A little known fact from my former Mormon days is that I had a calling in two separate wards across two different states as a Gospel Principles teacher. For those of you “gentiles” who know little about the Latter-Day Saint (LDS) faith, a calling is a job or duty assigned to you by a priesthood holder higher-up via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Technically, once you’re told of such a person’s having “received” a calling for you, you have the free agency to accept or reject it, but basically it feels in practice like being assigned something more than requested to aid in a particular function.
Gospel Principles is like an intro Sunday-school class for new Mormons or those drawn back into the fold after a prolonged lapse. What Catholics might call a catechism class.
A ward, by the way, is a local congregation: in Mormonism, you don’t get to pick where you attend services, but rather go where you’re assigned based on your address within zones as bizarrely drawn and gerrymandered as your average Congressional district.
One of the boring points I would make in my Gospel Principles class is that the version of the so-called Golden Rule to be found in Christian Bibles differs from most other known formulations of the idea encountered in the religious texts of numerous faiths down through the ages in that it frames the rule entirely in the positive. Jesus enjoins a proactive duty for you to operate toward others in a way that you would want them to act towards you, instead of dwelling on your fear of others’ potential negative actions aimed your way and using that as a gadfly to goad you into not doing ill to them. (At the time, I didn’t know—and thus could not point out to the class—that the Egyptian formulation “Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do” derives from a work thought to date to circa 1800 BCE. Not only is that a positive formulation of the principle, like Jesus’, but it is the earliest of all known versions of the Golden Rule, whether positive or negative.) The moral of my oversimplified story to the captive audience of my Gospel Principles class was that Jesus has uniquely high standards and requires positive action, not just free riding with nice words, “thoughts-n’-prayers,” and forbearance from evil deeds.
I said something similar about Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 5:27-28 against not just committing adultery, but even thinking about committing adultery, even just looking with lust on a married woman, which elder brother Jesus claims is equivalent to actually committing adultery in your heart. Dayumn! Talk about creating a pressure cooker of Freudian proportions.
I once worked in a Catholic high school where the principal had, earlier in his life, belonged to some Catholic order or other that required its adherents to ever exercise “custody of the eyes,” meaning that you spent much of your time staring at the floor unless required to look elsewhere, lest you allow your vision to wander to sinful things like tits…or a pretty face…or really just women in general. At the time that he chose to drop this frankly alarming anecdote about his past into a faculty meeting, I really pitied Mr. Principal for having had to endure the psychological torture of being made to believe that his natural faculty of sight was somehow tainted and leading him into mortal sin, with the result that he just didn’t look up to visually take in the world until he absolutely had to. But that’s nothing compared to having to bad-cop your own thoughts for even so much as a stray “I’d hit that” tossed out into the void during an idle moment of people watching. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: holding yourself and others to impossible, inhuman standards and then faulting everybody for their “sinful natures” when the mere humans fall short is just plain inhumane. Only ugliness can come of such mind-fucks.
At numerous moments during the LDS Temple Endowment Ceremony, participants receive the warning that they are to “avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice.” Hmpf: so “lightmindedness” and “loud laughter” are considered “unholy and impure” practices, huh? When I first heard that, I immediately thought to the character of the venerable Jorge of Burgos from Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, a bitter old man who absolutely abhorred laughter and warned that it would lead to mockery and ultimate blasphemy. Jorge argued that “laughter shakes the body, distorts the features of the face, makes man similar to the monkey;” “ laughter is weakness, corruption, the foolishness of our flesh;” and “laughter frees the villein from fear of the Devil, because in the feast of fools the Devil also appears poor and foolish, and therefore controllable…When he laughs, as the wine gurgles in his throat, the villein feels he is master, because he has overturned his position with respect to his lord. … That laughter is proper to man is a sign of our limitation, sinners that we are.” It is as a result of his keen hatred and fear of the power of laughter to undo God’s work and the “natural” hierarchy of society with lords and villeins bound to one another by ties of duty that Jorge poisons the pages of the lost Aristotelian book of comedy and sends a string of monks and copyists to their premature grave:
“Laughter, for a few moments, distracts the villein from fear. But law is imposed by fear, whose true name is fear of God. This book could strike the Luciferine spark that would set a new fire to the whole world, and laughter would be defined as the new art, unknown even to Prometheus, for canceling fear.”
