The Church of Satan vs The Satanic Temple

Welcome to Part 2 of my series of introspective posts about Satanism, and the wider Satanic zeitgeist. In this post, we will have a look at the two Satanic organizations with the largest profile that I can think of –  the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple – and observe the differences between the two groups and the split that it represents in the wider zeitgeist of what is considered to be modern Satanism.

The famous (or perhaps infamous) Satanic Temple depiction of Satan as a Baphometic figure

First, I think some essential background surrounding the two organizations is in order.

The Church of Satan was established in 1966 by Anton LaVey as something of an alternative to both Christianity and the hippie movement of the 1960’s, promoting radical individualism, egoism, rational self-interest and hedonism, using the figure of Satan as the embodiment of Man as a carnal being and as he ought to be, with some dark spirituality and occultism thrown in to some degree (though LaVeyan Satanism typically sees it as a pageantry, and the Church of Satan nowadays doesn’t emphasize these aspects, but we’ll get into that a little later). At first it was organization teeming with the potential of what might be called Satanic magick, which aspirants rising up the hierarchy through their own works, and there was sometimes even talk of some vaguely spiritual ideas surrounding Satan and magick, but it has since evolved into a more secular and outright purely atheistic organization.

The Satanic Temple was founded in 2014 by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry as an activist organization, using the icon of Satan as a window dressing for what is essentially secular liberal (or social liberalism) activism. They are known for encouraging (or arguably trolling) the US government and Christian groups into accepting the rollback of religious presence and activity in certain areas, perhaps most famously with their campaign to erect a statue of Satan on Oklahoma Capitol Hill in order to protest the presence of the Ten Commandments monument, which has since been removed (though apparently a bill has recently been passed allowing the monument to return).

There are a number of differences between the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple. Perhaps the most notable is their focus. The Church of Satan is not focused on political activity or lobbying, and currently has no desire to change the world around them in that vein. The Satanic Temple, on the other hand, is well known for its political activism and has staged many events aimed at promoting separation of church state and numerous other political causes generally aligned with the “left-liberal” side of the political spectrum. Besides the Satan statue, they’ve raised money for the adopting of highways, launched an after-school program designed to counter the kind offered by Christians, held protests in support of Planned Parenthood, held a “pink mass” over the grave of the mother of Fred Phelps to make the Westboro Baptist Church think they were turning her soul gay (stay tuned for my thoughts on that shit), erected Satanic “nativity scenes” to counter the Christian tradition of the Jesus nativity piece, held a black mass at Harvard Church and held various ritual ceremonies to protest Christianity. The recently commissioned a public Satanic monument in Belle Plaine, Minnesota, over the presence of a Christian religious monument. The Church of Satan, however detached from LaVey’s original spirit it seems to be in modern times, stems from LaVey’s original philosophy, which stresses focus on self-empowerment, embraces an egoistic view in the mold of Ayn Rand, and prizes radical individualism over egalitarianism. The Satanic Temple, in contrast, asserts its primary goal as encouraging “benevolence and empathy” among all people. They keep the LaVeyan understanding of Satan as an embodiment of Man’s nature, implying they share LaVey’s philosophy of Man as a carnal and selfish being, but they also embrace what seems to be an altruist tack via the rather wishy washy conception of benevolence to all things (again, we’ll get into that in greater detail later on).

Now despite what I have said and will say against the organization, there is still much that can be said to the organization’s credit. I would still praise their Satan statue campaign targeting the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument, solely on the grounds that a religious monument’s presence in a house of secular law might present a conflict of interest. After all, does this place represent secular law or the laws of “God”?  I also approve of their general stance against child corporal punishment in public schools, and kind of support their After School Satan program because it involves nothing more than the insertion of an alternative set of ideas in a free and open market of ideas, though I don’t necessarily approve of their ad campaign. I also understand that they have a “Grey Faction“, which is devoted to debunking Satanic Ritual Abuse theories and anything of the like, I approve of their sentiment that religion can be divorced from the irrational thinking and pure superstition that is characteristic of the familiar organized religions and associated generally with faith (a sentiment which, if you think about, was also found in the Church of Satan back in the day and I suspect is also shared by organizations such as The Sect of the Horned God), and their founder Lucien Greaves is at least somewhat aligned with the classical liberal political tradition, as evidenced by his condemnation of other Satanists who tried to disrupt an event that Milo Yiannopoulos was holding because they didn’t like him spreading “hate speech”.

