Not many things in our culture are more controversial than Satanists, and the Church of Satan is the most popular, and well known Satanic Church out there. Anton LaVey brought the Church of Satan into the light and his book The Satanic Bible which remains a best seller. Yet most people have no idea what the Church of Satan is all about.
High Priest Peter Gilmore breaks it down for Disinfo readers.
How did you come to be involved in the Church of Satan?
At age 13 I discovered The Satanic Bible while I was purchasing science fiction books in a NYC bookstore. I had defined myself as an atheist prior to reading that book that night. Seeing myself reflected in the words of Magus Anton Szandor LaVey, I realized “Satanist” was a more accurate label, prompting me to contact the Church of Satan at age 15 after doing further research. I was told that I must wait until my adulthood to affiliate. In 1982, when I was completing my studies towards my degrees in composition at NYU—a point when I felt I had made strides in developing my talents—both I and my wife, Peggy Nadramia, formally joined. We were invited to meet Anton LaVey and made that journey to San Francisco in 1986. He was precisely the man who comes across in his writing, full of humor and intelligence, offering incisive insights. We’d gained a warm and fascinating “uncle” in our family of choice. That encounter began our friendship and association with him as trusted colleagues in representing and later assisting to administer the Church of Satan.
Most people have absolutely no idea at all what the Church Of Satan believes. Can you sum up the core beliefs?
Satanism begins with atheism, rejecting the spiritual as fiction, building on that by prompting one to take responsibility for creating one’s own hierarchy of values, with oneself as the center of this subjective universe, a form of self-deification I call “I-theism.” Satan is adopted as a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism, an exteriorized projection of each Satanist’s potential for achievement. Satan is an adversarial figure, prompting the questioning of authority to come to truths, and he’s played that role for writers such as Milton, Baudelaire, Carducci, and Mark Twain. We accept the human animal with all of its flaws and strengths and find that our species can achieve most by rationally creating a social contract towards building an equitable, secular society as a structure in which our lives can be lived to the fullest. As Epicureans, we advocate all of the pleasures, from physical to intellectual, be enjoyed as moderated indulgences rather than enslaving compulsions. We accept all forms of human sexuality so long as they are enjoyed in a non-coerced manner with other mature individuals. We employ “magic” to move the world according to our will. Lesser Magic is the daily guile employed to get people to do your bidding by charming them through words, mode of dress, scent, and so forth. Greater Magic is ritual used not for worship, but as emotionally cathartic psychodrama releasing feelings that are hindering our regular pursuit of joy in abundance—a form of self-therapy. We treasure this life as we do not believe in any afterlife and thus attempt to live as fully as is possible, sharing our exuberance with others who add to our delights and avoiding as much as possible those who detract from our experiences.
What might you mean by”in Satanism each individual is his or her own god?”
That each Satanist is his own primary value, and thus the foundation of a personal perspective on the surrounding Universe. This does not mean we declare ourselves equivalent to supernatural deities as found in most mythologies, rather that we are in command of our lives and thus take responsibility for our successes and failures while making our way through an indifferent cosmos and a society of fellow beings offering challenges and rewards for our efforts. In a world wherein blaming others and constant scapegoating is the norm, it would seem our viewpoint is not widely embraced.
The vast majority of the world pictures you all as immoral devil worshippers, and something to be feared. Do you find that irritating or amusing, or perhaps a little of both?
Our carnal philosophy has been available for scrutiny for decades, so ignorant assumptions tend to confirm a lack of awareness on the part of the observer. It is the willingness to learn that separates the merely uninformed from the bigots who prefer to have an easy out when confronted by our challenging perspective. Since ever-increasing one’s knowledge is a valued process to me, I find that those who are fearful based on willful ignorance to be both repugnant and dangerous. I spent many hours of my time doing interviews during the “Satanic Panic” of the 80s-90s, dispelling the notion that we are criminal devil worshippers, hence I am not amused when decades worth of clearly presented information is ignored. As we can see, people of faith are ready to kill those with whom they have disagreements, and since we Satanists stand for a secular world embracing science, reason and social equity, the zealots should hate us for that rather than imagined child sacrifices and devotion to demons.
Where do you see the Church of Satan going over the next few decades?
Our body of literature is our legacy—the purpose of our organization being to present our philosophy with accuracy to any who find it of interest—and since it is reaching more curious individuals around the globe in a growing body of translations, our membership will continue to burgeon, enriched by intelligent and discerning people who find that their nature is best defined by our concepts. While a growing number of people now seem attracted to symbols we’ve employed for half a century, most cannot embrace our doctrine of self-determination. We are seeing less defined and less demanding alternatives for those dilettante devil fans attracted to diabolical imagery yet not the rigors of our praxis. Since our founder was first to codify Satanism as a pragmatic, carnal philosophy, the Church of Satan will continue to inspire like-minded individuals for many decades to come, offering a fulfilling alternative to the irrationality of theism as well as a defined and useful interpretation of the human animal for secularists seeking more than just a rejection of religious mythology. The Church of Satan is its members, and they are out there creating, innovating, and moving the world in ways that favor our values as life-loving individuals who treasure our globe and the best creations our species can produce. Some do so openly, many find it more effective to be behind the scenes. Either way, they prove the effectiveness of our philosophy as a valid means for savoring life.
Learn more about the Church of Satan here.
Buy my book and go to Hell here.