“Magic falls into two categories, ritual or ceremonial, and non-ritual or manipulative.”
Magic is not taken seriously by scientists, academics, skeptics nor the general populace. Despite amazing and great advances in physics, quantum physics, psychology and neurology, no possible basis for "magical" actions has been found by researchers. All sociological investigations have found no evidence of real magical power, and parapsychological and occult experimenters have never been able to formulate proof that satisfies basic scientific requirements such as independent verification and impartiality. So, in the modern world, all major religions disclaim themselves against magic and say that they don't practice it. Ask a Christian if praying to heal someone is magic, or a Muslim if the healing ruqyah is magic, and they'll vehemently deny it. You see, in their religions, the special words they speak isn't magic. What a self-deluded lie! Satanism is one of those honest, down-to-Earth, in-your-face religions that doesn't try to hide the true nature of things. Speaking special words in order to get things done is magic, even if your chosen religion denies it. Some other modern religions, such as various strands of Paganism, also believe in magic2. Now in Satanism, it being a religion of skeptics, there are many who do not believe in the supernatural, and, most who do believe in it hold that it is mostly comprised of subtle psychological tricks and natural effects that are ordinary in nature, but, which rely on oddities in the way the human social mind works.
Magic and ritual in Satanism is mostly self-centered, and most of the time is only explicitly concerned with psychological techniques, psychodrama and advanced social skills. Rare communal rituals are more traditional, concerning altered states of mind as a result of the environmental and inspirational aspects of the ritual. Some Satanists do believe, and practice, actual supernatural magic. Such magic is a matter of cause-and-effect and individual willpower, rather than involving any invented external aspects such as demons or spirits. In Satanism, the self is the sole source of power in all magic and ritual.
I believe the term "magick" is used in order to differentiate supernatural magic from psychological and stage magic. I generally just use the term "supernatural magic" and don't use "magick". Other terms are generally coined and made up by people who need to impress or want to sound like they might know more than you... I am always suspicious of those professing knowledge of "magicke" or other exotic spellings of the word. LaVey puts it very simply:
There is no point in teaching universal systems of magic, because symbols and associations are different for every human being. Our emotional and instinctive reactions to signs and symbols depends completely on our upbringing and inherited personality traits. If people do not have the same emotional attachments to symbols, then, it is impossible to assert that certain symbols should be used in certain ways or at certain stages in rituals. Rituals, after all, rely completely on emotional states.
“It is known that the Unconscious, whether personal or collective works by means of pictures or images, speech being a comparatively recent development. [...] Magic [...] speaks to the subconscious mind of man through the archaic images of its symbols and rituals, and thereby produces those "changes in subconscious" which the magician seeks.”
“Choose the religious system most convenient to you and to your work.”
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
Quoted in "The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft" by Ronald Hutton (1999)5
'Changes in subconscious' are achieved through signs and symbols and flow of a ritual or magical event. Although expert magicians can quickly learn what works for individuals, the best judges are normally those people themselves. That is why Satanic magic is not derived from a universal, carefully-worked-out 'system'. Such systems only ever appeal to subsets of those from particular cultures; they are cultish, and occultish. There is little in the way of occult magic in Satanism. It is mostly psychological trickery - and hey, at least we are honest about that fact! The heavy subjectivism and ad hoc nature of Satanic magic makes it a natural bed partner with chaos magic.
“Chaos magic first surfaced during the early 1970's in the form of a loose confederation known as the Illuminates of Thanateros, though it wasn't until the 1980's that it became a dominant thread in occultism. Advocates of this system (or 'absence of system', according to adherents) proclaim that the practitioner can invoke any tradition of gods, demons, angels or symbols - even those derived from fiction - as their personal meaning, rather than literal existence, is vital in achieving the individual's aims. This imaginative freedom has created more crossover between Satanism and chaos magic than any other area of the occult.”
This accords with the Left Hand Path, where personal effort and private thought are more powerful than relying on external intangibles like gods or tooth fairies. When you find that one of the The Satanic Rituals7 is based on the Cthulu myths (Lovecraft fiction), it is deeper than just using the symbols and power of the Lovecraft demons, it is also a valid application of Chaos Magic.
Chaos theory holds that no system can be universal, nothing can be constant, no power shows itself in the same way more than once, and that ultimately every symbol and event has a different relationship to every person who contacts it. This is because events that follow on from their causes are highly sensitive to the starting conditions; in other words, when people enter a ritual chamber or engage in magical behaviour, they will never be in the same emotional states as on previous occasions, so, the results will always be variable. Every event in our lives changes the neurological biology that sits behind our consciousness; our minds are a constantly changing storm. Each magical practice must be changed, altered and differed according to the states of mind of the participants at that time. Chaos, then, is the order of the day. The stricter the system, the worse the results! The better the results, the more the event was tailored for the individuals during it.
