Church of Azazel > Beliefs & principles > Theology
Theology of the Church of Azazel
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2004, 2006 by the Church of Azazel. All rights reserved.
- Who and what is Satan?
- Who and what is the Christian "God"?
- Our polytheism
- Satan/Azazel's many names and aspects
- The "Four Elements"
- Our spiritual epistemology
- Our philosophical filters
"Azazel" is a word used in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:10). Scholars differ as to what it originally meant.
At the beginning of the Christian era and for a few centuries before, "Azazel" was believed by many to be the name of a powerful enemy of Yahweh. When people first began to perceive that Yahweh had an enemy, "Azazel" was one of that enemy's names. (Other names included Samael and Belial.)
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, Azazel is a member of a group of angels who defy Yahweh by teaching various forbidden arts to humans. The Book of Enoch also says, about Azazel, "to him ascribe all sin" -- because "the whole earth has been corrupted" via the forbidden knowledge taught by Azazel and the Watchers.
Centuries later, "Azazil" - an Arabic form of the name "Azazel" - became one of Islam's names for the Devil. Although the name "Azazil" isn't used in the Quran itself, it has been used in plenty of other Muslim writings.
The name "Azazel" isn't widely known among Christians. However, the "Satan" of Christianity is based more on Azazel (as protrayed in the Book of Enoch and in other Second Temple era Jewish literature) than on any mention of a "Satan" in the Tanakh (Old Testament). In the Book of Job, "Satan" (actually, "ha-satan," a common noun, not a proper name) was portrayed not as an enemy of Yahweh but as a servant of Yahweh who tortured Job at Yahweh's instigation.
Thus, "Azazel" is one of the oldest known names of the entity Christians call "Satan," whom we regard as a distinct entity from "ha-satan" of the Book of Job. When we use the name "Satan," we are referring to the entity who has been popularly known as "Satan" for the past two millenia, i.e. Azazel (an enemy - a "satan" - to Yahweh), not "ha-satan" of the Book of Job.
(See also Why do you consider Satan and Azazel to be the same entity? in the Frequently Asked Questions.)
- Who and what is Satan?
Even Christians grudgingly acknowledge Satan as the "God of this world" (yes! -- "God" -- see 2 Corinthians 4:4), "Prince of this world" (e.g. John 14:30), "Prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and a being who could "tempt" Jesus by offering him power in exchange for worship (Matthew 4:9), thereby implying that "all the kingdoms of the world" belonged to Satan.
Christians traditionally lump together "the Devil, the world, and the flesh." Christians traditionally regard Satan as the ruler of our "fallen nature" -- i.e. our here-and-now human nature, period.
We regard Satan as the God of this world, God of our flesh, God of our mind, and God of our own innermost Will, immanent in both the world and our own nature. We regard Satan as the most powerful of the gods concerned with human affairs, and therefore as a God whose Will is reflected in our own innermost Will.
The idea that the our own innermost Will would reflect the Will of the highest of the gods concerned with human affairs is, in our opinion, far more likely than the idea that the highest god would want to alienate us from our own nature, as the Christian god seems to want to do.
At the same time, we recognize that a totally "natural" life is an unattainable ideal. We humans are highly adaptable creatures, capable of adapting to many different environments, but never perfectly adapted to any of them. We see Satan as immanent not only in our own innermost Will, but also in the challenges that the world presents to us, and in the progress we make by facing those challenges.
Unlike some other theistic Satanists, we do not believe that Satan dictates a particular social order or a particular set of "laws" that are applicable to all times and places. Rather, we see Satan as opening people to new ideas in general, often radically different new ideas, consistent with Christianity's traditional view of Satan as favoring "heresies and errors of opposite characters" (as the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Devil puts it). We see Satan as challenging all dogma, reminding us of overlooked realities, and impelling us to do things in ways that are more "natural" in a given new set of circumstances.
