The important thing in a religion or spirituality is, well spirituality. The official criteria are really insignificant compared to the sincere personal reality of the adherent, and their relationship with their religion, faith or practice. I agree with RJ Womack’s assertion that Satanism is essentially a form of Paganism, and I’m going to try to explain why.
Needless to say this is my view and experience of my spirituality, which is developing for me all the time. I have always been most interested in personal religion. It’s that which gave stability and integrity, and the preservation of value. In that sense I am quite religiously conservative, but unconventional. I am a secularist because it both ensures religious freedom (and freedom from any single religion), and protects spirituality from the contamination of politics. But to embark on the subject of this post:
I feel we are most essentially polytheists or spiritists, as Spiritual Satanists. We generally have a profound interest in spirits, gods, demons, otherworldly entities, the supernatural, magick, and making contact with these things.
We generally have a love for Nature, its forces, beauty, majesty and power. I think Satanists also have an appreciation of the capacity to go against Nature, against the apparent natural order, and understand that this is itself a part of Nature. But we love it and try to learn from it.
Satanists generally have a real (though unsentimental) admiration for animals, often seeing them as embodying a wisdom and dignity which we can learn from.
The romance of the “Witches’ Sabbat” and of Witchcraft has been key to the revival of modern Paganism. There is really no question that the imaginal leader of the Sabbat, whatever his possible names and ancestry, was The Devil himself for the people at large.
Similarly the god Pan became a key focus of the Pagan revival in the early 20th century. That Pan’s form was also ascribed to The Devil was I think no coincidence. In The Devil the Old Gods returned, for in The Devil and his world, they had never left.
Aleister Crowley did a great deal to bring occultism into the 20th century and beyond, and he took one of his missions to be assisting the return of Paganism. If you take a look at the “Charge of The Goddess” of Wicca, Crowley’s influence is quite clear. Just compare the language of the “Star Goddess” section with chapter 1 of The Book of The Law. Crowley said he received this text from a being called Aiwaz, and it eventually came to define his life’s work. He identified Aiwaz with Satan and Set, the Devil. So according to the man who shaped it, The Charge of The Goddess is at least partly authored or inspired by The Devil.
I feel it is also quite clear that Thelema had a great influence on Anton LaVey and his philosophy, which certainly did not start out as atheistic or anti-supernatural. So the modern popularisation of Satanism has I feel got genuinely occult roots, which are themselves both Pagan and Satanic, prior to the creation of The Church of Satan.
As with many Pagan spiritualities, we draw on direct experience, Nature, supernatural beings, magick, poetry and art. We are not a “religion of the book”, but part of the perennial search for mystery and meaning, undimmed by monotheism and modernity.
Well here I am, sat in bed with my dog curled up beside me, warm and peaceful, and I have to say it feels pretty idyllic. In a little under a month it will be Walpurgis Night, one of the great Satanic and witchcraft sabbats. In May Uranus will move into the sign of Taurus the bull, which will be a change in the energies. Uranus the magician, the rebel, the “deviant angel”, and Taurus the fecund, the stable, the earthy. Quite a change from the pioneering but volatile fire of Aries. Maybe a welcome change.
It is my hope that sincere Spiritual Satanists will lay down deep roots in this time, flourish quietly and grow in their fellowship and care of each other. We’ve seen a lot of activity and enthusiasm from atheistic Satanists on the internet, and in their activism, and the energy of the last eight years favoured that. Good for them. But the fuel for that is about to become more scarce, and the limitations of materialism will become apparent. Spiritual desire and the quest for the spiritual will prove more long lasting though, and I believe that the energies coming into play will aid that. We are an earthy folk, but much concerned with the unseen and the mysterious, and the unique. We can recognise and provide the Scorpio to compliment the sign that Uranus is about to move into. We love Taurus’ natural sense of pleasure and enjoyment, Uranus loves Scorpio’s piercing depth and mystery.
Taurus is about values, foundations, stability, work, patience, endurance, instinctive well being. Feel it in your belly. Touch it, eat it, hug it, smell it, rest on it, make love together with it. It’s what you really have in a fundamental sense. Uranus is the crackling energy of magick and of the self. It’s not an obvious combination, but then the connections between worlds aren’t obvious. It requires spirituality, and beings from the spirit world to augment our limitations. I believe it always has.
