|This article may rely excessively on sources too closely associated with the subject, potentially preventing the article from being verifiable and neutral. (January 2014)|
The Sigil of Baphomet is the official symbol of LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan.
|Church of Satan|
|The Satanic Bible · The Satanic Rituals · The Satanic Witch · The Devil's Notebook · Satan Speaks! · The Satanic Scriptures|
|Anton LaVey · Peter H. Gilmore · Peggy Nadramia · Blanche Barton|
|Atheism · materialism · individualism · epicureanism|
|Satanic magic · Sigil of Baphomet · The Black House · Pentagonal Revisionism|
|The Nine Satanic Statements · The Nine Satanic Sins · The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth|
LaVeyan Satanism (referred to as Satanism by adherents) is a religious philosophy founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey, codified in The Satanic Bible and overseen by the Church of Satan. Its core philosophies are based on individualism, egoism, epicureanism, self-deification and self-preservation, and propagates a worldview of realism, natural law, materialism, Lex Talionis, and mankind as animals in an amoral universe. Adherents to the philosophy have described Satanism as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or "...the world's first carnal religion".
Contrary to popular belief, LaVeyan Satanism does not involve "devil worship" or worship of any deities. It is an atheistic philosophy that asserts that "each individual is his or her own god [and that] there is no room for any other god". Adherents instead see the character of Satan as an archetype of pride, carnality, liberty, enlightenment, undefiled wisdom, and of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be motivated by a "dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things". He also serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary") is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
Additionally, Satanism involves the practice of magic, which encompasses two distinct forms; greater and lesser magic. Greater magic is a form of ritual practice and is meant as a self-transformational psychodrama to focus one's emotional energy for a specific purpose. Lesser magic is based on the laws of attraction and consists of using one's natural abilities to manipulate others. LaVey wrote extensively on the subject of magic and ritual in his works The Satanic Rituals and The Satanic Witch.
- 1 Definition
- 2 History
- 3 Belief
- 4 Basic Tenets
- 5 Rites and practices
- 6 Demographics
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Scholars of religious studies have referred to LaVeyan Satanism as Modern Satanism, and as Rational Satanism. Scholars have characterized LaVeyan Satanism as a new religious movement. A number of religious studies scholar have also described it as a form of "self-religion" or "self-spirituality", with religious studies scholar Amina Olander Lap arguing that it should be seen as being both part of the "prosperity wing" of the self-spirituality New Age movement and a Human Potential Movement group. The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine described it as having "both elitist and anarchist elements", also citing one occult bookshop owner who referred to the Church's approach as "anarchistic hedonism". Prominent Church leader Blanche Barton described Satanism as "an alignment, a lifestyle".
As a symbol of his Satanic church, LaVey adopted the upturned five-pointed pentagram. This image had previously been used by the French occultist Eliphas Lévi, and had been adopted by his disciple, Stanislas de Guiata, who merged it with a goat's head in his 1897 book, Key of Black Magic. LaVey learned of this symbol after it had been reproduced in Maurice Bessy's coffee table book, Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural.
The prefixes such as "LaVeyan" were never used by Anton LaVey or by the Church of Satan, nor does the term appear in any of its literature. The church has stated its contention that they are the first formally organized religion to adopt the term "Satanism" and asserts that Satanism and the "worship of Satan" are not congruent. The term "Theistic Satanism" has been described as "oxymoronic" by the church and its High Priest. The Church of Satan rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations who claim to be Satanists, dubbing them reverse-Christians, pseudo-Satanists or Devil worshipers. Today, the Church of Satan promotes itself as the only authentic representation of Satanism, and it routinely publishes materials underscoring this contention.
Although there were forms of religious Satanism that predated the creation of LaVeyan Satanism – namely those propounded by Stanisław Przybyszewski and Ben Kadosh – these had no unbroken lineage of succession to LaVey's form. LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966, when it emerged out of the cultic milieu of California. It was the first organized church in modern times to be devoted to the figure of Satan, and according to to Faxneld and Petersen, the Church represented "the first public, highly visible, and long-lasting organisation which propounded a coherent satanic discourse". The Church experienced its "golden age" from 1966 to 1972, when it had a strong media presence. As a result of the success of the film Rosemary's Baby and the concomitant growth of interest in Satanism, an editor at Avon Books, Peter Mayer, approached LaVey and commissioned him to write a book, which became The Satanic Bible. While part of the text was LaVey's original writing, other sections of the book consisted of direct quotations from Arthur Desmond's right-wing tract Might is Right and the occultist Aleister Crowley's version of John Dee's Enochian Keys. There is evidence that he was inspired by the writings of the American philosopher Ayn Rand; accusations that he plagiarized her work in The Satanic Bible have been disproved, however.
