From http://www.neopagan.net/Enemies.HTML as per permission listed at the bottom of the page. Noded by sleeping wolf. If you like this essay, Isaac Bonewits accepts tips via PayPal at ibonewits@neopagan.net -- a dollar would make his day, and could even prove him wrong about people being willing to pay money for things they read on the internet.


The Enemies of Our Enemies 2.9.1
or
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 Paleo-, Meso- 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 email bombing.

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 Accusations

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 smear campaigns.

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 culture.

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 tricky 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. Neopaganism

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 Theosophists 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. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is listed and this notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal mailing list for upcoming publications, lectures, song albums, and appearances, send your snailmail and/or your email address to him at PO Box 372, Warwick, NY, USA 10990-0372 or via email to ibonewits@neopagan.net. Specify Announcements and/or Discussion list.

It's interesting that the title of this essay is, in fact, originally derived from a New Testament quote. Jesus reprimands his Apostles in Mark 9:39-40 by saying, "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us." (emphasis added)

No suggested irony or hidden meaning -- just a factoid. It's fascinating how Biblical quotes pop up where you least expect to find them.

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