On Walpurgisnacht 2016, I was one of the fortunate attendees of the Church of Satan 50th Anniversary Conclave. It was everything I had hoped it would be and much more. It was educational and inspiring, elegant and indulgent. I went there alone in more ways than one. Not only did I make the nearly seven-hour cross-border drive from my home unaccompanied, I’m also one of those “lone wolf” Satanists who studies and practices our religion in a completely solitary fashion. While I do have a close circle of friends that I care deeply about, I remain a solidly introverted person. I’m confident in making the assumption that I have no relatives that are Satanists, or who are fully aware of my affiliation with the Church of Satan. Although I do have the well-earned reputation of being the “adversary” of my family, no one has ever seen my red card. To be perfectly honest, I can’t foresee any situation that I’d show it to any of them either. At Conclave, I knew absolutely no one that would be there on a personal level. Tenuous Facebook “friendships” and interactions aside, I was a complete stranger walking into the largest gathering of Satanists in the 50-year history of the infamous organization founded by Anton Szandor LaVey in 1966. While, as an introvert, I try to avoid large social gatherings like this, knowing that I would be present in a room full of Satanists was too powerful to resist. Heady stuff. Yet I knew that failure to attend was not an option. I wanted to pay my respect and show support to the organization that best represents me as who I am now, but who also was representing me my entire life before I even knew they were doing so. Since I had spent most of my adult life learning and practicing how to not be introverted to further my career, I knew this was going to be my biggest test. These people probably knew all of my tricks! Then again, I had to remind myself of a very important lesson…
–Anton Szandor LaVey, “Speak of The Devil: The Canon of Anton LaVey” Nick Bougas (Documentary 1993)
When you watch the video of Magus LaVey uttering the last words of that line “…you were born that way”, you see his eyes squint slightly and a slight grin come across his face as he looks directly into the camera. While I would never dare profess to know what he was thinking at that moment, I can tell you what I was thinking the first time I saw it. “You have me pegged perfectly again, sir.”
Of all the prescient things that Anton LaVey has said in his writings and interviews, that line in that documentary, that instance, hit me as hard as any moment that I had while reading The Satanic Bible itself. Sure, I had already experienced that incredible “a-ha!” feeling while reading TSB, and had numerous, almost constant, similar feelings as I worked my way through the rest of Magus LaVey’s and Magus Gilmore’s works. It’s one thing to feel like someone is speaking to you through their words in a book, it’s another to feel that way while watching them on film and it feels like they are also looking at you specifically while speaking. That point was when I started to truly look back retrospectively over my years and, finally, connect all the dots. I really was always a Satanist.
I had self-identified as an outcast for as long as I remember. I started reading at a very young age, and acquired a taste for dark aesthetics in literature and music soon afterwards. Even when I attempted to be a part of some “outsider” social circles as a musician in the hardcore punk scene, I still felt separate from that clique. There’s the classic cover for Minor Threat’s “Out of Step” album that has a crudely drawn black sheep running away from a herd of white sheep. Here’s the thing, I couldn’t even see myself as the black sheep. I was a red sheep somewhere off to the side shaking his head at the whole scene. I couldn’t resist questioning everyone and everything. As much as I still love the music, I could not fit into the politics that were so heavily part of that movement in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I agreed with some of the politics, but certainly not everything. Hardcore to me was the very definition of close-minded, and the opposite of what I signed up for. I did not know the term “Third Side Intelligence”, but I sure wish I had. Knowing it existed would have saved me from many pointless arguments over thrilling topics like “gentrification”, “class war” and whatever else was the cause du jour. I retired my canvas sneakers and army pants by the mid 1990’s.
It’s at this stage where most of us would say that they walked into a bookstore, and through a fortuitous chain of events settled on that small black paperback book in the occult section that would explain everything that they were feeling, and had felt, for their entire lives. I had several of these chance encounters with that little black book, picking it up often and leafing through it. Each time I did, I would nod my head in agreement then put it back down. Incredibly, I never bought it. Preferring instead to lighten my wallet and indulge my passions on other esoteric, “more-expensive-with-minimal-benefit” books. Responsibility to the responsible. I own the fact that, for whatever reason, I didn’t plunk down a simple ten bucks on a book I was clearly interested in. Despite that, if the point is we are born Satanists then instinctively we should be able to effectively function as one, right?
In my case, I certainly did. Although I hadn’t yet heard the term “Lesser Magic”, instinctively I was able to transform myself from a misanthropic punk rock musician to a misanthropic, and successful, salesperson and Territory Manager in the industry I’ve been working in for the last 20 years. It wasn’t effortless, but I always saw it was attainable. I studied books on selling (Yes, I know. Buying and reading TSB would have been quicker. Damn it!) and I focused on changing my appearance to blend in and look professional. Blue hair was out. I had no issues or guilt with changing any of it. I had goals I wanted to accomplish, and was ready and willing to use any means at my disposal. I’m still that way. When I started taking career ambition seriously in my early twenties, I was already good at reading people. Ask anyone who has put in serious hours dealing with the public, particularly in a retail environment, and they will be able to tell you something about almost every type of person, provided they were paying attention. To overcome my introvert nature, I worked damn hard to get to that point. Learning to persuade different types of people and personalities is just as valuable in everyday life than using it solely for your 9 to 5 job, but being able to pay the bills plus indulge in your passions is pretty darn awesome as well.