Unlike some other theistic Satanists, we do not believe that Satan, the demons, and the other gods are extra-terrestrial humanoids who live on a distant planet and spend a lot of their time in telepathic contact with humans. (See Gods as advanced extraterrestrial humanoids? in Who and what is Satan? Various Satanist reinterpretations.) Traditionally, Satan is believed to be a spiritual being who lives right here on Earth and primarily in an underworld beneath the surface of the Earth. In the absence of any overwhelming reason to believe otherwise, we are inclined to accept these traditional ideas -- which may be taken either literally or symbolically, but in either case are incompatible with the ET idea.
(For more about what Satan/Azazel means to us, see Our core beliefs and their here-and-now basis.)
- Who and what is the Christian "God"?
The workings of Nature do not suggest a cosmic God who is interested in any kind of personal relationship with us humans. (See Post-Copernican natural theology.) Therefore, a god who does want lots of human attention is unlikely to be the cosmic God. For this reason, the Christian god -- a self-described "jealous God" who wants to be worshipped by everyone in the world -- is unlikely to be the true cosmic Creator, or a true cosmic anything.
Yahweh seems to be, most likely, a spirit (or perhaps a cluster of spirits rather than a single spirit) who was once just a local tribal war god of the Israelites, but who then got greedy and started demanding the attention of more and more people. (On the other hand, Satan is a God who does NOT seem to need or want vast numbers of human worshippers. In the Bible, only one person - namely, Jesus - was ever invited to worship Satan.)
Several passages in the Bible portray Yahweh as being hostile toward human knowledge and/or achievement. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil." In the Tower of Babel story, people are punished for the engineering feat of building a tall tower. And, in various places, people are commanded not to practice any magical arts. The Biblical god does not consistently oppose human knowledge and achievement, but he seems to be at best ambivalent towards it.
Christians think of their God as "all-Good." However, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is full of atrocities commanded by Yahweh. The New Testament has fewer atrocities, at least in the material world, but introduces the threat of eternal punishment in the afterlife -- infinitifold punishment for the sins of one little life time.
And Yahweh demands sacrifices. In the New Testament - especially as interpreted by later Western Christian theologians such as Anselm - the Christian god is portrayed as sacrificing his own son to satisfy his own bloodthirstiness.
In contrast, nowhere in the Christian Bible is Satan portrayed as demanding or even asking for sacrifices. Various other rivals of Jehovah (e.g. Baal) are portrayed as being the recipients of sacrificial offerings, but Satan/Azazel Himself is not - except possibly for the scapegoat, who is sent live into the wilderness.
In today's world, there seems to be more than one entity answering to the name of the Christian "God." As noted further down on this page, there is not a one-to-one correspondence tetween entities and names. The "God" revered by fundamentalist and traditionalist Christians, to whom we will refer as Yahweh-P (P for patriarchal), seems to be a very different entity from the "God" revered by the most liberal Christians, to whom we will refer as Yahweh-E (E for enlightenment). As a general rule, the worshipers of Yahweh-E tend not to believe in a Devil and hence are not among Satan/Azazel's avowed enemies.
- Our polytheism
The Church of Azazel venerates Satan/Azazel as our primary diety. On a secondary basis, we also venerate a set of five deities we call the rising gods of the modern West (Lilith, Prometheus, Ishtar, Pan, and Lucifer-of-Sophia). But we believe in the likely existence of many other deities too. Some of our members may venerate some of these other deities and/or daemons in addition to Azazel and the five rising gods, though the Church of Azazel as a whole does not. Our primary allegiance, in any case, is to Satan/Azazel.
