A Treatise for the Most of Us: An Argument for Honest Introspection and Mutual Understanding

'I wish you were more self-reflective.'
‘I wish you were more self-reflective.’

by CJ!

“A Sanguinarian Treatise: An Argument For Partition From The Vampire Community” was written over six years ago and after review from some of my colleagues was published five years ago. Around this time, several high-profile articles (and other attempts) attacking the credibility of sanguinarians were putting sanguinarians on the defensive.

At this point, I felt the time was right to make this piece public. In my opinion, this was the kind of article the “vampire” community needed at this point. The presentation was admittedly rather harsh. However, I felt this was necessary as sanguinarians needed a sense of assertiveness to offer a feeling of stability and validity to their lived experiences when they were often attacked with accusations of being crazy or really just energy feeders. Furthermore, I felt that the emphasis on positioning ourselves to be accessible for medical researchers gave us hope that we can find more socially acceptable ways of meeting our physical needs.

In the past 5 years, there has been some encouraging developments for sanguinarians. Many sanguinarians are no longer afraid of challenging long-held orthodoxies within the vampire community, defending their experiences as distinct from the more metaphysically-minded people who lay claim to the term “vampire.” Sanguinarians are creating their own spaces where people do not feel pressure to adopt a look or take on spiritual beliefs in order to have community. Most excitingly, the efforts of sanguinarians have garnered attention and respect from experts and academics about the vampire myth and some members of the medical community.

Yet despite the implicit gloating as if I had a major part in these auspicious developments, I can take little to no credit. Although some sanguinarians have come to me to thank me for writing the treatise, I would argue the main driver would be the migration from forums to social media. In general forums, members of the community had to learn to live with each other. A participant can try to ignore or argue against an idea he/she did not like but could not prevent being exposed to it. In Facebook, for example, one can feel free to block any purveyor of ideas and insights one does not like. Furthermore, one can surround him or herself with other like minded people creating an echo chamber where ideas become more rigid and radicalized. In some sense, this atmosphere allowed a safe harbor for sanguinarians to discuss more real world explanations outside the purview of the more aggressive metaphysical adherents and anti-sanguinarian sentiment. On the other hand, this leaves most of us in the community little common ground to discuss matters when we do share common spaces (such as Vampire Community News). This treatise argues for the necessity of recognizing and respecting the differences in the community along with this truth: the only thing we all have in common is the term “vampire.”

Where I Went Wrong the First Time

The major purpose in writing any sort of opinion piece is not intellectual dominance but rather to start dialogue where both reader and writer can learn and evolve from the finer points of each others’ arguments. Through interaction and criticism after “A Sanguinarian Treatise” was published, I realized I made some substantive errors in seeing common ground when none existed or claiming there was no common ground when some in fact did exist.

First of all, I was wrong when I conflated all belief in psi energy or metaphysics as wholly irrational and indivisible from the desire to feel special. For the record, I personally still feel that there is no compelling empirical evidence for the existence of psi or any other sort of metaphysical energy. However, the reasons for adopting such beliefs could very well be rational.  For example, Michelle Belanger’s lived experiences of not practicing psi-vampirism, ending up on the list for a heart transplant, and then almost instantaneously finding health once again after practicing psi-vampirism demonstrates how some life-experiences were made sense through a prism of belief and thus rational to keep as it has real-world benefits. The same could be said about anyone who finds solace within religious belief as a guide to make this existence better. Provided that one’s sincere belief is not presented  in a dogmatic or accusatory manner, why take it away from anyone?

Second, I assumed that all sanguinarians consumed blood for the same reason I did: for relief of perceived physical symptoms. To my surprise, I was in the minority of sanguinarians never mind vampires. There are sanguinarians such as House Rakoczy’s “upyre” who consume blood for spiritual reasons along with the many others who consume blood to further consummate a kinship with the fictional vampire archetype. There was no wonder why many sanguinarians did not like my first treatise; their reasons for consuming blood are totally different.

