Stephen Brown to Dr. Aquino and Back…
P.O. Box 4
7th September 1990 ev
Dear Dr. Aquino, It was with interest that I read your letter in a recent issue of ‘Brimstone’ after my attention was drawn to that magazine by a friend. An open (rather friendly) reply to some of the points you raised has been sent to the Editor – I am sure he would send you a copy should you be interested. However, there are some points which perhaps are best raised in a private letter. First – and perhaps inconsequential out of its context – no one has ever claimed to be ‘Head’ of the ONA: no such position exists. You statement on this was somewhat surprising because I felt you would be above using ‘Kennel’ type tactics re mis-information about other LHP individuals and groups. Am I mistaken? Or perhaps the information was supplied by a not altogether too reliable scource here in the U.K.? Second – and most important – your mention of the NSS concerning sacrifice. These were published basically because they form part of an esoteric tradition, which tradition was being made accessable to those who might be interested following a decision to publish Order methods, teachings and traditions. Essentially, such publication lets others decide what is or is not worthwhile or valuable or interesting from an esoteric point of view – there is not, within the ONA, any control of esoteric information as a result of one or more individuals deciding what is ‘right’ or ‘true teachings’ – simply because individuality is the foundation of the “ONA way”. This way is the development of self-insight and magickal mastery via individuals following the seven-fold way. But this background aside, you raise an interesting point in your use of the term ‘ethical’. Does Satanism have ethics? And if so, what are they and who formulates them? By the nature of the Temple of Set I am led to assume the answer would be affirmative and that it is the ToS which formulates these. Is this assumption incorrect? If it is not, then I and some others would offer dissent – based not only on the principle of individuality mentioned above but also on the reality of there existing divergent LHP and Satanic traditions (some of which existed before the foundation of the Church of Satan). Speaking for myself, I consider debate about ethics futile in a LHP context – except to express the obvious Satanic assertion (qv ‘The Dark Forces’ in “Fenrir” 4) that one essential personal quality is honour born from the quest for self-excellence and self-understanding. One either has this personal quality (or the potential to possess it) or one does not: intellectual debate about it is irrelevant. This quality is expressed by the way of living an individual follows and as far as the ONA is concerned this quality is one of those that marks the genuine Satanic elite from the imitation.
Yet we accept that others may disagree since we feel there can be no religious dogma about Satanism or the LHP: no subserviance to someone else’s ideas or ways of living. Each individual develops their own unique perspective and insight as a consequence of striving to achieve Adeptship – a perspective and insight which derives mainly from practical experience, both magickal and personal. Thus we uphold anarchism. Hence the publication of the many and various Order MSS. Yet, all this notwithstanding, I do understand that some may believe that tactically the time was not right to publish some of these MSS. However, is the time ever right? Once again, some interesting questions arise. For example, for the benefit of those groups (like the ToS) which do adopt a high media profile, is it necessary and indeed desirable for other groups and individuals on the LHP to restrict what they say and teach and publish in case such things are mis-interpreted and/or distorted and used against the LHP in general? This would imply some sort of concensus among those individuals and groups on the LHP – a concensus which it seems both the ToS and the Church of Satan wish to achieve by claiming a religious ‘authority’. To this end there seems to be developing an almost Church-like mentality – with schisms and prohibitions and proscribing of other groups and individuals. Rather ‘Old Aeon’ values. If such a concensus is indeed necessary (and I and some others have doubts whether it is) then it would seem better achieved on a mutual basis by recognition of diversity and traditions and then the development of mutual understanding rather than one group trying to impose its dogma by a religious type belief: such dogma and such belief being entirely contrary to the basic principles of Satanism and the LHP – self-development via self-experience. I and others like me respect your right to promulgate the Setian philosophy just as I trust you have the sagacity to understand that what La Vey codified and what the early Church of Satan represented is not the only form Satanism can take. Satanism existed in many forms long before La Vey, and the ONA simply represents one such form: a form that has changed and is still changing – developed as it is and has been by creative individuals within it. As I mentioned to you in a previous letter some time ago, this does not mean we claim to be a ‘peer’ organization with a claim to some kind of ‘authority’. We are simply a small group following our own way – a way somewhat different from that developed by the Church of Satan and the ToS. Our tradition, such as it is, is not static – indeed in many ways the most significant developments (e.g. the Star Game, Grade Ritual codification, Deofil Quartet) have occurred quite recently. Doubtless these developments will continue. When in the past we and others like us have said thing that others interpret as being ‘against’ the ToS or La Vey, we were simply assuming the role of Adversary – challenging what seemed to be becoming accepted dogma that the only ‘real’ Satanists are either in the ToS or the Church of Satan. Such a dogma is an historical absurdity and its acceptance an affront to the Satanic desire to know and understand and not meekly believe. If you have any comments about these matters I would be interested to read them.
