This is point of inquiry for Monday, February 7th, 2011.
Welcome to Point of Inquiry. I’m Robert Price. Point of Inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reasons, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grass roots. Don Webb is known to an ever increasing readership as a gifted author of remarkable horror tales as such. He is the author of the superb collection When They Came from Temporary Culture 2006. But others might admit to knowing him as the high priest of the Temple of Century. He has been a practitioner of the left hand path for more than 30 years. As such, he has written the book’s Seven Faces of Darkness and Uncle Set Naks Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path.
Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Don Webb.
Well, thank you for having me, Bob. I’m glad to be here.
Don, can you outline for us the history? Oh, that’s a big order. But can you summarize the history of the Church of Satan and the Temple of Saint?
Absolutely. In the 60s, there was a man named Howard Statten Levie, probably better known by his magical nom de plume of Anton Levay. He ran weekly in Motherwell monthly meetings and then eventually weekly meetings on various supernatural topics in San Francisco in a group called The Magic Circle. One of the Magic Circle participants said, you know, if you made this a religion, you could avoid taxation. This sounded pretty good to Anton. So he re-created it in 1966 as the Church of Satan. However, when he discovered that also meant he had to share all of his documents with the IRS, he decided to say that he didn’t want to ever have religions that were tax free early on. His approach was one of being a social critic. The Church of Satan exists to point out the hypocrisy of society. And it appeals to that sort of outsider mentality that can look at the world and see how skew it is. One of his early members, Michael Queena, became a priest and eventually became the second in command of the church, holding the rank of Megastar County, which is a fourth degree, and their church. And Tom had a plan in nineteen seventy five to begin selling the priesthood. Up to then, one became a priest of Satan. Because you impressed Anton with your understanding of the dark arts, your social graces, your charisma. Anton was strapped for money. Cults really don’t make a lot of money, you know, unless he’s doing it really well. And unfortunately, we’ve never done it really well. He tend to do put out huge membership figures, like if you read any interview he gave at the time, to be thousands and thousands of underground Church of Satan members. Now they’re about 300. We know when he decided to sell the priesthood, Pequeño said, let’s see if we could have some more legitimate way of making money. The priesthood is sacred. There is an existing deity that is ordaining us as priests. Major theological schism. Church of Satan is entirely a Carnel religion. If there’s any kind of transcendence, it’s transcend. It’s now not transcendence and some afterlife. There is no overriding supernatural figure. Michael Keano invoked the Prince of Darkness who introduced himself to Michael Set. He made it a not for profit corporation. We really do put all records out there and the temples that was born 1975. Both of these groups are left hand path groups, which is to say they’re Antonoff million. In other words, they look at what society takes as its official values and disregards them. Both of these groups believe that to a certain technology, events can be altered. We call this magic. But the major difference is the temple set, although it is centered on the psyche of the individuals, does believe in an archetypical force which we call set or the Prince of darkness.
Why darkness? Why would that be like what a darkness, some light mean in this context?
Very good for Anton. What it meant is he had this great monster movie esthetic. You can see him playing the organ. His old films. He had the Church of Satan there in California Street, all looking like the inside of the Addams Family. And it appealed to a certain wry approach. But darkness in the most essential form is that fact that when you’re making a truly free decision, you don’t know what you’re doing. Actual freedom or those moments of confusion, when you break your programing, you break Coulier conditioning. You strike off in an unknown direction. And rather than saying our unknown direction is lit for us, we assume or unknown direction is dark. One of set’s earliest cult titles was Bringer of Confusion. This does not mean that we seek to be confused. It means we understand that confusion is a state that happens before decisions arise. The will comes out of dark and troubled areas, not out of areas that are clean and rational. And the more things you gain by will, the later you can then expand your clean rationality. The darkness represents the new, the unknown and the empty that which is not already filled by something conditioned and created.
I guess if everything is just laid out before you clearly and cut and dried, there’s no real decision to make. It’s all just sort of bare.
