Monday, February 21, 2011

Gnosticism and Satanism

One of the oldest known forms of theistic Satanism is Gnostic-based Satanism. It's is not my cup of tea, but it's worth taking a look at, as one of the many varieties of theistic Satanism.

The ancient Gnostics were a religious movement, back in the days of the Roman Empire, that overlapped with Christianity. Scholars disagree on whether it originated as a Christian heresy or whether it was an older religious movement, with origins separate from Christianity, but which then both influenced and was influenced by Christianity.

One subset of the ancient Gnostics, known as the Ophites, venerated the Serpent of the Garden of Eden myth. They did NOT venerate the Biblical god Yahweh, whom they regarded as the Demiurge, the evil creator of a very imperfect universe for the purpose of trapping human souls in matter. They regarded the Serpent as the bringer of wisdom and an emissary of a deity higher than Yahweh. See the Ophite Gnostic scriptures referenced in the following article: The Genesis Factor by Stephan A. Hoeller.

The ancient Ophites weren't "Satanists," in the sense that they didn't identify their venerated Serpent with Satan. Nevertheless, many theistic Satanists do have a similarly favorable interpretation of the Serpent of the Garden of Eden myth. And some theistic Satanists have adopted other aspects of the Gnostic worldview as well.

According to the book Satan Wants You by Arthur Lyons, there was a pre-LaVeyan Satanist group, the Lady of Endor Coven, that existed from the late 1940's to the early 1970's, founded by Herbert Sloane, whose theology was based heavily on Ophite Gnosticism. The Biblical God Yahweh was identified with the Demiurge, and Satan was identified with the Serpent as the bringer of wisdom.

Earlier, Aleister Crowley, who either was or was not a "Satanist" depending on precisely how you define the term "Satanist," also had a worldview strongly influenced by Gnosticism.

I personally reject Gnostic theology, on grounds stated on the following pages: Post-Copernican natural theology and The here-and-now principle in theology. But I would not claim that Gnostic Satanists aren't or can't be "true Satanists." They are one of the many types of theistic Satanists and are, as far as I can tell, the oldest known type.

1 comment:

Corbeau de Marais said...

Gratified to hear someone else suggest Crowley can be described as a Satanist! The idea is usually anathema to both Thelemites and Satanists, for generally good reasons. But, as you say, depending on how you define Satanism Crowley can very easily be described as Satanic. Tim Moroney has a good take on this interpretation of Thelema, and
I also address this somewhat at theserpentkiss.blogspot.com .