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Satanism And Me

Subject: Satanism And Me

   by Diane Vera
   Copyright (c) 1996 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
   Here's my response to questions people may have about my beliefs.
   This essay is far from complete, but it is the most comprehensive
   summary of my beliefs that I've been able to write so far. My
   beliefs are still evolving, and they are based partly on
   experiences that are very difficult to put into words. If you
   have further questions after reading this article, feel free to
What Is Satanism?

   Before discussing my own particular form of Satanism, I'll talk a
   little bit about Satanism in general. It's probably necessary to
   start with some disclaimers:
   1) Most Satanists do not think of themselves as worshipping
   "Evil." "Satan" is usually associated with various traits (pride,
   sensuality, thinking for oneself, etc.) which Christianity has
   traditionally considered "Evil", but which a non-Christian
   wouldn't necessarily consider evil, as aptly satirized by the
   Church Lady. The vast majority of Satanists do NOT believe in
   Christian-style "Good-vs.-Evil" dualism. To the extent that
   Satanists do describe themselves as "evil", they usually do so in
   an ironic sense.
   2) Most rumors of "Satanic crime" are unfounded. Although there
   are a handful of nutcases who commit crimes in the name of Satan,
   such people are no more characteristic of Satanists in general
   than the Inquisition is characteristic of Christians in general.
   (Well, I mean modern Christians; there have been times when the
   Inquisition was characteristic of Christians in general, but be
   that as it may ....) Most Satanists are not into sacrificing
   babies, sexually abusing children, or other horrific activities
   described in sensationalistic media and fundamentalist
   propaganda. Most forms of Satanism emphasize the individual's
   self-interest, and most Satanists deem it not to be in their
   interests to commit crimes, especially crimes that serve no
   rational purpose.
   For documentation regarding "Satanic crime" scares, see the
   following books: (a) Satan Wants You by Arthur Lyons (Mysterious
   Press, 1988). (b) In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult
   by Robert D. Hicks (Prometheus Books, 1991). (c) The Satanism
   Scare edited by James T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David Bromley
   (Aldine de Gruyter, 1991). (d) Out of Darkness edited by Sakheim
   and Devine (Lexington Books/ MacMillan, 1992). (e) Satanic Panic
   by Jeffrey S. Victor (Open Court Press, 1993).
   3) Most modern Satanists neither perform nor approve of animal
   I'm aware of at least one "traditional" group back in the 1960's
   that sacrificed goats and ate the meat the next day. Animal
   sacrifice (of farm animals, not pets) is a natural part of almost
   any rural-based religion which originates among people who kill
   their own animals for food (as is the case with Voudoun and
   Santeria, not to mention ancient Judaism); it is thus a natural
   part of some older, more rural forms of Satanism. In this
   context, I see little basis for objecting to animal sacrifice
   unless one objects to all killing of animals, even for food. My
   personal view of animal sacrifice is that it's natural for
   someone who has been initiated into a rural-based traditional
   religion of this sort; but I would question the motives of anyone
   else who did it, since, for us city-dwellers, killing animals is
   not a normal part of our lives; it is something we would have to
   go out of our way to do.
   Killing animals is not a natural part of the more modern forms of
   Satanism which originated among city-dwellers. Doubtless there
   are some sicko disturbed teenagers who kill cats or other animals
   just for kicks and call it Satanism; but, in general, most
   serious occultists who identify as Satanists do not kill animals.
   There are some definite reasons why killing animals would be
   contrary to the essence of most modern forms of Satanism; some of
   these reasons are spelled out in Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible .
   4) Satanism is not one single religion. There are about as many
   different kinds of Satanism as there are Satanists. (And some of
   these do not regard their Satanism as a "religion" at all.)
   5) Hardly any of these many forms of Satanism are just simple-
   minded mirror-images of Christianity. In none of the Satanic
   periodicals I've seen do the writers believe in Christian
   theology, except that they happen to side with the other guy.
   Nearly all Satanist writers and publicly-known groups have a
   non-Christian interpretation of who/what "Satan" is. Most
   Satanists do not believe in the Christian "God."
