The Gentleman Downstairs by R. Smith

smithr-gentlemandownstairsThe full title of the book is The Gentleman Downstairs and Other Satanic Parables and Fables. It contains 67 stories, each one short enough to fit on a single page, each one illustrating an aspect of the philosophy of the Chruch of Satan. The book is meticulously annotated with references to literature written by the church’s founder, Anton LaVey, as well as his successors, Blanche Barton and Peter H. Gilmore. The references are explicit right down to the page numbers. LaVey’s book The Satanic Witch (which I feel is one of his best) is mysteriously omitted from the canon. A little disappointing, as it’s the sort of book that would lend itself to colourful illustration, given that it’s about women’s powers of seduction.

As a free-thinker, I have a significant rapport with satanic philosophy, so I delved into R. Smith’s book with great interest. Some of the parables are set in an apartment building, where an enigmatic character known as the Gentleman Downstairs lives on the bottom floor. Other parables were set further afield in space and time. While some stories were forgettable, others really stuck in the mind. I was surprised and delighted to encounter a story about a man who cycles to work every day regardless of the weather. Almost no one does that, but it just so happens that I do! I never thought of it as pertinent to Satanism before.

On the coldest day the man bicycled to work. He arrived at work shivering with frost on his beard. But like every daily ride, he felt more alive than if he hadn’t taken the bicycle. Coworkers regarded him with incredulity. They didn’t understand the transformation the ride brought about in the man.

The Gentleman Downstairs has been designed with an aesthetic in keeping with LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, so that it will look right at home on the bookshelf beside it. While great care has been taken with the presentation, inside and out, my only quibble is that an exceptionally small font size was chosen for the text, to ensure that no story would take more than one page. A little hard on the eyes, but it’s is a small quibble.

Parables were Jesus’ way of teaching his disciples important lessons about life through allegory. It’s a wonder nobody has thought of doing the same for Satanism until now. And intertaining and insightful read that I’m sure I will return to in the future. To sample some of the parables, visit the offical website: www.satanicparables.com.

The Church of Satan by Blanche Barton

bartonb-churchofsatanThis book is quite hard to find, not for any particularly esoteric reason. I imagine there simply weren’t that many copies printed and no one has yet produced an ebook of the text. The publisher is Hell’s Kitchen Productions, which might be the Church of Satan’s own self-publishing imprint. I was lucky to find a second-hand copy on eBay for £20, but the lowest price among the current ten copies listed on Amazon’s used books is £60. Owning this book now completes my collection of official Church of Satan literature. The other works are five books written by Anton LaVey, a biography on LaVey by Blanche Barton, and one book by Peter H. Gilmore (LaVey’s successor).

Blanche Barton, the author of the work under review, was Anton LaVey’s live-in partner for the latter part of his life, and the mother of one of his children. LaVey was, of course, the founder of the Church of Satan. This slim volume of 170 pages provides a brief history of the Church, beginning with some short biographical notes on LaVey’s carnival and occult background, leading to his reasons for forming a new religion based on man’s carnal nature. The growth of the church is catalogued, from its beginnings as a Friday night get-together at LaVey’s home, where he would lecture on the occult, to the eventual implementation of a nationwide “grotto” system. One of the most unfortunate aspects of LaVey’s earlier life is some of the claims are provably legendary. I personally find it a bit insulting that Barton reiterates these legends for her readers, especially when her intended readership seems to be Church of Satan members, rather than the general public. Michael Aquino’s Temple of Set gets a few jibes, as Aquino was responsible for splitting the Church of Satan in 1975. LaVey and Aquino spin that event in different ways, and its hard to tell who is entirely honest about what went down. Aquino’s claim that the Church of Satan ended in 1975 would seem to be a tad pretentious.

There is much material in the book that I have encountered before, but also some interesting new material, such as clarifications on the practice of ritual magic. The timing of the book’s publication puts it right in the middle of the Satanic Panic, a period of unprecedendent public hysteric about occult crimes against children. The phenomenon is rationally and effectively debunked.

