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Michael A. Aquino is an ex-military intelligence officer and founder of the Temple of Set, initially an offshoot of Anton Szandor Lavey's Church of Satan. Aquino served as High Priest of the Temple until he retired from the position, which was assumed by Don Webb. Aquino now holds the title of "Elder Pharaoh". Aquino "transcribed" the Book of Coming Forth By Night, in which he claims that the ancient Egyptian god Set appeared before him and presented him with a new mandate which became the foundation of the Temple of Set. Aquino claims that during a Greater Black Magic working in 1975 he established a magical link of communication with the Prince of Darkness who appeared before him under the guise of the ancient Egyptian god Set and elevated Aquino to the magical status of Magus. Aquino further claims that the god Set "transcommunicated" to him the Book of Coming Forth By Night in which the Setian principle of Xeper was established as the new philosophical precept for the foundation of the Temple of Set.
Aquino insists the Egyptian god Set communicated the word Xeper to him under the pronunciation of "Kheffer", though the majority of Egyptologists and experts in ancient Hamo/Semitic languages agree that the word Xeper is correctly pronounced as "Khepper" ( with a hard "P" sound ), which indicates the probability that Aquino found the word Xeper in a book written by E. A. Wallis Budge, an Egyptologist known to have had a flawed grasp and understanding of ancient Egyptian language and grammar, further placing Aquino's claims as being in communication with an ancient Egyptian Deity into question. Despite these facts, The Book of Coming Forth By Night remains a seminal text for Setians.
During the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s, Aquino was accused of child sexual abuse on a United States Army base near Presidio, California. Many speculate that due to Aquino's military connections in the higher echelons of the Department of Defense the charges were dropped against him, under the guise of "lack of evidence". Controversy still surrounds the charges -- as a result, the Temple has attracted criticism and condemnation from not only Christian fundamentalists, but also from other Satanic and Left Hand Path organizations. Many former members of the Temple of Set claim that Aquino has an apparently unhealthy fascination with young children.