Satan Speaks! by Anton Szandor LaVey

This collection of essays is Anton LaVey’s fifth and final book, completed just days before he died in 1997. The title may strike fear into the hearts of some, but the true spirit of the book’s content is captured more by the subtle background image on the cover: the mischievously grinning bearded gentleman with the horns. For most of these essays are laced with humour and a sense of lightheartedness – albeit from the perspective of a misanthropic man who saw the world somewhat differently from the majority. Anton LaVey was the founder of the Church of Satan in 1966, starting the first above-ground Satanic organisation. The LaVeyan brand of Satanism was a religion/philosophy which promoted the reign of the flesh rather than the spirit – in other words, vital existence here and now instead of spiritual pipedreams. The character Satan was used in the symbolic sense as “adversary to the spiritual religions,” rather than as a deity to be worshipped. Consult my review of The Satanic Bible (1969) for more detail.

Unafraid to blaspheme the non-existant, LaVey begins this volume with an essay entitled “The God of the Assholes”:

Of course, God is a very Jungian construct. He was created by small men to serve their needs, according to their needs. Then, after the limited minds of millions of stupidos acknowledged Him, the goddamn dummies pretended it was the other way around. They insisted that God created man. They admitted that God created man His own image, but could never extend the similarity beyond that.

The diversity of subject matter in this volume makes it impossible to classify it with a particular theme, other than misanthropic opinions on modern life. There’s everything in here from magic, to materialism, to bathing (why he doesn’t), to volume pedals on keyboards, to women who piss their panties for sexual thrills.

Sometimes I could follow LaVey’s logic; sometimes I couldn’t. Satan Speaks! is hardly one of the more important books I’ve read in the study of Satanism and the occult, but I confess that I did have a lot of fun delving into the mind of one dubbed “the most misunderstood man in America.” If I learned anything about LaVey from this book it’s that he didn’t take life too seriously, which isn’t a bad note to go out on. That said, there was a disturbingly insular and backward-looking trend in LaVey’s general attitude to life. He possesses a distinct preference for his own company, a general disdain for others as lesser, and a desire to be left alone among his personal possessions in an environment of his own making, disconnected as much as possible from the world and focused entirely upon the past. What happened to the blazing personality who wrote The Satanic Bible, who championed vital existence, who sought to effect change in the world?

Knowing Blanche Barton’s propensity for invention and myth-making (see The Secret Life of a Satanist), it wouldn’t surprise me if LaVey had no intention of making this book. Rather than seeing providential significance in the finishing of the volume just days before LaVey’s death, I think it’s more likely that Barton compiled this assortment of essays herself after his death. In any case, it was worth reading. Entertaining, occasionally insightful, humourous and a touch tragic.

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Postmodern Satanism by Jason King

This is the third piece of Satanic literature I have read, and I’m now starting to get sick of having to begin each review with a disclaimer of sorts, to cover my ass. But that’s life in a society where Christianity permeates the minds of ninety-nine percent of the population – even agnostics, if only subconsciously. Let it be said that unless you have dared to read a volume such as Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re misinformed as to what Satanism is. Satanism is not devil worship, for there is no actual being called Satan. Satanism is a philosophy of opposition to all the spiritual religions which promote the denial of a vital earthly existence in favour of a hypothetical reward hereafter. To be Satanic is to be adversarial. The original Hebrew word “Satan” means “adversary,” and so the philosophy adopts the term “Satan” for its symbol. Satanism is all about life in the here and now, with the recognition that there is no higher authority than yourself. Far from being a license for amorality, this is true responsibility for one’s actions and their consequences. The only downside is that to declare yourself a Satanist means that you will be misunderstood (and possibly feared) by ninety-nine percent of the population. Of course, this isn’t really a downside, as the Satanist, by virtue of his adversarial nature, relishes conflict and is inclined to see the funny side of others’ unenlightened disapproval.

That’s my ultra-fast introduction to modern Satanism, as codified by Anton LaVey in 1969. For more detailed info, consult my review of The Satanic Bible. Now we come to Postmodern Satanism by Jason King. Postmodern Satanism essentially takes the foundation laid by LaVey and asks the question “What next?” A quote from an early part of the book:

Just as Anton LaVey’s philosophy has been superceded, so too will my own, for such is the nature of the world. No book has the power to codify reality for all times and places, whether it be called a Bible or not. Satanism must be an energized philosophy instead of a dogmatic one – I’d rather see people who agree with me formulate their own systematic analyses, instead of quoting me like some authoritative prophet or guru.

