Let’s have a Black Mass…because education

Harvard Extension School is hosting a “reenactment” of a Black Mass for educational purposes, “to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.”

The Anchoress has been in contact with those in charge of this, primarily to urge them not to use a Consecrated Host when the word was that they would be using one. They have since confirmed that the performance will “unequivocally” not use a Consecrated Host.

I’m genuinely relieved to hear that they will not be using a consecrated host, but this is still one of the most troubling things I’ve heard about in a long time. Most troubling is the fact that it is being put on in a public venue, as if it were an exhibition, when in fact it is not. It is an inversion of the Mass, a black mockery, a profanation of the sacred. That is why true Black Masses always include a Consecrated Host.

It’s frightening that Satanism is being played around with like this. I don’t usually get all riled up when people go on about multi-religious tolerance and insist on putting up creepy-as-hell statues, but this is different. This is no freaking joke. And it makes it worse, somehow, that the people doing it aren’t actually Satanists, despite their name.

Greaves says his Satanism is “a metaphorical construct” meant to unshackle the world from belief in supernatural good or evil because belief has “led to horrible things” and “the idea of Satanists as deviants has never done the world any good.”

(Read the rest here)

I can’t help but think about the little girl in The Exorcist, who just thought she was playing a silly game. In a private conversation, Leah Libresco said “If they do end up stealing/desecrating one, I hope it has the same effect on them that Christ’s crucified body had on the soldier St. Longinus who pierced Him with a lance. Sometimes, even when people mean to draw close to Christ to persecute Him, they can’t help but be struck by His love.”

I hope so, too, but I really worry about the other possibility…especially for young college kids going to see an “educational reenactment”. I’m glad they are not using a consecrated host, but I’m seriously confused about why they’re doing this at all. This idea of being a Satanist in order to “unshackle belief” or change the perception of Satanists as deviants makes zero sense to me. A Satanist is, by definition, a deviant-they are deviating from Christianity. There could be no Satanism if there wasn’t first a Christianity. It is a totally reactionary religion, born solely from the desire to deviate-to be deviant. The straight-laced sour-faced church ladies aren’t imposing some kind of artificial judgment upon Satanists because they’re different, or they wear black, or whatever. To be a Satanist is to deliberately choose evil over good, deviance over obedience. You can’t unshackle someone from a false perception if the perception is factually true.

To be honest, I’m a little wary of this whole thing. If they really want to “unshackle the world from a belief in good and evil”, choosing a side in that belief system and then making a big spectacle of it is exactly the wrong way to go about it. You don’t defeat the system by playing into it, and I would think the people running The Satanic Temple would understand that.  I can’t imagine someone saying, “hey guys, let’s accomplish our goal of ending religion by performing a religious ceremony that evolved in reaction to another religious ceremony!” Just as PZ Myers’ desecration of the Eucharist unshackled exactly zero Catholics  from their beliefs, so this Black Mass will unshackle no one from belief in good and evil. But if it’s sleight-of-hand, The Satanic Temple is really bad at it.

I hope The Satanic Temple decides to drop this nonsensical idea and do something that would actually be in keeping with their stated belief and purpose.

I also wish people on both sides would resume actually talking about differences in belief, instead of being ever more outraged at each others outrageousness. It’s just all getting too ridiculous.


More on this:

Thomas MacDonald, “Real Satanists Don’t Send Press Releases

Mark Shea: “Monstrous


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  • Petticoat Philosopher

    You’re right, Satanism is an inherently reactionary movement. Which is why I don’t see it as people choosing “evil” so much as people choosing “getting attention and freaking out Mom and Dad.” I wouldn’t take this too seriously. I don’t think college Satanists are up to anything terribly sinister.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I can understand paganism, but to put one’s faith in evil as in satan is down right moronic. These are people playing with half a deck in their skulls. Shows you where higher education has gone.

