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How many stories begin with the phrase, "I was on Facebook and...?"At any rate: I was on Facebook a few weeks ago and I made a post in the public and unofficial Church of Satan group and made the apparent faux paux of saying that I admired the Satanic spirit of subversion and opposition to the establishment that I perceived in Beyonce's performance at Super Bowl 50. In my mind, I thought it was a pretty clear example of a practical expression of the spirit of Satanism.
Judging by the response, talking about race in a forum of Satanists is taboo.
As the discussion continued, remarks were made that I felt were against the philosophy that I as a Satanist choose to follow. Me being who I am, I chose to argue for my position because I didn't understand how Satanism as a codified philosophy could support the arguments being made against me.
The comments from other respondents spanned the predictable range of accusations which labeled me a social justice warrior, an ignorant troll, a sheep supporting entitled whiners, and being so consumed with white guilt that I'm practically black. The accusations based within the framework of Satanism said that I was committing pretty much all the Satanic sins: stupidity; pretentiousness; solipsism; herd conformity; lack of perspective; counter-productive pride; and lack of aesthetics. Strangely, I wasn't accused of forgetting past orthodoxies or self-deceit. I'll address those accusations as this discussion continues.
Now, let's make some qualifications: first, this was in the public and unofficial Church of Satan group which can be joined by anybody, not the secret Church of Satan group that is only open to red-card carrying members of the Church of Satan. Second, the complaints that I encountered did not come from Church leadership or official spokespersons for the Church of Satan. The group where I posted is an unofficial page and is populated by a large number of non-members, so again - lest anybody misunderstand me - I'm not saying that this is representative of the Church of Satan.
But I am saying that the responses I received are representative of how people (members or not) are perceiving and applying Satanism.
So with that in mind, this is part one of a four part series I'm writing about the core tenets of Satanism. Just like a Christian quoting from the Bible, I'm sure there are Satanists who can cherry pick quotes and essays from the collected writings of Anton LaVey, Magus Gilmore, and other luminaries that have been recognized by the Church of Satan or published in the Black Flame, but this isn't about combing through extant publications to find what others have said about the way they apply Satanism in their lives. Instead, this is about Satanism itself: What is it? What are its core, fundamental qualities which inform its operation as a working philosophy and world-view? This fundamental essence is found in four documents: the Nine Satanic Statements; the Eleven Rules of the Earth; the Nine Satanic Sins; and Pentagonal Revisionism. The first three of these documents are cited more frequently than the fourth, but all will be addressed.
Let's start with the Nine Satanic Statements:
- Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
- Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
- Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
- Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
- Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
- Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
- Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
- Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
- Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!
What are the Satanic Statements? In another religion, you might call these articles of faith. In Satanism, they are the primary reference used to explain Satanism to outsiders. They are also used as a litmus test: if you can agree with all these things, then congratulations! You're a Satanist. Let's talk about these things and how they can translate into Satanic action.
"Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!"
The first statement of Satanism is about pleasure and choosing to say "yes" to the choices that bring you happiness and satisfaction, and saying no to the choices that diminish your happiness and satisfaction. In that sense, the first rule of Satanism is to choose to be occupied with the things that bring you pleasure. If you find pleasure from engaging in political pursuits and protests, then you should do that.
The Church of Satan - as an entity - is apolitical and doesn't involve itself in political protest because it's not the place for the leadership to endorse a particular view: that's the decision of individual members. Just because the church leadership has chosen to be apolitical does not mean that members who choose to be political are un-Satanic. Or that Satanists are supposed to avoid politics entirely.
Members like myself who take pleasure in being politically involved are no less Satanic than those who choose to abstain from the political process and thus permit others (like myself) to choose the politicians who will write the laws under which they will live.
"Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!"
This statement highlights the fact that Satanists are carnal atheists who worship the flesh and who don't believe in an afterlife. There is no time so important as the present. The past has happened, and while revisionist historians will try to rewrite it, it can't be undone. Anybody who has an ounce of initiative and self-interest will try to change the future, but since the future hasn't happened yet, it's only an unknown variable. The present moment really is all that any of us have, and it's wrong to invest ourselves into activities that have no impact on each of our own individual lives.
It's also a statement that woo-woo spirituality has no place in Satanism because we're not concerned with "higher planes of existence" that probably don't exist. For as much as any of us really know, we probably only have here and now. For that reason, embracing our passions and channeling our life force into the most carnal, invigorating, and worthwhile use of our time is more important than wishing and hoping to change a past etched in stone or for a future that may never come.
