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The Enemies of Our Enemies 2.9.1
Welcome Satanists? -- Are You Crazy?
Copyright © 1990, 2000 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
Toleration over Common Sense?
Like most Neopagans, I believe that toleration in general is A Good
Thing. Unlike some, however, I also think it can be foolish, when
exercised too much towards those who would like to destroy us. For
example, when I go to a Pagan festival, I don't mind Buddhists,
agnostics, or liberal monotheists showing up to check us out. Yet I feel
violated when Christian fundamentalists arrive with intent to spy upon
us, to convert us, or to interfere with our activities. I have much the
same reaction when I see Satanists at our festivals or in "our"
bookstores trying to recruit new members.
Some Satanists/Setanists (or "Setians") will claim from time to time
that, like Neopagans, they are an oppressed religion, that they are
misunderstood, that they are the victims of the Christian press. They
will quote the old saying, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," and
argue that we should become their allies. All of which makes sense only
if you are ignorant about both Satanism on one hand and
and Neopaganism on the other.
Varieties of Satanic Belief and Practice
As I have written elsewhere, there are several kinds of Satanist: One
type is the Liberal Heterodox or hippie/punk/gothic Satanist. These are
the anarchist sorts, generally young, who stress the revolutionary or
Luciferian side of the Satan myth. They are essentially rebelling
against subservience to the Christian God, the sickness of Christian
morality, and their parents. A sizable proportion of them might have
become Neopagans if they had heard of us first, and some of them do so
later on. As far as I can tell, they seem to grow out of being Satanists
when they finish adolescence (which can, alas, take decades for some).
Another type of Satanist is the Conservative Orthodox or
fascist sort: generally middle-aged, uneducated, and unsuccessful (the
basic vigilantee or militia type), though their leaders can be quite
clever and successful. These are the right wing Satanists who like to
stress the might-makes-right, dictatorial side of the Satan image. Major
denominations would include the Church of Satan ("COS") and the Temple
of Set ("TOS"), both of whom are careful to distinguish themselves from
the other types. Note that right wingers (whether Satanic or other
Christian sorts) often present themselves under more appealing
terminology, such as by calling themselves "Libertarians."
A third kind of Satanist is the sincere sociopath or crazy kind. These
folks are obsessed with the death, torture, rape, and madness parts of
the Christian Satan archetype. Usually from extremely dysfunctional
families, these people have grown up being told that they are evil, so
they try to fulfill everyone's expectations. They tend to commit various
horrible crimes in Satan's name, and sometimes belong to one of the
other sorts of Satanism as well. Right wing Satanic leaders, when
speaking for the public record, always deny that the sincere sociopaths
are "real" Satanists, much as other Christians disown criminal behavior
by people calling themselves Christian.
A fourth kind of Satanist is the smooth-talking Internet Satanist, of
which there are all of a dozen or so (posting under multiple psuedonyms)
in the world. This sort relies on the short memories of Internet surfers
and the ignorance of beginning Neopagans to slip into their minds a wide
variety of shallow, ingenuous arguments (usually based on deliberately
blurring the distinctions between Mesopaganism and Neopaganism) that
"Satanism and Paganism are really the same thing." This is usually
combined with declarations of personal and group innocence, pious
denunciations of criminal behavior by "psuedo-Satanists," and
sanctimonious appeals to their freedom of religion -- none of which has
anything to do with Neopagan polytheology. If you don't fall for their
nonsense, or even worse, argue with them, their veneer of civility
vanishes swiftly in a firestorm of invective, slander, and occasional
Of course, being the Christian Dualists that they are, most Satanists of
the four sorts I've mentioned so far insist that, "There are no
categories of Satanists -- there are Satanists and nuts" (Tony Levy, aka
"Anton Szandor LaVey"). In other words, "us real ones" vs. "all those
other fake ones." Sound familiar? Each Satanic organization and
individual insists that it and it alone is the arbiter of who is or is
not among the elect and actively despises all the others. That "all" is
important, for while members of any religion may want to know who is or
isn't a fellow religionist, and may even have a low opinion of some
other faiths, the wholesale dismissal of all other paths as evil or
inferior is perhaps the defining characteristic of a Christian (or
Islamic or Zoroastrian) Dualist. Keep this in mind, especially when
reading the Aquino quotes below.
