The following is an essay on the Temple of Set I wrote for _A New Age_. Please feel free t

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The following is an essay on the Temple of Set I wrote for _A New Age_. Please feel free to post it on any of the BBS you guys post on (If you think it would be of interest to anybody). REYN TIL RUNA __________________________________________________________________ The Temple of Set by Setnakt The Left-Hand Path provides a set of different answers as to the nature and purpose of life and the divine. The Temple of Set exists as a tool for travelers along that path to achieve meaningful dialogue and interaction to further the creation of their divine Selves. This essay will examine the philosophy of the Temple (with a few asides on its history), the practical application of the Temple's philosophy and techniques by its Initiates, and the realtionship this admittedly elitist group has with society. I am a Priest of the Temple and write from within its belief system, so I will write with passion. I will treat you as seekers after truth (which begins with Self-knowledge), and so beware. This is the apple which Jehovah refuses. The Temple of Set is based upon the watchword Xeper (pronounced "Khefer"). This is an Egyptian verb meaning "Become." Perhaps you are familiar with the scarab in Egyptian art -- the symbol of the self-created god, Khephra. The Temple views life as the time when the psyche can be aware of itself and then reach out towards the limitlessness of its conscious existence. There are several methods by which this awareness can be obtained. In the Temple of Set this spiritual self-actualizing draws on various historic and philosophical methods -- including the legacy of Plato, Nietzsche, Fichte, and the Church of Satan. Of course, these tools only produce results when used by the individual. Our three principal methods are Socratic reductionism, the formulation of correct understandings by logic, and noetic intuition. Let's examine each of these techniques as well as some of the Temple's preliminary findings. Socratic reductionism. The act of questioning and testing beliefs to eliminate falsehoods is an important tool for arriving at the truth. As we mature all of us ask ourselves, "What beliefs are mine and which have society programmed into me?" Setians, in particular, seek to distance themselves from the vast roar of cultural propaganda. Whereas some groups break from society by merely picking a different prepackaged belief system, the Setian is left with the tough day-to-day struggle of self knowledge and moral relativism. Eventually we each have to become philosophers rather than consumers. One notion of the Temple of Set which sets us apart from our predecessor the Church of Satan is our realization of the non-natural force in man. Whether this is called the logos, the ba, or the psyche, there is clearly something different about mankind. This awareness is set apart from the natural order. Picture for an instant a Mobius strip or a Klein bottle. The fact that your mind can conceive of a non-natural occurrence - in this case a three-dimensional surface with only one surface -- shows that your mind is not one with nor constrained by the natural order. In the Temple we exalt this non-natural self, which can be discovered by logical processes. This finding enables us to reach a different ethic than the practitioners of the Right-Hand Path. We neither seek nor believe in the possibility of a union with the universe. We revel in our separateness, which enables us to fully enjoy our carnality, but also causes us to use that enjoyment in the goal of energizing and articulating the psyche. Having established the existence of the psyche, we have a basis for our explorations and ethics. Formulations of correct understandings by logic. Having discarded the untrue and the inessential, we are left with the building blocks for creating a model of the universe. These notions may have been gained from science, personal experience, from other philosophical/psychological belief systems, or from findings of other Initiates with whom we've chosen to Work. Creative synthesis of ideas -- a self-managed dialectic, if you will -- has been a major source of human knowledge. Setians begin a creation of a model of the universe in order to understand it (and when necessary, exert control of it through magic and other means). One of the aims of Xeper is to understand the relationship of yourself to the universe. Again this is a tough road. We are placed in the position of Socrates, the wisest man of Greece, who said, "I know nothing." We look upon the universe as an exciting place to study -- rather than as a dull and finished product. Since the active human mind is a bringer of disorder to the static authoritarian models of the universe (consider Copernicus or Einstein) -- those who bring about the new are seen as agents of chaos, champions of darkness. We gladly accept these titles and know that our movement through the world achieves a greater level of activity, creation, and beauty. Set, the Egyptian deity which is our ultimate model of Initiation, was called "Bringer of Confusion," as well as "Majestic" and "Eternal." By actively becoming