By Octavius Dionysis, member of the Sect of the Horned God
The following essay attempts to explain my personal journey through the material presented in the Order of Dionysus. I will not be following the instructions given. Doing so would lessen the impact of the material and the many tangents of reading, thought, and practice it inspired. It is not my intent to disrespect or belittle the format or the instructions given. Rather, this essay hopes to detail my experience as opposed to formatting a list of answers to the questions and essays. Indeed, I feel that this personal explanation of the materials is the best way to convey my journey, my understanding of the material, and the consequences of the experience. I apologize if this demands more of the reader’s time and critique. If this ultimately leads to the decision that I somehow missed the point of the Dionysus Order’s materials, so be it. I’m not looking for a title, and I’m grateful for the experience. This essay is as much for me, as it may be for you. Also, I’m addicted to commas.
My background and Bona Fides
It may help to understand more about my personal journey on the Left Hand Path (LHP). My mother was raised Catholic but left the church in her teens to embrace RHP Secular Humanism. She dabbled in Paganism for a time, but never found solid ground to stand on with regard to her emotional, spiritual, or philosophical journey, despite earning a Master’s degree in Sociology. My father was raised Lutheran but left the church in his teens after coming to terms with his atheism, which he holds to this day. When enrolling me in elementary school, they wanted to provide me with the best education they could, and decided to send me to a private Catholic school. However, they would not have me participate in the expected dogma and ritual including first communion, confession, etc. I was one of two students who were not Catholic. I participated in the religious coursework and attended school masses, but was coyly set apart from the rest of the class in these instances. My parents wanted me to be free to make my own decisions regarding faith and religion. For that, I suppose I’m thankful. Although it certainly would have been easier, socially speaking, to have been part of the flock. Certainly, the endless mockery and beatings I took on the playground for not being a Catholic had some effect on who I am today.
I did learn a great deal about Christianity during my time in school, but I was fairly indifferent to it from a spiritual perspective. My Catholic education was interrupted for two years when I was moved to a public Junior High School for my 7th and 8th grade years in an attempt to correct my social issues. I was determined to change my social status, and fell in with the “bad crowd” almost immediately. Here was where I was introduced to social dissonance, heavy metal, sex, counter culture, and the like. As I saw it, I would no longer let myself be victimized by any authority be it students or teachers. I was ultimately dismissed from school after having been apprehended with a bottle of beer in the back of my Industrial Arts class. I attended the private Catholic High School neighboring my old primary school for the rest of my primary education. My parents, who were nonplussed to say the least at the transformation I underwent, were happy to see me back in a more disciplined institution. Stories of my public-school exploits had reached my former classmates who, of course, were also attending the same school. They welcomed me back at arm’s length and with great trepidation.
I had unknowingly embraced the adversarial archetype, if for no other reason than self-preservation. I was able to assimilate easily even with this new perceived persona by staying quiet and letting the perception of my transformation do most of the heavy lifting for me. Socially speaking. The alcoholic Satanist was just not someone to fuck with, despite being completely untrue. I made myself comfortably invisible inasmuch as I could. Some of my favorite classes were required religion courses. Being a fairly liberal Catholic school, I was able to take courses like World Religion, Social Justice (albeit from a Catholic perspective), Catholic History, and Faith. I set up an Independent Study my senior year exploring the concept of faith itself with a wonderful teacher who I’m friends with to this day. I even became a part of the Campus Ministry despite my open admission to not believing in Jesus or God. I struggled to understand the concept of how and why people believed and participated in religion, but I was fascinated by it. I read voraciously in High School. Reading the works of Catholic theologians and mystics like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Catherine Doherty quickly lead down a proverbial rabbit hole. Before long, I was reading Sartre, Nietzsche, Gibran, Camus, Huxley, and plodded through the KJV and NIV Bibles, Gnostic Texts, Bhagavad Gita, Koran, and Tao Te Ching, all before I was eighteen years old. To be clear, I read these books for enjoyment. I did not study them academically. While I claim to have a good understanding of religion, I am not an expert.
