Podcasts/Sacred Tension-STPoetic Faith9gza1
STPoetic_Faith9gza1 SUMMARY KEYWORDS people, religion, ritual, satanic temple, faith, wrote, called, belief, life, book, non theistic, poetic, world, talking, religious, point, atheists, sense, satanism, find SPEAKERS Stephen Bradford Long, Tony Wolf
00:00 You're listening to a rock candy podcast. I am Avery Smith. And I'm here to invite you to bless it are the binary breakers and multifaith podcast of transgender stories. Whatever your own relationship to gender and spirituality may be, you will find yourself enriched by the stories shared by my guests who so far have ranged in religion from Christian and pagan to Jewish, Sikh, atheist and beyond and have hailed from the US, Chile, Poland, Australia and more tune in wherever you get your podcasts or read along with episode transcripts by visiting blesses are the binary breakers.com See you there.
Stephen Bradford Long 01:03 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the discipline of asking questions. My name is Steven Bradford long and we are here on the rock candy Podcast Network. For more shows like this one, go to rock candy recordings.com All right. As always, I have to thank my patrons. I have an absolutely crippling addiction to oversharing on the internet. And I need you to help fund this crippling addiction. So in order to do that, go to patreon.com forward slash Steven Bradford long and for $1 $3 $5 a month you get extra content every single week including my house of heretics podcast with the former Salvation Army officer turned Christian heretic Timothy McPherson, and we discuss faith, religion, Satanism philosophy, current events, from our dissonant lens, my dissonant perspectives, my perspective as a Satanist his perspective as a progressive Christian and patrons listening live and contribute to the conversation to so every Wednesday morning, it is always a fun time. This show is a one man operation, I do all of the recording all of the writing all of the booking all of the editing all of the production. And it is a part time job in addition to working for the temple and doing my day job. So every little bit really does help. And I believe in bringing these conversations to you for free. I believe that the world needs interesting long form conversations. But in order to do that, I need your help. So for this week, I have to thank Patricia Moreno, Scott Armstrong and Anna, thank you so much. With all of that out of the way. I'm delighted to welcome Tony wolf to the show. Hello, Tony. Welcome. Hello, Steven. And thank you. So tell us some about who you are and what you do. We connected via email you you sent me an email linking to a really lovely article that you wrote. And we started talking, we started going back and forth about the topic of what you call poetic faith. But before we get into that, tell us some about who you are and what you do.
Tony Wolf 03:29 Sure. I have a peculiar accent which you may already have noticed this because I was born and raised in New Zealand. I've been living in Chicago in the US for the past 1617 years Land
Stephen Bradford Long 03:40 of the hobbits Do you get it? Is that it's like somehow racist against New Zealanders to say land of The Hobbit. Okay, wonderful. Like do you get does it annoy you that, that people bring up hobbits all the time in relation to New Zealand?
Tony Wolf 03:57 Well, as a matter of fact, I worked on the Lord of the Rings movies.
Stephen Bradford Long 04:00 Oh my god. Okay. We're just going to talk about that for the rest of the movie for the rest of the show. We are we are ditching the rest and all of the topics that we had planned. We're talking about Lord of the Rings now.
Tony Wolf 04:13 Yes, yeah. I always hesitate before I bring that up in the sort of context but so now, there's it's certainly not an insult. It isn't racist. Neither incidentally has been called a Kili.
Stephen Bradford Long 04:23 Oh, good. Okay. I can call you a Hobbit or a kiwi.
Tony Wolf 04:28 You can call me a hobbit. Q if you feel like it. Yeah, but I
Stephen Bradford Long 04:32 very tactlessly completely interrupted your introduction of yourself within like the first sentence. So do please continue.
Tony Wolf 04:42 I'm so sorry. I was fine. That was where I was born and raised anyway. And New Zealand is a very atheistic sort of the country. I believe one of the most atheistic or non theistic countries in the world. And I was born in the late 60s grew up in the 70s and I It is, and really never received any sort of religious education at all. No Sunday school, no indoctrination of any kind. But I developed a really strong kind of intellectual interest in the variety of belief, particularly sort of fringe beliefs as a young teenager, and I spent some time in my teens and early 20s, just trying to investigate that as well as I could prior a long time prior to the internet, I would visit various fringe groups and do a lot of research on the libraries, buying secondhand books, and so on. I was just fascinated by the phenomenon of belief. I wanted to figure out why people who believe particularly in the supernatural, why they thought that way. And so I was going on to these groups, not in the sense of trying to find a belief for myself. But more as a sort of undercover anthropologist, I wanted to get to know the people and figure out what they were about. And as a result of that interest came across the notion of creative spirituality, which is something that I think I first came across that and Miko Atlas book drawing down the moon, which is very readable and very fascinating for me, the study of the American Neo pagan center in the 70s. And I was very impressed by that, partly because these people did not seem necessarily to be true believers, they seem to be operating in a kind of a third way space, somewhere between the sort of skepticism that is satisfied with with simply saying no to everything. And the type of true belief in which one one would prefer a genuine belief in gods and magic and those sorts of things. The pagans seem to have found a third way. And so I got involved in that scene for a while. And in my early 20s. Now, and unfortunately, at about that time, I lost two very close friends, one to suicide, and the other to a tragic motorcycle accident. I attended the funerals, and I wrote one of them, I wrote an obituary for one of them. I helped his family clear out his apartment. But I was left unmoved, particularly by the funeral, he was Greek Orthodox. And so I attended the event. And I didn't understand the symbolism, I didn't understand that, apart from anything else, the priest was speaking largely in Greek, I was just unmoved. And that left me sort of unsatisfied in the wake of these tragedies. And so because of my interest in this, this idea of creative spirituality, the idea that you could create your own soulful practice, I guess, as a work of art in the same way that you might write a poem or compose a piece of music or write a story. I devised my own memorial ritual for him. And I found that that was profoundly effective. That actually gave me a sense of, of closure. And I found the fact in the decades this was 30, something years ago now. But I have found that in the decades following, looking back at that, I'm so profoundly glad that I did it, because now it gives it gives me a positive memory and a sense to go along with the tragedy of his his violent and very sudden and very untimely death, he was only 25. And ever since then, I've paid really close attention to this phenomenon of what I think of as poetic faith. We'll get into that, I guess, later on, and particularly towards innovations in kind of artistic Memorial and memento mori ritual that has, it's been a sustaining interest for 30, something years, after my father died in 2016, I began to pay much more attention to what was going on in that sphere. With regards to the death positivity movement, the death cafe, scene, those sorts of things. And then the pandemic rolled around, of course, in 2020, at a very sort of heightened point of my life as well. And it occurred to me then, that if I was never going to take this public, because it always just been my practice my sort of individual underground thing that I did. But it just seemed like so many people were dying. And during the early stages of the pandemic, we had no idea how contagious the virus might be. This could virtually have been the end of the world for we knew. And it just seemed to me like this would be a very worthy thing to focus much of my attention on. This is kind of what I've been doing since then.
