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Satanism, History of
Satanism is a Christian heresy that includes the worship of Satan, the power of evil, plus those actions and attitudes held by orthodox Christian sects to be sinful. As seen in Satanism, most Christian theories concerning Satan and/or Satanism have their origins in Zoroastrianism. The twin concepts of good and evil come straight from Zoroastrianism. This may have speared the sparsely held belief that Christ and Satan are twin brothers. Many realize much Christian imagination has given Satanism its current status. After two thousand years Satanism has partially became a catchall for most everything which Christians do not like--the Devil. made me do it---including evil ideas, selfishness, sexuality, gluttony, and many other so-called vices. Others believe, for many Christians, Satanism has become an excuse for the lack of self-control.
Needless to say the existence of Satanism came about because of Christianity and still thrives for a large majority because of the latter. The emergence of Satanism paralleled the emergence of Christianity. In tradition primitive Satanism was the early Christians' way of attacking the Pagan gods of the Roman Empire (see Paganism). The basic Christian argument was that these god and goddesses were nonexistence. Furthermore, when in the Pagan temples miracles were cited Christians laid it to the work of Satan, proclaiming their miracles were works of their one true God; this argument has seen expansions from ancient through medieval and modern times and has been used against every religion encountered including Judaism, Islam, and most Pagan traditions. At various times Pagan worship has been called Devil worship. As one observes an inconsistency exists within the Christian argument, if the Pagan deities were considered not to exist then how can they be considered demonic?
When distinguishing the designation of Satanism, or Satan, it is vital to distinguish who, individual or group, is doing the designating and why. This is what Elaine Pagels does in The Origin of Satan. Her main purpose is to show the social relationship between the one who claims that another person or group is satanic with that person or group. She examines mainly the four gospels of the New Testament to determine how the authors designate Satan. According to Pagels as well as other Bible scholars the gospels do not give an accurate account of historical events but only what each author sees as relevant. Mark is claimed the first of the four gospels written, its writing is believed to have been at least a generation after Christ's death, the others two or more generations later. Until the recording of the gospels most Christian knowledge consisted of oral tradition.
Also concerning the accuracy of the events within the New Testament many biblical scholars debate the staunch beliefs of many Christians that they confirm the prophecies of the Hebrew prophets. The scholars question the possibility that the reverse might have occurred. "Barnabas Lindars and others suggested that the Christian writers often expanded biblical passages into whole episodes that 'proved,' to the satisfaction of many believers, that events predicted by the prophets found their fulfillment in Jesus' coming" (Pagels xv).
Although it is believed Mark is the first gospel written, where it was written and by whom is uncertain. The anonymous author Mark is thought to be a young co-worker of Peter and not the apostle Mark as many believe. The gospel is believed to have been written toward the end or after the war between the Jews and Romans around 70 CE, thus it is war literature. It should be noted that such dating gives rise to biblical criticism; critics says the authors were writing about a specific time or events and it should not be interpreted as having universal meaning as Bible readers generally do. For example, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near" (Mark 1:15). Mark and most of Christ's followers shared this conviction, Christ had predicted these earth-shattering events-the destruction and desecration of the Temple-which they were witnessing (9). This is quite different that the complete destruction which many Bible readers today say Mark was predicting.
Mark along with Christ's followers did not blame the Romans for the Jewish defeat, to them it was God's punishment on his people-the other Jews. Here Mark does two things. First he separates the followers of Christ from those Jews who did not believe in Christ's teachings or he was Messiah of Israel (10). Second he is placing the blame, or evil, on the other Jews. In doing this Mark is telling the still governing Roman authorities that the followers of Christ are a peaceful group who wants to get along with them. Mark does this despite by all visual accounts the Romans, particularly Pontius Pilate who sentenced Jesus on the charge of sedition, was Christ's enemies. In short, the other Jews--the majority--were proclaimed the enemy, showing blame was laid where intended.
