In the series “Stuff only others are guilty of”: Herd conformity

 

The inspiration for this blog post this came from re-reading the Nine Satanic Sins, of all things.

(If you wonder why herd conformity is seen as something negative, why it is called a Satanic Sin or even what a Satanic Sin is, you should probably read all of them in their context. But short version: It is what is considered sins for Satanists, not some epic type of sinful behaviour. https://www.churchofsatan.com/nine-satanic-sins/)

 

Surprisingly enough, this is about how you live and what actions you take (or not), rather than how much you talk shit about the sheeple or how many meme’s about True individuality(TM) you post on your fb wall.

“Social group” sounds a bit prettier when it comes to humans, but dressing up the language doesn’t change anything in this context so for the sake of this post I’ll write about herds. Human herds big, small and imaginary.

Especially among the LHP-inclined among us, or anybody who think individuality is a good thing, denying ever following the herd can be something one does automatically, and even to be asked might be taken as an insult. After all, it is called a “Satanic Sin”, and with ‘Stupidity’ leading this list I can sort of see why it is not a flattering question. But we all do stupid things, too. It should not be worse to examine this behaviour in oneself, really.

To by default think ‘I don’t do this’ when the topic is brought up means we have no idea what we actually do, only what we tell ourselves. (Again, I’m absolutely convinced that the ones most guilty of this will wholeheartedly agree with this statement.)

Note how Self-Deceit and Lack of Perspective are also Satanic Sins. It can be very easy to deceive oneself into that one behaves according to some theoretic ideal by default, and very hard to behave like it once one has to deal with the big nasty world.

The big nasty world is where we meet the herds, and the real thing is very different from the thing you can casually dismiss from the safety of your own home. They are legion. And everywhere! You can’t leave reality in a huff as if it was a fb group, even having a literal door to slam doesn’t help much.

I think what complicates things is that despite all theory about what we should do and not, herds do have good sides and we are social animals. Herd animals don’t hang out in herds just for the entertainment value, nor will they do anything to follow the herd just for fun. Being alone means being vulnerable, the herd increases the chance of survival and did so for quite a few generations, which is also true for humans and every ancestor we have. Only a few hundred years ago, being one’s own might mean certain death, and this is still true in some areas of the world today.

 

Something interesting regarding herds is to what degree (and in what ways) we actually have to fit in to be accepted, compared to what we believe it takes. They might not at all be the same thing.  Another interesting thing is what the herd looks like from the inside. Since it certainly does not look like a herd. This can be why everybody else are in herds while you aren’t, you just prefer to hang out with a certain group of persons which share your views, and you happen to like a lot of the same things. This is why you hang together! All of you have good taste in clothes, music, films etc, so of course you might end up with some similar stuff, but hey. It can’t be helped.

You and the persons you socialise with can be a herd in this context. The subculture you belong to. The various organisations and groups, official or not. This is not about herds you do not belong to, there is no need to pat yourself on the back for not following persons you have nothing in common with and which you do not want to follow. The problem is on the other end of the scale, where we might blindly follow groups we belong to or think we belong to.

The herd doesn’t usually force you to go along with it, nor threaten to kick you out over personal quirks. While these things might happen, we usually quietly and unthinkingly conform before anybody else noticed our dissent. The issue with not thinking about these things leads to some incidents which look insane once put in words, but until then you might only have a vague feeling of doing something wrong and that bad things will happen as a result. (I can’t wear this dress because I know xxxxxxx will think it is ugly and then DOOM will happen.) Once the idea is put in words we can see how ridiculous and unfair it is. But it isn’t about the dress, it is about being accepted by the group which was a life and death matter from long before clothes in general were invented. Being aware of this tendency to want to belong is important because it doesn’t come with a sense of scale.

 

Normally there is no evil herd leader demanding everybody wear the same type shoes and jackets, at least after the early teens. (Before we start laughing at them and say we are over it, are we really, or is it only less visible? Kids see no issues with being a group wearing the exact same whatever it is, while it might look ridiculous later. Or like we are in a cult or something.) *cough*. This ‘lookalike’ behaviour often continues but with less exact copying and more tools and resources available to show we belong. It is the same tendency to want to show we belong, just more refined.

Some herd behaviour is necessary to get along with other persons at all. But it becomes a problem when we stop thinking or even go against what we want, or repress tendencies to *gasp* having an own personality, participate in things we would rather not and act against better knowledge, all to fit into the herd. Which might not even care except in our own mind. The evil herd leader which demands we follow in all detail is often us. We are the strictest judge of what we have to do, not do or say to fit in and this is the Satanic Sin: We tend to make ourselves conform far more than what is necessary for no reason other reason than that it feels safe in the herd. We sacrifice who we are to be more like the others out of what very often amounts to convenience or petty fears. Then we look at herds we do not belong to for evidence that we are not followers.

