Forgive the interruption between my inquiry on Revolutionary Demonology, but it seems there’s been a nuisance coming my way. Suffice it say that, it is quite incredible to see what lengths some people will go to in order to keep other people’s mouths shut. Last month, I wrote an article about a small Italian Theistic Satanist organisation called the Union of Italian Satanists (or, Unione Satanisti Italiani), in which I analysed their philosophy as best I could, and discussed its relationship to the ideology of National Socialism. It would seem that, since then, the leader of the USI, Jennifer Crepuscolo (or rather Jennifer Mezzatta), has discovered that article, and is none too happy about what I have said. In fact, she sent a message to the Facebook page of this website to say this:
Your article on Unione Satanisti Italiani is dishonest and leads to slander. Precisely for this reason we’re evaluating with our law firm to proceed with a lawsuit against you. We hope that in the future you will be more careful about making unfounded accusations. You should have read more about us before writing such slanders. We are open to discussion but we do not like those who try to cleverly reinterpret our contents with malice.
Since you chose to wrongfully assault us, if we have any other contact between us, it will likely be through the law.
For posterity, here is the same message in a screenshot taken from the messages of my blog’s Facebook page:
“Best regards”? Yes I suppose that is the polite way to conclude a message in which you accuse me of “assault”. But observe the utter folly of what Jennifer is saying. Her objection is that my article is “dishonest” and “leads to slander”, and that for this reason she thinks she can intimidate me with groundless threats of litigation. Take stock of this: I am not even primarily being accused of slander, I am being accused of writing things that “could lead to slander”. How exaclty do you intend to prove that? And just how can you charge someone on the basis that you think what they said “could lead to slander”? Do you not see how legally absurd that is on its own, let alone the idea of hashing that out internationally?
As long as we’re focusing on the “dishonesty” canard, I intend to talk about many things I discussed in the original article, but I would also point out that Jennifer Mezzetta’s Facebook bio contains the words “Onore a Satana, il Dio Gentile dell’Anima”, or, “Honor to Satan, the Gentile God of the Soul”.
I don’t know how anyone thinks they can beat any allegations of Nazism when they openly and publicly refer to their version of the Satan they worship as “the Gentile God”. Remember that the USI also talks on their website about Jewish influences being a corruption of Satanism. In this context especially, “Gentile” is a dogwhistle being used by non-Jews, or more specifically by white non-Jews, define themselves in active contradistinction to Jewishness.
Jennifer seems keen enough to talk about “slander”. But slander is only slander if I am wrong and have made up everything that the USI website says from whole cloth. I contend that I am not wrong, and that the USI cannot prove that I am inventing its own words, let alone drag me from my home country just for a case that they don’t have and which would be dismissed. And just to underscore all of this, let’s focus on the parts where I talk about the particularly objectionable highlights of the USI’s website. We will present screenshots of these highlights, with the Italian and English language versions side by side, in that order, for maximum posterity.
This will be a systematic overview of the antisemitism and Nazi alignment of the USI, focusing largely on material I already covered, and more. These are, in large part, Jennifer’s own words, in that most of the articles being discussed have been written by Jennifer Creposcolo. We will also cover a few articles written by a USI member named Mandy Lord. Any accusation of “slander” will have to prove that they are not her own words. I maintain that this would be impossible, because they are clearly their words. This will not be terribly exhaustive, at least not compared to the entire breadth of the USI website, the totality of which I will not be covering. But I will cover much of what I have already discussed in my original article, which should also be enough to encapsulate the ideological content of the Union of Italian Satanists, in their own words.
Now, just bearing in mind. I am not entirely fluent on the Italian language. I have certain aspirations to effect, of course, but for the purpose of covering this article I am relying on available translations, which are of course provided as an option within the website via my browser. All English screenshots come from a Google-provided translation, which I am reasonably confident is not inaccurate, especially since I have not been made aware of any translation errors by anyone, especially not Jennifer Creposcolo.
The “God of the Gentiles” and Antisemitic Screeds About Jewish Mysticism
To start with, let’s refer to their pages on “Original Satanism” where they discuss Jewish mysticism as blasphemous, decry modern Satanist movements by accusing them of “Judaizing” Satanism, and assert that atheism is a product of “Jewish influence”. But first things first let’s just get one point out of the way right now: the fact that they refer to Satan as “God of the Gentiles”. That is what Jennifer says for instance in “What is Satanism really?” and it will be fairly important as a cornerstone of the USI’s philosophy.
Now, let’s see them talk about Jewish mysticism and the “Judaization” of Satanism. In “Cult of Origins”, Jennifer can be seen accusing other Satanists of being “slaves of the Jewish preconception” by accepting the etymology of Satan as meaning “Adversary”.
And here, in the same article, Jennifer writes that Satanic intiation centers around the “Satanist”‘s self-declaration of their “Gentile nature” and that the “Gentile” is centered around both their roots and the evolution of their “spiritual race”.
Immediately after this, Jennifer describes Jewish mysticism as “blasphemy”, again seemingly without a shred of irony or self-awareness, and accuses it of being “violent” and “opportunistic”.
There is much more antisemitism and Nazi ideology in this page alone right below this paragraph. Here, for instance, Jennifer refers to the awakening of “Gentile Memory”, and thereby a return to “our blood” (as in, the “blood of the Gentiles”), as the goal of her particular system of “Original Satanism”.
And afterwards, Jennifer goes on to refer to Jews as “historical criminals” who “corrupt” and “distort” the “Gentile” in various ways. For some reason the English translation seems to repeat the last few sentences.
Jennifer’s Nazi-esque Definition of Satanism
Moving on from this page, let’s briefly, and just as an aside, refer to this fairly colourful paragraph from the page “Define Yourself As Satanist”, in which we can see familiar fascist rhetoric about sex and gender identity that is used to justify transphobia, itself couched in a concept of “rootlessness” that is inherently tied to white identiarianism and antisemitism (the concept of “rootless cosmopolitans” as an antisemitic reference to Jews).
In their page “Etymology of the name Satan”, Jennifer refers to Satanists as the purest form of the “Gentile” while accusing Jewish people of racism towards non-Jews. It is important to note that here Jennifer incorrectly asserts that the Hebrew word “goyim” means “cattle”. The word “goy” actually means “nation”, not “cattle”, while in the Biblical context the word “goyim” often referred simply to the various non-Israelite nations.
Here of course we also see Jennifer establish a Sanskrit etymology by way of the words “Sat” and “Nam” as what she claims to be the “true” etymology of Satan, as opposed to the Hebrew etymology. There is of course no basis to any of this, and in fact it is an idea strongly associated with neo-Nazis such as the Joy of Satan group. I suspect that it was originally invented by Kerry Bolton, a white supremacist fascist who spent the 1990s spreading neo-Nazi interpretations of Satanism, neopaganism, and Thelema to various subcultural movements (such as black metal and industrial music) before eventually converting to Christianity.
There is an entire section dedicated to the etymology of the word “Aryan”, which the USI claims does not influence their philosophy in way, though it is also full of defenses of Nazi iconography as ancient and therefore legitimate symbology. Note that Jennifer also personally connects the mythology of Aryans and Hyperboreans to her own views the divine origins of the “Satanids” as linked to the lineage of the Nephilim and therefore the Fallen and Satan, which, contrary to what Jennifer says otherwise, establishes a credible ideological link between the concept of “Aryans” and her philosophy.
And, once again, at the end of this page, Jennifer once again links the religious identity of the “Satanist” with the racial identity of the “Gentile”.
Racist Nazi-esque Ramblings About “Satanid Nature”
Next, let’s refer to the article “Satanid Nature”. Here, we see Jennifer assert that the Jews made their pact with Yahweh because they wanted revenge and conquest and this is the cause of a progressive civilizational decline. She also seems to contrast this with the example of Jesus and his refusal of the temptations of Satan.
It is in this same page that Jennifer, who calls herself a “Satanist”, lauds the figure of Jesus Christ as a personifiction of “the Gentile spirit” as supposedly represented by ancient pre-Christian gods and by Satan. This idea clearly echoes Nazi ideology, which portrayed Jesus as an “Aryan” German god or hero instead of being Jewish.
Jennifer also seems to refer to the idea of a link between Satan and “wanton materialism” as the product of “Judeo-Christian corruption”. This opinion reflects a Nazi belief that materialism is Jewish in origin and thereby a corruption of the “Aryan” spirit.
And here, Jennifer accuses modern American Satanists of trying to “Judaize” Satanism, and thereby make it more “plebeian”, “lifeless”, and atheistic. Again, this presents the idea that atheism is a Jewish product, which is both inherently antisemitic in that it positions atheism as a form of corruption and a major component of Nazi ideology, in which the main opponent “Jewish materialism” is presented in opposition to “Aryan” idealism.
Now let’s turn to the page titled “The Way of Signs”, which features a discussion of the “black sun” alongside an image of the Nazi Sonnenrad symbol, which was invented for use by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, as the insignia for Wewelsburg Castle.
Next let’s refer to their page about Lucifer, or “Luciferus”, written by Mandy Lord. This page contains multiple expressions of antisemitism and Nazi ideology. For example, Mandy almost dismisses a source because it was Jewish, and then proceeds to quote Otto Rahn, a Nazi Ariosophist who was also literally an Obersturmführer in the SS.
Later in the same page, Mandy quotes Miguel Serrano, a neo-Nazi occultist and proponent of a system referred to as Esoteric Hitlerism, before describing contemporary Christianity as “totally Judaicized” in contrast to its “Gentile origins”.
Jennifer’s Remarks on National Socialism
An important source of concern would be Jennifer’s “Joy of Satan Analysis”. First of all, let’s note that even Jennifer’s supposed criticism of Joy of Satan’s antisemitism also consists in the objection that she thinks that they are too Jewish. I’m not kidding around: Jennifer critcises Joy of Satan for having a “Jewish mentality”, even in their antisemitism. This “Jewish mentality” appears to simply consist of summoning demons in order to fulfill material needs, which is again based on the Nazi belief that materialism is a “Jewish corruption”.
And then, of course, there is in the same page Jennifer’s defense of National Socialism, which she seems to regard as fundamentally moral, noble, and ethical in substance.
The “Kabbalah” of Mandy Lord
In the page “Occult History”, Mandy Lord claims that Kabbalah is actually a non-Jewish system of mysticism that belonged to “the Arii” and came from Satan and his demons. Mandy also claims that there is an Egyptian Kabbalah, called “Ka Ba Ankh”, and a “true runic Kabbalah” practiced by the Druids, in contrast to Jewish Kabbalah. This idea is very similar to an idea from the Austrian volkisch mystic Guido von List, who claimed that the Kabbalah was originally invented by German “Aryans” rather than Jews.
Jennifer’s Views on “The Illuminati” (Somehow Even More Antisemitic!)
In an article titled “Are The Illuminati Satanists? But Also Not!”, Jennifer runs through a litany of antisemitic tropes about Jews while discussing the Illuminati. For example, early on she falsely claims that Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, was the son of a Jewish rabbi and supported by the Rothschild family. Adam Weishaupt’s father was a man named Johann Georg Weishaupt, who was in fact a lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt, and there is no record of him ever having been a rabbi or of him having been Jewish.
Later, Jennifer talks about the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in an incredibly apologetic manner. She claims that it is not possible to know if “Protocols” was written by Jewish authors, claims that its content is being proven true “before our eyes”, and brings up verses from the Talmud that supposedly justify the book’s contents. I need to stress that this is blatant antisemitism.
There is also this take from Jennifer in the same article, which is once again a familiar element of fascist conspiracy theories, naturally latent with antisemitism. Basically she’s asserting that the Illuminati want to eliminate traditional gender roles and biological sex or all that stuff in order to somehow control society.
Of course this also comes with a standard ethnonationalist argument.
Jennifer again explicitly ties “the Illuminati” to Jews and asserts that they are aligned to Yahweh as the “God of Israel” and want to destroy all cultures that are not Jewish.
Jennifer puts forward an argument that Jews cannot be Satanists because Jews are “the Sons of Yahweh” and Satanists are “the Sons of Satan”. This is Jennifer arguing that Jews, because of their race, cannot be Satanists, and conversely that Satanists are Satanists because of their race. It is a racialist argument, and in this sense is antisemitic.
In the same article, Jennifer also defends ancient Roman colonialism by saying that the white colonialism was bad specifically because the white colonialists and slavers in question were “Judeo-Christian”. This is effectively blaming Jews for the enslavement of African-Americans and the systematic genocide of native Amerindians by white colonialists.
The Racial Mission of the Union of Italian Satanists
Finally, the mission of the USI, as outlined in “Presentation of Italian Satanists Union”, consists of three objectives. The third objective is “Restore Satanic Identity”. In the article, Jennifer establishes that the goal of the USI is to activate what she believes to be the racial consciousness of “the Gentiles” and that to be a Satanist you have to be born a Satanist as if genetically, and hence ethnically or racially.
I think that I have shown more than enough at this point. The website itself has much more content within it, but this was about demonstrating that what I have said to be the words of the USI are in fact the words of the USI. I would ask again: would anyone be able to prove that I am fabricating these words, and that this is not what Jennifer and the USI have said? What basis could there be for any claim of “dishonesty” or the potential to “lead to slander”, let alone “assault”? These are Jennifer’s own words, as well as those of Mandy Lord where applicable.
Being that there is little point in discussing any supposed case, let us simply summarize what USI say in their own words. We are talking about an organisation whose “Original Satanism” appears to be based on a racial ideology built around the idea “recovering” the “genetic memory” of the “Gentiles”. There is a heavy emphasis on “de-Judaicizing” Satanism, which entails reinterpreting Satan as a “Gentile” god of truth, soul, origin, and the divine order rather than The Adversary, Kabbalah as “Gentile” mysticism, and even Jesus as a “Gentile” hero who only opposed the Jewish Satan rather than the “Gentile” Satan, all of which mirror the Nazi ideology of “Positive Christianity”, whose volkisch interpretation of Christianity meant bracketing out everything the Nazis deemed to be Jewish “corruption”. The USI website contains defenses of the ideology of National Socialism and also features quotes from Nazi and neo-Nazi esotericists. Antisemitism is pervasive in the USI writings, sometimes more subtly and sometimes quite blatantly, as an effect of their racial ideology, even to the point that they can’t criticise antisemitism in others without also expressing their own antisemitism. The “noble Gentile spirit” is positioned in opposition to Jews and “Judeo-Christianity”, Christianity is described as an originally “Gentile” faith that they deem totally “corrupted” by Judaism, and antisemitic conspiracy theories form a major part of the USI’s opposition to both Judaism and Christianity. In short, USI an organisation that promotes an ethnofascist ideology strongly aligned with National Socialism. Based on the mateiral available this is an open and shut matter of fact.
For additional posterity, I will provide archived links below to each article being referred to here, to remove any last shred of doubt without requiring you to provide traffic to their website. The archived links, however, will only show the pages in Italian. However, it should be evident that these are the same pages contained within the screenshots.
Whenever Satanism is covered in the press, the focus is usually on the representations of atheistic Satanism, usually consisting of the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, and/or the Global Order of Satan. This is a very problematic phenomenon, one that typically leaves out theistic and esoteric expressions of Satanism, both historical and modern, to service the presentation of Satanism as an edgy but ultimately palatable form of humanism. I see that Vice recently published an article that, on the surface, would seem to buck that trend. But, in doing so, even they do not tell the whole truth, and this is a problem.
The article, written by Camilla Sernagiotto and originally published in Vice Italy, discusses a Theistic Satanist organisation that refers to themselves as the Union of Italian Satanists (or, Unione Satanisti Italiani), and consists of an interview with Jennifer Crepuscolo, the apparent founder of the USI, and a number of other Satanists who are members.
Sernagiotto’s article ostensibly gives us a basic overview of the beliefs of the Union of Italian Satanists. The USI purports to believe in what they call “Traditional Satanism”, or rather “Original Satanism” (or “Satanismo Originale”). In this system, Satan is regarded as a real and ancient deity, who was later turned into a demon by God. We are told that USI’s “Original Satanism” also worships a Mother Goddess as a central deity, a “dark and shining feminine figure that is widely stigmatized by patriarchal religions”. They also seem to believe that Satan and the Mother Goddess descended to Earth in order to impart knowledge to humans, then had sex with some humans and created a line of descendants referred to as “Satanids”. USI members often refer to themselves as “Satanids”, they believe themselves to be actually biologically descended from Satan and, thus, capable of accessing divine knowledge through “genetic memory” contained in their blood. Of course, the USI rejects the notion of Satan as corresponding to the Devil in the Biblical/Christian imaginary, but instead see him as a distinct primordial deity of knowledge and the human soul.
So far we’re already getting into vaguely familiar territory. There are sentiments among members that sound familiar enough to garden variety Satanism, theistic or atheistic, such as the belief in self-ownership, egoistic spiritual independence, the notion of Satan as a being who is distinct from Christian myth, a rejection of animal sacrifice and respect for nature. The doctrine of the “Satanids”, however, bears a suspicious similarity to the concept of the “serpent seed”. The “serpent seed” doctrine is a Christian idea which holds that Eve had sex with the serpent in the Garden of Eden and consequently gave birth to Cain, and in turned created a entire racial lineage descended from the serpent and therefore genetically and fatalistically inclined towards evil and destined for eternal damnation, as contrasted with the line descended from Adam who could earn eternal life in heaven. It’s an idea that has some antecedents in early Christianity or more specifically the “Gnostic” sects, but its modern form is the specific product of white supremacist movements and preachers who wanted to present Jews as the product of the “serpent seed” and therefore evil. Of course, here being part of the serpent’s line is in this case not to be seen as evil (indeed far from it!), but it’s still sort of the same idea: Satan has sex with humans and spawns a distinct racial line genetically aligned with his will and knowledge. On their website, as we’ll soon explore, they even apparently use the term “the satanic race” in a positive sense.
This is basically what Sernagiotto’s article discusses so far, but that is not all there is to it. They have a website, which the article handily links to. But that website also reveals some deeply troubling ideas that, for some reason, Sernagiotto did not see fit to discuss in her article and its interviews with USI members.
There’s a lot to unpack, and keep in mind that we’re going off of the available translation. From the website we learn that the Union of Italian Satanists was founded on August 11th 2010 with the intention of presenting its own take on Satanism to the public. The organisation was founded by Jennifer Crepuscolo (who also goes by “Jennifer Twilight”), but the webstie also features other authors such as Mandy Lord, Kate Ecdysis, Paola Difilla, and Khaibit, to name just a few who are listed on the “USI Authors” page. They insist that they are not “Judeo-Christian”, not rationalist, not atheists, not Freemasons (weird that they felt the need to point that out), and not “anything that we do not openly declare”. Their main purpose is to bring together the “Family of Satan” by spreading a doctrine that they call “Original Satanism”.
There are many contours to this concept of “Original Satanism”. It positions Satan as the “God of Origins”, the god of choice and self-determination, the Sophia and Lucifer of the initiatory path of self-knowledge, the “root and essence” behind countless other cults and traditions, the originary truth hidden behind every alteration imposed upon it by successive generations under the influence of “Yahwehism”. The USI’s doctrine holds that reality is an illusion, a virtual form constructed around us as a way for humans to receive meaning, and beneath this illusion is the essence represented by Satan. It’s for this reason that the USI considers that Satan can be approached through a multitude of forms, and that it would be too static to approach him as just one. For example, the USI considers Enki and Odin to be Sumerian and Norse aspects of Satan repsectively. The same goes for traditions, on the basis that Satanism is a evolution and dynamism that nonetheless proceeds from roots; one could choose to interpret this as presenting Satanism as a “living tradition”. According to USI doctrine, Satan is not evil, the Devil or a servant of Yahweh, and is instead “the God of the Soul”, the guardian of the thresholds and of wisdom, and even Existence itself, even beyond this life. This Satan is also sometimes identified with Lucifer, to the extent that USI members occasionally call themselves “Heirs of the Morning Star”. The Fallen are counted as divine ancestors who descended to the Earth to give knowledge to humans and then created a line of humans who carry “the divine seed” through procreation. USI members also believe that the primary purpose of magic is to fully retrieve the memory of that “divine” seed in the soul.
The USI espouses something called “Natural Ethics” as the ethical basis of their version of Satanism. “Natural Ethics” is basically a form of ethics that is supposed to emerge spontaneously from the person, and in turn links them to their divine ancestors and the “natural order” of the universe. Mind you, this “Natural Ethics” seems to be based on the concept of “genetic memory”. “Morality” (or rather “Imposed Morality”) on the other hand is an anti-spontaneous code of behaviour that the USI opposes because they think it leads to involution and separation from the natural order. The USI apparently does believe that “good” and “evil” exist but they’re defined as follows: “good” means what is in harmony with “the natural order”, allows or supports its maintenance and perpetuity, and facilitates the evolution and existence of life as a continuum, whereas “evil” means that which is not in harmony with “the natural order”, hinders and attacks this order, causes “involution”, hinders evolution, and supports non-existence. The USI also espouses nine points dubbed “The Nine Values of Satanic Ethics”. These are “Completeness” (meaning to “complete yourself” by acheiving a unity of opposites), “Beauty” (meaning inner and outer self-care in pursuit of the perfection of form), “Honor” (meaning to “keep one’s memory alive” or to live in harmony with your own nature or ethos), “Truth” (sort of self-explanatory I think), “Justice” (neither good nor bad, seemingly just upholding “the natural order”), “Freedom” (here meaning self-control, self-sufficiency, and the soteriological possibility of “really being ourselves”), “Wisdom”, “Pathos”, and “Identity” (meaning to uphold the identity of “the People of Satan”).
The USI tend to be very strict with the term Satanism, and uses the term “Acid” or “Acidism” to refer to really anyone who commits generically “evil”, “immoral”, or “criminal” acts, particularly if they do so while presenting ostensibly “satanic” imagery. This is essentially their term for what has conventionally been dubbed the “Reverse Christian”. These “Acids” are regarded as non-Satanists, entirely the product of “Judeo-Christian” society, who are simply either anti-Christian and nothing else or “bad Christians”. They also use the term “Hipster Satanist” for people who they think are not Satanists and simply call themselves and dress as Satanists for the purpose of transgression. Bear in mind, though, that in their eyes, being a “real” Satanist means worshipping Satan as they define him – that is, not The Devil, but their own god of truth and origin, the father of the so-called “Satanids”. By their standard, that could amount to many Satanists. Satanism to the USI is simply the “Cult of Origins”, a supposedly authentic form of the religious values of the so-called “golden age”, and the self-styled mission of the USI is the “restoration” of their cult.
The USI also seems to be polytheistic in that they recognise and venerate numerous deities besides Satan, which includes both pre-Christian deities and demons from Christian demonology. The website lists Lucifer, Samael, Bast, Sekhmet, Haagenti, Maat, Andras, Bifrons, Buer, Asmodeus, Hel, Abigor, Agares, Aini, Amon, Anubis, Beelzebub (here identified with Baal and Bael), Belphegor, Bune, Dantalian, Decarabia, Foras, Gaap, Glasya Labolas, Haagenti, Halphas, Khepu, Lucifuge Rofocale, Marchosias, Nergal, Ronove, Set, Sorath, Volac as the many gods worshipped, at least individually, within the USI. It also has a section focused on various gods of war (also dubbed “protectors of life”), and discusses a whole list of war gods including Ogma, Set, Anhur, Sekhmet, Neith, Sobek, Horus, Pakhet, Wepwawet, Montu, Menher, Maahet, Satis, Sopdu, Mars, Ninurta, Mixcoatl, Xipe Totec, Huitzilopochtli, Shay Al Qawm, Athtar, Hubal, al-Uzza, Minerva, Morrigan, Ishtar/Inanna, Tyr, Durga, Indra, Ogun, Shango, Sobo, and Hachiman, while also listing Baal, Azazel, Glasya Labolas, Halphas, Volac, and Andras as “Demons of War”.
The USI also seems to have to some fairly peculiar thoughts on the subject of aliens, as suggested by the fact that they have an article discussing the notion that the gods are aliens. The short answer, in their opinion, is yes and no. They sort of argue that it doesn’t really matter if the gods are aliens or not since either way they would be extradimensional beings, also insisting that the gods manifested on Earth biologically while taking every opportunity to assert the categorical rejection of atheism. That said they do regard the appeal to the extraterrestrial as an attempt by humans to “control” the gods, who otherwise cannot be controlled, through scientific rationalism. For USI members, “alien” is a word that can also refer to creatures from other dimensions, not just extraterrestrial but also “otherworldly”, and they do ultimately describe the gods and Satan this way too, so the lines between terms are ultimately blurred. As far as the USI is concerned, the divine beings may or may not be basically ancient astronauts.
More importantly, however, the USI also seems to be really antisemitic, and they can arguably be described as neo-Nazis. Their page on “Original Satanism” describes many people as being “slaves of the Jewish preconception” of Satan, while also attacking Jewish mysticism as blasphemous (yes I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on anyone here). They hit out at other Satanist movements by accusing them of “Judaizing” Satanism, which to them means making it “more plebeian” and atheistic; the idea that atheism is a product of Jewish influence is of course both inherently antisemitic one of the basic talking points of Nazi ideology. Their article on “Satanid Nature” asserts that they made their pact with Yahweh because they wanted nothing but power over and revenge (funny how now revenge is a bad thing!) on other lands and are in turn responsible for destroying “a world full of traditions and values” and “the birth of a progressive decline”. The same article negatively compares them to Jesus by stressing that Jesus refused the temptations of Satan (again, you would think that Satanists would prefer that Jesus not be the Messiah) whereas Moses allowed Yahweh to “corrupt” them. The article “The Way of Signs” features an image of a shining Nazi Sonnenrad alongside a discussion of the so-called “Black Sun” versus the “White Sun”. The USI rejects the popular notion of a “pact with Satan”, specifically because they believe it to actually be “the pact between the Jews and Yahweh”, which they deem to be “spiritual opportunism”.
Another almost baffling example of USI’s antisemitism is that the page about Lucifer appears to almost dismiss a source because it is ostensibly Jewish, and then presents quotations from Otto Rahn, a literal SS officer and Nazi Ariosophist ideologue, and Miguel Serrano, one of the major original proponents of Esoteric Hitlerism, as part of its discussion of the nature of Lucifer. They even argue that Christianity in its current state is “totally Judaized” and that the original Christianity was strictly “Gentile”, based on the “physiognomy” and philosophy of Jesus. This is literally just Nazi ideology, in that the Nazis argued for a Christianity that they felt be fully divested of supposed “Jewish influences”, thus an “Aryan” faith, based in turn on volkisch Protestant nationalist ideas that had already circulated in Germany during the early 20th century. More to the point it’s incredibly bizarre for self-described Satanists to be concerned with Christianity being “too Jewish” or having fallen away from some supposed origin, when the church of any stripe is still the church to us!
As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the USI has its own version of Nazi “de-Judaization”, at least as concerns the very etymology of Satan. You see, in order to prove that Satanism is not “Judeo-Christian” and is “pure” “Gentile” religion, they have to show that Satan is not a Jewish concept (as opposed to, you know, not being Nazis and not being interested in “de-Judaizing” everything). As opposed to the Hebraic origins of the name Satan, the Hebrew word “satan” or “ha-Satan” meaning “adversary”, the USI proposes a supposed Sanskrit origin for the name Satan. They claim that the Sanskrit word “Sat”, ostensibly meaning “truth”, and a supposed Indian mantra “Sat Nam”, supposedly meaning “whose name is truth”, or alternatively the words “Sanat” (meaning “eternal”) or “Sat Ana” (supposedly meaning “acting in the truth”), as the true etymology of Satan. There is of course no evidence of any correspondence between these Sanskrit terms and Satan or any figure or concept like Satan. In fact, I suspect that this idea is the brainchild of Kerry R. Bolton, a white supremacist esoteric fascist who set up several fascist occult and pagan groups before ultimately converting to Christianity. Not to mention, the fact that I only ever seem to see this idea espoused by Nazi Satanists tells me that the idea of Satan having a Sanskrit rather than Hebrew origin suggests a various obvious attempt to portray Satan as a fully “Aryan” concept.
And speaking of Nazism, there is a page of the USI’s website that implies the group’s possible ideological support for Nazism. In an article billed as an analysis of Joy of Satan, Jennifer appears to defend National Socialism by saying that “National Socialism has effectively been portrayed as the greatest evil in the world without however ever saying its positive aspects, much less telling how even Communism has shed blood and totalitarianism, indeed maybe more”. Ostensibly this takes the form of some argument about how all ideologies are violent and therefore none are sacred, which would still not merit any equivalence or defense of Nazism by any stretch, but then Jennifer goes on to say that she “learned about the ethics that moved the original ideology”, as well as “esoteric studies” and “the spirituality itself that distinguished our Aryan ancestors”. These suggest a clear ideological sympathy for Nazism. If I’m being honest, the fact that, in a separate article, the USI characterizes Jesus as a “personification of the Gentile spirit” modelled on the basis of pre-Christian gods and “pagan” heroism only further demonstrates that it is based on Nazi ideology . After all, the Nazis frequently insisted that Jesus was originally an “Aryan” German deity named Krist, while Adolf Hitler himself lionized Jesus as an embodiment of “Aryan” virtues. The USI similarly claims that there is a “real” Kabbalah (that is, an “Aryan Kabbalah”) that originated in ancient Egypt, was supposedly derived from a phrase “Ka Ba Ankh”, was violently suppressed by “Judeo-Christians”, and supposedly could be recovered by Satanists with the help of demons. In essence this is basically the same basic idea that the volkisch occultist Guido Von List (who did inspire the Nazis) had, except that List believed that Kabbalah was created by ancient Germans.
A major theme of USI doctrine is a supposed conflict between “Yahweism” and “the religion of the Gentiles”. This is of course forgetting for a moment that the “Gentiles” in Rome were really all too happy to embrace Christianity once it became part of the existing cultural and political spiral of proto-whiteness, or at least politically expedient for the ruling classes of European or “Gentile” nations. The subjugation of Satan by Saint Michael is thus interpreted as the subjugation of “Gentile religions” by “the Yahwehists”. They consider the awakening of “Gentile Memory” (which, if you’ll remember, is supposed to contained in the blood of the Satanids, which is supposed to be USI members!) to be a return to the origin of the soul of the Satanid, as the biological descendant of Satan, so as to deify themselves and “restore” their identity as a “spiritual race” – or, “the satanic race”. The fact that the USI repeatedly uses the word “Gentile” implores us to remember that “Gentile” is supposed to be a word used to refer to non-Jews. On this basis, using the word “Gentile” to refer to yourself, your religion, and your “racial memory” and contrasting it with “Yahwehism” or “Judeo-Christianity” is a clear statement of religious, spiritual, and ontological antisemitism. For fuck’s sake there’s an article in which Jennifer distinguishes Satanists from Pagans by saying that Pagans are the “civilians” and Satanists are a kind of military force fighting against “the Judeo-Christian regime guilty of having contaminated our ancient traditions”. Not only is that classically antisemitic, it’s essentially just the original Christian distinction between the Christian as “Milites Christi” (literally soliders of Christ!) and pagans as “civilians”.
Based on all of this, there are times when I question even the very validity of the USI’s self-designation as “Satanist”. The “Satan” they worship may share characteristics with prevailing ideas about Satan within Satanism, but can be understood as essentially their own “god of the Gentiles”, strictly separated from the idea of Satan as The Devil or The Adversary (which for the record is still typically honoured within Satanism) and representative of an originary “Gentile” religion. Jesus is lauded for refusing the temptations of Satan because to them the Biblical Satan is not Satan, but rather a “Judeo-Christian” construction meant to serve as God’s shadow, while the “real” Satan is basically the “Aryan” supreme deity and Jesus is one of the various “Aryan” gods. Everything about the USI’s doctrine is tied together by what is essentially a neo-Nazi ideology in which members believe that they are racially linked to Satan and are therefore biological representatives of ancient “Gentile”/”Aryan” religion. We can also see that the white supremacist concept of the “serpent seed”, originally created to demonize Jewish people, is basically reimagined by the USI as the lineage of the “god of the Gentiles” and thus the “Aryan race”. When USI members reject conversion on the grounds that “you are either a Satanist by nature or you will never be a Satanist”, what they mean is that you can’t be converted to Satanism because you have be born a “Satanid”, because their version of “Satanism” is basically an ethnic religion for “Gentiles” (“Aryans”).
It should thus also come as probably no surprise at all that the Union of Italian Satanists has also had a history with Joy of Satan, another notoriously antisemitic spin on Theistic Satanism in which Satan is believed to be Enki and worshipped as the god of the “Gentiles”. In fact, they even cited JoS leader Maxine Dietrich in their article arguing for the name Satan being Sanskrit rather than Hebrew in origin. There is a whole article written by Jennifer “Twilight” Crepuscolo (who we must remember is the founder and leader of the USI) about the Joy of Satan, in which a significant degree of praise is mixed with criticism. Jennifer wrote that she always admired the “passion”, “frankness”, “simplicity”, and “courage” of Joy of Satan, and praised them for allegedly coining the definition of “Spiritual Satanism” and thus supposedly slapping Satanists away from the materialism of atheistic currents such as LaVeyan Satanism, while also criticizing the organisation for its perceived dogmatism, angry young membership, and an obsession with having sex with demons and (ironically enough) antisemitism. I say ironically because the USI itself is a pro-Nazi antisemitic organisation that makes arguments based on Nazi ideology and cites Nazi authors, so really their only objection to JoS’ antisemitism is that they’re too loud and too virulent about it – nothing but a matter of taste, and I suppose the fact that JoS members like to call Jennifer things like “filthy Jewish whore” for not being sufficiently antisemitic. In fact, just to highlight USI’s antisemitism once again, there is an article on their website discussing the so-called Illuminati, which uses quotes from the Talmud to argue that Jews hate “Gentiles” and features a meme of a man wearing a shirt saying “I love shiksas”, so as to emphasize a supposed xenophobic misogyny in Jewish men (“shiksa” is apparently a disparaging word for non-Jewish women, which the USI article insists is an object of sexual fantasy). For a group that insists that JoS spends too much time hating on Jews, they seem awfully eager to do it themselves. By the way, that same article defends Roman colonialism while emphasizing that the colonization and enslavement of Africans was done by “Judeo-Christian” people and that the former was good and the latter bad.
OK, I think we’ve seen about enough. That website obviously has far too much content for the Sernagiotto’s article to cover fully in its intended scope, but I reckon that Sernagiotto could have at least visited the website once and asked questions about, among other things, the USI members’ opinions about Jews, National Socialism, and what the USI website says about those subjects. That she did not cover this at all is a serious omission, because all this stuff about “Gentiles” versus “Judeo-Christians” is core part of the USI’s worldview, not just an incidental oart of the beliefs of some individual members. The only problem there is that perhaps they might not have answered. I attempted to ask Jennifer Crepuscolo about the USI’s support for Nazism as she was responding to QueerSatanic, but she has not responded.
Let me clear about a few things, I want there to be more positive coverage of Theistic Satanism. I’m tired of glorified humanist think tanks and the Church of Satan, or just this narrative that “Satanism isn’t about worshipping Satan”, getting all the limelight whenever the press wants to talk about Satanism to the normies or what have you. What I do not want is for this to mean that neo-Nazis get to have puff pieces wrriten for them by people who don’t ever do the research they’re supposed to. And make no mistake: the Nazism is the main issue. It’s not their theism, it’s not necessarily their beliefs about aliens (though that subject has some problematic contours on its own), its primarily the fact that they uphold repackagings of Nazi and white supremacist ideology that they use as the basis for their broader worldview, and the fact that their founder and apparent leader seems to support National Socialism.
In May this year I wrote two articles outlining, in long form and short form respectively, my philosophy of Satanic Paganism. In so doing, I did not set out to examine the historical relationship between Satanism and Paganism as distinct concepts, and on Twitter I promised that I would write about this in its own article. What you’re about to read is exactly that article. I set out here to examine the relationship between Paganism and the various historical representations of Satanism, with of course the aim of supporting the overall project of my Satanic Paganism.
Before we start, I should take the time to note that as a historical treatment this will mean addressing a messy, problematic history fraught with reactionary tendencies. Unfortunately there was a time where folkism was not challenged to the extent that it arguably is now, and the history of occulture is not without the presence of the far-right to some extent or another. As such, going through the history that I mean to explore means exploring a history that includes some truly odious actors who just happen to have made a mark. Another thing worth stressing right away and which will be repeated going forward is that the instances of intersection that I present do not constitute proof that Satanism is itself a form of Paganism. It merely demonstrates the interaction between Satanism and Paganism to the extent that, although they are distinct religious worldviews that can each be defined on their own terms, the two are not as neatly separated as both parties present them to be.
We can start, rather appropriately, with Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Unless we count the “Sathanists”, Przybyszewski is easily the first person to actually refer to himself as a Satanist and espouse Satanism. As I have already established in my commentaries on his essay The Synagogue of Satan (see Part 1 and Part 2), Przybyszewski links his own Satanism to a certain idea of Paganism which he calls “the heathen cult”, which he regards as the original historical phase of Satan’s church. Przybyszewski repeatedly links his Satanism, his Satan, his Witch, and his “sabbat” to themes from pre-Christian religion. Here Satan appears as the gods Thoth, Hecate, and Pan, and through him Apollo and Aphrodite (as well as the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda for some reason), and is also worshipped as a Phallus. People tasted “the holy joys of Pan” before Christianity arrived, whereupon the temples of the gods were desecrated and their priestesses reviled. The “heathen cult” in Przybyszewski’s narrative is essentially a mixture of polytheistic nature worship and orgiastic libertinism. His pagans lived in and with nature, and the demons dwelled in the forests, grottoes, and caves and gathered worshippers in orgiastic rites. Even as the church came to dominate Europe, the “heathen cult” still lurked beneath the Christian order which gradually conceded to its rites. The Witch, and the demonic femininity that Przybyszewski associates with Satan, descends from a lineage of pre-Christian goddesses and demons, and his “sabbat” is ostensibly a descendant of the orgiastic mysteries of Cybele. Although Przybyszewski never references Dionysus or his mysteries, he does describe the worship reserved for the “Black God” and aspects of the “sabbat” in ways that invoke the Bacchanlias and the classical mysteries of Dionysus.
Moving onto “modern Satanism”, Anton LaVey may have defined his form of Satanism as rather highly distinct from Paganism as we understand it, but he does nonetheless rely on pre-Christian references for his infernal pantheon, and they do sort of figure in his communication of Satanism. The Satanic Bible opens with a declaration of “the gods of the right hand path” bickering with each other becoming devils, while the Norse god Loki “sets Valhalla aflame” with “the searing trident of Inferno” and Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, proclaims the dawn of the age of Satan. LaVey also appealed to a very flawed etymological argument in which the word “Devil” is purported to come from the Sanksrit word “Devi”, which in fact it doesn’t. Insofar as he held Satan to be the patron of Man’s carnal nature, he said that before the arrival of Christianity this was governed by the gods Dionysus and Pan, from whom the medieval Satan got his appearance. The “Infernal Names” comprises not only Satan and his menageries of devils but also pre-Christian gods and spirits who LaVey sometimes identifies as “devils”. These gods include Cizin (listed as “Ahpuch”), Ba’al-berith, Bastet (listed as “Bast”), Bilé, Chemosh, Dagon, Damballa, Enma-O (listed as “Emma-O”), Fenrir (listed as “Fenriz”), Eurynomos (listed as “Euronymous”, from which we get Mayhem’s Euronymous), Hecate, Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Jormungandr (listed as “Midgard”), Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto (but not Hades, apparently), Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (listed as “Thamuz”), Typhon, Xipe Totec (listed as “Yaotzin”) and Yama (referred to by his Japanese and Chinese counterparts “O-Yama”, “Emma-O” or “Yen-lo Wang”). These names are meant to be invoked in the course of a Satanic ritual, as though you are calling upon them for your craft, and so in this sense some of the gods theoretically join the LaVeyan Satanist in their praxis, though the LaVeyan rather definitely does not believe in those gods. It should go without saying that this dynamic has noticeable flaws; among them, the rather atrocious idea of listing Native American spirits such as Coyote as “devils”.