LaVey ceased conducting group rituals and workshops in his home in 1972. In 1973, church leaders in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida split to form their own Church of Satanic Brotherhood, however this disbanded in 1974 when one of its founders publicly converted to Christianity. Subsequently, members of the Church of Satan based in Kentucky and Indiana left to found the Ordo Templi Satanis. In 1975, LaVey disbanded all grottos, or local units of the Church, leaving the organisation as a membership-based group that existed largely on paper. According to Lap, from this point on the Satanic religion became a "splintered and disorganized movement".
Between the abolition of the grotto system in 1975 and the establishment of the internet in the mid-1990s, The Satanic Bible remained the primary means of propagating Satanism. During this period, a decentralized, anarchistic movement of Satanists developed that was shaped by many of the central themes that had pervaded LaVey's thought and which was expressed in The Satanic Bible. Lewis argued that in this community, The Satanic Bible served as a "quasi-scripture" because these independent Satanists were able to adopt certain ideas from the book while merging them with ideas and practices drawn from elsewhere.
LaVey died in 1997, with leadership of his Church being turned over to his personal assistant, Blanche Barton. That year, the Church established an official website. Subsequently, Peter H. Gilmore was appointed the Church's High Priest. After LaVey's death, conflict over the nature of Satanism intensified within the Satanic community. The Church of Satan became increasingly doctrinally-rigid and focused on maintaining the purity of LaVeyan Satanism. The Church's increased emphasis on their role as the bearer of his legacy was partly a response to the growth in non-LaVeyan Satanists. Some Church members – including Gilmore – claimed that only they were the "real" Satanists and that those belonging to different Satanic traditions were "pseudo" Satanists. After examining many of these claims on the Church's website, Lewis concluded that it was "obsessed with shoring up its own legitimacy by attacking the heretics, especially those who criticize LaVey". Meanwhile, the Church experienced an exodus of its membership in the 2000s, with many of these individuals establishing new groups online.
On their website, the Church of Satan urge anyone seeking to learn about LaVeyan Satanism to read The Satanic Bible, stating that doing so is "tantamount to understanding at least the basics of Satanism". The book has been in print since 1969 and has been translated into various languages. Lewis argued that although LaVeyan Satanists do not treat The Satanic Bible as a sacred text in the way many other religious groups treat their holy texts, it nevertheless is treated "treated as an authoritative document which effectively functions as scripture within the Satanic community". Petersen noted that it is "in many ways the central text of the Satanic milieu", with Lap similarly testifying to its dominant position within the wider Satanic movement. In particular, he highlighted that many Satanists – both members of the Church of Satan and other groups – quote from it either to legitimize their own position or to de-legitimize the positions of others in a debate.
Atheism and Satan
LaVey was an atheist, rejecting the existence of all gods. LaVey and his Church do not espouse a belief in Satan as an entity who literally exists, and LaVey did not encourage the worship of this deity. LaVey sought to cement his belief system within the secularist world-view that derived from natural science, thus providing him with an atheistic basis with which to criticize Christianity and supernaturalist beliefs. He believed that his religion was legitimate because it was rational, contrasting it with what he saw as the irrationality of traditional religions.
Instead, the image of Satan is embraced because of its association with social non-conformity and rebellion against the dominant system. LaVey stated that "the reason it's called Satanism is because it's fun, it's accurate and it's productive". However, both LaVey's writings and the publications of the Church continue to refer to Satan as if he were a real being, in doing so seeing to reinforce the Satanist's self-interest. LaVey stated that one advantage of using the term "Satanist" was that it shocked people into thinking.