   The many different interpretations of "Satan" include, among
   others: (1) "Satan" is an impersonal "Dark Force in Nature." (2)
   "Satan" is not a real entity at all but merely a symbol of human
   individuality, a symbol with psychological value to some people.
   (3) "Satan" is a real entity and is the Christian-era
   manifestation of some ancient deity, usually either Set or Pan.
   (4) "Satan"/"Lucifer" is the bringer of wisdom in a form of
   Gnosticism with the Christian "God" cast as the Demiurge. This
   idea is based on a form of Gnosticism that actually existed in
   the early centuries C.E., which venerated the serpent of the
   Garden of Eden myth. (5) Satan is not an actual discarnate,
   sentient being, but is more than just a symbol. Satan is, at the
   very least, today's most powerful magic(k)al egregore, since we
   happen to live in a Christian society which has fed that
   particular energy current for centuries. "Satan" is present-day
   society's number-one magic(k)al Name of Power, so we might as
   well make use of it. (6) Satan is one of many gods, all of whom
   are in some sense real. There is no one all-powerful "God" like
   the Christian idea of "God". There are many gods who are
   powerful, but not all-powerful.
   LaVey Satanism, the best-known form of modern Satanism, involves
   a combination of interpretations #1 and #2 above.
   A major theme of 19th-century literary Satanism was the idea of
   Satan as Muse -- an idea which is also, albeit grudgingly, a part
   of the traditional Christian view of Satan. Historically, nearly
   every new form of music, art, or science has been attributed to
   "the Devil." To this day, those forms of Christianity that are
   most obsessed with fighting against "the Devil" are fighting
   primarily against new ideas, and very often against creativity
   itself. For example, today's fundamentalist crusaders hate games
   like "Dungeons and Dragons" because they stimulate the
   imagination. (An excellent book on the history of Christian ideas
   about "the Devil" is The Devil in Legend and Literature by
   Maximilian Rudwin (published 1931 by the Open Court Publishing
   Company in Chicago). See especially chapters 19 and 20 on "The
   Devil, the World, and the Flesh" for a detailed discussion of the
   Christian view of Satan as the originator of art, music, dance,
   drama, scientific discoveries, reason, and scholarship.)
   Satanism tends to be very individualistic. And the beliefs of
   Satanists are often highly individual and subjective. Satanism is
   not one single religion, but a category of belief systems all
   involving sympathetic interpretations of the figure of "Satan."
Dark Deism

   Now for my own beliefs. I am what the alt.satanism FAQ calls a
   "Dark Gnostic" -- which I consider to be an inaccurate term,
   since this variety of Satanism really has little if anything in
   common with Gnosticism. A better term would be "Dark Deism." That
   is to say, I revere an impersonal deity, the "Dark Force in
   Nature." (There are some other forms of Satanism, referred to in
   the alt.satanism FAQ as Luciferian/Promethean Gnosticism, which
   actually do have a lot in common with some forms of Gnosticism
   which existed in the early centuries C.E. For example, there have
   been some latter-day revivals of Ophidian Gnosticism, which
   venerated the Serpent in the Garden of Eden myth as the giver of
   knowledge and freedom.)
   I believe that most religions, including my own belief system,
   are based on genuine though very incomplete perceptions of subtle
   realities. To decipher the possible underlying truth of a given
   "spiritual" belief, I tend to focus on what it says about the
   "spiritual" here-and-now -- ignoring a religion's claims about
   the prehistoric past, the future, and the afterlife, all of which
   I tend to dismiss as pie-in-the-sky. A religion's claims about
   the here-and-now are far more likely to be based on people's
   actual experiences.
   With this idea in mind, let's look at what the dominant religion
   of Western society, Pauline Christianity, has to say about the
   "spiritual" here-and-now, ignoring the alleged larger picture.
   Christians are supposed to be "in the world, but not of the
   world." In other words, Christians are supposed to be an
   alienated enclave in what is basically Satan's domain. Satan is
   "God of this World" (yes -- "God"! -- see 2 Corinthians 4:4) and
   "Prince of the Power of the Air." Christians traditionally lump
   together "the world, the flesh, and the Devil." Satan is a de
   facto immanent deity whose promptings are indistinguishable from
   one's own "fallen nature" and/or "worldliness."
