Balanone's Temple of Set FAQ

Date: July 29, 1997
Version: 1.01
Author/Editor: Balanone
Copyright: 1997, Temple of Set

This is one man's FAQ document concerning the Temple of Set. Its information is drawn from a number of resources, including electronic discussions, hard copy correspondence, internal Temple of Set documents, etc.

This FAQ's answers are intentionally brief and concise, sometimes excessively so, to keep this document's size down. More detailed information is available in the companion document, Balanone's Temple of Set REF".

Qualifications: Balanone has been an active member of the Temple of Set since early 1976, and so is intimately familiar with Setian philosophy and practice. While this document is just one person's statement, and not an official statement from/by the organization, this person has the depth of experience to be reasonably confident in his accuracy. Corrections, additions, and differences of opinion from other members of the Temple of Set are more than welcome, and within reason all such will be included in this document.

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Philosophy
  2.1   Xeper
  2.2   Initiation
  2.3   Satanism
  2.4   Left Hand Path
  2.5   Metaphysics
  2.6   Dogma vs Doctrine
3.0 Religion
  3.1   The Temple of Set as a Religion
  3.2   Set
  3.3   The Gift of Set
4.0 Magic
  4.1   Black Magic
  4.2   Ritual Practices
  4.3   Occult Studies
5.0 The Organization
  5.1   Membership in the Temple
  5.2   Relations with Other Organizations
  5.3   Why the Temple of Set?
  5.4   Our Reputation(s)
  5.5   Pylons and Orders
  5.6   The High Priest
6.0 Setians and Setianism
  6.1   Activities
  6.2   Setians
  6.3   Why are we here?
  6.4   Miscellaneous
7.0 Contact and Information
  7.1   Formal and Official Contact
  7.2   Informal Contact
  7.3   Friendly and Neutral Others
  7.4   Unfriendly Others
  7.5   Getting More Information
  7.6   Those Stories About Us
8.0 Miscellaneous
  8.1   Miscellaneous Links
  8.2   FAQ/REF Sources

1.0 Introduction

The Temple of Set is probably best described as an initiatory magical order of the Left Hand Path, a description which probably doesn't mean much to those without occult backgrounds.

"Initiatory" means the ToS advocates self-advancement through a series of levels of self-knowledge and similar attributes.

"Magical" means that the ToS openly works with magic (non-scientific cause and effect), not stage magic.

"Left Hand Path" indicates that the path followed by Setians is one of concentration and refinement of the self, leading toward more and more individuality and more and more individualism, as opposed to the Right Hand Path goals of growing toward some outwardly determined standard.

A slightly more detailed introduction can be found in the REF.

2.0 Philosophy

2.1 Xeper

Perhaps the best discussion of Xeper available online is Magus Don Webb's, found at: See the REF document for additional discussion.

2.2  Initiation

There is additional discussion of initiation and the Temple's degree system in the REF document.

2.3  Satanism

Is the Temple of Set a Satanic organization?

The Temple of Set as an organization was founded in 1975 by Dr. Michael Aquino, in San Francisco. Its initial membership came from the Church of Satan (that infamous "Satanic" organization of the carny Anton LaVey), composed of CoS members who felt there was something real and important about the magic they were exploring, and felt that Anton LaVey's antics of that year were in contradiction to their own experiences. The Temple of Set has grown a lot in scope and maturity in those twenty years.

Because of this history, and because of the many antinomian pursuits followed by Setians, many people will call the Temple of Set "Satanic." Many Setians do, too, but not all.

"Satan" is a name given to the Prince of Darkness, just like "Set" is a name given to the Prince of Darkness. However, "Set" is a name given by a religion which found Setian principles attractive and noble, and which honored the Prince of Darkness. "Satan" is a name given to the Prince of Darkness by Christianity out of fear and revulsion. The Christian Satan is a twisted bastardization of the true Prince of Darkness.

