The decade of the ‘60s was a turbulent and transitional time particularly in the U.S. It was the decade when the culture in America was irreversibly changed, and I would argue…for the worse.
During this period, the attacks on America were unprecedented for the time: Cuban Missile Crisis, Assassinations, Tet Offensive, Race Riots, and Hippies along with the Haight-Ashbury Counterculture Movement. How is it that we survived all these assaults…or did we? Looking back from today’s perspective you could say that we are reaping what was sown back in the 1960s—what goes around, comes around.
Of course, there was some turbulence in the film industry as well since movies are an integral component of the culture. Notably, the untimely deaths of two of Hollywood’s most notorious sex symbols, Marilyn Monroe by overdose on August 5, 1962 and Jayne Mansfield by car accident on June 29, 1967.
While it may have been the worst of times in many respects, it was the best of times for music. The British Music Invasion gave us the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals and many others. It was also the decade when three of the best double albums ever recorded (or ever will be recorded) were released, Cream’s Wheels of Fire, Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, and the Beatles’ White Album.
Alas, the decade did not go out quietly. On July 20, 1969, the United States landed a man on the Moon; on August 8–9, 1969 members of the Manson Family committed the Tate-LaBianca murders; and finally, on August 15–18, 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival was held on a farm in the New York Catskills which attracted an audience of over 400,000 to hear 32 outdoor acts perform.
Through all the turmoil of the 1960s, there was one event that occurred around mid-point of the decade that instigated a media frenzy but is mostly forgotten today, and that event was when Anton Szandor LaVey founded the Church of Satan on April 30, 1966 in San Francisco, CA. “Anton declared 1966 Year One, Anno Satanas—the first year of the reign of Satan.”1
For those who weren’t caught up in all of the Church of Satan’s outlandish occult symbolism, it was clear to them from the start that LaVey denied the existence of a literal Satan. It’s Interesting that the Church of Satan repudiates their own organization’s namesake. I wonder how Satan really feels about that. Oh, I forgot…he doesn’t exist, he’s just an archetype.2
LaVeyan Satanism is not your daddy’s Satanism notwithstanding all the occultic symbolism that is so stubbornly associated with the Church of Satan and its adherents, primarily a result of LaVey’s cartoonish devil shtick.
Legitimate Satanists, as LaVeyan Satanists like to be called, are atheists, that is, not believing in either God or the Devil. The Church of Satan is a purely secular religion that rejects the supernatural. On the other hand, for a religion that eschews the supernatural, LaVey and other Church of Satan members made liberal use of religious terms such as “unholy,” “infernal,” “devilish,” and “sinister” in their literature. LaVey complained that people accused his religion as Devil worship yet he used every trick in the book to appear as a literal Satan worshiper, at least on the surface.
People identify with labels, so what label can we put on this Legitimate Satanist doctrine? I believe the appropriate label is “cultural liberalism,” that is, the view that individuals are freed from cultural norms. In other words, “You can go your own way.”3 LaVey’s genius was in the way he codified the “Do your own thing” philosophy into a pseudo-religion.
LaVeyan Satanists take cultural liberalism even further by not only rejecting cultural norms, but by creating their own reality by rejecting concepts of good and evil which are derived from any particular moral code and by redefining concepts of right and wrong.4 And according to Nikolas Schreck, black magician and founder of the Werewolf Order of Satanism, who, along with Zeena, in their interview with Bob Larson, declared that “Humanism is not Satanism” and that Humanism and Christianity are the same thing—he calls both “evil.”5 It’s interesting that Schreck was quick to deny the existence of good and evil, but had no trouble calling Christianity evil, all in the same interview!
During the Bob Larson interview, the subject of revenge was discussed. Zeena gave a classic explanation of why Satanists don’t believe in turning the other cheek, she said it’s because “You keep turning the other cheek, you run out of cheeks.”6 I’m always amazed when unbelievers take a literal interpretation of Scripture instead of their usual figurative approach. If you read Luke 6:29 and the following verses in context, you can easily interpret the command to offer the other cheek as not being literal but figurative. I believe the verse in question is how Christians should respond when they are being taken advantage of by someone, which is not the same as self-defense. The verses clearly speak against the wronged person trying “to get even.” To illustrate, it was self-defense when the allies fought against the Germans in World War I, but the terms of the 11/11/1918 Armistice imposed upon Germany was revenge.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19 NASB)
I must have watched the nineteen eighty-nine Bob Larson interview with Zeena LaVey and Nikolas Schreck at least a half dozen times and I was a little disappointed that Larson was so slow to catch on to essence of LaVeyan Satanism. Both Zeena and Nikolas easily dodged every bullet that Larson fired at them. Larson was defending his position based on biblical absolutes whereas, Zeena and Nikolas defended the Church of Satan’s viewpoints based on relativism.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
One of the last zingers that Nikolas Schreck fired at Bob Larson was his pronouncement that “Everything in the Bible drips with morbidity and death.”7 This is a common criticism that has influenced popular culture. For example, consider the sharp contrast between believers and non-believers, and between sinners and saints in the Billy Joel song “Only the Good Die Young” where Billy Joel proclaims in a line from the song, “The sinners are much more fun…”8 Undeniably, the lyrics of Joel’s song, whether intentional or unintentional, pay homage to LaVey’s brand of Satanism.
