Church of Azazel > Beliefs & principles > Epistemology
Epistemology: What can we know about the spirit world, and on what basis?
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2010 by the Church of Azazel. All rights reserved.
Church of Azazel members are encouraged to study a variety of occult and theological paradigms, for which we list resources on our page about The different kinds of theistic Satanism, and some general theological and occult background. However, while all these paradigms contain useful insights, we regard most of them as overly sweeping in their claims of knowledge about the spirit world.
What can we humans possibly know about the spirit world? Not much. And it is all to easy for us humans to deceive ourselves.
We humans cannot really know the spirit world. At best, we can make educated guesses, based on our own and other people's spiritual and paranormal experiences, if any, and based on our knowledge of the history of religion and current religious trends.
Hence the Church of Azazel paradigm aims to avoid drawing overly sweeping or overly elaborate conclusions about the spirit world. Please study carefully the following pages on the Church of Azazel website:
- The here-and-now principle in theology
- On gnosis, sacred texts, channeling, attaining knowledge, and the role of faith
We believe that none of our human belief systems about the gods are likely to be literally true, because we humans simply cannot know very much about the spirit world, at least at our present level of development as a species. However, real spiritual entities and forces can manifest to humans under names familiar to us, as a way of communicating with us.
We regard current religious trends as our best source of clues about the spiritual entities or forces that are interacting with humans at the present time. We regard religious trends as being influenced by the interaction of humans and the spirit world, on a larger scale than just our own personal spiritual and paranormal experiences. Although we don't regard religious trends as infallible reflections of the will of the gods, it does seems likely, to us, that a spiritual entity concerned with human affairs would be manifest, at least to some degree, within groups of humans that revolve around interaction with such gods.
History and mythology are worth looking at too, but primarily as a means of deepening our understanding of current religious trends. We do not regard ancient mythology as our primary source of information about the intent of the spirits toward us humans right now. Ancient mythology cannot be fully understood outside its cultural context, which cannot be completely known. (Our information about most ancient cultures is very scanty.) Furthermore, we do not believe that the gods/spirits/whatever necessarily interact with humans in the same way in all cultures and eras, nor do we believe that all human cultures have nexessarily interacted with the same set of gods, spiritual forces, or whatever, under different names. Nor is there a one-to-one corresponce between entities and names. (For example, the name "Set" seems to have referred to a bunch of different kinds of entities over the course of ancient Egyptian history. Likewiss the "God" revered by Abrahamic fundies seems not to be the same entity as the "God" revered by the most liberal adherents of the Abrahamic religions. On the other hand, there are many different names for the Abrahamic god, regardless of which entity a Christian (or Jew, or Muslim, or whatever) might be interacting with under that constellation of names and mythology, and likewise there are many different names for the Devil.)
Even today's religious trends are only a source of clues and not more than that. For example, even if a particular modern religious movement happens to be popular and growing rapidly, this doesn't mean that the movement's beliefs should be taken as infallible, or even as necessarily true at all. A religious movement's aims, actions, and impact on the world are more significant than its beliefs per se.
In today's world, there is now a greater and greater polarization between religious extremes. On one side are the most fanatical and fundamentalist forms of the Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity and Islam, which, over the past several decades, have been growing like wildfire worldwide. On the other hand, many other people are leaving Christianity altogether, some in favor of atheism, others in favor of new religions such as neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and still others in favor of older traditional religions. What's shrinking is the more middle-of-the-road forms of the Abrahamic religions.
For more about the growth of the most fanatical and fundamentalist forms of Christianity, see The growing number of Christians of kinds which inherently fear demons, Satanists, witches, occultists, Pagans, and atheists on Against Satanic Panics.
Among the more fanatical and fundamentalist Christians, there are all too many who aim to impose their way of life on the rest of us. The Christian religious right wing has had its ups and downs over the past few decades, but is far from dead. It is likely to continue to be a major force in politics, both here in the U.S.A. and worldwide, due to continued growth of the kinds of Christianity that are its natural constituencey. For information about the religious right wing, see Resources for learning about the religious right wing on the New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry site.
Luckily, other people have been fighting back, including the gay rights movement, the organized atheist/humanist community, Wiccans and other religious minorities, and the most liberal kinds of Christians and Jews.
It seems to us that our society's increasing religious polarization most likely reflects, if not a literal "spiritual war," then at least a tension, of some kind, between spiritual forces that are somehow at odds with each other, at least in their manifestations in the human realm.
It seems to us that the most fanatical and fundamentalist forms of the Abrahamic religions do connect with a real spiritual force of some kind. If nothing else, Pentecostals and charismatics do know how to raise energy! But it does not seem likely, to us, that their god is the true cosmic God, or even a Gnostic-style cosmic Creator/Demiurge. Please read, carefully, the following pages on the Church of Azazel site:
The Church of Azazel sees all sides of today's religious polarization as having spiritual significance. But, because we don't believe that the entire cosmos revolves around us humans, we do not see the "spiritual war" as being, most likely, a cosmic war. Just as the Earth is only a tiny speck of dust compared to the size of the physical universe, so too the spiritual forces and entities that interact with us humans, or with the Earth generally, may be only a tiny fraction of the spirit world.
Our focus is Earth-based, as distinct from cosmic. Even without any larger grand cosmic significance, the spiritual forces and entities that seem to be interacting with us humans, especially on a society-wide scale, can have great significance to us humans. We call on those deities Whom we see as championing kind of world we want to live in (the five rising Gods of the modern West), and we also call on the most dreaded Enemy of our enemies, Satan/Azazel, Whom we revere as a more transcendant (even if not necessarily cosmic) Being.
As far as our understanding of the cosmos as a whole is concerned, we defer to the natural sciences. We don't believe that science has, or will ever have, all the answers either, but there is no better source of knowledge.
For more about the Church of Azazel paradigm, please see A brief introduction to the Church of Azazel paradigm and other articles listed on the page about Our beliefs and prinicples.