TEMPLE OF SET (Religious Movement)

The Temple of Set is an international organization which was incorporated as a nonprofit Church in California in 1975, receiving state and federal recognition and tax-exemption later that year. It probably has the most members of any kind of Satanism but is far from being a popular or mass movement. It was founded by Michael Aquino following a vision of Set who revealed the inadequacy of the Church of Satan and indicated the structure and nature of its replacement, the Temple. For Aquino and many (but by no means all) members of the Temple there is a real being, popularly named Satan, but more properly named Set. This person achieved a high degree of self-realization and continues to offer humans encouragement to ‘become’ (a buzz-word of the Temple) more truly human. ‘As Set was, we are; As Set is, we can be’ might represent the views of many Temple members.

The Temple of Set is a self-religion (see Self-religion, the Self, and Self) that encourages personal growth within the tradition of esoteric movements, especially in its elaboration of various forms of magic and ritual. The Temple draws on ancient Egyptian terminology for some of its most distinctive expressions. Its local groups and/or Internet based networks are called Pylons after Egyptian temple gateways. However, its organization derives from European esotericism and is comparable to that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It divides magic into ‘lesser’ and ‘higher’ forms. The first aims to change the surrounding world (to some degree) according to the will of the practitioner. The latter attempts to achieve a greater realization of the individual’s true will and thus effects changes in the self. The Temple offers members the opportunity of engaging with a wide range of different styles of practice and areas of study, e.g. Celtic mythology or post-modernist philosophy. Advancement within the Temple’s series of hierarchical degrees and orders is marked by changes of title and symbol that are, again, recognizably inheritances from previous esoteric movements.

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