By Anton Szandor LaVey
Critique by Punkerslut
Preface to the Second Edition
The Second Edition is divided up into several parts: Preface, Introduction, Satanic Magic, Animal Rights in Satanism, and the Corruption of the Church of Satan. It has been entirely rewritten and parts before that seemed unclear have been clarified. It is also slightly smaller, but much more concise, better argued, and more clarified.
In 1966, Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan and in 1969, Anton LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible. His book became popular among many individuals and many people joined his organization. The primary principles of his "Bible" are magic and self-indulgence. Among the magical portion of his book, it includes many apologetics or explanations for possible failures of Satanic magic. Another thing to understand is that the Satanism of Anton LaVey is not what is commonly understood as Satanism. He does not believe in Satan in the Christian sense. His theological standpoint can be simplified with the term Atheist. He does not believe in a god, other than himself. However, he does believe in magical things which would presuppose supernatural forces at work. In this work, I will criticize the so-called Satanic Magic, as well as other parts of his "Bible" which I disagree with. Finally, I will discuss the corruption of the Church of Satan. Unlike my other Critiques, this one includes a bit of non-book information (the corruption of the Church of Satan).
Anton LaVey uses various methods to obscure the question of magic. For example, he defines magic as the following...
Magic, therefore, is defined as some form of changing the chance of a goal in a situation through unusual methods. This does not make magic absolutely a supernatural thing at all. In fact, it is far from supernatural. The definition of magic as provided by Anton LaVey is nothing but an obscure, barely defined method which could be anything unusual. Furthermore, LaVey obscures the point even more...
To state that magic is not scientifically explainable is one thing. Supernatural dogma is used by ignorant minds to explain events that cannot otherwise be explained to them. Consider the rainbow: cavemen called it a sign of a god, but scientists today fully accept it as a simple chemical reaction which can be reproduced in a laboratory. However, LaVey goes further than simply just calling science magic when he insinuates that Satanic magic will one day be considered science. To those who seek evidence for the truthfulness of his statement, he'll say that there is none, because eventually it will be explained in fully scientific terms. Still, though, LaVey mixes non-magical components into Satanic magic when he states...
In this brief passage, magic is defined as controlling and manipulating the prejudices of other people. If someone sees a slow, feeble person, they may naturally feel sympathetic towards that person. Of course, it's all about controlling and manipulating the prejudices and dogmas of other people. I don't find this at all to be a form of magic. However, to use it is considered magical, at least within the context that LaVey believes. LaVey furthers his Satanic position greatly when he states...
This is one of the most commonly accepted ideas of religion: never talk with those who doubt your religion. If the mind of man is free and allowed to question whatever doctrines are put before him - Christianity, Satanism, Buddhism, or lack of - then he will question and legitimately make a choice. However, under the rules of LaVey's Satanism, a Satanist may not attempt to convince a skeptic. The reasoning for this can be obvious: skeptics, when wielding logic and reason against dogma, will almost always succeed. The superstitions of magic and such foolishness can be struck down easily with a simple dose of reasoning. However, not only has LaVey condemned such actions of arguing, but he said it would lessen your chances of success at magic and he suggests that you should place a curse. Then he states that the days of this cursed victim are filled with turmoil and "by Satan's grace, he might even die--laughing!" LaVey goes further and states...
It should be obvious, to even the most uninformed individual, that in the previous passage, LaVey attempted to accomplish an unshakable faith by promoting collective Satanism. He even openly compares it to religion. A group of people who follow a belief are more likely to remain with that belief when they rely on each other's assurances than a lone person who follows something. Of course, even LaVey admits this and admits that this is the reason he suggest collective Satanism. However, it is simply a method of bolstering belief in dogmatic and superstitious principles.
"The amount of energy needed to levitate a cup (genuinely) would be of sufficient force to place an idea in a group of people's heads half-way across the earth, in turn, motivating them in accordance with your will. The Satanist knows that even if you succeeded in lifting the teacup from the table, it would be assumed that trickery was used anyway. Therefore, if the Satanist wants to float objects in mid-air, he uses wires, mirrors, or other devices, and saves his force for self-aggrandizement." [The Satanic Bible, written by Anton Szander LaVey, published by Yankee Rose, Page 121.]
In this statement, Anton LaVey clearly states that a Satanist ought to use fake methods for proving that Satanism is real. The significance of this statement is that the Satanist does not have to prove to themselves, or to others, genuinely that they are capable of magic.