However, this is where my praise of The Satanic Temple ends, and my many criticisms begin.

Honestly, their most recent campaign (the Belle Plaine monument) seems to remind me that they might not solely be motivated by separation of church and state, or at least I don’t think they have the same view of what that means. In an article of Star Tribune, a local Minnesota paper, Lucien Greaves (who is referred to as Doug Mesner) says this about the group’s intentions.

It’s a sad state of affairs when any one religious group feels persecuted because they don’t have exclusive privilege on the public grounds,”

What the heck does this mean, exactly? Is he trying to say that non-Christian religions are persecuted because of the lack of non-Christian monument? Does he want religious privilege? It seems kind of vague, but it come across as saying that the biggest priority here is a perceived religious privilege. This is a veteran monument we’re talking about here. I am pretty certain that the use of a cross, while it might be connected to Christian faith, may also be used to convey a more universally understood meaning pertaining to death. A cross, associated with funerary monuments, is instantly understood in popular imagination as being associated with death/passing away, though perhaps that is because Western culture is still undeniably influenced by Christianity in some way. Whereas with the Satan statue issue I sympathized with them because they objected to the presence of religious symbolism in a place of secular law, this issue seems to be them up in arms about the presence of Christian symbolism at a memorial park. I really don’t see the issue and I don’t care what religious symbolism is there. If I think about it, their way of opposing integration of church and state seems to amount to protesting the presence of Christian symbolism and acting like they don’t have the freedom to establish their own religious presence. Like with their counter-nativity scenes. I approve of The Satanic Temple creating their own nativity scenes, because it is just them putting their own cultural artifacts out into the public, but the motive here seems to be all about diversity of religious representation or railing against the mere idea of a Christian nativity being displayed in public. And these people actually went out of their way to protest a football game, dressed like goth rejects, all because a Christian led a pre-game prayer and they took it as evidence that one group has exclusive privilege, for which I do not see any proof. It’s almost like how SJWs look at how white people being the majority demographic in a given Western nation and somehow construe this as granting an intrinsic social privilege to that demographic, of course without offering any evidence beyond “white people in government and big corporations”.

Also, there’s something about their idea of the “pink mass” that bothers me. Besides the fact that they were basically dancing on the grave of Fred Phelps’ mother because they don’t like Fred Phelps’ thoughts on homosexuality (and neither do I, for the record), the premise of the mass is basically to, at least figuratively, turn the soul of a deceased person gay. My problem with this premise is that The Satanic Temple seem like the kind of people who would be against conversion therapy for turning homosexuals into heterosexuals, but because Fred Phelps was a vocal opponent of homosexuality that makes turning his mother’s soul gay a good thing? That seems like such a petty and pathetic thing to do over a man’s “hate speech”, as it would be termed by the media. Almost as petty is when they considered performing a similar ceremony for Fred Phelps himself after he died in 2014. It’s a bit like that notoriously bad Bill Nye Saves the World cartoon that depicts straight white men as a vanilla ice cream who proposes conversion therapy for his gay/bi friends and who needs to be turned gay through seduction so he can have a bisexual orgy with them.

Come to think of it, I can’t say I’m surprised that the same kind of media that praises Bill Nye’s stupid cartoon sketch as “slamming Christians” and “explaining the absurdity of conversion therapy” (by saying that it’s OK to push a kind of conversion therapy on straight white men) praises The Satanic Temple as bringing Satanism into the mainstream by showing their progressive credentials, shattering Christian intolerance by displaying public intolerance towards the mere presence of Christian symbols at any one time or place.

