General Information and Admissions Policies
Updated: 30 April 2011 CE
The Temple of Set is an institution unlike any you have previously encountered. It has been designed as a tool for personal empowerment and self cultivation. To decide if you can benefit from affiliation with the Temple of Set, carefully consider the philosophy of the Temple, the concept of Set, and the obligations and responsibilities which a Setian assumes.
All schools of introspective inquiry [as opposed to those of faith] address the one difference that distinguishes mankind from the rest of the cosmos: the feature of being, of conscious willful existence. This self-awareness makes possible all of our arts, our sciences, our notions of "good" and "evil" as well as free will and the ability to assign meaning to thoughts, statements, and actions.
Religions confront this phenomenon of individual consciousness in various ways. Some—for example, the Buddhist quest for nirvana—endeavor to extinguish it outright. Others, such as the Abrahamic religions, label it "the soul" and posit that somebody else will rescue it. Still others deny it altogether, relegating man to the same status as an animal. Nevertheless there have also been consciousness-worshiping (or –respecting) religions throughout all historical civilizations and cultures.
Historically consciousness-worshiping religions have been more intellectually demanding than their nature-worshiping counterparts, since it is more difficult to reason a path through one's span of conscious existence than it is to be swept along by a current of semi-rational stimulus and response. Such schools were admired in certain societies, such as ancient Egypt and Greece, but generally their elitism and "supernatural" activities made them objects of resentment and persecution.
The Temple of Set seeks above all to honor and enshrine consciousness. We wish to apprehend what makes us each individually unique and use this gift to make ourselves stronger in all facets of our being. To do this we preserve and improve the tradition of spiritual distinction from the cultural universe, which in the Judeo-Christian West has been called Satanism, but which is more generally known as the Left-Hand Path.
The Left-Hand Path is a process for creating an individual, powerful essence that exists above and beyond animal life. It is thus the true vehicle for personal immortality. It has several components:
The values of the masses, whether inculcated by conventional religion or by mass media, must be recognized as an obstacle to individual spiritual development. Human society values predictability, stability, or stasis above all things. The Initiate, by contrast, seeks continuous, positive self-evolution.
Objective understanding and evaluation of the host society's values are necessary in order to intelligently formulate one's own. In Western conventional religions such independence is frequently condemned as "Satanic". But the Initiate is rebelling against more than the idea of an external "god": he also seeks freedom in his secular life from such external controlling forces as propaganda, custom, and habit.
To work magic that evolves the self, the magician's will must prevail in the subjective universe as the massed wills of others do in the objective one. Once such strength of individual will is obtained, it can be extended into objective environments as well. But as long as an individual allows himself to be governed by animal emotions such as shame, fear, or the desire for social acceptance, he cannot become an Adept of Black Magic.
Conventional society instinctively fears and often hates what it cannot easily understand. If you seek out the Temple, you may find yourself accused of all manner of popular evils of the day: racism, sexism, anti-this or pro-that. When you can look around with your own eyes and see that the Temple embodies and promotes none of these things, you will have learned much about the suspicion and antipathy that greets any manifestation of intellectual independence of consciousness.
No one else can do the work of self-change for you. The intensity and pace of your own initiation will be up to you, not the Temple of Set. Nor can the Temple dictate your personal goals. You yourself must do so, again with wisdom rather than emotion or impulse.
The world is a chaotic environment characterized by the masses' lack of both intelligent goals and the discipline necessary for their attainment. The Initiate must have a strong sense of personal discipline before embarking on any adventure. The ability to recognize, start, and complete great quests distinguishes the Initiate from the 'occultnik'.
Followers of the Left-Hand Path practice what, in a specific and technical sense, we term Black Magic. Black Magic focuses on self-determined goals. Its formula is "my will be done", as opposed to the White Magic of the Right-Hand Path, whose formula is "thy will be done".
Black Magic is shunned and feared because to do Black Magic is to take full responsibility for one's actions, evolution, and effectiveness.