Finally, the biggest place where I went wrong was the optimistic hope that we can separate “sanguinarian” and “vampire.” In all honesty, what is any layman going to call a human who consumes blood on a regular basis? That’s right, a vampire!  I have not identified as a vampire for over a decade. Nonetheless, the term is impossible to avoid. Despite being the closest representation to the core act of the myth (drinking blood), we do not have any monopoly to the term “vampire.”

Defining “vampire” for the Purpose of This Treatise

Vampires, in a strict sense, are blood sucking revenants. Since revenants do not exist, vampires do not exist. We are only referred to as vampires in a colloquial sense. Habitual blood drinkers may be called vampires in the same way a television show called “Nature’s Vampires” features not revenants but rather animals who are obligate or optional blood consumers. The spiritual oriented bent use the term “vampire” as an apt metaphor for their personal beliefs. Those who love the look use the term “vampire” as a way to connect with the legends to complement their personality. For the remainder of the treatise, when I refer to “vampires” it will be in this loose, colloquial sense.

Yet, vampires, as people in the vampire community purposely and inadvertently emulate, do not exist at all. Think about this when chastising someone as a “poseur” or a mere “lifestyler.” None of us meet this criteria of “vampire.” So why are there so many arguments about who is a “real vampire” and who is just a “lifestyler?” A lifestyler has every right as much as a blood drinker to call himself a vampire as no one really meets the criteria for the term anyway.

However, there are very legitimate reasons to be protective about “poseurs.” No one wants other people appropriating their life experiences. I feel very offended when some guy who looks like a gay Captain Morgan (listen to “Vampire Club” by Voltaire) says he has a medical need for blood because he drinks five drops of blood every other month from his barely legal girlfriend. However, why would this hypothetical individual make such a claim? It is because blood drinkers are seen as more “real” and “legitimate” vampires. Remember, none of us truly fit the criteria for “vampire.” If there was not this arms race for vampire credibility, the gay Captain Morgan would be considered just as much of a vampire as the rest of us and not feel the pressure to appropriate our lived experiences.

Creating A Foundation for Co-existence and Mutual Understanding

The credibility arms race is not only silly but also harmful for all parties involved. It is harmful for the vampires whose experiences are being appropriated. For example, if medically minded sanguinarians finally got an opportunity to collaborate with medical professionals, it would be in our interest to make sure the study participants genuinely perceive a physical need to consume blood rather than someone who claims to consume blood only so he can be counted as a real vampire. The credibility arms race is harmful for the lifestyler in that he paradoxically has to pretend to be something he is not to be accepted for who he is, creating undue stress.

A major problem with the pushes for unity within the vampire community is that unity is often conflated with uniformity: that there must be one all-encompassing definition of the term “vampire.” An oft-cited definition from the Atlanta Vampire Alliance states “Vampires are generally individuals who cannot adequately sustain their own physical, mental, or spiritual well-being without taking the blood or vital life force from other sources, often human. Without feeding, the vampire will become lethargic, sickly, depressed, and often go through physical suffering and discomfort.” Interestingly enough, the very next line on the AVA FAQ about this demonstrates that the definition is hardly definitive: “To a degree, the specifics of vampirism manifest differently on an individual basis and these nuances sometimes insulate the confusion in defining the vampiric range of ability and experience.” I very much like this quote and want to take it one step further: the only commonality everyone in the vampire community has is the term “vampire.” Our experiences are far too varied for some unwieldy sense of unity.

What I propose instead is mutual understanding between all of the different vampire groups. Honestly stating that the term “vampire” is the only universal factor among those in the vampire community (excluding donors and allies who are just amazing people) can go a long way toward co-existence.

