The idea of “Satanic Monuments” has been kicked-around lately, mostly by those who do not grasp the full implications of Satanism as an individualist philosophy. When formulated by Anton LaVey, he took what had previously served as an insult hurled at dissidents and in framing a rational, coherent philosophy, he gave Satanism a positive meaning so such a term could be borne with the same pride attributed to that fabled Prince of Darkness. His concept for creating a Satanic church was that it would not simply be an organization imitating Christian versions (from their Bingo games and bake sales through to their cathedrals) but rather an idea whose time has come to serve as a tool for life-enhancement for those few carnal individuals with whom it resonated. He did not intend Satanism to be playing the “me too” game, replacing the crucified Jew with a fallen angel, nor for Satanists to behave like theists in basic black. No, he expected each Satanist to be his own god in a self-centered Universe, one who is willing to judge and be judged based on his own personally crafted standards. He did not advocate weekly gatherings wherein people huddle in common spaces as a means for bolstering weak egos. He challenged Satanists to be worldly, to go out and live vital lives which would be fueled by indulging in what brought joy to the Satanist.
He also encouraged creativity, and so most Satanists explore their own capacity for bringing things into being, and so adding to experiences that can be be had and then leaving of something of themselves that might enrich others who can appreciate it. The many Satanists I know tend to rise to whatever level of skills they possess and bring things into existence as tokens of their lives being well-lived. Whether such creations are widely embraced by others is no matter, so long as they satisfy their creator, they become evidence for a particular consciousness that once walked the Earth.
LaVey also embraced the secularism of America as an essential component of his philosophy, thus he supported the practice of separation of church and state which has played an important role in this nation. So, when certain religions attempt to impinge on public spaces with symbols of their faiths, Satanists find that abhorrent, not a call to jump into a kiddy pool filled with the muddy water of conflicting beliefs, splashing about in the same childishly desperate bid for attention. We prefer to be the adults who look on, wondering what sort of parents left these brats to their squabbles.
Neoteny is a feature of mankind that is far from charming. And in this contemporary, cushy world we find that juvenile tendencies remain far longer than in earlier times when individuals had to leave their homes and fend for themselves at comparatively young ages. Observe other animals and witness how quickly progeny must leave their parents and make their own way. But this is not perhaps a defining characteristic. Humans have a conceptual consciousness, so we project possibilities for future actions as a means to selecting a course of action. What seems clear to me is that our species has often become addicted to such imaginary “visions,” especially when unable to bring them into being. What separates humanity is our capacity for both creating and relying upon fiction as a primary experience in our lives. Other animals make and use tools but, so far, I don’t think we’ve witnessed any other earthly species that generates fantasy in the same manner. Man is thus the “fictive animal.” Fantasy can lead to possibilities for enhancing life. We’ve seen that someone like Gene Roddenberry’s flights of technological fancy in his science fiction shows have inspired inventors to bring devices into existence that offer us further opportunities for living well. But being too attached to unattainable extrapolations can be counter-productive, often gauged by how distant these fantasies are from reality. That many religions exist—their literature, imagery, architecture and historical legacy of intolerance for dissenting views leading to war, torture and mass murder—demonstrates this uniquely human debilitating aspect. It is an equivocal distinction from our fellow living beings.
Since we Satanists want to separate ourselves from the numerous negative aspects of the cavalcade of human religions, we do not model our behaviors after them. We don’t have bingo games and bake sales. We don’t build cathedrals or strip mall chapels. Indeed there have been some fine historical achievements in the arts and architecture that were church-sponsored, but creative individuals always have relied upon available resources for funding their efforts. Today they are more wide-ranging than in earlier eras, with arts endowments and the secular free market being primary in contemporary culture. Some religious groups sponsor hospitals and when such are not hampered by superstition-imposed limits, they can be a boon. But rather than engaging ourselves in traditional means for commemorating our beliefs, the “monuments” to Satanism are instead the vital lives of individual Satanists themselves, as is proper for a perspective that places each Satanist at the center of his own subjective universe. Satanism is a tool for enriching that life, but it is the life itself that is the hallmark of Satanism’s value.
