Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wiccans and Neo-Pagans and Satanists, Oh My!

The problem with the word "Satanic" is that it has so many meanings and connotations. Whereas there have been some who have been swept up by the impression of serving the Evil One/Ones, Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, et cetera, and accordingly committing heinous crimes ("the Devil made me do it," see also Faust and his pact with Mephistopheles), Satanism as an organized expression of spirituality/religion/whatever is somewhat different and spans various movements, from The Order of the Nine Angels (deeply secret, condoning human sacrifice) to The Temple of Set (where Set, previously the Ancient Egyptian devil-figure, is considered to be the one who helps humans "become" (kheper) or to come into their own) to some people in The Church of Satan (where "Satan" is a symbol rather than a being) - most being antinomian and proud of it. Some of them, such as The Church of Satan, establish themselves consciously as a foil to Christianity and Judaism. Others do not.

Those that do not are usually part of the so-called "left-hand path" of Western occultism. The difference between the "left-hand path" (abbreviated as "LHP") and the "right-hand path" (abbreviated as "RHP") is that the RHP believes in a person submitting to a higher power/to higher powers and curtailing one's activities whereas the LHP believes in following only one's own will. One may say that Aleister Crowley summed up the LHP with his oft-quoted quote: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" (The Book of the Law (also known as Liber AL and Liber AL vel Legis) I:40). LHP organizations are not all pagan (polytheistic) but most are part of occultism or esotericism.

The Temple of Set may even be said to be monotheistic or monolatrous with their focus being on Set. In this case, Set is not a symbol or a tool to be used: Set is believed to be an actual divine being who leads and guides the organization through a priesthood he has assembled. It may be called "Satanic" in that Set is the devil-figure of Ancient Egyptian polytheism (although Setians, as members of the Temple of Set may be called, believe this to have been an aberration) and that it is a LHP organization, which, in its elevation of humanity as divine or potentially divine and because of its antinomian character, can be considered Satanic or anti-God.

In order to give these movements a clear name with which they can be identified without confusing them with other varieties of Satanic movements, the term "Luciferian" is in common use among those who discuss or belong to this movement. This term comes from the name "Lucifer," which means "the bringer of light." Amongst many Christians (and those who believe in demons and other supernatural evil beings), "Lucifer" is a name associated with Satan. Some believe it is another name of Satan; others believe it refers to a separate infernal being. Some may see him as Muslims view Iblees: an angel who was cast out from heaven for disobeying God; once upon a time, a good guy; not, a bad guy. Luciferians claim that Lucifer, who has been misunderstood or falsely maligned by Christians, brings the light of enlightenment and self-fulfillment and progress and coming into one's own or fulfilling one's potential/destiny, which can be accomplished by discovering, developing, and furthering one's self or one's will. For some, they did not choose Lucifer specifically because he is viewed as a fallen angel by Christians, but it certainly is a happy coincidence for them. In the sense that Luciferians reject God's supremacy and focus, instead, on their own deification, and that they honor (as a deity or as a symbol) a figure regularly considered to be a demon or Satan himself, one can call Luciferians "Satanic," although some Luciferians will vociferously contest that label, seeing Satanism (in its more sensationalistic forms) as nothing but juvenile attempts to play with the occult, get a reaction from a shocked society, and indulge in petty lusts. (Many in The Temple of Set, for example, have a very low opinion of the organization and members of The Church of Satan and its various off-shoots.)

In the above cases, "Satanic" deals with the organization's beliefs about and involvement with Satan or other entities considered to be evil.

(Tangent: By this definition, is The Church of Satan a Satanic organization? Despite the name, one can argue that The Church of Satan is, in fact, not Satanic. According to some in The Church of Satan, "Satan" is but a symbol of one's desires and will. Their rites are a conscious mockery of Christianity. As such, because they do not believe in Satan but obviously believe in God (why would they try to mock God if they believed He did not exist?) and are Christians (why desecrate and mock Christian objects and Christianity if they do not believe Christianity to be true?), The Church of Satan is a heretical church of blatantly rebellious and offensive whiny Christians. Except unlike most heretics, who do not mean to be heretics, they mean to be heretics.)

Where does this leave Wiccans, neo-pagans, and other RHP-ers? Are they Satanic?

Here one enters into a very heated debated. Among some Christians, anything that rejects God's supremacy is Satanic. Similarly, anything that opposes God (personally or one of His institutions) is Satanic. The word "Satanic" has been used to characterize everything from those who are not of one's specific congregation or denomination to all those who do not belong to one's religion to all occultists to only those who somehow use an infernal being. Thus, some Christians will say all but Baptists/Methodists/Pentecostals/Episcopalians are Satanic. Or all but Christians are Satanic. Or witches and diviners and astrologers and palm-readers and members of Western Mysticism are Satanic. Or that members of The Church of Satan are Satanic.

