The Law of The Trapezoid
by Anton Szandor LaVey
We all react to what we see. Just as sounds and odors influence our behavior, so do visual patterns and shapes. Some make us feel good. Others disturb us. Whether you like to admit it or not, the fear response is the one most easily aroused. Since self-preservation is nature’s highest law, fear motivates. Hence, we give our attention first to sensory impressions that represent things that we once, far back in racial memory, feared. Fear is the prime mover.
Fear of failure, fear if lack of recognition, identity, acceptance. Fear of loneliness, rejection, annihilation, the unknown. These persist well after the fundamental fears of starvation, harsh elements, and other more obvious physical fears have been pushed deep into our subconscious. If we did not fear the passage of time and death, nothing much would get done.
Any shape or spatial concept that triggers fear could therefore be considered evil, yet without such “evil,” there could also be no progress, only complacency and stagnation. Needless to say, the fearsome is also fascinating and awesome.
What shapes intensify fear? Those which are overbearing, unbalanced, jagged, confusing. The reason a triangle or pyramid in its perfect form is pleasing, is because it is complete, like the imaginary vanishing points in drawings. A lot has been written about Egyptian pyramids. Here is why:
- They are awesome because they are so big, but are pretty because they are a perfect form.
- They are Egyptian, and the Egyptians were supposed to be snart fellows.
- A lot of questions and theories can be connected with them.
Statements #1 and #2 are easy to understand. Statement #2 presents great riddles, like”
Q. Why were pyramids built in that shape?
A. Because they looked good that way and could be built as big as a monarch desired without fear of toppling over.
Q. Why were they built?
A. Pyramids were the WPA programs of Ancient Egypt. People had to be kept busy during slack periods, and monumental egos had to be served. Had there been radio or TV, smaller monuments would have been built.
Q. What can they tell us?
A. That people were pretty much the same as they are now.
The way a pyramid looks doesn’t really upset anybody, except conspiracy theorists. Put the same shape in a contiguous row and you get an unconsciously scary image, like the teeth of a saw or shark, of the ridge on a dragon’s back. The pyramid range also disturbs since it has no single vanishing point. Triangles which are imperfect are also disturbing, especially in groups.
The most disturbing shape of all is a trapezoid in its myriad forms. A perfect trapezoid is a frustrated pyramid. In fact, the place where a pyramid or triangle is lopped off to make a trapezoid is actually called the frustum. A trapezoid says to your unconscious, “I am here, solid as can be, more massive than an ordinary block, but something’s missing and it bothers you.” Of course, you know what’s missing: a triangular top, like the one with an eye on the back of a dollar bill. Don’t let that little pyramid with the bright eye fool you. That’s to draw your attention away from the real thing: the big trapezoid beneath it. All competent magicians are masters of misdirection, and the Masons who designed the seal knew a thing or two.
Angles are space planes that provoke anxiety — that is, those not harmonious with natural visual orientation — will engender aberrant behavior. Exceptions occur when a sort of reverse polarity exists in a creature: extreme mental imbalance or perversity, or perhaps even extreme rationality and awareness.
I’ve always been interested in alleged haunted houses, strange places where unease was present, where murders and suicides were frequent, uninhabitable but seemingly innocuous areas and buildings, abodes of consistent failure to dwellers or occupants whose lives had previously been tranquil. Since my earliest years, I’ve been drawn to such places, curious of their origins and circumstances associated with them. I was fascinated with scenes of Mayan and Aztec temples, of oil drilling rigs, of trestles and wartime bunkers, of lighthouses and buildings with mansard roofs. And of objects too: the old0style coffin like and elongated hexagon, the 1936 Cord sedan, the Baguette diamond, the slanted blade breaking the symmetry of the guillotine.
During the course of investigating alleged haunted houses or blighted areas, I soon dismissed the prevailing superstition, i.e., a deceased person’s “spirit” restlessly hanging about. It occurred to me that even if a living entity’s violent or tragic demise provided a “haunting,” perhaps the house itself was the catalyst for their misfortune. It seemed that the physical environment itself played a major role. The place either catalyzed or intensified all acts committed in its precincts.
I was led to contemplate the common denominator that all sites of outré or disturbed behavior possessed. In each case, angles were present that violated either topographical or architectural symmetry and perfection. “Comfortable” or psychologically secure configurations were either lacking or subservient to planes that inspired hostility or fear.
I examined files of cases dealing with structures supposedly haunted or cursed with continuing failure, death, financial loss, insanity, fire, tragedy. Many were visually aberrant in the most flagrant manner. Others were not. A mansard roof is de rigeur in every artist’s conception of the haunted house. Why did the artists automatically render them in that fashion? Good fairies’ castles all were depicted as having peaked towers and gently rounded arches. Jolly elves lived in cottages with rounded corners and cake icing roofs. The good folk dwelt in Graustarkian tranquility in snug and womblike homes with curlicues cut into the shutters, Bluebeards and Frankensteins all lived in stark, monolithic, and grotesquely bastioned abodes. Frankenstein created change and reaction by duplicating God’s handiwork.
The architecture of war, medieval storming towers, the martello towers on the English coast, the latter day “mystery towers” resting on the sea bottom offshore, the Maginot and Seigfried Lines, the Manzi submarine sheds, pillboxes, bunkers, tank trap, the deflective sloping sides or armored vehicles and turrets, gas chambers, atomic reactors — and the very lavastone marker in the desert where the first atomic bomb was exploded. War creates change.