It was during this time that I also read the Satanic Bible. I was not, however, immune to the draw of religious community. Despite my disbelief in Abrahamic theology, I found myself jealous of those in my world who had faith. I saw the relationships that people of faith had and was attracted to their experience. The sense of inclusion and community they had was astounding. My life was steeped in Catholic experience at school and in extended family gatherings. I participated in school masses, chapel, and was a member of the school liturgical band that performed music for religious events. The summer between my Junior and Senior year was spent at a YMCA camp in their Leadership Development Program (LDP). Part of this experience was a seven-day canoe trip through a dozen lakes in the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a 1,090,000-acre wilderness area in Superior National Forrest. On the third day of the trek, one of my fellow LDP members walked into the wilderness from our campsite thinking we were camped on an island. He was missing for three days and two nights. The rest of our small company split to search the surrounding area and go onwards to find a ranger station for help.
I spent two nights in a canoe slowly combing the surrounding shorelines with a flashlight looking for his dead body in torrential rain. At one point during this traumatic experience, I was meditating on a large rock a few yards away from our campsite. I was trying to come to terms with the likelihood that our missing camper was dead. I had my head down, which was something I had always done when thinking through existential dilemmas. I had held the belief that even though I could not reconcile the Christian concept of God, I should keep my head down out of respect and humility for whatever cosmic force may exist. It was as close to praying that I had ever come. Of course, this was born out of my subconscious fear of “God” and the subjugation it creates in addition to working through the closest experience of death I had to this point. While meditating silently on this rock, days from civilization, hoping beyond hope for a happy ending, I opened my eyes to find a chipmunk had crept over to me. It sat up on its hind legs and looked directly into my eyes, and we stared at each other for what seemed like forever. In that moment, I had my first “religious experience.” I felt that “God” was telling me that walking around with my head down in humility was wrong, and that if this small creature could look upon me with its head up, then I could walk through life with mine up. Be strong, have faith. Our missing cohort was found alive that day. I felt that I had truly lived through something divinely directed at me.
After having described my experience to one of my fellow LDP campers, he recommended that I accompany him to a TEC retreat that he helped facilitate at his Episcopal church. (TEC is an acronym for Teens Encounter Christ.) After having my brush with divinity, I was curious to see if I could now understand and participate in some kind of religious community. This seemed like a good place to start. The retreat was comprised of a weekend stay at a local church, where I would meet with other teens who had also had deeply moving experiences with God, albeit from a less severe perspective than the Catholics I was used to. What I experienced was an attempt at extremely calculated brainwashing. I was shown videos, listened to lectures, participated in small group activities all designed to bring me closer to Christ. I was given nails and asked to imagine them piercing my hands and feet. I listened to horrible accounts from other teens of abuse at the hands of perverse uncles and how Jesus had seen them through. The weekend culminated with a live action recreation of the Stations of the Cross and a Mass. Parents waited to surprise their kids at the mass to share their experience and celebrate their Hero’s Journey. Thankfully, mine chose not to attend. I left the retreat with a sour taste in my mouth, and a growing disdain for all things Christian. This put my wilderness experience in a new light as well. Perhaps I didn’t find God with that little chipmunk. Perhaps I found a piece of myself.
I spent two years at a local State University taking night courses in Religion and Philosophy. I left academic study with the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to do jack shit with a degree in these fields. I dropped out, but never stopped reading on my terms. I wrestled with this decision, and often criticized myself for being lazy. In my early twenties I went back to the books that fascinated me. Ultimately, I found myself drawn to occult, history, and extreme rationalism. I fell in love with the writings of Mircea Eliade and Kant but was curiously drawn back to the Satanic Bible. I bought other books by Anton LaVey, and found myself, unknowingly at the time, on the LHP. Not having any kind of community to discuss LHP philosophy, I did what I could on my own. This was happening in the late 1990’s. With the dawn of the internet, I soon found a dark corner of the web. I began reading and posting on a small forum called Where The Wild Things Are, which eventually became The 600 Club. Finally, I was able to discuss (or attempt to) my curiosity with Satanism. It wasn’t long before I found that “Satanist” was the best title I could hope to find when looking at my philosophical beliefs. I read, wrote, debated, argued, and made some idiotic mistakes with some persuasive armchair philosophers I met on-line. I also made some good friends I’ve kept to this day. While the internet gave me a social experience on the LHP, it also revealed a swamp of dark messiahs all claiming to have the truth of the LHP.