So, if you remove the supernatural element from Satanism, as LaVey had done, can LaVeyan Satanists continue to legitimately call themselves Satanists? Well, the answer is yes and no, depending on whether or not you believe it is legitimate to call upon someone’s name whose very existence you deny, that would be delusional, but that is exactly what LaVey and his followers have done.
On the other hand, you could say that Anton LaVey was the ultimate Satanist since he vehemently hated God as he so clearly and fearlessly stated in his book, Satan Speaks! I won’t repeat the worst of what he said in his book here, but he accuses God of being unjust and a rewarder of those who are “rotten.”9
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isa. 5:20)
It’s well known that Anton LaVey was critical of Christians and Christianity since he believed Christians were for the most part hypocrites; a belief he held since the time he observed his friend’s Sunday School teacher frolicking at Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch one night, an incident which he referred to as his “Satanic epiphany.”10 LaVey reasoned that since the followers of Christ can be hypocritical then God is necessarily hypocritical as well. Doesn’t this sound exactly like the classic case of man projecting his own attributes on God?
Satan opposes God, Anton LaVey did the same. Satan accuses God’s people, Anton LaVey did the same. Satan hates God, Anton LaVey hated God also. So, was Anton LaVey accurate in calling himself a Satanist? Based on LaVey’s virulent opposition to God and Christianity, most reasonable people would have to say, “Yes!”
Anton LaVey, the man, in private life was not the monstrously evil denizen of San Francisco’s Black House as most people would think. In fact, according to descriptions of LaVey as presented in Barton’s biography, LaVey was what we would describe as merely being different or individualistic or as LaVey has said, “supernormal.”11 Contrary to his outrageous public image, LaVey was an introvert—a private person who preferred material things and animals over people,12 which kind of reminds me of the imagery found in the lyrics of the Pearl Jam song, “Jeremy.”
Anton had a nostalgic bent—an aversion to modernity if you will; he realized the value found in things lost and forgotten. As he said, “It’s our past that makes us unique.”13 He believed that magic was doing something in isolation or out of the mainstream—something unique. The power of exclusivity is where the power of magic resides.14 Obviously, Anton’s view on exclusivity was the basis for his belief that Satanism is a religion for the elites instead of for the masses.
While LaVey wouldn’t be considered in alignment with the today’s radical, leftist political views, he did believe in eugenics and natural selection15 or “thinning the herd.” Also, along those same lines, he opposed society’s rewarding of mediocrity, that is, society and its institutions appealing to the “lowest common denominator” instead of the highest.16
Anton LaVey was an enigma. He liked cars, guns,17 and rare red meat.18 He wasn’t a fan of rock music.19 Surprisingly, he was a lifelong “strict law-and-order man.”20 Anton was also against what we would call today, the “herd mentality”21 a doctrine totally embraced by Hollywood, academia and the media elites. You could almost ascribe many of his non-religious preferences to those of a traditional conservative rather than someone firmly on the Left-Hand Path (LHP).
Nevertheless, he embraced most of the tenants of the LHP such as individualism, relativism, and subjectivism. But his true claim to the LHP was his fierce opposition to conventional religious doctrines and beliefs. He didn’t achieve the title of High Priest of the Church of Satan for nothing.
Left-handed people have historically been considered inferior and evil since etymologically the words “left” and “sinister” are related.22 The left is evil and wrong whereas the right is moral and correct. I suppose that’s how Left-wing political parties acquired the label.
