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My Satanic Adventure 2.2
I was a Teenaged Satanist!
Copyright © 1975, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
The following was first published in 1975 c.e. in response to a number
of vitriolic attacks against me by various Satanists. In 1992 I was once
again the target of a Satanic poison pen campaign, caused by the
publishing of my essay The Enemies of Our Enemies (which should be read
in conjunction with this). In 1992 I decided to update this essay and to
make it available once again to the Neopagan community. Now, it's 1999
we're on the Net, and I'm once again getting nasty mail from
Satanists/Setanists, only now it's obscene email!
BTW, for those who never caught the reference, this essay's title
was a take-off on a famous essay by Israel Regardie, called "My
In the city of Berkeley, California, there is a large T-shaped
intersection at the main southern entrance to the campus of the
University of California, where I enrolled as a sophomore in the fall of
1967, at the tender age of 17. Here, where Telegraph Avenue runs north
into the east-west Bancroft Avenue, there is a large expanse of brick
sidewalk between the traffic on Bancroft and the short cement pillars
that mark the entry into the plaza between Sproul Hall (the
administration building) and the Student Union. It was on those bricks
that I spent many leisure hours heckling the preachers who held court
there in the late 1960's.
On a small soapbox (yes, a real, genuine soapbox), "Holy" Hubert
Lindsey, gap-toothed, flaming-haired and loud mouthed, would hold forth
to the multitudes about how sinful they all were. Mr. and Mrs. Tieman, a
middle aged couple, would hold up large white posters covered with
alternating lines of red and black magic marker, that told us how sinful
and evil we were, while they sang hymns over a small loudspeaker. Off to
one corner, the Krishna Consciousness devotees would bang away at their
drums and chant on and on and on. Various "Jesus Freaks" would wander
around accosting students and subjecting them to impromptu sermons (all
carefully memorized). Scientologists would hand out tracts and Marxists
passed out picket signs. It was all marvelously exciting.
Naturally, the favorite sport of many Berkeley students was "Let's
heckle the religion nuts!" As a new transfer student with an already
strongly developed interest in magic and religion, I jumped right in
with my fellows (almost all male) and started bugging the preachers.
However, I noticed after a few months that our heckling had very little
effect except our own diminishing amusement. The evangelists were immune
to all the standard methods of heckling -- the catcalls and
philosophical paradoxes rolled off them like water off a duck's back.
The evangelical, gospel-spouting approach seemed impervious to all logic
and reason. It was in my third quarter at Cal that inspiration hit me.
On a beautiful Spring afternoon in March 1968, I arrived at the corner
of Bancroft and Telegraph with a small platform, painted black, a small
loudspeaker, also painted black and a piece of black posterboard with
alternating lines of red and white lettering. The top line on my sign
said "The Devil's Advocate." It is impossible to adequately describe the
horror and dismay of the preachers as I stood up on my platform, dressed
all in black, and began a loud, long, sonorous sermon in my best
southern accent -- on behalf of the Christian Devil.
What I was preaching that afternoon was what I have since come to call
"Liberal Heterodox" Satanism. I preached the Devil as Lucifer, the
"Light Bearer," champion of the intellect against repressive tyrannies
on the one hand, and the original "party animal" on the other -- sort of
a combination of Prometheus, Bacchus and Pan. I had a "Hell" of a good
time flaying my audiences for not being sinful enough, and for listening
to the preachers. Inside of five minutes there was an audience around my
platform larger than any of the evangelists had every raised. Some of
them pretended to "heckle" me (and a few Jesus People actually did), but
all their arguments were swept aside by classic preacher-think.
That day, and for many days thereafter, I practiced the art of
improvisational street theater, using all the standard evangelical lines
and parables to ridicule and confuse the preachers. I had been at my
platform less than a week when a young woman came up to me and said, in
a deliberately erotic voice, "Hi. I'm a Witch. Would you like to join
the Church of Satan? You sound like you'd be perfect."
Since she was rather pretty I quickly replied, "Hi. What's the Church of Satan?"
"It's the famous Satanic Church run by Anton LaVey in San Francisco," she explained.
"Never heard of him," I replied brightly.
"Well, you'll like him. He's into just the same things you are. Why
don't you go see him?" she said, handing me a card with his address and
giving me a smoldering look that promised much.
So I went to see him. His hokey black house with the gothic furnishings
has been described so many times by reporters that I won't bother.
Suffice it to say that I met the man and liked him very much. He was
friendly, smooth talking, played the organ beautifully, and promised me
much assistance in my endeavors to torment the evangelists. I was
invited to join the Church, membership fees were waived, and I was
invited to attend his lecture series for free! (The waiving of those
fees, as well as those for the weekly meetings, I learned later was
almost unheard of.) He handed me a bunch of literature from his Church
to hand out and I went back to Berkeley bemused and intrigued by what I
was getting into.
