Today we mark yet another anniversary of The Declaration of Independence. Our founders intended this union to be a secular republic—a most unusual endeavor in the annals of human history. The philosophy of Satanism champions freedom, individualism and personal satisfaction, so endorsing the principles of a country that in 1776 promised its citizens “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as fundamental rights is natural for us.
We Satanists have found inspiration from the bold proclamation in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This inherent secularism rejected the age-old practice of governments being dominated by an established religion, which would then force widespread obeisance to its theism-based morals and doctrines. Yet the theists never ended their efforts to have their repressive perspectives legislated, and we are in a time when they have been making some headway towards establishing their doctrines as law. We secularists must master and preserve the mechanisms which exist to maintain that rare treasure—the separation of Church and State.
It is important to note that the freedoms of this country were not offered to all sentient beings living within its dominion from its beginning. While this nation persists, it was almost irrevocably shattered during the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, wherein the seceding Confederation of Southern States was eventually crushed by the northern Union, reuniting the USA. This conflict that lead to abolishing slavery was surely a proper act towards fulfilling the original founding declarations. It must be understood that the period of legally permitting racial subjugation has caused wounds that are still festering and which have lead to a nationwide state of unrest and heightened awareness this year.
It took that bloody war to liberate slaves and significant amendments to the Constitution of the United States to bring them into acceptance as full citizens. And we should not forget that women were not then fully embraced, as they did not gain the right to vote until 1920—decades after the conclusion of the war between the states. The Equal Rights Amendment, whose first version was introduced to Congress in 1923, nearly a century later has not been ratified in all 50 states. In recent history, 2015 was the year that same-sex marriage became legal throughout our entire nation. And this past June, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring discrimination based on sex, extends as well to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation. So, America continues to evolve, and that is its strength, and the cause of it being a beacon to many seeking to increase liberty in their lives.
However imperfect and rough has been the journey of this nation, the trajectory is one which has slowly lead in a direction of increasing equity for its citizens. The landmarks for that process—the outcries for being recognized as full-fledged members of the American experience, and the turning points when the law of the land becomes such as to bring greater equity—should be widely studied as proof that progress is demonstrably ongoing. It is the responsibility of our citizenry to both understand and cultivate this transformation as we participate in this mutual experiment for building a better social contract. Today is thus for reflection upon as well as celebration of the essential nature of the United States of America.
W. H. Auden’s lengthy 1947 work, The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue, explores the alienation of four characters who seek some measure of self-understanding and direction in this turbulent modern age. The brilliant composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, crafted what I consider to be one of his finest works by writing his second symphony, which features a prominent piano solo part, while deeply inspired by this searching poetry. The Age of Anxiety Symphony was written in 1948-9, and expanded in 1965. The emotional journey of the work speaks to the turmoil of our times, and how one must struggle to come to grips with aspects of society and self-realization in order to ultimately find a positive direction—goals worthy of pursuit which will enhance one’s brief existence. Bernstein’s musical language is a powerful synthesis of the symphonic processes which arose in Europe, perfectly melded with aspects of more recent American forms coming from Jazz.
So, on this American holiday, I suggest you might find inspiration via one of the greatest symphonies written by an American composer, one which concretizes that struggle which we each face as individuals, and which the USA has waged as an evolving society. Here’s to crafting our unique identities to meet the vicissitudes of existence while cultivating empathy, equity, and ultimately triumph as we seek sovereignty and satisfaction in the face of an indifferent universe.
Hail Independence—now and henceforward!
—Magus Peter H. Gilmore