Since magic enables you to influence or change events in ways neither understood nor anticipated by society, you must develop a sound and sophisticated appreciation for the ethics governing your own motives, decisions, and actions before you put it to use. To use magic for impulsive, trivial, or egoistic desires is not Setian. It must become second-nature to you to carefully pre-evaluate the consequences of what you wish to do, then choose the course of wisdom, justice, and creative improvement.
The Temple of Set utilizes a wide cultural and conceptual spectrum of magical tools, far beyond just the "Egyptian", and is always seeking new approaches and techniques.
Magic may either be operative—to cure your mother's illness, get a better job, strengthen your memory, etc.—or illustrative/initiatory. Illustrative/initiatory magical workings seek to enable and enact the lifetime process of Initiation. They are are comparable to "rites of passage" of many primitive cultures and conventional religions, but are distinguished from these in that they represent individually-crafted rather than socially-prescribed change. Initiatory workings thus represent the actualization of self-deification, while social "rites of passage" integrate an individual into society. A "rite of passage" communicating passage into adulthood establishes that the individual involved is now possessed of certain dignity and responsibilities. An initiatory working awakens one to certain individual powers [and responsibilities], which may or may not be used in a social context. Initiation does not occur within a ritual chamber, but it is illustrated there.
Black Magic is the means by which Initiates of the Left-Hand Path experience being gods, rather than praying to imaginary images of gods.
The oldest known form of the Prince of Darkness, the archetype of isolate self-consciousness, is the Egyptian god Set, whose Priesthood can be traced to Predynastic times. Images of Set have been dated to ca. 3200 BCE, with astronomically-based estimates of inscriptions dating to 5000 BCE.
Set is a more complex figure than that of the Judeo-Christian Satan. Satan, the archetype of rebellion against cosmic order and stasis, may be the symbol for many people's initial commitment to initiation, but this symbol is too closely linked to conventional religions and their moral codes to be an effective representation of the richness, subtlety, and complexity of the Left-Hand Path.
In ancient Egypt Set went through periods of immense popularity alternating with total denunciation. Set in the Predynastic and Archaic periods was an essentially positive deity introduced from the east as a god of the extension of existence. As such he was god of expanding borders and radical changes of being—particularly birth, circumcision/initiation, death in battle, and rebirth through the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. As early as the Second Dynasty he appears in royal iconography, on the serekh of Peribsen ("Hope of All Hearts") and Khasekhemwy ("The Two Powers Appear").
Popular among easterners—his first cult site being Pelusium in the eastern Nile Delta—Set's worship spread west and south to border regions, where he was identified with local gods of initiation. Examples of such cult sites are the oasis of Dakhleh where Set shared with the local god Igai the title "Lord of the Desert", and the Libyan settlement of Ombos, wherein Set was identified with the local god Ash in the Second Dynasty.
Set's worship as a circumpolar/stellar deity suffered a decline with the rise of solar worship in the Fourth Dynasty. The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the last early monuments connected with the idea of a Setian afterlife as well as a solar one. The Great Pyramid had a special air shaft for the king's akh to fly to the star alpha Draconis, the pole star of Old Kingdom Egypt. Unlike the sun and the stars that appear to rise and set (mythologized as birth and death) the Pyramid Texts assert that the Ikhemw-sek, the "imperishable ones" or circumpolar stars, are the realm of the royal soul.
During the Middle Kingdom Set was reduced to a symbol of Upper Egypt in the iconography of the sema tawy and the Heb-Sed festival. It was around this time that Set was first blamed for the murder of Osiris, a Semitic god of agriculture whose cult arrived in the Third Dynasty.
No matter how "evil" Osirians might portray Set as being, his essential function—of going out and expanding the borders of existence and then returning that Chaotic energy to the center—persisted in Egyptian thought. It is the darkness that binds together the Egyptian light. The murder of Osiris is the destruction of the fetters of society, of accepting self-change and cultivation over the forces that lead to self-stagnation.
The Hyksos, foreigners who invaded and ruled Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period (Dynasties XIII-XVII, roughly 1785-1580 BCE) actively identified themselves with Set and established their capital at an ancient Setian site, Avaris. The Hyksos were great horsemen, and the horse (like the ass) was identified with Set. Indeed not until the Hyksos dynasties was the horse, which had been known in Egypt for at least the prior two centuries, portrayed in Egyptian art.