Imaginary Satanists and Ritual Abuse
Another category of Satanists is the imaginary global conspiracy of
child-molesting, kidnapping, human sacrificing, cannibalistic,
multigenerational criminals who haunt the dreams of fundamentalist
Christians and third-rate tabloid journalists -- I've even been accused
of being one myself! The primary evidence for this conspiracy comes from
people who believe themselves to be "ritual abuse survivors" and from
Christian preachers who claim to be ex-leaders in the Conspiracy. Of
course, the accusations of incestuous orgies, human sacrifice, and
cannibalism come from an ancient urban legend and have been falsely laid
against many minority religions over the centuries, including the early
Christians, Jews, "witches," and various heretical groups. These claims
have always served to whip up public hysteria against the chosen target
groups (see Satanic Panic by Jeffrey Victor). Today the targets are
modern Neopagans, New Agers, and Satanists, all of whom are deliberately
equated with each other by fundamentalist preachers.
Some of the people who call themselves "survivors" do appear to have
been through some kind of horrible experiences that their minds have
chosen (perhaps with help, see next paragraph) to interpret as Satanic
rituals, just as others with similar stories have interpreted their
experiences as encounters with UFOs. Unfortunately, verifiable evidence
of organized Satanic abuse activities has yet to be found. Some, of
course, will insist that the inability of law enforcement agencies --
from the FBI and Scotland Yard down to the smallest local constabulary
-- to ever discover tangible evidence of the Global Satanic Conspiracy
just proves how powerful the Conspiracy really is!
According to those who believe in the "False Memory Syndrome"
explanation, claimed abuse survivors of fantastic events may be
"Therapeutic Abuse Survivors" -- having been misled by therapists and/or
hypnotists accidentally or deliberately implanting false memories,
sometimes on top of accurate or imagined events of abuse happening to
oneself or one's friends. Recent brain research supposedly indicates
that false memories are fairly easy to create, since even true memories
consist of tiny fragments of perception (an eyelid shape here, a nose
dimple there) routinely combined by our minds into the full images we
think we remember. Indeed, a growing number of people who were formerly
claiming to have been ritual abuse survivors have in recent years
recanted their claims and sued their former therapists for the damages
such claims have caused to their families, friends and communities.
Visit the Satanic Ritual Abuse Page for details on all the arguments.
One reason the "False Memory Syndrome" theory, which is also invoked in
discussions of non-fantastic claims of abuse, is so controversial is
that it's all too easily cited by both the innocent and the (presumed)
guilty. Indeed, the sorts of crimes suspected of being committed by
"Satanists" are, in fact, well within the "might-makes-right" and
"do as thou whim" attitudes that many modern Satanists do have and promote. I'm
sure that more than a few Satanists over the centuries have taken
advantage of their "moral freedom" to commit crimes, even against their
own children. I just don't believe that these jerks and psychos
constitute an organized conspiracy. Considering how much difficulty the
Satanists who post on the Net have agreeing or cooperating with each
other about even the most trivial issues, the odds of Satanists ever
having a successful conspiracy to order a pizza, let alone to "rule the
world" as they and others fantasize, are slim to none.
As for the professional "ex-Satanic High Priests," they seem to be short
on evidence of their claims too. Oddly enough, although some of these
preachers have confessed to multiple felonies on widely broadcast radio
and television shows, and in "best selling" Christian books, none has
ever been arrested, nor have any of them gone to local police and
confessed their crimes. Subsequently, none has ever served prison time
for deeds that would normally put them away for the rest of their lives.
Apparently, if you claim to have reformed yourself and become a good
Christian, you no longer need to pay your debt to society, no matter how
terrible the crimes you've admitted committing. Any of you attending
public lectures by "ex-Satanists" might want to bring this up with local
law enforcement officers and insist that they be arrested -- I for one
would love to see such liars forced to testify under oath in a court of
law. At this point, all of the major "ex-Satanists" and
"ex-baby-breeders" have been exposed by Evangelical Christian
journalists as frauds, in such books as Selling Satan (about Mike
Warnke) and The Todd Phenomenon (about John Todd aka Lance Collins).
Unfortunately, little matters like facts don't stop the fearmongers from
repeating their lies.