To be perfectly frank, I am annoyed with the fact that Satanists in general are being compared to Christians because of The Satanic Temple. “The truth is that Satanists are actually…saintlike” claims Comicverse for instance. Bullshit. Satanists are in truth more like cats than saints. I don’t strive to be a saint, not least by the standards of sainthood and morality put forth by both traditional Christian morality and the progressive ideology that so pervades modern media. Lest we forget that the Catholic idea of Sainthood allows for malevolent individuals like Mother Teresa (an ally of dictators and lover of the suffering of the poor) and Juniperro Serra (who seems to have converted the native population of California to Catholicism by force) to be canonized as Saints and treated as benevolent figures. Not to mention, if your idea of “saintlike” involves performing spiritual conversion therapy on people for merely having a bigoted opinion, you need to re-evaluate your moral compass. How would you like it if I dragged you to a clinic that provided actual conversion therapy, or had you mailed to Iran in hopes that you’d undergo forced gender assignment, because you think people who don’t like buttsex are evil? Are you going to say then that I am a saint for doing so, or for having the kind of mindset that would think this is OK? Salon (ever the most cogent outlet and totally not ideological driven at all these days 😉 ) actually ran an article back in 2015 claiming that Satanists are truer to the words of Jesus Christ, a sentiment echoed by many TST-obsequious articles on Patheos, at which point I must draw a line. I am nothing like Jesus Christ, and nor are most Satanists I know, nor do we try to be. I am not about loving thy enemies, I don’t want love for all things and all people without a shred of hatred in my heart, I don’t want religious pluralism to be replaced with hardcore traditionalism (Jesus, after all, advocated for Jewish conservatism as opposed to moderated and Romainzed forms of Judaism, and opposed the Roman Empire which, although it demanded the worship of an emperor, tolerated any religion that welcome a sacrificial rite to the Roman emperor), I don’t want universal benevolence in the name of the kingdom of the sky, and I don’t want your socialism-lite Christianity either. But crucially, I and most Satanists aren’t as violent and crazy as Jesus was according to the Bible. If you think that I and many Satanists have anything in common with Jesus, let alone your Bernie Sanders-esque conception of him, I’m sorry, but you are deluded I will treat you as such.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Church of Satan has expressed disapproval of The Satanic Temple’s activities. Their current leader, Peter Gilmore, went on record to denounce The Satanic Temple as “a parody of Satanism rather than a representation of some actual philosophical or religious organization”. Whatever else can be said of Gilmore and the modern Church of Satan, and not much of it is positive from what I have seen in the Satanic blogosphere, I honestly don’t blame him for expressing that sentiment, given what The Satanic Temple seems to be these days. I mean, what exactly is so Satanic, for instance, about stressing universal compassion and benevolence and particularly going out of your way to basically bodyguard random Muslims because you think they’ll be stigmatized, while the religion of Islam is so against Satanism that its practitioners would be punished with death if a society were run in accordance with Islamic doctrine. But, in fairness, am I so surprised that Gilmore got flak for this sentiment given the isolationist nature of his organization and the fact that he want so far as to claim that the Satan statue was “pedophilic” in nature? I would say no. I would say that Gilmore didn’t do the organization any favors, and in the eyes of many Satanists he served to deepen the image of both himself and his organization as cranky, cantankerous (in itself far from unrespectable in my opinion), isolationistic, intolerant and out of touch, which to me is kind of a shame because, while it is true that the Church of Satan has been dismissive of other Satanic organizations as as not really Satanic (or even just filled with bad Satanists), I do understand and respect the fact that part of Gilmore’s objection to the Satan monument is that he doesn’t like proselytism. He views Satanism as something that should come naturally to a person who reads about it and decides that he/she sees him/herself embodying that philosophy, and the literary archetype of Satan to some degree, and sees The Satanic Temple as doing the opposite – proselytizing their outlook through public political activism.

We actually get a curious snapshot of the division between the ideals of The Satanic Temple and The Church of Satan in the wake of, of all things, the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States of America. According to Rooster, The Satanic Temple witnessed a sudden increase in membership within almost two days of the election. The Satanic Temple views this as an opportunity to push their organization as a vanguard of political resistance against a “theocratic” regime under the Republican Party. The Church of Satan (which apparently also saw its share of increased online interest), by contrast, is noted as being less opposed to the idea of a Trump presidency, with Church of Satan reverend Raul Anthony noted as a Trump supporter. Their article, I must mention, was about as obsequious to popular progressive narrative on the subject as many Western media outlets on the subject of both The Satanic Temple and Donald Trump, painting the Trump viewpoint as essentially theocratic, even though Trump himself seems to be less religious than the textbook religious Republican to the point that he does not oppose gay marriage and seems to be, if anything, pro-gay. And their characterization of the Church of Satan as endorsing “Trumpian” beliefs is about as uncharitable as it is borderline character assassination. What exactly does a Nietzsche or Redbeard-inspired might makes right style view have to do with the “America First” ideology, which appraised objectively amounts to essentially a populist, nationalist, perhaps paleoconservative outlook? What does exactly Trump’s rhetoric on “law and order” have to do with “If a man smite thee on the cheek, smash him on the other”? And if they are related, doesn’t that make him (gasp) a secret Satanist? Wouldn’t that rather undermine the whole “Trump is a Christian ideologue” narrative, especially given that Christianity is supposed to be a Bernie Sanders religion according to these American media outlets? And “greater men should rule over lesser men”? Quite a peculiar thing to say about someone who spent his campaign on a decidedly populist, anti-establishment tack.  Though I must say, the quote from Raul himself doesn’t paint his side of the story in a good position. He is quoted as saying “you have to hate”, which I think is a misrepresentation. Yes, love is not the only thing in this world that you need, I agree with that, but you don’t *have* to hate anyone who doesn’t deserve it. Satanism simply says on this matter that you should be free to hate who you feel is deserving of hate – people who mistreat you, people have wronged you or your loved ones, people who do not give you your due as you toil in this world etc.