The Church of Satan in general tends to reject any and all suggestion of alignment with neo-paganism, on the grounds that Paganism is a “supernatural” religion. Nonetheless, besides invoking many of the same gods they refuse to actually worship into their rituals, the Church of Satan is content to mark the solstices and equinoxes as holidays. As a similarly atheistic Satanic organisation (or at least they avowedly present themselves as Satanists), The Satanic Temple marks not only the solstices and equinoxes but also go much further in appropriating and retooling whole pre-Christian festivities as their own religious holidays. Two in particular are Lupercalia, a Roman festival which TST brands as a “celebration of bodily autonomy, sexual liberation, and reproduction”, and Sol Invictus, named for the Roman god which TST brands as a “Celebration of being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge” (now if only TST didn’t try suing people for doing the same thing!). While it’s not listed on their holidays page, members and chapters also claim to celebrate Saturnalia, the pre-Christian Roman celebration of the winter solstice. Indeed, The Satanic Temple actually argues that Satanic holidays come from a tradition long-predating TST, seemingly suggesting a claim to some sort of pre-Christian heritage. In TST’s case, this is unfortunately not much more than an act of cultural appropriation, and fitting for TST there are problems with its interpretation.
TST interprets Lupercalia as basically a BDSM sex orgy day built around celebrating bodily autonomy, sexual freedom, asexual awareness, and mock sacrifices. I wish! The actual Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to a sort of orgiastic worship of Pan Lycaeus or Apollo Lycaeus, but this involved the ritual sacrifice of a goat and a dog followed by a sacrificial feast. This was then followed by two young noble males receiving a sword dipped in blood a running around the Palatine in which participants run naked with thongs made from the flayed skins of the sacrificed animals. These thongs were used to whip people, women would sometimes get themselves whipped believe that this would ritually induce fertility, before returning to the Lupercal cave. As kinky as some of this must sound, the actual point was that it was a festival of attrition meant so that the gods would ensure the fertility of crops, and if all didn’t go well famine and disease would follow. As for Sol Invictus, TST interprets Sol Invictus as basically the Roman version of Christmas. This is in some sense the product of a popular myth regarding the origin of Christmas as we know it. As Andrew Mark Henry points out, early Christians landed on December 25th by calculating the date of Jesus’ birth backwards from the supposed date of his crucifixion and death, which was assumed to be March 25th – this, incidentally, was the same day on which pre-Christian Romans celebrated the vernal equinox. Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th, but only as far back as the year 354 under the emperor Aurelian, after Christianity had already emerged. Both Christians and Pagans celebrated December 25th because of its broader cosmological significance via the winter solstice, for which they respectively imparted very different religious meanings.
Returning to the subject of the Church of Satan, individual members tend to present their own intersections with modern Paganism. One example is Michael J. Moynihan, who is a musician who founded the neofolk band Blood Axis and otherwise a notable folkist fascist. Moynihan is a member and in fact a Reverend of the Church of Satan, but he has also been consistently affiliated with folkist forms of Heathenry. Since 1994 Moynihan was a member of a folkist Asatru collective called Wulfing Kindred, which was itself affiliated with the Asatru Folk Assembly until 1999, is friends with the AFA’s founder Stephen McNallen and sometimes joined him on stage with his band Changes, and is the editor of a “Radical Traditionalist” journal called Tyr, which is obviously named after the Germanic/Norse god Tyr and, sure enough, argues in defence of pre-modern and specifically pre-Christian societal institutions and a return to pre-Christian (typically Germanic) religion in the context of reactionary traditionalist ideology. One of the other fascists in the Church of Satan, a man named Kenaz Filan, is also a folkist pagan/polytheist who writes books about Paganism (in between grotesquely racist troll-posting, I assume) and has ties to other folkist polytheists such as Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera. This, of course, is all different shades of problematic on its own due precisely due to the fascistic folkism of the parties involved. Though, I would insist that this says more about the institutional fascism of the Church of Satan than anything else. Having said that, it’s actually somewhat ironic that the organisation which insists that Pagans, polytheists, or really any theist cannot be Satanists because they claim that Satanism is a strictly atheistic philosophy is nonetheless quite happy to have said people in their ranks as Satanists by virtue of being Church of Satan members. Of course, I assume that the Church of Satan only makes those allowances out of some shared affinity with fascism.
An important examination of the intersections between Satanism and Paganism comes from Between the Devil and the Old Gods: Pagan and Satanic Milieus, an essay written by Ethan Doyle White for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. White argues that both Satanism and Paganism can be regarded as milieus within the broader movement of occulture, occultism, and alternative religion, and which actually intersect with each other rather than existing as completely distinct milieus. To study the extent to which the boundaries between Paganism and Satanism are blurred, White examines Wicca and what he considers to be elements of Satanism within it, as well as the Temple of Set and Order of Nine Angles.
In analysing Wicca, White points out that a few elements that he believes are consistent with Satanism. Perhaps the main such element is the presence of Lucifer, who is traditionally regarded as distinct from Satan but in practice carries in himself aspects of a “satanic” identity. Lucifer is the name that figures like Doreen Valiente and Alexander Sanders profess to be the name of the enigmatic Horned God of Wicca, an association that is likely inherited from Charles Lelands romantic-mythological account of Italian pagan witchcraft. The Horned God is not meant to be identical with the Devil, but the idea of an ancient horned god worshipped by witches dovetails rather nicely with traditional depictions of the Devil. Also noted by White is the inclusion of fallen angels such as Azazel (a.k.a. “Azael”) and Naamah as gods of witchcraft alongside gods like Cernunnos or Habundia in Paul Hason’s Mastering Witchcraft, which, while not really a “Wiccan text”, is part of the background of modern British witchcraft of which Wicca is a part. A much more obscure French sect of Wicca, known as Wicca Francaise (a.k.a. “Wicca International Witchcraft”), is purported to have taken Gerald Gardner’s basic system of Wicca and mixed it up with not only the Lucifer mythos but also a set of rituals that they interpreted as “Anglo-Saxon Satanist” rituals or the supposed “black mass”.
As regards the Temple of Set, there are many elements White considers that are not limited to the central role of the Egyptian god Set. Michael Aquino’s The Book of Coming Forth by Night declares that Set is the “ageless Intelligence of the Universe”, who only allowed himself to be called Satan because it meant that he might be perceived by humans. This premise itself establishes the Temple of Set as a Satanist organization in that it is consciously directed in alignment with an entity that is recognized as Satan by a different name, and indeed they still represented themselves with the inverted pentagram emblematic of Satanism. Indeed, Aquino expressly regarded the identity of Set as a way to fully divorce Satanism from the baggage of Christianity. Predictably, the identity of Set and the links to ancient Egyptian religion, to the point that the title of Aquino’s book is itself a play on the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (which was also called The Book of Coming Forth by Day), would seem to link it to the context of modern Paganism, though this does not come without explicit boundaries as set by the Temple. That said, some members considered themselves to be practitioners of Satanism that was merely “hued” in the fashion of ancient Egyptian religions, while others earnestly believed that they were practicing the return of an ancient pre-Christian religion, and still others considered the Temple of Set to represent an entirely new vision. Indeed, many Setian Satanists would vehemently reject the label of “Pagan” on the grounds that they see themselves as “consciousness-worshipping”, in the sense of individual self-consciousness, and view Paganism as “nature-worship”, which they reject. While I see no need to label Setian Satanists as Pagans, the point is to explore intersections with Paganism, not outright identification with Paganism.
The connections to pre-Christian polytheism are not merely aesthetic, and can instead be felt in the doctrine and praxis of the Temple of Set. In Aquino’s book Black Magic, which is presented as sort of a manifesto of the Temple’s doctrine, there are several historical discussions ancient Egyptian religion buttressed by references to existing scholarship on Egyptology. Indeed, Black Magic opens with the statement that the Temple of Set is premise upon the apprehension of the “neteru” (or “neter”), which seems be referring to the gods, as well as Set in particular as the principal agent of individual self-consciousness. The Temple of Set is presented as a return to “the original, undistorted apprehension of Set”, which presumably also applies to the neteru as well who Aquino says were active controllers of the universe and present within it. This may also pertain to a supposed original cult of Set, which was then erased by the cult of Osiris that they say prevailed in the Egyptian establishment. Outside of this, White refers to the fact that the Temple of Set also established an inner esoteric order known as the Order of the Trapezoid, which ostensibly focuses itself on Germanic magical tradition. Unfortunately, this Order’s efforts take on a volkisch, indeed rather fascistic, character inherited from Aquino’s fascination with Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which itself was ostensibly obsessed with uncovering ancient Germanic history. It is worth noting that the Ahnenerbe cannot be counted as some link to Paganism, since Himmler expressly stated that you had to believe in God in order to join the SS. The Order of the Trapezoid professes its aim as to “extract the positive, exalted, and Romantic from the Germanic magical tradition” while removing all of the negative aspects linked to Nazism. In essence, it’s an attempt to rehabilitate German volkisch esotericism. Linked to this is a man named Edred Thorsson, otherwise known as Stephen Flowers, who was inspired by the Order’s efforts and joined the Temple of Set while also being a Heathen and active within the Heathen community. When this became public knowledge, other Heathens at the time condemned him for his association with Satanism.
When discussing the Order of Nine Angles, White points out that the writings of the founder David Myatt (or “Anton Long”) suggest the influence of older (presumably long-dead and now obscure if they were real) organisations. One of them, referred to as either “Camlad” or “Rouwyntha”, has been described as an “aural pagan esoteric tradition” supposedly found only in a few parts of England and Wales, specifically remote rural enclaves within Shropshire, Herefordshire, Sir Faesyfed (a.k.a. Radnorshire), and Sir Drefaldwyn (a.k.a. Montgomeryshire). White further points out that O9A writings often posit their brand of Satanism (frequently dubbed “Traditional Satanism”) as being descended from the depths of pre-Christian antiquity, taught for centuries from “Master”/”Mistress” to pupils and springing out from the area around Stonehenge since the year 7,000 BP at the oldest. Ancient stone circles in England were supposed to be aligned with the star Antares, which the O9A presents as being linked to Baphomet, who they present as a violent pre-Christian goddess who was worshipped with human sacrifice. This is then presented as an unbroken tradition whose survival stretched from the Neolithic era into the present, with “Western Civilization” thus containing an inherent “pagan” essence despite being “corrupted” by the “Magian” and “Nazarene” influence of Judaism, Christianity, and really everything that the O9A doesn’t like about modern society. Other conscious derivations from Pagan sources include the frequent use of the word “wyrd”, borrowed from Heathenry, and according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke the O9A sometimes emphasizes ceremonies performed during equinoxes or solstices and various practices meant to cultivate a sense of rootedness in “English nature” or “native tradition”, which of course is very obviously suggestive of a particularly folkist interpretation of Paganism. Moreover, as noted by Goodrick-Clarke, there were several spin-off groups scattered in “the West” that sought to combine O9A doctrine with existing neopagan movements such as Heathenry. Suffice to say, out of the three case studies White presents it would seem that the O9A is where the intersection is more pronounced.
To be sure, none of this intersection erases the differences between Satanism and Paganism, their distinction, or the enmity between certain practitioners. As White notes earlier in his essay, Pagans have, especially in the past, carefully and strictly defined themselves separately from Satanists – a move partially motivated by the fear of being cast as religious criminals by Christians. Many Satanists have, almost in turn, sometimes trafficked in their own brand of anti-Pagan rhetoric, branding modern Pagans as “soft”, “white light”, or “white witchcraft”. And, of course, both Pagans and Satanists have often taken turns accusing each other of failing to fully transcend the baggage of Christian morality in various ways. And yet, according to White, it is not actually not so common for Satanists to insist on hard differentiation from modern Pagans; White attributes this to a clear antinomian stance among Satanists through which they reject the desire to not be seen as a bogeyman.
Another examination can be found in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, specifically a section written by Fredrik Gregorius which discusses “Luciferian Witchcraft”. Here, Gregorius uses the term “Luciferian” loosely to mean groups that center around Lucifer as taking on a generally positive role defined typically by a neopagan context, but stresses that there really is no clear separation between Satanism and Luciferianism and argues that even the latter hinges on what is still a post-Christian interpretation of the figure of Satan. With that established, we can note for starters the Clan of Tubal-Cain started by Robert Cochrane, centered around the Biblical figure of Cain who murdered Abel in revenge for God’s favouring Abel over him. In the work of Shani Oates, current Maid of Tubal-Cain, Lucifer is given a greater focus and, possibly following Michael Howard, is re-interpreted as a “Gnostic” divine presence incarnated in flesh and matter and which motivates the evolution of humanity. Andrew Chumbley, while dismissing any identity between Lucifer and Satan, nonetheless depicts Lucifer and the fellow gods of witchcraft in a very satanic or diabolical light. Chumbley presents his craft as the continuation of a pre-Christian tradition referred to as the “Sabbatic Craft”, and in the context of his belief system Satan, if we can speak of Satan, can be interpreted as the “Man in Black” (or Al-Aswad), who Chumbley referrs to as “The Daemon”, Shaitan, The Adversary, or “The Reverse One”, who is the Lord of the Sabbat and embodies Death as “the Gateway to the Other”, meaning the liminal inbetweenesss betwixt every stasis of being. Lilith, of course is the bride of Shaitan/”The Man in Black”. Michael Howard rejected any identity with Satanism, and aside from his neo-Gnostic views he tends to couch Lucifer in a neopagan context by framing Lucifer as an older deity who in turn incarnates as several pagan gods. Nonetheless, his Lucifer is also identified with Samael, or “Zamael”, and his books have often been adorned with quasi-satanic imagery, goat heads and all. In fact, Howard’s last book, the posthumously released The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism, is adorned with inverted pentagram imagery that would be very consistent with Satanic aesthetics. This is similarly true for Gemma Gary’s The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One, where the Devil venerated by the witches is theoretically distinguished from Satan, presented as a pagan god taking on the names of multiple pagan gods (such as Herne, Woden, or Odin) alongside the names Lucifer or Azazel as part of a pre-Christian tradition of witchcraft, though not necessarily a pure unbroken survival thereof.
Michael W. Ford is a particularly illustrative case where the exact boundaries between Satanism and “Luciferianism” are, despite insistence, practically non-existent, and where Satanism may intersect and syncretize with Paganism. Although Ford likes to formally define Luciferianism as distinct from Satanism and although he tends to reject the idea of a conscious Satan that inspires humans to revolt (preferring a more symbolic interpretation), in practice he tends to repeatedly identify Lucifer with Satan via the identity of the Adversary. Books such as Liber HVHI are meant as “a path to Ahriman, or Satan as it is called in the west”, though with the aim of becoming a manifestation of Satan rather than worshipping Satan, while explicitly identifying Lucifer with Satan. This identification also occurs in Luciferian Witchcraft, Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim, and Wisdom of Eosphoros. Ford takes many philosophical cues from Satanism in its various manifesations and, of course, the imagery that Ford employs in all of his works is perfectly consistent with Satanic aesthetics. Meanwhile, Ford also argues that his system of Satanism/Luciferianism is based in a pre-Christian religion and incorporates magickal workings with various pre-Christian gods. In Wisdom of Eosphoros, Ford positions Lucifer/Satan as originally a pre-Christian deity or complex of pre-Christian deities such as Ishtar or Chemosh, and argues for the existence of an ancient pre-Christian tradition of self-deification based on the Hellenistic ruler cult and the worship of gods such as Baal-Shamem or Melqart or more specifically the identification with these gods by the king of Tyre. In Adversarial Light we are presented with a whole descending diagram of systems that Ford purports to have influenced the development of his “Luciferianism”, the oldest of which include Greek Theurgy, Babylonian sorcery, and the Egyptian cult of Set. In some of his books, like Magick of the Ancient Gods, Ford goes out of his way in interpreting basically whole pre-Christian pantheons of gods, particularly the Hellenic pantheon, on the terms of his Satanic/”Luciferian” belief system.
Two more obscure figures in British witchcraft also present interesting areas of intersection between Satanism and Paganism. One of them is a figure who Michael W. Ford takes as a source for his own system: Charles Matthew Pace (a.k.a. “Hamar’at”). Pace apparently referred to himself as a Luciferian, a Satanist, and a “Sethanist” simultaneously, and centered his belief system around the worship of a god named “Seth-an” which he identified with Lucifer. Pace frames his belief system as a continuation of a pre-Christian tradition and goes out of his way to reject all “Abrahamic” contexts even to the point of explicitly denouncing Kabbalah, but the context of Pace’s belief system is not wholly separable from Satanism. Though Pace preferred the label “Luciferian” the most, the identity of Lucifer with “Seth-an” arguably presents an idenity with Satan. According to Pace, Seth-an was originally a human king who went against the Egyptian establishment in some way, and attained the status of “Adversary” because he was the patron god of the Hyksos dynasty. It is possibly to argue that “Seth-an” is simply a way of referring to Satan on ostensibly Pagan terms, and so Luciferian and Satanist for Pace are interchangeable. Another case I refer to is Alastair Robert Clay-Egerton, who was a member of an obscure group called Templi Satanas Luciferi (or “Temple of Satan the Light-Bearer”), which is claimed to be a forerunner to the modern Tubal-Cain tradition. In Clay-Egerton’s doctrine, Lucifer appears to be the main focus, but Lucifer is also identified as Satan as the “Lord of this World”, and although Clay-Egerton generally preferred the term Luciferian to describe members of Templi Satanas Luciferi, he also accepted the use of the term Satanist interchangeably with Luciferian on the grounds that Luciferians are adversaries of those who promote intolerance, despoil the earth, destroy life, and twist the teachings of “Emmanuel bar Joseph” (or “Emmanuel of Nazareth”, seemingly a reference to Jesus). Lucifer is also identified as the “male principle” of the world, who is paired with a female principle referred to as the “Great Mother” or “Mother Goddess”, which seems to be an obvious echo of Wiccan doctrine, and he lays a great stress on how Man should live in harmony with the earth and in accordance with nature, while lauding the supposed cult of the Great Mother and lamenting its suppression by Christianity. Clay-Egerton also considers the idea that “Emmanuel of Nazareth” is another name for the Light-Bearer and so is “Satan-Lucifer” as well as the gods Cernunnos, Pan, Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, and Horus.
Outside of witchcraft, a very old and also obscure example I am keen to point to is Carl William Hansen, otherwise known as Ben Kadosh. He referred to himself as a Luciferian, not a Satanist. Yet, he employs the iconography of Satanism including the inverted pentagram to represent his belief system aesthetically, and accepts Satan as another name for both Lucifer and Pan, who are both interchangeable in Hansen’s system. But Lucifer is not only identical with Pan and Satan, he is also identified with a number of pre-Christian gods, namely Jupiter, Zeus, Venus, Marduk, Tyr, and Hermes. Lucifer is also interpreted as an “esoteric outer” of Pan, who can be taken as representative of the originary principle of darkness. Pan in turn was also identified with Jupiter as well as Kronon. Not only are there several identifications involving pagan Gods, Hansen frames his belief system as essentially a revivial of the old pre-Christian cult of Pan, and his 1906 pamphlet The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or as I call it Lucifer-Hiram) with the Orphic Hymn to Pan and proclamations of the return of the ancient cult. So while Hansen did not call himself a Pagan, his own belief system takes up a decidedly Pagan narrative.
Returning to the subject of witchcraft, Gregorius notes that, in Charles Leland’s Aradia, there is an invocation that implicitly positions Lucifer as the Devil, despite him functioning as a pagan deity in the overall text. Lucifer is referred to as the “most evil of all spirits” who “once reigned in hell when driven away from heaven”. Much of Aradia‘s presentation still has very little to do with the Christian myths, and he is still generally treated as a pagan deity and identified with the god Apollo, but the Fall from Heaven and the motive of pride is still referenced in its characterization of Lucifer. On this basis it is possible that Leland’s Lucifer can be interpreted as both a Devil and a pagan god and thus embodying the intersection. Then again, as Gregorius also points out, Aradia‘s overall narrative is highly inconsistent. Cain, for instance, as both imprisoned beneath the earth and as the Sun, while Lucifer himself seems to be both a god of the sun and the moon even though his consort Diana is also goddess of the moon.
If there is anywhere in Satanism where intersection with modern Paganism is strongest, it is in none other than the broad current we call Theistic Satanism. Theistic Satanism is generally overlooked in mainstream and even academic discussions of Satanism, who ultimately prefer to focus on the most visible Satanic organisations which often tend towards atheism. Nonetheless, despite the popular claim that Satanism is strictly an atheist philosophy, there are several expressions of Theistic Satanism in the modern world, and they are in no way less Satanic than movements like the Church of Satan are. There tend to be many intersections with pre-Christian polytheism within Theistic Satanism, at least in practice, as reflected in both various approaches to the veneration of demons and the veneration of or working with pre-Christian gods alongside demons. As just an anecdotal example, I remember back in 2015 being friends with a Theistic Satanist who also claimed to work with or venerate the Babylonian god Marduk. In the scene I was in or adjacent to, a certain sense of identification with or interest in pagan gods was commonplace even if we didn’t regard ourselves as Pagans. It is also not uncommon for some Theistic Satanists to regard Satan as a Christian caricature a pre-Christian deity who they believe was worshipped under other names, and sometimes identify Satan with gods such as Pan, Set, Shiva, Prometheus, or in some cases Enki.
The old Ophite Cultus Sathanas (or, the Our Lady of Endor Coven), founded by Herbert Arthur Sloane, was probably influenced by the Neopaganism that was developing in his time. Sloane believed in a Horned God and apparently had a vision of said horned god in the woods at a young age, and then after reading Margaret Murray’s The God of the Witches he decided that this god was Satan (or Sathanas) and worshipped him as such thereafter. However Sloane did not regard Satan as a fertility god, viewed witches who worshipped him as a fertility god as being misled, and instead viewed Satan as an agent of the “true God”. In this sense Sloane was definitely influenced by Neopaganism but ultimately rejected identification with it. Diane Vera has described herself as a Polytheistic Satanist and her organisation, the Church of Azazel, worships Satan-Azazel as their main god alongside Lilith and the gods Pan, Ishtar, Prometheus, and Sophia (as Lucifer). The Church of Azazel believes in the existence of multiple gods as distinct entities and accepts the veneration of other gods alongside their main pantheon, and so expressly aligns itself with “hard polytheism” and the reconstructionist movement. Here, then, Paganism is not identified as Theistic Satanism but intersects with it in Vera’s doctrine. The Cathedral of the Black Goat, which was founded by Brother Myrmydon and Sister Nephtys and also serves as basically a war metal festival, tends to accept some pre-Christian deities such as Set and Kali as representations of Satan. In my article about Satanic Panic in the context of the Ukraine-Russia War, I discussed a Ukrainian Theistic Satanist group called Bozhichi, which worshipped Satan and also includes the worship of pagan gods and the practice of a form of magic called Veretnichestvo.
A more contemporary group called the First Church of the Morningstar, is a Theistic Satanist group (and an anarchist one at that!) whose membership also includes Chaos Magicians, “Luciferians”, Thelemites, Discordians, and Pagans, and on their website they list a series of pre-Christian gods that they venerate alongside Satan and the host of Hell. These gods include Enki, Ereshkigal, Pan, Inanna, Prometheus, Eris Discordia, Set, Thoth, Eros, Hades, Persephone, Hecate, Aphrodite, Sekhmet, and Isis. It also includes gods from the Thelemite pantheon, namely Babalon, Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Kuit, as well as Greek mythological women who weren’t historically considered goddesses, namely Pandora and Ariadne. It is worth noting the founder, Johnny Truant, regards Paganism as distinct from Satanism on the grounds of what he sees as Paganism’s orientation towards ecology and nature worship, so on those terms we could not regard the First Church of the Morningstar as a syncretic Satanic-Pagan organization solely because of the inclusion of multiple gods. Though again, the point is intersection, not identification, and there is a noticeable intersection in any case.
I consider the subject of Demonolatry to be related in that it does contain within itself what is in essence a Theistic Satanist doctrine. Practitioners of Demonolatry may, as do many of the Satanists already discussed, refuse the label of “Pagan” for themselves, but the point here is not to graft that onto them anyway and instead more to discuss intersections. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, she argues that her tradition of Demonolatry is built on Hermetic teachings originating in ancient Egypt and that many of the demons worshipped in Demonolatry are pagan gods. The “Demon Directory” gives us a whole list of demons, which includes pre-Christian gods that are sometimes categorized as “devils”. These gods include Adad, Cizin (once again listed as “Ahpuch”), Amun (as “Ammon”), Ashtaroth, Astarte, Baal, Baalberith, Bastet (again as “Bast”), Bile, Charon, Dagon, Enma-O (again as “Emma-O”, “O’Yama”, and “Yan-lo-Wang”), Eurynomos, Hecate, Hel (as “Hela”), Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto, Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Succoth-benoth (as “Succorbenoth”), Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (again as “Thamuz”), Thoth, Typhon, and Xipe Totec (again as “Yaotzin”). Many of these are the same as the “Infernal Names” listed in the Satanic Bible. The timeline of the history of Demonolatry seems to begin at 3000 BC, with the supposed date of the writing of the Hermetica and Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Canaanite, Semitic, and Amorite polytheism as the foundations of Demonolatry, thus we are presented with pre-Christian Paganism as the purported origin of Demonolatry. A section titled “The Hermetica – The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs” outlines a sort of pantheistic theology Man and the cosmos are one with the deity Atum, and how on this basis Man takes on the attributes of the gods as if he were one of them and knows the gods because they spring from the same source as Man. Connolly interprets this as a doctrine of self-worship or self-deification, arguing on this basis that the pre-Christian ancient Egyptians were the first practitioners of the (Western) Left Hand Path, and, most crucially, her version of this doctrine replaces Atum with Satan, thus positing Satan as the god of the cosmos or the All. Thus in Connolly’s system of Demonolatry (at least, and I must stress hers is probably not the only one).
It is to be stressed again that this does not necessarily make Demonolatry a “pagan religion” or a form of Paganism necessarily if strictly by its own consideration. For its practitioners, Demonolatry is separate from Paganism on the basis that Paganism is defined in terms of its nature-centeredness, which is not necessarily shared by Demonolatry. That’s not necessarily saying that Demonolatry is “anti-Pagan”, and certainly not in light of the intersections with Paganism that have already been established, but practitioners often find the label of “Pagan” to be something externally imposed on them rather than something that they consciously embrace.
When it comes to Anti-Cosmic Satanism, the intersections with Paganism are generally very minimal, if they exist at all, although I suppose if one wanted to stretch the subject one might examine the extent to which Anti-Cosmic Satanists draw from the syncretic Latin American and Afro-Caribbean religious traditions, which are often polytheistic albeit generally not identified as “Pagan”. According to Benjamin Hodge Olson in his essay At the Threshold of the Inverted Womb: Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Radical Freedom, this influence is particularly evident in Templum Falcis Cruentis and the writing of N.A-A.218. Beyond this, the tendency to identify Satan with various “adversarial gods” and the re-interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth is about the faintest link standard fare Anti-Cosmic Satanism has with Paganism, and it’s not much. There is, however, an example of outright syncretism between Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Paganism in the form of Thursatru, a modern brand of Heathenry that is based almost entirely on Anti-Cosmic Satanist doctrine remodelled in the contest of Norse mythology. Thursatru takes the Anti-Cosmic narrative and interprets Odin, the king of the Aesir, as the Demiurge and therefore identical to Yahweh and Marduk, and therefore the cosmic oppressor, while aligning with a clan of giants called the Thursar in order to . Thursatru is sometimes regarded as another name for Rokkatru, another modern branch of Heathenry with a notably adversarial alignment, but they are not to be confused. As I understand it, Thursatru is based entirely in the current of Anti-Cosmic Satanism and is exclusively dedicated to the worship of the Thursas and opposes the worship of all other Norse gods, whereas Rokkatru is ultimately still based in Heathenry but, insofar as it is influenced by Satanism, tends to take influences from different forms of Satanism, and while Rokkatru focuses itself on the worship of the jotnar or the gods who are considered “rokkr” (of the twilight, relevant to the commencement of Ragnarok), it seems to me that many contemporary Rokkatruar are generally not opposed to the worship of other Norse/Germanic gods. In my opinion, if there is to be any comparison between Thursatru and Rokkatru, I would regard Rokkatru as much more consistently Pagan. That said, however, both Thursatru and Rokkatru could be regarded as points of syncretic intersection involving Satanism and Paganism to varying extents.
If we count certain pre-modern individual cases of apparent devil worship as individual professions of “Satanism” in a loose sense, I think it’s worth looking at Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party again for a fascinating instance of Satan worship intersecting with pre-Christian beliefs. Faxneld notes that, in medieval Sweden, there were individuals who, as outlaws, are at least attested to have worshipped Satan as their patron. This includes a man named Tideman Hemmingsson, a notorious outlaw who lived in the forest and allegedly made a pact with Satan and a forest nymph (or “skosgraet”) to grant him luck in hunting and enable him to shoot as much game as he wanted. Hemmingsson wasn’t alone; two other men, Hakan Jonsson made a similar pact, and much later a fisherman named Mickel Kalkstrom claimed to have made a pact with the Devil to catch as much fish as he wanted. According to Faxneld, these pacts intersected with a surviving folk belief in nature spirits, presumably more consistent with pre-Christian religion. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, it was believed that spirits, such as nymphs, lived in the woods, trees, rivers, and/or lakes, and could either bring good fortune and endanger people in some way. One could think of it as a kind of animism in the context of folk beliefs. The wilderness was the home of spirits and nymphs, which were then recast as demons in the eyes of Christianity, and so in Christian demonology the wilderness was also a kind of “inverted world” and a “gateway to demonic powers”. Satan, then, became seen as the ruler of the wilderness, the space outside the law of Christian civilization, to whom, according to Faxneld, some Swedish outlaws turned to as their patron and their god.
In the final hand, we should conclude that Satanism and modern Paganism tend to intersect with one another, but also note that Paganism can and has intersected with other religious movements. Ethan Doyle White notes that there are ways in which Paganism has also intersected with “Abrahamic” religions, or at least particularly Christianity. As an example, White points out that Maltese Pagans tend to observe both Pagan and Catholic ceremonies simultaneously, no doubt drawing on the deep influence of Roman Catholicism on social life in Malta. Another example White points to is the existence of Trinitarian Wicca, or Christian Wicca, which consciously blends Wicca with Christianity. I would count the Church of Light and Shadow as a similar example drawing on that example. More to the point, I would also point to the numerous pre-modern attestations of syncretism between pre-Christian polytheism and the then-new Christianity. This includes Vikings in Scandinavia praying to both the Christian God and to Norse gods such as Thor, the spells of the Greek Magical Papyri containing invocations of the names and angels of God and apparently even Jesus alongside the pre-Christian gods and spirits, Roman syncretism of Jesus and the god Sol or Helios, and the various syncretic Afro-Caribbean traditions that include Jesus and other Christian figures. Outside of Christianity, there have also been syncretic forms of Judaism and that blended Judaism with Paganism both in pre-Christian antiquity and in the modern era.
The point is that Paganism in itself can intersect with many different religious traditions, and in fact has demonstrated cases of syncretism with many different belief systems without much conflict with its overall core, even if it inevitably poses problems for the core of religions such as Christianity. The point is that this applies as well for the relationship between Paganism and Satanism, and that, on this basis, there is no reason to think of Satanism as entirely separable from Paganism. On this basis and other bases, syncretism, and my own project of Satanic Paganism, stands on solid ground. And yet, it is evident that the history of which I speak is not without problems. Satanism and Paganism intersect with each other in numerous ways, but, as we have shown, this can also include some rather reactionary doctrines. But, as we have seen, there is nothing indicating that either Satanism, Paganism, or their intersection or syncretism, necessarily must follow such paths.
Satanism and Paganism are not solely defined by their historical representation (yes, even though part of the essence of Paganism consists of revitalizing ideas from the past), but are defined both by generalized sets of core worldviews and the people who practice them in the here and now. I wonder if the latter fact is given as much consideration as it deserves. Satanic Paganism itself is ultimately an individual and rather idiosyncratic stance, one whose very label makes sense as a summary for that which cannot be contained dogmatically. That, and the knowledge of Pagan syncretism and Satanist-Pagan intersection, gives it its power.
This is the second half of my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan, based on the second chapter. The original plan was to simply write one single article covering the whole book. That plan seemed feasible, as the book itself was fairly short. But I had a lot to say about the book, its overall claims about Satanism and all attendant subjects, and the overall contours of Przybyszewski’s Satanic philosophy. So it ended up bloating until finally I had to split my commentary in two.
This second article covers the second chapter of The Synagogue of Satan, and covers Przybyszewski’s treatment of witchcraft, the “sabbat”, and the “black mass”, and with it the exposition of his own brand of Satanism that proceeds from this treatment. And, remember, it’s not possible to really take up Przybyszewski’s work as actual history, so what matters is what is said about Satanism.
Part 3: The Witch
The church of Satan is in full swing. The people agreed that everything which originates in evolution and owes its existence to procreation and generative activity belongs to Satan, the Prince of Darkness. We’re told that the Cathars, with sad resignation, acquiesed to this idea as well. The Christian church, for its part, had actually “Satanized” the world with its attacks on nature and instinct, while the refined ideas they created to salvage some sort of moral freedom were ignored by the people. The people had little to no regard for the sophisticated theories and sophistries that the church was busy crafting on the subject of evil, these were seen as some alienated and internal church affair. What interested them instead was the dualism between heavenly matter and infernal matter, that there was “Evil” per se, and that this “Evil” was in fact good. How “Evil” came to be was unimportant. People knew almost nothing about God, God’s son was abandoned by the theologians, and there was only one real religion in the world: the church of Satan.
Satan was the sole ruler of the world, and his demons flowed everywhere as they comprised an ocean of demons. Satan was no “ape of God”, but a god in his own right whose power reaches just as far as the “White God”. Satan taught people enter ecstatic states, produce stigmata, and even gave the saints the idea to “paralyze evil” through choc en retour. Satan alone is the father of life, propagation, evolution, and eternal return. By this, it is understood that “Evil” is good because life is “Evil”, and “Good” is therefore the negation of life, since it is the negation of its basis in passion. Satan is “positive”, eternal, and in itself. Satan is the god of the brain, and therefore governor of the realm of thoughts, from which the power to ceaselessly defy and remake the world derives its basis. In this power Satan inspires curiosity towards all things, which reveals the hidden things and unravels the runes of the night. Satan also inspires the daring to destroy even that which appears to make thousands of people happy so that something new and better might emerge instead. In other words, Satan embodies the negation embodied in active nihilism, which counsels the negation of the order of things as the sole source of new life. This nihilist’s negation is the drive for new conditions, spurred by “evil desires” whispered by Satan. Satan is continually persecuted, periodically vanquished, but he always emerges from his own ashes more powerful and beautiful than before. The Christian church tried to destroy Satan, only to be subverted and destroyed by Satan. Satan is unconquerable, and in his own way “conquers” everything. Satan is eternally evil, and the eternally evil is life.
Here Przybyszewski explores further the negativity of Satan as embodied in the contrary projection into the future. This is called a raging negation of negation, which I suppose we could take as negation unfolding from and upon itself. Another phrase he uses for this is “e pur si muove”, meaning “and yet it moves”, which is actually a famous phrase attributed to Galileo Galilei. I believe that this is not incidental. It is said that Galileo said this phrase after being forced by the church to recant his observation that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It is unclear whether Galileo actually uttered that phrase, and in fact the only actual sources for it come from after Galileo’s death, but what matters here is its contextual implications: namely, it embodies intellectual defiance of persecution and authority on behalf of one’s own revolution against the prevailing order of thought, and with it an inner freedom of thought that cannot be erased, even during incarceration. Unfortunately, however, Przybyszewski then goes on to refer to Christopher Columbus as an example of Satanically-inspired curiosity.
This is problematic for a number of reasons, among the most stark, for one thing, is the implication that it presents for colonialism and its attendant genocides. Though, of course, it might be argued that it is expected that men in The Enlightenment would countenance colonialism as a progressive world-historic force, though it does mean that poor Przybyszewski was not nihilist enough. Another problem might well be the fact that Christopher Columbus very probably didn’t “discover” America, or at least not before a certain band of Christianized Vikings got there first. Yet perhaps the biggest problem with framing Christopher Columbus as a paragon of Satanic curiosity is ultimately the fact that his expeditions were actually religious and missionary in purpose, on Christian terms. Columbus wrote in his journals about how he wanted to convert all the peoples of the world to Christianity and ultimately gather enough gold and other resources in order to allow Christian leaders to launch a new Crusade to retake Jerusalem from the control of Islamic empires, all under the belief that this would lead to the Second Coming of Jesus. Columbus was not contrarily projecting into the future to follow an irreducible quest for knowledge. Instead he was a missionary and proselyte of God and his son, seeking to fulfill God’s will on earth, eager for him to “save” the world. In other words, he was actually in many ways the opposite of Przybyszewski’s Satanic heroism.
That said, there are certainly better examples given by Przybyszewski. He cites the chemical sciences as owing their origin to “evil”, here meaning the curiosity of Satan. Remember that here the power of curiosity consists in its ability to remake the world, and so Przybyszewski says that in the name of Satan that Friedrich Nietzsche called for the re-evaluation of all values, that anarchists dreamed of the abolition of the state, and that the artist created works that could only be understood in secret. Nietzsche in particular is important to note, as he was arguably Przybyszewski’s favourite philosopher and certainly had a great influence on Przybyszewski’s thought. At one point, Przybyszewski might have fancied himself as one of the few to have grasped his work.
But, having waxed lyrical about “Evil”, what is the “Good” that opposes Satan? In a word, thoughtlessness. As Przybyszewski says, “Good” is Gregory the Great boasting of his ignorance and forbidding the study of grammar to clerics. Gregory, of course, made efforts to suppress pre-Christian literature, such as the works of Cicero and Livy, the latter of which he burned, because in his opinion they promoted idolatry and distracted people from the study of Christian scripture. “Good” is Francis of Assisi imitating the donkeys that stood and brayed around the manger of baby Jesus. “Good” is the surrender and/or abnegation of individual will in order to imitate God and/or his order/will. “Good” here obviously denies the work of Satan, to the point of denying evolution on the grounds of its origination with Satan; thus evolution in religious terms is heresy, in political terms is treason, and in terms of life is perversion, all punishable as crime. The summary of “Good” is ad maiorem Dei gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”), which incidentally was the motto of the Jesuits. I believe that on egoist terms the distinction between “Evil” and “God” is easily illuminated. Since “Evil” is meant to pertain to your own curiosity, nature, instinct, and of course lust, “Evil” thus connotes your own egoistic enterprises in their purity, without the disguise of a higher cause outside yourself. “Evil”, then, is your own undertaking for your own sake, albeit as borne of the universal egoism and negativity of Satan. “Good”, as “for the greater glory of God”, can be understood as the undertaking done on God’s behalf, so as to imitate God or his will, it is that which brings you closer to God, closer to being one with his will. But this means that “Good” is nothing more than the egoism of another that is then, under the spell of illusion, taken up as some higher purpose or greater good beyond yourself. Max Stirner elaborated in The Unique And Its Property that God’s cause is a purely egoistic one, just like all other causes. What is God’s cause? Does he make an alien cause for himself? God is love, truth, but that means he cannot promote them as alien causes, since he himself is them. Thus, God is an egoist, an Ownness or Einzige, like any other, whom Christianity and similar religions afford the status of the world’s only egoist – and of course, our business is to drag that falsehood away from him, expose it for the fraud that it is, and thus abolish the alienation of causes. Put simply, “Evil” is what you do for yourself”, “Good” is when you think you’re doing it for God or someone else. “Evil” is honest-to-goodness egoism, “Good” is self-denial. Per Stirner’s Critics we may make further sense of sin in this dynamic. Sin is a tendency towards your own interest, and its opposite is “sacred interest”, by which is only meant the alienation or “setting apart” of egoistic interest.
Przybyszewski’s Satan is a philosopher, even a demon, in short a god. That is his role as the father of the sciences which shine into the deepest secrets of human life, always melancholic because he must draw his circle anew after being destroyed by some fool. For this Satan is called “Samyasa”, or the fallen angel Samyaza, who Przybyszewski describes as the Father and the “mathematician”. As the patron of the secret sciences, Satan was purportedly only accessible to the few to whom he revealed his mysteries, thus Przybyszewski refers to him as a “dark aristocrat”. This in some ways presents a contradiction. On the one hand, Satan reveals mysteries only to a few individuals (including, for some reason, Christian occultists such as John Dee or Christian alchemists such as Paracelsus). On the other hand, Satan whispers his doubts to the whole masses, and receives worship from and fulfills the desires of the people. He is too universal to truly be exclusive, but I suppose when dealing with the secret sciences, there are only a few people who can receive them. Still, the secret sciences are not preached. They must be accessed by those who want to pursue them and who can understand them, and not many people can claim to that. According to Przybyszewski, Satan could only be conjured by the “most powerful”, presumably meaning magically powerful, while he sent his demon servants across the land to ingite human passions, sowing the baser instincts of humans and cultivating their pride and arrogance, in order to awaken the beast within.