Depending on your perspective, political protest and even the political process at large is a pipe dream. After all, how can one person with limited means stand in the way of massive corporations who flood the electoral process with vast amounts of money? But then, political protest - in one's own name and because one perceives it to be pleasurable and worthwhile - is a deeply vital process. When many people of like minds pool their resources, they can change their personal and national environments.
Certainly, Satanists are pragmatists. And while some pragmatic Satanists might consider it a poor return on their time and energy to give a damn about the political process, I take the long view. Because, in the spirit of the first Satanic statement, what gives me pleasure? My family gives me pleasure, and unless I live long enough to see the Singularity, I'll only have my children, grand-children, and so on to remember me. Because I love my family and they give me pleasure, I take pleasure from participating in the political process in my own name and for my own reasons so that I can attempt to give the blood of my line a better city, province, and country than those where I lived. And I think that caring for the life that my blood line will live is an absolutely vital concern.
"Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!"
This statement is typically regarded as seeing the world for what it is, and not for what we'd like it to be. As an extension, it also typically means to work with what you have ("better to reign in a hell of your own making...") than to work with what you don't ("... than serve in another's heaven.") For example, slavery. Most of us in North America think that slavery was abolished a long time ago, but if you look at the world the way it really is, you'll find that slaves (or the equivalent) are busily working to sew our clothes, catch our fish, pick our fruit, harvest our crops, manicure our nails, and do the most detestable manual labor. Slavery hasn't gone anywhere, and it's hypocritical to think otherwise.
But it's also hypocritical to think that there's no reason to make efforts to change it. After all, following the spirit of "undefiled wisdom," this means looking beyond the, "Oh well, can't change it," and into the question of, "How does this affect me?" Me being who I am, I'm not really interested in changing the entire world. Truthfully, I'm only concerned with where I live and the outcomes that affect me, and - as an extension of the question of slavery - that's why I ask questions like, "How does racism affect me?"
The truth is that I want to get paid more for the work I do. Don't we all? Each of us is an animal in a very real jungle (concrete or not), and each of us fight for the best we can get; however, unlike animals in a jungle, (most of) us aren't hunting for meat, but money. If we're self-employed, we do the best we can to earn as much as we can for our time and energy. But if we work for somebody else, it's a constant battle to convince management to pay us more, when management typically is looking for ways only to pay us less.
Take WalMart as an example. WalMart is a massive, global corporation which takes in over $15 billion dollars every year. Do we as consumers like low prices? You bet. How does WalMart give us low prices? Most notably, they pay the majority of their employees minimum wage. Do you know why the minimum wage has sat where it has for so long? You can make all the Libertarian arguments you want about letting free markets decide what labor is worth (and if that's the case, then look at Chile and how well that worked out for them), but at least in the USA the minimum-wage debate is steeped in racism.
The cost of racism to me - when I still lived in the USA and still worked minimum wage jobs - is that usually white politicians refuse to raise the minimum wage out of fear that black and brown people would get paid more - and there are legions of white people also working for minimum wage who line up in support of these politicians! The averaged nation-wide cost of living in the USA for a family of four is almost $49k, but two adults working 40 hours a week at $8/hr is $30,720.
There's nearly $20k missing here, which means that working at minimum wage those parents would have to work another 200 hours every month - more than another 40-hour per week job. You know what I like? Being able to raise my children. You know what else I like? Not living in a high-crime area. You know what goes hand in hand with crime? Low wages and lack of opportunity for success. This doesn't mean that low-income earners are automatically criminals - each chooses his or her own actions - but crime does in fact pay, and absent a legal opportunity for success, crime is a very attractive option.
Raising the minimum wage, a goal supported by #BlackLivesMatter, is important to me because I know that this is something that will benefit me, my children, and my grand-children - not just in terms of giving us safer neighborhoods, but also in terms of ability to earn a living income. I'm quite selfish in saying that I'm only interested in fighting for this for my own benefit, but hey - I'm a Satanist, and truth told, I'm out my own success and that of my family. If I see a way to attain that practical goal, then you bet your fucking ass I'm going to take it.
But getting back to WalMart, they also give most of their employees only part-time hours which means WalMart doesn't have to pay the extra expenses that they're required to pay for full-time employees. And don't forget that WalMart only opens in locations where the municipal government has agreed to exempt WalMart from local business taxes. Or that WalMart has lobbied to be exempt from paying any taxes to support state- and federal-welfare and subsidy programs such as food stamps, and then specifically advises its low-income employees to apply for food-stamps which can then be used to buy food at WalMart.