The second native blooming of Setian thinking may have begun in the Eighteenth Dynasty, but certainly it reached its peak in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties, when a family of Setian Priests from Tanis became the pharaonic line. During this time of expanding borders, Set was extraordinarily popular, as can be seen from pharaohs' names such as Seti ("Set's man") and Setnakt ("Set is Mighty"). The cult of the stellar afterlife re-emerged: complex "astronomical ceilings" adorn the tombs of the pharaohs of this period—and of no other.
Two Setian texts survive from this period. First, the Tale of Two Brothers tells how Set (identified with the god Bata) undergoes a series of metamorphoses (Xeperu) that change him from a farmhand to a star in the Constellation of the Thigh (our "Big Dipper"). Thus Set represents the individual who through his own hard work, magical skill, and the use of the resistance of the world Becomes divine.
The second text is the Book of Knowing the Spiral Force of Ra and the Felling of Apep. This protective formula, which Rameses III, son of Setnakt, inscribed on certain border monuments, shows two Setian particularities. First, it recounts how an unnamed god comes into being in the psychic (subjective) realm as the god Xepera. Second, the spell gives the magician one of the powers of Set: the ability to slay Apep, the dragon of delusion. Set again serves as a role model, in that each Setian seeks to end delusions in life.
With the coming of the Twenty-Second Dynasty, Egypt entered its long decline. Set became a tremendously unpopular deity. His worship ceased everywhere except the oases and the city of Thebes. His cult was absorbed into others, primarily that of Montu, warlord of Thebes. The negative aspects of isolation and destruction were emphasized. Set-heh, the god of the void called the future, became a scapegoat in rites of execration—foreshadowing the role of the Satan in the Judeo-Christian West.
The third blooming came with the arrival of the Greeks in Egypt. It is in this period that Hellenic notions of independence and self-worth began to revive operant and initiatory aspects of the New Kingdom Set cult. The success of Graeco-Egyptian magic, despite Roman persecution, saw an expansion of both the philosophical and magical aspects of this tradition as far north as Britain.
The Third Century of the Common Era marked the height of Setian Hermeticism. But with the imposition of Christianity as the Roman imperial religion, individualism was again despised. Egyptian (Coptic) Christianity identified Set with Satan, and he almost disappeared as a figure in Egyptian magic.
The fourth blooming of Setian thought began in the nineteenth century with certain archaeological discoveries, but became explicit in 1975 with the reconsecration and founding of the modern Temple of Set and proclamation of the Word of the AEon of Set. Xeper ("kheffer") is an Egyptian verb which means "Come Into Being" or "Become". This word reflects the consciousness-worshiping nature of our religion and the source of ultimate responsibility in all things—the self.
STRUCTURE AND OPERATION OF THE TEMPLE
The deliberately individualistic atmosphere of the Temple of Set is not easily conducive to group activities on a routine or programmed basis. There are no congregations of docile "followers"—only cooperative philosophers and magicians.
Executive authority in the Temple is held by the Council of Nine, which appoints both the High Priest of Set and the Executive Director. Initiates are Recognized according to six degrees: Setian I°, Adept II°, Priest/Priestess of Set III°, Magister/Magistra Templi IV°, Magus/Maga V°, and Ipsissimus/Ipsissima VI°.
Recognition as an Adept II° constitutes certification by the Temple that one has in fact mastered and successfully applied the essential principles of Black Magic. The bulk of Temple systems are geared to attainment of, and subsequent support for the II°. That is the level of affiliation which most Setians are expected to hold: the Adept pursues continuing personal transformation and self-actualization. The III°–VI° are most accurately understood not as further benchmarks of individual attainment, but as specialized religious offices conferred by Set alone, and Recognized within the Temple according to his Will.