The mad buildings in the works of the painters of reaction, Breughel and Bosch, the erratic sets in the shauerfilmen of Germany — Caligari, Nosferatu, Metropolis, the bizarre staging of Nijinsky’s suprahuman capering; the truncated volcanic eminence from which Disney produced Tchort in Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” the architecture of the Bauhaus — of Gropius and Poelzig — and Frank Lloyd Wright, the long cursed pioneer, whose houseboy went berserk at Taliesin and killed seven persons and set fire to the house, exactly when the construction of Wright’s first excursion into trapezoidal design was completed, the ill-fated Midway Gardens resort in Chicago. Art creates change.
The altars of violence and sacrifice: the temples of the Maya and Aztec magicians formed of trapezoids and sustained by the sacrificial blood of the chosen ones, the truncated pyramids upon which hearts were cut from living victims and held aloft and hot to Quetzalcoatl and Hapikern. The same temples made visible in the striations of the Mitchell – Hedges crystal skull. The citadel of Iskanwaya in Bolivia which was autonomously Satanic. The necropoli of skull cults in the neolithic cultures — Lepenski Vir in Serbia with every building in the settlement trapezoidal in form, as it was at Hacilar in Turkey and Jericho in Jordan. The same area where the Yezidi towers of Satan beamed forth their influence. And the tower in Lovecraft’s Haunter of the Dark, wherein the shining trapezohedron beams its influence and the Great Old Ones from the brine harken and send forth their earthly emissary. The literary rites of Huxley and Lovecraft and Orwell and the devastation brought forth by the angles in Frank Belknap Long’s Hounds of the Tindalos. Do the rites, in fact, of Quetzalcoatl and Hapikern and Mendes join the rites, in fantasy, of writers who know not the substance of their own mediumship?
In 1962 I isolated my suppositions and distilled them into what I termed “The Law of the Trapezoid.” I had ample evidence that spatial concepts were not only able to effect those who were involved in visual confrontations, but far more insidiously, other parties whith whom a viewer came into contact. As in any form of contagion, family, friends, and co-workers are affected by the signals of anxiety projected by another. The most tranquil and stoical person can be drawn into a chaotic situation if his surroundings are sufficiently disturbing. Often I discovered that subtle aberrations had a more profound effect than readily-recognizable and overt spatial distortions.
A room, apparently perfect in its rectangular form, would be a habitual scene of violence. Other rooms in the same building would be conspicuous because of their lack of disturbance. The “mad” room would be discovered to have one wall slightly off vertical 00 a small weight on a strings suspended from where the wall and ceiling joined would often rest well away from the baseboard. The other walls might be in perfect alignment. In such cases, I often noticed the aberrant wall had been painted a different color or wallpapered, the occupant being unconscious of why. An aberrant area in a room might also contain articles or furniture in less favor than other belongings.
Where an entire building would be blighted, it would wither have rooms replete with idd and obtuse angles, useless or impractical ells or nooks — assailing occupants from within — or else an erratic asymmetrical or foreboding exterior, affecting those who entered and left the premises on a regular basis or lived in visual proximity. In many examples a structure would appear to be crouching, almost like some strange beast waiting to spring, yet not be seen as such by multitudes. Other buildings hinted at faces.
On the cliffs at the end of Manhattan near the Cloisters is a house that, when viewed from the river, resembles a skull. It is so obvious that any adverse effect is negated, relegating it to a charming eccentricity. Likewise, a wildly distorted house in Beverly Hills known as “the witch’s house,” is so overt in its grotesquerie that it elicits enthusiasm rather than unconscious revulsion. Contrast such structures with others whose physical aspect is actually disturbing but architecturally orthodox.
The John Hancock Center in Chicago looms like a sentinel in its black splendor, its sloping sides and dark color presenting a brooding spectacle with its twin devil horns/antennae bisecting its top and continuing the frustum up and away into the sky. That its history is already grim is, to me, quite understandable. A newer and far madder building is San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency Hotel at the foot of California Street.
The Art Deco treatment of the Golden Gate Bridge provides a streamlined distraction from its hidden angles of unrest and the invisible trapezoid formed by an imaginary line between the towers and each end of the roadbed. With its orange-red color of madness glinting in the setting sun, it has attracted a record number or suicides, rivaled by few other places in the world. I find it interesting that most of the jumpers depart from areas near the bridge towers — the foci of the trapezoid, where its influence from within its precincts is most strongly manifested.
There are objects, too, whose presence in an area continually affects those in attendance. The shape of a piece of furniture, the configuration of a painting, a mural, an appliance, certain “jinxed” automobiles, the angles inherent in all coffins viewing them either from the top (old style) or from the end (new style).
Natural formations in the terrain of land areas or inadvertently aberrant landscaping can cause emotional imbalance and ensuing acts of violence. Anxiety-producing spatial dimension combined with a attendance of disturbed individuals can add up to a wood filled with both psychotics and Reichian (orgone starvation or life-consuming atmospheric malignancy).
If the Law of the Trapezoid is known, recognized when applicable, and either heeded or utilized, it will save much hardship and tragedy, while serving as a catalyst for change. Like fire, its powers are two-fold, depending on how it is applied. Like the sun, its powers are two-fold, depending on whether a thing is growing, grown or dying. And like the first crystalline fusion of atoms, it will be the beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega of all matter. Avert your eyes from the pyramids and look to the trapezoid and you shall be moved.
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