In the previous statement, LaVey downsizes his religious dogma so that those who are using magic will have an explanation as to why they fail: they tried for something too high and out of reach. LaVey deepens the impact of this idea by stating that learning to cast spells well is something that few witches and warlocks ever attain. The significance of this statement by LaVey is that it lowers the possibilities of magic. So, if someone wishes to easily disprove magic by casting a spell to move a mountain, they will come to this argument: magic is weak. Not only did LaVey remove all forms of supernaturism from it when defining it, but now he concludes that it is weak.
This last statement by Anton LaVey is perhaps the most significant and powerful. It tells those who cast magic not to think of it, not to dwell on it. When someone prays and prayer fails consistently, then they will become aware of its futility. The same principle can be seen in the way LaVey advertises magic. A person will only notice the failure of magic if attention is paid to it. Adversely, LaVey leads his followers to believe that examination or observation of magic will lead to it not working, thus disallowing any critical investigation of his claims concerning magic.
The claims of Anton LaVey are as follows: that magic exists and that Satanists, his followers, may use magic to their will to alter the physical Universe. Surrounding this dogmatic superstition of supernatural intervention are barrier beliefs which work to prevent freedom of conscience and freedom of investigation. The truth is hidden and methods are utilized to prevent followers from learning these methods. To clarify if magic is true or not, we come to an obscure definition which is not even limited to supernatural entities. Magic could be anything unusual, according to LaVey's magic. To even make magic more obscure, LaVey compares it to science, which he states was once considered magic. He also states that utilizing and using prejudices are forms of magic. A significant point of his magic structure is that to debate a skeptic is looked down upon. LaVey claims that this is because it will worsen your chances of magical success, but any observant thinker can tell that this is because freedom of mind and thought will lead to the questioning of ideology. When a Satanist can logically debate their claims concerning magic, they will not be able to offer any evidence and their claims will have no foundation. In a debate, they will realize this, and it is for this reason that LaVey discourages debating. What LaVey also promotes is finding other Satanists and doing group magic. The significance of this was even told by himself: faith is reassured in a group where individuals can rely on each other for assurance. Using fake magic to demonstrate magic to onlookers is also promoted. By using false argumentations and insufficient reasoning, LaVey also states that magic is inadequate, that you shouldn't aim too high, and if you fail, it is because you aim too high. Along with this, he states that it is rare that a witch or warlock learns well how to aim while using magic. So, he provides a doubled excuse for magic's failure. Finally, he condemns waiting for magic to work. If someone waits for magic to work, and it does not, LaVey holds the onlooker completely responsible. Of course, if someone does not await for their magic to work and does not think about it, they will not realize that it does not work at all. It is by contaminating the methods of investigation with hollow threats and foolish dogma that LaVey wishes to protect his magic from questioning.
Animal Rights in Satanism
The structure of satanic magic as developed by Anton LaVey is disagreeable enough. There are, however, other philosophical points in this book which I find either stupid or contradictory. For example, at the top of page 89, it reads, "Under NO circumstances would a Satanist sacrifice any animal or baby!" Of course, this is probably in response to the claims of Christians that Satanists sacrifice animals and babies. (When someone is attempting to advance a religious position, has truth ever been their sword?) However, the disagreeable part of the sacrifice of animals or babies is when LaVey later states on page 139...
Perhaps LaVey lacked various forms of knowledge: simple biology or economics. Firstly, an individual does not need the flesh of an animal as a necessity. A human will certainly live much longer and healthier if they do not consume the flesh of their fellow beasts. This has been the accepted truth for decades. Furthermore, when an individual buys parchment made from animal skin, they are taking part in a relationship that kills animals. The deaths of billions of animals is because so many people are willing to slaughter animals and so many people are willing to pay for the flesh of the animals. For a Satanist to say on one side that they will not sacrifice an animal yet on the other side shake hands with a murderer for animal parts is a dichotomy. The principles of a boycott are to make changes in policies. I boycott flesh by refusing to purchase or consume it. Thus, I am not responsible for the deaths of my fellow creatures. In fact, much of my effort is based on preventing animals from being killed. However, in regards to Animal Rights, Satanism is blurry and contradictory.
Corruption at the Church of Satan
If you wish to join the Church of Satan, it will cost you a hefty sum of $100. In return, you will receive a plastic card. That is all. There is no actual building for the Church of Satan. There is no temple. You simply send in the money and receive a piece of plastic. When LaVey's wife, Diane, filed for divorce, Anton had to liquidate his assets, including the Church of Satan. Journalist Alan Cabal (New York Press, 12-18 November, 1997) observed, "It was dissolved in bankruptcy court, a fitting end for an organization that never had the slightest meaning beyond shock value. Various tinpot wannabes have attempted to keep the name going, but the cognoscenti of the Satanic tradition abandoned it decades ago when it became apparent that the Church was nothing more than a cash cow."