CHURCH OF SATAN
Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey; April 11, 1930 – October 29, 1997) was an American author, occultist, and musician. He was the founder of the Church of Satan as well as the author of The Satanic Bible and the founder of LaVeyan Satanism, a synthesized system of his understanding of human nature and the insights of philosophers who advocated materialism and individualism, for which he claimed no supernatural or theistic inspiration.
LaVey was born as Howard Stanton Levey in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Michael Joseph Levey (1903-1992), from Chicago, Illinois married Levey's mother, the former Gertrude Augusta Coultron who was born to a Russian father and Ukrainian mother who had emmigrated to Ohio in 1893; both became naturalized American citizens in 1900.
LaVey's family moved to California, where he spent his early life in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Globe, Arizona. His parents supported his musical interests, as he tried a number of instruments; his favorites were keyboards such as the pipe organ and the calliope.
He attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, until the age of 16. According to his biography, he left high school to join a circus and later carnivals, first as a roustabout and cage boy in an act with the big cats, then as a musician playing the calliope. LaVey later claimed to have seen that many of the same men attended both the bawdy Saturday night shows and the tent revival meetings on Sunday mornings, which reinforced his increasingly cynical view of religion. He would later work as an organist in bars, lounges and nightclubs. In the foreword to the German version of The Satanic Bible, he cites this as the impetus to defy Christian religion as he knew it. He accused church-goers of employing double moral standards. While playing organ in Los Angeles burlesque houses, he allegedly had a brief affair with then-unknown Marilyn Monroe when she was a dancer at the Mayan Theater. This is challenged by those who then knew Monroe, as well as the manager of the Mayan, Paul Valentine, who said she had never been one of his dancers, nor had the theater ever been used as a burlesque house.
According to his biography, LaVey moved back to San Francisco, where he worked for three years as a photographer for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). He dabbled as a psychic investigator, looking into "800 calls" referred to him by the police department. Later biographers questioned whether LaVey ever worked with the SFPD, as there are no records substantiating the claim. During this period, LaVey was friends with a number of writers associated with Weird Tales magazine; a picture of him with George Haas, Robert Barbour Johnson (whom he had met in the circus as an animal trainer and painter of carnival scenes) and Clark Ashton Smith appears in Blanche Barton's biography The Secret Life of a Satanist.
In 1950, LaVey met Carole Lansing and they married the following year. Lansing gave birth to LaVey's first daughter, Karla LaVey, born in 1952. They divorced in 1960 after LaVey became entranced by Diane Hegarty. Hegarty and LaVey never married; however, she was his companion for many years and mothered his second daughter, Zeena Galatea LaVey, in 1963. At the end of their relationship, Hegarty sued for palimony.
Beginnings as a Satanist
Becoming a local celebrity through his paranormal research and live performances as an organist, including playing the Wurlitzer at the Lost Weekend cocktail lounge, he attracted many San Francisco notables to his parties.
Church of Satan
LaVey began presenting Friday night lectures on the occult and rituals. A member of this circle suggested that he had the basis for a new religion. On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, he ritualistically shaved his head, allegedly "in the tradition of ancient executioners", declared the founding of the Church of Satan and proclaimed 1966 as "the year one", Anno Satanas—the first year of the Age of Satan. Media attention followed the subsequent Satanic wedding ceremony of Radical journalist John Raymond to New York City socialite Judith Case on February 1, 1967. The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing him "The Black Pope". LaVey performed Satanic baptisms (including the first Satanic baptism in history for Zeena, which garnered world-wide publicity and was originally recorded on The Satanic Mass LP) and Satanic funerals (including one for naval machinist-repairman third-class Edward Olsen, complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard), and released a record album entitled The Satanic Mass.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, LaVey melded ideological influences from Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, H.L. Mencken, and Jack London with the ideology and ritual practices of the Church of Satan. He wrote essays introduced with reworked excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right and concluded with “Satanized” versions of John Dee’s Enochian Keys to create books such as The Complete Witch (re-released in 1989 as The Satanic Witch), and The Satanic Rituals. The latter book also included rituals drawing on the work of H.P. Lovecraft which were actually penned by Michael A. Aquino who would later found the Temple of Set.
Due to increasing visibility through his books, LaVey was the subject of numerous articles in the news media throughout the world, including popular magazines such as Look, McCall's, Newsweek, and TIME, and men’s magazines. He also appeared on talk shows such as Joe Pyne, Phil Donahue, and Johnny Carson, and in a feature length documentary called Satanis: The Devil's Mass in 1970. He would be credited for the mainstreaming of Satanism and Witchcraft in the U.S. during the 1960s and after.
LaVey’s third and final companion was Blanche Barton. Barton and LaVey are the parents of Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey, born November 1, 1993. Barton succeeded him as the head of the Church after his death, and has since stepped down from that role and handed it to Magus Peter H. Gilmore.
Anton LaVey died on October 29, 1997, in St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco of pulmonary edema. He was taken to St. Mary's, a Catholic hospital, because it was the closest available. For reasons open to speculation, the time and date of his death was incorrect (by two days) listed as the morning of Halloween on his death certificate. A secret Satanic funeral, attended by invitation only, was held in Colma after which LaVey's body was cremated.
Books by LaVey
The Satanic Bible (1969)
The Satanic Rituals (1972)
The Satanic Witch (1989)
The Devil's Notebook (1992)
Satan Speaks! (1998)
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is a religious organization dedicated to the philosophy of LaVeyan Satanism. The Church of Satan was established at the Black House in San Francisco, California, on Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, by Anton Szandor LaVey, who was the church's High Priest until his death in 1997. In 2001, Peter H. Gilmore became the high priest, and the church's headquarters were moved to Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan.
History Early years
In the 1960s Anton LaVey formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later became the governing body of the Church of Satan. The group included: "The Baroness" Carin de Plessen, Dr. Cecil Nixon, Kenneth Anger, City Assessor Russell Wolden, Donald Werby, and Michael Harner. According to the Church of Satan historiography, other LaVey associates from this time include noted Science Fiction and Horror writers Anthony Boucher, August Derleth, Robert Barbour Johnson, Reginald Bretnor, Emil Petaja, Stuart Palmer, Clark Ashton Smith, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Fritz Leiber Jr.
In the first year of its foundation, Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan publicly performed a Satanic marriage of Judith Case and journalist John Raymond. The ceremony was attended by Joe Rosenthal. LaVey performed the first publicly recorded Satanic baptism in history for his youngest daughter Zeena, which garnered world-wide publicity and was originally recorded on The Satanic Mass LP. A Satanic funeral for naval machinist-repairman, third-class Edward Olsen, was performed at the request of his wife, complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard).
The Church of Satan was the subject of a number of books, magazine and newspaper articles during the 1960s and 1970s. It is also the subject of a documentary, Satanis (1970). LaVey appeared in Kenneth Anger's film Invocation of my Demon Brother, acted as technical adviser on The Devil's Rain, which starred Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, and introduced John Travolta. The Church of Satan was also featured in a segment of Luigi Scattini's film Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri, released in the United States as Witchcraft.
