Satanism is a religious, semi-religious and/or philosophical movement whose adherents recognize Satan, either as an archetype, literal being, pre-cosmic force, or anything inbetween. Some Satanists celebrate aspects of human nature represented by the usually Christian or literary (Milton, Goethe) Satan archetype. Many Satanists do not worship a deity called Satan or any other deity. Unlike many religions and philosophies, Satanism generally focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes. However, some Satanists do have moral codes, e.g., the 9 Statements or 11 Laws of the Laveyan Satanists.

It should be noted that the depiction of so-called "Gothic Satanism" is not actually practiced in the world today. This is the Satanism accused during the Inquisition, with tales of murder and baby-eating.

Many contemporary Satanists eschew traditional religious beliefs, attitudes and worship in favor of a more egotistic worldview and practices such as magick. Groups or individuals described in some sense or another as Satanic can largely, though incomprehensively, be described as belonging to one of two unofficial sub-groupings: Philosophical Satanism or Religious Satanism.



In an older sense, Satanism also refers to unorthodox practices within Abrahamic religions deemed by an orthodoxy to be in opposition to the Abrahamic God. The earliest recorded instance of the word is in "A confutation of a booke (by Bp. Jewel) entitled An apologie of the Church of England", by Thomas Harding (1565): ll, ii, 42 b, "Meaning the time when Luther first bringed to Germanie the poisoned cuppe of his heresies, blasphemies, and Satanismes." As Martin Luther himself would have denied any link between his teachings and Satan, this use of the term Satanism was primarily pejorative. Many Satanists find such use of the term offensive.

The term "Satan" originated with Judaism and was expanded upon by Christians and Muslims. This Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of Satan can be broken up as follows:

  • Jewish: Satan, in Hebrew, means an adversary, misfortune, evil, and is also the name used for the fallen angel who rebelled against God and tests believers. The term is used throughout the bible in the context of misfortune, except in the book of Job where Satan is first described as an evil angel desiring to test the faith of Job.
  • Islamic: The Arabic word for Satan, "al-Shaitaan," means transgressor, or adversary, as in Judaism. It is a title which is generally attributed to a being called Iblis, who is a fallen angel.
  • Christian: In many branches of Christianity, Satan, originally Lucifer (before he fell away from Grace), is a spiritual being who opposes God, to wit, the Divinity in Nature. Also called the Devil from the Greek "diabolos" meaning "to throw something across your path". That is, the Devil is he who opposes your Divine Development by putting obstacles in your way. Another etymological theory is that the word "devil" was somehow derived from the Sanskrit "devi", meaning goddess. This is plausible in light of the patriarchal teachings of all three of the major monotheistic religions and follows the example of other "pagan" proper nouns and archetypes that had been appropriated and redifined by Christianity and Judaism (e.g. Baal, Hel, Pan, Lucifer, Astarte, etc.).

Philosophical Satanism

Largely considered to have been unofficially founded by Anton Szandor LaVey with his creation of the Church of Satan (one of the first above-ground organizations to use the term) Philosophical Satanism views one's self as the subjective center of the universe, and the highest aspirations and virtues are those which seek the elevation and improvement of the individual Satanist over others. Philosophical Satanists generally do not recognize a theological deity or a metaphysical afterlife (though this is not to say that one must not), however this does not equate to a life devoid of spirituality.

To the Satanist, One is One's own God, and He disdains rationalist, secular humanistic beliefs which abhor the existence of the supernatural, only to promote a sterile life grounded in the 'real world' alone and in working towards the altruistic advancement of His fellow man while neglecting His own gratification and amusement. Obviously, philosophically Satanic thought has had a long history before LaVey's Church (indeed, self-centered egotism is probably as old as civilization itself), though it was the notion of Satan as the idealistic, self-seeking black sheep which inspired the title in spite of contemporary Christianity (which views him as evil because of these qualities).