Well, it’s Truman could fit in for a lot of theological groups. All the decisions have been made. You’re arguing that you’re told what to believe, what to do. How much money to give the church who you can have sex with. Where you should be buried. But actually, all real life decisions, sadly, are made by yourself and on your own. However, when you make that decision, you are creating yourself. The watchword of the temple asset is an Egyptian verb keffer. I have come into being. We recognize that people are largely self created and we celebrate their individuality in the ways they choose. Now we differ from the Church of Satan, the Church of Satan. Its watchword is indulgence. Are you having a really good time? Is a fine. You’re a good Satanist.
Are you really becoming your true self is a find yourself in, hmm?
I’ve often thought of Levey’s Satanism as a kind of dime store, Nietzsche and ism, and of course, I’m a big Nietzsche fan.
And that it was there was a sort of an adolescent quality about it, which you do seem to be underlining. Would it dignify it too much or would it trivialize it, on the other hand, if one called Levey’s Satanism a kind of religious humanism?
Well, I think it absolutely is. I think his source is more Ayn Rand than. Right. Right.
And it’s such an amazing thing to be coming out with in 1966, because you looked around at the hippie movement where people were experiencing a oneness with nature and they decide edification with the ego. And you can force that hunger of the ego is good. I mean, there’s a lot of similarities, say, between the satanic philosophy and Hefner’s Playboy philosophy.
Mm hmm. You know, it could be just get Hefner to wear the horns. Then you got it.
Well, I gather they. They did have some kind of hexing ceremony, which if that’s true, that makes me think they must have believed in some sort of parapsychology. But apparently not real supernatural is right. It didn’t leave a call believers in supernaturalism, a cult mix or something like that.
And that’s. Oh, yeah. That’s still a still word, if that’s common in our culture. Levey For whatever magical trait there are. He saw this as something that is part of an unknown but natural phenomena. And the way that you got access to the phenomena was through exciting imagery. So, yes, if you’re gonna put a hex on somebody. Yeah. Go get go get the doll that looks like foam and have your huge invocation and stab it at all. And your voodoo will work. You know, he’s very much kind of Golden Bough theories of magic. And his real source for that, which you will appreciate I’m kind of a deep level, is mainly Weird Tales and Unknown magazine. Wow.
You know, it’s much more his his theology has much less to do with reading some ancient Rome as it does the fantasy literature he read growing up.
You know, and recall, you know, he was a friend of a lot of fantasists in California, Pakistan. Smith was really.
Wow, I never knew that.
Is that the whole thing is sort of this is celebrator free shtick, I guess, which I don’t mean to criticize. I think that’s very creative and imaginative.
It sounds like this notion of dramatic acts and rituals and all that, almost like a Zen sort of a thing that you need the Zen SLAPP do to escape the mundane and then you’re open to who knows what. Very interesting. Speaking of grim wires, his name is Zalm, the Satanic Bible, but I gather he wrote very little of it and just sort of pirated pieces of work by some guy, Ragnar Redbeard and others. Do you know, but the the higher criticism of the satanic Bible.
In fact, I mean, one of the things that’s kind of disappointing about Anton is he was intellectually releasee because when he was being creative, then his stuff is really pretty, pretty beautiful. But he had no problems lifting things. Regner Redbeard, who was a New Zealand anarchist, wrote a book called Midas Right. Which is almost word for word, the satanic Bible, except ducation. It’s taking the word Satan in it. If you read the nine satanic statement, you’ll discover they all come from and reign. Mm hmm.
You know, he he picked up things when he did the satanic rituals. So, you know, he wrote none of the rituals himself. And some of them were just various pieces. He found like he has any ritual came out, if I say yeah. Joseph’s book on the use, Eddie and the two Lovecraftian rituals were written by Michael Colleano and the Frank Belnap long ritual was written by a guy named Dorio. So, you know, he was not implicated in plagiarism, was not a sin for Anton. In practice, however, in his writing, he is always going off on the fact that people are stealing his stuff.
Well, A, he pretty much created his whole autobiography as a fiction, didn’t he?