In 1975 LaVey phased out the Church's "Grotto" system and eliminated people he thought were using the Church as a substitute for accomplishment in the outside world. Thereafter, conventional achievement in society would be the criterion for advancement within the Church of Satan. At the same time, LaVey became more selective in granting interviews. This shift to "closed door" activities resulted in some rumors of the Church’s demise, and even rumors of LaVey’s death.
1980s and early 1990s and "Satanic Panic"
In the 1980s the media reported concerns of criminal conspiracies within the Church of Satan. The FBI would later issue an official report refuting the criminal conspiracy theories of this time. This phenomenon became known as the "Satanic Panic". LaVey's daughter Zeena was the spokesperson and High Priestess within the Church of Satan during the 1980s.During this period, she appeared on television and radio broadcasts, in part to educate about the Church, and in part to debunk the mythology surrounding the Satanic Panic — a period of time in the same era in which Satanism was blamed for the actions of Satanic ritual abuse.
Zeena Schreck, co-producer and narrator of Charles Manson Superstar, at the film's German premiere, Kino Eiszeit Berlin, 30 October 1989.
In the 1980s the media reported concerns of criminal conspiracies within the Church of Satan. The FBI would later issue an official report refuting the criminal conspiracy theories of this time. This phenomenon became known as the "Satanic Panic". LaVey's daughter Zeena was the spokesperson and High Priestess within the Church of Satan during the 1980s.During this period, she appeared on television and radio broadcasts, in part to educate about the Church, and in part to debunk the mythology surrounding the Satanic Panic — a period of time in the same era in which Satanism was blamed for the actions of Satanic ritual abuse.
Some of Zeena's groundbreaking work combating media hysteria about Satanism included taking a pro-active stance against the allegations in the media by working with government sectors and law enforcement agencies to educate about the reality of Satanism. In the 1980s Zeena was in regular contact with law enforcement agencies and personnel, including Detective Patrick Metoyer of the LAPDand Robert D. Hicks, law-enforcement specialist with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and author of several precedent setting treatisesincluding In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and The Occult,In Pursuit of Satan began the wave of authoritative reports debunking the Satanic Panic. Much of what Hicks gleaned from Zeena's dialogs with him was included in this treatise. Prior to Zeena's dialogs and meetings with government agencies, Police and Law Enforcement didn't know, from the Satanist's point of view, what Satanism truly was.
Zeena's regular appearances on national broadcasts defending the Church of Satan began with a specific event. In a September 2011 interview Zeena states, "In 1985, a US news show called 20/20 accused The Satanic Bible of being responsible for child daycare Satanic ritual abuse, allegations which were new then. [...] I called my father and asked him what his media strategy would be to deal with this catastrophe. Nothing. He didn't care. As far as he was concerned it didn't concern him. It wasn't anything he needed to worry about. He certainly wasn't going out in public to do anything about it. He admitted that many media sources had already contacted him and he was just going to ignore it until it went away. I tried to convince him that this would only get worse if he didn't respond and that he really needed to get someone to answer calls quickly or it would be taken as an admission of guilt or suspicion. Finally he admitted he had no one to deal with interviews or media. I offered to help temporarily until he found someone. This was not what I'd intended to do with my life, I had other plans."
From then until her renunciation of the Church of Satan in 1990, Zeena appeared in such nationally syndicated programs as The Phil Donahue Show, Nightline with Ted Koppel, Entertainment Tonight, The Late Show, Secrets & Mysteries and the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. The appearances were made at the behest of the Church of Satan as its spokesperson. She did this on behalf of her father Anton LaVey, who was no longer interested in making media appearances, as she stated while being interviewed alongside her husband by televangelist Bob Larson.Zeena became internationally known within the mass media in the 1980s through her active role publicly defending her father's organization against allegations of Satanic ritual abuse and was interviewed in the legendary broadcast of "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground" released by Geraldo Rivera in 1988.Zeena sat alongside Michael A. Aquino (Temple of Set founder/High Priest), and repeatedly denied the rumors circulating at the time that the Church of Satan was in any way involved with Satanic ritual abuse. She also called the testimony of claimants involved into question, asking them rhetorically why, if people were being forced to give birth to babies for sacrificial rituals, no remains had ever been found.
Toward the end of her time as High Priestess, Zeena LaVey also appeared with Nikolas Schreck (not a member of the COS) in an interview with televangelist Bob Larson, during which they both refuted any Satanic criminal ties, and pressed Bob Larson on his own ideals, stating that it was hypocritical of him to endorse such claims by Christians, pointing out the Christian background of many criminals, and violent acts within Christian history, such as the crusades.In 1990, only a few months after this now famous interview, Zeena resigned from the Church of Satan and renounced LaVeyan Satanism. Zeena's Interview on KJTV with Tony Valdez, 1990, was the last interview she granted as public representative and High Priestess of the Church of Satan before resigning.
In a March 2013 interview televised by Network Awesome, Zeena spoke for the first time on camera about her experiences with media during the Satanic Panic years.
Zeena's official website explains her reasons for abdicating her role as public spokesperson, "In the process of defending the Church of Satan from these unfounded claims in the U.S. mass media, Zeena's media appearances attracted a new upsurge of membership to the formerly moribund organization even as she began to question and ultimately reject the self-centered atheist philosophy she promoted. As she toured the United States on behalf of the Church of Satan, Zeena's crisis of faith reached its highpoint when she learned that most of her father's self-created legend was based on lies and that many of his works were plagiarized. When jealousy and spite motivated Anton LaVey and his administrator Densley-Barton to actually endanger Zeena's life, she could no longer continue to cover up her progenitor's true character in good conscience. This behind the scenes tension should be kept in mind when viewing or hearing Zeena's interviews from that time."
Prior to Zeena's role defending her father's organization during the most heated period of U.S. Christian fundamentalist led Satanic Witch-hunt, there was no voice of opposition and no way for government agencies, the public and law enforement to know what Satanists believed, from their own point of view. By Zeena being forthcoming with all these sectors, she paved the way for many to follow in her footsteps.
According to Zeena's official homepage, after her resignation in 1990, remaining members of the Church of Satan and her estranged family "reacted to her resignation by indulging in a typical cult-like character assassination campaign against her."Particularly active in the hostility against Zeena were Blanche Barton, Peter H. Gilmore, Peggy Nadramia, Boyd Rice, Lisa Crystal Carver, Daniel Ignace Kapelovitz, Larry Wessel, Stanton and Szandora LaVey. The homepage also states, "Drawing on her own triumph over these and other dysfunctional family experiences, Zeena, a professional bereavement counsellor, founded The Sethian Liberation Movement's public outreach program PHOENIX to help others in similar situations."
