"The Myth of the 'Satanic Community'
and Other Virtual Delusions"
BY Troll Towelhead (Grand Mufti of Satanism)
I am here responding to one of a number of essays by Peter H. Gilmore accompanying the publication of three liturgical standards ('Satanic scriptures') for his church: one for weddings, one for funerals, and one for a 'malpocalyptic' Rite of Ragnarok. While within this essay he correctly identifies 'Satanic community' as an erroneous phrase, Gilmore underestimates the internet and its capacity to catalyze change. He makes categorical errors, exaggerating his church's role, its opinions and activities with respect to Satanity, proclaiming its ownership of the movement, promoting herd culture, mocking experimental self-exploration, and eroding emphasis away from the most important Satanic principle: individualism. To the positive, he offers some helpful reflections on ideals and social networks, and gives an endorsement of special interest groups as well as the construction of original alternative Satanic organizations.
Reducing Satanity to a Satanism:
Promoting Herd Culture
Through the entirety of this essay on 'virtual delusions' Gilmore repeatedly appeals to his church and its Bible ("The Satanic Bible", by Anton Szandor LaVey), as the determiner of Satanic doctrines and knowledge. His is an elitist attempt to mimic a now failing religious hierarchical system (the Roman Catholic Church) which liberated and mature Satanians are leaving behind. Exaggerating the importance of his opinions and philosophy, like the Christians with whom he is competing and from whom he wants to attract converts, he appeals to the conventional Christian modality of authority: read the Book ('the Bible'), then find out the Real Truth (TM) from 'the Church' (the Church of Satan) interpreting it for you and providing this to you manufactured and pre-masticated ('our movement'). After much complaint, Gilmore eventually hesitatingly admits of the possibility of legitimate competing Satanic organizations, though of course he wants this divorced from his Church, his Bible, and his Pope, which he wants solidified in a block to his cult.
Gilmore tends to think in terms of a single ideology constituting Satanism, rather than multiple frameworks of reference which can be employed to pursue an increasing number of logically supportable Satanic aims. The latter is a far more mature means of delving into the mysteries of the cosmos as individualists, but in his eyes this must be sacrificed to the interests of The Church. Gilmore's attempts to own what he is calling 'his movement' are unpersuasive. Satanists in general form a diverse and dispersed, networked subculture, and this decentralization is a strength it shares with Neopaganism. A Satanism is a philosophy, but as the Satanic subculture diversifies and leaves the Church of Satan and other similarly archaic structures behind, it becomes clear that such philosophies are not in fact unique.
He talks about "herd culture", apparently without realizing that he is speaking very much like those who generate and drive it. Perhaps this is his idea of 'lesser magic' (manipulative persuasion), but when the target is the Satanic subculture itself, his sermons will only captivate those whose droning loyalty stems from an unreadiness to stand independent from such a somnambulant "elite" corps(e). Membership in organizations and adherence to single ideologies are part of a problem which he and the Church of Satan can't seem to transcend. His call for 'non-joiner joiners' is a self-contradictory demonstration of this continuing problem. The most important principle upwelling from within all of us who use the Christian subversion ideologies to our advantage (the actual impetus of this movement, which he does not and can not ever own) trumps any philosophical dogma he may attempt to put forward: INDIVIDUALISM.
Mocking Satanic Technological Experimentation:
While his description of the internet newbie Satanist is somewhat amusing, and surely describes some who use computers for their exploration of the world, laws, and their self-conception for the first time, it is not ubiquitous. Gilmore criticizes by mockery one of the developing sectors of individualism that are available to young adults who otherwise feel powerless in the aftermath of being supported and inculcated by their Christian parents: their exploration of self-definition and self-reinvention. Ignoring the deconditioning example of the Black Mass as LaVey employed it, Gilmore diminishes the actions of people who are attempting to seize control of their social identity and reform it to their liking by playing with important and empowering technologies. He has no faith that such struggling individualists will find means to "discriminate the valid from the invalid." Instead he wants to do this for them, indoctrinate them to his way of thinking in reaction to his supercilious mockery.
