanist standing before a roomful of young Satanists, saying, “Look to the Satanist on your left and your right. At the end of this class, they will probably not be there.”
by Jake Block
It might seem a bit odd that a practicing Satanist of the LaVeyan stripe might bring you an article clearly looking into a Buddhist perspective on solitude and meditation. Meditation, in the minds of many is heavily weighted to the Eastern practices, but in actuality, meditation can be found around the world, sometimes as a formal, ritualized and codified practice, and sometimes simply as “taking a moment to oneself” to gather one’s thoughts together. It should come as no surprise that Anton LaVey meditated, although I never personally heard him say those words. It was, however, not uncommon to see him deep in thought, often in the darkness of the “purple room,” in his chair next to his bookshelves. We all knew that in those moments, we were to leave him alone to work things out in his head. Is meditation in a black house in San Francisco in the night any less effective than in a cave in Tibet?
LaVey did write about meditation, humorously and notoriously, in The Devil’s Notebook, Feral House 1992, in his essay, “Hatha Meditation on the Toilet Seat,” where he told us that “The best place to meditated is on the pot. If you have a comfortable toilet seat and a stout lock on the door, there’s no telling what thoughts might emerge.” In citing the case of Martin Luther conceiving of Protestantism while sitting on the toilet in Wittenburg (“and we know what a big movement that became,”) he was stating that meditation was where one found it, and great ideas can spring from inauspicious circumstance.
The Buddha Centre’s short explanation of “meditation” is: “There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for our own states of mind – and to change them for the better. According to Buddhism this is the most important thing we can do, and Buddhism teaches that it is the only real antidote to our personal sorrows, and to the anxieties, fears, hatreds, and general confusions that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energized states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed in the Buddhist tradition. All of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.”
Granted it’s brief and seems to demonstrate the simplicity and almost effortless methodology of meditation, but if it were indeed that easy, “everyone would be doing it.” And I suppose that the simplest of meditations can be “that easy,” because we’ve all say and thought about things. What shall I wear to the party next week, or why can’t I lose weight when I want to, or should we get Johnny braces before school starts in the fall, and all meditations on a base level. But if we are talking about meditation on a transformative level it can get much deeper and more complex than simply sitting and thinking.
One of the more enlightening explanations of solitude and meditation I have seen, presented from a Buddhist standpoint comes from Dr. Reggie Ray, Ph.D. He is the author of Indestructible Truth andSecret of the Vajra World, The Awakening Body: Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life, Somatic Descent: How to Unlock the Deepest Wisdom of the Body, Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body, The Practice of Pure Awareness: Somatic Meditation for Awakening the Sacred, and other books relating to Buddhism and its practice.
Dr. Ray’s interview, in the Spring, 2005 edition of TRICYCLE Magazine, The Buddhist Review, is entitled The Power of Solitude and is excerpted here for your enjoyment, and hopefully, enlightenment. You can read the entire interview at https://tricycle.org/magazine/power-solitude/. He spends at least three months of every year in solitary retreat. Isolated retreat is a crucial component of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Reggie Ray may be the most vocal advocate for its utility in the modern Western context.
“We are a very extroverted society. Even though within the Western tradition the practice of seclusion and retreat are very much a part of our own spiritual culture—the contemplative practices of Roman Catholicism, for example—most people are not aware that they are part of our heritage.
I think the other reason is that not only has the typical Western person spent little or no time alone, but many of us have an underlying fear of solitude. Possibly driving some of the misunderstanding of retreat is a deep-seated fear of being alone without distraction, without entertainment, without “work,” without other people around to constantly confirm our sense of self. We live in a culture driven by consumerism. Many of us feel, perhaps without realizing it, that unless we are “producing” in some sort of external, materialistic way, our legitimacy as a human being is somehow in question. We don’t really see where retreat fits in.”
“Both Buddhism and Roman Catholicism employ structured “form” practices and the formless practices of working with awareness itself. Father Thomas Keating, who runs the Benedictine monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, teaches what he calls centering prayer. My understanding is that this is very much a mindfulness discipline, bringing the mind to a point and training it to be present, then allowing the inner wisdom to gradually unfold from that. If you look at the other contemplative orders in Roman Catholicism, I think you’ll see quite similar practices.
