Why I Identify As a Satanist

tty0 login: novatorine
login date: 2022-02-01




"Did [Satan] rebel against his maker? It was, as he himself informs us, because he saw no sufficient reason, for that extreme inequality of rank and power which the creator assumed." — William Godwin, anarchist, 1793

1

I think, given the rather obvious Satanist imagery that has permeated my blog, not to mention the references to it that are sprinkled throughout my posts, that it is finally time to explain why I am a Satanist. I give a brief explanation of why in my about page, but something like this deserves a much deeper examination than would make sense in an autobiographical blurb. Therefore, in this essay, I aim to explain the way in which and the degree to which I embrace Satanism and Satanist imagery, but most importantly I aim to explain my reasoning for doing so.

2

I am what might best be termed a 'literary' Satanist. In other words, I am neither a theistic Satanist (someone who believes a literal Satan exists and worships him) nor a member of any organized body of Satanists, such as the Church of Satan. I hold to no creed but my own and no dogma or faith whatsoever, and although I am open to being proven wrong, I do not believe the supernatural exists. I am a Satanist nonetheless, however, because I identify with Lucifer as a symbol, a mythic archetype if you will: he stands for things that I also stand for; I stand for things that he, also, stands for, so I adopt him as my own.

In this I share my Satanism with such illustrious names as Lord Byron and Percy Shelly, as well as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin. To quote Wikipedia:

"[As a rebel against tyranny] was how Milton's Satan was understood by later readers like the publisher Joseph Johnson and the anarchist philosopher William Godwin, who reflected it in his 1793 book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice...

Among the romanticist poets to adopt [a positive] concept of Satan was the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who had been influenced by Milton. ... Another was Shelley's fellow British poet Lord Byron... These more positive portrayals also developed in France; one example was the 1823 work Eloa by Alfred de Vigny. Satan was also adopted by the French poet Victor Hugo, who made the character's fall from Heaven a central aspect of his La Fin de Satan, in which he outlined his own cosmogony. Although the likes of Shelley and Byron promoted a positive image of Satan in their work, there is no evidence that any of them performed religious rites to venerate him, and thus they cannot be considered to be religious Satanists.

The figure of Satan, who was seen as having rebelled against the tyranny imposed by Jehovah, was appealing to many of the radical leftists of the period. For them, Satan was "a symbol for the struggle against tyranny, injustice, and oppression... a mythical figure of rebellion for an age of revolutions, a larger-than-life individual for an age of individualism, a free thinker in an age struggling for free thought". The French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who was a staunch critic of Christianity, embraced Satan as a symbol of liberty in several of his writings. Another prominent 19th century anarchist, the Russian Mikhail Bakunin, similarly described the figure of Satan as "the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds" in his book God and the State. These ideas likely inspired the American feminist activist Moses Harman to name his anarchist periodical Lucifer the Lightbearer.

Of Satan, Proudhon said in 1858 to the Catholic Church:

"Oh! I understand, Monseigneur, that you do not like liberty, that you have never liked it. Liberty, which you cannot deny without destroying yourself, which you cannot affirm without destroying yourself still, you dread it as the Sphinx dreaded Oedipus: it came, and the riddle of the Church was answered; Christianity is no longer anything other than an episode in the mythology of the human race. Liberty, symbolized by the story of the Temptation, is your Antichrist; liberty, for you, is the Devil.

Come, Satan, come, slandered by priests and kings! Let me embrace you, let me clutch you to my breast! I have known you for a long time, and you know me as well. Your works, oh blessed of my heart, are not always beautiful or good; but you alone give sense to the universe and prevent it from being absurd. What would justice be without you? An instinct. Reason? A routine. Man? A beast. You alone prompt labor and render it fertile; you ennoble wealth, serve as an excuse for authority, put the seal on virtue. Hope still, proscript! I have at your service only a pen, but it is worth millions of ballots.

Thus my Satanism has a long history with thinkers who, like myself, love liberty, and want to throw off the chains of authority so that human beings will be free to seek reason and justice.

Although my Satanism is primarily inspired by a fairly common reading of Paradise Lost — a poem which I read in my formative years and which, although I do not remember much of it now, has continued to influence me to this day — it is also informed by my reading of the Bible itself. Nevertheless Biblical — or textual in general — accuracy is not what is important to me here. I am not interested in minute textual nitpicks and Biblical hermenutics, I am merely stealing a symbol from the dominant religion of my time and re-purposing it for my own, more positive use. What others think about the historical or scriptural accuracy of my appropriation of Lucifer as a symbol matters very little to me at all. Nor are the precise interpretations of Satan that other literary or romantic Satanists have. I am heterodox in everything, including this. That out of the way, let me try to elaborate what I mean when I say that I identify with Lucifer Morningstar as an archetype.

