It is a strange nostalgia seeing Satanists making the headlines again. Reminiscent of the Satanic Panic hysteria, and the equally cheesy but fun Satanic cult horror films. Personally I hope that Dennis Wheatley style Satanism will make a comeback, it had class and erudition. Needless to say there are a thousand opinions on the subject, a number of sects, and only a handful of quality texts. I am by no means an authority nor claim to have an objective definition. The following is only from my own studies and experiences.
First I would like to cover a few ridiculous trends common in ‘Satanism’ and occult in general. Usually these are phases as one explores themselves, not much different than any other intellectual or religious venture one may go on. It happens. Shit happens. We learn and move on.
1) First and foremost, one has to break out of the Christian context when discussing this subject. Satanism isn’t a petty rebellion against Sunday School, though it often starts that way, and even has its uses. In the Miltonian sense, the Christian and Islamic context makes good sense. Overall though one must open oneself to the vast pantheons and mythologies long before Jesus hit the scene. There have been attempts of relabeling it ‘Adversarialism’ or ‘Antinomianism’, this is to embrace the ‘satanic’ aspects throughout history. Be it Set of Egypt, Tiamat of Babylon, Baal of the Canaanites, the list goes on of deific forces which embody the destructive aspect of nature. Satanism is not defined by ‘being the opposite of Christianity’. That is absurd, and attempts to play up a ‘boogyman’ scare. Also Satanists, be them atheist or theist, do not worship Satan nor Lucifer. It can even be safe to say ‘Satan’ is used metaphorically, not literally. It is a cop out for an argument to be that anyone who rejects religious authority or the Church is merely ‘immature’ or ‘rebellious’.
One may immediately snap back about the infamous Black Masses, and other similar blasphemies. This is absolutely true and primarily for pragmatic purposes. If one would call those rituals silly or juvenile, then I respond by asking about the religious indoctrination of youth in Christianity and numerous other religions. The Church in particular were not ignorant to the power of indoctrinating and conditioning the subconscious. They became quite brilliant at it. And how does one ‘deprogram’ what was once programmed than by transgressing it altogether? Desecrating what was ingrained into the subconscious as being authority is a pragmatic tool in breaking that indoctrination. The aesthetics and theatrics of transgression, whenever they appear, serve the pragmatic purpose of liberating the Self from indoctrination, from social conditioning, and grants an isolation from the whole.
2) The second is only a critique, not an error. There has been a renewed interest in Satanism, and unfortunately it seems to only parrot Enlightenment values. Yes Satanism advocates egoism, free thought, reason, individualism, and other Enlightenment and Miltonian values. At the same time, one must not reduce it to simply that, then it is no different than the typical secular humanist or ‘New Atheist’. There is far more depth and variation to the stream than run-of-the-mill Enlightenment thinkers. It is a gyp to reduce it to Classical Liberalism or banal individualism. And God forbid (or Satan forbid?) it is reduced to Ayn Rand egocentric masturbation.
3) The third and final is found in any occult or Satanic scene. These are the ones who live in a constant Dungeons & Dragons theatrical performance. I have heard it called ‘mage-itis’. The person usually sounds like a campy Sith, claiming to be a dark lord, with lots of rhetoric that sounds like black metal lyrics. Published books attempt to look esoteric and arcane, lots of Vincent Price imagery, and descriptions that would even make Lovecraft wince.
That being said, as stated above, the uses of aesthetics and theatrics in ritual (if used at all) is for pragmatic purposes. Again the Catholic Church is brilliant concerning aesthetic, ceremony, engaging the five senses, theatrics, music, and the power thereof. Be it called dramaturgy or psychodrama, it is meant to immerse the consciousness fully into the present moment and act. It does not mean one is daily LARPing and sounding like Darth Sidious, as fun as that does sound!
Doubtless there are other pitfalls and tedious errors aside from the above. These days it is nearly as important to clarify what you are not saying before actually saying anything at all.