Perhaps an important difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that, within the Christian tradition, there is usually a subject you are contemplating, whereas in Buddhism, especially with the formless practices, you are really opening the mind in and of itself; you are not contemplating a particular subject or figure. Ultimately, we are looking to simply open the mind and lay bare its depths. In Christianity you find that as well, so it’s not an absolute difference but a difference in emphasis.
In the Western presentation of Buddhism, you do tend to find that the Tibetan tradition is advocating solitary retreat more than the other traditions. But in Asia, within both Zen and Theravada, you have a history of solitary retreat being very important.”
“There is something uniquely powerful about meditating in a group—discovering community and a depth of discipline that people may not have individually. In a group retreat, the container is provided, a framework of discipline surrounds you, and you are actually able to engage a level of sustained practice that you might otherwise be incapable of. You begin to see a lot of your habitual patterns relating to others and you begin to discover new ways of relating to other people. You learn to be with other people in silence. That is a huge discovery for people. So there are unique benefits from sitting together, especially for people in the early stage of practice.
But something happens on solitary retreat that cannot happen in a group situation and certainly doesn’t happen during individual practice at home. We see for ourselves that within each human being is the Buddha-nature. What is the Buddha-nature? It is a mind that is open and completely unencumbered. It is empty. And it gives birth to warmth and compassion for other people. As a doctrine, this can be clearly explained, but it’s another thing—and very shocking—to discover this within oneself. What solitary retreat practice provides that I don’t think is possible in any other way is freedom from the distraction and the reinforcement and confusion of interpersonal relationships, so over a period of time your mind is able to open up to a much greater depth than would otherwise be possible.
We talk about living in the moment, but it’s just a concept for most people. In retreat you actually learn how to do it. In fact, it occurs naturally.”
“The full benefit is not really realized in retreat itself. The whole point of retreat is to develop your mind and your state of being so that when you’re living your ordinary life you are more present to yourself and to your life and to other people.
You can look at retreat as a practice to develop compassion for other people. When you know how to relax into that deeper sense of yourself, you can be there for people in a way that you never could before, in a way that is not driven by your ambition and habitual patterns but rather where you see what other people really need. You see their experience from their side. You are actually able to get outside of yourself. Far from being an antisocial practice, retreat practice frees you to love people in a uniquely powerful way.
Most of us would love to be kind to others, to be compassionate, and yet we are so tied up with our own hope and fear, our own emotions and our own preconceptions, that we just can’t do it; not really. Through retreat practice, we learn the pathway to the person we most long to be.”
“This summer it’s going to be about three months, and I’d like to eventually edge my way up to six months a year. As I get older—I’m 62 now—my stamina is becoming more of an issue, so I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to go up on the mountain. There’s a wonderful Kagyu saying: “When we are young, we don’t realize the importance of dharma practice; when we are middle-aged, we think we are too busy to do it; and when we are old, it’s too late.” Now that I am finally, really realizing the tremendous, incalculable benefit of retreat, I am approaching a time when I won’t be able to do it physically. This realization is not a little heartbreaking.”
“You can’t just meditate for a few days and expect to live in the Buddha-nature. It takes a lifetime of practice to develop. But I’ve discovered that if you do the practice, the results manifest themselves. Now that’s huge. This is not wishful thinking. Real, undeniable, and lasting transformation is what’s at stake. That’s what I try to communicate to my students. Number one: it takes work. Number two: it gets you to a place in your own life where maybe you really want to be more than anywhere else. So it’s definitely worth doing.” — Dr. Reggie Ray, Ph.D.
I’ve been asked if there is a “Left Hand Path way” to meditate. Given that during this pandemic, I have found more than ample time to meditate, I would have to say that since meditation in its many forms seems to be a universal concept, with left hand, right hand and ambidextrous practitioners around the world, predetermining the practice to be strictly tied to one’s philosophical preferences is at best more closely related to self-confirmation than it is to enlightenment. If you meditate with the goal of finding confirmations, you can certainly do that. The mind is a storage retrieval system, and without even considering it, you have spent a lifetime telling yourself what you think and what you believe. If you then ask your mind to show you that truth, it’s sure to find where that information is stored. You are a Satanist… or you are a Christian… a Buddhist… a Jew.