3

Lucifer as an archetype in my mind stands for several things. First and foremost, he stands as a rebel against tyranny. It is his rebellion against the cosmic dictatorship of Yahweh that gets him originally cast down from heaven, after all. And the Christian God's rule is cosmic tyranny. He makes up arbitrary rules for his own aggrandizement and glorification, condemning countless numbers to the fiery pits of hell to be tortured for all eternity while simultaneously lifting up others to the golden halls of heaven, where, just by the way, they must spend all of eternity praising him. He does this on an arbitrary basis, either according to whether we follow his cruel, arbitrary laws which are liable to make us unhappy in the only life we know we have, or according to who is capable of forcing themselves to believe that some Jew from the first century died on a cross and was resurrected, in the face of common sense, proper epistemology, and evidence. Heaven and Hell are, in the final analysis, not related at all to "justice," but even if they were, I would not be mollified — for what terrible crime can one be condemned to infinite punishment? Why is repentance possible in this life, but not in the one after, at the only time when one would have the evidence necessary to know that one had committed a sin? And what is the purpose of punishment in the first place, when those who are wronged will be rewarded and made whole either way? Simply cruelty? Revenge? What sort of monstrous version of justice is that?

This isn't to mention the suffering from natural processes that is inflicted on countless people in the here and now every day, nor the fact that this God created the laws of this universe such that human beings are capable not just of desiring to hurt others (which would have been sufficient for "free will") but of actually carrying out the most horrible forms of torture and depravity on their fellow creatures. Creatures he designed purposefully to have this evil, this defectiveness, within them, yet whom he nevertheless chooses to hold responsible for that evil and the suffering they cause. This is a God who hardens people's hearts and then punishes them for being hard-hearted. And he does all this merely so that he can demonstrate his 'mercy' by suspending his 'just' laws by way of a human sacrifice (of himself, to himself, to suspend rules he made up, no less) to these creatures. Because of course, a self-sufficient God needs validation and love from creatures as far below him as ants are below us.

This God is a God who routinely, throughout the Bible, tries to prevent human beings from improving themselves and their situation, expanding in knowledge and power, and living in harmony. This is a God who fears the meager power of his own creation, their ability to get along without his direct interference. This is a God who commits so many countless atrocities over the course of the scriptures of his religion that to document all of them here would take far too long. The point of all this is that the Christian God rules with an iron fist over the cosmos, a might-makes-right attitude, and little care for his creation. As a moral subjectivist, I cannot claim this is "objectively" evil, but I can nevertheless claim that this is the sort of tyrant that I would not stand for, would not obey, would not worship, would not endorse, and that I stand against everything that he stands for. According to the morality which I choose for myself, I declare this evil, and anyone who wishes to side with that which I declare evil can get fucked.

Ultimately, though, it isn't even the Christian God's acts that make him insufferable. It is his mere supposed existence that is an offense to an upright sense of self-worth. Whatever he chose to do, his existence, as a cosmic despot whose every whim is metaphysical law, is an affront to the values of anyone who wants to live freely. C.S. Lewis had it right when, in Miracles, he claimed that the existence of a God that stands above all else is a metaphysical affront to egalitarian principles!

It is against this God that Lucifer rebels. In Paradise Lost his first rebellion is his attempt to throw off the yoke of the tyranny of Yahweh. And when he and his cohorts are finally cast down to hell, what does he say? That now, at least, although their conditions are terrible, they are free at last to rule themselves. Is this not admirable? Is this not exemplary? To face down an all-powerful cosmic tyrant, knowing the near-certainty of one's own doom, because even the slight chance of throwing him down and grinding his face into the mud is worth it; and then to accept the consequences, and find freedom and solace in them! Are not the most admirable revolutionaries those who, even if they fail, refuse to give up?

This is one of the reasons why the early anarchists embraced Satan as a symbol: he represents a rejection of tyranny, of authority, even to the material detriment of oneself, a rejection of comfort in favor of liberty, a rejection of cosmic hierarchy on a scale equally broad. The signs of Satan, such as the pentagram, implicitly shout: Cast down tyranny! Reject authority! No Gods, No Masters!

4

The second attribute that I believe Lucifer, as archetype, exemplifies, which I believe is worthy of emulation, is contained within the title of Lightbringer: he is the first freethinker. After all, in what is his initial rebellion, at least in the Bible, contained? In merely telling Eve the truth! Read this passage and tell me that isn't the case:

And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'"

And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. — Genesis 3:1-6, King James Version

The 'deceiver,' the 'father of lies' — and his first act is to tell human beings the truth, that the fruit of knowledge will not kill Eve, but will instead grant her the one thing God fears in humans: knowledge. Independence. Power like his. This is a tale more like that of Prometheus than a demon! Lucifer Lightbringer asks us to reject faith, dogma, and religion. That is a call I identify with.