And so we come to what Przybyszewski calls the sole principle of Satanism: a rebours. This French phrase, in English, means “backwards” or “going against the grain”, and for Przybyszewski it meant the reversal of all values sanctified by law and order. The phrase a rebours is also the title of a book written by the French decadent author Joris-Karl Huysmans; his famous book of the same name, whose title is translated in English as “Against Nature”, published in 1884, follows the story of a French aristocrat who, disgusted by his current life, retreats from Paris to lead alife of luxury, excess, and intellectual and aesthetic contemplation that ultimately leaves him physically ill and alienated from human society. Elsewhere, Huysmans described Satanism as essentially based on Catholic principles “followed in reverse (a rebours)”, which is reflected in his depiction of the Satanic Mass in his novel La Bas in which a Satanic priest holds consecrated hosts upside down and generally performs an inverted Catholic ritual. The principle of a rebours is also linked to Friedrich Nietzsche, Przybyszewski’s favourite philosopher, a link that I am quite certain comes about through Nietzsche’s concept of the transvaluation (or re-evaluation) of values, which, because of its diametrical conflict with Christianity, must seem like its forthright reversal. Indeed, there is a suppressed passage from Nietzsche’s The Antichrist which calls for the transvaluation of value, whereby the divine becomes criminal, thus we see reversal, a rebours. In any case the principle and act of reversal, a rebours, constitutes a subversive negation, the art of turning against, negating, destroying the order of things in the totality of normative and social conditions in order that something new may emerge in the place of their destruction.
The servants of Satan, or “Satan-Samyasa”, came to earth and made themselves masters there, while Satan as Lucifer, the bringer of light and “Paraclete” of humanity, practiced black magick in locked laboratories with magicians. At this time, the people remained “heathen” in their hearts, and they were also desperate to the point of madness. They hated Christianity and they hated Jesus, who promised salvation and left them only torments, but most of all they hated the church, that empty edifice who extorted every penny from the peasant and every acre of land from the nobles. They also hated the bishops who accused each other of adultery, whoremongering, and perjury. The synods attempted to impose taxation on the drunkenness of clerics. But, in the age of repeated prohibitions against drunkenness and fornication, when “our sacrilege is piled up over our heads” and “our crimes are stacked to heaven”, the servants of the Devil renounced and mocked all things holy, and derided the impotence of God in orgies. The people hated Christianity, and were only kept in check by the fear of eternal damnation and punishment in Hell. Hell and the Devil were at the center of the church’s sermons, designed principally to keep the masses in line. The fantasies of the priests evoked the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well as the fear of nocturnal gatherings of heretics, Jewish and Arab magicians spreading their systems of mysticism, and “Gypsies” spreading intoxicating herbs throughout Europe.
Against this backdrop we embark on Przybyszewski’s discussion of Satanic femininity leading into the discussion of the Witch. And here it should be noted in advance that there is an engagement with classically misogynistic ideas about women leveraged by reactionary Christianity which are, at once, taken up in a positive sense in Przybyszewski’s application of negativity. It is taken to some cartoonish and grotesque levels, but on this I see no reason to deviate from Per Faxneld’s argument in The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity or Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth Century Culture, which stresses that Przybyszewski’s philosophy establishes Christian evil as actually good, since decadence is progress and lust is nature and so on, and that on this basis there is a sort of ambivalent or even laudatory element in his writings about women, even when he speaks in terms of outrage, based on his belief in evolution and ontological evil as the motor of life and progress, with Good being the engine of stasis and repression, and so on these grounds it’s not quite possible to interpret his writing as a condemnation. With that established, we can safely begin this exploration.
Satan loves evil because he loves life, and hates “Good” because he hates stagnation and inertia. Because of this, Satan loves women, who the Christian church had long regarded as the principle of evil, which as far as Satan was concerned meant life. And in turn women, in Przybyszewski’s account, loved Satan, and Satan had a preference for them as the evangelists of his cult. We are then taken through Przybyszewski’s account of the pre-Christian history of his idea of the Satanic feminine. First we are told that the “night-side of life” in Babylon and Chaldea was embodied in Mylitta, who Przybyszewski characterized as a goddess of lust, sexual excess, and “the cosmic secret of decay”. The name Mylitta is simply Herodotus’ name for a goddess who was actually called Mullissu, the wife of Ashur, who may also have been identified with the goddess Ninlil. I can only assume Przybyszewski got the “goddess of lust” idea from Herodotus’ account of sacred prostitution in association with the goddess, which of course we can’t quite rely on as a historical source, and the rest was simply his own idea. Then, turning to Syria, the goddess Astarte is presented as “the adversarial, evil, and destructive divinity”. Obviously a rather inappropriate idea for the context of pre-Christian polytheism, though I will say that one would’ve thought that the god Mot would’ve been the better candidate for such a role. In any case, Przybyszewski refers to Astarte for the horns on her head (supposedly a bull’s head) and being a goddess of war. Next he talks about the Phrygian goddess Cybele, and how her temples were places of fornication and orgasm. Then Semiramis, who was not a goddess but merely a mythological queen, who we’re told killed her lover with her lust. Then we’re presented with Maya, the Indian goddess;(except she kind of wasn’t) of deception who created illusions that made reality inaccessible. Then the Devas (Daevas) of Iran, who we’re told represented untruth, deception, and the “pollution” of the souls of men; the supposed “feminine virtues”.
From there Przybyszewski slowly graduates from talk of goddesses to talk of demonesses. Regarding Greece, Przybyszewski talks about the “dark demons of death” emerging from the earth goddess Gea (Gaia) and everything terrible and frightening being dedicated to Hecate, who travelled with demons and drove men to madness. Lastly we are turned to the Romans, who most feared the demons they called Strigas, most likely meant to mean Strix, who we’re told were believed to suck the blood of the young and devour their guts before flying away. Przybyszewski says that the most feared demons of antiquity were female, because, as he put it, they were demons of death, madness, debauchery, obsession, crime, nocturnal horror, and spectral terror. This includes none other than Lilith, the destroyer of men in her lusts, and for some reason a goddess named Lady Holda, who we’re told is the leader of the Wild Hunt. Such themes are ultimately connected forwardly to witchcraft, via the landlady of Horsselberg who led sabbaths with witches. And, of course, Przybyszewski tells us that, in the Middle Ages, witches were accused of basically everything the Strigas did. We then get to what is quite easily a discussion of patriarchy. We’re told that alongside the “night-side” of the feminine ancient people worshipped the fertility and life-giving power of women, but it was assumed that the man had to protect life from the destructive and deceptive impulses they believed were present in women. Thus patriarchal society had established man as “the real originator of life”. Through Christianity, in the Middle Ages, patriarchy had almost completely denied life-giving power to women and instead preferred to view them exclusively as evil. This attitude even seemed to affect depictions of Satan. We’re told that Satan was originally feminine, and that by the Middle Ages the only feminine part of Satan that remained was the breasts. Satan had transformed into an entirely masculine entity, while woman had become completely subordinate to the male Satan as a concubine who led souls to him while receiving his lusts. Male magicians were expected to command the Prince of Darkness himself to reveal the secrets of nature, female witches were expected to serve as obedient handmaidens of demons who learned the arts of destruction but gained little from their covenant beyond the erotic discipline of demonic masters.
It would seem that medieval patriarchy was so universal that even the cult of Satan came to be conditioned by it, to the extent that church patriarchy had found itself dressed in black rather than in a coffin. The traditions of dead generations had weighed like a nightmare on the brains of the living, and as long as that contradiction was not resolved, we might say that the transvaluation of values could not yet have taken place. Since we’ve already established that we’re dealing with a narrative rather than an actual history, it’s probably not unfair to say that Przybyszewski colours this with what is clearly a BDSM-esque kink involving demons and witches.
And so finally we move on to the subject of the Witch, and things still get weird from here. Przybyszewski starts with the question of why witches were much more likely to be women then men such that it is claimed that hardly a single man was condemned. Putting aside the fact that this is not completely true (while women were the typical target of witch-hunts, in some countries more men were killed on charges of witchcraft), Przybyszewski proposes certain answers to that question. He says that, whether for good or evil nothing could stop three things: the tongue, the priest, and woman. It was supposed that women were gullible, and the Devil works against faith so he prefers to work through them. Then there goes the old argument about “flexible” constitutions, their supposedly “limited” faith, and the idea that women tended to pass on malefic arts to other women through speech. At this point I think it’s worth reiterating that as far as Przybyszewski was concerned practicing dark arts while lacking faith in God was basically a good thing. We’re then presented with a strange etymological argument attributed to Jacob Sprenger (who himself was listed as an author of the Malleus Malificarum alongside Heinrich Kramer), who argues that the word “foemina”, a medieval Latin word for women from which we get the word “feminine”, derives from the words for “faith” and “minus”, presumably so as to mean “faithless”. That’s not actually the etymology of “foemina”, but that obviously never stopped Sprenger from waxing lyrical on the depravity and vices of women. Sprenger goes to many lengths to justify his absurd misogynistic views of women. Sprenger relates an anecdote about a man whose wife had drowned and, because she always talked back to him in life, he looked for her upstream on the presumption that this would mean her soul must have gone upstream. As bizarre and non-sequiturish as that is, Sprenger further cites Sirach and John Chrysostom to argue that marriage is torture (presumably because of women) and Seneca to argue that women don’t actually weep and are only capable of negative thoughts and either love or hate. From all this Sprenger makes the argument that women are most susceptible to magical heresy and that men should thank God for protecting them from it. Of course we can gleam from all this an obvious problem: God loves his children so much that he can only keep the male ones from becoming agents of Satan. Or God just seems to love the men and think nothing of women.
Przybyszewski then moves away from Sprenger to discuss his own ideas about how the witch comes to be. This involves possession, or “demonomania”, which Przybyszewski asserts as having been commonplace in the Middle Ages and apparently was accompanied by clairvoyance and somnambulism. Demonomaniacs were led by visions and fell into monstrous paroxysms. The symptoms of demonomania, at the lowest level, appear to be voluntarily produced through narcotics and salves. Przybyszewski says that this how the Witch, for whom everything is inverted, is born. Highest is lowest, right is left, front is behind, the witch embodies the complete inversion of values which places her at odds with the order of the world. This, of course, would make the Witch the apogee of Przybyszewski’s Satanism via the principle of reversal, or a rebours. But still we deal with the symptoms of demonomania. The possessed body curls into a sphere before then standing up on its toes and throwing itself back onto its head so that its back forms the shape of a bow. Then the possessed body’s arms and legs are held up in the air like interwoven weeds, the hair stands up as if wanting to fly everywhere, the person walks backwards or in a continuous circle with the face turned outward. In an ecstatic demonomaniac state, Przybyszewski’s Witch is capable of superhuman flexibility and power. She can intertwine her limbs like pliable rods, she can stretch her whole body any way she wants and shrink back again, her center of gravity is altered, she cannot drown in water, she can be lighter than air, and she can rise up and hover in the air for several minutes.
Then, of course, there is the “mark” of Satan, the sign left on the bodies of those possessed. These are small, no more than pea-sized places on the skin, insensitive and without blood, sometimes red or black spots. They are typically unseen and located in the genitals, and if pricked they will draw no blood, whereas any other part of the body does draw blood. Several marks could also be found elsewhere; on eyelids, the back, the breasts, and in rare cases can even change its place on the body somehow, as though at will. Really there is no consistency in this, that’s just how the old medieval superstition was. But this “mark” was not the only distinguishing sign of the Witch. Her magical powers make her “physical sensitivity” unusually low, which seems to mean she is impervious to torture and/or generally cataleptic. Supposedly, even when put on the rack or the strappado, the Witch felt nothing, laughed, or slept through it, seemingly not feeling any pain. The Witch also possessed a certain “organic healing power”, connected to the “sorcery of maintaining silence” that was given by the Devil, usually linked to an amulet. This power apparently allowed the Witch to rapidly and easily heal severe injuries or wounds. For this reason witches were stripped naked and then shaved before they were tortured. In an ecstatic state of demonomania, all laws that normally apply to organisms are reversed or suspended, as for example in the power of the Witch to, just like the Magician before her, not be burned by fire. Taken together this quite an exceptional complex of superhuman power for someone who we were told was meant to simply be an obedient handmaiden for male demons. In this sense, patriarchy truly does sell women short.
And, of course, in this setting we should realize that Przybyszewski seems to believe that all of this was real, or at least he writes as if this were the case. When giving accounts of the abilities of the Witch, even from Sprenger, he regards that there is no reason to doubt such accounts, and asserts that all descriptions of the powers and ecstatic states of the Witch correspond to reality. Whether this is the actually the case, and there is probably reason to doubt, among other things, the existence of the “Devil’s mark” as described by Sprenger, what it establishes about Przybyszewski’s thought is that he was not a rationalist seeking to debunk stories of witchcraft on behalf of reason and enlightenment. Although Przybyszewski definitely praised rationalists for the extent to which they undermined faith in God and ostensibly encouraged curiosity towards the workings of the world, he himself can’t be counted as a rationalist, and he tended to prefer the madness he ascribed to the individual soul over the cold reasoning of the brain. From this, Per Faxneld argues, probably correctly, that his writing on madness and “hysteria” is probably not entirely a condemnation, and may even contain a laudatory aspect. This is one way to make sense of how Przybyszewski talks about the Witch, and in this subject it is more obvious when considering that the Witch’s transgression of rational mind and body is presented as a source of insurmountable power ultimately connected to Satan.
The Witch’s invulnerability and physical insensitivity is then shown to deny compassion, leaving her “bestial in her cruelty” and lacking sympathy while given to a delight in the pain she may cause. Her love of cruelty is also mixed with intense sexual desire to the extent that she can be thought of as a sort of sadomasochist, or at least as far as Przybyszewski might have understood it. But Przybyszewski stresses that it was not enough that the Witch flogged others or was flogged herself. No, for this Witch only the most extreme, grotesque, and frankly absurd acts of violence enthused with her strange drives can she feel the hint of emotional satisfaction. The Witch despises every notion of law, she hates the church and all its establishments, indeed she hates that which inhibits her demonic or demonomaniacal drives, and derives joy in that hatred and in mixing the body of God into her salves for perverse ends.
If we look past the grotesque and senseless depravity that Przybyszewski ascribes to the Witch, which almost certainly has nothing to do with any real historical expression of witchcraft, what might we derive from the character being presented. The character of the Witch is not so easily separated from the oppressions and tortures she experiences, so it is easy to make the point of the monsters that society creates, even if every instance of this argument never dare march towards the moral conclusion of the destruction of society – one might assume that after this the monsters would no longer exist. But I would argue that what is operative is what is derived from the hatred of authority and the joy derived from that hatred and the destruction of authority. In nihilism, the basic concept of this is called jouissance. Jouissance is the name given to the sensation of liberation and richness in life that emerges from the act of resistance, and which cannot be measured against incentive or as teleological will. It is part of the core of what distinguishes nihilism, or at least the active nihilism found in anarchist thought. In this, we may at least Przybyszewski’s Satanism as a nihilist religious philosophy in the sense that it counsels joy in the resistance towards and the overcoming and destruction of authority and in the active principle of reversal or a rebours. The culmination of this is found in the location of jouissance in the Nietzschean transvaluation of values, on Satanic nihilist-egoist terms of course. And from that standpoint, it is only natural to derive liberationist joy in that very negative engine of life itself.
Right after all this we enter the discussion of the “witch craze” that swept across Europe, and in this context we unexpectedly return to the so-called “Manicheans”, with whom we are told the church was not yet finished. The Christian church had of course persecuted the Manicheans for decades with exceptional cruelty, thousands of them were burned on the stake or broken upon the wheel, but they still survived, forming secret societies and congregations even in the places where they were once completely rooted out. These Manicheans held on to a tradition of nocturnal masses that they celebrated in the woods or on hilltops. People appeared to have converted to Christianity in order to save themselves from persecution and torture, but actually continued to participate in there nocturnal gatherings in order to run wild. Przybyszewski says that in these gatherings and in “real sabbatical orgies” it was women who whipped the men into instinctual excesses. A comparison may perhaps be found in pre-Christian Bacchanalias celebrating the mysteries of Dionysus, in which the priesthood of Dionysus was said to have been dominated by women. Przybyszewski described medieval women as having been rendered anemic by the conditions of medieval society. Covered in filth, enslaved by men, rejected by the church, condemned by the God who the church says created them from Adam’s rib, women were treated like animals in the society they lived in; actually, you might argue they were treated somewhat worse. In this setting their “evil instincts” developed and they plotted revenge against their oppressors, against the people who kicked them, cast evil eyes at them, or whipped them out of boredom.
Things get stranger from here. In these conditions Przybyszewski says that women would lie beneath any man, even against her will, but in either case never be satisfied. A ceaseless longing for sexual enjoyment and its lack of fulfillment became a source of torment, and in the melancholy of “The Devil’s Bath” all feelings became poisonous. Przybyszewski hints that it is here, once all the “seeds of possession” sprout, a woman may become a Witch. One woman, agitated like never before, is tormented by the desire for violence and the urge to rave and scream when, suddenly, she suddenly flees into the woods, she flies above the ground and hovers in the air before ultimately plunging to the ground again. And then the incubus appears besides her. He appears as a red man with a carefully concealed tail and horns, dressed like a hunter. The woman instinctually knows that this is a devil, but as much as she fears him she is also inexorably curious about him. She knows that he has the power to give her anything she wants, she doesn’t think about his money turning out to be sand or shit, and she is much more curious than afraid. That’s when the Devil, knowing her inner longings and wanting to fulfill them, promises to fulfill her wishes if she submits herself to him and without regret. The demon presses and mounts himself upon her, and she gives in, hoping to be fulfilled. But the fulfillment does not happen, there is only a cold feeling and shivering in her body, and a regret accompanied by the fear of eternal damnation.
You might think that would be the end of it, but, one night, she sleeps beside her husband, and experiences a vision of Hell itself before her eyes. She fearfully stares into Hell and prays only to be pulled back, while hellish laughter surrounds the room. Green lights flicker about the room, increasingly loud knocks can be heard, her bed rotates and its sheets dance around her, all the while she herself is paralyzed. Then she sees the Devil once again. She endures intercourse with him again, but this time not only does she do it without fear she even starts to ask him questions during the act, and the Devil, that “friendly master” (oddly kinky language here), for his part tells her to look for a witch in the forest who can give her miraculous herbs. When she wakes up that becomes her first thought. With neither husband nor children around she waits impatiently for nightfall. Finally finding the old witch of the forest, herself feared by the public, she talks to the old witch and the old witch gives her a salve and a staff to take home with her and keep hidden from every except a member of “the same sect”. Then the signal is given for her to go to the “synagogue”, and at midnight she strips completely naked in order to apply the salve to every part of her body. She briefly falls into a deep sleep, and then awakens to go to the “synagogue”, somehow knowing the way despite never having been there, as though her whole journey is unconscious. This “synagogue” is actually a pathless heath upon a mountain, whose existence she knew only whispers of. An assemblage of people has gathered here already, but it is dark and they can only be seen faintly through the flickers of torches. Half-naked women run around and jump wildly and nimbly, as though they were weightless, and the cries “Har! Har! Sabat! Sabat!” can be heard. This is the beginning of the Witches’ Sabbath.
Everyone forms a circle, their hands touching each other’s backs, while a man and a woman turn their backs toward one another. Then, an ecstatic dance begins, people throw their heads back with increasing tempo while singing “obscene” songs, occasionally interrupted by a cry: “Har! Har! Sabat! Sabat! Har! Devil! Devil! Jump here! Jump here!”. An orgy begins, greed joins with lust, the frenzy triggers a delirium of desire, and people throw themselves upon each other indiscriminately. A woman controls and exalts these ceremonies, she throws herself to the ground with her hands behind her and her legs up towards the air in order to receive the phallus. This is then followed by absurd and senseless sacrificial violence. Przybyszewski likens her furious nymphomania to the priestesses of Cybele, who he says are re-awakened in her. Indeed, Przybyszewski likens the whole orgy to what he imagines to be the pre-Christian and pre-Manichean “sabbats” of Babylon, Greece, and Rome, and says that only after this does the contemporary “sabbat” begin in earnest. In this “sabbat”, reality disappears, the senses fade, the infinite realm of night manifests, and Satan appears perched upon a chair.
Przybyszewski’s Satan has a number of features that make him worth remarking upon. He appears in the shape of a goat, or half human and half goat. He wears a crown of black horns, one of which illuminates the “sabbat” with a light brighter than the full moon. He has huge circular eyes. He has female breasts, which hang down towards his stomach. But most uniquely, he has a giant, red, crooked dog penis which is itself tipped with a vulva. He also has a second face below his navel, with a gaping mouth and outstretched tongue, and his voice is without timber and hard to understand. Here the image of Baphomet is radically embellished, or from another perspective enhanced, its androgynous qualities magnified in comparison to the original, and further mixed with the influence of medieval iconography of the Devil. We can vaguely see what Przybyszewski meant when he said that Satan was originally feminine, though to refer to this Satan as strictly a woman would be inaccurate. This is completely different from the entirely masculine Satan discussed previously, and certainly unique when compared to many traditional images of Satan. This Satan is not merely a paragon of dark masculinity, instead this Satan brazenly defies normative gender with his simultaneously male and female body.
The mass begins, and it is altogether an inversion of Christian rites. First, the participants gather before Satan to confess their failure to be evil; to confess their chastity, their humility, their patience, their temperance, their brotherly love among other pieties and general lack of sin. Satan patiently listens to these confessions, but also dispenses beatings to the confessors, because he does not appreciate anyone going only halfway, for all who enter his church must fulfill his commandments completely. The confession is then followed by the introduction of those wishing to join Satan’s church. These people move before the throne of Satan, Satan asks if they want to become his minions, and they say yes. Those wanting to join Satan’s church follow his instructions. First the initiate must renounce the following: “I reject God, then Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit, the Virgin, the saints, the Holy Cross, I give myself over to your power and into your hands in every way, I also acknowledge no other God, so that you are my God and I am your servant.”. The initiate then kisses Satan on his second face, a sign of eternal servitude to evil. Then, Satan scratches the effect of baptism off of the initiate’s forehead with his claw, and the initiate is then baptised in a font of filthy water. The initiate swears to never again take up Christian sacrament except for blasphemy, to defile Christian relics, to keep the secret of the “sabbat”, to acquire new membership for Satan’s church, and to dedicate all strength to Satan. The mass ends with the petition of a person rebaptized by Satan to their name erased from the book of life and then have it written in the book of death. At that point Satan marks the initiate with a stigmata. Men are stigmatized on their eyelids, shoulders, or lips, while women receive this on their nipples or their labia. At that point, the pact with the Devil is concluded, and the soul of the initiate is forever sworn to Satan. From then on, the initiate’s nature is completely reversed. What was highest becomes the lowest, and vice versa, the law that once bound them has been rendered powerless, and the virtues of the law were stripped away in mockery. For women, Przybyszewski says, this means freedom from the restrictions that men placed on them.
So, to summarize what all of this means for Przybyszewski’s doctrine of Satanism, we should above all return to the subject of reversal, or a rebours. The witches’ sabbath and the black mass culminate in a reversal that is at once the transvaluation of values. A rebours as an act initiates the re-evaluation and dissolution of the order of things as applicable to the soul, and this reversal, as a Decadent and Satanic extension of Nietzschean transvaluation, is the essence of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. This has an obvious appeal to those who find themselves trodden underfoot by society, while those who benefit from its structures are not quite capable of grasping its value and indeed find themselves arrayed against it.
Since Przybyszewski makes comparisons to pre-Christian orgiastic rites or more aptly his idea thereof, it is worth briefly examining the subject of the mysteries of Cybele, as quite probably the only extant historical subject we can actually assess. Przybyszewski does point to Babylonian orgies, but from a historical standpoint this can probably be dismissed as the fantasy of Herodotus, who is himself rather well-known for his fantasies and exaggerations. Regarding the mysteries of Cybele, the thought of the priestess of Cybele receiving the phallus in an orgy must seem quite alien to the actual worshippers of Cybele. Indeed, as far as the male member is concerned, one of the more well-known aspects of the worship of Cybele consists in the severing of said member from and by male priests. These priests, the Galli, castrated themselves in imitation of the god of Attis, and then lived and presented as women in devotion to Cybele. A similar tradition can be seen in ancient Sumeria, where a similar priesthood also castrated themselves and embraced femininity while defying male norms in worship of the goddess Inanna. The amusing thing about all this is that I would think Przybyszewski would find this act of castration an attack on nature, if solely for the reason that it involves the severing of the phallus. I would say that this comprises a misunderstanding of the orgiastic rites dedicated to Cybele. Again, if there is an analogue to Przybyszewski’s “sabbat”, it is in the Dionysian mysteries or popular worship of Dionysus. The mysteries were presided over by a largely female priesthood, while more local festivals honouring him involved carrying a phallus sculpture through the streets to denote fertility. But of course, perhaps the operative aspect is that it serves to re-establish Przybyszewski’s Satanism as a continuation of the orgiastic pagan tradition, of “the heathen cult” as it were.
Finally, before the next section, let us return to the subject of how Przybyszewski writes about women and the Witch. There is still doubtless something problematic, in that many aspects of the text present an inherently contradictory impression of his Satanism and the Witch as its apostle, and it is a trend that continues on further in the book. Per Faxneld in The Devil’s Party explains this development with two possibilities: either Przybyszewski felt pressure towards the second half of the book to increasingly vilify Satan worship, or he as a Decadent author consciously drew from the trappings of Decadent literature so that his presentation of Satanism is coloured by, well, abject decadence. I tend to think the latter theory, that he deliberately hyperbolized his narrative, is much more plausible than the idea of probably the world’s first self-avowed modern Satanist somehow felt the need to re-tailor his work to appease Christian audiences. I do maintain that Faxneld is probably correct to assume that Przybyszewski is not simply vilifying women here, he almost certainly seems to lionize the Witch albeit it in a very perverse way. But even while Faxneld assures that Przybyszewski is no woman-hater based on his journals, I am inclined to suspect that there is some misogyny in Przybyszewski as well. We should remember that he writes as if the old Christian accounts are accurate, even if his overall point is that the evil women are saints because they are evil, which could still be interpreted simply as their will to destroy the authority and norms of the church. Ultimately there is a remarkable and somewhat disturbing ambiguity Przybyszewski’s writing, which is underscored by the fact that his whole point is about reversal and that the Witch embodies this reversal, and that on this basis, it’s not possible that Przybyszewski’s Witch is necessarily meant to be taken as a malefic character, at least in that the decadent narrative contains within itself more than its sensational lustre.
I think Przybyszewski may have, in his own deeply flawed way, attempted to communicate a negativity similar to the way baedan talks about queerness. The birth of the Witch is still situated in the utter bleakness of the Middle Ages and particularly the life of women in that setting. Enslaved and contained by patriarchy both Christian and pre-Christian and even subordinated by the male Magicians and demons, branded as criminals by the church and its God, women in Przybyszewski’s narrative occupy a special space of deviance and criminality that they in turn embrace through their will to destructive vengeance against the world that attacks them. Culminating up to the pact with Satan at the end of the “sabbat”, Przybyszewski’s Witch makes it her business to tower over even the very role foisted upon her in her embrace of evil, and the promise of liberation contained within Satanic a rebours becomes the mechanism of unmitigated revenge. In this way, the pact is sealed and Christianity ain’t seen nothing yet.
Part 4: The Progress of The Sabbat
We continue our exploration of the Witches’ Sabbath. For Przybyszewski, the entire sordid history of the Middle Ages is reflected in this “sabbat”. The “sabbat” is characterized as an orgasm of unbridled instincts, an all-powerful revolt of the flesh against its repression, and a dark cry of hallelujah to a crucified paganism. Yet again we see Przybyszewski establish his Satanism as an evolution of “the heathen cult”. In fact, he goes on to describe the “sabbat” as a synthesis of every pre-Christian orgiastic cult. Again we are referred to the cult of Cybele, where greedy desire culminated in “a frenzy of refined cruelty”, then to the sacred prostitution attributed to the cult of Astarte, and then to Greek witches invoking Hecate through conjurations. Przybyszewski asserts that all of this was synthesized together in the medieval “sabbat” and revised to suit the contemporary religious context. The difference between the two “sabbats” is established as their aim, with the pre-Christian versions of the “sabbat” being entirely “positive”, or rather about as positive as it gets with Przybyszewski’s bleak Decadent prose, and the medieval “sabbat” was entirely negative. In the pre-Christian “sabbats”, the aim was to draw everything into the realm of the divine; the instincts of nature were sanctified and the orgiastic ecstasies were a way of worshipping the gods. In the medieval “sabbat”, by contrast, was based almost entirely in the hatred of Christianity, the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, and all things ecclesiastical.
It is at this point worth discussing the nature of the orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religiosity again. Actually, I suppose it’s better to start with the whole concept of sacred prostitution in the context of pre-Christian Syria. Perfectly lurid, scandalous, and ostensibly titillating, this is very much an archaic trope in historical discussion of pre-Christian religion. It makes sense that someone like Przybyszewski in his day would take it for granted, let alone lauded it, as hardly anyone questioned it by the time The Synagogue of Satan was written. But in modern scholarship, depending on what context we are referring to, it is a point of contention. While there are credible accounts of the practice of sacred prostitution in the context of ancient Greece in temples devoted to the goddess Aphrodite, in the context of ancient Phoenicia, there isn’t really much in the way of hard evidence for the practice being devoted to Astarte. As for the cult of Cybele, I’m not totally sure how violent Przybyszewski meant it to appear, but it is documented that the orgies dedicated to Cybele did involve flagellations, ritual mutiliation, and self-castration. Sex didn’t enter into it, but there was some ecstatic dancing and drinking set to music and ritual cries. The term “orgy” itself bears some examination. It comes from the Greek word “orgia”, or “orgion”, which referred to an ecstatic religious celebration, often specifically in worship of the god Dionysus. The word actually meant “secret rites”, and although modern use of the term “orgy” (including by Przybyszewski) tends to connote large-scale sex parties, it’s not obvious that these involved sex of any sort. The real point of the orgia was simply ecstatic union with the divine (which, in his own way, Przybyszewski did still acknowledge), though they were “unrestrained” in the sense that they involved unscripted frenzied dances meant to embody the divine madness of Dionysus and reflect his myths. That said, what is true is that there is an extent to which this ecstasy allowed its participants to shatter the norms of the society they lived in. It can also be said that the orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religiosity were intimiately connected with social transgression. Examples of this include not only the mysteries of Dionysus and Cybele but also the religio-magickal practice of goeteia, the mysteries of Sabazios, the Egyptian Festival of Drunkenness, the Scandinavian Berserker cult, the worship of Inanna by the Gala priests in Sumeria, the bands of Mairiia warriors in ancient Iran, the “primitive” cult within Manchu folk religion, and the art of sacred transgression (or “seihan”) in Japanese Shinto festivals. This is not to mention the whole practice of Vamachara Tantra within Hinduism and its Buddhist counterparts. In this sense, it is not totally wrong for Przybyszewski to locate a pre-Christian mode of transgression in the ecstatic or orgiastic aspects of pre-Christian religion, and, while in practice he is very probably working backwards from his own ideas of the “sabbat”, it is also possible to take his idea of Satanism in development from that orgiastic legacy.
In the description of the negativity of the medieval “sabbat”, we arrive once more at the theme of “the heathen cult” as the negative space lurking beneath the Christian church. On the substratum of hate were the deep layers of the shadow of the church built; this was the site of all that the church despised, persecuted, and suppressed. This was every remnant of paganism that lived on after the rise of Christianity, and every foreign opinion and custom, that was accepted by the people and attacked by the church. And, of course, this also included Przybyszewski’s constructed “Manichaeanism”, which we’re told is the progenitor and custodian of the medieval “sabbat”. What the church constructs as its criminal shadow, which it does straight from the soil of its foundation, inevitably contains within itself, in this very construction, the pure potential of its unraveling in the transvaluation of anti-Christian revolt and reversal.
The church insisted that demons raged in those who were possessed and sought to heal them with prayer and holy water. The possessed “knew” this, they acknowledged that they were being possessed by the Devil, and they let him roar fearsome blasphemies against the church. The Witch especially allowed this possession by the Devil, giving herself over to him after all difficulty, and thereby accessing the superhuman ecstasies of the “sabbat” through their erotic dedication to Satan. This, we’re told, had an effect on “Manichaeanism”, which was thus merged with a widespread popular desire for anti-Christian sacrilege. Positive matter, the “God quand méme” of the Cathars, became filth amidst the rage of battle and in the polemics of the dying Albigensians and possessed witches. The principle that Przybyszewski attributes to the Cathars, that “no one can sin below the navel”, and which he asserts was the holy precept of the priestesses of Ashtaroth, was turned into a means by which the Satanic Witch could assail all things holy and crucify Jesus once more. Whereas the devout Cathar renounced the Catholic Church with holy seriousness, the Witch took up the Cathar’s renunciation as a form of mockery that concluded in devil worship. For the Witch, the religion of the Cathars was but a vessel of satirical detournement from which she might derive weapons with which to attack God and his church.
The people, who were apparently converted to Christian love through cruelty, nonetheless took up the heritage of their ancestors. The desperate, the enslaved, and the tortured did not cease to celebrate the festivities of old; the festivals of instinct, the rituals of purifying sin by means of sin (odd, considering this was already established as an attempt by the church to try and defeat the power of Satan), and the celebration of the phallus and the fury of generation. The church of Satan was so powerful that even if you only once visited the church of the initiates, your soul would forever belong to Satan. The “sabbat” melted into the phantasms of the possessed, and the originally natural forms of the “sabbat” transformed into monstrous visions that made it impossible to tell where reality begins and ends. Thus thousands of years of distinct religious heritages and perversions carried across all times and peoples amalgamated into a chaos of contrasting instincts. But as monstrous as Przybyszewski makes it sound, he also makes it seem like an unrivalled rapture of joy. It was a form of intoxication and addiction in itself. Attending the “sabbat” was like taking up opium; after the first time, it was a passion that could not be broken. But the witches referred to the “sabbat” as a “true paradise”, home to more joys than it was possible to express, and the sign being given at the “sabbat” was equivalent to being called to a wedding. The soul was said to connect to the heart and the will in a manner that overrode all other concerns.
We can again assess the pre-Christian thematic content being invoked. Phallicism, of course, was a part of pre-Christian religion. Indeed, depictions of the phallus have been around since pre-historic times. Throughout pre-Christian cultures, the phallus was a symbol of fertility, and therefore I suppose part of the generative powers of nature. In Greece, the phallus was part of the celebration of the Rural Dionysia, a festival in honour of Dionysus in which participants carried phalluses among other objects. The phallus was a symbol of Dionysus that adorned the entrance to his temple in Delos. It was also a symbol of the god of Hermes, which may have connoted some association with fertility. The Norse god Freyr was often worshipped in a somewhat phallic form. In the Balkans, a god of fertility named Kuker is represented with a phallus. In India, the cult of the phallus was linked to the worship of the god Shiva. In Japan, phalluses are sometimes carried in festivals meant to celebrate fertility and the harvest. In ancient Rome, phalluses were universal and often apotropaic symbols. The point is, the celebration of the phallus was a thing in the pre-Christian world, and which Christianity has, of course, suppressed. “Festivals of instinct” is certainly another way of referring to orgiastic celebrations as was already discussed, but the idea of purifying sin by means of sin has essentially nothing to do with Paganism and is instead the innovation of certain “Gnostic” Christian sects, such as the Carpocratians and the so-called “Borborites”. Perhaps Przybyszewski is again working backwards from his own ideas in defining “the heathen cult” specifically as an expression of religious libertinism, and it is very clear that he seems to mean libertinism when discussing his idea of the pre-Christian “heathen cult”, but at least it is true that Przybyszewski is discussing something that Christianity had tried to suppress in the wake of its own ascendancy.
Christian authorities could not understand the appeal of the “sabbat”, since they understood it only as a place of abomination and filth. When judges asked for the answer, they were told that the people enjoyed the “sabbat” with a wondrous lust and furious desire and in that, in so doing, time elapsed so quickly as the idolatries were indulged that one only left the “sabbat” with regret and felt an irresistable longing to return. The joys of the “sabbat” are not mundane joys, but are instead superhuman joys. As the “sabbat” grew, the Witch transitioned in her priorities. She moved on from merely sacrilegious appropriation of Cathar doctrine and had taken up the “sabbat” as her religion. The reversal of her nature took place almost imperceptively, and as a result she had become a new being. The orgy of the “sabbat” became an end in and of itself, and because of this the Witch no longer considered the relationship of her cultus to the Christian church and no longer even considered her rites to be a form of sacrilege. The orgies were hence celebrated for their own sake, and with no reference to prior customs or blasphemies. The supposed joys of heaven were nothing compared to the “sabbat”, thus the participants raged in the consciousness of eternal damnation, believing that hell was preferable to heaven, and in the magical fury of sabbatical desire the participants often transformed into wolves, vampires, goats, or pigs. Over time, the “sabbat” became the only cultus of the people, changing from a place of trembling to a place of immeasurable desire, and Satan, the lord of the “sabbat”, had transformed from the anti-God par excellence to the only God. And, where the people originally turned to him for gold and power, the revolt of the flesh experienced in the “sabbat” that he presided over made the gold and the power seem quite worthless.
The “sabbat” in this sense reveals the real locus of Przybyszewski’s Satanism: flesh. We must remember that Satan, in Przybyszewski’s framework, is the god of flesh. Through the “sabbat”, flesh and sensation become a portal for the highest of spiritual or superhuman experiences, in which desire heightens and is fulfilled in its transmutation into the ecstatic experience of dark divinity in communion with Satan. Gold is ultimately nothing but worthless dust and power over others is ultimately nothing but foolish vanity when compared to the ecstasy brought about with the tremors of the flesh. And so the “sabbat”, as the supreme celebration of desire as communion with the divine, or with Satan, supercedes mundane society, its classed hierarchies and acquisitive norms one and all. The “sabbat” is where people raise their instincts above all the structures of society, and from their the ecstatic desire arced toward Satanic communion becomes a force of communization in its own right. Thus the appeal of the “sabbat” is easily elucidated, and the desire of the church to stamp it out requires only basic intuition to understand.
God, of course, was completely forgotten in the course of the “sabbat”, for there was no God but Satan. Satan raised the black host, and barked the words “this is my body!” in reference to a towering phallus. The whole congregation fell to their knees, engaged the same reverence once reserved for Christian sacrament, and they cried out: “Aquerra goity! Aquerra boyty!” (supposedly meaning “goat above! goat below!”). Another, more modern, version of this chant is “Akhera goiti, akhera beiti!“, meaning “the He-goat on high, the He-goat below!”. The Basque word “Akerra” means “he-goat”, and the Basque term for the Witches’ Sabbath was “Akelarre”. This Akelarra is the subject of legend, supposedly the remnants of a pagan culture that once flourished in Spain and possibly involving the use of hallucinogens. This was said to involve the company of a black goat, who may be recognisable as Akerbeltz, a spirit or possibly a deity who protected animals. In any case, the witches who were judged in the Basque region insisted that they had no idea they were committing any sins or doing anything wrong, and to the contrary considered their activity to be the only true religion. Far from ashamed of their actions, they recounted their celebrations with comfort, shamelessness, and pleasure, for they preferred the caress of the demons to any other and no matter what questions were directed to them.