Oh, yeah, he is absolute was a fictional creation of of the first order. But then this is suitable for the type of magic that he performed. There’s an idea in both the Church of Satan Templar and other some of their left hand path groups, what we call lesser black magic, where we create an effect in someone by presenting certain images to them. We let their minds do the work. And so Anton had various amazing things like he claimed to date Marilyn Monroe. No, he didn’t. He claimed to be a lion tamer. He wasn’t. But he didn’t want a lion, which is someone that owns a lion. You tend to believe he’s probably a lion tamer. Claimed to play the clarinet for the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, which should be great, except there is no San Francisco Ballet Orchestra playing to a police photographer. And that also wasn’t true. But it’s interesting. The things he chose are a key to his whole magical esthetic because you don’t see, say, someone like Alister Crowley, who’s also a tremendous poser. What if I was to do. He does remember conveniently remembers past lives. I also was several other famous occultist, whereas Levay has a lot of contempt toward the practitioners of the occult.
I remember once seeing video or something where a Ansun Levey was enacting a satanic ritual. Just for the curious. You’ve heard about it. Okay, here it is. And at one point he turns to some image or something and prays to Satan and you figure here’s going to be the big payoff. And he prays for a return to the world of civility. Well, these guys are not very good, bad guys.
And they it’s it’s sad.
They’ve gotten the the bad press they have with this satanic panic that pervaded the 90s with these induced false memories of ritual abuse and so on. Is it your impression of the vardas past finally with all the lawsuits and so on?
Well, have two things to say, but that one is because of Tenwick panic. I found my way to the temple. I’ll tell you that story in a moment. The thing that really fueled the satanic panic was not the mass hysteria. It was the fact that for several years, insurance. Companies were paying for satanic ritual abuse.
And when they stop paying for this, suddenly all these therapists said, hey, that’s not my client’s problem anymore. You see, the satanic panic in other places is going on pretty strong right now in South Africa, flared up occasionally in Brazil. Any time, of course, you have a certain amount of nervousness in the population. You look for scapegoats. Salem being the, you know, big example for American history now, it so happened I have had the chance to write a short story for an anthology which never came into being. But anyway, there was going to be an anthology about the Salem witch trials. And when I hope was doing my research and I’d made a little chart of all the steps of the witch trials. You know how the evidence became spectral, the lack of reasoning, putting it all out. And about that time I took the break, turned on the TV and there was Araldo Rivera’s Satanism in America. And I started listening to the experts on satanic crime. And those took matured out. And I started making checkmarks, doing that one there, doing that one. And finally, this kind of odd looking guy said, well, if you know, it’s because one of the experts says, we know the location of all the Cygnus. We know everything they’re doing. This very odd looking gentleman said, well, why don’t you arrest them then? Which was obviously the very logical remark. And therefore, you know, and it immediately cut this guy sound off. And I thought, wow, you know, that’s like the only intelligent person, you know, and he’s one. And he is the devil worshiper. So I said, if I’m going to send him a fan letter, I was so impressed. So it so happened, much to my surprise that actually good friends of mine were members of the temple of. And they were completely unlike any occult nicks I’d ever seen. For example, they had jobs. They didn’t live in a basement. They could do rational thought processes, didn’t wear weird jewelry. And I said, oh, OK, then you can just give them this letter. And that started my correspondence back and forth to Dr. Cassino. And I joined about a year later. And then seven years after that, I was the high priest. Wow.
What happened to a queen? Oh, did he retire from the position?
He retired. One of the things that is unusual about us is that we don’t we’re not strictly based on cult of personality. And there’ve been four high priests and they’re elected by the governing body of the priesthood. And, you know, the idea is not to become high priest.
The ideal is, you know, you hold that for a while. But that should be like the least interesting thing on your resume. And this is because of the way times have changed. Now, before 1974, if you told someone you were a Satanist, that was a great way to get laid. Could really impress people with this now because of the effect of the satanic panic. You keep that secret. And what you really do is you’ve shown your own life how unusual and unique an individual and powerful you are. So it has a bizarre change from a group. Starting forty six years ago, there were people that like to come see naked chicks on the altar. Now a group that’s, you know, Top-heavy with PTSD. And it you know, the last neo platonists, I suppose.
Well, when are they coming together over?
Like, what does magic mean to you and what is it that about it that attracts obviously eminently sane, educated people who are not losers do it?