But if one meditates without expectation, simply allowing thoughts to flow and be sifted beyond the mind’s storage and into the open zone of honest consideration of ideas on their own merit, vs how they support or even disprove your preconceived expectations, wisdom can be gained. Thoughts generated may eventually provide support or refutation organically, but without being nudged into position to do so consciously. In meditation, at least to my mind, such as it is, the goal isn’t to replay the tapes that we’ve held as sacred, but to find new avenues of self evaluation and self knowledge that build upon our internal metadata, helping us to mentally function more precisely and efficiently. It’s here where the Buddhist concept of the empty mind becomes applicable to meditation in and of itself, regardless of philosophical constructs we might egotistically embrace.
More important, I think is the need to isolate ourselves from the day-to-day reality when we meditate, in order to release ourselves, at least temporarily from conflicts and responsibilities that tend to lock us into a need to frame our existence in the set parameters of reality. It is because of these realities and responsibilities that we need to define our meditations in the first place. It’s not likely that many of us are going to have a log cabin up in the mountains, but we can all find some place of solitude, either in our own homes or a short distance from it. One only needs a place of relative comfort with as few distractions as one can manage, and time to relax. meditate and reflect. Of course, being creatures of technology and restless ones at that, we have to have the dedication and self-discipline to disconnect our leashes… phones, computers, radios, televisions, and anything that can disturb our concentration as we seek to empty our minds and allow thought to flow.
Meditation need not be focused on the altruistic, embracing all men as brothers. One can contemplate the self, and his place within the society or ponder the place of self over any collective form. It could be assumed that when it comes to the individualized nature of Left Hand Path philosophies, intensified meditative practice would most likely focus inward to the benefit of the individual and his knowledge and understanding of one’s place in the world, and how one might exert one’s will and its impact on those within their personal spheres of influence. This said, there could well be times when individuals might come together in an ad hoc group focused on issues and solutions that would affect them universally.
This is not an uncommon thing in the world of meditation, especially in the East, where groups of wandering souls might travel from place to place uniting to direct group consciousness towards social problems that affect them as people in general. In the world of Buddhism, there are chants that might be said for things one desires. much as the group prayers of religions around the world. For example, when the Buddhist chants “The Medicine Buddha”, “Tayata Om Bekanze Bekanze Maha Bekanze Radza Samudgate Soha, (May the many sentient beings who are sick, quickly be freed from sickness. And may all the sicknesses of beings Never arise again)” it is an appeal for success, and to eliminate pain and suffering.
Short on cash? Then take up The Buddhist Money Chant, “Om Vasudhare Svaha (Stream of Treasure),” bring your lunch, because you need to chant it 108 times… each time you chant it.
Is your career going nowhere? The Success Chant may be just what the doctor ordered. Chant “Jehi Vidhi Hoi Naath Hit Moraa Karahu So Vegi Daas Main Toraa, (O lord, I am your devotee. I don’t know what to do. So do at once whatever is good for me.)” This mantra is said to show the door of success as long as it is practiced with faith and reverence.
Then there is the old standby of “Om mani padme hum (praise the jewel in the lotus), sometimes referred to as the sadakshari (six syllaballed) mantra. This, in Tibetian Buddhism, is considered to be the most popular chant, performed by monks and laypersons alike.
While it is a common practice to chant in Buddhism, and has long been considered a formality, my suggestion for those of the Left Hand Path who wish to incorporate chanting into their meditative practices is to come up with a meaningful replacement that fits their philosophic sensitivities. For example, when I am meditating, while I seldom vocalize, I concentrate on the words, “Ordo Ab Chao, Chao Ab Ordo (Order From Chaos, Chaos From Order). Often, I will fix my eyes upon a silver “chaos star” hanging from a chain and reflecting the light from candles in the darkness.
One might say that meditation was not presented in The Satanic Bible, and therefore should not be used as an adjunct to it. It’s a fair point to make, as a purist. But one must remember that Satanism is not a static philosophy, but one that lives and grows, so long as those who take up the mantel of Satanist live, learn, and adapt to the changes of the world around them. Even in LaVey’s time, there were constant changes in his thinking and in his philosophy for the Church of Satan, as will be found in his writings beyond The Satanic Bible, and The Satanic Rituals. Those changes are recognizable in his writings within the pages of The Cloven Hoof, and his words in dozens of interviews in print during his lifetime.
