See Thyself, Know Thyself
by Jake Block
I have always had a “goatee” style beard, even when I was clean shaven in the military, and even before I shaved at all. What I mean by this is that in my mind’s eye, I always knew that that’s how I should look. Call it vanity, call it personal aesthetic… it could just be that I really like the look. It worked well for Anton LaVey, Ming the Merciless and Mitch Miller (there go the Google searches), and each of them had their own personal version of the beard that was identifiable with them.
I don’t think that people ever see us as we see ourselves, unless we find a way to show them who we really are in our mind’s eye. We all have layers to our personalities and to our psyches as well. In The Compleat Witch (or What To Do When Virtue Fails) by Anton LaVey (reprinted as The Satanic Witch) we also learned that we have a three-layered composition, like a story one must read carefully to find real meaning.
What people see of us on the outside, he called The Apparent. You see me as an man. You see my build and the outwards signs of my situational existence. The third level he called the Core, which is what I am at my deepest and most profound level. Quite often this will mirror the outer layer of of the person, and together can be considered to be “The Majority Self.” The outer layer will often present what the inner level wishes the world to see. But what of the middle layer?
LaVey called the middle layer the “Demonic Minority Self,” and is generally what the Majority Self strives for. It is most often seen as an opposite sex image. What he sees as the opposite, to complete him. For example, if he is a masculine “macho man,” he might long for a feminine, delicate woman to be his mate and life partner. it is this layer that one appeals to in order to gain influence and control of an individual.
All of this is on a subconscious level. We normally don’t expend effort to project what we are to the rest of the world. Nature takes care of that. Our Demonic Minority Self deals more with the way the Majority Self responds to and can be influenced or manipulated by others in mirroring that inner version of ourselves in matters of love or interpersonal relationships.
But what if we DO want to project and display ourselves to others on another level? I’m speaking of a manufactured image that would not only mirror our Apparent and Demonic core, but enhance it… amplify it… so that people not only see the basics of our physical selves, but a more complete version of ourselves as WE see ourselves in our personal vision, and that vision can change from time to time as mood, challenges to our current incarnation and/or manipulative need changes. You can liken it to “duck-facing” in a selfie, where one mocks the camera to become a caricature of one’s reality.
Nature provides examples from the animal world where the animals one sees can change their physical appearance as the threat levels in their world change. They can “puff up,” like the puffer fish or common cat, to make themselves look larger and more formidable to an adversary. They can change their coloration to camouflage themselves and blend with their environment, like chameleons against rocks or foliage on the land or squids and octopi in the sea. But for a dramatic demonstration of this effect, you can look to the Japanese owl that can transform itself in several configurations to meet a perceived threat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRXT_TrUbiw
As a photographer, I am quite aware that the picture someone wants me to take is seldom based on absolute truth. Most often, they want a photograph that is a “projected truth” that they wish to claim as their public persona. In the reality of day to day life, they’re probably quite different, but they see the occasion of taking a photograph as akin to building one’s own alternative reality, much as one would do in the creation of a personal altar or home that becomes their sacred space of introspection where the world is not what it IS, but what they would wish it to be. This is the reason that people dress up for photos, perhaps in a boudoir setting, or armed to the teeth sitting on a hog. They can take refuge in the fantasy and gain security and control in a world where, quite often, the reality is quite different than the one they would project.
We can call these “vanity shots,” or “tweaked Majority Self photos,” or any other name we wish to coin them, but in essence, they are the visions of dreamers brought to light; thought forms brought forth and given life through the will to power of those being depicted, using the medium of photography to make visible what is in their mind and, until catalyzed in the images captured on film, or digitally, remain static and privately held. But in bringing them forward for the world to see, the subject makes his or her claim on a bit of sovereignty and personal power.
