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The Satanic Bible (1969)

by Anton Szandor LaVey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Called "The Black Pope" by many of his followers, Anton La Vey began the road to High Priesthood of the Church of Satan when he was only 16 years old and an organ player in a carnival... "On Saturday night I would see men lusting after halfnaked girls dancing at the carnival, and on Sunday morning when I was playing the organ for tent-show evangelists at the other end of the carnival lot, I would see these same men sitting in the pews with their wives and children, asking God to forgive them and purge them of carnal desires. And the next Saturday night they'd be back at The carnival or some other place of indulgence. "I knew then that the Christian Church thrives on hypocrisy, and that man's carnal nature will out!" From that time early in his life his path was clear. Finally, on the last night of April, 1966--Walpurgisnacht, the most important festival of the believers in witchcraft--LaVey shaved his head in the tradition of Ancient executioners and announced the formation of The Church Of Satan. He had seen the need for a church that would recapture man's body and his carnal desires as objects of celebration. "Since worship of fleshly things produces pleasure," he said, "there would then be a temple of glorious indulgence . . ."… (more)
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Gospel for the maladjusted youth, narcissists, and the emotionally immature.

Before diving into the book - the historical context of the book is worth noting - not only that it was released in 1969, but also that Anton LaVey was born in 1930. Throughout the 20th century, conservative Christians shot themselves in the foot. Every time a new kind of music surfaced, it was labelled as the doings of the devil. Being born in 1930, LaVey undoubtedly experienced that as it started with blues, jazz, rock and roll and even later again in the '80s with the PMRC.
I find it hard to exclude that those events did not influence the author. It is the 1960s, and rebellion is brewing. Although not sympathetic with the hippie movement in this book, it certainly carries out its own rebellion - for better or worse.

To its credit, it is not a theistic religion, and it does wave some stereotypes aside. It does not worship Satan as a deity, as he is "viewed as a metaphor or a symbol, not as a being to be worshipped". This non-theistic approach does, however, leave a void which it fills with the ego of the Satanist. It is written that the most important holiday to the Satanist is his own birthday, as the book puts it, "why not really be honest and if you are going to create a god in your image, why not create that god as yourself. Every man is a god if he chooses to recognize himself as one". This is, but one of many, absolutely preposterous statements printed on these pages. Whether delusion of grandeur on the part of the author or not, it may very well manifest in the follower. You are to put yourself above all else adhering to being your own redeemer, and in following what the devil represents you should proclaim that, "I am a Satanist! Bow down, for I am the highest embodiment of human life".

The author claims that humans need ritual and dogma, which is not far-fetched to me. However, he also claims that spiritual religions created gods because people cannot accept their ego and have to externalize it. That's until it is also claimed that people who choose a faith that preaches abstinence are masochists. In 2020, according to Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 2.4 billion Christians on Earth. That's a lot of masochists. Another reason put forth is that without "wholesale fear" the religionists would have no power over their followers. LaVey can't quite seem to make up his mind as to why people adhere to something like Christianity, and comes off as angrily yelling at the sky with a clenched fist.
As much as LaVey tries to put down Christianity for "lies", "hypocrisy" and all that jazz, you can find a lot of the ideas from stoicism in Christianity. This is why I think the historical contexts were important. A book such as "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius absolutely puts "The Satanic Bible" to shame. What Christianity prevailed with was imagery, archetypes, and the symbolism that supported you in your daily life. Satanism also draws from that as well with Satan, Lucifer and an abundance of demons that represents all kinds of things.

LaVey puts a lot of emphasis on not turning the other cheek, but that "if a man smite thee on the cheek, smash him on the other", and flipping The Golden Rule to "do unto others as they do to you". You are allegedly a cowardly dog if you turn the other cheek, instead you should make yourself a terror to your enemy, which in turn should make you "respected" in all walks of life...
So, you should only treat somebody with kindness, if they are kind to you. With this approach you are seldom the giver, oft-times the one who reciprocates. It is mentioned that, "when a Satanist commits a wrong, he realizes that it is natural to make a mistake". I guess that only goes for the egocentric Satanist, and it is not natural for others to make mistakes, essentially sinning, and they certainly should not attain potential forgiveness. Life is hard and full of suffering, and at times it gets the better of all of us. In such moments we can risk snapping at strangers, people who do not deserve it. That does not make you a bad person who should be punished with wrath.
It is in such moments we have to show compassion, and understand it could happen to all of us - and no, it's not always easy. Turning the other cheek requires true inner strength, it is not a weakness. If the perpetrating person continues being unkind, you simply keep your head and resort to not casting pearls before swine. Silence often hurts more than words, or at least it won't add to a negative feedback loop.
There is an ongoing issue in that the author emphasizes outer strength, it is never about inner strength - there's no discipline. The outer strength in this book is misconstrued as to being the be-all and end-all. If you have no inner strength, you give in, you give up, your frame of Being is made of jelly. Then it won't matter how much you lift or how much "wrath" you can unleash because at the core, you are most likely weak and insecure.