LaVey's Satanism represents a rejection of Christianity which denies its basic principles and theology. It views Christianity – alongside other major religions, and philosophies such as humanism and liberal democracy – as a largely negative force on humanity; LaVeyan Satanists perceive Christianity as a lie which promotes idealism, self-denigration, herd behavior, and irrationality. LaVeyans view their religion as a force for redressing this balance by encouraging materialism, egoism, stratification, carnality, atheism, and social Darwinism. LaVey's Satanism was particularly critical of what it understands as Christianity's denial of humanity's animal nature, and it instead calls for the celebration of, and indulgence in, these desires. In doing so, it places an emphasis on the carnal rather than the spiritual.
Satan is said to also serve as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary") is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
The Satanic Bible often uses the terms "God" and "Satan" interchangeably, except when referring to the concepts of these as viewed by other religions. LaVey also occasionally uses the term "God" to refer to other religions' views of God, and "Satan" or synonyms to refer to the idea of god as interpreted by LaVeyan Satanism, as when he writes, "When all religious faith in lies has waned, it is because man has become closer to himself and farther from 'God'; closer to the 'Devil.'" Throughout The Satanic Bible, the LaVeyan Satanist's view of god is described as the Satanist's true "self"—a projection of his or her own personality—not an external deity. Satan is used as a representation of personal liberty and individualism. Satan is also used as a metaphor for the ideas connected with the early Christian view of Satan or the serpent: wise, defiant, questioning, and free-thinking. LaVey discusses this extensively in The Book of Lucifer, explaining that the gods worshipped by other religions are also projections of man's true self. He argues that man's unwillingness to accept his own ego has caused him to externalize these gods so as to avoid the feeling of narcissism that would accompany self-worship.
"If man insists on externalizing his true self in the form of "God," then why fear his true self, in fearing "God,"—why praise his true self in praising "God,"—why remain externalized from "God" in order to engage in ritual and religious ceremony in his name?
Man needs ritual and dogma, but no law states that an externalized god is necessary in order to engage in ritual and ceremony performed in a god's name! Could it be that when he closes the gap between himself and his "God" he sees the demon of pride creeping forth—that very embodiment of Lucifer appearing in his midst?"— Anton LaVey, The Satanic Bible, pp. 44–45
Human nature and society
In LaVey's view, the human being is explicitly viewed as an animal, who thus has no purpose other than survival of the fittest, and who therefore exists in an amoral context. He believed that in adopting a philosophical belief in its own superiority above that of the other animals, humankind has become "the most vicious animal of all". For LaVey, non-human animals and children represent an ideal, "the purest form of carnal existence", because they have not been indoctrinated with Christian or other religious concepts of guilt and shame.
LaVey believed that the ideal Satanist should be individualistic and non-conformist, rejecting what he called the "colorless existence" that mainstream society sought to impose on those living within it. He praised the human ego for encouraging an individual's pride, self-respect, and self-realization and accordingly believed in satisfying the ego's desires. He argued that hate and aggression were not wrong or undesirable emotions but that they were necessary and advantageous for survival. Similarly, LaVey criticized the negative attitude to sexuality present in many religions, instead supporting any sexual acts that take place between consenting adults. He sought to discourage negative feelings of guilt arising from sexual acts such as masturbation and fetishes.
The concept of "human nature" is prevalent throughout The Satanic Bible. The Satanic Bible challenges both the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, advocating instead a tooth-for-tooth philosophy and identifies humans as instinctually predatory, and "lust and carnal desire" are singled out as part of humans' intrinsic nature. LaVey describes Satanism as "a religion based on the universal traits of man," and humans are described throughout as inherently carnal and animalistic. Each of the seven deadly sins is described as part of human's natural instinct, and are thus advocated. Social Darwinism is particularly noticeable in The Book of Satan, where LaVey uses portions of Redbeard's Might Is Right, though it also appears throughout in references to man's inherent strength and instinct for self-preservation. LaVeyan Satanism has been described as "institutionalism of Machiavellian self-interest" because of many of these themes.
LaVey's philosophy was Social Darwinian in basis, having been influenced by the writings of Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand. LaVey stated that his Satanism was "just Ayn Rand's philosophy with ceremony and ritual added". LaVey supported eugenics and expected it to become a necessity in future. The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine highlighted an article that appeared in The Black Flame, in which one writer described "a true Satanic society" as one in which the population consists of "free-spirited, well-armed, fully-conscious, self-disciplined individuals, who will neither need nor tolerate any external entity 'protecting' them or telling them what they can and cannot do." This rebellious approach conflicts with LaVey's firm beliefs in observing the rule of law.