Stephen Bradford Long 09:30 So you've been focusing on creating cathartic and meaningful rituals in a time of, you know, death and destruction and uncertainty for a lot of people for people who might not have a faith in the supernatural. Am I hearing that right?
Tony Wolf 09:54 It is. Yeah, I think that if one has faith in the supernatural one can still probably get a good be allowed the sorts of things that I, I've created over the years, but it's particularly for secularists, for atheists, for people who with the best will in the world may find themselves rather floundering in these very extreme emotional circumstances, they may find that that reason and logic will only take them so far and they find that they need the the catharsis, as you say, of a symbolic ritual. And the rituals can be performed without any, without any literal belief in the supernatural at all. Do you think
Stephen Bradford Long 10:35 that there is a drive within humanity for for symbolism and ritual and enchantment to enter into what Joseph Laycock calls a para chasm, which is kind of a shared imaginative world? Do I jumped? I go back and forth on this because I personally feel a very deep religious need, I experience this deep, deep religious need that that is that Jesus does not go away. I've always been a deeply religious person. I've never not been religious. I don't know if that extends to everyone. though. I don't know if that is a universal feature. And I'm not comfortable saying that it is. But But what do you think? Do you think that that there is any kind of an innate need for religious expression or symbolism?
Tony Wolf 11:32 I think that there is for very many people, certainly, I've gone through years in my life where I didn't feel any need to perform ritual or to really focus on spirituality. I think of it as soulfulness. Sometimes, I think, because I was simply getting enough of that my daily life, sometimes because I was busy doing other things. But I think it's very valuable to have that faculty available for the times when you do need it. I think that many people inherently probably do need it anyway. And I think that a really, quite a small number of people have an almost visceral reaction against that idea. I think possibly, particularly people who are sort of in recovery from the Orthodox mainstream religions, there's a great deal of resistance, I know, in the skeptical community in some of the, the atheistic communities, to anything that even sort of smacks of religion. And they can be kind of hard cells when I'm trying to explain this, this notion of poetic faith, because I think to them, it's basically a painful reminder of a situation they'd rather that rather than ever has been involved with,
Stephen Bradford Long 12:43 do you think that there's some people who are just wired differently in and I don't mean that in a negative sense at all, that they're just people who, for for whom? Religion does not, and religion and ritual just does not move the needle at all, you know, like, maybe someone like Richard Dawkins, who was just, you know, I don't know, just fucking born like that, which is great. It's fine. You know, we all know like those stone cold atheists. And, and they're wonderful, this isn't a diss on them at all. But I, I look at how they express themselves and what they talk about. And then I look at my own life. And there's, there's a fundamental difference there. And I sometimes wonder if it's, if it's like almost neurological, if it's a different type of personality or type of wiring, you know,
Tony Wolf 13:40 I think it could well be I know, you know, the extremes in that direction. I mean, there was, if you look back into the history of humanism, this has always been an assumption that you can read right back to the time of the Enlightenment, that insofar as humans at the mass of humans might become capable of, of life without faith in the supernatural, that the gap that would be left, and it's acknowledged that that would be a massive gap for, for gigantic numbers of people, that it would be filled by the wonders of, for example, democratized art and literature and the wonders of nature. And I think that that does hold true, but for quite a small number of people. I think that the majority I mean, clearly the majority of humans. I don't know if they need it, but they definitely want to have some some form of transcendent symbology and and ritual in their lives.
Stephen Bradford Long 14:40 Yeah, have you seen this as a bit of a tangent? But have you seen Are you familiar with the YouTuber contra points? I'm sure with contra points. She's, she's a trans YouTuber, and she's really brilliant, but I'm going to recommend that all of my listeners go watch her neatest, genius video. It's about an hour long so it's definitely an investment. But it's a it's it's a oh god, how do I even do I do I want to go down the route of of explaining this impossible video I guess I'll go for it and if I have to cut this out, then that's fine. But in this video she dramatize is a conversation between a fundamentalist Christian and a secular activist, of a secular progressive activist. And it's, it's brilliant, because it is obvious that the fundamentalist Christian is wrong, and that her worldview is fundamentally destructive, but that there is a fundamental need being met in her in her life in her worldview, by her religious existence that is not being met in the activists life and the progressive activists life. And then as the movie unfolds as the movie, I mean, it is practically a movie. And then as the mood as the video unfolds, the video follows the the the activist that contra points is playing, and I think her name is Justine Tableau in this video and how she is so riddled with guilt and shame. And she's ostracized by her own community, all of which has happened to counterpoint herself within the trans community, and she turns to opioids, she turns to really heavy drug addiction. And so within this video is the tension between what I think is a very honest portrayal that I think contra points probably is wrestling with and grappling with is, on the one hand, a religion that fulfills a need a personal need, but as a fundamentally destructive to society. Versus a secularism that might be true, but feels utterly empty. And, and she and the video is just left with and like on this note of despair on this note of desperation and despair, just not knowing how to resolve that. And I think that that's the dilemma that maybe not most people find themselves in. But it's the dilemma that I found myself in, I felt like I was stuck between cold rationality, or irrational religion, and I needed both. And I could, and I didn't know how to find it. And it was only until the Satanic Temple came along that I felt like I discovered. It was like discovering something revolutionary. For me. I felt like I had discovered a new continent or something. It wasn't of this. This realization of I can have enchantment I can have religion and I can have rationality to. And I don't have to believe in God in order to be to satisfy this deep religious need. So yeah, if you get a chance, definitely watch that video by contra points, because it is very powerful. I'll send it to you after the show. Also, I'll put it in the show notes for everyone else to watch it as well.
