Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Little Kvetching and Some "Old Time" Religion

This is one of those weeks when writing feels like pulling teeth. Okay, I'm being over dramatic a tiny bit. I've had my wisdom teeth pulled and they knocked me out and when I woke up I was high as a kite. Not an altogether unpleasant experience. What I'm getting at is that the thoughts and the words have not exactly been flowing. It's been more like a long slog through thick mud or walking upstream, or trying to stay upright when the ocean waves are bigger and stronger than usual. Work, that's what it is. Not a bad thing necessarily, just different than the usual. Tonight's work is chit chat on The Devil is a Gentleman. I'm about halfway through now and my desire to read William James's Varieties of Religious Experience as well as his other work grows with every page. Hallman is doing a fantastic job of integrating James's ideas and his biography into this book about modern day fringe religions. I find religion a fascinating subject anyway, but fringe religions are even more so. I already mentioned the Unarians. My sister informed me today that she was in El Cajon visiting our parents this past weekend and she and my mom drove by the Unarian headquarters and the mannequin wasn't in the window anymore. I hope she was just taken out for a cleaning and will soon return. After so many decades in the window, they can't ditch her now. From the Unarians I moved on to a chapter on Druids to discover that the oldest continuing Druid organization in the US, The Reformed Druids of North America, began right here in Minnesota at Carleton College in 1963. The college is just south of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and while I have never been there I know people who went to school there. I don't know anyone here who are official Druids, but back in California I went to college for a year at Humboldt State University. A beautiful school filled with a different kind of people. I loved it there (what does that say about me?) but for various reasons, transfered to a different school. Anyway, Humboldt, surrounded by redwoods, inspired druidic leanings in the students there and no one thought twice about it. Among the students there were also witches and warlocks and a few Satanists too. They were nothing like the Satanists in The Devil is a Gentleman though. For the people I knew is was mostly a statement indicating their disaffection with the world. The Satanists Hallman visits take themselves seriously but also manage to make fun of it all too. There are no animal sacrifices or blood or anything really weird going on. They are all pretty normal people who know how to use fear and style to their advantage. As one member put it:

But it's not just dressing in black, [...] We're here, we're putting forth an image of being confident Satanists. But when I go to work I dress in a way that will have an effect on the people I interact with, and I come across as a person who's competent in what they're doing. Satanism is being in control of your environment through every tool at your disposal.
The guy who founded the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, is no longer alive, but he has an adolescent son, Satan Xerxes, who is being homeschooled by his mother. Satan, who goes by Xerxes, is by Hallman's account a pretty normal, bright kid. Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you about every chapter. If you want to know about the Christian Wrestling Federation, you'll have to read the book for yourself. Right now,the chapter I am on is about the Scientologists who are, in my opinion, more frightening than the Satanists could ever be.