Our theology is closer to the "hard polytheism" of many Pagan Reconstructionists than to the monistic pantheistic polytheism that is common among most occultists. We are not 100% hard-polytheistic. We consider the ultimate nature of the gods (e.g. the question of whether they are, in fact, totally distinct) to be unknowable. However, our paradigm uses a close-to-hard polytheistic model, which individual members are free to interpret in a more pantheistic manner if they feel so inclined, as long as they are comfortable participating in rituals that not based specifically on cosmic-pantheistic assumptions. We will aim to have rituals that make sense in both a hard-polytheistic context and pantheistic context (as distinct from rituals like the Wiccan "Charge of the Goddess," which make sense only in a pantheistic context). This means our rituals will be based primarily on polytheistic assumptions, because it is easier to adapt a close-to-hard polytheistic model to a pantheistic viewpoint than vice versa. At the same time, our rituals may also incorporate some pantheistic concepts that can be adapted to a hard-polytheistic view, e.g. the idea that the gods manifest both inside us and outside of us. The close-to-hard polytheistic assumptions on which our paradigm is based include the following:
- We regard gods as distinct entities, not just facets of the One. Perhaps on some ultimate level they are all facets of the One, but only in whatever sense we humans, too, can be considered facets of the One. For all practical purposes, we humans are distinct entities, and so are the gods.
- The gods that concern themselves with human affairs should not be assumed to be universal. Many of them have formed symbiotic relationships with specific people and groups of people. Therefore, only very rarely is it appropriate to equate deities between one pantheon and another pantheon from an unrelated culture. We do not, for example, automatically equate Satan/Azazel with all the "dark gods" of all ancient religions. (See Equating Satan with one or more ancient pagan gods in Who and what is Satan? Various Satanist reinterpretations.) We don't totally reject the idea that a particular god in one culture can be the same entity as particular god in another culture, but we believe in being, at least, very cautious about equating gods across cultures.
- The individual gods have multi-faceted personalities and are not mere one-dimensional "archetypes," "principles," or Platonic forms. While the gods may have their specialties in the human realm, they are not mere personifications of the things they specialize in, nor are they mere personifications of any cosmic "principles" or "essences" behind their specialties, nor are they limited to their specialties. The individual gods themselves (such as Satan/Azazel) may have multiple names. The multiple names of an individual god can be taken as referring to different facets of that one particular god.
- Some gods don't like each other, and sometimes they quarrel. The idea of conflicts among gods is typically rejected by pantheistic soft polytheists, such as most Wiccans, but is commonplace in many ancient polytheistic religions and their mythologies. It may be overly anthropomorphic to interpret such myths as referring to literal quarrels. But we see no reason the dismiss the idea that some gods or spiritual forces may be, in some sense, at odds with other gods or spiritual forces.
The enmity between Satan/Azazel and the patriarchal Christian god is not an eternal cosmic war between cosmic forces or principles, but merely a quarrel between two of the many gods -- albeit between what currently appear to be the two most powerful of the gods concerned with human affairs.
Neither Satan/Azazel nor the patriarchal Christian god is the ultimate cosmic God. It is highly unlikely that the cosmic God, if there is one, takes any kind of direct personal interest in human affairs. Therefore, none of the gods concerned with human affairs are likely to be the cosmic God. (For more about this, see Post-Copernican natural theology.)
We do not believe that Satan/Azazel is a "jealous God." Individual Church of Azazel members are free to revere other deities or demons in addition to those in our pantheon, and may even have a primary patron/matron deity or demon outside our official pantheon, though we do ask that people join the Church of Azazel only if they feel drawn to Satan/Azazel on a deep level and can respect our primary focus on Satan/Azazel. Likewise, congregations of the Church of Azazel may occasionally perform rites calling on other deities or demons.
- Satan/Azazel's many names and aspects
Although we see Satan/Azazel as distinct from the gods of other ancient pantheons, we also see Satan/Azazel as a very multi-faceted deity with many names that can be seen as referring to different aspects.
We revere the entity whom Christians traditionally call Satan, as seen through our own philosophical filters. Christians and Muslims have traditionally referred to this entity by many names. Therefore, it makes sense for us to use those same names to refer to Him as well -- even though some of those same names may also have been used to refer to other entities too.
