Meditation’s become a popular subject in the last few years, with teachers, groups, influencers, stars and more jumping on the mindfulness train. With it has come modern takes on traditional approaches. Universities have scientifically verified versions of meditation practices. There are modern practitioners who fuse older traditions with modern science to create something fresh and new. I’ve been meditating for several years now. Recently I read ‘The Satanic Narratives’ which explains The United Aspects of Satan‘s version of Satanic mythology. It struck me that there was a huge amount in common with Buddhism and Satanism. Both are very individualistic religions where the individual is responsible for their own development. I thought I’d explore this further.
The importance of goals in meditation
The single most important thing in meditation is that its goal focussed. One misconception I hear is that it’s just ‘counting your breaths’ or ‘trying not to think’. I’ve never heard of a meditation practice where you try not to think. I would guess this idea comes from hearing about Nirvana, or other states where your mind is calm. But that’s generally a very long way off for those of us beginning to meditate. Accepting where you’re currently at is a large component of mindfulness and meditation. Most of us are nowhere near the stage where our minds are calm. We have swirling seas of thoughts, emotions and other mental activity. Meditation practice in this context generally consists of choosing a specific mental goal and finding the most helpful practice for it. Counting breaths is one tool, but it’s most helpful when done with a specific goal in mind.
Common meditation goals
Depending on the tradition you’re working in there will be different goals. Actually, when you get deeply into meditation, many of the paths converge. If you start out working on focus and attention, at some point tranquility will develop. If you begin by working on tranquility, eventually concentration improves.
Many common meditation goals and relate to different aspects of Satanism. I’ll go through some here.
Goal: Developing attention and awareness, leading to insight – “Lucifer”
The character of Lucifer in mythology is the lightbringer, associated with science, reason and enlightenment. One aspect of Lucifer I admire is that Lucifer didn’t reject God mindlessly. He knew God intimately and chose to reject him. In the ‘timeline’ of the Satan mythos, Lucifer is our first example of Satanic action. This action is a conscious choice that comes from clarity and knowledge. I relate to this as it’s important to me to make knowledge based choices. I believe knowledge is essential to mental freedom. The more unknowns there are in my head, the more likely I am to be unconsciously influenced by them. By developing attention and awareness, I can ‘see clearly’ what’s going on in my head. This gives me the freedom to make more informed choices.
Within meditation practice, there are some common classifications around attention and awareness that it’s worth knowing:
Common classifications of attention and awareness for meditation
- Single pointed focus
This is where you’re focussed on one thing. It’s actually an intermediate to advanced meditation goal because it’s quite difficult to achieve without falling into stress and tunnel vision. The goal here is to have focus, but with a light and joyful mind. Often, when people start meditating they try to focus strongly on one thing (the breath, a body part, a candle, a meditation object), but end up feeling stressed and tense. To fix this, you work up to single pointed focus by practicing other forms of focus that aren’t so ‘narrow’ and building up your other positive mental qualities as you go.
- Introspective awareness
Introspective awareness is awareness of the mind. When you go about your daily life, you’re aware of many things happening around you. Introspective awareness is similar to this but focussed on the mind.
Initially it involves just being aware of what your mind’s doing. Is it thinking or planning? Is it lost in a train of thought? Is it focussed on something? Is there a narrative happening? Is there a memory? Are emotions present?
Once you start to recognise what different types of mental activity feel like to you, you can start going into more detail. Ok, so you know strong emotions are present. Can you label them? How does your body feel when they arise? Do they stay the same or change? Are there other emotions ‘hidden’ behind them? (Fear hiding behind anger is a common one for me). A word of caution here – be prepared that you may find things that are difficult to cope with. If you think this might be the case I recommend doing these practices with a teacher or medical professional involved.
Once I was doing an exercise called ‘sitting with your emotions’. This exercise involves recognising when a strong emotion is present and just sitting with it. Allowing it without judging. At first I recognised that I was angry. So I began by just sitting with my anger, allowing it to be. I noticed how I felt, what my body was doing and some of the memories and thoughts that went along with the anger. Soon, though, I noticed that my anger didn’t feel ‘normal’ to me; I’m used to recognising anger and this didn’t feel like it. I searched around my mind and found that there was another emotion ‘behind’ the anger. At this point I was fairly calm and curious. I invited it to come out. Turned out it was fear. As soon as I invited it out, it became overwhelming. I wasn’t prepared at all. I’d had experience with anger, but always squashed, ignored or repressed fear. I literally didn’t have any basis for how to deal with it. Very quickly I found myself falling into a full on panic attack. Thankfully, a small part of my mind was able to recognise that the way to cope was to allow it. Slightly breathless, I willed myself to stop fighting the fear and let it be. There was still an alarm in my mind, screaming at me that this was dangerous. It felt like it would get worse and worse until my mind shut down. But it didn’t. And eventually it settled. Now, I make a point of sitting with fear often, confident in the knowledge that I’ll be ok. But I tell you this story just as a small reminder that if you take this seriously then it won’t always be comfortable. There are teachers and guides out there – if you think you need them I highly recommend seeking them out. I really don’t recommend accidentally sending yourself into a panic attack and passing out in your bedroom!