His opinionated fulminations would have been positively humorous, were the “venerable” monk not so sinister and vicious in his anti-jocundity campaign.
As a Satanist, I too have argued that we should take up the project of opposing some basic facets of human nature in the form of turning away from deeply engrained patterns of in-group/out-group formation, biased empathy, and eventual violence toward those labeled as “other.” These aspects of our nature have proven—and are continuing to prove—grossly maladaptive in the modern world. But I would never advocate militating against positive human tendencies as natural, pleasant, and automatic as a good laugh, the freeing pleasure of orgasm with a partner of your choosing (or no!), or enjoyment of the constant ebb and flow of idle thought roaming as it may, and the like. To do so would be—well—inhumane. I accept those aspects of our shared human nature provided to us by our evolutionary “maker” that tend toward immediate fulfillment and mass contentedness, while firmly rejecting those that lead to destruction, hatred, and violence. That’s a double-standard I can live with—and rationally defend if need be.
In The Satanic Bible, LaVey argues that one of the most palpable aims of modern Satanism is freeing the individual from the shackles of guilt over basic human drives and bodily delights. In essence, to quote from the immortal 1992 En Vogue song: “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.” Yet, ever the arch-realist, LaVey acknowledges that, for many, the deep programming of religious stigma attached to all things bodily and orexic will make guilt completely ineluctable. In that case, he argues, one should learn to like the guilty feeling that accompanies transgression and let it add a little something extra to the commission of sin. He writes:
“Therefore, after intellectually evaluating your problems through common sense and drawing on what psychiatry has taught us, if you still cannot emotionally release yourself from unwarranted guilt, and put your theories into action, then you should learn to make your guilt work for you. You should act upon your natural instincts, and then, if you cannot perform without feeling guilty, revel in your guilt. This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but if you will think about it, guilt can often add a fillip to the senses. Adults would do well to take a lesson from children. Children often take great delight in doing something they know they are not supposed to.”
One of the best, most liberating features of Satanism is its defense of what so many others of more traditional religious and societal bent would label degeneracy. It is, in essence, the worst fears of ol’ Jorge of Burgos come to pass:
“But if one day—and no longer as plebeian exception, but as ascesis of the learned, devoted to the indestructible testimony of Scripture—the art of mockery were to be made acceptable, and to seem noble and liberal and no longer mechanical; if one day someone could say (and be heard), ‘I laugh at the Incarnation,’ then we would have no weapons to combat that blasphemy, because it would summon the dark powers of corporal matter, those that are affirmed in the fart and the belch, and the fart and the belch would claim the right that is only of the spirit, to breathe where they list!”
Hell yeah, buddy! Ironic that the crusty monk making the dramatic anti-flatulence, anti-eructation argument would most definitely earn the modern derogatory epithet of old fart.
You wanna laugh out loud? Be my guest! Let one rip? Sure! Wanna dish out or receive some erotic punishment, you kinky devil? Feel free! Feeling lust in your heart? Ok, fine, but why not let it loose into the real world too, out here in the open where it counts? The only concern I would personally have over making adultery fantasies a reality are potential feelings of betrayal on the part of spouses, mates, girlfriends, and boyfriends. If it’s an open relationship you’re after, better to have that conversation openly as well and get all parties on the same page. After that, you’re good to go. What was it Jesus said? If you want your sovereignty of will and bodily autonomy respected, you have to respect those of others too. At least, I think that’s what he meant: an idea we Satanists can really get behind…and mean it! Beyond that logical caveat, however, as they say in the Carmina Burana: in taberna quando sumus, non curamus quid sit humus, sed ad ludum properamus…Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt, quidam indiscrete vivunt. In plain English, that’s: “When we’re in the tavern, we care nothing for the grave, but hasten to the game…. Some gamble, others drink, still others live life indiscreet.” Good times.
There’s a lot of both opportunity and responsibility within Satanism. It’s all on you. No one died to give you any of it. And no one should have to die—or live tortured lives—as a result of your exercise of it. #SatanResponsibly