The Temple of Set was founded as a new religious organization in 1975 to "apprehend what makes us each individually unique and use this gift to make ourselves stronger in all facets of our being.“ The Temple of Set was created amidst a schism between Michael Aquino, originally a member of the Church of Satan, and Church of Satan founder Anton Lavey in the 1970s. The endonym of a member of the Temple of Set is “Setian.”
The Temple of Set stresses affiliation for those interested in exploring Setian spirituality in-depth. Applicants for membership seek to enter the Temple as I° Setians. The Temple states that the ”First Degree (I°) of Temple affiliation is regarded as a ’status of mutual evaluation‘ wherein the Initiate and the Temple can assess one another's merit from the standpoint of minimum investment and involvement.”
There are two ways an interested candidate may apply for affiliation:
The Temple states that if one is “in contact with a Priest or Priestess of Set, you may request him or her to sponsor your application.” Sponsored candidates will have to complete the application form and mail it along with the annual fee of $80 (USD) to the Executive Director with a mention of the sponsorship.
An interested candidate who does not have sponsorship has the option of applying directly to the Executive Director by filling out the application form. The Temple states that the candidate needs to write “a brief cover letter to the Executive Director introducing yourself, summarizing what aspects of your background you feel to be relevant, and stating your reasons for deciding to seek entrance into the Temple.” The application will need to be accompanied by the $80 (USD) annual fee. If the candidate is declined membership, the annual fee will be refunded.
The Temple states that the “only physical requirement for admission is that the aspirant be at least 18 years of age.“ The Temple forbids anyone under the age of 18 to take part in any of its activities or ceremonies.
The Temple of Set ”seeks above all to honor and enshrine consciousness“ through initiation. Initiation is the journey an individual undertakes to evolve his or her being. The activity that leads to initiation, according to the Temple, is Black Magic.
The Temple states that “Black Magic focuses on self-determined goals.“ The interplay between an individual‘s “subjective universe,” or the psyche, and the “objective universe,” or material reality, constitutes the nuts and bolts of what the Temple calls Black Magic.
Black Magic is the willful, creative re-organization of an individual’s subjective universe with the aim of creating new desired patterns in one’s being. Changes in the subjective universe can in turn cause changes in objective reality. The Temple explores a variety of avenues for Black Magic. These avenues can range from ceremonial ritual to music and art. The goal of Black Magic is self-evolution, or Xeper.
In the Temple of Set, Xeper is an "English language coinage expressing an Egyptian verb written as a stylized scarab and meaning 'I Have Come Into Being.'" Don Webb clarifies that "Xeper is NOT simple self-development or self-improvement, but that those things chosen rationally can put us in the place where Xeper can occur." Xeper describes the evolution of one's psyche.
The aim of the Temple is to create an atmosphere conductive to Xeper. Members engage in collaborative projects and recieve hands-on guidance by more experienced members in order to transform their areas of interest into an initiatory process that causes Xeper to occur. For example, a member may use art as a transformative process. Another member may use his or her yoga teaching experience. Another may use his or her involvement in academic research. The experiences that cause Xeper are as unique as there are individuals.
The reason that both Xeper and Black magic are possible, according to the Temple, is because of the Principle of Consciousness, identified in the Temple of Set as the Egyptian god Set. Setians believe that human beings are unique and differentiated among animals due to conscious self-awareness, or what in the Temple is called the Black Flame. Setians believe that the Black Flame is a gift of Set. Setians hold that Set is an individual being able to communicate with his Temple and Priesthood, originally having communicated with the founder, Michael Aquino.
Temple of Set upholds five degrees for recognition.