By Vexen Crabtree 2007 Dec 05
Two essays by Magisters in the Church of Satan:
“The Church of Satan is emphatically not intended as a means for socializing.”
Most Satanic communities are ad hoc and transitory; individuals sometimes bump into each other, grow up together, while living in the same location. It is very rare for this to involve more than two or three individuals because there are very few Satanists. Sometimes, an individual will organize a regional meeting, normally in a capital or a large city, and several, a dozen, or more, people will attend. But these meetings are often very loose, friendly and social in nature, and are not very frequent.
My page on Church of Satan Membership mentions how most Satanists do not formally join the Church of Satan. This is not frowned upon. The Church of Satan says that membership of the Church of Satan (and indeed, this applies to the Satanic community in general) is like being in a "mutual admiration society", and LaVey used the more provocative term "a cabal", in either case it is slightly oxymoronic that there is a Satanic "community" of non-joiners. Satanism is not about group hugs or social feel-good.
"Satanic community" are words that apply to Satanism in only the loosest and least friendly sense. Peter Gilmore, the High Priest of the Church of Satan, says:
“Satanists are amazingly diverse individuals and they may share very little in common beyond the fact that their approach to living leads them all to adopt the label "Satanist." This is the reason why we generally do not have large gatherings of Church of Satan members, nor do we have conventions, as this group of individuals would not get along with one another en masse. Look at the evidence for this in the ghetto of online Satanism, which is a very small subset of people who call themselves Satanists. This bunch is the most contentious and cantankerous collection of curmudgeons ever seen in one place. So the very idea that these people could ever work together as a community is completely naive - misguided idealism, rather than Satanic pragmatism. [...] To attempt to make this very loose and shadowy assemblage into something resembling other existing communities would mean disregarding the core principles of Satanism as a philosophy.”
“Within Satanism it is expected that disagreements will occur amongst adherents. As a Left Hand Path religion, Satanism puts a large emphasis on the individual, thinking for yourself and breaking with conventions. It is expected that Satanists will disagree on things. If it was that Satanists agreed on everything then we would become weak and dogmatic, simply following the herd. It is not at all like that.
“A word to the wise: since Satanism is a philosophy which holds individualism as one of its main values, we donít expect all of our members to agree on everything, or even to ďget alongĒ with each other. Thus, you are cautioned that you might find some differences of opinion in these discussions. Satanism, by definition, is a philosophy in which you wonít find group hugs as part of the repertoire.”
Mature adults can have disagreements and remain 'friends' with the other person. If you find yourself in an argument make sure the other person knows that you are a not trying to attack them personally (and don't). Victory not vengeance: Set out to learn from disagreements, not to fight destructively. [...]
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.”
“1893 Satanists were counted in the UK's National Census of 2011 despite "extensive coverage in the media"4 which make some suspect that numbers are higher. The number of Satanists is notoriously difficult to estimate. Most Satanic groups are informal, temporary and ad-hoc (so 'congregation' numbers cannot be counted), and the mainstream Church of Satan does not publish membership numbers. Also, many Satanists are not members of the Church of Satan. Hence, estimates of numbers of Satanists have varied wildly according to authors' imaginations and paranoias. In 2001 and 2002 I enquired at London Satanists meetings and found that only half identified themselves as a Satanist on the census. Others put "atheist" or even Christian denominations as their religion. This is a significant under-representation. As 1525 were counted in the 2001 Census, an estimate of 3050 seems sensible. Now in 2011, with slight growth in terms of percent of the population since 2001, an estimate of 3850 seems sensible5.”
“Satanists are born not made. This was LaVey's teaching and it is also the conclusion I draw from my experience of Satanic "community". Whether hidden or public, conversion to Satanism is for most people either irresistible or impossible. Not many struggle. If a person needs to be consoled or pressurized into calling themselves a Satanist then it is nearly always a mistake to call them one. This is why there is no proselytisation. Conversion is frequently through exposure to "The Satanic Bible" by Anton LaVey (1969) or the Church of Satan in the media, and via a few other Satanic books.”
A light-hearted summary of different types of Satanists. Here I model Satanists into four basic types: Evangelists, Infernals, Practicals and Diabolicists. People, especially Satanists, are notorious for not fitting very well into such boxes. So please bear in mind that no person fits entirely into one box below, and some people fit none of them. Some people, the true Demons, excel in all four categories!