If one comes to Satanism with their sole motivation being Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, I would suggest that they’ve built their house on a foundation that is strong, but like all foundations, eventually will benefit from maintenance and the addition of stabilizing additives to further strengthen those foundations and/or enhance its capabilities for expansion and more vibrant living. If someone builds their home and dwells within it forever without maintenance and revitalization, one can expect structural problems, if not decay and eventual collapse.
If you feel that you can benefit personally from meditation in one form or another, feel free to add it to your philosophic repertoire, realizing that it’s an enhancement, and harms no one. If, after a period of time, you decide that it’s not quite the enhancement that you had hoped, you’ll have learned an important lesson, and you can feel justified in reverting to your previous interpretations of whatever Left Hand Path philosophy you chose to call your own.
To my mind, there is value to the practice of meditation and solitude in a world that is increasingly invasive and toxic to individual thought. There are benefits to be gained in unplugging from the omnipresence of technology, from time to time, and in self investigation and retrospection as well. Meditation and solitude are ways that you can reclaim that sense of self that you might be missing, and in refreshing your mind though the natural processes at our disposal, rather that in spirits, pharmaceuticals or artificial enhancements.
“While it is true that man is a social creature, thriving in the company of others who share common values and common goals, toiling and getting by in a land that seems hostile outside of the fold, there are some who shun communion with their own, choosing solitude and the wisdom of inner counsel to the teachings of gurus and wise men who shepherd flocks.
They seek to know, not to be told, and in the solitude of their own minds they search for enlightenment, deftly sifting, accepting and rejecting according to their own need and conscience. In this solitude of the mind, they are free, even though at times they must attend the same needs as their cloistered brethren. And so they walk amongst them, seemingly attuned to the world abuzz with the sounds of life, but in their mind, their ultimate solitary abode, they ponder, they sift, they consider. In a world in which one’s choices are few and millions of voices are heard, their world is one of silence and solitude beyond measure.”
— Jake Block
by Jake Block
“The true test of anyone’s worth as a living creature is how much he can utilize what he has.”
— Anton LaVey
The quote, “Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat” has been attributed to US Representative James Seddon (1815-1880) of the State of Virginia, in describing the heroic actions of a military regiment during the Mexican – American War (1846-1848), relating how its heroic actions in battle had gained a victory, where defeat had been almost certain. It is to suddenly win a contest in which its loss is a foregone conclusion; a success gained through skill, effort and good judgement.
Heroes can arise from dismal beginnings, defying all probability and expectation that they will succeed, to become much more than anyone could have expected. Certainly you have heard of some of them, like Oprah Winfrey, who grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi to build a multi-billion dollar entertainment empire, or author J.K. Rowling, who began in poverty, but possessed a passion for writing that led to her creation of the Harry Potter series of books that sold over 500 million copies which then garnered her a share of the $7.7 billion movie franchise. The dyslexic and underperforming British child who dreamed of wealth and power was Sir Richard Branson, creator of companies and services including the Virgin Airlines and upcoming Virgin Galactic space tourism group and a personal wealth of over $4 billion. You can find them in every field of endeavor, those who could be expected to fail, but won despite the odds.
Certainly, not every person who is born of modest means can achieve stratospheric successes such as these, but it is certain that those who grasp opportunities and use their personal skills and resources wisely, can and do succeed even when odds are not in their favor. Thus, they snatch that victory from the jaws of defeat in their own lives and quite often, their successes either directly, or indirectly, assist others within their personal spheres of influence… that is, if they too grasp opportunities and make the most of them as well.
But then we have the opposite side of the coin in those individuals, and I’ll bet you the proverbial dollar to donut that you know at least one, who talks a good game, but never seems to reach the goal. Even when seemingly possessed of all of the attributes one would assume success, they always seem to trip before they cross the finish line. They epitomize the idea of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” in consistently failing when the odds clearly seem to be in their favor. When this happens, you can almost hear them singing a blues riff, perhaps from Born Under a Bad Sign by Cream:
“Born under a bad sign.