- Open awareness
Open awareness is similar to introspective awareness except that you aren’t limited in your field. It’s essentially awareness of everything around you. The key here is presence. You need to be ‘with’ your current experience. Not thinking about the future, not worrying about the past. Here, now, experiencing your life. Here’s a guided open awareness meditation.
Exercises for developing attention and awareness
Mindfulness of the breath – this is one of the core exercises of many mediators’ practice. There are many facets of this practice – counting breaths, following the whole breath, focussing on the breath at one part of the body (e.g. the breath at the nose). If you’re interested in trying it I recommend one of these guided practices.
Here’s a guided mindfulness of the breath exercise from the Berkley institute
Here’s a 2 minute mindfulness of breathing exercise from a former Buddhist monk
For a more in depth discussion, I recommend ‘The Mind Illuminated‘ by John Yates. The author has a PhD and combines many schools of mediation with current scientific knowledge. It gives a step by step description of how to go from complete beginner to experienced meditator. It’s basically the best meditation resource that I’ve come across so far.
Caution – breathing exercises can be triggering for those with specific traumas. If that’s you, then don’t try it. Remember – the point of meditation is to pick a goal and find the most useful tool to meet it. Breath exercises will be a useful tool for some, but not for others. Some find they can adapt this exercise by focussing on a different part of the body, perhaps a particular muscular sensation. Others don’t like any form of body awareness exercise. Sometimes, working with an external meditation object, like a candle can be more helpful.
This goal follows on from attention and awareness. The idea here is that once you see your mind calms and clears, you will think better. You’re essentially giving your mind room to breath. Attention and awareness, especially introspective awareness help you work through mental clutter. Once there’s more room you will find your mind makes connections more quickly and easily. This is where we get the real ‘Luciferian’ side of meditation. These practices help improve our ability to reason clearly and allow us to make clearer, more informed decisions.
Resources for developing insight
In addition to all the resources for attention and awareness, meditating on a subject can be a great way to develop insight. Traditionally you would meditate on a part of the Dhamma (Buddhist literature). For example, meditation on the ‘5 hindrances‘ has been very useful to me. In Buddhism these are 5 mental states that prevent you from developing a healthy mind. But you can meditate on anything. Take a concept that you think has depth and commit to meditating on it for a set amount of time.
I tend to favour seated meditations most of the time, however for meditations on a subject I actually love swimming meditation. There’s something about the motion that helps me concentrate on a subject. Other’s enjoy walking meditation. The key is that you can do something without expending too much mental energy on it – you want most of your mind focussed on your subject. Once you’ve chosen your meditation format, begin by grounding yourself and ensuring you’re present. One grounding exercise is to find one thing for each of the 5 senses. One thing you can see, one you can hear, something you can taste, something you can tough (e.g. the feeling of fabric on your skin) and something you can smell.
Once you’re grounded and present, attend to your subject with an attitude of curiosity and care. Treat it as if it’s completely new and delightful. Look at all aspects of it without judgement if you can. If you find yourself judging, that’s usually a signal that you need to come at it with more playful curiosity. Investigate the source of your judgement, see if there are other ways of looking at it, try and figure out what’s causing the judgement. If you notice you’re confused, try and figure out why. Is there something you don’t know about it? Is there an assumption you’re holding that may be false?
Goal: Balance “Baphomet”
Remember I mentioned that beginner meditators often find that focus can stress them out? Another important point about meditation is that there are many mental qualities to develop. As we work on one, sometimes another can lapse. You work on focus and your joy and peace decrease. You work on joy and your attention ends up wandering. If we want a well rounded practice then we need to stay aware of our mind and work on different aspects of it. I see it a bit like the image below. You have various goals and ideally you want your mind to be balanced. Maintaining all of these positive attributes at once:
In reality, though, our minds tend to be more like this:
When I began meditation practice I was really upset. I’d just gone through a traumatic, stressful breakup. My worldview was completely shattered. I found meditation just at the point where I was starting to put myself back together. Quickly I latched onto the focus and attention aspects of meditation. It gave me something to do with my mind. Something to work on that distracted me from all the pain. During that time I had a few truly joyful meditation experiences, where it felt like my mind was golden. But I couldn’t get to that point consistently, which was frustrating. It wasn’t until I reread The Mind Illuminated that I spotted all the references to joy. I’d clearly had a blindspot the first time I read the book, focussing more on the ‘serious business’ of attention. Once I started looking for it, joy was everywhere. Every instruction on focus also mentioned light and joyful. I paused my previous practice and started working on bringing joy into everything I did. My practice changed dramatically.