The real strength of the book is the huge amount of direct quotes from LaVey himself. These are not from other printed works and public interviews, but presumably from Barton’s own conversations with the man himself. The quotes are so voluminous that LaVey could really be considered a co-author.

If you’re already familiar with Satanism, this book will serve as a refresher on the fundamentals, with perhaps a few new insights. For those who are not familiar with the philosophy, this is definitely one of the better books to read initially. Shame it’s so obscure.

Liber HVHI by Michael W. Ford

Michael W. Ford calls himself a “Luciferian.” What this means, and how it differs from “Satanist,” is not easy to nail down. Equally difficult to answer definitively is the question: “What is Luciferianism?” Briefly, I think it is fair to say that a Luciferian is someone who finds greater relevance in the meaning of Lucifer (light-bearer) than Satan (adversary). There is certainly no evidence of a belief system of any significant scale called “Luciferianism” (despite what conspiracy theorists would assert). Furthermore, Ford’s own “Luciferian Magickal Order,” the Order of Phosphorous, is not the only contender; there is also the Ordo Luciferis, Ordo Luciferi, Temple of the Dark Sun, Neo-Luciferian Church.

The title of the book under review is an inversion (of sorts) of the Hebrew name of God in the Old Testament, rendered either as JHVH or YHWH. Y and J are the same in Hebrew, as are V and W. The language contains no vowels, so there is often some guessing required as to the correct pronunciation of words; hence we have Jehovah and Yahweh. Written backwards we get HVHJ. Where Ford comes up with HVHI is not explained, nor is any clue given as to how to pronounce this “name.”

Liber HVHI is a modern grimoire, drawing upon the myths of various past cultures, with a particular emphasis on Ahriman of Zoroastrianism. Also central to the book is the Qlippoth, a variation of the Tree of Life glyph from the Hebrew Cabala. Much of the historial material was so unfamiliar to me, and communicated with such brevity, that it was impossible to digest coherently. I also failed to grasp the reason for the importance Ford’s approach to magic. I understand myths as approximations to truth, which is why myths are always evolving over time, or outliving their usefulness. Ford’s insistence on the use of ancient myth strikes me as backward. It’s like learning astronomy, but refusing to let go of Ptolemy’s geocentric universe. In reading Liber HVHI, I was reminded of Anton LaVey’s opening statement in the preface to The Satanic Bible:

This book was written because, with very few exceptions, every tract and paper, every “secret” grimoire, all the “great works” on the subject of magic, are nothing more than sanctimonious fraud – guilt-ridden ramblings and esoteric gibberish by chroniclers of magical lore unable or unwilling to present an objective view on the subject.

And yet occasionally Liber HVHI struck a note of brilliance, as Ford communicated a rare insight, one hard to grasp by those unfamiliar to the Left-Hand Path. These flashes are what kept me reading, but they were few and far between. The material of worth in this volume would have filled a pamphlet. The book makes occasional references to a previous work of Ford’s, Luciferian Witchcraft. Perhaps I would have gained a little more out of Liber HVHI if I had started with the other one, but somehow I doubt it. There is a clarity to modern occult writers like Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino that is sadly lacking here.

From Witchcraft to Christ by Doreen Irvine

When I was fifteen, in high school, we had one period of Religious Education per week. For about half of the school year, this lesson consisted solely of our class reading through From Witchcraft to Christ, chapter by chapter. Today, revisiting the book two decades later, I’m amazed by how much of the story I remember. You might say it had something of an impact on me originally; it certainly reinforced Christianity and coloured my opinion of the occult.

When I was fifteen I was completely naive, and when I became a Christian at age seventeen, I wasn’t much brighter. Now, however, as an adult who survived the brainwashing exercise of religion and came out the other side with a razor sharp intellect, my memories of Doreen Irvine’s autobiography take on quite a different light. My intention in re-reading this book is to either confirm or deny my suspicion that what we are dealing with here is a liar.

The problems begin with the author’s note at the beginning. “I have of necessity omitted many details of my former life, the people I was associated with at this time and other personal details.” She explains that her intention “was to present a readable account of part of my life and to avoid having to relate definite dates and situations with known persons living or dead.” Unfortunately for the reader, such details could have corroborated Irvine’s claims, Without them we are left to simply wonder how much of what we are reading is fantasy. This is especially important given the fantastical nature of some of her claims, which we will come to shortly.