This requires honest introspection and insight on why a vampire identifies as a vampire (or gets identified as a vampire). This sounds easy on face value. However, in practice it can be quite difficult. It will take a while for the stigma of those who love the fictional vampire aesthetic being a “mere” lifestyler to subside. It can also be painful for those who have invested a long time in public engagement as a sang or a psi only as a means for face credibility to reveal that he or she never has felt a need to consume blood or energy. Feeding methods have long been a way to differentiate vampires. However, in my experience (and I am confident that I am not alone on this), these classifications are hardly enough. We can have three people eat doughnuts, but for very different reasons: one can be a marathoner loading calories, one can be a writer for a doughnut blog, the other can be a glutton. Similarly one can consume blood for a perceived physical need, a spiritual connection, or to amplify the connection to the fictional vampire archetype. I propose a classification on what brought someone to identify as (or be identified as) a vampire in the first place.

Classification One: A Perceived Physical Need (sanguinarians only)

A few people, myself included, entered the vampire community because they found or suspected that consuming blood relieved a specific set of symptoms. I argue that this is solely the realm of sanguinarians for this reason: blood is tangible and there doesn’t have to be a ready made reason for its effectiveness in order for it to be effective. A blood-drinker can simply say “I don’t know” when asked why blood works well for her. In contrast, psi (as an example) is not only the medium, it is also the explanation. One has to believe in its existence and explanation for it to be effective (whether its effectiveness is a matter of psi energy actually existing or some stress-relaxing effect is outside the scope of this treatise).

Classification Two: A Sincerely Held-Belief (everyone)

I can understand if by now people are replacing “a perceived physical need” with “sanguinarian” and “sincerely held-belief” with “psi vampire.” However, any of the feeding methods can fall under “sincerely-held belief.” The “blood=energy” crowd would be a great example of one who would drink blood for this reason. Aesthetics can also represent someone’s sincerely held belief. For example, a follower of Michelle Belanger’s philosophy may have an affinity for Egyptian iconography (whether the icons are actually Egyptian in origin is a topic I will leave for an Australian or an Austrian).

Classification Three: Self-Empowerment Through the Vampire Aesthetic (everyone)

This group may be classification three, but do not mistake the order for any inherent hierarchy in “vampire authenticity.” This group is easily the most underappreciated in the vampire community. One does not have to drink blood or ascribe in some sort of mystic energy to gain power from the vampire archetype. Complementing one’s personality with the feeling that one is “dark yet alluring” or a member of some elite and exclusive society is not always permanent cover-up for some humdrum life where one feels bored and powerless. Taking part in parties, houses, courts, and all of the fun aesthetics of the vampire of legend can very well be a springboard toward greater self-confidence in the “dayside” life. Some may take the pursuit for self-empowerment via the prism of the vampire to even further lengths such as adopting metaphysical vampire beliefs or drinking blood.

The desire for enchantment is widespread among humanity. Yet why are those within classification three denigrated as “poseurs” when they are honest about seeking enchantment when it is obviously ubiquitous within the community?

Enchantment

From an outsider’s glance, Michelle Belanger and Logan South’s (examples chosen since they are public figures by design) sincere beliefs seem to have initially inspired the formation of House Kheperu and the Vampire Court of Austin. How these organizations expand is through the selling of enchantment. Michelle Belanger tends to dress in vampire/gothic garb and embellishes the pragmatic core of her psi-vampire beliefs with a greater mythology about being a part of a great civilization in a past life. The fanciful dress, parties, kings, queens, and sheriffs provide the main appeal to Logan South’s Vampire Court of Austin.

There is certainly nothing wrong for the pursuit of enchantment on its own. As I mentioned previously, enchantment through the vampire archetype can be a gateway into greater self-confidence during the “dayside” life. I am confident many members of House Kheperu and the Vampire Court of Austin gain a great psychological benefit from their participation. Even medically-minded sanguinarians can use enchantment as a tool to attract donors. Understandably, some donors would prefer the classic “demon lover” prototype over the all too mundane sickly, chubby schmuck in a slightly stained, oversized Nashville Predators jersey.

