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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Magic and prayer

I just wanted to make a statement regarding my attitude toward Christianity. I have in my life several Christians whom I regard with great respect. My wife is one of them. Another is a good pastor friend of mine, a long-time true friend to my wife. I am of the opinion that, on the whole, most Christians have their heart in the right place. Your religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs, however, should not completely define who you are. I recognize the similarities between different peoples and different religious leanings.

Imagine the scene:

A faithful Christian is worried about a friend or loved one who has been in a serious car accident, diagnosed with a terrible illness, something like that. He goes to a church, kneels at the altar, kneeling bench, whatever. The crucifix looms high above him. The stained glass around him shows images of birth, life, death and rebirth into the Kingdom of Glory. All around are trappings of holiness, inspiring him with the feelings he has associated with them throughout his life. He feels dwarfed by the power of Lord God Almighty. He prays to his God with tears in his eyes to come to the aid of his friend. He passes his prayer on to the pastor, adding his wishes to the prayer list. On Sunday, the congregation is presented with the plight of this friend of the church, along with the needs of many others. Much sympathy is felt and a mass prayer goes out.

Many Christians will swear that the power of prayer works. If, by chance, that friend pulls through fairly unscathed, "Praise Jesus, our prayers were with him." If, this time, it doesn't work and he dies or becomes a vegetable, "It was God's will. The Lord works in mysterious ways. We must now pray for God to help us understand and accept His will." It's a built-in failsafe.

Okay, now bear with me... I'm not writing this for the purpose of knocking Christians here. I do have a point, and I think it's a pretty good one.

Here's the next scene:
Same friend, same situation, only this time our subject is a Laveyan Satanist. He is filled with sorrow at the unjust blow his friend has suffered. This time, he enters his darkened, polygonal ritual chamber. The candles are lit. The altar stands, draped in a blood red satin cloth emblazoned with the Sigil of Baphomet. There sits a skull (probably a poly-resin model), next to a short sword and a chalice of wine (or any juice he finds pleasing to his palate). The room is full of the smell of his favorite incense & small trails of smoke from the black candles, tall and tapered as well as pillars. He strikes a gong, calls forth the names of Lucifer; his blood pounds. His body is flooded with adrenaline.

He brings forth a photo of his dear friend. He focuses his energy on the pain his friend must be feeling. He empathizes with his friend, feels the sorrow, lets himself weep and concentrate on his desired outcome. He gives himself totally to the working. He cries every last drop and uses all his energy to visualize his friend recovered, voicing his most sincere sympathetic wishes to the still, empty, darkened ritual chamber. Until he is worn out. The ritual is concluded, the gong is rung yet again. He finishes with a "Shemhamforash! Hail Satan!"

Now, if his friend pulls through, chances are, he's not going to tell his friend that it came as a direct result of his greater magic ceremony. But that's what he'll believe. If it doesn't appear to work, he can justify it by telling himself, "I must have diffused the working by not fully believing in it," or "Perhaps the power was diluted because I thought about it too much after the casting. Once the magic is out there, it's best not to think about it afterward." Another built-in failsafe.

Both these practices are based upon faith. The Christian relies on faith in a God he has never seen. The Laveyan Satanist relies on faith in his own magical abilities, as does a Wiccan. The difference is that a Satanist recognizes the ritual chamber for what it is--a place to suspend disbelief in the impossible. Because magic (or a prayer-related miracle, for that matter) really is impossible, right?

The Satanist is an atheist, a skeptic. He chooses to work his magic, or prayers, in an environment that most stimulates his senses and gives him a rise. Anton LaVey, for many years, used a live nude woman as the altar in his group rituals. It was meant to titillate & ignite the senses. It is this excitement and focus of emotions and thought that directs the power that I believe lies in every human.

I believe no matter what you call it: prayer, magic, creative visualization, empathy, self affirmation, suggestion, whatever... it's all the same damned thing. It's something we can all do, but we can't explain it, so the easiest thing to do is to attribute it to a higher power. "I'm not causing it to happen, I'm asking God to, and he's doing it."

That's why I don't make judgments on other people's beliefs too often. They do what works for them, what inspires them to get the results they need. In my understanding, the Christians are doing the same thing I do, only they take it a bit more seriously than I do. I'm so skeptical, it's a wonder I believe in anything.