This in my view invites us to return to the subject of “purifying sin by means of sin”, as it was related by Przybyszewski to the “sabbat”, and there is an extent to which we might discuss the form it takes. When Przybyszewski first discussed this idea, it was in the context of the Christian church resorting to the development of this idea in the hope of ultimately extinguishing sin. This, of course, is one of the contradictions that in our narrative contributed to the decline of the church. In the “sabbat”, however, something different occurs. Instead of extinguishing sin by means of sin, the esctatic eruption of sinful desire ends up enveloping and dissolving the concept itself. Passing into the maelstrom of evil passion, the participants seem to experience the breakdown of the barriers that comprise the notion of sin. Once again we can turn to Stirner’s terms: in the sacrilege against the ecclesiastical and the holy, the “absolute interest” in the face of which the concept of sin is created has been destroyed, sin no longer exists because that which sin sins against is gone, and so sin itself has been forgotten along with the holy (the “absolute interest”). Sin has not been extinguished by means of sin, as the church or the “Gnostics” may have hoped. Instead, sin has withered into nothing by means of its unfolding, giving way into what it was before the emergence of the holy, or what it shall be after the death of the holy. The “sabbat”, as communization, acheives the realization of sin into the dissolution of sin and the holy, into its own unfolding into its own forgotten, which is the product of the mass liberation of consciousness in the ecstasies of the “sabbat”. In a few words, the “sabbat” has become a means by which to abolish good and evil, leaving only unqualified desire and immeasurable joy.
The “sabbat” proves to be a source of great difficulty for the powers that be. No matter how many witches are tortured and burned at the stake, Satan ensures that just as many new witches take their place. But now, in relation to this, we come to Przybyszewski’s presentation of the Enlightenment, and it serves not only to recapitulate that Przybyszewski was not a rationalist but also to show that, if anything, despite his praises of rationalism earlier in the book, he might even have been a sort of anti-rationalist – or, again, at least writes as if that’s the case. Przybyszewski here regards the Enlightenment as an erroneous dismissal the “sabbat” and the occult more generally. He considers the Enlightenment explanation of witchcraft and the various other subjects he discusses in terms of superstition or ignorance as not only an error but also an opportunistic bias whose aim is simply to attack the church. He viewed historians who dismissed the “sabbat” and witchcraft and similar subject matter as having glossed over “all-too-well-attested facts” because they made them uncomfortable. In his view, only comparatively recently did historians begin to seriously consider the occurences of occult phenomena, whose existence he regarded as undeniable, and only then be able to shed light on them. As far as Przybyszewski is concerned, the fundamental problem is that the supposed reality of the “sabbat” was overlooked, and as proof Przybyszewski offers not only the accounts already offered about Satanic sects and their practices but also his claim that the gatherings were happened upon by outsiders. In such instances, we’re told, the participants either scattered and fled from the scene or beat the outsider to death, in both cases in order to preserve the secrecy of the “sabbat”. Thus, for Przybyszewski, the reality of the “sabbat” and all occult phenomenon is not in doubt, however historically dubious it seems to us. To him, we are all swimming in a hopeless opportunistic that presents us from clearly seeing the truth. Unfortunately for Przybyszewski, however, I cannot quite say that he is right.
We then return to the nature of the “sabbat”. Participants induced orgasm in themselves through furious dance, and the visionaries cannot distinguish this orgasm from “the real one”. The orgiastic condition was elevated through the use of narcotics, demonology books are apparently supposed to be full of them, and the orgiastic condition then concludes in a kind of epileptic somnambulism. All present in the “sabbat” were in a state of mutual interconnectedness, and because of this their visions appear to be identical and share characteristics. The visions were already insinuated into their minds by “the Satanic code” to the extent that those participating in the Satanic circle would enter into a visionary spiritual union with the others without even having any awareness of this union. People share in the sacrilegous abolition of absolute or holy interest, and then in the pure egoistic eruption and ecstasy of desire, and in so doing they seem to unite with each other during the duration of the “sabbat”, in this way self-consciousness appears to be shared in the process of sabbatical communization, individual interests find themselves interconnected in the Satanic visionary state. The hypnagogic narcotics employed in “sabbats” made various extant phenomena appear veiled, and the image of Satan was rarely seen clearly. In one instance Satan appeared as just an immense mass of fog, while in another in the shape of tree stump with a human face, albeit covered in darkness, and in yet another appears as a red human-shaped fire burning in a barely visible oven. Then there is the stiffening of extremities; the icy coldness supposedly felt during coitus or the offering of the host, abnormal muscular activity during dances, the sensation of flight, the complete reversal of natural orientation in space, terrible cramps that are perceived to be the whips that they receive from the Devil, and certain phenomenon related to light and fire. All of this, Przybyszewski, says, is indicative of epipleptic and somatic processes brought about by the use of narcotics. This, I think, is somewhat curious, because it arguably lends to a physical explanation of what Przybyszewski might otherwise insist is strictly non-physical occult phenomenon. Yet it also arguably helps his thesis of the “sabbat” as a continuation of paganism, since psychedelics were actually a part of pre-Christian mystery traditions such as the Eleusinian Mysteries.
But, Przybyszewski tells us, the historical “sabbat” slowly disappeared. Gatherings became limited to a midsummer night, or faded away entirely as the witches found a way to enjoy all the pleasures of the “sabbat” without actually being present in any gatherings. We are told that Alphonso de Spina referred to the existence of a sect which was called the Xurginae, or Bruxae, which consisted of men and women who voluntarily involved themselves with the Devil. This is most likely an archaic reference, and outside of The Synagogue of Satan I can’t find anything about the so-called “Xurginae” or “Bruxae” or any reference to them apart from in Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan’s Geschichte der Hexenprozesse (“History of Witch Trials”). What are told about them, though, is that they involved themselves with the Devil, that the Devil took their souls away from “that place”, and that by means of deceptions he makes them believe that they can fly 200,000 miles in four or five hours. Spina is then said to have recounted a witch boasting before her Inquisitor and the royal court that she was carried through air on a trip with the Devil. She only needer her salve to prove it to the court, but when she applied it to herself nothing happened, indicating that her flight was an illusion, a deception from the Devil. In another account, attributed to the French jurist Jean Bodin (a.k.a. Bodinus), a witch told Inquisitors that she would travel to the “sabbat” if she were allowed to apply her salve, which she did and then immediately feel asleep. Tied in her bed, and beaten and pricked without her giving any sign of life, the next day she recounted her trip to the “sabbat”, but, according to Przybyszewski, this was a hallucination that got mixed up with the tortures inflicted on her. He further adds that no credible accounts of levitation have ever been given in the entire study of demonology.
Here we see an interesting contradiction. Przybyszewski previously established levitation as an attribute of the Witch or a phenomenon of the “sabbat”, but now it seems that Przybyszewski is in the business of refuting it. Is the idea here to establish that later developments away from the “sabbat” are based in falsehood? Whatever the case may be it seems he’s explaining the trips with the Devil in physical terms, in terms of some sort of confusion of the senses, whereas he had just previously regarded Enlightenment historians as stupid and opportunistic for doing so in their refusal to recognise occult phenomena as real. In any case, Przybyszewski says that in every case the witch prepared herself for trip to the “sabbat” in the same way: she stripped naked and applied the witch’s salve upon her body, and then fell into a trance. If we remember, this is the same way that the actual “sabbat” starts in Przybyszewski’s account of the Witch, but previously this was meant to refer to an actual process of an actual “sabbat”, and yet now the same process is depicted as a deception or an illusion.
The salve is an important part of the accounts of the witch trials, and Przybyszewski that it is not unique to medieval witchcraft. We are referred to the soma drink of the “Brahmans”, as in the Soma that was believed by Vedic to heal people, cure sickness, grant immortality and allow humans to commune with the gods. Vedic myths described trhe consumption of Soma by Indra and his warriors as giving them near-invincibility and a trance-like state of battle-fury. In Zoroastrianism, a similar substance is called Haoma, and the prophet Zoroaster condemned a series of ecstatic rituals involving haoma before a more moderate version of the ritual was introduced. Przybyszewski says that Soma was consumed in order to attain clairvoyance and the perfection of yoga. We are also refered to the “repenthes” of Homer, probably actually referring to a drug called “nepenthes”, which in the Odyssey was said to quiet all pain and strife and induce forgetfulness of all ills. These and other drugs, such as the potamantis (apparently an Indian plant, which he calls “protomantes” for some reason), the thalassegle (which seems to actually be another name for the potamantis), and the gelatophyllis (which may or may not have been an old word for cannabis), as all referred to by Pliny, are asserted by Przybyszewski to be ways of separating the soul from the body in order to transport it into a state of otherworldly joy and happiness. Another plant given as an example is the heliocabus, also called “atropia mandragora” or “antropa belladonna”, which seems to be another name for the plant we know as deadly nightshade.
We are told that Karl Kiesewetter, a German Theosophist and occultist, had contemporarily performed experiments on himself in which he rubbed witches’ salves on himself. According to Przybyszewski, Kiesewetter found that rubbing the salve (seemingly a form of hyoscyamine) in the pit of his stomach produced visions dreams of animated flight in a spiral, as though he was being hurled around in a tornado. Witches are said to be able to dispense with all artificial means to go to the “sabbat”, provided they sleep for a little while beforehand. This was apparently agreed upon by the witches who were prosecuted by Pierre de Lancre, all about 1,000 of them. A consistent “awakening” occurs if the sleep is only so deep. Some said it was sufficient to close one eye, and then in the next instance one “awakens” and is spirited away. After a short nap, the witches enter a perfect awakened state, with no doubts about the reality of what they see while spirited away or what is presently occurring. Somnambulism, then, is presented as something distinct from regular sleep, the difference between which is not understood by normal people. Apparently only one witch ever doubted the reality of the “sabbat”. Przybyszewski says that people definitely do not have normal eyesight during the “sabbat”, everything appears confused, no one can see anything definite. This is compared to drunkenness or sleep, or trickery. Cases of partial waking sleep are said to be extremely rare. Somnambulism is established as being so highly developed that the time of transition between physical sleep and transcendental time contracts, meaning that it would not take long to go from sleeping to some sort of transcendent “awakening” state. Thus a woman named Katharina of Landal says that she does not need sleep, but when sitting by the fire in the evenings she feels an incomparable longing to go to the “sabbat” and is immediately transported there.
So, after a somewhat confusing assessment of the reality of the “sabbat”, at least confusing as far as Przybyszewski’s position on it is concerned, our understanding of Przybyszewski’s Satanism is increased via our discussion of the “sabbat”. It reveals to us the essence of Satanic communization locked within the “sabbat”, in which the limits of reality are upended and even good and evil themselves are dissolved, leaving only the immeasurable and unqualified quantity of desire that takes the soul away towards infinite night, that it may behold Satan and his ecstasies. The liberation of consciousness in the tunnel of desire is the outcome of the “sabbat”, and so it is the highest desire, longed for again and again, and in the “sabbat” egoistic interest is purified, being free from holy interest, and then in the void of the holy even sin is gone, having transformed back into the purity of desire, and then egoisitic interests join together in communization under Satan. This is also attendant to a will to reversal that is cultivated in the communion with Satan, as previously established about the “sabbat”. Witchcraft, in the context of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, is thus the means to bring about the ultimate liberation induced by the “sabbat”. The Witch emerges from persecution and moves from heresy to blasphemy and finally becomes the priestess of the ultimate religion and its ultimate God; that religion being the communization of the “sabbat” and that God being Satan.
Before we move on to the final section of The Synagogue of Satan, I think it is worth once more re-examining the Witches’ Sabbath, this time touching on its possible pre-Christian roots. Whether real or concocted by the church or by heresy-hunters, the fact remains there is something about it that is not entirely Christian in its legacy. Just where did people get the idea of people stripping naked, convering themselves with hallucinogens, taking drugs, dancing at the hilltops and performing magic to worship a black goat? The whole idea of nocturnal revelry is rather consistently Pagan, specifically it harks back to ancient Greek mysteries, such as to Cybele, Dionysus, or Sabazios. They had orgiastic ecstasies (though, again, not exactly orgies in the modern sense) and ritual cries, not to mention drugs. Heraclitus described worshippers of Dionysus as magicians roaming together in the night, raving madly in performance of “unholy” rites to the phallus. The idea of the soul travelling away from the body for the purpose of communion is much in line with how ancient Greeks would have understood the concept of ecstasy, whose root word “ekatasis” means “to stand outside oneself”. The idea of hallucinogens inducing a sense of flying may have been attested to at least far back as the 2nd century, when Apuleius depicted witches using unguents to confer supernatural powers, such as flight and shapeshifting onto themselves in his Metamorphoses. Beyond this, there are attestations to the worship of the goddess Diana in nocturnal gatherings that involved singing and dancing, as possible remnants of folk pagan custom in parts of Europe. This has been interpreted as a rebellion of witchcraft against the Catholic Church. The goat himself can be interpreted as a unique medieval image of Satan, but of course it does have certain antecedents. Many people point to Pan as the obvious origin of the goat-like appearance of many depictions of the medieval Devil, and this has no doubt in informed Przybyszewski’s treatment of Pan as a pre-Christian avatar of Satan. But Pan is not the only influence here. In Francisco Goya’s Witches Sabbath, one of the classic artistic representations of the Witches’ Sabbath, the Great He-Goat featured therein may have been based on Athansius Kircher’s depictions of Molech, or Moloch. Moloch was purportedly a Canaanite idol, but since there probably was no actual Moloch outside of the Bible, this is probably a cipher for other deities such as Ba’al Hammon, Milcom, Malik, or Ba’al himself.
Yet, if we are looking for a precise point in pre-Christian history where we might find the existence of an original Witches’ Sabbath, we would be chasing phantoms. Perhaps the trope itself is more like the amalgamation that Przybyszewski said the actual “sabbat” was, though not quite the merger of all customs that he assumed it was; more like a transmission of certain elements of Pagan mystery into the context of a Christian overculture, when then saw these elements as absolutely satanic. In this, the church had that much in common with the Roman establishment, who regarded witches as dangerous and illicit elements of society.
Part 5: The Black Mass
For the final section of The Synagogue of Satan, we are once again referred to a discussion of the Witch. This, of course, also means that we must observe the exact same caveats as before when inevitably we must deal with Przybyszewski’s sensationalistic depictions of the crimes of the Witch. We are told that the crimes committed by the Witch are countless, and Przybyszewski cites the German theologian Johannes Nider in providing a list of crimes attributed to the Witch. These include defaming the church and the Pope by way of the Devil, performing rites of homage to the Devil, joy-riding with devils, bewitching or hexing crops and livestock, inciting hate and/or lust among people, interfering with intercourse and copulation among humans or animals, transforming humans into animals or causing lycanthropy, killing the “fruit of the womb” (presumably meaning either children or the unborn, it’s difficult to tell which) through sorcery, using the body parts of the slain for slaves, and sexual intercourse and copulation with demons such as the incubus or succubus. Of note here is that Nider himself doubted that witches could actually fly so it does have me working how Przybyszewski got the “joy-riding” accusation from him. Whatever the case, Przybyszewski assures us that, while it became customary to accuse witches of every absurd charge, what the witches actually did caused even hardened Inquisitors to recoil in horror. The other thing to bear in mind here is that, in actual fact, most of the people who were actually charged with witchcraft probably never even came close to doing any of the things that Przybyszewski described.
We are then brought back to themes of reversal and evil as contained in the Witch. Her “criminality” resulted from the reversal of her whole nature, spiritual and physical, and the total devaluation of the laws given to their bodies. This, we are told, is not quite an expression of volition or will but instead an expression of necessity, specifically a necessity akin to the necessity felt by those doing “good”, which is thus undertaken without any awareness of the nature of one’s actions; we can think of it as an involuntary and unconscious will-to-evil, akin to a similarly unconscious will-to-good. The Witch, here, contains within herself the reversal of all conventional and divine law, and thus the question of “where does evil come from?” is supposedly answered and the supposed “Satanic code” arises in her. In essence, this code is to go against the law and vex the holy. Przybyszewski insists that, for the Witch, this meant loving Satan, serving only Satan, regarding Satan as the only God, despising and defiling the name of Jesus, honouring the holy days in the “synagogue” (of Satan), killing men, women, and even children so as to vex Jesus in his saying “Suffer the little children to come unto me”, committing adultery, fornication, robbery, and murder, bearing false witness, and lying. In essence, the code is to commit every sin, and to sin on principle, and subvert all laws.
It is at this point hard for me to ignore an obvious contradiction, returning to the issue of misogyny. The worst crimes are attributed to the Witch, while the male Magician’s only real crime is against the laws of gravity and thermodynamics. Practically the entire second chapter of The Synagogue of Satan is devoted to recounting the extravagant and frankly fantastical crimes of female witches, but the Magician’s is introduced in the first section of the first chapter and ultimately gives way to the subject of the “Manichaeans” and the Cathars, all of whom don’t even come close to the depravity assigned to the Witch. The bias is fairly obvious in this setting. Women are obviously being positioned as “more evil” than men. Now, there is a general sense in which it is still probably correct to adhere to Faxneld’s argument that ambiguities and reversal are the primary tropes at play, being a self-declared Satanism and that Satanism entailing evil and evolution being linked and therefore positive, but even there, a certain degree of skepticism is naturally elicited when we look at the details. It is frankly not possible to assume that Przybyszewski would seriously have accepted every sin he describes as actually a virtue. Yet, at the core of it all, it may yet be more troublesome and typical Decadent ambiguity.
However, if we accept the argument that Przybyszewski deliberately sensationalized his accounts in order to weave a narrative suitable for his Decadent sensibilities, and those of his audience, then we may accept that there’s a larger point, perhaps comprising the “spirit” of the work for a lack of better terminology. And so we may ask, what is the operative point? The obvious answer is reversal, a rebours, as the central point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. Reversal is in essence an extension of the transvaluation of values set forth by Nietzsche, realized in the act of the practical dissolution of fixed values that are set over individual action.
Continuing Przybyszewski’s recapitulatory discussion of the Witch, we are told that the Witch possessed magical powers that gave her a terrible power over other people. Her glance alone could cripple her enemies. When brought to trial, she was presented before the judge with her back to him so that the judge would avoid receiving her glance and its effects. A certain gesture of one of her hands was enough to hypnotize someone and cause them to receive stigmata, and she could do so to people far away from her due to the strength of her magickal will. And she did not limit herself in her means. Both natural and artificial means suited her just fine. An industrious poison-mixer, there was no poisonous plant she did not know about. But, of course, she needed human flesh and blood to increase the effects of those plants. This is obviously in reference to those tropes about Satanists collecting blood and fat for the Witches’ Sabbath, or in Przybyszewski’s telling in order to produce the so-called “anthropotoxin” for their concoctions. Of course, this all not only has no basis in reality (for one thing, there’s no such thing as “anthropotoxin”) but also bears a similarity to accusations of blood libel that preceded the witch trials. This positions the Witch in the space where Christian society designates the Other as inherently hostile towards it, and therefore establishes it as a negativity, or as the death drive. The lacking reality of the accusations belies a contradiction that marks the power inherent within Christian society to produce its own antagonism and potential for internal revolt.
Przybyszewski then moves on to the subject of murder. Witches were not the only people thought to have abducted children. Przybyszewski claims not only that at least one child was sacrificed during “sabbats” but also that hunting children for sport became a popular pastime in the Middle Ages, partaken by people of every major religion, with an unbelievable (and I mean perhaps quite literally unbelievable) number of victims. He references the notorious French serial killer Gilles de Rais and asserts that he murdered around 1,000 children for “Satanic purposes”. This particular idea, on its own, should be addressed first and foremost.
Gilles de Rais has long had a reputation as some sort of medieval Satanist in connection with his crimes, and a few people have even attempted to somehow cast him as a persecuted witch or martyr for a long-lost pre-Christian religion, but on what grounds has he been called a Satanist? Is it simply because his crimes were so unbelievably grotesque that they could only be understood as the work of a “Satanic” mind? Or is it because of his apparent esoteric inclinations? Certain testimonies assert that Gilles de Rais practiced alchemy and the art of demon summoning. But King Solomon summoned demons and he was no Satanist. Indeed, he summoned them with the authority of God, and the reality of much of old ceremonial magic, not discussed by Przybyszewski, is that until relatively recently that is how demons were meant to be summoned in the Christian era. A magician, following what was ultimately a Christian system, cast a circle and the names of God and his angels, summoned demons, and through God’s authority bound the demon to his will. Not the most consistently Satanic idea by my standard at least. There is no evidence that Gilles de Rais opposed this idea, certainly none to suggest that he had ever dedicated such efforts to Satan. People, especially when they are unfamiliar with occultism, tend not to understand that just because you’re an occultist and you summon demons doesn’t mean you’re a Satan, particularly not when Satan has nothing to do with your craft. I think that it is more likely that Rais was some sort of lapsed Catholic who dabbled into the occult, as some scholars suggest, and I suspect that the fact that he was testified as having tried to summon demons and killed people for it is the sole reason that anyone, including Przybyszewski, ever regarded him as a Satanist, despite the lack of evidence of any belief system that could be called Satanism or any first or even third person reference to Satanism by name.
Another example Przybyszewski gives is the abbot Guiborg, presumably referring to Etienne Guibourg, who he says held “Black Masses” in which he slaughtered children to mix their blood with menstrual blood and offered the resulting concoction as communion wine. For one thing, I have no doubt that this is one of the original ideas that spawned countless other contemporary Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories. For another thing, it’s not entirely clear if he was an avowed Satanist, and even the details of the alleged crime scene are disputed among historians, though Montague Summers claims to have an account of him performing a sacrificial rite to Astaroth and Asmodeus. In all truth, we really don’t know if the “Black Masses” ever actually happened, though I personally would not be surprised if in reality they never happened. Przybyszewski then asserts that not only children but also adults were used in these concoctions. He claims, for example, that an Italian cardinal once took a concubine (funny, I thought he already said those were banned by the church) and buried in the ground her up to her breasts, placed snakes at her breasts to bite them, and then took the “juice” that flowed out and used it to mix poisons. There’s no name so I think it’s safe to sarcastically file that under “thing that definitely happened”. According to Przybyszewski, all poisons, including the notorious Aqua Tofana, were supposedly manufactured in this way. Except, that’s not actually true. What is apparently known about the Aqua Tofana, which was created in 1630 by Giulia Tofana, is that it was made with arsenic, lead, and belladonna, not human blood or anything derived from human flesh, although we don’t actually know how it was mixed.
Whole epidemics are attributed to these concoctions, which seems doubtful in my eyes. Remember that he said that these were made using human blood obtained through sacrifice. Creating deadly concoctions through the use of mixtures of human blood would probably caue some sort of blood-related disease. In fact, just drinking human blood on its own is hardly safe; besides the possibility of becoming poisoned by ingesting too much iron from blood, different people can carry all sorts of diseases and pathogens in their blood, and drinking that blood would likely transfer this into your own bloodstream. Now imagine what a mixture of blood from two different people mixed with all sorts of other substances could do to you? Based on Przybyszewski’s claim that Gilles de Rais killed 1,000 children, the allegation that Etienne Guibourg and his mistress Madame de Montespan killed another 2,500, and the presumably innummerable cases of people who Przybyszewski says were killed so that their blood could be turned into poisons, there should have been evidence of massive epidemic of blood-related diseases. I have not found any noteworthy outbreaks of blood diseases in the Middle Ages, let alone any that could be attributed to any sort of witches’ concoction or “black masses”. Frankly, if such ceremonies were real let alone frequent, there would at least be evidence of small outbreaks of blood disorders caused by drinking blood or blood mixed with other substances en masse. The fact that Przybyszewski seems to nonetheless present such things as real and factual is inherently problematic, particularly considering the broad similarity between these “black mass” claims and claims of blood libel, and that problem is not necessarily reduced by the argument about his views about evil.
In any case this is all connected by Przybyszewski back to the subject of witch trials, which are then presented as “well justified” from the standpoint of society. Przybyszewski claims that in 1605, about 2,000 poison mixers were executed in Bohemia, Silesia, and Lausatia. I can’t verify that claim anywhere, so I have no idea where he got it from. Assuming it was true, the poison-mixers would supposedly have been punished by being pinched with red-hot tongues, broken on the wheel, and then “smoked”: that is, roasted by a fire encircled around them. One might as well have already died and gone to the Christian Hell if we go by that description. This, of course, is all justified by the power of these poisons and how they were made. Going from an account attributed to the Swiss physician Bartholomäus Carrichter, we are told that a witch takes certain herbs, speaks magickal words taught to her by a demon or “evil spirit” and which she supposedly does not actually understand (Carrichter treats the whole thing as a creation of her imagination as conditioned by false beliefs), then she presses the juice out of the herbs, washes her hands with it three times, lets it dry by itself in her hands, and don’t wash their hands anymore until they have touched the one they want to harm. As soon as they approach the person they want to harm and that person is not “committed to God”, the spirit of the herbs entered the target and blocked the spirits of their blood, causing a maddening and continuous pain and convulsions. Somehow I fail to see this being an effective epidemic threat, let alone one capable of justifying what must seem like the actual tortures of the Christian Hell upon probably thousands of people. But, of course, Przybyszewski would disagree, suggesting that people in the Middle Ages were highly suggestible to the effects of the poison, which apparently ensured that it worked.
By Przybyszewski’s telling, people in the Middle Ages “had to defend themselves”, and medieval society “had to root out criminal sects” just like how the British attempted to wipe out the “Thuggee” in India in Przybyszewski’s time. It is interesting enough that the witches are being compared to another sect whose existence is not entirely accepted by contemporary scholarship and made for a convenient target for state violence, in this case the British Empire as opposed to the old monarchies of medieval continental Europe. From this standpoint, persecution is framed as a matter of self-defence. From a critical standpoint, we may well admit that this inevitably the case from the standpoint of the overall logic of society, or at least statehood. Society and the state always needs some kind of “Other” to oppose and project a wide array of crimes onto. The state retains its existence through an exclusive monopoly of violence, and so it must always find ways of justifying that violence or ability to dispense it, and so it continually seeks out those it can persecute in order to exercise its own authority. So goes for society in order retain widespread conformity and, from there, authority. Crimes were continually attributed to witches, which allowed the medieval state and church rationalize persecuting them. The fear of the strappado, the tongs, the wheel, and the pitch-boot were assumed to prevent magically-talented people from giving themselves to Satan and mixing poisons in his honour, and supposedly there were many such witches. Eight million were supposedly processed, only a small portion of which turned out to be innocent. I suppose that all depends on the question, “innocent of what?”, when we account for the actual reality of the witch trials. For one thing, the actual number of people executed for witchcraft was definitely far lower than eight million (a figure likely influenced by Gottfried Christian Voigt’s similar count of nine million); the highest estimated death toll is likely to have been 60,000. For another thing, we know that at least most of the people who were killed as a result of these trials were actually other Christians, sometimes practicing a form of folk magick alongside their faith but often simply poor women who were considered rebellious – most certainly not people who had “given themselves over to Satan”. So on those terms, it is definitely not “a small number of people” who were innocent, contrary to Przybyszewski’s assertion.
And yet Przybyszewski also hints that perhaps much worse was done by the anti-witch party. We are told that it is hard to “nab” a good medium, a supposition that Przybyszewski gleams from the accounts of Sprenger, Bodin, Nicolas Remy (a.k.a. Remigius), de Lancre, and the many judges who Przybyszewski seems to suggest as having carried out massacres against entire sects and mediums in order. This was supposedly justified by “the consideration of the well-being of the human family”, on the basis that the people killed by the witch-hunters suffered from “moral insanity”. Freethinking individuals are advised to thank Remy that no outrageous dances, doppelgangers, or hellish noises were ever present at these witch trials. Not quite sure where that was meant to go.
After all that, however, now we come to what appears to be the next stage of the development of Satan’s church. We are told that Satan has become bored with his band of witches, and that the militant church, up to now assumed to have been crushed by Satan’s church, appears to have triumphed at this point. Satan decided that he no longer needed agitation and propaganda, and he became indifferent to the women who danced before him. Out of boredom and desire for new forms of lust, Satan became cruel. Sex with him became a form of torture, the women he chose screamed in agony and trickled blood from wherever he penetrated them. We’re told that Paracelsus claimed that the women were virgins and did not desire the act. Satan’s imagination could no longer bring any variety to the orgies of old, and he no longer cared to hide in remote and inaccesible places. Instead, he was now powerful enough to infiltrate the church of his Christian adversary, and from there to topple him from his own altar and make the priests into his servants. By the end of the 16th century, the advances made by Satan ensured that this was not difficult.
Przybyszewski says that at this time there were a plethora of priests who brought the “sabbat” to their congregations and staged “black masses”. We are told that Pierre de Lancre had burned three priests, presumably on charges of holding “black masses”, and offered endless excuses for his actions. Soon the “black mass” became common and widely practiced in convents, held and developed by priests who wanted to satisfy the desires of flesh. We are then presented with an account of the development of an “obscene cult”, ostensibly derived from the Memoires of Madeleine Bavent (or “Magalaine Bavent” as he seems to spell it for whatever reason). “Memoires” seems to actually be The Confessions of Madeleine Bavent, which for some reason Przybyszewski inaccurately referred to as “Memoires”. In any case, the account of the “obscene cult” begins with a location: a chapel in the cloisters at Louivers. There are no sects, it was bright because of the arrangement of lamps on the altar, supposedly fueled with human fat, which was supposedly common practice. A few priests are said to be involved: one named Picard, his vicar, Boullé, and about five or six nuns. The host bore no image, blasphemies were uttered as the host was elevated, and the mass was conducted with maledictions against the Trinity, the Eucharist, and all Christian sacraments. Supposedly, it was asserted that, while the Saints of God “do great things”, the unholy ones of the Devil are not inferior to them. This particular aspect would seem to recall the dualism between God and Satan that was established at the beginning of The Synagogue of Satan and later attributed to “Manichaeanism”. The priest then supposedly carved a hole into the mass and then stuck a piece of prepared parchment through the hole, apparently to satisfy some kind of lust.
A woman named Maria Von Sains is said to have recounted that the priest would sprinkle “the blood of Christ” all over the congregation, while the cry “may his blood cover us and our children!” resounded during the service. This exact saying seems to come from Matthew 27:25, in which it originally followed the act of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’ blood. This seems to have since been interpreted as an acceptance of collective responsibility for the crucifixion, and hence became a part of Christian anti-semitism. I can only assume that in this context it’s being uttered in a different, purely blasphemous context. During this mass, the congregation stuck out their tongues, took off their clothes, or simply presented their bare asses to the altar, or they masturbated to the elevation of the host before converging into an orgy. This was the “Black Mass”, which so far appears as a subversion of Christianity that is nonetheless within Christianity, though clearly packaged with aspects of the older forms of Satanism as presented by Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski asserts that this “Black Mass” was not only very popular but also “almost public” towards the middle of the 17th century. Such celebrations were supposedly no longer a secret, and Przybyszewski cites as an example the gatherings of women in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Paris and the Abbey of Montmartre.
We then return to the subject of Etienne Guibourg and his trial. This trial is purported to have compromised the aristocracy of the court of the “Sun King” Louis XIV as well as his mistresses to such an extent that it had to be covered up. Whether or not that was actually the case, Przybyszewski insists that despite this there are plenty of facts to establish about the case. Again, these should be understood solely as claims made by Przybyszewski, since we have no actual idea if Guibourg’s “Black Mass” actually happened. We are told in any case that, in a chapel, completely decked out in black, there was an altar with a wreath surrounded by black candles, and that it is here that Guibourg awaited his many clients. These clients apparently included the poet Jean Racine, Marquis D’Argenson, a man referred to as “de Saint-Pont”, Cardinal de Boullion, the Duke of Luxembourg, Lord Buckingham, and none other than Madame de Montaspan. It can’t have escaped your notice that these consist mostly of powerful and influential people in the court of Louis XIV. Madame de Montaspan supposedly wanted to become the queen of France, and would do and sacrifice anything in order to win the crown, while Guibourg, who Przybyszewski says supplied the entire French royal aristocracy with poisons, was the only man who could help her achieve her goal. Przybyszewski says that just after entering the chapel the Madame stripped down completely and placed herself on the altar.
The ritual itself, according to Przybyszewski, began when Guibourg laid a cloth over the Madame’s belly and placed a chalice upon it. Then he recited the liturgical mass in accordance with Catholic tradition, except that he then kissed the naked body of the Madame instead of the altar, and then consecrated the host over her vagina before inserting a piece of said host into her body. Then, the daughter of the witch La Voisin cried out three times while Claude des Oeillets, here presented as a witch, brought in a child purchased from their mother. Exactly why the mother would ever agree to such a transaction is frankly beyond my understanding, but Przybyszewski claims that children were viewed as a cheap commodity in that time. Then, Guibourg supposedly said “Christ said, suffer the little children who come unto me. I want you to go to him and become one with him.”. Then he allegedly invoked the “princes of friendship”, Astaroth and Asmodeus, to receive the child as sacrifice. Blood flowed into the chalice, and spilled everywhere else, and the blood that entered the chalice was mixed with wine, part of the host, and the ashes of the unbaptised to produce communion wine, while the sacrifice is turned into a mummy. Guibourg supposedly said “This is my body! This is my blood!” before sharing the blood wine between himself and the Madame. Then he conjured “dark powers” to fulfill the Madame’s primary goal for this ritual: to win the affection and favour of Louis XIV in order to become the queen of France. Then the mass concludes with Guibourg covering his genitals as well as those of the Madame with blood and having sex.
Probably the most important thing to reiterate is that almost certainly none of this happened. There is no evidence of any of the sacrificial rites having been carried out. There would be evidence of human remains if any of it happened, but La Voisin’s garden was never even searched. What is Przybyszewski’s source for any of the details of Guibourg’s so-called “Black Mass”? According to Przybyszewski, what little evidence exists comes from Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel La Bas and the preface to Le Satanisme et La Magie by Henri Antoine Jules-Bois (a book that Przybyszewski otherwise regards as mediocre). So his source is a work of fiction written by a Catholic and fellow Decadent whose actual connection to Satanism is entirely unverifiable and a book about Satanism written by a man known in the French occult partly for accusing his rivals of being Satanists. Stuff like that is basically what I mean when I established at the outset that you cannot treat The Synagogue of Satan as an actual history of Satanism, because as history it’s frankly fairly terrible. But here let us return to the operative point: what does all of this lurid exposition tell us about Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism? Frankly, not much. I suppose all the blasphemy might be interpreted in terms of reversal, though the rest of the details take us back to the exact same conversation about possible problems with Przybyszewski’s overall approach to negativity. More to the point, even here it is hard to believe that Guibourg is necessarily a Satanist. Even if we assume that the blasphemies that Przybyszewski describes could invoke some sort of Satanic reversal, even in Przybyszewski’s account it seems that Guibourg never actually invokes Satan. Although he petitions the powers of Astaroth and Asmodeus, it’s not clear that he actually denies Christ or God; though of course, the ritual in the overall can hardly be described as Christian. It’s an absurd mess with no inherent concept behind it. I am absolutely confident that no one has ever actually performed it in reality.
We are then directed to the subject of Leo Taxil’s infamous hoax, in which he claimed that the Freemasons were a Satanic sect only to publicly reveal that he made the whole thing up as a prank. I believe that it is here, after all the absurdities regard black masses, poisons, and witch trials, that we are once again able to get deeper into Przybyszewski’s philosophy of Satanism. While Przybyszewski does not defend the idea that the Freemasons were Satanists as Taxil’s hoax said they were, he does nonetheless propose that the Satanists did in fact split into two camps. The first of these camps is the so-called Palladians, who, according to Przybyszewski, simply turned Catholicism upside down. The name “Palladian” brings to mind the “Palladists”, who supposedly worshipped Lucifer and consorted with demons. Przybyszewski’s Palladians are apparently a “neo-Gnostic” sect who believed that Lucifer, apparently also called Adonai, was the “God of Light” and Principle of Good, in opposition to Jehovah-Adonai, the “God of Darkness” and presumably “Principle of Evil”. I would say that Przybyszewski might as well have called them Luciferians, since in essence it is the same idea as certain stereotypical representations of Luciferianism as (theoretically) distinct from Satanism: Lucifer is the true expression of divine goodness and knowledge, who was unjustly opposed, usurped, and cast down by the God of the Bible. This dualism between a “God of Light” and a “God of Darkness” is very much familiar, it reminds us of the “Manichaeans” that Przybyszewski discussed in previous sections of the book. And indeed Przybyszewski himself draws this comparison, saying that the Palladians represent the tenacity and life force of the old “Manichaeanism”. As long as we’re comparing the Palladians to the “Manichaeans”, it stands to reason that the Palladians are a new incarnation of the “Manichaean” sect that favoured the worship of the “White God” or “God of Light” over the “Black God”. But, of course, from the starting point of the Palladians we are also presented with a space in which Satanism distinguishes itself from them.
Whereas the Palladians identify Satan as Lucifer and regard him as the God of Light and Principle of Good, Satanism, on Przybyszewski’s terms, absolutely rejects this idea. Satanists accept Satan as the Fallen Angel, the Great Adversary, the eternal Serpent of temptation, the Prince of Darkness; in essence, Satanists do not deny evil from Satan, and instead revere him for it. Satan for the Satanists remains as he was in the Middle Ages; the Devil who could help people obtain strange powers, and under whose protection one could commit crimes or transgress the law without fear. This apparently is even moreso the case now that black magic is no longer accounted for in the law books. According to Przybyszewski, the Satanists are typically lead by a priest who is gifted with magical abilities and performs blasphemous masses. His example, of course, is Canon Docre, which seems to simply be a nickname for Etienne Guibourg, and I have already gone through the problems of him as an example. Citing Huysmans’ La Bas, we get a description of what the generic Black Mass is apparently supposed to be. The Black Mass is meant to consist of blasphemous recitations of mass and the defiling of the sacraments concluding with a sexual orgy. This apparently is meant to involve a particularly horny priest (one afflicted with satyriasis) and women with somnambulistic tendencies, which essentially just means giving to hypnotic states of trance, much like the witches that Przybyszewski. These seem to be the basic elements of a Black Mass, and it’s interesting and rather fortunate that blood sacrifice isn’t actually listed as an essential part of it. But as for what is basic to the Black Mass, open transgression against God, wanton carnality, and somnanmbulistic ecstasy are the key themes here, because the part of the central point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, lodged beneath the sensationalism is that Satan is to be worshipped with ecstatic and orgiastic rites, with sexuality, and an unremitting defiance and will-to-reversal. That’s a big part of why Przybyszewski positions “the heathen cult” as essentially religious libertinism, that’s why the “Manichaean” splinter sect who favoured “The Black God” worshipped him with nocturnal orgies resembling the ancient worship of Dionysus, and it’s part of the reason why sexuality, drunkenness, and intoxication are such big features of the “sabbat”. But, of course, that’s not the only reason. The other reason is that, in Przybyszewski’s philosophy, sex itself is the refuge of transgression, where everything is possible and thus every transgression.
Satanism, Przybyszewski tells us, is a religion a rebours, a religion of reversal, a religion of hate, revenge, and fornication. It is in this setting no less than the cult of the transvaluation of values, the doctrine of negation of the so-called law that stands against desire, the church of vengeance against oppression and authority, and the unholy mystery of sexuality. This encapsulates the raw negativity that is the real point of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. And, again, sex is central to Satanism, and to Satanic reversal. Sex is an abyss in which all things are possible, every crime is hatched, and a terrible urge for delirium rages that can only be stifled by inhuman things. Thus it is the seat of the destruction of all that is binding on the human psyche. Such things are a mystery to the outsider, a “normal” person, so called by nature of their conditioning and the extent to which they passively accept it, cannot quite understand it, no more than your average cishet man or woman understands queerness. Perhaps even those with “Satanic inclinations” must first pass into the mystery of Satanism before they really grasp its essence; as with Life itself, it is a dark forest, it is arrheton. And so, Przybyszewski says that a “normal” person cannot comprehend the Black Mass. But, of course, he does insist that no one can deny what people do in the frenzy of the Black Mass.
Now we come to Przybyszewski’s remarks on the growth of Satanism in the 19th century, his own time, and I find it is another instance which tells us of his ultimate lack of regard for the Enlightenment and his contradictory relationship with materialism. Przybyszewski says that Satanism has continued to grow under the protection of the “atheistic” liberal state and “liberal church”, the latter of which has come to a certain understanding with a nascent Darwinism and materialism. Both are said to have based their existence on “materialistic” teachings, and in this setting Satanism becomes strong and powerful. Ah, if only things were so simple in reality, then perhaps Christianity would have been nothing but a memory in my age. The liberal church, of course, has no desire to deal with Satanism, despite apparently having every cause to do so, supposedly because it denies its own origins and is the enemy of all forms of mysticism. Liberalism is thus positioned simultaneously as the unwitting ally of Satanism, who protects Satanism and Satanists from the persecutions of the traditionalist church, and as an interminable nuisance whose presence ultimately harms all attunement to mysticism. This latter trait, of course, sets liberalism at odds not only with Christianity, but with all forms of occultism and ultimately with the individualist mysticism of Satanism. It is very much implied that Przybyszewski does not like contemporary materialism, on the grounds of its similar rejection of mysticism, the occult, the soul, the Devil, witchcraft, and all the attendant subject matter. Yet, I am also not convinced that Przybyszewski was entirely opposed to materialism, not while he positions Satan as the god of flesh and matter and thus extolls what Iwan Bloch refers to as the “Physical Mysterium of Copulation” in opposition to the idealism of the “Metaphysical Mysticism of Idolization”. Indeed, by placing sex at the center of his Satanic mystery, Przybyszewski could arguably interpreted as privileging flesh, or at least such would seem to be the case if it were not for his belief in the soul as something that can be separated from the body.