Nevertheless, the early part of book has an air of credibility; the reader gets the feel of someone relating direct experience. Irvine was a disadvantaged child, living in a council estate in Britain during World War II, with her mother, alcoholic father, and younger sisters. She was mischievous and a ringleader to the children of the neighbourhood, continually getting into trouble. Home life got worse when her mother upped and left and her father brought home a mistress. In her early teens, a local charity worker decided to help Doreen by getting her a job as a maid for a local upper class woman. Doreen stuck it out for a while, but naively longed for the idea of a better life in London. After saving some money, she left on the train without a word to anyone. In the big city, she quickly found work as a prostitute, then as a stripper, calling herself Daring Diana. In this profession, she made some serious money, and was able to afford a classy flat for herself. Despite material success, her main problem was loneliness, for which she turned to drugs. Heroin addiction ended up ruining her ability to do her job, so she returned to prostitution and also indulged in shoplifting. One day she was caught stealing jewelry and got three months in prison, which at least served as a withdrawal clinic for the drugs.

You can tell that this is shaping up to be one of those sensationalist Christian testimonies where the author revels in telling the audience how rotten she was, and how great God is for saving her. In all honesty I have nothing but contempt for such screw-ups. If you’re dumb enough to invite a man to stick a heroin needle into your arm, then you deserve whatever consequences befall you; I have no sympathy. The only time I felt any sense of respect for Doreen was when she was getting it together as a stripper (something she no doubt looks back on with disdain). Not the most respectable of jobs, but you’ve got to salute a woman who brings about material success for herself using whatever assets she has. That said, for the most part, this is the story of a young girl who squandered the opportunities given to her and whose recklessness brought about her undoing. The message of the book is basically: “God rescued me from my stupidity.” Am I being too harsh? Frankly, the people I have respect for are those who have the sense not to ruin their lives, or those who bring themselves back from the brink of disaster by their own determination. Doreen Irvine, however, belongs to the self-pity school of thought: “Poor me. Help me, Lord.” You ever notice how such testimonies are always about acceptable sins: “I was an alcoholic, but God redeemed me!” “I was addicted to heroin, but by the grace of God I’m now free.” “I was an IRA hitman, but by God’s mercy I am forgiven!” “I was a Satanist, but the might of Jesus freed me from the power of the devil!” You never hear anyone say, “I used to rape little boys, but through the blood of Christ my sins are washed clean!” That’s why I can’t stand these big boastful displays of past sin, because there’s sin that’s trendy to parade, and there’s SIN that isn’t.

You may have noticed that From Witchcraft to Christ hasn’t yet included any witchcraft. That’s because there’s not a lot of it, only a couple of short chapters worth. And it’s these chapters where Irvine’s credibility falls asunder. The believable detail of the early chapters is replaced with the sort of summarising brevity that is indicative of someone who wasn’t really there doing what she claims to have been doing. But that’s only a minor criticism. The details that she does give are enough to damn her.

When she came out of prison, she went back to her life as Daring Diana the stripper. One night, she overheard two girls talking about a “Satanist temple.” She asked them about it. At first they were reluctant to say anything, but with a quick nudge, they conceded to take Doreen to their Satanist meeting place. Doreen was blindfolded and taken by car to a secret location. There were about five hundred people in the hall, which was draped in black. A Satanic ceremony takes place, involving the sacrifice of a cockerel, people dressed in robes, and lots of chanting. The ceremony is said to last two hours, but Irvine gives practically no detail. Afterwards, she is asked by the chief Satanist if she would like to join their religion. And she does.

