I really hate writing about the so-called Satanic Temple because that’s what they want us to do, and that’s really all they want us to do. It’s nothing more than a PR stunt factory.
The modern so-called Satanists who make all the noise are not really Satanists. They don’t actually believe in Satan. Most are atheists who couch their so-called “Satanism” in terms of resistance or philosophy. It’s not a religion, but a critique of religion, or somesuch blather. It’s all theater.
The Satanic Temple that is supposedly performing a black mass is neither Satanic, nor a temple. It is little more than a bit of juvenile provocation by a poseur who calls himself Lucien Greaves (aka Doug Mesner), whose sole skill appears to be manipulating Christians and the press into paying attention to him.
The Satanic Temple is a kind of stepchild of LaVeyan Satanism, which also is not Satanic. LaVeyan Satanism–the “Church of Satan”–was founded by a ridiculous fraud named Howard Levey, who assumed the name of Anton LaVey and made himself up to look like a cartoon Mephistopheles in one of the least-convincing attempts to appear menacing since Kermit the Frog stuck a pair of vampire fangs in his mouth.
LaVey was a sham psychic/occultist and musician who hit San Francisco with his act at just the right time in the 60s and became a celebrity because he seemed transgressive. He saw Lucifer as a force of freedom and liberation (and thanks for that, John Milton), but mostly as a way to make money and annoy the squares.
He cobbled together an asinine philosophy from scraps of Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and a book called Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard. It’s all the usual will to power, do as thy wilt, fascistic, watered-downed Crowleyite hokum designed to empty pockets and get women naked. (Say what you will about Aleister Crowley, but the man was no idiot and he took things seriously. He would have eaten these frauds for breakfast.)
In other words, American neo-Satanism is all just a big act from people who want attention. I’ve known the type from my days in the religious wilderness, and they tend to have above average intelligence and below average emotional maturity. They would be the cleverest 16-year-old in any room, which would be just fine if they weren’t in their 30s and 40s.
The problem, however, is that their deep ignorance and hatred has left them stumbling around in a very serious, very dark place.
And even though the Satanic Temple is a fraud, Satanism is quite real. It’s just that real Satanists don’t advertise the fact.
The Satanic Temple is saying they’re performing a black mass, about which they seem to know nothing, which makes its educational content precisely nil. At first, they said they were using a consecrated host, but then walked back that claim, possibly in response to the ensuing outrage.
I do believe they intended to use a consecrated host, because in their first response they claimed they had one. I can’t imagine they care at all that desecration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is wicked, offensive, and hurtful to millions of people. They want us to be hurt. That’s why they’re doing it: to wound people they do not even know, because in their philosophy we are beneath contempt, and because they don’t believe they’re actually doing anything at all. They obviously don’t believe in the Real Presence, so it’s a all a big lark to them, regardless of the good people who will weep at the very thought of it. They want those people to weep, and in this way they are truly doing the Devil’s work.
See, they may not believe in Satan, but Satan believes in them, and he knows Useful Idiots when he sees them.
Real Satanism (sometimes called Theistic Satanism) has a long history. Christianity saw the worship of other gods as the worship of demons for a very sound reason. Humans, of course, cannot control or manipulate God, but it could be within the realm of possibility that they could control or manipulate lesser beings through dark arts. The intermediate beings between man and God are angels and fallen angels (demons). Angels would not be manipulated into serving humans or performing wicked acts, only fallen angels. Thus, when people claimed to be worshiping lesser gods who granted them boons, they were actually worshiping demons. And when they performed certain magical rites, they were trafficking with demons even if they were not summoning demons.
The black mass and various other dark arts went through several stages of development. Right from the early days of the Church, Christians were plagued by rumors of depraved practices that bear striking similarities to the black mass as it developed. The Octavius of Minucius Felix describes some common elements of these slanders: mockery of the Eucharist, infant murder and consumption, blood drinking, sexual depravity, worship of the head of an ass, and so on. Some gnostic groups clearly veered off into Luciferianism. Certainly some elements of witchcraft were diabolical and involved Satan worship.
The black mass evolved more fully in the middle ages at the hands of wayward priests. The Bavarian State Library in Munich holds a manual of demonic magic written in Latin, almost certainly by a priest. This Munich handbook contains page after page of detailed rituals for conjuring demons.
Although it draws elements from pagan, Jewish, and Muslim magic, the core of this and other books of the black arts is an inversion of Christian ritual for the purpose of personal gain and power. The practitioner uses all manner of items to cast spells of illusion, madness, travel, success, love, and more.
Here’s a sample of what it’s like:
One section, for example, tells how to obtain the love of a woman. While reciting incantations, the magician takes the blood of a dove and uses it to draw a naked woman on the skin of a female dog. He writes the names of demons on various parts of this image, and as he does so he commands the demons to afflict those parts of the actual woman’s body, so that she will be inflamed with love of him. He fumigates the image with the smoke of myrrh and saffron, all the time conjuring the demons to afflict her so that day and night she will think of nothing but him. He hangs the image around his neck, goes out to a secret place either alone or with three trustworthy companions, and with his sword traces a circle on the ground , with the names of demons all around its edge. Then he stands inside the circle and conjures the demons. They come (the handbook promises ) in the form of six servants, ready to do his will. He tells them to go and fetch the woman for him without doing her any harm , and they do so. On arriving she is a bit perplexed but willing to do as the magician wishes. As long as she is there, one of the demons takes on her form and carries on for her back at home so that her strange departure will not be noticed. –from Magic in the Middle Ages–
The summit of these dark arts, for the occultist, was the black mass itself, an obscene parody of the actual Mass which involved desecration of the Eucharist by people who believe the Eucharist to truly be the body and blood of Christ. Supposedly, the mass was performed using the body of a naked woman as an altar, and culminated in an orgy, although some of this may be merely lurid details added later.
The Satanists were not poseurs: these were people who believed what the church taught about Christ, but chose to back the other side for personal gain.
The black mass emerged again in the 19th century in the salons, universities, and intellectual circles of Europe, which was the wellspring of modern occultism. Lacking much primary documentation, the upper classes mostly invented their version of a black mass influenced by literature and structured around a simple inversion of the Catholic mass. No real tradition directly linking medieval diabolism to modern so-called Satanism exists, which means horror movies, fiction, and imagination are at the root of most modern practice.
While distracted by the sideshow of the Satanic Temple, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that 1) the devil exists and 2) people do still really, actually worship him and seek power from him. Much of that Satanic practice is deeply underground and intertwined with crime and violence. As you might suspect, and true theistic Satanist is, by nature, not a good person. They believe in good and evil, and have chosen evil for personal gain. They are dangerous, and the damage they do in the world is real and frightening.
I know the people involved in the Harvard stunt don’t believe in the Real Presence or in God or the devil, and probably don’t even believe in good and evil. But even silly people can still do great damage, to themselves and others. In the end, they will have to face God at some point and explain all this. The most we can do is pray for them, offer prayers of reparation for the offense to the Body of Christ, and continue to fight Satan on the most vital battlefield of all: our own hearts.
Related: The Real History of Tarot.