WHAT IS SATANIC INDIVIDUALISM?
Satanism is about the individual. We hear this sentiment–or variations of it–more often than Quasimodo hears bells.
(Yes I know he was deaf, shut up.)
What I rarely hear is much explication of what this really means. Maybe it’s supposed to be so self-evident as to require no further comment; or maybe the notion is that if it’s the individual who matters then there’s not a lot of need to share.
Even so, I can’t quite exorcise the ghost of the idea that this may be just a canard. It sounds good, and everybody says it, so it’s simply accepted.
The sentiment is so normative in Satanic circles that we almost HAVE to accept it, at which point there’s little incentive to parse it at all. If we’ve already got the conclusion in hand, what more do we need?
Well, since you’ve no doubt noticed that the blog is not over yet, it turns out quite a bit.
Writing in 2017, Science Daily notes “individualist cultures tend to conceive of people as self-directed and autonomous, and they tend to prioritize independence and uniqueness as cultural values.”
Academics measure individualism with variables like “how important people believe it is to teach children to be independent, and the degree to which people prioritize self-expression.”
In findings published in the Association for Psychological Science, researchers from the University of Waterloo and Arizona State found that “individualistic practices and values increased across the globe over time. Specifically, statistical models indicated that individualism has increased by about 12 percent worldwide since 1960.”
Which, I mean, yeah. As Americans, how often does media tell you, “Fuck self-expression, you’re just a drone in the hive, be manically dependent for everything?”
The “It’s okay to be yourself” sentiment is so common that it’s considered trite. It’s most common in material aimed at kids, where it usually represents one of the lowest denominators. If Teletubbies was on the cutting edge of your research conclusions 20 years ago, you can feel pretty confident about them now.
Back in 2001, Wilfred McClay wrote, “The duel between individual ‘rights talk’ and communitarian ‘responsibility talk’ used to be a roughly even match. But today it is only rarely a contest, for the former nearly always wins.”
Communitarianism: The Washington Generals of social philosophies.
You can see the problem here: If Satanism is about the self, but so is virtually all of the rest of society, then in what way are we different? Where’s the necessity for Satanic self-affirmation if everyone else is already on it?
True, American individualism is a mixed message at best. After all, society likes to favor the individual, but American religions have other ideas.
Improbably named fundy writer Trevin Wax sums up this problem succinctly: “Individualism would have us look deep into our hearts, but the gospel shows the depths of our hearts are steeped in sin.” (Life of the party this fucking guy…)
But, like Stretch Armstrong (our true savior) before him, Jesus can be contorted into pretty much any position. “At different points in history the church has emphasized [either the individual or the group] and then had the pendulum swing turn back on them within a generation,” divinity school fundy Derek Rishmawy points out.
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis went so far as to lecture that both approaches are secretly sinful, and that “the devil always sends errors into the world in pairs.”
It’s called the buddy system, Clive, it’s what keeps most kids from getting lost in wardrobes for 20 years.
So what’s missing from this equation that we then seek through Satanism? I would suggest, perhaps: sincerity and authenticity.
After all, society often TELLS us that we’re perfect just the way we are. But go ahead and try to do a little thing like support democracy or read to children or go to prom and see where that gets you.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if, in Satan, we found the reality of this sentiment that the rest of the world impresses on us but so often fails to deliver?
…seriously, wouldn’t it? This is not a rhetorical question, we should probably get on that.
We have written before about the long artistic tradition of Satan as an avatar for the disinherited. Baudelaire’s Litanies of Satan declares the devil the “staff of those in exile,” the patron of those “trampled” and in “tatters.”
Giosue Carducci’s Hymn To Satan refers to the fallen angel as a “refugee among household gods,” while Jules Michelet’s Satanism & Witchcraft identifies him as “the outlaw of outlaws” and the god of peasants, serfs, and above all women.
Even in JK Huysman’s Las Bas, the wicked but charismatic Satanic priest notes that only Satan has time for “the weak who are crushed beneath the press of profit.”
Like the meme says, Satan loves you just the way you are.
The problem, of course, is that Satan is not a real person. Or perhaps Satan is not just one person; Satan is all of us. And sometimes all of us are not our best selves.
Satanists, too, can be ignorant, narrow-minded, thoughtless, prejudiced, or bigoted. Even those Satanists with the best of intentions can’t overcome human failings and unconscious prejudices all the time.
In the surprisingly sedate conclusion to Revolt of the Angels, Satan counsels his fellow anarchists, “I love the Earth, where I have done some good, if it be possible to do any good in this fearful world.”
His tone is clear: somber, thoughtful, but at peace. He sees his regrets and knows that he has fallen short, but he’s also cognizant of his capacity do right.
Do some good, if it’s possible to do any good. And if you’ve done it even once, this proves that it’s possible to do it again.
And that, I hope, is the crux of being an individual. Whatever you’ve done is yours. And so is whatever you’re going to do next.