11th April 1930 – 29th October 1997
Lions roar as a whip cracks against the sawdust covered ground, rings of fire flicker before the circus crowd. Barkers exhibit freakish curiosities to the wide-eyed sheep, while god-fearing men sneak under the tent flaps hosting a topless revue. Silhouettes meet in fog covered streets, operating on the fringes of society, playing all sides of the game. Bulbs flash, illuminating the cruel darkness of man’s true nature, children splattered by cowardly hit and run drivers, brothers murdered by brothers, bloated corpses fished out of the San Francisco Bay. Black-clad figures stand before a nude female altar, a massive black Sigil of Baphomet hangs in front of them. A hooded devil opens his cloak, enveloping his cohorts in a sinister shadow. Shouts of “Hail Satan” and “Shemhamforash” echo in the ritual chamber between hypnotic chanting. “So it is done!” A den is populated with handcrafted artificial human companions, imperfect androids which appear to have seen more of life than the full-blooded drones who walk the streets by day.
These scenes are glimpses into the illustrious life of Anton Szandor LaVey, the details of which can fill a number of books. In fact, there are two that I’ve consulted for this piece, “The Secret Life of a Satanist” (Feral House, 1990) and “The Church of Satan” (Hell’s Kitchen Productions, 1990). Both of the aforementioned books were written by Blanche Barton; Anton LaVey’s wife, biographer, and mother to his first and only son Xerxes; and do a superior job detailing the life and times of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. Typical obituaries consist of long-winded biographies, meant to delineate the history of the deceased, lest they be forgotten. For many, those words will only temporarily be contained in the air, ink, and pixels, and ultimately wash away over time, like tears in rain. Anton LaVey knew this, for he understood that the only possible form of immortality is through the influence one has on future generations. So it is through his literature, music, and unshakable character that he has reached beyond the grave and continues to imprint his will on our contemporary reality. That said, a brief summarization would help familiarize the reader with some of Anton LaVey’s early influences and experiences.
Many of LaVey’s childhood icons were bold masculine archetypes of the Thirties and Forties, including the anti-heroes of Film Noir. As a young student he gained more knowledge from his independent readings of Nietzsche, Milton, and London than from standard school books. One could say that LaVey’s most beloved textbook was the Johnson, Smith & Co. Catalogue of Jokes, Tricks, and Novelties. In this tome a young LaVey gained a sharp appreciation for humor (as dark as it may be) and a means with which to burst the inflated heads of the pretentious or deliver humiliation to the deserving. LaVey demonstrated a latent musical talent from an age as early as five and would take to playing a variety of instruments including the oboe, piano, bass drum and violin. During some time spent in Las Vegas, one of his uncles would introduce to him to the Machiavellian underworld of back-room gambling and racketeering. To an impressionable youth, these businessmen were modern versions of one of his teenage heroes, Basil Zaharoff, a notorious arms dealer known for instigating wars for profit. Obviously a young man with interests and experiences such as his would have trouble getting along with his peers. Knowing that his calling was elsewhere, LaVey then followed in another one of his uncle’s footsteps and ran off to join the world of the circus and carnivals. As a lion tamer, LaVey found more in common with his instinct driven beasts than the bifurcated, guilt-ridden people in the stands. So it should come as no surprise that later in his life LaVey would own and cherish a collection of animals, including two of his own large cats. First a black leopard named Zoltan, and then a Nubian lion named Togare. Back at the carnivals while playing the organ for tent-show evangelists, he recognized men sitting at the pews from the night before, when they were lusting after half naked dancing women. A few years later; in the midst of the Korean War and the “Red Scare”; LaVey rubbed elbows with gunrunners, mercenaries who would fight for whichever side was supplying them with the latest weaponry.
Over the next couple of decades LaVey would work as a crime scene photographer, ghost hunter, and paranormal investigator. Having always had an affinity for the dark side of life he delved into studying various aspects of the occult and supernatural and hosted magical gatherings at his San Francisco home, dubbed the “Black House”. All of these experiences helped formulate his dark, carnal, ego driven philosophy, culminating in the formation of the Church of Satan in 1966 and the declaration of Year One Anno Satanas, the publication of the Satanic Bible (1969), The Complete Witch (1971, later republished as The Satanic Witch in 1989), and The Satanic Rituals (1972). After two decades, Feral House Publishing would release a collection of essays and diatribes titled “The Devil’s Notebook” (1992). A final collection of essays, “Satan Speaks!” (1998), was completed only a few days before Anton LaVey’s death due to a massive cardiac arrhythmia.