Tony Wolf 18:24 Thank you. Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Yeah, what you've just described is exactly what I think of as Politik, faith. And the Satanic Temple is a superb example of that. I'm actually about halfway through writing a book on the subject. So my husband says, my answers and comments may be a little scattered. Sure. But I would say the Satanic Temple is obviously the, the most popular and largest manifestation of this, this idea, this phenomenology, which I've been trying to trace back, really to the, to the time of the ancient Greeks, but particularly back over the past couple of 100 years. And you can see a kind of an evolution of this concept from, from pure ideation, through to the first sort of tentative steps towards actualization. And then during the period of the 1960s and 70s, via the counterculture movement, suddenly, an entire generation felt as if it had permission to play with these ideas. So all of a sudden, you get the Church of Satan and all of the Neo pagan groups, they all sort of exploded on the into the counterculture scene at that time. But now we're at least one generation after that. And which is what one of the one of the reasons why I find this Satanic Temple so interesting is that the idea of of the practice has now matured. And so with TST, you have an institution that basically takes us read the scientific worldview. And this is okay, now what, which is this thing that I think we're the best will in the world, humanism has never really achieved it. Hmm. And I find it very exciting.
Stephen Bradford Long 20:02 I agree with that there was a quote from in Ruben van Lewin. Actually, it's pronounced Ruben van lac, I just found that out. But it looks like luik you wrote the book children of Lucifer, but one of the opening quotes of his book here, let me let me find this, oh, Kindles signed out, nevermind, I won't find it. My technology has conspiring against me, but the quote was something like the religion of the future will be the atheism of today. Or will be the seeds planted by atheists, or something like that something, something of that nature. And which I think, I think that there's something inevitable about religion, in that, you know, the, the four horsemen of the apocalypse can come along, and they can kind of break down the doors of of fundamentalist religion in the United States and, and kind of usher in this sect try to usher in the secularization, and it's almost like even secularization, and the scientific method and rationality will become a given and then will be folded into the future iterations of religion, whatever that is, if that makes sense.
Tony Wolf 21:24 Yeah, it does. And I think that's, that's in a way, that's the opportunities that some of the major humanist groups, the certainly groups like the Satanic Temple, the spiritual naturalist, society, the religious naturalist Association, you can see these these various approaches popping up in all corners of academia and the work of certain fringe artists basically, bubbling up in from the counterculture and from various subcultures. And this is quite a recent thing, which we could date it back, I guess, again to the 60s and 70s. But there's there's definitely a resurgence of that sort of thing over about the past 10 years. And I think it's partly a reaction against the increasing sort of monotheism and a sense of the dominant culture of the mainstream culture, which is becoming evermore increasingly corporate and slick, and, and boring, frankly. And you're starting to see these, these, these bubbling pockets of fringe thought, in a variety of spheres. I'm personally I'm interested to see what's going to happen when all of those people start discovering each other and start sharing ideas. I don't think that's really that's really happening yet. But I'm hoping to have a hand and helping it.
Stephen Bradford Long 22:42 So give a succinct definition of poetic faith. What do you mean when you say poetic faith?
Tony Wolf 22:51 Well, it's the same thing that JRR Tolkien referred to were very nearly the same thing that Tolkien referred to when he would write about myth appear, which means mythmaking. Tolkien was a devout Christian but obviously also the author of The Lord of the Rings. And he took mythology in this some creative practice of mythmaking very seriously, he actually coined that phrase, I think, during a sort of a poetic argument was CS Lewis, who was the author of the the Narnia stories. Lewis at that time, had professed a sort of a disinterest or a disrespect for mythology, because Willis was also a Christian. And Tolkien wrote this extraordinary poem, in which he, he kind of challenged Lewis's point. And his, his idea of mythmaking was that, in a way, mythology could reveal truths that were truer than reality. And also, there was the there's the notion of this is not succinct. I've just realized,
Stephen Bradford Long 23:59 no, no, no, that's no, this is great. Keep going. This is madness.
Tony Wolf 24:05 But I think that's that's what he was writing about. The thing is, as a devout Christian, he referred to this. Mr. Pena is some creation of mythology as as a sub creation, because he was not able to conceive of other of the human creation that could equal that of the supernatural God. But once you get again to the period of the 60s and 70s, you have a generation of young adults who have grown up reading The Lord of the Rings, just for example. And I think that when those that generation of kids got into college, they started to look around and think we know what the 60s are happening. And you know what? These books The Lord of the Rings, this this mythology, means much more to me personally and stirs my imagination and gets my my sense of soulfulness ribbing in a way that the church that I went to when I was a kid just never did. And that generation felt a freedom perhaps for the first time. For the first time in history, there had been outliers going way back for several 100 years. But this was the first time it happened on a generational scale, that there was the sense of permission given to experiment with that, and to play not only with the idea of it, but with the practice. So the there was not a succinct at all. But I think that poetic faith, as I use it is very much akin to what he referred to as, as myth appears as myth making. The difference is that now because I use the term poetic faith in a way that's distinct from the way that colors should I should talk a bit about Samuel coloriage, who actually coined the phrase,
Stephen Bradford Long 25:47 the poetic faith, you mean, yeah, got it.