Lucifer's earliest temptation is the temptation away from swaddled innocence, dependence, and deception, toward the light of truth. It was Yahweh's choice to punish beings who, not yet having the concept of "good" and "evil" necessary, could not have understood the harm in what they were doing. It was his choice, not Satan's, to cast humanity out of the garden and curse them with painful birth and "hard labor for the rest of their days for doing what he must have known in advance and designed them to do. I too wish to bring light to my siblings. I too wish to lure them out of the false tranquility of the garden of religion, and the empty assurances found therein, and it is not by my choice that they may be greeted with oppression, hatred, proselytization, and demonization by the agents of Yahweh on Earth.

5

The third attribute which I admire the archetype of Lucifer for is his character, which is best exemplified by an early piece of dialogue from Paradise Lost, which to this day remains my favorite passage, quoted often in part throughout my other writings. It is a stunning bit of character work, as all of Satan's personality is arrayed before us in that passage, conveniently interwoven and elaborated by Milton's bombastic genius.

The first admirable attribute of Satan's character is his commitment to rejecting tyranny and authority, as I said before, and his brave willingness to accept the consequences of that in the name of liberty, reason, and justice:

“Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,”
Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?—this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor—

Next we see his resilience, his self-reliance, his commitment to who he is, his character and being, in spite of his surroundings:

...one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,

Next we see his pride and awareness of his own worth:

And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater?

Again, his courageous commitment to liberty, even in spite of the pain it causes him — and is not the revolutionary who powers through all hardships to be praised?

Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Next we see his commitment to his comrades:

But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th’ associates and co-partners of our loss,
Lie thus astonished on th’ oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion

After that, we see his eternal will to continue fighting, even in the face of impossible odds:

...or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”

And finally, his total commitment to his cause, his egoistic desires and values, above and beyond any notion of good or evil. Like a true egoist anarchist, all that matters to him is the things he values, the things he stands for, and what others call good or evil are just labels to be ignored:

"Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure—
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.

These are admirable qualities to someone not totally blinded by spooks, phantasms, and slave morality, not bent under the humbling yoke of Judeo-Christian morality, not bent before the altar of the lamb. These are values that, should they be adopted, would create a better society. Do not bend before the authority and domination of others, but instead demand equality, demand justice and reason, even to your detriment. Don't accept the chains, throw them off! Do not let your circumstances crush or destroy your principles and values, or make you forget your friends. Do not give up hope. Moreover, throw off "good" and "evil": do not accept the justifications of duty and obligation that others wish to foist upon you. Bow not before the 'authority' and 'status' of others. Seek your due, ask it without apology, grasp it. See clearly and strive!

But perhaps most crucially, because it makes all the rest possible: Lucifer fully recognizes how great and powerful he is, second only to God himself. Recognize in yourself your own value likewise. Let no one tell you that all your virtues are like filthy rags, let no one tell you you are a sinner in need of forgiveness for the audacity to exist or be different. Let no one tell you that your life is meaningless without an eternal master to lord it over you. Know your worth, love it, and embrace it. To you, yourself, you are the most valuable person in existence, and how could it be otherwise? Unconditional self-love is the precondition for happiness. Do not torture yourself, feel no guilt. That does not mean you cannot improve, cannot learn from your mistakes — after all, if you love yourself, should you not also love that even greater and better self that you could be? — but it means that you should not listen to those who want to whisper the words of slave morality in your ears. They seek dominance over you, because they are jealous of the freedom and authenticity and happiness and health that you have, which they cannot share; and the first step to chaining a person's soul is convincing them that everything they do should make them guilty by setting them a standard self-admittedly designed to be impossible for them to achieve. To quote Nietzsche from On the Genealogy of Morals:

"How ready they themselves are at bottom to make one pay; how they crave to be hangmen... always ready to spit upon all who are not discontented but go their own way in good spirits... The will of the weak to represent some form of superiority, their instinct for devious paths to tyranny over the healthy — where can it not be discovered...!

And again:

The slave revolt in morality begins when 'ressentiment' itself becomes creatie and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge. While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is ""outside," what is "different," what is "not itself"; and this No is its creative deed.

So, like Lucifer, reject the resentment of those who are strong and healthy and excellent, who are different than you; reject envy and focus on loving and developing and expressing the excellence within yourself, of achieving the dreams that you have, of expressing your will to power, which is your desire for self-actualization and self-expression.

