There are few people in this world who have sparked so much malice, hatred and anger as Dr. Michael Aquino. As a former member of The Church of Satan and the founder of The Temple of Set, he has made his mark in American culture as one of the most outrageous and memorable icons of the early Satanic and Left-Handed-Path movements. Anyone who would do a Google search of Dr. Aquino would easily find video names like, “Aquino, Satanic Mind-Control Cults”, “NSA Long Range Takeover of America” and others.
The conspiracies about this man are virtually endless. Some have claimed that he was the head of a child abuse ring that was sanctioned by the United States Government, others have claimed that he picked up where others left off in the mind control programs of MK Ultra and others like it. There are murky stories about him sacrificing Viet Cong soldiers during his time in Vietnam and others in which he performed Nazi Occult Rituals. A portion of his Mind War project has been leaked, discussing method of mass control of emotions through current means of communication. The idea behind it was to demoralize an enemy population and literally change their emotions through certain audio frequencies.
Is Dr. Aquino as he might claim, a highly honored former member of the United States military who founded an expressive and controversial new religion, mistreated by conspiracy theorists and witch hunters frothing in the 80’s and 90’s? Or is he really the personification of the ultimate evil, a high priest of the New World order whose only goal is total domination of others through traditional and occult means? I had the chance to speak with a former member of the Temple of Set (who shall remain anonymous) to get their unique thoughts on all of this controversy:
GR: What was it about the Temple of Set that attracted you in the first place?
In my wayward youth I was immersed in LaVeyan Satanism, and I needed to take the “next step”. I felt that the Temple of Set provided a much needed, intelligent, philosophical approach to the sinister tradition of initiation. It was an appropriate step at the time and I have no regrets.GR: What about it caused you to want to step away?My philosophical and historical research on the nature of the left-hand path and on the nature of the god Seth went beyond the horizons of the Temple of Set’s definitions of these realities. As I examined the eastern sources of the tantric left-hand path, and the nature of the deity Seth-Typhon in Egyptian source texts and Egyptological literature (not to mention the ritual magical traditions of this god preserved in the Greek Magical Papyri) I increasingly realised that the Temple of Set was worlds removed from the actual authentic sources that it purported to explore.GR: What kinds of things did you hear about Dr. Aquino? Was everyone positive about him, or were there thoughts that maybe he was actually the evil character so many accused him to be?He was always careful to explain and contextualise the sensationalised rumours that circulated about him. I didn’t hear anything untoward from people that actually knew him personally. On the contrary, most people that knew him personally had nothing but good to say about him (philosophical differences notwithstanding).GR: Did you find the goals of The Temple of Set to be similar to those of other organizations, like the Masons, or was there some other plan, or goal that the Temple had set as an agenda?There was no political agenda or anything like that. The Temple of Set was highly individualistic and completely eschewed roping its members in to a collective agenda. While the Temple of Set are similar to the Masons in terms the structure of their initiatic system (and this can be said for most modern western esoteric societies: Golden Dawn, OTO etc.), this does not support sensationalised conspiracies based on ignorance.GR: Were you ever asked to do anything that people would consider bad, or illegal?Not at all.GR: Was there any crossover from Dr. Aquino’s mind control work and the work done in The Temple of Set? If so, were any of these methods taught to you?The Temple of Set has a concept of “Lesser Black Magic” in which they employ psychological and behavioural techniques to persuade others to faciliate the will of the magician. But this was never to cross the boundaries of social law. The Temple of Set explicitly demands its members be law abiding citizens.GR: What is your personal opinion about Dr. Aquino? Do you think he did all of the things people accuse him of, or is it just sensationalizing somebody who is looking for attention?I never met him in person so will refrain from absolute judgement, but I do believe that most if not all of the accusations stem from fear, ignorance and sensation rather than actual facts. The magnitude with which people react to sinister traditions in spirituality is out of all proportion to a sane and balanced view.GR: What would you ask Dr. Aquino, if you had the chance to see him face to face?I’d ask him if he’d like to sit down and shoot the breeze about theology, metaphysics, cosmology, and personal gnosis. But in terms of philosophical differences, I’d ask him if his theory of the archetype or Platonic form of “Isolate Self Consciousness” really coheres with what actual Platonists said about Seth/Typhon (for there are Platonists and Neoplatonists who write directly on the nature of this god, and they do not connect him with a noble principle of consciousness). In short, how does his understanding of the nature of the god Seth reconcile with the Egyptian, Greek and Hellenistic sources, especially Neoplatonic theurgy (and I’d ask that he cite his sources directly rather than reinterpret them)?GR: Do you think we should fear what people in the Temple of Set are doing? Why, or why not?No. We have no reason to fear. I still have friends to this day that I met in the Temple of Set and/or who are still current, active members, and they are balanced, well integrated and ethical people. Of course, you must still judge everyone on a case by case basis, by their behavior in life, and not on their affiliation.GR: What would you say is the biggest lesson you learned while a member of the Temple of Set?I learned a lot. I was exposed to some amazing esoteric literature and it was a great environment to gestate in. I was exposed to some very interesting people, ideas, works, and philosophies. But I guess the biggest lesson I learned was that you must always go to the source, not just the literary or philosophical source, but the vital gnosis itself. Intellectual knowledge is useful, but not enough. One must have knowledge by presence. And for me personally, this knowledge has taken me beyond the principle of isolation and separateness extolled by the Temple of Set, and opened me up into a radically nondualistic worlview, which is by no means “right hand path” as defined by the Temple of Set, but in fact more consistent with the spirit and sources of the tantric left hand path as practiced in the east.
