on 14 January 2014
I recently decided to finally read this book for myself after encountering some of the philosophy of its author, Anton LaVay, online and being somewhat intrigued. From what I could tell, LaVey seemed to be quite knowledgeable about human psychology, with a good understanding of man's innate desire to "belong", and I was hoping to find in `The Satanic Bible' a secular tome that cuts the babble and gets straight to the point on human nature. While this book does do that, to a certain degree, it would seem that LaVey's purported "genius" is something of an understatement. Rather than secular pearls of wisdom, `The Satanic Bible' presents a lot of what most of us now know to be common sense, presented in a veil of occultism and hyperbolic language.
Perhaps, in 1960s America, the contents of this book were somewhat controversial, but here and now, if you take away the "Satanic" language, I'd be surprised if anybody under the age of 60 would find any of it especially shocking. The philosophy LaVey espouses is one of pure hedonism, with Satan being a fitting archetype for our animal natures, and the Abrahamic God representing repression and rigid conformity. In this book he "prophesises" an "age of Satan", where people will reject mainstream religion and embrace hedonism. If you substitute the flowery language, you'll find that this is pretty much exactly what's going on in the world today, and the reasons for his sensationalistic hatred of mainstream religion (particularly Christianity) are pretty much the norm among secularists, with the views of Dawkins, Hitchens et al being far more inflammatory about religion than LaVey is here. The most controversial aspect of the book is its embrace of a Randian social Darwinian ethos (Ayn Rand, according to the introduction, being one of LaVey's major philosophical influences), whereby the strong should take what they want and despise the weak. Again, this kind of attitude isn't anything particularly new or shocking in this day and age.
The second half changes direction, somewhat confusingly shedding its atheistic character in favour of some kind of watered down magical grimoire. I find this confusing because, as other reviewers have pointed out, this kind of language is in stark opposition to the rational atheism of the first half of the book. I get the impression that all of this is psychodrama designed to induce catharsis, with Satan and the various demons mentioned seen as archetypes, but I'm not so sure, especially as many LaVeyan Church of Satan members today take this magical/occult aspect of The Satanic Bible seriously. If this is, indeed, symbolic psychodrama, then I can't comment on how useful it might be, as I haven't actually practiced any of these techniques myself. I find it interesting that so much of it involves an embrace of female sexuality, either to create arousal amongst the participating men and thereby enhancing the levels of excitement during the rituals, or as a "magical" force for solitary witches to get what they want. However, like a Muslim man on a Dubai beach wearing nothing but Speedos, and showing off his perfectly formed six-pack while expecting his wife to cover up in a burqini, LaVey seems to think that only women are capable of arousing sexual feelings. This leads me to believe that, despite LaVey's posturing about being "different" to other reigions, Satanism is still just a man-made religion projecting a patriarchal worldview.