Myth of the 'Satanic Community' and other Virtual Delusions
The Internet, that ultimate means for the spread of mediocrity, spans the entire globe, and it has, for good or ill, a “Satanic presence.” It is time to address some tendencies that, while previously hampered by snail-mail low technology, have now been set loose to undercut our movement by turning it into a circus, with particularly poorly-trained clowns taking the center ring.
The use of the adjective “Satanic” with the noun “community” is oxymoronic. Why? The process of creating a “community” implies that its members come out into the open and become quantifiable, defining and exposing themselves. This technique is almost always used by an assemblage of people who want to claim some form of victim status, who want to whine that they are oppressed, and thus agitate for some form of “special dispensations” for their members. This idea is anathema to Satanists and contrary to Satanic principles. Recall Anton LaVey’s dictum that the Church of Satan must remain “a custard that can’t be nailed to the wall”? While our philosophy is made abundantly clear and all of our literature is publicly available, the organization itself remains largely hidden. There is power in mystery. And it serves us well, should some form of organized anti-Satanism actually gain political or social power. So here is a simple fact: there is no “Satanic Community” nor should one ever exist. Please re-read the previous line until it begins to sink in.
Satanism is a very unique philosophy, which has spawned an even more unusual movement and an organization, the Church of Satan, which has found a means for facilitating the interaction of a membership comprised of radical individualists. It is, in an apparent paradox that is a “third-side synthesis,” an organization for “non-joiners.” The structural basis for the Church of Satan is the “cabal” concept. It is maintained, for the most part, as an underground cell-system of individuals who share the basis of the philosophy created by Anton Szandor LaVey, but who find very unique ways of applying this philosophy towards their own personal goals. Above the surface, you might see some spokespersons. But, like an iceberg, most of our membership remains hidden in the murky depths. Some new members mistakenly want to publish membership lists, as they fail to grasp the concept behind the structure of the organization (they still haven’t shaken off pre-conceptions absorbed from herd culture). If, after explanations, they don’t begin to grasp that they are still thinking in a non-Satanic paradigm and thus they are working to counter our structure, they may be asked to leave the organization.
Many members have chosen to affiliate but do not want to find others with whom to associate. Their reason for membership is to affirm their allegiance to the organization that publicly represents the philosophy that they hold dear, which gave a name to who they really are. These members do not interact with other members; they don’t seek out “fellow Satanists.” They remain underground, and pursue personal goals. We support these valued members who are “non-joiners” and their commitment remains strictly confidential. Other members may desire to locate others who share particular passions, not just an interest in Satanism per se. Due to the ease of finding other like-minded individuals provided by current communications and social networking technologies, the intelligent Satanist has every means at his disposal to do this on his own. This last group of members, it should be noted, is a very small percentage of the total organization. So, all of the needs and desires of our membership are covered.
Over the past 46 years, we have learned a striking truth: Satanists are amazingly diverse individuals and they may share very little in common beyond the fact that their approach to living leads them all to adopt the label “Satanist.” This is the reason why we do not have large gatherings of Church of Satan members, nor do we have conventions of any sort, as this group of individuals would never get along with one another en masse. Look at the evidence for this in the ghetto of online Satanism, which is a very small subset of people who call themselves Satanists. This bunch is the most contentious and cantankerous collection of curmudgeons ever seen in one place. So the very idea that these people could ever work together as a community is completely naïve—misguided idealism, rather than Satanic pragmatism. Satanists by nature follow their own tastes in such areas as politics and aesthetics; they have very uniquely personal hierarchical systems of values that are not necessarily congruent with those of other Satanists. I have met and corresponded with thousands of Satanists. I know this to be a fact. There are certainly some common threads, which can be deduced by considering the principles that under-gird The Satanic Bible. Love of and respect for animals, a desire for swift justice, and an aesthetic sense that demands that things rise above the mediocre are but some of these. When obsessions other than a shared interest in the philosophy created by Anton LaVey do match, then Satanists can develop very passionate friendships and amazingly potent partnerships for attaining mutual goals. But just because two people call themselves “Satanist” does not mean that there will necessarily be such common denominators.
