Before Anton LaVey compiled the philosophy of Satanism and founded the Church of Satan in 1966, who upheld its values? It is always debated whether or not these people were or were not Satanists and what they would have thought of Satanism if it existed during their lives. In The Satanic Bible1, Book of Lucifer 12, it name-drops many of these groups and mentions many specific people, times and dates. I do not want to quote it all here, so if you're interested in more of the specifics buy the damned book from Amazon, already. These are the unwitting potential predecessors of Satanism.
The Satanic Bible opens with a few references to groups that are associated with historical Satanism.
“In eighteenth-century England a Hell-Fire Club, with connections to the American colonies through Benjamin Franklin, gained some brief notoriety. During the early part of the twentieth century, the press publicized Aleister Crowley as the "wickedest man in the world". And there were hints in the 1920s and '30s of a "black order" in Germany.
To this seemingly old story LaVey and his organization of contemporary Faustians offered two strikingly new chapters. First, they blasphemously represented themselves as a "church", a term previously confined to the branches of Christianity, instead of the traditional coven of Satanism and witchcraft lore. Second, they practiced their black magic openly instead of underground. [...]
[Anton LaVey] had accumulated a library of works that described the Black Mass and other infamous ceremonies conducted by groups such as the Knights Templar in fourteenth-century France, the Hell-Fire club and the Golden Dawn in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England.”
This page looks at some groups, some individuals, but is nowhere near a comprehensive look at the subject, just a small window into which you might see some of the rich, convoluted history of the dark, murky development of the philosophies that support Satanism.
There is a saying that history is written by the winners. The victors of a war are the ones who get to write the school books: they write that the defeated are always the enemy of mankind, the evil ones, the monsters. The victors are always fighting desperately for just causes. This trend is historically important in Satanism. As one religion takes over the ground and the demographics of a losing religion, the loser has its gods demonized and its holy places reclaimed. For example the Vatican was housed on an old Mithraist temple, and Gaelic spirits became monsters as Christianity brutalized Europe with its religious propaganda.
There are groups, therefore, that were wiped out by the Christians. The Spanish Inquisition forced, in duress and torture, many confessions out of its victims, confessions of every kind of devil worship. Likewise its larger wars against Muslims, science, freethought, etc, were all done under the guise of fighting against the devil. In cases where their victims left no records of their own we will never know what their true beliefs were. So the legacy of Christian violence has left us with many associations between various people and Devil Worship, and we know that most of these accounts are wrong, barbaric and the truth is grotesquely forced in them.
We know now that most the Christian Churches' previous campaigns were unjustified. Various groups and individuals through have become called Satanists. Such claims are nearly always a result of rumours, mass paranoia and slanderous libel. The dark age victims of this kind of Christian paranoia were largely not actually Satanists, but merely those who didn't believe what the orthodox Church wanted them to believe. Thus, history can be misleading especially when you rely on the religious views of one group, who are clearly biased against competing beliefs!
“Although some have said that the Knights Templar were a Satanic organisation the historical and theological evidence is completely contradictory. They were a Christian military order founded in 1118 CE to defend routes to the holy land, and they gained wealth and influence. They funded the building of many of Europe's greatest cathedrals, became bankers, and are said by some to be one of the first multinational corporations2,3. They fell out of favour due to their power and influence and were then oppressed by French royalty from 13074. All kinds of claims of immorality, debauchery, homosexuality and corruption were common against them, but the claim of Devil Worship was very unlikely5,6 and the evidence was invented by competing Christian institutions.”
“The Satanism-for-fun-and-games fad next appeared in England in the middle 18th Century in the form of Sir Francis Dashwood's Order of the Medmanham Franciscans, popularly called The Hell-Fire Club. While eliminating the blood, gore, and baby-fat candles of the previous century's masses, Sir Francis managed to conduct rituals replete with good dirty fun, and certainly provided a colorful and harmless form of psychodrama for many of the leading lights of the period. An interesting sideline of Sir Francis, which lends a clue to the climate of the Hell-Fire Club, was a group called the Dilettanti Club, of which he was the founder.”
