Intro to Satanism

This was written back in 1991 or 1992 C.E. For an update by the author, please see:

Diane Vera

As promised in the PAGAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES echo, here's my brief introductory essay on Satanism (though Corwynt won't be seeing it, alas). I'll confine myself to discussing serious occultists who identify as Satanists. I have no interest in the teen-age glue- sniffing "Satin rulz" crowd, who are into "Satanism" as a way to shock the grown-ups, and who usually (as far as I know) outgrow it. Nor am I interested in criminals who say the Devil made them do it (often, I suspect, as a way to get themselves declared insane).

Since I don't know how much you don't know, perhaps I should start with the usual elementary disclaimers:

  1. Most Satanists do not think of themselves as "worshipping evil". Satan is associated with a variety of human traits and magic(k)al energies which Christianity traditionally considers "evil", but which the Satanists themselves do not consider "evil" - though some Satanists may describe themselves as "evil" in an ironic sense.
  2. In what there is of a Satanist subculture (for serious occultists), nobody advocates sacrificing animals or babies, sexually abusing children, or other horrific activities described in fundamentalist propaganda. As Anton LaVey explains in The Satanic Bible , such activities serve no useful magic(k)al purpose.
  3. Although Satan is, obviously, a figure from Christian mythology (derived from Judaism and Zoroastrianism), Satanism is not just "reverse Christianity". I have yet to meet even one Satanist who believed in Christian theology, or a simple reversal thereof. (I've heard that such Satanists do exist, but they don't seem to be part of the organized Satanist scene.) All Satanists I've ever encountered have some alternative explanation of who/what Satan is.

There are many alternative explanations and, correspondingly, many different kinds of Satanism. Following is a list of some of the many different possible interpretations of who/what Satan is:

  1. Satan is the Christian-era guise of some pre-Christian deity, e.g. Set or Pan.
  2. Satan is not a real entity at all, but just a symbol of human individuality, pride, thinking for oneself, sensuality, etc.
  3. Satan is an actual discarnate intelligence, and is the bringer of wisdom in a form of Gnosticism with the Christian "God" cast as the Demiurge. This idea is based on a form of Gnosticism that actually existed in the early centuries CE, which venerated the serpent of the Garden of Eden myth.
  4. Satan is not an actual discarnate, sentient being, but is more than just a symbol. Satan is, at the very least, today's most powerful magic(k)al egregore. "Satan" is present-day society's number-one magic(k)al Name of Power.
  5. Satan is an impersonal "Dark Force in Nature".
  6. Satan is one of many gods, all of whom are in some sense real. There is no one all-powerful "God" like the Christian idea of "God". There are many gods who are powerful, but not all-powerful.

Of the above possibilities, my own personal beliefs lean toward a combination of interpretations #4, 5, and 6. The Church of Satan, founded in 1966 CE by Anton LaVey, usually espouses interpretation #2 and sometimes #5. The Temple of Set is into something like (but not quite) a combination of #1 and #3.

La> If you haven't been around other Satanists, how do you know
La> what is being practiced, is what you would do? I could call
La> myself a Dianic Wiccan, but what I might practice is not what
La> is generally practiced...and there is no way for me to really
La> learn "right way" from "wrong way".

It doesn't matter. Satanism isn't really just one religion, but a category of religions, some of which are radically different from each other. (See my message to Deborah Kest on "Satanism 101".) Since most forms of Satanism do celebrate individuality, the lack of standardization is just fine, in my opinion. The only "right way" or "wrong way" has to do with what works , and this will vary from one individual to another.

La> The reason you are being "punished" I think ostracized<SP?> is
La> a better word, is that most Satanists, and people who follow
La> left-handed Magick/spirituality (folks I know it is not a fair
La> term, but it works for this argument) are considered by many
La> of us the true enemies of Spiritualism that we would practice.

The term "Left-Hand Path" is OK. We use it too. You and I would probably define it very differently, however. What's your definition?

La> Even more than Christianity folks who follow your system of
La> believes are very different than we. Pagan and Christianity,
La> have very similar ideas and ethics, and while not at all
La> tolerant of each other (generally) can live and let live.
La> Satanists et. all on the other hand, have such a different view
La> of life, love and the pursuit of the Divine, it is hard for us
La> to accept you into our midst.

Could you please be more specific? What do you see as the similarities between neo-Paganism and Christianity?

I too see some profound differences between Satanism and neo- Paganism. And I too see enough similarities between neo-Paganism and Christianity that one can meaningfully use a term like "Right- Hand Path", which includes both Christianity and neo-Paganism but not Satanism.

But I also see some profound similarities between Satanism and neo-Paganism (especially Wicca) as well, which set them both apart from Christianity. For example, Satanism and Wicca-based Paganism are both much more tolerant toward sexual variety than Christianity traditionally is. (To be more exact, Wicca is now tolerant toward sexual variety, though there was a time when it was quite homophobic.) And in general, Satanism and Wicca-based Paganism both emphasize individuality in ways that Christianity doesn't.

Also, as I've discussed at length both here and in the PAGAN and PAGAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES echoes, Satanism and most forms of neo- Paganism (especially Wicca) are both part of the family of modern Western magic(k)al religions, with many common roots and many basic magic(k)al concepts in common. We have natural reasons to be part of the same magic(k)al community (e.g. occult bookstores and this computer network). It would be much more pleasant for everyone concerned if neo-Pagans could get used to Satanists, because you are going to keep running into more and more of us whether you like it or not.

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