His appeal to these newbie Satanian explorers orients to a misguided fantasy that the individual wants to be 'remembered for their prior resonance', and this is disconnected from the experience of these adolescents in the world today. He wants to turn them toward his Bible and his church using the same methods that the Christians do to their sheep in the pews. It becomes obvious, and this is reflected by the 'piranha pack' fundamentalist behaviour of many LaVeyans associated with his church, that he would not be able to recognize a real Satanist. He is too blindered by form, purveying of priestcraft, and ignorant of innovation. He cannot imagine that Satanism outside of a herd is legitimate unless it mimics his notions of his LaVeyan dogma. The individual is a "would-be High Priest" rather than someone who has dispensed with his beloved ecclesiastic pageantry altogether, or exploded it out of significance. People outside his church are "self-proclaimed" because to be proclaimed by the ('Satanic') herd carries more weight for Gilmore, is more authoritative to his pre-programmed convention. Like his interest in Roman Catholic vestments, he doesn't want to stray too far from the culture to which he is reacting, and this tends to make his advocations weak and disempowering.
More often Gilmore is disdainful of Satanic individuals and individualists, primarily because they stretch beyond the mould of his Church, his Leader, and his Book. That the process of "becoming your own god" may require this he dismisses from a simplified perspective that it pitifully disrupts 'his movement'. He doesn't see that these activities may be an imperative struggle against the edifices and social structures by which he himself has become corrupted and to which he has been subsumed. Contrary to what he claims in this essay, Satanism can never be 'embodied' by a group. This is the reason that Satan is envisioned as a humanoid character in fiction or mythos by both Christians and Satanists, and not some disembodied spirit: because the individualism which Satan symbolizes is his own, and not that of some cult.
Like the establishment religion he presumes to oppose, Gilmore attempts to squash expansive adolescent experimentation, attacking it, and calling it futile, while promoting sycophancy to his leadership. He imagines himself and his church as the center of all Satanic activity just as other religious do around the world. He doesn't see that the hatred that these individuals have for him is not out of envy, but because in so many of his actions, public speech and writings intending to consolidate his church to authority, decrying experimental struggle and fomenting herd-movement, he is betraying individualism down to its core.
Bootstrapping and Fake Ownership of Satanian Movement:
Gilmore's characterization of a simplified principle of success and hard work as 'Satanic' is as ridiculous as the proclamation of the newbie Satanist's newfound authority as "The Imperial Daemon Cosmic High Priest". Of course if Gilmore can attract those who will do outstanding things in society and then associate themselves with his church, they can then pull up his cult into avenues of 'Satanic success'. This was one of Anton LaVey's primary aims (to harness a growing American secularism and somehow identify it with his religion and with social success by attracting the socially successful). Yet this is not happening. When interviewers chasing after leftover remnants of the Christian subversion ideologies ask him "Where are all the Satanists of high status within our society?" these are passed off by Gilmore as 'hidden and declining to admit their affiliation'.
Sociologists, studying New Religion Movements (NRMs), have discovered quite clearly that these hidden power-moguls, like the inflated membership figures Gilmore now avoids mentioning, have always been fabrications. The membership prestige factor is wearing thin, and Gilmore's pathetic desire to bolster this by associating with hero religious such as Newton and Einstein, or converso-atheist culture heros who never overtly associated with the Satanic like Mozart and Edison, is a plain indicator of his failure to inspire actual genius within his church or to draw it to them for more than questionable artistic notoriety amongst members (e.g. Anger, Mansfield, Davis Jr., Rice, and MManson).
The "if you aren't with us you are against us" attitude which Gilmore persistently puts forward when attempting to persuade others not to form groups or coalitions to rival his cult is detrimental to the very movement of which he so far remains part. He foolishly believes that forming the Church of Satan was comparable to 'inventing the wheel', when in fact the Christian culture from which it extended had been fashioning countless imaginary wheels for centuries prior. To characterize the numerous modern parallel experiments in this regard as a negative development is to embrace the values of the conventional Christian religious culture while attempting to put a new 'Satanic' face on it. Like middle school children seeking to 'non-conform together' and then snipe at one another for how similar they all are, the Church of Satan, with Gilmore as their leader, is badly applying the principles which they irrationally claim to embody.