philosophers, we exert an influence (often times invisible) of rejuvenation on the corpse-like world around us. We are not interested in Judeo-Christian dualism. Our attraction to historic evil and our roots in the Church of Satan allow us to use the name of Satanist with pride. We choose Set rather than a Hebrew fiend for our model because this is the most ancient (historically verifiable) understanding of the Prince of Darkness. Set is mankind's first model for the hero who rebels against cosmic injustice. The above two techniques can liberate you from the necessity of finding some guru to tell you how to live. Use your mind to find the knowledge of Good and Evil, and you're ready to find out what's important to you and bring it into the world. I wish you well with them. The third technique, noetic inspiration, takes you to the discovery of your own divinity and the edge of Black Magic. We take the term noesis from Plato. Plato defined three types of knowing. The lowest is pistis (faith). This means believing something because someone in authority tells you so. The Pope tells you that birth control is wrong, so you know it's wrong. Society is controlled by this level. The next higher way of knowing is dianoia (reasoning). This is the test of reason and logic referred to above. The elites work in this level. The highest knowing is noesis -- direct knowledge. This is the knowing that comes from the divine Self. Examples of it may be found in your personal life -- when you've come up with a solution to a problem that was wholly new or novel to you. Or you may have written poetry or music. This flash of inspiration is your psyche becoming aware of its own existence. You may have recognized this sacred quality in something you've seen -- the buildings of Gaudi -- or reading Ulysses -- or any of a thousand thousand things. When you encountered this thing and knew, "This is something special. This isn't the product of a meat machine!" then you have experienced this sense. The Temple of Set attempts to create an environment where these experiences may be consciously sought and entered into again and again. Also, I should note, the Temple is only interested in genuine experiences (brought about by Will) -- drug users are not welcome and solipsists may take a hike! This application of noesis is the most non-natural aspect of the Temple's make-up. It is to be stressed that our "non-natural" rhetoric does not mean we advocate a wholesale destruction of nature; nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of a non-natural religion is to understand the conscious development of the Self, which in turn may have an effect on the objective and subjective universes. Seeking self development will cause the Temple to always be an elitist group. Xeper leads to an individually determined freedom. Society is best maintained by natural religions which emphasize the maintenance of natural structures in society. Plato, afterall did not recommend the wide scale training of philosopher-kings. The Temple does not view nonSetians with contempt. By exercising our divine right of Self-creation, we often come to enjoy and respect (rather than judge and condemn) the human beings around us as the unique and fascinating creatures they are. Just because we seek to exalt the non-natural does not mean that we have in any way given up having sex, eating, driving, etc. -- it merely means that we seek to transform these states into thought provoking experiences. We find, perhaps, that the practice of Black Magic to be the most thought provoking of all. One of the primary methods of experiencing noesis is through ritual magic. Through careful manipulation of our environments we can encourage a rising up of the divine within us. We most definitely do not worship Set -- we become as Set in our rituals. We scorn prayer, sacrifice, and the bended knee. Although ritual magic has a strongly practical side -- and we encourage getting money and power because they give you the leisure to explore yourself -- magic can bring us into direct contact with our divinity. We can control and direct our growth and Becoming in accordance with our Will -- as well as gaining that knowledge of ourselves and the universe necessary to make these sacred decisions. In the practice of magic, we usurp the power of the gods that mankind has created for itself. We're not rebelling against a particular fiction -- whether it's Jehovah, "The Goddess," or Zeus. All of this leads to the question of, why Set? Although the majority of the Temple has come to believe in the existence of this entity, such belief is not required of a member. Set is regarded as the best model of initiation -- a vast powerful but finite being. If an entity were all-powerful, it would be identical with the universe and have no knowledge of its own awareness. In our mythology we see Set as the Giver of Self-Awareness. Our thanks to Set for this flame of self-awareness is shown by our using it. The majority of mankind will hate him and revile him with names like Satan, Loki, Lucifer. They would rather have never been kicked out of the trees. Let's look at the structure of the Temple and the practices these techniques have led us to. The Temple of