Use of Inverted Biblical Imagery
Last Updated: 1 July 2014
The (modern Western occult) Left-Hand Path is characterised to some extent by its use of reverse Biblical imagery or ironic use of Biblical imagery, concepts and sacraments for psychodrama and for the purpose of deprogramming. LaVey Satanism, for example, uses the Black Mass, inverted pentagrams and references to dark 'Gods' (despite claiming to be atheistic). Gerald Gardner, the 'father of modern witchcraft' and fore-father of modern Wicca, created rituals including the reciting of the Lord's Prayer backwards.
The use of an inverted cross in LaVey Satanism and by many other Satanist and Luciferian groups and individuals to represent an opposition to Christianity or indeed to define their philosophy on some level is ironic on many counts. Firstly, LaVey Satanism is presumably supposed to be a valid philosophy in its own right and should not need to define itself in opposition to any particular religion. If Satanism regards Jesus as irrelevant, this it seems odd to define one's beliefs using symbolism relating to Jesus. Choosing and picking on Christianity is indeed rather culturally biased. In addition, the inverted cross was actually first used by Saint Peter. Peter did not consider himself to be worthy enough to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus, and so requested that he be crucified in the upside down position. The Cross of Saint Peter (the inverted crucifix) is a Catholic symobol of the martyrdom of Saint Peter and the alleged association it has with Satanism is anachronistic. Therefore, unless Satanists who wear an inverted cross or crucifix specially have a sign saying 'INRI' on the inverted Crucifix, then they are in fact wearing a Catholic Christian symbol. Some people might find this extremely amusing. However, if you wore an inverted cross pendant to church, I am sure few would understand the St Peter symbolism and would instead interpret its usage from popular culture. It would be quite amusing also however to test the theory.
The graphic below is from the Images of St. Peter from the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Charlotte, NC.
The inverted cross was used in the middle ages by heretical monks to show their opposition to the Catholic Church (as opposed to Christianity in general) and the Inquisition's persecution of (somewhat Gnostic) Catharism in the 13th and 14th Centuries in France. Apparently Latin parodies of the Roman Catholic Mass started to appear around about this time, although the modern concept of the Black Mass did probably not appear until the 16th or 17th Centuries.
The Church of Satan's Black Mass is supposedly a joke, a form of psychodrama, an knee jerk reaction against historical Catholic persecution of paganism, but perhaps it could be argued that the joke became old many years ago, and that it is totally unnecessary and confusing for the uninitiated and even the initiated. The term Black Mass is historically associated with witchcraft, a mockery of the Christian Mass, often a magical ritual, usually culminating in a sexual orgy. LaVey Satanism uses the term but in a non-magical sense for the large part.
Zeena Schreck (formerly LaVey and CoS member) remarked that the Black Mass was a tiresome and irrelevant left-over from inverted Catholic distortions of the LHP.
The use of inverted Christian imagery and ceremonies are said by many occultists to be useful to 'flush out' any psychological resistance to using the 'dark' antithesis of the Judeo-Christian paradigm and to 'deprogram' one's mind from Judeo-Christian conditioning. Christians could equally view them as literal embodiments of the worship of the deity Satan, which is where such activities gain much of their negative publicity from - and it is hardly surprising. One could perhaps argue the gratuitous use of Biblical terminology and so on is inconsistent also within the LHP, as sometimes it is used as deprogramming, to negate these concepts, and at other times, literal Biblical references are used, for humour or for artistic purposes, for example, referring to the goal of what one wants as 'Hell' or referring to the concept of Lucifer (not seen as a deity by most modern and gnostic Luciferians) as the Fallen Angel etc. Is this a case of wanting to have one's cake and eat it? It could be that some occult groups secretly enjoy the negative attention they receive, and enjoy offending those of a sensitive religious disposition with their use of terminology and 'psychodrama'; but that they also define themselves in anti-Christian terms, which ties them to a particular ethnographic segment of the world's population, and whilst they believe they are changing the definitions of the terms for their own use, they may also be influenced by the Biblical connotations of the terms themselves (if they are not fully 'deprogrammed').
This can be evidenced in the process of Christianisation that took place in early Christendom. The then Catholic Church sought to integrate pagan festivals and practices in order to quickly convert mass populations to Christianity, changing the meanings of the festivals and practices from pagan to Christian. However, this has only served to dilute and confuse Christianity in general, and has rendered Christianity into a 'circus' with little credibility in this day and age amongst many populations - particularly with the capitalist/consumer influence on these 'Christian' festivals. Their pagan meanings and origins are still very clear and affect people's perception of the religion. Thus it may well also be with the use of 'Christian' terminology in modern occult traditions. In either case, at one time or other, religious terms have all been made up, and vary from culture to culture in any case, so to stick with one culture's and religion's terms is hardly very imaginative - indeed, if the terms/concepts are made up/created by man at some point in the past, why not create and use new terms now? Why refer to demons as demons if they are strictly speaking just 'elements' or 'entities'. Why not create a new term. If a term no longer has any meaning, or has the wrong meaning, or is irrelevant to one's occult system, why use it? Why pick on Christianity? There are many other sources of negative conditioning in the our modern lives, and many concepts that are not important or relevant here, so why not use those instead?