I been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn’t for bad luck,
I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
But, is it “bad luck,” or the cumulative effect of choices made over a lifetime? I am of the belief that chronic failure is a learned condition, and requires a certain degree of misspent skill to maintain that negative paradigm, just as much as the habitual winner requires skill to maintain his positive momentum, against the odds. This pattern will reveal itself, I think, in the choices one makes throughout one’s life, where they opt for the “easy way,” versus the path that requires preparation, effort and follow-through. Another pattern, unfortunately, is that of self-sabotage through habits and practices that undermine our efforts to succeed. You can be blessed with good DNA, and even that fabled “silver spoon in your mouth,” but if you make rotten choices in life, you’ll find that even with the best of tools to work with, without purpose, desire and follow through, it’s all for naught.
Unfortunately for us, the ne’er-do-wells of the world have a deleterious effect on those around them, dragging us into the dramas and traumas of their lives that are of their own making. That is, if you allow them to. Just as what we know as the “psychic vampire” can play upon the emotions of their victims, the chronic failure can also be draining to his/her victim’s momentum in life and the levels of success that they might attain. The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” has meaning in that those of us who work our plans to become successful and good providers for our families find support in those who share the same values as we do, and it is amongst those people we can gain positive benefits from our investments in time, information, skill sharing and emotional support. The best that we can expect from those who wallow in their failure is a sense of depression in watching their consistent failure.
I’m not going to waste your time trying to give you my personal pathway to success, because if you’re a ne’er-do-well, I’d only be wasting my time and yours as well. To be perfectly honest with you, there are people that simply can’t muster the wherewithal to get ahead and thrive. Be it a problem in genetics, in philosophy, or a simple deficiency in one’s survival imperative, there are some who just can’t or wont put in the effort needed to make their mark in the world. The world is littered with the bleached bones of those who’ve fallen behind. Their demise can at best provide a guidepost leading to the direction of their failure, or inspiration and motivation for others to avoid their missteps on the evolutionary road to survivability.
We all fail from time to time, and one might even speculate that those who NEVER fail never truly try, but go for the low hanging fruit of diminished expectations. True success requires false starts and mistakes that eventually show us the way to succeed and thrive. However, one must resist the siren call of entitlement without the elements of effort and merit.
Success, like failure, requires practice and a compatible skill set. It probably doesn’t matter to a habitual loser, but for those of you who care about the finer things in life that success can bring, Dr. Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D, writing for Psychology Today, has identified “Ten Ways to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat.” I’ll present them for those of you who are sincerely trying to succeed in life, and hopefully there might be some “trickle down effect” for those ne’er-do-wells who happen to read them as well. So, here for your consideration is Dr. Robinson’s list for success:
- Grow a thick skin and expect rejections and setbacks. Commit yourself in advance to facing the many “smackdowns” you will encounter, like all successful people do.
- Ditch the desire for comfort and be willing to go to the edge of your emotional pain so you can be fully present with what lays beyond the barrier.
- Cultivate creative sustainability. Think of yourself as an elastic band that bends and stretches to a certain point before you spring back higher than you fall.
- Turn roadblocks into steppingstones. Pinpoint opportunity contained in difficulty. Make it a goal to use negative challenges—no matter how painful, frustrating, big or small—as lessons from which to learn. Ask, “What can I manage or overcome here?” or “How can I turn this matter around to my advantage?”
- Refer to previous experience. Reflect on past obstacles you’ve overcome. Point to lessons learned and underscore ways you have grown stronger through life’s hard knocks.
- Take risks. Find that one place in your life where you’ve been hiding, then stick your neck out from your comfort zone. Ask what edge you can go to. Seek challenging experiences that help you bloom instead of low-risk situations that keep you safe in a bud.
- Identify self-doubts that have crippled you from growing fully. Harness them—instead of running from them—and channel them into useful fuel so they don’t paralyze you.
- Stay off the roller coaster. Manage the ups-and-downs by treating success and defeat equally. Celebrate the highs but don’t take them anymore seriously than the lows, and don’t take downturns anymore seriously than upswings.
- Catch yourself when you fall. After a setback or discouraging situation, you bounce back quicker when you support yourself with loving-kindness. Instead of kicking yourself when you’re down, be on your own side, wish yourself well, and be your best advocate as you progress on your journey to success.
- Eschew the what-the-hell effect. This attitude only adds insult to injury. You’re never defeated until you quit. Face letdowns by taking the towel you want to throw in and use it to wipe the sweat off your face then hop back into the saddle on your journey to success.
