WITH BAPHOMETS AND WITH LIFE, THE DEVIL REALLY IS IN THE DETAILS
A few weeks ago an SF Gate reporter stopped by our monthly Wicked Grounds meet-up, and at one point he asked what the Baphomet means.
But personally, I still have trouble answering it sometimes. Partly that’s because I find the significance of the symbol is highly anecdotal–see my previous perspective about how many times the damn arm has broken off.
As another example, right next to my altar there’s a postcard from the Satanic Temple gallery in Salem.
What we see on it is not actually Baphomet–it’s an early concept drawing for the Mark Porter-designed monument, one that cleaved to a more general devil image before they settled on something closer to the Levi illustration.
Initially, I put it near the altar not because it’s particularly important to me–I just wanted to keep my obviously Satanic accoutrements in one spot that’s not visible to the rest of the household.
Nor did I buy it because I felt it was notably inspirational, I just wanted to bring something home and was only up for spending a couple dollars.
But today, for no particular reason, I glanced at it and wondered how the people who conceived that drawing felt at the time.
I don’t know the answer to that, but I know I would have felt excited…and also intimidated. And certain that the path from concept to reality was probably impossible.
I know because that’s how I feel about almost everything we do around here. It’s the rare Satanic Bay Area or Black Mass Appeal endeavor that I anticipate as a success.
In fact I’m usually resigned to our doom almost immediately. There are some suicide bombers who have more optimistic long-term outlooks than I do.
But we still do it, and most of the time–almost all of the time, improbably–it works out. Presumably Satan gets the credit for most of that, because I’m definitely not inspiring anyone with my, “Just pretend you’re not about to throw up” style of management.
So on one hand, it’s perhaps comforting to think about how daunting the course from that initial illustration to the final product–from paper to bronze, you might say–might have seemed back then. And yet it did happen in the end.
But I also take another, seemingly less likely lesson from it. After all, the monument exists, but it did not technically fulfill its every ambition. Because it never did end up at the Oklahoma State Capitol, for one thing.
(Although the actual results of that conflict were arguably better anyway, depending on your point of view…)
In fact it’s very, very possible it’ll never end up on broad public display anywhere, even though that is more or less what it’s meant for.
I doubt anybody involved is beating themselves up over it though–and that’s the point. Success is rarely both decisive and exhaustive, and I find that thinking about that makes it easier to accept the seemingly overwhelming nature of a challenge.
Often we’ll raise money for groups that we want to support: Planned Parenthood, the Rainbow Center, La Casa de Paseo, etc.
But usually it’s not a lot in the end–we’re a grassroots group working with essentially no resources. Success is a matter of almost pure willpower.
The common results are, oh, a couple hundred dollars, maybe more. This is not much relative to the budgets of such places–certainly not compared to the resources it would take to really address the problems they approach.
But I figure, if it’s enough to help at least one person, then that’s good. When you start at zero, almost anything that is not zero is, in its way, a victory, over both circumstances and your doubts.
We like to think of Satanic principles as big, sweeping things: revolution; liberty; empowerment; defiance!
The idea of incremental personal comforts and carefully managed expectations do not seem nearly as stirring. And yet, increasingly these are the things that I rely on the most.
Reflecting on Paradise Lost, what we see is the story of an extremely modest success. Satan makes just two people more wise, through a single act of disobedience, which is itself so tiny as to seem almost unnoticeable.
(Or even just one person, since in this version of the tale Adam just kind of blunders into knowledge, the same way you sometimes hit the mark if peeing with the lights off.)
Relative to his earlier ambition to overthrow god and seize the throne of Heaven, Satan’s campaign seems almost embarrassingly minor in scope.
But as we know from the context of that fable, that one very tiny success has a much greater effect in the long run even than the previous, large-scale failure.
Small things matter–and it may be that the one little thing you succeed in makes the biggest difference.
So now when I see that sort-of Baphomet postcard, I’ll think about the things that we’ve all done together–but also of how to keep myself going from day to day, idea to idea, win to win, one small break at a time.
Which means that that card is a small thing that mattered more in the end than I once thought too.