Satanism - it isn't for everyone

In his final contribution to the Faith Column, Umberto Ray explains why he is pleased Satanism lacks

As any Church Of Satan representative such as myself will tell you we know that Satanism is not for everyone. None of us expect to stand here espousing the tenets which form the bedrock of this religion and have every man and his dog knocking at our door seeking to throw in their lot with the dread prince of darkness. We would not want it any other way. We are not looking to entice the naive with promise of delight. The poet Charles Bukowski warned “Beware the average man – everything he does will be average.” Our challenge therefore remains - We Are Looking For A Few Outstanding Individuals!

Experience has taught us that Satanists are born and not made. For this reason we do not seek attention or to ensnare the saintly in the twisted web of deceit that so many are convinced we attempt to weave in the name of all things unholy. We realise our decree is not one that bends in acquiescence to the devices of mass consumption.

It is for this reason we declare ourselves the alien elite, proudly remaining emancipated from the tedium of mediocrity creeping into society, art, politics, literature and the media - comfortably sliding into bed next to all those who have subscribed to its mores and paid up in full. Our brand of elitism is one of ethics, not ethnicity. It is one that espouses the merits of the just and curses the rotten – those who would seek to deny the carnal pleasures of life and man’s own declaration of Godhood. I have no desire to offer the asinine listeners of Radio 4 hope by appearing on “Thought For The Day.”

However, over the last few days I have provided here an ephemeral glimpse through the veil that, for the casual onlooker, shrouds much of our adamantine philosophy in mystery. At the very least I hope I have proved entertaining enough to open up a few lively discussions and flung open the gates of hell to those individuals who most naturally resonate with us and will thus seek to further their knowledge by exploring the tenets within the pages of The Satanic Bible.

As an existing member of the church I am often asked how I came to become one of the many and varied individuals who make up what is The Church Of Satan. For me personally, it was some time during the late 1980’s when, sitting in the waiting room of a car repair shop, I casually picked up a newspaper and opened it at random. I was immediately drawn to a small photo in the corner. It was a picture of a shaven headed fellow with a goatee beard. I remember he rather reminded me of Ming The Merciless from Flash Gordon. But his scowling countenance possessed a twisted smile that was part personification of malice and part mockery, as if at the same time challenging the reader to ask himself the question “is he serious?”

The man was, of course, Anton Szandor LaVey. I cannot even remember what this filler article was about beyond the fact that it was a disparaging piece marking LaVey out as possibly the most evil man on the face of the earth. But it was the footnote at the bottom that caught my attention – “LaVey authored The Satanic Bible in 1969.” The very next day I rushed into a bookshop in Birmingham City and bought the book.

What I discovered was that yes, he was serious. In Blanche Barton’s authorised biography of LaVey The Secret Life Of A Satanist she mentions that his office desk bore a plaque engraved with the maxim “Beware of those that bow down before you – they might be reaching for the corner of the rug.” This amusing little anecdote pretty much sums up my own impressions when I first read LaVey’s bible. And that was whilst he was indeed serious, Satanism is rather like the stand-up comedian who’s implicit truths are delivered on a skewer of sardonic laughter that stabs the very heart of those deserved folks who, with a bit of luck, might die laughing.

The “joke” is on them. And we will be in no rush to alleviate their discomfort; after all, in the words of Herbert Spencer “the ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

Umberto Ray is predominantly known as a poet and his work has appeared in magazines and anthologies around the world. His first book, The Blood In My Veins, was published in 2005. He has been a CoS member for several years and was ordained into its priesthood on Walpurgisnacht, 2007.
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It's easy to see where Berlin is being rebuilt – just hit the streets

My week, from walking the streets of Berlin to class snobbery and the right kind of gentrification.

Brick by brick, block by block, the people are rebuilding the city once called Faust’s Metropolis. To see it clearly, put your boots on. One of the most bracing walks starts by the Gethsemane Church, which served as a haven for dissenters in the last days of the GDR and takes you down ­towards the Hackescher Markt.

Here, in what is still the eastern half of a divided city that wears its division more lightly, is a Berlin experience both old and new. In three decades of frequent visits, it has been fascinating to note how much this part of town has changed. Even a decade ago these streets were rundown. With crumbling buildings showing bulletholes, it wasn’t hard to imagine what the place looked like in 1945. Now there are lilacs, blues, and yellows. Cafés, bars and restaurants abound, serving the young professionals attracted to the city by cheap rents and a renewed sense of community.