“Life is the great indulgence- death, the great abstinence. Therefore, make the most of life – HERE AND NOW!”
The Satanic Bible, Book of Satan IV:1, IV AS, 1969 CE
This quote is a perfect example of what makes Anton LaVey both so accessible, and so dangerous. A bold few will heed these words and unleash their will on the material world. The stagnant multitudes will tremble, unable to shoulder the personal responsibility necessary to reject the crutches of salvation in an afterlife or lack the goods (be it genetic or environmental) necessary to establish themselves as individuals. His brutal frankness will be jarring for occultniks, a term LaVey coined for those who are more interested in occult jargon than any practical application of magic. The Doctor derided these pretentious blow hards, calling out their Olympian feats of obfuscation as nothing more than maze making, often to hide the fact that they themselves have no idea what they’re talking about.
The basic tenets of Satanism can be summarized in the Nine Satanic Statements, the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, and the Nine Satanic Sins. In LaVey’s worldview, man is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, with basic carnal needs which will always win out, and if repressed will lead to his own emotional and psychological destruction. Through his study of psychology and theology, LaVey recognized man’s need for ceremony and symbolic paradigms. Thus he chose the archetype which represents the highest embodiment of human life, Satan, and codified the world’s first Satanic religion. Much like the music he personally enjoyed and referred to as “No Bullshit”, LaVey’s system of Lesser and Greater Magic was purified, emotionally charged Will to Power. LaVey didn’t care about how many notes you could play in a scale, only that your music evokes an emotional response, and that carried through to his thoughts on magic. Since the Satanist does not acknowledge the existence of anthropomorphic deities, he is not concerned about what angels in Heaven (or Hell) think of his Enochian pronunciation, only with reaching the necessary levels of biochemical stimulation. Within the Intellectual Decompression Chamber the Satanist is not concerned with the whys and wherefores of his ritual and outcome. LaVey does offer a few possibilities that remain in the realm of material existence, which some Satanists refer to as the “supernormal” as opposed to the “supernatural”.
Those closest to LaVey referred to him as “Dr. LaVey”, “Doc”, or “Herr Doktor” as a term of respect. The term was never meant to imply any certification from an academic institution, but a call back to the days when experience, character, and productivity held more weight than words on paper. Being a man of a healthy ego, Anton LaVey felt no desire to demand that others refer to him as such. It behooves me to state that I have never had the pleasure of meeting Anton LaVey in person, so I use the term “Doctor” not as an implication of personal familiarity but as recognition of his mastery of carnal materiality.
“Remember: you give their lives meaning. They need you. You don’t need them. Even as their sworn enemy, you represent a presence in their otherwise barren and rejected identities.”
Lot Lice, The Black Flame Volume 6, numbers 3 & 4 (whole number 15), XXXV AS, 2000 CE
To those incapable of perception or of limited imagination, Anton LaVey was a jigsaw puzzle they couldn’t quite piece together. In the Sixties, popular journalists flocked to the man who commanded a pack of nude witches and proudly wore the devil horns, often expecting another hippie love-in with a dark twist. What they got instead was an iconoclast who lambasted all the egalitarian and New Age ideals of the time. During the Satanic Panic, media sensationalists could not, or would not, accept LaVey’s symbolic, pragmatic philosophy. Instead they would create their own monsters, human fodder in the Invisible War, who would be unleashed onto themselves, at times to LaVey’s amusement, others to his dismay. And all through out, and still to this day, there are the coat-tail riders, pretenders to the throne, and the cowardly shit disturbers. As it always is, it shall be the mighty few whose latent talents and insight will unlock LaVey’s infernal configuration, and will either gain predominance over the vapid masses, or comfortably sit back and watch them drown in their own flood of proverbial excrement.
“We are engulfed in war. Not simply a war fought with guns and bombs “somewhere out there.” The skirmishes take place in the region of one’s own mind. The less one is aware of the invisible war, the more receptive one is to its ongoing process of demoralization, for the insensate human is vulnerable, malleable, weak, and ripe for control.”