In the 1980s and 1990s remaining members of the Church of Satan became active in media appearances to refute allegations of criminal activity. The Church of Satan and its members were very active in producing movies, music, films, and magazines devoted to Satanism. Most notably Adam Parfrey's Feral House publishing, the music of Boyd Rice, musician King Diamond, and the films of Nick Bougas, including his documentary Speak of the Devil: The Canon of Anton LaVey.The Church of Satan and Anton LaVey were also the subject of numerous magazine and news articles during this time.
After Anton Szandor LaVey's death on October 29, 1997, the role of High Priest was empty for some time. On November 7, 1997 Karla LaVey made a press release about continuing the church with fellow high priestess with Blanche Barton. Barton eventually received ownership of the organization, which she held for 4 years. Karla LaVey ultimately left the Church of Satan and founded First Satanic Church.
High Priest Peter H. Gilmore.
In 2001, Blanche ceded her position to long-time members Peter H. Gilmore and Peggy Nadramia, the current High Priest and High Priestess and publishers of The Black Flame, the official magazine of The Church of Satan. The Central Office of the Church of Satan has also moved from San Francisco to New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, where the couple resides. The Church of Satan does not recognize any other organizations as holding legitimate claim to Satanism and its practice, though it does recognize that one need not be a member of the Church of Satan to be a Satanist.
As the Church of Satan does not publicly release membership information, it is not known how many members belong to the Church. However, according to an interview with the Church of Satan, "interest in the Church of Satan and Satanism is growing all the time if our mailboxes, answering and fax machines, and e-mail is any indication."
In October 2004 the Royal Navy officially recognised its first registered Satanist, 24-year-old Chris Cranmer, as a technician on the HMS Cumberland.
On June 6, 2006 the Church of Satan held the first public ritual Satanic Mass in 40 years at the Steve Allen Theater in the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles. The ritual, based on the rites outlined in The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, was conducted by Reverend Bryan Moore and Priestess Heather Saenz.
In December 2007 the Associated Press reported on a story concerning the Church of Satan, in which a teenager had sent an e-mail to High Priest Gilmore stating he wanted to "kill in the name of our unholy lord Satan". Gilmore then reported the message to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who informed local police who arrested the teenager.
The Church of Satan has two types of members: Registered Members and Active Members. Registered Members are simply people who have been inducted as members of the Church, and there are no requirements to achieve this position. To be deemed an Active Member, a person has to be involved with the Church and local members. Active Membership is divided into five Degrees:
Active Members begin at the First Degree. One must apply and be approved for an Active Membership, and this is subject to one's answers to a lengthy series of questions. One cannot apply for higher Degrees, and the requirements for each degree are not open to the public. Promotion to a higher degree is by invitation only. Members of the Third through Fifth degrees constitute the Priesthood and may be addressed as "Reverend" (although the titles of "Magister/Magistra" and "Magus/Maga" are more often used when referring to members of the Fourth and Fifth degrees, respectively). Members of the Fifth degree may also be known as "Doctor", although "The Doctor" usually refers to LaVey.
Individuals seeking membership must be legally defined as adults in their nation of residence. The only exception made is for children of members who demonstrate an understanding of the Church philosophy and practices who wish to join. Their participation is limited until they reach legal adulthood.
The Church of Satan does not solicit membership. Those who wish to affiliate can become a Registered Member for a one-time registration fee of two hundred dollars ($200) in United States currency. Affiliates receive a red card declaring them as a member of the Church of Satan to other members.
Memberships may be terminated at the discretion of the ruling body of the Church of Satan consisting of the High Priest, the High Priestess and the Council of Nine. Upon termination, the issuing of a refund is ultimately left up to the High Priest's ruling, though generally 50% is returned to the cast-out member (the other 50% used to cover ruling expenditures).
The Church of Satan authorizes some Active Members as Agents, qualified to represent the Church of Satan and to explain the philosophy of Satanism to the media and other interested parties.
Members of the Priesthood act as spokespersons for the philosophy of the Church of Satan, which include the titles of "Priest"/"Priestess" and "Magus"/"Magistra." Members of the Priesthood make up the Council of Nine, which is the ruling body of the Church of Satan. The Order of the Trapezoid consists of the individuals who assist in the administration of the Church of Satan. The High Priest and Priestess acting as administrative chiefs and primary public representatives; each position (High Priest and High Priestess) is held by a single individual at a time. The current High Priest is Peter H. Gilmore, the current High Priestess Peggy Nadramia.
The Church of Satan evaluates active members for the Priesthood by their accomplishment in society—mastered skills and peer recognition within a profession—rather than by mastery of irrelevant occult trivia. While expected to be experts in communicating the Satanic philosophy, members of the Priesthood are not required to speak on behalf of the Church of Satan, and may even choose to keep their affiliation and rank secret in order to better serve their personal goals, as well as those of the organization. Membership in the Priesthood is by invitation only.
Past & present Church of Satan High Priesthood
Anton LaVey — Founder & High Priest 1966–1997
Diane Hegarty — Co-Founder & High Priestess 1966–1984
Zeena LaVey - High Priestess and Public Spokesperson 1985-1990, Daughter of Co-Founders LaVey & Hegarty
Blanche Barton — Anton's Assistant, High Priestess 1997–2002, now Magistra Templi Rex
Peter H. Gilmore — High Priest 2001 – Present (5th Degree, Magus)
Peggy Nadramia — High Priestess 2002 – Present
A Grotto is an association of Satanists in geographical proximity. The Church of Satan has decided that it no longer needs to formally recognize Grottoes for members to socialize or organize rituals, since most members use online forums for these purposes. However, should a group of Church of Satan members form a "magic circle" for purposes beyond basic social and ritual interaction, and should that circle remain healthy and active for a year and a day, the leader may apply to have it formalized as a Grotto and be chartered as Grotto Master. The Grotto is expected to remain clandestine, an underground cell that only the privileged may eventually come to know. Grotto Masters are not spokespersons for the Church of Satan, nor are Grottoes local representations of the Church of Satan. A Grotto's charter can be revoked for inactivity.
The Church of Satan does not "worship" or believe in Satan, nor do they believe in gods. LaVeyan Satanism follows the belief that one's self is their own "God". They do not believe in suppression of desire and human nature. In an interview with David Shankbone, High Priest Peter Gilmore stated "My real feeling is that anybody who believes in supernatural entities on some level is insane. Whether they believe in the Devil or God, they are abdicating reason". Gilmore defines the word "Satan": "Satan is a model or a mode of behavior. Satan in Hebrew means 'adversary' or 'opposer'; one who questions."
Gilmore went on to add "Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, 'It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!'"
The Nine Satanic Statements
The Nine Satanic Statements outline what "Satan" represents in the Church of Satan:
01 Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.
02 Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams.
03 Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit.
04 Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates.
05 Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
06 Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires.
07 Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his "divine spiritual and intellectual development", has become the most vicious animal of all.
08 Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.
09 Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years.
