Satan, or Ha-Satan meaning “The Adversary” in Hebrew, is generally considered to be the personification of evil itself. The name already says it all, he is THE adversary of the almighty benevolent God himself. There are many interpretations of this being, some literal, some symbolic. But the character of Satan we know the most is the one from Christian mythology.
A fallen angel who rebelled against God, who was then banished from heaven and then tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit resulting in the fall of man.
While there are different interpretations of Satan in various religions all of them consider him to be an evil, negative creature that represent everything flawed and vile in humanity.
And yet there are groups out there who in fact worship Satan, either as a symbol or as an actual heroic being that exists. They call themselves Satanists. And over time there have been a lot of conspiracies involving the idea of Satanic cults that secretly control us under a new world order. Nowadays the Church of Satan, the most well known Satanic movement, is found regularly correcting and mocking people for their conspiracies about Satanism. This got me interested into looking who the people are who genuinely consider themselves Satanists.
Now when you think of Satanism you’ll probably either think of two things.
1. A cultish new world order of elite politicians and bankers who engage in blood orgies, ritual abuse and child molestation that secretly control our society
2. A bunch of edgy performance artists filled with people who were forced to go to church by their parents
And while the first one would be far more interesting to write about, it’s the second one that holds more truth to it. In fact Satanism is only very modern and recent, and not that large.
There aren’t a lot of historical examples of people actually referring to themselves as Satanists, usually most examples of historical Satanic sects are based on Christian polemics and accusations of heresy. So there isn’t much to say about ancient Satanic sects without taking them with a grain of salt. However there are a lot of fascinating examples of Satan being portrayed as a more nuanced and positive character. The earliest examples being various Gnostic sects.
During the 2nd Century. The Ophites, a Gnostic sect, saw the Serpent in the Book of Genesis not as the instigator of the original sin. But as a liberator of mankind, who gave them knowledge of good and evil that God held from them. Now Gnostics believe that there are two Gods. The Monad who is considered the true divine God, and the Demiurge, a false God that created the material world. Ophites believed that the Serpent helped the humans fight against this false God who was keeping them from learning who the true God was.
Then in the 17th century Satan gained a more sympathetic role in various literature, seeing him as a rebel standing up in the face of a cosmic omnipotent being he could never be able to defeat. John Milton, a christian himself, wrote him as a protagonist in his poem Paradise Lost writing him as a tragic hero who’s well intentioned actions led to the downfall of man. The anarchist Mikhail Bakunin saw Satan as a freethinker and Mark Twain wrote “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most”
However, it was the the late 60s when Satanism actually began to manifest in various movements when interest in occultism was very high. These movements can be separated into two groups.
Atheistic Satanists: Satanists who don’t believe in Satan but see his character as a positive symbol and generally take inspirement from skeptic and materialistic ideologies.
Theistic Satanists: Satanists who do believe in Satan and see him as a deity to worship and generally take inspirement from occultism, paganism and Gnosticism
Now that you know the history I will now show you some example of the most influential Satanic movements that exist in our modern day. And it all starts with one man by the name of Anton Szandor Lavey.
LaVeyan Satanism/The Church of Satan
LaVeyan Satanism can be considered the most sucessful and the largest Satanic movement out there, and it’s the one that I was talking about earlier. It is nearly impossible to talk about Satanism without talking about this group. The founder, Anton Szandor LaVey who worked at a carnival and was very interested in occultism and founded the Church of Satan which persists to this day.
When LaVey died leadership of the Church of Satan was succeeded by Peter Gilmore, however internal differences took place and LaVey’s daughter Karla separated from the church to form her own called the First Satanic Church which claims to uphold the original teachings of his father.
So what do these Satanists believe in? Do they actually worship Satan? Well no. LaVeyan Satanists are atheists who neither believe in God nor Satan, but believe that we live in an amoral universe where the moral foundations are based on self-deification. They also reject any other Satanic movement as real Satanists, calling them “devil worshipers” instead.
Rather than worshiping Satan, they actually worship themselves. They see Satan merely as an archetype representing the Christian sins such as greed and pride which they see as virtuous ideals for mankind to hold, enjoyments of humanity’s physical existence.
Their core ideology is centered around indulgence, individualism, meritocracy, eye of an eye morality and vital existence while they despise egalitarianism, pacifism, herd mentality and dependency. But before you think they’re just a bunch of immoral people who eat babies they do in fact have their own alternative Commandments called The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth.
Basically LaVeyan Satanism takes the ideas of Ayn Rand’s philosophy Objectivism but takes it to a much further extreme to the point of real self-worship. LaVeyan Satanism is essentially what people think Objectivism is, combined with some pseudo-Nietzschean, pseudo-Epicurean ideas and some ritual magic thrown into it.
Now I won’t blame you if you have already clicked this article away out of sheer cringe. But still the persistence of these people is something that has to be recognized.
But while they’re the most well known Satanist group out there they’re not the only ones.
The Satanic Temple
While the LaVeyan Satanists might be the biggest Satanic movement out there the one that have received the most headlines recently is a very recent group.
