Reply to Questions about LaVey – Reader Q&A
Here is a letter from someone who came to my site, and had some typical statements to make about LaVey and LaVeyan beliefs:
Not to be too critical, but it seems as though Lavey plagiarized much of the Satanic Bible, from Nietzsche and others. Also, it didn’t seem to work for him, he died pretty much broke and the San Francisco ‘black house’ was in disrepair and eventually sold. Lastly, everyone around him seemed to desert him, Aquino, his wives, children…I wonder did Lavey practice what he preached?”
I will reply to each statement:
“Not to be too critical, but it seems as though Lavey plagiarized much of the Satanic Bible, from Nietzsche and others.”
First of all, here is something that I have learned about the way that people write. When someone begins a statement with the words “I don’t mean to be..”, “Not to be critical, but.. ” and statements like that, its a statement disguised with hidden intent. The hidden intent is to be critical and demeaning, but to apologize for it first so that the statement is softened into a commentary instead of a criticism. So, when this guy started his statement with ‘Not to be too critical..” that’s exactly what he intended to be!
Now, on to answer the questions. These questions like the ones that were asked here, could be misunderstood as the typical ‘trollish’ comments that Satanists are given in forums and on the internet. These are the same criticisms that a lot of Satanists have had to hear from others. A lot of their criticism means nothing when you are able to reveal the sources of their misunderstandings.
“Lavey plagiarized much of the satanic bible”
Actually, he didn’t start out that way. I have seen the early pre-1980’s edition of the Satanic Bible that contained every reference that LaVey used in his book. Along with this is the reading list that is available at the Church of Satan website. Its a known fact what books that LaVey was inspired from, and he let it be known that these writers and philosophers were (in his view) proto-satanists.
The later versions of the Satanic Bible did not contain the Bibliography of his writings. Thus, many people think that the writings are plagiarized, when they are not. The SB’s Book publisher, Avon, chose not to publish the list of books that LaVey referenced from the 80’s onward. You can read a review and purchase a copy of the Satanic Bible through my Left Hand Path Book blog.
“Also, it didn’t seem to work for him, he died pretty much broke and the San Francisco ‘black house‘ was in disrepair and eventually sold. “
I think everything he wanted worked for him. He wanted to create his version of Satanism and be the leader of the Satanic empire, and that is what he did. He is in the history books as being the founder of Satanism. The Black house was only important in the beginning of LaVey’s career and after he left control of the COS to others, it no longer mattered to him or to the members of the COS.
His house and his personal affairs are discussed at the Church of Satan website. There is also a history of his life in the PDF by Aquino, “The Church of Satan”.
For anyone interested in knowing the real story of who LaVey was, that is a good place to start.
I’m sure there’s lots of people who ‘died broke’. I doubt that in the last days of his life, money was an issue. His family owns the copyrights and ownership of the organization and it is alive and well today, and that is what matters.
“Lastly, everyone around him seemed to desert him, Aquino, his wives, children..”
His wife sued him for Palimony in the late 80’s. He beat his children, his wife and his animals. He was an abusive man. Anyone who thinks differently is welcome to read the COS website or the COS book written by Aquino. LaVey wasn’t perfect and so what? he had to deal with his own consequences. Its a case of do-as-i-say, not do-as-i-do, which is very typical for religious organizations, and typical of cult leaders.
Michael Aquno and 9 others of the original Church members, left because as time went on, they had lost the original spirit and ideals that LaVey had started the church with in the 60’s. It happens frequently with occult orders. The Temple of Set was formed when Aquino and others carried on their work in a new tradition of occult practice. Called the Temple of Set, they worshiped the dark forces of Set and have a structured order of Magic.
LaVeyans were more focused on the physical attributes in life, and others involved with them were looking for a spiritual approach. If anything, it was an evolution of Satanism and a new avenue to explore for seekers of the LHP.
I am not Laveyan, but at the same time, the only thing that I can appreciate about LaVey and his life is that he made Satanism socially acceptable, and he is a historical figure. beyond that, I have no admiration for him personally, and no admiration of how he treated his family. I wont demonize him, but i wont make him a saint either. He was human and he had problems like all the rest of us do.