"Satanism" is a term used by many to describe the Left Hand Path in the West. We are a proud part of the tradition of spiritual dissent, differing philosophically from the Church of Satan. Their take on the Left Hand Path is the Immanent Path wherein godhood is achieved by the worship of the carnal ego with no possibility of personal immortality save in some vague connection to the organic stream. We are followers of the Transcendental path, wherein person immortality is achievable by a strengthening of the idealized Self. In an increasingly post-Christian world, the term "Satanism" will become irrelevant.

More discussion concerning the Temple of Set and Satanism can be found in the REF document.

2.4  Left Hand Path

The Left Hand Path is the tradition of spiritual dissent. It is a process of using the ideas and actions of the Seeker to create or realize an immortal, individual, potent, and powerful essence that will survive death. The Left Hand Path is the quest for personal immortality, won by hard effort without grace of gods, even of our role model, Set.

2.5  Metaphysics

This section is included only in the REF document.

2.6  Dogma vs Doctrine

The Temple of Set has no dogma, but it does have teachings. We're sometimes accused of having dogma because of these teachings.

The REF document includes some discussion detailing the distinction I see between doctrine and dogma.

There is some disagreement on this issue, primarily I believe because people use different definitions for dogma. For example, in reviewing a draft of this FAQ, Magus Don Webb, the High Priest, suggested I erred in my statement above:

DW> Actually the Temple of Set does have dogma:
DW> 1. Being and Becoming are Good.
DW> 2. Being and Becoming can be enhanced by consciously chosen activities including Magic.
DW> 3. The Temple of Set, if properly maintained and used as a tool can be used to obtain Being and Becoming.
DW> That's about it.

3.0  Religion

3.1  The Temple of Set as a Religion

Is the Temple of Set a religion?

Yes, although belief in the religion is not required of I* or II* members. See the REF document for some discussion why I consider the Temple of Set to be a religion.

3.2  Set

Set is the most ancient name for the Prince of Darkness, given to the Prince of Darkness in ancient (pre-dynastic) Egypt. Whether Set exists as an independent metaphysical being, or whether he's a symbol for man's most individualistic attributes, is a topic always under discussion somewhere in the Temple of Set.

3.3  The Gift of Set

The Gift of Set means so many different things depending upon whom you speak to. To some it's the gift of Intelligence, to some it's Consciousness, to some it's the ability to step back from the current moment/place to see/think about what's happening. To some it's the ability to work (or at least conceive of) magic. etc. The Gift of Set is whatever happens to separate us (those with potential) from animals (those without quite as much potential), which is one of the grey areas that haven't been clarified very well (some of us not seeing very much difference between humans and "higher" animals).

There is more discussion of the Gift of Set in the REF document.

4.0  Magic

4.1  Black Magic

What is Black Magic? How does the Temple of Set teach it?

Black Magic is consciously-directed alteration of one's environment through obscure natural (Lesser Black Magic) or non-natural (Medial Black Magic) means, or apprehension of the Forms/Principles of the natural/non-natural universe (Greater Black Magic). Black Magic inverts the formula of religion form "Thy will be done!" to "My will be done!"

The Temple of Set teaches both theory and practice of LBM/MBM/GBM, along with individual and social ethical considerations to which the Initiate must be sensitive in order to use such magical knowledge creatively, constructively, and responsibly. [Descriptions of "Black Magic" as involving human or animal sacrifice, rape, or other illegal or reprehensible practices are merely Judaeo/Christian propaganda, and have no basis in truth whatever.]

4.2  Ritual Practices

Setian ritual practice is generally not discussed in public forums. However, some specific questions seem to require answers.

4.3  Occult Studies

Discussion of other occult studies (such as Astrology, Thelema and Crowley), are found in the REF document.

5.0  The Organization

5.1  Membership in the Temple

Note: Most of these sections are explored in more depth in the REF document.

5.2  Relations with Other Organizations

By its bylaws, the Temple of Set as an organization can have no formal relationships or ties with any other organization. Individual Setians, however, can work with or have dealings with other organizations and its members. There are two limitations: 1) an Adept II* of the Temple of Set cannot also be a member of another religious organization, and 2) no Setian may be a member of an organization which condones or takes part in the violation of society's laws to the detriment of society.

