Satan: Deity or Symbol?

Understanding different cultures and beliefs is part of my interests. Satanism is interesting because it is a different type of counterculture, and because all the different types are wildly different in belief and thought, and can be called different things, yet they all use the term Satanism even when it sometimes doesn't seem to apply.

The one thing they all have in common is that they don't believe there is a devil. Some believe Satan is a god while others believe it is just a concept to be used and that deities aren't real (theistic versus atheistic Satanism). Literacy is important to avoid confusion in the term's rising popularity, so let's get evil. Each organization or type below will be described in detail. Beyond that is another added section concerning the Satanic panic that spans as far back as the 1980s in the US.

There are dozens of hole in the wall organizations you can find out about online, or at least just a name for many of them. They will not be covered here because either they no longer exist or not enough about them is known. For example, I tried covering the Greater Church of Lucifer, an organization that failed, and when I tried to trace any updates regarding its founder, it just ultimately lead to a bunch of outdated and dead ends.

The Church of Satan was the first organization to promote the word with an associated ideology. Prior to its founding, Satanism was just a term thrown around by Christian churches to attack their opposition, which even included other churches. It had no real context before founder Anton LaVey, although Traditional Satanists will argue that they were the first.

The Church of Satan is an entity promoting an atheistic belief system that sees Satan as a powerful symbol of specific human traits, seeing humans as the real beast, and that they should embrace all of their animalistic nature. In the short life of here and now, it is our obligation to become our own gods and enjoy life to the fullest, while renouncing supernatural gods and the moral restraints that come with them. LaVey promoted that the Seven Deadly Sins are actually good things that we should embrace. He also promoted being a murderous threat to anyone who would interfere with our free will. This is called LaVeyan Satanism.

There is some confusion given that they perform spell and ceremonial rituals. LaVey didn't actually believe that these accomplished anything, but promoted them because he felt they were necessary theatrics for psychological fulfillment in place of religion. Unfortunately, LaVey himself was kind of a plagiarist (Satanic Bible) and tried to invent his own psychology (Satanic Witch). When taking this into account, the whole damn concept seems theatrical. However, there are some valid points to his philosophy surrounding natural law and survival of the fittest that many have embraced.

The CoS originally sought out to promote political advocacy through its members, however it has consistently failed to do so because of its own inaction. Instead it had only served as a source of media attention during the years LaVey was still alive, with him and affiliates being interviewed on various shows talking about their beliefs. To date, they haven't seemed to have done much of anything in terms of advocacy, and the organization has since lost members to starting their own groups.

Groups arisen from leaving the CoS over disputes and ideological differences include The Temple of Set and The First Satanic Church. The Temple of Set is covered next. The First Satanic Church was founded by Karla LaVey after her father's death leading to internal disputes in the CoS. Sadly, they always have been and still are kind of a non-entity.

The Temple of Set was founded in the US in 1975 by Michael Angelo Aquino, who left the Church of Satan over the disagreement of Satan being only an image, and took several other members with him. Satan allegedly appeared to Aquino, revealing his real name to be Set, and giving him a sacred book called The Book of Coming Forth by Night.

Members of the Temple of Set call their beliefs Setianism and themselves Setians. Set is revered instead of worshipped, is credited as being the one true god, and for giving humans their intellectual freedom. The aim of Setianism is to become one's own god, following the example of Set, parallel to Traditional Satanism. However, they seem to hate being labeled Satanists.

Members rise through ranks labeled degrees, and after reaching the eleventh are given the option to join one of four orders within the organization. Each of the orders have their own separate focus on the belief system. They are the orders Leviathan, Setne Khamuast, Trapezoid, and Vampyre.
  • The Order of Leviathan focuses on the magickal philosophy of overcoming the limitations of known existence in order to create one's own cosmos.
  • The Order of Setne Khamuast seems to focus on magickal practice as conveyed in the Book of Thoth.
  • The Order of the Trapezoid fancy themselves as protectors and warriors of the belief.
  • The Order of the Vampyre focuses on the use of psychic vampirism for personal power and in hopes of immortality.

