By Vexen Crabtree 2002
|Anton LaVey||1966 -> 1997|
|Blanche Barton||1997 -> 2002|
|Peter Gilmore||2001 +1|
|Peggy Nadramia||2002 +|
The Church of Satan (COS) was founded by Anton LaVey in 1966 April and was the first organised representation of Satanism; indeed, before then, there was no such thing as Satanism except for Christian devil worshippers. It is criticized for its contradictory nature: how can an individualistic religion of dissenters have a representative organisation? The answer is that the COS grants its members full freedom and autonomy, and members join for personal reasons, to feel good2. Most Satanists are LaVeyan, but do not join the COS. Of all the multiple denominations of Satanism that have arisen since the COS was founded, the COS is the only organisation to stand the test of time, and it remains an enigmatic, slow-moving and consistent source of inspiration for those who carry the red card. Explore the Church of Satan here!
There is a High Priest and/or a High Priestess, who heads the Church of Satan. There is often both of these at once. The Council of Nine is the ruling body, made up of select members of the priesthood, and this is chaired by the Grand Master/Mistress of the Temple Magistra Templi Rex. The administrative body is the Order of the Trapezoid, and finally, the Priesthood of Mendes are those with proven records of achievement in the world.3
“Members of our Priesthood are people of accomplishment in the real world–they have mastered skills and have won peer recognition, which is how they have attained their position–“as above, so below.” They are “movers and shakers” who are the core of our movement. While expected to be experts in communicating our philosophy, they are not required to speak on our behalf and they may even choose to keep their affiliation and rank secret, in order to better serve their personal goals, as well as those of our organization.”
Registered Members, Active Members and Agents: Registered members are Satanists who have chosen to make a statement and align themselves with the Church of Satan. A section of this web page later deals with possible reasons and motives for doing this. There are also Active members and these are those who have signalled to the Church of Satan that they wish to partake more actively in any grotto events, perhaps set up their own grotto, or act as a basic representative of the Church. Agents are those who specialize in media representation at the local level.
“I look at our organization, the Church of Satan, and see that its present moment is one of great health and exuberance. [...] Our Church has always been and will continue to be the sum of what its members achieve, and we now have a particularly strong association of truly talented diabolists. They use Satanism as a tool towards enhancing their lives, inspired by the symbol of Satan as exemplar.”
Peter Gilmore (2005)5
The Church of Satan has been the biggest catalyst for Satanism. However it stands that most Satanists prefer not to put on paper their commitment to the Church of Satan. The respectable fair sociologist James R Lewis has conducted some of the biggest surveys of Satanists, and concurs that LaVey Satanists are by far the most common kind of Satanist, but that most aren't members6. To commit yourself to the Church is trivial - it is irrelevant in a philosophical sense but it is necessary in a legal arena if you want to represent the Church Of Satan or to lead people to believe that you represent it7.
The Church of Satan holds a certain respect but also is said to have a "higher than thou" character. This character is purely imaginary, invented by those who are not members. There is no significant difference between a non-member and a member of the Church of Satan with regards their philosophy or personal presence.
“Our protocol for member interaction is based on the paradigm of a "mutual admiration society." We do not expect all of our highly individualistic members to like each other, but we do require that they behave as ladies and gentlemen when dealing with each other in all situations and forums, online and face-to-face.”
“We must emphasize that you don´t have to join our organization to consider yourself a Satanist.”
Indeed there are many that hold that joining the Church is weak - that it is merely joining for the sake of it because that's what we're supposed to do. That is a valid view but there are many valid reasons for joining.
“As far I'm concerned, I would like my organization, the Church of Satan, to exist as a cabal for the mutual endowment of those already occupied with interests and activities other than organizational. I have often stated that I like to think of the Church of Satan as an organization for non-joiners. [...] The obvious question arises: 'Why then, would such persons need a Church of Satan?' The answer is, 'They don't, unless it can do them some good.' Affiliation should enhance one's life, rather than be a substitute for it.”
Here are some of the reasons I think people will give for their membership of the COS:
Confidence - being a member allows a certain type of self-confidence - called pride. A member will be able to prove that they are a member and in some circumstances this can be a useful tool when discussing Satanism with those who do not understand it.
Support - Supporting the Church is, I am sure, beneficial to the Satanic Community and therefore helps us achieve things. Without the Church Of Satan we would be at the mercy of any fool who thinks he represents us - and there are many such fools. Membership of the Church of Satan boosts its legitimacy as a rational voicebox.