The Invisible War, Apocalypse Culture, XXII AS, 1987 CE
In the article quoted above, Anton LaVey lays out the various ways that human populations are demoralized and exposed to neurological manipulation for the purposes of consumerism and political exploitation. It is in my estimation that this is one of the more directly influential pieces of LaVey’s work on Post-Industrial thought and aesthetics. Environmental engineering, viral agents, ultrasonic and subsonic audio targeting, microwave radiation, consumer food tampering, psychological and political smokescreens, labor and economic manipulation, and urban warfare. If this doesn’t paint a picture of the world we live in today, then your instinct for survival has been compromised.
The Doctor foreshadowed a world of life-like androids within his infamous Den of Iniquity. In this total environment LaVey recreated a seedy bar, populated with personally crafted humanoids he referred to as Artificial Human Companions. But these creations were not idealized models of plastic humanity, but of flawed and disheveled people, avatars of those who have lived complete, interesting lives. One can find similar themes in the cyberpunk film Bladerunner. In his final soliloquy Replicant Roy Batty illustrates the unbelievable cosmic wonders he has experienced, sights his human counterparts would have neglected. His passionate drive to drink all he could from the fountain of life, despite his fatal flaw, make the viewer wonder what a real man is made of.
In terms of Post-Industrial music, Anton LaVey was one of the first owners of the Prophet 5 and Juno 60 analog keyboard synthesizers and was tweaking settings and experimenting with sounds with devilish merriment. His influence ranges across a number of Industrial/Noise extremists, Dark Ambient diabolists, romantic Goth Rockers, and Neofolk atavists. At this year’s Stella Natura festival I counted no less than a dozen Satanists, both on stage and in the audience, including Church of Satan Citizens, Warlocks, Reverends and Magisters. Some wore their Sigils of Baphomet openly, others flashed the sign of the horns covertly.
“Living well is still the best revenge against all adversity. Love, laugh, fancy, create, innovate, reap and revel – as Satanists – in this best of all worlds, World without end. Remember, the first 99 years are always the toughest.”
The Secret Life of a Satanist, pg 252, XXVII AS, 1992 CE
In his final months the Doctor did not yearn for an afterlife or reincarnated consciousness. His energies were spent insuring that his legacy and philosophy would be carried on respectably. Those who would pass off LaVey’s life work as a mere “cult of personality” only display their own need for external verification. As the Doctor would say, “Satanism demands study, not worship!” Anton LaVey’s living legacy, the Church of Satan, remains stronger than ever, and their productive material accomplishments populate the world of art, literature, music, publication, photography, sculpting, entrepreneurship, and practical occult study. This October we Satanists recognize the 15th anniversary of the passing of our founding ideologue. But rather than dwelling on death, we shall celebrate his life and re-energize our ambitions. For his immortal spirit will live on as the Black Flame that stirs in those who are naturally inspired to bear the Devil’s mark.
Hail Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey!
Citizen Raul A.
San Diego, CA
October XLVII AS
Photo shot by Nick Bougas, provided courtesy of the Church of Satan Archive
The Satanic Bible (Avon, 1969, ISBN 0-380-01539-0)
The Compleat Witch, or, What to do When Virtue Fails (Dodd, Mead, 1971, ISBN 0-396-06266-0); republished as The Satanic Witch (Feral House, 1989, ISBN 0-922915-00-8); (2003, ISBN 0-922915-84-9)
The Satanic Rituals (Avon, 1972, ISBN 0-380-01392-4)
The Devil’s Notebook (Feral House, 1992, ISBN 0-922915-11-3)
Satan Speaks! (Feral House, 1998, ISBN 0-922915-66-0)
Satanis: The Devil’s Mass (1970)
The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Death Scenes (1989)
Speak of the Devil (1995)
The Satanic Mass LP/CD (Murgenstrumm, 1968); (Adversary Recordings 2003)
Answer Me / Honolulu Baby 7″, 45 RPM Single (Amarillo Records, 1993)
Strange Music 10″, 33 RPM (Amarillo Records, 1994)
Satan Takes A Holiday CD (Amarillo Records, 1995)