High Priest of the Church of Satan, Peter H. Gilmore, has curated The Devils Reign at Stephen Romano Gallery. Accompanying the exhibition is The Devils Reign hardcover book, featuring the exhibition artwork and other works not on showcase. Contributing artists include tattoo artists such as Tim Lehi, Derek Noble, Dusty Neal, and Curt Baer along with illustrators such as Seldon Hunt, Shaun Beaudry, Palehorse, and Florian Bertmer.
The concept for the show is literally opening the gates of Hell- of course, that is debatable depending upon one’s conception of Hell and the personalities depicted in this show. The idea of evoking what modern society considers demons however remains. The contributing artists used Anton LaVey’s “The Infernal Names,” which is a chapter in the Satanic Bible that lists fifty names of demons, names such as Lilith, Mephisto, and Hecate.
The concept of the demon is an interesting subject to discuss, because different spiritual/religious traditions have varying definitions on the demonic. Universally there is however this concept of the demonic- what is not universal is the concept that the demonic is evil.
The Church of Satan was founded during the sixties counter-culture revolution. In part, COS countered the strong influence Christianity had socially, politically, morally, and psychologically. The history of Christianity shows a conquest from the Holy Roman Empire to the conquistadors opening the path for missionaries to spread the good word in the New Land. Christianity, like it’s predecessors in the Old Testament who destroyed the altars of the Baals and Ashtaroth, went to war with the so-called pagan deities of multiple cultures worldwide to establish monotheism. Christian missionaries destroyed temples or turned them into churches, burned libraries, and demonized the gods and spirits of these religions. Over centuries many people still associate these gods and spirits with the false branding of being demons. That isn’t to say that some of these spirits aren’t of a dark nature, but demon in an Abrahamic sense of the term is equivalent to evil, and that is to say, unnatural, that is to say against the order of the universe.
On the Infernal List the goddess Kali is named. Kali is known for slaying demons. Kali is a manifestation of Durga, the principle goddess of creation, and Shiva, who is also listed on the Infernal List, is the principle god of creation. Together they create this material manifestation, according to Vedic texts. Yet, their appearance and other activities told in Vedic texts are not easily understood by people outside Hindu culture and it’s easy to associate them as being demons due to the external dark nature they reveal. And so one must question, if one culture’s deities of mother and father of the universe are reduced to being demons, then how should we interpret the gods and demons of other cultures?
When we look at the work in The Devils Reign are we seeing depictions that reinforce false associations or are we seeing the celebration of gods that many people want to see forgotten? Shaun Beaudry’s “Lilith” depicts the infamous woman as a goddess of the earth, far from the general depictions of her as a seductive mistress.
In Alexandra Snelgrove’s “Star of the Magi” a downward pentagram frames a satyress embracing a goat that is crowned with a torch of illumination. The downward pentagram signifies directing one’s energy, will, or consciousness to the elements of earth. Going back to demonizing concepts for most theistic traditions directing one’s energy upward, to the spiritual, away from the earth, is the goal. Somehow this idea of directing energy to the material has been interpreted as being in contradiction with spiritual values. For most magic practitioners the divine, the spiritual, is to be found in the elements. To set it in another context, the Medieval era focused art strictly on the divine Heavens and the afterlife- the above. Whereas the Renaissance artists, like a downward pentagram, began depicting worldly art- the below- by revealing how the divine and how the heavens were inherit in the world and one not need to die before they could experience spirituality but could experience it in this world.
If Heaven is on earth then demons inhabit the divine. I would be wrong to dismiss the truly dark nature of some of these personalities on the Infernal List, however, that doesn’t dismiss what I just stated about the false demonizing tactics of missionaries, it simply means that just as some have falsely demonized demons they have also praised and worshiped a misconception of God. And only by understanding the order of demons can one have a full conception of the Divine.
“The Devil’s Reign” Curated by Peter H Gilmore, High Priest, Church of Satan presented in association with HOWL Gallery
April 1 2016 – April 30 2016
Alexandra Snelgrove, Andy Holw, Chris Reed, Clay McCay, Curt Baer, Derek Hess, Derek Noble, Dusty Neal, Dylan Garrett Smith, Florian Bertmer, Francisco D, Herb Auerbach, Jondix, Josh McAlear, Marilyn Mansfield, Michaelanthony Alton Mitchell, Pale Horse, Pooch, Samantha Roman, Seldon Hunt, Shaun Beaudry, Tim Lehi, Timothy Hoyer, Tony Karnes, Uncle Allan Zac Scheinbaum Zack Spurlock, Zoth Ommog