That was another Satanic instinct that came naturally even from my earliest memories. My indulgence and dedication to hobbies and pursuits that pleased me. Again, without even reading the book, I always actively sought out people, places and things that inspired me and had no compunction about discarding what I didn’t. I have always been very selective on what or whom I invest my time on. Sure I like a fun evening out, who doesn’t, but to me a fun evening in was just as stimulating. I could spend hours playing my guitar and honing my skills, or reading a book from start to finish if it grabbed my attention. In the pre-smartphone days, I would take the phone off the hook just to avoid being disturbed while I focused on my beloved hobbies. Many of my friends at the time just could not understand how I operated. The ones that did, we remain close to this day.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I reacquainted myself with Satanism. Like Magus LaVey did as a younger man, I too spent time on the search for ghosts and debunked many “hauntings” much to my chagrin. So many late nights, so few results. As I had maintained this interest in topics relating to the paranormal and the occult since childhood, I would repeatedly skirt around the fringes of the Church of Satan while doing research online. Often, I would find myself visiting the older version of the CoS website, and once again agreeing with everything I read there. In remembering, not fondly, the days of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s I started looking up old videos online from some of the ridiculous talk shows of the day. It was another of many revelations. The performances of the “hosts” were far worse than I remember it, while the Satanists for the most part were the only reasonable and logical people speaking. Returning once again to the CoS website, I read and kept reading. Then I decided to do what I should have done years before. I added a copy of The Satanic Bible to an online order. I finally bought “the book”.
What a lightning bolt to the noggin it was to finally read the book in its entirety. Several times I had to stop after a particular sentence or paragraph and just let it sink in. By the end I was alternately invigorated and bewildered. Here it was. I’ve always had a curious nature, and looked into countless religions and philosophies over the years. All I got from that was a slight education. This was the real thing. I didn’t question “Am I a Satanist?” it was “I AM a Satanist!” I put the book down and didn’t touch it again for at least a month. All of those years of feeling “outside” of everything, and this magnificent $10 paperback has given me an identity. I was incredulous. When I went back to it after a cooling off period and read it again, everything was re-confirmed. I did not join the Church right away, although I certainly contemplated it. I kept reading. I made my way through the canon of literature, from the ‘Rituals’ to the ‘Witch’ to the ‘Scriptures’ and all points in between. About a year and a half later, I sent in my Registered Member application and fee. Not terribly long after that, but certainly after a period of more study, I applied for Active Membership. While I certainly wish I had done all of this earlier in life, I try to maintain perspective. When I sent in my registered membership I was about the same age as Magus LaVey was when The Satanic Bible was released. When I was elevated to Active Membership, I was about his age when The Satanic Rituals came out. While my accomplishments aren’t to that level of notoriety and fame, they are accomplishments nonetheless. The best may be yet to come. The reading, as we know, never stops.
As the simple yet powerful quote above goes, we are truly “born this way”, and either you are a Satanist, or you’re not. The only thing missing from my life for all of those years was the awareness, and of course the “Greater Magic”. Well, in retrospect there was certainly some of that as well, if undefined and less formal. Satan knows, I’ve thrown some curses over the years.
So I found myself at the 50th Anniversary Conclave because there was no option of missing it, really. A room full of outstanding strangers. A room full of varied backgrounds and nationalities, yet with one whopper of a thing in common. I met some phenomenal people, and if only there was more time I would have loved to have met and chatted with more of them. I felt so much gratitude for all of those in that room that pushed this philosophy forward in the years before I joined. It was waiting for me the whole time. As I sat and reflected post-ritual I realized that 50 years is a very long stretch for anyone in that room, but 50 years from now at the 100th Anniversary Conclave it will still be a drop in the bucket for the organization. Attendees at the 100th will be thinking of us the same way I think of the people in the movie “Satanis: The Devil’s Mass” (1970). These are still the early trailblazing days, and I plan on making sure to keep setting an example of what this religion is about by working hard and leading the most vital, pleasurable existence I can. It’s not about recruiting for the Church of Satan, of course, but I want to be able to say I helped maintain it for the next person that picks up that paperback and has that instinctive “moment” saying “This is me. This is how I’ve always been!”
Although I am only recently a “declared” Satanist and Active Member of the Church of Satan, I am not a “new” Satanist. As the countless stories go, when you discover the religion and philosophy and recognize yourself within, it likely becomes the biggest spontaneous flash of understanding in your life. This is not only what you are now, this is what you have always been. What many of the stories don’t tell you, is that flash of recognition keeps coming back. With every article posted online, every new book written, and every time you see a member creating some fantastic piece of art or music, that flash comes back. Whenever you see them succeeding and dominating at business or other varied and exciting careers, it comes back.
It’s the brightest, yet blackest, flame there is.
Admin “The Devil’s Lair”