Well, three months went by. One of the members of the Church made me a
more powerful loudspeaker and thousands of LaVey's tracts were printed
up and handed out. I eventually built a large black throne on wheels,
with a tape recorder, microphone and umbrella holder to keep the sun off
my head. I called this my "Sinmobile," and wheeled it across campus
every day to the evangelical corner, so that I could preach in comfort.
In short, I really had a lot of fun that spring.
During this time, I became a regular at the Church of Satan. I attended
LaVey's lectures, went to his Friday night rituals, and quickly became
one of his regular altar boys and a "Satanic Minister." I'll never
forget the evening when I decided to ad lib some fake "Enochian"
invocations during one of the ceremonies. I dramatically intoned a lot
of gibberish, using the same guttural tones that Anton always used, and
everyone in the ritual acted very impressed. Afterwards, I asked Anton,
"How'd you like my Enochian?" and he gave me a look that would have
melted sheetrock. He did not, however, warn me of the dangers of mucking
with this ceremonial language, as any real Enochian magician would have
done out of sheer self-preservation (since they all believe that it is a
terribly powerful magical tongue), nor did he complain that I had ruined
his magical intent, as he would have done if he had actually been doing
any magic. It was at that point that I realized two important things
about Anton: he really didn't know very much about Enochian and he
wasn't actually trying to do magic in his supposedly magical rites. I
began to wonder if he even knew how.
But I continued to hang out at the Church, discussing magic, philosophy
and Satanic theology with Anton and the other members and trying
(unsuccessfully) to seduce some of the rare young women in the Church.
Occasionally I would even flirt with Anton's teenaged daughter -- which
really flipped him out, despite the fact that she wouldn't give me the
time of day. I never was able to figure out whether he was jealous,
worried about protecting her virtue, or concerned that my "commie"
attitudes might be contagious.
At one point that spring, some friends of Anton's showed up with cameras
and started filming bits and pieces of faked-up rituals. Since I was
still an enthusiastic ritualist, I was drafted to play various silly
parts in these. I climbed into a coffin with a naked woman while wearing
a bishop's costume, stabbed a poppet with a knife, asked the high priest
(Anton, in his Red Devil costume) for Satanic blessings, etc. I can't
remember any of the dialog at this point, but I do recall Anton telling
us that what we said didn't matter much, since everything was going to
be translated into European languages for the "documentaries" the men
Well, he was telling some of the truth for once. Parts of these films
did indeed wind up in documentaries, such as "The Occult Experience,"
but those parts were in English. These are the films that people in the
Neopagan community see every couple of years or so, and which shock them
so much -- apparently they can't see that I'm only seventeen in them, so
they write me letters full of concern or denouncing me for my "betrayal"
of Paganism. The foreign translations, however, were done for the bits
that were spliced into pornographic movies sold in Europe. His so-called
documentary film producers were actually pornographers, though the films
I acted in were pretty tame. I don't know about the "acting" other
Church members might have done then or since, though I'm told that LaVey
has earned his living for the last several years in the European
To me it was all just another part of the adventure. I continued to
listen admiringly to Anton's tales, though I was somewhat shocked when
he claimed that his huge library of occult books had been swindled from
rich widows. I was more shocked when I realized that he had read only a
tiny fraction of them, and that at seventeen I had read far more books
on parapsychology, comparative religion and the occult than he had,
despite his twenty years' head start.
These events and insights did not take place in isolation, though. Like
many other Berkeley students, I was gradually becoming a long-haired
radical. This caused increasing friction between the rest of the Church
and myself. My politics then were basically left wing/anarchist with a
mild dash of Nietzsche. Anton's politics, and those of most of the
central members, seemed to be quite a bit more conservative. They'd
quote Nietzsche or Hitler or Rand and tell me what it supposedly meant.
Then I'd give them what I thought of as a more humanistic and
intellectual interpretation. The overlap between our opinions became
increasingly smaller and I became increasingly uneasy about my fellow
Some were bringing authentic Ku Klux Klan robes and Nazi uniforms
for the ceremonies. I was assured that the clothes were merely for
"Satanic shock value" to jar people from their usual staid patterns of
thinking. Then I would talk to the men wearing these clothes and realize
that they were not pretending anything. I noticed that there were no
black members of the Church and only one Asian, and began to ask why.