The Internet proved to be a pretty good training ground. I earned “high status” at the 600 Club, The Modern Church of Satan, SIN, and a few other inter-faith forums, for whatever that was worth. I was learning to debate well. I expanded my understanding of what the LHP could be for me. Eventually, Zach Black turned me on to the Sect of the Horned God when I was thinking about leaving the on-line Satanic community. He “vouched” for my integrity and to this day I enjoy membership without ever having paid the $25 fee, much to my chagrin. The SotHG provided a sober environment void of trolls and keyboard warriors where I could read and contribute as much or as little as I wanted. Furthermore, the addition of educational options within the Sect was a nice touch. So, here I find myself. I’ve enjoyed the Orders up until this point. The Dionysus material has taken me three years of deep introspection, self-analysis, and academic reading to come out where I am now.
The Dionysian Material
Having enjoyed the material presented in the Order of Prometheus, I was excited to see what the next Order offered. Initially, I was irked by the complete turn from the rational and calculated approach of Prometheus. Why would I want to go exploring the subjective experience of others, much less myself, after having honed some good analytical skills in the previous order? It seemed counter-productive. The subjectivity of psychoanalysis and philosophy made me feel a little duped and brought up many questions. What kind of cult was the SotHG in its higher orders? What kind of speculative enlightenment was I being guiled towards? I imagined eventually being asked to go on an ayahuasca retreat with my copy of Crowley. With a great deal of skepticism, I began to slowly read some of the material and watch the suggested videos. I was well acquainted with the fact that the LHP is neither straight or narrow. It’s merely a metaphor for a chosen hero’s journey meant to inspire diligence, fortitude, self-discovery and understanding of self-deification. I view others on the LHP with the same indifference that I do any member of another faith, religion, or philosophical persuasion. What works for one, may not likely work for another, especially on the LHP. My time debating what “real” Satanism is supposed to be was far behind me. It leads to posturing and myopic herding.
Moreover, strict definitions of the LHP risk becoming dogmatic and rigid interpretations that ultimately twist the journey onto RHP philosophy of absolutes and dark gospel. I am not interested in joining the Cult of Jung or any other cult for that matter. My understanding of myself has long been established using bits and pieces of LaVey, Kant, Eliade, and many others. I know what I am at this point, and am not interested in challenging all that I’ve learned.
After a few weeks of sulking, it was the challenge that brought me back to the material. Stagnation is never a good thing, and while I was not excited to write essays to prove I had understood the material, I began by buying books. If nothing else, I would develop a better understanding of Crowley, Jung, and Campbell. I had read a little Jung in the past, and was familiar with Crowley and Campbell. I had watched the Power of Myth with my mother in my childhood, and found it interesting, but it didn’t resonate with me. It seemed obvious. As a youngster I could recognize the Hero’s Journey and archetypes in culture and myth even if I hadn’t studied it. However, in the span of a week, I purchased four Jung books, The DVD of the Power of Myth with the corresponding book, and a compilation of Crowley’s work that included The Book of the Law. Rather than use the material provided in the hyperlinks on the syllabus, I wanted a more complete understanding of the authors and their ideas. Perhaps there was merit in revisiting what I thought I understood well. Time would tell.
The importance of Joseph Campbell’s works certainly cannot be understated. His reductionist explanations of mythology, philosophy, psychology, and culture gave modern western society an easy way to understand the common threads within religion and the human experience in a time where, arguably, it had lost touch with itself. He correlates the objective Hero’s Journey with the subjective individual experience. “The hero as the incarnation of god is himself the navel or axis of the world, the umbilical point through which the energies of eternity break into time.” This mirrors much of his contemporary, Mircea Eliade’s, thought in his book, The Sacred and the Profane, in which he introduced me to the primitive origins of sacred space as the Axis Mundi, and thus the original externalization of the divine in the collective human experience both conscious and subconscious. Campbell, however, compresses these concepts into easy to understand bite-sized pieces for the layperson. Campbell’s sole purpose it seems is to take the commonalities within mythology and psychology and deliver them to the reader in the simplest way possible; the Hero leaves his sick society, faces obstacles, and brings the remedy back.
