Serpent

“Esprit de Corps Infernal” Loyalty as an Organizational Principle

by Magus Peter H. Gilmore

The Church of Satan often confounds people who approach it as if it were simply like other religious organizations. They might incorrectly assume that we’ve swapped a horned figure for whatever fictional deity is held in esteem by the more commonplace herd folk. It shocks them to find out that we don’t have established church buildings—since we ritualize in highly personalized spaces in our homes—and that we don’t even mandate that people attend services or other formalized ritual practices for our members to be considered “in good standing.” The freedom which we offer and the flexibility towards wielding our philosophy is, I think, unique to our organization. However, that freedom and the requisite responsibility it entails should not be misinterpreted to mean that we have no standards, rules, or that our definitions are so malleable that Satanism can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean. Au contraire!

Satanism is a rational, faithless philosophy created by Anton Szandor LaVey, based on many differing prior individualist skeins of thought in the tapestry of human concepts. It has proven to be a unique and striking amalgam, wedding theatricality and symbolism with reason, atheism and skepticism to form an integrated structure which is quite a solid bit of idea-architecture, and one which cannot be bastardized else the structure should be diluted and thus no longer worthy of the name he gave it. During the earlier years of our history, Dr. LaVey had to deal with a few members who basically “got lost” in the symbolism, unable to grasp that the ritual chamber is a place of intellectual decompression. These individuals displayed a metaphysical version of “the bends,” dragging spirituality or mysticism up from the depths of ritual psychodrama and outside of the chamber. They suffer “spiritual narcosis,” with a debilitating obsession for “other-worldly” issues virtually bubbling forth from their consciousness.

To quote his essay “Hoisted by His Own Patois” dealing with this situation: “The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to rational self-interest, indulgence, and a glorification of material and carnal elements. I held these beliefs in the beginning as I do now. If others re-interpret my organization and philosophy into a fundamental kind of supernaturalism, it stems from their needs to do so.” These people have forgotten a pivotal passage in The Satanic Bible: “He no longer can view himself in two parts, the carnal and the spiritual, but sees them merge as one, and then to his abysmal horror, discovers that they are only the carnal—AND ALWAYS WERE!” Anton LaVey made it clear that spirituality and supernaturalism are not compatible with the carnality and materialism of Satanism. The strength of Anton LaVey’s Satanism is its coherence—one can check concepts against its integrity and note their consonance or dissonance, assisting one to jettison incongruent flotsam. There is a rigor to our secularism which provides us with solidarity and sanity.

“He no longer can view himself in two parts, the carnal and the spiritual, but sees them merge as one, and then to his abysmal horror, discovers that they are only the carnal—AND ALWAYS WERE!”

Always be aware that when we humans create an association, there is an inside and an outside. We draw an ideological circle and those inside of it are thought of and treated differently from those outside of it. The outsiders will view us and wonder what makes us Satanists, and of what consists the Church of Satan. Satanism is a set of rational, consistent ideas and membership in our church is not simply paying for a red card, but holding true to the postulates that make up our definition of Satanism and the modes of behavior expected from members. We thus provide a unified front, an alliance of wildly varied individuals who do share a specific set of memes established by our founder.

Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan as an organizational vehicle for disseminating his philosophy so the people who agree with and cherish this set of ideas are moved to join in support of that purpose. Beyond this duty of accurate presentation and propagation of information, what binds the people who freely decide to affiliate? The common denominator is that members must clearly understand as well as concur with Satanism as defined by Anton LaVey. If this is not the case, then membership should not be attempted. Should someone who once joined decide that his concept of Satanism is somehow different, then he is in fact resigning himself from the organization through his personal choice to adopt a differing definition, a de facto embracing of some other position which is not Satanism as established by Dr. LaVey. This is a disaffiliation on a truly fundamental level, not requiring any formal expulsion, for the individual in question has intellectually abandoned the tenets that are required for his membership to be valid.