LaVey espoused the view that there was an objective reality to magic, and that it relied upon natural forces that were yet to be discovered by science. He believed that the successful use of magic involved the magician manipulating these natural forces using the force of their own willpower. LaVey defined magic as "the change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable."
He sub-divided magic into both greater and lesser magic; the latter is focused on manipulations while the former consists of rituals and ceremonies. LaVey also wrote of "the balance factor", insisting that any magical aims should be realistic.
The Nine Satanic Statements
- 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 to the responsible instead of concern for psychic 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, or emotional gratification.
- Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.
The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth
- Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
- Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
- When in another's lair, show them respect or else do not go there.
- If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy.
- Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
- Do not take that which does not belong to you, unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
- Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
- Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
- Do not harm little children.
- Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
- When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.
The Nine Satanic Sins
- Herd Conformity
- Lack of Perspective
- Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies
- Counterproductive Pride
- Lack of Aesthetics
Blessed / Cursed
In the closing of the The Book of Satan in The Satanic Bible, LaVey compiled a list of behaviors and qualities that are "blessed" (Satanic behaviors and qualities) and "cursed" (un-Satanic, or seemingly Christian behaviors and qualities) respectively. This list was adapted from Redbeard's Might is Right, with some phrasing and terms altered by LaVey.
- Blessed are the strong for they shall posses the earth
- Cursed are the weak for they shall inherit the yoke
- Blessed are the powerful for they shall be reverenced among men
- Cursed are the feeble for they shall be blotted out
- Blessed are the bold for they shall be masters of the world
- Cursed are the righteously humble for they shall be trodden under cloven hoofs
- Blessed are the victorious for victory is the basis for right
- Cursed are the vanquished for they shall be vessels forever
- Blessed are the iron-handed, the unfit shall flee before them
- Cursed are the poor in spirit for they shall be spat upon
- Blessed are the death defiant, their days shall be long in the land
- Cursed are the gazers toward a richer life beyond the grave, for they shall perish amidst plenty
- Blessed are the destroyers of false hope for they are the true messiahs
- Cursed are the God-adorers for they shall be shorn sheep
- Blessed are the valiant for they shall obtain great treasure
- Cursed are the believers of good and evil for they are frightened by shadows
- Blessed are those that believe in what is best for them, for never shall their minds be terrorized
- Cursed are the “lambs of God” for they shall be bled whiter than snow
- Blessed is the man who has a sprinkling of enemies for they shall make him a hero
- Cursed is he who doeth good unto others who sneer upon him in return, for he shall be despised
- Blessed are the mighty-minded for they shall ride the whirlwinds
- Cursed are they who teach lies for truth and truth for lies, for they are abominations
- Thrice cursed are the weak whose insecurity makes them vile, for they shall serve and suffer
- The angel of self-deceit and camped in the souls of the “righteous”
- The eternal flame of power through joy dwelleth within the flesh of the Satanist
Satanic Assertions: The Journey from Observing Reality to Declaring Yourself a Satanist
From The Satanic Scriptures by Peter H. Gilmore.
- Nature encompasses all that exists. There is nothing supernatural in Nature.
- The spiritual is an illusion. I am utterly carnal.
- Reason is my tool for cognition making faith anathema. I question all things; I am a skeptic.
- I do not accept false dichotomies, finding instead the "third side" which brings me closest to understanding the mysteries of existence.
- The universe is neither benevolent nor malevolent; it is indifferent.
- There are no Gods. I am an atheist.
- There is no intrinsic purpose to life beyond biological imperatives. I thus determine my own life's meaning.
- I decide what is of value. I am my own highest value, therefore I am my own God.
- I am an I-theist.
- Good is that which benefits me and promotes that which I hold in esteem. Evil is that which harms me and hinders that which I cherish.
- I live to maximize the Good for myself and those I value. At all times I remain in control of my pursuit of pleasure. I am an Epicurean.
- Merit determines my criteria for the judgment of myself and others. I judge and am prepared to be judged.
- I seek a just outcome in my exchanges with those around me. I thus will do unto others as I would prefer they do unto me. However, if they treat me poorly, I shall return the favor in like degree.
- I grasp the human need for symbols as a means for distillation of complex thought structures.
- The symbol that best exemplifies my nature as an aware beast is Satan, the avatar of carnality, justice, and self-determination.