The design, care, and operation of the Temple are entrusted by Set to his Priesthood. All Initiates of the Priesthood are originally highly-qualified Adepts in the Black Arts and most of your contact with them will be in this context. Because they are responsible for the integrity of the Temple as a whole, however, they have the authority both to evaluate and Recognize Initiates' competence and, if necessary, to suspend or expel individuals who prove themselves incapable of maintaining Setian standards of dignity and excellence. The Priesthood takes all of these responsibilities extremely seriously, since it regards its name literally and its trust as sacred.
The knowledge of the Temple of Set is made available through four principal avenues: an extensive reading list, the newsletter Scroll of Set, internal publications by the Temple's various specialized Orders, and the series of encyclopedias entitled the Jeweled Tablets of Set. All are reproduced simply and inexpensively—usually in electronic form, sometimes as on-demand bound paperbacks—to keep costs down. The Jeweled Tablets of Set are not static documents, and are periodically revised to reflect new findings and areas of interest.
Recognizing the value and fellowship of a seminar environment, the Temple charters "Pylons" (named after the unique gates of ancient Egyptian temples). While each Pylon is under the trust and responsibility of a II° Sentinel, they are emphatically not "congregations", but rather cooperative and interactive forums for individual Initiates.
The Orders of the Temple of the Temple of Set specialize in one or more particular fields of the magical arts and sciences. Such a specialization may be transcultural or oriented to a specific geographic area, time-period, or conceptual tradition. Participation in an Order is restricted to Initiates who have been Recognized as Adept in the principles of Setian philosophy and practice. Adepts are encouraged to affiliate with an Order reflective of their personal interests and aptitudes.
Setians have access to the Temple of Set's on-line forums and archives. However, the Temple is not an "on-line community": Setians attend annual international Conclaves as well as regional and local gatherings.
Individuals admitted to the Temple receive the Crystal Tablet of Set, which contains organizational, philosophical, and magical information pertinent to qualification as an Adept, as well as information on active Pylons and Setians open to contact. There is a two-year time limit for a new Setian to qualify for Adept Recognition. If such Recognition is not received by that time, affiliation is canceled.
Personal information furnished to the Temple in the course of admission or evaluation is not disseminated outside the Priesthood. You may apply the services and systems of the Temple as you wish, and as you deem most complementary to your Xeper; otherwise they will not intrude upon you.
AN IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION
Regretfully there still exist some individuals whose idea of "Satanism" is largely a synthesis of Christian propaganda and Hollywood horror movies. The Temple of Set enjoys the colorful legacy of the Black Arts, and we use many forms of historical Satanic imagery for our artistic stimulation and pleasure. But we have not found that any interest or activity which an enlightened, mature intellect would regard as undignified, sadistic, criminal, or depraved is desirable, much less essential to our work.
The Temple of Set is an evolutionary product of human experience. Such experience includes the magical and philosophical work of many individuals and organizations which have preceded us. Some of these were socially acceptable by contemporary or modern standards; others were not. Some made brilliant discoveries in one field of interest while blighting their reputations with shocking excesses or tragic failures in others. In examining the secret and suppressed corners of history for valuable and useful material, the Temple insists upon ethical presentation and use of such discoveries as it makes. Setians who are in any doubt as to the ethics involved in any of the fields which we explore should seek counsel from the Priesthood. All Setians are further expected to display a high measure of maturity and common sense in this area.
The Black Arts are dangerous in the same way that working with volatile chemicals is dangerous. This is most emphatically not a field for unstable, immature, or otherwise emotionally or intellectually weak-minded people. Such are a hazard to themselves and to others with whom they come into contact. The Temple endeavors to not admit them to begin with. If such an individual should gain admittance and later be exposed, he or she will be summarily expelled. In cases of doubt the Temple may be expected to place the burden of proof on the individual, for the sake of all Setians and the Temple's integrity.
The Temple of Set evaluates conventional religions as erroneous in principle and therefore unworthy of peer status. We feel no need to concern ourselves with their activities, nor for that matter to maintain any sort of "diplomatic relations" with them [as in councils of churches]. Our position is that they may serve a useful social function as purveyors of soothing myths and fantasies to humans unable to attain Setian levels of self-consciousness. Hence we ignore conventional religious organizations unless they intrude upon our affairs.
