Theistic Satanism: Home > Philosophy > Why do Satanists need philosophy?

The following article was written in response to the anti-intellectual, anti-philosophical attitudes I've encountered among some theistic Satanists. It is an attempt to convince people of the value of philosophical thought, but is not, itself, a rigorously reasoned philosophical article, by any means. It is not addressed to people who already appreciate the value of philosophical thought.

Why do Satanists need philosophy?

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2002 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

What do we theistic Satanists need philosophy for? Isn't it enough just to revere Satan and learn magick?

First, I should explain what I mean by "philosophy." As I wrote on the Learn how to think philosophically index page:

Please note that by "philosophy," I do NOT mean what is commonly called "Satanic philosophy," e.g. LaVeyism (which, as adhered to by most LaVeyans, is really more an ideology than a philosophy). Nor do I even mean a "philosophy" (ideology) of theistic Satanism itself. By "philosophy," I simply mean the art of thinking deeply and clearly. We theistic Satanists do not need to embrace any one particular ideology, but we do need a coherent understanding of whatever we do believe and why we believe it.

So then, why do we theistic Satanists need philosophy? Several reasons:

  1. Satan wants us to think!

    Nearly all forms of theistic Satanism do give at least lip service to the idea that Satan wants us to think for ourselves. In order to think for ourselves, we first need to learn how to think, period. Philosophy is all about learning how to think.

  2. To avoid looking like idiots!

    When someone voices disagreement or questions you about your beliefs, how do you react? Can you give an intelligent response? Or can you only react emotionally?

    If you have not thought deeply about both your own beliefs and various possible alternatives, and if you have not considered the arguments both for and against them, then it will be hard to respond intelligently to challenges.

    If too many of us do not respond intelligently, then we make the theistic Satanist scene look like a bunch of idiots. If, for example, the best we can do is to rage about how our opponents have the temerity to "discredit Satan," then it is we -- not our opponents -- who have discredited Satan in the eyes of any outside onlookers.

  3. To learn how to find out the truth (insofar as that's possible)

    This is actually the most important reason for studying philosophy, although I've listed it after "To avoid looking like idiots!" because most people (including many Satanists, alas) are more concerned about how they look than about seeking truth.

    Other people are impatient with philosophy because they desire truth (or, at least, a feeling of "truth") a little too ardently. They urgently want to know all the answers, with absolute certainty, without bothering to take the time to think.

    Many theistic Satanists have had experiences which have convinced us that Satan is real. But who and what is Satan?

    If we don't believe Christian theology -- and indeed the vast majority of us don't -- then we need some other explanation. When looking at other possible explanations, how do we decide which one is correct?

    On the other hand, for the minority of us who do accept what is essentially a Christian worldview, with only minor modifications besides the choice as to which side we're on, what is our basis for accepting Christian-based theology in the first place, and on what basis do we make our modifications?

    In either case, whether our theology is Christian-based or not, how do we decide what to believe? What are the appropriate roles of reason (our own thinking), science, and whatever we may have experienced that we regard as revelation from Satan? (And how do we recognize a genuine revelation?)

    Much of spirituality is beyond what we can possibly hope to understand through intellectual thought. Spirituality isn't, and can't be, primarily an intellectual thing. However, insofar as our spirituality does give rise to concepts that can be understood intellectually, we are justified in using our intellect to evaluate those concepts, to help us to avoid self-deception.

    Relevant branches of philosophy include metaphysics, which examines the nature of reality, and epistemology, which examines how we know what we know. Philosophers through the ages have held a wide range of opinions on metaphysics and epistemology. Do not rush to adopt any of these views as your own. Consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Then, whichever view you do end up adopting -- or if you develop your own, perhaps with Satan's guidance -- you will understand it much better than you would if you had not considered the alternatives and the arguments for and against them. That is what philosophy is all about.

    It may turn out that certain things are beyond what we can know, and that the best we can do is to take a leap of faith. If so, then we should at least be aware of when we are taking a leap of faith and why. An important part of seeking truth is recognizing the limits of your ability to know the truth.

  4. Philosophy and revelation

    If you look to the Prince of Darkness or to Demons for guidance, this doesn't mean you are crazy. In fact, you are in good company. No less a person than Socrates, one of the very founders of Western philosophy, was said by Plato to have been guided by a Daimon. (In those days, a Daimon was simply a spirit intermediate in power between gods and humans. They were not thought of as "evil" spirits until later.)

    However, nobody is a perfect channel.

    As Geifodd wrote, at my suggestion, as a preliminary note to his Communication With the Prince of Darkness ritual:

    Whatever messages you might personally receive by performing this ritual, though they may be very helpful, should NOT be regarded as infallible -- ESPECIALLY if one is seeking answers on metaphysical matters. Even the most talented magicians are still fallible humans. On such matters as the exact nature of the Prince of Darkness himself, this is something we probably will never understand, just as a dog cannot be taught to read and write. If we ask such questions, the answers we will get are likely to be, at best, metaphors.

    Furthermore, channeled information is not a basis on which you can justify your beliefs to another person. You should never adopt another person's beliefs solely on the basis of that person asserting, "Satan told me so," without other evidence for those beliefs, even if the person happens to be (or, at least, is reputed to be) more magically adept than you. Nor should you expect anyone else to adopt your beliefs on that basis either. Whatever guidance you receive from Satan is between you and Satan.

    A skeptic would argue that the fallibility of channeled information -- not to mention the very different information that different people have received -- means that all channeled information is bullshit. Many theistic Satanists would not agree, especially those who have been greatly helped by the guidance received.

    But it clearly does mean that channeled information should not be our sole or even main means of seeking truth. Yes, by all means ask Satan for guidance. But it does not eliminate the need to think for ourselves. Thus, we need to develop skill in thinking, not just skill in channeling and other magick.

  5. Philosophy vs. science

    Some people believe that we should base our spirituality on science and not philosophy. After all, science deals with hard, verifiable facts, whereas philosophy deals with more abstract questions, many of which may be unanswerable.

    The problem here is that many of the people who try to build spiritual beliefs on "science" don't have a strong background in science. Thus, they don't know what they are talking about. Basing spiritual beliefs on science is fine if you actually are a scientist or, at least, have a strong scientific background. Anyone else who tries to do it will only end up looking like a fool in the eyes of people who really do know science.

    Today's sciences, especially the natural sciences like physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and geology, have developed the point where one needs to devote years of study to them in order to be able to speak authoritatively about them at all. For more about this, see my article Can YOU refute this nonsense? Try it!

    The same holds true for those who try to base their spiritual beliefs on archeology, as well as those who try to base their spiritual beliefs on natural sciences.

    On the other hand, spirituality is not a field that science has investigated in any great detail, as far as I am aware. Nor is it a field that lends itself easily to scientific investigation on a more than very superficial level. Insofar as spirituality involves a supernatural realm, it is beyond science -- although many "spiritual" experiences do have a natural explanation. (See Spiritual experiences and the brain.)

    I do advocate that Satanists, especially those who are in college or even high school, take advantage of the opportunity to get a good education in science (and math, which you need in order to really understand science). If nothing else, such education may help you recognize false "scientific" claims when you see them. (It can also be very helpful to you careerwise.)

    But our spirituality can only be based on a combination of instinct, folklore, personal experience, and our knowledge of other people's relevant experiences too, as viewed through a filter of philosophical thought (and a wide-ranging knowledge of comparative religion) to help us avoid jumping to too many unwarranted conclusions.

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