Infernals are history's notorious Satanists. Surrounded by orgies, drugs, sex and infamy, these are the true Rock and Roll Satanists. These are lives lived to the full, burning the candle at both ends and setting the world alight with horror and uproar.
Infernals live the lifestyle. They are risk takers and pleasure seekers. Sometimes with dubious morals and short sighted fun, their parties have hit the history books of Satanism. They don't necessarily study Satanism, but their lives are proof that they understand every last letter of the word "indulgence" and that is about as Satanic as you can get if you care more for a full life than a long one.
Their credentials are unquestioned. Satanists give a nod to the Infernals whether they called themselves Satanists or not, sometimes with jealousy sometimes even with shock at their recklessness. If caught in an interview they're more likely to rant incoherently than actually enlighten the world... however their wanton desire for life is still inspirational and contagious even if it is slightly primitive.
Presenting themselves as intellectuals and philosophers, web site authors (ahem...) and public figures, Satanic Evangelicals are critical thinkers and activists. Evangelists are sometimes inspirational and sometimes boring. They are sometimes Lucifer's elite intellectual underground, divining the wills of the demons. Evangelists are the Computer Keyboard Warriors.
I cannot help being critical of the Evangelists, as I find self-humour irresistible.
Evangelists sometimes struggle to justify and explain away the fuel burning frenzy of the Infernals. The Infernals do not care for the theory or philosophy of Satanism, they just want to have fun. Evangelists take pride and power in planning and thought, Infernals take enjoyment in physical gratification. Both are hedonistic, Infernals externally and evangelists internally.
Evangelists are the saviours of Satanism, book writers and intelligent public speakers. The most popular members of the Priesthood of Mendes will be evangelists: Probably Infernals in their private time too, but hey the Priesthood are elected for their success.
Underground army of Belial.
Practicals sometimes frown upon the pointless meanderings of the evangelist. They share the point of view of the Infernals: Why bother justifying ourselves? Quit all that fussing over words and get on with your life already! Practicals also frown upon the hedonistic and reckless Infernals. What a waste of life! Like the Evangelicals, though, there is surely some envy in their criticism of the bold Infernals!
The Practicals are consistent, normal. They apply Satanism in their lives without burning out and without getting bogged down in details or philosophy. Just do it however you want. Ultimately sensible. "Sensible" coming from the mouth of a Satanic Evangelist type is a compliment. But the Infernals disagree, according to them sensible, like "political correctness", is just a boring waste of time and more of a restriction than a blessing!
“I am me first, a Satanist second. The way I believe all things in life should be approached.”
TheOptimist (2001 Nov 09)
The practicals may study Satanism privately and perform secret rituals. They toy with the idea of attending Grottos and meetings and may do, sometimes, but firstly they are themselves with their own lives. Sometimes mysterious, they can also be:
The Practicals include the class of Satanist who are not public about their beliefs. Those Satanists who aligned themselves with the Church of Satan but do not tell their friends or relatives. It is personal. Their secret source of power needn't be discussed or debated, it just is. In my experience around London I've met a few Hidden Ones, they contact someone more Evangelical every now and then just as nod of mutual respect.
“Most of us will be what LaVey termed "First-level" Satanists; we appear to be akin to the rest of society, in terms of our jobs, outward appearances, homes and leisure interests - but we apply Satanism positively to give us that extra something we can't find anywhere else. And we use magic and ritual as we see fit.”
Dylan Clarke in Rule Satannia Issue 4 (2004)6
Oh, those pesky attention seeking types! But wait a minute, despite the inversion, parody, blasphemy and confrontationalism there really is a serious and deep intellectual message behind their actions. Many are not merely seeking attention to themselves, but to the ridiculousness of the concepts that they mock. They do not often achieve the same level of historical memorability as the Infernals, because the things that shock people change over time.
Taking symbolism from anywhere, from 666 to pig's blood, the Diabolicists are as hated as the Infernals by those American Christian anti-rock activists (you know who I mean). They're as likely to irritate Satanists as anyone else, their arguments and apologetics are shoddy and immature and they're not entirely good at the whole "society" thing either. But out of this rebellious mess will eventually emerge a fully Demonic, mature person.