The Joy of Satan Ministries was founded in 2002 in the United States by Andrea Maxine Dietrich, who for the record appears to have no connection with the Church of Satan. The ideology of this group starts with the theatrics and deities of LaVeyan Satanism being real. They are theistic, call themselves Spiritual Satanists, and have fused LaVeyan fundamentals with esoterism, right wing authoritarianism, conspiracy theories surrounding Jews as human-alien hybrids, and other claims related to known UFO conspiracy theorists, particularly Zecharia Sitchin. According to their website, Satanism was the first religion before all others. They recognize the Al-Jilwah as a sacred text and observe astrology.

Andrea Dietrich eventually became Andrea Herrington when she married Cliff Herrington, the leader of the National Socialist Movement (NSM). Such a link is posted here because awareness of its continued existence needs to be spread; ignoring the problem will only make it worse. When this became public, a rivalry began between JoS and NSM, particularly over pro- and anti-Christian values, even though they otherwise seem to have a lot in common.

Before talking about this one, I want to point out some darker ancient Jewish mysticism that may or may not be related, but they correlate strongly. There are diagrams representing entire schools of thought in the Kabala of both the tree of life and Qliphoth, the tree of death, sometimes called the tree of knowledge. The tree of life is a system of belief leading to union with God. Qliphoth is considered as the shadow of the tree of life as well as its undoing, and is destructive towards known existence. Learning the path of Qliphoth supposedly teaches how to separate oneself from God, and to evolve outside of him into a separate reality where one becomes god of that reality. This is not the same thing as the left hand path, although they are easy to confuse from a certain perspective. The left hand path is the pillar of constriction on the tree of life. THIS IS NOT WHAT TRADITIONAL SATANISTS BELIEVE.

Traditional Satanism mirrors this theistic concept very closely, but with the mythos that god the creator of this world falsely claims he is the one true god and that we are told to follow his way with the lies of the Abrahamic religions. God the creator was created by and serves under the one true god, who goes by many names, and among them Satan. Rather than a serpent being possessed by a spirit in Genesis, the one true god sent a serpent to the garden of Eden to teach humans the knowledge to evolve into gods. Commonly, Satan is seen as a liberator as well as a being of strength, knowledge, and sexuality. By worshipping this god above the creator god, he offers protection from him so that we may evolve into gods without interference and essentially share his power.

The religion Yazidism can be loosely described as Islamic mysticism, yet believers in this Satan also believe that the Yazidi sacred texts are written by Satan himself, namely the books Al-Jilwah and Mashaf ReŇ°.

A secretive group of theistic Satanists based in the UK calling themselves traditional Satanists, although their views as traditional are pretty different from the above. They have also adopted Hermeticism into their philosophy, practice magick, and have created a system of initiation called Hebdomadry, the Seven Fold Way, which is loosely based on astrology. Their canonical texts are the books Black Book of Satan and NAOS. They also have a public journal called Fenrir. Directly finding their resources proves difficult, so I cannot provide links at this time. They are by far the largest theistic group.

The problem with this group is major, starting with their anti-Semitic views, openly praising Nazi Germany as an example of what society should be. They promote the idea of a white nationalist military world order called the Imperium, and believe that in achieving this an Aryan society will colonize our galaxy. Not only this, but they openly promote and encourage violence, rape, and human sacrifice, and have been labeled a terrorist organization.

They are not a centralized organization with a leader, although they have had one consistent figurehead who goes by the alias Anton Long, whose real identity has been deduced to be David Myatt, but never officially determined.

The ONA/O9A have heavily criticized the Church of Satan, its esoteric offshoot the Temple of Set, as well as the CoS's theistic copycat Joy of Satan Ministries. The criticism of the Joy of Satan Ministries is confusing considering although the mythos is different, the anti-Semitic esoterism is fairly similar. Why against the Temple of Set is not very clear, other than also rising from the CoS. But the reason for hating the Church of Satan is fairly obvious, since the CoS is an atheistic organization, and theistic versus atheistic Satanic groups have always clashed. Ironically though, some elements adopted by the ONA have similarities in the culture of CoS, namely the use of the number nine and the name Anton, not to mention a little downward facing star figure. It has been pointed out that the label of "traditional" Satanism was a way to push a perception of legitimacy for theistic over atheistic origin, coinciding with the criticism.