[Signed: Stephen Brown]
Temple of Set
Post Office Box 470307, San Francisco, California 94147
MCI-Mail: 278-4041 * Telex: 6502784041
Michael A. Aquino, Ph.d.
High Priest of Set October 7, XXV
Mr. Stephen Brown
Post Office Box 4
Church Stretton, Shropshire
Dear Mr. Brown:
Thank you for your letter of September 7th.
Under your several aliases every single letter and publication of the O.N.A. is authorized over your personal signature, whether as “pp” or otherwise. Personal contacts by our former Priest Martin [blanked] confirmed that you are the leader, if not indeed the sole member of this institution.
The old Church of Satan used to play games with mythical officials and executive bodies behind the scenes. As a senior official of the Church I helped to keep this particular hot-air balloon inflated, initially assuming that it did no harm and made the Church a bit more colorful to the membership. Ultimately I became uncomfortable with it, however, because in the last analysis it involved deceiving the very persons – the membership of the Church – who had come to it in good faith depending upon it to not deceive them, even in so “playful” a fashion.
It was also responsible for a more serious kind of damage. It enabled Anton LaVey to announce policies in the name of a fictitious “Council of Nine”, or in the name of a fictitious official, and thus to escape personal responsibility for his actions. Nor was there any executive body or other official to whom he was accountable. Had there been, the catastrophe of 1975 might have been averted without the entire Church of Satan organization having to be scrapped. [Even if it had evolved into a Setian mode, as in many Lesser Magical ways it was indeed doing prior to the crisis, it still might have continued as an unbroken organization – and Anton LaVey might be its High Priest today.]
When the Temple of Set was founded, therefore, the old occult game of “Ascended [or in this case ‘Descended’] Masters behind the scenes” was ashcanned along with the other practices of the old Church with which we were ethically uncomfortable. From the moment of its founding, the Temple has made all of its officials and executive bodies a matter of record, known to all Setians [and to non-Setians with legitimate interest]. And neither the High Priest of Set nor any other official has the sort of dictatorial power that Anton LaVey had in the Church.
Given the present climate of witch-hunting hysteria in England, publication of a “Satanic ritual” by an avowedly “Satanic” institution which includes human sacrifice is thoroughly irresponsible. In fact it would be irresponsible even in a normal social climate, as the Satanic religion is not and has never been based upon the principle of human sacrifice. [It is Christianity which espouses that principle, sacrificing its god in human form every Easter.]
If you were presenting that ritual text as an example of Christian hate-propaganda against the Satanic tradition, making clear that it has no basis in fact, that would be one thing. But the ritual which you have published makes no such distinctions, and is thus a dangerous “loaded weapon” to be used by any child (of any age) who picks it up. And of course it plays right into the hands of any anti-Satanic maniac who is looking for “evidence” of “Satanic ritual murder”. Your argument that the O.N.A. does not consider itself responsible for such uses may satisfy you, but it certainly doesn’t satisfy the Temple of Set as guardian of this religion.
Indeed Satanism is an ethical religion, and yes, I do consider the Temple of Set the institution consecrated by Set to establish and maintain such an ethical environment – which is carefully developed in the Crystal Tablet of Set.
As a non-Initiate of the Temple, you are of course at liberty to dissent from this ethical standard. But neither, by your non-Initiatory status, does the Temple consider you a member of the Setian/Satanic religion. You are, in our eyes, simply one more individual affecting “Satanism” as a personal hobby. In this you may be more or less skilled, more or less articulate, more or less artistic: these we do not judge.
But what we do judge is that in all of this you have not been Recognized by the Temple which exclusively is consecrated by Set. We consider the Temple a sacred institution, not just one of a number of “Satanic clubs” around the world. From 1966 to 1975CE we held precisely this view concerning the Church of Satan, which welcomed the interest and enthusiasm of amateur “Satanists” and “Satanic” groups such as the O.N.A. but considered only its own membership and Priesthood formally deserving of the religious titles they held.
This last point deserves further elaboration and emphasis. Just because we regard the Temple as seriously and exclusively as we do does not mean that we hold non-Temple “Satanic” groups in blanket contempt. Some of them are indeed amateurish and embarrassing to the Satanic tradition, and the sooner they disintegrate the better. But others are quite serious and sophisticated, and deserve our respect and admiration – which are quite freely given when due. Some, upon encountering the Temple of Set, have voluntarily dissolved and commended their membership to it. Some have retained their independent structure and interests while at the same time encouraging/allowing their members to affiliate with the Temple as a formal religion. Some have simply gone their own way, maintaining a polite non-acceptance of the Temple’s avowed Infernal Mandate.