They’re called The Satanic Temple and it was founded just back in 2014 to primarily focus on political activism. They’re mostly known for their activism against the christian right such as counter-protesting Planned Parenthood protests and placing a statue of Baphomet, a 14th century demonic deity often used to represent Satan, in response to a 10 commandment statue on the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Like LaVeyan Satanists they’re atheist Satanists but their philosophy is completely the opposite. Unlike LaVey who promoted individualism, egoism and eye for an eye morality these people focus on secular humanism,egalitarianism and other views that are more in line with the secular left in America. In fact the call themselves a progressive updates version of LaVey’s Satanism. They also focus mostly on politics which LaVeyan Satanists prefer to avoid at all costs.
They don’t even really seem to be Satanists at all, unlike LaVeyan Satanists who use Satan as a symbol of occulism and self-worship these people just seem to use Satan for shock value to mock the christian right as well as use him as a statement in favor of separation of church and state. Despite that they have dismissed claims that they’re using Satan purely for satirical purposes.
Still from what I’ve seen they’re just angry atheist activists who use Satan for edgy shock humor to mock the christian right.
But what about theistic Satanists, are there actual people who genuinely believe in something like Satan and worship him?
While Satanism has been recently associated mostly with atheist Satanists the most contemporary theistic Satanists are the Luciferians. However it is a bit misleading to call them Satanists since they reject Satan altogether, seeing Lucifer as separate from Satan and a being who predates Christianity. They believe Satan to be a symbol of carnality and materialism while they focus on Lucifer as a being more like God, spiritual and enlightened.
Lucefarians believe that Lucifer is a deity and they intepret him as a liberator, guardian and a benevolent rebel and God as an evil being that doomed humanity to ignorance. They are strongly inspired by Gnostic texts as wel as John Milton’s portrayal of heaven’s war. They often compare Lucifer to Prometheus, who just like Lucifer rebelled against a more powerful being, got punished for it and gave mankind knowledge.
Despite the fact that they don’t associate themselves with Satanism, their philosophy and practices are rather similar to LaVeyan Satanism meaning that their goal is self-worship, individualism and seeking knowledge. In fact LaVey himself wrote about Lucifer in the same positive light as Luciferians but as a literary character, not a real deity.
The religion has multiple organizations, and the 3 most well known are the Greater Church of Lucifer*, the Neo-Luciferian Church and the Fraternitas Saturni.
* I have been informed that the Greater Church of Lucifer has recently changed its name to the Assembly of Light Bearers
I hope you’re still interested in reading because here’s where things get weird.
Setians/Temple of Set
Another notable theistic movement who has roots in Satanic subculture is the Temple of Set who’s adherents call themselves Setians. The temple was founded by Michael Aquino who actually used to be a high ranking priest of the Church of Satan. Michael quickly became disenfranchised with the church due to philosophical differences between him and LaVey as well as how the church was being run.
The Setians believe in a deity known as Set, who Michael claims is Satan’s real identity. Set is part of a pantheon of Egyptian Gods worshiped in ancient Egypt and was associated with chaos, disorder and causing natural disasters. They believe that Set is the one real God and that he gave humanity the Black Flame which gave them an intellect separating themselves from other species.
The Temple has a lot in common with LaVeyan Satanism but while LaVey bases his views of Satan as a naturalistic carnic being Michael bases his ideas of Set/Satan through Platonism and Gnostic philosophy.
Setians also believe in self-deification, however they take it to a very literal level. They genuinely think they can achieve godhood. Setians believe that the true self is immortal and Xeper is the ability to align your conciousness to this true self. Xeper refers to the ancient Egyptian word kheper meaning to come into being, change, or develop.
The philosophy of Setians goes incredibly deep involving magic, self-development and subjective/objective universes. I won’t go into much detail here but it is certainly one of the most elaborate religious movements out there.
Aside from these groups there are other notable forms of Satanism out there however they are much smaller and unknown, so I won’t go much into detail with them.
Christian Based-Duotheism: A form of theistic Satanism where its adherents actually accept the Christian theology of God and Satan, but believe that Satan is at least as powerful as God and that Satan is a good character that ought to win because like most Satanists they see him as a liberator of humanity. This means that they do believe that if Satan loses they will be tortured eternally, so it’s a risky ideology.
Temple of The Black Light: This temple, who embraces a form of Satanism called Chaos-Cosmic Satanism, believes our 3 dimensional cosmology is a fabrication created by the Demiurge who is the true interpretation of the Gods as seen in many religions. They believe that the real plane of existence is chaos which is a timeless, spaceless pandimensional plane. Therefor they see rebellious figures like Satan and Loki try to free humanity from our current plane of existence to destroy this illusionary cosmos. The Temple was associated with the Keillers Park Murder.
Church of Azazel: The church of Azazel is a polytheistic form of Satanism that believes God is not only a malevolent being, but also just one of many Gods. Instead they worship who they call the rising gods of the modern west. These include Prometheus, Lilith, Lucifer, Pan, Ishtar and Azazel who they see as their primary deity. They basically promote the general idea of Satan as a liberator but also add paganism, post-copernican and polytheistic ideas into them mix.
So in the end Satanism might just mostly be associated with small groups of performance artists using shock humor and pseudo-gnostic demon worshiping. But the idea of Satan as a positive literary character still makes for an entertaining discussion.