They have other affiliated branches in some other countries known as "nexions" which seem to commonly have books written attributed to the name of the division. Nexions of ONA include the Tempel ov Blood in the United States and Temple of THEM in Australia. They have also allied themselves with other neo-Nazi groups regardless of whether or not they were also Satanic. Fun fact: The Tempel ov Blood was founded and is led by FBI informant Joshua Caleb Sutter.

The Satanic Temple is another atheistic form based in Salem, Massachusetts that takes on Satan as an image for personal freedom. They actively oppose organized religion in the United States by suing over laws that have passed which qualify as religious oppression. While the Church of Satan sought and promoted to do these things, The Satanic Temple actually does it, picking up where the CoS have fallen short since their inception.

TST promotes a code of ethics noticeably dissimilar to the CoS code of ethics in that they are progressive liberals who do not promote violence for survival, but rather have a more community driven mentality while preaching science and understanding. And other than seeing Satan as a fashion statement, there's really not much else to tell about their culture, because they invest much more time in their mission for political freedom and spreading awareness as opposed to coming up with things they deem Satanic. While the CoS and TST are both political and atheistic entities, they are passive enemies.

Regardless of how you feel about Satan, real or image, I give these guys an A+ for sheding light on total political bullshit, and fighting for our personal freedoms. They are a... necessary evil.

Luciferianism reflects a more pagan style of belief loosely similar in thought to traditional Satanism with different mythos. It is commonly phrased as "an alternative to Wicca," given that practices can be remarkably parallel, yet most notably different with the rejection of the Threefold Law, discrediting it as thought control. (For those unfamiliar with Wicca, the short version is that it is a modern polytheistic culmination of pagan beliefs, seeing all the old beliefs as simultaneously veritable.)

Lucifer is associated with the morning star (Venus), and is seen as a figure of enlightenment, promoting a more practical sense of morality than through fear of punishment. While variations of Luciferianism complicate an exact definition, the divergence is fairly narrow. Like in Satanism, atheistic Luciferians exist and see Lucifer as a symbol, however the majority are theistic.

Most believe that Lucifer and Lilith were both gods romantically involved with each other and on a polytheistic council. Yahweh assumed authority as head of the council, and hid divine knowledge on the nature of existence and creation from the rest. Lucifer questions the council about hidden knowledge, and forces Yahweh to admit the knowledge indeed exists, The consequences of the revelation were the dismissal of Lucifer and Lilith from the Council.

Humans are then forced by Yahweh to worship him as a means of increasing his power, as Yahweh uses the false Abrahamic religions to direct humans to continue the practice. In turn, it is the aim of Lucifer and Lilith to independently provide sacred knowledge to humans so that they may become gods, asking only for reverence and friendship in place of requiring worship. The beliefs and teachings of Luciferians are vast, yet they only exist in fringe groups and small covens. See for example The Liberated of Lucifer.

In the United States in the 1980's, Christian fundamentalists had an agenda to use scare tactics to regain a declining following as well as demonize Satanism by using it as a scapegoat. Doubly ironic. Back then, the only Satanic group prominent in the US was the CoS, and others were so marginal, they almost didn't exist. Yet conspiracy theories and claims against Satanism in general started running rampant in the media with accusations of child molestation, child prostitution, child murder, ritual abuse, mind control, human sacrifices, cannibalism, and other related horrors.

Psychiatrists who were part of the agenda, particularly one named D Corydon Hammond as the most popular example, would have their patients undergo hypnotherapy to extract "repressed memories" of ritual abuse and brain washing by Satanists to do their work. I'm no social scientist, but I would have to guess that this is the primary reason for the imbrications of claims against Satanism with already existing conspiracy theories.

All these claims over time were investigated and supported with no evidence. Although the Satanic Panic is viewed as ending in the mid 1990's, some would argue that it never ended. Currently, QAnon perpetuates Satanic conspiracy theories. The existence of the Order of Nine Angles doesn't help matters, given that they condone these types of actions, and now have a chapter in the US known as the Tempel ov Blood.

Lucien Greaves, cofounder of TST, is an excellent researcher and lecturer, highly intellectual in his work, and has investigated many of these events. I highly recommend watching the below video when you have 80 minutes if you wish to familiarize yourself with details of the Satanic Panic and know why some things are believed the way they are today.

Updated December 2023
Bill Liam East
Return to Esoteric Stupidity
Return to Athenaeum