Satanism: The Allure of the Dark Side - Part 2

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

People are compelled in various manners to embrace Satanism for its distinct manner of living (in addition to its philosophy and religion). The best explanation for understanding why someone would become a Satanist is to consider its history. By continuing to explain the ancient origins of Satanism, it will become more readily apparent why Satanism is alluring. How the beliefs, customs, and myths of the ancient pagan religions endured into the Middle Ages is the next historical aspect to consider. Reflection will also be given to distinguishing Satanism from witchcraft.

Remnants of the Ancient Pagan Religions
The medieval Sabbat was an orgiastic celebration that parodied the solemnity of the Catholic Mass. (Sabbat, of course was adopted from Judaism, and was traditionally regarded as the quintessence of anti-Christianity, a form of Devil worship.) Even when the Roman Empire legalized Christianity in the fourth century (AD 312), certain societies persisted in the practice of ancient religious traditions. Suppression of these pagan communities by the Roman Catholic Church resulted in persecution that forced the ancient heathen religions to become secretive. Certain of these cults were underground conspiracies of anarchists and heretics, who were dedicated to eradicating the Catholic Church and inverting the world order.

The medieval era involved desperate times for the peasantry, which is why they were primarily responsible for sustaining the beliefs, customs, and myths of the ancient pagan religions. For instance, if the Catholic Church supported the nobility, then the peasantry felt compelled—in their distressed and subjugated experience—to embrace the Devil. Indeed, several historical accounts reference Satan as the “god of the serfs.”

Gnostic practices emphasized the spiritual realm to the exclusion of the material, which often was based upon the belief that the material realm was evil and thus necessitated escape from it. By the 14th century, Gnostic sentiments were apparently combined with the remnants of pagan rituals in the observance of the Sabbat, which always occurred as an outdoor ceremony, in the belief that Satan was present (or, at least, a devilish figure). Sabbat was not a Black Mass per se, yet initiates did renounce any claims to the Christian faith and baptism. Devotees pledged allegiance to Satan, in addition to promising sacrifices and annual tributes to the Devil. The Devil granted new names and identified them with his claw raking (or a hot iron searing) their flesh (viz. the Devil’s mark, also known as the Witch’s mark). Some historical accounts mention how the Devil stripped initiates of their clothing, who were then forced to pay homage to Satan by kissing the Devil on the backside (viz. the osculum infame, “the kiss of shame”).

All aspects of the ceremony were a blasphemous parody of the Catholic Mass, with everything in reverse, since Satan is the opposite of God. Crosses were held upended and then trampled. Pacts were written backwards, and initiates would sign their names in their own blood with their left hands. Later versions included a naked woman as the altar (who is thought to be the divine spirit of creation, and worshiped as the life-spring of the world), and practitioners would dance back-to-back lasciviously (thereby reversing the normal position in an obscene manner) until climaxing with a sexual orgy. With a sadistic amalgamation of masochistic pleasure, the Devil would often climax the Sabbat with painful copulating.

The Sabbat could be understood as an expression of societal conflict, especially as a desperate expression of the struggle that medieval serfs experienced against the nobility. While such practices can be traced historically to as early as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, it was not until the fourteenth century that both the Catholic Church and the nobility were losing repute, and thus the pagan cults solidified into a ceremonial rebelliousness against the social order. Indeed, the Inquisition regarded the Sabbats as seditionist actions because they challenged the authority of the Church. Pacts with the Devil and maleficent occult practices were acknowledged and persecuted in Protestant England.

Satanism and Witchcraft Contrasted
At this point, it would be helpful to explain how Satanism and witchcraft differ, since they should not be automatically equated. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary provides three distinct usages of Satanism throughout the centuries: (1) a mid-sixteenth century description of Martin Luther’s teachings as “Satanic or diabolical disposition or doctrine; evil practice, wickedness”; (2) “characteristics of the Satanic school” in the early nineteenth century (e.g. the poetry of Lord Byron); and (3) “the worship of Satan,” typically involving “a travesty of Christian forms,” allegedly practiced in France in the late nineteenth century.1

In contemporary reference, Satanism is used more broadly to include: (1) either formal or informal worship of the Devil (or other demonic beings), and might include destructiveness, malevolence, sadomasochism, and violence; (2) attempting to enhance criminal, sexual, or other activities by engaging in rituals associated with the worship of Satan (or other demonic beings), or even with the practice of what is termed black (dark) magic; (3) the outright practice of black magic, with intent to manipulate supposed magical forces for destructive purposes; and, (4) an obsession with activities, literature, relics, rituals, and symbols associated with the worship of Satan (or other demonic beings) or with the practice of black magic. Contemporary reference to Satanism would, therefore, include all forms of black magic, demonology, and violently prone religious tribal activities. According to contemporary reference, all occult activity would be categorized as Satanism.

