WHAT A SATANIST ABSOLUTELY MUST READ (NOT “PARADISE LOST”–SADLY)
On the latest episode of Black Mass Appeal we discussed Paradise Lost, and I again grappled with the question of how to motivate more people to read this poem that I love in a way that’s forbidden in most reputable jurisdictions.
However, after a few days I’ve realized that, like a man who smuggled a flask into the “Jeopardy” green room in a misbegotten bid to calm his nerves, I’m asking the wrong questions.
Because how do I know what you should be reading? Who the hell am I? How did I get here?
A better question is: If not that, then what SHOULD you be reading? And how can you find out?
I read about Satanism and related topics, uh, quite a lot really. I’m not saying this to brag, just to illustrate a point further down.
Earlier this year I did The Invention of Satanism, Naming the Antichrist, The Devil & Mr. Smith, Revelations, The Dungeon-Master, The Satanism Scare, Satanic Panic, The Devil Rides Out, The Devil’s Tome, Devil’s Knot, Faust, A Pictorial History of Magic & the Supernatural, Introduction To Romantic Satanism, Behold: A Pale Horse, Speak of the Devil, The Devil’s Advocate, and right now I’m in the midst of The Satanic Mass.
I’ve also been creeping through Infernal Dictionary a few pages at a time, but I strongly expect I’ll be reading that book for the next rest of my entire life.
Oh, and since the show was coming up I read Paradise Lost again. Because any excuse, really.
My mother noticed that I don’t recommend books to her as often as I used to. I’m not really sure how to tell her, “Well Mom, I just don’t think you’re that into Satan.” Not until after Thanksgiving, at least.
Now, why all the reading? I mean, I like to, sure. But I also like to mix different colors of food dye in the ice cube trays and then play dumb when the ice come out black. I wouldn’t put much stock in those standards.
The thing is, unlike with conventional religions, you have to reach yourself how to be a Satanist. In fact, you have to teach yourself what Satanism even is. And if you don’t do it, nobody else is going to.
Maybe this’ll illustrate the point: Way back in the Before Time of 2015–a simpler age, when NASA communed with the dark god Pluto and then that did wild astrological shit to make Ireland legalize same-sex marriage–I first heard about the Satanic Temple.
And I was intrigued. But also confused: Sure, these Seven Tenets sounded good. But I wondered, what did they have to do with Satan?
My only reference for Satanism at that time was old Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, a resource that in my mind renders the phrase “better than nothing” a coin-toss at best.
So it wasn’t that helpful. I kind of wrestled with this for a while–which is a busy way of saying that I didn’t bother to learn anything new and just sort of hoped the problem would work out. Hard to believe that didn’t help.
And then one day I read The Revolt of the Angels. And when I got to the part where–you know I’ve referenced this passage so many times on this blog that I worry someone out there is going to pay to have my typing fingers broken Nancy Kerrigan-style if I don’t stop. But here goes:
Satan showed in his various manifestations all the strength and beauty which it is given to mortals to conceive. He charmed the wild beasts, and penetrating into the deep forests drew to him everything that climbed in trees and peered through the branches with wild and timid gaze.
On all these he bestowed loving-kindness and grace, and they followed him drunk with joy and beauty. […] More than once over his brow, burning with the fire of enthusiasm, did melancholy and gloomy fever pass. But his profound knowledge and his friendship for mankind enabled him to triumph over every obstacle.
Oh. I got it.
Those words that before had seemed out of place: wisdom, nobility, empathy, compassion, justice. They really were about Satan. Just not the Satan I had previously ever thought about. The devil, I realized, is something we conceive for ourselves. (Just like god…)
Not in a vacuum: I do not believe Satan can be just anything. But he can be much more than our assumptions.
So I keep reading, because Satan needs to grow. You’ll notice that, despite my love for the text, it was not Paradise Lost that delivered me to the unpromised land. Would have been nice if it was; continuity and all that. But evidently that was not the book I needed.
So: What do you need? It’s a rhetorical question, the answer can be anything, I’ll never even know. But I don’t think it can be nothing. If you don’t want to learn what I think you should, great, awesome attitude, fuck me anyway. But what else then?
We create Modern Satanism: Our practice is what we’re doing, and our doctrine is what we know.
The thing that balances that power is that it puts the onus on us. We must educate ourselves and find the things that are going to become the works of our private canon. Nobody else can do it.
So ask yourself: What’s it going to be?