I could not have been more delighted reading the above. Finally, someone else who truly gets it. For the past two thousand years people have been claiming that Jesus is the answer. He is your truth package that will never be superceded. Many who have seen the lie for what it is have then fallen prey to countless mini-Christs. Take Eckhart Tolle as an example. Another guru with an enlightenment package that is supposed to be The Answer. Few seem to understand the simple undeniable observation that knowledge has always been progressive. That which we now understand merely paves the way to what we will one day understand, with many corrections en route. Jason King gets this right at the starting gate, and it makes a thoroughly refreshing change to all the self-styled gurus with their craftily packaged brands of salvation.

The central theme and defining characteristic of postmodern Satanism, that makes it distinguishable from modern Satanism, is the observation that nature itself is adversarial – or nature is Satanic, if you will. From cellular life right up to planets and suns, one thing sustains itself by taking energy from another. This is the Satanic principle of all nature. From the human perspective, the most obvious expression of this principle is seen in predator versus prey, survival of the fittest, in both the human and animal arena. Religions have put this state of affairs down to a fall from grace in the long distant past. Postmodern Satanism instead asserts that the world is as it’s meant to be; your human nature is meant to be what it is; there is nothing wrong with you. Man therefore should not spend his days seeking to expunge all that is adversarial about himself as though it were sinful. Instead, he should embrace it as the very feature that is carrying his own evolution (as well as that of the universe) forward towards betterment.

Some Christians, eager to scrape the barrel, will interpret what I’m saying as license to become a psychopath. But don’t you see that it is the very adversarial nature of man that allows the truly responsible human to restrain (or gun down, if required) the psychopath, for the protection of those he loves and the betterment of mankind as a whole. Or shall we all turn the other cheek and let the “demons” run amuck?

Postmodern Satanism differs from LaVeyan Satanism in that it makes an effort to conceptualise a spiritual reality, drawing somewhat from Eastern sources. Whereas LaVeyan philosophy was largely concerned with pragmatic matters of morality, postmodern Satanism delves into the larger philosophic arena of the nature of reality and the more fundamental reality beyond space and time. The book does not hold the reader’s hand, but presupposes an existing understanding in the reader’s head of the concept of a universal mind. This happens to be my personal philosophy, but it is not one without problems. I have been aware for some time of a seeming incongruency with the idea of everything being one while observing this oneness kicking the crap out of itself in the arena of duality. Jason King took my understanding of this to where it had been struggling to go. This material was pure gold to me.

Postmodern Satanism’s recognition of a unified consciousness is also what forces a radical reassessment of Anton LaVey’s original assertions, for LaVey was vehemently anti-spiritual and he based his entire philosophy on the triumph of the individual ego over all else.

A quick word on magic (or magick, as the author prefers). LaVeyan Satanism defined magic purely in ritualistic terms – the use of psychodrama to effect change. Postmodern Satanism sees magic as an expansion of consciousness. Ritual may be a means to a magical end, but it’s not the basis of magic. Real magic is rooted in your mind’s connection to the deeper reality beyond the purely physical.

God help me, but I really get this stuff (if you’ll excuse the theistic faux pas). As a person who spent two decades as an Evangelical Christian and who has spent the past two years publicly denouncing Christianity, it is perfectly true to call me an antichrist (according to the definition given by St. John in his epistles). I would be a hypocrite to deny it. Should I also now wear the label of Satanist? Well, it’s prudent to let the dust settle first. Let’s just say for now that I’m somewhat Satanically inclined.

Some of the material in Postmodern Satanism was confusing – which really just means beyond my current understanding. That’s no criticism, because I realise that I’m reading an author who is at my level and beyond – which makes a change from various occult books that have merely insulted my intelligence by making outlandish claims with no rational or empirical backup.

It’s worth keeping a dictionary handy when reading. The author expects familiarity with terms like “epistemological” (the nature of truth), “teleological” (the nature of being). Felt like being back in Bible class for a moment! It’s clear that the book is not aimed solely at the lay reader. Anyone should read it; just don’t expect to understand every single thing.

