“Rebels Without Cause”
by Magus Peter H. Gilmore
We are occasionally approached regarding membership by those who have beliefs incongruent with Satanism yet claim the title “Satanist.” They desperately cling to this moniker and want to join our organization. We refuse entry. Some argue against our rejection, trying to obfuscate the concepts of “freedom” and “individuality,” along with their desire for “rebellion” as a means to justify demands for fundamental alterations to our philosophy. Their desire to purloin our designation does not change the fact that Satanism has been defined. It does not allow for distortions such as belief in cosmic entities, animal sacrifice, or claims that one is a “demon incarnate” amongst other theistic delusions. Our Church has no room for people who do not fully understand our philosophy.
Additionally, the tapestry of Satanism cannot be stretched to promote criminal behavior and mindless hedonism. These ideas are at odds with the logical and life-celebrating demeanor of the skeptical Epicurean atheism that is our axiomatic philosophy. The selection by these postulants of disjointed phrases taken out of context does not pass for an understanding of Satanism nor the accurate advocacy thereof.
Some of these “Satan-fans” propose that Satanists should rebel against Satanism or its organizational exemplar, the Church of Satan, to prove their individuality and thus be considered “more Satanic.” They misperceive our championing of freedom and individualism to mean a support of disregarding personal responsibility. They are wrong. “Responsibility to the responsible” is one of our mottos.
Some newcomers to our philosophy do not grasp its axioms and tear at Satanism as if it were some kind of straightjacket. Others hope to wield it as an “anything goes” card rather than the key to accountable liberty that it is. They observe our list of “sins” and “rules” and don’t grasp that such terms are used with tongue firmly planted in cheek, while simultaneously missing the point that there is an ethical structure to our philosophy—our “third side” which is so elusive to those limited to dualist thinking. These lists are guidelines and tools based on keen observation of human social behavior, not arbitrary regulations or “shalt nots” handed down from “on high” or belched forth from “down below.” Each Satanist is welcome to take ‘em out for a test drive and see how they work. Most of us find them to be both accurate and useful. That’s why we adopt “Satanist” as a proper label for ourselves—Anton LaVey’s philosophy is completely coincident with our personal approach to living.
What self-styled “Satanists” fail to realize when they find themselves disagreeing with the principles established in the literature of the Church of Satan is that it isn’t Satanism that must change to accommodate their disagreement. They themselves must abandon their improper self-definition. Satanism is codified—a rational and coherent construct. It is not an amorphous ragbag of loose concepts up for grabs to anyone who wants to call himself a Satanist. Yet some wish it were so, and invoke the word “freedom” as an escape clause from culpability. Anton LaVey’s entire purpose for founding the Church of Satan was to create a rational philosophy defining Satanism for the very first time in Western history as an above ground, coherent movement.
He succeeded in his efforts to do so, demonstrated by the health of his Church and the expanding presence of his writings 40 years later. And we who worked at his side intend to preserve and build upon his legacy, which we see as a durable foundation in no need of amendment. If we found it otherwise, we would not be Satanists, and would have sought other labels and thought structures to define ourselves. We invite wannabe external reformers to just keep on moving. We aren’t going to change to suit your particular wishes. Find some fellow daffy devil-worshippers and make your own party.
Anton LaVey directly addressed the issue of those rare Church of Satan members who reach a point where feel they must try to appoint themselves as the “saviors of Satanism.” To most Satanists, these sowers of discord appear ignorant since one of our fundamental principles is that we are each our OWN saviors. We have never welcomed people who suffer from a messianic martyrdom complex, and members of the Church of Satan are expected to know this.
From his essay, “The World’s Most Powerful Religion”: “Satanism is the only religion which serves to encourage and enhance one’s individual preferences, so long as there is admission of those needs. Thus, one’s personal and indelible religion (the picture) is integrated into a perfect frame. It’s a celebration of individuality without hypocrisy, of solidarity without mindlessness, of objective subjectivity. There need be no deviation from these principles. They should summarily negate internecine strife and bickering. Any attempts at Satanic ‘reformation’ should be seen for what they are: creating problems where none exist. There should be no place in any religion for reformers whose very religion is the fetish of reformation. There is even a place and title for compulsive dissidents, and if they can wear the mantle, they are welcome. They would delude themselves to be revolutionaries. In our camp, they are called “House Masochists.”