This brings us to the last, and by far the largest, category of
Satanists: the fundamentalist Christians themselves, who spend all their
time inflating the image of Satan, feeding psychic energy into the
archetype, and publishing detailed descriptions of the sorts of evil
acts that devil worshippers are supposed to engage in -- descriptions
that some other sorts of Satanist are only too eager to imitate.
Ironically, the attribution of godlike power (as in, for example, the
supposed ability to perform "counterfeit miracles") to their Satan by
fundamentalists, who pride themselves on being so orthodox, is
historically a sign of Christian heresy -- monotheists are not supposed
to admit that their Evil God is as powerful (or even nearly as powerful)
as their Good God.
The Unwisdom of Welcoming Satanists
Neopagans are constantly having to explain to the general public that
Satan is a figure in Christian and Islamic (and Zoroastrian) mythology,
that our deities are far older and more powerful than their
Satan/Shaitan, and that you have to be a Christian, a Moslem, or a
Zoroastrian in order to worship or even respect the Devil because nobody
else believes in him. We know full well that many Christian
fundamentalists actively try to blur the distinctions between Satanism
and Paganism in the public mind, and we should know that having a cozy
relationship with Satanists is going to play right into such Christian
So why are some Neopagans tolerant of obnoxious, unethical, or nasty
behavior when the people involved are calling themselves "Satanists"
when we wouldn't cut other fundamentalist Christians engaging in the
same kind of behavior so much slack? Granted, Satanism is a part of the
occult community -- being the "occult" or hidden side of Christianity --
and many Satanists do practice various sorts of ceremonial magic. As we
know, however, the occult/magical/metaphysical community comprises a
wide variety of organizations and individuals -- good, bad, ugly, and
just plain weird. We don't have to be friendly to all of them, nor do we
have to accept them all as equals or allies. Neopagans have enough
trouble interacting with those Mesopagans (such as the Crowleyites,
Odinists, and Voodooists) who engage in activities of which many
Neopagans disapprove, without allying ourselves with and defending a
bunch of jerks, fascists, and psychopaths who have publicly and proudly
announced their allegiance to the supreme figure of Evil in Western
I don't care if it's possible to come up with superficial arguments that
the Devil "isn't really such a bad fellow," or to claim that you're
really worshipping the Norse deity Loki, or the Egyptian god Set (who
supposedly was "originally" a Not-Completely-Bad Guy 4,000 years ago),
or various Lovecraftian critters, and that all these spirits were
"victims of bad public relations." Such arguments don't change the
subconscious images that most people (including the Satanists
themselves) have of these entities, nor the nature of the psychic energy
that they tap into. Nor does it matter that public representatives of
Satanic organizations are frequently charming and charismatic indviduals
-- most con-artists are. If some Satanists are really "proto-Pagans," we
can give them the information they need to mature without having to
pretend that their juvenile sophistries deserve respect.
Speaking of juvenile sophistries, lets review the facts about the
origins, philosophy, and character of Satanism and its practitioners...
The Origins of Satan and His -isms
Satan as a demigod was created by the early Christians to slander the
Paleopagan horned gods and to fulfill the necessary role of the Evil God
who fights their Good God. They took the ancient Jewish prosecuting
attorney of Yahweh's royal court, made this "tester" a metaphor for the
Jews who didn't accept Jesus as their Messiah, then for the secular
authorities of the Roman Empire who considered the Christians to be
"atheists," then still later for differing Christian sects opposed to
the forces of orthodoxy. See The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels, and
Satan: The Early Christian Tradition by Jeffrey Burton Russell for
details (though Russell willingly plays the theologians' ingenuous games
as described below).
In order to explain why the early Christians were being successfully
perscuted by the traditional Jews and those Roman Pagans who considered
them treasonous threats to the Empire, Satan's nature and power had to
be continually inflated until he essentially became the Evil God. This
mythic role was one of several ideas "borrowed" from Zoroastrianism's
dualism via the cult of Mithra, Christianity's primary competitor for
political control of the Empire, and that dualism's influence on Jewish
(Essene) and Pagan Gnosticism. Although early Church theologians were
careful to never call Satan a deity, and indeed to insure that those who
more honestly considered him one got labled as "heretics" (the most
famous of whom were the Manichaeans and later the Cathars), they
nonetheless treated Satan (as they did the Virgin Mary) as divine in all
but official title.