Well, I think at the end, of course, a lot of the other kind of people to magic is making a change in your subjective universe, which can produce a proportional change and the objective universe. Magic is a way of manipulating yourself to create an outward change. Now, what must be understood is that this is not an easy thing to do. Which actually probably saved us in the world. It’s very, very hard to make wishes materialize because they don’t materialize like an airport at a Sayon. You know, if you’re doing money, magic, you did it successfully. You may get a better job offer. Now, the question that you have to look at is, is this just psychological? Is it this Dumbo’s father? And this is in the toughest thing, the most subjective aspect of the temple. If you can then begin to receive certain magical information from yourself that you feel is actually authentic and is more than just psychological. Now, certain magics do well in group, the temple comes together at least once a year in some international locations, and local groups have meetings much more frequently. But we’ve had Conclave’s and New Orleans, Helsinki, San Francisco, several times, London, Munich. It’s very it’s very powerful to see other people that are seriously trying to do magical work and most occult groups you don’t gather because people are in some ways maybe ashamed of showing themselves. They are like the people that are all living in their mom’s basement. Or they wouldn’t even have the wherewithal to make international travel to the group. We don’t set the sights high economically. I mean, just costs. Or like 80 bucks a year. But the science are help set high. By my practice and expectation, magic ultimately is for the immortal ization of the soul. Ultimately, if you’re going to believe that something is going to exist coherently after you die, you had better experiences, coherence and power before you die.
So we if you didn’t, would your consciousness just diffuse upon death and that would be the end of it?
That’s generally the belief. Now, we don’t actually have you standardized belief of the afterlife. In fact, you know, we definitely differ from most religions and we don’t have a clear afterlife teachings. We have theories. We have no ESSED ecology. And we don’t even have a creation myth. So in some ways, you know, if you look at all the things you need to have to have a good religion, we sort of felt, you know, we don’t fill in all the slots. But I think that the consciousness without will will not do so well in a non body state. Now it is magic. Can we pass the will? No, of course not. You can have ah, you could have politics. You could probably even have athletics in the sense that that’s, you know, mind over body.
So I you know, I get the impression that a lot of Satanism of the Live Eight type was very Amitai, it was protesting against Christianity and not that’s not a reason to but that I get the impression what you’re talking about is not really anti anything. It’s more of a self development philosophy.
It is. I mean, there is a moment you have to face whatever your particular host belief system is and see what you can take apart. But you can’t do a one size fits all there. I mean, you know, I’m not going to say, you know, someone who’s brought up in a Jewish household, you know, they’re not I get a lot out of doing a black man. Other than this man, this is really confusing imagery. Maybe they can do a black fator. I don’t know. But Satanism existed, Levein signals, and existed to greatly point out the hypocrisy of Christianity and to a lesser extent, just major sources, major forces in society. The problem I feel with them these days is Satan no longer can do that as a figure. I mean, what Satan is good for selling selling albums.
It’s like it’s his great power now.
Well, what is the relation between set and Satan as. As metaphysical entities or symbols or whatever?
Well, Satan is certainly the the ultimate symbol, the archetype of the rebel against cosmic injustice. Satan stands for anyone who has had the boot in the face. And you’ll see in many traditional societies, almost always, the magical forms tend to be somewhat darker or do some kind of parity of the greater forms. That is the archetype of isolette intelligence.
The intelligence knows it has to be self ordering and it cannot drive its ordering from the universe around it. For example, if you go to a Wiccan ceremony and I’ve been, you know, I’ve guessed it, certain Wiccan ceremonies, there is tremendous love given to the natural world. All the ordering comes from that. The Four Seasons, human sexuality, our senses.
All of this is glorified from the study in point of view. The interior mind. And then we’re Carthusian duelist. You know, we’re kind of maybe the last. The interior mind needs to find its own structure. And set in ancient Egypt was unique among the gods for several reasons. He was the only God not fated to die.
