Some people have an inherent need for ceremony, ritual and dogma in their lives. As the modern world disposes of organized religion, the historical provider of these elements of life, people are taking up alternative religions. The instinct towards symbolism is a result of our evolution through a pre-literate phase of development both in history and as an infant. Satanism provides ritualistic and dogmatic trappings without the waffle of many other religions. This page also takes a simple look at how the growing interest in new religious movements and the New Age relates to Satanism and human nature.
As the modern world slowly sheds organized religion it seems that decentralized and individualist spiritualisms have ascended, including the New Age and Pagan movements. Some people just seem to have an inherent need for ceremony, ritual and dogma in their lives. Some authors have concluded that religious-like behaviour is an expression of humanity that will not go away, and that the instinct towards symbolism is a result of our evolution through a pre-literate phase of development both in history and as an infant. Karen Armstrong writes that "Human beings have always been mythmakers"2. The existence of a base, emotional and primitive instinctive connection to strange symbols and otherworldly ideas is admitted not only by the New Age movement and esoteric religious writers, but mainstream religious scholars have come to this conclusion too. Needless to say, such religious writers mostly "realize" that mankind has in innate need for their particular religion (how lucky!) but occasionally they appear more friendly towards the idea that such a Human inclination has a basis in the general Human psyche. As a result of this inclination, the Anglican academic Monica Furlong, in her book on the Church of England (2000), explains how the reformation, that reformed Christianity and placed a heavy emphasis on text, caused a backlash:
“Behind the repudiation of the ceremonial by the reformers lay a radically different conceptual world, a world in which text was everything, sign nothing. [...] It would take centuries for the Church of England to acknowledge and try to recover what it had lost [...]. In its place text ('the word') became in its own way a different sort of worshipped image, one which sometimes excluded feeling and the deep movements of the unconscious mind which ritual had faithfully fed. It is not, of course, that poetry or powerful preaching cannot express feeling, but that part of our human consciousness is pre-literate, both historically and in our personal childhood experience, and the whole of our experience cannot necessarily be captured by words. It may be important to lay wordless experiences alongside the wordy ones, as in music, colour, form, movement and smell.”
This is recognition that our need for such things is based not on God-given instinct, but a subconscious biologically-based leftover from our preliterate days, and our preliterate youth. A time when symbols, as in early religion, were much more powerful and imposing because we had no words. Symbolism and ritual form part of our development, and part of our needs, in life. Furlong may not have meant to highlight such a fundamental way in which the non-religious look upon religion - as a misguided answer to some biological impulse. Science and humanism don't satisfy this impulse for some people, because of the lack of symbolism and ritual.
“Myths can be debased and uprooted. All that happens is that modern myths and rituals replace the traditional ones, for myths and archetypes are an inherent part of the human psyche. Human beings appear to need a religious underpinning both to their personal and to their social lives. At the personal level, human beings need a mythology within which to frame their identities and the meaning of their lives. At the social level, some ideology is needed to give people a vision of their history, their present place in the world and their future direction, to act as a focal point of unity, an agreed framework for public policy and a justification for the public rituals that affirm social cohesion. Where formal religion no longer provides this underpinning, various alternatives have evolved. At the social level, 'pseudo-religions' such as Marxism and nationalism have been successful partly because they do provide an alternative picture - a myth of history and a direction for the future.”
Despite all the arguments that some people need and seek out religion, it also happens to be the case the large parts of the world do without religion. It is common sense in non-religious countries such as the UK that the purpose of our lives is connected only to personal aims and personal values, such as love or happiness, or the socially orientated "to do good". People simply like things that take their minds off the mundanity of life. Religion, football, hobbies and interests all serve similar functions. The problem was that there was no sensible and non-superstitious religion that employs powerful symbols that center on our needs and hidden desires. That is... until Anton LaVey brought forth Satanism!
Anton LaVey writes on the modern materialistic and scientific insights we have into the world, in particular he emphasizes the success of psychiatry in replacing spiritualism and the priestly ministry. He then states:
“This is all very well and good, BUT - there is one flaw in this new state of awareness. It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is man's inherent need for emotionalising through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment. Psychiatry, despite all the good it has done, has robbed man of wonder and fantasy which religion, in the past, has provided.
Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalising, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.”
