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What Manner Of Man Is This?
on 2 March 2012
The coming of this book was long awaited. For years after the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, little information about its founder reached UK shores: the man dubbed "The Black Pope" by many of his followers. Anton Szandor LaVey's "Satanic Bible" itself did not appear in Britain until 1977. The book's Introduction (by Burton H. Wolfe) remained the only biographical sketch of LaVey until Blanche Barton's authorized biography first appeared in 1992.
It's all here: Anton LaVey's early life and his careers on the Carnival circuit, at the Clyde Beatty Circus (where he became a Lion-handler), as an Organist in clubs, bars and Burlesque houses, and as a Crime Photographer with the San Francisco Police Department. As described in detail in the book, all of these experiences combined to form a precise, misanthropic world view inside the mind of Anton LaVey: a raw, earthy, Godless, pragmatic perception. This combined with his life-long fascination with the Paranormal and what was loosely termed "The Occult". Like so many other genuine seekers, LaVey duly consulted the existing, traditional reservoir of Esoteric literature - and was singularly unimpressed. He had his own ideas about Magic and Occultism, perceiving that what was commonly referred to as "Witchcraft" was nothing less than an offshoot of Christianity. Self-styled "Witches" and "Pagans" and the rest clearly dwelt inside of a realm of religious, Christian Mysticism, where the Forces of "Good" & "Evil" were said to be at war perpetually. LaVey clearly saw that the advocates, proponents, adherents, Seers, Gurus, Witches and other representatives of the existing mainstream, popular Occult movement had created a "White" & "Black" Magic directly in accordance with this arbitrary, theological, Christian dogmatic "Good" & "Evil" blueprint. For LaVey, the Satan that both Christianity and the mainstream "White" ("Good") Occult community feared, loathed, condemned and warned about was the source of all true Magic - which was neither "White" nor "Black". Moreover, Satan had existed as a historically Evil power because He represented independent thought, belief and behaviour, and vital individualism. The Devil was the very antithesis of mass-indoctrinated thought, belief and behaviour; the polar opposite to human herd constraints, false-values and strictures.
Other factors which are detailed in the book combined with LaVey's growing sense of Magical Purpose. His disdain for both organized religions and established Occultism grew into undiluted Hate. It was both inexorable and inevitable that Anton LaVey should finally found the Church of Satan on 30th April 1966.
Beyond the Church of Satan historical chronicle, Blanche Barton gives the reader an insight into LaVey's Satanic, Earthly philosophy, outlining his identification of an "Invisible War" that could only really be won in the end by the astute, the intelligent and the independent. But there is one Chapter which I find particularly interesting: "Curses & Coincidences" is a short-list of entirely verifiable occurences in connection with LaVey and the undeniable Magic powers that emanated from him.
With Blanche Barton's "The Church Of Satan" having long been out of print, "The Secret Life Of A Satanist" remains the definitive overview of the life and philosophy of Anton Szandor LaVey.