See what's happening here? WalMart is a parasite that's arguing politicians into letting them out of the social contract of paying taxes, and then stealing the taxes that the rest of us are paying - you, me, even their own employees! - in the form of food stamps. I think most Satanists can agree that parasites deserve to be exterminated, but unlike those who see black and brown people demanding a higher wage as parasites, I see a corporation that's deliberately stealing my tax money as the parasite. Given a chance, I'd kill such a parasite with extreme prejudice. I'd kill it with fire and take pleasure in listening to it scream.
I've gained the wisdom and knowledge to see what's happening, and I also see how its adverse effects spill over into other arenas. I've learned that it's a problem that absolutely affects me. I've also learned that WalMart couldpay every single one of its employees double what they're earning now, and all they'd have to do is raise the average price of every item in their stores by one cent. But that's the problem with a system based in opposition to a higher minimum wage that's absolutely rooted in racism: WalMart would rather work people on part-time shifts for minimum wage and force them to go begging for handouts from the government who's agreed to let WalMart out of paying taxes than to increase prices by a single fucking penny.
This impacts the town in which I live, it impacts the money my municipal government has to pay for infrastructure, it impacts the safety and stability of my neighborhood, and for all these reasons that it affects me personally, I'm going to support movements like #BlackLivesMatter because it benefits me to do so.
"Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!"
A core tenet of Satanism it says to give to those who deserve generosity, and likewise, to deny those who deserve scorn. If we're going to stay on theme with #BlackLivesMatter, then let's look at the accusation that I'm "really just supporting a bunch of whiners" who "already have rights under law" and "don't deserve their megaphone." I'm going to look past the absurdities in those criticisms because I'm not going to waste my time dismantling the overtly racist assumptions they represent.
First of all, why do I think #BlackLivesMatter is deserving of my kindness and - by extension - my vocal and financial support? Why do they deserve anything from me? Because I support their goals and I understand how I personally - and my children and grandchildren - can benefit from the changes they're trying to make.
Because I don't live in a major metropolitan area, my ability to protest is quite limited. I'm a US citizen, but I'm also a permanent resident in Canada which means letters I write to US politicians are probably ignored. It also means that I can't vote in US state elections of any kind because I'm not a resident; I can't caucus or participate in state political events; and the only vote I can make that counts is for the presidential election. I'm voting for the Green Party, by the way.
But as a permanent resident in Canada, it also means that I don't have the right to vote, so any letters I wrote to elected officials here are also probably ignored. And while I'm welcome to participate in protest, the town in which is so far away from being anywhere of importance that I might as well be living in Neverland (Peter Pan, not Michael Jackson.) If I acknowledge the balance factor, I have to accept that that I truthfully have little to no ability to personally effect the kind of change that I want to see. But there are people who can, and if supporting them means lending my voice to their message or giving financial support, then I'm going to do it.
#BlackLivesMatter is able to organize protests in major metropolitan areas and get the attention of elected officials that I can't get on my own where I am. Because they - as an organization, and the people who show up - are doing the things that I can't, I find them deserving of my kindness in the form of financial and vocal support.
"Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!"
Is this statement an embrace of violence and assertion that those who oppose you should be punished? Absolutely. If somebody makes a move on me, you bet your ass I'm gonna put him or her down on the ground. I didn't take martial arts because I thought it was a fun physical activity: I want to know that I'm able to beat the shit out of somebody who - in the spirit of the previous statement - deserves my wrath.
But taken beyond the literal and into the figurative, this statement is an absolute endorsement of full-throated political protest. Perhaps you're a Libertarian? Or a Republican? Or a Democrat? Or a Green? Or a Socialist? Or anything! That's great - good for you. If you're passionate about your beliefs, then lobby for them. If you believe that there are politicians, corporations, or cultural elements that have wronged you and deserve to be punished, then you should absolutely play the role of the accuser and prosecute them to the full extent of your ability: tooth and nail, first and foot, or pen and letter: pour your wrath upon those who've wronged you.
But the way you express your anger and smite your foes will vary depending on the foe and how you visit your vengeance upon them. If you find a criminal breaking into your car, then by all means extract payment from the thief for your car's broken window in form of his broken face. But what happens when you can't just punch out the person who deserves it? What happens when the enemy who's wronged you is a faceless corporation or entrenched social paradigms? A different weapon is required, and movements like #BlackLivesMatter can serve as a potent weapon with which to exact your vengeance. Anything can be perceived as a tool, and so long as the tool serves your purposes, use it.
"Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!"
I don't know that it's stated anywhere as a central tenet of Satanism, but as has been often repeated by Anton LaVey and his present successor Magus Peter Gilmore, Satanists are pragmatists. They embrace the possible, and in that sense, embrace the practical people who make things happen. Are there are lot of whiners out there who complain bitterly about how they're repressed and kept down? You bet. Are these whiners happy to take advantage of the others who'd bleed them dry like the parasites they are? You bet. In any organization you'll find bottom-feeders who try to get anything they can for nothing in return. Whether this organization is the Church of Satan or #BlackLivesMatter, people will rise or fall to their own level of stratification.
But those who have proven that they can be responsible and are capable of organizing diverse people to create real, substantial change in reality in accordance with will? They absolutely deserve my respect and admiration. This is why I have chosen to become a member of the Church of Satan: I deeply respect the contributions that Anton LaVey, Magus Gilmore, and others have made to advance the practice of Satanism.
But it also means that I deeply respect the efforts of groups like #BlackLivesMatter change - or, as the case may be, break - a system that does in fact create multiple disadvantages for me personally. Again, this is going to rub some of you the wrong way, but that's who I am: my reference point for everything I do is, "How does this thing increase pleasure for myself and the people I love?" I recognize that I can benefit from the efforts of the responsible people leading #BlackLivesMatter, and for that reason I respect and support them.
"Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!"
Doesn't matter if you live in a city: even with all the concrete, wi-fi, power lines, and plumbing, you're still an animal living in a jungle. Your jungle may not look like the Amazon or the forests of Borneo, but you are absolutely an animal competing for survival in an unforgiving world. You may not be a gazelle trying to keep away from a cheetah, but there are predatory animals preying on you. Unlike that gazelle who has no choice but to run from the cheetah, humans have evolved an incredible ability to out-think and counter-attack predators. This intelligence has made humans into the alpha predator of planet Earth: we eat everything, nothing eats us.
And, if we're going to be honest, we eat each other. The biggest beasts in the world are the corporations and governments. Some of these beasts are arguably benevolent, but at the end of the day they will always react quickly and violently against any predator who enters their territory and tries to poach its resources.
What happens when undefiled wisdom leads you to the knowledge that the benevolent beast you thought was your jungle protector is in fact preying on your family and tribe? If you're a thinking animal, you won't run from the predator and hope it won't follow you for dessert. If you're a thinking animal, you'll use your undefiled wisdom to unite the hunters, find where this predator sleeps, smoke it out with fire, and put its head on a stick.
On the micro scale, this means that mad dog criminals are hunted down by the police and either exiled from society via isolation in prison, or given the death they deserve as payment for their barbarities. But what happens when the police charged with dispensing justice are revealed by lived experience and accumulated wisdom to be corrupt, self-serving, and utterly cruel thugs little better than a government-sanctioned street gang? If you're a thinking animal, you fight back. I don't support breaking the law, so I'm going to stop short of endorsing vigilante justice, but I will absolutely endorse efforts to make criminals pay for their crimes - no matter what uniform they wear.
People who think that it's not worth their time or effort to protest police brutality are ignorant if they think they're immune to this kind of violence. Do a Google search for "White man shot by police," and you'll see that this isn't limited to black people. It happens to black people a lot more often than white people, but it's not a matter of "The damn dirty police are just picking on poor black people!" It's a matter of, "Humans are violent, dangerous animals, and no uniform is going to change it." I understand this truth, and as much of a law-abiding citizen that I am, I've learned that innocence is no defense against a corrupt asshole in a uniform who'll do what he likes because he knows he can get away with it. I'm a Satanist, so I make decisions based on what benefit it makes for me and my family. Me first. I see the benefit for myself and my family in opposing police brutality and holding our law enforcement officers responsible for their actions, so for that reason I also support #BlackLivesMatter.
Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
There are others who'll interpret this statement differently, but me being who I am, I like to dissect things. When Anton LaVey wrote the Satanic Bible, he was (among other things) generally opposing theism, but was (among other things) specifically opposing Christianity. Thus, when he says that Satan represents all of the so-called sins, he was specifically referring to the 7 deadly sins of Christianity: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Again, there are others who'll interpret the seven deadly sins differently, but when I look for a common denominator what I find is the rejection of tribal over-culture and the pre-eminence of the self.
