All believers know the fear of the void. The fear that the beliefs by which they design and pattern their lives may, by some unfathomable turn of events, prove to be wrong. Everyone who clings to a religion, superstition or sense of spirituality has felt it, whether they want to admit it or not. “The Dark Night of the Soul”, some call it. If they are wrong, and there is no supernature, no great mysterious other, then what is there? A black gaping maw of nothingness, before and after death? No. The truth is far more physical, far more carnal, far more wonderful than your human mind can process. I would argue that it is a moment of enlightenment, of clarity and illumination, not unfolding, unending darkness. It is a Luciferan moment of understanding. You’ve finally stopped trying to lift the veil and, instead, looked out the window. Don’t be scared of it. It is your humanity in action. There is nothing to fear in this book except shattered illusions, and that should be celebrated, not mourned. You will be changed and change is good. Stasis is inhumane.
The first thing to say is that there is no void. There is no great un-closable wound left behind after casting off faith. The fear that you feel in the pit of your stomach at the prospect of a dispassionate, patternless, spiritless universe is caused by a simple, easy-to-make misunderstanding. It will pass, once you know why it is there. It will pass. The world that the believer exists in is far smaller and less wondrous than that which exists outside the illusion. The prayers, the sermons, the layers and layers of correspondences, conjunctions, elements, spirits, names, invocations, evocations, sigils and signs that believers pepper their lives with get in the way of the real view of the amazing, unfolding, vastly majestic universe and our role in it. The forest can't be seen for The Tree.
Satanism, whether theistic or atheistic, is a philosophy of personal ownership and responsibility, critical thought and opposition to blind faith. Being oppositional or adversarial is not the same as being evil. To play Devil’s Advocate is to be on the side of true knowledge achieved through our facilities of reason, logic and endeavour. One can question and challenge without malicious intent. One can deconstruct without destroying. Evil is a term which we use to describe pathological human behaviours. We have tacked it on to an image of a horned humanoid, inherited from pagan cultures who used it to describe the generative principle of the world they lived in. We have moved beyond tree worship and stone megaliths. We have reunderstood our world, and yet we retain relic forms like ‘evil’, which propagate themselves in 21st century society. Satanism is not devil worship. Satanic thought is a principally an atheistic philosophy, a methodology for viewing the physical, cultural, human world which we all share. It happens to be a philosophy compatible with and, I would argue, descriptive of sceptical, rationalist, logical, Darwinian atheism.
In his work The Devil, PG Russell approaches a critical history of the Devil as the embodiment of evil. He states,
“The approach I adopt is intended to embrace many approaches to the understanding of evil in terms of one valid truth system, the historical. Just as a number of truth systems exist, a number of methods are appropriate to each. A method is a means of understanding within a truth system. There are, for example, a number of different methods of understanding history. Some methods are better than others in general, some clearly better than others for solving particular problems”
The Devil depicted in The Temptation of Christ, by Ary Scheffer, 1854.
The Judeo-Christian Satan is clearly, when read from a secular, historical perspective, a syncretic anthropomorphised embodiment of the principle of critical thought, of challenging ideology and religious dogma. Lucifer is ‘The Light Bearer’. His great ‘Fall’ was because of an expression of self-determination and critical opinion. He challenged authority and was punished, because challenging theology is evil. He was evil.
It is easy to see how this works. The church was once the centre of social power. It held sway over literacy, science, royalty, government, everything, for the better part of two thousand years. Tracing the continuum even further back into human history, the Priestly class has been the centre of social organisation since the Neolithic revolution. It was the central organising principle of civilisation for millennia, with good reason. The Church helped us survive, because the tenants of religion are, largely, intended to secure survival of the faithful. If you remain calm, refrain from killing your neighbour or stealing his spouse and treat others as you would like to be treated then, if you’re lucky, you may live to see 45. That is essentially the crux of it. Religion was a way to increase our sense of belonging and kinship by creating a social entity which both described and provided for us, so long as we gave a certain amount of power over to it.
St. Michael Vanquishing Satan by Raphael c. 1504
Michael Pacher, Saint Wolfgang and the Devil c. 1471-75
In essence, the Church of Satan are satanic atheists. They have their rituals and ceremonies and titles but at the heart of the organisation there is a message of individualism and liberty of the self. As an ex-occultist their aesthetic appeals to me, as it does to many satanic atheists (HI BLACKCRAFT!), but I think we can, in the 21st century, build upon the work of the 20th century Satanists. There has been much coverage of recent authorship on atheistic Buddhism, something entirely in keeping with the historical and archaeological record. Secular Judaism is widely recognised; being a ‘cultural Jew’ has nothing to do with whether you believe in god or not. We have the capacity to find meaning and knowledge in the cultural human past, and it could be that some of the things we have inherited over the past several millennia may in fact have value outside of a church or temple. Satan is a concept, not an infernal entity that lives underneath your house. If you ask a theistic Satanist whether Satan is real – you will get an entirely different answer, but raising demons to manifestation and the ensoulment of energies into sigils and the calling of quarters is no longer my bag. That is not what this is about. I cannot say this enough – Satanism is a philosophy applicable apart from and unconnected to a need for supernaturalist belief. They are not the same thing. This is an escape from supernaturalist belief. I would strongly advise you take it. A satanic atheism is one which is directly confrontational in the face of ideological assumption. The ability to think critically should never be taken for granted, nor should it be ignored. Challenge everything. Challenge yourself. Test your beliefs. Audit your life.