He was the God, of course, who killed the god of death. He killed Cyrus. And every night he kills the chaos team and a prophet, the god of delusion. So the things that set us against our delusion and death. He kills both those things. And he ruled all the things in Egypt that were spooky, like storms or snow. But here’s a wonderful inscription that Rameses, the second wrote to his father set thanking him that when he went to the lands of the Mitani, the horrible snow did not fall upon him. And they had to ride out the snow in uniform because there’s not hieroglyph for it said was the God of midrashic iron. You know, a rock falling from the sky. That’s pretty weird. And his appearance is not clearly any animal as opposed to all the other Egyptian gods whose animal forms are very clear and easy to understand.
So would you say that his reality is something like what Young said about God, that Donna and I have to believe in God? I know he exists, but he exists inside me as part of the the collective or the whatever unconscious. When you speak of archetypes, that’s what what it makes me think of is that the understanding he does exist exist as a form.
You know, Plato would have a much easier go of understanding this and maybe a modern American, and he has that form of isolated intelligence. Now, all of us who aspire to his priesthood in many ways can be considered an example are of that form. But we’re not one with it. We’re not community bound to him. But, yes, I would say that I would say that that would exist even if there were no people. I don’t think you’re right. I don’t think he floats up from human consciousness. He is just a form that will exist if a certain type of cynthiana can happen. And I presume that would be known among other Cintia beings if we ever met any of them.
Will. Well, you mentioned the left hand, Pathans.
Some of your books have that in the title and so forth. I think of that in connection with Tibetan Buddhism advisory on Buddhism, where the Auden narrowed bedin becomes a vehicle of enlightenment. And so that there’s transcendence through transgression, because that way one is setting aside the mundane rules of reality and therefore kind of leapfrogging over mundane reality. Does it mean anything like that in the temple of sense?
Oh, absolutely. The characteristics of the left hand path and definite, you know, of course, that the term itself is a Sanskrit term. Now, for a long time, it had no meaning in English. It really showed up because Bulwer Lytton stuck it in a novel. Then, you know, for a long time, it was just that’s what the other the bad people do. However, the characteristics of the left hand path are there. Antônio, mean you work against the culture symbols that condition you. There’s belief in some kind of technology that can change things. Some sort of magical practice. And the essence. You’re seeking liberation from the laws of causality, usually through some form of memorialization. So in many ways, you know, our goals, although our methods are different, are the same as left hand path Buddhists or the glory in India. We’re just one of the western branch of that one.
Now, by contrast, what is the right hand path?
The right hand path seeks union self with a higher reality. You want to belong. You know, either going to be some kind of divine hypo Stacie’s with God in the Christian heaven or you realize your oneness with the Brahmin or you in some way. Join a greater form, the moment of sacrifice. The most sacred moment is the moment when the eye ceased to exist and the all is seen.
Now, ultimately, it may be said that both parts have the same ultimate goal, which is transcendence. The right hand path is much more useful for society as a large large. You don’t really want to tell society at large experiment, find your own way. That would not work well as a math philosophy. Whereas you can have maslowski, so the right hand path, you know, that suggests certain things you could do. Like seeking right livelihood under Buddhism.
Well, this is a leap into another another topic. But what you’re saying has so little to do with what most people think of as Satanism. And even what Levey’s said is different is that is has so little to do with a kind of satanic panic. Is there any such Satanism as as what people are afraid of or is that a complete fabrication of the movies and fraudulent therapists? Are there any satanic cults that murder people or sacrifice babies? I know there are plenty and not surround, so wouldn’t surprise me if there were. But I never know whether to believe such reports.
Kenneth Lansing did a study for the FBI suggesting that there are no such calls. I mean, you could look at things like Rob Ferrell, the vampire clan in Kentucky, where you had a small group of teenagers, lots of drugs and images unfortunately taken from the firemen, necromantic on as a guide. So are there going to be people like that? Yeah, probably. But, you know, they’re the same people that could probably be walked into something horrible by reading Alice in Wonderland. There are no generational Satanists who sacrificed to Satan. You know, sacrifice, in fact, in the satanic religion doesn’t make any sense because you don’t own that life. You know, I couldn’t sacrifice an animal. I don’t own the animals life. The animal owns that. The only meaningful sacrifice is sacrifice of myself to myself. Meaning? OK. And, you know, for the next 20 days, I must stop having that candy bar after lunch. And that’s my sacrifice to grow. You know, have a little less around my middle. The cult theories are great and glorious and wonderful. But there’s no actual evidence other than, you know, the occasional teenager is going to spray paint an inverse pentagram or. Right. Six, six, six. And the Bible.
