I’m frequently asked how I, as a Satanist, practice my Satanism. Whenever I get this question I struggle to answer it, because my Satanism is so all-encompassing for me I don’t know how not to practice it. It isn’t as if I’m just a Satanist when I’m writing about Satanism, doing Satanic ritual, or talking to other Satanists. I’m also a Satanist when I’m doing my finances or watching Netflix. Religion is not just something I do, but something I am, and as in most religion the boundary between doing and being is blurred.
But a central aspect of my Satanic practice comes down to something very private: what Cal Newport calls a Root Document. For years now I’ve kept what I can only call my own personal Sacred Text. It is a holistic document, containing the very mundane (checklists for work) and the very sacred (my guiding principles, meditations, and rituals.) It is also a living document, shifting according to what I learn and need.
It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this document in my life. I wake with it and go to sleep with it. It guides me though the day. I reference it innumerable times as I work, meditate, and live. It is a Holy Scripture entirely of my own invention.
In this post, I will guide my readers through my personal method so that they, too, can develop their own personal Satanic Root Documents.
Why is this Satanic?
One of the greatest benefits of organized religion is that it provides a scaffold which structures our lives, be it a weekly service with community, a set of rituals to perform, or the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. In innumerable ways, religion has provided us with community, symbolic structure, disciplines to rely on when life gets hard, and rituals with which we can explore our emotions, goals, and experiences.
The power that traditional religion holds over the world is weakening and that is, without reservation, a positive. It heralds the liberation of women, sexual minorities, and unconventional beliefs and activities of all sorts. That’s a good thing, and we should celebrate it. However, something is also lost: the meaning-making scaffolds which upheld our lives are collapsing. This is both good, because many of those scaffolds were shit, but also negative, because we might be prone to forget how important it is to have meaning making structures in the first place. If we aren’t careful, titanic corporate monsters will come to fill the structural void left by organized religion. If we do not think carefully about our meaning-making structures, then other entities (primarily gigantic tech companies) are going to swoop in and provide structure and meaning for us. Netflix, Apple, Facebook, and Instagram are probably not the best sources for meaning and structure for our lives, but they inevitably become so if we don’t think deliberately about how we want to direct our lives. Blake wrote, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.”
It is on us, as individuals, to create our own meaning-making scaffolds and holy texts. This is hard work, but it must be done.
I see this as a predominately Satanic act, because Satanism is a religion that stands against tyranny and for the individual. This is not to concede a false binary between individualism and collectivism; it is rather to say that it is our moral duty, as Satanists and human beings, to never lose critical awareness of our own actions and cognitive biases. Instead of bowing to the will of an authoritarian religious or digital media structure, it is on us to decide what we do and do not practice, what we do and do not value. Incidentally, this has always been the case. At no point can people outsource their conscience and choices, not matter how much they may wish to.
We can revise, revisit, and correct our holy texts as much as we see fit. When we realize we were wrong about something, we can change it. When we realize something isn’t working anymore, we can let it go. The same cannot be so easily said of traditional religion or tech giants.
I’ve been inspired from a number of sources in my creation of a personal Root Document, most notably by Cal Newport, who wrote a blog post on the subject and coined the term “Root Document.” While my own root document started out as a productivity project to get my life back on the rails in my twenties, it quickly turned into something more: a personal, religious, and meaning-making document.
I’ve been inspired by other sources, too: the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, Gardner’s Book of Shadows, the liturgies of 12 Step recovery meetings, and the Jesuit Examen. However, I approach all of these inspirations as a non-supernaturalist and nontheist.
A few caveats
1st – this is a template that people are free to use fully, partially, or not at all. If you think a section is stupid or doesn’t work, don’t use it. If you find a particular method of mine doesn’t quite fit, throw it away. Maybe you like the idea, but not what I’ve come up with. In which case, I hope you come up with something entirely new and exciting.
2nd – my history in the western High Church traditions (Anglican and Roman Catholic) will become evident in this post. There is a lot of rote meditation on the same words, day after day, week after week. I’m intensely aware that this may not work for some people. My own Satanic journey is one of “Satanizing” previous religious activities I enjoyed in Christianity, while letting go of the doctrines. What I find comforting and wonderful, though, will be exasperating for others. If readers find it better to shed themselves entirely of the rote aspects of the document, that is perfectly valid.
3rd – the sections I lay out below might be overwhelming. I recommend that, if you choose to build your own Satanic Root Document, to start with only one of the sections detailed below. Start simple, and then let it grow from there. I’ve been cultivating mine for years, and it’s grown into something quite complicated. However, my own Root document started as just one of these sections — the “Rule” section detailed below.