Przybyszewski apparently concludes The Synagogue of Satan with a discussion of Eugene Vintras, one of the more notorious Catholic mystics, and his sect, the Church of Carmel, which he says practiced “the most shameful” fornication and blasphemy. He cites Stanislas de Guaita’s book Le Serpent de la Genese as his source for the information he writes about Vintras. To begin with, we are told that the Carmel sect is based on a belief in the progressive redemption of all beings from the lowest level to the highest level. To that end, each individual must work on their own perfection and participate in the common effort of perfection. The goal of the Carmelite is to reunite with the Garden of Eden through religious rites involving sexual union; the rationale here is that Eve lost Paradise through an act of “sinful love”, but through an act of “religious love” it can be recovered. Thus, sex can lead to either sin or salvation depending on its purpose. From there we are told that the Carmelites practiced “heavenly love” by fornicating among themselves in order to perfect themselves as well as with “lower elementary spirits” or demons with the aim of converting them into celestial beings. It seems that sex, if practiced in the Carmelite way, has the power to turn you into an angel. For the Carmelite, salvation is found only in sexual union. Supposedly, every man in the sect “owned” every woman, and vice versa. Przybyszewski refers to this as “sexual communism”, which he asserts forms the basis of this doctrine and others like it. The bed was the altar, the kiss was the priestly office, and masturbation (“the unnatural vice of Onan”) was a means of elevating lower beings. Public sex and prostitution supposely became not only virtues but also acts of inner sanctification.
This was deemed to be quite exceptionally offensive in France, and the Rosicrucians called for the head of Eugene Vintras. Przybyszewski says that a death sentence was to be carried out by the Vehme if Vintras did not cease his activities within a few years. The “Father” Vintras is alleged to have sanctified his followers through sexual intercourse. Infidelity among spouses was purportedly resolved through “celestial unions”. The Carmelite leader was apparently surrounded by mediums and somnambulists, through he whom he wanted to explore the secrets of black magick. This, we’re told, poses a danger that the liberal state should not ignore, due to the growing membership of the Church of Carmel. Przybyszewski then frames the “highest eternally old and eternally new principle” of Gnosticism as essentially the worship of copulation; “the skeleton was created to bear children, the genitals for mating”. Przybyszewski then claims that the Carmelites even railed against “the taboo of blood” on the grounds that “even the Christians mated amongst themselves”. Sexual mysticism, allegedly sanctifying the worst forms of fornication, is both central and nothing new; Przybyszewski claims that it is in essence the doctrine of the Cathars in a new form. He asserts that the “positive character” of Carmelite sexual mysticism made it more dangerous than Satanism, because Satanism was according to him rooted in a negation full of the fear of hell. But why the bad conscience when you’re under Satan’s protection? Why the fear of hell in the face of the torments of God? Perhaps the real point is that the fear of hell is one of the contradictions that lies at the center of Satanic transgression, which is then resolved in the “sabbat” and the cult of Satan through the ecstatic rejection of heaven.
And so again we return to the serious philosophy of Satanism, and Przybyszewski reiterates that sex is central to it. Satanism, on Przybyszewski’s terms at least, is about acquainting oneself with the hidden powers of sexuality, and being able to do so requires quelling the ever-increasing demands of sex and satisfy its vengeance. This is why a person gives themselves over to Satan. Not for nothing, then, that Iwan Bloch refers to Przybyszewski’s Satan as the “Personification of the Physical Mysterium of Copulation”. Indeed, this doctrine makes a lot of sense of the way sexuality and sexual excess figure so strongly into the cult of Satan as presented by Przybyszewski throughout The Synagogue of Satan. But the other important part of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, indeed, the last important premise to be discussed, is the central role of intoxication. In the realms of night and even pain, one finds delirium and intoxication. You may fall into hell, but by receiving delirium in frenzy, you can forget about it. And so in this forgetting and ecstasy, we lean into the grand formula of Satanism: “Erase me from the book of life, inscribe me in the book of death!”.
At last I can talk about this in an interesting way. After all, what is the “book of life”, and what is the “book of death”? The “book of life” is something that is referenced in the Bible, but the idea of there being a book for life and for death seems to be a more apocrine idea. The “book of life” in both Judaism and Christianity is the tablet on which God inscribes the names of those he considers righteous. Those whose names are recorded in the “book of life” are assured of everlasting life with God, while those whose names are blotted out of that book are condemned to death. In the Book of Revelation, those whose names are inscribed in the “book of life” are saved, while those who are not inscribed are cast into the lake of fire where they die the second death. But although death is the fate of those blotted out of the “book of life”, the “book of death” is found not in the Bible but in the apocryphal Book of Jubilees. In Jubilees, whereas “the righteous” are recorded in the “book of life”, those who are wicked and walk a path of impurity will be inscribed in the “book of death”, also known as the “Book of Perdition”. The latter name suggests the camp of rebels, those who defy God, like the “son of perdition” who is the most intractable enemy of the church. “Everlasting life” with God is to be propertied to God. You belong to God for as long as your name is inscribed in the “book of life”, and that name stays there for as long as you remain servile to God, as one of the sheep presided over on the right side of Christ. To take yourself out of God’s property, then, is to take your name out of the “book of life”. To inscribe your name into the “book of death”, or rather the Book of Perdition, is in this sense the act of self-assertion, to partake in the war of all against all on your own behalf. It is a declaration of Rebellion. Though, as we will see, perhaps Przybyszewski has a somewhat different view.
Towards the very end of The Synagogue of Satan, we see Przybyszewski’s Satanism unfold as a form of philosophical and mystic pessimism. For you see, life, according to Przybyszewski, is cruel. Life is a difficult burden that is foisted upon you. This is the realm of daylight. The realm of night, however, represents intoxication, delirium, and the attendant forgetting of life. Bourgeois life cannot do much to help you understand this, there is no measure by which the middle class citizen may compensate themselves for their ignorance through their riches. The facts of life, to truly be understood, must be understood in their abyss. It is again arrheton, that which is ineffable and whose knowledge requires passing into it. Life is harsh and cruel, and so there is only one way out: intoxication. Desperate people have intoxicated themselves with poisons, with filth, and with sexual ecstasies. The individual “splits in two”, their nerves rip, and they suffer tortures, but in the process at least they forget about life. This we are told is the one horror that exceeds every other: the filth, the slavery, the herds of lizards, the sacraments of blood and piss, all these for Przybyszewski pale in comparison to the horror of life itself. This ultimately motivates Przybyszewski’s ideas about Satanic transgression in the context of his fantastical narrative; the crimes that are committed, the vengeance that is undertaken, the shattering of the laws that commences, all of it is to inscribe one’s name into the “book of death” in order to negate the life that is so hated.
Przybyszewski’s Satanist would rather give himself up than allow himself to be deterred from his crimes. Przybyszewski’s Satanist breaks, inverts, mocks, and pollutes all laws, and hates everything that is in power over him, whether that is religion, secular institutions, the state, or capitalism. Przybyszewski’s Satanist would rather die than surrender or be forced to recant. Przybyszewski’s Satanist makes it his business – no, his religious duty – to shatter the restrictions of life, and judging by how cruel life is we might say that this rebellion and will to reversal is his reason to continue living. Przybyszewski’s Satanist is also the witch who, when her executioner wanted to free her in exchange for sexual subservience, rejected his advances with anger and pride: “I, who have kissed the ass of Satan, should give myself to you, the executor of the law!?”. Through everything else this simple roar of outrage expresses the true ethos of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. Total refusal and negation of authority and power, taken up as the highest virtue. That is the raw nihilist ethos Przybyszewski’s Satanist. This supremely anti-authoritarian nihilism is in utter contrast to LaVeyan Satanism, with its Pentagonal Revisionism and Anton LaVey’s self-avowed law and order ideology, or the bastardised Platonism of Michael Aquino, or The Satanic Temple with their humanism and their police regalia. I think that Przybyszewski would probably laugh at today’s Satanists for this and their lack of nihilistic vitality, let alone for the fact that many of them deny worshipping Satan (I must remind you at this point that, as far as Przybyszewski was concerned, Satanism meant actually worshipping Satan).
Finally, Przybyszewski derides the Cathars and the Carmelites, and presumably any similar sects, for their apparent efforts to sanctify delirium, nymphomania, and satyriasis. He considers this to be a sad and miserable hypocrisy. I think there may be a contradiction here, since he does hold the same regard for “the heathen cult” and the pre-Christian form of the “sabbat” for doing the same thing. But, it is also obvious that “sanctification”, for the Cathars and the Carmelites, would have meant dedicating those things to the Christian God as a means of blessing and saving beings. Satanism, of course, rejects such efforts. The whole premise of “salvation” is diametrically opposed to Satanism, and so Satan himself is no Saviour. Przybyszewski’s Satan is the creator and the destroyer, the god who creates life and then destroys it again and generates evolution only to negate it again. Funny enough, the exact same thing could be said about God if we take the monotheistic claims about him seriously, though I suppose at least Satan never claimed that he was going to “save” mankind in this telling. We should remember that Przybyszewski’s framing easily positions Satan as the true creator, being the father and patron of matter, flesh, and the generative powers of the world, which would make the Christian God a false creator. Satan-Paraclete is but the Paraclete of Evil, the spirit that proclaims the only law: the submergence of sin in something greater. Satan teaches humans to forget and overcome the maladies of life by means of negation and the ecstasy of instincts. The word of the Satan-Paraclete is enivrez-vous, meaning “get drunk”. And so ends the text of Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan.
I suppose before we conclude we could well examine this doctrine of enivrez-vous, of drunkenness as a virtue. Charles Baudelaire, one of France’s great Decadents, wrote a poem with exactly that title, Enivrez-vous, and its overall message is sort of similar. One must always be drunk or intoxicated in order to not feel the bruises of Time, you must intoxicate yourself with what you can – wine, poetry, or even virtue, truly anything! – in order to avoid becoming a “martyred slave of Time”. Przybyszewski’s Satanism would thus present a slight alteration of this: you must always intoxicate yourself in order to avoid becoming a tortured slave of life, or indeed a slave of God. The doctrine that Przybyszewski presents regarding intoxication allows us to make a great deal of sense of the radical emphasis on ecstatic ritualism, hypnotic states, and narcotic consumption in the celebrations of Satan, and even the emphasis on sexuality can be said to fold into this broader doctrine.
Conclusion: Summary of Przybyszewskian Satanism
So, now to summarize what we can understand about Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism. We may understand it as comprising the following points:
Przybyszewski’s Satanism is based on the worship of Satan.
It is also based on a philosophy defined by nihilism, pessimism, libertinism, and egoism.
The core aspects of Przybyszewski’s Satanism are reversal, negation, intoxication, sexual ecstasy, and drunkenness.
Przybyszewski’s Satanism begins with “the heathen cult” and gradually evolved into “Manichaeanism” and then into the church of Satan.
Satan is the patron god of matter, flesh, and the evolution, generation, and negation contained within it.
Opposed to Satan is God, his son Jesus, and the church, who all represent the invisible kingdom against the world.
Satan is not the misunderstood principle of good, rather he is “good” because he is “evil”, and “evil” is the transvaluation of values.
Satan is worshipped through orgiastic and ecstatic celebrations, such as the “sabbat” and the “black mass”.
Satanism is based on pride, instinct, curiosity, and individualistic mysticism (or “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”). This means that Przybyszewski’s Satanism opposes Christianity and similar religions, but also modern rationalism.
While Przybyszewski’s Satanism can be thought of as materialistic, it also seems to privilege the soul and the possibility of its ecstatic movement away from the body.
Free will is a myth, but at the same time the ability to exercise individual will is central.
Sin is good, no one is culpable of sin because Satan is the author of sin, so no one is punished for sin after death.
Life is cruel, death is certain, but by worshipping Satan you can forget about life and overcome its horrors through ecstatic negation.
The aim of the “sabbat” is to transform sin into the purity of desire through Satanic communization.
Przybyszewski’s Satanist is someone who opposes all authority and all laws, and thus negates everything in an act of transvaluation of values.
The goal of the Satanist is to erase their name from the “book of life” and inscribe it in the “book of death”.
It should be pointed out that I don’t think I agree wholeheartedly with Przybyszewskian Satanism. For one thing I think it’s already clear that I don’t think The Synagogue of Satan can be taken as an actual historical account, and in this sense I don’t agree with Przybyszewski’s presentation of the so-called facts of the history of Satanism. I reckon that any modern observer of history would likely understand me here. For another, I obviously don’t align with Przybyszewski’s views on free will, and I maintain that his views on free will are ultimately self-contradicting on the grounds that individual will still exists so that it can be exercised as he says it ought to be, whereas if we take the absence of free will seriously this should not be possible. While I may be something of a pessimist, indeed I insist on revolutionary pessimism and on freeing the power of pessimism, while I definitely have a good sense of where Przybyszewski goes when he says that life is cruel, I don’t think I inclined myself towards the view of life as an abject horror the way he seems to present it as. How can we totally do so, when the ecstasies of instinct that Przybyszewski presents are so latent to life, even if this only means that this is the online purpose to an otherwise totally meaningless life? All this of course is to say nothing of the problematic ambiguity surrounding Przybyszewski’s presentation of women.
But I insist that there is a great deal of value in Przybyszewski’s form of Satanism that should seriously be considered. For one, understanding the “sabbat” as a form of communization, the desire it upsurges as superseding the value of currency and hierarchy, and understanding Satanic negation as applicable to all authority and all “systems” carries with it an immense potential to define Satanism on anti-capitalist nihilist-egoist terms that allow for an easy break from the reactionism that LaVey and his legacy have largely put forward. For another, in the overall we see an emphasis on negation and reversal that allows us to develop away from the limits of the humanist orthodoxy that seems to pervade modern discussions of Satanism (and at this point I should say right now that Satanism isn’t reducible to the idea that by rejecting God you can be a nicer and more rational person). From the standpoint of Satanic Paganism I can’t deny that I have some fondness of his attempt to link back to some orgiastic pre-Christian tradition, though I must say it smacks the old Enlightenment-era Romantic Paganism and its simplistic understanding of Paganism. At the very least it may also provide a way of enriching the links between the two worlds. I would also say that Przybyszewski is absolutely correct to suggest that our understanding of things should consist “in their abyss”. From one of his other works, Homo Sapiens, we behold a demand for life and its “terrible depths” and “bottomless abyss”, which I think can be interpreted at least on its own as a call for the understanding of life as something that cannot be separated from its “abyss”. The inner darkness of life is to be cherished, not exorcised.
Regardless of everything, though, it must be stressed here and now: this is the Satanism that predated Anton LaVey. This is what was called Satanism before LaVey claimed to have invented it. This is the Satanism that Stanislaw Przybyszewski identified with since 1889 at the earliest, and around which he formed a small movement including people like Hanns Heinz Ewers and Wojciech Weiss dedicated to spreading Satanism. This apparently even inspired later movements such as Fraternitas Saturni. Its philosophy, when considered carefully on its own terms and in its own context, flies squarely in the face of our existing orthodoxy about what Satanism is. And, even if not for all else, Przybyszewski deserves a lot of credit for extending the philosophy of Nietzsche into the form of a Satanic doctrine.
I won’t say that The Synagogue of Satan is the best read even on Satanism, not least because as history it’s just not fit for purpose. But we ought to remember that book anyway, and Przybyszewski more generally. I should hope to eventually be able to get my hands on more of his work at some point. Perhaps they might say yet more.
Last year I wrote an article about Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who at the time I had sort of “discovered” through the work of Per Faxneld, and in the process got to know a fair bit about Przybyszewski’s philosophy, enough to conclude that Stanislaw Przybyszewski, not Anton LaVey, was in fact the world’s first Satanist. But at the time, I did not have access to probably the main statement of his vision of Satanism: The Synagogue of Satan. Written in 1897, The Synagogue of Satan is a decadent manifesto that outlines his own somewhat artistic account of what he seems to have believed was the tradition of Satanism, which in his view emerged from deep roots in mystic traditions that reacted against Christianity and presented a philosophy that included an active principle of “evil”. In last year’s article I could only discuss parts of that text, as presented via Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity. But, a few months ago, I managed to track down and purchase a physical copy of The Synagogue of Satan to have and to read, and now, because of this, I am able to discuss its contents in full.
What follows is a commentary on The Synagogue of Satan, undertaken from the standpoint of its place in the history of Satanic canon and from the standpoint of a contemporary treatment of Satanism. It examines what The Synagogue of Satan has to say about Satanism, how to interpret Przybyszewski’s treatment of Satanism, issues within the overall work, and what insights we can weave through it. In this way, I hope to address what is from my standpoint probably the original essence of modern Satanism, at least insofar as we’re dealing with the word of the first modern Satanist, and contribute to its revival, and thereby the work of philosophically grounding contemporary Satanism against the vision offered by the “mainstream” of modern Satanist organizations such as the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple.
I should note that the edition of The Synagogue of Satan that I possess is the Runa Raven Press edition, translated by Istvan Sarkady and published in 2002. I have scoured all over the internet for literally any edition for a physical English translation, and this was the only one I can find. This edition seems to consist of five chapters, whereas other editions split the same content into two chapters; the first is usually called “The Creation of the Church of Satan” and the second is called “The Cult of the Church of Satan”. I am informed that the same appears to be true for the Alkahest Press edition, though like the Runa Raven Press edition there is a paragraph at the beginning referencing three “essays”. In the Runa Raven Press edition, the first chapter is presented as an account of what Przybyszewski believed to be the historical development of Satanism from antiquity up to the time when “the church of Satan” was fully developed, which from the seems of it he seemed to believe occurred with the rise of Manicheism. The second chapter is presented as a treatment of the priesthood and cult of “the church of Satan”, and seems to focus on how he believed Satan became popular in the Middle Ages. The third chapter is presented as a “critical scientific evaluation of Satanism”, though it tends to focus on the concept of the witch. The fourth chapter seems to be Przybyszewski’s exposition of the sabbat, or witches’ sabbat, in its supposed historical origin and relevance to Satanism. The fifth and final chapter seems to continue discussion of the witch and the sabbat but tending ultimately toward the broader subject of Satanic negation.
Still, for the ease of the reader, it may actually be better that I run with the structure of the Runa Raven Press edition that I own, especially since the original is technically divided into five parts between its two chapters anyway, so that I can divide this commentary into five parts. Part 1, The Heathen Cult, examines Przybyszewski’s account of the supposed origin of the cult of Satan in pre-Christian polytheism and its development towards his construction of “Manichaeanism”. Part 2, The Church, explores Przybyszewski’s account of the gradual deterioration of the Christian church as beset by heresy, revolt, and the vengeance of Satan. Part 3, The Witch, examines Przybyszewski’s conception of the Witch as the most notorious expression of Satanic negativity as well as the nature of Satan’s church. Part 4, The Sabbat, continues to explore the nature of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, or the church of Satan, through the subject of Witches’ Sabbath. And finally, Part 5, The Black Mass, concludes the investigation of Przybyszewski’s Satanism with a discussion of the “Black Mass” as well as Przybyszewski’s overall Satanic philosophy as ostensibly expressed in the occult of Przybyszewski’s time.
Also, in the process of writing this commentary, I have found that it has taken more effort to cover what I wanted to than I had hoped, and the overall has ended up becoming quite bloated. Rather than subject you, the reader, to another article in excess of 30,000 words, I have instead decided to split my commentary into two articles, based on the two chapters of the original German edition of The Synagogue of Satan. As you have seen first of these articles covers the first chapter, “The Creation of the Church of Satan”, and is named accordingly after it. It will consist of Part 1, The Origin of Satan’s Cult, and Part 2, The Decline of Christendom. The second article will be named after the second chapter, “The Cult of the Church of Satan”. It will consist of Part 3, The Witch, Part 4, The Sabbat, and Part 5, The Black Mass, as well as the overall conclusion of the commentary.
It should finally be noted that although my principle aim is to discuss the philosophical content and rammifications of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, there are also several problems and issues with Przybyszewski’s historical treatment of the subject matter, and these are to be addressed as they appear. It’s worth remembering that, at least based on his writing, Przybyszewski seems to have actually believed in the historicity of certain accounts of witchcraft and black masses, and did not regard them as superstitions or tall tales, and so we are required to take his accounts of such things with a grain of salt. It also seems to me that Przybyszewski may have based some aspects of his history of Christianity from the work of Jules Michelet. But of course, for our purposes, what matters is what is communicated about Przybyszewski’s vision of Satanism. In this respect, I tend to think that The Synagogue of Satan is best treated as a narrative meant to communicate his philosophy of Satanism, not so much an actual history of it.
Part 1: The Heathen Cult
We can start with Przybyszewski’s account of the two gods who oppose each other forever: Satan and God. Satan is the “evil god” or “bad god” that created the physical world, the flesh, the earth, nature, and all of the passions, doubts, conflicts, pain, and agonies that come with it. God is the “good” god that created spirits and “pure” beings, and the invisible kingdom in which they dwell, ostensibly perfect and devoid of suffering or conflict. This on the surface seems clear-cut: Satan is bad, and God is good, right? No. Because God, the supposed “good god”, is little more than the patron of law, normalcy, humility, and submission, a petty tyrant who claims the past and the future solely for himself, and who demands fully childlike obedience and ignorance so that his followers may have the faith needed to be admitted into the invisible kingdom. And Satan, the supposed “evil god”, is also none other than the lawless and visionary leap into the future, the curiosity for the most hidden secrets, and the defiance that overthrows all laws and all norms. God the “good god” is actually bad because God wants the souls of humans to remain fixed in a purity that is ultimately slavery to his will, and Satan the “evil god” is in his own way actually good because Satan, who is so clearly the force of active negation or negativity, kindled the instincts that allowed people to investigate the world around them and break the rules that were set against their liberty. Wisdom, depravity, pride, humility, in their highest, noblest, deepest, and wildest forms are in Satan, for this is what composes the negativity of the freedom that Satan represents. Satan is the author of heroism, science, philosophy, and art, who called upon his followers to use his herbs and poisons to be healthy, find hidden treasures of the earth to become rich, follow the signs to decipher the future, use magic to destroy enemies while remaining beyond the grasp of the law, and even learn the art of necromancy. Love comes from Satan, and the soul is said share the same origin as Satan, and Satan promises his followers that they will see and obtain everything by embarking his difficult path. This is Przybyszewski’s Satan: the patron of outcasts, heroes, rebels, magicians, and all those animated by his negation, who invites the creatures of his world to cast off the invisble kingdom on behalf of their shared freedom.
An interesting but probably somewhat flawed element here is in the many forms Satan is said to have taken in the book. Przybyszewski calls Satan the Light Bearer, obviously meaning Lucifer, Satan-Father, Satan-Samyasa, no doubt referring to the fallen angel Samyaza, and Satan-Paraclete; very peculiar, considering that Paraclete is another word for the Holy Spirit, though this will become more relevant later. But Przybyszewski also says that Satan lived in the clan of the Magi and the mysteries of the Chaldean temples, and that his priests were called “khartunim”, “kasdim”, and “gazrim”, and that thus Satan was part of the doctrine of “Mazdaism”, or Zoroastrianism, and appeared as the god Ahura Mazda to teach Zarathustra (Zoroaster) the secrets of the haoma plant. It seems like it would have made more sense for Satan to have appeared as Ahriman, the eternal opponent of Ahura Mazda, especially considering that Przybyszewski’s cosmology of two eternally opposed gods is pretty similar to Zoroastrianism, which also assumes two gods eternally locked in struggle. I suspect that the idea is obviously to connect Satan to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche through his character Zarathustra, the hermit prophet named after the prophet Zoroaster but who otherwise does not resemble Zoroaster. In this way Satan, in his guise as Ahura Mazda, would have inspired the re-evaluation of values in ancient Iran. And I suppose that’s true if we mean the shift from polytheism to monotheism, but as we’ll see it’s rather incongruous with what Przybyszewski says about pre-Christian antiquity.
Ahura Mazda is indeed not Satan’s only guise. Przybyszewski’s Satan seems to have appeared as the Egyptian god Thoth, who is here also referred to as “Trismegistos” (as in Hermes Trismegistos), to write down books of esoteric knowledge that shared among a chosen few. Satan also manifested as the Greek goddess Hecate, who shared magickal arts with her devotees including the “invisible death stroke”. Satan also appeared as Pan, also here referred to as Satyr or Phallus, here positioned as a universally revered god of lust and carnality who taught women how to seduce and men how to satisfy their lusts, as well inventing the flute. Przybyszewski’s Pan was also the god Apollo and the goddess Aphrodite “at the same time”, authoring schools of philosophy, building temples to Muses, and teaching medicine, mathematics, and the sexual arts. This all obviously has a simplistic bent to it, and is a fairly obvious sign of the influence of the way pre-Christian Greek and Roman antiquity were interpreted by Enlightenment-era radical liberal authors. In that time, there was a certain romantic notion of “paganism” as referring to a humane and rational creed based simply on the reverence of the natural world and the teaching of “natural law”, the latter rather conveniently dovetailing with certain ideas of “natural law” that were already an established part of the political philosophy of liberalism. It was thus in some ways a constructed religion of liberalism, a more antique Cult of Reason based on the idea of Greek and Roman religion but without actually reflecting its traditional content, and it should come as no surprise that this sometimes incorporated the ideas of what was contemporary hedonism. Words like “pagan”, “paganistic”, or “paganism” in this setting were often practically interchangeable with concepts like hedonism or libertinism, which were long believed to be widespread before the rise of Christianity; such terminology has continued in certain anarchist circles into the 21st century, sometimes to disastrous effect. In any case, the actual realities of Greek and Roman society don’t quite entail the free love that Enlightenment radicals longed for. If certain accounts of the life of Aristippus are anything to go by, ancient Greeks considered it immoral to sleep with a woman who has had sex with more than one man in her life. In Rome, the same place Christians like to look back on as a place of constant orgiastic excesses, the raucous Bacchanalias were banned before eventually being recuperated, while the poet Ovid was exiled by order of the emperor Augustus, possibly on the back of obscenity accusations. In Greece and Rome generally hedonism was often actually mistrusted or looked down upon, its adherents regarded as “slaves to passion”, and even merely contemplative hedonists such as Epicureans were presented by intellectuals such as Cicero as threats to the Roman religion and social fabric, and ultimately blamed for the collapse of the Roman Republic. Still, it remains true that pre-Christian attitudes towards sexuality where not the puritanical tendencies associated with Christianity. Phallicism (the veneration of the phallus), after all, was very much a part of pre-Christian religiosity, and there is reason to think that prostitution received religious sanction in some cases.
In any case, the role the gods mentioned by Przybyszewski take is consistent with the attributes seen in Satan. Thoth or Hermes in this framework obviously represent the pursuit of esoteric or forbidden knowledge, as does Hecate though she is referred to for more deadly magick. Pan is a no-brainer here, clearly invoked to express the untrammeled carnality that Satan represents. Of course, Pan was never a simple “god of sex”, and in Greece was more typically worshipped as a god of rustic wilderness who could inspire panic to those who wondered into his domain. That said, he was known for teaching people to masturbate. Nonetheless, although phallicism itself was a part of pre-Christian paganism, the idea of Pan as a symbol of sexuality is ultimately modern, and his identity with the Phallus is almost certainly Przybyszewski’s own idea. The association with Apollo and Aphrodite are ultimately extensions of the connection between Satan and the themes of knowledge, creativity, and sexuality. What is to be taken from this is the idea that Satan represented the free pursuit of knowledge and sensuality that was taken to be part of pre-Christian “Pagan” but which was denied in the ascent of Christianity, and which so becomes a negativity. There’s a sense in which it can be argued that, because hedonism was actually typically looked down upon by Greek and Roman normativity, it is just as well a negativity there too. Still, if we run with the idea of Satan as having incarnated as the gods of polytheism, then surely there’s more that could be done with that. We can make sense of what Przybyszewski went with, but why not Satan as Bacchus/Dionysus, for the drunken liberation of consciousness and terrible wrath against kings? Or Satan as Pluto/Hades, for the treasures of the underworld? Or Satan as Vulcan/Hephaestus, for the power of fire to transform raw matter? Or Satan as Ares, for rebellion and war?
At a certain point, the “good god” gets sick of observing the indulgences of mankind from his invisible kingdom and so sends a son to earth to proclaim the message of this same invisible kingdom. The son, no doubt meaning Jesus Christ, first revealed himself to the poor, the oppressed, the slaves, and day workers. Now, this is where we need to step back a little. On the one hand, it is known that Przybyszewski was a socialist, or at least that he involved himself with the socialist or workers movement, for which he was arrested and later expelled from university in 1893. In fact, in 1892 Przybyszewski worked as an editor for a socialist newspaper called Gazeta Robotnicza (“Worker’s Gazette”), which was founded in Berlin in 1891 by Polish socialist activists who lived in Germany and were aligned with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Yet, on the other hand, in The Synagogue of Satan he seems to glow with praise for “the aristocratic enjoyment of life” and remark with contempt for those who “had never tasted the holy joys of Pan”. What explains this? Of course the rigid social stratification of Roman society is rather unfortunately papered over in Przybyszewski’s telling, but I think it might be operative to point out how Christianity appeals to a religious sense of solidarity only so it may console and socialize the masses. Jesus was merely the “teacher” of the poor, teaching them contentment through the promise of “the good news”, not the advocate of the poor, who would have instead dragged the wealth of the elites down to the poor, and while he was given to flipping the tables of poor merchants he certainly was not interested in smashing open the shackles of slaves. Perhaps, though, Przybyszewski is ultimately working through the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, perhaps his favourite philosopher, in assigning slave morality to Christianity and master morality to Satan and pre-Christian antiquity. Yet it may be worth ourselves working through the influence of Renzo Novatore, the individualist anarchist who was himself thoroughly Nietzschean. For Novatore, the “aristocratic” that occupied his political thought was not the aristocracies who sat at the top of rigidly stratified hierarchies but instead a sort of defiant individualism that sets itself against conformity, the common, and the mass that set itself against it. It makes sense that this is the “aristocratic” quality of Przybyszewski’s Satan in the individuality he champions.
We come to Przybyszewski’s summary of the teachings of Christianity. In this summation, bread is no worry, earthly riches are fleeting, pride is meaningless because the highest ones will be in hell and the lowest ones in heaven, and, most crucially for Przybyszewski, carnal desire, which Przybyszewski the inexhaustible source of love for life and the will to eternal life, is the portal to Hell which must be shut in order to facilitate the reign of the invisible kingdom. Central to this discussion of the evils of carnality is, in Christian parlance, women, who the fathers of Christianity have long positioned as a threat to salvation. It is pointed out that Jesus said that a man has already defiled a woman simply by looking at her with lust, based on Matthew 5:28 where Jesus says that “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”. And after the master the pupil goes further. St. Cyprian, it seems, proclaimed that a woman who could excite a sigh of love from a man was shameless. Tertullian called women “the portal of the Devil”, accused women of destroying “that tree”, of being “the first sinner against the holy law”, and of turning “the one to whom the Devil does not want to be turned”, and proclaimed that everything evil comes from women. Jerome purportedly argued that women were not created in the image of God; that might actually have been Augustine, though make no mistake Jerome generally hated women for a slew of other reaons, and is known for declaring woman the root of all evil. Female sexuality is an important part of the space of Satanic negativity that Przybyszewski presents, and it is a subject that Przybyszewski delves into much further when discussing the witch. I suspect that female sexuality is operative in this space because of the power that men seem to have invested in it as something they really don’t have much control over, try as they might to control it.
For now, what is operative for Przybyszewski in this chapter is that the contempt for women and their arts is an expression of God’s contempt for earthly beauty. We are told of divine hatred directed against every ribbon, against paintings, poets, and philosophies, against theatres and circuses, and even against the colours of flowers as potential portents of demonkind. Temples and icons were destroyed, the priestesses of Aphrodite were condemned as whores, and it was proclaimed that the demonic was everywhere. Demons were feared to fill the air and hide in trees, Lucifer haunted men with debauched dreams as Venus, and so the first struggle is the struggle against demonkind. In this struggle the church waged war against the bonds that connected humanity to nature, and the “naked soul” (an important concept in Przybyszewski’s philosophy), meaning the soul as an “absolute phenomenon”, and its connections were declared the deceptions of Satan. Here again Przybyszewski connects to a certain idea of Pagan religioisty in that, in his account, pre-Christian societies lived both with and in nature, humans in this setting were intimately a part of nature, and that nature revealed itself in the symbols of “the heathen cult” and in the polytheistic gods themselves. There’s a sort of Feuerbachian premise being played with here, in that he grants the idea that the power of the gods was a projection of natural forces. Of course, this is an extension of the idea that pre-Christian polytheism was strictly the worship of nature which was taken for granted during the Enlightenment, but while nature worship in some form was a part of pre-Christian religion it is just not true that the gods of polytheism were strictly reifications of natural phenomena. Nonetheless, in the context of The Synagogue of Satan we can sketch out this general idea of “the heathen cult”, the orgiastic religion of polytheistic nature worship, as the first phase of the church of Satan. The veneration of the processes of nature (albeit clearly interpreted in the lens of a vulgar master morality) was expressed in the gods and symbols and in the veneration of the demon and the earth. This cult is here indestructible, and the demon hides in the forests, grottoes, and caves, gathering worshippers in “crude bacchanals”. Numinous, divine negativity, taking the form of the demonic, is in this way understood as imminent in nature itself, and impossible for the teleological will of Christianity to suppress.
Satan, from this standpoint, is understood as the most hated enemy of Christianity. And not just Satan in himself, but Satan as the magician and healer. Here, the Magician is understood as the active devotee of the church of Satan, through whom the principle of Satan’s cultus is realized. The principle was proud egoism against the laws of God. Przybyszewski’s Magician is an individualist who refuses obedience and all poverty of spirit, unlocks the secrets and mysteries of the world, and would follow no one. Such fantastical accolades are attributed to The Magician; he can levitate above the ground, he cannot drown in water, and he cannot be burned in fire. More importantly, The Magician could be as divine as Jesus Christ, and thus rival and set himself up against God and his son. In fact, Przybyszewski says that Jesus Christ himself was a magician, a defier of laws, and a seer, and so The Magician was the same thing as Jesus was, except that The Magician had more pride. The comparison between The Magician and Jesus Christ is operative because it establishes the profound egoism of Przybyszewskian Satanism. God is his own Ownness, just as you are, but God wants you to worship him as the sole Ownness and deny your own. So it is with Jesus Christ and The Magician. Jesus is a magician, but he must have you think of him as the only magician and worship him accordingly instead of practicing magick yourself and becoming a magician like Jesus. This is an absurd tyranny. The egoist is one who understands this, that there is no difference between God’s or Christ’s Ownness and your own, that their claims to sole sovereignty are a senseless oppression put over you, which must militantly be opposed and overcome, and thence participate in what I call the war of all against all in pursuit of apotheosis, to become divine, fully overcoming the barriers to individuation.
We must examine the pride of The Magician versus that of Jesus for a moment, because there are multiple angles approaching it. The Magician’s pride consisted in him passing his arts to a chosen few, the proudest and strongest, while Jesus passed his teachings on to the plebeians. On the one hand Jesus could just as well be proud enough to spread his teachings to as many people as possible, confident in their reception by the masses. On the other hand, perhaps Jesus’ “pride” ultimately makes the most sense as the “pride” of the preacher, of the proselyte and therefore of proselytism, and perhaps from this standpoint it is easy to see it as a folly. Likewise, the pride of Przybyszewski’s Magician is not hard to construe as a different sort of folly, thoroughly uninviting and obstinate in not disseminating liberation outwardly. But perhaps it is also true that The Magician does not spread his work everywhere because he is not a preacher or proselyte spreading a cult unto his own, and needs only for those who want his craft to come to him; and perhaps they most certainly will.
In Przybyszewski’s account, Christianity hated The Magician more than anyone as a competitor to Jesus, and so he tells of their vicious persecution under Christian authority. We are told that the emperor Constantine imposed heavy penalties on the practice of magick, that the philosophers were driven out under the emperor Valens, that the philosopher Iamblichus took poison after being imprisoned, and that the people gathered books and burned them. Thus Przybyszewski declares that the children of Satan were martyred by Christians in persecutions dwarfing those carried out under the emperor Nero. There are some things to account for here. For one thing, there’s no record of Iamblichus being imprisoned let alone poisoning himself. There were, however, book burnings carried out by Christians, such as in Alexandria and Antioch, in which literature deemed “unacceptable” was burned at the orders of the bishop Athanasius and the emperor Jovian respectively. Over the centuries books on divination and astrology were gathered up and incinerated by Roman authorities, while the Bible ostensibly recounts an incident where “books of sorcery” were burned en masse by recently converted Christians in Ephesus. And let’s not forget about the destruction of the Serapeum. Valens for his part did not quite “drive out the philosophers”. What he did do instead, however, was have Maximus of Ephesus executed and many other polytheists massacred because he thought they were conspiring to replace him. Constantine of course did issue a decree against divination, but it is also true that Romans had regarded magic as a form of superstition and often illicit even before the ascent of Christianity.
For all that, though, The Magician lived on, and magick with him, and he helped the signs and symbols retain meaning and power. Meanwhile, the church could not win by brute force alone, so it used the power of “atavism”, or “choc en retour” (meaning “backlash”), to imitate and thereby contain the magickal arts. Holy water, sacraments, and the sign of the cross replaced conjurations with magickal signs, while the art of envocatio was contained by Mass, and it was assumed that Satan was driven out with holy water and his magicians thwarted by the cross. And yet, Przybyszewski says, rthe church ended up acquiesing to the old ways. He claims that obscene figures seen on church pillars were remnants of the cult of the phallus, that the “Bacchanalia” at the festivals of Ceres Libera (possibly just meaning the goddess Ceres, who was not worshipped in Bacchanalias) were celebrated in festivals devoted to St. Mary, and that the priests together with the common folk celebrated old orgiastic festivals. Hell itself is taken as proof as the influence of “the heathen cult”, as the Greek rivers of the underworld appear as the river of hell and Charon as the ferryman of Hell in medieval literature and art. Thus Przybyszewski says that Satan triumphed over Christ, transforming from a means of reinforcing Christ’s dominion through fear of the Devil into the almighty lord of the world who people tried to appease out of fear. The fear of demonic possession became widespread, he Przybyszewski claims the existence of a sect called the Messalinians who believed they were possessed by the Devil. I can’t seem to find anything about these “Messalinians” other than one reference in Alphonsus Ligouri’s The History of Heresies and Their Refutation, in which it seems to be a name for a 4th century sect called the Euchites, who were accused by the early church of worshipping Satan but it doesn’t seem like they were constantly in fear of demonic possession. Satan in any case multiplies and takes on many new forms, tormenting the holy fathers in the desert with doubts, going to monasteries to tempt the minds of monks, visiting pious women to fornicate with them, and planting curses and blasphemies into thousands of believers. He is everywhere, and thus the church must constantly try to exorcise him. But, Przybyszewski says, this struggle only strengthened Satan as it was continuously waged, and he mocked God through the voices of the possessed, all the while revealing secret sins to priests, weaving prophesies, and granting power to the possessed through their possession.
