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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An interesting religious studies course website

Shortly ago, I happened to come across the web page for a course called Rel 361: A Social History of Satan, taught by Dr. Adam L. Porter at Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL.

The web page lists lots of interesting and worthwhile stuff. However, it leaves out what I consider to be an important bit of history: The various famous writers, in the 1800's, who spoke favorably of "Satan" or "the Devil." These included:
  • William Blake - wrote "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell."
  • Mark Twain - wrote Letters from the Earth and A Pen Warmed in Hell
  • Giosue Carducci (who is considered to have been one of Italy's greatest poets) - wrote a "Hymn to Satan"
  • Charles Baudelaire - wrote "The Litanies of Satan"
  • Matilda Gage (leading 19th century feminist) - referred to Satan as the "God of Freedom" in her book Woman, Church, and State, echoing the French historian Jules Michelet's favorable portrayal of a hypothetical Satanic ceremony by medieval peasants.
  • George Bernard Shaw - wrote The Devil's Disciple and Man and Superman
On the plus side, it appears that the course will devote some attention to the Satanic panic of the 1980's and early 1990's.

These days, ever-growing numbers of "conspiracy theorists" are working hard to revive the panic. So, it's good to see college students being taught about the historical reality. Thank you, Dr. Porter, for including it in your course.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exorcism, Satanic panic, and a sex scandal involving a Catholic exorcist and anti-abortion activist

Given the popularity of the latest exorcism movie The Rite, and given all the talk about how the exorcism trend is scaring people back into the Catholic Church, I've written several posts about exorcism and related topics on various blogs:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Self deception

In a comment in in the General Feedback Thread, louis syfer asked, in reply to my page "About the Joy of Satan system of respectful demon evocation": "HOW CAN YOU DECEIVE YOURSELF, OR HARM YOURSELF IF IT IS YOU THAT YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY WORKING WITH?"

First off, the Joy of Satan people do not believe that "it is you that you are essentailly working with." They believe that they are having 2-way conversations with the Demons/Gods -- who are seen as advanced anthropomorphic space aliens who are believed to have a genetic relationship to humans and who are believed to spend a lot of their time astrally projecting themselves to Earth and talking to humans.

Second, people deceive themselves all the time -- even in the mundane world. See the list of cognitive biases in Wikipedia. And much of magick is essentially self-hypnosis, which can be a valuable mental discipline but can certainly also be used in ways that deceive oneself.

"Days of Satanism" in Egypt, mid-to-late 1990's C.E.

According to Nader Sadek, Let the Egyptian Uprising Set the Country's Artists Free, on, February 2, 2011:
The biggest conflict between the realm of art and the government in Egypt transpired in the mid-to-late 1990s and was known across the Middle East as "the days of Satanism." Thousands of heavy metal fans had formed a subculture that was perceived, and treated, as a threat to the Egyptian government. Long hair, loud and incomprehensible music, and a rebellious attitude echoed society's repressed demand for self-expression and liberation. Thousands of metal fans, from rich and poor families alike, were arrested and faced the possibility of execution under charges of apostasy, as converting from Islam to another religion (Satan worship!) is punishable by death. The metal-fans-cum-prisoners were finally freed after approximately three months. One of the victims of this event joined the growing community of bloggers committed to exposing government corruption and police brutality. While his blogs have been read internationally, more importantly he has helped build local networks intent upon raising awareness and mobilizing the dissent visible in the streets of Cairo today.

P.S., February 8, 2011: More news stories on the same topic are linked in this Facebook note.