Our species use of symbols arises from our mode of consciousness, with them serving as a means for concentrating many related ideas into a graphic or object that can serve as an emblem for them. LaVey saw a symbol in occult literature that he decided to name the “Sigil of Baphomet” as a means for creating a visual touchstone for his philosophy (see my essay on its origins for details). Yet this image in ritual use was not meant as an object of veneration standing in for Satan or any other demonic entity. Instead it was employed as a method for externally projecting the essence of the Satanist doing the looking. The Satanist, whose philosophy’s goal is self-deification, is thus beholding himself, the Sigil of Baphomet serving as a “reflection” of each Satanist. Sadly, outsiders who don’t get our atheist underpinnings often interpret this image as being “The Devil,” much as many Christians might see the “horned god” employed by neo-pagans to be Lucifer, regardless of protestations to the contrary.
One might consider what could better serve as something that non-Satanists could grasp? Dr. LaVey had a nifty art piece in the purple parlor of his Black House. It was an oval “infinity mirror” that was framed with an exquisitely wrought tangle of intertwined demonic figures. Seeing oneself in it, with the endless corridor made manifest, worked as a fine symbol for the lone human consciousness standing against the vastness of existence. Most importantly, it is your own image that is thus measured in the experience. Satanism expects that its adherents will ruthlessly examine themselves over the course of their lives, so a proper object that reminds us of this task would be a mirror. LaVey’s Devil’s Infinity Mirror thus worked well in his darkened sanctum to concretize aspects of his philosophy which created an experience that the sensitive might grasp and the timorous would find disturbing. But it was meant to be experienced in a unique environment that supported its significance. Likely it or any other mirrored object placed in some public location would not be a point of intellectual pondering, but would simply be used to check the observer’s appearance, for good or ill. Or be a target for vandalism.
Bringing us round again to that issue of public monuments. Being part of a cacophony of special interest groups clamoring for the limited attention spans of a non-specified audience is something we would consider to be a fruitless effort. Instead, in publicly funded forums we support secular mementoes of the legacy of those who struggled to build this nation, not a plethora of conflicting belief systems. Individual Satanists also support the worthy efforts of groups such as the ACLU to combat religious encroachment on public grounds. I suspect other secularists are doing the same.
For those who want to participate in such mud-wrestling, If it came down to the mechanics of dealing with which churches or temples could be represented in limited public spaces, what would be the criteria for who would get in and who would be barred, since there are far too many sects to include everyone? Possibly the number of local adherents? Let us note that this mode embraces democratic majoritarianism which is counter to the idea of a republic which can offer support to minority perspectives which could easily be overrun. One has to wonder what other factors would be considered? The historical impact of a particular religion in that area? Of course, whether such has been positive or negative could be endlessly debated. So creating a list of requirements to limit participants is likely to be insoluable, if one wants to give everyone a fair chance. The idea of what sort of objects might be allowed, and whether their costs be within range of those wanting to participate could also bring limitations to intended egalitarianism. Yet if a level playing field is sought, then I expect some might cry for a hand in the till of public funds so that the results are non-exclusionary, but the pockets of those not subscribing to those beliefs would then be picked. In this age of procrustean equalitarianism, the consensus would likely be to find a means for all or nothing, and I embrace the latter as being far more sensible and pragmatic. Let us maintain American secularism, and allow people to promote their own fantasies on their own properties at their own expense.
So, like LaVey before me, I think that keeping our precious symbols in our own spaces is another aspect of the elitism which plays a role in our philosophy. Satanism is not for everyone. You are free to approach it of your own free will and explore its tenets and see if it is a mirror in which you are reflected. You might find that you are what we’d call a Satanist and recognizing that could be beneficial for you. But few will, and that is as it should be. If your nature is truly carnal, you are welcome to employ Satanism’s effective tools towards bettering your own life. Yet we are not ones to cast pearls before swine, hence our reluctance to participate in ecumenical forums. And trying to teach those pigs either a ditty or an aria has always been common-sensically known to be a waste of time—and an annoyance for the porcine personages. We’ll opt-out of that, thank you very much.
I am in a position to see how many of our members have employed Satanism to enhance their lives and those of the people for whom they care. Their creative and productive efforts show me that ours is a potent perspective for certain individuals. Our religion is young, but I suspect that if the philosophy can be communicated with clarity for years to come, that ever more wonderful things will be wrought. These will stand as testaments to the value of Satanism in a powerful way, demonstrating well-lived lives, and that is the ultimate goal of every Satanist, and a fitting monument for the legacy of Anton Szandor LaVey.