The Nine Satanic Sins
The Nine Satanic Sins are regarded as:
05 Herd Conformity
06 Lack of Perspective
07 Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies
08 Counterproductive Pride
09 Lack of Aesthetics
The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth
01 Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
02 Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
03 When in another's lair, show them respect or else do not go there.
04 If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy.
05 Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
06 Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
07 Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
08 Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
09 Do not harm little children.
10 Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
11 When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they don’t stop, destroy them.
Pentagonal Revisionism is a plan consisting of five major goals written in 1988 by founder Anton Szandor LaVey:
- Social stratification — "No one should be protected from the effects of his own stupidity."
- Strict taxation of all churches — "The productive, the creative, the resourceful should be subsidized. So long as the useless and incompetent are getting paid, they should be heavily taxed."
- No tolerance for religious beliefs secularized and incorporated into law and order issues — "Amnesty should be considered for anyone in prison because of their alleged 'influence' upon the actual perpetrator of the crime. Everyone is influenced in what he or she does. Scapegoating has become a way of life, a means of survival for the unfit. As an extension of the Judeo-Christian cop-out of blaming the Devil for everything, criminals can gain leniency, even praise, by placing the blame on a convenient villain. Following the Satanic creed of "Responsibility to the responsible", in a Satanic society, everyone must experience the consequences of their own actions—for good or ill."
- Development and production of artificial human companions — "An economic 'godsend' which will allow everyone "power" over someone else. Polite, sophisticated, technologically feasible slavery. And the most profitable industry since T.V. and the computer."
- The opportunity for anyone to live within a total environment of their choice, with mandatory adherence to the aesthetic and behavioral standards of same — "Privately owned, operated and controlled environments as an alternative to homogenized and polyglot ones. The freedom to insularize oneself within a social milieu of personal well-being. An opportunity to feel, see, and hear that which is most aesthetically pleasing, without interference from those who would pollute or detract from that option."
These goals have a secondary purpose, as stated by the author, to allow non-Satanists to determine their alignment with Satanist "attitudes." Thus, the goals arguably serve as a litmus test for non-Satanists, more so than as a compendium of the Satanist purpose. Since the "goals" cross ideological boundaries into economic (taxation) and technological (human companions), they seemingly expand the scope of Satanism to include non-ideological purposes. However, as "goals", Pentagonal Revisionism is not specifically a statement of dogma but rather the application of Satanist dogma to current social/economic conditions with the resultant five "goals" that stand out where Satanism can do the most good, i.e. act as a rally cry for members. Other texts, such as The Satanic Bible, also by LaVey, serve the most specifically as a reference for Satanic dogma.
Regardless of the political connotations behind the first three "goals", the Church does not advocate any one political party or ideology.In his essay "A Map for the Misdirected", high priest Peter H. Gilmore stated, "As has been said many times before, one’s politics are up to each individual member, and most of our members are political pragmatists. They support political candidates and movements whose goals reflect their own practical needs and desires. Our members span an amazing political spectrum, which includes but is not limited to: Libertarians, Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Reform Party members, Independents, Capitalists, Socialists, Communists, Stalinists, Leninists, Trotskyites, Maoists, Zionists, Monarchists, Fascists, Anarchists, and just about anything else you could possibly imagine. It is up to each member to apply Satanism and determine what political means will reach his/her ends, and they are each solely responsible for this decision. Freedom and responsibility—must be a novel concept for those who aren’t Satanists. We take it in stride. Members who demand conformity from other members to their particular political fetish are welcomed to depart."
Monday, November 5, 2007
Satanism: An interview with Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore
Peter H. Gilmore: "Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, “It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!” So you then have to make a decision that places yourself at the center of your own subjective universe, because of course we can’t have any kind of objective contact with everything that exists. That’s rather arrogant and delusional..."
In the 1980's and the 1990's there were multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children or non-consenting adults in the context of Satanic rituals that has come to be known as The Satanic Panic. In the United States, the Kern County child abuse cases, McMartin preschool trial and the West Memphis 3 cases garnered worldwide media coverage. One case took place in Jordan, Minnesota, when children made allegations of manufacturing child pornography, ritualistic animal sacrifice, coprophagia, urophagia and infanticide, at which point the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted. Twenty-four adults were arrested and charged with acts of sexual abuse, child pornography and other crimes related to satanic ritual abuse; only three went to trial with two acquittals and one conviction. Supreme Court Justice Scalia noted in a discussion of the case, "there is no doubt that some sexual abuse took place in Jordan; but there is no reason to believe it was as widespread as charged," and cited the repeated, coercive techniques used by the investigators as damaging to the investigation.
One of the most visible Satanic organizations—though one that was never a suspect or charged in any of the Satanic Panic cases—is the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey. Members of the Church, such as Peter H. Gilmore, Peggy Nadramia, Boyd Rice, Adam Parfrey, Diabolos Rex, and musician King Diamond, were active in media appearances to refute allegations of criminal activity and the FBI would later issue an official report debunking the criminal conspiracy theories of this time.
Gilmore feels Satanists are often misunderstood or misrepresented. LaVey's teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality, with influence from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand; while its rituals and magic draw heavily from occultists such as Aleister Crowley. They do not worship—nor believe in—the Devil or a Christian notion of Satan. The word "Satan" comes from the Hebrew word for "adversary" and originated from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel. Church of Satan adherents see themselves as truth-seekers, adversaries and skeptics of the religious world around them.
On a windy October day in Central Park, Wikinews reporter David Shankbone sat down with the High Priest of the Church, Peter H. Gilmore, who has led LaVey's congregation of Satanists since his passing in 1997 (he became the High Priest in 2001). They discussed the beliefs of the Church, current events, LaVey's children and how Satanism applies to life and the world.
Theistic Satanism ('devil worship')
David Shankbone: What is your relationship to Theistic Satanists?
Peter H. Gilmore: We don’t think they are Satanists. They are devil worshipers, as far as I’m concerned.
DS: There is one in New York who does a lot of websites.
PG: Diane Vera? She’s a kook.
DS: She’s also an editor on Wikipedia. I contacted her, but I never received a response.
PG: My real feeling is that anybody who believes in supernatural entities on some level is insane. Whether they believe in The Devil or God, they are abdicating reason. If they really believe they are in communication with some sort of interventionist deity…you know, somebody can be a deist and think that maybe there was some sort of force that launched everything and now has nothing to do with it. That’s not anything you can prove. It’s also not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of making a choice between whether there was something or there wasn’t. I think maybe that is the most rational decision. I think science makes it look otherwise, but I don’t think somebody like that is mad. But anybody who believes in some kind of existence in deity or spirits or anything that intervenes in their life is not somebody I hold in any kind of esteem.
DS: Have you had much interaction with the theistic Satanists?
PG: No, I just have complete contempt for them and have no contact with them at all. If anybody does contact me and say they are a theistic Satanist we tell them to take a hike. [Laughs].
DS: Do you know what they think of you?
PG: I have no idea and I could not care. I consider it lunatic and it’s Christian. If you want to believe in an existing devil then you probably believe in an existing God and you’re really just a Christian heretic, you’re not a Satanist.
DS: What do you think is their motivation to worship a Christian Satan?
