Indulgence and Debauchery

cups070It was in San Francisco, a city not exactly renowned for its moderation, that I learned the difference between indulgence and debauchery. ‘Indulgence’ was the watchword of the Church of Satan so I suppose it was appropriate that I should be taught the meaning of the word when I was only about 5 miles from the Black House. I am currently recovering from a very indulgent weekend, which was great fun but rather expensive in more than one way, so the distinction between the two concepts is at the forefront of my mind.

Indulgence is the opposite of asceticism. Whereas the ascetic, whether he is a pious Christian or an Indian sadhu, denies himself all carnal pleasures, the indulgent seek out pleasure wherever it suits them. As the first and eighth Satanic Statements put it: “Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”, “Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!” However, as you might expect from the early Church of Satan, there is a serious concept behind the showmanship and incessant exclamation marks. To indulge is to do something that you want to do for your own ends: there must be a point to it. It need not be a high and mighty goal – a simple desire to have fun is enough – but you must have some goal in mind.

In contrast, debauchery has no ultimate aim. Debauchery is an act that you perform not because you really want to do it but just because you have nothing else to do, or because your friends are doing it, or because someone has told you to do it, or because you are addicted to doing it. Indeed, addiction is the epitome of debauchery. For example, assuming that the health issues are accounted for, there is nothing wrong with smoking a cigarette because you enjoy the flavour of the tobacco smoke and the relaxing effect that it produces. But if you smoke a cigarette just because that’s what you always do then the act becomes debauched. You are no longer consciously choosing to do something in order to bring about a situation that you desire, you are just perpetuating a habit. If you wish to celebrate something, or even just to enjoy an evening of fun with friends, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t go out to a bar or club and indulge in some intoxicants. On the other hand, if you find yourself going out every night for no better reason than “this is what my friends and I do”, then you may have a problem.

The key issue here is conscious choice. Are you choosing to indulge in something because it will cause something that you truly want, or are you just going with the flow or continuing a habit? If an outside observer were to watch you perform a single act, he would not easily be able to tell whether it was an act of indulgence or debauchery. He may get a pretty good idea if he is able to observe you over an extended period of time but ultimately only you can tell the difference by honestly examining your self.

So, was my weekend indulgence or debauchery? It began with a night of fantastic indulgence but I think its extension into the rest of the weekend began to err towards debauchery. I don’t think that I had a genuinely good reason for continuing, although the second night was quite fun as well. In particular, it would have been nice to have been compos mentis by Sunday afternoon. As it is, it is Monday evening and I still haven’t completely recovered. This realisation does, however, give me added focus and motivation to work hard over the next few weeks. I have a lot of work to do and time is running out so I think I will be very busy until the second weekend in May. Until that date, I think I’ll only have time to write short entries for this blog.

A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

– verses 11-13 of the Hávamál

Published in: on April 17, 2006 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My friend, the line between the two is thin and can be attacked and defended from either side.Anyway, it was an Initiatory Pleasure to spend the Babylonian New Year with you. I am still looking carefully at what was dissolved in the great sea, and what can be meaningfully recrystalised in the building of my Tower.”We build because we build.”

  2. I agree. The important thing, in my opinion, is to consider the difference and so try to make a conscious choice. That doesn’t mean the choice will always be the right one, or even that it is ever possible to conclusively determine whether it was right or wrong, but as long as you make a genuine choice then you learn something positive from the experience.It was, for me, a very powerful act of solve whose repercussions have already had a significant impact on my daily life.

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