“The Hell-Fire Clubs conjure up images of aristocratic rakes outraging respectability at every turn, cutting a swath through the village maidens and celebrating Black Masses. While all this is true, it is not the whole story. The author of this volume has assembled an account of the Clubs and of their antecedents and descendants. At the centre of the book is the principal brotherhood, known by the Hell-Fire name - Sir Francis Dashwood's notorious Monks of Medmenham, with their strange rituals and initiation rites, library of erotica and nun companions recruited from the brothels of London. From this maverick group flow such notable literary libertines as Horace Walpole and Lord Byron. Pre-dating Medmenham are the figures of Rabelais and John Dee, both expounding philosophies of "do what you will" or "anything goes". Geoffrey Ashe traces the influence of libertarian philosophies on the world of the Enlightenment, showing how they met the need for a secular morality at a time when Christianity faced the onslaught of rationalism and empiricism. He follows the libertarian tradition through de Sade and into the 20th century, with discussions of Aleister Crowley, Charles Manson and Timothy Leary, delving below the scandals to reveal the social and political impact of "doing your own thing" which has roots far deeper than the post-war permissive society.”
Amazon Review of The Hell-fire Clubs: A History of Anti-morality by Geoffrey Ashe
“An informal network of Hellfire Clubs thrived in Britain during the eighteenth century, dedicated to debauchery and blasphemy. With members drawn from the cream of the political, artistic and literary establishments, they became sufficiently scandalous to inspire a number of Acts of Parliament aimed at their suppression. Historians have been inclined to dismiss the Hellfire Clubs as nothing more than riotous drinking societies, but the significance of many of the nation's most powerful and brilliant men dedicating themselves to Satan is difficult to ignore. That they did so with laughter on their lips, and a drink in their hands, does not diminish the gesture so much as place them more firmly in the Satanic tradition.
The inspiration for the Hellfire Clubs [also] drew heavily from profane literature - such as Gargantua, an unusual work combining folklore, satire, coarse humour and light-hearted philosophy written in the sixteenth century by a renegade monk named Francois Rabelais. One section of the book concerned a monk who [...] has an abbey built that he names Thelema [which is] dedicated to the pleasures of the flesh. Only the brightest, most beautiful and best are permitted within its walls, and its motto is 'Fait Ce Que Vouldras' ('Do What You Will').”
Gavin Baddeley's book opens with a long, fascinating and awe-inspiring chapter on histories Satanic traditions, following such trends through enlightenment, the decadents, through art, aristocracy and nobility, before concentrating the rest of the book on modern rock and roll devilry. It is a highly recommended book!
The magical and occult elements of Satanism have parallels with previous groups and teachings. Frequent references and commentary are made on certain sources. None of those listed here were Satanists except possibly Crowley:
The Knights Templar (11th-14th Centuries; France, Portugal, Europe) have contributed some symbolism and methodology but not much in the way of teachings.
The New Age (1900s+) has contributed some of the less respectable pop-magic aspects to Satanism such as Tarot, Divination, etc. Although Satanism was in part a reaction against the new age, some aspects of it have been generally adopted.
John Dee and Kelly (17th Century) created the Enochian system of speech used for emoting ('sonic tarot') and pronounciation in any way the user sees fit. LaVey adopted the Enochian Keys for rituals and includes his translation of them in The Satanic Bible1.
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947, England) was an infamous occultist and magician, and has lent a large portion of his techniques and general character to magical practice and psychology, as well as chunks of philosophy and teachings on magic and life in general.
The Kabballah, as the mother-text of nearly all the occult arts, has indirectly influenced Satanism, lending all kinds of esoteric thoughts, geometry, procedures, general ideas and some specifics to all occult practices.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844 Oct 15 - 1900 Aug 25, was a German philosopher who challenged the foundations of morality and promoted life affirmation and individualism. He was one of the first existentialist philosophers. His style was eloquent but harsh, and his arguments had a depth of analysis and wide factual breadth, making him difficult to read, but very convincing. His analytical skills, which are truly great, are usually employed to attack opponents, rather than to debate with them. Even where Nietzsche is clearly correct, his style of writing turns many away. Those who dislike Nietzsche often say he encourages elitism and pushes people forwards in a way that discourages sympathy or camaraderie towards fellow humans. All humans are weak, all humans are frail, all humans need friends, and love, and understanding: critics of Nietzsche say that there is too little of this, too little humanity, in his approach. Fans of Nietzsche say there is too much absurdity and nicety in philosophy, and that their philosopher with a hammer is simply brushing away old cobwebs.