No longer do we need to slog through Ezra Pound’s Cantos, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Jung’s Archetypes, or Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Thankfully, Campbell has provided the curious with the Cliff’s Notes. I say this with a degree of passive aggression. It seems Campbell’s own Hero’s Journey is to free us all from overdue library fees. This only served to help me realize that the Dionysian Order’s materials were worth more than I initially though. Solipsism in check, I decided not only to approach the material with an open mind, but also with the critical thinking skills outlined in the Order of Prometheus. With this in mind, I sought out academic criticism of Jung, Campbell, and Crowley to temper this Dionysian experience.
I don’t assume to dismiss Campbell’s contributions to western thought or my own understanding of myth. He deftly homogenized the accounts of humankind’s struggle to define higher understanding of consciousness and purpose in existence. The human desire to find the external meaning of existence is a consequence of self-awareness and higher consciousness.
What is it about this existential meaning that has caused us to manifest the pantheons of imaginary beings who rarely seem to have our own best interests in mind? Is it a way to benevolently explain human suffering? Or is it a way to alleviate the responsibility of suffering and evil within the psyche on an external source? Campbell describes the importance of creating a place of sacred incubation and meditation for the purpose of self-discovery and self-knowledge in an attempt to return the psyche to a more tribal way of thinking of the world as sacred space in order to broaden the perspective of living and seeking bliss. The similar mythological symbolism found in cultures across the eons lends credence to Jung’s theory of collective unconsciousness, which, again, Campbell describes to the layperson with much less obfuscation. However, is the human psyche truly shared on an unconscious level or could these symbolic similarities be a result of cultural diffusion over the centuries? Why indeed do we find the divine mother, the trickster, the hunter, and the warrior in most mythology across distance and time with only subtle differences in order to suit the needs of the differences in cultures?
To answer this, Campbell divides the idea of myth into four functions: the Mystical function is used simply to define that which is undefinable by the psyche. The wonder and awe of the world and the universe can crush identity and rob the psyche of it’s perceived significance in the face of such immensity, and so a godhead is created by the psyche to help understand rather than collapse upon its solitude. Next, the Cosmological function is used to bridge the Mystical function with that which we can understand. Science and technology gradually chip away at the magnitude of the unknown while still allowing the godhead to exist to explain that which is not yet understood. The Sociological function will then give expression to the previous two along with providing social order. An invisible godhead who might smite those for breaking the law is a powerful motivator, especially if one cannot escape its eyes and judgment. Lastly, the Pedagogical function allows the individual within society to experience the godhead personally. All of this makes for a nice tight package to live a fairly safe and long life, subjectively speaking. Where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going are questions easily answered within the myth and provide laws and guidance to stave off death for as long as possible. Death, after all, is the root of humanity’s existential fear. But is this all an attempt to define the psychological and existential questions of the human mind, or merely a means of social control?
In myth we see the horror of death manipulated into transcendental experience. In order to allay the fear of what each of us must one day face, death is reinterpreted as rebirth. Rebirth assures the continuation of the psyche, the consciousness, and the preservation of human experience beyond what we know to be the end of that very experience. When seen through the lens of transformation, death is robbed of its teeth and we can go about our daily mundanity safe in the knowledge that while we know death is absolute, we will not become the nothingness that physical death presents. Furthermore, the idea of sacrifice can paradoxically delude the psyche into believing that death should be exalted. The godhead sacrifices itself for the good of the society and transcends death in order to provide food, land, or salvation. We can see ourselves in the godhead. But is the fear of death ever truly overcome by the psyche even with the help of myth? Not without the suspension of what we know to be real and true. We will become that lifeless husk and cease to be. This is delusion in the guise of order of balance. Consciousness in its essence is the unbalanced struggle for immortality through the conflicting lenses of myth and reality. Despite an unwavering belief in myth, it is still an illusion. But the psyche cannot abide the idea of non-consciousness, and will delude and divide itself to save itself. And so we create invisible entities to help us through our existence.
