Church of Azazel > Beliefs & principles > Gnosis, revelation, etc.
On gnosis, sacred texts, channeling, attaining knowledge, and the role of faith
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2004 by the Church of Azazel. All rights reserved.
- Knowledge of spiritual matters
- Sacred texts
- What can we know?
- The role of faith
- Knowledge of spiritual matters
Some theistic Satanists are almost fundamentalist-like in their veneration of certain sacred texts, notably the Al Jilwah of the Kurdish Yezidi sect in Iraq. Some also have great faith in channeling, e.g. via Ouija boards, as a near-infallible source of information about the underlying nature of the spirit world. Other theistic Satanists, of a more traditional ceremonial magick bent, pooh-pooh Ouija boards, but instead regard certain much-sought-after altered states of consciousness, e.g. samadhi, as a definitive source of profound metaphysical knowledge ("gnosis").
The Church of Azazel considers none of the above to be reliable sources of knowledge on theological matters, though they may all be good sources of clues. Nobody is a perfect channel. We each should seek Satan's guidance for ourselves, but, even more importantly, we need to THINK for ourselves, to help us avoid self-deception.
The Church of Azazel does not believe we can attain sure, absolute knowledge on theological matters. Many religions, especially hardcore Christianity, claim certainty in spiritual matters. But they can give only an illusion of certainty.
We can attain practical knowledge of what "works" for us. And we can make educated guesses about the underlying spiritual realities. To make good educated guesses, we should look not only at such sources as sacred texts, channeling, and trance experiences such as samadhi, but also at Nature (as understood by science) and the mundane history of religion. Above all, we should THINK - and we should learn the art of thinking clearly and deeply about these matters - although, to have spiritual experiences, we must also learn to not-think.
Below, I'll examine why channeling, sacred texts, and "gnosis" are not reliable sources of knowledge.
Channeling has several pitfalls:
- Just plain self-deception -- thinking you're talking to a spirit, when it's really just a part of your own subconscious mind.
- You might be contacting a real spirit, but not the particular spirit you think you're contacting. You might be contacting an imposter instead.
- Even if you do have genuine contact with a particular spirit, the spirit still has to work through your mind, and your mind can still distort what is said.
- Even if you're getting clear communication from the spirit you think you're contacting, how do you know that the spirit is telling you the truth?
With experience, hopefully one may learn to avoid deception, or at least be able to tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful spirits. Various magic(k)al techniques may be helpful too, such as casting a circle and using sigils. Still, nobody is an infallible channel.
Furthermore, if you ask even the most helpful spirit about matters that may be inherently beyond human comprehension, then you can expect answers that are at best oversimplifications, or perhaps metaphors, or perhaps even outright lies -- just as, in the human realm, even well-meaning parents will sometimes lie to their children when asked about matters that their children are not yet old enough to understand. At the very least, we should not expect to be told the whole truth on such matters.
I believe that Satan is willing to give us some real and truthful guidance, but basically wants us to think and learn for ourselves, not to expect Him or any other spirit to hand us ultimate cosmic truth on a silver platter. If we insist on asking for the latter, then He may perhaps allow one or more spirits to have some fun with us. Or perhaps we may be given an answer that isn't literally true but does address our personal needs somehow. Or perhaps we might just get an "answer" from our own subconscious mind -- which will tell us whatever our subconscious mind has been programmed to believe (possibly different from our conscious beliefs).
In most cases, it's probably better to communicate with spirits about mundane matters than to ask them theological questions. At least, on mundane matters, you can determine whether a particular spirit is being truthful. It's not too difficult to determine, based on experience, whether a particular spirit consistently gives you good advice. And, if it consistently gives you good advice on mundane matters, then it might not even matter to you whether the spirit is a distinct entity or just an especially smart part of your own subconscious mind. Good advice is good advice, wherever it comes from. (It still would be desirable to know where it is coming from, but, in many cases, that might be very difficult or even impossible to know, especially if one is not very experienced at channeling. I don't claim to be an expert on this myself.)
- Sacred texts
What is an inspired text? Basically, it's someone else's channeled information. Not only is it subject to the same pitfalls as any other channeled information, but we also should not assume that Satan (or whatever other spirit) has the exact same message for all of us.
As Stephen Bleach wrote, in Message #30 (Fri Jan 2, 2004 9:16 pm, "Re: Fwd: Protestant Satanism: a manifesto") in the Yahoo group embasat (no connection with the Church of Azazel):
... While I am prepared to accept the idea that Satan CAN inspire a person to write texts that reflect this inspiration, we must be cautious, understanding the limits of inspiration. Many Xtians, for example, believe that every word, sentence, jot, and tittle, of the Bible, is the literal words of God, and therefore, ideally, must be obeyed to the letter.
As Satanists, we must be on guard against any manifestation of a 'cultic' mentality that would bind us to 'The word of inspired text' rather than our individual relationship with the Prince of Darkness.
(Stephen Bleach is not a member of the Church of Azazel.)
We should not accept any writing as the infallible revealed word of Satan. In particular, we should not adopt the Al Jilwah ("Black Book of Satan") as our inerrant scripture, for the following reasons:
- The Al Jilwah belongs to the Yezidi, a minority religious sect in Iraq. (A lot of them have moved to Germany and other parts of Europe due to Muslim persecution.) The Yezidi deny that they worship Satan, and they want nothing to do with Western Satanists. (For more information, see my Yezidi links page in my collection of Information about various religions.)
