Three Devil-worshippers walk into a desecrated church ― stop me if you’ve heard this one. They light candles, burn incense, and, much to their surprise, they successfully summon Satan! When they bow down to worship His Infernal Majesty, He says, “Haven’t I taught you anything?!”.
Satanism is not Devil-worship. No matter how often we restate this, misunderstandings persist.
But that’s no surprise.
Anton Szandor LaVey codified this religious philosophy under a name that, while accurate, had hitherto been used almost exclusively as a religio-political slur against assorted heretics, freethinkers, and pagans.
This nomenclature has parallels to the term “Impressionism,” which was first used as an insult against a pioneering approach to painting in the late 19th century. Since it was basically accurate, this pejorative was adopted as the most suitable name for a movement that eventually became “respectable.”
But Satanism is far more controversial than the pastel Luciferianism of the Impressionists, and the history of slander against it spans millennia.
And yet, with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, Satanism transubstantiated from a scandalous accusation into an unconventional means of self-realization.
In The Satanic Bible, LaVey rhetorically asks whether Devil-worshippers are “practicing Satanism in its truest sense.” He points out that previous definitions of Satanism were merely Christian propaganda, whereas he is expressing “Satanic thought from a truly Satanic point of view.”
Unlike its theoretical caricature, genuine Satanism evolved from atheism. After all, the mythological Satan doesn’t worship any gods above Himself. Neither do we. Every Satanist is his or her own god. You can’t get more Satanic than that!
LaVey’s unprecedented formulation organically integrates the full spectrum of the Satanic, from traditional ritual trappings to literary predecessors to previously unidentified strains of cultural resonance.
With LaVey came the first definition of Satanism that is truly Satanic, through and through. It is a comprehensively sound work of conceptual architecture. Each and every element is integral to all the others. Even so, the resulting structure allows for infinitely varied elaboration in accordance with the idiosyncratic passions of each individual Satanist.
Satanism is not a faith, but an augmentation.
Satanism applies the principles that define the very nature of Devils: the rejection of external gods, the embrace of carnality, and a stance of honest individualism.
Again: Satanists do not worship Satan. Rather, we emulate that mythological figure’s most productive qualities, rejecting the rest as anti-carnal propaganda.
This very act of defining Satanism, and correcting its misrepresentation, is a Satanic act unto itself. Ours is the most accurate definition, and quite naturally resisted by many who subscribe to an un-Satanic worldview. They simply cannot grasp what comes so naturally to us. And we cannot afford to forget that, lest we commit the sin of solipsism.
We insist upon this differentiation between Satanism and Devil-worship, pushing back against endless misunderstandings, because these efforts sustain the religious philosophy that enriches our lives beyond measure. On a personal level, I would like to give others a chance to experience the unexpected exhilaration of self-discovery that I enjoyed at age thirteen.
As Magister Nemo writes in “Satanism Needs an Enema!”: “The Satanic movement is ideas. The wrong ideas can kill what is truly Satanic in our efforts and leave us just another mindless cult.” If an already Satanic individual comes across too much misinformation before rejecting Satanism altogether, we will have lost the full emergence of a remarkably inspiring peer.
So, if we reject the supernatural definition of Satanism, why do we use the name? LaVey admits in The Satanic Bible that “they” named our religion. But, being anti-Satanic, most religionists interpret Satanism through the lens of their own mythological prejudices. Yet the hegemony of spiritual religions has, through the course of human history, solidly established the groundwork of what is considered Satanic. This provides a context for us that could be alienating, but which we adapt toward our own stimulation. The only problem is that they have also projected their own faith-clouded ideas into their conceptions of Satanism, thus accusing us of their own compulsive fantasies.
And so it is up to us, as Satanists, to continue asserting the definition of Satanism ― from a truly Satanic point of view.
This essay was originally released on Warlock M. Mandrake's blog Between the Horns.