LaVey vividly described the antics of these types as “shitting on the carpet and throwing themselves out the window.” That sort of “performance” leaves the reluctant audience to clean up the excreta and puts the perpetrator outside the cabal he had formerly treated with respect. The good Doktor said that he was not inclined to “open the door,” allowing such desperate “emancipators” back inside when they can’t be trusted to refrain from an encore. He saw this happen again and again, and would shake his head at such infantile conduct. Inevitably, we’ve been witness to a number of shows by newer additions to “The House Masochist Players” since our founder’s demise.
In past years our members were isolated from one another and being a lone iconoclast making your way amongst the dull rabble was a powerful means for self-definition for a Satanist. Today, with so many lives played out publicly online in blogs and via those vilely egalitarian personal networking sites, the solitary outsider has a greater opportunity to encounter more of his kind, as well as the poseurs. In the Church of Satan one quickly finds that the orthodoxy is being unorthodox. The robust member of our “association of the alienated” will be delighted to discover fellow tribe members. However, some who have weaker egos might feel stifled, that their uniqueness is compromised when they aren’t the primary nonconformist in the bunch, but must take their place amongst comparably outrageous oddballs. Or they might discover that their personal aesthetic choices aren’t equally embraced by all of their diabolical compadres. At that point, if they decide that they must find a means to distance themselves from their fellow cultural renegades, then the only place they can go is back to their isolated outpost amongst the shuffling zombies. Unfortunately, they might treat us to a farewell exhibition before they exit—stage right.
These agitators may have issues caused by self-aggrandizing tunnel vision, missing the “big picture” that our organization supports many unusual individuals and their singular preferences. Instead of rationally discussing personal dissatisfactions, the House Masochist “acts out” in a manner disrespectful to the company he supposedly holds in regard. He may have lost the ability to command attention and respect from his peers through creativity, and so now must throw a tantrum to gain notice. Ironically, he casts himself in the role of “outsider to the outsiders” which places him back in with the various classes (prole, middle, upper) of herd-types. Thus he is exiling himself from the “X Class”—a self-created, aristocracy of the bright and talented, which includes all genuine Satanists (see Paul Fussell’s “Class”). So, following the practice of our founder, these self-proclaimed “turds in the punch bowl” are welcomed to flush themselves, unless they are content to receive the scorn and derision their masochistic behavior has merited. Some seem surprised that they’ve “asked for it.” There’s nothing more pathetic, or less Satanic, than a masochist lacking self-awareness.
LaVey emphasized that his paradigm for deportment within the Church of Satan was for our members to treat each other as ladies and gentlemen. There is enough strife outside of our organization to satisfy those with a fetish for conflict. He never required that all Satanists like each other. Since we’ve never been “about fellowship,” we don’t require that all of our members work with each other, either. Here is the basic “house rule”: When members have conflicting values, they are to go their own way, not wasting energy and time sniping at the members who have selected different methods of applying Satanism to reach personal satisfaction. Quite a simple guideline, we think. However, this is too much to expect from some, usually the ones who never got Satanic Rule of the Earth number 1: “Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.” Those who cannot embrace this practical model for civilized intercourse merit the status of persona non grata.
If you encounter a would-be mutineer to Satanism, you should ask the question “What are you rebelling against?” If the reply is that “Satanism is conformist” you might look around at the varied collection of interesting folk and wonder what blinders he’s been wearing. If you hear that “Satanism is too restrictive,” then you need to follow-up and find precisely what this person thinks is being forbidden by Satanic philosophy. Chances are it will be some act currently deemed to be against local laws. Satanism can’t stop people from criminal behavior. It does counsel them to be aware of laws and to advocate their reform when proper, but meanwhile to be prepared to accept the results if disobedience leads to prosecution and incarceration. If the answer is simply “What have you got?” that reply indicates the responder is simply a directionless malcontent, with no self-definition and no grasp of the fundamental principles which go to order the hierarchies inherent in the human species. Freedom always requires responsibility, and that responsibility includes an honest and accurate evaluation of the facts at hand as well as wise decisions based on that knowledge. To simply think that being “anti-everything” and utterly without restraint is a definition of Satanism is to entirely miss our discriminating foundation—our roots in Epicureanism.
