The Temple of Set was founded in 1975 by Michael Aquino, a psychological specialist in the U.S. Army, in San Francisco.
The Temple styles itself an "initiatory order of the Left Hand Path", which essentially means it is a Satanic organization. Like the Church of Satan, the Temple does not worship the Judeo-Christian devil, but instead focuses on individuality and self-improvement. Contrasted with the Church of Satan, which believes in "Satan" only as a figure or perhaps impersonal force of nature, most Setians believe that a literal Prince of Darkness exists, and that the Egyption god Set (or Seth) is the form that they choose to follow -- worship would be too strong a word.
The Temple is the only Satanic organization which is fully recognized as a faith in the United States, and it possesses tax exempt status. In 1984, it was estimated that the Temple had some 500 members, but a more accurate number is largely unattainable due to the Temple's general unwillingness to disclose details about its members.
The Temple of Set espouses as its ideal the idea of "xeper" (pronounced "kheffer"), which loosely translated from the Egyption means "to have come into being". They believe that life should be a constant struggle of self-improvement and evolution, leading to self-deification through Black Magic.
There are six levels within the Temple of Set, each succeeding one bearing more responsiblity within the Temple, though not necessarily more power in so-called "Black Magic".
- Priest/Priestess of Set
- Magister/Magistra Templi
Setian, also the generic term for an adherent of the faith, is the rank at which new members begin, and it is a period of training and evaluation in the Black Arts. If, within two years, the Setian is judged to be skilled at Black Magic, he is promoted to the rank of Adept.
The rank of Adept is when full membership in the Temple of Set is conferred. One must, except in rare cases, merely continue to pay the annual $80 fee to remain in the church and continue receiving its literature and the council of its Priesthood. An Adept is expected to further his own self-development and prowess at the magical arts, and may wish to one day become a member of the Priesthood.
It is at level of Priest when belief in Set as an actual, living being becomes mandatory. Setians and Adepts may or may not believe he exists. Most Setians, however, never progress beyond the Adept rank. In one conversation, an Adept says to one of the upper ranks that she "believes in Set" and is ready for the Priesthood. The superior retorts, "But does Set believe in you?" The essay goes on further to explain that while one who owns a tavern by the ocean may "believe in" the ocean, it is not the same belief as the sailor who masters the ocean for his livelihood.
The remaining ranks are merely ranks above Priest, roughtly comparable to Bishops and Cardinals and such in the Roman Catholic Church, conferring more power and responsibility within the organization.
This question has been begged, up until now: What is Black Magic? According to Setians, Black Magic is acting to impose your will upon reality. "My will be done!" rather than "Thy will be done!". Initiates may develop themselves in the magical arts through careful study and discourse with Set himself. The full details of this, such as formal prayer or ritual, are truly known only by members.
Caveat - Cletus the Foetus
informs me that the Church of Satan
is eligable for tax exempt status, but rejects it on principle. The Temple accepts its status because it is more practical -- other religions do it, so they do to. Thanks Cletus.