Tony Wolf 25:51 Yeah. And coloriage way back in the earliest, early 1800s. He was a poet, very famous English poet. And he wrote of conjuring the suspension of disbelief that can conjure up for a moment, this sense of poetic faith in something that isn't real. But which can still impact one deeply, profoundly, emotionally imaginatively, intellectually, you know, that it isn't real. But you're able to enter into the spirit, I think that's another good definition. It's the ability to imaginatively and emotionally enter into the spirit of a work of fiction, with the intellectual understanding that it's fiction, but still allow that, to, to make massive epical changes, hopefully, for the good in one's life and one's personality and one's worldview.
Stephen Bradford Long 26:42 So I'm drawing all kinds of parallels here, because Anton LaVey would talk about objectively entering into a subjective space, which I think is a a good way to put that. And he also talked about confining the, confining the ritual to the ritual chamber. And, and which means kind of entering the ritual chamber entering the magic chamber and an understanding that, that you're entering a fantasy, but it's real simultaneously and it is psychologically real, it is powerful, you experience it. And then you can exit that space and, and go into the mundane, returned to the mundane. And, you know, I've, you know, as as as crazy and shitty as Anton LaVey, was, a lot of the time he had a few good insights. And I think that was one of the good insights. But also, I've been thinking about this in. So the other day, I was on a walk with a friend, and we were talking about, about this subject and the subject of kind of inventing religion, inventing religion, and basically, the conversation was, you know, I don't believe in God, but I feel this need. And, but I feel like a lack of belief will make the thing less powerful will make the thing less real. And I was like, I don't think that's true belief or lack of belief, does not lessen the power of the religious and ritual experience. And that's so counterintuitive for so many people. And so I want I think one of the big hurdles that a lot of people have, for what you describe as poetic faith, or, you know, non theistic ritual. And this is one of the hurdles that I that I think a lot of people that I've seen a lot of people go through when they approach ritual within Satanism is, well, if I don't believe it, then what's the point? If I don't believe it, then then what's the purpose? What good does this do? And I get this from both sides of the faith spectrum? How do I get this from atheists who say, Well, what's the point of doing? What's the point of having a pagan or magic ritual? What's the point of doing chaos magic, which I'm a huge personal fan of, what's the point of doing chaos magic? Or what's what's the point of, of having an altar? My altar is currently covered in books right now, as you can see, but what's the point of having an altar? That you ritualize? What's the point of having a sacred space or any of that stuff? What's the point of it? If you don't believe it's real? What's the fucking point? And then I get the exact same thing from people of supernatural faith, people who literally believe in God and they say, Well, you know, If Christ is just a symbol, if he's just an archetype, and he didn't actually raise from the dead, you know, die, and then raise again on the third day, then what's the whole fight? What's the fucking point of the maths? What's the point of this ritual? How do you how do you get past that hurdle? Well,
Tony Wolf 29:55 I explained that in terms again, of suspension of disbelief, so it's not Believe it isn't rock ribbed unbelief, or isn't again the kind of unbelief that is simply satisfied with the saying no to everything. I would explain it in positive terms of reinterment. Not in a literal magic sense, magic with a CK. But in terms of, again the ability to enter imaginatively and emotionally into the spirit of basically a narrative. And I'm using narrative in a very broad sense a narrative could be, could be invested, for example, in a symbol TST invests a great deal of narrative power into the literary symbol of Satan. Yes, without, without obviously believing in a literal entity, a supernatural entity called Satan. But the point there is that the symbol genuinely does mean a great deal, which from grieves, keeps referring to our deeply held beliefs, because they are because if you're using Satan to represent ideas like bodily autonomy and rebellion against unjust tyranny, and Hell yeah, people believe in that and so they should I sometimes use the the parallel of people going to visit things like the Statue of Liberty, no one literally believes that Lady Liberty is is a huge Goddess of freedom. But damn sure people go there and they feel something and they can feel something very profound and moving, because they understand that this is a personification. This is a, a literary in a sense of a symbolic construct. But the thing in something,
Stephen Bradford Long 31:41 yeah, yeah, absolutely. And the only so so I have the, I have my previous life as a Christian to kind of compare my my life as a Satanist to. And what's so interesting to me is, I did literally believe in Jesus. I did literally believe in God and the Trinity. I do not literally believe in Satan. But the experience of of the experience of Jesus, in the experience of Satan, are so close to each other, religiously speaking, they are for as a matter of experience, it's almost like Satan, the literary symbol of Satan imbues my every day I mean, I am a Satanist every single day I live and breathe the tenets I am, it's just become part of the fabric of my life. It's like closer than my skin and that symbol and that life and the and the imaginative power and enchantment of the symbol of Satan is just there with me every single day, I could say the exact same thing about the person of Christ. But I literally believed in Christ. But and I guess that, for me, that demonstrates that belief is not the important ingredient that we hear in America and kind of Protestant centric, America might think it is. Right? It we might be, it might not be the essential ingredient for having profound religious experience and, and, and a profound a profound sense of enchantment.