Journalist Bill Moyers asked Campbell, “Do you have sympathy for the man who has no invisible means of support?” To which he replied, “Yes. He’s the one that invokes compassion, poor chap! He’s stumbling around when the water of immortal life is right there. It evokes one’s pity.” If one is following their bliss, indeed, the waters of eternal life should be obvious and convenient according to Campbell. But does following bliss necessitate the belief in Myth? If so, why? Unfortunately, Campbell doesn’t offer an answer. In all the complexities and histories of myth, Campbell ultimately succumbs to the fact that despite the beauty of the myth, we’re all worm food. This certainly does not take away from his contributions in understanding culture, myth, and the psyche, but it doesn’t make me believe in anything other than my own mortal experience. As he eloquently states, “Myth comes from imagination and leads back to it.” For all my efforts, there is still no truth other than what I choose to define it as.
In this light, Campbell’s paradox would seem to usher in the discovery of the Left Hand Path, the outsider looking in, the casting away of illusions. However, in turning away from myth, existential crises of the psyche still remain. Enter the Archetype. The humanization of the godhead and acceptance of the responsibility of reality and experience. On this path, we can attempt to rationalize consciousness and define it reasonably. Are there superordinate and pre-existent concepts that can define the psyche? How do we define instinct or predisposition?
Jung warns us in his book, The Four Archetypes, that “The more independent ‘reason’ pretends to be, the more it turns into sheer intellectuality which puts doctrine in the place of reality and shows us man not as he is but how it wants him to be.” Paradoxically, he goes on to say, “The psyche is part of the inmost mystery of life, and it has its own peculiar structure and form like every other organ types, ever ‘originated’ at all is a metaphysical question and therefore unanswerable.”
Jung attempts to alleviate the existential crises of the human condition through his process of Individuation. The Archetypes lurking within the collective unconscious can be brought into individual consciousness through symbols, dreams, and creatively exploring the possibilities and meanings they have on our individual experiences. Understanding Jung’s process of recognizing archetypes, dragging them out of the darkness through the quaternity of persona, shadow, ego, and anima/animus, can arguably lead to enlightenment, self-deification, or just general well being depending on the individual’s desire. (It at least gives us more to think about than Freud’s triptych definition.) But what is the Jungian archetype? Is it the inherited or instinctual manifestation of the existential experience buried deep in our subconscious? Simple intuition? Are these seemingly divine symbols and images inherent in our very humanity? Are they as real and mysterious as the human appendix? Jung suggests that the archetypes and elements of the psyche are indeed as real and essential as the organs in our bodies. But as eloquent and engaging as these ideas are, we can also account for the similar experiences and symbology across time and culture through simple cultural diffusion as Campbell states. But does this even matter to Jung? Are they one in the same? His archetypal symbols are merely defined as the best possible expression for something the mind recognizes but cannot explain, and in that, I find a glimmer of truth beyond myth. Quantum physicist Amit Goswami offers another possible explanation for the origin of the Archetypes in his book, The Everything Answer Book. “When a supramental archetype visits us as an experience of intuition, it comes to us through the intermediary of the mind. The mind gives meaning to the archetypal experience and the brain, the neocortex, makes a representation of the mental meaning. When that memory is triggered, the mind plays back the meaning. Eventually, we will evolve to a point where we can embody the archetype directly…. From the point of view of consciousness, evolution is not an evolution of matter as Darwin saw it. Instead, it is the evolution of material representations of consciousness and its subtle potentialities.”
Can the Archetypes merely be a biological function of the neocortex at a quantum level? Or is this just another scholar’s way of repeating “Myth comes from imagination and leads back to it?” Gerald Garguilo, in his book, Psyche, Self and the Soul, adds to Jungian criticism when he suggests, “To identify something as unconscious, is to attempt to contextualize an individual’s self-understanding. When we say that the unconscious is revealed or found as it is interpreted, we are describing an aspect of self-knowledge that comes in many guises.” How can Jung take the commonalities within symbolism and attribute them to a collective unconscious when the individual experience defines the nature of the archetypal symbolism? How can the Archetypes be a collective and an individual experience at once?
