How does one assess a book that is supposed to be The Magnum Opus of a religion that claims to be very old yet is also emerging? The answer is: with great difficulty. The Satanic Bible is a difficult book to review as are all religious texts.
For those of you who have been under a rock for the past 40 years, Anton LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible and since 1969 and it has been in print ever since. The Satanic Bible is the chief text of The Church of Satan which was founded by Anton LaVey (www.churchofsatan.com). It contains what LaVey views as core Satanic philosophy. One caveat should be made right away. While it is fair to call LaVey and members of The Church Of Satan – “Satanists” – they are by no means the only Satanists. Just like other religions and other “isms” have various stripes, so too with Satanists. Other Satanists exist, and I am sure they differ with LaVey’s take on “Satanism”.
However, LaVey’s book has the recognition of being a declaration of the first publicly organized “Satanic” group. The Satanic Bible makes use of this fact as it is fully aware of its shock value. The book is far from shocking though. Much of it is a re-synthesis of humanistic ideas that proceeded it; both its philosophy and its rituals come from authors and traditions that are very old and this is something that LaVey acknowledges. According to LaVey, the dark force(s) – which could be called “Satan”- expressed in carnality and desire has been in existence since man has been around.
LaVey is definitely a good and fun author. He seems easy to listen to, like your dad’s younger brother who gives you the straight dirt on things. He comes across as far less sinister than the many pictures of him found throughout the internet and the cover of The Satanic Bible. In addition to LaVey, there is also a picture of a downward facing pentagram with a goats head contained with the points of the star; this is a symbol of Satanism.
The introduction of the version I read (there have been several reprints) was written by Burton H. Wolfe – a Satanist. The meat of the book starts with “The Infernal Diatribe”. The first half of The Satanic Bible is more philosophical and the second half deals with the ritualistic end of the things – the “how to’s” of Satanism. There are times when LaVey, and even to an extent his philosophy, seem fun and likeable; I know that seems hard to state given the face of the subject matter but there it is.
One of the problems that I had with the book and LeVay was it seemed (again at times) that he was being facetious or just downright deceptive. I mean seriously . . . Who would put it passed Satan or his high priest to lie? Also, there are portions of the book that seem preachy which is not something one expects or wants from the Devil. The words “just” and “true” are actually used. There are what could loosely be called “rules” in LaVey’s version of Satanism and this seems at odds with the philosophy as a whole. LaVey even comes across as politically correct! In a few spots he writes negatively of hurting animals or children. I guess if one is selling a new religion this is necessary. However, what could be more carnal, more indulgent, than ritualistically killing then eating an animal. Talk about primal. A normal (even common) event that has taken place millions of times over in man’s past has been moralized away. Even if sacrificial magic is not your thing, at least own it as a preference and not a dogma.
There is plenty to like and dislike about LaVey and his Bible. I found this quote striking and comforting (chapter 8 – Indulgence NOT Compulsion pg. 45), “Although Christianity is certainly deserving of the criticism it has received, perhaps it has been taking more than its share of the blame.” Ah consistency! A trait rarely found in the enemies of Christianity. LaVey is definitely an equal opportunity critic. He blasts and mocks hippies and practitioners of eastern religions (there is definitely a 60’s flavor to the book) with the same fervor he does with those of theistic belief systems.
That is not the only quotable quote found within the pages of this infernal book. The Satanic Bible is a veritable gold mine of pithy quotes. They do not happen to be quotes I agree with, but they clearly articulate ideas that many would be shocked to know they already follow.
The Satanic Bible transitions from philosophy to magic about midway. It finishes with the “Enochian Keys”. These are supposedly really old, magical words that were rediscovered by some sorcerer in Europe over 400 years ago. These “keys”, which are similar to liturgical recitations (LaVey provides a corresponding “translation” to what many would call noise) are used at points in certain Satanic rituals. Not a good way to end your book with a bang, but Anton found it necessary.
I view The Satanic Bible as a bit of fresh air. Finally, someone stated what many people were thinking. Finally, someone stated plainly the way things really are on planet earth. LaVey seems devoid of pretense in this his most (in)famous work. This is not really a hard feat when one has little moral baggage or dogma to uphold other than the “self”. I also appreciate The Satanic Bible because reading it could actually help a person understand The Holy Bible if someone takes the time to actually read both books in their entirety. I recommend The Satanic Bible as it is a pretty good read . . . That and you the reader could actually state (truthfully) “I’ve read The Satanic Bible”. YANKEE ROSE.