PG: I really wouldn’t know, I’d have to talk to them, but my supposition would be that they want to feel they are naughty on some level. If they really believe in these existing deities, then they have to decide what the values of them are. The Gnostics used to think that Jehovah was bad; the demiurge, and that the real God was something more in touch with what they thought humanity should be like. So, maybe these people think that Jehovah is evil and Satan is good. I just think it’s equally silly whether you believe in an Easter Bunny or Zeus…it’s just…irrational.
Church of Satan
David Shankbone: How would you define the word Satan?
Peter Gilmore: Satan is a model or a mode of behavior. Satan in Hebrew means “adversary” or “opposer”; one who questions. Since we generally are skeptical atheists, we question all spirituality. We believe that carnality is all that exists and the spiritual dimensions are fictional. So we stand against eastern and western religions that promote fictions, according to our perspectives. So we are adversaries. Satan to us is an exemplar. When we look at how he is portrayed by Mark Twain in Letters from the Earth, or Byron, or Milton’s Paradise Lost, he ends up being an inspirational symbol to us. We say we would like to be more like that. We will not bow our heads; we will be independent. We will constantly question.
DS: What is the Church of Satan?
PG: Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, “It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!” So you then have to make a decision that places yourself at the center of your own subjective universe, because of course we can’t have any kind of objective contact with everything that exists. That’s rather arrogant and delusional, people who try to put things that way. So by making yourself the primary value in your life, you’re your own God. By being your own God, you are comfortable about making your own decisions about what to value. What’s positive to you, is good. What harms you, is evil. You extend it to things that you cherish and the people that you cherish. So it’s actually very easy to see that it’s a self-centered philosophy.
But it also requires responsibility, since you are taking on for yourself the complete onus for your personal success or failure. You can’t be praying to a God or blaming a devil, or anyone else, for that matter, for what happens to you. It’s on your own head. That’s a challenge for most people. Most people tend to really feel that they want some kind of external support, that they are outward looking and might want some sort of supernatural parental figure, or even some sort of existing governmental authority, existing in their life.
DS: Why do you think people are like that?
PG: I think there are actually two kinds of people. There are the kind of people who need that, and the kind that don’t. The kind that don’t are the smaller percentage of our species. It’s as simple as that.
DS: Why do you think there are those who need to have a God or supernatural parental figure?
PG: I think it’s natural to them. I don’t think it is something developmental, but that it’s just part of their own nature. That they feel a need for something above them, whether it be human or supernatural. And they can’t get away from that.
DS: In the history of a lot of religions, a doctrine was developed by people who were oppressed as a way to explain their lot, and that their oppressors were going to “get theirs in the end.” That’s where Karl Marx was saying religion is the opiate of the masses, because it creates complacency with oppression now because in some other ethereal dimension equality will be achieved.
"We Satanists look at the universe in this wonderful context of that’s what we are part of and that’s really exciting. We don’t need to single out any special part of it unless you find a place you really enjoy. The place you were born, perhaps, or the place you grew up."
PG: Well, see the idea of the “God” comes from the oppressors, and it’s a way of controlling folks, by saying, “I have communication with this authority figure but you can't. I’m special.” That’s where priesthoods come in, but also governmental authorities and parties, let’s say the Communist Party or the Nazi Party at one point. They have the key to the way the universe should exist, and everyone needs to be subservient to them and take what they say as holy writ whether they are actually claiming it is divine or not. That’s why so many of those fascist and totalitarian systems function like religions, because they put the leaders and whatever they wrote as some kind of scriptural authority that is not supposed to be debated or examined, but simply swallowed whole.
Now some people might come up with a religious belief that may counter an existing system that will help them feel better about their underdog status, and then sometimes that develops into a major religion and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is crushed and snuffed out. That’s natural to our species, that people have to find a way for dealing with their existence.
The Satanist, we look at our existence and say, “We’re not going to look for something outside of ourselves. We’re going to be proactive." We’ll go out there and try to make a change, and we’ll deal pragmatically with whatever life situations we have. So the Satanist, regardless of where he is living and under what kind of conditions, he is going to try to find a way to make his life as good as it can be based upon his own abilities and the world around him. We don’t expect everybody in Satanism to be a genius, we expect people to take whatever they have by nature, and do the best with it. So in that sense, we challenge people who are our members; the only idealism we have is directed at ourselves. We try to look at ourselves and try to realize what our potential possibly could be, what talents do we have. And then we try to take those, through whatever work is needed, to take those as far as we can.
DS: What would be their motivation for doing something for society and not for themselves? Would there even be a motivation?
PG: Oh, absolutely! It’s up for you to choose your own preferences. By being self-centered you can select your own values.
DS: Like, I get value out of what I am doing for Wikimedia, even though it’s for free, there is still a value…
PG: Absolutely! What you’re doing, David, is a Satanic example. The whole point of Satanism is again to choose your values, and if you become somebody that really feels you want to work for hospitals for free—a number of our members work for animal organizations because we generally cherish animals and think they are far less polluted than people with values that are anti- their nature. So, Satanists are often very giving.
Because our values come from the self, people who try to tell themselves that they must be selfless, they can’t really understand why you would be giving if you’re a selfish person. But I think that’s more a revelation of their own natures, meaning if they didn’t have some external force making them being nice to people, they would be bastards! We Satanists, because we are relaxed, we love our lives, we love people who enrich our lives and things that are around us that we enjoy, we can be really giving. Gods can be beneficent! So when you are your own God, you can be happy to give!
DS: How would a Satanist define evil?
PG: Evil is whatever is harmful to you and the things you most cherish. It’s that simple.
DS: Some people have a compulsion to rape, and it harms them to not act upon it. If it was harmful for somebody to not go out and rape somebody, how would a Satanist address that situation?
PG: We then have to go into the realm of society, and we believe that as animals that are social, we have a social contract. When we deal with other people, our approach is that we want to have maximum freedom, and maximum responsibility without infringing on people as much as possible. So we would set up laws so we really don’t have to spend all of our time defending our territory, being in some kind of castle keep situation. So anyone who is going to go out and assault undeserving people, is someone we would deem a criminal and have them locked up or dealt with in whatever way seems most appropriate, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s drugs, or if they can’t control themselves, execution.
DS: Capital punishment is not antithetical to Satanism.
PG: Not necessarily, but essentially we would rather shrink from the government having the power to take you and murder you, because we don’t have a lot of confidence in people being rational, or being truthful, and we have seen so often—especially with DNA testing—that a lot of people have been jailed and accused of murder and they were wrong. That’s wrongful. So it’s not this broad, “We accept capital punishment and it’s fine!”
DS: “Slaughter them all!” [Laughs]
PG: Right! But there are certain situations where it would be appropriate. Say, when Colin Ferguson shot all those people. There should be absolutely no time wasted on that.
DS: But should it be the government doing it?
PG: I think the government can have the ability but under control. There needs to be checks and balances. That whole idea in the United States that has come from so many other past forms of government is something we feel is necessary. We don’t want any form of megalomaniacal government with absolute power that can do anything willy-nilly to its citizens. Satanists are generally Libertarians. They may choose their specific political alliances because it might better whatever they are trying to do in their lives, but essentially most of us are fairly libertarian people. We would like to have government as minimal as possible.
