Belial 1: The Hermetic Connection.

Buy The Satanic Tarot
Book | Deck

LaVeyan Satanism isn’t Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Freemasonry, or Hermeticism, but as stated by Dr. LaVey in his book “The Satanic Rituals,” he included what he felt were the most useful elements of these in his interpretation of Satanism and they’re visible if you know what you're looking for. For example, "As above, so below; as below, so above," is a shorthand explanation for a larger piece of Hermetic philosophy which asserts that the world and everything in it obey corresponding patterns differentiated only by degree. I believe there's a reason that Dr. LaVey quotes, "As above, so below" in his collected writing multiple times.

Among the most notable adaptations of Hermetic philosophy readily available in North America is the Kybalion, a book which emerged from the New Thought movement (which in turn gave birth to the New Age movement.) Despite the fact that the Kybalion is New Thought clap-trap designed to separate people from their money with the promise that thoughts are things, there are gems to be had if you look past all the ahistorical claims made to jazz it up for an audience that was hungry for anything with a Hindu or Egyptian flavor.

The most striking thing about the Kybalion is that unlike so much of the New Age that followed it's thoroughly atheist. Even though it does spend time talking about higher and lower planes of existence (which are a natural fit to the importance of hierarchy and stratification in Satanism), the book goes to great length to point readers toward the world in which they live and away from worship of imaginary friends. Even when the Kybalion treats the hypothetical existence of ascended masters, gods, and other imaginary friends, it does so from the position that their “ascension” (if such a thing can even happen) is the result not of spiritual obedience but the operation of scientific laws (a theme not an inch out of place in the naturalist paradigm advanced by Dr. LaVey.) I can’t prove this is so, but I think Dr. LaVey would have been familiar with the Kyablion and I suspect that he incorporated its useful pieces into his work.

The New Thought influence present in the Kybalion is also present in Dr. LaVey's hypothesis for the operation of greater magic: the mind of the ritualist emanates thoughts into the world where they change reality in ways which according to usual methods would normally be impossible. The New Thought-ers looked at this like a radio station broadcasting a constant signal which drew the desired is-to-be back by virtue of “like attracts like.” On the other hand, Dr. LaVey followed the scientific principle evident in magnets: opposites attract. As a result, Dr. LaVey treated greater magic like a telegram: send the thoughts out in a single intense burst, and don't bother yourself with it again until the message comes back in the form of the desired is-to-be. By creating a highly polarized mental or emotional state and then rapidly assuming the opposite position, this theoretically creates a vacuum which pulls the desired wish back to fill it. 

Dr. LaVey says in his writing (in particular the essay "Hoisted by His Own Patois" available on the Church of Satan website) that he never subscribed to the supernatural, and I think we should take the man at his word, but I also think we should look at the fantasy from which I suspect he drew some inspiration in his hypothetical treatment of greater magic. The core take-away from the Kybalion is the seven Hermetic principles which have been long known and available to anybody who cared to do the research. Are these Hermetic principles hokum? Perhaps. But they're useful hokum, and that’s why I include them. Here they are: 

1) Mentalism.

The principle of mentalism posits that the universe and everything that is found within it is a mental creation which although very real to each of us is no more than a Matrix-style virtual reality. This principle is useful for hypothesizing how psychic abilities work (“We’re all part of the same mind”), but it’s also useful for hypothesizing how greater magic works in terms of thoughts radiating out from the practitioner to call the desired is-to-be back to him or her who sent it. Finally, the principle of mentalism as the “fundamental reality” offers a theoretical foundation for the 22 trump cards of the Tarot deck.

2) Correspondence.

The principle of correspondence is encapsulated in the expression that, “What is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above,” or simply, “As above, so below.” This fits nicely with the Satanic emphasis on hierarchy, but for Tarot readers who are regularly required to find or create patterns in their performances the principle of correspondence is quite useful. Finally, the principle of correspondence allows us to productively apply the 12 houses of the western Zodiac to Tarot cards in order to create the real meat and potatoes of a performance.