The only parts of Postmodern Satanism that I felt were irrelevant to me were a few lengthy commentaries on writings by Aleister Crowley, the Yezidis, and other occult texts.

The book is self-published. Unlike most self-published books, it’s extremely well written and edited. My only gripe is that some unusual typesetting choices by the author have caused the book to be about 200 pages when it could easily have fitted 150 and benefitted from the resulting price decrease. There’s no shame in releasing a small book. H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and many others have released important works that were even shorter than Postmodern Satanism.

I first heard of Jason King through his YouTube channel, where he is a frequent video-blogger. Postmodern Satanism is available to purchase from Lulu. It’s a stellar book, one of the most important I’ve read in recent times.

The Satanic Rituals by Anton Szandor LaVey

I advise readers to consult my review of The Satanic Bible before reading this one, first to familiarise yourself with what Satanism actually is (in direct contradiction to Christian propaganda) and also so that my personal motivations in researching this subject are not misunderstood by people who would take great delight in condemning me.

Briefly, LaVeyan Satanism is a philosophy of individualism, recognising no higher authority than the self. To the Satanist, there is no God and no devil; no one to worship but yourself. Satanists choose Satan as their symbol because the name means “accuser” or “adversary,” and Satanists see themselves as the enemies of all the spiritual religions. In wearing the badge of the very enemy those religions typify, you declare your freedom from any necessity of being seen as righteous in the eyes of others. Satanism celebrates carnality and sees man as just another animal. It can be viewed as atheism minus humanism. The Satanic Bible was chiefly concerned with expounding a philosophical viewpoint, a Satanic morality. Satanists are not amoral, nor are they in favour of loving everyone indiscriminately. Satanic morality is rational, pragmatic and at times brutal. Satanism recognises that all of nature is adversarial (Satanic), and so it develops a moral stance in line with that principle.

Then we come to a strange little thing called Satanic ritual. This topic was given a brief treatment towards the end of The Satanic Bible and is more fully expounded here. Satanists view ritual as “self-transformative psychodrama.” The main reason for ritual is to affect the self. For instance, a Black Mass is not a form of devil worship (for there is no devil, Satanists would agree), it is a mockery of Christianity designed to disintregate any lingering psychological attachment to it that is holding you back.

There is another, more occult, side to ritual that is acknowledged by the Satanist. There are three general types of ritual: a compassion ritual (where good is wished upon another), a destruction ritual (where harm is wished upon another), and a lust ritual (where you attempt to bring a sexual partner into your life). The ritual chamber can be thought of as a cooking pot for desire and emotion, where the rational self is left at the door for a time. Satanism acknowledges that our desires can sometimes permeate beyond ourselves and affect the world. This is the essential understanding of a magical ritual. LaVey doesn’t pretend to know how and why this works, he only asserts that it does, that there are forces beyond our understanding that can be called to our aid. These forces are not acknowledged to be personal in any way, and most magical lore is thrown in the trash. LaVey places no importance on the drawing of protective circles, pentagrams and hexagrams. He views the spilling of blood as completely unnecessary and the real science of it is the power inherent in the discharge of the adrenal and bio-electrical energy of the sacrifice. Hence, the Satanist recognises he can draw such energy from within himself through ritual, without the need for killing animals (or human babies!). I have to say, I found all of this to be a fascinating re-evaluation of magical lore. But it strikes me that LaVey could be closer to a scientific understanding of magic than his occult predecessors.

One thing still baffles me, and it’s the question I really wanted answered after reading The Satanic Bible: if we are dealing with impersonal forces, why the constant reliance on the Enochian Keys? Many rituals are included in this book, and the one thing you learn is there are no actual Satanic rituals. They are all borrowed from other non-Satanic sources and sometimes modified; there’s even a bit of H.P. Lovecraft thrown in. And yet all of these rituals begin with the reading of specific Enochian Keys. It’s as if the content of the ritual itself isn’t terribly important, but the Enochian Keys are vital to success. I asked this question in my review of The Satanic Bible, and I have to ask it again here: who or what is listening when you speak the Enochian Keys? Surely something more personal than a force of nature.