Tony Wolf 33:28 Yeah, no, I don't think that it is. And I think that the experience of other cultures and places outside of the US and other cultures through history tend to be that out. I mean, there are plenty of religions in the world that don't actually require a literal belief in deities, for example, but they do tend to, as it will require a certain shade of said, excuse me a certain set of shared values. And very frequently, they will at least strongly encourage a set of shared behaviors through ritual. I think that the there's an interesting case study. So Francis Galton, English scientist, again, early 19th century, early mid 19th century, he was very interested in I'm using the language that he used the language of the mid 19th century, but he was interested in the primitive beliefs of primitive tribes people. And he tried an experiment on himself a psychological experiment, whereby he hung up a poster of a character cartoon character called Mr. Punch. Some of your readers or your listeners may be aware of Mr. Punch, sort of a grotesque puppet. There's an added Punch and Judy show. And at that time, Mr. Punch was used as the mascot for a famous humor magazine. Anyway, golden got this idea in his head and he hung up a picture of Mr. Punch on his wall, and for 10 minutes or something every morning, he would focus all of the force of His will and His imagination and his sentiment on this image, trying to come To the sort of religious or that he that he was searching for. And he found after a period of several weeks that it was starting to work. And it worked to the point that it actually frightened him. Yes. Yeah. And I think that I mean, that's a fascinating experiment for that man at that time. But I think it concretely demonstrates the sort of phenomenon that we're talking about. There was no sense in which Sir Francis Galton literally believed that Mr. Punch was a God, because he's basically a ridiculous grotesque puppet. Yeah. But under the circumstances that he willingly entered, in the in the spirit of suspension of disbelief, he entered the state of poetic faith, and it profoundly moved him. And again, it's not a complicated thing, really, because we all learn to, to enter the state of poetic faith as young children, we learn to read within we watching television or whatever we learn to enter into the spirit of whatever the narrative is. And we can be positively changed, we can be profoundly changed by many people will remember favorite books from childhood that they will say, when they look back, this is really had a profound impact on my life on the way I see the world and the way I treat other people. That's that's the phenomenon I'm talking about. And I think to go back to your earlier question, that's one of the ways I would explain it. And both rationalists and true believers, and rationalist, you can explain it easily. Simply, in psychological terms, the placebo effect is a real thing.
Stephen Bradford Long 36:23 Absolutely. And one thing that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and I've been thinking about this, because I've been getting back into the game Magic the Gathering, which I was into in college, and I have a friend who is who who plays it. And so I've started playing it again with him. And for people who don't know, you know, Magic the Gathering, it's a card game, but it takes place in like this vast, this vast fantasy multiverse, and you are a player in the game, you are a character in this universe. And there are mythologies and worlds and characters and classes and jazz in it's huge. And it's the same experience with Dungeons and Dragons, when you play Dungeons and Dragons. And there is a very real sense of entering into an enchanted space. When you play a game like magic the gathering, or Dungeons and Dragons. And that sense that feel of you're, you're engaged in this with another person or group of people. And you are in this shared imaginative space. And even though it's imaginative, that doesn't make it less impactful. Because then you you walk away from that experience, you re enter the mundane world. You know, I go go home from from the game night and I go to bed and then I go to work the next day. But I carry within me this sense of having actually had a real experience that that changed me in some really meaningful way. There was a shared enchantment that has left an imprint on me that that experience of, of gaming, and I don't say and I you know, Joseph Laycock, who I bring up all the time he wrote, Speak of the devil, which is the Book about tst. But early on he many years ago, he wrote a book called Dangerous Games, which is...
Tony Wolf 38:35 I'm looking at it right now.
Stephen Bradford Long 38:36 Oh, you're okay. Perfect. Have you read?
Tony Wolf 38:37 In fact, I first came across that book in the satanic temple library.
Stephen Bradford Long 38:41 Yeah, it's it's a fantastic book. But one of the things he talks about is the importance of play. And play is not a derogatory thing at all, you know, he doesn't use the term play in a demeaning sense, play is this incredibly profound and human experience that involves engagement and role playing and an entering an enchanted space to gather. And I wonder if, if play, and religion and ritual are kind of cut from the same cloth?
Tony Wolf 39:16 Yes, I think that they are I think they are far closer than specialists in any one of those areas would normally consider the parallel. I was talking before about these non theistic religions, approaches to poetic faith that are bubbling up at the moment. In parallel with that there are psychologists doing serious work on what what they sometimes called Deep play, which is I think the experience that you're talking about, it's just, it's just kind of a matter of recontextualizing reframing, we think of play as something that is trivial because it's done by children. Well, not necessarily. When adults play, they'll play watch six games, they'll play football. These are because these are the things that most people do. They're the mainstream But you look again, into into the counterculture into subcultures, you start to find all sorts of interesting manifestations of play. A lot of the the even today, the major Neo pagan religions began effectively as jokes. Yes, or as games. Yeah. And then what happened consistently, pretty much across the board was people were just again, mostly young people, most university students in the late 60s, early 70s, they were playing with these ideas. And then they'd go out into the world and maybe, maybe hold some sort of a ritual, a ritual in honor of Dionysus, or Odin, or damaged or whatever. And they would find that it's not only fun, but it actually works. And so then they start to take a little more seriously, and they go out again, and gradually, because these groups tend to be, they're not necessarily but they do often tend to be fairly short lived. But gradually over time, because there were so many of them, and they started to communicate back and forth, writing occasional conferences, as you get into the 1980s and 90s. It develops into its own cult, countercultural scene, it develops its own, in a sense, ritual technologies. And again, that's a reason why I find TSG. So interesting now, is that you guys have the benefit of that. Where are we? 50 year 55 year tradition? Yeah, whether it's whether it's conscious or not, but it's something that you can call upon. And it's now established, you don't necessarily have to invent it all yourselves. You can certainly innovate. But but the concept has now been seated. Yeah, absolutely. Concept of the state play of suspending disbelief.