That first limitation has often been a subject for discussion by people who don't understand it or who want clarification. One clarification I posted to alt.pagan in 1996 was,

"The Temple of Set wouldn't care if a Setian chooses to participate in a Buddhist retreat, an Indian sweat lodge, a Thelemic Gnostic Mass, a Passover Seder, a Pagan circle, or whatever. Part of being an Adept Magician is being able to see and mesh with whatever magic is taking place, understanding the causes of the ceremony and participating in those causes as appropriate to our own Will.

"However, if someone claimed to seriously believe in the wheel of karma, and that Xeper is valueless because until we can learn to avoid all participation in this world we're doomed to ride that wheel cycle after cycle, then yes, that religious belief would be opposed to the Setian principles of Xeper, and that person would not be able to remain a member of the Temple of Set. The two philosophies are simply incompatible."

The REF document includes sections which examine our history regarding specific other organizations.

5.3  Why the Temple of Set?

The REF document examines the question "What does the Temple of Set have to offer?"

5.4  Our Reputation(s)

Lupo the Butcher, in his "alt.satanism FAQ file", states/stated: "The most vocal of groups which border upon Satanism, is the Temple of Set of Michael Aquino and friends, which splintered away from the Church of Satan in a disagreement over monetary policy. They have a number of nasty habits, including the public publishing of names, addresses and workplaces of former members as a harassment tactic, disinformation regarding Satanic and occult groups, including their own, and a good deal of "we are the one true way" posturing."

See the section on Satanism for a summary of the schism with the Church of Satan.

We do not normally publish the name, addresses, or any other information concerning former members. We do not harass former members. Thousands of exmembers have left the Temple of Set for many different reasons, without any activity such as Lupo complains about.

See the REF document for more information.

5.5  Pylons and Orders

5.5.1  Pylons of the Temple of Set

Setians who live in the same area sometimes organize a local pylon in which they can meet together regularly for discussions, study, ritual work, and other activities. See for a good discussion of local pylons within the Temple of Set.

In addition to local pylons, there are correspondence pylons which support the Xeper of Setians who wish to participate in group discussions and activities by correspondence.

5.5.2  Orders of the Temple of Set

IV* Setians, Masters of the Temple, may found Orders within the Temple of Set. If you were to think of the Temple of Set as a college of higher learning, the Orders could be seen as departments within the school, each concentrating on specific flavors of exploration. They are places for the Adept to specialize in pursuit of the specialized tools for their personal achievement. Some Orders, like the Order of the Vampyre or the Order of the Trapezoid, are well known beyond the boundaries of the Temple walls, while others have lower profiles.

The REF document includes more information, specifically concerning the Order of the Trapezoid.

5.6  The High Priest

See the REF document for more information concerning the High Priest of Set.

6.0  Setians and Setianism

Setian is the generic term which applies to each member of the Temple of Set. Setians is the term which applies to two or more members, and to the entire membership together.

Setianism is a term which can be applied to the Setian philosophy, the Setian religion, and/or the Setian way of life. Some (many?) Setians prefer the terms "Setian philosophy," "Setian religion," and "Setian way of life" over the term "Setianism." I find "Setianism" a convenient term to use when I am referring specifically to the Setian way of life, or to any combination of these ideas.

6.1  Activities

What do Setians do? This topic is covered in the REF document.

6.2  Setians

6.2.1  Specific Setians

6.2.2  Questions about Setians

Are Setians Pagans? That's a question which depends heavily upon your definition of "pagan." See the REF document for this discussion.

6.3  Why are we here?

"Here" may be any digital forum -- you may be reading this on a web site, a newsgroup, or FTP archive. I've tried to generalize the answer to apply to most situations. For that matter, "here" may also apply to Pagan gatherings, meetings in hotels, new age fairs, etc. These questions are examined in the REF document.

6.4  Miscellaneous

There isn't much in this section, and it all resides in the REF document at this time.