The gospel begins with Jesus' baptism, establishing Jesus' authority as the divine Son of God (11), and climaxes with episodes showing Satan and his forces trying to destroy Jesus. Mark lifts the struggle out of the realm of Jesus versus Pilate, or Rome, and raises it to Satan versus God. By doing this Mark avoids the embarrassing questions as to why Christ had failed convincing all of Jewry that he was their Messiah, how could a loving God permit such death and destruction and so on. Even though later liberal-minded Christians might dismiss angelic and demonic forces Mark wished to emphasize their presence: he and his companions see divine justice ultimately involving human violence. The gospel writers definitely wanted to cite specific ways that forces of evil acted through actions of people to effect violent destruction. As Matthew stares it: 'the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah" (23:35)-violence epitomized in the execution of Jesus, which Matthew views as the culmination of all evils (13). These gospels personify Satan, or Satanism, as one's actual enemies who embody transcendental forces. For the majority of gospel readers this has continued from the first century; the thematic opposition between the spirit of God and Satan has vindicated Jesus' followers and demoralized their enemies.
In the New Testament the gospels writers never label the Romans as Satanists, but definitely inserted that Judas Iscariot and the chief priest and scribes-Jesus' Jewish enemies-were. By doing this Jesus' followers' definitely established two distinct groups: themselves, the Jewish minority who believed and followed Jesus' teachings and the Jewish majority which rejected Jesus (13-14)-the good guys and the bad guys. This demoralization of enemies did not originate with the followers of Jesus; no, as seen it began in Zoroastrianism, between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman , and continued with the Jews who felt they were God's chosen people and all others were evil, God's enemies; then to the Christians, Muslims, and other religious traditions feeling superiors to others. Such practice has bore erroneous consequences throughout the centuries.
Luke in his narrative follows a similar path as Matthew and Mark, the followers of Jesus against the other Jews. Luke's gospel like Matthew's goes beyond Jesus' birth to his conception and extends through crucifixion. He gives more details of the trail and execution describing Pilate as a well-meaning weakling and the Jewish people, whom he regarded as the apostate majority, were responsible for the deaths of Jesus and many of his followers. As one writer put it, to Luke "The Jews are responsible for all evil." This may be an oversimplification, but it illustrates Luke desired to show that those rejecting Jesus accomplished Satan's work on earth (98).
The author of the Gospel of John, written independently of Luke and probably a decade later, also expresses a great bitterness toward the majority of Jews who had not accepted Jesus. Some scholars think he was a Jewish convert to the Jesus group. Displaying this bitterness, John narrates one explosive scene in which Jesus accuses the Jews of trying to kill him, saying "You are of your father, the devil!" the Jews retaliate by accusing Jesus of being a Samaritan, not a real Jew, and himself being 'demon possessed' or insane (98). Again is seen the fierce infighting between the two groups, each demoralizing the other.
John by beginning his gospel with the opining words of Genesis "in the beginning" chooses to tell the story of Jesus as a narrative of cosmic conflict. It is a tale of conflict on two levels, conflict between divine light and primordial evil, and between the close-knit group of Jesus' followers and the implacable, sinful opposition that they encountered from the world. John, by doing this, emphasizes the God-Satan conflict or struggle. This struggle is between light and darkness. God is the light, and according to John, "the light of humankind" finally came in and through Jesus Christ, proclaimed the Son of God. This is the divine "light" that according to John that not only "became human, and dwelt among us" but also is the spiritual progenitor of those "become the children of God" (1:12), the "sons of light" (12:35). This means there are "sons of darkness" too just as Jesus told King Nicodemus (3:19-21) (99-100).
Such a struggle was seen in Medieval Europe where widespread rumors of secret satanic societies within Christendom which were blamed for everything wrong that occurred. Most of these accusations developed from a series of panics that swept across fourteenth century Europe. Prior to the Black Death (1347-1351) it was rumored that Jews, lepers, and Muslims conspired to unleash a plague upon the Christians. Toward the end of the century rumors had it that in the area which is now Switzerland secret sects of Satanists met at night invoking the Devil, murdering babies, engaged in orgiastic sex, and directed harmful magic against their neighbors. This resulted producing the area of trails-the Inquisition-murders, and hangings which are currently called the Burning Times. These times are sacred to modern Neo-pagans, but times the Church wants forgotten.