Stephen Bradford Long 41:41 I was having a conversation with Chili's Blythe, who's, I just did a show with her. But, but I was talking, I forget when this was this was, I think it was on the show, I can't remember. But she was talking about how, within Satanism, we need to have a really deep respect and appreciation for a lot of the occultists who came before us because they were the ones who laid the groundwork, and we can look into the works of, you know, the chaos magicians and the Neo pagans and, and people like Aleister Crowley and the Theosophists. And, and it's complicated. There is a lot of supernatural belief there. But it's also a bit more nuanced than that. It's it and, you know, we, we shouldn't just kind of sneer at it and say, oh, you know, though, look at those, you know, lunatics who were, you know, and, you know, with their silly hats and whatever. But instead, we, that's our foundation. Within Satanism, we come from the same intellectual stream that Wiccans come from, that Neo pagans come from? We come from that same kind of Western esoteric tradition, and we need to know that and appreciate that. So I'm totally vibing with everything that you're saying right now.
Tony Wolf 43:06 Well, well, good. It's mutual. And yeah, and I think it's worth pointing out I referred earlier to drawing down the moon Miko answers, but and there are substantial sections and their wishes, interviewing pagans, who say no, I don't literally believe in gods and magic. This is psychological archetype. These are symbolic representations of the great powers of nature, or of hidden potentialities within within myself within the people in my community. And that idea was was basically been taken as read as early as the late 60s. I think that it became in that sphere, I think it became kind of Declasse say, to overtly talk about that stuff, particularly during the 1980s and 90s. And I haven't any sort of a study this but my guess is that as that sphere as the as the Neo pagan sphere, grew closer to the New Age mainstream insofar as the new age could be considered mainstream. It developed a kind of an orthodoxy and a big part of the orthodoxy was, basically you don't mention that you are, in fact, an atheist and a skeptic who was who was getting a lot out of this activity who don't who doesn't genuinely literally believe in gods and goes to magic. Yes, it's in a sense, it became rude to profess that I think that was a bit of a shame because they were the people in the the some of the founders were really onto something. That prospective though is now coming back into the fore you have books like godless paganism, which I contributed to under a pseudonym, big thick book of an anthology of all manner of people who are overtly practicing paganism. Without any literal belief in God's metric. A lot of them are scientists, a lot of them are artists, a lot of them both. atheopaganism is become a major stream in that regard.
Stephen Bradford Long 44:57 I feel like so much of the atheists First World and the American mainline religious world are just totally unprepared to engage with that, and so I like how do you so you're also a columnist at only Sky, which is a oral blogger at only sky.
Tony Wolf 45:19 I'm a feature writer, technically, you're a feature writer. Perfect.
Stephen Bradford Long 45:22 So you're a feature writer at only Sky, which is kind of a secular humanist, atheist website. So how do fellow non theists and atheists respond to you, when you say this kind of stuff, like what happens because I can tell you what happens to me when I say this kind of stuff, but what happens to you
Tony Wolf 45:48 is probably the same sort of thing. Honestly, I'm not fat. To begin, I've only just recently started writing for on this guy, I have a contract with them and stuff. But it's, it's fairly early days there. My intuition is that the other writers would be open to the, to the notion of it, but it will require a careful explanation. And you may well have to repeat certain points several times. And it's not it's not that they're not that they couldn't apprehend the concepts intellectually, it's that it is very, very, it's from far out out of their field. This third way, perspective, a lot of people and I'm not just talking about on the sky now, but a lot of skeptics and atheists are very much involved in this binary, you are this or you are that perspective, really, a lot of American culture is, is extremely binary. To the extent that sometimes we're worried that the country is driving itself crazy. There's there's one advantage of the polytheistic perspective, I'm not speaking about, again, literal belief in gods but a sort of polytheistic psychology, like James Hillman wrote about that. A polytheist is much better able I suspect to roll with the punches, because they're accustomed to thinking in multiple terms rather than in terms of of a question binary
Stephen Bradford Long 47:11 in duality. Yeah, yeah. They're thinking in a non binary sense, no. And with, do you know, the cartoonist, the naked pastor,
Tony Wolf 47:21 I'm sorry, the name again,
Stephen Bradford Long 47:21 the naked pastor. No, I interviewed him years ago, on this show, he was great. But he's a cartoonist. He's like a progressive, he has a he has a Christian minister, but he was asked, or the cartoon is of someone being asked, So are you do you believe in God? Or are you an atheist? And the person the other person in the cartoon responds, I'm non binary. And, and I fucking love that. Because in a lot of ways, I, I think that non theism is, for me personally. The way I would describe non theism as the same way that Mike McHarg, who's an author, he wrote, finding God in the waves, and he kind of approaches Christianity from a non theistic mindset. But he says non theism is taking any racer to the line that divides atheism and theism. And it is, and it is erasing that boundary. So you can still have and so, in that spirit, I wrote an article several years ago called on not believing in God, but experiencing him anyway. And, and that's the kind of non duality that I'm interested in. And so I'm, I'm interested in this experience of knowing that the enchanted space is not literally real, but that doesn't make it any less any less. experientially real for me.
Tony Wolf 48:58 Precisely. Yeah. I remember you're in Asheville, right? That's right. Yep. Yeah. And I had a moment of insight. My wife and I vacation in Asheville. It was an anniversary vacation probably about five years ago now. And I loved it. It was very much my kind of town.
Stephen Bradford Long 49:15 Oh, yeah. It has hills, you would fit right in here.
Tony Wolf 49:19 But yeah, basically, it's full of hills and curves and Chicago as far as board and everything set out on a grid. So I liked the hills and curves. But we did all of the things that I've been doing back in the 80s and 90s. drum circles and river river tubing down isn't the French Broad River,
Stephen Bradford Long 49:34 the French Broad. There's also the Nanta hayleigh And lots of other rivers. Yeah,
Tony Wolf 49:39 we did that. We went to the arts district at the end of this sort of whirlwind week of doing all of these kinds of hippyish countercultural things found ourselves in the middle of the street festival, which we hadn't know was known was happening. Oh, was it? Which one was it? I can't recall. It would have been late September, I guess.
