Satanism is a religious or philosophical belief system that venerates Satan as a liberator from falsehoods and hypocrisy. It represents a rejection of Abrahamic religions like Christianity that see God and Satan as polar opposites, promoting the view that Satan represents rebellion, individualism, knowledge and enlightenment. There are different forms of Satanism with varying beliefs and practices, but some common themes include individualism, skepticism, rejection of mainstream religion, and an emphasis on carnality and hedonism.
Origins and History
The origins of Satanic thought can be traced back centuries, but it was not until the 20th century that organized Satanic groups and churches started to form. Some key developments include:
– The Romantic literary movement of the 19th century portrayed Satan sympathetically as a rebel against tyranny and a symbol of personal freedom and passion. Writers such as William Blake and Lord Byron characterized Satan in this manner.
– Occultist Eliphas Levi wrote about ritual magic in the mid-19th century, presenting the idea of Baphomet as a dark, powerful occult figure. This influenced later Satanic imagery and ideas.
– Aleister Crowley, early 20th century occultist and founder of Thelema, was highly influential on Satanism. He rejected traditional morality and emphasized finding one’s True Will.
– Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966. This was the first organized Satanic church and is widely considered the genesis of modern religious Satanism. LaVey published The Satanic Bible outlining LaVeyan Satanism.
– The Satanic Temple formed in 2012 as a non-theistic religious and activist group, using Satanic imagery to promote social justice causes. They are active in political lobbying and legal challenges.
Over the decades, additional Satanic organizations have formed with their own particular slants on Satanic philosophy and practice. Satanism remains a small but vibrant part of the religious landscape.
Beliefs and Practices
There is a diversity of beliefs within Satanism, but some commonalities include:
Rejection of Mainstream Religion
– Satanists reject Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other major religions. They view the figure of Satan as noble rather than evil.
– They criticize mainstream religion as restrictive, manipulative and hypocritical. Satanism promotes individuation and anti-conformity.
Emphasis on Individualism
– Satanism champions the sovereignty of the individual will and self-determination. The needs of the individual take precedence over societal expectations.
– It promotes individual exploration of the forbidden, the carnal and the taboo without guilt or shame. This may include sexuality, violence and the occult.
Pursuit of Knowledge
– Satanism embraces the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and truth however unsettling. Dogmatic and irrational beliefs are rejected.
– Knowledge comes from subjective experiences and personal pathfinding rather than received wisdom or authority. This relates to the Satanic concept of illumination.
– Some forms of Satanism incorporate social Darwinist elements, i.e. the strong survive and the weak/unfit perish. They believe this filters out weakness in personal, social and species development.
– Compassion, humility and altruism are considered impediments to natural selection and human evolution in this worldview.
Magick and Occultism
– Many Satanists practice magick and occult rites. These serve to focus the will, manifest desires, and commune with darker forces.
– Such phenomena may be considered aspects of mystical reality, psychological archetypes, or metaphors rather than supernatural forces.
– Rituals, symbolism and personal exploration of the shadow self play important roles in Satanic practice. Forbidden knowledge is embraced.
– Symbols like the pentagram, inverted cross, Baphomet, number 666, the goat and horned devil visualize core Satanic concepts.
– Black clothing and rituals, candles, skulls and other macabre decorations are used to create a dark, transgressive psychological impact.
– Such iconography communicates rebellion against religious norms and celebration of heretical ideals.
Theistic vs Non-Theistic Satanism
There is an important distinction between theistic Satanism, where Satan is revered as an actual deity, and non-theistic Satanism viewed as a philosophy/lifestyle.
– Believes that Satan is a personal godhead and supernatural entity. Satan may be venerated directly or considered one god among many within a dark pantheon.
– Followers seek to please Satan through prayer, ritual and sacrifice. Their practice resembles devil worship.
– The rituals and magic have a spiritual purpose of pleasing or becoming possessed by the devil.
– Does not believe in any gods or supernatural beings, including Satan. Satan is revered symbolically rather than as a literal figure.
– Satan represents human traits like knowledge, liberty and natural human instincts viewed as “sinful” by other faiths.
– Rituals, magick and occult practices serve as psychodrama and self-development tools rather than supernaturalism.
– More common in contemporary Satanism. Based on rational self-interest and egoism rather than spiritual worship.
The contrasts between theistic and atheistic Satanism represent a key ideological division in Satanic philosophies. But Satanists of both types reject religious morality and emphasize dark spirituality.
Notable Satanic Organizations
There are a variety of Satanic churches and groups promoting different interpretations of Satanism:
Church of Satan
– Founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey as the first public Satanic organization. Follows LaVeyan Satanism rooted in individualism, egoism and Social Darwinism.
– Uses Satanic imagery psychodramatically to empower members and undermine repressive institutions. Does not believe Satan literally exists.
– Membership reportedly numbers in the thousands, mostly individuals who practice LaVey’s teachings. Known for its radical philosophy and Satanic aesthetics.
