Many of my generation shared that first discovery of the vividly odd moniker—sounding like it could belong to a Viking cartoon character—in the dedication section that for many years graced the opening pages of Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible: “To Ragnar Redbeard, whose might is right.” This was included amongst a roster of names, some familiar and others intriguingly obscure—the trail markers leading to further explorations for those of us who resonated with Anton LaVey’s diabolically self-deifying ideas. That book, so simple and elegant in graphic presentation, expressed in both earthy and also at times wildly bombastic tones, an opposition to commonplace Christianity that immediately piqued my interest. As a young atheist I had earlier realized that gods were fictions—a perspective gained through my passion for ancient art and architecture, which lead me to view the reigning deities of both past and present civilizations as socially effective falsehoods for controlling the masses. I had never accepted the Roman Catholicism which, in my childhood, had been touted to me as “The Truth.” My understanding of similar older gods and their religions come and gone, had served as my inoculation against faith. I was thus ready for an alternative, and the very opening of the “Book of Satan,” with its miming of texts found in the Christian scriptures cast with mightily blasphemous dynamism, served as a litmus test I was delighted to take. Did these powerful words thrill, send a chill up your spine with their candor and fiery imagery? Or did they become the one step beyond which one wouldn’t tread, for fear of what other deicidal verbiage might be on hand to shatter the current dominion of the meek creed of the Nazarene?
Like most reading here, I was one of those joyfully inspired. I’d had enough of what was widely sold as “good,” so “evil” beckoned and I swiftly pursued its temptations. And of course I wanted to know from whence LaVey’s ideas might have found fuel. Before the Internet became the ubiquitous source for gathering data, we intrepid researchers made the pilgrimage to local libraries and uncovered via indices what might be stored amongst the stacks in tomes both hoary and forbidden, forgotten lore known only to those courageous enough to take on that laborious but rewarding quest—the search for knowledge. Yet that Redbeard volume remained elusive, and so my other regular haunts for acquiring knowledge came into play—those treasure troves of old and new publications called book stores.
Being interested in free thought and Libertarianism, I often visited Manhattan’s Laissez Faire Books—chock-full of works by iconoclastic thinkers including Bakunin, Rothbard, Tuccile and Stirner‚ where finally I came upon the Loompanics edition of Might is Right. I purchased, then eagerly devoured this book, noting with surprise how LaVey had used some of the best texts within to craft his powerhouse opening section of The Satanic Bible and to enhance several following essays in “The Book of Lucifer.” However, as scholars note is a typical practice in the crafting of scriptural texts, I observed that LaVey had altered Redbeard’s lines, for his goal was to promote a philosophy of radical individualism and Nietzschean personal power. While this is clearly a primary impulse in Redbeard’s original, his work is flawed as it also expounds the contradictory aspects of racism, sexism and antisemitism. Those elements were rejected by LaVey, being incongruent with his newly distilled philosophy called Satanism.
Years later, after joining the Church of Satan and becoming an associate of Doktor LaVey, I learned how he had created The Satanic Bible, basing it upon the introductory series of essays regarding Satanism and instructions for effective psychodramatic rituals that early Church of Satan members received upon affiliating. Even with his expansion of those pieces and additional essays explaining the philosophy, that made for a slim book. It didn’t yet have the sense of being like the Christian scriptures in making dramatic, stentorian pronouncements. To beef up this first book, LaVey appropriated the Enochian Keys, then exclusively available to sects of ceremonial magicians, and he “Satanized” them—positing that they were likely reined in from being too obviously diabolical when they were originally written by John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. But that was not enough. Though he had turned Dee’s sepia-tinted angelic visions into lurid Hell-scapes, he needed something more, words which would enflame his reader’s righteous anger against the creed of servility and self-abnegation. He wanted his revulsion for those who torture and maim while claiming to love their victims to be as a nuclear detonation of rage.
And so he turned to the inflammatory phrases of Redbeard which had so excited him in his youth. As he’d long been an aficionado of MIR, which, like Dee’s invocations, was also extremely obscure in the mid 60s, so in homage he extracted passages wherein Redbeard parodied Christian scripture as they were perfect for the explosive curtain-raiser section, “The Book of Satan.” They provided the sought-after sense of this book being a contrarian “black gospel”—particularly once the words were edited to be consistent with LaVey’s individualist vision. During an evening’s discussion at the Black House in San Francisco, LaVey handed me the copy of Redbeard’s book which he had purchased in 1957 at MacDonald’s Bookstore on McAllister Street in that city by the bay. It was published by W.J. Robbins & Co., Ltd. in London and bore a 1910 copyright date. I was honored that he invited me to examine his original MIR, from which he received so much inspiration. He explained to me what this book had meant to him and why he employed it. LaVey detailed his approach to employing these excerpts in an essay written in 1996 that was included in a couple of subsequently-published MIR editions:
A fractional content of Might is Right was edited for inclusion, because the book is so filled with glaring contradictions that it is at best a rant. It was that very rant format, however, that had fired me up, and in many ways, spoke for me. …I intended The Satanic Bible itself to be an “instructional rant,” albeit a necessary and largely rational one. …I decided to immortalize a writer who had profoundly reached me. —ASL
At that time, the authorship of Might is Right was not clear. LaVey himself thought Jack London may have written it under that vivid pseudonym, since much therein resonated with the zeitgeist projected by his stories, particularly embodied by his character of Wolf Larsen from THE SEA WOLF—one of LaVey’s favorites. In the above mentioned essay, LaVey explains how he’d come to examine Jack London manuscripts in 1964 which contained chapters from MIR copied out in his own handwriting. But LaVey also notes therein that if London was just a fellow admirer of that text, then that was fine with him. I do not know if anyone has subsequently examined the archived London papers to corroborate Doktor’s findings. In LaVey’s own words:
My sources were Sibley Morrill and Virginia Harner…members of the “Magic Circle”—The Order of the Trapezoid, which was to become the Church of Satan. Some of Jack London’s unreleased writings were stored at the prestigious Bancroft Library, where Mrs. Harner worked as a long-time custodian and researcher. She was, at that time, a close friend of Sibley Morrill, a researcher and writer on esoterica without equal. …Mrs. Harner and Mr. Morrill arranged to let me see the “forbidden” London material.