Thus, to attempt to make this very loose and shadowy assemblage into something resembling other existing communities would mean disregarding the core principles of Satanism as a philosophy. Satanism as a movement would then become just another typical social device for human herding. Anton LaVey expressed his contempt for people who demonstrated the “huddling” instinct, explaining that it is a certain indication that they weren’t Satanists at all, just “sheep” who want to pretend to be “goats.”
He was right. And we are constantly treated to displays of “satanic wannabes” parading around with websites and “organizations,” using our symbols and literature as a means for attempting to gain attention for themselves, while ostensibly claiming to want to be “helping” Satanism as a movement. Well, we say “Thanks, but no thanks.” We don’t need amateur help, particularly when this “help” demonstrates that the amateurs don’t grasp these very basic principles.
Let’s look at a typical example. Here’s Joe (it could just as easily be Jane) Schitz, a general loser whose age is between 15 and 29 (or someone older who is a terminal “closet case”). He’s heard about Satanism from his favorite “let’s freak out the parents” rock star (like Marilyn Manson), and since he’s too lazy to go to the library to do research and too cheap to buy a book, he turns to the Internet. He surfs the web with a search engine of his choice and is confronted by hundreds of sites claiming to be giving valid information about Satanism. Since his image of Satanism includes (like his musical hero’s stage persona) public acclaim, wealth, sex, and notoriety, he is ill-equipped to deal with all this material, lacking any measure to discriminate the valid from the invalid. If he purchased and read The Satanic Bible or carefully read the essays and interviews on the Church of Satan’s official site, he’d begin to see what Satanism is really about. But that would be too much like work. Some of what he sees in this morass—imagery that might prove shocking to others, he likes. He thinks he’s found the passport to a position in the limelight. He compares his own humdrum existence with his perception of Satanism and suddenly wants to be a part of it. So, first off, he changes his name to some less-than-euphonious moniker like, Damien Anton Manson Dragon Azathoth the 23rd. He considers his birth name to be dull, or wants a mask than can easily be discarded should he be called into accountability for his on-line shenanigans.
A brief aside: What is it with these people who feel the need to adopt these “spooky” names? If they really hate the name with which they have been gifted by their parents, why not change it to something more effective as many Hollywood actors and other “showbiz” types have done? Something simple and catchy, easy to remember, but impressive. Names like John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield. Or you might even look to character names from pulp fiction or classic literature to find an appellation more suitable to your personality. However, names that sound like they should be listed on a membership card for a Count Chocula fan club should be avoided like the plague, yet they abound in the ranks of Satanic poseurs. Stop looking through lists of demon names (especially if they are from role-playing or video games). Here’s a challenge: don’t change your name at all. If you’ve looked at history, most of the great names are simply known because the people who had them achieved memorable things. People remember names like Mozart, Einstein, Edison, and Galileo, not because these names had any prior “resonance,” but because of what these individuals created. So, do you have what it takes to stick with your own name and, through your own creativity, make it a name which future generations will use as a synonym with fame or notoriety?
Back to our newbie. He might then start dressing in bizarre outfits, inspired by his favorite musician’s stage show (forgetting the fact that he isn’t a rock star and he isn’t on stage). He might wear black lipstick or nail-polish, or even go so far as to get a piercing or a tattoo (what a rebel!). He’s now received the negative attention of family and friends, but since he wants to be a rebel, he feels this is a good beginning. Now to expand his horizons as there’s a whole world out there, waiting to be annoyed! So, he gets on his parents’ computer and signs up for a free website (an easy process that has predictably lead to the ever-expanding Internet dreck festival). Next, he uses that search engine again to look up Satanism so as to find his own kind, now that he thinks he’s a Satanist. What does he find? A plethora of others like himself! Must mean there’s a “community,” and he’s dying to be a big cheese in it. He’s his own God, isn’t he? He’s just got to show everyone else out there that he’s better than they are. So, he immediately begins to lift graphics from the sites he encounters, as well as any essays he thinks sound scary enough to enhance his reputation—only writings by the most famous names in Satanism will do. The very idea of copyrighted material and creators’ rights never enters his mind, particularly as he feels—by putting these graphics and texts on his site—that he is “helping” to support Satanism. Anybody who’d tell him otherwise must just be an old fuddy-duddy who just wants to rain on his parade—so screw them!
