An Existential Reading of Satanism

Anton Szandor LaVey
Anton Szandor LaVey

After reading thinkers of 19th and 20th century existentialism, namely Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger (though Heidegger rejected being an existentialist), I returned to thoughts on religion, namely Satanism and its relation to existentialism. These are my first thoughts on the subject, and I may devote a more in-depth essay to the matter in the future.

I would argue that religiosity is generally distasteful in a Satanic context, although Satanism is a religion. The elements of Judeo-Christian, Islamic, et al tenets are at odds with the atheism and indulgence of a Satanic Weltanschauung. I think here is where Satanism is meaningfully blasphemous.

Religious systems such as the former are limitive; they impose asceticism and prohibition. Pleasure is something that is not allowed, unless, in a Nietzschean perspective, pleasure is gained in a sickly inward sense toward this bodily denial. It could be argued that these life-denying theologies could never allow one to be fully human. And this is where the idea of an existential reading of Satanism first came to me.

In view of these ascetic religions, LaVey turned the idea of religion completely on its head. He took the idea and framed it around human nature. To be human, LaVey thought, meant coming to terms with our instincts and indulging in the here and now while we can. This is where Satanism is blasphemous in the most meaningfully way. Hitherto, religion was the prohibition of human nature consummated in superstition. Now, it’s been established as a celebration of life instincts in the deconstruction of otherworldly values. The existential meat lies in this essence of what it means to be human.

We have these base needs and desires. For millennia, we’ve viewed them as being shameful, ourselves as being guilty, and we’ve externalized the ego. The existential turn, for Satanism, is an embracing of our essential selves in the realization that we only get one shot – one life, and therefore, life should be indulged.

From The Satanic Bible: “Life is the great indulgence–death, the great abstinence.”


3 thoughts on “An Existential Reading of Satanism

  1. I’ve not studied LaVey (and it’s probably been 25 years since I even read him) but, between my memory and what you’ve presented here, Satanism strikes me as more of a re-action than an existential action and too self-consciously an inversion of existing values to be a Nietzschean revaluation. As you say, you’re just working through the possibility of connection but, if you’re engaging the work anyway, I’d be interested to know what you find in these directions.

  2. There has been a common theme that in conversations about Lavey that it was never his intention that Laveyanism become a version of militant atheism that it has now become.

    1. Frankly, even if it was never meant to be militantly atheist, I think it’s even more enriched by it. We live in an age where we’ve been to space, and have landed rovers on planets, and we’ve photographed Pluto in great detail, and yet some people still believe in literal magic and the supernatural.

      Sure, it’s been argued Satanism takes a supernormal approach, but c’mon. Do you really think uttering words and showing gestures under candle light in any way affects reality? It’s psychodrama at best.

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