The distinction we draw in all cases is dictated simply by our sacred regard for the Priesthood of Set, and the Temple under its care, as established by Set in the Book of Coming Forth by Night. If we did not draw that distinction, then we would be, at our heart, and insincere and fraudulent religion.
Therefore the exclusiveness of the Temple of Set is not born of either arrogance or competitiveness, but simply of the utter seriousness with which we regard ourselves. It is this same attitude which makes the Temple of Set reject any “council of churches”, occult or conventional, for the simple reason that we consider our religion correct and their incorrect. As is stated in our informational letter, “they may serve a useful social function as purveyors of soothing myths and fantasies to humans unable to attain Setian levels of self-consciousness”.
I have re-read the comments I made concerning the O.N.A. and yourself in Brimstone, and I see nothing in them that I think should be amended – including the compliment to you at the conclusion of those comments. You are, from what I have seen of your writings, an intelligent and creative individual who could become an influential and respected philosopher of the Left-Hand Path if you can bring yourself to cast aside all of the fictitious “lumber and wreckage” with which you are unnecessarily crippling yourself. If I didn’t see Setian qualities in you, I wouldn’t even bother to say such things. But just as in my university classes I speak most bluntly to the students who do have the intelligence to master the curriculum and aren’t doing so, so I speak thus to you.
[Signed: Michael Aquino]
cc- Adept John D. Allee, Editor, Brimstone
20th October 1990 ev
Dear Dr, Aquino, Thank you for your letter of October the 7th. I appreciate your comments and before passing on to specific points raised, would like to make some general comments. What I sense (an I use the word advisedly) is that you and I, despite our differing methods, are fundamentally trying to achieve the same thing. I here mean in terms of ‘esoteric’ magick and not in terms of outward terms or expressions. We are both aware of the potential inherent within individuals and how certain forms, magickal or otherwise, can be used to explicate that potential, bringing thus an evolution of consciousness both individual and beyond the individual. Thus are individuals, and ‘society’, changed over varying periods of time. You have established and maintained an organization and imbued it with certain forms, which forms via their various transformations, create and establish conditions for changes in tine with certain energies. Because of the nature of this organization, and the energies, there is a need to maintain a coherence, a magickal continuity and thus the establishment of a system which protects the viability of all aspects. As to myself, I deal with similar forms but make them manifest in a different way – building in to some of those manifestations a random or ‘chaotic’ element and into others a ‘numinous’ aspect. Thus, further forms are developed, in both causal and acausal time, and achieve certain goals, some of which are quite long-term (beyond my own temporal lifetime at the earliest). All these energies are ‘sinister’ (or Left Hand Path, if you prefer) – at the most simple level this means they enhance our creative evolution; at another, it means they ‘disrupt’ already existing forms which may hinder such evolution and explication of individual potentional. Where we might (and seem to) differ is in our respective time-scale for fundamental change and in making some elements more manifest than others, to achieve specific ends.Of course, I accept that my understanding may not be complete (and might possibly be incorrect on some points) as I assume that you, claiming the title ‘Ipssisimus’, understand the preceding four paragraphs without me having to elaborate at length.