And speaking of Donald Trump, we come to my biggest problem with The Satanic Temple as of late: their alliance with feminism and progressive identity politics. I’ve covered this before on my blog, but the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration was marked by protests and riots in Washington DC, and I found out that The Satanic Temple had been seen attending the anti-Inauguration protests, claiming that they want to stop Donald Trump from “destroying all of your rights”. Immediately following this was the Women’s March, a giant incoherent virtual signal organized people with no unifying cause other than “fuck Donald Trump”, but happened to be led by anti-liberal ideologues like Linda Sarsour and Gloria Steinem, and perhaps most notorious for a crazy ass Ashley Judd’s slam poetry, one of the speakers having a criminal record and the elevating of the hijab as the symbol of women’s liberation, while the women of Saudi Arabia live with it as a symbol of religious oppression as is mandated by Islamic doctrine. And yet I find that, again, the Satanic Temple decided to join the Women’s March in solidarity with their nebulous cause. Not only that, but they also promoted a “civic engagement party” being hosted by three two-bit progressive bloggers, most of whom work for the Huffington Post (which I also covered in a previous post). In addition, when I look at the Satanic Temple’s website, it seems they have co-opted feminism not just for the purpose of supporting “reproductive rights” (which, judging from their support of Planned Parenthood, seems to amount to the belief that having abortion clinics sponsored by the tax payer and propped up by the state is a fundamental human right). And guess who is on the vanguard of “Satanic feminism”? None other than The Satanic Temple’s Jex Blackmore, the very same woman who took the folk horror movie, The Witch, and tried to co-opt it as part of some kind of progressive revolutionary agenda.

What is my problem with this, exactly? Well, in the case of The Witch, it basically amounts to them attempting to co-opt a piece of entertainment media as part of their own ideological movement, the same thing that progressives have been doing to video games and comic books in recent years. As for the rest, it is them deciding to embrace progressive ideology and embracing a philosophical/political identity that is proving to be increasingly divorced from actual Satanism. I will say it unequivocally, I think feminism has nothing to do with Satanism, nor should it. Feminism, at least in its current form, is an identitarian movement that regards women, and gender itself, as a social class, wherein all its members have shared interests (like how Marx viewed every member of the working class as having the same collective interests, or how white nationalists and supremacists view white people as all being part of one big family), wherein the ideologues who lead it claim that feminism represents women, and their interests, and an attack on feminism is an attack on women. I find that this is inherently anti-individualistic, and thus I find it is anti-Satanic. Progressivism in general is infested with much the same identity politics, except that it’s not just feminism. They have their own brand of identity politics wherein various groups of non-white people are treated as constantly vulnerable political classes that need to be shielded from a white supremacy that they themselves project onto a society that, when examined objectively, is not a white supremacist society. This too is anti-individualistic, thus is opposed to part of the core of Satanic philosophy. For the Satanist the individual, and the interest of the individual, matters more than any notion of a shared racial or sexual identity, and the individual is treated as an individual, with his/her own desires, interests and goals, rather than as a social class, let alone based on arbitrary characteristics. But apparently, despite being an organization ostensibly interested in promoting Satanism, The Satanic Temple views progressive identity politics and social justice as an acceptable component of its activism.

