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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

 The article below was written back in 1991 or 1992 e.v.
 For an update by the author, please see:
                                      Intro to Satanism 
           By: Diane Vera
           As promised in the PAGAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES echo, here's my brief
           introductory essay on Satanism (though Corwynt won't be seeing it,
           alas).  I'll confine myself to discussing _serious_occultists_ who
           identify as Satanists. I have no interest in the teen-age glue-
           sniffing "Satin rulz" crowd, who are into "Satanism" as a way to
           shock the grown-ups, and who usually (as far as I know) outgrow it.
           Nor am I interested in criminals who say the Devil made them do it
           (often, I suspect, as a way to get themselves declared insane).
           Since I don't know how much you don't know, perhaps I should start
           with the usual elementary disclaimers:
           (a) Most Satanists do not think of themselves as "worshipping evil".
           Satan is associated with a variety of human traits and magic(k)al
           energies which Christianity traditionally considers "evil", but
           which the Satanists themselves do not consider "evil" -- though some
           Satanists may describe themselves as "evil" in an ironic sense.
           (b) In what there is of a Satanist subculture (for serious
           occultists), nobody advocates sacrificing animals or babies,
           sexually abusing children, or other horrific activities described in
           fundamentalist propaganda.  As Anton LaVey explains in
           _The_Satanic_Bible_, such activities serve no useful magic(k)al
           (c) Although Satan is, obviously, a figure from Christian mythology
           (derived from Judaism and Zoroastrianism), Satanism is not just
           "reverse Christianity".  I have yet to meet even one Satanist who
           believed in Christian theology, or a simple reversal thereof.  (I've
           heard that such Satanists do exist, but they don't seem to be part
           of the organized Satanist scene.)  All Satanists I've ever
           encountered have some alternative explanation of who/what Satan is.
           There are many alternative explanations and, correspondingly, many
           different kinds of Satanism.  Following is a list of _some_ of the
           many different possible interpretations of who/what Satan is:
           (1) Satan is the Christian-era guise of some pre-Christian deity,
           e.g. Set or Pan.
           (2) Satan is not a real entity at all, but just a symbol of human
           individuality, pride, thinking for oneself, sensuality, etc.
           (3) Satan is an actual discarnate intelligence, and is the bringer
           of wisdom in a form of Gnosticism with the Christian "God" cast as
           the Demiurge.  This idea is based on a form of Gnosticism that
           actually existed in the early centuries C.E., which venerated the
           serpent of the Garden of Eden myth.
           (4) Satan is not an actual discarnate, sentient being, but is more
           than just a symbol.  Satan is, at the very least, today's most
           powerful magic(k)al egregore.  "Satan" is present-day society's
           number-one magic(k)al Name of Power.
           (5) Satan is an impersonal "Dark Force in Nature".
           (6) Satan is one of many gods, all of whom are in some sense real.
           There is no one all-powerful "God" like the Christian idea of "God".
           There are many gods who are powerful, but not all-powerful.
           Of the above possiblities, my own personal beliefs lean toward a
           combination of interpretations #4, 5, and 6.  The Church of Satan,
           founded in 1966 C.E. by Anton LaVey, usually espouses interpretation
           #2 and sometimes #5.  The Temple of Set is into _something_like_
           (but not quite) a combination of #1 and #3.
            La> If you haven't been around other satanists, how do you know
            La> what is being practiced, is what you would do?  I could call
            La> myself a Dianic Wiccan, but what I might practice is not what
            La> is generally practiced...and there is no way for me to really
            La> learn "right way" from "wrong way".
           It doesn't matter.  Satanism isn't really just one religion, but a
           category of religions, some of which are radically different from
           each other.  (See my message to Deborah Kest on "Satanism 101".)
           Since most forms of Satanism do celebrate individuality, the lack of
           standardization is just fine, in my opinion.  The only "right way"
           or "wrong way" has to do with _what_works_, and this will vary from
           one individual to another.
            La> The reason you are being "punished" I think ostracized<SP?> is
            La> a better word, is that most Satanists, and people who follow
            La> left-handed Magick/spirituality (folks I know it is not a fair
            La> term, but it works for this arguement) are considered by many
            La> of us the true enemies of Spiritualism that we would practice.
           The term "Left-Hand Path" is OK.  We use it too.  You and I would
           probably define it very differently, however.  What's your
            La> Even more than Christaniaty folks who follow your system of
            La> believes are very differnt than we.  Pagan and Christanity,
            La> have very similar ideas and ethics, and while not at all
            La> tolerant of each other (generally) can live and let live.
            La> Satanists et.all on the other hand, have such a different view
            La> of life, love and the pursuit of the Divine, it is hard for us
            La> to accept you into our midsts.
           Could you please be more specific?  _What_ do you see as the
           similarities between neo-Paganism and Christianity?
           I too see some profound differences between Satanism and neo-
           Paganism.  And I too see enough similarities between neo-Paganism
           and Christianity that one can meaningfully use a term like "Right-
           Hand Path", which includes both Christianity and neo-Paganism but
           not Satanism.
           But I _also_ see some profound similarities between Satanism and
           neo-Paganism (especially Wicca) as well, which set them both apart
           from Christianity.  For example, Satanism and Wicca-based Paganism
           are both much more tolerant toward sexual variety than Christianity
           traditionally is.  (To be more exact, Wicca is _now_ tolerant toward
           sexual variety, though there was a time when it was quite
           homophobic.)  And in general, Satanism and Wicca-based Paganism both
           emphasize individuality in ways that Christianity doesn't.
           Also, as I've discussed at length both here and in the PAGAN and
           PAGAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES echoes, Satanism and most forms of neo-
           Paganism (especially Wicca) are both part of the family of modern
           Western magic(k)al religions, with many common roots and many basic
           magic(k)al concepts in common.  We have natural reasons to be part
           of the same magic(k)al community (e.g. occult bookstores and this
           computer network).  It would be much more pleasant for everyone
           concerned if neo-Pagans could get used to Satanists, because you are
           going to keep running into more and more of us whether you like it
           or not.

Next: Satanism Defined (Delohine)