DS: Do you have a 10 Commandments?
PG: We have the 9 Satanic Statements, but we don’t have commandments that are laws that are like sins. We have eleven sins that are kind of behaviors that we don’t want to be doing. For us, we try to create a situation where we have some social interaction with people that can be beneficial for ourselves. But we don’t set up these kinds of laws that somebody is going to punish you for. So with Satanism they are things where you kick yourself and say, “Why did I do something stupid? I shouldn’t do that next time.” It’s better for you. It doesn’t matter about anybody else on that level: you’ve got to not be an ass.
DS: Are there certain sites or places that are important to the Church of Satan?
PG: No, we don’t really have any holy ground or anything like that. For the Satanist, if there is any kind of architecture you like, or a place you like to visit—some people like places with devil themes or where there is historical interest. But there is nothing particularly Satanic about any location.
DS: No place with a natural significance?
PG: Well, it’s the universe. We look at it like Carl Sagan and we are star stuff, we are made of the stuff of exploding stars. We Satanists look at the universe in this wonderful context of that’s what we are part of and that’s really exciting. We don’t need to single out any special part of it unless you find a place you really enjoy. The place you were born, perhaps, or the place you grew up. Some people are interested in a historical figure and say the place where a castle was built or a particular battle was fought, or some individual took a last stand.
DS: If someone wanted to explore your beliefs, what should they read?
PG: The Satanic Bible is the place to start, because that is the foundational literature for the organization. All of Anton LaVey’s books are worth reading. The Satanic Witch is his compendium of Lesser Magic, which is our concept for how you manipulate people on a day-to-day basis to get them to do things in your favor. It’s geared toward women because we think it’s fine for women to use their sexuality to get what they want. It’s part of nature, so go ahead! Dress for success! But it works for guys, too. Whatever you have to charm people. Glamor is worthwhile, so The Satanic Witch is useful for that. He’s got collections of essays, too, and The Satanic Rituals is more for a formal setting, where different cultures were examined to see what kind of diabolical imagery was in them. Rituals can be fun to do in a large group setting; but they’re not anything you have to do. Here’s a Russian one, here’s a French one; here’s a German one. Here’s a Black Mass—what would that be like? In Satanism a Black Mass is not something we are running out and eager to do because as far as we’re concerned, Christianity is a dead horse, unless in your life you feel there has been this really negative Christian influence that you need to purge, it’s just kind of pointless.
And my book, The Satanic Scriptures, is worth reading, because it ties up where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. So if you only picked two, I would say read The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Scriptures, because then you’ll have the book ends of the over forty year span of the Church of Satan.
On current events and politics
DS: I’d like to give you some political situations and ask how a Satanist would handle them.
PG: Okay, but I want to preface that and say we don’t really determine people’s political backgrounds. We feel that each Satanist who is a member of the church must make those decisions based upon their own personal values, so there can be a wide range of answers depending upon the people you talk to, whether it be abortion, governmental decisions of going to war…
DS: You can just speak for yourself, then. If you were President—
DS: —How would you handle the Israeli-Palestinian issue?
PG: I don’t have a solution for that. If I did, I would be out there telling people about it, because I don’t really see myself as a politician or arbiter of people’s interactions with each other. I can see that there are issues on both sides of the fence and that when people are fighting over a territory, generally speaking the folks who have the power win and then they write the histories and the world moves on. But we have a situation here where there are bigger players behind the smaller nations, and it keeps this conflict enduring. So they will either have to have compromise and discussion, or one side will have to destroy the other side and “win” and then move on, which is usually the way the world works.
DS: Where do they violate Satanic principles in that conflict?
PG: Each have their own goals. I would say killing people who are just innocent folks, that’s against Satanic philosophy. Terrorism, specifically, is against Satanism because we feel that justice is important, and that is giving people what they deserve. Blowing up somebody who is just wandering around is not a just approach. That’s something against the social contract, and we would oppose people engaging in terrorism.
DS: What about Same-sex marriage?
PG: Absolutely support it.
PG: I think people should practice birth control rather than use abortion as an easy way out. Again, the concept of being responsible for yourself and not to willy-nilly get pregnant unless you are really interested in carrying forth the child. Since we have overpopulation generally speaking, I think abortion is something fine to be used, but I think it should not be used as a means of cleaning up after people’s irresponsible sexual activity.
DS: Why do you not consider it just another operation? Some people run or exercise not realizing their limitations and pull a muscle or need an operation for that.
PG: I would look at it as if I was the fetus, I wouldn’t want to be snuffed out. [Laughs]
DS: So is the fetus a sentient being?
PG: Not necessarily, it’s just a piece of tissue and most human life doesn’t really have that much value on a grand scale. In the universe, individual life is practically meaningless, it’s sort of like droplets in a wave that crashes against a rock. Who cares about the droplets? The way life works is it is making large amounts of species of whatever it is, and it keeps moving biologically. I would just think that if it was myself as the fetus, I have a potential to become the person that I am. I wouldn’t want to be snuffed out.
DS: When do you think life begins?
PG: Life is there, whether it is conscious and valuable is debatable.
DS: You mean just on a cellular level it is functioning?
PG: Yeah, it is life. Sperms and eggs are alive, they’re organic, you can’t say that is not life. But what I think you’re looking for is the idea that Christians wants to say from conception. If people want to have abortions it really doesn’t bother me, I just think they really should be more responsible. It just makes more sense. Contraception is easy!
DS: A lot of people don’t like contraception.
PG: And a lot of people are morons and irresponsible, so—
DS: But then doesn’t responsibility come down to defining it for yourself in Satanism? Your statements seem to come down to a baseline level of what is responsibility? What is innocence? Whereas you were saying earlier that a lot of these things are self-referentially defined.
PG: Right, right. We allow people to make that definition for themselves, absolutely. But for me personally, you try to deal with other people around you so that you don’t make their lives miserable unless there is some real overriding reason that would have to happen.
DS: Who are you supporting for President?
PG: Nobody, yet! [Laughs]. Right now, there is not really one candidate that speaks to me more than others. I generally feel that so many candidates are lacking in so many ways, that it really IS the lesser of multiple evils that you are picking. I like the old Lovecraftian t-shirt: “Cthulu for President! Why choose the lesser of two evils?” [Laughs]
DS: If you had a choice between Giuliani and Clinton?
PG: I would probably go with Hillary Clinton. Giuliani was acting like such a fascist before 9/11. He was trying to use his Catholicism to control art that was exhibited in this city. It was unbelievable! His popularity was really down. It wasn’t until 9/11 that he stepped up and did things that were required to be a leader and make people feel more comfortable that his ratings shot back up, but he was really not somebody who was well regarded back then.
DS: That’s talked about now more than it used to be.
PG: It should be now that he is running for President. People need to mention that!