“I wonder did Lavey practice what he preached?”
If you mean, eye for an eye, selective compassion, and aggressiveness towards others, then yes.. he did. He had ideals that he shared with everyone that became the foundation of Satanism. Whether those ideas are worthy to follow and emulate in your life is up to you to decide.
An essay written by noted skeptic Michael Shermer [I've met him, decent enough guy, especially for debating idiotic evangelical Christians; he did some work debunking the Satanic ritual abuse BS] on the highly related subject of Ayn Rand called “The Unlikeliest Cult” might be food for thought. My notes are in square brackets.
In it he says, “While the cultic qualities of the group sabotaged the inner circle, there remained (and remains) a huge following of those who ignore the indiscretions, infidelities, and moral inconsistencies of the founder and focus instead on the positive aspects of her [LaVey’s] philosophy. There is much in it to admire, if you do not have to accept the whole package.”
He then says that this suggests two important caveats about cults, skepticism, and reason. “One, criticism of the founder or followers of a philosophy does not, by itself, constitute a negation of any part of the philosophy. The components of a philosophy must stand or fall on their own internal consistency or empirical support, regardless of the founder’s or follower’s personality quirks or moral inconsistencies.”
“Two, criticism of part of a philosophy does not gainsay the whole.” He then says, “Rand [LaVey] critics come from all political positions – left, right, and center. Professional philosophers generally refuse to take her [LaVey’s] work seriously (both because she [LaVey] wrote for popular audiences and because her [LaVey’s] work is not considered a complete philosophy [some not so critical do grant Satanism the status of ideology]). There are more Rand [LaVey] critics than followers, although some of them have attacked Atlas Shrugged [The Satanic Bible] without reading it and rejected Objectivism [all Satanic paths] without knowing anything about it.”
He then says, “The great flaw in her philosophy is the belief that morals can be held to some absolute standard or criterion. This is not scientifically tenable. Morals do not exist in nature and thus cannot be discovered. In nature there are only actions – physical actions, biological actions, human actions. Humans act to increase their happiness, however they personally define it. Their actions become moral or immoral only when someone else judges them as such. Thus, morality is strictly a human creation, subject to all sorts of cultural influences and social constructions, just as other human creations are.” To LaVey's credit, I would say he also recognized Rand's mistake and a lot of the spirit in what Shermer says here is found in The Satanic Bible.
“I think it's a shame that when you mention Satanism he's the only person who comes to mind to the uninitiated when there are as many ways to follow a Satanic path as there are individual Satanists. ”
Greetings Gaina. It’s hard for me to see how LaVey won’t remain a recurring topic for discussion for both non-Satanists and Satanists. I recognize that there is quite a bit of rivalry in the Satanic community and I’d say most of it is directly or indirectly related to LaVey. The Satanic Bible still remains as the foremost piece of Satanic literature, though of course, any Satanist is free to expand her or his knowledge beyond it (personally, I place Peter Gilmore’s The Satanic Scriptures also in high regard which may not sit well with some LaVeyan, and especially, theistic and spiritual Satanists). The COS and the First Satanic Church still make fond reference to LaVey.
As an example, I am acquainted with two Satanists. The first refers to LaVey as a “hack,” and a “shill.” It seems to make others in this Satanist’s life more accepting, though they are critical of LaVey and the COS. The other Satanist reveres LaVey as still considers him to be the most important Satanist in his life (this seems to contradict LaVey’s teaching about the individual Satanist being the most important). He displays LaVey’s image and feels LaVey’s personal life is irrelevant to the discussion of his “profound” contribution to Satanism. Surprisingly, the first Satanist is from an older generation of Satanist, not the other way around.
My personal search ended and my journey began in early adolescence when I found articles on LaVey, and eventually, the Satanic Bible. I still thoroughly appreciate his high place in Satanism and his body of work. But I felt a healthy distance was appropriate and I never applied for Degree I Active Membership in the COS. Through reading the literature, following the history, wearing the sigils, and creating my ritual space, I've lived most of my life (though unaware) essentially as – what Venus Satanas has formally recognized – an independent Satanist..