Stephen Bradford Long 49:56 Okay. There there are so many street festival Will's in Asheville author this summer, so there's no telling which one it was.
Tony Wolf 50:05 Yeah, well, it was a big one. And the vibe just really got to me somehow. And I remember turning into my wife and saying, You know what? I don't believe in gods or ghosts or magic. But I take them really seriously.
Stephen Bradford Long 50:18 Absolutely. Yeah, I'm the exact same way. And, you know, I, so Douglas Harding, who wrote the headless way. And I did an interview with his student who's who's kind of carried on the teaching of the headless way. Oh, what to Richard Lange, I talked to Richard Lang about the headless way, several episodes ago. And the headless way is kind of this very weird method of meditation in which you search for your own head. And in searching for your own head, you discover that there is no center to the experience of consciousness and you have that this is this experience of selflessness of emptiness, and it's kind of a western approach to non dual meditation. And but one thing that Douglas Harding wrote, was, the voice of the devil asks, So what and so one of the things that people might, that I think a lot of people have with meditation is they do get glimpses, they do get glimpses of these really interesting states of mind, they get, they do get these really interesting glimpses of, of different types of consciousness and and different, different experiences of consciousness. But I think that as Douglas Harding said, a lot of people will say, so what and I think that there's that there's also that there's a similar situation here with what you're describing with poetic faith, or, you know, non theistic ritual, non theistic religion, so on and so forth. Stuff that I live in breathe and absolutely love, but it is, but I think it's really easy for someone to to look at it and be like, so what? Yes, I had an interesting experience. So what and I guess that the thing that I want to say there is there's no harm in giving it a try if you're if there's nothing wrong with exploring it.
Tony Wolf 52:28 Yeah, I agree. There's a there's a generational thing as well. I think the only sky people are talking about I guess it's Generation Z. Now the youngest, the Zoomers, yeah, who are apathetic just to a degree that's never before been recorded. Say that say that one more time. Apathy, just apathy is to chasm. They don't care.
Stephen Bradford Long 52:49 They don't give a fuck. Yeah, that makes sense.
Tony Wolf 52:54 That's the thing. And maybe some of them will develop an interest as they grow older. I don't know. But, um, but ya know, this is this is kind of rarefied stuff. It's bleeding edge. It is it is. And I think it's very difficult to take over the world, it probably shouldn't have to have that ambition, I think in order to take over the world, it would have to embrace so much of, of the mainstream, that it would lose its own essence. But what I'm interested in doing is, as I kind of travel around physically, sometimes and through studying other times, is spotting all these different manifestations and figuring out what it is that connects them or I'm particularly interested in connecting them all literally, getting them to communicate with each other. Because I think this is as you as you say, it's not a it's not a concept. It's not it's certainly not a practice that is ever going to appeal to a large majority. But I think that there's potentially enough of a minority as to form effectively its own subculture, if not counterculture. Absolutely, and that that would be of significant benefit, it's already proven to be of significant benefit to, to a decent number of people. Most of them are very smart. Most of them are pretty geeky. But they're getting stuff out of it. And I think that that has a lot of potential.
Stephen Bradford Long 54:10 Yeah, I agree. And also, you know, I think of people like myself, where I don't think I would ever have been able to leave Christianity theistic Christianity if it weren't for the discovery of non theistic religion. And so, I want to see on you know, on the edges of culture, more religious groups like the Satanic Temple that can meet a greater variety of needs, speak Yes, you know, so So the Satanic Temple, you know, Satanism, it is a niche of it is, it is a niche of a niche it it is very spooky, it scares away a lot of people. It's very intimidating. and it's very stigmatized. And so it is definitely not for everyone. But what I do want to see is more non theistic options for people. So because I think just as a harm reduction, reality, you know, as a, as a method of harm reduction to society, not that I'm, oh, I want to be careful how I say this, because I don't want to, you know, diss my, my beloved, religious friends, but I want to see more religious options for people like me, who's who desire religion, but cannot be reconciled to the supernatural components. Because until that happens, they're going there's going to be a subset of people who are just anguished or who, who just don't have a home or won't feel like they can let go of something that maybe they should let go of. Until there's another option.
Tony Wolf 56:04 Yeah, there's a wonderful scene in a well, it's a flawed but fascinating science fiction, sort of sci fi fantasy movie called Franklin if a if our a and k l. Lion. And it's, it's very difficult to describe it is a scene that is set in a sort of a futuristic steampunk type city. And it's a literal marketplace of religions. And the protagonist is walking through doing a sort of, if you're familiar with the Watchmen, Rorschach, oh, yeah, monologue, as his as he's walking through the city, the city is entirely run by religions, there are a million different cults. And he walks through the marketplace of religion and he's being you know, Proposition basically by representatives of all of these bizarre, bizarre cults. And it's in a sense it set our but in another way, it represents a sort of a radical pluralism that might be kind of fun. And as I understand it, that was Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jerry's original thought when they were setting up TST, effectively as a as a set of media stunts. The idea was that they would create this thing, conceptually, and that it would then and inspire a whole bunch of fringe fringe non theistic religions. What actually happened, of course, was everybody said, The Satanic Temple I'm gonna,
Stephen Bradford Long 57:27 this is awesome. But you know, and in a lot of ways, that's my vision, too. You know, that's still my dream is. And it's also my dream legally. Like, I think that I was just on the on the show last week, with Chili's talking about this, I think that it's going to take other religious groups asserting their rights in a court, and it will, and so all of the, you know, within reason, and to a degree that safe for them. I think a lot of the weird fringe religions need to need to stand up and go to court and start to fight for their rights in a similar way that TST has done my hope, like my dream is that tsp would inspire, you know, the Quakers and the witches and the Unitarian Universalist and the Episcopalians in and and the pagans, and on and on and on and on and on to represent their own to represent their religious values in court on the basis of religious freedom in this country. That's what I want. And so in this, similarly to how like Lucian and Malcolm's original vision was, you know, we're going to do this stunt. And we we want it to inspire you no more Satanic and non theistic belief are not believed, but but groups and religion. That's my dream, legally, as well. Should we bring up the church of prismatic light as a group that might be doing that?