How Enchantment Complicates Matters in the Vampire Community

Members of House Kheperu and the Vampire Court of Austin are hardly alone in the desire for enchantment within the real vampire community. Just a quick glance at the preponderance of gothic/fictional vampire aesthetic among the current membership of Voices of the Vampire Community demonstrates this fact. However, how many of these people (or anyone in the vampire community) came to the community chiefly to find enchantment and then later on tack on spiritual beliefs or blood drinking to conform to the idea of what a “legitimate real vampire” is?  These people, not out of maliciousness, end up appropriating lived experiences of those with physical needs and the sincere spiritual beliefs of others. If we can accept enchantment on its own as a legitimate way to be a real vampire, there would be less of a need to appropriate others’ experiences just to gain credibility.

However, the desire for enchantment can conceivably stem from a way to cope with the worst parts of physical illness or a sincerely held belief. Connecting to an accessible archetype such as the vampire can convey power when the condition itself leads someone to feel powerless. To quote Karl Marx, the vampire archetype provides “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” I can empathize with those who want to maintain enchantment because withdrawals really hurt.

Where enchantment is most pernicious is through its ubiquity in the vampire community. Its omnipresence can seem oppressive to the point where adoption appears to be necessary. This issue precedes the internet as LARPs and the New York vampire party scene provided the first places where one can talk about vampires and possibly being a vampire. However, this came with the obstacle of playing a literal and figurative game respectively. The Vampire Court of Austin struck me as an oddity of its time: New York party scene aesthetics and structure when there already are countless places to talk about no-frills vampirism. I suppose this is a testament  to the promise of enchantment. I would feel though for the Austin-based vampire with a physical need or sincere belief who wants kinship without playing a game. I would extend that to anyone in a similar situation online who feels he or she has to play the masquerade since a vast majority of self-proclaimed real vampires obviously embrace enchantment.

Encouraging Honest Self-Insight and Disentanglement

Admittedly, I have no set formula for how to best approach looking within one self and finding the initial reason for identifying or being identified as a vampire. All I can offer is advice I find intuitive. Furthermore, I cannot force anyone to do this thought exercise. I can only encourage others to do the same. This inward analysis can be very painful as you confront personal and community prejudices. As identities and self-perspectives merge over time, disentangling motivations can also be very difficult. Most importantly, we need to create an environment where those who desire enchantment through the medium of the vampire are seen as legitimate as those of us connected to the term through perceived physical need or sincere belief.

How Can We Encourage Honest Self-Insight (and prevent needless drama)?

I know what most of y’all are thinking: “Who are you CJ! to talk about preventing drama? You have the social graces of a hockey goon!” Admittedly, there are some times where I do feel obligated to kick some Facebook or message board (they are still around!) ass. However, this only happens when I feel my experiences are being misrepresented or conflated with other unrelated experiences under the “vampire” label. This leads me to my first tip.

  1. Stay in your lane!

Making blanket statements for all vampires such as “All vampires feed on qi” is like putting a Salisbury Steak with gravy, steamed carrots, and brownie from a TV dinner in a blender and shoving the gnarly concoction in everyone’s mouth, leaving us all with an awful taste. Instead, it would be more prudent and accurate to state “my sincere belief is that I and many other vampires feed on qi.” Furthermore, do not make backwards (e.g. attributing motivation from feeding method) statements such as “all sanguinarians have a physical condition that they should desire deliverance from.” I basically did just that in Treatise 1.0 and look at the outrage it caused!

2.    Define your terms!

So often arguments are based on a mere misunderstanding of the premises. I have quelled much drama within the vampire community asking for clarification of what someone means by “vampire” or clearing up my colleague Kinesia’s claims as not being “research to find the cause of physical sanguinarianism” but rather “research in order to ask the right questions about finding the cause of physical sanguinarianism.” Furthermore, the more questions one asks about one’s perspective or belief, the more common ground one can find with someone you may initially despise. This approach built a quick friendship with someone in the community who used to despise me. However, this approach isn’t foolproof: I was left with only a headache when one person took offense to the idea of being asked what his definition of “vampire” was. Perhaps he was just Toxic!™.