You should apparently indulge in your sins, such as gluttony with the reasoning being, "when you have overeaten to the point of obesity, another sin - pride - will motivate you to regain an appearance that will renew your self-respect". A quick glance at Western society today, with rising obesity in just about every country, quickly puts a hail of nails into that coffin.
The term "sin", which LaVey continuously scolds, comes from the Greek word Hamartia or the Hebrew word Hata, which both mean "to miss the mark" or "flawed". We aim to better ourselves, realizing our flaws which, hopefully, humbles a person. But if you are effectively your own redeemer, a god, with no one to answer to, then how are you to avoid getting a tunnel vision of grandeur egotism?
The book tends to portray everything in black or white - either or. The problem with that is that our world, and human beings, are very complex. You should forego abstinence and indulge but stay clear of compulsion. Whilst I'd agree, to some extent, that no release for desire can breed compulsion, not all desires are good, and they can easily get a hold of you and snowball, as the book even demonstrates itself with gluttony. It's this consistent lack of setting aside instant gratification and not having a perspective of what is best for your future self that is completely baffling to me.

One saving grace of these absurd pieces of paper bundled together is the chapter on sex. It condones all kinds of intercourse, whether it is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, fetishes, etc. We are all different, and to some it can be a problem to be bound to one partner which the book addresses, but also mentions that you should not deceit yourself into having many partners to feel free from sexual guilt. Satanism encourages any form of sexual expression so long as it hurts no one else, not violating other's sexual rights, and you should not impose your desires on someone who does not welcome your advances.
I do not agree with the point of love being divided into spiritual and sexual, as in if you do not get a release, you should try and get that with a sexual partner who meets that desire. I get the point, that some people are not compatible sexually, and for some it can work, but I think it is very rare occasions. There definitely still is a bit of taboo when it comes to fetishes, which the books advocate a release of, so it does not reach a compulsive state - similarly to sins. You can't always get what you want, as The Rolling Stones put it, and you shouldn't. There's always a new thing to arouse you. You'll always want more. At what cost will it be? Most likely somebody else, somebody close to you, because you have to indulge and satisfy whatever needs arises within you. It will destabilize your family life, or certainly hinder your chances of establishing one. You should be open and honest with your partner in taking care of your intimate relationship and the potential boundaries and desires you each may have.
Masturbation is also brought up, a bit too much that is, but I think that is just a sign of the times from when the book was released.

Nevertheless, this was a refreshing chapter, as it actually advocates for some thoughtful and mature responsibility - a little nugget of gold in a sea of faeces.
Albeit, it is sort of soiled later on by having rituals of lust where you "hex" someone into fornication, in which case you are a man you should. "plunge your erect member into her with lascivious delight", or if you are a woman, "open your loins in lewd anticipation". Psychiatry is recognized for all the good it has done, but also how it has robbed us of wonder and fantasy in religion. Whilst I would not entirely point my finger on psychiatry, I would definitely agree that our loss of spirituality has been detrimental, and we are continuing to suffer from that to this day.
Oh, and lastly, thanks for inspiring a lot of great metal bands.

