Exploring the Different Branches of Satanism

Do All Satanists Believe the Same Thing?

Man with Horns and Tail
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Today there are many branches of Satanism, in fact, modern Satanism is best considered an umbrella term for a wide variety of sets of beliefs and practices. The different belief systems reject western moral laws, replacing them with a combination of a positive self-image and a decided lack of conformity.

Satanic sects share three characteristics in common: An interest in magic, played out as psychodrama or mystical events; the creation of a community which defines the roles of membership as somewhere between people who share a mystical pursuit to those who live according to set of religious tenets; and a philosophy that thrives on non-conformity.

Satanist Branches and Left Hand Paths

Satanist themselves range from individuals who simply follow a self-centered philosophy. to organized groups with meeting houses and scheduled events. There are many Satanist groups, the best known of which are the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set. They embrace a low level of hierarchical leadership and a loosely agreed-upon and widely varied set of religious practices and beliefs.

Satanists say they follow left-hand paths, life ways which unlike Wicca and Christianity are focused on self-determination and the power of the self, rather than submitting to a superior force. While many Satanists do believe in a supernatural being, they see their relationship with that being as more of a partnership than a mastery of a god over a subject.

Below you will find listed three main styles of Satanist practices—Reactive, Theistic, and Rationalistic Satanism—and afterwards a sample of what are dozens of smaller sects which follow idiosyncratic pathways to enlightenment.

Reactive Satanism

The term "reactive Satanism" or "adolescent Satanism" refers to groups of individuals who adopt the stories of mainstream religion but invert its value. Thus, Satan is still an evil god as defined in Christianity, but one to be worshiped rather than shunned and feared. In the 1980s, adolescent gangs combined inverted Christianity with romantic "gnostic" elements, inspired by black metal rock music and Christian scare propaganda, role-playing games and horror imagery, and engaging in petty crime.

In contrast, most modern "rationalistic and esoteric" Satanist groups are loosely organized with a set of moralities which explicitly focus on this world. Some may have a more transcendent, spiritual dimension that might include the possibility of an afterlife. Such groups tend to be more exclusively naturalistic and all shun violence and criminal activities.

Rationalistic Satanism: The Church of Satan

In the 1960s, a highly secularized and atheistic type of Satanism arose under the direction of American author and occultist Anton Szandor LaVey. LaVey created the "Satanic Bible," which remains the most readily available text on the Satanic religion. He also formed the Church of Satan, which is by far the most well-known and most public Satanic organization.

LaVeyan Satanism is atheistic. According to LaVey, neither God nor Satan are actual beings; the only "god" in LaVeyan Satanism is the Satanist himself. Instead, Satan is a symbol representing the qualities embraced by Satanists. Invoking the name of Satan and other infernal names is a practical tool in Satanic ritual, placing one's focus and will upon those qualities.

In Rationalistic Satanism, extreme human emotion must be channeled and controlled rather than suppressed and shamed; this Satanism believes the seven "deadly sins' should be considered actions which lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.

Satanism as defined by LaVey is a celebration of the self. It encourages people to seek their own truths, indulge in desires without fear of societal taboos, and perfect the self.

Theistic or Esoteric Satanism: Temple of Set

In 1974, Michael Aquino, a member of the hierarchy of the Church of Satan, and Lilith Sinclair, a group leader ("grotto master") from New Jersey, broke away from the Church of Satan on philosophical grounds and formed the splinter group Temple of Set.

In the resulting theistic Satanism, practitioners recognize the existence of one or more supernatural beings. The major god, viewed as a father or older brother, is often called Satan, but some groups identify the leader as a version of the ancient Egyptian god Set. Set is a spiritual entity, based on the ancient Egyptian notion of xeper, translated as "self-improvement" or "self-creation."

Regardless of the being or beings in charge, none of them resemble the Christian Satan. Instead, they are beings which have the same general qualities as the symbolic Satan: sexuality, pleasure, strength, and rebellion against Western mores.

