Black Goat Cabal > Essays > What is "orthodox Satanism"?

What is "orthodox Satanism"?

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Since 2005, some Satanists have taken to calling themselves "Orthodox Satanists" or "Orthodox Traditional Satanists." In the context of Satanism, what could "Orthodox" possibly mean?

There can't really be such a thing as a Satanist orthodoxy, because the word "Satanism" was in dictionaries long before any of its would-be codifiers were born. Unique among religions, the idea of "Satanism"  -  indeed, the very word "Satanism"  -  was most likely invented not by its adherents but by its enemies. And, obviously, there's no reason why its adherents should conform totally to the propaganda of its enemies, even though most Satanists do draw some of their ideas from Christian propaganda. So, althouth individual Satanist groups can have their own orthodoxies within the group, there can't really be such a thing as an orthodoxy for Satanism as a whole.

The nearest thing that the Satanist scene as a whole has to an orthodoxy is LaVeyan Satanism, which has been the most popular and best-publicized form of real-life Satanism for most of the past fifty years. Without actually using the term "orthodox," the Church of Satan (CoS) is so determined to promote LaVeyan orthodoxy that some CoS members will even take offense at the term "LaVeyan Satanism" on the grounds that it suggests that there could possibly be such a thing as non-LaVeyan Satanism. Nevertheless, plenty of non-LaVeyan Satanist groups do exist, and the CoS cannot define us out of existence through semantic gerrymandering.

LaVeyan Satanists' claims to be the one and only "true Satanists" is silly. However, given the popularity and the publicly documented continuous existence of LaVeyan Satanism for nearly fifty years, in contrast to all other forms of Satanism, any non-LaVeyan's claim to be an "orthodox Satanist" is even sillier.

There were some Satanist groups that called themselves "orthodox" back in the early 1970's. One was the the Orthodox Satanic Church of the Nephilim Rite, which existed from 1971 to 1974 in Chicago and was discussed briefly in Satan Wants You by Arthur Lyons (1988), on p. 133. Exactly what its basis was for claiming to be "orthodox" is something we'll probably never know, because it didn't last very long and didn't leave much if any published literature behind.

In 2005 C.E., a short-lived theistic / "traditional" Satanist organization called itself the Orthodox Temple of Satan (OTOS).

The label "orthodox" was then picked up by other people and groups with a belief system similar to OTOS's, which is closer to pure reverse Christianity than the vast majority of other Satanist belief systems, theistic or otherwise. Apparently their basis for calling themselves "orthodox" is their relative closeness to Christian orthodoxy. Well, actually, they're closer to some Christian heresies. The belief systems of some of these folks do incorporate some aspects of Gnosticism; and, of course, the idea that Satan has even the slightest chance of winning a war against the Creator is very contrary to Christian orthodoxy.

Many (though not all) of these folks also revere the Al Jilwah (of the Yezidi sect) as the infallible revealed word of Satan to all Satanists in all times and places, even though the Al Jilwah itself says "I teach without a revealed book," and even though the so-called "orthodox traditional Satanists" don't really follow the Al Jilwah in other ways either, e.g. they do run around talking publicly about Satan and calling themselves Satanists, contrary to "Do not mention My name or attributes...." (I have nothing against those who see the Al Jilwah as an inspired text. My problem is with those who insist that it as the infallibly revealed, universally applicable commandments of Satan to all Satanists in all times and places, rather than just as a message to the Yezidi people in the context of Yezidi tradition and/or as a text which some of today's Western Satanists may find personally meaningful. It should also be recognized that we can't even be sure we have an accurate translation of the Al Jilwah in the first place, given how secretive the Yezidi tradition is.)

Today's so-called "orthodox traditional Satanists" are not "orthodox" or "traditional" in the sense of adhering to any known still-living organized or semi-organized Western pre-LaVey Satanist tradition. Such a tradition may actually exist, e.g. the family traditions on which OFS Demonolatry is said to be based. The theology of traditional Demonolatry is not Christian-based, but instead is pantheistic and rooted primarily in the Western occult tradition, e.g. in Hermetics. (The Corpus Hermeticum was apparently written by people in the ancient pagan Roman Empire.) Admittedly the OFS's claims have not yet been proven to any outside scholars. However, it is likely that any genuinely long-lived pre-LaVeyan form of Satanism would have been influenced by the larger Western occult tradition; hence it would most likely be based primarily on Hermetics, most likely with some admixture of the Qabalah and possibly also Gnosticism and/or nineteenth-century-style neo-Paganism, rather than based primarily on Christianity. To the extent that there can be said to be "orthodox traditional" anything in the Western occult tradition, Hermetics is surely it.

For that matter, the theology of today's so-called "orthodox traditional Satanists" is also radically different from Yezidi theology, which acknowledges a temporary quarrel but not a long-term enmity between Azazil (Melek Taus) and God. And their fundamentalist-like reverence for sacred texts is very un-Gnostic, as well as being very un-Yezidi.

The types of theistic Satanism which are relatively close to pure reverse Christianity could perhaps be called "spontaneous default Satanism," i.e. they are the sort of thing that new teenage Satanists are likely to reinvent spontaneously on their own, before they learn other ideas. This is only natural since we happen to live in a Christian-dominated culture.

However, as far as I am aware, there is no organized or semi-organized Satanic religious tradition devoted to such a belief system which is older than the 1990's. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of reverse-Christian-based teenage Satanists move on to other belief systems. Many go back to Christianity, while others move on to other forms of Satanism, and still others convert to other religions.

Hence it does not make sense to refer to Christian-based duotheism as "orthodox" Satanism.

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