Whether it be called Satanism, Adversarialism, Left Handed Path, Setianism…I find the two primary approaches are either atheistic, theistic, or an interrelation of the two. Again there are variations, one can give a sermon on the differences between Setianism and Anti-Cosmic Satanism, or ‘fill in the blank’. These are legitimate discussions and worthy of exploration. Nevertheless it is beyond the scope of this entry which is only an attempt to extract a tincture.
1) Atheistic Satanism: Of course the first thought is LaVey and the Church of Satan. This is fine as a launching point but ultimately lacks in depth. Some immediately say it is a simplified version of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but this is also terribly lacking. Atheistic Satanism is certainly egoism, though one would be more accurate in looking to Max Stirner than to Ayn Rand. The Self is the authority of ones own personal existence. There is no external salvation to be given, nor is there intrinsic debt of original sin. There is no redeemer other than oneself. External entities such as religious or political institutions only have power insofar as the Self gives them that power. Stirner referred to these abstract entities or authority concepts as ‘spooks’. They are abstract apparitions we give over authority to in our personal existence, and Stirner, repeated by many after, rejects this outsourcing of authority. Stirner declares himself, the Self, the Ego, what he refers to as Uniqueness, as the sole arbiter within his own personal existence. In similar fashion one can look to Bakunin whom used Lucifer and Milton as the perfect example of individual liberation from external authority. One can further Stirner’s philosophy with reference to Nietzsche whom goes to a radical extent to refute moral and existential authorities. The philosophy of Nietzsche is far too vast to discuss in this entry, but one would do better to look to Nietzsche and Stirner to understand Atheistic Satanism. It is vital to note that Nietzsche’s work is not advocating petty egoism, rather a self-transcendence altogether, but not in the Christian or Buddhist sense of the expression.
Now that the Self is the ‘God’ of ones personal subjective existence, there is the second and more infamous aspect which is essentially animalism. Christianity and similar ideologies preach the repression of base desires, of instincts, of channeling these drives to fulfill functions decreed proper by the Church. Nietzsche speaks of the ‘affirmation of sensuality’, not as reaction, but as affirmation of oneself and existence itself. In Satanic imagery there is erotic and animal aesthetic aplenty. This isn’t intended to be mindless hedonism, nor is it the escapist and self-destructive gluttony of consumerist indulgence. It is the affirmation of ones will to exist, the enjoyment of the here and now, rather than the ascetic anemia of religions which have attempted to suppress these drives. The values are those that affirm oneself, ones strength and passion, ones intensity and conquering spirit, not meekness nor docility. One is not owned by their indulgence. As has been stated by the CoS, ‘indulgence, not compulsion’. The latter is self-destructive, the former is self-affirming. What one chooses to indulge in is purely of their own choice and not handed out by an external authority. LaVey’s famous quote, “There is a beast inside that should be exercised, not exorcised.” We are indeed animals, primates, our carnality is as important as our mental and emotional well-being. Do not restrain the bestial aspect of Self, embrace it, indulge in it, but also do not let these base drives become self-destructive. Lyncanthropy is an excellent metaphorical example of this. In the myth, man transforms into beast, and lives out the night indulging in his bestial instincts. In various pagan mythologies there is the Wild Hunt, the savagery of nature, the predatory element of nature and the animal kingdom. This is not to be repressed, this is to be embraced and affirmed. In our current schizophrenic culture we see both at work; the imagery that Americans are puritans of Christian value and tradition while simultaneously glorifying excessive indulgence and the sexualization of damn near anything. The Christian doctrines of yesterday which strictly regulated the base drives have now been replaced by consumerism in which the base drives are exploited as dairy farmers exploit cattle. As Nietzsche rightfully notes, exploitation is intrinsic to nature, to the organic. Nevertheless it is better to affirm oneself through base drives than to repress them or recklessly wallow.