This is only the beginning of the proverbial black hole of chaos and harrowing paradoxes that swallowed my mind while reading Jung and the subsequent authors he inspired. But, most importantly, the question I kept coming back to was, “Does this even matter to me?” In reading Jung and in particular the idea of individuation, he states that passivity leads to despair and an aimless life, echoing Campbell’s mantra of “follow your bliss.” Does my skepticism of all things hinder my growth towards individuation or have I already achieved it? Certainly not in full, as individuation is a process not a destination. As we become individuated we increase the number of skills and character traits and augment our capacity to take advantage of life’s opportunities. Jung’s radical self-acceptance culminates in the acceptance of our neuroses and character flaws but also our talents and strengths, coupled with defining one’s purpose and setting goals. Yes, this is true. Yes, I’ve experienced this. While dwelling on these ideas, I recalled the many times when I sought psychiatric help at various points in my life to help me understand myself and the challenges that manifested in front of me. Why am I now trying to define my individuation, my enlightenment, my hyperborean experience through Jung’s terminology? Simply for the sake of this essay? Am I lesser for not having put my experience through the lens of Jung? Crowley? Campbell? The fault is mine. In approaching the materials in the Order of Dionysus, I misunderstood the challenge of understanding these ideas. It’s not for me to try and comprehend my experience and psyche through the definitions set by these philosophers, but rather to simply realize that my experience and self-acceptance runs parallel. These are not new ideas, just a new way of approaching them, for better or worse. This is not a new journey for me, rather, a new way of looking at it. This is not an exercise in self-discovery, but an exercise in self-reflection. Upon realizing this, the Dionysian materials took on a different light. I’ve been individuating for decades, and will continue to. Perhaps the most striking passage from Jung came to me from The Development of Personality where he states, “Our personality develops in the course of life from germs that are hard or impossible to discern, and it is only our deeds that reveal who we are… At first we do not know what deeds or misdeeds, what destiny, what good and evil we have in us, and only the autumn can show what the spring has engendered, only in the evening will it be seen what the morning began.”
The Order of Dionysus in Practice
Meditation and ritual are not something I’ve ever been comfortable with. My early years watching classmates in school masses left me feeling disassociated. I tried meditation in high school with a New Age friend, and participated in Wiccan rituals with another. Neither did anything for me. In my twenties, I explored various religious rituals by visiting local synagogs, mosques, temples, and churches. I had some polite conversations with the officiants and congregations that fed my curiosity and fascination with faith and myth. I went on a weekend retreat to Iowa at a Carmelite monastery. While I wasn’t expecting to find evidence of an external divinity, I was open to the possibility. Of course, I never experienced anything supernatural. I asked myself if I wasn’t being completely open to the possibilities of these experiences. Was my skepticism hindering my connection to the spiritual planes of experience? With so many millions of religious practitioners in the world, certainly there must be something to the external experience of God? While I was very curious about religion, I could not shake the idea that all these millions of people were willingly participating in a mass delusion. I read Thoreau’s Walden in hopes that his solitary approach to self-discovery might be inspiring. I found more in common with his woodchopper character than his arrogant transcendentalism, despite some good lessons on self-reliance. Suffice to say that my past explorations into esoteric thought left me unfulfilled.
My experiences with LHP ritual have been few and far between. In my thirties I dabbled in what I can only describe as Satanic Meditation, where I would allot a fifteen-minute break in my day to sit in a quiet and sterile environment and focus on controlling my world through will, action, and some lesser magic. Some of these sessions yielded some productive results. I attempted a few destruction rituals using LaVey’s Satanic Rituals as a guide, but taking some liberties to suit my comfort. I attempted to use the Sect’s Sigil Project as a new way to again try and connect with undiscovered aspects of my psyche. Having used the symbol of my Ophvedius Archetype for the sigil project, I felt like I missed the point in a way by using an already established Archetype. Ophvedius has been my personal daemon/mandala for years, and I felt that trying to discover a new personal symbol/sigil/daemon would be counterproductive. Over the years I’ve developed my own form of meditation and ritual, which is far removed from alters, robes, and candles. I rarely delve into psychodrama, and I’m old enough and experienced enough to have very little need for catharsis.