    • Almario Javier

      This kind of Satanism doesn’t actually believe in Satan. If you read the article they want to point out somehow how ridiculous believing in the existence of the supernatural is. They’re largely doing this to get a rise out of the Catholics and Orthodox, not to worship an evil being they believe doesn’t exist.

      • http://catholiccoffeeklatch.wordpress.com Jen S

        My question – and I ask this seriously – even if they don’t intend to worship evil, can they still “conjure” evil anyway? Like when someone plays with a Ouija board, thinking it’s just a game, but ends up getting mixed up in occult practices. Even they intend this to be a mockery and not a real satanic mass, could it still bring forth evil?

        • HollowGolem

          If they can, surely god will protect the people worth protecting.

          If they can’t, it’s just a bunch of people in funny robes saying spells and making fun of Catholicism.

          I feel like the more powerful social institutions get made fun of the better, so I’d say it’s worth it.

          • Almario Javier

            HollowGolem, we’re Catholics, not Calvinists. We don’t believe in double predestination.

  • http://mnnjcooks.blogspot.com/ Jessica Criales

    If I had to argue against this Black mass from a completely secular perspective, I’d still find it pretty offensive. The club has sponsored various other “ceremonies,” including “including a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, and a Buddhist presentation on meditation.” If they really want to learn about other cultures, they should attend those ceremonies as done by actual believers in their normal time and place — assuming, of course, that visitors are allowed. Otherwise, it’s pure cultural appropriation, not cultural exploration, right? It reminds me of a post I saw on a wedding blog recently where a poster asked if it would be alright for her, as a white woman marrying a white man, to incorporate a “jumping the broom” ceremony into her wedding. The answer from other posters was a resounding “no.” You can learn about other peoples’ cultures, but you can’t just pick pieces of it and perform it for your own personal enjoyment.
    I mean, obviously as a Catholic I find this offensive, but my point is that any S*tanists out there should be offended as well.

    • http://mudpiemagnet.hubpages.com/ mudpie

      That is silly- of course Satanists shouldn’t be offended by this, any more than Catholics should be offended by the Mass. They should be delighted by this if they hate God as much as they say they do. Satanists turn things upside down- that is what they do, because they are completely unable to come up with any original material. Why on earth would they be offended by this? Your rhetoric makes no sense.

  • CS

    I spent a semester studying transgressive performance art in my Intro to Religion TA group. I find the whole thing just wearying now. Of course, that was mostly performance art about identity, and social norms.

    There is absolutely nothing any Satanist, real or pretend, can do to harm God. Only themselves, though, and that is serious enough. Hopefully, as you say, the self-harm will be accompanied by a realization that God can suffer out of love for us, and what we do to ourselves. With that realization of His Love comes the Holy Spirit.

  • Nathaniel

    Its been quite a revelation to see about half of the Catholic bloggers freak out cause some guys in robes are doing a silly ritual. And quite hilarious to see that apparently being freaked out by Ouija boards is actually a thing.

    It is unknown at this time whether they check under the bed for the boogeyman every night as well.

  • Adam Williams

    Satanists such as the above do not believe in god or the devil – the term Satan comes from an ancient word which means “one who opposes” and was adopted as a word in the middle ages by crusaders to replace their older terms of describing an evil deity such as Pan, Leviathan and Set.

    We now use the term along with images of Baphomet ( the “devil image” ) in a philosophical religion where Satan represents mans desires as opposed to a literal deity.

  • arensb

    I’m genuinely relieved to hear that they will not be using a consecrated host

    Out of curiosity, how can you tell whether it’s consecrated or not?

    • Bernadette Vella Wolff

      A satanist knows……the demon, when he’s in a possessed person, knows holy water from tap water too.

      • arensb

        So you’re saying it’s possible to conduct a double-blind test to distinguish a consecrated wafer from an ordinary host. Did you know that the James Randi Educational Foundation will pay you a million dollars if you can actually demonstrate this?
        So please show us the experimental results.