Przybyszewski’s “heathen cult” at this point has been pushed into the bottom of the social hierarchy. Not quite banished, seemingly incapable of truly being banished, lurking in the periphery and eventually reasserting itself, and as it does gradually transforming and undermining the order of Christian faith. The “heathen cult” thus transitions into a negative space around Christianity, to which Christianity inevitably returns. But if “the heathen cult” is that negative space, Satan is none other than the death drive, in the sense that baedan meant it. Satanic negativity is irrepressible, irreducible, Satan is within himself a constantly self-reproducing power to destroy the order of the invisible kingdom and unravel the limits of theology and the church, and this power only seems to expand when the church confronts Satan, until finally Satan becomes the actual sovereign of the world. The death drive of Satan is revealed, pushed to the bottom, exorcised, and then thunders up to the top from the abyss, fought as the constant threat to society and order only to prevail over society anyway and tear it apart with blasphemy and madness. Satan then is the function of the death drive, a darkness and revolt producing the contradictions that threaten to destroy the power of the church. First presented as the contradiction outside of God, responsible for the evil and flaw in the otherwise perfect creation, thus freeing God from the culpability of his monstrous creation, Satan then breaks out of this role and threatens society with all of the contradiction that is actually internal to itself and to God’s creation, and by entering the minds of the masses Satan turns them into agents of this same negation.
As Satanic negativity overtakes and Satan’s death drive swamps over Christendom, sin is universal, Satan’s visions and voices impossible to avoid or deny, his seductions impossible to resist, and all thoughts sins before God. Supposedly, the devils even disregard exorcisms and don’t fear them at all. Thus all falls under the power of Satan, and Heaven is denied. In this setting, where madness and the fear of the end of the world plagued the land, the belief in “the Paraclete”, the “triune Satan”, and the Antichrist emerged, and the Antichrist became the perennial figure of speculation and intrigue. The Antichrist is the Adversary, the son of ruination, the “man of sin” more sinful than Jesus is virtuous, he is born from the Pope and a succubus, his reign is both imminent and already here, he will cut down the servants of Christ, he will cause miracles, and he will exalt himself to heaven and declare himself God. Basically, as an individual figure, the Antichrist is meant as the total opposite of Jesus. As a term, though, Antichrist seems to just signify that which is outside of and opposed to the community of Christians. In any case, in Przybyszewski’s account, the Antichrist seems to appear as an actual person, but not as an earthly ruler in accordance with Christian tradition. Instead the Antichrist is a spiritual sovereign, the spirit of pride and exaltation. Satan got bored of constantly possessing people and playing the game of exorcism with priests, and instead he wanted to “become God”, or rather “a proud and wild anti-God” capable of forcing Jesus back into his domain and end his ultimately hollow dominion over the world. The Antichrist in this setting is, apparently, Mani, the prophet of the religion of Manichaeism (or “Manichaeanism” as he refers to it). As strange as it sounds, his framing of it all ultimately comes back to the initial theology of the two gods: Satan and God.
Mani proclaimed the teaching of two gods, equally powerful and locked in eternal struggle with each other. One was the invisible god of goodness, seated in his heaven, unconcerned with the earth, concerned only with the perfection of his elect. The other was the god of sin, who rules the earth and is the source of sin in the world, and who says “do not strain yourselves, just imitate me”. Manichaeism, as well as Gnosticism, both supposedly spread rapidly in the Christian world. Przybyszewski presents what he considers the difference between Christianity and Manichaeism. Christianity presents mankind with the idea that humans can choose whether to sin or not, whereas Manichaeism rejects this idea on behalf of some form of determinism. Christianity from his standpoint valorized the imitation of stupidty, whereas Manichaeism supposedly lauded “the autocratic imagination of mysticism”. Christianity emphasized slave morality, whereas Manichaeism supposed endorsed proud sinning in the name of instinct, curiosity, passion, and “Satan-nature”. Thus Manichaeism in Przybyszewski’s story becomes the next phase of the cult of Satan.
I must elaborate at this point Przybyszewski seems to have obviously and completely missed the point of Manichaeism. Manichaeism did not reject free will, but it appears that the Manichaeans did believe in a sort of “true” free will, that is to say will that acts in harmony with the “World of Light”, the spiritual (or indeed “invisible”) world which was the birthplace of the soul. The soul had “free will” only so long as it remained pure and in harmony with its origins, and was not ultimately contaminated by the influence of matter. If the soul is mixed with matter and influenced by it, then free will was impossible. In this sense we can already infer that Manichaeism most certainly did not endorse “proud sinning” in the name of instinct or passion, since this too was the influence of matter that was to be avoided. Those who sinned were destined to reincarnate as animals, fall into the hands of demons, and ultimately be imprisoned with them in the realm called Bōlos. The whole goal for Manichaeism was the salvation of human souls, and the point of that was that humanity is responsible for redeeming both itself and the “World Soul”. The actual ethics of Manichaeism could be very strict: it was forbidden to drink alcohol, it was forbidden to eat the flesh of animals because animals were believed to be created from demons and contain “greed-arousing substance”, and it was forbidden to kill or at least hurt any living being, including plants. Everything, including not only plants but also the earth, the stars, skies, contained particles of the “World Soul”, and not only killing animals and cutting plants for sustenance but also to even walk across the earth or bathe in water was a violation of the World Soul. This all sounds quite unimaginably strict even by the standards of the most ascetic religions we know, and naturally it was assumed that most believers weren’t up to such a standard of holy life. The lay Manichaean was only expected to observe a set of moderate commandments, such as to not be miserly or to give alms to the elect. The elect, however, observed much stricter commandments in order to live a holy life. They were forbidden from eating meat, forbidden from drinking alcohol of any sort, forbidden to make money outside of business, and forbidden to practice any sexual activities at all. Both the elect and lay Manichaeans were expected to fail to live up to their commandments, so both regularly and constantly practiced atonement rituals. The point of leading a holy life in Manichaeism was not just to be saved, but also to become a physical instrument of the redemption of the “World Soul” from matter. Simply put, the actual religion of Manichaeism had nothing in common with Przybyszewski’s presentation of it.
The way Przybyszewski presents Manichaeism seems to based only on the part of Manichaeism that upholds dualism between light/spirit and darkness/matter as equally powerful, with the obvious assumption that this naturally elevates Satan as God and sin as an imitation of God. The idea seems to be that, in a Christian standpoint at least, to establish equality between Satan and God is to establish Satan as God, and I suppose it makes in the sense of Satan being the tangible ruler of creation as opposed to God the intangible one. But it doesn’t have anything to do with what Manichaeism was, it’s mostly just Przybyszewski projecting his own ideas onto Manichaeism. That said, this formula ends up presenting aspects of Przybyszewski’s philosophy to us. For one thing, it seems that Przybyszewski rejected free will in favour of some form of determinism. It’s not clear at this point how he meant to square this determinist rejection of free will with the defiant assertion of individual will so evident in his Satanic philosophy and especially in his concept of The Magician. Matter as represented by Satan is obviously superior to Spirit as represented by God, as the tangible principle and the vehicle in which sensation travels as opposed to be stifled by Spirit. And of course, mysticism, pride, and indulgence are held above obedience, faith, and humility. On “the autocratic imagination of mysticism” it is again perhaps worth inserting the later ideas of Renzo Novatore, for whom “autocracy” in anarchist terms means the “autocracy” of the individual unto itself, as set against the oligarchy of phantoms and all systems that seek to oppress, sublimate, or recuperate individual will. In this interpretation, “the autocratic imagination of mysticism” is, simply put, the free imagination of individual spiritual thought in rejection of dogmatic faith. Though, again, it’s not obvious how this is to be reconciled with the wholesale rejection of free will. Przybyszewski’s constructed “Manichaeism” is in this sense a vessel to communicate these values as represented in the “evil” side of a dualism in which it is supposed the “evil” side is ultimately better and more powerful than the “good” side.
The church is presented as ultimately the victor in the struggle against “Manichaean” darkness, and with the defeat of Avignon (which here represents the “anti-Christian” forces for some unknown reason) Satan blasphemed unto the world that he was the “God of Light”, that the “dark god of revenge” overthrew him out of jealousy of his “light”, that the time has come to fear his pride and hate. The “eternal light” will not sleep and neither do his children, but the children of his enemies will sleep, tired from struggle against the “light”. The “light” has sacrificed millions of fellows to the vengeance of its enemy, but these sacrifices are “fertilizer” for “the One”, who will in turn generate “a thousand new communities”. The vengeance is coming and it is to be feared. Blasphemy takes the form of inversion, and in this setting Satan presents himself as the true light, God the true darkness. This is the hint that the dark matter of Satan is the true nobility, and the invisible kingdom of spirit the true villainy, and the unjust takeover of the kingdom of spirit will be overturned by the power of Satan. As for the identity “the One”, however, I’m afraid that is a complete mystery.
The only thing I’m inclined to add at this point is concerning the Manichaean conception of Hyle, and through this a way parsing a doctrine of dark materialism through Przybyszewski’s constructions. The evil principle in Manichaean cosmology is the Prince of Darkness, who invaded the world of light out of lust to mingle with it, and can only create through copulation whereas the Father of Greatness can create out of nothing. The Prince of Darkness was identified with Ahriman, the main adversary of Zoroastrianism, Iblis, the main adversary in Islam, and of course Satan himself, but he also went by another name: Hyle. Hyle was the Greek word for matter. It was also sometimes used as a name for Az, the mother of demons in Zoroastrian myth. Darkness created the world or body in which Light was imprisoned, and so Darkness propagates matter. But, understood via Hyle, this means Hyle propagates itself. Hyle is linked to copulation, in that the Prince of Darkness creates through copulation while his demons set into motion the whole process of human generation. In Przybyszewski’s framing, Hyle identified with Satan becomes a principle, substance, and presence that is the source of copulation and which produces all things through a process of generation that starts from itself. Perhaps this is the true depth of Iwan Bloch’s description of Satan as the “Personification of the Physical Mysterium of Copulation”. It is still a negative force, though. It is dark in that it that raw, formless potentiality of generation that negations all barriers to itself, and for this reason opposes the “Metaphysical Mysticism of Idolization”.
Part 2: The Church
Przybyszewski says that Satan began his vengeance against God by possessing the world, and in the coming millennium humanity began to doubt God while miracles occurred everywhere. The Devil personally visited Pope Sylvester IV, Otto the Great saw the sun dim and turn saffron, and the order of the seasons seemed to change such that snow fell in the summer and thunderstorms broke out in the winter. As this took place, a “holy fire” melted the flesh of humans, leaving only tattered bones in its wake. The people were driven to madness and hunger, but would not eat the flesh of animals; instead they were driven to horrible acts of cannibalism. People tried to expiate God, bitter enemies swore the “Peace of God”, kings joined choirboys in singing prayers to God, but it was all to no avail. God would not help anyone, and as people became convinced that God had abandoned them they began turning to Satan to deliver them from their suffering. God’s symbols were desecrated and mocked, and Satan had already whispered doubts in people’s ears to turn them against God. The salvation offered by Jesus appeared quite hollow in the face of the world’s horror. What salvation is it when people eat each other, when the earth burns under their feet, and when plague rips off their flesh? Thus “salvation” was scorned while the church was scandalised by its infamous dealings.
The “temple of God” was no more, having changed hands to Satan. And so what were God’s children meant to do? Supposedly they made the children of barons and dukes into bishops, and then the people were convened to elect a six year old boy to the status of minister. A dove perched atop his head was meant to signify his election by the Holy Spirit itself. Meanwhile two women selected their lovers as Popes, and thereafter the “goodly father of sin” came to be secure in his reign and the church was restored. The world cried out for ecclesiastical reform, and Pope Gregory VII delivered on this reform by establishing the rule of celibacy. Woman was blamed for the church’s problems and so it was thought that Woman had to be “destroyed” within the church. Priests who refused to part with their wives were attacked by celibate monks. But the people defiled what they previously held sacred, drinking befouled communion wine and scattering communion wafers to the winds. The authority of the priests was completely undermined, while the authority of the monks and the mob prevailed. We are told that concubines were mutilated to death, that abbots who ordered castrations were rewarded with bishoprics, and that the theologian Manegold is said to have insisted that priests who resisted celibacy should be killed. In imposing celibacy the church had attacked nature, once again, by regarding Woman as an impure creature, equivalent to Satan, who spelled death for men. Fanatically bigoted pronouncements were made against women all the time. Pietro Damiani, for example, was said to have called women “scum of paradise” and “bait of Satan”.
What is operative in this narrative is that here the church is shown reconstituting itself on the back of a negative space, again. The negative space, from the Christian standpoint, is women, who are blamed for the corruption of the church, for which the solution is deemed to be the imposition of celibacy upon the clergy. And there was indeed a celibacy drive in the Catholic Church associated with Pope Gregory VII. Gregory VII did indeed absolve people from having to obey bishops who retained married priests. That said, Gregory VII was probably motivated less by the subject of women and more by a certain abstract ascetic ideal that he associated with the fulfillment of holy life. While I can’t find those quotes from Pietro Damiani outside of the texts of Jules Michelet, it is true that Damiani was a prolific advocate of clerical celibacy and vehemently condemned priests who were married. The ascetic ideal fulfilled in celibacy naturally clashes with sexuality, and in Christendom women were very often seen as portals through which temptation worked its way into the world, all then way back to the church fathers. Sexuality, female sexuality in particular, was feared for its power to unravel holy life and Man’s connection to God. The way this connects to the death drive is perhaps more fittingly explored once we get to the subject of the witch. But the point is that sexuality is the negative space upon which the church reforms sit, and which the order of clerical celibacy was instituted to repress, but to which humans, even the faithful, will inexorably return.
I would also take the opportunity to mention at this point that Przybyszewski’s idea of the imposition of celibacy, which would connote a clampdown on sexuality and libertinism, is a fairly obvious extension of the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. In his essay Nietzsche contra Wagner; Out of the Files of a Psychologist, specifically in a section titled “Wagner as Apostle of Chastity”, Nietzsche describes the advocacy of chastity as “an incitement to perversion”, and on such grounds regards Wagner’s opera Parsifal as “an attempt to assassinate ethics”. In The Antichrist, Nietzsche describes chastity, alongside humility and poverty, as having done immeasurably more harm to life than any vice or horror, and in a suppressed passage we see that the fourth position of Nietzsche’s “Law Against Christianity” describes the preaching of chastity as incitement against nature while stressing that contempt for sexuality and making it “unclean” are the real sins against life. This is an idea that carries on in Przybyszewski’s writing over the course of The Synagogue of Satan, and I think that it is best understood as a Satanic interpretation, or even extension, of Nietzsche’s anti-Christian transvaluation of values. From the lens of Stirnerite egoism we can also add an additional dimension via the discussion of lewdness and egoistic versus sacred love in Stirner’s Critics. Sin in the context of natural impulse, in this case lust, is denied for the sake of chastity as the result of what Stirner understands as a “religious consideration”, by which he means a strictly moral and therefore alienated consideration, which is not aligned to natural or egoistic interest, which would be lewd. “Absolute” interest, “spiritual” interest, set against natural or egoistic interest, is like a despot opposed to nature, like the God of the invisible and spiritual kingdom is a despot opposed to the world as belonging to Satan, thus we come right back around to Przybyszewski’s dualism on Stirner’s terms. And on that note I think it is reasonable to assume that, while I can’t tell you if Przybyszewski had read Stirner’s Critics, I can establish that he was at least familiar with Stirner on the grounds that he discussed Stirner and Nietzsche with fellow decadents. From there a convergence between Stirnerite egoism and Przybyszewski’s Nietzschean Satanism is fairly easy to develop.
With celibacy established and the church “finished with nature”, the priests having been separated from their wives began practicing unspeakable obscenities with their own flock, and we are told that meanwhile the church also waged war against reason. The investigation of the nature of God had already been forbidden, and now ideas were declared to be beings, which Przybyszewski tells us means they cannot be observed or learned from, which means the people gave up on thought. People flipped through fragments of Aristotle, and wrote commentaries on Aristotle which then distorted his writings such that Aristotle was to have prophesied the coming of Christ and proved his divinity. The philosophers of the day brooded over the psychology of angels and invented formulas to establish that comparing words is equivalent to knowledge of the real. In this setting, the “Satanic philosopher”, who we are told was a fan of Plato and shattered Christian thought by upholding Manichaean heresies, smiled at this state of affairs, presumably sensing the decline the Christian thought. This philosopher asked the doctors of the church, “what about when the farmer is leading a pig along to the market. What is doing the pulling there, the farmer or the leash?”, and the doctors of the church struggled to answer. Later we are told of a philosopher named Abelard ruining the efforts of the church by proclaiming that an idea is not a being and an abstraction is not reality. Somewhat unremarkable as an observation, but for some reason Przybyszewski lionized Abelard as “beautiful and glorious as a god”, such that no woman in France could resist him, and he possessed great eloquence and developed confusions that turned the doctrines of the church upside down. If by Abelard we mean Peter or Pierre Abelard, who lived from 1079 to 1142, the real Abelard was definitely considered a heretic, and he was an intellectual defender of women, but it is not evident that he was the stud that Przybyszewski makes him out to be. What is true, however, is that Abelard thought of original sin as a punishment or penalty for Adam’s sin, differing in some respects from other interpretations of original sin. Przybyszewski presents Abelard as wanting to know in order to believe, in opposition to Anselm who wanted to believe in order to know. But this simplisitc idea, one that is no doubt the product of its time in the context of the 19th century, smooths over much of Abelard’s thought, and positions him as a rationalist trying to challenge Christianity from the outside rather than, as is more likely, a logician and theologian seeking to redefine traditional doctrinal positions within the context of Christian moral thought. Unfortunately for Przybyszewski, what we know about Peter Abelard suggests that he was no “Satanic philosopher”, even if he was sometimes regarded as a heretic.
But whether we are dealing with heresy or simply a redefining of Christian teaching, what we are presented with is a state of affairs in which church orthodoxy is constantly under threat or being re-examined by mavericks. We are told that Abelard derided the faith of the morally simple and eviscerated the secrets of God, though of course he probably did no such thing and Bernard of Clairvaux never said that he did. But even if Abelard did not actually shake the foundations of the church, his student, Arnold of Brescia, arguably did. Arnold indeed revolted against the papacy, and in fact Arnold frequently denounced the political power of the church. He also condemned property ownership as sinful, and called on the church to renounce property and renounce worldliness. Arnold was exiled from Italy for his anti-clericalism, but he eventually returned and became part of the republican Commune of Rome, where he preached apostolic poverty and purity and demanded the institution of democratic rights and freedoms along with the restoration of a wholly spiritual church. For both this and the role he played in driving out Pope Eugene III, Arnold was denounced as “the father of political heresies”, excommunicated, arrested, and ultimately burned at the stake. We are then presented with Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Przybyszewski says that under Frederick’s protection Arab physicians opened a human corpse for medical study. Of course, although Frederick did require studying physicians and surgeons to attend dissections, human cadaveric dissections had already been practiced in ancient Greece and elsewhere for centuries and Frederick did not single-handedly reinstate such practices. Frederick supposedly asked the Muslims “My lords, what do you think about God?” and this was to be taken as a display of unbridled skepticism. Again, this statement has no record, but it is true indeed that Frederick has a reputation for skepticism, known for his empiricism and Epicureanism, not to mention his penchant for sensual indulgence. His reputation was such that he was accused of writing a book called Treatise of the Three Impostors, which purportedly argued against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all at once, though in reality Frederick probably never wrote it and the book’s real authorship and even its very existence are impossible to verify. But while he was often seen as an atheist and a rationalist and even accused of being a predecessor to the Antichrist, he was not really an atheist, and although he often went against the wishes of the church he was no real opponent of it; in fact, he still placed strict edicts against heresy, joined in the suppression of heretics, and granted secular powers to the church.
The point to be taken from all of this is that Christendom was not quite all that it seemed, or at least the authority of the church and its faith was not as absolute as perhaps God would have hoped. There was contestation, there were deviations, there were doubts, and there was revolt. For Przybyszewski, this insecurity marked the growth of skepticism and disbelief among Christians, and the ego rose with enthusiasm to prove everything and then refute it, as was “the highest philosophical art”. We are told that the man of the 12th century disregarded God, felt that Christ had ruled for long enough, and that the Holy Spirit needed to take over. Messiahs and new sects began to appear, and humans did not search for God because God was already inside of them, and so individual striving and the liberation of instincts unfolded. In the mean time, the Crusades had failed, God apparently slept while the Muslim armies repeatedly triumphed over the Christian armies, and troubadours had begun to sing with melancholy about how God preferred Muslims over Christians. And the hardships didn’t stop; God kept heeping more torments, defeats, and humiliations upon the people. At this time, people were longing for the chance to part with God without shame, and Satan gave them just that chance. Satan, here also referred to as Chernebog or Diabol and described as ruling the world alongside “the good god”, came to shake the church with his iron fist. A sect called the Bogomils spread out from Bulgaria and settled in France, facing decimation along the way. Here the south of France is referred to as “the favorite seat of Satan”, because of the many heresies that gathered there. Black magick is said to have been widespread, and Kabbalah was supposedly spreading among a supposedly no longer Christian society. Grimoires allowed people to summon demons like Samael to serve them for “evil”, while the Satanim live inside Man and tempt Man.
Forgetting the obvious problem with bringing up Kabbalah in the context of black magick, when the whole point of Kabbalah is to unify with God, it is here that Przybyszewski once again invokes his construction of “Manichaeanism”, which he states has returned in a younger form, and so in this setting the device of “Manichaeanism” recapitulates some of Przybyszewski’s ideas of Satanic philosophy. Evil is established as possessing the same substantiality as Good, rather than only existing incidentally through the self-incrimination of Good. Evil and Good opposed each other, but were equally essential and substantial, and in their opposition they go back to the source of existence all the way to the Godhead. Sin is not self-incrimination because it is not a product of free will, and instead it is the work of the “Black God”. Thus there is indeed no such thing as sin, because it carries no volition, and incurs no punishment. Eternal damnation is dismissed as a stupid invention, the sacraments of penance and communion are regarded as invalid, and regret for sin is considered useless – what Nietzsche called the “bite of conscience”, which he regarded as like a dog biting a stone, which is to say pointless. The human being, just like the Godhead, is also divided into “good” and “evil”, which was based in spirit and matter respectively. I should stress again that the division of good and evil along the lines of spirit and matter is pretty much the only thing this “Manichaeanism” has in common with the real religion of Manichaeism. But then Przybyszewski tells us of a schism within this new sect, between those who decided to favour the worship of the “Light God” and those who favoured the worship of the “Black God”. The worshippers of the “Light God” embraced a highly austere moral code and severe asceticism, their beliefs were spread by zealots who were later worshipped as saints, and these saints had the power to completely purify a person after their death. The worshippers of the “Black God”, in contrast, gathered in secret, established secret organizations dedicated to worshipping this god, and celebrated the mysteries of the “Black God” in forests, caves, and mountaintops.
Here “Manichaeanism” becomes two distinct sects: one devoted to the “Light God” of spirit, the other devoted to the “Black God” of the world. It sounds a little bit like the “Light God” is meant to be Belobog, the “White God”, and the “Black God” must be Chernebog, or rather Chernobog, since that is one of the names Przybyszewski gave to Satan, or rather “the Slavic Satan” It was long supposed that these two gods were meant to be seen as complimentary opposites in a dualistic Slavic religion, but in reality Chernebog was just a minor local deity that was only ever worshipped in parts of Mecklenburg and Pomerania while Belobog was not actually a deity but rather a local name for the Christian God. I suppose on this basis, though, it is fitting enough that Przybyszewski states that the two sects serve as re-statements of the difference between Christianity and Paganism, although I would argue that the sect of the “Light God” presented here is much closer to what Manichaeism actually was than the “Manichaeanism” that he has typically presented as some sort of ancient Satanism. The schism establishes, or perhaps rather reinforces, Przybyszewski’s conception of Satanism as essentially a continuation of “the heathen cult”, an evolution of a raucous, romantic, quasi-Epicurean pagan polytheism (as constructed by Przybyszewski of course) that was then pushed to the bottom by Christianity, beneath which it became an omnipresent negative space for Christendom as a whole. The idea of going to off to worship “The Black God”/Chernebog/Satan in the forests, the caves, and the mountains in orgiastic celebrations calls back to the mysteries of Dionysus, the worship of gods and nymphs in nature, and the old tradition that held that these old places of nature contained numinous power that humanity was a part of.
Then Przybyszewski talks about the Perfecti, or “perfected ones”, who possessed “oriental magical techniques” and performed miracles and spread under the name of a family of sects dubbed the Cathars. These Cathars, he says, “mangled and destroyed” the Christian faith. Secret societies were formed to pursue “obscene” aims, and the philosophical core of “Manichaeanism” was lost to the point that all that remained of “Manichaeanism” was doctrinnaire hatred of Christianity. The God of the Old Testament was despised by the Cathars, because he knew that Adam and Eve would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge and yet allowed them to eat of it, because ultimately he lied because they in fact did not die as he said they would, and because he killed both the innocent and the guilty at Sodom and Gomorrah. They are also purported to reject the doctrine that the “Good God” suffered on the cross because it was blasphemous to say that God could suffer, die, and come back to earth, let alone eat and drink as we do. They are also said to reject the idea of distinction between the sin of eating and the sin of procreation, and supposedly questioned the idea that procreation is sinful on this basis. And, of course, these Cathars hated the church of Rome perhaps more than anything; we are told they called Rome a den of murderers, that they likened Rome to the Whore of Babylon, and that they derided and supposedly even killed the priests of the church. Przybyszewski further claimed that Cathars held parodies of the Mass that were essentially almost complete reproductions of “the sabbat”, and that all novices had to renounce all Catholic teachings and sacraments and spit on the cross. Supposedly they even threw the sacred host into manure, broke the legs of Christ, and soiled him with filth. As far as reality in contrast to Przybyszewski’s narrative is concerned, I could remark about how much of this almost certainly had little to do with the “real” Cathars, but then there’s just one problem with that: the “Cathars” may never have existed at all.
In any case, as far as our narrative is concerned, the church responded to the rising Cathar movement by launching a Crusade against them, and so a massacre took place in which 60,000 people were killed. This seems to be in reference to the Massacre at Beziers, for which we actually don’t know exactly how many people died. But it’s from here that we apparently get the Latin phrase, “Caedit eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”, which means “Kill them all. The Lord knows those that are his own” (Przybyszewski seems to have rendered it a little differently; for him it’s “caedite omnes, novit enim Deus, qui sunt eius”, or “kill them all, for God will renew those that are his”); in modern English, the equivalent phrase is “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out”, as frequently used by Americans, especially in the military. The Albigensians fled massacre and persecution wherever they could, but every fortress they took refuge in in was conquered, one after another. Captured Cathars were burned at the stake for their heresy, supposedly even if they recanted, while the “knights of the Holy Spirit” executed thousands of people in all manner of ways. Nothing was left, and the church assumed that it had triumphed over heresy. But Satan felt more powerful than ever before. His church hadn’t actually been destroyed, for apparently the hearts of the people were loyal to Satan.
After the fall of Toulouse people apparently crept into catabombs or hid in mountain valleys in order to worship Satan, which never before had they done so enthusiastically, and a new priestess of Satan had emerged: the Witch. Of course, Satan needed to spring as many seeds as he could, and so he sought a wife with whom he could increase his kind. An allegory tells of Satan having intercourse with Godlessness, and producing seven daughters with her. These daughters were Pride, Greed, Infidelity, Hypocrisy, Envy, Vanity, and Fornication. When they grew up, Satan married six of these daughters off to mankind; Pride was married to the powerful, Greed was married to the rich, Infidelity was married to the masses, Hypocrisy was married to the priests, Envy as married to the artists, and Vanity was married to women. Only Fornication remained unmarried, and Satan reserved her for no one in particular, because she was for the whole world. Przybyszewski then says that what he termed “hysterical epilepsy” was common in the 13th century, and that leprosy was universal to the point that “everyone was a little bit leprous”. The succubi and the incubi destroyed those with “weak blood”, while women, we’re told, spontaneously fell down, lifted their dresses, and started masturbating, which suggested a sort of widespread sexual mania. Przybyszewski claims both that the “Albigensian theory” lent itself to such developments and that, in a turnabout, the priesthood of the church employed this very theory to develop new techniques of self-denial. Thus, orgies became a way to “kill sin by means of sin”, a means of negating individual will and instinct, and sacrifice yourself to God, by transforming self-indulgence into self-abnegation. It is true that certain “Gnostic” sects were assumed to have believed in indulging your sexual appetites to the point that you become sick of the material world, but it doesn’t seem that this was prevalent in the Middle Ages. Przybyszewski then says that the priests went further and taught that every act is holy for the saint, and sanctified anyone who sinned with him. The church was also the sole possessor of wealth, while the people were dying of hunger; a fairly basic indictment of class society in conjunction with Christianity. Thus the church was then mocked, scorned, and despised, and faced its collapse.
So, while Satan was growing his power in the world and while demons inspired sexual mania, the church in its attempts to recuperate the heresy it despised appear to have resulted in failure. The vices, married to the people or shared by all of humanity, reasserted themselves against Christian piety, and so dominated the world that the church tried to take them up as a pharmakon – the poison that is at once the cure – in the hope of destroying Satan’s power. Sin as death drive so unravels the world as to consume it completely, and with it seemingly the church itself, by now writhing in its own social contradictions. Interestingly, it is perhaps here that we see a fairly clear indicationg that Satan does not restrict his gifts to a few people, but rather has something to give for everyone, across class backgrounds. And of course, he certainly offers his doubts to the people at large at moments of intense contradiction in the reign of the church.
Then, in Przybyszewski’s telling, we see that the church owned land and the bishops were princes who could raise armies, while the monarchies were losing money and having to counterfeit currency. The solution of the monarchies to this was to confiscate from the church, and so kings incited soldiers against the priests and demanded portions of the church’s income. Przybyszewski seems to describe Pope Boniface VIII as a “perjured lawyer,” a “savage atheist”, who “debauched the church” with “filthy blasphemies”. As ridiculous as all of this is, he comes into conflict with Philip the Fair over the latter’s desire to impose levies on the church’s income. The Pope responds by issuing bulls against the king, and is derided in turn. After a feud with the king’s representatives, the Pope absolves the people all sins except sacrilege and stealing from the church, and then, Przybyszewski claims, he died while possessed by the Devil. From there the church declines further. Benedict XI released Phillip from excommunication, and then died of poisoning. From there the church was seemingly handed over to Phillip the Fair, who appointed Clement V as Pope under restrictions, and Clement V embarked on an inspection trip in which he stole from the French clerics. He cooperated in paying the king a tenth of church income, but this was not enough, so he “abandoned the Jews to him”, presumably meaning he let the king expel all Jewish people from France in 1306. When this was still not enough, Clement V withdrew all of Boniface’s bulls and elected cardinals that would ensure the new Pope would be completely under the king’s control, hoping to curry his favor. Still not enough, Clement V had to bring the Knights Templar to the king to be judged as heretics and executed. This, Przybyszewski says, outraged the people, and from there Satan went from being the god of secret societies and a handful of magicians to being the only god for the people. God could not be expected to give what was offered by Satan, he could only deliver torments to humanity and withheld paradise from them, and as the people turned to Satan his power grew immeasurably. Only Satan could give power to the weak, honor to the despised, vengeance to the wronged, and love to estranged lovers, and Satan alone was the god of the poor, the deceived, and the despised.
Here we see that Satan is, in truth, no elitist. How can he be, with “Evil” as universal as it is? And with the church in decline and God discredited in absence, Satan proved to be the true patron of the downtrodden. Satan was offering everything to the masses, God denied everything but torments to the masses, Christ was nowhere to be found and the masses were sick of Christ anyway. Christ’s position as the patron of the masses is at this point thoroughly discredited, although I should note that even in the Bible he never was the champion of the poor; how can he be, when all he has to offer the poor is the “good news” and the assurance that poverty will always exist?
And Satan was everywhere by now. He was in every household, he encountered people everywhere, he could even be sold in bottles. The ranks of hell swelled to 72 princes and over 7 million common devils. Sorcery became prolific, and so the authorities began charging people for it and punishing them with death, torture, and even rape. Przybyszewski appears to be referring to the three daughters of Philip the Fair, which is strange because in reality they were all charged not with sorcery but with adultery, and certainly not punished in the ways he seems to describe. The royal families were caught in adultery and crime, and Satan rubbed his hands together at the sight of such times. Then, eventually, there was a new idol: gold. Gold was the new God, and also the new Antichrist. Gold could be used to create treasures, fulfill every worldly wish, and even grant souls a place in heaven. The church turned it into crosses, reliquaries, and chalices, while other “important people” made jewelry and luxury with it. But gold began to run out. Everyone began a fanatical search for gold. Gold was seemingly manufactured, but it continually evaporated. Everyone needed gold, and at any price they would have it. The “prince of the earth” possessed all the gold, held onto it, and was willing to give some of it, but at the price of your immortal soul. People began a relentless persecution of Jewish people because they were believed to have all the gold and know where it was, but this was for naught. In the end, the people once again turned to Satan for gold. In this, Satan himself was gold, and he turned the church into a whore, the government into a band of counterfeiters, judges to scoundrels, priests to profiteers, peasant women to prostitutes, and morality to depravity. For gold the Templars were destroyed, for gold the church was expropriated by kings, for gold Jewish people were persecuted, and for gold the nobles began torturing the peasants. The people hid what gold they had from the nobles, and after a long period of oppression they violently rose up against the nobles and the priests, killing and plundering their oppressors and desecrating sacraments, but only to be suppressed each time. Through all this the peasants turned to Satan, The Devil, because only he had compassion for them, only he could bring them happiness, however brief, and only he could grant them vengeance against the nobles.
By now, Satan’s role as the champion and avenger of the oppressed is clear, and in this he emerges as the inverter and revealer of power and class. In his temptations, his blasphemies, and his gold, he inverts the power of the church and thereby revealing its true basis: not in righteousness, not even in God, but in acquisition; an acquisition shared by the state, by the nobles, quite arguably by everyone at least from Przybyszewski’s standpoint. Satan revealed the true nature of the authority hanging over the people, and the people then turned to Satan as their true saviour, the only one who could give the people what they really wanted. Not salvation, but freedom. Not peace, but revenge. Not abstinence, but indulgence. Not the daily bread, but gold. Christ could only promise the “good news”, and God could only promise torment in this life and heaven after it if only you obeyed him, and the nobles and the priests who oppressed the peasants did so in the name of God and his Christ. Thus Satan stands as the enemy and the subverter of the ruling classes, not their friend.
What follows next is another indictment of the medieval ruling classes. The nobles took a liking to abusing and torturing the peasants and common folk, and we are told that they developed increasingly elaborate ways of satisfying their brutality. One such way according to Przybyszewski was that the peasant would be thrown into a dough barrel, which was then tipped over, and the noble would put the peasant’s wife over the barrel and have their way with her, and they made their child watch while a cat was bound to the child’s leg and scratched the child every time they screamed. This is what Przybyszewski refers to as “ius primae noctis”, or “right of the first night”, in which feudal lords were supposedly entitled to assault women under their sovereignty during their first wedding night. It’s all very lurid and outrageous, certainly scandalising for the ruling class. But most modern historians conclude that this was a fictitious practice, whose accounts originate only from later sources and not from medieval accounts. Przybyszewski, as a 19th century man, no doubt took the side of a historical debate at the time on the subject which insisted that it was all true. In any case, within the scope of Przybyszewski’s narrative, such abuses naturally drove the people to a breaking point, and meanwhile people were dying of a plague that ravaged the land, and then dying of starvation afterwards. In this setting, no one worked, people waited for death, but in the country people fled to the woods and gathered to worship the Devil. Flagellants marched throughout France, the people became epileptic and performed orgiastic dances in the face of death, while the kings and emperors had gone mad. People renounced heaven and did not forget the misery in their hearts. It seemed that nothing really mattered, the popes were mocked and scorned and their authority ignored, and it was “better to kiss the stinking ass of a corpse than the mouth of Peter”.
Satan, in this setting, became popular, and so did the practice of magic and sorcery, which achieved the highest honour it ever had. The “witch-masters” in all nations gathered to summon demons that could possess the king, herbs with magical properties were brewed in cauldrons, the king enjoyed himself with an emerald magic book, and pearls were ground into dust that was used by magicians to please the Devil. Everyone enthusiastically participated in conjurations and the people performed orgiastic dances and carnal celebrations on the mountaintops to honour the Prince of Darkness. Meanwhile, alchemical laboratories were made to manufacture gold and people mixed poison in the courts of the dukes. Satan was now loved instead of feared, and even imitated in dress. Women would wear horned headdresses while showing their breasts and bellies, while men would wear stockings covered in magical signs, boots tipped with claws, and pouches that accentuated their genitals. Satanist sects arose, grew, and spread everywhere, and there was no village that did not have a dedicated Satanic congregation and nocturnal orgies.
And thus, the church of Satan is born, and the cult of Satan flourishes. Out of the oppressions of the church and feudal society, out of the madness of a world buckling underfoot, Satan’s cult arises as the true vehicle of the liberation of the people, it grows as the negative space from underneath the Christian church which then finally unravels it. Of course, at this point it must be stressed once more that a lot of this is best taken as pure narrative. If you were to take all of this as actual history, you would run into severe problems, and to put it forward as history today would be an act of revisionism. Still, my point was about what to derive about the philosophy and ideology of Przybyszewski’s Satanism. And what do we understand of it? Well, Przybyszewski has so far reiterated his construction of “Manichaeanism” which is no way the real Manichaeaism, but from which we derive the following:
Przybyszewski’s Satanism believes in the primacy of Satan, “The Black God”, as the author of sin and the father of corporeal life.
On this basis, free will is denied, and therefore no one is culpable of sin.
On that basis, the doctrine of eternal damnation or punishment after death is completely rejected.
Not unlike Manichaeism or Gnosticism, there is a dualism between matter as “evil” and spirit as “good”, but unlike these religions, Satanism favours “evil” and matter over “good” and heaven/spirit.
Przybyszewski’s Satanism also endorses the “autocratic imagination of mysticism”, by which is simply meant a form of mystical individualism, or individualistic mysticism.
Przybyszewski’s Satanism upholds pride, and especially pride in committing “sin”, as a virtue, while rejecting obedience and humility before God.
This idea then develops further through schism, and from “Manichaeanism” we get a cult based entirely on worshipping Satan as “The Black God” through nocturnal orgies in the wild. Magick for self-interested ends is a part of Przybyszewski’s Satanism, and Satan is of course the patron of these arts, for Satan encourages people to transgress. Much of this section has been less an exploration of Satanism and more an exploration of Christian decline, but the inversion presented by Satan’s vengeance gives us an important suggestion of a Satanic attitude towards political power; the rulers of the world rule in the name of faith, and faith rules by control, orthodoxy, and fear, but the basis of their authority is in no way righteous, and is instead greed and violence. Satan contains within himsel the negativity which is that same greed and violence, which is revealed to be shared across all social strata, and the negative spaces upon which Christendom establishes itself and then deteriorates and decays. It also establishes Satan’s place not as the patron of some elite values or as some Social Darwinist but instead as the real champion of the people, and the sole source of their deliverance, liberation, fulfillment, and vengeance against the powerful. Satan is the greed that impels the people against the greed of the powers that be, and which calls not for abnegation but for fulfillment in the liberating revenge against the powers that be and the long oppression that hangs over them. For Satan did indeed take pity on their long misery!
But, hold the thought, because Przybyszewski promises more, a greater divulgence of Satan’s church in the next chapter. Of course, we will explore further in the second half of my commentary.
Prelude to “The Cult of the Church of Satan”
So far we have established Przybyszewski’s Satanism as essentially a doctrine of libertinism, egoism, and individualistic mysticism centered around the worship of Satan. Przybyszewski presents this Satanism as having originated in the pre-Christian polytheistic worship of nature and generation – the “heathen cult” as Przybyszewski calls it – before it was driven underground by the Christian church, and then evolved into “Manichaeanism” and other heresies before the church of Satan proper began in earnest. Satan, as the patron of the generation of flesh and vengeance against the church, worked his influence into the world through heresy and revolt and then delivered the people fron the torments of God into and brought about a new age of Satanism. The church of Satan humiliated and competed against the Christian church, and orgies of sin shared with demonkind swept across the land.
But this is only the beginning of Przybyszewski’s narrative exploration of his philosophy of Satanism. The next section, “The Cult of the Church of Satan”, continues to convey it, but in a grisly narration of the story of witchcraft, the “sabbats” of Satan, and the “black mass”. Here Przybyszewski’s Decadent sensibilities colour his expression of Satanic negativity, and it takes a certain amount of discernment and context to get used to it. But through it all, we are gradually acquainted with the real substance of his nihilist philosophy of transgression which makes up the essence of Satanism as he defines it.