3) Vibration.

The principle of vibration posits that all of reality is in a state of movement. Whether fast or slow, everything has a vibrational frequency, and its vibrational frequency and configuration are what creates that which we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and otherwise perceive. Science at least partly agrees with this principle in that atoms, molecules, and ions are in a constant state of movement, and while I won’t use that as evidence that we should all become New Thought-style Hermeticists, I will use it as a framework for understanding the Satanic numerology that informs the meaning of the 40 pips.

4) Polarity.

The principle of polarity posits not that for every up, there’s a down, but that the concept of “up” is defined and clarified by the concept of “down” (and vice versa). Likewise, we understand light because of the dark (and dark because of the light). Or, as Dr. LaVey was fond of saying, hate is as necessary as love because the depths of misanthropy give rise to the heights of charity. 

There are criticisms for this way of thinking, including the true observation that one need not be hateful in order to be loving, but as much as Satanism is a holistic religion which holds non-denial of the self and full acceptance of one’s emotions as a foundational keystone, I think that these opposites are worth recognizing not only for how they illuminate one’s understanding of oneself, but also for demonstrating how they can be either reconciled or manipulated. 

For example, consider Dr. LaVey’s synthesizer clock in “The Satanic Witch.” To my eyes, the personality synthesizer clock is a thinly retooled expression of William Sheldon’s pseudo-scientific theory of constitutional psychology, but even so it’s a master class in the theory and application of both internal and external polarity. 

Finally, the principle of polarity is key to understanding the grand tableau of the 22 trumps as well as the minor tableau of the 40 pips and 16 face cards. If you fail to grasp the operation of polarity, then the greatest secrets of the Satanic Tarot will always remain a mystery to you.

5) Rhythm.

The principle of rhythm posits that because everything is in a state of vibration and movement, and also because opposite polarities engender stress and tension, there is a natural flow not just from one state to another and back again, but that given a sufficiently long expanse of time the observant person can either recognize this shift and move with it when it suits his or her purposes, or navigate around it to avoid undesirable circumstances.

This principle is nicely captured by the Satanic sins of herd mentality and forgetting the past. A lack of perspective can lead one into the culture traps that manipulate the herd, and forgetting the past can lead one to repeat the same stupid mistakes over and over.

As it regards Tarot cards, rhythm is useful because it allows us to see how one card behaves in the company of another. If you learn to reconcile the principles of rhythm, polarity, and vibration, you’ll go far in the Satanic Tarot.

6) Cause & Effect.

The principle of cause and effect posits that nothing happens in a vacuum. Call it choice and consequence if you prefer, but there are two important things for you to remember as a fortune-teller:

First, cause and effect is not a matter of “this for that,” but instead a matter of looking for both causes and effects to the third and even fourth order. The ball fell because the hand pushed it, but what motivated the hand to push the ball, and what inspired the motivation? The ball fell and hit the floor, but what happens after that, whose hand will next touch the ball, and how will possession of the ball influence the hand? These are the kinds of questions you have ask to reconcile cause and effect.

Second, cause and effect is a basic principle that informs the operation of cards in the Satanic Tarot. Always there is one card acting and another card being acted upon. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and in the words of John Donne, “no man is an island.” It’s juvenile to think that you can act without being acted upon, or that you can ever remove yourself from a closed system in which you are being constantly buffeted by competing influences.

7) Gender.

The principle of gender posits that in all things there is to be found both reception and expression. You can reduce the principle of gender to cocks and pussies, but you’d be selling yourself short because the physical configuration of one’s genitals and whether one shoots jizz or drops eggs is only the bare physical manifestation of gender and neglects the truth that both men and women can be both receptive and expressive (and even shift between the two poles), and their preference for reception or expression is a multipolar reflection of their identities.

It’s important to learn the subtle differences between men and women not only to enhance your direct application of lesser magic, but it’s also important to learn the subtle differences between the masculine suits (spades and clubs) and the feminine suits (hearts and diamonds) to enhance your understanding of the cards and deepen the quality of your performances.