   Christians traditionally believe that Satan was granted his power
   temporarily by his enemy, the Christian "God," who is believed to
   be more powerful, and against whom Satan is believed to be an
   ego- driven rebel. However, Christianity's belief in the greater
   power of its "God" is part of the alleged larger picture that I
   am inclined to ignore. In my opinion, a look at the workings of
   Nature (survival of the fittest, etc.) suffices to show that if
   there is a cosmic God, then that God has far more in common with
   the Christian idea of "Satan" than with the Christian idea of
   If there is any reality at all to the Christian "God," I don't
   believe that the Christian "God" is the cosmic God. I believe
   that If there is a cosmic God, then it's extremely unlikely that
   the cosmic God would pay much attention to us individual humans
   the way Christians believe he does, just as we don't pay much
   attention to our individual skin cells. This planet is but a tiny
   speck of dust in the universe as a whole. Though I'm not a
   LaVeyan per se , I'll note that Anton LaVey makes a very similar
   statement in The Satanic Bible (p.40):
     To the Satanist "God" -- by whatever name he is called, or no
     name at all -- is seen as the balancing factor in nature, and
     not as being concerned with suffering. This powerful force
     which permeates and balances the universe is far too
     impersonal to care about the happiness or misery of flesh-and-
     blood creatures on this ball of dirt upon which we live.
   Therefore, anything we humans experience as a "God" with
   humanlike emotions, whether loving/compassionate or wrathful,
   probably exists on a much smaller-than-cosmic scale, if it exists
   at all. It seems especially unlikely, to me, that the cosmic God
   would be concerned about human morality.
   Note that when I speak of "Christianity," I primarily mean
   traditional, conservative Christianity. Liberal and moderate
   Christians tend to be less worried about "Satan," and some do not
   believe in "Satan" at all. It should also be noted that
   Christianity stressed the power of "Satan" to a greater degree in
   the early centuries C.E. -- i.e., during the time of
   Christianity's greatest voluntary growth -- than it did later. (A
   substantial reduction in Christianity's view of Satan's power was
   brought about by the medieval theologian Anselm.) Even today,
   those forms of Christianity which continue to win the most
   converts tend to be those which attribute more power to "Satan"
   than liberal/mainstream Christians do. Or, as Anton LaVey put it,
   "Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he
   has kept it in business all these years!"
   Hence it seems that Christianity's primary appeal, other than to
   people who were raised Christian, is to people who feel that the
   "Prince of this World," the ruler of their very own flesh, is
   somehow out to get them, and who hence feel a need to be "saved."
   (Note: my point here is not necessarily that this is the primary
   reason for Christianity's appeal, but only that this seems to be
   the primary category of people likely to convert to Christianity;
   hence the perceptions of such people should be given serious
   consideration in any attempt to figure out the underlying truth
   of Christianity.) Thus, from the deliberately limited "spiritual
   here-and-now" perspective I outlined earlier, the traditional
   Christian view of "Satan" is based on a paranoid or otherwise
   hostile perception of the true "God of this World."
   In my opinion, the belief that "Satan" is out to get you says
   more about the people who are drawn to Christianity, and who feel
   a need to be "saved" from whatever ails them, than it says about
   "Satan." Insofar as such people may dimly perceive a deity
   immanent in their own flesh, it is logical that they would
   perceive that deity as evil, given that they regard their own
   flesh as "fallen." Nevertheless, there may be a core of truth in
   their perception of the "Lord of this World," if one puts aside
   the value judgments and the paranoia. In any case, since
   Christianity is the dominant religion of Western culture, one can
   argue that the "Satan" concept is in fact Western culture's most
   prominent, albeit hostile and distorted, perception of an
   immanent God.