GR: How would you define Setianism? Is it the worship of evil, or is this just a misunderstanding based on people’s preconceived notions and biases? What is its core purpose?
First of all, don’t call it “Setianism”; we never do. “Setian philosophy” please!
The appeal of occultism is much the same as that of conventional religion: Logical positivism and scientific materialism, though they have made great strides towards explaining the “how” of existence, have failed entirely to explain the “why”. Hence the curious seek answers in metaphysical philosophy or religion. Metaphysical philosophy requires a logical base from which various suprarational principles are induced. Conventional religion is the simplification of such a philosophy into a crude ideology, which adherents need not understand, but only accept as an act of blind faith.
Conventional religions, with their colorful mythologies analyzed in terms of the underlying philosophical principles, represent simply the primitive longing of man to feel “at one” with the Universal harmony he perceives about him. “White” magic, as advocated by primitive pagan and modern institutional religions, offers devotees the illusion of “re-inclusion” in the Universal scheme of things through various ritualistic devotions and superstitions.
The Black Magician, on the other hand, rejects both the desirability of union with the Universe and any self-deceptive antics designed to create such an illusion. He has considered the existence of the individual psyche – the “core you” of your conscious intelligence – and has taken satisfaction from its existence as something unlike anything else in the Universe. The Black Magician desires this psyche to live, to experience, and to continue. He does not wish to die – or to lose his consciousness and identity in a larger, Universal consciousness [assuming that such exists]. He wants to be. This decision in favor of individual existence is the first premise of the Temple of Set.
The second premise of the Temple is that the psychecentric consciousness can evolve towards its own divinity through deliberate exercise of the intelligence and Will, a process of becoming or coming into being whose roots may be found in the dialectic method expounded by Plato and the conscious exaltation of the Will proposed by Nietzsche.
Ironically it is the very ease with which any individual can apprehend and appreciate his or her personal psyche that has frightened the many religions of the world which deny and oppose the power of that psyche. Clothed though they may be in riches, ritual, and respectability, they always have been and remain obsessed with the suppressed knowledge of their own essential falsehood. They endeavor to distract attention from this by sponsoring shows of mind-numbing drugs, mantras, masses, privations, entertainments, and penances to coax or cow their flocks of adherents into a confused, apprehensive, but trusting state of faith and automatic obedience. They shudder with horror at the psyche; they paint it red and add horns, cloven hooves, and a forked tail to dramatize how “dangerous” it is. Yet they can never escape it or defeat it, because they have never really succeeded in opposing themselves to it – merely in distorting and perverting it. How could they destroy something which, in the final analysis, is the conscious self of every human being?
The “worship” of Set is thus the “worship” of individualism. In the old Church of Satan this was taken to mean indulgence in all [legal] desires of the body and ego. Since many such desires are impulsive and destructive, the Church found itself in the unexpected and awkward position of de facto endorsing many practices which were degrading rather than exalting, and which simply accelerated the tensions resulting in the eventual crisis of 1975.
The Temple of Set determined to preserve the principle of individualism, but to add to it the evolutionary “higher self” aspirations of Aleister Crowley’s pre-O.T.O. philosophy ofThelema. Glorification of the ego is not enough; it is the complete psyche – the entire self or soul – which must be recognized, appreciated, and actualized. The process by which this exaltation of the psyche is sought is called by the name Xeper [pronounced “kheffer”; it is the Egyptian hieroglyphic term for “to become” or “to come into being”].