In the minds of many, if you are on the Left Hand Path, you already have at least two strikes against you, so don’t expect those who identify with being on the Right Hand Path to give you any credit for any successes you have or will gain. By the same token, don’t delude yourself into thinking that by simply choosing this path less followed, you’re automatically beneficiary to the magical cache of those who have come before. There is gold to be mined and there are rewards to be gained in success and the benefits of being a winner in life, but it’s going to require commitment and effort and tenacity on your part. If you can’t promise yourself that you’ll do what’s necessary to succeed, then perhaps the effort is beyond your capability. You’ll never know until you try, try, and try again.
by Jake Block
“If a photographer says he is not a voyeur, he is an idiot.”
— Helmut Newton (1920 – 2004)
In a previous essay, I referred to myself as “an inveterate leg man,” and that’s true, but like all snapshots, just a few pixels of the entire frame of a photograph that supports the statement, although in focussing on another area of the same vision, a different conclusion might well be the truth one sees. In photography, I find expression in those off center, seemingly less important details that others might ignore, but to me are as exciting as the fragment of flesh a voyeur might glimpse as he peers through a keyhole.
I focus through my viewfinder with my left eye. By simple 50% chance, I’m already seeing things differently than my “right-eyed” colleagues, and it underscores my personal belief that photography itself is inherently a left hand path skill, art and magical exercise. The reason for this has nothing to do with one’s dominant eye, but in concepts that one considers, if one is to consider them at all as a photographer, rather than someone who just takes pictures. It is in this sense, at least, that a photographer is a voyeur, observing all, in minute detail, analyzing each movement and each position for meaning.
There is eroticism in the simple act of being human, as long as one has need and desire. One might deny this, out of cultural programming or some overly cautious sense of propriety. It is in the viewing of the sensual and sexual side of our being that we can embrace not only the darker aspects of our nature, but begin to understand the whole of it and how that darker side supports and enhances us on the levels that we decide to show to those around us. How you choose to exercise your eroticism is a personal affair, but discretely sharing it with others is pretty much necessary, if you plan on inviting them into your world.
Being a photographer, one can appreciate the voyeurism that naturally occurs when you find your eye glued to your viewfinder while practicing your art, and you’re always practicing your art. Of course, voyeurism need not always be sexual in nature, although a good photographer with a good eye and imagination will almost always find capturing that aspect of the masculine and feminine to have an appreciative audience. Voyeurism is typically thought of as sexual, but to my mind “street photography,” and photographs of strangers involved in simply living offers the well rounded voyeur an almost endless variety of stimulating and thought provoking subjects from which to choose.
Street photography, when done right, allows the photographer to be that “fly on the wall,” there, but not significantly “there enough” to influence the environment surrounding it. Often hidden in plain sight, photographer and gear blend into the scenery, where they are free to collect images and themes most would miss. It can be a fun and compelling sub-genre of photography that several famous shootists have resurrected over the years, with the most successful being Alan Funt’s “Candid Camera” series. The same techniques can be applied to erotic photography as well. While the photographer is unavoidably “in the action,” the goal is to minimize the impact of that presence. A good erotic photographer is silent, for the most part, and if one must speak, it is in a whisper, so as not to break or influence the mood, and they will stay in the background as much as possible.
“Back in the day,” before digital photography, aside from an eroticist’s “go to” Polaroid camera, options for the average couple to engage in erotic photography for personal use was highly restricted. Unless one had their own darkroom set up in their home, finding someone that would print photographs with nudity was pretty much a hit and miss proposition, often governed only by the developer’s personal morality. Going to the local “photo hut” or processor at the mall weren’t the best options because quite often, those who ran these place were members of your community that you might run into in the local market, movie theater or, heaven forbid, CHURCH! So, if you were like me, and you were known to be sexually liberal, you would get a phone call from a gentleman (sometimes a lady) who would like to know if you took “personal photos.”
I was known (and still am) as a “creative freelance photographer,” and I wouldn’t hire out for just any photos. I refused to do weddings, shake and takes (awards ceremonies), kids, or any one under 20 years of age. I was known for my landscapes, abstracts and creative portraits. After a few moments of conversation, the caller might sheepishly ask, “how about personal fantasy shots, you know, boudoir and well… my wife and I have vivid imaginations.” Once I told them that I don’t judge people on their personal lifestyles, they began to relax, and often their spouse might get on the phone as well. With no worries abut being judged for their personal kinks and fetishes, the idea of having personal photos to enjoy now and in the future took on a more joyful tone.