Then I went away for the summer, living with my eldest brother in
southern California and converting him to my brand of Satanism. Since he
was an intellectual humanist, this wasn't hard (he became Wiccan a
couple of years later). We had an enjoyable summer, I made a few public
appearances on behalf of the Church, then it was time to return to
Upon my return, I found that several of the members of the Church were
coming to me for magical advice, instead of to their Glorious Leader.
This was apparently the final straw for Anton. It was early in October,
shortly after my 18th birthday, that I was called aside for a talk by
one of the "Inner Circle" members (one of the pornographers), about my
"obnoxious and deviationist tendencies." I had previously been told
about "odd" accidents and arrests that had occurred to others who were
purged from the Church, so I tried to be as conciliatory as possible.
But crewcut right wingers never have brought out the best in me, so I
probably wasn't very convincing. A week later, after the services, I was
ordered to go downstairs to the "orgy room."
When I arrived in the sanctum unsanctorium, I found thirteen people in
black hooded robes sitting around a coffin-table. I was told to stand
with my heels against the side of a mattress that was on the floor, with
my head directly under a strong light. They then began to berate me for
my deviationist thinking. The whole inquisition would have been a lot
more impressive except for two factors: firstly, I recognized most of
the voices as being those of the same flakes, weirdos and losers I had
been meeting all along as members of the headquarters crew. Secondly, I
had just finished reading a book on brainwashing techniques -- the same
methods that were now being used on me to force a "confession and
retraction" of my "erroneous ways." My immediate impulse to laugh was
stifled, however, by the fact that I was surrounded and out-numbered by
several very strong men, whose voices were getting increasingly loud and
fanatic, and my memories of the supposed Mafia and police connections
the Church had.
The smart thing to do was convince them that I was small fry and not
worth arranging a fatal accident for. I proceeded to faint back on the
mattress. Ignoring the fact that I had repeatedly informed them of my
activities as a drama club member in high school, they all laughed and
hauled me upstairs. Five minutes later I "revived" and left in a very
A couple of weeks later I sent Anton a suitably wimpy resignation
letter, offering to refrain from all public comment about the Church and
to return the public address system to the man who had provided it to me
(something that never happened, though I waited two years, because
members had been forbidden to communicate with me -- although several
I went back to my previous ways, continuing for two more years the
fascinating game of evangelist-baiting. Several other religious and
magical groups recruited me and then kicked me out for heresy.
Gradually, I became used to the idea that there were damned few groups
around who wanted independent thinkers, and that most of the
organizations I infiltrated or joined (from even before I came to
Berkeley) were likely to kick me out the second I started deviating from
their party line. Fortunately, I discovered the Reformed Druids of North America
shortly after being purged from LaVey's Church, and those
tree-hugging Zen anarchists were just what the Goddess ordered. I've
been a Druid and a Pagan ever since.
I'm still amused more than angered by the cyclical attacks against me in
the Pagan press and now on the Net. I'm not sure that my foolishness as
a teenager is particularly relevant to my present character, opinions
and activities, any more than the foolishness of many other famous
Pagans during their adolescence. Shall we all investigate what Starhawk,
Selena Fox, Ray Buckland, Oberon and Morning Glory Zell were doing when
they were seventeen? For that matter, what were LaVey, Aquino, and
Flowers/Thorsson doing during their teenaged years? (Pagan computer
hackers take note, this could be an entertaining research project.)
I'm perfectly happy now, as I was then, to admit that I was stupid to
get involved with LaVey and his Church, and even more stupid to reveal
my precocious knowledge of the occult and to advise members of the group
behind the guru's back.
Yet any magically- or mystically-oriented person must be willing to
accept that if they experiment or engage in adventures, they are liable
to be made a fool of, be ripped-off or have their reputation smeared by
those who belong to or sympathize with the patriarchy. I was curious
about LaVey and his group and let them recruit me. I find it difficult
to be sorry, although he still expects me to be, that no new members
were brought into the ranks by my efforts -- after all, my chief aim had
been to torment and fight evangelists and fascists, not to help them.
I said back in 1974 that people desperate to smear me would inevitably
bring up those months with LaVey, for lack of anything better to use,
and that prophesy has come true several times. The (re-)publishing of
"The Enemies of our Enemies," however, brings them out of the woodwork
every time. Michael Aquino, the neo-nazi head of the Temple of Set, has
been especially active in spreading carefully crafted lies (he's a
career military intelligence officer, after all) about my time with
LaVey. His professionally written disinformation is precisely targeted
to make feminists, civil libertarians and Neopagans disgusted with me,
especially if they are unfamiliar with propaganda techniques. Various
other Satanic/Setian crackpots, some of whom were denouncing me many
years ago, join in with equally ludicrous accusations and sophomoric
The primary claim these folks are making (other than the traditional one
most my critics use: "Isaac is a terrible person, don't listen to him")
is that every one of my opinions about past and current Satanism has
supposedly been warped by my "bitter experience" with the Church of
Satan when I was seventeen. To this very day, I am supposed to be
horribly ashamed of having been purged by them, and using any excuse to
attack these innocent philosophers. All of which ignores some glaringly
(1) I've been kicked out of lots of occult groups over the years. I
haven't spent much of my time denouncing entire theological movements
related to them, because most of them weren't very representative.