For the record, I’m left-handed and I experienced ill-treatment and prejudice regularly in elementary school and beyond while growing up in a predominantly Catholic town—old beliefs die hard. I remember when my parents, on one occasion, were told by my teacher(s) that I should be encouraged to switch handedness since it’s a well-known fact that left-handed people are “in league with the Devil” and no one wants to associate with that kind of person. Besides, being different is the worst thing that could happen to you in school—you just don’t fit in. I wonder if Anton was left-handed.
Anton LaVey fell prey to the one common objection to Christianity that atheists use to discredit God and that is, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” The atheists also expand their objection by substituting “suffering” with “evil,” “calamities” or “natural disasters.” In their view, the reason is that God is either incompetent, uncaring or both. What the atheists, and those in the social gospel camp, forget or refuse to acknowledge is that God is also holy. Man[kind] was placed in the Garden of Eden and commanded what and what not to eat. Adam, as the representative of the human race, decided to disobey God’s command so he incurred God’s judgement which is the curse. The curse was upon Adam and Eve, all their descendants, but also upon the natural world. Anton’s accusations against God were misinformed.
Anton believed he was getting a better deal with Satan, who he didn’t believe actually exists. But did his devotion to Satan provide the rewards he was expecting? I think not based on the following events:
- Anton was only 67 years old when he died
- Zeena and Diane (his longtime partner) betrayed him
- He was forced to sell off his prized collections
- He was forced into bankruptcy
- His will was contested
- Zeena and Karla (older daughter) ransacked the Black House
- The Black House was eventually torn down
The Church of Satan’s administrative office has since moved from San Francisco to Poughkeepsie, NY at POB 666. Peter H. Gilmore is the High Priest. The church has a website resembling the convergence of the opening credits to an old Hollywood movie and the LaVeyan devil shtick.
Lastly, there is a danger in invoking the name or names of spiritual beings, even if it is done in ignorance. Satan exists and it is possible that Anton was truly beset by an evil spirit along with those closest to him. Refer to 1 Sam. 18:10 where God sends an evil spirit to torment Saul. Dabbling in magic and satanic rituals as Anton LaVey had done may have resulted in some unintended consequences:
Was it just coincidence that both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield, who were involved with LaVey to varying degrees, died tragically?
Or was it a coincidence that Susan Atkins, who once worked as one of the girls at LaVey’s nightspot in San Francisco would later go on to become one of the Manson Family members who committed the Tate-LaBianca murders?
Again, was it just coincidence that Sharon Tate, at the time of her death, was married to film director Roman Polanski who directed and wrote the screenplay for Rosemary’s Baby, a film about the occult, real Satanism, and witchcraft? The movie was filmed on location at the Dakota apartment building in New York City where John Lennon lived and was shot.
Finally, was it merely coincidence that in the Rosemary’s Baby film the character Roman Castevet, the warlock/coven-leader, exclaims, “Nineteen sixty-six, the Year One!” during a New Year’s Eve gathering in his apartment, echoing almost verbatim what LaVey declared when he founded the Church of Satan.
Theologically speaking, Anton LaVey was the ultimate natural man (1 Cor. 2:14) who lived what he preached apparently right up until his death. He was a man who possessed many worldly talents and was ingenious enough to appropriate the spiritual into an extreme atheistic and carnal belief system.
Barton, Blanche, The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey (p. 76), Feral House, Kindle Edition. ↩
Bob Larson. Satanism, “Interview with the Daughter of Anton LaVey,” Filmed 1989(?), YouTube video, 1:26:02, Accessed December 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=didlhvI-9yY. ↩
Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way,” Rumors, 1977, Accessed December 30, 2018, https://genius.com/albums/Fleetwood-mac/Rumours. ↩
Larson, Interview with the Daughter of Anton LaVey. ↩
Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young,” The Stranger, 1977, Accessed January 13, 2019, https://genius.com/Billy-joel-only-the-good-die-young-lyrics. ↩
LaVey, Anton Szandor, Satan Speaks!, (Port Townsend, Feral House, 1998), 1. ↩
Barton, Secret Life of a Satanist, 23. ↩
LaVey, Satan Speaks!, 33. ↩
Barton, Secret Life of a Satanist, 120-122. ↩
Ibid., 121-123. ↩
Ibid., 120. ↩
Ibid., 160. ↩
Ibid., 231. ↩
Ibid., 253. ↩
Ibid., 129. ↩
Ibid., 133. ↩
Ibid., 117. ↩
Ibid., 232. ↩
“What are ‘Left Hand Path’ Religions?,” Vexen Crabtree, The Human Truth Foundation, November 28, 2016, http://www.dpjs.co.uk/lefthandpath.html. ↩