Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More for Chas Clifton: Existentialism, Archetypes and Anton LaVey

On G+ Chas Clifton said in response to my previous post:
I would comment on your blog if you just had the name/URL option. Or if WordPress ID worked, the failure of which is not your fault.
I've allowed anonymous quoting, which should allow you to quote with name/url. Let me know if that works. 
I would definitely appreciate hearing your thoughts on this subject, especially on the 60s-70s Pagan and "white light/occultnik" religions. I am curious as to how many Pagans in the 1960s had a similar pantheistic-atheistic-archetypistic worldview. At present I think a fair number of Neopagans, maybe even a majority, would have no problem saying that "the God and the Goddess represent the forces of nature and are symbolic rather than actual anthropomorphized entities." But I'm not sure if that was the standard view in the 1960s or if most of the community believed they were contacting the actual Old Gods and Goddesses. Was LaVey ahead of the curve in 1966 with this worldview, or was he was following a contemporary trend? I honestly don't know.

(Although I suspect that if I show a LaVeyan influence on contemporary Neopagan thought Isaac Bonewits will spin in his grave so fast that he breaks the sound barrier ;) ).

One thing I'm finding is that LaVey was a lot smarter than people think. They forget that before he was Anton Szandor LaVey he was a kid named Howard who spent his days reading everything he could get his hands on and remained a lifelong voracious bibliophile. I definitely see a Reichean influence in LaVey's conception of a "dark force in nature," for example. (Considering LaVey dedicated the first edition of The Satanic Bible to Reich among others, I think that's a pretty safe assumption). A lot of times I think what his enemies call "plagiarism" is him using ideas and phrases which caught his attention and which he internalized. Keep in mind he was an autodidact with no college education: it's not surprising that his attributions sometimes didn't measure up to academic standards.

I'd like to bone up on contemporary Existentialist texts to see if there's any influence there. While I don't think Sartre or Camus would necessarily disagree with many of his thoughts on the human condition or his proposed solutions therefor, I would like to make sure first that LaVey actually had some interest in Existentialism.  It wouldn't be implausible: plenty of intellectuals in the 1950s were reading Sartre, or at least leaving his books lying around on their coffee table. But I'd like to get something more to solidify any linkage.  And I'd also note that for somebody who hated "occultniks" so much, he had at least a passing familiarity with most of the material available to a mid-20th century scholar of the occult. I've come to suspect the Doc hated occultniks so much not because they were interested in magic but because their magic was ineffective.