I’m woefully uncrafty, so I choose to keep my Root Document on an app called Bear, and I mostly interact with it on my iPhone and MacBook. Some people may want to get more creative with how they package their root document. The Satanic community is full of some incredibly talented people, and I hope that whoever tries their hand at creating a Root Document makes it their own. Whatever the case, make sure it is easily modifiable, as a central aspect of the Root Document is that it can be edited at anytime.
The sections of my Root Document are as follows:
- Daily Office
- The Rule
The Daily Office
The Daily Office is my primary point of contact with my Root Document. My personal daily office is divided into morning and evening routines which involve necessary life management and centering meditations. This portion of the document is directly inspired by the Book of Common prayer. I loved (still love, in fact) the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. For those who are unfamiliar, it guides one through an array of prayers, invocations, and Scripture reading, all of which vary according to the calendar. As I gradually lost my Christian faith and could no longer identify with the truth claims in the Daily Office, I realized that I had to create my own.
The Morning Office
My morning office is meant to center me for the day. First thing in the morning, I go through a series of steps that I’ve laid out for myself:
- I review the previous day with gratitude. (This is lifted from the Jesuit Examen). I name 10 things, large and small, for which I am grateful.
- I meditate on one of the Tenets of the Satanic Temple. Conveniently, there are seven tenets, so I designate one tenet for every day of the week. I speak the tenet to myself, and ask myself what it means for me that day.
Monday: One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
Tuesday: The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit which should prevail over laws and institutions.
Wednesday: One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
Thursday: The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another to forgo your own.
Friday: Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
Saturday: people are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have ben caused.
Sunday: Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
- I read an individualized invocation written for that day of the week. These invocations are usually things that I find myself having to be reminded of again, and again, and again. Here’s an example:
I am the universe become aware of itself. By some miracle I cannot comprehend, tiny shards of the cosmos started thinking about itself. I am one of those tiny shards. On this day, I bow before myself, the universe. I give thanks for this life, this moment, and I commit myself to see past the mundane and into the miraculous.
And here’s another:
Today, I choose to stay in the present moment. I choose to remember that the present moment is the highest sacrament, and that life consists of now. I will therefore engage no matter how dull, excruciating, or pleasurable.
- I meditate on a passage of my choosing from Illuminations, which I will detail below.
- I look forward to the rest of the day with preemptive gratitude, grateful that I’m alive, and that I get to have another day on this earth.
Other steps for my morning office include: reviewing my calendar, coming up with a checklist for the day, boring adulting stuff, etc.
The evening office is meant to wrap up the day and help me get ready for sleep. Because I’m usually pretty exhausted in the evening, I keep my evening office short:
- Review a section of the Root Document, so as not to lose connection with its content.
- Draw a Tarot card and meditate on the meaning.
- Using the card as a catalyst, journal a few sentences.
Other steps in my evening office: review finances, make a schedule for the next day, adulting bullshit, etc. etc.
You can make the Daily Office as simple or as complicated a you want. The Anglican Daily Office includes special prayers for Feast Days, which occur on special days of the year. If there are particular days or holidays which are special to you, you can write your own invocations for those days. I’m personally coming up with invocations for the new holidays of The Satanic Temple.
Note: sometimes I’m in a hurry, and I can’t get through the full office. Fortunately, there are no deities overseeing your performance of this office who might be disappointed if you make some shortcuts. I frequently find that I have to skip over some items. If, however, I find that I’m skipping an item every day, that might be an indicator that I need to go ahead and remove it from the document, so as to avoid clutter.
The Rule is a set of your most central principles and personal guidelines. The word “Rule” is a reference to the Rule of St. Benedict, which comprises a set of precepts and principles for monks. My Rule has several parts:
The Life Theme is an articulation of why you are on this earth. It is the summation of all your goals and values. It can be very simple, like mine: “Union, Mastery, Compassion.” Dwelling every now and then on your life theme is important, as it can help filter your current thoughts and behaviors. Is pursuing your fetish for BDSM clowns aligned or in conflict with your Life Theme?
Growing up in the Evangelical world, I’m still haunted by the amount of energy and anguish I poured into trying to discern “God’s will” for my life. During my Christian days, I spent an enormous amount of time trying to get my life theme from a deity, and not from myself. Taking authority over your own life by establishing your own life theme can be a powerful act of reclaiming your life from an unhealthy God.
The Canon is the set of books, films, music, etc. which comprise your own personal canon. These are the works you return to again and again to find wisdom, inspiration, and purpose. A few examples from my own Canon list: The album Prequelle by Ghost, the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Seven Tenets of the Satanic Temple, Deep Work by Cal Newport.
A set of personal guidelines which help you navigate life. A few of mine include:
- Don’t attempt to control other people, and only offer advice when asked. When I do offer advice I must ask permission first.
- Protect the sacred — keep sacred things private, away from the public eye. That includes my partner, my home, etc.