DS: It’s a question of how much it will penetrate the American consciousness that has mythologized him.
PG: That’s the thing: he really was so mythologized at that point. We build heroes, and so many people really do deal with idealistic portrayals and not realistic ones. We have to examine these things all the time and be careful.
Religious and Satanic symbols
DS: Could you explain your logo?
PG: The Sigil of Baphomet. Heavy metal people say “Bapho-MAY!” Because they want to take it from the French Templars, where it originally came from the trials of them. But we explain it as there is a goat face in the center of a five-pointed star. The goat face represents carnality. In ancient Egypt goats were considered representations as god symbols of lust, and we think lust is an important factor of biology that keeps humanity going so we value that. The five-pointed star really comes from the Pythagoreans. That is the one figure in which every element is within the golden mean of each other. It’s this wonderful mathematical symbol of perfection, organic perfection specifically. Since we are organic life and enjoy the idea of perfecting ourselves, that star is right for us in there and it perfectly fits the goat head inside. Now around it are two circles, one at the tip of the points of the star and one outside. In that are Hebrew characters starting at the bottom and going counter-clockwise spelling Leviathan. In Hebrew mythology, Leviathan was the great dragon of the abyss, this powerful Earth figure that even Yahweh was afraid of. So all these things taken together creates a symbol that Anton LaVey identified with Satanism specifically. When he started the Church of Satan, usually upside down crosses were considered Satanic, and he saw that these different elements and felt this was a positive symbol you could tie to the Satanism he was creating.
DS: So much of the symbology references a lot of myths and superstitions, yet you’re antithetical to that. How do you explain how those two notions comport?
PG: We have this approach that we take the dualities and find a third side to it, a way of integrating. You might find that even in Marxist theory, a way of finding opposites and coming with a new synthesis of the different thesis and antithesis. So ritual is natural to people, because humans have a conceptual consciousness. Symbols let us hold much more information in conscious focus, more so than just keeping them separately. So symbols are something we function with. It’s part of our nature. So using ritual activities that are symbolic and have deep meaning to us is common to our species if you look at our history from cave paintings up to every civilization currently existing.
DS: It’s almost difficult to come up with a symbol that doesn't reference a superstition in some way.
PG: Absolutely! So we feel that since they are often used to support a fiction, why not let it be used to explore the inner part of our nature. For us, when we do ritual—which we call greater magic—we call it an intellectual decompression chamber. It’s a place where we release our emotions, any emotions that are hindering us, and we use the symbolism we find most stimulating. We leave it in the ritual chamber. You enjoy the self-transformational psychodrama in the ritual where you release any emotions that are hindering yourself and then you go outside and basically pursue your life, being rational and doing what you need to do to make your life as rich as it can be.
The Iraq War: A Satanic perspective
DS: Do you think our pursuing the War in Iraq is an example of killing innocent people?
PG: Oh, of course innocent people are being killed in almost any war. It doesn’t matter if it is just Iraq, because there are civilian populations who are caught between these people with agendas, and those civilians just want to live their lives.
DS: Who are the innocents?
PG: Not being involved in the particular conflict. If you are just living your life and doing what you need to do to survive, have a job, bringing in food for your family; that’s being an innocent person.
DS: How has the war in Iraq affected your worldview?
PG: It hasn’t changed it in the least. I see it as human behavior as usual. History is full of aggressors. Iraq to me is an interesting place where there was a totalitarian holding in check religious factions, and now that cap has been removed, the religious factions want to destroy each other. I think it’s a lesson for most people to say look at how these religions were important to people who are always looking above themselves to be regulated, and they found an Earthly regulator in Saddam Hussein, and now that that regulator who actually existed is gone, they are each looking to their own interpretations of their own deities and wanting to slaughter each other. It just shows how poisonous fundamentalist fanaticism can be, which to me is the most dangerous thing in all of human society.
DS: That is what you consider the greatest threat to humanity?
PG: Yes, any fundamentalist fanaticism is a vast threat. I’m looking for humanity to have a secular, pluralistic culture. People should be able to follow whatever fantasies or religions they want, as long as they don’t impose them on other people and force other people into doing things based upon whatever kind of holy writ they have. So the biggest threat to that are these fundamentalists who want to force people into their belief systems. They want to destroy people who have sexual activity they don’t think is appropriate according to their texts. It will be interesting to see in the future if people will wake up to this threat and decide to somehow corral that kind of behavior, defang people like that who are basically on a jihad, whether they be Christians or Muslims or any other religion, because we’ve seen in the past the Catholics were torturing people to death in the Inquisition, then the Reformation happened and different denominations and sects were killing each other. Heretics were being slaughtered. So this is not something just one religion is guilty of.
On New York City
DS: How do you feel about Hell’s Kitchen, where you live, being called Clinton?
PG: I despise that. It should stick to what it really is, and it’s Hell’s Kitchen.
DS: When you see how New York is changing around you—I’ve lived here for close to seven years, and even when I moved here it was very different.
PG: I like the sleaze, I like the history, I like to see New York being this amazing range of the highest and the lowest and I don’t think New York should be cleaned up and Disneyfied.
DS: But it is.
PG: It’s getting there. I did a Black Mass for the BBC in the old Hellfire Club, and that’s gone and Apple is putting up a store in that neighborhood. [Laughs] Everybody just feels safe walking around all the time now. There’s still some parts of Chinatown that are still pretty rough.
DS: Where do you think the culture is going to go? Is the sanitized version here to stay?
PG: No, because if you look at anything that at one point is sleazy, at one it was new and spiffy and wonderful. So, at this point, New York is Manhattanland, it’s for tourists and we’ve made this almost Las Vegas simulacrum of the whole thing. But it will change. As soon as the money isn’t worth pumping into it to keep up the façade, all of the roughness around the edges will creep back in. It’s still here, it just hides in the daytime. There’s still all kinds of weird crime going on in the city when you watch the news.
DS: You see that in all the old Rust Belt cities. Reading, Pennsylvania was one of the most dangerous cities I’ve ever walked around in, and I thought, “This is what 1982 New York must have felt like.”
PG: Yeah, I moved down to New York in 1980—that was pretty rough! [Laughs]
DS: A friend of mine once said if you took someone from 1982 New York and you transplanted them into 2007 New York, the first thing they would say is, “Where did all these people come from?!” That the streets just used to be barren back then.
PG: I'm like that too. Where I live my view of the sunset is gone because two new luxury towers have gone up. They’re building two additional ones. I don’t know who these people are or where they get all their money because they are charging $6,000 a month for these apartments, and I’m thinking who is spending all this money and wandering around the city like it’s a pedestrian mall that could be in any kind of suburbia.
DS: Marilyn Manson is a member?
PG: Yes, he’s a member who has been given an honorary priesthood. When asked about what Satanism is he can be very articulate in explaining it. But his own music is his own art. His stage shows are his own, and they don’t really exemplify Satanism in particular.
DS: It’s more of a character.