Michael Aquino and Stephen Flowers give an excellent definition of the Left Handed Path, to paraphrase, the preserve and strengthen one’s isolated psychocentric existence against the objective universe while altering a various number of subjective universes. We each live within our own personal existence, our own Subjective, we can either be the ‘God’ of this Subjective or outsource it to an external authority. We are influenced by external factors, environment, biology, and so forth. This is not denied. Nonetheless it is the isolation of the Subjective, separate from the greater Whole, to the utmost of ones human ability, be that what it is. It is not the dissolution of the Subjective into a Whole, nor the resignation of the Will to an external authority or group ideology. The Subjective is preserved against constant bombardment. The Isolate Subjective imposes its Will onto the External, a soft compelling of sorts. In simple words, the Self maintains authority and pursues Self-Actualization, pursues Excellence, and does not resign to a religious or societal Whole.
There are various positions regarding politics, and it is ones prerogative as to where they stand. Commonly the themes of Universal Brotherhood and Universal Love are thrown aside altogether as they are essentially pipe dreams and denigrate the individual Self. One must love oneself before one can genuinely love others. One chooses whom they give their love and devotion to. It is not an obligation, it is a privilege given and received. In minor ways it is a kind of tribalism, in that one cares about oneself and close loved ones/family foremost. This is realistic and animalistic. As seen in nature, a mother protects her offspring and will kill or maim any who attempt harm. It is reckless and self-destructive to go looking for violence or conflict. A bear is mindful of herself, but if an outsider purposely strikes the bear the outsider will be justly mauled in return. One does not turn the other cheek. One wisely chooses ones battles, and when it is warranted total venom is released in the bite. Forgiveness, compassion, love, adoration, these are privileges given, they must be earned, and they can be retracted if need be. There is no ethical obligation to give these, much less universally. And those whom receive this receive it fully, passionately, intensely. To love everyone is to truly love no one.
2) Theistic Satanism: All of the above is applied here as well. The above can be understood from an atheist perspective, theistic, or a metaphysical or psychological juxtaposition of the two. Take the above points and apply them to the spiritual, to the theistic perspective of existence. The Isolate Subjective is the Crystallized Consciousness, it undergoes a form of Apotheosis, or rather a realization of the Natural State. In other words, one acknowledges their own Self-Divinity in the flesh. This is not a childish notion of a cult leader wanting to be worshiped nor insecurity riddled narcissism. This is not the glorification of the petty ego, it is the Self. It is only the perspective one has of themselves and existence. The sensual is not only affirmed, it is divinized, as is the Psyche. If put into a Gnostic context, the individual becomes Self-Aware of their own Divinity and ceases to acknowledge the pettiness of the Demiurge, that which is called Jehovah. It is a releasing of bondage by realizing ones natural state, ones natural divinity. Again approached from a theist or atheist perspective, this approach is highly pragmatic.
Within Theistic Satanism there is overlap between non-wiccan witchcraft and various other forms of folk craft. This is not to arrogantly ignore the differentiation between belief systems and cultural practices, rather one can see in crafts such as Vodou and Palo Mayombe how the ‘bestial’ or ‘savage’ aspects of nature are affirmed completely. Be it approached psychologically as atavisms or Jungian archetypes, as actual spiritual/magickal forces, or a mixture of the two approaches, what must be acknowledged is the results thereof. In cliche phrasing one can accurately say our Self, atheistic or theistic, is both God and Beast at once, if such a dichotomy must even be entertained. When it comes to deities, they are not worshiped nor prostrated before, rather they are respected as equals or as a student to a teacher. There is no self-deprecating original sin, salvation, or intrinsic guilt. It is a reciprocal relationship, unless the spirit is of a lesser nature. These various forms of Craft are used either to achieve worldly gains and well-being, or for the Ascension of the Self, that is, the Realization of ones Self-Divinity, the liberation from Demiurge restrictions. Of course the explanation and description varies. It can range from Luciferian, to Setian, to Anti-Cosmic, to Gnostic, to the Klippoth. This is meant to be a general overview, though the importance of differentiation should not go unmentioned.