- Remember that social media is work, not leisure.
The sacraments are your most restorative and vital activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Writing them down in a list can be a powerful reminder of what brings you the greatest fulfillment in life. Ironically, we are prone to forget those things that are best for us. A few of my sacraments include:
- Consistent sleep
If you follow a particular productivity or life-management system, it goes here. For example, if you follow the GTD system (Getting Things Done) or the Bullet Journaling system, you can add the details and steps to the system in this section. I happen to be obsessed with productivity, so having a separate section just to detail the underlying philosophies and steps of systems I use is helpful. For others, it might be less so. As such, I won’t go into great detail about this section, unless readers think it would be interesting.
As someone who lives with mental illness, I’ve had to develop a large toolbox for navigating life and difficult moods. That toolbox lives here. In this section, I lay out meditations and practices that my therapists have given me over the years. I also have a “Crisis” section, which is the list I follow when I have an episode, or a traumatic event happens. (Steps include: become aware of my breath, reach out to friends to let them know I’m in crisis, don’t trust my panicked thoughts, etc.)
I think a personalized set of survival tools is incredibly important. Even if you don’t live with mental illness, we all struggle and face hardship in some way. This section is here for you when life gets hard, as it does for everyone.
All the checklists for routines, events, and work go here. I have checklists for my morning and evening routines, for my blog and podcast, for my day job, etc.
The illuminations are the quotes, poems, song lyrics etc. that inspire you, and that you want to return to again and again. I include a reading from Illuminations in my Evening Office to wrap up the day. I have quotes from astrophysicist Max Tegmark:
Thirteen point eight billion years after its birth, our Universe has awoken and become aware of itself. From a small blue planet, tiny conscious parts of our Universe have begun gazing out into the cosmos with telescopes, repeatedly discovering that everything they thought existed is merely a small part of something grander: a solar system, a galaxy and a universe with over a hundred billion other galaxies arranged into an elaborate pattern of groups, clusters and superclusters. Although these self-aware stargazers disagree on many things, they tend to agree that these galaxies are beautiful and awe-inspiring.
I have Satanic invocations and meditations, like this one from the Satanic Temple:
Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary societal norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.
I also have a fairly large collection of poetry, including poems by Baudelaire, Crowley, Mary Oliver, Christian mystics, and more. Here’s one poem, by Emily Dickinson, that I particularly love:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
The final section of the Root Document, the Grimoire is where you detail your religious rituals and observances. You can create personalized Satanic rituals for various events (Shiva Honey of the Satanic Temple is publishing a book called the Devil’s Tome on Satanic ritual which could provide much inspiration for this section.) I’ve also included The Satanic Temple’s holidays (Lupercalia, Hexennacht, etc.) and I’m working on my own Black Mass. If you practice some form of psychological magick — I do sigil magick, for example — you can outline the steps here.
And that’s it: an introduction to my own Satanic Root Document which provides religious structure to my life.
If you are interested in creating your own, please let me know. I’d love to feature whatever you come up with on the blog. If you have questions, or want to swap ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to see how other Satanists take this idea and make it their own. You can contact me here.
17 thoughts on “On Creating a Personal Satanic Root Document”
Thank you Stephen, I have adopted a few of these suggestions.
I’m so glad!
This was inspiring. Thank you!! I love the idea of a root document so much, and took loads of notes. It will take me forever to create one, because I have college and a toddler, but that’s okay. I might start a little one for my daughter, too, that we can work on together and eventually she can take over as she grows.
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I’m so glad you find the concept helpful! And if you feel comfortable sharing, please let me know what you come up with ❤
Stephen your writings continually resonate with me. You continually provoke me to question myself and more often than not your efficient prose makes me smile because of some positive realisation. In this case meditating on one of the seven tenets is something I’ll do daily from now on. I’ll add more to my own Root Document I’m sure. Cheers. \m/
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Thanks so much ❤ I'm so glad you found the article helpful, and I hope you find insight and inspiration in your daily meditation practice.
This reminds me of the very instructive Academy of Ideas video on passive nihilism (where you either accept that life has no meaning and stay dumb and confused, or accept the usually bad ideas that were born in the heads of other peoples from other times without really knowing anything about their agenda or mental health or psychological histories) versus active nihilism (where you take full ownership for how YOU create meaning for yourself via transcendental projects, and you end up like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, seated between the “old tables” and the “new tables” of values).
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Yes, that’s it exactly
I love this so, so much. I just found this post through a link in another post. I plan on starting my own Root Document tonight.
Just stumbled on this while searching the web after hearing Cal Newport talk about his root document in one of his podcasts, excellent blog post! Thank you for this!
Thanks so much! Glad you found the article helpful, and greetings from a fellow Newport devotee.