PG: Yeah, he’s created a character. We say people forget about past orthodoxies, something that was culturally popular or permeating at one point or another, people forget about that. What Brian Warner did was he looked at David Bowie and Alice Cooper and re-created and repackaged them, and made a fortune.
DS: Is he an active member?
PG: He’s an honorary priest, but he does his own thing. If asked about our philosophies he can explain it. The interesting thing is when his first album came out the two of us met on a panel that we were doing about racism in music that was being sponsored by Seconds Magazine. Nobody knew who Brian Warner was at that point, and he came up to me and gave me a CD and he was all in costume. But he said "I heard about you and I wanted to meet you," so we moved aside and talked for a little while and I learned he really did understand Satanism. I told Anton LaVey that this guy was pretty smart and this gimmick is going to do well; it’s clever. He’s using this serial killer and Hollywood star combination, and he’s a smart guy and creating his own persona that is probably going to be successful. It took off immediately, and when Marilyn Manson was out on tour in California he asked if he could meet Anton LaVey and he was impressed. He is a really sweet and sincere guy, which has nothing to do with what all of the world sees in just his act and his art.
On the church after Anton LaVey
DS: Does the Church of Satan have relationships with other churches?
PG: Not at all. We’re not ecumenical.
DS: It would seem there are pagans or humanist religions that follow your general philosophy.
PG: I wouldn’t say that. Most pagan religions are theistic on one level or another. They generally think their deities exist in some part. We don’t believe Satan exists as a deity. I think there are some pagans who may look at their Gods and Goddesses as archetypes only, and in that sense that would be closer to our position because you can look at the symbol of Satan as an archetype. But, we generally don’t feel we have any relation to any kind of religious organization.
"I’m looking for humanity to have a secular, pluralistic culture. People should be able to follow whatever fantasies or religions they want, as long as they don’t impose them on other people and force other people into doing things based upon whatever kind of holy writ they have."
DS: What is the membership numbers for the Church of Satan?
PG: We never give out numbers. The reason for that our founder came up with and I agree with him and keep to his policy: if people think there are too few of us, they tend to not want to take us seriously. If they think there are too many of us, they think we’re a threat. There was even a point back during the Satanic Panic in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when there was governmental legislation proposed to ban Satanism because they thought there were all these metal heads out there sacrificing babies, doing drugs and making child pornography. Of course, now we know, it was mostly people who were borderline Christian evangelists pretending, but then accusing their own family members and getting them put in jail, or acting as therapists and most of those people have been sued and properly censured since then.
DS: Has the church thrived after LaVey’s passing?
PG: It has. Partially because we are taking advantage of technology with the Internet and global media; our website gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day and literature keeps getting translated into many different languages the world over. My own book, The Satanic Scriptures, the hardcover came out in April and the paperback is coming out this month. I’ve already got five different languages coming out and I’m negotiating for others. We are thriving, we have many members.
DS: What is your book about?
PG: It’s a collection of my essays I’ve written over the past twenty years talking about Satanic philosophy, how it’s applied. I talk about music since I am by training a composer; I went to NYU. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in music composition, mostly focusing on orchestral work. One conception in the book I wanted to dispel is the stereotype that Satanism is always associated with Metal and the cookie monster voice. That's Satanism? No.
DS: It’s not all Gene Loves Jezebel sounding.
PG: No. Satanic music is specific to each person. So to me, Satanic music is the symphony, which to me is the highest art form. So Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovich — to me that’s some of the most Satanic music ever written because the architecture is there, the expressivity is there; the reflection on the human condition is all present and it’s not idealistic. It’s mostly questioning or showing what a human is capable of doing. And I love architecture. Cathedrals are wonderful. I have no hatred of those because they are put to religious use. They have symbols on them, but I know those are just symbols. I love skyscrapers too.
Anton LaVey's children and estate
DS: Do Dr. LaVey’s children have anything to do with the church at all?
PG: His son Xerxes is a member because he asked to be. We generally don’t let people under 18 join. We used to let people whose parents allowed them to join, but because people are so litigious we changed that. We just don’t want to take the chance that some parents say, “Yes, it’s okay if my kid joins the Church of Satan,” and then decides that’s the reason they can’t control their kid. We’re just not willing to go there. But if our members have children who are interested, they can participate and become members, but that’s the only way you can if you’re not legally an adult. So Xerxes could become a member because his mother was High Priestess at one point, and still remains a member.
DS: But not Zeena?
PG: No, she left years ago. She’s not very bright and is very jealous. She and her paramour, Nikolas Shreck, got married I think. They wanted to take the Church of Satan over at one point and wanted Anton LaVey to retire, but he was a feisty guy and said "Hell no!" So they quit in high dudgeon and ran off to Europe and said, “America is corrupt and horrible and we’re going to Fortress Europa!” They played with being Nazi occultists, which is kind of funny because both of them have Jewish blood. They’re just like clowns. They then joined the Temple of Set, which was an organization that split off from the Church of Satan years ago, in 1975, when Michael Aquino—
DS: Based on the Egyptian god?
PG: Yeah, and they’re theists. They believe that Set exists and that their priests can commune with him and that their founder is the voice of Set. So, it’s like, good that they left for housecleaning. But Zeena went and joined them and became High Priestess because Michael Aquino has this Anton LaVey obsession, which is obvious since he wrote a book about him that’s about a thousand pages, so he made her the High Priestess of their organization. Then she left to form an even more orthodox Setian group called “The Storm”, which to us is just funny. Such theatrics. His oldest daughter Karla isn’t a very bright girl. She kind of hung around the background and once in a while she would come out to speak in public and support her father. When Xerxes was born she kind of got miffed because she wasn’t the center of attention. Karla is also jealous type. She withdrew from her father, which hurt him a lot.
DS: How did the legal wrangling surrounding his estate pan out?
PG: They finally settled. What ended up happening is he had written a will. Anton LaVey’s idea was that if he acknowledged he is going to die, then he’d be giving in to death, so he didn’t want to go to an attorney and make out a will. He was very feisty and had his own perspective on that. So he finally wrote a will out and signed it, but it wasn’t notarized and there were no witnesses. So when it came to court they said it wasn’t good enough. They basically split everything up between the three children, so Karla and Zeena and Xerxes all got part of the estate.
DS: Who received the copyright to The Satanic Bible?
PG: The estate. The money that comes in from that gets split up and goes to the three kids. Also there is a small percentage that goes to LaVey’s companion, Diane Hegarty; she says LaVey. But they were never married and had a falling out in the early 1980’s. She went off and left Satanism and sued him for palimony and he had to sell his house because of all of that, and he sold it to an old friend and member. Diane got a pile of money and she got a tiny percentage of the books that had been written up to that point. Every once in a while she comes creeping in off the periphery to say, “Ah! I’m Diane LaVey!” and it’s like, you were Diane Hegarty and you were kind of involved in it, but before the Satanic Panic happened you left and had nothing to do with it. She was never someone who wrote or said anything of interest. She was just the pretty blonde wife of Anton LaVey. She was a nice figurehead, but wasn’t of much use beyond that.