|Anton LaVey||1966 -> 1997|
|Blanche Barton||1997 -> 2002|
|Peter Gilmore||2001 +1|
|Peggy Nadramia||2002 +|
Founded in USA in 1966CE by Anton Szandor LaVey. A philosophy of elitism, self-development and self-interest with few set ethics. The COS was the first organised representation of Satanism; indeed, before then, there was no such thing as Satanism except for Christian devil worshippers. It is criticized for its contradictory nature: how can an individualistic religion of dissenters have a representative organisation? The answer is that the COS grants its members full freedom and autonomy and members join for personal reasons, to feel good2. Most Satanists are LaVeyan but do not join the COS. Of all the multiple denominations of Satanism that have arisen since the COS was founded, the COS is the only organisation to stand the test of time, and it remains an enigmatic but slow-moving source of inspiration for 'those who carry the red card'.
There is a High Priest and/or a High Priestess, who heads the Church of Satan. There is often both of these at once. The Council of Nine is the ruling body, made up of select members of the priesthood, and this is chaired by the Grand Master/Mistress of the Temple Magistra Templi Rex. The administrative body is the Order of the Trapezoid, and finally, the Priesthood of Mendes are those with proven records of achievement in the world.3
“Members of our Priesthood are people of accomplishment in the real world–they have mastered skills and have won peer recognition, which is how they have attained their position–“as above, so below.” They are “movers and shakers” who are the core of our movement. While expected to be experts in communicating our philosophy, they are not required to speak on our behalf and they may even choose to keep their affiliation and rank secret, in order to better serve their personal goals, as well as those of our organization.”
Registered Members, Active Members and Agents: Registered members are Satanists who have chosen to make a statement and align themselves with the Church of Satan. A section of this web page later deals with possible reasons and motives for doing this. There are also Active members and these are those who have signalled to the Church of Satan that they wish to partake more actively in any grotto events, perhaps set up their own grotto, or act as a basic representative of the Church. Agents are those who specialize in media representation at the local level.
“I look at our organization, the Church of Satan, and see that its present moment is one of great health and exuberance. [...] Our Church has always been and will continue to be the sum of what its members achieve, and we now have a particularly strong association of truly talented diabolists. They use Satanism as a tool towards enhancing their lives, inspired by the symbol of Satan as exemplar.”
Peter Gilmore (2005)5
The Church of Satan has been the biggest catalyst for Satanism. However it stands that most Satanists prefer not to put on paper their commitment to the Church of Satan. The sociologist Graham Harvey and James R Lewis have conducted the largest fair-minded surveys of Satanists, and concur that LaVey Satanists are by far the most common kind of Satanist, but that most aren't members6. To commit yourself to the Church is trivial - it is irrelevant in a philosophical sense but it is necessary in a legal arena if you want to represent the Church Of Satan or to lead people to believe that you represent it7.
The Church of Satan holds a certain respect but also is said to have a "higher than thou" character. There is no significant difference between a non-member and a member of the Church of Satan with regards their philosophy or personal presence.
“Our protocol for member interaction is based on the paradigm of a "mutual admiration society." We do not expect all of our highly individualistic members to like each other, but we do require that they behave as ladies and gentlemen when dealing with each other in all situations and forums, online and face-to-face.”
“We must emphasize that you don´t have to join our organization to consider yourself a Satanist.”
Indeed there are many that hold that joining the Church is weak - that it is merely joining for the sake of it because that's what we're supposed to do. That is a valid view but there are many valid reasons for joining.
People become members for all sorts of reasons. Some do it out of respect for the Church of Satan. The only things that is certain is that people become members because they want to. Other than that, it is hard to attain hard facts. Surveys of membership nearly always ask "why did you join?", but the answers are prone to personal hyperbole and dramatisation; there's not yet been a statistically significant review of membership because the numbers obtained are too low for analysis and the movement has attracted the attention of some sociologists, but not many unbiased psychologists.
“As far I'm concerned, I would like my organization, the Church of Satan, to exist as a cabal for the mutual endowment of those already occupied with interests and activities other than organizational. I have often stated that I like to think of the Church of Satan as an organization for non-joiners. [...] The obvious question arises: 'Why then, would such persons need a Church of Satan?' The answer is, 'They don't, unless it can do them some good.' Affiliation should enhance one's life, rather than be a substitute for it.”
Here are some reasons that adherehts have given for their membership of the COS:
Confidence - being a member allows a certain type of self-confidence - called pride. A member will be able to prove that they are a member and in some circumstances this can be a useful tool when discussing Satanism with those who do not understand it.
Supporting the Church of Satan is likely to be beneficial to the Satanic Community overall, to avoid the movement being at the mercy of insane spokespeople who gain notoriety and press attention for talking about Satanism, but whom do not have legitimacy. Membership of the Church of Satan boosts its legitimacy as a rational voicebox.
Showing off - membership follows from having the will (and spare cash) to join and if a person wants to show this off then so be it.
Legal benefits, in a world where the religious have advantages in various countries.
Having a good reputation amongst Church of Satan members will possibly, sometimes, theoretically, get you support from other Satanists. Or at least, you may get their opinions.
From the 2000s, there been a $200 U.S. dollar joining fee. The Church of Satan is, of course, a well-run company, and it needs to survive on more than good will alone. The Church has voluntarily dismissed the tax exemption that it is entitled to - all Churches should be taxed, and the first step in getting this done is to show people that it can be done.
A Satanist is a strategist. He uses his surroundings to his own advantage. Any animal, of which Humans are merely a sub class, will tell you that there are advantages in numbers. Not all members of a group are in it for no reason, and the Satanist simply uses the Church, uses its members, and uses it trust to his own benefit.
The Church of Satan is comprised of such individualistic people that consensus is always rare - Satanism is the purest and most animated expression of left-hand-path freethinking religion. I came across the term "loyal dissent" - although I suspect most Christian traditionalists scoff at the very idea:
“Gerald Arbuckle, a member of a Roman Catholic religious order, writing with feeling about the struggles in his own church, has coined the useful phrase "loyal dissent". Dissent, says Arbuckle, is vital for a living church since it 'proposes alternatives' and it is only by looking at alternatives that a body can evolve creatively.”
Arbuckle's term was employed to describe some individuals within the Church who think differently. The Church of Satan differs in that nearly all its members are of the loyal dissenter type, so much so that it is only ever noted when a person seems to lack this quality, rather than commented on when someone possesses this common Satanic trait. It is taken for granted within Satanism that dissent is a vitality! Compare this to the long tirade of Christian and Muslim traditionalists against 'heretics'! Satanism's approach to freethought and dissent is superior to that of every other religion.
For more, see:
This unusually talented series of humans have displayed 'iron wills and demonic determination in bending the world to fit into their visions of how things should be'. Here are some of their published books.
Relevant website text:
An awesome, intelligent, articulate, productive and powerful man, Peter Gilmore has contributed massively to the Church of Satan over a few decades. His book The Satanic Scriptures4 is the most important collection of essays on Satanism.