"The Satanic Bible" also dabbles in magic and rituals, and like most of the book it's quite daffy. There are three types of rituals: lust, compassion, and destruction. Satanism distances itself from offering of animals, which is good, of course. Instead, it requires releasing a force from his own body such as sexual orgasm, blind anger, mortal terror, consuming grief, etc. Symbolically, a victim is destroyed with a hex or curse, in a destruction ritual, to dispose of a "totally obnoxious and deserving individual", as the book puts it. And it also comes with the warning that you should "be certain you do not care if the intended victim lives or dies". That can be achieved by, for example, putting needles into a doll representing your victim. Some stereotypes prevail.
A Satanist should use his energy on performing rituals to insure the outcome of his desires, and not waste energy on things such as genuinely levitating a tea cup - I kid you not, it says so.
Furthermore, it puts down religions that uses altars of "stone and metal", as Man's earliest altars were of flesh and blood. So what is the altar in a Satanic ritual? A nude woman. Why? Because she is "the natural passive receptor, and represents the earth mother".
It gets better. Black is (of course) the colour of clothes worn, and... The women must be wearing sexually appealing clothes. Why, you might ask? Well, for "the purpose of stimulating the emotions of the male participants, and thereby intensifying the outpouring of adrenal or bio-electrical energy which will ensure a more powerful working".
If you're a woman, I guess you're out of luck, no "stimulation" for you. The men wear robes, and there's no mention of men ever being used as an altar. That must be a coincidence, surely, and not a teenage boy's wet dream.
Satanists apparently shuns hope and prayer as those concepts does not make things happen, but claims positive thinking and action add up to results. Then it must be somewhat of another coincidence that the compassion ritual, in accordance to the book, has you close by an altar where you conjure as vivid a mental image possible of the person you wish to help, and stating your desire. That sure does sound an awful lot like prayer - a very concentrated and genuine thought and action to help others. Since this is Satanism, you can, of course, also use this ritual to your own benefit.

This book was read from an agnostic point of view. I first came cross excerpts from this book in the heavy metal community when I was around 11-years-old, angry, and I gravitated a lot towards the parts of not turning the other cheek. Being frustrated, insecure and angry makes you quite receptive to a book like this. Later, when I read it for the first time in my very early twenties, a lot of it still appealed to me (except the rituals) as I still met the three mentioned criteria. I thought it would be amusing to read it again, many years and experiences later, and that sure was... something!
I cannot recommend this collection of absurdities, not even for a cheap laugh. It truly is an intellectual travesty put onto paper. I had to drastically reduce the amount of nonsensical proclamations I featured in this review.

The preface tries to build up the author's credibility and vast knowledge, but boy does it fall flat on its face in record time.
"The Satanic Bible" is an egregious attempt to write a book of guidance, and is bereft of deep thinking. It paints the world black and white, casting the numerous shades of grey it consists of wholeheartedly aside.
It focuses on short-term gratification and "indulging" in all your temptations, without regard of your future situation or self, effectively devolving the human into only utilizing the primal part of your brain. You're lured in with a promise of complete satisfaction of the ego - you are your own god, a distorted and megalomaniacal version of individualism - and your desires fulfilled.
The dogma presented might seem like a good idea, but as you progress in your twenties you should, hopefully, attain a sustainable amount of oxygen in your brain, commonly referred to as growing up.
Should you take the creed of Satanism to heart and live it out, you will eventually run into a brick wall, and you'll only have yourself to blame. In that very moment, there's a theme song made for the occasion by Ice-T, very fittingly entitled You Played Yourself. ( )
  Readerino | Jun 3, 2023 |
Yeah.... who’s really surprised that this one isn’t too great? The slapdash bastardisations of Freud and Nietzsche are all well and good, entertaining in a kinda ‘I’m reading edgy teenage crap that someone who holds Rand in high esteem would scrawl on their desk’, but after that you get into this real cringeworthy (and even inconsistent, if I’d be charitable enough to give Satanism the status of a ‘system’) when it comes to making sexual wishes during the black mass. LaVey makes a big point on not infringing on other people’s sexual liberties, stressing the point that you can hurt masochists that want to be hurt but can’t impose your sexual needs on others, then in the next breath he’s demonstrating how to implant sexual desire in the dreams of women you wanna bang. I’m gettin’ rapey vibes.... it made me laugh when he says that the altar must be a naked woman so the rest of the fellas who are punching little amateurishly crafted dolls can get their energies to the highest possible level - that alone saves this incel shit from getting a one star. ( )
  theoaustin | May 19, 2023 |
I remember way back to my first day at college, eager to "get back" at my fundie parents for the years of brainwashing, I went out and bought this book. Only to find with first shock and then amusement that there's virtually nothing "Satanic" about it! It actually read like a freshman's guide to college party life. Man, that was so funny! You have to consider not only the author, but the decade/era in which it was written and maybe then you'll understand why sex, partying, yah, yah, yah make up the content. It chose to treat it as a joke, moreso than I originally intended, because one can't possibly choose to "worship" the mythological Lucifer while using this book as a basis for doing so. Two stars instead of one for amusement value. Indeed, cautiously recommended for laughs! ( )
  scottcholstad | Jan 28, 2020 |
A surprisingly tame and coherent book on the tenets of Satanism, LaVey successfully debunks many of the popular myths about the creed. Expecting a crude, half-baked scrawl about the Antichrist and demons, laden with pentagrams and other occult paraphernalia, I instead got a thoughtful and surprisingly eloquent defence of rationalism and individualism. LaVey actually debunks a lot of myths about Satanism, not in a defensive way but simply by explaining coherently what it is actually about. It's just a shame about the high-school level occultism which ends up garnishing the ideas.