This puts modern Satanism in a lamentable predicament: Satanism as we know it began in the 1960’s as a rebellious alternative to the burgeoning flower power counterculture of the time, establishes itself as a movement opposed to both religion and political correctness in its time, placing individualism and egoism above of these values, only in to, in the 2010’s, have a public image that is not being dictated by a progressive organization that ostensibly seeks to reinvent Satanism and bring it to the mainstream, by divorcing Satanism from its original ideals, to the point that is seems like it is using Satanism as a means of militant atheist political activism. And the Church of Satan, despite Gilmore’s arguments, will not do much to remedy this situation, because they keep to themselves too much, resting on their past glory instead. In addition to this, the Church of Satan been shown to be kind of a money-grubbing organization. In order to join you have to pay the organization a $200 membership fee, for you receive a crimson card signifying your membership. That in itself would be ridiculous enough were it not for the fact that, according to my friend Satanicviews’ investigation of their finances, the money you give to the Church of Satan goes not to the organization and its cause but instead into the pockets of Peter Gilmore and his wife. And if you do decide to join the Church of Satan, your membership will take 16 weeks to process, and once you are a member you will be required by the organization to observe the doctrine/dogma of the organization itself, without fail, on pain of expulsion, which kind of violates the spirit of Satanism as embracing individualism over the dogmatism of organized religion. So, unfortunately, you are basically paying $200 to join an organization where you have to agree with Peter Gilmore’s version of LaVeyan Satanism and not diss other members of the Church of Satan or be cast out. And remember, if you’re not a member, CoS members will consider you to not be an actual Satanist, because their ideological prerogative demands it.

We are, thus, presented with a modern face of Satanism that is characterized by a stark factionalism between two established organized entities: one of them markedly conservative with regards to Satanic philosophy, despite itself being removed from LaVey’s original vision, plagued by elitism, isolationism, dogmatism and (I’ll say it) greed, and the other a bunch of progressive activists who use Satanism, or rather a form of Satanism divorced from its original ideas, to spread “equality for everyone” and fight for separation of church and state by pissing and whining about the merest breath of the American Jesus freak in public society, while embracing pepperings of the kind of identity politics and cultural infiltration that is currently killing the Democratic Party in America and the progressive movement in general, all so they can stick it the perceived Christian patriarchal order of things, which, when examined objectively, starts to become a shakier premise. This to me cannot be described as anything other than a farce. A weird psychedelic Satanic ashram led by the metalhead doppelganger of Osho would be a better public face of Satanism than this.

But hey, as bad as it is, at least there isn’t a giant Satanic Panic on top of all of this, like there was in the 1980’s. And at least if you don’t want to be in either organization, there is much less dependence on religious community in Satanism than there is in, say, Christianity or Islam.

What is authentic Satanic philosophy?

Before we begin first and foremost let me just apologize for keeping you waiting for so long, and let me tell you in advance that the next posts I write may still take up a fair bit of time to write. Spring break proved to be dominated by video games (namely Persona 5, which was released April 4th while I was on holiday), and I still had to do a fair bit of work for university, so those things kept me occupied no matter how hard I tried. Not to mention, the past few weeks represent the last portion of my major project before we have to prepare a public exhibition for our course, so I have been busy. But I hope you have been patient, because now I can begin my series of blog posts on Satanism, from my current stand point.

This of course will be Part 1, exploring what I think is the core of Satanic philosophy, the authentic philosophy which from the wider movement of Satanism springs forth. And without further ado…

Anton LaVey, with masked attendants

Classical Satanic philosophy stems from Anton LaVey, the original founder of the Church of Satan, with particular emphasis to be placed on the earliest form of the Church of Satan philosophy – that is, before around 1975 when the organization became more materialistic and ultimately almost secular in its approach. The original Satanic philosophy of Anton LaVey is typically summed up succinctly in the concept of the Nine Satanic Statements for ease of digestion.

  1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence
  2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams
  3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit
  4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates
  5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek
  6. Satan represents responsibility for the responsible instead of concern for vampires
  7. Satan represents Man as just another animal; sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all fours, who because of his divine, spiritual and intellectual development has become the most vicious animal of all
  8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental and emotional gratification
  9. Satan is the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.

In broader terms, it represents the conception of the human being as pretty much a carnal being. The seven deadly sins, in Christian parlance, is an artifice within this framework – lust, greed, pride, envy, wrath, sloth and gluttony are not only not seen as inherently negative, but actually inherently positive on the ground that these behaviors lead to gratification of the senses. Indeed, while it is said (and I think I’ve said this in the past) that the Church of Satan used to be an organization with more pseudo-spiritual believes, the organization has always believed in a greater importance on the material body than that of the soul – a fact not only attested to in The Satanic Bible, but also in the 1970 documentary called Satanis, in which LaVey can be seen extolling the virtues of the original Satanic philosophy. Satanism by LaVey’s imagining was always aligned with the specifically carnal worldview, but there was more emphasis and value placed on ritualism. The only thing that might make things cryptic is the discussion of life after death through fulfillment of the ego within The Satanic Bible. I suppose this is perhaps an extension of the other central principle of Satanism: the potential godhead is directed towards the self, rather than towards God, and so it is the self, carnal though it may be, that realizes its own godhead. This kind of semi-spiritual immortality does seem to be a rarely discussed feature of Satanic philosophy though, and I can only assume it had faded in importance.