GR: Your unique manner of dress in the past has a very dark theme, making it easy for some to imagine that you are an evil man. Was this intentional in order to conjure a particular feeling in those you meet?
I’m not certain to what “unique manner of dress” you’re referring. I grew up in the “Eisenhower 50s” and have always been drearily conservative in my tastes. The Setian Priesthood may wear clerical shirts with black collar inserts along with business attire. In private ceremonies the tradition is black robes trimmed with the color of the Setian’s degree. Membership insignia is a simple neck medallion with the silver Pentagram of Set against the degree-color background. That’s all.
As a professional Army officer I of course wore the regulation Army uniform on duty, with no religious additions or accessories.
GR: People on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet say that you were involved in child abuse on a grand scale, citing multi-million dollar lawsuits. They say that you got away with it because of your Above Top Secret status and connections within our government. Is this true?
No one has ever sued Mrs. Aquino or myself for any crime against children, because we have never committed any such crime and there is no evidence beyond unsupported fictional allegations to the contrary. Nor of course have we ever been charged criminally with anything either.
Far from insulating anyone against criminal actions, a U.S. government security clearance would be the first thing to vanish. Such clearances for military personnel are administered independently by the Defense Investigative Service, and its determinations are not restricted by legal technicalities or Constitutional rights. If you are determined to be a risk to U.S. national security for any reason whatever, no clearance and no appeal. My personal clearance until my 1994 retirement was Top Secret/Special Intelligence Access, which is the most stringent, requiring regular, recurring Special Background Investigations (SBI). DIS was fully aware of the 1987 “abuse” scam attempted by Chaplain Lawrence Adams-Thompson, as well as the various copycat scams attempted later, and evaluated these for just the frauds that they were.
GR: Is there any documentation these people have that proves this?
None whatever, again for the simple reason that Lilith and I have never committed any such crimes. Allegations invented out of thin air are worth just that.
GR: Conversely, what do you say to the people who lay these claims against you? Why not sue them for slander?
I refer them to my detailed account of the Adams-Thompson scam and respond to any further questions from reasonable people as appropriate. I do not respond to cranks, character-assassins, or would-be scam profiteers.
The outcome of any civil lawsuit is a cash award. If the person you’re suing has little or no assets, the suit is just an expense waste of time. Indigent cranks would love to be sued for the sheer publicity and fun of it, both of which I am not interested in giving them.
I could not sue Adams-Thompson because he was careful to make his allegations only to law-enforcement (which is privileged) and not to the public or media. I twice filed court-martial charges against him for multiple violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Both times the charges were administratively suppressed by his chain of command without the required UCMJ investigation. Evidently court-martialling a Christian chaplain for crimes against a “Satanist” was just not going to happen.
GR: There is much debate and disinformation out there about what Mind War actually is. The Mind War paper is all over the web, but it does not cite a patent. Is there a patent number that people can look up?
The 1980 “From PSYOP to MindWar” paper was just a brief staff study that I did for the commander of the 7th PSYOP Group, U.S. Army. It was never intended as anything more than a theoretical “thinking paper” in response to the Vietnam-era ineffectiveness of U.S. PSYOP. Its ballyhooing by the conspiracy lunatic fringe is simply silly. For an up-to-date, in-depth discussion of the concept, see my 2013 book MindWar, available here.
GR: Do you, or have you ever participated in mind control programs like MK Ultra, or Project Monarch? If not, how did you make sure your Mind War tech worked?
I was just entering high school at the time that the CIA’s MKULTRA program was shut down. There has never been an actual “Project Monarch” as far as I know, nor am I aware of or have participated in anything like it under any other name.
As for the Psychological Control (PSYCON) techniques detailed in my 2013 book, each of them is substantiated and documented therein.
GR: Do you believe, confirm or deny that some celebrities and public figures are victims of secret government programs like Project Monarch?
As above, I am not aware of anything like “Project Monarch”, or any other government program to influence officials or celebrities.
GR: Can you name anyone who appears to be a victim of this kind of conditioning? Could you explain why this may or may not be the case?
As above, no. There are some celebrities who are known to be Scientologists, but there are many more who believe in things like virgin births and the parting of the Red Sea. Take your pick.
