The Temple of Set

The Temple of Set has as its avowed mission the destruction of the power of organized religion in contemporary society. Michael Aquino,a lieutenant in U.S. Army Intelligence specializing in psychological warfare,joined the Church of Satan together with his first wife in 1968. After he returned from serving in Vietnam in 1970,he was ordained a satanic priest and took as his mission in life the destruction of the influence of conventional religion in human affairs. Aquino did not wish to convert everyone to Satanism, but he did wish to remove the shadow of fear and superstition that he believed had been perpetuated by organized religion.

In 1975 Aquino left the Church of Satan after a disagreement with its founder,Anton LaVey. He resigned his priesthood and,with Lilith Sinclair,head of the New York Lilith Grotto,formed the Temple of Set in San Francisco.
On the eve of the summer solstice on June 21, 1975, after his split with LaVey, Aquino performed a magical ritual and sought to summon Satan to appear to him to advise him how best to proceed in his earthly mission. According to Aquino, the Prince of Darkness appeared to him in the image of Set and declared to his disciple the dawning of the Aeon of Set. It was revealed that Set had appeared to the notorious Aleister Crowley, the “Beast 666,” in Cairo in 1904 in the image of Crowley’s guardian angel, Aiwass. In 1966 LaVey had ushered in the Aeon of Satan, an intermediary stage that was designed to prepare the way for the Aeon of Set, an age that would bring forth enlightenment. Aquino was honored to assume the mantle of “Second Beast,” and he even had “666,” the number of the Beast in the book of Revelation, tattooed on his scalp.

In Aquino’s view the Temple of Set offers its followers an opportunity to raise their consciousness and to apprehend what exists in each individual to make him or her unique. Such awareness, according to the precepts of the Temple of Set, will permit its members to make themselves stronger in all facets of their being. To accomplish this, they must “preserve and improve the tradition of spiritual distinction from the natural universe, which in the Judeo/Christian West has been called Satanism,” but which is more properly termed “the Left-Hand Path.” To follow this path is to enter a process that will create “an individual, powerful essence that exists above and beyond animal life. It is thus the true vehicle for personal immortality.” The Temple of Set uses black magic as a means of focusing on “self-determined goals” but emphasizes that the black arts can be as dangerous to the neophyte as volatile chemicals to an inexperienced lab technician. They caution that the practice of magic is not for unstable, immature, or emotionally weak-minded individuals. And they stress that the process they offer to those who seek their “evolutionary product of human experience” is the kind of activity that no enlightened, mature intellect would regard as “undignified, sadistic, criminal, or depraved.” The practitioner must first learn to develop a system of ethics and discernment before putting such power to use.

Using magic for “impulsive, trivial, or egoistic desires” is not considered to be Setian. Black magic is the means by which Setian initiates “experience being gods, rather than praying to imaginary images of gods.” Those who attend the Temple of Set must be considered “cooperative philosophers and magicians.” Executive authority is held by the Council of Nine,which is responsible for appointing both the high priest and the executive director. There are six degrees of initiates: Setian 1,Adept II,Priest/Priestess of Set III, Magister/Magistra Templi IV,Magus/Maga V, and Ipsissimus/Ipsissima VI. To be recognized as an Adept II,one must Demonstrate that he or she has successfully mastered and applied the essential principles of black magic. Reading materials available to the initiates include the newsletter Scroll of Set and the encyclopedias entitled Jeweled Tablets of Set .


  • Lyons,Arthur. Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America . New York: Mysterious Press,1989.
  • ———. The Second Coming: Satanism in America . New York: Award,1970.
  • Temple of Set Web site. tos/infoadms.html.


Conspiracies and Secret Societies : The Complete Dossier – Written by Brad Steiger and Sherry Steiger
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A Satanist magical order founded by Michael Aquino in 1975, the Temple of Set began as a schism from Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, driven by disagreements between Aquino and LaVey about LaVey’s penchant for putting showmanship ahead of serious Satanism. From the time of its foundation, the Temple of Set has pursued an intellectually rigorous system of Satanic spirituality and magical practice. See Church of Satan; Satanism.

The Temple’s public documents distinguish between nature-worshipping religions, which include nearly all the world’s religious traditions, and consciousness-worshipping religions, which consist of the Temple’s own teachings and a few others. Nature-worshipping religions are dismissed as emotional crutches for those unwilling or unable to think for themselves. Intellectual clarity, self-discipline, and personal autonomy are core values of the system, and members are expected to violate conventional codes of morality to break free of the “herd mentality.” The goal of Setian training is the attainment of godhood, defined as eternal, isolated self-consciousness outside of nature and the universe. The similarity of this goal to the concept of eternal damnation held by many of the world’s spiritual traditions is unlikely to be accidental.

The Temple of Set is divided into Pylons, some of which are local groups while others are networks linked by the Internet, and nine Orders, special-interest groups focusing on particular magical or cultural traditions. The best known of the Orders at this point is the Order of the Trapezoid, which works with the magical currents of German National Socialism. While the Temple rejects antisemitism, and indeed counts many Jews among its membership, Aquino has claimed SS leader Heinrich Himmler as a high Satanic initiate, and has carried out intensive ritual work at the Wewelsburg, the castle formerly used by Himmler and top SS officers as a center for their own occult rituals. See National Socialism.

Headquartered in San Francisco, the Temple of Set is a significant force in contemporary Satanist circles. It does not release membership statistics but probably has some hundreds of members at present.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006