Anyone who has done some research into the occult will see that Irvine has no more knowledge of the subject than you would gain from a few Hammer movies or Dennis Wheatley novels. She refers to her religion as “the order of Satanism,” not seeming to realise that an order is a subdivision of a religion – a religion that is never named. Perhaps it’s the order of Satanism of the religion Satanism? On another occasion she refers to it as “the most ancient order of Satanism.” If so, you would think that the leader would be called by a legitimate occult title like “Ipsissimus” or “High Priest.” No, Irvine has no familiarity with occultism, so in her limited imagination she continually refers to the leader as “the chief Satanist.” Often, she erroneously refers to Satan as Lucifer, something that crept into Christian tradition through a mistranslation of the Old Testament into Latin. You would think the real Prince of Darkness would know that he isn’t a minor Roman deity. Irvine is also fond of calling her master Diablos; it’s unfortunate that the devil can’t spell (correct rendering “Diabolus”).

Irvine furnishes us with some of the rules of Satanism that she was required to obey:

1. Secrecy is the keynote for all Satanists. They must never reveal the whereabouts of the temples to an outsider or the things that go on inside the temple.

And yet somehow all it took for Doreen to be transported right into the heart of the most secret organisation (one whose existence isn’t even known today in the internet age) was to ask a couple of its members in a stripclub?

3. Satanists must never enter a Christian church unless sent in to spy by the chief Satanist.

Why not? What would a Satanist be afraid of? The power of the Christian Gospel? I think not.

4. Satanists must never read the Holy Bible for their own edifiction.

Again, why not? What self-respecting Satanist would be afraid of a book he thinks is full of lies? Compared to Anton LaVey’s “Nine Satanic Statements,” Irvine’s rules of Satanism seem rather infantile.

Lies are compounded upon lies, as Irvine thoroughly insults the reader’s intelligence in her tale of how she became initiated as “the queen of black witches” (another title that has no existence in occult lore). She had to walk through a bonfire, and as she did so, the devil walked with her, visibly as a black figure. On several occasions she talks about seeing Satan physically, hearing his voice audibly, then later as a Christian she makes the same claims about Jesus. Of course, there’s not a shred of evidence, and the reader is simply expected to take her word for everything. One night Irvine is with her witch chums on the moor when several men come over the hill. She uses her Satanic powers to make the witches invisible, and avoid getting caught. Brimming with occult power, with zero esoteric knowledge. How does she do it?

In the two brief chapters about Irvine’s experiences with Satanism and witchcraft, she had opportunity to completely blow the lid off this. But she refains. Details are scant, events are summarised, locations remain unknown. She talks about how the meeting places used as Satanist temples change regularly to maintain secrecy, but after she becomes a Christian she doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting in touch with her old pals and attempting to convert them.

Irvine’s conversion to Christianity is fraught with difficulty, as apparently she is possessed by numerous demons. Rev. Arthur Neil exorcises her over a period of many months. The demons that leave her have names like Doubt, Deceit, Lust, Lies, Pride, Witchcraft, Tormentor. That’s right, folks, if you’ve ever experienced doubt, that’s not your brain’s way of making sure you have a robust enough reason to believe in something; that’s an infernal demon from the pit of hell gnawing at you! There’s even a demon called Lesbian. Yes, all you rug-munchers; you are possessed!

Once Irvine is on the “right path,” the final quarter of the book is taken up by sanctimonious, melodramatic stories of her early ministry as an evangelist. Oh, now we get the detail. I had to smile when she sprained her ankle and had to cancel one of her appointements, for she believed that to be Satan’s doing. This reminded me so much of the silly damaging ideas that used to occupy my own brainwashed mind in another life.

It’s difficult to know how much of Irvine’s story is deliberate deceit and how much is down to over-enthusiatic evangelists preying upon a psychologically unstable woman. In any case, it is clear that Irvine’s witchcraft experience is entirely bogus, or at best grossly exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Interestingly, there’s not a single mention of the Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) of children, something which became a staple of Satanic testimonies in the 1980s and 1990s (the period known as the Satanic Panic). Clearly, in the 1970s, when Irvine wrote her story, SRA hysteria had not become part of the zeitgeist. It’s omission makes From Witchcraft to Christ an important book historically, for it demonstrates how people simply accept sensationalist tales, regardless of their content or veracity. This book has become a big seller in Christian circles and is still in print today. That depresses me, because the material is easily debunked by anyone with a healthy sound mind. Sadly, the success of this book only attests to the credulity of the general mass of humanity.