   Anyhow, it just so happens that I too perceive a "Dark Force"
   which has many of the characteristics Christianity traditionally
   ascribes to Satan: it literally feels dark, "down there", and
   sort of serpentlike. I feel its presence in many aspects of life,
   including both sensuality and certain kinds of intellectual (e.g.
   scientific/mathematical) and creative endeavors. And it somehow
   feels right to think of this "Force" as "the Lord of this World"
   -- though I tend to regard "Satan" as an impersonal "Force"
   rather than an anthropomorphic being.
   However, I have a very different attitude toward this Dark Force
   than most spiritually-inclined people in Western culture do. I do
   not regard it as being out to get me, but merely impersonal and
   indifferent. And grand, and awesome. "Satan" is "out to get you"
   only in the sense that reality itself is "out to get you" when
   you are out of touch with it. I perceive this entity as both
   creative and destructive. (As previously noted, the creative
   aspects are grudgingly acknowledged even by hard-core
   I believe that different people have natural (possibly innate)
   affinities for different deities. Quite a few
   spiritually-inclined people also have what could be called
   "spiritual allergies" to certain deities and/or "energies." In
   the Western world, apparently, quite a few people have a
   "spiritual allergy" to the entity/Force that Christianity calls
   Satan. I, on the other hand, like my experience of that Dark
   One key difference between my form of Satanism and some others: I
   stress the theme of Satan as "Lord of this World," whereas others
   are more into the theme of Satan as rebel. (Others, such as LaVey
   Satanism, make use of both themes. BTW, LaVey's primary emphasis
   is on "Lord of this World," at least in his rituals -- including
   even LaVey's version of the Black Mass, in which one of the most
   powerful lines IMO is: "Thy will is done....")
   Another key difference: Some forms of Satanism, such as the
   opinion of some people within the Temple of Set, try to get at
   the underlying truth of the Christian "Satan" myth by seeing it
   as a distortion of the Jewish "Satan" myth, which in turn is seen
   as a distortion of the Osirian Set, which in turn is seen as a
   distortion of the pre-Osirian Set -- who was not demonized, and
   who hence is seen as a more accurate representation of the Prince
   of Darkness. (Others within the ToS don't necessarily subscribe
   to the above historical linkage, but nonetheless see both Set and
   the Miltonian Satan as two of the many representations of the
   same Prince of Darkness. And there are other views within the ToS
   as well.) On the other hand, my own here-and-now interpretation
   of "Satan" deliberately ignores not only Satan's history
   according to Christian myth (the alleged rebellion and fall), but
   also the history of the Satan myth itself before it was adopted
   by Christianity.
   The earliest Christians (followers of Paul, not Jesus) were, for
   the most part, not Jews. The early Christians borrowed Hebrew
   mythical themes to describe things that they themselves felt --
   which, as any Jew can tell you, are quite different from what
   those same themes meant in the original Jewish context. The
   Christian "Satan" actually has more in common with the
   Zoroastrian Ahriman than the Jewish "Satan." My own view of
   "Satan" is a reinterpretation of what Christians have perceived
   as "Satan," which need not have any organic connection at all
   with the original Jewish Satan myth, let alone with any
   historical precursors of that myth. My interpretation of the
   Christian "Satan" myth is based on what hard-core Christians
   themselves seem actually to experience , not on the earlier
   history of the myth they borrowed to formulate their own
   An important clarification: I've spoken of the "true" God of this
   World. However, I do not necessarily deny the existence of other
   deities. I'm a henotheist, not a monotheist. (I used to call
   myself a "polytheist," but have come to realize that this is
   misleading, since I actually venerate only one deity.)
   Another clarification: I've said that I regard Satan as an
   impersonal force. I don't rule out the possibility of Satan as a
   sentient being. However, if such a sentient entity exists, He
   acts, for most practical purposes, like an impersonal force,
   without humanlike emotions such as jealousy. If indeed a sentient
   Satan is "Lord of this World," then He, unlike the Christian
   "God," clearly doesn't care in the slightest about such petty
   matters as what the majority of humans think of Him.
Satanism And Neo-paganism

   Neo-Pagan readers are probably wondering: If I reject
   Christianity, then why does the Christian mythos figure into my
   worldview at all? Why do I concern myself with what Christians
   perceive and experience? Why don't I just leave the whole
   Christian realm behind, and get into something completely
   different, like the worship of some pre-Christian deity?
