A healthy balance is beneficial to nearly every aspect of our lives. It exists in the space between extremes like abstinence and compulsion. We should avoid arbitrary allegiances in favor of educated decision making.
Finding a healthy and satisfying balance is both critically important and deceptively difficult. Depending on the circumstances, finding such a balance can mean the difference between winning and losing, joy and depression, or life and death. It’s no surprise that in a modern world which is increasingly fast-paced and demanding, so many of us feel overwhelmed and generally out of whack. In fact, according to a 2021 study from Gallup and Wellbeing for Planet Earth Foundation, one third of people around the world feel that their lives are out of balance. That’s nearly two billion of us. The reports note that “These findings are important because balance is central to people’s wellbeing. When people have balance, they are likely to be calm, grounded, clearheaded and motivated.” As we achieve greater balance, we can expect increased productivity, better decision-making, and healthier relationships, among many other benefits to our general well-being.
If there’s been one enduring symbolic depiction of balance associated with Satanism over the years, it is Baphomet. The 19th-century French author and occultist Éliphas Lévi created what is surely the most well-known visual representation of Baphomet in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic) in 1854. He also wrote extensively about his concept of balance throughout several of his works. To Lévi, Baphomet “was the symbol of the equilibrium or the balance of contraries.” He made it a point to emphasize the importance of balance between opposing forces like good and evil, light and darkness, and male and female. While his context was often related to the practice of magic, he believed balance was the way toward harmony and enlightenment.
Baphomet is most famously seen with a raised right arm and a lowered left arm. Lévi explains “This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice.” The right arm includes the latin word “SOLVE” written on it, while “COAGULA” decorates the left arm. Solve means “to loosen” and Coagula means “coagulate” or “clot”. Together in the context of Baphomet, we have a phrase that speaks to breaking apart, and putting together. Lévi went on to say “The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance…” The imagery of Baphomet earns its place within Outsider Satanism because of this focus on the importance of balance.
When Anton LaVey gave birth to modern Satanism in the 1960’s, indulgence was integral to his philosophy. That remains true for our Outsider Satanism as well. In the Book of Lucifer Anton included a chapter called Indulgence… not Compulsion. He wrote “THE HIGHEST PLATEAU OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IS THE AWARENESS OF THE FLESH! Satanism encourages its followers to indulge in their natural desires… Therefore, the most simplified description of the Satanic belief is: INDULGENCE INSTEAD OF ABSTINENCE.” Because of his propensity for being anti-Christian, LaVey typically leaned in whichever direction he perceived to be opposite of Christian values. Christianity places great importance on abstinence, so naturally, Anton aimed for indulgence.
While LaVey mostly occupied the edgy extremes, this is a rare case where he did manage to find a reasonable balance. Had he not specifically included “…not Compulsion,” one might interpret his meaning to be too extreme. Indulgence is the perfect spot between abstinence and compulsion. Would you like to have premarital sex? Would you like to smoke the devil’s lettuce and listen to Black Sabbath? Perhaps a glass of wine with dinner? Indulge away, my friend. Indulge without guilt. But indulge responsibly. When you’re unable to maintain a healthy balance, your indulgences drift into compulsion or addiction, and hurt you and those around you. Things like drugs, alcohol, video games, social media, sex, food, and countless other pleasures and pastimes can become harmful if we aren’t mindful of that balance.
Outsider Satanism is a personal philosophy. It is completely apolitical, which is to say that the philosophy itself does not endorse or align itself with any political party, candidate, or ideology. The values that we prioritize can be applied in countless ways toward a nearly endless list of life situations. When examples of the application of these values involve politics, it’s important to remember that it’s simply an example of that value being applied to real life, not an endorsement of any kind. Balance is a perfect example of this. One area that illustrates a troubling lack of reasonable balance is American politics. It seemingly moves farther away from such a balance as time goes on. Polarization has become more common and extreme, and bipartisanship is increasingly rare. This continual shift is the result of an increased focus on competing ideologies rather than actual problem solving. Those on the right are reacting to the left’s dangerous culture of censorship and political correctness, and the left is reacting to the restrictions on reproductive rights and insensitivity to minority groups from the right. It’s hard to ignore the fact that both sides tend to be shortsighted and reactionary at times. And when the game of reactive, performative politics becomes the norm, it results in the unfortunate polarization that defines our political landscape.
