By Vexen Crabtree 2007
“In The Cult Experience, J. Gordon Melton and Robert Moore grouped new religions into eight 'families', each of which represent 'a common thought world, lifestyle and heritage.'”
Melton & Moore's categorisations suffer from serious setbacks, including a certain arbitrariness. Three categories are plainly unsuited to LaVeyanism: The Communal Family is "made up of alternative religions that emphasize communal living", the Latter-Day Saint family (based on the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr), and the Middle-Eastern family. The other five categories are examined below, and points of accord and discord with Satanism are duly noted.
“The metaphysical family draws on ideas developed within the 19th-century New Thought movement in the United States. Essentially, this family denies the reality of evil and emphasizes the power of the mind over matter and personal health. A person, it is believed, can determine their own health, wealth and happiness by correct thinking and attitude.”
This category suits Satanism best in a number of ways. Denying 'the reality of evil' is tautological for a materialistic religion that embraces modern scientific theory. The following is one of the most famous statements of Satanism:
“There is no heaven of glory bright, and no hell where sinners roast. Here and now is our day of torment! Here and now is our day of joy! Here and now is our opportunity! Choose ye this day, this hour, for no redeemer liveth!”
Denying evil in Satanism goes under the guise of (1) realism: that some people on planet Earth suffer under certain conditions is no basis for a cosmological and anthrocentric definition of evil, and (2) relativism, evil is merely a human invention and is used to describe things we merely don't like. In Satanism there is no talk of "how to be good" or "how to be evil" in any theological sense of the words. There is no good, there is no evil... there is just reality, and cause and effect.
Satanism is a world affirming religion, which means our goals, wishes, desires and wants in life are held to have genuinely important meaning, and Earthly happiness is a worthwhile goal in itself. The lack of spiritual beliefs leads Satanists into the seeking of peace, stability, love and work here on Earth, in this life. In Satanic terms "correct thinking" and "correct attitude" are those thoughts and actions that are sober, intentional, intelligent and directed towards realistic Earthly goals. Melton & Moore would have had the New Age in mind when they wrote their descriptions (which are USA-centric): the commentary on determining ones' own health and wealth was clearly meant to describe New Age methods of magic, meditation, self-help and alternative mental health therapies that all aim to achieve results in life. But Satanic science-first and head-first approach has proven to be a much more realistic metaphysical approach.
“The psychic-spiritualist family, the largest of the families, focuses of psychic phenomena, the paranormal and the occult. Drawing on Spiritualism, revelations are, it is believed, communicated through mediums or channels. The family includes a range of groups from theosophy to New Age organisations, and from UFO religions to some forms of psychedelic spirituality.”
Although this category sounds promising, merely mentioning "paranormal" and "occult" doesn't mean it is Satanic. Anton LaVey said in "The Devil's Notebook" (1992) that "pop occultism is fodder for nincompoops" (2002, p44). Furthermore, Satanism specifically abhors dealing with 'spirits'. There are no spirits (worth talking to, if any), no 'channels', no mediums, no revealed messages from up above, no conversing with the dead, etc. In short, there is no animism or primal religion in Satanism. These would be the things required under the psychic-spiritualist family as defined by Melton & Moore, and as such, I nearly gave this a zero out of five match for Satanism. But, despite the technical and philosophical barriers that separate Satanism from this category, many Satanists themselves are, in fact, interested in these topics, and some practice kinds of atheistic divination combined with genuine interests in some occult areas and in paranormal skills. NLP and the occult arts of manipulation, power, and the internal psychological effects of ritual are pretty much endorsed by Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible. Because of these (incidental) overlapping interests, I gave this category a 1/5 match with Satanism.
“The ancient wisdom family consists of groups (many of which overlap somewhat with the previous category) that believe humans are in a position to access powerful, occult knowledge from the ancient past. Such groups will often emphasize truths that have been passed down within secret traditions, and will stress the importance of ancient cultures, particularly those of Egypt and the mythological Atlantis.”
It takes a certain amount of mental agility to think that the more primitive peoples' of our past could possibly have 'powerful' knowledge that doesn't pale in comparison to the power of science and technology today. Such 'power' must surely rest in the obscure, psycho-social realms of self help, and even then, it is hard to imagine that those exceeded the effective techniques of modern psychology (combined with psychotropic drugs).
The Book of Satan, the opening book of the Satanic Bible states boldly that "Before none of your printed idols do I bend in acquiescence" and "no stifling dogma shall encramp my pen!" (The Book of Satan 1:5 and 7). Both of these statements make it clear that traditional ways of thinking are to be discarded, and it goes on to preach that new ways must be found in every generation. Anyone who attempts to claim that Satanism contains an element of passed-down knowledge in the Masonic, gnostic or occult sense, are going to find themselves hard-pressed to explain the Satanic disdain for received truths.
“The magical family overlaps somewhat with the previous two families, in that, again, there is an emphasis on ancient wisdom and the paranormal. However, groups within this family seek to harness natural and supernatural forces and contact spiritual entities by means of ritual magic. Typical of this family would be the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis, some Satanist organisations and, more recently, the Servants of the Light. Melton also included in this family, Pagan traditions such as Druidry and Wicca/witchcraft.”
The Satanic Bible contains stated methods and mentalities that result in an almost-paranormal level of skill in manipulating the world around us. But as we have seen in our disclaiming of other things mentioned in this category (spiritism and ancient wisdom), the similarities are short. Some elements of ritual magic in Satanism clearly match this category, as Satanists do 'seek to harness ... supernatural forces ... by means of ritual magic', albeit without any notion of intercessory spirits. But, although Prof. Christopher Partridge is right to say that some Satanic groups fit this category, it should be known that as most Satanists are not the "let's do another ritual" type, the magical family of religion is only a partial match with Satanism.
“The Eastern family draws inspiration from 'Eastern religions' (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism and Sikhism). Often these groups have a single teacher (guru) who will tutor them in certain techniques, disciplines (e.g. yoga and meditation) and philosophies. Typical members of this family of new religions are ISKCON and Osho movement (founded by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh).”
There are more Eastern cause & effect concepts in Satanism than there are spiritual Western ones, and some Satanic groups did once embrace Egyptian and Eastern thought very openly. But, such groups have generally come to distance themselves from Satanism. And for good reason: The personage of Satan is of such importance in Satanism, that Eastern concepts (being either samsaric, henotheistic or nihilistic) can only be taken so far.
Current edition: 2007 Jul 21
Parent page: The Description, Philosophies and Justification of Satanism
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
LaVey, Anton. (1930-1997) Founder of the Church of Satan.
(1969) The Satanic Bible. Paperback book. Published by Avon Books Inc, New York, USA. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966..
(1992) The Devil's Notebook. Paperback book. Published by Feral House, CA, USA.
Melton, J. Gordon & Moore, Robert
"The Cult Experience" (1982). Via Partridge (2004).