One of these names is "Lucifer." The Church of Azazel has more than one "Lucifer" in its pantheon. We regard "Lucifer" as a legitimate name of Satan/Azazel, because it has been used as one of His names for nearly 2000 years. We use the name "Lucifer" (or "Lucifer-Azazel") in ritual to refer to an aspect of Satan/Azazel. But we also, separately, call on a distinct entity whom we call "Lucifer-of-Sophia," one of the five rising gods of the modern West.
Some occultists and Pagans insist that the name "Lucifer" properly refers only to an entity distinct from Satan. Our reply is that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between names and entites. Not only can an entity have more than one name, but more than one entity can have the same name. For example, "ha-satan" has been used to refer to more than one distinct entity. Likewise the name "Lucifer" -- which has even been used (in the Latin Vulgate Bible) to refer to Jesus Christ. (See the article on Lucifer in the Catholic Encyclopedia.)
In ritual, we use the names "Iblis," "Lucifer," "Belial," and "the Ancient Serpent" as names of aspects of Satan/Azazel, and we call on these different aspects as a way of addressing Satan/Azazel in a balanced way.
- The "Four Elements"
In our rituals, we call on four aspects of Satan/Azazel that are associated with the four directions and the four elements, as follows:
Name Direction Element Ancient Serpent
West Water Iblis South Fire Lucifer-Azazel
(or just "Lucifer")
East Air Belial North Earth
We also call on "the Dark One," associated with the downward direction and the quintessence, the hidden Source of all the other aspects of Satan/Azazel.
Consistent with our view of Satan as an entity based here on planet Earth, we see the "Four Elements" not as cosmic essences but as essentials of life here on planet Earth. There are plenty of other planets that don't have any liquid water, or which are too cold to have anything resembling fire, or which don't have much of an atmosphere, or which don't have any Earth-like soil. The idea that the "Four Elements" are cosmic essences is based on outdated, pre-scientific notions about chemistry. The ancients believed, wrongly, that the "four elements" were elements in a chemical sense, i.e. that everything in the physical world was made of those four things. It is true that all of life (here on planet Earth, at least) is made of those four things, but it's simply not true of matter in general.
Of course the "Four Elements" do have symbolic meanings too, as well as their literal, physical meanings. But, in our view, even the symbolic meanings of the four elements are relevant primarily to life here on Earth. Like most Western occultists, we see the four elements as having symbolic meanings such as the following, with the added twist that Satan/Azazel encourages us to be true to ourselves in all these facets of life and to explore their hidden and culturally forbidden sides:
- Water: emotions, intuitive insights, the subconscious mind, dreams, divination, psychic development, spiritual transitions (e.g. initiation).
- Fire: will, passion, enthusiasm, courage, rapid change, destruction, rejuvenation, lust.
- Air: thought, reason, knowledge, information, communication, friendship, travel.
- Earth: practicality, stability, strength, physical labor, wealth.
Note that most of these meanings have to do with specifically human concerns, which again are Earth-based, not cosmic. While there might exist some humanlike lifeforms elsewhere in the universe, we don't know this for sure. In any case, they too certainly don't exist everywhere.
Some occultists, in an attempt to retain the ancient view of the "Four Elements" as cosmic essences, have stretched their literal physical meanings to refer to the three states of matter (solid = Earth, liquid = Water, gas = Air) plus all energy (Fire). But, in our view, that's quite a stretch. In a ritual, even the most dogmatically monistic pantheist would never use oil as a substitute for water, even though oil is a liquid too. Besides, even in the generalized physical sense, the "Four Elements" aren't really cosmic. There are lots and lots vast reaches of space containing no solid or liquid matter at all and hardly any gas or energy either, and there are plenty of planets and asteroids with no liquids and little or no atmosphere.
But, in their most literal, physical sense, the four elements certainly are essential to life here on planet Earth, which - at least in its more advanced forms - cannot exist without water, air, fertile soil, and the fires of the Sun and cellular respiration.
