I love uncovering the origins of popular art and literature. Such origins reflect the ambiguous culture in which we live. Greed is an ever-present character trait in this world. With today’s announcement of Comcast Corp, the number 1 US Cable company, acquiring Time-Warner Cable, the #2 company, for $45.2 billion, it seems that greed trumps competitive rivalry.
Ever hear of The Satanic Bible ? Greed helped create it. The Satanic Bible has never been out of print since it was first published in 1969. The book has become a template for “Churches of Satan” around the world.
It was authored by a former carny ticket taker, Anton LaVey , in 1968. According to his own account, Anton Lavey became disillusioned with Christianity when he saw Christian guys propositioning strippers for sex on Saturday night in one tent field , and on Sunday morning, at church with their families in another tent.
The hypocrisy turned Lavey. When he left the carnival, Lavey found himself in San Francisco in the 1960s at the height of the free love movement. With nothing to do and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Anton started the first “Church of Satan”. He dressed up in a campy red cape like a medieval trickster, holding campy dark masses with carnival pomp. He was more shocked than anyone when the church took off.
Meanwhile, a book and movie had captured the imagination of the world – Rosemary’s Baby. The 1968 movie starred today’s much-in -the-news, Mia Farrow , as the Satan’s mother. The picture was so successful that the wunderkind young publisher, Peter Mayer, at Avon Books wanted to cash in on that Satan phenomenon. The problem was, who could write a book about Satan? He went to the expert, of course: the head of “Satan’s church” in San Francisco. This is according to Anton’s estranged daughter, Zeena Schreck, in an exposé about both her father’s religion and past.
According to Schreck, LaVey in a rushed deadline, compiled a number of writings he had already been distributing: an introduction to Satanism, a number of short essays, a guide to ritual magic, and articles he had previously published in The Cloven Hoof, a Church of Satan newsletter.
Either to meet length requirements set by Avon or out of agreement with the ideas, LaVey plagiarized writings by other authors. These included a social Darwinist book Might is Right, as well as the Enochian Keys from Aleister Crowley’s The Equinox.
Some accuse LaVey of paraphrasing the Nine Satanic Statements from Rand’s Atlas Shrugged without acknowledgement. LaVey later affirmed the connection with Rand’s ideas by stating that LaVeyan Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy, with ceremony and ritual added”.
The book was popular enough that Lavey published a whole series on Satanism. His “Laveyan” Satanic philosophy posits that humanity is driven by carnal desire , that life is temporal and not eternal, and that the most fulfilled life was in service to oneself, over all else. The book does not denigrate humanitarian efforts, but it does maintain that morality is relative. If you can get away with murder, theft, adultery than it is acceptable behavior since you are fulfilling your purpose: sating self-directed desire.
It is interesting that the basic tenet of the Satanic bible is about greed: self-satisfaction over all else. It was the motivating factor that gave Avon Books the motivation to hire Anton Lavey to compile such an infamous book.
Be aware of culture. Culture is created by humankind. Humankind is both shadow and light. Culture is as contrarian as humankind. Culture is not only a shiny, bright thing. It can be a thing of horror. While we run through culture’s gauntlet, remember to be a hero. All heroes arrive at selflessness over self. It is the way of them. In the deepest recesses of our hearts, is that not who we long to be? A hero?