Magistra Ygraine—Confessions of a Wicked Witch

Magistra Ygraine over at Radio Free Satan has a new episode of Confessions of a Wicked Witch in which she discusses the Church of Satan 50th year Conclave:

The Wicked Witch talks about the recent secret Church of Satan conclave for Year 50.  How come these thrilling Satanic events aren’t held more often?  Well, Magister Bill M. makes a guest commentary to explain why.  Magistra Ygraine’s daughter Satania joins the show for discussions about the conclave, Satanic parenting, the continuing college saga, answering emails, the conclave salons, and more.

Have a listen—it’s well worth it!

http://www.radiofreesatan.com/?powerpress_embed=8182-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio

Episode 10: Alien Cults and UFO Religions

This is a fun one! In this month’s segment, we discuss Alien Cults and UFO Religions, and their relationship between science, religion, and popular culture. Ufology religions tend to co-opt popular scientific language and ideas and “religionize” them, echoing and incorporating the popular preoccupation with alien abductions, sightings, and conspiracy theories. We focus on two main alien religions, Scientology and Heaven’s Gate (whose website was mirrored and is still viewable), by tying in their particular religious claims with the enveloping social discourse on science.

As always, you can listen to the stand-alone segment here, or the entire 9sense Podcast in which I co-host.

The two main sources for this episode are listed below, with relevant excerpts.

Scientology

Brief excerpt from Scientology, edited by James R. Lewis:

One of the interesting aspects of the Church is how certain elements of the popular culture of the 1950s were preserved within the Scientology subculture.[…] A more subtle, but far more significant, mid-century theme preserved in the time capsule of the Church’s subculture is reflected in its name. Prior to the blossoming of cold war nuclear concerns and the emergence of the ecology movement’s critique of runaway technology, the general populace accorded science and science’s child, technology, a level of respect and prestige enjoyed by few other social institutions. Science was viewed quasi-religiously, as an objective arbiter of “Truth.”; Thus any religion claiming to be scientific drew on the prestige and perceived legitimacy of natural science. Religions such as Chris- tian Science, Science of Mind, and Scientology claim just that. There are, however, a number of differences between popular notions of science and science proper. Average citizens’ views of science are signifi cantly infl uenced by their experience of technology. Hence, in most people’s minds, an important goal of science appears to be the solution of practical problems. This aspect of our cultural view of science shaped the various religious sects that incorporated “science” into their names. In sharp contrast to traditional religions, which emphasize salvation in the afterlife, the emphasis in these religions is on the improvement of this life. Groups in the Metaphysical (Christian Science; New Thought) tradition, for example, usually claim to have discovered spiritual “laws”; that, if properly understood and applied, would transform and improve the lives of ordinary individuals, much as technology has transformed society.

[…]

The Church of Scientology is in this same lineage, though Scientology takes the further step of explicitly referring to their religio-therapeutic practices as religious technology; in Scientology lingo, the “tech.” In much the same way as the 1950s viewed technology as ushering in a new, utopian world, Scientology sees their psycho-spiritual technology as supplying the missing ingredient in existing technologies—namely, the therapeutic engineering of the human psyche.

Prophets and Protons

Brief excerpt from Benjamin E. Zeller’s, Prophets and Protons: New Religious Movements and Science in Late Twentieth-Century America:

“Our message is not now, nor has it ever been, religious or spiritual,” declared the individual calling herself Anlody, a few months before the mass suicide.[2] The message was not religious, Anlody insisted, although her own statement containing those words also discussed the human soul, the “Chief of Chiefs,” Lucifer, the Tree of Life, and eternal salvation. In the mind of Anlody and her fellow members of Heaven’s Gate, the eternal fate of her soul did not qualify as a religious or spiritual concern. In a parallel development, Anlody’s compatriot and leader, who called himself Do (pronounced “doe”) declared of his movement, “[t]his is as scientific—this is as true as true could be.”[3] Yet, the “scientific truth” that Do discussed in the video in which those words appeared included extrasensory perception, spirits, biblical prophecy, extraterrestrials, and the nature of Jesus’ resurrection. Such is the irony of a group that fits most scholars’ assumptions about a religion, but itself demonstrated only a tepid ambivalence toward the category of religion.[4]

Within Heaven’s Gate, science and religion coexisted as unequal binary opposites. Science, the movement’s members insisted, represented truth, rationalism, reasonability, and the reliance on evidence. Religion, by contrast, possessed falsehood, emotionalism, no sensibility, and reliance on faith. The former category surpassed the latter in every regard, they argued, and therefore the adherents of Heaven’s Gate positioned their movement as a science. Yet in term of content, function, and the groups with which it competed, Heaven’s Gate certainly qualified as a religion. For example, their worldview centered on salvation, creation and the Creator, the nature of the soul, and the Bible. The group adapted religious practices from the New Age religious subculture, such as diet regimentation, meditation, and channeling. And in their own words, they reached out to “ministers, evangelists, and [New Age] awareness centers.”[5] The actions of the members of Heaven’s Gate implied that it was a religion, but that they really wanted to be more like a science.

2. Anlody, “Investments,” in HGA, sec. A, 98–100 (originally produced 1996).
3. Heaven’s Gate, “Planet About to Be Recycled—Your Only Chance to Survive—Leave with Us [Edited Transcript],” http://www.heavensgate.com/misc/vt100596.htm (accessed 13 November, 1997 [Defunct]).
4. It is certainly not my intention to enter into the debates over the definition of religion. Certainly scholars differ on how to define the concept, and I wish to note here that according to most definitions with which I am familiar, Heaven’s Gate is a religion.
5. Heaven’s Gate, ’88 Update, in HGA, sec. 3, 2–19 (originally produced 1988).

