10 August 2011

A Thought or Two on Satanism

Occultism and Satanism often go hand in hand in the thoughts of people who know very little about either.

Yes, of course there is a Satanist sub-culture within the field of occultism. That goes without saying. But that is just one of very many different philosophies, and a fairly modern development, as well. Victorian occultism was largely obsessed with salvation and enlightenment. It was basically Christian. Satanism can perhaps be seen as one expression of the growing sense of individualism and freedom of choice in the mid 20th century, which gave us myriad new cultures, from rock music to the New Age movement.

The main proponent of modern Satanism was of course Anton LaVey. His book, The Satanic Bible, should be a worthwhile read for anyone interested in occultism (you can never acquaint yourself with too many different views, and many of the points he raises are not unvalid). And I dare say it's hardly as 'evil' as some might think. LaVeyan Satanism is basically atheistic. Satan is merely a symbol, for individualism and materialism.

But the thing is, Satanism these days is such a cliché. It's the stuff of movies, not real life. The feelings it conjures up are merely of teenage rebellion, not dark or awe inspiring, but mildly amusing, and a little sad. I'm not condemning it, my belief is that any philosophy that's a positive influence on you is OK. As long as it is a positive influence, and not harmful for you or the world around you. (And alas, there are some disturbed individuals who might use a philosophy such as Satanism as an excuse for acting out. Which is not to say that Satanism, or any other philosophy, would be the blame for this. Harmful behaviour comes from individuals, not concepts.)

One problem with Satanism is of course the interpretation of who or what this Satan fellow is in the first place, since there are many contradicting opinions on this. The Bible itself is rather vague on the topic. But in many parts of it Satan is implied to be a subordinate of God, rather than an adversary. And the fallen angel Lucifer is of course a later invention, with no biblical basis. While modern interpretations as a symbol of freedom, indulgence and materialism (i.e. values shunned by conservative Christianity) are certainly valid, all the other 'baggage' associated with the figure seem to me personally to counterweight its potential value.

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