Showing off - It is quite possible that a person wants to show off. Membership follows from having the will (and spare cash) to join and if a person wants to show this off then so be it.
Being a member allows you to get information such as the location of your nearest Grotto, etc.
Having a good reputation amongst Church of Satan members will get you support from other Satanists, and possibly help, when you go about your activities.
There is a $200 U.S. dollar joining fee! The Church of Satan is, of course, a well-run company, and it needs to survive on more than good will alone. The Church has voluntarily dismissed the tax exemption that it is entitled to - all Churches should be taxed, and the first step in getting this done is to show people that it can be done.
If you want to promote Satanism all you have to do is find a Satanist and give them money! They may well waste it all. If you send some money to the Church of Satan to become a member you are doing the same thing but you get Membership from it.
There are some advantages of membership. The respect of other Satanists is not to be overlooked. If you have respect amongst Satanists then you have friends - it's a symbiotic relationship that will last as long as you continue to benefit the group.
People become members for all sorts of reasons. Some do it out of respect for the Church. Some do it to show off: If you have spare cash you can show this off by becoming a member. People become members because they want to and because they feel it is a good thing to do. Every member has different reasons.
A Satanist is a strategist. He uses his surroundings to his own advantage. Any animal, of which Humans are merely a sub class, will tell you that there are advantages in numbers. Not all members of a group are in it for no reason, and the Satanist simply uses the Church, uses its members, and uses it trust to his own benefit. There are advantages to being a member of the Church of Satan, therefore refraining from doing so is unsatanic! A Satanist that understands his own motives has nothing to fear from joining a group, especially a group of Satanists!
The Church Of Satan, for me, represents the single greatest thing within the realm of religion, the only religion it is possible for me to believe in is Satanism. The Church of Satan's aims are foresighted and powerful - there is not another company or charity that wishes the same benefits to Humanity as Satanism. It is a worthy cause. I support it. My life is wasted if I do not try to accomplish that which I want to accomplish, and it happens that the Church Of Satan and I share many ideals, therefore it is my prerogative to support them, it is in the Satanists interest to support the Church of Satan, who could claim otherwise!
The Church of Satan is comprised of such individualistic people that consensus is always rare - Satanism is the purest and most animated expression of left-hand-path freethinking religion. I came across the term "loyal dissent" - although I suspect most Christian traditionalists scoff at the very idea:
“Gerald Arbuckle, a member of a Roman Catholic religious order, writing with feeling about the struggles in his own church, has coined the useful phrase "loyal dissent". Dissent, says Arbuckle, is vital for a living church since it 'proposes alternatives' and it is only by looking at alternatives that a body can evolve creatively.”
Arbuckle's term was employed to describe some individuals within the Church who think differently. The Church of Satan differs in that nearly all its members are of the loyal dissenter type, so much so that it is only ever noted when a person seems to lack this quality, rather than commented on when someone possesses this common Satanic trait. It is taken for granted within Satanism that dissent is a vitality! Compare this to the long tirade of Christian and Muslim traditionalists against 'heretics'! Satanism's approach to freethought and dissent is superior to that of every other religion.”
This unusually talented series of humans have displayed iron wills and demonic determination in bending the world to fit into their visions of how things should be. This part of this page merely links to published books; anyone researching Satanism should buy and read every one of these.
Relevant website text:
An awesome, intelligent, articulate, productive and powerful man, Peter Gilmore has contributed massively to the Church of Satan over a few decades. His book The Satanic Scriptures4 is the most important collection of essays on Satanism.
Current edition: 2003 May 17
Last Modified: 2018 May 07
Second edition 2002 Aug 09
Originally published 1999 May 25
Parent page: The Description, Philosophies and Justification of Satanism
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
Gilmore, Peter. High Priest of the Church of Satan (as of 2001+).
(2007) The Satanic Scriptures. Published by Scapegoat Publishing, USA. Compendium of texts. Many essays are new editions of older texts by Gilmore. A hardback book.
LaVey, Anton. (1930-1997) Founder of the Church of Satan.
(1969) The Satanic Bible. Published by Avon Books Inc, New York, USA. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966. A paperback book.
(1998) Satan Speaks!. Published by Feral House, USA. A paperback book.