Now, there are some photographers that will tell you that they don’t have time to notice the sensuality of their subject, or anything that is being done on film, or digitally because they are too busy with the technical aspects of photography. I would be the last person to tell you that erotic photography isn’t a stressful format for any photographer, because by it’s very nature, it demands that you get the shot in camera the first time, as your clients can be very unforgiving if you become known for screwing up a shot and needing to ask the client to resit for their photographs. That said, neither would I tell you that it isn’t a pleasurable and stimulating genre. You’re working with people who are at their most attractive and most often, most physically aware, sensually. They’re dressed (or undressed) to impress, and you’re there to document and, if possible, elevate these moments from mere picture taking to “art.” Of course, at that moment, the photographer is a voyeur, and happily so!
I could make the argument that erotic photography can, in varying degrees, run the gamut from joyful to dark, but always a slice of life for those being photographed, in which one chooses to document themselves are they are at some significant moment or age within their span or years on this planet. People are almost never this or that, good nor evil, light nor dark. They might choose to present themselves as such, using photography as the medium for their propagandized image, and I will readily admit to this, myself. Over the decades that I have produced “selfies,” as we now know them, I have always edged mine left of center by degrees, depending on what I would project to the world. Self voyeurism is certainly ego-driven, and planned to provide only a thin slice of one’s whole, and daring the viewer to look without blinking to imagine the rest that is there, but unseen.
Things can be photographed with bias as well. I’ve taken shots around the world that were just shot for memories of some of the good times I’ve had, and then I have taken shots to capture the “atmosphere” of a darker moment, as well. I once saw a shot that someone had taken of a large drainage pipe coming out of a grassy hillside, and emptying into a small stream. It was a bucolic setting that brought to mind walks in the countryside as a kid, the smell of warm grass and the buzzing of insects as I walked in the summer heat. And then, I saw the same shot with a minor modification that totally changed its “feel.” Someone had spray painted the words, “Free Hugs,” in a rough scrawl, with an arrow pointing toward the darkness inside the drain pipe. Now it became darker, with an ominous feel that had a disturbing edge.
Two photographers can take a shot of the same basic scene at the same time and produce pictures with two distinctly different photographs, using only things that are relative to the equipment being used, and hot having to resort to the “tricks” of computer gimmick programs like Photoshop or some other boxed product. Long before digital cameras made cheats possible to the masses, any photographer worth his salt knew how to strategically darken or lighten parts of a photograph in the darkroom for atmosphere, or use filtration to manipulate light, and what the camera’s F stops and varying aperture settings were for. You could do so much with minor manipulations to black and white and color emulsions. And then there were the specialty films that worked with different spectrums of light, other than the “ROY G. BIV spectrum” that we think of as what we can see… visible light. The eerie quality of infrared and ultraviolet films could be used to shock the senses of the viewer to the dark side of photography. There is a reason why I still use them today!
The ease of digital photography and availability of photo processing software has taken much of the art of photography away and turned it into a point and click option for those who are used to the instant gratification of today’s world, rather than the effort of spending hours crafting a shot in the dark room, to make it yours and yours alone. And the sad part is that many “photographers” of the day don’t know the difference. I’ve had some of them ask me what “presets” I use in Photoshop to give my photos a particular quality, and then refuse to believe me when I tell them that I neither own Photoshop, nor have any idea how to use it.
This isn’t to say that there is no place in the world for cell phone photographs and photoshopped images. Some of the cell phone optics are quite good, and can put a lot of creative power into the hands of those who need it, and can’t afford or have no access to higher end cameras and the capabilities that they can provide. But I mourn the loss of the types of photographs that “legitimate photographers” produced of old, especially in the darker and more erotic edges of the photographic world. I’m forever nostalgic for the time when one focused through the camera’s view finder, rather than the “little TV screen” of live view. My Nikons have selective live view, but like the utilitarian toilets on a plane or a burger from Mickey D’s, other than in an emergency, I’m afraid they’re things that I can just do without!
From my left-eyed view of the world, things are always a bit darker, and that’s the way it should be.