In reading the Dionysian materials, I felt very trepidatious in the attempt of exploring altered states of consciousness suggested by Jung and Crowley. At this point, I purchased Jung’s Red Book and a collection of Crowley’s writings. Both are incredibly detailed accounts of individual dissections of personal experience. The creativity of each is astounding, and we should all be challenged to record such fantastic journeys into ourselves. I kept a dream journal for years and gleaned a lot of insight into myself with it. Self-reflection is a marvelous tool for growth. But in reading Crowley and the Red Book, I felt no connection. These accounts were personal reflections of other individuals. How could I expect them to have the same affect on me? I spent a few weeks watching videos on line from Thomas Leroy, E.A. Koetting, Michael W. Ford and others regarding magical expeditions into the psyche. I went to my local magical bookstore and bought books, incense, candles, cauldrons, statues, and other paraphernalia. I reread LaVey’s Satanic Rituals, the Book of the Law, and Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead. Months of preparation lead to several attempts at connecting to the secrets allegedly hiding in my unconscious mind through rituals constructed by others. I reflected on the darkness and demons of my past and present: anxieties, traumas, fears. All of which were familiar. All of which I had befriended or conquered in my own way in my own time, and all without the use of any consciousness-altering substances.
It’s no secret that Crowley was an avid user of drugs and made no apologies for it. In my opinion, this fact immediately negates any contributing theories he may have had on the human experience regardless of how interesting or creative. Richard Noll, author of The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ, offers some heavy criticism of Jung and his theories painting him as a deluded messianic figure despite being called the father of modern analytical psychology, contextualizing his personal letters and journals as evidence, along with the cultural and environmental realities of Jung’s time, some of which are compelling. Jung’s personal descent into the underworld resulted in his self-deification in the form of the lion-headed Aion of Mithraic tradition. This metamorphosis was officiated by a blind Salome, his animus, who initiated the ceremony by asserting that Jung was in fact, Jesus Christ. What does Jung’s alleged self-deification truly mean if it was bestowed upon him by Salome? This has more in common with a coronation rather than self-discovery. What does self-deification mean when it originates from the archetype of a myth? Why the need for all the psychodrama? I find it paradoxical to discover one’s godhood via archetypal revelation. Can you be truly godlike because a god told you so in a vision? Or is this merely the best the human mind can do? Noll’s books have received a great deal of criticism but I believe that it’s incredibly important to look at the criticism of Jung, Crowley, Campbell, Nietzsche, etc. before taking their words as gospel. In this light, I understand why the Order of Prometheus is so important as a precursor to the materials presented in Dionysus. One must confront their own darkness on their own terms. The pantheon of Gods, Demons, and Archetypes must be viewed through the lens of personal experience for a correct choice to be made. For some, this can result in eating human shit out of skulls in India, reciting LaVeyan rituals, praying the Salah, attending Sunday services, or any number of ways that help the individual come to terms with their experience IF they choose to believe in the reality of an external God, Myth, or Archetype. For those who choose not to give credence to these beings, all that is left is their own consciousness and experience. So, what to do then?
Divinity and the concept of self-deification has never been something to achieve in my experience. The aspiration to become god-like is in itself an acknowledgement of a separate being to aspire to; to become something other than oneself. This is emphatically counter productive and in essence denies the potential one can achieve. The idea of becoming god-like has always been confusing to me when discussing LHP philosophy. Why would you aspire to be something other than what you are? Divinity is not a prize to be won, instead, it is the realization that when one negates the idea of a god, the only definition left for divinity is oneself.
I am divine simply because my consciousness and experience are the only things left that are worthy of the definition once I chose to deny the existence of external divinity. This isn’t to say that I don’t find commonalities with mythological characters, I do, especially with Satan. There are times when I fully embrace the drama of the demonic, epicurean, or savage archetype. But these experiences consist of taking the archetype into my own divinity, not losing myself in their visage. They are easy to use tools in my psyche to create a means to an end or overcome obstacles.