“Over the last twenty years, it has become a commonplace assumption of symbolic anthropology that the meanings of symbols are not exhausted by their shared or public elements, but are essentially a matter of private interpretation and, as such, may be inaccessible to others (including, alas, to ethnographers). Metaphor is public in so far as its terms are culturally salient and compelling; but its meaning to the different individuals who are oriented to it may be utterly different.8
This depiction of metaphor is very close in meaning to Edelman's definition of qualia. Although we may all see the colour red, or hear the word 'food', what we see and what we hear will be unique to each of us. [...] Even concepts, moral judgements or other symbolic representations of the material or social world will vary in meaning between individuals.”
The power of the symbol is only present in relation to the opinions of the viewer. No symbol is universally good, universally bad or even "mostly" one of the other. The most sensible approach is that of the left hand path, where every individual uses the symbols that represent what he thinks they do, and uses them according to his needs. The power of symbol lies in the will of the user, not in the power attributed to the symbol by other people.
Finally, the researcher Dave Evans says that there are more chaos magicians in the UK than Satanists, but there is some obvious crossover between the two sets of people - and - that there are still not many chaotes (he suspects there are more researching investigating them than there are practitioners!).10
“Non-ritual or manipulative magic, sometimes called "LESSER MAGIC", consists of the wile and guile obtained through various devices and contrived situations, which when utilized, can create 'change, in accordance with one's will'.”
Subtle body language & subconscious communication (i.e., reading 'in between the lines' when a person speaks) are forms of Lesser Magic. Day to day behaviour or specific roles you slip into are forms of lesser magic... the art of controlling people in the most subtle ways. In that much, it isn't a form of supernatural magic, but everyday psychology, even if some develop an uncommon capability in it.
Curses and hexes are forms of Lesser Magic. They are the only profound part of Lesser Magic.
“In communities where they believe in magic and the supernatural, fear of curses and the evil eye can have real psychological effects, sometimes even leading to physical symptoms of illness and malaise11. In the medical world, therefore, the effects fall within the realm of psychosomosis, in particular, the Nocebo Effect. This is an area of neurogenerative disease in which belief and expectation can worsen symptoms12, and within limits, even create symptoms where there's no need for them13.
Although some people believe in curses and intentionally try to enact them upon others - even in the modern world - in most cases those accused of witchery, evil and magic are generally innocent victims, and often already members of disliked minorities or are perceived as an outsider in some way; it is often a case of national development that authorities, scientists and rationalists must convince large numbers of people that it's nonsense before the perceived effects abate.
In face of the evidence of the psyhological nature of curses, believing peoples have had to declare that "Westerners are immune"; for example, the Fang people of Cameroon14 and the Caribs of Dominica15 have both concluded so. But, wrong again - it's not that Westerners are immune - but, that good education16 grants immunity to superstition and makes life more sensible in general, negating the need to explain things in terms of curses and hexes.”
When a neophyte asked me in 2001 how to rid herself of a curse, I told her the best way was not to believe in it. Because when you believe you are 'cursed' you are instantly assuming the worst and actively looking for things to blame on the curse. In that mindset, you are not at your best. If you concentrate on the bad things, that day will seem worse than others. The best approach is to ignore them. I am immune to curses. Shad, a member of the London Satanists, said in 2002 that "the easiest way to 'break' a curse as you put it, is just to not give it any power. By worrying constantly about it and blaming everything that goes wrong in your life on this little thing will only give it more power".
The 2nd Satanic Sin is "2. Pretentiousness. - - Empty posturing can be most irritating and isn't applying the cardinal rules of Lesser Magic". An example of failure to use lesser magic is empty posturing, where you make yourself out to be something you are not, or cannot provide or do what you claim you can do. This irritating trait seems to be a sign of insecurity, and in most cases in very transparent and will have a negative effect on people's opinion of you. This trait in particular, a Psychic Vampire warning sign, will ensure you never fascinate anyone!
For similar reasons, Anton LaVey wrote that "there is no sorcerer without a sense of humour. A sense of humour confers power in ways that cannot be learned"18. Humour is one of those subtle interpersonal skills that is so essential to enticing people to dropping their guard, that you just can't get along in magic without it. This is best illustrated by thinking of the opposite effect: Nothing puts up someone's defences quicker than if you approach them with pretentious seriousness and a burrowed frown, all dressed in black.
World religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism all embody a traditional and sometimes bizarre set of animal sacrifice rituals in their holy texts. These practices, despite being borderline barbaric and not in keeping with modern ideas of animal welfare, are still in use today by religious communities all over the world, including in the most modern countries. Although it might seem reasonable in the West to allow butchers to sell halal food, at the core of this familiar label is weird ritualistic behaviour that belongs in the dark ages. The ideals of pluralism have blinded us to the stark reality that some religious practices are simply unacceptable. Animal rights campaigners have joined forces with moral activists to try and curb religious ritual slaughter of animals. The general public associate blood rituals involving animals with Satanism, not realizing that they were all invented, and are still practiced, by mainstream religions - and that Satanism does not involve animal sacrifice. Sikhs will specifically not eat meat slaughtered in accordance with Jewish or Muslim practices due to the unnecessarily cruel methods used19.
Satanism defies expectations and defined itself against the stupid superstitions of popular religion. In order for Satanism to be out of the ordinary, it would have to actually reject animal worship. Satanism does see man "as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours"20, so it can be expected that Satanism has an untraditional attitude towards animal sacrifice.1
Why would a Satanist want to slaughter an animal? The Satanist's god is his own person, himself. So, a Satanist would want an animal killed for himself, be it by his own hands or by proxy. Satanists respect life as being much more useful, worthwhile and therefore Satanic whilst it is alive and kicking, and able to benefit us, than when it is dead and useless.
For more, see:
Some Satanists do not believe in supernatural magic and stick purely to the psychological and ritual elements. This however was not the case with Anton LaVey. He believed in it, magic in its traditional sense17. My opinions are highly biased towards a materialist view of the Universe, a non-spiritual and non-supernatural view. Anton LaVey (and many Satanists) do believe in more occult, supernatural powers.
I would have loved to ask Anton LaVey his thoughts and explanations on how some elements of the magic he believed in worked. I'm not aware that he really tried to justify his beliefs intellectually or in terms of objective evidence. On this subject he understands the most important point... that many people do not believe in it. He codified this in the Seventh Rule of the Earth:
If it works for you then use it. This empirical and practical approach is typical of Satanism. Anton LaVey used it and believed in it, and to that extent probably did not feel the need to try and explain it away, believing that science would catch up one day.
“Magic is never totally scientifically explainable, but science has always been, at one time or another, considered magic.”
After pseudo-scientific ideas centering on quantum physics, the second potential explanation for magic uses a solipsistic model of reality. Everything we see is a product of our own subconscious imagination. Our conscious self then interacts with this creation and we therefore experience our world. This truly makes us all gods, each individual being the sole creator of hir own reality. Greater Magic is simply a case of our subconscious altering things about reality according to its wishes, but in contradiction to the normal rules of science that our conscious self has learned about. All we have to do in strive to be more in touch with our subconscious to achieve effective results in magic. In a solipsistic world, Greater Magic is self-control and self-reflection. As reality is your own subconscious in the first place, then your subconscious can change that reality.
For more, see:
Modern proponents of the supernatural would invoke Quantum theory to explain supernatural magic, and the theories of faster than light communication, the interconnectedness of all things, the quantum soul theories and theories of will and effect (essentially of Thelema) are very relevant to occultists.
There are some good books on the subject of magic and the occult in a non-dualist framework, but if you wanting to look at it from a scientific point of view they will all be based on Quantum Physics. Look at Aspect's theories. Try books such as "The Quantum Self". I am not qualified to say much on supernatural magic myself.
Other than Anton LaVey, the following are important figures or groups that have had an influence on the magical theory and practice of modern Satanism:
“Each Key or Call is perhaps best thought of as a 'Sonic Tarot.' From a posthuman perspective their interest is mainly poetical, meditative, and for attaining altered states. I do not believe that angelic or supernatural entities are real, but I do agree with Costa ben Luca (in his Book of Adjurations) that "amulets" (crucifixes, fetishes, rosaries etc.) have the power to "comfort the mind."
Whilst I am against supernaturalist beliefs, I do not wish to disparage the social value of communion and ritual, nor the beauty of some religious art, words and music. I use mandalas, the Enochian Chessboards (flashing Tablets), as well as the various Enochian Calls, to focus or to clear my mind.”
Anton LaVey describes Enochian as possibly being older than Sanskrit, resembling Arabic, Hebrew and Latin. LaVey states it first appeared in print in 1659 in a biography of John Dee, the 17th century seer and court astrologer, who worked with his associate Edward Kelly21. Personally I believe that Dee/Kelly invented this language and perhaps attempted to make it seem ancient; although LaVey disagrees. Although I find its history dubious the Enochian litanies are immensely powerful and effective in achieving the sonic tarot affect as described by the author of posthuman.org.