“Say unto thine own heart: I am Mine own Redeemer.”
“There is a beast in man that should be exercised, not exorcised.”
“Right-hand path: The path of union with universal reality (God or Nature). When this union is completed the individual self is annihilated, the individual will becomes one with the divine or natural order. Originally Translated from Sanskrit dakshinamarga, “right-way.”
Left-hand path: The path of non-union with the objective universe, the way of isolating consciousness within the subjective universe and, in a state of self-imposed psychic solitude, refining the soul or psyche to increasingly perfect levels. The objective universe is then made to harmonize itself with the will of the individual psyche. Originally translated from Sanskrit vamamarga .left-way.”
“But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”
“Every true thinker for himself is so far like a monarch; he is absolute, and recognises nobody above him. His judgments, like the decrees of a monarch, spring from his own sovereign power and proceed directly from himself. He takes as little notice of authority as a monarch does of a command; nothing is valid unless he has himself authorised it. On the other hand, those of vulgar minds, who are swayed by all kinds of current opinions, authorities, and prejudices, are like the people which in silence obey the law and commands.”
“The spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it represents a great triumph over Christianity. Another triumph is our spiritualization of hostility. It consists in a profound appreciation of the value of having enemies: in short, it means acting and thinking in the opposite way from that which has been the rule.”
“The church fights passion with excision in every sense: its practice, its “cure,” is castration. It never asks: “How can one spiritualize, beautify, deify a craving?” It has at all times laid the stress of discipline on extirpation (of sensuality, of pride, of the lust to rule, of avarice, of vengefulness). But an attack on the roots of passion means an attack on the roots of life: the practice of the church is hostile to life.
The same means in the fight against a craving — castration, extirpation — is instinctively chosen by those who are too weak-willed, too degenerate, to be able to impose moderation on themselves; by those who are so constituted that they require La Trappe, to speak metaphorically (and not metaphorically –), some kind of definitive declaration of hostility, a chasm between themselves and the passion. Radical means are indispensable only for the degenerate; the weakness of the will — or, to speak more definitely, the inability not to respond to a stimulus — is itself merely another form of degeneration. The radical hostility, the deadly hostility against sensuality, is always a symptom to reflect on: it entitles us to suppositions concerning the total state of one who is excessive in this manner.”
“Of all manly enterprises, I admire that of the person who breaks the law imposed by others and establishes his own law.”
“Whoever becomes a lamb, will find a wolf to eat him.”
“It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife.”
“The power of Christ has prevailed like a black frost on all the woods, the fields, the rivers, the mountains, where abode in their felicity the glad, immortal goddesses and nymphs of yore. But still, in the cryptic caverns of earth, in places far underground, like the hell your priests have fabled, there dwells the pagan loveliness, there cry the pagan ecstasies.”
-Clark Ashton Smith
“However much I have frequented the mystics, deep down I have always sided with the Devil; unable to equal him in power, I have tried to be worthy of him, at least, in insolence, acrimony, arbitrariness and caprice.”
“Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you. You have a fixed idea! Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse. What is it, then, that is called a “fixed idea”? An idea that has subjected the man to itself.”
“You call me the unhuman, and so I really am for you; but I am so only because you bring me into opposition to the human, and I could despise myself only so long as I let myself be hypnotized into this opposition. I was contemptible because I sought my ‘better self’ outside me; I was the unhuman because I dreamed of the ‘human’; I resembled the pious who hunger for their ‘true self’ and always remain ‘poor sinners’; I thought of myself only in comparison to another; enough, I was not all in all, was not unique. But now I cease to appear to myself as the unhuman, cease to measure myself and let myself be measured by man, cease to recognize anything above me. I am the unique, the egoistic; yet not the egoistic as it lets itself be measured by the human, humane, and unselfish, but the egoistic as the unique.”