A new Perspective on ADONISM - Part 1

Tout comprendre c’est tout pardoner. | To understand everything is to forgive everything.
— Madame de Staël (1807)

1. Introduction

Recently we explored the occult works of Dr.Musallam - aka Dr.Franz Sättler - and stumbled across an entire religion this man aimed to resurrect during the early 1920s: Adonism. In his book review of Sättler’s corpus of practical occult teachings ‘Der Adept’ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke explains why this man deserves a little more attention - and possibly credit? - than most of us might have paid him so far:

“In the history of twentieth-century esotericism, Sättler can claim attention for at least three specific reasons. In the first place, his travels, sources and references indicate an eclectic orientalism, directed towards the mysteries and cults of the Near East. Secondly, his many travels abroad, possible espionage activity, and fraudulent projects demonstrate the precariousness and marginality of occult leadership and audiences in modern society. Thirdly, his gnostic doctrines of licence and sexual promiscuity project his own conception of an ideal society devoted to sensual pleasure and the primacy of woman.” 

While the first and second reasons might spark equal amounts of curiosity and doubt, it is the third aspect called out we want to dive into here. Adonism as it stands today is a complete mystery religion - far more holistic in its theoretic and doctrinal teachings than it is likely to have ever been practiced in real life. Or is this really so? 

To explore the question of practiced Adonism further, we have to understand its historic roots. What makes Adonism so particular in comparison to other magico-mystical new-age religions of the early 21st century (such as Theosophy or Thelema) is its self-proclaimed absence of innovation. No new laws and no rainbow-bodied secret chiefs are revealed. Quite the opposite: In his 1925 work ‘Adonism’ Dr.Sättler goes to great length explaining the deeply rooted historic origins of this supposed ur-religion. Its five main deities - the central pair of lovers Adonis and Dido, their eternal evil opponent (Moloch) as well as the cosmic creator dyad of Belus and Biltis - are introduced as the original mythic blueprints behind the pantheon of countless ancient cults. 

Overview of main five-god pantheons according to Sättler's ADONISM (Adonismus, p.40)

According to Sättler Adonism is revealed as the underlying original cosmic pattern behind the ancient Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek and Roman mystery cults. Through this reinterpretation of the Western Mystery Tradition as such, Adonism both proclaims itself as the original seed within all its historic offsprings, and yet reinforces the genuineness of all these well known polytheistic cults. Different to e.g. Thelema a new paradigm is not build on the smouldering ruins of its predecessors. Instead the entire cult, cathedrals and catechism of its polytheistic predecessors remain fully intact and are re-interpreted to shine in a new light.

Such re-interpretation is based upon Sättler’s deeply anthropological take on the development of human religious practice. He rejects the common assumption which was still dominant at the dawn of the 20th century that religious practice evolved slowly and in a linear fashion from Pantheism, to Fetishism, to Polytheism and ultimately found its crowning pearls in the advent of Monotheism. According to Sättler a cyclical development through these stages has to be assumed instead. 


Cyclical development of religious belief systems according to Sättler's ADONISM (Adonismus, p.8)


In his model Pantheism forms both the beginning and the endpoint of such a cyclical development. On the contrary, Polytheism is represented as the peak of the curve as it allows for the deepest religious insights and the most spirited experiences of the practitioner. While Fetishism is perceived as an ascending stage leading towards Polytheism, Monotheism on the other hand represents the final and descending stage of the model. Sättler calls out three specific reasons for his degradation of Monotheism: (1) its highly constrained ability for direct spiritual experience through the practitioner, (2) its overpowering single deity constantly confining man’s freedom as well as (3) its marked inability to offer real support or even consolation in situations of human crisis and need.        

According to this model, Adonism’s breaking point with our Western tradition is marked by the advent of monotheism. As a truly neo-gnostic wisdom-tradition Adonism rejects all forms of monotheism. Through the mythological lens of Adonism they are nothing but disguised interventions of the evil (Moloch) to lead astray the human race that had been successfully created by his antagonist Adonis. In line with the teachings of other gnostic sects the devil of monotheistic religions is reinterpreted as the original god of Adonism:

“The Adonistic doctrine was both Gnostic, polytheistic and emanationist, involving five gods. From the infinite Chaos came the god Belus and his wife Biltis. Their firstborn is Molchos, the principle of Evil, who creates a catastrophic world full of monsters, which Belus and Biltis destroy. In the next aeon, the couple produce the twins Adonis and Dido, who personify Good and Love. Adonis creates our world and human beings in the likeness of himself and Dido and a golden age prevails. However, Molchos then tries to destroy Adonis and all human life. Adonis is saved by Dido and thwarts Molchos, who continually seeks to persecute mankind. Molchos has sent false prophets such as Moses, Jesus or Mohammed to persuade humans to venerate him as Jehova and Allah.“ (Goodrick-Clarke, p.129)

So far, so traditional, one could argue: Sättler reframes existing gnostic cults to be late offsprings of an original, long lost ur-religion that he holds the power and knowledge to restore again. Considered from the viewpoint of gnosticism Sättler’s works thus could be interpreted as highly conservative and - as mentioned above - distinctly marked by an absence of real innovation. This impression is further founded by the actual matter of fact style in which Sättler presents the origins of Adonism in his book of the same title. Rather than the voice of an evangelist, Sättler chooses the voice of a (somewhat polemic) historian. In two large chapters and over more than 100 pages in total Sättler first evaluates how the knowledge of Adonism got lost during the last two millennia due to the advent of monotheism; only to proceed to present a rewritten world history from antiquity to the modern age through the lens of Adonism.

