The Power of Solitude From a Buddhist Perspective, Spun Satanically
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