Those engaged in the New Age Movement certainly engage in occult activities, such as channeling, divination, and palmistry, yet practitioners do not (in their conception) directly worship Satan or other demonic beings, which is also true of eastern religions and those who practice witchcraft (or who are characterized by nature worship or the use of “white magic”). While it is important to understand the worldview of those who do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ (and thus not to confuse them with other beliefs in seeking to reach them with the gospel), the Bible reveals that all the practices already described—with the obvious exception of Protestant teachings—are satanic because they are empowered by Satan and his demonic hordes.

Therefore, while Satanism and witchcraft are not necessarily equivalent, they both are a reflection of occult philosophy. Indeed, for centuries, the appellation “witch” had been used quite liberally in reference to anyone believed to possess occult powers. During the medieval era, the Roman Catholic Church condemned all occult powers as being demonic. Nevertheless, the majority of those who believe they possess and can exercise occult powers do not regard those abilities as demonic, and claim they are only used for good. Conversely, the majority of Satanists both enthusiastically and explicitly submit themselves to demonic powers that are perceived as being for their own good.

Without its embrace of occult powers, LaVeyan Satanism (associated with author and occultist Anton Szander LaVey, as best represented in his work, The Satanic Bible) would simply be another manifestation of humanism. LaVey defined magic as “the change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable.” Presumably, the “normally accepted methods” would be the methodology of modern science; therefore, LaVey regarded magic as “never totally scientifically explainable, but science always has been, at one time or another, considered magic.”2 LaVey is consistent with other occult religions in teaching an action (cause) and reaction (effect) principle that is responsible for everything that will occur in life. The foundational aspect of modern science is the action and reaction principle of the material realm. The essential aspect of occult philosophy is the cause and effect paradigm applied to the non-physical world. LaVey’s ritual magic (or “greater magic”) is exclusively and virtually intended for one’s self-interest, and is what carefully distinguishes Satanism from occult religions like witchcraft.

Science, of course, will never identify Satan because it is unable to evaluate or prove the reality of spiritual things. Renowned psychiatrist and bestselling author of many books, M Scott Peck was converted to belief in the Devil’s reality. He did not become aware that Satan exists through scientific inquiry; rather, it was through his probing into the essence of human evil. In response to someone questioning the reality of the Devil, he wrote, “The answer is that I don’t hope to convince the reader of Satan’s reality. Conversion to belief in God generally requires some kind of actual encounter—a personal experience—with the living God. Conversion to belief in Satan is no different.”3

The most important things in life cannot be disproved or proved scientifically. Ultimate reality has dimensions transcending science and must be understood differently. Scripture contains so many references to the Devil that it would be impossible to affirm the Christian faith without accepting the reality of Satan. Nevertheless, it is crucial for God’s people to understand the allure of Satanism (and even witchcraft), because those who are devoted to that religion will experience the same shock that came upon the witch at Endor (1 Sam 28:3-25); namely, tinkering with realties they regard as novelties, yet which prove to be existent and terrifying. (The third part of this series will consider the allure of Satanism during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods as precursors to modern expressions.)

1 Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th ed., 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) 2:2671. Luther, of course, would have denied worshiping Satan or that his Protestant teachings were inspired by Satan. The mention of Luther’s teachings as “Satanic” was from a 1565 Catholic tract to John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury, in which Luther was depicted pejoratively as proliferating doctrine contrary to the Catholic Church (see The Works of John Jewel, 4 vols. [Cambridge: University Press, 1848] 3:265, 268). Therefore, the first usage refers to a form of religious teachings different than one’s own. For instance, a 1559 Anglican publication described the Anabaptists and other unofficial sects as “swarms of Satanistes.”
2 Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible (New York: Avon Books, 1969) 110.
3 M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, 2nd ed. (1985; New York: Touchstone, 1998) 184.

Midnight Call - 05/2017

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