He is now determined to be the “Great Black Hope” of Satanism. He wants to evangelize people concerning his new-found identity (just because he’s unaware of the vast amount of representation that’s been done over the last 46 years by Church of Satan spokespersons must mean it just wasn’t very good—it couldn’t possibly mean he didn’t know how to do research).
Eventually, he runs across the official website of the Church of Satan. He finds it to be a gold mine of material to pilfer (and that he is stealing and thus violating the Satanic concept of “responsibility to the responsible” would never come to focus in what passes for his “thinking”).
Next, he decides that he’ll start a Satanic organization. Since he’s a God, how can he not be a leader? He’d never think of “following” someone with more intelligence and experience. That would make him seem “weak,” to admit that he doesn’t instantly know everything. Naturally he’s got to be the High Priest. Anyone who emails him and compliments his site becomes a member and if they kiss ass particularly well, they receive an instant Priesthood. After he’s been at this for a few weeks (if he’s patient), he finally decides that he’s going to approach the Church of Satan and propose an alliance, as he thinks he’s really become the leading force for keeping Satanism alive in the world. The poor old Church of Satan just better recognize this, lest it be left in his dust. So he sends an email, full of bluster and bravado, claiming he’s got a huge international organization (of which we’ve never heard, naturally), and a website (Satan save us!). He signs this portentous missive with his grand new name, appended to which are numerous titles such as “High Priest of the Universal Elite Legions.” One of our representatives reads this (and a dozen like it which came in that week) and then dutifully checks out the site, discovering (once its interminable download is over, as it is chock-full of crappy animations and soundfiles), that it is also full of stolen Church of Satan material (both copyrighted texts and graphics). Our representative then sends a formal email pointing out these blatant copyright violations and asks “High Priest Azathoth” to remove them, or else we’ll have to approach his service provider. This naturally enrages “HPA,” (How dare the Church of Satan stop him from becoming the world’s greatest Satanic leader?!). So he writes back, his response full of profanity and indignation—after all, his “Satanic Genius” has not been recognized. Our Church of Satan representative must then go through the tedious task of contacting HPA’s Internet service provider, quoting the guidelines for service of which HPA is in violation, and then monitoring the situation until that page has either removed all copyrighted materials, or is simply cancelled by the provider (the usual outcome).
Now, disgruntled Damien, thwarted in his bid to rule the world of Satanism, must start a campaign to re-assert himself in the “Satanic Community,” with the Church of Satan as his target (How dare they protect their material when I know how to use it better?!). He’ll email his cronies and they will try to invade chat rooms or message boards frequented by real Satanists, doing their best to prevent pleasurable discussions from taking place. That the “Ops” and moderators for these forums kick and ban them only serves as a stimulant. They could make their own chat room or message board where they would be free to gather and discuss how rotten the Church of Satan is, but that usually never suffices. They desperately want recognition by real Satanists, and they’ll get it by being annoying, rather than trying to earn respect for any tangible achievements or simply engaging in intelligent discussion.
Of course, our would-be High Priest may eventually find something else to hold his interest. He might actually go out on a date, or find that he does have some kind of skill which he needs to practice (aside from being a royal asshole—the one skill which he’s perfected by now). But he may prolong his tenure in the “Satanic Community” if he stumbles into another kind of online group—a collection of like-small-minded losers, who have washed up on the shoals of the Internet, after their website-vessels have been sunk by the torpedoes of the mean old Church of Satan. Here is the haven wherein he’ll find fellow self-proclaimed “High Priests.” They are usually collected under the direction of a new “Magus” (even more pretentious and pompous then they are, hence he’s top of the shit heap). Here they will huddle together, fueled by their hatred for the fact that they couldn’t conquer the Satanic Universe as embodied in the Church of Satan and united in their envy of those who have earned positions therein. Now they have a peanut gallery to cheer them on, as they spew their illiterate vitriol (of particularly dilute vintage) against the real Satanists whom they might encounter. They will clutter Usenet as well as chat rooms and the message boards on their own shoddy sites with pointless, moronic postings. Lately, since the technology now allows it, posting blatherings recorded on video has become the latest source for simplistic spewage. As always, the posturing poobahs are desperate for attention and can easily find an audience of the even less worthy as they prattle on about their ever more elaborate adulterations of the Satanism Dr. LaVey elucidated with such candor and logic. Of course their credo is the irrelevance of the Church of Satan now that they have arrived on the scene. Yet nothing of value is offered—no new insights or applications of truly Satanic philosophy. They might apologize for those who have washed-out of the Church of Satan (a confederacy of the crapped-out) or smear their own conceptual graffiti on LaVey's bedrock. Ultimately, when the time comes to sort out the pecking order amongst these “High Priests,” then the fur will fly and schisms will abound as they scratch out each other’s eyes fighting over ever-sillier titles. Eventually they usually just leave Satanism behind altogether (if only this would happen with greater speed).