A deity of absolute evil makes no sense in a polytheistic system, only
in a dualistic one -- which is why all the other ancient Zoroastrian
deities had been reduced to subordinate status to the Big Two, and why
the Christians tried to turn all the Paleopagan deities they encountered
into either "saints" or "demons." Indeed, that Evil God is critical to
the Christian worldview. As Alan Watts put it in Myth and Ritual in
Christianity, "A Christianity without the Devil is, then, lacking in
something which is of the essence of the Christian consciousness."
Two important polytheological principles need to be mentioned in passing
here: (1) don't confuse "dualism" with "polarity" -- the former assumes
hostility between opposed principles, the latter assumes harmony and
mutual dependence -- and (2) don't assume that dangerous or
deities and spirits in Paleopagan religions were viewed by their peoples
as being cosmically Evil or in any other way similar to how Christians
view their Satan.
All the different forms of Satanism now active in the West are branches
of conservative Christianity, whether they will admit it or not.
"Satanism" as an organized concept (an "-ism") was created by the Roman
Catholic Church as an inverted version of itself, with a little help
from leftover Gnostic heretics (see Jeffrey Burton Russell's A History
of Witchcraft, for details), in the process of justifying the European
Crusades against the Albigensians and Cathars, and later the Witchhunts.
It was the Roman Catholic Christians who defined the symbols and beliefs
of Satanism in the first place, and who invented rituals for them to be
supposedly performing, based on the ancient urban rumours mentioned
above. Christian ceremonial magicians then elaborated these into actual
rituals, mostly for the purpose of entertaining wealthy and jaded
nobility with "depraved Satanic orgies," rather like people today who
run "S&M supper clubs." The writings of modern Satanists have merely
given a "blackwash" to the fundamentally Christian worldview involved --
they are still allowing the most repressive forms of Christianity to
define the universe of discourse! The Temple of Set and its doctrines
were created to give Satanists another name (Set) to use in public,
while still calling their deity Satan in private. The many "independent
Satanists" who post on the Net that they don't actually believe in Satan
as a real spirit, nonetheless show that their atheism/agnosticism, like
that of their fellow Secular Humanists, is saturated with Scientism and
Social Darwinism -- both of which are offshoots of Christian Dualism.
Which leads us to...
Satanic/Setanic "Philosophy" vs.
Satanists/Setanists are obsessed with forcing everyone into simplistic
Christian/Islamic Dualism, just as other fundamentalists are. That's why
they insist on lumping the "White Witches" (Wiccans) and Neopagans in
with their official enemies, the Christians -- that is, whenever they're
not trying to recruit us as allies. In The Church of Satan, supposedly
by "authorized biographer" Blanche Barton, Tony Levy actually went so
far as to denounce several well known Neopagans (including yours truly)
by name in the same paragraph with the "ex-Satanic High Priest"
fundamentalist Michael Warnke and Setanic competitor Michael Aquino (who
had stolen much of LaVey's membership).
As for Aquino himself, not too many years ago he was denouncing
Neopagans and other Goddess worshippers as being worthy only of his
contempt. Here are some exemplary excerpts from Nevill Drury's book, The
Occult Experience (NY: Avery, 1989):
However, where [Aquino] differs from Christians, mystics and Pagans --
whom for this purpose he lumps together -- is in his belief that the
psychic dimension separates mankind [sic] from the rest of Nature.
Mystics and occultists alike are content to subsume their individual
self-hood in a wash of cosmic consciousness -- a type of surrender to a
higher force. Christians, he feels, are bogged down with feelings of
guilt and hypocrisy, endorsing "hackneyed moral standards" in an effort
to appease God..." (p112).
"Other religions," says the Temple's introductory screed, are "erroneous
in principle and therefore unworthy of peer status." If this seems
arrogant, Aquino has his reasons: "All conventional religions, including
the Pagan ones, are simply a variation on the theme of reunion and
submergence of the self within the natural universe. So from our point
of view it really makes no difference whether you pray to a father god
or to a mother goddess -- or to an entire gaggle of gods and goddesses!
You're still wishing for their acceptance. You're waiting for them to
put their arms around you and say, 'You belong. You are a part of us.
You can relax. We will take care of you. We approve of you. We endorse
you...' The Satanist or black magician does not seek that kind of
submergence of the self. We do not seek to have our decisions and our
morality approved or validated by any higher god or being. We take
responsibility unto ourselves." (p112-113).