3.    Don’t make sideswipes without purpose!

Yeah there are a few sideswipes in this treatise. However, there is always a greater message behind it. If you want to ridicule someone’s idea and behavior, do it with a principle attached. Pure ad hominem personal attacks just create drama and stifle honest discussion. If you are the victim of a sideswipe, either learn to laugh at your foibles or ask yourself what you did to deserve the sideswipe. If you want to make the world a better place you take a look at yourself and make that change! Na na na na na na hee hee….

4.     Enough of the Elitist Verbiage! (Unless it is part of the aesthetic)

No one is a more legitimate vampire than another person. None of us fit the strict description of “vampire” so the credibility arms race is ridiculous. However, I would argue that asking for clarification of terms to make sure we are staying in our lane would not be elitism but rather respecting our differences. Let each vampire breathe within his or her perspective informed through his or her inspiration.

Exception is made to those who being Vampire King/Queen of _________ or part of an elite and exclusive club of night denizens provides empowerment. All I can do is pay tribute as the aesthetic chasers are the ones who actually make being a vampire fun and interesting. So sit from your throne with a chalice of Cherry Pepsi as miserable little piles of secrets pass one by one. You do you and have at you! (This may seem like sarcasm but I am serious, celebrate the lifestyler!)

5.      Enough of Tips Ending in Exclamation Points.

This is Treatise 2.0. This is not the LaVeyan Satanic Bible 2: Electric Boogaloo. Not to mention that guy’s opinion on psychic vampires.

Why This Approach Is In All Of Our Interests

I would like start the final section with two quotes:

“Healthy skepticism and analytical thinking aren’t enemies of the vampire – they are essential tools to the growth and understanding of vampiric identity”—Atlanta Vampire Alliance from “Demystifying ‘Real’ Vampirism for the Rest of Us”

“The more legitimate a vampire becomes as a category of person, the less appeal the vampire label will hold for escape fantasists.”—Joseph Laycock from “Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism”

What sort of visceral emotional reaction did those two quotes bring you? Myself, I get a feeling of optimism that we can get to a point where “vampirism” becomes “mundane” and I can live life unremarkably and without fear of stigma. If those two quotes have you feel like something sacred is being subsumed by mundanity, well there is still hope yet.

With clearer communication and greater acceptance of all sorts of vampiric expression as legitimate, those with a perceived physical need to consume blood can worry less about those seeking validation appropriating their experiences. The aim of Treatise 1.0 was never to single out sanguinarians as some select, elite group. Rather, the aim was to strip down any semblance of enchantment so we only have people who fit the criteria for any future medical studies. The aim of this treatise is really no different. The execution is far more holistic this time.

Those who identify as vampire through sincere belief, your beliefs are impervious to skepticism provided they are prefaced as beliefs. Feel free to share your beliefs, ideas, and how adopting them made sense for your life experiences. However, do not get mad if other people do not adopt them. For example, the laissez-faire attitude of House Kheperu’s motto “Seek your own truth” suggests security in their beliefs as opposed to the unofficial motto of Father Sebastian’s Sabretooth Clan “Hey! Are you talking about blood? Stop it!” Such pathetic cultic control in the futile chase for credibility represents the nadir of vampire community conduct.

As for those who are empowered through the enchantment of the vampire archetype, take solace in the fact that the term “vampire” is the only thing y’all have in common with the mundane physical need and sincere belief folk. Make this point clear to the curious to differentiate yourselves from us dweebs. Then empowerment will continue to be yours.

My personal thoughts are always with my fellow medical sanguinarians first. However, in the past few years I have learned that all people who identify or are identified with the term “vampire” are not in this together. We are neighbors, however. We need to be courteous to each other’s property in order for everyone in our neighborhood to thrive on their own terms.

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