GR: There are some who claim that the hippie movement was actually a Governmental Psyop intended to make a generation of soft-headed, malleable wimps who just want to foolishly do drugs and fancy themselves enlightened. People who claim this say that key musicians were in on it, like the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison and their ilk. Is there any truth to this?
That’s a very broad question, because it extends to the entire 1960s counterculture. I think it’s fairly well-established by any number of historians that it happened and evolved as spontaneously as any other social epoch. Was the government interested in certain aspects of it, such as the effects of LSD? Sure; that was a part of the MKULTRA interest. But the 6os’ countercultural universe went far beyond any recreational drug-use; it was generally a reaction to the social conservatism of the 1950s, the paranoia of the Cold War, and social stresses such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War draft. I enjoy listening to the Dead and the Doors, although my personal favorite was, and still is, the Jefferson Airship.
GR: Do you know if Aldous Huxley, Gordon Wasson, Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and Terence McKenna were involved in a concerted Governmental effort to misdirect the public? If anyone would have known about a mind control program this pervasive, it would be you. Should we all burn our tie-dye shirts?
No, and you can keep your tie-dyed shirt. Of the above list, I’ve only read or listened to Leary and Watts. The former always struck me as incoherent and the latter as Eastern-mystical dreamsville. I was more partial to Hunter Thompson, and Jack Webb gave some nice lectures on good citizenship in his Dragnet 1967 reprise series.
GR: You have lamented that you have seen your Mind War tech at least in part used unethically during the Gulf War. Do you fear it will be used again, or is currently being used on US citizens and furthermore, what can the average person do to protect themselves from the system that you have created?
I have always maintained that any kind of PSYOP requires strict ethical guidelines if it is not to be misused like the propaganda systems of the old totalitarian dictatorships. As the highest form of PSYOP, MindWar requires absolute ethical integrity, as once again detailed in my book. And the reason for this is brutally simple: There is no defense whatever against MW PSYCONs, because they access the subconscious, not the conscious thought process. You would have absolutely no idea a MW campaign was being directed against you unless you knew exactly what to look for, and quite possibly not even then.
Understand this: MW has one and only one purpose and justification: to preempt and eliminate ordinary “physical” war (PhysWar or PW). It is a mechanism to stop the killing and injuring of people and the destruction of their homes and livelihood. If it is used for that end, under rigorous ethical guidelines, then and only then is it acceptable.
GR: Do you fear what the future holds, knowing what you know, or do you look forward to something positive?
Politically I am a Platonist, holding that mankind aspires to know and do the Good. Any number of lower, lesser influences can impede this, as the record of history evidences. There are a great many negative forces loose in today’s world, including the overreaching ecological crisis, so it’s hard to insist on personal and community ethics. But if there is to be any future for humanity beyond self-annihilation, we must do so. That is once again the premise of my MindWar book.
GR: What reasons would people have to trust you when you say you are not all of these bad things that people say about you? After 3 decades of controversy, you must be sick of debating about all of this.
People can start by taking a look at my documented personal vitæ here (PDF) and noting all of the institutions throughout my life which have evaluated, credentialed, and recognized me over my lifetime. They can also read my several free ebooks concerning my experiences, interests, and philosophy, and once again my currently published MindWar.
The only things which sicken me are malice and stupidity, and there is no point complaining about the kind of people who epitomize these.
GR: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers, anything you don’t normally have a chance to say?
I’ll echo one of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln, who at the height of the Civil War was routinely vilified from all sides:
“If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
Coming away from this conversation, I feel like most of the things said about him are probably sensational bullshit, but then again I wasn’t there at the times and places of these events. What I do know is that Dr. Aquino’s story represents the modern day witch hunt, slander based on personal bias and the attacking of strange people in order to make a name for oneself. If we are to get to the heart of the matter, we need to be willing to set our own biases and hunches aside. There is no doubt in my mind that the controversy will continue ad infinitum. Before you decide to comment on this thread, please take the time to follow the ample links I have provided within this story so we can be good Disinfonauts, parsing fact from fiction. For details on exactly what the Temple of Set is all about, please visit here.
Editor’s note: I realize that this may be a controversial interview. I edited this piece to make stand-along hyperlinks embedded in text and to remove some faulty coding, but otherwise, it has been untouched. As with all of contributions submitted to Disinfo.com, publication does not imply advocacy or endorsement of either the views of the writer or the subject matter of the piece.
Gabriel writes for VICE Magazine, Disinfo.com and Realitysandwich.com and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.