Let the honest Christian reader take note, you should be every bit as concerned as I am to expose people like Doreen Irvine. Liars in your ranks do you no credit.

If you would like to see this lady in action, telling porkies for Jesus, look her up on YouTube.

Black Magic by Michael A. Aquino

Michael Aquino was a Lt. Colonel in the US Army (now retired), as well as being a high-ranking member of the Church of Satan. These two facts have caused plenty of wild speculation among paranoid conspiracists about links between the government and Satanism; I will not indulge them here. Aquino left the Church of Satan in 1975, after a major disagreement with its founder Anton LaVey. He went on to form the Temple of Set, taking with him a portion of the Church’s priesthood who sympathised with his stance.

Aquino is interesting because he is what is known as a theistic Satanist (or Setian, as he would now call himself), where Satan/Set is viewed as more than a mere metaphor for rebellion. Theistic Satanists would seem to be in the minority today, but they are commonly misunderstood as being believers in the actual Satan of the Bible. In reality, they are no different from theists who see all religions as vaguely pointing to the same metaphysical reality. Words like “Set” are used to give substance to a reality that is ultimately beyond our understanding and must be intuited.

Black Magic was written in successive edits from 1975 to 2010. It was never published commercially, but reserved for new members of the Temple of Set. Due to it appearing in various forms on the internet, Aquino has now publicly released the definitive version for free download from his web site.

Early chapters of the book are mostly concerned with Temple-specific matters, such as identifying reasons why a person should or should not join, explaining the degree system of the Temple and the Egyptian connection.

Where the book really takes off for me is chapter 4, entitled “The Black Magical Theory of the Universe.” My own personal experience with psi phenomena leads me to believe that the fundamental nature of the universe is much weirder than materialistic science would give credence to, so I am always fascinated by bigger worldviews. The Temple divides the universe into two parts: the Objective Universe (OU), which is the world around you, and the Subjective Universe (SU), which is essentially the world inside your head, incorporating the OU filtered through your sense and brain, and also anything you imagine. In mundane existence, the OU affects the SU, and it doesn’t work the other way around. However, there exists what is called a Magical Link between your SU and the OU, which allows the SU to affect the OU.

Magic is divided into “Lesser Black Magic” and “Greater Black Magic.” The former is the use of obscure physical laws to affect another person’s SU; stage magic, for instance. The latter is something genuinely supra-mundane, achieved using ritual. Ritual is seen as a means of affecting one’s own SU to create the Magical Link. Ultimately, ritual is not a necessity, and is referred to as training wheels for magic. Medial Black Magic is non-ritualised magic.

The book also contains material on ethics, discussing various schools of ethics that have developed through philosophy. Of chief concern is the role of the Black Magician in the world, as an agent of productive change. The Temple of Set has completely moved away from the unfortunate stereotype that attaches itself to Satanism: the misconception by the would-be Satanist that he has found a philosophy that will allow him to justify his decadence and destructiveness. No such persons are welcome as members of the Temple of Set.

Aquino is an extremely clear and rational writer. There is no muddy water in his presentation. I’m not sure how much or how little I agree with his worldview, but I found this book to be a treasure trove of useful insights. It’s also not so intellectual that a lay reader can’t benefit.

The one piece of weak scholarship in the volume is Aquino’s conflation of the Hebrew “Satan” with the earlier Egyptian “Set-an.” This shows a complete lack of understanding of the origins of the Hebrew word, which is not even a name, but a common verb/noun, translated as “to oppose” in Numbers 22:22. It also needs to be understand that the Hebrew Satan is not the same as the later development of the Christian Satan. The original character was an angel in God’s service (see the Book of Job), not an adversary to God as he is depicted in Christianity.

Recommended reading for students of philosophy and metaphysics, as well as psychic and occult dabblers.