The first part of the book is all about the hypocrisy of established religions, mainly Christianity, and this is where LaVey's best content is to be found. Religious hypocrisy might be a low-hanging target, but it is still one that needs to be shot at. He correctly identifies these religions as ones of abstinence, which is self-defeating as no one can abstain from common human emotions. He juxtaposes this with Satanism, which is all about indulgence of earthly desires. By looking after oneself first, the argument goes, one is therefore possessing more self-respect than the shaming in Abrahamic religions, and happier and able to spread that happiness to others more effectively. And – this is important – the indulgence of earthly desires is not about blood sacrifices or massive orgies (myths which LaVey comprehensively debunks), but simply about taking responsibility for one's own actions and emotions, being true to yourself, and not dumping all your problems like a child on the great father in the sky. To get to this stage, LaVey advocates individuality and doubt. You wouldn't find the Bible or the Koran, with their herd mentality and their explicit kill-all-unbelievers suppression of dissent, saying this. Satanism is rather a more harmless and humane doctrine than I anticipated.

Indeed, LaVey even freely admits that there is no 'Satan' in the horns-and-pitchfork sense, nor is there a 'God'. The philosophy is quite atheistic; it draws on Biblical mythology the way a fiction writer might draw on Greek mythology. 'Satan' is a concept, a feat of imagination. It is derived from Lucifer the fallen angel, literally the 'light-bringer' or 'morning-star'. It is not Satan as demon but as Lucifer, who brought enlightenment to humankind, casting a black mirror on religious shallowness and God's imperfect administration of our species. Worshipping 'Satan' is almost a literary conceit, with LaVey utilising the figure and the attendant mythology to channel and codify our daily philosophical frustrations. Satan is the indulgence to counter the abstinence pushed by other religions: he is not real but the other half of the human ego – the denied half. It is certainly more theologically consistent than other religions.

But then – and this is where The Satanic Bible falters – comes the second part of the book. This is all about ritual – the pentagrams, black masses, and so on. This is where it all gets a little silly. All the occult stuff comes to the fore and not only is it really sad and cheesy – when I hear Enochian or lines about how "Leviathan, the great Dragon from the Watery Abyss, roars forth" (pg. 143), I can't but hear the voice of Ron Burgundy reciting it – but it undermines a lot of the rational philosophy that came before it. LaVey makes a sometimes convincing argument about mankind's need for ritual – to feel something emotionally and not just intellectually – but it screams 'cult' rather than 'philosophy'. Ritual just indoctrinates someone into a certain line of thinking; it doesn't encourage them to think for themselves as LaVey encourages in the first half of the book. On page 48, he argues that speaking words in a ritualized language – Enochian – is better than in English if one wants to obtain an emotional reaction. I disagree: for a creed advocating individuality, I want ideas and concepts communicated clearly, not by sleight-of-hand. If you're manipulating people you're not really freeing them. LaVey with his occultism falls into the same trap as the religions he despises. It is dogma and conformity and all the ritualistic appendages that bankrupt religion as a moral force. Thomas Jefferson once re-wrote the New Testament as a secular version without any of the miracles, titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike LaVey, he understood that the core ideas had strength on their own and didn't need supplementary supernatural artifice – baggage which would only weaken it and provide material for chancers and demagogues.