As for non-Satanists, my expectations are very low. The focus may always be on LaVey especially for the monotheists because they find him an easy target. Two Buddhist/Taoist/existentialist acquaintances never mention LaVey but they are very patronizing to all of Satanism (as are most non-theist critics). Members of the goth, black metal and fetish community you’d think would be better. Though many project a strong Satanic identity at times (and these are the only people I will engage with on the topic of Satanism) I have found it to be mostly faux Satanism or simply anti-Christian. Even last weekend I met three twenty-somethings who thought that LaVey was still alive and as they said, ”still running the show in Frisco.” They disliked LaVey and “the social-Darwinian” and “selfish” aspects found in The Satanic Bible. I mentioned their confusion with the concept of “self” and the evolution of different Satanic paths, and encouraged them to investigate further. When I mentioned Gilmore they had no idea who he was. A very typical exchange.
Thank you Venus Satanas for a great response. Kudos for your recognition of the true intent of the questioner. A typical nonsensical strategy employed by weak-minded critics. By attempting to denigrate the Satanic woman or man (in this case LaVey), they think it successfully denigrates the great ideology/philosophy/spirituality that is Satanism and all who call herself or himself a Satanist. Pure bunk. But I’m sure you’ve come to accept and expect the constant attempts to dismiss or ridicule.
“I wont demonize him, but i wont make him a saint either. He was human and he had problems like all the rest of us do.”
Very poignant. Yes, LaVey did some things that some Satanists and non-Satanists wouldn’t do, but as you said well, “So what? He had to deal with his own consequences.” I think following your example and learning everything one can about LaVey is key. The critic wanted to show LaVey as a hypocrite. From what I’ve learned, LaVey never pretended to be something he wasn't to any kind of extent even remotely close to the throngs of hypocritical, self-righteous monotheistic "leaders" and "advisers." He did practice what he preached. More importantly, didn’t he rightfully challenge the hypocrisy of Judeo-Christian ethos and mores while never claiming his alternative was anything to him but a freer and more honest recognition of man’s carnal nature, and not of a “higher” morality?
I think it's correct to say that Satanists are and have always been skeptics. And one can be skeptical of the skeptic and LaVey was not infallible. Personally, I am comfortable with my strong appreciation for his contribution to modern Satanism. But you made an excellent point that we’ve had 3 generations of Satanists and that things are bound to change for the better and you are a perfect example of that with your ideas on Satanic spirituality and independence (not being invested in Satanism as a religion). Satanism isn’t static and we can always improve ourselves as Satanists. And that would include changing our stance on ideas that were once held by LaVey.
Could one say, that as an independent Satanist: (1) no person in Satanism is recognized as an authority, only a contributor of certain degree? (2) one is logically precluded from revering any other person but one’s self firstly, and then only others that one recognizes within our close circle? This would certainly qualify LaVey as a great contributor only. One could still acknowledge disagreement with some of his ideas and personal behavior.
Yes that is a vey good point Gania
The people who started satanism (at least,socially) lived in a different era in time, had different values socially and personally. Now we have had 3 generations of Satanists since then..things are bound to change..hopefully its for the better!
So he was pretty much a hypocritical snake-oil sales man….like every other religious leader you could mention.
'Do not harm an animal unless being attacked or for food' is the rule that resonates most strongly with me, so I was horrified when I found out how abusive he was.
I think it's a shame that when you mention Satanism he's the only person who comes to mind to the uninitiated when there are as many ways to follow a Satanic path as there are individual Satanists.
It's ironic that there are far better people walking this path than the man who actually started it. But then again, some Christians really piss me off and yet one of my best friends is an Anglican preacher who walks her talk and I can respect her for that. In a funny way I feel that she fulfils my definition of Satanic values by 'putting her money where her mouth is'. She never shoves it in your face but neither will she hide her faith or apologise for her convictions and I admire that.