For most of my life, I have been doing the same thing, not realizing it at first, and then almost as a way of self documentation of changes in my life and the way I wished to be perceived. I was a kid in high school when it started, quite incidentally, when I was “jumped in” as a member of the State Street Boys. I was a clean-cut kid, not prone to trouble, but not afraid to mix it up when I needed to. So, one day in 1967, when I slipped on my white Nehru club jacket with the Maltese cross on the collar, my girlfriend at the time snapped a shot (pic A). It marked me pretty much as what I was, young, cocky and thinking I had it made.
The photo was seen only by myself and my girlfriend and really meant little to me. I knew the vision in that polaroid photograph. It was nothing new. But SHE saw something new and something that spoke to her on a different level that the one she saw in the flesh and blood “me.” She loved me, but she said she understood the “me” she saw in the photograph, and wanted to know more. She wanted to know the “why” of the look in my eye, the straightness of posture. The inner story that only that image in the photo could tell.
Years passed and, at certain times, I found that I wanted to renew my self-vision and projection. This was most often founded on a time of introspection and in the realization that as times changed, so too did I, for one reason or another. I’ve never really tended to do “selfies,” as they call them today. But these self-portraits still have the power to speak to me today and bring back the memories and the changes in my personal and/or philosophical direction at the time.
In the shot I called “Gambler,” from 1978 (pic B), I was pretty heavy into gambling… poker and blackjack… and was a ranked member of the Rhein Main Poker Club. It became my “image” and hung on the wall of the clubhouse where we gambled. Indeed, it was a self image and personal revelation, because when I wasn’t at a table with cards in my hand, I was a career member of the US Air Force, stationed at Rhein Main, Germany. Others saw it as an “alternative” me, and said that the “me” they knew in the military was an altogether different “me” that they knew, going all-in with a winning hand.
By 1990, I was beginning my new career as a civilian and was working toward my managerial position in the company I worked tor. Here I was projecting the confidence and professionalism that was needed to rise amongst my peers and succeed. Notice the foreshortened image of The Magician tarot card on my coffee mug. I saw this as an homage to the Lesser Magic of manipulation and positioning that I had called upon to open doors to the business path that I was on.
The early 2000s saw me changing again, as I completed my corporate career and retired at age 52. (pic D) Time now my own, I could indulge in a more playful image, free from the need to earn and produce for others, and in that time, I was more free to project the “rougher” side of my nature and the indications that I was my own man. I’d spent my time doing for others, and reaping the rewards of success.
By 2010, I was known for my writing, and my photography and spent a lot of time behind the desk in my office, working on both. (pic E) My wife called this my “blue period,” where it seemed that I was confident, and happy working at things that meant something to me on a personal and creative level, rather that working to make money. I saw it as using my skills in the arts of writing and photography as a study in magical alchemy, where i could, like Rotwang the Magician in the Fritz Lang movie METROPOLIS, use my magic to influence the world around me from the quiet solitude of my office in my out-of-the-way home. All I needed was a sexy robot and Tesla coils.
And now my present self-image (pic F), that of elder-statesman in a long life, winding down. I’m a bit “toned down” and wear only my Sect of the Horned God lapel pin and a simple pentagram pin beneath it. My colors are the traditional colors of Satanism, coincidentally my favorite colors of black, crimson and silver. The door is closed, but symbolized my intention to exit at some time unknown to me, but surely coming.
We, each of us, have multiple dimensions to our personalities to our lives that we recognize and project from time to time our whole life through. What we are in our mind’s eye at 17 is going to change at 20, 30, 40 and so on, so long as we are growing and expanding in our consciousness and our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Much like a set of nested dolls, we mirror LaVey’s concept of the Apparent Self, Demonic Minority Self and Core, but all the layers in between as well. It is those extra layers that give us our flavor and our uniqueness as individuals.
Seeing ourselves helps us to know ourselves and to examine our personal goals, and things important to us, and the way we wish to present ourselves to our friends and the world in general, who may never even know us. It’s been an educational and fulfilling exercise for me. You might enjoy it as well.