Now, it could be that John Dee’s Enochian language is pure gibberish and LaVey is yanking our chain. Call me superstitious, but I’m not inclined to put that to the test. My understanding of “magical” forces comes from a psionics perspective. I have enough experience (specifically through experiments with telekinesis) to know that there’s a reality to this. I am far too cautious to dabble in Satanic ritual, although I am endlessly fascinated by the workings of it, because I think there is ultimately a scientific framework for everything in reality, as long as you don’t take the word “science” to mean classical physics alone.

The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey

I’ve been so reluctant to review this book, for no other reason than the fear of what some of my Christian friends will think of me. “Oh, Darryl, we knew this would happen. You rejected your faith in Christ; you’ve been busy learning how to move objects with your mind; it was only a matter of time before this happened.” Now just HOLD ON A MINUTE. Let’s make a few things clear. Firstly, The Satanic Bible is not some ancient occult text, as might be feared by uninformed Christians; it is merely a book written in the 1960s by one Anton LaVey who founded his own particular branch of Satanism called the Church of Satan. Secondly, it strikes me that if we want to be critical of something, we ought to first know something about what we’re criticising, by reading what it’s all about from the source itself, rather than blindly accepting the second-hand criticisms of our church leaders. Thirdly, my motivation in reading this book was not an interest in joining Satanism, but in helping myself to learn about whether Satanism really takes place at high levels of society and government, as the conspiracy theorists tell us.

The Satanic Bible was a surprising read, to say the least. Initially, the book is concerned with replacing the moral guidelines of conventional religion with alternative ones. Religion, says LaVey, has traditionally been based on abstinence, whereas Satanism is a religion of indulgence. He tells the story of how, as an organ player at a carnival in his youth, he would see men coming to the stripshows, then on Sunday morning at the church, these same men would get themselves right with God, only to return to the stripshow the following week, in a never-ending cycle of hypocrisy. According to Satanism, “man’s carnal nature will out,” therefore LaVey sought to invent a religion based on man’s carnal needs, rather than in futile opposition to them. Satanic morality presents some recognisable Christian principles, with slight modifications, such as “Do unto others as they do unto you”; “Kindness to those who deserve it, rather than love wasted on ingrates.” Some of the principles made a kind of sense to me; others I felt very uncomfortable with, such as “Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong.” At times, LaVey has a way with words – an ability to state his case succinctly, smashing through false, pretentious counter-arguments with amazing brevity – and often with a dash of humour. For instance, consider the importance the Christian Church places on confession of sin. Here’s what LaVey had to say:

When a Satanist commits a wrong, he realizes that it is natural to make a mistake – and if he is truly sorry about what he has done, he will learn from it and take care not to do the same thing again. If he is not honestly sorry about what he has done, and knows he will do the same thing over and over, he has no business confessing and asking forgiveness in the first place. But this is exactly what happens. People confess their sins so that they can clear their consciences and be free to go out and sin again, usually the same sin.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in The Satanic Bible is the assertion that LaVeyan Satanists do not worship Satan. To them, Satan is no more real as a being than the tooth fairy. Instead, the word Satan is used to personify what LaVey vaguely calls a dark force of nature. Satanic ritual is largely a form of “psychodrama” – another vague term not strictly defined, but which I understand refers to the use of ritual to stimulate emotion. And emotion is where the real power lies. This is where my ears really perked up, because this is by no means the first time I’ve heard the idea that emotion is the “fuel” in a magical working; I came across the same idea in my research of telekinesis. Others who talk about “the power of intention” are acknowledging the very same, for what is intention but fervent (i.e. emotionally charged) desire.

It is stated that, contrary to popular belief, Satanists do not sacrifice babies, other humans, or even animals; children and animals are viewed as the highest form of life. The “magic” behind such ritual sacrifices is not in the blood itself but in the harvesting of the adrenal and bio-electrical energy expended in the death throes of the sacrifice. This certainly sheds new light on the prevalence of sacrifice in the religions of the ancient world – Judaism (from which our Christianity emerged) no exception. Perhaps all those ancient cultures were not as dim-witted and primitive as we commonly believe. The Satanist, however, shuns sacrifice, knowing that there are easier ways to generate the necessary emotional energy, from oneself.