You have accepted a “role” within the Temple of Set with all the duties and obligations implied, and there is much to admire in this. This of necessity means adhering to the principles of what you describe as the ‘sacred trust’ placed in you via-a-vis the ‘Infernal Mandate’. Thus there is a religious attitude and acceptance. All this I myself regard as natural and necessary, given the vehicle chosen – that is, the Temple of Set. The way of the ONA is, however, quite different – we see our way as guiding a few individuals to self-awareness, to Adeptship and beyond, via various practical and magickal techniques. The emphasis is on guide, on self-development, on self- discovery. There is no religious attitude, no acceptance of someone else’s authority, and no mystique: the methods, as divulged in the recently published book ‘Naos’, are essentially practical. All this arises from the understanding that changes such as I mentioned earlier (regarding individual potential) will occur slowly and for the most part on a small scale for some time to come: bringing changes to ‘society’ (a generalization here, for brevity) – and this to larger numbers of individuals – on the timescale of a century or more. The present aim of the ONA is to make these techniques – which give all individuals the means to achieve the next stage of individual evolution should they so wish – more generally available. These techniques (the Grade Rituals for example, and the Star Game) will probably and indeed should be refined and extended in the future, as they have been refined in their creation over the past decade or so. Older techniques, inherited by me, have served their purpose – and to an extent have made possible the present advances, including preparing the way, on the level of mystique, for a dissemination of the ‘new’. To be more explicit – an ‘aura’ was created around the ONA (quite deliberately) by using certain methods, magickal forms, and by publishing certain material. This aura, existing, becomes transformed – and serves a very useful purpose on the acausal level. (In simple terms and on an elementary level, it provides a certain impetus to seek out and try the ‘new’ techniques, the ‘new’ way – on the level of individuals.) Thus, as the new techniques (and hence the new forms deriving from them)become more widely distributed, via books such as Naos, the Deofil Quartet and the Black Book of Satan (these last two due for publication this Winter Solstice) then the methods used hitherto are no longer needed, and are abandoned – they have served their purpose. It is the same with the ONA: once the techniques and the essence are more widely available then ‘membership’ as such is irrelevant, since everything is available and accessable (and this includes past methods and teachings) – the individual taking responsibility for their own development ultimately rests with individual desire, just as each individual must make their own assessment of what is valuable and what is ‘ethical/just’ from their own experience, it being the aim of the techniques of the seven-fold sinister way to provide the character-building, evolutionary, experiences. There is no pre-judgement by me or anyone, no set rules. The function of the ONA is now to guide, simply because its members have undergone the experiences of the way and can speak from a position of experience – an experience which may or may not be of value to others. Thus the fundamental difference in our approach.
It was made quite clear to the former Temple of Set Priest you mentioned that each individual is expected to work on the practical level to achieve his or her own magickal development – to actually practice magick, to use magickal and other techniques, rather than just talk about them. This takes quite a number of years, and is a personal effort. Most people cannot be bothered – they want easy solutions – and most people who enquired in the past about the ONA were not prepared to work toward their own self-development. They either wanted someone else to do it for them (be such a someone a ‘Master’ or an Infernal Manifestation) or would not/could not undertake the life-style necessary for achieving genuine Adeptship (such as spending three months alone under special conditions). Ultimately, their loss. I, for one, do not believe there is a ‘religious’ solution to Adeptship and beyond – a gift, Infernal or otherwise. There is only self-experiencing, in the real and the magickal worlds, and that is it. Wisdom is acquired by the alchemical process of internal change over a period of time: the techniques developed by the ONA may shorten that time for several decades to perhaps a decade or just under, but they do not do away with it, just as those techniques make the possibility of such change available to all. For this reason, the ONA does not attempt to define what is or is not of the Left Hand Path and what is or is not Satanism (or even what Satan is) – each individual arrives at their own understanding via experience. Occassionally, as I have mentioned, there may be the adoption of an adversarial role in order to attack accepted (or even unconscious) dogmas within the broad spectrum of the LHP movement – but that is as it should be, for individuals questing after knowledge who refuse to meekly believe. Once again, a ‘role’ is only a role, played out in the quest for understanding. On the specific point of membership – yes, there is more than one (not that it really matters anymore now that dissemination is being achieved). Not many, it is true, but enough – some only beginning their quests, some more advanced along the way: in this country, in Scandinavia, in the countries of Europe and elsewhere. Of course, all this may confirm your opinion that the ONA is not ‘Satanic” (or ‘Setian’ – this latter I would agree with). Do you therefore understand ‘Satanism’ as now the exclusive preserve of the Temple of Set because of the ‘Infernal Mandate’ you mentioned? If so, this raises rather interesting questions regarding ‘Infernal’ authority, revelation and such like – questions partly answered by your use of the term religion. What then of Satanic organizations which existed before the revelation: such as (to take an odd example) the Order of Satanic Templars here in England which existed (and was undertaking Initiations) before the establishment of the Church of Satan? (It later became known as the Orthodox Temple of the Prince.) Personally, I see Satanism more as a way of living than as a religion: an attitude to life, and one which is ultimately personal, striving to ever more.
However, as mentioned above, I believe our ultimate goals are the same even though our methods may differ. Of course in this, as in many things, I may be mistaken: I claim no authority, and my creations, profuse as they are, will in the end be accepted or rejected on the basis of whether they work (Satan forbid they should ever become ‘dogma’ or a matter of ‘faith’). I also expect to see them become transformed, by their own metamorphosis and that due to other individuals: changed, extended and probably ultimately transcended, may be even forgotten. They – like the individual I am at the moment – are only a stage, toward something else. In the interests of sinister fellowship I could arrange for a copy of ‘Naos’ (and other works as and when they become available) to be sent to you, should you be interested. Enclosed please find a copy of an article due to appear shortly in the journal ‘Balder’. It may make you smile.
[Signed: Stephen Brown]