Yeah, it’s often people are just taken Satan as an example of a bad ass and a rebel, and that’s what they they want to do. A friend of mine who was I worked with I don’t know if he was some sort of official or whatever in his synagogue, but he at least he was in charge of the youth program. And on some retreat, some kids said that he believed in Satan.
And the counselor, he said it, too, came to my friends, said, Mike, actually, I will give you the little bad things.
And my friends have look, he he’s just trying to get a rise out of you. And I guess that’s what youth is supposed to do. And that’s probably why I got Satan on all these heavy metal covers of album covers and the like.
Well, things that Anton realized early on is, you know, that name, you know, pronouncing the red name can draw a lot of attention to you. I mean, you know, here’s Anton with his call to three new people. He gets invited on The Tonight Show. Now, you could look at every other church with 300 people in America and thank them. They’re not going to be invited. The problem is, you know, when you play with that imagery, there’s a lot of people that are going to have the assumption that, you know, that’s the way things really are, you know? I mean, the actual critical facilities of those people is pretty small. You know, when Gilligan’s Island was running, people were writing letters to the Coast Guard saying, why aren’t you rescuing these people?
OK. So, I mean. I mean, that’s that’s that’s a true story. And so then you have the problem. What happens if you haven’t an image like Satan? Well, you know, it’s going to attract everybody that, you know, really don’t want.
It’s like the Wicca people that bill themselves as witches, knowing what people think a witch is and then get indignant when people think what they knew they thought. And I wonder, you know, maybe they should have a different name if they don’t want to be associated with that. But, of course, Levey kind of did. He didn’t want anybody to think was a murderer, obviously, but he did want the big the big rebel and that that seemed to work pretty darn well.
What would you say to a strict empiricists that says, you know, maybe you’re just kidding yourself with this stuff? Is there really any evidence to believe in said even the way you define it? And I mean, is that any different than the Jesus freak believing that he’s communicating with his personal savior? And what what sort of changes can you point to that actually happened? Is there some method that can be tested or is it all just you try and hope it works?
Well, hopefully, you know, very little should be based on unbelief, on pistola, as Plato would say, because at the lowest level of thinking of what I would say to someone that’s a complete empiricist, I would say, you know, if you would like to. Trying to do a magical working to see if you get results. I can help you set up one. And if you discover you like this, you may have to learn to appreciate the subjective approach to the subjective universe. Magic is not, despite many parapsychologists attempts, easily determined is a science, and if, in fact, it turns out that when I die, all of this has just been for my great amusement. Well, so what?
I had a lot of amusement, sort of like a Pascal’s Wager approach.
Yeah. As a consequence, since I don’t believe that my beliefs will save you. I have no desire to go out and try to force you into my belief. You know, I don’t see myself as a night of the face, more as a game player that thinks he knows the rules.
So this is you’re not even looking to satisfy somebody who’s possible objections. It’s it’s more of a question of let’s find something that may give you the subjective results you want. And if it does, perhaps there’s no point in asking if there’s more to it than that.
Yeah. That the mystery is you should seek. I don’t think we’ll be will be quantified. And, you know, and I don’t and I don’t see particularly the need to say, let’s, you know, let’s see if we can get this to work in the laboratory condition.
Yeah, that’s the big issue, I think.
Now, there are set citizens that there are citizens that disagree with me. I mean, there are some that are parapsychologist. So, you know, this is this is my opinion is not a universal opinion.
This is a fascinating thing. It cuts across the categories.
It’s not easy to say, oh, well, this is just believers in E.S.P or this is some sort of a religious sector. It’s very interesting.
I guess I guess time’s about run out. But I really appreciate this so much, Don. And I’ll be looking forward to your next collection of stories. Is there one upcoming.
Oh, yes. Thank you for asking. Our Wildside précis fixing to bring out a collection of weird crime fiction called Do the Weird Crimes Serve the Weird Time. And that should be out in about a month.
Terrific. Well, thank you very much, Don.
Thank you, Bob.
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