Set Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation based in California with an international membership. The Temple is governed by a Council of Nine which determines long-term policies and goals. The Council names and can remove the High Priest, who runs the day-to-day business of the Temple. The High Priest cannot sit on the Council. The current High Priest is Dr. Michael A. Aquino. The Temple is owned by its Priesthood. Individual Priests or Priestesses may run local groups of Setians called Pylons. I run such a Pylon and I will trace the hypothetical career of an entrant. Let's call her Veronica Frankfort. I must stress that I'm going to look at a successful career, but there are many unsuccessful ones. There are lots of people, who think that they'll get the secrets of the universe just by joining. The Temple is only useful for those people who would find some of the secrets regardless of affiliation or not. If the Temple doesn't look like a tool to a prospective candidate, they should avoid it. If it ceases to be a tool for those within, they should leave. Anyone who joins for the sake of joining will have an unhappy time -- if they merely interested in making a statement against the hypocrisy of society, they would be better served by making a fashion statement. Veronica encounters the name of the Temple, and she decides to find out about it. The notion of Xeper, of Willed conscious evolution, appeals to her. Maybe she read about the Order of the Vampyre in Noreen Dresser's American Vampires or the article on Satanism in the Encyclopedia of American Religions. She writes the San Francisco P.O. Box and gets a long informational letter. After weeks of weighing the pros and cons -- "They seem nice and intelligent, but what's really going on?" -- she decides to apply, sending a letter expressing her desire to honestly quest and $55 for materials. Assuming that she makes a good case for her interest (and that she expresses no criminal nor unethical intent), she is admitted. She receives a document called The Crystal Tablet of Set and a white medallion, indicating that she is a Setian I*. For her this symbolizes the boldness of the quest for self divinity. For those who will be fortunate enough to Work with her, it symbolizes the excitement and energy of an as yet unarticulated desire -- one of the driving force arising from the black flame of self-awareness. She's also told that she has two years to bring forth certain qualities in herself, and that she'll need to find a member of the Priesthood to Recognize those qualities within her. Not bestow something on her, not give her an exam to pass, but Recognize. She's scared, intrigued, and challenged. This isn't like any other religion she's been associated with. Also, there's this book with chapters named "Black Magic in Theory and Practice." And a huge reading list, none of it required, on topics that may be of interest to her as she applies the techniques. She wonders how a book on photography, The Command to Look, or on politics, Political Ideas and Ideologies, fit into these concepts of magic and religion. She is fortunate that she lives in a town with a Pylon, some towns don't have one yet. Of course, she can opt to Work alone -- but the interaction of Initiates of different levels of experience is a source of both challenge and support. Since she lives near me, I drop her a note and ask if she would like to come to a Pylon meeting. "What will I need to bring?" she asks. "Nothing but yourself. If you like us and we like you, you'll need to buy a black robe for ritual Work." We do draw upon the colorful legacy of the Black Arts for ,our stimulation and pleasure. She meets the seven of us, we watch a video (bad '50s horror movies are a favorite) and we have a free-form discussion of Setian ideas and how we are applying them to our lives. We like her, she likes us, and she joins the Pylon. She comes to monthly rituals. At first it's pretty overwhelming. We each write Work to satisfy our personal and emotional needs. Sometimes our Work derives completely from our own formulas -- sometimes we adapt historic models (I am fond of revamping some Fraternitas Saturni rituals). Soon she is trying Work on her own -- rituals for destruction, compassion, lust, understanding. Eventually she tries her hand at group Work. She reads the bimonthly newsletter and she starts to correspond with other Setians. She develops a meaningful friendship with Adept Mundy in a small Midwestern town, who chooses to work alone. After sixteen months I have come to see in her an understanding of Left-Hand Path philosophy, genuine magical ability (her objective magic Works -- she gets the boyfriends and raises she wants), and a commitment to the organization. I Recognize her as Adept and present her with a red medallion -- signifying passage from death to life. She has achieved the highest level of purely human Initiation and she may remain at this level for the rest of her earthly existence. This year she decides to go to the annual International Conclave. She gets to meet Setians from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, etc. The magical and social interaction of Conclave accelerated her progress immensely. She's planning to go next year -- saving up her