The Devil’s Notebook by Anton Szandor LaVey

Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, wrote five books over the course of his life (including one published posthumously). The Devil’s Notebook is his fourth, and represents a return to publishing after a very long hiatus. Actually, not quite. Having now read all of LaVey’s books, I perceive that they can be separated into two clear categories: the early trio and the later duo. In 1969, just three years after the formation of the Church of Satan, LaVey published The Satanic Bible. In quick success after that came The Compleat Witch (1970, later rebranded The Satanic Witch), followed by The Satanic Rituals (1972). Nothing further was published by LaVey in book form, until the 1990s, although he published frequent essays in the church’s newletter The Cloven Hoof. In fact, the two books The Devil’s Notebook (1992) and Satan Speaks! (1998) consist mostly, if not wholely, of reprints of those very essays.

The first three books, from the first decade of the Church of Satan, are groundbreaking works, and when reading them you feel a very positive forward-looking vibe. The latter two works are markedly different in tone, more egotistical, angst-laden, and reflective of the past instead of the future (particularly Satan Speaks!). There is perhaps a sense of a man who is getting more and more misanthropic as he gets older. The gradual decline may be down to the lack of success enjoyed by the church, particularly since 1975 when a disagreement with his second in command, Michael Aquino, led to Aquino leaving the church and taking a substantial part of the priesthood with him, then forming the Temple of Set. Much later the Church of Satan also suffered bankruptcy. It continued to function, as it does today, but seems to have lost much of the mojo of its first decade.

Regardless of these criticism, The Devil’s Notebook contains many thought-provoking essays. Two in particular stood out for me. “Erotic Crystallization Inertia,” in which LaVey speculates about the persistence of the standards of beauty that we form in our youth. Then “Law of the Trapezoid,” in which LaVey speculates about the emotional effects of angles – particularly in relation to supposedly haunted houses or “cursed” rooms, where bad things happen. My background in art makes me familiar with the emotional effects of colours, and it would seem that shapes can likewise evoke feelings. LaVey claims that cursed rooms are due to a slightly off wall, where the conscious mind doesn’t spot the nasty angle, but the subconscious feels the effect of something being askew. This is how rooms can provoke angry confrontations or perhaps even multiple suicides over time. It’s got nothing to do with haunting spirits, as such; merely haunting angles. I’m not sure how much of what LaVey claims is true, but there is certainly something to the notion. I kept thinking about two characters from the Disney film The Black Hole: V.I.N.CENT, the grey-coloured, dome-headed, square-eyed robot, and Maximillian, the red-coloured cyborg with the single glowing red strip for an eye and the trapezoidal head. Ask anyone who has never seen the movie to guess which character is good and which evil, and I imagine everyone would score top marks. And not just because of the colours. It’s in the angles, too. It’s something you perceive intuitively.

Towards the close of the volume are a couple of essays on LaVey’s bizarre fascination with constructing what he calls “artificial human companions.” LaVey spent quite a bit of time modifying mannequins. He had the basement of his house decked out as a seedy bar-room, complete with flashing neon that filtered in through a fake window. In here he placed his companions and spent time with them. He predicted there would be a future industry of android companions – something that doesn’t show any sign of materialising. From a magical perspective, I understand the idea of the using proxies, but in mundane existence, a preference for artificial companionship over real companionship escapes me; it’s like having the choice between a real sexual relationship with a woman, or masturbating to porn – and choosing the latter. Perhaps LaVey’s fascination with artificiality simply reveals the extent of his misanthropia towards the human race.

The Devil’s Notebook is well worth reading, as are all of LaVey’s books. The real legacy of Anton LaVey is not the failed Church of Satan, or the Temple of Set. His legacy is the burning torch of individualism within so many people, that might never have been ignited without discovering his writings.

The Satanic Witch by Anton Szandor LaVey

The Satanic Witch! An attention-grabbing title, if ever there was one. That said, occultniks and sensation-seekers may be disappointed to learn that the focus of this volume is not spell-casting in the supernatural sense, but in the entirely mundane manner of bewitchment by psychological manipulation – the effective use of feminine wiles, in other words.