I took my divinity to the ramshackle alter I created and tried to insert it into symbols of Baphomet while candles burned and bells chimed, attempting to meld my unconscious mind into the drama and meditation of the ritual. I achieved various results. Mostly laughter, as I felt like I was creating a scene in a Hammer film or some other b-movie plot. At times, I felt centered, calm, and focused. What was clear, was that these tools of ritual are not necessities. My best “rituals” have been conducted in the car on long drives alone in the dark of night, on stage with the many bands I’ve pled with over the past 30 years, pondering passages from good books, or enjoying the company of close friends in the right environment. Here lies my magic. Here the doors open to my true self without masks or pretense. My terms. While I understand the importance of mythology, ritual, and self-analysis, I use them on my terms, if at all.
I started the Order of Dionysus roughly four years ago. During that time, I spent countless hours reading books, watching videos, practicing various rituals, and deep in self-reflection. All of which were worthwhile endeavors. I challenged myself to examine various ways to excavate my subconscious and own my psyche in ways I initially found pointless and irrational. What I found in all of this, was an affirmation of the fact that I know myself. I know my proverbial demons and angels. I’ve embraced my darkness and my fire for years, if not decades. I know what challenges lie ahead and celebrate those already conquered. I’ll be 47 years old this year, and self-ascribed Satanist for over twenty years. It is who I am for better or worse. The philosophies I’ve patched together from LaVey, Eliade, Kant, and even the likes of Campbell and Jung, have served me very, very well. Four years later, I’m still asking the same question I’ve been asking throughout this experience: Did I miss the point? What does the Sect of the Horned God want those who experience this Dionysian experiment to achieve, and what lies beyond in the Order of Shiva? Now that I’m at the end of this exercise, I can answer these questions with certainty: it doesn’t really matter. The Sect is a fantastic organization that I respect. The Orders are designed to educate and develop free thinkers on the Left Hand Path wherever they may be on their journey. Considering what’s available to the public with regard to LHP study, the SotHG is a beacon of reason and a gatekeeper of legitimate occult study and practice. I’m grateful for the materials and opportunities offered and for the friends and acquaintances I’ve made. I do wish to thank you for reading this and dealing with the narrative nature of my experience as opposed to the assigned essays. If nothing else, I hope reading this was entertaining in some way. If not, well, them’s the breaks. Regardless of whether of not this offering is acceptable for achieving your desired results of Dionysus, I’d welcome any feedback, good or bad. I do not aspire to be Satan, Prometheus, Dionysus, Pan, Cernunos, Pashupati, Shiva, or their kin. They aspire to be me.
The following sources contributed to this rambling mess:
The Writings of Aleister Crowley, Anubis Books, 2018
The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey, Avon Books, 1969
Four Archetypes, C.G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1970
The Portable Jung, edited by Joseph Campbell, Viking Penguin Inc., 1971
The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung, Princeton University Press, 1969
The Jung Cult, Richard Noll, Free Press Paperbacks, 1994
Aryan Christ, Richard Noll, Random House, 1997
The Undiscovered Self, C.G. Jung, Signet Publishing, 1957
The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition, C.G. Jung, W.W. Norton & Company, 2009
The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell, MJF Books, 1988
The Psyche, Self and Soul, Gerald J. Gargiulo, Whurr Publishers, 2005
The Everything Answer Book, Amit Goswami, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2017
The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdoek, Shambhala Publications, 1990
The Kybalion, The Penguin Group, 2008
The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1959
The Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant, Pantianos Classics
Serpent Songs, curated by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold, Scarlet Imprint, 2013
God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert, Putnam Publishing, 1981
The Power of Myth
Belladonna of Sadness
Sword of Doom
Even Dwarfs Started Small
Dead Hands Dig Deep
Jordan B Peterson
Genetically Modified Skeptic
The Academy of Ideas
Religion for Breakfast
Michael W. Ford