money since it will be in Europe. As an Adept, she has mastered the basic concepts of the Temple. She is free now to specialize -- rather like the completion of her basic college courses. She may choose to affiliate with an Order of the Temple -- a group led by a Fourth Degree, a Magister Templi. The Work of Orders is mainly confidential, but if you're interested you may wish to read about the Order of the Vampyre in Noreen Dresser's American Vampires. Veronica may consciously seek the next level of Initiation. The Third Degree -- that of Priest or Priestess of Set -- is characterized by responsibility and divinity. Here the Initiate seeks the touch of Set himself. This is not a unification with Set, but an alignment with the force that gave mankind awareness. For those that achieve this goal, there is a considerable strengthening of the Will. It is a position not without strain -- for those necessary controls to a strong Will, patience and wisdom, must be cultivated by the individual. The three Initiatory Degrees beyond Priest -- Magister, Magus, and Ipsissimus -- may be thought of as further refinements of this initial alignment. There is a great deal more to these, but that is discovered better through personal interaction than through words. The key to understanding the degree system is the word Recognition. There are no special honors that come with various colored medallions. No bowing and scraping. An Initiate can correspond with/interact with anyone that finds that interaction beneficial. Since our religion is tuned toward personal growth, it becomes important to stress different stages of growth. This gives the individual outward examples to test their growth against, and keeps them from sinking into a mire of subjectivity. In some organizations titles are sold (or given away through simple seniority). If you start out as Grand Exalted Pooh-Bah -- there is no place to go. The Temple provides a wonderful toolkit. You can see real growth both inside and outside of yourself. There are downsides to membership in the Temple of Set. The majority of the population won't believe that you can be an ethical citizen because you choose to be so. They belong to that class that have to have a prepackaged system of "sacred lies" (to borrow Plato's term) that tell them how to think and act. They think that unless you accept the notion of some deity that's going to fry your ass in Hell, you won't choose to act in a non-animal fashion. What they fear is themselves, because they've never found an ethic that encourages them to act as individuals. When times are psycho-politically trying (for example, America in the 1980s or Salem in the 1690s), they will look for criminals. It's no use to explain that you don't sacrifice babies, spray paint tombstones, or suck blood out of vagrants. If you try to explain that your religion is one of choice, and therefore only adults (18+) are admitted -- that you feel children should be brought up free of any particular religion, so that they can use their minds to choose -- they will regale you with urban folklore. They heard about somebody's cousin's dentist's brother-in-law who saw this, or they think they've read that. The fact they can't imagine men seeking the Good without obeying a god shows a slave mentality. So if you were to join the Temple, you discover the world is more intolerant and dangerous than you may have known. Some of your most liberal and accepting friends may shun you if you tell them. You may even use pseudonyms -- like I did for this article -- for fear that followers of the Prince of Peace will chuck bricks through your window. In the long run conventional churches fear us because we require a $50 a year membership fee -- rather than begging for 10% of your money every Sunday. The difference between the Temple and other religions is disillusioning to some new members. The Temple does not provide an instant peer group. There are no safety nets, no loving outreach programs. Friendships are won. Respect comes with deeds and evidence of understanding. We have no ill feelings against those who don't make the grade, and especially not against sincere seekers who find out that the Temple's not for them. Although we may view the philosophy of other religions as incorrect, as individualists we prize the notion of freedom of choice. In fact the dialogue between educated philosophers of the Right Hand Path and us has often proved enjoyable and thought provoking. Ours is a religion that requires bravery and commitment to the ideals that exist in our black hearts. We are drawn to those figures of historical evil who achieved the transcendental good (and often the immortality of fame). Evil men like Galileo, who was denounced by the Church; Washington, a traitor to the British; Pythagoras, and Socrates. We hope that as we pursue our own goals, we leave behind such works of beauty and terror that tear apart the world so a stronger, freer, smarter, and more darkly resplendent world comes into Being. If you are interested in acquiring more information about the Temple of Set, you can request the General Informational Letter from: The Temple of Set P. O. Box 470307 San Francisco, CA 94147


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