The world around us has been constructed out matter, built on a foundation of ideas; physical things follow on from mental concepts, which derive from our understanding of ourselves and the needs of survival. Cars, houses, churches, hospitals, white wedding dresses, birthdays, earrings, wars, everything. We create that which we believe, as actions and words follow human thoughts and behaviours. Most believe there is a plan or pattern to our world which can be decoded – it’s a concept of gnosis or mystery; that there is a plan which we are yet to find the key to. That's the teleological point of all religions - that there is a unity or wholeness which we are meant to aim toward.
Rationally and evolutionarily the opposite is true.
The Law of Entropy applies. Evolution operates via friction, mistake, opposition and non-correspondence. Civilisations rise and fall due to frictive forces of change. Whether biological or cultural, evolution works via random mutation in a physical environment, one subject to processes of disorder, taphonomy and decay. If you believe there is a plan to the world, but also believe in science - both cannot be true. 90% of people can understand that. The other 10% I have no interest in. I'm a humanist at heart so I believe we can achieve an objective, atheistic understanding of ourselves on our own terms if we deconstruct the elements that constitute the human organism and recombine them in the final analysis - and that is at the heart of Satanic thought. Deconstruction and tested understanding.
Satan, as drawn by Gustave Doré, in John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Reading his somewhat shifty methodological description as an exercise in logic, it fails. ‘Truth system’ is an amorphous term which Russell uses to infer a relativist understanding of past human experience, and any methodology anchored in inference is doomed to swallow its own tail. This is a way of giving some power to a supernaturalist reading of the Devil in history while maintaining academic distance, and quite frankly it reeks of apology. While his book is definitely one of the better texts on the roots of the historical, religious Satan, Russell failed to see that he was writing under an ideological assumption, one based in historical, subjective belief:
Evil as a concept is objectively valid. Satan and evil are equitable. Satan describes evil. Evil is embodied by Satan.
I challenge this. I ask you to do the same. I ask you to look from a different perspective.
This is written from a 21st century, secular, atheistic viewpoint. It is based on the premise that Satan does not describe evil. From a religious standpoint, Satan most certainly does embody the principles of sin, vice, the questioning of authority and indulgent carnality... but Satan does not mean evil. ‘The Satan’ means ‘The Adversary’. ‘The Opposer’.Satan is one etymologically who opposes, obstructs, or acts against another.
What is the adversary of religious belief? It is not evil. What is the opposite of religious belief? It is reason. It is logic and critical thought. Satan is science.
"The Great Red Dragon And The Beast From The Sea" (1805-1810), by William Blake
It used to work, but we have outgrown the limitations imposed by even the best, most scientistically conjugated theological explanations of the universe. Creationism is, to be blunt, claptrap. Science provides a better, testable, rational explanation of who we are and why we exist. Chemistry, biology, physics, archaeology, anthropology, material culture studies... the sciences now describe the world around us in ways that religion could never even conceive of. We can explain our place in the world without a divine plan, without the need for appeals to a supernatural authority. God is a heritage item. It should be respected and memorialised, but that does not mean that the concept of a supernatural, teleological other should be enacted and repeated ad infinitum.
Satan, however, as a descriptor of the critical reasoning and adversarial logic, has perhaps more relevance now than ever before in human history. We may be in the final days of the Church, if we are lucky. Understanding of an atheistic worldview based on satanic principles of critical thought and logic will, I believe, seal the deal. Reason will win. We have the ability to make this happen. First you just have to shatter all your illusions. A secular Satanism based on the ideological descriptions and concretions of a religious Satan makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It is measuring archaeological time by the flood myth. It is trying to judge the calendar year by the arrival of Santa Claus. It is illogical nonsense. Rather, we should be looking at the concept of the Satan in its original semiotic function as The Adversary. Tacking on the concept of evil to something which is basically and logically neutral is at best irrational and at worst completely pathological tohuman intellectual development.
ANTON LAVEY, founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible
The goat headed baphomet which features largely in satanism
There are organising principles in the universe but there is no plan. There are patterns of growth and evolution and development and awareness but there is no creator. There are no gods, no goddesses, no spirits and no angels, but there are intelligences and systems and sequences. There are reactions and solutions and paths between paths. There is great meaning to be found and an unending sense of wonder as you become aware of the unfolding of the universe you inhabit and the true reality of worlds within worlds within worlds. To paraphrase one of the greatest minds of the 20th century Carl Sagan, you are made of stars. You are a product of the birth of galaxies and the passage of billions of years.
I was once deluded. I once believed that I had experienced the supernatural, even though I hadn't. I created it all for myself. The spells that worked, the tarot readings that were crystal clear, the messages from the dead on the verge of sleep – they were all real and all the proof I needed. I had been possessed by spirits and engaged with angels and demons. I had called on the dead and felt their presence. I managed to convince myself that I had. I had not. It never occurred. I felt like it did, but it did not. Some time and some distance from those events show them to be fantasies and wishful thinking. Finding shapes in the clouds of my life. In reality, the spells didn't work, the patterning of the cards had no consequence and for every good reading there was one full off-the-cuff moments of 'psychic inspiration' and nonsense. I had lost myself in a fantasy which enveloped everything in my life.
When one chooses one’s own path it is easy to become lost in a sea of superstitious behaviour which appears to work, but does not. We never take stock of the spells that failed, the readings that were wrong, the ghosts that didn't appear or the table that just would not tilt. My understanding of the universe was skewed by the filters through which I viewed it. My knowledge of the universe was petty and wrong. Now is the time to think critically. Release the lies of the uninformed. Their authority is baseless and their threats of consequences inconsequential. You are free.
[The above is an excerpt from the author’s upcoming work, The Satanic Atheist]