Throughout the centuries all of the threats and fables which Christianity has hurled against Satan have not been productive. In many incidences it has been counterproductive by attracting people to Satanism so to enjoy the promises of worldly power and pleasure. One example is the "Affair of the Poisons' in late seventeenth-century France. This wide-spread scandal the participation of members of French nobility, including King Louis XIV's mistress Madame de Montespan, in the phenomenon of the Black Mass in which the body of a naked woman, alleged Montespan herself on occasions, was used as the altar. All of the details of activities carried out at these Black Masses are uncertain, pretty sketchy to say the least. There are rumors surrounding the reasons for such activities. The most common is that at the time the Church had become very stringent concerning sexuality, and the nobility was not about to give up their sexual pleasures which they took for granted. Others say the instigators of these groups trafficked in prostitution, poisoning, and providing abortions. Still others speculate that they were just bored aristocrats out for entertainment.
When speaking of Satanism and satanic organizations it is very difficult to discern what is real and what is show. Again, the attraction of Satanism draws some people towards it. Just like, on the flip-side there are pious Christians, mediocre Christians, and Christians in name only. Membership in any one of the following organizations does not indicate the degree of sincerity with which the member upheld Satanism; some might not believed they upheld it at all, generally Satanism is a term applied to anything Christians do not like. Another example of this is the Hell Fire Club in England where all sorts of notorious and devilish activities were supposed to have occurred; but later when the premises were investigated little or no evidence of such activity was found. Fin-de-siecle period
Occasionally events are labeled satanic when they are not at all. This had happened with periods of history. Such an example is the fin-de-siecle period of Europe in the late nineteenth century. The phenomenon was described by Max Nordau in his work Degeneration (Entartung, 1892). The author states the phenomenon was first recognized in France, although not necessarily originating there, as a sort of decadence, world-weariness, and the willful rejection of moral boundaries governing the world. Nordau uses both a medical and sociological approach in examining the causes of this degenerative culture. His examples of such a degenerative culture are taken from French periodicals, books, and art. In the population Nordau observes that each individual is striving to create attention violently, and imperiously to detain it. Each one is trying to create a nervous excitement, not caring whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
At the time Europe was undergoing a period of rapid industrialization and social upheaval leading to increased urbanization and the breakdown of traditional values. Here ones sees how such a phenomenon might be termed Satanism by some; those calling moving away from upheld common values evil would be likely to term this Satanism, while those who see change coming out of decadence would call it progress. Theirs may be called the natural or biological view; the old dies so the young can grow.
Again one meets the subjects of decadences and Satanism in Joris-Karl Huysmans' La Bas (Down There or The Damned). The novel was serialized in the L'Echo de Paris in 1891. The more conservative readers were shocked and urged the editor to cancel the series, but he ignored them. Later the sale of the book was banned in French railroad stations. The main character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author himself, would appear in subsequent books. Durtal finds himself disgusted with the decadence of him times and seeks relief in studying the Middle Ages beginning with research into the life of Gillies de Rais, a notorious 15th century child-murderer. Through his contacts in Paris Durtal quickly discovers that Satanism is not just a thing of the past but still currently flourishes in France. Durtal begins investigating the occult underworld assisted by his lover Madame Chantelouve. The work culminates with the description of the Black Mass, which Huysmans must have witnessed.
Here again decadence is attributed to Satanism. Worldly things are satanic. It is interesting to note that after being welcomed into the French Naturalism group whose membership included the famous author Emile Zola Huysmans later converted to Catholicism just as Durtal eventually became Benedictine oblate following his acceptance of suffering in the world. One apparent reason why Huysmans decisively withdrew from Naturalism was because of his novel A rebours (Against the Grain or Against Nature) 1884 which depicts explicit homosexual encounters. It is considered to be part of the decadent literature of the era, but influenced many including Oscar Wilde and is considered the first step toward the development of gay literature. Zola was appalled by the work saying it dealt a "terrible blow" to Naturalism. Again on sees decadence is usually measured by personal attitude. Huysmans, being pessimistic, wrote about his times; this pessimism also drove him to Catholicism in his search for something better. In doing this he accepted the view that the world is evil and he must repent for his sins. However, it might be noted, Zola possibly saw the world as being good in Naturalism.