The synopsis of our Balance value states “We should avoid arbitrary allegiances in favor of educated decision making.” In the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election, Democrats flooded social media platforms with calls to “Vote Blue No Matter Who!” As a registered Democrat for my entire adult life, rarely have I witnessed a more definitive example of arbitrary allegiance. That position is as nuanced as rooting for whichever random football players happen to be temporarily wearing the logo of your hometown team. By the time March 2022 rolled around, “No Matter Who” in the form of Joe Biden had reached near record low approval ratings. When the bar is set so low, that kind of widespread disappointment is inevitable. One possible solution toward improving balance in the political arena may be an increase in centrism. Bill Clinton is widely considered one of our most moderate/centrist Presidents, and it should be no surprise that his final approval rating was higher than any other President. While avoiding arbitrary allegiances and working well with both parties, he led the United States through a time of political stability and economic prosperity. And let’s not overlook his lively sunglasses-clad saxophone performance on the Arsenio Hall show in 1992.
One of the most relatable examples comes in the form of our desire for a healthy and rewarding work/life balance. Plenty of folks spend forty hours per week at their job, and then bring the work home to put in another three or four hours per night. Does that leave much time and mental capacity for everything else? Certain areas of life, like family, friends, hobbies, exercise, dating, parenting, creative pursuits, leisure time, and general self-care will surely suffer in a lifestyle so heavily focused on one’s job. You may think you’re working such long hours to provide for your family, but what exactly are you providing them with? A distracted, inattentive lover. An absentee parent. And yes, some money. There’s no denying the importance of money, but when it’s disproportionately prioritized, it will come at a cost that goes far beyond the numbers on your bank statement. Without balance, it will take a serious toll on your relationships and your own mental health.
Are there times when a specific project or goal needs to take a temporary boost in priority and focus? Of course, and that’s completely reasonable. With balance, there also comes a level of adaptability. If your method of finding balance requires absolute rigidity over long periods of time, it’s not likely to be sustainable in a world as fluid and complex as the one we live in. If you rely on strict adherence to schedules, you’ll surely find that external factors don’t always play along with those schedules. If you have plans to go to the baseball game at 2 PM on Saturday, and you find that it’s raining at that time, your plans have been disrupted by circumstances beyond your control. No matter how clearly it was typed into your schedule, you’re going to have to adapt in the moment. Flexibility is crucial to our resiliency (or better yet, antifragility) when faced with adversity, and increases our ability to recover more quickly from setbacks.
It’s important to remember that work/life balance isn’t defined simply by a number of hours. If you’re spending time at the park with your child, but don’t stop using your phone the whole time, are you really at the park with your child? Are you answering work texts and emails while watching a movie with your partner? Make a decision about which things in your life are worthy of undivided attention, and act on it. Approaching any task or activity with undivided attention is going to yield better results. This is true for doing math homework, playing a sport, or having sex. Truly living in the moment will provide the best experience for you, as well as anyone depending on you. The examples of using the phone and sending emails still involve a level of physical activity. But even that low level of activity isn’t required to distract you from where your focus should be. The distraction can exist entirely in your mind and still be just as detrimental. When maintaining balance becomes something you’re conscious of, avoiding those distractions becomes easier.
For those with children, balance may often represent walking the line between very strict or overprotective parenting, and neglectful parenting. If you’re a runner, the intensity of output used in a sprint is sure to lead to failure when applied to a 5K or marathon. You have to find an efficient pace based on the intensity of your output and the distance over which it needs to be sustained. These principles can be applied to our diet and exercise, environmental sustainability, financial responsibility, and countless other areas of our lives and society. I hesitate to say that any one of our values is more important than others, but it may be fair to say that balance is the most ever-present and necessary in our lives. It’s also important to remember that balance isn’t a goal that can be accomplished and simply checked off the to-do list. It’s a lifelong walk across the tightrope. It’s an ongoing process that requires attention and a constant stream of adjustments and corrections. You may need to lean a bit to one side or the other along the way, but be careful not to lean too far for too long.