To blame the herd is actually a step in the right direction, since at least then we notice that somebody else are affecting us. To get angry if one is pushed in the same direction as others means it is not seen as helpful guidance.  But it needs to be followed up by action (and I don’t mean throwing out some passive-aggressive comment before following on, I mean doing your own thing.)

 

We can follow our herds very closely without any comment or appeal directed at us. We tend to think others notice every act of not fitting in far more than we do ourselves and that they put great importance on what we do or not. While if it was somebody else, we’d hardly notice if they did the same thing.

An indifferent comment repeated twenty times makes us think we have to do this, and that it is important to others.  While they are simply making casual remarks which happen to be the same because all read the same article or saw the same tv show where this was relevant. And this because it was discussed in the same group of persons.. there are all sorts of unintentional loops happening to aid us in fitting in. We have no idea what is going on in the heads of others. It can be easy to assume all agree with everything and you are the only one with different thoughts, simply because nobody says anything. The need to belong is often far stronger than the demand on us to behave in certain ways.

 

We easily see groups (or even create them) and often try to be a part of one without thinking. It is called being social. This can be easy to notice when we meet several new persons at once, and mentally make a group out of them even if we have no idea if they even know each other.

The herd might actually be our own imaginary herd. We might not be a part of it except in our own mind. Nobody might care or notice that we follow in every detail but the more we adhere to these truths we perceive the group to share, the more difficult it is to break free from own imaginary rules. We ‘can’t’ do this or that, but this is mainly our own safe frames, rather than others.

 

You are very likely to be involved in a few herds, just from living in a society. They can be used in good ways, some are better suited for this than others. Some might truly appreciate differences or aid you in doing your own thing, if they are aware enough of what individualism is about and not just flaunting the label while telling you to be individualistic in the right way.

Are you aware of your own herds and are you in them out of your own choice, and maybe even more important, do you benefit from the herd or does the herd rule you?

 

geese

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Guest Post: On the Wisdom of Getting Schooled… by Steve Dee

We’ve never done a guest post before in Sacred Solitude – there is always a first. Steve Dee is a magician from Devon, UK. How a School or Initiatory Organization can support the Left Hand Path Initiate seems to be a perennial theme for our blog, and we more than welcome Dee’s take on the topic. He’s the author of the books The Gnostic’s Process and The Heretic’s Journey, and co-author of the book Chaos Craft. Links to where to find these books, as well as more essays by Steve Dee, can be found over at The Blog of Baphomet.

But let his text speak for itself.


On the Wisdom of Getting Schooled

One of the central paradoxes faced by those of us seeking to follow a psyche-centric spiritual path relates to how we balance the pursuit of our unique self-awareness with the need for connection and support so that our journey is sustainable. For those of us who choose to walk the Left-Hand Path, while the initial flame of our inspiration may come from our sense of difference and separation from the norms and expectations of the tribes and cultures we are born into, for our transformation to gain both depth and intensity we need to find the others.

In seeking to work with this paradox, one of the books that I have kept coming back to is Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. Now anyone who has had a go at engaging with this book’s densely typed 400 pages knows that it is hardly easy reading. Not only do we have Ouspensky’s own vivid struggle to develop a relationship with the teacher/ anti-hero G.I. Gurdjieff, but we also have to wrestle with the detailed explanation/obscuration of their rather “out there” Gnostic cosmology. Part of the reason that I keep returning both to this challenging tome and the “4th Way” teachings that it describes, is the way in which they seek to grapple with the nature of what awakening might mean and also how we do this collectively.

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Self-Images and Open Minds

Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) was a Hungarian obstretician working in Vienna. In his time, fatal childbed fever was a common cause of death, though more common in some clinics than others. Semmelweis’ big discovery happened when he instituted a policy of washing hands between patients or between autopsies and patient care. Comparing mortality rates shortly after the policy, mortality rates at his clinic were down from a staggering 18,3% to 2,2%. He concluded that hand hygiene had been a cause of many unnecessary deaths.

Semmelweis’ discovery was ignored and/or ridiculed by his peers. Even his wife believed he was losing his mind. But why would educated, competent doctors ignore such staggering data? The philosopher Nomy Arpaly believes that this is because the doctors were lacking in open-mindedness. Open-mindedness, here, does not mean being egalitarian or accepting of other lifestyles. It simply means being receptible to new information.

Being able to receive new information can be hard, especially when that new information is contrary to our self-image. Imagine being a doctor in Semmelweis’ time – a good doctor, someone diligently invested in the well-being of his patients. You see yourself as a healer of great learning and skill. The symbols and rituals of medical practice, such as the Hippocratic oath, bolster this self-image, as does the way townspeople tip their hat to you in respect of that skill.

