From the early 1950’s, Anton LaVey explored some of these ideas, eventually gaining a reputation as a powerful black magician and San Francisco character. Others who felt aligned with his philosophy gravitated to him, gathering in his notorious Victorian “Black House.” In accordance with LaVey’s explorations of demonic geometry, they took to wearing an odd-shaped black and red medallion adorned with a bat-winged demon and formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later evolved into the governing body of the Church of Satan. Those who attended LaVey’s soirees always comprised an array of professions and pursuits: “the Baroness” Carin de Plessen—who grew up in the Royal Palace of Denmark, Dr. Cecil Nixon—magician and eccentric extraordinaire, underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, as well as artists, attorneys, doctors, writers, and law enforcement officers. City Assessor Russell Wolden might share the room with Donald Werby, one of San Francisco’s most influential property owners; anthropologist Michael Harner with writer Shana Alexander. A ship’s purser might be seated next to a deep-sea diver, a dildo manufacturer next to a plastic surgeon. A famous tattoo artist, the grandson of a U.S. president, the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Fabergé artifacts—all attended LaVey’s get-togethers. The field of fantasy and science fiction personages alone yielded the likes of Anthony Boucher, August Derleth, Robert Barbour Johnson, Reginald Bretnor, Emil Petaja, Stuart Palmer, Clark Ashton Smith, Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, Jr., to name a few, into LaVey’s circle of magical compatriots.
LaVey wanted to establish something new, not strict doctrines awash with attitudes of blind faith and worship, but something which would smash all concepts of anything that had come before, something to break apart the ignorance and hypocrisy fostered by the Christian churches. Something, too, that could free people to apply the black magic he and his Magic Circle were using. Anton became convinced he was learning methods to harness the dark forces which cause “a change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable,” as LaVey defines magic.
Anton expanded and refined his formulas for the Magic Circle rituals and began achieving precise results—professional advances, unexpected rewards, monetary gain, sexual or romantic satisfaction, the elimination of certain enemies—it was apparent to everyone involved that Anton had indeed tapped into that mysterious Dark Force in Nature.
There was the magic—and there was a workable philosophy to go along with it. It was a down-to-earth, rational, bedrock philosophy that emphasized the carnal, lustful, natural instincts of man, without imposing guilt for manufactured sins. To break apart the crust of stupidity and irrationality fostered over the past 2000 years, LaVey knew it was necessary to blast its very foundations. His ideas could not be presented as just a “philosophy”—that would be too easy to pass off or overlook. LaVey would blasphemously form a religion and, even more, he would call his new organization a church, consecrated not in the name of God but in the name of Satan. There had always been a Satanic underground, centuries old, but there had never been an organized Satanic religion, practicing openly. LaVey decided it was high time there was.
by Blanche Barton ©2003
(condensed from The Church of Satan and with supplemental material by Peter H. Gilmore)