There are two possibilities: (a) Either the Yezidi people really do worship Satan but are denying it, or (b) they really don't worship Satan. If indeed they don't worship Satan, then any scripture of theirs is obviously not intended for us. On the other hand, if they really are an old, traditional sect of Devil worshippers, then we should respect their wishes and not use their stuff against their will, at least not publicly. In either case, we are led to the same conclusion: We should not use their stuff, at least not publicly.
- It is far from certain that we even have an accurate translation of the Al Jilwah, in the first place. The Yezidi are very secretive, and their tradition is mostly oral.
Other texts revered by some theistic Satanists include Aleister Crowley's Book of the Law and Michael Aquino's Diabolicon.
There also exist some people who can best be described as Satanic Bible fundamentalists. Paradoxically, these folks tend to be atheistic symbolic Satanists who don't believe in any gods at all, let alone a god who could or would dictate an infallible sacred text. Yet they treat LaVey's Satanic Bible as if it were infallible holy writ.
"Gnosis" is knowledge that people attain (or think they attain) when in certain much-sought-after altered states of consciousness, such as samadhi. It differs from channeling in that it doesn't involve being "told" things. Instead, it involves directly perceiving certain specific kinds of things about the universe, such as a sense of underlying oneness of everything. People who have experienced samadhi are, in most cases, convinced that they have seen the true underlying nature of the universe.
But have they?
Some scientists have studied what goes on in the brain during samadhi, among other types of mystical experiences. See Spiritual experiences and the brain. What's interesting is that the experience of samadhi has been indentified with a particular state of the brain. And, given what is known about brain biology, it makes sense that that particular brain state would indeed produce an experience like samadhi. Thus, we must consider the possibility that samadhi is purely a physically-induced experience. How can we know that samadhi really has any spiritual significance, rather than being just a biological state of the brain?
On the other hand, some of the things that people have traditionally perceived during samadhi do bear a striking resemblance to some of the discoveries of modern physics. To some, this is evidence that samadhi is indeed a true perception of the underlying nature of the universe. However, the resemblances are only very general, not detailed. They do suggest that samadhi may be a source of some good clues about the nature of reality -- but still, only clues, not anything even remotely resembling a complete in-depth knowledge.
- What can we know?
Although we cannot know for sure any objective theological truths, we can attain a reasonable degree of certainty regarding some more subjective matters.
One of these is what I call our personal "spiritual orientation," by which I mean a deep inner affinity for a particular god or type of spirituality. One can know that one has a deep inner affinity for a particular god - or at least for those aspects of the god that one has experienced - even if one doesn't know much else about the god.
We can also learn what does or does not "work" for us -- by whatever criterion we personally want our spirituality to "work."
Both of the above can be learned from personal experience. Both are knowledge primarily about oneself, rather than about the gods per se.
Theology attempts to determine both objective and subjective truths. I believe that there is such a thing as objective spiritual truth, but that the objective truths are very difficult and probably impossible to know. On the other hand, the subjective truths (things that may be true for one person but not another) are much easier to know - although self-deception is possible even on these matters too. As for the objective theological truths, the best we can do is look at the available evidence and decide for ourselves which possibilities seem more reasonable than others.
- Human trends as a source of clues about the gods
Most contemporary religions completely overlook what may be the most important source of clues about the gods concerned with human affairs, namely human social, cultural, and religious trends. Many evangelical Christians do keep an eye on human political and cultural trends with a view toward prophecy fulfillment, but they do not see the trends themselves as a primary source of information about either their own god or any other.
However, if one believes in the existence of gods concerned with human affairs, then one would expect these gods to have at least some impact on human social, cultural, and religious trends.
One way that some scholars interpret myths is to see them as metaphors for human political, social, and cultural trends. For example, a quarrel amongst the gods might indicate a war amongst the worshipers of those gods. Likewise, a mythological marriage between a god and a goddess might indicate an alliance between two cities where the god's and the goddess's temples were located. In ancient Egypt, the god Set was seen as sometimes a good guy, sometimes a bad guy, depending on which cities had the most power under a given dynasty. In the Book of Enoch, the story of the binding of Azazel can be seen as a metaphor for the suppression of knowledge that was considered dangerous. And the Biblical Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) is seen by many scholars as a veiled political commentary about ancient Rome.
This kind of interpretation is often sensible, at least if one knows the actual historical realities that the myths may be referring to.
But those historical realities, in turn, may well be influenced the action of the gods concerned with human affairs. Therefore, even if one interprets myths not as literally true stories about the gods, but as referring metaphorically to events in the human realm, the myths can still be seen, indirectly, as stories about the gods themselves.
- The role of faith
Because sure knowledge of objective spiritual truths is impossible, it is necessary to take some leaps of faith, if we are to have any workable set of spiritual beliefs at all.
But we should do what we can to minimize the likelihood that we're leaping into nonsense. Among other things, this means we should be aware of the pitfalls in all our sources of knowledge. We should base our beliefs primarily on those sources of knowledge that we can be relatively sure about.
We should avoid taking recklessly huge leaps of faith, such as a belief that a particular book contains inerrant answers.
And we should avoid taking too many leaps of faith. It is best to avoid taking any more leaps of faith than we need to in order to have a workable set of spiritual beliefs which both make sense and are of practical benefit to us in our lives.