A Season’s Pass to the Pleasure Dome
by Jake Block
“I visualize a day when tridents and pentagrams are thrust into the sky from church roofs instead of crosses. I have a legacy to fulfill, and it will be fulfilled.”
— Anton LaVey
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.”
— Kubla Khan (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
I first heard this poem by Coleridge in the Black House in a recitation by Anton LaVey, which led to a long discussion by those in attendance. One of the ideas brought up in this discussion was that as Satanists, we were indeed different, and that difference was never going to be accepted by our American culture, and that a “Satanic pleasure dome” would be an idea whose time has come. During that time in the 1980s, San Francisco was “cooling down,” from the infamous Haight/Ashbury days when the mantra had been “Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out.” The hedonism was still there, but its complexion changed with the chronic hangover of excess. It had become hedonistic in a different way, and so, before the fear of catching a debilitating and ultimately deadly, incurable disease like AIDS, sex was the thing on almost everyone’s mind.
Back in the 1980s, while I was working at the Black House, one of the first things that people would ask me, after “Hey, is that Anton LaVey guy for real?’ was, “Hey, what about those Satanic orgies?” When asked, I would usually just smile and say, “I really don’t know. They usually happen on my day off!”
While there were some sexual things that could (and did) happen at the Black House, to my knowledge, a large-scale sex orgy wasn’t one of them. First, the rooms at the Black House that people had access to were small. The ritual chamber was about the largest space where such an activity could be considered, but one would have to move out the furnishings and the big-assed Wurlitzer organ to have enough space for couples to mix and meld and then you would have to cram mattresses on the floor, wall to wall. Second, the Black House was notoriously COLD. Mark Twain quipped that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco, and I could imagine him sitting in the “purple room” when he wrote it.
But sure. There were times when rituals might contain a sexual element, and there was usually some “hanky-panky” going on if people were down in the Den of Iniquity, watching a film in one of the open areas, perhaps… or in the back of the limousine going from here to there. It was The Church of Satan and not the Southern Baptist Sewing Circle. And for those of us actually working at the Black House, we would seldom have had the time for orgies. There was a hell of a lot of administrative work to be done, and that was time consuming. Many of us were running on TIRED, since we had day jobs. I was working 12 hours per day in the military and then 6 hours 45 miles away in the Black House.
But then, orgies already happened in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it wasn’t as if one was locked out of the sexual debauchery if they were a Satanist. Truth be told, stripped of the black robe, giant Baphomet medallion and smug attitudes, most Satanists were pretty much like anyone else. There was one “orgy group” in Concord, California whose venue (the Circle S) drew up to 120 couples for their quarterly events, and I’ve no doubt that one could lose one’s identity and probably elitism too, buck naked in that sea of flesh! I’ll freely admit that I attended a few times and found it to be great for people watching… No shame in my game. In the 1980’s I was kinda good looking, if you squinted and held your tongue just right.
So, the pleasure dome, had it been created, probably wouldn’t have been an opium den with people smoking and sleeping it off, and LaVey was death on drugs, so… no. And it probably wouldn’t have been an ongoing orgiastic experience, although that could have been quite a lucrative undertaking! I mean, look at all of the big bucks that Televangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker made scamming people with their Herritage USA Hotel and Amusement Park from 1978 until its closing in 1989. Over promoted and over sold, its hotel complex, “Main Street USA,” water park attractions and PTL (Praise The Lord) radio/TV studios promised an almost Disney World experience for paying members of the “PTL Club.” At one time, it employed 2500 in Fort Mill, SC, but the Bakker’s corporate empire became a personal checkbook, and they looted the treasury for their personal use, and the pair sexual episodes put the final nails in the PTL coffin, ending in a messy divorce and Jim Bakker being sent to prison for 45 years for the rape of a church secretary. His sentence was reduced to 8 years, and he was released in 1994.
Tammy Bakker was never prosecuted, however, she became a cultural joke, with her clownish makeup, crying jags and self-promotion. She became iconic in the “gay community,” and RuPaul, drag queen and actor, produced a documentary about her called “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” for the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. She died of cancer in 2007, at the age of 65.
Other groups have planted their flags and created amusements for their followers at their own peril. The most recent is the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, being a “life sized” Ark, built to Biblical proportions, set in (appropriately) a biblically themed park amusement center. Tickets can be had for both the Ark and the Ark Museum on a sliding scale of $35 – $100 per visit, dependent on age. There, one can see tableaus of life inside the Ark, where apparently Noah found two dinosaurs to rescue from that terrible flood, along with the standard compliment of animals he boarded two by two.
True believers can visit the gift shop, the theater, located behind the Ark, or dine in the 1,500 seat restaurant, all located within walking distance of the sea craft that hails from the legend of the Great Flood, in which God decided to destroy the world and all of mankind, save Noah and his family. Ken Ham, creator and director of the Ark Encounter claims that the Ark Encounter will hire only people who publicly proclaim their Christianity, and swear to opposed same-sex marriage. His employment applications include the following questions:
Are you at least 16 years old?
Are you legally eligible to work in the United States and with papers?
Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Have you thoroughly read & reviewed our Statement of Faith?
Are you actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church?
Do you agree that the Bible is the literal, inspired and inerrant Word of God?
Do you agree 100% with our Statement of Faith?
As of this writing there are reports that Mr. Ham is having difficulties finding employees to fill openings at the Ark Encounter. Whether or not it will make it as a money maker AND an inspirational venue is anybody’s guess at this point, although the track record for such enterprises is not good. I doubt that a Satanic Amusement park would fare much better, and I think that I have a reason for that.
Satanism is a vibrant and forward moving philosophy that has to be lived to work. We don’t need amusement parks shaped like mythical cattle cars, water parks and smarmy, hypocritical con-artists leading the way. The Left Hand Path requires our attention to the here and now, and how we can better our lives in the face of a world that would very much like to see us fail. So, what then would be our pleasure dome? I think that it would be life itself, and enjoying all of the good things that life has to offer while rejecting any impulses to indulge in insults to our minds and bodies, making each moment we spend upon the earth, an opportunity to thrive. It would save us a lot of money in construction costs, and we wouldn’t have to sell season passes.