Diabolicists, in general, grow up to become Satanic Infernals, Satanic Practicals or maybe even Satanic Evangelists. Some drop all the imagery and become ordinary, sensible atheists.
Some actually never change, using their parody and the sense of outrage to send serious messages into society, to inspire the kids to question the taboos and to cause a stir in a way that the stoic Evangelists may fail to do. Sometimes shock factor just has no substitute!
Satanism is an attractive religion for academics to study, especially social scientists. They get to feel special, although so much has been written that there is little new to be said. Most Satanists shun statisticians who ask about their beliefs, so, survey results about Satanism could be skewed towards representing certain types of Satanist.
In "Cults: Secret Sects and Radical Religions" by Robert SchroŽder (2007) there is an article on Satanism that is largely awful when it comes to the philosophical details, and semi-educated when it comes to the history of Satanism. About Satanists themselves, the author states: "During the 1970s and 1980s, his cult spread across America and even crossed the Atlantic, attracting a group of disciples who were largely comprised of well-educated men between the ages of 30 and 40."
And the respectable, educated and fair sociologist James R Lewis has conducted some of the biggest surveys of Satanists. He writes on the religious history of Satanists:
“I collected some basic demographic data in connection with a larger study of contemporary Satanism. I constructed a simple questionnaire that could be answered in 5 or 10 minutes, and began sending out questionnaires in early August 2000. By the end of February 2001 I had received 140 responses, which I felt was adequate to use as the basis for constructing a preliminary profile. [...] I was surprised to find that the average respondent had been a Satanist for seven to eight years. I also found that over two-thirds of the sample had been involved in at least one other religion beyond the tradition in which they were raised - usually Neo-paganism or some other magical group. Both of these statistics indicate a level of seriousness I had not anticipated. Many respondents indicated that their religious upbringing was superficial, nominal or non-existent.”
The High Priest of the Church of Satan, Peter Gilmore, explains that Satanists are free to "eat what they please, dress as they please, and generally follow whatever lifestyle suits them best"7. The mass media and popular culture portray Satanists as wearing certain clothes. In Rosemary's Baby the Satanic society wore expensive business suits and high-society attire, yet the gothic suicidal teens alluded to in popular culture seem the complete opposite.
“Since Satanists cover the total spectrum of economic and professional achievement, unless someone is sporting a Sigil of Baphomet medallion, or wearing the Baphomet lapel pin signifying an official representative, you really cannot pin down a Satanist by appearance and behaviour alone. [...] They eat what they please, dress as they please, and generally follow whatever lifestyle suits them best.”
It is worth examining some of the dress styles popularly found amongst Satanists. There are many valid objections to the systematic categorization of people's appearance, but what follows is what I think to be four pertinent Satanic stereotypes:
Probably the biggest proportion of long-term Satanists fall into the category of professionals. Smart and sharp dressers whether in businesswear, sportswear or tidy casuals, they embody confidence and capability.
Younger or older, the outlandish dress of these Satanists is aggressive, attention-grabbing, counter-cultural and rugged. Beneath the exterior can lay a computer programmer, technician, student or a waster: Only those who have genuine skills will remain a Satanist, the rest will deteriorate into normals or drunkards.
Whether a traditional goth in layers of victorian-esque frills, a cyber goth in clubbing clothes, an 80s goth with big hair and a baggy Cure tshirt, goths vary from bookish philosophers through to technical workers in the sciences, computer industry or anywhere else.
Are all goths Satanists? Definitely not. Most goths are not religious at all, let alone Satanists. I know Christian goths and pagan goths; I once went to a service in central London that specifically caters for goth Christians, where I talked to two Christian priests who were both goths. In conclusion, goths can be of any religion but are mostly unreligious.
Satanists are a large group who have never had (or who have abandoned) any notable sense of alternative fashion, and who are also not particularly well-dressed. They spend their energies and thoughts on things other than clothes (and why shouldn't they?). The Practicals!
Serious Christians have preponderance for black, as do Muslims. In some ways, Satanists are conforming to a serious look that have roots in religious tradition, in others, there is something about the way smart Satanists wear black that is still different to the austere adherents of other religions. Despite the disclaimers, a disproportionate quantity of Satanists of all types do actually wear black, and this warrants some investigation and explanation.