Aside from that, as is pointed out by Michael Aquino in his book Church of Satan, Satanism began with a worldview that was aligned with atheistic materialism. Ultimately, among the prime virtues of Satanism are self-preservation and indulgence. Indeed, some people in LaVey’s time thought that the name “Satanism” was unnecessary, with Humanism being the more apt nomenclature due its flat rejection of conventional religion and its anthropocentric (Man being the center of the Satanic religion after all) worldview. But it was the veneration of Satan as this “dark force” in nature and the presence of ceremony and dogma centering around that archetype, coupled with the presence of magick, that granted Satanism an identity of its own. Over time, as the Church of Satan aged, ceremony and magick seemed to become less of a big deal and the “elite atheism” aspect that has come to be associated with Satanism at large, was front and center, along with the $200 membership fee and Peter Gilmore (oh, but we’ll get to that saga in a later post).

Before we go any further, this raises the question of theistic Satanism: namely, you might ask, where does theistic Satanism fit into this if, so far, authentic Satanic philosophy appears to be strongly LaVeyan in character? The phenomemon of theistic Satanism is that of a decentralized spiritual movement – perhaps more so than the Satanism established by Dr. LaVey – which isn’t to say that the wider phenomenon of Satanism is a very centralized one, far from it. Satanism offers no Popes (you might say LaVey was the only thing close, having gone by “The Black Pope” in his day, and even then this is more or less in name only) to lay down the law for all other Satanists, and it is rather difficult to “herd” Satanists the way the Catholic Pope would herd his own flock. Many movements, in my experience at least, seem to resemble a kind of dark polytheism, not simply worshiping Satan but also accommodating a veritable infernal pantheon of devils, or perhaps they prefer to be addressed gods, such as Beelzebub, Astaroth, Lucifer, Lilith, Belial etc. Some theistic Satanists claim that their religion represents a traditional form of devil worship, other movements are still very much in tune with LaVey’s basic philosophy, except with the absence of the materialism and atheism. Typically they believe Satan is a being that they have experienced in a profound way, and so they , but like their non-theistic counterparts they reject Christian doctrine as well as metaphysics, with the archetype of Satan being the center of a belief system separate from Christianity. If you have a bias in favor of what the Church of Satan currently teaches, you will most likely not consider them to be actual Satanists, just devil worshipers. Conversely, there are theistic Satanists out their who dismiss LaVey in a similar fashion – either denouncing his system as mere Halloween pageantry, or as a decadent humanism (if they’re anything like Euronymous or Jon Nödtveidt). Some theistic Satanists believe that LaVey’s belief system was not actually the original Satanism, but a version of Satanism that he invented in contrast to a much older form of Satanism – whichever that happens to be, however I haven’t seen any evidence of a formal historical Satanism of any kind and no self-identified practicing Satanists before LaVey’s time. Some even consider themselves Gnostic or Anti-Cosmic Satanists, who believe that the material world is a false concept, often cut themselves off from society entirely and advocate for a spiritual return to primordial chaos and darkness and negation of this “false” orderly world, a rather awkward position in my view considering that Satanism is typically more of a life-affirming philosophy, meaning world-affirming not world-negating. But, as I see it, theistic Satanism isn’t necessarily a phenomenon that exists apart from Satanic philosophy, and I am aware of theistic Satanists who respect LaVey and model some of their spiritual system after LaVeyan ideals, and there are many who, while they do worship Satan, still affirm their the idea of their own godhead. Just that they see communion with a metaphysical or literal Satan as the path to affirming that godhead, and are often dissatisfied with the more atheistic form of Satanism found in the Church of Satan or (debatably) The Satanic Temple. In fact, Diane Vera is noted to have described the literal Satan as “a being who encourages us to be true to ourselves, think for ourselves, excel at whatever our talents may be, and do what we can to better our material situation“, which, to me at least, isn’t a million miles away from LaVey’s ideals. Often, however, it simply depends on the individual practitioner or organization, as is the case with what is such a decentralized movement.