The Satanic Temple
– Formed in 2012 and politically active. Uses Satanic iconography for activist campaigns on issues like religious freedom and social justice.
– Rejects supernaturalism and advocates for secularism and rationalism. Sees Satan as a metaphorical icon against tyranny. Tens of thousands of members.
– Gained prominence for highly visible public campaigns that leverage Satanic imagery to highlight religious hypocrisy.
Order of Nine Angels
– A decentralised Satanic/Left-Hand Path occult order established in the 1960s. Promotes sinister spirituality and self-development through ritual and challenging practices.
– Has a dedicated following of a few thousand individuals. Emphasizes extreme individualism verging on Social Darwinist amorality. Regarded as very extreme and dangerous by some.
Joy of Satan
– Formed in the 1990s. Promotes a spiritual Satanism with beliefs about Satan as an eternal god of nature. Incorporates elements of neo-Nazism into its theology.
– Uses rituals and magick to channel energies from Satan and the gods of Hell. Very anti-Christian and antisemitic in its ideology and teachings.
– A occult philosophy and spirituality focused on Lucifer, the Fallen Angel. Lucifer represents enlightenment, knowledge and human progression in this belief system.
– Associated with Left-Hand Path groups that revere dark and taboo spirituality. Sometimes overlaps with or identifies as a form of Satanism.
Major Figures and Influences
In addition to influential organizations, various notable figures have shaped the development of Satanic thought and practice:
– Founder of the Church of Satan in 1966 and author of The Satanic Bible. LaVey brought Satanism into the public eye and laid out its humanistic, individualistic and anti-Christian ethos.
– Early 20th century British occultist who emphasized finding one’s True Will and rejecting traditional morality. His study of dark esoteric forces helped lay foundations for Satanism.
– Occultist and founder of Theosophy in the late 19th century. Promoted the idea of mystical knowledge and psychic power which later fed into Satanic practices.
– German philosopher whose writings on power, morality and the Übermensch were a major influence on LaVey and modern Satanic thinking. Championed individualism and rejected herd morality.
– Contemporary author who writes extensively on Satanism from a non-theistic perspective. Advocates self-development and rejects superhuman entities.
Michael W. Ford
– Significant author of books on Satanism, Luciferianism and the Left-Hand Path traditions from the late 90s onwards. His writings have shaped modern dark esoteric practices.
– Current High Priest of the Church of Satan who succeeded LaVey. Has continued leading and representing LaVey’s original church since the 90s while updating policies.
These key figures represent different strands of Satanic philosophy and practice that have evolved over the centuries. They exemplify the diversity of thought within modern Satanism.
Contrasts with Christianity
Satanism differs from Christianity in fundamental ways despite sharing a common history:
God vs Satan
– Christians worship God/Yahweh as creator and absolute moral authority. Satanists view God as a tyrannical figure imposing arbitrary rules.
– Satan is seen as the liberator and enlightener who encourages humankind to seek forbidden knowledge and master their destinies.
Sin vs Freedom
– Christianity labels activities like sexuality, blasphemy, occultism as sinful and transgressive. Satanism rejects sin as a form of spiritual and mental enslavement.
– Nothing is considered intrinsically wrong or immoral if it empowers the individual. Satanism embraces the carnal, taboo and antinomian.
Altruism vs Egoism
– Christianity endorses compassion, charity and turning the other cheek. Satanism focuses on self-love and the advancement of the individual self rather than selflessness.
– Only by fulfilling one’s personal potential can one achieve excellence. No obligation exists to help the weak or disadvantaged.
Obedience vs Rebellion
– Christianity encourages submission to God’s command and the traditions of the church. Satanism urges defiance, dissent and thinking for oneself using critical reason.
– Satan is the rebel against tyranny. The ideologies stand on opposite sides between conformity and individual autonomy.
Critics accuse Satanism of being dangerous or criminal, but these are common misconceptions:
– Satanism does not actually involve worship of a spiritual entity named Satan. This is a symbol for individualism and rebellion, not an object of supplication.
– Most Satanists do not participate in illegal acts or support violence. Radical fringe groups like Order of Nine Angels represent an extremist minority.
– Satanism does not require harming/sacrificing animals or humans. Only a tiny fringe engages in actual criminal acts. Most are non-violent.
– Satanism differs from the biblical concept of the Antichrist. The Antichrist opposes Christ while Satanists simply focus on their own beliefs rather than campaigning directly against Christianity.
– Demon possession is not a part of Satanic practice, as most do not believe in supernatural entities that could possess people. Performing exorcisms or driving out demons is not something Satanists engage in.
– Satanism and atheism are not the same, as Satanism retains a spiritual component. Not all members literally believe in Satan, but rejecting supernaturalism altogether would be inconsistent with Satanic philosophy.
Overall, the vast majority of Satanists are law-abiding citizens with reasonable ethics who simply find meaning and substance in this alternative spiritual worldview. Their unconventional beliefs are no reason to dismiss or demonize them.