The increasing interest in all aspects of Paganism, Shamanism, the New Age, new religious movements, the occult and alternative religion is caused, according to multiple authors, by the lack of ritual and religious trapping of science and materialism combined with the lack of trust and truth in the major religions. Satanism, as a materialistic philosophy combined with ritual and religious imagery, satisfies the need for dogma and ritual. As Satanism is also anti-religion and pro-freethought, it allows for activism and energetic adherency which are both things that many people are drawn to. As a force for the future, Satanism is an indestructible force on the battle field where the gods of the past have all been declared dead interests, and all religions false.
“For [the psychologist, Carl] Jung, religion could play a positive role in human life: 'Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe.' Religion thus acts as a form of therapy, explaining and reconciling human beings to the pains and suffering of the world.”
Dogmatic statements about our place in our universe answer such questions as why am I here and what should I do with my life. Religions' contain dogmatic answers because, as of yet, science does not know how to approach such questions, and philosophy has tended to be too waffly and self-referential. Satanic answers include the will to happiness, and the settings up of personal ideals and interests which are then indulged in. It is common sense in non religious countries such as the UK, that the point of our lives is a personal aim, such as love or happiness, or the socially orientated to do good. Satanism affirms these and holds that Satan stands for and wills that you indulge in whatever your aims in life are.
There are a few general causes of the continual growth of unusual, novel, small, untraditional, often magical, seemingly counter-cultural and Earth-centered religious movements. The New Age, the Celtic revival (Druids, et. al.), neo-Paganism and Wicca all seem to share some features and often share actual practices, beliefs and members7, and all are growing in sync. Likewise, there are often similar motivations for people to get involved with these types of movements, even including Satanism despite it being somewhat different to the rest of the New Religious Movements:
Anti-consumerism and anti-materialism supply common motives alongside general disillusionment with Western capitalism and globalisation8. Two scholars who have comprehensively examined modern Paganism state that the rise of interest in Paganism is "a response to an increased dissatisfaction with the way the world is going ecologically, spiritually and materially; people are disillusioned by mainstream religion and the realisation that materialism leaves an internal emptiness" (Harvey & Hardman 19959). But these feelings are also shared by many other traditional and world religions and by secular critics. For example, zany Pentecostal Christianity, also a growth sector in religion, shares these traits. Harvey Cox in his analysis specifically states that Pentecostalism is a response against contemporary materialism, giving expression to "the language of the heart" and supporting "chaotic emotions without suppressing them", and providing people with an "alternative" life, all within a Christian context10. All very similar proclamations to those supporting the New Age and many NRMs. Anton LaVey's writing are full of anti-consumerist rhetoric, going to great lengths to analyse popular culture and distance himself from it. He was thoroughly pro-materialist, but, in a refined and exquisite way rather than in the shallow and meaningless way in which the herds are materialist.
Activism. Areas of popular concern are often taken up quickly by small and new religious movements. Activist causes have found accord with neo-pagan groups and bolstered their numbers and popularity, in particular from the 1970s. As liberal Christians have embraced many of these same concerns11 we can see that they are not the reserve of NRMs but of modern religious liberalism and moral conscientiousness.Satanism has no concept of a central list of areas of concern, but, many Satanists are secularists and find cause in opposing the entrenchment of religion in the public sphere. Aside from that, we Satanists themselves are often tough-willed and opinionated, making us largely suitable as activists even though there we often disagree more than we agree amongst ourselves about what stances to take!
Environmentalism is commonly proclaimed by all kinds of pagan, Celt, pseudo-Native and New-Agers, and attracts many people on the basis of their concerns and passions for the world that we live in. A "desperate" reaction to the sad loss of the countryside and rapid urbanisation from 1890 onwards made people turn towards paganism12,13 as a theoretical solution - and soon enough, neo-pagan religions arose to take on the challenge. Predictably, such people are nature-deprived city folk "as is usually true of those who love nature (the farmers are too busy fighting it)"14. Many alternative spiritualities now sell themselves as representing "green religion"15. Conservationism and sustainability are ubiquitous and this is the case both amongst the emoting of individuals and the doctrine and stance of organised groups.16
See: "Religion Versus Womankind" by Vexen Crabtree (2007)
Feminism: Neopaganism and Wicca formed strong associations with early feminists. Feminists joining Dianic witchcraft in the 1980s (influenced by authors such as Zsuzsanna Budapest and Starhawk) outnumbered all other kinds of convert in that decade17, and Paganism in general attracts those who are interested in feminist spirituality and goddess worship18. Although now some of LaVey's writings on women are clearly dated, and sometimes even embarrasing for Satanists, at the time LaVey's sermons on women were empowering and liberating, and many women were drawn to Satanism because of the lack of suppression and misogyny which is to be found in mainstream religions. See: Sex and Sexuality in Satanism, the Religion of the Flesh: 5. LaVey and Women.