2. Adonism as Social Reform

What is most striking in this presentation is Dr.Musallam’s continuous emphasis of the social aspects of religion or mystery cults. His measure for any cult is less founded on the volume of magico-mystical secrets revealed to its practitioners, and much more on the social impact it hand on the respective society. Thus his main criticism of Jewish, Islamic or Christian monotheism isn’t focussed on the loss of spirituality directly accessible to its practitioners, and much more on the decreasing moral standards, the hypocrisy and social structures of oppression of power and freedom that followed with it.

“Spoiled character, darkened gnosis, degenerated religious sensation - that’s how the horrible tragicomedy of mankind unfolded that we call the world’s history.” (Sättler, Die Weltgeschichte des Adonismus, p.9)

What becomes obvious is that for Sättler magic, mystic and religious cult present the most powerful tools to achieve social betterment. If Wiccan priestesses often talk about drawing down the moon to open a gateway of power to the practitioner, we can understand Sättler’s approach to magic as drawing down the entire firmament to overthrow the current status quo of a deeply exploitative, toxic and self-destructing society. Sättler’s revolutionary ideas don’t lie in the way he advocated a specific cosmological pantheon in contrast to any other, but how he attempted to restore the essence of polytheism as a source of vital empowerment to each individual.

A wonderful example of this can be found in Sättler’s strong rejection of the idea of karma as advocated by both Theosophists and Anthroposophists in the early 1920s.  

“What I am made to suffer in this life, I am supposed to have caused in a previous existence that I cannot even remember? Well, where is eternal justice here? Let’s take a look at this without all embellishment! Every dog owner knows that if their dog has done something wrong, they have to give it a thrashing right away and as long as it still remembers why it is receiving the thrashing - not hours or days later by when it will have forgotten and the punishment will seem like unjust arbitrariness. — Herein lies the main achievement of Adonism: in freeing the poor and betrayed mankind of the unmeasurable burden of responsibility, in dissolving the quintessentially wrong idea of ‘sin’ into nothingness and revealing all of our morals - on which we pride ourselves so much - for what they really are: a patchwork of prejudices that cannot be fought hard enough.” (Sättler, Die Weltgeschichte des Adonismus, p.5/6 )

Through the spreading of Adonism Sättler aimed at nothing less but a social revolution that was characterised by the following program: 

  1. abolishment of private wealth and possession and introduction of community of goods
  2. abolishment of any type of wage-earning work
  3. complete parity of women and men in all areas of life
  4. abolishment of single-marriage and introduction of polygamy 

Sättler admitted, however, that none of these social upheavals could happen without a previous or at least parallel evolution of man himself. The ‘man of the fifth aeon’ needed to turn themselves into ‘the man of the sixth aeon’ - and thus overcome the mischievous, evil drives that (Moloch) had placed within him. Only then would it be possible to sustain the Golden age and not to relapse into a world of self-induced agony and pain again.

“The commitment to Adonism requires a complete ‘rethinking’, i.e. we have to learn to think with a completely new direction in mind. We have to break free from a millennia-old tradition of spirit and morals, we have to fuse and rest amp the coins of our worldview and judgement - which have been viable for so long. And that in itself will cost a lot of hard work and overcoming.” (Sättler, Das kommende Reich, p.37)

According to the Adonistic tradition the transition into the sixth aeon, and thus the downfall of the reign of (Moloch) was expected to begin with the year 2000 CE. Without the support of this seismic shift in the inner realm, no outer transformation could be achieved with lasting success. Thus Sättler’s advice to anyone following the teachings of Adonism for the remaining 80 years (from 1920 to 2000) was essentially threefold:

  1. Stop judging, but become an adept in the art forbearance. Under the reign of (Moloch) the nature of man has suffered from a state of bedevilment for seven thousand years. Accept that you won’t be able to change this all by yourself. Instead be mild and gentle first against yourself and then equally against your fellow citizens. 
  2. Stop worrying, but give yourself permission suck out vitality from the marrow of life on every occasion. Be careful to maintain a subtle balance, but evade the monotheistic concepts of ’sin’ or ‘guilt’. Instead accept every moment of joy - may it be physical or mental - that comes into your life and attempt to multiply it.
  3. Stop showing off your convictions, but stay calm and undercover. In the current flawed state of the world communism will not turn out any better than capitalism. True revolution will take the route from the inside out. Thus maintain a quiet image of outer conformity, while practicing your own believes and acts of spirituality and joy in a safe environment of occult circles.

So, surprisingly after the intense criticism of the modern world and its morals, after the call to fuse the coins of our judgement which we used to bargain with for so long, Sättler calls the Adonists to maintain a rather passive, low profile during the last 80 years of the old world order. While his ‘sixth aeon’ sounds like the garden of eden to a polygamist communist - Sättler discourages his readers to try to break open the gates of heaven themselves.

As the second part of this article will show us, this happens for very good reasons: What might be surprising to the occult researcher is that Sättler was working from a precise blueprint of his magico-social revolution. Very few of the Adonistic teachings did he invent, but a lot of it did he rediscover. The original blueprint was already 1500 years old when Sättler discovered it. Amongst the specific magical and social teachings it provided - it also showed how quickly such a vision could turn into the downfall of its founder...