Does any of this sound familiar? Does this example hold up a mirror to YOU? If so, please take a good long look and think about what you are projecting to those real Satanists whom you might encounter.
You may well ask, “So what is it that the eager individual, new to Satanism or even having been interested for some time, might do to help the Satanic movement?” (Not the “Satanic Community.”) The answer is simple. Satanism is about centering the world on yourself, which means knowing yourself as fully as possible. What are your passionate interests (aside from Satanism) and what are your talents? Once you have an answer to this question, then you should set out to achieve something in these arenas. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it is a tall order for many, who must buy a ready-made identity and then bludgeon other people with it in order to be noticed. Lately, too many of them have the mistaken idea that they are Satanists. And they have access to computers, keyboards and video cameras.
The person who has a talent for baking and figures out how to make some damn fine chocolate chip cookies, and then shares this secret with friends (enriching their world with delicious cookies), or makes an empire out of selling these to other people, is someone who is using a Satanic principle to further their lives. If this person becomes a world famous cookie magnate, or just the neighborhood’s most revered baker, and THEN lets people know that his philosophy is Satanism, then THAT is a deed which forwards the movement. Our baker will have demonstrated that a Satanist is a person with the capability to do something exemplary. Dressing up weirdly, making shabby websites, and screaming to the world that you are a “Satanist” only impresses utter fools, and does nothing to help our movement.
Want recognition from other Satanists? Deliver the goods. Don’t make hollow promises, pretentious claims, and overblown pontifications. Just do something and do it well. Are you a musician, artist, mathematician, publisher, athlete, scientist, engineer, designer, scholar, architect, writer or craftsperson? Show us what you’ve got. I guarantee that the real Satanists will take notice.
Founding your own “satanic organization” is a detriment to our movement. First off, why reinvent the wheel? We already have an international organization (the Church of Satan) which is the fountainhead of the movement, and it is one that is exceedingly flexible in accommodating qualified members’ desires to flex their leadership muscles. Just ask us. We have Special Interest Groups creating projects and even members who have founded focused Orders. If you agree with our philosophy, then there is a place for you with us. A proliferation of “organizations” fragments the movement, particularly as these “organizations” offer nothing new. It is like putting a poor imitation of a fine wine in a bottle with a label that is very much like that of the original fine wine. There is no differentiation or enrichment, just half-assed knock-offs. Seen those fake Rolex watches? It is the same principle. People may be very sincere in this imitation, but they should understand that the effect is ultimately negative to our movement.
Additionally, these far-too-numerous website-based “organizations” give our movement the appearance of a gaggle of squabbling children, all stamping their feet and crying for attention. If you want to create your own group whose purpose is some creative endeavor (like a consortium creating art or publishing a magazine or producing music), rather than simply an attempt to be yet another “satanic organization,” then that does have validity. If you want to start an online pen-pal site, then by all means do so (and you can have whatever standards you choose concerning those who may participate), but don’t claim that it is a “satanic organization” and hand out titles. Just be honest about what it really is. Remember “Satanic Sin #2”?
Also, if you really have a take on Satanism which is not congruent with that put forth in Anton LaVey’s writings (which means, it is something different), then you should try to start your own group. See if others might share your vision. Just don’t claim it is the Church of Satan and don’t steal the Church of Satan’s symbols and literature.