Anyhow, Satanism is not an egalitarian philosophy, as is evidenced by the thunderous pronouncement of the Book of Fire portion of the Satanic Bible, wherein the strong are praised and the weak are shunned, embodying something of a might makes right worldview, drawing from one of LaVey’s most profound influences – Ragnar Redbeard . The insecure, the hypocritical, the servile and weak of heart are damned in this worldview. The bold, the strong, the clever and the masterful are hailed as righteous. Indeed the Church of Satan, to this day, is a strongly hierarchical structure, and before 1975 ascendance to this hierarchy depended on merit, based on recognition of prowess (presumably as a magician) and contribution to the organization. After 1975, LaVey decided essentially to allow aspirant Satanic magicians to elevate up the ranks through other contributions such as money, real estate etc. LaVey also envisioned stratification as part of his ideal society, outright stating equality to be a myth in his Five Points Program of Pentagonal Revisionism, alongside the law of the jungle and Lex Talionis.

Satanism, despite making use of an archetype that originates in Hebrew/Christian lore, is a worldview divested of Christian morality and metaphysics. It rejects many teachings popularly associated with Christian teaching, such as “love your enemy”. Before Anton LaVey, anything resembling Satanism as a formal philosophical doctrine did not exist. There was no Satanism, only the diabolical ritualism that was most likely invented by medieval Christian folklorists. The very word “Satanist” originated as a slur or derogatory term meant to refer to people who people who did not conform to tradition, were thought to be heathens or were thought to worship the Devil or evil in general. . When Anton LaVey arrived onto the scene, the dark, devilish ritualism imagined by Christian folklorists was used as a device for what is, objectively speaking, hedonistic psychodrama. A kind of occult-themed pageantry designed for ritual gratification, to grant a sense of meaning or ceremonial substance to the Satanic worldview – which recognizes ceremony and tradition as a need of the human psyche – as well as a form of cultural subversion. Human and animal sacrifice are not only forbidden in this system, but the idea behind such a practice is dismissed as cowardice by LaVey – white magicians murder an innocent lifeforms to appease their God with their death throes sooner than they would offer their own blood.

Curiously, although there was no actual formal Satanism before LaVey’s time, the LaVeyan Satanist conception of Satan as representing Man just another animal has some far older roots than LaVeyan Satanism. If you are an occult aficionado, particularly if you are into tarot, then you may be familiar with the image of The Devil found in tarot decks. You may recognize a horned demon sitting atop and altar, presiding over two nude humans chained to it. Arthur Waite gives a detailed description in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.

The design is an accommodation, mean or harmony, between several motives mentioned in the first part. The Horned Goat of Mendes, with wings like those of a bat, is standing on an altar. At the pit of the stomach there is the sign of Mercury. The right hand is upraised and extended, being the reverse of that benediction which is given by the Hierophant in the fifth card. In the left hand there is a great flaming torch, inverted towards the earth. A reversed pentagram is on the forehead. There is a ring in front of the altar, from which two chains are carried to the necks of two figures, male and female. These are analogous with those of the fifth card, as if Adam and Eve after the Fall. Hereof is the chain and fatality of the material life.

The figures are tailed, to signify the animal nature, but there is human intelligence in the faces, and he who is exalted above them is not to be their master for ever. Even now, he is also a bondsman, sustained by the evil that is in him and blind to the liberty of service. With more than his usual derision for the arts which he pretended to respect and interpret as a master therein, Éliphas Lévi affirms that the Baphometic figure is occult science and magic. Another commentator says that in the Divine world it signifies predestination, but there is no correspondence in that world with the things which below are of the brute. What it does signify is the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those are driven forth therefrom who have eaten the forbidden fruit.

In tarot, the Devil represented an attachment, perhaps even bondage, to worldly desires and materialism. He is also seen as representing evil, the temporal, and “falsehood”, presumably from the Christian perspective found in classical magick. In a way, the portrayal of the Devil as associated with attachment to the material is consistent with the LaVeyan notion of Satan as representing Man as the purely carnal.

The Sigil of Baphomet, the symbol most closely associated with Satanism, has its origins in Enlightenment-era Western magickal traditions. Eliphas Levi considered the pentagram, in its upright direction, to be the “Blazing Star”, a sign of intelligence, light and divinity, and in its inverse form the sign of infernal evocations and the “Sabbath Goat”. This is where we get the modern conception of Baphomet, or the Goat of Mendes from. Stanislas de Guatia identified it as a sign of blasphemy, of the “foul goat threatening Heaven” (presumably echoing Levi’s concept of the Goat of Mendes). Paul Jagot identifies it as “expressive of subversion”. The background of the Satan recognized by Anton LaVey is sufficiently old, and given that LaVey himself had a background in occultism I suspect he may have been aware of this.