Anton, however, along with Montague Summers and Adolph Hitler, was a
seminal figure in the modern Satanic movement, as even his enemies and
competitors (such as Aquino) cheerfully admit. So LaVey provides one
excellent example of just how shallow, patriarchal and fraudulent
(2) As I've said before, you can't be in the occult community for six
months, let alone twenty-five years, without meeting a wide spectrum of
Satanists, Setians, Luciferians, Gnostic Dualists, Chthulians, and other
proud upholders of the so-called "Left Hand Path." I've met scores of
Satanists, "black magicians" and other idiots trying hard to impress me
with how philosophical, evil, and/or dangerous they were. After a while,
the shallowness of their thinking and the repetitiveness of their
dysfunctional personalities becomes stunning in its cliche-ridden
(3) I'm a professional occultist and a scholar of minority belief
systems. I've read plenty of Satanic/Setian literature and found none of
it plausible. I've studied the historical record of how the Roman
Catholic Church invented modern Satanism. I've read the work of genuine
authorities and found their academic analyses far more convincing than
the self-serving clap-trap produced by folks trying to make big bucks
out of conning the rubes.
My knowledge of Satanists and Satanism is observational, historical,
philosophical, and extensive. Thus, my comments in "The Enemies of Our
Enemies" that Satanists and their ilk tend to be "fascists, jerks and/or
psychopaths" who don't care a fig for anyone's civil liberties except
their own, is accurate, historically sound, and rather mild.
Anyone who bothers to read the trash that LaVey writes (or rather that
he puts his name on -- he bragged to me about how he had gotten various
members of the Church to write the different chapters of his first two
books for him) will notice certain familiar attitudes permeating the
contents. His version of Satanism, like the Christian mythology it is a
part of, is racist and sexist. His right wing nonsense is part and
parcel of the patriarchal worldview that Goddess worshippers and
Neopagans abhor. If Adolf Hitler had decided to publicize his occult
beliefs, they would have wound up sounding much like LaVey's (or Michael
Aquino's) writings -- though with dashes of libertarianism thrown in to
make it sound individual-oriented instead fascist.
The "philosophy of Satanism" is deliberately designed to appeal to the
KKK or American Nazi Party type of mind: all those ignorant embittered
failures who are convinced that "there's a conspiracy" to keep them from
their rightful places as rulers of the world. Even the Satanists who
consider themselves "pre-Christian Gnostic Dualists" still accept the
same patriarchal worldview that lies(!) behind Christianity, dividing
the universe into warring armies of Good and Evil.
Members of the Neopagan community have some fairly simple choices about
how to react to disinformation campaigns against me: (1) They can read
my writings on the topics of Satanism/Setianism, Neopaganism and civil
liberties, and analyze my arguments to see if they make sense regardless
of any biases I might or might not have. (2) They can decide that a man
who has spent his entire adult life as a priest of the Earth Mother may
be a more reliable source of information than people who glorify the
Christian "Father of Lies," and reject poison pen letters/newsgroup
posts as self-serving Satanic propaganda. (3) They can decide to believe
the worst possible stories about me because I'm a pompous, cantankerous
grouch and they would like to see me taken down a peg, regardless of
whether the tales are true. (4) They can choose to ignore the whole
controversy as requiring too much mental effort to bother with.
These last two choices may or may not lead to (5) cozying up to the
Satanists/Setians, joining with them in legal and public relations work,
helping to improve their public image and confirming mainstream fears
that Satanists and Pagans really are the same after all -- thus playing
directly into the hands of the people who would like to imprison and/or
No matter what decisions the members of the community may make, I hope
that they will respond in writing to the various Neopagan publications,
newsgroups, and BBS's on which the Satanists usually dominate this
discussion. Defending or attacking Isaac Bonewits isn't anywhere near as
important as creating a consensus among Pagans as to what relations --
if any -- we should have with Satanists/Setians and other fundamentalist
Christians. That requires strong Pagan positions to be articulated,
Pagan arguments to be carefully scrutinized in the light of Pagan
polytheology, and Pagan hearts to be looked deeply into.
We don't let Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell dominate our internal
community debates. We shouldn't let other Christian outsiders do so
Copyright © 1974, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be
freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done and this
notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal
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