I see the balance of Baphomet in this aspect of meditation. In Baphomet we find opposites – male/female, animal/human, darkness and light etc. Between the opposites are grey areas. The Buddhist concept of the ‘middle way’ is similar. In the images above, each mental state is essentially a ‘middle way’ between two extremes. This is how I visualise them in my own practice – working on a particular mental state is about finding the balance between two extremes. As I work on one, another may fall, but eventually all of them will get closer to the centre.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the obvious difference, though. In Buddhism the middle way is prized at all times – generally Buddhists would not want the highs and lows of desire, scattered attention, ego etc. In my experience of Satanism, though, balance is generally found through embracing those highs and lows as well as the middle path. Personally I find this more fulfilling. When I created this diagram the idea of euphoria being unhelpful did leave me sad. Now, I don’t worry about tracking the middle way so religiously. I certainly haven’t got to the stage of ‘experienced meditator’ yet. If I do, perhaps I’ll feel differently. But for now, I’m going to enjoy riding the waves.
Resources for developing balance
If I was writing this from a Buddhist perspective I’d recommend the 40 meditation objects. These are objects of focus for meditation and the idea is that they are tools to work on particular mental states. Each is intended to develop your mind in different ways.
From a Satanic perspective, though, I wonder if we could have a little more fun with it. I suggest taking the basic concept of a meditation object and finding your own way to balance. Satanists certainly love symbols and we can chose from a whole range of mythology. Try a meditation with the lucifer sigil as an object of focus. Or maybe if you’re feeling daring pick something from the range of Christian superstition – bread and wine perhaps? Or one of those creepy Virgin Mary effigies. I think most Satanists would find those far more repulsive than Buddhism’s skeleton (the 10th ‘object of repulsion’)
It’s also worth trying activity. Meditation doesn’t have to be just hanging out doing lotus position. If you’re feeling depressed or cooped up, go for a walk. While you’re walking pick something to meditate on for the whole time. Maybe you need something intellectually stimulating. Maybe you need something fun and silly. Try to discover what will bring you balance and do it in as holistic a way as possible. Engage the senses and the mind.
Goal: Empowered peace and self love “Belial”
When I was thinking about peace and relaxation from a Satanic perspective, the association didn’t come immediately. Lucifer is a fairly obvious connection to attention and awareness, Baphomet’s always associated with balance, but peace…my natural association for peace was God. Blergh.
Thing is, although I was told as a Christian that God brings peace, I never actually felt it. I distinctly remember the moment I realised that I was an atheist and how calm my mind felt. Honestly, that was one of the first moments I truly understood what peace was – when I gave up all the Christian superstition. Thinking was easier and more natural when I stopped fighting against my own mind to maintain contradictory beliefs.
Satanists certainly don’t value the kind of soppy, harp playing peace that you find in Jesus. I’m dubious about whether it even exists – I don’t see many peaceful Christians around. But I think that there’s a peace that comes with strong self worth, self love and a clear mind. It brings steadiness, conviction and trust in yourself. It’s a much more empowered peace than the Christian version. It also takes work to get to. Meditation is not easy – you can’t ignore all your issues and just trust in some invisible man in the sky. You gotta do it yourself. Do the difficult work of knowing yourself. It’s in this sense that I see the strong individualism of Belial; in a Satanist’s empowered peace.
Resources for developing relaxation and peace
Thich Nhat Hanh
I recommend anything by the zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I particularly like his ‘How to…’ books. How to fight, how to love, how to eat etc. One of his exercises is to try to relax every muscle in the face. How often do you find yourself tensing your forehead, or frowning? Try for one minute each day, to see if you can relax your face as much as possible. I do this almost every day.
The idea behind the ‘Body scan‘ is to calm the mind by relaxing the body. Did you know that 80%-90% of the Vagus nerve signals are actually body to brain, not the other way round? (source – psychology today) For years, Buddhists have known that relaxing the body can relax the mind. The anapanasati sutta (the Buddhist text on mindful breathing) contains 16 steps, the first 4 of which are all to do with mindfulness of the body. Now, the science seems to be catching up. There’s a whole body of psychology that uses somatic methods to heal or prevent psychological trauma. Deb Dana’s work on the Polyvagal theory and Peter Levine’s work on somatic healing are both excellent resources for this.
The idea of ritual as a scientifically verifiable source of self-help is becoming more widely recognised. Ritual – ‘The Devil’s Tome‘ by Shiva Honey contains descriptions of the benefits to ritual, as well as self love rituals you can perform. For scientific study on ritual, you can look at Harvard Professor Francesca Gino’s work.
Part 2 coming soon: Developing Joy, Equanimity and Presence