Luciferians

Among the minor sects is Luciferianism, whose adherents see it as a separate branch of Satanism which combines elements of rational and theistic forms. It is largely a theistic branch, although there are some who see Satan (called Lucifer) as symbolic rather than an actual being. 

Luciferians use the term "Lucifer" in its literal sense: the name means "light bringer" in Latin. Rather than being a figure of challenge, rebellion, and sensuality, Lucifer is seen as a creature of enlightenment, the one who brings light out of the darkness. Practitioners embrace the seeking of knowledge, delving into the darkness of mystery, and coming out better for it. They stress the balance of light and dark and that each depends upon the other.

While Satanism revels in physical existence and Christianity focuses more on spirituality, Luciferians see their religion as one that seeks a balance of both, that human existence is an intersection of the two.

Anti-Cosmic Satanism

Also known as Chaos-Gnosticism, the Misanthropic Luciferian Order, and the Temple of the Black Light, the Anti-Cosmic Satanists believe that the cosmic order that was created by God is a fabrication and behind that reality is an endless and formless chaos. Some of its practitioners such as Vexior 21B and Jon Nodtveidt of the Black Metal band Dissection are nihilists who would prefer that the world to return to its normal state of chaos.

Transcendental Satanism

Transcendental Satanism is a sect created by Matt "The Lord" Zane, an adult video director, whose brand of Satanism came to him in a dream after taking the drug LSD. Transcendental Satanists seek a form of spiritual evolution, with the end goal of each individual a reunification with his or her inner Satanic aspect. Adherents feel that the Satanic aspect in life is a hidden part of the self that is separate from consciousness, and believers can find their way to that self by following an individually determined path. 

Demonolatry

Demonolatry is basically the worship of demons, but some sects see each demon as a separate force or energy that can be used to aid in the practitioner's rituals or magic. The book entitled "Modern Demonolatry" by S. Connolly lists well over 200 demons from a multitude of different religions, ancient and modern. Adherents choose to worship demons that mirror their own attributes or ones with whom they share a connection. 

Satanic Reds

Satanic Reds view Satan as a dark force that has existed since the beginning of time. Its major proponent Tani Jantsang claims a pre-Sanskrit history of the cult and believes that individuals must follow their own chakras to find their inner force. That inner force exists in everyone, and it is trying to evolve according to each individual's environment. The "Reds" is an explicit reference to socialism: Many Satanic Reds espouse the rights of workers to throw off their chains. 

Christian-Based Duotheism and Polytheistic Satanism

A minor sect of theistic satanism reported by Satanist Diane Vera is the Christian-based duotheism. Its practitioners accept that there is a on-going war between the Christian God and Satan, but unlike Christians, they support Satan. Vera says the sect is based on ancient Zoroastrian beliefs about an eternal conflict between good and evil.

Another offshoot of Theistic Satanism are polytheistic groups such as the Church of Azazel which revere Satan as one of many gods.

The Process Church of the Final Judgement

Also known as the Process Church, the Process Church of the Final Judgement is a religious group established in London of the 1960s by two people who were ejected from the Church of Scientology. Together, Mary Ann MacLean and Robert de Grimston developed their own practices, based on a pantheon of four gods known as the Great Gods of the Universe. The four are Jehovah, Lucifer, Satan, and Christ, and none are evil, instead, each exemplifies different patterns of human existence. Each member selects one or two of the four that is closest to their own personality.

The Cult of Cthulhu

Based on the H.P. Lovecraft novels, the Cults of Cthulhu are small groups which have arisen with the same name but have radically different goals. Some believe that the fictional creature was real, and will eventually usher in an era of chaos and uninhibited violence, wiping out humanity in the process. Others simply subscribe to the philosophy of Cthulhu—a philosophy of cosmic indifferentism, that the universe is a meaningless and mechanical system that is indifferent to the existence of human beings. Other members of the Cult are not Satanists at all but use the cult to celebrate Lovecraft's ingenuity.

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