There are those individuals for whom Satanism has always been their way of viewing the world—and they appreciate Anton LaVey’s efforts to successfully codify and energize their nature, particularly by giving it a name and an eminently practical set of symbols and metaphors. There are other people who are mutable, on a journey of self-transformation and for them they may find at one point in their lives that Satanism is congruent with their then-current perspective. Such people may join; however, once they have flowed into some other system of thought no longer consistent with Satanism it is not Satanism that must change, but their own self-definition as Satanists that should be shed as it has been abandoned.

We who administer this organization have seen this happen over the years. Anton LaVey often gave honorary memberships and even priesthoods to public figures who for a time found their path to be parallel with that of the Church of Satan and thus offered him fealty. However, he too saw the departure of some, whether it was a slow drift towards other theoretical regions, or even a volcanic rupture into beliefs directly opposed to his philosophy. We continue to see similar behavior, perhaps even more so after the death of our founder, since it was often just the vibrant personality of Dr. LaVey which attracted some individuals to associate themselves, and once his personal spark was gone, Satanism as a practical philosophy no longer held their interest since it was never definitive of their essential natures.

Because the Church of Satan is a cabal and not a community, outsiders wonder what it is that members get from their association. What I’ve seen over the many years of my involvement is that our fellow comrades have a highly refined esprit de corps, a feeling of pride, fellowship and loyalty towards their associates. Regardless of their own aesthetic choices and unique ways in which they apply Satanism to their personal paths towards joy, they have a surplus of happiness and so are generous enough to lavish this on other members via support of their activities and productivity, whether or not the other members have much in common beyond the axiomatic foundation established by Anton LaVey. This joy in Satanists arises from satisfaction in moving the world to one’s own ends—another definitive commonality. The direction of abundant happiness to others stems from the loyalty that is present in our members—a stance that Anton LaVey felt was necessary.

If you enjoy other members you are free to lavish praise upon them; if their modes of expression are not to your tastes, then refrain from comment.”

He abhorred the atmosphere and culture of vitriol and viciousness cultivated in encounter groups of the 1960s. These were group therapy sessions in which each person spewed whatever venomous negativity could be mustered towards the other participants, seeking catharsis but in the process debasing fellow participants, with the final “escape clause” being that each were just offering their own opinions. The stated purpose was deconstruction with the intent to rebuild a better personality. The actual result of such activity was for people to have created a festering climate of resentment and self-denigration which was the complete opposite of the sense of self-celebration and self-deification which Dr. LaVey established as the essential gift of Satanism to its adherents. You can easily understand why he formulated the First Satanic Rule of the Earth—that opinions should not be given unless invited—as a reaction to these extremely negative modes of interaction.

It should also come as no surprise that he embodied this laudatory climate organizationally with the primary “house rule” of the Church of Satan—that it is a mutual admiration society. Since many highly volatile and extremely incongruent individuals could stand on the philosophical foundation of Satanism, here was a means for them to find a method for coexisting without the need for community or other collectivist methods. In practice what it boils down to is quite simple: If you enjoy other members you are free to lavish praise upon them; if their modes of expression are not to your tastes, then refrain from comment. Thus, there’s no requirement for interaction or offers of hollow veneration.

Naturally, Dr. LaVey valued loyalty, that sense of allegiance elevating people who form organizational bonds. Such support is conditional and earned—no Satanist offers blind automatic commitment, and no Satanist expects it to be given. However, should a fellow Satanist act as traitor to the beneficence of the organization, deciding to bite the hand that had freely given endorsement and promotion, then that individual should not expect mercy—a practice shunned by Satanists in favor of just desserts.

What I have found to be fascinating is that our members are generally full of such joie de vivre and pride in membership in the sole organization created by Anton LaVey, that they will often go out of their way to support fellow members even if these members are not aesthetically on the same wavelength. That has been the strength of the Church of Satan. It should then be quite obvious that any who decide to ignore the main house rule are placing themselves at odds with a truly fundamental element and thus are rejecting their membership in a very direct and unequivocal manner. Being a Satanist in the perspective of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan means embracing, understanding, and applying the philosophy he designed—in toto. Being a member of the Church of Satan requires the additional adherence to the house rules, and disregard of them is taken as a resignation from the organization.