Sociologists have studied the effects of "colour bias" on peoples' judgements of behaviour. Thomas Gilovich reports:
“A particularly interesting example of how our expectations can influence what we see involves people's negative associations to the color black and how they can influence the perceived aggressiveness of someone wearing black clothing. The "bad guys" have worn black hats since the invention of motion pictures, and psychological research has shown that film directors who employ this tactic are capitalizing on a very basic psychological phenomenon: Surveys conducted in a wide range of cultures reveal that black is seen as the colour of evil and death in virtually all corners of the world.
This negative association leads to several interesting results in the domain of professional sports. When my colleague Mark Frank and I asked a group of respondents to rate the appearance of professional football and hockey uniforms, they judged those that were at least half black to be the most "bad," "mean," and "aggressive" looking. These perceptions influence, in turn, how specific actions performed by black-uniformed teams are viewed. We showed groups of trained referees one of two videotapes of the same aggressive play in a football scrimmage, one with the aggressive team wearing white and one with it wearing black. The referees who saw the black-uniformed version rated the play as much more aggressive and more deserving of a penalty than those who saw the white-uniformed version. The referees "saw" what this common negative association led them to expect to see. As a result of this bias, it is not surprising to learn that teams that wear black uniforms in these two sports have been penalized significantly more than average during the last two decades.”
"How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life" by Thomas Gilovich (1991)9
The cycle that develops is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is how it could happen. People have various different 'favourite colours' and ways of dressing, and some tend to wear black. As popular culture associates this with some negative traits, then, subconsciously, such people are treated slightly differently, as we have seen above in the sociological studies of black-clad sports teams. As a result of this slightly different treatment, the individual comes to behave differently. Part of their self-identity may come to include their being different. This pattern does not occur for other dress senses, because, other styles do not have the negative connotations of the colour black. Therefore the person may well solidify and exaggerate the black clothes they wear. The cycle continues and as they are increasingly separated from popular culture, others will assume they are into occult, secretive and countercultural activities. This stereotyping leads the person (perhaps even this occurs without external prompting) to actually be curious about such things. Ergo, you get a gradual stream of such dark dressing individuals that come to Satanism. Estimating from personal experience, one quarter of all Satanists arrive at their combination of religion and fashion sense through this particular cycle.
Black is not only a colour of the bad guys in films, it has other associations. It is of sombreness, of seriousness and professionalism, of peace, serility, depth and simplicity. Black is the philosophical colour. If you wish to think deep, or to mourn the hopelessness of the masses of humanity, then you might find yourself drawn to a particular shade, and I predict that blue jeans and football t-shirts will not reflect the thoughtfulness inside.
“It is not doubted that Satanists want what is best for their children the same as other parents probably do. Unlike many religious groups, however, there is no pressure for any religious involvement for the child. Quite the opposite, I have found many Satanists are more concerned about indoctrination (even by accident by themselves) of their child by any religious group, including the Satanists' own beliefs.”
Most Satanists are, of course, combinations of all the above elements to different extents. This text has been light hearted, but hopefully it still hints at some kind of underlying truth behind the different types of Satanists. And why different people put emphasis of different aspects of Satanism according to their own needs and wants in life.
Anton LaVey and other major Satanic figures appear to have very large doses of all the character types above. These super-human demons are pretty damn unstoppable and they are generally given the respect and fear that they deserve by both the press, their fans and their enemies. Sometimes I will simply call powerful Satanists 'Demons'.
The author, Vexen, is a mere Evangelist as is probably apparent by the unstoppable flow of words and web pages that materialize during those long weekday evenings. Any balloonist or Hell-lover will tell you that the point of hot air is to get you somewhere... so stop reading this page already and go party!
Gilmore, Peter. High Priest of the Church of Satan (as of 2001+).
The Satanic Scriptures (2007). Hardback. Compendium of texts. Published by Scapegoat Publishing, USA. Many essays are new editions of older texts by Gilmore.
How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (1991). 1993 paperback edition published by The Free Press, NY, USA.
Petersen, Jesper Aagaard
Contemporary Religious Satanism (2009). Hardback. An anthology. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, Surrey, UK.
Cults: Secret Sects and Radical Religions (2007). Hardback. Published by Carlton Books.