- I see myself reflected in the philosophy created by Anton Szandor LaVey.
- I am proud to call myself a Satanist.
Rites and practices
Magic and ritual
LaVey emphasized that in his tradition, Satanic rites came in two forms, neither of which were acts of worship; in his terminology, "rituals" were intended to bring about change, whereas "ceremonies" celebrated a particular occasion. These rituals were often considered to be magical acts, with LaVey's Satanism encouraging the practice of magic to aid one's selfish ends. Much of LaVeyan ritual is designed for an individual to carry out alone; this is because concentration is seen as key to performing magical acts. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey described three types of ritual in his religion: sex rituals designed to attract the desired romantic or sexual partner, compassionate rituals with the intent of helping people (including oneself), and destructive magic which seeks to do harm to others. In designing these rituals, LaVey drew upon a variety of older sources, with scholar of Satanism Per Faxneld noting that LaVey "assembled rituals from a hodgepodge of historical sources, literary as well as esoteric".
LaVey described a number of rituals in his book, The Satanic Rituals; these are "dramatic performances" with specific instructions surrounding the clothing to be worn, the music to be used, and the actions to be taken. This attention to detail in the design of the rituals was intentional, with their pageantry and theatricality intending to engage the participants' senses and aesthetic senses at various levels and enhancing the participants' willpower for magical ends. LaVey prescribed that male participants should wear black robes, while older women should wear black, and other women should dress attractively in order to stimulate sexual feelings among many of the men. All participants are instructed to wear amulets of either the upturned pentagram or the image of Baphomet.
According to LaVey's instructions, on the altar is to be placed an image of Baphomet. This should be accompanied by various candles, all but one of which are to be black. The lone exception is to be a white candle, used in destructive magic, which is kept to the right of the altar. Also to be included are a bell which is rung nine times at the start and end of the ceremony, a chalice made of anything but gold, and which contains an alcoholic drink symbolizing the "Elixir of Life", a sword that represents aggression, a model phallus used as an aspergillum, a gong, and parchment on which requests to Satan are to be written before being burned. Although alcohol was consumed in the Church's rites, drunkenness was frowned upon and the taking of illicit drugs was forbidden.
Laveyan rituals sometimes include anti-Christian blasphemies, which are intended to have a liberating effect on the participants. In some of the rituals, a naked woman serves as the altar; in these cases it is made explicit that the woman's body itself becomes the altar, rather than have her simply lying on an existing altar. There is no place for sexual orgies in LaVeyan ritual. Neither animal nor human sacrifice takes place. Children are banned from attending these rituals, with the only exception being the Satanic Baptism, which is specifically designed to involve infants.
LaVey also developed his own Black Mass, which was designed as a form of deconditioning to free the participant from any inhibitions that they developed living in Christian society. He noted that in composing the Black Mass rite, he had drawn upon the work of Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans.
LaVey and the Church of Satan deemed an individual's birthday to be the most important festival of the year. Also important is Walpurgisnacht (April 30), a night associated with witches in European tradition which was also the date on which LaVey founded his Church. A third annual festival is Halloween, which also has associations with witches and dark entities.
La Fontaine thought it likely that the easy availability of LaVey's writings would have encouraged the creation of various Satanic groups that were independent of the Church of Satan itself. In The Black Flame, a number of groups affiliated with the Church have been mentioned, most of which are based in the United States and Canada although two groups were cited as having existed in New Zealand. In his 2001 examination of Satanists, the sociologist James R. Lewis noted that, to his surprise, his findings "consistently pointed to the centrality of LaVey's influence on modern Satanism". "Reflecting the dominant influence of Anton LaVey's thought", Lewis noted that the majority of those whom he examined were atheists or agnostics, with 60% of respondents viewing Satanism as a symbol rather than a real entity. 20% of his respondents described The Satanic Bible as the most important factor that attracted them to Satanism. Elsewhere, Lewis noted that few Satanists who weren't members of the Church of Satan would regard themselves as "orthodox LaVeyans".
Examining the number of LaVeyan Satanists in Britain, in 1995 the religious studies scholar Graham Harvey noted that the Church of Satan had no organized presence in the country. He noted that LaVey's writings were widely accessible in British bookshops, and La Fontaine suggested that there may have been individual Church members within the country.
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