My friend and fellow Satanist Sean at The Daily Satanist recently did a post about his experience and views on the different types of Satanism he has met. Beyond the distinction between atheistic and theistic, there are quite a few other divergences, especially among theists.
One of the distinctions is in the relationship to Satan. For some he is a paternalistic father figure. For some he is a Master to be pleased. For some he is the real Creator God. For others he is an archetype, and others still a being, a god in the polytheistic sense; either a god among gods, or the head of an effective pantheon of demons.
I myself fall into the polytheistic camp, but what of the other approaches? I think Satan as archetype is well dealt with just about everywhere, as it is compatible with the most well publicised, atheistic forms of Satanism.
Satan as Creator God has me a little bemused, because I just don’t deal with creator gods as such, not in the cosmic sense. Gods are beings, like us, but very different to us in important ways (wisdom, knowledge, power, longevity etc), and I really wouldn’t want a replacement Jehovah or Allah, even without the laws and dogma. That would end up as a Deism for me, which is fine, but not much to communicate with there.
Satan as Master to be pleased is way off for me personally, as one of the big distinctions between monotheism and polytheism for me is that monotheistic “Gods” seem to want your will and obedience (in return for?), while polytheistic deities want things like your love, energy, state of consciousness, offerings, orgasms, whatever, but it is a relationship and it goes both ways. Your life remains your own, though they can have a wild sense of humour, and an uncomfortably intense sense of the “shortest route” at times. But you are not their slave, unless you get off on that and they like your energy when you’re submissive, in which case, you got yourself a deal (and hint, you can ask for things).
Now Satan as paternalistic, protective daddy I find a charming idea, but it’s just down to what you really need for your growth, what fulfils you, and what doesn’t hold you back. If you need a daddy, you probably will get one at some point, but your self-actualisation needs will determine the nature of your relationship (from your end) I reckon. You’d be surprised what kind of entities actually are tender and nurturing (in their own way) to the right person, and it’s a completely individual thing. But this isn’t “Satan is our Father” in an almost Christian sense. It’s more like the unlikely adoptive father to the unlikely kid (while that need and opportunity is there), because it fits, though in any relationship with deities there will be more to it than you are aware of at first. And it may well be more a question of “ok, and who’s yer daddy!” when they want a bit more of you than you were aware you wanted yourself*. I don’t believe it’s remiss to talk of divine (or infernal) empathy here. There are special bonds between deities, spirits and humans, and they occur for reasons. Such a bond is a real blessing.
Because Spiritual Satanism has the characteristics of a personal religion, without being a religion as such (it is a spirituality with a personal religious practice), I wonder about Satanism as a religion. Something that shelters people, helps them to grow in the ordinary sense, deal with life and their weaknesses, and be, after a fashion “better people”. As a Left Hand Path practice, Satanism cannot be this (and I think we need to be clear on that), but that is not to say that Satanism cannot have a Left Hand Path core, and a practically nurturing and protective exoteric form, though I can see this could be tricky, and more like Heathenry or Voodoo than a mainstream faith. It is like the question of bringing up children in Satanism. I am adamant that a child cannot be a Satanist – it goes against everything that lies at the heart of Satanism for me, which is maturity, freedom, responsibility and self-actualisation. But Satanists have a culture, and Satanists have children, so what is the form of healthy child rearing for a Satanist parent? Is it humanist? Something similar to what Pagan parents do? These are interesting questions for me.
Satan can be all things to all people, but what he isn’t is one thing to everyone. Behind it all is a figure who is challenging, uplifting, ardent, clear, subtle and surprising, as much as the quiet, resonant, inner voice of the self is. Yet he is an other, like an ancient breeze, carrying a fragrance we haven’t quite forgotten.
* and lest it be unclear, I don’t mean “do this thing I am commanding you to do” out of the blue stuff. No “the Devil told me to do it” shit. You are your own person, and you take responsibility for everything, including your own compulsions.