Tony Wolf 59:09 I think we kind of have to now?
Stephen Bradford Long 59:11 Yes, I think so.
Tony Wolf 59:12 Just from my point of view, you've been breaking up a bit, I've been able to follow the gist of what you're saying. Okay. I think we're on the same page. Yes, yes. The Church of prismatic white, which I'm only just barely qualified to discuss it all, but I did an interview with the the two high priest exes a couple of weeks ago, the church of prismatic light, which is the first non theistic religion that I'm aware of, and I pay a bit of attention to these sorts of things, which is overtly being inspired by TSD. And it's very newest on the a couple of months old. And briefly, what happened was one of the the founding they refer to themselves as pre sixes. Her one of her children is trained as a trans boy heard about what was going on in various conservative state It's regarding basically repressing and suppressing trans kids, right. And he went to his mother and said, If there happens in our state, I'm going to take my life. And his mother initially said, well, we'll escape will flee the state if that happens. But then it occurred to her that possibly they could start their own religion and actually fight it. And that's what she did. I think the next day she proposed the church of prismatic labs, she happened to have a pretty substantial tick tock following I believe. She proposed this to her members expecting to be sort of laughed, laughed out of the room and shouted down, but she got a lot of support. And it snowballed massively, over just the course of a couple of weeks, I think they, when I spoke to them, they had something like 170,000 followers. Wow. And so they've been very busy writing their own tenets and creating initiation or baptism, rituals, and so on. And they have, essentially, they will be doing the sale, when they're, when they've had time to organize, they'll be doing that we're aiming to do the same sort of thing for a particularly the young trans community, as the Satanic Temple has been doing. In terms of mounting, wow, legal challenges on behalf of the deeply held tenants that deeply held beliefs.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:01:20 That's amazing. And that is exactly the type of thing that I want to see happen. That's, it's that kind of action of people, you know, taking their own, you know, taking their own religious stance and fighting for it within the courts. That's what I love to see. Well, this has been a fantastic conversation. And, I mean, I live for this kind of stuff. And so I'm really grateful to you for coming on the show. And also, if I if I may ask, in the last, you know, couple of minutes here, what did you do on the Lord of the Rings set? If you don't mind say,
Tony Wolf 1:02:00 no, no, it's fine. Actually, I haven't done this role. My credit was the cultural fighting styles designer, which holds that my job for two years was to create a series of effectively fantasy martial arts for each of the various human and non human cultures that were featured in The Lord of the Rings movies, to invent them as close as I could to match the aesthetic and the the ethos of the characters as talked both as talking and written them, and also as they will being devised by various other production departments. And then to train various members of the stunt team and actors as they as they came on board. In how to perform.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:02:44 That's incredible.
Tony Wolf 1:02:46 That's a weird job.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:02:47 That's the most badass job ever.
Tony Wolf 1:02:50 You came up with a stranger? For a few days,
Stephen Bradford Long 1:02:54 I think it's way I think, I might think it's way more badass than you do. But you basically came up with like martial arts for like dwarves and elves and humans in Lord of the Rings.
Tony Wolf 1:03:05 Not for dwarves as it happens, because my my role was to come up for the, with the styles for the characters that would be seen in mass battle. I don't think we ever saw dwarves fighting on mass. Okay, at least not in the original trilogy. But I mean, for the L is for the Gondorian, Rohan for the the orcs, the Euro Kai, the, you know, the, I think there was seven major cultures that that I worked on. Wow. And then a sort of a variety of little as it were some cultures. Well,
Stephen Bradford Long 1:03:35 you're bringing out the mega fantasy nerd in me. So we should wrap this up now before it,
Tony Wolf 1:03:40 but it's probably safe before it gets
Stephen Bradford Long 1:03:43 out of hand. All right. Well, this has been great. I am so thankful to you for coming on. And for people who are interested in your work, where can they find you online?
Tony Wolf 1:03:53 I don't do very much in the way of social media and afraid. I've written the one article for only Sky, which I think you'll include in the show notes absolutely choose. We didn't even talk about Oscar Wilde.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:04:05 Oh, that's true, we'll have to do that next day, you'll have to come on again. And we can talk about our wild.
Tony Wolf 1:04:10 I'm talking about? Well. So that's up and I'll presumably write a few more articles for them. Most of the thinking about offering them some podcast episodes. But otherwise, my only real presence online is at a site called autodesk.com. Ale t dash d A th which contains some of my own writing some of my own practices in this regard, but also quite a lot of kind of related material. It's sort of my repository for when I find things like the sorts of things we've been talking about this evening in history in subculture and various other cult, the the cultural milieu when I find this stuff, I'll tend to write it out one way or the other and put it on that site. And this is specifically to my own interest in philosophy which is This idea of memento mori Ergo Carpe Diem, remember this and therefore seize the day. So that's that's kind of become my theme over the past three years.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:05:09 Amazing. I love that. Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for joining me. Well, that is it for this show. The music is by eleventy seven. The theme song is called Wild. You can find it on Apple Music Spotify, or wherever you listen to music and this show is written, produced and edited by me Steven Bradford long as always Hail Satan. And thanks for listening