   The answer, as usual for me, is that the Christian mythos is
   here- and-now. To me, it seems both intellectually sounder and
   emotionally more powerful to base my worldview primarily on
   what's happening now than to base it primarily on what might have
   happened in the distant past, especially in cultures other than
   our own.
   After all, I know more about the present. I, who am not even an
   academic theology student, know far more about Christianity --
   the prevailing religion of our culture -- than even the most
   erudite archeologist can possibly ever hope to know about the
   religion of a particular epoch in ancient Egypt. I feel myself to
   be on much more solid ground reinterpreting Christian ideas about
   "Satan" than basing my beliefs on what little I know about
   pre-Christian deities. My idea of "Satan" may be a radical
   reinterpretation, but at least it's an informed reinterpretation,
   whereas it is so very easy for even a scholar to misunderstand
   another culture -- including the culture of one's own remote
   ancestors, who, in my own case (northern European) didn't even
   leave much in the way of written records.
   My point here is not to invalidate Neo-Paganism. I'm aware that
   it's possible to have a meaningful "spiritual" experience even
   though one's perception of one's deity may be historically
   inaccurate. If you've had a meaningful encounter with an entity
   you call "Artemis," then it is quite irrelevant whether this
   "Artemis" is in fact the same entity that the ancient Greeks
   called Artemis. Likewise if you've had a meaningful encounter
   with an entity you call "Set." I regard the various forms of
   Neo-Paganism as valid religions in their own right, not as either
   valid or invalid continuations of an "Old Religion." My point in
   the above two paragraphs is simply to respond to the notion,
   common among Neo-Pagans, that there is something intrinsically
   wrong with using ideas or imagery from a religion one rejects,
   and that there is something intrinsically superior about
   worshipping a pre-Christian deity.
   My own most meaningful "spiritual" (for lack of a better word)
   experiences have not been in the context of attempts to invoke
   pre-Christian deities. I have felt, on a few occasions, deeply
   moved by a Neo-Pagan ritual. Yet the name "Satan" strikes closer
   to home. For me, it is much more powerful, emotionally, to use
   imagery that is part of the world I grew up in -- imagery which
   for me inspires a sense of awe and wonder but is not "exotic."
   And, due to the impossibility of attaining more than a
   superficial understanding of distant cultures, I hesitate to
   equate the entity I've experienced as "Satan" with any
   anciently-worshipped deity that I know of.
   While on the topic of Christianity, and the question of whether
   one can or should try to leave it completely behind, I should
   also mention that, from the viewpoint of most Satanists, a lot of
   Neo- Pagans are "Christianlike" in various ways. It simply isn't
   possible to escape one's own culture completely, however much
   some of us may imagine we are doing so. Our failures in this
   regard may not be obvious to ourselves, but they are obvious to
   other people who are likewise trying to escape mainstream
   Western culture, but who do so in different ways. Thus, Satanists
   and Neo-Pagans both have often denounced each other as
   "Christianlike," And, indeed, both are "Christianlike," but in
   different ways, though they both reject Christian theology. This
   is to be expected. We were all born and raised in Western
   culture. This is who and what we are, and there's no point in
   worrying about it or dumping on each other for it.
   Likewise, it wasn't possible for the earliest (Pauline)
   Christians to completely escape Paganism and become "the new
   Israel," much though they imagined they had done so. Christianity
   incorporates a lot of Pagan ideas which would have horrified
   Jews, such as: the dying and rising God, eating the body of the
   God, etc. Indeed, Christianity itself (especially Catholicism) is
   arguably more "Pagan," in some ways, than the beliefs and
   practices of some Neo-Pagans.
   This doesn't mean we can't learn anything from ancient or foreign
   cultures. It is desirable to learn what one can from other
   cultures, to broaden one's perspective. However, broadening one's
   perspective is different from escaping one's own culture or
   entering emotionally into a distant culture, which is impossible.
   August 5, 1996

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