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A Setian Working with Holy Saint Death

Several months ago, I engaged in a 9 week Working with Santa Muerte. The obvious question any sane Setian would ask is why did I undertake the nine weeks of devotion to Holy Saint Death? There answer to that question is complex. First, I felt and acknowledged the “gravitational pull Runa” that lead me to start researching Saint Death. I have come to trust that pull and engaged it through what I refer to as the Explorer Perspective or that approach to Initiation that encourages and thrives within the strange and tangential directions we are often presented with. Second, I can see a long pattern of working with Death goddesses in my Initiation. The dark feminine, the dark aspects of my anima we could say, has been an objective (or projected) part of my spiritual life for a long time and it felt like it was time to reinvest in that aspect of my Psyche. However, this approach was a difficult way for me to engage with that aspect of my Psyche since much of the language and many of the activities associated with a devotion to Santa Muerte are Right Hand Path practices. The Working also helped to remind me and encourage me to Play. I was also simply curious as to what the outcome would be. Holy Saint Death also provided me with an invigorated approach to practical magic. I love the visceral and aesthetic nature of hoodoo but I never really had a need to really practice it. Santa Muerte combines the folk magic aspect of practices like hoodoo with a heartfelt veneration at the core of it. In other words, there was a consistent momentum or ongoing reason for the practice.  The veneration aspect was the most difficult aspect for my Setian sensibilities to accept but it was an important part of the Working and one that I am glad I embraced and continue to embrace. However, I should mention that at no time was I venerating something other than a part of myself. I don’t posit an ontological entity called “Santa Muerte” but I do acknowledge that She is more than my ego-complex. Continue reading

World building…

 

..sounds very big and dramatic, and it can be. Over time. After a lot of work.

We tend to see the results of years and dedicated work and then wonder how it was done, since it seems like an impossible achievement when we only see the end result and not the beginning. It probably started with somebody thinking something should exist. Why else would they start, anyway? Their motives might be very different, but a main idea to bring something new into the world is probably rather common, even if it was hundreds of years ago.

 

I want to begin this blog post with a disclaimer: I’m well aware that most of us need to eat, live somewhere, wear clothing, drink beer and much coffee etc, which usually means having a job and the time this takes out of our day. In this blog post I’m talking about the rest of your life. While there are things to be done about a bad job situation, even when you seem to be stuck in it, but that is a different blog post.

This is sort of a follow up to the Change part of the ‘Reframing vs Change’.. since if not reframing, then what do we do, and why? We can do things to make more of what you want.

If you look at the world you live in in your spare time, how does it look like? Is there anything you wish there was more of, something you’d want to learn, or something you miss?  World building in this context is about creating more of what you want in your world. Continue reading

Midsummer, or: the Magic of Tradition

Midsummer is the time of the year when the Nordic heathen tide runs highest. Swedes erect Midsummer poles, a variation of a Germanic maypole, while Finns, Danes, and Norwegians light huge bonfires by the water, adding a warm glow into the bleak light of the nightless night. By the pole or the bonfire, a raucous party is held, typically with dancing, swimming, a sauna, and copious amounts of alcohol.

All over Scandinavia, Midsummer is considered a time sizzling with magic. The old traditions survive, though few take them seriously anymore, choosing instead to partake for fun or out of a respect for tradition. It’s especially a time of fertility, romance, and even promiscuity. Magic reserved for unmarried women takes the center stage: most know how a maiden can use wildflowers in order to see her future husband in a dream, or enchant a crop so that bread made from it works as an aphrodisiac. But other magic is also done in midsummer, for wealth, good crops, healthy livestock, and for divination.

Finland was converted into Christianity fairly late, and even then, the new faith was mostly one for townsfolk. For a long while, the influence of Christianity was seeping into the old ways of the country folk rather than replacing them. Paradoxically, the thin layer of Christian frosting — calling Midsummer St. John’s day, for example — helped Finns preserve the old ways, at least partially, until the present day.

But why is a practitioner of the Left-Hand Path even rambling about traditions, pre-Christian or not? Aren’t we supposed to be Antinomian, discarding the bonfires erected by those around us in order for our inner truth to burn that much brighter?

In this post, I write about three good reasons to appreciate, and to make the most of, tradition. For Northern Europeans, Midsummer makes for an excellent case for each of them, but they can be applied to the traditions local to where you are. Continue reading

Reframing vs Change

 

Most of us have things we would like to change, something we are working to change, plan to change tomorrow, or when we move to a new town or when the stars are right and so on. Sometimes we believe that we have changed a lot, but our world has the audacity to not acknowledge this, even if we might be looking at it differently. Sometimes we are doing the same thing we have always done (or this is what we believe), but weird things happen. People seem to try to push us in strange directions for obscure reasons, our friends back away, and the job we loved suddenly begins to be a burden. It feels like a small-scale conspiracy going on.

It is not always easy to see when actual change has happened. The response from the world is not what one might expect, even if the change actually is for the better in the long run. Change often disrupts the current balance and threatens what is known as “normal” – and most people dislike that.

In this context I also want to write about Change with a capital C: a permanent difference in you that has made you into something more than you were before the Change happened. Initiation is about causing such Change, often through directed work towards a certain goal.

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