LaVey appears to have undertaken a painstaking amount of personal research into typing human beings, the results of which he has condensed into what he calls the LaVey Personality Synthesizer. This is a clock diagram which places various body-types at points on the clock, then assigns various personality traits to each. In summary:

Twelve o’clock (the most male core) represents wide shoulders; long torso; narrow hips; short legs; hard, firm flesh; pioneer; domineering; aggressive; impulsive; always onstage; selfish; authoritarian.

Six o’clock (the most female core) represents narrow shoulders; short torso; long legs; wide hips; marshmallow flesh; fluidic movements; carries things out; consistent; dedicated; receptive; dependable; generous; steady.

Three o’clock (intellectual) represents narrow, stick build; sinewy; no wasist; translucent; social critic; technical; abstract; least social; dour; hair-splitter; clinical; thinker, not doer.

Nine o’clock (emotional) represents thick sausage build; resilient; rubbery flesh; social; sense of humour; agreeable; concrete; doer, not thinker; practical; resourceful.

The idea is to locate your own position on the clock. This then reveals your perfect partner of the opposite sex, who should be directly opposite you on the clock. That’s the theory, anyway. I see myself at somewhere between one and two on the clock, so my perfect partner should be between seven and eight, having a feminine core, with emotional and practical traits. There’s something to be said for that, actually. Being a single man, I am well aware of my own lack of domestic practicality, which would be compensated for by a partner who had those natural nesting instincts. Without reference to the synthesizer, I fancy the idea of a partner who shares my intellectual pursuits, but in reality this could mean that my home would end up as twice as messy as it is at present! (I am also dangerously close to be being pegged as a male chauvanist.)

The LaVey Synthesizer Clock is something unique to LaVey. It’s not in common usage in modern psychology, and testing the subtleties of categorisation in your own personal experience might require almost as much time as it took LaVey to synthesize them. As such, this element of the book was of limited value. Broadly speaking, it is valid to say that maleness and femaleness are different; they are different for reasons of compatibility; these differences are differences of body and temperament, both of which are interlinked; and that degrees of maleness and femaleness are present to varying degrees in males and females, extreme examples being the female tomboy and the effeminate male.

The primary strength of this book is its frankness. Sexuality is the main focus and nothing is considered taboo. Most interesting of all was LaVey’s discussion of what he terms the Law of the Forbidden. How a mere glimpse of something that’s not meant to be seen will be far more stimulating to a man than a full-frontal nude; the flesh of a woman’s thigh coming into view above the hem-line of her tights as she crosses her legs – this can be more exciting than a woman dancing on a stage with no clothes on.

The main disappointment of the book is that its view of sex and romance is entirely manipulative. “How to bewitch a man” is true to the book’s title and theme, but I think it’s tragic that male-female relationships are painted entirely in this hollow light. There’s even something a little hypocritical to the Satanic principle of “Responsibility to the responsible” (see The Satanic Bible) when LaVey includes advice on how a woman who wishes to seduce a married man should go about it.

While the main focus of the book is “lesser magic” (psychological ploys), there is a chapter towards the end on “greater magic,” which reveals many fascinating additions to the information already presented in The Satanic Bible.

LaVey has been known to be dishonest about the details of his past (see The Secret Life of a Satanist by Blanche Barton). The Satanic Witch provides some insight on why he has indulged in myth-making about himself. In a section called “How and When to Lie” from the chapter “Bitchcraft,” LaVey states:

There is nothing wrong with saying you sang at Carnegie Hall and you could have stood in the doorway at midnight and hummed a few measures, but if you open your mouth to sing at the next party and it sounds rotten, you have, as they say, blown it. If, however, you have sung the lead in your local civic light opera production of Naughty Marietta and were acclaimed as an exceptionally talented singer, and you happen to be at an affair where your quarry will be suitably impressed and possibly arrange for you to go on tour with an important new show, a Type II lie is in order. Tell him you have sung wherever you’d like – before crowned heads, etc., because when he asks you to sing, if you can back your contrived pedigree up with action, those very lies you told will not be questioned and will pay off. If you hadn’t told him, he might never have asked to listen to you.

A fascinating book from which a measure of insight about human nature can be drawn, whether the reader is a woman or man. As always, one to read with a critical eye.

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.

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.