These warnings are not intended to be oppressive or intimidating, but they should be taken seriously. The Temple is a forum for the investigation of many subjects which conventional society finds odd, mysterious, and even extremely frightening. The Temple will be tolerated only to the extent that it is known to be pursuing its interests carefully, expertly, and responsibly. It occupies a delicate position in a world which is largely unhappy with itself, and which is ceaselessly searching for scapegoats. Hence the Temple must take care to maintain its social balance with prudence and dignity.
The key to philosophy is not reading about it, but practicing it. Abstract ideas are not enough; it is only through lived experience that Initiation occurs. Such experience is the mediator between the realm of consciousness and the world.
The First Degree (I°) of Temple affiliation is regarded as a "status of mutual evaluation" wherein the Initiate and the Temple can assess one another's merit from the standpoint of minimum investment and involvement. If a I° Initiate should decide that the Temple is not, after all, appropriate to his wants or needs, he is welcome to depart with our good wishes for satisfaction elsewhere.
Aspirants to the Temple should understand that it is not a club or fraternal society whose tokens may be "collected" along with those of other social affiliations, occult or otherwise. Membership in the Temple of Set beyond the I° precludes membership in any other religious organization.
Members or former members of non-religious occult organizations should understand that within the Temple of Set they will be expected to respect and observe the Temple's protocol, and that literature and other information from the Temple is not to be passed to non-Temple individuals or organizations without prior approval of the Priesthood.
Should you have questions which are reasonably pertinent to your serious consideration whether or not to apply for admission to the Temple, you are welcome to address them to the Executive Director of the Temple.
If you wish to apply for admission as a Setian I°, there are two avenues of approach available to you:
- If you are in contact with a Priest or Priestess of Set, you may request him or her to sponsor your application. Complete the application for admission and mail the form, along with the first year's membership fee/card authorization (US$80), to the Executive Director, mentioning this sponsorship. If Priesthood sponsorship is verified, approval is automatic.
- If you are not known to a member of the Priesthood, complete the application for admission form. Write a brief cover letter to the Executive Director introducing yourself, summarizing what aspects of your background you feel to be relevant, and stating your reasons for deciding to seek entrance into the Temple. Enclose the first year's membership fee/card authorization (US$80). The Temple will make a decision and respond to you accordingly. If necessary you will be asked for additional information. Should your application be declined for any reason, the fee will be refunded. Be as objective and candid as possible in your self-assessment. Attempts to mislead the Temple are a waste of time for all involved. If there are crucial areas of possible incompatibility, it is incumbent on the applicant to identify them before affiliation so that they may be addressed and, if possible, resolved.
The first year's membership fee, and the membership renewal fee (US$80/year), are intended to cover to cost of services provided. The Temple is a non-profit religious organization and its assets are used exclusively for benefits to its Initiates as a whole. There are no other regular or recurring fees, save that Orders and Pylons may set reasonable charges for their newsletters or other time/effort services. Special publications of the Temple and events scheduled by the Temple are customarily made available on a nonprofit basis to Initiates who are interested.
The only physical requirement for admission is that the aspirant be at least 18 years of age. Those below the age of 18 may not visit Temple functions, ceremonial or otherwise, whether or not they are relatives of Initiates. The Temple has no programs for children. It is our position that children and adolescents should not be indoctrinated into the assumptions and prescriptions of any suprarational system, whether it be our own philosophy or the faiths and superstitions of conventional religions. Rather their youthful years should be a time of exclusively rational training and education, giving them a sound and meaningful basis by which, as adults, they may consider and choose whatever philosophy or faith seems most meaningful to them.
If your application is approved, you will receive notification from the Executive Director's office, together with membership identification, certificate, Setian I° pendant medallion and access to the Temple's on-line publications, archives and forums.
The initiative is yours. The Temple of Set is designed to assist you in the ways we have found to be the most practical, productive, and factual. But, as versatile as the Temple may be, and as proud of it as we are, it is nevertheless a tool. You are the one who must put that tool to use in a way that will enable you to Xeper. Such is the Word of the AEon of Set.