LaVeyan Satanism

Main article: LaVeyan Satanism

This type of Satanism is based on the philosophy of Anton LaVey as outlined in The Satanic Bible and other works. LaVey was the founder of the Church of Satan. Philosophically, it could be described as heavily influenced by the writings of Aleister Crowley, Niccolo Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and a few others; "Satan" is appropriated as a positive symbol of this worldview, and is not considered to exist in a literal fashion.

Theologically, each individual Satanist is viewed as his or her own god; its rituals are essentially magick in the original sense given by Crowley, with an eye towards furthering the Satanist's ends. The belief system can be summed up in the motto "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." The Church acknowledges that few people subscribe to its views, and is not nave of the fact that most people find the idea of being entirely self-serving to be morally repulsive. As such, though, the LaVeyan Satanist maintains, those who find themselves naturally aligned with Satanism should not adhere to herd mentality and assume there is something ethically wrong with them, but should instead adopt an individualistic, "who needs 'em" attitude, and consequently should strive constantly to stand head-and-shoulders above the so-called moral majority, and as much as possible to exploit their misguided altruism and good will.

Religious Satanism

Religious Satanism is often similar in outlook and attitude to Philosophical Satanism, though it is generally a prerequisite that the Satanist accept a theological and metaphysical canon involving one or more God(s) who are either Satan in the strictest, Abrahamic sense, or in some way represent or are tied to this person.

Depending on the Satanists in question, this God (or Gods) may be any in a variety of deities, sometimes taken from ancient faiths; with common ones being Set of Egyptian theology, any number of ancient Mesopotamian Gods or Goddesses, sometimes Gods of Greek or Roman mythology (Mars, for instance). Others claim a largely original God, although it is usually said by those Satanists that their deity is in fact very old, perhaps from ancient pre-history and often being the first God worshipped by humans (though such claims are unverifiable at best).

Others worship a stricter interpretation of Satan; that of the fallen angel featured in the Christian Bible, believing Him to be correct in his rebellion against God. All these faiths hold in common, however, with each other and with Philosophical Satanists, that man, and specifically one's self are the highest priorities. This view is often supported by the God, who is seen to encourage individuality and freedom of thought, and the quest to raise one's self up through magick and Nietzschean Will to Power.

One example of this would be the Abrahamic Satan, as the Serpent in Genesis encouraging mankind to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, saying "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.", with the clear implication, coinciding with the beliefs of all Satanists, that mankind should know what is better for itself than any God which would forbid knowledge and self-government. Because of the common position that their faiths are in fact very old, or the oldest, Religious Satanists sometimes refer to themselves as "Traditional Satanists" and Philosophical Satanists as "Contemporary Satanists".

Setian Satanism

According to this sect, the Egyptian deity Set, is the real Dark Lord behind the name Satan. They have their own concept of the Black Flame (see the above group, the Sat/Tan type).

This type of Satanism maintains that the Hebrews ran into an adversary in Egypt who was the Pharaoh of the Seti Dynasty, when Set was the principal pharaonic Deity. After the Pharaoh expelled the Hebrews from Egypt, the Hebrew Bible scribes wrote "Exodus", demonstrating the enormity of this event to the Hebrew people. However, there are apparently no Egyptian records to back up any of the Hebrew claims except a passing mention of the Pharaoh kicking many foreigners out at that time — not just Hebrews. Even so, the impact of this expulsion was large enough to the Hebrews to warrant their calling Egypt and its Seti Pharaoh "ha stn", the adversary. Setian Satanists theorize that "Satan" is a wrong or slanderous label for a legitimate Egyptian God, the God Set.

The practices and theology of the Set sect are very oriented towards cultivating selfhood. They reject the dissolving of the individual into oneness with existence, and celebrate the separation of the individual self from the rest of the universe. Some followers believe in Set as a real theistic conscious being that appears in revelations and delivers messages, while others revere Set as a more of a principle. How historically correct their picture of Set is might be considered debatable.

This type of Set-Satanism is a legally tax-exempt religion in the United States.

Satanic cults

Main article: Satanic ritual abuse

The existence of large networks of organized Satanists involved in illegal activities, murder, and child abuse is occasionally claimed, often by fundamentalist religious movements. Those claims have never been substantiated and are widely believed to be false. See conspiracy theories.

Other groups

In various Gnostic sects, the Serpent was praised as the giver of knowledge. Sometimes Satan was also referred to, under the names Lucifer or "the light-bringer". Some Gnostics claimed that the being declared God by Christians and Jews was in fact Satan, known as the Demiurge. Some early Gnostic sects, such as the Borborites and the followers of Carpocrates, were accused of horrific acts. It was said that they had sworn to commit all kind of evil acts in order to free themselves from the pains of this world. Accounts of these barbaric acts are not generally credible, as the accusations were rhetorical attacks against these groups by such heresiological writers as Irenaeus.

The Order of Nine Angles (ONA) has labeled itself Traditional Satanist and considers Satanism to be an individual quest which goes far beyond the gratification of the pleasure-principle and involves the arduous achievement of self-mastery and self-overcoming in a Nietzschean sense, with the aim of cosmic wisdom. Their conception of Satanism is practical, with an emphasis on individual growth into realms of darkness and danger through risky acts of prowess. In addition, the ONA seek to change, and disrupt, society itself. They espouse human sacrifice, which they see as the culling of "opfers," victims who are chosen according to strict guidelines. The use of the term "traditional" by these Satanists (ONA) is viewed by some as improper because the ONA refuses to provide any evidence of an old tradition, countering that it is the duty of each initiate to work things out for themselves. In addition, it is felt that "Traditional Satanism" as a label applies better, or at least equally well, to parts of the gnostic movement and its modern remnants.

The Misanthropic Luciferian Order is a Scandinavian example of a Neo-Gnostic Satanic current. The MLO is a Chaos-Gnostic Order that "seeks the true Light of Lucifer through the study, development and practice of all forms of dark, gnostic and Satanic Magical systems".

In early 2004, John L. Westbrook, a former Oklahoma politician told a Penthouse reporter that he had formed an "occult fraternity, to finish the work that the Temple of Set has previously botched." He then displayed a platinum medallion which he had commissioned that resembled a Mars planetary sigil. He has christened this neo-satanic fraternity The Order of Mars. He said membership in his "fraternity" is restricted to those whom he knows personally and that his group does not solicit memberships. He also stated that this "Order" is named in honor of the Roman god Mars, who he claims is closely aligned with Egyptian god Set.

See also Process Church, Yezidis for groups that have been called Satanist but do not accept that label.

Non-Satanic Sects

There are many groups which are commonly misconceived as Satanic. There are two common definitions of a Satanic religion:

  • Any religion that does not follow the Christian religion or recognize Jesus Christ as explained in Christian dogma.
  • Any religion that consciously recognizes and worships "Satan," usually referring either to a "dark" deity (similar to the Christian Satan, though usually lacking the evil or unnaturalness associated with it) or a conceptual Satan, often referring to a so-called "true" nature of Mankind.

The first definition is most commonly used by fundamentalist Christians, and is the source of much disagreement about whether a religion should be considered Satanic or not. The most common targets of these claims are Neo-Pagan religions, such as Wicca and satr.

It is also common to see Christian denominations or even Judaism and Islam referred to as Satanic based on interpretations of the first definition. Among these Christian groups are usually the less traditional ones, such as the Mormons and other smaller sects. Also, it is not unheard of for Catholics to refer to Protestants as Satanic, and vice versa, though this is more uncommon.

Another movement which is wrongly associated with Satan is the heavy rock and metal music bands, which use traditional demonic and satanic gimics in order to depict themselves.

See also

External links

Forms of Satanism Edit (
Traditional Satanism | Modern Satanism | Religious Satanism

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