A frequent question about The Satanic Bible1 and The Satanic Rituals7 is the meaning of "Shemhamphorash". It has been matched closely by scholars with a the Hebrew scriptures. Note that a missing 'a' is the only alteration:
“It has been said in the Doctrine of Transcendental Magic that the name of Jehovah resolves into seventy-two explicatory names, called Shemahamphorash. The art of employing these seventy-two names and discovering therein the keys of universal science is the art which is called by Kabalists the Keys of Solomon.”
Given this explanation though, I do not claim to know why Shemhamphorash is used within the context of Satanism.
“"Outsiders are always fascinated by the symbols, imagery, and litanies used in Satanic Ritual, and journalists unfortunately want to focus almost solely on this aspect of our religion. It may come as a surprise to these people that the use of ritual is not required of Satanists. It is an entirely optional tool, and many of our members tend to find that their personal acts of creativity are cathartic enough so that the formal practice of ritual would be redundant or pointless. Ritual, when used, is done as needed - there aren't compulsory weekly services."”
“Ritual magic consists of the performance of a formal ceremony, taking place, at least in part, within the confines of an area set aside for such purposes and at a specific time. Its main function is to isolate the otherwise dissipated adrenal and other emotionally induced energy, and convert it into a dynamically transmittable force. It is purely an emotional, rather than intellectual, act. Any and all intellectual activity must take place before the ceremony, not during it. This type of magic is sometimes known as "GREATER MAGIC".”
The best way you can understand the rituals is to read The Satanic Bible1 for yourself. Anton LaVey provides the evidence that Satanism is much more than a mere philosophy; it is a way of life that includes dogmatic, emotional and ritualistic components that Humanism or philosophy does not, and that only a religion can contain.
Satanism does not stop at the Humanist level of principal but takes further strides into the ritualistic, psychological and dogmatic arenas that are necessary to fulfil the need in people for such things.A Satanic Ritual is a period of emotion and release for those involved. It is a period of mental exercise and physical relaxation under circumstances where you simply go with the flow. Inner reflection and outward expression go hand in hand in some rituals, in order to facilitate the effective attaining of one's goals.
The Satanic Rituals are there for good reasons. First of all, science is not able to explain everything, some things are unknown, etc, and a Satanist is not deterred from divulging in supernatural experiments. Secondly, it is fantastic ceremony and the aim is to expand people's minds, to allow them to break barriers and express themselves.
The more barriers we break, the more clearly we can see, so if you think being in a Satanic Ritual is embarrassing, that's a barrier that you could do without. It's group ego-boosting, it's the rejection of monotheism in a physical in-your-face manner and, basically, it's fun.
There is a basic need in Man for ritual, dogma and Command-obedience, and the Rituals supply this. Unlike the rituals of other religions, the point is self-expression, the weaning away of taboo's and mental barriers, rather than indoctrination, suppression or nurturing guilt complexes.
The rituals are mainly centered around the various Satanic Grottos that litter the USA and it is recommended you join your nearest Grotto, even if you can't make it often, in order to see what goes on.
Other religions rituals, especially that of the Guilt-Driven ones like Christianity, Islam or Judaism, set up barriers, guilt complexes and mental apprehensions in order to further indoctrinate their subjects. What a farce they are, they do not recognize even the point of their own rituals! There is one word for this: Doublethink - the art of Christian theology is mentally blockading one's own intellect from the ritual arena!
The Satanic Rituals are the devious, diabolical and infernal inventions of intelligent minds whose aims are not, like the Right hand path religions, to create lies or distort the truth to fit the religion, but to help find the truth through psychologically advantageous and personally exhilarating dramas. This is Greater Magic and it utilizes powerful control over a person's mental state.
“There is no requirement for participation in ritual activity. The techniques presented in our literature are for members to make use of as they do desire. Some Satanists enjoy the social atmosphere of group ritual and seek out others for this purpose. Many Satanists find their ritual activity to be very personal and prefer to remain solitary.”
The rituals are aimed towards the individual, the Human Being, the being we like to think of as being most worthwhile on this planet. Personal rituals are our self worship and can be made up by the person in question, in private.
In "The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach" by Moojan Momen (1999)25, the author makes a comment on ritual based religion: 'Very often, it is not just the form of the proceedings that must be correct but also the person carrying out the ritual'. A ritual lead requires a confident and inspiring voice, preferably from someone who commands mystical respect. Such people, in Satanism, tend to be very thin on the ground - this is either the cause, or a symptom, of a lack of interest in ritual matters amongst Satanists.