In other words, anything "false" can be labelled as "Satanic" (in that it is considered to be involved with or from or guided by or serving Satan), and what matters is how lenient one may be with categorizing what is false and what is not completely true. If Seventh-day Adventists are simply wrong, some will label them as "Satanic." (As, in fact, some have done.) If Seventh-day Adventists have some things right but in other things are misguided, one can either be lenient and not label them as "Satanic" or one can consider this misguidedness as a sign of Satanism and label them, their truthiness notwithstanding, as "Satanic."

As such, depending on how one defines "Satanic," Wicca and other neo-pagan movements may or may not be Satanic.

From the perspective of various Christians organizations, neo-paganism and witchcraft are Satanic. They reject God. They reject Christianity/Judaism. They reject monotheism. As some see it, they go so far as to actively vilify/persecute/work against God and Christianity/Judaism and monotheism. (That there is an amount of ill will directed towards Christians and more traditional Jews cannot be denied, but these elements are part of the sociology of neo-paganism, not part of its theology or even religion. Furthermore, this is in no way universal.)

On the other hand, from the perspective of "Satanic" referring to LHP organizations or those that consciously deal with what they and others consider to be evil, they cannot be considered to be Satanic because they do not believe or deal with Satan (or any other evil demons) nor are they antinomian. There are rules, ethics, doctrines, standards, and morals among neo-pagans and their organizations. (Indeed, like other denominations of mainstream religions, various neo-pagan people and organizations become involved in very heated and acerbic debates, conflicts, and/or confrontations over these issues.) To label neo-pagans as "Satanic" because of a paradigm neo-pagans do not believe in would be unfair. To which some might respond: "Exactly. They do not accept our paradigm as true, so they are wrong, and hence they are Satanic."

So the debate basically boils down to two points:
1. In labelling neo-pagans, whose perspective should be considered: the perspective of those who are not neo-pagans or of those who are?

2. What does "Satanic" mean? Does it mean "unwittingly or knowingly dealing with or guided by or serving Satan" or "consciously dealing with Satan, believing like the rest that he is evil"?

You decide.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger David Drake said...

Well hello there. Speaking of Satan, I thank you kindly for the reciprocal link back to my blog. I ran across you blog via a mutual linked blog (don't recall which one) and immediately added you to my blogroll and appreciate you adding mine to yours.

The name "MrsSatan" is my pet name for Hillary Clinton, as I am sure you put that together. (although yes, just as you did, I prefer to be listed as 'David Drake').

Keep up the fine writing, and stay in touch.

At 8:40 AM, Anonymous adolfo velasquez said...

The problem with the wider definition of Satanism is that the word itself is so charged. A Christian may call me Satanic because I don't follow his traditions, but when people hear the word, they assume I sacrifice kittens.

On a personal note, I can't speak for all Wiccans, but I work for our creator. If a Christian calls me Satanic, then he hasn't recognized God's light in me, and must've turned his face from goodness.

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous The Rev. Jack Malebranche said...

1. In labelling neo-pagans, whose perspective should be considered: the perspective of those who are not neo-pagans or of those who are?

2. What does "Satanic" mean? Does it mean "unwittingly or knowingly dealing with or guided by or serving Satan" or "consciously dealing with Satan, believing like the rest that he is evil"?

If you allow a Satanist to be anyone who disagrees with a particular religious viewpoint, virtually anyone can be a Satanist. So it becomes pretty subjective and virtually meaningless.

Wouldn't it make more sense to define a Satanist as someone who...I don't know...calls himself a Satanist and adheres to an organized and established religion called Satanism?

Satanism, as it is actively practiced by Satanists, makes use of the old definition in the heretical sense, but expands it to cover much more than just adolescent blasphemy. It's not about believing in God and mocking him. Satanists actively oppose not the Christian god, but the conceptual foundations of Christianity (and many other religions). Satanism is about embracing the fleshly life - which parallels nicely with some Biblical references to Satan as being the 'prince of this world.'

Satan also translates to accuser or adversary, which also informs the philosophy of Satanism in a conceptual sense.

It is generally considered respectful in pluralistic societies to call people what they call themselves, and allow organized religions to define the boundaries of their own religions.

Satanism, in its organized sense, has been around for over 40 years. Its clearly defined and has members, clergy and spokespeople all over the world. I should know; I'm one of them. The Catholic Church defines Catholicism. The Church of Satan defines Satanism. It's as simple as that.

When used in a pejorative sense not referring to the religion Satanism, 'satanic' is usually not capitalized in common usage, which is how it is differentiated from Satanism as practiced by members of the Church of Satan.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home