I hope you look forward to the second half of my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s The Synagogue of Satan.
A while back my good friend Summer Thunder began posting about how he essentially no longer identified with the label of Satanism, saying that it no longer reflected the nature of his beliefs and that instead suggesting something along the lines of paganism would be more fitting of his own belief system. He identifies Satanism as a phenomenon, or more or less Satanists as a movement, as being too attached to vices such as hatred, resentment, unintelligent passion and narcissism, as well as general sense of negativity and a general lack of positivity. The reason I say he seems to be interested in a form of paganism nowadays is because the framework of his “devil worship” appears nonetheless to be at least somewhat polytheist, owing largely to the presence and role of the daemons. But now it seems that my friend here is not the only one undergoing this shift. In a recent episode of his Dark Illumination Report Podcast, the theistic Satanist R J Womack (a.k.a. Brother Nero) announced that he will no longer be using the term Satanism to refer to his belief system and practice, saying that he will be in the process of creating his own tradition. Further, he also said that he will no longer refer to his belief system as either Left Hand Path or Right Hand Path, on the grounds that he considers it to be the product of Christian dualism (which is pretty ahistorical but I can sort of see how he might think that).
Where is Womack going with this? Well, much like Summer Thunder, the implication seems to be that Womack is heading towards paganism, or more or less a dark take on neopaganism. The rationale for this is that, in pre-Christian pagan religions, there was no such thing as good vs evil and the gods were indifferent to the morality of Man. Based on this, there are no absolutes and that every individual is responsible for creating their own distinct moral code based on their relationship with Satan. Spirituality and magick also follow from this in that there is no good and evil beyond intention. In practice, this still seems to me to be theistic Satanism, in that there’s the belief in a literal Satan. However, the reason for dropping the term Satanism is that the term attracts people who are, in his eyes, immature and not serious about their spirituality and magickal practice, and that the focus should instead be on about “love for Satan, and not the demons”. Instead of the Left Hand Path or the Right Hand Path, he refers to his magickal milieu as the “Crooked Shadow Path”, “the Path of Shadow” (which honestly sounds like something that could still refer to the Left Hand Path in practice) or the “Grey Path”, and he stresses that it is not a path of good vs evil as such, but rather a path of Nature. Womack also explains that, because he no longer define himself as a Satanist, he no longer has to worry about the conventions of Satanism, or about what Anton LaVey or Michael Aquino had to say about Satanism, and this applies to all others who take his approach.
From the sounds of it, Womack’s realignment has more to do with the identity of Satanism than its core doctrines. The emphasis that there is no meaningful good or evil, especially in its application to magick, is not particularly distinct from baseline Satanism, LaVeyan or otherwise, the moniker of “Crooked Shadow Path” could in practice still imply Left Hand Path, and the central object of this new approach remains Satan, all implying that we are still dealing with Satanism, merely Satanism rebranded. However, we also get the sense that Womack is hinting at a shift towards paganism, albeit a type of paganism wherein the central object just happens to be Satan. He lays great emphasis on how Satanism as an identity is based in Christian conceits, how the Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path dichotomy itself is the product of Christian understanding, even though ironically it actually predates Christianity in the sense that it is a product of Hindu Tantra rather than Christian dualism, though I imagine popular understanding of it is conditioned through Christian culture. As a result, the true substance of his doctrine is for Womack reflected in pre-Christian belief systems. The problem, of course, is that pagan mythos was used to convey ethical lessons of some kind, though not quite in the same way as the Christian mythos, and that pagan philosophers have very much been in the business of defining what is just and virtuous and what is not, because, you know, of course they were, that’s part of what philosophy is for. The fact that Satan remains a central subject is enough to make it seem like it’s a surface-level rebranding, but the overall direction gives us hints that Womack will be seeking a sort of dark neopagan framework.
I wonder, then, if this will prove itself to be a larger trend. Between Summer Thunder and R J Womack, there is this sense of dissatisfaction with the idea of Satanism on the grounds that it does not elevate virtue and instead celebrates vice, which I suppose some critics would just glibly say “well, what did you expect? this is Satanism after all!”. .The longing for a more pagan framework of spiritual identity sort of makes sense in this light, even though in some cases it’s not a particularly historical enterprise. Theistic Satanism has always had some overlap with neopaganism, much to the chagrin of many neopagans. In my experience at least, many theistic Satanists relate to Satanism via a dark take on polytheism which, although centered around Satan, features mutliple gods that often include the various figures found within Christian demonology, often reinterpreted as gods and sometimes as their old pagan counterparts. If the core of Satanism or at least the Satanic identity no longer appeals to them, there is always this take on pagan polytheism to fall back on. It does make me wonder how many other Theistic Satanists will join this trend.
Perhaps this correlates, also, with the more general rise of neopaganism that had been taking place through the 2010s into today. It may now be the case that this neopaganism is growing at the expense of Satanism. Or, perhaps, it is the case that Satanism is changing, and evolving, at its own expense. In any case it seems that there is a shift towards a different, more distinctly neopagan, identity within Theistic Satanism, even if in many cases it’s hard to tell what’s un-Satanic about it..
After my two recent posts I sense that, perhaps, there may be some interest in discussion over the group I mentioned called The Satanic Reds, the Satanist organization that also happened to be communist. Just who are they, and just who is Tani Jantsang, the group’s founder?
I suppose we can start with Tani Jantsang first. She appears to have been active in either the Satanic movement or just occultism more generally since the 1960s. She seems to have started out as a big fan of H P Lovecraft during the 1960s, when she intially encountered his writings, and in 1965 she came into contact with a group that was purportedly known as Societas Selectus Satanas, an organization that we know next to nothing about (although at least one person claims that there was actually no Societas Selectus Satanas and in fact what is referred to as such was actually a sect of “Family Tradition” Wicca), of which she believed the fantasy author Lin Carter was a member. As the 60s progressed, Jantsang’s interest in Lovecraft was so intense that it began to intertwine with her spiritual outlook. She started to believe that Lovecraft was connected to an ancient “Black Tradition” of magick that originated in Mongolia and unspecified parts of central Asia, and in 1969 she joined a magical order called Starry Wisdom, which appears to have been inspired by Lovecraft. In future decades she would also go on to become a prolific author of several essays, novels, and poems, many of them themed around the Chthulhu mythos, and she along with a man named Philip Marsh were also the editors of a magazine called Chthulhu Cultus, which ran from 1995 to 2001. In 1974, Tani and Philip formed an organization known as the Kishites, named for the ancient Sumerian (though they claim it to be Babylonian) city of Kish, which seemed to combine the Lovecraftian mythos with Tantric lore and other spiritual systems. In fact, Tani considers the Satanic Reds to be a continuation of the Kishite sect, albeit stripped of any references to Lovecraftian fiction.
Besides her work on Lovecraftian fiction, Tani is also apparently known for being a co-author of 11 historiographical monographs of various incarnations of Left Hand Path spirituality, so she seems to be a seasoned author of both fiction and non-fiction within the realm of Satanism. She is also an enigmatic figure in the movement, relatively obscure nowadays compared to the likes of Peter Gilmore or Michael Aquino (not to mention that very few photos of her exist), and so her life and involvement within Satanism sometimes the subject of rumour, speculation, and even drama. She is sometimes said to have been a Magistra of the Church of Satan in the past, a claim that Tani herself denies. She does seem to have had some correspondence with the Church of Satan, via letters that were sent between her and the Church of Satan between 1992 and 2000. In these letters she was praised by both Anton LaVey and Blanche Barton on various points, such as her pronouncements against the Nazis (or “Aryanists”), various articles of hers that were evidently submitted to the Church of Satan, and some music that she showed them that was apparently composed by her, as well as her correspondence with Anton’s son Xerxes. This is in itself would not be proof of her being a Magistra, but there is a quote of her saying that she was a Magistra going around in old Google forums dating back to 2003. It’s not entirely clear where this quote originates. Her relationship with the Church of Satan appears to have been amicable at first, and she also defended their doctrine of Satan as a dark force in nature against the Temple of Set, but by the time of her last correspondence with Blanche Barton there seems to have been a falling out between her and her organization, supposedly over her increasingly vocal anti-fascist pronouncements against some members of the Church of Satan.
Now, this is very interesting because, in a previous correspondence with Blanche Barton, dated to 1995, Blanche praises Tani for condemning the Nazis in the organization. In fact, Blanche refers to the “Aryanists” (as she calls them) as lacking nobility and purpose and accuses their cosmology and methods of being linked to Christianity (which is silly but at least it seems like she opposed Nazism). Curiously, this is the same year in which Blanche wrote that article for Black Flame in which she gaslighted Satanists who were expressing concern about the presence of fascists in the organization. But by the year 2000, it seems that Tani Jantsang had began calling them out again, in a similar way that she had before only perhaps more vocally, and this time that seems to have pissed off Blanche Barton and others in the Church of Satan. And that gets into some questions. How is it that the Church of Satan, an organization that, as I’ve demonstrated, has had a longstanding association with fascists up to the top of its hierarchy since its early years, would find itself admitting a self-identified communist into their ranks? Perhaps they weren’t lying after all when they said they were an apolitical organization? But then again why would they sideline a member or associate who they previously praised because of her vocal criticism of fascism, after previously praising such criticism?
However, I would be being one-sided if I did not bring up the fact of Tani’s own associations with fascists. I already talked about how she used to be a member of the fascist Order of the Left Hand Path, but she also seems to have known James Madole, the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party. There is an interview in which Jantsang recounts meeting with Madole, along with a few other Nazis, who shit-talked Anton LaVey and ranted about him being a Jew and supposedly “taking over the dialobic current”, that presumably was just a noble Aryan pagan warrior cult before he showed up (I tell you, the delusions that these volkisch fascists conjure within themselves never ceases to be entertaining). In addition it is known that Madole, who is noted for his fascination with occultism, was also, like Tani Jantsang, very interested in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, which leads me to believe that it was probably through this that the two initially became acquainted decades ago. And much later in life, despite calling out the Nazism of Church of Satan members, we find an interview she did in 2007 in which she praises Pat Buchanan’s books Where the Right Went Wrong and A Republic, Not An Empire as accurate books that everyone should read and even claimed that they constituted satanic literature, despite the notable handicap of Pat Buchanan and his vision for American society being characterized by conservative Christianity. And can I just say, isn’t it strange that a self-proclaimed Marxist would have such a high opinion of a man who believes that Jewish Marxists are responsible for the decline of Western Civilization? Not to mention, in that same interview, she praises the work of the white nationalist Kevin McDonald for his book The Culture of Critique, which argues that Jews are genetically predisposed towards ethnocentrism and to infiltrate white societies in order to eliminate their white populations and replace them with non-white peoples, and was directly inspired by the “Great Replacement” myth, and she also seems to dabble in Eurabia-style conspiracy theories, and along with that some ideas that sound suspiciously like the talking points of the far-right, when she says this:
Some of the Islamics even admit that they are unarmed invaders that will outbreed the Europeans and simply take over their societies and destroy their culture. These European countries have their own cultures and they are secular and advanced civilizations. I’d hate to see Western Civilization lost. It just might take extreme measures to fix what’s wrong in Europe. Playing the political correctness game has to stop if European culture, language and civilization is to survive this onslaught – and that means in the USA too. I regard the USA as primarily a European-culture nation, Western Civilization, post enlightenment. It should stay that way.
In addition to this, in her article about “Generational Satanism“, she says “I also said, “JEWS are Generational Satanists, and THEY RULE YOU.”. On the other hand, she also gives Jews quite a bit of credit within the remit of her ostensibly materialistic philosophy, in the sense that she holds that Jews are hated by Christians because hold the view that there is no heavenly afterlife. So, with all that in mind, I actually wonder why she would come out against the Nazis if she appears to harbour anti-semitic sympathies herself? Is it truly because of a moral opposition to the ideological program of Nazism (which, as I surely don’t need to tell you, is inseparable from anti-semitism), or is it just because she thinks of the Nazis as obvious bad guys, or because they’re most likely to actually bring her harm should they ever take power in her country? It’s hard for me to say, and I don’t think the answer to this question is going to be a particularly good one, since she appears to promote white nationalist (and blatantly anti-semitic) thinkers and ideas when given the chance. I think that Tani seems to be very confused on the question of Jews and anti-semitism, and, as we’ll see, politics more generally.
Returning to drama, though, there’s also a weird drama that Tani Jantsang has concerning Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set. There was an apparent incident involving Aquino in 1972, when he was still a member of the Church of Satan, in which the Lovecraftian lodges seemed to get into conflict with Aquino over some manuscripts that it is claimed were written by Lin Carter. Jantsang’s critics accuse her of plagiarizing an essay that was originally written by Michael Aquino. There’s also the matter of the Order of the Left Hand Path, and the circumstances surrounding her leaving the order. She recalls that she “started a shitfight” with Bolton, and this was likely motivated by an increased sense of ideological divergence and the apparently dogmatic tendencies of its leader, Kerry Bolton. She accused Bolton of having used the idea of the Dark Doctrines to browbeat people into submission. This split caused the Order of the Left Hand Path to reconstitute into the Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, and in the process jettisoning the influence of Jantsang’s doctrine and other Eastern influences in favour of a doctrine inspired by the Order of Nine Angles.
Her drama is not entirely limited to Satanist groups, as she seems to have been in some sort of feud with a secretive communist group called Maoist Internationalist Movement, which considered her to be a terroristic anti-communist agitator. Jantsang, in turn, considers MIM to be an FBI COINTELPRO group that also endorses terrorists and attacks other communist organizations (which, to be fair, considering the fact that the CIA started up and supported Maoist groups in the 1960s for the purposes of splintering the communist movement, would not be without precedent). And in general, from what I have noticed of her writings or rather her exchanges on forums and particularly the old group chats she started from the early 2000s, she had the tendency to be highly polemical and defensive to the point of being excessively confrontational and often vulgar towards others, which lends to some sharp dramatic tendencies. This also lends itself to some extreme positions being on her part, such as her apparent opinion that the US should drop nuclear bombs on Afghanistan. I must say, if she is a Marxist, she must be a very confused one. For instance, in the quotation wherein she identifies herself as a Magistra of the Church of Satan, she also identifies herself as a Stalinist, but in another post she describes Stalin as a totalitarian dictator (and in that case she’d be right about that btw).
All of this comes from what little information is out there about Tani Jantsang herself, gleamed from a handful of books on the subject, the Satanic Reds website, and a series of forums often dating back around half a decade. Even from this, there are many who doubt even the most basic details about her, including her very name. Some believe that Tani Jantsang is actually a woman named Tanya Lysenko, or Phyllis Rose, or Phyllis Rosenbaum, but these come from a few old forum posts and I have no way of verifying the authenticity of such claims. So, in many ways, a lot of her life seems to be a mystery.
But enough about Tani herself, let’s talk about The Satanic Reds as an organization. They were founded by Tani Jantsang and Philip Marsh in 1997, decades after their formation of the Kishites and a couple of years after her involvement with the Order of the Left Hand Path. It’s unknown how many members they have, though Tani Janstang claims that the group has 800 members. This organization bases itself on two identifiable core doctrines – the first is what they call the Dark Tradition or Dark Doctrines and the second is what they call Social Realism. The Dark Doctrines is their way of referring to their overall cosmology and the line of esoteric tradition that they claim to draw from. The basic idea of this is that there’s an ancient tradition of Tantra that constitutes the primordial form of Satanism, which Tani claims is found not only in ancient Tantric Hinduism but also in the Pythagorean tradition, Advaita Vedanta and “Turanian” mysticism. The cosmological doctrine of the Dark Tradition is based on the idea of Sat, Tan, and Asat, with Sat and Tan in particular supposedly forming the primordial basis for the archetype of Satan. Sat is the name of the concept that they define to be the Boundless Darkness, the substance of the All which is then infused into all things and particularly living beings as Atma (the Hindu concept of the soul), and the source of the light, or the Flame as it were. Tan is the name of the force by which this Darkness is infused into all of creation, and in a broader sense the process of Becoming. Satan, in this light, is interpreted the synthesis of these two, the unfolding and its object, and thereby the embodiment of the creative process by which all things come into being in the universe. Asat in this doctrine is their word for Non-Being, which is described as giving rise to Sat or Being (much like Wuji, or the Without Ultimate, gives rise to Taiji, or the Supreme Ultimate, in Taoist cosmology), but they also seem to use it to refer to temporal or temporary phenomenon within the cosmos.
Although I’m not convinced that it is the historical representation of Tantra (or Satanism for that matter) that Tani Jantsang purports it to be, it does seem to derive from Tantric Hinduism in the use of several Hindu concepts possibly connected to Tantra. The connection to Tantra may, however, just be as stretched as the name Tan supposedly being the basis of the word Tantra, in which case this is just a particularly inventive system of religious syncretism. And such a syncretism is not an uninteresting one either, in all fairness. In Sat and Tan we could extrapolate a dynamic of creation associated with some pantheistic belief systems, in which Tan becomes the creative impetus or force which compels the generation of things upon the embryo of the universe. There’s also the invocation of various archetypal links – there’s wrathful Buddhist deities such as Shri Kalachakra and Mahakala, there’s the Tao, there’s Sanat Kumara (who for them refers to the five Kumaras which are the five Tan that make up the five points of the pentagram in their tradition), and there’s the Slavic deity Chernobog (or “Chynerii Bog”), which are all taken to be names of this force of darknesss. They also seem to root themselves in the idea of unity with Nature, or more specifically their own Nature, and in their Nine Postulates (their own take on the Nine Satanic Statements), they stress that humans are of Nature, and that those who try to rebel against their own nature, thereby defying Nature more broadly, spiritually die and become nothing, and I think the emphasis on nature does sound nice if framed from the perspective of the Ziran concept found in Taoism. The term for a person who defies Nature is called a Klippoth, which for them means Nothing, but in one article Tani Janstang also uses the term Setian, as in a follower of Michael Aquino’s doctrine, in a similar way, to refer to someone who, like the Christian, detaches himself from the natural world and views themselves apart from (or indeed threatened) by it, which in my view seems to be an attack on the Setian doctrine of human self-consciousness (and Set, its progenitor) as being outside of and apart from nature and the Satanist therefore as seeking to seperate from nature. Honestly, that’s quite the burn. She also calls them pretas, a Hindu/Buddhist term referring to the “hungry ghosts”.
The major problem, however, is that Tani’s concept of a Dark Tradition is ultimately ahistorical. There is nothing tracing her doctrines of Sat, Tan and Asat, or indeed the Satanic pentagram, to Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans – indeed, we all know that the Satanic pentagram in its modern form can be traced to 19th century occultism, where it was used as a negative symbol asssociated with the forces of subversion and opposition to God. There is also nothing linking her particular philosophy to the original Tantra in the historicist sense, and there is certainly no etymological link between Sat, Tan and Satan. I would perhaps appreciate it if Tani and the Satanic Reds were honest about the fact that this philosophy is their own syncretic invention, and in this sense a modern doctrine, but it seems they’re rather invested in the idea that this is just something that people have always believed in if it weren’t for those pesky Christians (which, given what we’ve already established about her associations with volkisch fascists, sounds like it’s not too different from what they believe about how everyone followed Esoteric Hitlerism or some such until the Jews decided that we shouldn’t), and given her claims to “Turanian” heritage, it almost feels like a massive projection of a sense of ethnic identity. Not to mention, her writings on the Dark Doctrines, much like her comments in general, are difficult to read and make sense of for some reason. There’s a certain disjointedness to her writing style, I often find it difficult to grasp her work, not because of its ostensible profundity but instead because everything feels jumbled and it’s hard to make sense of what she’s saying. It’s like she has some sort of communication problem.
As for Social Realism, this is the name given to the political ideology of the Satanic Reds doctrine. It’s not really given its own definition, it just seems to be a moniker they give to their particular left-wing politics and its synthesis with Satanism. Now, it’s here that we come to one thing that I never really addressed in this post, which is probably the most interesting subject of this matter, is the question of how exactly do you be both a communist and Satanist, given that Satanism at large tends be an anti-egalitarian philosophy that in particular has a habit of embracing Social Darwinism? Whilst I can’t speak for other Satanists who happen to consider themselves communist, the Satanic Reds apparently have their own way of reconciling it, and, to be quite honest, it’s confusing. Even though the Satanic Reds are referred to as communist and their logo can be seen brandishing the hammer and sickle symbol of the Bolshevik movement, their FAQ seems to suggest that they are not in fact strictly socialist, but instead are both capitalists and socialists, or more specifically supporters of Dirigist capitalism, which they maintain is a form of socialism (to which any other Marxist, myself included, would laugh and then tell you to read basic Marxist theory as regards socialism and/or communism). What’s more, they seem to purport that they self-identify as “Reds” (meaning communists) not because of any actual adoption of communist ideology but because Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs they appear to support, was considered a communist back in his day, and, in their words, “if F. D. Roosevelt was a Red, then so are we!”.
This suggests that they are not in fact communists, or even socialists, but instead New Deal progressives who dress up their ideology in communist garb for nakedly contrarian reasons. In fact, they apply this logic to everything else as well. They embrace the label Red (or communist) on the grounds that liberals, feminists, gay rights advocates, advocates of social and religious tolerance, anti-racists, anti-fascists, and advocates of state planning or regulationist economic reforms, have all been considered communists at one point or another by right-wing reactionaries, and so being a communist to them simply means an expression of support for all of these things (oddly enough without the actual communism to support it). This is ultimately not so much an expression of meaningful communist politics so much as it is getting willfully hung-up on the fact that right-wingers, especially Republicans, have done what they will do even to conservative Democrats: so long as they are running against the GOP, the GOP’s supporters will denounce them as communists. Hell, even Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican President, was demonized as a communist by the John Birch Society over opposition to the military-industrial complex among other issues, but you can bet for certain that the Satanic Reds will never vote Republican just because of that. The overall stance follows from the logic that those who do not adopt Christianity are considered Satanists, so you might as well adopt that identity. Tani herself is an example of this; she claims to be “generational Satanist”, in that she claims her family was Satanists, but in reality they were likely not Satanists and Tani herself describes them as “non-Islamic Turko-Tartars” who she claims practiced a syncretic religion based on Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Tantric Hinduism (or “Tantric-Vedantic concepts”) and some form of shamanism.
And look, I know it can seem tempting to some left-leaning individuals on the internet to embrace the commie label just because reactionary forces and right-wing idiots deem them to be communists and will call you a communist no matter what you do, but consider the reverse of this phenomenon. For ages, Democrats have had a bad habit of calling their Republican enemies Nazis, and outside of America you will often find people with a left-leaning bent who will call various right-wing politicians fascists or Nazis, regardless of whether or not they are actually fascists or Nazis. Now, if hypothetically a right-winger were to say that he decided to move to the far-right on the grounds that “the left” has decided that everything’s fascist now, would you be willing to believe them or take them seriously? Come on, I’ve seen that Matt Bors comic you guys like to share. Of course you don’t buy it. So why do this for yourselves through the label of communism? Now, I get that it makes a tiny bit of sense if you take it from the lens of Satan being the archetype of opposition to the establishment or whatever, but the way you manifest that within a leftist outlook is through the union of the Satanic archetype and a meaningfully radically outlook. Apparently the anarchists managed to do it since the 19th century, so why can’t these guys?
That being said, however, the Satanic Reds website contains multiple links to various articles written by either Tani Jantsang or other members outlining their postulations about communism, socialism, and even dialectical materialism – the very philosophical basis of Marxism. It may be interesting, therefore, to examine them.
It seems obvious to me that we are dealing people who are, at least in some sense, socialists, and they operate within Marxism in particular. Tani herself I think is a Marxist-Leninist of some type (judging by the fact that she once called herself a Stalinist, which is the name of a specific tendency within Marxism-Leninism). In some ways, I find them to be convincing leftists. However, I also find them to be confused. On the one hand, you have all of this material that establishes a credible Marxist ideological current for themselves, but on the other, their Q&A establishes that they might actually be pro-capitalist in the sense of Dirigist or New Deal capitalism. I’d say that they’re being a bit too coy about their political beliefs if you ask me.
The last thing I want to address about their doctrine is their views on the definition of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. It seems that they are simultaneously of the Left Hand Path and not of the Left Hand Path, in that they define the Left Hand Path and the Right Hand Path as inseparable parts of each other that, when separated, are reduced to falsity and error. Tani points out that the LHP and the RHP are, in their original Tantric context, defined not by their respective goals (because they had the same goal of attaining unity with God) but by their respective methods, but also suggests that LHP refers to Yin (the passive principle) while RHP refers to Yang (the active principle). This would be a strange idea because it would require us to categorize whether or not the Vamachara methods of transgression as either passive or active, or whether or not transgression itself is passive or active. And under this framework, transgression in the active sense, of all kinds, is RHP, even the Luciferian impulse and even violent revolution against the status quo. By the way, speaking of Lucifer, in this article Tani Jantsang claims that the term Lucifer was never used to refer to Satan until John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, when in reality the identification likely begins with Jerome.
And, that’s pretty much all I want to talk about with regards to the organization. The only other thing I could say about them is that it seems their website hasn’t been updated in several years. In the year 2020, this website still looks like it’s the late 1990s or early 2000s, suggesting that the website has not been updated at all since the group became somewhat popular in the early online Satanist scene of that time.
Overall, I find that the Satanic Reds are a group that could have had some promise in its weird mixture of Tantra, Satanism and Marxism, but while there are several promising elements I can’t say that it’s a well-executed synthesis. And it doesn’t look like the movement is still active and today it is largely treated as obscure footnote in the history of Satanism, which is kind of a shame because there was a lot going on in the background of the organization’s history that also ties in with the history of the Church of Satan. As for Tani Jantsang herself, I find her to be a very strange figure. On the one hand, she is commendable in being one of the few Satanists out there to actively try and challenge things like “might makes right” and Ayn Rand style individualism within the remit of Satanism, and there are aspects of her doctrine I find interesting, but on the other hand she also seems to be kind of a kook, she ultimately failed to produce the kind of refined synthesis that would be serviceable and ripe for expanding upon. And, on top of that, despite her commendable opposition to Nazis within the Satanic movement, it also seems that she, for a long time in her life, herself associated with fascists, and appears to have sympathies with white nationalists and the works of white nationalists and anti-semites, and I think that’s simply unacceptable.
I think, in the end, that the kind of thing that Tani Jantsang seeks would be better acheived by doing for Anton LaVey what Karl Marx did for Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel. Just as Marx took the foundation of Hegel’s dialectical philosophy and reconstituted it as a doctrine built upon materialism rather than idealism, so too must a Marxist running either within or adjacent to the Left Hand Path continuity take a foundation of something like Anton LaVey or whatnot and reconstitute it into a new philosophy using dialectical materialism. That is what I believe Jantsang would do if she were a more capable intellect, and in some ways it is the primary goal of my studies, wherever that path takes me.
It’s time at last for me to comment on Michael Aquino’s new edition of Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible. I’ve been meaning to read that book for quite some time, and now that I have, I have a lot to say. My good friend Summer Thunder assured me once that it was an important work for Satanism or more specifically Satanic culture, and I have no reason to doubt him. After all, this is indeed a revision of The Satanic Bible, and one written by one of Satanism’s leading philosophers and exponents who also leads a major Satanist organization (the Temple of Set), so we can take this as a important point of development for Satanism, one that may indeed already have influenced its direction since its release last year. As such, the most important part for me will be to assess the general philosophical content of the book so as to gauge what could well be the direction of Satanism going forward.
Right off the bat, before we get into the content, I must mention how such intent is reflected within the structure of the book. The book can best be described as what The Satanic Bible would look like if it was written by Aquino, with his particular background and ontology in mind and with a lot of additional content included. The book has five chapters, the first four of which are named for Satan, Lucifer, Belial and Leviathan in that order, reflecting the structure and intent of the original Satanic Bible. The Satan chapter isn’t the quite the same as it was in LaVey’s book, but it does offer some diatribes intended to expound the spirit of Satanism, this time from the (alleged) perspective of the infernal pantheon (Satan, Beelzebub, Azazel, Abaddon, Asmodeus, Astaroth, Belial and Leviathan). The Lucifer chapter is devoted to Aquino’s formulation of a philosophy of Satanism that is somewhat distinct from LaVey’s original philsophy, much like how in LaVey’s original book the Book of Lucifer was dedicated to formulating moral and epistemological philosophy, with sections of the book divided between the subjects of the universe, time, gods, and the soul (with a lot of very silly titles). The Belial chapter is, much like in LaVey’s book, dedicated to magick, ritualism and explaining how it works. The Leviathan chapter is devoted to the word of Set, which is divided into nineteen parts in exactly the same way as the Enochian keys are in LaVey’s book. In addition to this the four chapters (except for the Belial chapter) each come with a backstory section dealing with the chapters of the original Satanic Bible. After those four chapters, however, there is an additional fifth chapter, titled Yankee Rose (a clear reference to the cryptic ending of the original Satanic Bible), which seems to be focused on the history of the Church of Satan (a subject also covered in the preface), with of course the aim of “decoding” the meaning of the Yankee Rose phrase in the original Satanic Bible.
The book begins with a foreword supposedly written by Satan himself. I think it’s safe to assume it was not quite written by Satan, but from the perspective of what Aquino believes to be Satan, but that it is taken as the word of Satan, and that the word of several other beings is mentioned in the book, indicates that Aquino intends his doctrine to derive from revelation, which is the tell that we’re dealing with a theistic framework. In any case, it serves as the introduction to what Aquino’s version of The Satanic Bible is supposed to be: a means of self-discovery from the Satanic viewpoint, the act of reading it to be taken as a rite passage to into “a universe” or “universes” not known to physics (he actually goes out of his way here to refer to physics as pedantic; totally not anti-scientific at all, I see we’re off to a wonderful start already). Also worth noting is how Satan is taken to be the name of an entity universal to human cultures, supposedly embodying the same tropes throughout his incarnations, with the name Satan just being the name specific to Western “Judeo-Christian” culture, and he treats various other deities as isomorphic to Satan archetypally, such as Set (of course, this is Aquino after all), Odin and Quetzalcoatl. All of these are very quizzical for numerous reasons. I find it funny how Aquino never referred to the Roman god Mercury, since Odin, and to a lesser extent Quetzalcoatl, both share traits with Mercury (Odin in particular was linked to Mercury through the Gaulish deity Lugus). Or Ba’al considering Set has more in common with Ba’al than Satan and indeed was directly identified with Ba’al by the Canaanites who migrated into Egypt (referred to by historians as the Hyksos). Also, I find it weird how, after Set got sick of being referred to by Satan at the time Michael Aquino began founding the Temple of Set (at least according to Setian lore anyway), Set seems to just be cool with being referred to as Satan. Weird how that works.
The preface appears to center itself around the idea of a revision of the Satanic Bible, entailing that the project was in planning for a long time (apparently LaVey intended to do his own revision as early as the 1970s but never got round to writing it before his death in 1997), but it also seems to focus on the subject of the authenticity of the original Satanic Bible, which Aquino seems to believe was repudiated not long after it was origianlly written. It’s here that we also, for a brief moment, see Aquino’s intent in so far as forming a philosophy based on what he believes to be beyond nature, unnatural. To me this is much in contrast with Anton LaVey, who (if Stephen Flowers is anything to go by) intended to create what can be described as a natural morality, and I say this on the grounds that, if Aquino’s morality is centered on an unnatural object, then his moral system can be framed as an avowedly unnatural morality. One minor detail to note however is that he appears to treat every Abrahamic book after the Torah as just a clone of it, which seems nonsensical when you consider the way that these texts diverge from each other (for example, the Hellenic influence on the New Testament in contrast to the Old Testament). Though, as you’ll see later, he tends to do that a lot with RHP religions. After some pretty interesting historical exposition on the early days of the Church of Satan, we return to the theme of the original Satanic Bible’s authenticity, where Aquino claims not only that it lost authenticity in 1975 due to LaVey’s careerist restructuring of the Church of Satan, but that the Satanic Bible itself had been reduced to a work “occult fiction” that happened to contain social criticism. That’s rather harsh of him, but I guess I can understand where he’s coming from.
After the preface is a page entitled Introduction by Lady Diane LaVey High Priestess Church of Satan, but that page consists entirely of the page title, Diane LaVey’s birthday, an image of Diane LaVey from the old days, and a statement saying “Michael’s audacity is breathtaking”. That’s it. After this is the contents section and then the rest of the book. Some introduction. One wonders what the purpose of this page was.
There are two short sections preceding the first chapter. The first is a list of Anton LaVey’s inspirations, and the second, more interestingly, is a section entitled Indulgence in Brimstone. This appears to be this books version of the Nine Satanic Statements as they appeared in the original Satanic Bible. In both cases they directly precede before the Satan chapters of their respective books, contain nine statements to sum up the ethos of the belief system in short order, and both are decorated with the Cross of Leviathan (a.k.a. the symbol of sulfur or brimstone). This to me is one of the things that demonstrates continuity between the two Satanic Bibles, which is good because it fulfills the purpose of the book. As far as the actual statements go, they are as follows:
Indulgence establishes life, as abstinence death.
Indulgence in the present realizes the future.
Indulgence is quickened by truth, stricken by falsehood.
Indulgence is nourished by love, generosity and benevolence: but only when so appreciated and recompensed.
Indulgence in the excitement of creation finds its balance in the annihilation of destruction.
Indulgence is the Fountain of Life, but forbidden to those who seek only to consume life.
Indulgence within Nature through a form of that Nature is a gift of the Natural and the NonNatural, that you may Become both.
Indulgence for its own pleasure is a sacrament.
Indulgence is ever beset by the death-worshipful who would kill whatever they fear: Beware!
Unlike the original Nine Satanic Statements, in these new statements Satan does not seem to make any appearance, and instead the center of this litany is the concept of Indulgence. In the footnotes, Aquino tells us that the concept of Indulgence “elicits far nobler, indeed divine qualities in the Satanist”, speaking in relation to the original Nine Satanic Statements and the speech from John Galt in Atlas Shrugged that Aquino thinks forms the basis of said Statements, but beyond that his concept of Indulgence is not precisely defined other than in distinction to LaVey’s formulation of hedonism in the Lucifer chapter, where he explains that Indulgence should be taken to mean an Epicurean rather than hedonist outlook. It seems that these nine statements are to be taken as the primary means of defining this concept of Indulgence. In many ways we see an echo of Anton LaVey’s original ethos, as summed up by that famous axiom of his, “Life is the great indulgence – death the great abstinence”. But we also get a framing that might be characterized as somewhat Epicurean, with the emphasis that Indulgence is nourished by truth and the warning that it shall be forbidden for those who seek only to consume it, suggesting that this is not a conception of baseline hedonism. The more peculiar detail is the assurance that one may become both natural and unnatural (or, sorry, “NonNatural”; you could have hyphenated that Mr. Aquino). I wonder how this is to be done, or moreover I wonder how the two can be equals if the highest object of his ontology is what he considers to be outside of Nature.
After this, we come to the Book of Fire, which appears to just be content of The Diabolicon, an essay which was written by Michael Aquino in 1970 while he was a member of the Church of Satan, written from the point of view of Satan and the infernal pantheon. The first thing I notice is that here Satan is identified synonymously with Lucifer which, as I’ve explained before, is historically incorrect. But that’s the least important detail here. I do like how it begins with “Hail Man!”, which suggests some commitment to humanism. In any case, what we’re getting from here on out is a retelling of the mythology of the War in Heaven and the creation of the universe. Here, Satan explains how he liberated mankind by disrupting the order that came into being with the emergence of a being named God by introducing Will. This brings him into conflict with the angels Michael (here the “Lord of Force”) and Masleh (a Hebrew angel of the zodiac who is apparently referred to as Messiah at one point), thus leading up to the War in Heaven (or “The Great Seraphic War”). Masleh then descends to the Earth to censor the effects of Satan’s gift, and inspire in humanity guilt, conformity, herd mentality and so forth, and the host of heaven imposes Abrahamism upon mankind and their prophets teach them to be mindless animals before God, with Satan being hated and mocked in this world order. Already I get weird Randian vibes from this, though Aquino would insist otherwise due to his theistic outlook. But we see an interesting side of Satan as well: a being who feels compassion for the species he is attempting to liberate, a being who feels sorrow for those who have befriended him and heeded his teachings only to be met with cruel persecution and often execution. We also, however, get a very strange doctrine about the nature of the universe.
What, man, art thou? Why thy presence? Because thy own purpose determines that of the cosmos itself, though otherwise it may have been suggested – the creation, perpetuation, and exercise of the Satanic marvel that is free and unbounded Will. Consider, were man to perish, what futility would envelop the Universe, for apart from appreciation and use it is a thing of insignificance.
The implication of this would be that the universe has no existence outside of humanity, or human observance, or would have no purpose without the existence of humanity. This of course would raise such questions as “if this is the case when why does the universe generate us in the first place?” or “what of everything that came before mankind?” or “how do you deal with the concept of the universe existing outside of our opinion of it?”. Sadly, I find that these questions are not dealt with sufficiently.
Next we get to Beelzebub, who describes mankind as his inspiration and object of aspiration and tells us about the history of Heaven, Hell and Earth – basically this is the cosmology section of The Diabolicon. He tells of how, before the fall, he wanted to be Satan (or “be Lucifer”, because in this asinine Christian-inspired framework they’re the same entity), but Satan admonished him and told him that he is not God and that he is not here to offer salvation or “blissful nirvana”, before talking to him about how creation and design stem from impulse rather than by law (in other words, spontaneous creation, which is weird for a theist to advocate for and also kind of flies past the thought of there being a concept of laws of physics that can be observed). Will is also described as being of neither divine nor chaotic origin, and it’s not quite explained what that means. Beelzebub then tells of his desire to become independent from God, talks to Michael of his vision, after which Michael and Satan start arguing with each other, with Satan explaining that he differs in substance from Michael because he derives from himself, and as such is discord, whereas Michael derives from God. He tells then that after Satan reveals his mind to the angels, several join him, and then Masleh implores Michael to cast him down, which he does, resulting in their exile and the concept of God being “shaken”, resulting in the rise of endless chaos, which is weird because apparently humans have still had to deal with God and his angels since the events of the war in heaven. Where heaven is the place of order and conformity to God, Hell is a place where freedom is absolute and truth is not constant because it reflects the wills of all who inhabit it.
Then we get to Azazel, here the Arch-Daimon of Hell, who tells more about the war in heaven. Then we get to Abaddon, here the Daimon of death, who continues in that direction. Then we get Asmodeus, who in this book seems to have transformed from the demon of lust to the Daimon of science. Here Asmodeus claims to be responsible for Isaac Newton discovering the law of gravity, the materialist philosophy of Democritus (which is ironic because of what has already been established), and the efforts of mathematicians, astronomers and explorers to understand the cosmos around them. He also claims to be repsonsible for teaching politics and civilization to the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Aztecs and the Ashanti. This is a quite a departure from Asmodeus’ usual mythological role, and again affirms the revelationist aspect of Aquino’s doctrine, stressing that human enlightenment was the product of supernatural intelligences. Then we get to Astaroth, Daimon of the senses, who claims credit for the ability of man to comprehend the true depths of his progress. Then we get to Belial, who I’m sure is trying to talk about how he taught black magic but it feels drenched in jargon. One weird detail I find fascinating is that, at the end, Belial refers to Man as “at once child and father of the universe”, which in my view has the potential to be extrapolated into a framework that I doubt Aquino would appreciate because it sounds too much like Hinduism or Buddhism. Finally we get to Leviathan, or rather an entity describing Leviathan since this time it doesn’t appear to be in first person. Here Leviathan is treated as the Absolute, a principle of existential continuity, answerable to nothing other than the final master of the universe. It is stated here that the Black Flame will only achieve full mastery and perfection when the universe is destroyed and there is nothing but Man and Leviathan, because only then can Man be sure that he isn’t subject to a greater will. So essentially, in this framework, the only way to truly be autonomous is if nothing exists that can create dependencies. This to me is a profound weakness because it reveals just how bad this framework really is, at least so far. If we take this as the revelation of a supernatural being, then it shows that Aquino’s philosophy (or the words of the infernal pantheon) cannot deliver the true depth of its emancipation without the destruction of all that is. If it’s a metaphor, then it encourages the individual to simply cut himself off entirely from all that is, because in this framework only by doing so can you achieve real or perfect freedom. It’s a recipe for supreme alienation – after all you don’t get much more alienated than being willing to proclaim that the only way you’re going to be free is if the universe is destroyed. And, in that sense, it’s another form of the reaction that all too many LHP practitioners have when faced with the reality that, so long as you live in a society, or indeed an integrated universe governed by laws, you will always be subject to interdependence and a myriad of complicated hierarchies in which you are sometimes the master and sometimes but another subject. What better way to get rid of that problem than to cast aside the ultimate externality?