7.0  Contact and Information

7.1  Formal and Official Contact

7.2  Informal Contact

The Setian Discussions echo (tagname: SET) is the only FTN (Fido Technology Network) echo hosted by Setians concerning Setian philosophy or the Temple of Set. Moderation is minimal, topics can be anything of interest to Setians, and participation is open to all who are not openly hostile to the Temple or to Setians. This echo is carried on the FIDO North America backbone, and by most major hubs within PODS. It is carried in Australia by both FIDO and PODS, and in Germany (and perhaps other areas of Europe) by PODS. In prior years, the echo was called "Base of Set" (its original name, as established by Sinistar on the BBS known as Purgatory) and sometimes simply "SET". If your local BBS or other network doesn't carry the echo, the echo's moderator (Balanone) will usually work with the Sysop and/or network to arrange access. Balanone can be contacted through the email addresses listed in this doc.

Rather than Setian-run bulletin board systems, it's much easier to find a BBS which has access to the Setian Discussions echo, either as part of the FIDO network or as part of the PODS network. (PODS is dedicated to Pagan activities and discussions.) Again, Balanone is willing to help anyone who needs to find a local bulletin board system connected to either of these two networks.

7.3  Friendly and Neutral Others

Though I've often quoted from others' responses to frequently asked questions, still this document is just one person's compilation concerning the Temple of Set. Anyone who needs a more comprehensive view should contact one or more of the other Setians (above, or better through Xepera-l), and perhaps one or more people who aren't Setian. A few people who are active online, whose independent views concerning the Temple of Set at this time appear to be informed and reasonable, are listed in the REF document. Please note that neither I nor the Temple of Set have much influence over nor agree with everything these people say.

7.4  Unfriendly Others

The REF document identifies a few people whose messages, documents, or web pages you're likely to run into on the Internet, and who are biased against the Temple of Set for a variety of reasons.

7.5  Getting More Information

7.6  Those Stories About Us

Despite our general policy of keeping a low profile, sometimes rumors about us do get spread, generally by people who dislike or fear us for some reason (perhaps because so little is known about us, or simply because of our non-Christian belief system, or for other reasons). If anyone (perhaps someone else at a location of one of our formal meetings, or someone you meet on the 'net, or some other acquaintance) should ask you any of the following questions, it's good to be able to give them the correct answers.

7.6.1    A Cult?

"Is this a cult?" No. Some people may define "cult" to mean any non-Christian religion, and then yes, we don't believe in the Christian religion. But most people reserve the word "cult" to you mean something dangerous to society or its members, and no, we're not a cult since we are beneficial to our members, and we're not anti-social by any means.

The REF document contains more discussion on this topic.

7.6.2    Satanists?

"Are you Satanists?" A lot of people say yes, and a lot of people say no. A lot of Setians say yes, and a lot of Setians say no. See the REF document for this discussion.

7.6.3    Naziism and Fascism

Are you fascists? Nazis? No. See or for one member's discussion of this question.

7.6.4    Presidio

What about the Presidio stories?

On August 14, 1987 CE the San Francisco home of Lilith and Dr. Aquino was raided by San Francisco Police officer Glen Pamfiloff on a search warrant obtained as a consequence of the accusations of Army chaplain Lawrence Adams-Thompson that the Aquinos had kidnapped and sexually abused his stepdaughter as part of the Presidio of San Francisco day-care witch-hunt.

These claims were investigated in depth by the SFPD, the FBI, and the US Army CID. No charges were ever made in any jurisdiction, and the evidence has shown Dr. Aquino and Lilith Aquino to be innocent of any such activity. Full details can be read in the alt.pagan post, dated Sun Jun 02, 22:14, From :, Subj : Re: Curio courts the CAW.

7.6.5    Other Occultists

7.6.6    The Setian Illuminati

These topics are explored in the REF document.

8.0  Miscellaneous

8.1  Miscellaneous Links

8.2  FAQ/REF Sources

  1. Setian Discussions echo FAQ. author: Balanone, version: Dec 30, 1996
  2. "More About the Temple of Set" web page. author: Balanone, version: Nov 25, 1996
  3. The alt.satanism FAQ file. author/editor: Lupo the Butcher, Version 2.3, January 7, 1996
  4. Temple of Set alt.satanism FAQ. author: Dr. Michael Aquino, version: Oct 10, 1995
  5. Misc email from Xepera-l mailing list
  6. Misc email from newsgroups and echos