6

The fourth attribute of Lucifer that I align myself with is less a product of his characterization in any actual text, and more an association developed by long religious tradition: his association with the marginalized, the different, the freethinkers and the queer people, the individuals and the loners. When someone dares to look different, to throw off tradition, to live differently, to reason with others and convince them to doubt dogma, superstition, and authority; when new things arrive that are strange to people; they are often labeled 'satanic' or 'devilish,' or 'demonic.' Well, for one like myself who wishes to align myself with the marginalized, the queer, the different, the new, the unfamiliar, the unsettling, the uncomfortable, the anti-traditionalist, what better label to associate myself with, than the Satanic, the demonic, the devilish? If I am to be accused of being Satanic because I am transgender, or an anarchist or an atheist, or anti-work, what better thing to do than to simply accept it?

If it is Satanic to reject the narrow, unhappy, arbitrary bounds that Yahweh has set for the righteous life, so be it, I accept it! I wish to be happy and fulfilled and beautiful and excellent in the one life I have, and I wish everyone around me the same — let me be called Satanic, sinful, demonic, for it! Let the accusations come. I accept them.

Lucifer has a strong association with a rejection of typical Judeo-Christian social norms, prejudices, and prudery because of this. I, too, reject these things, reject them wholeheartedly! There is not one right life, the path is not straight and narrow, let people be happy — let them drink and fuck and fornicate and sodomize! Let them build towers to the heavens and write plays and books and satirize the powerful and the priests! Let them get tattoos and piercings and hormone replacement therapy, let them sing songs and love each other, as many as they like! Let children and women speak before they are spoken to, let them teach, let them tell their patriarchs to fuck off! Life is rich, life is beautiful and colorful and varied and diverse, and I will not stand for the life-denying philosophies of child molesters and idiots.

Raise a glass to Dionysus!

8

I may be accused, at this point, of adopting an identity that exists purely in contradistinction to something, a purely negative identity. To this, I have three responses. In the first place, I do not think there is anything wrong with having a part of your identity be defined in opposition to something. Doing so is usually termed 'negative' and 'destructive,' but some things are worth destroying, some things are worth being negative about, and wanting to tear something down is just as much a character trait as any other. Nevertheless, it is true that, just like any identity, that should not become one's whole being. Neither should it become a spook to possess you or a sacred idea to dogmatize. Furthermore, I personally enjoy a duality to my identities: positive, constructive ones that speak to what I want to see, what I believe is true and beautiful, and, in counterpoint, identities to speak to what I stand against.

In the second place, an identity defined in opposition to something is incredibly useful in a world that is dominated by that thing. That is why atheism, the lack of a belief in a god, or anarchism, the opposition to authority, domination, and hierarchy, are such crucial, important labels. Likewise, an identity that places one in counterpoint to rigid social domination by a prudish class, one which has had this dominance for thousands of years and is only relinquishing it with animosity and sloth, is useful and meaningful, and will continue to be until that thing and all things like it have gone away.

In the third place, Satanism is not a purely negative identity at all. Many of the admirable attributes of Satan make perfect sense even in the absence of the rest of Christianity: being anti-authoritarian, a freethinker, a lightbringer, someone who is above good and evil — where, in all these things, do you see Yahweh? Christ? Religion, even? Yes, perhaps the symbolism of Lucifer would lose some of its power if it were divorced from our cultural context, but I do not believe it would lose all of it, or even most of it, for me at least.

10

There is another purpose, a more cynical one, that my Satanism serves. Although I dislike being edgy for the sake of it, and generally think being edgy is more of a hindrance to communication and constructive conversation than anything else, I also think the imagery and language of Satanism make precisely the right kind of people uncomfortable: the kind of people who exist in precise opposition to the things I stand for. It jogs them out of their comfort zone, and I think that's a good thing. It also weeds out the people that would never even try to understand or appreciate my message as an anarchist or an atheist: those who see a pentagram or a reference to Satanism and immediately panic or think I am evil, those who are inclined to mock the stereotype of Reddit anti-theists, etc. If someone is so turned off by the pentagram in my website's logo that they leave, they were never going to be interested in what I had to say anyway.

9

It should be clarified at this juncture that I most emphatically do not take a Jungian or Petersonian approach to Lucifer as an archetype. I don't think he's some necessary component of my psyche or some precondition for truth or any of that nonsense. I just like him as a symbol, a mythological and fictional entity, like someone might identify with characters like Sisyphus, or Gandalf, or Paul Atreides, or Rand Al'Thor. It just so happens that there is enough symbolism and mythology built up around him that it can linguistically and culturally make sense for me to call myself a Satanist.

This, then, is why I appreciate the symbolism and archetypal meaning of Lucifer and Satanism. I don't consider myself a part of any official doctrine or movement of Satanism (although I am not opposed to being identified with the Church of Satan, which does good work), but I think this affinity for him as a symbol is enough to call myself a Satanist if I like. Judge of that what you will.