Learning a thing or two about the “science” of magic was fascinating to me, especially in relation to my ongoing interest in telekinesis. I learned telekinesis without any guidebook, purely by attempting it again and again, taking careful note of what worked and what didn’t. I came to the understanding that successful telekinesis depended on first creating a strong mental image of what I wanted to occur and pouring strong desire into that image; then clearing the mind of all thought and letting it happen. Imagine my alarm when I read the five principles of Satanic magic: (a) desire, (b) timing, (c) imagery, (d) direction, (e) the balancing factor. We can forget (b) and (e), because they relate only to magic performed on a person, e.g. what time are they are most susceptible to influence, and the necessity of being realistic in your expectations. But (a), (c) and (d) correspond nicely to my own telekinesis technique. Telekinesis works because you employ desire with (mental) imagery, then direction, which is the letting go. Perhaps those elements are rather obvious, but it strikes me that the same underlying “science” is behind both telekinesis and magical ritual. After all, visualing a “psi wheel” spinning and causing it to spin for real is not so different from sticking pins in a doll with someone’s photo attached to it and manifesting an actual curse in their life.

Does all of this make me want to quit my telekinesis experiments? No. Because after all, we use our imaginations and our desires all the time in life. It’s just that few of us ever realise that we are constantly attracting experiences to ourselves through those very desires. In fact, having this understanding only makes me aware that we might well be psychically attacking others without realising it, merely by brooding over unresolved hurts. In this sense, we are all magicians, whether we realise it or not. And what is magic? The most memorable statement in the book for me was (paraphrased) “Everything that is now considered science was once considered magic.”

Satanic magic, however, takes one giant step further, into even more mysterious territory, and this is where the original claim about Satan being merely a “dark force of nature,” rather than an actual entity, starts to fall apart for me. If Satanic ritual is merely psychodrama designed to stimulate emotion, why does The Satanic Bible state strict guidelines, such as the placing of the image of Baphomet (a goat-headed entity representing Satan) on a particular wall. Why the strict regulations about candles? The list goes on. Most telling of all are the “Enochian Keys.” These are strange passages were allegedly supernaturally communicated to Elizabethan occultist John Dee, written in a language called Enochian. Each Key serves a different purpose, and it is said to be dangerous to recite these things recklessly. It strikes me that if I am required to make certain sounds with my lips, then something is there to hear and interpret those sounds as words, certainly something more personal than a force of nature. And it is this, more than anything else, that urges me to be especially cautious about Satanism. For I would ask, “At what cost do I invoke help from beyond?”

I think this may be a dangerous book, particularly in the hands of the young and naive. It is capable of seducing you with a moral viewpoint that is more realistic, and at times more attractive, than that of traditional religion. My personal morality comes not from organised religion, but from my intuitive understanding that we are all one. So, the furtherance of my own ego (which Satanism champions) is tempered with the understanding that I am everyone, and whatever I do to another, I do to myself. If I did not have this understanding, Satanic morality may well have had more impact on me than it did: “If a man smite thee on one cheek, smash him on the other” is not a principle that resonates with me, although I can see why it might to some ears. Another danger I perceived: the view that there is no actual Satan could give one a false sense of security about ploughing ahead recklessly into Satanic magic. An impersonal force of nature doesn’t hold the same sense of threat as an mysterious unknown entity. The latter scenario seems far more likely to me than the former.

Finally, what of my original motivation for reading this book? Did it shed any light on whether Satanism (or a similar occult philosophy) takes place at high levels of government? Well, there was a brief anecdote about Benjamin Franklin’s involvement in the Hellfire Club secret society, and an assertion that all truly successful people are adherents of Satanic philosophy to one extent or another, whether knowingly or not. A poignant question occured to me: if true magical power exists on earth, where would it be – in the hands of a few obscure people, or in the hands of the rulers? Since magic is what would enable one to gain power, surely then it’s the magicians who would be the ones in power. It’s notable that the section of The Satanic Bible on magic is subtitled “Mastery of the Earth.” The Third Enochian Key is prefaced thus:

“The Third Enochian Key establishes the leadership of the earth upon the hands of those great Satanic magicians who throughout the successive ages have held dominion over the peoples of the world.”

Of course, to many readers, all of the above is purely theoretical, because believing in magic is like believing in Santa Claus, right? Well, to someone like me, who learned how to genuinely move matter with his mind, I’m afraid it’s drastically more believable. Who knows.