A lack of magic and fantasy in text-based religions has been highlighted by multiple sociologists as causing a gap in the provision of public religion. Monica Furlong (2000)19 describes how institutional religion in Britain from the Reformation became increasingly dogmatic and text-based; reformers made "a world in which text was everything, sign nothing". David Martin talks of "religious frustration with an over-intellectualized" Christianity20. The zealous suppression of supernaturalism made Christianity more abstract and removed. This has produced two opposites; a gradual increase in secularism (as it is supernatural thinking that grants religious legitimacy) and a gap into which non-textual alternative spiritualities has grown. Another scholar of religion, Momen, says that the roots of religion can be removed but "all that happens is that modern myths and rituals replace the traditional ones, for myths and archetypes are an inherent part of the human psyche"4, and Christopher Partridge tells us that "many are drawn [to Wicca] by the desire to practise magic"21. These NRMs are rising to cover the supernatural ground that organized Christianity has increasingly shunned over the last few centuries. See: Satanic Ritual and Satanic Magic.
The rise of individualism and the modern pick-and-mix approach to religion has seen people abandon the concept of adopting a religious tradition that is formulated, structured and archaic in favour of personalized collections of beliefs, some from one tradition, some from another. This approach does not suit centralized or dogmatic religions where doctrine has been worked out as part of an entire theology of existence. Instead, unstructured, new and novel pseudo-religions are embraced where freethought (but not skepticism) are likely to be accepted. Adler (1986) found that of the 6 main reasons American gave for being involved in Paganism, most of them were individual-based including the freedom of practice, the exercise of the imagination, intellectual satisfaction and personal growth18.
By Vexen Crabtree 2014 Oct 04
Originally published 2002 Nov 13
Parent page: Satanists and Satanic Community: How many are there and what are they like?
(1986) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers, and other Pagans in America Today. Published by Beacon Press, Boston, USA. First published 1979. In "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) Chapter 4, p137.
(2005) A Short History of Myth: Volume 1-4. Kindle edition 2008. First published in Great Britain in 2005 by Canongate Books Ltd.
"Contemporary Celtic spirituality" (2002), chapter 2 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002).
(2002) Contemporary Celtic Spirituality. This essay is chapter 2 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) (pages p55-102).
Fenn, Richard K.
(2009) Key Thinkers in the Sociology of Religion. A look at what 11 sociologists of religion think of "the sacred". Be warned that Fenn's book contains one chapter on each sociologist of religion but that his own mystical and specific take on 'the sacrad' is heavily intermingled with his commentary - see the book review for a proper description. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, London, UK. [Book Review]
(1996) The New Age Movement: Religion, Culture and Society in the Age of Postmodernity. Blackwell Publishers Ltd, London, UK.
(1996) The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. 2001 re-issue. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
(2002) Religion, Science and the New Age. This essay is chapter 5 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) (pages p173-224).
"Aspirational Indians: North American indigenous religions and the New Age" (2002), chapter 3 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002).
(2004, Ed.) Encyclopedia of New Religions. Hardback. Published by Lion Publishing, Oxford, UK.
(2002, Ed.) Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age. Published by Ashgate, Aldershot, UK and The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
(1991) A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans. Published by Thames & Hudson, London, UK. Originally published in 1980. Cited in Pearson (2002) Introduction p17.
(2002, Ed.) Global Religious Movements in Regional Context. Published by Ashgate Publishing Ltd in association with the Open University. This was a religious studies textbook in the AD317 OU course.
York, Michael. Principal Lecturer in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and Director of the Sophia Centre at Bath Spa University College, UK. Previously a post-doctoral reasearcher at the Academy for Cultural and Educational Studies in London.
(1995) The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-Pagan Movement. Published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, USA.