"We consider Set to be our activating force and the entire notion of
good and evil is something which is determined by human beings
themselves. We cannot pass the responsibility to any god, whether it is
a so-called benevolent god or a so-called evil god" (p113).
Now, these are Aquino's own words, captured in print and on videotape.
They make it very clear that, however erroneous and shallow his
understanding of Paganism might be, (1) he clearly does not consider
Satanism and Paganism to be "the same" and (2) that he considers
"Setians" to be Satanists -- as he also states directly in quite a few
internal TOS documents -- and so I will refer to them for the rest of
this essay. Among the references cited by Drury are: Aquino's own "The
Crystal Tablet of Set," p. 23; "Runes," Vol. II: 6, 1984; "Runes," Vol.
I:2, 1983; and Aquino's monograph, "The Church of Satan," 1983, p. 193.
Of course, when Satanists want to ingratiate themselves with (or just
annoy) the Neopagan community, they publish letters or newsgroup posts
that deliberately ignore the important distinctions between Paleo-,
Meso-, and Neopaganism, so they can show how much "like" Paleopaganism
or Mesopaganism their versions of Satanism supposedly are. The
similarities to Mesopaganism shouldn't be surprising -- most
Mesopaganism is mixed Paganism and Christianity. The fact that
Paleopagans often had customs that modern Neopagans would consider bad
ideas, doesn't mean that ancient Pagans were "proto-Satanists"
worshipping Forces of Evil -- and only a fundamentalist Christian would
believe they were. These deliberately deceptive Christian Dualist
arguments lead some Satanists to claim that Neopaganism "should" include
Satanists in their ranks, "because we're really the same."
Long-time members of the Norse Pagan community may remember when Stephen
Flowers (aka "Edred Thorson," author of several books on runes), acting
as Aquino's second-in-command (head of the "Order of the Trapezoid" --
another idea stolen from Anton LaVey), tried to convince them that Odin
was "really" just another name for Set, and so they should all join the
Temple of Set and do Nazi rituals with him (I have copies of the letters
he sent out in my files). This opinion got the Satanic Runemaster
thoroughly (and rightly) rejected by the majority of the Norse Mesopagan
community -- rightwing and racist as they were, this was too much for
them to swallow. (Supposedly, Flowers is no longer making these claims
and is now calling himself an "Odian," though he is still within the
Temple of Set.) Today, it's Loki rather than Odin who gets pointed to,
along with other "trickster" deities, as "evidence" that our Paleopagan
ancestors supposedly worshipped Satan under other names. This, of
course, entirely ignores the fact that trickster deities are "good,"
"weird," "horny," "whimsical" and "confusing" as often as they are
"evil," and shows once again the Christian Dualist habit of shoving all
spirits into airtight Good and Evil pigeonholes while ignoring all
ambiguity and complexity in non-Christian systems.
What about people who call themselves "Pagan Satanists"? Well, they may
exist, just as other "Christo-Pagans" do. But these Mesopagans no more
represent the mainstream of Neopaganism (or Paleopaganism, for that
matter) than the Jews for Jesus represent Judaism or the
represent Buddhism. We wouldn't accept arguments that Christianity is
the spiritually superior fulfillment, or even a logical variation of,
either Taoism or Buddhism, so why should we accept that the "flip side"
of Christianity -- Setanism -- is somehow "just another kind of
Paganism"? For that matter, do these "Satanic Pagans" even exist outside
of the Net? Or are they just another set of masks for old-fashioned
Christian Satanists to wear when talking to Neopagans?
Lately, Setanists have taken to misquoting Jung and other modern
psychologists about the "shadow side" of human nature, erroneously
equating it -- and what they call "Dark Side" deities and impulses
(based on the words of that famous theologian, Darth Vader) -- with
Evil. Then they claim that we are supposed to "embrace it" (rather than
understand and calmly control it), and all become Satanists.
Most other Satanic "philosophy" simply consists of turning Catholicism
or other forms of conservative Christianity upside-down and inside-out
(as if that's going to be an improvement), advocating hedonism, and
adding some warmed-over quotes from Hitler and misquotes from Crowley,
Nietzsche, Darwin, etc. and a dash of Scientism to the mix. Way down
deep inside, it's shallow.
Finish Reading at Part 2...
Copyright © 1990, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
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