It seems ironic that he should attempt to provide a warning about "over-inflated illusions of their ...value to others" when this is precisely what he and his church are demonstrating in their expressions to the world. This is not unusual religious behaviour, and the hazards to which he refers are not unique to Satanism. Contrary to his evaluation, and demonstrating that Gilmore is not following his own advice about keeping up in such subjects of study as sociology of religion (e.g. pertaining to Satanism), he is ignorant that Satanism is part of a slough of self-religions (NRMs), all of which empower and embolden the individual, usually without a call to submission. The typical calls for submission come from particular organizations seeking to dominate the movement by claiming to be superior authorities to the individuals participating in it, just as he and his church are attempting to do in this and other pronouncements. Rather than to do as Gilmore says and "leave the representation to [the Church of Satan]", the empowered Satanian will inform him with vitriol "We don't need no stinking representation!"
Reassuring Support of Some Common Ideals:
Autonomy, Ecology and Networking
All that said, Gilmore does touch on some important truths in this essay, such as that intelligent Satanists today no longer need organizations; are fully able to network using computers and don't require a "hidden" corporate facilitator as their moderating nanny; and that Satanians are incredibly diverse and therefore won't necessarily share ideologies, philosophies, beliefs, aesthetics, or values. Of course he otherwise wants to define religious (Satanic) ideals for us the way churches have for centuries.
In pursuit of this he helpfully mentions a few commonly shared ideals, inclusive of love and respect for (non-human) animals (which may translate into an abiding support of ecology), an interest in social justice (though what this means in terms of application is extremely diverse, varying from 'swift social Darwinism' to efficient and fair anarchism), and an aspiration for transcending mediocrity by the engagement of inspired innovation (not simply riding on the coat-tails of notorious celebrity or celebrities mucking around with popular Satanic motifs).
The most ecumenical and friendly of Gilmore's suggestions seem to emerge when he stops focussing on his fallacious ownership of the movement and begins to take a strong stand in favour of decentralized networks *outside* of his church's hierarchy. In the aftermath of their dissolved grotto system, their endorsement of special interest groups (e.g. "The Satanic Network's Undercroft") seems to be an acknowledgement as to their effectiveness. Very likely they have seen the success of this type of networking used by MENSA, Neopagans, and the Temple of Set, and seek to take advantage of it. The 'hiving' Protestant mechanism is therefore accepted as long there is no hint of competition as another Church of Satan.
The most admirable portion of his essay comes after much complaint about individual choices, when he points out that it is up to the individual to pick those whose respect is worth 'winning'. It would have been more Satanic had Gilmore moved past the social earnings systems and placed the emphasis on the development of self-respect, but at least it wasn't a continued proclamation of his church's important place in the world or in their role with respect to evaluating and identifying the individual Satanian.
Snide Singular Ideology:
Pursuing Self-Compromising Aims
Mocking, derisive laughter runs through the greater part of this essay (and probably the book from which it comes), and this attitude contributes to the undermining of LaVeyan legitimacy as a social participant. It keeps those who might otherwise join Satanity as a movement or religion at a distance, belittling the actions of adolescents who then turn toward dangerous nazi front-groups like the Joy of Satan or the corrosive nazi literary artifice of the Order of Nine Angles, and alienates intellectuals who are through with facile institutions and singular ideologies futilely attempting to represent individualism and personal empowerment.
The emphasis which Gilmore places upon the institution of his church, the leadership of the friends, family, and successors of the LaVeys, and the pivotal importance of his Bible discloses to us not only the compromises that have been made in applying philosophies of individual sovereignty such as that confusingly promoted by the Church of Satan, but also the ability to betray individualism by continuing to utilize powerful corporate leverage and dogmatic rhetoric in pursuit of social attention. Such compromises don't concern those who benefit from them until their hypocrisy is brought out into the open by the rejection of them as representative of a wider social movement of which they were once central, innovative actors.
(c) 2010 Troll (Troll Towelhead)