But now I’m rambling on about astrology too much. I just have a sense that in this coming year Spiritual Satanists can do real work, and do so fruitfully.
I’ve been through a lot of trials in the last two years, and what I have found is that Satanism has acted as a religion for me. It provided strength, clarity, comfort, stability, fellowship, and influences that helped me return to firm foundations. This is something that a philosophy or a life style on its own is poorly equipped to do. Life style is a fair weather friend, and philosophy is excellent for the mind, but neither of these things comprehend the circumstance of lived experience for ordinary people. And in those circumstances we are all ordinary people, like any other. But the life of the Spirits is involved in everything, from the most common to the most rare.
Generally we are a diaspora rather than an actual community as Satanists, and Spiritual Satanists are a minority within a minority, though I have no doubt that there are far more people than we generally know of. I personally think we have the greatest natural kinship with Heathenry, Voodoo, and Typhonian Thelema. Compared to inner realities, what you are called is really not the point, though I am a Satanist as it happens, and I feel a pride in that. The conventional world (and this includes the internet, media and politics) broadcasts loudly and dominates the fractious mind, but this is not the life of the Spirits, nor of deep Nature, or our own deep nature. And this is not the life of ordinary people, who have always had to live in this world as it really is.
Don’t worry about the conventional world and its chatter. Live your life for yourself and your loved ones, and happily. Do your real work, simply because it is right for you.
I’m not interested in politics. I’m not interested in materialism. The world of the spirit is primary for me. I’m not an atheist, and am quite underwhelmed by modern atheism. I’m not in the least interested in the so-called “God” of Christians and Muslims. Moralism is a disease. Collectivism a cowardice and failure of nerve. I don’t believe all religions are leading to the same goal, and we’re all going up the mountain by different routes. “Interfaith” is puréed pre-modern politics.
I’ve developed a little collection of inverted crucifixes and crosses, and have taken up making rosaries and necklaces for other Satanists. I really like inverted crucifixes, I find them beautiful, and their aesthetic I find most beautiful upside-down. People will often wonder if someone like me is a “reverse Christian”, and while it doesn’t bother me, the answer is in some ways both yes and no.
In moral form, no, nothing as predictable. But in spiritual essence and direction, yes in a sense. You see I consider monotheism to be a block on spirituality, and in some real senses anti–spiritual. So the spiritual assumptions and goals of Christianity are certainly reversed out in many cases, or side-stepped as a falsity, though the results of this would probably surprise some people.
Nevertheless, Christianity itself being a kind of inverted Paganism (I know that’s a sloppy statement considering the vagueness of the term ” Pagan”, but there is something to it), it does have content of rich form, even if a bit backwards and upside-down. That is maybe why figures such as Babalon and The Beast are so potent. Christianity has led to two things spiritually: atheism, and the delivery of antique goods, pre-Christian entities freed from their stories, made lean and modern by the journey. The Occident Express has more than reached its destination.
So am I opposed to Christianity spiritually? Well of course I am.
I saw him
Half reclining, naked
With curly hair like flax
Barley rustling in the heat
A beard that looked soft
Young and mature all at once
The light of a fresh washed sky behind him
Like a new morning
Wings tawny and russet red
And a lambent cool fire.
Things have really been progressing inwardly, and my sense of place in Satanism has deepened recently.
I have always taken, as a newcomer, a tentative and inclusive view of Satanism from what I have found in books, the internet and internet friends, plus my previous experience as a polytheist and Thelemite.
That’s ok, it’s probably wise at first, but with something as deeply personal and outwardly divided* as Satanism, you have to go further I feel. I could take into account the atheists and place the default for Satanism at “agnostic”, as an enlightened optimal position, but the fact is I am not agnostic with respect to the gods/demons myself, even if in a philosophical sense I count unknowing as a powerful and profound condition when conscious. But there’s no point me focusing on this spanning of contraries. I won’t come to understand Satanism for myself, even in its variations, if I don’t fully embrace and follow my own Satanism. Maybe this seems obvious, but there is a subtle trap in trying to measure the whole, whereby you internalize an implied requirement to not abrogate any of the parts, formally at least. But that won’t help you follow your own calling.