Those that follow the Left-Hand Path, in particular LaVey Satanism, regard Blasphemy and Psychodrama as tools for deprogramming the mind of 'years of brainwashing by Judeo-Christian concepts'. However, it may be that a given individual is not so brainwashed or brainwashed by these concepts, depending on their upbringing and personal development, and so may not require the 'zig-zag' path of inversion and knee jerk reaction for spiritual development. One may simply follow a more direct path, if this is indeed one's goal.
The Left-Hand Path is characterised to some extent by its use of reverse Biblical imagery or ironic use of Biblical imagery, concepts and sacraments for psychodrama and for the purpose of deprogramming. LaVey Satanism, for example, uses the Black Mass, inverted pentagrams and references to dark 'Gods' (despite claiming to be atheistic). Gerald Gardner, the 'father of modern witchcraft' and fore-father of modern Wicca, created rituals including the reciting of the Lord's Prayer backwards. These activities are said to be useful to 'flush out' any psychological resistance to using the 'dark' antithesis of the Judeo-Christian paradigm and to 'deprogram' one's mind from Judeo-Christian conditioning. Christians could equally view them as literal embodiments of the worship of the deity Satan, which is where such activities gain much of their negative publicity from - and it is hardly surprising. One could perhaps argue the gratuitous use of Biblical terminology and so on is inconsistent also within the LHP, as sometimes it is used as deprogramming, to negate these concepts, and at other times, literal Biblical references are used, for humour or for artistic purposes, for example, referring to the goal of what one wants as 'Hell' or referring to the concept of Lucifer (not seen as a deity by most modern and gnostic Luciferians) as the Fallen Angel etc. Is this a case of wanting to have one's cake and eat it? Some argue that the above approach to 'deprogramming' is LHP, as a form of 'immersion', whereas simply avoiding Judeo-Christian concepts, is a form of 'abstinence' which may be simply avoiding the residual conditioning in an individual. It could be however argued that in our modern 21st Century society, traditional Judeo-Christian concepts hold less of a hold over the majority of the population in western industrialised nations than they used to, and so the use of such psychodrama and 'deprogramming' is perhaps less important than it used to be. However, this isn't to say that people aren't more brainwashed nowadays by hyper-consumerism.
Some argue that the above approach to 'deprogramming' is LHP, as a form of 'immersion', whereas simply avoiding Judeo-Christian concepts, is a form of 'abstinence' which may be simply avoiding the residual conditioning in an individual. It could be however argued that in our modern 21st Century society, traditional Judeo-Christian concepts hold less of a hold over the majority of the population in western industrialised nations than they used to (particularly for the current generations vs the baby boomer generation who were more conditioned with traditional Christian values), and so the use of such reverse Biblical psychodrama and 'deprogramming' is perhaps less important than it used to be - it may well disappear from the LHP in the future. It would be interesting to see if LHP orders spread to non-Christian countries or if they are appropriated in a different manner, reflecting adversarial and inverted behaviour towards the incumbent religions rather than the Western-centric anti-Christian forms we see today. Are those LHP orders that use inverted Biblical imagery defining themselves perpetually in terms of what they don't want and are tied to the very things that they reject?
However, this isn't to say that people aren't more brainwashed nowadays by hyper-consumerism and that they don't negatively condition their own minds on account of failures or negative suggestions by others during their childhood, and in dire need of going through their negative beliefs and associations and purging their mind of them and replacing them with empowering beliefs. However it could be argued that anti-Biblical metaphors and concepts are not so useful here, but perhaps other metaphors or techniques are required. This is what the Psychology section of this web site is all about.