For details about the names we use for the four elemental aspects of Satan, see Infernal names, directional correspondences, etc. on Diane Vera's Theistic Satanism page. See also Questions about infernal names in the CoAz Frequently Asked Questions.
- Our spiritual epistemology
The vast majority of Satanists reject Christian theology. Therefore, nearly all theistic Satanists hold beliefs about Satan that, in one way or another, are different from the Christian view of Satan.
If you don't accept Christian theology, how do you decide who/what Satan is? Different Satanists not only have different beliefs about Satan, but also have different methods of arriving at those beliefs.
Our approach begins by looking at the religious and cultural trends of our own culture and era. We see religious and cultural trends as a manifestation of the gods concerned with human affairs, and we see current trends - not any ancient culture - as the most important indicator of how the gods are interacting with humans right now. We regard the study of ancient cultures as helpful, but only as a means of gaining perspective on today's world. Our roots are in the present, not in the past.
At the same time, we don't believe in making universal generalizations based on our own culture and era. An honest look at the wide variety of religions worldwide, ancient and modern, would seem to indicate that the relationship between humans and the gods has varied greatly from one era to another and from one culture to another. There have been some common themes, but plenty of variety as well.
Because Christianity is the world's most popular religion in our own era, and because one of Christianity's fastest-growing competitors is another Abrahamic religion (Islam), it makes sense for us to give greater weight to the Christian Bible than to other ancient mythologies. However, Christianity's universal/eternal claims are incompatible with our fundamentally temporal, relativistic, and polytheistic approach. Furthermore, there are plenty of good historical, scientific, and philosophical reasons to disbelieve the literal truth of many of the Bible's claims. Therefore, we do not accept Christian mythology as literal truth, but instead interpret it symbolically, in here-and-now ways compatible with polytheism. (See The here-and-now principle in theology.)
In today's world, the most vibrant forms of the Abrahamic religions are nearly all associated with ideas about morality which we and many other people in the modern West regard as outdated and oppressive. Therefore, in the quarrel between Yahweh-P and Satan, it seems only natural for us to side with Satan. (See Satan and "evil" in Christianity (and Satanism) on Diane Vera's Theistic Satanism page.)
At the same time, here in the modern West, there is also emerging a unique, new cultural order which we like a whole lot better than the traditional Abrahamic order, and whose most salient features are associated with what we call the rising gods of the modern West. With the sole exception of Prometheus, all the rising gods are now revered by large and rapidly-growing numbers of people. All the rising gods have been strongly associated with Satan by many Christians, an association rejected by most of the worshipers of these gods. Many worshipers of Ishtar and Pan, in particular, will say they "don't even believe in" either the Abrahamic god or Satan.
But, to us, given our here-and-now approach to polytheistic theology, it does not make sense to disbelieve, totally, in the gods of two of the world's two most prominent religions, though it does make sense to disbelieve in the claimed universality of the Abrahamic god. Furthermore, there are many people - including myself (the founder of the Church of Azazel) - who have had profound and positive spiritual experiences involving Satan/Azazel, just as there are also plenty of people who have had profound and positive spiritual experiences involving other deities.
- Our philosophical filters
When interpreting traditional Christian (primarily New Testament) ideas about Satan, plus the Book of Enoch, we apply the philosophical filters listed below:
- Here-and-now focus. See The here-and-now principle in theology.
- Post-copernicization. See Post-Copernican natural theology.
- Relativity and subjectivity of "good" and "evil". See Satan and "evil" in Christianity (and Satanism) on Diane Vera's Theistic Satanism page.
- Suspicion toward dualisms. See Assorted dualisms in Who and what is Satan? Various Satanist reinterpretations.
- Awareness of the limitations of spiritual knowledge. See On gnosis, sacred texts, channeling, attaining knowledge, and the role of faith.
Our worldview is also influenced by Thelema, but only in a very general way - primarily, just the idea of True Will. Our idea of "innermost Will" is somewhat similar to "True Will," except that we don't claim an underlying harmony to the "innermost Will" of everyone.