Church of Azazel > Beliefs & principles > Here-and-now theology

The here-and-now principle in theology

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2004 by the Church of Azazel. All rights reserved.

Theology is not a science. In theology, it is not possible to apply the methods of science. Even scientific knowledge is far from completely certain, but it's the soundest knowledge we have. Therefore, we cannot be certain about anything in theology. We can attain practical knowledge of "what works," or seems to work (by whatever criteria we want it to "work"), based on our own and other people's experiences. We can also make educated guesses about the gods based on the workings of Nature, and we can make educated guesses about the gods' interaction with humans based the history of religion. But it is likely that we will never really know the underlying nature of spiritual reality. No matter what spiritual experiences we may have had, we still are like The Blind Men and the Elephant.

Because our knowledge of the spirit world is so limited, our quest for spiritual knowledge is best focussed on those aspects of the spirit world that are, comparatively speaking, the least difficult to know. In theology, even the easiest questions cannot be answered for sure, but we can make reasonable educated guesses regarding some of them. Other questions are so hard as to be beyond the scope of even reasonable guesses, at least at our present level of development.

Many religions try to answer such questions as where the gods originally came from, where the universe came from, why the universe was created, how and why humans were created, how various spiritual entities interacted with each other in the remote, pre-human past (e.g. the Christian story of the fall of Lucifer), and what will happen to the universe in the distant future.

The Church of Azazel's theology concerns itself only with who and what the gods are right now and in the relatively recent historical past, and with their intentions toward humans right now and perhaps in the near future. These are matters about which we can at least make reasonable educated guesses based on our own and other people's experiences, and based on what we know about the history of our own culture. But it is much harder - impossibly harder, in my opinion - to acquire even the beginnings of any real knowledge whatsover about such matters as how the gods may have dealt with each other in the prehistoric past, let alone the pre-human past, or the ultimate purpose (if any) of the cosmos.

There is no good reason to consider any religion's claims about the pre-human past to be literally true, because no such claim is at all likely to have been based on any real knowledge about the pre-human past. All such claims are myths which, at best, may have a symbolic meaning pertaining to the spiritual here-and-now.

One example is the Christian myth of Satan/Lucifer's rebellion against the Christian god. We have no way of knowing whether, at some point in the very remote past, Satan/Lucifer might have been a servant of some other god and had occasion to rebel against that god.

Some might say, "Ask Satan!" But I do not believe that Satan wants us to have blind faith in utterly unverifiable stories that have been "told" to us by any spirit, even by Satan Himself (or by what we believe - correctly or not - is Satan speaking to us). Satan is willing to give us some guidance, but basically wants us to think and learn on our own, not to expect Him to hand us ultimate cosmic truth on a silver platter. (See On gnosis, sacred texts, channeling, attaining knowledge, and the role of faith.)

The myth of Satan/Lucifer's rebellion is highly unlikely to have arisen from any real human knowledge of what happened amongst the gods way back when. Therefore, if that myth has any real meaning at all, it most likely has a symbolic meaning in terms of the here-and-now. One possible meaning is that Satan/Lucifer encourages us to think for ourselves, which sometimes may cause us to rebel against prevailing dogma. Alternatively, the rebellion of Satan, the God of this world, can be taken as a metaphor for the "rebellion" of reality itself against whatever oversimplified dogmas we have tried to impose on it.

Consider also the myths about prehistoric events in Genesis. There is simply no good reason to believe that the people who wrote those myths had any real knowledge about prehistoric goings-on. However, these myths do have some common themes which can be understood as symbolizing the perceived attitudes of Yahweh in the here-and-now. For example, in both the Garden of Eden myth (where humans are forbidden to eat from the "Tree of knowledge of good and evil") and the Tower of Babel myth (where humans are punished for a feat of engineering), Yahweh as portrayed as being hostile -- or at best ambivalent -- toward human knowledge and achievement.

The forbidden-knowledge theme is found again in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, where Azazel is portrayed as teaching forbidden arts to humans. Here too, it is unlikely that the Book of Enoch is based on any real knowledge about prehistory. So, the story of the binding of Azazel to a desert rock can be most reasonably interpreted as a metaphor for the suppression of knowledge -- some of which knowledge may have been inspired by Azazel or by spirits allied with Azazel.

Thus, although I do not believe that myths should be taken as depictions of actual events, I do believe that myths may well reflect the actual attitudes and temperaments of the gods, as people continued to experience and perceive them over many generations.

Unlike the people in Bible times, scientists today do know quite a bit about the likely evolution of both the human species in particular and the Earth in general. Most likely, our species came into existence through natural evolution.

Perhaps one or more gods had a hand in the evolution of humans now and then, too, at one or more times during the many millions of years that life has existed on this Earth. However, if indeed such divine interventions occurred, we have no way of knowing for sure which gods were involved, or how many gods, or exactly when, or on how many occasions, let alone how and why the gods did whatever they might have done -- especially since such interventions would have been prehistoric.

Many religions, including some forms of theistic Satanism, make a big deal about their creation myths. Some Satanists hold that Satan was our true creator, or the one who gave humans free will. I hold that the answers to such questions are not only unknowable but unimportant. All that matters is the intentions of the gods toward us humans right now and in the near future, as determined by looking primarily at the here-and-now and at the not-too-distant historical past.

Another aspect of the here-and-now principle is to give more weight to relatively recent history than to more-ancient history, on grounds that the more recent something is, the more we can know about it, and the more likely it is to be an indicator of the intentions of the gods right now. For example, when trying to determine what spiritual truth may lie behind the Christian Satan myth, I do not emphasize sources much older than the Christian era itself. Instead, my approach is to look first at modern Western religious and cultural trends, then at the Christian Bible itself - primarily the New Testament - plus the Book of Enoch, plus the later history of Christendom (insofar as I know it), and to apply what I consider to be some reasonable general philosophical filters. I don't completely ignore the Tanakh (Old Testament) or the myths of other ancient cultures, but I don't emphasize them. (See the Theology of the Church of Azazel. Note that I regard the Bible not as infallibly inspired revelation, but as simply a historical record of many ancient people's beliefs and perceptions.)

Many theistic Satanists take a very different approach. They believe that the key to finding the truth behind the Christian nonsense about Satan is to seize upon some allegedly truer, purer, more ancient non-Abrahamic source. Thus, for example, they equate Satan with one or more gods in ancient pagan pantheons.

I consider all such identifications of Satan with other gods to be highly questionable at best, although some are better than others. (See Equating Satan with one or more ancient pagan gods in Who and what is Satan? Various Satanist reinterpretations.) I do believe that Satanists should look at what is known about ancient religions, but only to gain perspective and theological sophistication, not as the central key to the truth about Satan.

I see no reason to believe that people in the remote past had a purer, better vision of their gods than people have today. Some people may well have better vision than others, but, no matter how dramatic our spiritual experiences, we're all seeing little more than pale shadows shrouded by mist, compared to what may actually be out there. (See On gnosis, sacred texts, channeling, attaining knowledge, and the role of faith.) And we can't rule out the possibility that the relationships between the gods and humans may have changed over time, at least to some extent, so more recent visions are more likely to be up-to-date.

Another aspect of the here-and-now principle is that I do not give much, if any, credence to any religion's claims about either the afterlife or the future of the world. These too are even harder to know than the spiritual here-and-now, which is more than enough of a challenge to know all by itself.

The Church of Azazel has no official position on either the afterlife or the long range future of the world. Members are free to hold a variety of beliefs on these matters.

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