Life: 1875 - 1947. Scotland, United Kingdom.
Infamous occultist and hedonist and influential on modern Satanism. Some hate him and think him a contentless, drug-addled, meaningless diabolicist with little depth except obscurantism. Others consider him an eye-opening Satanic mystic who changed the course of history. His general attitude is one found frequently amongst Satanists and his experimental, extreme, party-animal life is either stupidly self-destructive or a model of candle-burning perfection, depending on what type of Satanist you ask.
Some Satanists are quite well-read of Crowley and his groups. His magical theories, techniques and style have definitely influenced the way many Satanists think about ritual and magic.
“As far as Satanism is concerned, the closest outward signs of this were the neo-Pagan rites conducted by MacGregor Mathers' Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley's later Order of the Silver Star (A... A... - Argentinum Astrum) and Order of Oriental Templars (O.T.O.)
, which paranoiacally denied any association with Satanism, despite Crowley's self-imposed image of the beast of revelation. Aside from some rather charming poetry and a smattering of magical bric-a-brac, when not climbing mountains Crowley spent most of his time as a poseur par excellence and worked overtime to be wicked. Like his contemporary, Rev.(?) Mantague Summers, Crowley obviously spent a large part of his life with his tongue jammed firmly into his cheek, but his followers, today, are somehow able to read esoteric meaning into his every word.”
Links to other sites:
Europe has had a history of powerful indulgent groups espounding Satanic philosophies; with the occasional rich group emerging from the underground to terrorize traditionalist, stifling morals of their respective times, these groups have led progressive changes in society in the West. Satanists to this day employ shock tactics, public horror and outrage in order to blitzkreig their progressive freethought messages behind the barriers of traditionalist mental prisons.
When such movements surfaced in the USA in the guise of the Church of Satan, it was a little more commercialist than others. Previous European groups have also been successful businesses, the Knights Templar and resultant Masons, etc, being profound examples of the occasional success of left hand path commerce. The modern-day Church of Satan is a little more subdued as society has moved in a more acceptable, accepting, direction since the Hellfire Clubs. As science rules in the West, and occultism is public, there is no place for secretive initiatory Knights Templar or gnostic movements; the Church of Satan is a stable and quiet beacon rather than a reactionary explosion of decadence.
It is the first permanent non-European (but still Western) Satanic-ethos group to openly publish its pro-self doctrines, reflecting the general trends of society towards honesty and dissatisfaction with anti-science and anti-truth white-light religions.
Popular press and popular opinion are the worst sources of information. This holds especially true with the case of Satanism. Especially given that the exterior of Satanism projects imagery that is almost intentionally confusing to anyone uninitiated. From time to time public paranoia arises, especially in the USA, claiming some company, person or event is "Satanic". The public are nearly always wrong and nearly always acting out of irrational fear, sheepish ignorance and gullibility. Public outcries are nearly always erroneous when they claim that a particular group, historical or present, are Satanic.
Similar to this is the relatively large Christian genre of writing that deals with everything unChristian. The likes of Dennis Wheatley, Eliphas Levi, etc, churn out countless books all based on the assumption that anything non-Christian is Satanic, and describe many religious practices as such. These books would be misleading if they had any plausibility, but thankfully all readers except their already-deluded Christian extremist audience cannot take them seriously. Nevertheless occasionally they contribute to public paranoia about Satanism.
In the press and sociology, the phenomenon of public paranoia about criminal activities of assumed Satanic groups is called Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) Panic. SRA claims are equal to UFO, abduction, faeries and monsters in both the character profile of the manics involved and the lack of all evidence (despite extensive searching!) to actually uncover such groups.