Original air-date May 24, 2015.

____________________________

Suggested readings:

Palmer, Susan J. Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion.
Partridge, Christopher. UFO Religions.
Zeller, Benjamin E. Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion. 

Church of Satan Year 50: Rev. Campbell speaks with the High Priest, Magus Gilmore

Now Available on 9sensePodcast.com and iTunes!

10 May, L A.S.

Church of Satan Year 50 – Reverend Campbell sits down with the High Priest of the Church of Satan, Magus Peter H. Gilmore for a thorough discussion about the Church of Satan’s 50 years. Magus Gilmore details the initial impact of the church, its efforts in disseminating its message, the diversity of its members, the Church of Satan’s past celebrations and what he sees in its future. This is a very special look into the Church of Satan that you will not want to miss.

Notes: The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Scriptures Combined Special Edition: http://www.rabidcrow.com/#!satanic-bible-hardcover/cuka
Music sampled is composed by Magus Gilmore: http://www.churchofsatan.com/music-peter-h-gilmore.php

Walpurgisnacht Essay: In-n-Out Satanists

The weekend of Walpurgisnacht 2015 marked the beginning of the 50th year of the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966 C.E. (Year 1, Anno Satanas).[1] To commemorate the event, a conclave was held in a secret location somewhere in the United States, and I was in attendance. The Church of Satan celebrates itself according to its prime tenet: Life is the Great Indulgence: Death the Great Abstinence. What better way to rejoice life than a bacchanalia of food, music, booze, and burlesque?

On this rare occasion of being among Satanists, the topic of whether or not you are “out of the broom closet” came up over the course of the long weekend in multiple conversations. Risks and benefits, safety and precautions, and family and career, are all weighed and judged in order for each Satanist to make that informed choice. In this technological age, having that information public is not something to be taken lightly. Beyond the potential professional implications, there are always unstable individuals who would do you or your loved-ones harm for being a Satanist. This is not hyperbole.

By and large, most members are not openly affiliated. It is a mistake to assume that because a handful of members divulge their Satanic identities online that it is indicative of the body of the Church of Satan as a whole. The administrative authorities do not release their numbers. Even active members of the Church of Satan would not know the entirety of its membership beyond their limited first-hand experience. There are members who never attend events, rarely socialize with other members, do not hint or imply their religion in any social media platform, and even keep their membership hidden from other members until trust is established, and even then. For some members, the repercussions would be too great.

As for myself, my membership in the Church of Satan is an open secret. I do not divulge it publicly, but my family and close friends are aware, as are my supervisors, and the faculty of my department. If a student of mine were to ask me directly I would simply state that I keep my religion personal. Because I teach on topics ranging a wide spectrum of religious practice and theory, I want my students to focus on the ideas and themes of the course, not my personal religion.

I am not so foolish as to assume that students have not heard rumours (as unreliable as those are) but I take a small pleasure in knowing that if a student took my class thinking it would be an easy A because I am “alternative” that they will be quickly disillusioned. I am as quick to address the anti-religious bias, as I am the religious bias. Painting any religion as one big Truth is as equal to painting them all as one big Lie. True scholarship lies in being uncomfortable, in considering viewpoints drastically different from our own. The challenge is to be critical without criticizing, to analyze without witnessing. In a Western context, challenging Christian paradigms embedded in our legal, academic, and social institutions is not the same thing as disparaging Christianity itself. I never ask my students to agree with the religions we discuss (and some of them are gloriously bizarre). I do ask them to consider the entirety of the poli-socio-historical context. True objectivity does not exist, but a keen critical eye certainly does.

I mention my professional stance because it relates to my membership in the Church of Satan: anyone considering being open about their Satanic religion must demonstrate their integrity by their actions. Over the past decade I have volunteered at events, sat on committees, organized conferences, supported student initiatives, and became involved with various projects (that is in addition to maintaining my grades, teaching to the best of my ability, and pursuing my research). The supplementary effort was not an afterthought, but a calculated strategy to demonstrate that I am dependable, hard working, resourceful, and trustworthy. Non-Satanic readers may, possibly, read this admission and consider it manipulative on my part, a ruse to deceive those that placed their trust in me. On the contrary, I have done these things without shame or duplicity. I consider it an act of mutual support with a department and faculty and that has encouraged me and my fringe research, and allowed the pursuit an often-overlooked area of scholarship. I take pride in the time I invested in my department because it is an investment in my own reputation. Everybody gains. The kids call that a win-win. If someone’s negative feelings about Satanism outweigh a decade of consistent contribution and accomplishment, that is their failing, not mine.

If I have any advice for those anywhere along the spectrum of being out or not, it is to be proactive. Do not wait for someone else to gain control over this potentially dangerous bit of information. Anticipate as best you can, then act accordingly. That is Satanism in action.

[1] The Satanic calendar marks the beginning of the year as January 1st. The years are marked at the beginning (1966 C.E. is year 1 A.S.; 2015 is year 50, etc.) of a year, not the culmination. However, the Church of Satan was founded on April 30th in 1966, which LaVey named Year 1, Anno Satanas. Hence, while January 1st is the date of the new year, April 30th is the date the founding of the CoS is commemorated.