Separate from the issue of deliberate psychodrama and deprogramming is the way in which certain concepts use terminology common to Christianity and indeed other religions and traditions. For example, the term demon conjures up a negative connotation in most people's minds, probably largely in part on account of the horror film industry, ancient story telling and historical and present literature. These images of monsters and demons are ingrained in our consciousness. Occultists may also use the term demon or daemon, but it is used in a different sense, or rather, the meaning is changed, different - or perhaps the individual has merely changed and does not evoke in himself these Christian type connotations when thinking of the term 'demon'. To an demonologist, a demon is not an evil force attempting to steal one's soul or cause pain and suffering, but a powerful archetype or spirit that one can use or communicate with from within the protection of a Golden Dawn pentagram or other Goetia protection means. Demon in the occultic sense then could refer to chaotic, 'dark' or malevolent deities, sub-deities or other entities or spirits. Equally it could refer to sub-deities like Crowley's Guardian Angels. Are we however being tied to ingrained monster imagery that cannot really be shifted from our sub-conscious? Or are these useful and visually entertaining / gratuituously morbid metaphors for the 'darker' parts of our subconscious?
Anton LaVey states in the Satanic Bible that he did not choose the term Satanism, but rather Christians has previously chosen it to represent the path adversarial to Christianity, the traditional 'Right-Hand Path'. The antithesis to this Christian view, represented in Christian cosmology by Satan, is that of free will and not obeying God. As discussed above, this use of a Christian concept or reverse Christian paradigm to define free will is very much an inverted or adversarial position by definition. Although LaVey Satanism claims not to believe in a God, it is defining itself in opposition to a Christian concept. So whilst Satanism is not an embodiment of the Biblical Satan, and a literal belief in the Biblical Satan (that which wishes to destroy mankind), it is a belief in the Biblical antithesis. This is perhaps where much unnecessary confusion results, and perhaps explains the ethno-bias towards Christianity as opposed to other religions, and the gratuitous use of knee jerk opposition and 'Psychodrama', of defining itself in terms of opposition to something else, rather than just free will and something new in its own right and non-dependent on Christianity. This is also perhaps where Luciferianism goes wrong, as it is defining itself often in reverse Biblical terms or adversarial terms, and indeed Gnostic Luciferianism, which depending on interpretation uses the dualistic Gnostic cosmology of Jehoviah bad - Monad good. The association and definition of the path in terms of Left-Hand Path sets itself up to be in opposition to the Right-Hand Path by its definition, rather than just existing as an expression of the self in its own right.
Many LHP practitioners believe that one should not just 'shut away' one's Judeo-Christian conditioning and ignore, but to deal with it and to let it go. This is the same argument used by those with the 'opposite' viewpoint, it is just that the method of 'dealing with it' is different. For LHP practitioners, this is the use of inverted Christian imagery and psychodrama. For others it may simply be identifiying the core negative or disempowering beliefs, and reducing their power through questioning their referencing 'props' or references, and placing empowering beliefs in their place. The latter approach would not advocate repeating the memory or idea of the negative belief, as whatever you focus on, you ingrain into your subconscious and it becomes a habit or reinforced. That is not to say that psychological approaches do not change the meaning of past painful memories, as they indeed do so in order to take their power away - the power/significance is removed, rendering the past memory meaningless, or having little interest or significance ('so what?'), and can be forgotten about rather than obsessed about and regularly focussed on. It is possible using NLP to attempt to undo one's fear of rejection but attempting to change the literal meaning of rejection to something positive, like pleasure, by regularly repeating the term rejection in conjunction with pleasure (ad infinitum), so it comes to mean pleasure. However, no one would do this as the original meaning of the word would be hard if not impossible to shake, few outsiders would understand the new term, and just by changing the meaning of the term or attempting to do so, does not necessarily mean that one has lost one's fear of rejection as a concept and experience. Inverted symoblism is however not just of one type in Satanism for example, but there are numerous applications. There is name 'Satan'. If you read enough about Satanism, then the term Satan in a Biblical or general conversational context does not perhaps hold such an emotional charge or neuro-associative connection. However, this is no reason to name one's philoosphy after 'Satan'. To merely study Judaism and the Old Testament and to realise that Satan here is not the 'devil' is sufficient and more educational. Naming a philosophy after Satan merely changes the association, so rather than think of a New Testament figure that holds little power over us, we associate it with a gratuitously 'dark' and knee jerk philosophy that attracts many 'goths' and which has some redeeming features. Is this useful? Is holding a Black Mass really necessary? It was originally a joke of debatable humour but is it still funny or a necessary psychological tool after the 'n'th time?
NLP uses some similar principles to the occult, and is a form of magic in a sense, but no NLP or NAC practitioner uses a painful/disempowering connotation with a word or concept, and uses the same concept but with a different meaning, repeated ad infinitum throughout one's life, as a method of deprogramming - and there is probably a very good reason why not - as highlighted above.