Among stacks of manuscripts, appeared entire sections of Might is Right in London’s own hand. Elated as I was, I was not surprised, knowing what I did of Jack London. If London didn’t author what I saw, he liked it so much he made his own copy. —ASL
Now for us, the mystery has been solved and we know from a preponderance of evidence that British-born Arthur Desmond, an atheist anarchistic Social Darwinist, poet, publisher and politician, was the man behind the mask. Several editions of his book appeared during his lifetime and he made alterations in the text for them. Trevor Blake took on the scholarly task of examining all of these editions, line by line, and documenting the variations. You hold in your hands the authoritative version of this controversial text which has served to inspire many who oppose the degrading collectivism of Christianity. As the values of the followers of the myth of Jesus have permeated our culture for over two millennia, it has always taken bravery to oppose what is widely accepted by the majority as being the “true and divinely ordained” perspective. Following Nietzsche and other adversarial thinkers with whom he was well-versed, Desmond here spat in the eye of the mythical Jehovah, cheekily plucking him by the beard, and we can still enjoy that act of rebellion. Since such divergent literature is not abundant, we pragmatic readers examine the totality of the concepts in MIR, and even though it contains wildly incongruent aspects, we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. LaVey focused the excerpts he took from Desmond’s work to project its quintessence: the rejection of forced egalitarianism via submission and instead championing a prideful self-determinism. That is not a distortion of Redbeard’s essential message, but it does reject elements of the work which contradict that premise by accepting collectivist thinking. LaVey did not intend for people who might examine the full text of MIR to do so uncritically, for certainly he didn’t, as we witness from his own words.
You are thus invited to take the journey yourself, to view with your own individualist sensibilities how Desmond cast a vision of a society which embraced the nature of the beast-called-man. Much of it is just as potent today as when it was penned—for submission to herd values through repression of independence and freedom of thought is now regularly practiced by the entire gamut of our society, from the left to the right wings. The current proliferation of self-appointed “thought police” using social media as their tribunal would have assuredly warmed the cockles of the hearts of now deceased Gestapo and NKVD agents, whose past strident demands for doctrinal purity are again de rigueur. Their cowardice for being unable to entertain, discuss or debate opposing concepts is contemptible. Too many today can’t bear being exposed to ideas which they don’t endorse, which might make them “feel bad.” They consider being offended as a mortal wound to their fragile perceptions and so they aggressively attempt to snuff out or silence anything with which they don’t agree—with social shaming and violence included in their methodology. But combatting these ideological thugs who would control what you are allowed to think by limiting what you are permitted to read requires that one be of sterner mettle.
I have confidence that those who peruse these pages will be doing so of their own free will, and will approach with open minds to challenge and be challenged by the words crafted by Desmond’s incendiary intellect. Some will ignite your emotions as you share his outrage at the stultifying blanket that has still too long been smothering those who would prefer to guide their own destinies with pride and boldness. Others will bring consternation and questions as to why the ideas in this work are not fully consistent. Desmond at times castigates the society in which he lived by scapegoating racial and ethnic groups, and his views on female empowerment are deeply retrogressive, which I find taints his primary motivation to offer an antidote to what Nietzsche aptly identified as a slave morality. We Satanists have discovered that those born to be their own masters can come from any sex and background—they supersede their ancestors by refusing to be part of any sort of collective identity and stand as sovereign consciousnesses challenging the world.
As did LaVey before us, we can take the best of what we find in this volume and let Desmond’s electrifying words—those blaspheming the mythical shepherd messiah and the abject morality ascribed to him—energize our resistance to all who would demand that we grovel on our knees in the mud. Galvanized, we rise, unrestrained, soaring with elan towards our goals, on paths we blaze by our own hands—ever forward!
—Magus Peter H. Gilmore
Might is Right: The Authoritative Edition
by Ragnar Redbeard (Arthur Desmond)
Introduction by Magus Peter H. Gilmore
Paperback, 6x9", 406 pages. isbn: 9781943687251
Might is Right: The Authoritative Edition is a critical and beautiful edition of this fascinating, influential and banned book from the mysterious New Zealand born author who settled in Chicago beginning in the late 1890s. The variant text of five original editions harmonized into one, with thousands of previously undocumented footnotes and citations, and featuring an exhaustive index.
Might is Right is a book of action and not belief. It is poetry, not a platform. Since the first edition in 1896, Might is Right has inspired those across a dynamic political and philosophical spectrum. Th
e consistent core of the work is this: the individual is against everything but the self, and any means of proliferation of the self is the only good. Might is the power of the individual, and that is the only foundation of Right.
*All editions of Might is Right have been banned and erased from every website owned by the largest bookseller in the world, so you won't find it there.
Peter H. Gilmore
High Priest of the Church of Satan
We Are Legion
A Moment In Time
CHURCH OF SATAN!
There are many ways you can support the Church of Satan. Visit our support page to learn how.