If you do agree with Satanism as formulated by Anton LaVey and you have a website, just put up a link to the official Church of Satan site (www.churchofsatan.com). You don’t have to be a member to link to us. Let your own site be a reflection of yourself, an exploration of things that you enjoy and admire, things about which you are so passionate that you are becoming an expert in them (other than Satanism). Then you might discuss how Satanism is a natural outgrowth of your individuality, and how it has helped you in your pursuits. Finally, send your audience on over to our site to get all the basic material. Isn’t that easy?
We have been at this task of representing Satanism to the international media for a long time now. The people currently running our organization have been at it for over a decade, and we were assisting Anton LaVey himself when he was alive. So we continue the practice of screening our representatives with great care. Some might fear that they won’t measure up, or their eagerness makes them impatient to “get out there.” But they need to realize that we are the caretakers of a worldwide movement, and it is our job to make certain that those who are authorized to represent us can do so at every level and with consummate skill and lucidity. If you really think you might have talents in this area, then you should be able to prove that to us, and perhaps we’ll give you a shot at it. Since our religion is a very controversial one, we cannot afford to make mistakes, so we will not allow people to represent us unless we are convinced that they will always present our ideas with great precision.
One of the dangers of Satanic philosophy is that it “puffs-up” people, giving them over-inflated illusions of their own value to others. The current appallingly-democratic notion that everyone’s opinion must be given equal validity is carried over into Satanism when these folks all take the notion that “You are your own God” and then assume that they are everyone else’s God as well. And they forget, once entering into a pantheon of self-proclaimed deities, that all Gods are not of equal stature. Stratification, once again, always comes into play. This principle is another which is frequently ignored or misunderstood by those new to Satanism. It is willfully dismissed by those who have spent time on the fringes of Satanism and can’t bear their own mediocrity.
As far as I can tell, the rest of the world’s religions and philosophies don’t have this problem, and this is generally because they preach submission. When someone reads the Holy Bible, he doesn’t immediately go out, make a website-Vatican emblazoned with the Papal Seal, claim he is a Cardinal or Pope, and ordain his correspondents as Priests, Bishops, and Arch-Bishops. Satanism’s championing of self-empowerment is used against Satanism itself when over-zealous amateurs decide they have a “mission” to represent Satanism. Our answer: “Live Satanism. Leave the representation of it to those who have been carefully trained in that area.” If you really want to be among those people, then take the time to practice and study and show us the results of these efforts. Remember, “Satanism demands study, not worship!” But that study is an in-depth one of the human animal. It includes such topics as philosophy, history, religious beliefs, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the hard sciences. The members of the Priesthood of Mendes, who represent us publicly, understand much in these areas. But there’s more.
They have been ordained to our Priesthood not only because they have this knowledge, but because they have also applied it to honing their talents and using them to make a mark on the world itself, outside of the subject of Satanism. This is a great deal to ask of people, but we require no less for entry into the Priesthood of Mendes. The Priesthoods of other religions require years of study and apprenticeship, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we also have exacting standards. We are a worldwide religious and philosophical movement, and we will not lower our standards to accommodate over-eager neophytes.
Anyone who sets up a website and proclaims himself and his friends “Priests,” or other pompous titles, demonstrates a lack of security and an inability to understand that meaningful titles must be earned from people who have attained concrete achievements. Otherwise, such titles are a pretentious joke, and those who hand them out make organized Satanism seem like a goofy “Satan fan club,” in which practically everybody who joins is a Priest (or a High Priest). This does not help the stature of the movement, for reasons which should be obvious.
So, if you really want to promote Satanism, then the door is wide open. Know yourself, master your abilities, and win the respect of people whose respect is worth gaining (and it is up to you to pick them). They will then become part of your life, and mutual enrichment will follow. We who administer the Church of Satan can then add you to the list, when we proudly point out our amazingly talented and creative members. Then those who look in on Satanism from the outside will be awed at the richness to be found. Clear away this flea circus of “satanic” websites and online “organizations” and promote Satanism by living life to the fullest. Retain the mystery, explore your passions, confound and confuse ’til the stars be numbered. That is the future of our movement. We’re still looking for a few outstanding individuals—care to join us?
Magus Peter H. Gilmore, Copyright © 2000, 2008, and 2011 c.e.
An expanded version of this essay can be found in Magus Gilmore’s book The Satanic Scriptures.