 

Breaking the fourth wall

Looking north along Schliemannstraße, you’ll find a delightful vista of well-tended balconies. It’s a pleasant place to live, notwithstanding the gaggle of grotesques who gather round the corner in the square. On Kastanienallee, which forms the second leg of the walk, an old city feels young. It’s a kind of gentrification but the right kind. There’s more to eat, to drink, to buy, for all.

Berlin, where Bertolt Brecht staged his unwatchable plays, was supposed to have been transformed by a proletarian revolution. Instead, it has been restored to health by a very middle-class one. Germany has always had a well-educated middle class, and the nation’s restoration would have impossible without such people. The irony is delicious – not that irony buttered many parsnips for “dirty Bertie”.

 

The new snobbery

The British Museum’s survey of German history “Memories of a Nation” is being presented at the Martin-Gropius-Bau as “The British View”. Germans, natürlich, are curious to see how we observe them. But how do they see us?

A German friend recently in England  said that the images that struck him most forcibly were the tins of food and cheap booze people piled up in supermarkets, and the number of teenage girls pushing prams. Perhaps Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum who will shortly take up a similar role here at the new Humboldt Forum, may turn his attention to a “German View” of the United Kingdom.

There’s no shortage of material. In Schlawinchen, a bar that typifies Kreuzberg’s hobohemia, a college-educated English girl was trying to explain northern England to an American she had just met. Speaking in an ugly modern Mancunian voice that can only be acquired through years of practice (sugar pronounced as “sug-oar”), she refer­red to Durham and York as “middle class, you know, posh”, because those cities had magnificent cathedrals.

When it comes to inverted snobbery, no nation can match us. To be middle class in Germany is an indication of civic value. In modern England, it can mark you as a leper.

 

Culture vultures

The Humboldt Forum, taking shape by the banks of the Spree, reconsecrates the former site of the GDR’s Palace of the Republic. When it opens in 2018 it will be a “living exhibition”, dedicated to all the cultures of the world. Alexander von Humboldt, the naturalist and explorer, was the brother of Wilhelm, the diplomat and philosopher, whose name lives on in the nearby university.

In Potsdamerplatz there are plans to build a modern art museum, crammed in between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic. Meanwhile, the overhaul of the Deutsche Staatsoper, where Daniel Barenboim is music director for life, is likely to be completed, fingers crossed, next autumn.

Culture everywhere! Or perhaps that should be Kultur, which has a slightly different meaning in Germany. They take these things more seriously, and there is no hint of bogus populism. In London, plans for a new concert hall have been shelved. Sir Peter Hall’s words remain true: “England is a philistine country that loves the arts.”

 

European neighbours

When Germans speak of freedom, wrote A J P Taylor, a historian who seems to have fallen from favour, they mean the freedom to be German. No longer. When modern Germans speak of freedom, they observe it through the filter of the European Union.

But nation states are shaped by different forces. “We are educated to be obedient,” a Berlin friend who spent a year at an English school once told me. “You are educated to be independent.” To turn around Taylor’s dictum: when the English speak of freedom,
they mean the freedom to be English.

No matter what you may have heard, the Germans have always admired our independence of spirit. We shall, however, always see “Europe” in different ways. Europe, good: we can all agree on that. The European Union, not so good. It doesn’t mean we have to fall out, and the Germans are good friends to have.

 

Hook, line and sinker

There are fine walks to be had in the west, too. In Charlottenburg, the Kensington of Berlin, the mood is gentler, yet you can still feel the city humming. Here, there are some classic places to eat and drink – the Literaturhauscafé for breakfast and, for dinner, Marjellchen, a treasure trove of east Prussian forest delights. Anything that can be shot and put in a pot!

For a real Berlin experience, though, head at nightfall for Zwiebelfisch, the great tavern on Savignyplatz, and watch the trains glide by on the other side of Kantstraße. Hartmut Volmerhaus, a most amusing host, has been the guvnor here for more than 30 years and there are no signs that his race is run. The “Fisch” at twilight: there’s nowhere better to feel the pulse of this remarkable city. 

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage