At first glance this may look like a simple question to answer: "Go
look it up in the dictionary." would seem to be straightforward enough. In fact, I'll
do it for you:
- the worship of Satan or the powers of evil.
- a travesty of Christian rites in which Satan is worshipped
- diabolical or satanic disposition, behavior, or action.
[from _Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English
Language_, (c) 1989]
Unfortunately it's not that easy. There is no one set of beliefs that
comprise Satanism. Because there is no set of doctrines or scriptures agreed upon by a
majority of Satanists, would-be practitioners must define their beliefs for themselves,
based upon a minimum of shared information. The issue is further confused by the fact
that, historically, most records of real or imagined Satanism have been made by Satanists'
traditional enemies, Christians. However a few generalizations can be made: the average
Satanist disagrees with much of Christianity, believes in no absolute moral code, and
places emphasis on the individual and personal rights. If you think this sounds like
Libertarianism, you're right; many Satanists consider themselves Libertarians or feel
close to the party on social issues.
The one unifying theme among the Satanisms is the last of the three
definitions; one can say with some certainty that all Satanisms and Satanists have
diabolical or satanic dispositions in that they are "like Satan." They possess
the virtues of antinomianism, self-reliance, rebellion and adversarialism.
There are several divisions one could make as to the belief systems of
various "Satanic" groups. This (arbitrary) division was included to point out
various currents or influences in modern day satanism rather than an attempt at
1. The Dabblers: adopt Satanic trappings for a brief period of time,
usually for entertainment rather than serious purposes. Many modern youths fall into this
2. Churches of Satan: are patterned after the teachings of Anton LaVey.
These groups believe in individualism, gratification of the ego, self-reliance and the
ideal of the Nietzchean Superman. These groups use Magick as a tool for earthly power.
They see Satan as the driving force behind achievment in mankind.
- 3. Gnostics: can be divided into two major categories
- 3a. Promethian Gnostics: Believe in a literal "Satan", but
believe that the creator of the world (Jehovah) is the evil deity. Satan is seen as the
"bringer of light"; a beneficient god. This is an old "heresy" seen in
groups such as the Yezidis or the Ophites.
- 3b. Dark Gnostics: Worship the dark force in nature. These groups follow
the whims of a capricious god, which most westerners would see as being "evil."
There are a few historical christian heresies which would fall into this category. Kali
worshippers could also be categorized here.
- 4. Secondary Satanists: follow a faith outside the Christian mainstream.
Most would not consider themselves as being "Satanic" and strictly speaking
should not be defined as satanists (as per se with some of the Gnostic groups), but the
ignorant often categorize them as Satanists. Voodoun and Santiera could be grouped here,
as could medeaval witchcraft (if it actually existed). Certain forms of Tantric Buddism
could also be placed in this category.
- 5. Hellfire Clubs: Were a phenomenon of the 18th century. The first of
these was founded by the Duke of Wharton in the early 1700's. Most infamous was sir
Francis Dashwood's Medmenham club (Often incorrectly called the hellfire club). Dashwood
was a close freind of Benjamin Franklin, who may have been a member of this group.
Franklin's description of the Medmeham club's secret chambers is one of the few we have,
so his membership seems likely. In any case, Dashwood and Franklin co-authored the
"Franklin Prayer Book" (often called the Book of Common Prayer) which is
commonly used in America. Another famous member of the Medmanham club was the Earl of
Sandwich, inventor of (guess what) the Sandwich. Hellfire clubs were exclusive groups
dedicated to much political intrigue, partying, and some occasional occult activities.
- 6. Romantic/Promethean Satanists Literary/historical
"Satanists" -William Blake, Charles Baudelaire, Maupertin, Lautremont and
- 7. Left-Hand Path Pagans There are several European groups, most of them
consisting of small "covens" of several people, that are or could be considered
Satanists. Two of the larger of these groups are The Fraternity of Baelder and the Order
of Nine Angles (ONA). These groups allegedly have longer traditions, and "more
authentic" origins (whatever that might mean). ONA is especially fond of calling
itself the "traditional Satanists." These groups tend to have more
"extreme" views than the others mentioned, and have little, if any authoritarian
structure. Some allege these groups do not exist, but they answer my mail.
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