It should be noted that Aleister Crowley's Thelema philosophy/religion is a precursor to modern LHP groups and practices, yet it did not recognise Satan as a deity or archetype (and neither did Albert Pike) nor tend towards inverted Biblical practices to 'deprogram' members, but members of his occult organisations simply practised the ceremonial aspects of the Thelemic occult philosophy, and through magical practice, and communication with one's Guardian Angel, one could grow spiritually and psychologically. No requirement for Black Mass or use of the terms '666' was deemed necessary (although he perhaps did ascribe '666' as referring to himself), and if anything, Christian indoctrination was much more severe at the time. So is the use of inverted pentagrams and '666' really necessary in modern LHP groups? It is highly debatable.
The South Park Season 11 'Cartman sucks' episode springs to mind. Cartman was playing a series of practical jokes on Butters, an innocent and gullible boy (much like the young me!) On one occasion, when Butters was sleeping over at Cartman's house, Cartman photographed himself putting Butter's 'wiener' into his mouth when Butters was asleep. Cartman showed the photo to all his friends (horror). When they told him that it wasn't so much Cartman making Butters look gay, but Cartman being 'gay', Cartman was flustered and wondered how he could reverse it! Kyle told him that he could 'undo the gayness' and 'reverse it' by putting his 'wiener' into Butters mouth. Cartman believed him and attempted to do this whilst Butters was blind folded. Anyway, one could perhaps compare the use of antithetical Bibical imagery and terminology to 'deprogram' one's mind to putting one's 'wiener' into a man's mouth to 'undo' one's 'gay' conditioning! And even repeatedly putting one's 'wiener' into a mans' mouth to ensure one remains fully purged of one's 'homosexuality'.
By seeking to oppose something, one often just makes it stronger or gives it more significance, not less. Simply ignoring or valuing something else would diminish its power. If you believe in the 'Law of Attraction', then opposing Christianity only fixates and focusses your mind on Christianity. e.g. 'I hate rainy days' vs 'I love sunny days'. Try saying each statement. What do you think of each time? Which makes you feel bad and which makes you feel good? Adopting a reactionary stance in all things and conforming to certain aesthetics and modalities means that one is in effect just as fetishistic as those in the RHP, perhaps more so. This is the ultimate irony and what we are left with now is not often freedom of thought at all but another, slightly niche way of being predictable and enslaved. Many LHP practitioners become bad stereotypes. It is often said by those experienced on spiritual paths that repulsion towards anything (be it Christianity etc.) or creation or manifestation (as in the Gnostic interpretation) is a preoccupation with material existence and the ego, and experiencing repulsion about certain things or concepts is a major impediment to true self-actualisation and spiritual evolution or self-mastery (or enlightenment whatever your goal is). To feel repulsion is an archonic addiction. To calmly analyse something in a detached manner is a sign of higher mental progression than a knee jerk reaction or ego trip (wanting subconsciously to be offended so one can enjoy a shadow projection temporarily).
If LHP philosophies did not use any reference to an 'adversarial' nature or to be the 'opposite' of anything, then it might encourage 'freer' thinking, less focus and fetishisation of the 'dark', and be less restrictive. As soon as you start to define yourself as opposed to something, you define yourself by others terms and focus on what you don't want. As with many things in life, contradiction and paradox, and the unification of conceptions is quite commonplace and reflects the reality of physics in many areas, so adopting one side of a dualistic pendulum is perhaps unwise or not reflective of objective reality, and is not a path towards non-dualistic totality and a tolerant and open society.
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that by being fixated on 'deprogramming' Judao-Christian conditioning by arguably childish inverted practices, and adopting hedonism, often at the expense of one's health, it overlooks the ultimate act of Satanic defiance, which is the empowerment on the lowest, most basic level - that of creating a physical body that is as powerful and energetic as possible, able to best live out a life to the full; and the act of cleansing the body of toxins accumulated by that dogmatic society and its food, agriculture and pharmaceutical industries - detoxifying the body - is the ultimate act of defiance against such a society and its physical dogma against the Self. As described in the health section of this web site. Yet few Satanists embrace this philosophy to the full. Religious indoctrination is only one way you may be getting 'played' so to focus on this at the expense of most other areas of modern society's conditioning may be quite foolish. Irony indeed.
Some regard Satanism as a necessary step in one's personal develop, in order to 'deprogram' the mind, and in a Jungian sense, embracing 'darkness' of the self. Satanism is regarded then as a stepping stone, rather than a final destination. Luciferianism or Gnostic Luciferianism is regarded often as the next stepping stone or even final destination for some. However, this in itself is often just another stepping stone. The final destination depends on the individual, but one could argue that a genuinely great philosophy does not require stepping stones, but is a continuous journey - the process is the destination - and that one does not need to jump ship and pursue another path, as it would contain more elements of truth and part truths than any other philosophy or set of philosophies. Why zig zag and go through 'half false' processes when you can go straight to the source? This is examined more on the Gnostic Luciferianism page.