So to conclude, I think authentic Satanic philosophy rests on some fairly simple principles:

  • Self-preservation
  • World affirmation
  • Affirmation of life, and the lovers of life, over asceticism and those who negate the world around them
  • Rejection of white light spirituality and conventional religion
  • Radical individualism
  • Egoism and rational self-interest
  • Life is not fair and we are not created equal
  • Man as Beast, and as a carnal being
  • Alignment of either godhead or some kind of divine statue with Man or the individuated self
  • Hedonism
  • Celebration of “sin” as the source of gratification and affirmation
  • Satan embodies Man as he ought to be

In this pursuit, I hope I don’t come off as presenting myself as a Pope of Satanism, laying down the tablet of the laws for all Satanists to observe. I am simply interested in the describing the most basic essence of Satanism as a formal philosophy, and I believe the essence of Satanism is something to be preserved and remembered within the wider zeitgeist of the Satanic movement. Rest assured that I have no pulpit, only a soapbox, and I claim no power over other Satanists.

This is, of course, Part 1 of my series on Satanism. The next post will be dedicated to the split between the two main public Satanic organizations outside the Internet: the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple.

Thoughts on the Satanic rules

As an independent Satanist, I have no allegiance with any Satanist organizations. Thus, I don’t operate by any rules set by organizations, only my own, and I have a lax attitude towards any rules in organizations.

All that matters to me is the fundamental philosophy of Satanism, I’m not interested in rules or codes set by such entities as the Church of Satan. I just want to follow the philosophy of Satanism and apply it my own way.

To be fair, the rules in the Church of Satan are also seen as less like strict commandments and more like guidelines or suggestions. But make no mistake, there is something one can take from these guidelines.

Satanism and the supernatural

While doing some research on Satanism, I found something interesting. While LaVeyan Satanism is usually atheistic, it is said that many Satanists, including those who are members of the Church of Satan, do believe in spiritual or supernatural things. Just to be clear I am not talking about so-called “Spiritual Satanism”, which is something otherwise different.

One Church of Satan member, King Diamond, who was a very close friend to Anton LaVey, once made this statement: “Satanism is about the Powers of the Unknown. I’ve had hundreds of strange experiences with the occult, the other side, the beyond, whatever you want to call it that proves there is a spiritual world that can crossover into our world.” He goes on to say that “Satan on a spiritual mystical level stands for the Powers of Darkness, the Powers of the Unknown which are always around us at all times”.

A picture of King Diamond taken during the late 1980’s.

Another statement comes from Church of Satan reverend Thomas Thorn. He said, “There is a spiritual dimension that communicates with us and there are powers and deities in this spiritual world. We use Satanic rituals to summon, communicate with, and make pacts with Demons that are real beings as well as other spirits.”

Wait. I thought the rituals and magic in Satanism were more psychological than magical. I dunno, I’ll just leave him with that statement since I’ve really got nothing.

I’ve also heard that “America’s Favourite Satanist” Joe Netherworld has a website where he talks about how he apparently has an ability to communicate with the spirit world and uses it to help solve cases and it also claims to give accurate info to people during divinations that he conducts.

From what I have heard from an agent Church of Satan member (an Agent is an active member qualified to represent the Church of Satan and explain the philosophy to the media and other interested parties), LaVey had no real problem with Church of Satan members believing in supernatural things like ghosts and the afterlife and some such things as The Satanic Bible is mainly concerned with life philosophy and he left a void in it when it came the spiritual, supernatural, or religious side, and it is thus up to the individual Satanist to decide on their own as these are personal beliefs. LaVey himself is said to have created a glowing pentagram to attract supernatural forces and wrote essays on the trapezoid, which is said to open gateways to these forces. He also claimed to have tried calling up spirits and demons using circles and names of God and Jesus for protection but it didn’t work, so began to think he needed to be on the side of the demons instead in order to call them up, gain magical powers, and have things go his way.

As a final disclaimer, I am not here to agree with anything stated. I am simply here to point out that Satanists (or Church of Satan members) can and do believe in spiritual or supernatural things. But I don’t think this includes God.