Throughout the ages, people died as a result of accusations of worshipping the Devil. But Satanism is a modern religious philosophy. What’s more, Satanists do not kidnap children or sacrifice animals. They even do not see Satan in a theistic way, as they are far from Christian theology and don’t believe in God. So what is Satanism?
Who is Satan?
Modern Satanism is an atheistic and occultist way of life, on the verge of religion, philosophy and psychology, created by Anton Szandor LaVey in the 1960s. Its message is that of individualism, epicureanism and self-making. It sees the society in a Darwinist way, encouraging its followers to be the makers of the world.
For Satanists, Blasphemy is an act of individualism, designed to shock and make people think. That’s the reason for the adoption of the well-known Baphomet image with its goat head and wings or the inverted pentagram. It’s also the reason behind the choice of Satan as the primary figure of this religion, as well as its name. The word “Satanism” in itself has a large power to induce strong emotions in people, most commonly those of fear or anger. That’s why they are seen as blasphemous by Satanists.
Satan is seen by Satanists as an archetype, a symbol of thinking for yourself, being defiant to conservative mainstream morality and philosophies of different religions. His image is drawn from many cultures, creating many facets of the same thing. Most illustrative perhaps is that of Lucifer, the bringer of light. Another one is that of a serpent who encouraged Eve to eat the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Why, a Satanist might ask, would God create a man and deny him the ability to make informed choices? The serpent represents a wise, defiant, questioning and free-thinking figure, brave enough to stand up to the world. The word “Satan,” taken from the Hebrew language, literally means “adversary.”
Both Satan and God, terms often used interchangeably, are used by LaVeyan Satanists to describe one’s true self, a projection of a person’s true personality, not an external deity. It is a symbol of personal liberty and individualism.
Satanism grew from LaVey’s fascination with occult, as well as from criticism of other religions, mostly Christianity. So much so, that it sometimes sees itself as their antithesis. Satan, says LaVey, is the Church’s best friend – throughout the ages the clergy filled their congregations by spreading fear of Satan. Satanism is very critical of what it sees as stupidity, conformism, self-deceit or being feeble. That’s why it doesn’t accept Christian morality or that of most occultist movements (e.g. with their three-fold law that says that whatever you do with magick, it will come to you three times as strong), the way the Church functions or the over-intellectualized, in Satanists’ view, Eastern religions or New Age movements.
Satanic morality is in many ways very sane and modern as well as liberal. It supports one’s sexuality and encourages its expression. It accepts heterosexuals as well as homosexuals and asexual people, giving them full acceptance and freedom to practice (or abstain from practice if one is asexual) whatever sexual acts they like, as long as it’s consensual. Satanism strongly disapproves rape or paedophilia.
Satanism has strong views on guilt. If you do something of your will, you shouldn’t feel guilty. If you feel guilty about something, don’t do it. You have to live in harmony with yourself. That’s why it’s so critical of Christian theology, which has a concept of the original sin. It also criticises Catholic confession: many people confess their sins and do their penance, only to practice those sins again. For Satanists, this doesn’t make sense.
Satanism also criticises abstinence. You should indulge in things that make you feel satisfied and fulfilled and not feel guilty because of them, but should take responsibility for them as well as for your actions. Life should be satisfying and full. Similarly, Satanists view Christian heaven and hell, karma or the three-fold law as mechanisms that disable you from doing your will, but fill you with guilt instead.
Satanism favours wisdom, kindness (especially to your loved ones) and responsibility.
But some aspects of Satanist ethics are a bit further (though not far) from contemporary common sense secular world view. For example, Satanists do not turn the other cheek, but will take vengeance on those who hurt them or their loved ones. Your good will and help should be only for those closest to you.
This is connected to the Satanic view of humanity: people are just animals, though more vicious than others. Furthermore, for LaVey, children and non-human animals are the purest, as they haven’t been indoctrinated by any religious concepts of guilt and shame. For Satanists there is no other purpose in life than survival of the fittest. This Darwinian society has an echo in the Satanic vision of an afterlife (or rather, the lack thereof).
Satanists do not believe in an afterlife. For them, such a concept can only convince a person not to try to make their life full and meaningful here, on Earth, as some wondrous place awaits them. Only your ego has the power to give you a substitute of an afterlife: being remembered and having your accomplishments outlive you.
Satanism has its own philosophy and practice of magic, though its roots are in Alistair Crowley’s work. Its definition is in line with traditional, Crowleyan thought: “the change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable” (LaVey). Satanic magic is different from other occultist branches in that it doesn’t have any distinction between “white” or “black” magic.
According to LaVey, magic is objectively real and depends on natural forces that haven’t been discovered by science yet. Success of the magician in manipulating nature relies on the willpower of the one casting a spell.
This is why Satanic rituals have one primary goal: to strengthen the will of the magician. This is done by the use of psychodrama. The participants will gather around an altar wearing black robes and Baphomet symbols. The altar itself can be made out of a naked woman, as according to LaVey, she would symbolise the passive side in a sexual intercourse, as well as Mother Earth. Bells and gongs are used to purify the air. Black candles and one white one are lit and serve as the only light source in the room. Recitations of texts and wishes are complemented with drinking the Elixir of Life from a silver chalice.
The magician is responsible for putting as much will and emotion into the act of doing magic as possible. Furthermore, magician should not doubt in the reality of magic or the spell will not work. Nor should he wish for too much: all magical aims should be realistic.
Satanism divides magic into greater magic, which is ceremonial in nature and lesser magic, which uses manipulation to achieve one’s goals.
This, and much more, is explained in LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, a text fundamental for Satanism. Many splinter groups of Satanists exist in the world, but the one founded by Anton LaVey, dubbed the Black Pope, is the Church of Satan with headquarters in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. To become a Satanist one needs only to consider himself such, though for $200 there is an option of becoming an official member of this non-spiritual religion of the flesh.
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