For, most certainly, there are some dangerous ideas in this book more in keeping with the conventional stereotype of Satanism. If I had to choose a religion to follow, with a gun to my head, I would consider this one even if I ending up choosing another. It is at least freethinking. Ironically, it is more harmless than established religions, but some things still make me uneasy. The ideas often touch on moral relativism and sometimes on anarchism and social Darwinism. And although he debunks myths about harming others sexually or harming animals, he does advocate violence in a dangerously vague way. "When a person, by his reprehensible behaviour," LaVey writes on pages 89-90, "practically cries out to be destroyed, it is truly your moral obligation to indulge them their wish." Such content could be easily manipulated by the bloodthirsty power-players who are often drawn to religion, and it is surprising that LaVey, so clear-eyed about the failings of other dogma, fails to see all the loopholes he has provided for abuse of his own philosophy. "As environments change, no human ideal standeth sure," he writes on page 31; a gaping loophole for any successor to the Satanic priesthood to distort LaVey's ideas however they like. Devoted, well-meaning disciples could, if they take the book to heart, easily be turned onto another, less savoury, path.

And, despite its merits, this is why I cannot advocate Satanism. It claims for itself the moral superiority that it denies to other religions. It is disparaging of the abuse of other religious creeds by their disciples but ignorant or cavalier about the potential of the same toward its own. It encourages individuality and thinking for yourself whilst at the same time emphasising the importance of group ritual and following the tenets set down by this man. Like myself, many individualists will be intellectually confident enough to embrace the principles yet shun the unnecessary cultish rituals. It is not the answer for inquisitive people, but it is decent material to help inform views. It allows one to vent and nod your head but that doesn't mean any of its hocus-pocus is any less silly than that of other religions. Secular free-thinking, rather than creed-thinking, has to be the way.

But The Satanic Bible offers an unusual, and therefore interesting, perspective. It is rather well-written, with some darkly poetic touches, and in his brevity (less than 300 pages) LaVey is more welcome than the lengthy and "ponderous rulebooks of hypocrisy" that bolster other religions (pg. 29). It is surprisingly rational and tame; the Introduction (by LaVey's successor as High Priest of the Church of Satan, a man with the hilariously serious name of Magus Peter H. Gilmore) describes it as a "common sense, rational, materialist philosophy, along with theatrical ritual techniques" (pg. 9). It's an accurate summary, and one many people might find themselves identifying with – at least to some extent – if they gave it a honest chance. It is reactionary and some of LaVey's ideas might not stand up to robust philosophical scrutiny, but as a response, a counterpoint, to established religious and societal dogma it is welcome. Secular free-thinking is the only way to attain anything approaching truth or logic in philosophy, but to break the stranglehold of narrow religious thinking Satanism might prove a useful halfway house.

And perhaps this is enough. For Satan is the light-bringer; his role and fate is to shine a light on religious hypocrisy, not to court disciples of his own. It is a thankless task and, as LaVey concedes, he has always "remained the gentleman" (pg. 29) and, aptly enough, prefers to stay in the shadows. If Satanism has a value it is that it is the only religious creed that encourages individuality and indulgence, not shame and groupthink. And LaVey reminds us that these concepts – indulgence, earthly delight, doubt, curiosity, rationality, freedom – are only considered the 'powers of darkness' because "no religion has taken these forces out of the darkness" (pg. 62). If individuality, liberty and rationalism can be promoted then, even if he receives no explicit disciples, the Devil has served his purpose. ( )
3 vote MikeFutcher | Aug 25, 2016 |
Much better than Christian dogma. This is well written, and makes sense. ( )
  ethanlu121 | May 2, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anton Szandor LaVeyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ceplis, RimandsEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murelis, KasparsDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sakss, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, Burton H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Called "The Black Pope" by many of his followers, Anton La Vey began the road to High Priesthood of the Church of Satan when he was only 16 years old and an organ player in a carnival... "On Saturday night I would see men lusting after halfnaked girls dancing at the carnival, and on Sunday morning when I was playing the organ for tent-show evangelists at the other end of the carnival lot, I would see these same men sitting in the pews with their wives and children, asking God to forgive them and purge them of carnal desires. And the next Saturday night they'd be back at The carnival or some other place of indulgence. "I knew then that the Christian Church thrives on hypocrisy, and that man's carnal nature will out!" From that time early in his life his path was clear. Finally, on the last night of April, 1966--Walpurgisnacht, the most important festival of the believers in witchcraft--LaVey shaved his head in the tradition of Ancient executioners and announced the formation of The Church Of Satan. He had seen the need for a church that would recapture man's body and his carnal desires as objects of celebration. "Since worship of fleshly things produces pleasure," he said, "there would then be a temple of glorious indulgence . . ."

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