Am I black? Nope. I'm a white guy. I've been a white guy for, uh... as long as I can remember. Do I support #BlackLivesMatter because I want to be a part of some group or movement and gain identity as a result of that participation? Nope. But it does go back to my original sentiment when I first posted my opinion on the Satanic spirit in Beyonce's deliberate use of the Black Panthers motif in her half-time performance because she knew it would produce pearl-clutching and angst among the defenders of white cultural and racial hegemony. The #BlackLivesMatter movement rejects the establishment paradigm and instead asserts itself in opposition against vested interests who would keep them behind the jewelry counter (and not in front.) How can you be a Satanist and not admire the beauty in this kind of protest?
As was accused of me, Do I want to be black? Nope. I like who I am just fine. But I want to be the best beast I can be, and part of that means being aware that the defenders of white hegemony would turn my jungle into a walled garden, to be populated only by the flora and fauna they choose. If I chose to abstain from the political process, people like Donald Trump and others in the Republican party would gladly put limitations on who can enter the USA.
There are people like Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan who do in fact support state legislation to equate the truly abominable act of bestiality with the truly human (and consensual) acts of anal and oral sex, and make both punishable by time in prison.
There are people like Indiana Governor Mike Pence who would deny equal marriage to same-gender couples.
I'm bisexual, so yeah - I kind of take offense at laws that effectively label me a dog-fucker and a second-hand citizen. As it happens, I chose to be in a heterosexual relationship... but I could have gone the other way, and just because I'm in a committed marriage right now doesn't meant that I'm willing to abandon fights for equal rights that I may choose to exercise later in my life.
Or, since I enjoy entertainment as much as the next person, what about the Oscars? If you think racism doesn't play a role in the kind of entertainment that major studios produce because they're catering to the racial and cultural preferences of the academy, then you're fooling yourself. Do I enjoy a lot of the movies that are in theaters? You bet. But I also get bored of watching the same white-washed story over and over. Give me something different! Give me something original! There are people who are deliberately maintaining a white-washed Hollywood, and the options I have for entertainment suffer as a result.
Are there people in #BlackLivesMatter who want special treatment under the law for Black people? Yep. But the majority of their work addresses issues that benefit everybody - myself included. Am I selfish? You bet. But I see how #BlackLivesMatter benefits me and my family, so I absolutely support them.
Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!
The majority will always make use of a demonized minority to advance itself. Every bogey man serves a purpose, but not every bogey man is content to play that role. In most mythologies, Satan and all his derivative bogeymen are either willing or incidental servants to God. Satan tormented Job only because God asked him to do it. Even though Satan tempts humans to sin and draw them away from God, his role as the tempter is in Christian mythology a necessary test, which if passed results in eternal life in Heaven, or if failed, eternal torment in Hell to be carried out under God's command by the Devil himself.
Another Devil name, Leviathan, is described in the Bible of being an unstoppable force of nature - except on the last day, when God will slay the beast and feed the world with its corpse. In that sense, the Leviathan is the biggest, baddest bogeyman whose purpose is to serve as a measuring stick to the even greater power of Jehovah.
Or in Islam, the Devil is Iblis, who refused to bow to man and was cast out but still permitted to serve God as a tempter of humans.
Or the Sufi view of the Devil which views his pride and refusal to bow to humans as a sign of his unconditional love for God. Viewed from within these mythologies, Satan still serves Jehovah's purpose by tempting, snaring, or hurting humans, and is either a resentful servant taking whatever God will still give him, or is a willing servant who still loves and adores jealous Jehovah.
The fear of the the Devil is deliberately exploited by countless churches as a tool to keep the faithful in the pews and money in the coffers. Likewise, at least in north America, fear of black and brown people is a dialogue that has been exploited for centuries as a tool for motivating white people toward a particular end.
Understandably, Black people are tired of being the bogey man trotted out for the evening news. They're protesting the system that uses their very existence as a reason to strengthen white racial and cultural hegemony. And you know, that's a lot like Satanists who embrace the carnal realities of who and what they are. Satan has served the church for as long as the church has existed, but Satanists have reclaimed Satan for themselves. Satan is no longer Jehovah's hired help. Likewise, #BlackLivesMatter is calling quits on a paradigm that puts black people last. For all the reasons that #BlackLivesMatter benefits me personally, but also because I consider it to be an expression of Satanism, I absolutely support it.
Am I telling you to support them, too?
But I am telling you that there are many ways to interpret and apply Satanism. If you can't recognize this truth about Satanism, then you haven't eyes for seeing.