Satanists always remain in control of their exploration of pleasure. “Indulgence–NOT compulsion” is our founder’s dictum that moves us out of hedonism, which by definition is unbridled and thus compelled. Epicureanism—the balanced seeking of physical and mental self-satisfaction—embraces a wider range of gratification. It is refined, selective, and embodies our concept of Indulgence. We are gourmets in the banquet of existence. Hedonism is limited to base carnal pursuits. Epicureans aren’t prudes, nor are we slaves to any of our desires; rather these are motivators toward seeking all manner of fulfilling experiences. The hedonist blindly sates his lusts for sex, sustenance, and soma—consequences be damned! That is a self-destructive course inappropriate for Satanists.
The Satanist does what he wishes, taking full responsibility for all consequences to his actions. We live in human society and must be aware that there are legal repercussions that vary in each locale. If you choose to ignore this factor and wind up in prison, you’ve become powerless and will waste your precious days under the dominion of others. Not the Satanic position of choice. If you live the life of a petty criminal and consider your jail time to be a badge of “outrageousness and iconoclasm,” you’ll win only scorn from true Satanists. We see that penal institutions are full of skells of a similar ilk and are not favorably impressed. Satanism does not deny pleasure or deep and varied pursuit of it, but it counsels that wisdom and sensibility must be employed in search of fulfilling Indulgence. Pragmatism is axiomatic to our system; we are realists. So the idealism of “just do whatever feels good” is exposed by Satanists as a childish recipe for personal disaster.
Satanists understand that “good” and “evil” are purely subjective values, hence we oppose that which affects us negatively. That is a personal judgment based on what we determine to be of value. We are not automatic contrarians, simply countering whatever is in widespread social fashion or might be prevalent in our vicinity. This latter approach brings to mind the Monty Python sketch in which a fellow seeks an argument, but simply gets an opponent who automatically gainsays whatever statements are presented. Being guided solely by “whatever it is, I’m against it,” means that you are enslaved to the people whom you oppose, as they determine what your reactions will be. The Satanist, who naturally sees himself as his own God, does not generally care what other people think about him. His monumental sense of self worth leaves no possibility for him to be touched by critiques from the unworthy, but he does examine the reactions of the individuals whom he has come to cherish and respect. Thus the discriminating iconoclast and true rebel dissents out of reason and passion, and possible options, not knee-jerk reactivity.
Definitions are crucial for establishing human communication. If the meanings of words were whatever one felt they should be according to whim (remember Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts?), only confusion would result. We therefore defend the clear and concise definition of Satanism created by Anton LaVey, and do not permit it to be adulterated by outside pseudo-Satanists and insiders who lose track of the elegant architecture of Dr. LaVey’s principles. Satanism will continue to take into account the evolution of human society, based on an unflinching evaluation of the nature of the human beast. Such adaptability is “built-in.” It is a system without frozen dogma, being inherently flexible. But there are the “basics” of “The Satanic Bible” which will always remain constant, providing meaningful differentiation from other religions and philosophies. We also know that freedom, in practical application, means that one has a choice between actually available alternatives. It does not mean that the world will suddenly alter itself simply because someone decides they wish it were otherwise.
The universe is not chaotic. There is most definitely structure and order, and much of it is based on very complex levels of stratification and interaction. This is not a limitation. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed. In understanding the mechanisms that move the universe we become empowered to comprehend what is mutable and what must remain immutable. This is the essence of the magic of mastery, and the key to success in all undertakings. It is the hallmark of the true Satanist.
So, we do not accord the honorific of “Satanist” to rebels without cause acting the part of misguided mavericks in a shallow attempt to one-up the true “alien elite.” It is reserved for the noble few who by their nature are drawn to their own reflection in the integrally sound philosophy of the Church of Satan. House Masochists should realize that we have no interest in witnessing their threadbare theatrics. Those meshuga messiahs should look elsewhere for appreciation, to people who use self-sacrifice as THEIR guiding image, not from Satanists. We stand sure and proud as the captains of our own destiny, plotted with all of our faculties sharply enabled towards the task of maintaining triumphant joy. Know that the authentic Satanist, like our founder before us, is fully self-aware, hypercritical of himself above all, cognizant of his allies and—as it suits his purposes—he employs reasoned dissidence as a means for inspiring meaningful, evolutionary revolution.