All in all, all the other problems aside, most of the Book of Fire makes for a somewhat interesting narrative device that can be utilized by Satanists and you can gleam some gems from it, but it’s not the best sign post for the philosophy we’re getting. One other complaint I have about the Satan section though is that it feels weird to read parts of it at first for one simple reason: the design is fucking awful. Seriously. Aquino used a different font for the sections where it’s supposed be the word of one of the Daimons, which I guess is intended to convey that it’s not the word of the author, but there are no quote marks where there’s supposed to be a quotation from another character, and I swear the commas look like period dots. On close inspection you can make out the difference between commas and period dots, but it’s pretty subtle, and if you read it at first glance you might not tell the difference. It’s just such an awkward design.
Now we get to the Lucifer chapter, and for the purpose of this review we’re going to skip the commentary on LaVey’s original Book of Lucifer essays and go straight to Aquino’s chapters. Before we do though, I must note that this chapter in particular showcases Aquino’s tendency to design very insular and stupid-sounding terms for concepts that may already be covered in the English language. For example, in his commentary on LaVey’s originaly essays, he uses a made-up word called “Internetrality” for what seems like he could have just used the word cyberspace instead. I also have this weird feeling of mild annoyance with when in the backstory section Michael Aquino insists that if you read his new chapters you’ll realize that you already assume his philosophy to be correct, that you “know these answers already, intuitively”, citing Plato (the most authoritarian and idealist of the ancient Greek philosophers) and his concept of “universal truths”. At best, it’s a pathetically arrogant attempt to justify his philosophy not in any empirical basis but in subjective “timeless” intuition. At worst, it smacks of something a cult leader might say. Either way, my suspicion is aroused.
We begin with a section on universes, which begins with the discussion of objective and subjective universes. The concept of an Objective Universe is pretty straightforward. It refers to the notion of the universe as we understand it, a matrix of reality comprising of matter and energy and indeed the totality of all phenomenon within it, governed by natural laws that can be apprehended via the scientific method. The concept of a Subjective Universe refers to the Objective Universe as perceived by an individual self-conscious being, or the universe that exists within their mental space. It’s here that we begin to see the development of what can only be described as an anti-scientific framework. He insists that human science has no idea about natural laws in the sense of what they are, why they are or what enforces them, without considering perhaps that we have some idea of why they exist in the sense that we know that they are necessary for the functioning of the universe in various ways. He then goes on about how it is impossible to acquire an accurate assessment of the objective universe through experiment and empiricism, because every interpretation of the universe is totally subjective according to him, even when large numbers of people observe the exact same phenomenon and report back to each other than they have. He even goes so far as to suggest that what we normally observe as insanity is actually just a person’s Subjective Universe replacing the Objective Universe, and he treats the designation of insanity as nothing more than the suggestion of social conformity, a suppression of individual will.
This for me is one of the biggest problems I can think of in Aquino’s framework, and one of the biggest dangers that you might come across in the Left Hand Path. The primary implication of what he is saying is that the Subjective Universe is either just as valid as the Objective Universe, or that it has the potential to be more valid and more meaningful than the Objective Universe, and that by telling someone that their Subjective Universe cannot reflect the truth outside of your perception of it then you are in a sense restricting their social freedom. If this is your epistemology, then you have surrendered your right to challenge the Abrahamic worldview, or any other worldview you condemn, because, if you do so, then your framework tells you that you are trying to suppress the Subjective Universes of those people. The Christian fundamentalist’s claims about God literally creating the world in six days, about evolution being false and dinosaur bones just being tricks from God (or Satan) designed to test your faith, about Noah’s Ark being real, about how building the Temple of Solomon will lead us to a Thousand Year Kingdom on Earth, about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus resurrecting, all of it would be counted as part of the Subjective Universe of the believer, and you now have no right to dislodge that because that’s just the triumph of the Subjective Universe and the will of the faithful. Or maybe it doesn’t apply when they do it. Maybe they’ve surrendered their subjective wills to a false god if they do it. Maybe when you do it, you’re exercising your free will and society has no right to stop you. But you’re only making that judgement on a subjective basis. If you base your framework on subjectivity, then my interpretation of reality is equally valid to anyone else’s, and talking someone out of an erroneous position becomes impossible and talking about philosophy becomes a case of talking about how good you are at telling stories or making paintings. It also lends credence to all of the bullshit that we’ve been seeing over the last decade or so from what we used to call “social justice warriors”, people who assert that their gender identity or racial identity is a much larger subject than any objective matrix that it may operate under. If you adopt this framework of subjectivism, then you’re unable to oppose the modern liberal/progressive tendencies that contain such thinking. The only way you can get past this and imbue your framework with truth is to entertain the premise that there is a reality that exists outside of subjective perception, but Aquino doesn’t necessarily allow this because he implies that this pursuit is scientifically and epistemologically impossible!
But that’s not all. There’s another dimension to the Subjective Universe idea: the Collective Subjective Universe (or CSU). The concept of the Collective Subjective Universe is just his term for when a Subjective Universe is shared, approved and/or enforced by a larger body of people – in other words, it’s his way of saying that human civilization is just the pursuit of cultivating a subjective universe capable of forming consensus (in other words, what is real is what we all agree to be real). There’s no actual justification for why you can’t collectively share the same observation of objective reality I must point out. It’s just his way of pointing out that societies are founded on or undergird themselves with a shared set of values. He pointed out the salience of George Orwell’s criticism of the concept of thoughtcrime, but viewed from the perspective of the ontology we’re given thus far, the only reason Aquino has to give a shit is because his own Subjective Universe is in danger of being suppressed. Hell, if we actually go far enough with this, further than Aquino himself would allow, we would arrive at the premise that Satan himself doesn’t have much of a moral ground to oppose God other than that humans wouldn’t have the freedom to express Subjective Universes or arrive at a state where this subjectivity supercedes reality. He’s already established that if you believe you’ve been possessed by the Holy Spirit we have no right to get in the way of that so why stop there?
But we haven’t even begun to wade in the river of bullshit yet. Aquino then claims without empirical basis that time does not exist. I’d say tell that to actual physicists like Lee Smolin or Carlo Rovelli, or really many physicists who can tell you that, even if there’s no real consensus on how we define it, there is some consensus on the fact that it exists. But that’s not all, he denies the theory of relativity as formulated by Albert Einstein, calling it a tar-baby without actually bothering to demonstrate why exactly it’s wrong other than apparently it refuted the ideas that Immanuel Kant had about time and space. This would require Aquino to explain why so many of the predictions laid out by the general theory of relativity have been proven correct – such as the Shapiro effect, the equivalence principle, frame-dragging effects, gravitational redshifting, light deflection by cosmic bodies, the perihelion procession of the planet Mercury, the gravitational microlensing of stars etc. – and the fact that the theory has been taken up as the best way of explaining the laws of gravity, not to mention the fact that general relativity has passed numerous experimental tests since its proposal by Einstein. Too bad he only devoted a paragraph worth of text to the subject. But not to worry, I’m sure his Subjective Universe will grant him the freedom to bypass this reality. Actually, he later goes on to insist that the speed of light is not 180,000 miles per hour and that curved space, wormholes, and black holes are all fictional concepts, all on the grounds that time has no basis in reality. Again we are compelled to ignore that many of these things have already been observed, and in fact this year we got our first up close and personal photo of an actual black hole. Yeah, needless to say I hope Aquino has re-evaluated that aspect of his epistemology. I will give him credit on one thing though: string theory is bullshit, being almost all metaphysics with no actual science to it, and I swear it’s being propped up by the more science-savvy wing of the religious right.
One thing he might be somewhat salient on is where he talks about meaning and points out that Adam and Eve’s true “sin” was that they recognize Good and Evil in a manner that is not in conformity with El (used as the true name for the Biblical God). He points out that meaning is not a function or property of the Objective Universe, but instead a property of the Subjective Universe, and, you know, there’s probably some truth to that. If there is a greater meaning or purpose to this life, the universe seems to reticent to instruct us on what that is, and as such we are left to either figure it out or indeed devise meaning for ourselves. But where Aquino would probably leave this to the dominion of your Subjective Universe, I would insist that we should be able to determine meaning for ourselves by apprehending the world around us. Our only path to mastering the world around us comes from correctly understanding how it operates, this means dealing with a conception of reality that might lie outside of our perception of it. But where Aquino insists that for some reason this is thought-slavery, the rest of us may recognize this is knowledge.
Unbelievably the next section of the Lucifer chapter is devoted to time. I say unbelievably, because Aquino already stated that time isn’t real. Actually, it’s about Aquino’s views on time in relation to religion, so I’m being unfair. In explaining what that has to do with anything, he claims that “OU-aligned” religions (that is, religions that base themselves around the premise of there being an Objective Universe that you have to grapple with) make you do slave tasks within a certain time limit, namely the duration of your life. Man, if only he applied this to labour, maybe he’d be semi-on to something. It’s in this section also that we get into the definitions of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. Here the two concepts are defined very simplistically: Right Hand Path means absorption of the individual into the universe or God, while Left Hand Path means the pursuit of individual divinity. Pretty standard. Of course this affects how Aquino defines the view of time in these paths, so what is he going for? For RHP religions, he assigns the concepts of linear or cyclical time, with linear time being common to Western religions and cyclical time being common to Eastern religions (and, of course, he seems to imply that the two perspectives are linked to each other, as he suggests in the footnotes where he claims that Buddhist concept of time and “the Great Mandala” contains nods to the Christian Peter, Paul and Mary). For the LHP, however, he seems to shift gears from discussing time and instead talk about an Egyptian-inspired framework on death. For Aquino, the fate of the Satanist is neither heaven, nor hell, nor reincarnation, but a postcarnate state of being or Xeper, quoting Peter Pan in saying “to die will be an awfully big adventure!”.
Sadly however this idea doesn’t seem to be elaborated on too convincingly, so I can only assume you have to read his book MindStar to get the full picture. Instead Aquino goes on about how the missing link proves that the Black Flame was brought to mankind by Satan and his Daimons, which he thinks is justified by the change in cranial size in early hominids such as Cro-Magnon. What bothers me is one simple thing: why does Aquino feel the need to attribute this change to supernatural intervention, as opposed to the laws of evolution by natural selection? We have working explanations for the development of cranium sizes that do not require literal divine intervention (as is what Aquino believes in), such as the transition to bipedalism and changes in the female reproductive system that resulted from this transition. Why is the intervention of literal deities necessary? I also find it curious how he writes off most of human history is “doing nothing”, disregarding the fact that humans spent most of their history until the age of agriculture forming hunter-gatherer societies, and then after that he goes on to invoke “the ghost of Atlantis”, implying that Plato’s Atlantis is the explanation. Well “Atlantis” was in all likelihood a morality tale by Plato, which may well have been based on the destruction of Thera by a volcanic eruption. Curiously enough he claims in the footnotes that the term missing link itself has fallen out of favour with paleantologists because it implies too simple a chain of evolution (not, you know, because the term is a colloquial rather than scientific term), and that now they refer to it as “transitional morphologies”. Well I still see the term missing link thrown around and I’ve never, repeat, never, seen the term “transitional morphologies” used anywhere. Then Aquino appears to suggest that the only reason we don’t know that Atlantis is real is because Christians and Muslims destroyed any evidence of its existence, and then complains about how talk of Atlantis is dismissed by mainstream archaeology (which isn’t actually true; they do talk about Atlantis, they just talk about what they think inspired the story of Atlantis because they know it’s not actually real) while the SS under Heinrich Himmler conducted major expeditions to find Atlantis. Well if the Nazis thought Atlantis was real then by god maybe there’s some truth to it surely! You know, the people who also insisted that the Earth was made of ice and thought most other science was wrong because it was Jewish? And not to mention also that even Adolf Hitler dismissed Heinrich Himmler as a nutjob (though admittedly this was coming from his own volkisch Protestant Christian perspective). Why is Aquino giving the Nazis credence?
After citing an unnamed scholar on how Egyptian civilization was complete from the beginning (which makes no sense), he proposes that there may have been an “OU Satanic Age” that began in 100,000 BCE and is presently ongoing. This would in theory mean that the Satanic Age has been going on since the beginning of humanity, but then Aquino would emphasize if, implying that there probably hasn’t been a Satanic Age within the Objective Universe, only the Subjective Universe. Curiously, however, he notes that there may be downsides to this age, or rather he hints at such, but says that it has not to do with the Age itself and more to do with it’s “OU byproducts”. What does he mean by that? Well he refers to two real world problems: the rammifications brought on by the discovery of the nuclear fission and fusion or more specifically the invention of the atom bomb, and the threat of overpopulation on the finite resources of Planet Earth. He doesn’t say how we should counter this in a Satanic fashion, of course. He just notes that the Gift of Satan has an ominous side, before referring back to the Diabolicon where Belial says that the gift can never be recalled. So essentially, Aquino’s idea of the Gift of Satan is a type of uncontrolled, absolute freedom (at least going from what was said in Satan’s and Beelzebub’s sections of the Diabolicon), the downside of which is the constant threat of environmental destruction, with no real safeguard against that, and the assurance that we can’t revoke that Gift, possibly meaning in this case that we can’t restrain the ability of human civilizations in Aquino’s vision to have destructive effects on the Earth. Needless to say, this is an extremely dangerous view of freedom, one that cannot account for the need for order (indeed order as an abstract concept is rejected entirely in the Diabolicon), and it reminds me of some of the worst excesses of libertarianism, especially anarcho-capitalism (I say that because I think it’s safe to assume Aquino is not a man of the left).
Then we get on to his idea of “Subjective Universal Time”, which seems to be his concept of how, in the subjective mental space, time is infinitely malleable, the magician can alter the flow of time in any way he/she likes (slow it down, accelerate it, freeze it etc). How this is possible is not explained beyond it being the property of a seasoned magician or how stage magicians create this illuision of altered time and space – yeah, key word, illusion; that’s what stage magicians do. After this is the Aeons section, of which there isn’t a lot to say other than apparently Aquino ties the concept of Aeons to Gnosticism, and then goes on to claim that, had Gnosticism become prevalent, we might have had a more intellectual and philosophical attitude towards religion in contrast to the dogmatism of mainline Christianity. If by philosophical and intellectual you mean a somehow even more idealistic and pessimistic version of Christianity, then yes. I still find it very strange how Gnosticism keeps getting praise from Satanists despite it being arguably even more anathema to their beliefs than Christianity. Technically speaking Gnosticism is just the name given to various sects of Christianity that coalesced around similar ideas about the nature of reality, but common to them is the belief that the world is the creation an inferior deity, and that the true God is composed purely of spirit. How this idea manages to be appealing to Satanists is beyond me.
Moving on from time, we now talk about the gods and devils. This should be interesting, right? The section begins with Aquino asserting that the Objective Universe must have a prior genius to conceive, establish and compel its order. In other words, he asserts that there needs to be a prime mover, a God. Of course for Aquino this genius is apparently not one God but instead the Neteru, a collective of supernatural beings that exist within Subjective Universes. In ancient Egypt, the term Neteru may or may not have been the word used to refer to the gods, so we can assume that Aquino is employing a polytheistic framework. These Neteru are considered timeless in that there was no point in time that they came into being, which would mean that they have always existed, and without them there is no explanation for the universe coming into being other than happenstance and the Objective Universe would comprise of utter chaos. He could explain the universe as being the product of laws, atoms, energy, matter and the process that comprise them, but he rejects this explanation and thinks it’s impossible to explain the universe that way. He poses the question of why humans should apprehend a multiplicity of Neteru rather than a singular God, only to leave the question unanswered, and then to suggest that Set and the multiplicity are the same thing. Apparently this is internally harmonious. Aquino says further that the Neteru are not apprehensible within mechanisms of the Objective Universe but through noesis, a Greek word that he uses to refer to intutive apprehension but which actually means the exercise of intellect or reason. Thus we again establish that Aquino’s framework is essentially a high-brow brand of Platonic (or Platonism-esque) polytheism in Egyptian costume.
His critique of the Biblical God isn’t particularly bad, but I must note that his insistence on referring only to El seems historically questionable. Yes the name El is the earliest name given to the Biblical God in the Bible, but the identification of Yahweh with El can be explained rather adequately as a syncretism of sorts, with Yahweh assuming the role of El and taking his name through being identified with the head of the Canaanite pantheon by the Israelites. There’s also the claim that dualism is a uniquely Hebraic corruption (well, borrowed from Persia more accurately), which is odd because it is pretty well documented that the Greeks had their own homebrew dualism via the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Egyptian religion certainly had its own dualistic element in the conflict between Ra and Apep, which later became ever more central to the Egyptian religion following the exile of the Hyksos and Set becoming the resident enemy of the gods. More curious however is when we get to the claims about religion and violence. He points out that Satanists/Setians have never engaged in systematic violence in the same way that other religions have, which is correct, but then claims that the reason for this is simply that the Satanists/Setians are more secure in their beliefs, and that the other religions have no security or confidence in their beliefs. This is an idealist, entirely post-hoc rationalization that shunts to the side the role of power and the specific hierarchies that engender such aggression. Stop and wonder why Christianity transformed from a largely pacifist religion concerned with social reform, albeit packaged as a ridiculous pessimistic cult of resurrection, to the Christianity we know today, known for its countenance of rigid hierarchical authority and repression. The answer lies in the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state, which then fashioned an official Roman interpretation of Christianity, suitable for the use of the Roman state. But this point never comes up once in Aquino’s work, and indeed it’s barely addressed in the type of crude New Atheist arguments that he opportunistically channels in this book.
Then there’s his brief critique of Buddhism, and he sort of misunderstands the Buddhist take on suffering and consciousness. While there are more nihilistic schools of Buddhism out there, many Buddhists don’t actually deny consciousness. They just don’t believe that there exists a self or an ego, and that suffering is caused by cravings or attachments which spring from desire and are tied with the attachment to the ego.
In contrast to Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Aquino establishes that the Satanic religion is based on there being independent, self-aware consciousness that is external to the Objective Universe, and that, for him, the ancient precursor to this was the Neteru who were apparently collectively identified with Satan. Again, a simple search for the term Neteru yields no such determination, unless you count the fact that Christians tend to view every god that isn’t Yahweh or Jesus as Satan, and that the Neteru is widely considered to be the name the Egyptians used to refer to the gods. What Aquino is saying then, whether he would admit it or not, is that his conception of Satan and Satanism is firmly attached to, if not almost indistinguishable from, classical polytheism, but with modern LaVeyan affectations and, in true LHP fashion, taken from the lens of the darker or marginalized gods (chiefly Set). And then in that spirit we come to a few sections on Set and his priesthood where he, against his previously established theology, defines Set as the neter who is against the Neteru, defined as that which is not nature – the irony being with that part is that the Neteru are fundamentally outside of nature in his own theology!
After a long exposition on Set, Satan, and for some reason Melkor and Sauron from the Lord of the Rings universe, we come to a section entitled “Humancarnation” (seriously Mike what’s with the made-up words?), which appears to be a section dealing in metaphysics. The thing that stands out is the way that Aquino fundamentally misunderstands the naturalistic and scientific perspectives of human reality. He complains that the scientific perspective holds that Man is just another animal, which is ironic given that he was quite happy to join the Church of Satan, a religious group that then, as now, stated quite blatantly that Man is just an animal, just that he is the most advanced and vicious of them all. He holds that the scientific world view holds that man is nothing more than a machine, which requires him to ignore the fact that the scientific community does not automatically believe this, and in fact we know from our scientific understanding of the world that, as I covered in my case against transhumanism, that the brain does not actually operate in a way that can be described as mechanical. One the perspective of consciousness he assumes that everyone in the scientific community takes the Daniel Dennett perspective of consciousness – that it does not exist – at which point I would encourage him to look into Roger Penrose. He even goes so far as to claim that the scientific community is not confident to judge whether or not there exist an external God, which would require him to ignore that several esteemed members of the scientific community happen to be atheists.
Speaking of atheism, I find Aquino’s criticism of atheism to be very shallow. He accuses the atheist of only being interested in criticizing Biblical mythology, which is an interesting rehash of that whole “atheists just want to bash Jesus” argument. I mean yeah let’s ignore the way atheists tend to criticize Islam and Hinduism as well as Judaism and Christianity just to go out of your way to look like you got burned by an atheist who told you that general relativity is actually real. Don’t let reality stop you from accusing atheists of “scholasticism”. It’s worth noting that in the previous section Aquino marshals an interesting quote from John Fowles’s Aristos where it is stated “Intelligent Athenians of the fifth century knew that their gods were metaphors, personifications of forces or principles”. It’s particularly interesting considering, to my mind, this is a perspective that is entirely compatible with an atheistic outlook, but then Aquino has the nerve to deem atheism an inferior philosophical outlook. As for his take on agnosticism, there really isn’t much to say other than, at last, an argument of some sort, even if it is basically an ad hominem.
After this however we get a somewhat interesting criticism of the Church of Satan and its hedonistic outlook, criticizing its emphasis on carnal pleasure as not enough, suggesting instead that an Epicurean outlook on pleasure is preferable (which is ironic on his part considering Epicurus was a materialist and thus would be opposed to Aquino on epistemology) and suggested that virtue should be raised to the level of rationality, and that to be a god carries with it the responsibility of upholding a specific set of virtues pertaining to wisdom, ethics and the Agathon (or “the Good”, whatever that might mean), noting that the Biblical God failed in this regard. All of these are fine things, commendable in fact, but I can’t get past that all this is coming from the same guy who already establishing that this very good, as all things in the universe, are to be destroyed so that there is only Man and Leviathan, and assured us of no safeguard against the destructive side of his conception of absolute freedom. What’s even more telling however is that in this part of the book we see the arch-LHP guy Michael Aquino, who prizes himself on being more Satanic than Anton LaVey, propose a conception of serving a good that is by necessity greater than the individual, and marshalled a quote about Platonic philosophy that tells us that there must always be a good that transcends the particular goods of individuals. It makes me wonder just how confused Aquino’s framework is. Although I have to say, “serving the Holy Grail” is a particularly metal-sounding phrase, if a bit of an eyebrow-raising one coming from a Satanist (although in fairness there apparently have been pre-Christian conceptions of the Holy Grail).
After this though, we get to the last part of Chapter 12, which I mention only because it contains some claims that appear to be factually wrong. He claims that the Greek concept of telos originates in Egyptian symbolism, with the only evidence of this being a Plutarch quote that doesn’t seem to suggest this entirely. But far more egregious is his take on Darwinian evolution – he appears to consider the Lamarckian model of evolution to be superior to the Darwinian model of evolution, on the basis that Lamarckian evolution places a greater emphasis on individual will. Of course there’s too much evidence for Darwinian evolution to be correct for Aquino to simply dismiss Darwinism as he does and Lamarckianism is considered to have been supplanted by other scientific doctrines, but let’s not allow that to bother us because by god science has to conform to our individual will.
Now we come to Chapter 13, which is (thankfully) the last of the Lucifer chapter. This appears to be yet another chapter about metaphysics, albeit this time with specific attention being paid to the subject of consciousness or the soul, which is going to be fun to say the least. Yet again we open with a strawman of naturalistic philosophy that reads like the only guy he read on the subject was Daniel Dennett. One thing that is interesting, however, is that he claims that the ancient Egyptians recognized that consciouness was external to matter, and his source for this…is Deepak fucking Chopra! The literal Quantum Healing guy! I don’t know what I was expecting from Aquino, but it was almost certainly not this. Although I must say, perhaps I should have expected something New Agey given that he uses a term like MindStar to refer to the Xeper.
His critique of the “Judeo-Christian” concept of the soul is weird because it seems very heavily focused on the Judaic concept of the soul (or perhaps the lack of one), without much attention paid to Christianity. A very basic assessment of Christianity would lead you to understanding the Christian concept of a soul that would thus be distinct from Judaism, one may even go further and try to analyze the Hellenic influences of the Christian doctrine in this regard, but Aquino doesn’t seem to note this, and indeed is of the belief that post-Enlightenment Christians don’t even believe in such a doctrine. Even more curiously, for a guy who is to be taken as avowedly anti-Christian, Aquino seems very happy to employ the type of argument that would otherwise be reserved for Christian apologists. He seems to imply that, if you have a society where people don’t believe in an afterlife or a God, then the result is a society of hedonisitic decadence. He marshalls a scene from Pinocchio in support of his point (huh, I’m getting some Jordan Peterson vibes from this part) in which The Coachman invites unsuspecting youths to a place called Pleasure Island, an amusement park where they could do whatever they wanted without any rules until they, in their mischief, transformed into donkeys and were sold into slavery. This on its own is capable of illustrating a somewhat profound moral point, and in fact it sounds like something that can be used as a metaphor for something I remember hearing from Buddhism, but here it just seems like an arbitrary way of giving slack to people who don’t agree with your belief system.
Then we arrive at Aquino’s explanation of his concept of the “MindStar”. There isn’t much to say of the MindStar on its own, and it’s only a page before we talk about it in relation to an assortment ancient Egyptian concepts of the soul. What I will note however is that Aquino notes that, in his version of Satanism, death does not mean personal obliteration but rather “the MS T-Field relinquishing of a no-longer needed OU sensory interface”. No-longer needed eh? That sounds like something you can get away with when you describe what we’d call natural death, passing away into old age as it were, but I wonder how that works when you get killed? If a guy stabs me to death does my soul decide that I no longer needed that body anyway? What a strange concept of death and afterlife.
After this we arrive at the third chapter, the Belial chapter, which as I explained before is devoted to magic. Here, magic is defined as the means by which a practitioner renders the universe intelligible to his will and thus able to interact with and influence it, which seems fairly in line with that old Crowleyite axiom that much of the Left Hand Path uses to define magic. Of note is the definition of black magic and white magic, as based on the doctrine of the Temple of Set. Traditionally, black magic and white magic are defined as magic intended for malevolent and benevolent purposes respectively, and in the Left Hand Path the terms black magic and white magic are typically treated as arbitrary. Here, the term white magic refers to the magic that is specific to mainstream religions, which for Aquino is a form of self-deception and for him not real magic, while black magic refers to magic that operates from the Setian premise of the individual being distinct from the objective and subjective universes and as such is called “D5 tools”. This dichotomy is ostensibly based not on good magic or bad magic, but rather on true magic and false magic (though, surely this lends itself to a good vs bad value judgement if truth is tied to goodness). These concepts are expanded upon not too much further into the book. White magic is defined further as a highly concentrated form of conventional religious ritual, such as prayer, often with the intent of currying the favour of or seeking the will of a deity or daemon. Black magic is divided into two categories: Lesser Black Magic and Greater Black Magic. Lesser Black Magic is a tool to focus the mind outward in order to identify the properties of the objective and subjective universes, which for Aquino is an analytic process separate from traditional ceremonial magic, which seems like an attempt to frame the concept in rationalistic terms (wasn’t expecting that from him), with the aim of controlling natural law for the purpose of changing a situation in conformity to your will. Greater Black Magic is the category of black magic whose purpose is the analysis and control of subjective universes, with the aim of replacing the subjective universe that the individual learns as a result of societal conditioning with a subjective universe that is consciously created by the individual. Unless the practitioner is suitably disciplined, this comes with the risk of becoming mentally unstable, supposedly because you’ve been given license by the Black Flame to go into multiple subjective universes and do whatever you want with them.
In between the sections on Lesser and Greater Black Magic we get a section about how history is just a form of “reality control”. Aquino outright states that history is not a means by which to derive as a foundation for or evidence of anything because historical accounts are written by humans with different interests and therefore utterly subjective. It’s a particularly myopic form of nihilism because it completely bypasses the part about history where people gather evidence of things that happened and draw conclusions from them not to mention use them to either support or disprove certain accounts of history. It’s another case of something being more complex than Aquino makes it out to be. It’s also very rich that Aquino would complain about subjectivity considering his whole framework frames subjectivity as eing superior to the objective world, as is at the very least suggested by the fact that magic concerning the subjective universes is the “greater” category of magic. Of course he backpeddles later and says that the implications for black magic is that history is merely incomplete rather than unreliable.
In the section devoted to Ritual, Aquino gives a critique of LaVey’s use of the term Shemhamforash in his rituals, which is actually just one of the many Hebraic names of YHWH. He seems to treat the use of it as essentially “mystobabble”, which, while not entirely fair considering it isn’t an atraditional name, is salient insofar he is correct to point out that doesn’t really have anything to do with Satan. As for the rest of the Ritual section, there isn’t much for me to say given that it’s sort of a continuation of the epistemology of Aquino’s already established framework, but otherwise it’s not terrible in that it seems to me like it can be used to derive small aspects of methodology.
Now we move on to the fourth chapter, the Leviathan chapter. For the purpose of this post, I won’t comment on the Enochian Keys themselves and instead focus on the backstory lore surrounding them, particularly because it involves Aquino’s exposition on the character Enoch. Aquino considers him to be the Biblical equivalent of Cadmus, Hermes and Thoth, a connection that I’m not sure where it comes from, although it might be extrapolated from the way people have tried to connect him with Hermes Trismegistus, the alleged founder of Hermeticism. I’m also not sure where Aquino got the idea that Enoch was a sex-maniac. That’s news to me. Other than that, there is a somewhat decent summary of the Book of Enoch, and why Aquino thinks Enoch to be a missing figure of the Left Hand Path. Personally though I wonder if Aquino isn’t taking creative license with the myth, since it sounds like, in the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are still supposed to be the bad guys, and the “Black Flame” Aquino refers to is not depicted as a spark of divine consciousness, but a weapon by which to attack the believers of God.
But there’s another strange quirk to this chapter, one that gives me the clue to a particularly elitist character to Aquino’s thinking. His explanation for why the “Judeo-Christian cult of El” (read: Christianity) prevailed in Rome effectively amounted to him saying that the people were too stupid and ignorant to believe in esoteric mystery religions. Of course he frames it as being the religions of pre-Christianity, but that doesn’t make sense because the people were quite fine to be polytheists before Christianity showed up. In fact, we know that in the case of Rome at least, in the early days of Christianity, the Romans treated Christians with pity at best, and suspicion at worst, and at any rate many were certainly willing to cheer at the sight of the early martyrs being slaughtered in the Colosseum. But apparently the polytheism they already believed in wasn’t sophisticated enough, so it seems like he’s referring to a certain type of esotericism that existed in the ancient world that was not understood by the masses – probably because its practitioners willfully prevented the masses from understanding their doctrines by making their religions so exclusive. And again, the political realities of ancient Rome are casually ignored here. Aquino ignores how the Roman imperial hierarchy was rigid in its consolidation of state power, ruthless in its persecution of dissidents, and often too corrupt to do anything for the average citizen. Christianity, for better or worse, emerged as the answer to this political situation, offering deliverance from the poverty that Roman citizens felt in their day to day lives while preaching against the excesses of the Roman Empire. But Aquino doesn’t account for this. Instead he prefers to think that the masses were just insane gluttons for punishment who embraced a tyrannical god not because he promised worldly liberation and spiritual salvation (even if that was for naught) but because they were starving for attention. It’s a fundamentally elitist worldview, one that is destined to fail to enlighten the masses because it so fundamentally despises them for being too ignorant to grasp its spiritual doctrine, and also fundamentally idealist because it reduces the rise of ideologies to sentiment rather than account for external political and material conditions. I guess we can expect this from a guy who, for all his anti-establishment flair, appears to be nothing more than a garden variety liberal at best.
He also returns to the point about historians not accounting for the majority of human history, which is simply wrong because we know for a fact what humans did for 90% of their history. He asserts, without any evidence or even convincing argument at all, that there was undeniably ancient civilization for the 90,000 years or so that, in reality, were spent in a hunter-gatherer mode of social organization. There are only two points of evidence he refers to in support of this claim. The first is that, supposedly, the idea of Atlantis had different names under different cultures, which doesn’t really prove the actual existence of the settlement. The second is that there were 335,000 search results for the term “forbidden archaeology” in 2018. What he’s really saying is “go on Google and look up a shit ton of conspiracy theory websites”.
Finally, we’ll address the Yankee Rose chapter, the additional chapter. This section believe it or not is pretty fascinating in that it gives an account of the lore surrounding key aspects of Anton LaVey’s life, such as the Black House. There’s all sorts of colourful details, such as how LaVey preferred to greet guests in his house by arriving through the fireplace and the secret passages throughout the house, which really serve to breathe a type of life into the life of LaVey that you sometimes don’t see when we talk about Satanism, which is further a great contrast to the often dull pedantry found in much of the rest of the book. Then there’s the mysterious stuff about the sinkhole and the photograph of the house supposedly collapsing inward until nothing but darkness remained. It’s an intriguing closer – or so I would say, if it were indeed the closer.
The Ninth Solstice appears to be another section from the point of view of Satan, which means we’re back to that stupid font again although by now you’ve probably adjusted to its awkward character. It seems that in this text Satan is addressing Anton LaVey, who he treats as his anointed man, gives him his tribute, and by his will is consecrated a Daimon and becomes a god. It’s all strangely amicable for a being who, as I mentioned earlier, got sick of being called Satan and insisted on being called Set instead. But apparently this is accounted for when he says the Church of Satan has past its time, and implores LaVey to seek out “the Elect”, whoever that might be. There are a few other peculiar details to note here. Satan declares that he and his entourage have no need to justify their existence or their desires, a statement that I would have expected from an almighty sky deity whose rule is absolute and not his freethinking adversary. Once again the elitist aspect of Aquino’s worldview is visible, with Satan’s stress that he will not illuminate the many but instead the few, only the Elect. Only they can truly receive Satan’s wisdom. Such is the mark of a deeply esotericist doctrine (esotericism referring to mystery traditions and the religious practice of keeping occult knowledge hidden to all but a select group). And who is this “Elect”, exactly? Satan doesn’t tell us, and since he’s addressing LaVey we can only assume the two already know between themselves who the term “Elect” refers to, but we sure don’t. Perhaps it refers to the only people who identify as Satanists? Or the highest ranks of the Temple of Set? Who knows. Lastly, Satan tells LaVey to receive his Red Halo as the sign that he has become the Red Magus that Leviathan spoke of. If you remember the Diabolicon from before, you remember that the last section of it says that only with the obliteration of everything else that the Black Flame may “become red in the glory of its perfection”, obviously signifying the full attainment of self-divinity. That in mind, what’s happening in this dialogue actually? Is LaVey still alive at this time, or is he dead and this is supposed to be his disembodied spirit talking to Satan in the afterlife? What’s going on here, because I refuse to believe that LaVey actually destroyed the universe.
Appendices aside, that takes care of the book.
So what am I to make of this whole thing? How am I to summarize this book as a point of development for the direction of Satanism. Summer Thunder may be disappointed to hear me say this (or he would if he didn’t see it coming as he presumably read this post) but I do not see good things coming from the Aquinoite/Setian framework of Satanism.
If we take a look at Aquino’s worldview, it would be tempting to conclude that his framework can be reduced to a more sophisticated brand of inverted Christianity due to the fact that Christian apologist arguments are deployed in service of Satanism, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It’s more like a brand of polytheism that places strong emphasis on Platonism and esotericism, with Satan and his demonic entourage almost filling the role once filled by the gods of old, which is framed as a restoration of the original Egyptian cult of Set, which Aquino insists was the original cult of Egypt before being supplanted by that of Osiris. It’s classical theism, but from the lens of a kind of quasi-polytheist Platonism, mixed with an “I swear it’s not Ayn Rand” brand of hyper-individualist libertarianism, all wrapped up in a framework that lends itself easily to solipsism. It’s a confused philosophical outlook, and it tends to show in many areas. For instance, there is his classical theism and his dismissal of Ayn Rand, and then there’s the fact that his brand of individualism almost hasn’t changed from LaVey’s other than it’s more “Epicurean” in attitude. I guess you can say he can’t be an Objectivist because Objectivism categorically rejects belief in a God, but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from getting the sense that there are scents of Randian morality and ontology still there, bastardized by Plato-esque theism though they may be. And then there’s the fact that his absolute individualism is contradicted by his insistence on there being something higher than the self – whether it be Leviathan clearly taking the role of the All or the talk of the importance of an Agathon that the individual must serve and cultivate. And then to top it all off there’s just the fact that Aquino supports this whole picture by marshalling a variety of talking points on numerous subjects that are often either dubious, myopic or just straight-up factually wrong, not to mention a shocking level of ignorance regarding science – and how ironic is it that a guy who has a Daimon of Science in his infernal pantheon either rejects the scientific method or places it as inferior to divine revelation?
I’m sorry, but I can’t take this as anything other than a mess. If the Satanist movement follow’s Aquino’s doctrine, it will be doomed to exist under the shadow of Christianity, due chiefly to the fact that it marshalls classical theism similarly to how Christian apologists might just that it’s against Abrahamic monotheism and for a different theistic framework centered around Satan and his demons (or, excuse me, Set and the Neteru).
There’s a new development here in the sphere of us WordPress Satanists, that is Satanists are currently active and are part of a blogosphere here on WordPress. My friend Summer Thunder has started a new group for what he refers to as Spiritual Satanism.
When you research the term Spiritual Satanism on the Internet, the term is typically described interchangeably with theistic Satanism, if not simply seen as another name for theistic Satanism. However, the term also has its associations with a group known as Joy of Satan.
I used to be very active on Yahoo Answers when I was a teenager, and often times when I talked about religion and Satanism I would come across people from Joy of Satan, usually shills who posted the same wall of bullshit about how Satanism was actually sun worship and how Satan was the creator deity Enki among various other nonsense. They are a neo-Nazi cult that seems to have started years ago with a woman named Andrea Herrington (aka Maxine Dietrich). Although they have the trappings of theistic Satanism, much of their philosophy is at odds with Satanism and certainly contradicts the basic ethos behind Satanism. In Satanism, the individual is the object of focus and Satan is a device, a symbol, a guiding idea to which the individual may relate, and the individual is the master. In Joy of Satan however, there is a certain emphasis on the “glory” of your race. Specifically, the race of the “Gentiles”, typically meaning either white or Aryan (although I have heard there are a few non-white members of the group), as well as the perceived “evil” of the Jews, which is also bound up with their militant opposition to Judaism and Christianity, and the individual’s relationship with Satan (who is erroneously interchanged with the deity Enki).
But there is another Satanist out there who uses the term Spiritual Satanism to describe her beliefs. Her name is Venus Satanas, a self-described witch who has written essays on the subject of Satanism from an independent perspective. For her, the term Spiritual Satanism entails a form of Satanism that is completely self-directed, centering on your relationship between you and the concept of Satan, in terms of a spiritual form or doctrine free of the constraints of religious dogma and the boundaries of group-based ideology (as personified by organizations such as the Church of Satan). You bow not to the ruler of heaven, nor supplicate Satan as the lord of hell. Satan is a being, or a force, the individual aligns with on his/her own terms. She refers to Satan as a god in some of her postings, so I am inclined to think she is a theistic Satanist who plays by her own rules. To be a Spiritual Satanist, for Venus Satanas, is essentially to be an independent Satanist, not affiliated with any organizations that would limit the thinking of the individual Satanist, but it is from something of a spiritualistic perspective. In this sense, it is her way of reconciling spiritualism with Satanism, and for that I suppose it’s no surprise other Satanists would single her out as merely a “self-styled” Satanist.
Now, I for one welcome any attempts from Satanists to appropriate the term Spiritual Satanism in any capacity that is outside the Joy of Satan. I would be interested in the term Spiritual Satanism having its own sort of identity separate from theistic Satanism, though I suspect it will be treated as a subset of theistic Satanism. At any rate, I think it’s good if Satanists take the term as their own as they wanted to do so and distinguish themselves from Joy of Satan.
Summer Thunder has a Facebook group for any Satanists who either want to be Spiritual Satanists, already consider themselves Spiritual Satanists (hopefully not the JoS types I mentioned earlier), or are simply fascinated by the concept. The group is a UK-focused group called Spiritual Satanists of the UK, and anyone who’s interested can join if they want.
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…
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.
Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence
Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams
Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit
Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates
Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek
Satan represents responsibility for the responsible instead of concern for vampires
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
Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental and emotional gratification
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:
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
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
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.
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