To publicly attack other members is considered conduct unbecoming of a member of the Church of Satan, which Dr. LaVey defined as being both a den of rattlesnakes and a compact made between civilized ladies and gentlemen. Again, let me emphasize that his method for finding a third-side approach wherein these two seemingly conflicted paradigms could meld was in that model of the mutual admiration society. Violate this and you are giving yourself a dishonorable discharge and should slink away from the august circle of loyal compatriots as you do not know how to behave amongst your associative peers. Our honored members should not be subjected to bratty behavior.

Now it is not expected that all our members will be functioning on the same level of talents and the development thereof. Egalitarianism has no place here. As I’ve illustrated elsewhere, stratification is inherent in all things and that includes the membership of the Church of Satan. As an organization, we cultivate the productivity of our membership so long as they are working to the best of whatever capacities they have. We of the administration are magnanimous as befits our position of those who hold the key to the larder of honors. We do not expect the members themselves, particularly those who are truly advanced in whatever skills they’ve chosen to develop, to sing hymns of praise to other members who have not reached their levels of attainment. They need not take notice of works produced by other members not meeting their own highly self-critical standards—criteria which have aided them to reach their personal pinnacles. However, our greatest achievers are expected to refrain from critiquing those who have not reached their heights, unless the lesser achievers have personally asked for such criticism. Of course, members should be cautioned as we do not expect our best people to sugar-coat their evaluations, and so do not ask for something that you may not really want to receive!

The human animal is fallible, and no one understands that better than the Satanist. When our members occasionally fail to observe the prime house rule, the situation can often be remedied by a direct, heartfelt apology. Actual contrition almost always inspires acceptance from a generous being; amends are made and productive relationships can then move forward. However, there are times when such outbursts reveal a deeply antagonistic position that doesn’t merit being excused. Lapses in behavior can at times be compounded through counter-productive pride, preventing the recognition and acknowledgement of the faux pas. This pigheadedness can lead the errant individuals to take public platforms and denounce even more members as well as the organization and its administrators. They dynamite their bridges and stand on a precipice from which there is finally no egress except the plunge into the morass of self-exile from the people who and organization which previously proffered esteem.

Once creatures of this sort have reached this juncture, it is a natural step for our loyal members to band together as a pack to exclude such dysfunctional persons. Actions have consequences. While before support was freely given, backs are turned as the offenders are now non-existent in their eyes. The miscreants may then attempt even more pointed tirades, demonstrating the absoluteness of their departure from membership as well as their masochistic nature, but Satanists are ever the epicurean sadists and will ignore the invitations to “beat” them. The Church itself adopts the same stance. Undeserved attention is sought with zeal by these dissolving beings, and it is withheld with adamantine indifference. The separated whiners no longer matter and are left to find their own audiences amongst the assorted flotsam that feast on conflict and only remain focused so long as some vapid sound and fury is being proclaimed. They’ll find other cronies when they tire of the same old song being prated endlessly, much to the chagrin of would-be “reformers.”

As always, Satanists have a sense of justice that will come to the fore, and it will be used to make decisions as to who is worth one’s very precious time and commitment. Most decide that it should be given to those who enhance their productive lives, enriching their experience and stimulating thought and feeling in unique ways. After all, a state of joy is what Satanists maintain. The negativity and misanthropy Satanists feel towards most of their species is not directed towards their true fellows, who instead bask in the glow of their allies’ good will and unshakeable loyalty. That strength-through-joy is a basis upon which our organization will continue to flourish so that we can make it past that initial ninety-nine years into a future that will be shaped by our creators and thinkers who demonstrate the superior quality of Satanic productivity. The monuments so assembled will give testimony to the validity of Satanism and the Church of Satan, a cabal that will continue to make itself heard in the chronicles of future history.