About the same period and into the first half of the twentieth century
the English occult world was influenced by Aleister
Crowley whom many called a Satanist hand the wickedest man in the world.
There were three major reasons for these accusations. First he adopted the
name of the Beast, from Revelations in the Bible, which his mother had called
him as a child; therefore, many thought him anti-religious and possibly
the Anti-Christ. The second reason was his own established religion of Thelema
(Greek for "will") which included the third reason, his saying
"Do what thou wilt." Most think Crowley meant do anything one wishes by this, including many of his followers, but this was not what Crowley meant. He meant one should earnestly seek ones divine purpose in life, and then do it. However, many judge Crowley by his actions, rightly or wrongly, and comparing them to theirs and deem him a Satanist.
The emergence of modern Satanism is largely credited to a large hoax carried out by Leo Taxil. Taxil, a 19th century French left-wing journalist and writer of pornography, suddenly claimed to have been reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. In this position he proceeded to publish many writings detailing a vast satanic organization, the Palladian Order, associated with Freemasonry. Leaders of the Church leaped at the chance to support this anti-Palladian crusade. In about face Taxil announced his writings were fraudulent, he had written them to demonstrate the gullibility and superstition of the Catholic Church. The affair gave a bid boost to Satanism in the media and reinforced it in the minds of conservative Christians who refused to believe they had been deceived.
In the middle of the twentieth century during 60s and 70s Satanism took a turn by becoming more organized as in the Church of Satan, Temple of Set, and like organizations. This brought on an onslaught of claims from conservative Christians that such secret satanic organizations in American society were committing horrific crimes and encouraging more sex, violence, and liberalism. These claims make one pause when remembering the 1920s and 30s in the United States when Mafia leaders were kingpins and bootlegging, prostitution, and street killings ran rapid. One of the biggest causes of bootlegging was the Women's Christian Temperance Union along with the Anti-Solon League which fought for Prohibition getting the 18th Amendment passed in 1929. The Amendment was one of the biggest failed pieces of legislation ever passed and repealed in 1933. It neither stopped the consumption of alcohol nor crime; it definitely increased the latter and perhaps both. This is another example of over zealous Christians seeing Satanism in other people's business where they did not belong. Incidentally, many, if not most, Mafia leaders and members were Roman Catholic. Another result of the Women's Christian Temperance Union's action is that most Protestant Churches have grape juice instead of wine in their communion services, Catholics ignored it; wine is or is not the product of Satanism.
Satanism in popular culture is a many varied thing, it runs the gamut from those taking it seriously to those seeking thrills from it. Most of the latter are adolescents as well as others who formed subcultures using Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible and other popular Necronomicon forgeries for their ritual inspiration. This has attracted media attention, especially for television, and caused much debate among conservative Christians, and the educational establishment. As in any group there are mentally disturb people including adolescents who do bizarre things that often are satanic abuse and also attract media attention. Many times in rash judgment Satanism is claimed to be the cause of such actions without any thorough medical and psychological examination of the perpetrators to determine the real cause. Even in incidents where the perpetrator's belief in Satanism is found influential it may be asked whether there was also contributing factors in that person's personal makeup that also made him commit the action or actions that another Satanist might never commit. It is usually easier to label than to discover the real cause; remember the Inquisition? A.G.H
A rebours. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81_rebours>
Anti-Solon League. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_League>
Church of Satan. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Satan>
Joris-Karl Huysmans. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joris-Karl_Huysmans>
Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occulti. St. Paul, Mn. Llewellyn Publications. 2005. pp. 421-422
La Bas. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A0-Bas>
Max Nordau. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Nordau>
Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan. New York. Random House. 1995
Temple of Set. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_set>
Women's Chriatian Temperance Union <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Christian_Temperance_Union>