And I have realised that I am following a calling in effect. This thing goes back a long way, and it is most essentially spiritual.
There have been two bloggers that I have been gaining benefit from recently, and although they are both theists and Satanists, they are quite different in other ways.
First there is VK Jehannum, whose blog is an excellent resource in terms of information on demons. He allies himself with the 218 Current and is a magician, demonolator and Satanist. You can get some sense of the 218 Current from the Wikipedia page on the Temple of the Black Light. There are elements of serious interest to me here (the interdimensional and “chaos” elements, though differently interpreted), as well as things I find risible (the lauding of nihilistic criminality). I think most of the good stuff may well be in better shape in Typhonian Thelema, but I can’t say for sure, as the 218 Current is still somewhat obscure for me. VK Jehannum used to be associated with the Order of the Nine Angles, who have always sounded like hard hippies on really bad acid to me, but he parted company with them. It’s been stimulating to read his blog and listen to his videos.
The other blogger that I have been paying attention to is RJ Womack, aka Brother Nero, and I really do get a sense of fellow feeling with Mr Womack.
I recently read his Satanism: A Beginner’s Guide to the Religious Worship of Satan and Demons Volume I, which I did enjoy and gain from, while not matching entirely in approach, or feeling assent on all his points. Nevertheless, he was giving me more of an answer than most people had, or more of the right questions. He also has a really interesting series of podcasts called Dark Illumination Report. I really found that he had warmth, common sense, maturity, a good range of occult knowledge, and just life experience. He is religious about his Satanism, and while not being closed off against atheists (he believes in Satanists basically standing by what each other are doing, if it is furthering Satanism one way or another) he is proud of being a theist and “serving Satan” in a religious sense. So I say good for him!
I’ve come to realise that if I do take Satanism seriously as a spirituality, then it is absurd to treat it as something that was founded in 1966. I think what Anton LaVey did was very important, and it was the beginning of the Church of Satan, but not the beginning of Satanism, obviously. For whatever it’s proclaimed atheism, it left a space in its “intellectual decompression” for something deeper to flow through in potential, and its moral philosophy was essentially sound in its Satanic quality, and I still consider LaVey to have transmitted what was in many ways a boiled down version of Thelema. I think LaVey furthered a spiritual current.
Thelema itself is I believe a form of Satanism in principle (or at least significantly Satanic), though that is greatly down played nowadays, and contested. Crowley himself considered Hadit (to which the second chapter of The Book of The Law is dedicated) to be a form of Set/Satan, while he was also known to identify Satan with Aiwaz, the being who dictated The Book of The Law to him in Cairo in 1904. Crowley is I think the key figure in bringing Satanism forward, a role for which I think he both paid and enjoyed, but to which he was in no small way dedicated. I agree with RJ Womack in considering Satanism a form of Paganism, and Crowley considered one of his life’s missions to be bringing about the return of Paganism. In a lot of ways, I see Pagan Reconstructionists and Satanists as bringing about the same thing – the return of the gods. Reconstructionists attempt to divest themselves of monotheism and Christianity and piece together an old practice, while Satanists take a direct route psychically and spiritually, which is more focused on the individual. We don’t care if any of it looks Christian, because we know that Satan is not. We raid our culture from the long line of heresy, occultism, folk lore, witchcraft and the imagination. Because our gods and demons are real, we can do it. Not the other way round.
Looking back beyond the 20th century, we have to find our sources and exponents where we can, but I have no doubt they are there. And in the present, we have many atheistic Satanists, but it doesn’t matter that they are atheists. What they do in the name of the free and beautiful god, in the name of demons, in the name of Satan, if it is done in the spirit, in the moment, then the song takes voice.
Above all, this is a spirituality. A banquet by invitation of the soul.
* most notably into theists and atheists, of which the atheists get the most coverage, but also into the religious and non-religious.
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.