The Intellectual Decompression Chamber is what I consider to be an element of ritual readiness. I would not use the word "ritually clean", but "ritually ready", but given that such a state in religions is hardly ever concerned with actual hygiene or cleanliness, perhaps 'readiness' is a more accurate term anyway. As Satanism is concerned with practical results and not superstition, such things no doubt take a different twist in Satanism. Dogma, as an unthinking assumption, is abhorred by Satanists, who wish to remain fully in control. But this hedonistic refusal to conform and believe is a detriment to ritual events as it prevents suspension of disbelief.
So, the Intellectual Decompression Chamber open and closes Satanic rituals and is the area where the Satanist purposely enters a state of mind of 'wilfully contrived ignorance', from where they are more attuned to the requirements of symbolic and ritual behavior. This, in Satanism, is the element of ritual readiness.
It is important to have a clear and concise start and end to a ritual. You know that everything in between those two events are part of the psychodrama; that intellectualism will work against you during that time. Rituals are the time of emotion and this is the case for both group and private rituals.
Sometimes LaVey refers to the entire ritual chamber as the Intellectual Decompression Chamber, however I like to refer in particular to the ceremonial opening and closing elements of the ritual by this name. The third chapter of the Book of Belial in The Satanic Bible1 is entitled "The Ritual Chamber", from which I quote two paragraphs:
“The formalized beginning and end of the ceremony acts as a dogmatic, anti-intellectual device, the purpose of which is to disassociate the activities and frame of reference of the outside world from that of the ritual chamber, where the whole will must be employed. This facet of the ceremony is most important to the intellectual, as he especially requires the "decompression chamber" effect of the chants, bells, candles, and other trappings, before he can put his pure and wilful desires to work for himself, in the projection and utilization of his imagery.
The "intellectual decompression chamber" of the Satanic temple might be considered a training school for temporary ignorance, as are ALL religious services! The difference is that the Satanist KNOWS he is practicing a form of contrived ignorance in order to expand his will, whereas another religionist doesn't - or if he does know, he practices that form of self-deceit which forbids such recognition. His ego is already too shaky from his religious inculcation to allow himself to admit to such a thing as self-imposed ignorance!”
This acknowledges the dogmatic nature of all religious ritual and at the same time justifies it by explaining the blatant honesty with which all Satanic rituals are performed. The Satanist goes into the rituals with both eyes open, there is no deceit, Lucifer is the bringer of Light, of enlightenment, and the Satanic Rituals are meditative, contemplative and self-influential.
Criticism: A criticism of the symbolic acts of aggression performed during a destruction ritual is that it is a weak, ineffective and pointless waste of time.
The criticism is short sighted. A typical session of mine would involve the symbolic destruction of an enemy. For the purposes of psychodrama and impressionism the enemy is a current foe who you currently feel aggression towards. As an honest person, the reader will admit that more frequently than not their anger is illogical, unnecessary and probably an over-the-top reaction.
During the decompression chamber for a psychodramatic and symbolic destruction of one's enemies you should normally admit and dismiss the possibility that your anger is ill-justified. The intellectual decompression chamber is increasingly important for ill justified hatred.
The major advantage of the combination of logic dispense and the destruction of a proximate enemy is one of self-control. The release of energy and violent action serves as an automatic toning down mechanism for the illogical behaviour pattern that you would otherwise take with you into the external world.
In many cases the purpose can be for self-expression without the consequences that would be faced if you were to do the same destruction in a physical way. You can remain more level headed, more efficient and more in control if you go through this process of psychodrama.
Criticism: It is said, even by some Satanists, that all psychodrama does is make you look stupid, or that it makes you look too stupid. People laugh at such a display rather than fear it.
The criticism is insecure. People feel stupid performing certain actions or saying certain things. For example many neophytes and most mundanes cannot say "Hail Satan". All it is is two words, yet people get embarrassed to say it. There are many such things that people are illogically afraid of doing and a psychodrama is a release and training ground for self-confidence and the reduction of such silly embarrassment.
And if people laugh at a psychodrama? If others laugh at you, it is more beneficial, because you are learning and strengthening your resolve, your own power, and as they laugh, they are diminishing the accuracy and clarity of their own thought, making the laughers weaker. Purposefully embarrassing yourself can only be done so many times before you cease to be embarrassed. This path of self-development is the left hand path, the path to self-empowerment and happiness. Once your own embarrassment is gone you can carry that air of confidence in your tasks that gives us our distinctive resolve and awe-inspiring stamina.